You’re not supposed to start holiday newsletters by saying that you’ve had a hard year. But really, there’s no other way to begin, so I am just going to say it. It’s been a really hard year.
In January, our daughter Lily Mae was delivered still at 20 weeks gestation. We wrapped her in a handmade blanket, held her in our arms, and felt our hearts break open with love and with longing. A few days later, we buried her on a frigid, blustery morning.
Just weeks before, I’d sent my first book off to the publisher, a book about how God shows up in infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth. I’d already experienced infertility and miscarriage, and I’d seen God meet our family in those places. And He’s met us this year too: in the overwhelming support of so many of you, in words of comfort and hope, in grace upon grace.
And yet, there’s no way around the fact that it’s been really, really hard. We all miss Lily so very much. We talk about her and about her big sister Avaleen every day. We often imagine what it would be like if they were here – how old they would be, what they might be doing on various family trips or occasions. We ache for them.
Sometimes people ask me how I’m doing, how we’re doing as a family. And usually I say okay. Because we’re functioning. We’re eating three meals a day. We’re (usually!) doing our laundry. We’re going to church and Girl Scouts and birthday parties. We’re having fun together and enjoying the antics of E (5) and C(3). We’re celebrating E's progress as a reader and C's farewell to diapers.
And yet, I still don’t really feel okay. My sadness persists, and I see increasingly how loss is deeply intertwined in our family’s story. I’m always aware of the daughters I miss, even in the happiest of moments. Even, perhaps especially, at Christmas.
A few days ago, I was thinking about this, wondering if I’d ever truly feel okay again, and I felt like God told me: Abby, it’s okay that you’re not okay. In fact, one of the gifts of Avaleen and Lily’s lives and deaths is that your grief will always remind you that you’re not okay.
It’s strange to consider grief a gift, and yet I’m trying to see it as such. After all, Jesus Himself said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). We celebrate Christmas because Jesus came, and He came because we needed Him. We are, all of us, not okay. We are, all of us, in need of a Savior. From sin and sadness, from darkness and death.
Some years, Christmas feels joyous and bright, and some years, it appears to have lost some or all of its shimmer. Our prayer is that each of you, in whatever place you find yourselves this Christmas, will discover a little bit more of the One who is present in both our brightest joys and our deepest sorrows.