30 October 2014


"Hope is what we crave,
And that will never change
So I stand and wait
I need a drop of grace
To carry me today,
A simple song to say
It's written on my soul:
Hope's what we crave" - For King and Country

I have likely mentioned {and linked to} this song before.  I couldn't attempt to write for 31 days about stubborn hope without writing about this song though.  Hope is what we crave and that will never change.  It keeps us looking upward to our Savior, it keeps us seeking in prayer, it keeps us calling out His name.  It's written on our souls, Hope's what we crave.

29 October 2014

for the children that need us to be brave

I only had a hand-full of minutes to run in to the foster care office yesterday.  I had another meeting during Mom's Morning Out but I wanted to drop off the new donations, knowing they were needed.  I didn't want another week to go by.  I texted my 10 am meeting and told her I might be late, depending on how long I had to wait to get the closet unlocked.

I didn't wait long, thankfully.

I dropped my bag of donations and went to work collecting the empty hangers from last week.  There were more than I expected.

As I re-hung a few items that had fallen, I heard a cheery voice behind me say, "Hey!"

I turned and saw a boy.  Likely older than my boys, but I can't be sure.  I wondered if a caseworker was going to come in behind him.

He was a bit of a ramshackle mess.  As a boymom, that is more delightful than pitiful to me.  He had a camo tank top on that was partially tucked-in his underwear -- this looked more like a haphazard accident than a fashion statement.  His pants were a little big around the waist so they hung a little low.

My boys have walked around our house like this more times than I can count.  "Get dressed" is accomplished as quickly as possible without a thought for checking to make sure waistbands aren't twisted and underwear aren't showing.

I smiled and said, "hi there!"  He turned and left. I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed.  Relieved because I had no idea if I had the right sizes of clothing for him.  Disappointed because it might have been fun to see him pick out clothes - if I did have the right sizes.

I don't know his story.  I know nothing about him, other than he is a boy that likely gets dressed like my boys.  And he's friendly.

Then later in the day, I read this article.  It's titled "The Child I Didn't Adopt" and it was written by a caseworker named Liz Curtis Faria.  Click here to read it all.

I couldn't get through it.  I was bent over on the floor, trying not to audibly sob.  For the boy in the article.  For the boys and girls like him.  For the caseworker that carries this weight.   For the families that have fostered children and couldn't keep them for always.  So many parts of it undid me.  Wrecked me all over again. This part in particular:
Nine-year old Stephen grips his report card in sweaty hands. We’re headed to an adoption event, where we will meet families who want to adopt an older child; families who do not automatically rule out a boy like Stephen with all of his long “history.” And he wants to impress them, these strangers. He wants to win them over, and so he brings his good report card along as tangible proof that he is a child worth loving.
A child should never have to prove they are worth loving.
This boy, called "Stephen" for the article, he is not an isolated case.  I briefly thought about the boy I had crossed paths with in the clothing closet.  The foster care crisis in America is a mess.   My part in all of it feels so small and inconsequential when I am weeping for the children without homes.

But I know the God that made my heart hurt this way for these kiddos of His.  I know He sees this sorrow and He - even in His goodness - has put it there.   This soft spot that refuses to grow hard.  It breaks open easily and often.  I pray it always will.  I do not want to grow numb to these hard truths.

I believe, I hope, I pray that these kinds of stories will be fewer because the Church will grow bolder.  That we will love in the hard places.  That we will pray circles around the families that are waiting to adopt.  That we will hold the hands of the children that need a person to call their own.  That we will stand with and walk alongside the ones that take the classes, and get fingerprints + background checks.  That we will comfort the foster families that have said good-bye and add our prayers to theirs that the reunification will lead to wholeness.    That we will make space in our hearts, our homes, our Sunday School classes for the hurting, the scared, the lonely, the left-behind.  That our bravery will lead us to love with abandon the children our God loves so dearly.  That we will see these children the way He does.

God help us.

Let our tears lead us to action.  Let our hope stubbornly follow where He leads, whether it makes sense or not. Believing every step of the way that the One who calls us is faithful.

28 October 2014

when it almost feels impossible

She sent me a text in the afternoon and asked me to pray.  I was at the commissary so I pulled the cart to the side and texted back a prayer.  When I got home I checked back in to see how she was doing.  Not good.  I asked her if she wanted me to come pray with her.  She said, "yes."

I had been to her house a few times the week before the funeral to drop off clothes for the kiddos.  I didn't go inside and I didn't see her either time, which was fine.  I just did an exchange in the driveway.

So, that afternoon, I knew where I was going, but I had no idea what I was doing.  I remember praying out loud almost all the way, mostly begging God for wisdom as to what to say.  I also asked him to help me be strong, because I was a full-on mess.

We were just weeks out from when Josh died.  It was all raw and horrific and impossible.  What do you even say to a young widow with six kiddos?

Nobody answered the door, unless you count the dogs.  I think one of the older kids told me she was on the couch.  I went to her and all I knew to say was, "Jesus."  So I held her hands and I said His name.  Over and over.  Through tears mingled together.  There was a clingy baby climbing up into the prayers and a three-year-old that didn't mind getting a little attention either.  A sister-in-law walked through and swept them up and we just sat and prayed some more.  Begging for His presence to be evident.  Pleading for protection from the enemy.

I can think of nothing more brave or more beautiful than turning your face to Jesus in the middle of the unimaginable.  It did not feel particularly strong or powerful that afternoon on the couch.  We didn't end our prayer with a victorious fist bump.  The sorrow was heavy and the weight of grief was overwhelming.  I drove home with as many tears as I had before.  I continued to beg Him for wisdom.

Even so, the defiant act of seeking Him amid this horror is stubborn hope in action.  Whether it feels like it or not, just saying His name is enough to allow Hope's root to grow deeper and further.  I have seen it with my own eyes through tears.

27 October 2014

When your yes threatens to overwhelm you

You said, "yes."  You didn't feel quite prepared or ready or even necessarily like the just-right-candidate.  But you were willing.  And you felt a tug.  A call to your heart to say "yes," for this time.

But as time wears on, you wonder a bit, "did I hear correctly?"  "Is this what I was supposed to say 'yes' to?"  "Should it be this hard?"

I can't say for sure, but oftentimes the answer is another 'yes.'  You did hear correctly.  This IS what you were supposed to say 'yes' to.  It should be this hard.

God doesn't call us to walk the easy road - we can find that road on our own.  He asks us to follow Him to hard places.  He chooses us to say 'yes' to the things we can't quite handle on our own.  We walk well when we walk relying on Him.  We do this best when we are in a hard place, doing a thing we feel quite unprepared for.  When we find ourselves here, and we turn to His face.  We see Him provide.  We see Him lead.  We see Him hone our gifts and talents in ways we didn't think possible.  We glimpse His glory.

This takes stubborn hope -- to say 'yes' and then answer the subsequent doubting questions with more 'yeses.'  He gives us this hope in His word and through His Spirit.  We just need to listen, so carefully, to the the Truth.

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" 2 Corinthians 9:8 NASB

26 October 2014

a baby girl + stubborn hope

I remember sitting at the computer.  Stunned.

My friend had just sent me a private message on FB, telling me she was pregnant.  That she had just found out that morning.

I didn't know how to reply.  I prayed.

She had lost two babies in as many years, at about the 20 week mark.  The most recent loss was fresh in my mind as it happened in a way that took days.  And we had prayed hard.  People all over the world, prayed.  But our prayers were answered in a way we didn't expect.

She didn't know how she felt.  And she was afraid to feel anything.

I prayed that she would feel OK with whatever she felt.  I prayed that if she felt excitement creep into her heart, that her mind wouldn't condemn her and chase it away.  I prayed that her hope would be stubborn.  That when she felt hopeful that she would lean in to trust the One that brought her here.  I prayed that she would take each day moment by moment.

And it almost felt like holding our breath for that 20 week mark.  Like all of heaven was leaning over to peek in on this momma that was letting hope grow in her heart as that baby grew in her body.

We kept praying on past that 21 week mark and 22 week mark.  Felt almost celebratory when the 30 week mark was reached.

At just the right time, that baby was born, a sweet baby girl.  She is healthy and loved and just nearly perfect.

Every new picture I see of this baby girl is a marker for my faith.  A reminder of those moments of sorrow mixed with excitement and hope and help-me-Jesus-prayers.  He is faithful.  I feel so privileged to have prayed with this momma for this baby.  We weren't promised that what we asked for would come about.  But we believed that if we asked Him with pure hearts He would not abandon us.  No matter what.  Stubborn hope draws near even when the answers are unknown.

"The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." Psalm 147:11 {NIV}

25 October 2014


"there's a crack in the door filled with light and its all that I need to get by" - Wasteland by NEEDTOBREATHE


 This line in this song, always inspires me. Seriously, just "the crack in the door filled with light" it is enough. Such a great lyrical image of stubborn hope!

22 October 2014

even when I'm judge-y

When I walked out of the DFCS office yesterday, my heart was carrying a heavy load.  As I neared the main entrance of the building, I tried to shake it off.  I saw an itty-bitty baby all squenched up in an umbrella stroller, nearly laying sideways on the seat.  I exclaimed a little too loudly and with too much delight, "awe! so tiny!"  The infant's mother glanced my way with an expression that stated quite plainly, "you have got to be kidding me lady." {I read glances better than I read lips.}

This is not an uncommon occurrence.  For one, small talk is not my thing.  For two, nobody in the government offices is looking for a friendly face while walking in and out.  Honestly, I think I am the only one that is attempting eye contact most days.  And this is only after being a regular in the building for over a year.

This is so far out of my comfort zone.

This encounter with this tiny-baby's-momma though, emphasized an ugly part of myself.  Its the judge-y part.  The part that notes, "I have never seen an infant in an umbrella stroller."  But then just after noting it, goes on to think, "I would never put an infant in an umbrella stroller."

And I hate that this part of me still lurks around. Because the truth is, its really hard to love your neighbor when you are judging her.  This is that kind of judgement we carry around with us and keep quiet.  It spills out in passing and we if we notice it, we brush it aside hastily.  It might be called bias, it might be called prejudice.  Whatever you call it, my tendency is to pretend like its not there.

But yesterday, my heavy heart collided with my judginess and the tears filled my eyes.  How long will I walk these halls before I just love?  How long will I look to make eye contact while chasing away my rush-to-judge-thoughts?

It isn't disapproval behind this prejudice, so much as ignorance.  I cannot relate, so I judge.  Every time we've been in need {or first-world-want} someone has met that need.  We had infant carriers and travel systems and boppies and bouncy chairs and high chairs and play mats and all the bells and whistles.  No one in our circle wanted us {or more accurately - our children} to be without.  What we couldn't afford, someone else gave to us. If it wasn't purchased new, it might have been thrifted or found from a friend whose child had outgrown it.

The idea of strapping an infant into an umbrella stroller is foreign to me because it was never an option for me. My grandmother or my mother or my mother-in-law or my aunt or my sister or my friend or my friend's mom or fill-in-the-blank -- any of these folks would have provided me with another option.  I am privileged to have a wide circle.   I didn't build this wide circle or carve it out or even seek it.  I inherited it. 

But I sense Him calling me more and more to walk the hallways where the inheritance isn't always the same.  The circles are small and the choices are fewer.  I know that is where He would be, for sure.  So that is where I want to be too.

I just wish it were easier.  And isn't that the kicker?  Even in following Him to harder places, I want it easy.  Gross.

But He keeps calling me, and He doesn't condemn me.  He quietly points it out through awkward encounters and He asks me not to brush it aside.  So I look up to Him and my hope grows because I know He is at work, even in my judge-y places.  He is so faithful to cultivate my heart to be more like His.  So I stubbornly follow, believing He will complete this work in me.  And one day the bias and prejudice will no longer clamor up to the surface and I will see with eyes that love His children like He does. 

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6 NASB

21 October 2014

even in the lack

Its been a month since I last went to the emergency clothing closet.  I would prefer it to be every-other-week but with a move and fall break it turned into a month. It happens.

When I walked in to the space today, I was greeted by stacks of backpacks, and they were b-wap - a company Brad had contacted about being a community partner.  Of course, at the time they were not accepting new partnerships.  So it was doubly fun to see that the bags made their way to the children in our local community via another source.  A local church - The Road UMC - must have donated them, because there was a tag attached to each bag.  I didn't count them all, but I think 50 is a low estimate!

 Its always fun to walk in and see some new donations waiting to be sorted.  There wasn't really anywhere to move the bags to, so I got started on doing an inventory of the clothing items.  The fun-feeling faded quickly as I went through the little girls' clothing rack.  Its the time of year where it really matters if an outfit is too summery. There wasn't much left in the smallest sizes, and there were quite a few empty hangers -- an indication that a lot of kiddos have come in to care. 

The toddler boys' rack was more promising.  Although it fell apart as I pushed the clothes aside to do my inventory.  It took a hot minute to clean that mess up. 

It is always a little overwhelming to do the clothing inventory. I begin with the smallest sizes and work my way through to the biggest.  After that, I move on to shoes.  As I write down what is "in stock," I can't help but start a mental tally of what we lack.  By the time I get to the school age clothing, it feels staggering.  There is such a great need. 

Earlier, I had spoken with one caseworker in the hallway while I was waiting for the room to be unlocked {they don't want those donations walking off!}  She said there are about 380 kids in care right now.  That number blows me away. 

It is a battle to keep myself hopeful as I make my notes on the inventory.  As I finish up with the bigger sizes, things get a bit messy.  Truthfully, we could have kids that wear adult sizes come in to care.  I sort of stop tracking after kids' XL because it gets complicated.  I just look it over so I have an idea in my head of what is there.  Under one rack are boxes and bags of "excess items."  I remember last spring tucking away some Christmas shirts and pj's - I didn't have time to dig them out this morning.  I feel it press in a bit, this sense of lack.  That not only do we need a lot of stuff, but that this space needs help too - and more than I can give it.   You can see that the place is a bit of a shambles.

Before I leave, I bag up a few items that shouldn't have been donated and label the bag "trash" before setting it out in the hallway. 

This one part, this standing between the donated trash and the precious kiddos, this exhilarates me.  And reminds me, it is no mistake that I am in that closet on some Tuesday mornings.  God will provide in one way or another, and likely in a way that surprises me. So I do the best with the time I have there, then I tell you the story.  He takes my time + my words and somehow provides for these beloved kiddos. 

I know He will do it again.  Even when I feel like I am lacking.  It is this stubborn hope that keeps drawing me back to that closet. 

So here is the list of current needs:

We also need diapers, especially size 3 and up.  And pull-ups in all sizes. Underwear (including bras) and socks are also always welcome. 

I added a lot of pictures this time, mostly because I am hoping that someone sees it and thinks, "oh my word that place is a wreck, I wonder if I could help her use that space better!"  The answer is "yes, please!"

20 October 2014

Ragamuffin + stubborn hope

Sometime in the last week or so, we watched "Ragamuffin" on netflix with Wilson.  It was a movie about Rich Mullins.  I liked the movie, Wilson and Brad, not so much.  There was something intriguing about it, this man that wrote these songs that I have sung so often.  He wrestled with the darkness and hard times throughout his life, but he kept coming back to Jesus.  I can't know for sure how accurate the movie was, but the transparency of it was compelling to me.

Of course, the next day we had to jam out to some, "Awesome God."  And of course, "Sing your Praise to the Lord," and "Hold Me, Jesus," and even some "Screen Door [on a Submarine]."  I ended up keeping Rich Mullins cued up on my phone for most of the week and listened to his songs off and on throughout the days.
One lyric from the song, "If I Stand" reminds me of stubborn hope more than any other.  I'll give it to you in context:

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That You will pull me through
And if I can't let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
If I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
But if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

"If I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home."  I think it stands out to me because I have wept as a man longing for home.  Have you?  When all is broken and lost and a mess and you just want to be home with Jesus?  I love a lyric that can capture a moment so succinctly.  You might know that about me already though.

One more thing, that is kind of fun. Even though Wilson hated the movie, he has been singing the songs around the house.  While I was making dinner tonight, he came in to tell me that he had downloaded 4 of Rich Mullins' songs.  Then while we were cleaning up dinner, he brought in his nexxus to play them for me.  When "Hold Me, Jesus" came on, he said, "I feel like I knew this song even before I knew it."  I told him it was probably because it was on my deployment playlist and I played it all-the-time while his daddy was gone for 15 months. 

19 October 2014

when it's all good

Every once in awhile, everything just feels right.  Or even better than what you imagined right could be.

Sometimes, in those moments, fear creeps in to steal away that settled feeling of contentment.  It plants a lie, "this won't last."  Or worse, "you don't deserve this."  It hisses it right into the middle of your happy moment and with a heavy-kind-of-false-authority that almost comes off as legit.  Have you felt this?  That feeling of dread sinking into the joyful occasions?

As you know we just moved.  I haven't told you too much about our new house, mostly because it feels like bragging.  It is seriously that nice.  And beyond what we imagined we would find in our price range.  I was almost giddy, although tired, the day the movers brought all our big stuff over.  I decided to take a bath in our big bathtub - by far the biggest we have ever had in a home.  I poured in some sweet pea body wash in hopes it would suds up enough for a bubble bath.

As I slipped into the water, for a split second I nearly heard a lie.  It's too good.  Something bad is going to happen.  The weight of it threatened to settle in.  But then I heard a True voice, the One that knows all the details.  And He whispered, "this is for you, enjoy it."

And the truth is, I don't deserve it, and it might not last -- but I won't let that keep me from savoring these good moments in this place for this time.  Sometimes, stubborn hope grows in the good places.

18 October 2014

silver stars will shine

The lyrics to this song have been floating through my brain all month long.  Truthfully, longer than that.  They have lodged themselves deeply into my thoughts.  And I don't mind one bit.  There is an especially lovely part that I keep on repeat.

Even through the night
Silver stars will shine
Hope of glory's light
That will wake us once again

Those silver stars?  That is stubborn hope, right there.  If you have 3 minutes and 24 seconds today, I know you won't waste them listening to this song.  Maybe you'll get lucky and the lyrics will get lodged into your brain too. 

You can read Ellie's words about this song by clicking here. 

17 October 2014

light in the dark

When the darkness is heavy and the Light is a faint glimmer

you squint to find hope in your midst.

You are so tired, your eyes worn out from tears

even so, you continue to blink hard against the darkness

searching, searching for the Light you've always believed to be with you

the darkness weighs in heavier still.

Breathing is hard and your hands feel weak

still you know the Light is there

the flicker is faint, but it is there.

Just a spark in the night is enough for today.

It reminds you that it is always enough to beat away the darkness.

16 October 2014

when the ground is dry + dusty

No matter what the circumstances say, we press on.

There are times when we just have no idea what to think.  Nothing seems clear and nobody seems to have any idea what to say to you about it.

We just recently walked through this when Brad transitioned out of the Army.  Your timeline is sketchy at best, planning seems out of the question.  Every one wants to know what you are doing next.  Then they stare at you with a mixture of sympathy and disdain when you tell them you haven't a clue.

Everything is changing, yet you have no idea what the new will look like.  You just know it will be so very different.  For starters, your husband will need a whole new wardrobe.  And this is the easy part.

Of course, these transitions happen in the civilian world too. I just relate more readily right now with that big jump from camo to business casual. The truth is, though, we all face these moments.

With our feet standing in the present we have no clue what the future is going to look like.  Nothing is certain.  Our circumstances are murky and our conversations about them tend to feel even more questionable than the circumstances themselves.  Utterly void of any evidence that things are going to evolve into something better, we do what we must.

We grasp for hope.  And, friends, this is a brave move.  There is nothing more enjoyable than hearing someone say, "I have no idea how this thing is gonna shake out, but I know God has got this."  To hear someone say it, to know they believe it, it is electrifying.  My own faith grows when I stand in the presence of a hope-grasper.

This is the fertile soil for stubborn hope.  When the ground is barren and there is no sign of rain clouds on the horizon and not a sprinkler system for miles.  We kick the dirt and watch the air around turn brown.  But we believe that if we stand here long enough.  If we wait, we will see the soil break forth with new life.  Not because of what is evident in our physical world, but because of what we believe to be true about our God.  He will make it happen.  He always does.  He always will.

If your toes are covered in dust and your throat is parched from breathing the stale and dusty air.  Reach bravely for hope, friend, because God is doing a work even now, under your feet.  He will bring it to pass.  I know it.  My faith grows from watching you stand firm.

"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  1 Corinthians 15:58 {NIV}

15 October 2014

when we feel far off

Sometimes we just need to be reminded.  We need a nudge that says, "I see you." 

This might be for you.  Or it might just be for me.

Absolutely nothing on this earth can separate you from the Love of God.  There is not a single solitary thing that can remove you from His presence.  It don't matter what's been done. {For some reason the poor grammar feels right there.} 

If you have had a string of days that just feel like they are sagging with defeat; I promise you, He is with you.  And He isn't judging you.

If you have stopped looking to Him for guidance, and instead have been searching all around you; He stands ready to guide you again.  Just ask, He will lead you well. 

If you believe you've gone too far, sinned too much, crossed the uncrossable line -- let me clear something up.  You can't go too far.  You can't sin too much.  There is no line you can cross that can't be crossed back over.

God in heaven sent His Son for you.  Not for your good choices or for how awesomely you follow rules.  He loves you.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  He sees it all.  He loves it all.  He always has.  He always will.

It don't matter what you done.  {The poor grammar works here too, I think.} Jesus is bigger than all of that.  Always.

And get this, in restoring you, He redeems the mess for His good purposes.  Always.  Without fail.

It just seems too good to be true sometimes.  Fairy-tale-like love.  Unmatchable on this earth.  Which is why we need to be reminded sometimes.  It is uncommon.  It is beyond our comprehension.  It fills us up and holds us close.  It is a million contradictions of what we understand with our human minds because it is heavenly.  Otherworldly.

And its for you.  For me.  For all of us.  For always.

Whatever you face.  Believe in this love.

No matter how many tears stain your pillow tonight, He sees each one.  He so tenderly sees your hurt. Believe in His love for you.  No matter what.

Unfurl your clenched fist and open your hand to His. 

Now read these words and let them settle in around the rough spots.  Read them all and hold them tight. 
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:31-39
This is our hope.

14 October 2014

crumbly marriages + stubborn hope

It is no secret that marriages crumble in our culture.  They come together and fall apart almost effortlessly.  Or at least that is what it looks like from the outside.  There are costs, though, to these fallen apart relationships.  And they add up for far longer than we like to admit.  My own parents divorced when I was young.  There are still costs associated with that loss.  I have seen God do a good work in both my parents' lives and we have happily reaped great rewards because of it. But it has not been an easy road.

So I arrive at this place with a lot of baggage, and a heaviness that accompanies my heart.  A shaky marriage is a scary place.  Recently, I was invited in to pray with a friend in the middle of her worst fears.  She found herself standing in crumbles and confused as to how it happened. 

There were no easy words to comfort her.

My first desire was to heap dirt on him. Lash out ugly words about his lack of wisdom and the absurdity of this path.  I know them both, but obviously know her better.  I was hurt for her, and wanted to spew forth all the uneasiness I felt in my gut.  But God said, "no."  Rather, He might have said, "don't you dare."

It is easier to place blame and point fingers and badmouth.  We naturally want to divide the roles into good guy and bad guy.  At least we can sort of feel better about ourselves for a minute in the middle of the mess.

But God impressed upon me strongly to stand in the middle and pray boldly for both of them. And that was a hard thing for me to do.  Rather than choose a side, I picked their family - healthy + whole.  I am begging God for restoration.   

At times, it feels awkward.  But hope is not about feelings.  And restored marriages need a hope that holds on for the ups and downs and in-betweens.  This hope holds tight through his feelings of inadequacy and her struggles with trusting again. It is a fragile ground to walk through, fraught with broken shards of memories and bitter pieces of thoughtless moments. 

We are still walking there.  I am doing it from afar and through prayer.  Prayer for both husband and wife to the God that is able to heal all wounds.  This will be a long path.  A hard path, one that might be easier to walk away from than continue on. 

There are still no easy words.

I hold tightly to my hope that our God can restore what has been lost.  I hold on tightly to this hope that He can rekindle a love that is able to forgive and grow stronger on this new ground. I hold on ever so tightly to this hope until my friend is ready to claim it as her hope too. 

Sometimes when our hope is stubborn, it isn't for us alone.  We get to step out bravely into the brokenness to reach out for the hope our loved one is desperate for.   We get to hold onto it while holding on to our loved ones until they are ready to grasp it themselves.  This is risky and beautiful and altogether holy.

"and He was seated on the throne and said, "behold, I am making all things new."  Also he said, "write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."  Revelation 21:5 {esv}

"I will restore to you the years the the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.  You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.  And my people shall never again be put to shame."  Joel 2:25-26 {esv}

13 October 2014

a hope proverb

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life."  Proverbs 13:12 {NASB}

Heartsick but holding on, believing that the reward will be worth it, no matter how long the wait.  This is stubborn hope.

12 October 2014

when grandpa's hope was stubborn

Thinking about Grandma yesterday, also got me thinking about Grandpa.  He is with her now, but he had to wait two years for his turn to come around.

I remember sitting with him at the funeral home, he just kept repeating, "God has been good to us.  We've had a good life."  He just kept repeating those two statements over and over and over.  I don't know what he must have been feeling knowing she was gone and he was left behind.  I witnessed him stubbornly holding on to hope, repeating what he knew to be True in the face of his saddest days.

Grandpa has always been a softie, he would get "weepy."  He never hid his emotions or tried to put on a tough-guy-facade.  But hearing him repeating those statements about God's goodness while he sat looking over at grandma's lifeless body as a slide show of their memories played in the background was the bravest thing I had ever seen.

11 October 2014

when hope is a seed someone plants

I was given a gift the last time I saw my Grandma Lewis on this earth.  It wasn't one you hold in your hand, so much as one you carry in your heart.  When she gave it to me, I didn't quite realize how valuable it would become to me.  

I remember it was an unseasonably cold day in Michigan in the early summer.  We drove Up North to see grandma and grandpa.  I am pretty sure that Rene and Jack and Colson were with us.  My grandparents were staying in an itty-bitty motel room, the kind you find along the main stretches in the small towns Up North.  Grandma looked quite awful.  I remember it took me a bit to get over it.  She had to have the oxygen tank on and it was kind of loud.  The room was small, the boys were antsy, and it was chilly out.  The circumstances were not ideal for a meaningful visit.  Brad took the boys outside to run around a bit.  

Grandma told me she liked my shirt.  I still have it.  And I smile every time I wear it and think about the fact that she liked it. I remember telling her how easy it was to pack because it never wrinkled.  She smiled, she was no stranger to packing for trips.  I am sure she and grandpa offered me some coffee and some candy and any other sweets they had piled up around their tiny room.  They were straying in the little motel room while the flooring was replaced in their house.  My aunt was there too, but I think she ran out for a bit while I chatted with grandpa and grandma and Rene.  

There was more quiet than conversation.  It has always been OK to just be with each other.  For reasons I can't quite explain, I am a terrible phone person and I was horrible about calling grandma and worse about writing.  So I did always want to go be with her when we were in Michigan, this visit was no exception.  I think she must have known.  I think she knew it was the last time we would sit in a room together, and she wanted to make sure I heard this Truth from her.  She told me I was doing a good job with the boys.  I think at first I just nodded.  But then she sounded a little stern and elaborated a little more about how well they listened and how much it mattered.  I can't remember all the words she said, but I can remember how I felt when I heard them.  Seen and loved and secure.

Looking back, I don't think she intended this to be a compliment so much as she meant it to be something for me to hold on to; to grab a hold of on the hard days when I wasn't so sure about it.  It was a gift that I have pulled out and mulled over in the years since.  She gave me a light to hold on during the dark days, and I think she gave it to me because she had her share of dark days too.  Rather than chat me up about how to parent and tell me what she wished she would have done differently, she just encouraged me with a few words about my boys.  

When we hugged, she whispered her love into my ear and I whispered mine back.  I was bawling when I buckled my seat belt and told Brad I would never see her again.  Of course, I meant I would never see her again on earth.  And I was right.  

I hold on to that gift she gave me though.  Those words that encouraged my heart on a day when she was so weary and weak.  She gave those words to me because she knew I had more life to live.  Its like she planted a little seed that day, like she knew at just the right time it would take root and sprout.  Combined with God's word and the Spirit in me, her words give me hope on hard days.  Stubborn hope that keeps bursting forth when my parenting seems questionable at best.  And although she had no idea I would have twins one day, God knew it and I believe He gave her those words to share with me for such a time as this.  :)

10 October 2014

when you feel small

We are in the middle of unpacking and transforming this house into a home.  I am celebrating small things like eating dinner at the table and loading the dishwasher.  Straightening up the pantry seems fun and arranging the household cleaners for easy access makes me feel accomplished.  This is not the norm, though.  The daily moments of momming generally do not fall in to the category of "exciting."  Doing laundry, making dinner, reading books, picking up blocks, wiping noses, scrubbing toilets -- these are the highlights of most days.  And then I repeat again the next day.  While exciting right now, I know the routine will once again lose its sparkle.  I'll face again the nagging question of if it is enough.

Tell me you've been there.  Have you sometimes felt like your kingdom work is just so small in this season?  Not that you don't appreciate the magnitude of shaping little souls and pointing them to Jesus.  Of course, you do or you wouldn't be spending your days wrapped up in it.  I do, too, I wouldn't trade this gig for another.  But some days it just feels small.  Hidden away.  Behind the scenes.  Monotonous.

Here's the thing though, we have a God in heaven that appreciates the small as well as the great.  Rather than tell you that you are doing the most important job on earth {we've all heard it before}, I'm telling you that the small tucked-away-hidden moments are seen.  Knowing that He sees me even in my most minuscule tasks gives me hope.  There are Scriptures that talk about ants!  Holy words recorded for all time about ants.  (see: Proverbs 6:6-8)  We are also told that God even knows the number of hairs on our heads. (see: Luke 12:7)  And I am guessing the number of hairs on my head changes moment by moment {and dramatically so every time I shower.}

If our great and glorious God has found lessons for us in ants and counts our hairs, is there any reason to doubt that He sees each moment? And not only that, but He has appointed it.  The boring tasks I do today are exactly what He has planned for me today.   Whether it is playing with play-doh or making chili or folding towels, He sees it.  He directed it.  He created me for it.  Even when it feels small, it is part of His plan.

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

Believing that the small matters and acknowledging that it is part of His plan for me, gives me hope.  The stubborn kind of hope that folds laundry with joy and unloads the dishwasher with gratitude.  

08 October 2014

when progress is slow

As you know, we are moving.  Tomorrow the movers will come and carry all of our heavy stuff.  Movers are hourly though, so we tried to pack as much as we could ourselves.  Our new house is just minutes from this house, so we were able to take small loads and unpack as we went.  This helped a lot.

But then, tonight, it just felt like too much. Like we were not making any progress.  {Untrue.}  Like we would never get it done. {Also untrue.}

I got cranky.  I snapped at Brad and huffed a bit to myself.  I rolled my eyes about writing about stubborn hope.  And then it hit me.  Of course, this packing up a house is a job, but such a small blip in the scheme of things.  Even in my crankiest and huffiest moments, I know its temporary.  But I decided to park on it a minute.  I kept wrapping up our dainty glasses with loads of paper and wondered about why sometimes things suddenly feel like too much, like I am getting nowhere and progress is so slow.

Sometimes it can happen at the commissary when every other item on my list seems to be gone and I spiral into thinking I will never be able to make dinner.  Or when naptime turns into a battle of the wills and I feel like I will never have a quiet moment.  It has happened when I am racing to get to the school on time for lunch with Walker and I feel like I am always late, will always be running behind.

These little lies tuck in and we feel it.  We feel like we are making no progress.  And its not about packing or groceries or naptime or punctuality.  We remember our old selves and we catch a glimpse of that past in our present.  And we temporarily flail about.  Accusing ourselves with the You'll-Never-Measure-Ups and the You'll-Always-Fall-Shorts, we lash out and turn ugly.  We hand out cranky words and huffy sighs.  As the words roll out, we add it to the mental list of our inadequacies.

But eventually, the Truth finds us.  The Truth reminds us that those lies are a trick and the real truth is that our old selves are dead.  Our new life is not about how well we perform, but how well we are loved.  It isn't about getting it all done, but believing that One has done it all.  It isn't about our progress so much as it is about the process.

When the cranky words spill out and you're left to wrap the fragile pieces up, what matters is your next choice.  Do you believe that there is no longer any condemnation for those that are in Christ or do you condemn yourself for your short temper?  Do you reach for the hope that says you are enough--even when you've messed up?  Grasp stubbornly for that Hope, hold it tightly when the lies start murmuring about your faults.

As I finished wrapping our breakables, I sensed a renewal of Hope.  Brad came in and I apologized for the cranky words.

07 October 2014

when the things we imagined don't come true

I wrote about our upcoming move yesterday.  I titled the post "when things don't turn out the way you planned."  But really it was all about our move.  And not a lot about "when things don't turn out the way you planned."  So I want to spend a little more time there -- in that space where you imagined things would go one way, but then they didn't.

Have you been there?  Are you remembering some of those moments right now?  The moment when you realize the things you imagined weren't coming true. I have those moments too.  Some loom large and some seem tiny.  But I don't think its fair to classify the moments, to somehow disqualify some as too small.  Hurt is hurt.  No matter what you imagined, or what the moment looked like when you knew it wasn't coming true, Jesus sees it.

I don't remember who shared with me this idea of not discounting others' experiences, but it set me free in so many ways.  Not only did it make me a more compassionate friend, it also allowed me to see my own hurts and disappointments as legitimate.  Rather than try to dismiss them with a "this is nothing compared to..." I have freedom to explore those hurts.  I want to always remember to give that freedom to others too.

I spend a little time with them. I don't wallow, I don't gather a group and throw a pity party.  But I explore the sorrow a little.  I cry if I need to.  I turn it over in my mind and wonder if I somehow let my imagination run wild- was it somehow my fault that this thing did not turn out the way I wanted?  I ask a lot of questions, of myself and Jesus, and when Brad is near I talk it through with him sometimes too.  Holding the hurt, remembering what I felt in the moment, it allows me to reach out for His hand to hold.

When we lost our little itty bitty baby two summers ago, I felt a hurt more deeper than I expected.  And it hung around longer than I guessed it would.  I explored it and talked about it and asked God so much about it. I never found a place of understanding.  I couldn't say that I see why things happened the way they did.  I don't blame myself or our circumstances or our choices.  It was simply a loss that drove me deeply to my Savior's arms.  Running to them, begging for Him to hold me close, and wishing He would just come back and get us already.  I flipped through Scriptures desperately looking for answers, and kept finding Love.  He kept drawing my heart to this verse in Hebrews.  It has become so dear to me.

"This hope we have as an anchor to the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil."  Hebrews 6:19 NASB

So often, in those places of hurt if we are willing to be OK in the discomfort of sorrow, we find Hope.  I don't know how it happens.  I just know it does.  If I seek Him when I feel alone, I find Him.  If I look for Him in heaviness, He lifts my burden.  If I call to Him through my tears, He saves those tears in His bottle.  He not only finds me in this place, but He offers His hand to hold through it.  And He reminds me of the promises that are true.  Even when the things I imagined don't come true.  He is True.  He is Faithful.  Always.

06 October 2014

when things don't turn out the way you planned

I don't even know where to begin this post.  I guess, I'll just start at the beginning.  When Brad was hired, our housing was included in the compensation package.  The house we live in is actually owned by the city but leased by the non-profit that Brad works for.  Our first walk-through was in May.  It was dark and more than a little depressing.  There was broken furniture and random bits-and-pieces of kids' toys in each room. Inexplicably there were no toilet paper holders or towel bars in any of the 4 bathrooms. There were brief discussions of tearing out the kitchen and adding an addition to really allow for a better flow in the space.  After a few contractors walked through and began pricing things, an addition seemed too costly and the current kitchen would be just fine with some paint.  I spent hours hovering over paint colors online and picking up stacks of paint chips at Sherwin Williams.  Our home was dubbed "The Cottage" by the board of directors so I decided to go with cottage-y paint colors. I came over at different times of day to try and decide how the colors would look in each room.

{Did I mention this was the first time we have ever picked paint colors?  Ever.}

The carpets were torn out, the old furniture was tossed, and the broken toys were swept away.  I felt certain the new paint colors brightened the place up.

The boys and I spent 2 weeks in July while Brad came back to keep things on track for our move-in.  He found flooring that matched the current laminate.  He replaced every door knob in the house and added switch plates where there were none. He removed mirrors in the bathrooms to make room for new counters. He picked out cabinet pulls for the kitchen and the bathrooms and lighting for a couple rooms too.  He power washed the spider webs from the stone facade. He hustled right along with the hired-workers to make sure this place would be ready for us.

We packed up our belongings and settled them in here at the end of July.  The boys started school just two weeks later.  This place was becoming home.  The Cottage still had a lot of work to be done. It seemed like every day Brad had an appointment with one contractor or another. An unusable sliding door was removed and the wall was framed in.  The plumbing in the kitchen needed some adjustments and there was some trouble in the back bathroom too.  The dryer vent was actually a little too small and would likely need to be replaced.  There were a couple of electrical boxes that needed work. We put off replacing the duct work in the attic until cooler weather came.  The exterior was painted in August.   Gutters were installed shortly thereafter.

Brad decided to call in a 2nd opinion about that back bathroom plumbing issue.  The 1st plumber thought we'd have to tear up the floor in Lincoln + Franklin's bedroom to get to some roots in the line. We didn't like the idea of having to break up the concrete slab, so Brad decided to hire a plumber with a camera to send down the line.  It seemed like the guy was here forever, Brad kept calling me and asking me to flush toilets while they watched on the little camera screen outside.

The findings were not good.  The foundation was cracked and had fallen in multiple places along the line.  He suggested the main sewer line be replaced.  He said it would be hard to give an estimate because most of the cost would be labor.  The slab would need to be broken up in every single bedroom in the house.  The plumber's best time frame for the job was "weeks."  When the plumber left, he suggested we not use the back two bathrooms -- which happen to be the master bathroom and the bathroom the three littlest dudes use daily.

So we had a couple choices, move our family somewhere temporarily and have the organization spend a lot more money on The Cottage.  All the while hoping that somehow no "new problems" would be discovered.  Or amend Brad's contract to allow for a housing stipend and we would find a new house.

Y'all, I cried when he told me.  I can't even explain all the reasons why.  I felt like we had put so much effort in to making this place our home, I just couldn't bear to leave it.  Not only that, but my husband had just worked the hardest summer of his life getting us moved and settled and the thought of having to see him do all that again was just too much.

If I got to vote, I would've voted to try and stay here for as long as possible, maybe make it until next summer even.  {I know nothing about sewer lines.}  Then have the work done while we stayed in a beach house.  {A girl can dream!}

Within a day or so, I was pretty settled.  I told Brad that I would be OK with whatever decision the board came up with.  I prayed that God would give them all wisdom.  I knew for sure He would take care of our family.

 A resolution was passed that Brad would be given a housing stipend and we would find a new home.

We began searching.  We knew we didn't want the boys to have to switch schools again.  This narrowed our search down to Walker's schools' zone.  Our choices were limited.  Especially in the 4 bedroom range.  We walked through one mid-century-modern home that hasn't been updated since the mid-70's.  Part of me was in love with it -- I think the part that now knew what a difference fresh paint can make.  Part of Lincoln started wheezing - I think the asthmatic part of him.  The place smelled of pet urine and cigarette smoke.  The rent exceeded what the board had approved for the housing stipend too.  It was just two blocks from Walker's school though.  The only other four bedroom for rent in Walker's schools' zone never returned our phone calls or emails.  I think I emailed them at least 4 times. The rent there also exceeded the housing allotment.

I started emailing realtors about houses they had listed to see if the owners might be interested in renting.  I am sure realtors love getting messages like that.  Surprisingly, none were interested in renting to us.  {And they didn't even know we have an 80 lb dog!}

Y'all.  The odds were good that God was going to have to come through in a big way because there was absolutely nothing we could do.  Knowing that the sewer could back-up at anytime, Brad really wanted to move sooner rather than later.  The scene was set for God to dazzle us. My hope was more stubborn than ever.  I'd recheck Zillow and Realtor.com everyday and smugly shrug my shoulders when nothing new showed up in our search circle.  God would come through.  One way or another - and likely not the way I expected.

We wrote out a list of our needs as well as a few "bonus" items.  We forgot to put things like "dishwasher" but did include "garage." We asked some folks to pray with us specifically. We kept our list in our family Bible and prayed over it with our morning proverb.  One day, I decided to drive through a nearby neighborhood to see if there were any new signs.  I remembered that there was a "for sale by owner" house and it looked empty.  I decided to call and see if they might be interested in renting.

I was surprised they called me back.  I clearly said in my message that I was wondering if they would consider renting it to us. Of course, they said "yes."  They even said "yes" again after I admitted we have a large dog.  And four boys.

The rent is $205 less than the housing stipend.  And Walker can stay at his school.  And there is a garage.  And a fireplace.  And a bonus room off of the master bedroom for our office + my sewing stuff. And every bit of it reminds me that God knows the details.

I absolutely do not want to move again this week. But everything in me trusts the God that goes before us. I know it would be foolish to dig my heels in and refuse.  There are still some unknowns and I left a big portion of the story untold.

My take-away in all of this, is that God goes before us.  He is with us.  I cried about moving.  I've looked longingly at our paint colors more times than I can count, since finding out we'd be leaving them behind.  Even so, God did not condemn.  He lovingly redirected me to trust Him.  He reminded me that every word in the Bible is true.  The rental listings with few options assured me that God was going to make this happen, not us.  And He did.

So we are packing up our belongings and preparing to make another house our home.  Trusting along the way that our good God goes before us and with us.

05 October 2014

an anthem of hope

I just heard this song for the first time this week.  Love the lyrics and the image of the heart-open-hopeful that keep on charging ahead.  

 "To The Dreamers"

We're beat up but won’t be broken
Lonesome but always searching
Homesick but nobody’s heading home soon
Keep on, keeping on, keeping on

Long days and too many short nights
And wrong ways that almost felt right
Lovesick but nobody’s holding you
Keep on, keeping on, keeping on
So sing along, sing along, sing along… Yeah

To the dreamers
Wide-eyed believers
Hanging onto hope by a thread
To the soulful
Heart open hopeful
Keep on charging ahead
‘Cause, when you feel it, once you see it, and you breathe it
It’s unforgettable
When you know it, once you know it, and you hold it
It’s unforgettable

God knows you question your courage
And some days I can’t walk for stumbling
If we could only see what we’re becoming

Keep on, keeping on, keeping on
So sing along, sing along, sing along… Yeah


When you feel it, once you see it
It’s unforgettable
When you know it, once you know it, and you hold it
It’s unforgettable

I was wondering and I was wandering
So down and out, I was lost not found
History said, oh someone said, that you could never exist
But then a whisper, the start of a kiss
Came to me in all of a sudden like a dream, a fantasy
That day didn’t feel quite real
You took a half dead soul and You made me believe
I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe

To the dreamers
Wide-eyed believers
Hanging onto hope by a thread
To the soulful
Heart open hopeful
Keep on charging ahead

04 October 2014

when hope feels silly

Sometimes hope feels silly.  And shame whispers "are you serious?"  Have you ever felt ashamed to hope?  Like you were embarrassed to confess your hopes out loud?  I have.

Waiting for "the call" during the adoption process was such a great opportunity to cultivate stubborn hope.  Although, if you had mentioned it at the time, I may have punched you.  In the face.  There were a couple instances when we requested that our file be sent to a caseworker about a child on a photo-listing.  I would begin to imagine that little love in our home and pray with her/him in mind.  And we would never hear a word back from the other caseworkers.  At one point, our caseworker put me in touch with foster parents of a sibling set - a boy and a girl.  The boy had some medical issues so the foster parent talked me through it all.  I was able to ask all kinds of questions and was so eager to learn more about these two kiddos.  A couple weeks went by and I asked our caseworker if she knew how things were progressing.  Her reply was frank, "oh their case was moved to another county."  And that was the end of it.

I felt mad.  And cheated.  I thought these two would join our family by Christmas.  I told God about it.  I explained how hard it was to have my hopes up only to have it all taken away without so much as an update.  I thought that maybe I had let my hopes get too high, that perhaps I should protect myself from more hurt down the road.  I felt a bit like building a little wall around my heart, just to be safe.

But the Spirit whispered, "Keep hoping.  Keep believing that I am doing a new thing.  Keep trusting that I will build your family in the just-right-way at the just-right-time.  Never be ashamed to hope.  Do not trust what you see in front of you.  Trust me."

And the Word confirmed it another way, "We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:2-5 HCSB

When circumstances seem to lead to a dead end, when waiting feels like it has morphed into The NeverEnding Story, when another rejection comes your way -- God says hold on.  We stand in grace, no matter what.  We have a hope that will not disappoint us because of the love of God in us.  We never have to be ashamed to hope.  Whether it makes sense or not.  Keep hoping, stubbornly.


03 October 2014

parenting with stubborn hope

Tuesday afternoon, I got a voice mail message from Walker's principal informing us that the school had been on lock-down for about 30 minutes.  About an hour later, I read an article about a home invasion that left police in pursuit of 4 armed suspects.  A shot had been fired.  Two blocks from the school.  Of course, I was reading all of this after the fact.  2 suspects had been arrested, one swam across the Chattahoochee River (naturally), and the other was at-large.  But not near the school, I guess.  I kinda forgot about it until Walker got off the bus.

I asked him to sit by me on the patio steps out front.  I started with, "how was your day?"  But interrupted him when he began to say, "good" and blurted out "was there a lock-down?"

So he told me about it.  They were at lunch when it happened.  They had to climb under the tables.  At this point I felt myself get that familiar here-come-the-waterworks sensation.  At the same moment, I asked if he was scared.  I recognized the look in his eyes and heard the crack in his voice.  He was about to cry himself.  Thankfully, that small voice in my brain whispered, "be strong and let him tell his story, don't you dare cry."  And I didn't.  And he told his story.  As he told it, I noticed his long lashes, and his little freckles.  I remembered that he is still so little even though he is getting bigger.

For the briefest of moments, I thought about the parents that never got to hear about a safe lock-down.  Instead they met with police officers or investigators or whoever it is that shares the worst news a parent can imagine.  I remembered those kiddos from Newtown that would be Walker's age if there hadn't been a gunmen in their halls.

As we discussed the details of being on red, then yellow, then red again;  I asked Walker if he recited Psalm 23.  He shook his head and told me he wasn't "that scared."  We memorized Psalm 23 after Newtown.

As the night gets quiet, I find myself lingering on the paradox.  The fear in my heart when I hear that he had to crawl under his lunch table.  The relief that I get to hear him tell me that story.  And this, all in a school where there wasn't actually an event.  Just something in the neighborhood.  And I am reminded how desperate we are to protect our children.  How easily I can imagine hiding them away safe from all harm. Knowing deep down, I could never do that.

So much of parenting relies on this stubborn hope.  We believe that God can make good from our efforts, even on our worst days.  We trust that He will give us wisdom to parent well, when we don't have any answers. We hold on tightly to the confidence that He loves our children even more than we do, believing He goes with them.  We believe He holds them close even under cafeteria tables, especially under cafeteria tables.  We parent with hope, every single day.

02 October 2014

where stubborn hope takes root

To understand stubborn hope best, we must start with a firm grasp of what hope is.  And sometimes its easiest to start with what it is not.

Hope is not wishful thinking.  It isn't a Christmas list or genie in a bottle.

Hope is not optimism.  It isn't finding the silver lining in the storm clouds or always declaring the glass half-full.

Hope is deeper than that and simpler somehow too.  Hope is a gift we receive when we become believers in Jesus Christ.  It comes through His word and through the Spirit within us.  It is mysterious around the edges yet almost tangible in the middle.

I am no theologian, and I have only taken one theology class 19 years ago.   I don't ever want to mislead someone in Scripture or give the impression that I fully understand all the mysteries within.  I do not.  I feel most comfortable when I declare my ignorance and rest under the umbrella of "His ways are not my ways."  However, I must share a bit about where my beliefs about hope come from. 

This passage in Romans 8 paints a picture of the hope I am talking about.
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  v23-28 [NIV]

This hope is not in what is seen, but in what we have been promised.  The Spirit finds us in our hopeless state and intercedes on our behalf.  We don't just hope for good to happen, we believe with faith that every word of the Bible is true.  So when our days are messy and our hearts are heavy and our hands feel empty, the Spirit himself will intercede for us and remind us of the Truth that we believe.  The Truth that is true whether we can see it today or not.  This is where stubborn hope takes root.