Ever eaten salad with a spoon?

Or sat amongst the boxes and set up a Christmas tree in all its finery before unpacking anything else because the reason for the season was more important to recognise than equipping the cutlery drawer?

Or given the kids Christmas mince pies for breakfast and toast and marshmallows for lunch?

Or been so physically fatigued at night that you actually can't sleep due to the ache in your legs?

The last few weeks and days have taken on a surreal quality. In my semi-suspension I am functioning methodically, going through the motions of packing and unpacking, making meals (albeit nutritionally shoddy ones), changing nappies and generally living in limbo. Without defining forms of routine and normality, my perception has softened to a hazy blur. My senses are peering through smeary glasses, slack muscles are protesting and creativity has dwindled to an ember but as I have been here before; and there is again a little intact part of me somewhere that registers all is well. Upheaval, temporary plans and make-shift systems notwithstanding, I am at peace.

My latest treat for myself was signing up for the latest session of my online Soul Pursuit Group as they dwell on the season of Christ's birth. A part of my brain was shrieking that I could not possibly feel fulfilled or contribute from such shaky creative territory – with each and every artist's tool at my disposal buried in deep boxes in storage – however, I felt such a connection with the group last time that I couldn't miss it. The initial theme proposed for pontificating was entitled Barn Smells, which is quite the irony to consider really. From my abode on the opposite end of the accommodation spectrum, an apartment devoid of a single shred of grass, much less hay, the closest I have come to livestock (with the exception of our three grubby offspring) is the puppy behind glass at the pet shop. So as I have been lying awake at night I have been imagining a little of what it must have been like for Mary with the whole baby/donkey/stable thing. From my loose and wobbly perspective, these are the identifying factors that I have been able to make out, and from them have found fresh respect for the young woman who bore the Son of God. I am overwhelmed at attitude of her yielded heart despite the magnitude of her physical and emotional discomfort and dislocation.

She was in transit.

She had to leave the familiar behind her and hit the road of considerable personal inconvenience with Joseph on a journey that positioned her for her part in an immense destiny.

She would have been mighty uncomfortable. Hello? If anyone had tried to put me on a donkey when I was nine months pregnant, they would have suffered great abuse at suggesting I even attempt to rise to such heights. If by some small miracle I was able to be manoeuvred aboard a hairy undulating back, sitting upon it for hour after hour would certainly have induced labour, not to mention a mood most unbecoming for a lady.

She was unprepared. No little cot made up with a teddy propped in the corner. No night light. No frilly, freshly laundered nursery linens. No tiny little folded clothes. Nothing smelling of talcum powder, soap or roses.

I was quite staggered that this mother, equipped so generously by nature with the urge to nest and nurture, was removed from her comfort zone and placed in ungracious and rudimentary surroundings to deliver The King of Kings.

That her support system involved a young husband and some farm animals. There would have been no back-up plan, no 911 to call in-case things went wrong. No hot shower to soothe her aching body and certainly no soothing china cup of tea afterwards in her favourite armchair.

And that the little guy who deserved the best the globe could offer, sucked up his big first breath of air from a dusty animal's shelter. Straw, dung and earth were the elements on offer, grubby linen swaddling cloth and rough hewn wood.

I wonder what all this did to Mary. Her craving for a home, for the familiar and for security, never mind just a shred of comfort, did not influence the heart of God. He was happy to allow a girl caught in a momentous situation, to lose all the props of routine and normality in transit. He was okay with her labouring to birth in temporary and rustic surroundings because He had a plan that super ceded her every need and want.

He sheltered her and her faithful provider with a roof over their heads.

He allowed her the warmth of animals slumbering nearby.

He lit the dark sky with cosmic brilliance so she had light to see.

And I am pretty sure a sense of peace beyond the trappings of human routine, would have been her constant companion, along with wonder as she surveyed the marvellous blessing in her arms. I am certain that this feeling completely erased the unsettled-ness and the fact that the tangible tools of her motherhood trade were unavailable. Instead it seems to me as I read this story, that her quiet and determined approach led to the unfolding of the profound truth that the Messiah did not come in pomp for the rich and learned, but in meekness to all, and that it was her gracious attitude that enabled this event.

And to think I am irked by eating salad with a spoon. What a lady Mary was. What a journey she was sent on to change her perspective and give her a new grip on the handle of reality. And what a reminder it has been for me, puddling along in my uncertain land of plenty, to stop and yield with faith on the journey.

Erin  – (December 12, 2008 at 11:28 AM)  

Dearest Amy,
I think you have so much in common with young Mary right now.

Oh, the joys of preparing for a new little one! Frilly, freshly laundered outfits. The smell of talcum powder (one of my all time favorite smells). The cozy cot with fuzzy stuffed animal inhabitants.

I had not considered Mary's desire (her need?) to prepare a nest for her newborn. What does it mean that God, in His grace and wisdom, set even that aside from Mary's birth experience? What was He doing in Mary's heart through all of this?

Many things to think on here. You always express yourself in poetic ways.

Dawn  – (December 12, 2008 at 9:09 PM)  

Another lovely post - so much to think on and consider. You write beautifully and you've given me new insights to ponder. . .

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