Monday, April 8, 2019

Running This Race Called "Life"

Photo credit to my sister,
Cynthia Colson
Imagine that life - with all its twists and turns and decisions and issues - is one of those muddy, obstacle-filled Spartan races. Now imagine having to run that race on crutches. That’s life with a brain injury. I have all the same hills to climb and obstacles to navigate as everyone else - parenting (we are in the pre-adult/college decision/freedom-giving stage right now), marriage (it's awesome, but definitely not easy), regular adulting (laundry, bills, cooking), etc. - but I'm trying to run this race on crutches (so to speak). I keep getting stuck in the mud, and I'm exhausted.

I went to bed last night overwhelmed with it all. I'm tired. So very tired of trying to do life with half my brain tied behind my back. It makes everything hard - what to have for dinner, "can I handle doing laundry and going to the store all in the same day?", even planning a family get-away (ever thought about how many details go into leaving town for a few days?).

***I know this is sounding like a pity party. Stay with me. God is teaching me something, and I'm getting to it. Just setting the scene here***

So I went to bed just "done" and frustrated that, by not healing me, God is asking me to keep going, even with my injury. I was tired and mad at God.

This morning, I woke up with this idea of a race still on my mind. I opened the First 5 app while I waited for my kids to come down to breakfast (It's a wonderful app that helps me focus on God first
thing in the morning. I highly recommend it.). Today's passage was Psalm 73. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but I'll give you a summary. The author of the psalm is fussing at God about how the wicked seem to succeed while he - a God-follower - is struggling. Verse 3 particularly stuck out at me - "For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." Tweak one or two words, and you get my perspective - "For I was envious of the healthy when I saw the ease of life of everyone around me."

As I read on, I found myself really relating to the author. He's talking about how unfair things seem. I get that! But I kept reading. In verse 23 and 24, the author - and I - got some perspective - "you hold my right hand, you guide me with your counsel". God has not left me alone in this obstacle-filled life. He is holding my hand and offering me counsel! And not just me - that offer is for everyone! Can you picture it? As we try to navigate this life, the God of the universe has offered to hold our hand and give us counsel! The psalm goes on in verse 26 with one of my favorite verses - "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." I often put the word "mind" in for "flesh" just to make it more personal.

As I run this race that is my life - as you run your race - God is offering to be our strength. He knows the race is hard - He walked this earth and navigated His own race - and He wants to hold our hand, give us advice, and strengthen us for the journey.

So what now? How do I face this new day - as I type this, my head hurts, it's a struggle just to walk a straight line, and all I want to do is go back to bed, but I have a to-do list as long as my arm. I have a race to run. So what now?

The apostle Paul mentions running a race a few times in the New Testament. He says we need to run with endurance with our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). He also tells us to run to win (1 Cor 9:24). And Paul sets an example of what we should be able to say at the end of our lives: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Tim 4:7).

I want to be able to say I "fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith". Can you imagine being able to say that at the end of our lives? That, relying on God's strength, we accomplished the things God had set out for us?

That finish line statement is only going to be true if I run each day, each hour, each minute with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I can't be looking around at other people, comparing my race to theirs. I need to let Him hold my hand and give me the strength to run this race He has set for me - day by day and, sometimes, minute by minute.

My prayer today is: Jesus, this race is hard! Help me to keep my eyes fixed on you. Help me to know that you are holding my hand and ready to give me advice as I climb the obstacles and even get stuck in the mud. Help me to run with endurance so that someday I can say that I finished the race and kept the faith.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


It's time to shift gears. I've written about the struggle with this brain injury. I've written about trying to hold on to truth when everything around me seems to be falling apart. That struggle is very real, and God is walking with me daily as I work through the hardest parts of this journey. You can read about it here and here.

Walking through our darkest times feels like one of those weird situations no one tells us how to do. I know I felt left to my own devices when my emotions and the truths I had known my whole life didn't seem to match up. I felt like I had two choices: I could push on with a brave face and shove my doubts and questions down very deep, never to be dealt with; or I could hold my questions up to the light of day and beg for answers. I could run TO my struggle instead of away from it. Friend, if you are struggling, if life is hitting you hard, please don't run away from the struggle. Please run TO the One who has the answers!! I promise that Jesus can handle our anguish, our pain, our questions, and our doubts. He wants us to cry out to Him. And He is waiting with answers and comfort. If you aren't sure what it looks like to go to Him with your pain, or aren't sure I understand, please go read my recent post. I have been there - as recently as last week! And God is patiently and sweetly leading me out of the dark.

But is that all there is to life with a chronic condition? Struggle, suffering, spiritual wrestling? NO! Our God is so gracious and loving that He gives us so much more in our lives - we just have to look for it! If we look, we can find beauty, peace, joy, and laughter. This last one, laughter, is my favorite. God wired me (Enneagram 7 here ✋) with a smile on my face and a laugh just waiting to bubble up. I admit that in the dark days, it's harder to laugh, but so often, being able to laugh at life has broken through the darkness and gotten me (and my family) through another hard day.

There are many practical ways to "find your happy". Making a list of things I am thankful for is a huge boost for my spirits. It's hard for me to stay down when I list all my blessings. Another fun thing for me is to scroll back through photos. Memories can be wonderful mood boosters! There is an excellent book out with more great practical ideas called "A Year of Living Happy" by Alli Worthington. I highly recommend it!

I want to share a few things that have made me laugh over the last year. Why? Because it's important for us to remember that even in the hard times, God is alive and working. And one of the ways He reminds us that He is at work and on our side is by sending things that make us smile. We have to do our part by being on the lookout for those moments!

I'm willing to bet that the things that make me smile won't be the same things that put a smile on your face. That's ok. Part of the beauty of this wonderful world is the differences we all bring to the table. I would love to hear from you. What kind of things make you laugh? What moments put a smile on your face? What silliness breaks up a hard day and helps you make it to the next day? I'm posting my happy moments on social media with the hashtag #choosingtosmile - I would love for you to join me! When you post a picture of something that makes you laugh, especially on a hard day, tag it with #choosingtosmile - that will let folks know that even though life is hard, we are choosing, at least for that moment, to focus on the things that bring us joy. We can support each other together!

I think you know me well enough to know that I'm not suggesting we be anything less than authentic. I'm not recommending turning our Instagram feeds into highlight reels or our Facebook profiles into Fakebook pages. I'm all for keeping it real. I think that's the beauty behind the hashtag. It lets us say: "Yes, life can be hard. But in this post, I am acknowledging that while I can't control my circumstances, I can control my focus. And today, I am choosing to smile." Are you with me? #choosingtosmile

Ok 😊 Are you ready to see the things that have made me laugh? The moments that have brought me joy? The silliness that cracks me up?

A pig on a leash - how do you not laugh?
Deep fried oreos - now we are talking joy!
The bunny slippers my sons bought me for my birthday
I smile every time I wear them! The little ears flop
when I walk!!
Being a Band Mom brings me
so much joy! I love watching my
son tear it up out there! I cheer like a crazy woman.
Dates with Drew -
definitely reason to smile
Is anything more fun than being a
Football Mom? The crowd? The cheering?
The yelling at the refs? Watching my boy make
tackles? I love it!
That time we were playing basketball at a park in
Tennessee and a bear showed up! Y'all, life is full of
crazy moments!
My youngest is finding his way on the
basketball court. It's so fun watching him
come into his own. I love cheering him on!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Does the One I Pray to Understand?

The Bible refers to God by lots of different names. One of them is Immanuel (sometimes we see it spelled Emmanuel - same word). It means “God is with us”. According to my Bible study this morning - a study on the names of God by She Reads Truth (they have great studies, and I highly recommend them!) - this name “carries a sense of nearness, including intimate knowledge of the needs, struggles, and hopes of humanity.”

Reading that today made me pause. We hear Immanuel referenced a lot at Christmas when we talk about Jesus being born, so I’m thinking about it. Does Jesus have an “intimate knowledge of the needs, struggles, and hopes of humanity”? When I pour my heart out to Him and share all the struggles I’m facing this week, does He really get it?

Honestly, that concept is tough for me to grasp. I feel like I’m in a losing battle every day fighting for what’s left of life as I know it while this illness takes things from me little bit by little bit. On the other side, I have medical professionals who are playing guesswork and asking me to willingly hand over pieces of my life for a slim possibility of progress - pieces that I am holding on to in a death grip because I have already lost so much. Does Jesus really get it?

Let’s talk about some things Jesus faced -

  • He was homeless (Matthew 8:20)
  • He had family issues (Mark 3:21, John 7:5)
  • He was slandered by the religious leaders (Matthew 12:24)
  • His disciple denied him (Mark 14:66-72)
  • His friend betrayed Him for money (Mark 14:44-45)
  • He was beaten, spit on, and mocked (Mark 15:19)
  • He was hung on a cross (Mark 15:25)
  • He died on that cross for me. And for you (2 Cor 5:21)

So, yes. Jesus understands suffering. He understands loss. He gets it. When I pour my heart out to Him, He understands. He is Immanuel - God with ME, a God who understands my needs and struggles and hopes.

Where does that leave me, practically? I’m praying to a God who understands. That makes a difference. But I’m also praying to a God who has the power to change my situation and isn’t. That’s hard to handle.

Hang on. Jesus dealt with that one too, kind of. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed for God to find another way to redeem mankind. He knew there was severe pain and suffering ahead. Jesus was fully God and fully human, and the human part was not looking forward to the “pierced for our transgressions” that was prophesied in Isaiah 53. So first he prayed for another way, but then He prayed “yet not what I will, but what you will”. Jesus knows what it’s like to want God’s will even when we are dreading the results. That conflict is not sinful. It is human.

So as I sit here begging God to change my situation, but also genuinely wanting His will for my life (because I truly believe His plan is for my good), Jesus knows what a prayer like that feels like. He has prayed one before. I’m scared that He won’t heal me. I’m afraid of just how bad things are going to get. I really want it to be over. But I also want  God’s will for my life to be played out because I know He loves me. He has a plan to give me a hope and a future! I can trust Him! God and I have a long history together that I can look back over and see all the ways He has proven Himself faithful and loving. I can echo King David when he says “I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because He is good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)

And when I pour my heart out to Immanuel, God with me, I know He gets it. He understands my needs, my struggles, and my hopes. And He understands my conflict between desperately wanting to be free of this illness and wanting God to have His way in my life.

Is that enough? Is knowing that Jesus understands what I’m going through enough to be able to echo His words: not what I will, but what you will? I wish I could say yes. I want to be able to say those words. I’m just not there yet. So I’m praying for God to be patient with me as I want to want His will above all. And I’m resting in the knowledge that He understands what I’m going through. And that is enough to get through today. And probably tomorrow.

**I'm going to add a little P.S. to this post. This post was the hardest one I've ever written. I just couldn't figure out how to get this struggle into words. I had some help from some very special people -  I want to say thank you to Drew (who walks with me every single day through it all) and Pastor Peter and Cheryl Nelson - thank you for your godly counsel and guidance!


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