Waiting in Joyful Hope: An Advent Re-post

Choose Hope
In honor of the last two days of Advent, my favorite season of the year, I wanted to share one more Advent-y post. I probably don’t blog frequently enough to warrant a re-post, but oh well, I’m going to do it anyway 🙂 
 
This was a reflection I wrote two years ago during my volunteer year with Amate House. Our house was in charge of writing and sharing an evening of Advent reflections (the other two houses had Lent and Pentecost, later during our year). I was serving in the Parish Transformation department of the Archdiocese of Chicago at the time. As a house, we had just moved houses about a week prior to hosting this evening, and we’d been without heat for almost a week. What a busy and adventurous time! 
 
This is what I shared that night, sans a few lines that I only shared in person. It was first posted back in 2011 on my blog. I would change some things of it now, but it still held a lot of helpful reminders for me this season again. 

Advent Reflection: Waiting in Joyful Hope

Sometimes it makes no sense. Amidst the consumeristic busyness and stressful preparations of what most call the Christmas season, Advent beckons us to wait, and not only wait, but wait in joyful hope. Like most things Christian, this is countercultural.

Waiting? No thanks, there’s too much to be done.

Joy?! That’s not cool either; joy is naïveté, maybe for those who’ve been spared the pain of suffering til now.

Hope?! Heck no. Cynicism is the accepted, adult perspective. Quiet despair and snarky negativity are also standard methods of relating to the world. They’re reasonable. Based in reality right?!

Thank the Lord—literally—for Advent! Advent is my favorite season of the Liturgical year! It doesn’t let me remain in my mess. It calls me out of myself and into the life and hope of Jesus. Jesus, who like waiting in joyful hope, is the epitome of the unexpected, the countercultural and the radical. Who could fathom the Christmas story? We’re talking about the God of the Universe here. We don’t expect a God who is born in a stable in the backwaters of Galilee.  We don’t expect a God who takes on all humility and vulnerability as an infant, lying in a manger.

This unexpectedness teaches me something about God and about hope. Maybe what I define as “reality,” the picture of life that would lend me to despair, is not the end of the story, and even moreso, it’s not the entirety of the present story. Sometimes we miss the “God’s with us in this moment” side of the story. The hope that comes from knowing that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. God is the God of the unexpected.  And so, I dare to listen to the Advent call and wait in joyful hope.

And that dare is a choice, a fight, to wait in joyful hope. We all have the things in our lives that try to steal our hope. Despite my love for Amate and Chicago, these last few months are no exception for me.

My hope is on the line at work one day at the Archdiocese, I had a man walking past me turn and say, “sorry for my cynicism. We just paid $3.2 million for Fr. So-and-so,” referencing a priest sexual-abuse scandal. He used to work with this priest personally. The pain in his voice was tangible.

My hope is on the line when I’m in meetings where we’re talking about different Catholic schools and what’s limiting their potential right now. I’m constantly surprised at how often I hear, “the pastor and principal can’t work together.” I’ve even heard, “they only communicate through email.” Really?! Adult Christian leaders?! If they can’t communicate civilly and constructively, how can they teach the next generation to do so?! Those dear kids hearts are at stake And so is mine.

My hope is on the line when several days a week I see a homeless woman outside the archdiocese silently standing with her hand out, too afraid to tell me her name, while right across the street, cars are sold for $300,000. It makes me sick.

My hope is on the line in day to day community life, when I hear others assume ill-intention of others, speak harsh words with no search for understanding the other, when I myself don’t show the love and patience I desire others to show me. The seeming hopelessness of it all threatens to let me remain in my mess, instead of trusting in the hope of Jesus, God become man, who takes our brokenness and makes it beautiful.

But that’s part of our collective problem I think. We forget God’s goodness and prior faithfulness. We don’t notice the gifts God gives us in every moment. We don’t tell our stories, let alone our stories of hope, of God working in our mess. I could tell many more like the ones I just alluded too, as we all can, but I can also tell you infinite stories of hope.

If I only told you stories like the ones above,  or more importantly, told myself stories like those, joyful hope would not be possible.

I.choose.hope. because my boss sees her work as a consultant for the Archdiocese as avocation not just a job and because she has the courage to serve the church as a businesswoman, butting heads with the male-only hierarchy (slight smile) when-needed  on occasion.

I.choose.hope. because of the lay people at the churches participating in the process of Parish Transformation, a renewal of mission, vision, and finances. They are so excited about strengthening the Body of Christ at their church community, not just filling the pews with people, but with the love of Christ.

I.choose.hope. because of my homeless friend Mike who passes on muffins and gift cards like he has an endless supply and asks me, “Why keep more than I can use?” to which I say, “Amen, brother. Amen.”

I.choose.hope. because of my Little Village community. Despite 9 very distinct perspectives and personalities, we’ve weathered months of the unknown about when we were moving to the new house, the actual move less than about week ago, and an accidental 5 days with no heat, hot water, or stove or oven. And no one has killed each other yet. Now that’s reason to hope, yeah? :-)

And I.choose.hope. because of the little things in my everyday life. As we were reminded at one community night, “Behold, the color purple.” Everyday has thousands of mini miracles that beckon me to “be watchful and alert,” as Jesus said to his disciples. Keeping a journal of gratitude shows me how joy is a function of gratitude and that gratitude is about remembering and noticing the imminence of God’s love. My list has everything from the small things like the color purple and hot coffee and sunset views from the L, to the confusing things like, “I’m not yet able to thank you for this situation, but thank you for being with me in it.” It’s the antidote to my own forgetfulness and cynicism. It reminds me of God’s faithfulness.

It’s a paradigm shift that Advent calls me to. To a perspective that doesn’t ignore that life is unfair, unjust, painful, challenging and sometimes plain ugly. But to a perspective that says yes, life is a mess, but God’s in the middle of it. It’s okay to wait in the question. To live in the pain. But to not let it lead to despair and cynicism. Let’s take the time and be watchful and alert for God at work in our lives. To speak words of hope to one another.  To celebrate the crazy, unexpected, radical divine love of Emmanuel.

Will you dare to wait in joyful hope with me?

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Blessed for the Journey

(This is Post #3 about my trip to Korea. If you missed Post #1 or Post #2, you can find them here and here.)
 
I leave tomorrow morning, that is Thursday, the 24th at 7am! I will arrive in Seoul on Friday, the 25th at 3pm, 18 hours later.  I expect to be up for well over 24hrs (eek!) unless a miracle happens and I can sleep on the plane. One can hope 😉 

This post, post #3 of my Korea musings, was half-way finished as a post called “what is GETI?” but it has now transformed itself and “what is GETI?” has been relegated to Post #4. So stay tuned for that! In the meantime, I just had a few night-before-big-trip thoughts to share.

Today, in my class, my fellow students organized a blessing for me as I embark on this journey. The class is called “Religious Life for the 21st Century: Creating Communities of Hope on a Global Scale.” Long title! But a beautiful, hope-filled, challenging, inspiring class. For those of you outside of the Catholic bubble, the term “Religious Life” is not meant generically but is Catholic jargon used to denote vowed life as sisters and brothers in community, i.e., nuns/sisters, brothers, priests who are in orders, etc. My class, like the rest of CTU, is incredibly diverse. We are young, old, male, female, from the U.S, from Bangladesh, China, Korea, Mexico, you name it, (vowed) religious, and lay students (2 of us!).

To have this community pray for me.

To be blessed in Korean, for my trip to Korea.

To be blessed in song.

To have my forehead signed with the cross by each classmate and my professor.

To hear words of encouragement and hope.

To be told “May you find joy in the friends you meet there, like the joy you exhibit with people here.”

To be “welcomed” to Asia.

To be sent from one community of beautiful diversity to another.

To have my hands and my heart held.

These graced moments.

They touched my heart and freed me to leave behind my fear, my to-do list, my anxiety.

Nothing could have made me more ready. Or reminded me it’s okay if I don’t feel “ready.”
Not the 3 hours of packing I did this morning, not my triple-checked lists, not my self pep-talks.

I’m so excited. I’m leaving on a jet plane. At 7am tomorrow morning. I will fly to San Francisco first, which ironically will be the exact same flight that is previously my longest flight I’ve ever taken (4 1/2 hrs to SFO). Then I will embark on my longest flight yet in my life, to my first place outside of North America I will have ever been! My only other experience of international travel was living in Mexico for two months. An international conference for two weeks in Asia will be quite different! And I am so grateful for this opportunity. To expand my horizons, my heart, my relationships.

One of the poignant ponderings from our Religious Life class readings for today was on our relational “web.” I know I don’t make this journey alone. I take my communities with me. I take you with me.  And I will return with magnificent additions to our web, our communities of hope. And that gives me such encouragement.

Thank you for journeying with me. Thanks for being excited with me. Thanks for asking for updates. Thank you for your blessings.

With joy on the journey,
Melissa

Choose Hope.

So, when I wrote my Advent reflection for Amate back in December, I had no idea how helpful and prophetic it would be for my own life. It has the Holy Spirit written all over it, because it’s been exactly what I needed during these last few months (in addition to the love and support of so many wonderful people of course). But I know the Holy Spirit was at work. In case you haven’t read the reflection (go here if you want to!), the main format was, “These things A,B, and C try to steal my hope” but “these things D, E, and F remind me to choose hope.” However, when I originally wrote the reflection, I wrote, “I have hope because of D, E, and F….” not “I choose hope because of D, E, and F.” But two days before the Advent reflection night, when we were practicing it as a house and right before my turn, I leaned over to one of my wonderful housemates and crossed out have  and wrote choose, and then wrote a big ????. She gave me an encouraging nod, YES.

Thank you, Holy Spirit.

And then, we started off our first community night of 2012 for Amate House with this reflection:

Hope opens doors where despair closes them.
Hope discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot.
Hope draws its power from a deep trust in God and the basic goodness of mankind.
Hope “lights a candle” instead of “cursing the darkness.”
Hope regards problems, small or large, as opportunities.
Hope cherishes no illusions, nor does it yield to cynicism.
Hope sets big goals and is not frustrated by repeated difficulties or setbacks.
Hope pushes ahead when it would be easy to quit.
Hope puts up with modest gains, realizing that “the longest journey starts with one step.”
Hope accepts misunderstandings as the price for serving the greater good of others.
Hope is a good loser because it has the divine assurance of final victory. (James Keller, M.M.)

Oh how much I love this!

It’s exactly what I would need to hear again and again in the weeks and months that would follow. The lies of cynicism and despair and distrust and giving up have been trying to take root. But to them I say, “No, you will not win. I choose hope.” 🙂

I made this at our winter retreat as a reminder to make the daily choice to "Choose Hope"

What do you choose?

Every year, the Little Village community of Amate House is in charge of hosting Advent reflections for all of the Amate community–current volunteers, alumni, staff, and any friends of Amate that want to come!

Last night, in the midst of settling into our new house, and battling the challenge of living with no gas and thus no heat, hot water, stove ,or oven, LV rose to the challenge and hosted our Advent Reflection night. We each shared a reflection on a particular Advent theme. My theme was “Waiting in Joyful Hope.” I’m share it below. I’ve tweaked it only a little bit because some stuff is just better shared in person instead of the internet but this is the most of it. I apologize for its length. I also think it comes off better in person 😉 Enjoy!

Advent Reflection: Waiting in Joyful Hope

Sometimes it makes no sense. Amidst the consumeristic busyness and stressful preparations of what most call the Christmas season, Advent beckons us to wait, and not only wait, but wait in joyful hope. Like most things Christian, this is countercultural.

Waiting? No thanks, there’s too much to be done.

Joy?! That’s not cool either; joy is naïveté, maybe for those who’ve been spared the pain of suffering til now.

Hope?! Heck no. Cynicism is the accepted, adult perspective. Quiet despair and snarky negativity are also standard methods of relating to the world. They’re reasonable. Based in reality right?!

Thank the Lord—literally—for Advent! Advent is my favorite season of the Liturgical year! It doesn’t let me remain in my mess. It calls me out of myself and into the life and hope of Jesus. Jesus, who like waiting in joyful hope, is the epitome of the unexpected, the countercultural and the radical. Who could fathom the Christmas story? We’re talking about the God of the Universe here. We don’t expect a God who is born in a stable in the backwaters of Galilee.  We don’t expect a God who takes on all humility and vulnerability as an infant, lying in a manger.

 This unexpectedness teaches me something about God and about hope. Maybe what I define as “reality,” the picture of life that would lend me to despair, is not the end of the story, and even moreso, it’s not the entirety of the present story. Sometimes we miss the “God’s with us in this moment side of the story. The hope that comes from knowing that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. God is the God of the unexpected.  And so, I dare to listen to the Advent call and wait in joyful hope.

And that dare is a choice, a fight, to wait in joyful hope. We all have the things in our lives that try to steal our hope. Despite my love for Amate and Chicago, these last few months are no exception for me.

My hope is on the line at work one day at the Archdiocese, I had a man walking past me turn and say, “sorry for my cynicism. We just paid $3.2 million for Fr. So-and-so,” referencing a priest sexual-abuse scandal. He used to work with this priest personally. The pain in his voice was tangible.

My hope is on the line when I’m in meetings where we’re talking about different Catholic schools and what’s limiting their potential right now. I’m constantly surprised at how often I hear, “the pastor and principal can’t work together.” I’ve even heard, “they only communicate through email.” Really?! Adult Christian leaders?! If they can’t communicate civilly and constructively, how can they teach the next generation to do so?! Those dear kids hearts are at stake And so is mine.

My hope is on the line when several days a week I see a homeless woman outside the archdiocese silently standing with her hand out, too afraid to tell me her name, while right across the street, cars are sold for $300,000. It makes me sick.

My hope is on the line in day to day community life, when I hear others assume ill-intention of others, speak harsh words with no search for understanding the other, when I myself don’t show the love and patience I desire others to show me. The seeming hopelessness of it all threatens to let me remain in my mess, instead of trusting in the hope of Jesus, God become man, who takes our brokenness and makes it beautiful.

But that’s part of our collective problem I think. We forget God’s goodness and prior faithfulness. We don’t notice the gifts God gives us in every moment. We don’t tell our stories, let alone our stories of hope, of God working in our mess. I could tell many more like the ones I just alluded too, as we all can, but I can also tell you infinite stories of hope.

If I only told you stories like the ones above,  or more importantly, told myself stories like those, joyful hope would not be possible.

I.choose.hope. because my boss sees her work as a consultant for the Archdiocese as a vocation not just a job and because she has the courage to serve the church as a business woman, butting heads with the male-only hierarchy (slight smile) when-needed  on occasion.

I.choose.hope. because of the lay people at the churches participating in the process of Parish Transformation, a renewal of mission, vision, and finances. They are so excited about strengthening the Body of Christ at their church community, not just filling the pews with people, but with the love of Christ.

I.choose.hope. because of my homeless friend Mike who passes on muffins and gift cards like he has an endless supply and asks me, “Why keep more than I can use?” to which I say, “Amen, brother. Amen.”

I.choose.hope. because of my Little Village community. Despite 9 very distinct perspectives and personalities, we’ve weathered months of the unknown about when we were moving to the new house, the actual move less than about week ago, and an accidental 5 days with no heat, hot water, or stove or oven. And no one has killed each other yet. Now that’s reason to hope, yeah? 🙂

And I.choose.hope. because of the little things in my everyday life. As we were reminded at one community night, “Behold, the color purple.” Everyday has thousands of mini miracles that beckon me to “be watchful and alert,” as Jesus said to his disciples. Keeping a journal of gratitude shows me how joy is a function of gratitude and that gratitude is about remembering and noticing the imminence of God’s love. My list has everything from the small things like the color purple and hot coffee and sunset views from the L, to the confusing things like, “I’m not yet able to thank you for this situation, but thank you for being with me in it.” It’s the antidote to my own forgetfulness and cynicism. It reminds me of God’s faithfulness.

It’s a paradigm shift that Advent calls me to. To a perspective that doesn’t ignore that life is unfair, unjust, painful, challenging and sometimes plain ugly. But to a perspective that says yes, life is a mess, but God’s in the middle of it. It’s okay to wait in the question. To live in the pain. But to not let it lead to despair and cynicism. Let’s take the time and be watchful and alert for God at work in our lives. To speak words of hope to one another.  To celebrate the crazy, unexpected, radical divine love of Emmanuel.

Will you dare to wait in joyful hope with me?