I’m into bliss beyond measure – a new grandchild is due in June. Our children are coming home the week after Christmas. I have a job I love, colleagues who are like family, and a church that truly is my family.

I’m into distress beyond degree – as I type these words over a late lunch, breaking news ribbons across my computer screen. The assailants in yesterday’s San Bernardino massacre have ties to terrorism. People in Paris, Colorado Springs and on the streets of Chicago are facing the holidays without loved ones who were blown away by madmen. And women.

A beloved friend is on her way for a biopsy this afternoon. Another is reeling from the revelation of marital infidelity. A third feels the sting of rejection from those who should love her most.

Mary at Monadnock

I’m into pressing forward with service. Can walking into others’ lives this month as Mary, mother of a crucified son, bring a message of hope? Can our little Christmas Housewalk coming up on the 19th provide vital resources for families like hers who know what’s it like to flee from persecution, desperately in search of a home?

FBC Christmas walk 2015 with hses

Joy and sorrow ride the rails again today. So which train do I board? It’s a bumpy ride either way and there’s no sitting down.

And then I remember.

This day. This week. This month. It is Advent – the time of waiting. Anticipation. Remembering the Light of the World who entered our world. Who was, and is, and will come again.

We live between the two comings.

Living in between is not for the faint of heart. In her recent book Seeing in the Dark, Seeing in the Darkauthor Nancy Ortberg writes of the rending, wrenching journey.

Living in between forces us to recognize that grief is largely a nonlinear process. There isn’t a neat, clean, stair-stepped process that delivers us whole at the end. It meanders, twists, turns, and stalls. Denial, bargaining, and anger turn us around like the spin-dry cycle. Depression invades all the stages. And acceptance? It shows up at some levels, maybe; but in the deepest parts of grief, no.

Time gets all mixed up, and here and there, then and now are barely decipherable. The smallest thing can trigger a memory, and there we are, squarely in the past. The smallest thing can thrust us back to the present with a whiplash-like sensation, and the future becomes almost unbearable to imagine.

My friend with the biopsy? Living in between. The loved one deserted by a philandering spouse? In between. The one treated as an outsider by her own family? Living in between.

Nancy again.

Living in between is hard work. It’s much simpler to make a choice, color it black or white, draw a line. But even though this living in between is more difficult, it’s better. Definitely better.

What lies in the in-between is nuance, richness, and meaning. It’s only in the in-between that we can live in color, with heartaches and joys combining hues.

Jesus’ birth, mangers and shepherds and angels aside, turned the world upside down. His mother’s quiet submission also shattered her life with unbearable sorrow at his loss on a Roman cross.

 But she knew what it meant to live in between. One day her son would return and draw all people to himself. Rocks would split and waters would flow. And what was it John said? Someday every knee would bow, every tongue confess.

That day was coming. It still is.

And so we wait – a sheaf of grief in one hand, a cornucopia of joy in the other.

Living in between.