Exciting news -- my new book, WRESTLING WITH WONDER, a Transformational Journey through the Life of Mary, is almost here!! The official release date is October 7th. My box of advanced author copies has arrived and the influencer copies from the publisher have been sent out. AND, it's available for pre-order NOW on Amazon. Whoo Hoo!
So, in celebration, I thought I'd share an excerpt from the beginning of chapter one. This is the chapter intro and the fictional retelling section. If you like what you read, I hope you'll buy the book (and tell your friends!!).
Here ya go:
CHAPTER ONE (Excerpt)
The Angel’s Arrival
I approach Mary’s life on tiptoe, trembling, because I know I am treading where angels have trod ... and where the church has stomped around for millennia. She has been revered, scorned, and sometimes even deified. And yet, was she really so different from you, from me? Didn’t she have similar hopes, similar dreams? A home of her own, a family, maybe even a dog. She was just a young girl from the backwoods of Galilee. A girl with a plan and a heart.
It was a good plan.
It was a good heart.
And the two could not exist together.
Because her God, our God, has dreams of his own, dreams that we can barely imagine. Like you, like me, Mary was called to more. Her God is our God. Her encounters with him more like our own than we might realize.
On one simple, ordinary day, her life was interrupted. Perhaps it happened like this …
I am Mary ... on an ordinary day, in an ordinary life, in an ordinary village tucked into the back corners of a region far from the hub of importance. I glance out the kitchen window. Swirls of dust rise and dance from the path outside. Just like every day. Blades of grass peek between cracks in stone. A bit of wild mustard blooms. And beyond that, an akanthos bush, its sharp thorns a symbol of our nation’s shame.
The hem of my mother’s dress disappears around the corner. She has gone to gather gossip near Nazareth’s well. She’ll be back soon enough, when the sun tips over the neighbor’s rooftop. Meanwhile, I stand here, my fingers sunk deep in warm dough. I press and squeeze, massaging the flour and yeast, thinking about nothing, and everything. I think about the Romans and their oppression of my people. I think about promises made to Israel even before our nation was called from the loins of a single man. I think about the dough in my hands, the bitter herbs on the table behind me. My name means bitter. But I am not my name. I am happy.
I see the neighbor’s dog, barking at a lone butterfly. He twirls and shakes his head. I laugh. Maybe I will have a dog when I have a home of my own. When the herbs are mine, the bread my own. My betrothed is out there somewhere even now, working on some table or doorway or cart. Working with strong hands and an honest heart. He is a descendant of the great King David himself. A tsaddik. It means righteous. I was blessed to find such a one. And before the year is up, I’ll move from my parents’ house to his. Then I will go to the well to gather gossip like beads on a string. I will sweep my own home, please my own husband, and bear children who will not be named for bitterness.
I roll the bread and pat it, warm beneath my hands. A rustling sound flutters the air behind me. I turn.
And see him.
A man, but not a man. Like nothing I have ever seen before.
Breath squeezes from me. I cannot speak. Cannot even gasp.
He stands there, in blazing white. Tall and strong. Shining. Extraordinary.
And I know he is not a dream, not a vision. Somehow, he is real. And he is here.
The air stills, slows, shimmers around this one who is come from God.
In the silvery silence, he approaches me. He raises a hand.
Who are you? The question whispers through my mind, unspoken, chasing a hundred others that are swallowed in his glory. But I need no answer. I have heard of such things. Of such ones.
He is a messenger from God. In Nazareth?
He looks at me. Gently, fiercely, his eyes like fire in my soul. And he speaks.
“Be glad.” A common word. Rejoice. An uncommon greeting. And from him, nothing is common at all. Then he says a word I don’t understand. A word that speaks of extraordinary grace. He calls me Favored One. Me? Doesn’t he know? I am an ordinary girl, in an ordinary town, on an ordinary day.
But not anymore.
“The Lord is with you.”
And now I am trembling, troubled. What kind of greeting is this? What does he mean?
He says it again.
“Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.”
Favor? Grace? Here in the kitchen, in Nazareth, a barely betrothed girl with her hands full of dough?
He sees my confusion, my lingering fear. And he whispers a single word: “Behold ...” It is the word for see. But what he wants me to see is impossible. He tells me a story so wild, so crazy, that I don’t know what to say, what to think.
He says, “Behold, you will conceive in the womb and will bear a son and you will call the name of him Jesus. This One will be great and the Son of the Most High he will be called and the Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father. And he will rule over the house of Jacob into the ages and of his kingdom there will not be an end!”
It is more than I can comprehend. More than I can see. So, I focus on the one thing, the first thing. The impossible. “How will this be? I’m a virgin.”
And then comes the wildest part of all. He doesn’t speak of men. He speaks of miracles. He tells me the Holy Spirit himself will come upon me and God’s power will overshadow me. Me! A simple girl from a backwater town filled with dirt and thistles and the occasional butterfly. Doesn’t he see the dust outside the window, the limp blades of grass struggling just to survive, the simple sunlight, the ordinary mustard plants?
“Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
An incredible plan. An astounding promise. I cannot fathom that he speaks to me. Because it is more than a plan. More than a promise. It is a call. A question. Will I leave all my plans, all my hopes, behind me? Will I set my simple dreams aside? I will not have a dog. I may not ever sweep my own home, bake my own bread. Will I say yes to this shining messenger of God? Will I lay aside my ordinary life to embrace this vision of something new, something impossible, beyond anything I ever imagined?
He is talking again. About Elizabeth now. About the barren one having a son in her old age. We’d prayed for years, made whispered pleas at the temple. Elizabeth ... becoming a counterpoint to my call. The virgin giving birth alongside the barren one with child.
“Nothing is impossible with God.”
Do I dare believe it? Do I dare say yes? I know what it means. Nothing will be the same again. No one will understand. How will anyone else believe? Can I bear the shame? Can I bear the disbelief? And more, can I bear the beauty? And the wonder?
And in this ordinary moment, on an ordinary day, in an ordinary life, I feel the heavens waiting, breathless.
Will I say yes?
“I am the Lord’s servant.” I exhale the words. I am his slave, his maidservant, his own creation. “May it be done to me according to what you’ve said.” And so, I accept. I surrender. Not knowing what it means, these words I say, but knowing that I mean them. And knowing that YHWH himself hears.
My shining messenger smiles.
Then he is gone. And with him, everything I ever thought my life would be ...