“The harvest is ended, the summer is past and we are not saved” rattles through my mind like a chant this holiday season. I have bowed under the yoke of chronic grief, laid across my shoulders every Christmas for years. My grief was too smelly to allow me to sit at the table. 

When there was room, they weren’t my people. How my family did Christmas gone forever. Sobs roared when this hit home. Even Jesus seemed fierce. (Have you read what He says in the gospels? His stories are no warm fuzzies. Outer darkness. Gnashing of teeth. Those are his.) 

But there’s a Psalm that says God draws near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. When the loneliness wells up, I have felt this Presence come by, as if someone has taken Kleenex and wiped my tears. 

I remember the heart of the gospel that I can’t, no I can’t, ever live up to Jesus’ challenges. I am no good Samaritan. I’ve not fed the poor. There are so many. But Jesus paid the price for those failures. My Lutheran friend, John, says, Exactly. Now you are free to do the best good you can, without being dogged by guilt, by fear. 

As for my grief, Time eased it. Neighbors’ hospitality at Christmas eased the rest.

Jesus came as vulnerable and helpless a human can be under the song, “Peace on earth, good will to men.” He reminds me how mere hospitality, people to people, can bring its own peace on earth, goodwill. 

I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective. If you’d like to hear me read this click here.

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  • Mark says:

    Merry Christmas, Katie. I thought at first that you were quoting a Layton Howerton song lyric until I realized that you and he were both quoting the grieving prophet Jeremiah. You’d love Layton, Katie, and he’d love you and Bruce, you for your poetry and Bruce for his husbandry of all kinds. Layton has had more than his share of grief the last few years. A Kentucky farm boy with a gift for song, he tried and tried to break into the music business, resisting God’s call for him to pastor a church, and when he finally surrendered, God blessed his songwriting with a breakout album entitled “Boxing God” that was rich in beautifully lyric theology and was so well received by musicians everywhere but never sold well enough to keep the major recording labels interested. Pastoring hand-to-mouth in Riverton, Wyoming, with his high school sweetheart bride, Linda, Layton self-produced a number of other fine albums that also featured his great gift for storytelling while they raised their children to adulthood. Two Christmases ago, Layton lost Linda to a drawn out battle with cancer, then he lost his mother, maybe even lost his faith for a little while. But here he is on this clip, singing one of his best-known and hopeful ballads recently in his cabin in the Wind River Valley of Wyoming. We love you, Sister. Karen and I wish we could sit with you and Bruce and Layton at your holy day table you’ve pictured here. One Day we will!

    • katiewilda says:

      Back at you: Merry Christmas Mark and Karen! I was stunned to hear Layton Howerton open his song with that. I too have thought of harvest here in the midwest and the Final great harvest. We would love Layton. Do you know him personally? Sounds like he could use friends like you, just as I have needed you both. Let’s make a deal to meet by the River for picnic if we don’t get to meet here. I do hope we get to meet in this life one day. You and Karen have had such a ministry of prayer in our lives, prayer that has been answered.

      I’m sorry that Layton lost his wife and his mother so close together. Those double griefs can be awful. The Lord may well reward his faithfulness in producing those albums, giving them voice, even though right now his work is quiet, hidden. Thank you for stopping by and for telling me Layton’s story. I will look for his work.

      May Christ be born in you this holiday season.

      • Mark says:

        Katie, about 15 years ago I wanted to bring Layton to Yuma to play at our church and school, and I spoke with him on the phone. Layton came across to me just as strong and gentle over the phone as I had imagined he was when listening to him on his only major label record, “Boxing God,” and on his self-produced albums, “The Storyteller’s Journal, Vol. 1″ and”The Storyteller’s Journal, Vol. 2.” His grace and humility are what impressed me the most.

        Several of Layton’s songs from “Boxing God” had played on our local Christian radio station a few years before when I had this idea to try and bring Layton to our little town out here, and I figured that our church could host a free concert with him as a combined community blessing and a good church/school promotion. However, I couldn’t convince our church to pony up the minimal amount that Layton was asking for travel and remuneration, and to this day I regret that I didn’t just put up the money ourselves, but our finances were too tight back then, and so another of my big ideas bit the dust. Anyway, I didn’t stay in touch with Layton after that, another thing that I regret now. But maybe, I’ll try to call him up and see if he’d still come to Yuma. Our church may soon be closing, but our school is doing very well, and one of the things the school does well is music. Back when I’d spoken with him, Layton said that he’d be happy to play a separate concert for the students in our school and spend time to speak with them. Aron and Zoe now go to this school, and both love music. Karen and I could probably make a tax-deductible contribution to the school to underwrite the project.

        Hmm, I think I feel another “big idea” a brewin’ here.