When This Isn’t “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you were drawn in by the title, either because you are feeling bombarded with all the “cheer” while not feeling the happiness that others expect you to feel during this time of year, or because you are curious as to why anyone would not see this as the best month of all 12.

No matter which position I have found you in, I’m asking that you relinquish all expectation of what this post is about and be present as your eyes scroll the words and your brain processes the thoughts.

It’s everywhere. The way we “should” be feeling. How we “should” be thinking. What we “should” be buying…

So what do we do when none of our feelings encompass all of the “should(s)” placed on us, and the last thing we feel is “cheerful“?

I have been given the gift of “burden bearing.” I haven’t always thought it a gift and at times tried to mask or ignore it all together. It has only been recently that I’m learning to embrace it and see it as a blessing rather than a curse.

The transformation started several years ago when Katie was 14 weeks pregnant with her 3rd child. Her baby was given the fatal diagnosis of Trisomy 13. On December 19, 2011, at 10:45 a.m., Hallie Lynn Green was born. Weighing in at 4 lbs.15 oz. and stretching 18.75 inches long.

On December 24, 2014, Hallie passed from her mama’s arms back into the arms of Jesus. Katie wrote on her blog that day, “Thank you, God, for allowing me to be Hallie’s mother. Although losing you, Hallie, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I would carry you and love you all over again in a heartbeat. I feel like the luckiest mom in the world. I love you.”

It is Hallie’s life and Katie’s willingness to learn how to walk in the dark that moved me from a place of empathy to action. In 2012 I began my journey, through my lens, into other people’s pain. That’s a strange way of wording it, I know, but it’s the only wording that makes sense to me.

I have been invited to document the sacred moments between life and death. There are days when I will experience the beauty of life and the gnawing sorrow of death, all within a matter of hours. I stand witness to a wide spectrum of emotions, at times, with people I’ve only just met.

The way to deal with painful emotions is not to get rid of them, it’s to sit with and in them, making the darkness conscious. Knowing that there will once again be light. Being able to experience emotion is key to paving a path to peace. To suppress it is toxic. The further we push it down, the more it festers until one day we can no longer bandage the gaping wound. Some cannot believe that the light will ever return. But it will. Healing is possible. I’ve watched it happen. However, to come to that place, one must be willing to wrestle the angel of darkness.

It is helpful to remember that grief is unpredictable. It shows up at the most inopportune times. It often comes without warning, when there are no Kleenex anywhere to be found and you didn’t apply waterproof mascara. It’s presence is often uncomfortable and frustrating. Even so, each time it appears there is something to be learned. Though the uninvited teacher, pain is not our enemy.

For those friends and family feeling helpless, may I offer some encouragement? There are 3 things you can do to help the one you love.
~ Be Present (Don’t avoid reaching out or taking something by and leaving it on their doorstep or in their mailbox)
~ Listen (I wish we could be more comfortable listening than speaking. It is a learned behavior. When wanting to make someone feel important, listen intently to them.)
~ Be okay with “uncomfortable silence.” (Silence is beautiful when we consciously befriend it.)

If you are currently learning to walk through the darkness, may I speak these truths into your heart?
~ You are not alone.
~ The Creator of the Universe knows you by name. He formed you, piece by piece and therefore sees you and hears your cries.
~ Jesus himself promises that those who mourn will be comforted. (Matthew 5:1-14)
~ You have permission to lower the bar.
If you don’t want to go to that holiday party, don’t go.
If you find your eyes welling with tears while walking down the grocery store isle, it’s okay to walk away from your cart and leave the store.

We must embrace the seasons of darkness just as we long for the seasons of light. To have one without the other leaves us lacking perspective and appreciation for either.


Was this post helpful? Do you have anything to add about seasons of grief? How can we pray for you? How have you been encouraged through pain? Feel free to leave a comment and we will respond.

If you’re in need of encouragement, click here for a fantastic message from Joel Thomas.
To hear the song inspired by Hallie’s life, written by Casey Darnell, click here

13 thoughts on “When This Isn’t “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

  1. Wow Joy, It has been a long time but I am so proud of the wonderful spirit filled woman you are. Your family is blessed, and so are those you have helped, and will continue to help, with your selfless gift of ministering to them in their greatest hours of need. I don’t really do Facebook , I am technically challenged, but my children are all over the world so they set me up so they send me messages when phones are not available. Not quite sure how I got to you but seeing you through your words has blessed me beyond and back. I stopped playing tennis I guess about 13 years ago so I never see any of the old tennis people anymore. Funny how time flies and things change. I don’t know what life holds for you but I am confident that The One that renewed you for His purposes will walk hand in hand with you through every trial. Blessings and protection for you and your precious family, Pam Miller

    • Pam! Oh my gosh! I have thought of you so many times over the years and wondered how you were doing and how the kids are. It is so wonderful to hear from you!!! Thank you for commenting. Your kids will be so proud of you for figuring out how to comment on a blog post! 😉

      I am now a full-time photographer, speaker, and writer. Along with being wife to the love of my life and mama to 2 boys and my Bella (who is a Freshman in college!).

      I am scheduled to be in Montgomery the first of November for several photography sessions and would love to see you and hug your neck.
      Thank you so much for connecting. This has made my day!


  2. Pingback: It's a week before Christmas... - Just ObservingJust Observing

  3. I’m a pastor’s kid, and I was just surfing the internet, trying to find a blog that was written by another pastor’s kid. When I read this, I got teary-eyed. I never want to disappoint my dad, so I set the bar higher than I can go, which leaves me feeling like I’m not good enough. I never thought I could lower the bar until now. Don’t worry, I’m not going to hijack a car and drive to Vegas or anything extreme, I kind of realized that it’s ok to do think about myself sometimes (not ALL the time, sometimes). Thank you. You have encouraged me so much. 🙂

    • Mia,

      I can totally relate to wanting to make your dad proud.
      Why do we do that as P.K.’s?
      For me, I either set the bar really high or threw it out altogether.
      I’m so grateful that I could bring some encouragement to you.
      Hang in there. I’m not sure of your age, but I’m almost 40 and it’s only been in the last year that I’ve allowed myself to be honest with my dad even when it hurts. It was easy to be honest about the things that didn’t matter much, but very difficult to discuss, in a transparent manner the things that had truly affected my life.
      I wish you well, friend.
      Come on back and see me.

      Blessings and Light,

  4. Joy,

    I too think when darkness descends upon us we need not run from it but embrace it and fill it’s weight. As with joy we need to know and understand why it is so dark. We often find ourselves there because we love and if so that is good for we should always love. Great love does cost us at times and sometimes it is being overcome with darkness. It is hard to sit with the dark but to know it came about due to love makes it more bearable. To have someone who seats alongside also is a blessing. May we be willing to stand in the gap for others and let them know they do not have to face the dark alone.

    Great loss leads to great grief and great loss comes from the loves that we have in our lives and having something damage them. To sit with this darkness is to acknowledge the love that is driving it and to sit with it also honors that love.

    • Mark,
      This is so good!
      I am learning so much about darkness and how I need it as much as I need light. I’m so fortunate to enter into these moments with these families.
      Thank you for always reading and commenting on my words. I appreciate you!
      Merry Christmas, my friend.

  5. you know what i love? that people like you who loved us so WELL during my pregnancy and afterwards – literally carrying the burden some days – i know you will never forget Hallie. You are a treasure. love you.

    • Katie,
      My life was completely changed by Hallie and because of her legacy, families are being provided professional images of their baby. I am so grateful to be one of the fortunate few who met her, prayed with her and smelled her sweet baby skin. There are families and nurses all over that have heard your story and know Hallie, but you will never meet them. However, they are changed by the way you have lived your life. Thank you!

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