Category Archives: Hope

Day 24: New Paint, New Start (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsWhen it came time to move last month, the whole process turned into a crazy whirlwind, the kind I’d hoped to avoid. In a very last minute turn of events, we ended up with a house that was not exactly what I hoped for. To be more precise, it was pretty ugly.

It’s an old home, and it needs a lot of updating. But it’s also a rental, so we don’t want to sink a lot of money into it. Still, we’re going to be here at least a year, so I’d rather not hate looking at it the entire time.

This weekend, my parents helped us buy paint, and then my dad spent his Saturday painting with us while my mom and brother kept the kids. (Can I mention here how grateful I am for my family? They’re the best!) While we still have a bit more to do, the contrast is already amazing. It’s fresh. It’s clean. Even though there are elements we won’t be able to do anything about while we’re here, I already feel so much more settled.

I hugged my dad tonight and told him tomorrow will be the first time in a month that I am excited to wake up in this house. Tomorrow, I’ll unpack my books and we’ll start putting things on the wall. Tomorrow, maybe this transition will start to feel less overwhelming and this place will start feeling more like home.

It seems crazy that something as simple as paint could make such a difference. I’m reminded that sometimes we complicate things. Maybe there is one simple step we need to take, just one, that can begin to shift things. Maybe the entire solution isn’t obvious in front of us, but one step could be enough to set the ball in motion.

What frustration have you been facing? Is there one thing you could do to push back and start the shift you are longing for?

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Change, Hope

Day 22: The Sound of Rain (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Milada Vigerova/Unsplash

Milada Vigerova/Unsplash

They said on the news something about it being 30 days or so since we’ve had rain. The dry, cracked ground and the browning grass bear witness to this.

So when the clouds started rolling in last night, it was hard to do anything beside peer up at the sky, waiting for the first drop. All through the day and into the evening, we waited.

And then it came, pouring down in a gentle cascade.

I realize then how my soul also bears witness to the dryness, to the immense thirst. I realize because of the relief that floods through my core as I stand at the window, now spattered with drops.

Sometimes I am so thirsty. I am waiting for heaven to pour out so I can open wide and drink deep. I want to gulp in the substance that will sustain life in me. I am staring at the sky.

The sound of rain is the whisper of hope that, just as the rains come in season, so my heart will be flooded with what it needs, at exactly the right time.

Now, the rain falls. Now, my heart waits. And hopes.

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Day 18: Holding Hope (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Image: Autumn Mott/Unsplash

Image: Autumn Mott/Unsplash

Tonight, my words are few.

I’m aching and weary in my body from sleeping in a tent all weekend. I’m aching and weary in my soul from allowing myself a little bit of space and time to feel the magnitude of loss and uncertainty stirred up by our recent transition.

But I’m also reminded that my word for this year is redemption. All things new. And sometimes in order for all things to be made new, some things have to die. Isn’t that the lesson the seasons teach us? Isn’t autumn about the beauty of releasing the dead things, to lay down the burden in preparation for deep rest and new life?

So tonight, I offer you the words I am whispering to myself: Choose hope. Even in the dark, even in the land of question marks, choose hope. And keep your eyes open for redemption.

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Change, Hope

Day 14: Dreams Matter (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Image Source: Unsplash

Image Source: Unsplash

This morning, these words arrested my attention:

“May He grant the dreams of your heart and see your plans through to the end.” (Psalm 20:4)

It’s a beautiful prayer, and I sat with it awhile, breathing it in and out, letting it unfold in my heart.

And I realized that sometimes I’m not sure if my dreams matter if they don’t seem spiritual enough or selfless enough. Would God grant the quiet dreams, the ones tucked away for only me, or the ones that maybe wouldn’t change the whole world but might change my world? Do those dreams matter too? Or do all my dreams have to be big, kingdom dreams?

I’m not suggesting that God is some kind of wish-granting genie. But as I let the verse soak into my soul this morning, I felt wrapped in a whisper from the Spirit that said, “All your dreams matter, Adela. Big and small. Simple and profound. All of them.” 

And the thing is, if I know my dreams matter to Him and I know that I matter to Him, it becomes a lot easier to trust Him with the outcome for all of it. Because it all matters to Him.

So, friend—what dream have you been afraid might be too silly or too small to dream? Go on and dream it. It matters.

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Hope

Day 5: Trusting (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsIt was one of those mornings where you stumble over your prayers a bit until God lovingly, but firmly, puts His finger right on the tender spot you were trying to avoid and then the dam bursts.

Of the many emotions coloring our family’s recent move, this one is intense—the concern for my children to find the place where they belong. For so many years, I worried about them every single Sunday when I took them to their classes at church, not a moment’s peace as I juggled my responsibilities at our church plant. It wasn’t anything that anyone did wrong, just the nature of something that is fledgling and continually changing as it tries to establish itself.

And then the worries intensified as I realized I had unwittingly done the one thing I most never wanted to do—sacrificed my children on the altar of ministry—and I suddenly saw it takes it toll on them. The guilt was enormous. Occasionally, it still is.

My son especially struggled. And when we landed in a new church, my heart broke over his anxiety. But something happened in that place, as the children’s workers so lovingly and patiently poured their hearts out into my babies. Over the course of a year, both of my children went through a transformation. They became sure of themselves, secure in their place, hearts unfolding before God. It was amazing.

So it broke my heart to take that away from them when we moved. And the weight is heavy. Where will we go where they will feel so loved, so safe, so secure again? They ask, and I don’t have an answer right now.

Thus the very raw, very tender spot God put His finger on today. I wept. But the thing is, over a year ago, when I didn’t know exactly what to do to help my children’s hearts, God knew, and He sent exactly what they needed. And He knows what they need now. He knows what we all need now.

Change can be terrifying.  I spoke with a friend today, and he said, “Even if you know it was a good move, it is still a transition, and it feels like a death.” Hope and grief can exist side by side. Some things die, so other ones can live. But there’s not a limit to how many answered prayers we get. We don’t even have to know exactly what to ask for in order to get exactly the answer we need.

I feel more tears coming, weighted with all the uncertainty, but I trust this—God came through before. He will come through again. Meanwhile, wait and hope.

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Change, Family, Hope

What the Hope of Gilbert Meant

anne.gilbertIt seems that a lot of beloved celebrities have left the world in the last several months to a year. Maybe it’s more than usual, or maybe it’s just that many of them now are associated with my own childhood or other significant memories and so I feel it more.

I probably don’t have to tell you (but I will) that something is distinctly different about Jonathan Crombie’s death. Of course, in my practical mind, I know he is a very real, flesh and blood person—someone’s son and sister and friend, and all those people are grieving him as such. But for millions more of us, Gilbert Blythe is dead, and this strikes us in a deep place that is hard to articulate.

More than one woman I know has tried—very unsuccessfully—to explain to a husband or significant other or just any male in general why this is a loss. I know my own husband has given me more than one “are-you-kididing-me” look since I heard the news. And I almost feel silly. Why did I actually cry over this? Is this like weeping through Titanic and Rose’s heartbreak as she pushes Jack’s body off the frozen iceberg? Is this like watching The Notebook? Is this chick-flick madness run amuck?

I’m going to have to say no. There’s a reason—a far better reason than a beloved book or excellent onscreen portrayal of a character. Gilbert Blythe is so much more than the heartthrob male lead in a love story. I mean, of course, he was perfect. His boyish grin that stayed with him from the schoolyard days when he had that unruly mop of curls all the way until he was a distinguished medical student—sigh. He was handsome and smart and charming. Even when he called Anne “carrots,” we were already falling for him.

When he clapped like a goofball after her performance at White Sands. When he gave up the Avonlea school so Anne could stay with Marilla. When he was heartbroken after Anne rejected his proposal and told her he knew she’d marry some fool who’d sit and read her Tennyson by firelight and he hoped he’d break her heart, whoever he was. Heck, even when he was at death’s door because of scarlet fever and revealed he’d broken off the engagement with Christine because there’d never be anyone else for him besides Anne—he was perfect.

But there’s still more. Gilbert Blythe meant something to so many of us as young girls because he sent a message through his unyielding love for Anne that countered practically every other message we receive as women every day of our lives.

Gilbert was hope.

Hope that smart actually was better than pretty (or at least as good as, because come on, Anne was lovely). Hope that we could be smarter than a man and instead of being threatened by us, he would celebrate us. Hope that we could have days when we were at our worst, days that could possibly include smashing slates over his head or knocking him over with our basket of flowers, and he would still want us. Hope that our pasts did not define us. Hope that it was really ok to not be like the other girls. Hope that it was ok to crave both romance and something more. Hope that ambition in a woman was not unattractive. Hope that we really could give a dramatic performance or write a book (or any other creative endeavor), even if no one around us ever aspired to such things. Hope that if our imaginations got the better of us and we ended up in some bizarre scrape (like hanging onto a bridge for dear life because our little skiff sprung a leak), he might tease us a little, but at least he would bail us out.

The fact that a man like Gilbert might love a woman like Anne meant that maybe we actually were not too much. This was perhaps the biggest hope of all—that with all of our fiery emotions (and possibly bad tempers) and lofty ideals and propensity for mischief and artistic bent and flair for the dramatic and tendency to make mistakes because we were so outspoken, maybe we were not more than a man could handle. Maybe we were just right, exactly as we were.

No wonder a fictional character managed to be the first true love of so many young girls. Maybe it was silly. Or maybe it was exactly what we needed to keep us from losing heart.

10514541_804042912973190_2247408792594572404_nAnd when I look at the man I’ve married—well, perhaps he’s not quite so eloquent and refined as Gilbert. But goodness, he has always embraced all of me—the good, the bad and the crazy. He champions me. He cheers me on when I chase my ambitions. He laughs at my dramatics . . . and occasionally gets a little dramatic himself. He picked me because I wasn’t like all the other girls. He’s not threatened by my strengths. He’s my safe place.

Like Anne, it took me a little bit to find him because I went looking for my ideals outside myself too. But even there is another gift Gilbert gave us—the hope that if it took a long journey to find ourselves, we would eventually find our way home, find our way to the love we’d always needed.

I don’t know if this will help our men look any less bewildered as we cry over a fictional character, but pondering the significance of this beloved character and how he actually shaped me has helped me to understand my own heart a little better and to appreciate my husband a lot more. And I’ll take both of those things any day.

So, rest in peace, Jonathan Crombie. And thank you, thank you for immortalizing the reminder of what kind of love we could hope for and giving us courage to be true to the women Anne inspired us to be.

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Filed under Creativity, Hope, Love, Marriage

Questions That Break My Heart (Hard Conversations with My Kids)

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I was coming down the stairs this morning, a load of laundry in my arms, when I heard my daughter’s excited voice.

“Look, Mom! Our friends are outside playing! Why aren’t they at school?”

With the day’s to-do list scrolling through my head, I was about to murmur a casual “I don’t know” when I remembered going over my calendar before the kids were up. “Oh, it’s a holiday. They don’t have school today because it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. day.”

And even as I kept walking to the laundry room, I heard her little voice again. “Who’s that? Why does he get a holiday?”

I felt the gravity of the moment suddenly demand a pause in the morning. I set the laundry basket down and went into the living room to look at my precious daughter and my precious son, who had stopped playing to come listen. Kids have the uncanniest sense about when something matters.

For just a few moments, I did my best to explain MLK’s legacy to their very tender 5- and 3-year old hearts. We talked about racism and segregation and laws that said certain individuals didn’t even count as an entire human being. We talked about separate schools and separate bathrooms and hate and fear. We talked about a man speaking up and literally laying his life down because this was so important.

I looked at those wide-eyes, and I knew what they were thinking of. Who they were thinking of. Their favorite friend from our former church. The next-door neighbor girl. The three little girls who live behind us who told my daughter she was the first friend they’d made in the neighborhood. (Never mind that none of them seem to be able to remember each other’s names. They just yell, “Hi, friends!” whenever they see each other.)

When I paused in my explanations, my daughter said very emphatically, “That makes no sense. God makes people in all colors. And besides, we’re supposed to treat others how we want to be treated.”

She was so matter of fact, so simple in her understanding of the situation. And unlike other hard things I’ve had to explain to her, where I end up saying, “It’s just complicated. There’s not always an easy answer,” this feels different. It shouldn’t be complicated. It really shouldn’t. I mean, at this point, dismantling the systems and prejudices and hundreds of years of tensions—well, ok, these are daunting undertakings. But they shouldn’t be.

I’ve never been able to wrap my head even a little bit around the concept of racism. I think we all have to work to overcome various biases and prejudices, get over our fear of differences; these are aspects of flawed humanity that are common to all of us. But to actually consider someone less than—less valuable, less worthy, less human—over skin color or accents or different homeland? I can’t make sense of it.

Then she asked the question, the one that shattered me: “But this doesn’t happen anymore, does it? Since the law was changed?”

And I have to look into those innocent, hopeful, compassionate faces and say, “Yes, it still happens.”

I don’t dismiss the progress. I don’t dismiss the years of efforts, the laws changed, the reconciliation fought for. But I see my own thoughts and frustrations mirrored in their little eyes: mere progress doesn’t seem like enough when people’s value and humanity are on the line.

I became painfully aware of my own lack of knowledge and understanding of this issue, even of MLK’s incredible legacy, as I talked with my children. I realize I have a lot more research and learning and listening to do. I want to know more so that I can do more.

Our conversation finally dwindled down, but as my daughter walked away, she said with all the sass and stubbornness she could muster (which, in this girl, is quite a bit), “Well, I’m just going to love everybody” and did her little “so there” flip of the head.

Well then, sweet girl, you’re miles ahead of so much of the world already. And I think that’s an excellent starting point.

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Filed under Change, Hope, Justice

All Things New (#OneWord365)

Image by Chris Sardegna/Unsplash.com

Image by Chris Sardegna/Unsplash.com

Back in November, as I stared at the disappointing rubble of 2014 and felt mounting dread for what the final months might throw our way, everything in me wanted to disappear into a dark hole somewhere. My heart was weary and spent, my fight all used up.

But even as the taunting shadows seemed to inch ever closer, I heard the rumblings of an eternal Voice whispering to the deepest place in my spirit: Hope. Choose hope.

I raged against these words. Several years in a row, I have mustered hope for a new year. Several years in a row, I have watched that hope dashed. I did not think I had the energy for another round of that cruel game.

Still. Every time I turned around, the challenge seemed to be coming at me from all sides: Hope. Choose hope.

I grudgingly began to consider that “hope” just might be my one word for 2015. I didn’t really want it, but I know how it goes—you don’t really choose the word as much as it chooses you. Maybe hope was choosing me. And I began to try to lay down the lenses of disappointment that were tainting the image of everything I could see; I tried to see differently.

It was subtle at first, and then undeniable—a shift started taking place. First, my heart started softening. Then circumstances started changing. Surprises. New friendship. A raise. Unexpected bonuses. Clarity. Rest. I hadn’t even fully embraced hope, but it seemed as if maybe it wasn’t going to be quite as hard as I thought.

Until I heard God speak more clearly than I have heard anything in awhile: I want you to do more than hope, Adela. I want you to believe Me for redemption.

Redemption. This is a loaded word: rescue, deliverance, atoning for faults, buying back or receiving back something that was sold or lost. This is restoration. This is things that were meant for evil being turned around for good. This is all things new.

(And I thought choosing hope was going to be hard.)

As this settled in my spirit, I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. And hopeful. So, so hopeful.

Because in my bones, I do believe God can do this. (If I don’t, I’d best pick a different faith to profess.) I don’t know how He will do it, and like many other things, I imagine it won’t end up looking like I thought it would. But still, I believe He can do it.

Redeem and restore.

I am writing this post from my daughter’s hospital room as she recovers from surgery. The irony of this moment is not lost on me—believing for redemption even in the place where I’ve faced one of my biggest struggles with God. But I see His promises hovering over her, and I feel His whispers echoing around us. Here in this place, the word that has swirled around in my heart for the last few weeks finally settles and takes root.

Redemption. I choose to declare redemption over this year. I choose to hope for all things new.

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Filed under Change, Faith, Hope

The Tension of Advent

Image Source: CreationSwap

Image Source: CreationSwap

There is a soft, steady rain falling. It announced its arrival this afternoon with one dramatic rumble of thunder, I think just making sure it had my attention. And then it proceeded to carry on its melancholy serenade.

I look through the rivulets running down the window, the blurred sparkle of our Christmas lights giving the raindrops their own moment of brilliance up against the ever darkening shadows as daylight slowly takes its leave.

This is Advent for me. The gloom side by side with the glow. The heaviness mingled with the stillness. The momentary tension between breathing in and breathing out, letting go. The waiting and listening.

Sometimes the melancholy is stronger. The world breaks at the seams. Hateful words and hateful acts and how can we as humanity be so wretched to each other sometimes?

And sometimes hope is stronger. The world surprises with its wonders. Encouraging words and selfless acts and how can this wretched humanity be so beautiful sometimes?

I used to feel that I had to give in to one or the other, to choose. If I chose hope, was I ignoring the broken hearts? If I chose melancholy, was I discounting the power of redemption?

But I know better now. This is the tension we live with, so often experiencing beauty and pain in the same moments. This is the tension of waiting–the beautiful hope of a promise to be fulfilled and the despair of waiting for a promise that seems it will never be fulfilled.

I think this is why creation groans, bowing under the weight of all the glory and all the misery and all the unknown, waiting for light to dispel the darkness once and for all.

Meanwhile, I choose to see. I see the dreariness, but I also see the wonder. They sit together in the window. They sit together in me. So I light the candles and remind myself of His promise to come and make things right–in the world and in me.

The rain falls. The light dances. And I wait.

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Filed under Beauty, Hope

The Act of Choosing Every Day

We have spent the last few days celebrating seven years of marriage. Seven! We enjoyed a much needed, relaxing, kid-free weekend (hallelujah!), and then yesterday–the official day–we let the kids in on the fun of celebrating with us.

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Anniversaries of any kind invite so much reflection, and this has been no exception. My heart is full as I realize the strength and gift of what we have. I would by no means claim to be an expert, but I think I have realized one very important truth for building a healthy marriage: you have the opportunity every single day to choose each other all over again, to turn towards each other even when you’d rather turn away.

I always wondered how people could say they had just drifted apart. How does that happen? How do years go by and suddenly there is nothing where there was once a loving relationship? And I think it has something to do with this choosing.

Our responses and interactions with each other in the flurry of ordinary, every day living either add a brick towards forming a wall between us or they bring us a step closer into deeper connection with each other. It is not enough to choose each other as a spouse and have a pretty ceremony and say our vows. We have to go on choosing each other every single day.

When I don’t take him granted and I express my appreciation for all the little ways he helps carry the load, I am choosing him.

When he hurts or disappoints me and rather than attacking him, I express myself with humility and grace, I am choosing him.

When I hurt or disappoint him and I swallow my pride to say I’m sorry and make it right, I am choosing him.

When I recognize he is weary and stressed and I say, “Hey, why don’t you go for a run?,” I am choosing him.

Again and again, countless ways, I can move closer to his heart or I can step away.

We haven’t always gotten this right. There have been seasons when poor communication or overwhelming circumstances were allowed to build a wall between us, and it was tremendous work to tear that thing down. And I can see how something like that could grow insurmountable to where it seems completely hopeless. Those chasms can get harder and harder to cross.

But in the opposite vein, even when vulnerability and humility seemed the painful option, I have never ever regretted choosing that path. It becomes easier to choose that step now rather than deal with the wall later.

And with this understanding, I have a renewed passion for the next season of our marriage, a renewed commitment to being even more intentional about choosing this amazing man all over again, every single day. There are so many ways we can still say, “I do,” and I am looking forward to finding them.

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