Husband and I moved to South Florida in the fall of 1998. We had just left art school in Pittsburgh, a life of cold winter days, coffee shops and art galleries. South Florida was polar opposite with it's hot humid days so naturally we switched hot coffee for cold drinks and got jobs at the Smoothie King on the beach.
Our Smoothie King was located directly under a premium gym where guys drove expensive cars and acted all knowledgeable about health products and such. Parking was so expensive that you had to be wealthy to drive to the beach and park every day. The irony is the drinks were so loaded in carbs that it was almost funny to mix up a 20 or 40 ounce drink for people who just worked out to burn the calories. We had one drink that was almost 1000 calories!
Accross the street was the International Swimming Hall of Fame which hosted non-stop events around the year for swimmers. We'd get kids of all ages marching accross the street for a "health" smoothie.
There was also the international crowd who worked the cruise ships and would bus into the beach for supplies and entertainment on the weekends.
The local kids employed at Smoothie King were an odd mix. Some were from a nearby private school who were very lazy and would forget to do all their closing chores. There was also a 16 year old girl who had false teeth and lived with her much older boyfriend. There was Jill, a girl who's mom had ruined her credit by 16 and Debra, a local with lots of tattoos who got pregnant by 16 and raised the baby with her boyfriend.
We befriended them all, regardless of race, gender and eccentricities - well I say that last part with one exception because when we met the creepy guy who said he was an internet porn star and offered us a job, well, we avoided him.
Finally there were the homeless.
One man stood out from the homeless crowd because of his manners. He'd come in to ask for a drink and always ready to pay $0.20 for the cup. Our boss had befriened this man and learned his life story. His name was Mike. Mike had a family once, a wife and daughter, both were killed in a car crash and Mike never recovered. He used to have a good job but could not function after the death of his family and he turned to drinking. We knew if we gave him money he would buy alcohol so we simply tried to be kind to him. We'd talk to him whenever he stopped by, always gave him water and food if needed. But it still came as a great surprise when we heard one day that he'd passed away on the beach. With an unexpected death there is always that thought of, what more could I have done for this person? Yes I tried to help, but could we have done more? Death is sad no matter when or how it hits, but always more so when it's unexpected.
Being 8 months pregnant in the month before Christmas has made me painfully aware of what Mary must have gone through to have baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The aches and pains at this stage can be tremendous along with going to the bathroom once an hour and feeling like labor could start at any moment with all the Braxton hicks tightening my tummy. It makes a mama want to take it easy and stay home! So what caused Mary to get on that donkey at this late stage in her pregnancy?
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife,who was with child.
Here is a google map showing the distance to be 36 hours of walking so it would have taken them 3 days if they walked 12 hours per day. (However, studies suggest it actually took 70 hours of travel due to political boundaries and ancient roadways.)
There is no specific mention of a donkey in these passages but I'm going to assume that this made it into the story because the idea of a pregnant women walking this far is hard to imagine. (And no husband in his right mind would let his wife walk that far anyways.)
Once they arrived in Bethlehem the story goes they could not find room at the inn and were given what we assume to be the stable to spend the night since she placed Jesus in a manger after birth. Definition for manger is a feeder that is made of carved stone, wood, or metal construction and is used to hold food for animals.
So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Can you imagine not finding suitable accommodations after a week of hard travel? Some people suggest they could have been in Bethlehem for a period of time before having the baby but that would mean living in the stable during that time. I'd like to believe the story goes more like the traditional tale which suggests that she gave birth right after settling down in the stable. Otherwise she'd have had weeks to fret over the potential of being stuck there for the birth! Can you imagine the stress of asking your husband every day - did you find a better place for us to stay yet? Sorry Mary, Bethlehem is just packed and there is nothing left!
We can only hope that after the birth they were able to find better housing because they had 40 days post birth to complete the circumcision, naming and purification. Leviticus 12:2-4 provides the details of post birth requirements. Plus we don't know how long it took to be counted for the censes.
In Luke 2:39 we learn the family returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.
39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.
Luke skips over the 3 wise men's visit but we can pick this up in Matthew where we learn the wise men go see Herod first to inquire about Jesus King of the Jews and then the star leads them to the house where Jesus and family are living. We can only assume, based on the above verse in Luke, that they must have traveled onto to Nazareth.
Harod, feeling threatened by this young King of the Jews, makes a horrific decree to kill all male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem. Immediately after the wise men visit Jesus and family, an angel spoke to Joseph in a dream telling him to flee to Egypt immediately with his family where they stayed until Herod's death.
13 Now when they (wise men) had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
That's a lot of travel for a young family just starting life together. I can only imagine they must have been very dependent on God to meet their needs because even moving that much in this modern age would be daunting.
There are so many lessons one can pick up from this story but as a mom who is 8 months pregnant, I take away the following:
We have very little control over the final outcome of pregnancy. No amount of planning can remove barriers like sickness, accidents, early labor, and in Mary's case, a last minute trip to Bethlehem. Therefore it's so important to listen for God's will in these final days.
Mary trusted God would work things out - I'm sure she could have put up a fight and told Joseph to go alone but she went with him and trusted things would work out.
Mary and Joseph did not complain about the inconvenience to their lives at having a baby in a stable or having to rush to Egypt in the middle of the night. They just kept doing what they were called to do. Now there are plenty of accounts in the Bible of people complaining about God's commands so I'm sure if it were relevant to the story, complaints would have been made known but we have a pure clear story of obedience and absolute trust.
As parents, it's so interesting to consider what Mary and Joseph went through. My husband and I discussed a scenario of how would we react if God came to us in a dream and said pack whatever you can fit in one vehicle and leave Hagerstown, MD tonight, oh and you're going to be gone two years so trust that I'll meet your needs. We'd probably be completely overwhelmed!
In this modern age, we have so many ways of maintaining strict control over our lives that it's easy to be lulled into thinking we are in complete control. Need a car, just take out a line of credit. Need food, call any number of fast food places and have it delivered. Get sick, go to the doctor and get meds - except in my case where being sick during pregnancy means very limited options so you better believe I've been praying every day for recovery! So there are exceptions when it hits us that we can't resolve things on our own but you can see how easy it is to largely live our lives without giving any consideration to God's will.
I think this is a good time to pause and consider just how much we really should feel dependent on God for our present lives and future. Even Jesus had to depend on the guidance of his heavenly father. Think about it - Jesus didn't come to earth as a God, he came as a human and therefore was solely dependent through his parents as a young child to follow God's direct will. As an adult we see Jesus praying constantly for guidance. Why then should we do any differently?
Last Tuesday Sam complained of a sore throat and I made the call to send him to school anyway. It's hard to tell the difference between normal stuff kids complain about and a serious oncoming illness - or so I say to comfort myself. By 10am we got calls and text messages to come get Sam because he was getting worse and crying. He stayed on the couch for 2 days while we did our best to comfort him and by Friday he was better! Saturday the two girls got sick and by Sunday husband was down for the count so I spent the day catering to everyone and wishing someone would come get Sam and take him out to play because he was bouncing off the walls!
I worked Monday and took care of sick husband and girls and I guess they wore me down because by Tuesday morning I was unable to work. For 3 days I've had the most intense cold/sinus headaches and body aches and pains. Being 35 weeks pregnant means I can take very little medicine. The only bright side is this little girl really appreciated the extra cuddle time.
Today is the first day I'm finally able to look at a computer screen and function normally.
I've lost all ability to send out Christmas cards and do all those fun little Christmas projects with the kids that I wanted to do. The tree is up though, we managed to squeeze that in on Friday in between the kids trading illnesses. So at least it looks like Christmas in our home. I'm just not sure I have much energy to do anything else at this point. My biggest regret is not getting a family Christmas picture taken while I'm pregnant but maybe we can squeeze that in next week.
Next week is the school Christmas program on Tuesday and husband declared the only way we're missing that is if I'm in the hospital giving birth! Then there's a bells program on Wednesday and a Christmas play on Sunday so I guess quarantining will not work. Let's pray for complete healing and no more illness for the remainder of this pregnancy!!!