Chasing God's glory through all circumstances

Guest blogger

Running for His glory: 4 ways a half marathon transformed my prayer life

Posted by | death, Guest blogger, prayer, running, Stories, Uncategorized | No Comments

This essay is part of our summer series called “Running for His glory,” focusing on the intersection between running and faith. Heather is a new friend I met through the Hopewriters online writing community. Heather shares how running has transformed her prayer life and gives some practical ideas on how we can incorporate prayer and scripture in our runs as well. 

 

By Heather Lobe

I laced up my sneakers and packed all of the essentials for my longest training run yet – 11 miles. Breathing in deep through my nose, I pushed off against the greenway path and steadied my pace. Mile by mile, I prayed for the individuals whose names were in my pocket on a 3×5 note card.

With the rhythm of my feet on the pavement, and the sound of the rushing water with the river next to me, I entered into a time of communion with God. The rest of my week was packed full and overflowing, loud and chaotic, but in those long runs it was just the Lord and me. This was a chance to clear my mind and embrace the beauty of the open sky above.

When my lungs or legs grew tired, I flipped my index card over to remind myself of that day’s meditation. For that run, I prayed through Isaiah 40:30-31:

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 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.”

I wasn’t always a runner. In fact, there are distinct memories burned into my mind of timed tests during physical education classes in school. We were supposed to run laps on the track, and I just remember feeling so bored from the repetition of the flat red track. I had trouble running a full lap without stopping, so I often just used my long legs to power-walk as fast as I could around the track. Whenever I passed the gym teacher, I worked my way up to a jog for as long as I could endure.

In 2014, I entered a season that opened up time and space for me to address some areas that I had been neglecting for years. As I took stock of my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health, I realized that I needed to do a better job of taking care of myself. I entered into a time of counseling, joined a support group, and decided to nourish my body with healthier eating and exercise.

In that period of finding myself again, I decided to become a runner.

When I first started out, I was discouraged that I couldn’t even finish a mile. I pushed too hard. I tried to run too fast. It was too much too soon.

I learned to embrace the process and just start small. Run 3 minutes, walk 2. Run 4 minutes, walk 1. Run 5… see if you can keep going. It took a month, but I finally was able to run a mile without stopping. It seems like such a small accomplishment, but it represented the beginning of a journey for me.

Eventually, I signed up for 5k races and regularly ran 3 miles at a time. In 2016, I signed up to run a half marathon in the mountainous college town where I work. During that training time, I decided to press in to the quiet. I started to pray as I ran. This opened up a completely new way of approaching those training runs and the long stretches of time dedicated to race preparation.

God revealed some amazing lessons about communicating with Him through my half marathon training:

Prayer is not a stagnant thing. I am missing out if I believe prayer requires me to kneel beside my bed or talk to God when I am in the pew at church. God invites us into regular conversation with Him and wants to be part of every ounce of our day. He invites us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We can pray while we drive, walk, parent our children, sit at our desks, cook dinner, or sit with hurting friends. We can offer up our requests and listen for His voice even in the busyness of our weekly routine or in the rhythm of a training run.

Scripture is a powerful prayer tool. Over the course of my training, I wrote various words from Scripture onto a 3×5 notecard that I could carry in my pocket. Some were verses that gave me strength or courage to keep pressing into my run, and others were calming truths I needed during that hard season. When I don’t have the words, I can use words that God gave us to return to Him as a plea, a meditation, or an offering.

We are called to pray for others. For most of my life, I think my prayers sounded more like, “Dear Heavenly Father, Gimme, gimme, gimme.” During my long runs, a friend suggested that I pray for a different person each mile. On the back of the notecard with my verse for the day, I also wrote a name next to each mile I was planning to run.

Something transformative happens in our hearts when we repeatedly pray for others in our lives. It takes our eyes off our own problems, and joins us as partners in prayer with others who also have needs. My notecard even contained a few names of people I really didn’t want to pray for who caused hurt or who I was having a hard time forgiving. I focused on asking God to bless those people and to soften my heart towards them. He was and is faithful in answering those prayers.

Take it one step at a time. Training to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) happens one step at a time. I cannot jump past all of the hard stuff in my life to get to the finish line. As I worked through sore muscles, shin splints, tired lungs, and adjustments to my protein and caloric intake, I grew in my capacity to listen to my body and learned how to move forward in my training – one run at a time.

That same season was filled with many questions about the future and how to move forward, but God taught me to trust Him to lead, one step at a time. I prayed for His wisdom to show me the next right thing, and He used my training to remind me to slow down my tendency to run ahead and just listen to Him.

 

Heather Lobe is a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who has seen firsthand how God redeems broken lives and heals our deepest wounds. Heather is a writer, speaker, and worship leader with a heart for others to know Jesus. Active in her local community and the Celebrate Recovery ministry, Heather’s heart is for women to know that they are known, loved, and healed in relationship with Christ. She delights in making gratitude lists, finding good local coffee, and running and hiking the mountains of Roanoke, Virginia where she lives with her husband and son. You can find more of Heather’s writing at www.heatherlobe.com, and she’d love to connect with you on Instagram.

*Are you a runner or enthusiastic walker? Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, join us!

Read more articles in the “Running for His glory” series:

-In “When God brings you full circle,” Dorina describes how sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come. She learned this on a trail race she ran a few times in different seasons of life.

-In “How running found me,” Danielle E. Morgan shares her story about how running found her as a young adult and has shaped her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.

-In “Battling negative self-talk,” Kristy Wallace runs us through how she reframes her internal dialogue using scripture. She runs and meditates on specific passages throughout the week.

-In “How running provided healing during mental illness,” Abigail Alleman shares her personal story of how running provided an avenue for her to continue healing during dark seasons.

-In “Discovering running as soul care,” Erin Reibel talks about how she grew into loving running as a busy mama. She consider it an important soul care practice.

-In “How I started running for all the wrong reasons,” Gloryanna Boge shares about how she started out running for all the wrong reasons, but God redeemed it for her.

-In “Run the hill,” Mark W. Jackson unfolds how running hills has helped him learn perseverance through life’s trials.

-In “Finding God’s sanctuary on the trail,” Allison Tucker shares about how God meets her on the trail. I love that she is a grandma who still ventures out into God’s sanctuary in Creation!

-In “Learning to breathe at higher altitudes,” Dorina Gilmore talks about how God breathes life into us, and we live on borrowed breaths as we run life’s path today.

-In “How one mother trusts God’s timing,” Lindsey Zarob shares about how pregnancies took a toll on her body. She had to press the pause button on running for a season, but God brought it back around for her in a new place and new way.

-In “When you feel like running away,” Shannon Rattai writes about how running has become a kind of therapy for her where she can release her burdens and anxiety to God.

-In “How running taught me to stay,”  Jennie G. Scott writes about how running has helped her to stay the course God has set out for her in this life.

 

Main photo by William Farlow on Unsplash

Running for His glory: When you feel like running away

Posted by | brave, courage, finishing well, Guest blogger, running, self-care, Stories | No Comments

“I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” -Psalms 121:1, 2

This essay is part of our summer series called “Running for His glory,” focusing on the intersection between running and faith. I met Shannon through the Hopewriters online writing community. In this reflection, she shares about how running is a kind of therapy for her. Trail running helps her release her burdens and connect with God. She’s a glory chaser too!

 

By Shannon Rattai

As I stand at the base of the trail, shoes laced up, determination in my gaze, I stare at my “mountain.”

It’s not the trail before me, winding up and up over the foothills. It’s not the next path that leads me higher into the forest that I’ve come to love.

It’s the mountain that is burdening my spirit. It’s the weight on my shoulders. The heaviness that has infected my heart, mind, and body.

It’s in our human nature to want to run. Maybe not in a marathon, or around the block, but to run away from what burdens us beyond what we can bear.  Our thoughts tell us: this is too much or I can’t take anymore, or I can’t deal with this any longer.” My personal favorite is that question: why me?.  

These thoughts are constant disrupters, adding to the noise of my busy life.

God calls me to be still. He calls me to listen for His voice. He calls me to seek Him and His help. He is the mover of mountains. I need to seek and ask.

The higher I climb, my anger, frustration, and cries of desperation reach their depths.  I push myself further and faster. I’m trying to outrun my problems, but they don’t want to leave.  They cling to me like the number I pinned to my shirt in a race. They try to define me and remind me of the hopelessness I feel.

As I run over the trails, I purposely release my anxiety and cares. With each pound of my feet, I lay the burdens at His feet. I breathe in His goodness as He ministers to my weary soul. The whisper of the wind on my face, the gentle bubbling of the brook, the soft melody of the songbird all reminds me He is there. He is all around me. He has never left me alone. I don’t need to fear or do this on my own.

Running for me is therapy. A way to work out frustrations, to sweat away my anxiety and despair. A way to literally run away.  

But, it’s so much more than that too. It’s a place where I meet my Saviour, my Friend,here peace is spoken to my spirit. I find clarity when I run. And the view is pretty spectacular as well!

As I reach the crest of the foothill, the sun is coming over the horizon. The truth seeps into my heart like a healing balm. My help comes from the Lord. He made the heavens and the earth. My problems are not too big for Him to handle. He’s got this…and He’s got me.

Whatever troubles you are facing today, my prayer is that you find this same peace. Slip on your running shoes, go out into nature, and run towards God. He is waiting for you.

 

Shannon Rattai started running later in life. The lure of nature and exploring creation has led her on many adventures in running. She loves to run with her son. While numbers occupy most of her day, she loves to read, write and point others to the amazing peace she has found. Shannon can be reached on Facebook  at Shannon Rattai or on Instagram as @shannonrattai. 

 

 

 

*Are you a runner or enthusiastic walker? Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, join us!

Read more articles in the “Running for His glory” series:

-In “When God brings you full circle,” Dorina describes how sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come. She learned this on a trail race she ran a few times in different seasons of life.

-In “How running found me,” Danielle E. Morgan shares her story about how running found her as a young adult and has shaped her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.

-In “Battling negative self-talk,” Kristy Wallace runs us through how she reframes her internal dialogue using scripture. She runs and meditates on specific passages throughout the week.

-In “How running provided healing during mental illness,” Abigail Alleman shares her personal story of how running provided an avenue for her to continue healing during dark seasons.

-In “Discovering running as soul care,” Erin Reibel talks about how she grew into loving running as a busy mama. She consider it an important soul care practice.

-In “How I started running for all the wrong reasons,” Gloryanna Boge shares about how she started out running for all the wrong reasons, but God redeemed it for her.

-In “Run the hill,” Mark W. Jackson unfolds how running hills has helped him learn perseverance through life’s trials.

-In “Finding God’s sanctuary on the trail,” Allison Tucker shares about how God meets her on the trail. I love that she is a grandma who still ventures out into God’s sanctuary in Creation!

-In “Learning to breathe at higher altitudes,” Dorina Gilmore talks about how God breathes life into us, and we live on borrowed breaths as we run life’s path today.

-In “How one mother trusts God’s timing,” Lindsey Zarob shares about how pregnancies took a toll on her body. She had to press the pause button on running for a season, but God brought it back around for her in a new place and new way.

 

*Main photo by Jessie Fröde on Unsplash

Running for His glory: How one mother trusts God’s timing

Posted by | family life, Guest blogger, hope, parenting, rest, running, self-care, Stories | No Comments

This essay is part of our summer series called “Running for His glory,” focusing on the intersection between running and faith. Lindsey is a guest on my blog today, sharing about how pregnancies took a toll on her body. She had to press the pause button on running for a season, but God brought it back around for her in a new place and new way. 

 

By Lindsey Zarob

My first pregnancy had complications resulting in strict bed rest at 29 weeks through the end of the pregnancy. My second pregnancy required a more modified bed rest starting at 31 weeks, until the end. (Oh, and these precious little babies were only 13 months apart.)

Yep, two babies in a little over a year. This meant I barely recovered before we had baby #2 on the horizon. Because of the challenges with my previous pregnancy, this momma couldn’t walk much, let alone run during this second pregnancy. My body was a sacrifice for my kiddos, and I felt it.

Before children, running was my go-to adventure. It was my excuse for travel — hello Dublin Marathon! — and my sanctuary. Running helped build my community as I connected with friends over long runs. It was my lifeline.

I met God on those runs. I talked with Him at length. I professed my gratefulness to Him and listed all the good things in life, whether I felt them or not. I pleaded my case in prayer.  And, at times, I lamented great loss. Running was a wholistic endeavor for me.

After baby #2 was born, our condo in the city was a little tight. We knew it was time to move to the suburbs. This meant I was leaving my lake-front running path in the beautiful Windy City of Chicago for who knows what? Sidewalks and streetlights? I couldn’t run on my beloved path for what seemed like ages, and now we were leaving it forever.

We had another child about two years later. This meant I had three kids under three and a half. I hadn’t started running again because, well, life. I was working, I had young children, and I knew that these pregnancies had taken a toll on this body of mine.

I had split core muscles to repair, pelvic floor challenges to consider, and zero time to do the work to heal these things. I felt like I was missing something and no amount of brisk walks was going to replace it.

Sadly, I had given up on ever really running again. I couldn’t see how I could fit it in. Being a wife, mom of three, and working (sometimes part-time, sometimes full-time) meant there was little room to fit in the things I loved. (Can I get an amen from all the mommas of littles out there?)

Running became my long-lost love. And I really thought I would never find it again.

But it found me.

Finally, six years after my oldest was born, we decided I would leave the workforce and stay home with the kids. We felt this was God’s nudging for our family. We made some drastic moves, including down-sizing our house to make it happen.

This was a hard transition for me, but God was working behind the scenes as He always does.

Because I was home now, I could squeeze in the time for physical therapy so I could repair  some of the physical challenges that came from my pregnancies. After doing the necessary work, I was hitting the pavement again. And man, did it feel amazing.

This was the same year that my oldest child started kindergarten. He was making friends left and right, which meant I was being introduced to new parents all the time. It turned out that our new “tiny home” (as I affectionately call her), was in a tight-knit little neighborhood with a lot of amazing people.

Unbeknownst to us, God had moved us right down the street from one of my son’s new best buddies. And wouldn’t you know, his buddy’s mom is a runner. In time, she and I became great friends, and now we run together weekly. In God’s kindness, He brought my lost love back and with even greater blessing.

My body didn’t seem the same. My environment and circumstances had drastically changed. I thought a part of me had died and would not return. But God had different plans and provided in abundance. In His time, He made it beautiful.

I also discovered a running path right behind our house that extends through multiple towns and forest preserves. It winds through marsh lands, meanders through horse farms, and goes on for what seems like forever. That path is an incredible gift right outside our back door!

Friends, let me encourage you to not give up even when it seems like all signs point to the end of something. Our God delights in giving us the desires of our hearts. It may look different than in the past, and it might not come about the way you thought it would, but He will provide.

Don’t give up on the love that He placed in your heart. He placed it there for a reason and will make sure it comes back to you in full measure.

 

Lindsey is a wife, mom, and part-time Creative Strategist/copy-writer who works from home. Balancing roles and responsibilities keeps her on her toes. She loves to run and be outdoors whenever possible, but her most favorite thing is to enjoy the stillness before her household wakes in the early hours of the morning. You can find her at www.lindseyczarob.com, on Instagram @lindseyczarob and on Facebook @lindseyczarob.

 

 

*Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, pass it on.

Read more articles in the “Running for His glory” series:

-In “When God brings you full circle,” Dorina describes how sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come. She learned this on a trail race she ran a few times in different seasons of life.

-In “How running found me,” Danielle E. Morgan shares her story about how running found her as a young adult and has shaped her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.

-In “Battling negative self-talk,” Kristy Wallace runs us through how she reframes her internal dialogue using scripture. She runs and meditates on specific passages throughout the week.

-In “How running provided healing during mental illness,” Abigail Alleman shares her personal story of how running provided an avenue for her to continue healing during dark seasons.

-In “Discovering running as soul care,” Erin Reibel talks about how she grew into loving running as a busy mama. She consider it an important soul care practice.

-In “How I started running for all the wrong reasons,” Gloryanna Boge shares about how she started out running for all the wrong reasons, but God redeemed it for her.

-In “Run the hill,” Mark W. Jackson unfolds how running hills has helped him learn perseverance through life’s trials.

-In “Finding God’s sanctuary on the trail,” Allison Tucker shares about how God meets her on the trail. I love that she is a grandma who still ventures out into God’s sanctuary in Creation!

-In “Learning to breathe at higher altitudes,” Dorina Gilmore talks about how God breathes life into us, and we live on borrowed breaths as we run life’s path today.

 

*Main photo by Fil Mazzarino on Unsplash.

Running for His glory: Finding God’s sanctuary on the trail

Posted by | courage, Guest blogger, running, self-care, Stories, struggle | No Comments

This essay is part of our summer series called “Running for His glory,” focusing on the intersection between running and faith. Allison is a guest on my blog today, sharing about how God meets her on the trail. I love that she is a grandma who still ventures out into God’s sanctuary in Creation!

 

By Allison Tucker

When I was a child, exploring came very naturally. There was no fear, no map, and no lack of motivation. This was before digital media when my boundaries at my grandparents farm in Mississippi were set by a barbed wire fence and the Town Creek spur off the Tombigbee River.

While my grandfather worked, I was free to roam without distraction. I ran, rode horses, and cooled off by jumping into the artesian well that watered the cows.

Occasionally, I jumped over the barbed wire fence to follow the steep trail up to the church summer camp sanctuary. My grandfather didn’t approve of my trespassing, or the dangerous wildlife route I took that scaled the edge of the bluff.

I ventured to the top where the empty pews were made of hickory logs. The cross stood about 10 feet tall not far from the edge of the bluff overlooking Monroe County and the Town Creek 50 feet below. Just the expanse of blue sky meeting the treeline beyond the cross in the shade of the canopy was life-giving.

I still remember it as a holy place where I met God to pray and just take in the beauty of His creation. I sat on the first row in my tank top and jeans with the sweaty salt outline of my horse’s back on my legs. Even though I was trespassing, I felt welcome. There was no pretense in this place.

Today, life is more complicated. God still desires to meet me on the trail as the obligations of life press in. There is no woodland sanctuary carved out of the bluff nearby, but my home is surrounded by trails rich with life lessons.

Trail adventures with God feed my soul so I am determined to meet Him.

My first step to unplugging and answering God’s invitation to play in the woods is overcoming fear. Fear is real! My mind can create so many obstacles. The internal messages begin with each new day. My mind tells me…

  • Women are more vulnerable on a trail.
  • The snakes are out of hibernation.
  • What if I trip?
  • I’m too old.

Fear can cripple me before I even make it out the door.

I have learned to just start moving toward the trail and look for God in His creation. I don’t let fear limit my experience. I expect God to show up and He will. Proverbs 3:5-6 often comes to my mind:

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

As the fear messages creep in, I tell myself… Put on your running clothes, prepare your fuel, charge the Garmin, and set your mind on getting out the door for a run.

My next step is to plot the course. Often, this happens as I am driving to the trailhead. I pray for direction and safety. I talk to God about any unfinished business so that I can clear my mind and just be present with Him on the trail. If I don’t accept God’s invitation to join me on the run, I’ll be running with my problems. Once I reach my destination, I hit the trail.

I love running next to water. Hopping over babbling brooks or tracing the curve of the riverbank with each step opens opportunity for wildlife sightings. The sycamores lean in toward the water like there’s something good to see or hear. I like to leave room for a detour or two, but I always have a map and know where to find clean drinking water.

Many trail runners run alone. I run solo to marinate in God’s presence, but only after I am very comfortable in my skill level and my surroundings. I join trail races or trail running clubs to explore places that I would not ordinarily feel comfortable going alone.

For me, the first three miles are usually a struggle. My body has to get warmed up and my mind focused. By mile four, my muscles are warm and I have stopped thinking about myself and I become relaxed as He seeps in through every breath.

When I’m ten miles in, He shows His forgiveness in the gentle breeze that renews me for the final two miles. I flow through nature with God as I give Him my full attention and let my thoughts become enveloped by His presence.

Even when running the same trail over and over again, each season proves unique. The air is pure and whispers in my ears. Spontaneous bird songs cheer me along the way.

Various ecosystems meet in the bend of the trail as I enter the solace of the hardwood forest. Thousands of leaves filter the sun sharing warm beams of light that reflect off each particle floating in the air. Hidden roots wake me, leading to the trail’s rite of passage. The trail takes a piece of me for itself as my knee or face hits the dirt.

Trail love. Proof that I have been there and tackled something beyond myself.

As the trail-head comes back into view, I have a new perspective. The stress I have carried has been wiped away by God. My body is spent, but stronger. My mind is clear and restored. My heart is open and full of all the beauty I have soaked in on the trail in God’s sanctuary.

 

Allison lives in NC with her husband Hugh and their 5 children. They are grandparents to a beautiful granddaughter. Allison graduated from North Carolina State University with a BA in Business Administration. She is a writer, photographer, and cut flower grower who enjoys encouraging women to create healthy life cycles for themselves, their homes, and their gardens. You can visit her website and find her on Facebook.

 

 

*Read the other articles in the “Running for His glory” series:
-In “When God brings you full circle,” Dorina describes how sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come. She learned this on a trail race she ran a few times in different seasons of life.

 

-In “How running found me,” Danielle E. Morgan shares her story about how running found her as a young adult and has shaped her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.

 

-In “Battling negative self-talk,” Kristy Wallace runs us through how she reframes her internal dialogue using scripture. She runs and meditates on specific passages throughout the week.

 

-In “How running provided healing during mental illness,” Abigail Alleman shares her personal story of how running provided an avenue for her to continue healing during dark seasons.

 

-In “Discovering running as soul care,” Erin Reibel talks about how she grew into loving running as a busy mama. She consider it an important soul care practice.
-In “How I started running for all the wrong reasons,” Gloryanna Boge shares about how she started out running for all the wrong reasons, but God redeemed it for her.
-In “Run the hill,” Mark W. Jackson unfolds how running hills has helped him learn perseverance through life’s trials.
*Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, pass it on.

Running for His glory: Run the hill

Posted by | courage, Guest blogger, hope, Personal Stories, relationships, running, Stories, struggle | No Comments

 

This essay is part of our summer series called “Running for His glory,” focusing on the intersection between running and faith. Mark is a new friend, whom I met through an online writers community called Hope*writers. I’m grateful for his honesty and example of perseverance in this story. He shares about how running up hills literally and in life has helped him on his journey. 

 

By Mark W. Jackson

I dropped my bike and ran toward the scene of the accident. My son was lying on the ground, his bike and older brother beside him. A woman was there also, her parked car only feet away. She looked up as I approached. 

Had he been hit?

Conscious and still breathing. Good. He had struck a pothole and skidded across the pavement on his wrist. I looked at the swollen and badly disjointed arm and took a deep breath. I thanked the woman for checking on my son then dialed my wife’s number. 

My wife. She had just moved out of our apartment. The love we had found over 13 years ago had been steadily eroding, and I felt powerless to shore it up. It was Labor Day weekend, days before I was to start my new teaching job and only a few short months since we had left the mission field. 

“Oblique fracture,” said the doctor at the Emergency Room. “We’ll need to sedate him before setting the bone right.” Fractured, I thought. A morbid metaphor for our lives at that moment. 

 ______________________________________________________________

I had taken up jogging as a teen and never looked back. Now, as a divorced dad of three, running has proven to be medicine for my body, mind, and spirit. I remember those days during the separation and divorce when my emotions boiled within me and I found myself at times sprinting down the lane to let off steam. The intensity of those emotions have cooled with the passing of time, but still I run. I run every week through that cemetery. Like the plaster cast which encased my son’s broken arm, it has become a place of healing. 

Just inside the entrance to the cemetery is a set of stone steps leading up a hill to an overlook. I often run those stairs first. I like the strain it puts on my body, knowing that it will result in greater strength. 

“Not only that, but 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.” (Romans 5:3-5, ESV)

The top of that hill has become a sacred place for me. I spend a moment in reflection there. I  pray for others and tell God what’s on my heart. It’s a place to remember His faithfulness to me and to renew my trust in his ways. In the whisper of wind through the pines, I hear the voices of saints gone before, telling me God is worthy, urging me to press on. 

“We have all these great people around us as examples. Their lives tell us what faith means. So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit.” (Hebrews 12:1a, ERV)

The cemetery was also the place where I began to go off track. Two years after the divorce, I met a woman. In many ways she seemed a great match except we didn’t share a common faith… yet, I told myself, but she’s so close to trusting in Jesus. We enjoyed running together, and our relationship quickly progressed. I stood with her one summer afternoon on top of that hill and told her she had my heart. But even as I said those words, I felt an unease deep within. 

In the weeks that followed, God’s Spirit relentlessly worked on my heart. He used A. W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God,” various passages of Scripture, and the wounding words of love from friends to convict me that I was veering from the path God had for me. Before summer’s end I broke off the relationship and gave my tear-drenched heart back to God.

“We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall.” (Hebrews 12:1b, ERV)

There is a final hill, and it comes at the end of my run, just before I reach home. It’s the hardest climb. I often feel spent as I approach it, but there’s a phrase I repeat to myself as I get closer: “Run the hill.” 

I put one foot in front of the other and strain for the top without thinking about the distance left to get there. Endurance. Perseverance. This, for me is the most important carry-over from running to my personal life. The learned fortitude to stay the course. 

Yet inner strength does not always look like running; it sometimes looks like walking or even crawling on all fours. When Jesus faced Calvary’s hill he did not run it. He stumbled up it, bearing the weight of a cross loaded with our sin and shame. Outwardly he was never weaker; inwardly never stronger. He had built that strength through innumerable acts of surrender and obedience, persevering in the path the Father planned for him. 

“We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:2, ERV)

What hill are you looking up at right now? For whatever reason – perhaps unknown to you – the Father has called you there. Satan may be taunting you; daring you to try another step; tempting you to take an easier way. But look around you: Faithful witnesses are cheering you on.

Look within: The Spirit that cries “Abba, Father” is there saying you can trust God’s heart.

Look up: At the top of that hill stands One who has gone before you. He is Jesus the Christ. He is your Hope. He is your Strength. He is your Home. Set your gaze on Him as you take one step and then another. Run, walk, crawl that hill for the Joy that awaits you.

 

Mark developed his love of running in Zimbabwe where he was born to missionary parents. He now lives in New Hampshire with his three children and works at an inner city school, teaching English Learners. Connect with him on Facebook at Mark W Jackson.

 

 

*Read the other articles in the “Running for His glory” series:
-In “When God brings you full circle,” Dorina describes how sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come. She learned this on a trail race she ran a few times in different seasons of life.

 

-In “How running found me,” Danielle E. Morgan shares her story about how running found her as a young adult and has shaped her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.

 

-In “Battling negative self-talk,” Kristy Wallace runs us through how she reframes her internal dialogue using scripture. She runs and meditates on specific passages throughout the week.

 

-In “How running provided healing during mental illness,” Abigail Alleman shares her personal story of how running provided an avenue for her to continue healing during dark seasons.

 

-In “Discovering running as soul care,” Erin Reibel talks about how she grew into loving running as a busy mama. She consider it an important soul care practice.
-In “How I started running for all the wrong reasons,” Gloryanna Boge shares about how she started out running for all the wrong reasons, but God redeemed it for her.
*Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, pass it on.

Running for His glory: Discovering running as soul care

Posted by | community, Guest blogger, prayer, running, self-care, Stories, transitions | No Comments

This essay is part of our summer series called “Running for His glory,” focusing on the intersection between running and faith. I met Erin through an online writers community called Hope*writers. Her story talks about how she grew into loving running as a practice of soul care as a busy mama.

 

By Erin Reibel

I ran track for one year in 8th grade.  I was horrible – like came in lasted, hated every practice, went to the bathroom to avoid the drills, horrible.

After that, I avoided running like the plague.  I did other things; I played basketball. I swam on the swim team. I rode my bike, so it is not like I wasn’t active.  I just never really embraced running.

Picking up running seemed like the least likely option when I was trying to get in shape in my early 30’s after giving birth to my fourth and last child.  I wanted to lose those last few pounds of baby weight, and I needed a goal to work toward. I signed up for a 10k, downloaded a coaching app, and recruited a friend to train with me.

I think what initially drew me to running was that it was easy.  I could just lace up my shoes and head out the front down. No packing the kids in the car and driving to the gym. No swimsuit. I did not need to find teammates and coordinate another schedule, when I had the time I could just go.

But that still didn’t mean that I liked it.  As a matter of fact, I still hated every sweaty, out-of-breath moment of it.  It took running consistently for almost one year – that’s right one whole year – before I could identify the real benefits for me. And even then, I could only identify the benefits in the absence of running.

As a busy mom, I have a hard time slowing down.  When I sit down to pray, I find myself either creating my grocery lists or falling asleep.  Early in my prayer life, I was exposed to the idea of coloring your prayers. It is sort of like doodling while listening to a lecture. By having my hands busy, I was able to focus my mind on my prayers.  Running offers me a similar experience, except engaging my whole body.

Moving my legs and getting my heart rate up forces my entire body to work. This leaves less room for my mind to wander.  When I run, it takes about a mile for me to get over that inner dialogue that tells me “Everything is sore,” “I want to go back home,” and “Why do I do this to myself?”

Then something inside me switches. My mind turns away from those superficial concerns and dives into what I really need to speak with God about that day.  After about a mile of me talking, my mind finally releases all that it can. I fall silent, and I listen for God to speak to me.

And God speaks.

God answers my prayers. God gives me peace. God provides me with direction.  When I am stumped with a message or having problems negotiating a tricky personal situation, I find that I can feel God’s presence more tangibly while running.

Oftentimes, I will stop and voice message myself, the turning point in my next message, or send an email because I finally have the right words to say. or note who the Holy Spirit was prompting me to check on once I got back home.

For me, running is no longer just exercise for my body; it is an exercise for my soul.

Here are a few ways I incorporate the practice of prayerful running in my life:

  • At least once a week, I go on one 4-6 mile run with the focus of prayer.
  • When life is really overwhelming, I increase my running, working in two or three 4-6 mile runs that are focused on prayer (i.e., I am not listening to music or podcasts)
  • When I have trouble focusing, I will often say a favorite verse of scripture over and over again, to the pace of my run. This would be a type of contemplative running.
  • One of the busiest times of the year is the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s day. During that time, I go on a running streak (trying) to run at least 1 mile every day.  This makes sure that I am taking at least 10 minutes a day to take care of my soul and reconnect with God.

When my life is at its most stressful, when I have more things on my list than I can possibly accomplish, those are the days that I need to run even more.

Psalm 62:5 says, “Oh, I must find rest in God only, because my hope comes from him (CEB version)!”  Running fuels my body and provides my soul with the rest in God that it so desperately needs.

 

With almost two decades of experience, Erin Reibel has led children, youth, and adults to think about church and community engagement differently.  She received her Bachelor of Arts from the College of William and Mary in 2001, her Master of Divinity and Master of Christian Education from Union Presbyterian Seminary in 2009 and her Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary in 2018, where she focused on the challenges and opportunities women face in leadership. She is the founder of Hometable Community, a place where people can find instruction, encouragement, and accountability for their spiritual journey. Follow her on Instagram at @reibelreads and Twitter as @erinreibel.

 

*Read the other articles in the “Running for His glory” series:
-In “When God brings you full circle,” Dorina describes how sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come. She learned this on a trail race she ran a few times in different seasons of life.

 

-In “How running found me,” Danielle E. Morgan shares her story about how running found her as a young adult and has shaped her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.

 

-In “Battling negative self-talk,” Kristy Wallace runs us through how she reframes her internal dialogue using scripture. She runs and meditates on specific passages throughout the week.

 

-In “How running provided healing during mental illness,” Abigail Alleman shares her personal story of how running provided an avenue for her to continue healing during dark seasons.

 

*Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, pass it on.

Running for His glory: How running provided healing during mental illness

Posted by | courage, Guest blogger, hope, Personal Stories, running, self-care, Stories, struggle, Uncategorized | No Comments

This essay is part of our summer series called “Running for His glory,” focusing on the intersection between running and faith. I met Abigail through an online writers community called Hope*writers. I am grateful for her honest story on how running provides an avenue for healing for her as she battles mental illness and physical setbacks.

 

By Abigail Alleman

It was a poignant moment on a summery June day. My sister asked me a simple question. “Will you run a 5K with me?”

I didn’t know what to say. Did she really think I could?

Three months earlier, we were ripped out of our missionary life, suddenly and completely. We had spent 10 years building a ministry in Hungary.

Prior to our leaving the country, I spent two weeks in a state hospital, punctuated by three days in the ICU. I was eventually given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Along the wearying journey of stabilization, I had early side effects to medicine. It left me walking like an elderly woman.

I had to learn to sleep, walk and even breathe again. My confidence was low, and it was a struggle to do basic things, like take care of my three young children.

But all of this changed that warm June day.

I was staying at my other sister’s house, and I decided to try to run. Physically, it was about 10 years since I last ran. I hadn’t been able to figure out how to do it while having babies and living in different countries.

And then came my life-altering diagnosis. Life pulled no punches, and I was beaten and bloody.

My sister’s invitation was the perfect question at the perfect time.

As I went out to walk, I decided I would try to run part of the time. I had no phone or watch to measure distance or time. I just ran. Most likely it was about half a mile. I was amazed. I could run!

I sprinted into the house and hugged my twin sister: “I feel alive again. This is symbolic of the healing God wants to do, I know it!” I felt a tingling from my head to my toes at the promise of it all.

Now, four years, three half marathons, and numerous 5K’s later, I am still running. The joy which God has restored in my life through running is immeasurable. I feel capable and strong as I run, and it bolsters me for the journey I am on with mental illness.

Running is one of the most powerful spiritual disciplines I have known in my 40 or more years as a believer. Sometimes, I pray, meditate on Scripture or listen to music while running. This refreshes me and is a win-win. But it is also true, sometimes I am just trying to make my goal.

I will say to myself, “Okay…just another mile. No too long, another half mile. Still too long, another quarter mile. Ok, just this next stride, it’s all I can handle right now.”

Whenever I want to give up on running, I remember how it’s parallel to my life’s course. Around all of it, all the days and ways, highways and byways, is the grace of God. He loves me no matter what and will bring me Home forever. This is eternally true.

Yet, running shows I have a choice as to how I will get there. Will it be an aimless meander where I often stop moving forward, or a focused path journeyed with enthusiasm? Will I fight against the things that try to make me stop running the race of my life for God’s glory? Will I be an overcomer?

As I run, I learn to make the choices which vault me forward in my growth. With every stride, I am sowing thankfulness. Along the sidewalks of my life, daisies, lilies and roses bloom. A treasured gift was given through a trusted sister’s question, and I will forever be grateful.

What about you, friend? How does running make you stronger on this long, winding road home?

 

 

Abigail Alleman is a wife, mother and missionary. She and her husband have served 14 years with the student ministry of Cru in both the U.S. and Hungary. Her writing is known for its vulnerability, authenticity and redemptive beauty. She blogs her love of story at www.abigailalleman.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

*Read the other articles in the “Running for His glory” series:
-In “When God brings you full circle,” Dorina describes how sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come. She learned this on a trail race she ran a few times in different seasons of life.
-In “How running found me,” Danielle E. Morgan shares her story about how running found her as a young adult and has shaped her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.
-In “Battling negative self-talk,” Kristy Wallace runs us through how she reframes her internal dialogue using scripture. She runs and meditates on specific passages throughout the week.
*Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, pass it on.

Running for His glory: Battling negative self-talk

Posted by | fear, Guest blogger, Personal Stories, rest, running, self-care, sharing faith, Stories, struggle, writing | No Comments

This essay is part of our summer series called “Running for His glory,” focusing on the intersection between running and faith. I met Kristy through an online writers group called Hope*writers. I am grateful for her perspective on how to do battle against negative self-talk. She brings a unique perspective as an occupational therapist and as someone who uses running for self-care. 

By Kristy Wallace

Have you ever considered how our thoughts can become viral? Our internal dialogue impacts every choice we make. Sometimes, the volume is loud. Other times, it is subtly humming in the background without our conscious awareness.

As an occupational therapist working in a chronic pain management setting, I have learned the value of tuning in to these thoughts. What are we telling ourselves? Is it true? Can it be reframed? Our internal dialogue can become more of a hurdle to overcome than our literal physical struggles.

I have worked with individuals who were physically healed from their injuries, but powerful thoughts and beliefs about their disability lingered. One particular individual rigidly believed that if he stood for too long, he would become paralyzed and end up in a wheel chair. There was no medical indication that supported this as a rational belief. Activity avoidance and fear became his day to day reality. His thoughts trapped him.

The entire treatment team worked hard to bring awareness to his thoughts, shine light on what was true and untrue, and then reframe the language he used. He learned that how he talked to himself could actually worsen his physical experience of symptoms. While this is an extreme example, it testifies to the power of our thoughts and beliefs in driving how we all navigate this life.

After long days of working in the realm of other people’s “thought viruses” and difficulties surrounding the pain experience, running became therapeutic for me. Running was a powerful act of self-care. I celebrated the gift of moving joints, contracting muscles, a beating heart, and lungs that took in oxygen. The rhythm of inhaling and exhaling was an opportunity to focus on the battle against my own thoughts gone viral.

As a Christ-follower, I know that God cares greatly about my thought life. Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that we are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. Running is a tangible area where I can intentionally monitor, guide, and redirect my thoughts.

As I round the corner and see the hill ahead, my initial thoughts are: “I can’t do that. I will just walk when I get to the hill. I’m so tired.”

My awareness of those kind of “I can’t” statements has significantly improved in recent years. Instead, I work to argue back: “Kristy, yes you can. You may be tired but your legs are strong. Your heart is beating and pumping, delivering oxygen throughout your entire body.”

Eventually, the language shifts from first person to second person and back to first person. “I am strong. God has given me this body, these muscles, my eyes, oxygen. I can do this. It is hard but worth it. I will feel so much better when I accomplish this. I am rocking this and I am going to finish. I am determined.”

This inner banter takes conscious awareness and effort. We have to listen to our inner dialogue and fight back when needed. It can be as simple as turning a sentence around. “I can hardly breathe,” can switch to: “I can adjust my pace and breathe in through my nose, out through my mouth. I feel the oxygen going into my cells. My heart and lungs are strong.”

Sometimes fighting back may be meditating on a specific verse and repeating it in my head as I run. One of my favorites is Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things [including running up this hill] through Christ who gives me strength.”

I mull over the words of Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy…” Paul instructs us to literally think about these things.

Do you ever think about setting aside time to think? Can I encourage you to use your runs to do just that? Proactively, you can set up specific thought themes for your runs as an anti-viral strategy. There are 8 themes to choose from in Philippians 4:8 alone.

Here are some examples of how I would work through this verse and incorporate it as “thought themes” into my run:

Monday is my “truth” run. On that day, I focus on what is true. What I do know deep in my soul? What is true about my surroundings? “I am a daughter of the King and this ground on which I run is firm.”

Tuesday is my “noble” run. What are good, honorable, upright, and worthy things in my life? I can think about how it is good to carve out time for running. I am honoring this body God has given me. I focus on my posture. Am I upright and aware of where my head is both literally and figuratively? Is it way out in front of my shoulders? Or is it stacked upon my shoulders in a way that is more mechanically advantageous to carry the weight? This is a worthy effort I am putting forth today.

On Wednesday, I might focus on what is “right” in my life. It is easy to dwell on what is wrong. I can use this time to celebrate what is rather than is not. I am grateful for the air I am breathing. I remember the truth that God will one day right every wrong. I rest in knowing it is not up to me to make everything right.

“Pure” is my Thursday theme. I look for things that point to purity as I run. I mull over synonyms for “pure” such as refined, solid, clarified, distilled, neat, straight, or flawless. This is an opportunity to go on a hunt for scenery that reflect these adjectives. I notice the clear, blue sky punctuated by the few crisp white clouds. The beads of water that sit delicately on the leaves of bushes catch my eye. A flawless flower blooms along the path.

On “Lovely” Friday, I think about how lovely it is to have the time, space and capacity to run. It may not be as far or fast as would I like, but I focus on how lovely it is to be able to live, move, and have our being in Him (Acts 17:28). With every step, I celebrate how lovely it is to move.

That one verse is full of ideas for intentional “thought themes.” Let me encourage you to start off your next week meditating on those words as you plan your own ‘thought themes” for your upcoming runs. Visualize chasing after admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy things as you pound the pavement or hit the trail. The battle against negative self-talk is worth every effort.

Kristy is an occupational therapist, wife, and mom who lives in the Pacific Northwest. Passionate about health and wellness as well as lifelong learning and transformation, she is honored to share what she is learning in the hopes of inspiring others to chase after Jesus, the ultimate source of all well-being.

 

*Read the other articles in the “Running for His glory” series:
-In “When God brings you full circle,” Dorina describes how sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come. She learned this on a trail race she ran a few times in different seasons of life.
-In “How running found me,” Danielle E. Morgan shares her story about how running found her as a young adult and has shaped her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.
*Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, pass it on.
*Main photo provided by Deposit Photos.

Running for His glory: How running found me

Posted by | brave, courage, discipline, family life, Guest blogger, running, self-care, Stories, struggle | No Comments

This essay is part of our summer series focusing on the intersection between running and faith. Danielle and I connected through the Hope*writers group online. She brings a unique perspective to the table on how running found her as a young adult and shapes her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.

 

By Danielle E. Morgan

In high school, I tried running to try and stay fit. My mom was a decent runner, and my oldest brother ran track. I hated it. It was all I could do to muster the ability to run one mile. It took me longer to run one mile than it would take my whiny preschooler, but I ran that mile and felt so accomplished.

But I hated running. I even remember telling my mother one day in pure frustration that I would never ever be a runner.

Never once would I have imagined that one day I’d run a marathon, hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, participate in the Ragnar Trail Relay two separate years, and that at the end of the day, from season to season, running would become something I needed deep in my bones.

I never set out to become a runner; it was just something that sort of happened to me. I always say “running found me.”

Twelve years,  before I had any children, I set out one summer to get myself healthy. I was dealing with high cholesterol that my endocrinologist was adamant I take care of. The freshman 15 I had put on in college turned into the senior 25. Then I had three years of marriage combined with a full-time job, in which I developed a lifestyle of eating out a lot and no regular exercise.

My motivation to get healthy was pretty high because of the health risk I was facing. My doctor had encouraged me to start exercising and being intentional about the things I ate. Due to my unique issues with cholesterol, I was able to consult with a nutritionist to offer guidance and tools along the way.

I faced each day with one goal in mind: I was going to move my body for 30 minutes and be consistent five days a week. 

We had just adopted a black lab who needed a ton of exercise, so I put him on a leash and woke up every morning at 5:30am to take a 30-minute walk. If you think I’m crazy for getting up that early, you aren’t the only one.

It was July in Arizona, and if you want to exist outside for more than 5 minutes without getting heat stroke, then you will wake yourself up before the sun does.

I walked every day, Monday-Friday, and it became a regular part of my routine. After losing 12 pounds in six weeks, I was hooked. I had no idea I could lose 12 pounds, and now I was seeing my consistency produce a reward. It felt so good.

I kept walking and lost 35 pounds by the end of four months. I was a new woman. I had to buy new clothes and throw out the old ones. For the first time in my life, I owned my confidence and wasn’t pretending anymore.

I started to get addicted to exercise. I knew it was good for me, and even more so, I knew that I never wanted to go back to that person I was before it all started.

Then something happened. The walking became easy. I wasn’t getting the same sort of sweat I had gotten before and I realized in order to get my heart rate up and utilize the 30 minutes best, I needed to pick up my pace.

One day, I just started jogging. I thought, “I’ll just run until I’m uncomfortable, and then I’ll walk.”

The first time I tried running, it lasted maybe 30-45 seconds. So, I listened to my body and resumed my walking pace until I felt good enough to go again.

After a few weeks of off-and-on running and walking, I jogged the entire half hour. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. How was it that I was running – by choice!? And that was just the beginning…

When I look back on the past 12 years, I am deeply blessed that running  found me.

Running for me is like writing; It fills up my soul with its richness, but requires grit and tenacity. It’s deeply hard and life-giving at the same time.

Running has been woven into the very fabric of my motherhood as I’ve bonded over hundreds of miles with my children. It’s also been the perfect escape for me. Running is my personal retreat when I’ve needed to unpack the heaviness of life and allow God to work through my literal breathlessness.

There is something powerfully divine about the places your feet can take you. It’s different when you experience a firm foundation under your own two feet, because getting somewhere requires strength, endurance, and pure fight.

When you find yourself standing over a bridge overlooking miles upon miles of road, or in the bottom of a canyon with unending hills to climb before you see the top, you realize then and there that you are so very small and God is so very big.

And yet, He invites us in. He crafted these heights and depths for our very enjoyment and has allowed runners to experience Him through nature in a uniquely glorious way – a way that fills our soul and gives life to our bones.

Running is a holy experience, a collision of the physical and spiritual in a supernatural way. It allows us to experience God through the lens of breathlessness and grit as we rely on Him for every step.

To me, running is the perfect picture of what life is. It’s less about the destination and more about our reliance on a Holy God as we embark on the journey. There are many roads and pathways your feet will carry you, but as you trust in Him, He will guide and direct your steps along the way.

 

Danielle is an Arizona native, wife, and mother of 2. She works full-time for a large multisite church as a Communications Director, in addition to consulting for a Digital Marketing Firm. Danielle is passionate about writing and speaking and is a regular contributor to local churches and organizations on issues of faith and women in business. She is particularly interested in empowering working moms and encouraging women to use their voice of influence in the workplace. When she’s not working, you can find her running outdoors or frequenting local restaurants and coffee shops.
You can connect with Danielle on Instagram at @DanielleEMorgan or on her blog at www.DanielleEMorgan.com.
*Read the other articles in this series:

-In “When God brings you full circle,” Dorina describes how sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come. She learned this on a trail race she ran a few times in different seasons of life.

*Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, pass it on.


{Summer Blog Swap} Facing uncertainty: stepping out of the boat

Posted by | brave, courage, fear, Guest blogger, identity, inspirational, Stories | No Comments

Welcome to my Summer Blog Swap! This month I am inviting four of my blogger friends over to this space to share some of their posts and perspectives. It’s a fun way to introduce some of my favorite people to all of you. This week I’d like you to meet my friend Carol Graft. We met through a writing group called Hope*writers. Carol loves to encourage women to be creative and cultivate their faith. She writes on her blog here and for the Breathe Writer’s conference blog.

 

Matthew 14:22-33 tells the story of an encounter Peter had with Jesus. The disciples are on a boat in the middle of the Galilean sea when a storm happens. Peter was in a situation of uncertainty. I’ve been there many times. I’m sure you have as well.

Your Galilean storm, your fishing boat, may look different but it’s still a call to step out of your comfort zone.

Over the years my comfort zone for many things has been stretched. Whether that was getting up in front of people to lead worship, or speak, or teach, it has required a lot of stretching and even more faith.

I was especially challenged when I was asked to do things I hadn’t seen anyone do before. This was traveling in what was new territory for me. A step out of the boat moment.

There have been times when I wasn’t sure if I was entering the Twilight Zone, or if I was hearing Jesus  saying, ‘Watch me.”

Now, in this season of life, stepping out of the boat requires putting words on paper. My comfort zone became chapel speaking or Sunday teaching. Writing has involved a lot of apprehension, a lot of intimidation. This writing life is definitely not comfortable. It’s still new to me. As writers, we always wonder, “Will my words have any impact?”

Like Peter though, I am stepping out. The water may be rough; the voices of the enemy and the naysayers are harsh, much like the winds Peter and the rest had to wrestle against. Jesus though, is there, asking me, asking the rest of us to step out of the boat.

Stand on the water and start taking those steps. Take that small step out of our comfort zone.

“Wait! Don’t look down.”

“Look straight ahead,” Jesus says. “Keep your eyes on me.”

His arms are outstretched, His face is encouraging. His hand is waiting to grasp ours when we get to where He wants us to go.

If we take those first steps out of our comfort zone and out onto the water, He will meet us. He will guide us.

He will also wait until we are comfortable again, and say “Now, step out some more.”

 

 

Carol lives in West Michigan where she’s close enough to the beach to chase  sunsets. She has been married 34 years and counting. Carol is mom to 7, mostly grown, children, 4 of which are married and blessed with three grands. She loves to teach and encourage others in this journey with Jesus. She is learning to follow God and step out on the water.

{Summer Blog Swap} How to keep your eyes on the light when darkness surrounds you

Posted by | death, family life, fear, grief, Guest blogger, hope, rest, Stories | No Comments

Welcome to my Summer Blog Swap. This month I am inviting four of my blogger friends over to this space to share some of their posts and perspectives. It’s a fun way to introduce some of my favorite people to all of you. This week I’d like you to meet my friend Tara Dickson. We met through a writing group called Hope*writers. Tara is a recent widow and mother to four children. Following her husband’s death to glioblastoma, brain cancer in 2016, she began sharing her story of grieving with hope and pursuing her dream of writing.

 

When my beloved husband went to Heaven at the age of 45, I felt like life as I knew it was over. I couldn’t imagine how to step forward. In fact, it felt like my own heart had stopped beating with his. But the ache didn’t lie. I was still here with four children to guide, most of them still teenagers. They were on the cusp of adulthood. Who would lead them forward? Who would teach my boys to become men? Whose arms would comfort our daughters? I wanted to do all those things but was struggling to find how to breathe, myself.

Then His Spirit breathed, upon us. He gave us permission to hide our hearts in His shadow.

What does it mean to hide in His shadow, while he puts us back together? What if we believed that the things of this world have not broken us, but only bruised us?

Dear ones, we may feel shattered beyond repair and of no use to Him or anyone, but we are merely being refashioned for another purpose.

Psalm 91 makes some mighty promises:

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress.”
My God, in Him I will trust.
He shall cover you with His feathers, 
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your buckler. 
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, 
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
BUT it shall not come near you.

He shall call unto me, and I will answer him; 
I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.”

Abide.
Trust.
Take refuge under his wings.
Use your shield, let every thought be sifted through the voice of truth.
Don’t give in to fear.

When you call, He will answer.

“But trouble surrounds me,” you say. “Where is he?”
He is with you in the trouble. He is with you and He will deliver you and give you honor. And after you have suffered a little while he will strengthen confirm and establish you!

The secret beloved is to not get lost in the dark. Why do you think scripture speaks so much about the light? Because, he knew there would be darkness beloved. In this world you will have trouble, not you might or if you are good you won’t… but YOU WILL have trouble.

But take heart, he says, “I Have Overcome the World.”

So how do we follow the light when darkness seems to surround us? We start by not looking at the darkness.

Have you ever stood outside on a dark night with only the light of the moon to illumine the dark? I mean really, dark, without even a street lamp for comfort. The darkness is an inky black, and the more you stare into it the more disoriented you become. But, glance at the moon, the only source of light, and objects take on their perspective. Shadows recede and tree branches take on a beautiful etching across the night sky.

Beloved, we must keep our eyes on the light rather than the darkness to keep our perspective. The enemy would love to overwhelm and overcome us. He would like us to feel lost. But take heart, you have a safe place to hide, under His wings. You can trust Him, He is a good king. Send fear on its way, because when you call, He promises to answer.

Maybe it’s loud and you need to get quiet so you can hear him. Maybe you are tired and you need to rest. Let him lead you beside quiet waters and restore your soul.

Come what may, never forget that He is with you! He is! Fear is a liar, darkness distorts our vision and our feelings that carry such weight with us, don’t always speak truth. His word is the anchor that holds us in any storm. Fix your gaze back on him, hide in His shadow and let Him do his holy work in secret.

Let him piece you back together fit for the purposes He still has in store for you.

 

 

Tara spends her time teaching as well as writing words of hope for children and adults.  She is an agented author with Credo Communications. You can find her sharing words of encouragement at taradickson.com or on Instagram. Her ingredients for a good writing environment include a good cup of coffee, dark chocolate with a cozy blanket nearby. Rain on the roof is a bonus.

 

 

 

*Main photo by Natalya Letunova on Unsplash

{Summer Blog Swap} Letting go of control and looking for the miracle

Posted by | brave, compassion, courage, family life, Guest blogger, Stories | No Comments

Welcome to my Summer Blog Swap. Over the next four weeks I am inviting four of my blogger friends over to this space to share some of their posts and perspectives. It’s a fun way to introduce some of my favorite people to all of you. This week I’d like you to meet my friend Lea Turner. We met through a writing group called Hope*writers. Lea lives in Mississippi with her family. She has five children – three grew in her belly and two grew in her heart through adoption. She is powerful speaker for women and also writes about resting fully in God while letting go of striving and anxiety. 

By Lea Turner from A Heart at Rest

I sat in the quiet stale room of the hospital, six years ago,  listening only to the beeping sounds of the machines.

I wasn’t sure how we got here, except that it all started with an email from our adoption agency asking if we could take a baby with a severe heart defect. I had no idea, seven months later, I would be sitting in the ICU staring at my son with a wired shut chest and tubes running everywhere wondering if he was going to make it or not.

No one could have prepared me for that moment. My mind swirled with questions: Would he live to pass his first birthday? Where was the miracle we so desperately prayed for? Why would You, the God of the universe, not reach down and just stop the hurting? How could I possibly walk through the next few months or even years?

It all seemed so overwhelming.

My faith was tired. And maybe your faith is tired too.

Tired of praying? Tired of fighting? Tired of believing? Feeling unsure of how it will all work out? You’re just plain overwhelmed with it all.

Who knows if it will all come together? Who knows if the dream you have believed for years will come to fruition? Who knows if in all the waiting your heart will ever stop hurting?

I didn’t think mine would. I wasn’t sure how I would recover from the news of the surgeon saying it was the worst heart surgery he had ever performed. He went on to explain that my son, who was only seven months old, had the worst scar tissue he had ever seen. He wasn’t sure what the outcome would be or how long he would live. He tried something new. He called it a shunt, and he was hoping for the best result.

I felt like the widow in 1 Kings who most likely didn’t like the answer she received either.

 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son that we may eat it – and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first, make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “The jar of flour will not be used up, and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.” (1 Kings 17:12-14 , NIV)

She told Elijah she only had a little bit, but he said to cook what she had and give it to him. He promised it would then supernaturally multiply for not only her current need but for his also. She had a choice to make; place her faith in the words of the prophet of God, or believe the very real evidence of her current situation…her lack.

Maybe, just maybe, I was focusing on the wrong thing. And maybe, just maybe you are too. My attention had been on my lack of faith, but doesn’t it just take faith like a grain of a mustard seed to move a mountain? (Matthew 17:20)

Much like the widow in 1 Kings I had to make a choice. I was either going to believe the negative report of the doctor or was I going to believe the word of the Lord: My son shall live and not die.

When the widow released her “seemingly small bit,” the miracle happened. When we are willing to let go of something that does not seem enough for the moment, a miracle happens.

I chose to release my “seemingly small” faith into the hands of a giant personal God and trust Him with the results.

Letting go of the control and fear and releasing it to God, allows His peace to rule our minds. This release of control is not a one-time thing, it is a daily surrender and sometimes minute by minute surrender. Over and over again replacing the lies with God’s truth and reminding ourselves, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” (Colossians 3:15). Peace is our inheritance.

Six years later, I find myself in this same place again.  My son is undergoing another procedure at the end of the week and my faith feels weary. A shed of fear of the unknown still robs my peace. I’m learning there’s no shame in my lack of faith because He meets us in our weakness. When my thoughts are leading me into shame, instead of allowing them free rein, I imagine the future with God in it. The freedom comes when we believe God is good no matter the outcome. It comes knowing we never have to imagine a future without His presence. His grace will always be enough to carry us through whatever life may throw our way. No matter what the miracle may look like because sometimes it’s not exactly what we thought. But this one thing I know: He is good!

The journey has been long, and I am continually laying down my questions and choosing to believe God with the results. He is faithful!

Maybe you’re in need of a miracle today, and your faith is tired. Go ahead and choose to let go of your “seemingly small” faith that does not seem to be enough, and watch God work a miracle.

 

Lea Turner is a blogger, speaker, wife, and mother of five, three grew in her belly, two in her heart through adoption. She’s on a journey of resting fully in the love of the Father by letting go of striving and walking in her identity of Christ. Lea has a passion to inspire others to work from a place of rest rather than strive from a place of anxiety. She writes about it on her blog. Also connect with Lea on Instagram, Facebook. You can download her free ebook Empowered right here.

*The original version of this blog was published on A Heart At Rest.

*Featured photo by Matthijs Smit on Unsplash.

How to Nourish Your Soul with God’s Word Hidden in Your Heart

Posted by | courage, death, fear, flourishing, Guest blogger, Stories, struggle | 4 Comments

Photo by Alina Dub // www.freshbreadandflowers.com

During my husband’s cancer journey, we spent a lot of time driving to appointments, sitting in doctors’ offices and hospital rooms. We often found ourselves waiting. In the waiting, fear creeps in if you leave the door to your heart ajar. I decided early on that I needed a battle plan to fight fear in those moments. I needed courage, and so did my husband.

I remembered a practice one of my mentors taught me years earlier. Michelle would buy me these spiral-bound 3×5 index cards. She encouraged me to use the notebook to write out verses that spoke to my heart. If I happened upon a meaningful verse in our Bible study or at church in a sermon, I would write it down.

The practice of writing out the scriptures helped root them deep in my heart. A recent study affirms that students who handwrite out their notes tend to remember them better. There’s something that happens in the brain when we are writing by hand that is different from typing. It’s a slower process, and it sticks. I believe the same applies to scripture. I know I am more likely to remember a scripture if I take time to write it out.

 

Photo by Victoria Bilsborough on Unsplash

Michelle taught me to carry around those notebooks in my purse or diaper bag so they were easily accessible. I would pull them out when I was waiting in line or nursing the baby or when a friend needed a word of encouragement. I would use these little snatches of time to meditate on the words and sometimes even to memorize them.

The day we met with the surgeon who told us the large tumor near my husband’s hip was inoperable I pulled out my scripture notebook. With trembling hands and heart, I read the words to Romans 5:3-5 and John 16:33 and Isaiah 41:10 aloud to my husband. Our future was uncertain, but our spirits were somehow fortified.

That winter, after my husband soared to Heaven, I started a new notebook. I filled the cards with verse upon verse about my God who comforts, who is strong when I am weak, who is my Maker and my Husband. Through the years, that simple practice stuck with me. I still make scripture notebooks for each new season of life. I dig through the Bible for just the right verses. It’s kind of a treasure hunt.

This is a special guest post I wrote for my friend Janette McLaughlin’s blog. Hop over here for the rest of the story.

{A blog series} All Things New: Finding a path out of darkness and loss

Posted by | brave, death, flourishing, grief, Guest blogger, hope, Stories | 5 Comments

The following is a guest post by Mary Hill as part of a blog series called “All Things New: Learning to Flourish After Loss.”  Mary writes about the loss of her dad at a pivotal time in her young life and how she found light after that dark season.

My mom’s small home seemed so quiet that day.

I received a phone call from my aunt at work.  “Your dad died this afternoon of a heart attack. You need to go to your mom.”

All I could think when I heard the news, “Why? We had such great plans for the summer. What about our plans to take day trips together this summer? I just moved back home. I can’t believe he is gone.”

I dropped to the ground in disbelief and let out a cry, causing my assistant to run into my school library office. Then the principal rushed in to comfort me. She offered to drive me home, but I declined. I wanted to drive alone with my grief. The sun felt too bright on that spring day. I drove in a bubble.

Finally, arriving at my mother’s home, I rushed in, “Mom.” The paramedics finished with their collection of my dad’s body on a stretcher. I found only a minute to tell my dad good-bye. They left with him. I found my mom on the floor near the bathroom. Her face empty and filled with despair.

I hugged her and lifted her up.

“He’s gone,” she cried.

It seems like just yesterday.  I had just moved home in January 1999 after graduate school and a 10-year absence from my home town.  My dad died in late May 1999.

“Why did God take him from me so early? He was only 55,” I remember crying.

My mother sat on the couch sobbing. My brother rushed in and then went out into the yard and collapsed in his own grief.

I walked around our home and found my dad’s Bibles. He owned several versions. I picked up his Amplified Bible from off the living room table beside his recliner where he often studied and found it open to 2 Corinthians 5:1-5:

“For we know that if the earthly tent [our physical body] which is our house is torn down [through death], we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our [immortal, eternal] celestial dwelling, so that by putting it on we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened [often weighed down, oppressed], not that we want to be unclothed [separated by death from the body], but to be clothed, so that what is mortal [the body] will be swallowed up by life [after the resurrection]. Now He who has made us and prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the [Holy] Spirit as a pledge [a guarantee, a down payment on the fulfillment of His promise].”

Then I found my dad’s other bibles, including the King James Bible, on his bedside table also opened to the same scripture. I showed my mom the Bibles.

“He knew. He was going home,” I told my mom with amazement.

Three days later at my father’s funeral, the preacher proclaimed, “Earl preached his own funeral sermon the day he died.” He shared the story of the Bibles left open to 2 Corinthians 5.

“Earl was always early. He often arrived at church an hour before even the service started to pray. At 55, he left early to be with his Savior in Heaven,” I remember the preacher saying.

His early departure brought even greater grief because the dream of a better relationship with my father also died with him.  Mistakes I made as a young adult created a relational rift with my dad that we were trying to restore before he died.

My dad also suffered from depression and manic episodes throughout his life. He finally found a medication that made him stable and calmer. He was making such great strides that year, and his new calmness created a closeness with him that I never felt before. Then God took him home.

My life seemed like a desert during the next two years after my father’s death. I also lost a husband during this period. I decided to leave him because of violent abuse that I feared would never end until he killed me.  In less than a year and a half, I lost my father and signed divorce papers. Darkness and grief were my friends then.

Today, I look back at those times in somber awe. I endured such a time of loss, but God brought me through to the other side, stronger and closer to Him than I could ever imagine.  Nancy Ortberg writes in her book Seeing in the Dark:

“Dark times can provide hope to other people. We all go through times in our lives that hurt and bring darkness.  In these times, Jesus gives us just the right amount of light that we can handle. It is a light that leads us to Him. We survive and the dawn comes. Then we take the light He has given us and watch for others who need light and help. We can pass it on using the gifts and talents He has bestowed upon us.”

My life now is filled with hope and new light. I have a daughter, who started high school just this past fall, and a wonderful husband, who loves the Lord.  Indeed, God brought me through the wilderness and provided a new thing for me.

As Isaiah 43:19 says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Mary Hill blogs at Maryandering Creatively where she shares her poetry, photography and creative nonfiction. She is a stay-at-home disabled mom who loves to write about her testimony of God’s continued working her life.  You can also connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

 

 

Featured photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

**This post is part of a January series called “All Things New.” Check out the other stories in the series and my new Bible study, Flourishing Together:

All Things New: Learning to Flourish After Loss” – an introduction to the series by Dorina Lazo Gilmore, including why she chose “All Things New”

All Things New: My New Normal” – a guest post by Danell teNyenhuis about finding a new life with her daughters after her husband’s tragic death

All Things New: Life Beyond the Hospital Doors” – a guest post by Danielle Comer about life for a young widow after her husband died of cancer

All Things New: Letting Dreams Die, Cultivating New Ones” – an essay about the hard work I had to do in my heart after my husband’s death to dream again

All Things New: Learning to Breathe Again” – a guest post by Tara Dickson about how she learned to breathe again and lift her eyes to Jesus after the death of her husband.

All Things New: Finding the Courage to Love Again” – an essay about how God graciously brought new love into my life and a new daddy for my girls after the death of my husband to cancer.

 

Flourishing Together is a new 6-week Bible study just released on Amazon. If you are interested in delving deeper into this topic of how God grows beautiful things out of the ashes and dirt of our life, please check out the study:

**black and white version

*full-color version

 

 

 

{A blog series} All Things New: Learning to breathe again

Posted by | death, flourishing, grief, Guest blogger, parenting, Stories, struggle, transitions, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The following is a guest post by my widow friend Tara Dickson as part of a blog series called “All Things New: Learning to Flourish After Loss.”  After a 14-month battle with glioblastoma brain cancer, her husband went home to be with Jesus at the age of 46. She daily challenges me to lift my eyes to the new things God has for each one of us.

New beginnings and new seasons often begin with a new year. Just like clockwork ours did too. After a night of board games and egg nog, we found ourselves in a cold, sterile ER. What we thought was a stomach bug that was dehydrating my husband was a large mass pressing on his brain.

While everyone else was writing down their word for the year and making resolutions, we were resolving to fight for his life. We had four kids, three still in high school.

He did fight the good fight against cancer for 14 months, and I fought with him. Then, in the dark of night, the Lord woke me to lay my hand on his chest and feel his last exhale, and watch his triumphant entry into Heaven. It still feels like yesterday, but we are coming up on two years.

The word “new” sounds so inviting, full of possibility and expectation. Yet when you don’t choose that “new” it can be anything but. New can range from uncomfortable to paralyzing. For us, it was the latter.

Home wasn’t home anymore. He wasn’t there. Our lungs forgot how to pull in air and we felt disconnected and set apart. Overnight we had become members of this club that we didn’t ask to join. Change swirled around us and within. There was no getting away from it.

Everyone said, “You just have to find your new normal.” But, I have decided that normal is overrated. I don’t want normal. Life is not this tame predictable thing that I can plan and schedule or control.

I have found that there is comfort in abandonment. When I cling so tightly to my plans and my will, I start to fear they will be taken from me. They become something I must protect and manipulate.

When I abandon myself, all that I am and all that is mine to God, there is freedom in the releasing. It’s a laying down of my will so that I can pick up His. Though the plans we lay for ourselves might never come to pass, it doesn’t mean that God’s plans for us are over or that He isn’t good.

There must be an emptying and filling for our hearts to grow. It’s a bit like breathing.

Circumstances come to each of us that empty us. They wring our hearts dry.  Then we try to fill them up again. We can fill them with the truth of God’s word, hope for tomorrow and trust that though the way seems dark, He promises to light the way. Or we can fill them with fear, anxiety and no hope for tomorrow.

I have wrestled with both and found when I “Lift Up My Eyes” to the faithful Father and allow him to renew my mind with His word, that is when the peace comes that anchors the soul.

So breathe, dear ones, and when the emptying comes and new seasons lie around the bend, abandon yourself to the one who longs to fill you with new hope for tomorrow!

“Sing to the Lord a new song! Sing his praise from the end of the earth!

Behold the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things.”

Isaiah 42:10,9 (NAS)

 

A former elementary school teacher, Tara has since then been following the calling the Lord placed on her heart to write, heal and connect with His body. She strives daily to remind herself and others to “lift up your eyes” and see that God is with us. She is also an agented children’s author and hopes to publish a series for children. You can read her encouraging words at www.taradickson.com or on Instagram or on Facebook @taraelizabethdickson

 

 

**This post is part of a January series called “All Things New.” Check out the other stories in the series and my new Bible study, Flourishing Together:

All Things New: Learning to Flourish After Loss” – an introduction to the series by Dorina Lazo Gilmore, including why she chose “All Things New”

All Things New: My New Normal” – a guest post by Danell teNyenhuis about finding a new life with her daughters after her husband’s tragic death

All Things New: Life Beyond the Hospital Doors” – a guest post by Danielle Comer about life for a young widow after her husband died of cancer

All Things New: Letting Dreams Die, Cultivating New Ones” – an essay about the hard work I had to do in my heart after my husband’s death to dream again

 

Flourishing Together is a new 6-week Bible study just released on Amazon. If you are interested in delving deeper into this topic of how God grows beautiful things out of the ashes and dirt of our life, please check out the study:

**black and white version

*full-color version

 

 

 

Featured photo by Havilah Galaxy on Unsplash

{A blog series} All Things New: My new normal

Posted by | back to school, brave, death, family life, grief, Guest blogger, parenting, Stories, transitions | One Comment

The following is a guest post written by my widow friend, Danell teNyenhuis. I met her through a young widows group in Fresno, California called G.I.G. (Gals in Growth) facilitated by grief counselor Patty Behrens. I hope her story gives you a glimpse of what life after loss can look like. I love the way Danell has embraced her “new normal” and made it her own.

 

On April 19, 2016, I was a happily married mother of two daughters, ages 17 and 19. I was working at a job that I didn’t particularly love but I had a great life. I had been married for nearly 24 years to the love of my life and we were looking forward to being empty nesters! On April 20, my perfect little world was shattered when a drug-impaired driver hit and killed my husband Patrick, while he was on his morning bike ride.

I’ve written so many things about that day and the days since then. My journey has not been easy but I’ve kept going, and now I’m at a new place in my life. The day Patrick died I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support. Even that first day I felt deep gratitude. I knew right away that the direction of my life would change; I just didn’t know how.

Admittedly, there were , such as becoming more involved with our church, Divine Mercy, and starting my Village of Support group. I try to give myself a break and realize that I can only do so much. God has a plan, and it’s not always exactly what we think it is going to be.

The biggest thing I discovered is that people like to read what I write. I’m told that I am able to put my thoughts into words that help people in some way. The main reason I write is to help with my own healing process. Helping others is an unexpected bonus.

I also discovered that I can remain calm in a crisis and that helping others is also healing for me. As I sorted through the remnants of my shattered life, I decided to focus on the things that gave me joy, including my girls, my family, and helping others.

In September 2016, I enrolled in Grand Canyon University and began an online master’s program in Professional Clinical Counseling. I am on track to graduate in early 2020 if I take one class at a time. Fortunately, my employer was offering early retirement packages. I retired last January so I’ve been able to focus on school. Neither of these things were even on my radar before Patrick died.

Another part of the healing process for me was to make small, gradual changes at home. I went through Patrick’s things at my own pace and did some re-organizing. I had to learn how to do things that were previously his responsibility. I made decisions about the house and yard that he would normally make.

These changes at home have helped my grieving process. When you walk in my home, it’s still the same house, but not exactly the same. I need it to look different because my mind sometimes plays this cruel trick and tries to convince me that it was all a nightmare. I never have to look far for a gentle reminder that he is gone, but I am still here and doing okay.

Continuing his legacy

My husband was full of life and it’s hard to imagine he is gone. Honoring his memory and preserving it is very important to me. I created a Virtual Memorial page modeled after the page a classmate created for his son.

The Patrick’s Virtual Memorial page includes his obituary, eulogy, photos, videos and messages. The page has been visited 13,401 times and that means a lot to me. Patrick was in a bluegrass band, The Steam Donkeys. I have a lot of videos from performances and ones he made of himself practicing. These are stored on his YouTube channel, PatrickT9. The best ones are the ones that have him talking in between songs. They really show his quirky humor.

My blog is my biggest tribute to him. My Life After Patrick started as a way for me to tell the incredible story of how love and community got me through the Worst Day of My Life. Later it became a way for me to remember and share stories of Patrick. Today, it serves as documentation of how I continue to make my way towards my new normal. I was also able to show how well our daughters are doing and their accomplishments. I know he is smiling down on all of us from heaven.

Raising daughters

I really worried about my daughters, Sierra and Camille. I should have known their dad was continuing to be present in their lives. Sierra took incompletes in classes after his death, but went on to not only complete them but graduate from CSU Long Beach in three years with honors. Camille graduated from Clovis East with honors and was accepted at UC Davis.

Saying goodbye to my youngest daughter Camille this past September was hard. I wasn’t sure how she would do at school. She has been such a rock through all of this, and I was worried that she hadn’t taken time to grieve. I know it wasn’t easy.

The very first day she joined a Christian fellowship. She quickly developed close friendships. She started attending mass on Sundays – something we had not done regularly for many years. She told me the first Sunday was very emotional, but it felt good. When she is home on breaks, we have gone together. One Sunday I gave her a hug because it was so nice to be there with her. Later she told me that she was feeling her Dad’s presence.

Blending families

The biggest blessing since Patrick died has been the way our families have come together. I like to tell people that they have merged. Patrick used to get together with his brothers on the first Friday of each month. The first year after he died we continued this tradition and invited both of our immediate and extended families.

My siblings refer to his siblings as brother and sister, and I feel like I have another set of parents. We spend a lot more time together. In fact, my brother took Mom and Pop teNyenhuis on his family vacation! This has helped us all as we continue to grieve.

I also know that Patrick would not want me to be alone. I know there is no jealousy in heaven and if I fall in love again I know he will be cheering me on. I am cautiously venturing out into dating. It’s not easy and definitely a lot different at this age, but I’m giving it a shot.

I turned 50 in December – a milestone that Patrick will never reach. I chose to throw myself a party and took a trip to Disneyland! A little extravagant, but it was great to celebrate with family and friends! My new normal includes taking time to celebrate family and friends as often as possible. I like to find ways to make new memories with my kids! Life is short, and I want to enjoy it.

A week before Patrick died the girls and I took him to the Paul McCartney concert on his birthday. I had bought him a laptop for Christmas and he had begun recording himself playing his banjo. The day he died I opened his computer and found a video of him playing Blackbird. I consider it a love letter that he left for the girls and me. These lyrics are meaningful to us:

 

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to arise

 

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to be free

 

I would give anything to have my old life back, but I can honestly say I have a good life today. I think Patrick would be proud of me. The three of us have, in our own ways, moved forward and done great things. We have taken our broken wings and learned to fly. We have embraced our new normal! I know God has great plans for all of us.

 Danell teNyenhuis is the proud mother of Sierra and Camille. She is retired from Aetna and is currently a full-time student through Grand Canyon University, pursuing her master’s degree in Professional Clinical Counseling. She hopes to someday turn her blog stories into a book. Connect with Danell on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram as Danellt9. 

 

**This post is part of a January series called “All Things New.” Check out the other stories in the series and Dorina’s new Bible study, Flourishing Together.

All Things New: Life Beyond the Hospital Doors” – a guest post by Danielle Comer about life for a young widow after her husband died of cancer

All Things New: Learning to Flourish After Loss” – an introduction to the series by Dorina Lazo Gilmore, including why she chose “All Things New”

Flourishing Together is a new 6-week Bible study just released on Amazon. If you are interested in delving deeper into this topic of how God grows beautiful things out of the ashes and dirt of our life, please check out the study:

**black and white version

*full-color version

{A blog series} All Things New: Life beyond the hospital doors

Posted by | courage, death, fear, flourishing, grief, Guest blogger, hope, identity, relationships, Stories, transitions | 4 Comments

The following is a guest post written by my widow friend, Danielle Comer. I hope her story opens a window to what it looks like to move forward after the loss of a spouse. She continues to inspire me with her courage.

 

I remember walking out of the hospital on that sunny day in May, feeling like I had walked into another world, another life. Not mine or the one I knew. It was like we had walked in as a family of two, but I came out as a party of one.

Was this really happening?  Do I keep walking?  What if I walked back into the hospital? Would it change everything back to the way it was?  What am I supposed to do now?  How do you live as a brand new widow?

The years leading up to Kenny’s death, we didn’t talk much about the possibility of life without Kenny here. Anyone who knew Kenny knew he was very positive with his diagnosis, and he was determined to beat it. He went beyond every measure to continue his life here on earth with me, his daughter Kenlee, and our dog Tank. He did so with the decision to remove his right leg and hip, as well as part of his lung, to gain more time and the chance of finding a therapy that would work.

However, the last few months of his life weren’t filled with the same positivity. On the surface, we stayed positive and he fought to the very end. Behind the scenes, we had more frequent talks about what I would do if he was gone. He didn’t like talking about this, nor did I, so the conversations never came to any resolutions. They were simply acknowledgments that this could one day be my reality.

After battling cancer for almost 11 years, Kenny passed away from Ewing’s Sarcoma on May 30, 2015.

I knew everything would be okay. I knew I had an amazing family and support system who would take care of me. However, there was one thing that I wasn’t prepared for. I didn’t anticipate that when Kenny passed away, he would take so much of me with him.

It was as if everything I had ever known or worked for was stripped away from me. The woman I had become, the woman I was working on, the woman I was building – she was no longer.

I found myself asking, Who am I now? What’s my identity?

Attempting to answer the questions above was a more difficult undertaking than I ever imagined it would be. I started doing new things, and I had to let go of other things.

A couple months after Kenny passed, I started therapy.I remember at the first session the therapist asked me what I wanted out of our time. I wasn’t sure how to answer her because I felt like I was expected to say I was there to grieve the death of my husband. However, I felt at peace about his passing and wasn’t sure why I needed therapy. Through the sessions, I realized I needed to learn how to grieve the death of my old self and the life I thought would be mine.

I also started attending church regularly, not just at holidays like we did before. At first, the main reason for attending was to spend time with friends so I wouldn’t be alone. However, it quickly became something I needed and looked forward to every week for myself. It also led me to attend a care series group that was for couples fighting cancer together. I was hesitant at first since I was no longer a “couple” or fighting cancer, but I felt compelled to go and share my experience. After much debate and many prayers, I went. I was so glad I did as it ended up helping me more than any other support group.

After Kenny’s death, I was entering a dark and unknown place in my life. The darkest so far to date. Although I felt broken, I had faith God would make me new again and shine light on new hopes and dreams set forth for me.

Now, looking back over my journey these last three years, I can see where some of the most painful moments were necessary experiences I had to go through to learn and discover my new life. These experiences helped me learn the true meaning of letting go and having faith in the unknown.

These experiences led me to new beginnings and new adventures. I have moved to a new state, where I started a job in a different industry. This also led me to a new relationship with my boyfriend, Chris. I knew dating would be one of the hardest changes after Kenny’s death, but it has also proven to be the most rewarding. I have learned more about myself, my true self, and have grown in areas of my life that otherwise wouldn’t have had I not stepped into new things.

Learning to let go of what I wanted to control so badly redefined the meaning of faith for me. The day I had to let go of Kenny, let go of the life I knew, let go of the girl I knew, and walk out on the other side of those hospital doors, I had faith that everything was going to be alright. Maybe not right then, in that moment, or even in the weeks or months ahead – but I knew it was eventually going to be okay. He was going to make everything new again in His time, not mine.


Danielle Comer lives in Oregon where she is a city planner and shares more of her story on her new blog at DanielleComer.com.  During her free time, Danielle enjoys discovering new coffee shops, exploring all Oregon has to offer with her boyfriend, Chris, and dog, Tank. She loves capturing life’s moments with her second set of eyes – her camera.  You can find Danielle on Instagram and Facebook.

 

**This post is part of a January series called “All Things New.” Check out the other stories in the series and my new Bible study, Flourishing Together:

All Things New: Learning to Flourish After Loss” – an introduction to the series by Dorina Lazo Gilmore, including why she chose “All Things New”

All Things New: My New Normal” – a guest post by Danell teNyenhuis about finding a new life with her daughters after her husband’s tragic death

All Things New: Life Beyond the Hospital Doors” – a guest post by Danielle Comer about life for a young widow after her husband died of cancer

All Things New: Learning To Breathe Again” – guest post by Tara Dickson about emptying herself of expectations and breathing in God’s truth and hope after her husband’s death

 

Flourishing Together is a new 6-week Bible study just released on Amazon. If you are interested in delving deeper into this topic of how God grows beautiful things out of the ashes and dirt of our life, please check out the study:

**black and white version

*full-color version


Guest post: Grief and the Holidays: How to survive when you don’t feel like celebrating

Posted by | christmas, community, compassion, death, family life, grief, Guest blogger, kids, Stories, struggle, transitions | 2 Comments

The following is a guest post from my friend and grief counselor, Patty Behrens. Her insight and encouragement has carried me these last three years since my husband’s death. I love the way she reaches out to people navigating loss,  especially young widows. She facilitates a young widows group I have been a part of called Gals in Growth (GIG) that meets monthly in Fresno.

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“The ‘Merry’ in Christmas and the ‘Happy’ in New Year just doesn’t seem to fit this year.”

Those words were the first line of my very short Christmas letter to family and friends 5 months after my husband died suddenly on a family vacation. I didn’t feel much like celebrating. I wanted to push the fast forward button to skip over the holidays and wake up in January. That was not going to be possible with three children anxiously awaiting the upcoming festivities of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Can you relate?

Our family of five loved the holidays with all the festivities and traditions of picking out a Christmas tree at a local tree farm. We’d run through the mass of trees hiding and chasing each other on our search for the “perfect” tree. Of course, my hubby was the one to cut the tree, get it secured on the car and bring it into the house for decorating. How was it possible to get through that tradition, not to mention the multiple others?

There was decorating the tree with each of our bags of special ornaments while Christmas music played in the background or lighting an Advent candle with a special dessert each week, delivering gifts and food to a needy family, having my in-laws over Christmas Eve for traditional homemade German food and my husband reading the Christmas story while the kids played the various parts, and eating our special homemade raspberry almond coffee cake with a candle lit as we sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.

It was impossible to replicate any of these traditions because “he” was a vital part of all of them all.

We did survive although we certainly did not thrive that first holiday season. I tried the best I could to make things good for my precious children. But, I had to do some things differently. My sensitive daughter wanted to hang on to every tradition as I simply explained, “This year I can’t.”

We let some of those traditions go and others we tweaked a bit to ease the pain. We invited close family friends over for Christmas Eve along with my in-laws for our traditional German meal. That evening we spent the night at my sister’s home despite protests from my daughter. I could not bare the pain of waking up that Christmas morning without him.

I wish I could say that was a smart move; however, it brought some pain of its own. It was too different as we stepped into their traditions, which were far from our own. Christmas dinner at my mom’s house brought more distress as both my dad (who had died a year earlier) along with my hubby were missing. There was no mention of either of them. It was the classic “elephant in the room” scenario.

Back at our house, we reclaimed the day as each child lit a candle in memory of their dad. We snuggled on the couch to watch home videos of him. The memories came bursting forth with laughter and joyous comments as the videos played. We survived our first Christmas.

Our second Christmas was much better as I intentionally made some changes. We chose as a family which traditions and activities were important while other ones were let go. We still invited a family over for Christmas Eve, which started a new tradition for us.

We decided to stay home for Christmas morning to do our thing. We brought the “elephant” out of the room as we played home videos at my mom’s house which opened the door to laughter and precious stories of our loved ones. They were remembered.

Through this grief journey, God has taught me numerous, valuable lessons and even gave me a ministry of helping other widows in ways I had struggled. Care Connections was birthed in April of 2002 and continues today. We have monthly work days where workers do home projects at widows’ homes, including putting up Christmas lights, decorations and trees if needed, along with other home needs throughout the year.

My favorite work day of the year is December as families, singles and people of all ages gather to deliver over 150 gifts to widows and their children letting them know we care and are thinking about them. It’s a tradition for my family. There are also home projects being completed with several of them being Christmas related.

The work days provide monthly opportunities to connect with other families. Through the years, my children had male role models who taught them how to do various home tasks and operate power tools, (Yes, my son learned how to operate a chain saw!) At Care Connections, we all learn to serve others in need.

This year, why not join us? If you live in Fresno/Clovis, I invite you to come with your children or by yourself to Care Connections on December 7, 2019 as we once again deliver gifts to widows for a few hours in the morning. We meet at the back of the Bridge Church parking lot at 3438 E. Ashlan Avenue in Fresno at 8:30 am where you can join a work crew or a team delivering gifts. We all return for a delicious lunch at noon where stories of the morning are shared. It may not make the holidays pain-free but it will be one of those activities you will remember as being “good” and lifting your mood for that day.

There’s no magical way to fast forward through the holidays or remove the pain, but there are ways to have “moments of joy” where the pain is eased and to help make the holidays a little bit better. Click here for a guide to Survive the Holidays.

Patty Behrens is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Fresno, California with specialties in grief, trauma and anxiety with a passion for helping others through their life struggles. She is founder and director of the Care Connections grief ministry, http://www.careconnectionshelp.com. To contact Patty or receive her more tips for surviving the holidays, go to www.counselingfresno.org

Photo Credit: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Grief journey: How to lift your eyes in the brokenness

Posted by | death, family life, fear, grief, Guest blogger, parenting, Stories | 2 Comments

The following is guest post written by my new friend and fellow Hope*Writer Tara Dickson. We met through a writer’s group and I found myself resonating with her story. I am privileged to watch her navigate her “new normal” as a widow mama and grandma. I hope her story ministers to you today!

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Life doesn’t look the way I expected. Does it for anyone?

My husband left this earth and walked into Heaven a year ago February. An incredibly fit and healthy man, the brain cancer he battled for a year and a half was the last thing we expected on the New Year’s Eve he was diagnosed.  

Can we just stop? I want a do over. How can I can keep from walking into this New Year and all that it holds?

This was not what I wanted my life to look like. Alan would have turned 46 the day after he exhaled earth and inhaled Heaven.  Our children weren’t tiny but they all still needed him. Our oldest daughter had just walked through an extremely painful season in her life a year and a half before. Her daddy, her rock, spoke truth over her at every turn, reminding her to trust herself to the Father. He had coffee with her every morning and held her new baby as she mourned her broken dreams.  

Our oldest son had just started college, while our younger son was in high school. They were both trying to figure out what manhood looked like. Then, there was our youngest daughter. She was 13 when her daddy was diagnosed. She is a natural peacemaker, which means she felt everyone else’s feelings on top of her own.

I still remember the day we were sitting around the dinner table and Alan was telling his sister of how he wrestled with the Lord about his healing. He worried about what would happen to us if he was called to Heaven.

Then, with supernatural peace, Alan told her the Father had reassured him He would and could take better care of us than Alan could possibly imagine doing himself.  My flesh wanted to say, “Wait! When did this conversation happen? I am not okay with this!” It wasn’t many months after that Alan did pass on to Heaven.

Grief is hard, beloved. It breaks your heart wide open and lays you bare. Open and empty for the beautiful work He wants to do. It laid our hearts open to hear his voice call us to move to a new state, and brought good changes that affected each one of us.

The ache in our hearts was real, like a big stone resting on my chest, even making breathing hard.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t lift it off.

Spring break started the weekend Alan left this earth. We took that opportunity to get away from the beds we couldn’t sleep in and the questions that followed us around town. The ocean was calling me with waves that reminded me my God is bigger than any storm.

It was the end of February, still too cold to swim but walking the beach kept my body moving. The sand between my toes reminded me that I was still living even though my heart was broken. The constant tide pulling the waves in and out shouted at me that life was moving on even if I felt stuck.

I never find unbroken sand dollars; Alan always did. He was much more patient than I was. That day as I walked along the beach looking on my right and left, I glanced down and in a pool of standing water I saw a small perfect sand dollar. I gently picked it up and held it high the rest of our time on the beach, carefully protecting its delicate beauty.

However, in the throes of washing off sandy feet, ordering lunch, holding Ava, my granddaughter, and going to the bathroom, I inadvertently stuck it in my pocket with another shell. You guessed it, it broke. I discovered it later when I was searching my pockets for something else. I wanted to weep but there were no tears.

As I picked the broken pieces out of my pocket trying to see if it could be pieced back together, the inside of the sand dollar turned up in my hand. The oh-so-tiny, but very present “dove of peace.”

Then the Lord reminded me that when beautiful things are broken there can still be peace in the midst of it all. How can this be so? Through God’s grace and by His word.

The fiercer the battle, dear ones, the more important it is to make sure our hearts our filled up with His truth.  When our hearts are wrung straight out in the pressing of our circumstances the truth of God is what spills out and it extinguishes the lies of the enemy. I have seen my heart spill out doubt and fear as well as joy in the mourning and trust that when I am weak He is strong.

Hebrews 4:12  says, “The word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”

That walk on the beach may have been the beginning of God teaching me to “Lift up your eyes” to His presence but it hasn’t been the last. He will use anything in our path to reminds us, that His word can penetrate the deepest parts of our soul and spirit. Where there are lies, it will uproot them and plant truth. Where there is unbelief, it will pluck it up and plant faith. Where there is despair, it will cast it aside and plant hope.

So, join me dear one, in lifting your eyes, to the one who longs to reframe everything. Let Him be the lifter of your head and let Him take your broken things and  help you find peace in the midst of them.

 

Tara is a recent widow and mother to four children. She is Nana to Ava Rose and newborn, Aria Violette.  Walking through grief has brought Tara back to her first love, children’s literature. She is finishing up a children’s series and is committed to bringing hope to children and adults alike through her writing. Tara loves a good cup of coffee and bringing life to any space, but nothing tops being a mom and nana! Find her on Facebook and  Instagram.

 

 

Photo credit for sand dollar: johnkoetsier via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Are you on a grief journey? Check out these articles and my weekly Glorygram for more encouragement on your journey.

 

Navigating Grief: When Someone You Love Dies Suddenly

Posted by | flourishing, grief, Guest blogger, hope, identity, parenting, Personal Stories, relationships, Stories, struggle, transitions | One Comment

 

By Kimberly Rose

Your mom lives forever. At least that is what I told my little girl self growing up. Or at least I was counting on that as truth since I was being raised by a single parent.

I grew up poor, and we moved a lot. I have three older sisters, but there are a dozen years between us. For many years, that meant I had my mom all to myself.

My older siblings were not able to break out of the poverty we lived in. They struggled with many of the same pitfalls and addictions that plagued earlier generations of our family.

I knew about the history of failure and defeat in my family. I was a watcher. I carefully watched the mistakes my sisters and mother made so I would not grow up and make them too.

My mom knew that I had a potential for greatness. She saw the fire and passion in my eyes when I talked about future dreams. My mom knew one thing for sure: God had given her another chance at motherhood late into her thirties. He had also given her what she believed would be a child she could pour into and push to higher ground.

And push she did. I almost buckled under the weight of her expectations. Always late, but never giving up.

I worked hard and earned my high school diploma. Mama cried uncontrollably when I handed it to her. Only one of my family members had completed high school up to that point. I told her that some people at church were going to help me get to college. We were both uncertain about how the financial aspect would all work, but we knew that even though we had economic challenges, I was smart and worked hard. Mom was supportive and inspired. We knew with God on our side it was possible.

Climbing the mountain of college, nearing the peak, seeing the summit of the very last semester, I got the phone call.

“Are you sitting down?” My oldest sister’s voice over the phone. “Mom’s gone.” I wasn’t sure I’d heard right. The air in my body was sucked out. My knees hit the ground. I couldn’t breathe.

My sister’s voice was shaking.

My mother was crossing a popular intersection in our town in the middle of the afternoon. A car ran the light, and hit her, killing her instantly. The car never broke, and never stopped. No one really saw what happened. Only a vague description of the car was reported. She laid in the street for all the world to see, and no one knew what to do.

I called her answering machine over and over to hear her voice just one.more.time.

It was not like terminal illness, where I had to painfully watch her die. I was never given the opportunity to say that one last goodbye. She was here one day, and gone the next, passing through me like the wind.

No more.

No more holidays, no advice on marriage, no one to call when I nervously held my crying newborn at 2 a.m.

I asked my professors for two weeks leave from school to bury my mother and take care of my affairs. I knew what I had to do. In my grief, I felt the push. The same push I’d felt all my life – to go on and to honor her with the one thing she wanted.

I graduated that spring earning my bachelor degree. Sitting alone in a crowded auditorium my eyes searched frantically for a sign, anything to symbolize her spirit. My eyes rested on the school emblem. “There you are,”  I barely whispered. The school I attended for four years was founded the same year my mother was born.

Sometimes a song, a smell, or someone in a crowd who looks so much like your loved one causes you to look again. Hints of grief are always there. But, we can move forward.

One day, one step, one breath at a time. The best way to navigate grief is to live.

 

 

 

Kimberly Rose lives in Central California. She teaches full-time and is working on a master’s degree in administration. She is a marathoner/ultra runner, chasing the Boston dream. Kimberly embraces grief today by finding the small moments that make life meaningful. 

 

 

Don’t miss the other articles in this “Navigating Grief as Life Moves Forward” series. Feel free to SHARE with a friend who might need these words of encouragement.

The Garden – an introduction to the series

Grieving Together – an article on grieving with children

Choosing Joy – a guest post about a spouse choosing joy even on a long cancer journey

When a Grandparent Dies – a guest post about how one mom is navigating her own grief and grief with her kids 

Facing Triggers and Trauma – an article about steering through grief when triggers and trauma color the journey

When You are the Caregiver – an article about navigating grief and feelings of guilt when you have a front-row seat to a loved one’s decline

When You Have to Say Goodbye to the Place Your Heart Calls Home – a guest post exploring the idea of “good grief” we experience when we are uprooted from a place or home we love

When You’ve Experienced Pregnancy Loss – a guest post sharing a first-hand experience with miscarriage and stillbirth.

Would you like a copy of my FREE resource for “Grieving with Kids“? I’m passionate about meeting people in their grief and sharing a message of hope and glory. Let’s connect!

 

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