About the Author

Alia Joy is an author who believes the darkness is illuminated when we grasp each other's hand and walk into the night together. She writes poignantly about her life with bipolar disorder as well as grief, faith, marriage, poverty, race, embodiment, and keeping fluent in the language of hope in...

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  1. Alia, I needed these words today. Our Christmas eve and day were something different than expected. Plans to give joy and fun to one person deflated us. I listened to Christmas music played loud when he was gone. To be in the true spirit of Christmas again. One song made me stop and think of Jesus coming to earth. Rest for the weary, brokenhearted. I cried. Prayed for forgiveness and mercy. To carry on. Then daughter and I went for a drive to see lights we did not see last night. Played dominoes with her and my husband. Laughter, smiles, silly jokes livened us. Thankful for our home and that Jesus is amongst us. Yes, we wait. For His return. Merry Christmas,Alia.

  2. Alia Joy,
    Christmas is often a paradox for me. Joy in celebrating what God did so unselfishly for me in sending His only son…yet, as you said, the sharp edges of the world press in. Many stuffed feelings tend to bubble to the surface this time of year and I often feel like a Christmas fraud. This year, God gave me the gift of letting those feelings come all the way to the ugly top – I got to experience them full on. Then, in a way that only He can do He brought me to the manger in order to lay them down. Peace.

    After running the race to make Christmas special for everyone, I often revel in the day after Christmas. Having crossed the finish line, I am able to relax and just truly bask in His presence. This is my Holy time with Him. Thank you so much for the invitation to be easy on myself…I think God honors our realness. Beautiful post!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • I think that is a tension we should embrace for advent, the brokenness of this world and our hearts and the hope of a Savior, redemption arriving and coming. I’m glad you get a break today. Holy time indeed.

  3. Thank you. I needed this. Wept some yesterday – saw my daughter and laughed and smiled with friends. Thanking Him in the midst of the tears..

  4. Thank you for this Alia. My dad died 15 1/2 years ago and Christmas is still hard. When I tell people I miss him, these are the responses I get: “Count your blessings”, “Try to celebrate the good times”, “Keep up the traditions you shared with him” etc. etc. as if those things are going to lessen the pain. I know people mean well, but really I don’t need advice….I long for a comforting hug and a listening ear. So, I’ve been keeping my mouth shut. But, that doesn’t work either. Grateful I can go to my Wonderful Counselor anytime and he understands and he is okay with me falling apart.

    • Christian, I greatly appreciate what you say here, and I genuinely am so sorry that your father has passed, and I empathize greatly with the grief that you feel. I lost my beloved father seven and a half years ago, and I miss him every day, and especially at Christmas (exactly one week after his birthday). I will never forget how one man said, very shortly after Daddy had died, to rejoice because Daddy was in heaven (which was true) , and that I would soon be with him (which is a matter of perspective, but not one I fancied just days after Daddy had died and knowing that I might spend many years on earth without him). I am sorry, and will pray for God’s palpable presence for you today….and in future days.
      In His love,
      Lynn Morrissey

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. I wrote about not being fine in my last post here at (in)courage https://aws.incourage.me/2014/11/when-you-are-not-fine.html and I was blown away by the responses from people who were hurting and how often we want to put grief or redemption on a clock and make it go away. You are not alone and you’re right, God is near even when (especially when) you fall apart. Take care of yourself today. Give yourself room to miss him and to be sad and to let God know. You’re right, He’s listening.

    • Christina.

      Prayers for you my sister in Christ@! May God give you the peace you so deserve. I will pray that you can relax and be gentle on yourself. Go ahead and cry about missing your dad. That can be very cathartic.

      Blessings! Merry Christmas!

  5. With grown children, we were blessed with the absolute rare treasure of having everyone here for the whole day. It was amazing and crazy and exhausting. And yes, this morning, sitting here in the quiet of after-Christmas…echoes of laughter, the reality that grown children sometimes make room for each other as their lives have gone in different directions…memories of Christmases past and wondering what lies ahead for each of us…there is quite a bit to process. Thank you for this sweet reminder and the wisdom you bring. How rich we are to have a Savior who made us, wired us, understands us and is with us each and every day <3

  6. Perfect for me. I have been struggling with this dichotomy of having joy in the midst of grief. Perfectly said

    • It’s something I’ve been learning a lot this year. That joy and grief, joy and sorrow are not opposed. They are often at their peaks in tandem.

  7. Alia, your writing always touches me because of its transparency and depth and this after-Chrismtas encouragement is no different. Thank you for these beautiful, honest observations, and for the hope and love you send through them. I’m so sorry about your father’s passing, and it makes sense that you would experience grief this time of year, near the anniversary of his death. I mentioned to your other reader how my father’s birthday was one week after Christmas, and so this too becomes a poignant, sad time for me. Sometimes I think that grief and joy are flipsides of the same coin, so to speak, coins spent like we spend our days. When you have known great love, you will know great grief when one you love is taken from you. Sometimes, I wonder at the grief that God experienced in sending His Son, knowing what Jesus would have to endure in order to save those God loved, but those who had greatly grieved Him through their rejection and sin. There it is again, that juxtaposition of grief and joy, all bundled up together. Thank you for your encouragement to be gentle today. I think that the gentle baby, grown to gentle Shepherd welcomes such counsel, just as He welcomes us into His warm, encircling embrace. Thank you, Alia Joy. And may Jesus’ joy be with you today and always.
    Love
    Lynn

    • My dad’s birthday was the 29th and then my parent’s anniversary was in January so it’s always a hard time of year with all the reminders. Thank you for your encouragement. I think it’s all bundled together too. I’m learning to unravel them and just surrender it all back to God when they come.

      • Thank you so much for kindly responding…….and it must be so hard for your mom, too, with their anniversary so near. I’m so sorry. May the Lord Himself tie your heartstrings to His, heartstrings that will never be severed, because He will always love and uphold you. May you find joy in the good memories of your father, too, Alia.

  8. My husband of 42 years died at 1:10 a.m. on Christmas morning last year. He received his invitation to join the real birthday party of the King of Kings — the One he’d served faithfully for many, many years. This year my one and only sister is at the same spot where David was last year, and there is tension between her husband and the rest of the family. Rather than being at her side and filling her with love as she makes that last earthly journey, we’re having to do it without the contact with her. It is hard, and it is disappointing — deepening the grief. But the Lord gave a beautiful gift, in the form of a telephone call the other day that has renewed the hope of the season and enabled me to realize that we can’t always rationalize the supernatural. Our God is faithful, and he doesn’t prevent the tears, but he’s right there to wipe them away, and bring comfort and peace to our hearts, even in the midst of sorrow and chaos — or maybe, especially during those times.

    • Our God is faithful. Carole, to be able to suffer and hurt and still say and remember that means so much. I’m so sorry to hear about your husband and your sister. So much grief and loss and brokenness in this world and you’re right, God doesn’t always prevent it but like you know, He’s near. Praying for you tonight.

    • Carole,

      Prayers for you and your family! God is super faithful! May He bring you and your family peace and comfort during these times! I pray God send gentle rest and soul calming to you!!

      Blessings! 🙂

  9. Thank you for this. My 3yr old son was diagnosed with autism this year and the older he gets, the further from “normal” he becomes. This Christmas was much harder than the last, partly because of him, partly because this year we moved half way across the country and now live next to my husband’s parents instead of many own. Their Christmas traditions are a lot different than what I’m used to. I didn’t have a word for it until I read this- I’ve been grieving, in a way, the loss of my normal Christmas…and I know I will never get to have with my family what I had growing up. My son just doesn’t understand, and who knows if he ever will.

    • Oh Karaleigh, be extra gentle with yourself. Yes grieving, I can see that. Processing that news, and changes, and the move, and hopes. That’s so much change and loss and transition. Give yourself room to feel whatever you need to, make room to grieve. My prayers are with you tonight.

  10. Beautiful words, Alia. Such a truth here—we’re waiting for the here and the not-yet. I’m thankful we walk with Immanuel—God with us. Yet, I know this isn’t all there is . . . and my heart, my soul yearn for more.

    Thanks for the reminder to be gentle with myself. And the promise that Jesus is with us. Here. Now.

  11. It was nourishing to read your writing today Alia. I still grieve for my son who died early January as a little baby a number of years ago now. Some years are harder than others. Some years to focus on the babe, the Christ child is only to feel fresh pain. This year was like that. The longing to hold him and to be held as tears fall is intense. A private grief that others may not understand given the years that have past. Be gentle, you write. Words soothe, voicing both longing and reality. The hope held in eyes also damp with grief. Thank you.

  12. Merry Christmas to you little one! Thank you for your prophetic words…my Mother died on Christmas Eve years ago and my husband’s Daddy dies on Christmas Day before we were married so your reflections are pure grace.

  13. I seem to be feeling some or all of this again and again and find myself sitting with my head bowed and knowing “fresh hurt” I do count my blessings that I did not lose my sons to war, nor were my babies not allowed to grow up at all but they did and are always loved. They then became a product of dysfunction and brokenness. It was an awful divorce(as if ANY divorce is not awful) that told me to lean on others and turn to my father Abba, and asking His will be done. while on my knees for almost a solid two years.I rely on God to guide me, comfort me…knowing all too well how hard it is when a hostess at a dinner asks all in attendance what their thoughts are as to what “Christmas” means to them.It was an astounding 99.999 percent replied “FAMILY AND FRIENDS” and spending time together. I thought of my contributions in losing my family and still wonder as my son did “Why we could not make it work” after 25 years.. I sat there holding the tears in because my family was nowhere to be found.but I was sitting amongst nearly 120 to 150 plus people I was not genetically related to. I knew some of them from church and community but there were many new faces and many from church they were joyously experiencing Christmas and celebrating His Birth. And then I felt many missing that usually attended. So in reading that I should be “gentle with myself” I also know the Lord is with me. That can be easier said than done sometimes but I am trying.

    • Sometimes too, I think we say what’s expected of us. We’re supposed to say family and thankfulness and good memories and time together. And all of those things can be a beautiful part of it all, for sure. But I’d guess there are a lot more people hurting and grieving and aching during Christmas than we’d guess by the smiling faces. Christmas means hope to me, but largely because without that the world would remain bleak and cold and hopelessly broken. The Lord is gentle with you, Renee. He knows every aching part, every sad memory, every lost thing. He’s coming back to make it all right. That’s the hope we live with even on the hard days. Be extra gentle with yourself.

  14. You really hit home with me today. I lost my Mom 12 years ago right after Christmas and my Dad three months ago. The grief has, unfortunately, taken over the season on a lot of days. However, I have five children and four grandchildren, so I put on a brave face and force myself to do whatever I can. My once “perfect” Christmas’s have become half-hearted attempts. I know the reason for the season, and I thank God for that every day. I just wish society didn’t put so much pressure on those of us who are too weak to do more than the minimal. I am blessed to have family and friends who understand what I am going through. All of them were content with what I had to offer this year, and the grandkids couldn’t have cared less that I didn’t wrap the presents. You are right. . .we need to be gentle on ourselves and depend on God to let it all work out for good.

    • I’m glad you found space to come weary. I wish more of us would make room for bringing whatever we have to offer and being met with Jesus. What a gift to have loved ones who get it and are there for you while you grieve those losses.

    • Carletta,

      Don’t worry about what the world thinks or expects. Just do what you can and give yourself permission to grieve. This time of year brings back many memories and some can be painful. Prayers for you! May God bring you the soul cleansing peace and quiet you need!

      Blessings 🙂

  15. lovely words from a Tender Heart. Thankyou + Bless you. One day He will will wipe all the Tears from our eyes. Come Lord Jesus xx

  16. Dear Alia,
    God is so all – knowing, caring and loves on us in ways only He alone can find to it. He has me amazed. Caused His Spirit prompt you with the right and fitted words that expresses what we all are truly experiencing. God bless you for your faithfulness and obedience in doing what He called you to do by writing this post. It resonates deeply with my heart.
    For I’m living in the longing. I’m met but yet I yearn. I am filled but yet I hunger and thirst. I celebrate but yet I grieve.
    My Savior is right here with me and yet I wait with anticipation still.
    I praise God and give Him thanks that He has not left me. I do not wait alone. I will be extra gentle with myself as I wait.
    Thank you!

  17. Alia, you express the tension we live in so accurately, heart-achingly beautifully. I wish you weren’t so right. I wish we could just live fully in the fullness of that which Christ came to give and not feel the pangs of longing and that which has not yet come to pass. But I’m deeply grateful for your ability and willingness to give words to the tension.

    …today marks for the four year anniversary of the last time I saw my dad, at our family Christmas celebration 2010. He died a few weeks later.

    Sending you hugs, my friend.

    • Hugs right back. Last year was really hard, this one I was more prepared to miss him. More prepared to be ok with not being fully ok. It’s helped. Thanks for your sweet words, friend.

  18. Thank you! As I read this realized that I had been holding my breath to get through this Christmas. My husband moved out November 1st and I have been dreading this holiday season knowing that I would have to push through so many emotions all the while keeping things as normal as possible for my two boys. Big exhale. Christmas has come and His grace carried me through.

  19. Yes Trista, God’s grace has certainly bought you through and His grace will continue to carry you safely through.
    I pray that God the source of all hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in HIM. So that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus Name.

  20. Alia,

    This has been a rough year for me. Many ups and downs dealing with my aging dad’s health issues and moving him to an assisted living. Job stresses and hubby almost losing his job added to the stress. I have felt worn out and really wasn’t in the Christmas mood. Then a friend lost her mother on Thanksgiving day. Now a few days before Christmas I lose another friend to cancer. Hard to be joyful and jolly with all this sadness. Not to mention my mother passed on 5 years ago. So this is really hard on me. My emotions are everyone on the map.

    I am super thankful for a loving God who is there for me and knows my pains. He will give me soul rest and peace with contentment!

    Also thankful for people like you who follow God’s leading and write such beautiful transparency! Thanks soo much for expressing what most of us are thinking!

    Blessings 🙂

  21. Thank you Alia. I needed your words tonight. Christmas has caused more depression than joy over the last few years, and this year was no different. So many personal obstacles I have to overcome, and long with relationships with husband and children that need work. It’s hard to rejoice in a Savior who has come when your heart is crying out to be delivered from pain.

  22. You have spoken to all the things, all the feelings in me these past couple weeks. These are God’s words for so many Alia–you are a gift and have eyes that see. I value you.

  23. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart & helping me to realise that i am not alone struggling through Christmas. I feel like I’m letting everyone down by not being enough especially Jesus after what he did for me but I am trying to remember that I am perfect in God’s eyes because of Jesus . God is not disappointed in me & He is more than enough to fill the gaps I leave.x

  24. Your grief is shared at Christmas. My Mom passed away the last of January and it still hurts but God is here with me so it will get worse before February. There are other people suffering in a lot of places.
    Know what you are going thru. But God is always by your side.
    Becky J

  25. Alia – “We live in the longing.” And all the more as the day approaches. Nothing this side of heaven seems to fill the longing except Jesus. And then we long to be with him all the more. My husband and daughters lost their wife/mom the morning before Thanksgiving in a horrific tragedy seventeen years ago. We have lived in the longing here every holiday since, and with the passing of our son/brother seven years ago, the sting has grown even greater. The longing even deeper. These are the unmet sorrows of our souls this side of heaven. I don’t think we can ever erase the pain until we are face to face with our Savior and reunited with our loved ones. I am so sorry you are grieving the loss of your Dad. It must be like a desert landscape, parched and withering, the longing for living water to wash the gaping wound and make it whole. I pray the Lord’s presence and promise are your hope in sorrow. Much love to you and your family Alia. Be gentle to yourself. <3

  26. Christmas is over and the pain of death continues to linger on. My dad passed away 15 years ago right before Christmas so this has always been difficult. Now that my in-laws have passed (one as recent as Aug.) this holiday is so very difficult. As I write, have just found my horse dead and my guinea pig. I don’t know why God continues to test me with all this death. So hard to find joy in “His Season”. I know I have many blessings to be thankful for but hard to see looking through teary eyes.

  27. Thanks for the post – I guess I am a little elate picking it up today, but it certainly spells out my own set of feelings. I am so very grateful for God’s gift to me of salvation, but still find it hard to not feel the grief of those who have been a part of my life that are no longer with me here. Thanks for your words of confirmation that they are not unusual nor wrong, only present! God bless you in your days ahead!

  28. I heard the bells on Christmas day
    Their old familiar carols play,
    And wild and sweet the words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along the unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

    Till ringing, singing on its way
    The world revolved from night to day,
    A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

    As with another post you recently wrote on grief, I so appreciate this one. Christmas is a bittersweet holiday for me now. This particular one came just six days after my daughter’s first birthday… or what would have been her first birthday. Not only is there pain and sadness for me in that {although, there is celebration as well}, but there is pain and sadness in the lives of other around me… people who are very close to me. So, this was a hard Christmas. It’s so hard to watch to much brokenness all over, both in my immediate circles and on a global level. So much division and hate and distrust and weariness and tired, worn existing and living. So much loss and sickness. So much heartache over failure or wrongs. I felt the weight of the world… of all those things… going into today. I got this article in my inbox on the 26th, but just now had the chance to read it. It is so timely for the rough day I’ve had… full of disappointment.

    Just before I came to read this, I was reminded of the words in one of the best Christmas songs I can think of {message-wise}. They are the most encouraging words that point to the best part of the entire Christmas story… the end of it that we don’t often hear about during this season… the part where all is restored and made right…

    I heard the bells on Christmas day
    Their old familiar carols play,
    And wild and sweet the words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along the unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

    Till ringing, singing on its way
    The world revolved from night to day,
    A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

    And in despair I bowed my head
    “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
    “For hate is strong and mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
    With peace on earth, good will to men.”

    Not just wrong, but broken will be made right. Yes… “yearn” and “hunger”… never more did I yearn and hunger for that day.

    Thank you for writing what you do… always an encouragement and a gift. Always helpful for finding solid perspective.

  29. apologies for the repeat of verses of the song in my comment. not sure how those verses got copied to the top, but they weren’t supposed to be there… just at the bottom.

  30. Deep and inspiring word. I am always reminded when my flesh feels these same feelings that He tells me this is why He is here to fill my, our longings.