The next two posts are a continuation of our pandemic-focused blog series on the topics of uncertainty and hope. As Wendi’s and my Part 1 posts shared, the season of uncertainty that began last March created unique challenges for each of us, with a unifying theme of high levels of stress and constantly fluctuating emotions. Now, as we near a time of transition, we have caught glimpses of light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. As Wendi and I shared with each other what moving into a season of hope looks like, we expressed similar emotions despite our different perspectives and experiences. As I reflected on this transition to a new season, one question in particular kept repeating in my mind: What might it feel like to grow out of the season of uncertainty and lean into a season of hope?
As I pondered the approaching season of hope, I found a quote I read recently began to influence my thoughts. In her book, A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “When I start a new seminar I tell my students that I will undoubtedly contradict myself, and that I will mean both things. But an acceptance of contradiction is no excuse for fuzzy thinking. We do have to use our minds as far as they will take us, yet acknowledge that they cannot take us all the way.” I recognize that parts of this post on “hope” will directly contradict parts of my previous post on “uncertainty.” However, I feel both reflections and experiences are unequivocally true. Where logic might make it difficult to navigate contradicting experiences, our hearts can provide insight into experiences not easily explained in our minds. This concept gives me peace. Because entering into this time of transition, into a season of hope, while exciting and highly anticipated, also carries some anxiety with it. At times, the prospect of this transition has even caused me to wistfully think about how much I have loved this past season that has provided wide-open calendars to fill with countless outdoor adventures and lots of family time. Yet, at the same time, I am also in desperate need for the season of uncertainty and the past year’s worth of fluctuating emotions to end. I recognize that the season of hope will provide renewed opportunities to reestablish consistent interactions and life-giving connections with family and friends.
A recent experience illustrates well my thought process regarding this transition of seasons. About a week ago, my kids and I embarked on the journey of planting seeds in a mini, indoor garden, which we will eventually transplant to our backyard garden. As we started, my three year old daughter skipped around the house shouting, “We’re planting our garden IN OUR HOUSE!” Her excitement was so profound I could just about touch it. We gathered our supplies and started planting. It did not take long before my kids were up to their elbows in seed soil, their faces and clothes streaked with dirt, while dirt seeped across my living room floor. They pushed each tiny seed into the dirt, one by one, happily discussing the tomatoes that they could not wait to eat when the little seeds grew. As I was cleaning up the mess later that evening, I couldn’t help but think how this little indoor garden was a lot like the season we are currently in. In many ways, I feel like the little seed, stuck in the dirt. Everything is still muddy and dark. But, in the near future, I will have a chance to grow. My life will emerge out of the dirt, and the experiences I have had will start to “produce” and impact my life on the other side.
This current season of transition has brought with it many conflicting emotions. I have found myself in a mindset of excitement mixed with nerves, more of a skeptical hope than an optimistic one. I really want to grow, I really want to enter into the next season. But, I am also hesitant. Hesitant to embrace a future that I do not feel 100% certain is going to happen as soon as I want it too. I am still afraid that we are not yet near the end of the pandemic; I’m afraid that the seeds will not start to grow. While I hold onto hope, I don’t yet feel I can excitedly describe the “taste of the tomatoes,” the joy of the end of the pandemic.
On the opposite side of my hesitant hope, is my daughter’s expectant hope. The night we planted the seeds, she sleepily closed her eyes and mumbled, “I can’t wait to see the tomatoes tomorrow.” The next morning, no sign of a plant, she nevertheless excitedly sprayed the dirt with water and whispered, “Come on little tomatoes, you can do it!” before running to play. Days later, she burst into my room at an unfortunately early hour and shouted, “It is growing! MOM, THE TOMATOES ARE GROWING!” I groggily followed her into the living room and saw the first hint of green peeking through the dirt, and my eyes filled with tears. She skipped around the living room, never doubting that this moment would come. At that moment, I felt a release of my hesitation. The hesitation I had clung to that the plants might not grow, that the season of hope might never arrive. This little plant was a reminder that there is a way out of the dirt. The plant emerged, and so will we.
Obviously emerging from the dirt looks different for us than it does for a little tomato seed. I have not been able to completely shake my skepticism and fear about what this next season holds. I know that it is not necessarily smooth sailing from here on out. But, I hold to reminders of hope. Here are a couple of examples of what embracing hope has looked like for me:
- Recently, I was able to see my grandparents for the first time in a year. With complete vaccination, the fear of the interaction was lifted. My heart filled with joy as I watched my son read a book to my grandma and learn from my grandpa how to hit a golf ball with a putter. Hope is hugs from my grandparents.
- I am planning to visit a friend this summer. An actual plan, written on the calendar with dates selected and adventures discussed. The sting of the empty calendar of last summer is already fading as I write little plans of cautious gatherings in the coming months. Seeing friends face to face again is a reminder of hope.
- My younger sister is getting married. I cannot wait to celebrate with her and our friends and family. I love celebrating love. And celebrating love is a wonderful way to embrace a season of hope.
Hope is here, I can feel it as we transition into the next season. We might still be in the dirt, but I’m making a personal goal to learn from my daughter’s unwavering faith and optimistic hope for growth. Just like our little tomato plant pushed through the dirt, I believe we, too, will see the other side of the season of uncertainty. My wish for all of us is that we will skip around our living rooms shouting through the rooftops and embracing the excitement and hope of what comes next.
Jessica is a wife, mom, school social worker, and aspiring writer. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.
*photo credit: personal photo of summer in North Dakota*