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  • Writer's pictureAshley Thomas

Year Nine: Receive

Have you been with Hope Street since the beginning? A common question I am asked. Considering in 1999 I was 10 years old, the answer is no. Although now that I am coming up on a decade (9 years) of being present on staff, I don’t feel old enough for that to be true either.

There’s a lot I have learned in my time at Hope Street. Some lessons the hard way, and others through simply showing up each day and being willing to observe, ask questions, listen, and simply be. Before I dive into what I hope my next year will look like, I have to reflect back on all that has happened this last year. If you have been around, then there’s no surprise that the highlight of this last year would be: Shechem at Hope Street.

A 7+ year dream came to life before our eyes. Yet, it was less about the physical infrastructure and more about the men, women and children who poured into our doors the first weeks of being open. The laughter, the names, faces, balls bouncing, questions asked….all of it has been so much more amazing than I could have ever imagined.

Our new beginning at Shechem has brought so much joy. We have already learned so much about our community, and their hopes and dreams. Furthermore, we have watched things morph into being that we didn’t have planned. While we had some ideas to get us started, we really were operating inside of the “build it and they will come”. People have, and along with them, needs, gifts, ideas, and presence.

This last year begged me to be present. When I wasn’t I missed out on what God had right in front of me. Thankfully, I was given the grace to be fully present at Shechem before heading out on maternity leave. I’m anxious to get back, and know there will be more to see, learn and be a part of as we continue to open our doors to the neighborhood.

While the best gift was getting to be in the building for the first time with our supporters and members, a close second was this painting gifted to me by a group of friends. It’s similar to the painting hanging up in the cafe at Shechem with a slight posture change. Also, if you look closely - it’s not a coincidence that woman resembles me. The artist that was commissioned to complete the piece was given a photo of me. Yet, that wasn’t the first thing that stood out to me.

I was struck by the posture of Jesus’ hands.

They are open. Cupped together, waiting to receive. Now if you know the story of the woman at the well, you know that Jesus asks her for a cup of water. However, I think the request is deeper than that - Jesus is completely capable of getting himself a cup of water, but He put himself in the position to receive from the other.

My time at Hope Street has been been about being in the position to receive from the other. When I started out, I came with my agenda, list of do’s and don’t’s, and problem solving genius. I’m a fixer, and when I’m not fixing things, I’m planning for how things could be better. That doesn’t really scream present or capable of receiving. In fact the opposite, I had my water hose ready to pour and fill up whoever was willing to let me in. Most often this was met with, can you just BE with us? I was time and time again met with a tremendous amount of grace. That grace brought significant healing, and a deep reminder of my belovedness. Stop trying to do Ash, just be. Common theme? You bet. It’s a constant reminder in my life.

So as I March towards a decade of being in a place I love, I’ll walk slowly, intentionally and with open hands. Cupped hands to receive the grace needed to step into each new day. A day full of interactions, new opportunities, and a very clear understanding of the next right steps to take.

We often can remember our beginning. Where we started, and how we progressed over time. We don’t always get a clear understanding of the ending, but if you’re like me and want to finish well - my guess is we, and the people we serve would be best served by a humble servant with open (cupped) hands, ready and willing to receive….from Him and from the others in our life that God intentionally places in our path.

Year Nine: May I have a cup of water?

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