Renewed Strength

I have been in a season of constant minor sickness amongst my family. Be it a common virus or my children having a bout of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, it never seems to stop. It is one thing after another during these winter months, and honestly I feel isolated which gets depressing at times. I have needed to skip out on events that I would have loved to be at, not been able to see the faces of friends I love dearly, and let my husband go to things I no longer can, so that my children and I can rest. I know I chose rightly, but alas, often find myself feeling lonely.

Losing physical strength from being sick, even with a common cold, can cause me to reflect on life in an interesting way. I want to feel better, now. I want my kids to be better, now. I refute the persistence of the waiting process, because I feel like I miss out on life. In fact, I even sometimes succumb to despair and wonder if we will always be weak and never get better. Full health and capacity never to be seen again.

Then I reflect on this amazing passage from Isaiah:

renewed-strength“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31

I am reminded of where the renewal of strength truly comes from. It is not just from being at peak physical health, because that can quickly fail me. It does not come from a fun night out with my friends or husband, because the next day quickly approaches. It does not even come from a week long vacation in Hawaii even that can be totally exhausting.

True renewing strength, the kind that lasts and upholds us through to the end, can only come from God. Nothing that the world has tried to offer me as the cure to my weariness reaches beyond the moment and into the eternal places. Time with my Lord, and true devotion to Him, is what gives my soul strength to press on and take heart.

strength-renewedI run to my savior in prayer, telling Him every worry and desire that is in my heart. I long to hear from Him in those desperate moments; I long for Him at every moment. So I spend time reading His word and drawing on the timeless truths that He generously gives through the Bible. I look for Him through the colds and chaos and find He is bigger than it all.

Receiving strength from the One who knows the depth of my weakness, He who created the whole world, the Savior who cleanses my heart, only here do I find the renewal that will last. As this passage in Isaiah says, He gives power to the faint, and He increases our strength. Our bodies will grow weary, yet He can make us soar. Truths like the one found in Isaiah encourage me when I feel like giving up and  awaken my desire to turn to the God who sustains us for all of our days.


britney-squareBritney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is mother to 3 girls (so far) Ruby, Cora, and Lily, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.

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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas (My Single Mother Gave to Me)

When pine trees and baking supplies started making their way into my home as a young child, I, accompanied by my stealth-like snooping skills, made my way to my mother’s best kept hiding places. I was a peeker. A present-peeker to be precise, and Christmas mornings were filled with anticipation not because of the surprise that awaited, but because I already knew what the wrapping cloaked. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the toys I had already previewed.

As a wise single mom, my mother would intentionally start purchasing gifts months ahead of time, so her budget could handle blessing her three children. This gave me plenty of time to seek and find. I would climb over dressers and toss sleeping bags that shouldn’t have been touched till summer all in an effort to spoil her surprise. I never once wondered “Will we get anything?” What I didn’t understand was the amount of sacrifice my mother made to ensure that we never considered questions like that.

Now as a mother of four, I marvel at all she did. Breaking up my children’s tiny-bodied, big-voiced arguments, instructing them in life skills like using a toilet, and trying to teach young hearts about maturing faith can leave me feeling exhausted, but my husband is in the thick of it with me, tagging in when I tap out. My mother held to Jesus and persevered. As her children slept, she pushed through exhaustion to correct the homework I finally did, sew the flags my sister spun, and figure out how she could afford to buy her son’s first instrument, who (unbeknownst to her) would one day play at Carnegie Hall.

She may have been a single mother, but she offered us a home that felt complete, whole. She changed my sister’s diapers and attended my brother’s games. She pulled me away from parties and lifted us up with prayers. She showed us all what it was to be at rest when the world demanded we strive, and nurtured an imperfect situation into a life that did not lack.

Sneaking through my house as a child, I wasn’t aware that our most precious things were not things at all, but memories, people, and faith. I was too distracted by the deluge of bows, desserts, and carols to see my mother draw strength from the baby depicted in the old wooden manger she put on display through out the holidays. She offered me the luxury of being so busy with childish things that I forgot to be thankful for her unwavering determination to create a home that offered sanctuary from the harshness of the world.

The memories she has given me offer riches greater than any reindeer-papered gift could ever give. I have them tucked away into the treasuries of my heart for the days when I need hope. I will always be grateful for the worn Bible that often laid open upon her bed, her constant presence, and the way she offered children who had experienced deep sorrow a place of peace.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed…” Proverbs 31:28

Readers, Are you a single mom? Thank you for all you do. I know it’s not easy, but those kids will someday be grateful. They just got to grow up a little ;).

Do you know a single mom who could use some encouragement today? How could you be the one to offer it?

Chara is a freelance writer, certified biblical counselor, and speaker. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She loves to write about faith, culture,  and the deep truths that drive our fascinations with it. Chara is the founder and editor of  Anchored Voices and can be found on multiple social media platforms @CharaDonahue.

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.

When the Adoption Fell Through

The night before it all fell through my husband had a dream that skated on the edge between sleep and wakefulness. The kind where you think your dream-life actually happened, only to wake and find it never existed at all. He was holding her, a girl we planned to name Harper, sleeping on his chest. It felt so real; the warmth and weight of a tiny body snuggled up, safe, and peaceful in daddy’s arms.
Then the phone rang like a chill shivering up the spine of a silent September morning. It was over.
We’d raised money, poured over her pictures, completed an expedited home study, and talked to a myriad of lawyers. We had done anything we could to make the dream a reality. The flight was practically booked to bring our little girl home when we were told it wouldn’t be needed.
Something I was sure was ours turned out to only be vapor. Worse, a dream I was sure had been planted in my heart by God suddenly withered for reasons I could not fathom. Why this cruel, quiet reality? Why not this child? Would we ever become parents?
The following weeks were a rollercoaster. I was sad. I was angry. I was embarrassed. I thought I looked like a fool for hoping this adoption process would actually come through. I’d been so vocal about the path I thought God had placed us on. Had He failed? Or had I failed to hear?
Before we lost her officially, I had begun to lose hope. One day I opened the Bible to a random page, desperate to be reassured that all would be okay.
Romans 8:31 jumped off the page. “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
That was it. I posted on my personal blog and Facebook about the latest adoption challenge with the hashtags #ifgodisforuswhocanbeagainstus & #adoptionrocks.
The truth? I had equated God’s goodness with Him giving me what I want. In my eyes His faithfulness would ensure that the road would be smooth, and this circumstance would turn out in our favor. In reality, the theme of that chunk of scripture assures me that no trial or suffering could separate me from the love of Christ.
I had been reading the Bible like it was a crystal ball—all about me and my circumstances and the next step to take.  Not as it truly is, a story of God and what he’s done to rescue his people. My quick interpretation of one verse was entirely backwards.
But the truth gave so much freedom:
  • I could be weak, because the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. Romans 8:26
  • God is working for the good of those who love him, according to his own purpose. Which means He would lead us to His purpose and somehow it would be good (8:28). Even when, even though, we weren’t taking home this child.
  • God gave his only son on my behalf (8:32). He is not holding out on me. Nothing can separate me from His love.(8:35)
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult. I knew He had been leading us to adoption, and when it fell apart I couldn’t see why the path suddenly became a dead end.
***
A week later, we were told a heart-wrenching story of an older teen girl who desperately needed a place to stay.  She had been trafficked and needed to not go back to the area she was from.  I casually asked what it would take to become foster parents, since we already had a home study completed. I figured that since we had no other children, and we had been told, because of our young age, that we’d wait for up to three years for one we might be able to help. That situation ended up not being a good fit. We didn’t live in the right place.
A week later we received a life changing phone call. Could we be just foster parents? For up to a year? A 12 year old girl, who had been in an adoptive placement needed to move. Today. Everything in her life was falling apart, and we lived in the right town.
Three years later, she is our daughter. Rather than being in the potty training stage we are about to start driving lessons. I didn’t see that coming, but I’m so glad it did.
We’ve marveled over and over how God put us together. I can see the way He weaved our stories into one. How for her 5 years in foster care God’s people loved her, held her hand, and walked her right to our unlikely doorstep two weeks after we thought our adoption dreams had been decimated.
The dreams we held onto were far too small—we had no idea.  The destruction of one hope led to another being fulfilled. Our daughter was in need of us on the other side of that suffering and pain. God hadn’t failed; His promise stood true. He hadn’t told me that we wouldn’t suffer pain and loss, but reminded me that nothing could separate us from his love because He knew I would need the reminder.

 
Readers, What hope helps you to trust God with your deepest desires?
Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.