Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.
Signs and Stories of Hope All Around Us
My story is about hope through darkness.
The idea of a dark night, but the respite of looking away from our mysterious surroundings to the night sky, where the stars shine older than everything around us, older than our troubles, older than our doubts.
The idea of a path without vegetation, the sun beating down, moving up, switching back along the mountainside, seemingly without end. Whether or not it grows steeper, my legs ache. I remember to look up to the top of the mountain. It feels far away. I look down and see a valley with a meadow nestled in its footprint, our destination and reward once we mount this feat.
A winter of dooms-day drought reports, untimely frost and April rain, then beholding a garden healthier than ever.
Financial hardship awaking creativity with our resources.
Lack of toys for the latest developmental stage turning a cardboard box into a race car.
A medically complex child turning into the best cuddler, the sweetest imp and the strongest spitfire.
It is all around us if we have eyes to see.
Good seasons, even if they are temporary.
Progress, even if the road is long.
Opportunities we never would have encountered had we not undergone this path that any sane person would choose to avoid.
The stories are all around us. Last week, The Rykert Trio released their second CD, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” A second CD for a trio only imagined after a severe diagnosis. The wagons circled, the family rallied and children came to the aid of their father. The Rykert Trio was born.
Joe Rykert said, “For several days I was just in an incredibly dark place, I couldn’t see any way out of this. But I still had this promise all the same, for that service.” His commitment to sing kept him facing forward rather than falling.
At a fundraiser for Rykert’s medical bills, his son, Joseph sang “You Raise Me Up” with his heart opened wide. Jeremy Stohl heard it and now Joseph travels around the world with Stohl’s trio.
In an interview, Rykert explained their first CD was inspired by the lyrics, “sometimes it takes a mountain / sometimes it takes a desert, or a sea / to get ahold of me, to get my attention.”
Their daring to play the music of their hearts for secular audiences, music directed towards proclaiming hope and the Gospel, has confirmed in Joseph a sense of the direction he wants to pursue professionally, through a form of music ministry.
They share their story openly…and their hope. Tammy Rykert, Joe’s wife, spoke of those who have just recently been diagnosed with cancer, “Those people are desperate for something positive. And to see him two years later singing on stage, that gives them such hope.”
Rykert looks at this life and the good brought out of dark times. “I am very aware of the fact that we got today. We can count on today.” And so he lives every day to the full.
Why does one person have hope and not another? When times of crisis arise we have to wrestle with our past ideas of what the world is supposed to be like. If we’re lucky, we had a good foundation. All too often, crisis tears it all down and we begin to build again from scratch.
What will the narrative be? Hope or despair? Chaos or meaning? It is both choosing to see those bright spots, those vestiges of a better life, those signs of a way out, and choosing not to fall into building the story of the worst case scenario, to choose to stop our thoughts from imagining all is lost.
It is one story after another. In a thousand little moments, we can find hope. In a thousand little stories, we can find hope. In the great and magnificent stories, we can find hope. In the garden bed, in the night sky, in the spring breeze before the summer heat, we can find hope.
It is not about being willfully blind or duping ourselves. In every situation, there are many stores to tell. I pray you find the one that gives you hope and hold on for dear life!
In our darkest days, one of the sources of hope for me was the trajectory of Christ’s life. He died, yes. His mother’s heart broke. But He rose, and he must have visited her.
From now until the of May, I’ll be offering a free ebook with meditations on the rosary to walk with you in times of grief and sorrow. You can sign-up to receive it by following the link here.