Winner of the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Award for Dauntless!!!

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Different Kind of Christmas Story

As we passed through the walls of Bethlehem, I felt the first tightening tug at the base of my belly, ripping me apart. I was too tired to gripe at Joseph about his poor planning, so he dragged me around town, until finally I lay in that prickly hay-pile in the stall next to an old spotted brown and white cow.

By then the pain was shocking, starting with that sharp piercing claw beneath the weight of the baby and radiating out in heated waves, circling my body, pressing my spine, struggling to break it in two. During those short pauses I tried to breathe steadily, to save up some air, and to swallow back my fear, wishing I had known, that I knew now…wishing my mom…

I stared into Joseph’s eyes looking for sympathy he couldn’t possibly feel, and then past to my only other comfort on this chilly, pain-wracked night. Could a “father” possibly understand? As I gazed beyond the braying donkeys and dusty sheep to the deep blue sky with that strange blaring star, I sensed maybe He did know something…about birth…and then the next sharp crest of agony hit.

There were no breaks now. They crashed one after another, until I felt the shock of virgin flesh opening…the tear…the press of a soft skull against my skin. Stretching, burning, and finally…a release. I heard a soft cry as air hit his lungs for the first time. I giggled through the haze of pain and joy. Joseph told me to push again.

As the squirmy body slid out of mine, as our flesh parted, I reached for him and scooped him against my damp chest, wanting him to know that this was life, not merely fetal death.

So this wrinkly, pink person covered in goo would be a king? I guided him to my breast, an age old ritual I knew well, and he sucked with newborn vigor, happy to be reattached and drinking me, feeling my heart pump, my warmth, feeling almost at home. I was lost in the silken touch, in the scent of his tiny body. Marveling at minuscule fingers and toes.

Then Joseph took him to wipe him, as well as he could, with some rags from our pack. Surveying our surrounding I just had to think, what a crummy place for a king.

What if there had been…some mistake…it was too much to consider, and I focused on Joseph searching the stable for tufts of wool, lining the manger, of all things. Once he was finished, I thought it might do, as he laid the baby down.

Finally able to relax, feeling like I had run for days and days, I looked outside, thought I saw in the sky…a burst…of delight?

A flowing, swirling, I could almost hear…singing?

And then some shepherds showed up. Why not? I figured, what’s a few more lambs. They looked cleaner than these mangy animals. The shepherds had come to worship the king. Something about angels, they said, and I felt an icy unnamed lump in my chest melt.

I looked down toward the wise baby eyes, and dreamed that perhaps he would not be another king of carved armor, glinting swords, and spiked chariots, but a king…of growth, of life. A shepherd, maybe, like these, and that I…woman…might be free.

God births his blessings onto the earth through his children. Take a moment to consider what God desires to birth in your life. Many of us dream of birthing stories and books. You may long to birth a ministry or a relationship. Ponder the agony and wonder of pregnancy and childbirth, and contemplate what God might speak to your situation through them today.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Courage in the Everyday

Yesterday my church went Christmas caroling, but not in the nicest neighborhood in town where we could revel in the professionally installed light displays, not even in the middle class area surrounding our building. We went caroling in a rather rundown trailer park where we deliver food for our food ministry. Okay, so we weren't quite roughing it in a third world country, but considering we're mostly a bunch of suburbanites, it got me thinking about the courage needed to reach out to others in our everyday lives.

One of our caroling groups

Going door to door, knocking on a stranger's trailer, in a neighborhood that's one of the rougher ones in town, takes a bit of courage, especially when you have a bevy of children in tow. By the end of the Christmas cookie fellowship following the caroling, our kids were all running around in the pitch dark. We didn't know if we'd face rejection, harassment, or drunken threats, but we went to spread Christmas joy and cheer nonetheless--to spread Christ's love. It would have been easy for someone to talk themselves out of going and facing all of those risks. But reaching out takes courage and inconvenience. Living life to its fullest involves taking risks.

These neighbors tagged along and joined in the fun.

And when God calls you to do something, those risks pay off! By the end of the caroling many neighbors had joined in with us to sing. We concluded the evening with a fellowship including a fire pit and Christmas cookies, and about 25 people from the neighborhood came to join us :)

The Christmas cookie fellowship was a big hit.

I'm sure it would have been safer and easier for the Good Samaritan to have left the beaten man on the side of the road, but God calls us to a higher standard. Will you dare to reach out and take risks? Will you find the courage to live life to the fullest?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Girl's Christmas Weekend

I'm currently recovering from a fun family tradition we call Girl's Weekend. The women from my mom's side of the family get together the weekend after Thanksgiving for tons of early Christmas fun including shopping, eating out, a crazy card tournament complete with rituals including tiara's, sashes, and an embarrassing "lo-oser" march out on the street in a ridiculous get-up inspired by my very comical grandmother. We also make Christmas crafts. So if you need any gift ideas, here's some inspiration for you below.

Shang-hi winner and lo-oser from 2013.

This year's craft was cupcake ornaments.

Last year we made ornaments with ribbon and twigs.

And our 2013 project was sock snowmen.

I hope you have a great Christmas this year full of your own fun traditions.