What I Didn’t Want for Christmas

Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11:43-44

I love the story of Lazarus because, well…Jesus raises a dead man from the grave. I mean …what’s not to love?

But, what should you do when death doesn’t rise? What should you do? 

What should I do?

Almost every post I’ve written over the last 9 months has been penned from a place of deep pain and desperate hope. Living in the shadows of Heaven’s silence. Lazarus getting sicker and sicker and still, no Jesus. Mary and Martha panicking and praying their guts out.

“Where’s the miracle? Why hasn’t Jesus come? When is He coming? Why, of all things, is my brother getting worse? So much worse?”

Like Lazarus’ sisters, these are the honest questions that I’ve cried out to God and wrestled with everyday. Every single day of my brother’s troubling illness.

While there is much I won’t pretend to understand, this I know: God has used this painful season to teach me to come alongside, more intimately, the suffering of others…those precious ones grieving the loss of a marriage…a dream…a family as family was intended to exist. And, this I also know…my intimacy with Christ has grown in breadth and depth beyond all confines.

These are all good things. I know that. Redemptive things. And, I’m grateful for each one. I am. I really am. But, the reality in which I now find myself is that…

I didn’t get what I wanted for Christmas this year…or the last three years, for that matter. I fasted, prayed, worshiped, wept…even slept with my Bible night after night. For three long years my heartcries only became more dramatic as each day passed and still…no “visible” or “tangible” answers. No healing. Nothing.

We tried everything to save my brother. Did everything. Prayed everything. And, still…so much pain and suffering. Too much. Everyday, his mental condition robbing him of dignity. Stripping him bare.

Every conversation…hearing him slip further away from me, the way a song slowly fades down low, until it comes to a silent end. And then…just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse…Heaven’s silence grew all the more deafening.

On December 11th, I got the one thing for Christmas that I never, EVER wanted.

Since Jay’s passing, I’ve found myself floundering in a greater measure of grief than I ever thought possible…the loss of his young life sucking the breath from my chest. My heart throbbing hot with the stark realization that his pain became far too much for him to bear, even for one more moment.

A pain he could not express, nor contain.

God, how can this be? While I know Jay is at rest in Heaven’s peace now, the reality of things gone seemingly awry has turned me upside-down and inside-out. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. His healing was supposed to happen on THIS side of Heaven, not the other.

I share this with you as I weep and grieve and groan–the computer screen blurred by endless tears–only because I know that God never intended us to hide our wounds–as much as we might like to–especially when they’re gaping wide open and bleeding out all over. Jesus didn’t try to cover up His blood. Instead, His blood covered all.

No doubt you’re longing for healing to happen on this side of Heaven too, as were we. That’s what drew most of you to our blog and to our marriage restoration story from the very start. But, as one year closes and another begins, we’re faced with learning to live out the sobering fact that…

Sometimes Jesus comes before death…

Sometimes Jesus brings life after death…

But, sometimes...death just comes. And stays.

Death has come and it is staying and amidst all my fighting and flailing, I know that I know that I know that I will drown in the massive waves of grief unless…

He trains my eyes and I strain my eyes…not to look, but to see. Because when I let God take me beyond the looking and into the seeing, I realize that…

Jesus did come.

Jesus came. 

I only know this because in the days since I got the one thing for Christmas that I never ever wanted, I’ve seen Jesus in unfathomable ways:

Jesus came in the person who left a candle on the porch of our childhood home.

Jesus came in the neighbor who consoled my father’s grief.

Jesus came in the memorial symbols that were definitely ALL THINGS JAY.

Jesus came in the sojourners who held me as I wept.

Jesus came in the smudgy sentiments of little hearts laid bare.

Jesus came in the dear ones who lent us hands and feet.

Jesus came in my Grammy, who wore Jay’s treasure with honor.

Jesus came in the red and green, hung against our mourning drab.

Jesus came in the sunlight, through the windows of the chapel.

Jesus came in the flowers, carried one-by-one.

Jesus came in the faces of the mourners, standing room only.

Jesus came in Hope’s candlelight, soft and glowing.

Jesus came.

Jesus comes.

Jesus will come again.

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18 Responses to What I Didn’t Want for Christmas

  1. Friend. She who loves hard grieves hard.
    This blog entry wrecks me with the beauty of transparency. Thank you.
    It remind me so of Jesus, after his resurrection yet still bearing scars, and his conversation with Thomas, the one who doubted…”Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
    Jesus invited Thomas into His wounds…
    Thank you for allowing us the sacred honor of seeing yours.
    May we all see, touch and believe for that which we can’t see or touch….yet.

  2. Jeff Hamlin says:

    I wish I knew what to say, but all I can seem to do is send a prayer up for you to be comforted by Abba Father. I hope that song I posted on the ministry facebook page helps in some way. Love ya guys!

  3. Jesus also came in YOU who in the midst of agonizing grief still reached out to console and encourage others who’s marriages are hurting. I originally reached out to you the same day you got devasting news and still you responded to my cry for help the very next day. Amazing!

  4. Bill Robertson says:

    Penny… I just want to say here briefly what I wrote to you privately. God uses it all which you know. Even this will be used to help all of us dealing with the loss of our marriages. Praying for all of you…

  5. Doug & Josanne Lim says:

    Josanne and my prayers and thoughts are with you and your family. We love you and God loves you.

  6. Doug Lim says:

    Josanne and my prayers are with you and your family. We love you and God loves you.

  7. melizaga says:

    oh BGS… sweet, sweet BGS. I love Jesus in you.

  8. Yvette says:

    Beautifully written… Praying for Jesus to bathe you in His anointing and comfort… that everyday His love becomes more and more real. Love to you both.

  9. Rachael Vigardt says:

    Penny. so sorry to hear of your loss. Words could not fill the gaping hole in your heart. Please know that you are being lifted up. Your pain is His pain too. Love you guys!

  10. Linda Rooks says:

    Dear, dear Penny – Tears began to blur my eyes as I read your courageously vulnerable words. I feel your pain and the inconsolable grief that tears you apart. Words seem so hollow at times like this. All we can hold on to is the knowledge that God’s ways are above our own–we are all a part of His story, and although now we see in a glass darkly, one day we will see face to face and everything will become clear. In your grief, I celebrate your faith, knowing Jesus is indeed there with you now, holding you and loving you and carving out a future that includes Jay as you reach out to minister to others. We love you, Marv and Linda

  11. Tammy Brown says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. The only words that come to mind are part of a song. “Your Not Alone.” Jamie Grace. “His arms are holding you, His love will see you through. When you try not to cry but to take it, all the stress and the hurt and the heartache. You may feel pain, but not as great as His Name. Your not alone. Your not alone.” Jesus wept before the tomb of Lazarus and then raised him from the dead. Jesus felt their pain and wept. A definite testimony that you are not alone. I will continue to pray for comfort for your family. I love you. You are true hero’s of the faith. Tammy Brown

  12. Serafina Mauro says:

    So, sorry for your loss 😦

  13. kelly grace says:

    It is a deep, sacred honor to hear and feel your story…your wounds, in this season. Your honesty and allowance to be raw as you write is a profound symbol of the intimacy and connection you share with God- even as (perhaps especially because) you hold Him accountable to what you know Him to be and capable of. You do share in the company of Lazarus’ sisters.

    Thank you for being brave and present – with your brother, with the questions, in the chaos, and in the silence . And thank you for sharing such precious experiences while processing through it. As you authentically make each difficult step of your journey, it is having an effect on the rest of us – helping us to be bold and true in our journeys too. From one wounded-and-in-the-process-of-healing traveler to another, keep on keeping on, faithful sojourner.

    With awe, love and groaning,
    Tony & Kelly Grace

  14. Dawn Lind says:

    I love you Penny, my sister. You are beautiful.

  15. amberly says:

    my friends, i wish there were words. more, i wish i could sit with you and communicate those things best kept from mere words. my chest actually hurts this moment, and tears come, i hope, as prayers.

    with inexplicably deep affection for you both,


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