a study of hope

I've had the first word below written on my arm all week. I've written it on the outside of my door. I've spoken of it in chapel and in conversation. I've searched for it as I read the Bible. I've pondered and prayed it. When I asked one of the girls in the dorm what I should write my blog post about tonight, she said, "Yachal!" 

First, a bit of technical but incredibly meaningful jargon. But keep reading for the beautiful stuff. 

Yachal is the Hebrew word meaning, briefly, "to wait, to hope." And I think there is so much beauty in the fact that Hebrew combines those concepts as one. Waiting and hoping. In some of my further study of the idea of "hope," I've discovered that yachal is not alone in its depth of meaning. 

As I looked into the deeper meaning of yachal, still in awe of the connection between "wait" and "hope," I found that another form of the word "hope" in Hebrew is batach, which not only means "to hope," but also "to trust." That really surprised me; we think of trust and hope as two very separate ideas, separate emotions, separate mental processes. "Trust" and "hope" have been the two biggest ideas that I have been wrestling through this semester. There is something so profound in the fact that the language of the Old Testament, the language in which God first revealed Himself, those two concepts are nearly one in the same. 

And not just the Old Testament. In New Testament Koine Greek, there is really only one commonly used word for hope, elpizo, and it also encapsulates "trust" and "hope" into one word. 

I've included the definitions of some of these incredible words. 

yachal - to remain, to delay, to expect, to hope, to wait (for)

batach - to trust, to hope in, to confide in, to set one’s hope and confidence upon anyone, to be secure, to fear nothing for oneself

qavah - to bind, to be strong, robust, to expect, to await, to be gathered together

sabar - to look at, to view, to expect, wait for, to hope

elpizo - to hope, to hopefully trust in, to wait for salvation with joy and full of confidence, to trust in

You can see them for yourself here; explore the verses in which they are used!

To wait is to trust.

To trust is to hope.

To hope is to believe there is something worth waiting for.

I put this into practice yesterday. I needed to do some processing of some hard memories from around the accident, but I didn't want to because it was late; everyone was either gone for reading break or sleeping already. I wondered why I felt like I needed people around in order to do this. I realized that I didn't actually think I could trust God to be as much of a comforter as another human could be. But everything I say I believe about God preaches the opposite - I believe, even if I doubt, that God is the ultimate comforter, the best comforter, the most present comforter. At least, I hoped so. I hoped he would come through, hoped he would show up, but the only way to find out would be to actually trust him. And the only way to actually trust him would be to put myself in the situation where he has to come through. It was a scary thought. I waited a long time before I was ready. Then I dove in; I journaled and cried, and felt like I was literally in the arms of Jesus, my head on his chest as we cried together. It wasn't until I opened my eyes at one point that I realized that he wasn't physically there next to me. If someone had seen me in the room, it would have looked like I was alone, but I wasn't. I had decided to hope in him, to wait for him, to expect him, to trust him just a little bit more. And with each fulfilled hope, each tiny step forward, I trust him more.

We must hope. We must wait, we must trust that there is something worth waiting for.

But we are not the only ones who hope.

Earlier this week, broken by the stories of people whose lives have contained so, so much hurt, I sat and asked God, Why don't you come back already? Why haven't you ended this yet? And I realized in a moment, in one breath, that God must love us so much because he continues to allow suffering that he hates in order to allow more time for more people to be saved. The people who are yet unsaved, he knows them and he wants them. Even the people who are yet unborn, he knows them and he wants them. He hates, hates, hates the evil and distress that is hurting his children. He hates it. But he is waiting. Waiting. Waiting and hoping. God is the author of hope because he hopes more than any of us. He is the Great Hoper, the One of Great Hope. He longs for, expects, gathers together, waits.

To wait is to trust.

To trust is to hope.

To hope is to believe there is something worth waiting for.

He believes we are worth waiting for.

I believe he is worth waiting for. He is worth trusting. He is worth hoping in.

Jesus is my hope, my trust, my everything. He will be yours too.



Psalm 51

Have mercy on me,O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

This Psalm has been translated into Latin and used in the beautiful piece, Miserere Mei, Deus. Kelly shared the music with me this week, and its beauty has blessed me. 



I went outside to meet with Jesus today on a bench by the pond. 

I'm reading through the gospel of Mark a chapter at a time, in chapter 4 today. It's a chapter of Jesus telling parable after parable, and then ends with the story of Jesus calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The chapter ends with the disciples asking, "Who is this, that even the winds and the seas obey him?" It struck me that after a chapter's worth of teaching, no miracle stories, just parables, perhaps the disciples had started to become comfortable with this teacher-Jesus, this Rabbi who tells meaningful stories about the kingdom of God and not a lot more. Their faith was small, they didn't even ask him to calm the storm, they just woke him up from his nap to beg for help in keeping the boat afloat. He surprised them. He was more than who they thought He was. 

I asked Holy Spirit why that had stood out to me in the story I read today. I felt like he asked me, "Are you ready for surprises?" 

And my quick, unhesitating response was, "Yes." 

It surprised me, actually, because I've felt that I'm becoming more and more cautious, even timid, compared to who I used to be. But maybe that's not actually true. I felt that Holy Spirit wanted to remind me that Jesus is still more than I think He is. I will still be surprised by Him. Not every surprise is wanted or understood in the moment. But I want to know who Jesus is. 
I want His surprises.  

And the wind began to blow furiously; "wind," that word that means "Spirit" as well in both Hebrew and Greek. I looked up and saw Him everywhere. Yellow, orange, and red leaves were flying through the sky with the Canadian geese. The water was rippling and carrying leaves like tiny ships. The sun was shining and warming my arms and face as the wind whipped my hair. And I smiled, smiled so big at the beauty around me. And then I laughed at myself, and then I was surprised by joy. Surprised by a sudden simple happiness that wasn't ignorant of the past, but noticed the present. 

And then without realizing it, I was pulling out my little prayer notebook where I keep specific requests written until they are answered. I hadn't written anything since early September; I hadn't felt the faith. But I did today. I was surprised by faith, surprised by how suddenly I remembered that God is faithful, and I need to faithfully ask. 

Jesus continues to surprise me, and I'm on the look-out to know him more. I, like the disciples, want to find myself asking, "Who is this?" 


earth & heaven


I live here as a fish in a vessel of water,
      only enough to keep me alive,
  but in heaven I shall swim in the ocean.

Here I have a little air in me to keep me breathing,
  but there I shall have sweet and fresh gales;
Here I have a beam of sun to lighten my darkness,
  a warm ray to keep me from freezing;
  yonder I shall live in light and warmth for ever.

My natural desires are corrupt and misguided,
  and it is thy mercy to destroy them;
My spiritual longings are of thy planting,
  and thou wilt water and increase them;
Quicken my hunger and thirst after
    the realm above.

Here I can have the world,
  there I shall have thee in Christ;
Here is a life of longing and prayer,
  there is assurance without suspicion,
    asking without refusal;
Here are gross comforts, more burden
    than benefit,
  there is joy without sorrow,
    comfort without suffering,
    love without inconstancy,
    rest without weariness.

Give me to know that heaven is all love,
  where the eye affects the heart,
    and the continual viewing of thy beauty
    keeps the soul in continual transports
      of delight.

Give me to know that heaven is all peace,
  where error, pride, rebellion, passion
    raise no head.

Give me to know that heaven is all joy,
  the end of believing, fasting, praying,
    mourning, humbling, watching,
      fearing, repining;
And lead me to it soon.

- Valley of Vision



I flew to Los Angeles on Thursday morning for a dear friend’s wedding. I was so excited to see some of my solid seven and celebrate marriage. I was prepared to feel some of the emotions that weddings have brought lately; I knew it would be hard to see the bride walked down the aisle by her dad, to watch the father-daughter dance, to hear the father’s toast and prayer over his daughter’s new beginning. I knew that was coming.

I didn’t prepare for so much more.

I didn’t prepare to be in the place I grew up, the city of my earliest memories, memories full of Dad.

I didn’t prepare for the sound of the ocean to bring to mind those many days on the beach.

I didn’t prepare for the sand to remind me of the sand-castle-building king.

I didn’t prepare for the trees that look like our old backyard where he built our playhouse.

I didn’t prepare for the motorcycles that zoom down the highway between the lanes.

It seemed like everywhere I turned there was a piece of childhood, a piece of Dad, a piece of Mom, Macaela, and me.

There were wonderful moments; seeing the radiant bride, meeting an incredible, self-sacrificial groom, laughing with the bridesmaids, sharing stories around a fire, and eating In-n-Out at every opportunity.

And it was also so hard.

It feels like I was exhausted all weekend long. I didn’t know why. Today, in our last hour before going to the airport, we stopped at Venice Beach. I’ve always hated sand, so while the others sat on a blanket, I ran to the water and watched the waves run to meet me, surround my ankles, and sink back into the ocean. The waves are like lifelong friends, my earliest memories are on the beach, watching how my feet sink down into the sand was the water flows back down the shore. But the waves are also deeply respected, almost feared, engrained in my tiny child mind with Mom’s constant reminder, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” I stood and watched for a long time; my brain felt blank. Emotions came and went, like they had all weekend. Like waves.

Grief is like waves.

Sometimes the water just gently caresses your feet, then runs back to where it came from. Like a bittersweet memory reminding you to cherish it.

Sometimes you see the wave coming, but it’s stronger and faster than you expected. Like a realization you had a long time ago, but realizing it’s reality. Like watching a wedding and realizing ours will not be like that.

Sometimes, as the water floods around your legs, another wave drops on top of it, doubling the intensity. Like watching the father-daughter dance, then watching all the fathers and daughters dancing together, then watching four sisters dancing with their dad, then feeling the arm of a friend who knew what was going through my mind and heart.

You can get out of the waves, out of the constant ups and downs, by going back onto the dry sand. But it’s dry there. And soon you stop feeling anything at all.

And so I stay in the waves. In counseling, my counselor is helping me learn to feel, to experience what is really happening inside. And so I’ve been taking steps away from the dry sand of the beach, slowly wading a little deeper, even though I know that wading in means that the waves will come.

And what if the waves get too big, too strong? I know what will happen. I know because when I was a toddler, I was on the beach not far from here and a wave knocked me down. It started to pull me out, and I wasn’t big enough or strong enough to get myself up. But Dad saw me. He ran out and grabbed me out of the waves, reminded me that I’m safe with him. It wasn’t long before I was back in the water.  

I know my Father in Heaven will do the same.


psalm 28

To you, Lord, I call;
    you are my Rock,
    do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
    I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
    as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
    toward your Most Holy Place.
Do not drag me away with the wicked,
    with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
    but harbor malice in their hearts.
Repay them for their deeds
    and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
    and bring back on them what they deserve.
Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord
    and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
    and never build them up again.
Praise be to the Lord,
    for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him.
The Lord is the strength of his people,
    a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
    be their shepherd and carry them forever.


love and lament

I'm trying to learn what it means to face grief head-on, to not numb myself more than is acceptable, to grieve. I finally changed my phone wallpaper to a photo of me and Dad, something I didn't think I was ready to do for months. I didn't want the constant reminder... but it's not like I'm ever "reminded" anyway. It's always there, and I needed to just acknowledge the pain. 

I went to bed last night emotionally drained, close to falling apart, so so ready for a Sabbath. Just get some sleep and things will be better in the morning, I thought. Sleep is better than tears, right? Well, I woke up this morning and it hadn't gone away, the ache and the exhaustion on every level. I didn't want to get out of bed. I finally got up, made my coffee, and got dressed. I was gonna go somewhere to meet with God, have a good solid prayer and Bible reading time, maybe some journaling, but instead I collapsed back onto my bed. 

This week, my counselor asked how I was doing. I was ready to answer. I told her all about the things I'd learned since I last saw her (the last two blog posts, and more!). I talked for probably 5 or 10 minutes about things I'd been processing, conclusions I'd come too, lessons I'd learned. When I got to the end, she said that was great. And then she said, "So how have you actually been feeling?" I had no idea how to answer. It took us a long time of silence to just begin to answer the question. 

So this morning on my bed, I tried to just figure out how I was feeling. Not great. I felt like I should be asking people for help or prayer or company, but I'm not good at that, and then I felt bad for not doing it. Most of all, I wanted to fight for actually finding Jesus in the middle of this. I need people, but I need to know that I can lean on Jesus, actually and truly. 

I finally got up. I wanted to go play the piano, to play and sing some of the songs of worship and lament I've been collecting, but the practice rooms were locked. So I put in a podcast and went for a walk. It was a sermon I've listened to multiple times already. It was from Bridgetown Church, and it was preached on the same Sunday as Dad's memorial service. The topic is Unanswered Prayer and Lament. Here are a few of the quotations from John Mark Comer that stood out to me today: 

God is love. In the universe God has chosen to actualize, love is the highest value, and love demands freedom, it demands a choice. No free will, no love. It’s not that God can’t override human will, that His will is on an equal playing field with mine, or Satan’s, or whatever - not at all. He can, and He does at times. It’s that it’s so against His nature to override our freedom. No matter what you believe about God’s sovereignty, His kingdom is not a dictatorship. Satan is the one who controls, who’s manipulative, who dominates with brute force, who rapes. God is the one who influences, who romances, who woos, who draws, who invites you into relationship. God is love. But the world is a terrifyingly free, dangerous, beautiful place to call home. This freedom is at the heart of all that is right with the world, and sadly all that is wrong with it. 

If God always answered my prayers, His involvement in my life would be limited to my imagination and my insecurity.

If God were to answer every single one of our prayers right away, our relationship with Him would devolve into that of a debit card to an ATM machine, rather than that of a child to his or her father. And what God is after more than a ring is relationship. The main point of prayer isn't about getting what you want from God, it's about getting God Himself.  

Prayer isn't a place to be good, it's a place to be honest. Prayer is when you leak out of your soul with the edit button off and you vent it all to God and you pound the chest of your Father in love and confusion - that is prayer. 

The sermon ends with speaking to the main response to unanswered prayer: lament. Lament makes up 2/3 of the Psalms. Lament is honesty, complaint, confusion, and coming to God in the pain. He ended by reading out Psalm 13. 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, And day after day have sorrow in my heart?How long will my enemy triumph over me? 

Look on me and answer, Lord my God, Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, And my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"And my foes will rejoice when I fall.  

But I trust in your unfailing love;My heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord's praise, For He has been good to me. 

He said that lament is coming to God in honesty, and that most often that process of coming to God will end in worship. I wasn't so sure. I took his challenge to write a lament of my own if needed. I sat down at the edge of the field where I had walked to as I listened, and wrote this:

Oh God, I have no prayer to pray.  
Everything is done, I didn't know to pray for a miracle before it was too late, and oh God it feels too late.  
How long must I wrestle with my heart and mind? 
What the heck, God?  
I know you are good. I trust your unfailing love.  
But why does my soul feel alone and paralyzed? Why do I have to work so hard to believe you are with me? Everything is hard, why can your presence be easy?
Show up, please Father. Be louder. Be clearer.  
But give me Yourself over immediate comfort, if one excludes the other. Give me Yourself over total peace, if the latter slows the former. Don't give me anything but Yourself and the fruit of You.  
I will trust You, Father who loves me.

And literally in the moments as I finished writing, a saw a group coming across the field, talking with each other. It was an acquaintance of mine, a growing friend whose mom I had met at a Preview Weekend when I worked for admissions last year. When her mom had come back to bring her two oldest to TWU last month, she was happy to see me and asked how my summer had been. We were in the middle of the cafeteria, but I told her anyway. She was heartbroken for me. She said she would be praying, and I knew she would. Today, her daughter walked into the field, and I said hi, and she introduced me to some of her siblings who were with her. She said her family was visiting. "Wait, is your mom here?" I asked, and she said yes. So I had lunch with their family (of 11!), and as we were clearing our dishes in the cafeteria, I told her mom that it was a gift from God that she came today. Moms know everything, and she knew that what I said was just a tip of the iceberg. And she gave me such a long, deep, stand-in-the-cafeteria-and-cry-together hug, and told me about how close heaven and earth are to each other, and how our loved ones are not far away.

God comes. He comes Himself, and He comes through people, and sometimes you can't tell which is which. My trust levels are rising and falling more frequently than waves of the sea, but I know He is with me. He loves me.