i am woman

She said, “Do you demand respect? Or do you earn it?” And my heart thudded as her voice boomed out through the sanctuary. It was February of 2013 and my insides screamed out YES! Let them have it! Because I burned inside. Anger and wrath ignited. All directed at the opposite sex, of course. The male population. Or more particularly, the male population within the very traditional church I found myself.

The speaker used Titus 2…

In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. They are to teach what is good, so they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered. v. 3-5

She used Ephesians 5:25 as back-up. If husbands would only love their wives as Christ loves the church, then women would respond more willingly. Or submit. And in my ignorance, I thought the message was for all the men surrounding me who sat in pews. However, the longer her voice droned on, the more uncomfortable I felt.

And thirty-two months later, I know why.

Because those words weren’t meant for their ears. They were meant for mine. The question was directed at me.

God said, “Do you demand respect? Or do you earn it?”

And in looking back, I’d have to say I demanded it. I felt it was deserved. Along with honor. But none of that was coming my way. Not there. So I picked a battle and chose my side. And I stood for women. More particularly, women’s rights in the church.

Yes, that’s what I chose.

Listen to me!

 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12

Today I have absolute clarity. It has to do with respect. See, when I left home at 19, I didn’t have any. I didn’t possess one ounce of self-respect. And to compound matters, after only five short years away I managed to do everything I could to lose the respect of those who knew me. No details necessary.

But one day, I met God. I wasn’t even looking for Him. Eventually, I learned to call out to Him. And five years ago, He talked back. Through Scripture… words specific to me. Yes it’s true, God heard my cries. He listened, and miraculously, He answered.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3

God sent me back to my hometown. I asked and asked and finally, in His infinite mercy and grace, He gave me what I desired most. And after settling, He spoke again and again and again. Revelation to revelation and glory to glory. I swear, the fall of 2011 was one of the most wonderful times of my life.

Because God listened to me. And I listened to Him. A relationship was formed.

I am woman

I wanted to share what I knew. I was simply on fire and wanted other women to feel as I did. Because what a discovery. The fact God really is real astounded me. Before God, it was empty religion. I merely sat in church and went through the motions. I followed rules and did all the right things.

Thus, I didn’t have much to say. No voice at all.

But one day, He spoke. To someone as insignificant as me. And that was miraculous. That God would look down from His throne and speak to me in the midst of an ordinary life was remarkable. Noteworthy. So, I tried to share. Because if it happened to me, it could happen to other women.

So I wrote manuscripts and endeavored to lead women’s Bible studies. I wanted women to discover what I had.

In the midst of all this revelation and glory, we joined a church. A traditional one. And at first, I was eager to share. I reached out immediately and there were quick dividends. For within months I was asked to read Scripture at the women’s Sunday. It was that February service in 2013 when I heard the Titus 2 talk.

You know, my spirits were dampened even before I heard that woman speak, though. It was after I’d told a couple of gals I wanted to lead a women’s Bible study and learned I wouldn’t be able to. There was a two year rule in place and it didn’t sit well with me. Because, I felt I knew so much. And had so much to say. Important things. Meaning, I was important.

I blurted out,  “I can’t just sit here for two years.”

Well, turns out I did. It goes back to the respect thing. And only in looking back can I see what I did. I rolled up in that church demanding respect. I expected people to want what I had to offer. But they didn’t even know me. And because it felt like rejection, I began to feel so small there. Unworthy. In truth, I’d never felt so diminished as a woman in all my life.

And so, my light got dimmer and dimmer as another flame was fanned. Over the months, it blazed and consumed me.

I shrugged on a new mantle and adopted my battle cry.

It was, “I am woman. Hear me roar.”

the wrong fight

It’s with clarity I speak today. See, I left home feeling like a nothing. But before and upon my return, God spoke! To me. I felt so important. And when it seemed as if my church didn’t want my offering, I was offended. Highly. And an internal war raged. I wanted the woman in me to be heard.

This is what I carried into my home life. Because I wrote and wrote. With all my heart, I wanted a published book. But pure intentions became tainted by pride. Getting a book deal began to have less and less to do with God and His glory, and became more and more about me and mine.

See, a book with my name on the cover would really show those people who rejected me. All of them. Then they’d know I was worth hearing. Especially the men who surrounded me… who dampened my spirits. You know, the ones who needed to hear the Titus 2 message. Those who demanded respect.

The utter realization, though, is I’ve been slandering God in this manner. Denying my true mission in life by failing to submit to the one thing He really wants me to do. And by resisting His leading, I realize I’ve been fighting against my own family. I didn’t comprehend my stance on women’s rights caused me to lose ground in my own home.

love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands

This is what God wants me to do. He commands me to love my husband. To love my children. To be self-controlled and pure. A homemaker. Kind. He wants me to submit to my husband. And this…

All this…

I’ve been fighting.

Because my eyes have been clouded. My perspective skewed by the secular world in which I live. See, it’s society that places value on status, ego, fame, self-seeking, and the list goes on. I’ve been hanging on to this set of values. Not His.

Still.

For this is what motivates me to write when I have a pile of laundry and dinner to prepare. Not always, but often enough. Because if I could just get my name in lights, it would validate all I’ve been doing. I would be validated. Good enough. Worthy of respect. Worthy to be heard.

Because, oh how my heart skips a beat when my little alarm shows orange on my blog site. It means someone liked what I had to say.

Oh, I am woman. I do roar.

Hear me…

Please.

I’m gonna say no

Today, I choose to say no. To the world and it’s scales. I say yes to God, instead. I submit. I give. Because with all my heart, I want to please Him. I want to do the one thing He wants me to do and do it well. And that means I give place to Him by giving place to my family and my home.

Today, I embrace biblical womanhood and all it implies. I submit to my husband as the head of our household. And it’s a blessing. I am blessed because I have a good man who loves me. Just as Christ loves the church. And we have a mutual respect for each other. We have love.

Today, I choose to be the mother God wants me to be. And that means saying no to my children. I will discipline them because they need boundaries. Training. Upbringing. It’s my job. And they will rise and call me blessed.

And I will enjoy being a homemaker. And all the chores that surround it. For it’s a blessing. And an honor. It brings me pleasure to create a warm and inviting atmosphere for my family.

Yes, today is the day. I say no to the world and what it has to offer.

I say yes to God instead.

Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. 1 Peter 3:3-4 

I am woman and wife. I embrace it. And I am mother. I cherish it. Because it’s such a gift. Motherhood.

And so, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention something I read yesterday. It has to do with all this. The role of womanhood…

Trevor MacDonald is a self identified female-to-male transgendered gay man, who’s given birth to two children since he transitioned. He’s expecting another baby in April. MacDonald explains he was born female but transitioned to male by taking hormones and having chest surgery. “When my partner and I decided to start a family, we got advice from my doctors and I stopped taking my testosterone. Because my surgery removed most of my breast tissue, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to breastfeed, but I really want to try.”

He’s accused the midwifery community of “transphobia” in The Huffington PostMacDonald argues that suggesting that trans guys who give birth are not men — but actually women, because of their biology — is “highly offensive to trans individuals because it denies our gender.” Michelle Jesse

I cried as I read the above http://www.allenbwest.com/2015/09/transgender-dad-offended-by-pregnant-women-midwives-deliver-epic-response/

And I have to tell you, I say, no. No, you cannot have your cake and eat it, too. You’re either male or female. And if you choose to have a baby, then you’re a woman. Women have babies.

Though Trevor MacDonald identifies as male, she relies on her female anatomy to carry her children. “He’s expecting another baby in April…” Again, no. Emphatically, I say it. No. Not he but she. Because motherhood belongs to the woman. Childbirth belongs to the woman.

It is a woman who carries a baby for nine months. It is she who develops stretch marks and pees twenty times a day. The woman suffers labor pains but then immediately forgets it all in the face of her infant. And she tenderly nestles her baby at her breast for nursing.

The woman nurtures. She soothes. And kisses boo-boos. She is mama. So I say No!

Do not take this away from us. Motherhood belongs to women. Birthing babies belongs to women.

Not to men.

I am woman. Hear me roar.

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A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. John 16:21

I say yes

I’ve been fighting God on this one. I wanted to be more than what He made me to be. I wanted to be more than wife and mother because homemaker just didn’t seem to elicit enough respect. At least not in my book.

So, I demanded it. Like that fateful February in 2013. I finally had my platform for I’d been asked to read Scripture. But me being me, I used it as an opportunity to be heard. It was a sermonette I prepared, not a verse. And I droned on and on. And you know what? My little boy was at home sick that day.

The evening before, Levi’s fever spiked to 103. I was so worried. I prayed and called relatives. I fretted. But the next morning, I went off to church anyway leaving my husband to tend to my son. I left my husband to fulfill my role as mother. Nurturer. Why? Because I had important business to attend to. I had to speak at church. Important stuff, you know.

So I opened my mouth but got little in return. Not the respect I’d hoped for.

Today, I know why. It’s just another step in my journey with God. And I realize I’ve been wrestling Him. Demanding that He give me the respect I feel I’m due. Thus, I’ve disrespected Him by denying His words. And what He expects from me.

But today’s another story. Because today, I say yes to Him and all that implies. Especially with regard to my womanhood.

I am woman. And finally, I’m willing to submit. I yield as I embrace my role as woman. Wife and mother. Total submission. And the miracle is, I end up finding the respect I’ve been seeking.

Self-respect returns.

Just because I said Yes.

To God.

Proof of Life

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I used to be Pro-Choice. Pro-Abortion. And to follow up with words that are sure to offend many, I chalk that up to ignorance. I chose not to know. I was uniformed and chose to stay that way. I made a decision that would affect the rest of my life without investigating what was actually taking place inside my body. But today, because I’ve birthed two babies, I know something significant about the 18th day. For that’s when the heart beats. And by 21 days, blood whose type is different from that of the mother’s, is pumped through a closed circulatory system (J.M. Tanner, G. R. Taylor, and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Growth, New York: Life Science Library, 1965). That baby has its own blood type. Individual from the mother. That baby has a heartbeat… isn’t that proof of life?
heart-beat[1]

And because it’s February, I ponder another sort of heartbeat today. See, this month is significant for it’s the month of my birth. Spiritually speaking, I turn eighteen this year. I suppose that means I should technically be an adult in God’s kingdom by now. Because in the winter of 1997, I became His child. Eighteen years ago. But for so long after becoming His, I doubted I actually was. Today, I chalk that up to ignorance. Because I chose not to know what was actually taking place inside my body. And in my spirit. And in my heart. I chose to stay uniformed. For years and years.

But after 12 years of wavering and doubting, something happened. I felt a thudding in my chest. It was my heart. But this was a new heart beat… a pounding so hard, I could feel it throbbing through my ears. And inexplicably, I was moved to act. Prompted by God, this heartbeat was followed by movement. Physically. Just like the babies that grew within in my womb, I did the same. The miracle, though, is this happened outside the womb. Proof of life. Proof that I was actually His. Proof I was alive in Him.

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So today, I ponder the importance of February. A month of more than one birthday. Or anniversary. For it begins with the conception of my new life in Christ 18 years ago. Followed up 12 years later by a heartbeat. His heartbeat inside me. Proof of life. And then after another four years, this blog was birthed in February. Two years ago, I began to pour out my heart for all to see. Some things written can only be explained by God. Because it was stuff I had covered up for so long. Old stuff. Despite my intentions of keeping some things hidden, they bubbled up to the surface anyway. Unexpectedly. Prompted by Him. God. My Creator. My muse.

And so, here I am today. It’s my spiritual birthday and I ruminate over all these things. And you know… it occurs to me that this blog has been kind of like a sonogram. Because for two years now, it’s monitored my spiritual movement. Everything’s recorded. My ups and downs. My progress. My heartbeat. Time spent developing in His womb. I can observe the labor… when pangs came closer and closer together. That was the time of my delivery. See, it was just over a year ago when I was delivered from my past. I felt reborn. Shiny and bright. A new creation.

So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

So here I am in the month of my spiritual birth, and I consider my life up to this point. And what I do. And why I do it. And the blog is one of those things considered. Why write? Two years ago, it seemed clear to me. And I marvel at my words and my conviction…

Yes, I am a regular woman called many things. But the most important title I have? Child of God. I am His child. And although I became His sixteen years ago, I am just now learning what this means. And that’s the whole purpose of this blog. Because if I am just now figuring out the basics so many years later, I just have to wonder… are there others like me? Ordinary we may think ourselves, but I am starting to see, life does not have to be that way. Our lives can be extraordinary, and yes, interesting. Because God is in our midst! February 2013

God in our midst! I wanted others to know what I did. To experience God like I had. To feel what I felt. God in our midst. But today, I see things a bit different. See, rather than Him being in my midst, I feel as if I’ve been in His midst. I’ve been in Him. In Christ. In His womb. He’s been making me this whole time. A new creation.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Yesterday I came across a picture. As always, Facebook is a fount of information. But I have to say, this picture stopped me in my tracks. It was breathtaking. Well, at least to me. In truth, some will be offended by the following image. But I find it beautiful. Stunning. Because it is the picture of new life.

newborn-baby-christian-berthelot-c-section-cesarPhoto by Christian Berthelot

This picture shows truth. New life is messy for a baby doesn’t come out of the womb all clean and smelling like powder. And the thing is, it’s the very same with us spiritually. For God’s children don’t come out of His womb all clean and smelling like a rose. In fact, they come out quite messy. They need cleaning up. And the process can be lengthy. For some, it can take years. Like with me. See, I was His child for seventeen years before I felt new. And clean. Shiny and bright. The making of me took place over a prolonged period of time. And in fact, He’s still making me…

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It’s through these February musings, I understand what a gift my daughter Annabelle is. In more ways than one. See, her middle name is significant. In fact, I’m quite sure God’s the One who blessed her with the name of Wynn, which means holy, blessed reconciliation; joy and peace; fair, pure. And in blessing Annabelle with this lovely name, He in turn blessed me. Eight days after hearing her heartbeat. Eight days after encountering His grace with regard to my past, I received a new name through the daughter I carried in my womb. Annabelle Wynn. Blessed reconciliation. She became my proof of life. Confirmation that I am in truth His baby girl. Just as much as she is my own. I carried her in my womb and He carried me in His. God in my midst? No, for it seems as if I were in His midst instead. For He’s been all around me this whole time. Encompassing me. Making me over. The created by the Creator. A new creation.

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Today, I’m pro-life. But not just with regard to abortion. See, I’m pro-life for Christian babies, too. The ones who are still developing in His womb. See, the process can take some time. Labor can be such a prolonged effort. And as for me… His eighteen year old daughter who has grown at least a little since first becoming His… well, it’s my job to be patient. To be kind. To be encouraging. While others are waiting for their proof of life, I must not judge. And point fingers. Because if I’m not careful, I could kill a developing babe by my thoughtless words. Without realizing it, I could snuff out the new life He’s creating in the person right next to me. Because His babies take time to develop. And just as God continues to make me, He continues to make them. His creations. Because that’s what He does… He creates.

Six days it took God to create the earth and all that’s in it. On the seventh, He rested from His work. And then, there’s the eighth day. The eighth day is significant for me. It happened last February. That’s when He confirmed I was His baby girl. It’s when He gave me a new name. And He used my own baby girl to do so. Annabelle Wynn became proof of life for me.

See, we’re His children… beautiful in our wonderful mess. For in time, He cleans us up. And before we know it, we’re made new. Shiny and bright. Glorious. Reborn in His image.

So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth… Genesis 1:27-28

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=7G7PD7NX

 

Annabelle’s Announcement

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This flower appeared on our azalea bush a day or so ago. I didn’t pay much attention at first, assuming there were others. But last night, Jason pointed out there’s only one. He also reminded me that the bushes had already bloomed earlier this Summer. So really, it’s unusual that this one bloom came back. Thus, we wondered… is it her flower? A sign of what, or who, is coming our way. And in admiring this pale, blush colored blossom, I have to think yes. It’s hers. For this is the color that adorns her walls and bedding. It’s definitely Annabelle’s flower.

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I’ve been pretty busy lately as this past Summer has been a season of preparation. See, I’m preparing the way for the new life that’s about to enter our world. Her name is Annabelle and for now, she resides inside me. I keep thinking any day, but alas, my womb continues to encompass her. She is surrounded by me. And so, I find new ways to prepare every day. Her room was done a month ago, so I moved on to filling her dresser drawers and closet with clean sleepers and every adorable outfit you can imagine. When the clothes were done, I moved on to sterilizing bottles and nipples. And then packing her bag, eagerly anticipating the big day as I bustled along. My thinking the whole time was, it could be any moment. And if I were to judge by yesterday’s sonogram, I’d say she’s overdue. She should be here already. But God’s timing is perfect, and Annabelle will arrive when the time is right.

And so, perhaps Annabelle’s announcement may seem a bit premature. Isn’t it customary for birth announcements to go out after the baby arrives? But this morning, her impending arrival is all I can think about. And so, I’m ready to make the announcement. Annabelle is coming. And I want her message to go out to the world.

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As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15

I began receiving gifts for Annabelle in January and the theme seemed to be feet. The first two cards portrayed baby feet and baby shoes, while the first two presents were wee little slippers and dainty pink sandals. Feet. And so, we wondered, would she be a missionary? What purpose did God already have for this little girl growing in my womb? And as I sit here today, her birth feels significant. That there’s something God wants to do through her… and so, I go back to feet. Her feet. And my feet.

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Lovely, aren’t they? My ankles have nearly disappeared and my feet are so fat I can barely wiggle my toes. So aesthetically, perhaps not so pretty to gaze upon. But when I think of what they represent, I’d say these are some of the most beautiful feet that trod the earth. At least for today. Because I bring good news. I announce the birth of my baby girl. She’s coming. And so despite my swollen size nines (or tens), I’ll continue to prepare the way… for her. I’ll prepare the way for new life, and this is what makes these feet of mine lovely.

The past few days, I’ve been thinking about another set of feet. They belonged to a man named John. I wondered if his feet became achy and swollen. Or if they were dirty or sandy as he prepared the way. See, upon John’s birth it was asked, “What then will this child become?” The answer… “And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.” John was chosen to give the people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. And when the time was right, he prepared the way for Jesus’ arrival. Though he didn’t know the exact date, he knew that the Dawn from on high was coming. He knew that Jesus would shine on those who lived in darkness and in the shadow of death… that the One to come would guide others’ feet into the way of peace. And that made his feet lovely. For John brought good news.

Funny thing, though. John’s message to the people was “Repent!” And honestly, this just doesn’t sit well today. When we hear repent, don’t we feel more like cringing than rejoicing? It doesn’t sound like good news, does it? Almost harsh. And it’s here at this point, I imagine some people may wonder what in the world repentance has to do with a birth announcement… with Annabelle’s announcement. And personally, I have to say everything. Everything. My daughter’s very name points to a message of repentance. And the thing is, I believe the name was given to her by God. Though I selected it because it means joy, I find I’ve been residing in a state of repentance instead. Ever since February, in fact. And so I deem this to be an act of God. Annabelle pointing me in another direction. 

Yes, Annabelle’s coming and her name means joy. But you know what? Through the book of James, God tells me my laughter must change to mourning and my joy to sorrow. And this doesn’t sound like good news. But you see, there’s hope. For in Psalm 30, I read that weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning. Joy is coming for it follows repentance. It comes when you really turn from something you know you need to leave behind. Because if you hold to the thing you’re not supposed to, it kills you. It’s like poison. I know this to be true. And so, I find I’m repenting. As I turn loose of what He said to, I find I am able to turn to Him. And this prepares the way for new life. And not just the new life that resides inside me named Annabelle. For I come to life alongside her. My Joy is birthed as I prepare to birth her. That’s the very reason I picked her name… for I was longing for joy. And so now, Jesus comes to me. His arrival is right on time and He ministers to me…

The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3

Jesus must have had lovely feet. For He brought good news to the poor. And He was sent to heal those brokenhearted souls. He came to comfort those who mourn and sorrow. This is a picture of repentance. And so I see it’s not a harsh message, after all. It is good news and it’s quite lovely. And I feel such hope. For I am poised to rise from the ashes. He will replace my mourning and sorrow with oil of joy. Joy. And that’s what her name means. And this is why Annabelle’s birth is so significant. She has great purpose. For her very name, and her birth announcement, proclaims the One to come. Her lovely, little feet that have not yet trod the world already prepares the way for Him. That’s what she’s been doing in my heart… preparing the way. Lovely feet. Good news.

Oh, I have been preparing. For months. I’ve been paving the way for my daughter’s appearance. But in addition, I’ve been turning. My heart has been changing as it aligns to the ways of Jesus. His ways are becoming my ways. And so, Scripture comes to life. In me. For repentance is simply this change of mind. It’s this change of direction. And so in preparing the way for Annabelle, I find I’ve also been preparing the way for Christ. While I’ve been making room for her in my home, I’ve been making space for Him in my heart. And ultimately, His way will guide my feet into the way of peace. The path of joy…

She’s coming. And He is, too. When the time is right.

“I assure you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. When a woman is in labor she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy. John 16:20-22

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http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=isn’t+she+lovely&qpvt=isn%27t+she+lovely&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=6B41CBE7468C65B52CF16B41CBE7468C65B52CF1

Joseph’s Nativity

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And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. Luke 2:4-5

I’m currently on a journey to my spiritual Bethlehem. And my prayer is that I’ll stay off the well-worn path of consumerism and busyness, in hope of finding something deeper along the path less traveled. And to my surprise, I find I won’t have to wander far. For I’ve discovered my spiritual Bethlehem, or House of Bread, is where I least expected to find it. For it’s right here. My Bethlehem is the same small town in which I was born and raised.

It was the nativity that opened my eyes to this truth. Literally. See, if you look closely, you’ll see one of mine actually spells it out… N – A – T – I – V – I – T – Y. And recently, the word captured my gaze for more than a mere second or two. So, I pondered it. I wondered what does it really mean?

Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that nativity is derived from a Latin word meaning birth. So quite rightly, the nativity depicts just this…

The birth of Jesus Christ.

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I wanted to go deeper, though, and through a Bible concordance I unearthed that something deeper for which I longed. Because in Hebrew, nativity encompasses not only the birth, but also family, relatives, children; land of birth, native land, kindred. And honestly, this put me in my rightful place today.

See, I was outraged by a national figure’s description of Christmas in a magazine not so long ago. She said, “To me, it’s about time with family…” And me being me, I was filled with ire that the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior, was omitted from the article. And me being me on a journey to a more spirit filled Christmas, this woman’s quote set me off.

But today, I am set in my place. Here in my home-place. For the truth is, although Jesus is the reason for the season, perhaps some small part of Christmas is in fact about family. Because Scripture tells the story. And before Christmas was even Christmas, Joseph took Mary to his native land. The land of his fathers.

And so, Mary and Joseph were among the very first holiday travelers, journeying home that first Noel.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Agustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. Luke 2:1-2

By immersing myself in the Christmas story, I find myself wanting to know everything. All of it. And though I’ve simmered in Mary, I’ve not really stewed on Joseph. Jesus’ earthly father. So that’s what I do this day…

Scripture tells me Joseph was of the line of David so Bethlehem was his home-place. The land of his ancestors. The book of Matthew invites me to take a closer look into his lineage and through his rich heritage, I gain a glimpse of what kind of man Joseph really was. For he came from good stock.

Yes,the pages of Scripture give testimony of Joseph’s forefathers’ proven character. First, there was Father Abraham, a man made righteous by his faith in God. And there was Jacob, who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel. And further down the line, I find Boaz… a man of strength and honor. He redeemed the woman Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. And of course, there’s King David, the once shepherd boy.

And down the line we go until…

… and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David were 14 generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, 14 generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, 14 generations. Matthew 1:16

Joseph came from good stock, indeed. He was hand selected by Father God to rear God’s own Son. A good man was Joseph, but surely he wasn’t perfect. Surely, his faith was shaken once or twice.

For he was betrothed to Mary, a virgin. Oh, what he must have thought when she told him her news. That she was with child. He was a man so he must have felt the sting of pain. And a moment of rage. Did sorrow turn to utter disbelief? And shock? For he loved his betrothed… did he fear Mary had betrayed him?

Joseph must have endured those moments because he was only human. I’m sure I would have. I would have gone through every stage. The quick fury settling into the slow burn of anger. Sadness to confusion. And then, fear would have set in. Oh, I would have thought the worst of my beloved. For a time, at least. And from Scripture, I believe Joseph felt it all, too. At least for a time…

So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:19-21

Perhaps the above passage provides the most information about Joseph’s character. He was righteous. He was caring. Despite his hurt, he wouldn’t think of publicly disgracing Mary. No, he’d handle matters privately. Quietly.

But then, lo, an angel appeared with good news. Words of encouragement. Just when he needed it the most, Joseph received a personal word from God. And because he was nourished through that morsel of spiritual food, Joseph took courage and did what he knew he had to do. He acted in faith.

Joseph decided to walk forward with Mary despite how dire the circumstances appeared. He extended mercy instead of outrage. And he swallowed down his pride as he took Mary on as his bride.

Surely the road ahead was a rough one. For people talk, right? Rumors abound. And Joseph was likely to endure whispers, nudges, and laughter at his expense. However, right here I find Joseph’s greatest trait. And perhaps it’s the very reason God selected Joseph to be the father of Jesus. For Joseph was a humble man.

Humility before pride…

His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, mindful of His mercy, just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever. Song of Mary, Luke 1:50-55

The father of Jesus came from good stock. His home-place was a little town called Bethlehem and it was small among the clans of Judah. And Joseph, a carpenter, probably seemed small to people of a certain stature.

But God looks beyond the exterior. He sees the heart. And within Joseph, God found what He was looking for in Jesus’ earthly father. God looked deep and found righteousness and courage. He found compassion and mercy. And perhaps most importantly, He found humility.

And this was Jesus’ father. The one depicted in nativity sets everywhere. His name was Joseph.

When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus. Matthew 1:24-25

Light of men

jesus-light

With me, it began with His word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5. How beautiful are His words. And how beautiful is He, for He is the Word. And He is the life. He is the light of men and He shines in the dark, for darkness could not hold Him.

The Word. God’s word. I feast on it. And thus, I feast on Jesus. But I haven’t always. No, for so long I nibbled on bits and pieces of Him. But eventually, bits and pieces grew to a steady diet. And now, I cannot get enough of Him. Because the more I read, the more I know about Him. And His word is transforming. See, through the pages of Scripture God begins to speak to us… directly and individually and specifically. And that’s where it all began with me. Reading the word. Reading Jesus.

It was three years ago that I had had enough. Enough of me. It was a turning point, really. And so, I sought God fervently… through His word. And He spoke volumes to me. For it was through the pages of Scripture that I found out what I needed to do to move from where I was. In order to move away from me, and the darkness, I had to purpose to know Him in my heart. I had to determine it, and then, move towards the light… towards Him. Because if I wanted to know God, it wasn’t just going to magically happen. I had to participate…

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10

This verse was a life-changer. But three years ago, I had a different version of the Bible. And then, I read it in light of God. Father God. But now, I see. To know Father God, I must first know His Son. That’s the only way to know God, for Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. And that’s what this journey is all about. See, upon finding Philippians 3:10 so long ago, I didn’t really know what I was asking for when I claimed that verse. Honestly, I simply purposed to know God… aside from His Son. But, oh, to know Christ is to know God. For they are One and the Same. And to know Christ… I mean really know Him… we must follow Him. All the way. And when we do, we begin to put off our old self. We begin to transform as we put on a new self who is renewed according to the image of Him who created us. Colossians 3:10. But this can be painful. For in order to be resurrected, we must first die. And just as Jesus suffered, so shall we. And not just in an eternal, end of life kind of way. No, it’s a daily thing.

I think most of us have heard, “WWJD.” What would Jesus do? Some people wear it on a bracelet, or a necklace. And it’s a nice thought… Jesus would help someone in need, or He would be kind to an unlikeable person, or He would heal the sick. You know all those great things Jesus did. But in reality, Jesus came to die. Ultimately, that’s what He did. He died for us. He put His life last, and put us first. That’s what Jesus did then, and that’s what He would do today. He died, and He expects us to do the same. The truth about God & me? I don’t want to die. Not all the way. Not like He did. I’m too selfish. The truth? All this darkness that surrounds me? Well, there’s layers to it. And one layer for certain is my selfishness. The darkness in which I dwell? Well, I’m still in the tomb. But that’s okay, for I know that I know that I know that He’s working on me. I will be resurrected. And here on earth, too, not on the other side of eternity. It’ll happen here where people will witness my resurrected life. Like Lazarus. Whatever suffering I may endure is simply me dying… to me. Following Jesus unto death. It’s what He would do. It’s what He did. For us.

It was Sunday morning as I walked up the steps to my church that a random thought came to me… “A woman shall encompass a man.” It wasn’t much later that my Sunday School teacher took us to Jeremiah 31. Although we read about the New Covenant, my eyes fell to verse 22… For the LORD creates something new in the land – a female will shelter a man. This is the verse that came to me earlier… different version. That day, I thought God was just telling me His eye was upon me. He saw me. But now, I wonder if it was something more…

Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.  A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child,she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. John 16:20-22

Labor is painful, but a new life bursts forth. Anguish and pain will turn to rejoicing. In the same way, dying to self is painful. But, new life bursts forth. We’ll receive beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning. WWJD? He would suffer, and He would die. But He would also burst forth – new life. Remember… He told us these things so that we would have peace. He said we would have tribulation, but to be of good cheer… for He had overcome the world. John 16:33.

You see, with me, it began with His word. And through it, I found that life was in Jesus, and that He was the light of men. I found that He shines in the darkness, and that darkness did not overcome Him. And it will not overcome me, either. For I’m following Jesus. I, too, shall overcome.

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will stand up; though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Micah 7:8