Nov 27 2012

Finding the Hope of Advent in the midst of the Pain

Decorating and preparing for Christmas without Will is even harder than I thought it would be.

I had no idea that I could actually feel my heart breaking.

But I can.

I was so grateful to have Annie with us this weekend as we continued our family tradition of putting up our Christmas tree.  My physical therapist warned me against overdoing it while putting up the tree, so I was even more blessed as Annie took the lead in putting it up with me supervising from the sidelines…

Except for a few of my most favorite ornaments that I just had to hang myself.


We even enjoyed some silliness along the way…


But, later after Annie went home to her mom’s and the sun began to set, as the boys and I were finishing decorating the tree, the emotions gurgled up to the surface for me. And then Josh said something that really touched my heart.

He thanked me. 

He told me that he saw in my eyes and that I was fighting back the tears and that this was really hard for me to do without Daddy.  He told me that he misses daddy a lot too…especially right now.  He said that it feels so strange to be getting ready for Christmas without him.

Which of course started more tears running down my face…but then he said this…

“Mom, we want you to know how much it means to us that you bought the tree and kept our family tradition of putting it up on Thanksgiving weekend going for us…even though it is really hard for you to have it up without Daddy.”

He reminded me of the movie we watched a week or so ago about Christmas town, in which the father of the single mom in the story, had stopped having Christmas at their house when she was a little girl after her mommy, his wife, had died because it was just too painful and he couldn’t face all of it.

Josh told me how much it means to him that I don’t want him to grow up without Christmas.  He told me that it would hard for him and Michael this year too. But no matter how we are feeling, it is important to keep celebrating Christmas because it is about Jesus…and Daddy would want it that way.

He told me that he is so glad that I am his mom and he knows that I must love them very, very much to do something that it is easy to see is very, very painful for me.

Later that evening, while pulling out the stockings, Josh found my stocking.  I mean Will and My stocking.  We shared one.

I couldn’t stop the tears at that point as he asked me what I wanted to do with it this year.  My hand was shaking as I accepted it from him and I clutched it close to my heart and just cried as I could feel my heart breaking inside my chest.  Immediately both boys wrapped their arms around me and told me it was OK for me to cry and then began to cry themselves.  We held each other and remembered Daddy together.

I know we are here on this earth and God rescued us and has a purpose and a plan for our survival.  I know that Will was rescued from the accident by God’s hand in a different way, and that this year, Will is celebrating in awe and total fulfilled love with his heavenly Father and Savior.  And I wouldn’t want to take that experience away from him for anything.

But you know what?  I really miss my husband. 

As I sit here crying, an ugly cry, the kind that real healing and beauty comes from, as I type this article and pour out my heart to you…I need to share with you that preparing for Advent this year is hurting my heart more than prepared myself for.

Advent is my favorite season of the year.  Will and I spent a lot of time together talking about how to create family traditions that keep Christ and sharing the good news of His priceless gift of salvation as our main celebration.

My mind and heart are flooded with memories as I begin digging through the boxes and start this year’s preparations for our Advent and Christmas seasons.

I love our Lord and Savior and our precious family times of devotions together,

I love our family discussions of what Mary and Joseph must have gone through the months leading up to Jesus’ birth.

But I can’t get the memories of Will leading us in these times of devotion and discussion out of my mind.


I can still see him sitting in his favorite spot on the love seat as I have my feet up in our recliner snuggled under my favorite green throw with our little Michael to help him control his wiggles.  My heart’s eye still sees Josh on the couch leaning forward pouring over the Scriptures in his Bible for that night, across the way from daddy’s spot on the love seat, I can still see Annie at the opposite end of the couch with her feet tucked under her, Bible open on her lap, whenever she was with us for our Advent devotions.

That night, as I lay in our bed, I was wracked with painful tears as I felt the hole that is in my heart now that Will has gone to long anticipated home in heaven with his Savior.

There is an empty spot in our lives…a sense of incompleteness…a sense of waiting for him to come home and walk in the door and wrap all of us in a big hug.

Tonight, I am still struggling with tears and with mourning his no longer being with us in person.  But now woven with the pain is the hope that keeps me going every single day. The hope that someday, we will all be together again celebrating in the most incredible celebration in heaven.

Another thought is weaving its way through my emotions into my mind and heart as well, as I share my heart with all of you…another HOPE.

It hit me that just as there is an empty spot in our living room and our lives with Will in his new home in heaven while we still remain here; there is also a sense of waiting in our days and nights as we anticipate our Savior’s return. 

And as much as I look forward to seeing my Will again when I get to heaven I am even more excited about meeting my Savior face to face and being able to look into His eyes and see the love he poured out for me when I have the amazing experience of entering the heavenly home He gave up to come to earth as a human being…a tiny baby totally dependent on the care of his earthly parents.

With these thoughts I am filled with awe and immense gratitude once again at the hugeness of the sacrificial gift He gave us when He came to earth… born of a virgin without the help of any one and snuggled close to Mary, his earthly mommy and felt her love for him.

With all Mary faced…I know as a mother myself, that one of the things that had to help keep her going was the look of love in the eyes of her son as she gazed into His pure, trusting eyes. It didn’t matter that she was separated from her parents and her brothers and sisters and friends.

It didn’t matter that she was young and had to give birth on her own without the benefit of a midwife in the middle of a barn/cave surrounded instead by animals.  She knew she could do it because she had Joseph at her side and the love of her precious son.


I was so very, very blessed to have the love and presence of my husband, Will, for every single precious day and night we did have together.  Each one was a precious gift from God.  I still have the memories of each of those priceless moments.

And even when my heart is breaking inside me, I know I can go on…I know I will do my very best to continue our family’s Advent traditions and create a few new ones when I look into the eyes of our children and see their love for me and their Daddy…and most of all their Savior.

You see…I am learning that celebrating Advent and these days and weeks set aside to prepare our hearts will be different this year.

There will be moments of great pain and loss, but it will be different in a good way too.  Each of us is more aware than ever of the reality of heaven since Daddy went home to heaven on July 15th.  Each of us is being drawn closer to each other and our Savior.

Since that day, Michael (age four) has received Jesus into his heart as his Lord and Savior. 

Since that day, Josh rededicated his life to Christ and was baptized following the lead of his Savior…and his Daddy and me.

Since that day, Annie has discover the special purpose that God has for her life and is on fire for sharing the gospel in very real ways even now.

Since that day, I am realizing that I can go on and that His grace really IS sufficient for me and His power really IS made perfect in my weakness! (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

And no matter how much we miss having Daddy with us this year, Josh and Michael have made me aware of how grateful they are that I am here with them and that both of their parents didn’t go home to heaven last summer so that I can be here to take care of and raise them.  And Annie has made it clear that she is so grateful that I am still here to continue walking with her on her journey in my special role as her step-mom as well.

The passion and urgency for sharing the testimony of the power of His grace in the midst of the weakest time in my life grows daily.

The passion and urgency for sharing the gift of salvation with those who need it grows in me, and my family, every day.

We will spend this Advent season preparing our hearts for the time when we meet Jesus face to face. We will spend it living out our family commitment to find as many ways as possible to share the message of Jesus’ perfect gift of Salvation with as many as we can as we share His grace in practical ways, with His love, through His strength, so that they can see and touch and realize His love for them.

So through the tears of my grief I hold onto the time of preparation and hope that fills the Advent season even more than before. I find comfort in knowing that I can look into my heavenly Father’s eyes and see His love for me even today and gain strength and courage.

And I can honestly look into the eyes of our children and reflect and help them to encounter the HOPE and GRATITUDE that we find in celebrating the birth of our Savior and still give thanks through the tears.

Unwrapping His Grace for His Glory,

Mary Joy

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Making your Home Sing Monday at Mom’s the Word I love to Hear!

Titus 2sday! at the Time Warp Wife

Friday Fellowship at Christian Mommy Blogger


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About the author

Mary Joy

I am a broken daughter of God and a work in progress. I am passionate about encouraging women to embrace God's grace and faithfulness as I discover and share His faithfulness, grace and even joy in the messiness of my journey as a widowed (less than 2 yrs), homeschooling mom with a missionary's heart. I am in awe of how God fills me up and carries me through each day. My Heavenly Father leads me as I continue to parent and home school my two recovering and very active boys and encourage my beautiful teenage step-daughter (long distance) during her first year in of college. In every moment I see incredible evidence of God's healing love, grace and faithfulness. I am so blessed to be the creator, manager, and an author of Unwrapping His Grace as I lean on my Savior to lead us in this special web-ministry.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2012/11/27/finding-the-hope-of-advent-in-the-midst-of-the-pain/

  • http://myfreshlybrewedlife.com/ Barbie

    Oh friend, my heart broke as I read this post. I am asking Jesus to pull you in a little closer. Lean on Him. He will bring you through this first Christmas without your precious husband. Your son is such a wise young man. And how God used Him to comfort your heart.

  • Angela

    I think you had us all crying the big ugly cry as we read this one! Mary, continuing to pray for you as you grieve. What a great reminder of each of our hope and longing for Jesus at Christmas! As always, thank you so much for sharing your heart! Much love to you!!

  • Pam

    I am behind on my reading. Wow. This is beautiful. All your precious children are blessings, but in those moments, Josh was really shining. Very powerful, Mary Joy. Can’t read without crying, yet glad for the sweetness that you have found in the midst of the pain & how proud ya’ll are making Will.

  • http://twitter.com/FosteringJoy Fostering Joy

    I jumped over from the Fellowship Friday linky, and I am in awe of your perseverance and dependence on the Lord! I have a close friend who is also missing a family member for the first Christmas this year, and she is dealing with the loss too. And your sweet son is right – Christmas is about Jesus, and although our loved ones are not with us to celebrate the birth of our Savior, well, they are celebrating Jesus in person! Keep on keeping on, sweet sister in Christ. The Lord cares for the brokenhearted! =)

  • http://intentionalbygrace.com Leigh Ann

    Wow. I’m a blubbering mess right now. Thanks for linking up at Christian Mommy Blogger. I certainly needed this reminder today to cherish family, as well as the true meaning of the Advent season. Thank you for your vulnerability. I had tears streaming down my face as my heart aches for your and your family, but as you rejoice, I rejoice. Oh for the day to come when we see our Savior face-to-face. Thank you.

  • Pingback: Advent at our House with Mary Joy...Part 1 What is Advent & the Advent Wreath