I have been holding my breath for a long time. Know the feeling?
Of trying to gain some control,
Fearful of whatever could possibly come barreling around the corner to run you over next,
Avoiding the deep inhale and freeing exhale that fill your lungs with life but that also invite both its joys and its sorrows?
You don’t know that feeling? Well, then maybe we have kindred spirits – maybe you are still holding your breath without even realizing it.
* * *
This month began like every Christmas season does – with a face first nose dive into the closet of haphazardly piled Christmas junk from last December. And my holiday closet was stuffed to the brim with all sorts of goodies from 2017. (Incase you are new to The Wondering Mind of Wanderer, let me catch you up a bit. Last December’s grand finale may have included the ripping of a holiday card displaying a photo of my wedding day from 3 months before, unopened gifts on the morning of December 26th, and disgusting meetings with lawyers to get the skinny on annulments. Spoiler alert: still married and happy about it.) Turns out, when you’re faced with piles and piles of overwhelming emotions and life-altering doubts and debilitating fears, and you take a shovel and maneuver them all into one closet together, then push all your weight against the door to get it closed, and then lock it and pretend that none of it is hiding behind the door – you never get to release it. You never get to breathe out. It just sits there. Waiting. For next December.
So, to be a tad vague, opening that holiday closet in late November felt like a coordinated onslaught of getting a concussion from Santa Claus, being vomited on in reds and greens, and being sucker-punched in the gut by Rudolph. And the fun didn’t stop there. Wrapping gifts turned into the disguising of any and all unpleasant emotion with red, silver, and gold wrapping. Addressing Christmas cards became a sketching of my fears in red and green across crispy white envelopes that I then mailed out to all of my favorite humans. Hanging stockings became… well, you get the point.
And yet, in my December relapse of marital distrust, heaving meltdowns, and unexpected re-breaking, I clumsily fell into an invitation of rehabilitation – an invitation to pause, to wait, to anticipate – to anticipate the redemption of all that has felt permanently robbed; to anticipate newfound strength to rise again (and then again) even if today my legs remain folded beneath me; to anticipate a resurrected faith in the goodness and faithfulness of what-feels-like a distant Abba; to anticipate the fulfilled promise of holistic healing while perpetual nausea and migraines stay put; to anticipate the embodiment of JOY, JUSTICE, and HOPE in a time where this trio seems impossible to detect. My husband and I accepted this invitation, and we stepped into advent. We paused. We waited. We anticipated. We lit candles of hope, peace, faith, and joy. And we prayed – even though I oftentimes got the sense that I was having a more tangible conversation with the mirror that overlooks our dining room table than with God himself.
And miraculously, little glimpses of JOY started coming – through attempted dancing on ice skates, through conversation on a new friend’s couch, through belting out “O Come Let Us Adore Him” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, through deep and uninhibited baby giggles, through Andra Day records reminding us to rise unafraid, through candles igniting our bedtime advent prayers. And I am learning to release my breath once again.
But the sorrow has not left. Our deceased beloveds have not been resurrected. Our lives are still shadowed with chronic pain, migraines and anxiety. Our marriage still requires an uphill journey of counseling, honest conversations, and the courage to trust again. And in this dissonance of rediscovering joy, of rediscovering Jesus, and also feeling our broken pieces so tangibly, I’ve been sitting with a gem of a quote that came from Wendy, my Monday Night Bible Study host mom:
“I want to learn how to simultaneously hold both joy and sorrow, because life is so rarely all one or the other.” – Wendy Kessler
I held two precious babes over the holiday weekend (one of whose momma, my sister-in-law, left us one month before our wedding last September), and their very existence is a constant invitation – an invitation to sit on the carpet and play with oversized blocks, an invitation to share a miniature bowl of dry cheerios, an invitation to giggle hysterically over funny faces and weird noises, an invitation to pick them up in response to their extended arms asking for a higher view. I rediscovered the joy of our Christmas Babe and His invitation to play, to eat together, to giggle, to ask for a lift – even and especially when life is less than perfect – through my new little nieces and nephews. And I released my breath once again.
On this eve of 2019, I am celebrating by breathing in…and then breathing out again, holding sorrows and joys in this same moment, accepting the invitation to wait and to anticipate. And I am choosing to take courage, trusting that some of the healing has already begun.