Goodbyes, Change, and Grandma

Author: Angela Burril

I am not good at change.  I like all things vintage, except my refrigerator and my long-distance traveling car—these I would prefer new or with very low mileage.  Yet, aside from God, all things change.

Angela Burril ChangeThis last spring ushered in a profound change, and I have yet to get my mind and heart around it—the passing of my most beloved Grandmother.  My mother died when I was only 17 years old. In my panic over all the things I did not know how to do without her, Grandma showed up. She lived a mere 10 miles from my house and handled my emotional frenzy with grace. She gave instruction on how to boil an egg, and never disregarded my feelings of despair.

“The only time this will differ is when you are trying to cook at a different altitude.  For now, just boil it for 15 minutes exactly and you will have a perfect egg!  You can do this!” she said, and as she did my blood pressure dropped back down a good 50 points and my heart rate settled to where it could no longer be heard pounding in my ears.

Time and time again my Grandmother would stand in the gap when my motherless spirit threatened to drown my soul with tears and my immobilized voice cried out to the Lord in pain.  God knew I needed her.  God repeatedly sustains me with His word, and often those words come through human vessels. To me, Grandma was a vessel through which God poured compassion, understanding, and love.

In her last days, we knew the time was close.  So, I left my two girls and husband to fend for themselves for a couple days while I traveled three hours alone to say goodbye.  She was no longer always coherent and her eyesight was nearly gone. Into her nursing home room I marched, upright only because I had asked every person I could think of for prayer!  My arms were loaded with my Bible, a hymn book, and a quilt I was working on. My heart carried every intention to be a comfort to Grandma and to tell her how much I loved her.

“Hi Grandma!  It’s me – Angie,” my voice was strained with a lightness that did not reach my soul, and I busied myself looking for a space to unload my arms to give myself a minute to regroup my emotions.

“Oh Angie!  How nice!  Would you like a cupcake?  I’m sure I have cupcakes or something for you!”  Grandma responded in delight.  My gaze did not take long to inventory the room and know that Grandma’s homemade bakery delights were not to be on the menu this time or ever again.  Grandma spelled love F-O-O-D, and every bite of her homemade creations was permeated with her deep affection for her family. Taste buds danced with joy and contentment, sighing because they knew they were home.

“That’s so nice, but no.  I’m okay.”  I replied and moved to change the subject.  “May I read to you from my Bible Grandma?”  I asked.

“Yes,” she replied very simply.  I read to her from my Bible, and then from the hymnal the stories of how hymn writers were inspired to write a particular hymn.  Then I sat my quilt in her lap, so she might feel the work I was doing on it.  She dosed off and on all day, but just when I thought she was asleep she would pipe up with a timely word that made me smile.  So, I talked to her the whole time, just like I had always done since I was a little girl.

“Grandma, when it comes time to go, look for the angels.  They will show the way to Jesus.  In Luke 16:22 Jesus tells the story of how the poor man called Lazarus “…was carried by the angels…” after he died.  Grandma said nothing and seemed to be far off in her own thoughts.

The next day I came to say goodbye.  Grandma was having a good morning.  She listened to my step-mom and I sing some hymns and I read a blessing over Grandma.  Numbers 6:24-26:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

“Grandma, I just want to say thank you,” I said in a voice so thick with emotions that I could not find the words to convey all that I felt.  “You have loved us well.”

She visibly brightened with delight and replied without hesitation, “You’re welcome.  There is enough to go around.”  The next flood of tears rose instantly in my throat.  I treasured up these words to muse over later, because there was still one more thing to say.  I needed to tell her the last words my 10-year-old daughter wanted Grandma to hear.

Change Angela Burril“Grandma, Teal wanted me to tell you that if she doesn’t see you before, she will see you with Jesus in heaven.”  My tears were near the breaking point, but I wanted to stay in this moment.  I swallowed hard again, and bent to kiss her cheek goodbye.  “I love you, Grandma.”  I turned and walked blindly to the door.

Just as I reached the door, Grandma called out to me once again, “Travel safely.”

I don’t know what God is teaching me through goodbye, but I know He holds tomorrow.  In the midst of this pain, there is joy and that can only be because of the hand of the LORD!  I would not feel the pain if I had not felt the love.  I can take the joy and the pain because I know it has been sifted through God’s fingers. He is here to comfort me as I grieve.

I grieve, but I do not live in grief.  The sacrifice of Jesus laying down His life has given me this freedom.  I can rejoice, although I am certainly sad, because I know, thanks to Jesus, I will see Grandma again.


Angela Burril HeadshotAngela Burril lives on a small acreage farm in Madras, OR with her husband, Gus, and two young daughters, Teal (10 years) and Shiloh (5 years).  She taught high school science (Biology, Forensic Science, Integrated Science, and Physical Science) for eight years.  After that, she became a stay at home mom and part time “ranch/farm manager.”  For the last 10 years, Angela has taught ladies Bible Studies, and some various adult Sunday School Classes.  Some of the topics she has spoke on include: waiting on God, fear, loneliness, letting God lead your emotions, grace, loss, and spiritual authenticity. Angela’s speaking is characterized by sincerity and a wholehearted attempt to see the trials and challenges in life as blessed
opportunities to see and feel God’s presence.

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Glory Day

Author: Kimberley Mulder

The day was almost sabotaged. It arrived sandwiched between National Blueberry Day and another week of packing with three kids suffering summer doldrums. We sat in moving mess, random socks, treasured Turkish bowls, and Christmas lights were stepped over as we popped fresh blueberries into our mouths.

In an effort to keep life enjoyable and remotely summer-ish, we kept to our tradition of picking blueberries though boxes begged to be packed and the to-do list called. Those first exploding sweet-tart tastes led to excited exclamations, but the heat and fatigue of the weeks wisped away the wonder within quick minutes. We foraged on, determined to make good on our tradition, but in the end our moods nearly spoiled the joy of fresh fruit.

Today,God says, -rest.-Today is what we call glory day, our day of rest among the chaos. Blueberry day lies behind me along with the half checked-off moving list with twenty more added items, scores of mediating moments as siblings lock horns again and again. Ahead of me lies two weeks that look nearly blank on my Google calendar – a picture perfect, relaxing summer vacay–except that it simply doesn’t record the hours of packing, organizing, and sorting, the time it takes to mediate moments, the impromptu play dates, and the legion of other moving preparations.

Today, God says, “Rest.” If I were not in the habit of resting on the Sabbath, I would not slow today. The pressure of so many decisions to be made and things to be done would fuel my activity. I am so thankful that this is a habit that the Lord has given me, as He has you. He commanded us, knowingly, mercifully, to rest, just as He did (Gen. 2:2-3). This literal break from whatever work I have in that particular season, this breath of a day meant to enjoy Him and savor His presence–it leads me to Him and resuscitates my body and soul weekly.

Today He is taking the lesson deeper. I am a peace-glutton, responsibility-taker, rule-follower, recovering perfectionist, people-pleaser, leader, Mom, busy home-maker, and micro-manager. This combination, under the pressure of a tight timeline for major life change, is the perfect storm to turn me into a barking, harsh, commander who makes the lives of everyone around miserable with the quick winds of unrealistic expectation.

Kimberley Mulder RestI foresee a squabble and pre-empt it through lecture or separation. I get bent out of shape when my timeline for the day is warped by not finding a child’s shoes where they should be (how many times have I told you to put it where it belongs…!). I accuse people of being inconsiderate for taking too long to say goodnight. You get the picture.

To me God says “Rest”. Take a break from the plans, the details, and the must-do’s. Lay down your management of relationships, your pursuit of perfection, your penchant for peace and allow His right relation, His perfection, allow His peacemaking to shine through. I must enjoy Jesus’ offering to befriend me in my imperfections; accept His invitation to give me His peace that transcends the sum of my circumstances. I let the wrinkles remain in the sheets today, it’s not the day to fix them. I make room in the disorganized space for the kids to sort things out themselves, for Jesus is with them too. I allow this day to shine in its given glory.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and records the reflections and connections Jesus gives her to share with others.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Finding Spring: A Special Needs Journey

Author: Jacqi Kambish

Life always seems to move in cycles of intertwined seasons.

“A misty winter brings a pleasant spring, a pleasant winter brings a misty spring”-Irish Proverb

Jacqi Kambish AV Special needs parentingThe ebb and flow of laughter, pain, anger, loss, hardship, joy, love…it weaves us into the tapestries that we are—complex and colorful.

As a parent of a child with special needs, there is a sorrow too deep to voice and at the same time a thriving hope and optimism that runs parallel to the difficulty of watching my child struggle. The beauty and pain of my soul’s winter season is a complex entanglement, where icy blues are folded into joyful pops of bright spring colors. Even as my heart breaks, hope and happiness burst through.

There are everyday reminders:  The number of the hospital saved in my phone, the seizure log my daughter packs for school, and the medications with their side effects.  She wants to climb the playground equipment, ride a bike, and swim but it’s complicated.  Each day is marked with exceptional difficulty and challenge.

My daughter is 8 years old and has Epilepsy, ADHD, and learning disabilities.  Her seizures are uncontrolled, and every day I watch as she struggles as medication after medication remains ineffective.  I watch as she tries to understand and control her emotions.  I watch as her mind gives up and begins to seize when presented with difficulty and stress.  I watch as she cries and laments the difficulty of school as she becomes frustrated with her inability to engage in all the activities she wants to pursue.

I’ve read, researched, and studied.  I’ve pleaded with God to give us a cure, to find something that works for her.  And yet…the struggle remains.

As I watch, my emotions range from anger to sorrow, to helplessness, to hope, to perseverance, to acceptance, to positivity, encouragement, and back around…

But…I watch something else as well.

My daughter, in all her struggle, has the most amazingly sweet and compassionate heart.  She sees people.  She wants people to be happy and is deeply saddened by their pain.  She prays for the “bad people in the world” because… “They need Jesus too.” When I’m angry that a kid at school hurt her feelings, through tears she asks me for guidance on how to love them better.  She ponders that kindness is the best response and laments at how difficult kindness can be.  She amazes me.

I don’t know why God hasn’t healed my daughter yet.  I don’t know why she has to struggle so much.  I don’t know why he gave her to me when I am so fallen and struggle so often to control my own emotions.

Special Needs Parenting Jacqi Kambish (1)At times when my heart cries out “WHY?” God softly reminds me that he loves her deeply, that he sees her and that he sees me.   He speaks quietly into my heart the understanding and hope that he has a specific plan for her and that her life has a purpose I cannot understand or fathom.  When I stop and listen, what God says to the deepest corners and hardest places in my heart is that her pain and difficulty is not for nothing.  Her struggle is not pointless, meaningless, or unseen.

Ultimately, his game plan and end goal is for a beautiful child of the King to immerge from the ashes triumphant and victorious in Christ Jesus.  What he beckons us both toward is closer relationship with him as he sweetly says, “Lean on Me, trust Me, wait on Me.”

I don’t know what the LORD is doing.  I don’t understand it.  I don’t like it, but I do believe that He is good.  I do believe that He knows what he is doing and that hope, redemption, and goodness will ultimately be revealed.  So, in the moments of deep sorrow, fear, and “winter”, I hold tight to hope in Christ and to my belief that God is our defender and the only real source of rest.  And, the peace I find as I soak in the rays of God’s truth is as warm and glorious as the first sunny day of spring.


Jacqi KambishJacqi Kambish is a Christian mom to three spirited children striving to balance the daily demands of parenting a child with special needs and meeting the needs of typically developing siblings while working full time and writing.  She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Bible Theology and Youth Ministry from William Jessup University.  Jacqi lives with her family in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and enjoys reflectively writing about parenting, faith, and the joys and trials of life while leaving her readers with hope and encouragement.  Her blog The Presumptuous Ladybug can be found at http://thepresumptuousladybug.com/ and you can connect with her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thepresumptuousladybug/ .

Beauty for Ashes

By: Holly Berg

Three years ago we bought our son an adorable little t-shirt:  “Big Brother Team Captain”, it said. He wore it to Grandma and Grandpa’s house that evening – he was so excited to share the big secret he had been keeping.

My husband’s parents were ecstatic – they had been waiting for a second grandchild since the day our son was born!

Then I started bleeding. Just a little spotting, at first.

Then more.  beauty-for-ashes

We spent the night in the emergency room but by the time the doctor finally got around to examining me we already knew the diagnosis.

“Your pregnancy has terminated,” he said.  So cold. So clinical.

He gave me a prescription for T3 and sent me home with a dismissive “It’s so early, everything will happen naturally. Come back if the pain gets unbearable.”

Unbearable.

The next day I couldn’t move. I laid in bed and cried.

And cried and cried and cried.

We had only found out about the baby the week before.  One week – but I already loved my little bean.

I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect the pain.

My husband had to carry me to the bathroom and then hold me while I sat there, shivering, shaking, trying not to be sick.

I’ve never seen him cry so much, or so hard.  It had only been one week, but he loved our baby too.

* * *

Two months later I found out that I was pregnant again.

I hated every moment of my relatively easy pregnancy with my son, but I cherished each moment of this much more difficult pregnancy.   It was a pregnancy filled with worry and fear and anxiety, but God replaced our mourning with joy.  

The Bible says “Those who sow with tears will reap songs of joy.  Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”  (Psalm 125:5-6, NIV)  And it reminds that the Lord will “provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)

Ten months after my miscarriage, I gave birth to a healthy 6 lb 4 oz baby girl.  

Beauty from ashes.

At the time I clung to Scripture:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 (NIV))

Going through a miscarriage was horrible, it was scary and it was painful – but looking back, I can see how God revealed Himself – and His love for us – in that situation.  I can see how He worked all things – even our grief – for good.    

The tragedy we experienced strengthened my relationship with my husband. I remember the night after our trip to the hospital, lying in bed, sobbing, with a Kleenex box between us.  We were connected in love and grief.  We went through every moment of my third pregnancy together – my husband was much more attentive and much more involved than he had been the first time around!  We both learned that nothing in this life is a given – we need to depend on God for every single breath.  My husband was there for every doctor’s appointment, every ER visit, and every ultrasound – holding my hand, praying with me, calming my fears.  

ashes-and-beautyI also learned not to take the children I do have for granted.  Even on challenging days, when I’m exhausted and none of us are at our best, I see my children as blessings.  I realize my time with them may be fleeting so I try to make the most of each and every day with them. 

* * *

Maybe it’s just me, but in my experience beauty goes hand in hand with pain.  You can’t have one without the other.  

One of my favourite passages in Scripture says that we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, but “these have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV)

Being refined hurts.  Weaknesses and impurities are stripped away, leaving us with only what is genuine and true.  But the end result is something more worthy and much more beautiful than gold.  


Readers, Sometimes our deepest sorrows shine light on the richest beauty, but it is not always easy to see through the pain. It is our prayer that today you would have eyes to see that even in the midst of trouble God’s promises still stand true.

43483-2016headshotHolly Berg is a wife, mama, writer and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. She writes to challenge, encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the everyday, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. Read more of her writing at Scattered Words.

The Thanksgiving Phone Call that Changed our Lives

Author: Keri Nikkel

It was Thanksgiving Day. My husband Matt and I were at my in-laws, busying ourselves with laughter, food prep, and good conversation. Finally, the time came to eat. All the smells that had been tempting us for hours were about to be enjoyed. The food was set out buffet style in the kitchen, and we lined up one by one, each person grabbing a plate and creating mountains of mashed potatoes and turkey. I took a plate and held it out for Matt, but he wasn’t looking, he was on his phone. I rolled my eyes, thinking he was playing a game or checking NFL scores. But no, he had a missed call from our adoption case worker. Confused, we snuck off to another room to call her back, and heard the most unbelievable news I ever heard.

We had been chosen by a birth mother.

Eighteen months before that our adoption process had started. And the three years prior were full of doctors visits and no explanations. This process was full of uncertainty and hard work, which meant this control freak had a hard time not being in the driver’s seat. We experienced multiple delayed training classes, desperate fundraising to make the next big payment, a home walk through on our anniversary, and being one of 18 families waiting for a child. By the time we got the Thanksgiving call, we had become accustomed to waiting. And during the wait, I learned what God already knew, that I needed to experience that burdening season so I could learn that only He had control. He is worthy of being trusted with my deepest desires.

Twelve weeks passed between that Thanksgiving call and the time of the birth. That may not seem like much, but the anticipation and uncertainty made it feel like eternity. We loved on and built a relationship with the sweet woman who chose us, and were honored to be invited to witness her pastor pray over the unborn babe. Although, I could feel God strengthening us and leading us forward, I still felt like I was holding my breath—waiting for something to go wrong. Each day the enemy was quick to tempt me to be swallowed up by fear, and each day I had to make the choice to trust that God was bigger.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV

No matter the outcome, God knew what was best for the baby and for our family. My prayers turned from, “God, please let this baby come home with us” to “God, I know you have a will for this child. Please place him exactly where you want him, even if that isn’t in our home.”

Valentine’s Day was a Sunday. We went to church, holding secret that induction would be happening the next morning. Making small talk, all the while trying not to be constricted to death by uncertainty. Afterwards, we headed home, packed the car and drove to the town where she lived. Tossing and turning most of the night, we woke early and made the 10 minute drive to the hospital. The short drive felt like a never ending tunnel. I sat in the passenger’s seat, wringing my hands until we saw the tan brick building. We parked the car, slowly walked in and joined our case worker in the waiting room.

After thirty minutes of nervous chatter a nurse walked in, “she would like you to come up now.” My stomach dropped. We took the elevator up, and in what seemed like slo-mo we walked past the nurses’ station. Each one of them staring at us, giving hesitant smiles. When we reached her room I knocked on the door. A friend of hers (whom we had met before) greeted us and brought us in. In that moment, peace washed over me and I knew. God would be glorified here, whether I go home as a mommy or not. What mattered was supporting this precious woman and her excruciating decision. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 NIV

After two days of feeling all the feels and caring for a sweet baby boy, we took the two hour drive home as parents. The selfless love of a mother was the way I became one, and the details leading up to us bringing our son home minister to my heart every day. God also gave me an overwhelming love for a woman who chose life for a child who calls me Mama. And a trust in Him, that gives me courage in uncertainty.

Our lives have changed, and so has my faith. Not because this time I got what I wanted, but because God helped me learn to trade in fear for peace, control for obedience, and sadness for joy.

“LORD, you establish peace for us;

all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”

Isaiah 26:12 NIV


Readers, Do you have a story of how God showed you hope in a tough circumstance. We would love to help you share it. Check out our submissionspage for details.

Keri is a wife and new mama, who loves Jesus and believes we are all given a story that can be used to encourage others.

Defeating Debt

Author: Krissa Dorfner

I sat in my room and cried. I sank into the hideous floral printed couch processing what my boyfriend had just shared with me. He had made poor financial decisions while working through college and the debt had accumulated. Was I sure I  wanted to tie my life to his when it included this financial burden? I did, and it was worth it (we have now been married for 8 years), but it still follows us. Perseverance has been key as we have learned to be good stewards, but we have also learned that God is bigger than any amount of money owed. I still sometimes feel the strain, but I know he has given us this story to tell for a reason and purpose.

I came from a home where credit cards were used for emergencies only. So when I married my husband,  I was shocked to hear he had 3 credit cards and essentially nothing to show for it (other than the pretty diamond on my ring finger). We began chipping away at this mountain that seemed impossible to conquer. Paying off those cards and the little debts that floated around us became a priority. Within our first 14 months of marriage we paid off our wedding loan, Credit Cards, and  we saved up  $8400 CASH to go to Egypt and Israel. Let’s just say God is amazing and faithful! God has shown us what HE is capable even in the realms of finance when we are obedient. Still to this day I cannot pin point how we did this, other than that God provided.

Before saving for Egypt and Isreal, my husband and I were grocery shopping and we ran into one of our Best Men from our wedding. He raved about a new book he had read about money and told us to wait there. He insisted on finding  it and buying  it for us since it had changed his life. Little did we know that this book, Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, would also change our perspective on our money and lives forever.

Since day one of our marriage, my husband and I have been college students and career jobs felt so far away. We would dream of the day when we were both not doing homework and instead doing what we loved. We longed for when we would be bringing in money instead of accumulating more student loans. Then when my husband couldn’t find a job with his bachelors degree in Psychology, he decided to go back to school…again. He pursued his masters in counseling which ended up being a total of 9 years that he was in college. As for me, It took 8 years or more (I’ve lost count) to finish my Nursing degree. As you can assume, we have racked up quite surplus of student loans…and basically should have been doctors!

We would not be where we are today if it was not for Jesus giving us reason, purpose, and the knowledge needed to persevere through this burden of debt and years of school. I know that Jesus does not intend for us to live outside of our means. He calls us to live humbly, selflessly, and to not be conformed to this world, and I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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. -Romans 12:2

Now that my husband and I have our dream careers, we could easily go buy a new home, a new car and go on fancy vacations…however, we choose to live by faith and obedience when it comes to our finances. We currently put 35% of our monthly income toward student loans so that one day we can say that we are debt free. Don’t get me wrong, God has placed big dreams in our hearts and minds for our growing family. We dream of giving to a point where it would make a difference in someone’s life, we dream of owning a home where our children can build memories, and we dream of our family traveling and exploring the world to serve people. We will persevere through this difficult time of debt, so that we can be free to see the dreams our good Lord has given us come true.

~~~
Readers, How can you persevere in discipline, so that you may see more freedom in your life today?


A huge thank you to our guest poster, Krissa Dorfner! Krissa is a passionate follower of Christ, wife, mother, and nurse. If you are interested in submitting a piece for consideration you can find the details on our submissions page.

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Faith and Hockey Sticks

Author: Holly Berg

Two years ago my husband and I signed our son up for skating lessons.  He’s been dreaming about playing hockey since he was old enough to walk. He was born in Oil Country, he bleeds copper and blue – heck, he even eats dinner sitting below a framed photo of his dad with Ryan Smyth!

We figured it was time.

Topher was ecstatic! Never mind that he was enrolled in beginner figure skating – he was convinced he had been drafted to the Oilers!

But skating wasn’t as easy as Topher thought it would be. It’s one thing to zip up and down the hallway with a plastic hockey stick and entirely another to do the real thing!

In his first lesson the coaches taught the kids how to fall down and how to get back up, first on mats and then on the ice. Topher was a pro … until he stepped onto the ice.  He did exactly what his coaches told him: get on your hands and knees, wag your tail like a dog, get one foot up, brace one hand on your knee and use the other to push off on the ice and stand up.

But Topher couldn’t do it.

Not in the first lesson, or the second, or the third. Eventually one of his coaches would help him to his feet so he could participate in the other activities, but Topher was so afraid to fall that he would barely move. Then one of the other kids would accidentally bump into him and knock him over, and he would be back to Square 1, shaking his little bum in the middle of the rink.

Halfway through his fourth lesson I was starting to wonder how much patience his teachers had. Would they recommend remedial beginner skating lessons?

But then HE DID IT.

It might have taken him three and a half 45-minute lessons – most of which he spent on his knees – but he did it!

And I have never been more proud of my little man.

He didn’t give up, not once.

Week after week after week …

He practiced at home, he practiced at his grandparents’ house, he recited the steps over and over and over.

He tried his hardest in every single lesson. He showed dedication and confidence.  He knew he could do it – and he kept at it until he did.

Two years later, Topher is a full-fledged hockey player.  His favourite drill is the Superman, where he dives onto the ice, sliding across the surface on his belly before jumping to his feet and gliding away. Skating is now as natural to him as breathing.

* * *

Some days I picture God as a proud parent, standing outside the rink as we learn to walk through life as His followers.  Sometimes we’re like Topher: cautious, afraid to move in case we fall.  God watches us struggle, but he also sees us as we get down on our knees and try again.

The Bible says that we can “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4, NIV) It also says that we should “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..”  (James 1:2-4).

I remember when Topher was learning to skate, the day when everything finally clicked. As his mom, I didn’t count how many times he fell, I counted how many times he got back up.

Maybe God does the same thing.

Following God is hard. We mess up and we make mistakes – sometimes the same ones, over and over again!  But He sees us. He knows we can do it!  We need to get back up, brush ourselves off, and try again.

I don’t know if following God will ever be as natural to me as skating is to Topher, but I hope it will be. I want to develop endurance and strength of character and have confident hope, but like Topher, I need to practice. I need to be obedient in the small things as well as the big things. Every day, week after week after week. I need to recite God’s promises over and over and over. James 1:12 says “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

And I want that life.

~~~

Readers,

What encourages or keeps you from getting back up after a fall?

43483-2016headshotHolly Berg is a wife, mama, writer and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. She writes to challenge, encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the everyday, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. Read more of her writing at http://scattered-words.net.

An earlier version of this post appeared first at Scattered Words.

 

When Kindness Teaches

Author: The Transformed Teacher

As a teacher, June always brings mixed emotions. Sadness creeps in as students start to hug me tight and express words of sorrow over leaving me as the end of the school year arrives. A great joy overtakes me as I ponder and reflect on all the ways students grew, especially in how they grew to love each other.

I thought this June would be unlike the others, since from the very start of September I was already yearning for summer’s respite. One boy’s strong defiance, cursing at me under his breath, and frequent distraction inducing ways, made the year ahead seem bleak.  Day after day one conflict after another peppered the classroom with chaos. His noncompliant behaviors invariably propelled me into a constant pattern of asserting myself as the authority.  Round and round in circles we would go.

Then prayer.

Prayer changed me.  Not all at once, but over time. My heart softened  towards the boy.   Originally, my prayers were for the removal of my classroom’s thorn.  But as I went to the Lord in prayer, I started to see my own depravity.  I had let pride govern my actions more than I wanted to admit.  I had been so intent on making the boy properly esteem me and my position as his instructor that I had failed to see what he really needed.  He needed kindness.  Sincere kindness. Kindness not dependent on him…or me.

My fair weather attempts had been meaningless, when anger, disappointment, and annoyance were most frequently communicated. Fortunately, we don’t go it alone as believers in Christ, for the Holy Spirit dwells within us, to lead, guide and empower us.  A surrendered heart, and ears attuned to the Holy Spirit, can bring light to the darkest of situations.

The Holy Spirit convicted me of not reflecting Jesus in how I interacted with the unruly student.  Kindness permeated Jesus’ life here on Earth, and as His follower kindness should permeate mine.

Evidence of Jesus’ kindness is lavishly spread throughout scripture. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry. And as if that wasn’t enough, He died on the cross. He took the punishment we deserve and offered us His righteousness. His every word and action is humbling, it eradicates the temptation for arrogance, and produces a desire to pour out the limitless love He has for us onto others.

Kindness can’t be manufactured, for it is a fruit of the Spirit.  True kindness is more than an outward act; it’s an inward heart change. It  transforms our character. It is a transformation of who we are.  Kindness uproots selfishness.  As a byproduct of our kindness, we experience great joy and deep freedom.

Joy is what I experienced this June. God had made something beautiful out of something ugly, for the tightest hugs and the one instigating the “I’m going to miss you!” chorus with the loudest voice, was the very boy that in September I wished to be rid of.

The Holy Spirit cultivates kindness. He grows it and gently leads us to use it, even when it is undeserved. Through His kindness to us, we have the privilege of becoming imitators of Christ.  In seeking Him, we can be empowered to follow the directives of Ephesians 4:31 – 5:2, to live a life that is holy and pleasing to the Lord. It is my prayer that the body of Christ know more and more what it means to:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:31-5:2

 

What could be taught to those who are hurting if we would pray wholeheartedly that the Lord make us kind?

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Readers, Where can you demonstrate the kindness of Christ today?

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Hope on Distant Shores

Author: Rachel Olson

Just over a year ago, a lifelong dream came true. I was accepted to join Mercy Ships, an organization that brings free surgical care to some of the poorest countries of Africa. I quit my job, packed my bags, and moved to Madagascar, where I have spent the past eight and a half months wading through what it means to live and work in another culture loving people very different from me.

This all started back in middle school, when God clearly called me to spend my life with the world’s forgotten poor. That call stemmed from a close relationship with God, during a huge season of growth when I was pouring frequent, consistent time into seeking his guidance and he was radically transforming me and putting new desires in my heart. And yet even with that firm foundation, I was tempted to put international ministry on a pedestal. During the many years of waiting for this dream to come to fruition, I had expectations of how it would deepen my faith. Now that I am finally stepping into this calling, I have found something concerning — others are putting me on a pedestal for it.

I work for an organization whose motto is to “bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.” I have watched fragile, starving infants slowly become plump and healthy right before my eyes. I have seen deep despair in a patient’s eyes be replaced by joy in a matter of days. I am living in a place where the transformation is clearly visible.It is easy for me, and others, to see purpose and meaning in my work. It can be easy for my job to look more valuable or fulfilling than someone else’s. And yet, more and more, I am realizing these things can still be meaningless externals by their own merit. None of this, not one of our good things, brings purpose or fulfillment on its own.

I still believe obedience is key for living in intimacy with God, and for me that obedience meant walking into international ministry; so in a roundabout way living this life should be fulfilling. Yet I am finding that hope does not come from anything I can do or have done for God. Hope can only be found in God — in who He is, and what He has done. I can strive and work out of my own strength for God my entire life in stress, angst, and exhaustion. I can do great things that people may applaud me for, or I can seek to join God in what He is doing. Seeking to be close to His heart without my value or worth being dependent on my performance or the feedback of others. These two ways of living look similar on the outside, but in the heart they are worlds apart.

The plan for my life may be to dive into international ministry for the long haul, or it may turn out to stay there only for a season; but ultimately my purpose is to seek and know Jesus regardless of the country I am in or the level of economic standing I am surrounded by. My desire in living well is not to create my own hope, but to live out of the hope he gives.  I seek and pray that Jesus will help me to remember and walk in this truth.

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Readers, Have you been tempted to elevate good works over grace by faith, or to lift dreams above the God who saves? It is easy to do, but a right view of our lives, hopes, and God will bring more peace than any desire and lead us into the adventure of living for the glory of God. 

Interested in supporting Rachel? Check out the info in her bio.

Thanks for reading,
The Anchored Voices Team

Rachel Olson enjoys reading, making music and exploring new cultures. She especially loves seeing patients find healing, often after years of waiting with no chance of receiving surgical care. To hear more about her journey with Mercy Ships or how you can be a part of it, visit mundanesplendor.blogspot.com or facebook.com/rachelinafrica

Hope After the Psych Ward

Author: Sarah L. Sanderson

A few hours after my discharge from the psychiatric ward of our local hospital, I walked over to my daughter’s elementary school to pick her up from first grade. It was the end of October, and the trees bore fewer leaves than when I’d last seen them, four days before. As the leaves crunched under my feet, I anticipated my little girl’s excitement when she saw me, for she did not yet know I’d come home. But then I came around the corner onto the playground and remembered that my daughter would not be the first person I would encounter here.

The smiles of the two other mothers pulled me towards them before I thought better of it. “Sarah!” they exclaimed. “How are you?”

“I’m doing better now,” I replied thoughtlessly. “I was just let out of the psych ward this morning.”

I watched their faces contort with confusion and horror, and I realized too late the ridiculous awkwardness of what I’d just said.

“I… I mean… I was… diagnosed with postpartum depression,” I lied. Suddenly the truth seemed utterly unfit for public consumption. “But they gave me medication, so I’m doing better now,” I sputtered.

“How awful!” One friend finally found her words. “But… I thought antidepressants took a long time to take effect?”

Did they? I didn’t know that. I felt no choice but to edge back toward the truth. “Oh … well… I’m not actually on antidepressants. They gave me… anti-psychotics?”

The other woman erupted into nervous giggles. “Anti-psychotics! You don’t mean you were delusional?”

She stared at me with derision. I stared back, shocked into silence. How was I to explain what had just happened to me when I didn’t understand it myself?

I get her laughter, now. I know that mental illness is the accepted butt of many a cultural joke. We laugh at what we fear. But the sad truth is that I was silenced by that other mother’s laughter for a long time. It would be months, after that encounter, before I could speak my truth honestly to anyone outside my closest circle.

We do not all face mental illness, but we all know brokenness. Your brokenness may be chronic illness or addiction or marital difficulty or financial struggle or something else altogether, but I know it’s there.

Jesus knows something about brokenness, too. And He who was broken to the utmost for our sakes tells us that we too must “take up our cross.” Does He mean that we need to heap more suffering onto our already broken lives? I don’t think so. When Jesus tells us to take up our cross, I wonder if he’s really just telling us to own the brokenness that’s already present in our stories. Take it up. Own it. Be real.

The story of how I let go of my fear of sharing what really happened to me in October 2011 is bigger than this space will allow. In a nutshell, it boils down to this: Perfect Love casts out fear. The perfect love of Jesus allowed me to let go of my defenses and share my real story with the world.

After all, this is the particular brokenness God has seen fit to allow me to carry. I can’t hide it any longer, so I am speaking the truth: I was hospitalized for postpartum psychosis. Now I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. You don’t need to laugh. You don’t need to be afraid. Let’s just be real.

Will you join me in taking up your cross? Can we be honest together about our own private battles? Can we show our scars to the world? It is difficult, yes; but oh, so liberating. Only when we share our truth can we draw strength and courage from one another’s stories.

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Readers, What do you need to be real about today?

Sarah Sanderson is currently working on a memoir about God’s presence throughout her psychiatric hospitalization and subsequent healing journey. She is in the process of transitioning from a blog, confessionsofahumanmom.blogspot.com, to a personal website,www.sarahlsanderson.com. Sarah lives in the Portland, Oregon area with her husband and four children.