Over the past several days I have heard from friends near and far via phone, email and in person. A recurrent theme is one of trying to hold on to hope. A couple of these friends are long time adoption buddies who have adopted older children, and whose path is rougher than many would ever be able to realize. I read about a beloved child gone astray, years post-adoption and yet still this young woman is haunted by a past her mom can not erase. Sadly, it appears she is going to have to learn some very difficult lessons while her family awaits her heart's return.
Another friend recently brought home an older daughter, and the relationship is predictably prickly and difficult. 6 weeks in and it is plain old hard. Strangers have been thrust together in an attempt to form a family, long overdue for a child who is closer to woman than girl, and it will not be an easy road to travel to reach a stage where the word "family" will he happily applied.
Yet another friend is sitting by a hospital bed as her sister's cancer riddled body hangs between this life and the next. Others work diligently at relationships that are not always easy, while still others battle loneliness and grief as they wistfully recall spouses who are no longer here...or whose spouses are physically here but are gradually becoming strangers as disease ravages minds.
I think of the happy chaos our family currently experiences, and without being negative but merely being practical, I know it is only a matter of time before once again we will find ourselves holding on to hope for one reason or another. That is not pessimistic of me, that is just acknowledging that life is a series of highs and lows, and anyone riding this planet long enough is going to get a good dose of both.
How do we manage to hold on to hope? What is it that causes the mom of a 20 year old daughter to continue to imagine the best for her wayward child? What is it that allows a sibling to remain bedside for a hopelessly ill sister? What is it that finds us reaching out to others in our inescapable grief?
Love is the only way we can hold on to hope. Love helps us to imagine a better life for a child who has to learn everything the hard way. Love is keeps us there, holding the hand of our dying loved one despite how hard it is to be present for their departure. The vision of love once experienced causes us to reach out in hopeful defiance as we try to beat off loneliness.
So often there is nothing we can do but hope, but hope is a powerful emotion. It keeps us going, it grabs us before we fall into the abyss, it helps us envision a future which often at the moment seems impossibly out of reach.
I have walked through some dark, disheartening times. Some of those times you all know about, for they have been chronicled here on the blog. The most painful times have not been blogged about, for they were a lifetime ago it seems, and yet it is upon those building blocks of pain and sorrow that my current life of joy stands. I've also learned that those who suffer much, appreciate more, and the soul deep love I have for our family and all that we are together is a direct result of past pain experienced. I'd go through it all again to have the richness I have now.
But I couldn't make it alone. When I felt all hope was lost, God placed very special people in my path to encourage me, direct me, whisper to me, and teach me. I have been cradled in Wisdom's Hands, and I shake my head in disbelief at the sheer good fortune of having these voices who speak such truths to me, guiding me and uplifting me.
There is a season for it all, and it is hard to see so many I care about in a season of such trial and despair. But I know that somehow, God will be revealed through each of these situations. Oh, some may not recognize it as God, but that is what it will be nonetheless.
And in the midst of the mundane, I am filled with hope and gratitude myself. With every load of laundry, I give thanks. With every trip to Walmart, I give thanks. With every lost pair of swim trunks, with every sloppily performed school paper, with every dropped cracked egg, I recognize that there might be far worse things going on in my life to be upset about.
Holding on to hope is one of the single most difficult tasks we have. It is made so much easier by those who reach out in ways they can...a late night email, a quiet hug, a phone call or glance across a room that reminds us of our connectedness and reassures us that we do not travel through this world all alone...and that others too have suffered. There are times when we are the ones in need of hope, and times when we are the ones inviting hope to enter into a situation. Whichever the case may currently be, God is at the center of that hope, working through you or others, reaching out to you or using you to reach out to others.
Keep holding on to hope.