Saturday, December 4, 2010

In a stable

I've been thinking a lot about Mary, being that it is Christmas time and all. Actually since I first became pregnant eight years ago with my son Shepherd, Mary and I developed a kinship - a momship - and she is frequently on my mind.

And as I look at all the sweet, smiling, clothed-in-blue Marys in the nativity scenes, I wonder to myself: what would Mary really have been expecting on that very first Christmas?

Consider this: the girl had the angel Gabriel come to tell her she was pregnant. Mary stared in awe and wonder at the angel. Myself, I stared with awe and wonder at two pink lines on a stick dripping with, you know. Big difference. Mary knew she was chosen by God to bring the Light into the world. Being that she was Mary and not Missy, she did not get arrogant about it, nor proud – she remained humble, as we see in her Magnificat.

The Gospels do not tell us what her pregnancy was like, which I think is a sure sign that they were written by men. Imagine if God had chosen a woman to write a Gospel – how many chapters would have outlined her morning sickness and back labor? But I assume Mary threw up like the rest of us and woke up every hour to go to the bathroom and had sciatica and embarrassing gas moments. Which only makes me love her more.

She knew she is carrying the Savior of the world in her womb. She knew that the baby kicking her right in the bladder was in fact a king who would bring peace to all mankind. She knew this. That big scary angel had told her so. And being that she was human, I would imagine she had some...expectations.

As her contractions increased and she walked the long road to Bethlehem feeling, like all women at nine months gestation, like a big fat cow, I doubt Mary was expecting a gilded room at the palace (I am sure the thought would have crossed my mind, but as I mentioned previously, I am no Mary). However I feel pretty sure that she was expecting God to provide her with at the very least, a room - a private, warm, reasonably clean room to deliver this precious child. Such a small request! She had earned at least as much – suffering through the societal stigma of an unplanned pregnancy, and almost losing Joseph – surely God would make it up to her by giving her an easy childbirth.

The one thing that I doubt Mary expected to be provided by God was a stable. I have birthed four babies myself and I just cannot imagine giving birth in a barn. Non-Mary I would have had some tacky things to say about this particular provision.

What must have gone through her and Joseph’s minds? The Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Mighty One, is coming into the world in a barn? Surrounded by animals and manure? Imagine how protective we are of our brand new babies – and imagine lying one to rest in a manger that cows eat out of?? Hardly sterile.

Do you think they wondered if they had gotten the message wrong? Did they ask if this was some holy joke? While she was pushing our pure and stainless Lord into the world onto hay and dirt, did Mary keep waiting for someone to rescue her?

Mary had been obedient, she had prayed unceasingly, she was the ultimate woman of God, yet in her time of great need, door after door was slammed in her face, literally, until she was finally given the room no one else wanted for a labor and delivery room. I think she must have been very confused in that stable.

I know so many people who are in a stable right now.

Many of my dear friends are amazing women of God. They pray, they fast, they are so obedient. Some of them even do their quiet time every single morning. They are much, much godlier than I am. They are doing everything “right”.

Yet, we have cried together, a lot, this last year. Things are not going the way they planned.

One of my best friends buried her perfect stillborn son in July. We never, ever expected that. Another friend did not expect to spend this Christmas season in a hospital room watching chemotherapy drip into her six year old daughter's weakened body. Other friends expected to be mothers by now. Some are shocked to find themselves in unhappy marriages or going through divorce. And my heart is especially burdened for a few girlfriends who are in their 30s, strongly desiring marriage and children, but God has yet to call them to this.

This life is not the way it was supposed to go, not what they signed up for. It’s not what they thought they were promised. It's not what they prayed for and it's definitely not what they expected.

And they, perhaps like Mary was, are so confused.

We have the blessing of hindsight to know that the stable in which Christ was born was representative of a very different kind of messiah. A humble messiah, with a message of peace, not the military hero the Jews were expecting (there is that word again.) A messiah who hung out not with kings but with the dregs of society, beginning with the his first visitors, the loathed shepherds.

By ordaining such a humble birthplace, God sent a message from the very beginning that this baby was going to rock everyone’s expectations, and shake their world view, and cause them to question everything they thought they knew. God does nothing haphazardly. There was a purpose in the stable. There was something bigger going on than Mary or Joseph – righteous, yet mere humans - could see or grasp.

I submit that there are purposes in our stables as well.

Usually, we cannot see the reason for the stable while we are in it. Sometimes, God clues us in later, and when it happens that is a real treat. But we don’t always get the blessing of knowledge. In fact frequently God in his infinite wisdom does not clue us in.

I don’t know why the desires of my sweet friends’ hearts are not being met. I don’t know why Christian marriages fail, I don’t know why children die, and I don’t know why my friends who would make such wonderful mothers can’t get pregnant.

I don’t expect to find out this side of paradise, and there is no biblical promise that it will be revealed to me even in Heaven. I only know this – that God is sovereign and God is good.

There have been times in my life when “God is sovereign” has been a mantra I screamed repeatedly inside my brain. And there have been times when I just got depressed and wondered when I was ever going to get out of this dumb stable. But (praise Him) our responses and our feelings and our confusion regarding these stables do not change the fact that God is sovereign, and God is good. And that He is up to more than we can see, that His grand design is greater than our own expectations, however noble they may be – which means, without a doubt, there is a purpose for the stable.

Because God is intimately, unceasingly, invasively, personally involved in every single aspect of our lives. And in Romans 8:28 His word promises that this junk we are currently enduring will all work out for the good -- eventually.

At some point, on earth or in Heaven, we will praise Him for the stable, because He loves you and me as much as He loved Mary – take a moment and grasp that – and He has as much reason and purpose for putting us in our particular stable as He did Mary and baby Jesus. And this should give us hope – And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. (Romans 5:5)


  1. Wow. Thank you. That was a great post.

  2. I love every word. Thanks for helping me get into Mary's world a bit. I've always liked trying to view the birth of Christ from different people's perspectives. I wsh I could jump into the story and see for myself! :)


  3. Beautiful Missy...that's all I can say. Must go sit and chew on this for a while.
    Blessings, Jenn

  4. Seriously beautiful. A powerful perspective. Wow!

  5. beautiful post (i've never been to your blog before, linked to this post though)

    But, and forgive me if I go on a weird tangent :) this made me think of 'the last battle' - by c.s. lewis. It's the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia....
    Anyways, there are some characters at the very end who believe that they're locked up in a dirty, stinky old stable when really, they are in Heaven (basically)... but they don't trust in Aslan and they can't see it. So they go on being miserable, believing they are in a dark and miserable place, while everyone around them is rejoicing...

    So when i was reading this i was first thinking 'yeah, i feel like i'm in a stable right now too'. ...
    And then i realized, well, but this is right where God wants me to be - like you said. So maybe it's a little piece of heaven, too :)

  6. Oh, I wish you lived nextdoor to me. I could use a friend like you in my life. You always have such thoughtful and inspiring things to say. Your friends are so blessed to know you :)

    This was a great post.
    Have a wonderful week!

  7. This really helped me to look outside my little stable atm. Good to remember God has things under control ultimately, and the greatest blessings sometimes come from the worst of trials and circumstances.

  8. Awesome post...I really needed this today. I love your blog and your beautiful, honest style of writing. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Missy this is so good. I have two sweet beautiful baby girls in heaven with Jesus and I will never truly know why they had to go home so early. Praise God He loves us though and carries us through those horrid stables.
    Bless you for your gift of writing!

  10. thank you, thank you. So beautiful and true!

  11. "One would expect more than a stable, but where else would a lamb be born?"

    I heard this in a song today just after reading your beautiful post. They fit together so nicely that I just had to share with you. :) Thank you for sharing with us!

  12. oooooo, I like that!! Never heard that before!!!

  13. Words I needed to hear/read. Bravo and Amen!

  14. Thank you sweet friend for such incredible words and insight! SO touched my heart!!

  15. When I saw you were posting on Mary I knew you would have a fabulous way of sticking it right into my heart. Thanks Missy!

  16. I am one of the most blessed people I know. It seems at every turn we get exactly what we were hoping or praying for. I also live in reverent fear that one day it will all come crumbling down. I often wonder why we are so blessed, or is it just us that great things are expected so God has given us provision to make a difference... I'm pretty sure we're not using it right if that is the case.

  17. I LOVED this post, and I'm coming out of lurkdom to say so. The stable analogy is wonderful. What a great message!

    Also, I just wanted to let you know how much your adoption journey has inspired me! I'd never really considered adoption until a couple gave their testimony and adoption story in church a few weeks ago. I got goosebumps, couldn't focus for the rest of the service, and felt like I was being called to adopt (or at least to consider it!). And now I can't stop thinking about it! We're very much still in the "is this right for our family?" getting-more-info phase. But thank you for sharing your journey!! I'm praying for your family!

  18. Beautiful, Missy, just beautiful. Thanks and God bless.

  19. So glad Allison (at Dameron girls, above) directed me here! What a good day to find your site! I am expecting right now and have been pondering pregnancy in new light this Christmas season. What a joy to consider it through these new lenses. thank you!

  20. This is absolutely one of my favorite posts ever. I cannot tell you how many times I have thought my life was a mess, only to think about Mary- because of this blog post! You have impacted my life with your insight, Missy! And I can hardly hear a Christmas song without bursting into tears now...what is it about becoming a mom that makes me totally weapy about Jesus' birth?! Somehow, yet again, I find myself in a manger...unexpected circumstances (um,, no new babies! just the one precious boy)...but now I just close my eyes and laugh...divine conspiracy. Thanks for your insight!!

  21. First time here - your post is so encouraging! Thank you.

  22. Thank you for the current stable is in the form of an unemployed husband and financial despair...after 12+ months it is hard to muster hope.

  23. A friend posted a link to this blog post and it was exactly what I needed to hear. God really spoke to me through this. It was so encouraging and actually, some of my exact thoughts were spelled out in your writing. Thank you!

  24. Nice post. But perhaps the reason that we don't know more about Mary's pregnancy is because the Gospels are about Jesus our savior! That is the focus and should always be the focus.

  25. Just a really, beautiful, insightful post!! Thank you. :)

  26. Missy, thanks for posting this. What a great reminder and really gets me to consider things beyond my normal Christmas preparations this weekend. Would you allow me to repost this on with a brief bio and picture of you? Let me know! I'd love to!

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  28. Thank you for this post. It's so true!

    I had a Bible professor tell me once, "Mary got nothing she expected, but more than she ever could have hoped for."

    She probably thought, as many people did during that time, that Jesus was coming to simply save them from the Romans. That he was going to be a conquerer of a human kingdom. She thought he would be powerful and respected on earth. Quite the opposite happened.

    He never overthrew Roman rule. He died on the cross, in the most vile and humble of ways. He was hated, beaten, and denied.

    But despite the fact that none of Mary's expectations came true, she got so much more than she even knew to hope for. Her Son would save not only the Jewish people, but the world. Not only would he save them from the Romans, but from death, from Satan, from separation from God.

    Mary always reminds me that even if nothing goes the way I thought it would or thought it should, God's plan is bigger. I can't even understand it or comprehend what He's doing in my life, but He knows best, and I have to trust in Him and not in my own expectations.

    Thanks again for your insight!


  29. I am a long-time reader, but a first-time commenter. My Google Reader has been overflowing, so I just finally got to this post. And I want to say thank you.
    After six years of marriage, my husband and I have been trying to expand our little family and we have lost two pregnancies in the last three months. It is heartbreaking and incomprehensible, and it is so easy to say "If God really loved me, then..." (fill-in-the-blank with whatever emotion I am having at the time). This was a wonderful reminder that my own personal stable surely serves a purpose, even if I am never allowed to discover that purpose.
    Thank you for being willing to share of yourself - you never know whose day you may be touching. :-) I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

  30. Missy,

    A friend just sent me this post. I just delivered a stillborn baby, just 21 weeks along, on Tuesday. The perspective you have written here will change the way I think about Christmas forever. Thank you so much.


  31. This is Wonderful:) Thank you! Our preacher actually spoke about this same idea at church on Sunday. It awesome to think about things in "real life" kind of ways. Many of us know the stories from Sunday school but then we don't always read deeper and ponder on them more.
    Merry Christmas!!!

    Jenny B

  32. Missy, thank you for the encouraging post. Sometimes our expectations for the holidays make us gloss over the realities of the first Christmas. ~~Rhonda

  33. I am a first-time reader of your blog. A dear friend sent this link to me. I have to say that your insight into Mary and the whole situation of Jesus' stable birth is deep and wonderful. Thank you for sharing!

    Have a wonderful, blessed Christmas.



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