When we arrived at "Z" I said, in a very mature, set-a-good-example, definitely not a 5-year-old tone, "Z is for zero...as in the number of presents I have under the tree. Ohhhh!!! Or, Z, is for Zilch." Josh and I caught eyes and simultaneously started manufacturing new jokes spun off of my Z words, all while poor Avery held her cute little head in her hands, pounding the table, racking her brain, giving anything to call forth the perfect Z Christmas word. (We aren't competitive at all.) Avery failed. I took a cheap shot.
Zero and Zilch were honestly the only Z words I could think of, other than zebra of course, but I was hard pressed to connect zebras to Christmas, so Zero and Zilch won. Josh and I laughed because we both know the reality of our financial state at the moment, and it's honestly okay. I'd be death-bed sick if I knew there were loads of presents under the tree with my name on them that belonged to VISA. I like the alternative. It helps me sleep at night.
Bear with me, I have a point.
Last night I was at a worship gathering when the two singers started singing about it being Jesus' birthday. And I lost it. I started bawling. I can't quote the words of the song. I only know that the tears came when they began singing about Mary carrying a child and bringing Him into the world in conditions suitable for animals. A King born in a manger. It could be that my Mama heart broke for Mary and Jesus, and led me to uncontrollable weeping. Or, it could've been that wells and wells of gratitude and awe burst and broke, followed by fountains of snot. Or, it could be that I could somehow relate, (not in the birthing our Lord and Savior sort of way, but maybe in the misinterpreted sense). Maybe it was the culmination of a thousand things.
At that moment I felt reminded that appearances are deceiving, sneaky and secret, (ordered by God)...and really, truly, actually awesome. What looks like poverty and hard times at our house is really just the opposite. We are building. Tirelessly (and tired-ly) pushing for a dream. Too stubborn to quit. And it's exciting!
Calling Joseph and Mary a poor, irrelevant couple, unworthy of a clean bed was actually one of the biggest misconceptions ever made. Mary brought forth the light of the world, but most everyone misunderstood the especially bright star in the sky that night, or why on earth wise men and kings would come to worship a baby lying in a manger.
But God knew better. He knew how history would unfold. He allowed His very essence to have the most humble, dirty, unappealing (lacking every kind of bell or whistle) entrance to the world. HE PLANNED THAT. HE DID THAT. He wasn't worried. Jesus' destiny wasn't in jeopardy. Sneaky right?
See, I've understood that our present circumstances and appearances aren't the end of the story, and last night I felt especially encouraged that something is brewing. I was past the point of being okay with the big Z words, I was actually thankful, energized and excited. And I cried the ugly, wipe my nose on my scarf cry, happy as a squirrel in an oak tree. (Is that a common analogy? Squirrel in an oak tree? I made it up. Be free to use it. Or not.)
I'll close with this, appearances are a bummer if you lay it all on the line every day for everyone to see. Where's the magic in that? Where's the testimony? How great is the prize if it's not desperately fought for, or extravagantly paid for, in one way or another? What kind of impression will remain? These questions streamed down my swollen tear stained face as I sat there feeling like the Lord just let me in on a big secret: Appearances are misleading. Deceiving. God works behind the scenes, and below the radar. I suggest saving judgements for later. And maybe even scrapping them all together. Let's do this. Let's plow the field in front of us. Let us not grow weary, for surely this is just the beginning of the beginning, or maybe even the middle, but definitely not the end. Let's be the best darn delivery truck drivers, bankers, post office workers, drum builders and stay at home Mom-ers we can be. Let's trust that if we fight the good fight, with clean hands and pure hearts that we will arrive on the other side, victorious. It's possible. It's certain. It's sneaky. Let's do what our Mom's always told us to do, and not judge a book by its cover. Remember that vision gives pain a purpose (thanks Kris Vallotton), and anything of lasting value isn't built over night. And most importantly, remember that God's too cool, too sneaky, and way too wise to wear His plans on His sleeves. If we stick with Him He's gonna make it count. It's His style. It's His plan. He orders the hard stuff. All we have to do is hang on.