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Cry with Hope

At the start of this year, the youth ministry director at my church gathered all of the middle school small group leaders.  He wanted to check in on how we were, hear how our groups were going, and encourage us.  He shared how, when he has worked at Christian camps, everything is designed to help kids experience great moments, “highs,” and you have a very focused time with each group of kids to bring those highs about.  In contrast, in congregational ministry, there are many distractions, and kids often are weighed down by day-to-day concerns.

 

Each type of ministry has its challenges, but how do you handle all the distractions and burdens kids bring week after week and month after month?  Our youth director had wise words.  He said you love the kids, let them know how much God loves them, welcome them with all their challenges, and pour yourself out for them.  Then, when you get home at the end of the day, you cry with hope.

 

Cry with hope!  What a beautiful phrase to express the hardness and goodness of Christian ministry.  We cry because there is so much pain even as we hope because God is good.  Cry with hope is an especially fitting expression for the ministry of Inheritance of Hope.

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Holy Ground

Oftentimes when we are at a Legacy Retreat, it seems difficult to pinpoint emotions. Have you felt that? Maybe this is your first time serving, and you have all sorts of thoughts swirling around in your head about what to expect. Or, maybe we’ve done this a time or two and yet... we still have expectations of how it will go or how we WANT it to go.

 

And then there’s the task of going back home trying to recap a retreat... people may say, ”So, how was it?!” And you might struggle to find the words to explain exactly what happens here. “It was SOO good, but SO sad, but SO fun, and SOO heart-wrenching.” And we become caught in these hugely conflicting emotions. How do you pinpoint or even summarize what exactly you’re feeling as we walk with these families ?

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Hope for the Caregiver

Hope. It was the one thing I searched for during my journey as a caregiver. My husband, Steve, had a rare, progressive, debilitating neurological disease that would eventually destroy his autonomic system and also required 24-hour care. Every time I came to that point where I thought I couldn’t go on, I still had hope. Each day that I had no energy left, no patience, no desire, and no strength to go on even one more hour I searched for the hope that I could go on. Yes, I said all of those words out loud -  no patience, no strength, no energy.  


As a caregiver, I had only whispered those words to myself. I would mumble under my breath sometimes about how hard it was to keep doing it. I was too ashamed to admit to anyone how I was really feeling. No one tells you that loving someone can coexist in your heart with not wanting to be their full-time caregiver at the same time.

 

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Hope That Does Not Disappoint

We are Inheritance of Hope. So, I was pondering: what is hope? If you ask most people about hope, they will tell you about their dreams. I hope to retire with enough money to live comfortably. I hope my kids grow up to be happy and healthy people. We think of hope as a maybe. I hope it doesn’t rain this weekend. We think of the word hope as a synonym for wish or want.

 

Usually our false pursuit of hope is focused on a pain-free life without any suffering. But here we are, walking very realistically into people’s suffering with terminal illness. So, as we ponder our purpose here, are we offering an Inheritance of “I hope so”? I hope not! That kind of hope is disappointing. So, what is hope for us, who call ourselves Christians?

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Unconditional Love

The Bible has a lot to say about love. An entire chapter in 1 Corinthians is dedicated to the topic.

 

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

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Grandmother Milligan

After years of both physical and mental decline for my Grandmother Milligan, the moment we’ve tried to ignore finally hit on Friday morning:

 

Grandmother Milligan’s health is very poor and she will likely pass away today and perhaps in the next hour or so.  Please keep the family in your prayers.

 

I cannot think of Grandmother without thinking of the striking way she was described by Kristen Milligan, Inheritance of Hope’s co-founder who died in this month five years ago.  Kristen's book Consider It Pure Joy  begins with her going to the hospital for surgery, commencing what became a nine-year journey with cancer.  She had a special visitor:

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Rest and Recharge - September 2017

We typically think of resting and recharging as getting away or going on vacation. I’m the CEO of an organization that focuses its events around retreats, so I hear exhales of relief all the time. One of my favorite examples is an African-American woman from the Atlanta area who attended one of our Legacy Retreats® in New York City. She had never even been on an airplane. At one point, her volunteer, a burly man in his twenties, was pushing her in a wheelchair through Times Square. It started to rain and he thought, “This is a disaster.” At precisely that moment, this terminally ill woman looked back at him and said, “This is the best day of my life.” I love being able to provide the best day of people’s lives even when they are facing death.

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Hope's Name is Jesus - August 2017

We are all searching for something to hold onto. An anchor, a solid foundation to steady us when the storms of life threaten our ability to hold on. Sure it’s easier to lessen our grip when we experience long stretches of days overflowing with abundance and nights filled with restorative sleep. Jesus reminds me daily to hold onto Him, the only true hope as I live out his purpose until I am called to my true home.

I am a licensed counselor, and in my practice I have been called to stand daily on holy ground as I minister to God’s sons and daughters. I am humbled and privileged to bear the weight of their pain as each one shares his or her need for Hope. Oh how the storms of life can test our faith and crush our hope. 

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Afraid to Lose Her Mommy - July 2017

To speak of hope implies that there is a problem. If there were no problems, there would be no need for hope. The problem that generates our particular mission of hope was stated with remarkable simplicity and power recently by a young lady named Makenna Wehe, a Legacy Scholarship winner. This 18-year-old girl really struck me with her articulation of the kind of hope-needing situation Inheritance of Hope serves. I encourage you to watch her say it herself, but these are her words, talking about her mom:

 

“We had to replace her entire spine with synthetic bone… she hasn’t really been the same since… Over Mother’s Day weekend we found 4 more tumors scattered up and down her spine… It caused us to appreciate the time that we have with each other… Cancer just tears at you and tears you apart, and when your family’s afraid to be vulnerable with each other, it’s like a wedge between you and your relationships… I’m just afraid of losing my mom; I’m afraid that she’s gonna die. I think there’s a childish fear, a child that still lives within me that is still really afraid – it’s a little girl afraid to lose her mommy.”

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Desire for a Different Life - June 2017

I’ve been coming to Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreats for many years now. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed as families walk into the hotel, and I see all the desires that come in the door with them.

 

In the short-term, families want to figure out what to do with their luggage and get settled into their rooms (thankfully, we have a mob of volunteers to help them with that!). The kids may want a delicious DoubleTree cookie, or they may want their brother to stop poking them. They may desire to skip meeting all these new people and run straight to Disney World.

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