“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” -Anne Lamott
Hope – with it we are able to take that first step forward. It is so very important but it is not something that is always easy to obtain. Rising up from the deepest place within us, hope requires work and determination.
Recently I have been aware of how much energy is required to be hope-full. I am now a breast cancer survivor(x3). I have been a survivor since the day I learned of my first diagnosis 19 years ago. This was four days before I celebrated my 40th birthday and having breast cancer was the farthest thing from my mind.
That is how it happens. While moving through life with plans and ambitions, the path changes, abruptly and with little warning. In a single moment on a normal afternoon, I was told I had breast cancer – a diagnosis that would change my life forever. Enveloped in the bright light of a doctor’s office, all plans dropped away – priorities shifted – I started living as a survivor.
So I have found myself once again inthat single moment. In December I sat under the bright lights of a new doctor’s office to hear I had breast cancer again. Being a survivor feels empowering and overwhelming. In my experience it does not matter how often you face a new diagnosis the resolve to continue life as a survivor has to be made anew.
I am inspired by the survivors I have known and know today. These women and dear friends have shared their living stories with honesty and extraordinary courage. During my new ‘single moment’ I honor and remember these amazing women. They have taught me much about living life to the fullest from day one.
Hope does find a way. From learning of the first test results I learned how hope would reinforce the ground underneath my nervous stance. I know this “stubborn hope” that Anne Lamott describes. It is what stirs the courage to take my next step in life. When the news seems unbearable and the options for healing sound impossible hope has been there.
Like a seed planted deep into the ground, hope has taken root within, creating a strong foundation to support my steps toward the gentle light of Dawn.
(This video is one of my favorites. It has been my inspiration on more than one occasion.)
artist Roger Hutchinson
A bowl of cereal, a new caregiver and a stack of notebooks filled with bills and correspondence – what did these things have in common? They were all in the right place at the wrong time. . Too early in the day to have gathered my defenses, I sat wide-eyed and speechless as a bowl filled with milk and cereal, slipped out of my new assistant’s hand only to land upside down on an ordered stack of paperwork and notebooks. It was a moment when my patience and desire to be in control were challenged beyond words.
I spend a lot of energy creating ‘systems’ that keep the details of my daily life, both items and routines, accessible to me and the people who assist me. When someone has worked with me for a while these systems become familiar, reducing the amount of time necessary to give directions or search for things. It all appears logical and routine until a new person is added to the team.
Certainly the one most challenged is the new assistant. Already on the spot, it is easy to see the anxiety rise as new tasks are introduced.
At least that what I must say to myself. So many details in life are not in my control. If I focused on this fact for too long a wave named ‘overwhelmed’ could quickly wash over me. So I sit in my beautiful home taking deeper breathes to settle my nerves as I help to reassure my assistant and clean up the breakfast spill – one simple direction at a time.
‘I learn whatever state I’m in, therein to be content.’ What an amazing woman, Helen Keller. Her wisdom is my encouragement and for this I give thanks.
I share this with you knowing that each reader will have their own image of taking these steps. Most often moving beyond our comfort zone fills us with anxiety and distress. The “place we have occupied for so long” is familiar and safe.
Yet these words are filled with an invitation – honest and comforting. The steps may not be easy but they lead to freedom and compassion. Our perspectives need to change in order to hear the gentle answers of our hard-earned questions.
Once again I give thanks for Bishop Stephen Charleston. His words are wise and rich with imagery. May these words offer safety and compassion as they call for change.
Come stand over here, just a step or two beyond the place you have occupied for so long, where you have worn the earth smooth with your pacing, where you have spent so many hours fighting the problem you cannot seem to solve. Take a break. Catch your breath. Come stand here, where you can catch a freshening breeze and see far into the valley below. Let the distant clouds carry your worry for a while, see how the sun empties the world of shadow. The answer you seek may be just a step beyond, a higher place where the view is clear of all obstructions.
Bishop Steven Charleston
Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie
(Photo taken by Gregory Colbert for ASHES AND SNOW)
I am moved by this picture. The photographer and both beings must have experienced a magical moment. Gratitude flows from the creatures interacting. The difference in size draws attention immediately. Yet as you look closer it is clear that they both offered one another with something delicate and sincere.
Their exchange as listener, musician, giver and receiver makes the image vibrant and alive. What did that young girl play on her violin – what did that great creature hear? Without those details we are left with an example of gratitude. She was heard and her audience, with an appearance of gentle presence, was entertained.
This interchange may seem extraordinary and in many ways this is true. Yet these two beautiful beings, created in a moment of God‘s joy, interact with one another on a daily basis through the world in which they live in. Passing one another in the crowded and noise filled streets of their homelands in India and other far eastern countries. Their patient, quiet presence to one another, offers a heartfelt moment in loving a life of gratitude.This is where ‘meals become feasts and strangers become friends’. The risk is obvious. Yet in taking these risks, our lives are changed. We experience the world as a place filled with opportunities ‘hidden before us in plain sight’ (words shared from the wisdom of Cynthia Bourgeault).
Take the risk. The world could open to you in ways you have never imagined.
Today, the Episcopal Church remembers and celebrates the life and wisdom of Dame Julian of Norwich. She was a survivor of grave illness.With all faith she believed her restored health had called her to work as a servant of her Creator. Her life was dedicated to prayer and the ‘ministry of presence’ to those who were in need of solace and counsel. She is known for boldly speaking of God in the feminine and masculine. Her quote – shared by many -‘All Shall Be Well – makes her teachings most relevant to this time in history.
This day is also an anniversary. 19 years ago, I was ordained to the priesthood on this day. Surrounded by all who supported, encouraged and challenged me as I studied and discerned my call to work along side of our blessed Creator, I entered that day deeply grateful for Dame Julian’s example and courage.
My differences were obvious for those who only judge by what they see – what, a priest in a wheelchair?! Not to say it has been easy but I have always offered my work with honesty and inclusion. Out of necessity people have drawn together to assist me in the tasks delegated to a priest. Blessed with openness and encouraged to remind those gathered that the church welcomes all to share their skill, wonderful opportunities have been created. Sharing the Eucharist, involving the whole community in baptism, many walls have been removed.
My work has changed but continues to be shaped by a sense of urgency to comfort those who grieve, feed those who are hungry and ‘BE’ Jesus to all who seek hope and care.
Julian’s ministry inspires creativity and offers comfort. I am honored and thankful to share this day with a woman who continues to teach and encourage my work as a priest. Her wise yet quiet counsel has brought me through times tough and joyful.
19 years and so many stories. On this day, I celebrate Julian’s life.. Her patient sense of calm continues to lead me on this path.
I welcomed this day with much gratitude.