The Sovereignty of the Messy Manger

(Reposted from last year…a good reminder to me, even now, that trials never surprise our Lord.)

We reflect on many different things at Christmas, but rarely on the perfect sovereignty of God in the manger.

So many events in our lives, and as far back as history goes, look messy to us, while the Lord sees beauty. Such was the case in Nazareth a long time ago. A young, single girl discovering she’s pregnant. A dreamy engagement tarnished. A difficult journey, a difficult labor, a difficult delivery.

Then His life. Void of the esteem one would expect of the Savior of the world. Criticism, exhaustion, rejection and then cruel death. Our earthly view is confounded while He, enthroned in glory, smiles at it all, His perfect, “odd” plan.

Is this “the best life now”? Or has God always delighted to confound the wisdom of the world and give us the real “best” in another way?

Pre-tornado: our old house, our simple lives

Christmas looks different, feels different for me this year. Different is good sometimes. But I wouldn’t have chosen change.

I think I’ve shared here before that a few weeks before our home was destroyed in April’s tornadoes this year, my brother jokingly tried to persuade us to move to Colorado. “Chris, you don’t understand the ‘thing’ about me…I. don’t. like. change. I love the normal-ness and routine of my days and I can’t imagine anything else.” LOL!


April 27, 2011 A few hours after the storm

A clearer understanding of the sovereignty of God, a fresh reminder of the peace in knowing He holds all things in His hand, and a new appreciation for the simple, important things in life–the people in it.

We have seen God work ALL things for our good and for those around us suffering deeper losses than we have. It hasn’t been painless, but we are not called to live painlessly. Just as Mary wasn’t. Nor Jesus. Nor anyone who has named the name of Christ. But the difference is in our Hope…our joy through all things, and our peace, resting in His perfect will.

We can say with Mary, “My soul doth magnify the Lord!”


I thought I’d be upset if we weren’t in our new home by Christmas, as if our atmosphere would determine the quality of our celebration. (I wonder if Mary had longed for a more comfortable birthing room?) We are not in, and I am not upset. I am rejoicing. Rejoicing in the sweet faces of my children, in my steady, work-horse of a husband, in another year with my father whom we almost lost to a heart attack that same fateful day, and in too many unbelievable blessings to count as a result of what we called a tragedy.

I am rejoicing in His perfect sovereignty, which removes all fear and confusion.

I’m rejoicing in the messy birth of a skin-wrapped God come to die in my place. What love…do we know it?

If you are struggling with some providence in your life, let me leave you with this that has so encouraged us, written by Chris Strevel, a pastor in GA:

“Providence loses its sweetness to our soul, however, if we think of God’s ruling all things as simply a general oversight, as if he merely knows what may or may not happen upon certain or even all conditions, watches the machinery of the universe without intervening and directing it to the ends he has determined, and allows things to run according to laws and impulses he implanted at creation. Everything – rain and drought, heat and cold, snow and storms, safety and destruction, health and disease, peace and war, life and death, even the most seemingly random events – is attributed by Scripture to his direct governing  “according the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11).

Truly, we cannot have any personal comfort in our individual circumstances and trials unless we firmly believe in God’s sovereignty over all. For how can we affirm that “God causes all things to work together for good for those who love him” (Rom. 8:28) unless we at the same time stand back from looking at our own affairs with that selfish narrowness that often dominates us and see his working good for us as part of his total, awe-inspiring, wise, and immediate governing of all his creatures and all their actions? Feeling that “God is working everything out for you” is ludicrous unless you also bow before his master plan, his absolute, total sovereignty, his minute ruling of all things so that not a molecule in the universe moves apart from his bidding and fulfills his eternal purpose.

Then, when adversity befalls you, though weakened and suffering greatly, you may have this confidence: “The Lord has done it; therefore, it is good.” This is the chief way we yield to him and worship him, when recognizing that he is God, we receive all good from his hand with humble, thankful hearts, all calamity as the manifestation of his justice and wrath, and all the hardship in our lives as his wise chastening and weaning us from our deadly love for the world.”

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas season, full of the tenderness of a Savior’s love. If you don’t know Him, I pray He finds you, and you fall in love with Him. I thank you all, from the deepest gratitude, for your love, prayers, support, gifts and tender thoughtfulness to our family over this past year.

It. changed. everything.

I love you.

This year--home enjoying the season of our Messiah.

Even now, I cling to the truth here. Almost two years later and still rebuilding–both our home and our lives. So much change and adjustment and for some reason, finding footing again escapes me some days. Am I changed forever? Will I find the vigor and energy I once had? If not, I am content to keep plodding, clay in His hand, receiving grace in tiny doses, as needed for each day. He is enough.

23 Responses to “The Sovereignty of the Messy Manger”

  1. Karyn says:

    You too Kelly! What a wonderful blessing and encouragement you have been to our family this year. Love and blessings from Cape Town, South Africa

  2. 6 arrows says:

    Love you, too, Kelly. You are a blessing to me, and I thank God how He has used you in my life. God bless you and keep you.

  3. Sharlene says:

    I am so thankful to see how the Lord is taking care of you. I pray that He will continue to help and that you will be able to continue being a blessing to others.

  4. Heather says:

    You cannot believe how this was EXACTLY what I needed today. My husband lost his job 15 months ago and we are losing our home to foreclosure in 3 weeks. We have no place to go and have 12 little blessings from God to find a place to lay their heads. Christmas has been wonderful this year but also very hard. We have been so blessed by God and KNOW He has a plan but it has been so hard to pack with no home in mind. Even putting up Christmas decorations was a battle for me! I decided to live for today and not fear tomorrow and have made it a beautiful setting! We women are keepers of our homes and I feel uneasy not knowing which home to keep. God will sustain us! For that I am certain! He always has and He always will. I never knew how “comfort” minded I was until all has been stripped away! So thankful for that realization! Not easy, but thankful! I have always loved others, but now more than EVER, I realize that the only thing that matters is people!

    Thank you for your timely post and I am so thankful for your encouragement! God has used you many times to lift my spirity up!

    May you enjoy the celebration of the manger because it led the way to the cross!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  5. This is so beautiful, Kelly. Thank you.

  6. Keri says:


    God Bless you and your family at Christmas and throughout the New Year!

  7. Trisha says:

    Thank you for the reminder ! This will be the “messiest” Christmas I have ever experienced ! It has been hard to accept the things that are happening in our family right now as from a Sovereign God with our good in mind. Thank you for following the Spirit and posting this, I needed to reflect this way.

  8. Ginger says:

    Prayed for you, and I am thankful for your realness. God Bless you and your family this Christmas season.

  9. Sarah L. says:

    Thank You for this great post. Lately God has been working a great deal on our family through our finances (or lack of!). I had been praying for simplicity for over a year with what seemed like no answer. I had no clue that God would use our move to show me just how much he wanted me to simplify my life. Our current house is the smallest house we have lived in and our rental house in Georgia is still on the market for rent. We are having to sell everything extra thing we have to keep a float. Next month the paychecks don’t even come close to what we owe but I know God has a plan for us and that he will provide for our needs. May you and your family have a blessed Christmas!
    Sarah L.

  10. Marie-Louise says:

    Thank you for reminding me that life’s not about having things. The last few weeks I’m bringing Proverbs 3,6 to practice. Just giving away what I don’t really need. We have a ‘Missionshop’in my village, I decided to bring things there, other people can use those things and the money will go to missions. This evening I was moving a box with stuff for this second-hand shop, when the box turned around… a lot of noise… and there ‘my’ tea pot: broken on the flour… I thought: o well, maybe it’s a bit difficult to bring only cups, plates etc without a matching tea pot, but it’s oké. Calmly I started to pick up the peaces. I’m still surprised about my self (better say: about what God does in me), because I normally don’t react so calmly. But it’s because the Lord spoke to my heart already to give things away so the tea pot wasn’t mine anymore before I broke it.
    This simple example I want to share to let you know what God can do. But what about my other tea pot, what if that one will break? I think I’m learning that lesson too. I want to encourage you all to give everything to God, it’s His and He will do with it whatever He pleases and use it for His purpose. And the broken tea pot? Even that was used, used to learn me this lesson. I think I’m more broken than the tea pot…! (broken –> I don’t know if it’s correct English, but I mean humbled). Let’s starve from our love for owning things. Like I said everything we ‘own’ is His. God called me to go to Asia. And I feel He’s preparing me to the day I actually go in that airplane without taking ‘my’ things. But filled with His peace and love, a overflowing cup, so that others may be blessed. I’m so rich, I have Jesus! He Who was rich, became poor, so that we would be rich. That’s where Christmas is about!

    A merry Christmas to you all!

    • Cathy says:

      I understood your comment perfectly, Marie-Louise. Thanks for the timely reminder (right before Christmas gifts are unwrapped) that we are His–alone–and everything that we have, is from Him, and for Him.

      “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36

      Merry Christmas!

  11. Laura says:

    Hello Kelly,
    I shared a few weeks ago with thoughts on Christmas concerning how God works in our lives. I mentioned how he doesn’t need our permission to do hard things in our lives. Along with that thought, I wonder if we ever make “choice” something of an idol. In an age when children can be chosen or not, marriage can be chosen or not and so on and so forth, to a degree never before seen in human history, I wonder if choosing is something we worship. I also wonder if it is part of the reason industrialized nations are experiencing a decline in faith and Christian belief in general and so much rebellion, especially in young people. In poorer, more agricultural nations, the people are still very much dependent on the weather and other things that humans can’t really control. Fewer people may be able to afford expensive medical care, and medical problems that we would consider basic are lethal elsewhere. In those countries, you have to trust God. There is no other option. Here when “tragic” things happen, (that are common place there), we howl over them, because there was no way to divert the tragedy. We had no choice. We want a choice in everything. How much money we make, who to marry, how many children, what kind of career to follow, clothing styles, house decor etc etc. etc. Lack of choice that puts us into a corner makes us combative and bitter.
    After having a blood clot with my fourth baby, i have been nervous about the idea of getting pregnant again, possibly even taking steps to close the womb. I didn’t like that idea, but the fear of more blood clots was greater than the desire for more children. However, the thought came to me lately, as I have had some fluctuations in my cycle that has me concerned that perhaps I am going into early menopause(I am only 31). Somehow the thought of naturally having no more children was devastating to me, but closing the womb by man’s means was not…Double mindedness for you?
    Anyway, it occured to me that perhaps it was the simple difference between having the choice or not. I think God is working this out in me and is giving me the trust and faith to really trust Him. To trust Him in a way when man’s wisdom seems wise and His wisdom seems foolish!

    • Word Warrior says:


      There is so much wisdom in your comment, and certainly much to provoke my thinking. Sometimes I think our whole reality is skewed by the “luxuries” we’ve been given. So many things that advance/improve/change our lives often block our sight from His hand and His sovereignty. I will be chewing more on this.

  12. 6 arrows says:

    Beautiful photo added to this repost! I’m trying to figure out what is written on the wall above the piano: “Music expresses the [something] of the [something]”? 😉

    Kelly, you’re right that there’s been so much change in your life these last almost two years. And you are right to take things one day at a time, knowing that God does indeed give enough grace for each day.

    Reading that made me think of the verse from the hymn I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb that goes as follows:

    Day by day, at home, away,
    Jesus is my staff and stay.
    When I hunger, Jesus feeds me,
    Into pleasant pastures leads me;
    When I thirst, he bids me go
    Where the quiet waters flow.

    Praying for you, Kelly, as He leads you to the pleasant pastures and quiet waters. Don’t worry that you can’t find your footing some days (a gentle admonition that I need as much as anyone). He will carry you, dear friend.

    Love and blessings,

  13. BeckyT says:

    It’s a messy Christmas for me, too. Trying so, so hard to keep it from being messy for my kids 🙁

  14. Brittany says:

    Kelly, words cannot begin to express how much this post helped me this week. My husband and middle son were in a car accident last weekend where they were both injured and our van was totalled. We only had liability insurance due to lack of work this year in roofing. It was all we could afford to pay for. My husband was made liable for the accident but what happened was another driver who was not following the rules of the road distrated my husband and he pulled out in front of another vehicle. Hubby was faulted with failure to yield. We are responsible for our medical bills resulting from the accident and now must start over with getting another vehicle that will carry our family of 5. I have been so distraught but this really helped bring things back into perspective and in line with God’s plan, not ours. God bless! “There is no great loss without some small gain.” from a book I read.

    • Word Warrior says:

      Oh Brittany, I know how financial set back, especially at Christmas, can be so heavy! I’m so sorry, and so glad your husband and son were spared! But, I pray, with you, that God shows His power. I’ve seen it a hundred times, and I urge you to trust Him with all your heart. He may do amazing things, or, He may just draw you closer to Himself. BUT…He will not leave you or forsake you. “I have been young, and now I am old, and I have never seen the righteous forsaken.”

      • Brittany says:

        Update: Just wanted to come back and update you on what has happened. The Lord moved our relatives hearts to give us thier old van that they were not really using much. Two people with 3 vehicles so they decided to give us this van. GIVE: NOT SELL. No strings attached and they said they wanted to do it for us and the kids because they love us and feel we are trying hard to do the right thing in our lives and for thier grandchildren. We have never asked for help but they knew that this time we needed help. The van is essentially as good as the one we had with almost the same bluebook value. It is unreal but then again… it is God.. and he can move mountains. Husband and son are feeling much better. Our 14 year old who was in the accident is still getting over a concussion but the improvement is great and since we homeschool he was able to get all the rest he needed during this healing phase without an issue. Now we will be able to travel the 8 hour trip (there and back home) next month to take our daughter, our littlest, for her MRI scan. She has these follow up scans because she is a brain cancer survivor (3 years now off-treatment with no evidence of disease). God is so good. Thank you for your support Kelly and a timely post when we needed it the most.

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