Hoping Against Hope

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Ninety-nine point nine days of the week, I choose hope.

During these past several decades of living by faith in a God who is a good and faithful Father, and has continually proven Himself so, I have come to know I can have full confidence in Him. He is who He says He is, and He will do all that He has promised, no matter how my circumstances may appear.

But today, as I mark thirty days spent mostly in bed, too weak and exhausted to leave our house and land (except for a couple doctor’s visits), I’m having one of those rare days in which despair keeps tugging at my shirt-tails, whispering in my ear.

I’ve had those brief periods of feeling a bit better – yesterday I was able to get out in the sunshine and weed a bit of the garden for half an hour – but it’s been impossible to make any plans that involve going anywhere or exerting sustained energy.

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Still, as strange as it may sound to you, there is an odd beauty in the rawness that overwhelms me. It’s difficult to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced suffering over long periods of time, yet I often return to meditate on this mystery. When we allow ourselves to feel it, right there in the midst of our deepest pain and darkest despair, there is an ache – a yearning for our God and that perfectly intimate relationship with Him – that is so profoundly felt.

That relationship that I was created for. That you were created for.

Yet throughout our days, we frantically fill the yawning void within us with busyness, with human relationships, with “stuff” that briefly gratifies, with white noise. We don’t want to feel the depths of the ache. And how incredibly deep it is!

When I have these days where I am at the end of myself, and no “feeling of hope” rises up within me; when all my fight is spent and my little box of “secrets to coping” is empty, that mystery comes alive. Like a wound whose scab has been picked away, the sheer sting of it exposes my nakedness.

I am nothing without Jesus.

And though many will declare healing and wholeness over me, and I too will not abandon my hope in the One who has promised, there is a beauty in this very raw place.

Have you ever felt it?

I think about Abraham.
“In hope, against hope, he believed…” (Romans 4:18)
“Without becoming weak in faith, he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead…” (Romans 4:19)

When we examine our circumstances – the hopelessness of our situation, the very appearance of death where the Father has proclaimed life – it is there that we discover a hope that defies explanation. A hope that, against all probability, is grounded in confidence in His divine promise.

So today, as I feel the ache in my soul, I am grateful. For when I sink to the depths of my own brokenness, it is there that I encounter Jesus in a way that those whose lives flow along quite smoothly may never experience. To me, it is a wonderful grace – a mysterious gift that continues to transform me.

Awesome are His ways and I will never stop praising Him.

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Goodbye Ole Girl!

Yesterday, after over eight years in a deeply intimate relationship, I said goodbye to our old motorhome.

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If you know me well,
you’ve probably noticed
that I’m not the overly sentimental type
when it comes to

material things.

While I deeply cherish
all the beauty
(and the challenges!)
of what has been
and has contributed
to making me
who I am,
I’m more about living
in the now
and looking forward
with expectation.

I love seeing
all that God is doing
in and through me
and those around me,
hearing His heart,
and stepping
into new adventures
with Him.

But sometimes it is good to stop and reflect.

About ten years ago, Denny first started talking about the idea of us getting a motorhome – having a home base in the south of Portugal, yet also traveling around to encourage, equip, and inspire others in Southern Europe to do what we’ve been doing together these past decades – passionately loving and serving Jesus, using our gifts in the arts and creating community to share Him with others and disciple them.

I was kind of uncertain about this motorhome idea at first, and thought it would surely be something for much further down the road.

But then, through a series of events, conversations, and promptings of God’s Spirit, it became evident that God was calling us to take this step much sooner than anticipated. And in the end of November 2010, we bought this big baby and set out on a course that has forever changed our lives.

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It has been so amazing for me to discover that, although I never grew up going camping nor doing a lot of traveling, never had visited other countries as a child nor spoken another language, this is exactly the life I was created for. I feel so fully alive every time we set out on the road in our motorhome, heading to locations near and far – not because it satisfies my wild and adventurous spirit, but because God GAVE ME that spirit for this very purpose – for HIS purpose! It’s been incredible to realize that all my life, through so many little things, He was preparing me for this.

And it was in this old 1988 Frankia motorhome, at the age of 47, that I first made that beautiful discovery.

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So many trips around Portugal and Spain, and five trans-European journeys as far as Germany or Poland and back, visiting people everywhere in between! Countless meals shared with family and friends at that small table; sleeps in parks, parking areas, and along the side of the road (but only twice in an actual campground)!

We slept as many as eight people in there once (two were children); had birthday parties and dinners with guests sitting on chairs, stools, and beds, laughing and enjoying conversation. And Denny and I have spent almost every night in that ole girl over all these years. I have loved knowing we were always ready to go, and that most of what we needed materially at any given moment was already in that 7-meter-long, 24-foot space.

I’m so grateful for all we’ve lived in this old motorhome… and incredibly thankful for the newer one that Denny is driving down to the Algarve as I write.

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So, let me encourage you, as I encourage myself, to always be ready to step into whatever God is leading you in. It may feel scary or foolish, and go totally against the grain, but if the Father is guiding you, you can trust Him. And you will surely discover He’s been preparing you all along for a time like this.

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6