A Child Is Born

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.IMG_5349 editI 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.IMG_5127 editFor 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.IMG_5356 editFor 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.IMG_5118 editAnd all was well, because God was there.

For me,

For Mary,

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.IMG_5325 edit“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)

Once in 86 Lifetimes

IMG_3418 editThere are a lot of things about 2020 I’d be happy to never see again in my lifetime, but this is one of the few things I saw that I can say I wouldn’t mind seeing again sometime soon. 

Except that won’t be happening, because, according to NASA, Comet NEOWISE will not be seen again for 6,800 years.  So this was not just a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity, it was a once-in-86-lifetimes opportunity.  Wow.

Fun fact: the comet was named for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission, on which it was first sighted.

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth, who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!” (Psalm 8:1)

Photographed 11:02 PM July 16th, 2020; Chippewa National Forest, Minnesota, USA.

Savoring Summer #41: Beach Harebell

IMG_2033 edit“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)

Looking back over what I read this week—and over ALL the last six weeks!—this comforting statement of victory seems like a good way to sum it all up.

Stand fast in all these things, persevere, endure with joy…because we know that in the end, truth will triumph, and Christ will reign victorious!

AMEN!

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

And, as promised, here’s another “bonus post” for you, featuring photos from our trip to the Black Hills last fall!

Savoring Summer #40: Indian Pipe

IMG_2011 edit.jpg“The report of your obedience has reached everyone.  Therefore I rejoice over you…” (Romans 16:19)

Oh, that this would be the reputation of every church that represents Jesus Christ!

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)

About the photo:  This might get the prize for weirdest plant find of the summer.  Read more about it here!

Savoring Summer #39: Stone Axe Creek

IMG_1833 edit.jpg“Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life.” (Romans 16:3-4)

I love how in most cases in this passage, Paul specifically mentions why he’s grateful for each of these friends, or how they have been a blessing to him.  In your prayers today, try making a list like this yourself, if you can, of every person from your church!  I found this to be such a joyful exercise.

“Thank you for ________; he cheerfully takes out the garbage every week at church.  Thank you for ________; she is such a faithful prayer warrior.  Thank you for _________; he always encourages me to dig deeper into my Bible.  Thank you for __________; she gives so generously…” and so on!

And if there’s someone who you don’t know well enough to mention, take note; it might be time to change that!

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

About the photo: Most days we hike to this creek for our daily exercise; most days we pause to skip rocks or watch sticks go in one end of the culvert and come out the other, or, if we’re lucky, spot a sunning turtle.  

 

Savoring Summer #38: Quadruplets

IMG_2627 edit.jpg“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in prayers to God on my behalf.” (Romans 15:30)

Is there an any more beautiful thing than when the body of Christ, one in spirit, strives together in prayer for one another?  Today, I want you to know that I am praying for you who will read this, that “the God of peace be with all of you.” (Romans 15:33)  

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

About the photo: You knew the resident swans were going to make their annual appearance on the blog at some point, didn’t you?  I know you can’t quite see them all here, but there are four cygnets this year!

Savoring Summer #37: Waterfall of Grass

IMG_2278 edit.jpg“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.  Each one of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  For even Christ did not please himself.” (Romans 15:1-3)

These days, there’s so much emphasis on self-care, and self-promotion, and setting boundaries, and “doing what’s right for you”.  These have their place, certainly, but it’s easy to cross the line from taking good care of yourself to simply being self-centered and self-serving.

We are actually called to live thoughtfully of others before ourselves.  

I imagine it like us going on a family hike.  Which is to say, we go as fast as the four-year-old can go.  Of course, my husband and I are quite capable of going twice her speed—and there are times when we kind of wish we could.  Yet, we slow our steps, wait for her when she falls behind, take her hand to help her along.   We set aside our strength and bear with her weakness because we love her.

“Love does not seek its own.” (1 Corinthians 13:5)

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!IMG_1464 editAbout the photo: I always admire the way this particular variety of grass gracefully and naturally bends.  I’m not as up on my grass identification, so if anyone can tell me what kind of grass it is, please comment and let me know!

Savoring Summer #35: Glorious Morning

IMG_2377 edit.jpgMemory verse: “For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”” (Romans 10:13)

The fifth and final step on the Romans Road is about the assurance we can have of salvation!

P.S. See this post if you’re unfamiliar with the Romans Road!  Also, see this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

Savoring Summer #34: Sunny Leaves

IMG_1471 edit.jpg“The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.  Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10)

Looking back over what I’ve read in Romans this last week, there was SO many wonderful passages.  But this is one that stood out to me, because it spoke to specific situations I was watching unfold, in which good-hearted, well-intentioned people were using their feelings to justify the condoning of sin.

There’s a lot of confusion out there about the meaning of the word “love”.  There’s confusion about what “love your neighbor as yourself” means.  Many people, riding on the wave of their own personal subjective emotions, conclude that loving one another means that feelings  (“love”) trump “the law” (by which we mean what God clearly states in His Word as right or wrong).  But here, it’s clearly stated: love does not cancel out the law, nor does the law negate the command to love.  Instead, they walk hand in hand to FULFILL each other.

If you’re reading along with me, were there any verses that specifically spoke to you this last week?

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

Savoring Summer #33: Seed Explosion

IMG_2339 edit“One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” (Romans 14:2-3)

This is not a verse that is talking about black and white right versus wrong.  Paul covered that earlier in the book (remember? I referenced it here.)

This is a verse talking about personal differences in opinion over things that are not clearly black and white in the Scriptures. Like…wearing masks versus not wearing masks during a pandemic, a very hotly debated topic in church and out of it.  This is such a good current example, because I’ve heard a lot of judgement being thrown around in both directions. 

People shaming mask wearers for “giving in to fear” or “giving in to overt government control”. 

People shaming non-mask wearers, saying they don’t care about people dying, and are therefore basically murderers.

Okay, ya’ll.  Wherever you stand on this, here are your instructions: “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind…The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (vs. 5-6)

Research it, make sure what you’re doing and how you’re doing it truly honors the Lord, then stand firm in your convictions.  Ask loving questions if you’re curious, and engage in kind discussion, but don’t “quarrel over opinions” (vs.14) and ultimately respect the brother or sister who somehow managed to come to a complete opposite conclusion.

“…why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…so then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10, 12)

(And, of course, masks make a good contemporary illustration here, but I’m sure you’ll have no problem inserting other scenarios!)

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

About the photo: Don’t these yellow goat’s beard seed heads just remind you of 4th of July fireworks along the fields and ditches right now?!