Wonder: on Advent and transitions

I'm not sure how Sarah Koci Scheilz and I first connected online, but I am glad we did. She writes about living life with intention and is an encouraging voice in my world. I hope you enjoy her post today.

I need more fingers to count the number of my dear friends who have recently-born babies, who are pregnant, who are hoping to become so. Some friends are on Baby #2, or even Baby #3.

Yes, I've done my fair share of babysitting, and yes, I'll tiptoe quietly into Baby Gap every once in a while to creep on the cute bebes of other women. But me? A mom? Not now, not for awhile.

Round bellies overwhelm me.

The idea of pregnancy, the idea of a life entrusted to my care . . . it’s just so much. Maybe because it overwhelms me so, I have a heart to love all these pregnant and recently pregnant moms and dads well. I yearn to cook for these families, to babysit for their kiddos, to clean, to serve. That's what having a baby should look like in a solid community. Mommies and daddies shouldn't have to go it alone.

In light of all of this, the pregnancy aspect of the Advent story strikes me as particularly profound. In the Gospel of Luke, Mary learns from an angel that she will bear a child, and will call him Jesus. It's the virgin conception.

Joy to the World, the song goes. This world-changing, grace-pouring, life-delivering Savior was brought into the world, and for that we’re just humbled to joy. He was brought into the world, though, through pregnancy. Humble yet dramatic pregnancy.

Carrying a baby is overwhelming enough. Carrying the savior of the world? Awe-inspiring.

Greater still, this birth took place out of community. Mary is due to give birth and yet she and Joseph must head from their home in Nazareth to Joseph's ancestral home, Bethlehem, to register in a census.

This transition Mary and Joseph faced . . . it’s difficult to foster joy in an atmosphere of change. Not only were they responsible for delivering and raising Jesus, they did it alone. They found themselves in Bethlehem on the eve of Jesus's birth. How alone they must have felt.

That lonely feeling has hit me frequently this season. I've moved several times in the past few years. In mid-September, I moved again, from Indiana to Kansas City.

With each move, I've left behind friends, neighbors, homes, churches, volunteer commitments, jobs, restaurants and bars and shops and running trails and parks . . . the list goes on. Even though I know I'll find new and fantastic people and places, and even though I've been excited about what is to come, my heart has still ached with uncertainty and anxiety. This move was no different.

Back to Mary and Joseph. Transition was tough for just me and my husband, no baby in the mix. The birth of a baby, one could argue, is quite the life transition. And doing it in the midst of an unfamiliar place, without community? That, one could also argue, requires quite the courage.

What a striking aspect of our King: He was born into the roughest of circumstances. "Away in a manger, no crib for a bed," is a familiar Christmas song refrain. The song doesn't mention what Mary or Joseph had -- or didn't have -- for a bed. They had few rallying around them, but much God-given courage within them.

And faith, too. Mary and Joseph must have harbored rich faith. The Bible doesn't say much about where Mary's heart was, or how anxious Joseph felt. Baby Jesus was born. This could only be a result of great faith in the middle of a chasm of community.

Anxiety arises amidst challenge, certainly. I still feel new, both socially and professionally. In this new environment, daily life itself reminds me I'm not quite as in my element as I'd like to be.

But here's the beautiful truth: Advent celebrates just that. Advent celebrates that even when we couldn't be more out of our element, Christ was born as a sweet, tiny baby to save us of our sins. He, and the saving grace he generously pours . . . this is a constant, a truth we can stand on in the face of change. No matter what, we have our Heavenly Savior.  Joy to the world indeed.


About Today's Guest Blogger: Sarah Koci Scheilz

This time of year, Sarah's listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack on repeat. She’s a young professional in the communications, writing and nonprofit fields and can’t get enough of it. Sarah appreciates a good cardigan, cherishes a great cup of coffee and gets a kick out of community and creativity. Connect with her on her blog, Inspiration-Driven Life, at Facebook, and on Twitter @SarahKoci.


Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.

A Lesson in Presence

I knew that being a mom would change me. I was prepared for the late night feedings. I was prepared for the discipline struggles. I was prepared for the hugs and the bedtimes and the total change in routine.

I was prepared for a lot. But there is something that continually surprises me. Something for which I was not prepared.

I was not prepared for how much my kids would teach me.

Their joyful perspective shows me how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Their questions and constant learning remind me to stay curious. Their unconditional hugs and cuddles teach me about love.

Their relationship with me helps me understand my relationship with my God.

I am thrilled and humbled to be writing about that today at Prodigal Magazine. It is one of my favorite reads. They share seriously beautiful stories. Stories that show the fingerprint of a God who loves His sons and daughters so much that He shows up, even when they aren’t looking.

I sit in front of the computer, as usual. Too often I let the moments of the day tick away underneath the click-clacking of my fingers. “Nigh, nigh.” The words wake me from my digital haze. I turn around to see my toddler, usually full of activity and spunk, lay down on the floor. He puts his thumb in his mouth and gazes up at me with puppy dog eyes. “Mama.” He points to the floor, and then looks back up at me. His desire is clear: he wants me to stop what I am doing and lay down next to him. How can I say no to such an invitation?

Jump over to Prodigal Magazine to read the rest.


Unmet Expectations

My husband and I have loved being marriage mentors. Our old church had a program in which people who've been married for awhile paired with engaged couples. We met regularly in the months before the wedding and had intentional conversations to help them be prepared.

We found that it blessed us as much, if not more, than it blessed them. These conversations helped us think about what was important in marriage, too.

That's why I was excited to write a guest post today for Jane Caroline for her Marriage 101 Series. Her wedding is coming soon, and is looking for advice for herself and others who are about to embark on the marriage ride. Here's a snippet of what I had to say.

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall in someone else’s house?

I’m going to invite you to do just that. You are a fly on the wall of my kitchen, four years ago.

I am at the stove, stirring something in a pot. My toddler runs in and attaches himself to my leg. I look down, and tell him to go play in the other room. He doesn’t budge. He is much more interested in what Mommy is doing on the hot stove.

My body begins to get tense. I yell to another room.

“I need your help, honey.” No answer, so I raise my voice higher.

“What are you doing? I need your help in here.” Still no answer. So I shout his name. He comes into the room.

“Where were you?”

He looks surprised, “Downstairs, paying a bill.”

I roll my eyes. My voice becomes terse...

Read the rest on Jane Caroline.