Running to the End

This week I will be re-blogging a two part series I wrote about a year and a half ago.

My youngest son is a senior this year, if you’ve followed my story on any social media you already know that.  This weekend he will compete in our state track meet.  It still  amazes me he’s able to run.  Once you read his story you’ll understand why it is so meaningful for me to attend his races and cheer  loudly for him.

I felt this was the perfect time to publish this story again.

I’ve updated it, but much of it is still the same.  Many of you have already read it but for my new followers, I hope you will read your own story into the words.   So many of us have experienced children  who’ve been sick and the fear and uncertainty that goes along with it.  It was a long road, but this week we will attend the final running competition of his school career and I am pretty sure I will be an emotional wreck.

Tears of joy, thankfulness and sorrow as we face the ending of a wonderful season.

Thank you for following my story, I pray so often for this ministry and for each of you.   It is one of my greatest joys to write myself into the pages of this blog, and to take you along with me.

It is such a privilege to share this journey.

 

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A Friend at All Times

“I feel so very alone, like completely alone. It’s as though there’s a labyrinth of walls around me and I am stuck in the very middle, and no one is able to reach me.  I am so lonely and when I cry out to God He isn’t there, I feel so disappointed in Him…”

This was the exasperated confession of a person very near and dear to my heart.

I remember feeling exactly like my younger friend, alone and wondering where in the world the Lord was when I needed Him so desperately? I understood those walls.  I’d felt trapped and alone behind structures invisible to the naked eye but insurmountable to anyone trying to get into my heart.

I listened intently as my friend poured out so much of the hurt, doubt and fear that had their heart held captive.

I remembered hearing for the first time how satan loves to make us feel alone because in our loneliness he can lead us into despair. Despair is defined “the complete loss and absence of hope.”  And without hope many see no point in going on in their walk of faith.  After all, what’s the point if there is only hardship and one trial after another?  If God is nowhere to be found when you are in the thick of it and need Him most, then why bother?

Following Christ IS hard sometimes, hard and lonely.

I took a deep breath and spoke with all the authority I felt in my many years of walking with Jesus, “You aren’t alone. You’re never alone.  Your loving Father is ALWAYS with you. Always.”

It was in that moment I realized something, I had come full circle. The Lord had put me through an agonizing refining process, one I thought would surely kill me but instead brought me to this place of deep assurance.  I felt sure as I spoke those words of encouragement to my friend, because they were more than just words to me; I had lived them.

It’s interesting because even as I write this a situation has come up that has made me feel so very alone. As I type these words and send them out into social media infinity the Lord is shining a bright light on my heart, checking my motives.  Feeling lonely is tough for my personality type and what I WANT to do is run from how it feels, but what I am GOING to do is the “next thing.”

What does that mean?

It means I am going to get on with my day. My momma used to give me good advice when I was feeling down, she would say, “you need to get busy, Sandi.”  I used to think that was no way to live, like I was avoiding the problem if I just “got busy” and didn’t deal with it.  I’ve since learned the wisdom in praying, trusting, filling my mind with good things and then getting busy.

I’ve also learned another lesson of great value.

You can’t trust your feelings.

I know, I know. That is not a popular sentiment in our culture where everything revolves around how we “feel.” Most of the time our feelings change with circumstances.  Or maybe they’ll alter depending upon how much rest we’ve had or maybe we feel better or worse after we’ve eaten or are more comfortable.  Feelings are not always reliable.

The Bible tells us not to trust our “hearts” because it is deceitful above all things.*

I used to wonder what that meant, but now I think I know. In my own very untheological opinion, I believe even scripture is telling me my feelings are fickle and subject to change like the weather. One day I wake up feeling good about life and I am unstoppable, the next day I wake up feeling down and life seems so difficult.   Nothing’s changed except my feelings, and that changes everything.

It’s important we learn to put those “feelings” in their proper place, under God’s authority.

How do you do that?

By reading the Bible, quoting scripture and reminding yourself of the facts: you are loved, highly treasured and a child of the King.  It certainly doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days or seasons, but in doing this, you will nurture hope and hope literally changes the way we view our circumstances.  It helps us cope when all we can see are hard, lonely days ahead.  It gives loneliness purpose and reminds us we are being shaped, strengthened and growing deeper in our faith and maturity.  All of these qualities make our life better, richer and more meaningful.

Worth living.

I was able to remind my friend Christ was right there in their invisible labyrinth and He would be the one to tear down the walls that felt so real. Their job was to get into scripture and keep reminding themselves of His truth.

And to get busy.

Friends may leave.

He doesn’t.

I remember how it feels to be so young in my relationship with Jesus. I wanted so badly to understand, to believe to get it right.  I see now, this many years in, that it takes every single one of those lonely days, every one of those heartaches, every trial, every tear, it takes all you’ve got to grow a faith that’s mature and to have a relationship you can count on when all others seem to vanish.

It takes work, guts and a lifetime.

Please hear me right here, HE IS WORTH IT.

You will never regret following Jesus.

If you are a young adult or young in your faith, don’t be discouraged when life falls apart and you find yourself wondering where God went. And don’t be disheartened if you don’t handle tough times with the gallant faith you see in the seasoned Christians around you.  And when you feel desperately alone, take courage, God is up to something and I can tell you from personal experience, it will be for your good.

And one day when you’re a little older and a little wiser, you’ll be so thankful for each and every day you walked with the Lord. You’ll start to see the how all these things really did work together for your good.  And then, perhaps, you’ll have your own conversation with someone younger who needs to hear what you’ve been through and why you wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

And you’ll get busy telling them your story.

 

*Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Isaiah 43:1-5 “Do not be afraid. I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. For I am the Lord, your God. … because you are precious to me and because I love you and give you honor, do not be afraid—I am with you!”

 

 

My Alabaster Box 

I love the changing of the seasons. Oh, I have a favorite season, but there’s something really special about the changing of one season into another. Right now, where I live, spring is blooming more and more each day. The grass is starting to turn green, the bumble bees are feasting on the freshly opened flowers, the sky is as blue as the ocean and the hot days give way to cooler nights. New life is everywhere and it fills my senses with hope.  With spring also comes one of my favorite holidays.

Easter.


When I was younger this time of year was special only because I would get a new dress, or a “new to me” dress. With three girls in the family, my mom made sure every article of clothing was used in its entirety. So, I wore plenty of “hand me downs” as we called them. But, nonetheless, I loved putting on a bright colored outfit, waking up to a chocolate bunny and heading to church to sing happy songs about a risen Savior. The gravity of this day did not fully sink in until many years later. I was a young mom with kids the first time I really began to understand how much Easter meant to my faith. 

A life given in exchange for mine.

In our small town we celebrate the week before Easter with what we call “Holy Week Services.” It’s unique to this place as I have never talked to another person who has this practice in their hometown. It’s kind of amazing really. Five local churches each agree to host a lunchtime service complete with songs and a homily followed by a light lunch each day of the week leading up to Easter Sunday. The whole thing takes less than an hour, and that’s very intentional so everyone, including those who work, can come and be a part of the observance. The beauty is that each day as you head to a different church, you’re reminded that Easter is coming.  

It’s become one of my favorite things.

In one of the services the speaker read a passage of scripture. And as she did I had the most surreal feeling; that same passage had been on my mind for several days. Hearing it felt like just the confirmation I needed for this season of my life. Funny, I haven’t really enjoyed the life season changes like I have the ones that affect the weather; these recent times have been difficult and nearly unbearable then turning into unsure and unfamiliar.  

It has been so hard.  

But, somehow, through it all the Lord has held me steady. He stayed my course and didn’t let me sail off into the great unknown of unbearable grief. He held me close as I watched my heart in the form of adult children move away to start a new life. And He soothed my pain as my precious daddy walked down the aisle to marry a woman other than my mom. So many times it felt as if my world was spinning out of control; and maybe it was.  

It was in these tumultuous times I would find myself so desperate for relief, and the Lord would draw near to me through His Word or a faithful friend or a song. He would minister to the broken places in my heart. He has been so faithful. Anything He has asked me to endure, He has been right there to help me, sustain me and wipe my tears. I’ve asked Him so many times, “why?” Why do we have to go through so many hard things? The answer to that question I may never know, but now that I am a little farther down life’s road and I have the advantage of hindsight, I can see how God has used the trials, each and every hardship for my good.

None of it is wasted.

As I was sitting on the pew this afternoon listening to the scripture, I realized this story that is so meaningful could be MY story. I could be the woman in the passage. Looking back over my life I find myself wishing I had done so many things differently; lessons I wish I’d learned sooner, advice I wish I would’ve listened to, situations I wish I’d handled better. So many regrets. Yet, I can’t think of ONE time where I didn’t feel that small impression in my heart reminding me that I was better than the decision I had just made or worth more than I could imagine.

His love carried me through; through fear, rejection, loss, change, and uncertainty.

I find myself this Easter with so many emotions bottled up inside my heart, with so many words I’m having trouble putting together in my mind, with such thankfulness I long to express. How do I repay the One who gave His all for me? How do I begin to show this deep gratitude I feel for the many miles He has walked by my side?

I find myself feeling as Martha did in John 12: 1-11.*

She brought to Jesus ALL that she had, her most priceless treasure and poured it on Him as she wept. I believe her tears were not just because of her sorrows, but because of her joys and thankfulness as well. Those tears represented all the Savior had done for her. The “perfume” she gave came at a cost, the price being unconditional obedience.  

When I praise the Lord in prayer or in worship these days my praise is not the same as that little girl wearing the not so new dress or the young mom whose responsibilities felt so heavy. No, I praise Him with the brokenness of a middle aged woman who has suffered at the cruel hand of sorrow, my praise is deliberate and it has come at great price.

The perfume I offer is my praise.  


This Easter Sunday morning wear the pretty spring colored clothes, enjoy the chocolate bunny and sing with gusto during the morning worship. But most importantly, remember the great price that was paid for you, and be generous with the praises that you offer up to the One who is worth them all.

And if you’re ever in my small town around Easter, come to one the Holy Week services, I’ll save you a seat.

 

*John 12:1-11. NLT

“Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanging on Tight While Learning to Let Go

Her mind was playing tricks on her, or maybe it was the realization that every eye in the auditorium was staring directly at her that had her rattled; either way, she knew she must attempt to spell this word.

“How do you spell know?” she was asked for the third and final time.

With a shaky voice she began, “K-N-O-W.” She could immediately tell by the teacher’s face, she had spelled it correctly.

On to round two.

She thought her heart might burst with excitement.

At the end of this day in my third grade year I did indeed go home with that shiny third grade spelling bee trophy. I’m pretty sure I grinned for a week. As a matter of fact, I still have it…somewhere. That was such an amazing day for my eight-year-old self, I will never forget it.

As I was praying about what the Lord would have me write this week, the phrase “round two” kept going through my mind. I’m still not sure what He was trying to tell me, but I think I have an idea.

If you know me at all or have followed my journey on social media you know that I am quickly approaching a new season of life. Some call it “empty nest,” I call it “what in the heck am I supposed to do with myself now?”

Seriously, I’m not kidding.

I’ve always told myself the Lord would have plenty for me to do once all my kids left home. I’m pretty sure I said that because I was desperate to believe it. I mean, I do believe it, I just needed the plan to hurry up and unfold itself to me so I could relax. I needed to know I would still be useful and not bored when all the bedrooms in this old house are empty. But, because I struggle with patience, I decided I needed to help the Lord out. I thought I could come up with a couple of ideas to fill my time; He might appreciate my “active” involvement.

Right?!

So, in true Sandi fashion, I started looking around for things to keep me busy. I can’t stand to sit around, well, unless you count Heartland binges on Netflix as sitting around. But, most of the time I like to stay busy and feel needed. So, I thought, what WILL I do once the kids are gone? It didn’t take long for me to come up with an answer.

I will take care of my daddy, he was alone after all and he would need me.

Then he went and got married.

What now?

Well, I decided I could easily learn to do something in my free time.

Sounded innocent enough to me, so I went to work…to find a hobby, that is.

Since daddy was married and living his happy life, not needing my help, I decided my husband and I needed to start putting puzzles together, so we went out and bought a one thousand piece beauty. We were all in, those five hundred piece puzzles were for amateurs; not almost-fifty-somethings with years of child rearing experience like us.

How hard could it be?

We decided it would be fun to spread the puzzle out on our dining room table and work on it a little each day until it was finished.  May as well put the old girl to good use, no one eats off of it anymore anyway. We concluded once we finished a puzzle, we would take a picture of it and celebrate. It was all planned.

I know, we are totally pathetic.

The only problem was, I hated it. Oh I tried, really I did, I wanted to like this new hobby. But after fifteen long minutes of agonizing over one piece that I was never able to “assemble” (as the directions called it) I gave up. Why waste my life, I reasoned. Life is too short.

Of course, my diligent husband “assembled” the whole thing after sweating over it for days.

He is so much better than me.

We did take a picture though, and he celebrated, I determined I needed a new hobby. Or maybe the five hundred piece…nah.

Round two 04.05.2017

Then I decided to try cooking.

I cook, well, sort of. Okay, I basically rotate the same five recipes in and out of most weeks.   I find if I add onions or mushrooms to these same five dishes, it changes the flavor and I can claim it as something new. Don’t judge, it’s been working for me for twenty five years. But, I’ll have extra time, I reasoned, so I’ll venture out of my comfort zone and prepare new things.

Who cares about puzzles anyway, cooking would be so much better.

Soon after I had this epiphany a friend of mine put a long post up on Facebook about how wonderful and magical her new favorite appliance in the kitchen was. I read each word with mounting excitement.   I NEED this thing, I thought. It will help me to have more variety and it sounded like you couldn’t possibly go wrong if you only had this countertop electrical wonder.   So I called my husband, and I laid out my case for why I needed this contraption. It was going to fill my time and therefore my life. And just think of all the delicious food he was going to eat.

I was all in.

It took some time and fast talking, but he finally agreed we could buy it.

I was thrilled.

Round two 04.05.2017 2

I ordered the device and waited eagerly each day for it to arrive. Once it finally did, I looked up a recipe on the internet and we cooked a feast. It was fabulous. Well, mostly fabulous. Okay, so it wasn’t the best but next time would be better. I would find a new, better recipe. That’s what I’ve told myself as days and now weeks have passed.  Right now it sits on my counter taunting me, a reminder of another failed attempt.

I don’t think cooking is going to be my new hobby.

I told a story not long ago of how I poured out my heart to my dad including my fears and worries and he very wisely said to me, “Sandi, we’ve got today, that’s all we’ve got.” Man, that has stuck with me ever since. I find I keep trying to fill what I expect to be vacant hours of the days ahead, and I think the Lord is telling me to live today.

Just today.

It reminds of the verse in scripture that says “do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself, each day has enough trouble of its own.*” Boy, is that ever the truth, each day does bring its own stresses and frustrations to the table, but also the joy and peace that comes from living well.

I can’t look out there in the great unknown for too long, it fills me with anxiety and makes me feel afraid of what could be or might not be, I’ve got to reign this overactive imagination in and focus on today. That way as opportunities present themselves I will be paying attention and ready to move forward with whatever’s next.

My round two.

And besides, I know from experience, the Lord will meet me in my “whatever’s,” He won’t let me down.

I’m still looking for a new hobby, I asked someone to teach me to crochet the other day, anybody got any extra yarn??

 

*Matthew 6:34