Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When Advent Hurts

I've come to despise certain Christmas songs. They play on the radio and I cringe, they irritate me, they sing beautiful harmonies that carry lyrics that feel like lies. They promise things like magic on your rooftop, joy throughout the world, love wrapped beautiful beneath the tree, and my heart hurts while my teeth grind because those are lies. The idea that Christmas and its many beautiful facets -like a baby in a manger and beautiful glass balls on trees and families gathered and gifting- won't hurt, won't carry the world's usual heaviness, won't feel sad and dreary despite the twinkle lights, that idea feels like a lie.

And I realize: sometimes Advent hurts. 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas. 

It was rainy and soggy that day two years ago. Rain, soft, completely chaotic because of all that water pouring down from the sky. We were rushing to the gym, all of us, going to work out before the Christmas Eve festivities (and eating) were under way. He had to go change into work out gear, but instead went -quietly- out the front door into that drippy, wet weather and disappeared.

In the hustle and bustle, we didn't notice his absence until we were running out the door. His gym clothes laid on the bed, untouched. Him, no where to be found. And the blanket of panic fell quickly upon the house -every one of us panicked, shouting his name out into the rain with no response. A blanket, like fiberglass, soft to the touch, but filled with spiny shards of our own broken hearts.

Let your heart be light/ From now on, your troubles will be out of sight

It was that day, rainy and soggy two years ago, that we surrendered. We found him a half mile away, soaked and cold, brought him home and warmed him up. He was upset he didn't get his walk, we were upset he went missing so easily. And we waved the white flag in a war against maintaining the disease that riddled his mind.

Advent -and the safety of being excited about the Savior- was punctured. Thousands of tiny holes that hurt. 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas 

And we looked at each other, tears streaming down our faces, and I said what no one wanted to hear. I said, he's not safe here. We can't do this. My voice shook and cracked and we watched as our tears dropped on the dry, grey concrete under the overhang as rain poured from the heavens around us. Just like the tears that dropped, dispersed, left their mark on the matte surface at our feet, so broke our holey hearts.

What wasn't certain rose to the surface of all the drippy drops of water and laid on the shores of our souls as fact. It stared us in the eyes, undeniable and bold, waiting for our next step, a step that wasn't crumbling and flattening under it's watchful gaze. But instead, a final celebration, together, as a family around a Christmas tree.

Make the Yule Tide gay/ From now on, your troubles will be miles away 

And we knew, this was our chance. Our chance to make these two days -the eve and the Christmas- merry and gay. We knew on the other side of forty-eight hours sat the most daunting decisions we'd yet to make, but for now, cheer, hope, a birth of our Savior. We tossed the hard traditions, the ones too complicated for him to comprehend and we picked up a few new -Christmas Lane walking, brownie baking, paper plate ornament making.

We let the hurt sit, ignored and looming, and we celebrated. We let Advent fill our souls washing out the bitter, salty pain. We held tight, made paper plate ornaments, cried quietly into balled-up crumbles of wrapping paper in intermittent woes. We started his beloved tractor and hooked up the hay wagon and we journeyed down the street in blankets and flannel pajamas.

Here we are as in olden days/ Happy golden days of yore. 

And now, two years later, we're here, where we are, and Advent still holds a sting. As we celebrate, sing carols, call out for the faithful to come and see, there's an underlying ache. There's the memories of it as the beautiful, carefree, birthday celebration of youth. And then there's today. There's the sadness, the missing, the way time moves on, carrying us with it whether we want to go or stay.

But the man of Advent -one Christ- knows hurt and pain. He knows it, defeats it, and introduces hope. 

Faithful friends who are dear to us/ Gather near to us once more. 

So we gather. We bolster one another. We hold close and tight and collect all those bits and pieces of broken heart that surface among the fallen pine needles that are this time of year. We thank friends who dress our wounded parts, we admire twinkle lights in the darkest moments of night, we celebrate that babe who gave us Hope.

May hope invade what hurts. May those who gather draw ever-near. May merry and bright bring comfort. May you see that little twinkling light in seeming darkness.

May Advent hope. 
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  1. Your words are always beautiful Amber! I can't imagine the frustrations and pain ya'll experience around the holidays. I guess the beauty in all of it are the memories that were made :)

  2. It's so hard for me to imagine a sad or tough Christmas. And I'm not saying that flippantly. The only sad Christmas we had was when my dad was stationed in Korea for a year and we were back in the states. It was tough not having him for Christmas, but we went to my grandparent's house and still had a great holiday. he cam home 3 days after Christmas, so we were still able to celebrate and enjoy the season. Advent was just a lil longer for us.

    But, I know too many people have lost loved ones during the holidays so Christmas means pain. And too many that got bad news from the doctor during the holidays so Christmas means suffering. I'm so sorry Advent is a sad time for you, but you're heart seems to be telling you to hope which is wonderful. Prayers and love!

  3. My heart truly hurts for you, friend.

  4. So often we forget that advent is truly a time of lament: hurt & waiting... Thank you for staying with all of us in lament too. love to you new friend.

  5. so well spoken. this year though i feel the sad but not the scary like we did back then. every moment felt was so edgy & raw where now it is just clothed in sad for us and for dad. advent is a time of waiting and together we wait for God to call home one of his most dear fishers of men. and as we have learned, in His perfect time He will. love you...

  6. I'm so sorry that you had this experience and that you're reminded of it each Christmas season, but this was a beautiful post and I hope you know readers everywhere are thinking of you and your family this holiday season. :)

  7. Oh Amber. Often after reading your words, I wish we were separated by half a country! I wish I could grab your hand and give you a giant hug. I wish I could look you in the eye when I tell you how strong you are and how you sharing your own venerability and pain is so helpful for others. I wish I could sit at a cafe table and bring a smile to your face as many times as I could. But alas, I'm not there. So, all I can do is tell you that you are a treasure. You are. Don't forget it -- this time of year or any other.


  8. My heart is raw for you, your family, your words, your heart. So raw.

  9. dearest amber: your words bring me to tears, because I can feel the love you have for him and the hope you have for your family. I can't pretend to know what it feels like or even begin to express the love and prayers I'm sending your way. What I CAN offer is a song that always eases my heart when I find myself in a hopeless spot during the day. I hope it brings you some kind of peace. lots of love, Lena

    Yahweh, I know you are near,
    standing always at my side.
    You guard me from the foe,
    and you lead me in ways everlasting.

    Lord, you have searched my heart,
    and you know when I sit and when I stand.
    Your hand is upon me protecting me from death,
    keeping me from harm.

    Where can I run from Your love?
    If I climb to the heavens You are there;
    If I fly to the sunrise or sail beyond the sea,
    still I'd find You there.

    You know my heart and its ways,
    you who formed me before I was born
    in the secret of darkness before I saw the sun
    in my mother's womb.

    Marvelous to me are Your works;
    how profound are Your thoughts, my Lord.
    Even if I could count them, they number as the stars,
    You would still be there.

  10. This is so beautifully written. Your gorgeous words and message of hope are a wonderful gift to share with the world! Love this post, love you.

  11. "But the man of Advent -one Christ- knows hurt and pain. He knows it, defeats it, and introduces hope."

  12. THIS POST. I have always wondered about what got you to this decision, I remember it was one of the HARDEST things we ever did for my grandfather when he started to wander. I remember those incidents very clearly. The complete terror and fear that fills you. My heart hurts for you, that this had to happen to close to Christmas, during a time that is meant to be joyful. But it also amazes me that you continue to see the goodness in even the smallest of things.

  13. I am always amazed at how eloquently and beautifully you are able to reflect on such hard topics. My heart breaks as I read this, and I know that you will have a hard Christmas, but the hope we have is so great! My comment can never be comforting enough, but I know that scripture will be!

  14. Christmas is a sad time for us as well, in addition to being a happy time. We've had too many loved ones leave us too near to the holidays. It is always with achey hearts that we enter the Christmas Season. My prayers for peace are always with those who aren't able to have their loved ones with them.

  15. This is beautiful. Beautiful in the heartbreak, beautiful in the meaning, beautiful in the hope, beautiful in the you-are-not-alone, beautiful in the raw, vulnerable, honesty. Hugging you so tightly

  16. Wow, amber. Beautiful words.

  17. Oh, Amber. Your words are eloquent and beautiful. My heart breaks for the pain you walk through every Advent. I can't possibly know or imagine what it's like.


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