Monday, December 12, 2011

In a stable

this post is a Christmas Naptime tradition

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. And lately, I've stared in awe and wonder at the mountain of adoption paperwork. Big difference.

Mary knew she was chosen by God to bring the Light into this dark 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.

My dear friend Mitzi buried her perfect stillborn son last year. We expected she'd be pregnant again by now, but, she's not.  Then just last week, Mitzi's oldest friend's husband and father of two littles was found in his totalled truck with a broken neck. Not expected.

In March, my own six year old had a simple skin rash - except that it was more than that, I learned, as a nurse distracted my little girl so she wouldn't see me cry when the rheumotologist explained that the rash was just a symptom of lupus, a lifelong, potentially fatal disease. I really didn't see that one coming.

When we began this adoption process two years ago, I definitely expected that I would be the mother of a little brown skinned girl by this Christmas.  But I'm not, and I don't know what to expect anymore.

Some of our friends are shocked to find themselves in unhappy marriages or going through divorce. And my heart is especially burdened for a few girlfriends who have had their 40th birthday already, 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 my daughter had to get sick. I don't know why adoption has to be so hard when there are so many orphans who need parents. I don’t why babies die. 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)

© Missy Dollahon and
It's Almost Naptime, 2009-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Missy Dollahon and It's Almost Naptime with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In other words: link all you want, but don't steal.


  1. Amazing post! I too have been reflecting on Mary a lot lately. And while I love the kinship we share as mothers, I feel like that is where the similarities end. I strive to be more like her, readily accepting challenges in order to enjoy the blessings. My post on the subject is at

  2. God really did work hard to show us true humility didnt he, when he entered our world as an infant, disrobed for human skin......
    I love this post. Beautiful.

  3. Perfectly, beautifully worded discourse on the imperfectness of life on this side of paradise. Thank you!!!

  4. Quiet tears over here. I've been feeling this so much lately- I even told my counselor "This isn't how I thought it would be!" Thanks for telling me, again (because I say it often but believe it weakly) that God is sovereign and He is good.

  5. Beautiful post, Missy! Just beautiful!

  6. I've never thought about the difficulties of life compared to giving birth in a barn. You painted the picture beautifully, Missy. Life really is so difficult sometimes. I can't imagine facing all of it with a God who knows, sees, and loves.

  7. Thank you for reminding us again that God IS sovereign...and that the Holy Spirit is an amazing gift. That's the 2nd time today someone reminded me of that. It's usually God's way of waking me up to something.

  8. Thank you so much! That was beautiful!


  9. Okay, this is going to sound all Jesus Jukey (ha) but I was just reading about the birth of Jesus last week and it was pointed out to me that the bible never says anything about a stable. It just says he was laid in a manger. Here's a really interesting article about how it's probable that Jesus was born in a house.

    But don't take this as a troll comment, I really like this post and the sentiment is awesome. :D

  10. Jessica -

    Girl, I just spoke at a retreat last month and the whole theme was on how Jesus WASN'T born in a stable!!!

    Well, not the way we think of it anyway.

    He was probably born on the bottom floor of a home, where the animals were kept. So it was a stable. But Mary most likely would have been surrounded by family. Joseph's mom was probably even there!

  11. Love, Love, Love, LOVE this post!

  12. Loved it last year and love it again. Thanks for reposting and Merry Christmas.

  13. LOVE THIS!! It is so beautiful and insightful. Thank you for sharing!

  14. What a beautiful, inspiring, loving post. Thank you. Have you ever read What Men Live By? It's a longish short story by Tolstoy, about an angel who discovers just what you're mentioning here. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it. The foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom ...

    Also, a word of encouragement about lupus. I have relatives on both sides of my family with lupus, one with a fairly mild sort and one with a more severe sort, and one is in her seventies and the other is in his forties--here is to many many many more birthday videos from your sweet daughter!

    And love from a stranger to your friends in their loss.

    So happy I discovered your blog.

  15. Thanks Missy, and I'm sorry people are stealing your work :(

  16. I've been reading for a long time but I'm pretty sure I've never commented before. (Which I must apologize for, since that sort of bugs me.) Anyway, I read this post the other day and loved it - so beautiful. And then I saw your short "what i learned today" post late last night, which has now disappeared (hope you didn't get another not-so-kindly worded email). But I couldn't stop thinking about it.

    Just wanted to say that you are a lovely writer. I always look forward to your posts. And I would probably feel sick if someone stole my work. I'm so sorry.

    Maybe thievery is the second-highest form of flattery...?

    No. Nope. Still just thievery. So, so sorry.

  17. Hello,
    I love this post. Would you give me permission to post a translated version on a website designed to encourage French Christian mothers ( still under construction but I hope to launch it in time for Christmas), with your name of course and a link back to your blog ?
    Thank you so much for your response. Merry Christmas to you and your family !

  18. I just read the previous comments and was saddened to read your work was stolen. I do hope it won t keep you from giving me permission to post a French version. I promise I will put a link back to you and give the author s name (Missy Dollahon) clearly with the article if you give me permission to publish it !

  19. Wow. wow. wow. That was awesome.


  20. The Christmas story is the only one that never gets old. There are so many vantage points. Yours is beautiful. I always try to picture myself in that stable on Christmas night. Today, the imperfection of a KING being born in a stinky, poopy stable just grabbed me...etched it's way into my heart.

    love and Christmas joy to you,

  21. Powerful..meaningful... Love...leavews me with more knowlwdge and utterly speechless... Thank u for sharing.. my best to you and your family....

  22. Wow completely in awe! Such a powerful and meaningful post!! Thank you for your amazing words!!



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