Faith, life, relationships, Uncategorized
Comments 7

What NOT To Put In Your Hope Chest

I was a girl with a hope chest.

It was a solid, cedar, handcrafted thing with dovetail corners and walls over an inch thick. It was designed to last and protect whatever treasures were placed within it.

My dad found it for sale and took it home to finish the job another craftsman had begun. He presented his reclaimed, refinished gift to me on a sunny California summer day, my eighteenth birthday.

About a year later, I met and fell in love with a guy God handpicked to be my husband.

I began filling my hope chest with items that reflected the dreams I had for our marriage. And it’s funny, but none of the treasures were really that practical. I tucked into my chest china cups and doilies, embroidered things and silverplate dishes.

I didn’t know to pack things like a set of tires to replace the ones that would wear out just when we didn’t have the money, or a packet full of rent for the many times when we would find ourselves with more month than income, or even a list of the right things to say to diffuse an argument.

My hope chest was full of hope for perfection and romance and the proverbial wedded bliss. It was filled with lingerie and candles and lovely things.

And when we met life together, in a new city, in a young marriage, I felt betrayed by my stash of romantic baubles, undone by my own lack of planning, angry at the hardship that we faced with no real preparedness.

I was disappointed. 

My expectations were unmet.

More often than not, my husband and I failed to face  as unified partners the challenges of living in a new town, surprised by unemployment and financial insecurity. We allowed our circumstances to fracture our trust–and our hope leaked through those cracks.

Disappointment bleeds the soul dry. And unmet expectations stand stark and bare like a framework of a building abandoned before it had a chance to be completed — its rebar and lumber a scaffolding symbol of defeat.

Have you ever been exhausted by disappointment? Have you felt like your arms might break under the weight of bearing it’s banner over your life?

Have you nursed anger at the unmet expectations and nurtured it into rage, building grudges that divided and destroyed the relationships you held most dear?

Have you looked at your life and said, “Go ahead, God, take it. I can’t fix this and I’m tired of trying?”

If you are disappointed, maybe today should be the day you give up.

{Psalm 42:11} Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

The psalmist asked — why are you you downcast my soul?

When we are downcast, we are looking down: at the rubble, at the problems, at the enemy closing in.

Then the psalmist directs — put your hope in God.

This instructive statement  implies that we take our hopes from down here to up there, to gather our hopes, as messy as they may be and place them in God’s lap. He wants us to. He asks us to.

In Psalm 121 the words sing, I lift my eyes up to the hills where does my help come from?

My help comes from You,

Maker of Heaven

And Earth.

Misplaced hope, unmet expectations, dashed dreams —

God takes them all and makes from our pieces a mosaic of grace, a living, inspired gift of mercy.

And that mosaic holds moving pictures of transformed lives,

restored marriages,

realized dreams and unquenchable joy.

That’s a trade-off worth making. With God you can’t lose.



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  1. unquenchable joy…yes, that’s what I’m striving for.
    Beautiful post, Alyssa…
    I’ve always thought expectations were the enemy’s number one weapon. Followed by doubt. What a sweet release to let God take care of those for us!

  2. Alyssa, the KJV of the Bible translates a verse I memorized in high school re: my marriage that seems to fit your wonderfully crafted post. It reads, “HOPE deferred, makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” In other words, the hopes we stash wait long for their fulfillment like treasures buried deeply in a hope chest, but when God fulfills that hope, brings those chine cups and saucers, embroaidered table cloths and fragrant candles from the hope chest of our hearts, they are timely and appropriate.

    • Ah, Niki – this is so true. The beauty does come through if that’s what is stored in our hearts at the right time. What wise insight.

  3. That was a truly beautiful post!

    This is my first week doing the JustWrite challenge, and I’m so glad I did, because I’m so glad it caused me to stumble on your blog in the process!

    • Thank you! I’m glad you did come by and that you do again! I love “meeting” other writers seeking truth and grace!

  4. Caroline says

    I just read this because I googled “what to put in a hope chest.” I am an American living in South Korea and just found the most beautiful “hope chest” (that was nearly $700, so perhaps it, in itself, is something I must hope for). And I decided that I was going to save up for it and buy it and keep it at the end of my bed filled with the lovely things I must have for “someday when I finally grow up” (though I am actually an adult with a real job and I have lived more or less on my own for 5 years). I remembered my grandmother had quilts and family photo albums and important letters in hers. But perhaps, I can keep my hope in my chest (my heart), as it is God who provides me with the quenching hope that I need. Thank you for reminding me that I cannot find satisfaction from such earthly things. And maybe I’ll save up for the hope chest, because it will make a lovely coffee table. 🙂

    • Caroline!
      Wow! Living so far from home would inspire me to get a hope chest, too. Something of them resonates with our past and and at the same time symbolizes some promise of the future. Thanks for leaving me a note that this piece spoke to your heart. Remember that where you are right now is preparing you for what’s awaiting round the corner. You are tucking all kinds of things into your heart as you live and work in a foreign place.

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