an Advent book club: week one {hoping}

EverydaySacrament_quote1“…and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
(Romans 5:5)

This week we’re reading these chapters about hope in Everyday Sacrament:

  • “Parenting Toward Possibility”
  • “The Spirit’s Flashes”
  • “To My Children, Called in Childhood” (psst: if you haven’t yet gotten your copy of the book, you can read this chapter here)

We hear a lot about hope during Advent. It’s a season of anticipation. Eager hearts looking toward Christmas. Prayers of peace, hymns of encouragement. Waiting in joyful hope becomes our refrain.

Especially on the brink of December, when we’re not yet tired of snow or stressed by shopping, it’s easy to hum along with hope.

But hope is a hard thing, isn’t it?

This week’s chapters speak to different sides of hope. The audacious prospect of bringing a child into the world (and into the church). The comforting presence of God in daily moments of despair (or distraction). The faith-fueled dreams of what (and whom) our children are called to be.

But if I’m being honest, I’ve been dangerously short on hope this year. 

Of course it’s not surprising. We hoped against hope that our daughters would be healed, saved, here and alive. They are none of the above.

Can we still believe that hope does not disappoint?

Then there’s this weary mess of a world we’re floundering in. All years are hard, but this year felt grim. Bleak. Hope in scarce supply, as if optimism’s stores were plundered and only empty shelves now stare back, mocking.

What does it mean to hope against all evidence to the contrary?

Hope is a tough stance to take: to wake up every morning with openness and love and faith that good can come, even when all signs point south. But Advent nudges gently that hope is still the way that leads toward Christ, however wild and wandering that way may be.

My children – all of them, here and beyond – have taught me that hope is entirely different from what I believed as a child. Now I think hope is impossible and prophetic and life-giving and necessary. Now I think it is the only way to live in the world as a Christian, to keep choosing faith over despair.

Hope is humbling and hard and holy. It is Advent’s gift.

. . .

Let’s chat over wine or chocolate – like any good book club!

  • What does hope mean to you?

With apologies to the good poet of Amherst, I’ve always hated Emily Dickinson’s image of “Hope is the thing with feathers – / that perches in the soul”. Too flimsy, too fragile to be a bird. I don’t want hope to be crushed like thin bones.

When I was in junior high, I devoured In These Girls, Hope Is A Muscle (which, parenthetically, remains a fantastic piece of literary journalism on high school sports). Hope as flesh and blood, meaty and muscly – that metaphor captured my imagination. You have to build strength for hope to work properly. And this is the agonizing exercise I’m doing these days: trying to build up more hope in atrophied muscles.

  • Where do you find hope in the world these days?

My children. You readers. The relentless resilience of grace. People who rally and refuse to capitulate to despair. One last pink rose that survived Thanksgiving snowstorms.  Dawn, every morning.

  • What are your hopes for Advent?

Peace and quiet. I cleared wide swaths of space in our December calendar like a snowplow driver white-knuckling a blizzard. I have zero aspirations, only hopes for peace and quiet.

How about you? Leave your thoughts on hope in the comments below!

. . .

And if you want to read more about hoping

14 thoughts on “an Advent book club: week one {hoping}

  1. Hope…I am clinging to it this Advent with this pregnancy after our miscarriage earlier this year. What a beautiful reflection you offer here, Laura. I found your essay for FaithND very moving, too. Thank you for this.

  2. I read your essay of your brother. I was moved by your words, your story. What beautiful memories you have to hold of your brother. How fortunate you are to have a loving family. You fill me with hope!

  3. I am very excited about this book club! I’ve been following your blog since March and have been very humbled as a mother, felt connected, and grateful there are other Catholic Moms out there trying to bring up children in faith when the world doesn’t seem too interested. I will be responding to these questions later today hopefully. I left my book at home, so I will be able to read the chapters tonight after my son goes to bed. Does this conversation happen at a certain time, or is it throughout the week, each week?

    Diana

    1. Hi Diana, I’m so glad to have you reading along here! Feel free to comment here anytime throughout the week, as you’ve done. (I had a busy 1st week of Advent, but I’m hoping to be jumping into the comments much more this week.) Peace and blessings on your Advent!

  4. To me, Hope means that even among the darkest nights, a twinkling star may find its way into sight.

    I find hope in the little smile of my one-year old son, scrambling off my lap to play after he took a spill and sought comfort. I find hope in the wisdom the people I work with bring to me each day. I find hope in the small graces of presence I receive amidst a chaotic day after a night of very little sleep and not enough caffeine.

    This year, I hope to Slow…Down in anticipation of the coming of Christ and as our little family begins to create our own Advent traditions that are new and different from what we’ve ever known.

  5. I am so thankful for this book club as I feel the words came at just the right time.

    For me Hope is hanging on no matter how chaotic the storm is. No matter how dark the situation looks. It’s calling to Jesus in the midst to help me in my moments of unbelief.

    I often find hope in the words and faces of my children. That God has been leading and guiding them even when I failed. That just maybe our futures aren’t so dim and maybe God will use the faithful of this upcoming generation to do big things. I find hope in Jesus. Not in my faith anymore (I’m a wandering cradle evangelical being drawn to the Catholic Church) and definitely not in man anymore. He is my hope and my everything.

    My hopes for Advent are to draw closer to Jesus everyday. To stop being tossed with every wind of doctrine and find peace for my troubled soul. To focus on Him alone. Nothing else. That my husband would do the same instead of just on Sunday. My hope for Advent is to attend my first Mass.

    1. I’m so glad to have you here reading along, Jennifer, and I’m holding you in prayer as you explore the Catholic Church. I hope that your first Mass will be a beautiful, welcoming invitation. Your words bring me hope today!

  6. When I think about hope I always think about Hebrews 11:1- “Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.” Hope and faith have always seemed like two sides of a coin to me, and one strengthens the other. I love your image of hope as a muscle; we do indeed need to strengthen it so that when we call on it in hard times, it will not desert us.
    My children and husband give me hope, as do my family and friends. My hope for Advent is to start establishing traditions; we are a young family and we are still learning together how to process through this holy season.

    1. Amy, what a perfect image – hope and faith strengthening each other. I love that Scripture, too. I’ve had to sit with it in new ways this year. What does it mean to have both evidence AND things left unseen? It’s a mystery, but one that leaves me yearning for more.

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