On this Ash Wednesday, my thoughts lean towards Mary, mother of Jesus…
She had no idea her son would be killed on a cross by the very people He came to save in just forty days.
She had no idea the full-scope of His purpose until He was crucified.
And I’m certain she had no idea her heart could feel so much searing pain as she watched people mock, spit-on and torture her baby boy.
Sometimes, I think we get so caught-up in the reverie of Mary and romanticize the story so much that we forget she was a woman, created by God with a heart just like the women God created in this modern-day. God’s formula didn’t change.
Mary loved her baby boy just like I fiercely love my children.
Mary’s heart likely broke into a million pieces while watching her Son die on that cross – as would mine.
And Mary needed some encouragement. I do, too. 
If we back the truck up a bit, we learn that Mary was very likely around 14 our 15 years of age when the angel Gabriel visited  to tell her she would birth the Messiah.
Betrothed to Joseph, she technically could have been stoned to death for committing adultery.
Can you imagine how the townspeople must have laughed when she tried to tell this story? How Gabriel visited her and said the Holy Spirit of God would impregnate her and she would be the mother of the One who was sent to save us all? I can hear the hecklers now.
I know she was in a state of disbelief because, let’s get real – it’s a pretty outlandish story.
I know she must have been terrified.
And I know she must have needed comfort.
Mary did the first thing she knew to do when her heart needed encouragement – she ran to her Heart Sister, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin and quite a bit older but they were still Heart Sisters and loved one another.
We see evidence of this in Luke 1:41-45:
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
This was all the confirmation Mary needed. This one little bit of encouragement told Mary she wasn’t crazy. It confirmed a truth she might have believed a little but now believed a whole lot.
In fact, Mary felt so much better after Elizabeth’s encouragement that she then launched into the Magnificat (also known as “Mary’s Song”) – a beautiful collection of praises to God for choosing her to carry this child.
Never underestimate the power of encouraging a friend.
Your Heart Sisters Challenge this week is to take a moment to encourage at least one friend. Send her a text or an email or, better yet, write her a hand-written note. Those are rare these days! If you feel led, use the hashtag #becomingheartsisters to tell us you did it!


And just for a treat…I’m going to re-share this amazing painting by Corby Eisbacher (click here to order a print or to view some of his other amazing works)


Isn’t this the most beautiful image? And isn’t it just completely perfect for what we’re talking about here today?


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