when christmas is hard: honoring paradox

when christmas is hard honoring paradoxwell, so much choosing for “help, thanks, wow” for when christmas is hard.  sometimes things just shift and new ideas come.  that’s what i love about blogging; it is current.  this week, i got a completely new thought on how i wanted to wrap this series, mainly because it’s what seems to always help me the most when i’m really in a hard place–honoring paradox.  i’ve written a lot about paradox over the years–how two contradicting things can exist at the same time.  even though i’d been talking about “beauty & ugly existing together” for a long time, several years ago richard rohr articulated it all in a way that melded the idea in my heart in a way that has really lasted.

and helped me in more ways than i can say to become less divided, more whole & sane.

it’s also helped me honor paradox in others, which makes living together in love so much easier.  richard rohr says, “if you can hold and forgive the contradictions within yourself, you can normally do it everywhere else too”

but it starts with us.

left on our own, we swing between left and right, good and bad, dark and light.  things become “all good” or “all bad” instead of both good & bad at the same time. it’s a dangerous way of living because it will cause us to live in extremes that aren’t always healthy.  also, life is not ever all good or all bad, all dark or all light.

it’s always a mix of both. 

this is my favorite part of the Jesus story–the crazy paradox of it all.  it is such a beautiful, messy story. Jesus’ birth doesn’t make sense in some ways & brings it all together in another.  it’s ugly & smelly and also beautiful & hopeful.  it’s the savior of the world–the one who was supposed to save the day with strength & might–dying on a cross.  it’s the last will be first and the first will be last.  it’s a mystery & it’s simple.  it’s….you fill in the blanks on all of the weird, contrary words that describe it.

as we enter into the last few days before christmas, my hope for those who are struggling this christmas is to try to honor paradox.

it always helps to remember the good, the light, the beautiful, the hopeful, no matter how small they might seem.  and it also helps to be painfully honest.  sometimes, life is just freaking hard and there’s no way we can will ourselves to feel better or pray enough to wake up with our realities gone in the morning.  but the hard stuff can still be present in the midst of the good.

i was with a friend a few weeks ago who is going through one of the most difficult seasons of her entire life.  she’s in a huge trauma and as she shared with me, i thought to myself “this is what it looks like to live in paradox.”   she shared honestly about how truly devastated she feels, how scared & angry & confused.  but at the same time, she shared about how she also can see good in the midst, light in the dark, hope in the despair.

it was seriously inspiring.

honoring paradox is healing.  freeing.  honest.  hopeful.

and really hard to do when our crazy brains are always trying to pull us to extremes. 

so that’s my hope for us these last few days before christmas–that we could honor paradox.  that we wouldn’t dismiss the hard stuff but we’d also acknowledge the good.

last christmas we did this exercise at the refuge for our christmas stories series.  i thought i’d share it here again for those of you who didn’t see it or for those who are like me and always need reminding.

paradoxes jpg

maybe you can give me a christmas gift and share your paradox here.  they make me really happy to hear and give me hope for my life, too.

the two sets of paradoxes that describe where i’m at right now are chaotic & peaceful and brave & scared.  

love and hope this christmas. this space has been a gift to me, so thanks for being here.

i’ll see you next week. love, kathy

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ps: if you are new here, here are the other posts in this series.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • I’ll go “restored”and “messy” … Restoredandmessy … Thanks for reminding me there are things from the first column to acknowledge … I always look forward to what you will share with us next 🙂

  • My story right now is abundant and challenging, chaotic but contented. Merry Christmas to you, Kathy! I will miss seeing you at Convergence too, but will look forward to seeing you at another time and space. Much love.

  • Describing me right now in my journey: peaceful and unsettled, knowing yet wandering 🙂 Love this post, Kathy. Thank you for putting it in words so beautifully. I had a conversation with my kids this week about the truth shown in the phrase ‘life is suffering.’ Such paradox there, plus such paradox in the place I wind up when I come full circle in my heart and mind – that there is suffering, but God comforts

  • <— crazy brain over here on aisle 4. If I am being honest, which is I am guessing it is preferable, ha, my paradoxes are connected and lonely, and broken and whole. Grateful for the clarity that comes from these complex thoughts. Ha. 🙂


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