Three years ago our family had the opportunity to do one of the Advent readings in church. To be honest, I have no idea what we read or even which week of Advent it was. What I DO remember is what happened before church. We arrived in time to send our children to Sunday school and youth group, but I didn't feel like being with other people. Ted and I sat in a fog next to Verity's stroller in the gymnasium where the church service would be held the next hour. It had been another rough night, like just about every night was in 2017. Just as our interim pastor and his wife came to where we were seated to greet us, Verity began retching. Her vomiting spells happened about 6-8 times a day. Trisomy 18 kiddos tend to have GI issues, but this was getting out of hand; Verity was losing weight, and at 12 pounds and almost 10 months of age, she didn't have much to lose.
The unexpected scene took the pastor's wife by surprise: copious amounts of liquid were coming out of Verity's mouth and nose as Ted frantically whipped out the suction machine while I mopped up the mess. (Yes, we traveled with a suction machine in those days. We lived in terror of Verity aspirating because of how frequently she vomited.)
When things were calm again, Gretchen asked if things like that happened often. I burst into tears. I couldn't help it. I was so tired, so weary, and somehow just so angry that people didn't know what our life was really like. I knew it wasn't Gretchen's fault that she didn't know, so I tried to describe life with Verity. She hardly ever slept, which meant we hardly ever slept. I couldn't leave her side for fear she would vomit and choke. The terror we lived with around the clock was ever present. I still remember the compassionate look on the faces of this couple, whose ministry we had sat under for several months by this point but who truly had no idea what our family was going through.
Half an hour later we stood in front of the church lighting a candle and reading words I can't remember. I felt like such a hypocrite, creating a picture of what surely looked from the outside like a perfectly lovely family. Two parents, nine children, the tiniest of whom was living a very precarious life. Little did people know what was happening on the inside: the deadness of my heart, the difficulties of my marriage, the near-destruction of my mental and emotional health. I didn't intend to put on a show; I would have gladly shared our struggles with others. And I think I tried. It's not that people didn't care or didn't ask, but somehow there just wasn't time or energy to sit down and lay it all out.
Fast forward three years...our church now has a new full-time pastor, and our family was asked to do the reading for the second Sunday of Advent 2020. We relit the first candle, Hope, reminding the congregation (and ourselves) of the hope we have in Christ. Next, we lit the second candle, Peace, testifying to the fact that Christ came to bring God's peace to us.
As I stood holding Verity on my hip while my sons and husband read their passages, I suddenly remembered that exhausting Sunday morning 3 years ago. We have come so far. Not only is Verity doing so much better health-wise, but our family is so much stronger for having gone through some really dark times and seeing the light of Hope and Peace shine in the midst of it all. When Verity squealed during the prayer, I couldn't help but feel the joy surge in my heart.
Hope. Peace. Joy. And LOVE--so much love. They were there all along, even when we couldn't feel their presence.
If you are experiencing a season of darkness, I pray you find the light of true Hope and Peace.
Father, we thank you for revealing yourself through Jesus, and we praise you for the greatness of your love. Help us to know your peace in our lives. When life does not go as planned, may we know and understand that you are with us and we can have peace and rest in your ways. May we also share your peace with others and live our lives more like Christ every day. In His name we pray, amen.
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