Suite d’espoir, Winter 1

I’ve been thinking a lot about HOPE this year. For obvious personal reasons and for shared national and global ones. Turning the word over again and again, a question emerged—how is HOPE different from trust? Is HOPE just trust with a dose of optimism thrown in for good measure? 

Sitting with these two words I realize my trust structure tells me God is at work in my life and in the world whether I see the effects of it or not. 

But sometimes my hope gets a little shaky, like when it appears everyone except me is having their turn at the bird feeder and I’m left all alone sticking out like a bright red cardinal. Those are the times when assuming a scarcity mentality seems far more tempting than remembering whose hand always provides for my needs. 

But what if I embraced a HOPE that was wilder and far more expansive than trust? What if HOPE became for me – and for you – the holy possibility that God will do immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine? Not just provision for the basics, but a feast where least expected and yet most needed.

I awoke today stewing over the same thing that has gnawed at me for a few days now. It plays like a soundtrack in my head, refusing to be silenced. Sometimes it’s posed as a question, other times as a complaint, but it always stems from worry or fear, longing or unmet desire.

Can you relate to this type of early morning rude awakening?

This morning, instead of trying to quickly tamp it down, I sensed an invitation to notice. And to listen. I noticed this soundtrack always pulls me away from HOPE, which means it’s turning my face away from God. And then I listened to the question rising from deep within—What if that thing waking me up at night isn’t the central issue? What if it points to a truer desire buried deeper within?  

Could the soundtrack actually be a lamp to illuminate a desire God longs to meet if I would only release it to him? 

How are you doing today, eleven months into pandemic living? Are you feeling a little battered and bruised either from the current battle or perhaps from a long-ago season of suffering that has left scar tissue in all the secret places?

I too have known the reality of long uninterrupted pruning seasons where the stability I once knew and took for granted was twisted & turned upside down. I was sure I would break in two from the pressure of the pruning and would never know a verdant life again. 

Consider the orchid. You see only stately beauty and grace. I can see—in the hidden places—the scar that remains from the day one entire branch fell, overwhelmed by the weight it carried. 

What can withstand that kind of wound? Do you know that kind of weight?

Surely the flowers will fade one by one, I reasoned, releasing all their spent petals to the tabletop below. And yet, months later, while I can still see the scar on the bent and twisted branch, I also see vibrant, ongoing, beautiful life. 

We are bent and bruised, but not broken. We have suffered and known wounding, but we live in enduring HOPE.

First-time sightings of God’s creative handiwork fill me with holy wonder, inviting me to pause and notice.  

They don’t have to be grand and sweeping, like The Canyon or Mount Everest. The noticing is often in the smallest of details. 

The arrival of a new feathered friend at the feeder during this past week of snowstorms arrested my attention. The whole world lay cocooned in stillness, the gift of a hushed snowy day. And in the stillness, a soft landing from the most majestic wild creature, full of dazzling dashes of color. The northern flicker’s top coat is extraordinary enough, but the greatest surprise lies tucked in his under-feathers. Arrayed in bright yellow, they are only visible when in motion, flashing bright yellow as a great pair of Louboutin heels flash red. 

The teachings of Ignatius of Loyola fly off the page, stirring my soul. All is gift. All is grace. Even sheltering at home offers gifts. Even disrupted days and interrupted schedules offer grace when we open our eyes to watch and see. I don’t know if the gift of this majestic bird’s presence will outlast my blanket of freshly fallen snow, but I do know there will always be grace enough for me. 


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