Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 31

Canticle: A Song of True Motherhood
by Julian of Norwich
God chose to be our mother in all things
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin's womb.
God, the perfect wisdom of all,
arrayed himself in this humble place.
Christ came in our poor flesh
to share a mother's care.
Our mothers bear us for pain and for death;
our true mother, Jesus, bears us for joy and endless life.
Christ carried us within him in love and travail,
until the full time of his passion.
And when all was completed and he had carried us so for joy,
still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.
All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God,
for the love of Christ works in us;
Christ is the one whom we love.

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I am so sorry for not writing for a few days. Motherhood is incredibly wonderful and equally, incredibly hard. My body still aches from the birthing and learning to nurse him is a challenge.Some of the women who come by, tell me to feed him when ever he cries, others tell me to put him on a schedule!?! Every one have absolute advice except for Joseph who shakes his head and tells me he has no idea what to do. Big help from him! I try to swaddle and hold him as much as possible, then the ladies come and tell me he needs to be wrapped tight and left in his cradle. I think the straw is too rough for his tender skin and love the feeling of his skin against mine.

We have had several night visits from the shepherds. They love coming to see the baby Jesus. They told us last night that there are rumors from the palace that visitors upset Herod and he is on a tear. It seems that the visitors said something about a child born who would be king and he feels terribly threatened. They can't possibly be talking about this child, since we are tucked away in a cowshed, off the grid, and of no importance. They are probably talking about some royal child who they will use to take his throne. I really don't understand politics and power. I'm just learning to be a mother, and although that sounds simple, I have learned that it is very hard. It is also a round the hours job, there is no real rest, even when the baby is sleeping! I bet you know what that's about!

Sending love from Bethlehem,

Mary

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 30

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us-- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:1-9 

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I wrote this little poem, for this experience of mine, it does not translate easily into prose. This life, that I barely understand seems to sing and dance and confound me at all times.

Surrounded by Light

In this darkened midnight moment
a light shines through and beyond
in this tiny little manger cradle
God's son nestles down beside us.

Fragile and tender yet full of life
surrounded and radiant with starlight
shadows are dispelled by moonlight
darkness is no more with him.

We are too fragile and inadequate
fully human frayed at the edges
our hearts are filled with his perfection
his love and his radiant light.

What has God given to us but love
made in flesh and bones like us
and yet more so filled with light
with possibility and promise.

In these moment I ponder the gift
a gift beyond measure and time
a life that will change all lives hereafter
as mine has been changed forever by him.


love always,

Mary


 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 29


When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:22-30 

Dear Auntie,
we took our sweet little baby to the temple today for his dedication.  The crowds are so overwhelming I didn't think we would get anywhere. Two kind elders found us and helped us to do the rituals in the proper places. They were so old and seemingly so fragile, but as we handed our baby to the elderly man named Simeon for the blessing, it was as if the light surrounded them both and the old became lively and young again. The old woman named Anna looked glowing too and both thanked us for the privilege of serving us! Can you imagine? They said they felt God had blessed them both by being present at this momentous time! We didn't look too great as we have been staying in a barn, but they treated us like royalty and invited us to dine with them.
I am always amazed about how God works. When I Ieast expect it, and often when I am weakest in my faith. our Lord sends just the right people and the right sign to help us and affirm this child. This sweet, gentle little boy has already transformed our lives and seems to transform everyone we encounter. The folks at the Inn have made provisions for us so that we can stay until I am strong enough to travel a distance. The women on the street seem to want to visit with us all the time! We have food and shelter enough for many.
Dear Auntie, I really don't any more understand how our Lord works, but I am grateful more and more to be God's servant. I have to learn to trust and put one foot in front of the other. God walks with us even when I struggle and stumble!
love,
Mary

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 28

O sing to the Lord a new song;
   sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
   tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
   his marvellous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
   he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
   but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
   strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.


Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
   ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
   bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in holy splendour;
   tremble before him, all the earth.


Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!
   The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
   He will judge the peoples with equity.’
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
   let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
   let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
   before the Lord; for he is coming,
   for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
   and the peoples with his truth. Psalm 96



Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I ventured forth from our humble little barn and walked about in the sunshine. The baby seemed to love the air and the light and we both felt a new breath of life. This journey has been so overwhelming that it is easy to give into the challenges and the darkness. But there has also been a great deal of incredible moments, amazing miracles and promises. There have been moments when we have been surrounded by angels, both the human and the heavenly variety. I have no idea what God is doing, so I am trying to learn and enjoy it.

Joseph is really taken by this little boy and has been so helpful to me. Both of us really don't know what we're doing but love learning how to be parents. The diapers and feedings, the sleeping and the waking - all of it is so new! This little one has taken charge of our lives and our hearts and we would do anything for him. He wraps his little fingers around one of our fingers and we would follow him anywhere. This child of God is teaching us so much, both about ourselves and the love of God. How could I ever have doubted?

Auntie, I don't know how long we will be here. The older women think I need a good while to heal, since we were on the road so long. The Inn keeper and his wife, David and Naomi, generously offered to let us stay as long as we need, months if necessary. My short walk today give me encouragement but also showed how weak I truly am.

Sending love from the City of King David,

Mary

 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 27 Christmas

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:1-20

Dear Auntie,

It was wonderful and terrible, so simple and yet so hard!  Although I had never had such pain in my life, now I hardly remember it. I cannot take my eyes from this child. When the labor got so intense, Joseph was so scared that he went got the Inn keeper and they sent for the wise woman. She came and helped me breathe and then had me sit up to push the child out into the world. He is so perfect and so beautiful! Naomi, the Innkeeper's wife brought linen to wrap him in and we cried and laughed together. Joseph was amazed at his beauty and perfection and couldn't stop touching him and looking at those little fingers and toes.

When the bustle of the birthing was over, the sun was setting and Naomi brought us a lovely supper. We ate like royalty surrounded by the straw and the animals. It was a cool night, and we were just about to tall asleep, three of us, leaning together, when shepherds appeared! One very talkative little boy told us that angels had spoken to them to come and see! And somehow, after all of this, I truly believed him. He had run all the way, ahead of his brothers to see for himself! We sat up with them, sharing food and our angel stories. The moon was so beautiful and the stars shone - it seemed just for us. Oh, Aunt Elizabeth, I am sorry for all my doubt and fears tonight. With God, anything and everything is truly possible.

May your little one and this boy meet soon. God has done great things for us and gives the promise for more wondrous miracles.

much love,

Mary

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 26

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,"
which means, "God is with us." When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25 

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,
I am writing to you today on behalf of Mary. She is in labor but insisted I send you a quick note. I guess the two of you agreed to write daily about our lives and challenges. She is so brave and so beautiful, despite the pains which are regular and intense, about five minutes apart. We are in Bethlehem, and our accommodations are in a stable. I am a bit ashamed of that but at least we are out of the weather. The sweet inn keepers wife have sent for women to help us when the birth is near. The check in on us every few hours. They say it will take time since this is her first. I cant' stand to see her in such pain! My sweet and wonderful Mary in such agony!
I know we barely know one another but I want to thank you for all that you are to Mary. You made her welcome when no one else would. When even her parents rejected her and I was so frustrated and angry with her, you gave her the strength to go on. So now it's my turn. I hold her and encourage her when the pains come. I try to remember psalms to repeat and songs to sing. I still feel like the weak one. She is so amazing, I wish there was a way for me to show her the love and respect I have for her.
Dear Aunt, please pray for us. For a good and safe delivery for her and strength for me. She is surely ten time stronger than me!
Sending love from both of us,
Joseph

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 25

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. Luke 1:39-48a
Dear Aunt Elizabeth,
We are finally in Bethlehem, but the accommodations are, by far, not the best. Every inn was booked solid and Joseph was turned away at every one. He almost gave in to despair, but one Innkeeper took pity, when he found out I was pregnant, and told us we could stay in the stable. Classy, huh? Well, it's fairly clean and there are several sleeping lofts, as their stable help and shepherds sleep here in rough weather. Joseph has been so frustrated; he wanted to do things right, but this is not his fault at all and I keep telling him that!  
I think I have begun to think I won't make it back to see Mama before this child comes. The pains have started a little, off and on, and I am not able to do much. Joseph had gone to the Inn keeper's wife for help and advice, and she is sending for the wise women to come and check me. I wish it didn't have to be strangers around my bed, I wish it was you or my mother! I feel like a helpless little girl!  Folks are relatively kind here though and checking in on us at regular intervals. Joseph is holding on but his face give away his panic and concern. I keep reminding him that he didn't do this, and that God had a reason and will see us through. I do believe that, I just wish I was stronger and more calm. Our time together made me stronger than I have ever been, and I try to remember all the things you taught me.
I love you and miss you.Please pray for us!
love always 
Mary

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Mary Letters- Day 24

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:5-38 

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,
I dreamed of you and our children together last night,  two strapping boys who laughed easily and sang beautifully too.  We sat together sewing and talking and enjoying the moments together watching the boys play and tumble around the garden. I woke with a start and with some slight pain this morning. I was afraid when I saw a bit of blood, but then, there has been no pain since. I massaged my belly as the wise woman from home instructed me and the baby move towards my hand as if seeking a caress. I thought of you all morning, brave and noble as you are, and hoping in the coming days I can be so brave. I get scared all the time, and the amount of people and noise give me the shivers. I want to run from crowds and hate being bumped and jostled.
We are on the outskirts of Bethlehem now and Joseph has gone to find us a place to stay. I am a bit queasy, so he has left me in the hands of some elder women who know how to care for pregnant ladies. I think he too is anxious and afraid, but he makes a brave front. The ladies laughed after he left and stay I was scaring him! He has never had a child and really would rather not have his flaky and moody wife right now. The older ladies have been telling me stories and are having me drink some tea and rest. It is a moment out from the crowds. I told them all about you and they smiled, probably thinking I was a little crazy. But they are kind and make me feel very safe. I cannot wait for Joseph to come back, so that we can get the government business over with and head back home. The ladies think I won't make it back before the baby comes! I didn't dare tell them what the angel said to me!
I love you and miss you terribly, and wish you were here with me.
much love,
Mary

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mary Letters- Day 23


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
   for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   my whole life long. Psalm 23

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I am not sure how much further I can go. I am so weary that we have to stop all the time. I try to rest and fall asleep but I am so uncomfortable that I can only sleep for a few minutes at a time. One minute I have tons of energy and the next I have none. I feel like I can barely breathe and the crowds are getting bigger and more oppressive. Joseph is getting very anxious since he has heard there are very few places to stay in Bethlehem. He talks with other men on the journey and they keep saying the crowds are historic and unbelievable. I know we are doing what God asked us to do, but why must it be so hard? And why must I feel so vulnerable, weak and weary all the time? I want to make Jospeh proud but I just seems to melt and fall apart too much.

We might make the city by tomorrow. We hope to have a room then too. We keep praying and reciting the Psalms of David as we walk. We try to remind each other that our Lord has sent us on this journey, that we are not alone...but then someone in the crowd yells at us to get out of the way, and my faith dwindles. When we rest, we hold each other close, which has been the best comfort to me on this journey. I do feel safe surrounded in Joseph's arms. I have had a few more pains, and am hoping that it is nothing. I am surely not ready to give birth and certainly don't want to have this child on this filthy and crowded road. People are rude and rough when they are in a hurry!

I ask for your prayers that my heart might stay steady and faithful in these days. I want mostly to growl at people and I know they cannot understand.

Love always,

Mary

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mary letters - Day 22



In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever." Luke 1:39-55

Dear Auntie,

Our progress was slow and the crowds were bigger than ever. Walking I was so jostled and elbowed that I had to sit out for some time. We are almost to Bethlehem and I have never seen anything like it! The lights of the city shine like thousands of stars on earth, and I wonder how we will ever find our way to a place to stay. Tonight I am trying not to worry but there have been a few pains and it seems like I will not make it back home before the child arrives.

I told Joseph the story of  my visit with you, after the angel had visited me, and how the babe had danced in your belly. I sang to you the old song of Miriam that we had learned as girls. It has been running through my head all day today. This life and journey seems so impossible, but remembering you in that moment have helped me keep going on. I feel terribly lowly and yet, God does indeed looks down on the lowly, and even, I guess, huge, pregnant girls like me who feels more awkward with every step.

Please keep me in your prayers. I am very worried about the labor that is to come and worried I won't be strong enough for the days ahead. Pray that God will bring me peace in place of all my fears.

Much love,

Mary





Collect
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 21

Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:31-46 

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,
We are moving down from the mountains and the trip is a little easier. The road service is less rocky and the earth on the road is more packed down. My feet have gotten so swollen from walking that Joseph is insisting I ride for a while. The crowds are getting bigger on the road and we go so slow we have to get out of the way of many who are in a huge hurry. We ran into a small boy who was watching a herd of sheep. He invited us to sit and have a meal with him. We were weary and followed him to a small grove of trees where he had a log for us to sit on. He then took out his food, and when I began to get our food, he said no, that he had way more than he needed and that God had told him to share his food with strangers. Then he bent his head and said a prayer over the food. A remarkable child, who reminded us of God's love very real and present with us on the road.
Auntie, every time I get near the edge of deep despair, our Lord finds a way to remind us of the Holy Presence. I am so shallow and self-focused some times that I almost missed that presence.  The angel promised so much and yet  I  can forget all of that when a pain or a challenge faces me. Please pray for a deepening of my faith, since I have been honored so by God. I want so much to be a good mother, a good wife and a faithful servant of the Lord. I seem to fall short so very often. 

Sending love from the road to Bethlehem,

Mary
 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 20

Save me, O God, by your name,
   and vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
   give ear to the words of my mouth.


For the insolent have risen against me,
   the ruthless seek my life;
   they do not set God before them.
     


But surely, God is my helper;
   the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will repay my enemies for their evil.
   In your faithfulness, put an end to them.


With a freewill-offering I will sacrifice to you;
   I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from every trouble,
   and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies. Psalm 54


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

as we were traveling yesterday, I thought I recognized the men who were following us on the road. I was terrified and was sure they had come to stone me and kill Joseph. My whole body shook with fear and I could hardly breathe. As they came closer, I started to cry and told Joseph we were going to die. It didn't seem to phase him. When they finally passed us on the road, they were really complete strangers and I felt so terribly foolish. I apologized to Joseph but he started to laugh. When I asked him why, he said my mother had warned him about pregnancy brain. She had said that sometimes women can get very "imaginative", especially in the last months.  He was so kind about the whole thing.

The road ahead is a very steep climb down as we get closer to the city. Joseph says I will have to walk most of the rest of the way until the road flattens out. I am a cumbersome mess right now and I think our little donkey is fed up with me. I am often so uncomfortable that I moved around a good deal and we have to stop often. My bladder is not happy with me either. It complains all the time. I wish I was stronger and braver. Instead I find myself weaker and more weepy by the day.

Sending love across the miles and asking for more payer - if that is possible.

love,

Mary

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 19


The mighty one, God the Lord,
   speaks and summons the earth
   from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
   God shines forth.

Our God comes and does not keep silence,
   before him is a devouring fire,
   and a mighty tempest all around him.
He calls to the heavens above
   and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
‘Gather to me my faithful ones,
   who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!’
The heavens declare his righteousness,
   for God himself is judge.

‘Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
   O Israel, I will testify against you.
   I am God, your God.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
   your burnt-offerings are continually before me.
I will not accept a bull from your house,
   or goats from your folds.
For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine.

‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.
Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’

But to the wicked God says: ‘What right have you to recite my statutes,
   or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.
You make friends with a thief when you see one, and you keep company with adulterers.

‘You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your kin; you slander your own mother’s child.
These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one just like yourself.
But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.

‘Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way
 I will show the salvation of God.’Psalm 50

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I am considerably better today, after a good rest. We walked in the evening as the light and shadows mixed and stopped when the deep darkness set in. We will sleep in the deep darkness and continue our journey during the day, taking regular breaks and resting often. Joseph is very worried about me. He want me to ride on the donkey but my center of balance is completely off. It doesn't seem like anyone is seeking after us, no word has come that there is trouble behind us.

We are moving into larger communities and try to keep around the edges. Word is that the crowds in Bethlehem are huge as they are in Jerusalem. This government enrollment is a bigger deal than we understood, and could complicate our journey even more. It might well give us good cover in the throngs.

Sadness and fear overwhelmed me after my fall, and it seemed that there was evil and destruction all around us. I let fear take over. While I was resting, Joseph reminded me of God's promises, even as he was wiping my tears. He reminded me of God's promise to you and how despite impossible circumstance you were given a child. It was a tender and kind moment and I am so grateful for his love and care. We recite the psalms we have learned by heart  together as we travel. It has brought us a sense of peace, despite all of the challenges we face. We still covet your prayers!

Much love,

Mary

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 18


Remember your word to your servant,
   in which you have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my distress,
   that your promise gives me life.
The arrogant utterly deride me,
   but I do not turn away from your law.
When I think of your ordinances from of old,
   I take comfort, O Lord.
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
   those who forsake your law.
Your statutes have been my songs
   wherever I make my home.
I remember your name in the night, O Lord,   and keep your law.
This blessing has fallen to me,  for I have kept your precepts.


The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words.
I implore your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
When I think of your ways, I turn my feet to your decrees;
I hurry and do not delay to keep your commandments.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous ordinances.
I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes.


You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word.
Teach me good judgement and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
Before I was humbled I went astray, but now I keep your word.
You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
The arrogant smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts.
Their hearts are fat and gross, but I delight in your law.
It is good for me that I was humbled, so that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.Psalm 119:49-72


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I am in a bad way. When we were journeying in the dark, the donkey lost his footing and I was thrown to the ground. I have bruises and scrapes everywhere! The baby seems to be fine but Joseph is very upset. He spent money to put us in a small inn, so I can recover for the rest of the journey. He doesn't want me to travel for the next few days but I want to push on! I want to get to Bethlehem and back before the baby comes. I want to be with Momma.

I admit I cried and behaved badly. The fall just brought the tears that I was holding back all day. It broke my spirit and despite the fact that no bones are broken, my heart is on the ground. Joseph was very kind and patient with me. We have both been so faithful and yet we seem attacked at every turn.

Right now I am resting as he has gone out to the market to get some food. He wants to travel in the daylight from now on so that we can travel faster, once we get on the road.  I am fine with that - anything to get there and home before the baby arrives.Please pray for us, as this is harder than I could have ever imagined.

Love

Mary

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 17

Jesus said, "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." Matthew 24:32-44 

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,
I haven't been able to sleep very well, so I got up, letting Joseph sleep and wrote this prayer which was on my heart.

Make Me Ready Lord 

For the rough road ahead
and for those left behind
make my heart open and
make me ready, dear Lord.

I am so completely fragile and weak
but you are my song and strength
for the darkest nights and scary days
make me ready, dear Lord.

For the coming time of birthing
for the shelter and help we will need
for being a stranger and sojourner
make me ready, dear Lord.

In thanksgiving for your gentle touch
your ever present companionship
for the lack of human understanding
make me ready, dear Lord.

Make me a servant of love and peace
so that I might face the harsh sunshine
for the healing and redemption of the world
Make me ready dear Lord.

Pray for us as each day gets harder,
Love,
Mary

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 16

Happy are those who consider the poor;
   the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble.
The Lord protects them and keeps them alive;
   they are called happy in the land.
   You do not give them up to the will of their enemies.
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed;
   in their illness you heal all their infirmities.

As for me, I said, ‘O Lord, be gracious to me;
   heal me, for I have sinned against you.’
My enemies wonder in malice
   when I will die, and my name perish.
And when they come to see me, they utter empty words,
   while their hearts gather mischief;
   when they go out, they tell it abroad.
All who hate me whisper together about me;
   they imagine the worst for me.

They think that a deadly thing has fastened on me,
   that I will not rise again from where I lie.
Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted,
   who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.
But you, O Lord, be gracious to me,
   and raise me up, that I may repay them.

By this I know that you are pleased with me;
   because my enemy has not triumphed over me.
But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
   and set me in your presence for ever.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
   from everlasting to everlasting.Amen and Amen. Psalm 41


Dear Auntie Elizabeth,

Last night, well really early this morning, I had a silly dream. I dreamed I gave birth and the baby was a girl! Do you believe that. I know ti was just a dream but it got me thinking about how God is using two of the most unlikely people - you and me - to bring a great light to the world. I was told by the angel that the baby would be a boy and I believe him. But it made me consider the roles we assign to men and women and how God often has a different agenda than people do. Our Lord doesn't seem to be bound by human restrictions. People get upset id anyone does something differently, even it has a heavenly purpose.

Our travels brought us to a small cabin that sits by a stream. Friends of my folks use it when they go fishing. There is a little hearth where we can cook a bit, so we will have warm food today. There is no one around as the summer is past. The cool night air makes the travel a bit easier since we do not have the hot sun pouring down on us. This baby makes me warm enough as it is.

My dream reminded me that God simply asks us to be faithful and not to lose heart when the world seems against us. I try Auntie, I really do, but there are days when my spirit flags and Joseph has to prop me up and encourage me.

Love to all

Mary

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 15




Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Dear Auntie Elizabeth,

It was a rough night of travel. The men have planned a route for us that will take us through the hills at night for the next few days. The road was winding, the only light the moon and stars. We stopped often. I ache like I have never ached before. Joseph kept up my spirits, which were lagging. I wanted to cry the whole time. We slept like the dead at the end of it all in a cave that the sheepherders use in bad weather. You can guess how it smells!  But we've had some food and will set out again when the day ends. 

This journey and all the preparation have been quite a challenge for me. I guess I'm growing up quickly! The anger and fear that surrounded us at home has been replaced by a sense of hope. People are ready to help us, as if they sense something wonderful is about to happen. I don't tell them our story because I know they will think we are crazy or just bad people. They seem to sense a near presence of God. Nobody at home had any sense but gave into fear and suspicion. I do wish Momma and Daddy were on the road with me. I still feel like such a child some times too.

I have learned to pray with every bump and ache. It seems to quiet my spirit and delight the baby. Joseph is so gentle and patient with me. I feel blessed by his love and care. He has really shown me a whole new Joseph, now that we are away from the scrutiny and gossip of home.

Writing you helps me remember that we are never alone and that we are following God. We both said yes to impossible circumstances and our Lord promises to see us through. There are times when I wish it was easier!

Much love,

Mary

 







Collect
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 14

As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
Jesus answered them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Messiah!' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birthpangs.
"Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come." Matthew 24:1-14 

Dear Auntie,
Things are getting tense here and what was an oasis of peace had been churned up. The folks who delivered supplies from my parents told us very scary stories. There are men looking for us, who, according to these neighbors of ours, have been paid to bring us back - at all costs, so that we can be beaten or even stoned. Can you imagine? Good people of our town want to hurt us? I do not understand why people are so angry and so violent. So we are making plans to leave here as soon as possible, under cover of darkness. We will probably have to travel at night and go round about ways!
We must wait until sundown and will have our prayers here in this safe house. Mistress Sarah does not want me to go and she has sent for the wise women to check me out before I go. She also thinks the threats are a lot of bluster, men flexing their muscles to seem tough. Her husband agrees but thinks for our safety we should keep moving, just in case some of the crazy talk is real.
Oh Elizabeth, why do people fight so hard to deny what God is doing? Why are the most religious folks quickest to deny God's love in others' lives? Pray that I gain wisdom and insight on this journey as my heart is on the ground. I feel so small and so huge at the same time. Everyone tells me what we should do, but very few are offering help and kindness. Pray for me!
Much love
Mary

Friday, December 11, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 13

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.


You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.


You hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.
I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction;
   you have taken heed of my adversities, and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
   you have set my feet in a broad place.


Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief,
   my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.


I am the scorn of all my adversaries,  a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many— terror all around!—as they scheme together against me,
   as they plot to take my life.


But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand;
   deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.  Let your face shine upon your servant;
   save me in your steadfast love. Do not let me be put to shame, O Lord, for I call on you;
let the wicked be put to shame; let them go dumbfounded to Sheol. Let the lying lips be stilled
   that speak insolently against the righteous with pride and contempt.


O how abundant is your goodness that you have laid up for those who fear you, and accomplished for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of everyone!
In the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots; you hold them safe under your shelter from contentious tongues.


Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege. I had said in my alarm, I am driven far from your sight.’
But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help.


Love the Lord, all you his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.  Psalm 31



Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

It has been relatively quiet today and I have had time to be with Joseph alone. We talked of our life after the baby is born. Joseph is worried about whether he can find employment when we return home, as some of the men from the temple have been so harsh. I reminded him that he was the best carpenter around for many miles. If our people wouldn't hire him, he could always work for the Romans or others who are developing properties around the area. And I can help by doing my part. I am beginning to be so excited about our lives as husband and wife, At home there was always worries and troubles, but here, in this little oasis, cared for these wizened but lively elders, everything seems possible.

Joseph has been reading the King's psalms to me and we have been singing some of them. Having time together has been a wonderful gift. "Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait upon the Lord." I love that song and that line in particular. As soon as the worries sneak in I just try to remember those words and sing them as loudly as possible. No one here seems to mind, although I suspect they are both pretty deaf. At home, Momma nerves were on edge , and I had to be quiet so much. I feel much more rested and secure, ready for the journey ahead.

Aunt Elizabeth, I hope we can see each other soon. I have so many questions to ask you and can't wait to see little John. I know they are making you rest too because they think you are too old. I know you better - when no one is looking you are probably up cooking and cleaning, buzzing around like the busy bee that you truly are! I'll keep your secret, don't worry.

Much love

Mary


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 12


Do not fret because of the wicked;
   do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
   and wither like the green herb.


Trust in the Lord, and do good;
   so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
   and he will give you the desires of your heart.


Commit your way to the Lord;
   trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,and the justice of your cause like the noonday.


Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;   do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
   over those who carry out evil devices.


Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off,
   but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.


Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;   though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight in abundant prosperity.


The wicked plot against the righteous, and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
   for he sees that their day is coming.


The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy,  to kill those who walk uprightly; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.


Better is a little that the righteous person has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.


The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will abide for ever. Psalm 37:1-18



Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

These days of absolute have been very good and very enlightening. Mistress Sarah has been feeding me so well! I didn't expect this at all. The other thing I didn't expect was Joseph.  Around my parents, he has been very shy and reticent, almost to the point of annoying. He kept to himself and was silent even when I tried to get his attention or to make him laugh. I thought maybe he didn't really love me and was just keeping the peace.

Since we have been here, he has sat by my bedside and read me some of King David's Psalms. He has even sung some of them that he remembers from Temple. His voice is good and strong and it has brought tears to my eyes over and over again. His sweetness shines through now and his tenderness has moved my heart in ways that I did not expect. He has been so brave and I have failed to notice. I feel like such a fool sometimes, misreading quiet for distance when it was ultimately strength and faithfulness. We are both so young and have had to grow up so fast. 

As I am trying to rest, it seems as this child wants to wrestle inside of me. He is active and strong and when Joseph rests his hand on my belly (something he would not do in front of Momma!) the baby leaps with joy. It feels as if love is made real as they touch one another. I am also aware of how much I need to learn about the hearts of men. They are not like a woman's heart in some ways. I am so grateful for his strength.

Much love, Auntie

Mary

 
 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Mary Letters - Day 11


Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted." Matthew 23:1-12 

Dear Auntie Elizabeth,
The elderly couple we are staying with are much kinder than I expected. They are very prayerful and have accepted our story without question. Mistress Sarah has decided that I look too tired to travel for the next few days and is pampering me, much to Joseph's annoyance. He wants to get underway so that we can get back home. I completely understand but this little elderly woman is incredibly powerful and convincing. She had the men doing exactly what she said and agreeing with her. I was put in bed for a few days and will not be allowed up except to relieve myself.  She will have the wise women of her village stop by later today and she has sworn everyone to secrecy. I am being treated like royalty right now. I never expected this!
Mistress Sarah's husband, Daniel, is very kind and constantly praying. Such a holy man. He comes in to my doorway every hour or so and offers prayers for the child and for me, and for safety for everyone. Remarkable! Just when I was sinking into sadness our loving God provides living angels who know how to lift us from the mire. I have slept so much and been fed so well that I feel like a princess. My pain and discomfort have subsided and I really want to get up and enjoy the outside. Like the others, I fear the wrath of Mistress Sarah, much more than I do my need for movement.
Please kiss baby John for me. Tell him a cousin and playmate are coming soon!
love
Mary