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Hope noun.

  1. a feeling of expectation for a certain thing to happen.

  1. a feeling of trust.

The word hope has always been fairly commonplace for me. I’ve always known the meaning, but I’m not sure I ever truly knew or experienced the somewhat scary joy of being sustained by hope, and only hope. Of course throughout my life I’ve had times of being hopeful, but as Jesus has taught me this year, there’s a difference between being hopeful and being surrendered to Hope. At the beginning of this year, I had no idea I would be living where I am now. I had no idea what God had in store. I had no idea how He was going to use me and grow me. In June I moved into an “income restricted” apartment complex in Shelby that has been an answer to a prayer and a gift from my God. The first time I drove by to scope the place out, the trees were in bloom, the sun was shining, and I saw five little girls playing hopscotch in the parking lot. I smiled to myself and whispered, “Lord, I would love to live here.” I still stop in my tracks sometimes while walking through my living room, remembering the day I came to sign the lease and knelt down in the middle of the empty space, dedicating it to God. “I had no idea You were going to bring me here and I don’t know what’s next, but I’m excited to do it with You. So here it is, Lord. It’s Yours.” Because of the demographic, I knew living here was not going to feel idyllic - at least by the world’s reasoning. But I was oddly excited and thankful for that. I didn’t want to live with my head in the sand when it came to the needs of those in my own community! I didn’t even want to compartmentalize it which can mean caring about my community while serving for a couple hours and then not thinking about them again once I returned to my comfortable home. I wanted to be in the thick of it and bring light into dark places. While prepping for a trip to go and disciple believers in west Africa last year, our missions pastor told our team, “When foreigners are the ones bringing the gospel, the gospel will seem foreign.” I think about that a lot. Moving here, I felt excited, knowing that God was placing me in a dark place right in my own town, so I could share Light. It wouldn’t happen overnight, but eventually I wouldn't be a foreigner here - this would become my home and community, and God would open doors for me to build trust and love the people here like He loves me. After a little while I started to learn the names of the kids who live here, and now they come knock on my door almost every day. This was something I had prayed for - that God would give me opportunities to build relationships with the kids here. But I will be honest, I really wrestled with this for a while. I would come home from working with kids to more kids desiring my attention. It became so that when I heard their little footsteps coming I felt a twinge of dread in my heart and then instant sadness that I wasn’t cherishing this prayer God had answered. I felt like I had no energy left to give them, and I felt sad over this sin in my heart that I had allowed to turn an opportunity and blessing into a burden. Sin told me, “if you pour yourself into others you will be empty.” Scripture tells me, “as you pour into others you will be filled.

I am so thankful we have a “Hope” outside of ourselves. A “Hope” that saves us from ourselves. “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24 . “For whosoever desires to save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:25 So which God are you serving? Don’t shrink back from loving people sacrificially, God will give you the energy. (Hebrews 10:39, Colossians 1:29) Now when the kids come knock on my door and ask for a glass of cold water (because they know that’s what I’ll give them) I cling to this scripture that God so kindly reminded me of, “...when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink. Truly truly I tell you, whatsoever you have done unto the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:35-40) The past 7 months of living here - through both the beauty and the brokenness - have drawn me closer to the Holy Spirit. There have been peaceful moments of singing in my kitchen, peeking out the window to see the neighborhood kids playing outside. There have been nights of being shaken awake by the Holy Spirit so I could call 911 for a neighbor. There have been afternoons filled with hours of coloring with the kids who will just come by and sit on my steps....Movie nights and cooking mishaps with dear friends....Sitting at my table sipping hot cocoa, telling one of the sweet girls I saw playing hopscotch my first day here about how God has brought me from death to life. There have been sleepless nights of not knowing what else to do besides pray - not even knowing what I’m praying for, but knowing it’s urgent.

When I looked around horizontally at the brokenness around me, I didn’t see hope. That began to weigh heavily on me. It wasn’t even like I had never seen brokenness before moving here - I’d seen it a lot. But this time it forced me to ask myself the question, “where are you looking for Hope, Liv?” I questioned whether I was able to do what God had placed me here to do. I was still dealing with confusion and pain from some personal hurts this year - and then moving into a place where I was surrounded by so many others who I knew were hurting, seeming like darkness had the upper hand - it made me feel like I was going to collapse in on myself. The temptation of hopelessness was always within reach, but the Holy Spirit I know was interceding on my behalf, because I was able to remember that feelings aren’t truth. Things were feeling hopeless, but was that actually true? Where was I placing my hope? In everything feeling good? In the idea of there being no suffering in the world? In my efforts always producing the outcomes I want them to? I wanted each child here (and honestly every person here, because they were all children at one point) to be able to go to sleep without fear. I wanted each one to have a “normal childhood”. I wanted each one to have someone who loved and encouraged and disciplined them and fed them at least one hot meal a day. But if that’s where I put my hope I would have surely given up by now. The enemy will use that as a tool to burn you out - to cause you to throw your hands up and say, “what’s the use?! Nothing is changing!” But don’t fall for that. Our hope is not in ourselves or in this life. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us.” Romans 5:1-5 Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Think about this. To defer is to put off until a later date. Are you, like I was for so long, placing your daily hope in the uneternal? Are you placing it in yourself or others? I was placing it in seeing certain outcomes, and true to this proverb, it made my heart sick. Do not defer hope. I told Jesus recently, “I want my eyes to be hopeful.” I had felt so tired and felt that my eyes reflected that - not just physically, because let’s be real, that’s just how it is now - but deeper than that, I wanted to be sure that regardless of how much sleep I’d gotten the night before, when someone looked into my eyes, they would immediately and undoubtedly see hope. He told me that if I want my eyes to be hopeful, I have to behold Hope. In order to truly bring heavenly, lasting change to this hurting world, we have to be sure that our gaze is locked into Jesus - not our circumstances. This does not mean we don’t have eyes for the hurting around us. The opposite is true. When we are sure of our hope in Jesus, we don’t have to go looking for it - we are free to serve others with a pure heart. Our hope is in a perfect Savior, not the broken circumstances that surround us, or their outcomes. “But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” When our hope is misplaced, all our efforts to bring help and relief to this world will not be sustainably fruitful, because we will look for our hope in the outcomes of our efforts rather than in the life of Jesus and the hope of heaven… The tree of life, a longing fulfilled. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:19 I long for heaven, for everything to be the way that it was meant to be.....No sin, no brokenness, pain or injustice. But that longing is what propels me to give hope here. I had to be sure about where I was placing my hope. It had to be secured in Heaven so that I could be free from LOOKING for it here, and instead GIVE hope here. I am not a rescuer. I am not a savior. My hope is not in myself. Jesus is the only one who can ever truly be that for anyone, and living here has solidified that truth not only in my own personal life, but also in how I love and approach others. My hope goes far beyond what I will see or do in this life. I pray that I will be faithful to give hope and disciple others while I am on this earth, but regardless of my actions or the outcomes of situations I’m trying to influence, this will remain true - King Jesus left the perfection of heaven and the company of His Father to come into our brokenness and save us, a deeply loved yet undeserving people - and one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. And He will wipe every tear from our eyes. That hope is for anyone who will receive it. The first definition for hope was, “a feeling of expectation for a certain thing to happen.” We can’t be sure of most things in this life, but we can be sure of that and trust in it wholly. That is a Hope for a weary world to rejoice in, amen? “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God, He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8 Wear the hope of salvation as a helmet. (Ephesians 6:10-18) I’m so grateful I get to live here and love these people, my friends. And not only that, but I am continually learning more about how He loves me while I am learning how to love them well. I’m thankful to be here, in the midst of brokenness, because it has sharpened my focus as I pray for foster care. I’m thankful to be here, because even in the brokenness, there is still sure joy and beauty. So I will keep beholding Hope, so that I may continually offer it to ones who are hurting and tired. Where does God want to show you Hope? Where has He placed you where you can give Hope? “Jesus, I know you love this place and the people who live here. Thank you for entrusting these precious gifts to me. I pray that you would bless and protect this place and show me how to truly give hope as I live here. I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ - you call us to different things, Lord. But I thank you that in each of those things our hope is secured in You. Strengthen believers to sacrificially love, disciple, and point others to the true Hope. Amen.”

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