Each December I think it will be different. This will be the year I shake my winter melancholy. This will be the year my delight grows day by day. These are days of ornaments and sugar cookies and twinkling lights. Aren’t they supposed to be happy?
But this year is much like every other year. The ornaments shatter, the cookies crumble, and those new LED bulbs cast a cold-hearted glow.
More than ten years ago, I spent a few December days watching my friend’s little girl. My friend was in the hospital laboring to deliver a baby boy whose heart had already stopped beating. Over the weekend, I took care of another little girl who has no idea her parent’s hearts are broken.
All weekend, in the background, Over the Rhine was singing, “If we make it through December we’ll be fine.”
This was going to be the year I would look on the bright side, but I have just about accepted that there is no bright side in December. Only darkness and the pin-prick lights on the Christmas tree, and tonight is the longest night.
At one in the morning on the fourth Sunday of Advent, my friend’s little girl threw up. When I found her, she was crying, and her beautiful curly hair was smeared with vomit. While I bathed her and toweled her dry, I thought two things: Why is this happening tonight? and Thank you, Jesus, that I can do this for my friend.
This is what we do in December. We bake sugar cookies, and we scrub vomit from the sheets. We cry for our friends and we cry for ourselves, and we hand out bars of chocolate tied with red and green bows. We make toasts to the new year, and we wonder how we’ll ever survive another one.
We pray come, Lord Jesus, come, and we remember that he already has and that he’s seen it all before. The vomit and the death. The good food and the hunger. The love and the loss.
I don’t know if I’m angry, or tired, or simply sad, but I will keep baking cookies. I will continue hanging ornaments, and I will make my husband climb up on the barn roof to secure a lighted star.
Because somehow despite it all (or because of it?) I still believe that there is a God up there in heaven who has made us this promise: “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).
We live somewhere between the promise and its ultimate fulfillment. It is a land where tears drop onto festive wrapping paper. A place dusted with cookie crumbs and peppermints. It is empty stockings hung by the fire, and it is our hope, perhaps a little shaky and unsure, that one day we will wake and those stockings will be full.
But it isn’t only a one-day hope. Perhaps if we make it through December we will be fine, but I don’t want to be fine. I want more than that. I want better than that.
I want gladness.
Gladness like the taste of sugar cookies and candy canes and the cinnamon rolls I make every Christmas morning.
Gladness like the face of a child when snow finally does fall.
Gladness like every bright, sweet gift that comes to us only in December.
In it with you! Thanks for touching the deepest places of my heart – again!
Thank you, Tracy. xoxo
This is just what I needed, Christie. Thank you for this. I feel every word.
Bless you, Kris. xoxo
As I’m sure you’re aware, in the nature of things winter has this same effect on many people. I realize this is probably of little comfort to you right now, but of course it is true.
I know a lovely young spiritual woman, like you, who along with her husband and four children are Christian missionaries in St Petersburg, Russia. As you can imagine the days are even shorter there than here. She’s currently struggling with the same mood issue that you are right now. I wish somehow the two of you could meet and talk. Somehow I think it would help to understand and be a comfort to each other.
How one day I’d like to come to West Grove and visit with you and your family. Maybe I couldn’t get rid of your low mood, but I’ll bet I could sure make you forget about it for a while 🙂
Take care dear Christie. I just know that you’re loved by many. You just HAVE to be. Possibly their love along with God’s can sustain you for another 11 days. May January come quickly. The 3rd is my birthday. Now there’s something to celebrate, along with your new uplifted spirit 🙂
Thank you, Larry. You are an encouragement. And I will say a pray for you on the 3rd! A new year for you in every way. I hope you feel the hopeful possibility of it.
This touches my heart. I’ve recently been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and my husband with congestive heart failure. We sit here – a couple “old folks” – who have had such a good life until now – and feel pretty desperate. We try to be positive but it’s hard. I’d actually give anything to be back in the “rat race” of December! But, better, yet, be able to somehow reduce the stress and just rest in His Love!! Blessings to all who struggle
Oh, Mary, I am so glad you took the time to leave a comment. You and your husband will both be in my prayers this week. May God be near to you both.
This is so familiar to me. Christmas is a difficult season for me, bringing back memories of trauma and loss. There was a good four years where Over the Rhine’s song “We’re Gonna Pull Through” became a prayer for me.
“Maybe, sorta, kinda, if I really had to say
Something good is on its way
And were gonna pull through, were gonna pull through
Were gonna pull through, were gonna pull through”
Amen, amen, amen. Thank you, Tammy.
This is my second time reading this in as many days and tears continue. Thank you for walking with me through the pain and for also reminding me of the hope that is to come and is now, too. You are a gift to me…in December and always 🙂
I love you, Melissa. xoxo
My nephew was delivered 9 years ago this past Sunday, the day of my SIL’s C-section, and his first sight was the face of our great Maker. December is hard, and this post resonated with my for so many reasons. Thank you for putting your thoughts to “paper” for us to read. I’ve just started using a “mood light” this winter, and am hoping maybe it will help fight back the darkness.
Merry Christmas~ Beth
Such a terrible, awe-full anniversary. I am so sorry, Beth. But a mood light – definitely a good idea!
Just beautiful. Losing my mom in October this year has made Christmas seem almost undoable- if that is a word. But I plod forward.
Thank you for this authentic post.
We move forward in hope because yes, He did come.
Blessings sweet Christie.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, Mary Anne. I can only imagine what this season is like for you. Praying that for you – and for so many – the light of our hope will shine at least a little bit brighter each day.
For some of us, there have been experiences that forever change our capacity to ‘enjoy’ Advent and the Christmas season, but He sees our faithful commitment in every endeavour to celebrate His loving kindness in coming to us – the whole aching world over – and sometimes too, He blesses us with fleeting moments of the gladness we so long for, a precious foretaste of the eternal respite from sorrow.
May your Christmas be blessed with a sense of His presence.
Amen to this. Your thoughts are much along the lines of my thoughts this past month.