December 14, 2014

And Still I Hear The Angels Sing

I should be in bed right now. It's late on a Saturday night and tomorrow is set to be one of the busiest days the Nortons are going to have this month. I should be asleep, and I will head that way soon. But I need to say this first. I've just come in from an evening in Asheville, and even though everyone in my house is sound asleep, I'm here at this keyboard instead of my bed.

Advent is supposed to be this time of quiet. Of waiting and watching. Listening and hoping. And yet, it sometimes feels impossible to find time for those important things. One of the hardest parts of being a clergy family is that holidays like Christmas and Easter are the times of the year when our calendars are the fullest. When we are the most stressed for time and peace and perspective.

For the past three years, I found a way to get at least one night of Advent back. Travis and I have been attending the Shane & Shane Christmas concert in Charlotte. They create a wonderful show each year, half Christmas concert, half worship experience. It allows us the rare chance to not only pause during Advent, but also for Travis and I to worship together, side by side. Our family is always working in some capacity on a Sunday morning, so it's something we've seldom done in our marriage. That concert has become increasingly important to me each year. But much to my dismay, I found out in November that they weren't coming our way this year. Just the idea of that concert not happening was creating sadness for me, so I started searching for a replacement and stumbled across the Christmas at The Cove series up in Asheville. Sara Groves happens to be my soulmate, so I was beyond thrilled to discover she was coming close.

It wasn't convenient...a Saturday night concert, two hours away. A busy Sunday that didn't allow for me to be gone overnight. Travis couldn't get away with me and it was expensive. But it was necessary and I didn't hesitate to buy a ticket. I half-heartedly asked people to go with me, but I was relieved when ultimately no one could go. I know that sounds funny. I know most people don't want to go to a dinner and concert by themselves. And normally, I wouldn't either.

But I knew that as soon as she sat down at that piano and started playing, my heart was going to break open, and it was going to be messy. I knew it would happen, I needed it to happen, and I didn't particularly want an audience for it. Beyond the other 200 strangers in the room, I mean. I was just hoping she could help put it back together again before I had to drive home.

It's been a rough couple of months for us, and just when I think I'm ready to stand back up and move on, I fall over again. And this week, especially, I've been raw and hurting.

Travis shared with our congregation (with permission) last week, our sad news as of late, so it feels okay to share it here. too. For the past year, we've been trying to get pregnant and in August, it finally happened. We were so excited. Having been down this road a few times before, and knowing my prenatal care would be different this time because of having a previous child with a congenital heart defect and Down syndrome, I wasn't in a rush to make my first appointment. I finally booked one for the last week in September. We were going to be traveling in October to see our family out west, and we were hoping to be able to hear the heartbeat before we went so that we could share our good news upon arrival.

My first month came and went fine. The morning sickness and exhaustion were clicking into place just as they had with my first two pregnancies. And then one day around 7 weeks in, I woke up bleeding a little. My doctor wasn't worried, but ordered an ultrasound for later that week. But I kept bleeding and bleeding, and by the time the ultrasound tech showed me the empty gestational sacs that Friday, I already knew what was happening. By the end of the weekend, my pregnancy symptoms had vanished. My doctors checked dates over and over, ordered more blood work, and waited. It finally became clear that there was no hope left for this pregnancy, it had stopped advancing at 5 weeks. And yet, two weeks later, at 9 weeks into the pregnancy, my body still couldn't figure out what to do. So, the day before we left for Utah, I had a D&E.

It was the right decision for me. I felt a thousand times better the next day, and was hiking in Zion National Park 3 days later. I came home from vacation, cleaned my house from top to bottom, tucked away all evidence of our hope, and shut the door on that sad chapter of our life.

And yet, I'm finding that door won't stay shut. It creeps open every once and a while, and I am flattened by grief all over again.

I don't know if it's because we went public with the news, or if it's because Christmas is getting closer and being sad at Christmas is infinitely harder than any other time of the year, but by yesterday, I was just done. My heart was broken for so many different reasons, and I didn't know how to mend it. I found myself short tempered and irritable, unhappy without cause, and sad that I just didn't feel like myself.

Life is hard, you know? I mean, I know you know that. You probably have your own door you are desperately trying to keep closed and move away from. And this time of year, any open wound tends to hurt just a little more than normal. Walking into The Cove tonight, I felt like I was covered in them. Wounds from the miscarriage, wounds from disappointments about Sam's progress, wounds of sadness over my lost Christmas traditions, wounds of stress and busyness, wounds of being disappointed in myself.

Sara Groves was sweet and kind and funny. She sang and played wonderfully, and I felt honored to listen. I was fine at the beginning, but just a few songs in, and my heart just split.

You beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps so slow

I've sung these lines over and over my entire life, and yet I didn't really hear them til tonight. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear isn't my favorite Christmas song, not even a top 10. But it's what I needed to hear tonight. I've felt like I've been beneath a crushing load, even though I didn't have those words before tonight. 

Look now for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing
Oh, rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels, and hear them sing

But there is good news. The angels are singing. They are filling the Heavens with song, telling us God wishes us peace. He wants good for us. He sees the pain and the heartache and the sadness and he has a way to fix it. He is sending his Son.

Singin' peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heaven's all gracious King
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels, to hear them sing.

I needed to hear tonight that even though I am bowed down and carrying a heavy heart, all I have to do is stop and rest to hear the angels sing. It may be faint and distant, but it's there. I just forgot to listen for it.

Still through the broken skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled
And still their heavenly music floats
Over all the weary world

I have been so wrapped up in my grief and pain these past months, I forgot to listen for the singing. For the glory, hallelujah. What a perfect reminder of what Christmas is. Angels bending low over our weary world, and not whispering comforting words...not whispering at all. There was nothing subtle about the message the angels brought. A multitude of angels filling the sky with sound. He is here!

Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing
And ever over Babel sounds
The blessed angels, the angels sing, sing, sing

And I can hear the angels sing
And I can hear the angels
And I still hear the angels sing
And I still hear the angels

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post!! You are such a great writer, but even more than that, thank you for sharing your heart. I am so sorry for your loss earlier this year. i am sure that does make the Christmas season hard.I am glad that you were able to rest through the music of Sara Groves- I love her music and writing as well! Blessings to you and i pray you find more special moments of peace this season.