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.


Deep Renewal

I sat at work in the local homeless shelter, and heard a measure of disbelief present in the voices of two women recounting their experience as “new” members of a Sunday school class at a local church.

I was nervous, but felt so welcome. They bought us lunch. They all seem to have it together, yet they didn’t bat an eye when we told them we are in the recovery program and living in a homeless shelter. I feel out of place in a  group of people who obviously don’t struggle in the way I do, but I guess I can keep going.

Their relationships continued to deepen, and one of the women was astonished by what she soon discovered. One of the “perfect” church ladies had revealed that 30 years before, she was in a similar place. Addiction had run her life and threatened to ruin her hope for the future. But she was transformed as she followed Jesus. Once she sought His ways instead of her own, it had been so life-altering that over the course of 30 years, it was impossible to imagine that the life she described as her past had ever existed. Had she not chosen humility and vulnerability, my friends who were fighting the same battle would never have known they were not alone. They were encouraged, reminded that they had not strayed so far that they could not be renewed.

renewal-holly-grassThere is hope in seeing the transformation that God works out over a lifetime. That healing begins the moment we first place our trust in Jesus. That 2 Corinthians 5:17 is true not only for the women in the shelter but for the woman crying in the corner at the Ritz. It reminds us all that our old life, whatever it might be, can be swept away so that new hopes may spring.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The broken redeemed are living proof, because of Jesus everything, down to the deepest level, is different.

As for me, instead of the prodigal, who tried everything and ran as far as possible, I identify closely with the pharisee. I was one of those religious people who thought their actions and ability to do the right thing would make God happy.

Happy I was not, instead I was stressed out. I frantically went about trying to manage my personal growth. I grew up in church, and thought I trusted Jesus as my savior early in life, I somehow obtained an unspoken underlying idea that all those people in the Bible were REALLY good, and I should try to be like them.

I believed in God, and wanted to do things his way, but was confused about what that actually looked like. I approached  prayer and time reading the Bible in a results-driven manor. What had I learned? What did I need to apply to life right now? I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I unconsciously tried to be. The pressure was heavy.

At 13, I read the Bible on my own for the first time. Instead of perfect people, I encountered God-breathed accounts of real people with big issues. I didn’t know what to do. When I read more than the one verse attached to the teen devotional, I was confused. Where were all those great people?

Had I just never been taught the failings of Bible heroes like David and Abraham? How had I missed that they too were in need of grace? Most likely, because their failings weren’t exactly child-appropriate and more like something from an episode of Scandal. However, this didn’t put a stop to the part of me that thought I could muscle out goodness to please not only God but His people.

Rather than simply a huge outward shift, I too needed a renewed heart. I underlined verses that pointed out what truly saved, in bright green gel pen in my teen study Bible:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Slowly, I started to base my idea of whether or not God approved of me by who He said I was rather than my performance that day. I discovered that God is in it with us for the long game. As I read Romans chapter 12 one day more than ten years ago, I was struck by something new.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

renewal-hollyTransformation doesn’t happen overnight. Trying harder and checking boxes just doesn’t cut it. Renewing the mind isn’t linear, or easily measured. Just like watching grass grow or planting a tree, change sometimes happens gradually in the Christian life. It is more clearly seen in comparison to last month, last year, last decade. My decision making and sense of what God had called me to do couldn’t be based on sitting down one day with my Bible and a question I needed answered ASAP. Instead, over a long walk with God and consistently hearing from him through his word, it all would be sorted out. Revealed in due time as He renewed my mind, and I slowly became more like my savior. One day, I too, will look back at life and see motivations and desires steadily renewed and transformed.

I am living proof, because of Jesus everything, down to the deepest level, is different.
It’s a process. Be patient. Remember, God loved us before we wanted him, and he doesn’t leave us alone on this journey.

Readers, You cannot be good enough to reach the perfection being in the presence of a Holy God demands, nor can you be so far that His grace will not reach you if you call to Him. Let those truths offer freedom to your soul and peace to your busy mind. When you look back how do you see that God was working?

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Enough Renewal for Today

When I consider the word “renewal,” it suggests to me the freshness of each new day. I do love the promise hidden in the hope of a new year, but lately I find myself needing to take things one day at a time. One step, when finances are tight and I literally have no idea where we will find the money.  One moment, when life’s uncertainties crowd my mind and heart. One breath, when my body is weary and my spirit feels weak.

I am encouraged when I think about my strength for the day as the manna God sent the Israelites while they wandered in the desert. Manna, a special wafer that tasted of honey, would only last one day before it rotted and then God renewed the supply with fresh manna in the morning.renewal-for-today

If renewal can represent “freshness” then it’s antithesis would seem to be “stale.” Stalehow I feel when evening comes around. I’ve spent the day wiping snotty noses, convincing my children to eat their meals, on the phone with insurance sorting things out, scheduling bills online, looking at financial projects, and I feel stale. Tired. Sometimes I even feel a little hopeless. But God has given me enough grace for today, and just enough hope to make it into the tomorrow that awaits. Then in the morning there will be new manna, and  restored hope.

I find comfort in this verse:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ ” Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)

todays-renewalI’m not a morning person, but I do find problems are easier to face after a good night’s rest, in the daylight, and after a hearty breakfast. Last night’s problems often seem smaller in the light of the morning. If I stretch my mind too far into the future, I start trying to control my circumstances and forget to accept the daily manna God is giving me with thankfulness.

There’s a good reason God commanded us not to worry in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

As a pretty solid type A personality and a planner by nature, it’s hard for me to accept daily renewal. I want the renewal to last longer! I wish to make plans far into the future and have things fit into nice little boxes. However, it would be foolish to not listen to the wisdom God has been showing me. I’ve been learning that leaning on my own strength leads to bouts of severe anxiety, and then I fret about things I have no control over. So I lift my eyes from my own power and thankfully accept God’s daily renewal as I trust him for all the days of 2017.

Readers, Do you trust God for strength or are you striving to muscle it out on your own? What is one step you could make today that would help you trust in God’s provision for you?

sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.


In 2017…

Happy New Year Anchored Voices readers! We are hopeful this blog finds you well and rejuvenated as we march onward into 2017.

For me, a new year brings about anticipatory feelings of hope and elation. I reflect upon the works God completed in me throughout the past year, and I prepare my heart for what is to come in the next 365 days.

in-2017-i-will-wait-upon-the-lordFor many, a new year equates to a fresh start. Thankfully, as someone who loves Jesus, I am able to experience a clean slate every day, not just once a year. Psalm 51:10 says “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” I relish in the fact that I have complete freedom in Christ, and I am allowed error.  Perfection is too heavy a weight for my soul. In my erroneous moments I have rest for though God sees me for who I am, a sinner, He chooses me anyway. Romans 5:8 shares “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There is nothing that I can do that will separate me from God. How liberating!

2016 rocked a lot of people’s worlds. It possessed its blessings, but also brought forth many mixed emotions, including terror, despondence, and sorrow. As I am on the cusp of 2017, I have decided to forgo New Years resolutions; instead, I am resolved to focus on these mantras:

When chaos surrounds me, as it surely will in 2017, I can cling to the hope I have in Jesus. I can seek after Him. I will aim to put others above myself, and do so sacrificially with my time and money. I will hide God’s word in my heart, so that I will not sin against Him. When I need answers, I will look to Scripture and learn more about God’s character, because He never changes. I will be rooted and established in love, and show more kindness and forgiveness to those who need it most. I want to be a peacemaker and reconcile adversaries. I want to point those to Jesus, and embolden them to cling to Him. Lastly, in 2017, I will wait upon the Lord, renewing my strength in Him, and continue to run the race set before me with endurance. By focusing upon these deep and holy truths, I remove the pressure to perform my resolutions, and instead look to God and His glorious grace and

Readers, What truths are you holding to as we enter 2017? We pray you will learn, grow, and be blessed by our Savior.

sarah-dohman-square Sarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Twitter.