The leaves are still clinging to the trees when the first taste of winter teases the autumn sky and a flurry of snowflakes falls to form a soft blanket over the earth.
With my face to the sky drinking everything in, I stand gasping for air as the biting cold burns my lungs and the chill permeates my too-thin sweater for the first time this season. The world is crisp and quiet, the atmosphere soft and lovely, and the snow carries with it a much-needed newness to the places where older things are no longer. It is here where everything begins to change.
This tangible reminder of winter’s arrival is accompanied by a single thought: I haven’t seen snow since the world was normal. And while normalcy still seems far-off, the flakes that land in the folds of my jacket and the rips in my jeans remind me that nothing can stay the same forever.
In this perfect moment, everything is still, and it feels as though time itself has stopped to watch. And like a switch flipping without warning, the snow that once evoked feelings of dread for the impending winter beckons me to hope instead.
For the first time in my life, I am comforted by change.
I have found myself using this phrase often when referring to the blissful pre-pandemic days, “back when the world was normal.” We all have had to face the reality that the simplest of things are not how they used to be, and the everyday things we once took for granted feel like distant memories.
2020 has felt as though we’re all living a nightmare, collectively experiencing panic and grief and anxiety and anger and paranoia and frustration over a world that feels like it isn’t changing. I don’t like it.
I don’t like it at all.
And so when the snow falls on this day, I’m brought back to a blissful time. For better or worse, I experience a palpable hope that just as the weather cannot stay the same, things will not be like this forever.
Scrawled in my prayer journal are notes to God like this:
“All my hope is in You.”
“Hallelujah in the dark.”
“You are higher and greater and better than anything else in this life and I want more of You.”
I have a habit of filling every nook and cranny of my life with poetic words – my journals, my text messages, the index cards and post-it notes that sit on my desk, my prayers. But do I mean them?
I used to tell God that He was all I needed, and I thought I meant it. But until the little luxuries of my life were stripped away, I didn’t realize how much of my hope was really in these things, instead.
It’s baffling. On one hand, I want to be the person who lives in the most desperate and destitute of situations and praises God all the same. I want to be the person who falls to her knees and prays when faced with impossible situations. I want to be the person who can honestly say she’d be alright if she lost everything.
But the human side of me is resistant to this. I don’t want to lose everything. I don’t want to have to be content in all situations. I don’t want to have to trust God with my life. I don’t want to live the rest of my life with a mask on my face, holding people at arm’s length, waiting around for life to be normal again.
I grapple with turning the prayers in my journal into tangible realities and I’ll be the first to tell you that as someone who wears hope inscribed in a small gold pendant around her neck, who scribbles it on her left hand near-daily, who writes in a journal with it hand-lettered on the front, who names inanimate objects after this concept as a reminder to keep holding on – hope is hard. I’m still trying to figure out what it looks like in practical, everyday life.
And yet, I find myself coming back to the topic of hope time and time again when I put words to the page. I don’t even fully understand this myself beyond the longing for things to be good again. For better and brighter things ahead. For something beyond what I can see.
To me, hope is not the assurance that everything will be normal in a certain number of days or months. Perhaps a day will come when the chaos of 2020 feels like a distant memory, but it’s impossible to know when or how – and so, I cannot place my hope in this.
And yet, that doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to hope that we’ll see God’s goodness in the land of the living. If we believe God is good and we say our hope is in Him, then we’re meant to walk that out. We’re meant to live with the knowledge that we have a God who delights in pouring out good things on us, and who has secured us a promised eternity with Him.
The rush of hope I feel now with the snow falling on my face is a reminder that things will not always stay as they are now. The God who openhandedly releases the snow from His storehouses is the same God who meets me where I am, who hears my prayers and bottles up my tears, who gave His life on my behalf. And I am in awe.
I’ve been making my way through the four Gospels over the past months and reading the stories of Jesus over and over. It’s the same story – He comes, He heals and redeems, He dies and saves, He rises again. And each time, though the stories are familiar and the pages of my Bible have notes scribbled everywhere, I get a taste of that same awe:
My Savior loved me enough to give up everything for me. He died so I could live and live abundantly. He died so I’d never be without hope.
As I stand here with my face to the sky, I am reminded of this hope once more:
The God of the universe is the God of my soul.
The One who breathed life into the galaxies breathed life into me.
The One who put the earth on its axis holds my future in the palm of His hand.
The One who gave everything so I could live can handle my life, too.
The One who holds it all holds me, too.
My hope is not in this world. It really isn’t. It can’t be. It will never be.
Some days I grieve for the year it feels like we’ve lost, and the normal that feels like it will never return.
He doesn’t forget His people.
He doesn’t go back on His promises.
He doesn’t leave the ones He loves.
He comforts. He redeems. He restores. He makes everything new.
We are allowed to long for better and brighter things.
We are allowed to grieve for the things we’ve lost.
But we must remember this:
God will never leave us without hope.
And so we hold on.