Friday, December 13, 2013

Hurting for the Holidays: The Weary World Rejoices by Sarah Wheeler

photo by Jennifer Upton

 For the 2013 holiday season, I am hosting a blog series called Hurting for the Holidays.  Twenty-six amazing guest writers are sharing their hearts, hurts, and helps to help those of us who carry an internal ache to navigate this celebratory season.  Find all posts in the series here, and participate via social media through the hashtag #HurtingfortheHolidays.

Weary. That word is so fitting for this season of my life: so weary I can barely lift my head at times. There are so many reasons to be weary. The boisterous toddler who is conveniently snoozing in the back room of this small apartment is one reason to be physically exhausted, but not weary in the way that I find myself in tonight. And there are other parts of this journey that drain and take and bleed me down to the point where I can do nothing but lay on the floor and beg for the rest that I cannot have.  This weariness that leaves no glimmer of joy. This weariness that has a name and a prescription and a therapy plan, but has become a friend, almost: a familiar passenger.

I was rocking my daughter today. She crawled into my arms as I sat on the floor staring at the fibers of the carpet in a daze that I am ashamed to have been in with her present. Her bright eyes met mine and asked, “Turn on Chwismas pwease?” The tree. She wants the lights on the tree turned on. I crawl under the artificial tree, branches pricking the back of my neck, and plug in the strand of lights. She applauds and squeals, “You did it, mom!” like I conjured the lights from a magical place just for her. And maybe I did without knowing, but it’s certainly a magic I have had a difficult time seeing and a much harder time believing. Doubt seems to be a close friend as well.

There is a girl, a young, beautiful, girl I cannot breathe many words about because she is not mine when it comes to legality and rights, but we have been knit together in a bond that I struggle to find a label for: she calls me “mother,” and though I feel as though I am, or could be, the weight of this immense word pulls heavy on my heart like a knit sweater three sizes too large. The swirling questions that form in my mind that beg for answers are grey and dark and point to a path for her that I cannot idly watch her tread. It has been years of wringing hands and dropping tears like bread crumbs for her. And I am weary and I am searching for the thrill of hope, but I am unable to find its light in my soul. And even when I can see the world rejoicing, I cannot see why inside this fog.

In this season, I am more overcome with all the darkness I see in the world. I wish it was another way, but it seems like that’s been the case for my whole adult life, at least. My birthday is December fourteenth which last year marked one of the darkest days in our nation as we watched the names and faces of twenty children and six adults gunned down in the middle of a school flash on our television screens. Many have moved on from such news and may not remember what happened last year when December fourteenth comes around again, but I will. I see all their sweet faces when my child looks to me and begs me to turn on Christmas and I will think of the mothers and fathers whose arms are aching with emptiness still, now, forever. I have been told that this is not my pain, but theirs, and I do understand the difference, but it is difficult for me to go on with the celebration when such grief exists in the world. And this is just one grief. There are tornadoes and tsunamis and accidents and miscarriages and diagnosis and divorces and trafficking and abuse and poverty and ignorance and shame and hate: the world is so weary and I groan with her fatigue.
I am thinking about this girl, my nearly-grown and far away girl, as I look at my Christmas tree with my little one in my lap, leaning against my chest and sucking her thumb. 
She asks me to sing. And it’s been a while: I’ve almost forgotten how. 
So I start with Away in a Manger, but she stops me with a “no, mommy, somsing diffwent.” So I try Silent Night, but again she wants “somsing diffwent.” So I start to sing:

o holy night. the stars are brightly shining, 
it is the night of the dear savior's birth. 
long lay the world in sin and error pining. 
till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. 
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

And I can’t breathe in for a moment, because the tears starting running as I choked out the soul felt its worth. 
And I couldn’t hold them back through a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.

And in this moment, as I hold one precious girl in my arms, and the other in my heart, I glimpse why the world is rejoicing. The doubt and depression lift and I see it with certainty and clarity for a moment:

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. 
But there is no need to fall on our knees, for this weary world is already on them. 
So rise.

Lift up your head, oh weary one.

Rejoice. He is coming.

I am breathless as I read Sarah's words.  There is so much grief in this world.  So much.  And once your eyes have been opened to this truth, you can never close them to it again, not ever to return to naive innocence.  While I am glad that our eyes are open, this is also a heavy burden. But there is also so much reason for hope.  "So rise," Sarah says.  What do those words mean to you?  For you?

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I’m a wife, a mother, an Austinite, writer, and lover of the little things. Fun fact: I often dream in movies complete with musical soundtracks, and, occasionally, my dreams roll credits at the end. That should say something to my love of movies, but I’ll let you get there on your own. While on the topic of dreams, I hope to one day visit Greece, Australia, and Israel. I like puppies, love wine, would die without music, and am fascinated by the tangled parts of life. I’m working on a novel and I blog at


  1. My eyes well up with tears whenever I sing O Holy Night. These are beautiful words. My heart has been encouraged reading this series Hurting For The Holidays. Thank you.


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King