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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Christmastime–Oh Holiest Night

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Christmastime is a great reminder.

The candles are lit and sparkling beside the nativity.  They focus my mind.  No doubt we have fancied and freshened that holy night so long ago.

My nativity.  Each piece set in just the right spot.  I love these earthy colored pieces I have collected over the years.  I have several Christmas collections, from Santas to Nutcrackers to reindeer.  But this one?   It speaks to my heart in such a deep way.   Recently, I have begun adding my Advent candles to the display.  I’m so glad I have!  There is such a deep, beautiful peace residing in this scene.  It draws me in.

Have you ever gone through something so challenging you felt as if you lost God?  Or, maybe you thought, He just left.  Circumstances and pain erect a barrier so dense it is hard to sense any Presence?

I have.  It was the darkest, scariest period of my life.  Everything I believed seemed in question and the pain threatened to choke all hope from my heart.  Sometimes that happens in life.  He warned us it would come.  We all face trouble at some point.  We are often surprised, shocked, and even, disabled by it.   I was struggling.

But, here today, I don’t want to focus on that.  Just believe me when I say it was a dark night of the soul.  Even in that darkest moment, a miracle flicker of light began to shine through.  When I was feeling God had left me, He spoke to me loudly and clearly.

I knew then and there He does not leave us or turn His back on us.  Our pain in the darkness often hides the light, but He remains by our side.  Where was I looking?

I was distracted by the pain.  I lost sight of Him.

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He is amazing that way.  This giving of the greatest gift.

Christmas is the greatest reminder of the greatest love.  Yes, He came on that holy night for us.  But, it is a beautiful reminder to me He came and He never leaves.  Joy and hope flutter to life in my heart when I sit and remember how He is forever with me.

Our lives crash into the world’s agenda and, inevitably, pain and hurt comes.

Real, life-altering pain.  Chaos and crises run rampant.  But, we can rest in the knowing He is with us.

Ann Voskamp said in her book, The Greatest Gift “No matter what intends to harm you…God is never absent, never impotent, never distant.  You can never be undone.”  That thing that was meant to destroy you and make you think God no longer sees or cares, will not be your end.  In fact, He has a great way of taking all the broken, ugly bits and turning them into the most beautiful creation.

God will use it to set you apart from the crowd.

Yes, the lion roars and speaks lies of hopelessness and desertion and death.  But, God.  He intends no such thing.  I don’t believe all things happen for a reason.  It just doesn’t work.  But, I do believe He takes all things thrown our way and will redeem them for our good.  Now, that works.

And, while He is at it, He stays right there with us.

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The JOY to come from such a realization is priceless.  So, sitting here looking at my nativity and thinking of days gone by and the ones yet to come, I can rest in the knowledge I am never lost, forgotten or abandoned.

His very coming is proof.  Proof of His abiding love.

Such joy comes from realizing no matter what comes my way, He’s got me.  No scheme of man or evil plan will ever remove me from His hand.  So, allow this Christmastime to set this truth in your heart.  Every time you see a nativity, allow it to remind you of His never-ending presence in your life that was made possible because of that holiest of nights.

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Christmastime Peace

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It seems elusive.  It is something everyone wants.  The world wants it.  The world needs it.  Goodness knows, I have to have it.

This season is so full of stuff and busy-ness.  There is no lack of opportunities for celebrating and spending, going and doing.  If you want to maintain it, you are going to have to protect it.

I’m not sure this is something the world is ever going to find…at least any time soon.  Not in her way.  It will come.  But, not how she thinks or schemes.  The heads of state scream for it.  Politicians plan and lecture regarding it.  If she could find it and contain it, I’m not sure she would know what to do with it once she had it.

PEACE.  

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The only way we are going to have true peace is to stay near the Giver of Peace.  He has come and is enough.  He is more than enough.

He is the salve of peace to heal our hearts.

This world is long on chaos and strife and short on peace.  We get caught in the crossfire.  We are pulled and torn by the anger and fear.  Life moves at breakneck speeds and we are often caught wide-eyed, deer in headlights, not sure what we should do.

We can not allow this age to dictate our hearts.  We can not be pushed by fear to live in ways that are not true to who we are called to be.  He calls.  He is our peace.

Damage and desperation lead us to live failing and faltering lives.  We look about and around instead of looking up.  He is our peace.

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What will define our lives?  From where will we live out our days?  Who will guide our steps and light our paths?  This journey is often dark and scary.  We must walk in the light.  He is our peace.

I am concerned by the ease of which my spinning and toiling and dancing and running so easily distracts me from this Giver of Peace.  So quickly my eyes look away.  I am caught by the noise and the clutter and forget whose I am.

He is my Peace.

Webster says “distracted” means troubled or absent-minded.  Distraught, distressed, frenzied and panicked.  Inattentive, preoccupied, confused.  When we are distracted we look away.  What happens when we look away from the beauty of our Peace Giver and focus our eyes on this temporary place? Frenzy and panic become our poison.  We lose our focus and become preoccupied with less beautiful affections.

He has come and is enough.

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We must keep our focus set on Him.  Keep our hearts occupied with the Love of our lives.  Moment by moment this choice is ours.  He is our Peace.  He is my Peace.  I must keep my eyes on the One who came to bring me peace.  He is all I need in the chaos and shadows.  He is all I need in the quiet and the light.  By sitting in the quiet with Him, I can clearly hear the words He longs to share.  I empty all of me and replace it with all of Him.

He has already come.

 Immanuel.

 Such beauty and peace.  What a magnificent trade!  My chaos and clutter for His peace and beauty.  What do we wait for?  Nothing better has ever come.  He is our Immanuel.  God with us!

Just as the angel came to Joseph and showed him the way in the dark of night, He has come to us.  He has shown us the way of peace.  He has come for us.  He is Immanuel.  He is God with us.  In His coming, He lights our way.  In His coming, He IS our peace. This sacrificial love shines brightly and brings peace to our world-worn souls.

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We rest in His peace.

Choose to step away from the chaos and noise.

Lessen the clutter and confusion.

Turn your soul to the Giver of Peace.

He is your Peace.

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Hope-filled Christmastime

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Christmastime.

It’s my favorite holiday.  Life becomes really hectic, but I love the traditions and the connection of family.

I was decorating this past weekend in preparation for our staff open house we host each year.  In a matter of a couple of days, our home is transformed into all things Christmas!  Sometimes I feel the stress and pressure.

This  year I was feeling old.

That’s really the only way I can describe it.  My oldest is in college and home for the holiday.  I have a teenager and another that isn’t, but sure seems like it.  I don’t have the little littles running around anymore.  The memories are running like a movie through my heart.

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As I was working with my smaller artificial trees that light up our office, the branches were looking tired and drooping kind of low.  I realized I have been using these trees for 11 years, at least.  No wonder they are looking a little tired.

That’s pretty good…artificial trees being used for that many years!  Especially after all our moves!   But, that served to make me feel OLD.

This all combined to make me feel like a middle-aged frump.  Now, I know you are trying to figure out how I made that jump.  I’m not sure…maybe it’s hormones.  But, I began to realize, many of my decorations and collections I have had for or started 25 years ago—some ornaments, longer than that.  My one tree only holds the beautiful ornaments from my childhood.  When you are newly married or a young momma, you don’t always think about such things.  But, alas, I am neither.

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So, as I am surrounded by so much history and memories I have to stop and think.  And remember.

Christmas has always been such a big focus for us.

We love this season passionately.  Just ask anyone who has helped us move over the years.  Friends tease me each November about the many Christmas boxes I have and the work that means for my guys.  I can’t help that we love Christmas!  Each one is different.  But, each have been special.

Some Christmases were during times of waiting for dreams to come to pass.  Some years were leaner than others.  There were a few where the stress got the better of me.  After a while, though, I learned how to set the boundaries I needed in order to make the holidays the best I could for my family and me.

Most have been years full of blessing and joy.

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Over the years, I have learned a beautiful rhythm.  It requires flexibility and letting go of the “perfect shiny ideal” of what Christmas should look like.  Each year there is an underlying rhythm that guides our holiday, yet, they are different and beautifully unique.  However, we do keep some constants with our traditions.

Christmastime is an amazing opportunity for traditions.  Our traditions are important for keeping each other connected.  Traditions are not chaos-inducing schedule fillers.  Children need them for a touchstone.  Ours aren’t incredibly elaborate, just constant.   So many chances for making memories!

The last two or three years I have endeavored to add in a focus on Advent.  Keeping Jesus as the focus isn’t our problem, He is the centrality of our holiday.  But, sometimes it is challenging gathering everyone together at the same time to stop and sit for a while.  But, yesterday’s focus for this Advent season was hope.  I began to think about the power of hope in life and the holidays.

I have had seasons of life where I lost hope.  Lost hope that things would get better or ever turn around for good.  Following my firstborn’s birth I struggled with postpartum depression.  We had very little money and times were difficult.  My hope meter was rather low.  Just a few years ago, we were facing insurmountable odds and it seemed our enemies far outnumbered our friends.  My hope quickly dwindled.

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I am convinced we can face anything if we hold on to hope.

Hope doesn’t come from our circumstances or our finances.  Hope comes from our belief that Christ has our back and will not leave us or forsake us.  We are able to keep an eternal perspective in mind.  When challenges are bombarding us, if we keep an eternal focus, we can hold on to hope.  Without hope, people perish.  He came that day so long ago to bring us hope.

HE is our HOPE.

This blog post has been a challenge to get published this week.  Whew!  The holidays, decorating, doctor’s appointments, homeschooling, oh my!  I missed my personal deadline for getting this posted.  We all have high demands on our time during the holidays.  But, I decided to offer myself some grace and knew you’d understand and probably can relate to the hustling and bustling!

It’s a busy, but hope-filled season in our home. 

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The years have come and gone so fast.

My firstborn is now a Sophomore in college and my others are quickly growing up.

My Christmas collections and ornaments are getting older by the year.

I decided the other day, I can either get really sad as I’m feeling older, or I can focus on the fact that really I’m not and there is so much life and hope in my future.  Sure, my babies aren’t tiny littles anymore (and oh, how I loved those stages and what Christmas looked like then), but life rolls in stages.

And, this stage is stunningly beautiful.  It has been hand-crafted by God for me and mine.  Such beautiful hope lives in that!

Take a few minutes to sit down, light some sparkling candles, drink something comforting and warm, and reflect on the goodness you have experienced and set your sights on the HOPE of a beautiful tomorrow!

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Merry Christmastime!

With a Grateful Heart

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This past weekend was our big family weekend.

Well, one of them.  It is the weekend we all look forward to with great anticipation.  It’s the weekend we always think of when we think of the holidays.  This is our tradition we have done for years.  We started this particular expression of it when we moved to Virginia almost 8 years ago.  We’ve always had some form of it—based on ages and stages of life.

We go to Williamsburg to the flagship Yankee Candle store.  This is not your average candle store.  No, my friends!  This is candle store extraordinaire.  This store not only has candles, but an entire store dedicated to Christmas all under one roof!  There are hundreds of ornaments and it snows indoors.  We are crazy in love with the holidays and this is our kind of store!

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 First, we pick out candles for the holiday season and then move to the Christmas store.  Each person picks out a special ornament that catches their eye or represents something from the past year.  The ornaments are whimsical and beautiful.  This is  followed up with dinner at a favorite restaurant nearby.

This year we picked out our Christmas tree as well.  Our church is selling live trees to benefit our benevolence ministry efforts.  It was great fun tucking this adventure into our day!  Our very own Christmas tree lot.  What could be better than that?

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 The holidays are well under way here in the Reynolds’ Casa.  My children hold on to these traditions with great love and fondness.  It is a priority on the top of my list.  This special weekend is a non-negotiable, everybody clear off the calendar, sort of weekend.  I will always cherish this holiday tradition.  Traditions give children valuable touchstones in life.  They need them.  We need them.

In preparation for all of the festivities, I’ve been thinking about gratitude.  I know Thanksgiving is the official holiday of gratitude, but, honestly, I’ve decided it needs to permeate the entire holiday season.   Actually, I don’t see it as just a holiday mindset, but one that should be a part of who we are throughout the year.   However, I love how Thanksgiving compels us to focus our gratitude.

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incourage.me photo cred

I am participating in a daily devotion on my “She Reads Truth” devotional app.  The focus is on gratitude and the active pursuit of a grateful heart.  Today’s Scripture focus is I Thessalonians 5:16-18.

“Rejoice always! Pray constantly.  Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Gratitude is not a passive mindset.  I am learning gratitude must be a part of every situation.  I don’t have to be grateful for hardship or tragedy.  That would be a little strange.  But, I am to be grateful for the God who is with me and brings me through it all.  He never leaves me and brings me through all things.  And, through gratitude in the circumstance, I will become the reflection of Him.  So, in this, I can be thankful in all situations.

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In active participation of this devotional today, here is my gratitude:

“this joyful thing”

Holiday seasons and traditions.  I love spending it with my crew!  Memories.

“this unknown”

Some unanswered questions.  God knows what is going on and always has my best interest in mind.  I can rest in this. I don’t have to have all the answer to be okay.

“this certainty”

God never leaves or forsakes me or my loved ones!  I have doubted— He revealed himself in my doubt.  I am grateful for grace.  His grace is amazing.

“this stress”

 Law school has been a real stressor this semester.   I have to reframe this circumstance.   If my Mister didn’t have this amazing opportunity to attend Regent Law School, we wouldn’t have this stress.  But, then, we wouldn’t have this adventure.  I’ll take the adventure any day.

“this want”

I am thankful for this dream my heart dreams.   It hasn’t happened yet.  But, I know in God’s timing for my life, it will.  I am thankful He will do what He needs to; I will do what I need to.  He gives us good things.

“this sorrow”

Even when hurt of recent days came into our lives, God proved himself faithful to bring peace and wisdom.  He always brings what is needed, just in the right way at the right time.  He sees and knows.

“this plenty”

He takes care of me.  He gives me all I need and so many things I want.  My family, my home, my life.  I am blessed beyond measure.

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I can give thanks.  Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be good!  I will give thinks at all times! 

I hope you have a gratitude-filled life and holiday season.  I hope it colors your days and covers your nights.  Gratitude saved my life.  It’s the best adjustment I could have ever made.

Blessings to you and your beautiful family—whatever or wherever that may be!  May you always know of His nearness and love for you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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incourage.me photo cred