This is What Hope Looks Like

Updated to add: less than 24 hours after publishing this post, Cindy had a beautiful baby boy. 6 pounds, 2 ounces of perfection!

She had the focused look of concentration as she held the tightly rolled paper with one hand, glue in the other, applying. Squeezing. Creating.

We were in Africa, teaching our Mercy House girls their first skill: rolling paper. Recycled magazine paper that would become jewelry, home decor, art.

It’s surreal. The memory.

Their hard work is producing beautiful products now.

Volunteers pack my cold garage and we line up order after order to fill from the exported items. Shelves are stacked with creations from our girls. The scent of varnish is heavy. It’s one of my favorite places to be.

I was filling a few orders the other night: paper coaster sets. It was late and I was tired, but that’s when I noticed the colors.

The first couple of months, the coasters made by still-learning hands were a work of art, in progress. Constantly improving, all one thing in common: muted, dull colors. When rolling the paper that is to become a coaster, each girl chooses a piece of paper from a used magazine. Sheet after sheet, our girls chose the drab colors.

I didn’t realize this at first. I just assumed the oil-based varnish muted the colors of the paper and gave our coasters a dark tone.

I didn’t realize it because I didn’t know what hope could do.

Something deep within me began to stir. I began pulling the older coaster sets from the back of the shelf, the ones that hadn’t sold from our first couple of months.

I lined them up next to the new sets of coasters we are now receiving each month. The difference was unbelievable: The small, dark coaster sets are lovely. But compared to the larger, brighter newer coaster sets, there is no comparison.

My eyes pooled and I heard the soul-whisper: This is what hope looks like.

Staring at the shelves, I saw a rainbow of hope, a constellation of promise.

My oldest child opened the door to the garage. She found me in tears. She wasn’t surprised (what can I say? This is emotional business).

I showed her the difference in the colors.

She said, “Mom, I was just reading an article about how color affects us. It was saying that we choose colors based on how we feel and what’s happening on the inside.”

I picked up the bright yellow coaster set. I fingered the tag with Cindy’s name on it. I closed my eyes and pictured her wide smile and the baby she carries. I remember watching her eat. She had only been in the home a few weeks when I met her face-to-face. She was so tiny, malnourished. I watched her begin to gain weight with every healthy bite.

I know her story well. It’s a heartbreaking tale of being used and abused. She’s sixteen. She’s a new believer.

I imagine her sitting on the wood floor in the living room at the maternity home. Papers scattered. Glue in hand. I see her open the magazine, pass the brown and black pages and choose the bright yellow.

She is what hope looks like. 


Cindy is due this week! Please pray for a safe delivery and a healthy baby.

Buy your own coaster set and spread the hope.


  1. 1


    SO fantastic! It is amazing how little pieces of information all fit together to create understanding of God’s plan! I LOVE the visual difference! LOVE it! I’ve noticed that in my children – from blacks, greys and browns – to red, teal and orange. When they started to TRUST that we LOVED them and wouldn’t leave them – the bitterness and fear began to subside and the JOY and HOPE began to take over! Will be praying for Cindy and her new bundle of HOPE, JOY and LOVE! Thank you for listening and jumping in where God asked.

  2. 2


    I am speechless and teary-eyed. Hope is something my family is needing in a big way right now. Thank you fro giving me a glimpse of it.

  3. 5

    Jocelyn says

    beautiful… the entire thing is just beautiful. praying for Cindy this week, the beauty that is radiating out of her, the precious beauty that she carries for a few days more.

  4. 9

    Kim says

    Kristen-I’m so grateful to God for using you and The Mercy House to touch so many! I love reading your blog and experiencing the Mercy House through your heart! It’s magical, amazing, and powerful! May God bless you and your family this Christmas season!

  5. 11

    Carol Darden says

    Now I’m starting my day out with pooling eyes! What an awesome God we serve. Not only is He restoring those girls, He cares enough to give YOU confirmation that what you’re doing matters. Thank you for your obedience. And thank you that you’re allowing others, like me, to walk along side you in this amazing journey.

  6. 12


    We just received the beautiful birds from the Mercy House. They looked like symbols of hope, and I cried as I prayed for the hands that made them. We’ll pray for Cindy and the baby. Do you ever feel a bit like a grandma, with all the anticipation? (NOT that you’re old enough to be a grandma!)

    • 12.1

      Nascardad says


      I can’t speak for Kristen, but I feel like a grandpa! You and all of Kristen’s readers should too. You guys are a huge piece of the tapestry that is Mercy House. None of this would be possible without all of you. You are such a blessing!


  7. 14

    Jen says

    God is GOOD! He has done amazing things thru you, AND given you His eyes to see the hope and love blossoming. Blessings and prayers to Cindy, and all the girls like her.

  8. 17

    April says

    I sat on the couch last night reading this post and as I read my smile grew larger with each paragraph! By the time I finished reading your post, I was teary eyed and grinning ear-to-ear! It is amazing to me that as you were noticing this difference in your girls that your daughter came in and talked about the article she read. I am overjoyed for the change that is taking place in these girls lives and that God is affirming His work through you! Early on, when I discovered your blog and the Mercy House, I said I was going to buy a coaster set. I haven’t yet, but now I know I need to do this now! I am so thankful for what you do!

  9. 20


    I absolutely love this. What a beautiful demonstration of the connection between beauty, justice, mercy & art. This is the very intersection I am feeling more and more interested in on my blog! What does God give us when we create art, and how can art be a way to see healing, the beauty of creation, hope (like you pointed out!)? So wonderful. I tweeted your post (@KimSchis) thanks for another articulate, faithful examination.


  10. 21

    julie says

    My baby turned 41 weeks old on Saturday. (I know this because one of baby websites sends me an email each week telling me how old Nathaniel is. Really, I don’t have time to count the weeks between Feb to today!! Reading blogs and typing a one-handed comment is a luxury!)

    And I thought about my 41 weeks of pregnancy, and how on the night my baby was born some other woman’s body was preparing to create a miracle. Cindy is that “some other woman” and I am so excited for her baby. As I nurse my sleepy baby boy and surf blogs one-handed, I will pray for Cindy. Please let u know once she’s delivered!

  11. 23

    Amber K says

    Tears of joy and thankfulness and such relief and gratefulness for Cindy right now with you all. My heart could burst. Oh, Kristen…your family’s ability to say YES … it is what let you see what hope looks like. And now we all get a piece of that rainbow. Thank you for blessing my heart today.

    Hope. HE is hope!

    Hugs and Prayers Sister!

  12. 24


    My husbands’ family has a Christmas Eve tradition of a get-together and small gift exchange. We usually bring something we and/or our kids have made. This year, I’ve decided to gift the paper coasters and just bought 6 sets :-) I pray that not only will this be a good gift for our families, but also bless the girls at Mercy House Kenya as well.

    Are there going to be more of the paper heart ornaments soon? They are currently sold out…and they would make good gifts for the younger crowd in my family that don’t have their own houses yet. Let me know, thanks!

  13. 25


    Oh wow, this is beautiful. What an amazing story to share. Just amazing. This is my first time visiting so I’m looking forward to reading around and learning much more.

  14. 26


    i brought up ‘hope’ on my blog today and katy of bahava sent me over here.

    i am so glad she did.

    this is so, so beautiful. i swallowed hard reading about cindy. i am praying for her now, as well as the other women at mercy house. thank you for sharing this.


  15. 27


    My best friend was born in Kenya and came over to America when she was 12 so Kenya has a huge place in our heart. We are hoping to save up the money to go back in the next few years. I would love to be able to visit and help out in any way. Is there any way to help besides buying their gifts? I’m an English teacher by trade but currently a stay at home mom, so I have plenty of time on my hands. Please let me know. My email is and my web page is

  16. 28

    Beth M says

    Ok, you had to go and make me cry…again! 😉 I ordered a set of these coasters on Monday! I can’t wait to see them in person. God Bless You!!!

  17. 29


    Truly, this is what hope looks like. It is so easy to not notice someone’s journey from hopeless to hopeful. The steps can be so very small, and often travel backward as well.
    Thank you so much for sharing this today and helping these women find hope in their lives.

    As the Bible says;
    2 Samuel 22:29
    You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.

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