Category: Hope

Perfect love at Christmas

Christmas card cartoon

We’ve come to the final week of the Advent season. If you’ve missed the previous posts, you can check them out now. I’ve written about hope, peace, and joy in the past three weeks.

This last week focuses on love. I’m sharing one more cartoon from my Christmas card archives. The one shown above pokes a little fun at all the trouble we go to in the name of love for our friends and family. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things just don’t work out as planned. And doesn’t that seem to be the case especially at Christmastime?

The best of intentions

We have the best of intentions of showing our loved ones how much we care. We’re going to get our cards out early. We’re going to find and buy that perfect gift and cook the perfect Christmas dinner. But sometimes—maybe it feels like most of the time— things happen to make it less than what we dreamed it would be.

But love isn’t about performing, buying, decorating, or any of those things—as good as they might be. Love is found simply in the offering.

The best of gifts

In the gospel of Luke, we read that the angels announced the good news of a Savior to shepherds out in the fields. It was God’s announcement of His gift—His offering of love to all mankind.

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).

It was the announcement that the world had been waiting for—the gift of life and love from the Creator and sustainer of life had arrived. Everything wasn’t perfect. Far from it. The first Christmas must have been a difficult, inconvenient experience for nearly everyone involved. But the tiny gift that was delivered that night changed the world for all time.

Today, when we allow true love to enter our lives, it changes everything. My hope for everyone reading this is that you will experience the true love of your Creator this season.

Thank you for reading these Advent posts and for visiting with us here at Inspiring Handmade. Merry Christmas!

sketch
Sketch to final art

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A hippopotamus for Christmas?

Remember that song, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”? It was a novelty song written by John Roxby. The version most of us know is the original recording by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey, which climbed to number 24 on Billboard magazine’s pop chart in December of 1953. Through the years, the song has been covered by a wide range of entertainers, from The Three Stooges to Captain Kangaroo to the Jonas Brothers.

As I’ve been thinking about this first week of the season of Advent, a hippopotamus, of all things, has been on my mind. I’ve started sketching what I think she looks like. She’s not the one Gayla sang about, though. This hippo’s name is Hope. I’m calling her, “Hope, the Hopeful Hippo.” And she reminds me of the season of Advent because it’s a season of hope.
From children hoping for that special gift, to parents and grandparents hoping to gather far-flung family members home for a visit, hope is a central theme of Advent and the Christmas season.

But the deepest hope of Advent is not the common, sometimes vain, kind of hope that we experience every day, as in, “I hope it doesn’t rain before I get the grocery shopping done,” or “I hope this checkout line I’ve committed to will move quickly.”
No, it’s an expectant hope, anticipation rooted in trusting that something wonderful is about to happen. Do you know the kind of hope I mean?
The deepest hope of Advent is based on the promises of God. Bible scholars have identified more than 500 verses that refer directly to a promised personal Messiah. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah contains several references to Him. The promised arrival of a Savior, a Rescuer of God’s people is one of the primary themes of the Old Testament. The revelation of Jesus Christ as that Messiah—Emmanuel, God with us—and the invitation to trust Him for this life and life in eternity is the message of the New Testament.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Our Rescuer, in John 10:10

Through Jesus, God has rescued us from our rebellious natures. The guilt and shame of our past—every decision, action, and careless word that we regret—all those and more are no longer counted against us at the very moment we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, our Rescuer. At that moment God declares us “not guilty!“ And at that moment, hope, the surest hope in the universe, comes rushing in.
Did you know that godly Hope also has a twin sister? Her name is Assurance. And they’re inseparable because wherever godly Hope is, you’ll find Assurance. So when Hope moves in at that moment of our renewal through Christ, Assurance is right there with her—Assurance of forgiveness; Assurance of eternal life; Assurance of God‘s power through the Holy Spirit to help us live the life He intends for us. Assurance that God loves us—so much.
And if you want proof of that love, look no further than a lowly manger where, more than 2,000 years ago, God sent his one and only gift of supreme love, special delivery, to light up a dark world. That’s the Hope—and Assurance—of Advent and the Christmas season.

Well, if you’ve got that hippopotamus song stuck in your head now, you might be interested to learn a little more about how it came to be, and what Gayla Peevey did after her big hit. You can do just that at her website (which may be in the running for the world’s longest URL): www.iwantahippopotamusforchristmas.net. You can also see 10-year-old (and the more current 73-year-old) Gayla performing the song in the video below.

Hope, the Hopeful Hippo just might break out of the sketchbook to become a carving in the same family as Percy the Perserving Rooster. Stay tuned!


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What are you fishing for?

"Fishing with My Dad" wire and paper sculpture

As the summer winds down, school has started, or will soon start for students and families everywhere. There’s a rhythm to a new school year, isn’t there? The relatively relaxed pace of summer seems to reluctantly give way to the regimen of academic and athletic schedules. New books to read, new project deadlines, practices and games, and of course, the ever-quickening march toward Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and Christmas all take the place of slow, long days of sleeping in and staying up late. All of which can cause us to rush to squeeze in that last experience of summer freedom around this time of year.

Patti’s sculpture, Fishing with my Dad, part of her Wire People series, reminds me of this. Fishing just goes with lazy summer days like peanut butter goes with jelly. I’ve fished a little and I know there are those who take the sport quite seriously, but to my mind, there’s not a more low-key, relaxed activity that lets you still claim to actually be accomplishing something, or at least trying to. That probably doesn’t apply when you’re reeling one in, as the characters in this sculpture are doing.

And this time of year, a time of transition, finds many of us anticipating something. In a way, we’re all fishing. We’re standing at the water’s edge. You know the water’s edge? Where the land ends and the water and all that’s unknown under its surface, begins. That’s where we are in this season. We’re standing at autumn’s edge, where the summer ends and the autumn begins—autumn, and all that’s unknown, and yet to come in the course of its days. And we’re fishing. We’re looking, hoping for something.

Maybe it’s that last celebration of summer. Maybe we feel that summer slipped by too fast and we want to get the family away just one more time. We want to catch one more big one for the scrapbook, or Facebook, or Instagram feed, if you prefer.

Perhaps we’re looking ahead, casting out in front of us. Students might be fishing for a better school year. Teachers may be dropping in their lines hoping to pull up an engaged, motivated class. Parents may be angling for some balance between academics, extracurricular activities, and family time. Newly minted sixteen-year-olds may be casting about for a job, or their first car. But we’re all standing here, at the edge, fishing, hoping for something. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

We’re all standing here, at the edge, fishing, hoping for something.

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible, and for good reason. It’s full of encouragement for those fishing for hope. It’s been cross-stitched on pillows and engraved on plaques and signs. And without a single survey to back up this statement, I’d speculate that it’s nearly as well known to a Christian audience as John 3:16.

But the backdrop of the verse is one of pain and suffering. It’s actually part of a letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the Jews who had been taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar and who were now living as exiles in Babylon. God was using their defeat and captivity at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians to punish them for their rebellion and their many years of worshipping false gods. And yet, even in the midst of disciplining His own people, God gave them a promise and a reason for hope. They were told to live their lives in their new city, to grow their families, and to pray for and help their city to prosper. Then in verse 10, Jeremiah wrote these words of The Lord, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My good promise to bring you back to this place.” His next sentence was the encouraging verse 11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares The Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Fishing for, and finding, hope in the midst of trials and despair was (and still is) possible because it’s The Lord Himself who promises good things for our future.

No matter what we’ve experienced in the past year, we stand at the edge of autumn and all the unknown that lies before us. And we’re fishing—and hoping, and trusting, or at least trying to.

A generation or two before Jeremiah, the prophet Isaiah looked around and saw that no one was as powerful and as caring as The Lord. So he wrote these words, which will be my mantra as I stand at this autumn’s edge. Maybe they’ll inspire you, too. “But those who trust in The Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NLT).

Tight lines and a great catch to you!