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Lady Pastor: Not just the holidays — the whole year is full of hope

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Before Christmas arrives, we first live within the expectant days of Advent. It is a season of intentional waiting and watching. It is a time of preparation and hope.

Hope is a word I recently realized I use quite a bunch. I did a word search of past columns and sermons, and hope showed up in nearly all of them.

Yet for as much as I write about hope, I rarely pause to define or explain it. Sorry about that. But today's the day. Let's dive deep into these hopeful waters together and soak in the scenery.

So what is hope? How does it feel and where does it come from? This powerful force not only shows up during Advent but also plays an integral role in all of life, across many cultures and religions.

Through personal conversations and social media explorations, I've gathered a few hope truths over the past few weeks. All of the responses I received amazed me! Thoughtful and compelling! Here are a few reflections I received through Facebook. I invited people to complete the sentence, "Hope feels like...":

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• "Breathing deep when you didn't know you were holding your breath." — Joanna

• "Finding a working flashlight when the power is out." — Brian

• "Realizing you're not the only one." — Anna

• "The reason to exist." — Danielle

• "A new round of chemo." — Peter

• "Love." — Joshua

• "Hope = desparation with ice cream while you wait." — Adam

I've noted the full list of more than 55 contributions on my daily blog. Take some time and read them at www.emilyannecarson.com . Pondering the ruminations of others increased my own hopefulness, and I imagine it will do the same for you.

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For some, hope is an experience. For others, it is a state of mind. For still others, it is a promise as yet to be fulfilled. Hope is all these things and more.

Over the past year, I've had several times in which I felt enveloped in hope blanket. Once was in the desert in a shuttle vehicle on the way back to the airport. Another time was in early May during a 5-mile hike through Stewartville in the middle of a giant snowstorm. And the third time was when I stood in the ocean and for a few moments could hear nothing but the sound of waves and possibility.

What does hope look like for you? How does it feel and sound? What does it taste like and smell like? For much of my life and ministry, I mistakenly confined hope to my head space. It became more of a theological concept than a living, breathing reality. Now, hope fills all my senses, and I pray it will fill all your senses, too!

As we tell and retell the Christmas story throughout the weeks ahead, take time to consider the experiences of hope for each of the people involved. What were Zechariah and Elizabeth feeling as they waited for John to be born? What was happening in Mary's heart upon finding out she was pregnant? What did hope feel like for Joseph as he peered down into the eyes of Jesus for the first time? What were the sights and sounds of the shepherds as they made their way to visit the newborn king?

Hope enters into our lives and carves out a space for all things possible. Dwell in that holy place and share about it throughout these sacred weeks of Advent.

The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson, a Lutheran pastor in Stewartville. Visit her blog at: www.emilyannecarson.com.

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