A Mama Killdeer, A Radio Dude, and 4 Folding Chairs

 

A tuft of grass. All that hid her was a little tuft that the mower had missed.

Truly, I’m amazed no one stumbled over the mama killdeer sitting on her four eggs. For you see, this mama had made her nest right smack dab in the middle of what would turn into the arena for the Lawton Ft. Sill Freedom Festival concert, and with much bravado announced as “the largest fireworks show in the state of O-k-l-a-h-o-m-a!”

 Of course, my skeptical mind whispered “I’m sure Tulsa and Oklahoma City say the same thing every year….blah, blah, blah…

We didn’t see her as our family rassled bag chairs, strollers, a cooler, and sugared up grand kids in our trademark gypsy circus fashion. Once we got settled, excitement electrified our tribe. Our army drummer son-in-law was tapping out some warm up beats on stage, which was a first for all of us to witness. How wonderful it was to get to see him enjoy a job for which he was definitely created. If you can bang on it, he can play it and has filled in at the Kansas City Symphony, a renowned church orchestra in California, and a plethora of bands between here and there. No doubt, he never dreamed he’d be playing Toby Keith tunes mixed with classic rock in concert. But when the Army calls…

 

I walked closer to the stage to snap a picture of our star drummer and almost tripped over the little lady, which in turn I got harshly scolded in shrill-pitched killdeer fashion. Not only was she hunkered in deeply, her effect of camouflage, well, the army could only hope to manufacture that concealment so masterfully. Then, she began the old ‘hurt wing” routine as I assured her I was no threat, merely an oblivious clutz.

As I stumbled to my chair and watched the crowd of several thousand mosey to fill in the area, my concern grew for her. Someone would surely unintentionally plow her over.

Thankfully, a concert worker with a radio strapped to his side noticed her and enlisted a couple of girls, who sat in close proximity behind Mama Killdeer, to alert passerbys. He then sprinted to the stage and informed the MC that while announcing that this was “the largest fireworks show in the state of O-k-l-a-h-o-m-a!” was of utmost importance, would he please encourage everyone to respect this little feathered gal on her eggs?  While that announcement did help some, several folks had to come see for themselves to which they received a passionate Mama Killdeer beak-lashing. I was tempted to give them a talking to myself, but she was quite capable of delivering the message, and they let her be.

A bit later, a commotion off to my side caught my attention. Mr. Radio Dude had rustled up 4 folding chairs and laid them on their sides to build a 4 sided fort. Ta-da! Problem solved! Her hero! Still, he diligently continued to circle, making sure no one was messing with her.

Nevertheless, if hoards of people and a rock concert weren’t enough to ruffle a panicked mama’s feathers, the glittering showers and spectacular bursts of resplendent fireworks shot across the darkened sky in such an grand and orchestrated fashion, that awestruck, I caught myself muttering out loud, “This IS no doubt “the largest fireworks show in the state of O-k-l-a-h-o-m-a!” 

Did I mention the occasional thundering, chair shaking booms?

One thing about it, when it comes to explosives, those army guys really know their stuff. Silly me.

My eyes scanned over to Mama K. I imagined her wondering what kind of Armageddon had she set up camp in? No one would have blamed her for saying “enough” and skedaddling her tail feathers out of there. It’s not like she couldn’t lay more eggs. Look at chickens. They lay eggs everyday. Surely, not a big deal. 

But to her it was life and death, and she wasn’t budging. Not now. No matter what. Not until those babies were safe. She was as vigilant as any line of soldiers at the battle front.

Earlier in the week, a revelation dawned as I did an assignment through the journaling Bible study I recently joined. Having a son who is a police officer, I have spent my fair share studying, praying, and depending on Psalm 91 about God’s protection. Verse 4 popped to mind when I was to share a verse illustrating God’s faithfulness. “He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” As I journaled and embellished this verse, my pencil lightly wisped to create feathers and wings.

feathers

 

A mama hen snuggles her young close to hide them, to protect them from elements, and to keep them climate controlled in order for them to eventually hatch and live out their created purpose. In addition, the shield with its strength and crisp lines stops whatever attacks head on, teaming up with a rampart (fort) which on a larger scale defends from invasions that strike from all directions. God’s faithfulness is what fortifies the security around His haven of refuge. Just like the faithfulness of Radio Dude’s constant actions to build a stockade around the resolute mama.

(Interesting enough, this took place in a military setting. Hmmm.)

And as the finishing notes of the music faded, the final firework plumes vaporized, and the last, sleepy wannabe soldier was hoisted onto strong shoulders to be carried home, the mother of 4 yet-to-be-born killdeer was once again alone on a hillside, invisible in a tuft of grass, safe and sound, vowing to never, ever, ever build a nest smack dab in the middle of “the largest fireworks show in the state of O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A!” again. 

May we always remember that faithfully, Jesus always offers to be our covering, refuge, shield, and rampart, and we can gratefully snuggle into Him no matter what.

(All in the military and veterans, thank you for your service! Lawton/Ft. Sill thanks for a wonderful time! Truly spectacular.)

Killdeer Photo Credit-https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/killdeer-nesting/

Army Band and drawing- Kelly Long

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Lost Joy

joy

Joy. How many times do we get so wrapped up our circumstances, we turn our backs on it, unaware it is as close as peeking over our shoulder? However, truly, it is always there-bold and crisp, wrapped with a bright red ribbon and the merry giggle of bells.

The day this photo was taken, our granddaughter was in a funk. Mom had picked her up from daycare and hadn’t given her the down time it takes for her to unwind from being zapped socially. At 2 1/2, we learned very quickly that if she didn’t have a bit of refreshment and quiet, the melt down in the grocery store or visiting a neighbor would result in a toddler melt down of major proportions. Give her some breathing space, and she bounces back as the usually giggly, eyes dancing bundle of happiness.

Still today, one of her passions is to check people’s joy temperatures.  “Are you happy?” she asks with her brow knitted in concern. “I can make you happy,” she assures as she takes grubby toddler hands and pushes up one’s cheeks into a joker like smile. Who can resist perking up after that encouragement?

However, this day the planets were not aligning for anyone. Mom’s best friend, a fantastic photographer, was in town for a rare visit, and the quest to beat the setting sun had us rushing to jam sweet and adorable Christmas pictures in a sliver of quickly vanishing minutes.  Add being pitched into a strange environment, us all being tired, and cheerfully demanding that little missy be on center stage as we preformed ridiculous comedic antics any savy 2 1/2-year-old could see through was definitely not working. Bribery and begging failed miserably as well.

None of this was natural to her, which morphed her into a grumpy bearcat. Obviously, she felt the stress to produce in the way we fake cheerfully tried to eek out at least a few darling shots.

Instead, she shut down, pooched out that bottom lip, and crossed her arms to ward off the overwhelming. Take that, crazy people!

Thankfully, Photographer Meg captured this shot in which everyone can relate. How often do we sink our heels in and aren’t going to smile, gosh darn it!? Our stubbornness screams, “You can’t make me! You can’t control me.” Most of the time, it’s because we’re tired, scared, have either isolated or over socialized ourselves, are out of our realm of comfort, or have allowed our fragile confidence to be stolen. Why on earth do we make Joy work so hard?

What if we saw it as being more than mere happiness? What if we fed it raw meat for breakfast and depended on the fact it has iron in its soul?

“The joy of the Lord is my strength…” Psalm 28:7 is what everyone remembers, but if one travels a bit farther, we find, “… and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Until now did you realize Joy has protection woven in it’s fabric to form His shield, warding off the arrows of cynicism, doubt, depression, bullheadedness, criticism, negativity, and whatever else is crammed into the poisoned quiver.

The bottom line of this verse urges us if we will be brave enough to trust Him though the fatigue, being out of our element, fear, having our confidence stomped on, too much being thrown at us, or a myriad of other overwhelming factors, Joy will burst through the cracks, to light us as we radiantly draw others to Him. Sure, anyone can be joyful through perfect times; it’s the challenging ones where Joy shows off God’s faithful presence most excellently.

May we always choose joy to be our shield.

(PS-Megan of Megan Colson Photography did end up pulling out these smiles from somewhere. Joy wins again! All photo credits go to her)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witnessing a ‘Mary’ Christmas

What is everyone standing around for?  Pick up the baby!!!

What is everyone standing around for? Pick up the baby!!!

The young mama-to-be found herself in a precarious situation. Only God knew she carried the child. The circumstance was too much for even family and friends to understand. She could only imagine the glances, the whispering, the opinions, and way too much advice. This baby had to be protected at all costs. The human side of her wallowed in a bed of sleepless nights, for how could this possibly turn out well? Yet, she knew in her heart she was honored to be carrying this precious gift. To think the future of the child was unknown—well, she couldn’t afford to think about it now. All she knew was she had committed to follow this through.

When the labor pains began, she cried to the Lord. And He was faithful.

The wiggly bundle looked at her with moments fresh eyes, ones filled with wonder and uncanny wisdom. She tucked the moment into her heart and said, “Oh, what a wonderful gift you will be to someone.”

As days ticked by, God’s will revealed that this precious baby would not only affect the lives of many, but would be the redemption for the mama as well.

A story straight out of Bethlehem…

And Emporia, KS.

Every year I intentionally pray that God would show me something new from the age old story of Him in baby-bound form coming to earth. Little did we know that He’d start revealing our advent revelation on the quite early date of July 3rd. In a ballet of unmerited favor and unbelievable provision on so many levels, God showed himself faithful through the birth of a unforeseen girl grandbaby. Her name is the testament of God smiling on each and every person her life touches–Gracie Olive. (A ‘wow’ moment in research just revealed itself–Olive means ‘anointed for the good of love and charity.’ Perfect!)

Make no mistake, this child is certainly not divine. She can throw a ring-tailed fit like no other. However, her arrival was swaddled in the warmth of God’s love.

And while making different choices to scoot them down life’s road, I’m convinced our daughter Misty and Mary still would have heart-connected at the local MOPs meeting. Oh, the things they have in common. Ordinary people thrown in extraordinary circumstances. Come take a look.

Let’s start with every branch and leaf of family being nothing but supportive. Nary a stone was as much as tripped over, much less picked up. Perhaps, this was Mary’s family’s reaction as well, since she stayed in her hometown, except for visiting cousin Elizabeth, until that uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem popped up. Whether the decision would be adoption or to keep this little one, everyone respected Misty’s judgment and had her back.

Once our dear friends Megan and Michaela heard the tidings of great joy, they dropped everything and made the three hour journey faster than hyped up shepherds on the hunt for a newborn King. And Cheryl…well, she hovered over the story from afar, being the angelic ear and prayer warrior to the heavenlies we needed at critical times. Pat’s chicken and noodles were truly a Godsend after eight days of eating hospital and drive-thru meals.

While Mary was visited by Magi bearing exotic gifts, Galen and Richelle from Argonia in the East came barreling through the door with a new baby bed and pink bedding with zebras dancing on it.

While angels winged across star-dazzled skies, singing ‘Glory to God in the Highest,” our pastor strummed his guitar, lifting up heart-felt praises from our couch.

Two communities of faith in the fashion of the true redeeming love of Christ were generous past the point of ridiculous. And while in the hospital, once it became apparent that baby was coming home with her mama, the nurses blew us away with gifts and encouragement fit for royalty as well.

Instead of Anna’s tears touching Baby Jesus’s cheek, Pam of the Co-op’s eyes glistened as she knelt in front of Gracie snoozing in the rock-in-play, unspeakable joy running in streams down her face. Our threshold became a well-worn path of those pouring love, encouragement, and offering babysitting services. Every single on soul itched to get their hands on her.

Ordinary people kissed by God, lavishly serving Him in extraordinary ways.

Tonight I gaze upon my Grandma Olive’s handed down nativity scene. I appreciate and understand the distant reverence and awe the brightly-colored characters hold for the Christ child in the manger.

However, from what we experienced, how can anyone keep their hands off of a baby? Don’t we all crave to drink in the scent of purity, snuggle the softness of love, and treasure in the whispered coos that are the healing salve of the deepest wounds? The world cannot compete with this phenomenon. Even the most regal Wise Man would have cracked open a chuckle at a bit of baby slobber as it ran down lush robes. Who can resist those powers?

For almost six months we have seen that mojo every day. Like I said, Gracie Olive is not divine, but she gave joy to a lonely old woman in Wal-Mart, flirted a smile out of a car technician, and made Santa laugh when she ate his beard. Every stop takes ten times longer with her around. She’s kind of become everybody’s baby, and her dimpled smile sprinkles joy like glitter on heaven’s breath.

This little glimpse we have been blessed with has opened the earthly blind a little wider to see how hands-on our Savior is. Whether it was the bleeding woman that simply needed a touch of his garment, or the children he insisted hanging out with, or the multitudes that were drawn to him, there is comfort in knowing that no way would He be confined to a manger for one second longer than necessary.

Oh yes, He is everybody’s Savior.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

‘Mary’ Christmas from The Long Family!

photo credit: http://blog.christmasnightinc.com/tag/outdoor-nativity-scenes/

The Beauty in the Barren

House 2Definition of barren: Highway 10 from La Junta to Walsenburg, Colorado.

(So I’m not Webster, but am a watered-down relative, who is taking a few liberties.)

When I was merely a sprout of a Kansan, it was quickly imprinted on me that the mountains were created specifically for my family, but we considerately let everyone else borrow them. While there is nothing like a glorious Kansas sunset and great majesty in the red dirt wide open spaces, a refreshment of the soul happens on those pine-scented slopes one can find no where else.

However, to arrive there is no getting around trudging through a longsuffering stretch of desert wilderness. Magnetically, our engrained homing device always pulls us down this particular dusty trail.

While a two lane highway, it is  a 72 mile stretch where almost nothing grows, albeit some desperate cactuses thumbing for a lift. Scanning the horizon, one might see an anxious antelope, whose GPS evidently malfunctioned. Skeletons of homesteads mark hopes and dreams drying up and blowing away. I always have to ponder why on earth someone would purposefully decide this was the place to stop and stake a claim. Just traveling across it, I marvel the endurance and tenacity of the settlers moving west. I’m sorry, but after so much of traversing land where only sand and rocks grow, I would have demanded that Cliff Sackett turn the wagon around for what we had left was a whole heap better than where we were headed. On a hazy day, Common Sense would have campaigned that our destination had deserted us, and we would be foolishly trudging on forever.

Back in the non-air conditioned day, my family would pack the old Pontiac and head out. The 72 miles took F-O-R-E-V-E-R, especially when you’re six and the brand new crayons are melting into a clump in the back window. It was impossible to believe this was our final stretch and within 30 minutes of its end, we would be engulfed in the cool, stunning beauty of rushing streams and bejeweled pallets of wildflowers.

However, experience is a fabulous teacher. Having gone down this road more times than I can count, that 72 miles seems to get shorter, and after zipping through the harshness of Death Valley a few years back, the scraggly resilient cattle are a welcome sight, along with the possibility of maybe ten oncoming vehicles traveling this, too. I have learned that whether I can see those blessed peaks or not, they are there, strong and mighty, to welcome us.

This summer has been a rough one, hasn’t it?  And I’m not even talking personal issues, which demands unfathomable attention and energy. Our world is turning upside down with a constant volley of reports on the Zika virus, open season on police officers, tragedies that are fuzzy on who is at fault, ISIS attacks, and I’m not even touching on the insanity of the upcoming election. This list could string all day long.

Honestly, I’ve been in a funk. I’ve survived by busying myself so I don’t have to deal with  the fierceness of this desert storm. With a forecast of worse droughts ahead, I can only take so much. So I gloomily meander.

However, wandering in the wilderness is sure bleak. At times I falter a bit to being mad or scared for the future, but mostly I’m in a state of mourning, mixed with a kind of forlorn disappointment is best I can put it. Of course, I want to turn around to what was, but life is not designed that way. I can feel an on-my-face Jesus meeting is on the horizon. I kick myself for not simply getting on with it as I temporarily homestead on this impoverished ground. I know that I know that I know from covering this ground before, the refreshment and security of abiding in the shadow of the Most High will bring peace and rest.  And I will shout once again, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps 91:2)

But today, I’m still not quite there. But I’m miles closer than I was. I see the majesty from a far and His scent continues to draw me like a magnet. I can stake a claim on what I know without a doubt.

Growth will come through the barren, and beauty will blossom.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

(PS-For those good folks that do live in that area, I have nothing but highest respect for you and would love for you to share the beauty that I believe is there.)

Photo Credit-Patrick Praelan

 

The Plunge: Swimming Through Lessons in Humilty

cartoon swim

Swimming lessons with a 3 year old splashed humility all over this grandma.  Allow me to throw you a life preserver in order for you to avoid getting drenched as well.

Lesson #1-Don’t let your plan or pride keep you from the task at hand. Due to my daughter’s work schedule, I was the one to take Gracie for two weeks to a private backyard pool. In with her sunscreen and towel, I packed my book with visions of looking up from my riveting tale to shout inspiring encouragement as our little fish found her inner-mermaid. Wrong. The pool was just deep enough that Gracie couldn’t touch, and several of the tadpoles were there alone, so the instructor had her hands full. In a flash, I found myself, street clothes and all, with 20-30 something bikini clad moms, gliding the future Esther Williams on her tummy through the waves.  From then on, the book stayed home and over my swimsuit came my “Wendy Peppercorn is a Royals Fan” tank top.

Lesson #2-Pushing through pain is worth the effort, but the voices have to be ignored. While physically I could be way more fit, I’m not too shabby. However, due to the shallower depth of the pool, in order to help Gracie, my knees did not appreciate the constant strain put on them in this awkward position.They screamed and tried to convince me that I was dooming me to a future of unending meniscus surgeries and an ibuprofen drip. Honestly, I was on the verge of saying “Sweet Uncle of Marco Polo”, but Gracie would be left high and dry. However, in time, whatever ligaments were being stressed finally stretched out and now feel better than ever. While we dog paddle between the line of common sense and sucking it up, we need not be controlled by the negative or we will never discover what God has up his sleeve for us.

Lesson #3-Patience, patience, patience. Everyone has a different pace. Some of the kids there will obliviously be competing in the  2028 Olympics. They hit the water like a golden retriever after a duck.  On the other side of the buoy, others were clinging to their moms in terror and trying to scramble to higher ground on the top of Mom’s head. Gracie was kind of middle ground. At three, this venture proved to be on her own terms. In fact, one day, she was not having it, so we had to throw in the beach towel and simply pack it in. Then on most days, whenever the instructor came our direction with her perky positive countenance, Gracie would plaster on a fake smile and turn her back on her like, “If I act like I don’t see her, she’ll go away, because I see her plan to ask me to do something I’m not cool with.” Back in the day, I would have had my kids in the corner and frustrated that “we paid good money for this, so get in there and do what she tells you!” (How I appreciate the blessing of being down the road a bit farther now and the wisdom that goes with it.)

The instructor, however, is a master with this age. She would flounce off, give Little Miss Thing space, and then circle back around, not giving up, but allowing her breathing room and time to process getting more comfortable with this new adventure. After several days, Gracie discovered she wanted Tina’s attention and was hollering, “Look at me!”, eventually going with Tina to try some new stuff.

Lesson #4-Don’t expect someone to be courageous if you aren’t willing to be as well.  The big treat at the end of a session was to go down the slide—well, for most of them it was a treat. One mom was trying to encourage her little guy to go down.  He was at clinching the top rails and screaming like a gut-shot panther.  Gracie was soaking it in as I held her in the pool. She yelled in her most excellent, positive, motivational speaker voice, “Be brave, Cameron!” This gave me great hope as she was yet to show a lick of interest in this activity. “So, do you want to go down the slide?”  She matter-of-factly looked at me and stated firmly, “No.”   Another reality arrow with ‘guilty’ written on it pierced my heart.  How many times do we encourage others like we have it all figured out when we would be shaking in our floaties in the same situation?  Oh, how we need to pray for wisdom in the act of encouraging so that it doesn’t sound like it came from the shallow end.

Lesson #5-It seems hopeless right before the breakthrough. Toward the end of my tour of duty, I told my daughter I was afraid I had taken Gracie as far as I could. True, I could have been more firmer in attempting to cajole her into success, but here is where I was laying down the grandma card. You gigis know what I mean. Grandmas can lavish a bit more grace than parents once in awhile-sometimes out of love and sometimes out of sheer survival.  So far she was content for me to coast her Cleopatra style along the Nile. Bubble blowing was rare, not to mention the super courageous plunge under. Don’t even hint at the s-l-i-d-e. In addition, the day before had been the mondo melt-down session when I pulled the plug and dragged the soggy, sobby, little muskrat home. Beached is how I felt with my role in the swimming lesson gig.

But the next day dawned.

GO (her nickname since she’s named Gracie Olive) was nothing but GO!  She wanted to swim with the instructor–well glide like Cleopatra, but got to love baby steps! She could have powered a MasterCraft X26 with the bubbles she blew and her ‘princess kick’ action. Her eyes lit up when it came slide time, and she climbed that ladder ‘by myself!” like she was Greg Louganis’s twin sister. When she let loose to fly down the shoot, the light in her eyes gleamed of the start of an irresistible aquatic romance.

Not a bit of what went on hinged on me or my performance. Simply being present and willing to get wet was all that was asked.

Which proves again, in the everyday, God shows himself in the silly or the serious.  His words are true. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

How has God shown you that His grace is sufficient?  I’d love to know.

Photo credit: http://swimsafer.webs.com/photos/High_resolution_boy.jpg

 

 

 

 

“Hold on Kids! We’re Goin’ for a Ride!”

roller coaster 2

(Gives ‘Kumba-ya’ a whole new perspective, huh? Prayers on the rise?)

Life.

Full of the exhilarating, yet, teamed at times with the white knuckled, breath-stealing chills of a runaway roller-coaster.  Sometimes, the clank of the cogs build anticipation as the tick-tick warns you of something building, be it good or bad. Then, sometimes there is an astonishing twist, a turn, a corkscrew that materializes from nowhere to make the strongest heart quake.

For the almost exactly three years to the date, this blog has been eerily quiet. Life at that time was full of thrills and chills, but ones that tended to give the friendly delight of little butterflies fluttering about the stomach.  That grand baby boy to marvel at and with, a meant-to-be marriage proposal, to witness the relief from a long fought illness by a faithful believer graduating to glory in the most splendid departure, and a long-awaited writing passion finally beginning to taking shape.

And the list goes on.

But suddenly, the roller coaster seemed to take on a mind of its own. Lightning couldn’t compete with its speed, and on occasion, the crushing pressure on our lungs needed a whisper to be reminded to simply “breathe.”

That Whisperer urged us to not fight the ride, but relax and lean into those curves for the track was laid out by the Master Planner, who prepared this journey long before the foundations of the earth. Gently, an unexplainable confidence settled over us.

Our fingers one by one were pried off the bar, we tossed our heads back and threw our hands to the heavens.

And oh, what a ride it has been!!!

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 1 King 19:11-12

(Just love that ‘gentle whisper’ part, don’t you? To bring the regular subscribers up to speed-if you are still there-with the exception of a blog post at Christmas a couple of years ago Having a ‘Mary’ Christmas, God put up a ‘Closed’ sign for the season. I couldn’t explain how that worked if I tried. Just as mind-boggling, now it seems to be cracking open a bit. Only God knows how much of the past will surface, and what new adventures will pop up today. I guess we’ll see where the coaster takes us, huh?  So buckle that seat belt tight and enjoy the ride!)

Photo credit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HDMexqDn5U

 

 

Witnessing a ‘Mary’ Christmas

What is everyone standing around for?  Pick up the baby!!!

What is everyone standing around for? Pick up the baby!!!

The young mama-to-be found herself in a precarious situation. Only God knew she carried the child. The circumstance was too much for even family and friends to understand. She could only imagine the glances, the whispering, the opinions, and way too much advice. This baby had to be protected at all costs. The human side of her wallowed in a bed of sleepless nights, for how could this possibly turn out well? Yet, she knew in her heart she was honored to be carrying this precious gift. To think the future of the child was unknown—well, she couldn’t afford to think about it now. All she knew was she had committed to follow this through.

When the labor pains began, she cried to the Lord. And He was faithful.

The wiggly bundle looked at her with moments fresh eyes, ones filled with wonder and uncanny wisdom. She tucked the moment into her heart and said, “Oh, what a wonderful gift you will be to someone.”

As days ticked by, God’s will revealed that this precious baby would not only affect the lives of many, but would be the redemption for the mama as well.

A story straight out of Bethlehem…

And Emporia, KS.

Every year I intentionally pray that God would show me something new from the age old story of Him in baby-bound form coming to earth. Little did we know that He’d start revealing our advent revelation on the quite early date of July 3rd. In a ballet of unmerited favor and unbelievable provision on so many levels, God showed himself faithful through the birth of a unforeseen girl grandbaby. Her name is the testament of God smiling on each and every person her life touches–Gracie Olive. (A ‘wow’ moment in research just revealed itself–Olive means ‘anointed for the good of love and charity.’ Perfect!)

Make no mistake, this child is certainly not divine. She can throw a ring-tailed fit like no other. However, her arrival was swaddled in the warmth of God’s love.

And while making different choices to scoot them down life’s road, I’m convinced our daughter Misty and Mary still would have heart-connected at the local MOPs meeting. Oh, the things they have in common. Ordinary people thrown in extraordinary circumstances. Come take a look.

Let’s start with every branch and leaf of family being nothing but supportive. Nary a stone was as much as tripped over, much less picked up. Perhaps, this was Mary’s family’s reaction as well, since she stayed in her hometown, except for visiting cousin Elizabeth, until that uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem popped up. Whether the decision would be adoption or to keep this little one, everyone respected Misty’s judgment and had her back.

Once our dear friends Megan and Michaela heard the tidings of great joy, they dropped everything and made the three hour journey faster than hyped up shepherds on the hunt for a newborn King. And Cheryl…well, she hovered over the story from afar, being the angelic ear and prayer warrior to the heavenlies we needed at critical times. Pat’s chicken and noodles were truly a Godsend after eight days of eating hospital and drive-thru meals.

While Mary was visited by Magi bearing exotic gifts, Galen and Richelle from Argonia in the East came barreling through the door with a new baby bed and pink bedding with zebras dancing on it.

While angels winged across star-dazzled skies, singing ‘Glory to God in the Highest,” our pastor strummed his guitar, lifting up heart-felt praises from our couch.

Two communities of faith in the fashion of the true redeeming love of Christ were generous past the point of ridiculous. And while in the hospital, once it became apparent that baby was coming home with her mama, the nurses blew us away with gifts and encouragement fit for royalty as well.

Instead of Anna’s tears touching Baby Jesus’s cheek, Pam of the Co-op’s eyes glistened as she knelt in front of Gracie snoozing in the rock-in-play, unspeakable joy running in streams down her face. Our threshold became a well-worn path of those pouring love, encouragement, and offering babysitting services. Every single on soul itched to get their hands on her.

Ordinary people kissed by God, lavishly serving Him in extraordinary ways.

Tonight I gaze upon my Grandma Olive’s handed down nativity scene. I appreciate and understand the distant reverence and awe the brightly-colored characters hold for the Christ child in the manger.

However, from what we experienced, how can anyone keep their hands off of a baby? Don’t we all crave to drink in the scent of purity, snuggle the softness of love, and treasure in the whispered coos that are the healing salve of the deepest wounds? The world cannot compete with this phenomenon. Even the most regal Wise Man would have cracked open a chuckle at a bit of baby slobber as it ran down lush robes. Who can resist those powers?

For almost six months we have seen that mojo every day. Like I said, Gracie Olive is not divine, but she gave joy to a lonely old woman in Wal-Mart, flirted a smile out of a car technician, and made Santa laugh when she ate his beard. Every stop takes ten times longer with her around. She’s kind of become everybody’s baby, and her dimpled smile sprinkles joy like glitter on heaven’s breath.

This little glimpse we have been blessed with has opened the earthly blind a little wider to see how hands-on our Savior is. Whether it was the bleeding woman that simply needed a touch of his garment, or the children he insisted hanging out with, or the multitudes that were drawn to him, there is comfort in knowing that no way would He be confined to a manger for one second longer than necessary.

Oh yes, He is everybody’s Savior.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

‘Mary’ Christmas from The Long Family!

photo credit: http://blog.christmasnightinc.com/tag/outdoor-nativity-scenes/