Looking for hope

It turned out to be a hard week to write about hope. This week my little view of the world seemed to have more than it’s share of loss, mourning, injustice, hardship, sadness, sickness.

When I think about what I hope for it’s this: wholeness for people and planet. Kingdom come. I think this is why Barbara Kingsolver says the most you can do with your life when you have figured out what you hope for is to live inside that hope. ‘Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under it’s roof.’

How many of us have the gumption, the strength in spirit really to do that – to say ‘I hope for goodness, wholeness, light and well being and most of all I hope for love’ and stay there living with it in a week like this one. In a world like this one.

When I was depressed I couldn’t. The mind lies to you and says there is no hope, there is only more drudgery. There is only more getting through, there is only more of this. There might only be more darkness.

I’m still learning this the thirties are more than tired – they can be a breeding ground for mental illness.

I’ll end with this: I believe in Jesus but sometimes I feel like I can’t see. So I look for the light he brings instead. I see it in money raised for a new widow. I see it in people speaking up and demonstrating about oppression. I see it in meals cooked and kids looked after and ‘how are you doing’ texts sent with some chocolate on the side. I see it in fair trade Christmas gifts and spending time with family who are hard to love and cups of tea shared with friends. I see it in parents who work hard at jobs they wish they didn’t have to go to. I see it in diapers changed and toddlers consoled and books read. I see it in prayers prayed and love sent. I see it when I look in your eyes.

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Emily Dickinson wrote:

“Hope is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all -”

Today is the first Sunday of advent in my faith tradition. Advent is thought of as a time to spend preparing ourselves for the birth of Jesus – the four weeks before Christmas. It’s a time of new beginning. Each week has a word associated with it and the first week is always hope.

For a few months I’ve been listening most days to this podcast called Pray As You Go. It’s not for everyone (in many season’s it wouldn’t have been for me) but right now the contemplative, liturgical style is giving me peace and connection. It always has the same format: song, scripture reading, questions for contemplating, scripture reading again, song and benediction.

This morning’s podcast for the first Sunday in advent started with a traditional song asking for Jesus coming and calling on Jesus during the hard and dark times in life. The reading was Mark 13:33-37 which is a parable about being awake not asleep when Jesus comes. They had us ponder what kind of a year we have had. What stands out. What does Jesus want me to wake up to? What do I need more of and what do I need less of?

When I thought about what stood out to me this year the words the words came fast: depression, death, injustice, anxiety, survival, coping, irritability. Ambivalence. Heaviness.

All this to say – I disagree with Ms. Dickinson. Hope has feathers but it’s singing can also be stopped.

I haven’t written much here because depression being new to me took me months to figure out and then several more months where I was trying to dig myself out and recover. Months where I mostly felt myself but had a few low periods again too. And let’s face it, it’s hard for me to be vulnerable in my day to day life, never mind on the internet.

But it’s advent and I believe in hope, even when I can’t feel it beating or singing. I’m questing for hope this week as part of my advent pondering. And I’m writing about depression linked with my advent journey because this year I can’t separate the two.

‘The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under it’s roof.’ Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

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On being alive

First thing this morning I went for a swim – one side of the sheltered bay to the other and back. The water was frigid and it was too early for the air to have warmed. I was the only one there. I stood in the sand looking out – seeing the beauty and feeling the chill. Thought about coming later instead.
I made myself get in.

My breath took half way across to even out. It was racing with my strokes and the coldness of the water. Racing through the dark depths. I cried at the gift of all the space to breathe – to feel my lungs full and free. To feel my breath come lightly amidst the gasping. The joy of tears and sweat and rebirth.

I start to think about how to do this always. Swim at dawn and come back breathing hard and alive. Kiss Aaron and eat bagels with my bed headed kids.

Sell everything and buy a sailboat. See the world. Move to a tiny cottage by the sea. Drink coffee on the rocks after greeting the day in the water. Make our own bagels. Eat every meal together. Feel God’s goodness and feel alive.

I wonder about how to do this. If there is a life that escapes the tightness, the tragedy, the weight, the worry, the responsibility. I wonder if I’m allowed.


Posted in Alive by the water, Everyday holy, Life in the 30's, Living with purpose | 2 Comments

On Being A Human Mother

We said goodbye to my grandmother yesterday. I got to hug all four of her children, both of my parents and my own three siblings all in one day. Everyone felt sad. Everyone felt happy.

After the hugs and the remembering and the goodbyes I went to the ocean. I needed to feel alive and it’s the place where I feel the freest to be good and sad and angry with God.  I needed a liberal dose of freedom. I noticed this about the Colbecks yesterday – for better or worse we are freer to be sad in private. So I got mad and sad with my feet wet – touching the sand. At some point (like always happens by the sea) I found myself breathing: God is love.

God is love, God is love, God is love.

I thought about you, all my children. I’m away from you for the first real time in nine years of being a mother. I hopped an airplane in the first hours of the new day, long before you will wake up. It brought me here, a whole days driving away in just a few hours to mourn. I’m thinking of today. I’m thinking of my life and the people I love and God being love and there is something I need to tell you.

I love you.

I know it’s cliche and anticlimactic and I tell you every single day but please hear me. We want unconditional love from our parents – we want it, we need it. When we think it is absent it keeps us disconnected.

So know this – know it to the core of your being. I love you. And in the wise words of Rob Bell who borrowed them from God: there is nothing you could do to make me love you less.

There is nothing you could do to make me love you less.

I need to write it here, put it down. I need to build our talisman, erect our ebenezer because I mess this most important thing up. I act like your dirty clothes on your floor, or your bickering with your sister, or your performing, affects the way I love you.

Hear me say it again because this will go on as long as I live. I will say no when I should say yes and say yes when I should say no. I will talk when I should listen. I will stay silent when you want some advice. I will chase you when you need space. I will let you go when I should pursue. I will say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, believe the wrong thing. I will work too much or too little and I will keep the house too clean or too messy. I will have too many hobbies or too few. Hear me because I will yell too much and play too little.

I will care about the wrong things.

And even though there will be millions upon millions of times when I love you well – these times when I love you wrong – when I love you not enough – when I love you like a human mother, these times will still cause damage.

So hear it again and again and again. I love you. No matter what you did last night or two minutes ago. No matter who you love, no matter how we disagree. No matter how I act.

I write it down so we can both read it and remember what really matters. I write it down as a request to please remind me when I am choosing the wrong thing, a plea to tell me when I’m not understanding. I write it down to hope you will forgive me when despite your best attempts and my own I still don’t get it. Because I am a human mother. And I need to lean hard into love.

I love you. No matter what.

Posted in Alive by the water, Everyday holy, God's love, Life in the 30's, Parenting | 6 Comments