Watching the rays of the sun rise up through the dark, burst through and dispel the morning mists across Thorne Bay is one of my favorite things ever. If I can, I always pause what I’m doing to watch, because watching the light win is motivating. It’s a good way to visualize how my day as a follower of Christ should be lived:
Actively remembering that no matter how much evil seems to loom large in the world around us, someday Jesus is coming and then the darkness will be conquered forever.
“So it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:40-43)
P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
I feel like this would be a good verse to have emblazoned across a billboard within an international airport. After I spent about a full day longer than planned on in one, believe me, I saw a lot of tired, burdened people.
I saw people laden down with luggage in lines snaking away from TSA into infinity and moving at a snails’ speed…
People nervously glancing at their watches…
Old ladies anxiously asking for help understanding where their gates were…
People running, barely throwing out an apology as they brushed past…
Hard lines of concentration and focus on people’s face, not smiles…
People lying in out of the way corners, heads pillowed on lumpy backpacks, trying to catch a few winks of sleep as the masses streamed by hurrying to get wherever they were going.
People losing their tempers over lost luggage…
People crying over missed flights and ruined plans…
I, the naïve traveler new to flying, initially thought the hustle and bustle was all very exciting. That is, until after I lost my phone, missed a flight while trying to find it, and got stuck in this giant airport in an unfamiliar city for 24 hours. Then I understood in a much more personal way the anxiety that this teeming hub of transportation is capable of evoking. I couldn’t call my husband to tell him what had happened, and even though I eventually got a plan made and a new flight scheduled, anticipating his worry until I got in contact (which would be hours later) made me anxious, too.
This was my state of mind when I was standing in line at baggage claim a few hours later. I was exhausted, and it wasn’t even noon. I had been standing in one line or another for hours. This was yet one more attempt to see if my lost phone had been turned in, though I had little hope since the last airport employee I had sought help from had practically rolled their eyes at me.
Finally, I was nearing the front of the line, and close enough to hear the exchanges of the people ahead who were finally getting helped. “I can’t LIVE without that suitcase!” wailed a distraught woman to the man at the counter. She had three rolling suitcases trailing behind her, all a matching hue of metallic lavender, linked together in a perfect little train, but apparently there had been a fourth one. I was standing there thinking, “Well, ma’am, it could be worse. You could be without a phone or a coat or a single stitch of luggage, like I am.” I don’t know what went through the man’s head as he listened to the 576th overly dramatic traveler he had likely dealt with that day detail why her fourth metallic lavender suitcase should be on the top of his priority list for the moment. But if he was annoyed or frustrated, not a flicker of such emotion crossed his face.
He smiled kindly, soothing her with his calm, cheerful reassurance that he would do everything in his power to help her. “Now, things are a bit backed up, ma’am, and I can’t guarantee anything,” he reminded her, “but it should be somewhere over in that pile. Come on; I’ll help you look!” I watched as her face brightened and the tension visibly melted from her shoulders. She trotted off after him, eyes alight with new hope, buoyed by having someone to share her burden.
Even my own hopes were lifted. At the very least, I realized that I was in line to talk to someone who was going to treat me and my lost phone as though he actually cared.
That’s also when I realized I had just seen a tiny picture of Jesus’ love.
The world is a lot like one giant airline terminal, you know, teeming with millions of people running frantically to and fro, with places to go, things to do, people to see, laden down with baggage in every size and shape imaginable.
Jesus is standing there at the only Customer Service desk in the world that never has a waiting line,
“caring” more than all the nicest airline employees in the world combined (well, it’s even better than that, because He actually LOVES you),
not just waiting for people to come to Him, but actually inviting them:
“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
No matter what the size, shape or color of your burdens, He says, “Bring them to Me!” It can be a missing 4th lavender suitcase. If that’s the worry you’re carrying, bring it to Him. It can be a lost phone. Bring it to Him. It can be the pressures of your job. It can be your health. It can be your marriage, your children, your parents or your next-door neighbor. It can be grief, or disappointment, or anger, or fear. It can be all of those things lumped together, plus some. It doesn’t matter if any other human being thinks your burden is worth the time of day or not. If you are burdened with it, He says, BRING IT TO ME.
Somehow I had forgotten a bit how incredible that invitation is. I’d honestly kind of pushed it to the back of my mind, and forgotten it even existed. Funny how we humans like to do that, taking the weight of the world on our shoulders, so sure that if we run, push, think, research, analyze, work, TRY just a little bit harder, we can surely handle it all on our own. But sometimes I guess we just need to feel a little more weak, a little more helpless and out of control, a little more disappointed and discouraged, a little more stranded and at our wits’ end—just needy enough to be jolted with the reminder that we don’t have to carry it all ourselves. In fact, we can’t. But He can.
About the photos: What do oak trees and great grandparents have in common? They’re both in Minnesota and not on Prince of Wales Island. Also, they both symbolize wisdom, resilience and longevity.
We lost one grandparent last year, so we treasured our recent time spent with the three that remain all the more. I never knew my great-grandparents. Someday my kids will realize how blessed they are, but for now they’re just busy soaking in the stories, games and cooking lessons.
What I’ve been thinking about this week: “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee and will bless thee. For unto thee and unto thy seed I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swore unto Abraham thy father. And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” (Genesis 26:3-5)
Wonderful to think that because of that one line “in thy seed [Jesus!] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” and also because of what Paul later wrote: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galations 3:29) —even I, now thousands of years and on the other side of the world away, have a part in that blessing!
P.S. I took pictures for this project, but had limited internet while we were traveling and was unable to post them. I’ll be playing catch-up for just a little while, then resume weekly posting thereafter! Also, normally I will be posting one photo per week, but since we were traveling and I took more pictures than usual, you get a few bonus shots!
If you’re new here, this is part of my Project 52, in which I commit to taking and posting a photo per week for the duration of 2022, along with sharing a favorite verse and/or thoughts gleaned as I also read through the Bible in a year. I’d love to hear what stood out to you in your personal Bible reading this week in the comments!
About the pictures: In spite of cancelled and missed flights and stolen phones, we made it to Minnesota to celebrate a belated Christmas with both of our families. These were taken at my family’s home, the house I grew up in. Story times with grandpa were a highlight, as were snow time with the aunts and uncles and my brother’s crab Benedict.
The verse I spent time thinking about this week: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Why is that we’re so quick to feed our bodies liberally, even excessively, but so willing to leave the very essence of ourselves, our soul, malnourished and shriveling away in starvation? Here’s to a year of being well-fed and satisfied on the Word of God!
P.S. I took pictures for this project, but had limited internet while we were traveling and was unable to post them. I’ll be playing catch-up over the next week or so and resume weekly posting thereafter! Also, normally I will be posting one photo per week, but since we were traveling and I took more pictures than usual, you get a few bonus shots!
If you’re new here, this is part of my Project 52, in which I commit to taking and posting a photo per week for the duration of 2022, along with sharing a favorite verse and/or thoughts gleaned as I also read through the Bible in a year. I’d love to hear what stood out to you in your personal Bible reading this week in the comments!
Every once in awhile, I enjoy challenging myself with a joint photography and Bible reading project (like the “Savoring Summer” challenge I did while reading through the book of Romans). This year I’m going to try something a little more long-term, because I want to re-read through the Bible in a year, something I haven’t done in a little while! So I’m going to do what is often dubbed a “Project 52”, which is simply committing to take and publish one photo per week for an entire year. With my weekly photo, I will include a verse or two that were the highlight of my week’s reading, and possibly accompanying thoughts if I have time and feel so inspired.
Anyone else want to join me and help keep each other accountable? I’ll personally be using the Old/New Testament plan from Bible Gateway if you need somewhere to start—or they have several other options like reading straight through or chronologically! (And if you have an entirely different goal for your Bible reading this year, I’d still love to have you share in the comments what you’ve been reading and learning!)
Let’s encourage one another to get into the Word and stay in it this year!
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)
Growing up in Minnesota, I’ve always known the contrast of short days of winter to the long ones of summer, but here in southeast Alaska the difference is even greater. While we certainly didn’t move up to the Arctic circle where the days dwindle down to almost nothing, we have indeed moved north, and this is the time of year when we realize it most. The arc of the sun across the sky is shallow, a big blazing ball always in your eyes, rolling in a low arc over the mountains across the bay. This week, on winter solstice, the sun rose at 8:17 AM and set at 3:18 PM. An all-day snowstorm obscured the light even further.
Mankind’s yearning for light is especially distinct at this time of the year.
I was thinking about this as we walked out onto the marina on Sunday night, a group of Christmas carolers with clouds of breath hovering about us in the frosty air. My eyes instinctively sought the points of light as we peered down the docks, looking for the houseboat windows that glowed, signaling that their occupants were home. Around the bay, festive lights twinkled, outlining roof edges and trees in windows. Far above us, pinpricks of starlight formed constellations, and a gentle glow in the east signaled the impending rise of the moon. Someone answered our knock, and headlamps shone down on song sheets. We sang about light:
“Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth, Jesus Lord at Thy birth.”
Light posts glowed periodically along the marina as we walked back to shore, guiding us safely down the solid boards of the dock and away from the dark icy ocean at its edges. The church was waiting down the street, the cross a lighted beacon and the windows glowing with the promise of hot drinks and cookies awaiting us inside. The door opened and light flooded warmly across the street, beckoning us in.
We were created to love light, and it is at this time of year that I understand the most clearly why Isaiah, Zechariah and John described the coming of Christ this way:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. For behold, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness is over the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:2)
“…because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the Dawn will visit us from on high, to shine on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)
The figurative darkness of our souls was once deeper than the darkest Arctic night, yet Jesus came into this world as LIGHT,
brighter than the floodlights down at the barge docks when they’re unloading at night,
brighter than the three story LED cross down the bay on our neighbor’s house,
yes, brighter even than the noonday sun fully unleashed—
and the darkness fled. There is no more reason to walk fearful in the shadows of sin and impending death, blindly groping, peering, stumbling…
because He came.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”—Albert Einstein
There are some decided advantages to having some firsts in life delayed until you’re well into adulthood. The best part is that for a few fleeting glorious minutes, you can experience a flashback to the sensation of pure childlike wonder. At least that was what it was like for me to fly for the first time at age 35.
If I thought about it too deeply, I would admit that it takes quite a bit of faith and trust to buckle yourself into the narrow seat of a 737, and believe that 130-170,000 pounds of steel, fuel and humans is going lift up into the air and soar to 40,000 feet above the clouds. Before 1903, you would have laughed at me for even suggesting the idea.
Now, as the engines began to roar and we taxied toward the runway, I looked around to see people already calmly reading books, taking naps and playing Scrabble as though what was about to happen was as ordinary an everyday occurrence for them as brushing their teeth and combing their hair. I was not afraid, either, having grown up a hundred years after the Wright brothers, in an era when safe and successful air travel is normalized. But this was still my first time, and what I was experiencing that no one else seemed to be was excitement.
When we rushed forward and the wheels lifted from the pavement, it was every bit as exhilarating as I’d ever imagined. There was a blissfully lightening sensation, as though we’d left our weight down on the ground instead of taking it with us. The sun was just setting, the blue evening clouds lying wispy over the Minneapolis terminal—and suddenly we were rising right through them. One minute we were beneath, for a split second we were passing through them, the next we were above. It was just close enough to dusk that the city lights twinkled just a little and winked at me as they faded out of sight. The sun was setting in a blaze of pink, and then we were chasing it to the west as we rose higher and higher, unwilling to let it go.
For over an hour and a half, I watched that sunset as we throttled through a thinner atmosphere at 500 MPH. It was the longest sunset I have ever watched in my life. Eventually, we started to lose the chase and I saw Venus blink sleepily on just above the final streak of fuchsia, then steadily shine brighter as the night turned from velvet blue to black. The clouds were thick dark cotton below us, but every once in a while, they parted and I caught sight of the miniscule lit grid of a town far, far below.
On ensuing flights over the course of the trip, the wonders only increased. I kept catching my breath, awed by how different and beautiful Earth looked from up so high.
I got to watch the sun rise at 40,000 feet, bathing the tops of the rain clouds a sea of perfect conch shell pink for miles beneath us. The clouds parted and I saw misty fjords, and a sea of snowy peaks. I saw the full moon sinking into the ocean. I saw the fine white line of a road carving the edge of a ridge, and a raft of massive logs that looked like a collection of toothpicks afloat on the sparkling sea. I saw geometric forms of fields, perfect squares and circles.
I saw massive cracks in the ice of great rivers and majestic forests looking like nothing more than a carpet of soft dark moss and billows of snow patterned like waves across the plains. I saw semi trucks moving like ants on freeways that looked like mere threads. I saw the tiniest toy barns that I could only barely identify as red. It was a whole new perspective on this giant spinning ball I call home.
The world in my mind has often tended to look more like the maps in the atlas on our book shelf, with political boundaries neatly surrounding pastel blocks of color. But up there, peering down in wonder out of my tiny window, I was reminded that what I was seeing from my bird’s eye view was a whole lot more accurate to what God sees. He sees the big picture in the actual rich earth toned palette He painted it, how each part fits and flows together seamlessly and meaningfully to create the gorgeous masterpiece ball of Earth.
He sees the pair of swans talking to themselves as they build their nest at the mouth of the unnamed creek that flows into Stone Axe Lake, which flows in Little Sand Lake and out into the Bowstring River, which flows into the Bigfork River, which flows into the Rainy River, which snakes its way all the way up to the Hudson Bay and empties into the Atlantic Ocean, which laps at the edges of Iceland and Florida and South Africa, and makes ice around the shores of Antarctica that melts into the Pacific which crashes its mighty waves against the rocks of Patagonia, kisses the warm shores of Mexico and carries the salmon up the fjords of Prince of Wales Island to spawn in the Thorne River.
He who pinched up the points of the mountain ranges, formed the oceans with the imprint of His thumb, carved the delicate calligraphy of the rivers with His pen, holds this whole spinning magnificent world in His hands. But the best part is that He can see all this in one swift glance, while at the same time, He zooms in and sees the sparrow that falls, and the state of my heart, and yours, and all the hearts of 7.8 billion human beings created in His image and running around like tiny ants on the surface of this globe—and He knows and longs after each one by name.
Up there in that silver plane with the blue stripes on its wings, I felt small in the best way possible, dwarfed by vast magnificence of the world, and in awe that I was of any account at all, let alone beloved by its Creator.
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9)
Outside, on this sub-zero February day, a bitter wind is kicking billows of icy particles high into the sky and blasting them across the fields. The snow is nearly up to the windowsills, and the icicles hang like a row of jagged teeth from the eaves. It’s about as un-tropical a day as you could get this far from a Pole—but the fragrance that meets me when I walk out into the sun porch is straight from Florida.
For a minute, I’m disoriented and puzzled. It’s the scent of spring and the promise of fruit, a distinct and heady fragrance. It doesn’t match the snowy landscape outside my windows. And then I see the orange tree. I hadn’t even noticed the buds coming on over the last few days, but they’ve burst open and there’s no ignoring them now. There, right up against the pane of mere glass separating it from the depths of winter, it’s breaking it’s own record for number of exquisite waxy white blossoms. I’ve owned the tree for several years, but in the past I’ve always moved it into our warmer living room area during the colder months, to avoid it taking a chill. It seemed a considerate course of action for a plant of tropical origin. Oddly though, the well-intentioned move always seemed to make it droop, and, well, frankly it’s just grown so big lately that it’s heavy and awkward. So I finally decided to take a risk, try leaving it, and see what happened.
Turns out, the extra sunshine the porch affords makes up for what it lacks in warmth, at least in this little tree’s estimation. Or maybe it actually prefers a little chill, just like some of our neighbors who have voluntarily transplanted from the sunny south to the frozen north without regret. At any rate, to my surprise, and in spite of regular icy drafts from the nearby exterior door opening and shutting multiple times a day as little people run in and out from playing in the snow, it has not only survived, but is actually thriving!
If I doubted it before, I could not possibly now. It’s blossomed here and there in the past, but never like this. The fragrance filling the room and wafting into the next is only eclipsed by the sight of it. The beauty, seen and unseen, is breathtaking.It’s actually a pretty magnificent picture of what we Christ-followers are supposed to look, and (frankly!) smell like.
No, this isn’t an ad for orange blossom perfume.
It’s like this:
If Christ is present in your life, it’s a perfume you wear. It’s breathtaking beauty springing forth in the life-giving light of the Son, a secret you couldn’t keep if you tried. And to those around you, it’s like that sweet tropical fragrance that pervaded my senses before I could even identify it’s source. The flowers couldn’t contain it. The scent was pouring out, wafting, filling the air with abandon, a gift to my senses, an irresistible invitation to discover the source of such sweetness.
Ironically, just like my orange tree, the scent of Christ is undeterred in the face of iciest drafts and darkest wintery days of life, and actually? It’s more distinct than ever:
When someone cuts you off in line, and you respond with kindness.
When you refuse to take an opportunity to speak ill of someone who has publicly wronged you.
When you respond to life’s frustrations with grace instead of impatience.
When you can grieve a loved one without losing hope.
When you forgive freely instead of holding a grudge…
…and the list goes on.
These aren’t things you can fake, like some science lab concocting chemical compounds to artificially fool people’s senses. These aren’t things you can slap on, any more than you can get away with hanging an air freshener in your car expecting it to supersede the odor of spilled milk on a hot summer day. You might be able to get away with artificial, spritzed-on fragrance for a little while, but not for long. People know when it’s the real deal, because when these things are genuine, they exude from deep within, the exclusive, unique overflow of the abundance of His presence in our hearts, an irresistible invitation to the world around you to discover the source of such sweetness.
So, not to be rude—how are you smelling today?
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…” (1 Corinthians 2:14-15)
If I’ve learned anything about trusting the Lord in my 35 years of life, it’s that I still have a lot to learn about trusting the Lord.
For some reason, whenever I come out on the backside of a trial, I am naïve enough to think that after having learned to trust God in that circumstance, I will surely have no difficulties with trusting Him in the future. But then along comes a different unexpected circumstance, and too often I am surprised by my lack of faith, as I find myself wildly groping about for all my self-made crutches, brainstorming secular solutions and free falling into anxiety.
Up rises the skeptic of my soul to question God yet again: You were big enough for that last problem I had, but are You really big enough for this one? Just in case You hadn’t noticed, it’s a new problem, Lord. This one’s extra hard and scary. Can You really handle it? Are You sure You don’t need help from me on this one?
It’s a question as old as Eden. Hath God really said? Can He really be believed?Does He really know what’s best? And too often I am swayed by these whispers of doubt, and bite hard into the apple of anxiety.
To recognize the echo of Eve in my soul is humbling.
By definition, trust requires one to let go, and by nature, we humans are tight-fisted. Trusting God means admitting that I don’t have it all together. That I’m not as self-sufficient as I liked to imagine. That I have lost control. That I lack wisdom. That behind the strong, capable exterior I may have projected, I am actually weak and needy.
There is a killing of pride and self that must occur when I make the decision to trust God, and no matter how you look at it, killing always hurts. And in the case of trust, it seems like it often has to happen more than once in a given situation. As Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31), and as Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24).
But there’s an encouraging side to this, too. Though letting go to lean into trust is always hard, it also gets easier. The more times I’ve peeled back the fingers of my white knuckled hold on whatever it is that I’m trying to handle on my own and can’t, the more times I have proven the goodness and mercy of God. The longer the list of times I have chosen to lean hard on Him instead of my self, the harder it is to resist doing it again.
When I look back, I remember…
that time He provided for my unspoken needs,
that time He moved a figurative mountain,
that time He gave grace to accept,
that time He gave a miracle,
that time He brought beauty from ashes,
that time when He transformed fear into anticipation,
that time He took away something that I did not recognize as harmful until after the fact,
that time He had far more beautiful things in store for me than I could ever have imagined.
The overriding truth is that, in each circumstance, no matter what the outcome, He was always faithful, and proved yet again that He was worthy of my trust.
Today, looking back on what has been proven and looking forward to what is yet unknown, I rest on the assurance that He is enough.
“…the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6)
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isaiah 26:3-4)
On Christmas Day 2019, with doting aunties and grandmas hovering round, my firstborn son turned two months old. I’d spent the previous weeks nursing him beneath the lights of the Christmas tree, often twinkling over us in the wee hours when the rest of the household was slumbering. And on those nights, as his little head nodded downy and drowsy down onto my shoulder, I thought a lot about the first Christmas. I feel like I understand how it might have been for Mary so much better now because of him.
I had it all planned out, you know. Our fourth child would be born peacefully at home, surrounded by the birthing professionals I had carefully chosen and built a relationship with over the last nine months. The birthing pool was sitting in the living room, ready for the moment I told Zach, “It’s time!” to be filled, tiny cord clamps and other medical supplies waiting in a box nearby for the midwife’s arrival. A pretty robe was hanging up, waiting for me to slip into after labor for first pictures with my new little one. Our bedroom was clean and ready, tiny baby newborn-sized clothes laid out on the changing table, one small pile of pink and one small pile of blue, and a pile of neutral in between awaiting the big gender reveal. My mom was ready to drop everything when the phone rang to come whisk our other children away until after the birth.I imagine that Mary had plans, too, those 2000 years ago. She, too, probably envisioned her child being born in the comfort of her own home, perhaps assisted by the wise old midwife who had helped every baby in Nazareth enter the world for the last 40 years, her mother nearby to hold her hand and offer encouragement during the frightening pangs of her first labor. The swaddling clothes were laid out next to the beautiful cradle her carpenter husband had crafted, and certainly, she had dreamed that the event would be at least nine months after her wedding day to her betrothed.
But things didn’t go according to plan, mine or hers.For me, what was supposed to be a trip into town for a routine prenatal turned into a trip to the hospital for induction after an unexpected diagnosis of preeclampsia. We arrived weary, after midnight and a long evening of testing and being shuffled between towns and hospitals. A doctor I had never seen before agreed to make room for me in her schedule because the situation was considered urgent. The unexpected circumstances were such that I arrived with nothing but the clothes on my back and my purse. No camera, no toiletries or changes of clothing, none of the small comforts and baby things I had so carefully arranged back home. I gave birth in a borrowed gown, surrounded by more strangers than not, an awkward but necessary blood pressure cuff attached to my arm and the foreign sound of monitors beeping. My firstborn son was wrapped in a hospital-issued swaddle instead of the little clothes sitting back at home. He was laid in a rolling baby cart of stainless steel and plastic labeled “Baby Ender” instead of the wooden-spindled cradle under the window in my bedroom.For Mary, the honor and wonder of being with child by the Holy Ghost looked unfortunately too much like a shameful out-of-wedlock birth to her neighbors. She received snubs and nasty gossip instead of congratulations. The wedding—after the fact—was very nearly called off. Caesar Augustas in Rome did not take due dates into account when he ordered an empire-wide census. A long, arduous trip kicked off labor. They arrived weary in an unfamiliar town where they knew nobody, too late for a premium room at the inn. They were stuck sleeping with animals on a night when she labored as a first-time mother, undoubtedly longing for comfort and familiarity more than any other night in her life. If anyone assisted her in birth besides Joseph, it was certainly a stranger, pulled in at the last minute for the emergency. A manger stood in for the hand-crafted cradle back home.
And yet in both of our cases, in spite of all the upset plans, the most important thing did go as planned:
A baby boy was pushed safely out into the world, opened his mouth with a healthy squall, and blinked his sleepy eyes to look up into his mother’s face for the very first time. The pain was forgotten. It didn’t matter who was there, or where we were, if there were monitors beeping or animals lowing. All that mattered was that our child was born.And all was well, because God was there.
For you in whatever unplanned circumstances you didn’t ask for this year, like celebrating the holiday in isolation, sick in the hospital, or mourning the loss of a loved one. God is with you.
Never forget that this is the true meaning of Christmas.“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)