Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas 2016 Mary Letter Day 33


Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.” Then they said to him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” John 8:12-19

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

We have had to be careful about going out during the day since there are still threats against young baby boys. But we seem to never be alone. People find us and come with gifts and good words. They are grateful to be here with us, if just for a time. Over and over, strangers thank us for bringing the light into the world. They tell us how needed this light, this little child is in our world. How can they know the dreams we have had, or know what God has in mind for this child?  And yet they seem to, and the stranger they are, the further they have come, the more convicted and grateful they are!

I have gotten word from Mama and Papa. Thank you for relaying information to them. Mama gushed in her letter and wants to come right away but we have cautioned her since that would alert they authorities to our location. We have to be even more careful now than we did at home. If I live to 100 I will never understand politicians and rulers with their need for complete control and power. I have seen, just in these past few days, what real power. love and light look like - those things are right here in this most humble place, in this manger made into a crib, in this remote and shadowy shelter - here is the power of love made flesh. The world would be a better place if leaders would only be humble and serve rather than oppress and subjugate others. This little baby boy has so much to teach us!

Well, I best be getting my sleep. The wise women are threatening to stay with us around the clock since they don't believe I am taking care of myself well enough. I feel fine!

much love,

Mary

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas 2016 Mary Letter Day 32


Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ John 7:53-8:11


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

There are some days that make me pause and wonder. Many things are going so well, but there are moments when I so wish to be home with the safe and familiar. There was a pregnant woman begging on the street near where we are housed. She is not allowed in anyone's home and the wise women tell me she is an outcast and we should avoid her at all costs. She is not too much older than I am but she has been with a married man. I ache for her as I know how people treated me at home when they thought I had done bad things. I think she is due very soon. I have bundled up some food and things for her since we seem to have much. I will take it to her under cover of darkness so as not to upset any of the local folks. They have been so kind to us and have made us a temporary home among them. Why is the world so harsh and people so willing to tear others down?

I am beginning to think we will never get back home. Rumors swirl about trouble for any young boys born locally. I have hear stories that they killed many small baby boys and the thoughts make me shutter and cry. Why are people so cruel? And why do they fear the weak and the neediest? I want to live my life caring for the vulnerable, like this little one here with me but also like the girl out on the street. That is who God always sends us to, isn't it?

Love always,

Mary


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas 2016 Mary Letter Day 31


On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.” John 7:37-52

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

We have been in relative isolation and yet people still find us. This child has done something to the world around us. It is as if the news of his arrival cannot be silenced. It is as if the stones are crying out with joy. Despite all the political madness that swirls around these cities, God's love has spread like wild fire and everyone wants to come and touch this little boy.  They bring all sorts of gifts for us, fresh fruit from their trees, nuts and dried fruits from their stores, cooked lamb and wondrous blankets and linens in which to wrap little Jesus. Joseph's family in the area has been helping to keep folks sensitive to our privacy but they just keep coming as if drawn by something they can feel within.

The baby grows stronger and bigger every day. He eats hungrily, sleeps peacefully and makes cooing noises when we sing to him. Joseph loves being a father, and carries him around when ever possible. He tucks him in his arm and goes about his chores with his little boy at his side, smiling all the time.  I am still mending and under the care of the wise women. They are very directive and bossy and it doesn't do any good to argue with them. No  matter how good I tell them I feel, they fuss and pamper me and tell me to rest and drink fluids! I have found following their instruction is better than arguing. Joseph laughs at their antics and teases me about them after they leave. But he sure loves the wonderful meals they make for us! Soon I will be well enough to travel again, but in the mean time we will enjoy the support and love that surrounds us. I cannot wait to return home to the Galilee hills and Mama and Papa.

all my love,

Mary


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas 2016 Mary Letter Day 30


At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.
“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18:1-14

Dear Elizabeth,

I am sorry not to have written but things got very scary here very quickly. The shepherds who visited after the birth went and told everyone about us. We had visitors around the clock, it seems. The baby was so good, but the wise women were very stern and told me to rest myself. They spent a good deal of time shooing people away. The word got out and people kept coming! Then word got to someone high up and there are rumors that we are being sought out. We spent last night moving household to a hidden location, one where we are assured no one can find us. We are to stay hidden until things die down. We have been supplied with weeks of dried food and the wise women will come at night to check on me and the baby. They promise also to bring fresh water and news, of course.

Why is the world so angry with us, Auntie? God's goodness has been showered upon us but human jealousy rears up, always. This little child, vulnerable and innocent, need constant care and tending. There is no political plot afoot here. But you would thing we, who are poor travelers, bear the anger of the unsated hunger for power. We will have to trust God and the kindness of these new friends to keep us safe. God always provides, although not without some drama and challenge!

Please send word to Mama and Papa. They worry so. We seem to be fine and the baby eats and sleeps and loves to be rocked in my arms. Joseph is over the moon in love with the little guy. Despite the confusion and anxiety around us, we find ways to laugh and enjoy this wonderful child we have been given.

Much love,

Mary













Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016 Mary Letter Day 29

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-14

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

He is here! Our sweet child, promised of God arrived. We made it to Bethlehem and were given very rough accommodations and I was terrified and worried. Somehow, it all worked out and we were given help in so many ways. They found wise women to help me through the birth and have fed us like royalty these past few days. It seems anything we need, someone is already one step ahead of us and it arrives unbidden but perfectly timed. I have been told to rest and to heal for the next few days, so I am being pampered and coddled. Even here, in this rough shelter at the end of the garden, feels like a palace for a king with the kindness and mercy we have received. Everything I feared had become now miraculous and unexpectedly wonderful. God seems to have a way of dissolving tears into light.

Auntie, I let Mama know that the child has come and we are fine. Would you check on her since I know she worries so? I guess she can't help being a mother - now being one I think I understand. The night of his birth we were visited by shepherds who told us an amazing story. I didn't want them to come near me or the child. Something rose up inside of me that made me want to defend my little one from all outside threats. Joseph promised they wouldn't harm us, so I relented and they all came in, even some of their herd! They had the most extraordinary story to tell us. They were visited by angels who told them to come and and see, the child of God born into the world! They were so excited and thrilled just to be here that my heart melted with joy and kindness. They brought out their instruments and sang for us! What a night! God is good on the promises made and I am truly sorry for ever doubting - I only hope I can be a good enough mother for this long awaited baby.

Sending love across the miles,


Mary


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Day 2016 Mary Letter Day 28

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 2:8-20


Dear Mama,

You have a grandson! I just had to write to you and Papa, no matter what the risk might be! I so wish you were here right now and could see everything that has happened. Our accommodations are very humble but everyone has been so kind and helpful. I started in labor early in the morning and it went on for hours. Early on they left me on my own as Joseph and the wise women gathered supplies before the birth. My spirits were very low when I was on my own and I ashamed to admit I cried and screamed a good deal when alone. To my surprise, when the wise women returned, they were delighted with my progress and got me ready for the birth. Joseph came in right after them and they instructed him to support me and hold my hand through each pain. He had been very frightened early on but the women knew just how to help both of us through. Ruth, Marian and Sarah will be honored in my heart forever! He was born late, late into the night, perfect and howling, strong and sweet. He settled as soon as I held him and at once, I couldn't imagine why I had been so afraid. 

Once the women had cleaned me up and gotten us settled, they left us alone with some wonderful food. I didn't realize how hungry I was! As we were eating our supper, I was holding our little boy, rocking and singing, we had visitors, Mama. In the middle of the night! Can you imagine? Shepherds came running to us, their sheep following behind, with a message just for us. In this humble place, this  unsophisticated, isolated place, they told us of heavenly visitors who told them to find us and to share God's good news and love. In the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, far from home, God found us, called out others to confirm the presence of the Divine. I can hardly sleep now, just watching this incredible gift, this needy and vulnerable being, the gift that God gave us, which we will share with the world - which we already have shared with shepherds and wise women!

Mama and Papa, please know I love you deeply and completely and want to bring home this child to share with you. I ached for you Mama, while I was so alone but knew in my heart you were praying for me. Your love has taught me so much and I expect, the love of this child will also teach me more than I can imagine.

For now, sending love, joy and peace,

Mary

Christmas Eve Mary Letter Day 27

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. Luke 2:1-7

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Well here I am in a strange city, in a less than comfortable place and in labor. I am surrounded by strangers and need to trust that the inadequacies of this place and the unfamiliarity of these people will be sufficient for the child ready to be born. There is no way to stop what is about to happen, although this is not how I dreamed it, not how I wanted it. The wise woken have checked me and said it is early stages, and have gone off to get supplies and help. Joseph is a wreck and his anxiety has rendered him less than useless! The women sent him off to the city to get supplies that they needed and so for a time I am completely alone. In this quiet moment, alone in this odd and unexpected place,  I am so scared! Does God really want this child brought into the world in such a humble state?
I cannot hold back the tears, Auntie, and wish more than anything that Mama was here.

The weather has turned bad as well, the wind is howling and rain is pouring down. I am chilled on the outside and burning on the inside. The pains are regular and intense but far enough apart that they have all abandoned me for now. The only sound is the wind, the rain and the nearby animals who have wandered in for shelter. I so want to be brave and faithful but my resolve is melting away. I want to scream and cry out and I probably can since no one would really hear me right now. I hold in my mind the picture I have of you, so round and happy, near the end of term. Elizabeth, if you can survive this, so can I, with God's help. Oh, but I do hope someone comes back here soon. Pray that I can live through this with some dignity and faithfulness intact. I fear I am weak and not as strong as you are.

All my love always,

Mary




Friday, December 23, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary letter day 26


Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. Luke 1:57-66 

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Well, we have arrived in Bethlehem. It is so noisy and dirty! People everywhere buying and selling, shouting to each other and stirring up the dust! Joseph and I went from house to house of relatives and friends, but no one had space for us. They thought we were coming next week and had given their rooms to other friends coming for the registration. What a mess! We then knocked on doors of inns ( although our money will run out if we have to pay for every night!) but most were overbooked and outrageously expensive. Overpriced for hovels!  I am sitting under a grove of trees in someone's garden while Joseph negotiates with the most recent innkeeper and his wife. These folks seem to know Joseph's people and are willing to try to work something out. They took pity on us because of my condition but I don't know yet what we will do! I would be willing to lie down in a rough bed of straw I am so tired and aching. I know Joseph will work something out, although this seems like a disastrous beginning for the child of God. I feel like we've failed him already.

I must have fallen asleep while writing you - my sweet husband has returned with good news and had to wake me. There is an outbuilding on the far end of their garden that will be private and decent shelter. We can stay as long as we need to, the owners said. We have moved our meager belongings into a rough large gardening shed and sometimes stable. But there are a few lofts here for sleeping and a table where we can eat, as well as some lanterns. The inn keeper's wife is very kind and brought us some warm soup for our supper. When she saw me she looked very distressed and is sending for a wide woman to look me over. Auntie, I feel so out of control and as if there is nothing good I can do. I am aching and tired and nervous all at the same time. I thought carrying and giving life was wonderful but right now it seems so hard and burdensome. I don't think I will make it back home before this child come. My body is already beginning to cramp! Please pray for me. Honestly I am so scared I can hardly pray.

Sending love and aching to be held in your arms,


Mary

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter 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 1:39-56 

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

We are staying on the edge of the city with an elderly couple that Papa knows. Papa sent word that  things had quieted down at home of late. It seems that after a few days folks stopped looking for us and just let it be. They still want us to be very careful and Simon and Lydia (the people we are staying with) promised to send word that we are fine. They are themselves worried about us since they have witnessed a huge crush of people pouring into Bethlehem. It seems as if this government is trying to extract every last ounce of money from the poorest and the most vulnerable. Simon will go with us tomorrow to help find us lodging in the city. Lydia is not able to travel but she has instructed Simon which wise woman he should contact so that they will be prepared if I give birth while there. They are very thoughtful but their planning is making me more anxious, although it seems to comfort Joseph. I guess I am just a ball of nerves - and I am shaped like a ball!

Tomorrow we descent into a river of people, noise and jostling. Lydia filled a tub for me and told me to wash myself all over in preparation for the coming of the child. She thinks he will come in the next few days. I would rather be having this baby anywhere but in the dirty, loud and chaotic city of Bethlehem. God is in charge and I have pledged to see this through, but I do wish it was not so hard and confusing. The bath did soothe my nerves some, so I guess I will have to take the comforts when I can find them. Please pray for me and tell me how best to be ready for the birth.

Sending love to you and your menfolk,

Mary


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 24


I lift up my eyes to the hills—
   from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
   who made heaven and earth.


He will not let your foot be moved;
   he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.


The Lord is your keeper;
   the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
   nor the moon by night.


The Lord will keep you from all evil;
   he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
   your going out and your coming in
   from this time on and for evermore.Psalm 121



Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I am so frightened now. I have had a few pains and then they go away so Joseph rarely lets me walk. The terrain is rough in these hills outside the city and we make our way at a crawl. We are bedded down for the night in a large cave, safe and secure for the moment. Everything seems so overwhelming and I have lost my buoyant nature. Everything feels heavy and ominous. Joseph is very kind and reassuring but I can't seem to shake this terror that has risen within my heart. I desperately want to be strong and really, I just want Mama.

As we ate our cold dinner of dates, nuts and figs, Joseph read the psalms we use to sing as children. I feel so far from home and from the security of childhood. I keep repeating "the Lord is your keeper", as we walk along, reciting what is so well known to both of us. Today, it doesn't seem to take away the shadows that seem to surround me. The cave is lit with a torch that Joseph fashioned. It only makes the shadows deeper but it helps us feel safer. The shepherds must use this cave in bad weather - it smells strong and musty - which makes my stomach turn a bit. Oh, but I must be brave and carry on. I pray that this long night will pass and tomorrow I will be filled with light and hope again.

Sending love and aching for prayers,

Mary

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 23


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.” Luke 1:5-25


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

We have made it to our next resting place overnight and had an uneventful trip this time. We are staying with cousin Ariel and he was recounting the story of Zachariah's dream and his silence all through your confinement. You know that he is ancient, about the same age as Zachariah (oops, sorry if that's offensive) and doesn't get around all too well. He loves regaling people with stories and always has! He happened to be in the temple when your husband was confronted by the angel, although Ariel contends that no one saw any angel in the temple that day. He thinks your husband is a bit dramatic, but then I think the whole clan is - especially the men. We're having a good visit and my bumps and bruises seem to be fading quite quickly. I suspect we will be in Bethlehem within the next few days.

Our route is taking us to some strange relatives, but it has been quite an interesting adventure. I sure wish I could tell Mama about all my experiences. It is really hard not to have her nearby. Joseph is wonderful and a good listener but he is often very quiet and doesn't engage in a lot of talking and chatter. I love talking and learning about people. He likes to sit back and observe. I have learned that what he sees and hears is helpful and so different from what I am taking in.

The road ahead over the next days is going to be challenging since the hills outside the city are rocky and uneven. The animals are sure footed but I think I will be doing quite a bit of walking although it will be slow going. Pray for a safe day or two ahead for us. Some times I get so scared of what lies ahead. The city scares me some, and I know it is because I have never really been anywhere without Mama and Papa. They took care of so much and now we are on our own.

Much love

Mary

Monday, December 19, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 22

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:1-9 


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

It seems that one day I am up and the next I am down. We moved on from the lovely home of Naomi, starting out in the twilight so as to keep ourselves hidden on these high exposed roads. The problem with traveling in the dark is that sometimes it is very hard to see and there are many dangers hiding in the shadows. The donkey I was riding stumbled over a big exposed root and I was thrown to the ground! There is no need for worry, Auntie, as the baby and I seem to be fine, but I did get scraped and bruised. My pride was also wounded and Joseph was terribly upset. He felt it was his fault but he did not cause the beast to stumble. He insisted on taking a room at a nearby inn. He also asked for a wise woman to come and look me over. She came, cleaned and bandaged the small cut and scrapes and listened to my belly. She told Joseph not worry, that the baby was encased in a great sea and was protected by these water from injury that might harm the mother. I don't think he believed her but he seemed at least to calm down a bit. I don't think he really liked hearing too much about women's bodies and our functions. She was very blunt and he was blushed ever so brightly.

We are resting here today at his insistence and will take a torch with us when we travel at night. It means we will have to use the back roads and the more hidden lanes. I am not so worried about the people who might have followed us, but Joseph is constantly looking around and worrying,  aching to protect me with all his abilities. I try to comfort him as best I know how but he worries still. We are not even parents yet and we are a mess of troubles and worries some days!

Auntie, please pray for us as the road seems ever steeper and danger ever present.

All my love,

Mary

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary letter Day 21

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,

We will be underway soon but I wanted to get this off before our next stop. We had a lovely evening at Naomi's last night. Her children are amazing musicians and they came over at dinner and we sang until late into the night. They have many instruments and play them beautifully! We were full of wonderful food and both were very sleepy when the music came to an end, yet we really didn't want it to stop. It felt so lovely and I would rather linger here with them, which already feels like home, than travel off into unknown territory. The baby kicked so much during the concert, as if he was as happy as we were.

Interestingly enough, we both have magnificent dreams. Joseph, who has been hiding his worry woke me up to tell me his dream. He was so comforted by it! The angel came again to his dreams, showing him our child, a boy with the sweetest face, standing beside him in the wood shop. They were laughing and working side by side as the angel told him not to be afraid! Amazing. I too had a dream about floating on warm water watching my boy swimming around me, laughing and splashing me. We ran out of the water and made a meal fit for kings. Joseph and other children were there and we were an family anchored in love and safety.

Auntie, it is one of those moments when I feel I can step out in faith, because these dreams have reminded us of God's promises. We held hands throughout breakfast and Joseph couldn't stop smiling. Naomi even noticed his happiness and told us how our presence has blessed her as well. So, off we go, wrapped in love and promises - and an extended family that is so supportive. More from the road!

All my love,

Mary

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 20

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:1-9

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

We are still at Naomi's home but will be on the move in by or before tomorrow. It seems that there is worry that the baby will come before we can get back home unless we get into Bethlehem as soon as we can. The wise woman that examined me yesterday said the baby mike come as soon as a week and I want to Mama to be with me when the baby comes! Maybe it is impossible but I am hanging on to this hope. Joseph has been so amazing.  After Martha, the wise woman, had finished her exam, I was terribly upset about this trip and being so far from home. I ran outside and collapsed against a tree to cry. He came and held me until I was calmer and then was so comforting. He said we would do our best to get me home and told me how beautiful I am. I know I look huge and feel so ugly right now but he really lifted my spirits. He has spent the rest of the day planning our trip and the shortest and most efficient road to travel. He is trying so hard to make this complicated travel smooth and to avoid the rough roads.

We will sleep here tonight and then get moving during the day tomorrow. We will be moving through cliffs and will be well hidden from the main roads. We don't make great time since I walk slow and get tired so easily. Joseph said that the donkeys can carry me as much as I need, but I do not want to be a real burden. He has become so strong and kind and I feel like I can lean on him for everything .His strength was hidden when my parents were around but now, I am so grateful for my husband! How could I ever doubted? Life is so full of surprises and we can never guess who will rise to the occasion. I guess some times I too am surprising - one minute I say yes to God and the next I break down in tears! This road of faith is never smooth and God chooses the weak as well as the strong.

God bless you and your family!

love,


Mary

Friday, December 16, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 19


When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen!” Matthew 11:2-15

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I was going to write today to Mama and Papa, but we have been warned not to contact them at present, as there are some people from our village who mean to do us harm and are willing to follow us to do so. Can you imagine? I didn't realize how anxious and worried my folks were and are, and how much they protected me while I was at home. It gives me a new appreciation of what parents do for their young, and how complicated life can get.

We are staying with a cousin of Joseph, up in the hills, and we woke up to a dusting of snow! I felt like a little girl since we never have snow at home! I went out and took a handful, cold and wet, and threw it in the air. God's creation is at once familiar and remarkable, astounding and comforting. Cousin Naomi is a widow living in these high hills in her own home. Her grown children live nearby but she seems to enjoy rambling around in this house by herself. She is quite a hostess and had fed us constantly since we arrived. She wants me to be checked by her friend who is a wise woman, to make sure the baby has not been aversely affected by the travel so far. Such kindness, I never expected. She also has wonderful stories and loves to sit and tell them all day long while I rest.

Well, I hope you will communicate with Mama and Papa on our behalf. I don't want them to suffer unduly and want to reassure them we are doing fine. Please pray for us and for them in these strange times.

Much love,


Mary

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary letter Day 18


In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:1-12

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

it looks as if this might be my last letter for some time to you. We are planning on moving tonight, not very far but an hour or so to cousin Martha who has room for us. We will stay another day or two since I am slow as it is and want to see everyone we can as we travel. Our visit here with Sarah has been wonderful and I surely wish I could take my sister with me on the road. I have also enjoyed my time with Hannah and we seem to have become best friends. I thought her mama might resent our closeness but she was overjoyed having another women to occupy Hannah and to play with her. She is quite a busy child and so very smart. I know from experience it can be challenging to be a smart girl, curious about the world and wanting to learn and read everything. I look forward to a time when she is older and we can share more together.

I have had some moments lately of deep worry for both of us - dear Auntie - you and me. We have been given such a big burden to carry and I often feel inadequate for the challenge. I have no doubt that God has promised to be with us every step of the way, but some days are much harder than others. Some days I just want to be standing in the warm sun, hanging clothes with my mother and talking idly. But that is not our lot in life. We have been called to be carriers of God's good news, the frontline of God's love for the world. I gladly accept but with great fear and trembling.

Please pray for our every step as there might still be so much treachery to face.

love always,

Mary 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 17


The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:1-8

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

We woke up this morning quite late since it was cool and unusually overcast. We sat together, Joseph and I, watching the world around us. The shepherds were out calling to one another and they broke into song. Their song floated on the breeze to us. "Remember your words to your servant, your words have given me hope."  Every day, despite our mounting anxieties and worries, we are reminded of God's faithfulness. Jeremiah, my brother in law, called to us to come and eat and we came down from the roof, me very slowly, and joined the family. We are resting here while the plans for travel are finalized. We hit a snag or two, since most of the relatives in Bethlehem are filled to capacity already.

Mama sent a message of love and encouragement ahead of us. It warmed my heart since she had been so strict and seemingly angry these last days. I realize now she has been so worried and anxious for us and especially for me. A mother's love is an extraordinary thing - both tender and fierce! I guess very soon I too will become both a gentle song and a fierce lion!

Please give little John a big hug for me. I wish I could just come to your house now and play with the baby rather than planning and venturing into strange places and times.

Much love,

Mary

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 16

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:2-7

Dear Auntie,

we are camped out here with Sarah. We left last night under cover of darkness, slowly making the two hour trek over some rough terrain. Little Hannah was so brave and unwilling for a long time to ride on the donkey. She finally got so tired that she nearly fell on her face, and so they put her on the animal with me. Joseph and Papa were concerned that folks would follow us and try to hurt us but it was an uneventful trip, despite the rough road and our slow caravan, we made it safely to my sister's home. It was very late and we had to rouse the house, although her husband Gabriel was trying to wait up and had fallen asleep on the porch.

Last night as we walked in silence in the night, I was reminded of the psalms we used to sing together. "the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light." The moon rose up over us and was a bright reminder of God's constant care for us. Despite the human reactions and rejections, our walk with the Divine continues. The beautiful moonlight surrounded us and little Hannah was illuminated in my arms. Her face shone as she slept so peacefully, resting on my swollen belly. I do believe these children understand best the presence and love of God within and without.

We had a nice little meal and then set up our beds on the roof in the moonlight. I fell asleep cradled in Joseph's arms. We were so tired we dropped off to sleep quickly as the moon rolled over us in the sky. Auntie, I awoke this morning knowing God is with us. We have so much to do today, planning our route and making arrangements as to where we will stay. We have sent word to Joseph's family in Bethlehem but so far we don't know whether they can house us during the registration time.

Love to all,

Mary



Monday, December 12, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 15

Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”
While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!” Luke 22:39-53

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

we had a wonderful celebration last night, with food and music. It was so nice to have everyone around the table, laughing and singing. Some even got up and danced! I was so full that I got sleepy but fortunately the baby was dancing to the music and wouldn't let me take my rest. It hit me after everyone left, how hard it is to be going away. I know this is for a short time but somehow it seems like an eternity. I wish Mama (or even better you!) could come with us and yet I know she can't. I am usually brave and excited about travel but right now I feel weak and near to tears. We will accompany Hannah and Sarah to their house for a few days and then continue on our journey. At least we will be surrounded by loved ones a little longer.

I couldn't get to sleep so I want outside and sat looking at the heavens. Last night was a clear night and the moon was as round and pregnant as I am! The cool air calmed by pounding heart and my racing mind. From here on out everything will be different and I want to remember all the sights and sounds of this, the only home I've ever known. The stars were hard to see because of the moon glow, but I lay backed and prayed for guidance. I almost fell off the wall I was reclining on, so finally gave up and went inside. My prayers were answered and I was able to sleep. Dear Auntie, I will have to write to Mama and Papa, as well as you, so my letters will be less frequent. Please know that I love you no less, just have a bigger job to do in the coming days.

Love always,

Mary


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 14


When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:2-11


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

We are getting close to leaving home but it will have to wait until tomorrow at the earliest. Joseph has to finish up a big project that he has been doing for our neighbors. They will pay him when he is finished and he wants to have plenty of money for our trip. Papa says it could wait and would lend him the money, but oh, not Joseph, he is too proud and likes to do things right. Mama thinks he's just stalling but I know he is a man of his word, gentle and with a deep strength that many don't see it. We're going to have a big feast before we leave and Mama is making all sorts of goodies and all of my favorite dishes. It's like a birthday celebration but I know it will be hard for all of us. Parting and going off into the unknown is scary for all of us. We have been together for so long and now everything will change.

Auntie, I have been thinking about your beautiful little boy and wondering how he is growing. I know that he is going to grow up to do wonderful things, and make the world a better place. God has promised that to you. And God has made great promises to me also about this child who has changed my life entirely already. He's not even here and everything is upside down and the nothing is the same. Mama wants me to be more practical and forget about the dreams. She wants me to let go of the hopes and dreams I have but I cannot. I have to follow God, even though it means leaving everything I know behind. My heart is overflowing and breaking too. I am excited and terrified. I ask for your prayers now more than ever.

Much love

Mary




Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 13



 ‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’
 He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’ He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough.’  Luke 22:31-38



Dear Auntie,

It looks tomorrow is the day. We will begin our travel at twilight, and travel with Hannah to her house for a night or two. I feel betrayed by her! She seemed to have agreed with Mama that I am troubled and over-zealous for God. They both think I'm delusional. I get it. The story seems impossible, that God would use me to bring the child of the Almighty into the world. But I have seen the impossible when I was with you. A silent husband and a pregnant elder - God has a sense of humor in all of this and no one seems to understand.

Well, I better get busy with packing. They have secured a set of mules to carry me and our belongings on this trip. We have a few nights on the road when we sill stay with friends and family. Hannah would have us stay for a better part of the week but Joseph thinks we need to get on our way and I agree with him. They don't seem to listen to either of us, but oh well, we will gird ourselves and remember all of God's promises. Some days the small mindedness of people weakens my resolve but then there is a beautiful sunset and I cannot do anything but pray and trust that Yahweh goes along with us.

love you,

Mary

Friday, December 9, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 12


When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
“You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Luke 22:14-30

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

this waiting and confusion has gotten me in a very sad and reflective mood. I know in my heart I am God's servant, but the people around me are treating me like a helpless child in trouble. I have never been anything but faithful and a good daughter. My parents act supportive and try to be loving, but there is doubt in their eyes and I have overheard them talking to Sarah about what a fool I am. She tries to defend me and talks about your miracle child, but they are just too worried and parental to think anything but that this is my fault and my delusions. Only little Hannah accepts me totally, doesn't care what's going on among the adults, and just wants me to play with her. She is my antidote for all that is a mess right now.

The preparations for our journey continue with a vengeance. Mama has recruited some women friends to come and help her sew and cook. They sit in the kitchen and gossip all the time, which just seems to upset me. One lady came into my room and asked me about my breasts and my nipples! She wanted to see them, can you imagine! She looked at me and touched me and said I would be fine, but to make sure I used fat and creams to make nursing easier. She's the mother of my friend Anna! I was so embarrassed! Mama later told me that she is the expert in the area and was just helping me but it was quite a shock! All these things to learn about being a mother but I am more worried about being faithful and following where God leads. They all think I am just some foolish girl but I know that there is much more to the story.

much love,

Mary


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 11


Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?” “Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘ He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. Luke 22:1-13

Dear Auntie Elizabeth,

Today was like the days before Passover, a madness of preparation, cleaning and packing. Although we probably won't leave for several days, we thought it best to make sure everything was ready and packed for the journey. The plan is to take several detours to stay with family along the way, so that I am not tired or hurt on the journey. I am not made of glass but they act like it!

Sarah came today! My beautiful sister and her daughter Hannah are staying for a time until we get going and will accompany us to their home for our first nights. She brought hand me downs from Hannah for the baby, so in case I deliver on the journey I will have some things. It is so fun to have them here and it makes my confinement during the day so much easier. We seemed to spend all day around the table, cooking, eating, laughing and sewing. I forgot how wonderful it is to have her around. And Hannah! She is such a bright and curious child and she loves Joseph. He kept her busy playing games outside while we cooked and chatted away.

I am tired tonight but that sweet sleepiness of a full day of laughter and conversation. Surrounded by family makes the days go quickly, especially when it's Sarah. She has a way of making everything fun. She always tried to make me laugh when we were growing up. She thinks it's hilarious when I laugh so hard I spit out my drink. She is the best big sister a girl could ever hope for. I hope I am as good a mother as she is!

Goodnight with love,

Mary

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letters Day 10


Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 7:53—8:11

Dear Auntie,

I am always amazed at how one day I can be so full of hope and faith and the very next my heart is on the ground. We were well asleep last night when someone threw rocks at our home, rousing us all in a panic. Papa went outside and found notes tied to the rocks which declared me to be a sinner, a fallen woman, and my parents sinners as well.  They threatened violence to us as well. Papa tossed the notes in the fire but it was clear that he was terribly shook up. I learned from Mama what the notes had said this morning when Joseph arrived to continue to plan with my father. None of us got much sleep after that.

I insisted that they include me in the discussions since it had a bearing on my life directly. Reluctantly they agreed. I understand the men want to protect me and I love them for it. I also know that I need to be strong and aware as possible during these treacherous times. Despite the hurt and anger I feel, I am compelled to do everything in my power to protect the child, the promise of God within me. People can be so cruel and mean. Why is that? I know you too had some challenges during your pregnancy from stupid and cruel people. I hope you will lift me up in prayer as my spirits are surely flagging. More tomorrow.

All my love,

Mary

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 9


Then Jesus told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple. Luke 21:29-38

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

last night it was cool and dry and I sat for a good long while out underneath the big fig tree in our yard. We have a soft reclining couch we take outside at night and I stayed out there quite late. I enjoy my evenings outside, since during the day it is too dangerous for me. Daylight hour I spend reading, as much as I can get my hands on. We will not be able to take anything but food and necessities on our journey. I was reflecting on the many stories about Miriam last night after having read her story again during the day. I think I dozed off for a time and have a wondrous dream. I saw the baby within me as a grown man, and love and peace radiated from him. He was teaching to a large crowd, which was filled with rich and poor alike. These words came to me from the Psalms of David -

Blessed is the LORD!
for you have heard the voice of my prayer.
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in you, and I have been helped;
Therefore my heart dances for joy,
and in my song will I praise you.
You, O LORD, are the strength of your people,
a safe refuge for your anointed.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
shepherd them and carry them for ever.

After so much worry and anxiety surrounding me, I felt light and safe for the first time in many days. It is so easy to give into fear, but I want to trust God completely and be a vessel for love and compassion, not a container for guilt, pain and fear. I had a brief glimpse into what God has in store, and I know this child has so much to teach me and to give to the world. I just pray I am strong and faithful in what I have been given.

Much love,

Mary


Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary Letter Day 8


Jesus said, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:20-28

Dear Auntie,

I am so frightened! Last night old friends of my parents stopped by after returning from a trip to the cities. They told us that there are armed soldiers everywhere and they said it felt like a city at war. Little Bethlehem wasn't much better. The official word is that the soldiers are there for crowd control since so many will be flooding in to be registered. They recommended that we be very circumspect as we travel. We too will join that crowd in a war zone! Pappa and Joseph stayed up late last night plotting our trip and trying to figure the safest way for us to go. Of course, they excluded me from the conversation. I could help and I will be one of the two people traveling!

I am getting larger and larger by the day. I have totally lost my center of gravity and balance is a big problem, as is getting up from a chair. I am also growing very pale as I am inside so much. When I try to go outside in the sunshine Mama blocked the door with her substantial body. I may be big right now but I am no match for Mama!

Please keep us in your prayers as it looks we will be going sooner than later. The trip is now longer with stops with relatives and friends along the way. I really want to get there quickly so I can get home to have this child, but the men seem to know what's best for me. I'm praying for patience!

much love,

Mary

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent 2016 Mary letter day 7




ln those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,
 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the
prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist,
 and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and
 all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they
 were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism,
 he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee
 from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as
our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to
 raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at
 the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear
 good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is
more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy
to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy
 Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and
 he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his
wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn
with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:1-12

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I am sorry I didn't write yesterday. I got to sit
 outside in the early morning and was
enjoying the song of the birds and the
 gentle breeze when I became quite faint.
Mama rushed to my side and made me
 go right to bed, refusing to let me up at all.
She fed me broth and worried over me all
day and into the night. Her recent anger has
 turned to worry, for which I am grateful.
 I wasn'the sick, but just dizzy. I guess she
thought the babe might be coming. All is
well though, and Joseph was here all day
 as well. They'really finally making room for
 him,  as he is my husband.

I got up today and washed myself. Auntie,
 I cannot believe how huge my belly is!
 The babe likes to kick a good bit but he
 must be squashed up inside me. It is all
 such a mystery, such a blessing, and also
 so confusing. At least for us. Following  God
 demands such patience, such trust in the
 dark and a willingness to go blindly forward.
 I know you can understand.  At least your
 husband was silent throughout your
 pregnancy!  I've got people telling me
 what to do and how to do it every minute
 of the day. I think they believe they are
 helping, but sometimes, it is such a pain!
 Well, I best get back to my preparations  .
 We have a big journey ahead and I am huge
 -such a challenge for us all.

Love forever,

Mary