When It's Time To Plant Hope

It's the middle of January when I write about the Joy Harvest and I wonder if anyone really understands what I'm trying to say.  Because who harvests anything at all when the ground is frozen right through and the wind whips harsh and unyielding?

But it's the day when snowflakes start falling that I glance up to see the first amaryllis bud breaking wide open, spilling joy into a day that's cold as ice.  And I wonder how it is that blooms the color of Summer can emerge right here in the middle of Winter.

And these words, they dance at the edges of my thoughts, make it clear that God's not bound by any conventions of mine or yours or anyone at all.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow {Colossians 3:6}

I'm starting to see that a new year's born right in the center of the coldest, darkest days and we might think there's no reason to harvest or plant until the winter months are over.  But what if He's calling us to believe, to make a new start here, now, when light's still a long way off?

I hear the groaning as the year enters in, people everywhere fighting against the frenzy of resolutions.  Because who can bear to add even one more thing to a list already burdened with responsibilities, expectations, failures?

And I feel it, too, the weight of all that needs doing and learning and being.  But it's after I've harvested the joy from a year that's gone that I realize there's more to a new year's beginning than just adding more things to the unending list.

Because maybe every year needs a whole crop of Hope planted deep into its soil, dug into the frozen ground when Winter's still strong and we're still floundering a bit to find our way in the dark.  And maybe we need to be reminded that it's not us who'll turn the new year into something beautiful and full of God.  No, it's only Him.  The One Who takes all our Hopes, breathes life right into them, and grows a life, a faith, a steadfast love straight from the cold, dark earth.

Maybe we'll plant Hope Seeds and they'll turn out to be something wholly other than what we expected.  Maybe we'll plant Hope Seeds and find they'll take a lifetime to sprout, grow, flourish.  Maybe we'll plant Hope Seeds and realize they're not really what we were hoping for at all.

But see, that's the thing.  There's no need to worry that we're planting the wrong seeds because it's only God Who makes them grow, only God who makes all things beautiful when the time is right {Ecclesiastes 3:11}.

And maybe it seems downright foolish to plant Hope when there's no knowing what a year will bring, even what tomorrow will bring.  But who wants to live the new year without Hope, without the expectant waiting for what God's going to bring right from the ground?

No year's hopeless unless we choose it to be--and even then, He slips in quiet while we're lost in the dark, plants His Hope where we think there'll never be life again.  And, oh, I've had those years, too.  The ones where I'm too broken to plant anything at all, too scared to believe there's any Hope to be had.

But this isn't one of those years and, oh, how grateful I am to stand here at the start of a new year with hands full of Hope ready to be set in the soil.

Today the wind rushes hard and the cold bites deep and the weeks of Winter stretch long into the distance.  But me, I'm gathering up seeds, pondering all the hopes for a brand new year.

Maybe I don't yet know all the Hopes I'm going to plant, but there's this one that's already been laid right down in the ground.  I'm taking the dare to count 1000 more gifts in 2012.  Because the counting of His Grace, the counting of Him, it's already changed the woman I am becoming, changed everything.  Who wants to hold back from letting Him do it all again?

I don't and I won't and, oh, will you join me?

Counting Graces from the past few weeks...

1119.  Full day of work after all the holiday slow days

1120.  Little blue bird perched in a friend's home, a symbol of hope

1121.  Amaryllis buds growing tall in January

1122.  Unexpected post-Christmas gift of tea

1123.  Dutch apple cheese muffins for breakfast

1124.  New calendars arriving in the mail - new year finally seeming real

1125.  Pictures of children I love from afar coming in the mail

1126.  Thank you notes all filled out and ready to whisper blessings

1127.  Reminder to do a long-forgotten task before it's too late

1128.  Money to pay unexpected bills--always, always this

1129.  Late-night reading of Anne of Green Gables

1130.  Always going to sleep with a bit of laughter in my heart

1131.  Cat racing wild as the household goes to sleep

1132.  "Talking tea" over email with a friend

1133.  Friend who counts it a privilege to advise on hard questions

1134.  Wise words to make hard decisions easier

1135.  God who's near when the answers aren't

1136.  Baby amaryllis plants poking buds above the soil at long last

1137.  First steps towards making peace with the past I've stored in boxes

1138.  Dear friend by my side all afternoon

1139.  Rows and rows of stitches finally nearing completion

1140.  Eager anticipation of giving the handmade gift to a friend

1141.  Cat who sleeps on the desktop while I work, just wanting to be near me

1142.  Candles burning on cold January days

1143.  Flock of birds flying straight across this road I'm on

1144.  Glancing at the sky just in time to see them fly by

1145.  Winter sunrise over frosted rooftops

1146.  Amaryllis buds breaking open while the snow falls

1147.  Last stitches in place, gift of beauty finally done

1148.  Pumpkin cheesecake baking in the oven on a Saturday afternoon

1149.  Courage to try a new skill in the late hours of night

1150.  Cat nestling in for bed while I struggle to "cast on"

1151.  God waking me early to see fresh snowfall

1152.  Road covered in white, unmarred by travelers

1153.  Standing at the window in PJs and bare feet, watching snowflakes lit up by street lamps

1154.  Going to bed frustrated by the learning curve, waking up ready to try again

1155.  Snow falling down all day long

1156.  Trip to the yarn store on a snowy day

1157.  Hands that can't wait to begin a new project

1158.  Snow boots with fuzzy fur tops

1159.  Snow flurries against the windshield, roads clear enough to drive

1160.  Meeting up with a friend, bag of new projects in hand

1161.  Telling stories from the week, laughing so hard the tears run free

1162.  Friend who advises on the things I'm still learning

1163.  Birds playing in the gutter while new snow falls

1164.  Mastering the purl stitch at last

1165.  Finally believing I might become a knitter yet

1166.  Resigning myself to no more snow, then waking up to the world all white again

1167.  Amaryllis blooms the color of summer, open wide right in the middle of winter

1168.  World quiet under it's frozen blanket

1169.  Dad helping in the kitchen because I'm tired and there are things that need doing

1170.  Chai topped with marshmallows to end the day

1171.  Standing at the window before bed, trying to memorize the winter's beauty

1172.  One lone gull flying overhead while the freezing rain falls.

1173.  First Hope Seed of the new year planted deep, Joy Dare undertaken.


  1. This is my favorite sentence from the post: "No year's hopeless unless we choose it to be--and even then, He slips in quiet while we're lost in the dark, plants His Hope where we think there'll never be life again." As Paul said, He is faithful even when we are faithless (or hopeless).

    I love Anne, too, although I did not meet her until my twenties. When the other Ann (Voskamp) pointed me to your blog, it felt like meeting one of Anne's "kindred spirits."

    Grace to you, and happy learning of your knit and purl.

    1. @tinuviel: That sentence you love? It was an eleventh-hour addition I wasn't expecting to make. But once it was written, I knew it needed to be there. And, oh, how grateful I am that He is faithful--no ifs, ands, or buts. Nothing we can do can change His faithfulness towards us--Grace!

      I read Anne of Green Gables as an adolescent and loved the books then, but it has been wonderful to revisit them and find them as sweet and engaging as they were at the first. And to be called a kindred spirit? Joy. Just--thank you. I have certainly felt the same.

      (I'm nearly finished with the first leg warmer--now just to make one to match! I'm rather enjoying myself now that the initial pain of learning is over :o)

  2. it's a joy to hear that you're starting the new year "with hands full of Hope"!

    have you ever read any Thomas Merton? your post made me think of the second chapter of his book, No Man Is An Island. Here's a bit I hope you'll like:

    If we hope in God, we already possess Him, because hope is a kind of trust that He creates in us, as a secret witness that He has taken possession of us. So the soul that hopes in God already belongs to Him, and belonging to Him is the same thing as possessing Him, because He gives Himself completely to those who give themselves to Him.

    (or words to that effect: my copy of the book is an Italian translation that I've translated back into English above. but i think it's a beautiful enough passage to survive my translation...)

    may you hold fast to Hope, now and always...

    1. @Chris: I do so enjoy the quotes you post here for me--I am not particularly well read and it is a gift to be given little treasures from wise authors I've not had a chance to learn from yet.

      And this idea that hope is "a secret witness that He has taken possession of us"--such beauty here. I am still pondering the idea of God as my Home and these words are stirring up my thoughts today. Thank you so much for sharing them.

      (and translating Italian back into English? I am duly impressed but somehow not entirely surprised :o)

      Grace to you, Friend!


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