36 Hope Expands: Wearing a Path Thin

36hopeexpands

I came across this on accident last week, when researching an article.

Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.”

We are made to believe that self-deprecation is a virtue, called humility. But humility is in reality the opposite. It is the grateful recognition that we are precious in God’s eyes and that all we are is a pure give. 

We must grow beyond self-rejection 

(From Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey)

diving board

How would it feel to do this? Grow beyond…

I imagine it feeling like being completely naked.

Like having no idea who I was anymore.

Probably everyone hating my guts.

 

I have to do it, if I want my hope to expand. If I want to be an instrument to expand hope in others, I have to let it go.

I am reading Nicolas Kristof and Sherly WuDunn’s new book, A Path AppearsA film of the same title, will premier on PBS January 26, 2015.

“HOPE IS LIKE A PATH IN THE COUNTRYSIDE. ORIGINALLY, THERE IS NOTHING – BUT AS PEOPLE WALK THIS WAY AGAIN AND AGAIN, A PATH APPEARS.”

—LU XUN, CHINESE ESSAYIST, 1921

 

The enemy wants us to waste our time in self-rejection, worrying in circles, being ineffective.

I want to walk hope, away from my self-depreciation and worry and into life.

I want a path to appear for people because I kept walking it.

What path are you going to wear thin? How can you grow beyond self rejection? 

 

 

The Butterfly and the Violin

Butterfly

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron 

Kristy Cambron’s debut novel is stunning.

I have been captivated by the cover since I first saw it, especially because it is set during World War II.

The stories of contemporary Manhattan art dealer Sera James and World War II era Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron intertwine in this novel. Sera uncovers a painting of a mysterious young woman (Adele) and seeks to uncover her story.

Adele’s story, while heartbreaking, stands out among the fiction I have read. A talented violinist and daughter of a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele acts on what she knows to be right and true, to help smuggle a Jewish family out of Vienna. That act leads to her imprisonment in the dark camp of Auschwitz, as a member of the Women’s Orchestra. I had no idea their was truly an orchestra to entertain Nazi leadership, and to escort prisoners to their death.

 

I love the depth of faith in the story, Adele is a life changed by acting on her belief of justice. Here we are challenged to wonder if we would have such unwavering courage. Those in the concentration camps, in the midst of horror, still sought to create by writing, painting, and playing instruments. I find encouragement that in the face of adversity, our God-given gifts cannot be suppressed.

God was there, in the hearts of the lost, in the lives of the men and women and children who had lived for a new beginning.

 

And just like that there is hope, even when the world goes dark, there is always light.

 

Where have you seen hope in what seemed hopeless? What gifts has God given you to use?  

Comment and win a copy of this book! 

(Opinions are my own, I was given a copy of the book to review and giveaway through Litfuse Publicity.)

I can’t. You can’t. We can’t.

aaa

I am fighting discouragement right now, as I know many others probably are too.

I spend five hours a week writing and making graphics for social media about immigration reform and the people it effects. In the last four months I have read half a dozen books, countless articles, and various positions. All the reading I do in my own time, because I want to understand. Then I draw out and create and share, and hope. I really hope… for change and for others to be moved.

 

In every message we share, words we speak and actions we take some are received and some are not. There is a lot competing for our attention. I understand that so much. There is a lot of disagreement, a lot of untruth, a lot of history.

Sometimes it feels like making a difference is too hard.

 

That verse:

Acts 17:26 He determined the times set for them and the exact places they should live.

It was the little breath that I needed to keep going this weekend.

If God sets people before us… how can we turn away, just because its hard?

 

To every story that we hear, every person we know there is so much more…

not just immigration reform, everything…. and everybody; the single Mom in the grocery story line with her Bridge card, the same-sex couple trying to find a church home, the newly released felon with no place to go. It’s hard.

I know its hard. I’m writing this slung over the couch in the dark of summer. I just ate six cookies. Sometimes I want to give up.

I can’t.

You can’t.

We can’t.

aaa1

I think it is what God created us for. I pray we can rise up and live into that calling.

How can I encourage you this week to keep going? What are you struggling to stick with? I know you all do beautiful things from advocating for human trafficking to changing diapers. 

 

 

the broken that extends

already

I love the Olympics because of:

Story. 

There is facet of each athletes story that touches deeply. You resonate with dreams. Dreams that were not deferred, but fought for.

Hope. 

All the teams from so many countries coming together. I always see a fragment of Heaven. People colored, people from places far, people who reflect a great God.

Grace. 

Sometimes the dreams crash and burn. There is broken and tears. There is standing back up again.

 

Gray deepens. 

But in the middle of that gray… the broken extends and extends.

broken

written by Tolkien from the Fellowship of the Ring:

Do not trouble your hearts overmuch with thought of the road tonight. Maybe the paths that you each shall tread are already laid before your feet, though you do not see them.

 

To be gracious in the not knowing.

To be gracious in the broken that extends and extends…

That is faith in the path he laid.

That is trust that our heart not be troubled overmuch.

Story. Hope. Grace.

 

What is your broken that extends?

What is your favorite aspect of the Olympics? Your favorite events? 

hope redefined

dear

Samantha Moore’s past included years in the foster care system. Now at age twenty-three, she is in transitional housing at Grace House. She loves writing, and English literature. An anonymous benefactor, Mr. Knightley offers to put Sam through the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. The only catch is that she must write letters, sharing her progress and experiences.

The novel follows Sam’s journey of becoming the person she was meant to be, despite her past. I loved to see her growth as a young woman, a writer, and a friend as the book progressed. The mystery of who Mr. Knightley actually is keeps the pages turning. I don’t want to give anything away, but this is a love story.

 

Sam comes to know the Muir family who dropped, ‘hope and hints like bread crumbs.’ regarding faith. They also accepted Sam with complete love despite her past. I love that encouragement to be those people, offering hope and opening up their home.

I love this theme from the reading group guide. All the characters in the book find change. Do you believe that thought, that we are always changing, defining, and redefining ourselves? That potential for finding greater depth offers hope to our days that sometimes feel steeped in ordinary.

 

This book is a debut novel by Katherine Reay. She blogs regularly here. 

This link includes ideas for foster care and group support resources.

Leave a comment and win a copy!

When have you found growth through sharing your story?

proximity

Miss BrendaBrenda Spahn was a successful business woman. She held wealth. Her family would soon find retirement on Gulf Shores. Then Brenda found herself under investigation for tax fraud, a crime she did not commit. In the midst of her troubles, she prayed.

When the storm passed, she found herself at The Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama to volunteer. Her prayer turned into a vision.

faith

Lovelady was Brenda’s maiden name. She prayed when her father died, to do something worthwhile and someday name whatever that might be after him. Overcoming enormous obstacles, Brenda welcomed seven newly released ex-cons into her home. This is the story of their first year together, including epic trips to Walmart. 

You will fall in love with Shay, Tiffany, Quincey, Terry, Annette, Melissa, Suzanne, Parthina, and Miss Brenda and their comedy of errors and great love. I love that the book includes thoughts from the lovelady’s themselves.

 

So beautiful is Miss Brenda’s ability to see these women; not their past, but who are they are deep inside and all their potential.

every

When all seems well, the neighborhood protests that ex-cons are living in proximity to them, insurmountable odds, even a bullet through the window. People sometimes fear proximity. They fear what is different.

And then there is God who is bigger…

A 280,000 square foot, four story old and abandoned hospital.

 

In 2005, the Lovelady Center opened, and is now recognized as the largest faith-based transitional center for women and children in the country.

Some of the women now work at the center. Including Shay…

Shay now greets our new residents- women just as scared and angry as she was- and tells them her story. And her words reassure them that with hope, anything is possible.

Comment below and win a copy of the book.

When you hear God do you listen, even when the odds seem impossible? 

life and hope

Hope

Today I am able to share some special images and highlights of the yearly report of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, through my work with the Global Team of 200. 

Gates letter 23 Myths that Block Progress for the Poor:

Myth 1~ Poor Countries are Doomed to Stay Poor 

The improvements that have been made in education, health, and nutrition are laying a foundation for progress to build. The biggest barriers to overcome yet are politics, geography, war, and measures of inequality.

The encouragement: Change is occurring and will continue to bring progress.

gates letter 1

Myth 2~ Foreign Aid is a Waste 

In reality, about 1% of the United States budget goes to foreign aid, and political leaders continually seek to lower that percentage even further. Aid improves countries economics and health, allowing poor countries gain self-sufficiency.

Encouragement: It means something, every penny.

Gates Letter 3Myth 3~ Saving Lives Leads to Overpopulation

We make the future sustainable when we invest in the poor, not when we insist on their suffering.

Melinda Gates

A better future is build when we invest in people’s health, economic growth, and education. I like this statement, worrying over this is a failure of imagination.

Encouragement: Life.

Gates Letter 4

Read the entire report here.

Most Christian relief organizations such as World Vision, World Renew, Compassion International have joined hundreds of other non-profits including the Gates Foundation for the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

Our work to make a difference does make a difference.

Our work offers hope.

Our work brings life to places that did not previously experience an abundance.

This report encourages us to keep moving forward, offering hope and life through our actions and our partnerships.

daylight is coming

exodusJanuary is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Read an article about What it Takes to Rescue a Sex Slave by Matt and Laura Parker, founders of The Exodus Road.

relevantExodus Road has also welcomed the music group Remedy Drive as an official Exodus Road artist.

Hold on – daylight is coming
Daylight is coming to break the dawn
Daylight is coming

 

We can remember those that need daylight to break the dawn.

There are people everywhere that need hope.

 

And everything changes in us.

hope. hope. hope.

HOPE

The sun persists in rising, so I make myself stand- 

Suzanne Collins Hunger Games Trilogy

I watched Catching Fire over Christmas break. My favorite part of the films is Katniss Everdeen, her face. She stands tall and does what she needs to do, even when it is the very last thing she longs to do. Even in her imperfection, she becomes a beacon of hope.

Primrose Everdeen: Since the last games, something is different. I can see it. 

Katniss Everdeen: What can you see? 

Primrose Everdeen: Hope. 

 

I had a wonderful Christmas break, but my heart missed About Proximity.

The break proved a needful rest for my mind. I learned a lesson that I have not been very great at taking seriously. We are often too hard on ourselves.

The expectations that we map out for ourselves can be very unkind and quite impossible.

I did that to myself. I often do that to myself. Then, I find myself laying in a puddle of dashed dreams, disappointment in all I am not, and exhaustion.

This new year, I am releasing impossible expectations.

I am not a woman who can do it all. 

But, I am a woman who can do something, even small. I can be an imperfect Mom, wife, daughter, friend, paraprofessional, writer, woman of God, servant. These things I do will not always be perfection, but they will be good and enough.

That promise offers my heart great hope.

 

Something is different this time…

I am trusting God that my imperfection will be enough. I am praying God will honor my desire to do my best, love completely, and ask for help.

I want to offer hope. I want to offer hope with you this new year.

May About Proximity offer you encouragement as you seek to place yourself in the proximity of renewal. I was going to type all the things I have planned for 2014, but then I decided not to. I am laying this year in God’s hands. Those expectations I press on myself, I am laying them down.

I am so very, very thankful for you.

Proximity would not be the same without you. Thank you.

 

Tell me about your Christmas season. What are you looking forward to in this new year? What unrealistic expectation will you be laying down?

from night to night

sign

We stepped out of the car to look at Lake Michigan. This weekend the air whipped cold, sand blew, and the water not yet frozen over roared toward the shore.

They wanted to make it to edge where sand meets the waves. We watched from the warm car. They struggled against the wind, through varied rows of snow fence, across icy snow patches.

There they stood two dots in the distance. The waves appeared to nearly swallow them.

On the return, they burst into the car triumphant. You didn’t think we could make it! We ran all the way to the water’s edge! It was hard! I was slippery. We’re freezing, but we made it. 

 

Matthew 14:31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 

I am so, so guilty of doubt.

My mind is like that sign, hopelessly jumbled in worry.

He reaches out his hand.

night

The days can feel like night, when doubt and expectation suffocate joy.

My favorite is the little white lights of Christmas, popping out of the darkness.

Those little white lights are hope.

It is his hand reaching.

How do you see hope when you are traveling from night to night?