I am sitting in front of a beautiful, hand-made advent wreath. Boughs of fresh, fragrant greenery reach out from the center in all directions, stretching their arms forth. The candles stand tall in the middle, two of them with beads of wax motionless in their descent down the tapers. I am very grateful for this wreath. It’s a reminder of where my heart needs to be. And a reminder of where it was.
Two Sundays ago, on the first day of Advent, our church had a time after the service for families or individuals to create advent wreaths for this season. The church requested a donation to help offset the cost of the supplies, but otherwise provided everything as a ministry to the church family.
We had intended to stay after the service to join in the festivities, but on that particular morning, my heart was unwilling. Not that I didn’t want a wreath. I did. But at the time, I was struggling with overwhelming despair. Despair over our current situation – jobless and still living with family — and God’s apparent silence in answer to our pleas for direction. We are so grateful for the graciousness and generosity of those who have helped us, but I was full of despair at the seeming endlessness of this season of our life.
So, although we had hoped and planned to be able to make some small donation toward the supplies for the wreaths, this week, we were unable. We had nothing left for a wreath.
As we gathered our things after the service, trying to leave as quickly as possible, those who care for us and know our situation asked us to stay to make a wreath. But at that moment, my heart could not accept yet another gift of generosity for which I had absolutely nothing to give in return. I was near tears as I pushed my children past the table of greenery between us and the door, crying out to God. I have nothing to give, Lord. How long do you expect us to receive gracefully when we have nothing left to give?
That afternoon, after a few more moments of critical overload, I broke. Without a coat or keys, I walked out the front door. Moving out of sight of the kids, should they look out the front door, I sat on the ground and cried. I sobbed. I unleashed everything in me.
When my husband came and found me, I continued crying on his shoulder. Then, when I was through crying, we talked. And we prayed. And after awhile, I was no longer broken, but once again empowered.
Knowing we had hurt members of our church family who cared about us and didn’t understand our actions and attitude that day, we made amends. The following Sunday, while the kids and Scott were elsewhere, I sat waiting. I was immersed in a book in my lap when I heard my name. Looking up, the kind woman in charge of the wreath ministry was standing beside me, this beautiful advent wreath held out. A gift, from the church. And in that moment, I was honored to accept the gift.
God is still not answering our heartfelt pleas for direction, but He is here. He is with us.
Sometimes when my heart is too overwhelmed to be able to accept His good gifts, He allows me to wallow in my misery until I decide I’ve had enough. But sometimes, He chooses to work around my best efforts to refuse, giving me the gift anyway. And my heart is very grateful.