Mary Was My Age

free image cross_jesus_wood

Last night we saw a dramatic presentation of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It was seen through the eyes of several witnesses. One of those witnesses was Mary, Jesus’ mother. The actress, playing the part of Mary, stated she was “old.” Now I know old is a relative term, but it didn’t sit well with me. So I started doing the math.

Tradition states in Biblical times a Jewish girl could be betrothed as young as age 10 or 12. We do not know how old Mary was during her engagement to Joseph, pregnancy, and the birth of Jesus; but, based on common knowledge of the culture at the time, we could guess somewhere between 10 and 16.  What we do know is Jesus was crucified when he was 33. So I added 14 (possible age of Mary at Jesus’ birth) and 33 (Jesus’ age at time of death) and got 47. 47! That’s my age! (That’s NOT old!) But that’s not my point.

When I started thinking of that blessed mother as someone my age, something clicked. There was Mary at the foot of the cross watching her son die. My heart sunk. For Mary, He wasn’t only (as if Jesus could be described as “only” anything) the Messiah; He was the baby she had nursed and the child she had raised.

What if that were my son on the cross? The pain would be excruciating.

I wonder if Mary clung to the hope she had that Sunday was coming. That Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was the hope for the world. That all Gabriel and Jesus had told her would come to pass.

As I walk through trials and hurts of life, I cling to the hope I have.

It may be Friday . . . but Sunday’s a comin’!

10 Christmas Traditions

advent candles

In the same manner that the Israelites had their traditions to remember their heritage and what God had done for them, many families have holiday traditions. These practices help create family memories and solidify bonds.

Because of our family constitution (step-children and “other” parents), we have been creative in establishing traditions. We recognize the importance traditions hold, so we continue to instill them into our lives but follow them loosely. By that I mean that we aren’t bound by them or bothered if we have to change a few things around to fit our schedule. For example, a few years ago when Christmas fell on a Sunday we followed our “Christmas morning ritual” on Christmas Eve morning.

Our traditions include:

1 – Christmas Tree – We have our pattern. Don and the children build the tree (we go artificial here), and I put on the lights. Some church ladies taught me how to weave the lights in and out of the branches which makes for a more illuminated and prettier tree. The children then decorate with our unsophisticated store bought and homemade ornaments. A few peculiar ones remind us of stories and cause us to laugh. And we each have our “special” ornaments.

2 – Christmas Music – On this point I am a stickler: Christmas music may not be played until after Thanksgiving. After that I listen to it as often as possible, and we always play it while assembling the tree. We have our favorite CDs – the ones that generate a, “Remember this . . .” comment or story – and usually add to the collection each year.

3 – Advent Story – While we maintain a flexible schedule, we read part of an advent story and light advent candles each day during advent. When our older boys were in Kindergarten I stumbled on a story entitled Jotham’s Journey. The next two years I purchased the other two books in the series. Since that time, we have rotated through them, reading one each year. The stories aid us in focusing on the purpose of our celebration, Christ and His birth. They also remind us how to live and assist us in looking forward to His second coming.

4 – Anonymous Gift – Each year our family gives an anonymous monetary gift to a family or person in need. This tradition reflects what Christ has done for us and teaches our children the gift of giving.

5 – Foods & Crafts – Some foods smell like Christmas! During this season I bake more, and the children spend more time making crafts (remember those homemade ornaments mentioned in #1?).

6 – Christmas Eve Service – We have attended services at several different churches and enjoy the awe and wonder inspired by candlelight, quiet hymns, the reading of the Christmas story, worshiping with God’s people, and other blessings a Christmas Eve service includes.

7 – Christmas Breakfast – Don is a great cook and enjoys serving a big breakfast as part of our celebration. But I must admit we don’t always have this breakfast on Christmas morning. If we are traveling (which has been the case for the past few years), we adapt by having this meal on a different day.

8 – Quiet Exchange – Don and I prefer to exchange gifts without the children around, so we usually break ours out after the kids go to bed Christmas Eve.

9 – Exchange Gifts & Stockings – We do not purchase elaborate or expensive gifts, but we do participate in the giving of gifts and stocking stuffers. I think it’s fun and the kids enjoy selecting presents to fit each family member’s personality. More recently we have established a routine as to when and how we open gifts, but in the past we have been flexible on our plans as usually there was one or two family members missing on Christmas morning. Periodically we allow the children to open a gift or two Christmas Eve but usually open on Christmas morning (unless we are traveling).

10 – Extended Family – This is the time of year my heart aches for those I grew up with. Both Don’s family and mine are spread far and wide throughout the United States. Unfortunately we are unable to visit with most of them but, when possible, we drive to my mom’s.

I pray these traditions help my children connect Christmas with family and Christ’s birth.

I’d love to hear from you! In the midst of this holiday season, what traditions will you be including in your celebration?

Happy Father’s Day

To new fathers wondering how fatherhood works,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers of teens still wondering how fatherhood works,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who are now grandfathers,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers with hearts that soar over their child’s accomplishments,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers with hearts that ache over their child’s failures,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who play ball with their children,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who struggle to maintain food on the table,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who go to bed weary,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers of an adopted child,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers of a foster child,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who tell their children “I love you unconditionally,”
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who lead their children by following Christ,
Happy Father’s Day

To my father who is a source of encouragement, strength, and wisdom,
Happy Father’s Day

Barb and Dad dancing Barb and Dad

Who Do You Represent?

newspapersKenneth is running a paper route for some friends while they are on vacation. Saturday morning he got up, folded the newspapers, and finished the route before I rolled out of bed. (I had actually forgotten he had to get up early to complete this task.) When I came down the stairs Kenneth told me it sprinkled for a few minutes and then stopped while he was delivering papers, and he hadn’t put them into plastic bags. I confessed I should have looked at the weather and informed him it was supposed to rain.

I suggested he go back to the houses and put the papers into plastic bags. His face showed his lack of desire. I told him I understood how he felt, but if someone complained it would be his friends who got in trouble. I left it at that.

Fifteen minutes later Kenneth said he was leaving to go back over the route. (I’m so proud!)

This incident reminded me that just as those in Congress are to represent their constituents, we are representatives.

My friend tells her children when they leave the house, “Remember you leave here a member of the Jones family, and you will return a member of the Jones family. Don’t forget who you are.” I think she is reminding her children to stick to the family values they’ve been taught and not to be swayed by peer pressure. The children represent the Jones family.

As Christians, we are ambassadors for Christ. We are His representatives; and as such, we are to do His will and spread His message because our actions reflect upon Him. What others believe about us will possibly affect their beliefs about Christ.

Surprisingly (we hadn’t compared notes on what each of us was writing), my husband’s sermon supported these thoughts. In Acts 23, the high priest struck Paul on the mouth. When Paul questioned his actions, those near Paul told him he had insulted the high priest.

“Paul replied, ‘Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest’” (Acts 23:5).

There are several explanations as to why Paul made this statement. One is that Paul was being sarcastic because the high priest’s actions did not reflect the God he was representing. Another possible reason is that Paul’s eyesight was bad, and he truly could not see who was talking to him. But even if this were the case, Paul should have recognized him through his behavior. Whatever the reason behind Paul’s statement, the fact remains that the high priest was not acting appropriately for his position. Therefore, Paul did not know him for who he was and who he represented.

  • Will people recognize us as Christians?
  • Do our actions reflect Christ?
  • How well are we representing Him?

Besides Christ, who else do we represent? The answer for me includes: my husband, my family, my church, my employer, my community, and my country.

How about you? Who do you represent?

capital building

Witness

I stepped off the airplane and headed toward baggage claim. As I rounded the corner, I spotted him . . . my husband. My heart leapt! An unexpected surprise! I had driven to the airport, so his presence was unnecessary.

I smiled. “Why are you here?”

“I missed you,” he replied. “Besides, I want to be here—I am the witness to your life.”

I knew the reference. It was from a movie we had watched together, Shall We Dance? In the movie, the main character, played by Susan Sarandon, explains why people get married. “We need a witness to our lives . . . in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. . . You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

Don’s declaration means that he not only loves me, but he values me and our time together. He treasures the time we spend together and desires to know me—the whole me—intimately. He expresses this in numerous ways. He cheers for me. He listens to me. He consoles me. He counsels me. He encourages me. He helps me. He leads me. In essence, he emulates Christ. And because of his actions, I better reflect Christ to others, especially our children.

Which makes me wonder . . . shouldn’t I be the witness to my children’s lives? Who, besides the Lord, cares for them more? Don’t they need someone to hold them when they are hurt, pay attention to them when they are discouraged, and listen to their stories even when they go on and on with no ending in sight?

P1010429.square

So when you see me shout the loudest after Melinda makes a basket, know it’s because I am her cheerleader.

track meet

When you see me yell, “You can do it!” as JT runs past me at a track meet, know it’s because I am his encourager.

P1010373.square

When you see me assist Kenneth during a magic show, know it’s because I am his helper.

drummer

When you see me attend a rock concert in which Kevin is the drummer, know it’s because I am his promoter.

graduation

When you see me wipe a tear as JT and Kevin walk down the aisle in their caps and gowns, know it’s because I am their teacher.

I am the witness to their lives.

What about you? Whose life are you witnessing?