Waiting for a Miracle {on Finding Advent Hope}

by Andrea Kolber


Growing up in the Catholic tradition, I learned advent was rich with meaning and longing. I remember how the time between the initial advent mass and Christmas Eve felt like a sacred eternity. One year, I decided I would stick it out and make it to midnight mass with my dad. When the hour finally rolled around I was full with food and heavy with exhaustion. I barely remember the service, but I do remember the sense of beauty there.

While I no longer identify as a Catholic, I have always connected with the significance infused in this season. Perhaps, as a person who frequently searches and yearns for meaning, I find goodness in honoring the wait as much as the arrival of Jesus. I see a metaphor for our lives here on earth. We are the “already but not yet” people. Jesus came to us over 2000 years ago, and brought his kingdom. And though his work has absolutely begun, it’s not yet finished. And so we wait, still, for the fullness of his arrival.

**

So while advent has always been sacred for me, this year feels especially precious. Even now as I write, we are waiting for the arrival of our own miracle due on Christmas Day. We are expecting a baby boy; one we’ve longed and dreamed about for several years now.

Last year, a few weeks before Christmas, we found out I was pregnant with another deeply hoped for baby. We went through Christmas expectant for what was to come. My perceptive four-year old daughter knew something was happening and we shared with her our exciting news. Then January brought heartache and difficulty, as we found the baby in my belly didn’t seem to be growing. The entire month of January was filled with heavy waiting. A few days after my daughter’s birthday I had a D&C surgery because we finally received confirmation our baby wouldn’t be born on this earth. Prior to this news though, I felt God had given me a verse to meditate on and anchor me:  

“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45 ESV).

This particular verse comes from the interaction between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist). Mary had just found out she was pregnant via Immaculate Conception, and went to see her cousin. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit during her interaction and she knew Mary carried the Messiah. Elizabeth spoke these words to Mary, honoring Mary’s faith in God’s ability to do what he’d promised (Luke 1:26-45).

All through January, while we waited for news, I clung to this verse. And then when I knew our baby wouldn’t live, I felt confused and sad. I wondered why God had given me this particular verse? As I grieved the loss, and wept deeply for what would never be, I tucked these words in my heart and kept it written on my bathroom mirror. If for nothing else, this would be one of the thousands of questions I would have for God when I sat before him someday—why did he give me this hope in the midst of such heartache?

Then, just months later, I found I was pregnant again. For us, this felt astounding. Only a year before a doctor had told us our chances of conceiving on our own was about 1%. This meant the baby we had lost had been a miracle too. Surely, we wouldn’t keep receiving miracles?

But we did, along with the support of modern medicine; we did receive another miracle in the form of a new life.

**

As I’ve reflected on this year, after many breaths and moments and tears and pauses—I see God’s hand of faithfulness in my waiting. Not because I’m finally receiving the longing of my heart, but because I realize again how he loves us and blesses not according to our timeline or expectation but according to his.

I also think of Mary, waiting for her son Jesus. It seems Mary knew goodness and hope was growing in her, but I do wonder if she knew just how much the life inside of her mattered? I wonder when she was with Elizabeth, had she just begun to see a glimpse of what was to come? And yet all the while, she trusted God would fulfill his promise in the best possible way.

Advent in all its bittersweet beauty represents this blossoming hope of what is to come. We know in part, here on earth, how Jesus saves and loves us. But still, we continue to wait in faith knowing there will be a day when he will bring our hope to the fullest completion. For now, may we be like Mary, honoring what we know and expectant of what is to come.


On Chai Tea and Holy {When Ordinary is Sacred}

by Andrea Kolber


Today I write with a cup of chai tea and the first snow of the season falling. Next to me, a small candle is holding vigil. I went for a walk this morning and it felt holy—sacred even. The air pricked at my nose and I felt a stillness I hadn’t felt for some time. It felt like the moment after a gut-wrenching cry. After the catharsis—when the stillness comes, it was like that. It’s a good reminder. A necessary one, as our world has felt at odds lately.

Yes, some things are still holy.

I, too, have beliefs and opinions about the world and how it’s working. I have strong feelings on a plethora of subjects. And yet, what I’ve been learning (and re-learning) is how quickly we lose the humanity of people near us and with us. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to use shame as a sword or guilt as a bludgeon. This is my cry these days. Not only for those around me, but for myself. Oh yes, for me too.

**

This idea of sacred is on my mind today. And I wonder how quickly we dismiss sacred? We invalidate that we should have to honor anything or anyone. We chide a person who holds something as valuable. I think this is a great loss, for all of us. 

And so maybe we all need a long slow walk outside to bring us back to the beginning? To remind us how God made us to worship. And when we don’t worship him, we’ll inevitably find something else to worship. Maybe that’s the space we remember even nature itself points to him, and we need a re-set on this idea sometimes.

I hope sometimes we are struck dumb by beauty.

I pray today someone surprises us. 

My wish for all of is to be astounded by ordinary wonder.

Because, dear ones, this is the point. This tiny life is the adventure he’s given us and it is sacred. It's our framework to know our creator and to love people. It is holy. It is hard too—but first holy. And if we can recognize our connectedness to the one who makes us, we can also honor the connectedness of those around us.

I can’t think of anything more revolutionary in our times but to live life from a place of connectedness to others, ourselves, and our maker. This would be a life worth living, wouldn’t it?

And so, in a tiny act of revolution I drink my tea, I pray my prayers, I lean on my people and I experience my Jesus. This is ordinary and it is sacred.


A Post Election Prayer for Weary Hearts

by Andrea Kolber


God of the broken, physician to the sick, redeemer of the destitute:

Give us courage to show up to our right now life.  

Would you calm the vitriol and fear and pride which so easily draws us in, and give us wisdom to care for our soul?

Lord, would you help us to remember to love our neighbors well? 

Would you help us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly?  

Oh that we would seek to understand those who are different than us. 

May we choose each other's humanity over rightness. 

Healer, please cause us to look into eyes instead of screens; into hearts instead of ideologies. 

Lord, would you replace our self righteousness with curiosity, our fury with steadfastness? 

May we choose mercy over judgement. 

May we choose kindness over shame.

May we listen to each other's stories and find hope in our common journey and insight in our differences. 

May we know the limits of our own hearts and know when to step back--realizing it's better to withhold our opinion if it means saving a spirit. 

Jesus, may we experience you as our shield in the midst of arrows of condemnation that wish to knock us down.

May we be reminded of how desperately we need you; that we would forgive others as we ourselves have been forgiven.  

May we love as you love, in order to create a road forward.

May we, in the midst of turmoil, cling to the Rock that is higher.

Oh God, we pray, meet us here. 

 


Finding Gratitude in the Trenches of Mama-hood {Guest Post for {In}Courage}

by Andrea Kolber


Motherhood was a difficult transition for me. As a recovering perfectionist, it seems part of me thought it would come more naturally—that somehow I would just be good at it.

Instead, I found myself struggling—hard. I found I did terribly with little sleep. I was frequently overwhelmed and stressed. It took so much more out of me than I ever thought I had to give. The needs oozing from the tiny fingers of my vivacious daughter were both life giving and life sucking.

After what felt like a battlefield in her first year of life, I finally started to come out of a fog when my daughter was nearly 17 months.

I remember the fall, when the Denver sun still grew toasty but the nights invited candles and sweaters; we began to think about Thanksgiving and travel plans. I had been reading on gratitude from both a faith perspective as well as its significant value from a psychological perspective. As a mental health therapist and a Christian, I’d already believed it to be an effective coping skill and a way to connect to God’s presence. But, when I assessed my reality, I saw I hadn’t been practicing it regularly in my own life for a while. It felt like God was giving me a strong nudge—or maybe a flashing sign—telling me to pay attention. 

I'd be so honored if you'd click here to  join me over at {In}Courage. 


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