Monday, December 8, 2014

HOPE is a four letter word

Last week, liturgically, we entered Advent the season of waiting, the focus for the week was hope. We have been very focused on celebrating Advent this year as a family. We have been working on our days of giving which are going really well so far. We are having a little family devotional time and I have been participating in an online devotional. Usually we aren't so focused on this but where life is right now it fit and I hope as we move forward it will continue being a part of our family routine and practice.

All of this focus made me really think about what hope look like, especially in light of the circumstances in our country, the world, and our family life right now. A few weeks back I had a conversation via social media with church members from my home church. It made me start thinking about hope because it was a real and some what difficult conversation to have about church and life. The conversation was respectful and could be the start of more conversations. It made me hopeful for the future of the church even if the mainline church is struggling. My conversations with many churches right now many me hopeful for our denomination.

Then Ferguson, woah how on Earth do we see hope? Then Staten Island? Hope where are you? I think hope is there in the willingness to believe change can happen, in people willing to stand up and DEMAND it! It's a long road ahead in ending systemic racism in our country but we have traveled a long road already. Travelers are weary but they aren't giving up... HOPE is alive. Hope for something better, for justice, for peace. Which really is what this Advent hope is all about, a savior coming to usher in these things. Of course that gets tricky because Jesus has already been here and it hasn't happened and while most believe Jesus will come again, I think it is more likely to be followers of this Jesus character that bring what is promised in a savior. It is human kind doing the work of God that will change the world. Not that I am saying we don't need Jesus, we do, or at least I do.

Side Bar:

I want to clarify because I don't live under a rock and I have seen the sparing online: I assert that racism, particularly in our justice system, is a huge problem. However this doesn't mean that I am "anti cop". There are very good police officers, there are very bad power hungry police officers, the problem is bigger than just "cops" it's the whole justice system. To my law enforcement sisters and brothers I feel for you, pastor types also get to "enjoy" mass vilification. Let us remember people of color have dealt with vilification on levels much more consistent and harmful than either pastors or law enforcement have.

One look around the world and it can be hard to find hope. Then there is life, particularly at this moment my life. Since last December our lives have been turned upside down, with a broken arm and emergency surgery, panic attacks, a lost job, near loss of housing, a new job that doesn't pay enough to make the ends meet, a call search that was derailed, a hard end to an internship, a summer apart from L, taking in extra kids & it not working out, starting home school because of circumstance, and most recently our only car becoming junk yard worthy. The thing is when all these challenges keep coming at you, the littlest challenges start to feel like mountains. There are days when it's hard to hope, to keep ones chin up. Yet in spite of it all I have found in the past week that my sense of hope has only grown, that I have become more willing to see the world and my own circumstances through a lens of hope.

I want to tell you about what hope looks like when it comes into reality. A while back I had blogged on here about my early Christmas wish, to travel to my mom's house for the holiday. A few weeks ago I learned someone had read this blog and felt from that time on like God was nudging them to help. They prayed and it persisted. I want to tell you all the wonderful amazing details of how this came to be but I cannot tell you who this person was and I can't say much about the story that came with the gift we received with out revealing identity. I also didn't want to spill the beans about our holiday travel plans which have had to change a bit in light of the car situation. What I can say is that we received a very generous gift, that was a pay it forward gift. The giver had received a similar gift at a similar time in life and Paul and I are charged with giving a similar gift when we get settled. The giver had such great joy in giving this gift, it made a difference because in those moments I didn't feel like a charity case, I felt blessed, like in this totally unexpected way my prayers had been answered. I wanted to react in a way that showed my amazement but I was more like a deer in head lights. Overwhelmed by it all, I said thank you. This gift has made our holiday season so much more relaxed because things like the butter for our Christmas cookies were not a burden on our budget. I have been able to pay off the small outstanding balance on my student account at one school and the graduation fee at another school.

The thing is that this wasn't the first answered prayer in the last few months certainly it was a big one but there have been countless others. I wish I could name them all for you right now. We have found the money we were short on rent every month since October. People have just been amazing. It's funny because sometimes I get the sense that people know God is using them and other times they haven't a clue. Maybe there have always been this many small kindnesses in my life and I am just noticing them more. Someone said to me this Fall that I wasn't trusting God enough, I wanted to say back, um I have never trusted God so much in my life!

Then last week our van died, we knew it was coming, we held off death for sometime, but last we she overtook the van. Not a problem for Paul's work because he has a work vehicle. Personal life wise it was a huge problem. My hope started to dwindle. I made a tongue in cheek social media post about the van because what else was I going to do? That's when my younger brother chimed in, um you gave me a car once and I have one to get rid of, find a way to get it. Through a series of calls and our amazing family members the car will make the trip from his city to ours later this week if all goes as planned. We are having to rely on others a lot, I don't like being on the receiving end. It's the end I happen to find myself on these days but I have hope that one day I will be on the giving end again. You know what's funny about the car thing, I forgot I ever gave my brother a car. Seriously, I didn't remember it until he said that. Let's talk about transportation in the mean time, we simply have the most amazing friends, by Saturday morning we had keys to two cars that we could use at our leisure. Our friends just offered we didn't even have to ask. We also had rides places we needed to be. Being with out our car sucks to put it bluntly but it has given me the opportunity to see some pretty wonderful things in the people I surround myself with.

So what do we do when the person who holds up the minimum wage vote is an active church member? We find hope in the showing up, that maybe the message of Jesus will get even deeper into their heart, and help them see the hardship of a minimum wage job. What do we do when our justice system is so broken? We hope that our voices are heard, we demand they are heard in the hope of a better world. You get the idea.

By the end of the week I was very hopeful for what is to come in the world and my life. I don't know why I am in this strange place in life but I trust that I am exactly where I need to be and I hope that in the future I will understand it all.

I am grateful for all the people in my life who are audacious enough to hope in spite of the world that tells them not to! 

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