The Weary World Rejoices

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Dec_MichaelaI feel the flame of the candle under my palm, close to burning. I have a candle to mark this season, and that is all. I have no Christmas objects, unless you count the unopened chocolate advent calendar strewn across the carpet at home. I don’t have a Christmas tree, unless you count the small, fake tree wrapped in cardboard in our basement. Advent means more to me this year than any other, but the pretty ornaments of Christmas will stay packed away this December.

The stillness of Advent is where my heart lies, while the wounds of the broken world are evident, sitting right before me. All is not calm, all is not bright.

I’m sitting here in a hospice, where life is savoured and death comes silent in the night. I wonder how I ended up here, with my daughter as a respite guest. In this season of children’s hospices and Christmas trees, I come softened and quiet in the presence of Jesus—my cloak of “inner strength” worn threadbare.

Christmas will be simple this year. We are in and out of respite care, and at the whim of my daughter’s medical needs. I don’t want to be busy; I’m tired of being tired.

And yet, this is where I catch a glimpse of the coming jubilee, in the wide open wilderness. There is a promise of a jubilee after the starved years—I just can’t see it yet.

On breathless days, I find myself asking God, “when will this weariness pass, and will it come again?”

This past year has been too heavy and I am waiting hard.

I wait in anticipation, gaping wide to receive the joy of my salvation.

I wait, while our 20-month-old daughter seems to get weaker and sicker.

I wait, though my heart breaks with heaviness for the fragile souls in this unkind world: the sick, the orphans, the poor.

When I feel barren, when the grief peaks, I want to tune my heart to sing and bring forth joy and be ravished by wonder, as Ann Voskamp says. It sounds impossible and a little insane, but I have to make room for it. Joy, in the busyness and the brooding, means Christmas as we know it is on pause this year.

What I want instead, is to experience the fullness of joy, right here in the muck.

God’s glorious joy goes far beyond me, nourishes deep into the marrow. It isn’t a feeling, or an emotion that carries me through the dark days. It is woven into my fibres, knocked hard into my bones. I need this joy, more than I need the traditions of this winter holiday.

This joy is the gift Jesus left when He ascended to Heaven, and it feels like the scars Thomas fingered when Jesus arose from the tomb. It feels like Mary Magdalene’s heart thrilling within her, at the sight of the cloth and tomb left empty.

In the midst of their grief and lament, He came and replaced their black sackcloth with a wild and shocking revelation. Can you imagine the rejoicing that took place when the disciples saw Jesus again? When He spoke peace over their hearts and breathed on them until they inhaled the Holiest of Spirits? Can you imagine the spine tingling, palpable joy in the room? It was indeed a holy joy, carried on the breathless declaration of Mary’s voice: He lives! He is alive.

He is enough.

He came fast, into the hay and manure of a barn. He came wailing for His mother’s breast. He came with scars, and holes wide in His feet. He came with an understanding of human suffering.

“I am here,” Jesus told Thomas after the resurrection. “I am here, and these flesh wounds are real, and I am alive. But son? Daughter? Remember this: blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

For the things we see, they will often overshadow the truth—they will mar our understanding of joy, hope and peace.

And so we wait, with the unseen things pressed deep within our hearts, our eyes fixed on Him.

This Christmas our hearts are full, but in the midst of the twinkling lights and carols, our hearts are still. It’s in this stillness, that we find the strength to breathe in His Majesty, and know that the babe born of a flesh woman, came to mend the broken things.

“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

Image courtesy of Michaela Evanow.

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Michaela Evanow
I’m a wife and semi-crunchy mama of a girl and boy. After doulaing in Vancouver, I became a medical mama when my daughter, Florence Marigold, was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy—a muscle wasting disease. I have a nomadic heart, though I haven't left our home in years. I adore Eastern Europe, India, thrifting, coffee with cream + honey and global maternal healthcare. I write about the messy, salty glory of mothering a terminally ill child and finding the goodness of God in grief at MichaelaEvanow.com
Michaela Evanow
Michaela Evanow

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Michaela Evanow
  • Amy Hunt

    “What I want instead, is to experience the fullness of joy, right here in the muck.”

    This willingness, even though it’s not what or how we’d write it if we could pen the script . . . it’s remarkable beauty in us of only His making.

    I’m incredibly blessed to meet you today, Michaela. To have crossed paths with you, to be weaved with you, and to See Him even more.

    Yes, to joy in the “right here”. Amen, sister-friend.

    • “It’s remarkable beauty in us of only His making.” Yes, yes. I’m so blessed by your words Amy. Thank you. xo

  • Bev Murrill

    Michaela… Emmanuel. Praying for you at this deeply sad time. xxx

    • Bev, thank you for these precious prayers. To be honest, we do feel joy, deeply. We are holding onto hope… Bless you xo

      • Bev Murrill

        You’re right Michaela… I should’a said it’s a deeply difficult time… but you are people of JOY> xx

  • Sharyn Sowell

    Praying for you today. May Jesus be more real to you this season than He has ever been before. Emmanuel. Jehovah. The Comforter.

    • Yes, I pray that for us all! Emmanuel, in all these places, on all roads. Thanks Sharyn xo

  • Kristin Demery

    Your writing is so lovely — I find myself standing here in my kitchen, crying for you, caught between the mix of heartbreak and joy in your post. Thank you for sharing your heart. Praying for you and your family today.

    • Kristin, that mix of heartbreak and joy is what truly causes us to feel, and the ache, it makes us wait hard on Him. For that, I am grateful. Thank you. xo

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  • Daniela

    Oh Michaela, You are such a beautiful writer and you are doing your journey so magnificently. I want to squish you, then squish Flo softly. Actually, I just want to put my cheek next to one of her glorious chubby ones and inhale deeply (creepy?). This world, our world is so much richer with your spirit and words and I thank god for the night you came through my door and drank crappy coffee at my house. That we shared communion and our hearts. On this Holy Night, I pray it’s grace falls over your home in a divine kiss from heaven. Emmanuel. xoxo

    • Deep breath. I love your words. You make me laugh and smile so wide. I am SO grateful for that night too. It changed me. And yes, inhale her sweet smell and squish her chipmunk cheeks. If it’s creepy, I’m the creepiest mama out there. 😉 love you. xo

  • Sarah Richardson

    Michaela, I am awe-struck by you. By the way you use words. By the love that overwhelms your small frame. By your mama-bear heart. This post was so heart-wrenching and in the same moment wonderful. Oh how I love you.

    • Sarah, you are such a gift. Your words are always uplifting and could cheer up the weariest soul. I love you. xo

  • Bethany Olsen

    You and your words are gorgeous. <3

  • Jemelene

    This is stunning in every way. Thank you for all of it.

    • Jemelene, bless you dear one. Thank you for your words of kindness.

  • Anne-Marie

    Praying deep peace Michaela in the touch of our savior and between your baby flo and you. I know He abides there and it is a holy blessing to watch w you and wait. Thank you for being His handmaiden and being willing to be enlarged in the waiting.

    • Anne-Marie, thank you for your words and prayers that are so full of His peace.

  • Stefanie

    This is so beautiful, Michaela. That you’re walking through this season with joy and faith brings me joy and faith. Sending love to sweet Florence, to you, and to the rest of your loved ones.

    • I’m so blessed to hear that Stefanie…sending love right back to you dear one!

  • HBurns

    Thank you magnificent Michaela for allowing us to hold you and your precious Florence’s heart and life in our thoughts and prayers today. The wonder of your words creates wonder in me. I pray that you know His abiding presence – Emmanuel with all of you as you journey through this Christmas season.

    With so much love….Helen xoxo

    • Oh Helen, your words are so full of love. Thank you for that. I am so blessed by your willingness to journey with us. xo

  • I love this picture of you and Flo. The tenderness of it, combined with the reality you are living out. Thank you for sharing. You preach so beautifully from your life–the best kinds of sermons. I am thinking of you and your family …
    PS: Gabi (my eldest) wants to say something … I just showed her your picture and told her a little of your story.

    merry christmas and a happy New Year. From: Gabi

    • Gabi! Hello and thank you sweet one for your lovely words. I will pass along your wishes to Florence 🙂 Idelette, thank you for championing me in this journey and allowing room for these words in this beautiful space. xo

  • cjdeboer

    This is beautiful and tender and raw and real… and takes my breath away, Michaela. I can’t wait to meet you and Flo!!! xo

  • Megan Gahan

    I love the different pictures of Christmas we’ve brought to the table this month. Thank you for being brave with yours my friend. It is a privilege to stand with you. Love to you and Flo and your hubby in these next days.

    • I love them too Megan! I’m so blessed to have women that stand with me. sending our love back to you and your man, and your towheaded boy—the cutest. xo

  • Shirley Rayburn

    Christmas stripped of it’s cultural trappings, left with it’s core most precious truth of Emmanuel, the One who knows, with you in this time and place… a sacred space. My heart is deeply moved by your words and the space you’re dwelling in these days.

    • Shirley, it in indeed a sacred space. The quiet and stillness…and yet we partake in the festivities and we smile and we sing. It’s just simplified, real. Thank you for sharing with me.

  • Holly

    Michaela, I really don’t have words. I just keep looking at that picture of you and Flo, of the tiredness in both of your poses, of the closeness of your hearts. And I weep. Because I’m not sure how you do it. How you don’t just fall apart. How you don’t scream at heaven. How you still hold on. And then there is this: “I wait in anticipation, gaping wide to receive the joy of my salvation” and I am just hushed into wonder. Praying for your sweet family this Christmas and in the days, weeks, months ahead. You are being held, friend, that is for certain.

    • Dearest Holly, oh I have screamed at heaven, hoarse voiced and aching with grief. It left me limp.
      It’s the thrill…the thrill of Hope that keeps me breathing, fighting, believing. It’s the prayers of the saints, active and working on our behalf. Those prayers are like water stations on a marathon. They are so precious to me. It’s prayers like yours. Thank you. xo

  • Oh Michaela, so much love and joy to you this Christmas (and beyond). I am sitting in this with you. Thank you for sharing out of the depths of your pain and your heart and trust. xx

  • I am faithful

    On this Christmas, aside from the running —- the constant running —- I sit in a quiet place in my home, reading this post of yours, alone. Reading this with an aching
    spirit. Not necessarily full of grief, although that feeling is there for
    you (and me), but of what Heaven will bring. I have read C.S. Lewis’
    “A Grief Observed”, and your post took me back to my thoughts of God
    while reading his prose in deep mourning. I recall my reasoning and
    rationalizing of God in dark times shortly after my mother’s passing.
    There was a familiar feeling of seeing God as a cosmic sadist, a sick
    surgeon with His scalpel, cutting, cutting, cutting… cutting away the broken
    and afflicted parts of us (me), stopping only when the ‘cancer’ was fully
    removed. Leaving me feeling like there was nothing left to cut; the bone and nerve bundles —- painfully exposed. Then the realization crushes in making obvious that He is enough, He is sufficient, He is Jehova Jireh.

    I find even when discussing my feelings on this subject, my experiential
    tendencies pull me back into self-pity, but it’s not where I want to live, and
    it’s not where I want this reply to go either. I simply want to say that within your words, I find understanding. I understand the screams, the sobbing, and the pain; but only to the depths of losing a parent. Not to the depths of being a parent who is losing a child.
    You have lost nothing yet, and we continue to bathe Flo in prayer for her total healing. But we share the journey of illness with you.

    This rogue seeks not only to take our loved ones, but also our sanity,
    our joy, and our future. Thank you again for sharing the deep value of Advent with us (me) in this Christmas Season. It makes my spiritual journey not only one of feeling, but also that of an intentional, psychological journey.

    • Debbie Kuyvenhoven Tuit

      An awesome story! Oh boy….do I relate to the mom loss as well. Dad was 60 when he passed, And mom 65 after 10 years of paralysis due to a stroke at a young 55..

  • Debbie Kuyvenhoven Tuit

    Thank you again Michaela for your many words of wisdom. Back in the day, before marriage and babies, you and my daughter Amanda were friends for many years. Your mom and dad and I go back almost to your birth.
    The words you speak….this has been our Christmas season this year. Our Nick ,.you know him fairly well is 31 now. The past 7 years have been brutally difficult This past year his special needs went from Down Syndrome, to PTSD, to mental health issues, to not wanting to drink. His kidneys are failing. My health, partially due to the many years of stress is in the gutter. We did the same as you this year. No decorations. We are not glum, but we save our energy to just be. After a lifetime of knowing Jesus, I have to “find” him again. Grief and sadness have darkened my vision of His light. Thank you for sharing, and opening my eyes!!
    As always, blrss you and your family, and little Flo. we pray for you guys!! Your Elamo outing was an answer to our prayers. Love you kiddo!

  • pastordt

    This just makes me ache – with the realization of the ‘not yet’ part of our story as Jesus-followers. Thank you for writing it out for us – the mix of joy and sorrow, the throwing yourself upon the goodness of God despite such difficult evidence to the contrary. May you and your sweet girl be blessed with peace and rest as this year comes to its end. And may the power of God’s goodness continue to hold you, even when what is happening to you and your little one is anything but good.

    • thanks for being here in this space and sharing your words with me. It is indeed a season of throwing myself upon the goodness of God. And that is always a beautiful place to be.