I sit here on Christmas morning alone. Lots of people have asked me if it will be hard to not have my kids on Christmas, did I need anything, did I want to come over. I am so grateful for their kindness but I’m okay. I don’t feel alone. I’m spending the day with my Savior. First times are always hard. Change is always hard. Bringing fourth new traditions and finding joy in sorrow is something I am getting better at. Sometimes people will see that I’ve been crying and they might think “Wow, she’s having a really hard time. She must be so sad.” And while that’s sometimes true, what I can’t explain is that any time I’m feeling sorrow or even sorry for myself, right there with it is love. I feel so much love from God and the people around me that it is often overwhelming and I can’t hold it in. It comes out in tears. And for the first time in a long time I feel free to feel. So when I feel something, I just let it come and sit with it. Feelings don’t scare me anymore.

My mind has been drawn in a strong way to think on Mary many times this Christmas season. With the many changes that have happened in my life in the last few years, often times I have felt like a woman in labor, enduring the longest labor ever! I remember taking a birth preparation class before having my first child. I learned all the positions and breathing techniques to help me achieve my goal of a medication free birth, but when it actually came time for my son to be born, I was overwhelmed by the pain. I naively thought that somehow all those tools would make the pain go away. If you’re a woman you’re probably laughing right now. Of course the pain wouldn’t go away. The techniques I learned merely made the pain bearable, barely.

I have been through the equivalent of birthing classes over the last few years. Individual and group therapy, learning about myself, changing old patterns, being sent true and understanding friends to act as a support group, gaining tools to help me be a healthier individual, learning how to accept the kindness and generosity of those around me with gratitude instead of shame, and most importantly, growing a deep relationship with God and Jesus. Every change has brought pain, but the tools have made the pain bearable. Now, my house has sold, the divorce proceedings are possibly winding to a close, and the last few months have been full of what has felt like the beginning pangs of birth. Leaving behind my dreams and starting over in a new area, worrying about my kids and how this will impact them is exceedingly painful to me. I think of Mary and wonder what her experience was really like. She knew God was with her. Joseph was there and supporting her. But she was still a young woman doing something scary. She was away from her home, she had no support system. She didn’t know what lay ahead for her and her baby, she knew she was carrying the Son of God, but she didn’t really know what that meant yet. She had never had a baby. She didn’t really understand how much it was going to hurt. Do you think Mary felt alone, even with the angels that were most assuredly surrounding her and her little family? Do you think God shielded her from the discomfort of her journey on donkey back during the very end of her pregnancy? Do you think she felt the indignity of not having a decent room to give birth in? Did she worry that she might not have a good midwife in attendance? Or do you think that all her worry was swallowed up in the love that can only come from God?

The other day I read a beautiful article by Meredith Nelson. She said, “Some traditions hold that Mary felt no pain in her labor, because she and her baby and this moment were too holy for pain. But if the scriptures and a history of devoted saints tell us the truth, holiness and pain are likely companions. I attend women in labor professionally, and will be the last to abuse the word “pain” in relation to childbirth. But by far most labors are physically intense and exhausting, and every labor I have witnessed has involved a depthless yielding on the part of the woman. I imagine Mary, mother of Jesus, herself to be a type of the Savior of the world — her labor a foreshadowing of his, her blood and pain a preface to his prayer in Gethsemane.”

To me, the difficulty of making these last big changes feels like the last big pushes in labor. You are SO tired, it hurts SO much. You know it has to be done sometime, but you don’t know how long it will take. You know there will be a huge reward, but you had no idea it would hurt SO much. You are using all your tools, but the pain is still so immense that it is difficult to keep hope in your heart and not be swallowed up by fear. 
I discovered this song by Michael Smith a few days ago and of course I cried because it was so perfect. I felt like God was talking to me through the words. Telling me to keep pushing. Because I’m almost there.

Mary, full of innocence 
Carrying the Holy prince 
You're almost there, you're almost there 
Mother of the Living Word
Trusting in the voice you heard 
You're almost there, you're almost there

You're almost where the angels see 
Redemption's plan unfolding 
All hope is in the Son you'll bear 
You're almost there

A lonely road, a willing heart 
Pray for strength to do your part 
You're almost there, you're almost there 
Trust the Father to provide 
Bread of heaven prophesied 
You're almost there, you're almost there

You're almost where the waiting ends 
Delivering the life within 
The answered prayer, Emmanuel 
You're almost there

You're almost where the journey ends 
Where death will die and life begins 
The answered prayer, Emmanuel 
You're almost, almost there

And if there’s anyone out there who feels alone, who feels like they are using their tools, but it still hurts and they are scared, remember you are not alone in your feelings. You keep going. You are almost there. Learn what it means to have, not a Merry Christmas, but a Mary Christmas. It means you keep hope in your heart when you think there’s not reason to have any. It means you do the hard things that need to be done. It means you trust in the Lord and lean not to your own understanding. I means God is with you because you are important to Him and He loves you. Never forget it.