Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On earthy hope, cocoons and the edges of wildness

The pause between Christmas day and the beginning of a new year has in recent years been fraught, for me, with a gnawing, hungry hope. An eagerness to cast off the old, which honestly hasn't been all that endearing these past years, and leap into newness. Or, at the very least, the glimmer of hope of newness. And what has happened these past years, too, is four or five months into this supposed newness, a weight of grief falls heavy on my heart. Things aren't all that different, it mocks. In fact, they're not different at all - and they probably never will be.

Does anyone else burn with exhaustion in their souls at the damned near impossible task of warding off cynicism and discouragement, while simultaneously seeking to honor the grief of losses splayed like a pile of bones one upon the other, while at the same time keeping a space vacant, no matter how small it is, to house the mystery of hope, the unexpected beauty strewn across our paths that day or so imperceptibly growing with time we nearly miss it?

Yeah, that.

I know that exhaustion well. Maybe you do, too. It is not so simple a gesture, I think, to embrace hope, for in expanding space to hope and love and light, we also expand our capacities for disappointment and heartbreak, for doubt and anger and darkness. We cannot grow one direction without growing in the other.

I'm not talking here about the biblical "hope that doesn't disappoint," but a hope more earthy and common to us humans. The hope of "maybe tomorrow will be better" or "maybe life will let up for awhile and I can breathe again" or "maybe that dream will begin to be fulfilled" or "maybe this (whatever this is) what won't be in vain."

We all have these kinds of hopes, don't we?

It doesn't have to mean we're not doing our best to live fully into this present moment, only that we're willing to consider there may be more light beyond this moment, and depending on what kind of moment we're in, it may be just what we need to get through to the next. 

This, friends, is where I've found myself, like I said, at the advent of a new year for some years now. 

But this year, it's different. I'm less eager, I suppose, to throw myself at the mercy of "high hopes" for newness. And it's more than that, too. It's a gentler hope, like the slow burn of an ember, flickering and holding steady through the night. I find myself leaning back on hope instead of pressing forward into it, and this subtle difference in posture changes the tone entirely. I'm resting, being carried along by a current, not bracing myself for rapids ahead or floating in my own little world like rapids don't exist.

This is where I am. I guess you might call it peace, though it isn't without its struggle, its tension.

It's an irony, no? That peace and tension can coexist? It seems all they need is respectful awareness of each other. 

* * * * * 

For several years, I've tried to participate in the One Word challenge. Writers pick a word that colors the theme of their year ahead and weave this theme, periodically, through their posts that year. Both times I've picked a word and it's fallen flat after the first post. Maybe I was trying too hard or not listening well, or maybe it's just not my thing to pick one word.

I still don't have a word. But I can tell you where I see myself in imagery, stepping across the threshold of next year:

Nestled, for now, inside a cocoon. Craving wide open spaces at the rougher edges of faith and God, where wildness and mystery dwell, outside of neat containment.

Yes, I'm here. Swaddled in this cocoon of the unknown, not only resting, but transfiguring. A caterpillar might know, instictually, that she'll one day emerge as a butterfly or a moth. But perhaps not. Perhaps she is swaddled tight, too, through the cycle of transformation, not knowing when or how or what she'll be when she emerges. Knowing she cannot ultimately control these things. So she gives herself over to it, to the process of change, to the grace of this great Weaver of beauty, and lets go.

So much of me, of my life and faith and marriage and writing, are bound up in this cocoon, that it's a sense of relief, really, to recognize this is where I am.  I can stop running desperate to hope or resisting it and work, instead, with the natural rhythms of metamorphosis. 

What this may mean for my writing is that I will tuck words away for awhile, letting them take shape in more private spaces.  I'm not so hungry to share all my words here, but to keep some in the sacred dark for however long they need.

I cannot say what this all will look like or what I will look like, for that is part of the journey through the unknown I'm learning to walk - to cocoon in - but I do know this:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

And somehow, that is enough for me, for this day, for this year. 

Linking up at Beth's for the last Unforced Rhythms of 2014.


  1. these phrases jumped right off the screen to me.
    1. ".... peace and tension can coexist? It seems all they need is respectful awareness of each other" . It's what I am learning too. I have been oh so very black and white all my life. NO gray. Black and white seems safer and easier in a way, but not a good way to live.

    2. "I'm not so hungry to share all my words here, but to keep some in the sacred dark for however long they need. " I get this Amber. I tend to process over time - thinking and waiting and then I am either ok with waiting, or something becomes clear before i go with it on the blog. I journal and share with an inner circle of friends, but not so my much on my blog space. My commitment when I do write is to be transparent and authentic when I do share the struggles, just not in real time. that troubles me sometimes when I compare myself to others in the writing community. I am learning to accept this is where I am (for now) in my writing. Perhaps it's what we all need - to be ok with where we are now, and to quit saying "I would never....." (clearly speaking to self here!)

    I value you words when you share them. and I also love how you are looking at hope, all the while unknowing.

    1. Oh yes. That living black and white is something I used to know nothing but as well. It's getting harder to look at life that way, and for that, I'm grateful. Maybe it is not the path everyone must walk, but I can't see myself going back...

      And that self acceptance, of where we're at, instead of comparing or saying "I would never" - yes. I think we all need that. You know I am still learning this, too.

      So grateful, once more, for your friendship and insights here.

  2. Amber, your words capture me. They express the deepness in my own heart that I sometimes cannot put words to. I can't even adequately say where I'm at right now. Cocoon - yes, that might sum it up. As I face the new year, I find myself afraid, but full of hope. Discouraged, but full of joy. Waiting for something, but even more so, waiting on Him.

    It's a risky, and scary, but nice place to be - for all is well with my soul, and all shall be well.

    Happy New Year, and GOD BLESS!

    1. Sharon, your words make me pause. How we can be filled with such seemingly contradictory emotions, and if you're anything like me, feel like maybe this is a failure. To be afraid and still have hope. To be discouraged and still have joy. We are very rarely all of one or the other, it seems. And yet, isn't this more real? More satisfying? We cannot get too comfortable in one place with this tension, and the moments we revel in the joy or the hope are even sweeter for it. So I'm right there with you, and may it truly be well with us, wherever we are this year, for we are never alone. Grace and peace to you.

  3. I left my comments on your Facebook page, friend, so I will use this space to tell you how very much I am grateful that the community of Unforced Rhythms has been the place where I came to meet you and be inspired by you and come to love you. And when we get to sit side by side later this year (YEAH!) I will tell you more about what a breakthrough that has been for me.

    1. This just fills me with all sorts of happiness. Thank you, thank you, sweet friend. I love you dearly.

  4. p.s. I LOVE the use of an image in place of a single word as your year's focus. It so clearly is a picture brought to you by The Spirit to bring rest and hope and grace. Our super-creative God can use it all!

    1. That's a great way to look at it ;-) He is super creative, at that, marching to the beat, always, of his own drum...

    2. Oh that I would learn to walk to His beat!

  5. Thank you, Amber, for being brave enough to write and to share it. I resonate. It might be a bit odd, but jon and I are beginning a project for our home- a marquee sign of the word "hope" because of our own wrestlings with that word. I like your "leaning back on hope instead of pressing forward into it."

    1. Oh. I love that, Annie. It doesn't sound odd at all. I'm keen on having things around home that embody special meaning for us. Hope is certainly a word and concept I've wrestled with, too, among many, and will likely continue to for all my days. So grateful to have you here.

  6. "We cannot grow one direction without growing in the other."
    This is the heart of the wrestle isn't it? Thank you for honoring the difficulty, the quiet hope that carries. I also am praying/pondering a word, my word last year was so helpful, but I tend to be a late bloomer with these things . . . check back with me mid-summer and maybe I'll know my word!
    Also, I believe I'm still in a time of cocooning. Sometimes I look with jealousy at those "flying" around me, but I know that I'm not ready yet, the time has not yet come and so, I wait and learn and grow. Best wishes for you this year, Amber, best wishes!

  7. Such precious words, Amber. I could relate to a lot of what you said...especially about the lull that comes between Christmas and New Years. I have been writing on that very thing tonight...I contemplate and reflect so much during this week in between. Hope is somewhat jaded in me, too...I think it must have something to do with all that has been going on in our lives for so long and us not seeing the bigger changes we long for. It is all a process, and I am not the most patient person! Thank you for sharing your heart and for your honesty and transparency here. So thankful to have "met" you this year and to be walking this faith walk with you. I look forward to our visits together in 2015, God willing! Happy New Year!

  8. Hey, my dear friend. Your image of the co-existing of peace and tension, of their respectful awareness of one another, evokes this profound sense of rest in me. I pray you experience such a deep, deep rest in this season, in your cocoon... wrapped in His heart. I love you so, sister.