Rachael has been waiting for over two weeks for this up-coming Friday. She was invited, with a few other girls, to a friend’s house for a sleep-over, to celebrate the beginning of Christmas break. They each drew Secret Santa names and Rachael immediately wanted to go to the store to pick out the perfect present. It’s been hard for her to keep it a secret. In fact, yesterday she had a friend over, and I heard them whispering about Secret Santas. I have a feeling it might not be so secret anymore. Rachael is more than thrilled about this! She thinks this will be the best way to spend the first day of Christmas Vacation!
Until…I deflated her excitement by telling her she couldn’t sleep-over, nor stay at the party the entire time. For Rachael, this was the worst news ever. Why, wouldn’t I let her stay!!?? It wasn’t fair! I was mean! I ruined everything!
The reason she can’t stay is that we have a family trip planned. She doesn’t know this. She thinks we are simply going to Indiana to visit her grandma and grandpa. So, Rachael, is upset. She told me she could, “care-less about going to Indiana, we were just there!” “All I want to do is go to the Christmas party!!” “IT’S NOT FAIR!!”
What Rachael doesn’t know, is that we are by-passing Indiana and going to Florida and not only Florida, but to Disney World. The Magic Kingdom. A place were she has begged and begged to visit. A Christmas wish put on her gift list year after year. And this year, it will not only be a wish but a reality. Something far better than a one-night, Christmas party, sleep-over, is waiting in her future. But, she has no idea, so she would rather, without knowing, settle, for the sleepover.
This made me think, how many times have I had my heart set on something, an athletic dream, the perfect job, a relationship, a new house; there are so many things that can fill-in that blank. I’ve desired them with all my might only to have God close the door on what seemed to be the perfect opportunity. I hear God say, “No, not that!” “Not this time.” And, I’ve reacted with anger, hurt, sadness, disappointment. I thought that, my plan was the best and that it wasn’t fair that God wasn’t allowing me to take hold of it! I wonder how many times He has had to pry my hands open to get me to let go of a “dream,” because I’m too stubborn to give it up.
Isn’t this what Rachael is doing with the sleep-over. She can only see so much, she only knows so much. She has no idea what’s ahead. If she knew we were going to Disney World, she would easily let-go of the sleepover to grab hold of the “grand-prize.” But, she doesn’t know what’s down the road. So, there’s a battle, a fight, she doesn’t want to give up the party, she wants to win.
How many times do I do this with God? I don’t know why He closes doors that look like excellent opportunities. I don’t know why He says, “No,” when the situation looks perfect. But, I have to trust Him, because He sees the path ahead. When I let go of what looks like the excellent opportunity, it is only then when He can show me what really is the ULTIMATE opportunity. And it is then, when I realize what I was so stubbornly holding on to, pales in comparison to what He desires to give me.
I know that Rachael wants to celebrate the start of Christmas vacation with a Christmas party, Secret-Santa sleep-over, but if she lets it go, she will find that there is so much more joy and surprise waiting for her down the road. She will be so thankful that she gave up the party to receive something so much better. I hope that I can learn this lesson in life. I want to be willing to let go of what I want and allow God to lead me on His perfect path!
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Why my kids don’t believe in Santa…
Because one quiet Christmas morning when my sweet and innocent children woke up to open their gifts they realized that Santa had not visited our house on Christmas Eve.
It was not Santa who stuffed his big belly down our chimney and indulged himself with the Christmas cookies and milk that my children had left out for him. It was not Santa that left presents under our tree. No, the gifts my children were tearing into were NOT from Santa at all!!
However, they were from a man who also wears a red-suit, but this man does not have a big round belly, nor does he have a soft white beard, or a deep joyful laugh of “Ho-Ho-Ho.”
Instead, this man, carries a pitch-fork and adornes his head with horns. It was not SANTA who left presents under our tree that year, but it was SATAN, himself!!
You see, I had been up late on Christmas Eve and having three young children at the time, my eyes were heavy with a tiredness only a mother can know. I was quickly addressing my children’s gift tags, one after another, and in my hurry I signed each one,
MERRY CHRISTMAS, LOVE, SATAN!!
I did not realize my mistake until half-way through the presents when my husband said, “Suzanne, stop for a second, and SLOWLY read the gift tags, are you dyslexic!? Are they all suppose to say Satan or did you mean to write Santa?” My poor children were opening gifts delivered from Satan!? What kind of mother secretly puts presents under the tree and pretends that Satan was the generous gift giver!?
It’s amazing how one can mix up a couple of letters and change the entire mystery of the Christmas experience.
However, like a good parent, I have worked this mistake into my favor! For now, when the Holiday season rolls around I can tell my children that, “they better not shout, they better not pout, they better watch out, I’m telling you why, Satan…will surely come back to town!
Disclaimer – Satan did not really visit our house and no children were hurt or have experienced emotional long term effects by this mistake.
Crimson shades of tattered white,
a moonless night yet all is bright.
An ordinary man who had a dream,
of impossible things, or so it seemed.
A child bride, a mere servant girl,
carrying a baby that would change the world.
Two relatives startling an unborn Son,
only to prove what had actually begun.
A cousin set apart to lead the King’s way,
to turn back hearts that have gone astray.
An order to travel to one’s own town,
a difficult journey with a belly so round.
They could stay in the stable or so they were told,
each innkeeper said all the rooms had been sold.
Shepherds and wise man each brought a gift,
to lay at His feet our sins He would lift.
The King of all kings was born in a manger,
humbled and quiet did his parents realize the danger?
A king afraid of losing reign,
a baby born to carry the pain.
A spirit of death upon the earth,
what Man has come with second birth?
A Godly man holds The Christ,
warning Mary that there will be a price.
A prophetess sees God’s Salvation,
and spreads the hope to a desperate nation.
A mother pondering all things in her heart,
God’s Son would bring joy, but first torn apart.
His life lived for only one reason,
He’s why we celebrate this Christmas season.
A baby born, to live to die,
it’s tempting to ask the question why?
His story doesn’t stop at His birth,
He died on the cross to give our lives worth.
But our story doesn’t end at His grave,
He’s risen again our souls He can save.
So let us bow down our lives to give,
we need to die to fully live.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
There are still storms raging in my life. Storms where dark clouds linger and no matter how hard I try to find blue sky it’s just not there. There are other storms that seem to have blown past, and the warmth of the sun appears, but then the thunder rolls in again, and I brace myself for the strong winds and, “cast my cares on the Lord, who will sustain me.” (Psalm 55:22)
Then there’s the storm that has settled, the one that came out of the blue, out of the stillness of the day, and threatened to take away the calm. Although, it sent a strong and scary downpour, the skies are clear, and I’m in the aftermath of this storm.
It was that one phone call, the call no one ever wants to get from the Doctor. That call when you’re told, “we’ve found some abnormalities on your test and you need to come back for more testing.” Although, my first response to this news was a heart racing, mind running, and stomach tied up in knots, feeling, I knew God was there. I knew I didn’t have to worry. Christ already knew the outcome of the test and I could trust Him with my life.
I hung up the phone, put on my headphones and started to listen to praise music, hopped on my bike, and just pedaled. Hard. And as I listened to song after song my heart and mind were at peace. With each song came God’s promises. I will, “walk upon the waters and keep my eyes above the storm.” “I can face the fear of the unknown,” because, “whisper it now, or shout it out,” “there is power in the name of Jesus.” He is “my hope, my strong deliverer.” He is, “Strength in my weakness, the refuge I seek.” “I know the one who goes before me, He is a friend of mine, the Lord of angel armies, is always by my side, whom shall I fear!?” This was seeking God’s presence in the middle of a raging storm and finding the calm.
But then, a second phone call came. A second test result with abnormal findings. I wanted to give into my fear and let my mind wander, but again I sought Christ. However, when the third phone call came and there was yet another abnormal finding, I began to feel the rain. I started to listen to the thunder. The lightening seemed so close, too close. I was afraid. This was a strong storm and I was beginning to feel like I was being swallowed up into the waves, out of control, crashing into the rocks. I started to think about the destruction this storm could bring. One thought turned into another and each thought seemed more devastating than the last. I found myself paralyzed with fear and the “what-if’s?” What if it is cancer? What if God was going to take me from my kids? What if I was going to die? Where was my Strength? My Hope? My ever present Help in danger? Where was He?
He was still there. He is always there. But because, I had removed my focus from Him and allowed myself to look into the eye of the storm, I became afraid. On my own, I can’t make it through the storm. I might be able to stand my ground for a while, but soon I will find myself drowning in the waters.
If I allow myself to focus on that first thought, that first doubt of God’s promises I will be swept away by the storm. That’s why it’s so important to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) As soon as the thought, “What if it is cancer,” entered my mind I should have given it to God. I should have “sought Him because He would have answered Me and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4) This could have stopped the whirlwind of thoughts from piling up.
After what seemed liked an eternity of waiting, I was told by the doctor that all additional tests came back normal. There was no cancer found in my body. I was beyond thankful and relieved. I know that this isn’t always the case. Sometimes we get answers we don’t want to hear. But, we have to trust that when things turn out good, God is good, and when things turn out differently than we hoped, God is still good. (Psalm 136:1) He does not change. (Hebrews 13:8) If my test results had returned positive I would have held onto my belief that God remains the same, and everything brought into my life, good or bad, can always be used for His Glory, if I surrender to His will. (Romans 8:28)
Storms come and go. Some storms linger and some storms pass. Sometimes through the storm we find it easy to cling to Christ and trust Him. Sometimes through the storm our thoughts wander, and we doubt that God is going to keep His promises. Every storm is difficult to endure, but when we surrender our fears to Jesus and He becomes our refuge in the storm, we can “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that they can produce endurance, character, and hope” (Romans 5:3-5) and we can come out of the storm stronger. I pray that every storm I weather will be used to draw me to a stronger faith in Christ. He is my strong and firm foundation and He can not be shaken through any storm.
“There was a little girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead,
And when she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.”
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
This is Rachael, my ten year old, blond-haired, blue-eyed little girl. She has one of the biggest smiles and personalities I know. She wears her heart on her sleeve and it’s never hard to figure out what she’s thinking or feeling. And if you can’t figure it out, she’s sure to tell you in her sweet and kind ten year old voice, or her madder than mad, you better get out of my way or you’ll end up hurt, voice. (We are working on the latter aspect of her personality) There’s never a dull moment with this child and she’s never afraid to speak exactly what’s on her mind. In fact, just the other day, after making her lunch she told me, “Mom, you should try out for that show, “Worst cooks in America, you’d have a good chance of winning $25,000 and a new kitchen set from Kohls!” I couldn’t help but laugh because she was one-hundred percent, sweetly serious.
A few years ago, in the morning, while I was blow-drying her hair to get her ready for pre-school, she stood in front of the mirror, studying herself, and said to me, “Mom, who do you think I look like?” Instead of responding I decided to ask her the rhetorical question, “Rachael, who do you think you look like?” Without a moment of hesitation, she simply stated, “Well, mom, I think I look exactly like George Washington!”
Ok, I’m going to admit that kind of took me by surprise!? I knew for certain she wasn’t going to say she looked like me. But George Washington was the last person I would have considered. I thought she would state the obvious, that with her blue-eyes and blond-hair she looked just like her dad. Or maybe even her older brother, Steven, who has the same color hair and eyes, but I definitely wasn’t expecting George!!?
This conversation still makes me laugh today and I like to tease Rachael and ask her if she still thinks she looks like the Father of her country. But this conversation also makes me think, who do I want Rachael to look like? Who do I want people to see when they look at Rachael, and not only Rachael, but my other kids, and myself included. Wouldn’t it be great if they could look at us and say, they look like their Father, they have His eyes…
“Eyes that find the good in things
When good is not around
Eyes that find the source of help
When help just can’t be found
Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain
Knowin’ what you’re going through,
and feeling it the same…”
(Amy Grant – “Father’s Eyes”)
Rachael, I think it’s great that at one point in your life you thought you resembled George Washington. I don’t think there are too many little girls who have stood in front of the mirror and announced, “I look just like George!” It made me laugh. You make me laugh. And I pray that as you grow in your relationship with the Lord that you will desire to strive to look just like your Father in heaven.
When I was a freshmen in college I had the opportunity to meet Neil Anderson. He is the author of many books, some of which include, “The Bondage Breaker,” and “Victory Over The Darkness.” During one of his seminars at Wheaton College, Neil, picked me out of the audience and asked me to come up on the stage and share part of my testimony. You see, God had used Neil and his books to save my life from an eating disorder that almost killed me. One of the most important questions Neil asks those who believe in Jesus, goes something like this…“Who are You?”
In the past I would have simply said, “I’m Suzanne Ryan.” And Neil would have replied, but that’s not who you are, that’s just your name. I could say, “I’m a mom.” But, that’s not really who I am either, that’s what I do. I could say, “I am a runner.” But again, that’s not who I am, it’s something I enjoy. So who am I?
I have learned to know and believe that I am God’s child. Although, there are many aspects of my character, the core of who I really am, comes from my relationship with Christ. And if I believe that, I also believe that I have a responsibility to live like His child.
God’s Word is filled with verses who remind me of who I am as His child. If I want to live a life worthy of this calling, I have to constantly remind myself that because of Christ’s sacrificial love on the cross and my belief in Him He now sees me as…
Chosen By God
Bought with a great sacrificial price
Accepted through Grace
A recipient of Mercy
Holy and dearly loved
His very own workmanship and handiwork
Created wonderfully and perfectly
I belong to God
Alive in Christ
A new creation
Free forever from condemnation
Free from guilt and shame
Victorious over sin
Set-Apart and reconciled to God
A member of His Royal Priesthood
His Chosen Race and Holy Nation
A foreigner in this world and a citizen of heaven
A dwelling place of God
United to the Lord
A joint heir of Christ
Enslaved to God
To live as the salt of the earth
And the light of the World
Part of the True Vine
Made to bear His fruit
A friend of God’s
A sister of Christ
A daughter of the King
Able to approach His throne with confidence and boldness
He is my Father.
He is mine…
And I know it will take all of my life to renew my mind and conform to God’s image, but it is my deepest desire to live “as an expression of the life of Christ because He is my life.”
“What you do does NOT determine who you are; who you are determines what you do. The most important belief we possess is a true knowledge of who God is. The second most important belief is who we are as children of God, because we cannot consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with how we perceive ourselves.” (Neil Anderson)
(Inspired by Neil Anderson and Who I am in Christ. All of the words concerning “Who I am in Christ” can be found in the Scriptures as God’s true promises about His children)
Far from the top of the mountain and in the midst of yet another storm. Why is it that when one storm passes and blue skies are on the horizon, often another storm starts to billow. Some storms are so powerful and strong that they leave behind a path of destruction and loss. Other storms come out of the blue, out of the stillness of the day, and we find ourselves in a downpour that leaves us stunned. There are storms out in the distance, building up, carrying lots of damage, and getting closer and closer with every passing moment.
The storms of life that hold unemployment, broken promises, broken relationships, a prodigal child, a cancer diagnosis, addiction, pain, fear, guilt, shame, and so much more. Unfortunately, these storms don’t always pass us over but, “Christ can be our refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.” (Isaiah 4:6). In these turbulent times we need to believe God and all of His promises. He is our shelter from the storm. (Isaiah 25:4)
It’s during these times that God can reveal to us “how wide, how long, how high, how deep, His love is for us.” (Ephesians 3:18). Eternal love. God’s love. And in His love we find hope. Though the storms may cause damage we know He goes before us, and “we can face the loss of things we enjoy and grieve when those we love are taken away, yet not lose hope or feel life isn’t worth living. The person who believes God can face anything, (any storm) and say I still have God’s promises and that is enough.” (Tim Keller)
Don’t we want to go through the storms of life with this expectant hope and trust in God? Believing that “the world can take nothing from us, and the world has nothing we need, because we have Christ! (Tim Keller) He, and He alone, is sufficient to see us through. Too often, when a storm hits, we know we have Christ but we don’t feel He is enough. We think; we have Christ, but we still need to hold on to our fears and anxiety. We have Christ, but we still need to think about the “what ifs.” We have Christ, but we still need to have a couple drinks to take the edge off or pop a couple pills to calm down. We have Christ, but we still need to control the situation and seek to calm the storm on our own.
This is not what Christ wants. He wants us to find that He IS really ALL we need. Christ plus nothing else equals peace, strength, hope, perseverance and so much more through life’s storms. Let us “fix our eyes on Jesus,” on His goodness and His sovereignty, and rise above the furious storm. He takes pleasure in quieting our hearts and calming the storm. We need to choose to stand in Christ alone, believing He is the “Blessed Controller of all things.” (1 Timothy 6:15) If we allow Him, He will bring us through the eye of the storm and lead us up onto the mountain. How I long to be standing tall, on the mountain with my precious Savior, at a place where He has safely brought me, and I can truly say, He is ALL I need.
“So take me up to where I was, when I never wanted more than You…up on the mountain where You took me by the hand, taught me to dance again…where You took this heart of stone and put life back in these bones…Up on the mountain.” (David Crowder)
I find it fascinating that often times when I write about a specific topic, I will soon discover that I am thrown into the midst of a situation where I am personally tested on that particular belief. About a month ago I wrote a blog on waiting, not just waiting, but “waiting patiently on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) I was thinking this blog would be “part one” of a series of blogs on waiting. Little did I know, that while I was writing part one, God already held, in His hands, part two.
It took one phone call for God to lead me into the waiting. One call that has left me not knowing what’s around the next corner. The unknown. The waiting. One call that started a host of worry and a collage of imagery containing many “what ifs…” One call that stirred up fear and anxiety and other emotions and questions I wasn’t expecting. One call which led to the creation of all the worst-case scenarios the future might hold.
And then, one hushed whisper from God that said, STOP! Let it go. Do not speculate into the future. Stay in the present and come to Me. Seek Me. You will find me in the waiting. I am here. You can trust Me. And when you fully trust me, you can give Me your worry, your anxious thoughts, your fear, your future. I will fill you with “strength as you wait with a divine quietness and trust.” (Isaiah 30:15) This surpasses all understanding. This is patiently waiting for Me. And as you patiently wait upon Me, you will find a renewed strength, a strong strength. You are not strong enough to face the trials of life that are coming your way, but I am. Put your confidence in Me. Hope in Me. Look to Me for help and expect that I will come to your aid and deliver you. If you let me, I will exchange your weak strength and dress you, with my divine hands, in strong garments of My strength. Trust in anticipation and watch and see that “your strength will rise as you wait upon Me. (Isaiah 40:31)
“And I anxiously wait as I hold onto love that will never let go…won’t you remind me, that I’m not alone. Here in the waiting. All of the questions, secret confessions, Lord, you’ll make sense of it all. And I know you’ll show up, so I’m letting go of these thoughts that are taking control. This is the waiting.” (Jamie Grace)
When I first started running competitively, I realized that running could never consume me. It could never become my identity. Who I am in Christ is where I find my identity. Who I am rests in the fact that I am His child, holy and dearly loved. And though He has brought many passions into my life, including running, not one of them is essential. “I can receive His blessings with open hands. Enjoy His good gifts, but I do not cling to them. I must turn my attention to the Giver of all good things, and rest in the knowledge that I am complete in Him. The one thing I absolutely need is the One thing that I can never lose: God’s presence with me.” (Jesus Calling) Over the last three years, and more specifically the last seven months, my Sweet Lord has put me to the test in regards to who I am and finding peace in His presence alone.
On December 1st, 2012th, I was at the Memphis Marathon as an invited athlete. It wasn’t a deep field and I was seeded first. I was ready not only to win the race, but run my best marathon time yet. Little did I know that by mile 13, I would walk off the course frustrated and defeated, with a small annoying ache in my achilles. An ache that would eventually side-line me from any serious training and racing. An ache that would not, and has not gone away, for almost three years. An injury, that for the time being, has taken one of my greatest pleasures in life away from me…running.
During 2013 and 2014, it seemed I was going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong with my foot and how to correct it. After more than two years of trying physical therapy and every conservative treatment available for achilles pain, I came to the realization that the only hope of curing the pain was to under-go surgery. This was something I wanted to avoid, but considering I couldn’t run or even walk without excruciating pain, I knew it was something that needed to be done.
On March 17th, 2015 I went in for achilles debridement surgery, as well as the removal of a bone spur, and a strayer procedure on my calf. I knew this was not going to be an easy surgery or an easy recovery. I had accepted in my mind, to the best of my ability, that after surgery I would not be able to run for at least six to twelve months.
Post-surgery I was relieved that I had taken the final step in curing my foot and I was determined to focus on recovery. I was in a hard cast and on crutches for the first twelve weeks. Of course, I thought about running, but I seemed to be content with not being able to do so. However, there did come a time when I would see someone out running and it would sting a bit. I had to constantly remind myself that healing was in God’s hands, God’s timing, not mine.
When I was finally off the crutches and out of the cast I went directly into the boot for four weeks. I was still doing okay mentally but I kept thinking to myself, “I took me so many hours, so many hard workouts, so much sweat, so much time, to get to the level I was at in the years past.” Would I ever be able to get it back? I found that I was looking back and wishing I could be there. I longed for the time when running was fun, easy, and fast. I wanted to be in the past, training hard and winning races. Christ, gently nudged me out of the past and reminded me, that while I can look back and miss it, I must not look back and be sad. I must look back and be thankful that I was there, knowing that the past and my experiences have shaped me into who I am today. I must look back and thank Him for the accomplishments I was able to achieve and then bring my focus to today, the present, where I am now, and trust that “He is doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19)
Through this process, I have asked the question why a thousand times. Why would You take running from me when You know it is a passion of mine? Why would you take this from me when I’ve been able to achieve so much with it? Why would you take this when I have so many friends who are still running and setting new PR’s each year? Why do I have to sit on the side-lines and watch as they go after their goals? Why would you take this from me, especially when I have tried my best to use my running for You, to lift You up and make You known. Why? And I have learned it’s okay to ask the question why. But, I have also learned I can’t get stuck there. It’s not my job to figure out God’s ways. He is in control. It is His plan for my life, not mine. And if, I can glorify God by not running, better than I can glorify Him with running, I will gladly open my hands and release my dreams, my goals, my running to Him.
In so doing, I’ve been able to rest, to stop striving, and to wait for God’s “glorious unfolding.” I do not know what that unfolding means in regards to my running and what the future may hold. There’s a big chance I may never be able to train and race again. I might not even be able to run recreationally. But, whatever the outcome, it’s okay, because I know He can restore my broken and unfinished dreams and He can use them in new and creative ways for His glory. My passion for running is still there, but God is replacing it with an overwhelming passion for Him, to know Him better. I’m finding that the better I know Him, the more I want to know Him, and the more I want others to know Him. He is my biggest passion and I know He is greater than any award I can win through running. And now, “forgetting what lies behind and straining froward to what lies ahead, I press on to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)