Global Fusions of Hope and Joy Amidst Anguished Headline News

Silver grey frosts bare branches. Two maples and an unknown tree stand motionless in my backyard.

Across two yards, a neighbor’s window lights up from the flashing wall television in their background. Trees, distance, and angles between us obscure any identifiable picture, and the story flashes on in pieces.

I sip coffee, wax philosophic, and think of the news. Israeli and Hamas leaders draw up plans and send orders, and I ache for the countless images of terrified, dusty, bloody families on both sides. Both Ukraine and Russia put out appeals for more soldiers, with Zelensky inviting Ukrainians living abroad to enlist, and Putin reaching into more Russian prisons. Winter creeps in cold. Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen watch food supplies dwindle and disappear, and it carves into me and we grab our checkbook. (Doctors without Borders/Medecins sans Frontieres is our go-to, one of many great organizations who help with food and medical supplies to those in need around the world.)

December’s last days drip off my calendar like a Salvador Dali, and I ponder the future. A new year dawns.

I know that there is hope and joy in the Person of Jesus, this God-With-Us who stepped into a dark, violent world then too. And I know that there is hope and joy in me and my life, in the interactions of people all around me. I see it. I see joy and laughter and hope as I watch people. Grandmas and grandpas approaching each other at the kitchen sink, saying, “How can I help?” Joy and hope as I hear loud guffawed laughter from the basement of my brother-in-law’s house this Christmas week where a mass of six or seven lanky male teen cousins and friends sleep in a sprawl of blankets and pillows, like puppies in a pile. I speak with willowy eloquent nieces and tall deep-voiced nephews. The eleven or so teen cousins and my impish-grinned son and his sweet dimpled friend pop upstairs for meals and conversations about last high school classes and wonder about college, before they disappear downstairs again, their loud voices a harmony of camaraderie.

Upstairs, we adults pour more coffee and start new conversations. Thirty-some of us have gathered for two days. Spilling into four homes for sleeping, we stumble sleepy-eyed and content into group gatherings, thankful for these special times together.

My sister-in-law’s home is a beautiful eclectic collection of framed photographs and paintings and artifacts from her life of growing up overseas and subsequent travels to adopt children. Wooden Korean wedding ducks nestle high in a shelf. A regal Ethiopian woman stares out of a framed photographed portrait, her face lined with poise and her hands busy with a lacy sewing project, sitting beside the brick wall of a leprosy colony. Blue and gold paint strokes in another framed art piece bedeck a Ukrainian cathedral. A German grandfather clock, bearded Norwegian gnomes, and a Peruvian weaving hang interspersed with vibrant green plants everywhere.

My sister-in-law’s home is a joyful fusion of savored global cultures and growing nurtured plants, some still just new starts in water, waiting for the roots to grow, all their potential still hidden inside a gashed branch. Other plants and small trees are established and have been growing for decades. I see it in our children too. In both our families, our two batches of kids contain adult married children, their spouses now with us; some have kids. And yet our second younger batch of kids still live with us, growing, changing, each day. School books and classes are still shaping their destinies, and we add water and watch them mature.

I admit it. I still don’t have an answer for the world. I don’t know how to solve the crises in Ukraine, Israel-Gaza, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, and more…  But as I watch the interactions of the people around me, and see the unifying love and dreams of those around me, hope rises in me. My son wraps his arms around his cousins and friends. Beautiful black, brown, and white faces from country origins of Ethiopia, Korea, Ukraine, Germany, Norway, Ireland, Britain, Czechoslovakia, and a hint of Mohawk brush close to each other and then burst into wide laughter as they tease each other and fall into good-natured shoulder-slapping and hugs.

A new year dawns. A new generation grows.

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Jennifer speaks often at MOPS/MomsNext groups, at conferences, churches, retreats, camps, home school co-ops and more. She loves getting to know people and making new friends.

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