Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lessons from Caregiving #3: Shaping

(By Repat - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

(This post is part of a series. For previous posts in the series please see #1 and #2.)

As I walk through the last year of my 40s, I have been thinking a lot about what has shaped me. What has made me who I am, at my core? What comes out as my default reactions, and why? 

In my heart of hearts, I will always be a small town girl who grew up on a dirt road. This comes out at odd times, but it has defined me in so many ways. When I realized that I would likely never move from the area where I live now, I immediately found myself finding ways to make it feel smaller to me. 

I've also been profoundly shaped by being the child of disabled parents. I can vividly recall the chill bumps that I got the day I was discussing the Holocaust with my dad. I was in 9th grade and we were just studying that horrific era of history. My dad said nonchalantly, "You realize that if I had been born in Germany in 1939 instead of Arkansas, I would likely not have survived childhood." He knew, as I was learning, that the Germans first victims were the disabled. That conversation lay the groundwork for what would eventually become a strong pro-life ethic with advocacy for individuals with disabilities.

Other experiences and moments have shaped me: The man I married. The day I cried out to God asking to live a life without any more regrets. The church we ultimately ended up choosing. I'm a firm believer that our shaping can continue throughout our lives if we let it, and that we face things that change us forever. 

In this caregiving season, I am realizing that being a caregiver is an incredible shaping opportunity. I first learned this with my mother-in-law, but the shaping is even more deep and profound this time. I'm trying to learn how to let it shape me for the better, and for the long-term. Obviously some of the changes are by neccessity temporary - I won't always have the work schedule adjustments I have now, for example. But other changes I find that I am enjoying and want to take into myself for the long haul. 

I'm learning (slowly!) to live in the moments; to find joy in just being in someone else's presence. I'm learning to be less task-oriented and more relational. I'm learning flexibility in ways that are stretching me. I'm learning about family and all the ways that can look. I'm learning about authentic trust, about a faith that has plenty of room for questions and tears. I'm learning to grieve with hope, but to still grieve. I'm learning to slow down and take things one step at a time. As frustrating as it is, I'm learning to wait. To wait on God to move when I think He should be faster. To wait on answers that don't seem to come. To wait on those days I don't know what I'm waiting for. More than anything else, I'm learning to let this hard thing that I would never choose drive me to Jesus more than ever before. 

Caregiving, like other shaping opportunities, will either make me or break me. I don't want to become bitter and resentful. I want to learn the lessons of this season. I want them to make me more like Jesus, for this to become a before and after shot for me. Scripture tells me how to do this - by focusing on His Word and on Jesus Himself. May I do this well, for His glory.
Romans 12:2 NET - (2) Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God - what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. 
2 Corinthians 3:18 NET - (18) And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Lessons from Caregiving #2: The Power of the Spirit

Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NET 

(This post is part of a series. For previous posts in the series please see #1.)

One of the most powerful lessons I am learning is the incredible power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.

One of the ways that this disease has affected my sweet husband the most is by making him much less verbal, unable to think of words or express words he is thinking of. Depending on the day, he may or may not be confused about what he is hearing as well. It's easy for me to despair, thinking that this disease is stealing so much of what I have loved for the past 24 years.

But when I look past the temporary, I see the truth of Paul's words to the Corinthians. My husband's inner person is being renewed daily by the Holy Spirit. I see it when he maintains his quiet time habit, even when he doesn't understand the words he is reading. I see it when he tears up or outright weeps at worship songs, when he is having a silent day but starts randomly singing "I'll Fly Away" or joining in with our music. Even when he lacks the words to pray, I see it when he makes the effort, and Paul's words to the Romans take on new meaning:
Romans 8:26-27 NET (26) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. (27) And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God's will.
As I struggled through a season of prayers that seemed unanswered and weeks when I didn't hear from the Lord, I watched him continue to love Jesus with the simple faith that has always been so powerful to me. Gradually my prayers shifted. Instead of praying for a specific outcome, I started praying for his spiritual life. I started praying for him to continue to hear Christ's voice, for him to bring honor to Jesus in this season, and so much more. I grabbed Scriptures that drew my attention to the eternal, and I pray them daily.

In the process, I learned a powerful truth. Dementia can steal a lot of things, but it can't steal his faith. Jesus meant it when He promised that nothing can separate us from God's love or take us out of His hands when we belong to Him. The cross truly has the final word.
John 10:27-30 NLT (27) "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (28) I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, (29) for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father's hand. (30) The Father and I are one."
Romans 8:38-39 NLT - (38) And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. (39) No power in the sky above or in the earth below--indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Lesson from Caregiving #1: Being the Body

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2) 

Readers of this blog know that our family has been going through a difficult season. There is so much I want to share that I am learning through this time, but the demands of each day, coupled with fatigue and my need to process, have made it hard to put the lessons into words. I'm determined to make an effort, though, because I firmly believe that I don't fully learn a lesson until I communicate it to someone else. 

The background: For the second time in my adult life, I have entered into a season of caregiving. Those who have been in this role know there is a difference between helping someone out and actually having the role of primary caregiver. Despite your best efforts, it becomes consuming. It can easily become your primary identity, the thing you think of first when meeting someone new or introducing yourself to a group. It's full of challenges and rewards that no one can understand without actually walking this journey. 

The difficult part about this caregiving season is that it's not the season I expected. My husband and I were the primary caregivers for his mom for several years prior to her death in 2007. I fully anticipated a repeat of that for my parents as they aged, or at least for one of them after the other went to be with the Lord. While they are aging and do need extra care and attention, in God's perfect will and sovereignty the caregiving season He called me to is for my husband. My sweet, loving, generous, funny, caring, chatty, effusive, God-centered husband was diagnosed with dementia last year, confirming suspicions of over a year and a half. To say that I was blindsided is an understatement. I felt body-slammed. Still do, some days. Some of the more recent posts on this blog were written in the depths of that diagnosis as I felt my world spinning out of control. There were many days I held on to a John 6:68 faith, not because it made me feel good but because I had nowhere else to turn. By God's grace, I landed on my feet and grew increasingly assured that even when I'm not holding on to Him, He's holding on to me. 

While all of that struggle was happening in my spirit, my husband's condition was worsening quickly. He went from diagnosis, to unable to drive, to needing someone to check in on him while I was working, to needing full time companion care, all in less than a year. We still haven't figured out everything we need to make it work with me working full time and trying to stretch out FMLA through the full year. I have a lot of support from his kids but they do not live locally. So I did the only thing I knew to do - I made the need known. And I learned a beautiful lesson. 

The body of Christ stepped up in a big way. Our church rallied and soon I had a mom of six taking him on her errands and entertaining her four year old; a single mom hanging out with him every afternoon before her son got home; a young dad taking time to walk and even bringing him over to spend the day with his family. A friend who works 60+ hours a week spent a rare day off hanging out with him. Other friends brought food or ran errands, and countless prayed, listened, and gave much needed hugs. The extended body of Christ stepped in as well - a dear, long-time friend first volunteered her husband for some household tasks and an outing, and then used her gift of connection to introduce us to a retired nurse who is volunteering two full days a week. A co-worker's husband took him to his church group a few times. On a desperate day when there was no coverage, a church friend's mom (who attends a different church) came over for the day. And I am sure I am forgetting something in the midst of all this! 

Why do I share this? Because I think we sometimes need a practical example of what it looks like to do as Paul wrote - "Carry one another's burdens." Yes, we do that in prayer. But when we pray, we should always be willing to become part of the answer to our own prayers. All of these people were willing, and it has been a powerful and beautiful - not to mention humbling - experience.

Here is just a snippet of what I have learned about asking for and giving help through this process: 

  • Ask. That might go without saying, but it really must be said, because so many fail to get help because no one knows it is a need. Scripture is filled with examples of Godly people who asked for help! 
  • Be specific. I know this can be a challenge, because sometimes you don't know what you even need. But as much as possible, be specific about what the needs are. "I need someone from 9-2 on Monday and Thursday" is a lot more clear than, "I need someone to come over." I started a Facebook group for those providing regular help, in order to communicate schedules and plans for each week. But I also tried to share specific needs as they developed outside that group as well, sharing in our church prayer group and occasionally more broadly.
  • Be flexible. Be willing to have the plans change, for someone to share the responsibility with someone else, for it to look different than you would do it. 
  • Be honest. When you ask someone for help it is typically because there is a challenge involved! Be honest about what it  is. Honesty prepares them for what they will face, equips them to do the job, and encourages them that they are not the only one facing challenges. 
  • Be thankful. Thank those assisting in many ways - verbally, and if appropriate financially or with thank you cards. Somehow, make sure they know you appreciate them. This can be hard, since you are probably tired, but it is so encouraging to someone who sacrificed for you. 
  • Be receptive. Be willing to receive the unexpected help. If someone randomly calls that they are bringing food, take it (unless you have no place for it and it would be thrown away, of course - but most things can be frozen!). I am learning to trust the Holy Spirit in the lives of others. If God puts a random thing on someone's heart, there is probably a reason! And if someone offers, try to take them up on it. Trust God is putting you together for a reason.
For those giving the help, let me share just a few of the many things that our church and extended body of Christ have done very well. I have learned much from them about giving help through this process. 
  • Offer. Even if you don't know what you can do, you can offer. You might be surprised what needs you can meet. One of the dearest women in my life works full time and has a full plate as a busy grandma - but she lives close to my local honey source, and she picks up my honey monthly, saving me an errand and getting me home a little earlier.
  • Be clear about what you can do. If you are only available for an hour on Monday mornings, say so. Maybe that is the perfect time to pick up an online grocery order for someone. It's much harder to accept help when you don't know what is being offered or when. 
  • Listen to the Holy Spirit. I'll never forget the week when a sweet friend told me she wouldn't be available, and then texted me that God had changed her mind by reminding her of something from Bible study. I was humbled and learned from her that part of service is being flexible when the Holy Spirit changes the plans. 
  • Find a way not to take no for an answer. I've had friends say, "I'm bringing you food next week; which night is best?" That is much harder to say no to than "Let me know if you need anything." I've also appreciated not having to think about what I need to ask for at times. 
  • Stay in it for the long haul. Your circumstances will change. Their needs will change. But make sure they know that as things shift, you are still there. As quickly as this is moving I have changed the plans on our support team so many times, and I anticipate that will continue to be the case! They are all so sweet and sticking with it for the long haul - something I deeply appreciate! 
Being the body of Christ is about far more than Sunday morning worship, Bible study, prayer meetings, and yummy potlucks. In the day-to-day of our lives, it's about carrying one another's burdens to fulfill the law of Christ - the law of love. 

I am eternally grateful for the lessons I have learned from those living out this law of love in our lives through this season.

(This post is part of a series. For additional posts in the series please see #2.& #3)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Visiting Lazarus

John 11:11, 14-16, 39 NLT - (11) Then he said, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up." ... (14) So he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. (15) And for your sakes, I'm glad I wasn't there, for now you will really believe. Come, let's go see him." (16) Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let's go, too--and die with Jesus." ... (39) "Roll the stone aside," Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man's sister, protested, "Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible."

You don't have to know a lot about first century Jewish beliefs to capture the anxiety Jesus' followers feel in this moment: Lazarus is dead. It's been four days, he stinks, and the political climate means going into this situation might mean death for Jesus and those close to Him. Add in just a little background knowledge and you quickly learn how much superstition surrounded death in first century Israel. Throw into the mix that Jesus puts His finger on the root issue of unbelief in verse 15, and we have a recipe for running the other way.


As He so often did, Jesus took a course of action far from what was expected of Him. He waited until Lazarus died though He could have prevented it. He waited until Lazarus was dead for four days, so there could be no doubt that he was really and truly dead (in their minds, the soul left the body after three days). And He didn't allow His disciples to stay in their fear. Quite the opposite. He called them to walk with Him into that fear.

Today, I had a hard task ahead of me. It's the latest in a dreaded series of tasks related to the season I'm in - one of those things you never thought you'd find yourself doing. Key to this story is that I didn't realize that the task was going to happen today. I just knew this series of things was hanging over my head.

This morning, I sat down for my quiet time and while I often save my gospel reading for evening, I felt that prompting that said I needed it this morning. Very quickly, these verses jumped off the page.

One of the things I love about the word of God is that it is living and active. While that is a theological truth, it's also a practical reality. What it means is that at any given time, God can take a word from the pages of Scripture and bring it to life in an intensely personal way. It doesn't happen every day, but if you stay in Scripture consistently, with faith, you will experience it sooner or later.

For me, God's word couldn't have been clearer: Follow Jesus into the place of my fear, my anxiety, my unbelief. I saw, probably for the first time ever, that Jesus was already determined to visit Lazarus. He just invited these scared, weak-faithed men to go along for the journey. When they got there, He would quickly get to the root of their fear and superstition - the unbelief that is at the heart of so much of our struggles. But they didn't know that. In fact, Thomas' words make it clear they thought they were going there to die. In a way he was right. Although it wouldn't happen immediately, they would soon die to their unbelief when confronted with an empty tomb.

I didn't want to do today's task. But Jesus was already planning to go, and I wanted to be where He was. In His grace, He sent someone with me to be His arms and heart. I'm still processing what areas of unbelief He wants to tear down. But what I learned today was that if He calls this weak-faithed woman to walk into my fear, anxiety, superstition, or unbelief, I can be assured that He is already planning to be there, waiting on me to join Him.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Standing In the Fire

Today is my birthday and in many ways it was one of those near-perfect days. I got to spend it with family that I love dearly and heard from more family, and friends that have become family. It was a moment to cherish in my heart. Yet as so often in life, that beauty came in the midst of storm clouds - literal and symbolic. While we were driving home in a quite severe storm, I got a call that threw me instantly into a symbolic storm. I'm in a pretty stormy life season already, so this came at a point of already-heightened tension.

It's no accident that I had only yesterday read my words from 7 years ago, "Dancing in the Minefields." Last night when I read that, I thought again of the truth that usually the journey we go on with Jesus looks nothing like our expectations. Why should it? Those who walked the earth with Him, even those closest to Him, expected one thing and got something altogether different. Altogether better, but not necessarily what they thought they wanted.

As we were driving through this storm and I was getting storm clouds on the phone, I was also listening to music that nurtured my soul and built my faith. I can't say I'm not anxious. But I'm ending my birthday where it began ... focusing on the One I love above all. If anyone wonders why I love Him so much, there is one line that sums it up: "You stand in the fire beside me." On my darkest days, when I long for a different set of facts, I take solace in this truth: I'd rather be standing in the fire with Him than outside it alone.

There is a truth older than the ages
There is a promise of things yet to come
There is one, born for our salvation
There is a light that overwhelms the darkness
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us
Jesus, Jesus
Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the lamb
He carries my healing in his hands
There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages
He is Jesus, Jesus
Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the lamb
He carries my healing in his hands
Messiah, my Savior
There is power in Your name
You're my rock and, my redeemer
There is power in Your name
In Your name
You walk on the waters
You speak to the sea
You stand in the fire beside me
You roar like a lion
You bled as the lamb
You carry my healing in Your hands
God, you walk on the waters
You speak to the sea
You stand in the fire beside me
You roar like a lion
You bled as the lamb
You carry my healing in Your hands
There is no one like you
There is no one like you
Songwriters: Chris Tomlin / Ed Cash
Jesus lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Alchemist

Authenticity is really important to me. I don't ever want to be one of those "happy clappy" types who just share the good side of things. Jesus is Lord over my bad days as well as good ones, and authentic faith encompasses the hard questions. 
Our family is going through a deep trial right now. Some days are filled with joy. But there are really hard things and really bad days. Yesterday was one and it ended with me standing in the kitchen bawling the ugly cry while putting up dishes. It's not that I wasn't still joyful over the blessings from the day before. But the joy was mingled with grief, with pain.
This morning as I processed the contrast of Friday night and Saturday night, these words poured forth when I tried to pray. I'm sharing them, because they reflect a truth that we all have to grasp in one way or another. Roses have thorns, and life has trials, because we live in a fallen world. Yet there is One who has redeemed it all, who is working it to transform me and you for our good and His glory.
The Alchemist
I stood in the kitchen and wept last night
Tears of sorrow, not joy this time.
24 hours earlier I was on cloud nine.
Oh, this disease.
I'm promised so much -
The spiritual returns of what I give up for HIm -
Yet wrapped up in the promise, trials.
Oh, this life.
Joy mingles with sorrow in the cup.
This much pain, this much blessing, a dash of strength, a dollop of peace...
The alchemist hands me the cup.
Oh, this drink.
I didn't ask for it.
Not this drink, not this flavor.
Yet in faith I sip, the drink burning my throat, warming my soul.
Oh, the cost and paradox of discipleship.
I set the cup down.
Through tear-filled eyes I see in the remains - a cross. 
And on the handle, written in blood, the single word - 

Sunday, January 21, 2018


So Jesus said to the twelve, "You don't want to go away too, do you?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!" (John 6:67-69)

I live in a part of the country that experiences almost every type of weather, including short-lived summer storms and the longer-lasting spring and fall variety. I've lived long enough to know that rarely do storms that last a long time leave quickly. Usually, the clouds gather for a while, they stick around, and then take their time moving out. There is a time, though, when you can tell the worst is over and the clearing has begun.

I'm just emerging from a couple of storm-tossed years. The sun has started peeking through increasingly, and I sense that the stormy transition is settling in to the daily reality of a new season. 

During the worst moments of this storm, I've lived a number of what I called "John 6:68 days". For far too long than I ever want to experience again, I lived through days where every single thing I did felt like a "should". I was depressed, but I had to keep going, so I kept doing all the "right things" with no heart in it. I prayed, but didn't feel God's presence. I read His Word, but didn't hear His voice. I served, but didn't readily notice His strength. I was going through the motions. 

On the worst of those days, I was tempted to want a different option. The cost of discipleship felt too great. His sovereignty was something I believed, but struggled with. I was being wrecked, and I hated it. I never doubted Him, but I couldn't feel Him. Hope wasn't a reality, just something I knew had to be out there somewhere.

But I kept coming back to the truth Peter proclaimed: There was nowhere else to turn. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I preferred to be in the storm with Jesus, rather than out of the storm without Him. I was often mad about the storm, but I knew there was no better option out there. As I wrote at the time: 
But the words of eternal life? The heart of my faith, the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected, saving me forever? That one keeps me coming back to the throne room day after day, sometimes crawling in tears, other times celebrating, still other days just gritting my teeth and doing it because it's on my list.
And what I am learning is that even on the days that the basics of the Gospel are all I can hold on to, when I just go to Jesus because it's either Him or nothing - that is still victory. Don't take my word for it. Listen to the Apostle John: "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." - 1 John 5:4 ESV
But oh, joy of joys, today I realized something precious. As I worshipped in church like I have almost every Sunday through this storm, I realized that the "where else could I turn" faith had shifted back to a "knowing" faith - a knowing that God is in control and working all things for good. A knowing that He is sovereign AND good, and that I can trust Him utterly. This "knowing" didn't happen in a moment, nor is it new. But being aware that it is there, and has been all along, was a beautiful gift today. 

My pastor went on to preach about the importance of having a foundation in the Word of God. As I listened I thought about my 20 years with Him up to this point and all the foundation we have laid together. Day after day in the Word. Worship song after worship song in the background. Church service after church service. Book after book. 

Today as we sang, "Never let go", the lines jumped out to me: "Even though I'm caught in the middle of the storms of this life//I won't turn back I know You are near". One of the most tender moments I've ever had with God was when He taught me how I'm literally carried by His grace and mercy. Today, as I thought through the past couple of years, I thought of this lesson in a new light. Acts 27:17 tells of Paul's journey to Rome and the scary storm onboard the ship that caused them to consider turning back.
(Acts 27:17) After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables [literally = helps] in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along.
What I realized is that the ship had to have these supporting cables already in place. The ability to stay in the storm and not turn back was dependent on having the right equipment - the right foundation, if you will. 

God often gives new believers a precious gift, and I was no exception. He often provides a season of deliverance, joy, and victory. Much like the foundation we lay for our children in the preschool and early elementary years, this time provides a place to learn trust for the future when the lessons are more challenging. As seasoned believers, one of the best things we can do for new followers of Christ is to help them build that foundation for when they will need it most. If you are a new believer, or maybe one who hasn't spent the time on the foundation, I encourage you to start today! Find a church and be consistent (spoiler alert, it won't be perfect. Don't let that stop you.) Read the Bible daily. Attend a Bible study. Put on worship music every chance you get. The storms will come. Build the knowing in now, for the time when you might feel like giving up is coming. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Where Hope Can Be Found

I don't think it's important for Christians to feel hopeful all the time. In fact, I am increasingly convinced that the most hopeful believer in Scripture is actually - Job.

You might want to read that again, because the prevailing sentiment in Christian teaching is often some version of "Christians should be the most hopeful people ever." I'm lovingly challenging the way that comment is often presented.

Such a theology has some truth in it, of course. But when you hit a stormy season - when you face a Job-type situation - that comment can quickly become overwhelming. It can feel like one more thing to add to a long to-do list.

I'm not saying that hope isn't important for Christians. What I'm saying is that hope isn't something we have to pursue. It's something we have, because of Jesus.

In a season of being wrecked, this shift in thinking can be profoundly freeing. It can move "hope" from a legalistic verb to a refreshing noun. Instead of being something we try to feel, it becomes the ground under our feet, the air we breathe, the water that fills every cell of our being. "Hope" in the Bible isn't a feeling - it is a confident expectation based on truth. Hope isn't something we do - it's something produced in us through the crucible of suffering (Romans 5:1-5). We are purified as we learn to hope in Jesus (1 John 3:3).

Perhaps surprisingly, the book of Job uses this word more than any other book in Scripture except for Psalms. I think that is likely because Job knew one of the deepest truths about hope: God Himself is a God of Hope (Romans 15:13). We never find hope by looking to a certain outcome, or by stirring up a certain emotion. Job teaches me that we can be totally grieved over our circumstances and still find hope in the truth of who God is. Job spends a lot of time talking about his frustrations and pain. He is authentically working out his suffering in the context of relationship with his Creator. But underneath it all, he knows that his Creator is the God of hope. He doesn't see it (because hope by definition is not seen - Romans 8:24), but he knows where to find it.

That's why I've come to love this song by Lauren Daigle so much. It reminds me that the kind of hope that is an anchor for my soul comes when I know where that hope is found - more specifically, when I know the One in WHOM that hope is found. True hope is Jesus. He alone is my hope. As the old song says, "My Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." Not just the eternal hope of salvation, but the hope for today. The hope that gets me out of bed in the morning.

If you or someone you know is going through a tough season, avoid the legalism of "feeling hopeful". Embrace hope as the Bible presents it - the person of Jesus. When we are in His presence, we are in the environment where hope can be found - whether we feel particularly hopeful or not.