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Grieving Through the Holidays

The firsts are always the hardest. The first birthday without them here. The first Mother’s Day, a day your children celebrate you, the sting of one missing exemplified. The first Easter, Thanksgiving, especially that first Christmas.

We stalled as long as we could getting our tree put up. It still isn't decorated. Every year we had a tradition of getting a new ornament with all of our names on them. We weren’t ready to see any of the ones that had Eleanor’s name, our little family of six. What are we supposed to do now? Get new ones without her included? Hang up our old ones, constantly reminded every time we walk by the tree that she’s no longer here with us?

We also stalled on shopping for gifts for the kids. Up until now, we’ve avoided the toy aisle at every store. Every time I pass by something Encanto themed I immediately get hot and feel like I can’t breathe. Encanto was Ellie’s favorite movie, favorite soundtrack, and she’d sit there saying all of the lines and singing every song. A few days after we moved in all three of the older girls would blast the Encanto soundtrack in our garage and ride around on their scooters for hours, yelling the words out at the top of their lungs. That image is so burned into my memory that’s where my mind goes every I see or hear that movie. And I’m reminded that she isn’t here anymore.

My girls haven’t wanted to watch or listen to that movie since Ellie left us.

This Christmas feels especially hard. I don’t want to set up our decorations or see all of the gifts under the tree, knowing that none of them are for her. I don’t want to set up our stockings. Do we put hers up or do we leave it in a box? Will it be harder to see it hanging there empty or harder to not see it at all?

There’s no textbook on how to walk through pain. There’s no one who can tell you the answers to all of the hard questions you have. There’s no one who can take away the overwhelming feelings. The hardest part is knowing that, somehow, you just have to make it through. That’s your only choice.

I wonder how Mary felt.

I sat in church a few weeks ago and heard a unique perspective about the Christmas story. We all know the story of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. But have you ever considered how Mary must have felt during it all? Her side of the story often gets overlooked when we think about Christmas.

Mary had to walk through a very uncomfortable season.

Luke 1:28-29 “The angel went to her and said “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled at his words.”

Other translations say she was confused, disturbed, overwhelmed. God gave her an incredibly difficult assignment, one that she didn’t understand. But what we see is that it’s possible to be both highly favored and greatly troubled at the same time. To trust God and still be confused. To have a calling on your life and still walk through pain.

When we think about the favor of God, we don’t think about something that could trouble us or cause us pain. We don’t anticipate a hard season. We think about something that would make our life easier. We think that his presence means that He will remove anything that’s inconvenient to our life.

It’s easy to think that difficulty in life equals the absence of God.

We want the favor God without the responsibility of carrying what it is He wants us to carry.

God saw something greater for Mary than she could see for herself. He saw in her the strength to carry out a difficult season that she didn’t even understand. One that she hadn’t planned for.

When the angel explains to her that she will give birth a son and name him Jesus, and he will be the Son of the Most High, Mary questioned. She responds in verse 34, “Mary asked the angel, “How can this be?”

Mary went from being greatly troubled to then questioning God.

This gives me permission to question God myself. We have been greatly troubled by this season of our life. Grief, and pain in general, will leave you questioning God. Sometimes the reality of our situation leaves us with nothing but questions. “Why me?” “How am I supposed to do this?”

It’s easy to feel alone in seasons of hardship. To feel like no one understands.

Mary knew.

Questioning the season you’re in doesn’t disqualify you from carrying out the call God has on your life. We don’t have to fully understand what God is doing in order to have the faith that He will see it though.

Mary had a plan for her life and how she wanted it to look. We all do. This completely disrupted her plan and everything about how she thought her life was going to look like.

We tend to build our lives based off of the weight we think we are capable of carrying. We build our lives around the things we want; how many children we think we can handle, pets or not pets, working outside the home or being a stay-at-home parent. We create the perfect plan. But sometimes, God sees more in us. He sees us more capable than what we believe we are.

It’s not our own plan we are here to carry out. God isn’t responsible for carrying out the details we have set for OUR plan. We are to carry out the details for HIS plan.

Sometimes there are places we are required to go that might make us uncomfortable. There are seasons of life that we would never choose for ourselves. But part of submitting our lives over to Jesus means that even in those seasons of loss, even in the uncomfortable seasons, even in those seasons we wouldn’t dare choose for ourselves, we have to learn how to navigate those seasons successfully.

We have to be willing to trust Him, even in circumstances we don’t understand. Mary submitted to the plan she didn’t understand. She carried through when the season felt way too heavy to carry on. And because of that, she gave birth to the Savior of the world.

The best way to continue to carry on in our life that may feel out of control isn’t to reject the uncertainty, but to lean into God during it. To not lean on our own understanding. To not run to people or things that feed our fear, our anxiety, but to run to Jesus who feeds our faith. Who recognizes the weight we are carrying.

What we choose to magnify during our troubles has power over our lives.

Luke 1:46, “And Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

The pain we feel in uncomfortable seasons is real. The uncertainty is real. But during this uncomfortable season we get to choose what is it we are going to magnify. When you magnify God during your troubles it has the power to help to diminish your pain.

Isiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and the rivers will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched and the flame will not burn you.”

God never promised that we wouldn’t walk through hard seasons. But He said WHEN the troubles come, I will be with you.

This is what we need to be reminded of this Christmas season, especially if it’s a difficult one for you, like it is for me. That no matter what we are walking through, God came to be with us. Even if this Christmas season feels more painful than ever, more uncertain than ever, heavier than ever, we are seen, and we are not alone.

The birth of Jesus all began with a young girl walking through an uncertain season. Putting one foot in front of another. Trusting in God, and continuing to magnify Him, even when she didn’t understand.


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Dom B
Dom B
Dec 21, 2022

My cousin recently lost her 7 yr old daughter a couple weeks ago. It happened so suddenly as she woke up feeling sick like the flu and by 11 pm that night she passed at home. Preliminary cause is spinal meningitis. Anyhow this hit me as I know she is going through this right now. We are crushed by her loss and are searching for answers. I am praying for you too.

Alexis Walker
Alexis Walker
May 08, 2023
Replying to

My heart breaks for your loss. A year later, I find myself with even more questions. But if we had all the answers, there wouldn't been a need for continued faith.


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