Hope Springs Eternal

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
– Alexander Pope
image retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk

The ants are in my dahlias and they are killing my beautiful flowers. I bought the two small pots earlier in the summer on a whim— something to brighten my doorstep. I didn’t even know what colour they would turn out to be but was quite delighted when their copper tones began to peek from out of the foliage.  Now, these beautiful plants are being overrun with tiny little killers which crawl in and out of broken stems as if on a mission, while wilted blossoms droop in support of their fragile stems. I am no gardener, I am afraid. I love to have beautiful things surround me, but my green thumb is non-existent. I water and shade and protect from the elements, but when it comes to predators, I feel helpless to defend. I want to do something, but what?

A quick search on Google suggest pesticides, but there are also downsides to using these as well. What to do?

In spite of it all— despite the abuse and the odds racked against them: my poor little plants continue to suffer on, even boasting a few little bulbs that might withstand the dangers. These flowers refuse to bend and break in light of the certain outcome to befall them, if present conditions remain. They carry on. They endure. How lovely to be a flower and not know, not realize what’s coming next.

To not have to prepare for what lies just around the corner.

I talk to her and we circle around the same issues once again. The same heaviness clouding our conversations.  There is little to say sometimes when darkness overshadows. Life and all its accompanying struggles aim to kill joy, diminish our already dwindling supply of hope in the face of certain desolation. Fear, anger, rage, discouragement and despair try to crawl inside even while we fight for courage to persevere. We feel the presence as some kind of malevolence: as if it is a wave that will overtake us. Sometimes we believe that we are being destroyed from the inside out with little recourse other than passive acceptance.

We all need courage. But how is courage acquired?

We all need hope and expectation. But from where is that summoned?

We all need to know there is something worth fighting for. We need to believe that life is worth living. That there is purpose and meaning in our actions and thought. That there is something more.

But from where do we draw this resolve to believe?

I take it all in, the beauty of this late summer day. Wind blowing through the trees, clouds gently floating by. It all seems so idyllic until I turn by gaze back to my doorstep and these pitiful dahlias.

But nature has a way of replenishing itself. When grass dies, there is always new growth. When trees lose their leaves in autumn, new buds emerge in spring. When flowers die, new blossoms eventually appear. Renewal and revival are part of the process of life. In the very same ways, the soul needs to believe in hope just as the natural world aches for rebirth and new beginnings.

Some inspiration for today taken from David’s psalms.

Psalm 121 (NIV)

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from?

 

2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber;

 

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

 

5 The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

 

6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

 

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life;

 

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

And more comfort still…

Psalm 91 (NIV)

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

 

2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

 

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

 

4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 

5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,

 

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

 

7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

 

8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

 

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling– even the LORD, who is my refuge–

 

10 then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.

 

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

 

13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

 

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

 

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.

 

16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Like the wind and the waves in nature, I will carry on. Like the flower in spring, hope will always emerge from the blackness of the earth.

Courage is ours for the taking. Quitting is not an option.

Take heart, dear one.

Hold On

“When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on”
― Theodore Roosevelt

retrieved from woman.thenest.com

I am sitting at the back of the Bayliner, watching the waves gently rock us to and fro as we idle in the water. Husband is at the helm, and I am flanked by three of our four children. The Other is awkwardly sitting in the river with water-skis attached to her feet. She bobs like a buoy as she awaits the pull of the boat. The call comes for her to ready herself and I can almost feel her nerves—taut and anxious as she grasps on the two-way handle-bar. There is a split-second, a moment where we all are unsure. Will she gain the momentum necessary? Will she hold on? Will she right herself in time? Will she let go?

We pull ahead with a forceful thrust and she dives into the water, side-long or head first. I cannot recall. This, an unplanned entry either the route. The same procedure begins again. The boat pulling around in a circle while the tow rope slowly makes its way towards her through the water. Her arms reaching and then grabbing onto the tow line, holding on as if for dear life. The tense moment of waiting and then the lunge forward.

The boat pulls as if hauling a butterfly. But she again is unable to manage the propulsion. She slips and topples back into the water. (Thankful for a patient teacher in her Dad.)

This holding on and letting go is taking its toll, is trying her patience; but I can see that she is determined. Even when the drift takes us into murky seaweed. Even when she falls for the eighth time. Even when. She is discouraged but not deterred.

One more try.

She finally makes it upright after her ninth attempt, and we all cheer ecstatically from the sidelines. You can see even from a distance that she is very pleased with this accomplishment. So she should be. She has held on and we are moving forward through clear waters, nothing but sunshine and blue skies overhead.

Holding on is hard work, but it is worth it. It requires grit, stamina, tenacity and determination. We have to have resolve. And when we let go our grasp, it is just as crucial that we reclaim our former position and hold on that much tighter the second, third, fourth time around. Because life is not just about holding on—it’s about getting back up again after we’ve had to let go.

There is much to fight for in this life, much for us to fight for and hold on to:

-Our sense of purpose
-Our independence
-Our freedom
-Justice
-Relationships
-The future
-Our faith in Providence and humanity

Whatever the reason that you are still holding on, take heart and keep on keeping on. Don’t be discouraged in your efforts. Holding on is tedious, strenuous work, but it is worth it. Holding keeps us positioned, enables us to move forward, brings us closer to our goals. Holding is the most difficult thing we might ever have to do, but when we fight for what we believe is worth it, we discover something else in the process: holding on is beneficial for our character, too. In holding, we develop courage. And courage gives us hope.

Whatever you are fighting to find or seeking to reclaim, just hold on.

You’ll make it.

On Beauty in Sadness

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We spend much of our time pursuing happiness, joy, contentment. Peaceful bliss. But what of the experience that sadness brings? When grief descends upon us, enveloping with a haze of memories and emotions, do we try to escape its embrace? Do we turn our hearts from pain? Shelter our feelings from any knowledge of the unpleasant?

The sun blazes down. It is a scorcher of a day- 30 degrees in the city, where we find ourselves looking for one particular church. We are headed for a celebration of fifty years of married life, an occasion designed to praise the commitment two people made to forge a  jointly-lived life complete with its joys and sorrows. Complete with its highs and lows. But for today, of course, perspective is largely focused on the bliss. Attention is given to the delight found in exquisite beauty cultivated from meshing two lives into one.

These are for them the golden years. Just like the song says.

But there is something about the lyrics so sweetly sung by a daughter and her father that make me turn my eyes away. I find tears would come quickly- too easily, but for my attempt to re-focus my attention on the people around me. I scan the room while the duo at the front bring their song to a close. This music- it ignites within memories and feelings that are particularly tender and vulnerable today, a day marking another kind of anniversary. An anniversary within an anniversary.

Two months. Fifty-two years.

It suffices to say: it has been a beautiful day; but it has also been a difficult day.

I hear myself offering a word and the possibility for quenching the dark cloud: “I don’t want you to feel sad” I say to the one I love. But I wonder within the moment if this is truly wise. We must feel the melancholy that searing sadness and pain can bring. For grief is what helps us heal; it is what enables us to feel better. It is what enables us to find joy again. Rejecting those early feelings of seeming despondency so as to only accept the forced happiness we crave is to reject the necessary emotion that enables us to mend our broken hearts. Sadness serves a purpose that joy cannot: it is there to bridge the gap from one joyful moment to the next. Without the sadness, we are often stuck in stagnation. We are immobilized and halted.

We need to let ourselves feel.

Jonathan Safran Foer contends that “You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” If we are to experience a life rich with emotion, we must allow our hearts to burst with joy when the moment decrees, and then break with sadness when we experience loss and pain. This is all part of being and becoming human. Allowing ourselves to be in the moment who we must be and yet enabling ourselves to become who we are meant to authentically be in response to what is happening in our lives.

This poetic Biblical passage says with eloquence what I am feeling tonight:

A Time for Everything

3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes Chapter 3: 1-9, NIV)

Everything is beautiful…in its time. Beauty in sorrow. Beauty in delight.

He has made both joy and sadness beautiful in their time.

Precious times, these years…

The other day, I left Alberton with four belligerent children and three others (people who were, incidentally, astonished by the commotion going on in our van). I departed the area absolutely stunned by the severity with which we battle it out over here in the Gard Household: it matters not where we find ourselves. Mill River, Florida, Dominican Republic- you name it. We fought there. Actually, we no sooner hover a toe over the threshold of the van and it is like a switch is turned on inside our brains that releases our inner warrior/dark side. Darth Vader has nothing on this family. We fight about seat positions. Fight about farting. Fight about burping. Fight about whether or not the sun sets in the west and rises in the east (maybe it does/maybe it doesn’t). Fight about music, about books, about universities that ten year olds wish to attend when they are 20.

We fight- and we do so incessantly. And because of this marvelous fun family fact, I can attest to our permanent membership in the infamous FightClub as members in good standing, with our family having the most experience tearing one another’s heads off/emotional collateral.

When I arrived home that particular day of which I write, I literally fell out if the van, a dazed expression on my face and asked my Husband, above the cacophony of noise, if he had missed us all that morning. His reply:

“Like the plague.”

He was not joking. Not even a little bit.

As I was a Kid Vid Cinema leader at DVBS all week, I had the extreme pleasure of waking my children up at what appeared to be twelve hours before daylight (hard to tell as we had no sun at all this week), coaxing them out of their warm, cozy beds (where in sleeping, they could not make any sound of retaliation/noise) and then driving my children plus three to programming at eight (or whenever) every morning- programming which I must admit that I personally enjoyed almost more than the children as I was able to exercise/hone my dance skills each and every day (to the absolute horror/disgust of my two oldest).

The best part of this experience was that this four hour stretch was a glorious time of no fighting. For four hours, my four children were not clawing each other’s eyes out, were not tearing one another apart. And even better, for most of that time, they were someone elses’ responsibility (so even if they did happen to fight, I could feign ignorance and complete unawareness of what was happening). You cannot even imagine what this opportunity meant to a mother like me who has permanent damage in her ear drums from shrill, ear-splitting screams.

DVBS, while similar to real school, is a wonderful opportunity for mothers such as myself to release their precious offspring into the wild, I mean world, for a few brief and precious hours; handing off the responsibility of breaking up their fights, following them around like a hawk, rescuing them from imminent danger, feeding them snacks, protecting them from injury and in general, basking in their presence. They also get to learn, discover and grow spiritually while there. Bonus! And in doing such (that is, releasing them/freeing yourself), they come to find themselves in the extremely competent and capable hands of other adults who do this kind of stuff for free. For any mother, it is a no-brainer.

Next summer, if our numbers haven’t quadrupled by word-of-mouth advertising I will personally sign on for therapy due to stress incurred from shock and surprise.

The fighting unfortunately does resume once the troops have landed back on home soil. I am sorry to say. We have taken to playing a particular hymn called “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” at meal time. Thankfully there are different versions of the song because for quite a while (until we found an electronic version), Brian just sang it himself. He also has been working on “You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me Lucille” for those days when even the hymn won’t work.

He is learning extra lines of that one.

Interestingly, at bedtime- at the very last possible moment before the kiddos lay their heads on their pillows, there is a brief interlude of peace in which my mind goes blank and I forget any and all bad things that might have happened during the previous fourteen hours. This glorious experience is known as parental amnesia and it is vital to the proper functioning of any mother/father wishing to hang tight for twenty-five or so years of steady parenting and live to talk about it. (Relax: this extended time frame only applies if you have as many kids as me!) Parental amnesia has saved my sanity. It is the reason I poke my head into their rooms each night and say to myself:

“It really wasn’t all that bad of a day”…

…before waking up again the next morning to the precious sounds of kids yelling for their brother/sister to “get out of the bathroom- you’re taking too long!!!!”

Precious times, these years

Falling

image retrieved from stock-clip.com

I am standing, a girl of ten or so. My arms outstretched. And behind me, my playmate’s hands are widespread, in anticipation of my falling limply backward into her awaiting embrace. It is a game we play called Trust. We test the limits to which we can trust that the confidant behind us will support us when we fall.

We stand until we are fully ready to let go. And then we lurch wildly- backwards. Flailing or otherwise. Trusting that when we land there will be sure and steady hands there to hold us- just before we hit the ground.

I never quite got the hang of it. I’d awkwardly pitch backwards and try to catch myself just before the final inches were reached. I’d go halfway and then stop.

Trusting was too hard for me- it required letting go.

Thirty years later, we are walking the side road that leads from a little paved lane ambling gently away from the river side. And I pour out my cares and my worries and my concerns to a listening ear, expressing my fear for today, concern for the future. Worrying that there is no soft place to fall when life gets rough. I am, and have always been- a glass half–full kind of gal. I try to see things positively, but my mind is often bent on doom and disaster. I have a hard time with hope and an even harder time with trust.

He walks beside me, feet steady and sure. And he says to me, “This is when trust becomes real.”

It is not a simple childhood game, this thing called trust. This ideal of hope. It is a hard fall into dark places. It is a pitch backward into the dark. It is a leap of faith not always knowing exactly where you will land. It is grasping in the black of night for a hand to hold. It is calling out for help. It is waiting. And waiting and waiting and waiting. It is wondering if it will ever come- that wish, that dream, that desire, that longed after, sought after illusion. It is crying and calling out. It can be messy and complicated and ugly and raw. It is long and hard and often agonizing. But it is what we’ve been given so as to cope in this life.

Trust, hope, faith. There is no other viable option.

Without trust- without faith IN hope, we have only a present fragile moment much like a delicate translucent bubble in flight. It is here and then it vanishes. Gone. There is nothing to follow, no promise of more. No next.

Even when we do not know where the moments are leading, when we do not know if there is a soft place to fall, nor do not know even how we will fall; even when do not know the direction in which the paths of life are unfolding, trust is believing that there is always something more. There is always another moment. Always another way. Always another path. Always another option. For trust believes that there is Someone there waiting to receive us, someone there ready to hold us when we let go and descend into the black of night.

Trust believes.

We have the hardest time to trust when we need it the most. When trust is of absolute necessity, we often choose to sacrifice it for worry or fear. We let anxiety take its place, allowing trust to be shelved for lesser antidotes. We believe that these reactions and responses can compensate best for what we are feeling. We think trust is too weak a response. Too hard, too much work. Too taxing and tedious and demanding and onerous.

Trust requires faith- but we want something tangible.

The moments we need trust the most often occur when there is suffering involved. When we suffer, we look for something beyond ourselves on which to lean. We desire a solution. But often rather than looking beyond ourselves for an answer, we look within ourselves for a fix.

Kara Tippetts, an amazing mother of four wrote these words prior to passing from this life to the eternal after a long, hard battle waged with cancer: “when we trust Jesus to be the carrier, protector, redeemer of our hearts, death is no longer dying.” Amen to that.

Death is not dying.
Pain is not final.
Falling is not fatal.
Anguish is not the end.
Suffering will not have the last word.
There is hope.

Tippetts continues with this: “Knowing Jesus, knowing that He understands my hard goodbye, He walks with me in my dying… Because in His dying, He protected my living. My living beyond this place.”

That’s trust.

Trust believes beyond belief that there are always hands extended ready to catch us when we let go. Receive us when we fall. Trust expects- it is a certain knowing that there will be a place to fall. Trust anticipates that falling is never the end. Trusts understands that I must let go if I am ever to feel those arms beneath me, bearing the weight of my pain. My heartache.

And much like Tippetts, for me: trust is all about Jesus.

Two thousand years ago, those two arms outstretched on a rough, rugged plank. Spikes held those hands ready and waiting. The hands that healed and helped the nations, nailed to a tree. Those arms wait even now for me to fall gently- to fall hard. To simply fall.

Simply trusting.

Jesus.

This is when trust becomes real.

Brokenness is better than a hallelujah

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God loves a lullaby
In a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

She was just a mess, broken pieces, shards of glass. And as she sat on a bridge one fine October day, feet dangling over the water’s edge, all she could think of was how much she hated him. How much he drove her crazy. They would never make it, him and her. They were too different. Too opposite. And he didn’t understand her- what made her tick, what fueled her tank.

God loves the drunkard’s cry
The soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Months had passed into years, and she had all but given up hope. Things were just too far gone. There was no hope for this situation- they would never get it right. Some things were not meant to be. And they were one of these things: mismatched, unevenly aligned. Two people going in two different directions.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

She had talked about it for quite some time to the one person she trusted the most with these kinds of details. And that person had supported her through it all, but had also stipulated that they believed God was in this marriage, even if the Girl didn’t yet see it. That person said they were praying. They could see the best in this impossible situation. The Girl wasn’t so sure. In spite of her limited faith, the hope that the One Praying had, seemed to do for both of them.

The woman holding on for life
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Besides, it was not due to wrongs that either she or the Man had done to one another in any moral sense that this Great Divide had been created: it was due more to those little hurts that come by way of more intangible situations. From depriving one another love, from holding back. From the cold that grows inside a heart that is turned off love. And in time, little hurts like these can give way to bigger ones: anger, resentment, fear, insecurity, sadness, isolation, anxiety, panic and loneliness.

The tears of shame for what’s been done
The silence when the words won’t come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

So when she found herself telling him that she wished it was over, wished that she had never even begun, it was almost like the floor had finally given way in a dilapidated old house that had served its purpose one too many years. Everything fell apart.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

And while I still don’t know quite what happened, I can say that one day the Girl woke up and there was a change in her heart. She couldn’t quite put her finger on the exact moment, the time and day. But she knew somehow, someway- something had changed. She was different- and so was he. There had been something miraculous happen to bridge the Gap between them, something had toppled the massive walls that had been erected to separate, fortresses made from the strongest of materials. Something had changed between them. They were no longer enemies, at odds with one another. They were friends.

Better than a church bell ringing
Better than a choir singing out, singing out

The Girl and the Boy tentatively adjusted to their new life, lived in freedom from the former chains. Chains that had once held them captive and enslaved to their own self-serving interests were now broken. They were gone. And the Girl and her Boy lived in peace with one another, free to love each other. Free to love themselves. And free to serve one another in love.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

And because they had witnessed nothing short of a miracle, it was right to tell the world. That their broken mess of a marriage had been made into something beautiful. Just like a broken hallelujah from the lips of one breathing their last. Just like a melody from one who has lived to see another day. Their lives were a living testament to grace. Their lips could do nothing less than sing of God’s amazing grace.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

When we share with one another the brutal in our lives, along with the beautiful, we are able to clearly see the truth on which our lives are built. Unashamed and unconcealed. Broken and free. We are unchained melodies.

For we are more than just the pretty details we show one another in social media, more than the cute pictures we post on Facebook, the funny stories we share in our news feeds. We are more than just the casual “I’m fine” that we say so flippantly when asked how we are doing. We are people with real lives, real stories. Real pain. And none of our lives are perfect. None of us has that market cornered yet. We live lives of suffering that can be marked on a continuum that measures the varying degrees. And none can judge the shoes another walks in because we cannot ever know the pain we feel inside. Cannot really know the emptiness of wondering, “Is this all there really is?” This has to be one of the greatest points of despair in a person’s journey: wondering what is the purpose of a pointless life that seems to be heading nowhere. This is grief at its lowest, this is emptiness in its fullest.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Can we believe this truth?
Our lives are better than a beautiful melody sung by angels.
Our tears are better than a hallelujah uttered in church on Sunday morning.
Our cries are better than an Amen.
Our rage is better than apathy.
Our anger is better than indifference.
Our acknowledgement of the brokenness of our lives is better than a hallelujah.

Bearing truth to the messy, complicated in our lives is better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

(It’s better than a hallelujah sometimes)

Words to the song “Better Than A Hallelujah” are written by Amy Grant

The Purpose of Prayer

Prayer is something we as Christians take for granted as part and parcel of our life and calling, but it is something really of an enigma for most of us. You see, we are told that we can ask anything in Jesus’ name and it will be given to us. But when we ask, we so often find that there is no response. We sense quiet from God. Maybe even an absence.

Prayer can seem like a wasted moment at best- a farce at worst.

I am in the kitchen watching my Mom make us coffee when she casually mentions that she and a mutual friend (living at a distance from her for every year she has known her) have prayed for each others’ children, as part of a promise to one another made many years earlier. The fact that I have been prayed for by a woman who has not really known me (and who has largely just heard of me through stories told of me by my own mother) is all quite humbling. I have been thought of and mentioned in the presence of God, before His face- by someone who considers my life to be of value enough to pray for me daily. Incredibly touching.

In fact, Mom tells me that this friend has been praying for her five children (and vice versa) since we were all knee-high to a grasshopper. That is a long time to pray, as I am now 40 and no longer a child. I marvel at the commitment this kind of prayer practice takes- to pray for your friend’s children year after year after year, and I think about this a bit before I find myself heading to beat the rush to the shower. As I continue to get ready for the day, I am struck by the fact that I do not pray as vigilantly for my own four children, let alone anyone elses’ (for that matter), as do these two women. They are amazing prayer warriors. In fact, when I consider my personal belief in the power of prayer, I find myself coming up short. I have to ask myself: do I believe that prayer works? And that it can impact lives?
Do I really think prayer changes things?

As I am thinking, I begin to reflect on some recent changes in my life and how these changes have made a major impact on the relationships I hold the closest. In fact, I think of marriage and my relationship to Husband and how our whole married life has been a struggle to find common ground. I consider the fact that marriage has never come easy to either one of us and that we have too many times wondered if marriage was really the right decision for us as a couple. I think about the times we both hit rock bottom, wondering if we would ever find ourselves rising to the surface again. I think of the despair.

And while I am thinking, I consider my own life- the dreams and hopes and aspirations. I think about the ‘would have beens’, the ‘could have beens’- the seemingly missed opportunities. The regrets.

I think about the struggle I have had in finding and nurturing my passion.
I think about how hard parenting has been.
I think about relationships and how difficult they sometimes can be.
I think about my struggle with depression and loneliness- my insecurities and anxiety.

And I think, as I contemplate my life in a nutshell- all while standing there in the shower- I think about two women praying for me. Daily. Consistently. Without fail.

Has the hope I have sensed of late been a long-time answer to an unmet prayer humbly offered by two faithful praying women?
I cannot help but surmise that it wasn’t answers they sought, trophies they pursued: it was hope they were after. Believing that their faith would be honored, knowing that the regularity in which they petitioned their Savior would not return to them void. And all because two praying women believed.

Faith is believing.
Not just in what we hope for- but in what our wildest hopes could never even imagine.
Faith is knowing.
Not just what we think might be true- but what we can hardly even envisage might be possible.
Faith is trusting.
Not just in what seems like a sure bet- but in what feels unattainable.
Faith is expectant.
Already trusting that what is about to unfold is carefully being held in God’s faithful, loving Hands. It has already happened in God’s eyes. We just need to trust.

When relationships are built on believing conviction like this, it no longer matters what we are asking from the One involved in this dynamic- what matters is Who we are asking. The crux of prayer is: Who we are praying to. Who is listening? And Who can meet the need? I really think the point of prayer is not to see a wish-list/bucket list of wants and desires granted, as if God were some Fairy God-father, but rather it is there to grow us in relationship. Closer to Him. Closer to each other.

Prayer is our connection to God. And it strengthens our connections to one another.

It’s the point of prayer- to draw us close.

As I stand there in the shower, on yet another Good Friday morning (two more days until Easter and the hope and promise it offers), I start to see that there is evidence that Someone is changing me, drawing me ever closer to His Heart. Evidence that Someone loves me and wants me to love Him back. And evidence that Someone desires to know me- my needs and wants and fears and joys. Someone is reaching out to me- I just have to have faith to know He’s there. I just have to believe even as I reach out myself, through prayer.

And when I do, I sense that knowing- that understanding. God is there. He’s real. And prayer really works- maybe not for the self-serving intents of my own needs and wants, but certainly for the Higher Purpose of drawing me close to the One who’s got the whole world in His Hands.
Prayer works- if for nothing else than to change me from the inside out, and that is more than enough reason to choose to really pray, starting today.