Equipped to Finish

It was a hot day in the saddle of my bike…strong headwind, Ozarkian hills, and the heat of summer.  I rode in a training ride for the upcoming MS 150.  The MS 150 is an annual charity ride to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society.  This is my fifth year riding in the event, and at age forty-two, three kids, a full-time job, a husband, and a household to maintain, I do my best to squeeze in training time when I can.

Today, as riders passed me by, I thought, “Why can’t I keep up with them?  I’m trying just has hard.  My legs are burning.  My heart rate is up, and I’m eager, just like them, to finish this ride with a personal best time.”  

photo (73)I get “lost” in my head sometimes when out riding my bike on long distance rides.  If you ever need time to clear your head a bit, get a bike, pick a route, and take off. On my bike, I am able to work through so many challenges; physical, emotional, and spiritual.

As other riders passed me by, I started to think about life outside of my journeys on two wheels in the country.  I thought about the times when I have wondered, “I work just as hard as this person does.  I have more experience, and more time spent in the field.  I have just as much passion about the work at hand. Why do I seem to be passed by?”

As the miles clicked on, I found myself alone on the road with the sweltering heat and the odometer on my bike declaring how many miles I had yet to finish.  And then, I recalled Scripture:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” -2 Timothy 4:7

Now, I am not at all comparing the trials and imprisonment of Paul to my own traveling down the hilly roads on my bike.  Of course, not.

However, when out there today, on the road with the blazing hot sun glaring at me, and riders passing me by, I started to meditate and speak to God about life, and challenges both off and on the bike.  While doing this, I felt the Lord speaking back to me,

“I equipped you to finish the race…not best, not first, not fastest, and not necessarily with top honors.  I equipped you to finish it with faith, endurance, and courage.”

As the fifty mile training ride drew to a close, and I rode my weary body to my car, I continued to think on these things.  To finish the race; this race of life, with faith, endurance, and courage is by far, the most sacred of all finales as we make our way to our Home.

Whatever road you are traversing, hill you are climbing, or number of miles ahead of you, remember this,

God loves you.  Jesus died for you.  You have been equipped to finish the race; not first, not best, and possibly not with top honors.  Instead, you have been dressed in the fullness of faith, endurance, and courage.

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31

Adoption is Beautiful

I tortured myself recently.  I read a blog about a birthing story, and found myself crying with joy for the couple.  My tears also held within them a sadness for myself, husband, and parents. You can read the story by clicking on this link, Our Birth Story.  While reading the story, I found myself gasping for air, covering my mouth, and wiping away tears that were flowing down my cheeks.

The mother’s words seemed to punch me in the gut.  On the one hand I felt guilty for reading them, as if I had no business exploring her experience.  On the other, I knew that I needed to visit that part of life that has passed me by.

This is at least the second time I’ve done this.  I recently read a blog post, I want to be a doula, that also brought me to tears.  The words of these new mothers are poignant, and reminded me of what I have missed out on.  I do not know why this is…perhaps it is the knowledge that I was not the first person to hold my children.

Proverbs 30: 15-16

15 … There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:

16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.

Sitting here on the second birthday of my youngest son, I find myself thinking about his entry into the world.  Honestly, I think about all of my children’s journey from the womb to the Earth, and then I get pissed.  Yep.  I said it.  I get angry that I was not the one to bring them into the world.

I did not labor in pain to birth the very beings who have captured my heart.  In the agony of pain, there are life-declaring moments when the hope of the future and a piece of oneself is born.  In the posts I’ve read, I have recognized the beauty I have missed out on…the moments between husband and wife holding their child…the minute grandparents first laid eyes on their grand-babies…and, the gasp of their breaths when realizing the glory of the child they created.

I did not see any of my babies in their first hour of life after-birth.  I did not hear their first audible exclamation to the world that they have arrived.  I did not hold them, feel their tiny bodies against mine, and gaze at the wonder before me.  So, yes.  I get angry about this.

I could never imagine having any different children than my children.  They are Majestically matched to fit our family.  I would not have it any other way…but…I sure wish that I would have been the one to carry them as they developed, pushed with the incredible God-given strength of a woman, and then rested with babe in arms.

Yes, I think about missing out on the beauty of it all.  I think about the laborious, yet incomparable moments of childbirth…the genesis of new life.

Although blessed to be a mother, I still get caught off guard by the pain of barrenness.

I also wonder if I’m a completely selfish person.  Is it not enough that I am experiencing, raising, and growing my children as they meander their way to the Lord’s purpose in their lives?  I mean…am I being completely self-centered to wish that I would have been the one to bring them into the world?

In barrenness, there is courage and resilience.  It may sound odd to say, but in the rawness of barrenness, there is beauty.  It seems to be carved out of the clinging onto prayers in the lost hours of the night.  Choosing to look into the future without infertility and barrenness requires strength beyond measure.  This is the very depiction of beauty.

But just when I start to become consumed by the loss of the human experience I will never have, I begin to think about my own (and many other’s) beauty after becoming a mom for the first time.  In barrenness and adoption, there is an incredible radiance that is found.  There is a courage like no other….courage to venture into waters where land is not seen.  Determination to seek out options that other’s may never have to consider.

There are also moments of grief…extraordinary grief that seems almost too big for any human to consume.  Gut wrenching.  Soul-darkening.  Pain that is impossible to put into words.  Stillness that seems to go against nature.

Then, there are moments of hope spliced into the loss, faith, and the reality of it all.

There are the times when you look upon your child and see that a piece of yourself has been born….perhaps, you will carry on through your children.  In these moments, you feel hope and peace about the future.

In adoption, there are immeasurable moments between husband and wife holding their child for the first time.  There are memory-searing images of grandparents first laying their eyes on their grand-babies…and, there is that gasp of breaths when the gavel falls and the glorious little one is declared forever a part of the family.

And let’s not forget about the birth mothers to whom our children come from.  Their courage to choose life despite hardship, plan adoption with a level of hope and selflessness that is rarely seen in this world, and carry within them the ability to let go when needed, is perhaps one of the most powerful declarations that life is worth it, hopeful, and beautiful.

The mighty truth is that I won’t miss my children’s birthdays, new friendships, discovery of talents, heartache, heartbreak, frustrations, accomplishments, and growth as children of a loving Father.

Although saddened and brought to a place of envy and anger, I’m thankful to have read the blog posts.  I appreciate glimpsing into the rawness of childbirth, the nude emotions of it, and the humanizing words of the mother’s whose agony of childbirth became stories of beauty.

For all of my sisters of the barren womb, and Mamma’s through adoption, your own birth stories are equally beautiful.

The birthing of your fortitude to seek motherhood, the labor of your endurance that clings to hope, characters of your unfolding life-script, humility to answer far too many questions, and the moment your breath is taken away by the gaze of the child to which your soul is settled by, are powerfully, and beautifully sculpted human experiences.

I will probably read more posts about childbirth, and I may cry at each one.  My tears will surely hold the loss that visits me from time to time, but will also carry the joy of my own birthing experience…one filled with courage, resilience, humility, endurance, and remembrance of the first time I looked upon my children.

Yes, in adoption, there is radiance, and many life-declaring moments.

Adoption is beautiful.

what are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for, my friend? Is it a love that has turned away from you, or a friendship that has become tarnished through the years?  Perhaps, it is a reconciliation long overdue, a wayward son, or a door that never seems to open.

My friend, are you waiting for a child to call your own? Are you dwelling in a place of despair? You know this place well, but others do not understand it at all. I suspect this might just be one of the most painful waits of your life.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5

Do you read that? Our hope is in Him. Our yearnings, grief, desires, and worries may be carried in silence, but in the silence we are met with the hope of the Lord.

Do you know that, my friend? I know the wait (whatever that looks like for you) can be exhausting, defeating, painful, and lonely. I know there are moments when you feel as though you are adrift in an ocean of despair, or wandering through the wasteland. I know this all too well.

What are you waiting for, my friend? May your wait be met with both a stillness found within His grace, and a steadfastness carried by His hope.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5

Everyone has a Story

“What’s a testimony without a test?”

This question is one that tends to be a mantra of sorts among the Christian community.  While I understand the meaning behind it, instead, I find myself asking,

“What’s a test without a testimony?”

Imagine for a moment, living in a world where we do not share our pain, disappointment, despair, and gut-wrenching experiences in life.

What if we just walked around holding it all in, always saying that we are fine, and never, for one moment, declaring out loud the things that twist our souls to the bottomless pit of pain?  Like emotionless robots, we encase our feelings in a tomb to which we never open.  What would it be like if we kept our stories imprisoned within our own mortal coils?

I am not even sure what kind of world it would be if we never shed our tears with or for others, or if the stark reality of the collapsing of others’ dreams, the dashing of their hopes, and the witness of their afflicted footsteps, did not affect us.

I have had people say to me,

“I had no idea you have gone through so much.”

What this tells me is that I have done an excellent job at tucking away the daggers of devastation and arrows of apathy that have, at times, pierced my walk in this life with doubt, sorrow, and anger.

Even during the time that I was reluctant to tell my story, I knew that it was meant to be told, and that behind the heartbreak of it all, lay hope in waiting, purpose with a passion, and ultimately, the glimpse of redemption through the mercy of our God.

So, what’s a test without a testimony?  What’s hardship without the harrowing details of survival?

What is more important…that we exclaim our victory?  Or, that we seek to tell the stories that encompass those moments in life where the only lifting of our heads is caused by the hint of something better?

I believe the latter is more important.  While I shout for joy at the victories of others, I celebrate with even more enthusiasm at the telling of overcoming mountains, the witness of evading addictions, and the declaration of holding tight to the life-thread of courage.

I believe that everyone has a story.  

I believe that all of our stories are important, and worthy of being told.  I believe that there is not one moment in a single life lived on Earth that does not matter, and that the Creator of the landscape to which we dwell is the same Creator that fills the spaces in-between our devastation, our tragedies, our heart-breaks, our disappointments, and our yearning for something better in life.

Yes, everyone has a story to be told.

 Share your story.

 Embrace your experience.

Wear it as a badge of endurance.  

You never know how your story can affect someone else going through what you have been through, or how the steps you have painstakingly taken can soften the path to which others are walking on.

Your life’s journey might just lead another soul right to the heart of God.

Your story matters.

Your story is unique.

The story of your life is the cadence to which you heart’s song is being composed.  

What a wonderful world it would be if we shared the stories of our lives, the tests that determined our testimonies, and the painful moments that launched our ministries.

Everyone has a story.  What’s yours?

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.–Psalm 66:16

 

 

 

mercy has your name written on it

You sit there staring at the image reflected back at you in the mirror.  The mirror lies to you, and yet, you see that reflection as truth.  It exposes your blemishes, and your scars.  The image of your body is one that you would rather never reveal to anyone, except maybe…this vile mirror that has become the reflection of who you think you are.  The bruises, the fat, the lines…whatever errors that have affixed on your skin…shows up greater than anything else.  You wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  How could anyone love me?  I deserve to be lonely, and to be treated like this.  I am worthless…deserve even worse.  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You lay there staring at the bottom of an empty bottle, and your anger is being stirred with a mixture of dependency and despair.  The bottle…the friend you have come to rely on…is empty, and you are left alone.   Alone.  Isolated with your regrets that seem to have burrowed themselves in your soul.  Deep down, you know that the empty bottle symbolizes how you feel about yourself.  Empty.  Broken.  Dry.  You tell yourself, “There is no way God will ever love me.  No one will.  The only friend I have is a bottle.”  You wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  Is there a way out of this vicious cycle that has taken over?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You stand there, sign in hand, while looking around at the concrete bed that you will be sleeping on tonight, and you think, “When will this ever change?  When will I feel human again?”  You are cold.  You are hungry.  You are confused.  Perhaps, just maybe, if your story of how you became like this was actually scripted onto those cardboard pleads of help, then maybe…just maybe, others might see you as a human being.  You might be valued.  As family filled cars pass you by, you wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  When will my circumstances change?  I hope for something new each day, but the days seem to turn into months, which seem to turn into years.  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You sit there looking around at the empty house that was once filled with the sounds of the life of a family.  You stare at the living room, you glance at the spot where your wife once slept, and you dwell on the empty chairs at the dinner table.  You think about the life you once all danced to.  You remember the Christmas mornings, birthdays, nights spent around a ball game, or playing outdoors. You think, “I deserve this.  I deserted them.  I was selfish.  God, how can You forgive me?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You are staring at the negative sign on the pregnancy test you just took.  As the sadness starts to fill up your heart, you begin to say the same mantra that you have said for years….“I deserve this.  God must think I would make a horrible mother.  This will never happen.  I will never be a mother.  I am worthless.”  As time goes on, you wait…wait…for your moment.  You endure the showers of others who are expecting the very thing you have desired for years now.   You wonder, “God, why would You spare me?  If it is Your will, then why won’t You give me a child?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

Well, dear friend, precious soul, battered one, addicted being, homeless shell, wayward son, and one filled with despair, there is no need to wonder.  When Jesus carried His weary body so that His feet could be nailed to the Cross, it was for you.  When He breathed His last breath, it was for you.  It was for all of us.

When He exclaimed, “It is finished”we were on His mind.  His salvation lasts forever.  It lasts through the hardship of life.  It conquers the poor choices, imperfections, addictions, broken relationships, concrete jungles, and empty nests.

His mercy is fluid.  It moves with you.  It wraps around you, and migrates with each step you take.  You wonder, “Am I worth it?  Why would He spare me?  Am I worthy of forgiveness?  Is there enough mercy left over for someone like me?” 

Yes, dear friend, precious soul, battered one, addicted being, homeless shell, wayward son, and one filled with despair, you are worth it.  You are a child of God.  Do you know that?  Your worth is so much more than you can ever fathom.  Mercy….

Mercy has your name written on it…

….and, praise Christ for that!

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. – Hebrews 4:16