Simple and cliché as it may be, in honor of Thanksgiving this week and after a long week at school, I want to write a list of things I am thankful for. It will not be exhaustive; it never could be. And it will not be in any order. It may be more for my own benefit in the writing and remember, but perhaps it can also be a reminder for you to remember all you are thankful for as well.
I am thankful for rain.
I am thankful for my roommate. It's her birthday tomorrow; she is a joy, a person full of passion and drive, thoughtful and easy to be with.
I am thankful for this song. I heard it for the first time today and it's playing on repeat now.
I am thankful for church right now, a small Anglican community downtown that I never pictured myself with but who have blessed me with familiarity, ritual, liturgy, reverence, and peace.
I am thankful for photographs.
I am thankful for memories.
I am thankful for a dorm full of girls who bless me so regularly, who wrote personalized encouragement to each other all over the whiteboard in our lounge.
I am thankful for exegetical papers.
I am thankful for my little family here at TWU, for how they show so much love, and for a precious 2-year-old with Down's Syndrome who teaches us that unexpected journeys can be so beautiful.
I am thankful for knocks on the door and spontaneous deep conversations that happened in the middle of writing this sentence.
I am thankful that I get to study linguistics.
I am thankful for a family that calls me, emails me, texts me, prays for me, and loves me.
I am thankful for safe places.
I am thankful for a jar full of marble, a handmade wooden cross, and a growing stack of notes.
I am thankful for hope.
I am thankful for the Big Dipper.
I am thankful for teachings that constantly shape me to be more like Jesus.
I am thankful for invitations, initiative, and innovation.
I am thankful for a God who came and who comes.
I am thankful for twenty-two and a half years of having a father who helped me know I could love and trust God because I knew I could love and trust him.
There are a lot of things I'm not thankful for, but I can leave them for another day. Today, or at least right now, I'm reminded of how much I am thankful for. And I am grateful that I have Someone to thank.
Thank you, Father.
I've had the first word below written on my arm all week. I've written it on the outside of my door. I've spoken of it in chapel and in conversation. I've searched for it as I read the Bible. I've pondered and prayed it. When I asked one of the girls in the dorm what I should write my blog post about tonight, she said, "Yachal!"
First, a bit of technical but incredibly meaningful jargon. But keep reading for the beautiful stuff.
Yachal is the Hebrew word meaning, briefly, "to wait, to hope." And I think there is so much beauty in the fact that Hebrew combines those concepts as one. Waiting and hoping. In some of my further study of the idea of "hope," I've discovered that yachal is not alone in its depth of meaning.
As I looked into the deeper meaning of yachal, still in awe of the connection between "wait" and "hope," I found that another form of the word "hope" in Hebrew is batach, which not only means "to hope," but also "to trust." That really surprised me; we think of trust and hope as two very separate ideas, separate emotions, separate mental processes. "Trust" and "hope" have been the two biggest ideas that I have been wrestling through this semester. There is something so profound in the fact that the language of the Old Testament, the language in which God first revealed Himself, those two concepts are nearly one in the same.
And not just the Old Testament. In New Testament Koine Greek, there is really only one commonly used word for hope, elpizo, and it also encapsulates "trust" and "hope" into one word.
I've included the definitions of some of these incredible words.
|yachal - to remain, to delay, to expect, to hope, to wait (for)|
|batach - to trust, to hope in, to confide in, to set one’s hope and confidence upon anyone, to be secure, to fear nothing for oneself|
|qavah - to bind, to be strong, robust, to expect, to await, to be gathered together|
|sabar - to look at, to view, to expect, wait for, to hope|
|elpizo - to hope, to hopefully trust in, to wait for salvation with joy and full of confidence, to trust in|
You can see them for yourself here; explore the verses in which they are used!
To wait is to trust.
To trust is to hope.
To hope is to believe there is something worth waiting for.
I put this into practice yesterday. I needed to do some processing of some hard memories from around the accident, but I didn't want to because it was late; everyone was either gone for reading break or sleeping already. I wondered why I felt like I needed people around in order to do this. I realized that I didn't actually think I could trust God to be as much of a comforter as another human could be. But everything I say I believe about God preaches the opposite - I believe, even if I doubt, that God is the ultimate comforter, the best comforter, the most present comforter. At least, I hoped so. I hoped he would come through, hoped he would show up, but the only way to find out would be to actually trust him. And the only way to actually trust him would be to put myself in the situation where he has to come through. It was a scary thought. I waited a long time before I was ready. Then I dove in; I journaled and cried, and felt like I was literally in the arms of Jesus, my head on his chest as we cried together. It wasn't until I opened my eyes at one point that I realized that he wasn't physically there next to me. If someone had seen me in the room, it would have looked like I was alone, but I wasn't. I had decided to hope in him, to wait for him, to expect him, to trust him just a little bit more. And with each fulfilled hope, each tiny step forward, I trust him more.
We must hope. We must wait, we must trust that there is something worth waiting for.
But we are not the only ones who hope.
Earlier this week, broken by the stories of people whose lives have contained so, so much hurt, I sat and asked God, Why don't you come back already? Why haven't you ended this yet? And I realized in a moment, in one breath, that God must love us so much because he continues to allow suffering that he hates in order to allow more time for more people to be saved. The people who are yet unsaved, he knows them and he wants them. Even the people who are yet unborn, he knows them and he wants them. He hates, hates, hates the evil and distress that is hurting his children. He hates it. But he is waiting. Waiting. Waiting and hoping. God is the author of hope because he hopes more than any of us. He is the Great Hoper, the One of Great Hope. He longs for, expects, gathers together, waits.
To wait is to trust.
To trust is to hope.
To hope is to believe there is something worth waiting for.
He believes we are worth waiting for.
I believe he is worth waiting for. He is worth trusting. He is worth hoping in.
Jesus is my hope, my trust, my everything. He will be yours too.
I went outside to meet with Jesus today on a bench by the pond.
I'm reading through the gospel of Mark a chapter at a time, in chapter 4 today. It's a chapter of Jesus telling parable after parable, and then ends with the story of Jesus calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The chapter ends with the disciples asking, "Who is this, that even the winds and the seas obey him?" It struck me that after a chapter's worth of teaching, no miracle stories, just parables, perhaps the disciples had started to become comfortable with this teacher-Jesus, this Rabbi who tells meaningful stories about the kingdom of God and not a lot more. Their faith was small, they didn't even ask him to calm the storm, they just woke him up from his nap to beg for help in keeping the boat afloat. He surprised them. He was more than who they thought He was.
I asked Holy Spirit why that had stood out to me in the story I read today. I felt like he asked me, "Are you ready for surprises?"
And my quick, unhesitating response was, "Yes."
It surprised me, actually, because I've felt that I'm becoming more and more cautious, even timid, compared to who I used to be. But maybe that's not actually true. I felt that Holy Spirit wanted to remind me that Jesus is still more than I think He is. I will still be surprised by Him. Not every surprise is wanted or understood in the moment. But I want to know who Jesus is.
I want His surprises.
And the wind began to blow furiously; "wind," that word that means "Spirit" as well in both Hebrew and Greek. I looked up and saw Him everywhere. Yellow, orange, and red leaves were flying through the sky with the Canadian geese. The water was rippling and carrying leaves like tiny ships. The sun was shining and warming my arms and face as the wind whipped my hair. And I smiled, smiled so big at the beauty around me. And then I laughed at myself, and then I was surprised by joy. Surprised by a sudden simple happiness that wasn't ignorant of the past, but noticed the present.
And then without realizing it, I was pulling out my little prayer notebook where I keep specific requests written until they are answered. I hadn't written anything since early September; I hadn't felt the faith. But I did today. I was surprised by faith, surprised by how suddenly I remembered that God is faithful, and I need to faithfully ask.
Jesus continues to surprise me, and I'm on the look-out to know him more. I, like the disciples, want to find myself asking, "Who is this?"
I live here as a fish in a vessel of water,
only enough to keep me alive,
but in heaven I shall swim in the ocean.
Here I have a little air in me to keep me breathing,
but there I shall have sweet and fresh gales;
Here I have a beam of sun to lighten my darkness,
a warm ray to keep me from freezing;
yonder I shall live in light and warmth for ever.
My natural desires are corrupt and misguided,
and it is thy mercy to destroy them;
My spiritual longings are of thy planting,
and thou wilt water and increase them;
Quicken my hunger and thirst after
the realm above.
Here I can have the world,
there I shall have thee in Christ;
Here is a life of longing and prayer,
there is assurance without suspicion,
asking without refusal;
Here are gross comforts, more burden
there is joy without sorrow,
comfort without suffering,
love without inconstancy,
rest without weariness.
Give me to know that heaven is all love,
where the eye affects the heart,
and the continual viewing of thy beauty
keeps the soul in continual transports
Give me to know that heaven is all peace,
where error, pride, rebellion, passion
raise no head.
Give me to know that heaven is all joy,
the end of believing, fasting, praying,
mourning, humbling, watching,
And lead me to it soon.
- Valley of Vision
I flew to Los Angeles on Thursday morning for a dear friend’s wedding. I was so excited to see some of my solid seven and celebrate marriage. I was prepared to feel some of the emotions that weddings have brought lately; I knew it would be hard to see the bride walked down the aisle by her dad, to watch the father-daughter dance, to hear the father’s toast and prayer over his daughter’s new beginning. I knew that was coming.
I didn’t prepare for so much more.
I didn’t prepare to be in the place I grew up, the city of my earliest memories, memories full of Dad.
I didn’t prepare for the sound of the ocean to bring to mind those many days on the beach.
I didn’t prepare for the sand to remind me of the sand-castle-building king.
I didn’t prepare for the trees that look like our old backyard where he built our playhouse.
I didn’t prepare for the motorcycles that zoom down the highway between the lanes.
It seemed like everywhere I turned there was a piece of childhood, a piece of Dad, a piece of Mom, Macaela, and me.
There were wonderful moments; seeing the radiant bride, meeting an incredible, self-sacrificial groom, laughing with the bridesmaids, sharing stories around a fire, and eating In-n-Out at every opportunity.
And it was also so hard.
It feels like I was exhausted all weekend long. I didn’t know why. Today, in our last hour before going to the airport, we stopped at Venice Beach. I’ve always hated sand, so while the others sat on a blanket, I ran to the water and watched the waves run to meet me, surround my ankles, and sink back into the ocean. The waves are like lifelong friends, my earliest memories are on the beach, watching how my feet sink down into the sand was the water flows back down the shore. But the waves are also deeply respected, almost feared, engrained in my tiny child mind with Mom’s constant reminder, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” I stood and watched for a long time; my brain felt blank. Emotions came and went, like they had all weekend. Like waves.
Grief is like waves.
Sometimes the water just gently caresses your feet, then runs back to where it came from. Like a bittersweet memory reminding you to cherish it.
Sometimes you see the wave coming, but it’s stronger and faster than you expected. Like a realization you had a long time ago, but realizing it’s reality. Like watching a wedding and realizing ours will not be like that.
Sometimes, as the water floods around your legs, another wave drops on top of it, doubling the intensity. Like watching the father-daughter dance, then watching all the fathers and daughters dancing together, then watching four sisters dancing with their dad, then feeling the arm of a friend who knew what was going through my mind and heart.
You can get out of the waves, out of the constant ups and downs, by going back onto the dry sand. But it’s dry there. And soon you stop feeling anything at all.
And so I stay in the waves. In counseling, my counselor is helping me learn to feel, to experience what is really happening inside. And so I’ve been taking steps away from the dry sand of the beach, slowly wading a little deeper, even though I know that wading in means that the waves will come.
And what if the waves get too big, too strong? I know what will happen. I know because when I was a toddler, I was on the beach not far from here and a wave knocked me down. It started to pull me out, and I wasn’t big enough or strong enough to get myself up. But Dad saw me. He ran out and grabbed me out of the waves, reminded me that I’m safe with him. It wasn’t long before I was back in the water.
I know my Father in Heaven will do the same.