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.

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Let’s get physical, physical….

I am lying in bed exhausted. My hands feel as though my thumbs could fall off, my fore arms ache, and my back is asking me why in the world I contorted myself into a c shape for about two hours this evening. My feet aren’t happy with me either. The Rooster has had a couple rough nights, and tonight while she wanted to fall asleep around 7:30 or 8, I didn’t manage to actually get her truly asleep until about 9:45. I had her asleep three separate times before the fourth one finally took. Lately we have been coming up with “Roosters Rules for Babies” and the first two are: 1. Never ever leave the baby in a room by herself. Ever. Even for a moment. Even if you have to pee. 2. Babies are for holding, pick the baby up whenever possible.

Loving babies is such a physical act. It is even more apparent with my double helping of babydom. Putting on and taking off clothes, and shoes, and jackets. Picking up and putting down. Rocking and swaying and bouncing and walking. Tickling and hugging and kissing and patting. Holding Rooster in one arm while the Peanut grabs my hand and proclaims “walk!” So we go round and round the three rooms and a hallway that connect into a never ending circle of toddler path. And the feeding. Even the one who isn’t actually being fed by my body still needs to be put in her seat and sometimes needs help with the spoon.

It is exhausting this physical love, even as I reflect on how it is fleeting. There is only a limited window that I will be able to hold both girls as we head for the car.The Peanut will one day take her own shirt off, rather than pulling it over her head and yelling “tuck, tuck!” (stuck, stuck) and there will come a day when the Rooster will no longer want rocked to sleep.

 I never think about the physicality of love, when I think about love I always think about the confessing of emotions or the listening to someone in pain, the being with someone who is lonely. The emotional burdens bared and shared. But that is not the phase I am in with my children, babies are for holding after all.

And Christ, he came as a baby in a physical body. He needed holding and patting and rocking and changing. This Christmas I have been thinking a lot about the physicality of the incarnation. Christ came in a body that grew just like the two bodies that grew inside of me. He was birthed by a woman in labor just like my own babes. He stubbed his toes often as a toddler and fell every couple of steps when He was learning to walk. And later that body was used to physically touch the people society deemed untouchable. He scooped up babies and stroked the hands of old women. He literally carried burdens for people, firewood or well water.

And then the physicallity of the cross, the brutality inflicted on the body that Christ chose for himself. The willingness of Jesus to endure it all. I am struck this advent season, when I think about Christ coming, by the physicality of Christ’s love.

How I want to celebrate.

Sometimes, I put too much pressure on myself for holidays. I don’t know. I spend regular days sometimes, in my worst moments, worrying that I am somehow am screwing it all up for my kids. So, on any given holiday I am capable spending at least half of it worrying that I am doing it all wrong……which ironically, if you are sitting at a holiday gathering worrying if you are doing it all wrong then you are. So relax, self, chill out.

I have been spending some time thinking about Christmas, how I want our family to celebrate. I have such rich memories of Christmas growing up. Of setting out the nativity and reading “The Night Before Christmas,” of gingerbread houses and lighting advent candles. I want my girls to have the same.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with waking up on Christmas morning and looking forward to your presents. We didn’t always have the money to make every kids wish on Christmas morning. But my gifts were always well thought out. I opened them and knew that my parents had paid attention to my wants and needs. I felt loved.

I want that for my girls. I want them to know that I pay attention to and care about the things that they love. But I can already see how fast it can happen, how your house can fill up with plastic and your kids can never be satiated. How it can become all about more, more, more.

I have heard people who are commenting on it all running together. Thanksmas they are calling it. I think that reflecting on what I am thankful for is perhaps the best way to start my Christmas season. But I am not in love with the phrase “Thanksmas.” That whole taking Christ out of Christmas thing. So I shoved it together the other way in my head and came up with “Christ-giving”. Now that is a holiday I can get behind. A whole holiday month I can celebrate.

I want this to be a time where my girls celebrate what Christ has given to our family. The enormity of Him coming to earth as a baby, as well as the smallest miracle of a parking space close to the store with an empty shopping cart next to it when it is raining and we need it most. Christ has given me every good thing in my life, and I want to reflect on that. And I want those gifts to inspire us to give generously, in the name of Christ. To decide that instead of one more toy at our house, we would rather take an extra name off of the angel tree.

I want to celebrate Christ giving me my family, for providing this year for us abundantly. Giving me my salvation and then lavishing his gifts still further. Wanting wonderful things for me. I want to celebrate by allowing Christ to move into our hearts and move us to give. So, happy “Christ-giving” to you and yours. May God richly bless you as you richly bless others this season.

That’s what we are going for anyway….that and copious amounts of cookies.