Be Bold {let your light shine}

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I wish I could tell you that it is “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy” (as my 5-yr-old likes to say) to parent children who have been adopted or to be a foster parent.  I’d love to say that once a child enters your home either for foster care or adoption, all problems go away and it’s just downhill and smooth-sailing from there.  It would be fantastic for me to declare that I never second-guess myself and that we are all about lollipops, rainbows, and laughter.  However, if I were to say any of these things, my words would be false.  They would not bear a truthful witness to what it is to be a parent through adoption.

A few months ago, I started praying/speaking these words to God, “What do you want me to do with my life?”  “What do you want from me?”  One morning while praying, I heard the words, “BE BOLD.”  A little startled at the immediate response, I asked, “What do you mean?”  

“BE BOLD.”  The words were clear, concise and not complicated.

Several months have passed and to be honest, I just kind of ignored this answer.  I know the Lord told me to be bold but it was just too simple of a declaration.  I am a detail-oriented person and the two-word response to my prayer just didn’t cut it.

With the dawning of a New Year, the Lord’s answer of “Be bold” has never strayed too far from my mind.  I wonder, friend, if His words are not only meant for my ears but also for yours.

For prospective foster and adoptive families, you need to know that being bold is imperative.  It’s more than just declaring an injustice in what you are witnessing.  It requires a stillness of faith AND a movement of courage.  

Being bold, in the sight of others who do not understand, is necessary.

When you are asked, “Why in the world would you want to do that?”, be bold.

When people say to you, “I would never subject my own kids to that”, be bold.

When you are quivering in fear over what is going to happen with a child you love, be bold.

When you have the opportunity to love on biological parents, please, by all means, be bold.

Foster parenting and adoption both have this funny way of knocking people to their knees.  We fall down time and again, but we get up.  We wonder what we are doing and why in the heck are we doing it, but we keep on.  In the face of many obstacles and trials, we stand up.  We are bold.

When parenting children who come from extremely difficult situations, we learn of our own blessings and our own stumbling blocks.  Their histories collide with ours and we realize how different life could have been for us if we were handed down the same hardships these children have been dealt.

I know the saying of “What would happen if you weren’t afraid?”  It’s fine and everything but I like this version better:  “What would happen if you were bold?” 

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold… -2nd Corinthians 3:12

How could your courage and boldness literally change the course of a child’s or adult’s life?

What would your boldness show to children who look up to you?

How could you make an eternal difference for someone?

What if you took that darned thing called infertility, grabbed it by the neck and said, “No. I’m not going down that way”?

What if you become a foster parent and take in kiddos that absolutely soak up your love and attention?

What if you step outside of your preconceived comfort zone and foster a large sibling group, older youth or ones with special needs?

What could happen if you decide tomorrow to wake up declaring that boldness is the only way to live?

We are well on our way into 2018.  We don’t know what we will have to face or overcome as the year unfolds but let’s live this year with a boldness that leaves an impression.

Shine your light, friends.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

 

If you are considering foster care or adoption, my wish is that fear would not stop you.  It isn’t easy, but it is so worth.

Goal for 2018:  Let others see that boldly living and courageously loving is a remarkable way to live.

Question:  How are you going to live boldly this year?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Ride through the Storm

Last weekend I went for a ride with the local cycling club.  It was a cool June morning, and although the clouds were a little ominous, they appeared to be far off from where we were.  They were majestic and huge; a fantastic site to look at when riding.  The group I ride with was about 20 miles or so into our ride when the clouds turned ugly, dark, and started to dispense some raindrops on us.

At first, the rain felt refreshing.  I’ve gotten over my fear of riding in the rain, so the fresh cool drops were a welcome guest.  Soon the few sprinkles turned into big drops which in-turn turned into buckets of cold rain.  Thunder started roaring, and ahead of us great big bolts of lightning started to strike the Earth.

Everyone seemed to increase their speed, and pretty soon, I was being passed by a few other cyclists.  I couldn’t help but notice the smiles on the faces of those pedaling by me.  It seems storms tend to give way to an adrenaline rush, a slight fear, and the notion that we are all a little crazy for being out there on the road during thunderstorms.

The more we rode, the closer the storm seemed to come.  It was all around us.  We had to ride into it in order to navigate our way out of it.  I know that might not make much sense, but we knew if we turned back, the storm would eventually find us again.

As we drew closer to the flashing lightning, the rush I had been feeling turned to fear.  I began to pray, “Lord, we need a hedge of protection around us.”  I repeated this prayer for the next six or seven miles.  In that moment of darkening skies, rolling thunder, blasting lightning strikes, and pounding cold rain, I realized that without my prayers and the God I believe in, I was nothing.  I was nothing but a speck in the middle of a mighty storm.  I was vulnerable.  I was small.  I was clipped onto a bike and all I could do was pedal on until I found shelter or a way out of the storm.

I was at the storm’s mercy, and trust me, it was not a merciful storm.

After figuring out where we believed the storm was heading, we were able to cut out about ten miles of road and head back to where we started.  Once out of the storm, I began to relax.  The smile came back on my face, and I realized that we were going to be okay.  Riding through the storm was frightening, but a little exhilarating.  Once back in the cycling group, we began to swap storm stories, and all seemed very thankful to be off the bike.

I needed to ride through that storm.  I needed to feel vulnerable, fearful, and in need of mercy.  I needed to call out to Him for protection.  I needed the reminder that I am very small in context to this mighty world we live in.

I also needed the reminder that storms of life come up suddenly, and without much warning.  When in the middle of the crashing sounds of fear, and the strong waves of pain, I need to hang on, ride through it, and call to the Lord in prayer.

When the storms of life are merciless, and bigger than what we feel we can handle, may we embrace the peace that comes from knowing the One who carries us through them.

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. -Nahum 1:7
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. -Nahum 1:7

Courageous Love Photo Gallery

Courageous Love Gallery at Big Momma's Coffee House (Missouri)
Courageous Love Gallery at Big Momma’s Coffee House (Missouri)

May is National Foster Care Month in the United States, so I thought I would share briefly with you about a project I have been involved in.  I was asked to write the adoption stories of a handful of foster families for a local exhibit put on by a photography studio.  The exhibit, titled Courageous Love, was dreamed up by the owners of Freedom Photography.  They too are foster/adoptive parents and live each day knowing the eternal difference that families make when bringing foster children into their home.  You can read their story here:  Colors Don’t Matter.

The gallery is going to be a traveling one and will be hanging on the walls of various businesses and community centers around the area that we live.  The hope is that it will draw attention to the needs of children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted, and to encourage people to consider becoming foster/adoptive parents.  My family was also featured in the gallery, and we were really blessed to be a part of it.

Here is the one of my family:

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As I spent each night writing out the stories of how God has used these families to open their homes to children, I could not help but be reminded of the importance of obedience in faith.  The choice to step out in blind faith, cling to the hope of a living God, and prayerfully care for His children, were themes that jumped out at me while I wrote the stories of families.  It was amazing to see how the separate journeys of the children and the adoptive families crossed paths to unite and become a part of each other’s lives forever.

The photographers thanked me immensely for helping them out with this project, but to be honest, I count it a blessing to be a part of it.  Getting glimpses into the lives of some special children, and special parents, reminded me that a life lived within the full measure of His presence and the hope that lies within, is a life well-lived.  Story after story spoke of the prayerful desire to fill their homes with children while also meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.

If you would like to take a peek at the photos, click on the link below to be taken to the website.  The stories of each family are found next to their images in a black thumbnail with white writing.  Click on it to enlarge so that you can read it!

Freedom Photography Courageous Love Gallery

If you are a photographer or know someone who is, here are some ways that you can help out foster families and kids in the system:

  • Offer to take senior pictures for free for teenagers in foster care
  • Offer discounted photo sessions for foster families and foster children
  • Suggest to other photographers to get involved with galleries such as the one described in this blog post
  • Put brochures up in your studio about the needs of foster children
  • Offer to take pictures at community events that feature foster families

Above all, let’s all pray without ceasing for the over 400,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States.  Nearly 115,000 of them are eligible and in need of adoptive families.

Thoughts about last Monday

I thought twice about writing this one.  I’ve thought even more about posting it.  Actually, I had convinced myself not to write or post it, but upon waking this morning,  I just could not escape the thoughts trapped in my head yearning to be released.  So, here I go….

My intention is not to hurt anyone or be offensive.  My thoughts after last Monday have been “all over the place”.  I want to come away from this post feeling that I’ve taken a tragic situation that the bombing at the Boston Marathon was, and turned my feelings of anger into introspection about where we are as Americans…not just Americans, but Christian Americans.  A part of me feels as though I do not have the right to have an opinion.  Another part of me deeply wonders if I would feel the same way if my spouse, children, mother, father, sister or friends were victims of the attack.  Honestly, I do not know, and pray I will never know what it feels like to be looking at tragedies like these from the inside out.

Like most Americans, I was angry when I saw what happened.  I was worried that there would be more attacks, and I felt sadness for the loss of life and liberty for so many people on that day.  I heard calls for prayer for the victims, the city of Boston, and for our nation.  I did not hear anyone call for prayer for the perpetrators of this act.  My thoughts, (although I did not express them out loud to others at the time), were perhaps we should pray for the perpetrators as well.  Why shouldn’t we pray for them?

Matthew 5:44 – But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;

As the events of Friday played out on the television screen, I was shocked to hear how young both men were.  The youngest brother is only 12 & 1/2 years older than my son.  I do not know all of the details of how these two brothers came to the place where they chose hatred.  I cannot comprehend knowingly setting a bomb by anyone and walking away.  I also could not help but feel pity for them.  I pity them for being lost in the mix of hatred and confusion.

They had their whole lives ahead of them.  One was a young father, and the other, just barely an adult.  Now, one is dead, and the other might face death through the justice system.  Please hear me say this loud and clear, I definitely want justice for the victims. I definitely want a trial to be held.  I definitely love our country.  I find it a blessing to live in a country that is free.  I still cannot escape the “what if’s” of these young men’s lives.

What if the chaos they must have felt in their hearts was replaced with the love of Christ?  What if Christians in their communities and schools would have ministered to them through friendships, love, and prayer?  What if they would have been embraced by Christians in a way that left them no doubt who the Lord of love is?  What if….?

There has been a multitude of Facebook posts about the incident.  Some have been deep prayerful desires for healing, while others have been about seeking vengeance on this young man, and any other that would cause harm to our nation. If I didn’t know better, I would wonder if we (American Christians) put our country before our Lord, our patriotism before our prayers, and our flag before our faith. Again, I think of what Scripture says.

Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

I know it is cliché to ask it, but, “What would Jesus do?”  Sometimes this question is asked rhetorically when determining whether or not to give change to the homeless man on the corner, or to turn the other cheek when facing opposition.  I challenge myself to ask this question when faced with the seemingly unforgivable acts like the one committed nearly a week ago.

I know that my words may alienate some readers.  I hope not.  Writing my thoughts out has become my way of working through times that might cause a stumble in my  faith.  I challenge you, fellow writers and readers, to consider what the Lord would ask of us during this time, and any other.  What is our Christian response supposed to be in times like these?

Our instinct is to seek revenge, but I pray that we would seek a deeper relationship with our Lord, and with each other – friend and foe.

My children, I promise…

photo (37)My children, I am not a perfect mother.  Some days, I’m not even a good-enough mother.  I cannot promise you that I won’t lose my temper or get disappointed at times.  I cannot promise you that I will have all of the answers, save you from any pain, and agree with your choices.  I cannot promise you that I will be walking here on this Earth with you for all of your days.  I won’t promise you these things either.

The commitment made by my own mother to me while growing up, and even today, has spilled over into your lives as well.  Through her, I witnessed what it was like to put someone else before one’s own needs.  Through her, I learned that children should hear that their dreams can come true with hard work and heart.  Through her, I learned to not allow one’s circumstances dictate one’s future.  Through her, I learned that it is okay to not have all the answers, and that someday the answers might just be found.  Through her, I learned to not walk away from commitments and family.

My children, I promise you that my overwhelming love for you will stay with me until my last breath.  My protective instincts will linger throughout your growing-up years, and even while you too are feeling the instinct to protect your little ones.  I promise you that I will try my very best to take care of myself so that our days will be long together.  My desire to put your needs above mine, to sacrifice, to provide, to want more for you, to imagine better for you, to work harder for you, and to be your biggest cheerleader will not fade with time.  I will pray for the Lord’s protection over you.

Each day is a gift from the Lord that presents me with the opportunity to steadfastly work on this art that is called motherhood.  

My children, I may not be a perfect mother.  I may not even be a good-enough mother on some days…but….I’m your mother, and I will not walk away.  That is something I can promise.

It Happened Again Today

It happened again today.  Three young children brought into protective services. Sadly, they may not have been the only ones brought in this week.  Honestly, I don’t believe they were.  It is far more prevalent than most would think.  Abuse, neglect, failure to protect, lack of supervision, unsanitary living conditions….the list goes on….

As I was preparing a room for training, I couldn’t help but notice the sounds coming from the offices near where I was.  Case workers were like bees buzzing around the children.  “Are you hungry?”  “Do you want a toy?”  These questions are nearly just about all you can ask three young ones whose lives just got turned upside down.

As I walked around, I heard case workers on the phone with this question, “Hello, I’m ……from……  We just got 3 children into care today and are wondering if you would consider taking them as a placement?”  When children come into protective services, case workers start frantically calling the “list”.  They move through the list looking for a family who will take kids on a moment’s notice.  There is no planning, no pre-placement visits like adoption, and no real way to predict when a home is needed.

The other sights and sounds I heard are ones that are a little harder to swallow, even though I’ve been in this field for a while.  The little one was whimpering, crying, and throwing fits.  The next little one was playing with the same toy that sang the A, B, C’s over and over again.  The older one, well, she did not seem to say much at all.  Children are resilient and it is hard to know just what they are thinking, but behind their resiliency must be some wonderment about who we were and how they ended up in an office with strangers asking them questions and offering them snacks.

I could not help but think about the job those of us in child welfare have.  I wonder if we would be overwhelmed by it if we just stopped long enough to really think about what our work entails.  That same resiliency that is in children is also what gets most case workers through their jobs.  Yet, behind that layer of resiliency are people who just want to make differences in the lives of children.

Every time a child is in the office where I work, most everyone stops whatever he or she is working on and offers help.  Some “man” the phones looking for a foster home placement, others take turns playing with the children, some dig through the supply closet looking for clothing, diapers, blankets (the children rarely come with anything but the clothes on their backs), others start processing the paperwork, and the nurse checks the kids over with great gentleness and kindness.  Not to sound cliché, but it does take a village at work to help when kids into care.

It happened again today.  Three young lives wrought up by abuse and neglect.  A team of people working together to provide what they could for children in need.  A foster home that finally said “yes”.  And, my heart and mind wishing that none of this was needed.

Want to help, but don’t know how or have the time?  Please consider praying for case workers who are on the front lines of the war against child abuse and neglect.  Prayer changes things!

Kelly

Kelly

Gosh, this was a hard post to write.  I stopped, stared at the image of my cousin above, typed a little, and deleted a lot before finally deciding on how to write about her.  My cousin has been gone now for quite some time.  This week marks the 16th anniversary of her death.  It was an extremely painful experience to lose a best friend and someone who I essentially grew up with.

Most of my friends and co-workers do not even know.  It is not that I have forgotten about her…I just cannot “go there” very often.  I am extremely blessed with amazing friends, but there will always be that space that only Kelly filled.  The vast majority of my early life memories involve her.  Cousins really do become children’s first friends.

She was only 23-years-old; yet, had many sorrows and troubles.  Addictions and sadness plagued her, even though, there was a tremendous amount of sweetness, tenderness, and love buried underneath all of the dirt of life.  She battled addictions for several years and though she wanted to live a full, healthy life, I think that the struggles she had were just too great for her.  So much life has happened since hers ended, but she is never really too far from my thoughts.

My last words to her, while she was conscious, were “baby steps, Kelly, baby steps.” I was trying to get her to slow down with her eagerness to get out of the hospital.  I knew she needed to just put one foot in front of the other and that starting a new, healthier life would be much more difficult than she probably imagined.  “Baby steps”….I regretted those words.  If I had known those words were my last to her, I would not have chosen them.

Moments before her death, I ran to the chapel at the hospital and pleaded with the Lord.  I was not an active Christian at the time and had a lot of confusion, but I still believed in a Heavenly Father who heard our cries.

“Lord, please God, I will do anything. Please let Kelly live.  Please God….she needs a miracle.”  

These words stumbled off of my clumsy lips that were quivering and drenched with tears.  My broken and trembling body laid over the back of the pew.  My hands were clasped together and I was reaching out to the cross before me.  I was alone in the chapel begging….it was just me and God.  It was me bargaining for Him to deliver a miracle to my near lifeless best friend.

Soon after, this I heard my name and turned around.  In the doorway, my aunt stood there shaking her head with tears rolling down her cheeks.

“She’s gone”

….silence.

….numbness.

I got up and nearly ran right into a lady wearing a white jumpsuit.  I remember her brown hair for some reason, but I do not remember her face and did not know she was even in the room.  She said to me, “I heard you pray and wanted to let you know that your cousin is going to be okay.  It is all-Saints day.”  She hugged me and I walked out of the chapel.  I was not Catholic (still am not), so I really did not know what she meant, but something about my encounter with her felt good.

Several months after my cousin’s death, I prayed that God would allow me to see Kelly one more time so that I would know she was okay.  My prayer was answered in a dream.  We were driving around in a car listening to music just like old times when she was breathing Earthly air.  No words were spoken, but I could “hear” her say “I’m okay Caroline.  I’m okay.”  There she sat glowing in all white with that beautiful smile on her face.  There was great peace in the car and I remember not wanting the ride to come to an end.  I woke up and even though it pained me to realize she was gone, I just knew that she was at peace and with the Lord.  I have not dreamed of her since then, but that is okay.

I believe the Lord did grant her the miracle I so pleaded for on that fateful day.  You see, Kelly had been rendered unconscious just a week or two prior to her death.  She miraculously came to, asked for forgiveness, recommitted her faith in the Lord, told her family and friends that she loved them, laughed, hugged, and then passed away.  That was her miracle.

I too was touched by a miracle on the day Kelly died.  My aunt who ran into the chapel to let me know Kelly passed away does not remember the lady in the white jumpsuit.  She told me there was no one else in the chapel with me when she came in.  In other words, I believe my miracle on that day was an encounter with an angel telling me that my sweet cousin was going to be okay even though she would be leaving the Earth.

Kelly never had the opportunity to become a mom, graduate from college, start a career, own a personal computer, use a smart phone, or travel to some far off exotic place.  She did not get to stand next to me at my wedding, attend my adoption hearings, and watch how my story of infertility unfolded.  I know she would have been so in love with my babies and would have cherished them as much as I do.  I believe a part of her will always be with me during all of the moments I share with my children.

I look forward with great anticipation and joy at the reunion I will have with her in Heaven.  I look forward to breathing in the same celestial air that she is breathing and to shine with her in the glory of the Lord.  But, for now, I will continue to hold her in that quiet space that belongs only to her.  I will continue to think of her every time I see tulips and daisies.  And, I will continue to rejoice in the miracles that occurred during that week when Kelly danced her way into Heaven.

Love You, Kelly

few words, big meaning

I thought I would share my son’s prayer the morning before we walked out the door heading to his first day at Kindergarten.  It has been a few weeks since he said this prayer, but it still lingers in my mind and on my heart.  I asked him if he would like to say a prayer for his first day at school and he said yes.  I waited for his cue to see if he wanted me to say it, but instead, he chose to lead.  It went like this:

Dear God,

Help me to make good choices at school.  I want to be good.  Help me Lord.

Amen

The prayer was straight to the point, had few words, but so meaningful.  He knew what he wanted.  He simply asked for it.  He stated his desire to be good.  He acknowledged his need for the Lord to help him.

I think a lot of us adults could learn a lesson or two in this…don’t you?

Voice of Truth

The song titled, The Voice of Truth, by Christian band Casting Crowns is one of my favorites.  I love this song.  Each time it comes on the radio, I crank it up.  The words of the chorus are quite simple:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story.  The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid.”  And the voice of truth says, “This is for my glory.” Out of all the voices calling out to me.  I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

-Casting Crowns

There was a time in my life when I did not know what truth was.  I heard many “voices” but none of them were comforting.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that there were moments in my growing years that whispers of darkness, cruel thoughts, and hurtful words were a part of my psyche.

I remember wondering after my hysterectomy if I had done something awful to cause it to happen.  I thought that perhaps I should have been born a boy…yes…being a boy would have been much better than a girl who could not have babies.  I also thought God surely knew I would make a terrible mother.  He must have wanted to spare a child my mothering.  Or, perhaps I was a child killer in a past life…even though I did not think past lives even existed.

As an adult, I wish I could say that these notions faded, but they did not.  I found myself thinking that God did not want me to be a parent.  If He wanted it, then it would have happened miraculously, quickly, and without any additional strife.  I do not know if anyone who reads this believes in spiritual warfare, but I do.  The fact that these horrific, cruel, depraved thoughts lingered in my mind as a child and an adult prove to me that spiritual warfare does exist.  Not one adult ever said these things to me.  Not one child, no one.  Yet, I “heard” them.

Back in 2000, I started going to church again.  As I began to do so, those hurtful words and  notions took a backseat to the Truth that is found in the voice of God.  The written Word became magnified.  In Him, I began to hear “You are beautiful”, “You have purpose”, “Your life was worth saving”.  Even more awesome though was the clarity I received from worship and reading the Word.  I was able to recognize that the voices bringing me down were not of Him. They were flaming arrows of the enemy and I was the target.

His Word and the hope I found in Christ became my shield.  The following verses spoke to me in ways that drowned out the cursed thoughts I once carried:

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:14 “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Romans 5:2-5 “Through him we have also obtained  access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that  suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character  produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been  poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to  us.

Silence and suffering comes along with infertility.  It can dishearten the strongest of believers.  It can eat at the core of one’s relationship with the Lord.  The enemy whispers “you don’t deserve to be a parent”, “you must have done something wrong”, “it must not be God’s will for you”….and many more things.

I can tell you that when in the pit of despair over barrenness, it is hard sometimes to hear anything but the words of the enemy.  It is hard to see outside of the strife and beyond the pain.  It is hard to hear the voice of Truth calling out.  IT. IS. HARD.  

However, as the song says, THE VOICE OF TRUTH TELLS ME A DIFFERENT STORY.     

The stories of those of us who have struggled or are currently being challenged with the spiritual confusion of infertility are not written by the enemy or anyone else for that matter.  Our stories have been written by the One whose voice is true; the One whose love is everlasting; the One whose shield is strong; the One who breathes life into the most destitute of situations; the One whose grace saves; the One who created us; the One who set our limits; and the One who has declared our future.

What’s the voice of truth telling you?  

For those of you who are battling your way to parenthood, stay strong in your faith.  Know that you are loved by a God who is bigger than your doubts.  Know that He is not done with you yet.  Know that your story is just unfolding.   Take delight in the hope of His promises and the mystery of what He has in store. 

Listen to His Voice of Truth.  Be Blessed.

Strength Training

I love cycling!  I just started a few years ago and thoroughly enjoy it. I have been able to meet an eclectic group of fellow cyclists, make some new friends, see parts of my state I would otherwise over-look, and witness in small ways about my faith in Christ.  A lot of issues have been worked on and prayed for while out riding in the country.  I really enjoy riding in local charity events and end my “season” with completing a 150 mile ride to bring awareness and raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis.

There are numerous hills dispersed throughout my corner of the state in Missouri.  Oh, I love going down them, but climbing back up is a whole other issue.  Often, I just want to unclip my shoes, get off the bike, and walk up.  But, I don’t (okay…well maybe a few times).  Instead, I huff and puff my way up these “Ozarkian” hills.

The bike is not to blame.  It doesn’t change.  The suffering of the ride really has nothing to do with the bike, but instead, my lack of focus, determination, and training….oh yeah….and those darn hills.  I am now realizing that perhaps my cycling journeys represent my walk with Christ.

I’ve found that when being challenged by a major hill that feels more like a mountain, I’ve struggled with the instinct to just keep my focus on the Lord.  It can be hard to stay determined to make it up that mountain.  I have wanted to do it all on my own and not allow the Lord to help me up it.  Then there are those times when life is good and I’m just flying along.  I fail to notice or acknowledge sometimes the One who gives me those moments where I am carefree, content, and not having to work very hard.

Like cycling, I think that walking with the Lord takes practice.  Let me explain a little further. Before I fully committed myself to the Lord, I did not realize how important it was to stay active in faith.  I just assumed that I could be “immobile” and the Lord would take care of it all.  I did not pray that often, barely cracked open my bible, and never went to church.

Through the past 12 years since I have surrendered it all to Him, I have learned that being active in my faith requires daily “training”.  Prayer, acknowledging His good works in my day-to-day life, trusting Him daily, reading the Word, tithing, being active in church, serving others….the training regiment goes on and on.  I do not want to be a lukewarm, out-of-shape Christian.

When I am out on my bike and really feeling every muscle in my legs burn, I start to recite to myself “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  

If I look up the road and see what seems like a monster of a hill coming, I recite “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  

If nearing the end of a long ride and I am just worn out, I tell myself “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Just like training rides build up my strength and endurance, my daily walk, or run for that matter, with the Lord builds up my strength to face the mountains in life.  Christ strengthens, Christ builds up, Christ refines, and Christ declares the victory.