Nothing Tidy About That First Christmas

We’ve whitewashed everything about this scene:  beatific Mary gazing serenely at a cleaned up baby cozy in a cleaned up manger towered over by Joseph and surrounded by adoring shepherds and freshly groomed, sweet smelling animals.

It was nothing like that.

Birth is pain and sweat and effort.

And messy.  So, so messy.

I like to think more clearly about what that night was like.  It helps my heart to know that even while God was being birthed as a man into the world He created, He didn’t hide the hard.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/12/24/christmas-drama/

Hopelessness-The First Step To Celebrating Christmas


I don’t know about you but I’ve never thought of hopelessness as something I wanted on my resume.

Hopelessness is typically tossed into the pile of “negative” feelings we all acknowledge but don’t want to experience and if we do, we try to minimize, rationalize or disguise them.

If I admit to it at all, I tend to look downward, whisper quickly and pray that no one takes much notice because it feels shameful.

But maybe hopelessness is the first step to truly celebrating Christmas.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/12/19/qualified-by-hopelessness-an-empty-heart-can-be-filled/

Advent For Hurting Hearts: Announced By An Angel


When the angel came to Mary and told her she was to be the mother of God’s Son,  she was (rightly) confused.

Her first thoughts ran to what she knew and understood:  children are conceived by the joining of man and woman, she was a virgin.

How can this be?”

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/12/09/advent-for-the-brokenhearted-announced-by-an-angel/

Advent For Hurting Hearts: Birthplace Foretold

One of the things I struggle with since Dominic ran ahead to heaven is this:  is every detail of history planned by God?  Or are there general outlines filled in by human choices (good and bad) and leading ultimately to God’s working out HIS story within OUR stories?

How do I reconcile God’s sovereignty and my free will?

I’m still working on that. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/12/04/advent-for-the-brokenhearted-birthplace-foretold/

Holy Week Reflections: Sorrow Lifted as Sacrifice

In some liturgical Christian traditions, today is the day the church remembers and honors Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive and rare perfume.  

It was a beautiful act of great sacrifice as the perfume would ordinarily be a family treasure broken and used only at death for anointing a beloved body.

It’s also an expression of deep sorrow because somehow Mary knew.

Mary.  Knew.  

So she poured out her precious gift on the One Who loves her most.  

Tears are my sacrifice. 

I am pouring them at the feet of Jesus, trusting He will receive them and bless them as He did those of Mary even if others don’t understand.

Christians sometimes have a funny idea about sorrow being unspiritual. We often expect grieving hearts to heal quickly without allowing for the many stages of the grief process. Pam writes, ‘Our Savior was ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3). I wonder if He came to one of our churches now like that, if someone wouldn’t try and cheer Him up and tell Him to ‘let it go and open himself to the joy of the Lord,’ then give him a book and tape series to that effect?’ “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great, but do not let me fall into the hands of men.” 2 Samuel 24:14

~ Jennifer Saake, Hannah’s Hope

Would I have chosen this broken path?

Absolutely not.

Will I embrace it as something God can use to make me more like Jesus?

I hope so-I’m certainly trying.

We are told our tears are so very precious to God that He keeps track of them in a bottle. I often wonder if when we get to Heaven, or when God remakes the earth into its beautiful and perfect form, the bottles will be opened and every tear counted and redeemed.

you keep track of all my tears

I do know that God has made many precious promises to those who love Him and suffer sorrow in this life.

Psalm 84 has always been a favorite and since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven it is doubly so.  Verse six speaks hope to my heart:

“Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; The early rain also covers it with blessings.”  AMP

This version is beautiful:

And how blessed all those in whom you live,
    whose lives become roads you travel;
They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,
    discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and
    at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!

~ Psalm 84:5-7 MSG

No matter how difficult the passage, God promises to be with me on the journey and to bless my endurance with His very Self.

It’s hard to receive sorrow as a gift and even harder to lift it as a sacrifice of praise.  

But when I do, I find God meets me there.  

The pain doesn’t disappear, but He gives me strength to bear up under it.

And this great sorrow that weighs on my heart also opens my eyes.  I am not the only one weeping.

Look at Jesus. He is always weeping, a man of sorrows. Do you know why? Because He is perfect. When you are not absorbed in yourself, you can feel the sadness of the world. ~Tim Keller

jesus weeping sad on hillside

Advent for the Brokenhearted: Announced by an Angel

When the angel came to Mary and told her she was to be the mother of God’s Son,  she was (rightly) confused.

Her first thoughts ran to what she knew and understood:  children are conceived by the joining of man and woman, she was a virgin.

How can this be?”

The angel Gabriel explained (sort of):  “Your child will be conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And as proof of God’s miraculous ability to do what He says He will do-your old relative, Elizabeth, is six months pregnant!” [loose personal paraphrase]

So Mary graciously bowed her heart to this strange thing God was doing in her and asking of her.

“I belong to the Lord, body and soul,” replied Mary, “let it happen as you say.” And at this the angel left her.  (Luke 1:38 PHILLIPS)

She was willing, even though she could not possibly have understood all that would be asked of her in the end.

God did not give me any warning that He was about to take my life in another, very hard, very painful, horribly sad direction. 

No angel explained to me what God was doing. 

I didn’t have a chance to ask questions or beg for a different path.

I cannot change what HAS happened-Dominic is dead.  But my heart attitude determines how I will REACT to what has happened.

I am faced with precisely the same decision Mary had to make:  Will I trust God-Who cannot lie and Who will fulfill every promise-or do I turn my heart from Him and seek my own will and way?

I am not nearly as gracious as Mary.  I have kicked against the goads and screamed, “Why???” at the sky.

I will still tell anyone who asks that I do not like this plan at all.

But I am learning to rest in the same truth that guided Mary’s heart. 

I am God’s servant-His bondslave-and He is in control. 

He may do with me as He pleases.

mary-and-jesus