Hope

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After the fire

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

If you hadn’t heard, Colorado is burning.  There are at least a dozen separate fires racing across the state, some in very close proximity to major cities.  In Colorado Springs alone, 32,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. 

The images are astounding: smoke billowing from hillsides, flames licking the sky, familiar landmarks in the path of the blaze.  I hear about the “thousands of acres” that are on fire, and it’s hard to comprehend just how large an area we’re dealing with, or how long it may take to get it under control; the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins has been burning for 18 days.  Depending on which way the wind is blowing, Denver has often been enveloped in a haze.

For as stunning and alarming as the fire itself is, as I scroll through photo slideshows online, I’m more taken with the images of the aftermath: barren hillsides, burned-out tree trunks, quiet devastation.  After being ravaged, a small amount of clean-up can be done – but then, the only thing left to do is wait: for new growth, for new life, for a new season. 

And waiting can be so hard.

I’m in a season of waiting right now.  It’s tough, because my culture has conditioned me to expect quick results and instant relief – but I’ve weathered enough to know that this just can’t be the case all of the time.  If you’ve gone through a fire, it takes a long time to rebuild.

The last time I was in Nashville, I saw my friend Brynn Sanchez.  If you don’t know Brynn, you’re missing out, because she is one of the top humans on the planet.  She told me about singer/songwriter Audrey Assad, and later sent me one of her tracks.  Since then, “Show Me” has played at least 3 times a day – early in the morning, driving home from work, before bed.  As one who struggles with the concept of prayer (which is another post entirely), this song has been my heartbeat.

“Bring me back to life – but not before you show me how to die.”

My heart breaks for my state, and for the people whose homes have burned.  I am so sad for the death of dreams, and I feel for their long road ahead.

But I hope for redemption of what has been lost.

Things will feel better one day.  Things will BE better one day.  New life is on its way.  It just takes time.

Sunny side up

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Thank goodness: my 2012 has dawned sunny side up.

I hope yours has, too.

I’ll see you back here whenever I have something to talk about. Maybe I’ll write a lot. Maybe I won’t. I have no idea.

But I have a feeling that this year is going to be different in all sorts of ways.

Beauty for ashes

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Well, well.  Happy new year, all.  And just in time – I’ve never needed a new year so badly.  I was so ready to drop-kick 2011 Beckham-style out the door and usher in 2012, fresh, hopeful, and, as of yet, untainted.  Hallelujah and amen.

You may be wondering what life has looked like since I last blogged 9 days ago.  Or maybe you’re not (likely).  Regardless, YOU ARE GOING TO KNOW.

I wrapped up my job at Emma.
I flew from Nashville to Kansas City.
I snuggled my nephews.
I read four books in seven days:
– “One Day
– “Room” (the best book I read all year)
– “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
– “Incendiary
I ate so much cheese.
I slept full nights.
I played Dance Central on the X-Box.
We made it through the first “divorced Christmas.”
Things were awkward and sometimes painful.
But we did it.
And I love my family for it.
I drove from Kansas City back to Denver with Becca.
And Greebs and Toad.
Every day I declare war against dog hair.
I bought and assembled one of these.
Zion’s adoption was made official.
He is irrevocably a Parsons.
He is the best thing that happened in 2011.
I spent multiple days cleaning and organizing our home.
Four different sets of friends got engaged (including Greta, OMG!).
I got a new phone number.
And I start my new job on Tuesday.

I rolled into the new year a burning train wreck, having spent a solid two hours of December 31st on my bed in uncontrollable tears before pulling myself up by my bootstraps, throwing my body into the shower, and willing myself to go to a few parties.  It’s been awhile since I’ve cried so hard – the honest, gasping kind of tears, the sort that leave your eyes stinging and your entire face swollen.  2011 was a kick in the gut, to say the least – and a good, long cry seemed the most appropriate way to mourn what went down, and bid the year adieu.  With a bold middle finger.

But as I stared at my puffy, snotty countenance in the mirror, wondering how I was ever going to recover enough to show my face at these parties, I remembered the part in the Bible about how those who grieve are given beauty for their ashes, and joy for their mourning, and peace for their despair.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not one to go slinging around scripture insensitively – especially when it comes to the big, weighty things.  Life is too hard and people’s hearts too fragile to offer Bible verses as mere Band-Aids.

But I have to say – if it weren’t for this idea, that God takes the burning wreckage of our lives and gives us beauty instead, I would have no hope.  None.  The fact that he can take the hopeless cinder pile of my heart, and transform it into something not only worthwhile but beautiful… well, this is where I’m staking my hope.  And they say that where you place your hope, that’s where your joy will be found.

So, onward.  New year.  Same old me, but new hope.  Hopefully.

Hope floats (not the movie)

Monday, October 10th, 2011

As one who grew up in the church, I have had moments in the last several years when I have wondered, “Why am I a Christian?”  Is it just because I was raised to believe what I believe – or is there a deeper reason?  Do I have faith on my own, apart from my family and friends and community?  If I was born in another time and place, would the core of what I believe be the same?

These are big questions, especially for someone who has never had much opportunity to separate God from the American Christian church – and I, like many others, have learned that the church is not always the best representation of what the Christian faith is about.

Come to think of it, *I* am not always the best representation of what the Christian faith is about.

Personally, I have struggled with a lot of cynicism and doubt, especially in the last couple of years.  I don’t doubt that there is a God, but I have wondered if he is, indeed, involved in an intimate way in our lives.  Did he create the world, set it spinning, and then just step back?  Does he really love us – not just in a “whole world in his hands” kind of way, but in a deeply personal and specific way?  When the Bible tells us that God says, “I know the plans I have for you,” does it mean that there is, in fact, a PLAN for our lives?  Is God truly in the details?  Does he care if I choose option A or option B?  Does God care, period?

I’m supposedly a grown woman these days, free to live as I please, and no one is making me go to church.  The stable home and family that I had always known has recently crumbled beneath my feet.  While my childhood and college years were spent largely in church-centric settings, I’m out in the “big, bad world” now, surrounded by plenty of kind and intelligent people who would not necessarily align themselves with the Christian faith.  So what is it about this Jesus?

Some days, when life hits me like an avalanche and I’m pummeled by rocks and snow, left jarred and confused and not sure which way is up, I can be at a loss for answers.

But in the midst of all of my questions, here is what I know.

Regardless of what I believe, or what you believe, or what anyone believes, humans ask the eternal sorts of questions.  Where did I come from, and where am I going?  What is my purpose?  What is good and what is evil?  What will happen to me after I die?  All of us have wondered these things – they are the deep and primal questions of the soul.  Why would we long for answers if there wasn’t a supreme truth?  This makes me trust that there is a God, and that there is an ultimate answer – and that even if the details might be fuzzy and confusing now, I believe that one day we will see the truth clearly.

When I think of my own path, and how many times I have been tempted to give up hope – for little specific things, or in an overarching way – the moment hope returns is nothing short of a miracle.  I mean it – it’s a miracle.  It’s not by my own doing – I cannot will the hope back – it’s not the “triumph of my human spirit” (because trust me, my human spirit isn’t that strong – currently, it’s shriveled up and ugly, like newborn Benjamin Button).

But hope just keeps coming back.  I can’t shake it.  And every time it returns, I think that there must be a God who loves me, Annie – and maybe he even has a plan for my life.  Maybe he’s somehow steering the course, despite my anger and doubt and fear, and all of the times that I’ve thumbed my nose at him.  Maybe I don’t have to believe that “everything happens for a reason,” but maybe I can get behind the idea that “nothing is ever wasted.”  Maybe there is a purpose and a design to the apparent chaos of my current world – maybe it’s actually getting me where I’m supposed to be.

Maybe it’s less about “being a Christian,” and more about knowing Jesus.

I may not have all of the answers, or see the truth clearly.  I know that many who read this don’t believe the same things that I do – and I’m not going to try to convince anyone of anything.  This blog is not a tent revival (yelling and sweat have never really been my thing).  But in the words of Frederick Buechner:

A Christian is one who points at Christ and says, “I can’t prove a thing, but there’s something about his eyes and his voice.  There’s something about the way he carries his head, his hands, the way he carries his cross – the way he carries me.”

That’s all I know.

How a kitchen appliance reminded me of magic

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

I find it harder and harder to believe in magic these days.

Life isn’t easy, you know.  It can be full of tough things.  We learn to suck it up, because no one is going to come along and fix it for us.  Right?  We’ve waited and waited, but with no imminent rescue, we eventually make up our minds to stop wishing, and just do what we have to do.  It’s a long and lonely road, but after some time, we learn to just walk forward – head down, no questions.

Do not want.  Do not need.  Do not wish.  Do not hope.

And this doesn’t leave room for much magic.

I have to tell you: lately, I’ve been living without hopes or expectations.  Time has taught me that expectations, however small, will eventually lead to disappointment – so instead of hoping for good things, it’s easier to just take whatever life deals you.

But my birthday brought me a little magic.

Beyond the fact that I saw a black bear, and climbed Mt. Princeton, and sat on a tailgate of an F-150 drinking PBR and talking about Rebecca Black and O.J. Simpson with a new friend, when I got home I had a huge package waiting for me that said it was from “Your Fan Club.”

My fan club.

And I opened the envelope, and realized who it was from: so many of YOU.  People who I know and have met only thanks to blogging.

And in the box was the hot rod of kitchen appliances: a bright red KitchenAid stand mixer.

I shrieked, and then bubbled over, gushing, saying things like, “AND I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO GET MARRIED.”  I have always wanted a KitchenAid mixer, but it’s one of those things seemingly reserved for the espoused – because who would ever be able to justify that kind of money on themselves?

I have burned through hand mixer after hand mixer, only to abandon them altogether and stir things by muscle.  And remember, this is fine – you learn to not wish or hope for anything better or easier than what you have.  “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit” is a popular motto these days.

But every now and then, people surprise you.  They pay attention, and take action, and bring you the happiest shock you can imagine.  They conspire behind your back to bombard you with love.  They choose red because they think you’re “a red hot siren” (OMG).  Their kind words are sprinkled like magic, and all of a sudden, a little bit of hope is renewed.

I am humbled and grateful – not only for the KitchenAid (although it is one of the kindest, most generous gifts I have ever been given), but for the reminder that magic is worth hoping for.

Thank you, friends – you know who you are – from the bottom of my hope-filled heart, and my cookie-filled tummy.

“The Undoing”

Monday, May 9th, 2011

It feels strange to not be writing here.

When I don’t write, I’m reminded that this blog was born out of a need in me, for myself, and not really for anyone else.  I can’t not write.  I think I have to, as a part of being the truest version of myself.

But I haven’t been writing here. And I’ll admit, I’m not feeling much like myself these days.

But here’s a new song, recorded yesterday with a stuffy nose, super lo-fi style in the living room.  It gives a glimpse into these days, the days when it’s difficult to write anything else.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

[Song has been taken down – maybe you’ll hear it some other time.]

Bloom

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Hope isn’t always an easy thing, and it doesn’t always feel very natural.  But I’m learning that hope is more than a feeling (more than a feeeeeelingg…) – it’s a choice, a deliberate commitment, like exercise, or saving your money instead of spending it.  It’s the wiser, healthier decision – the one that will bring the biggest payoff, even when it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Recently, I’ve experienced discouragement and disappointment and hurt – to the point that I’ve stopped hoping for anything, because hoping hasn’t felt easy.  I’ve snuggled up with loneliness, curled my back to hopelessness, and taken comfort in the company of emptiness because it’s what has felt most real.  Hope hasn’t felt real – it’s felt imaginary, like playing pretend, like inventing some mythical creature and expecting it to materialize in front of me.

But the rejection of hope is actually to my detriment.  It makes me an ugly person, a bitter person, one with walls and suspicions and frown lines.  And moreover, as a Christian, I am called to hope, commanded to hope, even when it feels dangerous because of the possibility of pain and disappointment.

It might get cold, and all of our leaves may fall off, and our branches may crack – but hope is trusting that our roots will hold, and spring is going to come, and something is going to bloom again.

It’s just that what blooms might not be what we’re expecting.

Light, life, hope

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I have always prided myself on the fact that I think I would have survived on the Oregon Trail.  I’m hardy, a tough cookie, a survivor.

But there is no way I would have survived 69 days in a cave underground.

The Chilean miner rescue is one of the most amazing, inspiring stories I’ve ever heard.  If there was ever a reminder to hope, even when there is no light (literally), it’s this.

Also: if I were the costume type, I would so be a Chilean miner for Halloween.  There’s your idea for the day.  You heard it here first.  Take it and run.

Something wonderful is about to happen

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I never thought the day would come, but here it is: I have officially outlived Kurt Cobain.

Today is my 28th birthday.  I’ve waited ALL YEAR for August 4th, and it’s finally here.  Not to make a big deal out of it or anything, but… okay fine.  I am the birthday girl!  Yippee!

I’m so glad to be 28.  The only thing that makes me a little bit sad is that I can no longer refer to my birthday as being “one score and seven years ago” – because that was clever of me, wasn’t it?

Probably not as clever as it sounded in my head.

In all seriousness, sometimes I think that I’m the luckiest girl in the world.  I am surrounded by the world’s best humans – ones that draw out the good, and sit with me in the ugly, and love me regardless.  I have a job that I really like with people that I really love.  I have a body that works and does everything that I need it to do.  I have the sweet serenity of words and books and songs.  I have amazing, life-giving opportunities to pursue the things that bring me joy.  I have a home with hardwood floors and a dishwasher and tall trees outside the windows.  I have an abundance of quiet – which is never to be taken for granted.  I have a humidity-free summer.

A HUMIDITY-FREE SUMMER.

I have nephews who, last night, asked for the story of “Beauty and the Beast” in its entirety, and then wrapped their little arms around my neck and told me that they love me.  And then this morning, sang me “Happy Birthday” with their sweet voices.  And then asked if I was wearing a wig.  And then told me that the man emblazoned across the tush of their underwear was “General Obi-Wan Kenobi.”  And then yelled at each other to stop singing while going to the bathroom.

And for some unknown reason, I have you coming back to this space on a regular basis, reading along and offering more to me than I have ever offered to you through these cockamamie posts.

Most importantly, I have hope in my heart – and hope is just another word for “something wonderful is about to happen.”

So here I am.  28-years old, the luckiest girl in the world, with hope in my heart.  Something wonderful is about to happen.

I am never allowed to complain about anything, ever.

Some thoughts on grief

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

“As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer’s long hair in water.  I knew the weight was there but it didn’t touch me.  Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come floating around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown.  So I just didn’t stop.

The substance of grief is not imaginary.  It’s as real as rope or the absence of air, and like both those things it can kill.  My body understood there was no safe place for me to be. (The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver)

– – – – – – – –

I love the way that this woman writes.  My body understood there was no safe place for me to be.  That is grief in its truest, most potent form.

I am finding in the most concrete way of my entire life that there is absolutely no hope apart from Jesus.

This is not a “Christian blog” in the same way that some are – I tend to write more about my hair and my bras and my couch than I do about my faith.  I know that a lot of you reading this do not believe the same things that I do, and let’s be honest – talking about pop culture and music and whatever tomfoolery I got into over the weekend is usually more fun than a bible study.

But in the midst of it all, and above it all, I believe in Jesus – in redemption, in healing, in grace.  As much as my hesitant heart fights it, I believe that God loves us and has good plans for our lives.  That is my bedrock.

So when I hit rock bottom, standing on that bedrock is a good place to be.

The grief is still there, and the substance of it is so real that I’m afraid it will strangle me – but grace is flowing downhill, and pooling in the darkest places of my life.  It is taking on the weight of my pain, lifting the burden from my head, and moving me forward.