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Hope

I’ve found myself a little behind on my Advent reading, how about you?  I shared a couple years ago how observing Advent was new for me until about five years ago (To read more click here.)  But gracious, I have fallen head over heals into every way of observing this season of remembering the waiting, hoping, needing, and even sometimes doubting the arrival of Jesus.  A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

But hoping has changed for me in the past two years.  When you embrace a hope of clinging onto and believing with everything that you can, when you put your whole heart on the line with no other option of believing anything else and that hope is deferred.  All hope feels lost.  And empty.  And silly.  And a waste of time.

Yet Advent, is a season of hoping, believing, and knowing that Jesus will come gently and quietly into a lost and grieving world.  Amidst groans and cries for relief, his very presence whispers, “I hear you.  I see you.  I know.  I’m coming.”

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Yet in my own groans and cries, hope seemed too vulnerable to put on again.  I could never again face the hurt I felt of hoping and believing with my whole heart to see healing, to see a miracle, to spend more Christmases with my Dad, and my hope was unfulfilled.  It only brought to mind so many other things I had prayed, waited, and hoped for that also were unmet.  Unfulfilled hopes I still carry.

But I’ve learned to see hope differently.

Hope is far more a waiting for something in a hot, sticky mess than it is a peaceful, orderly affair. – Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts

Hope is not just knowing.  Hope is trusting enough to place your every bet on what may make absolutely no sense to believe.

And knowing if not, He is still good.

Hoping, vulnerably placing every single ounce of our weak and scared souls onto God fulfilling his promises is one of the absolute bravest things we can do.  And for me, one of the hardest things I’ve ever recovered from.


(Warning: I will probably get some facts wrong.  Friends who are knowledgable about space/science/etc. please correct me.)

On October 15, 1997 the Cassini satellite was launched on a twenty year journey.  Cassini ventured further into Saturn than any other previous explorations, observing its moons that may be suitable for life and its rings.

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Upon reaching its 20th year, NASA planned for Cassini not to return back to earth, as it had consistently sent all images and information back to NASA’s headquarters.  Rather, Cassini concluded its pioneering through its “Grand Finale” by going further and further toward the surface of Saturn until Cassini could no longer endure the conditions.

On April 26, 2017, Cassini began its Grand Finale, sending images of Saturn as it reached closer and closer to its surface until after 20 years of discovery, Cassini’s mission was completed.

This video explained it’s Grand Finale in a way I loved.  The narrator describes Cassini plunging 22 times around Saturn’s rings then making its final decent to the surface of Saturn, “fighting to keep its antennae pointed at Earth as it transmits its farewell.”  On September 15, 2017 Cassini sent its last images of Saturn to NASA, concluding its 20 year mission.


If I’m honest, I think learning how to hope again, has felt significantly more like fighting with all I have toward something that feels so unsafe I may be destroyed, than it has felt simple, safe, or peaceful in any way.

Lacking the energy and sometimes faith to hope, in many situations I haven’t.  And I’ve regretted walking away from loved ones who are hoping and holding onto believing in a miracle with all they have.  And I’ve called that silly deep in my bones because I didn’t have the faith to claim and believe in my own miracles.  I only had space to hold my unmet hopes.


But in the sweetest of ways, this Advent season has felt really different.  Really hopeful.

Of sharing in the waiting of centuries.  The waiting and hoping that looked much more like groaning, doubting, and grieving.  And amidst that waiting, believing and knowing that “Unto us, a child [will be] born.”

Hope is vulnerable.  It’s pressing deeper and deeper into our Father’s ability while simultaneously pulling us further and further from our own control, even our guarding our hearts.

But the beauty of our Father that Advent keeps bringing me back to is that He is a God who “fulfills His promises.” (Hebrews 10:23)

And as I read through the prophecies that point to the life of Jesus, God the Son, I am overwhelmed once again with how dependable and sure our hope is.  How God will always prove Himself true.

And I’m writing HOPE all over my Advent book as I read:

“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.  In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
– Colossians 1:13-14, CSB

“What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, GOD DID.”
– Romans 8:3, CSB

“Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.”
-Hebrews 2:14-15, CSB

I’m learning to hope that my faithful Father will do what He says, even though He’s proven it time and time again, while the enemy loves to whisper the times my help felt unseen.  I’m working to allow myself to vulnerably lay all my heart deeply hopes for at His feet, and to know this is what He calls me to.  I’m learning to believe that I will receive, like a child who lays their head on their pillow, knowing Santa will bring them just what they asked for.

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Because our faith never calls us to be logical or to trust as much as we’ve seen trust fulfilled, but to have faith like a child.  A faith that cultivates hope.


fdb3Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story, primarily in the sudden loss of my precious Dad on my 22nd birthday.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

and into the darkness, light

My pastor started his sermon this past Sunday reading a letter a friend of his wrote about having lost his Dad.  He described that he had again come to know “the stench of death”.

The phrase sent me reeling as it sent me back into a hospital room praying hopeless prayers in between my own sweet Daddy’s spaced out breaths.  I remember how I slept that night.  The last night I would sleep in the same room as his breathing body.  It was a deep and somehow somewhat healing sleep.  There was a safety in his presence that I miss.  I haven’t slept the same since.

I’ve come to know death and darkness this year.

Darkness is a weird thing.  It’s scary and what you can’t see is scary, but once you’re in it, you feel comfortable.  A type of comfortable where you just feel wholly welcomed.  It’s not enticing in the slightest bit, but it’s easy to take refuge in its covering.

In Biblical times, when someone died the family would all sit in a dark house in silence and light one candle.  Because that’s how it feels. Dark. Desolate. Empty. Silent.

Darkness doesn’t push you to see more, do more, be more, want more, or strive more. It just envelops you, yet never keeps you safe.

It’s a weird thing to me that we live in a world of both darkness and light.  Half the world is experiencing light while the other half darkness, but we’re so used to this that we have found the very transitions of the rising and setting sun to be the most beautiful parts of the day.

It’s a hard thing for me to celebrate light coming into the darkness of the world as Christmas is just a little over a week away.

I don’t get it.  I don’t get why this was Your plan.  I don’t understand the hurt and waiting and the hopeless and the dark.

Generations after generations walked through darkness since the Garden- exile, oppression, silence, darkness.  All of it.

And on the darkest of hopeless nights, following a painful birth in a nasty barn, you quietly whispered, “I am doing a new thing.”

You didn’t come and shine Your light so bright that all the darkness was diminished.  No, the darkness lingered still.  But you entered it.  You entered it, familiarized yourself with it, and felt it.

I don’t know if I’ll ever understand the hard parts.  The broken situations where You could have written the story differently but you didn’t.  But it’s in the darkness of history from the garden to the stable that you were bringing about Christ.

I don’t get why you didn’t come more dramatically.  Why you didn’t put a stark end to the broken and painful.  But you came as small as You could.

Generations of writers wrote of the depths of despair of life apart from You and the need for You and you only came as a tiny little baby and somehow called that hope?  God, we needed a hero.  We still do. 

I don’t think we can truly understand the joy, hope, and light of Christmas coming without knowing the darkness.

The most quoted passage in Isaiah that proclaims the birth of Christ to come begins in darkness,

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.  You have multiplied the nation;  you have increased its joy; they rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.  For the yoke of his burden and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.  For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

And I think in the same way that the darkness of history was bringing about Christ so the darkness we know is doing the same.

You could have come and stopped it all.  But you didn’t.  You came and entered and knew the darkness, even in ways I never will.

You defeated it, yet left us in it and I don’t really understand why.  Especially this year.  This year when darkness feels more safe and familiar than the light.

Instead, you came and gave us hope.  Not a hope that meant we wouldn’t face darkness, but hope in its truest since.  “An ache for what is to come” as Anne Voskamp would put it.

You came and showed us that the dark and hopeless that we know and feels safe is not all there is.  The very darkness we often have chosen because it has felt more loyal is not the end of our story and it wasn’t the end of yours.

I still don’t completely know how to live in the both and of darkness and light.  How to live in a world classified by two very opposite things is just hard to reconcile.  But I’m aching and believing that is what You are doing.

You are bringing about light in the darkest and emptiest of nights.  And we will long and wait for a light that not only tells us there is more, but it brings it.

Waiting, Hoping, Needing- ADVENT

I grew up in a church that celebrated Christmas very well.  Trust me, I had my fair share of experiences climbing out of a window wearing 20 pound wings to play the archangel in the live nativity- still a little bitter I never got to be Mary.  We packed shoe boxes for kids overseas and gave Christmas presents to families in our home town.  One time, the Grinch even came to AWANA.  I was so afraid of him, my leader had to take me to my mom.  But amidst all of this, there is one thing we never celebrated. One thing that brings so much more meaning to Christmas- ADVENT.

I had such a small idea of what this word meant that when I came to college I wasn’t completely sure if that was even a Christian thing to celebrate.  Oh but the beauty it interweaves into a quiet night in Bethlehem.

I knew about the Shepherds, the virgin Mary, the manger, the stable, etc. but what I had not pieced together was just how long God’s people had waited for this moment.  Generations of generations of Israelites had spent their whole lives hoping and trusting the Messiah would come.  Through the difficult times of wandering in the wilderness, of slavery in Egypt, of captivity in Babylon, they continued to place their hope in this one day.  This one moment when “Christ the Savior is born.” 

This story, this picture is so much more than a baby being born in a stable.  It is the fulfillment of prophecies and hopes of God’s people for preceding centuries.

And in the same way that they hoped and believed in the prophecies of the coming Messiah, we too wait for Christ’s return.  We long in times of unrest, in times of infertility, in times of terrorism, in times of loneliness, in times of doubt, in times of poverty, in times of hopelessness, in times of fear.  We long for the coming of the Savior to fulfill what we have hoped for from generation to generation.


 

I’ve been learning a good deal recently about the idea of waiting and longing, because honestly I don’t think we get it in today’s society.  We are not a people who have planted seeds and waited for a harvest.  We are a people who buy an app and it instantly downloads to our phones.  We have no clue how to wait and how to long.  I even reached the point of not being sure of how to interact with God when I have consistently prayed for something and that need has gone unmet.

How do I invite You into a pain I know You can heal?

I haven’t been able to answer that question yet.  But I do see that there is purpose in waiting, hoping, and believing.  When we think of stories in scripture of people waiting and hoping for what they were praying for, we think of how God met that need, but we in doing this we overlook the period of time when they were hurting and hopeless, unsure of God’s response.

I think of Hannah in 1 Samuel praying for a son.  She had prayed for so long and found herself at her wit’s end of waiting so she went to the Temple to pray where she was praying with such passion that the priest thought she was drunk.  How we have lost this art of waiting.


Over the past few days I’ve been able to help a friend with her newborn baby.  Oh my gosh is she the sweetest thing! But also, she has brought so many truths to mind for me about who we are and how we’re created.

I went into the room 2 hours after she was born and in her first few hours of being alive I was realizing that up until this point she has never felt hunger, never felt cold, or never felt scared.  Her every need had been met and provided for her.  She’s never had to work to be full, she’s just been full.  She’s never had to be wrapped in blankets to be warm, she’s just been warm.

And what our Gracious Father has taught me through this frail, beautiful thing is that we weren’t created for this.

  The space and tension that we feel between the things we hope for and the things we receive is the very space that proves to us that He has set eternity in our hearts.  Our longing to be whole and to be satisfied are what propel us to crave His arrival and His return.

Thus I come back to this idea that is so hard for me to swallow- Our every longing draws us back to the feet of Jesus.  This sweet baby I have been able to hang out with, of course cannot meet her own needs.  She can’t hold her head up on her own yet, better yet provide food for herself, clean herself, protect herself, or wrap herself in a blanket.  She is born utterly dependent on her parents.

In the same way, we are not satisfied.  At times we are lonely, hopeless, depressed, hurting, and empty and Christmas has a weird way of reminding us of that.  And in the same way that a baby needs her parents to keep her warm, fed, and safe, we need our Father, our Shepherd, our Provider to hold us and keep us.

So my prayer this Christmas is to feel the longing and the hoping for the arrival of our Messiah to enter into the hurt of unfulfilled expectations and believe that He is crafting hope and purpose.  And to embrace more than ever that He is IMMANUEL- God with us.