Friday, July 1, 2016

How Do You Spell Hope?

In a box somewhere in the guestroom closet there is a journal filled with words from 18-year-old me. I think of it every so often. She inscribed it to me before wrapping it in brown paper and tying it with string (a la Sound of Music, of course!). A single word and her initials. "Write."

A single word can be prophetic, and hope can be spelled so many different ways.

It's funny how I can look at the cover of a journal and be transported to an entirely different season of my life.

That's the one I used to write notes about youth group sermons and notes  to my friend in the pew in front of me.

That one went with me everywhere in high school in case some brilliant, poetic inspiration struck me, whether in class or at lunch.

That one traveled with me to China and tells the story of God making a way for a dream to come true.

And then that one... That one she gave me for my birthday two years ago along with the Chinese silk pillowcases because she loved to feed my obsessions. And in some bittersweet irony, its final pages contain the outpouring of my grief over her death.

These bound pages have surrendered themselves to my ink and my tears and the depths of my heart. They have been my constant companions. Paper and ink can somehow chase away clouds and take down demons. Slay dragons and remind me how to breathe. Stem the flow of tears and tear down the walls that confine me.

I spell hope with five letters: W-R-I-T-E.

I read an article the other day about "high-functioning anxiety." In it, the writer lists all the things she does to combat her anxiety.

It’s always looking for the next outlet, something to channel the never-ending energy. Writing. Running. List-making. Mindless tasks (whatever keeps you busy). Doing jumping jacks in the kitchen. Dancing in the living room, pretending it’s for fun, when really it’s a choreographed routine of desperation, trying to tire out the thoughts stuck in your head. 
I so wished that she could see me applauding her on the other side of the screen. I wanted to tell her that those outlets are pure gift. They don't have to be "a choreographed routine of desperation;" they can be a blessed dance of hope, steps toward freedom, declarations that you have the power to control your emotions and your anxiety and your depression and everything else that tried to beat you down and bind you up. It does not have to rule you, at least not all the time. You can rise above, one step at a time.

So if you have found something that lifts you out of your depression or anxiety, even just a little bit, go forth and DO IT. Own it. Don't be ashamed. Be intentional about making time for it. Find a friend to hold you accountable when you're feeling an "episode" coming on. Don't view the outlets as a crutch or a sign of your weakness. View them as keys to the door of freedom, and use them!

If it's dancing in the living room, do it. If it's reading a book, do it. If it's playing with needles and yarn or canvas and paint, do it. If it's solving a puzzle or baking a cake or serving a homeless man lunch or running through your apartment complex or jumping in the pool even though you can't swim or putting words out there into cyberspace for anyone or no one to read... DO IT.

Embrace your outlets with a brave and risky intentionality. Because the God of Peace can speak in a million different places and hope can be spelled a thousand different ways and you can find it. 

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