our hope

I used to be a big blog reader. I loved getting regular glimpses into other people’s worlds, dispatches from lives that were very unlike my own. The world moved on, though. Blogs got commodified and internet trolls amped up their game and then Google reader died and so did most of the vulnerable, personal, accessible online writing. I miss that old world, and so here I am, still stubbornly writing in this free & open format while everyone else has moved to substack newsletters with paywall protection. <shrug emoji>

One of my favorite bloggers was Rachel Held Evans. She became a big-time writer eventually, publishing several books and developing a serious following, getting critiqued and cancelled for being slower than some to reckon with race and gender justice. When she died in 2019 at 37, she left a massive emptiness in a particular part of the Christian writing world. But in the early days, I loved her blog because of the way she respected and included her readers. She didn’t treat her corner of the internet like a bully pulpit; she was genuinely interested in *conversation,* and built her website and her writing projects around attempts to facilitate spaces where people could contribute instead of simply consume. It was relational and conversational and generative, and I miss those internet places.

People don’t participate in that kind of conversation out in the internet open very often anymore. We got lazy and mean, and folks are, I think, reluctant to be honest and vulnerable in public. Which makes it all the more delightful when people choose to do it, anyway. I asked y’all what has brought you hope this year, and you answered, all over the internet. Here’s what you said:

Like me, a lot of your hope lies in young people. I am not surprised:

  • The acceptance of my two grandsons into a new city’s school. Their family moved from Davenport, IA to West Liberty where my son is CEO of WELEAD. The city is very diverse and the boys are in classes (2nd and kindergarten) with children that look like their aunts and uncles. Their intelligence isn’t a problem fir their teachers, as it was in Davenport.
  • One of the signs of hope in my life has been observing the positive changes in the young man who is my daughter’s boyfriend. His new position at CyberWoven has brought a much more positive attitude towards his/their lives!
  • My 20-year old daughter’s interest in understanding and voting on issues that affect us all
  • Watching my son grow while still being young enough to want snuggles
  • Improved math & reading scores (from a teacher)

Young people, yep, but also BABIES, in particular, and people who know the (not so hopeful) trajectory of our planet’s future choosing to have them:

  • Is it cliche to say the mere existence of babies? And children? They make me want to fight for everything good in the world
  • My climate scientist colleagues are having a baby!

But you’re finding hope in older people, too:

  • Elders who are still growing spiritually at 107…
  • Spiritually strong people who fall down but get back up again (thinking of some spouses of my hospice patients).

Gardens also featured prominently in the web of hope – again, not surprised:

  • I have had a lot of reasons to not be hopeful in the past year. I think the things that gave me much hope were in my garden. I forgot to water the tomato seedlings I’d started indoors, but managed to revive 3 of them, and 2 produced fruit. I gave my Italian parsley a “final harvest” for the year when overnight temperatures were supposed to drop below freezing, three times, and it bounced back each time. I pray to be as resilient and fruitful as the plants in my garden, trusting God to do the invisible work that makes them flourish.
  • My children actually taking care of a garden this year so they can get a pet.

A lot of your hope came from people being people – leaders with integrity, yes, but also people who disagree with you, volunteers showing up at just the right time, and church ladies doing their church lady thing:

  • Volunteers showing up when we can’t hire people – which might be something doing things for free when we can’t pay an employee to do it.
  • People who are working to build a better world. My great hope is that I have such a long list that continues to grow..
  • The sunrise each morning and the sunset each evening, the moon and stars, choirs and prayer services from St. Martins-in-the-Fields in London where they not only pray for all requested persons; they pray for the homeless, refugees, immigrants, war torn countries, the lonely and elderly, the grieving and for leaders with integrity.
  • For people who challenge my way of thinking. I may not agree with some of what you say but I read your posts every day to hear opinions and views that make me take a minute to question my views and possibly invite more investigation.
  • Church ladies knowing how to fix child meltdowns when I’m lost.
  • Our Pastor, Beth Jarrett.
  • Reading about OEP staff.

There’s also been a lot of hopeful healing this year, and even in situations where bodily repair wasn’t possible, hope amidst the grief of loss:

  • prayers for healing answered
  • Prayers for Cindy (Forbes) Jones
  • A year of good health, many friends with power of prayer, the recent passing of my elderly Mom and a close family friend/priest.  
  • A very dear friend lost her husband due to pancreatic cancer. And it was quick with only 2 months from diagnosis to his last breath. I was privileged to be with him a week before he died as friends prayed with him & said our goodbyes & wept. Despite he overwhelmingly grief, our prayers were prayers of hope, because we all have the assurance that we will be together again. We firmly believe that this life is not all there is & our longing for Christ’s return is even greater because this friend has gone on before us.

Some of y’all had some intensely hopeful experiences in 2022:

  • Visiting the Nobel Peace Center Museum in Oslo today and reading about all the amazing people who believed in risking everything to build a more peaceful world (through the work and examples of the Nobel Peace Laureates for over the past 100+ years!)
  • Meeting so many people in med school with such a wide variety of views/passions and realizing this new generation of doctors is one with a heart for continuing to make change 

And some of you are particularly practiced at finding hope in unexpected places:

  • Lindy and Zoey (a dog and a cat!)
  • Water volleyball!
  • Neglected Sourdough starter

My aunt Susan even wrote an entire essay about what has brought her hope, and gave me permission to share it here, which I’ll do tomorrow. I am encouraged by all these signs of hope, buoyed by your willingness to see and share them. I would love it if you kept sending me your glimpses of hope in the world, all those real, specific things that remind you that we live in a shifting, changing, dynamic and undetermined world where so very many things are still so very possible.

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