A Message From Mary

The verses that re-tell the Christmas story have always been significant to me, not only theologically, but also in a very real, tug on my heartstrings kinda way.  It truly is a story worthy of wonder and awe.  About three years ago, a specific passage in this incredible story became up close and personal in a way I had not even considered.  It is now one of my core, life verses.  It has become part of who I am.

My husband and I have two healthy, smart, beautiful daughters.  We are blessed. However, the picture in my mind (the photoshopped fantasy image we carry around with us that makes our reality look dull and unimpressive?  Yeah, that one)  had four children in it.  It had always been my dream to have a bigger family. Reasons for that will be blogged about at a later date.

After our second daughter was born, we realized our plate was pretty darn full.  My husband had that sense that he couldn’t really pick up anything else without fear of dropping what he was already trying to hold.  His heart and life felt full and satisfied. He was done.  I was crushed.  Thus began what would become a two-year grieving process.  I was still enjoying my girls, being a mom, and most days I loved being home with them. The weird part about the death of a dream is that it can  feel similar the death of the living. It made me feel crazy at times, that feeling of missing someone or something that was never there in the first place.  I cried, felt helpless, and after a while just stopped talking about it. It just was what it was.

Fast forward to when our youngest was four.  Things got a bit easier, one daughter was in school, everybody slept through the night.  My husband continued to grow in his relationship with the Lord.  He trusted Him more, felt less anxious about his performance as a father, and he announced one day that he was open to having more kids.

I.  WAS.  FURIOUS.  Are you telling me that, after years of mourning and grieving and laying my desire for more children at the altar and weeping and FINALLY FINALLY coming to a place of acceptance and peace and seeing the benefits of only having two children, NOW you tell me you want more kids?  NOW?!?  I wanted to punch him in the face.

It was terrifying to think about resurrecting a longing that was so deep in my heart that it had taken years to truly surrender.  I was afraid to go there.  I flip flopped back and forth for a few months before I was ready to try.  Eventually my sense of hope renewed, and excitement began to take hold.  We found ourselves expecting, and with our daughters old enough to understand the process, we were all feeling happy and optimistic.  Our third was on the way!

One day, at the very end of my first trimester, I was showering and noticed some blood spots on the tile floor.  Forty-eight hours later I was in the ER, hemorrhaging, undergoing an emergency, non-sedated D&C.  It was horrific, and devastating, and painful. It rocked us.

Thankfully, I recovered fully, and was given the green light to get pregnant again.  Six months went by without success, and because I was thirty-four at the time, I was allowed to use Clomid to help increase our chances.  No luck there, either.  We visited a fertility clinic here in our city, and after counsel and prayer, decided to give IUI a try.  (Google it later if you’re unfamiliar.)  While awaiting results in our second month of IUI, I felt an overwhelming desire to get off this roller coaster, though, at the same time, I still wanted to be pregnant.  The Lord began to speak to my heart.  I didn’t want to hear it, but I knew deep down what He was whispering, “This is not it, sweetheart.  Let it go.”

I sat on my couch in my family room, sobbing, knowing that any time, I would go into that restroom and my fear would be confirmed.  I called my mom, who is my incredible, wise, godly confidante, and poured out my heart.  She cried with me, and we did our best to decipher what the other was saying over the sniffling and weird little hiccups.  And then she prayed for me, and when she said these words, it was as if the heavens opened, time stopped, and I was receiving a message from my Maker.

Just as Mary responded to the angel, when he declared that her womb was full, “May it be to me as you have said.”  Lord, help her heart be able to say, “May it be to me as You have said” even while she is being told that her womb is empty.

I was undone.  His grace and nearness overwhelmed my heart, and from that moment on, with baby steps, day by day, I began to be able to say those words and mean them.  I began to believe that His plan for my family, while mysterious and without explanation, was best.  In her big moment, Mary didn’t know all that her future would hold, and neither do I, but His grace was sufficient for her, and it was, and still is, sufficient for me.

As we read and contemplate the Christmas story this year, I pray that the Lord would gently and kindly show each of us that area in our hearts where He is waiting for us to say, “May it be to me as You have said.”  Watch His grace be sufficient, and feel Him set you free.

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Carols of Christmas: O Holy Night

Several years ago my parents gave my husband a little treasure around Christmastime. It’s a little book called Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins. Wyley is a musician, music teacher, worship leader, and often coordinates special music for churches, particularly around holidays, so it was a very useful gift. But I felt equally blessed by it. I love history, and the story of our Lord coming to earth is perhaps my favorite bit of history. I also love music, and when I sing Christmas carols, I make an effort to focus on the words and allow them to transport me to the scene they describe, and I can rarely keep my eyes dry.

In this little three-part series, I’ll share what I’ve found in this book with you to help illuminate some of our most beloved Christmas carols, perhaps in a whole new way.

I’ll start with one of my absolute favorites.

“O Holy Night”

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

So led by lgiht of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.

The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend!


Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!


This song was written by a French poet in 1847 named Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure who was not known to be a devout Catholic, but who was surprisingly asked by his parish priest to write a poem for Christmas mass. He used Luke’s gospel account, and imagined himself as a witness to the birth of Christ as he wrote. He named it “Cantique de Noel”, and then decided it was more than a poem, it was a song.

Adolphe Charles Adam was a Jewish friend of Cappeau’s, and he was also a composer of operas and ballets, such as Giselle, and Le Coursaire. He was very well-suited to put the poem to music, despite the fact that he didn’t believe a word of it, and composed the tune that we sing today.

The song was immediately loved and incorporated in many French Catholic masses, until Cappeau left the church for the socialist movement in France, and church leaders discovered that Adolphe was a Jew. As a result, the song was denounced by the church and deemed “unfit for church services because of its lack of musical taste and total absence of the spirit of religion.” Despite the ban, Catholics in villages around France continued to sing it.

On the other side of the Pond, in Boston, Massachussetts, a minister named John Sullivan Dwight found the song in French and loved it because of its lyrics affirming his abolitionist stance, and translated it into English. It was then published in songbooks and magazines by the name “O Holy Night” and quickly became a favorite, parituclarly in the north during the Civil War.

On Christmas Eve in 1906, a thirty-three year old professor and former chemist for Thomas Edison named Reginald Fessenden made the song infamous for future generations. Using a new type of generator and a microphone, he did the first radio broadcast of a man’s voice. He read the story of the birth of Christ, and, when he finished, he picked up his violin and played “O Holy Night”. It was the first song ever on the radio.

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Oh Sweet Baby Jesus

Every day my job enables me to witness humanity in its most refined state: children picking their noses, chewing their sleeves into a slobbery mess, excommunicating their friends and then playing with them the next day, and girls awkwardly hiding from their crushes. I laugh at the thought of what I must have been like a child. It seems like such a distant and impossible thing.

But what is an even stranger thought is that Jesus was this way once.

Well, I couldn’t tell you for sure whether or not he ever had a crush on a girl, but at one point, he was teething, falling over as he learned to sit up by himself, running into things as he struggled to stand on chubby little kid legs. He probably picked his nose and had poor Mary fighting to keep objects out of his mouth. He must have asked silly questions as he attempted to make sense of the world around him, and made faux-pas as he discovered what was socially inappropriate.

My sister and I were out looking at Christmas lights the other day and amidst the Disney characters and Santa Claus displays, we came across a Nativity scene. The reverence I am assuming it was supposed to inspire was lost upon us, as we couldn’t help but laugh at Jesus in his manger (with a full head of thick, sandy-blond hair), holding his hands out to passersby like a magician taking a bow. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ, but the term “baby Jesus” is tossed around flippantly, and we seem to jump straight from birth to death without pausing to consider the in-between or what a little human baby Jesus actually signifies.

Recently I have been struck by the humanity of Christ. Jesus to me has always been a friend, a confidante, my all-powerful Savior. But I have failed to understand the relevance and impact of his humanity. This has long been a point of contention as councils have convened, creeds have been administered, and divisions occurred all over how much Jesus was actually human and how much he was divine.

But regardless, he lived on the earth. He had a family – a mother, father, brothers and sisters. I know the passing years have changed societal functions, but I have a feeling that the weird and frustrating dynamics of today’s families were still existent over 2,000 years ago. Jesus had to learn to walk, to read, to work with his hands. Like us, he had to learn the nature of his heavenly father and to walk in obedience (although he did figure it out better than the rest of us). He dealt with pain and loss. He had to have had aches and pains in his muscles and bones as he walked miles and miles, calling the Jews unto himself. He had hunger, thirst.

And he must not have been able to avoid the timeless questions that everyone asks themselves of their purpose, their place in the world and their identity. At what point did he know that he was the Son of God or that he had to die? I can’t imagine the emotions and mental process that must have accompanied this realization and understanding.

Why does this even matter?

I don’t think this is some great, deep mystery. It is just so remarkably strange, and thus captivating in a way, when you actually stop to think about it — the God of the universe, a human. The aches and the pains, the tears and the losses, the betrayals and little kid awkwardness make Christ someone who knows exactly who we are and what we deal with. We see him darkly, as if through a mirror, because we do not share in his divinity. But he knows us, intimately, perfectly, because he has “been there, done that” for most of our life experiences. Technology changes, cultures transform and customs progress, but much of what is essential to human existence has remained the same in world history. And he knows it all. He is not one of those professors that make you wonder if they ever actually went to school because of their harsh grading and merciless policies. He is not some government bureaucrat heartlessly serving papers, drafting proposals and dealing out consequences like an automaton.

There are of course differences between the life of Christ and the rest of us, but he was a child, a pre-teen, a twenty-something, a man.

When I think about the life of Christ, when I watch movies like The Nativity Story and The Passion of the Christ, I am not looking into the face of a mythical person. I am looking into the face of a man — a real man who felt pain and hurt and joy and peace and emotions the same way we do. Understanding his humanity removes any doubt of his love and compassion, of the all too common false notion that he just sits up there in heaven as a faceless and unimaginable God.

Christ’s humanity makes him all the more real, his salvation all the more tender and sweet. It helps me remember my desperate prayers aren’t lost into the air. They are known, they are understood. I am known, I am understood. And I am never alone.

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I’ve read the articles and lived long enough to learn that the Christmas season can be a difficult season for those in pain. The lonely, the broken, those who are mourning — we don’t tend to look forward to “the most wonderful time of the year”. I struggled with depression myself; life hasn’t always been kind. Trust me, I understand.

Yet this year I am defying those “truths”. I am daring to find real comfort in this season of my pain. But wait . . . I’m barely surviving in a season full of incredible highs and confounding lows. Is there really something in a manger birth story thousands of years ago that will steady my trembling heart? Well, if there is, I want it.

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. As a family, we have traditions. We light a candle, sing a song, and reflect on ancient texts that tell of the expectation of a coming Savior. It’s all very familiar to me. But I challenged my heart to stay awake. I was determined to find food for my starving soul in these rituals. And HOLY COW – as I was explaining the passage from Isaiah to my little girl, I was shocked to find my voice quivering and a knot forming in my throat. I couldn’t keep it together. I am so glad my husband was able to continue.

As Christians, we view Advent as not only a time to remember that Christ came – away in a manager with no crib for a bed – years ago. We also remind ourselves that He is coming again. It was when I reflected on that promise of His, that crazy promise to “make all the sad things untrue”*, that I fell apart.

What is it about longing for the return of Christ that left me undone?

I remember that moment in my early twenties when this idea clicked for the first time. All of a sudden I realized that heaven is home – like REALLY. C.S Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” I felt it deep in my belly: an acute homesickness, an intense longing. Nowadays, the revelation fades in and out of the foreground of my mind as life goes on.

This past year has been a doozy. Painful goodbyes, hopeful hellos and all the bumps and bruises that come with SO. MUCH. change. Sometimes I’m soaring, sometimes I’m barely keeping my head above water, but most of the time I’m doing what I do best: plowing onward. Steady. Consistently. In a sense, I’ve brushed past complicated pain and multi-layered uneasiness. I’ve shrugged it off and kept going. Time wasn’t standing still and I found no real time to process it all.

Then it was suddenly time to light a candle, remember Hope, and whisper “Come, Lord Jesus.” And like a two-by-four smacking me across the face, a surge of emotion took me by surprise. I couldn’t stop the hot tears from welling up in my eyes and the ache from forming a lump in my throat. “. . . I want to go Home.” I felt my heart crying out to Him. I watched the vulnerable flame flicker, remembered that He fulfilled His promise to come once and He will be faithful to fulfill His promise to come again. With a brave inhale, I tried to give those emotions to Him, then exhaled, embracing His promise of comfort.

I made it through that first night of Advent, and I’m left a bit shell shocked. What is it about Advent that exposes my heart’s nakedness? Why does that longing for Home seem to release all the pain, joy, love, disappointment that’s been filling my life lately?

In the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, there is a list of incredible people who truly trusted. It says of them “. . . having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”**

Advent knocked the wind out of me this year because I needed to be reminded that all of this – this pain, this joy, this beauty, this hurt – is not forever. This is not my homeland. I was reminded rather dramatically by a simple candle that my hope is in a “better country”. All at once I was homesick, I was sorry for forgetting, I was relieved that the suffocating confusion of this past season isn’t the end of this story, I was feeling relief.

That baby born to a frightened teenager in a stable long ago is so much more than a seasonal story. It is my reminder that He is the Promise Keeper. It is not a reason for me to have a pity party and look at what I don’t have or dwell on how painful life can be. It is the catalyst for Hope, reminding me that even death is not final and one day all my tears will be wiped away by the Rescuer Himself.

This week, we lit the Peace candle and I had my box of tissues ready. I was not going to be caught off guard this time. I am going to let Him guide me through this Advent season and allow Him to be everything I need until I get Home.

Come Thou long expected Jesus

Born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us,

Let us find our rest in Thee.***


*Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible

**Hebrews 11:13b-16a, The Holy Bible – English Standard Version

***Charles Wesley, 1745 Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

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Christmas Cards Ideas: A Look at the Options

I’m something of a Christmas card connoisseur. My husband and I have made it a point to send out cards every Christmas we have been married. The quest to make the perfect photo Christmas card has also led to the sending out of personalized Mother’s and Father’s Day cards many years. These yearly rituals are the fruit of a desire to hold on to traditional practices that bring people together and make us more human.

I love hand-written and personalized notes.

I love the feeling I get from framing a precious photo or flipping through a photo book.

These things, so often looked over in our modern culture, create a sense of community across miles and literal or figurative distance.

This journey toward paper-fueled community has led me to many online photo services through the years. I will highlight a few here as well as a few of my favorite cards I made along the way.


This was the first company I ever used for photo services a few years ago, so I feel a bit loyal to them. I started using them back when I printed all of my photos on 4×6’s. Now I make photo books of our life, but they still have the cheapest prints around at 8 cents for the prepaid version. These “cards,” at 8 cents a piece, were perfect for a time when we needed to save a lot of money.

Christmas card 1
It’s not the height of my own design prowess, but it did the job a few years ago.

In recent years I feel that the quality of designs that Snapfish offers has waned. This goes for all their products including cards. They haven’t kept up as well with the aesthetic that is current right now. Their look is more basic and clean, but it is also cheaper across the board. If cost is something very important to you then Snapfish is the way to go. I still use them for printing simple pictures for their price cannot be beat.


I came across this service through a Groupon one year and was thrilled with the result. They are not necessarily cheap, but they run so many promotions and outside deals through services like Groupon that it almost doesn’t matter. Last year we did a lot of traveling and wanted a card to display some places we had been without looking like a cheesy collage. After some tweaking I came up with my version of this 2-sided design.

Travel Christmas Card Front
A Photo From Napa Valley which you may remember from this post.
Travel Christmas Card Back
Classy Photo panels on the back display an extra series of pictures.

One of the best parts about Mixbook is their versatility and design capability. You can add stickers and symbols to your designs (as I have done above), move photos around, and add any type of text imaginable. In this sense Mixbook becomes a sort of tool for the super creative individual who wants to send something truly unique. I love the subtle touches in their designs such as the shadows under the photos and the muted color choices. Mixbook is something everyone should try at least once.


In recent years Shutterfly has been moving toward being the dominant force in online photo services. I can see why every time I order from them. Their pre-made designs are superior and their customizing ability keeps getting better. The downside to Shutterfly is their price. They are generally toward the higher end of the spectrum. The way to game the system is to stay on their mailing list. I receive deals and codes to use for 50% off all the time. This makes purchasing and designing with them much easier to swallow.

Here are a couple card projects I’ve made with them including this year’s 2012 Team Huber Christmas card!

Personalized Photo Fathers Day Card
I love sending personalized cards to Mothers and Fathers on their special day. For the same cost as a Hallmark card you can add some of your parents’ favorite faces to the card.
Christmas Card Retro, 40's
This might be my favorite Christmas Card we’ve done. We went for the retro look: the red lips and jelly-roll hair, and the sweater vest and side part slick back. We were feeling the slightly ironic card this year.
Christmas Card Los Angeles
We added to the retro feeling with the back of our card being an old-timey Los Angeles postcard. Having just moved here it provided a way to update everyone on our location without sending a long letter on tacky stationary.

It is such a joy for us to give and receive Christmas cards every year. We proudly display them in our house and they become as much a part of the decoration as anything else.

It’s not too late to order your cards this year. Try one of these services if you’re stuck on what to send your friends and family. Some of them will even mail them for you!

From my house to yours . . . I wish you a very merry Christmas. Consider this post your digital Christmas card 🙂

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