Slices of Hope

Embracing life and all the journey holds

Showing Up with Our Stories

“Hope holds a breaking heart together.”
(Ann Voskamp)

Oh glory… I’ve been struggling.
The last two years have felt like a mountain range to overcome.
The past few weeks have been our Kilimanjaro.
I bet you’ve been there at some point in your life…
or maybe in this moment.
Facing uncertainty, hurt no one can see, a plethora of emotions,
and confusion that surpasses past experiences.
It can be lonely.
Quietness and tears mix with worry;
Disappointment and anger stir painful memories.

This hard that sits with us has little ease.
Hard… unexpected, painful, maddening.

Oh, there’s gratitude too, an abundance of gratitude for strength as a family.
Our family, six human beings, sticking together as we wrestle with the fallout of other people’s choices.

“Most of us are trying to live an authentic life.
Deep down, we want to take off our game face and be real and imperfect…
Our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together.”
(Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)

Navigating the awfulness in any arena can be complicated.  Writing usually holds healing, honest space for me.  Lately, there have been too many blurry-eyed stares at blinking cursors and shitty first drafts (SFD’s as Brene Brown so eloquently names them).  Coloring detailed pictures, taking walks with my four-legged partner, tearing out woody bushes, and creating sketches of future flower beds fills the gaps when the words simply refuse to come together.

In spite of it all, this is what I’ve come to believe and understand:
Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is show up with our stories –
Who we are and what has formed us into the human being we are in this moment…
Imperfect, uncertain, determined, diligently working in the midst of hard.
Together, we can encourage and learn and grow.
Yes, show up with our stories and connect with others on our journey toward healing and health.

Because in the midst of hard, as we diligently work toward healing,
we discover slices of hope.
Stubborn hope that leans in but refuses to give in to hard.

This past week I pondered stubborn hope in practical terms as I began removing some large yew shrubs from the back of our house.  Tackling the first of many overgrown, woody giants involved blood, sweat, tears, and a few extra words.  Cutting away the branches, I was left with a wide stubby stump, roots deeply interwoven in the soil.  My wrestling match began: shoveling soil, cutting thick determined roots, picking up rocks.  At first, it seemed like all efforts were futile.  Unwavering, I kept going.  An envisioned garden would fill this space, so giving up wasn’t an option.  Hour after hour the process continued.  It was early evening when a particular kick of the shovel caused movement.  Motivated beyond words, I moved steadily.  Each dig making more progress.  Eventually I could shimmy the stump side to side and front to back.  No more entangled roots!  Overjoyed, I grabbed Conley to capture the moment of success.  We will need to remove additional rocks and work with the soil, but this garden space will soon be life-giving.  Leaning in and not giving up was well worth it!

Me versus the stump -- Extremely unflattering but proof of success!

Me versus the stump — Extremely unflattering but proof of success!

“Hope isn’t always glitzy and sparkly.
Sometimes it looks worn around the edges.
But it’s irrepressible, durable, and essential
for those who live in the shadow of bad decisions others make.”
(Cynthia Ruchti, Rugged Hope)

This journey of healing and health requires stubborn hope,
Leaning in when the next best step seems uncertain.
Rediscovering purpose, truth, connection,
Learning when to speak up and when to let go.
For many, our story will find voice with time.

As I speak with groups about embracing our stories, I have the absolute privilege of hearing from people who walk through hard.  Few people haven’t faced the fallout of their own or other people’s poor choices or behavior.  I’m encouraged by many who share their stories with courage.  It’s a vulnerable step.  These moments are filled with tears, laughter, stillness, awe, and beautiful connection.

A while ago, during some of the darkest moments, the poem “The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass captured my attention.  She clearly understands deep grief, struggle, hard.  The ending, however, breathes remarkable hope.  Just when we want to say, this is too much, impossible, no-can-do… we hold life like a face between our palms and say yes.

The Thing Is
by Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.


Way back here, I shared the beginning of the journey of navigating the awfulness and awesomeness of life.

Today, we acknowledge the hard… the awfulness we encounter.  It may be from our own choices or we may be on the receiving end of other people’s decisions.  Either way, it is hard and there is uncertainty and grief.  

Tomorrrow, we’ll head toward the other end of the spectrum with grateful hearts!

 Next week, I’ll begin a series on Roots and Wings… Looking back on Emma’s trip to Zambia last summer (including a guest post from Emma) and thoughts on Conley preparing for his senior year.

 Coming up:  Renovations of Home and Heart – two beautiful parallel journeys, one guiding the other.

 Thanks for sharing these posts with others and offering comments!  That’s how we journey together.  It’s such a blessing hearing from you.

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  1. Heidi Wengerd

    May 27, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    Beautiful as always, Heidi. One of the questions I have for the Big Person upstairs is, “Why do things down here have to be so darn hard?” Sending you a big hug!

    • Heidi Hochstetler

      May 28, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Thank you, Heidi! Life is certainly full of joys and challenges. Its my goal to keep leaning in… Thanks for the beautiful ways you honestly live life!

  2. Beautiful Heidi. I could relate so well. (Loved that poem!) I’m from hopewriters and shared this on Twitter. Also? You inspire me to tackle some unpleasant yard work. : )

    • Heidi Hochstetler

      May 28, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      Thank you so much, Marian! Good luck with your yard work… its always a process.

  3. Ruth and Allen Zendt

    May 29, 2016 at 1:08 am

    You need one of grandpa Zendt’s old axes that you can chop into the ground and cut the roots and stones. Some times we have to cut into ground to nip the roots in lives also. Will continue to look for the stories forthcoming.
    Dad and Mom

  4. Klaudia Smucker

    May 31, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Thank you, Heidi! I love the poem as well. “To hold life like a face between your palms… (and to hope to say) I will love you again.” Your honesty and vulnerability touch my heart and I’m sure, many others. Life is hard indeed. I think sharing our stories is one way to edge toward healing. So beautiful written.

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