More Reflections from Mary’s Heart

What was it like to be a young woman in first century Israel? Although I did much research, it is still impossible to think like that woman.

That’s why I have disclaimers at the front of A Pondering Heart. Most of what is in the book comes from my imagination. Not the events as much as the feelings and reactions they inspired.

The title for the series and this book came from the repeated phrase: “And Mary pondered all these things in her heart.”

We’re getting close to the Advent of our Savior, so today’s excerpt puts you on the road with to Bethlehem.

From Chapter Five:

More than two dozen travelers left Nazareth together, Joseph’s cousin among them. On the second day, those who traveled faster left us behind. Only ten remained, mostly old men and women and another expectant mother, barely showing.

By the third full day of travel, my throat felt like the cloth Joseph used to smooth his wooden furniture. Dust coated my exposed skin, making me itch, which resulted in grit beneath my fingernails to match what was between my teeth.

My feet throbbed for the first two days. The rawness on my soles screamed when I collapsed onto our rolled blanket.

How can I travel this way for two more days? When I reached for the stores of bread and jerky at the center of my rolled possessions, my back spasmed. I froze midmotion. My breath stalled in my lungs, and the added pressure of the trapped air increased the tearing pain.

“What’s wrong?”

Joseph’s concern loosed the tears that gathered when the agony struck. I tried to wipe the moisture away with the sleeve of my robe before he saw it. Didn’t he have enough worries? A wife in need of coddling would certainly not be an asset at the moment.

“My back,” I gasped. Another bolt of pain flashed across the muscles at the base of my spine.

Joseph knelt on the ground, his own pack still across his shoulders, and placed a gentle hand on my lower back. Sweat glued the fabric to my skin but the sudden heat from his hand soothed the knots. With slow strokes, his hand slid across my tight muscles. I relaxed, and air filled my lungs, chasing away the lightheadedness.

“It’s too early,” he whispered against my ear.

I nodded. It should be another two weeks before the baby comes. Not that today would be dangerously early, but delivering a child in the midst of strangers without a midwife would be less than ideal. And certainly not fitting for the special child I carried.

Joseph unrolled my blanket and handed me water, bread, and jerky. After laying his own blanket beside mine, he removed my shoes. Exposure to the air felt good on the sores caused by the continual rubbing of leather against my ankles and instep. But when he dabbed at the abrasions, I sucked air. He applied a salve, apologizing that he didn’t have water to clean the wounds first.

I tried to keep my eyes open and watch Joseph interacting with the others. Once the bread and meat staved off my hunger and the water doused my thirst, my eyes could no longer refuse my body the rest it craved.

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