SHE PONDERED THEM IN HER HEART
SHE PONDERED THEM IN HER HEART
By Jessica Wells
Christmas is my favorite time of year! It is magical! I love all the traditions and family memories around it. I love making lists with the kids of all the Christmas activities we want to do and then calendaring them out throughout the month in an advent calendar: Christmas movies, Christmas lights, picking out and decorating the Christmas tree, live nativity, visiting Santa, making and decorating sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, doing acts of service, caroling, reading a Christmas book each night…and the list goes on!
Knowing my love for Christmas you can imagine why when it came to trying to get pregnant and growing our family, my husband and I would try to time it just right. We would take into account how sick I get with my pregnancies and how time-consuming newborns are and do my best to steer clear of Christmas because I want to really be present for all of it. As we all know, it is never usually our timing.
With my third pregnancy, I had morning sickness (or all day sickness) until my third trimester, making me incredibly sick over the holidays. I couldn’t stand the smell of gingerbread or sugar cookies, I couldn’t walk around to see all the lights and barely had the energy or ability to keep my other two kids alive let alone create Christmas magic. I felt guilt. I was letting my kids down, letting myself down. It was hard to have the mindset of “just make it through the holidays” instead of savoring each moment.
When we decided we wanted a 4th child we tried for months with no luck and then finally the moment we had prayed for came and we excitedly found out we were pregnant. We laughed when we found out our baby was due December 26th. We were so happy and thrilled to have been able to get pregnant since we had both felt strongly there was one more waiting to join our family, but I immediately worried. I remembered the guilt I felt last time I was not at the top of my game for Christmas and knew having a newborn takes all my attention. Would my kids feel overlooked? Would this child feel overlooked the rest of her life having a birthday so close to Christmas?
I knew I needed to change my perspective. All of those traditions we love to do are wonderful, but it’s not what’s needed for a memorable Christmas.
Earlier I had taught a lesson to the teenage girls at our church and we talked through Luke Chapter 2– the nativity story. We put ourselves in each person’s shoes in the nativity story and talked about what they must’ve been feeling at the time. I decided that Christmas, as I was pregnant also, I wanted to focus on Mary and learn more about her and think of her during the season. I imagined all of the things she must have been feeling, knowing that she was carrying the Son of God. Thinking back on the first time I was pregnant, I remember I was young and scared and felt inadequate for the task. Not to mention all of the worries you have for your child; the hopes and the prayers that the baby is growing safely and that you can be the kind of mother your baby deserves. The humility you feel that God has entrusted someone to your care. How must Mary have felt that she was carrying the Savior of the World? I imagine that angels were walking with her throughout her pregnancy and comforting her. As my baby would kick and move, I thought of Mary feeling those same movements and I felt closer to her. That season, with each tender mercy I received, Luke 2:19 kept coming into my mind.
“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
December 19th we headed to the hospital. As I laid in my warm hospital room with my medicine to ease the labor pains, blankets waiting for my baby, and nurses and doctors all there to help us both, I thought of Her, of Mary. In a cold and dark stable, with the Savior of the World coming, how did she feel? If I were Mary I would be thinking, “really God? Here I am having your child, and you can’t open a room in the Inn? The stable is no place for the Savior.” She was faithfully and willingly doing all that she was asked to do and yet there was no comfy place for her to rest, she wasn’t exempt from traveling to pay the taxes, she had to travel via donkey to Bethlehem and then go into labor on a night when there were no places for her to sleep. Really?
But how different would that story be if there was a place for her in a nice Inn? How different the nativity? How much can we relate to and feel connected to the baby who was born in the lowliest place, who came to the world in such a humble way and then humbly served his whole life while being persecuted for it. And now as a mother, how much more relatable is Mary who did her best in those humble circumstances and gave birth to a child of God. Heavenly Father has a plan and knows what needs to take place, and as we follow Him and accept what He would have us do, it will be just as it should be.
Mary knew that.
“Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38, KJV)
As the shepherds came and marveled at the baby Jesus, they then went on spreading word to the world what had taken place, yet Mary just pondered these things in her heart. She didn’t go around telling everyone who HE was, or what SHE had done. She took it all in and kept them sacred. It was her story, her experience.
As I welcomed my little girl into my arms and held her close, my family made phone calls and texted the news and pictures to other family and friends. But, in that moment it was just her and I. I wanted to soak in the fact that she was here and safe, this little baby fresh from Heaven.
There’s no other feeling like that and it doesn’t get any less powerful with each new babe that joins your family. Those feelings of elation to have her here, relief with her first breath, exhaustion from the process and most of all overwhelming LOVE- all things I didn’t want to forget, things I couldn’t put into words.
The moments I wanted to hold onto.
Joseph and Mary could have gone around broadcasting the greatest miracle of all that had taken place. They could have found a warmer place to sleep or received praise and admiration from others. Here they held the King of Kings! But instead, Mary held her baby in that manger and she held her story in her heart.
I did not get to do everything we usually do during the season; among many things gingerbread houses didn’t get made and Santa had a plate of store-bought cookies on Christmas eve, but it didn’t matter. I got to watch my other children serve one another and help me. I watched as my oldest helped the younger ones wrap their presents and get them under the tree. I got to have quiet moments rocking and caring for a newborn baby as I thought of and celebrated the birth of my Savior. I took time to quietly watch and take in what the season is about as I held my baby fresh from heaven. I felt closer to Mary than I ever had that year, I felt her love and I felt the love of my Savior more strongly as I tried to relate to His mother.
I needed my Christmas baby.
It was the most special Christmas and it wasn’t because of all the things we checked off our Christmas calendar, but it was because our family had been given a reminder of what it is all about. While I still love to do all of the Christmas activities and look forward to them, I will never forget that Christmas. If we don’t get to all of the activities or traditions, I let go of the guilt because it’s not what I need. I need to find the magic in my kids serving one another, the magic in us going forward in faith and putting our trust in Him not knowing where our paths will lead us, the magic in our stories and taking time to reflect and ponder on what is important in our lives, and to take time to ponder about the miracle baby- our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His faithful mother, Mary.
Everyone has a different story approaching motherhood. Some desperately want to be a mother and haven’t had the chance yet, some aren’t ready or don’t think it’s for them, some have lost their little ones too soon, some overgo physical obstacles for it, to some motherhood comes easily, and to some it comes when not expecting. Then, in the throws of parenthood comes the never ending questioning of if you are doing enough to teach them and help them succeed in life, what more you can do, how can you juggle all of the things and be present for them. It can be overwhelming. Regardless of where you are in your story- think of Mary and her story, ponder them.
Mary’s path was not easy. She felt joy, as well as loss and grief unimaginable on her journey with the Savior. Anyone can find strength from her story to help with their own, wherever they are on their path. I’m forever grateful for the newborn Christmas that gave me the chance to slow down and take time to think of Mary in a way I hadn’t before. Trying to put myself in her shoes, thinking of what she must have been feeling, and her perspective in the nativity helped me realize that whenever I feel inadequate as a mother or feel overwhelmed with the task, I can push forward knowing that He has a plan, I am part of His plan, and that he has put His faith in me. All I need to do is put my faith in Him and hold close to my heart what’s important.
Doing this, we can find JOY in the season, whichever season it is that we are in.