After Christmas the Best Gift Remains

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Did you find the Gift so tiny and small?
It’s easy to miss in the midst of it all.
The crowds and commotion were busy and loud,
while Mary and Joseph by Love’s manger bowed.

 

The Morning Star, a Newborn King, the Holy Child.
Heaven-sent, The Word in Flesh, His wounds to reconcile.
A Precious Babe, the Perfect Infant, wrapped in Grace,
Redemption, and Rescue to stand in my place.

 

Holy, Holy, Holy, now our sin upon His shoulders,
it was His death that bought us life.
Creator, Perfector, Alpha, Omega, Mediator, Advocate,
The Only Way, The Truth, The light,
The Sacrificial, Spotless Lamb of God,
The Lion of Judah, man’s Good Shepherd.
God’s Beloved Son, Our Savior, Messiah,
slandered, mocked and led to be slaughtered.

 

The cross He bore, our sins erased,
don’t miss this gift, it’s freely offered.
Immanuel, God with us, the grave it is finished,
death He has conquered,
And if we wish to live for Christ,
our lives we must
surrender,
when in eternity we see our King
we’ll praise His name forever.

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Living the Young Life

July 2015 changed our family forever. Starting in the month of February 2015, our family stepped out of our comfort zone and took a leap of faith. Little did we know what an incredible impact it would have on our family. We will never forget the experience, and if God allows, we will never pass up the opportunity to do it again. It not only brought our family closer together but it taught us that when we let go, and give God the opportunity to work, He will do far more than we can ever ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

Our Church, Community Fellowship, partners with Young Life USA, enabling Spanish teens to travel to the US, live with host families, and attend a Young Life Camp. It literally brings missions into your own home.

This year, during the month of July 2016, we are hoping to have at least 15 host families sign up to be a part of this program. All it takes is a family that is willing to share Christ’s love and open up their home and hearts to a Spanish teen who dreams of visiting the United States Of America.

A few months ago I had the opportunity to share our family’s testimony at Community Fellowship. We want to spread the word about this program.  It will make a tremendous impact not only on the teen but on the host family as well. Below you will find the short video of our testimony. Please watch it and prayerfully consider if this is an opportunity you would like to experience.

Suzanne Ryan Missions Story

 

Pictures from our month with Jan. He will always be a part of our family.

If you want more information about this program please check out a short video about Young Life USA Camp, found at http://www.commfell.org/ylusacamp or you can email Gordon Spahr at gspahr@commfell.org. Also, feel free to contact me personally at Suzryan123@hotmail.com.

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Our Family – July 2015

Why my kids don’t believe in Santa

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.

NO ORDINARY KING

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.

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“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)

The Storms of Life

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“Up on the mountain, where Your love captured me, where finally I am free. Up on the mountain, where You taught my soul to sing, Amazing Grace, the sweetest thing…
And then the storm rushing in and here I am again…”

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.

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“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)

Do I Have The Strength?

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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)

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“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)

No More Running?

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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.

1-IMG_4608On 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)

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Rest that Endures

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“Come out of sadness, from wherever you’ve been, come brokenhearted let rescue begin. Come find your mercy, Oh sinner, come kneel. Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal. So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame, all who are broken lift up your face. Oh, wanderer come home, you’re not too far, so lay down your hurt, lay down your heart, come as you are. There’s hope for the hopeless and all those who’ve strayed. Come sit at his table, come taste of His grace. There’s rest for the weary, rest that endures. Earth has no sorry that Heaven can’t cure. So come as you are. Fall in His arms. There’s joy for the morning, oh sinner, be still. Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.”

(David Crowder)

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Today I’m resting in the presence of God. Trusting that He is who He says He is. Remembering, that even when life is hard and painful I serve a God that desires to bind  my broken-heart and mend my wounds. My Savior beckons me when I am “weary and  heavy burdened, to come to Him and find rest.” (Matthew 11:28) My Sweet, Sweet Lord, who promises me “my tears may last for the night, but rejoicing will come in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) He shows me that in the midst of danger and distress, He will quite my mind and show me His faithfulness. I do not have to bow down under the source of my sorrow because “He is the lifter of my head,” (Psalm 3:3) ready and willing to restore my dignity and honor for His glory. He summons me to come home and to be still, as he “prepares a table for me, in the wilderness. He invites me to sit and taste of His great goodness and love.” (Psalm 34:8) I come, just as I am, into His presence, wrapped in His arms, without any fear or dread of what tomorrow holds. “Yes, my soul finds rest in my God; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:5)

Goliath

I love the story of David, the little shepherd boy who defeated Goliath. There were these big men, trained soldiers, who went out to face Goliath and couldn’t derail him. But yet, when David, who was just a child, went to battle against the giant he slayed him using only a sling and five little stones.

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When the soldiers confronted Goliath, they saw Goliath. Their discussion centered around Goliath. He was their fear, their focus. When David went out to face Goliath he talked about God. Not Goliath, but God. God was His Focus. Does he see Goliath? Of course! You can’t not see him. But he doesn’t key in on him. He lifts his eyes to the only One who can thwart the giant.

If, for just one second, David removed His eyes from the Victor and saw the enemy, he would have been consumed by His fears. He would have noticed that he was just a little boy facing a massive monster. His cry would not have been a battle cry but a cry to retreat. David left his eyes trained on the Champion who could win the war. David was “God-focused, not giant-focused.”

Our enemy would like nothing else than to see us get up each morning, only to fall under the fear of our giants. Our Goliath may not come to us in “flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12) but he waves swords of defeat, shame, guilt, depression. He walks “through your office, your bedroom, your classroom. He brings bills you can’t pay, grades you can’t make, people you can’t please, whiskey you can’t resist, pornography you can’t refuse, a career you can’t escape, a past you can’t shake, and a future you can’t face.” (Max Lucado) Goliath wants to be the first thing we think about in the morning and the last thing we worry about in the evening. But I’m not willing to give in to that. I want to see God more. I want to start my day with God, not with Goliath. I want to end my day with God, not with the giant.

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My Goliath may come and go or he might not ever be removed. But I know, I have a choice. I can either buckle under the intimidation of Goliath or I can look past the giant, focus on the God of angel armies, and wait in thankful anticipation knowing that the “battle belongs to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 17:47)

(Inspired by 1st Samuel 17 and the Book, Facing Your Giants, by Max Lucado)

The Sunflower

Every day God is so good to give us reminders of who He is and who we are as His children. I’m learning that if I’m actively looking for Him, He is there! Always ready to reveal Himself. This afternoon when I was driving Leah and Rachael home from school we drove past two giant sunflowers. They were absolutely beautiful. To my surprise, Leah, didn’t share my same point of view and voiced her opinion about the sunflower. She told me she thought they were ugly. “What!?”  I said, “Leah, do you know why I think the sunflower is so cool?” Without getting too scientific, (re-calling what I learned as a little girl, and not what I can find on the internet about “solar-tracking” and the misconception of sunflowers), I told her how the sunflower follows the sun.

As soon as the morning breaks, the sunflower is basking in the warmth of the sun. Throughout the day it moves with the sun. From sunrise to sunset, it is always facing the sun. It doesn’t leave the sun’s presence. What happens to the flower if it doesn’t follow the sun? It won’t thrive. It will start to fall over, slump, droop. If the flower is deprived from the sun, its beauty will start to fade. Without the sun there is no flourishing flower.

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And it took just a moment, for God to whisper to me, “This is how I want you to live.” Whether it’s myth or legend, the sunflower reminds me of the perfect example, the exact visual of what God desires His children to do with His Son. We are to be Son followers. In the morning hours we should wake with the Son. We should Seek His presence and soak up His rays. From sunrise to sunset, our “eyes should be fixed on the Author and Perfecter” of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) In the warmth of the Son we will find great pleasure and satisfaction. “Planted in the House of the Lord, we will flourish.” (Psalm 92:13)

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the LIGHT of His glory and Grace.”