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Hopegrams

Hope Rays

Shining the light of hope into dark places

Learning to ABIDE in 2017

Karen Sebastian - Friday, January 06, 2017

Learning to ABIDE

Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. A branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the vine, and neither will you if you are not connected to Me.  John 15:4 Voice

I was a disappointed when I first felt impressed that my word for 2017 was ABIDE. Last year's was much cooler - or so it seemed at the time. You see last year was SOAR. I was challenged to leave behind all that was comfortable and take some big leaps of faith. I traveled extensively and fulfilled some of the vision for my life. It was an exciting (and exhausting) time.

As I look at the Greek word for ABIDE I come up with many nuances that hold tremendous potential and possibilities for the coming year and beyond:


  1. Remain or stay in one place
  2. Enjoy as I grow in endurance
  3. Continue to be present
  4. To be held or kept
  5. Survive, thrive and live
  6. Remain as one
  7. Stay constant without changing or becoming a different person
  8. Wait
One of the greatest challenges in my life is to finish what I have started. In theory, this should be much easier when traveling but it just doesn't seem to happen. Several doors seem to be closing for me and it is time to stay in one place long enough to accomplish them. 

There are things that only I can do and I must choose to dedicate my time to fulfilling them. It is time to stop putting my projects aside in order to assist others. Serving is wonderful, yet can keep you from your own assignments. 

There will be more posts on this topic as I listen carefully to what ABIDE means in my life. I am looking forward to the wait in silence and a deeper flow of His life in Me. It may look like nothing is happening on the outside but much is flowing and growing.

Prayer

Lord, thank You for the reminder that activity for its own sake is not enough. I choose to listen more carefully to Your voice in the midst of it all. I quiet my heart to receive the flow of Your strength and insight. I press in to the enjoyment of Your presence in the solitude and quiet times. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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SOARING in 2016

Karen Sebastian - Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Soaring in 2016

My friend Susan Shipe challenged me at the beginning of last year to pick a word for the year. I had not done that before. Once I started thinking about it, it seemed like everywhere I looked people were talking about their word for the year. I started asking the Lord about it and felt that my word was SOAR.

A funny story with that one is that when I started sharing it people thought I was saying SORE. I was in fact still sore from the sting of death from the death of my husband (four years earlier) and the failure of a long distance relationship. At the time, it seemed more appealing to speak of the pain than any future possibilities. I could get a lot of sympathy on both counts which kept me stuck in a negative pattern.

The difference a word can make

As I began to share with others that my word was "SOAR - as in an eagle" -- my words began to transform my perspective. If I was SORE it was a good thing because it showed me that I was using new muscles of trust and confidence for a shift in my life.
If I was going to SOAR I needed to stop complaining. 
If I was going to SOAR I needed to begin to look for opportunities that I had missed before. 
If I was going to  SOAR I needed to blow the lid off all perceived limitations. 
If I was going to SOAR I was going to need to change from my limited perception to the viewpoint of an eagle.

Dramatic changes came from discovering what my word looked like to me

When I took the time to define what it would look like to SOAR, it meant that I wanted to travel, share HOPE in Spanish-speaking countries in order to use my gift of speaking Spanish fluently and fall in love (with someone who loved me back). I gained crystal focus and booked a trip to Costa Rica (where I grew up) for the end of January on my airline miles. I had little extra cash so I boldly asked a friend if I could stay with her. She said 'yes' and so my adventures started. That started the flow of travel for me. I also went to Nicaragua, Honduras, Bolivia and California.

I contacted a friend in Honduras and asked her when would be the best time to take her up on her offer to stay with her if I ever came down. I had used up my airline miles so I booked a flight on Spirit Airlines with a three week stay in San Pedro Sula - the murder capital of the world. When my flight was delayed one and half hours I was tempted to worry a little bit since all our contact had been on Facebook. It was too late to turn back at that point because I was already in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Everything turned out fine as I continued to SOAR. I spoke at a family conference to over 600 people who came desiring to find hope in the difficulties they were facing with their children. 

While in Honduras, I began chatting on a daily basis with a new friend who felt a burden to pray for me. We started talking via Facebook messenger and determined that we should meet (in person) as soon as I got back home. I told him that it was a little like "You've Got Mail." I was joking about bringing a rose so he could recognize me. He brought the rose. He is a widower and I have been able to help him during his year of firsts as he rides waves to comfort in Jesus. Our love continues to grow as a precious gift from the Lord.

Focus on your word for 2017 and then get a crystal clear picture of what looks like. I am so happy that I chose to SOAR instead of complaining.

My word for 2017 is ABIDE. I will keep you posted on what upgrades come with that word and all it means in my life.

What is your word for 2017?

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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A JOY-Filled Year and Christmas - 2016

Karen Sebastian - Monday, December 26, 2016

A Joy-Filled Year and Christmas - 2016

I got everything that was on this list. 

I did NOT set the expectations of a perfect time with toddlers who didn't cry, teenagers who didn't roll their eyes or those who don't seem to enjoy each other sitting in absolute delight to be together. Instead, I relaxed and everyone else did as well.

How about you? What was your favorite moment? What's your favorite photo?

If a picture is worth a thousand words - then here is a slide show with many pictures. Feeling blessed! 

The Hope Lady



Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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Flooded with Light

Karen Sebastian - Friday, December 23, 2016

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident HOPE he has given those he called. Ephesians 1:18 (NLT)

These miniature houses are part of my Christmas decorations every year. They go up on my mantel. I was just sitting in my dark living room with nothing but the Christmas lights on. The very darkness made the light seem to flood these small dwellings.

It’s the same with our grief and sorrow. When we are in a dark place the smallest light can inspire HOPE and dispel the darkness. I love the words here that we can be flooded with light. That is my prayer for you today that you may be flooded with light that instills a confident hope in your spirit.

We can be confident in our hope because we know that good things are ahead.  Enjoy the lights this season with renewed, confident HOPE!

Merry Christmas from The Hope Lady.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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Making Room

Karen Sebastian - Monday, December 19, 2016

Making Room

God sets the solitary in families. Psalm 68:6

It’s almost Christmas! I love this beautiful time of the year when we can enjoy spending time with those we love. There is, however, another side to this coin. Many feel isolated and left out because they have no one to celebrate with during this season.

I got the following email a few years back from a friend.

“To be honest with you, I don’t have family available to spend the holidays with.  The holidays remind me of what I have had and what I have lost and what I had always hoped it would be and has not been.
I wish there was recognition for those that feel the same way I do.  All the widows and divorced people and those who have never been married and just wait out the passing of this holiday. I wonder what the percentage of happy versus unhappy people there are around Christmas time.
Please pray for all of us who deal with depression and loneliness during the holiday season.
Reality! I am lonely during this season.”

I decided to study the deeper meaning of Psalm 68:6. The context in the prior verse is the loving care that our Heavenly Father has for orphans and widows. He definitely has a special place in His heart for the lonely. Then verse 6 talks about how He sets the lonely in families. Literally, He causes the solitary (unique ones) to remain or sit with those belonging to a home or an extended family.

There are two sides to this issue. If your loved ones are close and you have plans to get together, look around for someone who is alone. Set an extra place at the table and enlarge your circle. If you are going to be alone, speak up and let someone know that you are ‘flying solo’ this year. I am happy to say that the person who wrote this email will be a part of our boisterous Christmas Eve celebration.

Here are some additional ideas of how to bless other lonely folks during this special time.

Visit a nursing home. There are dozens of people waiting for someone to come and talk to them.

Help a single parent. Offer to read to their kids while they shop and wrap presents. Borrow their kids and take them to the dollar movie.

Feed the homeless. You will feel very rich when you get home.

Volunteer in the nursery at church or in other areas such as the local children’s hospital.

Lord, I thank You for leaving Your comfort zone to put on an earth suit. I ask that You open our eyes to see the needs of those around us. May we make room around our tables and in our hearts for those who find themselves alone this year. I pray that those who are invited will accept and enjoy themselves. It’s so fun to be a part of Your plan. Amen.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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PEACE - Advent Journal Prompts - The Hope Lady - 4

Karen Sebastian - Sunday, December 18, 2016

Peace

To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God! And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God! Luke 2:14

The fourth Advent candle represents peace. Others call it the shepherd's candle. This verse combines the two concepts beautifully. 

When the angels first announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds they declared peace for all those who bring pleasure to God. At the time of Jesus' birth, shepherds were outcasts and were considered unclean. I love that God picked those others overlooked as the first ones to proclaim the good news that the Messiah had come. That certainly gives me a lot of hope!  

Here's the link to a beautiful version of Peace on Earth by Casting Crowns. 

Journal Prompts

Tell the story of a time when you needed peace and received it.

What was that process of restoration?

What difficult situations do you face right now?

How can peace begin with you in these circumstances?

Here is one of my favorite Christmas songs:

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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JOY - Advent Journal Prompts - The Hope Lady - 3

Karen Sebastian - Sunday, December 11, 2016

Joy

The deepest pains (sorrow) may linger through the night, but joy greets the soul with the smile of morning. Psalm 30:5 (Voice)

Christmas time can be especially hard for those who are mourning the death of a loved one. Perhaps this is in part because we have the expectation that everything should change because it's "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Every year I expect to feel differently at Christmas time and it is finally starting to happen. It should be a happy time but often it is not! What can make it harder is the deep sorrow that follows the death of a loved one.

Journal Prompt: Tell about a time when you had a difficult time at Christmas. 

Four years ago my husband moved to Heaven in September. While I was happy that he was no longer trapped in a body that had stopped working due to muscular dystrophy, the empty chair in the corner was a reminder that I had some mourning to do before joy would come. The tension comes from the juxtaposition (I know that's a big word!) of these two strong emotions - Sorrow and Joy! Just when the pain of loss and the sorrow threaten to overwhelm you during the dark times the sun does indeed come up the next morning. During the first Christmas without Bill, my late husband, I would take this verse very literally. Many times I would wake up crying and would ask the Lord to carry my sorrow and replace it with joy. That prayer worked every single time. I might cry again that night but found much joy during the events of the day.

Journal Prompt: What loss have you experienced that threatened to steal your joy? 

Is it just possible that you have not experienced true joy because you have not allowed yourself to fully feel sorrow? In our culture we don't see a lot of wailing and loud sobbing at funerals. Most of us who are adjusting to the loss of a loved one do our crying in the privacy of the shower or our back yard where no one can hear us. I encourage you to feel the depths of your pain with the full knowledge that there will be joy in the morning. It is a promise that He is serious about keeping. In the uncertainty of our world, I am especially grateful that Jesus came to bring joy  - not just at Christmas time but every day.

Journal Prompt: What brings you joy today? How can you make room for more joy? 

Joy to the World
Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing

Click here for all the journal prompts.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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And heaven and heaven and nature sing

LOVE - Advent Journal Prompts - The Hope Lady - 2

Karen Sebastian - Sunday, December 04, 2016

Love - Advent Journal Prompts

I had had it! I felt like I was doing it all on my own - writing the children's program at church, decorating my house and preparing for the annual Christmas party at our house. I had gone all out! There was a Christmas tree in every room. I walked through the rooms and thought about all the fighting with the kids to get their rooms clean. I had yelled at my daughter for putting too much of an ingredient in one of the dishes as she tried to help me. It was not my finest moment! I yelled at the kids at church for being kids and got in my car and drove home.

It was a hard lesson to learn that a perfect Christmas was not the goal. Love was the goal. I shifted from perfection to relationships. I knew that as I relaxed others would too. I repented of my drive to try to make the world think I was something that I was not. 

Learn to let go of perfection

The first Christmas was truly messy and smelly. Jesus was born in a stable and the first visitors were lowly shepherds who probably had body odor and smelled of dirty sheep.

Journal Prompt: Describe a memory that started out as a mess and became the best time ever.

Open your heart to those who might not have a place to go

One of the best Christmas times was the year that my kids invited their friends to come who had no place to go. We laughed and learned about their traditions.

Journal Prompt: Describe a time  when you were invited to celebrate when you h ad no where to go.

Value what everyone brings to the table

Let go of unrealistic expectations that everyone will be transformed during this special time. Aunt Susie will continue to be hard of hearing and hard to please. Uncle Tommy will continue to complain about how awful kids are these days. You get the picture.

Journal Prompt: Describe a difficult family member and mention their redeeming qualities.

Express your love

A new friend was with me one day when I took care of my granddaughter. After the precious little girl went home, she turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, "Viola heard 'I love you' more times in a couple hours than I heard my entire life." Don't let that be your legacy. Speak the three words freely.

Journal Prompt: What are the most original ways you can say 'I love you'?

Away in a Manger


Away in a manger,
No crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay. 

The cattle are lowing
The Baby awakes
The little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle
til morning is nigh. 

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there.


Click here for all the journal prompts.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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Advent Journal Prompts - The Hope Lady

Karen Sebastian - Friday, December 02, 2016
Advent Journal Prompts
1 - HOPE
2 - LOVE

Hope - Advent Journal Prompts - The Hope Lady 1

Karen Sebastian - Thursday, December 01, 2016

Hope

Hope is the confident expectation that good is coming no matter how dark it seems. We are living in a dark world that could easily discourage us. If this is the first Christmas without a loved one, you might be wondering how you should be feeling. Give yourself permission to fully embrace tears and laughter. (Sometimes at the same time.)

The first advent candle represents HOPE and all week I have been thinking of hope. There is no better time than the time before we begin the hectic rush of Christmas to reflect on hope. Hope is the confident expectation that good things are ahead. Here's an acrostic for hope for this season (especially for those who are grieving).

Have confidence in the future

Life can be tough. I know many who are mourning the death of loved ones this last week. Others are feeling sad as they "ride waves" of sorrow and they feel stuck in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The shadows of grief can feel overwhelming. Keep walking toward the light of the future. Let the lights of Christmas all around you remind you that the light of the world came into a very dark world to bring hope.

Journal Prompt: What do you want to do in the coming year?

Open your heart to new experiences

Set aside old traditions and start some new ones. Ask your loved ones which traditions are most meaningful to them. Honor their requests and participate fully (or not). Give yourself permission to use your strength wisely and feel free to turn down invitations to events you might have enjoyed in the past. On the other hand, keep in mind that the loved one who is now in Heaven would want you to have a good time. Sometime honoring a loved one comes in the shape of having a ball! Try something outrageous and unexpected.

Journal Prompt: A new tradition we will be starting this year is ___________________.

Prepare for waves

Mourning consists of waves of sorrow. You never know for sure when a wave will hit. It seems that especially around the holidays that grief that has not been dealt with or new nuances of what you missed about your loved one. I remember getting hit in the grocery store with a wave on the olive aisle of the grocery store.

Journal Prompt: What unusual mourning wave have you experienced this week as you thought about the holidays? 

Expect the best

After the death of someone close, you can be reticent to fully enjoy life. It might seem like you are not honoring the one who is absent. The truth is that your loved one would want you to be happy and fulfilled. The best is yet to come based on the foundation of your love for your loved one. This is a new day -- the best is yet to come. You are still alive so enjoy the gift you've been given.

Journal Prompt: What is the greatest gift you could receive?

During this Christmas season I am so glad for the glorious songs that can be heard no matter where we go. Oh Holy Night is my favorite because it rings with hope and light. During the years that my husband and I served as pastors we would sing this special song as a duet every year. Here are the words so you can enjoy them with me.

Oh holy night

Oh holy night - the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt it's worth 
The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morhn
Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel chorus
Oh hear the angel voices Oh night divine! 
Oh night when Christ was born. 
John Sullivan Dwight; Adolphe Charles Adam; Placide Cappeau

Additional Journal Prompts

What Christmas song fills you most with hope? 

What words jump out at you every time you sing them?

What do you miss most about your loved one who is now in Heaven?

What tradition reminds you most of them?

What new adventure are you going to initiate this season?

Click here for all the journal prompts.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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Hopegrams

Hope Rays

Learning to ABIDE in 2017

Karen Sebastian - Friday, January 06, 2017

Learning to ABIDE

Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. A branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the vine, and neither will you if you are not connected to Me.  John 15:4 Voice

I was a disappointed when I first felt impressed that my word for 2017 was ABIDE. Last year's was much cooler - or so it seemed at the time. You see last year was SOAR. I was challenged to leave behind all that was comfortable and take some big leaps of faith. I traveled extensively and fulfilled some of the vision for my life. It was an exciting (and exhausting) time.

As I look at the Greek word for ABIDE I come up with many nuances that hold tremendous potential and possibilities for the coming year and beyond:


  1. Remain or stay in one place
  2. Enjoy as I grow in endurance
  3. Continue to be present
  4. To be held or kept
  5. Survive, thrive and live
  6. Remain as one
  7. Stay constant without changing or becoming a different person
  8. Wait
One of the greatest challenges in my life is to finish what I have started. In theory, this should be much easier when traveling but it just doesn't seem to happen. Several doors seem to be closing for me and it is time to stay in one place long enough to accomplish them. 

There are things that only I can do and I must choose to dedicate my time to fulfilling them. It is time to stop putting my projects aside in order to assist others. Serving is wonderful, yet can keep you from your own assignments. 

There will be more posts on this topic as I listen carefully to what ABIDE means in my life. I am looking forward to the wait in silence and a deeper flow of His life in Me. It may look like nothing is happening on the outside but much is flowing and growing.

Prayer

Lord, thank You for the reminder that activity for its own sake is not enough. I choose to listen more carefully to Your voice in the midst of it all. I quiet my heart to receive the flow of Your strength and insight. I press in to the enjoyment of Your presence in the solitude and quiet times. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

 Facebook  | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter | Home 

SOARING in 2016

Karen Sebastian - Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Soaring in 2016

My friend Susan Shipe challenged me at the beginning of last year to pick a word for the year. I had not done that before. Once I started thinking about it, it seemed like everywhere I looked people were talking about their word for the year. I started asking the Lord about it and felt that my word was SOAR.

A funny story with that one is that when I started sharing it people thought I was saying SORE. I was in fact still sore from the sting of death from the death of my husband (four years earlier) and the failure of a long distance relationship. At the time, it seemed more appealing to speak of the pain than any future possibilities. I could get a lot of sympathy on both counts which kept me stuck in a negative pattern.

The difference a word can make

As I began to share with others that my word was "SOAR - as in an eagle" -- my words began to transform my perspective. If I was SORE it was a good thing because it showed me that I was using new muscles of trust and confidence for a shift in my life.
If I was going to SOAR I needed to stop complaining. 
If I was going to SOAR I needed to begin to look for opportunities that I had missed before. 
If I was going to  SOAR I needed to blow the lid off all perceived limitations. 
If I was going to SOAR I was going to need to change from my limited perception to the viewpoint of an eagle.

Dramatic changes came from discovering what my word looked like to me

When I took the time to define what it would look like to SOAR, it meant that I wanted to travel, share HOPE in Spanish-speaking countries in order to use my gift of speaking Spanish fluently and fall in love (with someone who loved me back). I gained crystal focus and booked a trip to Costa Rica (where I grew up) for the end of January on my airline miles. I had little extra cash so I boldly asked a friend if I could stay with her. She said 'yes' and so my adventures started. That started the flow of travel for me. I also went to Nicaragua, Honduras, Bolivia and California.

I contacted a friend in Honduras and asked her when would be the best time to take her up on her offer to stay with her if I ever came down. I had used up my airline miles so I booked a flight on Spirit Airlines with a three week stay in San Pedro Sula - the murder capital of the world. When my flight was delayed one and half hours I was tempted to worry a little bit since all our contact had been on Facebook. It was too late to turn back at that point because I was already in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Everything turned out fine as I continued to SOAR. I spoke at a family conference to over 600 people who came desiring to find hope in the difficulties they were facing with their children. 

While in Honduras, I began chatting on a daily basis with a new friend who felt a burden to pray for me. We started talking via Facebook messenger and determined that we should meet (in person) as soon as I got back home. I told him that it was a little like "You've Got Mail." I was joking about bringing a rose so he could recognize me. He brought the rose. He is a widower and I have been able to help him during his year of firsts as he rides waves to comfort in Jesus. Our love continues to grow as a precious gift from the Lord.

Focus on your word for 2017 and then get a crystal clear picture of what looks like. I am so happy that I chose to SOAR instead of complaining.

My word for 2017 is ABIDE. I will keep you posted on what upgrades come with that word and all it means in my life.

What is your word for 2017?

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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A JOY-Filled Year and Christmas - 2016

Karen Sebastian - Monday, December 26, 2016

A Joy-Filled Year and Christmas - 2016

I got everything that was on this list. 

I did NOT set the expectations of a perfect time with toddlers who didn't cry, teenagers who didn't roll their eyes or those who don't seem to enjoy each other sitting in absolute delight to be together. Instead, I relaxed and everyone else did as well.

How about you? What was your favorite moment? What's your favorite photo?

If a picture is worth a thousand words - then here is a slide show with many pictures. Feeling blessed! 

The Hope Lady



Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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Flooded with Light

Karen Sebastian - Friday, December 23, 2016

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident HOPE he has given those he called. Ephesians 1:18 (NLT)

These miniature houses are part of my Christmas decorations every year. They go up on my mantel. I was just sitting in my dark living room with nothing but the Christmas lights on. The very darkness made the light seem to flood these small dwellings.

It’s the same with our grief and sorrow. When we are in a dark place the smallest light can inspire HOPE and dispel the darkness. I love the words here that we can be flooded with light. That is my prayer for you today that you may be flooded with light that instills a confident hope in your spirit.

We can be confident in our hope because we know that good things are ahead.  Enjoy the lights this season with renewed, confident HOPE!

Merry Christmas from The Hope Lady.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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Making Room

Karen Sebastian - Monday, December 19, 2016

Making Room

God sets the solitary in families. Psalm 68:6

It’s almost Christmas! I love this beautiful time of the year when we can enjoy spending time with those we love. There is, however, another side to this coin. Many feel isolated and left out because they have no one to celebrate with during this season.

I got the following email a few years back from a friend.

“To be honest with you, I don’t have family available to spend the holidays with.  The holidays remind me of what I have had and what I have lost and what I had always hoped it would be and has not been.
I wish there was recognition for those that feel the same way I do.  All the widows and divorced people and those who have never been married and just wait out the passing of this holiday. I wonder what the percentage of happy versus unhappy people there are around Christmas time.
Please pray for all of us who deal with depression and loneliness during the holiday season.
Reality! I am lonely during this season.”

I decided to study the deeper meaning of Psalm 68:6. The context in the prior verse is the loving care that our Heavenly Father has for orphans and widows. He definitely has a special place in His heart for the lonely. Then verse 6 talks about how He sets the lonely in families. Literally, He causes the solitary (unique ones) to remain or sit with those belonging to a home or an extended family.

There are two sides to this issue. If your loved ones are close and you have plans to get together, look around for someone who is alone. Set an extra place at the table and enlarge your circle. If you are going to be alone, speak up and let someone know that you are ‘flying solo’ this year. I am happy to say that the person who wrote this email will be a part of our boisterous Christmas Eve celebration.

Here are some additional ideas of how to bless other lonely folks during this special time.

Visit a nursing home. There are dozens of people waiting for someone to come and talk to them.

Help a single parent. Offer to read to their kids while they shop and wrap presents. Borrow their kids and take them to the dollar movie.

Feed the homeless. You will feel very rich when you get home.

Volunteer in the nursery at church or in other areas such as the local children’s hospital.

Lord, I thank You for leaving Your comfort zone to put on an earth suit. I ask that You open our eyes to see the needs of those around us. May we make room around our tables and in our hearts for those who find themselves alone this year. I pray that those who are invited will accept and enjoy themselves. It’s so fun to be a part of Your plan. Amen.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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PEACE - Advent Journal Prompts - The Hope Lady - 4

Karen Sebastian - Sunday, December 18, 2016

Peace

To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God! And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God! Luke 2:14

The fourth Advent candle represents peace. Others call it the shepherd's candle. This verse combines the two concepts beautifully. 

When the angels first announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds they declared peace for all those who bring pleasure to God. At the time of Jesus' birth, shepherds were outcasts and were considered unclean. I love that God picked those others overlooked as the first ones to proclaim the good news that the Messiah had come. That certainly gives me a lot of hope!  

Here's the link to a beautiful version of Peace on Earth by Casting Crowns. 

Journal Prompts

Tell the story of a time when you needed peace and received it.

What was that process of restoration?

What difficult situations do you face right now?

How can peace begin with you in these circumstances?

Here is one of my favorite Christmas songs:

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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JOY - Advent Journal Prompts - The Hope Lady - 3

Karen Sebastian - Sunday, December 11, 2016

Joy

The deepest pains (sorrow) may linger through the night, but joy greets the soul with the smile of morning. Psalm 30:5 (Voice)

Christmas time can be especially hard for those who are mourning the death of a loved one. Perhaps this is in part because we have the expectation that everything should change because it's "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Every year I expect to feel differently at Christmas time and it is finally starting to happen. It should be a happy time but often it is not! What can make it harder is the deep sorrow that follows the death of a loved one.

Journal Prompt: Tell about a time when you had a difficult time at Christmas. 

Four years ago my husband moved to Heaven in September. While I was happy that he was no longer trapped in a body that had stopped working due to muscular dystrophy, the empty chair in the corner was a reminder that I had some mourning to do before joy would come. The tension comes from the juxtaposition (I know that's a big word!) of these two strong emotions - Sorrow and Joy! Just when the pain of loss and the sorrow threaten to overwhelm you during the dark times the sun does indeed come up the next morning. During the first Christmas without Bill, my late husband, I would take this verse very literally. Many times I would wake up crying and would ask the Lord to carry my sorrow and replace it with joy. That prayer worked every single time. I might cry again that night but found much joy during the events of the day.

Journal Prompt: What loss have you experienced that threatened to steal your joy? 

Is it just possible that you have not experienced true joy because you have not allowed yourself to fully feel sorrow? In our culture we don't see a lot of wailing and loud sobbing at funerals. Most of us who are adjusting to the loss of a loved one do our crying in the privacy of the shower or our back yard where no one can hear us. I encourage you to feel the depths of your pain with the full knowledge that there will be joy in the morning. It is a promise that He is serious about keeping. In the uncertainty of our world, I am especially grateful that Jesus came to bring joy  - not just at Christmas time but every day.

Journal Prompt: What brings you joy today? How can you make room for more joy? 

Joy to the World
Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing

Click here for all the journal prompts.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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And heaven and heaven and nature sing

LOVE - Advent Journal Prompts - The Hope Lady - 2

Karen Sebastian - Sunday, December 04, 2016

Love - Advent Journal Prompts

I had had it! I felt like I was doing it all on my own - writing the children's program at church, decorating my house and preparing for the annual Christmas party at our house. I had gone all out! There was a Christmas tree in every room. I walked through the rooms and thought about all the fighting with the kids to get their rooms clean. I had yelled at my daughter for putting too much of an ingredient in one of the dishes as she tried to help me. It was not my finest moment! I yelled at the kids at church for being kids and got in my car and drove home.

It was a hard lesson to learn that a perfect Christmas was not the goal. Love was the goal. I shifted from perfection to relationships. I knew that as I relaxed others would too. I repented of my drive to try to make the world think I was something that I was not. 

Learn to let go of perfection

The first Christmas was truly messy and smelly. Jesus was born in a stable and the first visitors were lowly shepherds who probably had body odor and smelled of dirty sheep.

Journal Prompt: Describe a memory that started out as a mess and became the best time ever.

Open your heart to those who might not have a place to go

One of the best Christmas times was the year that my kids invited their friends to come who had no place to go. We laughed and learned about their traditions.

Journal Prompt: Describe a time  when you were invited to celebrate when you h ad no where to go.

Value what everyone brings to the table

Let go of unrealistic expectations that everyone will be transformed during this special time. Aunt Susie will continue to be hard of hearing and hard to please. Uncle Tommy will continue to complain about how awful kids are these days. You get the picture.

Journal Prompt: Describe a difficult family member and mention their redeeming qualities.

Express your love

A new friend was with me one day when I took care of my granddaughter. After the precious little girl went home, she turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, "Viola heard 'I love you' more times in a couple hours than I heard my entire life." Don't let that be your legacy. Speak the three words freely.

Journal Prompt: What are the most original ways you can say 'I love you'?

Away in a Manger


Away in a manger,
No crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay. 

The cattle are lowing
The Baby awakes
The little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle
til morning is nigh. 

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there.


Click here for all the journal prompts.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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Advent Journal Prompts - The Hope Lady

Karen Sebastian - Friday, December 02, 2016
Advent Journal Prompts
1 - HOPE
2 - LOVE

Hope - Advent Journal Prompts - The Hope Lady 1

Karen Sebastian - Thursday, December 01, 2016

Hope

Hope is the confident expectation that good is coming no matter how dark it seems. We are living in a dark world that could easily discourage us. If this is the first Christmas without a loved one, you might be wondering how you should be feeling. Give yourself permission to fully embrace tears and laughter. (Sometimes at the same time.)

The first advent candle represents HOPE and all week I have been thinking of hope. There is no better time than the time before we begin the hectic rush of Christmas to reflect on hope. Hope is the confident expectation that good things are ahead. Here's an acrostic for hope for this season (especially for those who are grieving).

Have confidence in the future

Life can be tough. I know many who are mourning the death of loved ones this last week. Others are feeling sad as they "ride waves" of sorrow and they feel stuck in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The shadows of grief can feel overwhelming. Keep walking toward the light of the future. Let the lights of Christmas all around you remind you that the light of the world came into a very dark world to bring hope.

Journal Prompt: What do you want to do in the coming year?

Open your heart to new experiences

Set aside old traditions and start some new ones. Ask your loved ones which traditions are most meaningful to them. Honor their requests and participate fully (or not). Give yourself permission to use your strength wisely and feel free to turn down invitations to events you might have enjoyed in the past. On the other hand, keep in mind that the loved one who is now in Heaven would want you to have a good time. Sometime honoring a loved one comes in the shape of having a ball! Try something outrageous and unexpected.

Journal Prompt: A new tradition we will be starting this year is ___________________.

Prepare for waves

Mourning consists of waves of sorrow. You never know for sure when a wave will hit. It seems that especially around the holidays that grief that has not been dealt with or new nuances of what you missed about your loved one. I remember getting hit in the grocery store with a wave on the olive aisle of the grocery store.

Journal Prompt: What unusual mourning wave have you experienced this week as you thought about the holidays? 

Expect the best

After the death of someone close, you can be reticent to fully enjoy life. It might seem like you are not honoring the one who is absent. The truth is that your loved one would want you to be happy and fulfilled. The best is yet to come based on the foundation of your love for your loved one. This is a new day -- the best is yet to come. You are still alive so enjoy the gift you've been given.

Journal Prompt: What is the greatest gift you could receive?

During this Christmas season I am so glad for the glorious songs that can be heard no matter where we go. Oh Holy Night is my favorite because it rings with hope and light. During the years that my husband and I served as pastors we would sing this special song as a duet every year. Here are the words so you can enjoy them with me.

Oh holy night

Oh holy night - the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt it's worth 
The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morhn
Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel chorus
Oh hear the angel voices Oh night divine! 
Oh night when Christ was born. 
John Sullivan Dwight; Adolphe Charles Adam; Placide Cappeau

Additional Journal Prompts

What Christmas song fills you most with hope? 

What words jump out at you every time you sing them?

What do you miss most about your loved one who is now in Heaven?

What tradition reminds you most of them?

What new adventure are you going to initiate this season?

Click here for all the journal prompts.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. Her books will inspire you to embrace hope no matter what you are going through. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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