Everyone Wants to Be a Tim Tebow Christian

I talk to parents. It is part of my job. When people find out I teach High school (and like it) they sometimes talk to me about their kids. Tim Tebow has come up a surprising number of times. It seems everyone’s kid has Tebow potential.

Disclaimer: I’ve never spoken a word to Tim Tebow. From what I can gather based on the person that he presents himself to be, he seems legit to me. I hope that God is doing a great work in him for all the world to see. That would be wonderful. I don’t really have anything bad to say about him. I would however like it on record that I would love to see him do a really crazy thing like drive a used car, live on $100,000 a year (which is way over the average family income of $46,000 and change) and give the rest to charity. I know that may be a little much to ask, but a girl can dream.

Everyone wants to be a Tim Tebow christian. To live a big life in front of millions of people all for the glory of the Lord. We want a big car and pool and a compelling story. We want to be a football star for the gospel, a quarterback for Christ. We want to call the shots and save the game with millions of people screaming our name….for Jesus of course. We want a chance to proclaim on ESPN that it really isn’t about me, but my savior. As our name scrolls happily across the bottom of the screen. I know I do.

Everyone wants to parent the next Tim Tebow. To watch their kid succeed on the football field or the stage. To be succesful in front of a huge crowd. Everyone wants to cheer in the stands as their kid proves to the world, the haters, themselves that God made them special. Everyone wants their kid to be the one that is the light to the world in the most obvious of ways, with Jesus written on their state champion tennis shoes. Or perhaps as the child thanks God (then the parents) from behind the podium in their valedictory address on commencement day.

We know that Jesus said we would be persecuted. That our children might be as well. We would like that persecution to come in the form of some eye-rolls and being the butt of Jay Leno’s jokes. That’s the kind of persecution we can get behind. The one that comes with the fame enough to be mentioned on a late night show and everyone in America gets the joke.

Even if we can accept the fact that we are not a Tim Tebow Christian, what parent doesn’t desire the very best for their children

A Tim Tebow kind of life: fame. fortune, friends, all to the glory of God. Yes please, sign me up for that faith and I will take one for the kids. The one where God calls them to do something extraordinary that society values. And for some this is where he calls them, but for most this is not where the narrow path leads.

If Jesus thought that the Roman empire was rough, He should try choosing a seat in the average High School cafeteria. I am grappling with the fact already that there is a distinct possibility that God’s best for my child will not be very popular, will not make them very popular. What if my kid goes and sits next to the weird smelly kid (provided they are not the weird smelly kid) and then no one else wants to be their friend? How will that not be hard for me as well? It seems like in that moment I would wish for them to be the popular kid for Jesus.

There are a few of those in the Bible, but mostly not so much.  The Bible doesn’t give us instructions based on getting people to like us. It gives us instructions to abandon all that popularity and take up our cross. Rarely does this happen on television. Mostly we are called to serve quietly and humbly. (I have heard Tebow does this quite well, but we never hear about it because, you know, he is quiet and humble about it.) Most of us will never make it to the front page for the good works that we do. And that is hard for me, and perhaps you to be reminded that mostly the Christian life isn’t about us, but Christ.

From Pee to Living Water

I think sometimes I overlook miracles. Ones that happen everyday so they no longer seem impressive. They happen every day at my house, two under two lends itself to miracles. Two babies with clean diapers at the same time, synchronized nap times, first words, first steps, a not-yet-two-year-old who agrees to go along with the plan. They don’t happen all the time. But enough that I forget they are miracles.

Lord, allow me to pour out you Living Water.

But it is emotional miracles, change of heart miracles, miracles you can’t see I have been noticing lately. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the healing, the manifestations, the return of $900 for your $500 deposit. I’ve seen them, and plan on seeing more. But the emotional miracles, the ones you can’t see. I’ve been seeing a lot of those lately.

Like the time just this weekend when God changed pee into living water. I wish I was speaking metaphorically here, but I am afraid that a misguided child snuck into a friends house and offered his practical joke in the form of peeing in her boot. A child that she could have ignored, but instead has been kind to. A child no one else thinks about much. His parents are too busy, too sick, too overwhelmed, too underserviced. The best that they can is not enough to meet the needs of the kids they have in the house. So the child sneaks into another house, and pees in a boot. Who knows why really, he probably doesn’t know himself.

The pee in the boot was not the miraculous part. It was the gross part. The miraculous part was the Living Water that was poured back out. The initial reaction was expected, I am calling the police (you should I responded) I am telling those kids I am done (be done I agreed) I am telling those parents that I don’t care how overwhelmed they are, they need to get a handle on those children (it is for the children’s own good I encouraged.) But then we prayed about it. And the bitter, stinky, gross puddle of waste that was pooling in our hearts was touched by the finger of God. And as the puddle rippled…..the piss in my friend’s heart was turned into Living Water. I love praying with Godly people.

I wonder if those kids would like to go to church with us? (I wasn’t so the church’s kids community could handle all that.) I had planned on asking those boys to walk my dog with me, I wonder why I never asked the parents. What would it look like if I were radically kind to those boys in direct response of being pissed on? It would look like Jesus. Like what Jesus did for us. What Jesus does for us. Even when we know we are doing wrong and continue it anyway, just because we feel like it.

I know that there are other miracles that are flashier, water to wine lets you continue to party. Manna every morning lets you keep walking. Being healed of blindness, lameness, leprosy; tumors disappearing all of these are glorious things. But turning a puddle of pee into living water, and watching someone pour it out to the pisser. How do you get more miraculous than that?

This post was written for Just Write. Go check it out!

Where we used to sit.

I remember where we used to sit, a worn comfortable table that we never worried about spilling or scratching. Those spill and scratches, bumps and bruises only added to the tables warmth, its charm.

We started out across from each other, carefully bringing what we had to offer, setting it on the table. Explaining what we had to share. But pretty soon we scooted the two chairs next to each other, threw everything on to the same plate and ate right off of it. Together. I don’t even know when it happened. It just made sense at the time.

And in that sharing because it made good sense, my soul was fed. It was like our hearts came right out of our bodies to meet each other, recalibrate their rhythm and beat again, differently, better because of each other. My heartbeat as much my own as yours. We were doing this thing together. We were less alone in our struggles, less alone in our joys. I would tell people I had a tiny piece of the community I am sure is waiting for me eternally.

I don’t know who moved first. Honestly, I no longer care. I only know that we are no longer sitting next to each other, sharing, saving the best bites for each other. We have migrated away from the table. And in our worst moments we were across the room with our arms crossed and glaring. I may have even stomped my foot in frustration that you won’t see it my way.

We have since approached that worn table again. Uncrossed our arms from our chest so that our hearts may hear each other. We are sitting across from each other again, but on opposite ends of the table. Offering the things we know the other will need. Soon we will pull out the chairs and sit again. Perhaps you have already.

We are careful with each other. Thank you’s and pleases and are you sures, each taking what we need but keeping our portions small and polite. I miss the days of sitting next to each other, everything on the same plate.  The simplicity of sharing everything, sure that there is more than enough to go around, sure that everyone will get their own best bites.

I can hear our hearts reaching for each other across the table and the awkward silences. Wishing to recalibrate once again. We inch to toward the seats we were once comfortable in, prints worn into the wood reminding us that the seats next to each other are where we belong. The plate is still there, between the two seats waiting for the offering of shared lives.

I am hopeful we will find our way back there, next to each other. That it will once again feel like one heart beating, one story told. My heart yearns for that once easy communion. The way it once was. The way it will be. Forever and ever. Amen.

Grass Day 3: Waiting for Grass to grow

So here we are after  day 1 and day 2 waiting for the grass to grow. And I have to confess. I am not good at this part. The waiting.

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I know Audrey.  I am waiting too…..

Every time I go in or out of the front door I check for new growth. The wildflower garden is in full bloom in my heart and mind, and I keep hoping that I will be greeted with a matching picture when I walk out the door.

I know that God can do this. Have a full garden spring over night. But most of the time He does not. Most of the time you see the start of something poke out, and like right now at my house I think, surely it is too early. But then think well maybe before I decide it must just be a weed.

The backyard…the waiting is leaving me in knots. I want so badly to believe that the grass will grow, that the seeds I planted will turn into a real live yard. But I don’t seem to have the faith for that. Instead what runs through my head is this “surely this won’t work. I can’t believe that I wasted all that time energy and money.” (Forty dollars is a lot of money at our house right now.) But then “wait, is that grass, new grass, no that was already there…I think…maybe.”

I am not good at waiting it turns out. And I already knew that. You should see the journal entries I wrote to Juliet when I thought she may be the twins. And my mental state after my second ultrasound. But there is nothing for me to do but wait for them.  I have been able to rest in that pretty well. Especially since I hope they don’t show up any time soon!

But I want the grass to show up soon, when I get home today would be perfect. I want to be able to do something, you know? And worrying feels like doing something…even when it is not. Worrying isn’t doing anything but making me unable to look in my backyard without feeling like I am going to throw up. It is me attempting to gain control of things I cannot control.

When I stop worrying I can  learn to grow other things along with my grass. Trust, faith, hope. Trust that the Lord wants good things for my life, faith that things will work like they were designed, hope that there could be change for the better. And the pragmatic part of me thinks, Lowe’s is not going to run out of grass seed anytime soon. Worst case scenario I have to do the whole thing over again. And the even more pragmatic part of me is rolling her eyes, “muddy backyard? If that is the only problem you have you are pretty danged lucky.”

It is such a little thing to be consumed by, considering the bigness of my God.

Grass Day 2: Seeds of Faith

 

As I explained yesterday, Juliet helped in the grass seed throw down in our back yard. Rarely is she allowed to grab handfuls of stuff and throw it all over the place and not get told “no, no.” Having a 22 month old (I am very aware that at this point I am just refusing to call her two because….she was a baby two seconds ago!) that you are trying to explain things to, makes you realize just how very little you actually have figured out. I mean, really, why do we have to wear pants outside anyway? What is up with that?

                                                       Little in the Hands of God is much…..
 
 

So I am tossing this grass seed out and I am thinking, this girl has exactly zero idea that we are actually doing something here. She has no idea that I expect something to come out of this activity. She just thinks we are running around the backyard having a good time. And really how would I explain it to her? These seeds are going to bury themselves in the ground, then they are going to open up and grow roots down and poke up out of the ground beautiful green grass. In two to four weeks.

The Peanut can’t even comprehend the time it takes for a cookie to cool down. She just knows there is a cookie on the counter and not in her mouth. So the time thing alone is impossible. And when you actually break it down, no matter how scientific you get, it still sounds a little mystical. Because it is a little mystical. This teeny tiny seed has everything it needs to become a blade of grass that can then die and regenerate itself. Everything it needs, with the right set of circumstances and this seemingly worthless seed becomes the grass I have been dreaming about for two years.

I was thinking about how if someone who had never seen anything planted came to my backyard they would laugh at me. This is surely not going to work. Sprinkle little beeds of dead looking grass in the dirt. Put water on it and you honestly expect the ground to be covered in grass? You are an idiot.

But I know that this is possible, that this is what I can expect, because I have seen it. Every year from preschool through the third grade I planted something and watched it grow, from a seemingly worthless seed to a styrofoam cup of live green stuff that I held with two hands because I did not want to spill it. Because I was proud of it, and thought it was pretty cool that a plant could grow out of a seed. We had a garden one year where I even grew pumpkins and cucumbers, and lets not forget the space tomatoes that we got from our LEAP class. ( I am aware there are maybe 200 people on earth that understand the back end of that sentence. Shout out to Mrs. Salvage!)

The doubts are creeping in, about these seeds that have been planted. (That is my post for tomorrow). But it is easy to keep them away right now because I have seen with my own two eyes, the evidence that given the right circumstances, plants do grow from seeds. There is not a way to explain it, you simply have to see that it is true. I think that is why we have small children plant stuff. The evidence takes hold stronger if they experience it for themselves.

I had seeds of faith planted in my childhood, and I got to watch them grow. There is a huge difference between understanding that God is your provider mentally because the Bible says it is true, and watching a “random” check show up a week after you prayed for the mortgage bill to be covered. Or have the light bill come back on after your dad met someone on the street who handed him a check on his way to tell the electric company he didn’t have the money. Or getting a phone call just hours after you prayed for a car, offering you the exact same car you just lost, only two years newer.

It is easier for me to believe the Lord wants to physically heal people, because I was healed. It is easier for me to trust that God will provide for our families needs because He has never screwed us over before. Even in my car accident, the Lord was faithful. But if I stop noticing, stop talking about them, I can forget about those seeds, and how they grew into blooming bushes of God’s goodness. Just like it is easy to forget that every living plant I pass every day starts from seeds.

It also makes me want to intentionally plant seeds with my girls, to pray for things and watch with the right circumstance of faith and love, those prayer seeds grow into bushes of God’s goodness. And to remember that those things started out as little seeds of faith.

How about you? What bush of goodness is growing in your life?

Grass Day 1

A week in planting grass.

Saturday we got out of the house so Christian could write. Plus Jill hates going anywhere by herself and she had two anywheres to go. So we piled into the station wagon, just us girls, and headed for all the errands. We ended up at Lowes, where I got some grass seed and a bag of “southern wild flower seed” on a whim. I had a surprising number of thoughts about all this. So here we are a week in grass seed. 

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This is pretty much what I was dreaming of…I found it via flickr.

Part 1: The emotional roller coaster that is my lawn.

I showed up at the Lowes, my babies and sister in tow. By the time we got around to buying the grass seed, the Peanut had decided she was too big for the riding business, and was in charge of pushing the cart. (She may have had some grown up help as we did not want her to ram Rooster into anything. No killing your sister is officially a rule at our house.)

It was intimidating. I don’t know anything about grass except that it grows in lawns and it is nice to have. And we need some. But we went out to the lawn and garden section and found a guy who could point us in the right direction. Just your every day average lawn? There were two choices. As I went to choose a woman mentioned that she had planted her grass seed just two weeks ago. Hers was growing in really well and she was buying more seed just to fill in the patches. Sweet. Two weeks? The lawn would for sure be in, in time for the Peanut’s second birthday party! To be on the safe side I got the fifteen pound bag.

I was feeling really good about my fifteen pound bag of grass. I can do this. All I have to do is put it down and water it. No problem. My lawn is going to be beautiful! It is going to be lush and green and Peanut and Rooster are going to play in it all summer. They will roll around in it, getting their clothing all stained green and smelling of earth. This will be awesome it could even be fun.

Then I got home and read the back. I had gotten distracted with my wildflower garden and had spent some time and energy raking that out and repositioning the brick border. So when I read the back of the grass package, I was already a little over the raking part. It just the actual doing it seemed a lot less fun than the idea of planting the grass. It was certainly less fun than playing in the already grown grass with my girls (we are studying alliteration in class, hey!). Which is what I kept thinking about when I bought the “super easy” grass.

I was supposed to rake out the debris, then evenly spread the seed, then rake it in really good. Wait a minute, this is not what I signed up for…I thought it was a drop and grow kind of seed. Just how much of the debris needs raked out? How deep do I have to rake? How evenly distributed? I have a 22 month old who is dead set on helping….. Maybe I was in over my head.

I raked as much debris as I thought necessary. Then I started the process of distributing the grass seed. I didn’t have one of those push spreader things, so it was just me and the Peanut tossing handfuls of grass seed across the ground.

I started by going up and down in rows, stopping every once in a while to rake the seed around more evenly. But the Peanut wanted to help and I have never been one to be able to stick with any sort of organization, so our rows became much more rambling and pretty soon we were just running around all willy nilly throwing grass seed everywhere. I mean, I had a plan in my head and I think we covered it all,  but we didn’t go as evenly or as perfectly as I had once set out to go.

Then I started to feel bad about that. What if I didn’t get the grass all perfect? What if it is all clumpy and there are bare spots? What if it doesn’t grow at all and I may as well just throw forty dollars worth of pennies all over the backyard for all the money I wasted?

And then I started to feel bad about myself. Calvin would have done this perfectly, Tiffany can make anything grow, I should have shelled out the money for sod. This was a terrible idea and I wasted time and money (neither of which I have a lot of lately) all for nothing.

So I decided that if I get sporadic clumpy growth I will be happy. And I started this thing dreaming of rolls of lush green carpet for me and the girls to sink our bare feet into.

And then I realized that in many ways I do exactly this. Especially with the things I believe God has called me to do. I am a little intimidated at first starting a blog, or (and again I hesitate to write this, but I feel like it may be my next step) marketing myself as a Christian speaker. But then I get a little information and I am pumped. Yes! I can do that! Yeah, this is going to be awesome! I will start publishing posts and the Holy Spirit will take over and I will get a couple thousand hits a day! (on a good day I get 60. And I have been at this for over a year.) I think that God is big enough to do that, but for this He seems to want me to do the work.

When I actually start doing it I have a plan. Sometimes the plan is manageable and sometimes it is not. But often I abandon it and start sporadically dropping things here and there all willy nilly.

Then I beat myself up about not sticking to the plan. A million other people can do this better. I finish, but defeated, sure that no grass will grow, nothing will come of the work that I just did. And my faith in a great work, the one the Lord entrusted in me, is shrunk to just hoping that He can grow something, anything out of it. But it certainly won’t be that thing I had in mind to begin with. I’ll just be happy with a little bit, God, could you just manage that?

Somewhere between the green lush grass my babies will nap in that is in my head, to the actual planting of the seed, to the waiting, waiting, waiting….I let my faith die. Until I am begging God for a sliver of the dream that I was promised in full.

I think I am selling that grass seed short. I think it probably will grow and be fine by May 1. And I am selling my dreams short too. They weren’t labeled specifically, but these here posts are seeds I am planting. And I know that God will grow it into something beautiful.

What are you planting in your life? How is God growing it?

Jesus the Contractor?

I read this blog post last friday. It is about building a castle. How the Lord comes in to our hearts and desires to build beautiful wonderful things out of our hearts and lives. But all we wanted was for him to fix the leaky roof to our humble cottage. I suppose I knew Jesus was a carpenter, but I never thought of him as a contractor before.

On Saturday we had women’s group and I mentioned the post. Jill said something along the lines of “Yeah, remodeling is inconvenient! Sometimes you have to do your dishes in the bathtub.” I can’t get the thought out of my head, that the remodeling of my life, of my heart, of my soul, is likely to be uncomfortable and inconvenient at times.

There are times when Christ brings in the sledge-hammer and proceeds to knock down walls that you had been told were holding the house up. It is scary watching the support walls in your life crumble, only to discover that they were not as necessary as you were told. Or that they were necessary, but He put up some sort of non-permanent solution until the whole thing is remodeled. It sometimes looks like your life will come slamming down right onto your head.

Or sometimes he moves things that have been in place for years. Jesus changes around the light switches in the house of your life, or turns the water off to a particular faucet. It is so hard to unlearn old habits and stop turning on faucets that have worked in the past. That water needs to be cut off so that we will stop using that faucet. But we still go back until we finally have a new normal.

Sometimes Christ comes in and tears down the back deck, and you are annoyed. You liked that back deck; you used it. Where exactly are you supposed to put the grill now? It is really annoying. Why would he just tear down something that was working? But then He puts in the screened in porch of your dreams. Of course the deck had to go.

But mostly, when people talk about the inconvenience of cooking for months on a hot plate and a microwave, or doing their dishes in the tub, or having a family of seven using only one bathroom for a year, they talk about how it will be worth it. They have seen the plans, or designed those plans themselves. And when this inconvenience is all over the house will be bigger, or better, or nicer. The mess will be cleaned up and the dishwasher will be re-installed. The frustration will be over and a beautiful home will be in its place.

I don’t know what the final product will look like. The Lord knows there is a LOT of remodeling to be done in my life. But I know and trust the contractor intimately. And I believe that His design will be worth it.

Cast off Your Chains

Cast off your chains my friends, the ones that have been weighing you down. On the left wrist, the chain reads “try harder” on the right “do better.” Wrapped around both ankles is the chain of “you are not enough” it is held together with the links reading: should. I should be thinking this, feeling that, doing the other.

Should be spending less, should be giving more. You should have gotten to church on time and been more productive. You should be more, do more. You should get your act together. The shoulds link together wrap around your shoulders until you are stooped and shuffling along.

Some of these chains have been there so long, they feel as much a part of you as your arms. Some have snaked into your body and wrapped around your heart until it beats to the rhythm of the chain. Shouldshould, Shouldshould, Shouldshould.

Somehow, somewhere, someone taught you to wear these, maybe even wrapped the first one like a scarf gently around your neck. You are not enough, it read. But now you dress yourself in these chains every morning, some you even sleep in. Never take them off.

Someone may have even told you that Jesus wants you to carry these chains. They are a testament to Him, proof that you are faithful to your God. But these chains, these thoughts of inadequacy, these are not the things the Lord has for you. Jesus came to set you free from these chains.

Look closely, you will find the shackle on your wrist is unlocked. You do not in fact have to walk around today with the weight of trying harder and harder still. Let Jesus take that from you today. Allow Him to be enough…instead of you trying to be.

It may feel awkward, maybe even a little scary at first. New found freedom usually is. But soon you will realize, that without this chain, the one telling you to try harder, that your range of motion is extended. With Jesus holding the weight of that trying, you suddenly have the freedom to do just that.

Soon you will be dancing to the sound of those chains falling away. The sound of the clanking will cause your heart to dance with joy.

And your heart, oh your heart, it will recognize the freedom of the falling chain, reject the chain that snaked its way in. It will no longer beat Shouldshould Shouldshould. Instead it will beat Beloved Beloved. Because you are, just the way you are. No shoulds attached.

Jesus Lover

When people talk about me, what do they say? I have come to the conclusion that people are talking about me far less than I think they are. Seems I am the only one who thinks me so important. But when people do talk about me, what do they say? Oh, that is Abby she is…..?

There are so many things I want to be. A good teacher, (the teacher to some, the one that made the difference), a great mom and wife, a published author one day. All of those things plus the more general terms, kind, honest, funny. I hope people say that too. I hope those labels stick to me like the stickers on my food packaging, like the stamp on the milk container.

There are so many labels out there labels within labels even. Not just mom, working-mom, stay-at-home-mom, crunchy-granola-mom, attachment-mom, ferberizer (I know, really, it is a thing. I didn’t make it up.)

And as a christian, Oh Lord, how we love our labels. I am a fan of telling people about Jesus. I pray for people to meet my savior. If that is evangelism, am I an Evangelical? I believe that the bible is fundamentally true, am I a Fundamentalist? I speak in tongues and see visions, I have occasionally dreamed dreams. Does that make me a Charismatic? I was raised a Disciple but now go to a Baptist church, was baptised in a Disciples church but now take my discipline in a Baptist one. What does that make me? How do I identify myself? What does it mean?

What if I didn’t care? What if I peeled off all the other labels that I and others have attached to myself, wiped clean all the sticky residue, and printed off a new label. Black on white in bold, 40 point font. What if I stuck it straight onto my chest: Jesus Lover.

What if I lived my life in such a way that the only way to talk about me was to talk about Him? “That’s my friend Abby. She loves Jesus.” If I stopped spending so much time worried about if I am doing it all right, and simply concentrated on loving Jesus, what would that mean for me?

Oh to be a Jesus Lover. To think all day everyday on loving Jesus well. To do the dishes and the grading, the laundry and the driving hand in hand with my savior. I wouldn’t spend so many minutes worried about what a good mom, wife, teacher, friend, does. If I failed at one of those it would be okay.

Those are the things that I do. They are not who I am. I am a Jesus Lover.  I love Jesus. Put it on my t-shirt tomorrow and my gravestone someday Abby Norman: Jesus Lover.

If this was where my story began and where it ended, if it wrote everything in between. What a beautiful story it would be.

Mary: Natural Birth Momma?

It is the second year in a row that I am celebrating Christmas having given birth that year. Hopefully third time is not the charm…… It changes my perspective on Christmas for sure. In the past I have always been sort of enamored with the shepherds. They were my favorites. I mean, there they are just minding there own business when BAM the glory of the Lord totally invades their life.I could relate to that. I have been there.

But the whole mother thing. I could never relate to it at all. I remember thinking as a teen, that maybe the Holy Spirit intervened for Mary, that it was a completely painless and peaceful birth. As serene as so many of those carols we sing suggest. Yes, I thought, a miraculous pain free birth, that must have been it.And that was pretty much how I pictured it all. Even after I went through it twice, until I read this. And I suddenly have a very different picture of how it all went down conjuring in my heart.

I picture Mary on hands and knees, panting and grunting. Looking to Joseph and asking him if it will be over soon. Calling to God that in the middle of transition, that He must have been mistaken. She simply cannot bear the Christ child, let alone raise Him. And then the sense of peace that comes (with all those awesome hormones that come rushing your way) as someone pulls Jesus into her arms and she sees that He is in fact okay, she did in fact bear this child just as the Lord called her to do. He is here, He is glorious, and He is hers. I picture Mary naked and sobbing as she buries her face into the top of Jesus’ wet pink head. Later when she and her new baby are cleaned up, her and Joseph sit around and giggle about how tiny His little toes are, what a noisy eater He is. When the shepherds come Mary shows off her new baby. So proud of Him and what she managed to do. But her sweetest moments are the ones that first night when Joseph and all the animals are asleep and she pulls Jesus out of the manager just to smell Him. Joseph is a good guy and all but that was an arranged marriage. This is love at first sight.

I am drawn to the comparison of Christs actual birth and the things that Christ births in each of us. Sometimes it is actual things (anybody know what I should do with that kids book I wrote…anyone out there a literary agent?), sometimes relationships, sometimes freedom from things. God wants to birth things in us. I am struck by the stories I have head about birth, how much they sound like people in spiritual labor.

Like my sister who says half way through pushing she decides it is too hard. She hears the people around her telling her to push, that it is almost done, but really she just wants people to leave her alone. She is too tired and does not want to do it anymore so she just lies there instead, when she should be pushing through it. How often do we do this? Get to the end of something God wants us to do and decide it is simply too hard, we cannot go on. So we do nothing, when we would be better off pushing through.

Or the woman who told her husband “You better get your brother out of here because I am about to take all my clothes off!” Sometimes what we need to do makes other people uncomfortable…..and we need to do it anyway, and let people leave the room if they can’t handle it. Sometimes what God is asking us to do is lay our naked soul for all to see. And that can get awkward.

Sometimes it is like my cousin, who in the middle of transition she started packing her bags. She told her husband and her midwife she was not having this baby, that they were leaving the hospital. I can certainly relate to this. Sometimes when God calls us to something we simply flee. Jonah did that as I recall….it didn’t really work out for Him. But I think sometimes I do leave, and then I am stuck spiritually pregnant and uncomfortable because I got scared and ran away.

Sometimes God’s plan for us is like a dear friend’s birth. She did everything she could but she needed a c-section. It wasn’t at all what she pictured, and when she realized it wasn’t going to go down as she had imagined she kicked everyone out of the room to grieve. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, what God has for us is nothing like we imagine. I think God understands that we need to grieve the old plans in order to embrace His new ones.

Or in my case, I need people around me who believe that I can give birth. Because even as I am doing it, I holler out that I cannot. I need my brothers and sisters in Christ to remind me that I can in fact and am in fact doing what I am claiming I cannot do.

Birth is messy and can feel confusing. It comes too quickly in some cases and not quickly enough in others (Oh rooster….you were worth the wait). It never goes how we expect or plan or picture. I don’t pretend to know what it was like for Mary, or any woman for that matter. Birth is completely individual and universal all at the same time, just like our relationships with God. It is hard. But oh it is beautiful in all forms. Birth at all, let alone in a stable, is not the most glorious way to show up on this planet. Often the things God births in us come as screaming needy babies, things that need to be nursed and protected.

If I had been asked how I wanted to come into this world, I don’t think I would have picked through a birth canal as a baby. And yet, that is exactly the way Jesus came. He chose the birth process, and I am sure it changed Mary forever, just as it has changed me forever. When I think about Mary birthing the Christ child…I can’t help wondering what God is asking me to birth this Christmas, and how it will change me.