My girlfriends and I have been through a lot in addition to the pandemic. It’s felt ridiculous at times and during winter, we planned a trip to the ocean for July. I imagined celebrating surviving this crazy season and it helped. I thought about what I’d pack, what I’d eat and how the heat of the sand would warm me through my beach towel. I pictured blue skies and sundresses.

These visualizations are still lifting my spirits, even though what I hope for is in the future and not guaranteed. The girls’ trip is relatively likely, but I’ve recently pictured myself living out more difficult dreams. This feels audacious for a girl who was told dreams only happen for a select few. The insinuation was I should save my effort. I would never be one of them. Growing up I didn’t hear, “You can be anything you want to be,” and maybe you didn’t either. I stopped voicing my hopes and locked them inside so no one could rain on my parade. But even there, I didn’t allow myself to believe they would happen.

You may not have your dreams on total lockdown, but feel it’s wise not to get too excited about such and such unless it’s a sure thing, which ironically, takes it out of the realm of hope. We don’t hope for things we already have. We also think if we anticipate the worst, we won’t hurt as badly if it happens. In Castles Burning, Magda Denes tells of being a girl during the Nazi occupation of Hungary. At one point, she and her brother debate the wisdom of getting their hopes up. He says they shouldn’t because disappointment is too hard. I disagreed. I thought a state of ‘maybe’ was more exciting. ‘And anyway,’ I said, ‘If you don’t get what you want, you’ll be sad no matter what you pretend.’ ”

This is how we tend the fire of hope.

We all have desires we hope for and the second part of hope is anticipating the glory of the moment they happen. We do that by visualizing it. What will it be like when the thing you’ve prayed for happens? This is how we tend the fire of hope. I know you’ve prayed a long time and it seems foolish, but in a universe where a good God is present, it’s not foolish at all. David said, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” or before I die.* While we don’t know which hopes God will fulfill this side of heaven, we hold onto hope She will fulfill some of them.

Have you ever been looking for something and called a clear picture of it to mind and suddenly you found it? Visualizing is a powerful tool that helps us see gifts when they come. So while part of us may feel foolish, we will choose this bolder, braver path, where we imagine receiving wonderful gifts from God. And sometimes it will feel like it’s so close we can taste it.

*Psalm 27:13 NIV