Today is the winter solstice. The changing of the seasons yet again. Another marker of the passing of time. Time that keeps moving forward. Tonight, this winter solstice marks the longest and darkest night of the year. We will be gathering with dear friends and others from our worshiping community this evening for the Service of the Longest Night, an advent worship service acknowledging that Christmas is not always happy, holly and jolly, but trusts that it is in our pain and yearning that the incarnate God is with us in Jesus Christ. As I prepare my heart and mind for tonight’s service, I have been listening to this song on repeat–one that has become especially meaningful to me over the past five months:

Jenny & Tyler have been among my favorites for years, but with this song on their most recent release, they have truly captured my heart in ways far beyond description. They sing the songs my soul longs for.

And you feel like dawn’s a distant dream
And you fear there won’t be light enough to see
When you need somebody to help navigate these streets

You got to know, I will
I will walk
I will walk with you
Walk you through

Don’t give in, don’t you now
The dark can’t win, hold on now
Hope my friend
It won’t disappoint you
Don’t give in, don’t you now
Open your hand, hold ‘em out
The broken can mend
Out here in the daylight
You got to know

This past week has been full of heavy things. As I prepare my heart and mind for worship tonight, I am reminded that this year has been incredibly difficult. I have recognized that in my own sort of nonchalant ignorance of Christmas altogether. I see it in my hurting friends. I recognize it in my own grief. This year has just been so incredibly heavy.

sanctuaryLast Friday morning I received a text message from my dear friend KK that her younger sister, almost exactly the same age as my younger sister, was killed in a traffic accident on her way to coach a middle school basketball game. Oh the devastation and grief. Today, as they gathered in Marengo, IL for her sister’s funeral, I took a few quiet moments to sit in our sanctuary here at my own church alone. I am overcome with sadness for KK and her family as well as the entire community that has been affected by her sister’s death. Over 2,000 people showed up last night for calling hours–a true testament to the life and impact that her sister had as a Lutheran school teacher, coach, teammate, classmate, friend, and community member. My heart aches for their loss.

tjblanketYesterday morning, my dear friend TJ dropped off a gift on my desk at work. I waited until I got home to open it, and I’m glad I did. I have no words. This is the most beautiful thing–handmade with bicycles (our favorite) and a back cut from a bridesmaid dress from our wedding. Just another reminder of the overwhelming love for our boy. We have incredible friends and people in our life who just love us and who love Alexander more than we can even imagine. I just know that Alexander would have loved this blanket so very much, because I know how much I love it. What a special gift that we have to hold onto. I hope so much that one day this blanket will be passed along to a younger sibling. For now it will hold a very special place in our home and in our hearts.

I continue to be overwhelmed by the many little gifts that show up, totally unexpected, that help us to know that there are others who are thinking of and remembering our sweet boy. The impact his short life is having is beyond comprehension.

memorialprayersLast night, Scott and I spent some time re-organizing and sorting through Alexander’s stuff in our living room. Cards that have piled up over the past five months. Gifts and memorials that have shown up at our doorstep. Photos and frames. We also went through the prayers and notes that were written at Alexander’s memorial service in October. It is overwhelming to know the love and support of the many, many people who continue to walk with us through this season of grief. There were messages as simple as one word: Peace. There were notes signed by friends and family and youth group students. There were prayers and encouragement and there was so so much love. As I sat in the living room on the floor and read through each and every note, I was overcome with emotion. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. Tears of sadness, but also tears of overwhelming love that fills my heart and overflows through my eyes.

alexandertreeThroughout the advent season, Scott and I have managed to keep things pretty low-key. We didn’t do any decorating, haven’t done much (if any) Christmas shopping. We’ve gone to advent worship services and even managed to watch a couple of Christmas movies, but for the most part, we’re ready for it to just be January 2nd. We’ve had several Christmas ornaments gifted to us in memory of Alexander, though, and with this being what should be his first Christmas, it felt appropriate that we should at least do something. So, last night after sorting through Alexander’s things and making some room on the piano in the living room, we went out to Walmart to buy the tiniest tree – just for our boy. It’s just enough. A little bit of light in the darkest of seasons. We put it on the piano, along with the adorable snowman gifted to us by a family friend to bring a little bit of Christmas cheer to Alexander’s space in our home.

So, life lately has been filled with some pretty heavy things. I guess the holidays will do that when they are weighed down by grief and loss. But I am so grateful on this longest and darkest night of the year for those who continue to walk with us day in and day out. We are wrapped in love and support that is truly beyond words.

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