Catherine's Hope

Finding hope in unexpected places

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.

Unbearable Ache…

Yesterday was a battle to hold back tears.

Exhaustion, disappointment, grief, and unbearable ache almost won over a few times – and finally broke through as I slid into my car after helping clear up an event after church.

Everyone’s gone.

No one can see.

Let the tears fall.

And fall they did. I sat there in my car alone, crying for almost twenty minutes before pulling myself together, frustrated that with everything in my car there wasn’t even one tissue. (And if you have ever seen the inside of my car, then you know the irony.)

The reason for my tears? A dozen different things – but that’s not why I’m here.

I’m writing tonight because of where my evening ended – collapsing into bed at nearly midnight – asking God why – why the unbearable ache right now?

Deep calling out to deep.

Have you ever heard that phrase – maybe in a worship song or even in scripture shared on a Sunday morning in church?  Last night as I tried to quiet the swirling storm and those words came to mind, this is where I landed.

Deep calling out to deep.

When the deep ache in my heart calls out to the deep ache in God’s.

Now, I in no way believe it is God’s desire to cause pain or to cause our hearts to hurt – but maybe, just maybe He works through it so that we can catch a glimpse of the ache in His heart. The ache of a Creator longing for relationship, for communion with His creation. The deep longing in the heart of God to know and be known by us.

You know that ache in your heart, the one that almost brings you to your knees at times?

God knows.

His heart aches too.

Deep calling out to deep.

What if you let the ache in your heart pull you in closer to His.

Pray the Prayer….

Years ago a little known character from the Bible became somewhat of a household name, when the book The Prayer of Jabez was published.

I remember reading through the book with a couple of friends from work – and praying the prayer again and again.

“Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” -1 Chronicles 4:10

That was nearly ten years ago. I really didn’t know what it meant to have my territory enlarged. But I knew having God bless me was a good thing – and causing pain was bad – so it seemed like a good prayer to pray. After all – it wouldn’t be in the Bible otherwise, right?

So I prayed.

And I prayed.

“Oh that You would bless me and enlarge my territory. That Your hand would be with me, You would keep me from evil, that I might not cause pain.”

And I prayed.

And life happened. And I got busy. And I went through lots of crazy seasons, job loss and heartbreak and moving and transition and trying to find out who I was….

Tonight as I sat alone waiting for a flower delivery at Panera of all places – I was reminded of that prayer I prayed years ago.

And my heart was overwhelmed.

Years.

Some seasons I thought I wouldn’t survive.

So many tears.

And hear I am. God is answering my prayer.

I had no idea that flowers… that Random Acts of Hope would become ‘my territory’. 

Each week I get to do what I love and share Hope with flowers. And God just keeps opening up doors.

He truly has blessed me indeed.

His hand has been on my life. And He has kept me from evil – protected my life again and again. 

It didn’t happen overnight, although it could have, God has His perfect timing. 

But it happened. 

God answered my prayer.

Whatever it is you are believing God for – don’t give up.

Don’t

Let

Go

He’s gonna come through. He’s gonna restore. He’s gonna enlarge your territory. He’s gonna bless you beyond what your heart can hold.

Pray the prayer.

And pray it again.

No, it doesn’t have to be the Prayer of Jabez… You probably have your own prayer you’ve prayed again and again.

Don’t stop praying.

Your prayers are building foundations for years down the road. You may not see now – but God does – and He’s working out every single detail.

And when you do finally see it all come together, you will be blown away by God’s goodness.

Pray the prayer.

Brave, Courageous Soul

There’s nothing weak about waiting.

The prayer you are praying – waiting on God, day and night to answer?

This is the deep crying out to deep, brave, fierce trust in God.

This is what waiting with hope is all about – stepping out and saying:

“God, I don’t know what You are doing. I don’t understand Your timing, but I trust you.”

This is courage in its most raw and beautiful form.

Are you waiting on God and the waiting seems endless?

Feel like you want to give up?

Oh brave and courageous soul – don’t let go!!

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(Photo Credit – BibleGateway)

 

 

 

A Ring on Valentine’s Day…

I lost my ring. Somewhere in the craziness of my car, I lost it. It’s not an expensive ring by any means – the cost of it would probably fill up my gas tank. But it was my favorite – a simple silver band with the word “HOPE” inscribed on it. I wore it every day – and tended to take it off and fiddle with it when I was nervous about something.

And so after going a few months without it I decided to order a new one. Simple enough – message the jewelry consultant – go online to pay – and then wait for it to arrive.

Done.

Wouldn’t you know the day I ordered the replacement ring, I found my old one?  Yep – the one I thought I had lost and hadn’t seen for months – ended up laying next to the emergency brake in the center console of my car. I’m sure I looked there dozens of times without seeing it. But there it was.

Crap.

Frustrating as it was, I decided to keep my order and wait for the new ring to arrive.

So I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited.

Have I mentioned before that I hate waiting?  Maybe I have, once or twice…
To be honest it was only about three weeks. But I suppose I’ve been a bit spoiled with two day shipping and Prime benefits the more I shop online.

FINALLY the ring came in the mail.

On Valentine’s day.

The afternoon following my post about being scared about my dad’s health – the day I am reminded of how very single I am. In the midst of feeling the crazy emotions of feeling so overwhelmed and at the same time hopeful.

I open my mail and there is this beautiful ring with the word HOPE on it. I had been frustrated with how long it was taking to arrive – but the timing couldn’t have been any more perfect.

HOPE

I’m still overwhelmed.

My dad’s health still scares me.

I’m still single – lol

And I don’t know if or when any of that is going to change.

But this I know – God has given me hope – and this hope is an anchor for my soul. Winds blow, waves crash and the night clouds my vision – but this anchor keeps me from drowning in the deep. This anchor holds me steady and true.

 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” -Hebrews 6:19

Dropping My Guard…

Write something meaningful.

Write something encouraging.

Write something real.

One of the most difficult things about being a writer is figuring out the difference between what needs to be out there for other people to read and what needs to stay between the pages of my journal. Some people might think more of what I share needs to stay kept to myself and still others would love nothing more than to read the in between pages.

Tonight is a glimpse at one of those pages…

I just had a friend stop by my table at Starbucks and after I asked how he was doing, he said “Good…” paused and then told me how he was really doing. Briefly, his walls came down and he shared his real with me.

As much as I hate that he’s having to go through something so difficult, it was refreshing to have him be transparent – if only for a moment.

What is it that keeps us from being real with each other? Why is it that we keep our struggles wrapped up tightly, so neatly, so no one sees the struggle – so no one thinks any less of us?

Truth be told, your struggle, my struggle, the real of where we are – is probably not much different than the next person. And more than that – your ‘real’ may just encourage the person watching you. Your story of how you press through and keep going, your story of how you can still have hope even through the trials, your story of tears cried over a broken heart or milk that spills out of a child’s sippy cup after a long day of being a mom – can be the very thing that someone will connect with and know they are not alone.

So here’s a bit of my real ….

My dad’s health scares me. He’s on oxygen 24/7 right now and every time I see him it seems like he is weaker and more frail than the last.  In case you are new to my blog, my dad has a heart condition. He’s lived with it for years now, but the last few months he has seemed to decline more and more. To my knowledge there hasn’t been any new developments with his condition, but some things you just see.  And while I fully believe that God can heal my dad, give him a new heart, extend his life, extend his days on this earth – right now my own faith doesn’t seem strong enough.

And to be honest – I don’t really know where to go from here. While I know with all my heart that God is good, that He loves me unconditionally and He loves my dad more than I could ever imagine – right now this is just plain hard.

Tomorrow morning I will get up and get ready for work. I will make coffee and prep things for morning meetings. I will go to lunch with friends and in the evening I will cheer a friend on at her volleyball game, arrange flowers that will bring hope and wrap up another Valentine’s day grateful for this life I’ve been given. Tomorrow is a new day – fresh start – and I trust God to bring about His very best for my dad and my family.

But for tonight – there are simply tears. And right now that has to be okay.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” -Psalm 34:18

Permission to Hope

“Don’t get your hopes up Cath- “

When it comes to the possibility of a new relationship, no matter how promising, this seems to be the phrase I always fall back on.

Don’t get your hopes up.

I’ve come a long way as far as my view of myself and my worth are concerned. But somewhere deep behind the new-found confidence there is a belief that no one will really be interested in being in a serious relationship with me – or even pursuing the possibility. They just want to be friends, nothing more, and I need to be careful. Don’t read into anything. Don’t let my heart get wrapped up in the possibility. Don’t let myself feel.

Don’t

Get

My

Hopes

Up

Recently I found myself in a similar situation and I began telling myself the same, “Don’t get your hopes up Cath- “. Except this time my own heart began to question:

“Why not hope?”

That is an excellent question, considering my whole life has been about hope, writing about hope, hope growing inside of me and sharing hope with everyone I meet.

Still I could hear myself come back with the warning I was so used to hearing. And thus, the internal argument began.

“Don’t get your hopes up, Cath- “

Why?

Because you are just going to be let down again.

How do you know?

Because that’s what happens when you get your hopes up.

Except things are different now.

Are they really different? I mean, you still have an expectation of disappointment, how has that changed?

My hope is stronger?

Oh really, then what’s holding you back?

You’re right. What IS holding me back? My hope isn’t in myself or even in the possibility of a relationship with this person. My hope is in God. My hope IS God. And it’s true I have no idea what’s going to happen with this friendship – but whatever happens, it does not define my hope.

In case you are wondering, my most recent experience in this area ended up being just that – someone who simply wanted to be friends and nothing more. And although I must admit I was extremely disappointed when I realized it wasn’t moving forward into a serious relationship, I know God is using it to prepare my heart for what’s to come.

I’ve experienced disappointment before – and I’ve let it pull me to the floor for days at a time. This time was different. It’s almost as if giving myself permission to hope gave me more hope in the end when things didn’t go like I thought they would.

It doesn’t make sense when I try to explain it, but there is a strength that comes when my hope is in God instead of a person, a situation, an expectation. Because my hope rests in God, even when I’m let down, even when my heart breaks, I still have hope.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

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