Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD(Psalm 31:24).
“Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.” -George Iles
I grew up in the Southwest, with its contrast of barren desert and stunning mountains. Brilliant blue skies were the backdrop of my growing-up years. My mother was an avid gardener–honeysuckle trailed down a trellis in our yard, and I can vividly recall the lush flower beds and rose bushes. As a child, it didn’t occur to me that roses pushing through the cracked, dry soil might somehow be incongruous. I never thought then about what difficult work it was to sustain such beauty in the midst of our austere surroundings. We moved houses several times in my childhood, but the yard and flowers were priorities that were dealt with soon after getting settled into the new place.
That is a slice of my childhood–freshly cut grass, immaculately groomed bushes and beautifully maintained flowerbeds. I can close my eyes even now and breathe in the smells and see it all over again.
I have actually tried to quit counting how many houses we’ve lived in, because it depresses me if I give it too much thought. I am determined and driven, when we move into a new house, to get unpacked quickly and have things “in their place.” I am eager to hang curtains and arrange pictures, because I know it doesn’t feel like home to my family without these familiar items. (Remember the example of Ma Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie setting out her china shepherdess as soon as the family arrived in a new home?)
Another aspect of creating our home is making an attempt at gardening. We put in annuals and some perennials. We plant the bushes and flowers, even though we know that it won’t be our family enjoying them in a few years.
But we do it.
Because in performing these domestic, life-affirming chores, we feed hope and help bring normalcy to our lives as a military family. If we didn’t move forward with life at a new location, I believe it would affect our children and cause them to lose hope.
No, it is certainly not easy, and I don’t hide the tears or pain at saying goodbye to beloved friends. That is the painful side of this life we lead. But I know my attitude affects my whole family and I do my best to remain positive and look for God’s hand in all the changes. I am aware of the young eyes watching me, taking their cues from how I handle each new challenge. Though I’m conscious of my many shortcomings, I think the word that best sums up my attitude is hope.
Hope is what makes you put out a pot of petunias in the spring when you’re not sure you’ll see autumn in the same location.
It’s what makes you sew curtains for one more oddly shaped window.
It’s what makes you plug into one more church, one more social group, one more neighborhood.
Hope is what makes you extend the fragile hand of friendship again, when you’ve just said good-bye to the best friend you’ve ever had.
Hope is what makes you plant roses in the desert.
I get it now, Mom.
(This piece is included in my upcoming book! Stay tuned for more info.)