As we begin this year’s countdown to Christmas, my family and I started an Advent reading calendar to prepare our hearts and help keep our focus on the important parts of Christmas through the holiday mayhem. We’ve never done it before, as our kids have been too little to really understand, but as we sat down today with the lights twinkling and the fire roaring, it really started to feel like Christmas. As we cozied up, the storm raged outside (the RAIN storm, mind you, in 39 degree weather on the FIRST DAY OF DECEMBER – oh so festive!) and the Christmas music was playing softly in the background when our 6 year old asked, “What is ‘Advent’?” I answered without really thinking, “It’s the time leading up to Christmas that we use to prepare our hearts and remember what Christ did for us.” And in that moment, a lifetime of Scriptures and Christmas cliches culminated in a newfound revelation that brings me to where I am now, sitting at my computer, and writing to you.
It’s been a long time since my fingers have typed anything longer than a brief email, and there are many reasons for that. But what brings me out of my silence today is far more important than the trials that kept me quiet.
It has been a year. What started brimming with new hope and possibilities (a new job, the hopes of bringing another child into this world, and the arrival of our house on the market) has ended in delayed answers, broken dreams, and the endless trial of waiting. We have survived – no, we have thrived – only by the grace of God. The growth he has brought to us this year by far surpasses any previous exercise we have ever experienced. And although we would not trade these strides we’ve made, the journey has left us broken, weary; with little hope.
We find ourselves at the close of this year stuck in a house we can’t sell, keeping us physically and financially in a place we do not want to be, recovering from two joyous pregnancy announcements that have ended in miscarriage, and plagued by health issues that result in daily physical pain. We believe in His promises… we hold fast to our faith. But we are weary.
Ordinarily, I am incredibly private. I call it self-preservation, the Bible calls it pride… either way, I don’t usually go around broadcasting my woes, in fact, I work very hard to convince the people in my life (close friends and acquaintances alike) that there is nothing wrong at all. But part of the lessons God has been teaching me during this trying season is the beauty of brokenness, and the healing that comes from being vulnerable: true, ugly honesty. So, with that as my disclaimer, allow me to share a bit of my heart.
We have been fighting to stay calm and wait patiently for our house to sell, but believe me when I tell you it has been one of the hardest things I have ever endured (and that’s saying something… have you read my post on Deployment?). Not only are we stuck in a holding pattern and feel as if all our life will pass us by before we have the chance to really live it, but we have been struggling to find the key to contentment: as Paul said, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.” NOT an easy lesson.
In addition, we have been trying to add to our family all year. Please don’t misunderstand, we are incredibly blessed with two beautiful children and I do not mean in any way to compare our struggles this year with others’ infertility. But in our own little world, not being able to conceive and carry a full term baby has been devastating. With the first signs of miscarriage, the nagging questions come like a flood… What’s wrong with me? Why aren’t my babies growing? Is it the Advil I took before I knew? Is it my stress levels? What am I doing wrong? …and they just don’t go away.
Lastly, and perhaps most insignificantly, I have been struggling with neck problems for years that have culminated this year in debilitating migraines and lack of functionality in my hands. Life threatening? No. But to a stay at home mama with two littles, this is absolutely world-crushing. We do our best to live normally, and I have been so blessed to have various methods help for a time. But there’s no getting around pain, no matter how good your tolerance is, and eventually it starts effecting your life.
And that’s what brings us to this post today… and the reason I decided to lead with the idea of Broken Glass… because lately, I have been breaking a HUGE amount of glass.
When we first got married (and didn’t know the ramification of my neck issues), my husband would poke fun at the amount of glasses I broke on a monthly basis. I was mortified, of course, but it turned to be a symptom of my neck problems that was temporarily solved through nerve therapy. Well, it appears to be back in full force and, joining with my carpal tunnel, I’m a hot mess. I have proceeded to break glass after glass over the past month or so, and the fact that it’s all culminated in a life-changing revelation still doesn’t fully take away the pain of losing my favorites.
I’m a beverage person. When we go on road trips, other people pack snacks – I pack beverages… loads of them. I’ll have a water bottle, a back up water bottle, and a back-up for the back up. I’ll throw in a seltzer water if I get board, and a Diet Coke if I feel like a splurge. Then comes the coffee. Sooooo much coffee. I never leave home for a trip without my thermal cup (the one that keeps it hot for 12+ hours!!) full of my home-brewed french press. Then, inevitably, within the first hour of our travels, we will find a Starbucks. It’s just how I roll: Must. Have. Beverages.
So imagine my dismay – no, horror – when I dropped my prized drinking glass with the glass top and the straw that holds 20 ounces of iced goodness per fill-up. I was absolutely devastated. My husband felt so bad he went out and bought me another one – same brand, only plastic (for Butter Fingers here). Then, last week, I dropped my beloved thermal mug. Yes, the one I mentioned that keeps your coffee hot for an entire day. It slipped right out of my jelly hands and the top that makes the magic happen cracked open on the tile floor, shattering my hopes and dreams of another hot coffee. Ever. Again. THEN…. last night, it all really came to a head. I was bringing in my things from the car when all of the sudden my hands just stopped working (as they so love to do) and I dropped it – yes, IT – the plastic replacement cup my man so lovingly found me… and IT BROKE. The PLASTIC CUP BROKE. Oh my heart… it hurts, just to say it.
So needless to say, broken glass has been on my mind a lot lately… and I’m so glad to finally have a good reason to think about it.
This morning, in the wee hours before my darling children awoke at 5:42, I was going through the first day of my own Advent reading plan. And there, in Isaiah 40, I discovered something I have never, in all my years of being raised in the church and hearing the Christmas passages read, NEVER seen before.
“Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all of her sins.”
“A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.”
Advent is a time of preparation; a time to prepare our hearts for the Lord. And preparation takes place in the wilderness. Therefore, without the wilderness, you can’t make a way for the Lord in your life.
“Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”