When Advent Feels More Heavy Than Hopeful

by | Dec 4, 2014 | Trust


The high notes of a saxophone seep through overhead speakers overpowering the hum of steam turning milk into frothy bubbles behind the counter of confections. Jazz music isn’t what brought me to Starbucks. It was the hawks circling me on a walk yesterday that encouraged me to drive here this morning.

Their broad wing span gliding in a halo, against a backdrop of marble blue cloudless sky, affirmed something inside of me is dying. An instinctual aerial assessment from birds looking for prey provided an awakening to the truth.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Resistance has become a habitual part of my daily life. A heavy boulder I carry around that threatens to plug passion from pouring out profusely the way it usually does.

When I’m under stress, I resist love from others. I walk around with an armor of self-protection no one can penetrate. It’s why my weekly rhythm here on the blog isn’t, well, a rhythm right now. More like a pebble thrown in to the swells of rich word extravagance in the community of faith writers.

What I have to offer feels small, worthless, and insignificant.

I’ve been hesitant to share this with you because I fear it may sound like I want your pity when what I really need is your prayers.

During times in the wilderness, when joy turns into a meaningless wandering, we have a choice to be hunters of truth or become the hunted.

This morning, I’m at a round table in the midst of a busy coffee shop, choosing to listen for Presence in new surroundings and give resistance a shove in the corner. I don’t give in to disappointment, fear or hopelessness that easily. I told you I was stubborn, remember?

But this is perhaps the first time I’ve come this close to surrendering. Letting unknowns peck away at my resolve until there is nothing left but the carcass of the person I used to be. Nothing left of the Jesus I’ve made in my own image, which is exactly the point of a waiting season, isn’t it?

My friendship with Jesus is being painfully reoriented and perhaps Advent is the perfect time for this.

When all we’ve known is stripped away — all the ways we’ve measured outcomes and reasoned away chaos and suffering — we are left empty, with nothing but the mercy of Jesus and His Almighty, “YES.”

Preparation for the coming of Jesus doesn’t mean we must have everything perfectly figured out. No, it’s the realization that what we think we know about Him is really just one small star in the galaxy of His attributes.

With every arduous step on that walk yesterday, I was dying to myself while those hawks circled above me. Underneath my tattered layers of resistance is a fragile seed of sacred hope; a belief that our dreams will flourish as trees of life for others to rest upon.

In the meantime, we wait for rescue, attentive to signs of His nearness.

And press publish when resistance tells me not to.



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    • Shelly Miller

      Love you too Kris.

  1. Mary Gemmill

    I love you too, and hear your brave heart today; appreciating your honesty a raw authenticity. I feel that you are in a chysalis and that soon the Lord will begin to show you how to emerge into a different culture, and you will be amazed at how beautifully this cacoon time has prepared you to take wing and fly, displaying the Lord’s Glory in new ways, new shape, new form.,

    • Shelly Miller

      Mary, my lovely friend Lynn, who left a comment after you, said the very same thing to me a few months ago. Sacred echo don’tcha think? I wish I could write blog posts about recipes and helpful tips on buying Christmas gifts sometimes but that just isn’t what God is asking of me, is it? I’ll be glad to fly free soon.

      • Mary Gemmill

        you will just LOVE it..I see you with a long length of fabric streaming behind you as you take flight. Soon, soon. You are getting uncomfortable in the chrysallis…that is understandable !

  2. DeanneMoore

    I know there is a Door of Hope out there in the wilderness…and I know you are willing and ready to walk through it the moment you arrive at the step…. So thankful you fought to use your gift for words at this table…the world needs your words….your story….even when it is the hard to write story, the throw resistance in the corner story…love from the beggar…

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m ready to start writing redemptive stories about other people than myself! But this is where He has me right now, a beggar. Your encouragement is a lifeline for me on many days, thank you.

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, I’m here and I am praying……. and it dawns on me that in a real way we don’t need to prepare for Jesus coming (though I understand the meaning of the word advent)–because He *has already* come! He is with you never to abandon you. I love you.

  4. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, I couldn’t help but think of this passage from Hos. 2, in reference to what Dea said! “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.” Part of the purpose of your wilderness is to give you hope, to have solitude and silence enough to hear His tender whispers, and to have fruitful vines. Your fruit will flourish and serve as nourishment for others resting beneth your branches.

    • Shelly Miller

      This is so beautiful Lynn, thank you. And did you read what Mary wrote? A sacred echo to what you gave me months ago. God is faithful.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Wow, no. I hadn’t. And you are right — a sacred echo of what God gave me for you. He did for Mary too. He is doing some amazing transformative work in your life. I wrote a poem about the chrysalis. I’ll see if I can find it and share it w/ you and your readers. Love you! Yes, He is faithful, indeed!

  5. Janet from FL

    Shelly, I’m sorry you are having such a difficult season. I just did a devotional at a ladies’ Bible study group on turmoil. There are 3 ways to deal with it, and it sounds like you are in it. So, #1 use Scripture. When you feel lost, overwhelmed, in despair — repeat a favorite memorized scripture. How about Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in God with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God, and He will direct your paths.” Repeat the scripture over and over, every day. Listen to your favorite Christian music, to fill up your mind. Then when all else fails, say the Lord’s Prayer, over and over until you find peace in His arms. I keep you in my prayers. –Janet

    • Shelly Miller

      Janet, you are so sweet, thank you. The funny thing is that I have a story I’m writing about these very things to overcome times that are difficult. I do all of them but as you know, transformation is a process not a set of steps to follow.

  6. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, I’ll try this, but in a blog format, it may not lineate correctly. The acrostic spells NEW BEGINNINGS, and two of the lines should indent to keep the acrostic visible. I will see what happens, and if it doesn’t work right, I can email it to you. I pray it encourages you in your chrysalsis.



    New Beginnings
    by Lynn D. Morrissey

    Now, as I
    Emerge from my chrysalsis,
    Wings still wet and weighted, still needing to be primed and pumped and filled with life and
    Blood and strength, before I rise air-borne, I
    Envision possibilities–what shape dried wings will take when lifted up with air,
    what horizons eyes will see when searching high above the
    Ground, high above outmoded patterns, ways of being.
    I take time now to picture and plan, practice and prepare,
    Not taking to the skies before my time,
    Not aborting my flight through over-eagerness, unsteadiness. Only
    In patience, in measured waiting and pulsed stillness, my
    New beginning will come–suddenly,
    with a rush of wind, a whirl of wonder, in God’s own
    Good and perfect time. And because I will be ready, I will

    • Shelly Miller

      This is so lovely Lynn. It doesn’t matter that the formatting didn’t work right, the meaning is still in tact. I may need to copy this for my journal, don’t want to forget it. Thank you for taking the time to share it.

  7. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Nope! Just as I thought, it didn’t indent properly. So the lines that begin with “what horizons” and “with a rush of wind” should b e indented several space, in order for the acrostic to be visible. I’ll email you. =]

  8. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    “Let every heart prepare Him room….” is running through my mind. What if this emptying out is the preparation for His pouring in? Oh yes, Jesus, may it be so and may it be soon for my friend Shelly.
    Walking and praying with you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m sure you are right Jody but when you in the midst of the emptying phase, it feels as though nothing would be enough to fill what you’ve lost back up. I know in my heart this isn’t true, that feelings aren’t always an indicator of truth and so, taking thoughts captive is the hard work of transition. And now I’m singing that song that was running through your mind. Thank you my sweet, wonderful friend for being a place of love and constant encouragement. Appreciate you.

  9. Traci Rhoades

    I think this line, “And press publish when resistance tells me not to,” is why I love and hate reading blogs. On the one hand, bad writing can be helped by a good editor. On the other hand, honest writing can be tamed by a good editor. I love your honest, searching posts. Keep em coming.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for your encouragement Traci, I so appreciate it.

  10. Janie Seltzer

    Shelley, just sharing . . . and praying for you ! Hugs, janie

    • Shelly Miller

      Beautiful Janie, thank you. Nice to know you are here and I’m thankful for your prayers.

  11. Louise Hughes

    What you have to offer is not small because it is authentic and real. That which is authentic and real gives others the permission to be the same. In so doing, they place themselves in a position to receive comfort from the body of Christ and from the Lord Himself versus living in isolation. I think that is healthy.
    I can imagine that Mary, Joseph, and their families experienced similar feelings that first Advent season. I can imagine they wondered if the angelic encounters were real. Even though Mary knew the truth of her situation, I can imagine that she felt some heaviness from the judgment heaped upon her by others in the community. Joseph probably felt the same, as probably did their families. Know that you are in good company.:)
    Further, Mary carried the seed of hope and birthed the salvation of the world. I believe that the Lord is birthing something beautiful through this situation even though it is painful. Even if you cannot see it right now. I will believe for you.
    Love you!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you Louise. I’ve read what you wrote here several times because it really spoke to me of truth and redemption. Your friendship is a gift and I don’t take it for granted. I’m so thankful for your love, support and encouragement as we walk this hard season out.

  12. Nancy Ruegg

    Just want to add my AMEN to what Jody said below. Her comments express perfectly my thoughts (Spirit-inspired impressions?): This season of waiting and uncertainty and pain are NOT for naught. The pouring out WILL INDEED climax with God’s pouring in. As I typed those words, tears stung my eyes. My heart aches for you, friend, but I also have great hope and expectant anticipation for the glorious future God has planned for you!

    • Shelly Miller

      One thing I’ve learned during this painful season is the importance of having people be a place of hope when you don’t have the strength to hope any longer. We can stand in for people with our support and prayers and it is a powerful thing to witness, the way God connects his people together. So, I am holding on to your belief in what God is doing in and through me. I know you are right but I struggle to believe it. I believe Lord, but help my unbelief.

      • Nancy Ruegg

        The father who first said, “Help my unbelief,” received his miracle. I DO believe a miracle awaits for you, too, Shelly. And I count it a privilege to stand in the gap for you with prayer and a supportive comment now and then!

  13. pastordt

    Glad you hit that button, kiddo. This was so worth it. Praying for you, Shelly, as you continue to wait.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you for praying Diana, you are such a blessing to me. I appreciate you so much.

  14. Teresa R

    This is why God made us for fellowship. When one loses hope, the other encourage and lift the one up. Praying for you and wrapping you in God’s blanket of Hope and Rest in Him

    • Shelly Miller

      It is much easier to be the one extending hope than the one needing it. But you are so right Teresa, what you have said here is one of the greatest gifts in this waiting season. I’ve witnessed the way the Body comes together, the communion of saints, and it is quite beautiful, truly.

  15. Christie Purifoy

    So grateful for your honesty, Shelly. It’s an honor to lift you up in prayer. May our God give you hope, may He give you belief. May He give you more of himself.

    • Shelly Miller

      Sometimes I fear I’m too honest Christie but I don’t know how to be anything other than myself. There is a balance between being vulnerable and needy, yes? I’m receiving the blessing you’ve written here over me, thank you.

  16. dukeslee

    I’m home from Haiti, and just wanted to pop my head in through your front door here, to let you know I’m near. I’m here. And I love you.

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