The Perils of Relentless Hope

January 27, 2010 § 3 Comments

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to talk myself out of being hopeful.

Hope is dangerous. It’s alive and itchy and it will keep you up nights. It’s irrational and feisty and refuses to listen to reason. It’ll make you look for signs in places you may not find them, muddle your brain, and tug at your heart. Hope makes you take risks you otherwise wouldn’t. You invest what you might have protected. You say yes when you know it might hurt. You hold on when it would be so much easier to let go. You walk boldly into situations where the letdown and rejection are so dang likely you know you should run the other direction. But you don’t. Because maybe, just maybe…

I love that we are sometimes dangerously, relentlessly hopeful. Somehow we’ll get an idea in our heads or hearts and just hold on to it, blissfully ignorant to horrible odds and obvious improbability. Sometimes, despite our resistance and fear and reluctance and pleading and whining, that stubborn little spark of hope will set up camp inside us, carve its name into the walls of our hearts, and politely refuse to go away.

I love the picture of God in my mind, sowing these tiny seeds of hope, winking in my direction as he whispers: “Little girl, you are going to hate every minute of this hope. You’re going to fight it and doubt me and pray that I’ll take it away from you and leave you to your comfort and your failure and your normal. It is going to frustrate you and grow you and make you learn, and you aren’t going to understand it at all. You’re going to envy the people who can be jaded or doubtful, who are never surprised when life lets them down, and feel like that might be the easier path. You’re going to try to do that thing where you insist I won’t bless you. But you’re wrong, kiddo, because I’m going to love you like you won’t believe. I’m going to plant this hope in your heart, make you scared and uncomfortable, and then I’m going to rock your world. You can trust me. You can trust me. You can hope.”

So. Here’s hoping.

love.

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In which she asks you to take a walk…

January 20, 2010 § 6 Comments

My grandfather was a walking man. Some of my earliest memories are of walks with him – exploring the campus where he taught, the streets of Chicago, the mudflats of Morro Bay, or the Elfin Forest. He’d tell me stories as we walked about his childhood or about a set of fictional characters who became as real to me as the trees or the pavement under our feet. I’m not sure if my love for long walks came from these experiences or was born into me through some sort of nomadic calling in my bloodline. One way or the other, my grandfather was a walking man. My father is a walking man. And so, I walk.

My walking habit came up in Home Community (that’s Bible Study for those of you who just got a little worried) last night. This week brought us the thoughts of the fantastic Betsy and Brian, who are quite possibly one of the world’s most adorable sets of newlyweds, and a rockstar leadership team to boot. Our topic was “Trials and Pain,” which isn’t exactly cheery, but definitely relevant, definitely important, and definitely thought provoking. Our conversation meandered its way into ideas and thoughts about coping with hard times, and I offered up my only true solution to anything, outside of unfaltering faith in God: I walk.

I walk because I fidget. I have a hard time focusing on anything sitting still, and walking occupies my body and allows my brain to relax and center. Walks are my best way to talk to God and try to listen to the answers. Years ago, when I was mid-divorce and feeling trapped in every circumstance of my life, I walked because the simple action of moving forward made me feel like I would survive. Walking makes me feel like myself, calms me down, wakes me up. I’m better walking than I am holding still.

I also like to walk with people. Conversations can be awkward in coffee shops or over dinner, shifting around and staring each other in the face. On walks, you’re looking forward, there’s less pressure to maintain eye contact and more freedom to be honest and real. People seem to listen better, process better, and speak their minds a little clearer… it’s good.

So, invitation: I’d like to walk with you, five or so blog readers. I’d like to do this more often, because I’d like to hear your stories and see what you’ll tell me when you don’t have to look me right in the eyes. Because I love your company, and because we have the luxury of being honest and vulnerable with each other, and it doesn’t get much better than that on this planet. Take me up on this. Please.

love.

Pay no attention to the girl behind the curtain…

January 11, 2010 § 4 Comments

I finally got around to reading Don Miller’s latest book today. (That move there, the one where I say “Don” instead of “Donald?” That’s me feeling cool cause I know people who know him.) I like reading his books because I tend to agree with him, though not necessarily in a literal way. I guess I appreciate the way he thinks about things – his thought processes are similar to mine, so reading his books makes me feel like I have a kindred spirit out there. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, which is probably a huge factor in his success as a writer.

This particular book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, is mostly about living into the story of life, your own and the universe-wide story God is writing. He talks a lot about creating memorable moments, which I feel I’ve embraced pretty well in my life, and also about letting go of fear, at which I’m just plain lousy.

I’ve always struggled with the fear of not being liked. When I was younger, I resolved this fear by becoming everyone’s favorite doormat. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made peace with the idea that some people just aren’t going to like me. Turns out it isn’t really that big a deal after all, this not being universally likable. Except…

Every once in a while I’ll meet someone and know right away that I really, really want them to like me. I want to be liked by a potential employer, a boyfriend’s mom, that fascinating and unattainable guy, or that really cool girl who probably wouldn’t have talked to me in high school. Suddenly, then, I’m twelve again… hopelessly self aware, totally stuck in my own head, hypercritical of my every move, and I sabotage the heck out of myself.

Here’s how my rebellious mind and body relay my heart’s desire to be liked by someone who intimidates me:
1) Maintain safe physical distance. As in, never, ever touch the person if you can avoid it. Stand farther away than any normal human would. Try not to make eye contact.
2) Try not to look too desperate. This is usually achieved by chatting up everyone else in the room, and relying heavily on tool number 3.
3) Remain as sarcastic as possible. Tell jokes. Act cynical, cause that’s funny. Never mind that you’re the least cynical human on the planet. That’s just weird.
4) Tell, don’t show. As in “I’m going to tell you I’m clever, because I’m basically unable to be clever in your presence. You might not believe me, but it’s worth a shot.”
5)If you can’t think of something witty to say, clam up and act bored. God forbid you should have a real conversation and reveal that you’re actually kinda likable sometimes.

You can imagine how well this works for me. Remarkably, sometimes people I really want to like me will like me in spite of all that. Sometimes, there’s just one conversation where I suddenly relax and connect and act normal and it’s all sunshine and roses. But how much easier would life be if I were able to just kill that stupid fear, to trust that a God who created me with love wouldn’t set me up for rejection I can’t handle? Don Miller says the great stories always go to people who don’t give in to fear. I’m sure he’s on to something there.

2010, the year of magical happenings. Maybe also the year I finally get over myself. Here’s hoping.

love.

2010: The Year of Magical Happenings

January 6, 2010 § 4 Comments

I always feel like there’s a whole lot of pressure on the first blog post of a new year. Right? Ugh. Just needed to put that out there.

2010, kids. Welcome to the future. Let’s talk about belief.

If you’ve been to my house, you’ve noticed the “Believe” thing. To be honest, I’m not sure when it started, but at some point in my life, I decided that word was my mantra. Somehow my friends and family got the memo, and I’ve been gifted everything with the word “believe” on it that any of them have encountered since. So yes, it’s a bit much. And yes, I do have the tattoo. I’m sure we’ve talked about it, my “believe” fixation, but in case you were wondering, here’s where it came from:

When I was little, I was surrounded by imaginative, creative, and playful adults. My family created an atmosphere for young me that encouraged belief in all sorts of things, some true and some less true. I was allowed to grow up as slowly as I needed to, allowed to see fairies and unicorns in forests, allowed to talk to animals and aspire to be a butterfly, and allowed to believe in magical everythings. As I grew, I came to my conclusions about reality in my own time. No one ever took the right to believe in anything away from me by telling me I was too old or it was too silly or “duh, just so not real.” The adults around me respected the things I believed in purely because I believed in them.

That respect created a capacity for belief in me that I still have today. Obviously, I’ve figured a few things out – I’m on to the Santa thing, and I get that seagulls don’t actually talk to my grandparents. But the freedom I had to believe left me with a perspective that I value above anything else from my childhood – the idea that the world is full of things I can’t see, incredible possibilities, endless maybes, and relentless hope. That perspective has shaped my entire life.

I think the ability to believe is one of the most underrated gifts from a generous God to a cynical human race. We’re talking about a God who is all powerful and unending, but chooses not to force Himself on us and instead maintains some mystery, making faith necessary and our option to believe the final piece in the puzzle. I don’t think He set it up that way to torture and confuse us. I think He did it because believing is good for our souls and necessary for our survival. We can control belief, even when we can’t control anything else. We can choose to believe, to hope, in spite of just about anything. Our belief can keep us going. It can keep other people going. It’s powerful stuff, our ability to believe.

This is obviously something I can go on and on about. I’ll try to wrap it up.

So it’s 2010, kids, and I’m a believer. Sometimes I want to turn it off, to be less gullible, to protect my heart and not hope for impossible things all the time. The problem is, impossible things keep happening. So I’m in. This year, let’s call for some magical happenings. Let’s believe for the sake of believing, because it makes us better, because it works, because we’re designed to hope for and trust in things unseen.

Anything can happen. Anything.

love.

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