Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hope for the New Year

In 2011 I "accidentally" fell into the practice of giving each year a name as a way of establishing my hopes or goals for the upcoming year.  I knew that I was facing a divorce but had no idea of just how traumatic life would become in the coming weeks but my name for 2012 established my belief or hope that while I might be a single woman again, I would never be alone.  This phrase derived from my faith that God was a very real presence and that He would be with me throughout the year, no matter what it might bring.
2012 ~ Never Alone
2013 ~ Provision
2014 ~ Prosper, Transform & Delight
2015 ~ Healthy Connections
2016 ~ Living Loved
I almost forgot about this practice in the joy and festivities of the past holiday season, which in itself is a testament to the level of healing that has been accomplished in my life.  In publishing my last post, however, the word for 2017 became obvious.  And in a world that grows increasingly chaotic and fearful, it is an appropriate word.  My word for 2017 is HOPE.

Hope refers to an optimistic attitude, a feeling of trust or anticipation of good things to come.  It is a desire for something specific and can either be a noun or a verb.  We look through the cinders of what was once our beautiful life in the HOPE (noun) of finding a treasured memento or we are HOPING (verb) for our perpetrating partner to change.  But unlike more positive emotions we may experience such as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, inspiration, awe and love, hope comes with a unique characteristic.

According to Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, a social psychologist, hope "comes into play when our circumstances are dire--things are not going well or at least there's considerable uncertainty about how things will turn out." (Psychology Today, March 23, 2009)  She goes on to assert that "Hope literally opens us up.  It removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows us to see the big picture.  We become creative, unleashing our dreams for the future." (Ibid)  The opposite of hope, then, is fear.

Hope demands action--it requires that we do something.  It offers an opportunity or invitation for us to choose optimism over pessimism, to trust rather than to fear and to believe that this circumstance is not our defining moment.  It urges us to trust that this situation is not our story's ending.  According to Dr. Fredrickson, this choice is vital.  "Hope and fear are not mere words or facial gestures.  They're deeply felt neurochemical stances toward our current circumstances--stances that alter our outlooks, our actions, as well as the life paths that unfold before us." (Ibid)

I can vividly recall the sense of despair and hopelessness that I felt in the days and weeks after my door and life came crashing down.  I felt powerless and very fearful of my future.  I was easily triggered from the trauma I had experienced and terror kept me awake at night.  Hope seemed elusive but inexplicably, it rose up in my core.  I chose to hope even when my circumstances remained unchanged.  In a sense, hope was all that I had left and I hung onto it like a drowning person clings to a proffered lifesaver.

It seems to me that we all need a healthy dose of hope about now.  Fear closes us down and causes us to cower but hope requires that we open ourselves to the future and to finding creative solutions both personally and corporately.  It is time to figure out how to rebuild and repair our broken doors and hope offers the key.  So for 2017, I choose HOPE.  Won't you join me?

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