Five years ago I was in my third trimester with my first child, an expectant mother in the Christmas season. It was a beautiful time of reflection for me as I thought what Mary might have thought and felt as she awaited the birth of her son. I was physically uncomfortable but I was hopeful and excited looking toward meeting my daughter. All my life I had waited for this dream of mine. I hadn’t been sure of what career I wanted in life but motherhood—that was something I had always known I wanted. Today I am blessed to be the mother of two precious daughters.
Last night I got out the Christmas decorations with my girls and we decked the tree. The twinkling lights, the colorful ornaments, the festive music in the background, it was all to their joy. Their faces and their hearts were aglow—full of excitement for this special thing we only get to do once a year. They had been brimming over with anticipation for about a day before, couldn’t wait to do this!
I remember being just like them as a child. As a little girl, I knew Thanksgiving had to be over before the Christmas tree came out. I took this to the nth degree. If Thanksgiving dinner was at our house, then as soon as dinner was over and the guests had gone, I was begging for the tree to come down so we could decorate. Many times we had to wait until the next day but sometimes, just sometimes, I think my persuasion may have worked… My favorite Christmas cassette tape would play in the background and there would be tinsel, lights, ornaments, and family. It was magical.
Since my husband died I have dreaded putting up the Christmas tree. Opening the ornaments is like having 50 micro-traumas to deal with, all while putting on a smile for my children. Honestly for me it’s more bitter than sweet. “Look, Abbi,” I say, “here’s the ornament from the first Christmas mommy and daddy were married.” The tears well up in my eyes but I hold them back. “Look, Aurora, this ornament is a picture of daddy when he was a tiny baby.” They smile and laugh and while their cheer is infectious, I am putting on the bravest face in the world to keep from cracking. While I very much believe in being honest with my girls, my emotions are not always for them. They are my children, not counselors and not peers. It is not their responsibility to carry my load for me. Their memory of decorating the Christmas tree is one I want to be a happy and light, not one of their mother collapsed on the floor mourning their dead father.
Advent season is here. It’s the time of year when we reflect on a God who loves us enough that He was willing to humble himself and become part of His creation. What about us who are not like Mary, who cannot see a tangible hope to hold onto right now? Some of us are like the nation of Israel following the book of Malachi, waiting for generations to hear from God. Some are struggling to believe that there can possibly be good to come. Some are struggling to hold on.
2017 has brought some hard times for me. There were things that were unexpected, things my “type A” self could not have seen coming and therefore couldn’t plan for. I feel as if I’ve been trying to swim in swamp water lately… easier said than done. Between school, work, solo parenting, and re-grieving my husband it’s a wonder I haven’t gone completely under.
Sometimes the only reason a person still knows they’re living is the feeling of crushing blow after crushing blow. I get it. I’ve been there. With each moment that takes the breath away, it’s a reminder that yes, breath is indeed still there. Where does this leave a person? What then? I will say I always have a hope in the life yet to come after this; but where does it leave me when all I perceive in the here and now is heartache?
I can be thankful that even in the darkest of times my Savior does not leave me. I have many beloved people in my life who take the time to pray for me and minister to me. One such lifelong friend pointed me to this passage of scripture this weekend:
“For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Isaiah 64:3-4
I find this encouraging because it seems to acknowledge some very real things I’m dealing with right now. It acknowledges that the writer was not expecting awesome things from God and yet, in spite of that—God did them anyway. You might be in a barren season of life right now. I am. This does not in any way detract from character of the Lord. He continues to be at work. As you are waiting, strive to trust and ask for more faith. The scripture says He “acts on behalf of those who wait on him.” That is something worth hoping in.