Catherine's Hope

Finding hope in unexpected places

Holy Middle Ground

You know the time you spend waiting – between when you pray the prayer and when God brings the answer? Today I heard that space referred to as the “Holy Middle Ground”.

It’s that space of time when it seems that things are going so incredibly slow. You know there is a plan and a purpose, but you can’t see anything ‘happening’. You are waiting for God to answer a prayer, or waiting for someone to return home, or just simply waiting to get through. Whatever your middle ground may be, there’s a reason for it. Holy middle ground is the place where roots go deep, hope gets settled into your heart and faith becomes your life’s breath. Waiting is hard. And the in-between places can seem never-ending. Don’t give up. Keep standing.

This middle ground is holy

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But I’m Not Brave!

I went to the gym this morning – probably the first time in almost a year. And tonight, I ordered my first ever sugar-free, peppermint mocha. I posted pictures of both on Facebook and received all sorts of comments cheering me on as I have decided to make changes to better my health. You know the usual comments such as “You can do this! You go, girl!” and the like. I have the most encouraging friends.

And then I read this one:

“You are brave and strong and beautiful.”

I read it.

Read it again.

And I didn’t really know what to do with it.

Me?

Brave?

I’m not brave. At least, I have never thought of myself as such.

So, I did what any normal person would do and I googled the definition of brave.

Definition 1 – Ready to face and endure danger or pain.

Um, no. That is definitely NOT me. I do whatever I can to avoid danger and pain.

Definition 2 – Showing courage.

Google – Define Courage

Courage: The ability to do something that frightens one.

Okay, maybe now I can see how someone could call me brave, because there have been plenty of things I have done that frightened me at the time (and some of those things still do!). Like writing a blog post about being brave.

But I haven’t always been brave. More times than I would like to admit, I have let fear keep me from doing something.

So how did I suddenly become brave?

First of all, no one suddenly becomes brave. As for me, I think being brave began as my perspective on fear changed.

“..perfect love casts out fear…” I John 4:18 

I began seeing God’s heart for me and understanding more about His unconditional love. And, as cliché as that sounds, it’s not something I just know in my head. It is something I’ve begun knowing in the deepest places of my heart. God loves me. His love is perfect. And there is no fear in love.

Does that mean nothing ever frightens me?

Absolutely not! (Did I mention there’s a little bit of fear even in writing this post?)

But fear doesn’t affect me the same as it used to.  I’m no longer controlled or paralyzed by it. Sure, I’m still afraid of things. Watch me walk into a room full of people I don’t know and I’m sure you would be able to see it on my face – sheer terror. But that doesn’t mean I won’t still do it if it’s something I know I’m supposed to do, fear or not.

I’ve heard it said that you can do just about anything when you know someone loves you.

If that’s true (which I believe it is) imagine what you could do if you knew that God, the Creator of all the universe, loved you completely and unconditionally.

What makes me brave?

Love does.

The Courageous Wait

I’m not a patient person. I blame the fast-food, fast-everything culture that I live in. And when it comes to waiting on God to answer my prayers, I would almost rather Him tell me no than to have Him answer with “wait”. Waiting is hard. Especially when I look around and I see people my age and much younger getting the answers that I’m waiting for.

What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t God love me? I thought for sure I would be married before they would! (Yes, I am human – and I still hate to admit I have had those judgmental thoughts.)

Recently I sat with a friend and talked about the unknowns coming up in the days ahead. And there are some big ones for both of us.

Unknowns are scary, especially for someone who likes the control of things being predictable.

But as I drove home and began to think about the different things I’m waiting on, I realized that for the first time in… well… for the first time ever, I’m okay with the wait. I’m okay with not knowing.

This has never happened before.

Not knowing what’s next has always sent my mind running in every direction, imagining the worst-case scenarios and it sends my heart into panic mode, trying to help things move in one direction or another, usually causing more chaos than necessary.

But instead, there is peace. You know, the kind the Bible talks about, “peace that passes all understanding”. I get it now, because I don’t get it. I understand when they say God gives peace that passes all understanding because I don’t understand how I can have this peace when there are things in my future that I don’t know how they are going to work out – and they are big things.

What changed?

I started saying yes.

I started saying yes to things that scared me. I started saying yes to those things I knew in my heart God was calling me to, even though the thought of it terrified me. Things like walking up to complete strangers and giving them flowers and sharing hope. Saying yes when asked to preach in the kids’ class one weekend at church. Buying a ticket to a business conference and going after God’s dream for me to open a flower shop. And saying yes when God speaks to my heart something bold to share with a friend.

Not just saying that I trust God – but truly trusting Him with all my heart. It doesn’t mean there won’t be difficult days. Sometimes the waiting is painfully hard when I think about where I imagined my life would be by now.

But I believe with all my heart that there is courage wrapped up in the wait. It takes courage to say, “God, I don’t know how you are going to pull this one off, but I trust You to do it.” And then wait for Him to do it. There’s courage in taking the next step when you don’t know where your foot is going to land. And I believe in those unknown first steps is where you find hope.

So here’s to saying yes when God calls us to the courageous wait.

Sometimes You Just Have To Move…

This morning as I sat listening to my pastor speak about worship I heard him quote a scripture I have heard hundreds of times about putting on the ‘garment of praise’. He talked about those times when you come to church and you just don’t feel like praising God. He physically put on his jacket – and talked about how it’s an act of our will. I’m going to praise even though I don’t feel like it – even though I’ve had a bad morning – even though I’m distracted.

Fast forward to an afternoon of coffee and writing at Starbucks and here I sit trying to work on a “War Room” kind of prayer journal. For those of you who haven’t heard of it “War Room” is a movie about a woman who begins praying for her husband and her family – praying scriptures – and turns a closet into a sort of ‘war room’ where she  wars for her family in prayer.

I have spent some time writing out scriptures and prayers about guarding my heart, trusting God to fight for me and keeping my my heart set on things that will build up my spirit instead of tear me down.

As I was looking through different “War Room Prayers” online I came across a list of prayers to pray for my future husband.

I almost skipped right over this part of my Google search.

I don’t feel like praying for my future husband – because right now it doesn’t feel like he’s ever going to come. I’m beyond tired. I’m weary. And hearing the words “It’s gonna happen in God’s timing” just aren’t encouraging anymore.

“Put on the garment of praise…”

Have you ever noticed how sometimes God will bring back words and conversations just at the moment we need them.

Last week I was talking to a friend of mine and I said this to him, “Sometimes you just have to move and trust that your heart and emotions will follow.”

“Put on the garment of praise…”

Today I began writing out scriptures to pray for my future husband.

I will be honest – it didn’t automatically take away the weariness and the discouragement. And it’s hard for me to not insert someone I’ve already met into that “future husband” slot in my head.

But I’m praying scripture.

I’m speaking the Word of God.

And the Word of God brings life.

And right now – that’s exactly what I need.

You Make Me Brave

You Make Me Brave….

I bought a new journal a few weeks ago with great intentions of putting down all of the details of Random Acts of Hope – documenting the days as God continues to open doors for the ministry. But as much as I knew I wanted to write, the journal has sat on the shelf in my ministry studio, untouched.

Until today.

Today I opened the journal and began to write, only the words weren’t about Hope and Flowers. Instead the words were more like “unrelenting disappointment”. Words I have been afraid to write and even more afraid to feel.

I can’t write about disappointment, after all, hope has become who I am. It’s what everyone has come to know me by.

Hope and flowers.

I can’t speak hope and be disappointed at the same time, can I?

I believe the answer is yes. Welcome to being human – and learning to trust God.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 NIV

The message version of this verse describes “hope deferred” as “unrelenting disappointment”.

Unrelenting disappointment.

Unrelenting disappointment will make you heartsick…

I’m disappointed. And right now the disappointment is unrelenting, exhausting, like trying to run a marathon through wet cement. I’m not a runner so the idea of running a marathon alone is impossible – and running it through wet cement would be unheard of.

I’m right there.

I’m disappointed – and I’m heartsick. But you know what I’m finding, or not finding in this case? Nowhere in the Bible does God promise to bring me a husband.

But wait, Catherine – what about the verse that says, “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart…”

Call me crazy, but what if the part we are supposed to focus on in that verse wasn’t the part about God giving us the desires of our hearts? What if we were supposed to focus on learning to “take delight in the Lord”?

God may not have promised me a husband but He has promised to fight for me (Exodus 14:14), to give strength when I am weak (Isaiah 40:29), to give me wisdom when I ask (James 1:5), forgiveness (1 John 1:9), salvation (John 3:16), to meet all my needs (Philippians 4:19).

And those are just a few.

So am I disappointed?

Yes.

But because I KNOW His promises are true, I have hope.

And because of that hope – He makes me brave enough to move forward – to press through the disappointment and to say, God I trust you. I know you can do this, I know you are able. But even if you don’t answer this heart’s cry the way I think you should – still I have hope.

Disappointment

“It hurts to desire and want and wish and hope because we know what disappointment feels like. We’ve been there before, and we don’t want to go back.”  – Christy Wright – Business Boutique

I want to be married. It’s a dream I’ve had for a long time now. And the closer I get to 40 (less than a year away) the more disappointed I get and the harder it is to hope.

Disappointment is one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s like an ache in the pit of your stomach that just won’t go away, only it’s deeper still. In most cases, I will do whatever it takes to avoid disappointment, even if it means holding back my dreams – like the dream of Random Acts of Hope becoming an actual storefront floral business, one day making money while also giving hope and flowers away.

After all, if God doesn’t think I’m worthy of a husband, why in the world would He give me a dream that amazing?

Now before you go telling me that God has a perfect plan and my husband will come in His perfect timing. Before you tell me that God’s preparing him for me and he’s not ready yet, or the dozens of other wonderfully not so encouraging things I’ve heard a thousand times – let me just stop you right there.

I know.

And I trust that God has a plan in all of the waiting.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed right now.

The question is, will I let that disappointment keep me from dreaming big and stepping through the doors God is opening for Random Acts of Hope – doors that will allow me to share God’s love and hope with more people than ever?

I’m done being afraid.

I choose to dream.

I choose to let God speak to my heart – to meet me right in the middle of my disappointment – and move in ways I can only imagine. I don’t know exactly what that looks like. It might mean unraveling a part of my heart I’ve wrapped up tightly so no one can get in. It might be a little painful, and it might even mean letting go completely of what I thought was in God’s plan. Whatever happens – this is my “trust without borders” moment. This is me saying yes to God, whatever He asks, and never looking back.

In this fallen world, disappointment is a part of life – there’s no getting around it. And we can allow disappointment to paralyze us with fear or we can choose to allow God to work through it, surrendering to Him and choosing to dream big.

Dream big or be paralyzed by fear.

The choice is yours.

Have You Heard….

Hope

Have you heard about this little ministry called “Random Acts of Hope”?

I say “little” ministry – but it’s not so little anymore. What started out as taking a love of flowers and giving them away, has turned into a crazy, hope-filled journey of God using simple second-hand flowers and garage sale vases to bring hope into some of the most unexpected situations.

Buy some flowers, arrange them, pray, give them away.

In the beginning, I bought the flowers myself at a local grocery store. I arranged the flowers in the tiny kitchen at my apartment. And I mostly gave the flowers away to people I knew at church.

Today, Random Acts of Hope is given two large storage totes of flowers each week to use for the arrangements and works out of a space in a friend’s ministry building with room enough to store vases and supplies and create arrangements. A gorgeous ministry logo was designed by a friend, professional photos have been taken of some of the arrangements, and flowers have been given to complete strangers including one very surprised and overwhelmed manager at a Planned Parenthood clinic.

I have watched God use these flowers to bring hope into some of the most amazing, ‘only God could do that’ situations.

It’s overwhelming.

And it’s only the beginning.

I don’t know what God has next for Random Acts of Hope. But I do know whatever it is, He already has every detail covered. The world needs hope more now than ever before – and if Random Acts of Hope can be a part of bringing that hope to this part of the world, then the answer is “Yes, God!” to whatever He has next.

That being said, if you would like to keep in touch with the ministry and receive updates as to what’s next, please send an email to randomacts.hope@gmail.com or send a message via the facebook page at facebook.com/RandomActsofHope

Overwhelming Ache

Flipping through the pages of an old journal this afternoon, I came across this prayer…

“God, please take this ache and turn it into worship…”

Take this ache and turn it into worship.

As I read the words in my own handwriting something resonated in my heart.

Ache

To say that my heart has been aching a bit lately would be an understatement.

To be honest there are moments when the ache has been so intense that it’s hard to move.

It’s not supposed to be like this.

After all, I’m a Christian. I’m on full-time staff at my church. I get to give away flowers every week and share hope. I have an apartment, a car that’s completely paid for, relatively good health and I am close to my family.

I am so, very blessed.

But still, there is an ache.

And what do we do when we have an ache? We try to fill it, satisfy it or cover it up with something temporary to stop the pain even for just a little while.

For me the temporary fixes have been food and noise. Food has become my comfort, my reward for getting through a long day or a long week. And noise, be it a movie on Netflix, a random YouTube video or just the music on my phone, has filled every silent moment of my life.

All the while I can’t remember the last time I sat down with my bible and really spent time with God – seeking him for my peace, sharing my heart with Him and resting my soul in His embrace.

I’ve been so busy trying to figure out how to balance my life and not be so overwhelmed with everything that I have neglected the one thing I need to be doing above all else. . . I’ve been pouring myself out, giving hope and encouragement to others out of my own strength, my own time, my own resources and there’s only so much I can pour out before I’m empty.

The ache is greatest when I’m empty.

When I am empty, those things that make my heart come alive, are the things I avoid. Ministry becomes work. The things I love to do are the things that overwhelm me.

I love to write. I know it’s something God has called me to do. I also love to arrange and give away flowers – something else I know God has called me to do to share hope.

I can’t do either one of these things well when I’m empty.

I cannot pour out of an empty cup. I cannot continue to play the part of someone who has it all together when I’m not depending on God for my strength.

Something has to change.

“God, please take this ache and turn it into worship.”

The line in my own journal from five years ago – is more relevant now than ever before.

God, teach me how to let this ache be satisfied in You.

“O God, You are my God; Early I will seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is now water.”  Psalm 63:1 NKJV

A Man’s Heart Plans His Way…

$2,500.00

The amount of money needed for a mission trip.

More than once I remember sitting down with paper and pen trying to plan how I would raise the necessary funds for a mission trip. Airline ticket deadlines, passport fees, medical expenses and whatever else my team leaders had on the list of financials for each trip.

X amount of dollars

X amount of days/weeks/months until the trip

This meant I needed to raise so much money per month in order to make it happen.

It always seemed doable on paper. $100 per month for payments. $700 due by this date for the airline ticket. $45 due at this meeting for Malaria pills. And so on – and so on.

It all worked out on paper.

I could do this.

Let me just tell you that of the five times I have gone on short term mission trips – NONE of them were financed the way I had written out on paper.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

I had it all worked out how I was going to make it happen.

That is NEVER God’s plan. And it has only taken me 39 years to figure that out. God doesn’t want me to do it all by myself. If I can do it all on my own, then what do I need Him for?

Years ago, when I had committed to help lead a team to Guatemala for a two week mission trip, I knew it would work out because at the time I had the best paying job I had ever had in my life.Then, a month after I committed to go on the trip, I lost said ‘best paying job’. Looking back I can see that God didn’t want me to pay for the trip all by myself. Now, I’m not saying that’s the reason I lost my job. That is a whole other story. But God used that season without a job to teach me to trust Him in a greater way than ever before. And He used the fundraising for my Guatemala trip to enable me to share with others how God was providing – and to remind me that I’m not supposed to do it all on my own.

It rarely ever goes the way I have it all planned out in my head.

What about you? Is there something you know God has called you to do? It might not be a mission trip to Guatemala – or anywhere for that matter. For you it might be to publish a book, to move across the country or to start a business doing something you love.

I’m guessing you’ve probably got your plans as to how things are supposed to go.

Now I’m not saying don’t plan – I believe God wants us to be wise in making decisions – especially the big ones. Just don’t be so stuck to your plan that you miss something extraordinary God wants to do, an unexpected way He wants to provide for you and people He wants to involve in your story.

I’ve been on 5 different mission trips in my life and spent six months raising support as an intercessory missionary. In every one of those situations, God blew me away with how He provided again and again – and it was rarely how I expected things to go.

The Guatemala trip? Because I had to raise more of the support for the trip than I anticipated, I was able to share Jesus with so many people even before I boarded the plane.

Don’t be so locked into your plans that you miss something amazing God wants to do.

Oh Brave, Courageous Soul…

I’m not here to tell you that ‘this is all part of God’s plan…’ or ‘It will all work out in His perfect timing’. I know you’ve heard it all before and in the middle of the storm swirling in your heart right now, those words do more damage than good. I’m not here to try and fix the problem or give you advice that a dozen other people have probably given you with or without your permission. I’m not here to tell you how you should walk out the season you are in. This is your journey and only you can determine the path.

I am here – simply to tell you that I am here.

I know that you know God hears your prayers. I know you know He’s working on your behalf and on behalf of the ones you love. I know you have seen God do amazing things before and you know that He can do it again.

I also know how it feels to grow weary in the waiting. I know how it feels to wonder how many more blows you can take before you collapse under the weight of it all. I know how it is to feel like you are a broken record when people ask how you are doing and if you say anything more than “I’m fine” or “I’m tired” then you risk the flood of tears to follow.

Ours might not be the same storm or even the same road – but I’ve been there. I’ve been in the middle of a valley that sneaks up on you suddenly just when you feel like you have come to the mountaintop. I’ve been the one so angry at God because it feels like He’s forgotten His promise to me – so angry that I’ve shut him out of places in my heart.

I’ve been there. And there are moments, days, weeks even that I find myself circling back around when I’m tired and worn out in the waiting.

In this moment – wherever you are – I just wanted you to know….

  1. You are not alone. Even though it might feel like the most alone you’ve been in your whole life. Believe me when I say, you’re not alone.
  2. I don’t believe you when you say, “I’m fine” or “I’m just tired”. That doesn’t mean I’m going to press you for more information or make you share something you’re not prepared to speak. Just know that you don’t have to give the safe answer when you are with me.
  3. It’s okay to not be okay. Doesn’t mean it will always be this way – it just means that in this moment that thing you are facing is not okay and your heart is more overwhelmed than you can put into words. It’s okay to not be okay – it’s honest and it’s real. And as long as you keep moving forward – right now that’s okay.
  4. I’m praying for you. And I know that might be the last thing you want to hear right now. It has almost become the default thing to say when we don’t know what to do or say. None-the-less my prayer for you above all else right now is for hope – the kind of hope the settles in the depth of your heart even though the storm around you is raging. Hope that anchors your heart even though tears fill your eyes.                                 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul…”  Hebrews 6:19

Dear brave, courageous soul – your real is beautiful.

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