Black Friday: Bittersweet


This morning as the bacon sizzled in the pan, I looked out the bay window to see a large black crow flying over the meadow behind our house. Something about the slow way he pushed down on the air with his massive wings put a song in my heart. He was unhurried, dipping low into the frost-tipped grasses, lifting feathered body high against a gray day dawning.

These past few days have felt like an extended Sabbath and as Sabbath-keeping always does, a quiet celebration has been kindled in my heart.

Yesterday we feasted with our loved ones and took our traditional after-dinner walk. My mother-in-law showed us the wild vines of Bittersweet growing tangled all along her property. She decorated the dining table with it this year and it seemed the perfect thing. After our walk, we lingered long in each other’s presence, keenly aware someone was missing, feeling the joyful ache of love and longing all wrapped up in each other. This will be the year of firsts without him, and we cling tightly to what is left behind, finding comfort in being together.

Tomorrow, we make that long drive to drop our boy back at his dorm and already I feel lonely for him. These are the ways God is preparing my heart for Advent—this crazy mix of joy and grief. It’s a strange feeling, this hollowing out of all the stuff of the world I carry in me to make room for the divine.

Philippians 2:5-11 says that Jesus made himself nothing. Being in very nature God … he made himself nothing. (NIV). The NRSV says he emptied himself. It’s the Greek verb form kenóō“to empty”.

In Christian theology, we call it kénōsis—the voluntary emptying of my own will and allowing myself to surrender to the will of God.

He cannot fill me unless I am empty.

The world empties me when I am too weak to do it myself. Circumstances steal joy, hope is squelched and love runs out the door. And I am empty … empty.

The morning winks at me and the sky is heavy with unshed rain and I open my heart to this season. That empty inside is a tender ache—softer than before … sweet somehow. I let this mystery of my own becoming comfort and awaken the wonder. The wonder of waiting for a Lord who never leaves me.

The winner of my Advent giveaway is … Kelli! Congratulations, friend! I’ll be in touch soon.


  1. Lynn D. Morrissey says

    So mysteriously beautiful, Laura, as only you can pen–a bittersweet fullness even in the emptiness of aching. Bittersweet seems the perfect table anointing for this bittersweet time, longing for the dear father-in-love who has passed on, and yet rejoicing in the gifts he left behind. I received a tender reminder of my beloved Daddy yesterday (you graciously permitted me to published about him at The High Calling). A friend brought a note, penned by him in his neat-as-a-school-teacher print (and he did teach for thirteen years), thanking her for a pen-and-ink drawing she’d rendered for him of my grandmother’s house. I’d not seen the letter before. It was a bittersweet reminder of how much I miss both him and Grandma, but a shower of blessing for the gifts they were and what they have given me. Your house will be quieter w/ your baby back in school, but I know the full memories you forged during his Thanksgiving presence, and God’s Advent presence, will sustain you.

    Wishing you so much love and joy and blessed Advent wishes.

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