Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
My husband and I spent this weekend unpacking the remaining boxes from our move, unwrapping the pictures that still sit on the floor waiting to go on the walls of our new house. I scrambled through reams and reams of packing paper already piled in our garage, waiting for a trip to the recycling center (The movers spared no paper when it came to packing—they even double-wrapped a single wash cloth. I kid you not.).
An irreplaceable treasure had yet to surface, and I fiercely hoped I had simply overlooked it among the remaining boxes.
In 1999, my mother painted a matching china vase and oval box for me in a beautiful rust color with two chickadees on each piece. The oval box had a lid and base, and Mom had drifted the leaves from the lid down one side of the base to connect them visually. I have loved it ever since she gave it to me and thought it was one of her finest works of art.
I was excited about where it would “live” in our new home, because the wall color seemed to match the set perfectly. But a sickening feeling began to fill me as we unpacked box after box, and even revisited other, already-opened boxes, until I could no longer deny it.
The lid is gone.
In all of my photographs, I’ve only been able to find one photograph of the box whole from 2011, and it was originally intended as a photo of my mom. She happened to be sitting next to it opening Christmas presents. The camera focused on the box instead of my mom, but I kept the photo anyway (I’m very bad about just loading photos onto my computer and then not getting rid of ones that aren’t the best.) Can you imagine how grateful I am to have found this one photograph?
That first night I went to bed wondering if/praying/hoping it would turn up, two vastly different stories from the Bible came to mind. The first made me feel worse:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.(Matthew 6:19-21)
I assured God I knew that to be true in my head, but my heart was crying out for balm. This next story comforted me more (though I know the point is really about heaven rejoicing over one sinner repenting):
Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!”
I sent out a plea for prayer on Facebook and by email, and friends rallied with stories of their own moves, when lost items (in at least one case, miraculously) turned up as much as a year later.
Their words of comfort gave a fierceness to my hope that I would find the lid.
Isn’t it true that sometimes hope can be soft and gentle, a quiet breeze drifting lazily through the soul? And other times, it marches in as a warrior, waving a banner and blaring a trumpet, refusing to be quiet?
The book of Romans promises us that “hope does not disappoint” (5:5). My hope has been fierce these last few days and has not disappointed me. I have not found the lid, but when I told my mother about the loss, she started talking right away about painting a replacement. Talk about a reward for hope!
She has not painted for the last several years, not trusting her hands to be steady enough for the task. But her voice on the phone was steady and strong and reassuring. She found the pattern she used for the original painting. She ordered a new (albeit smaller) box and the right china paint color to match the rust color of the vase. This morning, she asked me to send pictures of the box’s base from all sides. My heart sings with hope.
I do not know if one of the movers broke the lid and hid the fact—and the pieces—from my husband and me. I do not know if the lid will turn up in some stowed away, random place. I do not know if it exists in pieces or as a whole, unbroken thing somewhere in this world. And I may never know. What I do know is this: my mother’s response—the promise of her taking up her paintbrush yet again—has taken much of the sting out of the loss and has brought me a much greater hope and joy than finding the lid possibly could.
I admit to being hesitant to write about this today, knowing that senseless violence has caused far greater loss this day alone than I have experienced. Mine, after all, is a lost material possession, not my health or a loved one or a friend or neighbor. But I hope the story of it will encourage you if you find yourself looking for something lost and hoping to find it again.
I’ve been promising, or at least hinting at, a book giveaway for some time now. And it will delight me and bring me joy to give away a signed copy of my book. Actually, three copies.
If you’d like to be entered to win one of the copies, please leave a comment here below about something that brings you hope or joy, leave a comment on my author site, send out a tweet with #theflourishingtree in it (so I can find it), or leave a comment on my author page on Facebook. You may enter more than once for more chances, but no individual can win more than one copy of the book. I’ll announce the winners in next week’s post, and you have until 10 a.m. (Pacific) next Wednesday (that’s January 14) to get entered. Best of luck to you!