When I first held my precious son in my arms, I had dreams of what he would do and become. I didn't expect that within the first four years of his life my son would receive six diagnoses that would make some of my dreams for him close to impossible. I never dreamed that I would experience the sorrows and struggles and overwhelming anxieties that come with being a special needs parent. And I definitely didn't expect that a few years later, his little brother would receive a few diagnosis of his own.
When God doesn't meet one of my expectations in life, one of two things typically happen. I either get mad at God and demand He tell me why this happened. Or I get sad and feel like God doesn't care. I struggled with this for a long time. Still do, to be honest.
The holidays can be a time when our griefs and struggles get amplified. We can feel overwhelmed with Christmas plans and expectations, or feel isolated and alone in our grief. In either case, God feels far away and we feel far from celebrating.
But one Christmastime, while reading through the story of the birth of Jesus, I felt God gave me fresh eyes. For the first time ever, I truly put myself in the young Mary's shoes (or sandals) and thought about what Mary must have been thinking and feeling through this journey of bringing the Savior into the world and parenting Him well. We have no idea what her thoughts and feelings were from Scripture. But since she was human I'm sure she did have expectations about how her life would unfold.
I'm positive she daydreamed about Joseph being a loving husband, of having children, and being a good wife and mother. I doubt she had huge dreams for her life, but she envisioned it with love and marriage before the baby carriage.
But then, an angel shows up. And he told her that she was favored. Chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, though she wasn't married yet. And she asked one simple question before saying yes. I would have had zillions. And some "Uh, I think you have the wrong person" statements thrown in for good measure.
Not only was this announcement unexpected, but it would change her life, her status, her reputation, everything. But she only asked one question about the whole thing and accepted it. She accepted that she was merely a servant of the Lord and ready to do as He asked of her. She accepted that being favored meant not necessarily that she would receive earthly riches and an easy-breezy life, but that she was chosen for something important to His eternal purpose.
By saying "Yes" to God, she got to experience the beauty of being the mother of this precious child who would change the world in ways she couldn't even imagine. It didn't all make sense, but it was purposeful and worthy of praise.
It requires a lot of surrender to let go of our dreams and expectations for how our lives would unfold, and embrace the plan that God has for you. But by doing so, you'll find yourself experiencing a lot more peace in the life you are living.
"Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19
Oh, how I wish I pondered and treasured the things of God in my life, like Mary. Instead, I tend to start focusing on what's next on my to-do list, or how things aren't going my way. How I wish I could treasure up and ponder the beauty of the Savior of the world coming into the world through the yielded body of Mary. And how I wish I could be a little more like her, not just this Christmas season, but every day.
I have found that finding a good Advent devotional (such as Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift) or digging into Scripture (check out this list of 25 Scriptures to Pray to Prepare Your Heart for Christmas to be helpful to fill yourself with God's Word and His purpose and find the beauty in God's unlikely plan each Christmas season. It might be the encouragement to your weary soul to help you welcome the Savior into the world, and into your life's hard places this Christmas season.
I pray that despite whatever difficulties and grief you may be carrying, you would experience the peace and comfort and joy and the abundant life that Jesus came into the world to bring.
Merry Christmas!! Jenn
Your turn: What do you admire most about Mary's heart that you want to experience this Christmas season? (I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!)