Have you seen that movie, Hope Floats?
Some of you may have seen the movie entitled, "Hope Floats". For those of you who haven't, the short version goes something like this. A woman who "thinks" she is happy is dumbfounded to find herself on a national talk show where she learns that her best friend has been having an affair with her husband.
In an instant of unanticipated angst, her world would forever change. How many of us have been in similar situations? I have to admit that I've been cruising along on auto-pilot for a while now, and suddenly I've felt like I've been broadsided by a Mac Truck delivering the liver disease and diabetes of two of my children. In an instant of unanticipated angst, like Birdee...my world has forever changed.
"Birdee" returns to her hometown to rediscover what is truly important after being devasted by her husband's infidelity. The following conversation between Birdee and her young daughter ties the phrase "hope floats" into the film: "Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome. That's what momma always says. She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will, too..."
Thank God for floaty suits, goggles and noodles!
I've had a challenging year as a Mom, and truthfully the winter and spring have beaten me down. I certainly haven't devoted much time to giving hope a chance to float up. I've not had the floating feeling much at all, in fact, I've felt like an anvil salesperson that has been forbidden to put down her wares! I've been going home like Birdie in my mind though, remembering my own childhood, and wishing for some of the simpleness of my summers spent outside from about 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. I've been wondering what my children will think about their own childhoods when they become adults. Will they remember a tired, cranky and taxed Mom? Will they spend the rest of their lives trying to overcome their childhood like Birdee, or will it be one of fond memories, and warm thoughts?
Speaking of warm thoughts, I just LOVE the summertime, for a number of reasons. The warmth and brightness, the sun-kissed freckled noses, the watermelon juiced t-shirts and the missing toothed girins of a six-year-old holding a wiggling, muddy worm over his unsuspecting sister's head. I also love having more time with my kids and husband. My children seem to love it as well, especially time in the pool, the river, the lake or the ocean with ...their Dad! Frankly, I'm just not as fun as Dad is in the water. Chalk it up to years of being the baby holder and toddler tamer. No, Mommy plays for a while and then she seems to just float around the pool like an old ship with the little ones attached to me like barnacles, and that is a wonderful, relaxing feeling. When you are in the water, floating peacefully, your troubles just seem to float away. As my muscles relax, I do as well, and I start to regain peace, tranquility and most importantly hope.
We spent most of Father's Day weekend in other people's pools. As I watched my children taking turns horse-playing in the water with their Dad, I watched him slowly become refreshed and renewed. This is an amazing feat, considering most of his time was spent hurling our eight year old son (who looks ten) in the air. I'd look over and they'd be doing the Nestea Plunge or the Belly-Flop off the side of the pool. My husband spends the school year enveloped in his work, not because he is a self-absorbed workaholic, but because he is a wonderful and loving provider for our family and a compassionate, concerned counselor for his students and clients. He takes his occupation very seriously and works very hard to meet the needs of our large family and the families he is called to serve. He rarely finds time to just let go and have fun. These relaxing water adventures are truly priceless in regaining our balance.
How 'bout St. Paul y'all?
How do I get from the swimming pool to St. Paul? Well, I'm participating in a seminar through Catholic Distance University entitled, "The Letters of St. Paul". I'm really excited about this because Pope Benedict has designated June 2008- June 2009 as the year of St. Paul. I've always hoped to learn more about St. Paul as he was my Grandma Kidd's favorite apostle. I can still recall a lively debate between Grandma and my husband, whose favorite apostle is St. Peter. I'm partial to St. Luke because of his gospel being considered the gospel of mercy, but I'm looking forward to learning more about St. Paul. As it turns out, he is the perfect summer patron saint because he knows a lot about hope floating!
St. Paul often writes to the early Christians concerning their faith journey. Some of them had faced harsh persecutions, trials and suffering. Some of them became grievously concerned about their loved ones who had died awaiting Christ's return. I believe St. Paul was very concerned that their faith might waiver and they would "sink" in despair. He encourages them by referring to faith, hope and love as armor "putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8). It is interesting to me that hope is portrayed as a helmet which would cover and protect our heads. Our heads contain our thoughts, thoughts that sometimes perplex and confuse us and beat us down. Yet, when covered with a helmet of hope we can put those often self-absorbing thoughts aside and allow the hope we have in the promises of Christ to protect us and ultimately allow us to serve others in our midst.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "it (hope) keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity." (CCC 1818) "Hope is the 'sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (from Hebrews)....that enters....where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf." (CCC 1820)
I really love the imagery of hope protecting us and keeping us afloat in times of trial, suffering, persecution and even separation by death from the ones we love. I just imagine myself, "buoyed up by hope' like a dingy...sometimes more dingy than others....with each ripple of water representing a new challenge, so that when the big rough waves hit me, I'm prepared with my anchor of hope, resting securely in the arms of Jesus. It is not an optimisim, but the hope that can only come from Our Lord. Our trials truly can open our hearts to the hope of being rescued from our trials, if we only give hope a chance to float up and "preserve" us in our faith. Hope, like any priceless life preserver, shares Birdie's sentiment that "it's the middle that counts the most" because when we place ourselves in the center of the life preserverof hope, we can be totally encircled by Christ's love, promises and mercy in times of trial.
Mary Kidd Flemming blogs for The Handmaids of Mercy , The Splendor of Truth and The Compass Rose (Parenting and Family Life Issues). You may also enjoy her husband's website: Crossroads Family Center