Chasing God's glory through all circumstances

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Running for His glory: When showing up for your race matters

Posted by | courage, finishing well, grief, hope, identity, inspirational, parenting, self-care, Stories, struggle, Uncategorized | No Comments

The following is the closing article to my summer series, “Running for His glory,” on the intersection of running and faith. This particular essay was originally published at www.incourage.me. I am so grateful for the diversity of voices and guests who have joined me in writing for this series. Leave a comment if something in this essay or the series was a help or inspiration to you!

 

By Dorina Lazo Gilmore

The announcer for the Miguel Reyes 5k race introduced the elite athletes. I watched in awe as the elite group lined up first. Each man and woman were unique – some tall, some shorter, some with shaved heads, some with long hair, but all with that similar lean frame and chiseled muscles. The rest of us fell into place behind them.

The whistle sounded, and we took off. This 5k course winds through the undulating dirt hills and green spaces of Woodward Park in Fresno, California. This is the same course that high schoolers run for the State Cross Country Meet. As a coach and runner, I’ve traversed this course for many races, but I still felt out of place that morning.

I didn’t have much get-up-and-go to tackle those hills or sprint it out at the finish. I slogged along and battled with my thoughts: You’re not in shape for this. You are getting too old. You’re carrying too much weight these days.

I’ve been a runner most of my life. I ran my first 5k when I was eight with my daddy in our Chicago neighborhood. In high school, I was a track and field athlete. I took up distance running and trail running as an adult, completing dozens of races over the last few decades.

These last several years, I’ve had the huge realization that my running glory days are probably over. I’m not standing on podiums or hitting personal records much anymore. My pace is getting slower the older I get.

My forty-two-year-old body has birthed three baby girls and navigated a tough grief journey these past five years since my husband soared to heaven. I’m mushier around the middle. I look in the mirror and see these laugh lines dancing around the corners of my eyes.

My goals and focus have shifted. Now, I run to clear my head. I run for therapy. I run to feel God’s presence.

A few weeks ago, I found my first gray hair. That wild thing sprung out from the side of my temple with much gusto as if to announce a new season. I plucked it and laughed. I raised it up in the car like a trophy for everyone to see and joked that my three active daughters might be responsible.

Perhaps you might say I’ve arrived. I’ve reached what we call this middle season of life. My friend, Lisa-Jo Baker, describes this so well in her new book, The Middle Matters: “The middle is the place where we have grown into the shapes of our souls even as we might have outgrown the shapes of our jeans. The middle is the marrow. The glorious ordinary of your life that utterly exhausts you but that you might have finally started to understand in ways you didn’t at the beginning.”

That day in the 5k race, God reminded me of something important: Showing up matters. My goals may shift and my pace may wane, but I’m still running. My race isn’t over until it’s over. Being older and slower doesn’t discount me from the race. In fact, maybe this is just the beginning. Maybe He’s leading me down a new path to a new purpose in this season.

When I was in my twenties nursing babies and running a non-profit, I dreamed of days like today when I could send my kids off to school and spend my time writing. I whispered little seed prayers to God about book ideas and creative projects. Now I have the space to cultivate and grow these seeds.

Today, I’m clinging to these words from the Apostle Paul:

 So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.
2 Corinthians 4:16 (MSG)

A few years ago, a younger mama came up to me and asked if I would mentor her. I paused at first because I didn’t feel “old enough” to be a mentor. What wisdom did I have to offer? The more we chatted, the more I realized what she really wanted was someone to run alongside her in this race called life.

Now, we set our eyes on the finish line together. Some days we run; other days we kneel. Finishing well and leading our people to God’s glory is the goal.

Friend, whether you are still raising babies or launching them out into the world, whether you are hoisting your broken body out of bed or speed walking on a nearby trail, it still matters. Someone is watching you run your race, and you moving forward today could make all the difference.

After the Miguel Reyes 5k race, I savored tacos, agua de jamaica, and paletas with my daughters. I was sweaty and out of breath, stretching there on our red picnic blanket near the finish line. My seven-year-old looked up at me with her dark chocolate eyes and said, “Good job, mama!”

Another unexpected reminder that showing up still matters: we are teaching our baby birds how to fly.

Photo by Jon Marley

 

*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 “4 ways a half marathon transformed my prayer life,” Heather Lobe shares her personal story and gives some practical ideas on how we can incorporate prayer and scripture in our runs as well.

 

**Dorina Gilmore has also written a Bible study called Glory Chasers: Discovering God’s Glory in Unexpected Places with a running theme. Peruse a full-color sample from the Bible study here

Providing a sense of home for widows in Haiti

Posted by | community, compassion, courage, death, friendship, grief, Haiti, hope, outreach, serve, social justice, Stories, struggle, Uncategorized | No Comments

She would often tap-tap-tap on the back screen door of the Bell Mission House built by my husband’s grandparents, where our family typically stayed. The first thing most people notice about Comère is she’s blind. Comère walked more than 5 miles from her home in Bahoncy beyond Fontaine in the northern mountains of Haiti. She would bring one of her six children to guide her steps on the dusty road to our house.

Part of her story that you might not guess is that Comère is a widow. Her husband died 9 years ago because of malnourishment and dehydration. Comère’s frail frame and gentle voice always stir up compassion in my heart.

In the early days, she would ask me for canned food to help feed her children. The cans were something they could carry on the long journey home to share with the others. I would dig through our cupboards and send home canned chicken or tuna, and sometimes tomato paste or soup with her. She would down a glass of water and squeeze my hand before she left.

I don’t remember exactly when I met Comère. In my 19 years of traveling and working in northern Haiti, she has shown up regularly. Somehow, she always knows when I am in town.

Widows in the country of Haiti are among the most vulnerable members of society. Comère is just one of many widows who struggle to survive. Many widows become homeless and outcasts when their husbands die. Few have extended family to care for them. While widows in the United States might have access to social security, life insurance, or death benefits, there are no government programs to provide for the needs of widows in Haiti.

When my husband Ericlee and I were first married, we talked a lot about God’s heart for the vulnerable. Our own hearts were especially burdened for the orphans in Haiti. I remember one summer we looked up all the verses in the Bible that talked about orphans. What I didn’t realize was important at the time is that most of the scriptures that talk about caring for the orphans also mention providing for widows.

It wasn’t until my husband soared to heaven in 2014 that I returned to the Bible to investigate these scriptures that express God’s heart for widows. As a newly-minted widow with three fatherless daughters, I wanted to remind myself what God said.

James, Jesus’ brother, describes it this way: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

I believe James exhortation is literal. God wants us to care for orphans, widows and the most vulnerable in our culture. Dozens of scriptures from the Old Testament to the New Testament show this heart.

This past July, my family traveled to Haiti again to visit friends and so I could speak at a women’s conference in the northern city of Pignon. While we were there, my long-time friend, Pastor Gerby, invited me to share at his country church in Fontaine. I delivered a message on the book of Ruth and how God sent His son as our ultimate kinsman-redeemer.

After service, I asked Pastor Gerby if I could meet some of the widows in his congregation. I was surprised when more than 20 women shuffled their way to the front of the church. They were a mix of ages – some had children or grandchildren, some did not. Several of them had been attending the church for years. My heart was overwhelmed as I realized almost 20 percent of the church was comprised of widows.

That Sunday morning, I got to hear the stories of several of these women. Their grief and loss was familiar, yet the struggles they faced were so different. Jobs were hard to come by. I learned the church fed them after service. For some, this might be the only full meal they would enjoy for several days. I prayed and wept over my widow sisters.

Sitting on the end of the front pew, was my friend Comère. After our time of sharing she rose, reached out for my hand, and clung to me. Pastor Gerby led us outside the church. He showed us the orphanage and school that were part of the campus. Then he began to illuminate his vision for building a Widows Home for these women in his church.

My heart was immediately moved by this vision. My new husband Shawn also felt the call to invest in this project. We were especially impressed by the idea that the local church was already moving. They were already feeding these women. Pastor Gerby also talked about how these women could be given jobs on the campus like serving lunches to the school children, helping in the orphanage, or beautifying the church. They would have a new sense of purpose and community.

I couldn’t help thinking about my own grief journey. After my husband’s death, I questioned my calling and my purpose. I stepped down from my work helping direct the non-profit we started in Haiti. I needed time to heal and navigate loss with my children.

Over these last five years, I’ve learned that there is profound purpose and healing in coming alongside others in their distress and grief. God has given me many opportunities to share my story and to journey with others who are grieving. As it says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Now, I believe, He is opening the door for us to help build this home for widows in Haiti. Sometimes offering a helping hand can lead to our own healing journey.

 

Friends, we are inviting you to link arms with us today to raise up the Widows Home in Fontaine, Haiti through Haiti Gospel Outreach. We know many of us here in the United States have resources that can be used to help provide not just a house, but a home for these Haitian women. Every little bit counts. Our goal is to raise $15,000 by November 30, 2019. If you would like to give toward this project, you can donate here. Please include “Widows Home – Dorina” in the notes. You can also help us spread the word by sharing this Facebook live video.

 

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: How I started running for all the wrong reasons

Posted by | courage, fear, finishing well, inspirational, 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. Gloryanna is a dear friend, whom I met through an online writers community called Hope*writers. She and I have connected on a variety of topics, including writing, mothering, marriage, and running. In this essay, she shares about how she started out running for all the wrong reasons. I’m sure many of us can relate!

 

By Gloryanna Boge

“Just try to stay with her as best you can,” Coach said as she staggered us on the track.

I was in lane two with my eyes locked on the feet in lane one. Lane one was a senior and she was one of our fastest runners – that much I knew as a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed seventh grader.

Coach wanted a few of us to run a timed trial of the 200-meter dash. Mainly we were bodies to give the senior a practice run. I had never run 200 meters on a track before in my life. I went to a small, Christian school so pretty much everyone was expected to go out for track.

There I was completely inexperienced and unsure of myself. My heart beating nervously.

But I was excited.

I have loved running ever since I could race the kids around the block in my neighborhood.

That hot spring day on the track, I had the chance to see if I was any good.

Coach blew the whistle and we took off. I don’t remember how many of us were on the track that afternoon, probably only three or four. I remember staying as close as I could to the senior, within arm’s reach of her back.

I remember no one else passed me that day. I also remember Coach saying I’d train with the senior for the 200 meters as our second runner.

I became competitive in our Christian school track community. I thrived every spring when we lined up for repeats on the track. I won some races and broadened my training as I took on more events. By the time I was a senior, I had a small box filled with medals from various races. A little space for my pride to sit nice and safe.

I ran for the medals, to stand on the pedestal when I was done. I ran to feed my young teenage ego.

If I knew then what I know now about running, I’d tell that seventh-grade teenage girl to pace herself. I’d tell her running would open doors she never knew were closed. Doors that only the grace of God could pry open.

When I was in college, I ran to stave off the Freshman Fifteen. I’d binge eat as I studied for exams and wrote essays late into the night. Then I’d wake up the next day filled with guilt about eating all the food. So, I’d punish myself with a four-mile run.

Running became a cleanse that only left my heart feeling more soiled than before.

After college, I got married. During the first five years of my marriage I wrestled with resentment, unhappiness, and depression. I worried about sharing my fears with friends because I didn’t want to trash talk my marriage. I didn’t want my marriage to have a different image than what I presented to the world. I stressed about what my heart felt and wondered if I was a bad Christian.

My heart filled up with questions and concerns. I had no one I wanted to turn to. So, I’d get up in the morning and run. I’d come home from work and run some more.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but God met me in those stress-related runs. God used the rhythm of my feet on the pavement as a path to clear out the lies I had about my husband.

When my mother passed away a few years ago, I was numb with grief. There was a window of time when I pushed grief away and numbed myself with busyness in order to avoid the pain.

Guess what helped break down the walls of grief?

Going for a run.

When your feet hit the ground and your heart rate increases, when the sweat starts to roll, your mind starts to clear. And when your mind starts to clear of all the lies from this world, you make space to hear God’s voice. To listen to his truth.

I find God’s truth that smashes the lies the Enemy feeds me about my marriage.

I find strength in knowing God grieves with me.

My box filled with medals collects mostly dust these days. I let myself enjoy that piece of cake without counting the calories I would need to burn in a run the next day.

Life without running feels empty. Each time I get that 30 minutes or an hour to myself, I find rest in the embrace of the Holy Spirit. I find his voice and my heart attunes to his words.

I hear God say, “Surrender. Stay with me as best you can, Gloryanna.”

I surrender all the wrong reasons and in exchange, God reminds me that I am His. He tells me I am not defined by how many miles I’ve covered, but that my identity is grounded in being a child of the King.

 

Gloryanna is learning to look to Jesus for growth instead of Google for fixes. She encourages women to reclaim their faith from the noise of this world so they can focus more on Christ. Join her on Facebook or Instagram. Read more at www.gloryannaboge.com/blog.

 

*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.

 

*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.

Redeeming Ruth: The Father’s Heart for the vulnerable

Posted by | abundance, community, compassion, courage, culture, death, flourishing, grief, hope, inspirational, relationships, Stories, struggle, Uncategorized, video | One Comment

I was invited to share a message this Sunday at Action Community Church in Clovis for their summer series, “A Father’s Heart: a series about things God cares about.”

I chose to share about God’s heart for the vulnerable, specifically widows, orphans, immigrants/foreigners and the poor.

In this message, I unpack the story of Ruth in the Bible and how God also brought a kinsman-redeemer for me and my family.

Check out the full video of the message here!

*If you’re interested in more details about my speaking & teaching, check out my Speaker Page here.

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.


A podcast roundup: My story for His glory

Posted by | brave, community, compassion, courage, death, family life, flourishing, gifts, grief, hope, identity, kids, marriage, parenting, passion, Personal Stories, podcast, relationships, rest, running, self-care, sharing faith, Stories, struggle, transitions | One Comment

Each one of us is called to be a storyteller. We tell the stories of our lives in different ways. We may use our creativity to write, paint, cook, and even do our jobs with excellence. In everyday conversations, we have many opportunities to share what God has done for us and His faithfulness. Our stories point others to His glory.

Romans 9:17 says, “I appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you, and to spread my fame throughout the whole earth” (NLT).

We might think our story in insignificant, mundane or too tragic, but it has a weighty purpose in God’s eyes. According to this verse, God has actually appointed us to help make Him famous. We have the opportunity to continue His glory narrative in the circles and spaces God has put us in.

I’ve recently had several opportunities to share my story on podcasts. I love the podcast format because conversations and topics flow freely. I hope these conversations will encourage, inspire and challenge you to continue sharing your story.

Here’s a quick roundup of those programs:

-Emily Allen and I talk about “Grieving Together” on the Kindred Mom podcast. I share my story about wading through the loss of my husband while mothering three young girls. I had to learn how to make space for each one of us to grieve in our own unique ways.

-I chat with Jennie G. Scott on In This Skin podcast about growing up in a multicultural family, navigating grief, running as therapy, raising girls, and body image. Hear some of my passion on these topics and more on Episode 19.

-Becky L. McCoy invited me to share on her podcast Suckerpunched about being a caregiver, burnout and grief. I was the primary caregiver for my husband when he battled melanoma. We talk about how it takes a lot of courage to rest.

-I dish with Alana Dawson on the Mom Wants More podcast about pursuing our passions as moms, how God grows our gifts organically, and what it means to flourish together after loss.

-My new husband Shawn and I got to share on the #StayMarried podcast about how God brought beauty out of ashes through our story. I love this conversation because it includes Shawn’s version of the wild glory story God wrote for us.

-My friend Michelle Diercks invited me to be on her Peace in His Presence podcast. I share about how God was present with me in the valley of the shadow of death and used scripture to lift my heart.

If you listen in to any of these conversations, I would love to hear from you. What’s one takeaway you will remember?

 

I listen to podcasts in the car, while I’m cooking or prepping meals, and sometimes when I’m running.

Here are five podcasts I listen to regularly:

The Next Right by Emily Freeman

Jesus Led Adventure with Stephanie Bryant

Out of the Ordinary with Lisa-Jo Baker and Christie Purifoy

Lead Stories: Tales of Leadership and Life with Jo Saxton and Pastor Steph

Typology by Ian Morgan Cron

What are some of your favorite podcasts?

What to do when you’re not “joyful in hope”

Posted by | book reviews, hope, sharing faith, Stories, struggle | No Comments

I met Shauna through the online writing community I am a part of called Hope*writers. I had the opportunity to read her first book, Remarkable Faith, and write a book review on it. Her writing captivated my imagination as she illuminated stories from the Bible with cultural context and details. I am honored to invite Shauna as a guest on my blog today. She is sharing on a topic dear to my heart – hope.

***

Guest post by Shauna Letellier

When I wrote my first book, Remarkable Faith, I felt like I had made a pioneer discovery. I saw a pattern in the gospels that demonstrated a biblical truth, and I wanted to share it with everyone. Like a child wide-eyed over a fossil dug from a backyard sandbox, the matter of faith as dependence rather than performance had always been there. But I was just discovering the vivid illustrations in the people Jesus met.

Writing my second book, Remarkable Hope, was more of an investigation. Not so much, “Hey! Look what I found!” but more “I wonder why that is?”

The apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Rome, “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12: 12). Faithful in prayer and patient in affliction, I understood. Keep praying and trust God in the hard times. But “joyful in hope” struck a dissonant chord, like a toddler banging on the bottom three keys of a piano.

If we’re called to be joyful in hope, I wondered why I inwardly rolled my eyes when I said, “I hope so.” Hope sounded more sarcastic than joyful. “I hope so” felt like ineffective fairy dust sprinkled on an impossibility.

I went to my Bible to discover true hope, to learn from the folks who saw Jesus face-to-face and still experienced severe disappointment, even despair. It didn’t seem to harmonize.

My own usage of the word “hope” was throwing me off. My definition was the eye-rolling, doubt-filled sarcastic verb I had been employing.

I hope I don’t get sick.

I hope we make it on time.

I hope it doesn’t rain.

Much of the time I ended up wet, late, and sneezing. In my mind, hope was more akin to doubt than joy.

But biblical hope, the kind written about by Paul, Peter, and John is active waiting for a good future you can count on. Its fulfillment is not predicated on weather or timing or health. It is held in place by Jesus’ finished work for us. His timing, purposes, and plans are sometimes confounding and, in our minds, disappointing.

Even people in the gospels—who met Jesus, who ate with him and hosted him in their synagogues—even they experienced differing degrees of disappointment. But after studying eight of those people, I can confidently declare with the apostle Paul that “our hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:5)

Remarkable Hope: When Jesus Revived Hope in Disappointed People, is the result of that study and reflection. It retells the stories of eight hopeful people in the Bible who appeared—at first—to be disappointed by Jesus. Their stories reveal a pattern of being surprised by him in drastic ways. As we observe Christ’s faithful commitment to them, we will be wowed by his unseen plan and revived by his enduring presence.

With unexpected methods and surprising gifts, Jesus transforms disappointment into the certainty of remarkable hope. Not only for them, but for us too.

 

Shauna Letellier is the author of Remarkable Hope: When Jesus Revived Hope in Disappointed People. Drawing upon her degree in Biblical Studies, she weaves strands of history, theology, and fictional detail into a fresh retelling of familiar Bible stories in her books and on her blog. With her husband Kurt, she has the wild and hilarious privilege of raising three boys along the banks of the Missouri River where they fish, swim, and rush off to ball games.

{This article was first published at www.shaunaletellier.com and is republished here with permission.}

**I’m giving away a copy of Remarkable Hope, which releases on March 5, 2019. Simply subscribe here for my weekly Glorygram newsletter and you will be added to the giveaway drawing. A winner will be announced on Friday, March 29, 2019.

Grief Journey: Embracing Your Child’s Individuality

Posted by | brave, courage, grief, individuality, Stories, struggle, transitions | 2 Comments

As a mama of three girls ages 2, 5 and 8, there’s a lot I’m still learning. In fact, every day is a wild journey of discovery about my girls and myself. One thing I do know for sure: we are all different.

Read More

You are not forgotten this Valentine’s Day

Posted by | compassion, courage, death, flourishing, friendship, gifts, hope, identity, Incourage essays, inspirational, sharing faith, Stories, struggle, Uncategorized | No Comments

For some of us, this day brings a slow ache. The fragile edges of that lace doily your kid gave you can feel like shards of glass scraping across your tired heart.

Every grocery store stocked with roses near the checkout, every card boutique with aisles upon aisles of cards and heart-shaped boxes of candy, every commercial for romantic dinner packages, every billboard talking about diamonds being a girl’s best friend, and the window displays of that one lingerie shop in the mall remind us of what we lack. They remind us of who and what we are missing.

Friend, I’m here to deliver this gentle but giant Valentine’s Day card right to your door from the one who calls you Beloved.

Yes, I’m talking to you, my widow sister.

This one is written for you, single friend and single mama.

For you, who wears the word divorcee across your chest like a scarlet letter — you’re included.

This letter is for you, little sister in your college dorm, wondering when your time will come.

I’m reaching out to you, the woman whose husband is deployed or distant or working in that other city today.

The God of the Universe sees you today in your desert place and cares deeply about your story. Just as the angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness, He is coming swiftly today to remind you He is El Roi, the God who sees you.

And He calls you Beloved. That is your name, dear one.

He is your Maker and your Husband. He partners with you. He parents with you. He meets you with wisdom, instruction, and grace. He is your Redeemer, the one who brings you new value each day.

You are His bride dressed in white, walking the winding aisle of this life but anticipating the future wedding feast in eternity.

If you feel lonely tonight, remember Him as your first Lover. He is calling you: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone” (Song of Solomon 2:10-11).

His love is steadfast and dependable. He draws you to His chest, and He delights in you. Let Him calm all your fears and insecurities today. He rejoices over you exactly the way He made you with every curve of your body and tender edge of your face.

Sister, if you are longing for a true BFF, our God is the most faithful of all friends. He’s the one who will sit with you at coffee and listen with His eyes. He’s not distracted by His phone or His to-do list. He is focused on you because He created you. He knows you. He sees you as His masterpiece.

You can feel freedom to confide Him, to present your doubts to Him, and to wrestle through all your questions with Him. He can handle you. You are never too much or not enough for Him. He surrounds you like a shield.

Friend, you are precious to our God. You are a Daughter of the King. He lifts your chin with His gentle, strong hands so you can see glimpses of His glory in each day. Crimson-colored roses and boxes of truffles are nice, but they pale in comparison to the sunset He paints in a kaleidoscope of colors for you each night.

He whispers love for you through those gossamer clouds sashaying across the horizon, through that baby girl you cradle in your arms, through the star-studded night sky.

He leaves the other ninety-nine to go after you. You are the one.

He drives out fear every moment with His love. He laid down His life for you. There’s no more romantic gift than that – a God-man who says you are worth the ultimate sacrifice.

Beloved, be loved today.

*You do not need to travel alone. I send out a weekly note of encouragement with fun recommendations, reads and recipes. Subscribe for my Glorygram here

**This post originally was published at www.incourage.me.

 

 

10 inspiring books I read in 2018

Posted by | book reviews, courage, fear, flourishing, grief, hope, identity, inspirational, parenting, passion, prayer, rest, sharing faith, Stories, struggle, transitions, wonder | No Comments

10 Inspiring Books I Read in 2018 - Books always usher me through new seasons, transitions and trials

Books have always been companions to me. When I was a little girl, I used to find a corner near the lamp in our living room on the red shag carpet and read for hours. My mom knew where to find me. I discovered myself in the pages of books. Books took me on grand adventures to imaginary places I couldn’t go in real life.

As I went off to college and became an English Literature major, my reading was out of necessity for my schoolwork. That said, I discovered dozens of books I loved that I never would have chosen for myself. (I also had to read several that did not speak specifically to me.)

When my daughters were babies, I found little time for reading adult books. It felt like a luxury to sit for 20 or 30 minutes and read something that wasn’t a board or picture book. More often, I digested quick blog posts and magazine articles that took less time to read.

In this season of life, with school-aged children, I have realized that I have to be intentional to carve out time for reading because it’s something I love. I have to keep my goals realistic, but I have to pursue reading like I would invite a friend to coffee.

These last few years, I’ve put together a stack of books I hope to read in a year. My grace-filled goal is to read at least one per month and then to choose my top 10 most meaningful books for the year.

This list includes non-fiction books that have ministered to me, inspired me, and shaped me in 2018. Of course, as a children’s book writer and mama, I’ve also read fiction and picture books, but I’ll save those for a different time and separate list. I hope these books will connect with your heart in this season and make for good companions.

  1. Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg

Subtitle: Awaken to the Nearness of God

Genre: Christian Living

Quotable: “God delights for us to cup our hands in prayer and scrunch our faces against the vault of heaven in holy expectation that he will meet us in beautiful, mysterious ways. The Creator desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with himself.”

My review: I started off the year by diving into Margaret Feinberg’s book. She invites readers to chase wonder through their everyday lives. She helps us to wake up to wonder in a variety of ways, including the wonder of God’s presence, creation, rest, prayer, restoration, friendship, forgiveness, gratitude and abundant life. She so beautifully articulates what I have been learning over the last several years. Each day – no matter how ordinary or extraordinary – is an opportunity to chase God’s glory.

For the full book review, click here.

  1. Breaking the Fear Cycle by Maria Furlough

Subtitle: How to Find Peace for Your Anxious Thoughts

Genre: Christian Living

Quotable: “Once we gaze upon our fears with honest indignation, we can see that, yes, God is bigger than even the worst thing we can imagine.”

My review: What I love about Maria’s book is that it is a mix of honest storytelling and Biblical truth. She lived through her worst fear and provides raw, beautiful tools to help the rest of us navigate our journeys with faith. She taught me how to find peace in trusting God.

For the full book review, click here.

 

  1. Rooted by Banning Liebscher

Subtitle: The Hidden Places Where God Develops You

Genre: Spiritual Growth

Quotable: “When we come through that valley of the shadow of death, when we emerge out of the deep end, then what? We have an awareness of God’s abiding presence that forever changes the way we see impossible situations… Our roots are firmly established in the revelation of a Father who never leaves us.”

My review: In Rooted, Banning takes us through the life of David to show how God expands our root system underground in order to later make an impact above ground. Banning illuminates the way God prepared David for the crown.  He develops an intimate relationship with God in private that fuels and guides his actions in public. Banning’s premise: before we can develop our vision for life and ministry, we must let God develop us.

For the full book review, click here.

  1. Grace Like Scarlett by Adriel Booker

Subtitle: Grieving With Hope After Miscarriage and Loss

Genre: Self-Help, Death & Grief

Quotable: “We had to resist the impulse to deflect our grief or fight our brokenness. We had to reject the compulsion to figure out how this could be rewritten into a success story. We had to enter in as is.”

My review: The book is a moving, personal narrative about how one family endured pregnancy loss and navigated grief. Adriel invites readers to wrestle, to wonder and discover redemption in the wild waves of grief with her.  Her passion is to walk alongside women who endure the “secret grief” of miscarriage. You know a book has touched your soul deeply when you simply can’t put it down.

For the full book review, click here.

 

  1. Holy Hustle by Crystal Stine

Subtitle: Embracing a Word-Hard, Rest-Well Life

Genre: Christian Living, Women’s Issues

Quotable: “We need to slow down, spend time in the Word, and be quiet enough to hear God’s voice so we are better equipped to do the work He’s calling us to do… God worked and called it good, and He rested and called it holy.”

My review: Crystal presents a challenging and refreshing examination of the roles of work and rest in our lives. Her central message is that we should “work without shame and rest without guilt” for the glory of God. I love the way Crystal holds both of these ideas in tandem. Crystal encourages women to pursue “holy hustle,” a word-hard, rest-well lifestyle that chases faith instead of fame.

For the full book review, click here.

 

  1. Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray

Subtitle: 40 Days of God’s love to Revitalize Your Soul

Genre: Christian Living, Devotionals

Quotable: “We often burn ourselves out trying to serve God, rather than taking care of ourselves – the way God would want, if He were here in person today. Somehow, we’ve learned we don’t deserve rest – until we’ve solved our problems or we’re no longer struggling. It’s the opposite.”

My review: Whispers of Rest helped call me back to intentional rest during this season – a rest that starts in the arms of my loving Father basking in His truth. The book includes some unique elements. In addition to the scripture, devotional, prayer and reflection questions, Bonnie includes a section called Soul Care Trail Notes. This is one of my favorite parts of the book. She includes practical tips and interesting studies to reduce stress and give yourself creative outlets from the everyday busy.

For the full book review, click here.

 

  1. A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser

Subtitle: How the Soul Grows Through Loss

Genre: Christian Living, Death & Grief

Quotable: “We do not always have the freedom to choose the roles we must play in this life, but we can choose how we are going to play the roles we have been given.”

My review: This book is a moving meditation on the losses we all suffer and the grace that can transform us. This is not just a book about one man’s sorrow. Jerry bravely and poignantly leads readers into a conversation about what we can learn from suffering. The premise of the book is that it’s not the circumstances that are important, but it’s more important what we do with those circumstances.

For the full book review, click here.

 

  1. Unexpected by Christine Caine

Subtitle: Leave Fear Behind, Move Forward in Faith, Embrace the Adventure

Genre: Christian Living, Personal Growth

Quotable: “Holding to our faith–even in the face of deep disappointments–is critical.. Making God’s promises bigger than our disappointments is essential.

My review: Christine Caine’s new book reaches out to people in all seasons of life who are faced with the unexpected like I was. Through compelling stories and practical strategies, this book helps readers anticipate the unexpected and to live with true joy trusting God in all things.

For the full book review, click here.

  1. It’s All Under Control by Jennifer Dukes Lee

Subtitle: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding Peace You Almost Forgot was Possible

Genre: Christian Living, Women’s Issues

Quotable: “We ask for a map, but instead Jesus gives us a compass and says, ‘Follow me.’”

My review: Jennifer Dukes Lee drew me in with her on-point storytelling and her tell-it-to-you-straight girl humor. I felt like she was mentoring me about how let go of this need for control and how to embrace true peace in trusting God with all the details of my everyday life.

For the full book review, click here.

 

  1. Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller

Subtitle: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World

Genre: Spiritual Growth, Ritual

Quotable: “Preparation in rest precedes the miracle. When we run errands early in the week, clean up the house, prepare food for the weekend, these are acts of love at the root. Preparing for Sabbath communicates to Jesus, ‘You matter most. I want to spend time with you.’”

My review: Shelly offers up this book as a gift for the weary soul who longs for rest but doesn’t know how to make it reality. This isn’t about following certain rules or being religious. This is about making space for God. I love the way Shelly uses her own struggles and grappling with the concept of rest to gracefully invite her readers into this conversation about Sabbath in a busy world. She models for us how to create Sabbath in personal and practical ways.

For the full book review, click here.

 

BONUS: I love devotionals and here’s fave from 2018:

Gracelaced by Ruth Chou Simons

Subtitle: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart

Genre: Devotional, Christian Living

Quotable: “Just because God does not remove the thorn doesn’t’ mean He’s not using it for our good and for His glory.”

My review: Ruth Chou Simons encourages readers in any circumstance to become deeply rooted in God’s faithful promises. She uses hand-painted scriptures coupled with honest and inspiring devotionals to point women to God’s Word. I love how Ruth takes us on a journey through the seasons to rest, rehearse, respond and remember His provision in our lives. This devotional also offers space to journal and passages for further study on each theme.

Join me for a fun giveaway this week! For anyone who signs up for my Glory Chasers tribe before January 28, 2019, you will have a chance to win a gorgeous leather (in)courage devotional Bible. Simply subscribe for my weekly Glorygram here, and you will be entered! Please feel free to share this post with friends too! You can also join the FREE Women of Courage Bible study starting February 1.

 

 

*Disclaimer: DorinaGilmore.com uses affiliate links for things Dorina has bought and/or used personally. If you click through her referral link, at no additional cost to you, she earns a commission if you make a purchase. Thank you for supporting the blog in this way!

Discovering the dignity of work

Posted by | compassion, courage, creativity, flourishing, friendship, gifts, hope, Incourage essays, Stories, struggle | No Comments

I traveled to Haiti in the summer of 2011 with my family to begin directing a non-profit in the growing town of Pignon. During a bumpy truck ride from the Port-Au-Prince airport to the northern mountains, our Haitian director Peter shared with me his vision to provide jobs for women who were part of his church. He had a burden for these families that consistently came to him for money and food.

Peter wanted a longer-term solution than simply giving handouts to his congregants. This is the typical model for relief — especially in a place like Haiti which is often noted as the “poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” Donated water, supplies, clothes, and more pour into the country for free distribution.

This kind of relief is necessary in times of emergency like after a natural disaster, but it’s not sustainable long term. This handout model creates a dependency and often works against poverty alleviation.

Peter discovered a fair trade jewelry company in Port-Au-Prince that used recycled materials to craft their products. He befriended the American woman who started it, and she invited him to bring some of the women from the mountains to learn how to make jewelry. He chose a few women and sent them for training with hopes of making them leaders to train other women in the church.

That day, as our truck blazed a trail through the dust and gravel, Peter asked me if I would help the women start their own business. My heart leapt when I first heard his idea. I never imagined I would have the chance in Haiti to use my passion for creativity and my love for making jewelry.

I grew up frequenting craft stores and creating jewelry to give as gifts to friends and family. While visiting colleges during my junior year of high school, my mama teased me that I would probably make my college choice based on proximity to the best bead store. Creativity was in my bones. I felt most alive when I was creating something with my hands.

That summer in Haiti I gathered the first group of artisans – nine women from Pignon who stepped up to learn how to roll their own beads from upcycled cereal boxes. We formed The Haitian Bead Project. Many learned quickly. I showed them how to arrange their beads into necklaces and twist wire to make earrings. We worked together to improve the quality of our creations and to find designs that would be on trend for buyers in the United States.

Teaching these women the skill of making jewelry opened up two important doors for them — the dignity of work and the power of creativity.

God designed humans to work, which sets us apart from all other creatures. The dignity of work is central to our value as human beings. Work can provide a sense of purpose, honor, and hope for the future. When people develop marketable skills and find jobs, they can provide for themselves and their families. They are no longer shamed into begging and reaching for handouts.

Join me over at www.incourage.me for the rest of this story and ways you can help provide the dignity of work for God’s daughters in need.

From homeless to hopeful: A story about the artisans of Street Hope

Posted by | christmas, community, compassion, culture, grief, hope, Incourage essays, Stories, struggle | No Comments

Caroline sits in a circle of plastic chairs pulled up to a rustic wood table. Her children play nearby. She holds together two pieces of felt in one hand. Her thumb and forefinger hold a needle threaded with black. She drives the needle through the red and green felt and pulls the thread gently through to the other side.

Her fingers fly and the stitches begin to curve into the outline of Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child. There is something in her dark eyes — a flickering, like the white lights on a Christmas tree. She is filled with a confident expectation of what lies ahead and what lies right there in the ornament she sews.

She has the gift of hope. Something hard to come by given where she came from.

Caroline was forced from her home along with her brother when she was twelve years old. Her parents said they would be better off in the Nairobi streets. Caroline’s brother did not survive the first year. She lived on the streets for fifteen years — defenseless, bitter, alone — where she became pregnant several times and one of her children died.

Today, Caroline is a part of an artisan group called Street Hope. She joins a dozen women who were once homeless and who now sew products in exchange for a fair wage to help with living expenses. (in)courage alum Kristen Welch started Street Hope in 2016 as an extension of Mercy House Global after a visit to one of the largest slums in the world located in Nairobi, Kenya. Her heart was to empower these mamas who desperately needed a dose of hope.

Jump over to www.(in)courage.me for the rest of the story and details on how you can link arms with Caroline and Street Hope this Christmas season!



*I am a Dayspring affiliate at no extra cost to my readers.

When God transplants you to a new garden

Posted by | family life, finishing well, flourishing, identity, inspirational, Stories, struggle, transitions, Uncategorized | No Comments

I grew up in Chicago in a neighborhood where the houses were like little boxes made of brick sitting in neat rows along the city streets. Even though we had a small backyard, my mama always made space for a garden.

Every spring we would head down to the local nursery and pick out packets of seeds and plants. We dreamed of making Italian pesto and marinara sauce with our herbs and tomatoes. We salivated over eggplant parmigiana or moist zucchini bread we could create. Of course, we had work to do before we would ever taste the fruit of our labor.

Mama would hand my brother and me little shovels and spading forks. Our first assignment was to break up the hard soil to get it ready for planting. This was the cultivating process, where we also had to uproot any pesky weeds.

We mixed in the dark, rich top soil with the gray, ashy dirt that had endured Chicago’s winter. They say it’s best to prepare the soil a week in advance so we had to be patient in the process. Our soil needed extra nutrients before we could transplant the seedlings from the nursery.

Finally, we would gather around as Mama dug little holes evenly-spaced in the garden boxes. Then she removed the plants from the containers and gently loosened the roots. She slipped the seedlings into the holes and we would gently pat the dirt around them. Mama always had us soak the soil right after the seedlings were planted. They needed lots of water to nourish them as they got settled in their new home.

A few months ago, God transplanted our family. We moved into a new house. My three daughters transferred to a new school. My husband’s company restructured, which meant he had to move to a new office. We also decided, after much prayer and processing heavy things, that it was time to find a new church.

These are beastly transitions. Whenever you shift your daily rhythm, relocate or transfer to a new position, it takes time to recalibrate. It takes time to get fully rooted and ready for new growth.

As I survey my life, God has transplanted me several times. He transplanted me when I went off to college three hours away from my family. He transplanted me after college from Michigan to California to start a new job as a newspaper reporter. He transplanted our young family when my late husband and I started a non-profit in Haiti. And now we are being transplanted again.

Through these experiences, I have learned several lessons:

First, I have to dig in to do the work of cultivating the soil. Before I could move to these new places and spaces, I had to be willing to shake things up, to dig through the memories, to sort through what we would be leaving behind and grieve. I had to say goodbye to people and mark what God taught me in that season. Cultivating is the hard part, but it yields such growth.

Secondly, when we’re being transplanted to a new garden, we have to nourish ourselves well with the truth. Mama taught us to add nutrient-rich soil and plenty of water to help our seedlings grow at the start. In the same way, our souls need nourishment. We need more time in God’s Word, more time in prayer, more time to connect with the Master Gardener as we navigate transition.

When people or settings are new, our souls go through a kind of shock like a seedling does in new soil. Insecurity, resentment, and doubt can creep in. We may find ourselves longing for the old garden because it was familiar and comfortable. This is when we need to press in to the truth that we are known and loved by God no matter where we go.

Once we have been transplanted, we also need to give ourselves time to listen and observe how things work in the new garden. It’s tempting to rush into familiar rhythms, but we might miss something new God wants to bloom in a new place. For example, I’ve led women’s Bible studies for years. I was tempted in our new church to sign up for Bible study right away and inquire about leadership, but I felt God encouraging me to hold back. He’s invited me into a sweet season of rest and personal Bible study that I believe has been important to strengthening my roots in this new season. This also has afforded me more time to be present with my daughters in this transition.

Maybe some of you have been transplanted recently. Maybe you’ve moved to a new city, a new job, a new church. Maybe you’ve just graduated from college or now you have an empty nest. Maybe you’ve just sent your baby off to kindergarten or have found yourself back in school. As you are transplanted to this new place or new situation, remember to keep your eyes on the Master Gardener. He is faithful to go before us to cultivate the soil and help us root ourselves if we cling to Him.

It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center
of this process but God, who makes things grow.
1 Corinthians 3:7 (MSG)

Have you ever been transplanted? How did you stay rooted in that season?

*I have written more on how God designed each of us to flourish for His glory in my Bible study, Flourishing Together: Cultivating a Fruitful Life in Christ. Details here.

Click over to (in)courage to read the original of this post…

Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash

 

#Blessed: How my view of blessing shifted after my husband’s death

Posted by | death, finishing well, gifts, Pinterest, sharing faith, Stories, struggle | 2 Comments

A few years ago, I received a gift. It was a canvas that artfully displayed this phrase: “Thankful, Grateful and Blessed.”

I hesitated to display it in my home. You see, I struggled with the word “blessed.” About the time my husband Ericlee was diagnosed with melanoma cancer in 2014, a hashtag became popular on social media. On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts, people began to use #Blessed as a way to “humbly brag” about their lives.

Family Christmas photos with folks in coordinating Christmas outfits, Pinterest-perfect dining room tables, delectable meals at restaurants and announcements of fabulous job promotions were posted with #Blessed.

Ironically, my husband’s nickname during college was “Blessed Boy” because of all the amazing things he experienced. His friends teased him for the ways he excelled in sports, the gifts he received, and the way he seemed to sail through life.

When Blessed Boy was diagnosed with stage four cancer, I began to question it as his wife. At the time, all those #Blessed social media posts pricked my heart. I found myself wrestling with God and asking:

Are we still blessed on the hardest days?

Are we only blessed when life goes according to our plans?

Are we blessed even in the face of disease and death?

The dictionary tells me the word “blessing” means favor or a gift bestowed by God. In Genesis 1, we see how God blessed His people from the very beginning.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them.

– Genesis 1:27-28 (ESV)

Somewhere along the way though, the meaning of the word blessed has become skewed and overused. As American Christians, we often refer to material blessings and a life full of ease and privilege as #Blessed.

Is this really what blessing is all about?

Kate Merrick says it this way in her book, And Still She Laughs: “We throw around the word blessing haphazardly, as if God is a supernatural Santa Claus waiting to bring treats to good little girls and boys.”

Kate helped me set my theology straight. We do not receive blessing from God because we deserve it, because we have served him a certain way, because we have gone to church 3 out of 4 Sundays this month. In fact, we cannot earn His blessing at all. It’s a gift. Freely given. Undeserved.

Blessing is about being loved deeply by our Creator God. We are blessed when we possess that peace that surpasses understanding, when we receive the help of the Holy Spirit, when we feel the tender comfort of the Father.

Matthew 5 helps drive home this idea that blessing is not quantified by our possessions, but by the condition of our spirits.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

-Matthew 5:3 (ESV)

So let’s be clear. If you’re widow, a single mom, an orphan, a homeless family or a community in the path of a hurricane, blessing is still yours. In fact, you are smack in the middle of the blessing, according to Matthew 5:4-5:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

-Matthew 5:4-5 (ESV)

Jesus concludes this section about what it means to be blessed with this encouragement:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

-Matthew 5:12 (ESV)

I have learned two things about blessing: We are not blessed because of what we acquire but because of what has been gifted to each one of us. The ultimate blessing is eternal life we receive because of Christ’s sacrifice and His daily presence with each one of us.

When my husband was battling cancer, God was with us in the waiting rooms. He was with us during the surgery. He was with us during the painful nights. We felt Him in the scriptures we read. We heard Him in the echoes of the worship music we listened to around the clock. His presence was profound as the days passed and the cancer coursed through Ericlee’s body. We were not alone. God was with us, and that was our blessing.

Second, we have the opportunity to bless others when we multiply a perspective of gratitude to God through hardship.

My dear sister-friends in Haiti have magnified this for me. I have visited and worked in Haiti for almost 17 years now. Every time I go and spend time there I am inspired by my friends who live in abject poverty with unspeakable challenges, but still see life as a blessing. They worship with such passion because they know God is with them through every storm.

After Ericlee’s death, I was challenged as a widow to daily look for God around me. I practiced gratitude to lift me from the heaviness of grief. When my eyes were on the swelling colors of the sunset or my daughters dancing in the yard, I felt blessed. When I filled my lungs with oxygen, I felt blessed. I was reminded that my Creator God was with me. He comforted me on the darkest days of grief. This was a profound blessing.

This past week one of my dear mentor-friends Eunie McEntee soared into Heaven. Although Eunie battled ocular melanoma cancer for the last several years, she modeled how to truly live blessed by blessing others.

The root of the word blessed in Hebrew means “to praise, to fill with strength, to adore.” According to these definitions, Eunie lived a blessed life. It wasn’t an easy life. It wasn’t a life that was pain-free. Yet her life pointed everyone she came into contact with back to Jesus. She was strengthened in her trials and used them as an opportunity to strengthen and bless others.

I remember her talking about how ocular melanoma cancer actually gave her new eyes to see from God’s perspective. She overflowed with grace and gratitude. I know her reward is great in Heaven today because of the investment she made in others for His glory.

We have to be careful about how we throw around hashtags and statements about blessing. If I scroll through #blessed on Instagram, I might confuse blessing to mean something it’s not. Blessing always turns the glory away from us and back to God.

 

I would love to connect with you more personally on your journey. Subscribe here for my weekly, Glorygram email full of encouragement, recommendations and resources.  

Photo by Kayle Kaupanger on Unsplash.

 

Moving forward after loss

Posted by | brave, courage, death, family life, grief, hope, Incourage essays, Stories, struggle, transitions | 3 Comments

Six boxes. Our family just moved to a new house this past weekend and all that’s left at our previous house is six dusty, tattered boxes of my late husband’s treasures. I donated at least a dozen boxes of books and a random smattering of home décor from my other life. I feel like I have made steady progress over these last few months. Yet I’m still paralyzed by these final boxes.

My fingers linger over his favorite sweatshirts, t-shirts, and his high school letterman jacket. I keep wondering if these are precious or pointless. Will my daughters need a hug from their daddy in the future? Will they wrap themselves in his jacket on prom night and feel him close? These are the decisions that leave me heavy and decision-fatigued. My mind swirls with a thousand questions and angles to look at each piece.

Another box is full of letters and cards given to me at his funeral. These are handwritten stories that form the tapestry of his legacy. A student who still remembers the way he made her laugh in math class. An athlete who made a choice to become a coach because of the way my husband poured into him when he was a troubled teen. A colleague who met my husband a few mornings a week to pray for students and their families.

September 9 is my husband’s four-year heaveniversary, and I can hardly believe the work God has done in my family and heart these past four years. We have learned to move forward. There were days when I never believed I could live without him. The grief was so heavy I felt like I was walking around carrying a backpack of heavy boulders. I couldn’t imagine a new life for my three daughters and me.

Then God came in gently and said,

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.
Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

{Head over to www.incourage.me for the rest of this article on “Moving forward.” Please leave a comment about your own experiences with moving.}

Book Review: Unexpected

Posted by | book reviews, brave, courage, death, fear, finishing well, grief, hope, Stories, struggle, transitions | No Comments

What’s the most unexpected thing you have ever experienced?

For me, it was a stage four cancer diagnosis for my husband at age 40. When he graduated to Heaven less than 4 months later, my faith was shaken. I was paralyzed by guilt, confusion, shame and fear about the future. My husband’s death was unexpected and I had to learn how to navigate grief and move forward.

Christine Caine’s new book Unexpected: Leave Fear Behind, Move Forward in Faith, Embrace the Adventure reaches out to people in all seasons of life who are faced with the unexpected like I was. Through compelling stories and practical strategies, this book helps readers anticipate the unexpected and to live with true joy trusting God in all things.

I had the privilege of hearing Christine live at the Propel Activate event in Long Beach a few weeks ago. Christine writes how she preaches. She is a vivid storyteller and loves to drop truth bombs to challenge her audience.

My favorite part of the book is in Chapter One where she talks about how we cannot expect to control the unexpected, but we can expect that God will be faithful to the promises He makes in the Bible. She goes on to list 20 promises we can expect verified by Scripture. For example, we can expect God to turn our mourning into gladness as it says in Psalm 30:11-12.

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.” 

In the chapter “When the Unexpected Disappoints: Rising Up in Resilience,” Christine reminds us how important it is to recover your wonder when you have faced the unexpected. “Holding to our faith–even in the face of deep disappointments–is critical,” she writes. “Making God’s promises bigger than our disappointments is essential.

My family is presently in a season saturated with transition. Some of the transitions we chose and anticipated like my daughters transferring to a new school this fall and moving to a new house a few weeks ago. Some of our transitions were unexpected like my husband’s company restructuring or God leading us to leave the church we attended for almost two decades.

In Unexpected, Christine taught me: “We can’t control what life sends us, but we can control how we respond. After all, the only way through is… through.” These words give me courage to keep moving through the transitions and the unexpected trials. I highly recommend this book. Christine’s words are an important reminder that God moves with you and me through it all.