When It's Time To Rejoice

My mama, she labors off and on for three years to make something beautiful for me, her one daughter.  She chooses colors no one would expect but she picks them out because it's me she's choosing to celebrate.

And  maybe these colors don't whisper Christmas to anyone but me, but Christmas, it's always meant Joy to me--and who can resist celebrating the birth of Grace Himself with colors that seem to shout, "Rejoice!"?

For long months my mama works, cutting strips and sewing seams, then ripping them all out again.  She wants everything to be perfect and she's determined to do it as many times as it takes--but all of us, we start to wonder if there'll ever be an end.

She covers the back in the deepest shade of purple because it's the color I've loved the longest, and she spends months figuring out how to surround the edges in snowy white because it's what I've dreamed of and she's not giving up until she's found a way.

And the very last part?  All these tiny stitches quilting everything together?  She finds the idea in the middle of the night and it means ripping out more stitches than ever before but she presses on and believes that somehow it will all be worth it.

She finishes five weeks before the third Christmas since she began, and when I lay it out on the floor, I see her love there in every little detail.

And maybe she didn't choose the daughter who'd be born to her but I know it now that she chose to love the daughter I am from the moment I was given--and is there really any way to say thanks for that kind of gift?

She asks if I'd let her use this piece of beauty around her tree this year because she knows I haven't got a tree or even a home now.  And who wants to pack up the long labor in a box where no one will see?

But my heart, it aches a little thinking about the home I've lost and the future I'm unsure of, and I think it might just be easier to slip this gift in with the rest of the things I've stored and hope that next year I might have a place to call home, a place to let the joy colors come out of hiding.

I see it in her face, though--the disappointment after all the months of work.  And I feel the weight of that, too, right along with my own grieving and I have to breathe through a few more days before I know what's right.

Because the sadness of loss, it creeps up sometimes and whispers that it might be better to slip Joy into a back corner.  But it's not just these colors shouting "Rejoice!"  It's Him, too, isn't it?

This life lived in between what's been torn down and what's yet to be built, sometimes it feels all wrong.  But God, He's not just here in the beginning and the ending.  He's right in the middle of all the in-betweens, too.  And aren't we celebrating the One Who was born oh so far from Home anyway?

So I put on silly slippers beneath serious pants...

...and we hang a garland of color along the fireplace bricks...

...and slip grandmother-sewn stockings onto hooks across the mantle.

But then we start to adorn the tree that isn't mine, in the house that isn't mine either, and it's only a few minutes before one shiny green ball slips straight from my hands and shatters all to pieces on the floor.  And the ache roars strong and I shut my eyes tight, because all I want to do is gather up everything beautiful and pack it safely away in boxes again, hide it in a place where life can't break it anymore.

Still, I know this more than I know most things--the way all the Beauty and Glory and God can't be tucked out of sight, the way Joy breaks into pieces sometimes, leaving us wishing for a safety and certainty we can't seem to find.

But God, He's Joy and He's been the One broken to pieces for us and He's calling us to live with the hands stretched open, all His Grace filling us up and overflowing straight into the world.

So I breathe through the aching and swallow down the tears and choose to fill empty spaces with shiny orbs of joy, all the colors reflecting this one word:  Rejoice!

And that circle of love surrounds the base of the tree and ties everything together--because God, He's Love and He's the anchor that holds us down when we're afraid we might be torn right from the ground.

I don't know how He'll rebuild a life but I'm certain He'll do it and I've only this one thing to do in the waiting:  Rejoice!

Because God, He left everything to find me and He offered Himself up for the worst kind of breaking because of the joy He knew would come on the other side.  And didn't He die so that I'd know that Joy?  The Joy of redemption, of reconciliation, of life as it was intended to be all along?

So I'll choose Joy here.  I'll choose Him in the waiting and the wondering and it won't just be all these colors shouting, "Rejoice!"

Because I'll be saying it, too.


  1. This is all beautiful Courtney. I love the tree skirt and your decorated tree. It is all as beautiful and colorful as you are.
    Love you Grand daughter.

  2. oh courtney - i'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face...

    for your heart, for your mama's heart...for the pain and the changes and the way He loves you in the most beautiful of ways.

    praying for you as you navigate through this season of loss and change - that He will prove to be your strength and your provider and your refuge in the moments of uncertainty.

    and maybe, *maybe* someday soon - we can finally sit down for tea in person.

    i love you so much, sweet friend.

  3. hi Courtney,

    the tree skirt your Mama made for you is love made visible: i'm so thankful that she turned all those hours of planning, working, replanning, and reworking in the past into such a wonderful present (in both senses).

    you bring out very vividly how hard it can be to fight through the ache and grief for joy. thank you for sharing your struggles: as Tinuviel said Allen said to her in another context, it's a real help in praying for someone to have a tangible sense of what they're going through. May God bless you this advent and Christmas with times in which joy is not something to fight for or hang on to, but a wave that gathers you up and carries you to the center of God's love, where you are truly and forever Home...

  4. @Anonymous: Thank you, Grandma. Those stockings you made for us all those years ago? They are a precious part of all my Christmases. I am so thankful to have you in my life and to share this love of Christmas. I love you.

  5. @my name is kimberley: Dear Friend, thank you for sweets words and prayers of hope. He *will* prove Himself to be my strength and provider and refuge. I've only to let Him do it--and, oh, sometimes that is the hardest thing! And sitting down for tea with you? How I long for the day. I love you, too, Dear Kimberley.

  6. @chrisOh, I love the past/present analogy you've drawn with my mama's creating of this gift! Because isn't that the way with God, too? Working and reworking all the brokenness of our pasts to bring out His Beauty and Glory in our present? Thank you for this reminder.

    And your prayer for Joy Waves to carry me Home to Him? Tears are falling and I am so grateful. He *is* our Joy and He *is* our home. Still figuring out how to really live these truths, but oh, what hope they are breathing into a weary heart.

    Thank you for Hope Words and always pointing back to Him. Much grace to you, Friend.

  7. YOu are just too cool!!!!If you only knew how much your words help others. You are so courageous. Love all those colors, your mother is so talented and creative. Praying for you to keep opening your heart to God. I love your blog. Merry Christmas!

  8. Dear, dear Courtney,
    First off, what a beautiful quilted skirt and tree above it. My mother worked plenty of times on dresses for me, "not giving up until she found a way" and sewing love into every detail. That's the closest I can come to understanding the value of this gift to you, but all those dresses came before the brokenness, so I know I don't fully appreciate the sting of joy it brings you.

    "This life lived in between what's been torn down and what's yet to be built" - yes, that's where we all live, but only the broken ones recognize it. May God grant you peace in the in between.

    In that in between place, dear one, it sounds to me as if you do have a home. Even though it's not the home you wanted or used to have, is it possible your mother sewed home as well as love into every stitch?

    Amen to chris's beautiful prayer, and may God grant that you would feel yourself at home wherever He plants you. Grace to you in Jesus, friend.

  9. This is absolutely beautiful. Your post, your photos, wow. May God bless you richly this holiday and all throughout the year to come.

  10. So beautiful... the tree skirt, the words, and most of all, the heart you express. So very beautiful!

  11. @Anonymous: The hope that my words here are helping other people--this is what gives me courage to keep writing even when it's hard. My mom *is* talented and creative--she just doesn't see it in herself, so we'll just have to keep telling her :o). Thank you for prayers--that's exactly what I need most, to keep opening up to the One Who's always pursing. Merry Christmas to you, too, Friend!

  12. @tinuviel: As always, so lovely to find your words here on my blog. I suspect it's no small coincidence that this gift from my mom was in the making before I lost everything and now it's finished before I've found my feet again. God has a way of confronting us with our need for healing in the most unexpected ways.

    And thank you for reminding that we all live "in between." And maybe, just maybe, it's a gift to be broken enough to know it? Still working through this, I think.

    So much wisdom in your words about "home" and I think I'll be writing more about this soon. Just--thank you for speaking your heart.

    May you find Him near today, my Friend.

  13. @Alida: Thank you for kind words here in my little corner of the world. And for your blessing? My heart is full. May our God breathe Grace, Hope, and more Joy than ever before into all your days.

  14. @Lucy The Valiant: Thank you--most of all for seeing my heart here in the words I write. May His Grace overwhelm you today and always, wherever you find yourself.

  15. Dear Courtney, Yes! It is a "gift to be broken!"
    I am learning that the only way to approach God is in my weakness but also coming boldly before the throne because Jesus made that possible by His sacrifice. I still don't understand it but God's gifts are so GOOD and He WANTS us to keep asking for whatever we need! Praying for His strength to lift you and keep you.Bless you for sharing! Love in Jesus, Cynthia

  16. @Anonymous: Hi, Cynthia! Thanks for stopping by and leaving kind words here. Yes, you are so very right. This walk with God is really about recognizing our true state--broken, weak, unable--and yet not allowing that to deter us from seeking God wholeheartedly. And for your prayers for strength? Just--thank you. Much grace to you this season as we celebrate Him entering into our brokenness to bring us a healing we never imagined.

  17. What a BEAUTIFUL tree skirt - and what a beautiful mom she must be to create something so special! I wish you a very merry Christmas and hope that your new year turns out to be very special!

  18. Courtney, I'm visiting from Linny's blog. Your tree skirt is beautiful. I enjoy your photography as well. I don't know what your journey has been as I've not read your blog but I am praying for you in your loss. It's a good thing to remember that God is there for us when we are struggling. He makes us stronger through the trials. Merry Christmas and may life be better for you in the coming new year with God right beside you!

  19. @Eve Stein: Thank you for sweet words. My mom *is* beautiful--selfless, persistent, patient, forgiving. She is truly a gift to me. And a merry Christmas back to you, new friend! May the year ahead be more full of God than you ever imagined possible. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  20. @Grandma Becky: So glad to have you over from Linny's place! And for your prayers for me, this girl you've never met? Just--thank you. God *does* strengthen, stretch, change, and grow us through all the hard days--and really, that is a priceless gift. Thank you, with all my heart, for the well wishes for better days ahead. May you, too, find Him near and all-sufficient in the coming year. Grace to you!


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