Hope after the Storm

I made a to-do list for my husband only to discover he dealt with the flooding of an outbuilding all night. Part-way through the school day, the children shouted, “it’s raining again!” and I threw on my boots and jacket and moved sandbags with my husband. We avoided worse damage.

On one end I saw his exhaustion. At the other end, I heard my daughters’ delight that God granted their wish for rain with lots and lots of rain. I stood in the middle offering support and wonder at the magnitude of water falling from the sky.

No fences fell this time. The animals found shelter near the house. My garden was thoroughly watered allowing strewn seeds to send out their autumn shoots, promising early and bigger flowers in spring.

When it was done, the sky grew brighter and slowly blue emerged from that gray dome, the pure blue we see only after a rainfall.

The leaves refaced the surface of the porch and sidewalks. My children ran to me excitedly to announce they saw a tree fall in the neighbor’s orchard. We walked out when the rain subsided and the sun brightened the yard. My daughter counted five trees downed, roots and all.

Then we saw the sunset.

Photo by McKenna Estes on Unsplash

“It’s like heaven,” I said recalling a story St. Therese of Lisieux told of her visit to the sea with her sister in her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul.”

She wrote,

“That evening at the hour when the sun seems to sink into the vast ocean, leaving behind it a trail of glory, I sat with Pauline on a bare rock, and gazed for long on this golden furrow which she told me was an image of grace illumining the way of faithful souls here below.”

Whenever I saw such a path or such a sunset, I thought of this idea: it showing the way to heaven when grace lights up the way.

We are all in our own way attempting to find that way, the path that leads to peace, rest, fulfillment, where hearts are not broken, neighbors are trusted, bodies are whole, emergencies no longer derail plans, our bodies regain their elasticity. The place where grief is healed, homes are clean, foundations secure. Where fences do not fall over, leaves do not create slipping hazards and children complete their schoolwork in record time.

We are looking for something and see the promise of it in glimpses every day.

The clouds looked like mountains, my daughters said. The younger marveled at the color and the overall beauty of it.

As we walked away from the trees to an open field, we saw the sky turn from azure to ice blue nearer the horizon before it met purple clouds. Bubblegum pink lined the perimeter of those clouds with blush rays extending out and up.

The elder expressed, “It’s like the light is heaven and the rays are shining out from behind the mountain because nothing can contain the light of heaven.”

There is a secret here. We see that promise of what we hope for in the beautiful moments: the blue sky, the sunset, the feel of the warmth of the sun on a fall day on our skin, the crackling fire, the artwork that stops us in our tracks, or the sleeping toddler on the living room rug.

Yet, even in the storm, if we look, we will see it, too, peeking through, pushing through, in the enduring effort of a tired husband, in the foresight of a loving wife, in the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made by a child for her siblings because her parents asked her to.

Emily Dickenson wrote,

“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops – at all”.

During the storm, after the storm, if we are willing to be students of it we shall see that hope can be seen and felt even in the darkest of times.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

How to Find Hope Around You

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.


IMG_7311 2.jpg


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.


28 (1).jpg


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.

Waiting for Easter

The clouds rolled in on that Friday called good. What was I doing? My Lent was a mess. After two years of living Lent, I wanted to go back in time, to simply fast and pray. It happened, but halfway through I dropped the prayer and the fasting cost me my peace.

On Holy Thursday I read about a 3-D image researchers created from the Shroud of Turin, the greatest understanding we now have of how Christ might have looked. I felt propelled into the Triduum, into thoughts of him.

And Good Friday came.


In the depths of my youthful, adolescent, spiritual zeal, Good Friday was unspeakably painful. I was lost without my Lord in the Tabernacle.


When we began to live our Lent, first at Benioff Children’s Hospital, then, last year, with visits to the cemetery, I no longer looked for suffering. I looked for hope.


I lived in Lent. More than any other season since my Celeste died, this season made sense. But how could Easter? I looked past the cross and saw nothing. I no longer knew what life meant beyond the cross.


And as the dawn of Good Friday rose, and I with it, I felt a radical peace. Christ was with us at each step, intimately. He bore all suffering in his life, and he bore it perfectly. He walked with us, and he will show me the way as I try to live in hope and peace.


Then maybe, just maybe, as I keep my heart open from this place of being totally understood, he will teach me what it means to hope in the Resurrection.


“There would come a time when God would fill what he had emptied,”

Br. Benito, S.J., quoted by Mother Teresa in Come by my Light.



Living on Hope in a World of Tears

Today is Holy Saturday. Christ waits for us.

Photo by Riccardo Chiarini on Unsplash

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

Hope is good.

Hope is the thing we feel when we desire something in the future, which we do not possess right now. That thing is difficult to obtain, but it is possible.

If we did not think it was possible, we would despair.

Despair is a bit like hope, in that it has to do with the future. Its difference is that it has given up the belief that the thing hoped for will ever come, will ever materialize. It seems impossible.

On Sunday afternoon, we sat around a platter of homemade pretzels and homebrewed beer. The conversation came to silence as we lamented the many “messed up” spheres of the world. Somehow it feels easier for the conversation to go in this direction when the sun shines no more than one day at a time and I am using the dryer again instead of the clothesline.

Hope does not happen automatically. Because it desires something we cannot see, it involves our mind, our will. I choose to hope.

Outside influences can build hope. One, because they make something possible. Like if I land that job, I can live the lifestyle I want…or a conversation leads to reconciliation…or a visit to a new doctor might mean health is just around the corner. By teaching and persuasion, people can increase hope in others because they show that the thing hoped for is possible.

Experience itself can give us hope, showing us the thing we thought we could never survive, that would be impossible, is possible. I lived to tell.

In the same way, experience can work against our hope. The young usually are more hopeful than the old, having so much future before them and so few memories behind, Thomas Aquinas wrote: “youth lives much in hope.” With their energy, the arduous is all the more exciting because it will be a challenge. Unfamiliar with their short-comings, they see the world as open and everything obtainable, if they only go after it.

Then, despite the efforts on the part of some to encourage doubt, the experience of the old can spur onto action the hope in the young. “He went through so much,” they say, “so I can get through this.”

The stories you tell matter.

But do you believe them yourself?

I find myself at those crossroads, feeling aged by my experiences yet young enough to be swooped up by the policy and politics seeping out of my online newsfeed.

When things begin to feel impossible, I shift my focus to asking, “what is possible?” Then I come to the principle of subsidiarity. In Catholic social teaching, subsidiarity means “matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.” We can affect the greatest and best change in the smallest units of society.

When my heart fears for the future of healthcare in America or I despair of the possibility of productive and efficient action in California, I turn to what I see happening here, on the local level.

In our family, we are breaking generational cycles. We are doing everything we can to raise little people full of life, love, virtue and civility.

In our neighborhood, we are saying hello, dropping off a bag of leftover cookies to the neighbor or an extra loaf of bread.

In our parish, putting our passion to work in the way that works for our family and (hopefully!) benefits our parish family.

In our town, engaging and celebrating alongside Hughson through Love Hughson and the Fruit and Nut Festival.

Hope springs us to action. It feels good to hope, even though the road will be rough. Hope keeps us focused.

The little sacrifices of Lent add up. They show me what my will is capable of. Self-discipline is possible. And I am weak.

The road is hard, but not impossible.

“Hope springs eternal,” wrote Alexander Pope. I choose to keep hoping, to keep acting. I hope you will, too.

Dare to Hope

Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash

I am part of the Young Ladies Institute, a women’s group at St. Anthony’s in Hughson. At Christmas time they delivered poinsettias to homebound or ailing members. I was surprised to see my friend at my door with that red mass of Duarte’s flowers in hand. “I’m not homebound!” I joked, with children at my feet. Sweetly she scrunched her nose and said, “yeah, but you’ve had a hard year.”

It was true. It was a hard year. With New Year’s I think back to the last year when my nostalgic heart calls me to reflect, and I shudder. The bloggers, influencers and writers that make up my online community love the fodder of December 31st to reflect and project into the new year. As a freebie, I downloaded a one-page print out (intended for A1 printing at Staples) of the entire year, every day its own box. The header reads, “2018 Make it Happen.” The idea of planning the entire year is madness to me.

I am afraid to think of what I want out of a new year; it feels like so much is out of my control. New Year’s resolutions are intriguing psychologically and culturally. I have never been one to set long-term goes. My choleric temperament inspires me to decide I want something, dive in full force and go until I have to stop. Stopping is not a failure. Quitting can be wisdom. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Life is an adventure! All these are my mottos which is how I went from a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology to owning my own life coaching business to parenting four kiddos (and one with medical) needs to fill the gaps with joyful work as a freelance writer.

To actually think and plan, though? Yikes. I had my plans and dreams and realized that they filled one season. My childhood dreams of being a writer fill another: the current season.

I write for an online magazine called “Mind & Spirit” (mindspirit.com). They recently published the New Year’s Resolution themed article and in it the author, Abby Kowitz encourages the reader to “dare to hope.”

Those words stayed with me. Are there things you are afraid to hope for? Things like peace, security, good health, friendship, a lasting long-term relationship? After enough wrong turns or enough dead ends, it is easy for life to get a little scary.

Brave is not about not being afraid; it is doing the thing that scares you. I am not sure if I learned that from a children’s book or a classic movie, but the wisdom rings true. So do you dare to hope? Do I?

The thing I dare to hope for is to publish a book, or at least accepted by a publisher, not just any book but the book I have been living through and working on through our “hard year.” I share it now because I am daring to hope, and when I dare to hope with witnesses, it gives me strength.

What will give you the strength to dare to hope? Is it telling another person to keep you accountable, writing out step-by-step plans, or just diving in before you can talk yourself out of it? There are endless articles, books and advice columns on how to attain your goals. I have written my share of them and I stand by those formulas. Personalities and obstacles differ. The way they influence each other may necessitate changes to the formula.

But you can do it. I dare you.

Days of Promise

Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Today is one of the days of promise.
The Immaculate Conception is the day we celebrate God’s gift of redemption to Mary, through the merits of Christ cross, applied retroactively in order to prepare a place fitting for God-made-man to dwell. In the same way, he applies the glory of his second coming retroactively by assuming her into Heaven, body and soul.
In this, he honors his mother and shows us the way.

Oil painting of the Assumption of the Virgin by Titian, 1516 - 1518

Today is a great day for me. Last year, I read post after post, related the Assumption to the Theology of the Body and resurrection of the dead. None of this resonated.
I have only held one deceased person in my arms, the same person I held within my body. This girl leaped with joy at John the Baptist did in utero. With the glow of angels around her, she died before she had a chance to breathe the air if she would have breathed at all. We did not see her body as it was. At our request, the nurse placed her bonnet on her head before we saw her.
I knew I had two children already waiting for me in Heaven, but I never saw them, never held them. I know there are other dearly departed in Heaven we long to be with, but we did not see them often on earth. My body was primed to know her every movement, as it was with all my children. This year’s celebration is different than before. When I think of Heaven now, it is a richer vision than ever before.

For the Lord himself, with a word of command,
with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God,
will come down from heaven,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left,
will be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

These are days of promise. I will see her perfect body, restored and complete, not as she grew, but whole.

Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Pierre Paul Prud'hon
Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Pierre Paul Prud’hon

It is easy to accept God what God has on resurrection days like this. That is what these days are for – to carry us through the valley and dark times with the light of God’s promise. They are moments of Transfiguration to keep in mind as we travel the Way of the Cross. So let us stop and celebrate, seeing the way it went with Mary, and how it will go with us, should we fight the good fight, and hold fast to the faith.