Browsing Category

fortitude

faith, fortitude, soul care, strength, trust

The Perfect Storm

August 10, 2016
Sometimes it takes a storm to get you to the other side of the lake

Sometimes it takes a storm to sweep you to the other side of the lake.

It was the perfect storm, a collision of two air masses with rapid change in wind direction and violent gusts that blasted me off my feet. Howling winds and furious squalls picked up debris as it raged; I bent my head into the gale.

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”  So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

I cried in the nights, “Jesus, don’t you care that I’m drowning?”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”  Mark 4:35-41

There are times when storms crash and dark skies will open to pour out a deluge. Sludge may muddy your path and rock your faith in the Creator and the created. No one is immune. This is when it’s most important to hang on, because sometimes it takes a storm to put you exactly where God wants you…anchored in His presence in ways you’ve never known before.

It was actually this perfect storm that rescued my soul.

I was hurrying to catch up to who I was becoming, but the hurry made me become who I was not. I began losing myself in the whirlwind…adapting for someone else, and succumbing to the rushed expectations of who, and demands of what, others said I am and should do in the midst of a fast-paced world.

Christian philosopher Dallas Willard wisely warned, “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Cutting through the vicious wind, Jesus’ rebuke whispered to me, “Silence! Be still!”  I heard His sweet voice urging:  “Quiet your life, unhurry your soul…submit your will, settle your thoughts, decelerate your body and stop doing what others expect of you. Rest child, and wait, I’m in the boat.” Suddenly the wind stopped and there was great calm. Shipwrecked, yes, because the storm swept me to a different place, but anchored in His love. Jesus restored my faith and breathed abundant life back into my soul.

If a storm blasts you, invite Jesus into your boat. Rebuke the darkness, and assert your authority in Christ over the wind and the waves. Remain steadfast in spirit, keep your heart focused on Him, get to the back of the boat and rest with Jesus. It’s all grace.

You keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3

community, fortitude, love, strength

Can we talk? A mom’s thoughts on disabilities

May 31, 2016

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. His works are wonderful, I know this full well.

We waited in the crowded reception area at our family dentist fulfilling six-month check-ups. As my two boys tackled the day’s homework waiting for their sister, I caught a glimpse of a woman across from us staring at my son working on math problems in his notebook on the floor. He looked up to ask me a question about borrowing from the next column; his peripheral vision snagged her. His brow furrowed. I quickly answered and directed him back to his paper. While his pencil slowly formed the number eight, I heard a low growl emerge from him. His eyes darted to the opposite side of the room, locking eyes with the woman for a split second, then back at the paper. It happened again, as awkwardness grew inside me, yet curiosity didn’t stop her stare. By the third growl, I poked my son with my foot and asked him to pay attention to his work. He tried. But it happened again. Slapping the page, he abruptly threw his pencil down, stood up and declared to the room of people sitting in the circle, “That’s it. I can’t concentrate with that lady staring at me.” I wanted the floor to swallow us seeing smirks and shoulders bobbing, others suppressing laughter. I prayed. I understood the woman’s curiosity. I also understood my son’s frustration of trying to live life unnoticed with unspokens in the divide.

To redeem the situation and provide a small element of grace for the woman who immediately closed her eyes, bobbed her head forward and pretended to suddenly be sleeping, I said quietly, “Say hello. Maybe she wants to be your friend.”

“She?…
Her?”, he demanded loudly, walking toward the closed-eyed woman, finger pointing directly at her. “She doesn’t want to be my friend. She just wants to be rude.” A few snickers emerged from the circle, as his older brother leaned in towards me and confessed, “He’s got a point.”

We are not strangers to being noticed, stared at, or to the hushed conversations of parents trying to cache the thoughts of their children before words tumble onto their own field of humiliation. And that’s okay. With time my son Connor became more aware of who he was…a boy who [by the way] was born with an extra chromosome…and learned to stand in the gap for those teetering between the reality of the person with special needs in front of them, and their muted questions and fears. Above all he learned to embrace the important: he was a boy, loved by his family, he loved back deeply, and he was created by a masterful Creator. To this day, he continues to absorb that God created his inmost being, He knit him together in my womb. And Connor praises God knowing he is fearfully and wonderfully made; God’s works are wonderful. He knows that full well. [Psalm 139:13-14]

I can’t say why the woman in the dental office stared so blatantly and so buttoned up. When called to accountability by a second-grader who had Down syndrome, she chose to feign narcolepsy sitting amidst a circle in a large, sun-filled dental office, and we were unable to talk to her. It was that awkward for her. While my son Connor may have felt the sting and stare of his disability in that moment, I wondered if she was more fascinated with his ability to independently add and subtract double-digit math problems. I reflect on that moment…maybe it ripped the “r-word” label off a little boy and it rendered her speechless.

From pre-school through fifth grade, Connor attended public school in classrooms with ‘typical’ children. He rode the school bus with his siblings, attended birthday parties and was wholeheartedly embraced by his elementary school peers. As children asked questions in school, they were answered in school. Connor knew he was different, but he knew he was more “same”.

Questions are okay. Questions are good. We have to allow each other’s stories to be told in the context of God’s handiwork…that every person God creates is a reflection of Himself [Genesis 1:27]. When I was approached by a Sunday School teacher sharing her grievance over a classroom of nine-year-old boys beginning to snicker and tease Connor in the class she taught, she invited me in to talk about Connor…with Connor. He delightedly shared their commonalities (the NY Yankees and Ninja Turtles) and I was able to explain the disparities, while celebrating the differences. Outfitted with a bag of supplies, we talked about why it was challenging to sometimes understand Connor when he spoke. I explained that his chromosomes, the same things that gave each of them the color of their eyes, their hair, their skin…gave him a mouth that was narrower, a palate that was much higher and a tongue a bit thicker…and then pulled out a big marshmallow for each child. As they took turns popping marshmallows into their mouths and encouraged to say, ‘hello my name is _______”, each one giggled as the awkward, garbled expressions that emerged; and began high-fiving Connor. Pulling thick children’s ski gloves out of my bag, I explained the development and difficulties of Connor’s fine motor skills as they practiced writing their names with a gloved hand and pencil. The bridge narrowed with each new prop and discussion. Within the next week, Connor was invited to church kids’ homes for play dates, and for the first time without me. The more we seek to know a person, the divide narrows.

We cannot fear what we don’t understand. To be known as a follower of Christ…or even just a good person for that matter, we have to choose to embrace the tension of getting to know each other deeper and seek to understand what we don’t know about each other. And do it with grace.

If you (or your children) are wondering about people with special needs, here are a few thoughts for you. Nothing scientific or focus-group insights…just observations and thoughts from my corner of the world:

  1. People first. My husband and I have not raised a ‘Down syndrome child’, but rather, raised a child who is now a young man. He happens to have Down syndrome.
  2. People with special needs are the same.
  3. People with special needs are different.
  4. It’s better to talk rather than stare. Say hello. Some parents of children with special needs may not be ready for a barrage of questions as they may still be emotionally grieving the “typical” child they had dreams for, but talk to them and allow them to share to the level they are able. Celebrate the beautiful child they’re raising!
  5. Words matter. Words like retarded, deformed, crippled, suffers from, victim of, handicapped, unfortunate, pitiful are offensive. Handicapable and able-bodied are patronizing. Replace the term “normal” with the word “typical”. Please stop using the word “retarded”, whether you use it to describe a person or a situation. I’ll say it again. It’s offensive.
  6. If a person uses a wheelchair, be respectful. A wheelchair is an extension of a person’s body. Don’t lean or hang on the chair. Ask permission before pushing it. Make an effort to position yourself at his/her eye level when talking.
  7. When greeting a person who is visually impaired, identify yourself and anyone with you. Ask if you may assist him/her. If the answer is yes, offer your elbow and guide them.
  8. If communication is a challenge and you encounter a person you may not understand, communicate honestly. Don’t say you understand their speech when you don’t. Simply ask the person to repeat him/herself or show you what they are trying to convey.
  9. If a child with special needs is with his/her parent, don’t ask the parent the child’s name or other questions about the child. Ask the child and enable him/her to answer to the ability he/she is able to.
  10. Get to know people with special needs and I guarantee you will discover countless facets of God’s character and reflection.

By the way, Connor loves the Jesus who walked the earth in dirty feet, and asked a lot of questions. I love the people who are willing to walk across muddy boundaries and ask a lot of questions. They help us learn and grow and enter into each other’s stories.

(Written by a not-so-special parent…who just happens to have been blessed with a special kid! It’s all grace.)

faith, fortitude, strength, trust, truth

Do I question my faith?

February 15, 2016

I live a life immersed in the world. I read books/articles/blogs that support my faith, and then read others that challenge my faith. I don’t live with my head in the sand, nor exist in circles with only church people. Conversations sometimes challenge my faith. But I don’t question it. Know why?

I made a covenantal declaration of faith at an earlier point in my life.
And faith grows.

Before I knew Jesus, I wrestled a long time with the topic of faith. I knew about Jesus, and actually thought about Him quite a bit. But to trust all of me with the unseen? Honestly, that was weird to me. To add to that, I knew Christians I categorized as weird too, with their flighty church words, holier attitudes than I ever wanted…and I’ll admit, I didn’t trust “them”. So I reasoned, why would I put my faith in something they thought was so great…that chose to be so abstract?

But God began pursuing me with an overwhelming love that I couldn’t run from nor deny. He put situations in front of me that led me closer and closer to Him, chipped away at my heart, and I was swept up in His love. I made a decision at a single point in time, and put my faith in Him. In that moment, I secretly wanted bells and whistles, even listened for angels to sing…none came to announce it. However, everything inside me marked that covenantal moment. Jesus overwhelmed me with His authenticity, love, power, pursuit, grace, peace and mercy. Faith in the unseen didn’t matter, because what He allowed me to see through my heart was so much stronger than what I could see with my eyes.

Fast forward a few decades, blessings, challenging situations, celebrations and trying seasons.  The faith I had then is different than the faith I have now. I’ll admit there are fleeting moments when questions plague me. Sometimes doubts knock on my door, or uninvited junctures hit me and I question His love and faithfulness…

But they are moments, and I will not permit moments to shipwreck my faith. This is a decision, a resolute choice. There’s no turning back. (1 Timothy 1:19 warns, “…fight the battle well, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck…”)

My son once asked me how I know it’s really God when I can’t see Him. He continued, “How do you know God’s not some really nice thoughts in your head, how do you know He’s real?” His questions stopped me in my tracks, causing me to find words to explain how I fully knew, God is real. I realized my initial moment of faith and trust triggered a trajectory through which God revealed more and more of Himself to me over time. While life’s troubles spark questions, a choice of faith increases faith. I explained to my son that for me to deny His existence now when He’s made Himself so tangible to me at times would be to deny my own son’s existence sitting next to me in the car. Years later my relationship with God requires less ‘blind faith’ on my part, but provides more reassurance of His presence.

There’s no denying though, those moments creep in. When they do, consider this:

  1. You can’t trust your emotions. Jeremiah 17:9 says, ““The heart is deceitful above all things…” 
  2. If you’ve given your life to Christ, you formed a covenantal relationship with God the Person. He’s not the ‘man upstairs’ or a ‘higher power’, He’s your Abba Father who created you only to have an ongoing relationship with you rooted in His deep love for you.
  3. Jesus declares you righteous when you turn your life over to Him (Romans 5:1) but He doesn’t cause you to be righteous. You’re still vulnerable to temptations, and still have a free will and choice. Choose what you will do ahead of time.
  4. Stand in the promise of 2 Corinthians 2:17-18, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Hold onto faith. The Cross is ahead, the the world is behind. Don’t turn back.

The Cross before me, the world behind me. No Turning Back

 

equipping, fortitude, strength, transformation, trust

Strong Women

November 27, 2015

A Strong Woman desires all God wants for her...even more than she fears it.

From a distance I marveled at my friend as she led her team through a voice of inner confidence that resonated with fortitude, poise and assurance. Tears misted over my perspective that few were privy to, for I knew the sting that remained on her skin from the insults, names and rumors hurled past her only 30 minutes prior.

My friend is a strong woman.

Strong. Woman.

Independently, those two words speak positivity, life and affirmation.
Strung together, they can go either way. “Strong woman” connotes a woman of bravery. Proverbs 31 details the virtuous woman, “Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come.” (v.25). Yet there’s a flip side to the phrase “strong woman” too, that can stir up uneasiness in some. Whether it’s rooted in historical context, cultural context, or even isolation of Scripture without the progressive revelation of God’s purpose to call, equip and empower women, the words ‘strong woman’ together can also stir up a worldly batter of “b” words…bold, brazen, and more.

“STRONG WOMAN.”

One of our pastors once relayed a comment about the “strong women” we have in our own church. It was not said with positivity, delivered with a mild caution for awareness, relayed with uneasiness. I pondered over the hearts behind it with some heaviness, and even my own baggage, for the same demonstrated characteristics that are often celebrated in men, when packaged in a woman, become a b-word. However in that conversation with the pastor, God spoke clearly to me: “celebrate it”.

Celebrate the strong women.

I do. I truly do have strong women in my circle… women of courage, heroic, with spirit and spunk. They are stalwart and adventurous, gutsy and gallant. Their strength is not motivated though, in the outer voices and pep-talks that tell them they matter. The secret to the strength in those I know as “strong” is their inner humility. Each woman I celebrate is unpretentious and steady, nourished by the unnatural strength and power from Jesus to walk in a lifestyle of obedience to Christ when the world woos them to back down, back off, back away. They are not silenced when God says “speak”, but confident in Christ-minded action, and Christ-like in attitude. They are women who stay connected to the Vine; their reputations do not mute the inner Voice inside them, nor are they fortified or molded by media, striving for just the right selfie to post, nor by the naysayers and noises telling them who they are not, how they should look, and who they are.

Strong women are the ones fortified by their best friend, coach, trainer, counselor Jesus Christ, who pours into and invests in them day after day after day…and in turn His strength pours out. That is real strength no person can forge, fake, or fabricate on her own. Their identity, durability, stability and tenacity is rooted in the affirmation of Jesus Christ who declares them worthy, honored and beloved.

FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD RUN TO AND FRO THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH, TO SHOW HIMSELF STRONG ON BEHALF OF THOSE WHOSE HEART IS LOYAL TO HIM. ~2 Chronicles 16:9

I celebrate too, that I see a new generation of women rooted in Christ collectively becoming stronger in who we all are, knowing Whose we are. We are not afraid of having honest conversations with ourselves (vs “about” ourselves), allowing Jesus to fix the broken pieces, heal the wounds and restore us to a new strength.

Let’s all celebrate every woman who desires all God wants for her…even more than she fears it. That is a strong woman.

faith, fortitude, hope, strength

Here in the Power, I’ll Stand

May 3, 2015

In Christ alone My Hope is Found

 

“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.”
Isaiah 55:1-2 NLT

It’s our call to live in the Presence of God. Your call, my call: Drink. Eat what is good.

But what happens when the appetite wanes, when the hurt of the world makes it hard to swallow even a morsel? When the very sustenance that will keep you going, lies untouched and stale?

Despite your broken hallelujah, reach for the bread.

The bandages on my heels happened to catch my eye, suddenly flagging the metaphorically obvious. I’m walking through a season that my shoes don’t seem to fit. Daily, I put them on and try to cushion the pain of the blisters…and keep walking.

I see a beloved mama and children, survivors beyond a car wreck, bruised and broken. I sit across from my child with his heart split open in the reality of saying good-bye to a friend who gave in and gave up, never to hear her voice again. I visit a saint who stumbled, conversing through phone and monitor, distraught that her baby might not remember her when she gets out.

But the food is on the table. Reach for it.

Her playful laugh pushes through hurt in her eyes, my young grandma-friend locked her big dreams inside tiny caskets, yet a second time around. The A-student’s mother suddenly gets calls from the teacher after daddy moves out. The single mom breaks open, telling us it’s too hard, and fears for her child.

There’s a plate waiting and a cup full of goodness to fill you up. Eat. Drink and find satisfaction.

Some seasons are harder than others and like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, the journey into the wilderness can be a barren, exhaustive, lonely hike. But keep going. Be encouraged. The angel’s words to Elijah are my own inspiration when my mind says this road’s too hard:

“Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.” Isaiah 19:5-9

If there’s one thing that keeps me going and keeps me grounded, it’s digesting God’s Word…even when I don’t want to eat. When my broken hallelujah pours a morning cup of coffee and praises Him not with words, but expectation that my strength will be nourished in His daily Bread, I can walk the distance…even when life rubs blisters into my feet.

It’s then I am fed, truly fed with life and hope that comes only from the living, active Word of God. And Jesus Himself.

“And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” John 6:35

If life is challenging, return to the table and eat.

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
You will live in joy and peace.
    The mountains and hills will burst into song,
    and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
    Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;
    they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.” Isaiah 55:10-13

community, fortitude, strength, transformation

Transitions

March 28, 2015

Hebrews 10:36

I knelt beside the tired mama, helpless to bring relief as her eyes searched the room, searched the heavens, for relief. There was none. Pain had washed over every part of her physical being. We prayed, cried out: Lord reliefbring relief.

Body tense, the internal shifting of bones, so much pain…

Her darting eyes suddenly caught and locked with mine. That moment captured the overwhelming beauty in her. Outward pain commanded her attention, but her inner core of strength bore down into the foundation that would carry her through this transition. As God prepares new life to spring forth, transitional labor is the most exhausting, painful and overwhelming stage of birth.

Would I ever bring this nation to the point of birth and then not deliver it?” asks the Lord.” Isaiah 66.9

I personally believe that very few great things can be birthed by bypassing a slow process of pain. Or maybe…what is delivered is appreciated much more because of the pain.

In the hours that passed before I held a precious, beautiful boy, I learned a few spiritual lessons as we coached my friend through her pain:

  • Change and transitions require time, work and fortitude.
  • Accept the stage and season you’re in, and if it’s painful, embrace the process.
  • Focus on what’s to come, not yourself.
  • Rely on a support system, don’t go it alone. A cheerleader at the moment of exhaustion can be invaluable to pray and spur you on.
  • The greatest pain shows up at the end of all the most laborious, tiring and demanding work…just before the delivery of the blessing.

Life is full of transitions, and few are without pain. Hold fast.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:36