Advent Grief: Finding Hope in the Midst of Memory

Advent grief defies description.

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Depending upon where we are in our grief journey, it draws us in during Advent.  A mixture of overwhelming sadness with living Hope; growing despair with gentle resolve.

Ache with joy; doubt with faith.

God with Us.

For those who embrace Advent as a season of Hope, remembering loved ones who have died somehow diminishes the light. The grief seems darker, heavier. It’s wearying.

It’s gripping.

The reason for Advent doesn’t dim. The glimmer of Love isn’t distinguished.  It’s the journey out of grief  – it feels longer, more tiring, our hearts get heavey as we struggle – further up and further in.

When the grief is new, raw, and all encompassing, the way out is elusive.

Just beyond our grasp.

Our hearts alone become our guides as we blindly feel our way with our hands, cut and bleeding – the sharp edges of grief try to snare us and prevent us from moving forward into the pain.

There is a need for darkness. A need for quiet.

There is a comfort in the darkness. Sitting in the twilight of a new day with nothing but the glimmer of Christmas lights, I shy away from the glare of the sun. There is a safety alone in the quiet with the gentle glistening.

The light of day exposes my vulnerability and forces me to deal with it.

 Get up.

 Move.

Grow.

Remember.

As if the hole in my heart could ever forget.

I want to be stagnant for a season – a day in the season, or two days, or three – like a winter bulb buried in the cold, asleep, waiting for spring. Just let me rest here a while in my grief.

As we move out of the darkness the light is often so blinding we need to move back into the darkness. Just for a while.

And adjust our hearts to what lies before us.

I don’t retreat into deep darkness anymore, but I will always have moments of darkness. I don’t want to lose them. To lose them is to lose him. To lose the moments is to lose empathy for the darkness.

He would be 26 today. My little dark haired babe who never opened his eyes. I want to see his eyes, I want to know the feel of his sweet baby breath on my face.

Today, it is what never was that shouts into the dark.

No good memories. Only the searing pain of labor which ended long ago – overshadowed by the pain of never seeing him move.

Never tiptoeing into the room just to listen to him breathe or watch him sleep.

No playing, giggling, or walking.

I’ll never see him marry, or know the love of another daughter welcomed into my life.

No baby breath.

No “mama” words.

No embrace.

No “Welcome home son. I’ve missed you.”

Instead, he will welcome me home.

Baby yet, or twenty-six, in the place that knows not time or pain.

I had a baby boy who filled the never was for a season. A grandson who tried to make his entrance on this day, and entered into the hole in my heart. 

Not so long ago.

He filled it with December wonder in the place where winter pain had rested.

He gave me a reason to celebrate this time of the year, with Happy Birthday, and December labors that ended in physical life.

He is also out of my reach these days.

Just beyond my grasp.

The pain is complicated like the complication of the labor, where the end result was unknown, and you never quite understand how you got to this place. 

Only heaven knowns the end of the beginning when eternity is in motion.

My birth was violent. Tearing. Painful. Gentleness was absent.

There was no breath of life. Sometimes I struggle to breathe now. Missing what never was, what was, and what is yet to be.

Twenty six years ago today, he was birthed out of darkness into True Light. His first breath was a breath of Life.

Two thousand years ago He was birthed out of True Light into darkness.

Jesus’ birth defies imagination. God born of woman, to become man.

The mystery of Jesus the Christ is the mystery of Christmas. The violence of the cross had already claimed Him at his birth in a great eternal Alpha and Omega. It is the time and absence of time that only the creator of all things lives in.

Birth is often violent. Death is often violent.                                                                                 Birth is often gentle. Death is often gentle.                                                                                       The constant is Christ. He suffered it all. He understands it all. He is present in it all.

This morning in the stillness He is present. The glimmering of the lights on the tree are gentle. They call me to weep. They call me to rejoice. They call me to remember. They call me to Life.

The voice of Jesus whispers to my saddened heart that the end is not yet. There is so much of eternity to live with my babe. So much Life where the Son shines without end.

I will know as I am known.

I will love as I am loved.

I will see and understand.

My hope lies in the One who is greater than me. In a purpose that is bigger than me. In a Light that is brighter than my darkened heart can handle right now.

As the sun begins to spill through the windows, the tree lights begin to fade. The Light has called me back to breathe, move, and live. There is so much life. So much to live for. So much to do.

To be.

The light in my heart grows brighter. Lit by the memory of two infants – one born dead – one born to die.

Both, very much alive. Both waiting for me.

In memories of Hope. 

Happy Birthday Micaiah James Grubb. You are loved.

You are missed. You are so very, very, very, missed.

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And regarding the question, friends that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.

And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.   I Thessalonians 4:13-18  The Message

Glory to God in the Highest; Advent Grief

I haven’t blogged in over a month.

For me to write openly now is to speak of the inconsequential or to reveal my scars… during a most vulnerable season.  I tend to carefully hide them knowing many well-meaning and loving people may accidentally rip them open with platitudes or Christian cliches. Self-care is my best training. I have learned to practice what I preach. 

So, I guard my heart, and in doing so, the healing is deeper, lasting, and I am more available to help others throughout the year. 

I can write trivia, or I can be real. I can write blessings, or I can speak truth. Social media has become so negative. It used to be a nice way to stay in touch, share views, see photos, have fun. Now, it has become a political platform and a place of personal catharsis. My desire to meet hurting people in the places of my wounds is risky at times,  but it is a gift. God moves in Truth. He heals in Truth. He abides in Truth.

There are people out there like me – people who have been deeply wounded by great losses and further traumatized at the hands of others in the name of Jesus. Lots of them. Many have not found their way back to the God who loves them. Some have never tasted His love. Some will hide behind their own Christian cliches and happy scriptures covering up the darkness in their hearts and the fear in their souls.

People who have had all of their plans for life thwarted, tossed aside, crumpled up, and turned inside out; blown away in a wispy cloud carrying all of their dreams. 

People who need to know that God truly loves them and it wasn’t He who spoke in cliches or trite comments, but it is He who weeps for them even when they don’t.

People who need to love the church again, if they ever did at all – with all her flaws, perfections, heartaches and joys. It isn’t Jesus speaking unkind words. It isn’t God unleashing negativity or all over their lives. 

Advent tears

Genuine compassion cries for the broken and bleeding.

She is beautiful this church of Christ. She is also flawed, arrogant, heartless, selfish, hurting, needy, broken, and desperately needing to learn to listen to the heartbeat of humanity.

Just like me.

I am a torn member of the body of Christ who sometimes behaves more like an infected appendix than a beating heart.

We are all walking stained glass windows revealing works of art replete with imperfections woven throughout. Flaws that Jesus fills with color making us beautiful reflections of the One who calls us loved – to those who are equally imperfect. Like stained glass we must get intimately close, even pressing our noses against the cold to see through the colored haze and into hearts…

Waiting to be forgiven.

Suffering turns into gold; pain grows into compassion. 

In a few days it will be a quarter century since my son died in a completely preventable, traumatic event.

I should be over it…Christians have hope… my loved one is in a better place… wah-wah, wah-wah… Like the murmur of the Peanuts gang, a nickels worth of faith from tear-less naysayers. 

I will never get over having been so brainwashed in a Christian cult that we gave up all sense of reason and lost a child. I will never get over that I was taught such a distorted view of God that how I lived or what I did mattered more than what He did and how He lived.  I will never get over how unkind people can be when they are convinced they have arrived at all “truth” instead of journeying towards it, in it,and through it.   

I don’t want to.

Healing is not “getting over” the things that formed you, it is embracing the broken, forgiving the offenders, and growing in grace. 

It is forgiving ourselves. 

That I have done. 

If not I would have neither the boldness or the humility to write about life in a cult. 

Please don’t talk to me about declaring the promises of God, or my need for deeper healing. Don’t tell me you will “pray” for me in that patronizing tone of voice that hides your own brokenness or need for “prayer” – as if there is something inherently wrong with lament, and absolutely nothing wrong with your life.

We were willing to die for what we believed. It’s easy to claim or declare when nothing is really at stake. It’s utter foolishness to think otherwise. Ask the Christians in Nigeria, Syria, Haiti, the Philippines, or the countless other countries that are unsafe, war-torn, unhealthy, hungry, and stricken. When you have money and medical, safety and surety it’s easy to believe…When an ambulance can be called and our laws mandate that no in need of urgent care can be left to die on a street.

 When a doctor is an option if you’re sick, a welfare system if you are broke, a soup kitchen if you are hungry.

Perhaps my heart for the poor and needy lies in having lived without any options of medical or financial help. Trust was our only option. As misguided as it was, I understand what it is to pray when prayer is all  you have.  So I grieve when American prosperity gospel lays claims to the sale of a house for more than it’s worth, or a greater blessing just because we think our “Father” has promised it to us. Dave didn’t get a higher paying job, we lost everything in our home, and we are in far worse shape than we have ever been with a bleak looking future. In this world.

We also have more peace in God than we have ever had.

More faith

More trust

More compassion

More empathy

A more abiding presence of God that doesn’t have to worked up, prayed up, or stored up. It isn’t lost, put aside for Sunday, speak in Christianize, or get discouraged when things don’t go our way. I like to think that we understand what I Cor. 13:5 means, Love doesn’t “seek its own way,” or “demand its own way” or “is not selfish” depending upon your personal favorite translation.

I have been broken into a million pieces and put back together by the hand of God. 

One jagged piece at a time.

I will always hear the words that caused the death of my son. They are embedded in my mind. A reminder of how a hardened heart will stifle the ability to hear that beautiful, still, small voice of God, and cause pain in others.

A reminder to listen, love, learn, and lament.

Pain is only one piece of the jagged puzzle.

I am living proof of the power of God to restore even the ugliest circumstances into something beautiful. Loss upon loss, all adding layers and depth to my life by the One who makes all things new.

I wait with expectant hope for some of the “new” things to happen- especially in relationships that have gotten lost in a sea of “what ifs” swallowed by waves of because. I long to see my husband carry his shoulders in the way he did before the burden of one wrong choice locked a yoke of grief about his neck. It’s coming. I see it through eyes of faith. 

I am more about what I can do for God than what He owes me. To be in His presence is enough. To own Him as my own is everything. The presence of God is my breath of life. I have nothing left in me. Nothing. He has increased. He breathes for me when I can’t. I exhale, He inhales.

The breath of Life

This time of the year is a reminder of so many losses. Unknown to most. Yet, this season is a season of expectant and glorious HOPE.

This time of year I reminded that my child died, but in his dying I learned to live in the One who lived to die for me. Mind boggling? Yes, to me too. But it is what I hang my ornament of Hope on during the season of promise.  And loss.

 I stand among those who passionately love God in spite of it all and daily live in the joy and peace of knowing the Savior in the deepest recesses of my heart.

I weep, rejoice, and weep again. And again.

Hosanna in the highest. 

It is how I put one foot in front of the other and have peace in doing it. It is how I serve others with compassion and professionalism.

Emmanuel, God with me.

Healing comes in the face of  child and the form of a bloody cross. 

A memory is are made in a pair of hand sewn mittens – never worn on lifeless hands, unable to scratch the tiny face…

Safely tucked away by the babes sister who knew someday they would heal a portion of her mothers heart. 

No, I don’t ever want to get over it. 

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:11-14