"the joy of the LORD is my strength” nehemiah 8:10

Dec 14, 2019

My son, Chris Martin, is an incredible writer. I have his permission to share one of my favorite stories from his book, I, Witness. I have the privilege of designing his book covers, which has been a great joy for this mom. ♥

Why Me

I’m scared.
Darkness surrounds us at every moment. We are exhausted, but we press on, believing this is what we have been called to do. Doubt creeps into my heart with every step, but I fight to push it away. I know I must remain strong, but not only for myself. The man at my side has been nothing short of incredible. He didn’t ask to be placed in this situation, but he has stepped up to become the one person I can trust to help me through this. Even when I question why God has allowed these things to happen, he quietly whispers into my ear that everything is going to be okay.
I am still hurt and confused by people I used to call my friends. At first, they seemed to understand. As time went on, however, they turned against me. They accused me of things I didn’t do. They had no idea what was going on inside of me, but they judged me anyway. Even my own family became angry with me. Probably because of all the questions they received from those who saw me. I never stopped praying for people just to accept me and understand something was happening beyond my control. Most of them decided it was just easier to walk away than to stay and help me.
There are still some things I can’t quite figure out. I guess the one burning question that repeatedly enters my mind is, why me? I’m not unique in any way, shape, or form. I’m no different from any of the other girls that live near me. I’m not pretty. I don’t have a list of skills that would make anyone interested in me. I’m just a plain, ordinary teenage girl trying to find her way in this world. Am I perfect? Of course not. I just don’t get it. I’ve never done anything extraordinary in my entire life. Not that I’ve lived for a long time, but still, I’m just like everyone else. Most of my friends are smarter and have more going for them than me. They have hope for a better future. My life wasn’t heading anywhere special.
There are moments when everything feels like a dream. Out here now, in the dark, with only the stars and shapeless moon guiding our path, the reality is beginning to set in. The feeling is similar to the ebb and flow of the tides as they kiss the shoreline and then retreat.
Most of the sudden pains are bearable. There have only been a couple that made me cry out. I feel sorry for this guy who promised to marry me one day. Not only is he tasked with the seemingly impossible mission of finding us a place to stay, but he also has to contend with a pregnant woman. Let me rephrase that: a pregnant girl. I am an emotional mess right now. I’m starting to believe all this is more than I can handle.
We had planned to stop hours ago, but no one has any room for us. At this point, I don’t care where we end up; I just need to get some rest. Judging from the time between each sharp pain, this baby is coming soon. I’m so nervous. Truthfully, I’m terrified. How will I be able to raise a baby? I have no idea what to do. I’m afraid I will fail. And it’s not exactly a typical situation. I’m not sure if I can handle the pressure of raising this boy. My boy. My son. His son. What on earth am I going to do? I’m about to be a teenage mother and I have no idea what it means to take care of a child. And this isn’t any ordinary baby that is about to enter the world.
God, are you sure you picked the right person for this job? I’m incredibly honored, please don’t get me wrong. But why me? There has to be someone else who could do a much better job than I can. Surely there are older women with more experience who would have no trouble giving birth to Your son and raising him properly. Why me? Some women are just born to be amazing mothers, and I don’t feel like I’m one of those. I hadn’t even thought about having children. This is all so overwhelming.
I hear wild animals wailing somewhere behind us. I’m starting to feel more afraid and tell Joseph we need to stop. Whatever comes up next, we have to stop. I can’t take the pain anymore. After a few minutes we come to another inn. Joseph talks to the man inside but is told there aren’t any available rooms. The man, however, does offer us the stable. I can tell Joseph doesn’t want to, but I convince him that we have no other choice. I can see the failure in his tired eyes, but I assure him that it will be fine. Right now we just need to stop. This baby is coming soon.
The first thing I notice is the smell. I nearly vomit as we enter the stable, but I somehow find the strength to hold it back. Joseph spends some time clearing out some of the animals and building a bed with straw. I try to move out of his way and I step into a pile of what I realize is not mud, but excrement. The thought of giving birth in a place with such filth and dirt is horrifying. Is this really where the God of the universe wants me to deliver this baby? It’s not exactly what we pictured in our minds, but we just have to trust that He knows what He’s doing. Sharp pains tear through my abdomen, and I cry out in anguish. I don’t remember much after that moment. The pain was so intense. I may have passed out, I’m not sure, but I awaken to complete silence. I can hear my labored breathing echoing in my ears.
As everything comes into focus, I see Joseph standing over me with tears streaming down his face. He smiles, but I can read his worried expression like an open book. I lift my head to look around, and a barb of fear shoots through my heart. There is blood everywhere. I try to speak, but my throat burns with dryness. I swallow several times as I fight back the tears. Something must have gone wrong. It’s too quiet. All that blood. Have I failed? He leans over and kisses my forehead. At this moment, I sense that everything is okay. My panic subsides and I squeeze his hand.
“Do you want to hold him?”
I nod, and Joseph helps me into a sitting position. He picks up the baby and places him in my arms. I wasn’t sure what emotions I would feel when this moment finally arrived. Even as I hold him, I’m not sure exactly what I feel. It’s so hard to describe. Such tiny hands and fingers. I gently touch his soft cheeks and little nose. He is perfect.
My mind wanders as the baby boy sleeps peacefully in my arms. Will he grow up to be a carpenter like his earthly father? What kinds of things will he be interested in? He’s from God, and yet he is a part of this world now. I wonder if he will understand who he is and find purpose in his life. Will the other boys pick on him for being different? Why did God send him here? Why me?
I hear a soft gurgling sound, and I look down to find my newborn son staring directly at me. Those eyes. I can feel love, acceptance, even gratitude flowing over me from his expression. How is that possible? Newborn children can’t possibly understand any of those things. A chill shivers down my spine as I continue to stare. I’ve gone through such heartbreak at the cost of many friends and family. No one understood what God had in store for me. They didn’t believe such a thing was even possible. I had a hard time myself thinking this would happen. As I look into his gentle face, I realize it was all worth it. It’s as if I’m holding hope.
My heart flutters as he continues to gaze at me. Am I looking into the face of God Himself? When I hold his hand, or wipe the tears from his eyes, am I also touching the very One Who created me?
My mind can’t comprehend such a thing and I start to weep. The weight of being responsible for raising God’s own Son hits me at that moment.
At the same time, I feel peace that I can’t explain. Just holding the child brings a comfort that I can’t understand. Maybe I’m not supposed to. I have to trust God. The very idea that I could even conceive this baby is a miracle. I’m sure He can help me through the rest of this boy’s life.
Joseph kneels beside me and gently touches the baby’s head. “The angel told me that he would one day save the world.”
“What does that mean, Joseph?”
“I don’t know. You know what to call him, right?”
“His name is Jesus.”
 ‘til next time,

~ Betty Jo

Dec 7, 2019

unsung hero

A while ago, her place of work was situated on a four-lane highway, at the foot of a mountain, with cars zipping past at considerable speed due to the steep descent.

At the close of the day, as she walked out of the store, two cars crashed head-on just yards in front of her.

She ran to the nearest car and saw the two occupants were deceased. She then ran to the second car, where a hysterical young pregnant woman sat pinned by the steering wheel and smashed dashboard. She crawled into the wrecked vehicle and began to talk to the young woman and to comfort her.

When the rescue squad arrived, she sat under the protective covering they provided, holding onto the woman, praying and comforting her. She maintained her vigil while rescue personnel used the jaws of life to free the woman and her unborn child from the mangled wreck.

She watched and prayed as the woman, placed into a medical evacuation helicopter for transport, left the scene. I’m sure if allowed, she would have been on the journey with her. On the ascent, the tail of the helicopter got caught in power lines and struggled to continue, but was finally on its way.

She learned later; the young woman had fallen asleep behind the wheel. The car she crashed into was that of a mother and daughter vacationing in the mountains. Sadly, the two precious women passed immediately on impact. The young woman lost her baby and suffered other physical injuries.

She kept in touch with the young lady and her family.

Would I have had the courage to do what she did? Or would I have hesitated, afraid to crawl into a car that could potentially catch on fire? I have no clue. But, one thing I do know, and she demonstrated that day, is that true courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to proceed in spite of it.
 . . . . .

More recently, she was at Walmart. She noticed an elderly lady struggling with her cart. She offered to help her take the purchases to her car. When they got to the older model vehicle, she noticed there was a flat tire. She phoned and had someone come to replace the tire. The mechanic informed her that the remainder of the tires had dry rot, and it was dangerous to drive in that condition.

She felt she was to help. She called her husband to see if her plan was okay with him; it was. She had the woman follow her to the garage and had all of her tires replaced, at her expense.

The woman, in her nineties, was in tears and wanted to repay her in some way. Of course, she told her there was no need; it was a gift from Jesus, and to thank Him for it.

. . . . .

An unsung hero is a person who has committed acts of bravery or self-sacrifice, yet, is not celebrated or recognized. An unsung hero might be someone who acts bravely, compassionately, or kindly in an unexpected situation without notice or someone who sacrifices him or herself, for good, without recognition.

Unsung heroes are not always in uniform; some of them dress just like you and me.

The “She,” in my stories above, is an unsung hero. Until today, that is. And, she is not only one of my heroes, but she also happens to be my precious daughter-in-law.

She, herself, would not be telling you these stories unless directly asked about them, and may not like the idea that I am sharing them. But, it is scriptural, so how can she argue with that, right? Proverbs 27:2 Let other people praise you--even strangers; never do it yourself.

‘til next time,

~ Betty Jo

Aug 11, 2017

seeing others

A few days ago Father sent two of the most annoying people I know to help me. Both showed up without me asking either of them for help. So, there was no doubt Who sent them.

The first man noticed a problem with my truck. As he began to look the situation over, the other saw him looking under the hood and wandered over.

One is a millionaire. An extremely prideful man who doesn’t have Christ; yet. I’m praying for him, so I expect any day now, he will meet my Father, and be welcomed with open arms into the kingdom.

The other is a brother in Christ, who verbally judges everyone and everything. I’m probably at the top of his list because I refuse to fit into his theology and belief system, or submit to his authority. In his thinking, women should always submit to men.

These two men don’t even like each other, but there they were, helping me with a potentially big problem. I just stood back and watched them as they worked together, thanking Father silently for sending them in my time of need, and praying they didn’t kill each other in the process.

I sometimes struggle with loving others unconditionally. And here were two of those others, come to my rescue. I silently asked Father to help me see both men through His eyes.

The problem was solved successfully. No one died in the process. And I was genuinely grateful to both of them for the help and expressed that from a sincere heart. To my surprise, our time together actually ended in laughter.

Father is determined. It seems the people I have the hardest time loving; He keeps sending my way. So, I choose to allow Him to work through me, to see each one as He sees and love them as He loves.

Will the-hard-to-love stop coming? It’s doubtful. But, what difference does it make? As I see through His eyes, I’ll welcome each encounter, each person, and might even be allowed to share something beautiful of Him with those He sends.

‘til next time,

~ Betty Jo

Aug 8, 2017

life is crap

She was angry.

She walked up to the cashier from the opposite direction of those of us waiting in line with our grocery carts. She clearly didn’t care she was stepping ahead of several people.

The young cashier was courteous and a true gentleman; although I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him.

I was too far back in the line to hear exactly what the problem was, but the body language was easy to read.

As I observed the scene through the tunnel created by the M&Ms on the right, and customer elbows to the left, I could see she was wearing a tee shirt that read “Life is Crap!”

I instantly thought; Perhaps life is crap for her because she works overtime to make it crap for those around her. She should be more grateful!

Would I have challenged her to wait her turn, or calm down, if I had been closer? I’m quite timid when it comes to confronting angry people, so probably not. Besides, in her state of ire, that might have been as healthy as trying to floss the fangs of a rattlesnake.

It only took a couple seconds after my initial thoughts for Holy Spirit to nudge me. I silently confessed my judgment of the angry stranger and then prayed for her, the cashier, and the whole situation. It was soon resolved, the waiting shoppers continued moving forward, and all seemed right in grocery land once again.

But; it wasn’t right in my heart.

Although I’d never make such a fashion statement with “Life is Crap!” stretched across my chest, haven’t I been just as guilty of saying the same thing in various other ways. Rather than being grateful during difficult times, thanking Jesus for providing for my needs; an inexpensive home to live in, food to eat, clothes to wear, heat, the fact that I can still walk, the ability to help others, and most of all, the love of family and friends. Haven’t I often grumbled and complained, not only internally, but to others willing to listen?

I read this recently: If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering. If you can read this, you are more fortunate than 3 billion persons in the world who cannot read at all.

Those statistics put things into grateful perspective.

Even though, it can sometimes feel like crap, Life, is incredible!!

‘til next time,

~ Betty Jo