Of False Signs and Feathered Hope

There was thunder.

And there was lightning.

And Grace called, all whispers.

“Grandma, I was just in bed saying my prayers. And I asked God to bring Great-Grandma back. And I asked Him to give me a sign that she was coming. And right then there was this big flash. And . . . she’s coming back!”

“No, Grace. That really was just a coincidence. Great-Grandma’s not coming back. She’s in heaven, and she’s happy, and she doesn’t hurt any more. But we will get to see her again one day.”

“No, Grandma. He gave me a sign. She’s coming back.”

How to argue with that?

Will her faith falter because of a flash?

Will her hope hover on the edge of hallelujah and turn away?

Or maybe this morning she’s forgotten and moved on.

But it can happen.

Dashed hopes and dreams wound and wither our faith.

We can choose to walk on and trust God to work all things together for good.

Or we can throw our mat down and camp out on the edge of discouragement, on the edge of I-Feel-Sorry-for-Myself Land, and dwell in depression and despair.

We can hang around the edge of the water waiting for someone else to stir things up, someone else to carry us, someone else to raise our hope.

Does God even see us?

One man plopped down (John 5) by the water in the house of mercy. He hung out hopeless for 38 years. Since before Jesus was born.

And Jesus saw him. Fixed His eyes on him out of all the hundreds and asked him if he wanted to get well.

The man didn’t answer, “Oh, yes, please. Could you help me? Could you wait with me until the water moves and carry me in?”

Instead, he whined to the Living Water about not having anyone to put him in the pool. Fixed his eyes on others.

Did he find some comfort in his paralysis? Did he see himself as a victim?

He didn’t ask for healing. Did he even want it? Really?

But Jesus in His mercy poured it over him anyway. “Get up and walk.”

Don’t lie there any more feeling sorry for yourself. Get your act together. Feel my strength flow through you. Get up and move on with your life.

It wasn’t faith that healed him.

It was mercy and grace.


Disabilities and challenges and limitations.

Thunder times and dark days.


False signs of hope.

No signs of hope.

We can plop and play the victim. Or choose to see problems as privileges.

We can seize the opportunity to see with new eyes.

To choose our focus.

To choose feathered hope.

To rise up and walk.

To dive into hallelujah.

Some more cardinal photos for you. Because to me they are a sign of hope.


Counting the Gifts

Gray days that make me grateful for sun.

Soccer balls and softball gloves.

Stones of all shapes and sizes.

A grand girl blowing dandelion puff for the first time.

Compassion bloggers who bring us stories from Tanzania.

The yawning ache in my heart to go to Kenya–and the opportunity to grow from “no”–or “not yet.”

Feathered red hope.

Emily Dickinson.

An antique kitchen table fixed with a few mallet wallops.

Fresh-washed white sheets and a white down comforter.

Soft pillows.

The sweetness of a moist and tender prune.

A cat rubbing up against my legs.


On In Around button


  1. says

    Hope and disappointment seem like all-too-frequent companions, but it’s sometimes because we seek something that was never meant to be. Our wish, like our prayer, has to remember, “Thy will be done.”

    Launching out in fresh hope today, uplifted by your beautiful images and words.

    • Sandra says

      Disappointment often comes from seeking something that was never meant to be. Important truth. Thanks, Carol!

  2. says

    So true, Sandy.

    “We can plop and play the victim. Or choose to see problems as privileges.”

    The sooner we see them as privileges, the faster they shape us into faithful servants.

    • Sandra says

      It’s pretty hard to be shaped while we’re plopped, right? Molding takes pressure. And it’s a privilege to be molded. Maybe we should be concerned when we don’t have any problems. ;)

  3. bluecottonmemory says

    I remember looking for signs like that when I was little – so wanting a sign that God heard me, that He knew I was there.

    Your message is so important to me, especially in parenting, to encourage my boys to not be victims but over-comers through faith!

    BTW – the cardinal is my very favorite bird. Every time I see one, it’s like God saying, “You are home. I am here” – a special thing between the two of us!

  4. says

    I have been that man…waiting on something else, someone else. I got grace and mercy, great compassion when I was whining trying to control my world. Then there was Jesus…

    That thunder…maybe a sign that he could do it if it was his will to…

    I know you miss your momma especially with Mother’s Day approaching. I am thankful you little granddaughter thinks about what could be… a prayer for you both (all)

    • Sandra says

      We know He could if it was His will, right? That thunder–maybe He and my mom were bowling. She used to be on a team. She was good. Maybe that lightning was a sign of a strike. :)

      Thanks for remembering, Dea. And for your prayers. No flowers to send this year…no funny cards. :(

  5. says

    So lovely, Sandy. Yes – attitude makes a huge difference. We can choose to hang onto hope. I do think that’s ‘easier’ for some of us than for others, depending on how we’re wired emotionally/psychically. But yes, I think there is always an element of decision in that slogging out of discouragement and disappointment.

    I hope Gracee is not too disappointed, that she still asks for signs. Show her some cardinal pictures. Now there’s a sign!

    • Sandra says

      I think you’re right about it being easier for some, Diana. I think maybe finding hope takes practice, too.

  6. kelli- AdventurezInChildRearing says

    Oh I just love the way your little red cardinal is looking at you – right at the camera! awesome! lovely-

    • Sandra says

      I love his facial expressions. I like the one where he has his back turned and looks like he’s pouting–or angry. Reminds me of a horse with its ears laid back. ;)

  7. says

    Tremendous reflection upon how NOT to feel sorry for ourselves or immobilized by unfortunate circumstances.
    This reminds me that our Lord may choose to calm our storms or simply walk with us through them. Either way, we are never alone.
    And, I love the photos of the ever-cheerful cardinal!
    Blessings to you!

  8. says

    This is so full of real wisdom, as your words often are. I remember those times….I know that I actually did the opposite once. My son was miraculously healed one time, and I hesitated in my praise to God. I bear the burden of his doubt to this day. Difficult. times. It’s tough to know how and when to to respond. I only know that His grace is enough to cover the damage I did, and that His grace is enough to cover Grace’s coincidence.

  9. says

    As someone who has more than her fair share of signs, they’re rarely hopeful. For hope, you need a cardinal, a rainbow–an extraordinary appreciation for something natural.

  10. says

    So lovely, Sandy. My favorite line in this? “…choose to see problems as privileges.” That’s deep diving there, Sandy! xoxox

    {I was taking photos of cardinals this morning. Maybe I’ll post them tomorrow.)

  11. says

    I do love your bird photos – thanks! These cardinals remind me of some haughty punk teen, saying, “Hey, notice me. I need attention!” Yet when they start to sing, it is a gift – a beautiful melody. We don’t have cardinals here, I enjoy glimpses of them when I visit in the mid west, listening to their song.
    I hope Grace can weather this lesson of her faith – it was a good lesson, for all of us.

    • Sandra says

      I’m sure she’ll be fine, Maureen. I remember asking (maybe telling) God to show me Hie was real by leaving pile of money on my bed. He didn’t. But I weathered. ;)

  12. says

    Oh, how I love your daughter’s faith and your wisdom. So easy to just feel sorry for ourselves instead of choosing to hope.

  13. says

    I had a new bird at my feeder yesterday, Sandy–a Rosebreasted Grosbeak. He was beautiful. And I was wishing I had your sleuthlike hand to capture his pretty face. But I just watched. Focus.