The Confusion of Hope: Lenten Explorations 2017 (a preview)

It’s been seven years since my first Lenten project: Radical Lent: A Poetic Approach to 40 Days in the Wilderness.  In rereading some of those posts for inspiration, it struck me how very much has changed in my life since that time: I am divorced, I am no longer the mother of young children, I’ve fallen into and climbed out of addiction, I’ve lost my license and (sort of) gotten it back, I’ve bought and sold a house, and am now I’m a renter again for the first time in 20 years, I’ve lost a job in academia and found a new one in human services, my relationships with two of the loves of my life (Noah and Jacob) have become very difficult, and I’m exploring new love with an amazing man.  Woah.

Choosing to embark on a new Lenten blog, an intentional 40-day practice after all of this time comes out of the realization that I’ve finally started to move from a completely internal mindset to an external one. I’ve learned to pay attention again. And I want so much to pay attention with you! I’ve missed you!

An example of what I mean by being stuck in an internal mindset is that in 2016, I missed the entire spring season. I wasn’t working, I was barely doing anything, barely leaving my home, barely talking to anyone, barely finding a reason to wake up in the mornings, and then one day I drove out with a friend, and the entire world had become green. Months had gone by and the world had shifted from winter to “things mostly green.” I was stunned. I was speechless. I had missed an entire earth shift.


My friend Rose once said to me that “being along in my own head was not a good place to be,” but it took me a long time to have the courage to turn my eyes outwards again.

And now here I am. Washed up on the brand new shore of a brand new life. And here you are, and I am more humbled than I can say that we are here together.

Some folks have written to me asking about hope. Hope. Hope about current events, hope as it relates to our environment, to aging and caring for those we love as they move from one world to the next, hope as a practical day-to-day practice…Hope.

Hope is the theme of this Lenten blog, and I will tell you now that I have no idea where it’s going. Hope may have been the force that landed me on this new shore, or it may not have been. Hope may have been the force that made my winter amaryllis go from an umimpressive lump in a plastic pot to a thing of exuberant beauty, but maybe not. Hope may be real, or it may be a necessary illusion. I honestly don’t know.


But that’s what’s brilliant about writing–it helps you answer questions, and find your way home. And we’ll get there together! My promise to you is to pay as much attention as I can to things that feel worth sharing, and to never let you forget that I am incredibly grateful that you stop by and visit. I hope you’ll be moved to share your thoughts so that when we get to Easter, we’ll all feel that we have really learned something!

And there will be poetry, of course! The most obvious “hope” poem is Emily Dickinson’s “Hope it the thing with feathers (254),” which I’ve posted below. I don’t totally understand this poem, but I’ve been thinking about it. Here are some thoughts and some ways for you to dive into this poem.

What I like right now is the bird imagery–the potential for flight, the lack of assurance that it might not come, might not stay, might–literally–fly away, but it doesn’t. It stays, and in fact, it “never stops at all”.

I also like that the tune of hope is without words, is undefined, and is based in the soul. It is soul language, which means that it is intimate, and private, and needs to be nurtured in our own secret, hidden ways, until we’re ready to use it as a force for action. Hopefulness does not have to be a public outcry, though of course it can be. It can also be a quiet, growing force within ourselves that will lead us along if we are able to listen.

Finally, I like that this image of hope is free of demands–“it never asked a crumb of me”–it is a quiet, unending life force that may lead to action and change, or it may not. It may simply keep beating, quietly, gently, reliably, until we know how to respond to it. And how amazing is that?

Hope is the thing with feathers  
That perches in the soul,  
And sings the tune without the words,  
And never stops at all,  
And sweetest in the gale is heard;          
And sore must be the storm  
That could abash the little bird  
That kept so many warm.  
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,  
And on the strangest sea;         
Yet, never, in extremity,  
It asked a crumb of me.

I will see you again soon! Ash Wednesday is March 1, 2017. In the meantime, please comment, email, message, or do whatever you like to let me know how I can make this a meaningful experience for you.

As always, all love,



8 thoughts on “The Confusion of Hope: Lenten Explorations 2017 (a preview)

Add yours

  1. Dear Leslie,
    I just realized I forgot to email you about ideas. I know that whatever you write will be meaningful. ‘Being in the moment’ is what I am all about at this time in my life. And also ‘change’ and ‘simplicity.’ It seems that you are in somewhat the same place. I look forward to following your blog this season! I can’t wait!


  2. Good to have you back. Looking forward to traveling through Lent with you. I am scheduled to preach the mid-week services in our congregation, so I may occasionally steal stuff from you. I know you won’t mind. Peace of the Lord to you.


  3. Hello dear Leslie,
    I have missed your blog, and I’m looking forward to being back in touch with your thoughts. Hope is in short supply these days. It will be good to reflect along with you as your thoughts unfold. Love, Cynthia


  4. Leslie, I’m so happy you are back. I’m looking forward to reading your posts, taking some time to reflect and then sharing my thoughts. “Hope”…. Back in November, I listened to a conversation on the tv. Two very strong and popular women were discussing the need for and importance of hope. I can not put this in quotes but it went something like this……..
    In life, things don’t always happen the way we think they will. If you are sad, confused, afraid or distraught you must HOPE! If you lose hope, you have nothing. For some reason, I will never forget this comment. It seems to be a very profound message/lesson for me. Now that three months have gone by I continue to wonder….. Am I hopeful? Am, I full of hope? Or, did I lose hope? So I decided to do some research. I looked up the antonym for “hope”. It is “despair”. I am relieved…..I have not “lost hope”. I then did some research on Lent. A time to reflect, and repent. A time to examine ourselves. A time to prepare, to look forward.
    After reading and reflecting on your post, I really related to the idea that hope is within us. “Sometimes things may change, sometimes things will not change”. However, knowing that hope is there, is a very comforting thought. As I travel on my Lenten journey, it is my goal to nurture that hope by reaching out to others and finding happiness. I plan to focus on and examine myself. What decisions am I making today that will lead me to the place where I am “hopeful”.
    Thank you Leslie. Your post was enlightening. The guy in line behind me at Duncan Donuts might get a free cup of coffee today. I’m ready to perform an act of kindness as I focus on my Lenten. journey😊


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