Monday, December 15, 2014

A Mother's Love

"and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger," Luke 2;7

Every true mother feels a sense of awe in her soul when she bends over her own infant child; but in the case of Mary we may be sure that the awe was unusual, because of the mystery of the child's birth. The angel had said to her, "That which is to be born shall be called holy, the Son of God."


The night of her child's birth there was a wondrous vision of angels, and the shepherds who beheld it hastened into the town; and as they looked upon the baby in the manger, they told the wondering mother what they had seen and heard. We are told that Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)  While she could not understand what all this meant, she knew at least that hers was no common child; that in some wonderful sense, He was the Son of God.

A Hurting Mother ~ 
It’s hard to imagine the mixture of love and loss with which Mary’s heart throbbed. This dear woman had labored for Jesus’ birth. She watched over Him,  from infancy in a manger to death at the cross.

How deep and tender her love must have been!  How sweet and patient she must have been, as she moved about at her tasks, as she cared for the life which had been entrusted  to her for training and molding.


She had worried about Him (Luke 2:48), prayed for Him, loved Him, followed Him during His ministry, and supported Him through severe opposition. No doubt, she felt the guilt that resulted from her shortcomings in dealing with Him and her other children. She knew the burden of motherhood, even as it related to the Son of God.   

Mary is a model for us, for the way in which, in her own particular life, she fully and responsibly accepted the will of God ( Luke 1:38), because she heard the word of God and acted on it, and because charity and a spirit of service were the driving force of her actions. Oh, the enduring, steadfast, unremitting love of this mother!


This song expresses how immense Mary's love for Jesus was...

A Beautiful Friendship ~
Few things in this world are more beautiful than the most tender friendships as one sometimes sees between mother and son. The two enter into the closest companionship. A sacred and secure intimacy is formed between them. A mother who never forsakes her child and a boy who opens all His heart and soul to His mother, telling her everything; and she gives Him not a mother's love only, but also a mother's wise counsel and strong, inspiring sympathy. The boy whispers His inmost thoughts to His mother, and listens to her wise and gentle counsel with loving eagerness and childish faith -- O friendship constant, faithful, undying, and true!

The story of this blessed friendship would sweeten in Christian homes the relation of mother and child, if only the family members would take heed. It could make every mother a better woman and a better mother. It could make every child a truer, holier child. Every home could have its sacred friendships between parents and children. Thus something of heaven would be brought into our lives.

 “In the pure loves of child and mother
Two human loves make one divine.”
Elizabeth Barret Browning  (source)

No Greater Love ~
In His last moments of life, Jesus spoke to his mother. “Woman, behold your son” (v. 26). To John: “Behold your mother.” From that hour on, that disciple took her to his own home. Jesus is giving a new son to his mother to replace Himself. And He gives her the best son she could expect, the disciple Jesus loved.


Jesus’ love toward his own mother proves his love for us, His believing brothers and sisters. When you and I are in trouble, our thoughts tend to turn inward. But Jesus came not to be served but to serve. Jesus directs His thoughts toward those whom He loves. He is mindful of our needs just as He was mindful of His mother’s needs.

It is a sad thing to witness so many families today who do not follow this example of a true parent-child love relationship. It takes the hearts of both to be willing to walk in this kind of undaunted love. Oh, but our God understands where we lack and He can provide the answer for us!

God’s Love is Like a Mother’s Love ~
 “As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you.”       Isaiah 66:13
 Mothers – and anyone else that needs this reality – “God does understand your problems and He will comfort as a mother comforts.” (source)
We do grow weary in this life: In a day when there is too little love, we need to claim God’s promise to be a “Mother” to us
  • ·      To those who feel helpless, rejected and despised, we need to pray for new hope, a new realization of what kind of God we have.  We need to thank God for revealing His nature through the love of mothers and give us eyes to see and hearts to respond. We need to claim God’s promise to be a “Mother” to us. (source)
 Jesus Provides Pity for Motherhood’s Demands  ~
Motherhood can be a great burden. It places great demands on the emotional and physical resources of mothers. Jesus bore the heavy burden of the cross so that He could give us the light burden of the Christian life. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Everything that is demanded of mothers, Christ supplies through his life. We experience the comfort of His provision through faith and an intimate walk with Him.

 Jesus Provides Pardon from Motherhood’s Guilt ~
What mother can live up to the expectations placed upon her? Because of its demands motherhood can produce much guilt. This guilt can be crippling, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and even physically. In His death Jesus graciously tells women (and men), “You don’t measure up. You can’t measure up. That’s why I died for you!” Only Christ can measure up to the demands of the law of motherhood. When we take hold of Christ by faith ALL of our guilt is banished to the grave. Believers are no longer guilty in God’s eyes.

Jesus Grants Peace for Motherhood’s Concerns ~
What mother or father hasn’t asked these questions?
·       What is going to happen to my children?
·       How will they possibly turn out well considering my own failures and shortcomings?
A woman writes: “I experienced steady peace regarding my own salvation…but…I felt tremendous anxiety about my…family.This spiritual schizophrenia has often plagued me. How can I have such assured faith in Christ’s salvation, and yet doubt His providence? How can I rest my soul entirely upon Him, yet think I need to carry my family myself? At times…I was able to leave my family in the Lord’s hands, but mostly I felt deep concern for them…”
Jesus died on the cross to give us new life. The Apostle Peter reminds us that:
“The promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call”
(Acts 2:38).

God accomplished the salvation of his people through the treacherous acts of wicked men (Acts 4:27-28). God can bless our children through even our worst shortcomings. He can raise up children of faith from the stones of the earth (Luke 3:8). He doesn’t need our help. For less than perfect mothers and fathers with less than perfect kids, that’s the only message that can give us real comfort. (source)

As I meditate on the birth of our Savior, I find hope in knowing the depth of love that Mary(as an earthly mother), had for Jesus at His birth and throughout His life on earth, and how God walked with her. I pray someday soon I may enjoy this close mother-son relationship also!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Words That Pierce and Comfort

It has been awhile since I read some of her writings from her first book or from her blog. I should have known right off that her words would affect me in the same way that they did when I read them then. Yes, I'm talking about Ann Voskamp. 
Last week I wrote about her new advent book, "Unwrapping the Greatest Gift." All week, I have been reading each day's Scripture and story, as well as the application of the story to us (or, as I eerily felt, applied directly to me) today. 

All I can say is, "Wow, Wow, Wow!" I found myself shedding tears as I read just about every message she shared. She seems to pierce right into my deepest sorrows and life experiences and expresses where God stands with it. He is a God of so much love that, as she wrote in Day 4, "He feels what we feel and He's written our names on His hand."

Here are some quotes from her book that literally took my breath away.
Day 1:
"The miracle no one dreamed of, the one He dreamed right from the very beginning, because love never stops dreaming of a way to draw close again. Jesus would go to impossible lengths to rescue you."
"Miracles happen on the drawing close to the little people, the least people, the lonely people, the lost people - because this is drawing close to Jesus.'
Day 2:
"The whole world was made by God's word(when God spoke), but God's children alone were made by ALL of God's love. You were formed by a huddle of holy hearts!"
Day 3:
"When you trip you can fall and end up such a bloodied mess that you go hide. When we've fallen and when we're lost, God comes with one question: Not, "Why did you do that?" Not, What did you do wrong?" But a love question: "Where are you?" God's love never stops looking for you, trying to find you, and drawing you gently back close to Him."

Day 4:
 "God's heart hurts, not just with a few teardrops of ache, not with just a slow drip of sadness - no, the whole gigantic enormity of God's heart swells sore with what hurts your heart - and His tears of sadness flooded the world."
"God leans to us, who are falling in a hurting world, and He catches us. He whispers, "I love you!" It's almost like how your mother ties her heart to your heart so that she feels what you feel. So it's almost impossible for her to forget you, even for just one second. Remember this down to the deepest part of you: It's absolutely impossible for your Father God to ever forget you, for even just one fraction of a second, because "I've tied My heart to your heart even closer, and I feel what you feel, and I've written your name right here on My hand. No matter how much your earthly mother love you - more than to the moon and back - your Heavenly Father loves you infinitely more."

Day 5:
 "And God promises: I will make you a blessing to others. I will do more than give you a gift of love - I will make you into a gift of love! You will get to be the gift - and smile for someone, laugh for someone, and love someone who is needing a gentle touch."
Day 6:
" God said, "Everything is more than it seems, more than you can see. I am doing unexpected things."
"Sometimes you use laughter like a shield to protect your heart. Sometimes when your heart hurts, your head hurts to believe."
"Joy is the gigantic secret gift that God gives us and we never stop unwrapping it. God brings us the gift of laughter like bubbly. fizzy, soda-pop joy for our hearts. "
"Because of Jesus, sadness is not the end of the story."  
I truly think these words were written just for me at this time.(Maybe for you, as well.)

Needless to say, last week was a rough one. This week is looking like a repeat of last week. Work is stressful, family issues keep popping up, and because we are smack dab in the middle of remodeling our main bathroom, the house is in shambles. So, of course, my hubby hasn't even pulled any of the Christmas decor out of the attic. No matter what, I'm committed to reading through each day's writing in the advent book! Already, her words have pierced my soul and brought comfort on those hard days.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

ADVENT: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

I grew up in a home where we observed Advent in many different ways. My mom was such a creative person. She built life-sized burlap-covered wood figures of the nativity that was set out on our front step every Christmas season. She made large wall banners with verses and artwork that were not only hung in our home, but also used in our church's sanctuary. And, of course, we either read an old-time version of the Christmas story from an antique book or the story directly from the Bible. 
So, it's no surprise that Advent has always been an important part of the Christmas season for me. I have celebrated with my own family over the years in many different ways, from lighting candles to using an advent calender with different readings leading up to Christ's birth. Recently, one of my all-time favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, published a new Advent book called,
 "Unwrapping the Greatest Gift". 
I got so excited when I saw this book! 
"Based on the overwhelming success of The Greatest Gift(2013), Ann Voskamp has expanded her presentation of the timeless Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree so families can celebrate together. Each day, families can read the provided Scripture passage (in connection with the original book), engage with a specially written devotion to help family members of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day, and participate in suggested activities to apply the theme."
This special edition is beautifully illustrated. It can serve as a precious guide to help recapture the sacredness of the Advent season and to help the entire family understand and celebrate the epic pageantry of humankind from Adam to the Messiah.

This is such a beautiful and lovely book for a family to go through at Christmas. Discussing important life lessons and key bible stories, this will definitely provide a deeper and more real understanding of God, Jesus and the Gospel for all ages. 

Each day has a scripture reading, a short devotional, thoughts to discuss and family activities. Not only that, but when you buy the book, you get access to ornaments for your family’s advent tree. So yes, this is wonderful book to add to your family traditions!" 
 - See more at: Here

Ann discusses her new book in this interview below...

Here is another option Ann offers on her Youtube channel...Making a Jesse Tree. Check it out.

Ann Voskamp: Unwrapping a Jesse Tree

  

And here are some other pages to check out...

Just a bit of information about Ann Voskamp. This woman has been such an inspiration and motivation for me. Her book "One Thousand Gifts" actually led me to start my own blog, as well as getting me through some difficult times in my own life. Her writing is so real and her words touch all who read them to the core of the  heart! Below is a family picture.        

The Voskamps live with their 6 children in Ontario on a large pig/crop farm. (See article: Portrait of an Authoress)  Her sweet husband, whom she lovingly calls "the farmer", has built her a wee writing hut in their backyard. I love the picture below, which shows, even as she writes, her children are always nearby...dangling feet and all!

Other things about Ann:
Speaking Engagements:
"We all experience tragedy, heartache and disappointment in life. For New York Times bestselling author Ann Voskamp, that moment came at the beginning, her first memory, when she witnessed her sister's death in a horrific accident. Where is God when life goes dark? What in the world, in all this world, is grace? How do we Biblically lament the losses we all inevitably face? Every breath is always this battle between grudgery and gratitude—how do we win joy? With characteristic wit and eloquence, Ann shares how to push through pain so you can authentically "catch God in the moment" and spend each day in the rest and embrace of His grace." (This video of Ann, speaking about her life and experiences that lead her to write, is a bit long, but SO worth watching. The sound is off from the video, so just sit back and listen to her speak, as watching may throw your concentration off. At least it did for me.)


Ann's Blog, other books, and pages:
Here are other books and online connections Ann has available.
Other books
        

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