hopesightings

finding hope and sharing it

Unfinished Stories December 8, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 4:18 pm
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One of my favorite books is Pillars of the Earth. It’s a 1,000+ page novel that tells a sweeping narrative of the building of a cathedral in twelfth-century England. I’ve read this book at least three times from cover to cover.  I know the plot. I know each scene by memory. And yet, each time a character enters a dangerous situation, I try to think of a new way out. I hope and believe with all my heart that maybe this time it will be different.
            But this novel is complete. It was written a long time ago, and there can be no different ending to any of the scenes within it. Nothing I hope for or imagine for my beloved characters will happen. The story has already been written, and it’s finished.
            However, our stories are not. Our stories, along with our sisters’, are still being written. So even as we experience or witness danger, violence, poverty, and pain, we know the story does not have to end there. We can help each other write new endings. We can imagine new beginnings. We can do this because we have hope.
             This hope is what motivates us to stick with a painful, uncomfortable, or challenging story. It’s what drives us to give generously of our time and resources. It’s what binds us together as sisters.
            And hope is what interrupts painful, merciless stories and redeems them into something beautiful. This year, we’ve heard shocking stories of abuse and rape. Unthinkable stories of neglect and gender-based violence. Uncomfortable stories that seem to have no light.
            But thanks to your generosity, prayer, and hope, these stories have not ended at the darkest moments. Our sisters-fueled by hope for a different, better, brighter story-stood strong. They fought for their futures, for their healing, for their babies. They lived, they thrived, and now they tell their new stories – hope stories.
            For Deborah, Solange, Esinam, and Elsabe, a painful story became one of redemption. But it doesn’t end with these four. Because women around them everywhere are watching. Women terrorized by gender-based violence, women living with fistula, women abandoned by their families and spouses, women recovering from painful deliveries and stillborn babies. These women continue to hope, because they see that good can prevail. They believe that a dark and painful story can become a hope story. And thanks to the help of sisters around the world, their stories are just beginning.
Written by Dianna Sawyer, Hope for Our Sisters Partner in Hope.
You can learn more about our precious sisters and help them write more hope stories at hopeforoursisters.org.
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Was Admon’s Hope Story Coming to a Tragic End? December 1, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 9:40 pm
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Below is Admon’s  hope story…a story you helped us write this year. (I wrote this to everyone who invested in Hope for Our Sisters this year by giving of their time, talents, treasure and prayers. Passing this story along to you as it is a favorite of mine. If you feel compelled to help women write stories of hope, you will see our website at the bottom of the blog. No pressure at all. Thank you for reading this story of hope!)
The day started as it always did. I left for work in the fields while my beautiful wife, Elsabe, swept the dirt floor of our home. With Elsabe nine months’ pregnant, we were very excited to welcome our first child. We knew this would mean one more mouth to feed and one more person in our small home, but the idea of a baby filled us with joy.
Can you imagine how Admon felt? With the upcoming birth of a child, writing hope stories comes easy. You have so many dreams and hopes for the child. You spend so much time wondering who your child will become. Admon was writing that type of story.
Returning home, I saw a site that stopped me in my tracks. My lovely wife, so full of life that morning, was lying on the floor, seizing out of control and unable to wake up. I thought she was dying. I feared for my wife. I feared for my unborn child. How could this be happening?
Unknown to Admon, Elsabe was having a seizure due to high blood pressure (eclampsia). He had no idea how long this had lasted while he was away. His hope story, in his eyes, was at risk of coming to a sudden end. However, he held on to hope.
 
I immediately ran out of our house and yelled for help. Friends in our community helped us find a vehicle to take Elsabe to the nearby hospital. I prayed. I feared she and our baby were dying. My other concern? We did not have the money to pay for a trip to the hospital. What would I do when we got there?
Elsabe was rushed to one of our partner hospitals, Central Evangelical Medical Center in Lubango (CEML), Angola. Can you imagine going to a hospital without the needed money or benefits coverage? It was with hope that Elsabe was brought to the hospital. Even when the situation looks dire, hope can carry us through. Thank you for investing in women and their families. You consistently help them write hope stories amidst loss and lack.
Once we arrived at the hospital, they took my wife and unborn baby into surgery. Again, I prayed. I worried. Would Elsabe survive? Would our baby survive? Would I return home without my family? How would I pay for this support?
Dr. Sarah Hudgins, HFOS Partner, performed an emergency cesarean section. Care is available at local state hospitals, but people fear them due to poor quality of care. Coming to CEML was a courageous choice for quality, safe care, even though it would be expensive.
A nurse from surgery approached me. Elsabe survived! My wife was alive! Guess what? Our baby, our son, survived too! I cried out with joy and thanks. I could not believe it!
Admon’s hope story was not over. It was only beginning. Thank you for investing in this story of hope.
Then I began to worry about payment. We did not have enough. I asked the nurse. She said the rest would be covered. We had enough! Could this day get any better?
You funded the rest of Elsabe’s surgery by investing in Hope for Our Sisters. This partial payment came from one of our new Maternal Health Funds.
I could not believe our good fortune. A successful surgery and help to pay for it. This is not the way I expected our son, Abilio, would enter the world, but I am so thankful I can enjoy my future with my family. Thank you for sending HOPE our way!
You, through your generous investments, partner with us as we together help our precious sisters and their families in Angola, the DR Congo and Nepal write stories of hope.
 
Honored to generate hope with you.
Brooke F. Sulahian
President & Co-Founder
Hope for Our Sisters, Inc.
 
P.S. Thank you for helping Admon, Elsabe and Abilio write their hope story. If you choose to invest in hope today to enable more and more stories of hope to be written tomorrow, go to our website at http://hopeforoursisters.org/donate/.
 

What Does Your Reflection Look Like? November 9, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 7:36 pm
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I feel called to be God’s image bearer.

I believe our lives are to reflect God’s love to others.

God chooses to use us, imperfect human beings, to radiate His love in the world.

We won’t do this perfectly, but we can choose to try.

 

What does your reflection of God look like?

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

 

I have a new way of reflecting God.

My reflection of God has changed because

I have changed.

God is actively transforming me from someone who was constantly

Striving,

Producing and

Performing,

To someone who tastes and accepts God’s peace each day.

Thankful.

Peaceful.

Humbled.

 

For many years,

I started my day in a self-imposed cage

Of impossible expectations.

Today,

I start my day floating in a still pool of water

With Jesus, my Savior.

Thankful.

Peaceful.

Humbled.

 

Better yet…

Now that I have finally tasted and experienced His peace,

I get to share this peace with others!

I won’t do this perfectly,

But it’s finally at my disposal to share!

 

I want people to see God in me

For His glory,

For His good.

I cannot determine how or if they will see His reflection in me

Or what their response will be,

But I can plant seeds of hope and peace

By choosing to reflect God each day.

 

What does your reflection look like?

 

© 2017 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

MY NOT-SO-QUIET “QUIET TIME” October 12, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 6:02 pm
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For as many years as I can remember

I’ve started my day with “quiet time”

It’s looked different during different seasons

But one thing holds true…

It was NEVER PURE QUIET

 

My quiet time was full of things I did

Reading devotionals…sometimes four at a time

Reciting Scripture

Journaling

You name it, I did it

 

Maybe I did not speak aloud, but

My mind, soul and spirit were not quiet

They were not still

They were busy

A better name for this time would be

“Doing time”

“Checking off my list time”

“Routine time”

Anything but quiet time

 

What a gift to discover recently that

I had no pure quiet in my life

It never occurred to me

But when it did, I wanted it

I yearned for it

God used the book Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall

To open my eyes, heart and mind to pure quiet with Him

I know He’s got more for me in this book

But this has been a real gem

My time with Christ has never been more sweet, pure and nourishing

to my heart, mind and soul

 

I like how each of us can have a unique relationship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.

There is no cookie cutter way of doing life in Christ

It makes me feel special knowing this is MY way to simply connect with Him

Quiet time crafted by my Father

Just for me

 

As you know, my spiritual relationship is very visual

I can “see” myself meeting with God

I can “see” where I interact with Christ

I can “see” how the Holy Spirit guides me

And I love “seeing” myself experience PURE QUIET each morning

 

The idea of pure quiet felt very uncomfortable at first

Maybe that’s why I chose to do it for 8 minutes

I’m not sure

But now I look forward to it each day

This is what my pure quiet with Jesus looks like

In this current season of my life

 

After reading a psalm and one devotional (Jesus Calling)

I enter in to pure, non-agenda-based quiet with Christ

I actually “see” myself approach a small, still pool of water

I set along the bank all of my responsibilities

I come into the water and simply float beside Jesus for 8 minutes

He stands beside me and watches over me

 

Why water?

What floating?

I think it’s because it requires all of me and only me

I need to remember that I am enough in Him

Also, anything else I carried in the water would

Get wet and ruined or

Weigh me down

He invites all of me

Only me

I am enough

 

This is not about escape

This is about saying yes to His invitation to be with Him

I think He loves it even more than I do

It has become the most beautiful time of my life with my Savior

For the first time I am simply being with Him and receiving His love

With no strings attached

Just as He wants it

 

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Sounds pretty fabulous, right?

Wanna give it a try?

What does your PURE QUIET look like?

 

 

(P.S. I would sincerely enjoy hearing from you about your pure quiet journey during your current season of life.)

 

© 2017 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

Creativity – I’ve Missed It September 29, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 9:05 pm
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This summer was not as we planned

Peter’s heart-breaking anxiety over his injections

Lucy coming down with strep, pneumonia and walking pneumonia at the same time

Me processing my unexpected, physically challenging yet amazing trip to Africa

My own creativity was drowned out…

without my noticing

 

I am reading Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall

Great title…don’t you think?

The idea behind the title caught my eye and heart

Being present in the moment is tough

The urgency can crowd it out

My to do list can be louder than the call to be

present, quiet, rest, and create

I have ideas in my head about all of these topics

Today? Creativity

 

First of all, Peter’s anxiety is gone

He is rocking his shots

He is back to his funny, goofy, active self

Thankful!

Lucy is healthy

She is free to take on the world in her 9-year-old fashion

Wahoo!

I am working on being present

One day I’ll share about my 8 minutes of pure quiet

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

It is

Pure quiet with God rocks

 

So…creativity

In this book, Alexandra writes the following:

“We were made to create! It is in us, so when we don’t

allow that part of us to flourish, we wither.”

This hit my heart…deep within my heart

My creative self has been withering in my pursuit of goals, deadlines,

smooth mornings before school, being present with my family, etc.

All of these are very important and very good…but…

when we the last time I was creative for creativity’s sake?

Like writing these words right now?

How about you?

 

Peter often gets carried away with his 3-D origami

Lucy is often found with pen and paper in hand

ready to draw or create a story

How did I not see that my creative outlets were clogged?

When was the last time I made time to write?

Writing is one of my favorite gifts from God and yet

it’s been ages since I have carved out time to write

 

I did not enter into these moments on our back deck today

with a goal for this “blog”

Hmmm…if I think about it, what would be the goal?

It’s not to impress

It’s not to convict

Now that I think about it, I’d like to let my creative juices flow,

share my heart and encourage your own creativity

 

What inspires you?

What gifts have you been given in the realm of creativity?

May we all simply enjoy our creative gifts

May we all try not to evaluate our creativity

May we all not expect to live up to a certain standard

We don’t have to be a famous author, painter, inventor or singer to create

May we just set some time aside to

let our creativity flow

We were created in the image of the ultimate Creator

We were made to create

 

As I sit in my backyard next to Tim,

with Peter, Lucy and friends playing wiffle ball,

I think of the women we serve through Hope for Our Sisters

Their sheer joy at creating bags, hats, etc.

This organic growth is such a gift for our sisters

However, it is now requiring planning, structure and organization

May our efforts to support this new program not drown out

the real beauty behind it

The sheer creativity

The discovery of potential

The joy of learning what can be accomplished

 

Have you set time aside to discover your potential?

Have you set time aside to be creative?

In this book the author challenges herself to write for fun (she’s an author)

and to do something creative each day

I have not read the full chapter yet

The idea of daily creativity actually seems too big at this moment

but I want to try it

I’ll give it my best shot

I am sure I will find fun and simple ways to

tap into my creativity

I will do this because I believe those I love, serve, and enjoy will benefit

I also know and believe that I will benefit

Maybe I will benefit most of all

 

We were made to create

How will you create today?

© 2017 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

An Unexpected Journey July 19, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 11:22 pm
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(Thoughts from my May/June 2017 journey to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo)

It was a trip, a journey, I did not plan

But one I knew was mine to take

The gift of a journey

Far from family

Home,

Comfort and

Knowing

 

Where would it lead?

Would it change me like prior trips?

Would it break my heart anew?

How would it fit within the Hope for Our Sisters mission?

 

I could not predict

I could not foretell

I could only say,

“Yes…I will go”

 

1 friend going in

10 friends coming out

A team of 11 formed through

Stories and prayers,

Laughter and tears,

Courage and celebration,

Food and sickness,

Dreams and heartache,

Lush landscapes and bumpy roads,

Languages and new adventures,

Plans and uncertainty,

Shared passions and hopes

 

An unexpected gift occurred on this unexpected journey

The gift of a moment, captured in time

Me surrounded by beautiful, joy-filled African children

The fulfillment of a vision God birthed in my heart seven years ago

 

What does it mean?

God will guide and time will tell

Could it be a reminder?

A reminder of the precious children of the next generation

A generation that is starting to see and taste more hope

A generation that can continue their parents’ work to drive culture shifts for beneficial and lasting change

A generation that can take hold of what their parents are unleashing today to establish a better tomorrow

A generation of precious and powerful change-makers

 

An unexpected journey with a newly-formed team

Returning home with hope for a

New day in DR Congo…A new future of

Healing,

Peace,

Medical access,

Sustainability,

Strength,

Ownership,

Renewal, and

Hope

Written while flying back to America…

6/11/17

 

© 2017 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

On The Outside Looking In May 28, 2017

When I turned 11 I found myself on the outside looking in.

I grew up in warm Southern California as the youngest of three.

I would describe it as an idyllic childhood…

Riding bikes with my brothers, lots of friends on our street and at school,

good grades, fun times of soccer and softball, and a loving family.

I also had a strong sense of who I was.

I felt anything was possible.

I felt I could conquer the world.

Then we moved…

My life was rocked to my core.

I no longer belonged.

I forgot who I was.

Moving to Texas at 11 is still one of the most impactful and difficult experiences in my life.

Not only did I move to a new town in a new state, but

I moved into a new and totally different culture.

I felt as if I had moved to a new country.

I did not have the right clothes.

My accent (or lack thereof) was wrong.

I even had different slang.

No matter what I did or how I tried to connect, I was constantly reminded that I was

An outsider looking in.

Once we entered Texas, I had lost my sense of who I was.

I did not feel valued but lost.

I felt as if I was stranded on an island, in the middle of an ocean.

Over time I found my way “in” through new friends

Who accepted me for who I was.

I made friends just being “me”.

I learned that I could overcome and rise above obstacles by being myself…

The one God created me to be.

As a child, I always cheered and spoke out for the underdog.

Now, I had become the underdog.

I had a new appreciation of the value of community and

This increased my life-long compassion for

Those on the outside,

Those considered less than,

Those considered not important or of value.

I should not have been surprised that the issue of fistula would resonate with me,

Even though at the time I felt it hit me out of the blue.

As I first read about fistula, the focus of Hope for Our Sisters,

I was not only struck by the injustice of the situation but

The aloneness,

Isolation,

And lack of community

Suffered by these sisters of ours.

At Hope for Our Sisters we extend our reach beyond fistula surgery and prevention

By directly investing in each woman.

Just like you and me, each one of our sisters has value.

Each one of our sisters has a story to tell.

Each one of our sisters has a contribution to make.

Each one of our sisters has the right to rejoin their communities.

Each one of our sisters has the potential to change the world.

(NOTE: A session with the organization Resonate helped me tap into this story behind my passion for HFOS. I fully believe God broke my heart for this issue but I also believe He used this very difficult experience of mine to help fistula resonate with my heart.)

 

© 2017 by Brooke F Sulahian