Eight Stockings

My prayer candle, lit weeks ago at the start of advent, flickers in the darkness of the early morning. My breathing is slow and steady and my favorite blanket feels particularly soft and warm tucked around me. Today I am choosing to push the check list and tasks to the side and let myself just be, noticing and listening to the silence.

The memories of Christmases past come easily, prompted by the stockings hanging nearby. The year Libby was born, we needed new stockings and I wanted them all to match so she would always know she belonged. The stockings previously belonging to the “original three” were over a decade old and any single new stocking would have been an obvious change. I smile as I think about two years later, when those four matching stockings were no longer enough because Elly had come. It was not at all what I’d expected when I bought the four matching red velvet stockings in December of 2004.

This year, the eight stockings that hang on my mantle tell a tender story, one filled with hope and resurrection, and held with care.

To be present to what is happening in my life right now, I find that I must also be present to what has happened in the past. I am moment by moment remembering what has been and embracing what has come. I think this is what happens for most of us at Christmas. The past feels closer, more easily accessible. It tugs at us from decorations passed down through generations, and traditions held throughout the years, music that is familiar and holiday gatherings.

It is not always an easy time of year. We feel the ache of our losses, faces missing at our tables, and hopes unrealized. There is a loneliness that ebbs and flows right through the center of what are supposed to be joyous moments. We are left wondering, and sometimes wrestling, with God and His goodness, and the story of His son. I have known years where I wasn’t sure God was telling a good story in my life, years when I questioned if I could bear the ache required to hold onto hope.

Over the years, my faith has deepened, and it has been carved inside of me through sorrow and loss. I don’t relish those experiences, but they are part of my unfolding journey with God and His son.

My life does not work apart from a wondering, wrestling relationship with God.

God’s goodness has come to me in unconventional, unexpected, and sometimes unbelievable ways. A cold cave, on the back end of an inn keeper’s property in the middle of a city overrun with people for a census feels about right. “No room” for Mary to give birth in the midst of warmth, safety, and comfortable surroundings rings truer to my own journey with hope and what it looks like to birth it.

Today my heart is grateful for where resurrection is the truer story this Christmas, and I can feel it and savor it because it wasn’t that long ago that Christmas was nestled squarely inside what felt like death. I am thankful for my steady and slow breaths, the warmth of friendship, and the eight stockings hanging on my mantle.

Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, and the substance of things unseen. It comes from believing that as God has been in the past, so He will be again.

For all who wait
For all who hunger
For all who’ve prayed
For all who wonder
Behold your King
Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel


DSC_0512Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories, a reluctant dreamer and the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for over 30 years, she is mother to five kids and a pastors wife. She loves quiet mornings with hot coffee, rich conversations and slowly savored meals at her favorite restaurants. She is awed that God chose her to mother four girls having grown up with no sisters. She writes about her life and her work here.