hope

2018…here we go!

well 2018 is here and it’s going…it came quick and hit the ground running.

I can’t believe it’s already 22 days into the new year, time stops for no one. But in the start of the new year I’ve finally found the time to reflect, pray, and dream for 2018…a few days late, but hey life happens.

I have a friend who introduced me to this practice of adopting a word for your year. A word to hold onto for the whole year and see what God does. As I began to pray for 2018 and the world that God has for me I couldn’t help but look back at 2017.

2017 was a hard year. One to bury in a box, to never look back on again. It threw me off course more times than I would like to count, but somehow, I am here in 2018 knowing what it means to dwell in a place of self-grace. What is self-grace? It is my word of the year and means to simply allow yourself to be who you are…all of the crazy, the pain, the dreams, the confusion, the joy, the restlessness, the doubt…it’s accepting what you are feeling, recognizing what brought you to this point and truly believing what you are going through to be valid. It’s knowing we are exactly where we are supposed to be no matter the circumstance because our mighty Author won’t lead us astray.

Moving forward into 2018 though…it’s on my heart to encourage you (and myself) to keep accepting yourself and smothering yourself in self-grace. (this is what I’m learning) What does that look like? Well it’s different for each of us…

Maybe it’s quitting a job or asking for a raise.

Maybe it’s packing your bags or deciding to finally sit still.

It could be learning a new skill or giving one up that doesn’t make your soul feel alive.

It might be deciding to stay with that person despite everything or knowing the healthiest thing is going your separate ways.

Perhaps it’s deciding to start your family or changing directions on how you go about doing that.

It could be changing majors in university or taking the risk to walk away from what you thought your future was always supposed to look like.

Moving back home or to a new city where you know no one.

Maybe you finally make that appointment with the counselor whose number you have been holding onto forever.

Maybe you finally call that person who hurt your heart so badly once, but you are ready to tell them you forgive them.

Your sight might be set to touch the highest of mountain tops or to take that literal jump out of the plane to feel your body soar through the sky.

Maybe it’s allowing 2018 to be the year of saying no or possibly finally saying yes…

Whatever it is for you, LET IT BE. You do you. Allow yourself to be inspired, but don’t conform. Take that leap or actually… let yourself sit still. (sounds harder than you think) When you feel lost, know you are far from alone. You are surrounded by people who love you and a unrelentless God who will be with you no matter which direction you choose to go.

Cheers to a 2018, a whole new year ahead of us…we still have 343 days this year to make them look like however you dream of them looking like and when they start to look different, embracing them and yourself anyway.

-S

Dance This Christmas . . .

This Christmas, give yourself permission to not be merry or bright. Excuse yourself from the manufactured pressures of Christmas cheer.

 

The holiday season comes sharp and brittle for some. Maybe even for you, if I’m being honest this season has been a whirlwind for myself. Be gentle with others. Be gentle with yourself.

 

Finish with your frenetic shopping and buying and list-making, and be done. Let what you are giving be enough, even as every billboard and commercial and email promotion makes you feel as though it’s not. After all, the gifts themselves were never really the point. The point is the reaching across the room or across the country or across the neighborhood toward someone else. The point is, To you, from me: I see you. I love you. You are my people.

 

Call your grandpa. Call your grandma who sometimes can’t remember who you are. Ask the  Walmart greeter how she is doing today. Look into her eyes. Learn her name, and remember it.

 

Put a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket, not because you feel guilty walking by it or because it’s “the right thing to do,” but because this is where we find God: in the eyes of the large man ringing the bell, his face wrapped entirely in a scarf so all you can see is his bulbous nose. His shifting, holy eyes.

 

At the Christmas Eve candlelight service, notice the shadows cast by the flames even as you sing “Silent Night.” This is the purpose of those candles, with their paper collars and dripping wax: not to make you feel cozy and Christmas-y and merry, but to reveal something about the nature of Immanuel, God with us: a flickering flame that contains both shadow and light.

 

Sing the songs even if you’re not sure if you believe them, if you ever believed them, if you ever could. Don’t worry that it’s inauthentic, that it’s some kind of lie to join in the song, to let the impossible words fill up your mouth. In the Thomas Kinkade version of this thing, the whole world is pristine and cobble-stoned and lit gently with streetlamps, and everyone singing believes perfectly. But this is not the truth of Christmas.

 

Beside you, around you, the chairs are filled with shattered people, with those whose hearts are filled with doubt and darkness. People who are singing anyway. Join them. You belong to this broken chorus.

 

Don’t be surprised when Christmas Day comes with interruptions and inconveniences. The serving dish full of mashed potatoes will fall on the floor and shatter. The new toy won’t work like it’s meant to. You will have forgotten to buy batteries. Someone you expected won’t show; someone you didn’t expect will…and the whole thing will feel different than you wanted, than you expected.

 

Don’t be surprised to find yourself thrown off-balance. Don’t shame yourself for that moment of sharp disappointment that pierces the manufactured bubble of “Christmas magic.” Notice what it feels like when the plans spin out of your control. Look around from the shifted earth on which you are standing. There is a good chance it is holy ground.

 

If there are children at your gathering, pay attention to their wonder, to that Christmas-morning look on their faces. But notice, too, their ingrown selfishness as they rip into their gifts and have to be reminded to say thank you. Remember that when Jesus said to receive the kingdom of God like a child, he knew about both of these things—the awestruck wonder, the acute self-centeredness—and still he said, “Let the children come to me.”

 

So come.

 

Bring your own complicated, disappointed, self-centered, wonder-filled, jaded heart to the manger—the one you have read about year after year after year, but never really paid attention to. Sometimes worship looks unremarkable. Sometimes it’s only just showing up at the same place again…because where else would you go but the stable? Where else but to the manger-bed of the unlikely, impossible King?

 

When all of it is done—when the presents are unwrapped and the living room floor is covered with paper, when the leftover gravy is congealing on the counter, when you are so tired you want to curl into a ball in the corner—then, just then turn on the music as loud as it goes. And dance.

 

Dance badly. Dance wild and silly. Dance in your living room or your kitchen, or haul yourself to the nearest Christmas celebration and kick up your heels. Spin your children in circles, throw your arms around your sister, push the coffee table out of the way and breakdance on the carpet.

 

Dance not because you’re merry, not because it’s bright, but because if Christmas is anything, it is the most audacious kind of hope. It is that teenage virgin-mother singing a revolutionary song: The lowly are raised up! The hungry are filled with good things! The world is being made new! Love has come!

 

Dance for Aleppo and for the refugees; dance for the depressed and the downtrodden; dance for your own broken heart during Christmas.

 

Let the song fill you up—every valley shall be exalted! Dance until, for one breathless moment, you believe it all.

Reminiscing a Wandering Heart: Finding God Amidst a Heart of Turmoil

I sat in Church this past Sunday listening to the Word and singing worship as I usually do, but then I was hit with a ton of bricks when we started to sing one particular song, You Are With Me Still. I don’t know what happened, but I was filled with an overwhelming sense the Holy Spirit and just as Jesus did, I wept. As I stood there singing praises to God, singing the words to this song I couldn’t help but cry. Tears filled my eyes as I sang every word because as I sang every word, they rang true to me, my life, and my heart. God was with me still…

These past few months have been incredibly….overwhelming; emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally I was all over the map. I felt as though I was in this fog, haze, and unsure of whether God was even with me. But as I sang the words of this song I was assured that He indeed was still with me.

He is with me still…

…as I still grieve the loss of my Gramma and still continue to comprehend the fact that she’s no longer here on earth.

…as I question whether I ‘m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Am I making the right decisions?

…as I reminisce about my time in South Africa and my heart breaks for the people I met there, missing them so much.

…as my mom has good days and bad days, struggling to overcome the grief of losing her mom.

…as my family goes through rough times. We’re not perfect, we’re human, we don’t always get along.

…as I try to plan for the future and figure out where God is calling me next in life. Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do? God I just want you to tell me what to do.

…as I try to find the balance between school, work, and a social life. It’s hard, I can’t do everything, but I want to it all.

…as I try to handle my finances, trying to get by as a barista paying my way through college. I know God will provide, but that trust is not easy.

…as I find the strength to continue to follow God’s call to share the Gospel. Stepping out of my comfort zone, doing things I never would have imagined.

…as I find the courage to say YES, Lord! Each and every day. Some days I would love to just do nothing, but God is calling me to something much greater than myself.

These are some of the thought’s that raced through my mind as I sang this song. It seems like a lot, but in that moment I was in complete peace singing every word because I knew it to be true that God was still with me. Even through all of these thoughts of darkness, doubts, questions, fear, hopelessness, pain, grief, and so much more He is with me.

It seems like we often forget that we’re not in this alone. When the world seems to fail us, we think we’re on our own, but in fact we are never in this alone, God is always with us…fighting our battles with us…grieving our losses with us…questioning our purpose with us…He is with us still.

Our darkest days are no match to what God can handle. He is there with us through it all. His love will endure. His promise is sure. His mercy remains. He will give you strength, Just look…You’ve made it this far.

I hope you find encouragement and hope in this. No matter what you’re going through, He is with you still. Take a moment, take a listen, and see what God has to say…

-S

Listen to the Song Here

Catch the Story of the Song Here

Reminiscing A Wandering Heart: The Boy in South Africa

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My time in South Africa was something that I have yet to completely process…it’s something that is always on my mind and something that I am ever grateful to have had the opportunity. But it was only the beginning. So as the days go by and the time passes I find it useful to write out my experiences and the emotions I felt and since I was not on this journey alone, but I invited many to walk along side me I thought I would start a series of post reminiscing my heart and the memories of South Africa. This experience was rather life changing and my hope in sharing it with you is simply give you a glimpse of the work God did in my life with the hope that you can recognize the work He is doing in your own life.

In South Africa there was a little boy the age 7. He was like any other 7 year old boy, rambunctious and fearless, yet he captured my heart like no one ever had. He had a smile that won my heart the second I saw it. He was as most people call, my one. The one who was always sitting on my lap; the one who I was always holding; the one who I clung to as we said goodbye.

Our time together while he attended the VBS/camp we hosted in South Africa is something I’ll cherish forever. There was one memory I have when the group was playing on the field, kids running all over playing dodgeball, soccer, and picking flowers. I was sitting with a group near the bags and the kids were playing and climbing on us, the the boy climbed inside the bags and started to zip himself up, so playing along I grabbed the bag and told him he was coming home with me back to the states; he literally fit inside our bag. It was that moment that I really struck me and made me think…I really love this little boy. He laughed and had the hugest smile on his face it filled my heart with overwhelming joy.

As the week went on my love for this little boy continued to grow and I dreaded the idea of him leaving. Although there were times when he was up to trouble and I would have to tell him to stop doing something, he would turn around and look at me with a huge smile from ear to ear that totally won my heart. There wasn’t a chance that I could be mad at him, but simply give him a big ‘ol hug!

The relationship that was formed in a matter of only a few days is that of one that often takes years to form. But this little boy was so accepting of the love I had to offer and craved that love, he changed my life in more ways than I could ever offer him. It wasn’t till just a few days ago that I realized why God had put that boy in my life and the relationship that was formed with him. I was with my mentor walking through a prayer exercise of how I see God and my relationship with Him.

As I was in this prayer state of just me and God, He gave me an image…an image I was very familiar with that I often have when I reminisce my time in South Africa. It was the image of my relationship with that boy in South Africa; playing with him, holding him, sitting with him, and simply loving him. A huge grin on both of our faces laughing as I held him in my arms. This was so significant because God revealed that this was the way He wanted to love me. For so often I forgotten to come to God as my Father, simply for Him to hold me tight and whisper in my ear…”I love you.” This was a moment of complete and utter joy, so overwhelming I found myself in tears. God took a moment that I cherished so much and reminisced about often to give me a glimpse of a tangible relationship that He wanted with me. It was simply beautiful, just as the the little boy in South Africa was.

I was reminded that God wants us to come running to His is arms simply to be held by His sweet embrace. He wants to hold us and laugh with us through every good and bad experience. He wants to love his child unconditionally. My prayer is that you would not forget this and that you would accept this love God is offering to you. The relationship I had with that little boy in South Africa is something I can only describe, but I hope that you may feel that type of love someday and maybe some of you already. But I hope you get to feel that love with our Almighty Father because who knows it just might change your life…

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Red X & Slavery . . .

Red X

On Thursday this past week you probably saw a lot of red X’s on peoples hands, most likey you had one yourself, and you saw a lot of #enditmovement or #endit on all social media platforms. I must say I had a red X on my hand and I fully support the movement and I strive to making people aware of this issue of modern day slavery. But I was posed with a good question by a friend that day. They asked me, “Why do you have a red X on your hand? Do you really believe that putting a red X on your hand will end slavery?” At first I was shaken by this question, but it brought a good point. What was the reason behind my choosing to have a red X on my hand.

I can agree that putting a red X on our hands did not end slavery. I woke up on Friday and those 27 million people were still in bondage through their various forms of slavery; human trafficing, prostitution, factory, labor, and more. But what it did was bring awareness through a simple act of putting red X on your hand. This symbol was something that brought hope and inspired so many people. It was much more than simply putting a red X on hand, it was about being a part of something much greater than yourself. We can only do so much on our own, but when we stand together we can make waves. It doesn’t mean that every person who put a red X on their hand is gonna be out there raiding brothels, storming factories, and questioning neighbors. But they are committed to standing up for justice.

In actuality we should all be a part of this End It Movement. I know that I’m not doing much to end slavery, but I am educating people, raising awareness, and praying. I have committed to pray for these people who are oppressed and suffering. I pray for freedom and redemption all through the work of Jesus Christ.
So I know that at the end of the day putting a red X on my hand won’t end slavery or bring drastic changes, but I know that I am part of a movement that is working for change and freedom. This symbol didn’t change anything, but if it inspires more people to fight, then I am all in. because a symbol or act don’t change things…people do!

A red X won’t end slavery, but the people who wear it just might…

Open Letter After My South Africa Mission Trip

Dear Friends and Family,

            I hope this letter finds you well! I bet you’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard from me or why this letter is coming so late as I’ve been home from South Africa for a whole month now. But if I’m being completely honest with you it has been one of the hardest things for me being home. I want nothing more than to sell everything and move to South Africa, but we all know that’s not logical. I know God has me here for a purpose and He took me to South Africa for a reason, but I do miss it. As much as I prepared for God to send me to South Africa, I was not ready for the reality of coming home. Since being home I have been trying to process the trip as a whole and it’s been extremely tough; as cliché as it sounds I left my heart in South Africa. God stirred something up in me and I fell in love with South Africa; the kids, staff, community, and people.

            While I was in South Africa God completely transformed my heart. He opened my eyes to appreciate the little things and I got to experience His love in a totally new way. I felt so at home and at peace while I was there. I never knew you could fall in love with people in such a short amount of time so fast. I can honestly say I love the people I met in South Africa and they are family to me now. No matter the distance between us I know that we are bonded together in the love of Jesus Christ. And that brings such joy to my heart; to know that they have Jesus into their hearts. I don’t know whether I will ever see them here on this earth, but I can find comfort in the fact that I will see them again in our Heavenly home with our Almighty Father.

            As I prepared for the trip I thought that I was preparing to pour into the lives of the people of South Africa, but when I got there I was in for much more than I had imagined. I went with no expectations because I knew I could not hinder the work of God. But the people of South Africa filled me with so much more than I could ever offer to them. They embraced me with so much love and joy it literally brings a smile to my face. On the last day when we were leaving I was in tears saying our good-byes and the kids were encouraging me telling me, “Don’t worry, God is with you” and “God loves you.” I thought I should have been telling them that, but because I had showed them God’s love continuously over the two weeks they knew it was exactly what I needed.

            As most of you know a month before I left for South Africa my Gramma passed away. It was a really difficult time, but I knew God had picked me for the team for a purpose so I put my trust in Him and I went. While I was in country I saw people who had so much joy and happiness, despite their losses. God showed me that even through the pain and sorrow there is hope. These kids who had lost their parents to AIDS had suffered so much pain and hurt in their short lives, yet they were still filled with so much joy. It’s crazy that God had to take me all the way to South Africa just to tell me that He was with me through my pain; that He was embracing with love in my pain and hurt just as He was with the people of South Africa.

            Since being home I have been constantly thinking and praying for the people I met in South Africa. They have captured my heart and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go. And I personally want to thank you for all your love and support. I never would have been able to take this leap of faith without your prayers and encouragement. I am so thankful to have had you on this journey of faith, but I must admit this is only the beginning. I don’t know where God is calling me next in mission, but I know God has put South Africa on my heart. The love I encountered in South Africa was something I’ll never forget; it was true genuine unconditional love. I found peace in South Africa amidst a broken world, but it’s evident that God is doing work in South Africa and I’m blessed to have been a part it and I’m excited to see His Kingdom further in South Africa.

 

This letter is only a glimpse of the work God is doing in South Africa and how He used me. There are plenty of other stories and encounters, but I would have to write a novel to just touch the surface. So I encourage you if you would like to hear more or simply just want to talk I am open to get coffee or dinner or simply meet up anywhere. I would love to share my heart for mission and South Africa with you. I will leave my contact information at the bottom if you wish to get together or you can check out my blog. I thank you again for all of the ways that you have supported me; It means more than I can ever express in words.

I ask that you would please pray for the people of South Africa and the work God is doing there. I also ask that you please pray for me as I continue to process the trip and transition being home, even though I’ve been home for a month I still find it hard at times. Thank you again and I will be praying for you my friends! I love you!

Thank you taking the time to read this! I value your time and I thank you. Continue to seek Him and All His Glory!

-Steven

// Thewindblewhope.com // stevenjs32@hotmail.com //

New Year’s Resolution in February

I think we can all agree that The Wind Blew Hope could definitely use some love. And with a change of heart and a new mindset I have decided to make a new year’s resolution….in February. It’s never too late to start, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. With some recently events in my life I found it appropriate to start blogging again. With topics of death, life, love, mission, Jesus, life, and much more floating around in my head I have been journaling A LOT. So be on the lookout for some new post coming, at least once a month. And who knows maybe even more! 🙂

-S
hope