Today, I’m excited to feature one of my most favorite people in the world: Mary Stafford.  Since I first met Mary at UVA over nine years ago, I’ve been one of her biggest fans.  I’m slightly obsessed with her and just adore her zest for life, her heart, and her honesty.  I think we all need a little Mary Stafford in our lives, so I’m delighted that shes’ guest posting today.

She’s also an incredible photographer, so I begged and pleaded to be able to post some of her work below.  Mary’s photos ooze with JOY and I love her uncanny ability to capture real life and real people in such a beautiful way.  Here’s Mary! 

Advent. It’s been a learning process for me – for a long time I just thought it was a good excuse to light a bunch of candles on a wreath as a way to countdown Christmas. But as I’ve walked and stumbled after Jesus I began to realize this season is a gift, a way of making room for Him.

So, Advent.

It seems so different this year than last year.

During Advent last year, I was busy making plans for a new career and excited about the potential of my future.  I was dancing and bopping through life headed to a new and exciting adventure that I felt God had commissioned in my heart.

Then. It all stopped. It went dark and I found myself scrambling just to make contact with God.  I stopped talking and writing about God so much because it al felt fake. My dancing and bopping shifted more to a flopping and flailing.

Am I being dramatic?  Likely, but it was intense. Plus I like the alliteration of flopping and flailing.

I sat in darkness.

Eventually, I managed to begin to talk to God. It wasn’t pretty nor was it eloquent.  One word prayers uttered through tears flooding the carpet. These were perhaps the most honest prayers of my life. The prayers uttered in the darkness from the rawest places of my heart.

I prayed in darkness.

I had to remind myself that God is faithful. God is loving. God is a healer. I read the words of Isaiah 61 and asked God to help me trust that Jesus would and could do the things he said he would: bind up broken hearts, give the oil of gladness, etc.

I waited in expectation in darkness.

Eventually, God birthed something new. Through the prayers of  my sweet friends, many of them appear on this blog, and a new posture God’s open heart surgery began to wind down.  I was too tired to fight, and therefore had taken on a posture of surrender. Letting down my fighting hands allowed for a pathway to my heart. It almost felt like the scene in Narnia when the words, “Aslan is coming!” were shouted.  I hoped for God’s healing. I trusted Him to do what He said he would do – Isaiah 61 my life. (can you make verse references verbs? Yes.)

In the darkness, God broke in and showed Himself powerful, faithful, and oh so loving.

I guess that is why Advent seems different this year. During this time we posture ourselves in quiet and sit with expectation for Jesus – His coming and what He will do.  This year is different because, I now have a tangible, “advent of the soul” where Jesus entering the scene made all the difference.

I know I sort of moaned and groaned through this – but the point is that last sentence, Jesus entering the scene made all the difference. 

I used to wonder what this time felt like for the people waiting on Jesus birth – the people who needed Him to come to be their mediator – to change everything – to break in the darkness.  But I am now grateful for the darkness this year – it was a gift that allowed my, at times, self-centered heart to make room for Him.

We sing this hymn at my little church – it is an Advent Hymn, and these two verses speak to the heart of what I think God is up to during this season of our waiting, expectation, and sometimes darkness.

Comfort, comfort ye my people,
Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;

Comfort those who sit in darkness,
Mourning ‘neath their sorrows’ load;

Speak ye to Jerusalem

Of the peace that waits for them,

Tell her that her sins I cover,

And her warfare now is over.

Hear & see more from Mary at


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