A Fresh Box of Crayons & New Sketch Pad

1:13 PMHeather

During this month of December, I've watched approximately 377 cheesy Christmas movies.  It's been my activity of choice during this surgery recovery time.  Lest you think I'm an underachiever, let me tell you, it's no small feat to squeeze in so much movie watching in between napping and directing my family about how to accomplish my usual holiday task list.  

In all this movie watching, I've come to realize something.  Cheesy Christmas movies, primarily through the Hallmark Channel or the UP Channel, are rather predictable.  There are a few variations of the basic ingredients, but generally speaking, they involve a single mom (played by everyone from Gail O'Grady to Kellie Martin to Crystal Bernard), a hardship of some type (widowed or homeless or such), her children (usually), and an impossible love interest.  These are the common denominators.  Throw in a Santa twist somewhere.  It's either by the way the children's Christmas wishes come true, or -- wait for it -- the surprising truth that the eligible bachelor and love interest is actually Santa Clause.  Yet, like an addict, I have sought them out continually.  

The pinnacle of my disgust with these movies that I can't seem to resist came when I invested over an hour into a movie I'd seen advertised and had looked forward to watching.  It starred Rob Lowe and Neil Patrick Harris.  I mean, that's a sure-fire recipe for success, right?   So, imagine my disappointment when I realized, with only five minutes left, that this movie was actually a sequel to that movie based on the red Christmas shoes song.  What?  WHAT?  WHAT have I done?  That is an hour of my life I will never get back.  You had me, Neil Patrick Harris.  Then you pulled out those darn red shoes and it was too much.  Too much, I tell you.  I cannot even listen to that song on the radio.  Yet, I watched a movie spin-off version of it for an entire 60 minutes.

So, I needed a change of pace.  Last night, I switched it up and watched The Shawshank Redemption.  There's a change of pace alright.  One minute, it's all Christmas carols and snow falls and angels and Christmas miracles.  The next, it's all grim and dreary prison life.  Yeah.  It kinda made my head spin, too.  

But, it was good.  Because it reminded me of the thrill of the New Year.  That may seem like a stretch, but please stick with me here, bloggy friends.  I promise there's a connection.  

Lest you too have been drowning in cheesy Christmas movies and have forgotten, let me remind you of that iconic scene at the lunch table. Picture Andy and Red and all the fellas sitting around, eating.  Brooks has been paroled after serving decades of time in prison.  An institutionalized man, he found freedom to be too much and had just killed himself. 

Andy: I had Mr. Mozart to keep me company. [points and taps his head, pauses] Andy: It was in here. [gestures over his heart] Andy: And in here. [looks around, referring to Shawshank Penitentiary] That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you. Haven’t you ever felt that way about music? Red: I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn’t make much sense in here (referring to Shawshank Penitentiary). Andy: Here’s where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don’t forget. Red: Forget? Andy: Forget that there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside…that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours. Red: What are you talking about? Andy: Hope. Red: Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It’s got no place here. Better get used to the idea. Andy: Like Brooks did?

Red had been in prison so long that he'd lost all hope of anything better.  Anything different.  He found hope to be a tease.  Taunting him.  Because it only sparked in him a longing for what he felt would never come.  

Some of you have endured such a year that you can relate to this.  You guffaw at the mere mention of hope.  Cynicism has taken root in your heart.  After so much pain and loss and hardship, you see no place for hope. It feels dangerous to consider anything might improve.  

But let me encourage you.  Let me blow some fresh wind on a tiny spark of hope. Let me help you shift your eyes from Red's hardness to Andy's perspective.  Red saw only his current circumstance and his hard past.  Based on that, it's all he could imagine for his future, too.  Because it had been bad, he must expect it to always be so.  Accept it and move on.  

Andy, however, knew the importance of looking beyond what he could see or had seen.  He knew that to keep hope alive, he must allow his mind to imagine what could be.  What might be.  What can be.  He found it in the music that transported his mind beyond his circumstance.  He sought it in the books he read.  He fed the fuel of hope by finding the tiny moments of normal that could exist, even within those prison walls.  Like when he sat on the roof of the prison, smiling, as his fellow inmates enjoyed a cool beverage.  He allowed those little things to fuel his hope.  

It's the type of approach to hope that has long allowed those who suffer to endure.  The ability of prisoners of war and concentration camp prisoners to hang on--clinging to any shred of hope and feeding it in any way possible.  

It's hope that is the life preserver when we are drowning in heart ache.

For me, the transition that happens tonight, at midnight, is a reason to hope.  It's like when I was a little girl and I got a fresh box of crayons and a brand new sketch pad.  Endless possibilities.  A clean slate.  Masterpieces yet to come.  Creativity to be explored.  Pages to be filled.  

That's what a New Year brings.  January 1st is a fresh box of crayons and a new sketch pad.  It's a chance to move beyond what has been and anticipate better things to come.  New things.  Exciting things.  Things worthy of our hope.  

No matter what 2013 has held, may you lay your head down tonight, filled with even a tiny spark of hope.  Knowing that this new year holds new lessons, new memories, new healing, new opportunities, new freedoms, new possibilities.  May you make a choice to switch from the mentality of Red and dare to hope just as Andy did.  May you decide to see past the prison walls of pain and allow a place for hope.  

Instead of seeing hope as dangerous, perhaps you can hang on to the words of Andy: 

"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

Indeed, hope changes everything.  It frees a person behind bars to dream of possibilities. It changes you.  And it can even change those around you.  In the end, even unbelieving Red came to have hope in the final scene of the movie.  And it allowed him to find a way to move past an institutionalization that could have brought him to ruin even as a free man.  

"I find I'm so excited I can barely sit or hold a thought in my head.  I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.  I hope I can make it across the border.  I hope I can see my friend and shake his hand.  I hope the Pacific is as blue as it is in my dreams.  I hope."

Today, dear friend, as we say good-bye to this year, may your heart swell with hope.  I pray you grab that crayon and blank page and ask the Lord to give you hope for the year ahead.  And remember that His mercies are new every day (Lamentations 3:22-26).  In the days ahead, rest assured that He is doing a new thing (Isaiah 42:9). 

Hope springs eternal.  Let it rise up within you.

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