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)

We Went Driving

Up the rugged Superior shore,

To where two countries meet;

Through the golden Sawtooth hills,

With the waves at their feet.

Along the pebbled, craggy edge,

Where restless waters stretch,

All the way to meet the dawn,

At a line so faintly etched.

Through the forest silent,

To where the roaring water falls,

Beneath the gentle mountain peaks,

Where the soaring eagle calls.

Spires of pine were pointing up,

While fluttering leaves fell down,

To grace the humble forest floor,

In a multi-colored gown.

A journey up the North Shore in October is about as lovely an autumn experience as it gets—and if you can get fresh coffee and cardamom rolls to eat while you drive, even better.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul…who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1,5)

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 #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 #32: Blue Heron

IMG_2253 edit.jpg“Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God.” (Romans 13:13)

As we celebrate our country’s birthday, let’s thank God for the good leaders through the years who have had the vision to found and guide our country according to what is true and right.  And even when we don’t agree with our governing authorities, it’s good to be reminded that they are ultimately placed there by God, and if only for this reason alone, deserve our respect.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.  Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)

Also remember: it’s easy to criticize leadership, but not so easy to BE in leadership.  The higher up you are, the greater the pressure and heavier the weight of responsibility.  So in addition to honoring and submitting, let’s not forget to do this:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour…” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

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 #30: Freshwater Clam

IMG_2248 edit.jpg“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

But oh, but how this “age” (or “world” or “pattern/standard of this world” in other translations) we live in begs for us to conform, and how quickly and easily our minds are clouded by its alluring priorities, causes, and agendas!

Something that stood out to me in this verse that hadn’t really before:  it suggests that perhaps the first step to understanding the will of God—something many, many people desire—is to check on your conformity versus transformity status.  Hmmm…

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 #26: Muskrat

IMG_1988 edit“Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, do not boast that you are better than those branches. But if you do boast—you do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you.” (Romans 11:17-18)

When I read this, I remember my grandpa doing an actual grafting demonstration in the church basement one Sunday evening to help us visualize what verses like this meant in the Bible.  He and my grandma were both passionate about praying for “the cultivated olive tree”, God’s chosen people, humbly and gratefully recognizing them as “the root”.

It’s a sweet memory of him, and the memory was a good reminder to me today to pray for the Jewish people (may they finally recognize Jesus as their true Messiah!) and, as the psalmist exhorts, the peace of Jerusalem!

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” (Psalm 122:6)

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_1980 editAbout the photo:  When you discover a muskrat sharing your swimming space, you either panic or count it as the highlight of your day.  We chose the latter!

Savoring Summer #17: Clear Lake

IMG_1661 edit“For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:22-25)

Isn’t it nice to know that even the great Apostle Paul found himself caught in the war between the flesh and the Spirit?  That all of us, from the so-called greatest to the so-called smallest, struggle and fail in our humanity?  But even better to know that victory can be ours, not by our own striving, but through the power of Jesus Christ which is freely and equally available to all.

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 #9: Noma Lake

IMG_1375 edit“[Abraham] did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise

but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,

because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, He was also able to do.(Romans 4:20-21)

Are there any of God’s promises that you have a hard time being “fully convinced” that He is really able to do?

Maybe it’s that one where He told you that He will save you by His mercy instead of your good works or behavior?  Or maybe it’s the one where He promises to never leave you or forsake you?  Or that one about how He will provide for your needs?

Let’s face it:  We like to cling to the tangible—what makes sense and what we can DO.  He often asks us to cling to the intangible—the supernatural, that only HE can do.  There’s no way around the fact that this takes a whole lot of faith.

Abraham was asked to believe the promise of an heir when he was too old, and descendants like the sand of the seashore before he even had one son, and the Messiah to come through his line, the last two which he would never see fulfilled in his lifetime.  He literally had to die still believing in the unknown.

But he did—and “it was credited to him for righteousness.” (4:22)  The only thing more amazing than this verse is the next: “Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (4:23-24)

The next time you are tempted to doubt the promises of God, remember that when you choose to take God according to His Word, no matter how crazy it might seem, He esteems your faith so highly that He does the same amazing thing for you as He did for Abraham: credits it to you for righteousness.

Wow.

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!)!