{holy moments}

Baby’s First Christmas!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Valdez, Alaska. Snow has fallen, our Alaskan spruce tree is up, decorated, and taking up way too much room in our tiny cabin’s living room. I’ve spent the last three days a slave in the kitchen baking tons of yummy goodies to give away. I’ve got lists of groceries to buy and last minute gifts to get since we’re hosting my family this year. I’ve been inspired to make this Christmas extra special because of one little reason I didn’t have last year –

Teagan Noelle.

She turned 10 months old on December 2nd and stares with wonder at the lights on the Christmas tree (before yanking down the lowest hanging ornaments).

Her middle name is appropriate for this time of year- Noelle is the female version of Noel which means Christmas in French. It’s the name of theologian and pastor John Piper’s wife. Tyler and I both thought it was beautiful. She was born in February but she’s our Christmas girl.

This time last year, December 2015, I was 8 months pregnant. I couldn’t help but think of Mary awaiting the birth of her first born son as I waited (impatiently) to meet our first born daughter.

But as much as I thought about Mary carrying baby Jesus in her womb last Christmas, it doesn’t even compare to the connection I feel to her this year. I think of her in the holy moments of motherhood, like when Teagan falls asleep in my arms. Moments like that bring a new found sense of wonder at the story of that other young mother holding her own sleeping baby over 2,000 years ago.

Mary and I. We have so much and yet so little in common.

Her baby was born in a stable or a cave and laid in a manger. Mine was born in a comfortable birth center and laid in a padded cradle.

Her baby was greeted by unknown shepherds from a field nearby. Mine was greeted by a large family who waited expectantly for her arrival.

But her baby had flesh and blood and new baby skin, and so did mine.

Her baby was fed by the breast milk of his mother, and so is mine.

Her baby had wet diapers and took first steps and said first words, and so did mine.

But Mary’s baby was born to die, so that mine might be born to live. Her baby came to take on the task that no one else could. For he was all human baby but also divine.

“Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:7

While Teagan didn’t have a choice… Jesus didn’t have to be born in painful childbirth. He didn’t have to grow up in the harshness of the first century, or to parents who had to work so hard to survive. He was God. He was the king of the universe. But He gave it all up at a certain time in history, at a certain place on earth. In Bethlehem. All so that he could die at a certain time in history, at a certain place on earth. At Golgotha. Death by the cross.

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8

Her baby was born to be obedient to God, to the point of death. So that He might rise again in victory over it and be shown as the Son of God, as Jesus Christ the Lord.

“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Her baby was born for a tragic purpose. He died a horrific death. Mary didn’t choose this for Him, His Father did. God had it all planned, and Mary acting in trusting obedience played her part of the story and then had to watch it all unfold. Maybe she didn’t know what it was all for, maybe she didn’t know it was God’s great love to send His son to die. She certainly couldn’t just turn to John 3:16 and read…

“For God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son that who so ever believes in Him will have eternal life.” John 3:16

Eternal life with God.

Mary may not have known the great purpose for her little baby’s life. She was a woman living in a pivotal time in history when God came down to dwell on the earth. But we don’t know what Mary did or didn’t know. We only know that she obeyed. When given the news of her part to play, the news of what her life would become if she said yes to God, she said,

“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Like Mary, I don’t know the exact purpose of my baby’s life. I don’t know exactly the hardships or tests that she will face. Like Mary, I can’t stop the pain and suffering that will inevitably effect my child. The only thing I can do, is act in obedience to God myself. To be like Mary and live obediently. That’s the best thing Mary could do for her son Jesus. Because she submitted to God’s will she got to be directly involved in God’s work, and the whole world benefitted.

I don’t expect my obedience to be that far reaching, to change the whole world. But I do think that my submission to God in obedience might at least affect my little girl’s world. I want to teach Teagan His ways by directing her to His word, so she will know the truth about Mary’s son Jesus.

Despite what other traditions believe, Mary was just young woman. There was nothing really different about her that set her apart for the high calling of being Jesus’ mom. She simply obeyed God. So by her example as an ordinary mom I’ve learned that I too can obey God, I just have to listen to Him like she did. I can do that by reading His word . And I can pray, as Mary also prayed. Now that I am a mom, I pray. I pray every night for my baby. I count on the promise in 1 John 5:14 that if I pray according to His will, He will hear me. I pray every time it comes to mind that MY baby will kneel and bow before the one true God. I pray that once we teach her the truth, her tongue will confess that Mary’s baby is Lord. That Jesus is God. And that she will know, He alone gives purpose to her life. That by trusting in Him, confessing, and believing she will rise with Him again and live forever too.

The Christmas season is so fun and so busy. It’s full of traditions, and events, and food, and family. I’m enjoying it and looking forward to more. But this year, my first year as a mom, I’m stealing away holy moments. I’m pausing in the car on my way to the post office, in the kitchen washing cookie sheets, to let the Lord speak and remind me what it’s all for. What it’s all in celebration of- Her baby.

Mary’s baby was born to die, so that my baby might be born to live.

Thank you Lord.

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knit me together

i’m pregnant. again! going on 13 weeks. I’ve heard that little dribbling basketball heartbeat and have been promised there is now less than a 1% chance of miscarriage since we found that fluttering little organ’s beat. what a relief. 

my husband was at work, but my sister was with me to hear that amazing sound. That was at 11 weeks. But it’s really only hitting me today. this whole thing is just starting to feel real today.

i’ve been incredibly sick. throwing up sometimes more than 6 times a day. not just morning sickness but all-day-long-barely-hold-it-together-to-leave-the-house nausea. i’ve already used a lot of my sick leave from work. i think the previous miscarriage and then the non-stop puking both contributed to the lack of head/heart connection so far in my pregnancy. somedays i could only just pray “help God.” He hasn’t even really been on my radar. it really made me wonder how people in extreme and constant physical pain even have room for God in their struggle. it’s kind of a catch-22. i desperately need God in those days of severe discomfort and yet i can’t make my mind focus on a prayer longer than those two desperate words. and i guess maybe that’s the point. maybe those in severe conditions like poverty and life long physical disabilities are closest to Him in their prayers of “help God.” maybe there is MORE room for Him in that short desperate prayer than in my hour long “devotional session” where i journal pages of thoughts and read chapters of the bible and then close them and move on with my day.

i was doing the dishes just now and making lunch for my hardworking honey who works on Saturdays, and the tears just started ROLLING down my face. i’m so incredibly humbled to say that i think i’m starting to GET it. I’ve felt disconnected with what is happening to my body and disconnected from God lately, but

He met me this morning at the spot where my sponge met the pan.

Confirmation and love and confidence and a job well done is what I received. immediately praying against pride that it has anything to do with my own efforts (because I REALLY struggle with thinking i can do everything on my own), i thought about where i’m at today and where I’ve been and how i’ve gotten here and i’m just so humbled by what God has done and is doing in my life and in my heart.

they always say that you know you really know something when you can teach it well. you know you really know something when you can explain it to someone else. i got to do that this past week. my sister is dating the one. the one she met on the mission field with the same passion for life and adventure and service and the Lord. they were going to get engaged this summer but she’s panicking and saying she’s not ready for a variety of reasons (that seem to change depending on the day). as the one who she really listens to i knew i had a serious responsibility in how and what i would share with her as my opinion on the matter. I also got a talking to from my wise husband reminding me that this was my chance to really point her to God or not.

it’s almost funny what i ended up driving home; funny because it’s SO not of this world. it’s LAUGHABLE to this world. I said, “Sar, getting married is not that big of a deal.” She knows I don’t mean that if she doesn’t end up liking it they can get a divorce…no. We both come from the worldview that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man, woman, and God where the two become one flesh under the power of the one who created them both. So in that sense it is a VERY big deal. What I meant is that it doesn’t really matter what you do with you life. We’re simply called to wake up everyday and make the conscious decision whether we are going to live for ourselves or whether we are going to live that day for God. She could do that married or single. Living in a third world country or in the U.S. And what God brought forth in my mind this morning over that soapy pan is that the same is true for me and he’s allowing me to live that out day by day.

there was a time not long ago, at all, that i was motivated to live by what I could be, what I could accomplish, what mark I would make on this world, what I would be recognized for.  but today at the dish sink i saw that my heart cares now more about who HE is, what HE has already accomplished, what marks HE makes on this world, and what HE should be recognized for.

I see this lived out this week in a few maybe seemingly insignificant ways: by my willingness to let go of my job earlier than I expected (i’ll probably quit in 6 weeks instead of 6 months and just focus on being a wife before becoming a mama) and by giving up the grad classes I was going to use my tuition waiver form work to start my graduate transcript (a personal and selfish dream). What i want to highlight here is that this did NOT come from me. If it were left up to the me without the Lord I would maybe give up those things but not without much kicking and screaming and probably bitterness.

so PRAISE the Lord for what He is doing in me. and PRAISE Him that I am learning to find my identity in Him alone and not from my role as a sister, daughter, student, employee, wife, or now mom. That’s something that my own mother has struggled with and has always been on my radar to try and avoid. I won’t put it far from my mind, but it’s so encouraging to know the presence of the Lord in my kitchen and the comfort of his praise of me that I am learning what it means to be his daughter. Besides the choice to live for Him and not for myself today, the effort to do so isn’t something I can muster up on my own with enough caffeine and self-determination. It is simply the work of the Holy Spirit and today I got to see myself through His eyes. Thank you Jesus.

and thank you for this new life growing inside me. I now feel the weight of Glory in the phrase from Psalm 139: “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful I know that full well.” 

POSITIVE+

POSITIVE+