936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
I stare down at the two slabs of pine. A stretch of iron metal lays across each edge. My husband rearranges the metal, tilting it this way and that as I tilt my head. “That side.” I tell him as he flips the wide slab of wood over. It reveals a smooth landscape of beige and blue grain, punctuated by swirls of red. I can see it now, this wood as a home for warm coffee cups and worn books for years to come.
My husband is a carpenter. A craftsman. A wood worker. I am always amazed by the beauty he can find, then show me, in a piece of lumber. This particular coffee-table-to-be piece is beetle kill pine. Here in the Rocky Mountains, we see it grayed and gnarled and eaten across our hills. A landscape of death and decay. These trees stand until at last, the wind comes to push them over. They are gathered up into burn piles, and when snow comes, and the fire danger passes, the piles are ignited. The beetle that kills these trees, it leaves behind an enzyme that turns the pine a stunning blue. Beauty from destruction, life reclaimed. My craftsman husband has an eye for it.
His eye for detail is what stopped me in the middle of the Advent story this week. I pictured Mary and Joseph in the cramped, stinky stable. And for the first time it hit me: Joseph was a carpenter. Did he, as my husband would have, study the wood work of that feeding trough? Did he kick at the legs, checking their stability before placing his child inside? Did Joseph grieve, wanting so much better for his son? Did he cringe at the crooked beams and exposed nails? Did he stare down and imagine what beautiful crib he could have fashioned, had he had more time? Did he close his eyes and lament, It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
I am sure it would not have been his first time sitting with that thought. On that day that he learned of the life growing in Mary’s womb, he considered leaving her. “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:19.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
I wonder how many times we think it, too. Staring at God’s plan that looks so different from our own. When His dream comes in crashing and clashing with ours. I wonder how many of us sit with that thought this Christmas.
Here, at the end of a year, that thought gains volume. For many of us we look back on twelve months, back to when goals and ambitions and dreams bounced around in our minds, perhaps between the lines of a journal. Juxtaposed with today, we sigh. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
We were supposed to pay off more debt.
That diagnosis was never a part of the plan.
We should be pregnant by now.
He should have gotten that promotion.
We should have taken that trip.
We should be homeowners.
The adoption should have gone through.
Our daughter should have come home.
Our son should have received that scholarship.
I should have landed that contract.
Our marriage should not look like this.
I shouldn’t be alone.
Are you ending this year in the should-have or should-be space? We forget that the manger held no “Should”. It held a perfect babe who would one day declare, in the strongest of whispers, “It is finished”. No should-be’s.
And because He came, because He died, we don’t have to live in these should-be places, either. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32.
Do we look at reality, as Joseph stared down at his new son in a rickety manger, and think of how much better it could be? Or do we dare to stare deeper into the face of what God is doing– of what He is bringing forth? Will we look upon that Babe in a manger this week and see it? That because God gave this child, He holds nothing back.
“For those who fear Him, there is no want.” Psalm 34:9
“The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.” Psalm 34:10
We can look into the manger and see not an imperfect plan, but a perfect one; completely wiping away our own imperfections. A messy manger making our hearts clean. A feeding trough holding a baby who would feed us the bread of life. A frightened father and mother choosing, despite hard circumstances, to trust God with a plan they couldn’t see the whole of.
His answers may not look like we want them to. His provision may not jive with our timing. His plan may not accommodate ours. But oh–oh how precious His thoughts are toward us, this God who moved Heaven and earth to win us back!
The most beautiful gifts can come in messy, humble packages.
What if we were to look back over this year and drill deeper into the hurt, the mistakes, the heartache, the mess, the unexpected, the disappointments, and the failure, and see the traces of a good God at work? Can we believe that His ways are higher than ours, and at the same time, that He is for us?
I have to wonder if God, looking down on His creation– us the people He made and loved– full of sin and hurt and death, cried the same: It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Of course, He didn’t leave it that way. He didn’t leave us. He came to us. Sometimes, in this fallen world, the only way to beauty is through destruction. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Romans 4:25
He came to us under that bright star in that rickety manger. The one Joseph stood in, perhaps scrutinizing the workmanship of the manger walls and feeding trough, lamenting, It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
And yet, it was just as the angels said. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:20
Just as the angels said. Just as promised…
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
It was just as we needed it to be.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!