Christmas of 2006 was shaping up to be the worst Christmas of my life. I couldn’t imagine that I would ever be happy again, or even that things could improve. I can honestly say all I wanted for Christmas that year was for it to be OVER.
My daddy had died a few months earlier, and he had loved Christmas so much. It would never be the same without him, and I knew that. My life was such a mess that I was relieved in some ways that he wasn’t here to see it. My family was on it’s last leg, my children were hurting, my marriage was about over. The last thing on earth I wanted to do was Christmas shop. If I hadn’t been trying to find some way to bring normalcy to my children, I wouldn’t have done it at all.
I was praying with every step as I walked through the mall, begging God to help me. Help me find presents that would bring a smile to their faces. Help me find it cheap, and help me find it quick so I could be done with the pretense. I must admit that celebrating the Birth of Christ, the hope of the world, was about the last thing on my mind.
I don’t remember how or why I ended up in Waldenbooks on the second floor of the Four Seasons Mall in Greensboro, NC, and I don’t remember if I bought anything. All I know is I glanced at a calendar for the upcoming year on a display shelf. There was a palm tree over clear blue water on some tropical shore. As I blankly stared at it, quite unexpectedly, I heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit quietly say three words . . .
There is hope.
A strange feeling washed over me. It was so foreign that I didn’t recognize what it was at first. It had been so long . . . it was hope. God said it, then I felt it.
If you’ve ever been without hope, then felt it again, you know the stark contrast. There is no mistaking the presence of hope vs. the deep void of hopelessness. “Hopeless” is the saddest place on earth to be.
I’m gotta be honest and tell you that feeling of hope didn’t last long. Maybe only a few moments. But it felt so good that I was determined not to forget it. God had spoken to me. He had promised me. There is hope . . .
From that moment on, a palm tree signified hope to me. My life was somehow, someway going to get better. Sooner or later. My wallpaper on my computer and my cellphone became palm trees. When I felt the black hole of despair coming, I would find a way to stare at a palm tree and recall that moment of hope I had felt in that bookstore at Christmas.
I didn’t know how long it would take, but I believed God would keep His promise to me. Maybe not today, but one day I wasn’t going to live in anxiety and fear. One day I would feel joy and peace, safety and security — just like I felt when I looked at that palm tree.
A few months later, I even let a few of my best girlfriends (Lelia, Trinady, Cathy, you ladies know who you are!) talk me into getting my one and only tattoo. I don’t recommend it, by the way. I found out the hard way they don’t give epidurals in the tattoo parlor! Know what I got? You guessed it. A palm tree with “hope” written underneath it.
The next year I took a beach trip with my kids, my girlfriend, Marjie and her kids. She and I went shopping in some little beach mart, and I found this framed picture that said,
If my dreams could all come true, Paradise would be . . . in a little bungalow . . . by the sea . . .
I told Marjie, “I ain’t got a pot to pee in, but I’m gonna buy that picture. One day, I’m gonna have me a beach house, and this is gonna hang in it.”
That picture hung on my walls for 11 years, nowhere near the beach. I wasn’t sure what it would look like, but I hoped the day would come that I would have my own palm tree . . .
This month, I got one.
If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know that God gave me a new life, and although I didn’t go looking for him, God gave me a wonderful husband who makes my life a joy every single day. No matter what awful things happen, he’s never the source of hardship.
That sweet man bought me a beach house. With a palm tree. And this is the first thing we hung in it, just like I told Marjie I would.
This evening as the sun was setting, I walked on the beach by myself so I could spend some time in worship and prayer, thanking God for His blessings, for always keeping His promises, and for giving me a glimmer of hope that dark December day. I’m thankful that periodically, when we don’t have it rented out, when we can sneak away for a weekend, this is my view right down the street from our new vacation home.
It’s just a little beach house. With a big mortgage. And one little palm tree. But all I need is a little. A little hope during Christmas of 2006 was enough to help me tie a knot and hang on to the end of my rope, and I pray God will give you a glimmer of hope to help you do the same.
Romans 15:13 is my prayer for you,
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know what God will do to show you there is still hope. I don’t know what your palm tree will be, but He will give you one. All you need is a little. And if He did it for me, He will do it for you. He’s faithful.