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A Moment of Epiphany (From 8 Years Ago)

Note: This is copied from something I wrote in 2010.

Yesterday, my head hurt so badly that I couldn’t think straight and everything looked funny because of pressure on my eyes. But, I needed to make an effort in spite of it all because my neighbor and her baby had stopped by. My neighbor was sweeping up the crumbs on the floor and I was getting ready to take the trash out. My neighbor is nice like that — she knew I didn’t feel good so she swept the floor so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

I was gathering up the trash and having this inner monologue directed at God….

(Note from 8 years later: Please give me a little grace here — I’m not this childish and self-centered when I’m not sick — or else maybe I really did used to be this way and this incident really did have a profound impact. I don’t know. I don’t enjoy thinking about this portion of my life very much. All I know is I read this and shook my head at how self-centered this sounds.)

“You know, trash isn’t my thing. It’s cold and snowy and I’m a girl. I shouldn’t have to do this. Seriously…. I need a man here…. God, either You need to give me a man or You’ll need to do this for me cuz this is so not my thing.”

It was basically one of those “God, you have to do something” moments.

And He said, “Hold it right there, Missy.”

I knew it was God because everything — my brain, my eyes, my face — ached and I couldn’t put a philosophical thought together on my own if I had wanted to, which I didn’t want to. I just wanted to take the medicine my doctor prescribed and go to bed.

“Hold it right there, Missy,” He said. If you want my blessings, you have to submit to me and the things I put — or haven’t put — in your life.” Submission and passivity are not the same. Submission does not mean accepting things simply because you can’t change them. Submission is agreeing to not wallow in misery because your circumstances aren’t ideal.

*gulp*

“Submission is being open and honest enough to invite me into every area of your life,” He went on, “even the areas that hurt and don’t make sense and that you would give anything to be able to change.”

By this time, I had realized that what I had always thought submission to be — which was basically just sitting there and waiting for God to do something — was entirely wrong.

“Many people think they’ve submitted to me when they invite me into their lives. But I don’t make them submit. I prompt. ‘Hey, are you sure you really want to keep that part of your life in the dark away from the light of my love?’ The choice is yours. You can not experience me and my love completely until you allow me to permeate every area of your heart, mind and will. Even the broken and hurting parts.”

As far as I’m concerned, it’s so much easier to just let it lie and live the lie that everything is just fine. (I mean, except for the part where you lie in bed at night and think about how miserable you are because all that stuff is trapped inside and no one really understands because you’re afraid to even let God see it — as if He doesn’t already know, in spite of your amazing coping mechanisms.)

I guess God felt a little chatty, because He went on, “The key is in inviting. All of it — even the most hurtful and illogical parts — make sense to me. And as I walk through the pain and hardship and loneliness with you (after you invite me along on the journey), I will teach you the meaning and the purpose of it. I will teach you things you would never understand otherwise. As I walk through the valleys with you, joy will spring out of places of pain. I will draw you to myself, and as our hearts are cemented together, I will make you whole. This is what spiritual wholeness looks like.

“But, there’s a reason why that must happen. It’s easier to be emotionally whole when you’ve become spiritually whole first. It’s very hard to find emotional fulfillment — which is what you’re looking for when you ask for someone to take out the trash — if you’re not first spiritually fulfilled.”

That must be why Jesus said “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” I get it now.

And He concluded, “But it all starts with submission. It is a choice that involves being really honest. It’s praying stuff like ‘Lord, this is hard and I need You to walk with me or I just can’t do it. I can’t even walk without You holding my hand.’ It’s about asking me to be part of it, even though you hate it. There isn’t a valley in your life that is so dark that i don’t want to go there with you. If you invite me along, it will change and it will get better. I want to help.

With that, the garbage was bagged and ready to go and I felt like some of my internal garbage — some of the lies I had been believing about how dark and hopeless my life was — had been taken out too.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up. James 4:7-10

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Posted by on February 23, 2018 in Old News, Uncategorized

 

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Significance

In the span of two days, I had two conversations with people about how and why I’m not going to get married.

The first conversation took place after someone introduced me to an eligible bachelor. Several hours later, she asked why I didn’t talk about him after he left.

There comes a point in life when you know that no matter what you do, nothing is going to change and you just don’t try anymore because every effort you put into it just breaks your heart a little more.

I’m reminded of a time when my friend called me and said “My car won’t start! Can you fix it?”

It was so cold that day. I gave it my best shot and tears froze on my cheeks as I banged around trying to get that dang car going. By the time I gave up in frustration, I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes anymore. I cussed out her worthless husband who had more important things to do than to be tied down by his wife and children and their needs. I told her to tell him to get his good-for-nothin derrière over there and fix it. I took my tools and went home.

I sat there and shivered and cried and God said, “Some things are not meant for you. Fixing cars is one of those things.”

It was such a freeing moment for me. I wanted to help but nothing I could do would make a difference. And God said, “It’s ok. This trial is not meant for you.” I took a few minutes to brainstorm with my friend to develop a plan for next time — because there will be a next time. And fixing cars will never be a task that is meant for me. But that was the last time I worried about somebody else’ car — because that stuff isn’t meant for me and we have a plan for next time.

Marriage is another of those things. I will never be married. I’ve known this since I was 3 years old. Sometimes you just know these things.

I told my friend that I have no reason to think this will ever change because there was the guy who just wanted a place to live without having to put any money into it. She laughed and said he wasn’t worth my time anyway. Unequivocally.

Then there was the guy who told me I was hot while he was drunk, in front of the girl who had had a crush on him for years and years and she destroyed my life because of it. (Because it’s my fault he was more interested in me than he was in her?)

There was the other one who never showed up for most of the dates he scheduled with me because he slept through them.

My friend chuckled at these anecdotes.

There was the guy that my “friends” tried to hook me up with but I said no because I didn’t much feel like being a nice little doormat for him to wipe his shoes on for the rest of my life and when I asked why they were so convinced that he and I should be a thing, they said, “Because if you were together, he’d talk to you instead of bugging us all the time.”

Dang.

There was the guy who monopolized my time for 8 months and then I found out that he had a girlfriend in another state the whole time.

My friend had stopped laughing by this time.

The guy who kept giving vague promises of “maybe….. Someday…..” and ended up breaking up with me 4 times in the same restaurant over the course of about a year. Two of the breakups happened in the same booth at that restaurant.

The guy who hadn’t been employed for 4 years and was content to not talk about it until after I confronted him with the evidence I found 2 days before he came to meet me in person. It turned out that he looked like he was at least 25 years older than he said he was and he was looking for someone to be his mother or nurse or something. He was very disappointed when I told him that his dishonesty was a deal-breaker for me. Maybe I was a jerk, but I thought it should go without saying that no girl wants to be stuck with an old man who won’t work.

The guy who asked me to commit to seeing him not less than 4 times before deciding for sure about him. He emotionally and mentally checked out about halfway through the second date and although he was physically present for the other two, he never emotionally or mentally returned. He was shocked when I told him I knew half-way through the second date that he wasn’t into it and I had seriously contemplated telling him he didn’t need to come for #3 or #4. (Oh, why did I waste my time on that one?)

With a history like that, what reason do I have to think anything will ever be different?

Her response was “You need therapy.”

(I’m getting used to being told that I need therapy. It happens approximately 3 times a week these days.)

What reason do I have to dream of ever being something more than a pile of garbage to anyone? It just doesn’t seem worth it to make an effort toward this anymore.

A few days later, I talked to my grandma. My grandma is amazing. I love her so much.

Grandma was telling me about gifts she had made for my cousins and brothers for their weddings and I said in a dry, sarcastic tone, “I’m not going to get married so I guess I don’t get any.”

Grandma knows my heart. She knows I wasn’t asking for anything. I was just stating a fact. We’ve talked about the state of my life before and she understands better than anyone.

The next day, I drove the 3+ hours to her home. Last year, she and I and several other family members had gone on a genealogical expedition in which we had visited dead relatives in several cemeteries. My family likes studying genealogy and whenever we get together, Grandma tells me about the latest pieces of information she has found. It’s really fascinating and I love hearing stories about my people.

But it’s also really, really heartbreaking. There will come a day when no one is going to care about whether I had ever existed. No one will care where my grave is. No one is ever going to say “And this was my great, great grandmother Mari…..”

I cry about this sometimes.

Actually, I cry every time I think about it.

Some of my family members think I need to be part of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Mayflower Society or some such thing that I really don’t care about. Those things are for people who have children and people who have the possibility of having children. That will never be me. I wish they would stop asking me. It’s just another reminder of how insignificant I am.

Grandma told me a story about when someone wanted to get me into those clubs and I reiterated that I don’t see a point in it because I’m never going to have children.

We went about our business. You know, playing cards, fixing the stapler, and failing miserably at trying to fix the showerhead — apparently staplers aren’t the right tool for that. And, showerhead fixing isn’t meant for me either, apparently.

A little while later, Grandma brought in a soft, patchwork baby blanket she had started making. She said, “Would you like this to put in your hope chest for when you get to adopt a baby? I can finish it for you if you want it.”

I almost cried.

Yes! Yes, I want it!

I want it because it’s a symbol that someone believes there is hope, even when I just can’t.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2018 in Current Events, My Story, Uncategorized

 

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When Your Safe Place is No Longer Safe

I used to love to write.

Words were my safe place.

In the peaceful solitude of the written word, I found comfort in my darkest moments. In the midst of chaos and upheaval, words grounded me. They allowed me to push through the hardest moments of my life.

Then something went horribly, awfully wrong.

My professors in college suggested that since I could express thoughts and emotions so beautifully in writing, I should consider pursuing a degree in writing.

Let me begin by saying that I do not regret exposing myself any of the valuable ideas and concepts I learned while pursuing this degree. Let me also say that I have utmost respect for my professors and I am grateful for everything they poured into me. I am absolutely grateful for them and for all of the things I learned.

But.

There is always a “but.”

I want to continue by saying that everything I’m about to say is a “me” thing. It is my problem and I have to be responsible for solving it.

Emotionally, I was a wreck when I entered the program.

That’s ok. Things happen, but “things” don’t have to paralyze you. Even if you’re an emotional wreck, education is good. It is helpful. It is meant to be a growing experience.

But for me, it wasn’t.

I entered the program having only ever written privately. I wrote for myself, which means that 100% of the time, everyone who read what I wrote loved every word, every sentence, every punctuation mark. I’d never been critiqued or offered guidance on how to be better.

I took Freshman English Comp and I loved it. For the first time in my life, someone wanted to read what I had to say and my professor loved every word.

It was September 2002 and we were given the assignment to write a reflection regarding September 11, 2001. I wrote mine and turned it in and then we were told that each group would be given one random paper for each person in the group and we had to read them and choose one to read to the class and comment on why we chose that one.

My group consisted of myself and a bunch of teenage boys and I did not enjoy this part of the assignment because they insisted on reading the one in which every other word was an expletive. This rankled my sensitive spirit.

Really, fellas? Really?

But then…. someone read mine. They said they liked it because it was so different from everyone else’ experience and that they thought there were many striking things about it.

Afterward, the teacher asked me to stay after class and she invited me to enter the writing program.

It was a difficult decision for me because I was very religious and felt that everything I did should have some sort of spiritual meaning. How do you get spiritual meaning out of putting words on the page to make pretty sentences?

I put this idea on the back burner for a couple of years. I wanted to be a nurse and I was going to do everything I could to realize that dream. But then there was Microbiology. I didn’t have a good grasp of biology to begin with and the class was hard for even those who had done well in previous science classes.

It was finals week and I was supposed to be studying for the Microbiology final. I could not focus. I knew I wouldn’t do well enough on the final and I wasn’t going to be getting into a nursing program. I tried to study. I gave up and I prayed instead.

I remember exactly where I was, sitting in my dorm room, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do now.

God, what do I do? I have nowhere to go….

And then I heard an inaudible voice. A searing of my soul. The words “You have a story to tell….” etched in my spirit. And peace, because I finally knew what I was supposed to do.

A few weeks later, I began my writing career. The first few classes were terrific. I learned a lot. I enjoyed reading everyone else’ work and providing feedback.

The problem came when it was my turn to be critiqued. I don’t know how other programs work, but at my school, during each class period, one or two students would sign up to provide a piece for the class to read and critique. You produced 2-4 pieces each semester and then you had to take the information you got during your session and use it to rework your piece for your final portfolio.

I’m not saying that this is bad or wrong.

I’m saying it ought to be done with utmost care.

No matter what your genre, you write from your experience and everything you write is very, very personal.

The feedback process felt, to me, like I had produced a baby and it was being stabbed repeatedly by people who didn’t realize that it was a baby.

But it went deeper. The “baby” was part of my soul.

Every negative comment tore me apart.

After 4 semesters of writing workshops, I produced my final portfolio, I participated in my Senior Reading event (which was actually really fun!) and then I was done.

I was so done.

I couldn’t even write for myself anymore. My words were gone.

Prior to graduation, I told myself that I was going to write a memoir one day. I gave myself a timeline. I developed a title and a rough idea of what the cover would look like. Four years later, I started this blog as a way to get my creative side going again and to brainstorm my stories.

I wrote what I believe will become part of my book. But the thing about memoir is that you have to be ok with your story. If telling your story traumatizes you, you aren’t going to get very far, very fast.

I hit a brick wall when I got to the part about going off to college. My story really begins in college and I didn’t have words for it. So, I gave up.

I have not written at all for the past several years. Not in this format, nor in any other. I haven’t been able to bring myself to do so because it doesn’t feel safe.

You have a story to tell….

It echoes in my soul in a tortuous way. The story is there, but it won’t come out.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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One Man’s Drama is Another Man’s Trauma

This afternoon, I was thinking about how certain people would respond if I told them some of the things I’ve experienced.

You know. Like, “this is gossip.”

Or “I don’t need to know that.”

Or, my favorite, “you’re such a drama queen.”

I realized that just because someone classifies something as “drama,” doesn’t mean that they’re right.

One man’s drama is another man’s trauma.

Victims of abuse and trauma are sometimes accused of exploiting their situation for attention. And yes, sometimes that happens. Sometimes people don’t want to be responsible for themselves and their problems. But not everyone is looking for a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

Many of us just want someone to acknowledge that what we experienced was real, it was painful, it was unequivocally wrong and it should never have happened. We need someone to acknowledge that it affected us then and it affects us now and it’s just not fair.

We don’t need or want anybody to walk on eggshells around us. We just need to be treated with respect in spite of it.

Some people are genuine drama queens. But the rest of us? We live in pain, hoping and wishing that someone begins to see us for the lovely people that we are.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Ideologies and Things

The other day I posted something on Facebook that some people find controversial. I stated that I wasn’t posting because I wanted to debate the topic. I just found parts of it interesting and whether anybody agreed with it was irrelevent to me. I understand that not everyone agrees with me and as far as I’m concerned, if somebody believes wrongly about something, in the scheme of things, it probably doesn’t matter very much.

Some things do matter. They really do. But, a post on Facebook is not the place to expect someone to experience a revelation that will cause an ideological change. I reserve those expectations for personal, private conversations in which the person I’m talking with feels as if they’re swimming in grace and love. You don’t get ideological change without drowning a person in love. It just doesn’t happen.

I posted the content with a statement that I don’t care what people believe about the rest of the content. Just consider this one thing that is absolutely, unequivocally true.

And somebody commented on it.

And commented….

And commented.

I told her that I had no desire to engage in a debate.

I told her that 3 times. Then she said “well maybe you don’t want to debate, but everyone who reads your wall deserves to know what I’m saying.”

?!?What?!?

I know the people who read my wall. I know that the ones who agree with her viewpoint already know what she has to say. I also know that those who don’t agree with her are not going to be swayed by words that are not backed up with solid scientific facts and that most will not be swayed even with solid scientific facts (with links to relevant studies) because they trust the truth of the Bible more than they trust the falliability of mere scientists. I’m sorry folks, but no matter what you say and do, you’re not going to convince someone with strong religious convictions of anything, unless you’re using the Bible, prayer, humility and mostly, a heaping helping of love to get it done.

She unfriended me.

Life isn’t about being right and because life isn’t about being right, debates have no meaning in the scheme of things. It’s ok if someone is wrong. It really, really is.

And, if you feel strongly that someone is so far off that you have to say something, do it gently. Do it privately. Do it with humility. And most of all, do it with love.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths (or through your fingertips), but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (or read). Ephesians 4:29 (NIV with itallics from Mari’s Culturally Relevant Version)

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

30 Things, 4 Years Later: Day 11

30 Things to Accomplish in my 30s:
#11. Make time to do something that benefits mainly myself once a week.

I get so caught up in what other people need that I don’t think about what I need unless I get so sick that the only thing I can think about is how miserable I am.

That’s not healthy. Not at all.

I’ve been thinking about this goal this morning and asking myself if I’ve made any progress in this one.

It seems like everything I do benefits other people — even when it’s something that I do simply because I love it and it makes me happy.

Take my job, for example. I absolutely love it. I come home more relaxed and happier than I was when I went. My job is just as restful as sleep, most of the time.

My employer thinks I go to work for the benefit of the family I work for and especially for the child I care for. And I do. But I also go to work because it makes me happy. My work fills something in me that wouldn’t get filled otherwise.

When you love your job like I do — when you are doing the thing that you were made to do, you’re doing something for yourself every single day. You’re doing something for yourself 40 hours a week. And you’re getting paid to do it.

When it comes to things like manicures and haircuts and new shoes, nope. I’ve miserably failed this one. Exercise? Eating right? Makeup? Fail. Movies? Shopping? None of those things even registered on the “Did It To Make Me Happy Meter.”

Many of the things that make me happy are things that make other people happy too. Like snuggling babies. Baking cookies. Long conversations. Having a clean house. Flowers growing in the back yard.

How would you classify this? Do I need to take time for a pedicure and hair cut? Or do you think this is ok? What would you suggest for self-care for a person like me? Comment below!

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in 30 Things, Uncategorized

 

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Grace Came Down

“Joseph!”

The whisper in the darkness startled him as he closed the door to the shop. He whirled around, catching a glimpse of the young woman peeking around the corner. He began to walk away, shaking the wood chips from his clothing.

“Joseph! I need to tell you something!”

Almost out of sight now, Joseph heard her pleading voice. “Joseph. Please. Stop.” He turned and strode back to the door. Opening it, he motioned for her to follow.

In the dimness, he could see the outline of her face. Mary. His precious Mary.

“Mary.”

They stood in awkward silence for a moment before Mary began to speak.

“I couldn’t tell you in front of them.”

“Them.” Oh, them. “They” always made it so difficult. “Them” and their rules.

“What is it my love?”

“I had a dream. A vision. A visitation. I really don’t know what it was. Just…. something. Something happened and I’m scared.”

Joseph reached out and touched her arm. “They” wouldn’t approve. They would be horrified if they knew he was alone in the darkness with his betrothed.

Mary continued, “Joseph…. it was a heavenly being. A spirit. An angel. Something. He was enormous and glimmering gold and sparkling diamonds. He was ferocious but he was peace personified. I don’t know what it means. I’m scared.”

Joseph pulled her into his arms. Drat “them” and their rules. “I’ll take care of you my darling.”

Her whispers floated in the stillness. “He told me I had found favor with God.”

“Bless you, sweet Mary. It’s about time someone else noticed!”

“But Joseph…. He told me that I would conceive. That I would have a son. I tried to tell him this was impossible, but he said it would be the work of the Holy Spirit. I’m scared. I don’t know what to do.”

Joseph slumped into a chair. What does this mean? Them and their rules. It could happen right here, right now, with them being alone in the darkness. It was convenient and completely possible. But if it did happen, she would be worse than the laughingstock of the town. She’d be ridiculed. She might even be stoned to death. This must not happen.

“Darling Mary. It had to be just a dream. In a few short months we will be married and everything will be as it should be. Don’t be afraid Mary.”

He stood, reaching for the door. Looking out, he whispered, “I need to get home. Mother is probably wondering where I am.” Them and their rules. Again.

Joseph watched Mary’s shadow disappear in the darkness and then set out on his own walk down the dusty path to his mother’s table and the bread and fish waiting for his dinner.

The laughing chatter of his brothers and sisters did nothing to break his contemplative mood. He washed. He ate. He immediately excused himself and lay down on his cot. What if it did happen? Would he? Could he? Could he continue to love her? What was a young carpenter to do?

* * * * *

Several weeks later, just as the sun was beginning to set, Joseph again stepped out of his shop and heard his name frantically whispered. Fear gripped his heart. He stepped back into the small building and a moment later, a dark figure slipped in behind him. He closed the door silently, turned toward her and held her close. “Tell me it isn’t so….”

“Joseph, my love…. I am with child. I’m afraid. Please don’t leave me!” A silent tear slipped out of her eye and glistened in the glow of the sunset. “Don’t let them hurt me!”

Them. Their rules. Why must they be so difficult?

So it had happened. It wasn’t his doing. Sure, they had touched, shyly in the darkness that night several weeks ago. But it wasn’t him. It wasn’t him. How could this be? He sank to the floor, sighing.

“Mary. Join me?” He held his hand up to her.

She sat next to him, tears flowing. He had heard that this happened. Women were emotional when they were with child. It must be so. He put his arm around her and she shivered in the darkness as she leaned against him.

“What am I going to do? How is this supposed to work? Why me?”

“Shhh, my love.”

They sat in silence for a moment.

* * * * *
He was a good man, her Joseph. She knew she was truly a favored one among women. Her friends were betrothed to harsh men. Men who wouldn’t take the time to listen. Men who would rather report rule breakers than be rule breakers. But her Joseph. Her Joseph was different. He wasn’t wealthy. His social class was near the bottom. He was a nobody among the religious people. But he was gentle. He was kind. He didn’t hit and holler like the other men. And best of all, he cared and she could feel it.

“Joseph, darling…. Please love me anyway….”

* * * * *
She walked one way. He walked the other. It was as it was supposed to be that night. She to her mother’s table and the simple meal set and he to his mother’s table where a similar meal was set. They both picked at their food in silence while their families chattered around them. They excused themselves murmuring of long days and early mornings and lay in their cots on opposite ends of town, thinking of the future. Asking impossible questions. Wondering. Hoping.

A baby.

A baby truly, truly changes everything.

Could they marry early and no one would know the difference?

No. Impossible. It just wasn’t done. They would know the reason.

“God!” Joseph whispered. “What am I supposed to do? You know it wasn’t me! I can’t disgrace her. I can’t let ‘them’ have their way with her. They are so cruel. What am I supposed to do?”

He fell into a fitful sleep while Mary, on the other end of town, lay in the darkness caressing her stomach. “I love you already, Sweet Baby…. But what do we do?”

Her thoughts wandered to Joseph. What would he do? He knew she wasn’t like that. He knew she would never do this of her own free will. But Them. They would have plenty to say. She was certain that when they found out, everything about her would change.

* * * * *
Three o’clock in the morning. It seemed things happened at 3:00 in the morning. Joseph woke with a start from a fitful dream. He’d married her anyway. And what was it? The Voice. It had said something about Mary. About the Baby. What was it?

Joseph rolled over but sleep would not come. What had the message been? He got up to get a drink of water, stopping to watch a bright star in the night sky.

“Do not be afraid!”

Wait…. what? Wasn’t that what Mary had said the angel had said to her that night? Do not be afraid.

Do not be afraid.

Joseph took a deep breath.

The light of the star mesmerized him as he recalled the message of the angel in the dream. “Joseph. Son of David! Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife! The baby within her is truly conceived of 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!”

This baby would truly change everything. He would change everything for everyone, not just for him and his betrothed. This Baby — He was the long-awaited Messiah.

“Them” and the rules. They didn’t matter anymore. Grace had come. Grace had overtaken Joseph and he knew exactly what was to be done.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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