a journey

by ck on December 24, 2013

She stared at the back of his head as he led the animal down the bumpy, uneven path. She really needed him to stop again, but couldn’t ask. They’d already lost so much time because of her. The baby kicked. She grabbed her stomach and shifted. Everything hurt. Upper back, lower back, head, legs, stomach, bladder. She wasn’t going to think about that, though.

Other than the rhythmic clopping of the animal, it was quiet. A peaceful quiet. Neither of them had much to say. They didn’t really know each other yet. Even still, she pondered his behavior. She wondered how he could look at her as calmly as he did. Her greatest hope had been that he wouldn’t allow the people to stone her. She prayed that he’d divorce her quietly. That he was really as righteous as her family said.

While she waited at her cousin’s house for the news, she wept over his imagined reaction. His shock. His anger. His refusal. When her parents finally sent word, she was astonished to learn that she was still engaged. She wasn’t sure that she deserved such a man.

She was afraid that at any moment she’d do something, or say something and he’d change his mind and send her away. And an unprotected woman with a baby in a foreign land would be in danger. Which made it harder still to tell him that she needed to stop again. So she didn’t.

The cramping increased. Pains shot up her back. She shifted again. Stiffness seared through her body. She fisted her hands and pressed them into her sides. Arched her back. He sensed her movement and stopped the donkey. He turned, read her eyes and reached out his arms to help her down again.

She was sorry. She was so, so sorry.

He shook his head and smiled. He had yet to accept an apology. There was no one on the road other than them, but he shielded her anyway as she relieved herself.

They were on the fringes of a large group when they left Nazareth, but her constant need to stop soon left them behind everyone. And then they were alone. She was glad. She preferred it that way. She’d decided months ago that she wouldn’t care what everyone thought. Or said. Or how they looked at her. But when she was alone, sadness often overwhelmed her.

And she hadn’t counted on the way it would hurt to see how they treated him because of her. As if he’d done something wrong. But all he’d done was protect her. Shouldered her shame. Accepted who she was and her situation. Accepted what that meant for his life. The stares, the whispers, the refusal of business.

He’d saved her life.

He was a good, good man. But still, she feared what would happen when the baby was born. How he’d feel when he looked into the face of a child each day that wasn’t his. How good could one man be? What if it was too much? What if he changed his mind?

She was glad that they were leaving Nazareth. Relieved to get away, even if just for a little while. Part of her heart missed her family, but even they weren’t the same. They wanted to believe her. Some of them did. But it was an impossible story and she knew it.

She never expected that it would be easy. She just had no idea how hard it would be. The looks in the eyes of everyone in her small town. The stories. The voices of the girls who used to be her friends. She had no idea how lonely it could be as the sole owner of the absolute truth.

With the exception of her cousin, the only other person who seemed to fully comprehend and believe her truth was the man leading the donkey. And even she didn’t understand his resolve.

He seemed hopeful that things would be different in Bethlehem. He’d told her parents that they’d remain there with his relatives for a while. Maybe return in a few years. She wanted to believe him, but she had little hope. The town was small, only about 300 people. And while many were relations of his, the large crowd that they’d traveled with would arrive before them. And she was pretty sure her “situation” would make it to Bethlehem before they did. But she kept it to herself. Maybe she was wrong.

The pains started just after they were turned away from the second relative. She’d grown up learning firsthand the cultural obligation of hosting relatives. No one was to be turned away. She’d never seen her family refuse someone in need. But there were so many relatives in town for the enrollment that there simply wasn’t one guest room.

For her.

She tried not to be bitter. But she couldn’t help but think that if it were any other married woman about to give birth sitting on the back of a donkey she would be rushed inside. She’d be crowded by every woman in the house, ushered to a spot, made comfortable and assisted.

The pain hit again. It was excruciating.

She was glad it was night. She turned her face so he couldn’t see her expression. She wasn’t going to upset him. She breathed deeply. Her sides squeezed in; fire shot up her back. She forced back the sobs.

When it passed, she looked up as he was turned away from yet another relative. They were staring at her. They shrugged and pointed her husband towards a stable. He arched his back, insulted, and turned away from them. So, it would be no different here. She wept for her husband. What his life turned into. She wept for her child, unable to imagine what his life would be, starting out with the “shame” of his mother. And she wept for herself.

She cried out to her God.

A warm hand clasped her fingers, tangled in the donkey’s mane. She looked up. He smeared the tears across her cheek. He leaned his forehead against hers. He promised her that he’d find a place. That there would be someone among his relatives who would take them in. That it wasn’t her, it wasn’t their circumstance, it was the enrollment. But he couldn’t look at her as he said it.

At that moment, she felt how great his pain was. He wasn’t used to being refused by family. He never dreamed that he wouldn’t be able to meet the basic needs of his wife. He wanted so much to provide comfort, yet he was helpless.

And that comforted her.

She pointed to the stable and asked him for it. Something close, quiet, and away from all of the people. He was appalled. It was unsanitary. It was beneath them. Their child would not be born where animals defecated.

She squeezed his warm, rough hand. For a moment the pain ceased. And she saw him. She saw his heart.

And she was no longer afraid.

She knew he wouldn’t change his mind. He wouldn’t send her away. And at that moment it didn’t matter where the baby was born. Or that their first experience together would be something he shouldn’t have been a part of. She didn’t care. Her God had already provided more than she needed.

She assured him that the stable was perfect. And there wasn’t time, anyway. He nodded his head and grabbed a bag of rags and blankets from the side of the donkey. He lifted her up and carried her towards the low braying of animals.

She leaned her head against his and let the pains consume her.

© 2008 CEK. All Rights Reserved

 

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Evenshine December 22, 2009 at 8:19 am

Really, really moving. You transport us to a part of this story that is seldom considered, and do it in a genuine, YOU way. Some of your best work yet. Thank you. I will be linking. My best, as always, to you and yours.

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Gibby December 22, 2009 at 8:20 am

That is awesome. Really, really awesome. I want to tell everyone about it. You are so talented.

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Faemom December 22, 2009 at 8:20 am

That was great! I always feel like they never talk about Mary and what she might of felt. But there has been some great research into it lately. But that was just so cool, and inspiring.

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Tina December 22, 2009 at 8:21 am

Thank You for this post. So moving, so amazing……….wonderful everytime I read it. I will send thi forward. God Bless You.

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Rebecca Kipe December 22, 2009 at 8:22 am

so beautiful, and moving. the things that Mary, Joseph and others went through, we take it so for granted. we make it a christmas card, a cozy scene, something quaint. thank you for making it real. love you and Merry Christmas

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KathyB! December 22, 2009 at 8:23 am

Can I link back to this on Christmas Eve? You are REALLY talented. Thanks for sharing your beautiful prose with us.

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KathyB! December 22, 2009 at 8:24 am

Actually, I’d like to do a full copy/paste of your post. I’m a teeny blog — only 115 average readers a day – but this is just so good! I’m afraid they might be too lazy to jump over…. I don’t have any knowledge of the legalities and would only want to do so with your full blessing anyway

Let me know privately (or you can always leave a comment on the blog;) ) at sixbelnskis@yahoo.com.

Thanks ck!

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Jacqueline December 22, 2009 at 8:25 am

I like the first hand approach to this. What this woman went through. I was also wondering if you’d mind if I posted this on my blog. You would receive 100% notoriety of course!! Please let me know, if you get a minute that is.

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YuppieTech in Denial December 22, 2009 at 8:26 am

*sigh* I was afraid you’d be this good. I challenge you. Tomorrow, high noon. There can be only one.

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Qk2dlvr December 22, 2009 at 8:27 am

Such beautiful writing, and at darktime A.M.

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Erica December 22, 2009 at 8:27 am

Beautifully written.

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annalyn December 22, 2009 at 8:28 am

I never thought about their story in this way. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that they were real people with real lives.

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incognitomom December 22, 2009 at 8:29 am

I’m a little late to the party, but wow! This was moving. It’s even more moving told from Mary’s point of view.

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brotherB December 22, 2009 at 8:29 am

You filled in the New Testament’s gap of Mary’s journey with the compassion it deserved. This story brings us closer to understanding her circumstances which are far too often sentimentalized. You went for truth and, to me, succeeded.
Personally, I would’ve enjoyed her point of view considering the miraculous nature of her baby, and the significance of all that was about to take place because of Him. But, in any event, it was wonderfully written. Thanks for telling me about it!

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Angela McCoy December 22, 2009 at 8:31 am

Cynthia:

I’m so glad I found your blog. Your writing amazes me each and every time I visit. When I had joined Mom Bloggers Club

( http://www.mombloggersclub.com/profile/AngelaMcCoy#chatter-988554:Comment:211651 ),

the questionnaire asked which was my favorite blog. I follow a great number of blogs, but your is the one that really stood out in my mind. Powerful, a vision in words! Your writing has it all, and I highly recommend it to fellow bloggers.

You have one dedicated follower in me, Cynthia. Keep up the wonderful work!

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gigi December 22, 2009 at 10:14 am

Chills. You gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful.

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Futureblackmail December 22, 2009 at 10:23 am

In my faiths journey, I am just starting to realize how much love and adoration I have for Mary. I really enjoyed this.

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Gibby December 22, 2009 at 11:28 am

Still great the second time around. Thanks for this.

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TheKitchenWitch December 22, 2009 at 11:41 am

Always good to see you. I think I enjoyed this more the second time!

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The Curious Cat December 22, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Did you write this? It is wicked – great perspective! Makes the whole story a whole lot more real… :) xxx

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ck December 22, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Thanks, Curious Cat! I wrote it last year.

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OntheNightYouWereBorn December 22, 2009 at 2:46 pm

WOW. Phenomenal.

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momto3 December 22, 2009 at 3:58 pm

This is so moving it brings tears to my eyes. What a blessing to hold so much passion and talent and to be able to spread such a beautiful real message during a time when so many are consumed by the little, less important things. If I don’t get a chance have a wonderful blessed Christmas.

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Ronni December 22, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Beautiful! Thank you!!!!!

Merry Christmas!

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Southern Belle Mama December 22, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Absolutely beautiful…thank you so much for sharing!

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Steel Magnolia December 23, 2009 at 12:57 am

Deeply moving. Beautifully written. I can’t even get it together to wish I had written this (as I usually do). Your writing is simply wonderful.
I’m linking!

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Stephanie December 23, 2009 at 2:33 am

Thank you for this. Especially the ending.

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MA December 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm

I LOVE THIS STORY! CK, you are an amazing writer!

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unknown mami December 23, 2009 at 11:58 pm

You have a gift. Merry Christmas!

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theUngourmet December 24, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I enjoyed reading this so much! It really makes me feel like I’m right there riding along with Mary. As a mother, I could identify with her pain and emotions. Wonderful!

I hope you don’t mind if I share your link with a few friends. Merry Christmas! I hope your book is going well!

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GoonieMomma December 28, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I think we all forget about the bodily functions associated with pregnancy when it comes to carrying Jesus. I wonder if he ever tickled Mary’s hips like Lil’ Daddy did to mine… Feeling a much stronger connection to her right now than I ever thought possible.
The thing that was most eye-opening to me was the Love (capital L) that Joseph must’ve had for this woman… this girl. And the multiple family refusals… never thought of it due to a spurned pregnancy, just “too full.”
Your empathy crosses centuries, CK, helping me stretch my own.
Well played.

(missin’ you…)

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Maria April 1, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Beautifully written and from wonderful perspective. Through the sacrifice of Mary, we are all forgiven. Thank you for such a touching post, ck!

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'cuz I'm the mommy, that's why April 2, 2010 at 3:01 am

ck – this is awesome! I came by way of A Journey’s End Part I, and I love this retelling of the birth and the one you are working on for the Resurresction.
Thank you for sharing faith with us.

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Niki December 23, 2010 at 6:02 am

Nice to see this again. :-)
Niki´s last blog post ..Our Wednesday Evening

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Sara December 23, 2010 at 6:48 am

Awesome. Just awesome. 6:30 am and I’m bawling over my coffee. This, my friend, just made getting up worth it. You have an amazing gift for words.
Sara´s last blog post ..Lighting and Family Pics

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anna martin December 23, 2010 at 7:54 am

Thanks for posting this. It puts “skin” on the story we’ve all heard before. A beautifully written human perspective. Love it.

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Heather December 23, 2010 at 8:44 am

A beautiful perspective of what must have been an incredibly difficult journey. No one tells this part of the story. I’m so glad that you did, and with such elegance. thanks for sharing it… again and again!
Heather´s last blog post ..Full Coverage

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Jennifer December 23, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Thank you for this post. It brought it home for me. Thank you!

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Kelly December 23, 2010 at 10:04 pm

This is so quiet and captivating. Beautiful!
Kelly´s last blog post ..Whats this thing you call vacation

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Christine December 26, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Riveting and evocative. Well done and thank you for such lovely words.
Christine´s last blog post ..Peaceful and wrinkle-free

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Chopper Papa December 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Nice job ck! Really!
Chopper Papa´s last blog post ..The Strip Club Delusion

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Amy @ Never-True Tales December 28, 2010 at 10:39 am

What a refreshing Christmas post! I always stop and think about the line in the Christmas story: And then Mary pondered these things in her heart… Of course she did.
Amy @ Never-True Tales´s last blog post ..Old School Ski Day

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Amber December 28, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I always shudder when I read your versions of these stories that are so close to my heart. So glad you reposted this.
Amber´s last blog post ..A Painful and Necessary Lesson

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Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer) December 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Chilling, beautiful, amazing. What everyone said. You’re awesome.

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Steel Magnolia December 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I’m so glad to read this, even for the third time. I realize now that I look forward to it every year. Holiday blessings to you!
Steel Magnolia´s last blog post ..To the Victor

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GoonieMomma December 23, 2011 at 1:06 am

Been a while since I last spied on you. Still love this story. Still think about you frequently. Mama love transcends centuries and your story personalizes this season, every year. God bless, CK.

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The Curious Cat December 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Just a quick one – will be back to read properly shortly – just wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas! Hope all is well! Lots of Love xxx
The Curious Cat´s last blog post ..Christmas hurtling towards us!

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Dawn @What's Around the Next Bend? December 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm

SOOO glad you posted this again!! I was just telling a friend about it the other day and told her I would have to locate the link for her.
Merry Christmas ck!! Hope you have a wonderful holiday with your family!
Dawn @What’s Around the Next Bend?´s last blog post ..I REALLY don’t think I’m a hoarder

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Gibby December 24, 2011 at 8:44 am

Still gives me the goosebumps.

Merry Christmas to you and your fam, ck!!!
Gibby´s last blog post ..Dipping My Toe In

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Recovering Supermom December 24, 2011 at 11:37 am

Beautifully written! So glad I read it.
Recovering Supermom´s last blog post ..NaBloPoMo Day 23: One-on-One Time

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Ink December 24, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Still amazing.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

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