Category: pregnancy

A pastor friend of mine was sharing the story recently about an afternoon early in his ministry when he and another minister friend were relaxing on a bench looking out across a church campus. The church was quite old and had gone through multiple building additions and renovations over the years. As with many churches of its day, the cemetery sat immediately next to the sanctuary and so the rest of the campus had been built up around these two original structures. While the two men sat looking out across the campus my friend was letting his eyes and mind wander among the tombstones, imagining the men and women who were buried there. Had they lived long, productive, influential lives? Or in the eyes of the community had their lives been cut short, robbed of opportunity? Had they been blessed with good work and happy marriages? Children? Were they prayer warriors or troublemakers? Interrupting all these thoughts the other minister commented, “Man, I would give anything to be out there right now!” Shocked and more than a little concerned, my friend responded, “Whoa! Wait a minute, brother. Things aren’t really that bad are they?”

At that moment each of the men realized what the other had set his eyes on. My pastor friend was looking at the cemetery. The other minister was looking just beyond at the playground.

While Christmas centers on the birth of the Savior, I find myself spending lots of time thinking about Mary. Barely grown past childhood, this tender young woman was chosen to carry the son of God in her womb. Out of all eternity, God chose her.  GOD. And morning sickness, swollen feet, and backaches. I look at my own daughter, almost 13, and wonder: if she came to her father and I with the news that she was pregnant – but adamantly maintained her virginity – and told us that an angel had visited her to announce that she would become pregnant by the Hoy Spirit, what would we say? My first inclincation in 21st-century lingo would be to look at her and sarcastically ask, “Really?” My husband would probably be tempted to look at me and exclaim, “She’s your daughter!”

Surely, Mary knew from that first moment of the angel’s visit (which probably would have landed me in the funny farm) that a hard road awaited her. Shame, humiliation, gossip, rejection, finger-pointing and murmuring as she walked through town and attended services at the temple. What would the news of her pregnancy do to her family’s good name? Did anyone really believe Joseph had been visited by an angel as well? Or was he simply trying to orchestrate a cover-up of his own immoral behavior? Was Mary able to share with her mother her fears, her cravings, the first little butterfly of movement in her womb? Did she laugh or cry when the son of God rolled over in her belly and kicked at her ribs?

In the face of all these questions I am reminded of a simple, yet profound statement made by Mary immediately upon the angel’s revelation of God’s incredible call upon her life. “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled,” Luke 1:38 NIV.  Mary’s eyes were set on her Redeemer, the Author and Finisher of her faith. She didn’t question whether or not God was able to do what the angel foretold (as did the elderly Zechariah upon the announcement that his barren wife Elizabeth would bear a son). Mary didn’t doubt what God was going to do, she simply asked in childlike faith to understand how He was going to do it. God’s messenger answered her and Mary embraced the first step of a journey that brought the world a Savior.

As the calendar moves us closer to the day we celebrate the giving and receiving of gifts, food and family, and the wonder of Christmas morning, let us remember that the most excellent gift of God came through one woman who had her eyes set on eternity.

May the word of the Lord be fulfilled in us this Christmas season and throughout our lives.

Many years ago, my firstborn and I found ourselves at a local mall on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.  Cold and rainy outside, the only thing on my mind was getting in, getting out, and getting home.  “Alex, start praying!” I called out as we turned down another row to see the endless display of metal and rubber.  I was four weeks away from my due date with my second child and not looking forward to a long trek across the back 40 in order to mark the final ‘x’ on my list.
As we approached the store end of that particular row, a shopper scurried out and pointed to her car, parked to my delighted surprise in the second space!  Thrilled at our good fortune, I flew into the space with laser precision accuracy, threw the car in Park and reached for the keys.  “Let’s go, sweetie,” I called to my son as my legs were swinging out the door.  He looked at me, blue eyes soft and clear like a new marble and said, “Mom, since we asked God for this space and He gave it to us, shouldn’t we just sit here and enjoy it?”
Dumbfounded.  Embarrassed.  Ashamed.  I felt all these emotions and more in a nano-second.  In my haste to move on to the next thing, I had completely ignored the simply asked and immediately answered prayer of a child.  My child, whom I had taught from infancy that God delights in relationship with us and always hears us when we pray.  I surrendered the keys to the floor mat, sat back, closed the car door, and meekly responded, “You’re absolutely right.”  Silence followed.  Alex leaned his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes in great anticipation of the moment before us.  I followed, though not so relaxed, in awe of the dramatic life lesson God was playing out using my car as His stage.
In the midst of the quiet, I recalled the words of Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Almost laughing, I reached into the back seat, grabbed my Bible, and hurriedly turned to the passage.  Unable to remember the first nine verses it seemed very important to read the complete passage.  To my surprise I found that verses 1-9 are chock full of noise and activity.  And then, in verse 10, our Father calls us simply to “be still and know that I am God.” 
My son and I sat in the car that afternoon for only a few short minutes before he was ready to move on.  But that day, and his stunning observation, has never left me.  In seasons of haste when my heart is anxious, my list of ‘next things’ is long and life is overwhelming, I’m reminded to find a place where I can enjoy a few moments of being still.  God is always there.  And more than anything I can ever do for Him, I know in my heart He simply longs for me to be with Him.

I am the loud and proud mom of three great kids: Alex, Rachel, and Stephen.  My hair has been varying colors and lengths throughout their lifetime, the size of my clothes has changed (just a little), and sometimes I am not on my best behavior when they’re around.  But they know I would throw myself in front of a train for them.  In birth order, they are:

SugarBear – my firstborn.  The child I cut my parenting teeth on.  The pregnancy for which everything was a first: the first ultrasound, the first ‘butterfly’ of movement in my womb, the first completely guilt-free lunch at Wendy’s consisting of a double cheeseburger, large fry and root beer, followed by a medium Frosty.  I have never been so sick.  After that disastrous outing my diet consisted mostly of Mexican food, Chick-fil-A, ice cream, and TUMS.  The first labor pains (after measuring a barely detectable contraction on the monitor, I asked the nurse how much worse they would get before I delivered; she didn’t answer) and the first clumsy attempt at nursing.  I gained only 18 pounds and wriggled back into my favorite cords in just two weeks.  Alex was born with a smile on his face and I learned from him the truth of Erma Bombeck’s words, “having children is to forever have your heart walking around outside your body.”
PoohBear – my only daughter.  An emotional pregnancy – I didn’t eat as much but cried about everything.  Alex was nine years old.  When we told him I was pregnant he wrote my grandmother a note that said simply, “God answered one of my prayers.  We’re having a baby!”   I gained more weight during this pregnancy (don’t ask me how or how much) and we chose not to learn the sex prior to delivery.  Our ultrasound technician wrote the results on a piece of paper and sealed it in an envelope.  We poked a tiny hole in the corner, put a ribbon through the hole, and hung it on our Christmas tree.  Delivery day began very early on a January morning and less than four hours later we held our little angel.  She was long and lean with porcelain skin and every time we swaddled her she managed to work one foot loose from her blanket.  Rachel is still our free spirit, best described by her Uncle Bo as a cartoon character come to life. 
LittleBear – my personal proof that God is still in the business of miracles.  Just three short weeks after 9/11 and my husband losing his job (along with a huge commission), we learned I was pregnant.  Oops – not really planning for a third child.  At our first baby checkup my midwife felt ‘something’ in my right breast.  A core needle biopsy at the women’s center of our hospital resulted in the phone call that changed our lives: “Mrs. Hood, all four tissue samples were malignant.  You have breast cancer and should call your surgeon immediately.  I’m so sorry.”  The moment I saw our baby’s tiny frame on the ultrasound monitor I was head over heels in love – and fiercely determined to beat cancer for both of us.  Three surgeries, a serious infection, and four rounds of chemotherapy later, I held our little miracle in my hands.  Born three weeks early, he weighed a whopping five pounds, eleven ounces and was barely 18″ long.  Hard to hold and impossible to diaper, Stephen has grown to be my living, breathing, running, jumping, chocolate-soup-eyed boy.
Being a mom to my three bears has taught me many things.  Here are just a few examples:
1/ There is nothing sweeter in the whole universe than sitting quietly in a rocker at 3a.m. snuggling your newborn with a full belly.  Conversely, there is nothing more stick-a-fork-in-your-eye maddening than your baby screaming at full volume at 3a.m. for no apparent reason.
2/Boys like to be naked.  Girls like to wear pretty dresses.  Boys like to pee in the bushes.  Girls will lie to your face and “pwomise” they did not pass gas.
3/My greatest accomplishment with my first child was teaching him to fix his own bowl of cereal and find the cartoons on Saturday morning until at least 9a.m.  My greatest accomplishment with my second child was teaching her to wake her big brother on Saturday morning.  With my third child, I was so happy we were both here – and healthy – that I got up and made waffles for everyone on Saturday morning.
4/Kids are incredibly resilient.  With Alex I worried that every scratch, bump, and belly ache warranted a trip to the ER.  After Rachel was born, the nurse-on-call and I were on a first name basis; she was always calm and reassuring.  By the time Stephen arrived, if there wasn’t a bone sticking out of place or enough blood to soak through a bath towel I patted him gently and said, “Cool – that will be a great scar!”
5/My kids notice when the house is clean but don’t judge me when it’s not.  They like it when I make their favorite meals but don’t complain when dinner is PB&Js.  They know holidays are special to me and endure my long list of photo ops.  They want me close by when they don’t feel good, look to see if I’m on the sidelines at their sporting events, and still like for me to tuck them into bed at night. They have patiently endured my long recoveries from multiple surgeries and have cared for me far better than any private nurse ever could.
I’m crazy about my three bears.  As Goldilocks discovered, they’re just right.

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