Monday, October 28, 2013

Stewarding Our Pain

Recently I read an essay by Frederick Buechner entitled, "Adolescence and the Stewardship of Pain." (If you have never read anything by him I would highly recommend giving him a read. This essay was in the book The Clown in the Belfry.) In it he talks about the parable where the master gives, five, two and one talents to his servants, goes away, then comes back to call them to account about what they have done with their talents. Instead of viewing this a bestowment of gifts or money to the servants, Buechner asks us to think about the talents as experiences of pain. What do we do with the pain we are dealt, the hard things, the painful memories? Do we bury them somewhere deep, in distraction and busyness, or do we open ourselves up and share with others this universal experience of pain?

I don't know about you, but sometimes I just feel like I'm burdening others with my pain. Do people really want to know how I'm doing when they ask? Sometimes I think they really don't. And I'm not at all saying we should open ourselves up to everyone who asks...sometimes just a "Doing okay, thanks" is the best answer for the moment. But with a good friend, am I protecting them or myself when I pretend and gloss over my pain?

One night about a year ago I was out at a birthday dinner with about 7 or 8 women. Everyone there looked so pretty and well-dressed and happy. The conversation was light and laughter was in the air. At some point the conversation turned to a young woman I viewed as having a picture perfect life--great kids, husband, looked beautiful, always smiling. Someone asked her how she was doing. They had had several big changes in their family life in the last year and so someone asked how everything was going. She smiled--then she became serious and said, "It's been a really, really hard year." Friends looked at her, not really knowing how to respond, so she quickly said, "It's been a good year, but it's also been really, really hard."

I already loved this friend but I knew from that moment I wanted her to be a close friend for life. To be so brave and vulnerable with good friends in a setting that was not exactly conducive to being open and vulnerable---it amazed me. But it also allowed me to see she was hurting and I wanted to be an encouragement and a friend if I could. How else would I have known she was hurting? I would never have guessed from outward appearances or her face (always smiling). It was a gift to me--to see her humanness and her need of friendship. In some mysterious way, instead of feeling burdened I felt emboldened--to not pretend and not be fearful.

In Buechner's essay he says:
     "To trade is to give of what it is that we have in return for what it is that we need, and what we have is essentially what we are, and what we need is essentially each other. The good and faithful servants were not life-buriers. They were life-traders. They did not close themselves off in fear but opened themselves up in risk and hope. The trading of joy comes naturally because it is the nature of joy to proclaim and share itself. Joy cannot contain itself, as we say. It overflows. And so it should properly be with pain as well, the parable seems to suggest. We are never more alive to life than when it hurts--never more aware both of our own powerlessness to save ourselves and of at least the possibility of a power beyond ourselves to save us and heal us if we can only open ourselves to it."

With the recent loss of my brother David, I am experiencing the pain once again of losing someone close to me. David was a gift to everyone who met him and especially to his family. Our family is now altered again in a very unwelcome way and every family gathering will feel hopelessly wrong without David among us. Allen and I were feeling so hopeful and comforted because God had brought so much healing to our hearts regarding losing Joseph. The pain was so deep and pervasive for several years after he died and in the last year or so it has just felt lighter and more intermittent. But now again I feel pummeled by sadness, as does everyone in my family--my parents more than all of us. And while we have the joy and hope of knowing he is complete and whole with his Savior, Jesus, we also have the deep sadness and feeling of loss here on earth. Why would God take someone who so obviously loved well and shared Jesus with everyone he met? And why to our family? We have already lost one child. Do we need to experience this pain again?

I know all the right answers in my head, but my heart still just doesn't understand. I guess I'm hopeful, though, that I can be brave and open in my pain, that I won't bury it but share it...not to be a burden but to be an honest friend. Jesus wants us to come as we are, but I think so often I try to come as I ought to be. I'm afraid what I have is too much or too burdensome, that I should get it together a bit before I bring myself to Jesus or to anyone else. But the beautiful thing about our Savior is that he welcomes the weak and weary, the lost and was us he had in mind when he died.

I know from experience I will feel this sadness for a really long time, that it will never feel right or good that David died, but I also know that my sadness and pain are only truly safe in Jesus' hands. Turning to any other good thing or person will ultimately leave me empty. Hiding it, ignoring it, and burying it will leave me bitter and cold. Only feeling my pain and anger and bringing them to Jesus will bring true healing. I just pray for the courage to do so.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.…" Matt. 11:28-29

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Joseph

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body...So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal
2 Cor. 4:7-12, 18

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things...For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:31-32, 38-39

Joseph would be turning nine this year. Usually the weeks leading up to his birthday and day of death are the hardest weeks for us all year. Anticipating the heartache is usually harder than the day itself. I could hardly have imagined that we would be grieving another great loss to our family this year instead of anticipating these days. The loss of my brother David has impacted us and many, many friends in a huge way. Who knew the very great treasure of a person he was? He was such a humble, sweet, and often quiet person in our family. Little did I know the incredible leader and servant he was among his peers and for the kingdom of God.

Pondering over this I was reminded of the verse I wrote above about treasures in jars of clay. I read the note below this verse in my Bible:

"It was customary to conceal treasure in clay jars, which had little value or beauty and did not attract attention to themselves and their precious contents. Here they represent Paul's human frailty and unworthiness. The idea that the absolute insufficiency of man reveals the total sufficiency of God pervades this letter."

Thinking about both Joseph and David--children really (although David of course was older and mature beyond his years)--I was struck with how God chooses and uses the unlikeliest of people according to the world's standards---to demonstrate his great power and sufficiency in us. I'm thinking of David, the runt, in the Old Testament, Rahab the prostitute, Mary the teenager to be Jesus' mother, just to name a few. It seems God delights to surprise us with his great power in the weak, the young, and the outcasts. The only thing he requires is a heart that needs him and believes him.

My heart is breaking over David's death. Some days I think my heart might burst with sadness. I'm thankful that God has brought a lot of healing to Allen and I in the last year or so. (We were able to go on Nancy and David Guthrie's respite retreat last year for grieving parents and that began a journey of healing that we are so grateful for. Their example of hope and joy even after losing two children has been powerful in encouraging us.) Otherwise I don't think I could handle this new grief or deal with it with any hope at all. But the Bible tells us that we should grieve as those who have hope, because while death and sadness are real, those are not the ultimate reality. We don't live with only this life on earth as our hope. We should live with the view of heaven always in mind. It doesn't take the sadness or ache from our hearts immediately, but it does bring peace. And I can tell you from experience that this is true.

That first year after Joseph died I really wondered if I would ever be happy again, if I could ever enjoy being around people again, or if my life would ever feel meaningful. God did bring peace, but then he has also gradually restored those things in me that I had felt I lost along with Joseph: enjoying the company of people, real happiness, and a feeling of meaning to my life. In other words, he has rescued me (and continues to) from a life of perpetual self-pity and bitterness.

God is faithful to do abundantly more than all we ask or imagine. The other verse above is from Romans: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things..." God deigned to become one of us, to take on human form and live a servant's life and endure a criminal's death. If He would go to all that trouble, won't he also graciously give us everything we need for this life, to live in a way that pleases him?

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

You are a treasure to God. He gave up his own Son so that you and I might live. You may just feel like a clay jar, but because of his Holy Spirit you are so much more. You may feel like God has forgotten or abandoned you. He has not and cannot. We are God's children (Romans 8:16-17) and heirs with Christ of an eternal treasure that outweighs all these trials we may endure on earth. He longs to give us everything we need for this life, but then we also have the promise of an eternity with Him. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Keep Moving Forward

The first time we went to St. Jude's it was days before Christmas. We had a few visits with the doctors then we were given the okay to leave for a couple of days to spend time with family. A kind young nurse handed me a brown paper bag full of large bottles of medicine I couldn't pronounce. I looked at the bag, then at her, and said, "Merry Christmas to us." Because I didn't know what to say.
The nurse looked like she might cry.
In the last month of Joseph's life we made a few trips back and forth to St. Jude's. We were always looking for fun movies for him to watch in the car to keep his mind off the fact that he would be going to see a doctor.

One of the last movies we found for him was one that I didn't watch much. I would be sitting in the front seat (for most of the drive), Allen driving, and the kiddos in the back. I'd hear bits and pieces and listen to the songs and it sounded nice and he seemed to like it.
On one trip, we had watched something else and he was asking to watch "The shuture has ived!" movie. We were completely perplexed, frantically trying to find it as he was gettting more and more hysterical. I think after a long time we finally figured out he wanted to watch "Meet the Robinsons," which has a song at the very end called "The future has arrived." Phew. We were glad to figure that one out.
It wasn't until after Joseph died that I really watched this movie, and I have to say I really love it. There are some inspiring themes about the importance of failure and trying, love and adoption, and moving forward.
In fact, one of the main themes is "Keep Moving Forward." There are a lot of really creative types in the movie and the main character is an inventor and therefore tries dozens of times before he actually succeeds in making something work. (They even celebrate when someone fails, and dance around with glee saying, "He failed! He failed!") But they don't let failure get them down. It's an opportunity to grow and learn and try again.
After watching it again this Christmas season, I'm wondering if there is a message in it for me?
There is a great temptation for me, in my love for Joseph, to look back a lot, to miss him and cherish those days when he was small and we had all the time in the world, to wish I had appreciated him and Holly so much more and to live in regret over lost moments.
I think it is vital to remember in love and to keep Joseph as a special part of our family, but I know it's important to move forward with joy as our family is now, with two new members, and one up in heaven. It is a mixture of pain and joy, but we have much to be thankful for.

I feel like God is teaching me lately the joy in giving thanks for the hours we are given, for the "today" we are given, even if it doesn't seem special, even if it is filled with dirty dishes and dirty clothes and messy rooms. It was those ordinary days I had with Joseph that were such precious gifts.
And it is those days now that are such precious gifts, with my children and my husband, my family and friends. There is glory in each day if we have the eyes to see it.
Our June Bug is an example to me in rejoicing in today. She looks so forward to special events (like birthdays, or school days, or gymnastics days), and then when the day finally arrives she can hardly keep her joy from spilling out all over everyone. One day, after many days of us saying "Tomorrow is gymnastics" (because she doesn't quite understand time yet) the day finally came when it was gymnastics. She proclaimed, "Mommy, today is tomorrow!!" She meant that today was the day she had been waiting for.
Maybe today is the day we are all waiting for. Maybe it's the "normal" we might wish we could go back to after a tragedy. Maybe it's the day we will miss in 20 years when our house is so quiet you could hear a pin drop. And maybe that person you have today (who might be currently driving you crazy) is the one you will miss after they're gone from this life.
I'm hopeful that this year we will choose to give thanks for all our many, many blessings and even give thanks for things that don't feel like blessings. What feels like punishment could actually be a gift. And what feels like a plan gone wrong could be God's greatest plan for good. And that we'll keep moving forward in faith, whether we have it all figured out or not.

"You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop
with my God I can scale a wall."

Psalm 18:28

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Exciting news!!

Hello, blog friends! In the last six months since I wrote on here we have moved to Nashville, Allen started his new job as a pediatrician, and we had a new baby, Noah. Then, just to add to the excitement we received a letter from  the researcher at UCSF we have supported through the Joe P. Rally Run to tell us some fantastic news.
The last time we heard from him they were still doing tests on rats and their research was really in the beginning stages. But because of all the funds we have sent them from the last two Joe P. Rally Runs they have made some pretty incredible progress. He said they have been funded almost exclusively by the Joe P. Rally Run, which has led to several publications, and by the end of the year, hopefully a clinical trial! This is absolutely awesome news. Considering only one new pediatric cancer drug has been approved by the FDA in the last twenty years, this is huge. This drug may be the hope that some little boy and girl or parent needs when he or she is faced with the devastating news that they have a malignant brain tumor.
So, let's keep supporting this much-needed research. The 3rd Joe P. Rally Run is scheduled for Labor Day weekend--Saturday, September 1st, 2012 at Centennial Park in Nashville, TN. If you would like to sign up or donate click here. It is just 7 weeks away! There will be a 5K for adults and big kids and a 1K fun run for little kids. That Chick Fil A cow will be back again to see if he can outrun just one kid. Each child who beats him will get a special prize from Chick Fil A. And, the overall man and woman winners will receive a year's worth of free Chick Fil A meals! It promises to be another really fun day, celebrating Joseph's life while raising money for other kids who might need it for the fight of their lives.
Ok, I can't leave out another very special little guy we have welcomed to our family: Noah Luke Peabody. Noah is such a sweet, easygoing baby and we are so thankful for him!

The girls are just ecstatic about him and have both taken on the role of big sister/second mommy really well. :) Everyone tells us he has his own look, but we think he definitely resembles Joseph and the girls quite a lot. We definitely feel blessed and are super busy and tired keeping up with all these little ones, but we wouldn't have it any other way. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Recently I read to the girls the story of Jesus' birth via the words of the Jesus Storybook Bible. I love this Bible; it always presents the Word to me in a fresh light and through the innocent eyes of a child. This chapter was relating the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary:

There was a young girl who was engaged to a man named Joseph. (Joseph was the great-great-great-great-great grandson of King David). One morning, this girl was minding her own business when, suddenly, a great warrior of light appeared--right there, in her bedroom. He was Gabriel and he was an angel, a special messenger from heaven. When she saw the tall shining man standing there, Mary was frightened. "You don't need to be scared," Gabriel said. "God is very happy with you!" Mary looked around to see if perhaps he was talking to someone else. "Mary," Gabriel said, and he laughed with such gladness that Mary's eyes filled with sudden tears.

"Mary, you're going to have a baby. A little boy. You will call him Jesus. He is God's own Son. He's the One! He's the Rescuer!" The God who flung planets into space and kept them whirling around and around, the God who made the universe with just one word, the one who could do anything at all--was making himself small. And coming a baby.

I was so captured by Mary's reaction in these verses: She was frightened, and when Gabriel said, "God is very happy with you!" she looked around, sure he was speaking to someone else. Why would God be happy with her? What had she done to deserve such praise? Why shouldn't she be terrified of this luminous heavenly being?

I can relate so much to Mary in this interaction, and maybe you can, too? I feel it's easy to see my own faults and keep track of all the ways I don't live up to being the mom, wife, friend, or child of God I ought to be. There are so many things to be and do and I just never seem to have enough energy and patience to do them right. If anyone showed up and said joyfully, "God is very happy with you!" I would think they'd had a little too much egg nog.

But the truth is, God is very happy with me, and if you have believed in Jesus, he is very happy with you. And that is a truth I choose to believe even when I feel it to be untrue. Because of Jesus' perfect life and sacrifical death, his record has now become mine and yours in God's eyes. It's amazing, too good to be true, unfair even! Why would God lower himself to be born in such meager circumstances, not even in a house, but in a barn for animals? Why would he live among us sinners and choose to be rejected and ignored and scorned and ultimately killed like a criminal?

He did it for me and for you. He came to be "Emmanuel," God with us. So we are no longer alone in our failure and sin and shame and loneliness. Even when those things threaten to overtake us, His joyful voice brings light and truth to our lives as he says, "You are accepted. I am happy to call you mine." (John 1:12-13) He can relate to any and all temptations and feelings we experience because his life here on earth was no bed of roses. He often didn't have a place to lay his head. His friends betrayed him and abandoned him. He was not esteemed or valued or given the respect he deserved. He had no beauty or majesty that drew people to him. He was a man of sorrows and familiar with pain (Isaiah 53).

I don't think I could handle it if God was unfamiliar with pain. Just think of a time you were feeling heartbroken or alone and maybe you talked to someone who just didn't "get it." They didn't think you should be so upset, or they were visibly uncomfortable with you being so vulnerable, or they encouraged you to do something to cheer yourself up. Clearly, they thought you needed to get yourself together and cheer up a bit, for everyone's sake. Really helpful, right?

Then consider Jesus. Consider the friend He is to you. He can authentically say, "I know how you feel. I am with you, and I love you." He welcomes us in whatever condition we come and is so happy we have come. He is no longer the God who is far off. He came as a baby so he could be Emmanuel, God with us.

We are moving to Nashville this week and leaving Atlanta, the place where all our children have been born and where the bulk of our "Joseph memories" lie. It is here Joseph learned to walk, made his first friends, discovered "Moe's," and many more essential life lessons. :) We are hopeful and grateful for this new move, but Atlanta has such a special place in our hearts. We have been revisiting places that were special to us as a family and saying "goodbye" again to another chapter in our lives. I don't even understand all we are feeling, but I'm grateful to have a Savior and a friend who does. I've been reminded anew this season that God is not far off in our lowly human states; he came to be with us all those years ago so we could have a God who relates and knows and understands. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Merry Christmas, and may we all feel God's nearness this season.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Joseph

Monday, May 2, 2011

We Did It!

Thanks to all of YOU, we met our goal of $30,000 to give to childhood brain cancer research! In fact, we exceeded our goal by several thousand. Wow! We feel so blessed and are so excited to fund new research!!

The Joe P Rally Run of 2011 was again a freezing cold, cloudy day. But again several hundred of you showed up and volunteered and ran and celebrated Joseph's life. Thank you so much to everyone who came, gave, sponsored, volunteered and supported from afar.

We did a kid's fun run this year, which was wonderful. The faithful Chick Fil-A cow came and can you believe every child beat him? That cow really needs to get in shape. :) It was really fun to have him and added a lot of excitement for the kiddos.

Special thanks to Jennifer Barr and Elaine Kay who really pulled this whole thing off!

Here are some pictures of the special day:

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! It was a great day and we so appreciate everyone who made it possible!

A very special thanks to our awesome sponsors this year:

e+ Foundation

Morgan Keegan

Waste Management

Advanced Network Solutions

Icon Clinical Research

Chick Fil-A of Brentwood

Brentwood Children's Clinic


Bass Security

Crossfit of Murfreesboro

Loden Vision


United Healthcare

Brentwood Pediatric Dentistry

Moe's, Brueggers, Dick's Sporting Goods, Starbucks, JC Interiors, Green Fleet Messengers, McDonalds, Big Move Games, Sodium, Snip-its, Learning Express, and Cafe Nonna.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

So Grateful!

We have been so touched lately with all the efforts of our friends and family to make the Joe P. Rally Run a huge success. Thank you to everyone who is spreading the word about the run and to those of you who have set up fundraising pages, given, or signed up to run. If you haven't signed up yet, go here right now! And if you want to cry your eyes out, go here. (Thank you, Lindsay, for this beautiful and tender post.)

Also, a huge thank you to my wonderfully talented sister-in-law, Jennifer Barr, who is working round the clock putting this race together with the help of the Rally Foundation and Elaine Kay, their tireless Nashville director. We appreciate all your hard work so so much!!

A couple of weeks ago I got a message from a friend saying that her child's first grade class at Intown Community School would like to do a service project and their topic was "Sick Children." (This is the school that's a part of our church, and Allen used to teach 5th grade there many moons ago. It is a really wonderful school that encourages a lot of creativity and love of learning. The kids we got to know there seemed to have the exact opposite attitude towards school that most children have. If they had a day off, they would be really SAD because they would MISS school! I used to periodically ask the kids, "So, are you excited for Spring Break, etc.?" just to test them out and they would always answer, "Well, not really because we'll miss school." It is such a fun and lovely school I do think any child would be sad to miss it.)

Anyway, this little first grade class decided that for their service project they would like to form a little fundraising team and have a day at school devoted to Joseph. They asked me to come and answer some questions about Joseph and his cancer, then they made a huge banner, and then they had a mini Joe P. Rally Run in the school parking lot, complete with the Chick-Fil-A cow!

It was one of the sweetest most touching things I have experienced. Seeing these children running their hearts out so they could help other sick children was so precious.

About a week after the race was over a mom and her son came over to me at a pizza place and the little boy asked me, "I remember you from Intown. Aren't you Joe P.'s mom?"

I felt like a celebrity. Why, yes, I am Joe P.'s mom. Everyone can refer to me as that from now on. :)

Thank you, Intown First Grade!! Your creative efforts are really going to make a difference in research towards Childhood Cancer Research.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Twinklings of Joseph

Every so often (sometimes very often), I'll be going about my day, just doing normal everyday things when I'm struck so hard by a memory of Joseph that I have to take a really deep breath just to keep going. It happens in obvious places, like whenever I drive by our old house or am in that neighborhood where we wore a path with a stroller to and from that park. I drive by and I can just see Joseph and Holly bundled up together in the double jogger and me trying to get there fast enough to let them loose on the ducks!

Sometimes it happens in more unexpected places, like a coffee shop. I was standing in line the other night, trying to figure out which of the 1 million choices of coffee combinations I was going to go with when my eyes fell on a little box of chocolate milk. All of a sudden my eyes teared up and I was back in Memphis with my boy, and we were all sitting around a table, overjoyed that Starbucks chocolate milk was the one thing Joseph would eat when he was feeling sick from the radiation. That little box of chocolate milk was always a treat for him, though, and I can recall countless sleep-deprived mornings with me driving through Starbucks for a coffee and him sitting back there hoping it was a chocolate milk morning, too!

There are so many opportunities to remember him, really. Just some days they strike me harder than others. This little memory I cherish because it was just him and me. I'm thinking Holly was napping and Allen was at work. We were looking out our back door at squirrels, as Joseph was prone to do, and we noticed an animal I was sure he probably hadn't seen before. He asked me what it was and I said, "That's a chipmunk! I don't think you've seen one before. Isn't it cute?" He cocked his head to one side and I could see him running through his mental list of "animals I know," and he came up with, "Das a chicken?" I told him "No, honey, a chip-munk." He looked puzzled again asked, "Das a monkey?" I could tell he was sure mommy had lost her mind, mixing up chickens and monkeys because surely chipmunk wasn't a real word. I always smile when I think of that little conversation.

I'm not really sure this post has point...I just felt like talking about Joseph. I hope you don't mind! I guess with the Joe P. Rally Run coming up, a lot of people have asked about how we're doing and are remembering Joseph especially.

We are really looking forward to this year's race on April 16th. It is going to be in Nashville again, at Centennial Park. There will be a kids' Fun Run at 8:30, so be sure to get there a little early if your kiddos want to race against the Chick-Fil-A cow. We will be there, bright and early, and look forward to seeing lots of you! There will be all kinds of booths set up from local businesses/restaurants and Starbucks has offered to provide the coffee. If you haven't already registered, you can do so here. We are so grateful to all our awesome sponsors who are making this possible, and to Jennifer Barr, who is heading up the race this year. I just know we are going to reach our goal of $30K.

Thanks to all of you who have already supported this race and to those of you who have become fundraisers. It is so exciting to see us getting closer to the goal. I have this little dream that maybe one day a family will get the news that their child has a high-grade brain tumor and instead of no good options, they are told, "Oh, we have a great treatment for that. No big deal!" And they would live to have lots more birthdays and fun discoveries and memories together as a family. Wouldn't that be amazing?

See you all April 16th!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Babe, the Son of Mary

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

(Isaiah 53 and What Child is This)

I was listening to this song on the radio this morning (What Child is This) and two things struck me: 1. The irony and sadness of the honor Jesus deserved and the honor we actually paid Him and 2. Mary's response as a mother to Jesus' crucifixion (that we don't know much about it).

My baby, June, has been sick the last few weeks with a cold and an ear infection. I've had lots of time to hold her at night and rock her and also to think and pray about her future (after I finally remember in my sleepy state that Allen is working and will not be getting up with her as he usually does!). It's in the moments when my children seem the most innocent and helpless that I sometimes look with fear into the future. I won't be able to protect them forever. Lord, please keep them from pain and suffering and harm.

But, in my heart of hearts I know He won't. Whom of us has been spared any pain or suffering or harm? Whom of us hasn't had our hearts broken, ignored, or "held in low esteem." If we are honest, we all have been hurt and harmed by other people, whether intentional or unintentional. It is the sad state of our hearts. We all have been tainted by sin and we feel the effects of that.

So, once I admit that my children have and will inevitably experience pain and suffering and some degree of hurt I wonder what I should pray next? I can't protect them forever. I couldn't keep Joseph with us forever or keep cancer from ravaging his beautiful life. Just the thought of it is too much to bear.

Where do we go with this unspeakable fear and sadness? As a mother, how do we fearlessly entrust our children to God's hands, knowing full well it won't be a bed of roses? How did Mary accept the beautiful gift of being the mother of God, knowing His life would be full of rejection and pain and that He would be taken from her and crucified on a cross?

I have looked through the Bible and I just can't find much about Mary in Jesus' later life (I am no Bible scholar, so if I'm missing it please let me know) or how she responded to His crucifixion. But I can imagine the intense pain, horror, outrage and anger. This child, this perfect son, whom she nursed and held and raised, treated as a lowly criminal and killed publicly for all to see. With no honor or respect or glory. The King of kings and Lord of lords, her own son.

The only thing I can think of is that she knew He was God's Son first. That yes, He was her son, entrusted to her for a short while, but ultimately His purposes were so vastly beyond just the short while she had Him in her home.

I know it is not really accurate to compare our own children to Jesus, because He is the Savior of the world and our children are not, but I think the idea still applies. That our children are gifts given to us for a short while, but their purposes and lives are God's and He is trustworthy to keep them safe. And not safe as we imagine safe, but safe in His love and safe for eternity in His hands. That Emmanuel, God with us, applies to all of us. Even in loneliness, sadness, and fear, God is with us. In the midst of a sinful, painful, fallen world, the beauty of Jesus can shine into our hearts. He is with us if we confess our need and open our hearts to His forgiveness and grace.
This Christmas season, (and every Christmas season) I find myself distracted by buying gifts, getting to the post office, checking everything off my "to do" list to be "prepared" for the big day. I am not focused on Jesus and I truly feel my heart "is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." But the Good News is that we do have a beautiful Savior who sacrificed for us and lived a perfect life in our place (by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities

In our busyness and distraction He still calls to us. He is Emmanuel, God with us. May He be with you and me this Christmas season.