The Last Race

It felt like his heart might beat out of his chest and he could feel the blood pumping hard through his veins so he jumped a few times in place trying to calm his nerves, but it didn’t help.   His breath was hanging like a small cloud of smoke in front of him and the runner next to him was so close he could feel the heat radiating from his body. It has been a long time coming, but today was the day he’d worked for since he was in seventh grade. 

The last race.

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He wasn’t on the track long before he heard the official shout “Get on your mark!”  He carefully placed his toe on the start line, leaned in with one leg bent and the other ready to propel him forward.  He put his head down slightly and set his gaze straight ahead, he’d made up his mind to do his best, no matter what.  This was the last chance he had to make a difference, to leave his mark, to walk away from his long time sport with a sense of accomplishment.  Oh, he knew he wasn’t in the running for first place, but the great thing about running is every race is personal; you race against you, and today was no different.  He had his personal record to beat, and he planned to do it.  Time wasn’t the only thing on his mind, he also had a person he wanted to leave behind; a runner who’d challenged him all year long. 

To be ahead of him when they crossed the finish would be a taste of personal victory.

His focus was clear and he was ready when he heard the gun blast, POW!   And away they went.  There must’ve been over twenty runners fighting for a decent spot.  You never want to be in the back of the pack when you’re racing against this level of talent.  After all, only a select few make it to state finals, and everyone wants to be declared the winner.   It almost looks like a fight with all the elbows flying trying to keep the nearest runner from getting the advantage.

The first hundred meters is forceful and unforgiving and certainly not for the faint of heart.

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He managed to stay in the front pack, running so closely their knees knocked into the runner in front of them.  He had been a more passive runner in the past, allowed other more aggressive boys to get the upper hand because he wasn’t willing to fight for a place.  But, not today, today he was going to push right back and win a spot in the front.  Every step was labored, crowded, and in his mind he felt sure this pack running was a bad idea. 

Then it happened.

He wasn’t sure who did it exactly, but suddenly he felt himself falling, his back leg pinned by the shoe of a runner behind him.  It all happened so fast, but it felt like slow motion.  Down, down until he felt the hard sting of his knee and then his shoulder hit the rough surface of the track.  He knew he would never catch the runners if he didn’t do something quickly, he made two quick summersaults and was back on his feet ready to fly when he heard his saving grace, POW!

False start.

All the boys jogged to a stop and turned around walking back to take the start line again.  Secretly he was glad he’d made his stand, wasn’t bullied to the back like he’d been so many times before, even if it cost him a few scrapes and bruises.  He wasn’t going to have a repeat of yesterday; he’d made up his mind.  As the couple dozen young men took their mark for a second time, he knew he’d already had a personal victory.

Running his best time and beating a rival would just be a bonus.

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As I sat in the rain under a borrowed tent in forty degree weather last weekend to watch this final race, my mind was filled with all that had happened in the twenty four hours leading up to this moment.  We’d left Friday morning, driven in rain the entire four hour trip and arrived in time to watch my youngest son run a shorter relay race.  The rain was pelting him in the face as he ran and he’d been pushed off the edge of the track by other “ambitious” runners at the start line.  He ran his slowest time of the season and walked away with his head down.

It was such a blow to his confidence.

My heart felt like it might break at the sight.

He had hoped to arrive at state and beat all of his previous running records and make his team proud.  But, the first race left him beaten and unsure.     It’s times like these as a parent you hold your breath to see how your child, this person you’ve poured your heart into, is going to handle a tough spot.  Will they falter under the pressure and believe the lies the enemy of our souls wields at us when we’re down?  Believing they have no worth and will never be able to accomplish this feat?  Or will they dig deep and remember WHO they belong too and rise to the occasion?

I have been both of those people throughout my life. I’ve caved in to self-pity and self-doubt and I’ve been hit hard by life and risen to the heights the Lord has placed within me.

I went to dinner with my fellow track parents wondering where the gavel would fall for my son.

He opted to go to dinner with us instead of eating with his teammates as he would normally and I watched him at the end of the table; he was quiet and I knew why.  Thank the Lord for good friends, people who love you no matter how you “perform,” the ones who stick by you when things don’t go as planned.  It didn’t take long for them to lift his spirits and I was so thankful when he seemed to feel a little better.

I’ve always told my kids that tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start, a clean slate.  Honestly, I haven’t always lived as though I believed it, but I knew in my heart it was true.  Quietly I prayed he would remember those words and decide on his own that this did not have to be the whole story of his final track meet.

He still had one final race.

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He took his place on the start line again and was on his mark when the gun exploded, POW!

And they were off.

His heart was beating fast and the racers next to him began to throw the same elbows, but this time he would run smarter.  He edged his way to the outside and began to push like he’d never done before.  Never mind his scraped knee and elbow or his embarrassment, this was a second chance and he was going to make it count.

He noticed after a few laps that his rival was running ahead of him.  He was already breathing heavy, but he knew he would never forgive himself if he didn’t pass his opponent before the race ended.  And then it happened, this feeling of determination to finish strong, no matter the cost, welled up within him.

His legs felt like led, but suddenly it didn’t matter, he began to “dig deep” as his momma called it, and pushed himself a little harder.  He was able to speed up just enough to have his opponent within reach and at two laps from the finish he slowly passed the one he’d been chasing.  

The bell rang, signifying the start of the last lap; a quarter of a mile, his last chance at redemption.   The burning in his legs was nearly unbearable, and the pain on his face was evident, but the finish line was in sight and he knew it would all be worth it on the other side.

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I stood by the fence not far from the finish cheering as loudly as I could, “Go, don’t give up, you can do it!”  He was almost done.  He went around the first curve and sprinted hard on the straight away and then it was time for the last curve and the sprint to the end.  I could tell he was running hard, hair flying and arms pumping, each step bringing him closer to the bright white finish line and the illuminated clock bearing for all to see your timed accomplishment.  Agony was on his face, but determination lived in his eyes.  There was no way his rival could catch him now, it was the clock he wanted to beat.

Victory was sweet.

I cannot tell you how it felt once he passed over the line with his best time of the season and ahead of his competitor; pure joy might be the best description.  My heart soared, but not just for his personal victory, but because he’d done the very thing I’d prayed for…

Risen to the occasion.

This child has given us many memories and good times, and he blessed this momma’s heart by trying his very best after a difficult day before.  What more can you ask for really?  Was he first place? No.  Is he a champion? Yes.

A champion in all the things that matter.

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The Strength to Run, part 2

Continued…

My husband arrived a few minutes later and we wept, prayed and mostly sat quietly and stared at our son while he slept.  It was a sobering night; not knowing what the morning would hold.  Our hearts were broken.  As the day dawned, the doctor came in and told us that she would keep our boy on heavy doses of antibiotics and see how his body responded to them.  The blood work was inconclusive.  Still, everyone who came in and out of the room wore a mask. 

It felt so aseptic and serious. 

Meanwhile our little guy woke up and seemed to feel better, again he wanted Sponge Bob but this time no blanket.  Throughout the day he began to talk more and laugh some.  And then it was night again.  My husband and I held each other and prayed and cried the night away.  The next morning brought more hope as our sweet boy began to play in his bed and ask for food.  I have never before or since watched so much Sponge Bob, but I will forever be grateful for the silly optimistic character.  He laughed and laughed at him the third day and then it was time to go home. He felt so much better, but we still worried, what if the fever came back?  When the doctor visited that final morning, she told us she’d scheduled a visit with a doctor who specialized in blood.  We left feeling thankful, nervous and so grateful that our child seemed so much like himself.

We had a few days before his appointment with the specialist and things seemed normal enough.  I guess if you call checking on him several times a night, watching his every move and crying yourself to sleep normal.  I felt I was a failure as a mother, I didn’t trust my instincts or my ability anymore. 

I was so completely broken. 

The appointment day arrived and we made the trek to the new doctor in another town.  What we saw when we arrived took our breath away.  We knew we were seeing a specialist, but we didn’t know we were seeing the oncologist.  We weren’t familiar with the medical terminology and didn’t realize that this type of doctor checked your blood and treated kids with cancer.  I’m telling you, until you’ve experienced someone using your child’s name in the same sentence as the word cancer, you cannot understand what the heart goes through.

The doctor’s office was in a children’s hospital so there were several waiting rooms ranging from ear, nose and throat specialists, kidney and bladder doctors to the office where we sat for children who had dangerous unpredictable diseases.  It was the scariest day I had ever lived and I wanted to curl up into a fetal position and cry and cry.   But, as the parent, you have to be strong (at least pretend to be) and try to keep things normal for your observant child. We signed his name on the check-in register and sat down and waited for our turn.  Our little one immediately spotted a table with a car track and some hot wheels and he was off like a flash.  My husband and I sat there in cold, unforgiving chairs like two statues.  The walls were glass so you could see into the other waiting rooms, like a fish bowl.  I remember thinking over and over how much I wished I was on the other side of the glass in a different waiting room for a different reason. And, of course, well-meaning parents of those other healthy children look at you sadly with mixed feelings of sorry for you and yet so glad it wasn’t them. 

I didn’t blame them.

Again I prayed for healing.  Sweet healing. 

Our names were called and we made the short yet endless walk back to the room to wait for the doctor.  It honestly felt like I couldn’t breathe.  What we would learn in the next few minutes would change our lives forever.  No matter what the doctor said, we would never be the same after this. 

Never.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for a kind looking older gentleman to walk into the room and break the icy cold air between us.  The walls of the room felt like they were closing  in on me.  I knew as he looked at my son’s chart I would never forget what ever came out of his mouth next.  He had the gentlest looking blue eyes and white hair.  He looked up and spoke the most beautiful words I’d ever heard, “this isn’t cancer.”  All the air left my lungs.  I stuttered and said, “Can you please say that again?”  And he did.  “This isn’t cancer, looks to be some type of auto immune disorder possibly.” All I heard was “not cancer.”   It felt like my world righted.  Whatever else he said didn’t really sink in, we could live with whatever it was, we didn’t have cancer. 

We were sent downstairs to give more blood.  And then we went home. 

How do you process the emotions from an experience like that?  How do you just go home?  That was the most difficult thing, arriving home and trying your best to act normal and feel normal even though a category five hurricane had ravaged your soul.  There was no longer such a thing as normal, a new normal was born that day.  And every day after was forever changed.  We would never take simple things like checkups or birthdays for granted again.  I still don’t.  I LOVE to celebrate birthdays and this is one of the reasons why.

After many weeks of waiting and more bloodwork, we were finally told that he was fine and the reason for his sickness was never determined.  Oh, we have our theories, but never any real diagnosis.  I watched him like a hawk after that.  Any minor sickness scared me to death and I prayed and prayed that I would be able to sleep through the night without waking up and feeling so afraid he was sick and I had missed it again.  One morning after an especially bad night, I looked in the bathroom mirror with swollen eyes and tears streaming down my face.  I began to recite a scripture that remains dear to me to this day, “for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  II Timothy 1:7. I quoted it out loud to myself over and over that morning and for days and months after. I longed for no more fear and a sound mind.  It took months and years for me to relax into my parenting again.  For me to trust my instincts as a mother. 

It was so hard. 

That was in 2006.  Eleven years ago.  Still feels like yesterday sometimes.  He did recover fully, slowly but surely.  He played games and sports like most every other little boy.  I never took it for granted, still don’t.  He was in seventh grade when he joined the cross country team.  He was so small then, unlike now.  He stands six foot three inches tall, a high school senior who has run too many races to count. Those once weak little legs now carry him mile after mile.  He is one of the best runners on the team and has won a few ribbons in his day. It has been such a joy to watch him run and be strong in heart and body.

Which explains why I was so excited and nervous standing there waiting on him to round the cluster of trees and run by me.  Seconds and minutes ticked off the clock and I stood there practically holding my breath.  Several more fans had gathered to cheer on their own favorite runner.  As the athletes began to appear the crowd around me erupted with cheering and waving, encouraging their favorite as best they could.  Not too far behind the front runners was my boy, light brown hair flowing behind him.  At this point, I was flailing my arms and hollering, urging him onward.  I hope I’m never captured on video during a race, some things you never want documented, you know?! 

Once he passed, I ran to another mile marker and spurred him on as he sped past that one too.  And, then it was time for the finish.  There I stood, a few hundred yards from the finish, waiting.   When he was close enough to hear, I hollered to him what I have said at least a thousand times over the years,  “Keep going, don’t give up, you can do it!”

And he did.   

He crossed over the line with his best time ever and placed in the top twenty in the state of Alabama in 3A schools.  He was exhausted, sweaty, and all smiles!  There’s nothing like working hard and having it pay off big. 

And, for this mom, there’s nothing like watching your son whom you wondered would walk…run.

I was standing in my bedroom recently when I felt the Lord telling me it was time to tell his story.  A story of God’s faithfulness, how he restores and heals in His time.  I don’t know why my son got so sick, I may never know.  But I do know that his story is pretty remarkable.

From powerless to walk to running with power.  

I am so thankful to be at this point in the story.  Living through sickness and overcoming the fear and worry in the long season that followed is something I hope I never have to live through again.   But, if I do, I know from experience that God will be there, holding me close. 

Just like that long ago night in the cold dark hospital room, wrapping his arms around me.

After we had been home from the big race a few days, we noticed Travis had left his racing spikes on the back porch.  I know you are wondering why that matters.  It doesn’t really.  What does matter is what we found on them.  Masking tape.  Two small strips, one for the back of each shoe.  On the tape was written in black sharpie “Hebrews” on the left shoe and “12:1” on the right.  Hebrews 12.1

My eyes welled with tears and I smiled.  Oh yes, we had run.  But, not just in the expected way.  We had run the race of life.   As a matter of fact, we are still running it, every single day. 

Wherever you are in your own personal race of life, don’t give up.  Finish your race with integrity and with all of your heart.  Look around you and encourage those who are running as well, we all need to be lifted up and spurred onward.   Take heart!  And run!

And as you run, look for Travis, my miracle runner.

 

The Strength to Run, part 1

I woke up and stared at the clock, today was the big day.  It was early, but it wasn’t hard to get out of bed.  We had been working for months to make it this far and I had butterflies in my stomach.  So much had happened to get to this place; lots of time, effort and energy. Early mornings, late evenings, delayed suppers, through sickness and weather, cross country practice was relentless.  But, here we were at the state competition, all the effort had paid off. 

We ate a quick breakfast compliments of the hotel, and headed for the park where hundreds of runners from all across the state would gather and run their hearts out in hopes to win a medal.  The final race of the season, the pinnacle, the one that really mattered – State.  We were thrilled. Our youngest and only one still living at home, was set to take the course at ten o’clock.  He had worked so hard and now was his chance to shine.

After warm ups, prayer, and with nerves causing stomach gymnastics, the runners took the starting line.  The announcer bellowed out “on your mark, get set,” and the gun went off.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a race where hundreds of boys take off from the start line at the same time, but it honestly feels like the ground shakes beneath your feet as they fly by neck-in-neck, each battling for position and hoping to inch out the boy next to him.  A good start can set the tone for a race.  As much as I enjoy watching the takeoff, you will usually find me somewhere on the course where I feel the runner will need encouragement.  Like the two mile mark or a few hundred yards from the finish.  A place where a cheering fan might be just the reminder one needs to keep going strong and not slow down. 

And this day was no different. 

I was standing near the two mile mark when I heard the echo of the start gun.  Pow!  I said a mental prayer for my runner and stood nervously watching the beaten trail waiting for him to round the corner, pass the trees and soar by me.  I had already rehearsed what I was going to shout out to him and I had thanked the Lord again that we were here on this beautiful cloudless, cool morning. 

And that my boy could run. 

Memories of an earlier much darker time are never far from my mind when I see him tearing across the course running like he has wind under his feet.  I never quit being grateful for this child, this gift.  The whole thing is a miracle really.    

Let me start from the beginning.

My husband and I were in ministry for quite a few years, twelve to be exact. It was a beautiful time for us, but in 2004 we felt the Lord was telling us it was time to follow another dream, the dream of becoming a pilot.   It was a huge step for us that involved a lot of things coming together perfectly and then trusting everything would be okay.  We had three small children at the time, between the ages of five and ten; each of them counting on us to provide all that they needed.  Of course they didn’t vocalize this, as a child you just trust that the “big” people in your life will take good care of you.  Since having children I understand why scripture tells us to have childlike faith, it is so pure and unwavering. 

But, sometimes things just don’t go as planned, and we have to trust God to see us through.

After saying goodbye to the church where we ministered, we loaded up the truck and packed our van tight with odds and ends and kids and headed down the road on a wing and a prayer for what we hoped would be a bright future.  Our first stop was my parents’ home where the kids and I would live for ten months as my husband went on to flight school several hours away.  We lived apart while he started training. 

It’s amazing what you will do for your dreams. 

When the children and I were finally able to move and live with their daddy, we lived in a one bedroom apartment briefly until a two bedroom became available.  All the kids slept in one room with mattresses on the floor while we had the other, mattresses straight on the floor as well.  We never went without food or anything we needed, and it was our choice to keep the rest of our belongings in storage.  We were so thankful to be together after our time apart that it just didn’t matter where or how we slept. 

Part of getting settled in our new town was getting the kids registered to start a new school. I was especially blessed to start working in a doctor’s office where my schedule was the same the kids.  If you’ve ever followed a dream, you know there is always cost involved.  Always.  We thought we’d measured the price and were willing to pay it, but not having insurance was by far the hardest sacrifice.  I have such compassion for families who don’t have insurance, it is a terrible feeling and a tough reality.  That’s why it was such a blessing for me to work in a doctor’s office, they treated my children for free. 

That turned out to be a bigger blessing than I ever imagined. 

Throughout that school year we had to cash in on our free visits for various reasons, mostly strep throat.  We never seemed to be able to really get completely rid of that dreaded sickness.  We would find out years later that one of our kids was a carrier. Once we had their tonsils removed, that pretty much took care of the problem.  If we had only found that out sooner.  Our youngest seemed to keep getting sick with it, he just couldn’t fight it off.  I guess it was around this time he started to physically fail, but it would be months later before I recognized it.

I remember feeling so discouraged when my littlest woke up with a fever again.  He kept getting them, at least one every month.  I would take him to work with me and antibiotics would be prescribed, again.  Being the mom of three active kids, and having to parent alone much of the time because of the rigorous schedule my husband maintained, I didn’t really notice he hadn’t fully recovered from the last fever.  The changes in him were so subtle, and I was so busy.  When I think about it, I should’ve thought it was strange that a six year old wanted to ride in the cart at Wal-Mart instead of walking with his brother and sister.  It never occurred to me that his legs were feeling weak and he didn’t know how to articulate it, so life just kept marching on; antibiotics, fever gone, back to school and our hectic schedule.  Until the next month when it happened again.  I’m sure there were other slight changes that I totally missed as well. 

Red flags that I should’ve seen, right?

During this feverish cycle of life my husband finished flight school and landed his dream job of being a pilot.  We then moved to a small town to be closer to family, but, we hadn’t been there long before my son had another fever and we had to find a doctor.  At this point I had begun to see the pattern and was genuinely concerned.  The fevers were still monthly and he started having trouble walking distances and of course he always rode in the cart when we went shopping.  I expressed my concerns to the doctor, and sadly, he did not take me seriously.  A few more months of fevers and I was really worried.  Each time we visited the doctor, he would give us another antibiotic assuring me my little guy would be just fine.  I began to lose confidence in him.  I remember the last time we saw this doctor he prescribed yet another medicine and sent me on my way.  My sweet boy could hardly walk at this point, seriously.   I took him home and called another doctor immediately.  She had me bring him right in and I did.  He literally had to stop every few feet and rest. I ended up carrying him.  I mentally decided if she didn’t do something, the next stop was the emergency room. 

I am forever compassionate of moms with sick kids, this went on too long before someone finally listened to us.  You feel desperate for help and not sure how to get it.  And guilty for not seeing the signs sooner, not being a better parent. 

At least that’s how it feels.

I remember sitting back in the examination room at new doctor’s office after being called from the waiting room. My boy was laying on the cold paper covered bed waiting to be seen.  Everything seemed so sterile and I was so nervous and cold, so cold.  I kept stroking his hair and assuring him he would feel better soon.  But, way down inside I wasn’t sure, I was so afraid.  Finally, the doctor came in and I told her our story.  She looked at him and said “this one is going straight to the hospital.”  I felt such relief and terror all at once, I can’t explain it, just a whirlwind of emotions.  She called the nurse to bring a wheelchair and we headed to the car and directly to the hospital where they were waiting on us.  It was such a surreal feeling to be the one receiving the care instead of reading about someone else’s child in the paper or on social media. 

Upon arrival we were taken immediately behind the double swinging doors that separate the sick from the well.  It took several tries to get the IV into his dehydrated veins, poor thing was so weak he just laid there while they poked him.  He was so brave and I was such a mess.  I called my husband, who was away on a trip, and he began the difficult process of trying to get home in an emergency.  It was my mom who came directly to the hospital to sit with me.  She was there within minutes.  I needed her strength so much, needed to feel her arms around me as I cried and blamed myself for everything. 

It was such a dark moment.

Once we were settled in a room, IV’s and tubes in place, the nurses came in to check on him.  I was startled to see they were wearing white masks.  How sick was he anyway? No one would tell me what was going on.  I felt utterly helpless.  I tried to stay upbeat, he was old enough to know this was a big deal, all he asked for was a blanket and to watch Sponge Bob.  The hours rolled by and mom had to go.  She was exhausted and my husband had arrived in town and would be at the hospital within minutes. 

I will never forget being all alone in the room with my very sick little boy.  He had fallen asleep and the room was dark except for the blinking lights of the machines that pumped strength into his body.  In the shadows I walked over to the window and stared out into the black starless sky.  From the depths of my soul I pleaded with the Lord for healing.

Healing and peace. 

But, because I know healing is not always what God has for us, I spoke out loud in the dark quiet of the room “I ask for healing, Father, but if you choose not to heal, I will love you still.  Who else can I turn to?  Who else is God but you?”  I knew a part of me would die if I lost one of my children, knew I would never be the same.  But, I have a greater hope of heaven and I know that there is no such thing as never again.   In that moment I felt His presence there with me, felt Him wrap his arms around me.  I wish He would’ve promised healing, I wish we hadn’t had to face what was still ahead, but through it all He stayed so near. 

My faithful heavenly Father is the reason I was able to survive.

To be continued…

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.

 

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!”