Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Sweet Story

(That's me on the left with my friend Angela)

By Melissa Simspson
Back on July 16, the day that the first HOPE e-newsletter released, my best friend Angela sent me an email to see if I could come to her house because she had something to give me. When I got there, she came out with a card and a gift. Though Angela is a pediatric clinical nurse specialist by profession and not a member of the HOPE staff, she has been with me through the ups and downs of getting the newsletter and eventually the print relaunch of HOPE going. My husband Kevin has been there too, but with him (bless his heart!), I have to explain the deep significance of all that has happened and sometimes he still doesn’t quite get it. Maybe it’s a “man thing”! Or rather, maybe it’s a “girlfriend thing” that Angela has understood it all without my having to say a single word to explain it and, at times, has even articulated it better than I could myself.

Anyway, the card attached to my gift was all about God’s timing, and inside the box was a Cadbury Crunchie Bar. Crunchie Bars became my VERY favorite candy bar after I first ate one in London, but they are hard to find in the U.S. Angela works at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, and because they have many international doctors and nurses who work there, the hospital gift shop often carries European candy. That’s where she found the Crunchie Bar.
When I saw what was in the box, I laughed until I nearly cried. She’d had the candy bar for a week or so and the card for even longer—all because she knew the newsletter was about to come out and that was how she wanted to congratulate me. Other people might see it as just a candy bar, but because Angela knew that I love Crunchie bars and rarely get them, it was the perfect gift from one friend to another—and perfect for a time of celebration.

Certainly, one of God’s greatest blessings to me is my friendship with Angela. We are two very different, very imperfect women whose paths crossed at just the right time for a sacred friendship to develop. The rest has been—and will become—a very sweet history.
What about you? Has a friend ever done something for you that was especially meaningful? We’d love to hear about it!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Keeping it Real

By Kathryn Whitbourne, Senior and Web Editor

When I started writing for Hope for Women, Angie, the publisher, shared with me her vision for making this magazine a place for Christian women which would be real and truthful about living a faith-filled life. I thought this was a great concept. So often we as Christians have a hard time being real with each other. We all know the “correct” answer to the question (”You just need to read your Bible and pray more”) but if we are not doing it, no one will say it.

I am in two Bible study classes — one is part of the large church I attend and meets on Sunday mornings. The other is a group of women who meet at someone’s house every other Saturday. I am struck by the differences in what people say. While my Sunday morning class seems to be an honest group, and are ready to share their trials and problems, everyone confidently proclaims the goodness of God in their lives. I’ve never heard anyone say they were struggling with this. By contrast, at the Saturday group, one week a woman said, “I know God is supposed to be first in my life but honestly when I have a problem the first person I turn to is my husband.”
I was very glad she said that. Because I too have had that conflict where my experience of God doesn’t match what everyone else says they are having. How do you work through it? I wish church was more of a place where people could voice concerns like that, because how else will you grow if you can’t?

I trust Hope for Women magazine will be a safe place where people can talk about all their faith issues both celebratory and doubt-filled and grow as we continue to let God work on us all.

Which one are you?

By Syrone Harvey, Executive Editor

Recently I bumped into an old friend that I hadn’t seen for a long time. Amidst hugs and squeals of, “Wow! You look great! It’s been so long!…” it all came to a screeching halt when I realized that my friend had no idea who I was. It became even more apparent when she asked, “So, which one are you?” I was a little disappointed but I answered her anyway, “I’m Syrone. Remember?” Of course she didn’t but she kept up the chatter until we finally parted with, “We’ll have to get together soon.” I guess I should’ve spoken up, but growing up as an identical twin, this was an all too familiar scenario.

When we were growing up, my twin sister, Simone and I were used to the stares, quizzical looks and curious questions, but neither of us thought it was acceptable that no one took the time to recognize us as individuals. It didn’t matter that I loved liver and onions but Simone hated it. No one realized that while I had a mole, (beauty mark) by my nose, my twin had been blessed with deep, expressive dimples. Aside from family, everyone lumped us together as one including our teachers who casually referred to us as ‘the twins’ simply because they couldn’t tell us apart.
Today, I am forever grateful that beyond my parents, sisters, family, close friends and my high school sweetheart, Michael (whom I later married) my heavenly Father never had to look twice or wonder ‘which one was which’. He was aware of our differences even before we were conceived.

As the Executive Editor of Hope for Women magazine, it is my desire that you will recognize your importance, value and significance to us. YOU are the voice and the image behind Hope for Women. We are committed to delivering a publication that will become a cherished and familiar friend. Somehow, with God’s help, I aspire to eventually meet each and every one of our subscribers, supporters and friends. I promise that Hope will be a magazine that is both friendly and easily recognizable. You will truly be inspired. Just remember, with Hope we’ll never ask, “Which one is which?” You matter. Without Him, (and you), there would be no Hope. Blessings to you____________!! (Fill in your name)

In the Hallway

Melissa Simpson, Managing Editor

“You should send something to Hope for Women magazine,” emailed Marie, a new friend for whom I was writing a piece for a local magazine. The next thing I knew, I was an editor of Hope.
Well, maybe it didn’t happen quite that fast. But it seems like it did. Within weeks of my initial contact with Hope, I received an email inviting me to be part of the creative team, and my involvement quickly transitioned into an editorial staff position. Before long, I was editing copy, participating in conference call meetings, and making real decisions for a real magazine.
I don’t know why those who invited me to be on the Hope team in March 2008 did. I don’t have a publishing background, unless you count one published book and a few academic articles, plus a journalism award or two in high school and a college “background.” What I do know is something a friend of mind often says: “When God closes a door, He opens a window, but sometimes it’s hell in the hallway.”

In March 2008, I was in the hallway. Trying to break into Christian publishing with a women’s Bible study I’d written, I experienced rejection after rejection. And as we all know, rejection stinks. Satan was using it to tell me God didn’t want me to be successful, my work would never be good enough, and I would never be good enough. Still, beneath the burden of failure was a spark of hope. I wrote this to Marie before I was ever asked to join Hope:
“My lack of success has even caused me to question God’s prompting me to write for Christian publications, but every time I have doubted, He has made that prompting even more intense. That kind of confirmation can be frustrating when success is elusive! But I do know that His timing is perfect—it’s my perseverance that isn’t.”

Taking into account the fact that my publishing background is limited, my successes in Christian publishing were nonexistent, and I hadn’t even heard of Hope before meeting Marie, how in the world did I end up on staff? God opened a window. The same God who sent His Son to die for us “at just the right time” (Romans 5:6) makes things happen we can’t make happen, and He enables us do things it appears we can’t do—at just the right time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Journey of Hope!

When I started Hope for Women, I always made it clear that it was never about me. I knew from the day that I accepted the Christ in my life that I had a special ministry: outreach. However, I had no clue what God had in mind.

My sister-in-law Terri and I were talking on the phone one evening and, I shared my dream and vision to one day publish a magazine. At that point, I had never shared it with anyone. She told me that I would one day become the Christian version of Oprah! Was that powerful or what? I was amazed that she had that much confidence in her little sister! Family can really boost you up, and she was an encouraging force behind my decision to step out in faith to launch Hope for Women.

She also gave me the contact information of a gentleman named Steven, a journalism instructor who attended the church where she grew up and who had successfully worked with various magazines. I scheduled a meeting with Steven in 2000 to discuss my dream and vision for the magazine.

I remember how nervous I was to meet Steven that evening for dinner to discuss the magazine. During this time, I had extremely low self-esteem, I was trying to find myself again and definitely didn’t think I was qualified to publish a magazine. Steven didn’t say much as I shared my vision for the magazine. But what he told me in the final minutes of our conversation was powerful. Most of the evening, I tried to convince him and myself that I didn’t have any experience or a degree in publishing. He told me that I didn’t need a degree to pursue my dream; I just needed faith in God. WOW! As I think back, I realize that statement has been a rock in some of my most difficult times!

That evening was the last I heard from Steven until the summer of 2005. Soon after the meeting, I told myself that I couldn’t invest my time in a magazine, and I put my dream on the shelf. However, later that year, after the deaths of both of my grandmother and father within 2 months, I realized how short life is. Inspired by the books The Purpose Driven Life and The Dream Giver, I immediately knew God was speaking to me about Hope for Women, and I tried very hard to get out of doing it. Instead, I did an 8-page newsletter to be distributed to 50-100 women. But God was saying, “Bigger!” Finally, as I was speaking to someone about the newsletter, she said, “Why are you wasting your time doing a newsletter when God already told you to do a magazine?” From that point on, I focused on a magazine.

I had no clue what I was doing, and I didn’t know what God was doing in my life. Nevertheless, that day was the start of a new beginning for me. In December 2008, it will 3 years since that day. Since then, I have suffered through many things. I have cried myself to sleep and cried when I woke up. Having nearly lost everything, I have felt like the world was caving in on me on numerous occasions. Someone told me along the way that if the only things I had were faith and hope, then I didn’t have anything. That person was so wrong! Hope is about you and me! This is our journey! If we have faith and hope, we have EVERYTHING!

I was able to reconnect with Steven in the summer of 2005. At our second meeting, we discussed the name for the publication. At that time, I looked inside my heart and spirit and focused on myself as an individual. What in my life could I draw from in order to inspire other women and maybe even men? What did I want readers to know?

Immediately, I knew: I wanted to speak to the woman who was sexually abused by relatives or others. I wanted to speak to that same woman who lived with the silence and suffered low self-esteem, weight gain, and guilt from the traumatic events in her life. I wanted to speak to the friend who supported others through the guilt and shame of an abortion. I wanted to speak to the woman who left one abusive relationship only to jump into another. I wanted to speak to the woman who watched her sister in the Lord lose her battle to cancer. I wanted to speak to the woman who watched her loved one become addicted to drugs and saw the addiction nearly destroy a family.

I looked at Steven and said, “The message I want to share with women is that through all the adversities that they may face in this life…there always remains HOPE for women!”

This is my journey of hope.