Holding On…

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
― G.K. Chesterton

I have been taking part in an Online Bible Study and am loving it. One of my biggest regrets of being a WAWM (wicked awesome working mom) is that I don’t have the opportunity to participate in Bible Studies.

Problem. Solved.

I freaking love the internet.

Oh, you want to go to college but don’t actually want to GO to college? Go to college online!

You want to participate in Bible Studies, but can’t actually GET there? Go to Bible Study online!

Amazing.

The topic of this Bible study is centered around the book of Ruth. It is a practical approach to not quitting things.

Honestly, I’ve struggled a bit with having anything to apply this whole concept to as (and I hate to toot my own horn here) but I really don’t actually every quit things. I kill myself mentally, emotionally, and what often feels like physically…but I never, ever, ever quit. I mean really, that’s what being a WAWM is all about. Doing things and doing lots of things, and never giving up.

But as God always does I have been shown that there is an area of my life that I have quit…

I know, shocker. I was shocked myself when I realized it.

You see, I am this kind of person: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” ― Alexander Pope

And I have given up on hope.

Who really knows how it happened. As it does, life likely whittled and chipped away at the walls surrounding my soul until slowly but surely the  hope that once lived there began to slip away. Until one day I just quit having hope.

They (and don’t ask me who exactly because I really don’t know) say that the first step to fixing your problem is admitting it.

Well, here I am admitting it. I have quit hope. Which is really quite shocking because I truly love inspirational and motivational things. Maybe in an effort to jump-start my own dying soul…

It’s funny how you don’t always see the truth about yourself. There I was in the middle of a Bible study about quitting things and being all “I’m-so-awesome-I-never-quit-things” driving to work and I hear the words of the song by Danny Gokey:

There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen, there’s hope in front of me

And I realized all at once that I don’t have hope in front of me.

I don’t have hope at all.

I like to talk about hope, but I don’t actually have any.

I just take life and all that happens and goes on and try to deal with it. I just move along through life doubting anything and everything.

And the only place that has gotten me is into a depressed and negative place…like a dark, dark forest that you can feel closing in on all sides. And you can’t get out. At first, you want to. But then you sort of just get used to the forest. You tell yourself it’s not so bad. This is just what life is like. It just…it just is.

But it doesn’t have to be.

A quick search for the keyword ‘hope’ in the Bible revealed 151 results.

Well, guess I’m not the only one who has quit this thing!

So many  powerful reminders of what hope is…and where it can be found.

 

The way I see it, hope is rather like love. It’s not actually something that we feel. Like love, it is a choice. It is something that we do, and seek, and look for, and purposefully put into our hearts and souls.

And when we find ourselves in the heart of that oppressive forest we don’t give up. We look for hope. We look to Him to give us that hope. And we carry on victoriously in life with His hope in our hearts.

Because life doesn’t have to just be.

Hope gives us victory in life.

Since the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, I think I’m on the right track to not quitting hope.

I will hope that these college degrees are the tool He has equiped me with to make a difference…

There is hope in your future, says the Lord… Jeremiah 31:17 a

 I will hope that things will be fine financially, and not allow financial worries to consume me…

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not. Lamentations 3:21-22

 I will remain hopeful that He has my best interest at heart…

That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments. Psalm 76:7

I will hold on to hope and will not fear my future…

Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

I will not let depression and anxiety fill my soul…

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

When I’m tempted to lose hope, I’ll turn to Hos word…

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. Psalm 119:114

When I want to worry and stress about my job, my kids, my life, my finances, anything and everything…I’ll let His promises comfort my heart…

 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I won’t let go of hope, instead, I’ll hold on to it…

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.Hebrews 10:23

And so my sweet Ellie and my passionate Kreade…

Find your hope. Find it in Him and hold fast to it. Don’t let your souls wander into that dark forest. Be hopeful. Remember that every detail of your future rests in His all knowing and perfect plan. And never lose hope. I pray that He fills you with so much hope in the midst of so much doubt that people cannot help but notice. And when they ask you why you dare to hope…tell them. Tell them why. Tell them where. And tell them Who. May the hope that He gives you be the reason that despairing souls find their way out of the darkness and into the light…

 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15

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When Again I Wish I Were An Elf: Thoughts On This Sad and Broken World

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

“Where there is no hope, it is incumbent on us to invent it.”
― Albert Camus

“My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.”
― Jim Henson

Work lately has been…well honestly it has been depressing. I wish that I could share all of the stories of my students. But believe me when I say, this year has been full of heartbreaking stories of the lives of children Ellie’s age.

This world is so full of sadness. It is so full of pain. It is so full of evil and heartbreak and rage. It is sad and broken. And sometimes…sometimes I just feel so worn down by all of the negativity and sorrow. And I wonder what God’s purpose could be in all of it.

Why is this child experiencing abuse? Why is this woman the victim of domestic violence? Why is he choosing to drink his life away? Why, why, why? Why is there so much sadness, so much brokenness, and so much pain?

Halfway through this year I experienced a staffing change and had a new teacher join me in my classroom. It has been a rough spring. As I said before, it has really been quite depressing. These kids come to school, having experienced so much of the sadness and brokenness that the world has to offer. And what can you do? They’re full of anger and most days it just seems like you’re never enough. Friday morning my co-teacher and I were talking about this. She told me a story about driving home the other day after picking her daughter up…she witnessed some sort of domestic dispute involving a man and woman and less than savory words. After telling me this story she threw a thought out there…

This world is so full of hate. There is so many bad things going on. And what are we supposed to do? It’s just so depressing…

And it’s true. This world is an awful place. It is filled with awful people, and awful things.

And what can you do? It doesn’t take long until you begin to feel dragged down by all of the hurt and all of the pain that you see happening all around you. And your mind kind of begins to just shrink into itself and try to forget the world…there is safety inside yourself. Or maybe instead of withdrawing, you just harden your heart and stop feeling. Your heart can’t handle all of the brokenness and sadness…and you slowly develop a sort of immunity towards the pain in this world.

I’ve been in both of these places before. Working as a Head Start teacher I’ve seen so much pain and so much brokenness. And among children so young at that. And sometimes when it starts to be too much I’ve found my mind retreating and my hard turning to stone.

How is a person supposed to handle it all?

How are we really supposed to be surrounded by all of the horribleness of this world we live in and be able to feel? How are we supposed to see the pain and yet live on? How are we supposed to feel the sadness and yet thrive? It just doesn’t make sense. So we allow ourselves to become depressed. And we mentally and emotionally withdraw from the world, and maybe even from the people around us. Because the truth is, the world is sad and broken.

But we’ve got it all wrong.

When my co-teacher threw that question out there my heart immediately responded. I realized that I had been withdrawing into that safe place, amidst all of the chaos and brokenness my class has been experiencing. So I told her the only thing that I have ever experienced to have made a difference in combating the harsh realities of this world.

I pray. 

The only thing I’ve ever found to help in situations that seem just too unbearable is prayer. Because sometimes everything we do is not enough; but prayer is. A while ago I had a child who had witnessed their father shoot their mother. Obviously, this had quite an affect on this little one. Every nap time this child would kick and scream and fight…and I would sit there rubbing their back, trying to soothe. But it never helped. No toy, no amount of rubbing, nothing ever helped. And one day out of desperation I began to pray…and like the flip of a switch the child calmed, and drifted off to sleep. I did this every nap time until the child went of to Kindergarten. It was then that I realized just how powerful praying in the name of Jesus is.

Reality it, this world is a sad and broken place. But the truth is, we don’t have to be sad and broken about its sad and brokenness.

God calls us to have hope.

1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

We are supposed to face this world, along with all its sadness and brokenness with hope.

I know I’m wicked nerdy…but I can’t help but visualize one of my all time favorites here. And no wonder I have claimed that J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary masterpiece The Lord of The Rings changed my life.

The battle of Helm’s Deep. Please tell me you all have seen it!

The Elves part of the wall, of course, will suffice for this illustration.

It was a battle doomed from the start. The “good” guys were far outnumbered. There was no way that they could win. Yet they faced their enemy, remembering the words of the Wise one…”at dawn, look to the east.” Even when the battle wore on, and it seemed as if defeat would occur momentarily. Still, the “good” guys held on to the hope contained in those words. Though they did not know exactly what this hope was made of, they held the hope nonetheless…despite the sorrow, tragedy, and despair of their world in the midst of that battle. And at dawn, their hope came. Turning the tides of the battle and chalking up one win for the “good” guys.

Sometimes I wish that life was more like LOTR. It often seems that physical battle might be easier than the mental, heartfelt battle that we experiences again hopelessness in our reality. But sadly, I will never be an elf.

Though I can hold on to hope as these literary creatures did.

Because God calls us to be hopeful. Despite the sadness and brokenness that surrounds us.

And what is this hope?

It’s the hope that I can face any tragedy and know that I am not alone. It’s the hope that I can combat sadness and brokenness with prayer. It’s the hope that despite it all of this suffering, God has a plan. And it’s the hope that someday…someday we will be free of this world and all of its sorrows.

And we will live forever with the One that has loved us despite it all. The one who loved us enough he allowed his physical body to be broken, and his human heart to feel all of the sadness of everyone who ever lived. But the sadness and brokenness he bore through His death resulted in life.

And it ended with Hope for all of us.

So Ellie and Kreade, I hope that you learn to face this world despite all of this brokenness and sadness with hope in your heart. Yes, this world is a tragic place. But the hope in our heart causes us to fix our eyes on Him. And on living forevermore in the presence of His glory.