Hope in the Waiting

Written by Tara Sanders // Photos by Emily Howard

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On Sunday morning, July 8th, it felt like the whole world was holding its breath as 12 members of a Thai soccer team and their assistant coach were being rescued from a flooded cave after being trapped inside for several weeks.

I had heard murmurings about the situation during this time, but the severity of it didn’t hit me until I read about the details.

Twelve young boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach became trapped while exploring the caves during rainy season. The caves quickly filled with water and the boys sought higher ground as the water levels began to rise. Stuck in there with nothing more than a bike ride’s worth of supplies, the boys went without food for days and drank water that was dripping off of the limestone rocks.

The threat of death was very real, and logistically it was possible that they may not all make it out alive.

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Thankfully, that deep breath taken around the world was released with a rush as news broke forth on July 10th that all of the boys and their coach made it out alive. Eight of the boys were rescued by a team of Thai and international divers on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, the last four boys and their coach were led out of the cave. I can imagine the joy and relief that came from groups of friends and family watching on TV and the warm welcome the boys received when they made it back up to the surface.

According to an article written by the Washington Post, journalists began to flood the area as news of the story brought intrigue and watchful eyes from all over the world. It seemed that for a few short weeks the world was united by the hope that these young men would make it out of the cave alive.

While writing this, I’m realizing that there have been so many times when I have felt exactly like those boys-totally stuck. Mind you, I have never been stuck in a cave (though I have been spelunking), but I have been stuck in life in some very difficult circumstances where the chances of coming out of it seemed slim and my hope was waning. It seemed like there was no way out, no way of escape, and nothing to do but pray, hope, and wait.

IMG_1034Can you relate?

There are times when we feel like the water is rising up all around us. We are closed in on every side and unable to make it on our own. Those moments become an opportunity for God to show us how faithful He truly is.

But how do we hold on to hope in the waiting?

One of my favorite scripture verses of all time is Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plan I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It may seem a tad trite to quote that verse right now, but I have held onto these words so many times through so many trials because it’s not simply about God prospering you, it’s about God being aware of our situation and working in the midst of our waiting. Something that tends to get lost when this verse is shared is that this word from the Lord came to the Israelites when they were still in captivity. They hadn’t been freed yet and it wasn’t clear how they would get out. But the Lord said he had an idea, thoughts if you will, and that the plan was a good one.

As those boys sat in that dark cave, not even sure if anyone knew they were there, I’m sure many thoughts and fears arose from the possibility of never getting back out. All the while, there were teams of people on the outside working on their behalf and thousands of people who didn’t even know these boys pitching in to help.

Isn’t that how it is with God sometimes?

A friend once told me that “what we see isn’t really what’s going on.” What she meant was that we see the situation in front of us, but God sees the whole picture.

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This past Sunday, the 12 boys learned that one of the divers, a Navy Seal, Saman Gunan, didn’t make it out of the cave alive during the rescue efforts, when his oxygen supply ran out during his dive. In photos released by the Thai Public Health Ministry, the boys can be seen bowing their heads in prayer and some of them crying as they paid their respects to him.

He took a risk to save a group of boys he didn’t even know. Him, and so many others, selflessly gave of their time and resources to ensure the boys stayed alive, safe, and would eventually make it out of the cave.

Jesus laid down his life for us. He sacrificed it all so that we could have eternal hope. Not a hope that wains with life’s ups and downs, but a sturdy foundation that we can always lean and depend on no matter what our circumstances may be.

Isaiah 43:1-2 says:

But now thus says the Lord,

he who created you, O Jacob,

    he who formed you, O Israel:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

    I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

    and the flame shall not consume you.”

We have no guarantee that we will not face high waters or even fire, and those things can come in many forms-sickness, grief, shame, worry, anxiety, and troubles of every kind. We are, however, assured that God is aware and cares deeply about our suffering and that He always walks with us.

Fireflies

By Rachel Dowda // Photos by Mollie Trainum

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This morning I spent way too much time on Instagram. It’s all too easy to get sucked into this realm where everyone chooses what they want you to see, and before you know it, you start to believe that everyone is living this perfectly dressed, breakfast in bed life; filled with handsome lovers and airstreams and endless craft supplies. It’s especially easy to get sucked into this world when you don’t want to get up in the morning.

Within seconds I start to put pressure on myself, to buy nicer clothes, to lose weight, and somehow meet someone who might fall in love with me so I wouldn’t have to be so damn lonely. And the kicker-I begin to put pressure on myself to find adventure. I need it, I crave it.

Irrational fears parade themselves through my mind; taking turns leading the lineup. A myriad of belly dancers, hairy men, and contortionists; terrifying, but you find yourself unable to look away. Sometimes the bearded lady carries a sign that says, “YOU WILL NEVER FIND ADVENTURE AGAIN. YOU LOST YOUR CHANCE. YOU ARE DESTINED FOR AN AVERAGE LIFE”. I believe her. Because now that I’m living at home with my parents, working an average job and trying to pay all my bills, it’s so easy to believe that my dreams are foolish, and who am I kidding? There are more talented people doing the things that I wish I could do.

But sometimes, just sometimes,
I remember.
And little hints of grace show up, like fireflies in the night,
carrying messages that remind me:

You are designed for greatness.
Jesus is literally obsessed with you. He thinks so many thoughts about you that it adds up to more than all the sand on the beaches.
When you create, the Trinity is dancing through your fingers.
God put these desires in your heart, and He’s not playing games with you.
What you say matters.
You don’t go unnoticed. 

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Sometimes, these fireflies of grace remind me of words people have spoken to me. Words that affirm my identity as a child, an heir, chosen, fully loved, and delighted in. Words that remind me to push through the parade of fears and into the wild lands of fireflies and wildflowers, calling me to go deeper and higher into the wilderness of the Father’s heart towards me. 

I pray that I would see the adventure in my day to day, that I would speak words from my Father, that I would believe truth and have it built deeply in me, instead of escaping my current situation through things like Instagram. I pray that I’d be able to get out of bed with a child-like expectancy. Romans 8:15-16 says,

God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

I have reason to believe that in a few days, months, or years, I’ll look back and see that this season was possibly the most precious of them all, that my tree rings are multiplying despite the trauma the wood shows. I am a part of a forest, surrounded by trees cheering for me, willing my limbs to grow longer, healing me by placing their palms on my bark, causing my tree rings to multiply.

You Matter

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You matter.

It really pains me to see an extreme lack of purpose in the world today. It seems like left and right, people are taking their own lives or taking the lives of others. It’s really scary stuff, and if I’m being honest I don’t like talking about it, or even writing about it. But, I believe, something needs to be said.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God’. He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This is our purpose, friends. We weren’t placed on this broken planet for nothing; we have a task to do. God calls us to be ambassadors of Jesus. In other words, we are called to be the hands and the feet of Christ. So often, I get caught in the lie that I am purposeless. I’m just a useless speck, here to be alone and suffer the consequences of my sins. Oh my, is that far from the truth. JESUS SUFFERED MY CONSEQUENCES. He suffered your consequences too. We don’t have to carry our sins, it’s already been nailed to the cross.

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The second part of the verse is really important: “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us.” God knew that on this Earth, we would be completely incapable of perfection. Thus, He sent Jesus to take our punishment, so that we don’t have to suffer for our mess-ups. God saved us; we can live in the light of grace. We’re free to let go of the weight of our mistakes, so now we can live with freedom and joy! We are still going to be imperfect people, though, because we live inside an imperfect world. So, it’s so important to remember that you are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time. God still uses us in the midst of our brokenness; we don’t need to have it all together! We have purpose in our struggles, not only in our victories.

Exodus 14:14
“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”

Living on a broken planet is really hard. Something I’ve learned to understand, amidst the hopelessness and loneliness, is to lean into the Father when I feel like I cannot hold myself up anymore. Because we live in a corrupt world, the devil is constantly feeding us lies that we aren’t enough. We don’t look good enough, we aren’t smart enough, we aren’t successful enough, we aren’t popular enough, we aren’t fit enough; the list goes on and on. If these were true, God wouldn’t be filling our lungs with air everyday. You don’t have to fight these lies alone, the Lord will fight for you. Rest in Him, and allow Him to create in you a pure heart and a clean mind. Be still, and know, in due time, everything will be good, because He is good.

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Every single morning we wake up, God breathes life into us because He wants us to be here. If He thought we were purposeless or thought our time was done on Earth, He wouldn’t be breathing into us each morning. If you are reading this, you woke up this morning; God is not finished with you yet. God sees something in us that made Him send His only Son to die. We cannot say we have no purpose here.

We are here, we matter.

Written by Sam Burton // Photos by Ben Dulay & 777 Collective


777 Collective

WE GIVE PEOPLE A VOICE THROUGH APPAREL
LOCALLY & GLOBALLY | SAN DIEGO, CA | EST. ’15

We at 777 Collective are committed to pursue the art of storytelling in order to love fearlessly, carry hope, and stoke curiosity. We want to bring it back to the heart of the stories. So we’re tapping into the everyday storyteller and giving them a platform to find their voice—for them to tell their story to the world. Brokenness is made beautiful here. As we crave to bring light to the dark reaches of the world, this is how we do it. We set the stage. All you need to do is step up and share it with us.

P E O P L E  +  S T O R I E S  +  C R E A T I V I T Y  =  V O I C E

IMG_0809We founded our brand upon the belief that everybody is a storyteller and that each story matters. The truth is that God handpicked each person’s narrative for a purpose and it is our desire to not only share our story, but also to create a platform for other people to share theirs. When we choose a life where we share stories, we get to become part of one another’s lives, stepping foot into the chaos and the mess of life. But there is a greater story: a story of hope, redemption, grace, and eternal joy. This story is a free gift, and it is up to us to choose to become a part of it. That is why your voice matters.

— LOVE THE SKIN YOU’RE IN —

What you wear is an extension of self—who you are. In simplest form, it is who you want people to see you as. However, culture can promote an “idealized” or narrow portrayal of appearance. Whether we succumb to it or not, the “sex appeal” of fashion (even moderately) can take precedence in our lives. Yes, clothing is an avenue of expression. But it should express our inward beauty and a comfort of the skin we are in. Our flaws, our blemishes, and our scars make us who we are.

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And so this lifestyle brand is meant to contribute towards this expression. We at 777 Collective don’t want to simply participate in fashion trends. We dream beyond the norm. We want to push for truth and meaning that is timeless. We seek to tap in the lives of real storytellers who are unashamedly raw with their stories. End of story.

Shop 777 Collective here: https://www.777collective.com

Sufficient Grace

In 2 Corinthians 12, we have the glorious opportunity to have truth poured into our hearts through Paul’s testimony. Paul was an incredible man whom I admire greatly and I believe there is much to be learned from him and his life. I also believe there is ample opportunity to relate to him and apply his struggles and his testimony to our own lives.

In this chapter, Paul discusses his weakness and how he will not boast in anything but his weakness. In verse 7, he mentions how a thorn was given to him in the flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. This symbolic thorn weakened him and restricted him in certain areas, perhaps in areas that he would be more likely to rely on himself rather than on God. This thorn was a bothersome thing and a painful thing, it was a weakness.

This thorn ailed him so much that 3 times he pleaded with the Lord asking Him to remove it, but the Lord said to Paul in verse 9, one of my favorite passages in the Bible, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.” Paul goes on to say that therefore he will boast all the more gladly of his weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon him. Paul’s attitude toward this weakness in his life totally changed after hearing from the Lord. He begins by asking God to be delivered from this thorn, but after hearing from God, no longer was he praying for it to be removed but even goes on to say, “I will boast all the more gladly of it.” God turned the thorn into an instrument to bring Paul to a greater experience of His power working in his life. He learned to boast in that thorn, because through it he came to a deeper relationship with God where he knew more of His power in his life than he’d ever known before.

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I believe we can all relate to Paul and his thorn in the flesh, a thorn that weakened him and caused him pain. We all have something that ails us, something that we have pleaded with God to remove from us, whether that be physical or emotional. We all have setbacks and weaknesses that seem as if they are so out of place and life would be so much better if they were absent from our lives. But how wonderful and comforting it is to rest in the truth and the hope that our Father knows what is best for us and what is required to keep us from becoming conceited.

Paul’s testimony speaks to me and I desire to have the same mindset and attitude he had toward his thorn toward my own weaknesses. There are many days I do not understand the restrictions God has allowed me to have, but I have the assurance that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The Holy Spirit comforts my soul day after day and reminds me that His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). I want a kind of faith and humility that says “God, for Your sake, I am content with my weaknesses. If my weakness is bringing you all the more glory and if You are using my setbacks to build Your kingdom all the more, so be it.”

IMG_0426How encouraging it is to hope in the truth that our setbacks and our various weaknesses are not in vain, they are not without purpose. Not only can we rejoice in suffering because it produces perseverance, but we can boast in our setbacks because we have assurance that God’s power is perfected in them and that He is working everything out for the good of those who love Him. Let us take pride in our weakness for the sake of Christ’s name being lifted higher and His power being more evident in our lives.

God’s power is greatest when we are at our weakest and what we need most in our weakness is God’s sufficient grace. His grace is a grace that meets us where we are. It is a grace that deepens our faith and that forces us to trust in God alone. It is a grace that allows us to pour out everything we have in front of Him and bring all of our weariness to His rest. It is a grace that is sufficient to pull us back up and say, “My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

Paul learned to glory in his thorn because it was an instrument through which the power of God was demonstrated in His life. I pray that our faith is expanded and we are brought to a place of humility that says, “God, I boast in my weakness and I am content in my weakness if it brings your name all the more glory and honor.” No matter what you are going through, His grace is sufficient for you and He will see you through. May the greatest answer to our prayer be not taking us out of the circumstance, but God’s all-sufficient grace taking us through the circumstance with a strengthened faith and a humble spirit. Let us lean on God with all of our weight, for when we are weak, then we are strong.


Written by Kristen Bremner. Photos by Naomi June.