Thursday, December 29, 2011

Have Mercy

There is a time to lovingly speak truth, and there is a time to shut up and show mercy. Mercy and judgement have always been difficult for us Christians. We tend to fall into extremes. That's human nature. 
I've said for years that if I am to err, I should err on the side of mercy. The merciful will obtain mercy, and the measure in which you judge others will be the measure in which you will be judged. I'm not perfect. We all fall short. And whoever is without sin...go ahead...cast the first stone.
According to a recent study, the church is considered to be judgmental in general and to be hateful towards people who live alternative lifestyles. We Christians are called to live holy and righteous personal lives. We are also called to show love and respect to others. 
Yes, we sometimes need tough love and to also give that tough love to others, but we are not called to be others' holy spirit. There is one already that has the responsibility to guide and convict, and he does it much better than we can. 
Because we are loving and merciful, we desire to share life and truth with others, but we cannot and should not force our way onto others. God gives us free will. Who are we to not allow others that same free will? 
I try to live a holy life because I love and respect God and others around me. I try to show mercy to those who, like myself, fall short and struggle. And I think it is perfectly biblical to teach and advocate mercy, love, grace and forgiveness, just as it is biblical to teach about sin, repentance and hell. 
I'm a little bothered because of all the things I've read and heard over the past few months from Christians who have chosen to speak so much judgement and so little mercy. 
God is love, and with that love comes an element of holiness as well as mercy. In my years of life and ministry, I have found it is often much easier to try to make others be holy, and it is so much harder to live honestly and transparently and with mercy and forgiveness. 
Lately, I have found myself asking God what the Gospel was intended to be before we Christians got a hold of it and transformed it into what we have now. I desire to find that pure, unadulterated Good News that Jesus lived and taught. I pray that I can live out the great command to love God with everything in me and to love people as I love myself. 
The older I get, the more I realize I have to learn, the further I have to go. God, may you continue to increase in my life, and may my way and will continue to decrease...until everything I am resembles you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

a new journey is beginning...and it's all good

I am not the same person I used to be. I have always struggled with self esteem. I have struggled with making decisions, sharing an opinion, speaking my mind, assessing my worth.

I am not that woman anymore. That wounded, unsure, fearful person has blossomed into a confident, emotionally healthy, adventurous one.

I am about to enter into a new phase of my life. In May 2012, I will graduate from Georgia State University with  a degree in Journalism/Public Relations and will emerge a career woman.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous. OK...truth be told, I'm stressed to the point that my facial tic is back. Dern that eye twitch!

Seriously though, my cup runneth over. I don't know what the future holds, but I am excited about it nonetheless.

I caught myself saying the other day that I'm good at what I do. Those words coming from my mouth to my ears surprised me. I've never felt this confident before. 

I thank God for those he has strategically placed in my path. I thank God for a supportive family. I even thank God for my struggles. All this has led me to where I am now.

You know, in Genesis, every time God finished a phase in his creation, he ended it by saying that it was good. Well, I'm gonna follow his lead.

As I finish up this phase of my life, I must say (in the Hammond family way) gravy on a biscuit, baby, it's all's all good!

that cute pic came from ...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Making the Most of It

Public speaking...everyone's favorite pastime, right?

Yeah...not hardly.

But it is a requirement for graduation, and I could put it off no longer.

So I decided to make the most of it and just have fun with it. Turns's one of my favorite classes now. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the teacher is incredibly gifted at teaching and has made this an enjoyable experience. She knows her stuff and is passionately creative about it. And just yesterday, she let us out early. Gotta love that! Go Ms. Kofoed!!!

I'm not just getting more comfortable at giving speeches, but I'm learning to take some risks and to slow down. I've become more confident and have found out a little bit more about myself and how I'm perceived.

I know that public speaking is not what I do best, although my professor says I'm a natural speaker if only I'd slow down! I know I'm not the best speaker in my class, and that's ok. But I own what I do, and I'm just enjoying being myself. Come to find out...I'm considered very personable when giving speeches even if I do sound like a chipmunk on crack. Thus, I'm learning to slow down. 

I maintain that it's not that I speak too fast, it's that people in the South think too slow!

I've enjoyed learning my lesson of how to make the best of a not so desirable situation. I'm praying that will carryover into other areas of life as well. Although the situation definitely requires stretching myself and results in growth, I am finding out that the journey can be a lot of fun in the process. Learning is lifelong, and I'm finally embracing that. And while I'm at it, I'm learning to have fun with it.

It's funny the things God uses to teach us. In this case, public speaking class.  Who knew?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hating People Into the Kingdom?

"You're going to hell!"

"You're an abomination!"

"God hates you, sinner! Repent!"

...and the list goes on. These are just a few of the statements that non-Christian friends of mine have heard by "Christian" groups "evangelizing."

Does anyone actually think it works to hate people into heaven? It both breaks my heart and angers me to see my friends being treated this way. I can assure you these tactics do not work.

Sometimes I think it's a miracle that I haven't been rejected by my friends for being a Christian, but they tend to be somewhat more accepting of people different from themselves.

And so was Jesus.

He was criticized by the religious crowd for associating with the ungodly people in his day. Unless I'm mistaken, he never tried to hate them into the kingdom. Instead he taught us to love those within our reach as we love ourselves. He ate with "sinners." He cared for women and children. He touched and healed the diseased. He fed the hungry.

The bottom line is that we are called to love God and love people. We are told to treat people like we want to be treated. We are shown the example of serving others. Jesus lived this himself. His example should inspire us to go out and do likewise. After all, he changed the world doing this.

And I believe we can change our world by following Jesus' example. What if we ate with sinners? What if hung out with those rejected by others? What if we said "Thank you" to those who serve us rather than treating them like it's their job to cater to our every desire? What if we said, "God cares about you" rather than screaming that he hates them? So many what ifs.

I guess I just have a heavy heart because it seems that more and more Christians are missing the point of Christianity. It's not just in the big things, but in the little things we do. And that includes our attitudes and motivations. It just shouldn't be that way.

But it should be this way:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! --Galatians 5:22-23

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I don't want to miss a thing...

L to R: Jonathan, Lily, Katy, Leyah (Matthew's girlfriend), Matthew

It's official. The season leading up to the empty nest has begun. My oldest is a high school senior. Next week, my baby turns 13.

I've always known they'd grow up one day. And I knew that when my first one got there, the others would be quick to follow.

I had four children in less than five years. With three in diapers and a wild toddler into everything, I felt sometimes that they would never grow up. I longed for them to grow up. Now I wish those days had lasted just a little bit longer. They were precious.

But I think if I could freeze any season of their lives, it would be now. I know it sounds crazy, but I love the teen years. There is so much excitement, so much hope. My kids are beginning to think about whom they want to be, what they want to do, and with whom they want to share it. I love watching this unfold. My husband and I have been blessed. We have good kids, and we're so very proud of them.

I've always been hesitant to give parenting advice, but I think I've earned the right now.

So here it goes:

  • Cherish the moments you have with your children for time passes quickly.
  • Take advantage of teachable moments, those times when you choose not to punish but rather choose to explain life through their mistakes or the mistakes of others, including your own.
  • Look at your kids when they talk to you. Get down on their eye level. If you all learn to converse when they're younger, they'll keep talking when they're older. And get unlimited texting. It's fun to text your kids especially when they're in the same room with you.
  • Ask yourself often, "Will this matter five years from now?" If so, address it. If not, let it go. Choose your battles.
  • Go to their games, their recitals, their practices. Don't just drop them off. They love to know you're watching them and cheering them on.
  • Remember your responsibility is to help your children not need you. I know it sounds harsh, and it bruises the ego. But consider this: our time with our children is limited. In that limited time we need to teach them independence, character, grounded thinking and faith. We give them the tools they need to succeed in life.

But don't worry. They always come back to us. They'll always need us for love, advice, support and gas money. But they'll be able to stand on their own two feet and take risks because we did a good job preparing them for their future.

I can't believe this time has come. Forgive me if I'm not available as much, but these next few years belong to my family. I don't want to miss a thing. I think that's the way it ought to be.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Growing Old Gracefully

As I grow older and experience more of life, I find it increasingly challenging to keep a soft heart. Reasons to be disillusioned, negative and closed off loom in various places, and those places seem to multiply at a rapid pace.

And that's a problem for me because I envision myself growing old gracefully, embracing life and living to the fullest. When I close my eyes, I see a vivacious, smiling, seasoned woman surrounded by friends and family...and lots and lots of grandchildren.

Allowing myself to be distracted by challenges, inconveniences and negativity threatens my dream of blissful existence.

A few years ago, I met a woman with many years behind her. It's safe to say she's seen a lot that could make her disillusioned, bitter and cold; yet she smiles more than anyone else I've ever known. As she speaks to others, her love and enthusiasm spread in a splendidly contagious way. People leave her presence feeling better about the world and life in general.

She says her body doesn't work like it use to, but that's okay because every day is a gift from God. She feels blessed to be alive.

She has a soft heart. She's who I want to be: a gracious, kind, loving and splendidly contagious woman.

I heard her tell someone once that she just loves life, she loves children, and she is grateful for all her many blessings.

Perhaps gratitude is the key: thanking God for all the blessings and for all the challenges. Perhaps bliss is a result of surrendering our circumstances to God and trusting that he's working it all out for our good.

I can't always choose my surroundings, but I can choose to be grateful. I can't always choose my path, but I can choose to trust God with my unknowns.

And as I grow older and my body gradually stops working like it used to, I can smile a genuine smile knowing that though my heart is aging, it's as soft as it's ever been. And perhaps I'll serve as inspiration to another generation to love, laugh and cherish life.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

what lies beneath

most of an iceberg is found beneath the water's surface, and most of what is real about a person is found underneath layers of skin.

as much i try to be real and transparent, i have parts of myself that i keep hidden away. i won't share these places with anyone. i've become very good at pushing them deeper and deeper. sometimes i even forget they are there.

i feel as if God places a mirror in front of me, and no matter where i turn that mirror is always before me. i can't look away. i am forced to see myself. but unlike mirrors that only show the exterior, God's mirrors reveal what lies beneath.

i see the pain i've buried in the corner of my heart, the hate i've crumpled up and swept to the side, the sins i've attempted to whitewash so they don't look so hideous.

and i confess. the words, the emotions rush past my lips with the force of a mighty waterfall.

Here's My Heart

I usually don't like myself very much during the times when God is purifying my heart.These times are both sweet and frustrating. It's a love-hate situation. I love getting closer to God and being a better person, but I hate how I feel during the process. I hate the ugliness that surfaces. I don't want to admit it's there.

I'm not going to lie about it. It scares me. I'm always afraid God is going to ask too much of me. What if I fall short? What if I don't live up to his expectations of me? What if I can't be who he wants me to be?

I have an anxious heart. I feel overwhelmed. There's so much that needs to change in me. Where do I start?

It's silly. I can't help but think that if God knew the real me, he wouldn't like me very much. I don't want him to see my imperfections. But God already knows everything about me. Nothing is hidden from him.

I realize this process would go much more quickly and easily if I would just let go of those things I work so hard to keep from him.

By now I should know better than to think he'll disown me if I'm not perfect. It's his grace and mercy that compel me to yield my will and stubborn heart. No one wants what's best for me more than God, yet I am afraid.

God, change my anxiety to peace, my fear to trust, my insecurity to expectation. Calm my heart. Relax my grasp. Open my mind. Reveal your glory through my brokenness. Here I am. I am yours.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

To My Daughter Upon Entering High School

This is a letter I wrote to my daughter Lily for her 8th grade banquet.

Dear Lily,

I always wanted a little girl. You have no idea how excited I was when you were born. You were tiny with a head full of dark hair. We put a little pink bow in your hair and took you home the next day.

About a week later, your dad and I packed up you and your big brothers and headed off for Washington state for your dad's job. About halfway there, you started having seizures in my arms. I have never been so afraid in my life. I saw your brief life and my visions for your future flash before my eyes, and for a second I thought I would lose my little flower girl to eternity.

But God had other plans, and no one is happier than I. We never knew why you had those seizures, but time and medicine took the problem away. You have now grown to be a beautiful, intelligent and talented young lady.

I know that right now you don't know what you'll be when you grown up, and that's all right. You have time to figure all that out. Too often we rush toward the destination; and although it's good and noble to have goals, it's just as important to enjoy and embrace the journey. Take in the sights. Laugh a lot. Put yourself in others' shoes. Be fearless. Make the most of the moments God has given you. You'll get to the destination one day along with the rest of humanity. However, unlike those who just coast through life, you will be able to say you lived with no regrets.

I am proud of you. I always have been. These first few years of your life have been wonderful, but I bet there are even better things in store for you.

Always do your best. Don't settle for mediocrity. Keep your eyes on God. Guard your character and integrity. Love, respect, and listen to others, especially those who are different from you. They have a lot they can teach you, too. You are a special young lady with a lot to offer the world.

And don't just learn what to think, learn how to think. Know not just what you believe but why you believe it. Ask questions. Questioning God doesn't mean you have a lack of faith; it shows you take your faith seriously. God is big enough to handle each and every question, and it gives Him the opportunity to reveal to you His glory and wonder.

Your dad and I love you very much. These are exciting days. Enjoy them. Embrace them. We are excited for you and the journey that awaits you.

With all my heart,

Sunday, May 22, 2011

either i missed the rapture or it didn't happen

i never thought i'd think, "i'm so sick of that bible verse!" but i have heard and read "no one knows the day or the hour..." more times than i can count. it may be true, but i seriously don't want to hear it again for a while. =)

yes, i made a few jokes about the impending day of judgment, but as soon as the funniness faded, i started to feel sorry for those who believed and were let down. then i got on twitter and saw what was trending. that's when i started feeling sorry for those mocking. the hardening of hearts toward GOD really broke my heart. this isn't JESUS. this isn't what he is about.

i’m praying for both sets of disillusioned people. i pray both find truth and peace in the days, months and years ahead.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

wake up

i got overly confident after having a couple of good days of not overeating. i slipped into a mindset of ... yeah, i can have that. i've been doing well. i deserve it.

guess what happened. yep. the weight quit coming off.

i realized that i need to wake up and be aware of my situation. i can't cruise through and think i'm just going to magically lose the weight i want. i'm not going to go to sleep and wake up the next morning unattached to food.

this is going to take resolve. i'm going to have to stay awake and aware.

i also need to remind myself that i deserve better than to overeat. i deserve to be free from the pull of the refrigerator. God loves me, and his desire is that i live a free and abundant life.

this week my goal is to stay awake.

Friday, May 6, 2011

food was meant for the stomach, not for the heart

we all have holes in our souls, places that are incomplete, damaged, ravenous even. last night, as i tossed and turned, i felt God showing me some holes in my own soul.

every time i start a journey, God visits with me and reveals areas of hurt, unforgiveness and insecurity. i realize this is necessary, but it is very uncomfortable and sometimes unnerving when God shines light on my darkness forcing me to acknowledge its presence.

what does this have to do with overeating? for me...just about everything.

i eat to satisfy my hunger. i overeat to satisfy the longings of my soul. food has a numbing affect. some people turn to alcohol. i turn to food. when the binge is over, i feel guilty. i feel incomplete. the food doesn't magically make my life better. it doesn't heal my soul or fill the holes in it. it makes it worse.

today i stuggled. i have fought back tears. i have run to food many times today outside the boundaries of hunger so that i could fill my longing heart, but i can't feed my heart with food. it's one thing to feed your stomach when you're hungry. it's quite another to medicate yourself with food.

though i struggled today (and still am), i have so far been able to put the food down and walk away. it's so hard, but as I read psalms today, God reassured me he has heard me today.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

transparent about my struggles with fun.

there are a lot of things in my life that i'm happy with, but my weight, eating habits and lack of exercising are not among them. also i haven't been reading my Bible like i would like. i read on occasion, but my taking 6 classes this semester has taken my attention away from reading the Bible and towards reading textbooks...a lot.

i have, however, talked to God a lot more this year. i'm chalking that up to those long commutes to and from atlanta. i quit calling it prayer these days. for whatever reason, i'm more comfortable with saying i'm having a chat with God. so it's not all bad.

but now it's time for change. i read a quote the other day about how it's not our lack of self-control but our not being ready for change that keeps us worshiping the status quo god.

i hate to admit it: but i overeat because i want to, and i don't exercise because i don't want to. i think that's called...(gulp) rebellion (at least for me). that needs to change, but i've had a problem wanting to change. i feel awful afterwards, and i swear i'm going to change. and then i don't. i haven't been ready to change.

i wish i could say that tonight i'm making my declaration to change, but to be honest, i don't trust myself to say that and mean it.

i know i need to continue my journey. i've worked through forgiving a whole lot of people and situations though i have a few ongoing that i need to readdress, and i've shared that journey of healing and wholeness. i guess i should share this other broken part of me. i know i'm not the only one who struggles with weight and overeating.

i wish this weren't true about me, but it is. this could get ugly. in fact, i know it's ugly. and i've tried to hide it far too long. it's time to shine the light on this darkness and deal with it. i hope i'm ready for this.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

to faith

tough day... final exams. storm ripped through the area last night. my sister's birthday.

faith would have been 34 today. i don't always remember these days, but it shook me a little this time.

she was 6 when she passed. brain tumor. i was 8.

i hardly remember her now. it's been so long.

this is going to be short. i just needed to acknowledge her today. i needed to remember.

happy birthday, faith. i know i didn't tell you this enough. we were just kids. and kids think life goes on forever. had i known...i would have told you one more time. i love you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Keepin Us Honest

The other day I talked with a friend after class. She and I are the same age, and both of us are married. We actually have quite a bit in common.

In the course of our conversation, we drifted to politics. She has it in for fundamentalists, and I have a feeling she has a good reason. I responded that someone needs to keep them honest. ...and that's true.

We all need people in our lives to keep us honest.

We may not like what others have to say when they criticize or disagree with us, but we need to listen.

And we need to be respectful and openminded.

When we quit listening to other points of view, when we quit associating with people different from us, we tend to become closeminded and inward-focused...and in some cases, condescending and downright mean.

People who disagree with us or ask us questions keep us on our toes.

That's not a negative thing. Instead, it's quite positive. It's good for us.

At times, we'll engage in debate. But there are rules.
  • Seek first to understand rather than to be understood, so spend more time listening than talking
  • At least consider the possibility you might be wrong
  • Be willing to agree to disagree
  • Be respectful; no name-calling
  • Don't put words in the other person's mouth or assume you know where they stand
  • Do your homework before engaging in debate. You lose credibility when you don't know what you're talking about or rely on what someone said someone else said...or wrote
With that said, let the conversations and healthy exhanges begin.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

what's next?

I was so disappointed earlier this week. I was trying to get a local internship, but I didn't get it. Though my resume was impressive, they decided to go with someone else. Bummer...

I searched for others, but all of them are in Atlanta or farther...with no pay. Again, bummer...

Then I started thinking that maybe God's got a better plan. I do have a plan B that I'm not too disappointed to go with.

And then tonight, my friend Dusty Takle posted a quote from Steven Furtick, "The good thing didn't happen so that the better thing could."

Maybe that's God's way of letting me know that it's all good.

It's difficult when you want something pretty bad and you pray for God's will to be done and what you wanted didn't happen. But I'm all right. OK, so it's my plan B. It very well may have been God's plan A for me. Guess we'll see. =)

It's all good, and for whatever reason, my heart is at peace, happy even. I know God will take care of me and my family.

And I did something exciting tonight...I volunteered to do something at my church later this week. That's a big step, but I'm so ready.

Oh, happy day! Really. I mean it!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't Stop

As I'm approaching the end of my first year back at college, I am finding it difficult to keep on going. I think I see a flicker of light at the end of a dark tunnel, but I'm not sure about that. After this semester, I have 2 more semesters to go. I keep telling myself, "One more month till summer. Just one more month. You can do this." And everyday, I feel myself slipping into despair. The end will never come. One month is too long.

Now that I've sufficiently bummed everyone out, I will try to remedy that. I have come to realize that those are the times I need to take a deep breath and tell myself to just get through the day. That's it. That's all. Just one day. That day turns into two and then three until Thursday afternoon arrives marking the end of another week and bringing me one week closer to graduation.

I could give up. I did take a weekend off from studying. What an attitude I had, too! I'm NOT going to study. I HATE school. I'm NOT going to be responsible. ...and I sat on my sofa and played computer games all weekend. Monday rolled around, and I got my butt in gear and studied like there was no tomorrow...well, you know what I mean.

I didn't give up. I took a break. But then I got back in there, and I persevered. It paid off.

My point is that when life gets overwhelming, sometimes you need to take a break and rest for a moment and then suck it up and keep going. Don't stop. Don't give up. It's amazing how you get a little momentum going and before you know it, all is well. Or even if all doesn't turn out well, it's done and you survived. Sometimes that's a major accomplishment.

So...I'm taking my advice tonight. Take a moment and rebel against the system. OK. Now remember your goal. And get back in there and study. You can do this. Just keep going. Don't stop. Don't give up.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

questioning GOD

"It is the glory of God to hide things but the glory of kings to investigate them." --Proverbs 25:2

questioning our faith, our beliefs, doesn't mean that we've turned our backs on GOD. if anything, it shows that we take our faith seriously.

i've been taking a class on religions this semester, and i'm fascinated. it's like i'm discovering faith all over again. when we got to christianity, i realized there is so much that i didn't know. and now i find myself wanting to rediscover a faith that was becoming a stale religion to me.
i've decided to try to undo faith in under to discover it again. without realizing it, i've approached christianity, JESUS and the BIBLE from a religious paradigm. and now i want to read and approach as a blank slate.
i wonder if i'll see things differently, if i'll have a different understanding and appreciation of who GOD is and who i am in relation to him. i want to search and investigate free from preconceived notions. i want to wrestle with the word. i want to ask GOD questions and not just accept because i was taught that it was wrong to question GOD.
it is not wrong to question GOD.
i believe that when we ask questions and wrestle with interpretations, GOD smiles. maybe i'm wrong but if GOD is all-knowing and i am lacking knowledge, isn't it a compliment to him that i am searching him out? is he not big enough to handle my questions? does he fear being found fraudulent or inconsistent? nah. i don't buy that.
i wonder if GOD operates like i do. i am mysterious. i don't tell everyone everything i know. but i love when someone finds me interesting enough to ask me questions and search me out to find out who i really am. i find it sweet. when david and i were dating, we used to talk for hours, sharing intimate details and discussing anything and everything. not once did i get offended by his desire to know all about me. if anything, it made us love each other more. 
and that's my desire. to know and love GOD more than ever. i wonder what i'll discover.
i must admit i feel a little wide-eyed, like a fat person at an endless buffet. hmmm. taste and see that the LORD is good. i wonder... =)

Monday, February 21, 2011

all things in moderation

my name is hope, and i'm a perfectionist...

i am such an overachiever. i admit it. i thought i was over my perfectionist ways, but going back to school has enabled me to see that i haven't quite gotten it out of my system.

i study too much. i burn myself out. it's sad.

i guess i could have worse addictions. it's unfortunate that my perfectionism doesn't extend to household chores. i haven't really cleaned my house in months. it used to bother me. not so much anymore. one day, i'll hire someone to do that for me. yep, that's the plan.

thank GOD for spring break next week! i have already given myself a good "come to JESUS talk" regarding no schoolwork for at least a couple of days. yes, i do plan to study some during that time, but i will make myself take a much-needed break. AND I WILL NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT EITHER!!!

i guess my point is that even good things and good-for-us things need to be done in moderation.

i am taking my own advice. i promise...well, i'll start next week.

it's ok to be responsible. but let's remember this: live a little. laugh a lot.

don't feel guilty when you take time to enjoy life!

take care!