Hope For When Holiday Expectations Go Unfulfilled

Author: Sarah Dohman

I was born the day after Christmas.  In fact, I was born at 2-something in the wee hours of the morning.  Had I come any sooner, I would have been a Christmas baby.  Every year growing up, and well into my 20s, my family would sort of roll the celebrations into one continuing party.  Happy Birthday Jesus! Happy Birthday Sarah!  This tradition roared on for many years.

Until one year, it stopped.  

At least in the way I expected it to be every year. God had whispered into my older brother’s heart and led him to Virginia for an internship after dental school. There in the state that claims to be the "Mother of Presidents," he met his girlfriend, now wife, and decided to not come home for Christmas, nor my birthday.  For the first time in 27 years, my constant partner in Christmas and birthday celebrations would not be in Oregon to join in the fun.  My holiday expectations were shattered.  I didn’t tell him at the time, but my heart ached.  A piece home as it had been, was missing.

For many during the holiday season, expectations go unfulfilled.  Maybe you’ve recently been through a divorce.  Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one.  Your family cannot afford the Christmas traditions you’ve come to know and love each year.  You have to work on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or the day after.  All your relatives canceled on your holiday party last minute.  You had to say goodbye to a furry friend.  For all one knows, your family is celebrating in various parts of the country this year, never to be that nuclear unit again.

When holiday expectations go unfulfilled, I cannot help but think of dear Mary and Joseph, Jesus’s parents.  I imagine Mary had dreamt about her wedding day, and the anticipation of children to come shortly thereafter.  I imagine Joseph envisioned a life with Mary, one where he worked a steady job, provided for his family, and led an honorable life.

Their expectations, much like ours, flew out the window.  In Matthew 1:18, the Bible shares of Mary and Joseph being engaged.  This was no normal engagement, as Mary “was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”  Scandalous!  So much so, Joseph wanted to throw in the towel and sneak away quietly.  Thankfully, God knew and understood Joseph’s fears and told him via an angel in his dream that Mary had conceived from the Holy Spirit.  Joseph was to have a son, and he was to call him Jesus, who was to save his people from their sins.  The angel’s message fulfilled a prophecy from the Old Testament, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). 

As the birth of Jesus neared, Mary and Joseph were traveling in a small town called Bethlehem, where Joseph was from.  They were to register here, as he was of the house and lineage of David.  Then in the sleepy town of Bethlehem, Mary was laboring.  She and Joseph were not able to obtain a conventional bed for the birth of their son.  Their expectations for a cozy, clean birth, were upset by the arrival of their son in a barn, filled with animals.  In Luke 2:7, it says “she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  Mary didn’t get to shower after her long and laborsome birth story.  But in her presence, there was a son like no other.  One who would fulfill all expectations.  The One who would be the King of Kings, Immanuel, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords.

When holiday expectations go unfulfilled, I know I can rest in the One who fulfilled expectations of everlasting hope, joy, peace, and love.  Jesus, fully man, and fully God, came into this world humbly, and left this world to be cared for by His Holy Spirit.  He will accomplish all that is written of Him.  He will be our comforter, He will be our deliverer.  If ever your heart is to be sad or forlorn this holiday season, cling to the Hope we have in Jesus!

Hope @ (in)courage!

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Chara is over at (in)courage today sharing hope.

It was Christmas eve, impregnated with an importance that thankfully, didn’t visit annually. We all knew, that next Christmas, one of us would not be there, so we held tightly to the time gifted to us as we celebrated the birth of my grandma’s Savior, whom she would soon be meeting.
We gathered around the hospice bed draped with holiday quilts, and hugged her gently, trying not to disturb the tubes that helped her stay a little longer. We donned Santa hats, hummed joyful ditties, and took pictures in an attempt to capture our last Christmas together. Smells of the yuletide feast filled the house, in which my mother found as sanctuary when addiction stole my father away.
My grandmother was a gentle woman, seasoned with the perfect amount of feistiness, and that final Christmas Eve she let it show. Not toward any of us, but against that vile disease that kept her from enjoying the delicacies of Christmas. After being fed intravenously for weeks because her frail body couldn’t handle the richness of food, she leaned toward my mother and declared, “I would like a piece of fudge.”...Continue reading at (in)courage.

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Hope for the Unprepared

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Ready or Not by Chara Donahue

I was in labor. All day I had paced my new apartment as dear friends helped me unpack boxes and deck the walls with pictures and trinkets. They inquired about where to put things as I kept track of the protracted pains separated by mere minutes. We had just moved to accommodate our growing family, and we were praying my husband would be able to finish out the day at work to guarantee he wouldn't have to go back for two weeks. We were still a bit unprepared.

 He arrived home when labor pains were five minutes apart. I handed a stack of Christmas Cards to my friend, asked her to drop them off, and they bravely followed us to a place no one wants to go the night before Christmas Eve—Toys 'R Us. We screeched into the mega toy store's parking lot in a scramble to buy a car seat; our first child was arriving a week before the doctors predicted and we didn't have a way to take her home yet, at least, not any safe or legal method.

Not wanting to remain in the car (reconsidering my plans for pain management), I shuffled wobbly into the toddler mecca. My husband explained the urgency of the situation to the seventeen year-old clerk who stole a rubbernecked, terrified glance at me before he rushed to retrieve what we needed. I labored on the quarter-fed dinosaur that guarded the doors to the child's dream world, as my husband paid for the travel system. Contractions were about four minutes apart and we were still not quite ready.

We got to the hospital just in time. Everything went as smoothly as pushing another human out of your body can, and I cradled her in my arms in the early hours of Christmas Eve. I knew I would love her, but as she laid against my chest swaddled in a stocking, I could feel my heart expanding. Nothing would ever be the same. 
As Mary held her son in the company of animals and shepherds, God-come-down as a infant, she pondered the truths spoken to her from the mouths of angels and foretold by the prophets of old. She made room in her heart for this boy who would grow to redeem the world, but was she ready to give the trust that would be required? Would all her expectations of what life with Christ would look like be left behind in the wake of His majesty? So many had predicted His arrival and He was finally here The Messiah, different than any anticipated but exactly who God said he would be. Not only did one mother's heart expand, but the whole of humanity was now invited into the greatest love ever offered. Nothing would ever be the same.

Has life with Christ looked different than you imagined? This holiday season are you willing to prepare your heart for whatever comes next? Jesus' fulfillment of over 300 prophesies changed the world and gave it hope. Sometimes we don't feel ready for the things God calls us into, but if we make room for His glory in our lives we see that He knows exactly what He is doing. For he is the great author. The one who grants a world filled with pain this magnificent hopeHe'll be back. It will not be when we expect, so be ready.

" Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

Matthew 24:44

Hope for the Nativity Set

Author: Holly Hawes

Shiny lights and glittery things are spilling out of windows around the world as we prepare for Christmas. Even the stingiest of Christmas decor purists have begun to decorate. Others, like me, are turning up the Christmas music with a triumphant cheer because NO ONE can tell us any longer that it isn’t time to begin celebrating Jesus’ birthday.

As I have been waiting for the Christmas season, I’ve been thinking about why I love the decorating part of Christmas so much.  In the end, it comes down to the special items that are visual reminders that Jesus is the hope the world needs. When I pull out each piece from storage, I am reminded of long-ago Christmas’ and the stories of each nick-knack fill my heart.

The headless shepherd who resides at my grandma’s house is one of my favorites. My most cherished Christmas tradition: Gluing on his head. Every year we pull out the now ragged box containing the brightly painted nativity from the 1970’s, complete with newspaper reused year after year from the first time it was gingerly wrapped and stored away. I remember reattaching that poor shepherd’s head with several kinds of glue as well as sweetened condensed milk. No luck; every year he still loses his head. We are completely unwilling to give up on the shepherd. He cannot be replaced!

Though the paint is wearing, this nativity is one of the ways that my family cherished Jesus and retained that Christmas about Him. That nativity, set on the child size table in the corner of the entryway wasn’t shiny and isn’t new, but it produced wonder in my heart as a child. I loved that we got to play with it. It wasn’t so precious that it had to be high up on a shelf or protected from tiny hands. Jesus, Emmanuel, was God with us. Down at the level of a little child.

This year I bought a nativity of my own, made of melamine to withstand time and be used over and over. The style is different but the goal the same. I started the wise men in the Kitchen to let them slowly make their way to discover Jesus. But sure enough, one of those wise men took a tumble when the littlest discovered them making their perilous journey across the desert of my countertop. He too, lost his head, but his sacrifice was worth it because it spurred questions from little voices. Who are these guys? Why are they going to Jesus?

It’s time to pull out the sweetened condensed milk, carry on this tradition that has found us, and as we bind our wise man's head together we bond with each other. Each on our own trek to move closer, draw near, and discover where and who Jesus is. 


Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly at her blog Called to Restore.

Hope on the Internet

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Chara is over at like-minded PRECARIOSITIES today as a guest writer discussing the heart behind internet ministry.

The storm was raging when I felt the tug of an anchor I had long been drifting away from. I have always been a dreamer, pulled to passion, and willing to dive into deep waters —to my own detriment. When I was younger I had yet to learn the beauty of dreams , passion, and wonder, submitted and thriving under the protection of the greatest love ever known.

Instead I chased worth and love as feeling instead of fact. Then I discovered the treasure, that in Christ those two things are forged together in the embers of His own glorious passion to create the key to freedom, healing, and everlasting hope. None of it rests on me; He carries it all. He gives me worth. He is love and I am His.

The things I had desperately longed for and foolishly sought elsewhere were there in the arms of my Jesus. They had always been available, they were mine the moment I was His, but I had settled for less, given into instant gratification, and held tightly to things of which I knew it was wiser to let go. Yet, in all the drama, chaos, and darkness of the world there was an ever-present undercurrent beacon of light and life, from the God incarnate, as sympathizer and rescuer. I would hear it whispering in the wind :



Continue reading at PRECARIOSITIES...

Hope for The Night Before Thanksgiving


'Twas the week before Thanksgiving and all through the house,
 people were nauseous and I looked at my spouse.

The children were stirring, up late in their beds,
 with buckets, in case, next to their heads.

Daddy disinfected and I took a nap,
trying to elude a nasty virus' trap.

Then the night before the meal, the pre-heat buzzer was beeping,
reminding us to cook while little ones were sleeping.

Away to the oven the pies would be taken,
and soon after sunrise the turkey'd be bakin',
but "Who would be well, and who would be sick?"
was the question that lingered, as the clock ticked.

We kept prepping the food for the Thanksgiving table,
while praying the tummies would "please, stay stable." 

The best laid plans diverted by things unforeseen,
...but that isn't the end so pass the caffeine.

We're better together - so together we'll be!
We'll eat what we may, and then play Yahtzee®. 

We'll watch movies, and football, maybe a parade,
Charlie Brown might make it, if his story gets played.

Rolls and applesauce, with Turkey and pie,
each meal hand-picked, to singly satisfy.
Whether sick or well, we've been given each other:
sister, brother, father, and mother.

"I am grateful for life and my family today;
for grace, for love, for Jesus!" I say.  

We treasure the memories that the day will have made,
not too soon, too quickly, or too easily fade.

We'll heed this blessed lesson, to take through the years,
one destined to bring joy, and save many tears.

Things don't have to be perfect for things to be good,
and don't always turn out how we think that they should.

Focus on the praiseworthy, the noble, and true,
and look to the One, that will bring you through.
Don't give into despair, but fight for delight.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good night!

Hope for Sunday School

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Author: Chara Donahue

Dear Sunday School Teacher,

I recently told my children that we would be transitioning away from our home church in order to multiply the ministry we are a part of.

Two kids cried and one outright refused to leave. She declared that we could drop her off on our way to wherever we were going. She is five, and she loves fiercely. The other, well, the other told us he would miss his best friendHan Solo. He is three so... peace be with him.

Their grief made me sorrowful as well. I know we, as those who have been chosen to parent them, are making the right choice. But seeing them mourn - while still processing the change myself - threatened the peace I have about the decision.

Then a friend said to me, "You must be doing something right, for your kids to love the church so much."

I hadn't even considered that. All I could see were little eyes welling up with petite tears. This valuable outside perspective gave me great joy because my kids are learning to love the family of Christ as much as we do. Apparently, they also love Star Wars. Anyway, the better of the two, the church, even with all its failures, fragility, and faults is seen as beautiful through the eyes of my little ones. They cried tears, had big feelings, and asked God for help. They have learned something bigger than their dad and I could ever teach.

Maybe we are doing something right, but it's not just us. It's also YOU. It's us working together as God intended to teach the next generation, Jesus loves you.

I want you to know that I am not oblivious to the way you have impacted my children, and neither are they. Your names were brought up in the midst of their lamenting along with the names of their peers.

You have changed their nasty diapers and fed their tiny mouths, so my hungry soul could be fed spiritually.

You have shown them mercy when they outright challenged your authority.

You have wiped their noses and been infected with the plagues that have swept through kids ministry.

You have managed conflict, drama, and outright insanity, and helped these children love each other as they formed their own rich, child-like, Christ-centered community.

You have shown them courage when you diligently served in a ministry that was being developed. When you stepped into a class filled with 3 to 10-year-olds who needed your care.

You have stepped up to serve the Lord and teach the word to children who can't read the words but will listen to your grace-filled voice.

You, who on Sunday Morning find the energy to make exuberant arm motions, dance to loud, cheerful music, and be undignified in order to lead littles in praise to a God who is big, strong, and mighty.

You, who handle the aftermath when my child makes sure the whole class knows David, of slaying Goliath fame, was spying on Bathsheba while she was naked.

You, who persevered year after year, holding and walking alongside my child as they grew from baby into toddler, into preschooler, into elementarian.

You, who stayed late so we could pray with those walking through awkward times and deep waters.

You, who come to their parties to cheer them on. Who rejoiced with me when they experienced success, showed growing character, and began knowing God in new ways. Who celebrated as they were baptized.

You, who pray for their hearts, souls, and minds, while developing lessons, when you could be doing something, anything else.

You loved my children well. They know Jesus more because of you. Thank you feels too small, but I mean it from the core of who I am.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Our culture is wondering if the church is dying. They don't know people like you.

Much love and gratitude,

The Parents of the Kids Whose Lives You Have Changed

Readers do you have a Sunday School teacher you love and appreciate. Let them know; they are more precious to us than they realize.

Hope at the Penitentiary

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Author: Chara Donahue
Out of all the invitations you receive in life, a handful entice with the potential for redemption; sometimes these requests show up in the form of a Facebook event. To truly taste these sweetened moments – the call for obedience must be heeded, or in other words, “Going” clicked. The opportunity to attend the Faith and Culture Writers Connection Prison Outreach Essay Presentation seemed to have these hints of the holy lingering in the background. I decided to explore by taking the first step, securing childcare.
I talked to my husband about the possibility of attending the event at the men’s high-security penitentiary, and after he said things like, “Let me pray about it. Are you sure this is safe?” I responded “Jesus said ‘I was in prison and you came to me.'” Then we agreed that he would watch our brood of four while I attended the event, words in hand.
Words that I had been pondering, polishing, and praying would speak to hearts.

Hope in the Morning's Choice

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Author: Chara Donahue

Before I Rise

I must make the choice. It's on me.
What to believe? What to negate?
Today I ask, which voice will it be?

Live in the light determined to see,
or let depravity poison today's fate?
I must make the choice, It's on me.

 Passively cower? An internal absentee?
 Will truth employed set lies straight?
 Today I ask, which voice will it be?

Deciding in the morning hour is key.
What will my life communicate?
I must make the choice. It's on me.

Resist  and make dark thoughts flee.
Leave behind these chains, this weight.
Again I asked, which voice would it be?

From accusation and doubt, an escapee.
With mind renewed I celebrate.
I will make the choice to live; be free.
Today I declare: His voice it will be.

"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.'"~Isaiah 6:8


Readers: Do you think about what you are thinking about? Is it important for us to watch our thoughts? Why?

Hope in Remembrance

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A Mother Never Forgets

Chara is over at Portland Moms Blog today, sharing her story of pregnancy loss.

"The sun still rose. It was one of those days when it felt like an accomplishment to even wake up. September 11, 2001 had finally come. I thought maybe my mourning would finally be complete.

I turned on the television and began my sunrise routine. There was a breaking news update: a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings. It was 6 a.m. where I was, but 9 a.m. in New York. People were already at work there; at home, I was shouting for my mom. I was grateful to have a place of refuge after the divorce; even if it meant sleeping on the couch. We stared at the TV together, in desperate disbelief. My younger brother walked into the room – he had never seen a plane crash into a building either. So much death. I wondered how many people were on that plane, on those floors. I had to get ready; I still had class at 8:00.
I wondered if my child would have been one of those babies born on the due date. Would I have held my baby for the first time on this very day? Would I have already brought my sweetheart home? Would I have still been at my old place? Would haves wouldn’t do me any good, it was what it was. I had lost my baby to miscarriage. They say it happens 10-20% of the time. People also say you’re safer in the car than on a plane… not that day." ...continue reading here.

Hope for When We Hear of Another Mass Shooting

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"I live in Oregon, the land of tree huggers and bearded hipsters. Marijuana is legal here, local organic produce is in abundant supply, and yes, Portland is weird. One might think that the Oregon variety of severely disturbed would skew toward the überpeaceful type, but we have recently been home to three gruesome public shootings. One at a mall down the street from where I delivered my son. It happened in Clackamas on December 11, 2012 less than a week before the Sandy Hook Massacre. Another, at Reynolds High School in Troutdale on June 10, 2014, and now, just days ago, at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg.
I want to ask “When will it stop?”, but that question has no answer. For I live in a fallen world.
I was a senior in high school the year the Columbine tragedy shocked the nation and infected people with a new brand of fear..." continue reading here.

Hope for the Anxious Heart

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Author: Chara Donahue

Last year my four year-old came running at me as I laid reading, and she jumped with reckless abandon onto my back. Normally, this would have been benign, but this time her elbow struck the tissue sandwiched between two of my vertebrae. The result of which was nerve damage the doctor said was equivalent to that of being in a car accident. I could not lift my son; I could not lift the laundry; goodness, lifting my coffee hurt.

The thing that might have been the most annoying was that my back would shake at the weight of anything. I was hurt, wounded, and stripped of my strength. 

Many have felt that wavering , that shaking, for reasons other than physical injury. Anyone who has ever suffered from crushing anxiety, weighty depression, or the paralysis of panic attacks knows that sometimes the strength just isn't there. My body was in distress, and I was completely aware of how inadequate I was to carry life. Day to day tasks were dreaded, difficult. 

My back is better now, but there is a greater healing and renewed strength present in my life: It has been 14 years since I suffered a panic attack.

They plagued me for two and a half years. I vividly remember the first attack, because I thought I was dying. I was seventeen. I was making cookies and thinking about the realities of my life, and the jeopardy I had willingly been submitting myself to when disquietude took over and began to reign.

Suddenly, the pathways to my brain that allowed for the involuntary action of breathing began to collapse. The breaths were rapid and massive. A haze hindered my vision and my body pulsed with adrenaline. I wanted to run, fight, or just be knocked out. It was then I began to see that my life needed to change, but I blocked out that sight because it wasn't what I wanted. I loved him so much. I chose to stay anyway. I tried to be the anchor for a man who was spiraling out of control even faster than I was, and as we sought to find sustenance within one another, we were each consumed. It wasn't until I surrendered to the God who strengthens that the attacks ceased, it wasn't until I saw how Jesus sought me out and offered freedom, that I began to hope for more than captivity.

Jesus met me there in the bleakness and whispered comfort into my broken spirit, He was close. He knew all my stuff and still reached down and lifted my head with the promise that He could make me new. I left the toxicity behind and took back my life and what I stood for, then I turned around and laid it all at the foot of the cross surrendering it all to the God who can quiet the raucous soul.

In that surrender, I discovered that faith must be fed with not only with grace but also with truth. It has been my experience that those who most often find healing are the ones who follow the truths God has left in His word to guide us. I clung to them even when they were hard to swallow, rested in the comfort that was always near, and began to walk forward betting on that God was not a liar.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”-John 16:33

I have noticed I clamor for control when I've placed my hope in others, circumstances, or temporal things. Depending on anything other than the person of Christ leaves me weak and desperate to find my footing. I can let the distress of the world melt away, because I know Jesus is who He says He is. Instead of striving for an absence of struggle, I can stand in the midst of a fallen world with open hands, a quiet soul, and hope for tomorrow. 

What truths help to calm you when your heart is tempted to feel anxious?
As always, thank you for reading!

Linking up with #givemegrace #raralinkup and #coffeeforyourheart

Hope for the Lazy Saturday


Author: Chara Donahue

It was early Saturday, my husband leaned over to me and whispered he was going to go to the gym for his jujitsu class. Perfect, I thought, he will take the little ones with him, and I will go back to sleep. What a beautiful plan; he is so wonderful; I love sleep, all drifted through my head as my eyelids surrendered to their heaviness. Then about 20 minutes later he said he wasn't going to go. I half-jokingly glared at him and said, "Rude." Selflessness, FAIL.

I had hoped I would escape coming face to face with the pressure to get up. He reassured me that I could retreat back into slumber, but I knew I wouldn't. Saturday mornings when there is time to make breakfast, slowly sip coffee, and talk with slowly-waking children are sweet times, and I don't want to miss them. I treasure those type of mornings, of parental demand mixed with the anticipation of joy. I lingered in bed but was determined to get up in attempts to both choose love and assuage guilt.

Then my husband rallied, like a freaking rock star, and decided to go anyway. I nestled into the sanctuary of my pillow, and silently rejoiced at the chance to just be. I listened to the hints of fall gently blow through the yard. Our open window provided an inlet for the cool of the early morning to keep the second story stuffiness at bay, and I was soothed back to sleep by the sweet dance of my curtains breathing in and out. I found peace in the physical reminder that new seasons are just around the corner.

I slept for a while and woke on my own accord, which is quite a luxury when you have four children. Then I disturbed the splendorI picked up my phone. Dun,dun,dun... slowly, without conscious effort, I obstructed the peace. The world was accessible right there in the little magic box. Email, Twitter, and Facebook are all luxuries, and yet they disturbed the shalom I had so been enjoying.

The brief glimpse of freedom from the hustle, the clamor, and the weight of everything that battles for a place on my shoulders stripped away by a pithy perusal of the phone. I had invited it back in, I would soon push it off, back into the hands of God where it belongs, but temporarily the weight bore down.

What was I doing?

I hadn't even emerged from the covers that keep me warm at night, and I was already trying to ooze productivity. Seeking out purpose, I laid there reading an article called: StopWasting Time, Especially When It Comes to Social Media.

Was I attempting to drown myself in a pool of self-designed irony?

I took the moment to breathe, to be. I regrouped. I clicked on the article because, really, I had already asked myself if lying in bed had been a waste of time. There is so much to do, so many little things to tackle. I wondered if the rest was worth the high priced currency of time it demanded. Is it worth it to just be?

I know God puts value on rest, and yet I find that often this can be one of the harder things for me to believe. Knowing my own propensity to self-deceive, I wonder if I abuse the knowledge that God values rest? Do I manipulate the idea of obeying His command to rest as a defense for my own languor. I CANNOT read Proverbs 6:6 without feeling LAZY, "Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise."

Even if I work all day I don't know if I will ever work as hard as an ant. Really, those pests are relentlessly focused. However, I long to be wise. "Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding.[1]" It's clear the indolent and the sluggards don't often see the precious fruits of purpose, so I search for wisdom like the ant seeks out unattended food. I scour for the answer that will alleviate the tension I find between the beauty of being and purposeful living.

For now I'll just be over here in my comfy bed, or out in my city trying to bust out some passionate purpose, and I will keep praying for wisdom. I will search to discover how to dance between the two, with hopes that in whatever I do, I do it all for the glory of God[2], and I will rest in knowing that whether I BE or I GO there is grace for it all. For is by grace I have been saved through faith. It is so much bigger, it is a gift from God[3].

How do you find the balance between the beauty of being and passionate purpose? Let us know in the comments.
As always, thank you for reading!

[1] Proverbs 3:13
[2] 1 Corinthians 10:31
[3] Ephesians 2:8

Linking up with #wholemama  #givemegrace #raralinkup and #coffeeforyourheart

Hope for the Gutsy Girl

Author: Chara Donahue

Years ago, I attended a ministry boot camp with Darrin Patrick as the keynote speaker. He shared a personal prayer he often prayed with his son. I did not have a son at the time, but the power of it struck me. I stored it away in the pathways of the brain, just in case. When the Lord did bless us with a son, I pulled it up, painted it on various things, and now I pray it with him nightly:

“God, make him a man with thick skin and a soft heart.  Make him a man who is tough and tender.  Make him tough so he can handle life.  Make him tender so he can love people. God, make him a man.”

I have long wanted to write something comparable for my girls. I finally did. I've toyed around with different versions and prayed them over my little women. They tell me this is the one they love:

“Jesus, I ask you to make my girl gutsy and gentle.
Gutsy, so she can bring justice to a fallen world.
Gentle, so she can give mercy to the fallen.
Gutsy, because she knows you have her back.
Gentle, because she knows you have her heart.
Gutsy, to stand against what the world tells her she needs to be, and
Gentle, so she can be at peace with who you say she is.
Lord, make my girl gutsy and gentle, so that she can be before all things godly.”

Hope for Laundry

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Author: Chara Donahue

If we can make laundry poetic it makes it better, right? Well, here's hoping. ;)

Ballade of Bleached Blemishes

I cannot face it. I will not look. Let it be.
I will not take the bait or tease the hook. The stress,
it mounts thinly—layer by layer—I will flee.
No, I will fight. I fold the shirt. I hang the dress.
My swallowed room, my bed, I stand to repossess.
I make stack after stack out of the disarray.
Sorting away the mending and the stained. The mess,
it stalks like a predator coming for its prey.
It piles up, slowly builds; crags and peaks I see.
I push it aside, close the door to convalesce.
The ebb and flow of forsaken fabric debris
sucks me in and pulls me under. Nevertheless,
I take action.  This constant strain I must address.
It is proof we live, and have dear offspring at play.
The grime is washed away the fun can stay. The mess,
it stalks like a predator coming for its prey.
Chores will always be, but from dread I can be free.
The issue is not pants and matchless socks.  What? Yes
the real disorder reigns painfully within me.
Tinges of depravity venture to possess.
Striking at identity, tempting to transgress.
But Christ I see, paid the price that was mine to pay.
Meeting in the scandal of grace, He wiped the mess.
No longer stalked by a predator as weak prey.
Conquered cliffs of clothes won’t justify. I confess
fabric softened lies have provoked my peace to fray.
A redemptive act, this purgation of the mess.
When the predator comes round, I begin to pray.

Originally published at One Anchored Voice on July 8th, 2015.

Hope at Camp

Author: Chara Donahue

This past weekend, I got away from my little city and drove through even smaller towns to reach the wilderness and find camp. I retreated into the forest shade to find quiet that soothed my mind from the intensity of creating summer fun for four young children. As I prayed and prepared to teach workshops to women, coming from all parts of the Pacific North West, I looked out upon the lake of Camp Tadmor which boasted a giant inflatable slide, kayaks, and paddle boards. My kids are too young for camp, but I dreamt about someday bringing them there.

I envisioned the fun they would have, and the ways they might encounter God in this sacred space that whispers shalom. Many of my friends experienced camp as teens. In the church, I've heard the term "camp high" tossed around as though it were an experience universally shared in high school. I remember the people I knew at that age, my circle of friends, people I loved. They were also in search of a high, just not any camp high.

Soon my sessions were over and it was my last night at camp. My good friend and I decided a trek underneath the star-filled sky was a must. We set off into the misty dark and tried not to twist ankles or awaken the marshy edges of the sleeping lake. We settled for a while upon a deck floating gently on the wet tranquility. The night sky drew our gazes into its generous splendor, and we stared side by side into literal space. We enjoyed a clear view of the Milky Way's trail, watched meteorites calling for wishes upon their failing majesty, and saw mythic constellations slowly make their nightly arc. With backs flat on floating boards and eyes drawn into the depths of  the unveiled universe, my friend and I reminisced about the years in high school, and told tales not previously shared with one-another.

My  stories from these times are best told in open spaces where the ears of children are distant.

It is not that I won't tell my children these stories. They will surly view them as an origin story for the mother they know, but I can assure you that most of my teenage anecdotes will lend themselves to the genre of cautionary tale rather than inspirational autobiography.

But on this night, with this friend, she offered me space to not be a preacher, to not be the seasoned mother, to not be the redemption story, but to just be. As bats zoomed by and jetted slightly above the shiny still of the water, I felt the freedom to say "yeah, it was foolish and ultimately, the hurt was only bearable because I fell into the arms of God. But every once in awhile, it was so dumb that it makes a hilarious story."

I told her about the sheer stupidity of some of my choices that could have easily cost me my life, the times God tried to get my attention and I withheld it, and I told her about friends who were terrible influences but I still deeply loved.  I told her of my favorite intoxicated philosopher who would discuss the deepness of dreams, the crack addict who came back from jail clean and Christ-focused, and my favorite drinking buddy with whom I had countless conversations about the God who now rules my life.

All of these people have long been out of my life, many of them even encouraged me to leave their circles. They saw violence sweeping into my life and knew I had to find a safer space. So I said goodbye, and honestly I don't look back often; I don't seek them out, but I do cherish the memories of friendship, however tainted, I had with them at that time. On this night my friend allowed me to leave behind the heavy tone in which I tell these stories from the stage, and tell them with laughter that sings "I still can't believe that was my life."

She also gifted me with the privilege of listening to her stories. She let me into her past spaces, and honestly, they are like those I hope for my children. Stories not populated with drug addicts and witnessing knife fights. Reports of innocent expectations and choices made out of wisdom. Highlights of what a life submitted to Christ early on could look like. As she dove into some of the funny and sweet chronicles of her life I listened with peace and hope. They simply made me feel happy.

 Many of my close friends know the darkness of my story before Christ. They know how dangerous relationships ended, and that I would have been better off if that had never been a piece of my life. I know it too, but it is part of who I am. I can be grateful for the scary, the mourning, and the horrors that fill in a chapter of my story, because I truly have seen Jesus work it for good. It is He who gets the final say on the theme of my life.

 I am living a story always being redeemed; all Christians are. It pains me when people preface how God met them with "Well, it's not one of those dramatic stories." Praise God that it isn't! Any story about how someone finds the purest form of love in a dark and fallen world is powerful. The truth is that we are all a mess, and it is a miracle when Christ meets us in the midst of it. We should not shame a repentant person for the things they have turned from, but offer them room for their whole lives to step into the light. We must also not overlook the glory found in stories long-balanced on the narrow path. We must treasure narratives different than our own because without them we miss the beauty of diversity found in the story of God. May we be space-makers, place-setters, and room-prepares, just as Jesus is.

 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? ~Jesus (John 14:2)

Jesus makes space for all that come.


Hope in Mystery

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Author: Chara Donahue Guest Posting for Circling the Story

Wandering Through Mystery

"I love to learn. The process of asking questions and finding answers exhilarates me. This year I have been hitting the books yet again. My certification in Biblical Counseling is a couple papers and one test away. As I have gained hours and experience walking with others through deep waters, daily happenings, and tragic tales, one lesson has been louder than all the others — cease trying to figure it ALL out.
I cannot explain why people do the things they do; I will not understand how people cross certain lines; I struggle with why God allows it.
The mysteries of life have become common place for me. They are present in my story and the stories of all. I have come to grips with the idea that on this side of heaven I will not have all the answers. There will always be mystery. I have stopped fighting that and have found precious, sacred space in which to wander..."
please join me for the rest over at Circling the Story. I am honored to have my words visiting Ashley Hales today.

Hope at the Comic Store

Author: Chara Donahue

As a child I often wove through tales of great heroes. Aligned in sequence they greeted me in a procession of freedom fighters, redemption seekers, and ruckus rumblers. Box after box they lured me into worlds built around different rules and unique powers that surpass the things of dreams. There in the aisles of my uncle’s comic book shop I lifted Wonder Woman, Captain America, and the X-Men carefully from their plastic sleeves and invited them into my imagination.
How I longed for superpowers as a child, how perpetually that desire increases now as a mom of four. If only I was faster than light, had an extra hand, or could just see through the stinking wall. Come on, whoever doles out the mystery gifts, I am waiting. I would even settle for no real powers and accept fancy gadgets and expert training like Batman.  Is that really so much to ask?
Oh, wait, just one more request, could I please have the ability to absorb the energy of others? My children seem to have that aptitude. In fact, this vigor theft seems to be at its strongest when I am seeking to empower them.
Whether teaching the kids how to load dishes or to stand up for what they believe in, empowering them seems to drain my vivacity. It is my kryptonite. I must resist the pleadings from my ancient nemesis Thy Own Self that says  “just do it on your own, that will be faster, done right, and done at all.” I must step forward into the depths of patience, diligence, and perseverance while joyfully giving thanks to the God who supplies all strength. I need to teach them to pee in the toilet as opposed to on the floor, tree, or toy of choice. It is my duty to impart to them the wisdom of not sticking metal objects into electrical sockets. It is imperative that I instruct these precious ones in the ways that are right, but more than anything else, these little lives need to know what it means to truly follow the real life hero who supersedes the things of fiction and brings the greatest love the universe has ever known.
To know this hero of torn flesh and sacrifice lived, this conqueror of death and reconciler of all. The one for which heaven opens to reveal through the clouds, "behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.” The God man who's eyes are like a flame of fire. Who's robe is dipped in blood.  The firstborn of the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth. The Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

JesusGreatest hero EVER! 

I MUST give from my own power what it takes to empower my children to live for Him. I will take the risk of treading into areas in which my parenting tactics seem questionable to others, because I begin to become less concerned about obedience to me and more concerned with devotion to Christ.
I begin to say things to my children like, “Yes, respect your elders, but you can say ‘no’ to adults. Especially, if they are asking you to do things that make you uncomfortable.”
“Yes, it is good to have friends, but their opinion doesn’t define you, Christ’s does. He says that through Him you are the righteousness of God,”
“Yes, God tells you to obey your parents, but not over obeying Him. If anyone tells you to do something that is against what God tells you in His word, don’t do it, even if it is Mommy or Daddy.”
“Yes, the world will ask you to choose what is popular and easy, but stand, baby stand. Stand for justice, offer freedom, and walk humbly. Stand for mercy, share truth, and above all, love Jesus. For there and there alone  ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.' There and there alone will you taste power uncorrupted.”


Thanks for reading! ~Chara

This post was adapted from some of my ramblings published at my personal blog on June 23rd, 2015. 

Hope for Charleston

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Author: Chara Donahue

As I write today, I am very aware of where I sit. My world is still moving, Father's Day just wrapped up, and the sun is shining brightly in the Pacific Northwest.  I am quite conscious of the fact that as I lounge comfortably here, a week ago darkness violently spread itself upon the steps of a holy place.

As I breathe in the quiet warmth of a summer's day I can't help but ask why the most sincere and loudest cries for justice ring from silent pulpits and the bodies of the slain.  My soul is burdened and my heart repeats,

"Jesus please come.
Come to the children for which Father's Day only illuminated that theirs was stolen by hate.
Come to the communities that are mourning and fearful because their safe spaces have been wrought asunder by a soul submitted to evil.
Come to those in our country who naively thought that we were past racial oppression because we have a black president.
Come to the global church as we grieve with our brothers and sisters at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. They have been stripped of their pastor, and are left to be haunted by the prophetic times he preached that engaging in the fight for justice might cost you your life[1]. May they be comforted, because they know he is with you.
Jesus come, because I know you are the perfect reconciler, but at this moment — reconciliation seems so far."

This is my prayer. My eyes, set in white skin, have wept for my black brothers and sisters, and I know I cannot see the furthest depths of this problem.  I know that this is not about the assailant, or rationalizing whatever led him to dehumanize living, breathing people who offered prayers with their last breaths.  I  rejoice in his apprehension, but that is only a trickle of the river of justice that needs to come.  As I view the pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King sitting at Emmanuel AME years ago contrasted with the pictures of the same church surrounded by police cars and coroners, I am paralyzed with grief for the history of oppression, degradation, and injustice. It is a history that says, "we have come so far, but we must go further still."

Photo WPEC CBS 12

The King Center posted this image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston

So I ask, what does 'further still' look like — in my life, in this culture?

It's more than taking down confederate flags. That is a start, but we must acknowledge that when our young pretend to be dead so that they may have life, we, yes we collectively, all people, have a problem. People may continue to rationalize and defend the incidents that have been making their ways into the headlines lately, but this blatant act of hostility demands our voice, our attention, and our lament. Let the voices that say there is no problem be drowned out by those of all races saying, "We want unity and are willing to sacrifice to see it. We will stand in solidarity so that the beauty of action can usher in harmonious calls for justice. We must extend past paltry sentimentality, and actually take steps to make peace, walking out the ministry of reconciliation that God asks of believers in 2 Corinthians 5:18."

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

Growing up in the Bay Area of California, my group of friends included a delightful array of Indian, Pakistani, African American, Caucasian and Latino women. That's just the way life was, I never realized how precious a gift I was given.  Then I moved to my current city that is predominantly white, and it just felt awkward, and bizarre. I have met great people here, but there is a part of me that can tell something rich is missing, that longs for my community to be multi-ethnic. Not because it is the hot topic right now, not even because it is simply the right thing, but because it's Christ's thing. I want the things of Jesus, and I am willing to fight for them. He has reconciled the Jew and the Gentile, the Asian and Latino, the Black and the White. I want to help bear the weight of the struggles and share in the joys of all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to invite others into the family who's genetic markers are things like forgiveness, mercy, and sacrificial love. Part of this is a desire to see Heaven come to Earth, and I know heaven will not be rocking a white majority. Too rarely do we get  glimpses of this eternal reality, but when all races gather to worship together — desegregated, with love, and without hindrance — we get a taste of the sweetness to come.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. Revelations 7:9

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP35_JVnP6g#action=share at 10:18