With our boys out of school for Christmas break, I’m taking advantage of time with them, with friends, with family. I’m choosing to savor this season, to bake and rest and find inspiration in the simple moments. And I’m honored to welcome everyday women with beautiful stories in the meantime so I can do just that.
Today’s guest, Erin, is a tender soul, someone I’m honored to know through Choosing REAL‘s Book Launch Team. I’m grateful for her honesty, her bravery, and her story. May her words encourage your heart today.
It’s that time of year again…lights go up, cheery music plays, everything is “merry and bright” and it’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year” and yet… it doesn’t quite feel that way. Not in the slightest. This year has been hard. Hard in the depths of pain, loss, grief, waiting, and change, and as I turned the calendar to December I could feel it…the weight and pressure of this season.
Recently, I had the privilege of reading Bekah Pogue’s book “Choosing Real” and it has struck me to the core. Chapter 3 “Loss is More” had me in deep sobbing tears as it so perfectly described grief in its raw form. It talks about how life is found in loss, and how personally Jesus walks through it all with us. This past year has had its share of loss.
Last December we lost my grandma. I was not ready in the slightest. She was one of my “people”, a mentor and a role model, and in her absence, the pain was debilitating. Holidays last year were a blur: full of chaos, making plans for the memorial, and chalk full of numbing shock. Then January hit, we flew back home to Indiana from California in the dead of a grey, freezing, silent winter in which this California-raised girl does not handle well. It was in those dark cold days, the grief started to roll in like waves. The waves then just kept coming and my family continued to experience loss. First it was my mom’s brother in February, and next my dad’s brother a couple of months later. Grief was consuming our family.
Then came Easter…the hope of resurrection and new life. It was the first time in a couple of months I was finally able to walk through the doors of the church. I had been meeting with Jesus at home, but worship looked a lot more like tears upon tears instead of worship songs. Easter service felt like a revival in a small way- like life and hope were finally starting to peak through the cracks of this long awful winter. I left energized and refreshed for the first time in months. The next day mom called, her voice shaky “…. cancer…its time to start chemo…” the words sounded muffled as I heard her describe what the doctor had just told her. The waves of grief pummeled me. Our life, my close-knit family, was changing in ways I could not even keep up with and it was just too much.
One afternoon, during early spring, when grief was still a thick dark cloud hovering, we received a miracle. After seven years of infertility (we had grown our family through IVF), we found out we were pregnant! – A miracle, a new life, unexplainable by medical standards. We sat anxious through the blood tests- hormones were doubling… we were good! We sat anxious through the first ultrasound-there is movement and a heartbeat…we are having a miracle baby! It felt like finally the cloud was lifting…and then it didn’t. The biggest storm was about to descend and at 10 weeks along, the baby’s heart stopped beating, and mine seemed to as well.
In the months that have followed, we have been treading water, trying to stay afloat on the waves of grief that hit hard, and decided we needed to move home, back to California to be near my mom and all that is familiar. In a flurry of chaos, we moved home at the end of the summer and now are still currently residing in “temporary” housing as we wait to move into a home.
As the holidays ascend this year, I feel the weight of the year, the weight of the loss and yet, as Bekah described: “In accepting the uncomfortable symptoms of pain and loss and grief and sorrow, I find it’s in the sacred middle where I am wholly dependent on actually needing Jesus in the first place to remind me there is more than this temporalness”.
Last night I sat with my best friend who is also in a season of grief. We ate and drank and talked about the Christmas season. She told me “I am not putting up Christmas this year. It’s just too hard. “ And I deeply understood that feeling. The pressure to be “merry” when your world has shattered and you are broken, feels like the complete opposite of sitting at the feet of Jesus who weeps with us and comforts us. He sits in the mess with us, and on Christmas He entered right into this mess of a world. A world so broken at the time: infant genocide, crowds, and a dirty loud stable. All of it messy, and yet He came into it…HOPE at last for a weary world. That first Christmas does not conjure up images of lights and bows and shiny packages, but instead, an image of a Savior arriving into our mess and sitting with us. I told my friend “You know, not putting up Christmas seems more “holy” and closer to Jesus in this suffering than having a house decorated for Christmas. Less stuff, less activities, more room for Him.” As Bekah writes: “Loss transforms. Puts aside the fluff. Bends low to an essential Jesus. Loss replaces the whir of busy and places to funnel to listen to a God I have always wanted to hear. A Savior I’ve always wanted to know. A relationship I heard others talk of and knew was possible but, until suffering was upon me, didn’t depend on for my next breath. “
So I sit this holiday season in a tiny apartment in a complex that is under major construction. It is deafeningly loud every single day. Our stuff is still in storage, and sometimes I think, “What in the world is happening? We are supposed to be preparing for a baby to be born this week, and instead this is where I sit?” And then, Jesus so gently reminds me, these thoughts are exactly what Mary must have been thinking on that first Christmas. “This is not the plan. This is too crowded. The stable is too dirty. The animals are too noisy….” And yet HE came that night, straight into that unexpected plan, that messy stable- the Hope of the world came.
So this Christmas, if you are sitting at the table of suffering like so many dear friends I know, please know you are not alone. In my choosing to be REAL, I am being honest with myself and others about what I can and cannot do this season. I am pouring grace upon grace upon myself in how I perform in my roles as a wife, mother, daughter, and friend, and I am listening through tears and ugly sobs to Pentatonix’s version of “Broken Hallelujah”. On repeat. All day long. It is breathtakingly beautiful.
Things may have been massively broken this year, but pieces are being put back together in ways I cannot yet fully understand. I am starting to see that amidst the broken and the healing, cracks still remain and those cracks can be beautiful as they allow His light to shine through. It may all feel broken this Christmas, but still I am singing “Hallelujah” because just as Bekah writes: “for in aching and missing you like crazy, I’ve come to value and need hope. Stripped-down, focused, straight-to-the-heart-of-real-life hope”. May you draw near to simply Jesus the Hope of our world this Christmas and sing your own version of a “Broken Hallelujah” and may it feel like the truest meaning of this holiday.