Unique Women of Christmas

In Hebrew, her name “Elisheva” means God’s oath or God’s promise. In the Greek, “Elizabeth” is further described as God’s abundance.

Cousin to Mary and wife to Zacharias, she played a pivotal role in the pre-Christmas story.

Elizabeth is listed in Luke chapter one as a righteous and blameless woman yet she suffered with infertility. In those days, barrenness was considered a curse from God.

But what Elizabeth did not know for many years was that God had not denied her request for a child; he just delayed the answer.

Until the perfect time…until Yahweh was ready to send an angel to Zacharias and plant His seed within a virgin.

We aren’t told how old Elizabeth was when she suddenly conceived a boy child who would become John the Baptist. But she and Zacharias were both old enough to consider their answered prayer a miracle.

During Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, her young cousin Mary became pregnant through another miracle – a conception through the Holy Spirit, prophesied for centuries and containing the Divine.

Mary’s Magnificat, also called the Song of Mary, declares her praise to God for his indescribable gift:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”  – Luke 1:46-55

Mary traveled to Elizabeth’s house to spend time with her. What conversations they must have had – both of them pregnant, one with a Messenger – the other with the Messiah.

Elizabeth no doubt mentored Mary even while she protected her from the wagging tongues of gossips. Mary no doubt blessed Elizabeth who felt her child leap in the womb when Mary entered the house.

After Elizabeth gave birth, she supported her husband in the choice of their son’s name. “John,” she said. “His name shall be John.”

From the beginning of the Christmas story, God included women and their giftings to pave the way for His Son’s ministry.  He designated Elizabeth as a main character and a parallel element in the greatest story ever told.

We can imagine Mary and Elizabeth spending countless hours together as they watched their sons grow, taught them proper manners and showed them how to appreciate godly women.

And in the candlelight at day’s end, Elizabeth and Mary no doubt prayed together for their boys who they knew would have a major role in the salvation of mankind.

Each woman bore a son, then gave that son back to God, trusting in Yahweh’s divine purpose.

©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

Why We Should Slow Down

Whoops… I did it again.Molly Totoro

I was about 95% recovered from my January accident, when I tripped over the dog in the kitchen and broke my right shoulder.

We sat down to an Italian anti-pasta dinner and a glass of Chianti, but I decided we needed plates. I hopped up from the table, took two steps towards the cabinet, tripped and fell.

In hindsight, we did not need the plates.

I love symmetry, but this was ridiculous. The break was almost identical to the shoulder break in my left arm. The second I went down, I knew I had done it again. I didn’t hear a pop, I didn’t feel the break, I just knew this was the worst possible déjà vu.

Fortunately, I wasn’t home alone. My son helped me off the floor and into the car. We drove to the ER just like we did five months ago.

While waiting for the inevitable news, I asked him, “What could I have done differently?”

His first comment was kind and consoling: it was just an accident. Then he thought for a moment and added, “Maybe you could’ve slowed down.”

Two weeks later, those words continue to ring in my ears. Out of the mouths of babes they say. They are right. My son was right. I need to slow down.

I have studied time management for years. I am an organized person by nature, and addicted to busyness. “I don’t know how she does it all,” is the highest compliment.

My daily challenge is to complete as much as possible in as little time as possible. Efficiency is the name of the game.

It wasn’t all that long ago, a decade perhaps, that I was in the thick of life. I was a full-time teacher, a full-time parent to three teenage kids, the caregiver of my aging mother. My day began at 5 AM and I collapsed in bed around 11 PM.

Nearly every minute of every day was filled with responsibility. I could barely take a step without looking at my planner. I felt as though my life were a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. My planner provided the guidance to fit each piece.

I wouldn’t run an errand, even take a trip upstairs, without taking the time to consider if I could combine activities for greater efficiency. Life was hectic, and my brain was on constant high alert.

Old habits die hard.

I am retired now. We are officially empty-nesters. I am no longer the caregiver to aging parents. Yet I still strive to be as efficient as possible. My planner is still my guide.

When I stood up from the table to get those plates, I was in a hurry. It was time to eat and I had to keep to the schedule.

Be efficient, Molly. Get it done, Molly. Don’t dillydally.

In reality, how much time did I save? One second? Five?

I’ve been looking at life all wrong. It is not the time I save that matters.

It is the time I savor that is important.

No one cared about the plates but me. We could have eaten without them. I could have taken my time to bring them to the table, and no one would have thought less of me. The meal would not have been ruined. The relationships would still be strong. And I would not be out of breath and mentally exhausted.

How much of life have I missed by rushing around trying to complete the tasks on my to-do list?

I find satisfaction in checking off the task rather than joy in doing the task itself. In fact, I’ve been known to add tasks to my list just so I can check them off.

stress - relaxWhat do I gain by living life in a constant horror of motion?

I may accomplish much, but at what cost? The accident taught me this frenetic lifestyle is harmful — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

It is time to get off the self-made roller coaster. I can no longer believe the lie that busyness is next to godliness.

Busyness, in fact, robs me of God’s peace.

There will always be chores to do, responsibilities to accept, and people to serve. God has equipped us to accomplish His purpose. But He has also given us adequate time to complete that purpose.

Each day is a gift from the Lord, and He desires we find joy and beauty in every moment. We can’t do that if we treat life as a sprint, rather than a marathon.

It is time to slow the pace: stroll a little, linger a while, take a few extra moments to savor the joy in the everyday. Saving a few extra seconds is not worth the sacrifice.

©2016 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope

Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.

Not Even the Tiniest Inkling

Why do you suppose God says so many times and in so many ways that he loves us?

Is it because we humans are so hard-headed, we have to hear it over and over before we finally get it?

Maybe it’s because in our uniqueness we each hear “I love you” in our own way. Debra-Butterfield

Or maybe it takes repetition to break down the wall of protection we’ve built around our hearts.

All of the above are certainly true about me. I struggled for the majority of my adulthood to believe anyone could love me—even God. People who said “I love you” constantly proved the opposite through their actions toward me. The wall of protection I built could have rivaled a moat and its castle walls.

Could God’s deepest, truest reason be because he wants us to have no doubt—not even the tiniest inkling of doubt—that he loves us?

Most people are familiar with John 3:16, but many don’t stop to ponder the depth, emotion, and commitment that are the foundation of those words.

Christ died for us! Is that the action of someone who doesn’t love us?

And having paid such a high price, would God neglect our needs and desires? The answering is a resounding,”NO!”

Do you doubt God loves you? Jeremiah 31:3 NLT says, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.”

An everlasting love—that’s a love that never ends, a love that spans eternity.

Do you believe God’s love is conditional? Romans 5:8 NLT says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

God didn’t wait for us to get our lives right. He died for us while we were steeped in sin.

God’s love is the foundation of his relationship with us. It is the motivation behind his every action. He may work in mysterious ways, but he does not keep himself a mystery.

He does not want us to doubt how much he loves us.

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends!” (Lamentations 3:22 NLT)

© 2015 Debra L. Butterfield
Debra L. Butterfield is a freelance writer, editor, and the author of “Carried by Grace” and “Mystery on Maple Hill” (a short story e-book). She has contributed stories to numerous anthologies that include “Miracles and Moments of Grace: Inspiring Stories of Survival” and “The Benefit Package.” You can find her at http://DebraLButterfield.com. You can purchase “Carried by Grace” at Amazon http://amzn.to/1PNBQ4F.