ADVENT: When Hope Looks Different Than We Expect

Raising a child as a single mother or father can be difficult since you plan for a different type of life for your child than you ever anticipated but we can find hope in the fact that God is the author of our lives, however unexpected the twists and turns. Under His control and because of His love for us, we can rest assured that hope, optimism, and joy can be ours. And this message of hope and encouragement is needed especially in challenging seasons.
In this episode of the Solo Parent Society Podcast, we welcome single moms, Elizabeth Cole and Marissa Lee, to talk about the holidays. With the Advent season on the horizon, we discuss how hope manifests itself in different ways in our lives—even when hope looks different than what we expect.
Why Advent is Important
For many individuals, Advent is a large and lovely tradition. Advent connotes a sense of expectation as if something is about to happen. There’s a sense of anticipation, longing, and impending arrival.
Christmas has always been something that people look forward to, especially for parents. Whether you’re a single parent after a divorce, have never been married, or have lost a spouse, the holidays can stir up wounds you may not even be aware of. This is about reorienting ourselves back to the season’s meaning and intent to make the most of this significant season and experience as possible.
What is Advent?
Advent is defined as a season of expectant waiting and preparation, both to celebrate Christ’s birth and for His return. It is divided into four traditions: hope, love, joy, and peace. Advent, in general, is about a time of anticipation and hopeful waiting.
Marissa’s Story of Resisting Waiting
After their father died, Marissa’s sons would come to her with stories about what was going on at school. One time, the teacher asked them to do an assignment to describe how a boy grieving the loss of a parent would feel, and it hit a little too close to home just a month after their father died. Marissa’s initial instinct was to march into that school, stare the teacher in the eyes, and tell her that if her children needed therapy, it would be provided by a professional rather than a teacher. But she resisted the impulse to go in and straighten things out. She realized that no matter what she told the teacher, it wouldn’t make their father return and it wasn’t going to take the sting out of the pain. Instead, she talked with her sons about it, allowing them to discover, “Hey, this is how I can cope with this,” as they put it.
Marissa recognized that she couldn’t rid the world of people and situations who reminded her children of the loss of their father. Instead, she accepted what she can offer them - a voice and empowerment, by helping them to see that they are capable of dealing with it.
Elizabeth’s Story of Resisting Waiting
In the spring of 2020, single mom, Elizabeth had the distinct impression that God was telling her to slow down. She started searching for different jobs while also putting out feelers to see what it would be like to start her own company. Then the pandemic struck, and she thought to herself, “Okay. I guess I’ll have to stay put.” Fast forward to the end of last year, God began to move and show her the path he was bringing her down and revealed things that she would not have seen otherwise. Earlier this year, she left her high-paying job and successfully started her own company. It was clearly His timing. The waiting period allowed her to see how God was moving and which steps to take next.
If she had resisted the waiting, she wouldn’t have experienced that close connection to God and the trust that formed with Him as His plan unfolded. She wouldn’t have been able to give God the glory for all the things that fell into place for the transition from her old job into her new role as a business owner. Not only that but God used every part of the process to further healing and redemption – all of which came from that seasoning of waiting.
God Sees the Bigger Picture
Waiting on God is essential because He sees so much more than we do. When we’re caught up ‘in the weeds’ of the stories we’re telling ourselves, we don’t share His expansive view of things. We may find ourselves locked in the smallest things without an ability to see our way forward to look farther ahead. The beauty of waiting on God is that, while we can’t perceive the larger picture, He can. Elizabeth couldn’t envision the details of her new future, in starting her own company. At the time she just wanted a way out of her old position. But God knew and He had greater plans for where He was taking Elizabeth than she did herself. If she hadn’t waited, she wouldn’t have been able to respond to the ways He was guiding her.
Grateful for Not Getting What They Expected
A few years after her husband’s death, Marissa decided to relocate closer to her sister. She assumed that being near family at the holidays was just what she and her sons needed. She hoped that the pain they were carrying would be relieved. She had a glimmer of hope that she could just leave the difficult and hard things they had experienced behind them and move forward without the anguish and pain. But not long after their move, she found herself fighting with her sister on Thanksgiving. The reality of those moments was so different from what she had hoped for and that realization was devastating. She looks back and recognizes now that she had put her hope in her decision to try to control her family’s grief by moving only to discover that wasn’t the answer. Instead, God led her to make intentional decisions to be present with her kids, and together they planned how things would go between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those moments were essential as they came together as a family, with hope, but not in escaping their circumstances, but rather in their connection to God and to each other.
Devotional:
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
Verse 2
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.
Verses 6-7
6. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son, is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7. Of the increase of his government and peace, there shall be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

The Message of Christmas
The message of Christmas is not that we can make peace, love, and light as personal gifts to this hurting world. Rather, the message of Christmas is that this world is a mess, and we can never save ourselves from ourselves. We need the Messiah. We need the message, hope, and Savior found in, “For unto us, a child is born.” Salvation doesn’t always come in ways we expect. And the world didn’t recognize Jesus as the answer to their pain and struggle, then or now. The light never seems to come how you expect it. Instead, it comes as the “unlikely and unexpected.”
Christmas Represents Hope
But in the unlikely and unexpected, Christmas whispers “Hope”. It doesn’t matter how dark the dark is, light can still dawn. It doesn’t matter if the world whispers that help will not come, or that nothing will change. God’s answer is different. His answer says that especially in the darkest places, we will see his light even brighter. Once the light of Christ bursts forth into the darkness of your life, the shadows forever flee. There’s no going back and living in the dark. As Christians, we live in the impenetrable safe Light of Light. For us, the gift of Christmas never ends. We continue to experience the hope of Christmas forever.
The Living Hope We Find in Christ
As we walk into this Christmas season, as we take this first step towards the arrival and celebration of our Savior, we realize that this isn’t something we can fabricate. This is only something we can find. Christmas is an opportunity, once again, to discover the Hope that we have in Christ. This Hope is different than a hope based on anything we contribute or can do. It is an unearned gift of grace and love, free to all, and necessary to receive to experience. Advent draws us toward that Hope as we realize the gift of knowing that He’s enough and He has come to set us all free.
When Marissa’s husband died, she experienced an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. It was as if the sun itself had gone out, and all that was left was one candle. She saw God in a way she had never seen or experienced Him before. She felt that persistent and enduring Hope He offers to those who know Him. Marissa’s encounter with this Hope left her suddenly sad for the rest of the world who haven’t experienced that real hope for themselves.
It is in Him, we find salvation. It is in Him, we find Light in the darkness. It is in Him, we discover everlasting Hope.
Song of the Week
Breath of Heaven - Amy Grant 
Guiding Verse: Isaiah 41:10
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

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