Do You Need A Gift Receipt With That?

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It’s the morning after Christmas and my daughter is teething. Nothing satisfies for long and her constant whining externalizes what I’m feeling on the inside. 

I, too, want a lot of things I can’t have today, and I kind of feel like stomping my feet a couple times and whining would make me feel better. 

Looking around at the crumpled wrapping paper and the heaping pile of pots and pans, crusted over with remnants of yesterday’s feasting, I feel like my body is moaning along with my daughter — what now?

It occurred to me this morning that there was a “morning after” Jesus’ original birth as well, not just for our celebration and remembrance of it all these years later. 

Creation had waited and waited and waited, and then He was born! And stars shone and angels sang and shepherds were sore afraid before they started celebrating. Mary and Joseph were at the center of this most divine supernova in history. 

And then what?

I just reread the beginning of all the Gospels, and there’s not a word written about the morning after. In fact, besides a story about Jesus’ consecration with Simeon and Anna, and the time He stayed behind after Passover, there’s nothing written about His next 30-some years. 

Thirty years before Jesus began the stuff that was “important” enough to be recorded!

What do you think Mary and Joseph did the morning after He was born? After being so close to the cataclysmic event of history — in my mind only superseded by one other cataclysmic event 33 or so years later — did they get up and start making breakfast and immediately getting on with it? Or did they wait around, hoping for visitors more important than shepherds, wishing somebody would bring some expensive gifts? And if so, how long did they wait? 

Were they at all disappointed that the trumpets didn’t keep playing or that baby Jesus didn’t start issuing orders about His new kingdom when He was one week old? Or did they just get right to work with no regrets?

There are so many things in life where we wait long and expect hard and dream big … and then the day comes and sometimes everything goes right and it really does turn out just as magical as we’d hoped for … and then we wake up the next day and life goes on. 

The problem with those big, wonderful events is that there is almost always a morning after when we find ourselves asking the now what?

The party always ends. And what do you mean I have to take down the tree which is always anti-climactic, if not downright depressing? What do you mean I have to go back to oatmeal for breakfast instead of bacon and French breakfast puffs? And laundry and work and homework and what to fix for dinner?

We want the feast that doesn’t end. We crave the celebration that goes on and on. We long for the unceasing joy. Because under it all, we were made for the Son. Our cells cry out with the need to be finished with the sins and the sufferings and the boredom and all this waiting to see His glory and His kingdom come. 

And the beautiful thing is, unlike so many other things we want, there’s no shame in these desires because it’s not anything like our wanting of more pie or more sleep or more time with distant loved ones.

This longing we feel is one that will be fulfilled one day. Utterly and completely. And these morning after blues turn out to be one of His great gifts to us — a reminder in the midst of the blahs and the discarded boxes that He made us for Himself. To be in pure, unsullied relationship with Him. To see Him face to face and ponder Him anew.

And nothing less will satisfy us in our deepest places.

Maybe it’s not a gift we put on our list, but it’s a gift we often need the morning after.

So what now? 

I guess we get up and get dressed. Maybe we make the bed and throw in a load of laundry while our morning cup of goodness is brewing. Maybe write a note to that friend we keep thinking about. Take a deep breath, and get back to work loving each other deeply and trying to cover each others’ multitude of sins. 

Go back to waiting for that day of all days — because He will be coming again, of that we can be sure. But it will be as it always has been, in His time. 

If you’ve enjoyed this essay, I’d love to hear about it! You might also enjoy one of my Novels, Essays or Poems.

Why Am I So Highly Favored?

Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered what Mary was thinking when she said, “why am I so highly favored?”

For some reason, this past month I’ve been pondering her response to the angelic news that she was to be the mother of the Messiah, and this is what I’ve come up with — perhaps Mary understood what a black-hearted sinner she was at a much greater level than we are even capable of today.

She was still a part of a sacrificial system, after all, where the sins she committed had to be paid for every year. A quantifiable cost had to be handed over for every sinful choice she made. Blood was spilt, and a new provider of that blood had to be purchased and killed, over and over again.

When your sin had to be paid for in such a visible, costly way, year after year, while you stood in front of the community steeped in the shame of it — I wonder if it provided an opportunity for a little more insight into the weighty burden of sin.

Mary was part of a community that groaned, looking ahead with yearning hearts toward the promised Messiah who was to come and free them from the whole bloody system.

Which leads me to believe it was wonder she must have felt, knowing what she knew about herself — and still — realizing she was being chosen to be the mother of the Lord.

How can this be? Why me?


I was 39 when I got married, and for most of those 39 years I’d been so petrified of vulnerability and loss that I’d constructed gargantuan walls to protect myself. Thank God my husband had the patience and kindness to invest the necessary time in knocking them down, but that’s another story.

In those first months of marriage, frequently a little jolt would shoot through my body and my eyes would tear up — how did this happen? What did I ever do to deserve this man? In fact, why am I so highly favored could have easily come from my lips.

It was wonder — knowing very well that I didn’t in any way deserve the gift I’d been given — and hand-in-hand with the wonder came gratitude.

But as time went by those wonder jolts came less and less frequently, until about a year into marriage I’d become accustomed. Six or so years later, I only have those jolts every once in a while, when I look at my husband and my eyes fill with tears. When I wish there was a way to demonstrate the depth of my gratitude for the gift of him.

In our daughter’s first months it was even odds that if she was quiet and I had a minute to just stare at her, I would start crying, unable to understand the miracle. Where did you come from little girl? How could this have happened to me?

But I was also curious if the same pattern would play out, and sure enough, she’s just over a year old and the wonder jolts are fading. And therefore the moments of spontaneous gratitude have lessened as well.

It turns out my capacity for wonder lasts about a year.


We’ve all experienced the devastation of the why me question. Almost always, it’s screamed out in a moment of unspeakable loss, when we find ourselves blindsided by the world we’re being forced to live in. But I think the reverse question — why me, in the positive sense — is just as provocative and a lot more truthful.

Why this man? Why this baby girl? Why these never-failing parents? And family and friends in such precious, worthy numbers? Why have I been so showered in such incalculable joys? And for heaven’s sake, why me?

That line of thought often brings me to the most shocking of all, why did my Lord choose me?

Because regarding this one question it seems my capacity for wonder is endless. Each time I truly stop, take enough time to calm down and quiet my mind — I am flabbergasted. Destroyed. Jolted apart at the seams by earthquakes of wonder.

I know who I am. I am black-hearted and desperately wicked. Almost every inclination of my heart is evil, almost all the time — which is especially aggravating given that I’ve been at this a few years and should have moved an inch or so toward the goalpost…at least!

Why me? Why am I so highly favored, that my Lord should choose me to be in His family?

I don’t know. I don’t understand it at all. But the wonder of it electrifies my heart with gratitude and praise, and I am undone.

And I hope you are, too, today. I hope you can take a beat — just one — in this crazy, busy season of shopping and wrapping and cooking and cleaning and planning … to ponder on the greatness of Him and His ridiculously crummy taste in family.

Take a brief, choking look at your own heart — and then look long upon Him and wonder anew.

Why are we so highly favored?
Because He said so, and that is enough.

If you’ve enjoyed this essay, I’d love to hear about it! You might also enjoy one of my Novels, Essays or Poems.

Night Watchman.

Here all night I’ve been waiting
‘most the whole night through
and the sun’s rays are breaking
now the dawn’s coming new

I thought I might not make it
shaky moments aplenty
those dark hours of the night
under a sky vast and empty

Yet I’ve kept my lamp burning
held it high, all aloft
and I’ve called to all near
as they walk by and scoff

But as dawn breaks I’m tired
and I just want to sleep
it’s so long I have waded
through a darkness so deep

I am heartsick with longing
and my eyes they grow dim
for a glimpse of the step
just one moment with Him

I have waited and kept to
the word that I made
though the original cost
many times more have I paid

For I look to my left
and that friend he is gone
and I look to my right
and she too has moved on

And my arm grows so weary
full of hope long deferred
for the dawn brings no comfort
not one single, kind word

There is grief in my heart
everywhere that I gaze
we all stumble to see
through this terrible haze

Will He come here today
will it be one more year
will I die while I wait
will they wake up and hear

Now my light flickers crazy
and my strength disappears
as my knees fold from wanting
and my eyes flood with tears

But my lamp does not break
when it slips from my grasp
nor do I come apart
when I fall down at last

For there stands here beside
as I lay on the ground
the One for whom I have longed
and at once, I am found

When did I miss His coming
were my eyes closed in pain
had I let out a cry
once again cursed His name

But here He is with me
all that matters is now
and His rightful place taking
at His feet I do bow

And He pulls me up tall
as He hands me my light
and my hope is renewed
by His terrible might

Once again He has given
strength enough for today
and if tomorrow He tarries
at His feet I will stay