Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I haven't been blogging through Advent for a very good reason: I've been observing Advent.

I haven't been blogging through Advent for some bad reasons too, but since they are the usual, boring, sinful reasons (sloth, etc.), I'll let them lie.

But Advent! This has been a good Advent. It's been a hard Advent.

For the first time since the twins were born, it looks like Advent around here. We're doing an Advent wreath and a Jesse tree, and the devotions to go with. The children are all really learning the Christmas story and the history that preceded Christ's coming. (It comes out in their play. There were two Marys and one Elizabeth wandering up and down the stairs this morning, and at least a couple death threats from King Herod towards the camel.)

And I've been reading Revelation and Isaiah and the gospels and the psalms, and it's sinking into my heart.

I've been praying, and thinking about prayer. I don't know if I've got much worth saying about it yet, but I've been remembering my impression as a new wife (very new - it was an impression formed during my honeymoon) that the most important part of my role as a wife and mother would be to pray for my family.

I've been reading and listening to Dallas Willard, and praying and thinking about prayer some more.

I've been fighting what's starting to look like a seasonal depression, and beginning to understand (I think) why it's happening. I don't think it's about light. I think, three years ago, when I thought half of my family was going to die*, my body got used to fighting despair around this time of year, and I haven't kicked the habit of battening down all the hatches after All Saints' Day and not coming out till after the New Year. Can a body form a seasonal habit of depression based on one truly, truly stressful experience?** It surely feels like it. I feel like a wuss just saying it, but there it is. My journal entries from this time of year this year are almost identical to the ones the year before; I'm not imagining it.

And I was just about to type, "this experience hasn't been altogether awful", but I realized that that's not true; experientially, it has been. But I have hope that it might turn into something not awful, especially if I can learn to turn towards help instead of away when I feel weak and worthless.

And I've thought a lot about Christ coming into our dark world. There's a version of "The Carol of the Bells" done by the TransSiberian Orchestra that makes you think, "Christmas: the Action Movie", what with all the electric guitar and wild, wailing chords. But that just makes me think of "The Dream of the Rood"'s vision of "the young hero, Christ" who stepped onto the cross (willingly, of his own accord), and how Advent is really that: the story of the hero, choosing the adventure, the tragedy even, for the sake of those he loved. 

(And just like Lent: you can't keep the secret: it's not a tragedy, it's a eucatastrophe, it's all turned around, from the inside out, and the worst thing becomes the best thing, and he wins and it's  a victory and it's all brilliantly, brilliantly redeemed - and so instead of dirges this season, we sing carols, because he's come not just to die, but to rise, and better yet, to go and then to come back and to take us with him. To make us like him. And if you know him at all, well, then you know what good news that is.)

He's with us. And he was with us. Here, in this darkness, in this bleak midwinter. To quote Stephen Lawhead, He knows.

So. That is what I have. There's so much more I've been thinking about, but it feels like a season to take things in, and not to spew it all out in writing, because everything inside me needs to sit for awhile, and settle. But I can't help saying: He came. He is good. I'm so glad. 

May you all have a blessed and joyous Advent. 

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*My twins had a serious, potentially fatal in-utero condition and my husband had cancer.

**Since writing this, I've found out that, actually, yes, it can. Apparently it's a pretty common reaction.


Willa said...

I'm very glad you posted this... I fight seasonal depression too, for much the same reasons. I will pray for a blessed Christmas season and new year for you and your family!

Katie Jones said...

I believe that you can have depression around a certain time- though all I have is anecdotal evidence.
I actually had depression after Luke was born for a couple of months at the same time each day. I had a rather traumatic labor especially from 5-10pm. Every night following the birth, I would become a weepy, anxiety ridden mess.
My mother-in-law gets a little down every year about a week before Christmas due to a very sad event years ago at that time.

Wishing you joy, especially Christmas morning.

~liz said...

wow. thank you so much for writing this. i share your seasonal depression but for other reasons (nothing like what you went through). this was a helpful read!
a blessed remainder of advent, and a lovely christmas to you!

Kerry said...

Praying for you, Jessica. And I ask your prayers for me, too.