Final 2015 Word of the year Post: Hope

journeyofhope

On an annual basis I ask God to give me a word / theme.  Around Thanksgiving each year I start praying about it and asking Him to show me what He has for me for the next year.  It’s much less of a resolution and much more of a focus.  And for 2015 it was the word HOPE.  Based on the theme running through the year, the word of the year could have easily been “CHANGE”.  But you see what He did there?  HOPE is less scary than change.  And it reminds us that through the unknowns of change there is hope!

Let’s look at hope for a few minutes:  I can remember thinking to myself, just a few short years ago, as a friend was excitedly talking about their dreams:  What’s the point of dreaming?  Aren’t you just setting yourself up for disappointment?  I mean, whatever happens happens — right?  We just have to be ready to jump on opportunities when they come.  RIGHT?!

And then, I’m not real sure what happened… or when it happened… but somewhere along the way, I grasped the importance of truly embracing HOPE. Unbeknownst to me, I set out on a journey of HOPE. 
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Let’s set the picture:  I liken it to the journey taken by the settlers when they shoved off from the shore of the old country to travel to the glorious land of America.

Ok – I’m being a tad dramatic… but it certainly painted a picture for you, didn’t it?

Join me for a compendium of the journey?

There were plenty of rough waters but there were also moments of stale water:  sitting still, except for the slight bobbing up and down.  I’m sure there were moments of waiting patiently for the wind to fill the sails and move them forward.  

 

Let’s talk about a leap of faith… the pilgrims getting on those ships!  They probably didn’t have enough provisions.  They didn’t really know how long the journey was going to take or if they even trusted their leader’s navigation skills.  They didn’t know what to expect when they arrived at their destination.  And yet… the hope in their hearts was so powerful it pushed them into action.  

 

Their hope was their invitation to dream…

 

And this somewhat mirrors the journey I’ve been on in the past year:

  • Hesitant to dream but wanting more,
  • Learning about the benefits of hope, and
  • Embracing the growing desire to pursue hope by chasing down dreams.

 

I had no idea what was about to happen.

Dreams, big life-rockin’ dreams, started to sound attractive.  And then opportunities started to fall in my lap and I was eager to pursue.  The dreams grew a bit, and they looked even more attractive (and a bit intimidating) … and the dream itself was inspiring me to change how I looked at dreams!  The figurative beam of light from the lighthouse, waaaaaayyy out there, was calling for my dream.

Along with the dream came a time of stretching and growing.  I’m telling you — some painful, faith-jolting stretching occurred.  When and I found myself answering my husband’s questions of concern with “I have no idea.  But God does.” and friends’ questions with responses like “This is what walking in faith looks like.  I have no idea what’s happening.” and in both instances they would tilt their heads sideways like a perplexed puppy and look at me like I was speaking latin.  Bottom line, I knew I was being changed by hope and the possibility of those dreams.

So goes the journey of a dream… up and down, sharp turns to the right or left… and then to be faced with sudden complete stops with no hope of re-starting in sight.

 

Things happened that were far beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone.  You see, these opportunities were fragile and they required some additional handling with care.  And often times I felt like they were sure taking their sweet ol’ time

::: sigh :::

So let’s take a look at a journey… the ups and downs of the waves as you hope you’re moving in the right direction… seeking out a new horizon.

 

THE LIGHTHOUSE

The dream asked of me more than I thought I was capable of.  

And yet here I am on the other side of that uncertainty.  I am happy to report that I kept my focus on the beam of light coming from the lighthouse … way out there in the distance.  It guided me.  It consoled me. 

It emboldened me.  

If you had told me a year ago that this is what today would look like… I would have laughed heartily, thrown water on you and told you to take a chill pill.    

On THIS side of the dream I’m going to ask someone to throw water on me and slap me to make sure this is my new reality… and yet I’m going to rest in the fact that God was truly faithful.  On a daily basis I meditated on this promise:  “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

How did I meditate on it?  I kept it in front of me.  Very practically.  I created a graphic for a computer screensaver.  From there it was easy to remember and reiterate to myself on a regular basis… like when I would start to worry about the future.

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Confession: I’m a planner.  And when you’re waiting on God’s timing and for those dreams to come to fruition it’s hard to plan.  Why?  for fear that making plans and scheduling things could interfere with one’s dreams.  So, the regular volume of planning slowed, and I’m happy to report that INSTEAD the trust increased.  

I moved from “We can do this!” to “God’s got this!”

My attitude changed from “full steam ahead” to “one day at a time.”

And with each new step of the dream came a newer understanding of HOPE.  

And let me just tell you… hope is contagious!  I mean, I’m warning you… if you don’t want hope, don’t be around people who have hope.  It’s contagious.  You’ll catch it before you know it… and then you might regret it!

I may sound like I’m joking… but I’m serious!  As I sought that first sight of light from the lighthouse I prayed with every fiber in my body that I was still on the right course, that I had not gone astray from the path I was called to take… that I would soon see the light, the indication of that new horizon.

 

SIGNS OF LIFE

So there I was… in a holding pattern, not exactly sure if I was even moving forward or backward, (let alone drifting in the right direction) and like a wayward or disabled ship looking for shore, looking for life, looking for hope… so was I!

Until someone on the ship spots signs of life… then the discouragement turns to shouts of joy!!!  You see, when someone on board that wayward ship spies a seagull flying overhead that mean that land isn’t too far off!  The journey has not been wasted.  

And the hope returns…

 

THE NEW SHORE

So let me tell you about my cross-atlantic adventure, as it were… a journey to a new shore.

I’ve been working for the same firm since May 1997 (just over 18.5 years now).  I’ve taken on many different positions in the company during that time and have moved onward and upward throughout the process.  I have worked for and with some amazing people who eventually turned into mentors (and friends)… and I have been afforded the luxury of learning a tremendous amount… both professionally and personally.

My life has been a blessed life because of the many benefits of being employed at this firm, and for such a long period of time.

And then I watched as a rather interesting portrait was being painted in front of me.  An exciting opportunity presented itself.  Out of the blue.  I wasn’t pursuing it.  It was clearly pursuing me.  Or more aptly put, God was pursuing me and my attention.  God was intervening in my life, in my dreams… and injecting me with hope.

Let me restate that, for emphasis: He was giving me dreams.  He was filling me with hope.

 

But then He asked me to wait… OUCH!  He showed me the light, he brought signs of life, and then He asked me to continue to wait and trust … and so I did.  I was doing my best to be patient, but I was confused… I had no choice, but to wait.  

 

Waiting in hope and focusing on the One who gave us our dreams turned our worry into trusting.  And I think that’s the lesson He’s had for us, me and my husband, through the past year.  There is power in trusting in spite of fear, in spite of chaos, in spite of all the unknowns.  And He wants us to trust Him with our everything.  EVERYTHING.

So, together we make a move.  A huge move from Southern California to the Willamette Valley of the beautiful state of Oregon.  2015 marks a year of change.  Earlier this year we were faced with the opportunity to sell our home (that I purchased in 1999 – my first “house”).  We spent a good amount of time praying it over and seeking wise counsel ahead of accepting an offer.  We then moved into an apartment for a temporary solution.  We were facing some life changing decisions and placed them in His hands and asked Him to direct our paths.  A few job opportunities popped up and while nothing is yet set in stone we know that our Heavenly Father knows the answers… 

 

HIS WAYS ARE SOVEREIGN

While the full picture of what the future looks like is not yet crystal clear I am finding it easier to thank my Heavenly Father for holding my hope and heart in His hands.  He has gently reminded us about the importance of being good stewards of what we’ve been gifted (talent, time and treasure) as well as the need for a blind faith that we simply cannot explain.  

And yet we don’t expect anyone else to understand where we stand.  We probably can’t even do it justice in attempting to explain it.  And it is terrifying – but laced with hope.  

One thing we know:  we do not go this journey alone .  He goes before us and He prepares the way… and we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt WE KNOW, that His ways are best.  We don’t know WHY He does things or HOW He does them or WHY He chooses the timing He chooses… but we do know HIS ways are sovereign.

Hope, put to the test, is life-altering!  Are you ready for it?

From disappointment to hope

Ephesians 3

My HOPE posts have been few and far between the past couple of months.  Clearly, I’ve been struggling with the topic. I always strive to be authentic in my posts.  But sometimes the unpacking and processing of  thoughts and emotions and even discouragement can take some time.  

So here I am to admit it.  I’ve not been myself.  A number of things have had me downright discouraged over the past several months.  

It’s not just one thing.  It’s not even a couple of things.  It’s a whole bunch of really big things.  HUGE things.  It’s not that I spilled coffee on my favorite blouse… it’s not that I didn’t get to go on an awesome girls’ weekend I was really hoping to go on… it’s not that I didn’t get to hear from one of my favorite authors / motivational speakers because I was holding out hope that something else would be happening that weekend… (although all of these things have happened too)… no, the discouragement comes from a much deeper, soul-wounding, heart-wrenching place.

The discouragement stems from everyday life to big ol’ dreams put on hold, from hurt friends to hurt feelings, from distractions to disconnection, from everyday struggles to deep soul struggles….

That amount of discouragement tires me.  The mental war going on inside my head has me exhausted.  And it is difficult to remain faithful in terms of keeping hope as my focus.  

Admittedly, I know that’s exactly why “HOPE” was meant to be the word / focus of the year… no question about it.

I will not be sharing the nitty-gritty details of that discouragement or those situations in this public forum … but if we sat down for coffee I’d be happy to share those struggles with you, as well as the ebb and flow of the hope that tries to peek through.  (TRIES being the operative work here.)

While I logically KNOW, in my mind, that God is sovereign and that His plan is always the best… still I am discouraged.  

While I KNOW, in my mind, that His timing is perfect… still I am discouraged.  

While I KNOW, in my mind, that I should not attempt to manipulate the circumstances to make things go the way I want them to… still I am discouraged and want to do just that.

And in my HEART I do know that God IS taking care of me.  And that He IS watching out for my best interest.  And that He IS managing all of the details behind the scenes.  I KNOW He cares for those details and I KNOW His timing is perfect.

But my heart still aches.  Aches so deeply it feels like it’s breaking.  Sometimes the tears can’t even be forced … I struggle with this daily battle of focusing on HOPE…

And then my daily devotionals took me, once again, to Hebrews 11.  Ahhh, yes… Hebrews 11.  While the scripture itself focuses on examples of faith… the stories of faith give me HOPE.  The stories shared in Hebrews 11 are my heroes on certain days.  They had so much faith that they just kept pressing on… these heroes had the faith it took to continue on in HOPE in spite of the circumstances.  May I take solace and find courage in their examples… and I share this today in HOPE that you do too….

A brief share… I have had the honor of co-leading an annual christian women’s retreat, held in October the past several years.  And this past month we had a bit of a “situation” … a situation that caused a pivot in my life, from discouragement to hope.

As a team we hit our final date of registrations for retreat and called the conference center with our final head count.  We had a contract to fill 60 beds but we oversold those expectations (which we do each year) and instead had 84 ladies joining us.  Problem was… all of the other churches also oversold projections and the conference center was scrambling to find enough beds for all of us.  The conference center communicated with us that they have NEVER had this problem before and that it appeared they only had 60 beds for us.

As I received this news from the other co-leader I laughed (and I had to apologize to her later for that)… literally, I laughed at the circumstances.  Here is where the pivot moment took place:  I said out loud – “I can’t wait to see what God does with this one.  We’re praying for a major miracle folks.”  We needed 24 more beds.  

And in that moment I was even shocked at the hope that filled my discouraged heart.  While I was slightly concerned that we should have a contingency plan in place – I was NOT scurrying about trying to implement whatever that plan needed to look like.  We needed 24 bed.  And I knew we needed to Be Still and Know that He is God.  I needed to give God the time and place to do His God-thing.  So, I sat back and expected great things!  I expected God to show them 24 beds.

And great things He accomplished!!!  

My co-leader received a return phone call from the conference center director the next day and he said (paraphrased)… ”I don’t know how to explain this.  Well, actually, I do… it’s all God.  We had counted and re-counted and I don’t know how we didn’t see this the first several times we counted… but we found 24 beds for your group.”

Not 23 beds… not 25 beds… but 24 beds.  All 84 of our women were meant to be at retreat that weekend.  Every.last.one.of.them.  

Period.  God is good!  And I laughed again.  Of course He is!

Here is the Ephesians 3:20-21 verse from ‘The Message’ translation:

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!

Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!

Glory down all the generations!

Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

What can this become?

In line with the theme for the year, I’m currently reading The Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston.  It’s difficult to put the book down.  It’s difficult to not pick it up and quote it to myself and others.

So, today I’m sharing this inspiration… thoughts on “what can this become?”, by Ray Johnson.

become

 

“I want to ask you one question that has the power to change the rest of your life.  This one question is so important it should be the primary question asked by every parent of every teenager.  This question is so important it should be the primary question asked by a spouse discouraged by his or her marriage.  This question is so important it should be the first question asked by people who want to change their lives, lose weight, get out of debt, or have a better future.  This question has the power to lift a person out of discouragement.  It has the power to transform somebody’s mood.  It has the power to turn around a company or a church or a family.

“This question is actually more than a question.

“It becomes a frame of reference for how you look at everything.  When this question moves from being a question to being a habit, to being your lifestyle, everybody you will be affected.  A person trained to ask this question becomes

  • someone people flock to for advice and encouragement,
  • the parent everybody wishes they had,
  • the spouse everybody wishes they were married to,
  • the friend everybody wishes they knew, and
  • a better person, a better coach, a better teacher, a better employee, a better leader.

“This question is the reason Peter went from being a complete failure to being one of the first great leaders of the Christian church.  I believe this question was uppermost in Jesus’ mind every time He looked at His disciples.

“Here is the question:  What can this become?

“We learn this from Jesus.  Jesus tipped His hand when He looked at some young, inexperienced men and made an astounding statement: “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17 NASB).

“None of the disciples was a first-round draft pick.  They were a mess.  Peter had his mouth always open, his foot always in.  Thomas met every plan with, “I doubt it.”  St. John the Divine?  That same John and his brother James were called the “Sons of Thunder”.  Matthew was a selfish tax collector.  As a group, they were always arguing about who was the greatest.  The only thing they seemed to do right was “borrow” a kid’s lunch one day so Jesus could feed five thousand people.

“What made Jesus so effective?  What made Him the single most magnetic leader ever to walk this planet?  What was it about Jesus that liberated people from their pasts and freed them to go on to become something never dreamed?

“Here it is:

“Jesus was not focused on what people were like.

“He was focused on what they could become.

“Show me a parent of a teenager who is focused on what their kid is like right now, and I’ll show you a discouraged parent.  Show me a parent who is focused on what his or her teenager can become, and anything is possible.

Show me a husband or wife focus on what his or her marriage is like right now, and usually I can show you a discouraged person.  Show me a couple focused on what their marriage can become, and anything is possible.

Show me Christians focused on what their spiritual lives are light right now.  In all likelihood they will be discouraged, but the minute they begin to focus on what their relationship with God could become, anything is possible.

Show me a person who wishes he was in better shape physically but is focused on what his life is like right now, and he is probably discouraged.  Yet all kinds of possibilities emerge the minute he focuses on what he could become in the future.

Everything changes when we ask the question, “Am I able to see things not as they are right now but in terms of what they can be become?”

“I will make you become fishers of men,” Jesus said, and by following through on His word, He changed, is changing, and will change the world.  Forever.

Asking “What can this become?” accelerates you to the kind of fresh vision that fuels forward motion.  Asking what things can become gives you hope and a future.

“If you feel discouraged or dejected about your life, or if you desire to move to a higher level of living now or in the future, no strategy is more powerful than to focus on what you can become rather than on what you are.

Do your future a big favor.  Give preference to become over is.  The future you will thank you for it.

The rest of us will thank you, too, because we all need your gifts and talents… “


The Hope Quotient, by Ray Johnston

Book: The Hope Quotient

This year’s word is HOPE.

A friend recommended a book her weekly study group is going through.  The Hope Quotient, by Ray Johnston.  I jumped all over it!  Already a quarter of the way through the book and I find it hard to put it down…

This quote, found early on in the book, seriously slapped me in the face… you know, if quotes could do such a thing.

clallen

This is exactly why this word, this sentiment of HOPE, is so important!

There is so much tragedy in this world… martyrs, discrimination, people being murdered for their religious beliefs, terrorist attacks, families falling apart, people being treated inhumanely (emotionally or physically), people shaming other people, people allowing their sinful nature to get the best of them and treating others poorly… it is constant.

We are in a constant battle…

And a large majority of this world’s population just shakes their heads and wonders why these horrendous events are allowed to happen… why would God allow such things to happen?

In times of disappointment we lose hope.

And that is challenge for this year.

Nothing is hopeless.  No one.  No thing.  God’s got this.

2015 word of the year: HOPE

 
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Annually I spend time focusing on a verse and a word.

In 2014 I focused on what it meant to be His BELOVED.

In 2015 I am being led to focus on His HOPE.

 

Let me share a recent chat with a friend… I don’t think she’ll mind (especially since I was the one with all the typos and auto-correct mishaps – which have been edited for these purposes).

Tricia:  “I’m wondering what methods or processes you use in seeking the Lord on your “word?”

Me:  “Seeking out my focus word for the year is something that starts around Thanksgiving. And as I work through devotionals and pray for what lessons God has in store for me I pray that He would lead me to what He wants to do in my life.

“I had actually been praying about three different themes that kept coming back to me – I’m sure none of them would have been incorrect.  But one day something just felt right about “hope”.  So I started to dive into a word study and it was clear that that’s where God wanted me, based on the meaningful messages I was reading in Scripture. It all just jumped off the page at me.”

Tricia: “That’s awesome.  So in your daily devotions or life throughout the year – what’s your approach to the words?”

Me: “It’s different from year to year. Two years ago the theme was “forgiveness”.  I was led to make a list of people or situations where I needed to work through forgiveness.  And in the next 12 months God brought me to divine appointments with all of the people and circumstances on those lists.  You know how I am with lists.

“I just bathed the theme in prayer. And He gave me what I needed to work through it that year. There wasn’t any schedule, or formal study involved. It was just asking him to open my heart to that theme.

“And I saw messages about that theme almost daily.

“Last year the theme was “beloved”. And again, there was no formal study, or schedule, just praying for God to open my heart to receive His love the way He intended us to receive His love… and to learn more about the WHY behind this theme was being impressed upon my soul.”

 

As we move throughout the year I intend on sharing Bible verses, lessons from life, stories of hope, etc as I dive into this gift of hope… as it is QUITE the gift!  Imagine an existence without hope… no thank you!!!