Words To Ponder

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“Thus, if we think we require some good thing that God has withheld from us, in reality we don’t absolutely need it. It also means that if we feel our life has been ruined by some bad thing, in reality it is playing some very important role in our lives. It is teaching us, molding us, enriching us, humbling us, and so on.” (Timothy Keller Romans 8-16)

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

What Road is Next?

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When I was a little girl, my dad, without even realizing it, was inspiring a dream within my heart. My dad was my hero, there was no better man on earth. He was the kindest, hardest-working,  strongest, bravest, fastest, and most adventurous father a daughter could have.

Whether we were at home or at our cabin in Wisconsin, I remember  watching him get up early to go for a run. He would come back from running excited to tell us his estimated time and distance. In those days, he didn’t have the luxury of a GPS, so later in the week when we were in the car, he would drive the route and clock his distance. He knew how many miles it was from our house to main street or from our house to the high school. He knew it was only a mile from our cabin to the dock or five miles from our cabin to the closest farmhouse.

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Watching him run created in me a strong passion to run. I would ask my dad to time me with his stop watch to see how fast I could run down the street in front of our house. I was so excited when I was old enough to join him on his early morning runs, and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to compete in track meets.  And my dad was there every step of the way. He was at every track meet, cheering me on, telling me to keep pushing, to keep going, to not give up, to run hard all the way through the finish.

Unfortunately, my younger running days consisted of running track only during 7th-9th grade. It was around my sophomore year that I let loose of the dream of running and breaking school records. I left the race. I wandered off the course and for a while I lost sight of the finish line.

My dad was still there, waiting for me, encouraging me, and cheering for me. And years later, I found the race again. However, this time it wasn’t around a track but on the roads. The wide-open roads that held every distance from the mile to the marathon, and I loved them all. But now the roles had switched, my dad was my biggest fan, and he was watching me run and telling me to go after my dream.

Running wasn’t just running to me, it was a gift that God had given to me and an ability that I could use for His glory. I felt that God’s platform for me was being a Christian athlete. I never wanted to use my running to focus on me, but I wanted it to point to God. I wanted Him to use my talent and abilities to make His name known.

That’s why, sitting here this morning, still injured and logging almost nine months of not running makes me tempted to give in to feelings of discouragement, sadness, anger, frustration, and disappointment. I don’t understand why God, in this season, is asking me to die to the race. I don’t understand why He would take something away from me that I longed to use for Him. I know that He could easily heal my foot and I could wake up tomorrow able to run. I don’t understand why He won’t change my circumstances.

Once again, God reminded me to stop and open my eyes and see that He has let me run the race. Time and time again, along the course, He has blessed me with friends, faith, and lessons-learned through wins and losses. But now He is asking me to step off this course. I don’t have to understand His ways, but I need to stop questioning, and I need to surrender and trust that He has a different road for me to follow now. For the time being, I have crossed the finish line and there is a new race ahead. But, I won’t find it if I keep holding onto a dying dream.

This type of surrender is a struggle and if I had my choice I wouldn’t let go of the unfinished business I have on the roads. My dream was to make it to the Olympic Trials. I don’t want to give that up. But, God is asking me to do exactly that, so I must.

In the book “Whatever the Cost,” David Benham says, “stop worrying about where you thought I was going to get you. You’ve made that an idol in your life. Just be faithful to Me. I had made an idol out of the promise, purpose, plan, and platform God had given me for my life. So when things worked out differently than I had envisioned, I found myself reeling, trying to find my identity. All along my identity should’ve rested solely in the Person of God – not in His plan for my life.”

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Although it’s a struggle, I’m walking off the course and waiting to see how God will lead me to the next road.

“God is not going to give you what’s in His hand until you let go of what’s in yours. The issue isn’t, what’s in God’s hand. The issue is, do you trust God to let go of what’s in yours?” (Whatever the Cost)

 

 

 

 

 

“Mom, I love you this much…”

I love Tommy, my now seventeen year old son. He is one of the most caring, sensitive, and encouraging boys I know. He has such a tender and sweet heart and a great sense of humor and wit.

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Just the other day we were talking about his first day of kindergarten and when I picked him up after school. I asked him, “Tommy, what was your favorite part of the day?” His response was one I will never forget!  In his little six year old voice he said to me, “Mom, my favorite part of the day was when you came back to pick me up.” Talk about stroking my mom ego! I’m sure there were so many new and exciting things to do on that first day of school but yet, I was the best part of his day! How wonderful is that! As a mom we don’t always get to hear these precious, heart-melting, words, so I savored them greatly.

Recently, at the age of 17, I picked Tommy up from school for a doctor’s appointment. As we were riding in the car I asked him, “So…Tommy, what was your favorite part of the day?” His answer this time was no more than a grunt. I then proceeded to remind him of his first day of kindergarten and what he had told me that day. He quickly responded to me by saying, “Mom…that’s still my favorite part of the day!”

Seriously!? This kid is so sweet! I said, “Tommy, you don’t know how special that makes me feel. You said the exact same thing when you were six and now you’re saying it to me again!” Then, in his seventeen year old voice, he said to me, “Mom…that’s always been my favorite part of the day! Obviously…it’s because when you pick me up, I’m done with school and I get to go home and relax! It really doesn’t have anything to do with you. It’s just that…when I see you, I know my school day is finally over and I’m free!”

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Well, Tommy…I’m not buying it! You can say that, but I know deep down inside, whether you’re six or seventeen, I’m still one of the best parts of your day. A mom can only wish, right!?

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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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.”

Tommy’s Surgery

“When everything seems to be going wrong, refuse to get discouraged. Remember that I am a God of surprises; I am not limited by the way things are or by the paltry possibilities you can see. I am infinitely creative and powerful.” (Jesus Today)

I know there are far worse things Tommy could be going through than a second knee surgery. But, to a 17 year old, who just, eleven months earlier endured the pain of an ACL injury, reconstructive surgery, and months of physical therapy in order to get back on the football field, it is frustrating.

As I sat in the waiting room, the same waiting room I was in less than a year ago, I knew the procedure was turning out to be more than just his meniscus. The minutes dragged on, and soon a half hour became an hour, and an hour became two, and when it came close to three hours my heart was hurting for my son. A three hour knee surgery isn’t a good sign.

Finally, the procedure was over and while we were waiting for Tommy to “wake-up,” the doctor told us that he had found and repaired small tears in both of Tommy’s menisci. He also had to revise the ACL with a cadaver graft and remove the previous screw from his tibia. Thankfully, he was able to work around the screw in his femur, and now Tommy has a few more screws and a washer to hold his ACL firmly in place. We were also told his cartilage is already showing signs of arthritis.

As the doctor was talking I was thinking about Tommy, and how, right before he went into surgery he said to me, “When you find out it’s just my meniscus will you please text coach and let him know.” I was worried how he would mentally feel when he found out that this was not the surgery he wanted. We had prayed over and over again that when the doctor operated he would find Tommy’s ACL perfectly intact and only have to fix a small tear in his meniscus. We wanted a simple surgery and a short recovery process. I was worried that Tommy was going to feel discouraged and disappointed not only with the outcome, but with God. Wondering why, after we had prayed so hard for different results, He would allow Tommy to go through this again. Another extensive surgery. Months of physical therapy. And another football season lost. It was hard not to feel disappointed for Tommy. Defeat was written all over his face.

It’s tempting to ask God the question, “Why?” But, we don’t. We haven’t questioned His plan, because when this injury first occurred we knew the outcome was already in God’s hands. So yes, of course we prayed it would be a simple surgery, but we also knew we were praying with tunnel vision. God’s plan would come to be, not our simple plan. We can’t even began to grasp the mind of Christ and the plans He has for us and for Tommy. But we are certain they are “plans for good,” (Jeremiah 29:11) even when we don’t understand the path He is leading us down. We trust He is a loving and faithful God. Always present. Always waiting for us to seek Him. To find Him. And when we look, He is there. Waiting with His surprises, creativity, and power. So, instead of asking why, we wait. We wait with thanksgiving, with anticipation, knowing that God can use Tommy’s disappointment to reveal God’s glory in a way that we can’t even fathom or imagine.

Thanks to all who prayed, texted, or emailed before, during, and after Tommy’s surgery.