Hope is a four-letter word

He is my light, my strength, my song

He is my light, my strength, my song

Hope.

A small word that feels so flimsy, tenuous, whisper thin.

Dandelion seeds scattered with breath.

Just have hope

–a punch in the gut.

A four-letter word, bitter and twisted in the mouth.

Like hinging your life on nothing.

Air.

A concept.

Because:

My circumstances are too deep, too dark, too heavy.

Suffocating with their too muchness.

And I can’t hold them with human hands,

And my eyes can’t see for the tears that blind.

And hope is a slap on sensitive skin.

hope is a white flag

hope is a white flag

But maybe that’s the point.

Nothing is ours to carry.

To plan. To plot.

To wrestle into being.

To hold on tight with human hands, so weak.

To see with human eyes, so myopic.

It’s light, a letting go.

It’s heavy, an anchor for the soul.

It’s hinging your life on everything, because in the end, there’s nothing left but

Hope.

It’s everything.

Despite the bad news.

Despite the diagnosis.

Despite the years of waiting.

Despite the years of yearning.

Despite the pain.

Despite the despair.

Despite the rain.

Despite the scorching heat of the desert,

Despite the thorns and stones of the wilderness.

Despite the feasts of others when you’re dining on crumbs.

Despite the failure, the fears,

the groaning, the tears.

Hope is both the stubborn holding tight,

Hannah’s silent prayer, Jacob’s I will not let go until you bless me grip,

And the wild, free-fall from great heights,

letting be, letting live, letting go.

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

“In Christ Alone”
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

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Loving, Letting Go

This is dedicated to all the moms who have loved and lost. 

loving, letting go

loving, letting go

I will never meet you face to face,

but I knew you were there.

I will never get to hold you,

but for several weeks

I held you,

in that mysterious space

between feeling and knowledge,

in the deep place

of faith without seeing,

I felt you.

I will never kiss your tiny lips

and hold your tiny fingers in mine.

I will never hold you close,

feel that little heartbeat

and stroke your fine hair.

I will never wipe away your tears,

protect you, make you laugh,

sing to you, or show you

our big, bright, beautiful world.

But in this dark wash of grief,

in this storm,

I feel the voice of assurance–

from the one who holds me,

who wipes away my tears–

telling me He wanted you

telling me you’re His

and He’s got you,

and in his divine plan,

you weren’t meant for this earth.

Too beautiful.

Too precious.

Too soon.

And I will feel again, heal again, smile again;

the tears will cease.

And I will rise from the ashes,

stronger for the storm.

And in the cracked and broken places,

I’ll shine like gold.

In the fractures,

faith.

In the splinters,

softness.

And I’ll be better

having loved you,

and letting you go.

The Garden: A Love Story

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

Once upon a time, there was an ordinary girl with a beautiful garden. Behind a stone wall covered in sprawling ivy, a wooden door opened to reveal a secret garden blooming with every flower imaginable–playful daisies, fragrant rose bushes, lovely lilies, breathtaking baby’s-breath, neat rows of colourful tulips, and other flora she couldn’t even name all contributed to a garden which blossomed with abundance.

Nearly every day, the girl would take a break from her daily activities and visit her garden. She’d carefully slide her antique key into the lock on the door and step inside her personal paradise. There she would walk in simple solitude along the paths that ran through her garden, listening to the birds chirping contentedly in the trees and the sweet breeze as it danced in the leaves. She would sit on one of the many benches or hammocks and let the sun warm her face. She would read, or have a good think, or bring a pot of tea from home and enjoy the quiet beauty of her very own garden.

Once in a while, if it suited her, the girl would haul a brimming watering can from her garage and tend to a specific area of the garden which she thought needed extra attention. She would spend a few days amongst her tower-tall sunflowers, for example, or keep an eye on her tiny tomato plants.

There would be weeks at a time where she would become so occupied with her daily activities that she couldn’t manage a visit to her secret garden. Months would pass without her key turning in the lock, sometimes even years. Her plants would abide all sorts of tribulations: weeds, weather, pests … Yet somehow, every time the girl returned to her garden, it remained intact. Despite her neglect, the garden was just as blooming and beautiful as before. Altered, yes; but it blossomed still. She would find garden gloves strewn across the benches or shovels propped up against the stone wall but wouldn’t think too much about it.

how does your garden grow?

It should be known at this point in the story that there was a wilderness that extended just beyond the garden wall–a dark and forbidding wood where the girl dare not tread. Sometimes she would tiptoe close out of pure curiosity and peer into the unknown depths, but a chill would fall upon her and she’d skip back to the sunny, familiar garden path.

As the girl grew older, she became overwhelmed with the task of maintaining her garden. She was lonely. She wished for someone to enjoy her garden with her, to walk along the paths with her and help her tend her plants. The days stretched longer into night and her loneliness spread over her like the ivy eclipsing the garden wall.

She ignored the tell-tale signs of a caretaker mysteriously keeping her garden alive, for she was alone. She knew she was alone. The more she thought about her insufferable solitude, the more she became impatient with the choking weeds, the pestering bees and the harsh winds, and the more fearful and aware she grew of the wilderness just beyond her garden.

Recklessly, in a moment of desperation, the girl handed her key to the first person who seemed to show an interest in her garden. She opened the door and let him in, giving him just enough instruction without appearing too high maintenance and controlling. Timidly she peered over his shoulder and winced as he yanked weeds from soil. She watched her plants choke under the spray of pesticides but she didn’t breathe a word. Surely he knows what he’s doing, she tried to reassure herself. He was confidant, capable, and she was no longer alone. She enjoyed placing her hand in his and strolling along the garden paths. Her heart leapt when he spoke sweetly to her in the cool of the shade.

Closer and closer the dark woods beckoned. With her new gardener by her side she felt braver; as dusk brushed the garden with strokes of night they danced in the shadows, tempting the wilderness even closer still …

But the garden did not respond well to his touch. The flowers withered and died and the girl could not think about her garden without a knot forming in her stomach. With tears and regret, she let the gardener go and very quickly advertised for another.

Gardener after gardener she let into her secret garden, handing them the key each time with increasing trepidation. Each one had good intentions, but each ultimately failed. Some quit, others she let go. The soil bore signs of too many footprints; the flowers drooped from careless touch. The wilderness taunted her no matter where the girl stood in the garden.

One day, the girl decided she had enough. The last gardener she had just fired had left her garden practically in shambles. Locking the door tightly behind her and stewing amongst the wreckage of uprooted plants and disheveled shrubs, she knew it wasn’t completely his fault. Experience had taught her to give little instruction and let him use the garden at his leisure. Because of her fear and silence and occasional bursts of exasperation, the garden suffered from misuse and neglect.

Now she was alone again, back where she started. In a serene moment she rocked back and forth on her hammock swing and silently wept.

the constant gardener

Creeeeeeeak creeeeeeeak creeeeeeeeeak.

The girl looked up at the sound of squeaky wheels and through her tears saw a solitary figure pushing a wheelbarrow through the demolished garden. With an air of sweetness and simplicity, the figure bent down and lovingly dug through the dirt with his hands. The girl observed him for hours as he slowly and methodically repaired her garden, little by little.

Each day, the girl returned to her garden to watch the mysterious gardener breathe life back into her garden. Her sunflowers stood up straight again and her tulips had never looked more proud. As she became more comfortable in his presence, he showed her–without pretense or imposition–how he had been restoring each flower bed, each rosebush, each tiny bud on every tree. He intimately knew each flower by name and had worked on parts of the garden with which she had never bothered. He was gentle and patient; eventually, he taught the girl how to take good care of the garden with his guidance and encouragement.

With time, the girl understood the signs of maintenance she had seen before–the gloves, the shovels, the rakes and trimmers–had all been because of his invested interest in her garden … and in her.

Her Constant Gardener.

Now the girl has given up complete control of her garden to him, and is daily enjoying the benefits. Hand in hand she walks with him, and he tells her about each aspect of the garden and how he is helping her make it thrive. Together they explore the wilderness just beyond the garden and in his presence, she is strong and courageous. When she is tired or overwhelmed, they simply sit on the bench and enjoy each other’s company.

And they live happily.

Looking for the Great Escape

I need a vacation.

"trouble been doggin' my soul since the day I was born ..."

I feel like, in admitting that, I will elicit the response Jerry Seinfeld gives when the unemployed George Costanza announces he’s going to the Cayman Islands: “What? You’re going on vacation? What do you need a vacation from — getting up at 11 a.m.?”

(For the record, on my days off, I usually get up at 8:30 a.m., which isn’t nearly as indulgent as 11 a.m.!)

Even though I haven’t gotten a lot of hours so far at the new job and the freelance thing is slow going, I’m mentally drained from the anxiety — and thus, the physical exhaustion — that a genuine, full-blown quarter life crisis brings. Anxiety has, since I was a kid, been that tireless pest waiting in the wings whenever the smallest of crises arises, blowing it up to exaggerated, breath-reducing, stomach-twisting proportions. “Worry just will not seem to leave my mind alone,” Ray Lamontagne sings in the song “Trouble,” and I heartily concur.

However, I never intended this blog to be the place where I vent my emotional frustrations — that’s what my personal, for-my-eyes-only journal is for, and I’m much more guarded than that! (One of my friends is always saying I’m a closed book and I must say I really love that in a way!)  So I will leave you with some quotes, verses, and poems that have been nourishing my ruminating mind …

gleaning wisdom from multiple sources

“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything” — Gandhi (found on my sister’s fridge)

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life” –1 Peter 5:7, from The Message Bible

“Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow” — Philip Gulley

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, I’ll try again tomorrow” — Mary Anne Radmacher

sometimes, like the Cowardly Lion, we forget we're the kings of the forest

” […] Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you” — R.S. Thomas, from “The Bright Field”

“So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises before you larger than any you’ve ever seen, if an anxiety like light and cloud shadows moves over your hands and everything you do. You must realize that something has happened to you; that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hands and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you” — Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet

“None of us is immune to the pain of rejection, but the more we grow in maturity and self-worth, the less likely we are to take it personally. When we acknowledge that rejection is not an indictment of our being, but an experience we must all face again and again if we put ourselves out there, rejection becomes easier to bear. The only sure way to avoid rejection is to sit mute in a corner and take no risks. If we choose to live courageously, we will experience rejection — and survive to show up for more” — Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. from Fear and Other Uninvited Guests

Now live courageously my friends. Hold your heads up high and when life knocks you down, remind yourself who you are and get back up again. And again. And again and again.

Little Things

keep your chin up, buttercup!

Dudes.

When I named my year The Year of TRUST, I had no idea that beginning January 2nd, God would begin to test my faith in every little area in my life, including some very big things. To be completely honest with you, it’s like He’s saying to me, “You named your year The Year of TRUST. So how much do you really trust me?”

My answer to that, I’m afraid, is sometimes not that much.

When your faith is being tested, especially when it comes to some big things, it’s difficult to stay positive. It’s hard to keep your chin up and not get discouraged with the fact that your life seems to be at a standstill. It’s a constant battle of the mind and ignoring the thoughts that tell you you’re a failure and your situation will never change with every empty inbox, every day the phone doesn’t ring … when it seems like God has been so busy blessing the lives of others and throwing opportunities their way that He’s forgotten to take you down from the shelf, and you’re just getting older every day, collecting dust.

what doesn't kill you ...

BUT.

God is in the details. This I know. Sometimes I get so caught up in turning these BIG THINGS around in my head, over and over, until they become ginormous and monstrous and grotesque, that I forget to notice the ways in which He’s been speaking to me in the little minute details of the everyday. Sometimes I throw myself the grandest, most elaborate Pity Parties known to humankind, and feel so badly that I’m dancing with myself and all these issues and fail to notice that He’s dancing with me, hand-to-hand, guiding my feet … and when it gets too hard to keep dancing, He graciously lets me place my tired feet on His.

So I’m trying to count my blessings, even when my faith is weak and nothing seems to be falling in place. I’m trying to shut up and let go. Let go and let God. And spend more time meditating on all the wonderful, lovely things in my life and thanking Him for them than constantly going over my troubles and demanding Him to do something about it already!

I am thankful for these things in my life, big and small:

All the single ladies!

My friends. This is the craziest, silliest, girlie-est group of girls you will ever meet. And I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else.

Me and the siblings, and baby Liam

My family. My parents and sister-in-law aren’t in this picture, but you get the idea. As I’ve gotten older, my parents have become my good friends, and have been so patient, understanding, and encouraging to me during this time. And my siblings … well, let’s just say that when we’re all together, people outside our family can’t understand a word we’re saying because we all have very zany senses of humour that, when combined, results in nonsense and hilarity. I also have the best sister-in-law in the whole world. True story.

my nephew Liam

My baby nephew Liam. Words can’t describe how much I love this handsome dude. When he smiles at me, my heart just melts into a puddle of mush. He’s got his auntie wrapped around his chubby little fingers!

He's a talented dog!

My dog Sammy. He’s the #3 man in my life, after Jesus and Liam. One of his favourite spots in the whole house is on my bed, snuggled up to one of my sweaters, and he seems to always know when I need some cuddles.

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

My book club. I’m so excited for our first meeting on February 21! And I’m grateful for the ability to do things now that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, like start a book club, learn how to knit, and rewrite a novel I wrote in Grade 8.

I’m also grateful for hot cups of delicious tea, trips to Starbucks, job hunting coffee dates with my dear friend at the local café, sunshiney blue sky days like today, and the times I spend in prayer.

How about you? What do you do to keep yourself afloat when nothing seems to be going your way?

The Prosary: an online litmag for spiritual prose

Hello everyone!

With Rikki’s encouragement (and the idea for a name), I just launched a new venture: an online literary magazine for spiritual prose. It’s still in the first stages while I work some things out, but please feel free to visit the website and read the work already published to get an idea of where I want to go with this.

The Prosary is available at: http://theprosary.wordpress.com

If you’d like to submit something to be published, keep reading: 

The Prosary is an online literary magazine magazine dedicated to publishing prose of a spiritual nature. This includes creative poetry, short stories, and other works of fiction inspired by one’s faith journey.

Although the name Prosary evokes images of a Catholic inclination, this litmag will publish works from any faith, whether you identify yourself as Protestant, Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, and anything outside or in between. The important thing is that you remain respectful to the other faiths represented here and do not use your prose as a way of attacking or criticizing any faith or non-faith groups. 

If you’d like to submit something to be published, please e-mail me at theprosary@gmail.com, keeping in mind the following guidelines:

  • Send all prose in Word/.doc documents. My computer doesn’t like .docx, so please reformat accordingly
  •  The subject line of the e-mail should have your name (or pen name, if you prefer to remain anonymous) and the title of your prose
  • Limit 3 works per document
  •  DO NOT send any prose that is hateful, disrespectful or overtly “Rah rah rah, my religion is the best!” 
  • The Prosary is only accepting works of fiction at this time (this may change … we shall see)
  •  You will receive an e-mail notification when your prose is published on the website 

The Prosary is a new venture, so please excuse any hiccups or mistakes while it gets rolling.  Any suggestions are more than welcome.

Tell your friends!  Spread the word!

I’m excited to begin this journey with you …

I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller

jesus where do i start ...

jesus where do i start ...

[I wrote this today on my writing date in the park.]

Goals. Hopes. Wishes. Positive statements.

Goals are things you make when you feel obliged to be a better person, when you feel like the way you are isn’t good enough.  But they’re useful.  They keep you focused, perhaps …

Wishes are airy dandelion fluff, pennies in wells and birthday candles. One-cent wishes. Wishes are light little desires that come from the most soulish, human part of us, something we forget when the fluff takes flight, the penny is tossed, the cake cut.  Make a wish, they say.  We squeeze our eyes shut for the sake of ceremony, reach to the surface where wishes lie like hungry goldfishes near the top of the pond. I wish I had a million dollars.  I wish I had a new bike.  I wish I was was prettier.  I wish I had a job I loved.  Starlight, starbright, first star I see tonight.  I wish I may, I wish I might …  But do we actually think a twinkling star lightyears away will grant us our wishes?

Hopes are slightly stronger, carrying more weight.  TO HOPE is a verb with resounding solidity.  TO HOPE is to have deep-rooted faith in powers stronger than yourself–it is a letting go and belief in the positive forces of a kind and loving God.  It comes from a strength of character, not a weakness in need of a crutch.

Positive statements are birthed from hope. They take the utmost courage, the belief that the strength God instilled in you is enough.  It’s the roar of a lion when you feel like a mouse. The belief that you are worth it simply because you exist.

Looking in the mirror, rising up and looking yourself square in the eyes and saying with your whole heart: “I am loved.  Wholly and completely.  I am loved by God and the universe that holds me and my friends and family.  I am perfect and good this way.  The way I am.  Right here, right now, and forever.  There is nothing I could ever do to stop the continuous flow of love from God to me. 

I am here for a reason which I may never know, but that is one of the great mysteries of life which will keep pushing me forward.  If my purpose is to love and to be loved, then that is fine with me.  There are beauties in the world, some hidden, some right in front of me, and the search and discovery is part of the adventure of this ride we call life.  Every day is a new page, a fresh start–the universe will continually show a different pattern of infinite possibilities.  It’s a choose-your-own adventure, basically.

I know for certain that everything is going to be alright because I have faith and hope that it will be.  Today, tomorrow, and forever.  Each day will hold its own surprises.

And when I haven’t the faith enough and I’m tired and sick and grasping vainly at hope … I need only remember that I am never alone.  That I have a friend who knows sadness and hurt and heartbreak and sickness and poverty and loss and was thrown the worst humanity could have ever thrown at him.  He knows.  He understands.  And he’ll hold me when I can’t hold myself.  My fears are small compared to his strength.”