a sweet, sweet story

Here we are.

Just steps away from Christmas Day. Lighting candles and humming carols. Spending moments with loved ones. Wrapping and running and spending and spinning.

We are climbing to the pinnacle.

But, let us stop. Breathe. Listen.

I could think of no greater way of celebrating this final week than having the story…in it’s own words..told here.  I hope you enjoy the art I have included. Of course, the story needs nothing else added to it.

But, God created Beauty.  He is Beauty. This is my gift to you this Christmas.

Merriest of Christmas Seasons!

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The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

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29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

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Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed:

“Blessed are you among women,and blessed is the child you will bear! 

43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

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Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

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The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a]Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

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While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

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And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

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10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

1“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

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16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

(Luke 1, 2 NIV, Bible Gateway)

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From the Home of the Crooked Christmas Tree…

May you find the hope, joy and peace you are looking for this Christmas. May your family be blessed. And may your New Year be bright! Blessings from the Reynolds and Sweet Sage Lane!

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This Crazy Crooked Christmas Star

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This is the year of the crooked Christmas star.

We have a beautiful bronze star we have used for years.  It is supposed to light up.  But, the lights burned out last year.  I suppose that’s a blog post for another time!

I can’t bear to part with it!

This year it is perched quite crooked.

At first we tried and tried to get that star to sit straight. But now, honestly, when we think about straightening it, we just look at it and laugh.

Such has been our year. 

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It has been a very crooked and crazy journey.

It stands as a funny reminder that we made it. Even though it was such a crooked journey and rather out-of-the-box for us, we made it.

It was not what we expected.  It was not easy.  It was not perfect.  It was full of potholes and pit stops and detours.  It was not as we would have scripted for this point in our lives.

Yet, here we are.  We made it.  We are all together.  We are whole. 

We are not perfect.  But, we certainly can laugh.

If you’re like me, you often scroll through and see the gorgeous photos of shiny, sparkly Christmas cheer on Facebook and Instagram. They are awe-inspiring and often perfect.

Perfectly set and coordinated. 

I love looking at and enjoy being inspired by them just as much as the next soul.  I think we all need to see beautiful things. I mean, who wants to sit around and see messed up, screwed up, tacky all day long. Not me.  We have to remember, though, it’s not always perfect.

We know much of it is staged and just outside of screen view are the piles of bills and boxes and much undone.

And that is life.

But, we love to see the beautiful.

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Here is the picture of my crooked star. I figure you will get a great laugh out of my imperfect tree topper.  We’ve pretty much given up on making it straight.  It is about as symbolic as can be for us.

We look and laugh.  We don’t take it seriously.

Life has bumps.

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We had a significant bump this past year.  And actually, we are coming upon the year anniversary.  We are all human and yet we continue on.  We continue loving and living. Opening our hearts and hands. We move forward.

This year we look different and feel different.  There are different people in our lives.  Many added that we did not even know just a year ago. And some gone.

We walk different paths now and do different things and go many different places.  It’s crazy the difference a year makes.  This crazy crooked journey!

But, it is ours!

God’s grace is always present in the journey.

It has been far from perfect. Figuring things out as we go. For perfectionists, this can be a challenge.  Searching for normal and equilibrium. Finding the margins and loosening the grips on control. That is all part of this grace journey.  All in the move on this crooked way.

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If we look at the story of Mary and the birth of Jesus, it is less than perfect by human standard.  

The Savior of the world was born in a barn.  A dirty, smelly barn.  He was born to two young parents. Far from home.

And then, in a desperate move, a power hungry king began the search for this unknown boy. Being divinely guided, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt in the dead of night to save the life of their son.

This perfect Boy, born into a not-so-perfect world, is intimately aware of the battle between good and evil.

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He knows our weakness.

He is acquainted with our hurt and pain.

He understands the frustration of the crooked journey.

He knows us and has walked the same way.

The best part, though, He was perfect. He made it through.  He led the way.

He led a way we can follow. Like the Magi followed the star, we have a light to follow.

And, He will lead us all the way home.

His grace is sufficient.

I just read this verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  His grace is sufficient for every situation I find myself in. His grace is all I need. Regardless of the place–crooked or straight.

My Christmas star may be a little crooked. It’s a simple reminder.  Life isn’t perfect. And that is ok.  Jesus is. And that is enough. He’s got me. And He will lead us all the way home.

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Mary’s Wait

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Waiting.

The Christmas season.

Mary.

A young girl. A handpicked maiden. A virgin.

She nurtured within her a sacred promise.

Mary carried dreams deep within her heart. The waiting had begun.

Not everyone understood. People whispered with side glances and shaking of heads.

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The angel greeted her. Startled her more like it. The Presence of God was near. Near to her…her beauty radiated from the inside out.

She was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. This journey was about to change  her forever.  She would always be known as Mary, the mother of Jesus.

One chosen by God to fulfill a most sacred of tasks.  To carry this most precious Seed.

One who had never been touched by a man, much less slept with one. She was going to mother the ‘Son of the Highest’.  She was going to birth a son.

She was going to be Mary, the mother of God.

Her reply, “I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (The Message)

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And, then the waiting.  She waited just as we do.  Nine months.

But before all that, she had a lot of explaining to do.

Can you imagine? Put yourself there.

Joseph was not so sure. This was NOT how things were supposed to go. The disappointment and shock were palpable. Honorable Jewish men did not marry pregnant Jewish women. It just was not done.

So, in the waiting, there was difficulty.  

There was the typical pregnancy adjustments and pains and challenges.  She knew the promise spoken to her by the angel in the secret place. She knew this gift she carried would be called Holy. Son of God.

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Such beauty in the hidden promise spoken to this young heart. I imagine this promise was something so sacred and beautiful, guarded lovingly within her heart and held tenderly throughout the years.

Oh, the beauty of it.

In her final days of waiting, Mary and her Beloved set out and traveled many miles where she gave birth. In a barn. A filthy, noisy, smelly barn. There was no gentle midwife with soothing words and no sweet post-birth photo shoot with sweet smelling blankets and adoring faces. No, these parents were sharing a space with manure and hay and animals. No family or support system. Just two young kids. In a borrowed barn.

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Waiting on the fulfillment of a promise. And bringing in the Son of God. A dirty barn and the Most High.

And such is life.  Full of waiting.

We have promises spoken to us in the secret place.  Given to us when the least was expected. We grabbed hold. We took it and planted it deep into our heart. We believed it. And then perhaps the mess came. Maybe a lot of mess came. Too much mess.

 “Let it be with me just as you say.”

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Just like Mary, I have said it. Obviously, I’m not carrying around the Savior of the world.   But, I am carrying around other dreams. Dreams significant to my world. The world God has placed me in.

A different seed. A different gift. Spoken into my heart. Spoken into my life. And life happens and stuff seems to interrupt. My expectations are not fulfilled.

My timeline is off.

And, so the waiting continues. And the waiting is not easy.  Nor are the stretch marks beautiful or the delayed gratification satisfying. But, in the waiting I am growing. In the waiting I am stretching.  In the waiting I listen.

Part of the waiting is sitting quietly. Waiting is hard work. At least that is the best I can make of it.

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Much was bombarding my heart and mind. So, I took a break from Sweet Sage Lane. I wasn’t sure what might come out on the page. I wasn’t sure it would be beneficial to much of anybody.

And sometimes parts of our waiting seasons require silence and stillness.  To be fully transparent, a couple months ago I struggled with depression and anxiety at new levels I hadn’t experienced in quite some time.  Not everyone understands that journey.  But, I am doing much better and God used many sources to bring light and hope back into my heart and mind.

Yesterday, and then again today, I was reminded once again the importance of making the most of the season I am in. 

At the appointed times, Mary did the things she needed to do.  She ministered to Elizabeth and travelled to take care of family business.  And, sometimes our seasons require movement. Waiting requires preparing for the appointed times to come.  Because, the appointed moments will arrive.

Waiting is hard work.

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So, once again in this beautiful holiday season, I am reminded of Mary.

The Lady in Waiting.

The one who prepared for the Son of God to be born. The one with an open heart. The one without an agenda of her own.  The one willing to open her life to an adventure of unknown proportions.

At the appointed times, Mary did the things she needed to do during her waiting.

So, as was with Mary I say, “Let it be with me just as you say.”

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In the waiting I anticipate the fullness of beauty and wonder.

This advent season is a hope-filled reminder of promises kept and wonders foretold. My heart opens with full expectation and renewed anticipation.

In this, my heart is stirred and comforted with a long awaited and much needed peace.

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