Oh, Christmas. You beautiful/stressful/joyful/memory making time, you.
We’re 7 days away from Christmas today, and I know that because Ella has been overly attentive to her “countdown chain” since December 1st. Somehow my house is quiet, and the stars aligned for me to sit down and write. I can hardly believe it.
I should mention that we’ve been passing sickness around the Team Pelzel house for over a month now. For the past year and a half, one of us has been sick for every holiday. Last Thanksgiving I got a sinus infection, last Christmas we all had a fierce stomach virus, Emmy had Hand Foot & Mouth Disease on my birthday, we had the flu on Valentine’s Day… the list goes on. And this Thanksgiving, Emmy had who knows what- but it was a fever and she was in a MOOD. And as I write this, I am sniffling from a maybe flu that I’ve had for a month? And Em is coughing all over my pillow in her sleep. Nathan is heading back to work for the first day since puking his guts out on Sunday and we’re all crossing our fingers, hoping it was food poisoning and not the tummy plague that we fear. Like what in the world, sickness? Get outta here already!!
My hope is that we are getting all this sickness out the week BEFORE Christmas, instead of taking all that sickness to my parents’ house next week. Maybe? Hopefully? I dunno, I’m trying to just keep my expectations low.
And that has been my mantra these past couple month, “Expectations low, and hopes high”. Like that’s easy, or something.
You know, I struggle a lot with this concept of hope. When we were walking through secondary infertility years ago, my hope dwindled and faded and turned calloused, instead of fresh. And now, after losing our sweet babe this past August, hope feels almost like this elusive and intangible thing that I can’t seem to find.
We’ve been rocking out to Christmas music since Thanksgiving night, and for some reason I feel like I’m hearing some of the songs for the first time. The lyrics seem fresh and new to me in a way that is surprising. I mean, most Christmas songs have been around for hundreds of years, right? And maybe that’s the problem: I’ve sung them my whole life, but I always listened to the melody and not the words.
There are a few lines that have really stuck out to me, I’m sure you’ve heard them too:
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.”
For years, the phrase “the weary world rejoices” was just so magnified in my heart. The picture of a world at its end seeing a bright, new day coming since Jesus had been born- man. I love that. But then it has that word in it that I just really struggle with: hope. And just the other morning I was driving to church, listening to my ever-holy Pentatonix Christmas album. At the line “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant”, I just broke into tears. It’s like I had this realization all at once, and my body just couldn’t contain the relief. I am usually ugly crying at some point during our worship service, but walking in crying? Come on, self, get it together!
I think that I’ve thought so long on “the weary world rejoices”, that I’ve started to focus on my weariness. It’s been a rough six months around here, my friend. I mean, there have been such big break throughs and amazing things too, but I’d be lying if I told you that I was focusing more on those than the weariness.
I’m weary from hopes deferred. I’m weary from the sadness of losing our Judah, and overwhelmed at the idea of walking into this next season. The sting of secondary infertility feels fresh and new again, but in a different way this time. Now, instead of pure anger filling my bones each month, there are memories of loss, waves of fear and just an overall numbness as I process our current “normal”.
It’s easy for me to place hope in diets or doctors. And it’s easy for me to place hope in plans that I’ve carefully made. And to be honest, when I hear the word “hope”, my heart does anything but feel thrilled or rejoice. Instead, a sharp pain wrenches in my soul. Hope: my biggest struggle.
I think this is because, to me, “hope” is associated with infertility and sadness. Hope reminds me of things that I can’t have easily, and it just makes me feel like a failure. I start to focus on all the things AROUND me and Jesus- the issues and struggles. My eyes dart back and forth, painful tears that sting as they blur it all. But the whole time, I never look at Jesus. I see the pain and the failure, but I don’t see Jesus. I see the blood in the bathroom and I don’t see His hand- reaching for mine. I see the other pregnant bellies, and not His timing and faithfulness. My eyes focus on the pain. And His eyes focus on me.
Every once in a while, I remember to glance at Him. And when I do, our eyes lock, and suddenly everything is ok. The pain diminishes. My heart pounds. The blood and the bellies, they don’t sting as much, because there He is: looking at me.
When I am brave enough, I open my mouth and sing to Him in my pain. I force the words out of my mouth, even when I don’t mean them. I grit my teeth and push them out- forcing my weary soul to rejoice. I call my weariness out and tell it that it can’t stay. As I sing, I see the blood, I see the bellies, and I see His eyes. And I force this weary world inside of me to rejoice. When my eyes are fixed on His, I understand hope. It’s when they’re darting to and fro that hope seems elusive and mean.
And maybe this is where my heart was when I heard the words, “O Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.” In a place of realizing that in spite of my weariness, I can show up at the manger joyfully, with triumph in my bones. What if the victory I’ve been seeking lays in that very dichotomy: declaring joy when I really feel weary? Walking in victory, when I really feel defeated?
Sometimes, we have to tell the weary world in our soul to rejoice. We have to remind ourselves to walk in Joy and Victory when those are the last things on our mind. Spoiler alert: this is not fun. Or easy. But my friend- it is the only way.
I don’t know where you are at this Christmas, dear one. I don’t know if you have a weary world in your soul, or if you are in a season of victory and joy. But either way, my hope for you is this: that you will lock eyes with Jesus and focus on Him, instead of the pain and fear around you. What if that was the gift you needed this Christmas? The gift of joy & peace that can come only from Him?
Today, let’s fix our eyes on our King. Let’s show up- teeth gritted if we have to- joyful and triumphant. Let’s focus on His goodness, and our weariness no longer. Let’s lock eyes with Him and not look away. And when weariness threatens to take over, let’s run towards His joy and His victory as He makes it our own.
O come, you faithful friend, joyful and triumphant. Eyes fixed on Him, gettin it girl.