Holders of Hope: A Guide

It’s such a beautiful idea, to hold hope for others while they cannot.

It isn’t my original idea, of course. Nor is it really a new idea to me, but the last couple of days it has been pressing on my mind, wanting to be wondered about.

Holders of Hope… holding hope for others. What does this look like?

Let’s get one thing straight first: It’s not romantic. It sounds like it could be romantic. It has that whole sacrificial vibe, the image of a long suffering person valiantly clasping hope to themselves for the sake of another. But yeah, naaaaah. It’s not romantic.

The fact is, we need hope. Without hope we won’t seek healing because we won’t actually believe it’s going to happen. And with no healing, we will never grow past the things that hurt us. We will be stuck at a point of time, a barrier effectivity stunting our growth and change. We stagnate, and worse, we start to shrivel up, dry up, die. Wow, that sounds pretty dramatic. So it should! Not having hope is a big deal!

So, what does “holding hope” look like?

Well. It’s messy. People don’t lose hope for no reason. The people who lose hope do so because they’ve been dealing with hard circumstances for a long time. This could be so many things: ongoing abuse, broken relationships, poverty, sickness, trauma, grief. They could be struggling with depression, literally not being able to see how anything could ever change. And you know what? When you’re in the midst of something that is sucking the life out of you, you don’t have the vantage point to be able to see change on the horizon. You’re stuck in a ditch and you truly believe you’ll always be there.

This is why it’s so important for people outside of the circumstances to be willing to come alongside people who find themselves unable to hope. They need someone with a different perspective on things, someone who can breathe life into them and speak hope over them.

But what does this mean for the people who are standing in the gap for these people who find themselves desperate? What does it mean to advocate for a person, to the person? How can we effectively have hope for them until they can have hope for themselves?

Firstly, don’t get in the ditch.

You don’t help someone out of a ditch by getting in there with them. You can’t maintain a healthy, true perspective if you allow yourself to get so consumed by their circumstances that you’re effectively “in the ditch” with them. It becomes too easy to get overwhelmed by their circumstances yourself if you aren’t careful.

Listen and actually hear them.

The struggle, the hopelessness, the ditch. It’s their reality. Don’t make light of it, don’t dismiss it. Hear them, respond, care. Above all, care. If they are to trust themselves with you, they must feel cared for and loved and valued. They must feel like they are worth your time and effort. Being listened to and heard is essential for fostering the restoration of hope.

Tell them what you see.

They are without hope and without view of a future where things are better, easier, happier, simpler, safer. Be wise in what and how you share, but make sure that you are helping them remember that where they are now isn’t permanent. Encourage them that this doesn’t have to last forever… things can change. Help them simply by being someone they can talk to. Help them by gently revealing any blind spots, any untruths, they might believe and bringing truth to them. Be a voice of hope for them. Speak life over them. If you hear gossip about them shut it down if you can.

Remember that the journey isn’t straightforward.

Three steps forward, two steps back. Walking in circles. Both things can be true for someone who finds that they have lost their hope. It’s normal that their journey isn’t straightforward. Don’t be shocked if positive steps and progress are followed by a stumble or fall where it seems they are worse than they were before. Fresh hope is easily bruised. Be patient.

Pray.

In all things, through all things, pray. Keep the person in your prayers and present their case to God.  Remember that, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). People need hope the same way a sick person needs medicine, the same way a body needs water and food. It’s not easy, but it is a privilege to walk with someone while they struggle, and to believe in them and encourage them until (and after) they can find hope again.

 

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In Place and Intentional

I do not often do end/start of year reflections – at least not written ones. However, the change from 2017 to 2018 seems significant, and so I find myself feeling like this is a good exercise for me to do.

2017

A lot of change. A lot of growth. New things, new locations, new positions.

2017 saw me working as a Teacher’s Aide one day a week and Annabelle going to Family Day Care, which she loved. I was pregnant with Alexander for three quarters of the year and had a newborn for the last two months of it. We bought a shiny new blue car. We moved house – not just to another local place, but a 45 minutes drive into the deep south of Tasmania.

2017 bought closeness. Closer to friends and particularly closer to family. My parents live only a few minutes away and my brother and his family are just down the road. I have grown closer to friends, chatting often over messenger while feeding the baby, or late in the night when I should really be asleep but am enjoying the quietness found while children slumber. I had a baby, and there is nothing quite like the closeness of caring for your new child.

2017 felt like a year of “Positioning”. Moved house. Moved “careers” – not that I really tend to think of teaching as My Career. Last year saw a big shift from out of school-based teaching and into a completely new area of working as part of a pregnancy and parenting support service, where my role is largely writing based and concerning communications. It was interesting to find myself suddenly in a position which sees some of my major areas of interest drawn together. Finding my feet in my new role – an ongoing process – stretched me and challenged me in ways I found very difficult and unfamiliar.

2018

2018 feels special… I have not felt this sort of anticipation at the start of a new year for a long time. It feels full of promise. Personally, I feel that 2017 was a year of shift and positioning (physically, job-wise, focus-wise). 2018 feels like the year where things are going to HAPPEN.

In church on December 31st, part of the sermon stood out – a word, really: Intentionally. A friend later shared this photo:

Be here

Hmm, that seems a bit like confirmation. Be intentional.

The next day, another friend wrote under a picture of my children: “They grow up sooo fast… value your closeness & make it good to be ‘with’ them.” More confirmation of what I was feeling in my spirit, to be intentional this year.

For my birthday, I ordered a new Bible. My previous Bible I received when I was 16 years old. Half my life ago. It feels significant that this is the time I finally buy a new one.

So this year my intention is to be intentional.

I plan to be intentional in how I am with my children: enjoying, raising, disciplining, teaching, and so on. Parenting is no doubt the most challenging, most rewarding thing I have ever done, and being intentional (though it takes more energy) makes it even better.

I will be intentional in how I spend my time. Last year I wasted so much time. This year no doubt I will do some excellent time wasting again, but I plan to waste LESS time, and make intentional choices in how I spend my time. I want to get to the end of a day and feel like it has not just slipped through my fingers.

I intend to write more. I will be writing more for my work, but I also intend to write more for my own sake. I want to get back to writing creatively, I want to get back to journalling, I want to blog more. I want to try my hand at writing articles and maybe earning some money.

Most of all, really, I want to reach the end of 2018 and be able to look over the year and see that it was a year lived well and deliberately. A year where my family members and I grow and develop positively spiritually, emotionally, physically, and in every other way.

A year of living on purpose. I’m excited to see what happens!

Beauty, Passion, and Hope

Esther’s House Gala Dinner, 2016

I was not sure what to expect when I walked up the steps of the building and toward the room hosting the third annual gala dinner for Esther’s House, for this was my first time attending. I had heard wonderful tales about a dessert auction and had been warned to that I would most likely cry at some point, so I came well prepared with cash and tissues.

The first thing that I noticed when I walked into the room was beauty. The room I had entered was beautiful, with tall white and green flower arrangements and soft candles. The women at the door were beautiful. Throughout the evening, there were continued moments of beauty: the singing, the honouring of people, laughter, beautiful cakes, and the beauty of so many people gathered together with the unified aim of supporting Esther’s House. Not least was the the inner beauty of the woman who spearheads Project Esther, and the beauty of vulnerability that she and the other speakers shared with us.

esthershousedinner

As beautiful as it was, the night was just as passionate. I was moved by how deeply Gaye believes in this cause. Nothing said that night was just words. Everything was from a place of deep conviction. Each of the three speakers were eloquent and moving, compelling me to look at myself and ask, “what can I offer?” I was challenged by their passion. Pregnancy and motherhood has been something I have long been interested in, amplified after I lost several pregnancies, but I have struggled to know how to act on these interests. While at this dinner, I began to see how I could start putting actions to my beliefs.

The night was a lot of fun. It was fun to be with friends, acquaintances and other like-minded people – people who believe that there is hope and solutions for women who find themselves in impossible situations. It was fun to be silly and to not be looking after my toddler (back at home with daddy), and to catch up with people I had not seen for a long time. And this might sound trivial, but it was so enjoyable to dress up. I have not had the chance to wear my favourite dress and pile on sparkly eye-shadow for some time now, and I took full advantage.

Did I cry? Yes, a little. But I laughed more, and I feel like fresh hope was breathed in to me. There are people taking action to help provide resources, support and help to women who find themselves in vulnerable or even scary positions.

And I am sure you are wondering about the dessert auction. Let me assure you that it is all you can imagine, and that the Death by Chocolate cake our table won was a wonderful way to top off a beautiful, passionate, fun, and hope-filled evening.

He is My Inspiration

Theodore’s early death is a source of grief, because we looked forward to having him and raising him so much. His life, however, is a source of encouragement and inspiration to me now. It spurs me on to love more, forgive faster, and to have my eyes focused not on the temporal but on the eternal.

After his death, I remember reading Psalm 139. Verse 16 was a huge source of encouragement for me. It says this:

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

I read this, and I knew beyond doubt and beyond questions that Theodore had already lived his life. Every day ordained for him had been lived out. In less than twenty-four weeks, he had lived every moment he was meant to live.

I remember being so blown away by this. I was so filled with peace and satisfaction; any feeling that my son’s life had been robbed from him was banished. Instead I had an awe-filled knowledge that he had lived his life, every day he was intended to have. It is hard to be too full of sorrow when you start seeing things like this. Yes, the grief of losing him is still there; grief is a process. But, for me, this helped to resolve practically all of the anger and confusion I had been feeling at times.

At the same time as feeling the relief that Theodore had lived his life, I felt a responsibility settling upon me. If Theodore has lived all his days, if his earthly life is spent, then it is my responsibility and my husband’s responsibility to make sure we allow the purpose of Theodore’s life to come to fruition. This calls us to a higher level of love and trust and faith. It spurs us on to behave in a way that is kind and patient and understanding. We could so easily have shut ourselves away and let ourselves become bitter and angry. We could have refused to believe that any good could come of this. We easily could have blamed God. But we were so careful not to let this happen. We did all we could to keep ourselves open and caring and loving. We did all we could to make it easy for people to share in our grief, and also our joys. We have worked hard to keep our eyes trained on the faithfulness of God and his promises.

It is not always easy. I think sometimes, people see me as being more healed than I am. I keep trying to be patient, because how can I tell someone that they are hurting me, without hurting them in return? So I try. I try so hard to keep walking in love, in patience, and in forgiveness. There are times I see Theodore in my mind’s eye, ahead of me, encouraging me on. “Come on, mum. Keep looking up.” And I am reminded that this life is just for a short time. I am encouraged that I can live this life well, and walk in love for every day of it.

Theodore’s short and precious life motivates me so much to keep my eyes firmly fixed on what I am living for, on who I desire to become. It helps me remember the peace and joy I have when I intentionally – trustingly – release myself into the safe and steady hands of God, and into the unknown, surprising, demanding, exciting future and purpose which is in store for me.

Quite frankly, my son is my hero. He is my coach, my champion, my muse, my encourager, and my inspiration as I live out everyday, every moment of my life.