Hope /həʊp/: n. An optimistic attitude of mind, based on the expectation of positive outcomes.
It seems appropriate that at the start of thew new year I’m sitting here facing the challenge, emptiness and possibilities of a blank page. It’s the calm before the storm of school, activities, study and work beginning again, and 2017 is still an empty blog post, a ticking cursor, waiting for me to get on and write something on it.
As you know, life isn’t all mountain tops. Sometimes it’s deep difficult valleys, and a lot of 2016 was a struggle. I didn’t write much. It’s hard to write about lessons you’re still in the middle of learning and in the valley you don’t much feel like stopping to think about the view.
Actually, in the valley you mostly focus on trying to keep your face out of the rain and keep walking. Sometimes victory is just staying upright and limping on. But, even if you aren’t really aware of it, in the valley, truth takes root, hope buds, new things grow.
This year God has been nudging to me to start writing postcards for people walking through valleys and wildernesses; Postcards of hope. Not the watery hope that we often hear about: longed for, but not really expected, but solid hope. Hope which is the optimism that grows out of what we know in our hearts is coming.
Here is the first, a picture that some of you will recognise. It’s mostly a wilderness, a blank, unexplored space. It’s both terrifyingly empty and brimming with potential and sometimes just what God needs in our lives. Often he creates it, clearing the land of what has gone before to ready it for a new crop. In other times he comes and breathes new life into a space that has been created by a loss that he too wept over.
Either way, if you’re facing a wilderness, it’s time to look for the new thing God is growing. Whatever it is might take a while to bear fruit (and you might need some time to rest and sit and watch it grow), although you should remember that even the dead wood of Aaron’s staff budded, blossomed and bore fruit all on the same day, so at the right time, when God does move, things might happen more quickly than you think!
I know not all of you are walking in valleys right now. Most of our lives are a patchwork of struggles and dancing, with blessing found in parts of both. But I trust that some of you on the mountains might help these postcards find their way to our sisters and brothers in the valleys and perhaps store up some of the truths for the day you do need them yourselves.
And thank you, to all of you who have encouraged me to begin again, to all of you who have shared postcards, who have bought the book and given it away, who have written to tell me how God has used my pictures to speak into your hearts, and who are still here reading in spite of the months of silence. I wouldn’t have made it back here without you.