Digging My Hope Out of a Snowbank

As I heard a weather forecast today and learned that more snow is covering a nation already groaning under the winter of discontent, I particularly appreciated this post on hope by Robynn. What about you? How is your winter going? 


Winter is the most deceiving of the seasons. You look outside the window. The sun is shining. The trees beckon to you, inviting, calling. A few birds flit by. And so you think, okay then, I should go out. A coat, because logic demands it, gloves, they just make sense, and out you go! Whoosh! The wind immediately mocks. The sun sticks it’s tongue out. The imaginary birds have vanished. Winter wins! Her deception has tricked you again and you, the seasonal fool, have fallen for it again!

This winter has been particularly sneaky, long, cold and white. It’s been wearisome.

I find that in the midst of winter my sense of hope takes flight too and all but disappears. Or perhaps she’s buried under the snow bank. Maybe she melted into the grey slush. Whatever the case she’s gone. She’s done.

I’m determined to hunt her down. There must surely be shreds and shards of her left. Surely hope cannot have all been rendered shrapnel in the explosions of season and snow? Finding her has proven difficult. Despair and darkness cloud my vision. Depression drifts build up. Superficial and shallow comments salt the wound-roads. Trite talk ploughs through, wreaking havoc at the end of my pathways. The search has been hard wrought and I am sad to say, I have really only caught glimpses of hope hiding…Hope hasn’t jumped out to get me. Unlike young children playing hide and seek, she doesn’t seem to want to be found.

This week has been especially dismal.

Still my brief sightings of hope have birthed in my sorry soul an expectation that she is still out there. Like the pearl of great price, hope does linger in my town. I want to find her. I need the energizing motivation she trades for my well-worn weariness.

Yesterday I met a friend at Grace’s Asian Fusion café. Piano music met me at the door. I looked around for the speakers and much to my delight realized the music was live. In the far corner of the room stood an old upright piano and sitting upright on the stool was a gentleman even older than the piano. He gently, gracefully, invited classical tunes filled with emotion and energy to come out of that ancient instrument. And out they came, and filled the room, sweeping it with joy…. And dare I admit, a little hope!

My friend joined me and we tried Miso soup and some interesting sweet dumpling-bread. We ate cold sesame noodles with vegetables and peanut sauce. And we talked. She’s hit a wall in her faith experience. Everything programmed in her is being questioned and reexamined. She’s rethinking religion and rules; structures and systems. But we talked about Jesus and his wide wonderful mercy. I firmly believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father… But I have come to think that there are many paths to Jesus. And we talked about that and a bit of hope surfaced.

Today I drove to Wichita to watch our seventeen year old sing with his high school Chamber Choir at the Kansas Music Educators Association Convention. I drove through the Flinthills and across the prairies. Yesterday’s hay bales still scattered last season’s fields. However through the grey grasses bits of green were starting to shimmer. Hope is sprouting softly through the (hopefully) waning winter.

One of the songs the Chamber Choir sang was a Wendell Berry poem (The Peace of Wild Things) set to music. The music was written by a local composer, a KState Professor, and a father of the one of the students. It was filled with expectation. And it was contagious. Hope filled the auditorium together with the voices of the young singers who sang with strength and optimism.

My spirit has been snowed under. I’ve been physically ill for a month and my soul has caught the infection. I’m bowed low. The weight of winter wears me out. But I’m determined to protect my Hope. If I don’t have hope I will spiral deeper, darker, lower. Hope protects the soul from despair. Hope preserves moments of pure joy in the midst of great sorrow. Hope guards, redeems, rescues. I firmly believe that hope is not seasonal. It’s eternal and certain.

I don’t know about you but for me hope is not natural. I’m not normally inclined to being hopeful on my own…. I have to work for it. I have to hunt her down. I have to dig her out. What little energy I’ve had these past couple of weeks I’ve tried to dedicate to finding hope! A text message early in the week from a friend said, “Robynn just sitting here reading and I’m reminded that Christ in you is the hope of glory. Take courage sweet Robynn, he has overcome all that you are facing.” It was another push toward hope. Miss Cindy gave me courage to hope-search. Hope was in me—the Christ of Glory…. It’s a quest for the Super-natural. Hope has been elusive but in looking around, I have seen her. I’ve experienced her gently. I’ve been graced with her small moments.

“When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” Psalm 94:19

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace…” Rom 15:13

The Peace of Wild Things

By Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

*photo credit Stefanie Sevim Gardner

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And Change Will Come…..

Today’s beautiful post comes from my nephew, Tim. I am honored that he penned these words and sent them to me, giving me permission to post them. And I also love that Tim affectionately calls me “Aunt M”. 

20130117-071604.jpgIt is late April, and I look out my window at giant snowflakes, floating down from above. The snow remains deep on the ground, and the air is frigid. The thermometer has not risen above 45 degrees in almost six months. I knew when I moved to Northern Wisconsin that the winters would be long, and the meteorologist on TV assures me that this winter is longer than usual. He says  that spring is just around the corner, with its flowers and tree blossoms and singing birds. But I have trouble believing it. The snow just keeps coming. The cold doesn’t seem to break.

I struggle to trust that change will ever come.

My spirits are also brought low by the events of the last few weeks. Bombs at the Boston Marathon. A doctor in Philadelphia is accused of murdering newborn babies. China is picking up the pieces and burying bodies after a severe earthquake. A fertilizer factory explodes in Texas. Tornadoes. Floods. Poison in the mail. Politicians unable to agree on how to keep weapons of war off of our streets and away from our schools. Nuclear apocalypse could hit East Asia at any moment.

The world I see resembles my local weather. It is gray, cold, and chaotic. It is not how it ought to be. And I see little evidence that change will ever come.

At moments like this I am thankful for wisdom greater than myself. For the meteorologist on television assures me that we will soon experience a change in the weather. There is a great pattern at work involving the movement of our planet and energy from the sun. This pattern all but guarantees a warming of the ground and the atmosphere. The snow will turn to rain, the soil will loosen up, and the trees will begin to feel something stir in their toes. Before I know it these woods that I love will again be green, bright, and fragrant. It is simply the way of things, and though my heart may doubt, it will come to pass. Change will come.

So it is with God. Though I doubt the capacity of this world to change, and though I despair at the suffering and evil that is manifest all around, I cannot doubt the character of my God. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.” (Isaiah 40:28). He is good, and His justice is assured. He will make this world right, as inevitably as winter turns to spring.

In the meantime, He wants us to help Him bring about the change. There are widows and orphans in need of help, trees to plant, and wounds to bind. And for today, there is at least some snow that still needs to be shoveled. But not for long. Not for long.

For Change Will Come. 


Waiting it Out….

I woke to brilliant sunshine reflecting off piles of snow. It’s hard to believe that 24 hours ago we were in the middle of a blizzard, snow coming down at two inches an hour.

But that’s how storms are. When you’re in the middle of them, you think they’ll never end.

The snow was slow in coming. At first light Friday I looked out my window and there was nothing but a hush and the ominous grey look of a storm yet to come. The morning was well underway when it picked up; medium size flakes, whirling around, slowly sticking to the cold ground.

Since Wednesday afternoon I had heard about what could be the “storm of the century”. With an already full refrigerator, matches, candles, Boggle, Bananagrams, and several one thousand piece puzzles, we had little to prepare — we were ready to wait it out.

And wait we did. I baked bread. Then I baked cookies. Then we did a puzzle. Then we played games. Then we watched movies. Then we played more games. And all the while we would periodically look out the window and comment on the storm.

But restlessness sinks in. Realization of the aftermath begins to accumulate. The ‘What ifs’ start pounding on the door. We begin to fray at the edges.

So we baked, read, watched movies, played games again. And again.

With storms there’s a lot of waiting.

How do you wait out a storm? How do you fill the empty space and empty time so the restlessness does not overpower?

Storms of the mind and soul are more difficult than storms of the weather. There are empty spaces, empty time, churning thoughts. And it’s during empty space that my mind can twist truth, empty time that my soul can turn sour.

While the tools of a weather storm are food, candles, matches, flashlights, full tank of gas, water, easily prepared foods – how can one prepare for storms of the soul? Walk through the storm without the mind going crazy with worry and fear?

What are the tools of soul storms?

Tears, Truth, and Time. Tears – those housekeepers of the soul that help us release fear and anxiety; truth – sharp piercing messages from the word of God that both sting and comfort; time – waiting it out, baking, reading, living through it even when you’re fraying at the edges – all those things that you do during a weather storm.

And one day we wake to brilliant sunshine, clarity, peace — the soul storm is over and it’s hard to believe that 24 hours before the soul was dark, swirling with turmoil.

Because that’s how soul storms are. When you’re in the middle of them, you think they’ll never end.

During the Storm
Blizzard 2013, Boston
After the Storm

Evidence of Grace

It snowed yesterday. Huge flakes came down and painted the world white and fluffy. It was that perfect sort of snow. The light, pretty, I can see each separate flake kind of snow.

The fact that I just wrote the word ‘pretty’ in the same sentence as ‘snow’? This is evidence of Grace. My attitude toward yesterday’s snow is evidence of Grace.

When we left Massachusetts to move to Phoenix in 2003, I wiped the snow off my boots and vowed I would never see a snowflake again. Snow represented all that is cold and hurtful. It represented a place that didn’t like me. It represented alienation and pain and crisis after crisis. And I stepped off the plane in Phoenix into sun and expansive blue desert sky and all that was behind me.

And then five years ago we moved back in the middle of December. Back to four feet of snow. Back to the cold.

We moved back and I was terrified. Terrified that I would once again feel alienated in a cold Northeast world.

So yesterday, as I walked slowly to the subway with frequent stops to catch the beauty of the snow, was evidence of His Grace. This transformation — this would never have happened without some deep soul-work, like a surgeon with a sharp scalpel cuts into the skin and carefully removes the diseased tissue. It is, without doubt, the work of God in me – and the evidence may seem silly, but to me it’s miraculous. I stop and I take pictures of snow. I smile as the snowflakes hit my nose and make my scarf wet. I don’t hate where I live.

This is evidence of Grace. My delight in the snow all around is evidence of God-given Grace.

Where do you see evidence of Grace? 

“When he arrived and saw evidence of the Grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts”. Acts 11:23










“My Weary Wheels Need a Rest”

LightbulbAfter an outing that included a hike up a hill, my brother’s grandson, David, remarked to my sister-in-law “Grandma, my weary wheels need a rest!”.

These words from a not quite three-year old. Wisdom indeed!

It’s how I feel. My weary wheels need a rest. Sickness has crowded out our energy and sucked up the fresh smell of pine and cinnamon. Tiredness and uncertainty have camped out in our living space. We can’t keep up with tea and Tylenol.

Snow came last night and so the world outside is a white wonderland. And we’re giving ourselves permission to just ‘be’.

In a society that judges worth by occupation and productivity, letting our weary wheels rest isn’t easy. Sometimes it takes a fever to knock us down, force us to our  couches, our knees…and to our moms.

And it was my mom that reminded me of Isaiah 40. The title says it all “Comfort for God’s People.” The words are a comfort for weary wheels.

Today, if your weary wheels need a rest, sit down, put your feet up and read Isaiah 40. 

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

There’s Something About That First Snow!

The flakes started falling as I walked home from work. It was twilight and the street lights had just come on. The snow flakes reflected off the light and gave the length of the street a magical feel.

There’s something about that first snow.

It’s an all things new snow. It’s a start of the season snow. It’s a belief that wrong can be righted snow. It’s a before I’m bone tired of winter and hate anything that resembles cold snow. It’s an anything is possible and this is magic snow.

Footprints marked my way on the steps and a snow flake melted on my nose.

And I thought about all things grace, all things lovely.

Too often my thoughts go a completely different direction — a cynical inner social commentary on the world and all around me; thoughts of putting up the middle finger when no one is looking; diatribes against all I disagree with. These thoughts are not gracious and they are not lovely, and I have to constantly look to God to capture those thoughts.

But this first snow was a reminder that whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things* – and I can somehow do that in this first, white, fluffy, pretty, first snow.

There’s just something special about that first snow…

*Philippians 4:8

Blogger’s Note: Those who know me will laugh at this post – I am known by most as one who hates winter. I mean Hates winter. Or at least I did …. and then 2 years ago I decided I would stop complaining in the winter and something significant changed.