by Robyn

Empowering Mary: A Paradigm Shift on the Nativity Story

December 18, 2017 in Mary, Robyn, Savior, Uncategorized by Robyn

We received this post from Carol Vezzani who contributed to our book the beautiful essay “My Angel in Gethsemane” in our Atonement chapter.  Carol also blogs at   http://anunsuccessfulblog.blogspot.com.  I enjoyed this post because I love the idea of Mary being proactive and empowered about her birth.  Enjoy! –Robyn

 

Empowering Mary: A Paradigm Shift on the Nativity Story by Carol Vezzani

I’ve always felt at least a little uncomfortable with the common modern renditions of the conditions of Christ’s birth: Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, poor and alone. They reach the one inn in town, Mary obviously ready to pop, if not already in labor, only to find it crowded and run by a grumpy and inhospitable innkeeper who gruffly forces them to leave. In despair and urgency, they take refuge in a stable among the animals and filth. Alone and in the most squalid of circumstances imaginable, the Christ child is born and laid in the manger where the cows and goats continue to nibble the hay out from under his head.

The entire basis for this account is these 4 verses from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2–

 

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his aespoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

 

When you read what is there, there really is so little that is concretely declared about the circumstances. I have no problem with people inventing details to flesh out a story that is so important to so many. The problem I have is with those invented details being perpetuated and taught as truth down the generations.

It started with the innkeeper. Even as a child, I was uncomfortable with the birth story having an invented villain. No where in the Bible does it mention an innkeeper, and yet he consistently makes an appearance, turning the holy couple away out of selfishness and greed. My first childish thoughts were, “That is so unfair. No one knows that he was mean or selfish. Maybe he was nice. He even let them stay in his stable. What, should he have kicked out someone who was already there? He did the best he could.” It wasn’t until later that I realized–there may never even have been an innkeeper at all. And I think that’s the point. I can invent details that please myself, but I do not claim that is actually how things were, any more than the “traditional” details.

Some other thoughts are on the accommodations available to Mary and Joseph. The Joseph Smith Translation of the bible renders the word as “inns” rather than “inn,” and some research into the original Greek (on the internet–don’t judge) points out that the word translated as “inn” in this circumstance is not the same as that meaning a public house for travelers, but rather a guestroom in a private residence. This makes sense. Bethlehem is Joseph’s hometown. It seems only natural that he would have family to stay with. But, being a time when everyone came home, the houses were probably crowded.

Since having my own babies, I have connected more with Mary in this story. The more I thought about her, the more I felt offended on her behalf even more than on the innkeeper’s. Why should she be depicted as the simpering, whimpering, powerless victim? I personally think God would have picked a Mother for the Christ with a little more gumption than that. Having traveled to a different state in order to have a natural home birth, in the basement of a friend’s house where the rest of the family who owned the house went about their business upstairs, I know what it is like to have a baby far from home, in a busy house that doesn’t belong to you. And let me tell you, there could be plenty of “room” to live and eat and sleep at night and still “no room” to have a baby. And at this point my imagination started to run. I can only imagine Mary, coming on to her time, looking around that crowded house and thinking, “No. Way.” OK. Say she is demure and kindhearted. She won’t kick anyone else out of the house just for her, but still. She goes to Joseph.

 

Mary: There’s no room here. I can’t have my baby here.

Joseph: There’s no where else to go. The city is full.

Mary: I don’t know. Not here.

Joseph: Mary, there is no where else.

Mary: There has to be. Somewhere. I can’t be here with all these people.

Joseph: Where, Mary? Where? The entire city is full.

Mary: I will find a place!

Joseph: Where are you going to go? The barn?

Mary: Yes!

 

Her nesting instincts kick in and she starts cleaning.

OK, that’s the funny way it goes in my mind. Truthfully, there were probably many female relatives and a midwife or two there to anticipate her need for solitude, and clean for her. Nowhere says that Jesus was born on the first night they arrived. They had time to prepare for this journey. They would have planned time to prepare the circumstances for his birth.

Again, I emphasize that I am not claiming this is what happened. I am only saying that this narrative fits with the facts as laid out in the scriptures as well as any other does, and it feels a lot more respectful of the Holy Mother as a woman and a powerful daughter of God.

by Robyn

Did Mary Really Ride a Donkey to Bethlehem?

December 12, 2017 in Angels, Christmas, Jesus Christ, joy, Mary, Pregnancy, Robyn, Savior, Symbolism by Robyn

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There are many beautiful works of art depicting Mary riding a donkey as Joseph led them to Bethlehem. I never questioned whether or not Mary rode a donkey on her journey with Joseph.  However, as I was researching the symbolism of Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem and Christ riding a donkey as he entered Jerusalem in the Triumphal Entry, I realized that the scriptures don’t actually say that she did.  She could have. It is likely that she did given it was the popular mode of transportation for people of her day and circumstances.  But we really don’t know.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that it is commonly accepted. And so I wanted to delve into the symbolism of Christ riding the donkey into Jerusalem and what that may mean for our common belief that Mary rode upon a donkey too.   In Egypt the donkey is a symbol for the god of evil. In Hebrew writings the donkey or ass symbolized the devil, evil, harm or non-covenant people (Lost Language of Symbolism, 307-308).  What does the Son of God riding upon something that symbolized evil mean?

 

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The answer is two fold in Christ riding upon the donkey/ass. First, it symbolized that He would overcome all evil even the devil himself. This He did with his sinless life though being sorely tempted by even Satan himself.  By riding into Jerusalem in this manner He foreshadows His triumph over physical and spiritual death and His ability to grant salvation.

Secondly, riding upon the ass represented that He was the God of the Jews and Gentiles, “Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also” (Romans 3:29).  In addition, the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles as well as be “blessed and numbered among the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 10:18).  The word Gentile means “the nations.”  It designates people of non-Israelite lineage but also nations that are without the gospel (Bible Dictionary, 679).

He is the Lord to each one of us whether we know it or not.  Christ did not come for the saint but for the sinner.  He is your Savior whether or not you accept Him as such.  He loves you whether or not you love Him.  He waits for you even when you stray.  He is merciful and makes it possible for each one of us to receive His salvation in one way or another.  To Him we are numbered.  He knows us.

And so Mary riding upon the back of a donkey pregnant with the babe Jesus is a beautiful foreshadowing of what was to come. So whenever I see Mary riding upon the donkey I think of the power and triumph of Christ entering Jerusalem upon a donkey with the crowds of people throwing their clothes and palm fronds in His path honoring Him as a King proclaiming,

“Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9).

These beautiful words are similar to the refrain of heavenly hosts heralding the birth of Jesus,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).

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In pondering these symbols a conversation with a dear friend of mine came to mind as we talked about her approaching birth.  She could feel the darkness surrounding her, trying to rob her of the joy that should accompany the birth of a child.  Knowing the challenges she had faced in the past I was reminded that she had overcome them.  The darkness did not beat her.  She had triumphed.  So if you find yourself pregnant or with a little one during this sacred time, or struggling in anyway, I hope you know that Christ will help you triumph over the evil.  It is not unusual to feel weighed down physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as you overcome the evil of the world and choose to give the Gift of Life.  May you seek to be ever closer to Him and feel his love surround you as you bravely move forward to your “Bethlehem.”

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

#LIGHTtheWORLD

To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon, where we have it at holiday pricing right now!

Best Pregnancy Book Out There!

December 8, 2017 in Birth Stories, Book, Book reviews by enjoybirth

I haven’t finished the book yet but I cannot say enough good for what it contains!

Its given me a new perspective on my role as a mother and how divine my role is. It is coming from the perspective of women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints but they pull quotes from various other faiths.

Its a great faith based book on the divine role of Motherhood!

To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon, where we have it at holiday pricing right now!

Eve and Mary, their sacrifices and their fruit.

December 7, 2017 in Atonement, Eve, Sheridan by enjoybirth

I love so much about this print with Eve and Mary.  It causes me to deeply reflect…

This is a picture I took of the print I bought, please click to go to link of the artist to see it better.

The sacrifice Eve made so we could all be mothers.

Eve carrying the fruit that caused the fall.

Eve twisted up with the serpent and her humility in the role she was sent to fulfill.

The sorrow and gratitude they have one for the other.

Mary crushing the serpents head and her humility in the role she was sent to fulfill.

Mary carrying the fruit that would help us overcome the fall.

The sacrifice Mary made so we could all be saved.

 

I wonder…

Were Eve and Mary friends before they came to the earth?

Did they both know the heavy burden they would bear?

Did Mary attend Eve as she birthed her babies?

Was Eve at Mary’s birth of Jesus?

Did they rejoiced as they were reunited, when Mary returned to heaven, having both done as God had asked them to?

 

Are we not a blend of Eve and Mary?

Carrying a heavy burden of the sacrifice we make as mothers

Often twisted up and tricked by Satan

So very humble as we try to raise these great blessings/challenges of the children we were given

Full of gratitude for the gift of repentance and how that allows us move forward with hope

Because we have the power to crush the serpents head

And will one day enjoy the fruit of eternal life.

How we will rejoice with Eve and Mary sharing our gratitude for the sacrifices they made for us!

*You can purchase the print here.

 

The Gift of Giving Life is on sale for the Holidays.

Buy at Amazon.

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by Robyn

Jesus, Once of Humble Birth

December 6, 2017 in Angels, Christmas, Doulas, home birth, hospital birth, Jesus Christ, Mary, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

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With Christmas approaching I have been pondering the concept of “humble birth.”  We speak of Christ’s birth as being under humble circumstances. In fact one popular hymn begins, “Jesus once of humble birth” (Jesus, Once of Humble Birth, Hymns, 196).  One of the primary’s songs describes his birth this way:

This is the stable, shelter so bare;

Cattle and oxen first welcomed him there.

This is the manger, sweet hay for a bed,
Waiting for Jesus to cradle his head.
(“The Nativity Song,”Primary Songbook, 52)

For Mary this experience had to be humbling, “Although Elohim must have lovingly observed the birth from a heavenly vantage point, even Mary’s extraordinary travail increased the irony. The tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was great with child, the exclusion from the inn, the natural anxiety of bearing a first child, and Mary’s isolation from her own family must have weighed heavily upon her soul” (Gary L. Bunker, “The Ultimate Paradox“). We do not know the exact circumstances of Christ’s birth but Martin Luther remarked,

No one noticed that in a strange place she had not the very least thing needful in childbirth. There she was without preparation: no light, no fire, in the dead of night, in thick darkness. . . . And now think what she could use for swaddling clothes—some garment she could spare, perhaps her veil. . . .

Think, . . . there was no one there to bathe the Baby. . . . The mother was herself midwife and the maid. (Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther [New York: Mentor, 1950], p. 173). 

But Mary had accepted this fate when she said to the angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”  (Luke 1:38).

As I have pondered Mary’s willingness to accept the circumstances that came upon her, I can only respect her humility.  The Guide to Scriptures defines it as,”To make meek and teachable, or the condition of being meek and teachable. Humility includes recognizing our dependence upon God and desiring to submit to his will” (source). Humility is not cowering.  It is much more powerful than that. It is accessing the power of God through submission to Him.

So what does this mean for us?  Sometimes we are given circumstances with a pregnancy or birth (and life) that is not what we wanted.  Last May I was asked to give doula support for a hospital birth to a couple who had previously had all of their babies at home with the assistance of midwives.  This birth could not be at home this time for a valid medical reason.  It was difficult for the mother to choose a birth in the hospital but she did.  This was to me “humble birth.” They had to accept the challenges that this birth would bring under circumstances that they did not want.  They asked a lot of questions and made the best of their situation.  Their little baby is seven months old now and continues to grow healthy because his parents with meekness accepted the circumstance they were dealt.  Many couples humbly choose a homebirth after much reflection too.  Humble birth isn’t about where the act took place so much as it is about the attitude we take towards the event.  Do we reverence the divinity with which the gift of giving life was appointed? Do we seek God’s will throughout the process?  Are we partakers of humble birth? I love the Nativity story.  I can relate to Joseph Fielding Smith when he said,

There is no story quite as beautiful, or which can stir the soul of the humble quite to the depths, as this glorious story can of the birth of our Redeemer. No words that man may utter can embellish or improve or add to the eloquence of its humble simplicity. It never grows old no matter how often told, and the telling of it is by far too infrequent in the homes of men. Let us repeat this wondrous story (Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith, 310-318).

I never tire of hearing the story of our Savior’s birth.  Last week our Primary children performed a humble version of the Nativity at our ward Christmas party. It was perfect in its simplicity. May you also rejoice in the humility of our Savior’s birth. Wishing you a Christmas season filled with love and light.

#LIGHTtheWORLD
To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon, where we have it at holiday pricing right now!

 

 


 

 

This is an amazing book full of birth stories and spiritual guidance

December 5, 2017 in Birth Stories, Book, Book reviews by enjoybirth

This is an amazing book full of birth stories and spiritual guidance for an LDS perspective about giving birth, and the honor it is to be a woman and mother.

Well-written and I would recommend to anyone!

To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon, where we have it at holiday pricing right now!

A blessing to read

November 28, 2017 in Birth Stories, Book, Book reviews by enjoybirth

Such a beautifully written book! This has helped me not only recognize the spirituality of birth, but also childbearing and mothering. I am so happy this book exists!

I continue to find insights every time I pick it up.

To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon, where we have it at holiday pricing right now!

 

 

I lent out so many copies of this book

November 21, 2017 in Birth Stories, Book, Book reviews by enjoybirth

I’ve bought so many copies of this book! Some I gave out as gifts, but most I lent out and my friends loved it so much I let them keep it and bought myself a new one. This time I bought two, one to keep permanently (I like to write in my books) and one as a lender I’m sure I’ll have to replace again.

It is that good. Full of wonderful birth stories and advice for pregnancy and birthing.

I love this book so much.

To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon, where we have it at holiday pricing right now!

 

 

A great book for everyone!

November 14, 2017 in Birth Stories, Book, Book reviews by enjoybirth

The Gift of Giving Life Review of the Week

I didn’t read this book until my four children were born and I had a hysterectomy. I found healing and light at a time when I was wondering my own divine nature and where I belong.

This book is a great resource for everyone who wants to understand who they are, and the majesty of your life. Whether you were born or have in any capacity acted as a mother (that should cover everyone in the world)

To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon!

Buy the Gift of Giving Life Here.

We love our readers. We wrote this book for you!

We also love getting feedback from you about the book. It is so great to read reviews of our book on Amazon. To say thanks, we are going to highlight a review a week.

Best book ever!

November 7, 2017 in Birth Stories, Book, Book reviews by enjoybirth

The Gift of Giving Life Review of the Week

Oh my goodness! This book is incredible! If you only read one book about pregnancy, this should be it. It gives a whole new perspective on pregnancy and being a women.

Everything is from a spiritual point of view. It’s insightful and answers so many questions.

Love, love, love!

To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon!

Buy the Gift of Giving Life Here.

We love our readers. We wrote this book for you!

We also love getting feedback from you about the book. It is so great to read reviews of our book on Amazon. To say thanks, we are going to highlight a review a week.