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When the Write Door Opens -Matthew 7:7

God's lessons to a writer, teacher, wife, and mom

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What I Learned From a Half-Priced Nativity Set

It all started with a carved nativity set I found marked at half price at an after Christmas sale. My husband had given me a gift card, and I had already filled my basket with lots of goodies at this little specialty shop near our house.

I was over my limit, but really wanted the nativity set. Without much thought, I asked the lady at the counter to ring up everything and tell me the total, before adding the set.

As she was ringing up sparkly snowmen, wooden stars made with berries and pine cones, fat fluffy cardinal ornaments and owl salt and pepper shakers, I noticed the temperature of my cheeks rising along with the rising numbers on the cash register tape.

I had literally made no room for Jesus.

How had I done it again? It was only one day after Christmas for goodness sakes, but how quickly and easily I had already let other things take precedence. Despite my chagrin, I did buy the nativity set, took it home and set it up on my kitchen counter.

Turning the figures of Mary and Joseph toward their precious baby, I began studying Mary’s face–the calm look of her tiny carved features. I wondered, how had Mary made room for Jesus?

She married Joseph, so it’s safe to assume that the couple would have had a home together. Before making this journey to Bethlehem, would Mary have been preparing for the birth of her baby? Until this year, I had never thought about this aspect of Jesus’ birth.

Did she have those ‘nesting’ tendencies like all expectant mothers seem to have–the feeling of urgency to prepare everything for the baby’s arrival?  Did Mary ask Joseph to make a cradle for the baby? We know Joseph was a carpenter, so imagine how it could have looked. What might he have carved on it? The angel that had appeared to him in the dream? The baby’s name, Jesus? And how special to think that both Jesus’ earthly father and His heavenly Father would have worked together to create this cradle. God created the tree, and Joseph shaped it to fit the Son of God. Amazing.

Did Mary sit up late into the night cutting cloth to swaddle Jesus in? Researching the care of infants in ancient times, I found that swaddling clothes were used in place of cloth diapers. They would just replace the soiled section of wrapped cloth. I feel almost irreverent talking about it, but it was a fact of life. Jesus was human and would need all of the typical, human baby necessities.

So as Mary cut strips of cloth, how far did she allow her thoughts to wander? Did she dream only of caring for this chubby, dark-headed infant she would soon hold, or did she dare to let her mind wander to the words the angel had spoken to her and to Joseph?

“He shall be great…the Son of the Highest…He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever…the Son of God…the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David…He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:32-34)

If her son was to ‘reign over the house of Jacob’ or be given ‘the throne of His father David,’ then Mary could assume that her son would one day be a king. And if He would ‘save His people from their sins,’ then he would also be a Savior? But when? And how?

I don’t know about you, but my mind would have been running a million different directions–one direction would be assuring myself that God was going to pave this path to His son’s kingship with ease, with fanfare, and with the absence of hardship. This was the Son of God. He was even more privileged than a typical king’s son, and the children of typical kings have little or no hardship in their lives. Everything works out seamlessly for them, because their fathers see to it. If I were Mary, I think my finite mind would have had to naively assume that God would make the path ahead smooth and nearly problem free.

Boy would I have been wrong. In 12 brief words we can see that the path for Jesus was anything but smooth and problem free: census, eighty miles, Herod, Egypt, Satan, Pharisees, kiss, Roman soldiers, cross, death.

This had to give Mary much to think about. We know she took time to think and analyze what was going on around her, because of the verse in Luke 2.

“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

In the verses before this, the shepherds had just left the stable, “…making known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”

And then we get to verse 19, and it begins with the conjunction “but,” so we know there’s going to be an opposite viewpoint. Everyone in town heard these things about the angels appearing to the shepherds and about the Christ Child’s birth, and they ‘wondered’ about it. The word “wondered” means amazed, in awe, astonished, in disbelief. It was so astonishing, that they weren’t quite sure they even believed what they were hearing…

“But Mary kept…” The word “kept” means retain, use for the future, guard, protect. She may have been in awe, but she also believed. She was going to protect and guard all she had seen and heard and felt.

“…and ponder it in her heart.”  I love the word “ponder.” I found that it comes from the Latin word for “weight.” Here Mary is storing away all that she is seeing and hearing and feeling, having no idea that in 33 years she would have to recall it all and weigh it against the plausible, the believable, and the sensible lies of the Evil One.

How does any of this apply to you and me? Well, I felt like the moral of the story was screaming to me as I studied this. How many times have I forgotten what I knew to be true–what I’ve kept in my heart? How many times have I loaded up one side of my scales with the Devil’s lies–this doesn’t make sense, this can’t be God’s will, God wouldn’t allow one of his children to go through this, if this is God’s will, why is it so hard–and on and on they go. I step back and throw up my hands and say, “See? God’s forgotten me, again.”

And of course that still, small Voice will begin to speak and to prod and to remind me of all that I have kept in my heart. All the promises He’s made and kept. All the promises in His word. “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart…” (Ps.119:11) The scale begins to squeak.

“…thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) The scale begins to move.

And who is the truth? Who is the Word?

“I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6) The scale begins to tip.

“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…”  (John 1:14) It tips further.

Who is the truth? Who is the Word?

Jesus.

Truth itself, tips the scales. The Devil is defeated, along with his age-old ploy of trying to make us forget all the Lord has done in the past, all His goodness, all His leading, all His guiding, all His truth.

“Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

She kept them. She weighed them. She knew the Truth.

We must do the same. I must do the same–in every situation, in every walk of life. No matter the heavy weight we bear, Truth will tip the scales every time.

 

 

 

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A Light in Bailey’s Harbor is back up on Amazon!

The printer assured my publisher that everything was now fixed, and the book is now able to be ordered on Amazon, once again!  Sorry about any problems this may have caused! Thanks, again for everyone’s support. It is so overwhelming to see the comments and encouraging words. I am so blessed!

Click here to order from Amazon.

Pink Eye, a Midnight Run, and Krispy Kremes–Just the stuff of Super Heros

We have a crazy life.  Our crazy has become so normal, that it takes a whopper of a moment, to make me step back and reflect on how odd we  are.  I know, I know, those of you who know us are probably saying, “…and you just now realized this?”

My son is on a trip with Daddy.  When the concerts are finished, my husband is going hunting a few days and will be taking my son to his sister’s house to be with his cousin for a day, and then she will be taking him to his Mawmaw and Pawpaw’s to stay with them a few days, until the Indiana-Ohio  family hops in the RV and heads down to Tennessee to our house for Thanksgiving.

On Friday morning, in northern Indiana, Carson woke up with his eyes “eye booger-ed shut,” (in his words) and very red.  Moms know that these are tell-tale signs of pink eye.  But, I am the one holding the little bottle of pink eye medicine (left over from when he had it last summer), way down here in Tennessee, so I had to get my Super Mom cape out of the closet and figure out what to do to save my poor baby…haha.

I started calling around to see how much it would be to Fedex the teeny tiny bottle of medicine.  For a mere $94, it could have arrived by 8am the next morning, but being Super Mom, I was sure there had to be a better, more economical solution to save my child.  Super Mom’s don’t get paid much.

I called Carson’s doctor office to see if they would call in a prescription in Ohio.  After speaking to 2 nurses, leaving 2 messages for the doctor, and explaining my son’s out-of-town dilemma 4 times,  I was getting nowhere.  Did they really think I was going to sell pink eye medicine on the black market, or something?  Really? It’s pink eye!!

Anyway, I was getting nowhere.  I guess they couldn’t see my cape through the phone.

So…not wanting my husband to have to take him to the minute clinic and pay over $100, I began to concoct a plan to save the world, well, at least my 6 year old’s eyes.

I realized my in-laws were heading north from their winter headquarters in Florida and wondered when were they heading up Interstate 75 through Tennessee Friday night (last night).

The answer:  1 am Saturday morning…Knoxville…an hour away. This was only a minor hiccup.  I was not to be deterred.  I had a secret weapon.  It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Super Papaw!  We devised a second plan.  Yes, it was crazy.  Yes, we are nuts. But, surely, it would work.  If not, we told mom (Aka Commander of the Hall of Justice) to have the bail money ready.

We decided to drive to Knoxville early (well, 9pm, by the time we got out of the house).  We wrapped the medicine in a paper towel, put it inside of a thermal Tervis mug (since it was 28 degrees outside) and slid it in a red insulated lunch box.  We would find a place off  I-75 that would be easy for my in-laws to get to, and we would stash it.  My in-laws could find the hidden treasure and be on their way.  It was a flawless plan.

We jumped in the Batmobile mini-van and headed out.  On the way, my super side-kick’s laser eyes began drooping.  Dad would fall asleep for a nano second and come right out of it, commenting on the conversation we were just having.  He cracked me up.  He was amazing!  I told you he was a Super Hero 🙂  We finally made it to I-75 and got off at the first exit, Merchant’s Drive.  As we got off the exit and turned our eyes to the west, a cross appeared, lit up in the night sky.  It had to be a sign.  Cue the angelic choir, singing in the background.

Wallace Memorial Baptist Church
Wallace Memorial Baptist Church

This was perfect!  Safe, well-lit, room for my in-laws RV and trailer to whip in and turn around.  Super Pap and I swung in and  found a hedge and a No Parking sign.  We looked around; we were alone.  I felt this crazy adrenalin rush.  Maybe this is why there are repeat offenders in criminal activity.  I felt a little guilty.  It was exciting to be kind of bad.  I gave Dad the all-clear and he threw the door of the Batmobile open, grabbed the lunch box and lunged toward the hedge; he didn’t go anywhere.  In his haste, he had forgotten to unbuckle his seat belt.  We started cracking up.  We were going to blow our cover.  Finally, dad unwound himself from the belt, ran to the hedge, hid the lunch box behind the sign, and ran back to the van.  If I had only thought of it, I would have driven off and left him briefly.  He would have killed me, but it would have been worth it.

So, we did it.  Mission was accomplished.  Someone reviewing the church’s security cam footage may get a good laugh, but at least we didn’t have to give our story to a night watchman; he would have never believed us.

We were finished, adrenalin drained, and ready for a recharge.  And what happened to be a couple of miles down Broadway? The Super Hero refueling station, of course.  Hallelujah for Krispy Kreme donuts!  So, with a dozen “hot ones” in our lap, wiping our sticky fingers on our capes, we turned the Batmobile toward the east. Another crisis averted, another couple of hundred calories on the hips.  All in a day’s work, says Super Mom.  All in a day’s work.

Trial By Fire…(literally)

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It doesn’t take much to put my whole life back into perspective–just a blacksmith, an alarm, and 150 little fear-filled faces.  Well, maybe it was much.

The Firestorm of Life

The past few months have been a firestorm.  Life is hectic.  Teaching is demanding.  Editing is all-consuming.  And meaningful parenting moments have been reduced to reviewing Bible verses as we zoom down the highway, headed to school.  As we wives, mothers, teachers, writers, and women are so prone to do, we become goal oriented and detail driven.  Driven by details and goals that are no more than wood, hay, and stubble.  Unaware that all around us, slowly the heat is rising.   We have no idea that our world is about to burn.

But sometimes, sometimes…God has mercy.  Instead of a fire, He sends the smoke to warn us–the smoke to surround those we love, to imprint the pungent odor into our senses, to permeate the fibers in our clothes, so that we don’t forget…we don’t forget what could have happened, and we don’t forget what really matters in life.  We never forget.

The Calm Before the Storm

The Calm Before the Storm

Yesterday was that day of mercy.  We were in a chapel service at the Christian school where I teach, where my son attends Kindergarten, and where my dad is on the administrative staff.  I was enjoying watching my son sing “How Great is our God” along with about 100 other Grammar school children.  The parents who had come for chapel were standing behind their children.  The teachers were standing and singing with their classes.  It was a peaceful moment, giving praise to the Lord.

Now, the song means so much more.

The Fire

We hadn’t finished the first chorus when the fire alarm sounded.  Of course we first thought it was a drill, but the realization quickly hit that the administration would never drill during chapel.  The sinking feeling set in that this was real.  We began an orderly exit, but the teachers realized it would be faster to divide the classes and send them out 3 separate doors.  My third grade class was split with another teacher and my son was separated from his kindergarten class and from me.  As soon as we got outside, we smelled smoke and saw it filling the air.  I can’t explain the feeling I had in my heart.  The thought that fire was actually burning our building was nearly too much to think about.  But as I mentioned, sometimes God has mercy.

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David Burress–Blacksmith

The Smoke

On this day, we were having a blacksmith present his trade to our classes.  He was going to share examples of a blacksmith’s work from different periods of History, and he had set up his forge at a safe distance from the school.  As we neared the front of the building, we realized that the smoke billowing around the building and the heavy smell in the air were just that–smoke.  It had been drawn in to the vents in the building, setting off the alarm.  It was only the blacksmith firing up, readying for the activities of the day.  It was smoke.  Only smoke.

DSC06523The Reality of God’s Faithfulness

But the feelings of helplessness, of little children relying on me, of responsibility for the students in my care, and ultimately the sheer joy that those I love were safe– was real, too real to remain dry-eyed when I reflect upon it all.  Too real, when my son shared his view of it all–telling me that the principal had grabbed him and another kindergartener and rushed them out another door, telling them to go to “their line” and stand.  He told me that he was standing on his line crying that Papaw and other kids might get burned up in the fire.  He said that “…When Mrs. Brown told me to run, I pulled my hand free and ran as fast as you would write a dot on a piece of paper, Mom.”  It made my heart still, for at least a nano-second–thinking of what might have been.  But praise the Lord, what might have been had not come to pass.

In Awe of God’s Mercy

It’s amazing how instantly the sky becomes a deeper shade of blue, how my weary body is suddenly rejuvenated, and the little faces looking back at me from across their desks, as well as the face of my own child in the rear-view mirror as I drive home from school for the day, become the sweetest sights I’ve seen in a long, long, time.  And somehow the little worries and concerns have disappeared in that smoky haze of the blacksmith’s forge.

He could have used the fire to burn away and purge the cares of this world, but praise the Lord, this time, the smoke was enough.

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When the Write Door Opens -Matthew 7:7

God's lessons to a writer, teacher, wife, and mom

Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss

God's lessons to a writer, teacher, wife, and mom