Friday, December 6, 2019

Night Vision

I had just stacked the bags of groceries along the floorboards, making sure the milk wouldn't topple the eggs, checking my watch with relief that for once my timing had worked.

Backing out of my parking spot, I looked to the left, and there it was.

Tucked in between rooflines scrubbed dull from the decades and the glowering December cloud cover, peeking out from around the corner of gloom with just one eye - a bright spot. Small and warm.

I took a picture from the driver's seat. Then three more.

I drove away.


We had our weirdest Thanksgiving yet. Weirder than a roomful of strangers. Weirder than tacos served with pumpkin pie. Weirder than realizing mid-bite that some of our guests had once coexisted in the underworld of light-blocking curtains and meth labs.

This was the year we would run home to Ohio. This was the year we would humbly accept that no one really needed us, not like that.

But then a beloved neighbor, only fourteen years old, went missing. By Thursday our hearts were on fire and by Friday it was impossible to think about anything without picturing his mother's tears.

We schlepped around in our sweats and socks, ate pie for breakfast, and tried not to imagine horrific scenes. From the corner of my parents' hunter green couch I ordered 150 vigil candles while Cory talked to news reporters on the landline.

We wrote social media posts. We talked to authorities with raised voices.

"He's been trouble for a long time," we were told.
"He's a runaway."

"If he comes home, he comes home."

"He's loved."

"We're scared."
"We know him better," we countered.

Later that night, after the candles and the calls, after some solid attempts at distraction, after six endless days of vanishing, he emerged from thick darkness, safe.

"We tried to tell you," they said."


I always forget how disastrous the holidays are in our neck of the woods. It takes me by surprise each year, confusion followed by a spark of recognition. Ah yes, this is what we do in November.

Neighbors lose homes. They lose jobs. Relationships fracture. Out from the cracks of desperation, pain seeps and soaks. It saturates. It swallows some whole. "Just this once," they tell themselves. "Who cares?" they say out loud, to no one.

Meanwhile, I go numb without a drug.

This is the season of waiting in the dark. For hope. For peace. For Jesus. What does that mean when you've stood so long in low lamplight? How do we observe Advent - this quaint, symbolic thing - with eyes like bats, permanently accustomed to the night?

I'm still thinking of that parking lot sky. "I guess this must be hope," I'd said out loud to no one.

Hope is not being bullied by an "I told you so."

Hope is running to a safe place at midnight and believing the door would be opened.

Hope is acknowledging relapse as part of the process of recovery, sometimes.

Hope is being brave enough to say, "This is day one," again.

Hope is not being ashamed of believing the best.

Hope is lighting 150 candles in the dark on the worst of nights, and one on the best.

Hope shows up at Kroger, over asphalt, when you're out buying sausage for the soup. It's right there, not close enough to feel, but near enough to notice.

Hope arrives, small and warm.

{I stumbled on this short, meaningful video on hope earlier this week. "Hope is precisely not being happy," Laura Jean Truman shares. If you're struggling to hold onto hope or if you want to better empathize those who are struggling, this will help. Follow the Rise series by clicking here.}