Category Archives: hope

The Name

It doesn’t have a name.  This thing that pulses in my gut, it has no name.

 

So how do I pursue it when I don’t know what to tell the driver?  Follow that car!  Which one? Er.. the one with the… in the… where the…

 

I shrug helplessly and sit back down on the bench in Park Frustration on Despair Street.

 

I know.

 

It has beauty… creativity and freedom and colour.

It has connection… conversation and sharing and tears of all kinds.

It has discovery… understanding and newness and joy.

 

But it doesn’t have a name.  At least not within my current vocabulary.

 

So what do I do?  There are no maps for No-where, no buses to Every-where, no GPS satellites anywhere.

 

Take root here? Go anywhere but here?

Cry out Hope and shout down Fear.

 

Pick myself up, look at the horizon and start walking.  Spend time in Beauty, cultivate Connection, pursue Discovery.  Hunt it down, seek it out. Find.

 

* * *

 

But what happens when all roads seem blocked?  When there are no doors, no windows… Just this bench called Waiting.

 

Choose still.  Wait in Hope, weight in Fear.  Does the cut wood build a boat or fix the roof in preparation for the coming rain?

 

Will it come at all?

 

The reign of hope over fear.  Known and unknown.

 

The rain.

 

Untamed.

 

The Name.

 

Face upturned, open hands.  I wait.

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Filed under beauty, change, fear, hope, questions

The problem with being single 3: Shame

Its been just over four years since I last had the guts to write anything about this.  I’m still not married. I just turned 30, so, you know… tick tock, tick tock…

As you may have picked up or know, my small corner has gone from being in Norn Iron to being en France.  Maybe I should change it to my “slightly larger” corner.  Not quite the same ring.  But anyway.  I’m procrastinating.

Having been through the ravages of culture shock (she said, as if its all done and dusted), when a young homeland lady on a semester abroad here got in touch with my mission asking to meet someone here in France, I took pity and went to meet her for an hour for drinkypoos.  I was careful to order nothing alcoholic, especially since even having a coffee in this country requires that one enter a “den of iniquity”.

If you’re not from Northern Ireland, you’re not going to understand that.  But its funny, I swear.

So we chatted and I graciously bestowed every bit of my vast wisdom about all things surviving cross-culturally.  Then our drinks arrived.  Hmmm… what now? So we chatted more generally about life and family and all sorts of inane things that came to my feeling-slightly-awkward-trying-to-make-conversation brain.  Its was fine, we’re meeting again in a couple of weeks so I can introduce her to someone else at the Language Café.

But as I walked away from the meeting, one point of our conversation came back to my mind.  She had asked me about my family and I’d told her about my two sisters.  She asked if they were married and I said yes.  Normal, huh?  Except as I pottered back to my car I replayed my inner workings to that question… I was very careful to mention that my sisters were 4 and 6 years older than me and that they were only very recently married and that therefore means in the natural order of things I have at least 4-6 years before the world needs to start worrying about my naked fingers and half-empty bed.

As a single woman, I dread pity.  I dread comments like “Och sure, plenty of time yet” and “How come a lovely girl like you isn’t married yet?”  I have deep feelings of irritation (slash burningly sinful hatred) when my Uncle ticks my sisters off his fingers and then asks whether or not he should buy himself a hat any time soon.

If you didn’t spend Saturday Nights with our Cilla, you’re not going to understand that.  But its not funny anyway.

You see, the thing is, I want to be married and somehow connected with that desire and the fact it is unfulfilled I have a sense of shame.  How come a “lovely girl” like me isn’t married??  (That’s a rhetorical question.  Just so you know.  Try to answer and I may kill you.)

Through various internet linkage this morning (you know how it goes, you’re looking for the conversion of oz into gms for your pancake batter then suddenly you’re reading an article about the astrophysics of gophers in the Sahara), I ended up watching this 10 minute video about the definition of shame.  She says shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance or belonging.”

The reason I feel shame about being unmarried (still being unmarried? I’m not sure this is all that new…) even though I want to be is because there is a voice which tells me I am “flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance or belonging”.

So why am I exposing my bits on my blog?  Because shame is a lie we all believe.  It may have nothing to do with your marital status or unfulfilled desires, but it might show up there for you too.  You know that voice, right?  The one that says “How come God doesn’t give me what I want and really desperately hope for or need?  What have I done wrong…?  What’s wrong with me…?”

Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 10:9-11 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.

The voice that tells us we are “unworthy of acceptance or belonging” is lying.  Part of breaking shame is naming shame, bringing it into the light.  So that’s why I’m exposing my bits on my blog, because I choose to walk into the light of God’s incredible love and acceptance of me and thought you might like to come with me.

I also found this sermon on shame worth a listen : click here

 

 

 

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Filed under dating, grace, hope, relationships, singleness

The One where I attempt to talk about Hope.

I’ve been reading Luke’s gospel.  Twasn’t my idea, but I’m doing it.

As I sat on my sofa with my feet on the old repose-pieds, I experienced one of those wonderful moments where you discover all over again – from your head to your toes to your heart to your tears – that Jesus is the most incredible person who ever lived.  This particular experience was poignant and somewhat unusual in that all the while knowing in my knower that who he is is true and real and that nothing makes sense otherwise, I also had the question : “But… are you big enough?”

In the face of suffering in the world – from personal loneliness, to 2 year olds with throat cancer, to earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear emergencies all in one small nation – is the truth of Jesus big enough?

Questions like this can be easily answered but seldom satisfied…

In my faltering grasp of what the voice of God sounds like, I think he spoke to me about hope as suffering.  I was reflecting on the passage (that makes it sound awffy spiritually mature of me – it was kind of by accident which is what makes me think it wasn’t just my own ‘wisdom’!  Plus the savvy amongst you will note its not even IN Luke so really I wasn’t even concentrating properly!) where Jesus talks about taking up our crosses and following him and assures us we’ll know suffering.  Fun.

Maybe I’m over-emotional by nature, or maybe its this weirded-out nothing-in-my-life-is-the-same-what-the-flip-am-I-doing-in-this-country-again?-ness that’s making me even more so sensitive… But there’s something in beauty and goodness that really hurts sometimes.

You see, beauty and goodness awaken and feed hope.  And hope is the voice that -as Emily Dickinson wrote – ‘sings the tune without the words’ even when all around is yelling and screaming “Impossible!!!!”, it is the light that should not be hidden under a bushel when all around is enveloped in darkness and despair, it is the feet that keep climbing, one step at a time, when the crowd is going the other direction.  It’d be easier – less painful – to give in and give up.

Hope is a longing for the fulfilment of who I am, of who I was created to be, of Who I am created to know.  To hold on to these realities is painful because that fulfilment is still to come – its like being in labour (I imagine!) – painful!  But it is sure and certain that the end result will be worth it.

Sigh…

I don’t feel I’m quite communicating it.

But anyway – hope as suffering.  I really don’t like that Jesus says we’ll suffer – I never have.  I guess I feel that if I were in a country where I’m physically persecuted for my faith or where my life was at stake etc, that that reality would have much more meaning and immediate effect and my super-Christianness would kick in.  Whereas tucked up in relatively comfortable (however an admittedly nuclear-energy-making:S ) corner of Western Europe its hard to engage with in any sort of real way.  I’ve heard too many John-P-esque insinuations that God gives you cancer for the hell of it (or, er… sorry, His glory) to hear ‘you will suffer’ in a faith-filled ‘God-is-good-and-he-reigns’ kind of way.

But as I thought about the pain hope can inflict, I figured that that’s the kind of suffering I’m up for – not that my personal inclination should dictate interpretation!  But, you know what I mean?  As we breathe and drink and eat and sing and shine Hope, as our hearts and souls bleed its very essence where we live and work and do life, we suffer and yet we live.  We crucify our way of life so that He might live in and through us, so that Hope is filled and Joy comes with the morning.

Pregnant pause….

Eugh.  That’s the best I can do in trying to explain it.

But I guess He’s big enough to sort that out.

 

 

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Filed under beauty, hope, perspective, suffering

Perhaps

He hadn’t always been like this.

She tried to get up from the floor, but he pushed her down again, swearing and barely able to focus both eyes on her face.  His breath was foul as he pleaded with her to forgive him.

“I can’t let you up til you forgive me” he slurred. “It was an accident, I’m sorry!  You have to…”

He trailed off, slumping onto his knees then sidewards to lean against the wall.

“I didn’t mean to…”

He hadn’t always been like this, but this time wasn’t the first.

He reached out an impotent hand towards her as she pulled herself up on the kitchen chair, mumbling incoherently as she made her way out of the kitchen towards the hall cupboard.  By the time she got back to where he was with the blanket, he was already asleep.

She won’t leave him this time either.

They had grown up together, become best friends and later married – every girl’s boy-next-door fairytale.  She wasn’t interested at first, but as they grew up she discovered that the loyalty, passion and gentleness he possessed was not easily found in any other person she’d met.  His capacity to love and care for the ‘unloveable’ was astonishing, his ambition and compassion for others startlingly beautiful.

But something somewhere went wrong.

She wonders if it would be quite so hard if she didn’t believe he was made of greater stuff, for greater things.  If she’d never known him before, she would have no idea how to hope for the future.  If she didn’t know who he really was, who he could really be, would it hurt so much to see him so far from that?

He gurgled and shuffled in his sleep.  Instinctively she reached out to him in case he should slide onto his side, but he stayed put, his hair matted and mussed on one side like a child’s after a good night’s sleep.  He would make a great father, if only…

That’s why she stays.  The picture of him as he was, as he could be – that exquisite bittersweet morsel of hope in face of his bad choices, in face of his persistent rejection of her and the life they once had together, in face of his inability to say no to the voice that wants ‘just one drink’.

To stay and hope is as painful as to give up and go, but perhaps this way she can be the one to try and win him back with her love and care.

One day it’ll be over.  Either he will be won over by her love, her efforts, the truth… or he will go too far and she’ll be forced to leave.  If she has to leave, all concerned will still bear the consequences.  She too, in her love for him, in her hope for him, already suffers the consequences – she may be removed, but she will not be absent.  Maybe if she leaves he will be forced to face his own consequences.  Perhaps he’ll feel the loneliness, the futility of doing life for himself alone, the pain of what he has brought about.  Perhaps then he will change.

But perhaps he will get used to the absence of her light – his eyes will become accustomed to the darkness he has chosen and soon the memory of light will be nothing but shadow, nothing but the absence of light, nothing.

No! Love always hopes.

One day she does leave, though.  Perhaps there are children involved, perhaps she can no longer bear to see them suffer the consequences of his bad choices, perhaps he starts to hurt them.  But she herself cannot carry him any more – she cannot hope alone.

Perhaps someone else, something else will shine.  A candle lit somewhere on his behalf – a hope, a wish, a prayer.

Love always hopes.  She will always hope.

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“Behold I am doing a new thing…”

Autumn is a great time to move somewhere new.

The trees turning from green to red to golden are not only so beautiful as to make the heart ache with joy, but they also serve to remind that change is the way of the world, and it is good.

Change brings many little deaths – the fare-thee-well of the green of well-known places and faces, the see-you-soon glowing ambers of goodbye tears and warm wishes – but autumn comes so that springtime can, in time, flourish once more with fresh growth and vigour.

Winter follows Autumn.  It can be cold and dark with unfamiliarity, slippery with icy loneliness, seemingly interminable.  But Winter has its own surprises.  Comfort found in a steaming mug.  Hope alive in clear skies and starlit pinpricks. Rest in watching and waiting the approach of new birth.

“Behold I am doing something new!  Now it Springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isa 43:19

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Filed under beauty, change, France/French, hope

Reckless Abandon

I am terrified of being myself.

I feel strength and passion within me that don’t fit with the ‘nice girl’ image that seems most acceptable to the world.

I fear stepping out as me for two main reasons.

One : My strength and passion demand a confidence and courage that would undoubtedly be intimidating to most men, thus lowering my chances even further of being fallen in love with and married.  The ridiculous thing about this is that I do not want a husband who would want me to be less than myself or what I am called to be.  I long to want that for a husband and for a husband who longs for that for me.  So to think of being a shadow of myself just so that I could marry someone is preposterous.

Two : I still fear that my strength and passion are nothing special.  That really all I have is this ball of longing for great things I cannot name and therefore cannot offer; that I cannot work out what it is I am meant to be doing and that even if I do, it won’t be anything worth making a fuss over.  These feelings are also ludicrous because why do I feel like it needs to be something that others would be able to see and to measure?

I want to be me with reckless abandon.  Like the way God created his world : tucked away animals and plants in parts of the world no human eye would ever see, flung myriads of stars into space for sheer joy rather than for counting, made music and painting and poetry…

I want to give and receive love in that way – not in the tight-fisted manner of fear and self-protection, but with freedom and joy and reckless abandon

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Filed under beauty, fear, freedom, God, heart, hope, love, risk

Rediscovering The Shawshank Redemption

You know, I used to call this film my favourite film ever.  Then someone told me (disparagingly) that everyone says that.  So I stopped saying it.  Yes, I’m that easily influenced.

But, I had some friends over tonight – one of whom had never seen it – and we watched it.

I’d forgotten.  It really is a beautiful film.  Don’t think I’d have said that before.  Think I liked it because of the twisty-clever way Andy escapes – the satisfaction that the baddies get what they deserve and because Morgan Freeman is cool.  It was a cool film.

But tonight I discovered that its a movie about hope and friendship.  Andy brings inmates hope through beer and music and a library…  He teaches hopeless Red to hope and it pays off.

The thing is that Red’s instincts about hope being a dangerous thing is right.  Andy discovers the pain of that when the only person who could prove his innocence is removed from the equation.  And yet life without hope is no life at all.

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Brilliant.

A beautiful film.  If you’ve never seen it, watch it immediately.  If you’re pushed for time, here’s the plot in a minute… 😉

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Filed under hope, story, truth, video