The Art of Holding Out Hope

 

My boys wake up bouncing.  Literally.

 

Bouncing, often accompanied by singing.  Loud singing. Oh, and lots and lots of giggling.  And all this, sometimes (gasp!)… before 7:00 AM.  For me, a certified non-morning person, this kind of stinks.

Sadly, rather than joining my boys in their morning exuberance, my first thoughts are usually something like, “How can I stop the madness?!” or “Give me coffee now!” My twelve-year-old gladly volunteers to serve me coffee in bed.  He wants me to have it as badly as I do! 🙂 And needless to say, I’m not exactly creative in the morning.

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What are your first waking thoughts?

Are they full of hope?  Or like me, do you tend to predict a challenging day?  I think this can tell us a lot about ourselves.

I sure wish I could say that I spring from the bed with a smile on my face and a “Praise Jesus!”on my lips, but my family would quickly tell you I was lying.  For whatever reason, I really struggle with getting my brain focused on joy and truth first thing in the morning.  My natural tendency is to run through my mental to-do list and fret over whether it will get done… and at what expense to myself it will happen.

And I wish my pessimism were only an issue in the mornings, but I have to confess, it’s not.  A great need for coffee before functioning well is one thing, but there are many other, much more pressing challenges, that also lure me toward anxiety.

Those of you who know me well know that our parenting journey has been fraught with extremes- loss and then joy, doubt and then faith, frustration and then beautiful, Spirit-led guidance.  And sometimes all this within the same day!  In addition to their, let’s say, “adventurous” homecoming stories, we’ve had much hard work to do in helping our boys’ little hearts, minds and bodies heal and grow in truth and well-being. Homeschooling these two precious, albeit super-energetic and super-sensitive boys makes for some long hours and one tired mama by the time they’re finally tucked in.  But these are just the normal days.  The rough days consist of rigid boundaries to build security, hugging them close while rehashing trauma, and loads of truth-rehearsal through often gritted teeth.   Sometimes I long for a moment to just brush my teeth in peace.

I admit, I regularly fret that all. my. days. will consist of grading math worksheets and washing dirty towels.

Aside from just struggling to have a good attitude, time and time again, I don’t have the fresh brain space to feel creative or believe that I can produce beautiful, original art. And that makes my heart hurt.  Because it’s so deeply a part of who I am.

I am a daughter of God! Why is it so hard for me to remember hope in the midst life’s circumstances?

I know you each have very real difficulties in life, as well.

We live in a sometimes painful, fallen world. It’s just true.

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But…. God.

God is just so good, isn’t’ He?  He won’t let me stay in this pattern of thinking, and I am so thankful.  He is faithfully renewing my mind with His truth.

Many stubborn years of resisting His hope have finally brought me to my knees to beg for it.

It’s these times that my Father’s voice whispers to me.  He lovingly nudges me into His very compassionate presence. He reminds me that He is the “blessed hope,” the “living hope,” and the hope of all my needs. And so, I’m ready to remember why my day is filled with possibility.  I’m ready to remember who I really am.  I’m ready for some hope.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”     1 Peter 1:3

Ah, glorious truth, straight from my Father’s lips!  I have been born again into an “ever-living hope.”

Well, isn’t that a better outlook for my day?!

For a long time in my Christian walk I would look at a verse like this and think, “O.K., but how does this work out practically- in my day-to-day life?  How does it make a difference?  How does this help me when life gets really, really hard?””

First, God had to show me what hope truly is.  Then, He had to show me where hope is found.  And, it really does make all the difference in my day.


Hope is often a wishy-washy term, used in so many trite ways that it’s practically lost its meaning.

“I hope this nail polish matches my outfit.”

“I hope I don’t get the flu.””

“Are we having pizza for dinner?  I hope so!””

But Biblical hope is something so very different.  It is powerful.  It is courageous.  It is bold.  Strong’s tells us that to hope means to have confident expectation of good.  This is no timid wish; this is undaunted certainty.  Another definition says “intense anticipation.”

What a totally different mindset from waking up to fear, overwhelm, and dismay!

I’ll take hope, thank you very much!

Hope’s true power comes from it’s power source.  The believer’s origin of hope is God the Father. Our reason for hope is Jesus the Son.  The very One who defeated death is the One who promises to rescue me from this fallen world, redeem every bad thing that comes my way, annihilate all disease and brokenness, and carry me to His everlasting glorious home. And He promises this for you, too.

“My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. “   Psalm 62:5

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

“…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”    Romans 5:5

As a daughter of the King, I will never fully realize this side of Heaven all the myriad reasons that I have for hope.  

Like so much in life, it all really comes down to making a choice.

“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances”

                                                            -Elisabeth Elliot

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Christ in me- my reason for hope.  Christ in me- my reason to slow, take a breath, and remember the Spirit’s power is ever available.  Christ in me- my source of renewed patience, to try it again for the 42nd time, to say I’m sorry and to release in forgiveness. Christ in me- the true difference in my day.

I know you can relate, friend.  We’re in this battle together.  Some days just getting out of bed is hard.  Other days it’s a constant struggle to be nice to our loved ones.  Making art seems like a pipe dream.  And those of us with creative tendencies desperately need to stretch those artistic muscles as a method of imperative self-care.

If the tyranny of the urgent is just too oppressive to even think about creativity, if you have no hope to make meaningful art, or if you’re just too afraid to even begin, here is my personal invitation to you to have hope.

Listen to these beautiful words from one of my favorite authors, who fully gets the need to depend deeply upon the Lord for strength, renewal, hope and creativity.

“And hope sprouts new, because God doesn’t give us a list.  He invites us into a story.

God is not a technician. God is an artist.

This is the God who made you.  The same God who lives inside of you.

He comes into us, then comes out of us, in a million little ways.

That’s why there’s freedom, even in the blah.

Hope, even in the dark.9780800722449_alt3

Love, even in the fear.

Trust, even when we face our critics.

And believing in the midst of all that?  It feels like strength and depth and wildflower spinning; it feels risky and brave and underdog winning.

It feels like redemption.

It feels like art.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

Art. God’s power shining through you and me to help us hold on to hope.

This is art of the most beautiful, most supernatural kind.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.”              Romans 15:13 (AMP)

God of hope, we need You in our everyday messiness.  We need You to sustain us in our weariness.  We need You to comfort us in the craziness.  We need You to realign our hearts to be in tune with the unfathomable blessings that await us in Your presence in glory.  You are faithful, You are strong and You are good.  So we choose to trust You.  In the Name of Jesus,  Amen

I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire 

You’re with me

And You won’t let go


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I drew this piece a few years ago for a friend and just recently gave it an update with drawing in the anchor and adding color.  I used my trusty waterproof Micron pens to ink it in, and I painted it with my St. Petersburg watercolor pan set, plus a beautiful blue from Ph. Martin Radiant Watercolor Concentrates.  I just adore my St. Petersburg pans; they’re my first and favorite!  I’ve really been enjoying the stippling technique to define my shadows, so I’ve practiced that a bit here on the anchor and ribbon.  Also, a little white gel pen is a super simple way to add some highlights!

4 thoughts on “The Art of Holding Out Hope”

  1. Beautiful Jen. So encouraging. Hope is what got me through our crisis a year ago, and the Tenth Avenue North song has been my anthem this past year. Love you friend.

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    1. That’s awesome that this same song has meant so much to you, too, friend! I’m sure you had to cling tightly to God’s promises to keep you from falling apart. So, so hard what you have been through, dear friend. I’m so thankful for God comforting you! He is faithful! When we were adopting Mikhail a friend gave me a little figurine of a boy holding a balloon that said “hope.” It brought me such peace knowing God was about to change the trajectory of my little guys life! And look at both of our families now- we made it through! 😄

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  2. I love your writing, Jen. Such an encouragement to me to hope-the theme of my calendar this month. It makes me think when you plant seeds you plant 4 or 5 KNOWING something will come up. That is HOPE. God designed them to sprout. Trusting in Him and His words is like having those 4 or 5 seeds for reassurance that SOMETHING will sprout! Such energy in those little seeds! Love you! And I love the revamped drawing! Great job. It fills me with hope.

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  3. Oh, what a perfect analogy, T! Even when things look bleak we know that SOMETHING good will come! “… joy comes in the morning” And for my water loving friend I could see that anchor having special meaning: the ocean waves look so turbulent but our hope anchor keeps us right in the place we need to be. 😊 I’ve seen God bring you through so much, dear one! That’s HOPE in action!

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