Hope For The Dark Days

This written exactly one year ago, and me…perhaps you too?….needing reminders that there is hope! We just rearranged our living area for spring and brought back up this chalkboard with words of life scrawled line by line out in the open where we can all see it clear as day.  And a gentle nudge from this friend to you to write your own? For you? For your brood? After all…we need a map to know where we are going.

They shout and rail against each other these three of the same seed. The “she did” and “he didn’t” hurl through the air and I wince as doors slam and feet stomp hard and all this before day has dawned. I pull covers tighter and hope beyond hope that it ceases before I have to be the one to crawl out of my cozy cocoon and halt it. How are we to live in peace when even flesh and blood tear each other word by word with actions louder than megaphones? This mother’s heart is laid clean open, fractured fragile, and I wonder what will be the glue to piece it back together. Another war of words begin and I join tit for tat because sometimes when you are hurting all you know to do is hurt back and I am in this moment that one I hoped to never be.  It’s there in all this broken jumbled mess, I run. Run from shame and failure and not getting it right day after day after day gone by. How does one go from stellar mom to stellar failure in one sure blow?

We muddle through the day…barely…and I chop vegetables and tears mix with meal prep and I am brought low for there is nothing like a day gone south to remind that in all this striving and struggling to be..to live…I cannot do this. My frail body can’t begin to muster the strength, the right living I need to teach my children how to love for I am failing at every turn drenched in selfishness and my own desire to not be inconvenienced by the needs of others.

I find myself whispering Romans…this book that has become like a dear friend of mine since lent…and there He cuts through to the heart of it all and I begin to feel life filling these veins again. There is hope and a promise that I can’t but HE can in me because I am in Him and He is making me…US…new! Husband comes in to the wafting smells of shepherds pie and I think how much we need our Shepherd right now.  These frazzled sheep needing someone to lead them to cool waters and green pastures, spreading a table in front of the enemy who would seek to destroy through lies and says instead have no fear for I have overcome so you can have victory here and now.

It’s then I grab chalk and write words that speak life to the dead, words that we can’t escape because they are forefront in the room visible to all where we break bread because God knows that if we don’t write it on the door posts of our home, if we don’t tie them to our hands or carry them with us we will forget and isn’t forgetting the first step to forfeiting peace? We must talk about them from the moment our feet hit the ground running for oatmeal to the last second we are kissing wearied brows before bed for these words are truth that pierces darkness and if we do not pause to renew the mind, it will whither dry.

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This brood of ours gathers solemn over dinner and we begin to read it together, this manifesto, our new family motto:

 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~Romans 12

Food fills the belly, chatter commences and hope is dawning in the heart of this Mom.

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Whisper of Hope

purple finch

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me. ~Emily Dickinson
“It” came again.  The thing of whispers and tears. Of scramblings to reschedule and stockpiling of beds with pillows and potion bottles of healing.
And then the bottom fell out.
Tears cried a river and all hope vanished while the sun set to rain. Cool towels soothed swollen eyes and the day ended a bleak lament.
And then it dawned.
And a quiet strength was found. Not one of warriors or heros, but one who’d faced a black hole and came out again.
And all of this was too amazing over coffee when out of the corner of her eye two purple finches perched on her third story window swelling their breasts to sing without a care in the world. Then off they flew into the sunrise.
These sweet messengers of hope and new tomorrows.
After breakfast coffee I open this from a friend:
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
And I think there just might be hope planted in the day for me.

Enlarged in the Waiting

MP900201793I can recall it nearly word for word snuggled up with little ones reading the pages and yet it still gets me every time. Perhaps because I feel I arrive in this place everyday in one way or the other. I close my eyes words spilling right out, the heart choking tears (and about this time the kids are all asking “mom WHY are you crying…again”):

“You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…

….for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.” ~Dr. Seuss

But is the Dr. really right? Is this place of waiting useless? Because if it is than someone please tell me what I am to do with the  hours..no years! spent here…not to mention the last week of waiting in doctor offices, waiting for labs, waiting for the medicine to kick in, waiting for the tears to leave, waiting for answers, waiting…waiting….waiting….

We gather for Sunday meeting hope nearly run out and the pastor has us turn to Romans and there slipped between the pages it is found. The answer for all this waiting…this hoping…this longing for something to come of the brokenness in and around because we are frail and fragile, torn and tattered in need of wholeness and healing.

“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, anymore than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us, but the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” Romans 8:22-25

Can anyone spell relief? There will be deliverance! It is coming and the more I am enlarged in this time of waiting the closer I arrive to the moment when all will be set right. When there will be answers. When all will make sense and I will see with mine own eyes purpose in the pain.  And for tonight, this moment when I’m wearied by the waiting, I’m going to hold on that He knows this state I’m in…He knows me far better than I’ll ever know myself….and is “making prayer out of our (my) wordless sighs, aching groans”.

Surrender is a beautiful thing. This waving of the white flag. This agreeing with God that He knows what He’s doing. I sigh…lift hands towards heaven asking that my life with all it’s crazy seasons…especially this season of waiting, would be counted as grace, pure lavish beautiful grace.

 

How To Say Thanks

How do you say thanks when your heart is bursting over? When a thousand gifts and more have made you drunk on life? When you know the pit of despair well enough to realize you’ve been rescued and freed from a prison holding you fast? When you’ve been given a new lease on life and it’s one you thought could never be yours? I’m talking years of living the same old same way. Struggling to subsist, unearthing, eeking out joy from the bottom barrel all the while flailing and failing and learning that if first you don’t succeed it’s ok to try again because mercies are new in the morning. And it all became so second fiddle that there were moments when by grace and the sovereign hand of God I was able to say yes…yes to it all and know that contentment is grown in the waiting. But this? Never in the million prayers and buckets of tears did I ever hope to arrive here to this glorious place of goodness and I am laid low. Humbled because I don’t deserve any of it and yet I have been lavished by countless graces and more. It’s the shower of blessings that this heart can’t contain so I gasp and ask to remember to breathe and the tears of joy flow because this journey’s been long and the end…for this leg…has arrived and I cannot contain it all. So I write it here on paper and in my soul because I know this too is a season and there will be trails of tears ahead and more suffering and sojourning through valleys to reach green pastures and I don’t want to forget, I don’t want to grow cold to all that has been given by the Greatest Giver of all gifts and most importantly I don’t want to miss Jesus.

I don’t know what season you are in or where you maybe headed friend but He does and I promise that there is hope because He is Hope; a light at the end of it all because He is the light of the world and He is leading the way. We may not understand His ways but He knows the way for us and he does all things well. I do know that the wisdom, patience, perseverance, compassion and courage we uncover along the way are all mined in the dark spaces of our lives and are priceless treasures to be cherished and held close…gems one can’t buy with all the gold in the world. They are what beautifies us because Jesus is beautiful and He works all for our good to make us like Him.

So for tonight I’ll dance a little lighter, cram in as many giggles and trysts and moonlight walks this body can hold and I’ll say thanks by living full, making the moments count for Him because that is all we really have…the right here, the now…TODAY.

Life, Philosophy and Candy Crush

Let me introduce to you my lovely husband David as guest post today. Lover of all things intellectual and always up for a good round of candy crush I love this man with all my heart.  This topic is something we have long discussed into the wee nights and bleary eyed over morning coffee so it touched me deeply to see these thoughts be set to pen. Enjoy and sojourn on!

The Candy Crush Chronicles

Life, Philosophy and Candy Crush

 

candy crush pic

When alas you are all out of Hope…

 Know Thyself.  There is no greater aphorism nor quest one could endeavor.  Socrates obsessed to this end and I in turn am left only with thoughts and musings on Candy Crush (now referred to as The Game, much of the way Thomas referred to Aristotle, The Philosopher). What can one learn through navigating its sweet waters?  I must confess, for me it started out as a simple (desperate) plea to escape the throws of life.  Actually I believe my wife first introduced it to me, “the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it (Gen. 3:6-7). Today one motto echoes through the halls of our home, “such is candy crush.”  A life lived fully is a life that has experienced the blows (or bombs) and the accolades (boasting one’s score across the world via Facebook) of The Game, for those prudent types this post may not be for you, you really won’t understand.

As this is my first reflection waxing eloquent on The Game I thought it appropriate to feature the element I most enjoy.  Without a doubt, The Game offers much more than people seem to realize.  It can if pondered long enough, account for what the Germans construct as a type of Weltanschauung (a lens to view the world). 

The Game could get downright ugly.  Throw equality out the window, (whoever programed these diabolical algorithms anyway) it is a fact of life that some get dealt a shoddy hand.  So we start off behind the eight ball trying to make the most of the situation and we endure, we persevere, we will not let it beat us (though it often does), we’re wearing thin, but we will carry on to the end and then it happens.  In the most unlikely of moments, it happens (did I mention I play for this).  The number of moves continues to tick away, much like stones under rushing water and we still have those jellies to contend.  Forget about the three stars, though it is much sweeter when it happens this way, I am on my last life, my last leg, last move, no room for error, back’s against the wall and it happens.  The light breaks through; I see clearly, I can breath again. “Sugar Crush” and all is well.  It didn’t have to end this way, many times it doesn’t (and I mean many) but it did. 

What astonishes me most is that it had nothing to do with my cleverness, stratagem, or charm, it just was.  Tolkien calls it “eucatastrophe” and it is an important lesson we must all learn.  When all hope fails, the Hope bringer trespasses into the story.  Have you seen this?  It happens quite often if you know how to see.  To the Greeks muthos (myth) was a true story, a story that unveils the true origin of the world and human beings.  We’ve got it all wrong when we try to dispel it.  Stories like Sleeping Beauty, Frodo and Sam, Edmund and Eustace really do happen.  But Tolkien says,  “The Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story — and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.”  The best part about the Fairy Tale is that we are living it.  Christ turned to Satan when all was lost, abducted his greatest weapon and stung him at high noon. We were not present, but we are the beneficiary’s. 

So when all is said and done there is Hope in this madness, there is a telos to life and this is something all great philosophers boast.  Though we are hurling towards an unavoidable collision course with Andromeda or dehydration as the sun’s luminosity grows, I propose a “eucatastrophe” will pluck us up long before, though I am unclear how this will happen, I imagine it will be dark and that we will be at our wits end.  Then he will break through, the rightful King (not to be mistaken for King Ltd., the manufacture of Candy Crush, though very ironic) shall return.  The Game may be quite aeviternal (has anyone managed to beat this endless game yet?), but so are we the Hope Filled.

By David Euans

The King is Here!

advent wreath

In the hustle and bustle, the maddening mayhem, the crisis of last minute lists, pause the soul to rest for the king is here! He’s come, this babe in a feeding trough whispering peace be still to every heart journeying near.  Weary? Downcast? All out of hope? Come to Bethlehem.  There is peace and joy, hope and this Christmas hymn sung through the ages lives on:

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing. O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!

Our King has come, not as one strong and mighty, but as a frail and fragile infant. He knows, He understands exactly where you are friend.  He has been there and the God who set the stars in space, spoke into existence light and living things becomes flesh for us. Bask in this gift.  We are loved, infinitely loved beyond what we can ask or think.  Believe in the One who saves, who offers His life for you and live, live in the Love sent so long ago.

Through Deep Waters

I wake to a waning full moon, dawn stealing the sky.  In all this awakening beauty the presence of I AM is whispered.  It would take a lion heart of courage to face the day with it’s unexpected spins and turns that whirl one startled and confused.  And then there’s Christmas and gifts, stockings to fill, cookies to finish and this heart of mine is faint from futile attempts to cross the list clean. Someone please tell me to breathe.

AND there’s the appointment with the doctor.  Everything’s a blur before noon…more tests, strange medical names, blood to be drained from this raw weary body and it’s then it all lets go.  This dam breaks and the tears fall and I enter the hospital chapel desperate for hope, for this journey’s been long and there is no end in sight anytime soon. There resting on a table is a journal filled with cries like mine. Peace to make it through the season, someone named Mike who is ill and needs healing, others who are hanging on by threads. I am not alone and sometimes there is no road around and you just have to go through. I think of the email received from friends experiencing a monsoon of trials asking “pray please” and the phone call from a dear friend not knowing how they can afford to take their sick ones to the doctor and her husband is still suffering silently in pain while another friend’s waiting to hear if cancer’s returned and this heart of mine can barely beat from all the ache in the world weighing it down.

Little ones fall ill and I’m nursing fevered brows all the while lighting every candle in the house in a feeble attempt to push back the darkness. It’s then it dawns on this thick head, this hard heart that has forgotten all she knew. There’s baby Jesus on the mantel stretching his hands up from the manger in the candle light reminding I AM the light of the world. The one promised to bring light to people living in great darkness has come, is here and in the problems that plague and trials that drain there is hope that even though we go through deep waters they will not overwhelm because the God who created, who formed, is with us. He is the great I AM for every situation, every circumstance. He was and is and will forever be, unchanging, always with us. Suddenly the red sea staring is small and He is big and I sigh, weights lifting, mercy near and lights, lights everywhere twinkling.

A Love Begotten

I can see it plain as day.  Me and my sisters pulling on Christmas plaid hand sewn by evening lights.  We drive out into the icy chill clutching coats and scarves close.  It’s as near as over the river and through the woods this dwelling people now call home.  Lights and trees twinkle in dark windows reminders of the season.  We stand before them wide eyed gaping at these fragile frail souls on the brink of eternity, souls with stories tucked away in minds that have frayed and we offer hope for what else can one bring to someone at the end of their days? The starting pitch lilts through the air and we break into song piercing the dark with light:

Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega;
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

Furrowed brows relax and lips move with us and my tendered heart brims over this bringing of Christmas hope and joy to the forgotten, forsaken.

O, that birth forever blessed
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bore the Savior of our race,
And the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed his sacred face,
Evermore and evermore!

The melodies build in full harmony as if all heaven joins us now, saints gone before, unite as one in song. And this chant that’s been breathed since the fifth century lives on.

O ye heights of heaven, adore Him.
Angel hosts, his praises sing.
Powers, dominions, bow before Him,
and extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent;
Every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore!

The evening ends we whisper goodbyes and Christmas cheer and wheel weary women and tired men down long hallways to their darkened rooms.  I can’t help but linger, one more hug, one more hand squeeze to the lonely the lost the lovely. And this heart is busting full for the world weeping and all I can bring is the babe in the manger.  The door closes, we walk out into a full moon night snow sparkling like little lights, lights that beam heavenward to the gift come down long ago.

Where to go when you’re all out of hope…

PictureRain woke the day.  Earth spilling its grief through misty fog.  The alarm sounds and I pull covers over my head.  Where do you go when all hope is spent? When you’re feeling as if you’re headed into a deficit? When this day will most likely be the same as the day before and the one before that? Yesterday little man and I unpacked the nativity.  It’s the set that’s traveled the years with us from newly wed to newly parent and everything between.  Carved from soapstone it’s unassuming small, far from fancy still a gentle reminder of what’s to come, of what came in that unsophisticated out of the way stable.  I reach in the basket finding Mary.  Stroking her simple frame I think of the journey ahead. The long back breaking miles on a less than comfortable ride in a body being stretched thick with child. Unknowns everywhere like minefields….like my life.  Questions that can’t be answered until you’ve arrived, gone through.  Anyone on a journey knows that hope is what keeps the weak strong, it’s what sings in the dark when there is no way clear.  It is the still voice that pushes you through the next dark shadow that whispers “I am with you even unto the end”. I think of the hope Mary had.  Waiting expectantly for God’s only son to arrive.  Knowing after hundreds and hundreds of years she was chosen for this.  We light the hope candle over dinner a reminder of her journey, our journey, to the manger.  Mary’s shadow streaming in the light following that slow winding road to the place where hope becomes reality.  In a time where we procure things nearly instantaneous to our desires we forget that hope grows in a place of waiting.  In the agonizing moments of our lives where we lay our wants down and wait for what God will do, hope shows up.  A hope that will not disappoint because his love is being poured out into our hearts. I glance over to the manger, this tiny babe lying among the straw with the sheep and the shepherds.  A lump catches in the throat. God promised and He came through.  After all the dark years of waiting, waiting for the promise of what was to come, hope carried, hope was alive.  Clean out of hope like me today? Come, let’s journey to the manger.  God, becoming man, living among us, with us.  He is here.  And somehow in the middle of pain and questions and weary hearts we find ourselves soaring on wings of eagles. Of believing that in this moment, in my journey, in yours…like Mary, we were chosen for this. We have a purpose, a destination. This is not the end. There is more, so much more to come.