My First Nativity

This year Pastor Keith and I were asked to participate in the Drive-Thru Live Nativity at our church. Those organizing this event could not have known how special it was to be asked. I haven’t been asked to play Mary in a long time. After all, Mary was a teenager. That is not what made it special. It was special because it brought back floods of memories from past Christmas pageants and plays from my childhood and my children’s childhood. I think back on the countless sets and costumes made, lines memorized, songs sung, and choreography practiced. However, it was the joy experienced by everyone involved that I hold on to most of all. We were not only joining in a collective experience, but we were celebrating a story with eternal significance for all those who believe.

When I arrived at the rehearsal this year, I was handed a costume. I fashioned the cloth, just so, on my head. I had done this many times, and I just needed to get finished so I could go home to prepare for work the next day. Before I knew what happened, a tear swelled in my eye. The simple task, the plain burlap cloth, the inexpensive blue fabric – It all stirred a memory that had been tucked away. I remembered the first time I played Mary. I was five years old. Everyone in my kindergarten class was so excited to get their costumes. I watched my friends as they dressed in white. They fluttered around with wings, halos, and gold and silver necklaces. I looked at my costume. It was plain and didn’t have wings. I didn’t even have a necklace! I went straight to the teacher, who happened to be my aunt. “Something has to be done!” I thought. “I want a necklace like the other girls,” I cried. “Mary would not have worn a sparkly necklace,” my aunt explained. I did not understand, and I certainly did not care about the historical accuracy of the costume. It wasn’t fair! I wanted to sparkle too! I went home after rehearsal and rushed to my mom to explain the agonizing event. My mom pulled me close and whispered, “You don’t have to sparkle to be your best for Jesus. You have an important part. Do your best with the part you have been given.”

These words penetrated through a dark cloud that I had let settle over me this past year. How often haveI felt inadequate and insignificant as if I am dressed in burlap cloth in a cashmere world? “Ok, Lord! I’m listening,” I sobbed as I drove home that night. This glimpse of my first Nativity reminded me of why we reenact the Nativity in the first place. Knowing that He came for us all is what brings joy and peace. We don’t even have to sparkle to be a part of the story. We just need to bring ourselves.

The year of 2020 certainly has had no sparkle. We have suffered great loss. We have humbly gotten up each morning to wonder what would happen next. But isn’t that what Mary experienced? She was a servant girl who was called to do a job that did not come with fanfare and pageantry. She did it anyway despite the uncertainty and the chaos of her time. Each day she trusted in what God had promised. He fulfilled His promise then, and He will do it again.

May we all trust God and all He has promised! “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Christmas Star

On the way to church, after observing the Christmas Star, I passed the life size Nativity that is displayed each year in our town. I noticed the star shinning above this scene. How familiar and fitting! I had to pull over and take a picture. The street light and neighbor’s lights made it hard to see, so I knelt to get a better view. As I knelt beneath this star to get a picture, I suddenly realized I was kneeling before baby Jesus in the manger. I also became aware of the passersby. They probably wondered what I was doing. Maybe some thought I was there bowing to this place as a shrine or to some natural phenomenon in the sky. The truth is, every day I bow in worship to My Lord and Savior who is not in a grave and who created the earth and sky and everything in it. Nevertheless, this night I was reminded that when He came to this earth, He knew me. He came for me. He was at the beginning of my story, He is with me in the middle, and He will be there in the end. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Jupiter Saturn Conjunction December 21, 2020

Ye Olde Gossip Shed

The Gossip Shed will forever be fixed in my mind. It is not the physical space that holds me captive. It is a “heart place” carved out by a deep connection that will forever be ingrained in who I am.

The Gossip Shed came from a creative stroke of brilliance, and I was there to witness it all. I was with my buddy, my childhood best friend – my grandfather. I rode beside him in the old pickup truck with an excitement that could only be felt through the wonderment of a child. I felt like an explorer on another conquest, when we pulled up to the dilapidated old well house on my great grandfather’s farmland. For years, it had been a life source providing water for the household. Now, it would seem that the well house had seen better days. To me, it looked like a pile of rubble, but in Granddaddy’s eyes I saw something different. It began with a spark, grew to an ember, and burned as a flame. It was the light of creativity. I could not fathom what he saw, but I trusted him.

The next few weeks I watched his labor of love, and how the family pitched in to help. They hauled the roof of the old well house to my grandfather’s and grandmother’s house where they laid the foundation and secured it with large rocks at the base of the supports. When the cement was poured to make a floor, Granddaddy called the family and said, “Write your names and make an imprint. This belongs to us. It is our gathering place.”  These words echoed in my five-year old mind. I was overwhelmed with a sense of acceptance and belonging.

The finishing touches were four large porch swings and a hand carved sign that read, “Ye Olde Gossip Shed.” We have all heard it said that Southern women solve the world’s problems on the front porch. The Gossip Shed is where the matriarchs of my family met to do just that. I heard all about the goings on in the world. One of my favorite memories is shelling butter beans from our summer crop with the women, while the men fried fish that they caught in the black iron wash pot. All the cousins were “ripping” as my grandmother would say. Even with all our ripping and roaring, we kept our sights on the Old Gossip Shed. Not just to see if we were going to get caught in our mischief, but we knew the adults had our backs. We were safe, loved and had plenty to eat. Grandmama made sure of that and Granddaddy was always there smiling. Sometimes he would strike up a conversation about The Good Book. Sometimes he would sing, “It Is No Secret What God Can Do.” I loved to hear him sing.

Through the seasons many gatherings would take place and many feet would pass under that roof. My granddaddy’s vision came to fruition. The old well house was a life source once again. We gathered, we laughed, we loved, we prayed, we sang, we disagreed, we argued, we forgave, we shared, we accepted, we supported, we belonged, and we lived.

As with anything, the passing of time and change caused the footsteps to dwindle.  I am as guilty as any, and while Ye Old Gossip Shed is still standing, my feet do not pass by that physical place often. However, I walk there daily. It is a place that has been forged in my heart. In this place, the laughter and tears remain. The lessons and love remain. The belonging and acceptance remain. It haunts my memory every time I dare to dream, to live, to love, to teach, to pray, to tell a story, to read The Good Book, to eat, to smile, and to sing. The memories are forever alive in me. They echo the past, stir me to press on in the present, and challenge me to be better in the future.

In these uncertain times we are living in, we are being reminded of the importance of faith, family, and community. While we are separated physically, we are not separated in our hearts. It may seem that our world is like a dilapidated old well house that is falling apart, but it can be a life source again. The Creator can make all things new. To be honest, I can’t fathom what He is doing, but I trust Him. I trust that we will gather, laugh, love, pray, sing, disagree, argue, forgive, share, accept, support, belong, and live together again. As I remember this, I can take a moment to breathe. Stop and take a stroll with me to Ye Old Gossip Shed. The rose bushes are in bloom, something is cooking on the grill, the lightning bugs are illuminating the sky, children are laughing, the honeysuckles taste sweet, and Granddaddy is singing.

“There is no night; for in His light

You never walk alone

Always feel at Home

Wherever you may go

It is no secret what God can do

What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you”