Posts Tagged ‘The First Christmas’

In the midst of the pandemic and the odd times we find ourselves in there are these moments of coming full circle and seeing the ways that God weaves lives and times together… This is a story about that.

Many moons ago when I was living in South Carolina I wasn’t able to go home for Christmas to be with my Minnesota family. It was the year that my Grandma Staab had passed away and I was feeling sad and homesick. Pastor Robin Griffeth invited me to her Longest Night Service… it was the first time I had ever experienced a service of this type and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

It was exactly what I didn’t even know I needed.

A quiet space to be with people who could hold the fullness of the season. The opportunity to be with other people where it wasn’t out of place for me to cry in the pew. No one would wonder if I was okay, or why I wasn’t “Merry and Bright!”. It was a place to come to be accepted, just as I was. Where grief was a companion and was saved a seat and people we loved were named, candles were lit, losses were honored and it was all okay.

Truly, part of this book was created that evening. When I was given permission to be where I was, to grieve and to be held in that moment, knowing full well that the magic of Christmas would weave its way back in my life in new and different ways. It was a space that I was so thankful for and one that I wanted to share with others.

Fast forward many years and this book was birthed into the world. Pastor Robin reached out a few weeks ago wondering if I would be willing to read part of my book at her Longest Night Service unaware of how much comfort and healing her kindness and this very service brought so long ago. This pandemic has reeked havoc in so many ways and in so many traditions, and yet, as all things, has offered opportunities and ways of connecting that were unavailable before. So I was able to Zoom on in and join her and some of her church family and pay it forward providing a chance to share comfort and consolation on the Longest Night.

This year many of my friends attended “Blue Christmas”, “Empty Chair” and “Longest Night” services which have become more common and I am so thankful. To be surrounded in this midst of grief with the knowledge that you are not alone, with the reminder that God meets us wherever we are at in the season and to be held in your moment of need. Community may look different this year, but needing to share time, space and grace remains the same.

For those who would like to read a prayer here is a beautiful piece from author Sarah Bessey.

A Prayer for the Broken-Hearted at Christmas.

I pray that in your longest night you are able to find hope and healing. That you are able to be in whatever place your heart needs and that your Christmas is whatever you need it to be.

With love,


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I love reading  Audrey Kletscher Helbling’s blog – Minnesota Prairie Roots. She covers a wide variety of life in rural Minnesota, festivals, small bits and pieces of the ordinary, the extraordinary and the little bits that weave together a good life. If her blog were a food it would be a tator tot hotdish. Warm, comforting and what you reach for when you need a little taste of home.

I was thrilled when I woke up to this beautiful review of The First Christmas: Finding Your Way After Loss.

Here is a brief snippet of her post:


She calls grief “a wild mess of things that can’t be anticipated.” That seems such a spot-on assessment as we all grieve in different and unexpected ways. Erica advises us to be gentle with ourselves, to allow grief in, to listen to what our hearts need.

I found this statement particularly profound: When grief is invited in…it is then that it loses its power over you, it is then that grief offers itself to share its gifts. It is then that there is space made for joy.

I appreciate that Erica embraces and acknowledges grief in all its pain and darkness. Yet, she writes with the light of hope, of joy-filled moments returning, of strength gained. When I emailed Erica to tell her that her writing touched me and caused me to cry as I thought of losses in my life, she responded, “…that was my prayer…that people would feel heard, understood, and not alone in their grief journey or their choices.”

After you write, read, reread, rearrange, re-write and redo the process ad-nauseum sometimes your words start to lose their shine. The act of being handled, thrown around, taken out and put back in and taken out again makes them look a little weary and a bit stale. So as a writer, when you release your words out into the world it is through the magic of looking at them through others eyes that the words come alive again. Then you can see them shimmering with the hope that they will find the heart they were intended for, and I am reminded that hearing people’s experiences of them is the best part of the journey.

So thank you to all of those who have shared with me their responses to the book as it finds its way in the world. I am thrilled that it has been able to meet people where they are at, to bring the peace and healing that I intended when I first wrote the very first draft so long ago.

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