In the dark I watched through the window this morning. No lights in the hotel room. The city I’m visiting here in Missouri had turned off the electricity because of the fire. Nicholas had left early and my lunch appointment wasn’t until noon. From my window I could see the fire a few blocks away as it engulfed apartment complexes. For awhile I thought it was calming down. But then it spread to another building. Turns out it went to three buildings. Dozens of homes lost in a matter of minutes. The smoke continued and continued all morning. But the devastation will continue for years.
I never really appreciated having a place to live until this spring when I lived everywhere and nowhere. Several months of commuting – half the week in S. FL. and half anywhere in Texas as Nicholas worked there. Plus traveling all over for speaking and variousness. More than 100 nights on the road. I remember counting after just the first two months and realizing I’d been in 13 different states. A home now is a dream come true. No more juggling mail at several addresses. No longer that scattered living nowhere feeling. Even though we are still on the road often, at least I know where I live. It’s the best of feelings to live somewhere. It’s the best of feelings to know I am going to wake up and go to sleep in the same place. And, now even when I do still travel (yes, my suitcase is still always halfway packed because we still do travel a lot), I can press “home” on my Garmin and it sends me to my house where I really for real live and where my pretty pink “at home toothbrush” waits for me in its little toothbrush dish. Happiness.
So I’m thinking today about the hopeless disorientation of those apartment residents that now don’t know where they live. And, I’m thinking about them as they take in the losses of their possessions. Although my things were just in boxes during my few crazy travel months, these peoples’ are gone. Everything gone. For real gone. Gone gone gone. Photo albums. The wedding dress which had hung in the closet. The crafts made by the grandkids. Books their great uncle owned. Favorite pillows. Notes for their dissertation. All those things that maybe no one else fully can appreciate but, to the owner, they mean security and a sense of identity, markers of where they have come from and where they are headed. Insurance payments can never take the place of those things. I can’t imagine the sorrow. And I’m guessing that one of the greatest dangers they face now is discouragement mixed with subtle sickening hopelessness.
So I’m praying for them today. I’m praying for their hope.
Hope is just about tops when it comes to the most important thing we have. OK, I know love is technically the most important thing. Like any good pastor’s kid I had almost memorized 1 Corinthians 13 by the time I had stopped teething. But I passionately will attest that, after love, hope rolls in near the top of the list. Of course not hope in just anything. But Hope in THE Hopegiver, the giver and holder of hopes.
Hope has sorta been a top theme in my mind lately. Bombing, ambush, and torture come in as a close second (because of criminal law class – it has added a bit of pizzazz to my brain’s contemplations these days). How powerful hope is in a person’s life. How as soon as I lose hope, everything goes down. But as long as I don’t lose sight of the reality of my Hopegiver, I’m strong.
It’s a thought that has quite a lot of testing opportunity as Nicholas and I take our initial steps on the journey of adoption and my emotions bounce into sometimes painful areas, stretching into those quiet corners of my heart that are deeply woven with fragile hope. I’ve been grieving no children for a several years now. As I struggle through the conglomeration of emotions that can seem foreign to people that don’t know infertility but are very normal process of the road of infertility, some days I’ve got it together. Afterall, I am firmly confident that God is good and He is a covenant God and adoption is a wonderful thing that God has prepared both Nicholas and my hearts for individually and together. I rejoice in this, while I yet grieve the idea of biological motherhood that may never be. Some moments I just need to cry. Recently I was at a Starbucks when two women joyously entered and sat directly behind me as one told the other all about how she just found out she was pregnant with another child. “And, imagine, I didn’t even know! Pregnancy comes so easy.” No more studying for criminal law for me. I just went out to the car and wept. Those broken moments I look to my Hopegiver and so deeply realize I can’t sum up hope again in myself. But I can pour out my soul to God and allow Him to whisper His truth into my heart. I can actively choose to camp on His truth, marinating in His Word, even when circumstances seem to crush in at me. Psalm 3 means so much, when the enemy rises against me, mocking the hopes of my soul, I turn to it and read: “…Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. But YOU, Oh Lord, are the lifter of my head… I cried to the Lord, and He answered me…”
And I look back and think of past hope struggles. When doctors after doctor around the country didn’t know if I would walk again after I was hit by a drunk driver. Going to hospitals again and again for more X-rays and then being told: “We don’t know why your bones aren’t healing. Being put back in my wheelchair and rolled away with disappointment slamming through my soul. I remember struggling ardently to keep hoping in God even though for what I was hoping wasn’t coming to pass. But I learned that I can’t hope in God’s acts – what I think would be good and sensible for God to do, but in who God is.
Then I think of another time just a few years ago. I had just left a nasty dating relationship with a man who had presented himself as godly but then a few months into it informed me that he had only shown one side of himself and now he was going to show me who he really was. It shocked me so much the dream of ever getting married completely snapped. I had already walked in some painful broken engagements (one a week before the wedding when the groom had an emotional breakdown because of his own past sorrow, another being engaged the first time to Nicholas). I escaped out of that relationship. But it just seemed too painful to ever hope again. I still was speaking to girls about being Christ’s Cinderellas. But inside my personal hopes about marriage died. Not just the hopes one sees, but all the way down to the roots. Dead. I walked through a season that fall of feeling deeply barren in heart, body, and soul. It was right around that time I found out I might never have kids. And, I was walking through a dark time at the place where I worked as my understanding of the Church was going through a radical shaking to its core.
I’ve shared with many this story before. But I share it again now. I went to NYC that fall – NYC is my place to heal and think and pray. I was to attend a conference. I flew in early and, as I wander around, ended up buying a beautiful tear drop aquamarine necklace. I felt a little silly and frivolous buying it. But I bought it anyway, and since I didn’t want to lose it, I immediately put it on and subwayed up to the conference. That weekend God met me. Several speakers hit my heart exactly where it was. I had recently been clinging to Romans 4:18-21, where Abraham hoped against hope in God’s promise… “..In hope he believed against hope…no distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.” Those were just the verses shared at the conference. I think of how, ultimately, Abraham did not hope in what He wanted so much (a son), but in who God is. God’s goodness. God’s love. God’s faithfulness. I allowed myself to just cry as I felt the teardrop necklace around my neck. The Psalms say that God holds our tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8), and God turns our mourning into joy (Psalm 30:11). I left that conference renewed in my confidence in who I was in Christ as His Cinderella and the absolute fact that I must continue to hold fast to my hope in the Author of hope, the one who restores hope to those who feel only barren.
It was months later that I realized that conference night was the exact night Nicholas wrote my dad and shared his testimony of what God had done in his life the past few years. It was that letter that brought Nicholas and I back together. And it was several months after that when Nicholas gave me matching aquamarine earrings when I graduated with my second masters degree. But even if it hadn’t been in God’s plan for me to marry Nicholas, I know God’s goodness would have been just as real.
So here I am, now waiting at Starbucks across the street since my hotel still has no power. I’m listening to the chatter of the staff and customers as they exclaim over the fiery destruction. I’m still praying for the residents who need comfort from the God of Hope as they face dreams turned into turmoil. And I’m thinking on the dashed or unfulfilled hopes and dreams in my heart – such as my “being a mom” hope. Yes, there will be times I still weep. But even as I weep I will weep triumphantly because my Hopegiver is the God of Triumph. I will continue to wrestle emotionally, not wrestling to win over God, but to come to the point of resting in Him. When, at times, the fire of earth’s brokenness threatens to undue me, and I stand in the smoky remains of what were once dreams, I can and must find God’s grace to keep clinging to the One of Hope. “And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in YOU.” Psalm 39:7
”Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud… For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called… For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you. O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.” Isaiah 54