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

Between awake and asleep

Baby AI first heard this term in reference to the time between your child being awake at night and falling asleep. The phrase has stuck with me. I thought of it again the other day when leaving the apartment complex of a beautiful baby girl. Only now I think of it in the context of the (sometimes) brief period between life and death.

I can’t tell you much about this precious one’s story because there is little I know. She was born with a cardiovascular disorder that would take her life before the third month out of her teenage mother’s womb.

I don’t know why some babies live while others die. I have learned more about death in the last 3 years than in my (almost) 37 years of life. I have seen the “new normal for those left behind. I have felt the pain of loss and wept with those who mourn. It really isn’t something to be understood.

I have the best job in the world. People allow me into their lives to document moments. Some I’ve only just met, while others are known. I have shared in much laughter and happy tears. I have also been on the side of weeping and unthinkable tragedy.

There is one thing I have witnessed from both viewpoints. Love. Beautiful, unadulterated, infrangible, love.

Oswald Chambers said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” I cling to this when searching for understanding in that which was never meant to be understood. There are times when I must have deliberate confidence in the character of God, period. End of discussion. No more to say.

I have been asked many times why I would walk into a circumstance like Asher, Josiah, Daddy's handAlondra, Hsa…I respond this way, “Never do I feel the presence of God more than in these situations. There is something so holy and sacred it cannot be described with words. It’s as if Jesus himself looks on, weeping with the mother who is saying goodbye. His ways are not my ways. If I say I trust Him, I must do so in the good and the bad. If I say I want His will for my life, I must accept that while he gives, he also takes away.” This usually leaves people with little to say.

It is an enormous privilege to witness the moments between awake and asleep. It changes me. It causes me to swell with gratitude for so many things. I have a front row seat to what courage in the face of unimaginable circumstances looks like. I am blessed to be one of the witness’ to the miracle of life, documenting how precious and fragile it can be.

HandsEveryone has a story. Please remember this when bumping into strangers today. Please remember this before responding harshly or irrationally to the person who cuts across 4 lanes of traffic to avoid missing their exit.

We have no idea from whence a person is coming or going. We are completely unaware of the weight they have been given to carry.

After meeting a little girl who would change my heart, perspective and faith forever, I joined an organization that provides professional photography for families who are experiencing the loss of a child. Every session I do is to honor the memory of Hallie Green. To learn more about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep click HERE