Naming the Good

On the night of April 21, 2008, I stood in an outside courtyard at UCLA Hospital. A group of nearly 100 friends encircled me, some weeping, some silent, all in shock at the unexpected place they found themselves ending what began as an ordinary day. 

Two floors below me, my 26-year old wife lay on an operating table, her brain hemorrhaging due to the rupture of a life-long abnormality that we had no idea was there. The innocent myth of youthful immortality burst like an iridescent bubble blown from a child's lips as Katherine lay dying.

The brokenness of that moment, of all the broken moments of creation, tremored down my spine, opening my eyes, as if for the first time, to the true reality of this world. My mind raced and plagued me with a slideshow of horror from which no amount of waiting room magazines could help me escape.

I gripped a crimson-bound Gideon's Bible found in the waiting room as if my life depended on it, and it did. Unconsciously, my fingers turned the dog-eared pages to the book of Romans, to the 8th chapter, and I began to read it aloud. It had always been Katherine's favorite passage, so it only seemed fitting, but as the words left my mouth, I wondered how they might ever be proven true on this night. 

"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

{ READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT "EVERY BITTER THING IS SWEET" ...}


The Identity of Hope

"When our hope is in Christ, we are free to engage the storms of life with humility and courage because in Him all things hold together, even the things that are falling apart. When our lives are anchored in the hope that is Christ, we find ourselves, our true identities, not in spite of the storms but because of them."

- JAY WOLF

* READ THE FULL GUEST BLOG ON CATALYST'S WEBSITE -- HERE.

Seasons Weekend Summer GIVEAWAY!

*** UPDATE -- We announced our giveaway winners HERE!


Seasons Weekend has been an unexpected blessing in our lives for nearly 2 years. It has been a place where we have grown in the sharing of our story, but more importantly, it's become a family through which we've experienced God profoundly. This spiritual retreat weekend is unlike anything we have participated in before. It has been nothing short of transformational in our lives, our marriage, and our ministry. Special thanks to our amazing friend, Nicole Johnson, for inviting us in to Seasons Weekend with open arms.

[see previous postings on our Seasons Weekend experiences, HERE, HERE, & HERE]

Due to the generosity of a lovely friend of both Seasons & Hope Heals, we are DELIGHTED to give away 2 free tickets ($1,000 value!) to SEASONS WEEKEND SUMMER, in Newport Beach, California, Friday, JU 27 - Sunday, JUNE 29. Entering this giveaway is very simple...

1) Check out www.seasonsweekend.com to learn more about this amazing ministry.

2) Fill out the form below explaining in 200 words or less why you need a spiritual retreat weekend, like Seasons, in your life.

ENTER GIVEAWAY UNTIL SUNDAY NIGHT, JUNE 8th at MIDNIGHT (PST). WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED MONDAY, JUNE 9th.

(Winning entry receives an "All in Package for 2" = 2 tickets, 1 double-occupancy hotel room for 2 nights, and a meal plan. Travel expenses are NOT included.)

Hope It Forward with HOPE HEALS ART

We've had an overwhelmingly positive response to our 2nd collaboration for HOPE HEALS ART, a piece entitled, "For James" by the lovely and talented, Kate Long Stevenson. We've LOVED shipping off these prints to folks all over the country, MOST of whom we've never even heard of! Stories of people in pain bringing this reminder of hope into their own home or gifting it to others in need of hope absolutely fulfills all we desired for this project...to hope it forward.

If you don't know about this project, we sell a limited number of signed prints (due to the artist's generous donation, all proceeds benefit Hope Heals), then we donate the original piece to a hospital, like UCLA, as a visual reminder of HOPE in that place.

{PURCHASE YOUR PRINT HERE -- they are almost SOLD OUT}

Hear how Katie and I came to know each other and the inspiration behind "For James"...

Like the medium of story, the power of the medium of art to communicate hope continues to inspire us. We recently received this message from someone who encountered our first HOPE HEALS ART collaboration, "Flowers for Katherine" by artist Lulie Wallace. The prints sold out, but the original hangs in the lobby of UCLA Medical Center's neuro-clinic...

"Hi Katherine, for many, many reasons I found myself in the lobby of the #300 bldg at UCLA heading up to the second floor. Nervous and apprehensive I stood and waited for the elevator when all of sudden I noticed a painting on the wall, and it said your name. I turned to my husband and whispered, "I've seen this painting. I know her name." Hope filled my heart. I love that painting. I love that it's in that building. I love following your blog. Thank you so much for having such an encouraging heart. You have encouraged mine when I needed it most."

Our hearts are full. That type of "hoping it forward" is exactly what we desired to do with this simple idea. It's amazing how God can use such ordinary things like paint on a canvas or my crooked smile to show Himself to a world looking so hard for real hope.

Art of the Gospel Contest Winners

WOW! We had an amazing night celebrating so many good things that God is doing in and through us at our HOPE HEALS GOSPEL PROJECT Art Event. The combined mediums of story and art and music coupled with delicious food and fabulous friends made for a night that was full in every way! Our bodies are tired, but our hearts are overflowing.

We'll share more details about the event soon, but for now, we wanted to announce the top 3 picks from the ART OF THE GOSPEL CONTEST.

What a blessing to have so many artists out there give so generously of their gifts by participating in this project--THANK YOU FRIENDS! If you haven't yet seen the 22 finalists, you can view them all on our Gospel Project page HERE. This will be a permanent page on our site now.

We had nearly 1,000 online votes (1/3 of the total) coupled with nearly 200 event attendee votes (1/3 of the total) and the votes of our 4 professional art judges (1/3 of the total) to reach a decision. Special thanks to our friend and CPA, Liz Simmons, for helping us tabulate.

And the top 3 are...

3RD PLACE...RYAN DOBSON, "WE, SOJOUNERS"

Inspired by Flannery O'Connor's short story THE RIVER and Hauerwas & Willimon's book RESIDENT ALIENS, "We, Sojourners" touches on the dangerous, subversive, revolutionary nature of the gospel. The Good News is not therapeutic or individually prosperous in nature. It is transforming on a universal level. We mistakenly tell the faith Story to children in hopes that it will make them good, moral people. When the Hound of Heaven may, instead, wrap them up in its jaws and carry them away into the risky, up-side-down Kingdom of God.

“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.” -- Flannery O'Connor 

"Whenever a people are bound together in loyalty to a story that includes something as strange as the Sermon on the Mount, we are put at odds with the world." -- Stanley Hauerwas & Will Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony

"You do not belong to the world... that is why the world hates you." -- Jesus Christ, John 15:19


2ND PLACE...SUSAN HALL, "PICK UP YOUR MAT AND WALK"

This piece is inspired by John 5:1-18. These verses were introduced to me in 2010 and have given me hope ever since.

Pick up your mat and walk.

Like the invalid in this story, I have come across many in Los Angeles (including myself) who have been beaten down by their circumstances, whether career, relationships, finances, creative pursuits, or health. We came to pursue our dreams but sometimes life through us curve balls. We took these pitfalls (not getting accepted to a show, not getting the job, not beating the shameful addiction, debt) and spun them into the belief that we were simply not worthy.

"Pick up your mat and walk" reminds me that we are worthy! No matter what life has thrown at you, we are all beloved, equal, and deserving.

In this painting, the individual is hanging on the outskirts where he/ she thinks she belongs. The city has not welcomed her (or him).

There is hope though, he/she has not given up. The spirit is hovering above, restoring faith, beckoning to Pick Up Your Mat and Walk. You deserve everything.


1ST PLACE...WILL PIERCE, "NEW DAY"

In times of doubt and confusion, seeing God's hand on creation has always been the clearest and most powerful evidence of his power, love and presence. Romans says that because we see all he has created we have no excuse to deny Him. When I look to the sky or the ocean or the mountains, I am instantly reassured that only the God of the Bible could have created all this. My faith is strengthened and I feel His love, because how much more must he love the people he made than all the other parts of the universe He meticulously crafted.

Furthermore, when doubting the importance of my calling as an artist, I am reminded that God Himself was first a creator and an artist making beautiful things for us to enjoy and to display His glory. If being a creative and an artist is a central part of God's character, then it is an honor to have such a calling.

I long to put God's creation on display through my art, showing His love and power to people who stop and see what they normally wouldn't in this distracted and urbanized world.

The Language of Art // GUEST POST: Alex Wolf

Imagine I handed you a piece of paper and asked you to read the story written on it. You examine the page, and realize it's not covered in English words, but rather in marks that you cannot understand. Surprise! The story is written in Sanskrit and you can't read Sanskrit, unless you happen to be a part of the minuscule cluster of native Sanskrit speakers or Indian culture scholars. 

What if your life (and your eternal life) depended on your comprehension of this story.

As Christians we are so often guilty of speaking a language that people cannot understand. The term "Christianese" has even been coined for this phenomenon. Jesus asked us to make disciples of all nations and to be witnesses to those who do not know the truth, so why are we speaking in a language that only believers can understand? We must never change the message of the Gospel, but we may need to rethink how we deliver that message.

Christian artists have the unique gift and responsibility of telling the Gospel story through art. But just like we depend on Christian language in verbal evangelism, we often depend on Christian symbols in visual evangelism. What do crosses and angels and fish mean to viewers whose minds have yet to be transformed by the Gospel? Christian symbology has a very important place in art for believers, but we must expand our vision for evangelistic art. The story of Jesus is sweeping and dangerous and majestic. It's about time our art follows suit. 

Join Hope Heals in creating visual art about Jesus that defiles neither the sanctity of art nor Jesus. The Art of the Gospel Contest is a call to pour your heart and sweat and tears into artwork unto the glory of God and for the expansion of His Kingdom. Let's make art that starts a conversation instead of giving all the answers. Let's speak to people in their own language so they may be invited into this beautiful story of hope. 

Why ART & Hope Heals?

We recently launched a nation-wide, gospel-inspired art contest. This may leave you wondering, "Um, what does ART have to do with Hope Heals?"

Over the past 6 years of our lives, we have seen the power of STORY to communicate old messages in a new way. It's why Jesus explained spiritual truths through parables. It's how our brains work--we make sense of the story of our lives through the stories of others, and in that process we begin to trace the thread of the ultimate story, the GOSPEL story, in ALL the others. Stories allow defenses to drop and preconceptions to shift. The medium truly is the message.

Similarly, ART has that unique power to paint the same message on a new canvas, so to speak. Even in our own home, we surround ourselves with art because it helps us understand the story where words fail to explain it. We can't help but see our own story in art--it's transcendent--but good art can also objectively communicate to us something we had never before experienced in ourselves; it can stir our souls in brand new ways.

Hope Heals' mission is to creatively inspire the healing power of hope in Christ within community through story, art, and goodwill. We want to steward the story of our lives, which ultimately is the gospel story of Christ, in ways that are thoughtful and nuanced. The gospel is such a simple yet profound idea that sometimes words seem inadequate to convey its depth and breadth.

As you continue to journey with us through the sharing of our story of hope, we would love for you to also join us as we explore other mediums through which to share. For more information on the ART OF THE GOSPEL CONTEST -- www.hopeheals.com/gospelproject -- and feel free to share with artists you know. (The deadline to submit is APRIL 10th).

* A few thoughts from people who explain it far better than we could...

"The purpose of theology -- the purpose of any thinking about God -- is to make the silences clearer -- by which I mean those aspects of the divine that will not be reduced to human meanings. This is why art is so often better at theology than theology is."  -- Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

"What artists have to do is to exhibit ways in which the power of LIFE exposes the limit and failure of the dominant ideology of death." -- Walter Brueggemann

Sit with me and tell me once again
Of the story that's been told us
Of the power that will hold us
Of the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters

Speak to me until I understand
Why our thinking and creating
Why our efforts of narrating
About the beauty, of the beauty
And why it matters

Like the statue in the park
Of this war torn town
And it's protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters

Show me the love that never fails
The compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissention
Like small ramparts for the soul
How it matters

Like a single cup of water
How it matters

- Sara Groves, "Why It Matters"

Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named. And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos, we see despite all the chaos." - Madeleine L'Engle

More To Come...

HERE WE ARE! Have you missed us??

Wow, in the nearly 6 years since my stroke, this is the LONGEST period of not sharing on our blog. I hope none of you were waiting on the edge of your seats! In this new season, post-aneurysm, we have been busy, but busy with things that are NOT so health-related. We’ve been traveling and speaking to diverse and wonderful audiences, and going to classroom open houses and LEGO movies on opening weekend and making s'mores (more than once)

This is also the LONGEST stretch since my stroke that I have not been to the doctor. It won’t last forever, I’m sure, but for now, it’s been a wonderful break.

BUT YAY TEAM WOLF--- no time to write means something very good (to us, anyway).  It means we are just too busy living life to write about it.  We are not too busy to INSTAGRAM from our phones however, (essentially “micro-blogging”) and thus we are still savoring and still sharing, our precious moments.  It feels good to us.

I had a revelation a while ago after reading this blog entry. We LIKE to live out loud. There's nothing wrong with that and there's nothing wrong with the opposite of that. When I taste good food, I want everyone I love in the whole world to eat it. When I hear a good song, I blast off an email to 1,000 friends to listen to it. Even though I am from small town GA and "we don't air the dirty laundry" and always sweep the yucky stuff under our proverbial rug, I learned after the stroke that I'm called to live very differently than that. (I'm so glad my 86 year old grandmother in GA doesn't have a computer to see this!)

In case you didn't know, I had a really bad August through early December of this past year. After a painful screw removal surgery, I fell out of bed and had to have stitches, and then I had to have that pesky brain aneurysm removed. It was all pretty terrible honestly, and wrought with much deeper, more painful issues than just the physical, medical recoveries. I think Jay and I were in a bit of a fog since Summer 2012 (when I severely broke my leg) until fairly recently, but I’m so grateful to say that IT HAS LIFTED!!!

Now, we are in a season enjoying the profound beauty of our lives and our ministry Hope Heals. Our hearts are full of gratitude for all that the Lord is working. Thanks for joining us, friends. More to come...

 {Check out our new SPEAKING CALENDAR here; join us at upcoming events!}

 {Join our GOSPEL PROJECT art contest here; we’ve shared the gospel through the medium of story for a long time, now we want to do the same through art}

February Speaking Engagements

We pray your year is off to a HOPEFUL start!  We have spent the past few weeks planning and preparing for a very busy Spring filled with new ministry projects and sharing our story in some exciting new venues.  We'd love for you to join us at some of these special events.  More details below...

FEBRUARY DATES (click links for more info)

And a few events to plan ahead for...

  • CATALYST WEST -- APRIL 2 - 4 (WED - FRI), MARINER'S CHURCH, Newport Beach, CA
    • We speak on APRIL 2nd during Session 3 of the ENGAGE Track, 4pm (full speaker list, here)
    • Use promo code "LEAD" for a $199 ticket for all 3 days (hurry, ends soon, click here to register)
    • You can purchase just the 1-day ticket for April 2nd as well
  • SEASONS WEEKEND SUMMER -- JUNE 27 - 29 (FRI - SUN), HYATT REGENCY, Newport Beach, CA
    • This will be our 7th Seasons Weekend, and they keep getting better!  We will be speaking all 3 days.
    • Purchase tickets HERE (there are different a la carte or full package options)

Our 2013 Life & Ministry Year-In-Review

We are so grateful for a hope-filled 2013 and expectant for more to come in 2014!  Below, find our review of 2013, summarizing some highlights in our lives and ministry.  Especially for those of you who have journeyed with us, prayed for us, and supported Hope Heals financially or otherwise, think of this as your investor's report (see below)!  We ask for your continued prayers for many new opportunities arising in 2014, and we'll continue to share our journey right here on www.hopeheals.com.

We'd love for you to keep up with our ministry updates via email if you don't already -- sign up HERE.  

Also for more information on year-end giving to Hope Heals -- click HERE.

FIRST ROW: (left to right) All 3 of us were in our dear friends' wedding (here) // Our LA film-making friends created a short documentary film on our story (here) // Being Mommy again (here) // 9 year anniversary--it doesn't get easier but it gets better b/c "we're so good together" (here) // Our first "Hope Heals Art" project, "Flowers for Katherine" by Lulie Wallace, was a hit! (get yours here)

SECOND ROW: (l to r) The view from our favorite neighborhood park (here) // We renewed our wedding vows with our long-time small group in a surprisingly poignant Vegas ceremony (yes, that's Elvis in the background!) (here) // We launched our ongoing project, "Hope Heals Token", and nearly sold out of our first round of tokens in 2 weeks! GET HOPE. GIVE HOPE. (get yours here) // Our speaking ministry really ramped up this year and next year is already filling up too (more info on having us speak to your group here) // James + Anchors + Malibu = favorite things (here)

THIRD ROW: (l to r) A successful aneurysm-removal surgery was an opportunity to trust, to pray, and to hope! (here) // Had the chance to "model" again for the American Stroke Association's "FAST" campaign to raise awareness for stroke symptoms (here) // So blessed to call Joni and Ken Tada friends! (here) // It's been a faith-growing and exciting journey for both of us to work in FULL-TIME MINISTRY with Hope Heals (here) // 5 years in the making, all 3 of us finally made it to Yosemite, truly a glimpse of hope-fulfilled (here

Sharing Christmas Hope at UCLA

A few weeks after my aneurysm surgery, and just a short time before Christmas, Jay and I saw Dr. Gonzalez for a follow-up appointment at UCLA.  Our hearts and lives continue to be woven together with that very special institution and the men and women there who give their lives to serve others.

Thankfully, all seems well regarding the results of my aneurysm surgery.  My headaches, which were quite severe following the surgery, have largely subsided, and now, we look forward to new opportunities in a life post-aneurysm.  It's incredible that such a looming issue in my life is now gone.  It's a new season in so many ways now, and we are forever grateful for God's mercy in this area.

We gave Dr. Gonzalez our Christmas card (which he appears on, and said excitedly "you got my good side!"), as well as a token of hope set and some hope quotes postcards.  In typical Dr. Gonzalez fashion, he hugged us both warmly with genuine joy for our latest good news.  He has given us a gift we can never repay, yet our gratitude for it fuels our desire to share it, and we are.

After our appointment we walked over to another of UCLA's main clinic buildings, this building specifically for brain-related issues.  As we walk in the main entrance, just next to the information desk, we see "Flowers for Katherine" by Lulie Wallace, our first Hope Heals Art collaboration, now a part of UCLA's permanent art collection.  Even as we stood there to pose for a picture next to it, the red lights of a ambulance reflected just out the window and a person was wheeled past us on a stretcher by paramedics, likely en route to the MRI suite below.  Maybe out of the corner of their eye, in the rush of medical emergency, that person, or another like them, might find in the midst of that hallways a moment of beauty in the ashes, a spark of hope in dark of hopelessness.

{A few limited-edition, signed and numbered prints of "Flowers for Katherine" by Lulie Wallace remain...buy yours HERE.  Buy Great Art // Help Hope Heals}

As another year ends, God continues to give us new opportunities to share hope in this place--a place that has played vital roles in many stories in our lives.  As a new year approaches, don't overlook the ordinary as you consider how to "hope it forward".  What places in your every day life can you find new ways to share hope?

An ABUNDANCE of Hope

Aluminum is one of the most abundant natural elements we have, accounting for nearly 10% of Earth's weight.  Yet, at one time, it was seemingly impossible to extract, thus making it exceptionally valuable.  In the early 1800s this precious material was used to cap the Washington monument, and even Napolean famously served the King of Siam on aluminum, forcing all the lower ranks to eat off the gold plates. *

Then, a simple technique using electricity unlocked the true ABUNDANCE of aluminum, making it one of the most ubiquitous elements in our lives to this day.

Perhaps, it's not that the things we most long for are scarce, but rather, they just aren't easily accessible, or maybe, we just think they are...

Sometimes HOPE feels as valuable as aluminum once was because it seems so hard to come by, but similarly, HOPE is infused in every inch of creation and it is ours to have, if we only know how to unlock its abundance.

Romans 5:1-5 says,

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

To gain HOPE, we must first realize, through FAITH, that the work has already been done--we are at PEACE, we are right with God because of the work of Christ, done for us.  We must release ourselves, our efforts, our hopes even, and with hands open wide, receive GRACE.  In that grace, we don't cower or timidly sit, but we STAND in relationship with God.  As time goes by, as we experience more of this PEACE with and ACCESS to God, our desire to meet Him face to face grows...and our conviction, our focus, our HOPE of the Glory of God overflows. 

Then, when we face suffering, we can do so knowing that it will not only bolster our hope but unlock even more of it, so in the most unexpected way, we don't just accept suffering but we even invite it in because we know what it will produce...HOPE. 

As we suffer, we learn to depend, again, not on our own work, but on the work of Christ, and thus, we persevere, our focus shifts from ourselves to the reality of hope beyond.  Like Stephen, we can almost see beyond the veil, where HOPE anchors us, to where God awaits, and then the storms all around us fade a bit.  Over time, this process repeats, and amazingly, we are not broken down but we are refined, and the hope that was once so scarce is now shown to be all around us, if we only open our hands to receive it, to receive Him.  And He will give Himself to us in ABUNDANCE.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (ROMANS 15:13)

 

(* story of aluminum from, "Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think" by Peter Diamandis)

A "Token of Hope"

This advent season of waiting on our God made tangible in Christ--HOPE made tangible--seemed so appropriate to share our newest, ongoing "Hope It Forward" project...HOPE HEALS TOKEN.

The idea is simple...provide a tangible reminder, a token of hope, to someone, then give them an opportunity to share hope by giving a token of hope to someone else in need.  GET HOPE.  GIVE HOPE. 

{Purchase Below -- single set = $5 OR "bundle of hope" 10-pack = $40}

This lightweight, aluminum token is specifically designed to be a versatile reminder of hope, for both men and women, boys and girls.  Carry it in your pocket; string it on your key ring, on a necklace or make a bracelet from it.  In this Christmas season, hang it on the Christmas tree, put it in stockings or attach it to gifts. 

Use it however you want to be a tangible/visible reminder of HOPE--this precious and vital component of life that can often, by its intangible/invisible nature, seem hard to come by. 

As you grasp this token in your hand or hear it clank against your keys, as you see it catch the light or feel it against your chest, may it remind and encourage you of two things... 

1) the transcendent, powerful HOPE you have NOW in Jesus Christ, and

2) the HOPE that will ONE DAY be even more real and more tangible than this token when stand face to face with Him.

...and may you be inspired to SHARE THAT HOPE.

{Now, you can SHARE YOUR STORY of "Hoping It Forward" through this and the other "Hope It Forward Movement" projects -- www.hopeheals.com/shareyourstory}

Hope Heals Token Set

5.00

{***ORDERS WILL NOT SHIP UNTIL THE FIRST WEEK OF JANUARY***}

* Each set contains 2 "tokens of hope" mounted on 1 instructional card.

* Each set is individually-wrapped in a removable cellophane envelope so they can easily be given out.

GET a token of hope for yourself, then GIVE the other one to someone in need of hope.

Carry it in your pocket // string it on your key ring, a necklace, or a bracelet // hang it on your Christmas tree // put it in a stocking...

Share your story of "hoping it forward" at www.hopeheals.com/shareyourstory

Quantity:
Add To Cart

"BUNDLE OF HOPE": 10-pack Hope Heals Token

40.00

* 10 - "Hope Heals Token" sets

* Each set contains 2 "tokens of hope" mounted on 1 instructional card.

* Each set is individually-wrapped in a removable cellophane envelope so they can easily be given out.

GET a token of hope for yourself, then GIVE the other one to someone in need of hope.

Carry it in your pocket // string it on your key ring, a necklace, or a bracelet // hang it on your Christmas tree // put it in a stocking...

Share your story of "hoping it forward" at www.hopeheals.com/shareyourstory

* PLEASE SELECT THE $6 "10-PACK TOKEN SET" SHIPPING OPTION FOR THIS ITEM

Quantity:
Add To Cart

Because He First Loved Us // GUEST POST: BROOK HENSLEY

As we enter this season of giving, it's so important to mediate on WHY WE GIVE?  When we think about sharing hope with a world in need, WHY SHARE?  Brook and Justin Hensley have become dear friends in the past 5 years, and it all when they shared a little hope with us when we needed it.  Barely even knowing us, they gifted us meals from their company Dream Dinners for years following my stroke.  This simple (and delicious) gesture communicated hope to us in a profound way.  It told us that the body of Christ would be there for us, to help us and to sustain us.  And further, as I was not even able to eat at that time, it tangibly represented a hope that one day, we would all gather around a table for that most ordinary but holy experience of breaking bread together as a family.  Praise the Lord, those hopes have been fulfilled, and we have found so much healing in the process.  We will never think of the Hensleys without first thinking of giving and giving lovingly out of the love they have first been given.  Thank you Brook for sharing today!


"Growing up I gradually learned from others about my father’s secret generosity.  From one friend I heard he unearthed a beloved old tree from her family’s front yard when they moved, and he re-planted it in front of their new house.   For other friends who were moving he cut out their children’s handprints in the concrete sidewalk and re-positioned them in their new patio.  He is in the highway construction business and he gives others what he has been given.  Sometimes it’s money, and sometimes he gives unique gifts from his very specific skill set (and access to heavy machinery).  He is committed to doing these things privately.  So when the Wolfs asked me to tell about how we met, I knew I couldn’t just say, “through mutual friends” or “it was the Lord,” though both are true.  The reason we met is that my husband Justin and I own a food shop that produces freezable family dinners and we gave the Wolfs what we had – dinners over the course of a couple years.  Please don’t tell my dad I’ve come right out and said that on the Internet.

Justin and I are on the rapidly growing list of Katherine and Jay’s friends who did not personally know them before her stroke.  We knew about it the day it happened through our couples’ small group and we prayed.  The more we learned about the Wolfs, the more the Lord softened our hearts toward them and prompted a tangible response.  We didn’t have much, but we did have food.  And we sent them boxes of meals through our mutual friends, first to Pomona while she was in brain rehab, then to their home in Culver City for anyone who might be staying with them for dinner.

It was months before we would actually meet in person and since that day, the Lord has knit Katherine and me together in a very special way.  Justin and I had no idea how that small act of obedience would blossom into an essential friendship for us, one that overflows with spiritual and material blessing upon blessing.  It’s a profound privilege to be Jay and Katherine’s friends, and to be called their friends.  To witness and participate in the telling of their story.  To see God so blatantly at work up close and personal.  We have received an embarrassment of riches compared to what we have given them.  Beth Moore puts it this way: “Nothing is free in the economy of God.”  Because what you offer in faith to others as unto the Lord, He multiplies and re-distributes.  Everyone benefits, especially the giver, according to Jesus, who said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”

We love because He first loved us, and we give because we have received so much.  That’s the impetus for the newest Hope Heals initiative, Token of Hope, which is really an opportunity to start an authentic faith conversation with someone – anyone – about the hope we possess.  This small, pocket symbol gives the heart permission to overflow and find words to describe the seed of hope Christ planted in us.  The benefits of faith are far too numerous to withhold, but I often lack the courage to share them with others if I’m not sure how it will be received.  The Wolfs have no such hesitation – their courageous faith is contagious.  So that’s why I plan to keep a few tokens in my purse and car, and challenge myself to give them all away this month.  And prompt my answer to the question, “Why do we give a token, or an encouraging word, or a gift in the first place?”  Because of God’s overwhelming generosity toward us.

I don’t know what my faith would look like today if the Wolfs weren’t part of my life.  The perspective Katherine’s story has woven into my heart and mind has given me a newfound sense of contentment, broader compassion and a deeper confidence in Christ.  I have heard her speak to many groups about her brain injury and recovery, and she often shares a beautiful story about Jay’s dad encouraging her just after her stroke with a passage in John 16 when Jesus promises, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  What she will not tell you, but what you will inevitably come to discover, is that Katherine embodies that command to take heart, which in some translations is “take courage,” “be of good cheer” and “undaunted.”  She has had trouble and she will likely suffer more, but her hope is based on the glorious conclusion of this story, not what sorrow this chapter may bring.  She personifies this paradox – some days are excruciating, but they do not have the final word over her or pre-determine her response.  In every moment, like no one else I know, she captures the essence of, “But take heart!”

Hope Made Tangible

It's hard not to be struck by the immense grace of God as we enter into the Advent season.  He could have demanded that our faith be so great as to give ourselves to an invisible, intangible idea of a god.  Rather, He gave us Himself in Jesus Christ; the invisible God made visible for us to see, the intangible idea brought to life tangibly for us to touch...drawing us to HOPE.

In our own circumstances, our hope has been bolstered by literally holding on to tangible representations of the intangible.  These "ebenezer stones" remind us how far God has brought us and inspire in us hope that He will continue to bring us through an unknown future until we get to an eternity where the intangible will once and for all be made tangible to us.

We have been playing with this idea of "hope made tangible" for about 6 months now, and we are thrilled to get to share our BIGGEST "Hope It Forward" project with you launching this FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6!

Of course, it wouldn't be "hoping it forward" if there were not an element of first receiving hope, then being inspired to give it to others.  This simple project embodies both sides of that same "coin".  Stay tuned friends!

(Special thanks to our wonderful manufacturing partner, PRECISION METALWORKS, in Montgomery, AL, for helping produce HOPE with us for this unique project.)

Harvest of Hope // A PHOTO ESSAY

Earlier this Fall, Jay and I were invited to speak in Omaha, NE at Westside Church.  The pastor of that church, Curt Dodd, is the father-in-law of my college best friend and roommate, Catherine Cilker Dodd.  Since moving to California, and especially since my stroke, the chances to see this dear friend and her growing family have been few and far between.  "Cilker" and her husband Jonathan work both in full-time ministry and full-time farming.  It cannot be expressed how shocked I would have been in college if you told me my sophisticated, Northern California roommate would be living and working on a farm with 3 kids in 10 years time, and yet, I have never seen her more full of joy.

It's pretty sobering, but between the two of us, in the nearly 10 years since we graduated college, we have both been through some very challenging, life-changing circumstances.  Yet as we gathered around their farm table, literally eating the fruit of their harvest, sharing some laughs and some tears, with the sounds of our little ones playing outside, we knew that an even sweeter harvest had come...a harvest of hope.

(for more information on the Dodd's ministry, Keipos, a fascinating intersection of Christian mission and holistic agricultural practice, visit www.keipos.org)

 

Hope Heals Quotes #2

The Hope Heals Quotes project continues with this 2nd quote designed by Alex Wolf.  Our main goal with Hope Heals is to creatively communicate our hope in the Lord in ways that might touch people who are truly looking for hope, and further, to find ways to communicate that are shareable, allowing those who have received hope to become hope givers themselves.  This "Hope It Forward Movement" project embodies this goal entirely. 

Please print this out for yourself, or even better, give it to someone in need of hope (download high-res version for printing).  If you're so inclined, feel free to share this digitally in any way. Put this little leaf in the digital stream and see where it goes! (dowload low-res version for digital sharing).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the more intriguing figures of the 20th century.  His writings have inspired us for a very long time.  Our small group was even reading his book, "Life Together" in the months leading up to Katherine's stroke. 

We though this quote was so appropriate for the holiday season, one suffused with both hope and sorrow.  This quote so tenderly acknowledges the depth of loss in the human experience, especially when it comes in the form of losing someone we love, and yet it offers HOPE.  In an amazing reversal, through the sieve of gratitude, our tears of pain turn to tears of joy.

Please share this word of encouragement to someone in need of it this holiday season.

On a side note, this cross design has always been a favorite of ours; there is something that echoes the cross of Christ as well as the hope of medical intervention that resonates with us deeply.  We recently discovered that when this symbol is used in repetition, as in this quote and in traditional Swedish folk art, it is a strong symbol of HOPE.  It's not just anchors anymore folks!

Post-Surgery Update...

Dear ones, your prayers lifted our hearts and helped bring about the outcome that we had hoped for so fervently...healing. 

Though that aching longing to be truly whole can never be satisfied here, there are moments, reflections of broken things made whole, like the surgery yesterday, where we see a glimpse of a day when all broken things will be made new again...and it's SPECTACULAR!

The aneurysm, that once represented the helplessly delicate balance that life hangs in, now, represents a place of deep mercy and grace.  That weak spot was filled with micro-platinum coils and will soon scar over, leaving a new, "normal" arterial wall.  Dr. Gonzalez said it went just as he had hoped.  We will have a few check-ups over the coming weeks and months to assure everything has healed properly.  Katherine is at home resting (though it's not her favorite thing to do), and the to-be-expected headaches post-surgery are subsiding.  She eagerly anticipates the pumpkin pie that awaits her tomorrow.

Friends, we are so grateful to slowly dip our toes into the new season of life ahead.  This successful surgery will open up some other possibilities in our lives that were once closed.  We will enlist your prayers on those fronts too, friends--we're not done with you yet!  The miracles, the grace, and the hope continue.

The halo-effect of that experience of life's fragility will forever change the way we look at and live our lives.  There will likely be other experiences that highlight that reality in the future, yet for now, we can release fear and sadness and abide in gratitude and joy. 

We are THANKFUL for you!  May these next few days draw your hearts and minds to a place of overflowing thanksgiving and hope in what is to come. 

(* Thanks to Ryan Dobson for these photos.)

Hope In Our Home

We recently shared our HOME and our HOPE to a totally new digital audience on the popular blog, Design Mom

One of our main callings with Hope Heals is to share the power of hope using our story through a variety of creative ways in a variety of diverse places to a variety of different audiences.  Gabrielle, the creator of this blog, gave us some really thoughtful questions to answer about re-building a life and a home after all hope seems to be lost.  Thanks for the opportunity to share, Gabrielle!

Check out the Design Mom home tour post (here), and below find LOTS of extra shots from our house photo shoot (photos taken by ALEX WOLF, of course!)

What a LOVELY response we've had to our first HOPE HEALS ART project "Flowers for Katherine" by Lulie Wallace!  You can see the print featured in our home, below.

  We've got a handful of these limited-edition, signed and hand-numbered prints left--PURCHASE HERE.  All proceeds from this project benefit the ministry of HOPE HEALS.

Since the Christmas season is just around the corner, perhaps this could be the perfect gift!  The original piece was recently accepted to UCLA Medical Center's permanent art collection and will hang in the hallway of the neuro-surgery clinic.We'll launch our next Hope Heals Art collaboration in Spring 2014.