12 Weeks of Christmas: #10 Mary’s Visitor

…continued from Mary’s Hiding Place.

~ SIX MONTHS LATER ~

For the last several months the only prayer in Mary’s heart had been for Elizabeth and the new thing the LORD was doing. That night, while in the stable deep in her prayers, she heard a voice. Looking up to see a bright shining angel, she began to shake with fear.

“Greetings, O favored one, the LORD is with you!” FavoredGod is not a respecter of men. Is this an angel of light? Mary attempted to discern the greeting. She knew Darkness often masqueraded as angels of light.

The angel spoke again more gently this time, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Ah. An angel of light. Darkness would use my fear against me. Giving her time to discern his greeting, the angel continued, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Oh! A grin split her face in a marvelous smile. Would the LORD allow her a part in His plan!? Wait – what? Wide-eyed, Mary stammered, “H-how will this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel smiled, clearly enjoying his role in this birth announcement. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Mind whirling, Mary could not take it all in. But the angel did not pause this time.

“And behold,” Mary looked up from her thoughts and saw a scene playing out in front of her. Her barren cousin Elizabeth waddled around her house with –thanks to midwife training – what appeared to be six months of baby in her belly!

The angel continued, “…your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing is impossible with God.” The angel’s joy made him beam with light. What was his name? Gabriel. Mary looked him in the eye, then bowed her head and said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” The angel nodded and disappeared.

Gabriel liked the common folk. They were not arrogant like those tedious priests. He thought again of Zechariah and grimaced. Truly, silence was the only solution for a priest who questioned Yahweh. Yet, Yahweh in His mercy had restrained Gabriel’s hand and limited Zechariah’s silence to nine months. Yahweh remembered Zechariah and Elizabeth’s pain and granted His mercy freely.


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Mary bolted from the hay loft to the house. Nearly tripping, she paused before the threshold and took a deep breath. First, she must brave her parents and tell them all the angel had said. She could not do any of this alone. Confident in the LORD, Mary squared her shoulders and waited for a quiet moment alone with her parents.

Their “discussions” had woken everyone in the house. Mother believed her. Father had struck her for the first time. When she denied any wrong doing, he had yelled, “I will not abide your falsehoods! I know men! How could you be so stupid daughter?! Unless Joseph marries you NOW, they will kill you! Before our very eyes!” Ready to call Joseph to account, her father stormed to the door intent upon the carpenter’s home. Mary stood in stunned silence, her cheek stinging from her father’s hand. Then, her mother intervened and suggested a new plan.

“Send Mary to Ein Karem to stay with Elizabeth until the woman gives birth. Perhaps Mary’s midwife training may be useful to her. Mary’s absence would buy us time to address this issue with Joseph and find a way forward. And, if Mary suffers from pregnancy in those first three months, no one will be wise to it.”

Father glared angrily at Mary. “Pack your bags young lady. You are no longer a daughter of mine. You will not return to my house. I wash my hands of you.” Heartbroken, a river of tears was her only companion as she prepared for Ein Karem. Surely God would mend this? She looked South toward Ein Karem and prayed she would find sanctuary among this little town in the Judean hills.

Mary left before dawn. Her father would not see her off. Her mother had asked a friend who had business in Jerusalem to escort Mary. “Tell no one,” mother had said. Mary walked in silence preparing her heart for the coming storm of more unbelief, accusations, anger and discipline.

Father was right. An unwed mother would not be tolerated in the village. Unless Joseph acknowledged an act that was not his, she would be stoned to death. Joseph. She knew him to be a righteous man who cherished the law. What would he do?

Fear circled about her, like a carrion bird over its prey, telling her all the ways an unwed mother could die. It’s menacing laugh echoed in the her recesses of her mind as more tears formed in her eyes. No! I will hold unswervingly to the vow I have made to the LORD. She would be faithful. But she was terrified.

As Mary walked and prayed she sensed the evil straining to be unleashed. It was in these hours, on a lonely, dusty road that Gabriel’s words became entrenched in her heart; a lifelong mantra she would end up clinging to in all her darkest hours.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Look for Joseph’s story next in the 12 Weeks of Christmas: #9 An Angry Father. If you love these stories, share them with your friends on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

12 Weeks of Christmas: #11 Mary’s Hiding Place

Mary’s Hiding Place

BY LESLIE CROUSE

~ FIFTEEN MONTHS BEFORE THE BIRTH OF CHRIST ~

Mary fell back into the fresh hay finding comfort in the clean, grassy scent of her father’s stable. Every morning before dawn she came to the stable to pray. Few understood it. But her mother, Sarah, allowed her this time of solitude. When the sun shone upon the roof Joseph would arrive to escort her to the midwife for another day of tedious house calls.  

She could see her mother watching from the window. The moment Mary had begun signs of womanhood, Sarah had insisted she train with Nazareth’s midwife. “You are to assist and learn all you can about the female body and birthing process,” she had instructed Mary. “One never knows the turns life can take.” Mother believed in equipping her daughters.

Mary did not like midwifery, but she had already learned much. Her family lacked money for a midwife’s expertise, so her sisters took turns assisting the local midwife in an exchange for services when needed. But those worries belonged to the daylight hours. The pre-dawn hours were hers alone.

In the stable Mary could set it all aside and bask in the presence of the LORD. Every morning Mary came to the stable to find privacy and freedom for prayer. Her father called it intercession. Mary was no spiritual giant. All she knew is that she burned with the need to cry out for others. So she prayed until peace replaced the urgency. Today, her cousin Elizabeth was heavy upon her heart.

Something was shifting in the spiritual realm. She could sense it. There was an eagerness inside of her. An excitement she could hardly contain. The LORD was doing a new thing! An urgency to pray harder gripped her. Whatever the LORD’s plans, she wanted to be a part of it. For her, the LORD was a pearl of great value, worth any price.

Mary had no idea what was going on, but she knew Herod to be Judea’s arrogant, unpredictable king and Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, a priest in the temple. An explosive combination. What forces were at play?

A knock on the post below interrupted her thoughts. No! Has an hour gone by already? She peeked down into the breezeway. She covered her face with her hands and cringed. Joseph. As children he had played in the neighbor’s pond, caught frogs from local streams, and had helped her with her lambs. Her best friend. But he had gone and changed everything when he asked her father’s permission to marry her. Which means he knew. Mary stifled a groan.

How humiliating! Jonas, her wretched brother, had told Joseph she had begun her monthlies and was of marriageable age now. Her face burned with embarrassment. Joseph was not her idea of a husband! Regardless, one discussion led to another and now they were legally betrothed.

In celebration of the betrothal, Joseph had built her a handcrafted manger for the lambs she raised. Everyone thought it odd. Mary, however, had been begrudgingly moved by it. Together they had saved that struggling lamb. When he gave her the manger he whispered, “May we never forget our unblemished lamb.” Joseph is a good man. And as my husband, he understands my need to pray. At that last thought, her eyes lit up.


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12 Weeks of Christmas

#12: The Innkeeper

by Leslie Crouse

Hananiah sat amidst the noisy dinner guests watching them fight over the last of Evie’s famous challah bread. His wife was the best cook in Bethlehem and he was big enough to prove it. Evie’s heart was even bigger. He watched her serve their guests with that soft smile and sparkling eyes. After twenty years together, he loved her deeper than he could have imagined.

Over the din he heard, “Where are your children? I do not believe I have seen them running around here with my own.” He cringed and glanced at his wife Evie. Silence fell in the room as Hananiah watched a flood of sorrow overtake Evie’s eyes before she nodded at him and ducked into the kitchen.

He cleared the lump forming in his throat at the sight of his wife’s pain and answered, “The LORD will bless us in His time.” This was no new question. Small talk always led this direction and over the years Evie had learned to let him answer while she avoided the knowing looks.

That quick flash of pain in her eyes was the only indication of their deep sorrow. Does not God hear their cry? Does he not see what a wonderful mother she would make? Anger fought to fill his heart but he pushed it back down. God knew best. Over the years Evie had not hardened her heart and he would honor her by doing the same.

God had blessed them in so many ways and he was not ungrateful. Having been born here, they did not need to travel during this ridiculous census. Hananiah and Evie had been able to stay put and collect the income brought on by Caesar’s decree. Pompous man. If he were God fearing he would know strength is not found in numbers but in the name of El Shaddai. Ah! He must shake this dismal mood or his guests would suffer for it.

At the sound of a knock or, rather a bang on the door, Hananiah began the task of standing up. Difficult after another of Evie’s fine meals. He kissed her cheek as he walked by and whispered something in her ear that made her smile and swat his arm.

Outside stood a young man wringing his hands. “Shalom! Sir, I beg of you, I must find a place to stay tonight. My wife’s pains have begun and I fear we do not have long. I have asked everywhere. Please say there is a place for us.” Hananiah looked at the woman and took a double take. Wife? This was a mere girl! Something did not seem right here. Why can Evie and he not find joy in children while this undeserving couple did? LORD! It is not right! Well, whatever she was, clearly she was in labor.

Hananiah gritted his teeth. He wanted help, but the inn had been full for days and there was no way he would ask a family to leave. Refunds were impossible. They had already spent the rental income on linens, supplies and fresh grain for the animals. With town as busy as it was, food and supplies were scarce and greedy men had raised prices. Again.

The city square was no place for a woman to give birth. Where could they go? He must think.


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“Shalom my friend. I see you are in need of… much.” He began leading them to the stable but the young woman paused to brace herself – one hand against the wall and another wrapped around her large belly – suppressing a low groan. She was embarrassed and obviously this was her first or she would have been better prepared.

Where was her mother? Maid? He set them up in the stable with fresh water for them as well as their animals and told them he would return shortly with blankets and food. It was the least he could do. Wasn’t it?

As he walked back toward the inn he heard another of her cries and the sound launched him back in time to when his baby sister was born. He was the second son of nine and had listened to births before.

He supposed he could let them have Evie and his room. It was in the back, separate from the others. But what a noisy business! Messy too. No. I will not do that to Evie. I will not make Evie watch a girl give birth in her own bed and then clean up after her too. Besides, if the other guests are disturbed our inn will always be remembered as such and destroy any future business. It is decided then. The barn it is. Evie would not approve but he would do what he must. His wife and his business needed to be priority.

Another cry pierced the night pulling him from his searing conscience and justifications.  The more he thought about it the more urgent the girl’s need became. This girl needs a midwife now! Where is that servant boy?

“Jacob, go get the midwife and bring her to the stable as fast as you can!” Hananiah yelled.

“But Sir! Grandmother Anna left for her hometown day before last. She isn’t – ” Jacob said.

“Then knock on every door and find one! We have no time!” Hananiah interrupted. At the rate she was going that baby may be here before the boy made it back. He watched Jacob, race down the dusty street. Truly, at this point any midwife would do. Any experienced mother.

Bitterness welled up again. Evie would not hesitate to help but she did not have the knowledge needed. He must tell her about the situation though. Maybe he could put it off until after the baby was born. She had her hands full with their guests. And if the guests caught wind that couple would never get any privacy.

“HANANIAH BEN JOHN! What do you think you are DOING? You told that poor girl to give birth in a barn? A BARN!” Fists planted on her hips, Eve skewered him with that fiery look of hers that withers every argument. She was on a war path now and was coming straight for him.

He had known she would not approve, but he had done the only thing he could. Right? That Jacob and his big mouth! What was done was done and right now they did not have time to argue.

“Eve, you must know given everything going on this was the best option. I will not argue with you about it. There is too much to do.” Eve whirled away in a fury. She began slamming open cupboards and ripping out all the brand new linens he had just purchased for their guests. He turned to get fresh water when he heard a ripping sound and his eyes grew round.

“Evie!” Hananiah’s face blanched as Eve ruthlessly tore their new linens to shreds. Never had he seen her so angry. It gave him pause. He turned his back and took a deep breath searching his heart one more time. Why had the barn seemed like such a good idea again? It is much too dirty for a woman giving birth. He knew that!

Before he could remember his arguments, His shame was punctuated by a loud smack as Eve stormed out the kitchen door arms full of the most expensive rags he had ever seen.


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3 Ways to Master Angry Words

3 Ways to Master Angry Words

He was in tears and I was apologizing. Again. Impatience and frustration had clouded my judgement for the third time in 24 hours. I retreated to my bedroom and swung in my hanging macramé chair, twisting and twirling as I silently cried out to God asking, “How will I ever tame my tongue? Is it even possible?” Then I heard it. God in his characteristic simplicity whispered into the secret places of my heart:

Stop talking.

As I twirled and swirled in my chair, I rolled the words around in my head and I thought, “What? Like a vow of silence monks used to do in the 1500s? Impossible. I am a busy mama.” But the thought brought a lightness to my heart I could not describe and before I knew it, I had decided I would try it. What I did not know is that I would be amazed.

Raising a family is not easy. Being overstimulated and overwhelmed means you may be short-tempered too. But does that mean life has to be tainted with angry words? That it just is what it is, or is there something more? I vote for more. My God does the impossible and his word says, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me strength.”

When we use food for the wrong reasons, we fast. When we develop an unhealthy relationship with social media, we pause our accounts and delete our apps. And if we battle an unhealthy relationship with words, we stop talking.

I know this last one sounds bizarre. Especially as it is coming from a mama who runs with five little children all day. But this is such an incredible and simple strategy I had to pass it along to you. Here are 3 simple steps to mastering angry words:

Choose a Time

Create Hand Signals

Stop Talking

Choose a Time

Pick a time that requires interaction. I chose to begin with one hour. Choose the hour before school or before dinner. Your purpose is to interact with your family without allowing angry words to get in the way. Tell your family BEFORE you begin. Be honest by apologizing for using angry words and tell them that you are going to do something new. “Soon I will not be using words and it will be your turn to speak and my turn to listen.”

Create Hand Signals

Life is still in swing and you will need a way to communicate with your family. Luckily, they say 90% of communication is nonverbal. Before you begin, create with your family some basic hand signals to communicate things like, “time to go” or “time to eat” or “bedtime.” Keep it simple. Personally, I tend to talk with my hands so my kids already knew the motion for “hurry up.” Ha!

Stop Talking

Warn them first, then zip it friend. No talking, humming, singing, emailing, texting or journaling. You are silencing your words and that means all of them. Spoken and written. This is your time to receive input, not give create output. (I highly recommend this for prayer, too!)

What should I expect?

Here are a few things that happened while I practiced fasting my words:

  • The kids tuned into my every move. No more telling them to do something 2-3 times, ending in a screamed instruction. They had to watch me for cues and they were so responsive!
  • They handled their own squabbles. Oh, they tried to get me to be judge between them. But since I wasn’t speaking, it empowered them to solve their own disputes. Praise Jesus.
  • The kids were empowered to demonstrate all they had learned. They have been trained well. But for some reason, my kids love to be told every move to make. This was a chance for them to show me how mature and capable they have become.
  • Rest. You may not realize it, but sometimes us mamas contribute to the chaos more than we realize. Choosing to put a pause on speaking gave me a rest from the endless questions, the repeated instructions and the the mental process of always directing and responding. I demonstrated my love through hugs and kisses and saw my family with a new perspective.
  • No regrets! Best of all, God spared my family from my angry words. I distinctly remember 4 incidents I would have prematurely reacted to, but in my silence I had no regrets. My original goal had been one hour, but it was such a lovely experience I ended up doing 2.5 hours.
  • More walking. You can’t yell at your kids to come in, come down stairs, or come to dinner… so there is that. It’s a small price to pay.

3 Tips for Teaching kids about God

“Tell us a Bible story, Mom!”

3 Tips for teaching Bible Stories

Are you looking for new ways to teach your kids about God? Tell them a Bible story!

Any time my husband travels, the kids and I sit at our dinner table grieving his empty chair until a perky, little voice asks for Bible stories! Now I share my stories with you so that you, too, can teach your kids about God!

People in the Bible have the same thoughts, feelings and reactions that we do, and through stories your kids will see how their favorite Bible characters chose to follow God. Christ taught through stories and so can you!

Here are 3 tips for Teaching your kids about God through Bible stories:

Ask them who they want to learn about

Read the story and pay close attention to thoughts, feelings & actions of each character

Have fun with it! Get into character and make the Bible come alive!

Need some inspiration? Read 12 of my own Bible stories that I have written for adults here and sign up on my Bible Fiction page for new stories delivered straight to your inbox!

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Sibling Rivalry and Squabbles

Are the kids fighting all the time? Being cooped up in the house together can cause a few… shall we call them disagreements? Children fight for their place in the proverbial pecking order by continually cutting each other down and demonstrating their strength over one another. Be it physical, emotional or intellectual this childhood struggle is the source of the many scars we wear today as adults.

However, we are called to defy this natural tendency, to give comfort when we see a family member down. Nature may push us towards self-promotion and self-preservation but God calls us to do family different.

When our children struggle we correct them and then invite them to come near and find comfort and consolation. When it comes to siblings, we teach our children to come alongside and build each other up. Never do we celebrate their loss, nor puff up our pride at their fatigue or grief.

As parents we often find ourselves delivering justice and sorting through the mess of hurt feelings and broken pride. It is an opportunity to correct one while having the other say something to bring comfort or consolation.

We are shaping hearts here. Perhaps some reflective time is needed before true comfort can find its way through. Walk your son or daughter through their feelings. Appreciating and maintaining justice is good, but celebrating someone else’s set back is an issue of the heart that also needs shaping.

By asking the offended party to respond to the apology with comfort and grace, we are training our children to be full of compassion and restoration. We are also preventing shame and condemnation from creeping in. There is no shame or condemnation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Read 2 Corinthians1:3-4, Romans 8:1 and pray 2 Corinthians 2:6-8.

2 Corinthians 2:7-8

Jesus, teach our family to “turn to forgive and comfort” each other so that no one “may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Let us always “reaffirm [our] love for him [or her].”

Beyond the Tides: Book Review

Liz Johnson pens Beyond the Tides, a novel set on the shores of beautiful Prince Edward Island. It is a story of Meg Whitaker, a brilliant scientist who gives up her education and career to come home to care for her sick mother only to find her high school nemesis, Oliver Ross taking over their family business. With themes of sacrifice, grief, and forgiveness, Johnson reminds us that people are redeemable and to be brave enough to cherish what you have before it is too late.

This novel mirrored, too closely, one of my favorites series of all time: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne, the heroine, is strong and brilliant, destined for higher education and career who gives it all up to come home and be a local teacher when a beloved parent falls sick. Anne abandons her opportunity to make it big opting instead to come home to support her parents and help run the family farm. She is then shocked to find her childhood nenemis, Gilbert Blythe, helping her from a distance. Agreeing to lay the old feud aside, the two develop a begrudging friendship that grows into love, which is only revealed through his personal sacrifice for her. It’s an incredible series.

While in Beyond the Tides, Johnson differs from Montgomery with her focus on themes of grief and forgiveness, the basic plot structure is the same. And the parallels between the two made it feel not original. At one point I wondered if Johnson was aiming to modernize the classic but I looked and did not see any mention of it.

Which in turn makes me ask a second question: How did none of the editors catch this? Surely-no pun intended-publishers still read the classics? Or perhaps Johnson loves that story and it inspired her to this one. In which case there needs to be an obvious tribute.

Given the glowing endorsements from other successful writers, my expectations were high. But I give this book 2 stars. Not because it isn’t well written or researched, or because the characters or themes were under developed, but because it felt like Anne of Green Gables rolled up her sleeves and took charge of a lobster boat instead of her farm.

Leslie

Book Review: The Nature of Small Birds

Susie Finkbeiner’s latest novel The Nature of Small Birds tells the compelling story of Mindy. A woman on a journey of healing and self-discovery, who chooses to face her past and search for her birth mother in Vietnam. The story however is uniquely told through the eyes of her three closest family members. Beginning in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam war and the fall of Saigon, Finkbeiner captures a picture of history rarely told to today’s generation.

Four days ago my friends and I shared dinner at a local pub and as we were leaving for a school meeting, an old man stopped us. He was wearing a Vietnam hat and my friend thanked him for his service. As he lit up, I wondered what his return home must have been like in the 1970’s. A sad retreat? A divided nation? Few patrons offering discounts to war heroes? It’s a story my parents do not like to tell. “A dark time in our nation” is how my mother put it. Finkbeiner tells this story.

Whether you were on the anti-war side, the support democracy side, or the nobody has taught me anything about it side, The Nature of Small Birds will pull you in to the roller-coaster emotion families experienced in this often not spoken about decade of America.

This book is moving and pulls you into a heart-felt story. Personally, I found the 3 distinct voices bouncing back and fourth over a period of many decades a little hard to follow. But please do not let this discourage you – I have been busy and distracted. I simply recommend you read this book when you can focus. The diction is also a shift away from standard writing as it is in first-person narrative/journal style. I prefer this in non-fiction but Finkbeiner does a fantastic job with her style. This book is unique and worth the concentration.

Happy reading!

Leslie

Book Review: Come Back To Me

Jody Hedlund writes another fantasic novel. And, it might just be my favorite. Come Back To Me is an intriguing novel about time travel, the legendary healing powers of the Tree of Life and the evil intentions of mankind.

Marian Creighton is a scientist, just like her dad. Searching for a cure to the disease that stole her mother and now plagues her sister, Marian resents the distraction of her Father’s private research. But when he falls into a coma while testing his own research, Marian begins her own journey discovering how time travel and the tree of life may not be so ridiculous afterall. When love unexpectedly touches her heart in an ancient era, Marian must find a way to go back.

Could. Not. Put. It. Down. Then wanted to immediately read it again. The tree of life and all the legends surrounding it is fertile enough gound for a great book, but Hedlund doesn’t stop there. Adding time travel and danger while constrasting the social customs of the middle ages and present day, Hedlund weaves a story of love and danger, sacrifice and healing. Lovers of Outlander will celebrate this redemptive story of adventure, history and faith. Don’t miss out of this story!

Leslie

Easter Decorations

After 2020, I find myself digging deep into the well of faith. This year for Spring you won’t find my house dressed up in bunnies and eggs.

As 2021 begins, I am clinging to what I love most: Truth. Redemption. Love. Mercy. Christ.

I found these railroad spikes for $2 each and an antique hymnal that was falling apart for $4.

Say “Hello” to a fresh start. A new beginning. A new life.

To the One who poured out his life on a cross. The One who conquered sin and death. And the One who gave his life that I might live.

Not Today COVID.

Rockstar.

This rockstar drinking a chocolate milkshake is my Grandma. And I love her so much.

She came to MO in a covered wagon from Kansas as a five year old.

She lived through the depression and wore a dress made from a bright-yellow flour sack material. (Yes, they bought the flour for food and then used the soft material of the bag for clothes.)

She witnessed our nation unify and the young and old sign up for World War II to fight against Communism and injustice.

As a newlywed she lived in a Colorado logging camp that had formerly been used as a German Prisoner of War camp.

She supported Billy Graham from his beginning to end.

She watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon.

She has three children, 6 grandchildren and lots of great grandchildren (Sorry family. I lost count of us all. But she hasn’t.).

Before this Christmas she looked pale and weak. So we took her to the doctor and found out she had only 40% of her blood due to an ulcer. Then they diagnosed a UTI. Then they diagnosed COVID.

Yes, COVID. I thought – we all thought – we will never see her again. Barred from the hospital, we prayed we would see grandma again. Hug her one last time. That somehow, this combination of living on 40% of blood, an infection plus the coronavirus would not take her.

My heart cried out, God! She has given too much, loved too many to die alone!

She will be 91 years old this spring and I am happy to say she is still kicking! Which is what I told her. To which she quipped right back, “Ha! Well, I’m not kicken’ very high!”

Marveling at God’s grace upon her, His answer to our prayers, I asked her, “How did you get through it all? It was just so much.”

She answered, “You just do what you gotta do until you get through it. Anytime you face something new you do not have any experience with it, so you just do it. Then, when you make it through, okay now you have some experience. But until then, you just face it and do it until it’s done and behind you.”

Grit. Thats how I sum it up. Her generation has grit.

I asked her what was the hardest part about the last several weeks. She said, “Being alone. It’s hard to be alone. But I see myself back in my apartment and seeing you all again and that’s what I am working toward.”

Hope. Plain and simple. Hope gives us the strength to do what we need to, to grab hold and push foward until we make it through. It is for hope we persevere.

Hope doesn’t beg for relief or whine about discomfort. Hope doesn’t depend on ease. Hope is the joy set before us. An expectation that rallies the soul and urges us on.

What is the hope you are clinging to today? What propels you forward?

Jesus is the hope my Grandma clings to. He is the hope I cling to. Unmoveable. Unchangeable. Eternal. A rock in the storm. A beacon in the darkness.

Grandma, I am excited for more of your stories and to give you another hug soon. And yes, I’ll bring you another milkshake!