Journey to the Manger: Mary

Lauren and Jackson at our church's candelight Christmas Eve service

Lauren and Jackson at our church’s candlelight Christmas Eve service

On Christmas Eve, we pondered with Mary on our Journey to the Manger.

Mary was there for it all. The Angel Gabriel appeared to her to announce the Messiah was coming, and she would be His mom. She believed and trusted Her Heavenly Father, and went to visit her cousin Elizabeth to see God’s miraculous power first-hand. She spent three months with Zechariah and Elizabeth, and may have even seen the birth of John the Baptist. Mary traveled with her betrothed husband Joseph to Bethlehem to be counted in the census declared by Caesar Augustus. When they arrived, no one would give them room, and the two ended up in a stable when Mary went into labor. She gave birth to a son, wrapped him in strips of cloths and laid him in the manger. When the shepherds arrived later and bowed low before her newborn baby, they must have told amazing stories of an angel proclaiming the Messiah’s birth and heavenly hosts filling the night’s sky. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple, and while there to fulfill the law concerning their son, they met Simeon and Anna who prophesied about Jesus. Later, wise men came and worshiped Jesus, laying expensive gifts before Him, telling them of the star that guided them from so far away. Joseph then helped Mary and Jesus quickly escape Jerusalem when God came to him in a dream revealing Herod‘s evil plans. Mary and Joseph eventually made their way back to Nazareth, where they raised their son.

Mary

Mary

Mary experienced these moments and so many more as she watched her precious Son grow, in favor with God and man. She was there when Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water to wine. She watched and heard about His travels from town to town proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven was here. She marveled as her Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, fed thousands, even raised the dead.

And, Mary stood at the foot of the cross, where her child hung by nails pierced through His hands and feet.

Mary was there at the beginning and at the end.

The night Jesus was born, Scripture tells us that Mary treasured every moment. She stored every tear, every kiss, every snuggle, deep within her heart. She wondered and worshiped as she listened to the shepherds and watched them praise God for her perfect little boy.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

– Luke 2:19

Jesus is our treasure. He longs to reign in our hearts, for us to ponder His love and abundant grace.

Tonight, our family pondered Jesus’s story and treasured it up in our hearts at our church’s candlelight Christmas Eve service. We watched candles being lit as Scripture was read, and sang carols praising God for His great gift of love. When we returned home, we spent time together talking about what a wonderful month we’ve had approaching the manger and focusing on Jesus, the greatest gift of all.

I can’t think of a better way to spend Christmas Eve than treasuring the Savior we will celebrate tomorrow!

Fingernail Faith

paintednails

I rarely ever paint my nails. In fact, I’ve only had my nails done in a salon twice in my life: once for my wedding and then for my sister’s wedding.

So, now that my little girl is into hot pink (and purple and blue and any other color she passes by in Walmart) nails, I’ve had a steep learning curve! As I figure out how to hold her hands still and keep her from touching the wet polish, God has also been reinforcing my faith. Here are six “fingernail faith” truths God has been painting on my heart.

1. Cutting and shaping is necessary
Before nails can be painted, they have to be clipped. All the dirt underneath has to be scraped away. This is Lauren’s least favorite part about our nail time. Usually, squirming and even screaming ensues. My grip has to tighten on her hands to keep them still so the cuts don’t go too close to the skin. But once we’re finished with this uncomfortable part, the nail polish can be applied. When it comes to our faith, this is where we also complain and cry out. God doesn’t intend to leave us in the same state we came to Him. He loves us so much, He holds us tight and begins to mold and shape us.

Yet Lord, You are our Father;
we are the clay, and You are our potter;
we all are the work of Your hands.
– Isaiah 64:8

Preparation often requires casting off what hinders us from becoming all Christ created us to be. These cuts can be painful, but they are necessary for the beauty God has in store for us.

2. Painting takes patience
Polishing nails requires the patience of the one applying the paint AND the one whose nails are being brushed. It’s hard to keep perfectly still! And it’s equally difficult to keep steady hands and not get paint on the skin, just the nail! I always keep a tissue or Q-tip handy for the inevitable flub. The most challenging part for Lauren is resisting the urge to touch her nails to see if they are dry. Whenever I am wrestling with fidgety hands and trying not to get bright pink polish everywhere, my admiration and respect for God grows. How does God continually deal with my impatience? How does He put up with my lack of focus and constantly wanting to rush the result? God IS love, and love is patient. His hands are ever steady and strong. I must trust His Word, and believe that I will know Him more when I am still.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
– Psalm 46:10-11

3. Paint can chip off and wear out
One morning I painted Lauren’s fingernails and toe nails, and in the afternoon we went to the river. Every spec of that color ended up flowing downstream, to my chagrin. In the natural course of a busy four-year-old’s day, nail polish chips off fast. Our faith goes through similar tests. Even with a firm foundation in Christ, we still are dinged up and rubbed the wrong way; we wear out and find ourselves swimming in the deep end. There will be moments when our faith is exhausted, and it will feel like we have nothing left.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
– Psalm 51:17

God knows life is messy. He knows that we will go through circumstances that will try our faith, that will scrape against what we know to be true. Our faith may fade, and sin may creep in. Yet, He still paints our hearts with His love. He is lavish with His kindness and chooses to make us beautiful. Even in our chipped up, broken state, He will not deny us.

4. Nails must be regularly cleaned
You know it’s time to break out the nail polish remover when you can see more nail than polish (which is the current state of Lauren’s nails). The nail needs to be cleaned off so that new polish can be applied. Sometimes Lauren becomes upset knowing that the pretty color she had on her nails is going to be taken away. But, that’s the only way to start fresh. God wants to clean our lives from sin and the gunk of this life, too. He offers to take what is chipped, cracked and faded, and bring us back to a place of innocence. God extends to us forgiveness and right standing.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
– 1 John 1:9

5. Polish must be reapplied again and again
Nails require constant care. Since I’ve started painting Lauren’s nails, I’ve lost count of how many coats of polish I’ve applied. Our faith needs the same kind of attention. We need reinforcement and application of God’s promises in His Word. No matter how much I pray, my soul needs more conversation with my Savior. I’ve read through the entire Bible many times, yet each time I open Scripture, God speaks again. Becoming a Christian is a one-time decision to give your life to Jesus, but being a Christian involves a moment-by-moment dependence on the Lord. I desperately need God’s wisdom, peace, forgiveness, grace and loving kindness applied to my life again and again.

Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!
I say: The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in Him.
– Lamentations 3:22-24

6. “Doing nails” is time together
Even though having painted nails isn’t my thing, I love spending time with Lauren to do hers. I treasure being able to hold her hand and share this special mommy-daughter experience. We get uninterrupted time to talk and giggle and just be with each other. God feels the same way about me and you. He loves His time with us. He wants to hold our hands, and listen to us talk about the random details of our lives. He laughs with us when we are being silly, and can’t help but smile to see that sparkle in our eyes. We are His treasure, and there is nothing more valuable to Him than being with us.

For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.
– Deuteronomy 7:6