How to See Hope

It was my first year as a varsity cheerleader. We had a tea for all the moms and daughters on the squad and my aunt came along to fill in the gap. The one left a couple years earlier when a man crossed the center line and ran my mama’s van off the road

We played a game to break the ice. Maybe you’ve played it before. You put a card with a fictional character on your head and asking only “Yes” or “No” questions you have to guess who it is. My coach began to mildly freak out when she realized that my card read, “Little Orphan Annie”

Yes, the redheaded girl who really was an orphan had it plastered right across her forehead.

When I realized it I laughed. Really, truly I did. I mean…of course that is what I got. Story of my life.

But let’s back up a bit because that isn’t really where the story begins.

The story begins where it seemed to end.

My daddy had a head full of salt and pepper hair and ocean blue eyes beneath his wire frames. He fixed small electric motors and always smelled like aftershave and a hint of grease. The year I was born he had open heart surgery, just one more surgery in a long line since the age of five. His heart finally gave out a few weeks after his 46th birthday a few months shy of my 9th. The boy who was born 2lbs small in 1947 and given no hope lived to have a full life with a wife and two children.

Daddy had one real love, aside from the inside of an electric motor, and he met her in a movie theater when he was 19 and she was 13 and the story about how they fooled my mom’s parents into believing he was only 16 is a bit of a legend. They married three weeks after my mom graduated high school and a week after her 18th birthday. They were blue collar, hard working do-anything-for-ya Southern folk.

For three years after his death my mama scraped, scrambled and prayed to piece our life together. Sometimes she succeeded and sometimes she fumbled and as an adult I can see that and there is so much grace for that woman, my mama. She never could have guessed that she would lose her life so suddenly and leave my brother and I behind. She was a few days short of 44 and I was in the throws of tweendom having just turned 12

There are a million places in my story where I see God. A million different stones of remembrance that highlight the fact that not once in all the unexpected loss did He abandon me. No, in fact, along the way He was making sure that I could see Him. Even if it was liking trying to catch a glimpse of Aslan from around a Narnian hill.

In the midst of it all I never wanted anyone to pity me. I suppose that is why when my coach shrieked at the horror of “Little Orphan Annie” plastered across my forehead I just shook my head at the irony.

Somewhere, even in the dark of the whole story, I believed that God’s eyesight was better than my own. My favorite name for God is “El Roi” and it means “The God who sees” and I’ve clung to that truth when my eyes have been dim. My eyes to see the good in the hurt have all but been blind at times, but He has never once failed me.

That’s the thing. From the outside folks look at my story and they see disaster. They see worst case scenario. As a mama myself I can hardly take the thought of my sweet ones losing myself and their Daddy.

God has the inside track on hope. This world’s brokenness had broken hard on my life by the age of 12, but when God looked at me His pity on me was enough. His pity on my life that drove Him to fullest love and sacrifice was enough to cover all the hurt and busted places. He gave me hope. A hope that spans eternity and covers over my story

I still experience grief. It washes over me unexpectedly and I have to catch my breath while I watch my daughter spin circles around the room and realize that my mama isn’t here to see her grow. What I have learned is that grief and joy can live in the same soul. All the pieces of our broken stories can be pieced back together.

Hope sees with God’s eyes. Hope sees past the broken pieces to a place that life is made whole by a Father who never fails to gather every piece in the wake of hurt.

He never missed a single piece of my story.

What name or attribute of God can you share in the comments? Let’s see how many we get!

Photo Credit: country_boy_shane via Compfight cc

18 Comments

  1. Va Neda Perkins April 6, 2014

    Wow!!!  What an incredible story.  Sometimes words just fail when describing the hope and grace He extends to us.  I’ll be glad when we are in heaven and can express His love completely.  Thanks for sharing this story with us.  Beautiful!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Jessica Hoover April 7, 2014

      Thank you so much for reading my little piece of God’s great big {beautiful} story!

  2. Elizabeth April 7, 2014

    This.is.beautiful. And very tearful, too. I just love these words: “A million different stones of remembrance that highlight the fact that not once in all the unexpected loss did He abandon me.” Reminds me of that verse in “Come Thou Fount” where we sing, “Here I raise my Ebeneezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come, and I hope by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.” And also that Matt Redman song: “Never once did we ever walk alone, never once did You leave us on our own, You are faithful, God You are faithful.”  So glad He IS faithful.

    Your words here are so beautiful and gracious and HOPEFUL: “Hope sees past the broken pieces to a place that life is made whole by a Father who never fails to gather every piece in the wake of hurt. He never missed a single piece of my story.”

    “The God who sees” is one of my favorite names for God too. I remind myself, and others, of that one quite often.

    (Incidentally, I never noticed your bio before, though I’ve read your posts. Love it! I trained to be a birth doula, but in the chaos of moving overseas, was never able to complete the certification. I’m still passionate about birth though! And I love British drama too. So I felt a connection with you today 🙂 )

    1. Jessica Hoover April 7, 2014

      Elizabeth, those are two of my most favorite songs!

      When we lived overseas I worked in maternal health. I love all things birth and so that makes the show Call the Midwife pretty much the best combo ever. If you are into birth and British dramas we are fast friends! Glad to be “connected” now!

  3. Danielle Wheeler April 7, 2014

    Thank you for sharing this part of your story, for letting us into the broken pieces.  I love your definition of hope.  It really is seeing with God’s eyes.  Looking to when he will make life whole and trusting him when we can’t see how.  Big hopeful hugs to you, friend.

  4. morielle April 7, 2014

    I too love your definition of hope: seeing with God’s eyes. My favorite name for God is “The Lord, our Righteousness”, from this passage in Jeremiah: 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 23:4-6)

    1. Jessica Hoover April 7, 2014

      Morielle, that is such a great name for God. Thankful that His righteousness is greater and unshakeable compared to my ever shaking weakness.

  5. Kimberly Todd April 7, 2014

    A beloved attribute for the collection: The God who makes and is making us and all things new.

  6. Linda Thomas April 7, 2014

    Hi, Sweet Girl. You and I have been cyber-friends for several years now and I’ve enjoyed watching the way God is bringing healing to you, but neither He nor you are not stopping there: He’s leading you to reach out to others in such loving, hope-filled way. Such blessings! 🙂  Your post was lovely and powerful. My favories are these:  “There are a million places in my story where I see God. A million different stones of remembrance that highlight the fact that not once in all the unexpected loss did He abandon me. …What I have learned is that grief and joy can live in the same soul. All the pieces of our broken stories can be pieced back together.… Hope sees with God’s eyes. Hope sees past the broken pieces to a place that life is made whole by a Father who never fails to gather every piece in the wake of hurt. He never missed a single piece of my story.” Also, just so you know, my own sweet little mother passed away last week…. (Also, I didn’t realize until this blog post that your dad and I were the same age.) I send love, and I keep you in my prayers each morning.

    1. Jessica Hoover April 7, 2014

      Linda, you are dear and you never fail to encourage me. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your mama. Praying that you feel God’s love wrapping you up and that you are able to joy in the life that she lived. You are a gracious and beautiful example to all of us, particularly those of us in the Velvet Ashes community. Love and hugs to you!

  7. emily thomas April 7, 2014

    Fantastic, Jessica!  Thank you for your words.

    I love knowing that God is our Anchor.  I am literally and figuratively all over the place.  The Lord knows I need an anchor and He is that for me!

  8. ~Karrilee~ April 8, 2014

    Sweet Jessica… I love this. I love how He has had you – all along the way! How He has shown up for you and sowed in you Hope and Light and Life abundantly, even in the face of such loss.  I love so many names of God – but the first that comes to mind is this: El Shaddai – Lord God Almighty.  This – the year that God has whispered to me that He is restoring the Maternal Heart of God… I love this: “El Shaddai refers to God completely nourishing, satisfying, and supplying His people with all their needs as a mother would her child. Connected with the word for God, El, this denotes a God who freely gives nourishment and blessing, He is our sustainer.”

    How He proves this to be true for us, time and time again!

    Love you so!

  9. Amy Young April 8, 2014

    Yes, yes, yes on what others have said! And what I also love about hope is the long view on things it takes. I can get so stuck in the now. Hope pushes me beyond myself.

    1. Polly April 9, 2014

      “The long view on things that hope takes, and pushing us past the now and beyond ourselves.”  I like it.  Thanks for this thought.

  10. Polly April 9, 2014

    Oh Jessica, like several others who have left comments, I had no words while reading this…only tears.  Thank you for sharing this with us, and the ways God has met you in your story.  So much tragedy.  And so much beautiful redemption.  We are able to see and understand that much more of His heart because of what you have shared.

    One of the names of God that has been important to me in the last couple of years is one that He led me to in early September 2012.  I had just returned to China for the beginning of my 2nd year, having come off of a hard 1st spring semester.  I was doubting the choice of my return, feeling quite hopeless, and uncertain of so many things.  Sitting by a man-made lake in a local park surrounded by people and noises, the Lord led me to Exodus 15:22-27 – the story where God tells Moses to throw a tree (log) into the waters of Marah because the people were grumbling that they couldn’t drink it due to its bitterness.  The water then became sweet, and drinkable.  Then came the Lord’s “If/then” statement about listening to Him and being obedient, followed by His name of promise in verse 26: Jehova Rapha, The Lord your Healer.

    This passage struck me not only because of this beautiful name of God, but also because my name, Polly, means “bitter,” just like that water.  I’ve known that for quite some time, but have wanted to ignore the meaning because bitter seems like such an unlovely word, and has more negative connotations than positive.  But it’s like God was giving me a promise in His name to overshadow, and even heal, my name.  And though the healing has been achingly slow (by my timeline anyway), and sometimes seems to still be so far off, I am learning to trust and believe in Jehova Rapha.

    And by the way in verse 27, the people got to Elim where they found 12 springs and 70 palm trees.  Not only abundant water for their thirst, but shelter from the heat as well.  Isn’t that just like the Lord to give abundantly more than what we could ask for or even imagine.

  11. When You Think You Don’t Have A Story November 21, 2014

    […] and I promise if you let me hear your story I will cup it gently like the fragile gift that it is. God hasn’t lost a single piece of your story and in grace I won’t […]

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