Saturday, 25 January 2014

Jane {Hope}

Jane* is a young lady that I met 3 years ago. That label is perhaps a little grand for her just yet; she is still a child, not yet in high school. My first impressions of Jane were that she was the original Wild Child. She could not stay still, she was always shouting, she had no internal checkpoints to tell her what was appropriate. 

Jane comes from a huge family: 13 siblings and counting. Many of her older brothers and sisters have been through the care system, and I have been involved in supporting one of them as she made the transition back home. Last time I visited the family, I heard that two of her older brothers are currently in prison. 
Jane has caused me some trouble over the past few years. She has disobeyed adults who care about her; she has bullied children who wanted to be her friend. She's been rude to a police officer when he challenged her behaviour in the street. Periodically, her behaviour improves dramatically and she tells me proudly that she has received 'star of the week' in school. Mum comes out and tells me how proud she is of Jane's hard work. But there's always something to upset the balance and send things off course again. Once it was when her little sister was born. Once when the kitchen ceiling fell through, inches away from mum's head. It was months before the council found another house for them to move into. 

On the surface, it's a hopeless situation. I can't fix Jane. I've tried, but I'm not enough. All of the signs and role models around her don't offer much hope either. The circumstances seem hopeless, but I've been learning something new. Hope in circumstances is not the same as hope in God**. Our hope doesn't come from what we can see. Our hope comes from above. 
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25, ESV)

Just two streets down from Jane, there is a gentleman who moved to this part of the city as his family grew. He was so shocked by the lack of any provision for young people in the area that he started taking his piano out onto the street for singalongs with all the neighbours. The whole street comes out to join in and make requests. There are many pockets of tangible, real-life hope that can be seen and reported in these places, and I would like to believe that the hours I have poured into those streets will be counted among the examples in years to come.

It would be easy to hold onto these stories as examples of hope for my city, for our world. But if our hope is founded on what we see, then how do we respond to the stories of sickness, unemployment and abuse that also abound? Where will my strength come from as I walk through the dark valleys?
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! (Psalm 27:3, 13 ESV)

Let's hope in something that won't disappoint.

*   Not her real name
**  This is a brilliant, grounded article that you should read.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

One Word for 2014

At the beginning of every year I usually spend some time reflecting on the year gone by, and deciding what I'd like to do in the year to come. Last year my main resolution was, 'get married' which I have quite successfully achieved! Not two months into being married and it is wonderful, best lifestyle choice I've made so far. Pete is my hero and coming home to him every night, waking up with him every morning really is amazing.

Having had such excellent success last year, it seems a shame to taint the record with another long to-do list that I may or may not achieve in the next 363 days. Instead, I'm jumping onto the bandwagon of people who attack each year with just one word.

I like it because it's so much and so little all wrapped up together. I'm discovering lots about myself at the minute(!) but one thing I've caught myself saying more than once over the past two months is, 'it's not about ticking it off the to-do list, it's about the process of getting there!' One word allows that.

My word for this year is LIGHT. It's a bit of a cheat because it's really two words in one, but that's why I've chosen it.

Light is finding the glimmer in the dark place
Light is bringing joy to the hopeless place
Light is not being weighed down by the pressures of life
Light is not being weighed down by my own expectations of myself.

In my mind it's so much more but just now I can't find the words. It's a feeling, an inkling, a hope that I won't feel like I'm drowning much longer.

For it is you who light my lamp;
   the Lord my God lightens my darkness

Let's see how well I get along with documenting it.