Willow Wonderings

Yes to Hope

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Say Yes

When two violins are placed in a room

if a chord on one violin is struck

the other violin will sound the note

if this is your definition of hope

this is for you

the ones who know how powerful we are

who know we can sound the music in the people around us

simply by playing our own strings

for the ones who sing life into broken wings

open their chests and offer their breath

as wind on a still day when nothing seems to be moving

spare those intent on proving god is dead

for you when your fingers are red

from clutching your heart

so it will beat faster

for the time you mastered the art of giving yourself for the sake of someone else

for the ones who have felt what it is to crush the lies

and lift truth so high the steeples bow to the sky

 

This is for you.

…this is for saying –  yes        

This is for saying – yes              

–          Andrea Gibson

 

In the last week of my work as a camp counselor in New Mexico, I met a little girl named Hope.

Hope, a seven year old, wide-eyed beauty, lived in the community of Abiquiu with her older sister and mother, and each day, she came to our classroom with a fresh smile on her face. She was the type of child who loved to cuddle as we read or played together – and one morning, she insisted on giving her name tag to me. “This is for you,” she’d say.

“No, Hope, this is yours!” I told her, trying to place the nametag bag in its proper place on her purple shirt. She refused to listen, putting it in the center of my chest, pressing it firmly against my shirt.

I smiled at her persistence. Finally, I said yes.

This is the greatest gift of faith: finally, saying yes. At last, saying yes, when the child shows us new ways of seeing. Saying yes, God is pure goodness, yes, we are loved beyond our imagination and we are imperfect, yes, growth can be painful, and yes, this journey is worth living – wholeheartedly. Yes – to adventure and to daily labor, to feeling sorrow and joy, to being present through growth and loss, to taking risks and living with hope, and holding compassion in our hearts along the way.

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The past four weeks have been a whirlwind. December marked a time of writing papers, wrapping homemade gifts, sending cards, singing hymns each night with friends, and coming home for the first time in several months with my beloved friend Ela. It was a time of tremendous change and blessing simultaneously. I was especially grateful to spend time with friends who returned from abroad, especially my sister, Becca, a courageous woman who embodies hope in the Lord’s faithfulness.

Through the weeks of Advent, I sat with the theme of hope – a word that tends to prompt mixed feelings for me. When I hope for something to happen, like “I hope you feel better!”, it is never guaranteed to happen, and often turns out differently – and better – than I initally expected. What, then, is real or sustaining about hope?

This Advent reminded me that true hope does not lie in the fulfillment of our temporary wants, or in unwrapping presents on our Christmas list. Hope is not found in our attachments to our thoughts, ideas, or desires, but in our surrender to the ever-loving, sustaining, sacred heart of God. Hope is found in believing that God came into the world through the womb of a faithful woman, Mary. Hope is anchored in the power of God’s Word to restore our broken humanity. Hope is revealed in God’s presence guiding us through recovery, healing, and growing, and through dying, letting go, and forgiving. Sometimes, hope is strengthened when we face our weaknesses, failures, and hit bottom to find that God has sustained us all along, and will continue to carry and strengthen us, .

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. – Romans 12:12

In Spanish, the verb to hope is translated as esperar – a word that connotes both “to hope” and “to wait.” Hope requires patience and clear-sightedness in the moment. It means saying “yes” to both the goodness to come, and being present to good in the here and now. Hope is a virtue that never stops singing – it lifts us into a love beyond our wildest imagination, and fills us with the goodness of the Lord as we wait and labor patiently for His ever-present birth within our world.

As we are fed by hope, we also learn that we are never alone. We are accompanied by a Higher Power that is good and merciful, who gives us new births of possibility each day. We also learn that we do not simply live for ourselves – for we are given hope to deliver our soul’s gifts to the world. We learn, through hope, to let go of our expectations and walk by the vision of Christ’s Kingdom, where we become instruments of His blessings.

Above all, hope shows us new doorways that open – always – at the right time.

Right now, I am flying back to Charlotte and we will land in just a few moments. If you had told me two years ago that today, on New Years’ Day, I would be preparing to fly to Guatemala with a group from Davidson, I never would have believed you. First, Davidson College was never on my radar before the end of my college search process; I never expected to land in the South. Two, I never, ever, dreamed of falling in love with Central America, or learning the Spanish language, or dedicating my studies to religion.

Yet one step at a time, this journey has unfolded – inspired by the faith of nuns and mothers in El Salvador, the children of New Mexico, the poems and mountains that have given healing and the friends who have held my hand along the way. I have definitely stumbled, taken steps backwards, doubted, and felt stuck in anxious places. But always, this feeling has lifted with a renewed sense of purpose. I feel incredibly blessed by each mentor, stranger, family member, and friend who has encouraged me to step outside my expectations and see possibilities that I never before imagined.

So here I am, on my way to Charlotte to join with a team of Davidson students and one of my favorite professors for a nine-day adventure in Guatemala. With the wisdom and passion of our teacher, Dr. Samson, we will be surveying the landscape of social activism in several regions of the country, learning from voices for human rights in the non-profit sector of Guatemala City to coffee farmers in the highlands. Through the next ten days and year, I am hopeful and anticipating all the learning, questions, and challenges to come.

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To you, dear friends, I pray that this year fills you with renewed hope in your heart. I pray that you find rejuvenation and inspiration in the unique way that you are called to love and serve others with your gifts. And always, whether you are near or far to your home place, I pray that you hold on to the Light within. In the words of my friend Sam:

“May you never let any circumstances of life, any questions, any fears, any voices, mislead your heart into feeling that it ever ceases to rest in the cradle of the sacred heart of Jesus, your friend, who loves you so much.

I pray with you as you journey, not any particular prayer, but a prayer of presence, that peace remains in you, and that everything you will  touch, learn, hear, see, will be a blessing and gift to you.”

For a new year, and all the new journeys we begin, again and again, amen!

 

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