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Written by Jackie Potter, a CPO adoptive mom of many years, this message is a gift to you during this advent season. Merry Christmas!

Let’s all take a moment to imagine this. You are a simple teenage girl living with your parents in a small town, when an angel appears to you and says, (Luke 1:30-32) “…”Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father.” Wow, that’s a lot of expectation! But Mary didn’t hesitate; she answered, (Luke 1:38) “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word…” And from that moment, her time of expectant waiting began. As we all know, Advent is a time of expectant waiting, waiting on the birth of Christ. Each Sunday, as we light the advent candle, we bring bright light and joy into the darkness of our lives. During this season, we are searching for hope, faith, joy and peace and we are preparing our hearts and souls for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
We all have times of anticipation and expectant waiting in our life. Because of how life is, we want an immediate response, an immediate reaction. But in God’s timing, that’s not always the case, because His timing is perfect. And that doesn’t always match up with our earthly desires. My husband Chad and I have struggled for 12 years to have a family. We’ve lost 2 babies to late-term miscarriages. We’ve lost 3 babies to failed adoptions and we’ve lost 1 baby at 5 months old, to SIDS. Our cross we carry here on earth is building our family, and we have painfully and expectantly waited.

Mary’s period of expectant waiting included the typical back pain and achy feet, as her body changed, and grew with her pregnancy. Yet she also felt Jesus moving and kicking inside of her. As the end of Mary’s pregnancy grew closer, she and Joseph slowly found their way to Bethlehem. It’s so hard to imagine what that journey must have been like…the fear, and anticipation, the pure exhaustion. In the bible, Luke tells us that Mary “was great with child” (Luke2:5) and I can imagine, ready to simply lie down. Yet, as the couple finally arrived in Bethlehem, the inn was full. I’m sure, in that moment, they both wanted to give up. I can imagine the frustration and concern that Joseph must have felt for his pregnant wife. Yet, they continued on and found a stable to rest in for the night, and painfully and expectantly waited.

As Chad and I worked through the hardship of each pregnancy loss, or loss of child, we clung to God. We trusted Him. In 1Peter 1:6 it says, “Be truly glad, there is wonderful joy ahead.” We knew there was great joy ahead. God had placed on our hearts the desire to have a family, the desire to be parents and the desire to adopt, we just needed to always have hope that He would fulfill that desire and bring great joy! Over the last 12 years, in between the losses, God blessed us with 4 beautiful children, ranging in age from 11to 2. Looking back, we wouldn’t change a thing. We’re afraid if we told our old selves of the tragedy that lies ahead, that we might not take the next step. We’re afraid of what we wouldn’t have, if we warned our old selves about the troubles ahead. If you heard that was your plan, would you go forward? It’s hard to say. But what if we could tell our old selves of God’s beautiful redemption in the end, that he’d give us 4 beautiful children, forever ours? Now that would be something that would push us through!

And I think of Mary in the same sense, as she lied in pain in the stable, giving birth to Jesus. In the middle of it all, her humble and courageous self always trusted God. She knew He would never leave her. In Hebrews 13:5 God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” And when Jesus was born and let out his first newborn cry…what a holy night! The joy she must have felt as she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and held him close to her heart. However, if she knew the persecution, the hurt and hatred that her son, Jesus, would endure, would she still say yes to the Angel Gabriel? She suffered tremendously when her only son died an excruciatingly painful death upon the cross, to save all of us from our sins. Knowing that He would die in such a horrendous way, would she take the next step, would she go forward? I believe, without a doubt, she would…she, too, knew that great joy lie ahead.

A couple months after losing our 5-month-old son Cohen, to SIDS, I had posted on Facebook about how amazing it was, that a night of belly laughing with my older children could help heal my broken heart. And a dear friend of mine, Cheryl Bauman, sent me this scripture. It’s from the book of Proverbs, chapter 17:22 and it says, “A merry heart is the health of the body…”. So, tonight, I pray that you too, will find your joy, your stillness and live with a merry heart this advent season.

In closing, living with a merry heart, and choosing joy daily, has such a positive effect on our souls and the souls of those around us, including our children and spouses. So what makes our hearts merry? In Jeremiah 15:16 it says “When I found your words, I devoured them; your words were my joy, the happiness of my heart, because I bear your name, Lord, God of hosts.” So for me this Advent, in order to live with a merry heart, I will sit in a quiet, still place, reflect on the promise the advent candle represents, trust Him to strengthen me to always take the next step, and fully take in His word, because, THAT is where grace and joy are found.