When Now is Your Time of Grief

Well, once again, here I am writing during my supposed sabbatical. But this is a good thing, actually. I’ve realized, in these weeks of relative quiet, that I don’t want to quit writing. Whew! This is big, people! There was a time there in which I really didn’t know. But as I’ve been a bit quieter and ruminating on this and that, I suddenly had the desire to write again. And these are the words that rose to the surface. It’s not the most cheery Advent post, but it’s what I have for now. So thanks for bearing with me, friends.

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I’ll be honest: I’m not feeling very Adventy this Advent.  I don’t have that sense of anticipation, the expectation that is often present in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I’m not feeling all close and cozy with Jesus, or particularly prayerful or joyous or even spiritual. I’m just…here. Slogging. Going through the motions.

It can make a person feel like a real loser, can’t it? I mean really, who doesn’t feel Adventy during Advent? Who feels emptiness instead of fullness? Absence instead of closeness? Scarcity instead of abundance? Something akin to grief instead of joy?

I find myself wishing it were Lent instead. Somehow these feelings would seem more acceptable during Lent.

Last week I read a stunningly beautiful blog post. My fellow blogger friends had linked to it  on various social media, and so I finally clicked over and read it myself. And it was beautiful. But when I read the last line of that beautiful post, instead of feeling full or grateful, or in awe of God’s grace and love, I felt…nothing.

In fact, truth be told, I felt worse than nothing. I felt jaded and cynical and hopeless. Not what the writer had intended, I’m sure. It shook me up. My reaction to that post was like a punch to the gut because reading it made me feel like I’d failed.

Failed in my faith.

Failed in my relationship with God.

Failed in my weak attempts to find Jesus in Advent.

That beautiful blog post brought everything I’d been feeling, everything I’d squelched and smoothed over and pretended didn’t exist, right to the forefront in technicolor clarity.

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You know, when I first started down this wild, weedy path into the deep, dark wilderness, I thought it was all related to my career and my calling as a writer. My heart-book had tanked, my publisher had let me go, I wasn’t sure where I was headed next. It was a career- and calling-related wilderness, that I knew for sure.

Lately, though, I’m beginning to suspect this jaunt into the wilderness is about God’s work in me, not just as a writer, or as a person called to a particular work, but simply as a person period.

Early in this wilderness journey part of me was excited. I brimmed with hope and anticipation, eager to see what God was going to do next. My faith was full and robust. I was nervous and anxious, yes, but it was an excited, anticipatory nervousness. I was poised to embrace God’s next big thing for me. I couldn’t wait to see what he would do.

That was three months ago. I’m still waiting.

Turns out, this wilderness, this period of refining and transforming that God has led me toward feels a lot less exciting and anticipatory right now. In fact, it feels quite a bit like labor – labor of the child-birth variety.

During the early hours of labor with Noah, my first-born, I sat outside on the back patio, my hands resting on my big belly as it tightened and released, tightened and released. I called friends and chatted happily. Later I paced the backyard, deep-breathing in August air as the ciccadas sawed the thick humidity. I thought about my baby boy, my heart and head and gut a tangle of nervous, jangling joy.

Fourteen hours later I lay in a hospital bed in the dark. The nurse had piled three or four blankets on top of me. They were warm from the dryer, but still, I shook uncontrollably from somewhere deep in my core, like seismic waves rippling out from an epicenter. It wasn’t cold exactly, and I wasn’t in pain – the epidural had largely alleviated that — but something terrible and unfamiliar and frightening was happening to my body.

“You’re in transition,” the nurse told me, patting my shoulder as I gripped the sheets in my fists.

I was afraid. Around me the voices of encouragement receded, hollow and distant. Everything grew hazy, the end point a dim prick of light. I lost focus. The goal seemed far away, unreachable. So fixed was I on the fear and the unfamiliar, I lost sight of everything else, including the baby boy I was about to birth into the world.

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Transition. Not the most appealing part of labor, and, it turns out, not the most appealing part of the wilderness journey either. Transition leaves you feeling shaky, out of control, lost and anxious. Transition dims your focus, blurs the way, has you gripping the bed sheets with two fists. Transition is when the hard, necessary work gets done, the work that will lead you out the other side again. But it’s not fun. It’s lonely, difficult and shaky.

The morning after I read the beautiful blog post that left me feeling like an empty egg carton, all hollow and stiff, I read some words in John. I read them over and over again, which is unusual for me. But something kept bringing me right back to the start of the paragraph to read and reread the same words again:

“Your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy, that a child is born into the world. So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again, and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:20-22)

Your time has come, says the Lord. Now is your time of grief.

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Maybe you’re like me right now. Maybe you’re not feeling particularly Adventy this Advent. Maybe you’re feeling a little lost, a bit afraid, lonely, weary, shaky. Maybe you’re doing the hard work of transition. Maybe you’re not seeing Jesus very clearly right now when it seems like everyone else and his brother is.

It’s okay. Those words I read in John? Those words are from God, telling me, and you, that it’s okay.

Now is my time of grief. And the timing may be less than perfect, it being Advent and all, but now is the time nonetheless. There’s hope. God will see me again, and I will see him. And we will rejoice, Jesus assures me, for no one can take away our joy.

 

 

It Takes a Village {My Faith Heroine Series}

Today’s post come from Bible study author and teacher Donna Pyle. You will not find a more encouraging woman than Donna, and I mean that. Every time I receive an email or a Facebook message from her, it exudes encouragement, love and joy. I always feel lighter after talking with Donna, and I know that’s exactly how you’ll feel after reading her post. Be sure to visit Donna at her website, Hydrated Living, and check out her latest release, Quenched: Christ’s Living Water for a Thirsty Soul.

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Post by Donna Pyle

There is eternal truth in the ancient African proverb, “It takes a village.” Though sometimes we desire to be an island, that’s not how God created us.

Michelle’s blog series has revealed many incredible women who introduced us to their faith heroines. But what if it took a whole village, like me? I wasn’t raised going to church regularly, and willfully tossed my curls and walked away as a teenager.

At 23, a friend invited me to church. What I didn’t know then, what I couldn’t see, what I didn’t care about, was that those women would become my Jesus village. In various stages of life, God gave me these beautiful women to increase my faith and bless me in countless ways. Picking one just did not seem right. Their mentoring and friendship carry equal, precious weight in my soul.

I lacked confidence and spiritual wisdom, so God gave me Kathy Graumann. Her gentle patience erased my fear of fitting into the church crowd. With twinkling eyes, earnest words, and the heart of a pastor’s wife, she made me feel comfortable in my own skin, even when I didn’t. I have never heard a harsh or negative word pass her lips. She encouraged me to study Scripture every single day, a gift that thankfully stuck. She introduced me to a group of mission-minded ladies whose blessings in my life prompted me to begin a Bible-teaching ministry.

I lacked leadership and balance for ministry so God gave me Eloise Kuhlmann. Her words carry immeasurable wisdom both from Scripture and experience. Her words are carefully filtered through Christ’s love and a heart of encouragement. Her easy smile, witty humor and intelligence make her a natural leader whom I eagerly follow. Her love for cooking inspired me to balance work and home life in an age when working women focused solely on climbing the corporate ladder.

I lacked experience to handle spiritual warfare and the storms of life, so God gave me Pat Bokenkamp. Through trials I could never imagine, including cancer, Pat demonstrates a faith that penetrates skin, bone, marrow and soul. God used her to strengthen my faith to handle the storm of divorce with Jesus at the center.

I lacked gentleness and discernment, so God gave me Luanne Walling. Where sarcasm easily slips off my tongue, her words never fail to encourage, build up, and give confidence. Her love and devotion to Jesus plunge to the depths of her soul, continually pointing people Christ. Who doesn’t need someone who tirelessly points you to the One who loves you most?

When it comes of faith heroines, my cup runneth over. For decades, God has used these women powerfully in my life, along with many others. I was a stubborn nut to crack, so God used a Jesus village.

My prayer is that He has given you a Jesus village of faith heroines, too. Whether they reside in your church, home or circle of friends, villages keep us in relationship with each other and with Christ. God never intended us to travel our faith journeys as an island. We need a village, because together we can accomplish much for His good purposes.

DonnaPyle2Author of the recently released Quenched: Christ’s Living Water for a Thirsty Soul, Donna Pyle lives amidst beautiful countryside in Texas. She is founder of Artesian Ministries, where she has authored 23 Bible studies and travels regularly to teach God’s Word. She blogs at Hydrated Living, and you can connect with Donna on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

This post is part of the My Faith Heroine Series in conjunction with the release of 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith. Click here to read other posts in the #MyFaithHeroine series. 

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