I’ve been thinking about hope all week. What gives us hope? What does it look like in my daily, house-cleaning, school-drop-off, dinner-making-ish, life? What is hope in my home with my girls, with my husband, or with my parents, my brother, my in-laws?
What does hope look like to my friends–dear, dear women who keep showing up for me and keep making me laugh and keep being extra love for my kids.
What does hope look like at church-that weird mix of people, some who you deeply love and some, or most, you barely know and, potentially, some you wish you didn’t have to know.
Where is hope at your kid’s school, at the grocery store, in the 3 year old’s gymnastics class viewing area.
What does hope look like when we are listening to the news, or scrolling our facebook feeds, wondering where the world we grew up in, and were excited for, went?
What words can hope possibly have to say when we are constantly up in arms, taking up arms, firing and firing over and over, constantly filled with fear and worry?
What word does hope possibly have to say when we are alone, exhausted, numb, bored, terrified, looking for the next big thing to captivate us, finding ourselves, much to our own unheeded horror hurting people out of our own fear and stress? Broken, cracked, misaligned, sawn off from any source of life.
And finally, where is hope, what does it say, what does it look like when we turn to it, when we ask for it, when we begin to uncover it, recover it, receive it, turn our faces towards it?
What finally stands before us when we open our hands a bit and are standing in that bit of winter sun?
A Thrill of Hope. Not sure if there is a better way to put it than that.
Earlier this fall, I was worried about my oldest daughter. I stood outside her school after dropping her off, hoping and despairing a bit for her. Tears were close to the surface. Another mom I didn’t know very well said “Hi, how are you?” And I couldn’t quite hide the tears at that moment, much to my embarrassment. She responded kindly and then she said, “Do you want to come over for coffee? Right now?” And I very much did in that moment. And we had a lovely, impromptu coffee, conversation with our littlest girls playing happily. I left her house to walk back to our car and was filled with…. A flash of hope, I think. A thrill of hope. It was a broad, expanding feeling. I looked at the sky and saw the yellow blueness that is Alberta’s sky. I saw the trees reaching up, intersecting the bands of clouds that stretch over the mountains. And I had this picture in my head of the earth being made of a fabric that was being woven around the houses, the trees, the streetlights, the buildings, the cars. Everything we are, have, and make was being woven together, layer after layer – like an earth size knitting-bomb. And I saw that what was actually happening that morning, when one mom asked a close-to-tears mom over for coffee, was another thread being fit into place, weaving the fabric of the world together, adding another layer to the firmament that holds it all together. In that moment of connection, us two, two relative strangers, two different women with different experiences, different knowledge and ways of being in the world, made space in our own selves for the other. And while there was a good chance we would get along, have some common interests, we were a bit brave I think. And we made more of the world, made it good and made it strong – for us and for our children, just by connecting and trying and not being afraid.
In a vulnerable space, raw from the intensity and helplessness that seem to be a lot of parenting, I saw hope. It was that moment that enters us and makes us feel loved, seen and that keeps us remembering that even now and in the final moment, the earth and its creatures will be held. Hope made the world. Hope for connection , for communion. Hope keeps the world, keeps holding up our place in the world. Hope hopes for who we truly are.
LM.Montgomery, in Emily of New Moon, perfectly calls this The Flash. Its that moment when something just catches you. When you see something or know something and somehow the curtain of what the world really is is pulled back and you are inspired and look forward to what really could be and what already is – you get a flash of Hope into the most true story. Emily Starr was always looking for the flash and paying attention to when it appeared. Especially when things seemed very dark, when she saw it, she knew she could keep going.
The flash is all around us. Where do you see the flash? Pay attention to the flash. Write it down. Read your story for the flash. And look for the Author. You might not find him where you thought you would, but you will definitely find him exactly where you are.
—I wrote that, the above, this morning—
I sit in the dark at the end of a heavy day. I cried on the way to school because of what I was hearing on the news. I do not know how we will claw back from this slide into a big, big war. Especially when no one seems to care. Especially when people are cheering at the thought of killing other people. I am gutted.
And now, I ask you, Hope, where are you? What do you take us for? What are you requiring of us? All of us, in these times.
I got nothing…except for maybe this. That it is never…..never the big answer from the big power that solves anything, that changes anything. True hope and true love can’t be legislated into existence. Love, trust, and even hope, happen in the minuscule, the small, the daily, the real relationship you have right now.
I heard an interview with a scholar who had spent his whole life studying evil and war and what leads to humans doing these horrors and he was asked the question: So what is the solution? How can we change this? And his answer was this: To go home and be the best parent you can be. To work on knowing and relating well, with love, with compassion, with empathy for others and to teach your children to do the same. Doing all the right things without love and compassion in your home, in your closest company, and in your actions towards your neighbors and the strangers around you, will not actually change the world. But Loving someone well, will. It will change us. Being loved changes us and changes the world.
And that’s what we preach….or what we should preach. That’s where the flash is-right at home, right where you are right now– Where it might be hardest to see, but where it pulls back the curtain the most.
And that’s where the hope is for me tonight. The fabric and the flash are still there-still holding out hope, and they are truly there in our everyday choice to love. They hit us and enlarge us to see new possibilities we didn’t know were there and they pull back the curtain on how things truly are. I don’t know how to fight the terrorists or the Trumps. A war of words on the internet is not going to do it.
But loving my kids in their awful learning how to be a human, loving my husband in his exhaustion, loving myself in my crackedness and inability…..and knowing that all of us are LOVED by the Creator who made a good world, enters that good world and brings that good world back to himself over and over and over. This is no small thing and yet maybe it finds its true power in the small, the ordinary, the often overlooked – the fabric and the flash are closer than you think. This is the story of the world and the hope I (have to and desperately want to) choose to live in.
No word of a lie, my littlest just came down….an hour after she was supposed to be asleep. And she said she was afraid. And I brought her onto my lap, held her like a (really huge) baby and said, “ I feel afraid too. What do you think we should do when we are afraid?” (thinking she would say something like, “eat a cookie “ or “Watch Paw Patrol!” ) But she said, “Um….we could….um….love eachother?”
Huh…..another big, big breath.
—–I wrote the above two days ago—-
I got a call on Friday afternoon. My parents were in Emergency. My mom’s lungs were filling up with fluid and she needed to get them drained. She had been fighting a nasty virus for about 6 weeks and she had to get them drained a couple weeks ago. So this was not entirely unexpected and almost a relief—just get it done and get it out and hopefully get better. My parents said they were fine. Just tired and bored. No, I didn’t need to bring them dinner, they had eaten.
At 830pm I got another call. From my dad. He said, “Its not good. Its not good news.” They had the results back from the earlier tests. There was cancer markers in the fluid. Maybe colon cancer. They were referring her to a cancer doctor. Its not good news. My dad cried. That was the worst part. Knowing my dad was in pain and afraid because my mom was in pain and was afraid. There is no way to downplay something when your dad is crying.
She stayed in the hospital all night. Lots of texts and calls to figure out what to do with the dog. How was it all going to work. Was mom going to be ok at the hospital all night, she needed earplugs. I scrolled through pinterest and watched an hour of Netflix. I was numb. And then all of a sudden, I cried . A lot. Not even about what could be the end of this story but because of the hard, hard road they will have to walk down in the next months. So much poking and prodding and bodies just miserable. So much juggling emotions and responsibilities and trying to be strong.
I got a call the next morning. More bad news. The CT scan showed tumors in the lungs. Not operable. Chemo. A permanent shunt in her lungs to drain the fluid that keeps on coming. Tom Baker next week. More answers then. A treatment plan by the end of the week.
What is hope looking like today?
Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, hope looks like it did that day with the school mom who reached out. It looks like my friends’ and family’s texts, emails and calls, saying just right things, or even just enough things. It looks like my parents’ life long friends praying together in a living room – 30 years of friendship praying for someone is extra potent, I would think. It looks like the weird coincidence of my brother’s new girlfriend transferring to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre three weeks earlier. She knows the doctors, she knows the treatments, she knows the system. Amazing.
Hope looks like people, carving out space within themselves for us, hoping for us, for our family and weaving another layer of what is true and good onto this world.
Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, hope is also looking like the ordinary stuff being caught in the flash of what is really real. Grocery shopping calmed me down and I was grateful for a bank account and produce. Brushing my girls hair grounded me and I saw them as good little creations. Hugging my mom and drinking tea calmed us all down. Walks in the sun on a frosty morning shine hope into us. Dinner together with my brother and trying to have a conversation amidst the insane levels of noise my two sweet babies make. Normal, daily things that are life and affirm that we do, in fact, live a good one are seen with that flash of insight, that curtain pulled back, and we see them for the beauty and incredible abundance of what they are.
Big and heavy days lay ahead. We all know that. I know that I don’t even have any idea, not even a clue, of how actually hard it will be. My mom feels held. She feels clear. Today, anyway. Isn’t that crazy? I don’t feel heavy. I am not worried. Today, anyway. Isn’t that crazy?
The girls don’t know much of the details of what’s going on but my 6 year old told me that it was ok that Christmas was going to be not as big this year (ha – it was going to be lean anyways!) She said she would just like to have dinner together and we could just wrap an old toy she barely remembered. My 3 year old told me to pray for Grandma (among her usual prayers for her best friends and upcoming dreams) tonight. When I was done, she asked if God could hear the prayer. I said yes. She said, Good.
I think of that verse about hope being the evidence of things not seen. That we still have hope in the face of the shatteredness of this world…..that is an incredible thing. Despite all the words I have just used, there is probably no way to get to the bottom of what and how Hope is. Maybe only in pictures, and then only a little bit. Its part of the mystery of God.
But I only have to open my eyes and I see the pictures, see where the pieces of this hope have been lain out. The evidence is in piles all around me….it seems. Pieces of fabric, flashes of light, people and their always renewing hearts, this earth and its always renewing life. All around me. All around you.