Hope sparks the season

If I’m honest, I used to dread the dark days of December.

The bitter cold, disappearing daylight, distracted drivers, crowded stores, finances stretched thin. It all was enough to make me want to hole up and hibernate until the holidays passed.

I know I’m not the only one who has experienced anxiety at the thought of having to balance holiday events and meaningful festivities with everyday workloads and neverending to-do lists. Several years ago I found solace in starting to more intentionally observe the season of Advent. Not only has this practice made the month more bearable, but it has opened my eyes wide to all the beauty and mystery this time of year offers.

The first Sunday of Advent was this past weekend, and our family welcomed its arrival by talking about one of the season’s themes – hope. Some dictionaries define hope as “a desire for a certain thing to happen” or “a feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.”

But I believe hope is much grander than words can express. It is the theme of memorable speeches and a deeply-motivating story line in literature and music and art. It’s the intangible asset that sparks movements and inspires progress in our society.

For me, hope is an internal belief in myself as well as a Higher Power. It’s the glue that cements intentional work with a healthy anticipation of the results. It’s an aspect of faith that I have the opportunity to choose, every day, whether or not to embrace.

Since words are my thing, part of my Advent routine is reading from a book of collected essays called Watch For the Light. In one of the pieces, “Waiting for God,” Henri Nouwen writes about how we must hold hope loosely and relinquish control over how things turn out. 

“Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises, and not just according to our wishes,” Nouwen wrote. “Therefore, hope is always open-ended.”

Last Sunday, after we read Scripture and lit the first candle of Advent, family members were offered a paper ornament to write down their hopes to hang on a miniature Christmas tree in our kitchen. Our collective hopes included adopting a dog from a special-needs rescue, healing from cancer for a relative, and a vacation to Hawaii. When the lights are out in the house and all around seems dark, the tiny tree shines bright and illuminates our hopes.

I wanted this activity to be a reminder of the power of hope as well as the posture of being flexible when life doesn’t turn out as planned. My wish is that this small tree will  serve as a visual of the the ongoing hope we have in our Good Father.

I’m slowly beginning to embrace the days leading up to the holidays. Slowing down and allowing breathing space for Advent has certainly helped. And training my heart to look for hope has helped me focus on the Light that shines all around.

In these dim days as we press on toward the end of the year, it seems fitting to end with words from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott:

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

What’s Saving My Life This Summer [Part 2]

“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.”
– Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle: A Memoir

Between the resuming of jobs, back-to-school activities, and two family birthdays in September, summer break seems to be a distant memory. It was time well-spent with family, as well as days engrossed in memoirs and middle school literature, historical fiction and religious texts. I didn’t set out to read books along one particular idea this past season, but it seemed as if an overarching theme tied them together: understanding. Continue reading “What’s Saving My Life This Summer [Part 2]”

What’s saving my life this summer [Part 1]

Awwww, summer.

Long, leisurely days of plentiful sunshine, sweet tea, flip flops and afternoon naps.

Until last week. That’s when a haze took over the area due to multiple wildfires in our region. Smoky skies (and the dangerous air quality) forced most of us living in the Pacific Northwest inside the past few days.

For me, that’s meant more time to read, watch movies with the family and catch up on podcasts. The topic of “What’s Saving My Life” was discussed during one of these podcasts. And then a book I finished also mentioned this idea. It seemed to be no coincidence. Continue reading “What’s saving my life this summer [Part 1]”

A purposeful patchwork

This month I received an incredibly special gift, a quilt created by my 14-year-old daughter. I knew it was coming as Rachel and I picked out the fabric together, giving careful attention to color, style and texture. She provided me with weekly updates–from cutting to stitching to tying–during her school quilting class. There was literal blood (being stabbed by needles), sweat (meeting a deadline right before spring break ended) and tears (cutting fabric the wrong size) involved in the process.

When I was presented with this gift, Rachel was quick to point out that the end product was not perfect. But knowing the steps she went through to get it to this state made it even more meaningful. Continue reading “A purposeful patchwork”

Listening

For nearly 13 years, I’ve had in my possession a particular rock. Faded letters are written in silver on the smooth, gray surface – they spell the word, “Listen.”

Since receiving it at a conference years ago, the oval-shaped stone has traveled in my purse, sat on the kitchen window ledge, resided on my nightstand. It has survived spring cleanings, house purges and many moves. It currently is nestled in a bowl on my dresser, right next to where I place my wedding ring each evening. Continue reading “Listening”

On participation and celebration

The gym was loud and crowded and a bit chaotic. High school students of all shapes, sizes and skill levels took to the court to warm up and wave at those watching in the bleachers.

My oldest daughter was among the group on the floor as part of the Unified basketball league, a program that combines Special Olympics athletes with partners for competition against other high school teams. Continue reading “On participation and celebration”