O Long-Expected Jesus

As in years past, this Advent has been filled with imperfection and failed expectations. I never did finish – or even start, for that matter – many of the “homemade” gifts I intended to give.

The family Christmas letter I pride myself on writing every year once again found its way into the mailbox much later than I would've hoped, despite my most hopeful efforts to not be rushing to get it out before Christmas Eve.

I used a credit card to purchase a couple gifts this year even though I knew it was a bad idea.

I fell days behind on my Christmas Scripture Writings – multiple times.

Nights came and went when I realized after tucking the kids into bed that we had again forgotten or ran out of time for their nightly Advent story.

And baby Jesus has been in the manger for weeks already.

I'm guessing I had you up until that last statement. Allow me to explain:

One of my clearest and dearest memories of Christmas as a child revolves around my mom's nativity set. Simple yet beautiful, it sat on the floor underneath our tree every year. The manger, however, was one of those two-piece figurines which enabled baby Jesus to be removed from the scene. So the manger itself would sit empty, all throughout Advent. Then on Christmas Eve, after returning home from singing our hearts out at our Christmas program at church, whomsoever year it was to have the honor would place baby Jesus in His lowly manger between Mary and Joseph. That's how you knew Christmas had really arrived.

Empty Manger

As an adult with children of my own now, there are many traditions such as this one which I try to re-create with my family. Knowing the impact that small gesture had on me as a child makes me crave that for my own kids.

So I now have a nativity with a baby Jesus separate from the manger.

Only it's not going quite as I had planned. And I'm learning.

I put out our nativity set not long after Thanksgiving – Mary, Joseph, a shepherd or two, even a donkey and a cow. But baby Jesus I kept hidden away, intending to wrap Him up and present it as the first gift the kids would open on Christmas morning.

But my boys wouldn't have it.

After carefully arranging the nativity (sans the baby) and walking away, my two-year old twin sons promptly scurried over and began pointing. And not a simple point of curiosity. This kind of pointing meant something was seriously wrong.

Where is the baby? they seemed to say. Aren't you forgetting something?

As I returned to the scene, I began attempting to explain that it was not yet Christmas and that we needed to wait for the baby to arrive. Wait.

But again, there was no reasoning to be done.

I watched as those boys stood there, in front of the stable and Mary and Joseph. Waiting. Wondering. Wanting. They would not tire. They would not concede.

It wasn't until I finally placed the baby figurine in its rightful place that the boys moved on to something else. Once the baby was in His bed, all was right with the world and the two could go back to playing.

But I remained, crouched in front of a 2-inch baby, with tears in my eyes.


My boys would not leave until the Christ child arrived.

Granted their fascination most likely had more to do with their recent obsession with babies than their knowledge of who that baby really represents, but I still couldn't help but feel God's tug at my heart through the actions of my boys.

After all, isn't that how we all should feel? We simply cannot move on until we know that Jesus has arrived?

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. And yes, there are many things which I feel are “undone” or incomplete. I also know that tomorrow and Christmas Day itself will come and go and with it, a slight feeling of disappointment and let down will follow. A let down that will inevitably make me wonder what was the point of putting up all of the decorations just to take them down or serving a Christmas meal which I knew none of the kids would have any interest in eating?

But the truth is that if our Advents were perfect and our Christmases pure magic, Christ's birth would mean nothing. Our Heavenly Father's almighty plan is necessary because of the imperfections within and around us with the baby in the manger at its center.


Maybe next year I'll be able to explain my “plan” to the boys clearly enough that they'll let me get away with an empty manger through Advent. Or maybe they won't. Or maybe I'll just not be able to wait and have to place Him there for my own benefit after learning so much through watching my boys. But regardless of where the baby ends up for those three weeks prior to Christmas, I know one thing for certain: I'll be anxiously awaiting His return!

Come, O long-expected Jesus, Born to set your people free; From our fears and sins release us By your death on Calvary. Israel's strength and consolation, Hope to all the earth impart, dear desire of ev'ry nation, Joy of ev'ry longing heart.


Born your people to deliver, Born a child and yet a king; Born to reign in us forever, Now your gracious kingdom bring. By your own eternal Spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; By your all-sufficient merit Raise us to your glorious throne.


~Hymn #22 in Lutheran Worship, 1st published in 1835



Waiting Eagerly

extra surreal forest Last week I ordered something online that is just about due to arrive. It was supposed to take about five days to get here, and today was day five. So I spent the better part of the afternoon obsessively glancing out my front window wondering whether the delivery truck would arrive.

By six o’clock, the awaited package still hadn’t arrived, so I stopped glancing out the window. But I didn’t stop thinking about the arrival of the package. I imagined myself opening it, and what exactly I would find inside. Would the contents of the package be everything I had hoped for?

Unable to stop thinking about the package and the excitement I anticipate feeling upon its arrival, I found myself telling my husband all about it this afternoon. I chatted with him about the package’s arrival. “It’ll probably come tomorrow.” I told him, “Or maybe the next day. I’m not really sure, so we should just be sure to have one of us here at the house at all times until it gets here, so it’s not stolen off our front porch.” I told him about what I ordered and what I hope to do with the contents of the package when they are finally in my possession. Telling him felt effortless, because I am just so excited that the package I ordered is arriving in the mail soon!

Just after Jesus ascended into heaven, his disciples behaved much as I did today while waiting for my package to arrive.

“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:10-11)

The disciples stood staring into the sky! They did nothing else with their lives! They just stood there, watching and waiting for Jesus to come back. They stood there waiting for so long, in fact, that two men dressed in white (possibly angels?) had to appear and tell them to stop it!

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

Jesus himself had just told them, literal moments before his ascension, that he would come back at an undetermined time.

“Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)

Because the time is unknown, Jesus’ disciples knew they needed to be ready at any moment for His return. The parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25, if you want to look it up!) taught them that the wise virgins (aka the wise followers of Jesus) were prepared for the return of the bridegroom (aka Jesus). The foolish virgins missed his return, and were denied entrance at the wedding banquet. So the disciples watched, and waited, in order to be prepared for Jesus’ return.

After the angels rebuked the disciples, they ran off and began a more productive form of watching and waiting.

“Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Acts 1:12-14)

They joined together constantly in prayer! What may seem an excessive and over exuberant way for me to wait for my package to arrive in the mail seems like the perfect way to wait for Jesus’ return, doesn’t it? The disciples prayed constantly, and then they spread out and shared the Good News.

Here we are, nearly 2000 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection as His disciples, still watching and waiting for his return. But we have the opposite problem of those early disciples. The early disciples were eager for Jesus’ return to the point of doing nothing else with their lives other than to stand and stare hopefully at the sky. In today’s day and age, many people have done the opposite and thoroughly moved on with their lives. Those who aren’t Christian scoff at the idea of Christ’s return. Those who are Christian forget about His return on a daily basis. His return can feel like a far off if not possible event, one we are unlikely to experience in our lifetime. But the end is near, always.

"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:13)

His return could happen in another two thousand years. But it could also happen tomorrow. Or in five minutes. So keep watch! Do as the early disciples did and "pray continually." (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Don’t give up meeting together. Don’t give up sharing the Good News. And don’t give up teaching and praying with your children so that His Love can be passed on to the next generation. Let your enthusiasm for Jesus' return far surpass the enthusiasm you feel for an eagerly awaited package arriving soon in the mail.


Still Pregnant? How to go into labor in just 110 easy steps!

Congratulations! You are 38 weeks pregnant! This is the point of pregnancy at which 45% of those other moms you know swiftly and painlessly gave birth on the side of the highway by mistake! From here on out, you are a ticking time bomb. Follow these 110 easy steps and you’ll be snuggling your baby on this side of the womb in no time at all! belly toddler


  1. Pack your hospital bags or assemble your home birth kit. That baby will never arrive if you're an unprepared slacker!
  2. Realize you have no idea what you’re supposed to pack or assemble.
  3. Scour The Internet for advice.
  4. Question Google’s advice to pack or assemble ALL OF THE THINGS.
  5. Ask several experienced mom friends for advice.
  6. Question their advice to pack or assemble nothing but a tube of chap stick, a couple of hair ties, and a celebratory bottle of wine.
  7. Decide to err with Google.
  8. Begin to pack or assemble ALL OF THE THINGS!
  9. Realize you are missing several of the items on your list.
  10. Waddle to Target for a new toothbrush and that tube of chap stick everyone swears you will need.
  11. While at Target, take a detour through the baby section.
  12. Decide you probably need another pack or two of newborn diapers.
  13. Shrug as several adorable baby outfits from the clearance rack mysteriously find their way into your cart.
  14. What’s that other thing 50% of your mom friends swear by? That thing that looks like an oversized neck pillow? Better grab one of those too.
  15. Swing through the grocery section to stock up on small, easy to eat snacks for the hunger everyone says will overtake you while breast feeding.
  16. Make it all the way home and unload your shopping bags before remembering you forgot to pick up the chapstick.
  17. Decide a tub of coconut oil from your pantry will just have to do.
  18. Assemble the rest of your list. Realize 50% of the clothing you need is out of commission.
  19. Start a load of laundry.
  20. While adding the detergent, suddenly remember your new baby will need to wear clothing when it gets here.
  21. Peruse the disorganized pile of adorable handmedowns and questionable Target purchases that have accumulated in the corner of your baby’s nursery.
  22. Realize the room in question is less of a nursery and more of a cluttered spare room.
  23. Wonder how you can possibly bring a baby into this world to live in a cluttered spare room.
  24. Completely ignore the fact that you plan to have the baby sleep in your room for at least the first several months of baby’s life.
  25. Spend several hours on Pinterest organizing a board you’ve entitled “nursery essentials.”
  26. Determine that the least you can do is rearrange all the furniture, paint the walls, and sew some adorable coordinating curtains.
  27. Inexplicably decide to act on this decision at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday
  28. When your husband comes into the room to find you wallpapering a closet at 3 a.m. and suggests that maybe you should come to bed, stare at him like he has three heads and growl defensively until he slowly backs away.
  29. Spend the entire next day alternating between sleeping and rubbing your aching hips.
  30. Decide you’re way too tired and have far too much to get done to have a baby anytime soon. Tell your baby he or she is free to stay in there for at least another month or two.
  31. Take several more naps.
  32. Wake up in a panic and sob uncontrollably when you realize you likely have less than a week before you’re *officially* a mother in charge of a tiny human.
  33. When your husband asks what he can do to relieve your excessive sobbing, take advantage and enlist his help in finishing the unnecessary nursery renovation project you’ve started.
  34. From your throne-like position of reclining on a thrift store baby glider with your swollen feet up, direct your poor husband while he paints, rearranges, and hangs curtain rods to your specifications.
  35. If he complains at the amount of unnecessary work, gently remind him you will soon be pushing a watermelon sized person out of your vagina. Is that a contraction you feel?
  36. As you fold and sort your baby’s clothes in your now satisfactory nursery, realize you are 39 weeks pregnant and have yet to experience a single sure sign of impending labor.
  37. Decide it’s time to get serious.
  38. Have a heart to heart with your baby wherein you fondly stroke your belly and explain that you’ve changed your mind. Another month is way too long to wait for their arrival. How about tomorrow instead? Or better yet, right now?
  39. When your lazy baby fails to get moving, ask the internet for advice.
  40. Question Google’s advice to do ALL OF THE THINGS to encourage the swift and immediate birth of your baby.
  41. Ask several experienced mom friends for advice.
  42. Question their advice to “let go and let God, because babies will arrive on their own time.”
  43. Decide to err with Google.
  44. Commence walking.
  45. Walk to the park.
  46. Walk to the store.
  47. Walk around the mall.
  48. Walk the local fair grounds.
  49. cream puff bellyWalk up and down your stairs.
  50. Walk in circles around your back yard.
  51. Decide that walking is useless.
  52. Take several more naps.
  53. Dream that you give birth to a puppy.
  54. Wake up relieved you didn’t actually give birth to a puppy.
  55. Think about how nice it would be to give birth to a puppy, if only it would mean the end of this eternal pregnancy.
  56. Attempt that “Eggplant Parmesan” recipe your neighbor swears put her in labor.
  57. Wash it down with an entire gallon of pineapple juice.
  58. Writhe and moan as you suffer the consequential heartburn.
  59. Down more than the recommended amount of Tums.
  60. Take another nap.
  61. Dream that you give birth to a full grown man.
  62. Wake up relieved you didn’t actually give birth to a full grown man.
  63. Think about how nice it would be to give birth to a full grown man, if only it would mean the end of this eternal pregnancy.
  64. Scrub your entire kitchen floor on hands and knees with a toothbrush.
  65. Decide you’ll avoid walking on said floor ever again so that it will stay clean until baby arrives.
  66. Give your baby an encouraging motivational speech, emphasizing phrases like “come out now” and “you’ll like it, I promise.”
  67. Stop mincing words and write your baby an official eviction notice.
  68. Visit the chiropractor for an adjustment.
  69. Feel well adjusted, but still undeniably pregnant.
  70. Post a sarcastic facebook status update to the effect of “happy due date to meeee!”
  71. Observe as the incomprehensible happens and your due date comes and goes.
  72. Refuse to believe pregnancies can extend beyond due dates.
  73. After several more days without labor signs, gradually accept pregnancies can extend beyond due dates.
  74. Imagine you feel a contraction.
  75. Text your husband at work to tell him you think you just felt a contraction!
  76. Text your mother, best friend, and doula: “HOORAY! AN ACTUAL CONTRACTION!”
  77. Realize several minutes later that the alleged contraction was only indigestion.
  78. Sob uncontrollably.
  79. Take another nap.
  80. Dream that you visit your baby in the womb and he or she is pointing and laughing at you.
  81. Wake up and decide that this dream really happened.
  82. Rest assured that every subsequent kick from your baby is his or her way of mocking you.
  83. Consider having sex to encourage cervical dilation.
  84. Realize that at this point, the thought of sex is just comical.
  85. Suck it up and have sex anyway.
  86. Treat the act like a business transaction.
  87. Cry uncontrollably when it doesn’t work.
  88. Drown your sorrows in a tub of ice cream and a pineapple ham pizza.
  89. bellycoffeeAlleviate that poor decision with more Tums.
  90. Confide in a friend that you have decided you will probably be pregnant forever.
  91. Don’t let her convince you otherwise.
  92. Fail to view her seven children as living proof that all babies eventually come out.
  93. Watch as everyone else in the world who is pregnant with a due date after yours has their baby.
  94. Pretend to be happy for them.
  95. Picture all of those babies growing up and graduating college before your baby is born.
  96. Attend a doctor’s appointment only to realize that you had originally scheduled it as your baby’s one week postpartum well check.
  97. Laugh dryly when your doctor feigns surprise that you are still pregnant.
  98. Stop responding to “is baby here yet?” texts, emails, and phone calls.
  99. Turn your phone off altogether.
  100. Change your facebook profile picture to a photo containing the words “Keep calm, I’m still pregnant.”
  101. Log out of your facebook account. Because you suddenly can’t stand people.
  102. Secretly relish the horrified look on the grocery cashier’s face when you explain your baby was due nine days ago.
  103. Fantasize about your water breaking right there in the checkout line.
  104. Fold your hands and pray to The Lord to send you magically and instantly into labor. Oh, and, Lord? Could you make it so that labor does not hurt at all, please? Can I pretty please be the one exception to the consequence of Eve’s fall into sin?
  105. Pout when you realize God’s answer is “no.”
  106. With a friend’s encouragement, revise your prayer. Pray for patience and peace while waiting, strength to endure the pain of childbirth, and a safe delivery and healthy baby.
  107. Rejoice that God’s answer this time is “yes!” Feel peace and acceptance wash over you as you “Let go and let God.” (Darn, those experienced mom friends were right!)
  108. After a long (but patient) wait, finally go into labor!
  109. With the help of God, give birth to your baby.
  110. Snuggle your brand new human and realize it was all worth it.


There’s something in the water here at Holy Hen House! Two of us writers (Amanda and I) are nearly full term (39 weeks!) and anxiously anticipating the arrival of our babies! Please keep us in your prayers over the next few weeks!

For those of you who have had babies before, I would love to hear some of the crazy things you said or did during those final days of waiting! Or am I the only one who goes a little batty toward the end of pregnancy? ;)