There's a thread running up and down my life.

In my mind it's red. Maybe that's because of the cultural story of the little red threads that connect us all.

I think in reality it would be blue. Turquoise, teal. Or maybe lavender.

Some kind of cool color.

Something that is soothing and yet still bright. Something hopeful.

And see, now I've given it away.

Because the thread running through the current of my life is the simple statement:

I have hope.

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When I say it to myself, it sounds like there's a punctuation mark after each word: I, Have, Hope. Commas, because it's not quite so forceful.

Because hope isn't.

It's not forceful. It doesn't strong-arm anyone or push anything or make any kind of effort.

When you hope, the body is still calm.

It rests.

Maybe you lean forward a little, to gaze into the sunrise.

Because hope always feels like sunrise.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I have not the words.

I don't have them to describe what hope is. And even my metaphors, my similes, my analogies, all the tricks of the English language and like and as and all the equivalents in the other languages I know -- wie and comme and como and come -- all of them, none of them can describe what hope is even like.

To what is it akin? To what it it related? 

How shall we describe it? How shall we tell of it?

How shall we tell of the wave that rises in our soul?

It's not a tsunami. It's a slowly rising tide.

Slow, almost imperceptible, and then one day we wake up and suddenly, the warm, salty water is over our toes. Morning is shining pale and wan in our souls, but it is surely there.

We go to bed over and over and over again in the dark of our bedrooms, in the dark of our souls, and wonder how there could ever be a morning.

(I sang a song with that title once.)

How is it possible that the world could begin again after this?

I have been there. I have seen that.

And you feel like it would be an injustice for the world to keep turning after (you feel) you have been utterly crushed.

It's not fair.

It's basically a personal affront. It's adding insult to injury.

It's like being slapped in the face and then being pushed back into the dirt.

By the way, the early believers? That actually, physically happened to them.

But somehow, in the dark night of our souls, there is a little candle flickering.

Smaller even than a candle. Y'all, it's firefly-sized.

It's a pinpoint. One single star in the canopy of Night.

In all the stories I've ever read, when the stars are invisible behind the dense black velvet of night, then you know the characters are experiencing despair.

"It's always darkest before the dawn" is for real. We say it because we've seen it. We come up with clichés because we have to declare what we have seen before -- because we have to tell ourselves something.

The others around us feel it, too. They want to help us, want to assuage the hurt. So they tell us the clichés, too.

They mean well, even if we don't take it well. And we don't.

But the clichés aren't what keep us going.

It's the little pinpoint of light. The single needlepoint. The one flaw in the fabric of the Darkness.

I was journaling a few weeks ago, and I'm not going to go back in the density of my pages that look all the same to find it (we'd be here forever), but I remember writing that despair is when you think, This is the end.

There will be no tomorrow, no morning. And the world cannot possibly go on.

To despair means to disbelieve in beginnings.

On the other hand: 

The ability to hope comes from the idea that what we believe is the end may be only the beginning.

- Leeana Tankersley, Brazen

Photo by Elizabeth Zito.

Photo by Elizabeth Zito.

Hope says to us, This is not the end.

It does not speak to us yet of beginning again. It knows we are too raw for that. Our knees are rubbed red from where we have fallen upon them again and again -- and whether it is from prayer or abuse, who can say?

Often it's both. We hope, in these circumstances, that it is both. That we have prayed.

But sometimes prayer doesn't do anything to make us believe again in new beginnings.

I don't think that's really what we want in the moment.

We want some of our own back. We want what we have been denied. We want what we have wanted before the world snatched it out of our hands.

The world. Or was it You?

We do not want a new beginning. We want the old one back.

How could we possibly know that the new beginning is better?

To that I respond: Haven't we seen it all before?

Hope takes its slow, sad time.

Because, yes, hope feels sad at first.

It has the ring and feel and taste of melancholia.

Maybe it starts as determination. Maybe you grit your teeth and swear to yourself and to God and to the silent and invisible stars that you will get some of your own back, dammit.

(And you curse because that's how you're feeling at the time. How can you not?)

It starts as having no other recourse. The only thing we can do is take the next step.

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We just have to do what is in front of us.

Meet with that person.

Sing the next song.

Practice, because you do not know what else to do.

You are sitting there looking at your hands, saying numbly to yourself and to God (if He's listening, which you aren't convinced that He is), "... But all I know to do is this."

Your lips barely move when you say it. They are blue and bruised.

God/Hope (for they are the same) says, That's just fine. Do that.

There is such tender, intimate love in His voice.

Hope is doing the next thing because what else are you going to do?

Hope is putting one plodding foot in front of the other.

I want to recite the Nicene Creed or something for this Hope Manifesto.

I want it to be one I Believe statement.

But really it's a statement of This Is What Hope Is.

It is not glamorous, and it does not always look like sunrise.

It looks like rising up -- again. and again. and again, ad infinitum, ad freaking nauseum, because what else can you do?

It looks like repetition. It looks gray in the beginning. It looks like doing the same dang thing every dang day.

Because the little pinpoint of a snagged seam in the darkness of our world -- that little hairsbreadth of light -- it says to us, This is not the end.

And if all we have to go on is that promise straight from God --

Because, you see, there will never be endings anymore.

Jesus has erased them.

He is alive, and the End was not the end.

(Dang, maybe this would be a good Easter post.)

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The ability to hope comes from the idea that what we believe is the end may be only the beginning.

The blue thread -- yeah, it's definitely blue, with a silver shine -- running through my life is this: that I have hope.

It started out gray. When I practiced because what the heck else was I going to do?

Hope has felt like an extravagance. It always does to those who have been wounded.

It feels like too much.

We say, You have hurt me before. Who is to say you will not hurt me again? And whether or not the blame is misplaced, what do we care? We are in pain.

God, the God of Hope, Whose Name is Hope, looks back at us with tenderness in His eyes and does not despise us for our little faith and our misplaced blame.

He can handle that from us.

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I'm in the middle of audition season, and all I've been hearing from God since Advent until now is that I am allowed to hope.

That it's okay.

That it is not an extravagance.

And if my hopes are dashed?

He tells me it will hurt, but I will be okay in the end. And guess what, y'all? 

I think I believe Him.

Why? Because I can see the Blue Thread running through my life -- or maybe those are my veins. Maybe the hope is in my lifeblood. Maybe it's gotten under my skin and infected me with fairy dust.

Because to those who do not believe, the gold sheen under our skin and the light in our eyes will look like pollution.

The fairy dust is a disease.

I have seen what hope can do. I can see what is happening in my life.

I can't put a finger on it or define it, nor do I dare. Hope cannot be captured or tamed. It is wild, and I hesitate to intrude upon its sacred work.

I cannot predict its movements or its traces upon my skin or the tattoo it will leave upon my right arm, where I can see it always.

Writing it on the tablets of our hearts and on our foreheads -- that is what You do with hope.

We are marked indelibly by its effects, and once we have tasted it, we cannot let go. It is heady and wholesome and we can tell that, maybe for the first time, we have tasted real food.

We have tasted and we have seen, and our Lord the God of Hope is so, so good.

He is our bread and wine.

All the motives I'm loving these days are seeping into this post, but I cannot leave it without saying again that in this audition season, I have hope.

That's because of a lot of things. My excellent mentors are such rock stars and have taught me so much, and I truly, fully believe that I have improved times a bazillion since this time last year. I am in friendships that are nourishing me, feeding me, as I enjoy communion with them, as we taste the bread and wine of Christ together. In my daily habits and rhythms, I am doing what is good for my body and for my soul.

But mostly? Mostly it comes from Jesus.

He is breathing and singing and dancing over me, and He is inviting me to join Him.

I don't know what's coming next, but I do know -- this is not the end.

Gradually, I have seen the sun rise over my life. And every morning when I go to work and drive east into the sunrise and gaze out the stadium window to the same direction -- every morning I am reminded again that I. Have. Hope.

All periods this time. Hear the beats, like music.

You are singing over us.

Singing. God, what a gift. What a life. What a way to phrase it to a woman who sings for her life (because if you think that's not what I've been doing my entire existence...).

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This is not the end.

There really will be a morning.

Really.

This is not the end.

It will come to you all at once, like the swift sunrise Tolkien writes about, and when the sun comes up and you see the scene laid out before you -- why, then we will realize that we were looking at it all along, and we couldn't see it until now.

But that's okay. The mist before our eyes -- it makes the unveiling all the sweeter.

This is not the end.

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