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I spent today as the girl-in-the-middle. Pulled between two friends who push, pull and demand – usually opposing directions. I was their chaperone and guide for their first adventure in the capital city. Trying to weave harmony through their opposing expectations; to see that each side got most of what she wanted. It’s exhausting.

It also leaves me feeling voiceless, insignificant. My own needs, desires and wishes ignored and suppressed for the sake of keeping things moving harmoniously. I feel completely empty – run over, squished. It’s also the “introvert hangover” – a hazy fog that clouds my brain and clogs my thinking.

So when no one else wanted to run out to get the vegetables for dinner, I happily volunteered. When you’re an introvert in South Asia – you take alone time wherever you can get it.

But the bazaar was too close and my escape ended too soon. Purchases in hand, I plopped down on the cold concrete in front of the building where we were staying. Time to soak up a bit of alone time amid the millions of people in the capital city.

I’d just listened that morning to a sermon by Steven Furtick for the Advent season. He talked about the well-known story of Mary & Martha and used it to encourage listeners to focus on the presence of Jesus – Emmanuel – amidst the holiday hubbub. So I sat there on the concrete, trying to reclaim the sense of God’s presence I’d had while listening to the sermon.

I suppose when I sat down, trying to meet with God for a couple of minutes, I’d hoped it would make a massive difference. That I’d be able to pop back up with a spring and my smile would effortlessly re-appear. That I’d go back to my charges with new energy and enthusiasm.

Instead, I heard the simple Whisper – “I’m with you.”

But I was still exhausted. I still felt pushed and pulled and harassed.

I watch people through their windows – making dinner, laughing, chatting. A woman walks by, her laughing child suspended over her head. I try to imagine the addition of one single baby entering the neighborhood. One more squalling presence adding to the noise. I imagine Bethlehem was a lot like the chaos surrounding me.

And another baby doesn’t make a difference. With shouting children, anxious mothers and impatient husbands, no one notices one single baby – no matter how holy, sweet or mild.

Sitting there, pondering how when His coming that changed everything actually, perceptibly changed nothing – that He went unnoticed by most and then went on to spend a lifetime dictated by others’ questions and squabbles.

Somehow, that changed everything.