Hope Actualized

My daughter Grace is our guest blogger this week. As you read her words, reflect on the hope that Christ brings into our lives. Check out the link to Grace’s blog at the end of this article.

flowers

Every wedding is like a Burning Man for florists. You spend days of hard work and energy making something beautiful, all to tear it down a few hours later. It’s a reminder of what a breath this life is. One moment we are here, the next we are gone.

Tearing down the chuppah flowers with my husband at the most recent wedding I did, was both a joy and sorrow. He spent the first part of the day building it and I spent the second half making it beautiful with Garden Roses, Dahlias and Smilax. I laughed as we hacked at the wood, ripping it apart, tearing down the greenery to have it all out of the venue by midnight. I can fully appreciate why this process is maddening to most people and in many ways it should be. Humans are not wired to destroy the things they create.

 

The destruction of things will always be reason to grieve whether it’s a mutilated artwork, broken relationship or death itself. If eternity did not exist somewhere deep within us than perhaps we would just accept death as nature’s course. But that is not the human way. When a loved one dies, we mourn that death as the harsh reality that it is. Death feels like it should never happen despite the inevitable fate of us all.

 

As I write this I think of my aunt Karen who is slowly departing from us. Unlike me, she is not afraid of her finite time coming to an end. She knows more than any feeling of certainty, that the bliss of eternity awaits her. The hope she has in heaven and in the God who has shown great kindness to her during her life, makes cancer a lesser enemy.

IMG_1840

Even amidst the beauty of a heaven to come, the image of my elderly grandfather leaning over his frail daughter confound me as I try to sleep. Why does death have to end in pain? I remember the pain I felt as I was laboring with my first child, convinced that such pain had to end in my end. Giving birth might be the closest experience I’ve had to death. I was convinced as the baby moved through my body that these were my final moments. Then I pushed, transcending time and space, finding new life in my arms. The parallels between birth and death go beyond the mere pains of it. Both are expressed in the last few moments of Hector Berlioz’ Requiem, Grande Messe Des Morts, Op. 5 Offertorium: Domine Jesu Christe, where a choir ascends to a culminating sound of joy, peace and elation after an anxious six minutes of somber orchestration. If you are familiar with this song then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I can only imagine death as rebirth into a life that feels even more like home than the one I try to make for my child. I like to imagine for my aunt like I did at the birth of my son, that all which follows our finite lives is just hope actualized.

 

No amount of hope can ever diminish the great weight of death, however when hope is satisfied than death is absolutely redeemed. Heaven seems so mythical but at least part of me feels like if I could do something as magical as having a baby or growing a plant out of the ground, couldn’t something like heaven be real? If I can re-purpose materials to make something new, can I be re-made?

 

When we were done taking down the greenery, my husband and I took it back to my brother and sister-in-law’s row house in Philadelphia. Rather than throwing it in the garbage or compost, I decided to re-install it as a hanging archway on their porch. It became a new creation and though these greens will one day fade back into dirt, the mystery of re-birth manifested itself in an eternal way.

 

 

*Link to Grace’s Blog: Click Here

Realistically Optimistic

kalen-emsley-94128-unsplash

It’s easy to think that positive people are simply pie in the sky, superficially blissful. The truth is, that a sincerely optimistic person sees the real picture, but chooses to look at the upside instead of focusing on the negatives. Each of us can decide to be sensibly optimistic, or persistently pessimistic. Here’s a few principles to help us live with a brighter outlook.

Look at the Big Picture.  Ever been to a movie where you sat on the front row? Everything looks ginormous and blurry. But when you sit in the middle of the theater, you get a better perspective as you see the whole picture. Life challenges can seem overwhelmingly large at times, but step back and look at the situation in light of the bigger picture and you can have a calmer and wiser viewpoint.

Take one step at a time.  When we are facing a mountain in front of us, it may seem as though we will never be able to scale the heights. Yet if we take one small step forward, establish our footing and take the next step we will make progress. The key is not running to the top, but rather taking gradually steps upward to get where we are going.

Assess Your Assets.  It’s easy to focus on our weaknesses and feel as though we are making an accurate assessment of the situation. It is true that we each have weaknesses that need to be dealt with, but more important, we each have strengths that need to employed. Let’s take measure of our strengths and the assets, build on them and focus on how to use our gifts to the best of our abilities.

Seek Wise Advice. One of the best ways to stay grounded is to listen to wise counsel. We don’t want to allow someone to zap our hope and drain our dreams, but it is important to listen to other perspectives in order to make wise decisions. The wisdom of others can help us maintain a levelheaded optimism as we move forward with our goals.

Living life with a positive outlook, doesn’t mean we are impractical or unrealistic. On the contrary, we can choose to live with a confidence and boldness, knowing that we see the obstacles and are ready to face them head on with thoughtfulness and hope.

5 Principles for Overcoming Discouragement

climber

Discouragement can seem like an unscalable wall at times. It hits each one of us in different ways, whether it is losing a key client or setbacks with a major project or frustrations with a family member. How do we strengthen our resolve and keep going? Here are a few life principles to adopt:

Celebrate Small Victories. Sometimes the big picture can be overwhelming, so let’s learn to take incremental steps forward and celebrate the little victories along the way. Create a few simple daily goals that are doable and move step by step in a positive direction.

Change the focus.  Life looks pretty bleak if we only focus on our problems. Let’s stop looking at what we can’t do, and consider what we can do. There is always a bright side, but we must be looking for it. Let’s make a deliberate effort to concentrate on what can be done and the possibilities ahead of us.

Be flexible. When we are fixed on only one outcome, we open ourselves up to defeat. Let’s be willing to adapt and adjust to Plan B. Could it be that “B” stands for Better?If we consider a variety of scenarios, it allows us to adjust our goals and broaden our horizon.

Ask Questions. Discouraging situations also bring opportunities for growth and learning. We can ask questions such as, “How can I do better next time?” “What can I learn from this?” “How can I help others as a result of this?” “Are there other people I need to seek out for counsel or help?”

Have patience. Let’s face it, waiting is hard, but if we persevere we will find that we become stronger and more courageous as we wade through deep waters. Victory, success and change take time. Hang in there and remind yourself that most things get better or easier over time. Even if our circumstances seem like they won’t change for a while, the good news is that we can grow and become better in the process.

Most important, let’s remember that we are not alone. There are others who have gone through similar tough times. We can reach out to them for advice, and we can find encouragement from their example. We can also find strength and hope in our faith that God will give us the courage we need one day at a time.

Leadership 2

 

For more about overcoming challenges, check out Karol’s book, Positive Leadership Principles for Women   n sale for $5 this month.

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

You Prayed and Prayed…

frank-mckenna-117065 (1) 

You prayed and prayed, and no clear answer came. Or worse, you prayed fervently, passionately, ceaselessly . . . only to have the situation turn out exactly the opposite of what you asked. You thought God loved you and would take care of you, but your life fell apart.

When disappointments like these come into our lives, we find ourselves asking, “Where is God?” Maybe you have shaken your fist at God in anger or given up on Him completely. Perhaps you just decided to slowly distance yourself in your relationship with Him, because you haven’t seen Him show up. Disappointment with God comes in many different forms. Whether we understand why God allowed something or not, one thing we can know is that He will not leave us in the midst of our struggle, for Scripture tells us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Personally, I have found great encouragement from reading the words of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, who is known as the “weeping prophet.” Can you believe that? Encouragement from the weeping prophet! But I think you will be encouraged too. As Jeremiah grieved over the destruction of Jerusalem, he turned his eyes toward the day-to-day faithfulness of the Lord. Notice how Jeremiah’s discouragement turns into words of hope:

“The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.

I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.

Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.

So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.”

Will you dare to hope as Jeremiah did? As he grieved his loss, he also declared, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends!” Yes, His mercy is new and fresh each morning. My friend, as you walk this new and different road, grieve the pain as you seek His comfort. Cry out to him for help, and trust his faithfulness to get you through one day at a time. The Bible reminds us, “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”

This week, let us reflect on His loving presence and the strength that He gives in the midst of our not-so-perfect circumstances. Let’s also look for ways that we can show His loving care to others. See the blog below to find ways to volunteer and give to the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

A portion of this blog is from Karol’s book, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive