When Hope Dissolves Into Disappointment and Comes Back to Life as Trust

icy foliage

It has been quiet here lately. Sometimes my inner world and outer world both seem too immense and swirly to pin down. Or pen down.

Yet years of writing have taught me that this is my way, that life is a narrative and I am its scribe. Writing detoxes my overstuffed soul. It’s a personal sacrament that exhales the too many things and inhales the true nourishment of perspective. This space of writing the real has also taught me that there is kinship in sharing, sacred community as we pass the cup of truth to one another and sip the goodness of a real God who works in real ways through the very real life of his people.

Grab your coffee and settle in, friends. This one is more than the usual word count.

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It all began last July.

The actual decision to put our house on the market came quickly, even though we’d been thinking about it for two years. So we worked at fever pitch to ready and list our house ASAP. As is often the case, unexpected stresses and diversions showed up on the scene right after we made that monumental decision. The last half of summer was a blur of paintbrushes, trips to Lowe’s, unsupervised children, weeping, gnashing of teeth, and hiring out a long list of odd jobs.

liv rm

Even though we knew we were listing at a weird time — the end of summer — we took our chances and prayed for showings. Besides, one never knows how long these things might take. {Understatement of the century.}

The showings didn’t come.

Maybe one showing in the first six weeks? All that stress, time, expense, and hopefulness — only to have no one look at our house.

And so I waited, as hope dissolved into doubt and discouragement.

Meanwhile, school started and we entered into fall season with fewer resources and greater weariness.

My friend Susan was fiercely battling her cancer by this point and I wanted to be available. I said no to other things and thanked God that He hadn’t complicated our lives with a move. Already, I was grateful that He’d saved me from the timing I thought I wanted.

In the midst of these months, months in which I continued to write heavily and work hard and wait patiently, my husband and I walked through our own unexpected season of struggle. Every day seemed like a battle and in retrospect, we realize it was.

chair

I had to face some ugly things about myself, fighting against repentance instead of resting in it. Thanks to some accountability, I finally said yes to facing my excuses and accepting my truest priorities. We began to earnestly pray for preservation during that intense time and enlist others to pray for us too. We got proactive about protecting the foundation of our family and fought against the unseen enemies trying to chip away at us.

As these raw and tender days ticked by, Susan’s cancer continued to grow worse. One abrupt downturn. Then another.

And so I waited, along with many others, with hope that eventually dissolved into cruel acceptance. 

I fought guilt because she was dying and I was living. I swallowed regret and the heaviness of knowing that those who needed her most were going to lose her. I had to reconcile her unfair death with the gifts of my own life and honestly, there’s no reconciling these things, no making sense of it or cliché-ing our way to peace. Even now.

It was at this time — a time of grief and deep relational work, a time of being there for some extended family needs, a time of managing a family of five’s fall schedule — that our house began to show.

Gimme a T for TIMING!

Seriously, it was one showing after another as I frantically made our very lived in home looked not lived in.

I don’t know how many times I loaded all the laundry and the dog and the kids into my hardworking minivan and backed out of my driveway in anxious tears and dripping sweat, apologizing to my children for yelling at them as we made our way to the Wendy’s drive-thru for dollar menu cheeseburgers, waiting and junking up our minivan-turned-RV while strangers scrutinized our home.

moving van

Every time it was the same mostly positive feedback. Prospective buyers said it showed beautifully.

But no offers.

And so we waited, with hope that eventually dissolved into dismay. 

Within several weeks time, I lost my friend to cancer, had to keep showing my house — which seemed completely dumb and superficial in light of death — and somehow share my own story at a women’s event, even though I was terrified and still swimming in grief.

And so I waited, with hope that strength would come from on high because I certainly couldn’t manufacture it from within.

The strength did come. Along with joy, a gift I never even knew to ask for.

I started a needful and doable little business through the blog about this time and we welcomed the holidays a bit late and a lot weary. Like many of you, we waded through the flu, unmet expectations, and maybe just a little bit of relational discord in the home.

When the new year arrived with its confetti and resolutions, I looked her in the eye and said, “If you don’t mind, 2014 sort of did me in and might I just lie down for the next few weeks?”

But 2015 threw her head back and laughed. Within days and out of nowhere, I was showing the house right and left, begging the exhaustion to stay at bay for just a while longer.

angel

While my minivan turned into a bona fide recreational vehicle with its bins of laundry and picnic basket of sandwich supplies and dog crate seat-belted in, my husband’s car just up and died. Like, for good. Y’all, he has a 40 minute commute every day and it was looking like this house would finally sell and you cannot buy a car right before you buy a house. {“T” for TIMING.}

Thanks to the use of my parents’ vehicle while they traveled, we got kids where they needed to be and prayed for a short-term car solution. I kept on making the dinner and the lunches and the lived-in / not-lived-in house.

And so I waited, with weariness as my co-pilot, but also with hope that eventually lifted into real possibility, and the patience that comes from practice.

After a week of negotiation, we had two actual offers on the same day. After the many months of waiting and grief and roller-coastering — a breakthrough. We were under contract and going through all the motions. Also — as I literally handed the keys back to my mom, a loaner car showed up on the scene. Seriously, at that very moment. Just like that, one huge prayer answered.

It was the spiritual cushion we needed.

Because when we got home that night, we received bad news about the house. {Thankfully, it had nothing to do with the “streams of toilet waters.” Nothing to do with the actual house at all.} Short of divine intervention, we may not be selling it. Not just now anyway. Late nights and long talks and a whole lot of work later, we’ve released our own expectations again.

And so we wait, as hope continues to lift because of God’s faithfulness, even in the midst of disappointment.  

Right about now you’re probably wondering if I invited Debbie Downer to write a guest post. {Insert sad trombone.}

I’ve even gone back with my editing and tried to happy-it-up a bit.

But hope and faith don’t shine bright and meaningful if not cast against a bleak backdrop. And easy street doesn’t usually take us anywhere that’s worth going.

lightbulb

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Though the last eight months were full of countless gifts, crucial life lessons, and more goodness than I can speak of, the most pivotal point for me came the day after the bad news.

When that audacious curve ball showed up and smashed my hope-filled mood that Monday night, I ranted and cried. And then I went to bed.

After shuttling the boys to school Tuesday morning, I came back home and settled into my assigned study for that day on the life of Moses, a study I’ve been going through all year. God held his Word up like a mirror and in it, I saw myself as clearly as ever — my ingratitude, unbelief, and lack of trust. I confessed that I prefer to see and then believe, instead of the other way around. That I prefer rational, tangible certainty instead of the ridiculousness of faith.

In those ancient words I looked upon a chosen and dearly loved people who had been delivered against all odds, fed against all odds, led against all odds, and shown God’s glory against all odds.

Just like me.

Yet they continued to grumble, to doubt God’s promises, to see the bigness of their disappointing circumstances instead of the bigness of their God. They clung to their own expectations instead of trusting in a God who had proven Himself 100% trustworthy.

school tower

And so they did not wait, as hope dissolved into doubt and unbelief.

Just like me.

The Lord broke me in the most clear and gentle way that Tuesday morning — He simply opened my eyes. Until then I couldn’t see that I was enslaved to entitlement, expectation, and even envy.

When we went under contract a couple of weeks ago, my attitude was “Finally” instead of “Thank you.

Our circumstances haven’t changed. The crazy is still showing up. I’ve locked the keys in my van, had some epic fails as a parent, and prayed desperately for wisdom that hasn’t shown up yet, all within the last week. We still long for the outcome we’ve set our hearts upon and we’re doing what we can but not in a feverish, this-must-work-out sort of way. God has looked upon us in our weary state and He has provided exactly what we needed but didn’t know to ask for —

A renewed faith in Him. A deeper, truer, very real and inexplicable trust. A trust that feels a lot like freedom.

Seemingly on the cusp of what we’d wished for, He said —

Not yet. But I am doing something new in you. Will you trust me?

Will you stay close and cling to my promises? Will you cry out to me instead of venting to others? Will you believe that I see the things you cannot see? Will you trust in me and me alone for your provision? Will you wait, knowing that you do not wait alone or without purpose? Will you love me by remembering all that I’ve done for you? When you prefer to grumble, will you choose to be grateful? I have loved you with an everlasting love and not a single thing — from a broken engine to heartbreaking news, from continued grief to deep weariness — can separate you from that love. Will you believe me on that?

You think I’ve got a Cinderella end to this story, don’t you? That I’m about to tell you how it’s all worked out even better than we’d hoped and God was saving a dream house and also that we won a brand new car and our kids have been given early admission and full scholarships to ivy league universities?

Hardly. But it already has worked out better than we’d planned. Our anemic prayers asked for tangible outcomes and while those are totally legit things for which to hope and pray, God answered us with Himself — with his love and his truth and his presence.

He’s given us his peace and a calm{ish} perseverance and I can’t even tell you how contrary this is to our natures.

I make it sound gentle but really, every day we fight to keep trusting. We fight against our human nature and our culture’s gospel of self-reliance. We fight against entitlement and materialism. We fight to believe God’s Word is true and that He’s even there at all. At least I do.

But by His grace, I desperately fight for my faith and He lovingly hands it to me as a gift.

Just enough for that day, which is all we ever need.

And it’s a gift I wouldn’t have received if everything had worked out the way we wanted. I wouldn’t be writing this post that proclaims the goodness of a real God who works in real ways through the very real lives of his people.

And so we wait, as hope pushes its roots deeper and stretches its branches wider and will one day bear the fruit that can only be born out of waiting and resting and trusting.

tabi + garden

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Thanks for bearing with me through this one. I’m not usually so tell-all and sad trombone-ish. Might we hope I got these last 8 months out of my system with this one post?

While I long for regular time to write during this upturned season, my day-to-day is rather unpredictable and it may be that way for a while. Know that I’ll be showing up here whenever I can. AND that I’m still planning the next sale soon. {Outfits are styled and photographed.} I’ll keep you posted! Don’t want to miss? You can subscribe via e-mail in the box below. And of course you may unsubscribe anytime you like.

What about you? Have you ever felt stuck in a waiting room, only to find that it was a secret garden for hope and trust to grow its deep roots and bear its lasting fruit?

 

Comments

  1. says

    Oh, gosh. Waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I’m horrible at it, truth be known, but there’s SO MUCH of it, isn’t there? Yet somehow, tucked mostly into times of well-that’s-not-what-I-was-expecting, God proves himself over and over to be completely trustworthy. So over and over my prayer tends to be something along the lines of “Lord, I believe. . . Help thou my unbelief!”

    God is doing really good work in you. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Marian says

      Richella, I’m horrible at it too. But I’m getting better at it because of all the practice. : ) “Lord I believe…Help thou my unbelief!” — It is surely my life’s verse. Love you friend!

  2. says

    wow. thank you for sharing this Marian! In the middle of one of those places where I am looking for answers, tangible seeable ones, and thank-you so much for the reminder that Jesus is truly the most important answer and to hope and trust. I recently (*cough*) wrote a post on Psalm 105 (which is kind of an overview of the LORD leading the Israelites from Abraham to the promised land and how they kept complaining…) but I guess it didn’t really sink in too deep… *sigh* sometimes it takes so long to learn something.
    praying for you!

  3. Debbi says

    I feel so sad that you don’t have the time to share with us what you are going thru so that we can be praying for you. But I am thankful for the words you share on your blog!! You are able to place on your blog what is on our hearts and minds in similar situations.I am grateful to read what I am thinking because you can put it into words and I cannot!

  4. Linda says

    This was so beautiful, thank you.

    Isn’t it funny how we so often ask God to use us to bring glory to Him, to become the person He created us to be, then get thrown for a loop when things start happening contrary to our agenda for the day, week, or what have you.

    To learn to truly be a servant to our God, to relinquish our need to act as god over our lives, that’s a hard one. It’s easier to talk about the theory of it & sing about it.

  5. says

    Bless you for this post, sweet lady. I had that year last year. Totally different circumstances, same question from The Lord “Do you trust Me?” A hard, powerful question. But it taught me to look for His hand in such unexpected places, to find gratitude in things I was most certainly NOT grateful for. And like you said, I discovered joy. Joy that took my breath away in its simplicity and bounty. I just had to learn to look through heavenly eyes. I am so sorry for your struggle, but so grateful for your vision. Keep hoping sweet lady. The Lord has great things in store for you. And His timing is perfect….ly designed to make you into your best self.
    All the Best,
    The Other Marian

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