What Hope Looks Like

    Visuals enhance learning for me. Even more than illustrations, I often learn more reading a transcript of a presentation than when I simply listened to it. This month’s One Word challenge both inspired and enlightened me while exploring what Hope looks like through photographs captured in my daily interactions.

    Unlike some more cerebral words, Hope is best described by experiencing its power, rather than obsessively attempting to nail down a solid definition.

    As a contemplative, getting outside my head while exercising my five senses, often presents a challenge. My mind prefers an endless menu of analyzing, and taffy pulling as I fondly refer to my cogitations.

    Though stiff and skeptical at first, noticing what Hope looks like all around me became an engaging game for me each day. Wondering where or in what form I might encounter Hope made my days like a live mystery as I searched for Hope clues!

    A robust five months into our journey, Hope lessons abound, speaking deeply into my life. I created a special page on my blog where all my Hope posts live, please take the time to acquaint yourself with the wonders of my journey with this magnificent word.

    a [Hope] picture is worth a thousand words

    At first, overthinking everything kept me from allowing Hope to simply speak its own truth. I kept trying to make the visuals say something more than the obvious or insisting on spiritualizing everything.

    Once relaxed, the Hope stories held in the images began to embrace my heart.

    Suddenly, the sheer reality of Hope’s constant presence in my life overwhelmed and captivated me. Choosing a sampling of my favorites for this month’s One Word update, I share Hope’s treasures with you, in an attempt to inspire you to find your own Hope stories.

    Hope in a Bottle

    Author's photo of an essential oil products

    How many times have you wished you could buy Hope in a bottle? Well, I have just the thing: Hope Essential Oil Blend from Josiah’s Oils. While I buy all of my essential oils from this local, responsibly sourced boutique, this particular blend is my “signature scent”.

    The lesson here blew me away. For the first time God allowed me to see not only the actual scent I wear, but my signature style in how I engage people, is Hope.

    But an even bigger blessing was remembering how I met owner Ninette Jackson at the local cancer center, where she teaches on the medicinal benefits of essential oils.

    While she also teaches at all of the local medical centers, her passion for blessing others with her gift as an internationally certified clinical aromatherapist began at home.

    When her son, Josiah, was born with Down Syndrome she became frustrated with the lack of natural options for him and his many health issues. She started Josiah’s Oils to give Hope to others battling life limiting illnesses.

    Hope Comes in Waves

    Recently, as I waited for yet another medical test, this time a CT Scan, my eye fell on the “Wave Fountain”. Though seen many times previously, the centerpiece of the large medical center drew me closer.

    Designed for visual beauty, it also provides the sensory comfort of the sound of gentle waves breaking on the beach.

    Author's photo of a wave fountain

    While its primary function is to provide a calming effect in an atmosphere often charged with anxiety, on this particular day, each time the waves splashed across the stone bed, they whispered “Hope”.

    No matter what each day holds, Hope is never truly lost, it gently returns like the waves on the seashore, reminding us of God’s unfailing Love and Presence.

    Hope Blooms

    Of all the things surrounding me this month as spring continues its colorful arrival in our yard and gardens, flower buds primed to open speak Hope to me.

    Author's photo of a flower bud

    The promise of beauty yet to come, no matter what today may look like.

    How many times discouragement spoke loud in the darkness, reminding me of the ugliness of sin, brokenness, and grief. Yet God promises beauty for my ashes, Hope along the hardest paths.

    As I wander through our gardens, I find more Joy in the flowers yet to bloom than in the ones already flourishing!

    Hope Waits

    Author's photo of her dog

    On a bit of a whimsical note, as I sat in my favorite spot in our front yard pondering what Hope looks like, straight ahead staring back at me, Shalom illustrated the waiting nature of Hope.

    As Christians, our Hope rests secure in Christ. As a result, no matter what trials and hardships we face, Hope abides secure. This present suffering is but temporary, we wait with patience for the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in Christ.

    Admittedly, most days my waiting for Christ’s promised return looks more impatient than the confident Hope hidden in my heart. Yet, Shalom’s patient and confident vigil at the door reminded me how Hope confidently waits.

    Hope Endures

    Author's personal photo

    Though my work as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for foster children often feels hopeless, my recent case reminded me of the enduring nature of Hope.

    Receiving my assignment for a precious nine-month-old child taken into protective care seemed destined from the start to have a poor outcome.

    But nearing the end of a four-year journey with her which spanned trauma, illness, the drug overdose of her mother and final abandonment of her father, Hope shines in every aspect of her life.

    Finally adopted into the resource family which also adopted her other 2 half-sisters, Nina is beginning to overcome every setback, a true testimony of Hope which never abandons.

    Hope Heals the Hurts

    author's personal photo

    Gazing at my granddaughter Grace’s face in this photo of her first haircut, absolutely shouts Hope to me. The delight and joyful anticipation in her dancing eyes and smile show complete confidence in the outcome.

    Grace, endowed with long curly hair, though beautiful, often ends up in painful tangles. Mom suggested a layered cut, still keeping the length, to help manage the tangles which cause so much distress.

    When my life becomes “tangled”, bringing my distress to Christ helps me overcome the hurts and renew my Hope in His perfect outcome for me.

    I think of Grace’s hope-filled face as I tearfully place the hurts of my days into the Savior’s hands, knowing the outcome will bring a hurt healing Hope to my troubled heart.

    Hope Smiles on the Hard Days

    Recently writing about the month of May and my grief journey, God reminded me of Hope and Joy through sunflowers.

    Author's personal photo

    Deciding to proactively seek Joy in the midst of grief, I purchased a bouquet of sunflowers on May 10th, my Mother’s birthday, choosing to enjoy her favorite flowers in her memory.

    She loved them because they felt joyful to her, and their big bold color mirrored her BIG personality.

    Seeing those sunflowers daily on her birthday and first Mother’s Day since her death, spoke Hope to my hurting heart. The Hope which never really says good-bye, because hidden in Christ, we will yet embrace in eternity, never again experiencing sorrow.

    Hope Hides in New Beginnings

    Mother’s Day 2023 brought new beginnings and choices. For some years now, Mother’s Day brought its own grief to me in the form of remembering a little granddaughter in heaven, a grandson placed for adoption, and two estranged older children which also involves a granddaughter.

    Plus, the addition of supporting my youngest daughter as a single Mom on a hard day for her.

    Author's personal photo

    This year added a layer of grief with my own Mother’s death and some hard memories even of my childhood home.

    In the past, Mother’s Day was a day I would prefer to sleep through, not celebrate. But this year I chose to stop playing the victim and celebrate my own truth in new ways.

    Even in the midst of hard realities, there are always beautiful memories for which to celebrate gratitude.

    Choosing to honor my daughter and her little girl, we went out for the first time in many, many years and enjoyed an exquisite Italian meal to celebrate my Mom’s memory and create new ones.

    I chose to find ways of blessing and celebrating other moms and enjoying the gift of motherhood with them. Instead of a day filled with grief and regret, it became a day filled with Joy and Hope in believing God for new beginnings.

    what hope looks like

    This month, Hope met me in the everyday in miraculous ways. Though I captured many more photos, the sampling here speaks of Hope often in the things taken for granted.

    Things which at first glance seemed defeating, or “hopeless” actually held powerful Hope.

    God’s life-giving, eternal Hope abides faithful in plain sight for those who choose to embrace it.

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