Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas 1 - Mary letter 28

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 testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known. John 1:1-18

Dear Mama,

I find myself singing and wonder if this is a very old song you taught me or whether it is something that I learned elsewhere or just made up?

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; 
    for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
    the Almighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him 
    in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, 
    he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
    and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
    for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
    to Abraham and his children for ever.

I have scoured the Psalms of David in my memory but do find it. I have asked Joseph and others and they do not know where it comes from. Yet I cannot help but sing it and hope to sing it for you or even better, with you, when I get home. I miss you and Papa so much and wish you could watch the daily progress of this beautiful little one. I know every mother thinks that their child is perfect, but I do believe I might have a bit of an edge on others.

Sending you so much love and the print of his feet,

Mary





Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas - Mary letter 27


Then Jesus came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee. John 4:46-54 

Dear Auntie,

I am feeling stronger every day and I think this little one is gaining a pound every day. He is voraciously hungry, and once he is full, he smiles and gurgles to delight us. The joy that he brings us is extraordinary. And at the same time, I seem to worry every minute, more and more every day. Anyone that comes by here to see him, and many do, raises my protective instincts. I am suspicious, although I never was before.  In truth, he is a miracle worker when people are around. They smile and seemed filled with great joy.

The wise women are keeping me from doing much, wanting me to heal up and stay away from crowds for a bit longer. Joseph reports that the streets are very crowded during the day, and going to the market is taking your life in your hands. He is very brave, and fetches what we need. The women have also been baking extra bread for us and sharing vegetables from their gardens. Not having any where to cook has been a bit of a challenge.  But we seem always to have enough, even though I worry. We are really looking forward to returning home, as I cannot wait to see the looks on Mama and Papa's faces when they see this beautiful boy!

Sending love to you are your sweet family,

Mary

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas - Mary letter 26


I love you, O LORD my strength, O LORD my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.
 My God, my rock in whom I put my trust, my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;
you are worthy of praise.
 I will call upon the LORD, and so shall I be saved from my enemies.
The breakers of death rolled over me, and the torrents of oblivion made me afraid.
The cords of hell entangled me, and the snares of death were set for me.
 I called upon the LORD in my distress and cried out to my God for help.
 You heard my voice from your heavenly dwelling; my cry of anguish came to your ears.
The earth reeled and rocked; the roots of the mountains shook; they reeled because of your anger.

Smoke rose from your nostrils and a consuming fire out of your mouth; hot burning coals blazed forth from you.
You parted the heavens and came down with a storm cloud under your feet.
You mounted on cherubim and flew; you swooped on the wings of the wind.
 You wrapped darkness about you; you made dark waters and thick clouds your pavilion.
 From the brightness of your presence, through the clouds, burst hailstones and coals of fire.
 O LORD, you thundered out of heaven; O Most High, you uttered your voice.
You loosed your arrows and scattered them; you hurled thunderbolts and routed them.
The beds of the seas were uncovered, and the foundations of the world laid bare, at your battle cry, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
You reached down from on high and grasped me; you drew me out of great waters.

You delivered me from my strong enemies and from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster; but the LORD was my support.
 You brought me out into an open place; you rescued me because you delighted in me. Psalm 18:1-20


Dearest Elizabeth,

Maybe it is the lack of sleep at night, but I sometimes feel like I am in a dream. I am a mother, with a child so totally dependent on me! Throughout my pregnancy and all the troubles that surrounded us, I never imagined what living with this baby might be like. I had no younger siblings, so I didn't have the experience of night feedings and constant diaper changes. I also didn't get to see the moment by moment changes and growth in a child. It is extraordinary, and exhausting all at the same time. I'm never sure if I am going to cry or laugh, sometimes with joy and sometimes being completely overhwlemed. Sometimes I feel at sea and Joseph has no idea how to respond.

The local woman have been showering me with advice, clucking around me like over protective hens. I do appreciate their help and guidance since Mama is not here, but they are a almost constant presence, making sure I do things right. To be fair, they also watch the baby if I need to sleep during the day. They are more than happy to take him off my hands for an hour or two, so I really can't complain. I am just missing you and Mama.

I am sure I will look back on this time with joy and amazement. Today though, I am overwhelmed and feeling both lonely and suffocated. I want to be home, some place I know where everything is and where I can be myself completely as I learn this new role that has changed everything!

Asking for prayers and sending love,

Mary

 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas - Mary letter 25


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 Mama,

I cannot get enough of this child. In him I feel that heaven has come down to earth as I hold him sleeping in my arms. His breath is sweet, on my neck, as he relaxes after feeding. Joseph thinks I hold him too much and I should put him down, but I can hardly let go, I love him so. I know that God has given us this little one for a much bigger purpose, but right now, in this humble, austere place, I can adore him and have him all to myself. I am sure every mother feels that her child is perfect and a gift from God. He is no more than any other baby, and yet he is. And he is here with us, in these meager circumstances, as we wait to come home again.

Joseph has been making sure I rest and eat. The wise women come several times daily, to check on me, they say. Really, they love holding my little boy, giving me a cursory check and then running to him. It is comical! Joseph has gone off to find out where he needs to register. Yesterday, he went to an office nearby and they sent him on a run around. He never did get to the right place. He is trying again today. The wise women bring us all sorts of food, as if we were royalty or something! They are really taking good care and seem thrilled to have a baby nearby.

I wish I could send you a good picture of him. My drawing skills are no good, but I will ask around and see if there is someone who draw a picture of my little son, your grandson!

love always,

Mary

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas - Mary letter 24


O sing to the Lord a new song,
   for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
   have gained him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
   he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
   to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
   the victory of our God.


Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.


Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. Psalm 98


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I am feeling stronger every day, but the wise women feel I should try to be safe and stay here with the baby for the next while. They want to protect me! They have no idea what we have been through and Who brought us this far, but I keep quiet knowing they would think me a lunatic for telling them my story. They have been extraordinarily kind, bringing soups to strengthen me, washing the baby's soiled linens and generally fussing over us like they were my mother. I miss Mama terribly but have plenty of local substitutes. They also boss me around just like Mama does!

We are visited by the shepherds now on a regular basis.  They are still in shock and awe of the angels' message, and want to make sure that we are real. They bring milk and cheese every time they come. We are overwhelmed with good food! The innkeeper brings us fresh fruit and has asked Joseph to do small jobs to pay our keep. That makes Joseph very happy and keeps us safe and sound for now. I try to walk around this cavernous space, but there are times when the animals wander in and we have large, loud company. The dear woman of the house keeps cleaning up around us. I know she does it so she can see and play with the baby, and I for one am glad for her attentiveness.

I myself can't help but look with wonder at this marvelous child. Perfect in every thing! Tiny toes and fingers, sweet lips and gorgeous eyes! I know all mothers feel this way about their babies, but oh, I can't help but kiss him and snuggle close at every possible moment!

Sending love from this humble and glorious place!

Mary


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas - Mary Letter 23




Jesus said, "Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Matthew 23:34-39 





Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Our little baby boy has arrived, healthy and hungry! I am grateful for the midwife and the wise women  our landlady found, for learning how to care for him and feed him has been a struggle. We thought we had plenty of diapers, but it became clear in the first hours that we were totally mistaken. The women have also helped me understand how to feed him, helping me relax into the whole process. Phoebe and Luke, the innkeepers here, have also been so kind and generous. They were gruff and suspicious at first, but somehow the presence of this child has softened them. There have been many people who come and marvel at this child! As if there aren't babies born everyday! Somehow, people know there is something different going on and the star overhead at night seems to help affirm that.

Oh, Auntie, I so wish you were here to show me the ropes. I wrote Mama yesterday but I have kept the hard parts from her. She doesn't need to know the worst of our journey. Yet, I wish she was one of the elder women gathered around. Her soft voice and kind heart always have helped me in the past. Now, I have to be brave and be a mother to this remarkable boy without her instruction. I want to hold him and protect him always. I wish he could stay small and cling to me forever, yet I know he cannot. He is getting bigger and stronger by the minute!

Sending love always,

Mary

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Day - Mary letter 22

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 Mama,

the little boy is here, healthy and so very much alive. All the troubles we encounter en-route seem frivolous now that he is here. Our journey had been overwhelmingly difficult and when we finally got to Bethlehem, there was no where for us to stay. A kind innkeeper and his wife had pity on us and let us use their barn, more of a cave. The set the animals out to pasture and clean everything with new straw. Almost immediately my pains started in earnest and the kind woman of the house went and got the wise women and the midwife. Oh, Mama, I was overwhelmed with pain and didn't think I would make it through. Poor Joseph was undone by my hollering but knew better than to interfere. The midwife was so kind and gentle and helped me with such a soothing voice and supportive way. The women had all sorts of necessities ready for me and kept giving me small sips of water and wiping my brow. When the arrived, it was as if the pain was immediately forgotten and my world changed forever for the better! I was filled with gratitude and joy. When Joseph came in and held the boy, he couldn't hold back the tears!

Mama, the most amazing things have happened overnight. Once the local women left us alone, and we were about to sleep, shepherds arrived, so late in the night that we thought trouble was brewing. We wondered whether we should let them in. But instead they told us a fantastic story. God sent them angels while they were out in the fields, and they were the first to come and see this boy, this gift from heaven, God incarnate! They knelt and looked at him with such joy and admiration! We hardly knew what to say or do. Little Jesus let them near and did not cry, but reached for each as if they were his family. We have barely slept for all this joy. And we were told that there is a star above this humble barn, that will not fade night and day. We were trying to be so inconspicuous, and now we have a star flashing like the biggest fire ever built.

Oh, Mama, I am so tired but so bursting with love and joy. The woman of the house is sending visitors away for now, until I get some rest. Everyone wants to see the little one since the shepherds left here and broadcast their story far and wide! How I wish you were here! Please tell Papa I love him and miss you both terribly!

love

Mary

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Advent 4 - Mary letter 21


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 1:26-38

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Just a fast note to say the pains have begun. I am terrified and excited, missing Mama and you terribly at this moment. Joseph has left me alone for a time, to get us some provisions. We couldn't find a room wherever we went, but these people had pity on us and let us stay in their barn. It is rough but they cleaned it nicely for us and put down new straw  everywhere. Their animals are grazing outside, and since the weather is good, they probably will stay outside. The inkeeper's wife, who is named Phoebe, has been so kind. She has sent for the wise woman and the midwife to help me through this. Joseph has no idea what to do, besides squeezing my hand too tight!

Auntie, I said yes to God and I want to keep saying yes, but I am so scared. And the pains are regular and overwhelming. The angel said nothing is impossible with God. Yes, I agree. I only wish that our Lord had found a way to relieve me of this intense cramping. Oh, dear, here come the women to help.
I must go and let them in before another pain comes. May God be in the midst of this and make me strong despite my tears.

love always,

Mary

 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Advent 3 - Mary letter 20


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,

I write to you from Bethlehem,  this holy city which has been turned into a market and freak show because of this silly census. We have knocked on the door of small and large inns and no one has room for us. We saved up our money to be here and to stay in a safe place, but no one will have us. I am so tired and brokenhearted with humanity. Everyone seems out for the money. When people see how pregnant I am they turn their backs, not wanted the mess. Can you believe the selfishness and the cruelty?

Auntie, I also don't know what to do. I started cramping a little bit this morning and then it stopped but it feels like the baby is coming any moment. I don't want to scare Joseph but the truth is, we need a safe place for the birth to happen here. It is very evident that I am not going to make it home which makes me very sad. I told Joseph we really, really need to find a place. He doesn't feel the urgency that I do. I feel like my whole being is about to explode! Oh, how I wish you were here with me!

After this rest we will continue to search for a place to lodge. Joseph has gone off to find some distant cousins that may have an idea where we could stay. I keep fall asleep under this tree where I am sitting. Some cruel person said I was not allowed to camp here and tried to shoo me away. I told him I was waiting for my husband. When he saw my swollen belly he got very quiet and then left me alone. I do hope Joseph returns soon, I don't think I could take another encounter like that!

please pray for us, we need it so!

love,

Mary

Friday, December 22, 2017

Advent 3 - Mary letter 19

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


Dearest Mama,

Joseph and I send love and our prayers. We are staying on the outskirts of Bethlehem with Papa's cousin Ruth. She has been so kind to us. The weather has turned cold in these hills and there has been some snow, so we won't be venturing until there is better weather. Joseph is very thoughtful and cautious, trying to make sure I am safe and comfortable. This journey has been very slow and I seem to grow bigger by the hour, even though I can eat very little at a time. There is no room in there!
Ruth and others think the baby will be coming soon. I am hoping to be home again when that happens.

Mama, although we are not even in the city we can see the lights and sometimes even hear the people. Last night, the longest darkness of the year, we stood outside and listened to the wind carry voices and wondered what we are facing. I have never been to a city this big and crowded. Joseph assures me that he can handle it all, so I will lean heavily on him for support and strength. He is going to the local market today to gather food and other provisions. Word has it that the vendors in Bethlehem are charging double because of the census crowds. Ruth has also made me some wonderful cakes that travel well, and is giving us dried fruit from her very own trees.

Mama, please assure Papa that I am reading and reciting my psalms. Sometimes Joseph and I even sing together the ones we know. It makes the walking easier and the time pass so sweetly. Although I miss you terribly, I trust that God goes with us. And I know you are a fierce prayer warrior, praying for us night and day.

sending so much love,

Mary

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Advent 3 - Mary letter 18

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,

We could see the lights of the Holy city as we walked last night. Our journey is nearing it's end. Well, at least the walking and traveling part of this journey.  I feel like  the baby will be coming very soon. He isn't moving as much as before and seems to be ever closer to my knees than my chest. I had started to walk in a waddle, like a drunken duck or a silly bird. Joseph is patient and amazed with all of these changes in me. He is not horrified or worried it seems. He has proven over and over again to be the calm, steady force in the confusing and discombobulated world. I am grateful daily for his constancy.

We stayed overnight in the hills with another cousin. His name is Joseph too, a bachelor shepherd who lives in a small dwelling to be near his sheep. He spends most nights out watching the herd, and gave us a comfortable place to rest for the night. He was very awkward around me though. Obviously, he really didn't know how to feel about our story. He heard from the relatives about our promises from God, but hearing and understanding are two very different things. He is shy but kind, and gave us delicious food this morning. My Joseph is out helping his cousin with the sheep, as they have to carry the water a great distance for the sheep.  He is happy to have chores like that to do, I am sure. Hanging out, day in and day out, with an emotional pregnant lady must not be fun. I don't even find myself fun these days!

I will be setting out some supper for them in a while. We found some fresh fruit as we were walking, so that will be a great addition to our meal. I can only eat a little at a time, and yet I seem to be hungry all the time!

much love,

Mary

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Advent 3 - Mary letter 17

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.Psalm 119:49-56



Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I have recovered from my fall somewhat so we proceeded a few miles last night to another cousin's house. As we were walking in the twilight, I saw a small boy attending sheep all alone. I couldn't help but see my little boy in him, strong and able, yet out there all alone. I began to realize I have no idea how to be a mother, let alone the mother of the incarnate one! Oh, dear, I feel so inadequate and small. I write to you as not to frighten Mama, nor worry Joseph. You might just understand my sense of inadequacy. This is a huge responsibility for any woman, bringing a child into the world and keeping the child safe, and yet for me, this is a bigger burden, a huge deal, really. And I dare not tell anyone for they would think me crazy and take the baby away once he arrives!

Last night, after a lovely late supper from Anne and Jacob, we settled in for the night. I had a hard time falling asleep. It is hard to get this enormous mass, that is me right now, comfortable. As soon as I settle, the child decides it is time for dance practice! When I did sleep I had very troubling dreams. I saw people taking the baby from me as soon as he was born! They shouted that I was not good enough, a bad mother and all sorts of horrid things. I woke up crying and screaming. This dream only reinforced my sense of inadequacy and confusion. Joseph was very kind, calming me, rubbing my back and singing psalms to me. I still don't understand how one minute he can be so perfectly caring and the next he is oblivious, but he really does try. Are these dreams normal when we get close to delivery? Oh how I wish you and Mama and all the women I trust could be with me now. The delivery feels very close, and I have no idea how to handle it all.

Pray for me as I pray for you and your family.

love always,

Mary

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Advent 3 - Mary letter 16


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,

Things have gone from bad to worse on this trip. Joseph has been frustrated with the delays, due to our changing routes and my need for rest and relief. Last night he was trying to hurry, I was riding, and the animal pulled back from him and I fell off! Now do not worry, I am all right and the baby is all right too! We are going to rest in this place for a day or two, as I am very bruised and sore, and Joseph is blaming himself since he was rushing. In trying to avoid the crowds on the main roads, we have made everything harder for him, well actually, for both of us. A nice couple has offered us accommodations, although it may be at a higher price than we can afford, but Joseph is insisting we stop for a few days before the final push to Bethlehem.

The weather is much colder up here in the high hills, and we have to dress warmer when we next set out. There is so much that is unpredictable, so much that is out of our control! I am ashamed to say that I get angry sometimes and blame Joseph. I always ask his forgiveness, since he did not ask for this and is doing his best in all things. He snaps at me on occasion too, but mostly keeps quiet and thoughtful while I fall apart. I am so enormous and unwieldy, and now, the bumps and bruises make even lying down uncomfortable. Our landlady has brought soup and bread and some tea she promises to help me to sleep. She is very anxious, though. I overheard her say to her husband that the last thing she wanted was the mess of a woman giving birth in her guest room!

I will keep you posted. For now we will rest and try to quiet our hearts and minds. This journey and this child are God's. We are feeling very alone since we really cannot confide in people who this child belongs to. They would all shun us and send us away. Yet, we keep praying and trusting that God is walking with us, falling with us, stumbling along with us. I am carrying the Incarnate One! How can this be, and yet here we are, on the road to a new future!

Please keep praying for us!

love,

Mary

Monday, December 18, 2017

Advent 3 - Mary letter 15



To the leader. A Psalm of David.
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 Aunt Elizabeth,

I have written to Mama and Papa these past few days, telling them how good the trip is going. I have been very careful as to what I say so as not to upset them. I think I can confide in you, though. This has been a very hard trip indeed. Traveling after dark, hiding from those who would follow us and harm us, living like refuges off the kindness of others has proven very hard for us. There is no where we feel safe and we sleep very little. The baby seems to be anxious and nervous too, moving around and kicking me so much! I am so glad he is vigorous and I am so exhausted!

I don't think Joseph understands me and why I am fearful of being away from home and family. He is accustomed to being on his own but I am not. I have to stop frequently when we are traveling to relieve myself, and that seems to irritate him so much. He doesn't know what to do if I start crying - and it happens quite often these days - so he walks away and busies himself. He is a good man and very gentle but sometimes he is clueless and then I feel so all alone. I stood out in the night air last night, praying for our safety and that I can continue to be strong, although I feel like I will fall apart at any minute. I try to remember the promises of the angel, and that does renew my strength.

love always,

Mary

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent 3 - Mary letter 14


The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,  because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,  to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,  and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,  the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,  they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,  the devastations of many generations.
For I the Lord love justice,  I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense,  and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,  and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge  that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,  my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, the has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,  and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,  and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11


Dear Mama and Papa,

the going has been slow, us traveling after twilight, but it has been safe. I do not want you to worry although I know you do. Joseph is very careful and thoughtful, and we stop often for water and a small meal. The wise women at Miriam's suggested I east small meals and drink plenty of water. They also told Joseph to go very slow, since they know folks in Bethlehem and along the way who could help us. Amos and Joseph had designed a route that will take us over more hilly and hidden country, roads that are not big highways but rather small "goat" paths. Several of their relatives are shepherds who know the hills and will keep their eyes out for us along the way.

We stayed last night in a shepherds shelter. It was really quite pleasant, although the sheep can get very noisy if disturbed. Since we arrived very late they put up a fuss, but Simon and Josiah, the shepherds, calmed them and then heated us some soup and shared some bread. We slept while they watched their flocks.

I am still getting used to being a wife and calling Joseph my husband. We have lived under such unusual circumstances that something so normal as husband and wife seems strange. We are able to be quiet as well as talk as we travel since the pace is slow and never terribly long. As we share our hearts, I see more and more of God working in us. I understand better that these small trials are just that - small. God is in the midst of this journey, we are safe and cared for along the way,  despite the short sighted people and despite those who would shame us for our faith. God is doing a new thing with us and we have so much to learn.

Thank you both for loving me so well, and giving me the strength and faith to answer God's call. Pray I remain strong and faithful.

love always,


Mary

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 13

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
   whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the
Lord imputes no iniquity,
   and in whose spirit there is no deceit.


While I kept silence, my body wasted away
   through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
   my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
         

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
   and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the
Lord’,
   and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
 
Therefore let all who are faithful
   offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
   shall not reach them.
You are a hiding-place for me;
   you preserve me from trouble;
   you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
          
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
   I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
   whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
   else it will not stay near you.


Many are the torments of the wicked,
   but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the
Lord.
Be glad in the
Lord and rejoice, O righteous,
   and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
  Psalm 32


Dear Mama,

Joseph and I got the message from Papa. We promise to be very careful, so please don't worry about me so much. It is remarkable that people are so angry with us that they would follow us and try to do us harm. They must have seen Joseph and I went we went to the local market for some fresh fruit! We have been well cared for along the way, and all the friends and relatives we have visited with have been very, very kind. We only go a little way each night and I ride on the burro when I can. Tonight we will be traveling over some rocks and hills, so Joseph has decreased our trip to just a few miles before we rest for the night.

Last night, here at Miriam and Amos' home, we thought we would start our journey again, but we got Papa's note and Amos insisted we stay another night while the men figured out a new route. As they were pouring over maps and discussing the many routes we could take, I went out into their garden. The moon was bright and it felt like it was shining brighter for us. Like the Lord was reminding us of the constancy and presence of God's love. We are never alone nor abandoned. Yet, in this world there are people who refuse to see God in their midst. This little one, who is kicking so fiercely even now making it hard to write, is God incarnate in the world.  He is hidden within for a time, but it won't be too long now before he is revealed. I pray that people will be kinder then.

Mama, I love you and Papa so much. I know all of this has been so hard and troubling for you and you have been punished and mistreated by the community. Thank you for loving me despite the grave consequences you have endured. Thank you for helping me be a vessel for the living God.

love always,

Mary

Friday, December 15, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 12


Happy are those
   who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
   or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
   and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
   planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
   and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.


The wicked are not so,
   but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
   nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
   but the way of the wicked will perish.


Psalm 1

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I wrote Mama yesterday to tell her we were staying an extra day with cousins Miriam and Amos. They are so very kind to us! When I woke yesterday morning I was very sick and Miriam nursed me as if I was her own child. We wanted to travel today but they wouldn't let us. She wanted to make sure everything was all right so she called for the wise women to come and examine me.

Well, the first time I was examined was pretty embarrassing, but this was over the top!  They had be strip everything off and then proceeded to examine me thoroughly - and I mean thoroughly! They were quite gentle but it still felt like I was completely and utterly exposed. There was a good deal of clucking and aha-ing from them. When it was all over, Miriam made us all tea (the men having found something to do outside!) and we sat as they explained everything to me. It seems as though the baby is coming sooner than we thought! I don't have the heart to tell Mama. I really don't want to have it without her there! This baby may come before we get home, and I must admit I couldn't hold back the tears. I know that God is in the midst of this, but can you tell me why it has to be so complicated and hard?

We will go a few miles tonight, if Miriam allows. Please don't tell Mama and Papa about the new date as it would only worry them more. They have enough on their hearts as it is. I ask for an additional measure of prayers for us and especially for Joseph, who has been so patient and gentle, despite the fact that I am a mess most of the time. I am more and more grateful for him every day.

much love,

Mary

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Advent 2- Mary letter 11

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.Psalm 37


Dear Mama,

We made it here to overnight with Miriam and Amos. They are very kind and offered us food and a soft place to sleep. I found the walking very exhausting and rode on the burro several times, although there were many places that were too rough for riding. The baby moved so much when we were jostling along that I thought it might be bad for him, but everything seems okay for him. Not so much for me.

I woke up this morning and was very sick. Miriam told Joseph to fetch some water and she tended to me. She listened to my belly and assured me that the baby was fine. She thinks I am just exhausted and overwhelmed by the preparation and traveling. We will stay here at least another night, although by midday I was feeling much better. She made me some soup which was delicious. When we told her we thought we could go tonight, Miriam stood up and nearly shouted at us. "She isn't going anywhere!", she said. We had a good laugh later, thinking that no general could be more commanding than Miriam. She may be elderly but she is strong and fierce. Amos also laughed and told us that if we knew what was good for us, we would follow her instructions!

Tomorrow, before we travel, Mama, she is going to have the wise women come and check me just to make sure everything is fine. She suspects that the baby is coming sooner than we thought. I told her I was planning on being home with my Mama when he arrives. She smiled and said, "we shall see." I don't know whether to trust her or be weary, but we are in her hands! I will keep you posted.

Please give my love to Papa. I miss you both so very much!

love,

Mary

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 10


Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
   or discipline me in your wrath.
For your arrows have sunk into me,
   and your hand has come down on me.


There is no soundness in my flesh
   because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
   because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
   they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.


My wounds grow foul and fester
   because of my foolishness;
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
   all day long I go around mourning.
For my loins are filled with burning,
   and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am utterly spent and crushed;
   I groan because of the tumult of my heart.


O Lord, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction, and my neighbors stand far off.


Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek to hurt me speak of ruin,
   and meditate treachery all day long. But I am like the deaf, I do not hear; like the mute,

 who cannot speak. Truly, I am like one who does not hear, and in whose mouth is no retort.

But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
For I pray, ‘Only do not let them rejoice over me, those who boast against me when my foot slips.’


For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever with me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. Those who are my foes without cause are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
Those who render me evil for good are my adversaries because I follow after good.


Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me; make haste to help me,
   O Lord, my salvation.Psalm 38



Dear Aunt Mary,

We start on on travels tomorrow and I have little time to write but I feel I must. I am so scared! I guess I have never traveled this far and never without Mama and Papa! I thought I could handle all of this but I am about to scream like a little girl. What is wrong with me?

We will leave tonight after dark so that our exit from the town is not seen. I feel like a dirty thief sneaking off into the night, hoping no one will see us. I stood in the back doorway this afternoon, careful not to go outside, looking over the home I have always known. I ache for the comfort of these surroundings and realize that it will be awhile before I see this place again. I am trying to keep calm for everyone's sake, but it is so hard.

We will walk a few hours after dark and then rest for the night with some distant relatives of Joseph. Papa has made arrangements for us all along the way, and had given us a map so we don't have to go on the busy roads. He wants to protect us, and I know they would come with us if they could. And I know we are doing all of this for God, but it seems as if the Divine is silent in the face of so many challenges. I hope to write everyday, but Mama also wants to hear from me, so it may be every few days that you hear from me. Don't stop praying please, as we need your prayers more than ever!

love always,

Mary

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 9


Vindicate me, O Lord,
   for I have walked in my integrity,
   and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
   test my heart and mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
   and I walk in faithfulness to you.


I do not sit with the worthless,
   nor do I consort with hypocrites;
I hate the company of evildoers,
   and will not sit with the wicked.


I wash my hands in innocence,
   and go around your altar, O Lord,
singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,
   and telling all your wondrous deeds.


Lord, I love the house in which you dwell,
   and the place where your glory abides.
Do not sweep me away with sinners,
   nor my life with the bloodthirsty,
those in whose hands are evil devices,
   and whose right hands are full of bribes.


But as for me, I walk in my integrity;
   redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground;
   in the great congregation I will bless the Lord. Psalm 26



Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Mama and I have been preparing for our travels to Bethlehem all day. We were interrupted by a visit from some of my school friends, most of them still single yet betrothed. They came and brought me a few gifts. They must of heard that we had married privately. At first it was a nice visit but after awhile I could tell they wanted to pump me for information about our marriage bed. They wouldn't believe my story about the angel. They started poking fun at me, and told me I was a silly fool. They said crude things about Joseph and me and called me all sorts of names. Mama came in from outside when she heard their taunting and sent them away. She was furious! I was too broken-hearted to be angry then. She held me as I wept. Girls can be so mean and so cruel! Mama told me not to listen to them and to not worry what people think or say. I wish I could, but it still hurts like a knife to the heart.

Joseph had been going to the market to gather supplies for our trip. Tomorrow he will get the burro and we will start out shortly after that. When he came here with all the supplies, Mama told him about the girls. I was napping, and he came in and woke me to find out if I was all right. I told him I was but he insisted on holding me and telling me he would protect me. He was so tender and kind. And he was furious when I told him about the things they had said about us.

Joseph paced a bit to release his anger, then he told me something I will hold close forever. He said that Lord sometimes asks impossible things of us, and that with that asking also provides for us, despite all of the challenges and the world's cruel ways. God has a great task for us but we do not have to do this alone. We will walk under the shadow of angel's wings. It made me feel so much better. And it made me sure that we can, together, make this trip to Bethlehem and back.

Please pray for us as the journey is at hand.


love,

Mary


Monday, December 11, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 8

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
   do not let me be put to shame;
   do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
   let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.


Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
   teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
   for you are the God of my salvation;
   for you I wait all day long.


Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
   for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
   according to your steadfast love remember me,
   for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!


Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.


For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who are they that fear the Lord? He will teach them the way that they should choose.


They will abide in prosperity, and their children shall possess the land.
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever towards the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.


Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.
Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.


Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me.
O guard my life, and deliver me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.


Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles.  Psalm 25



Dear Auntie,

I feel like a prisoner these days. At breakfast, Papa told me that he and Joseph had decided that I should stay inside until we travel. I know they are afraid for my safety but this is almost unbearable!
The joy of just being in the garden, hanging out the laundry, with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair has been taken away. They do not understand that in this cramped, although familiar place, I feel more guilty and in trouble. It feels as if I have not something wrong, rather than being the vessel of the Lord's love for the world. Why do the men always make the worst decisions when it comes to their women?

Mama sat with me this morning after the announcement and Papa had gone off. She said when she was with child, in her day, they never let you leave the house at all! How misguided and old fashion is that? I just want a little sun and a little breeze to cool me since I feel hot and sweaty a good deal of the time. And this little one is so active, kicking and moving as soon as I try to rest!

Mama was helpful though, really. She help me recite the psalms and prayer that I learned as a child. She had taught me to read, ever so quietly as to not upset the elders, and has given a few small scrolls of the teachings to take with me. I wish I could take Mama with me, more than anything. At least she understands all of this, unlike the men in my life.

Well, I best go. We are making bread that will last for days on our trip, and drying fruit for the journey. I wish I could do all the cooking outside but am trying to be faithful and obedient. Some days it is so hard.

Much love,

Mary

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 7


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 sins. 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,

I was trying to write to you yesterday but things really fell apart. Joseph and I walked to a neighbor's house, after dark, in order to make arrangements to purchase their burro. He wanted me to go along, but is still afraid of us being seen together after all the troubles. These neighbors are elderly and very kind. They wanted to make sure that the animal wouldn't throw me off when I needed to ride. It was only use to bundles being put on his back. The burro was actually very sweet and when I got on he sighed and walked slowly around their yard. He let me feed him some carrots and rub his nose. We already felt like friends.

On our way home, leaving the burro to be collected in a few days, Joseph noticed we were being followed. He tried to hurry us up but it wasn't enough. These men, actually they were probably still boys, started saying terrible things to us and pushing Joseph around. They had their faces cover so we couldn't see them well in the dark. He told me to hurry home and get my father. I was amazed that I could move as fast as I could. Papa went running as soon as I got home. He and Joseph returned about a half an hour later, but it seemed like hours later. Joseph was roughed up pretty bad before Papa got to them. Papa knew the boys and called them by name and they panicked. He was a real mess but Mama got him cleaned up. I couldn't help but cry.

Why is it that the places that should be safe, like home, become a danger zone? What do these people who profess to love God, try to destroy the work of God? These are my neighbors, my community, and they used to be my friends! I am heartbroken at the lack of compassion and forgiveness.

I know you have faced some scandal and ridicule as well. And you know that God is working through you and that child - I cannot wait to see him! How do you cope with the cruelty of this world? We have been given wondrous promises which seem to make everyone hate filled!

I best get up since I slept in after such a terrible night. I think we will start making our travel plans and move sooner than later.

love always,

Mary

Friday, December 8, 2017

Advent 1 - Mary letter 6

Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
   give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
From you let my vindication come;
   let your eyes see the right.


If you try my heart, if you visit me by night,
   if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me;
   my mouth does not transgress.
As for what others do, by the word of your lips
   I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.


I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.


Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me. They close their hearts to pity; with their mouths they speak arrogantly. They track me down; now they surround me; they set their eyes to cast me to the ground. They are like a lion eager to tear, like a young lion lurking in ambush.


Rise up, O Lord, confront them, overthrow them! By your sword deliver my life from the wicked,
from mortals—by your hand, O Lord—from mortals whose portion in life is in this world.
May their bellies be filled with what you have stored up for them; may their children have more than enough; may they leave something over to their little ones. Psalm 17


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

it has been a wonderful and overwhelming day. It seems that every day is now a mix of goodness and terror. Our family gathered around as we shared our vows and we were made man and wife. There was plenty of food and the whole gathered clan was happy and joyous. Maybe a little too loud, as one of the neighbors must have complained! We were not breaking the Sabbath, we were not away from home by sundown - we were just a family together to celebrate. It seems as though we have become criminal in the eyes of our neighbors and therefore everything we do is wrong. The constable came and gave Papa a stern warning. Really??

On the other hand, we were given many lovely gifts, both for us and the baby. We were so touched by everyone's generosity! We have plenty of money for our trip down to Bethlehem, and to purchase a donkey, so I do not have to walk all of the time. That made Mama's heart very glad! She has been so afraid for me, and I understand her worry. None of us planned on being instruments of God, nor the consequences that we would have to bear.

I hope you are growing stronger every day. The cousins reported that you were in good health and John was very big and strong! I am so glad. I hope I can be strong like you and this baby, this little boy is big and strong as well. I think he must be, since I am enormous.

It's time for bed now. Joseph will continue to stay in his house until we embark on our journey. They all feel this is for the best, but I could really use his comforting voice near me tonight. I can hardly sleep for all the feeling stirring in me and the baby kicking like crazy! Guess he's happy for us too!

I am a married woman, but I guess I'll have to wait for what that fully means. Everyone tells me it's for the best! I wish they would ask me just once what was best for me. Well, that will never happen, I guess.

Sending much love,

Mary


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Advent 1- Mary Letter 5

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
   my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
   my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
   so I shall be saved from my enemies.


The cords of death encompassed me;
   the torrents of perdition assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
   the snares of death confronted me. 


In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice,
   and my cry to him reached his ears.

Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth;
   glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens, and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.


He rode on a cherub, and flew; he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering around him, his canopy thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him
   there broke through his clouds hailstones and coals of fire.


The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice. And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.


He reached down from on high, he took me; he drew me out of mighty waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a broad place;
   he delivered me, because he delighted in me.


The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me. Psalm 18:1-20


Dear Auntie Elizabeth,

I heard the good news! Papa read us the letter at the table this noon. We all laughed and cried as we heard of John's birth and the restoration of Zechariah! What an amazing story! The Lord is so good, even when people and situations overwhelm us. You told me that all would be well, and yet it is hard to imagine the days ahead for us. Please keep up your prayers.

The cousins and extended family are arriving this afternoon and we will exchange our vows tomorrow. We have to keep everything quiet so that the town's people don't come and interrupt us. Papa thinks we will have to start packing for our trip after a few days. I am looking forward to seeing Ruth and Sarah. They have promised to stand with me and make the day very special. I have no idea what they are up to, but I am assuming no good. I need some fun and frivolity right now. Everything seems so serious and often scary.

Auntie, please take care of yourself and send me word of your life as a new mother. I cannot go and speak with the girls here who have married and given birth. They will not talk to me and when I approach in the market, they have turned their backs to me. I know the Lord is working good through all of this. I only wish my life could be a bit more normal. It is hard to be so very isolated and alone.

Mama is calling me to come get ready for our company!

Sending much love and happiness to you, Zechariah and baby John,

Mary