HOPE (April 2020 Shirt)
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of HOPE?
It’s really such a powerful word that our world has diluted to just another common word. For example: “I hope my Bleach Baby package gets delivered today,” “I hope I have a clean run at the barrel race today,” and so on. We all throw it around because it just completes our thoughts and sentences so well, but have you ever stopped to really think of what it means to have HOPE or to be HOPEful?
A year ago, had you asked me, I would have probably rambled off thoughts. But when God blesses you with one of those ah-ha moments that stops you in your tracks and brings tears to your eyes, you don’t ignore that. Basically, I remember 2018 just not being my best year in rodeo and I was so defeated. I had hauled and hauled to do nothing but hit barrels or be too slow to place. Is this part of it? Absolutely. But my confidence was torn down to nothing, my bank account was drained, and I was questioning if I was even in the right place living out God’s plan for my life or if He was just allowing me to hit rock bottom and realize on my own that I needed to do something different. Either way, by the end of the year I was an emotional wreck. When I realized it just wasn’t in His timing for me to make the finals, I swapped hats and focused all of my efforts into my Barrel Racing Director role, where I was off to the finals to support my friends. It was bitter-sweet, but I was never bitter. I was at peace knowing I just didn’t make it and God laid it on my heart to use that time to be there for the other ladies. This was a big growing step for me. Like, I almost had to do a double take of myself, because I’m telling y’all if you had seen me a month before, I was just a sad puppy. Moving on. During our winter break I did a lot of soul searching and praying to know how to tackle 2019. Was I going to quit rodeos and just barrel race? After all, I had a 6-year-old coming off an injury who should be ready to hit the road again by Spring and she needed to be entered. Plus, the way I left 2018, I’d have a better shot at 2D money in barrel races than I would any rodeo money, right? Our first weekend back competing I had a three-day barrel race and the LRCA Membership rodeo on the same weekend. Still not having a clear answer on which direction I felt more led, I decided to enter the barrel race Friday night and Sunday and the rodeo on Saturday night. Still uncertain, a little shaky, and lacking a lot of confidence, I was just excited to run barrels again and “hopeful” I would get some guidance on which direction I would take from there.
Here’s how that weekend went: Friday night, we won the barrel race. Saturday night, we placed 4th at the rodeo, and Sunday, would have won second at the barrel race, but hit a barrel (and at this point the barrel down didn’t even hurt my feelings because I felt capable again).
But the ah-ha moment was during church one Sunday morning (a few weeks later) when our Praise Team was singing Broken Hallelujah. (https://m/youtube.com/watch?v=Fo3DudOzV4k)
The lyrics that struck me were:
You know the things that have brought me here,
You know the story of every tear.
Cause you’ve been here from the very start.
And even though I don’t know what your plan is,
I know you’ll make beauty from these ashes.
When I feel afraid,
Don’t let my HOPE be erased.
Let me always sing, Hallelujah.
At that moment, I could confidently say that “I know you’ll make beauty from these ashes.” I was seeing it all unfold. And I could beg to Him that “When I feel afraid, don’t let my HOPE be erased!” I knew what it felt like to be hopeful again and I didn’t want to allow fear of not being good enough to let me lose sight of that again.
Everything. Just. Changed. (More-so than I even knew at that time).
I know there are people in the world facing so much worse than most of us can’t even fathom, but Thank the Lord that He recognizes all of us where we are and doesn’t compare the desires of our hearts. I say all of that to say that even though we are all in our own struggles, I hope you can find comfort, confidence, and courage in what I’m about to share.
In Romans 5:1-5, the scripture talks about how Faith Triumphs in Trouble, but specifically in verses 3-4: “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
This is a process, and a cycle, that keeps us clinging to Him through all situations, knowing that hope awaits.
In the face of TRIBULATION (a cause of great trouble or suffering), what do you do?
Take a step back or take a leap of faith?
Throw in the towel or throw up a fight?
As easy as it may have been to convince myself to take a step back from rodeo and go the barrel racing route, the Lord knew the tribulations I had faced, and He knew my heart.
All year long, I had entered rodeo after rodeo, failing, but picking myself back up in time for the next call in.
Looking back, that was my PERSERVERANCE (the persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success).
I spent hours praying, watching videos, riding, going to the vet, seeking help, trying to get it all together, only for it to fail again. But I would always tell myself on the road to the next rodeo, THIS IS THE NIGHT. It only takes one run to turn everything around. Just enter. Go. It’s just money. Etc.
Defeat after disappointment, I was still encouraging myself and reminding myself that better things lie ahead. Constantly filling my head with positive thoughts, sermons, music, and prayers to wash away the underlying hurt and negativity. Little did I know just how much I was building my CHARACTER (the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual).
All this time, this story of HOPE (the assurance through Faith that better days are ahead) was building in me, but I was living in the moment, focused on how difficult things were or how I felt like I had tried everything or how I was just lying to myself that I couldn’t even see how this was all unfolding just how God had planned.
So, that Sunday morning in church, everything connected so perfectly. He had revealed to me the true feeling of HOPE through Him. Through my tribulations and perseverance, character was built, and He provided HOPE and made beauty out of my ashes.
Now, as I face any tribulation, I have a comfort knowing that there is a HOPE bigger than I can even understand at the time waiting for me. Does that mean all of a sudden now it is easy? Absolutely not. I still have to choose to face those troubles with an attitude of perseverance knowing that each and every day I will do what it takes to overcome and find the HOPE that I am clinging to.
Obviously all of this has been growing in me for over two years now, but as I sit down to put it all together to share with you guys, we have a new dilemma taking place in our country, well really, our world. With that I think it’s only appropriate to add what I’ve recently come across in my Bible.
It’s actually from another passage from Romans, but in my study Bible it was actually on a page in Psalms with a section titled, “Distress: A Time to Call Upon the Lord.”
It paraphrases that in the midst of trials and difficulties that inevitably come, believers can be confident that they are loved, that they will ultimately be delivered, that every delay will be used to edify and make them better and that deliverance is assured.
With this shirt, it is my wish that we can all be reminded that we need HOPE and to be hopeful in the times of trials. Whether it be in your personal life or in the midst of this worldly chaos. We all need HOPE! Because no matter what you are going through, better days are ahead. You just need to believe that, face your troubles, and commit to persistently praying and doing whatever it takes to overcome. Your heart, your character, your relationship with Christ will all grow… And with God ALL things are possible!!