HOPE OVERFLOWING

stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


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Hope always

notepad

Recently I have been inspired by all of the lovely typography people on Instagram who share beautiful hand drawn images of inspiring/funny/random words that they have written or painted onto crisp sheets of paper.

Since I was a little girl I have always loved pretty stationery, nice pens and beautiful writing and my ten year old self even did a calligraphy course one school holidays. I think as a result of this life-long love I find these beautiful hand drawn photos such a highlight of my Instagram scrolling and I always pause to look at them and wonder how they have been crafted. 

So, last weekend, in a fit of enthusiasm and a desire to be like these Instagrammers, I decided to buy myself a sketch pad and fine liner pen and have a go myself. When I buy nice craft supplies I often will hold back on using them, rather preferring to save them for when I have something truly special or ‘worthy’ to create, but this time I challenged myself just to go for it and get practising!

That evening I was sitting chatting to Joel when these two words popped into my head – “Hope Always” so I quickly jumped up and did this little doodle.

hope always

As I did it I started to think about these words…

Hope always. 

They can mean many things.

These words are a sort of motto of one of the breast cancer chat groups to which I belong. This particular group is for women with the specific strand of breast cancer that I had. Although it is a small group, as this type of breast cancer is so rare, it is also a group where lots of the women walk a very hard path due to the aggressive and unpredictable nature of the disease.  

I love that this is the motto of the group and that despite all of the challenges that members face that there is this thread of hope that runs beneath it all. I love that women often finish their messages of encouragement to one another with the words, “Hope always” and these words always resonate somewhere deep within my soul. 

I was thinking a bit more about these words yesterday and the tiny phrase of scripture, which is part of a much larger and great section in Romans 5 sprung to mind:

Hope does not disappoint 

Another translation says, “Hope does not put us to shame” 

I know in my own life that sometimes it can be so hard to be hopeful. When our hopes are repeatedly dashed, when our dreams only seem to get further away rather than closer, when we see others doing or being what we so desperately hope for ourselves, it can be hard to keep moving forward, to keep hoping.

Because hope is risky.  

Allowing ourselves to hope opens us up to disappointment. It opens us up to pain and the possibility that our hopes will never be fulfilled in the way we dream. And that is hard. 

But then, what is a life without hope? It is surely a very dark place.

I believe that life is so much sweeter with hope in it. In spite of the vulnerability it creates or perhaps because of it, I’m not sure. But I do know this, a place of hope is a good place to be.

I think the writer of Romans knew what he was talking about when he said that hope does not disappoint. He was talking about the one sure hope that is found even in the face of suffering in the love of Jesus and salvation through Him. This is a hope that we can cling to even when everything else seems to be so unsure. It is the sweetest hope of all and surely will never disappoint.

Because, in Him, we are never abandoned.

Hope always.

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Finding a voice in the pain of the beaches and October pink washing

Shouting

It has been nine weeks since I last wrote a complete blog post. That is a long time and the holiday in Spain where I wrote the last post, with its long, lazy days spent on the beach couldn’t seem further away from England which has suddenly turned grey, autumnal and very chilly!

It hasn’t, however, been nine weeks since I have started a blog post and my computer and iPad are littered with half-written, unfinished and abandoned posts, given up on with yet another frustrated sigh. If I wrote on paper my wastepaper basket would surely be overflowing by now!

It’s funny how sometimes I feel that there is so much to say, but yet it is so difficult to get it all out in a way that truly conveys how I feel. It feels like trying to put a bowl of cooked spaghetti into a logical order. It is hard and messy and doesn’t always go well. 

I find it particularly hard to write anything or convey how I am feeling when I see a lot of pain around me and this summer has witnessed a lot of pain both globally and closer to home. What could I possibly add to the conversation that would seem anything other than at best, irrelevant or at worst, self-indulgent nonsense?

 So, as a result, and to my shame, the horrendous events of dead babies on beaches, the advancing diseases of those around me, as well as the untimely deaths of members of online forums of which I am a part, have gone on with me largely standing silent. My voice crying out against all this pain has remained unspoken and unheard. I have instead found myself crying on the side lines both at the tragedy of it all, as well as with the frustration that comes from not knowing what to do to help and how to stand up and be counted in a meaningful way 

More recently I have been faced with the pink washing that always appears at this time of year. October is breast cancer awareness month and each year I watch with interest at what will be shared via social media to educate and raise awareness of this horrible disease that kills so many each year.

This year the Young Breast Cancer Network UK (YBCN), a network of young women with breast cancer of which I am a part, is sharing a member’s story each day of the month. Many of these women are living with secondary or metastatic cancer for which there is no cure. All of the stories hold great pain and sadness and I have found myself once again being so broken by seeing this pain and yet also carrying a strange sense of guilt that I am so well and my future is looking bright.

The unfairness of it all is not lost on me and I know I am one of the lucky ones on so many fronts. I can find no words to add that would lessen the suffering of those living with cancer as part of their daily lives and so I find myself, once more at a loss for words.

So now that you have waded with me through my internal mental turmoil (thanks for sticking with me through that) what is there left to say?

Earlier this summer I met up with a friend who writes a brilliant blog which I love to read and which is such a blessing to me. I was expressing this mental turmoil to her and she gave me this advice. She said, “Cath, this advice is going to change your life. Just be yourself.”

Although said with a smile and a joke, these simple words really struck me and challenged me. They helped me to realise that it is ok if I don’t have anything useful to say or if I can’t fix all the problems of the world in 800 words or less. Being present and being honest is enough.

So where that leaves us is… I still don’t have anything particularly useful to say on any of sadness that I have seen either on Europe’s beaches or closer to home with those facing illness or bereavement. 

In some senses, I still stand silent on the side lines crying with sadness and frustration.

I wish I could make everything better. But for now, even though I have nothing to add to the conversation and my voice is largely silent, I do still STAND with you.

I pray and I stand on the truth of Revelation 21:4 that this too is temporary and that there will come a time when:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.”

As the harrowing images of the summer recede in our consciousness as the media moves on to new stories, and as the pink washing of October begins to fade as the month passes, it is my prayer that I may continue to be moved by these stories. May the cry of my heart still be for justice and for healing and may we all stand in solidarity with the broken and the hurting trusting in the Restorer and the restoration that is to come.