Posts Tagged ‘Facing Challenges’


Challenges come that pierce the marrow of the bones of me. The vitality, the strength of myself seeps out. Like one losing too much blood, I find myself dazed, confused, wounded. For a moment, or is it  hours, I turn in circles, spending myself – until I call His name and He is there, Jehovah Shammah:

But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out”

Like the shells broken in the surf, He knows all the pieces of me to put me back together. I am awed that He reaches from the sky to the sea to pull me out. Out of all those shell pieces – only He knows the pattern of who I am, how I am designed to be. There are no missing pieces of me that He cannot find. Yes – He pulls me out

“Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,”

On our recent trip to the beach, my husband and I enjoyed a few hours each day bobbing around in the ocean, each with our own inner tubes. It all seemed so delightful until a wave crashed me and my nose into tubes_edited-3my husband’s brawny arm, resulting in a nose bleed, sore nose, lost glasses – and a lot of wobbly. My foot landed on my glasses only for the next wave to haul me up and forward – and pull the shades out right from under me.  It took me about 30 minutes to rally back – and tease my husband about popping me in the nose.

There are days that feel just like that – beat up and missing something- but instead of ocean waves and my husband’s brawny arm, it’s when nobody seems to like you. Those days when my boys don’t like me, when the driver behind me is impatient, when hospitality isn’t extended but hurt is, when everything just seems to go wrong. It’s like Chaos showed up on my day-step, like unplanned waves, show up, , shoving, crashing, stirring the pot. Chaos is like an uninvited guest who turns everything upside down,  instigating shenanigans designed to beat-up your heart.

God reaches down into the ocean of all that, tosses chaos out – and in the midst of the broken shell I am, He is right there, helping me find all the pieces of myself

“but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!”
(2 Samuel 22: 17-20)

He sticks by me, stands me up, dusts me off, on a wide-open field. A wide open field – a place of nurturing goodness given. Yes – I am still surprised to be loved like that! It’s in those drowning moments where the evidence of His love never fails to surprise me – not in a faithless way but in a whispered wow kind-of-way.

I don’t know about you, but I want to walk each day this week, wowed to my soul toes as I face these challenges, my heart wide-open to His possibilities.


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In February of 2011, Lydia at Crown of Beauty is a stone collector. Not like the stone collectors in the university geology department – but a Joshua-like stone collector.

“My stones are personal ones, reminders of certain special events in my life of faith. Somehow these stones remind me of important stages in my journey… times when the Lord broke through for me” (Crown of Beauty, Lydia)

In early 2011, as I read Lydia’s post, I visualized a rock collection – choosing each kind of rock to put in my garden, each rock telling a story.

A rock for the husband He had sent me – that is a kind of coming through. Another stone reminding of how he’d saved our 4th son on the day he was born. Other stones, too – but those stones were of challenges already overcome.

I wanted to gather stones – but I was in the midst of challenges, in the midst of prayers, in the midst of lots of standing – a lot of not quite knowing where the path was leading, a lot of “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” day-to-day, minute-to-minute living. These were challenges that started in 2009. Challenges are sometimes a journey, not over in a day’s time.

The living along the journey path didn’t leave hints about answered prayers. Maybe they were there. I didn’t know how to vintage the blessings and the love letters the Father sent me then.

The one thing I did know is that He is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, though – and I held on to Him, to His promises.

“The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strong rock, in him will I trust; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower”(Psalm 18:2)

I am seeing the end to those journey challenges that started in 2009. He has brought not just me but my family through – and in the wrapping up of those challenges, I thought about gathering stones to testify to His faithfulness.

I have a garden filled with starts from my aunt, my grandmother, friends – and their beauty reminds me of their stories.

A garden filled with stones, each one telling a story about the miracles of what God has done for my family – that is a powerful garden. Would that rock garden really be a praise garden? Could I call it that?

I would walk there with my husband and sons, pointing to a rock, telling them a story of faith. I would walk there with my granddaughter and read the story of those rocks to her like a book of wonderful stories. Maybe one day, when they needed encouragement, they would walk in that garden, remembering those stories at a time when they need remembering.

“As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’(Luke 19:37-40)

I had a birthday – the big birthday – 5 0 – 50 started so much better than 49.

My rock, my fortress, my deliver is making 50 feel like a jubilee kind of year.

He sent me into 50 with a healthy, whole body, with more energy than I’d had in decades. Healthy means more ability to cope, to multi-task, to have the desire to fulfill my mission statement of teaching my sons how to grow old loving the Lord. That would be a stone for my garden.

A few days before my birthday, our church hosted a wedding vow renewal ceremony. My best friend of 29 years (today!), we renewed our vows – and it seemed the perfect time – a new beginning time, having come through mighty challenges to where we are now. It was a celebration of overcoming, of enduring and faithful love. That would be another stone for my garden.

Answered prayers for provision in surprising and unexpected way at just the right time – another stone reminding us of God’s great mercy.

It was a birthday of designed for praising God’s faithfulness to His promises. My birthday started out getting the boys ready for school, dropping them off and heading to work. At work, my sweet office-mates had rolled my desk, white toilet paper drapped artistically  from my computer to my window to my file drawers – and chair. “The witch is in” hung from the back of my chair – and, compliments of this playful crew, was a broom stick. Since I joke about flying around on my broomstick at home, they thought I’d need one for the office.

These ladies cooked up breakfast – sausage and egg casserole, hash browns, biscuits and chocolate gravy. They let me bring cupcakes because I just love cooking for friends. An awesome surprise beginning to my day!

Around 10, someone said, “Turn around” and their was my soul sister from another mother, pink roses, balloons that advertised my 50-ness – and a gift with ribbons – a prayer-book of scripture for my children she’d made. Another un-looked for surprise!

I meet another friend for lunch – she surprised me with yellow daisies and a funny card. Birthdays are made for friendship, I think. It poured buckets of rain then, at the end of lunch – and poured all afternoon – I love rain. I love that it rained on my birthday – the Father knew just what to give me!

I didn’t think the day would get any better. Surely, all the surprises were exhausted. After all, how blessed can one girl be in one day.

The last surprise overshadowed all the others:

Around 2 I got a phone call from my soldier-son. “Garble Garble Garble hallway,” he said.

“My phone gets bad reception in the hallway, too. You might want to go to the kitchen, “I said.

He called back. “Step out into the hallway,” he said.

Surprise, then understanding dawning – I walked out of my office. I’d never asked my sons to stop by or come in because I never wanted them to feel like they were puppets to show off. This particular son used to be even more uncomfortable going out of his comfort zone. The military has grown him in amazing and beautiful ways – can I say that about a soldier?

I worked my way to the main hallway to see him leaning against a doorpost, holding a bucket of jolly ranchers with a balloon – his bashful, handsome smile all across his face – this from the son who had told me often he never wanted to see me again, that he couldn’t wait to get out, and, then one day that he wanted to come home and find God.

Inside, I was bursting into joy tears. Inside, I was dancing joy. Walking toward me was the evidence of an answered prayer – one prayer answered on the day he was born – and another the day he became the man I knew he could be – the result of believing God-things I couldn’t see when the path of the journey showed no evidence of that hope.

There he was, holding a bucket of jolly ranchers with a birthday balloon for me, his mom – on my birthday – that he went out of his comfort zone said so much more than “I love you, Mom.”

It made me wish I had a set of stones to place to commemorate what God has done for me, for my family – to remind each of us of the real life story where God is always the hero who saves.

There is a stone shopping spree on my to-do list, with my husband, to remind us of the not only what He has brought us through but how He has brought us through.

“When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever” (Joshua 4:6-7)

611-619  gifts listed above

620) Friends like Lidj who have encouraged me through this challenge journey He has brought us through.
621) Dinner with the family at my favorite restaurant.
622) A surprise luncheon with friends, planned by my husband – something not in his comfort zone but he did because he loves me.
623) 16 quarts of canned tomatoes
624) 16 pints of my grandmother’s chili sauce
625) going with a friend to the blueberry patch, only to discover it close – but what a blessing to spend time with her!
626) Having the energy to knit again – and not have it be such a struggle
627) A love gift from my husband – a diet Dr Pepper
628) my 4th son coming up to hug me just because
629) Saturday Morning at the Farmer’s Market with my husband
630) Peace in the house
631) Morning prayer: one son leading the 23rd psalm, another leading the Lord’s Prayer, the 3rd choosing a Proverb, me praying for their day.
632) An e-mail and phone call confirming direction for action that I’ve been praying about. I needed that encouragement.
633) Seeds I planted, zinnia seeds, blooming and re-blooming.

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