My dear, weary friend,

I know it. You are worn from this year’s happenings, doings, and all that you have felt pressure to “be” in the midst of all the happening and doing.

I can’t avoid it, as your existence intersects my own, as our eyes take in one another,  as our stories, together, craft a composite reality to which we both can relate, on so many levels.

We’ve met in writing and on weekly Google Hangouts. You’ve texted me. I’ve emailed you. We’ve played phone tag and FaceTimed. We have gathered around coffee mugs, on Messenger threads and in prayer circles.

You are my weary mama friend who has messaged more than once, “If I have to tell my children this {name your current parenting issue} ONE.MORE.TIME. I’ll go mad! I’m already there!”

You are my cancer-fighter friend, with dear ones in remission to your left and funerals to attend to your right. You’re afraid to look anywhere but straight ahead, lest your story veer to the unbearable right.

You are my discouraged missionary friend, who has confided to me, with tears on a keyboard, “I never imagined that my heart could hurt this much …” as you reflect on the rejection you have endured in your host country this year.

You are my new brother in Christ, dejected that your year-old faith hasn’t overcome your tendency towards depression.

You are my incredulous, how-do-I-stay-hopeful-for-him girlfriend, “Why does he just not care about me?”

You are my newly-nested-in-a-good-place-of-peace friend, who found out hours later that the affair had been going on for a long, long time.

You are my closer-than-a-sister-friend, wondering, hopefully and helplessly, how long your son with Muscular Dystrophy will be able to walk today.

You are my scar-hearted servant-friend, still grappling with the torment of PTSD from a sexual assault years and years ago.

You are my deeply saddened, generous young friend living with Multiple Sclerosis, “After all that I’ve been through, why this now?”

You are the one in my Facebook newsfeed who has yet another update on a condition for which there is no change. Again.

You are full-time ministry friend, left holding the consequence-bomb of hurt feelings organization-wide, when none of the drastic decisions were made by you.

You are my fellow homeschooling mama, ready to ignite the paper which fails to recount accurately the two-hour tantrum inspired by the required, meager 5 lines of handwriting.

You are my husband, faithfully expending energy that drains more quickly than the day before, as you hop-scotch from husband, to dad, to missionary, to business owner, to friend, to language helper, to boss, to landlord, back to whatever else God requires of you in the moment.

You are me, as I look upon my crackled reflection in a too-honest mirror, “I can’t keep doing this today. I’m so tired. I feel lost.”

Every single one of these is a true story of a someone I know & love dearly.

We have declared that we are simply “DONE” with whatever it is we are struggling, only to face another moment, day, season because there is simply no other option, but to keep moving forward. Yet, as we move forward, we still feel as though we haven’t moved any direction, but backward.

My weary friend … allow me to tell you this today.

I hear you. Your burden hasn’t escaped my awareness. I see only a glimpse of where your heart truly resides and yet, you are telling my story. I am telling yours.

God’s gaze, however, sees it all. Sometimes that brings me comfort, sometimes it makes me ragingly sad.

Because He is the God who sees all, I sent out this semi-APB to some praying friends this week:

I am in a really strange spot. I don’t think it’s all that confounding, but it just is what it is. On the one hand, I’m so content and happy with the life God has granted us … on the other hand, I’m weary and feel like I’m wasting my life. Saturday, at church, the Holy Spirit started to shed light on some spots of my heart which made me want to shy away and I’m slowly opening up those areas to Him. The preacher asked us one of Jesus’s favorite questions: What do you want from me? My initial, blink reaction … from the core of my being … was “To not have any responsibilities in life right now.”

Wow. I guess that tells you a lot about where I am. I am digging into it, moment by moment. A huge part of me wants to live in denial that this is my heart’s human response. At the same time, I know that God loves me in all of that and that I matter to Him, so I will be ok. I think it speaks to the long road we’ve been on and these days, I just want to escape anything that remotely resembles work or effort. And yet, I have done work and given my effort to some of the things which I know God has required of me. Everything else has gone out the window for now. So … it means that I have a long list of things which I could be doing, but I’m not. I’m licking some wounds, but I’m also letting Him heal them Himself. I’m tired, in every way.

I do believe that the prayers of these friends, along with the conversations born out of my confession, led me to a quiet space with Jesus this morning. My loving husband invited our kids to a Christmas party at our missions headquarters and I found myself truly alone for a few hours (during waking hours) for the first time in a very long time. That time was the gift of solitude which he knew I had chosen; instead of a gift he could wrap and put under the tree, he knew I needed, instead, to be wrapped in a long embrace by the One who made all trees.

While my heart still fought it on some level, I willed myself to open my journal and my Bible and I said only, “Teach me, God.”

It turned out, as He taught me (and as several friends reminded me) that I have much, still, to grieve. I did not get a free pass this year because we’ve “been there, done that,” in so many ways. If we don’t count the years leading up to this one, I still would have many losses to work through.

I am not alone in that place. When we’re honest with each other, many of us view this past year through the lens of unresolved grief over:

  • loss
  • failures
  • disappointments
  • let-downs
  • deaths
  • shortcomings
  • betrayals
  • hurts
  • rejections
  • wounds
  • sins
  • poor choices
  • regrets
  • unmet expectations
  • bad habits
  • changes
  • imperfections
  • blemishes
  • conflicts
  • wear & tear
  • misunderstandings
  • disapproval
  • insert your word for the tarnished stain of this earthly life

It turned out that my passage for today would land in Romans 15. Not a very Christmasy place to land in the Bible, right?

So, apparently, Paul wrote (verse 13), “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

I compared it with Peterson’s translation: “Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!”

Excuse me … how many times have my eyes grazed this passage?! Perhaps I ought to breathe “Teach me” prayers more often.

My friend, my weary friend who understands how I feel after all that we’ve been through:

OUR ONLY POSSIBLE ROLE is to believe, to live a life of belief (belief leads to obedience). GOD, the God of HOPE fills us with what? JOY & PEACE

Not HOPE? NOPE!!! Not hope. Read on.

How does He fill us? With the power of the Holy Spirit. In what manner does He fill us? Abundantly, brimming over (not scarcely, not with a little drizzle)

So, where does the HOPE that we long for & seek come from? AHA!! As the JOY and the PEACE (which HE gives) OVERFLOWS in the Spirit’s power … the resulting by-product is HOPE.

I can’t create hope, I can’t seek it or desire it enough to bring it to me.

If I ask Him for it … He won’t fill me with it (not according to this, anyway).

Instead, He will overfill me with joy and peace and then … the waterfall of residual spillage is what takes the shape of hope.

I am Marie Foote and I am 40 years old. I have known Jesus personally for 36 of those years and I never understood this clearly until now.

I’ve known/believed/declared that my hope, the hope of ALL the world, is found in Jesus, but I never had this clear picture in my mind of how that all truly works, until now.

Wait, there’s more.

As the words fell together in my journal before God’s eyes, He nudged me to lift my eyes toward another picture of this truth. It’s one you and I know very well, especially at this time of year.

Mary believed.

She believed what God told the angel to tell her.

She lived a life of belief, against the grain of her community’s critical circles.

Because she believed, it wasn’t long before she was filled with Joy and Peace … so much so, that she was clearly, obviously, unmistakably FILLED. Filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with joy, filled with peace.

Her growing belly embodied her belief.

Her growing faith reflected her filling.

Then, in the power – the LIFE-GIVING POWER – of the Holy Spirit of God, she brimmed over, overflowed with the flesh & blood reality, the birth of true HOPE.

Hope’s arrival simply couldn’t be stopped, it couldn’t be helped. How do you keep a container from overflowing when Someone is pouring into it continually?

There He was. Hope lain upon hay. His name was Jesus. His name still is.

As soon as I wrote those words … something welled up inside of me.

What is this joy? From where comes this peace? Hope spills. Hope spills.

My dear, weary friend. We are in this together. We were in this together, long before we met.

Our Emmanuel, Man of Sorrows, has walked this road of weary grief, as well.

Neither of our circumstances have changed in the last few minutes.

Perhaps, however, we can muster up a tear-filled phrase or two, offered up with a genuine cry of grief, to the God of All Hope.

“Please, teach me.”

“Please, fill me.”

Insert your phrase for the longing of your human heart for a heavenly touch.

Then let’s believe, together, that He will.

Most likely, it won’t look the way we imagine. Who, after all, could have envisioned a King lying in a manger? (Not even Mary!)

I had no idea how much this King would change my life.

As I sign this letter, I want you to see the smile through my tears. Today, I have hope. Hope for you. Hope for me. I don’t know what tomorrow will be like, feel like, brim with. As for me and my heart, today, I have hope.

Will you take me as I am? Broken and grieving, yet still overflowing with hope?

Will you keep sharing your stories with me?

I know I can’t help it … Hope spills. Every time.

Merry Christmas to us, dear friend, wherever we are.

With Joy, with Peace, with Hope,

Marie

4 Comments

    • Dear Lori … I miss our chats! I’m so thankful that the Lord brought us together and that we connect so much over our missionary journey. I love you and I’m praying a peaceful and joy-filled Christmas for you, Keith and the girls this year!
      Marie

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