Friday, December 5, 2014

When December is Hard

Maybe you've faced the start of Advent with more of a feeling of hopelessness than hopefulness.
Perhaps the joy of the season just feels a little too overwhelming.  And the smiles, scents, and sounds of the holidays are more than you can muster.

It's ok.  I have been there, friend.

Sometimes, like a few days ago, I am there still.

We "made it through" the 29th better than I expected.  When Sunday came and the fog rolled in, it actually took me by surprise.  Joy was nowhere to be found and it took everything I had in me just to get to church.

Sometimes grief hits us like that.  One step forward...twelve steps back.

I expected it to come on the anniversary of our loss, but it didn't.  In fact, it was a beautiful day filled with family and giving back, of remembering him.  There were many signs from Austin letting us know he was there, which was a comfort, as well as the prayers and texts sent from those who haven't forgotten.

When night came, there was a peace that surrounded us and we went to sleep without the horrible flashbacks and painful memories.  Tim even grabbed my hand before we drifted off and said,
"It's been a good day."

Six years of healing will do that, or so I thought.

When morning dawned, it was the only brightness to be found.  There was a hurt I could not shake. Tears kept welling up in my eyes, for no reason other than to blind and sting.   Instead of the message bringing me comfort at church, it brought more pain, as our pastor shared a message of hope.  Of miracles and prayers of healing.

For a mother who prayed fervently for her son to survive one November night, it was difficult to hear.  Not this weekend.  Not now...

Evil hissed in my ear and brought back the flashes of my son that didn't come back.  Evil told me my prayer wasn't heard.

Though we had family activities and busyness the rest of day, the heavy coat of grief would not let go.  It made the process of putting up the Christmas tree, our final activity with Austin, even harder to bear.

The next two days played quite the same.  Murphy's law came for an unwelcome visit and lingered.  Monday night found me sobbing in the laundry room, after everyone had gone to bed.  Though it was hateful words said from an uncaring soul that broke my spirit, having an already broken heart allowed for the easy fall.  That night made up for Saturday's lack of tears, I guess - and then some.

This is how I welcomed December.  No tinsel and merriment, only heartache and grief.  And for a moment, I feared this is just how this month would be.  That this Christmas would somehow disappear into darkness.

But as God often does, He found ways to send me hope each day I found despair.  Sunday, a ding on my phone brought a hug to my heart, in an unexpected message from someone who found a RAK.  Their daughter holding a toy from the reverse shopping spree and filled with joy.  Monday random check-ins from family at just the needed moment and more messages of RAK recipients.  In all the years we've done the reverse shopping, we've never heard back from those who found them.  I guess God knew we needed it this year.

And Tuesday, exhausted and spent from the hours crying the night before, I entered the house to find a package on the doorstep.  Hand-addressed to me.  Priority packaging.  Whatever could it be?  Though the gift was visible, the card was the first thing I grabbed, although tears (happy now) soon made it impossible to read.

A friend, remembering Austin and knowing my love for butterflies, sent a beautiful afghan.  It arrived at the perfect moment.  I dropped everything, went to the couch, sat under the lights of the Christmas tree and wrapped myself in love.

This afternoon, home early, found me on repeat.  Sitting in the quiet of the living room, the soft glow of the season all around me, I realized joy had returned.

In truth, it never left because He never leaves us.  Grief can cast a shadow but The light will always find a way to overcome darkness.  And for that I will forever praise Him!

So, if you're facing loss this season, I'm lifting up a special prayer for you.  Whether it has been five minutes or fifteen years, I know grief knows no timeline.  There is no magic ending, no pill, or therapy, or neat little bow to wrap it up and put on a shelf.  If I've learned anything in this walk, is it to be gentle with yourself, to allow tears to fall when they come, and to let God hold you through the journey.  He will bring you to joy again.  I pray it finds you this Christmas.


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