Mary, Did You Know? | The Story of Christmas Through the Eyes of a Lowly Virgin

Merry Christmas! I hope your day was full of merriment and cheer as we gathered together to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Isn’t the story of Jesus’ birth amazing?

Every year without fail, I am always astounded by the miracle that brought our Savior into the world. And, this year, Mary has really stood out to me.

Have you ever sat down and thought about what it was like for Mary during that first Christmas?

What thoughts must have been going through her head when Gabriel visits her? A young teenage girl, of no importance in anyone’s mind, quietly readying herself for marriage, when an angel appears to her and says, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

Mary’s response – similar to how most of us would react –  is fear and confusion: “But [Mary] was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”

She tries to discern what on earth the angel means. She’s troubled.

I can just imagine what she must have been thinking: “Me? I am favored? The Lord is with me? Me?”

And how does the angel respond? “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Honestly, I think this probably wasn’t a satisfying answer for her. “Do not be afraid? This is terrifying! And, what could I have possibly done to find favor with God?”

Gabriel continues, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary response makes me laugh, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Nevermind the fact that your child is going to be the Son of God. Or that he is going to rule the whole earth.

Her answer makes sense, though. She knows about the Messiah. She knows that he’s going to rule the earth. As a Jew, she’s grown up always knowing these truths.

What she’s never heard before is that she’s going to play a part in this story!

Gabriel assures her that the Holy Spirit is going to cause her to conceive Jesus. Then, he tells her that her relative Elizabeth, who was thought to be barren, has also born a son. “For nothing will be impossible for God.”

Nothing. Nothing will be impossible.

God can choose to use a young virgin to birth the Savior of the world as a lowly baby. And, not only is it possible, it’s miraculous and wonderful.

And, Mary gets it. She believes.

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” “I am yours, Lord. I will bear your Son. I will raise him and teach him and love him. Your will be done.”

What faith Mary had. Isn’t it just amazing?

She didn’t fully understand, yet, she still has an unwavering faith.

Jesus is conceived in her, and for nine months, she deals with sickness, and discomfort, for God’s child to be born.

People scowl at her, and mock her for bearing a child, they believe, to be out of sin. But, she bears it all for God.

She travels from her home, at nine months pregnant, with her betrothed husband so that the Son of Man can be born in Bethlehem as the prophecies foretold.

It’s cold, and tiring, and long, and miserable. And yet, she does it for God.

Then, after all of that, Jesus is born.

“And she gave birth to her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger.”

Can you imagine gazing into eyes of your baby, after hours of painful childbirth, knowing that He is Emmanuel – the Son of God? What must it have been like to watch Jesus as he sleeps in the place which animals eat out of, knowing that he is the King of kings?

“Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

There is peace. Jesus is born.

Isn’t that amazing? Mary’s faith is encouraging!

But, my favorite part watching all of this and thinking about Mary, is the song of praise she sings in Luke 1:46. She doesn’t sing to her God because of the birth of Jesus, but before she even holds the baby in her arms. She praises God when she finds out she’s pregnant. She doesn’t wait to praise God when she sees the results, she trusts that he will do what he says.

That takes faith.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

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Why Pray? The Importance of Prayer in the Christian Life

When writing a post on prayer, it would probably seem right for the main passage to be something like “pray about everything” (see Philippians 4:6-7) or another popular New Testament passage. But, the New Testament isn’t the only place you will find prayer in the Bible. You just have to dig a little deeper.

You see, some passages require a little bit of work to discover the deeper meaning. This is what I discovered during my Bible reading a few weeks ago. I was reading through the book of Exodus when I came across chapter 17 verse 8 – 13:

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

Now, you might be thinking, where is she going with this? Those verses don’t even mention prayer…

Well, I, too, was a little confused when I read that passage. Why would God care about someone raising their arms and why did he let that determine who wins the battle? This just didn’t make sense.

Well, a couple re-reads and a few Google searches later, I finally started to “decode” the message.

I discovered that God didn’t really care about Moses raising his arms. What He did care about, though, was his heart. When Moses was standing on the hill raising his hands, what he was really doing was praying and crying out for God to save them from the hands of Amalek. Raising his hand simply showed his surrender to God and hope that He would indeed rescue them. Whenever his arm fell, it was from exhaustion, both physically and spiritually.

Basically, what Moses was doing was worshiping God. Praying.

Cool, right? Well, now that you know a bit more about the passage, I wanted to share a few things the Lord showed me through this text:

  1. We need people to come alongside us and hold our arms up

Like Moses, when we try to either live or please God on our own, we become exhausted. Christianity was never meant to be lived alone. We need people to come beside us and help us along the way. Sometimes we need them to be there silently holding our arms up as we try to win the battle, other times we need meek encouragement from the sidelines, and occasionally, they must physically turn our head toward the battle and practically yell at us to continue. Whatever it is, everyone at some point needs help on their Jesus walk. So, go find yourself an “armrest friend!”

  1. Prayer should be a priority

Notice at the beginning of verse 11 where Moses realizes that Amalek is going to come and try to conquer them: he orders Joshua to lead the troops in battle. He knows he’s going to need God in this battle and he makes sure to have everything prepared so that he can just sit there and pray.

Preparation is key.

And, there is no excuse for not praying. A lack of prayer either shows a weak faith or a weak God. Prayer should always be a priority.

  1. God is listening (and wants us to pray to Him)

God didn’t need Moses to pray. Whether or not Moses prayed didn’t determine whether God could save the Israelites. He always could. And it wasn’t that the men fighting in the battle could see Moses raising his arms. Moses wasn’t somehow encouraging the men in the battle with his arms up. It was God miraculously giving the men strength to win.

Sometimes we forget this. We think that praying is unimportant because God has already made up His mind anyway and that it won’t make any difference. Why would praying change that? Well, He simply wants to be asked. Asking causes us to have a heart of helplessness and dependency. When we pray, we are basically telling God that we need Him and that we trust Him to help us.

Remember, prayer doesn’t have to be flowery and poetic; it’s just you talking to God. So, I encourage each of you to spend some time in prayer today. God loves you and just wants to hear from his children. Don’t delay!

Kindness (Fruit of the Spirit)

Kindness is giving away what you believe is the last of your food to someone with no means of obtaining more and trusting that God will provide for you and your child (1 Kings 17:8-16). Kindness is giving a stranger a drink of water from your bucket and offering to water his camels as well (Genesis 24:15-21). Kindness is healing a sick and dirty child and letting them sit on your lap even when others look down on you for it (Matthew 19:13-15).

Kindness is acting on the belief that others’ needs are more important than your own. It is seen throughout the Bible and is an important part of the Christian lifestyle.

But what is an act of kindness? How can we be kind in our everyday lives? Well, it’s simple. Kindness is simply loving the unlovable, helping the helpless and caring for those who care nothing for you. It’s holding the door open for the pregnant mom trying to wrestle her toddler into church. It’s baking cookies for the crazy old lady across the street and offering to do her dishes. It’s wiping the little boy’s snotty nose in the nursery who won’t stop crying and then cuddling and comforting him until his parents return.

I love this quote because it is so true:

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

Think about how many people you see on a daily basis. We miss all of these opportunities because of our selfishness and pride when all it might take is saying “hi.”

Writing these words, I feel convicted that I haven’t been showing kindness to everyone around me. I live with seven people, for goodness’ sake! There are endless possibilities for kindness right there!

Think about it this way, we as Christian have been shown the greatest act of kindness ever and yet we are unkind and quick to accuse and be angry. How can we justify that? As Ephesians 4:32 says,

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

The Unknown Future

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I recently went on my first college tour. We were on vacation near the college where both of my parents graduated from and we decided to drop by and check it out. It was a great experience and it showed me some good steps I need to take to be the most college ready when I graduate. I have to admit, though, I was in a bad mood the entire time.

And I didn’t really even know why. I may have gotten up a little earlier than I had wanted and we may have been rushing to get there on time but neither of those reasons should have made me grumpy. But grumpy I was, and I think I may have figured out the problem.

You see, I like to always know what is going on, whether it’s the plan for the day or for the next 10 years, and visiting the college reminded me that the future is beyond control. That thought scared me and, without realizing it, I was in a bad mood because I was suddenly aware of the uncertainty of my future.

I can make plans (and I probably should) but I can’t plan my step by step guide for the rest of my life. Things happen and things change. And I sometimes struggle with that. I want to be in absolute control over my life and what happens at all times. I want to go through life with both hands on the wheel never letting go.

However, sometimes, I don’t know what’s best for me. Sometimes, I make a wrong turn, don’t follow the directions, and get lost. Being in control of my life suddenly leaves me alone and without help, lost in life and not knowing where to turn.

But, there is someone who never makes a mistake. Someone who never gets lost and who knows what’s best for me at all times. He has a much better plan, one that doesn’t fail and won’t change. He knows what’s best for all of us is holding our futures in his hands with gentle care and consideration. I may not know all the twists and turns in my life but there someone who does. And I fully surrender the reigns of my life to God.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” – Jeremiah 29:11

I couldn’t write an article about the future without including this verse. It is very popular and has a great message. The reason many people find this verse so appealing is that it reminds us of who is in control and who is shaping our future. We don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen because God has got everything figured out already.

So, even though we don’t know where we’re headed, God is right by our side guiding us on our walk with him. So grab tight to his hand, give him your trust, and walk on knowing that you have hope and a future.

 

11 years of friendship

My little sister and best friend is turning 11 today. It’s been 11 years since I first held that tiny baby and fell instantly in love and I’ve loved every second of getting to know her better and become great friends.

06-21 Lindy's Birth (15)

To celebrate, I have compiled a list of 11 reasons why I love and adore her (and always will):

  1. Her friendliness. She is just so good at being a friend that everyone instantly wants to be friends with her. Easily turning anyone into an intimate friend is her superpower!
  2. Her optimism. She is constantly looking on the bright side. Her great outlook on life and ability to always find the silver lining in any situation is contagious.
  3. Her self-control. She has the ability to make holloween candy last until Christmas! She can limit herself to one piece a day and doesn’t even seem tempted to go over the limit. She constantly has a supply of candy stored in her bedroom. Not to mention that she went 40 days without any candy or chocolate for Lent…
  4. Her smile. Her smile could light up the darkest of nights and cheer up the saddest of people. Plus, I just recently noticed how photogenic she was. I still can’t comprehend how she looks good in every picture she takes!
  5. Her sarcasm. She has definitely mastered the art of sarcasm, but, then again, so has our entire family…
  6. Her tidiness. We sure found out who the messy one was when I moved out into my own room (me…)
  7. Her roughhousing. Although it sometimes gets on my nerves, I admire her ability to make any kid giggle when she tickles them and spins them around until they can’t breathe from laughter.
  8. Her outgoingness. She’s not afraid to meet and talk to new people. Or belt out a song at the top of her lungs in public. Or be her crazy self no matter who is watching.
  9. Her curls. Her hair is gorgeous (as you can see from the pictures) even though she hasn’t realized it yet.
  10. Her love. Both loving and lovable, she loves unconditionally without fear and is loved the same way in return.
  11. Her faith in Jesus. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that she has an unshakeable faith in God her Father and Savior. As Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” She has a mountain-moving faith and my prayer for her is that she will continue to nurture it to its full potential. God has big things in store for her and I can’t wait to see what his full plans for her life are.

Well, there you have it, 11 of the *many* reasons I love her.

If sisters were flowers, I’d still pick you.
I’d let the sun shine so you’d never be blue.
I’d show the world how beautifully you grew,
with bright bold colors and strength through & through.
If sisters were flowers, I’d pick you right away.
Because you cheer me up and bring smiles each day.
If sisters were flowers, for what it’s worth.
I’d always pick you … the best sister on earth.

Happy Birthday, little sister! I love you and look forward to another year of giggles, late nights, and secrets with you!

Patience (Fruit of the Spirit)

Unlike most people think, patience is not the ability to wait, it is the ability to have a good attitude while waiting. Everyone is going to have to wait at some point. Life isn’t about things happening every second of the day. If it was, we would be exhausted! Whining, pacing, and complaining about the wait do nothing to shorten it, in fact, they usually make the person feel the wait more and it will seem longer. Having the right attitude while waiting makes it seem easier and feel shorter.

I found this quote on patience that I really like:

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” – Arnold H. Glasow

Our God is a very patient God. In Exodus, God shows his tremendous amount of patience to the people of Israel. In the beginning, God talks to Moses through a burning bush and tells him to lead his people out of Israel. But, Moses comes up with every reason that he is inadequate to go. God, however, responds patiently to every reason saying that He will be with Moses. Later, after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, the people started crying out to God that they had no food or water and that He had abandoned them in the desert. They very easily forgot what he had done for them in Egypt. However, he again patiently responds by giving them manna and quail and water.

This happens over and over again: the people forget how powerful and loving their God is while God patiently provides.

But, what about us? How can we be patient? Remind yourself that you love the person you want to have patience with.

Jacob gives us a clear example of this in Genesis 29. He is looking for a wife when God sends him Rachel. She is very beautiful and Jacob immediately falls in love with her. Jacob agrees to work for her father, Laban, for seven years just to marry Rachel. So, for seven long years, Jacob works diligently for Laban. However, at the end of the seven years, Laban tricks Jacob into marrying his other daughter, Leah and tells Jacob that if he wants to marry Rachel he will have to work another seven years. Jacob is upset but he does it just to get Rachel. And I love this verse because it tells of Jacob’s patience in waiting to marry Rachel:

“So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” – Genesis 29:20.

Jacob worked for 5,110 days (14 years) but he did it willingly and patiently because of the love he felt for Rachel. I definitely think there were times when Jacob wanted to give up and just go find another woman. But, he stayed and had patience for all of those years because he remembered his love for Rachel.

The key to patience is remembering the love you have for that person. When you do that, all of the little things they do that annoy us will seem trifle because of how much you love them and, more importantly, God loves them.

And once you master patience, you will be able to master everything else because you will have learned the rewards of waiting patiently.

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful ladies who have the joy of being called “Mommy!”

I love Mother’s Day because it allows the mom’s who work tirelessly nonstop all year to be appreciated for what they do for us each and every day. It gives them a chance to relax and have stuff done for them instead.

However, thanking your mom isn’t something that should just be done on mother’s day. Mothers aren’t slaves or servants and they shouldn’t be treated like they are. Think about how many sleepless nights, tantrums, school projects, and obnoxious friends your mom has dealt with over the years.

I look at teenagers today who are disrespectful to their moms 364 days a year and are only polite and loving on mother’s day. How can we think that is right? Moms aren’t just loving, kind, and helpful one day a year, so why should we only appreciate them one day a year?

So, I encourage you to spend time today thanking and loving on your mom (she definitely deserves it!) but don’t forget to do it tomorrow, and the next day, and next month, and next year.

I love you, Mom! You truly are the best!