The kids were little, but old enough to know that Christmas would be special. I was up at 5, waiting, expecting them to come running any minute when I could join them in their excitement. I worked hard, getting dinner and breakfast made and prepped, nursing the baby and then finally they were up. Presents, stockings, food, tea, chocolate. I would have stayed there all day just taking it all in.
Christmas fell on Sunday and so managed to go to church in the middle of it all. Mum and Dad were visiting and we rallied together to get everyone ready and out of the door. We had enough done at home that we could have dinner with all its trimmings ready to eat when we returned, the taste of Christmas cake still on our lips from breakfast.
Church was usually a little frantic between toddlers and babies, trips to the toilet, toys, and voices too loud. Somehow, that morning, I found a moment. I stood, stilled, hands outstretched and eyes closed. ‘Oh Holy Night’, my favorite, rang through the room and touched a deeper place. All faded as that night came into view and I wept at the wonder, the squalor, the pain and the joy. It was not how I had imagined.
A hand on my shoulder brought me back to the present, to Christmas 2013. Tears dried but heart shaken, I asked God what had happened. “I’m going to take you there,” He whispered, and I bowed, taking Him at His word but humbled at the privilege.
Four months later, I finally finished my first book, Bedstemor, birthed and written between babies born, napping, growing. I asked for a year, just a year of no writing as the stories never left me and I wanted some time to be Mum, not writer. Yet, many years ago, I had given my life to Him with no conditions. When I asked for time, it was with the understanding that if He had another plan, that’s the one we would go with. Two months, barely time to file the notes and take a deep breath, a new story was conceived. I met a woman, Mary, who was not the glowing, regal, holy woman I had always believed. I discovered a woman who dealt with fear, uncertainty and pain just like me, just like many women I had met.
The story began to unfold, while I washed dishes, or children, vacuumed the living room, drove to the store. It grew and burned in my heart, it woke me up at night and would not let me fall asleep again. The anguish of Mary’s story shocked me. I knew that the writing of it would propel me to search out the redemptive thread and healing that I knew my God would have ordained from the beginning. This healing would reach out and affect women who had believed for years that God could not or would not love them because of their weakness and failure. Perhaps they had reconciled this part of His character, but did He have a purpose for their lives? In discovering Mary’s weakness, we find a woman unqualified but chosen; inadequate but anointed. If God could choose Mary for such a momentous task, what could He do through you and I?
I stole minutes, here and there, and prayed that the little time I had would be multiplied. As I sat at the computer hands outstretched, again and again, I simply asked Him to show me what happened and then I wrote. Characters emerged, relationships developed, stories unfolded, layer upon layer. There were moments that took my breath away. I had no plan other than following the vague outline that scripture allowed. As I waited, the words poured in and through and I was changed. Mary’s story told. Just one more interpretation, but one that brought Mary out of the clouds and into humanity; raw, beautiful, ugly. The true beauty of it revealed through the grace of the One that she carried. A grace that took the nothing that she had to offer, and immersed it in the all-sufficiency of Him who would give it all.