First Hopes

First Hopes January 5, 2014

I love the start of a race, the opening chapter of a book, the first day of class, that first moment I meet a person who will be a forever friend, the first hello from a familiar voice, the first notes of a tune I love, the first light of dawn, the first twinkling star, a new moon, spanking new shoes with a perfect fit, that first cup of coffee on a winter’s morn, that first sip of ice tea on a hot day, that first bite of Holland cheese in a storefront in Haarlem, Sundays, which I’ve long considered the first day of the week, the start of a new month, week, day and a new year.

Fresh starts. New beginnings. The first. New years.

You know what the common denominator between all of these is?

Fresh start/Hope. New beginning/Hope. The First/Hope. New Year/Hope.

When I open a book for the first time I hope I am going to encounter a good story, well-told. When I fly into a new city for the first time, I hope I am going to discover something wonderful. On the first day of class, I have such high hopes for the learning that will take place. I am eager for the discussions and the thinking to begin. When I come to my office at the start of each day, I hope that whatever writing takes place is found worthy.

But here in this place where I greet each page with a prayer of hope, I surround myself not with the new but with old things, well-loved. The Velveteen Rabbits of my life’s journey. Color-coded books, many of them written by cherished friends, line my bookshelves. This painting by Fairhope artist Stacey Howell is on loan from my daughter Shelby. It depicts the Jubilee I wrote about in Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? A daily reminder that we serve a God of wonders.

There’s the Houston Llew Spiritiles, a gift from my children, a nod to my southern childhood, growing up catching lightning bugs in Mason jars, engraved with that hymn I learned as a child, and perhaps you did as well: This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine. 

And beside it? A painting Mama was working on while those tumors grew silent in her brain.

A daily reminder that we are all living unfinished lives: Creating. Imagining. Hoping.

Surely, Creation, viewed from the other side, is every bit as majestic as Mt. Rainier on a sunny day.

A clean slate is grace. Opportunity to erase all the bad and to begin again, hoping that this time, this day, this year, this moment, we will be a better people.

Or at least try.

I am sure the slate will change over the year but for now, it is a quote from Dani Shapiro. She is writing about writing but her insights apply to other aspects of our lives: We have wandered. Now we are back. 

And we are filled with first hopes.

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