Finding Hope in This Bleak Midwinter by Becky Ballard

January 29, 2022

Winter is always my hardest season — it’s cold, dark, and Christmas celebrations are over. And then…it’s Lent. Perhaps this is a hard time for you as well. And now we have another COVID winter!

In December our highly anticipated holiday plans vanished when our four-year-old son brought COVID home from school. The same day, his two-year-old sister tested positive for the flu but negative for COVID. My husband and I did what we could to help each child not contract the other’s illness. We spent Christmas week apart (one of us in a hotel, with our then COVID-negative daughter).

We all did contract COVID, but we spared the kids from having both illnesses at once. Protecting them by being apart at Christmas was one of those awful yet right things to do! But parenting means protecting your children, and parenting is HARD.

The pandemic has illuminated and often amplified the sacrifices parents make, from the millions of mothers who left the U.S. workforce to the many fathers I know who wonder if they can keep their marriage, careers, and sanity intact. Today we can see refugees, migrant workers, domestic violence survivors, those living in lands of war, and many others who have lives with far greater uncertainty and must make much harder and riskier choices to protect their children.

In the last two years I have experienced many, many losses, both pandemic-related and otherwise. My faith has been tossed, turned, and ripped apart. But Mary and her Magnificat gave me the strength to weather this December storm. The Magnificat speaks of obedience as well as agency, and Mary’s story is one of living according to God’s will when life is very different from what is expected. The strength I drew from her courage sustained me.

Think of the choices Mary made to protect baby Jesus, and how painful it must have been to see him then betrayed, rejected, taunted, and brutally killed. Think of the impossible choices made by Moses’ mother Jochebed and countless other men and women throughout history.

Love is often messy and painful. Love was messy for Mary from the very beginning, as that’s just the way pregnancy and childbirth is (let alone childbirth in a stable or perhaps even a cave, wow!). However, as she did, we can draw hope and strength from our faith, even in the mess.

If your life feels like a mess, that’s OK. Look to our saints, and you will find examples that help you make some sense of your situation. I take comfort in believing that living out God’s plan may often look and feel like one giant mess!

Becky first moved to Dupont Circle in 2007, and after a few stints abroad now lives in the neighborhood with her husband John and kids Nathan and Lily. Raised primarily in North Carolina, she majored in religion at Duke University and went to law school at a school of another shade of blue (because life is complicated, right?). Proud to come from a family of progressive United Methodist pastors. Becky first joined Foundry in 2007 as a single gal, enjoying the friendship of her women’s small group, and returned with her family in 2019 for their Godly Play-based children’s programming.