Don’t Give Up

shutterstock_459655336You may be tired. Tired of timing. Tired of transition. Tired of today. Tired just thinking about tomorrow.

Maybe the situation you’re experiencing is wearing and it’s getting harder to place one foot in front of the other.

You’re tired of putting on your game face. Tired of facing the next conversation in a mile of unpleasant ones. Tired of going to bed at night feeling lousy and waking up feeling the same. Tired of wondering when hope hiked off and left you alone.

Let me share a story. In my mid-twenties I joined a running group. The first night I showed up they were heading out for a 10K run. I had never run that far before. These people had. In fact, they were hardcore runners and trained almost every day. Somehow I made it through that first night. I may or may not have also made several visits to the toilet later that evening!

Months later, one of the runners suggested I come out on Saturday morning for a long run. That Saturday I dragged myself out of bed at some inhumane hour. It was mid-January and terrifyingly cold—minus 22 degrees Celsius cold—and still dark. I had neglected to ask exactly how far the “long run” would be. I learned too late that it was 22KM long. Again, somehow I made it through. I may or may not have experienced mobility issues the next day.

From there I decided to begin training for a marathon. I figured I’d managed to deliver three babies—also rather painful and lengthy—so how hard could running 42KM be? I started with Around the Bay, a race in Hamilton, Ontario. It was the furthest I’d ever run… 30KM. There are rolling hills near the end of the race that culminate in a rather large and long incline—think escarpment—before the flat to the finish.

I remember the feel of my wobbly legs after that final hill and how they began to lose the purpose for which they were made. I was nearly delirious, my brain willing my body to keep going, and saying things aloud such as, “Not far now. You can do this! You’re almost there!” Once again I made it through to the finish line, this time to be enfolded in a thermal blanket and the arms of my husband and kids. Five months later, I was able to reach my goal of completing a marathon.

So here’s how this ties together. Sometimes our hardship seems endless. We’re tired. Our legs are unsteady and we desperately want to stop, to give up the race. But we know we can’t reach the finish line by standing still. We need to keep going, to move through this place—however painful—to reach the other side.

In trials, I need to remind myself that this struggle won’t last forever. This isn’t my permanent location. I’m just passing through. I’m climbing the hill, I’m taking the next step and the one after that. I will myself not to stop, I ask God to help me not to give up. And even if I feel tired and weak, I trust I’m getting stronger with each step. I’m building spiritual fortitude.

I may have questions. I may feel discouraged, but I need to show up for the long run. No matter how dark, how long, or how far. I must keep going even when my legs aren’t cooperating. Whatever I do, I can’t quit. Every hardship I face, every escarpment I scale, makes me stronger to face the next hard thing. The same applies to you.

You are more resilient than you think. There’s more grit inside you than you know. Sometimes it means talking yourself up the hill when your body is screaming for you to stop. Sometimes it’s simply taking the next step, the next breath. But don’t give up now. Neither be content to just get by. Dig in. You still have things to do.

Your voice, your influence is valuable. You make a difference every time you show up. Don’t be lulled into lethargy. Don’t be tempted to quit this hard thing you’re facing. Your character, your growth, depends on it. Train through the tiredness—or the wilderness— knowing that it’s making you stronger and more beautiful. Afterward, you can run alongside another or cheer a fellow runner along.

You will make it through this long run to the finish line to be enfolded in the blanketing love and comforting arms of your Saviour. And you’ll be a light to others struggling on their journey to do the same. Don’t give up!

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“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” (Hebrews 12:11-13)

Coming Sept 17th, 2019

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ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

Illuminating the Dark

shutterstock_301363406Who of us has never doubted?

We could easily insert the word dark in place of doubt. When I doubt my circumstances, myself, or God, it’s a lot like stumbling around in the dark. I can’t see where I’m going, and I can’t find my way.

How do we find the faith to trust God when we can’t see? What will get us through the dark days of doubt? How do we keep going when there’s no sign of either the direction to take or a shift in our circumstance—some of which truly bring us to our knees?

When our finances are stretched. When our loved one’s health is failing. When life as we know it is crumbling around us. When what we’ve prayed for remains unfulfilled. It’s easy to wonder if God’s promises were meant for us personally. It’s easy to believe He has forgotten us.

But will we only believe if things go well with us?

In such trials, I need to be reminded that God is faithful. Rock-solid. No matter what, He is loving. All that He does, how He acts, is an outpouring of his love. No matter if all that’s happening around you is falling apart, no matter how hopeless it looks right now, no matter if you feel utterly alone, God is still with you. He still hears you. He can make beauty from the ashes (see Isaiah 61:1-3).

What we must decide is whether we will only follow him, love him, and believe in Him if all is well in our lives. Faith is most itself when we can’t see with our eyes. When life gets hard, when we can’t find the answers, and when our prayers don’t seem to be answered.

Trials have the hidden potential to help us see properly. When the superfluous falls away, the things that matter most crystalize. We realize the degree to which we trust the one who can fully be trusted with everything.  We learn our God is the one who can lift us up and can help us to walk through the darkness. We relearn that he is faithful.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It appears that God’s word, the Bible, can help to enlighten the darkness and help us find our way. It makes sense that this spiritual practice, taken up regularly, will remove doubt, provide encouragement, and bolster our faith.

If you’re in the dark right now, take up the lamp of God’s word. Read it and be reminded of his faithfulness, his love for you, and how, time and time again, he rescues. Notice how the darkness is transformed by the light of his word, even if your circumstances are not. Note how his word stirs up heavenly hope, peace, and joy to dispell the darkness within. Watch and see how the darkness of doubt is illuminated enough for you to take the next step in faith.

You don’t need to see the entire path; the journey is taken one step at a time.

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  1. When was the last time you sat still and soaked up God’s words?
  2. Set aside time each day this week to read the Bible to be filled with God’s promises and reminders of his faithfulness.

 

 

Nose Tears

crying picRecently, my 10-year-old told me something enlightening. She said she learned in school that when you cry and your nose runs, it’s actually tears coming out of your nostrils. Nose tears? I was astounded. How could I have lived for forty-eight years and never heard of this phenomenon? This led me to think about all the other times my nose runs besides when I cry or have a cold.

For instance, my nose often runs when I’m enjoying hot food, particularly soup. I’m rather partial to soup. Does this mean I’m crying tears of joy while sipping? I experience a runny nose when outside in the cold. I rather dislike the cold. Perhaps I’m crying tears of pain that I must endure Canadian winters. And when I go for a run, my nose runs along with me. Are these tears of elation since running has always been a passion of mine, or my body secretly shedding tears of compassion for the endurance needed to complete the rigorous exercise?

Apparently there are different types of tears. My daughter informed me there are psychic tears (happiness or sadness), basal tears to keep the eyes lubricated, and reflex tears as a response to things like onions or tear gas. I looked it up and learned that the various types also look different under a microscope (see image below). How cool is that?

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The Topography of Tears ~Rose-Lynn Fisher

It’s amazing to me that God created us to release different types of tears, but also an outpouring of them when we experience strong emotions. Physic tears contain a natural painkiller, called leucine enkephalin, that also acts to improve mood. Apparently, when we shed tears, built-up chemicals are released from the body. I suppose the release of these endorphins and chemicals explain why we feel better after a good cry.

I have always loved this verse:

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. ~ Psalm 56:8

The idea that God keeps track of my pain and sadness, and even records them, is a marvelous comfort to me. But that he collects my tears and that they are precious to him brings tears of joy and wonder itself. It shows that our suffering matters to him—intimately. Not one tear or trial are forgotten by him. He hears every pain-riddled prayer and sees every soul-searing sorrow we experience.

I envision arriving in heaven and God holding up my tear jar. I imagine him sitting next to me flipping through the pages of my book of sorrows. I picture him showing me how all the pain and hardship I experienced on earth fit together. I’ll be in awe of how all the trials had a purpose even though I couldn’t understand while in the midst of them. I’ll be amazed at the way his mercy met me at every turn, how his love anchored me, and how his arms carried me through it all; nothing unnoticed by his loving gaze. I’ll gape at how God used it all and somehow managed to turn it into pure gold.

If tears have been your steady companion as of late, and trials pour in like the spring rains, take heart. He will not leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6) You are not abandoned or forgotten. He collects those tears and records your sorrows. He sees it all.

Before Jesus was led to the cross, he warned his disciples about some of the trials to come saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) This life will not be without trials, we aren’t in heaven yet, but we have God’s spirit to help, guide, and comfort us.

His love is tender and true, and he hasn’t forgotten you!

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  1. Sometimes in trials we are tempted to think God doesn’t care or has forgotten us.
  2. How does it make you feel to know God collects your tears and records every bit of your sorrows?
  3. His love is unlimited and unconditional. Cling to him even in this trial.

If you enjoyed this devo, look for Soul Focus – 30-Day Devotional & Journal (coming Fall 2019), a collection of daily encouragements for overcoming life’s trials. Click here to learn more: Books  

 

 

Facing Worry

They say don’t worry about things you have no control over—whoever they are. Don’t worry. Don’t stress. It’s all good. But is it? I’m not convinced this brushing off business is the best approach. There must be a better way. Better than working hard not to worry. Better than pretending things are okay when they’re not. Better than trying not to feel when it actually hurts, or putting on a brave face when clearly, what you’re facing is tough.

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But we get good at it, this game face. This presenting to the world, posting polished pictures, and smiling while answering, “I’m good thanks” day after day. After all, no one wants to bring others down. And so, along with trying to dismiss the stresses and struggles, we drown them out. But worry has a way of bubbling to the surface.

God knows we struggle with worry. That’s why he tells us: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (see Matthew 6:25-34)

There are a plethora of things we could try not to worry about. But what if instead of burying our worries and fears, or icing over them, we face them? Acknowledge they actually exist? Look them in the eye and give them a name, instead of ignoring the ever-growing elephant in the room? What if instead of feeding ourselves platitudes to get through, we—in an act of fierce courage and self-care—stop and take an honest look at what’s troubling us and then do something about it?

We often have no control over the source of our worries, but we do have control over our attitude toward them. We can take responsibility for our thought patterns. Though we might not be able to fix the problem, we can fix our thinking. Instead of telling ourselves not to worry, we haul that pile of worry—in its various forms—to God. And in the handing over, the confessing it’s too heavy for us alone, we allow God to help us carry our burden. Then we train our brain to think differently.

cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7

We weren’t meant to excuse our cares and concerns, neither were we meant to drag them around. We can tell God about them, releasing them to him. As we offload them, we feel lighter. It doesn’t mean the problems disappear, it just means we have help and an adjusted perspective to work through them. In this way, we proactively face them, and like most things we pay attention to and give a concerted effort toward, they begin to positively shift.

We could spend a whole lifetime dreading events or outcomes that never occur, stressing over all the bits we can’t control. But these moment-by-moment choices in our thinking  end up comprising our lifetime. We have a choice regarding what we allow our minds to be preoccupied or consumed with, and we have help to master it. Why would we knowingly waste our life on worry?

With God’s help, we can live light, unhindered, free of the weight of worries, and make no allowance for frivolous, fearful thinking. Life-giving thoughts and actions begin to prevail and create spacious places for joy and love to pour into moments and into the lives of others. A life lived undistracted by worrisome thoughts and paralyzing fear. One of freedom and purpose. A life-changing life, lived leaning into God.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. ~ Hebrews 12:1-3

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  1. What worries are you carrying with you today?
  2. Hand them over to God to help you and strengthen you.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Thankfulness

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I’m thankful for my hubby.

Confession: Fall isn’t my favourite time of year. I much prefer hot, hazy mid-summer days. I adore my garden at peak performance showing off its full glory. I relish a few lazy minutes of reading on the porch with the birds’ chorus adding to the unfolding beauty. There’s the endless, sunspun blue skies, and the warm evenings begging us to linger outside and squeeze the most out of the long days of light. Even as I write this, I’m still mourning summer’s end. 

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I’m thankful for my garden.

But its fall and, in Canada, that means a few changes. And with the changing season come a few things I could stand to be grateful for. Things like: apple cider, the smell of smoke sauntering out of hundred-year-old chimneys, the blazing leaves letting go, comical gourds, pumpkin pies, fall Mums, and cosy sweaters. Maybe you could add a few of your own.

My daughter adores this time of year and makes a fall list – traditions that she keeps each year. Among other activities, she decorates her room, visits the pumpkin patch with a friend, then painstakingly carves the perfect pumpkin once home. She makes procuring a pumpkin spice latte a must, makes a fall play list, and even dresses up for Halloween to hand out candy at our door. Through her, I’m trying to increase my affection for fall.

But no matter where we find ourselves this autumn, no matter how much you cherish the changing seasons, how amazing, or not-quite-so-amazing, your circumstances may be, the truth is we can always find something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is an ideal reminder that we really should be living each day thankful, not just one weekend.

Here are some things I’m thankful for: a simple breath of outside air, the late-day sun on my face, a flock of migrating birds crossing overhead, a sip of warm coffee, the bite of food in my mouth before thinking of the next, and a moment of stillness in my home (like this one when no one is making a sound). I’m thankful for my dear friends who love and cheer me on, my children who encourage me to do big things, and my husband who still loves me after 26 years of intimately knowing my every fault. And I’m thankful that God, who knows me even better than that, gave His Son because He thinks I matter.

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I’m thankful for my kids.

This act of being thankful has a way of brushing the cobwebs of ingratitude away. Like the way we gripe in our childish entitlement, or the way we have mini-fits when the world doesn’t give us all we asked for. Thankfulness acts as an automatic attitude-shifter, and the everyday, moment-by-moment practice of it helps us approach our minutes with a healthier, life-giving focus.

There are times so bewilderingly dark, so emotionally or physically painful, that it seems virtually impossible to find a single thing to be thankful for. But even when the light is scant, look hard. There is always a small ray of hope shining in that darkness and lighting something of which to be thankful for – even if it is that next breath.

And, like anything, the more we practice thankfulness, the easier it becomes. What if this weekend we start, and then just keep going – this month and this year – and develop a solid habit of finding something to be thankful for each day, and especially in times of difficulty? I have an inkling we might experience an increased dose of contentment, peace, and joy.

     “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”                      1 Thessalonians 5:18

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  1. Have you made a “Thankful List”?
  2. Develop the practice of finding things to be thankful for each day and even each moment.

After the Rain – Seeing Life’s Hurts & Disappointments Differently

 

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In our youth, we race headlong into this one life filled with idealistic optimism. The world is an expansive unknown stretching far beyond us and filled with unending possibilities waiting to be harnessed. At this stage, there are no limits to what can be accomplished, no unforseen roadblocks or impending disasters, and no reason to believe our dreams will not be realized.

But then, as it’s prone to do, life happens. Some of it by our choosing, and some coming upon us as an unexpected downpour, and we discover that life isn’t perfect. After some repeated saturation, we may look at our life and declare, “This is not how I expected things to turn out.”

At this point, we often choose a pity party, sometimes even a tantrum, stomping and flailing about how unfair it all is. Or, we can towel dry our hair, gather courage and hope, and discover ways to dance despite the downpours and drink of the falling drops. Because here’s the truth: the most fragrant beauty radiates after the rain, and sunsets are most spectacular as the storm clouds recede.

Even though you never asked for any of it, even though you thought you would be further along in your journey, or imagined your life differently, this is it. No matter what has passed, or what you thought it would look like, you cannot change one single bit. This is your one life. And you have a choice. Will you let what has happened this far shape you – rearrange you if needed – to grow, to overcome, and to fully flourish?

We ignore the blessings we’ve been given when we focus on how our lives failed to unfold how we imagined, when we linger on the wreckage of what went wrong, the injustices enacted against us, or the ways we’ve let down ourselves or others. In our misperceptions, we forget this place isn’t meant to be perfect, and neither are we. This is a rehearsal, of sorts, for things to come. When the last curtain is drawn, and we arrive at our final destination, then and only then will all be as it should.

I rather adore this verse:

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

It reminds me that using the world’s measuring stick to determine success is rubbish. That God’s measurement for a successful life looks dramatically different. It’s possible that the very place we find ourselves, and the very person you and I are right now, is just where and who God would have us be, however inglorious, unattractive, desperate, downright ugly, or devastating it may be at present. That’s meant to be encouraging!

However disappointed we are with this patch of life so far, God doesn’t see your journey in any way wasted. However hard we buffet life’s storms, however unwelcome we make trials, even downpours can usher in beauty, refine character, and construct in us an enduring peace and patience the likes of which we had yet to know, not to mention prepare us to walk with added fury – a true force to be reckoned with – for the next leg of our journey.

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I like to think God looks at us – and our lives – rather like we used to as a child: full of possibility and hope, and without limits. And maybe, just maybe, from here on in, we would take His outstretched hand in ours, be led through the storms, navigated through the roadblocks and disasters, and follow Him out the other side, joining Him in puddle jumping, reclining by His side mesmerised by the sunset, while drinking deeply of the fragrant beauty of His love. Maybe then we will see our one life for the truly miraculous gift it is. Besides, by now you realize the best is yet to come anyhow.

I’ll leave you with this reminder:

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in the world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and the saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” ~ Ephesians 2: 7-10

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  1. Start a list of things you can be thankful for.
  2. Ask God to help you redirect your heart and thoughts to thankfulness. Develop a habit of replacing disparaging thoughts with thankful ones.
  3. Pray over each disappointment/disaster, handing it to God to make beauty out of. This may take time, but it’s worth it!
  4. Memorize a passage of scripture as encouragement during the downpours.

 

 

Moving Mountains: or how I was literally brought to my knees.

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Ten years ago I could barely walk, sleep, or carry my own purse. I could no longer drive. That’s how intense the pain had become. I’d been a runner for 28 years. My motto was, “Why walk when you can run.” Now I had no choice. It was nearing two years, and over ten health care providers, but no one could help me. On top of it, I became pregnant and couldn’t take enough medication to dull the pain. It seemed I was trapped in a hopeless situation. Continue reading “Moving Mountains: or how I was literally brought to my knees.”