If You’ve Ever Been Disappointed

 

fullsizeoutput_1ef7

One morning last week as I did my early reading and light spilled over the frosted earth like a glass of yellowed buttermilk, two yearling does visited the meadow behind our house. The girls were wary, and when I moved to the window to watch them nibble the frozen grass along the fence line, they lifted their heads in tandem to study me—tails twitching behind. They soon surmised I was no threat and resumed their brunching, content. It was cold outside, below freezing, and I noted the thickness of their fur, wondered how it would feel to the touch.

Since then, I moon expectantly around the window as often as I can, hoping to catch another glimpse the little girls’ doe-eyed beauty.

I am a hopeless sentimentalist—a hopeless hoper; always believing the best is yet to come, always holding out for a glimpse of wonder. I study the night sky patiently for shooting stars, search the clover patch diligently for the elusive four-leaf, linger long on the balcony by the ocean for a glimpse of the dolphin’s rounded nose to poke up out of the waves.

I’ve been disappointed too many times to name and yet, my spirit still gets its hopes up when waiting. I never seem to learn my lesson, often diving straight into hope from possibility without a second thought. God has almost cured me of wanting anything at all through the repeated blows of disappointment I have experienced over the years.

But not quite.

Recently, I suffered another disappointment and I’m having a hard time shaking this one. Even though I know there’s no simple answer, I’ve been asking myself “why?” a lot. I’ve caught myself wishing I wasn’t so full of hope. I’ve been asking God what I’m doing wrong, what I’m supposed to learn from this grief, and why does he always make me take the hard path? I tear up at the strangest times and find myself without words during my prayer time. I’ve been sitting in silence a lot. It’s quiet here, inside the walls of me. I have been touching the moments gently—feeling around inside my heart.

Romans 5:5 tells me, “… hope does not disappoint …” but I’ve been complaining to God about what I feel is a lack of truth in this statement. I’ve been identifying with God’s name for his people in Zachariah 9:12: “prisoners of hope.”

And still, I hope. I hope this disappointment was a mistake. That this thing longed for will be replaced by something of greater joy. That the reason for this “no” would be clear to me and I would feel grateful to be saved from whatever certain perils a “yes” would have brought.

Christmas is coming and this year my advent waiting feels almost desperate at times. For, lately it feels I am always waiting for a good that never arrives. This is what the word “advent” means, after all: arrival.

After some sleuthing around in the dictionary, I discovered that the words “advent” and “adventure” come from the same Latin root, advenire. But “advent” comes from the past participle stem of advenire, while “adventure” comes from the future participle.

I’ve always thought of Advent as a waiting for, but this startling etymology reminds me that this arrival we wait for is already past. Yes, we wait for the return of our Savior, but he has already come. He has already done the hard work that fills our hearts with longing—that fills our hearts with hope. He has arrived and dwells within our hearts, abiding and keeping company and strengthening us for the journey. Because even though he has arrived, we still wait for that day when all will be made right and his arrival will announce a new order of things. And it is the promise of future adventure that keeps our waiting so expectant, so alive with joy.

This is why hope does not disappoint. This is why my heart’s hopefulness cannot be quashed: Our hope is in more than earthly desires. Our hope is a person. His name is Jesus. There is much that can be said about this broken world we live in and how our lives are being made new by faith—minute by minute—how disappointment is a real and human thing … but I don’t have all the right words to say that just now.

This is the mystery of Advent, this already-but-not-yet our hearts understand better than our heads. I don’t quite understand it either, my mind almost grasps it but then it slips away as quickly as the light fades from the winter sky.

But the shimmer—this glimmer—of truth stays inside of me. This morning I touch it gently with my thoughts as I move to the window once more. I watch through the glass, my feet planted in warm, as the two yearling sisters emerge from the brush and sniff the remains of my fall pumpkin, broken open and discarded in the meadow.

The house glows soft with twinkling light and my heart floods with hope once again.

 

 

Playdates with God: First Monday of Advent

IMG_6787

The first Sunday of Advent found us on the road, returning our son to his scholastic nest after a week of giving thanks. We traveled for a total of nine hours yesterday, watching the sun-chariot of Helios arc across the sky through the windshield. We missed the lighting of the first candle with our church family, the candle of hope, but as day dwindled into night and we drove away from our son, I felt the flame of hope kindled in my heart.

He is growing into his own person and this week felt like meeting him anew in many ways. Every smile was an answer to prayer. Today, it feels right to step from gratitude into hope. It has been a long year. We live into decisions made of sacrifice, uncertainty marks our steps. There have been disappointments and new beginnings, but the light of this season reminds us this story we are living is only part of the tale.

Advent always stirs that deep longing, fills with expectation. I strain my neck to see the manger, but also look inward to find Christ in me. I look ahead to the day when all will be made new in this tired world. Sometimes, it’s hard to let that work begin with me, let my fingers slip from the tight grip with which I hold it all.

John Calvin said that the world is a theater of God’s glory, that he is “inclined to allure us to himself by gentle and loving means.” In his book Ravished by Beauty, theologian Belden C. Lane says, “[P]raise is a matter of studying in minute detail the footprints of God in the world.” He is referring to nature, but I have followed God’s footprints through the ways he is working in the lives of those I love of late. I step into Advent with wonder and awe, cradling tiny flames of light.

Hope. How it does light the way. May your week be filled with light, Beloveds.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

How Singing Heals

IMG_6991

IMG_6992

IMG_6993

The tender shoots of the greens I planted weeks ago are peeking up through the soil of my garden and filling me with hope. With the wet breath of morning, I tuck more seeds into bed between the green leafy bundles. For now, they sleep, but soon, they too will reach for the sun. The house sparrows have taken over my bluebird box again. Inside their nest are five brown-speckled eggs. No matter how many sparrow nests I pull from that box, they outwit me with perseverance every year. When I reach in to find the raspy nest filled with eggs, I haven’t the heart to pull it from the box. I utter an apology to the bluebirds as prayer.

We are tired. Tired from travel, from lifting the heavy weight of choices, from preparing for what is to come. Friday morning I will fly to Nebraska for the Jumping Tandem Retreat, and I am looking forward to seeing my sisters. But the well of activities that needs doing between here and there feels tremendous. I have been struggling against its depth.

I fill my head with the music of the Psalms and I remember a study my friend Mike told me about that showed how singing boosts our immune systems. “God made our bodies so that singing helps to heal us,” he told me.

I sing to the new greens in my garden. I listen to the birdsong of the persistent sparrows and let my heart be strengthened.

What song do you sing today?

Holy Saturday

IMG_6856

The whole of life feels like the waiting. Sealed in this tomb, locked in darkness. Light is the stuff of legends, flits across the mind the way a bird lights on a tree limb. Scripture tells us, “For all creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:19) I feel the sharp intake of breath, the stiffening of awaited release.

Resurrection Day is the already-here-but-yet-to-come day; the day we search our hearts for every bit of light that is hope. The work of the cross is done but still working within us.

If the God who revealed life to us, and whose only desire is to bring us to life, loved us so much that he wanted to experience with us the total absurdity of death, then—yes, then there must be hope; then there must be something more than death; then there must be a promise that is not fulfilled inour short existence in this world; then leaving behind the ones you love, the flowers and the trees, the mountains and the oceans, the beauty of art and music, and all the exuberant gifts of life cannot be just the destruction and cruel end of all things; then indeed we have to wait for the third day.”~ Henri Nouwen

There must be hope. And so we wait.

Playdates with God: Open Window

IMG_6914

To you, O Lord, I call,
for fire has devoured the open
pastures
and flames have burned up all the
trees of the field.
Even the wild animals pant for you;
the streams of water have dried up
and fire has devoured the open
pastures.       ~Joel 1:19-20

Every morning now, the intertwinings of the robins’ songs grow louder and the earth is waking up to this music. How many times have I passed under the plum tree, deaf to the symphony ringing from its branches? Yet, now, amidst a season of darkness, the song lifts and carries light.

Hope.

I open the windows, despite the cool spring air, and let it flood through the kitchen; drift down the hall and into my busy preparation for the day. Lords and ladies have never had such a retinue and I am royalty as I wipe crumbs from the table, fold laundry into neat piles.

Without the darkness the light is easy to overlook.

We are on the road to Jerusalem; Sunday we wave the palms. And I have been asking myself, “Will I embrace the praise, the Hosannas, the raucous, doting crowd and not the cross?” The prophet Joel speaks of thirst, of even wild animals panting after God—but is it not the fire that brings us to this place of want?

Last night, Jeff and I went to Mountain Stage, a local musical performance that features various artists. One of my favorite bands was there and my husband gifted me a date for my birthday. What we love about Mountain Stage is the quality of the artists. We almost always discover a new favorite when we attend. This time it was a female trio named Red Molly. As one of the singers crooned a song about feeling homesick, I slipped my hand in his and leaned on his shoulder.

And the first cracks of light slipped under the door of this dark night.

The way the light bumps up against shadow in this life reveals beauty in the most mysterious ways. This morning I notice that the book of Joel is written like a poem, with unusual line breaks and striking language that stirs the imagination.

… Key words, alliteration and refrains hint at its effective oral communication. Similes and metaphors are encountered throughout the book, indicating that a merely literal interpretation may not unravel the profound revelation that Joel is attempting to communicate. Poetry has always been an efficient means of communicating not only important truths, but the emotions and insights of the writer as well. In this way, the whole being of the reader or listener is stirred up to respond to the truth.” (Lena Lee, The Structure of the Book of Joel)

Yes. Poetry and music. Paintings, film, all works of art … they bring light. I am opening the window to the song, letting light fall over shadow. And it is all the more lovely for the play of each off the other. This is the beauty of a life hidden in Christ. That we die with him, are raised with him, and are covered by his light.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess