Hope

Love Mercy

 

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We have to be continually jumping off cliffs and developing wings on the way down. Kurt Vonnegut

You can never leave footprints that last if you are always walking on tiptoe. Leymah Gbowee, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

I am thinking about these quotes this week.

It has been a long one- I’ll leave it at that for now. The world does not need my thoughts- it needs my actions.

 

For now some encouragement in the form of fiction. I have these four beauties to give away this week. Fall and winter is a perfect time to curl up with some great reading.

The Light Between the Oceans, Brooklyn, Little Bee, and All the Light We Cannot See.

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Here are some exciting book releases coming up that I also have to give away… 

Amelia Rhode’s Praying A to Z: A Practical Guide to Praying for your Community

Amy Sullivan’s Gutsy Girl Book Three: Fanny Crosby dropping December 1!

and newly released…

Leslie Manlapig’s STEAM Kids Christmas

Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way

Lysa TerKeurst’s Uninvited 

 

 

To be entered to win just leave a comment…

What are you reading? What is giving you encouragement right now? 

 

 

Small Things

#SmallThings

Sometimes when I run out of things to read, I reach for Where There is Love, There is God. It is a selection of Mother Teresa’s writings and talks to the Sisters of Charity. Her words never grow old or less impactful to me.

This past week was full of challenge. Leading me to a space where doubt and worry takes up residence. It culminated with a trip to Grand Rapids Art Prize Saturday. When we parked at my brothers house, in the gutter by the street, Ellie and Josiah stepped in dog poop. It somehow ended up on four shoes, two hands, clothing, and the interior of our car. I sat in the road scrubbing Ellie’s shoes with wet wipes and laughing until I cried. We’ve all been there, and what can you do but laugh? (The above piece is by Kelsey Montague and features interactive butterfly wings on the opposite side.)

 

I was reminded of some of my favorite words for this book.

#smallthings

dog poop.

cancer.

really wanting to give up, but not.

discouragement that takes root deep inside you.

tears after basketball.

all the mundane.

You _______________ fill in the blank.

 

She also said,

we fear the future because we are wasting today. 

 

#whatliftsyou was the hashtag of that piece of art.

May what lifts you today be that you are not wasting one drop of anything.

Offer it all to God that it may become infinite. Beautiful. Small.

 

 

 

36 Hope Expands: Wearing a Path Thin

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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)

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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? 

 

 

from night to night

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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.

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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?

this day a small hope

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Five minutes before we had to leave for school yesterday, I looked out the window.

There was white stuff and not just a little bit. Not unheard of, but definitely not the norm for October in Michigan. I frantically went to the basement and emptied the winter tubs onto the cement floor. No boots for either kid. Check, check, double check.

I frantically ran upstairs and announced they would have to wear their sneakers. I gave them a winter jacket, hat and gloves and shoved them into the car.

When I got to the parking lot I realized that I should at least have put snow pants into their backpacks. They could have also wore their rain boots. I guess I lost my mind somewhere between eat your breakfast bar and there’s an inch of snow on the ground. All the way to school Josiah was upset because Halloween would surely be cancelled.

 

I work at the school, so at lunch recess I got to see Josiah tiptoeing into the masses to play in the snow, and come back inside with wet jeans and soaking shoes. The rest of the afternoon, I though about my kid across the hall with cold, wet feet. I also had another kid in another hallway with cold, wet feet.

 

On the sidewalk, I heard a tearful kid greet his Mom after school, “You are a bad Mom, you forgot my boots and my snow pants.”

“Did all the other kids have their boots and snow pants?” She asked.

“No, they didn’t.”

I wanted to yell out to her, “Your’re OK and I’m Ok! I love you. Don’t think I’m weird.”

 

After school, I drove to Target and bought two pairs of boots for a total of a whopping fifty dollars. The selection was slim. I think eight hundred parents might have bought boots today. By the way, my kids only wanted to try on cheetah print/iron man slippers the whole time because they are super practical and needful.

When we got home, I went back into the basement. No boots. I went upstairs to set out the winter gear for tomorrow. Then, I wrote their names in permanent marker on the new boots, in three places. Yes, three.

Twenty minutes later I went back to the basement to change laundry and there wedged between the winter tubs was a pair of Hello Kitty boots and Spiderman boots.  I went upstairs and traced the permanent marker (times 3 !?1?) with my finger and cried.

 

I am sitting here in the dark, realizing that some kids don’t even have one pair of boots. In reality, I should be thankful mine now have two pairs. But, I confess that I am an imperfect and tired Mom. Sometimes, I don’t want to be good. I want my fifty dollars back, so I can eat at Taco Bell eight times and not cook or get four crisp books from an actual bookstore.

prayAnd the guilt eats away at my heart.

And there is a lot of noise in this world.

So, I leave you with this small hope.

dearI know God is whispering this truth to your heart too.

What will it take for you to hear him? 

Dig Deep and Refuse.

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Rejection.

Rejection is something I do not love and avoid like a plague with my people pleasing ways. Yet, somehow I decided to become a writer.

In writing, you get rejection on a very regular basis. I feel like I get a REJECTED stamp on my forehead every other day.

Last week, I was very excited about something. One week later that something was put on hold. I just talk in ‘somethings’ now, no need to drag everyone else in my life down with my maybes moving to not meant to be’s.

 

That same day I got this comment on one of my posts.

It would be a shame if you did not lose weight when these people accomplish it easily: isabelle

Yes, Isabelle it would be a shame… <insert not nice word>

Isabelle, I think you are a robot. I hate your message on this day. (I like self-effacing jokes. Isabelle is literally a robot and the comment was spam trying to sell diet pills.)

 

Rejection makes me want to lay down and sleep and when I wake up eat a very large bowl of ice cream. I cannot do this anymore, because I would be sleeping and eating ice cream like it was my job.

Now, I have to get back up and keep going almost immediately. It’s hard. I’m not going to lie, I really want to give up sometimes.

I have to dig deep and refuse. You have to dig deep and refuse.

 

Refuse to listen to the doubts you entertain about yourself.

Refuse to listen to the voices that seek to bring down and not lift up.

Refuse to allow rejections press away your hope.

Refuse to let your mood dictate your day and drain your joy.

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What do you need to refuse and dig deep about today? We’ll pray for your strength. 

Disappointment

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Your stomach sinks.

Your shoulders give over the the weight of discouragement.

The kind words meant to keep you going and offer encouragement are wonderful, but they still sting.

You were good, but not good enough.

 

We have all been there.

I was last week, I wanted nothing more than to lie down and cover myself up to the world.

Instead I let it simmer on the surface while trying desperately to push the disappointment down.

When I’m with my friends and share something that disappointments me, I always extend a qualifier, but it’s OK. Then they say to me, it’s OK to be disappointed and sad. I forget that sometimes. I feel like I have to be perfect, upbeat and full of faith.

I trust, but that doesn’t mean I always feel that. It doesn’t mean you actually feel it every moment of every day either.

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A couple of weekends ago, I watched the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I immediately grabbed the novel from the library, both were written by Stephen Chbosky.  The characters were so real and broken, but beautiful.

perks

Sad comes. 

Happy comes.

Hope is always with us though. There is always hope.

For me, that hope comes from my God, I know he’s not leaving me.

Take a Chance on Me

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Today I get to introduce you to Susan May Warren!

I’m learning that you all like fiction and she is a fixture in the world of Christian fiction. Susan has wrote more than thirty novels! Here is the link to her website full of great information. She spent eight years with her husband and four kids as a missionary in Russia. She and her family now live in Northern Minnesota, where she writes full-time.

Take a Chance on Me will be a part of series about the Christiansen family of Northern Minnesota. There are seven adult siblings in the family and this 7-book series will follow each one of them. Take a Chance on Me is the first! So, if you like the book there is more to come.

 

The setting of Deep Haven, Minnesota and the Christiansen resort of Evergreen Lake drew me into the story right away, think rustic summer vacation.

This first story follows the eldest Christiansen son, Darek, a single-father. And wait for it… the story has not one, but two love stories going on simultaneously. I know, it’s enough to make you pass out 🙂

 

I most enjoyed the book because of its theme of forgiveness. The characters in this story have deep frailty. To experience a future of hope they need to forgive the past.

The longing to be more and to let go of past hurts is something we can all relate to… to take a chance on faith and forgiveness.

 

I love these discussion questions:

In what circumstances have you doubted God’s kindness?

Looking back, are there any difficult circumstances in your past that you now see as pruning, shaping you into who you were meant to be? 

 

Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of the book! 

chance

Anna’s Story Part 4

Read Anna’s Story Part 1 

Anna’s Story Part 2

Anna’s Story Part 3

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[Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Anna’s Story Part 4:

The city streets faded behind Anna. Green stood out against the sides of the road and there were buildings with mountains rising behind. When her feet landed on the dusty road, she paused to take a deep breath. She dared to hope this was a breath of freedom. At this place of fragile hope, a woman gently led her to her space in a dormitory-like room, only her bed was not empty. Sitting tall on the side was Valentina. She stretched her hands out to Anna.

“They found you.” Valentina held her tightly and Anna’s tears fell onto her shoulder. “I was sold, they did not even let me say goodbye. The next place was even harsher, but shortly after I arrived there, a raid occurred. After I was rescued, I worked so hard that they might locate you.”

“I owe you everything,” Anna told her, surprised to be loved.

Valentina shook her head, “No, we can be happy together, we are saved.”

 

Anna slept through a dark night into day, no terrors to disturb her sleep. The sun was shining high when she woke and she sat up, again surprised. She touched her fingers together, pressed her palm against where her heart resided under her chest, alive.

Here in this place: she ate, doctor’s visited and she spoke daily with a quiet woman who helped her understand. When she talked to this woman, shards of ice dislodged from her frozen River Neva and began to float away. The best time of the day was the evening, when they sat in the grass and spoke together. Some girls had written poems, some songs and others were quiet. Anna sat still, quiet and listened. She was not alone. They too had endured and emerged in hope.

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[Image courtesy of Hordur Vihjalmsson /FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

News arrived that she had been cleared of the local legal system. There was a room with a telephone. Her hands trembled when she drew it to her ear, her Matuska’s voice and Pytor, Pavel and Petya jabbering in the background. At first there were too many tears to speak. When words broke through the tears she repeated, I’m sorry over and over again. Her Matushka whispered an invitation to come home. They had a surprise for her.

That evening, in the group, she stood up from her quiet. Into the night she recited the story of The Firebird and The Grey Wolf, the story she whispered at bedtime to her brothers in a forever ago time, the story that she whispered into the dark, until hope drained away. Now, when she spoke there were stars above her in an open sky.

…And Prince Ivan lay dead. His brothers took all that he had; the firebird, the horse and Helen. Then the crow brought the water of death and the water of life to the grey wolf. The grey wolf revived Ivan with the water. He regained all he had lost.

“He regained all he had lost. I have regained all I have lost. You have regained all you have lost.” She walked around the circle touching the top of each girl’s head like the child’s game of duck, duck, goose and whispered you have regained all you have lost.

regained

Now, she and Valentina counted the days passing in happiness. Two months passed, and they were cleared by the government to travel home, home. They whispered the word to one another, unbelieving, surprised.

“I have nowhere to return,” Valentina announced to the NGO volunteer who would accompany them on the flight.

“She does, she is my sister,” answered Anna. “We go together.”

The miles they had traveled were below them, moving away, out of their vision.

 

They were waiting for them, her Matuska, her brothers and Mrs. Belikor. They held hands all the way home. Only home was no longer the little apartment without light, without heat. Their home was now behind the bakery that was once Mr. Belikor’s. He leaned over one morning explained her Matushka and left the world, and with Mrs. Belikor’s help the bakery would become Anna’s. The 1,000 USD stipend she was given, would pay for business school.

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[Image courtesy of tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Four years later:

Anna stood at the edge of the River Neva. Spring had arrived, melting the frozen layers, the water ran clear and forward. She turned and stole a glance at her bakery. Valentina swept the front walk and raised her hand to wave toward Anna. They would employ another girl today to knead bread, another girl that might had followed the sign she had years ago. She would add to their number and draw them up safety, to hope.

Where rescue resides there is hope.

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Anna’s Story has been part of a realistic fiction series for the Exodus Road. Please consider following and supporting their work. Anna’s story has been one of the most meaningful things I’ve written on About Proximity. She touched my heart because I know her story is one that girls all over the world are actually living right now. We can fight for rescue and offer hope.