How to Keep Hoping for Things that Seem Impossible

So if you turned right after Clappison’s Corner and drove real slow around the potholes, you might see it.

Sneeze or blink, and yeah, you might not — but it’s there on the top of a mossy stake, pointing the way you gotta take, either way: Hope.

No way you want to know where all the other roads lead.

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Just down the road from Centerton, is where my Dad grew up on a dairy farm.

Right around the corner from the Dykstra’s* dairy farm. Hank Dykstra had seven kids and a heart attack. Fell over dead to this world and alive to the next when their oldest boy, Richard, was only 14. Sometimes people are so quiet and brave, we forget that they are suffering.

Dad and Richard Dysktra were both farm boys about to start high school when Richard took over the farm and helped his mom raise the six other kids and milk 40 Holstein cows morning and night, 365 days of the year.

Dad said the high school bus would wait at the end of the lane for Richard and Dad would watch the door of the barn to see if Richard was coming from his cows to class. That only happened less than a handful times a month.

Because sometimes the road you’re on is more important than the bus waiting out on the road that someone else says you have to take.

My Dad grew up milking cows and growing corn, got married at 24, and bought a farm 3 hours west of Centerton.

Richard Dyskstra grew up milking cows, raised up his 4 brothers and 2 sisters, got married at 37, and bought a farm 3 hours east of Centerton.

6 long hours of unwinding road now stretched between the two neighbour farm boys and their farms.

Old Mrs. Dyskstra moved to town. My grandparents sold the home dairy farm and retired just down the road from Hank Dykstra’s farm, built a house by a pond by the edge of a woods where the frog sang all summer long.

In the evenings, Grandpa would sit out on the porch with his sweating cold glass of ice tea and watch the younger Dykstra boys drive their tractors and hay wagons by, back to the barn and the cows.

Sometimes Richard Dyskstra would crank over that diesel engine of his four wheel drive pickup truck and drive the 6 hours of road, cross a dozen county lines, back to see my Dad, to drive around in the pickup looking at crops and talking yields and tractor and sky. I’d watch their hands move with their words, two farmers in feed caps who never stopped working with their hands.

And Sometimes Richard Dykstra brought his young wife and his three little kids. The oldest girl hung on her Dutch dad, on his arm, on his words, on the edge of his knee, like he hung her moon. She was four. Every child is a message that everything is possible again; your past, your story, this world, it all has another chance.

Dad’s kids, the next generation of kids, babysit the blonde hair, blue eyed Dykstra kids, while the two farmers take their wives for ice cream down roads of corn and fields of waking visions.

I get married at 20 to a Dutch farmer, move to a farm 20 minutes north of Dad and the home farm. My sister gets married at 23 to a Ukrainian, moves to a city 40 hours west of Dad and the home farm.

My brother turns 20, 25, 30, 35. He never gets married. Time likes to lie and say dreams have become impossible things. My grandparents die.

They bury them out under a spreading maple tree behind that United Church on the north side of Line 45. Holsteins grazed soundlessly on the far side of that maple tree. Old Mrs. Dykstra takes a gravestone of her own out on a grassy knoll. There comes a place when your world will go all quiet and the only thing that will be left is the last beat of your own heart. Still often enough you learn its beating song before its forever gone.

There are only so many bluing spring skies to inhale.

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On a Friday night, with my brother only a few months from his 40th birthday, my Farmer here works till 1:30 am out in the fields, planting beans under a milking moon. We sleep 3 hours. And then hit the floor at 4:30 am, roll the kids out of bed, hang the kids’ ironed clothes in the back of the van and head back east.

Head east past Toronto. East past the turn off to Line 45 to the United Church and my grandparents names etching silent and worn into granite day after silent day. Head east past Beagle Club Road and the Old Dykstra farm and the hands of time, east past The Met where Grandma got the groceries.

I tell the kids how I can still smell her Red Rose lotion, how she kept in the car and slathered it on even her elbows every time Grandpa drove her into town.

Six, nearly 7 hours, we drive east. My father’s somewhere on this road. My mother, my brother, we’re all heading east. If you haven’t ever really decided where you’re going, any road will get you there — it’s only when you know where you want to go, that there’s only One Way.

My sister lays at home on strict bed rest, holding onto a child who needs to wait longer, wait before making its way into everything being possible again. I text her pictures from the road. She tells me she can hear Grandpa’s voice along that stretch of highway. Maybe time changes none of us — maybe it only wears us down to our truest selves. The boys read old beat-up paperbacks and count roadside markers.

And then when the sun’s getting high and hot overhead on a Saturday morning, the weary Farmer and his wife find a Tim Horton’s coffee shop and the boys take hangers and pleated pants to the bathroom to replace their jeans and the girls wrestle into dresses in the back seat and a bunch of farmers try to clean up for a day that’s been 20 years, a whole generation, in the making.

Twenty years my brother, my dad’s first son, namesake of my grandfather’s father, he’s been riding shotgun and solo in his pickup, twenty years he’s made breakfast alone, took his hunting dogs out to the woods on Christmas Eve, come to Christmas morning alone. Sometimes you get so used to something, you forget that anything is possible.

But when Richard Dysktra’s wife writes me to say she had had a dream, had a dream that woke her up in the middle of the night, that their now grown-up daughter, the Dykstra girl out on the mission field, was married to my nearly 40-year-old brother? Who believes in dreams anymore?

Who believes in unseen things, in impossible things, in the things you can’t measure and control and deduce and reduce and wrap up in a reasonably neat and timely package and who in this cynical world remembers how to find  Hope?

We’d all rolled our eyes. My brother went on his bachelor ways. For years. Met a nice girl. Prayed about it on some long cross country trip. Told God that as soon as he got home, he was going to ask that nice girl out. When a tractor trailer passes him on the road with one word emblazoned across the side: “Dykstra.” Whatever.

Except “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” [Kuyper]

My brother pulls in some roadside gas station to fill up. Prays for real clarity. And when he pulls back out on to the road? Another tractor trailer. With only word painted larger than life across its length: “Dykstra.” Whatever.

Except: “We believe that the unseen hand may be at times assuredly felt by gracious souls.” [Spurgeon]

Except we believe that an unseen Hope makes a Red Sea Road where there is no way. Except we can believe in miracles because we’ve known the miracle of change in our own hearts and where there is real love, there are always real miracles.

Except when four years after Richard Dykstra’s wife’s dream and a lot of prayers and a slow courtship, after 20 years of my brother living single, we clean up in a Tim Horton’s and get to our seats in a little country Baptist church and my brother stands up front in his blue jeans and boots and we all turn around to watch Richard Dykstra walk that girl we used to babysit, that girl than hung on his knee, his arm, now up to my brother’s waiting arm.

There are vows and prayers and how could my grandparents have ever known this would be?

When more than 30 years ago, their boy went 3 hours west, and the Dykstra boy went three hours east, and my Dad looks over at Richard Dykstra, their kids standing up there by the preacher, I can see it glistening clear right there in Dad’s eyes: time knows nothing.

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Time can’t dictate dreams or hijack hope or determine destination.

Time may have hands on the clock but it’s arms are too weak to rob anybody of hope, steal anybody’s prayers, destroy anybody’s joy.

And So what if time’s got hands on a clock — it’s God who has His Hands on the universe. Every little thing is going to be okay because God is working good through every little thing.

All that’s happening is just happening to make miracles. There are miracles always unfolding under the impossibles. 

Joys are always on their way to us,” writes Amy Carmichael. “They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming.”

Because there is never a night where joys are not coming to us, there is never a road that can’t arrive at Hope. Circumstances can go ahead and run out of time — but the courageous refuse to run out of hope.

We can always hope because there is always joy traveling to us down the unexpected roads.

And because the thing is: Hope always has a cost and hope is always worth it, because who wants the cheap and deadened alternative? Hope fuels the soul to impossible places.

And my brother dances. He dances with the Dykstra girl at a wedding that’s been twenty years in the making and a fiddle plays and I stand beside my dad and he nods and I nod and there are no words —- no one knows how a road will unfold.

In the middle of the fiddle playing a beautiful ache, The Farmer leans over, whispers in my ear, that the sky outside is as black as your boot, rain coming on clouds like a pitch black night. Joys are always traveling to us even down the darkest roads.

And when we step outside behind my brother and his bride, you can see the storm moving across the fields, down the road —

and there it is, the two of them standing under it, all of us standing under it:

a complete double rainbow arching like a sign of His promise round everything.

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Us standing there laughing slack-jawed awe at the unboxable ways of God.

And those two rainbows arching like a Brave and Bold Hope around us and all the things miraculously possible.

 

 

 

Related: How To Get Through Dark Places

And Coming next Wednesday, the next package of Free Memory Prints for the Book of John, for our #JesusProject, Scripture Memorization for the Rest of Us

[ *names changed ]
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