Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It's been a while...

Too much to put into one blog...

In Fort Worth, writing was therapy. In Senatobia, writing has been an itch that I couldn't find time to scratch. I really don't have time now. I should be cooking dinner or grading papers...but I feel the urge to write.

Not to my surprise, my need to communicate is what is driving me to write today. I posted a long "rant" on facebook this morning, but then I decided that was neither the time nor the place. So before too many people could read it (and possibly even like it), I quickly removed it. The message needs to be communicated, so here goes...

Someone recently said of one of my children, "He/She doesn't act like a preacher's kid...." After I calmed down from processing the comment, I asked myself, "What does that even mean?" How are "preacher's kids" supposed to act? Are they supposed to sit and read and study the Scriptures for hours on end? Are they supposed to make hospital visits weekly? Should they be at every church function every time the doors are opened? I mean, those are the things that a preacher does....

Maybe this person was talking about a particular set of personality traits. Preachers are usually outgoing and friendly, so maybe that's the expectation. They shake a lot of hands, pat a lot of backs, make friends with all people of all ages, and never seem to feel annoyed, angry, aggravated or stressed. Keep in mind, preachers are adults who have learned to put on a happy face when all is crumbling on the inside. They've lived long enough to be comfortable in their own skin, so differences in personalities, interests, and likes don't separate. For most adults, differences make people more interesting and valuable. Teenagers are a different breed all together!!

When speaking of a teenager or a child who happened to be born into a family in which the father is a pastor, one must realize the children had no say-so into which family they were born. They came into this world with their own little genetic make-up. They came pre-programmed with basic traits, likes, dislikes, and quirks. More than likely, their parents have made more than their fair share of mistakes in rearing them, but I would be willing to bet, most pastor/ fathers and mothers have prayed countless prayers for their children and sought God's wisdom in the choices they have made regarding their children. I know this is true of the Williams family.  Although we were not originally in the ministry, we have always tried to do what we believed to be the will of God in our lives and the lives of our children. Yes, we have made a bunch of mistakes, but God has always given us opportunities to go back and use those mistakes to show our kids the amazing grace and love of God.

Now that two of our children are teenagers and one is a preteen, we are realizing we cannot control MUCH in this world, let alone their lives. Now don't get me wrong, we have many controls set such as curfews, privileges, bed times, etc....but these little people have their own minds! And sometimes they speak it when it's not appreciated nor appropriate! And then we control consequences :) ! They are all so different even though the same two people brought them into the world and raised them all in the same home We have had to think and rethink and re-rethink parenting every time we turn a new corner. Our kids are all smart, beautiful, busy, at times-annoying, funny, temper mental, loud, expensive, talented,messy, always-hungry and incredibly wonderful, NORMAL children. In addition to being our kids (a.k.a. "preacher's kids") they are all children of God. They are saved by grace, They are works in progress....and aren't we all??!!

Maybe this person didn't mean that my child wasn't acting like a preacher's kid...maybe she meant that he/she wasn't acting like a child of God. Now that's a WHOLE different story...and we need to talk!!! (not me and this person...me and my child!) On our way to school today we discussed what it looks like to be a child of God...to show others His love, His grace, His compassion for those who are different, outcast, hurting, and alone. Maybe they heard me.....

I pray that my daily doses of Truth are taking root in their hearts and minds. Please know we are no different than you. We struggle with the sames things you struggle. We have the same fears, doubts, worries, gripes, and complaints. Hopefully, we are all in the daily process or growing and developing to be more and more like Christ. It "ain't always pretty," but thankfully God somehow works it for our good and His glory!

I now have kids fighting over Xbox headphones, and I am way overdue on starting dinner before we run off to soccer practice!! Life is busy, and it is hard...but I wouldn't change a thing!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wherever He leads, we'll go....

Dear facebook family,


Serving others in a third world country has been a desire of mine for quite a while. About four years ago to the day, I had signed up to go to Africa with my church in the upcoming summer. I knew God was calling me to go…I just didn’t realize that, at the time, He was calling all of our family to Fort Worth, Texas and not Togo, Africa. Although four years have passed, the desire to go and serve has not. Thankfully, He’s finally given me another opportunity to serve him abroad, and the coolest part is that I will be going alongside my “baby-girl”, MaryBeth :)! I am so excited to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with my daughter as we both grow and learn more about God’s command to go and serve as commanded on the book of Matthew.

MaryBeth and I have the wonderful privilege to go to Honduras with an organization that assists people in the most remote and impoverished part of Honduras, which is the second most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere. HOI is based in Tucker, Georgia near Atlanta, and hosts weekly groups at their ranch facility in the mountainous Agalta Valley, where education, hygiene, healthcare, and even basic craft skills have not evolved much for centuries. HOI (www.hoi.org) helps people by training men and women and educating children to help themselves, working in about 100 villages. It is a Christian-based organization with a universal purpose

There are so many details that go into preparing for a trip like this. Making arrangements to be away from our family for a week, getting the proper vaccinations, and planning financially for the expenses that come with this kind of trip can all be overwhelming. We have seen God’s amazing hand of provision in ways that one letter cannot tell. During our 4 years here in Ft Worth, we have seen Him provide us with rich, deep friendships; we’ve seen Him provide financially when our own resources were not enough; and we’ve experienced the peace that comes from following Him even when it was difficult. Our trip is scheduled for July 27, and for the two of us, it will cost about $3400. Although that is a lot of money, we are confident that He will provide this time as well. He’s never let us down…not even once!

We would be honored if you would join us in this journey in two ways. First of all, we covet your prayers. Pray that we would both fall deeper in love with Jesus and ALL of his children. Pray, too, that we will never be the same and that our hearts would be so in tune with Him that we would truly understand ‘storing up treasures in heaven.’ Secondly, we would be honored if you would support us financially. Any amount you could give would be greatly appreciated. Opportunities like this always remind me of just how much we really are “the body of Christ,” each doing our own part to support the other parts. MaryBeth are willing to go; we just need “other parts of the body” to support us :).

If you are able to give financially, please make your check to First Baptist Saginaw, Texas, the church with which we are traveling, and send it to my address: 5904 Portridge Rd, Ft Worth, Texas 76135. Please know that our money is due by April 30. If you are not able to give, please do pray!

We both thank you so much for being a part of this incredible opportunity!

With much love,

Amanda and MaryBeth

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"...but I wanted PERFECT children..."

I think it's funny how God allows you to go through things at just the right time when your heart is ready to receive His instruction. I don't think we go around looking for these lessons; they just happen. If we have our spiritual eyes and ears open, the Lord is so gracious to teach us lessons through our everyday life that slowly shape us more into His image. And this is the classroom God has had me in lately....

It all started on May 15, 2012...I really can't remember exactly what was going on, but my journal serves as a reminder that I was NOT in a good place. Here's a piece from that daily entry,
     "It's weird how sometimes everything seems so good and right...the kids are doing well in
      school, their behavior is good, financially we feel secure, baseball, swim, friends, life....all
      seems good. Then there are times when nothing seems good....This is where I find myself
       right now."
Later in that entry, I felt the Lord saying, "What do you want, child?" If I heard Him correctly, there was a hint of frustration in His voice :), but I answered anyway. I am way to proud to put my whole list out there for everyone to read, because when I finished and reread it, I was appalled at my selfish, prideful, temporal self. My most ridiculous request that I wanted was a nice facility for my kids' sports. Other neighboring communities have nice complexes; why can't I? (Crazy...I KNOW!!) A more reasonable request was that I wanted a nicely decorated, clean home...is that really too much to ask? Can no one in my house under the age of 40 clean up after themselves? And then here's the biggie, and I quote..."I want superstar kids with no struggles, all victories." I wanted perfect children, and I was very aware of the fact that they are NOT even close to perfect! No joke; this was my request to the God of ALL creation!! I am sitting here smiling because I can hear how selfish and unhealthy these requests are, but this is truly where God let me get so that He could start the lessons in my heart.

From that day forward, I have focused a little more on thinking about 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 where Paul says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." I've had moments where I would better remember the lessons, but I have still occasionally found myself wanting my kids to be perfect. When my oldest child started struggling with juggling two sports at the same time, and we had to pull her out of swim for a while, my heart was sad...my thoughts started sounding familiar again. "Why can't she just be a stud on the court and in the pool at the same time? I wanted an Olympic athlete in the next four years. And what the other child who struggles with his math...will school ever be easy for him? I wanted all three of my children to be brainiacs...they just seem to be normal. And why does another child have to have such bad allergies...his nose is always stuffy or runny or both at the same time...why him, Lord?" Maybe I'm the only one, but I just feel sad when I see any one of my kids struggling through anything, yet God clearly reminded me that that is how and where He shapes us...it's in the struggles...in the valleys there is the most growth. My heart is always lifted when I CHOOSE I trust in the promise from Jeremiah 29:11; His plan is always for our good. He's God; I am not, so I can trust in Him at all times! As my Nana just told me on the phone today, THAT is humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God...trusting Him in all things.

As any good teacher would,through my time in the "classroom," God opened my eyes to new lessons, backed it up with His Truths and His promises, and then allowed me to experience(on some level) three tangible examples to really drive home the point. First, with the Connecticut shootings, He showed me that there were moms and dads from Sandy Hook Elementary that had probably spent their last morning with their child in a rush, in a fuss, and in frustration. I realized that fighting over teeth that were not brushed, forgotten lunches, and mismatched outfits were NOT important,and I decided to live without regrets, and quit sweating the small stuff! Two days later, one of my sweet, normal, 16 year old students passed out at her sports practice before school. After flat-lining 5 times, they were able to revive her, and she now lives a healthy life with a pacemaker in her chest. What the Lord wanted me to see was that my kids' health is NEVER to be taken for granted...everyday is a gift, and I want to live with that awareness. And then just a few weeks later, an old friend's son, 13 years old from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was shooting skeet at a birthday party, and was accidentally shot and killed....just having fun with his friends...parental supervision...not being irresponsible...just an accident.... My heart was broken...

The lesson was complete...My kids are my treasures....never to be taken for granted. I want to live with no regrets. I want to love them and even, yes, even LIKE them no matter what. All the while I had been complaining about my kids not being perfect...WHO CARES!!!  I am not promised forever with them, and even if they live to be old and gray, and I am long gone, they'll only be in my home for a short season. So I no longer want perfect kids. I don't want superstars. I want MY kids just the way they are. The most important thing I can do as their mother is to point them to the Father, and teach them what it is to follow Christ. NOTHING else matters.

Thank you, Lord for your classroom called "life." You truly are a great teacher!

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Modern Day 'Fish and Loaves' Story

If you have read any of my past blogs, you know that I write these posts so that we will never forget. This post is no different. I hope that you will be encouraged by reading it, but I also hope you see that none of the credit in any of these stories goes to us...to God be ALL the glory. You also know that I have written several times on how we have been given MUCH! Especially during these last few years, God has blessed us so richly through random people in our lives, and it has been both humbling and inspiring to be on the receiving end of the excitement. Yesterday, however, we had a unique experience of being both the receiver and the giver....This stuff is just too good to forget it, so I must write! As part of a series, The Elephant in the Room, the pastor preached on abortion. It was very informative and relevant to our world today, and it heightened our senses. We were reminded of the value of human life and the beauty of women choosing to carry their babies through a pregnancy even when it might be embarrassing, inconvenient, or financially burdensome. Because all of our pregnancies were planned and we were excited about each one, Chris and I can easily forget that many people do no feel the same. Choosing life is an act of obedience with rewards beyond our expectations! After church, a man (who I will not name)walked past Chris and kindly spoke as usual. A minute later; however, he returned. He asked Chris, "Do you have a family?" Chris said yes, and the man laid out a $100 bill on the table and said, "Go buy your family lunch." When Chris refused it, he said, "You have to. The Lord just told me to give you this." How do you say no to that?!? So there we were with $100 that we didn't need , but we were told to go eat lunch. We knew immediately, it was now our turn to pass it on. As we made our plans for lunch, we prayed and asked God to show us where to go, who to pass it on to, and how to carry it out. We all got more and more excited as we started looking for a place to eat. We considered a fast food place where we could "pay it forward," but that just didn't seem like what we were supposed to do. Eventually, we decided on a resturant where we could develop a relationship with a waiter/waitress, but picking the actual place was a bit more challenging. Benton really, really wanted a Chinese buffet, but MaryBeth wanted Chili's. Brandon threw Burger King into the mix while I suggested barbeque. We pulled into The Cotton Patch but there was a 30 miute wait at 1:30. That would mean we might not be eating till 2:30!!! We were driving circles around Lakeworth when mom suggested Logan's Roadhouse. Everyone seemed happy with that, so Chris manuevered our big, old tank out of the turn lane, across two ohter lanes of traffic, and soon we were at Logan's. With no wait, we were seated and ordering our drinks within minutes. After taking our drink orders, the waitress said to me,"You look so familiar." I asked her if she went to Boswell where I teach, and she said, "Yes. I think I was in your class for like 2 weeks, and then I transferred to Watson." Immediately, I remembered exacly what she was desricbing...I even knew where she sat in the classroom. Now for some, this may not seem like a big deal, but for me, it was HUGE!! I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday let alone a student I had 2 years ago for only 2 weeks! We all knew immediately, this was "our girl." Throughout our lunch, we chatted with her. We found out she had graduated from Watson, and she is starting school in the fall. She was very sweet, and we enjoyed just getting to know her a little bit. Over lunch we discussed the sermon amongst ourselves, and enjoyed a mighty fine lunch that was given to us. All through lunch, however, we could hardly contain ourselves knowing that we were about to be able to pass the blessing on to someone else. We were all giddy with emotion, and finally the time came. When she brought us our change from our lunch, I asked her if I could tell her what had happened to us at church; I told her about the man and his gift; I told her about praying that God would lead us to the right place and the right person; and I told her about the craziness in picking our location. I went on to say that I didn't know much about her or what needs she has in her life right now, but God had purposely led us to her. That's when she told us that she was pregnant. At 18 years old and not married, her dad had suggested she abort the baby, but she said she didn't believe in that. We all smiled and gave her a nutshell version of the sermon. We encouraged her that she had made the right decision, and we reminded her that she has a precious baby growing inside of her. God will bless her decision to choose life for that baby. What a full circle kind of day! From the sermon to the man who started the "obedience ball" rolling to the craziness in choosing our location to puttng us at the right table at the right time with the right waitress who needed a blessing and encouragement...ONLY GOD can orchestrate these kinds of events! This man who obediently gave to our family ended up blessing not only us but this teenage girl and and unborn baby. God took that $100 and touched more lives than any of us could have imagined! I am more challenged than ever before to keep my ears and heart more open to the Holy Spirit's promptings. That man at church was sensitive to the Holy Spirit, he obeyed, he blessed, and the Word promises us that he will be blessed. Thank you Mr. __________ for showing us the beauty of Kingdm Mathematics...you give, you receive. Jesus is still in the business of multiplying. Once upon a time it was fish and loaves; today it was $100 bill and a Logan's Roadhouse. Only God...ONLY GOD!!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday to our 2nd Life

Mine and Chris's 1st life started in 1992 as two college kids looking for a good time. It evolved into two young adults entering into a covenant marriage, starting a family, climbing the ladder of success, and pursuing our own version of the American dream. That lasted until the fall of 2008. That's when God started stirring in our hearts a desire for something more...we had NO IDEA how big that "more" really was!!

My first post on this blog was almost 3 years ago...8/24/09. Today is 3/15/12. I wish I had had the thought to start writing my thoughts down on this blog back then; however, the only place I wrote was in my journal. So today, in the quietness of a sleepy spring-break morning, I dug out my journal from '08-'09. Here are a few excerpts from my journal:

Early October 2008: "Lord, I wish for You to place Chris in the career where he can be incredibly used for You. Lord, draw him, call him, use him, satisfy his deepest desires. Open his eyes to your workings-prompt him with directions, guidance-open up doors for him to journey into to find your will for his life."
1-7-2009: "For Chris-guidance. Lord, grab his heart. Woo him close to You. Show yourself to him today. Make him smile b/c of You. Protect him and bless him with health and long life. Call him, Lord, call him."
1-14-09: "For Chris-I don't know what's been going on in that quiet head of his-I pray that he'll heard you today. Open his ears/his mind/his heart today. Lord, we desperately want to do your perfect plan for our lives-plans that will affect people for You for generations to come. PLEASE use us!
2-22-09: On this day, I gave thanks that we had not packed up and moved to SBEC...Chris had turned down an offer to go work at the school/church. We didn't feel that we could walk away from his nice salary at the bank plus leave a house in Oxford to sell. If I remember correctly, this was just days before Chris lost his job with M&F Bank. As we now know...leaving M&F wasn't an option; it was a command. And leaving a house in Oxford to sell was actually part of a bigger picture!!!
3-2-09 Looking back in my journal, I realized and remembered that I fasted on that day. As I sought direction from the Lord, the verses that I focused on were Psalm 138:8 "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me..." and Psalm 119:33-40 that He would teach me, give me understanding,turn my heart toward Him, turn me away from worthless things, fulfill His promises, and take away my disgrace. I had written that Esther and the Jews went without food to demonstrate their desperation to receive something much greater: deliverance. I would say that fasting really does honor God; I believe that opened the windows of blessings. Only days later did Chris surrender his life to the ministry!!
3-18-09: "Lord-here we are at SWBTS- and we're not rested, we're anxious;we're overwhelmed (actually just me) But our night was awful...I am tempted to worry about my job situation, he kids at school, the apartment/house, etc...Lord, I need your peace that passes all understanding. I need your direction and wisdom. I need to feel your presence all around me today...."
3-19-09: as I read over my requests from that day, they were for things like good teachers for the kids, good friends, application/acceptance into seminary, me a job, us a nice community, a good church for us...the list goes on, but can I just say AMEN...He is faithful!!!!

Where has time gone? I cannot believe we have been on the journey for 3 years...this call into the ministry literally started in March of '09 and it is going strong today. Life is good. The kids are settled. My job is great. Chris's job is great. Obedience to the will of God is absolutely THE route to go! No other plan will ever measure up to His plan.

3-15-12: Thank you, Lord, for bringing us to this place. You are an awesome Father; your plan is always good. Please continue to grow us into he people you want us to be. All five of us have a ministry. please open each one of our eyes to see the ways you want to use us. Remind us that you have called us to be holy, set apart, to be lights in a dark world. Give each one of us a hatred for sin...make it repulsive to us. As we stay connected to you, bear fruit through us. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere...I don't want to say or do one thing contrary to your perfect plan. Only in you is there true joy and peace. Hem us in...protect us from the enemy...grow us closer to you...use us today."

Happy Birthday, 2nd Life! You are much more gratifying than the 1st life ever thought to be. You have been a little more difficult at times, but yu have been worth every struggle. I look forward to a lifetime of service to the Lord. May today's reflectins remind us that God alwasy has been in charge...He always will be. He's always good. He's always full of grace and mercy, and He delights in us, His children!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Beauty in Ashes

What you are about to read may forever change the way you see me, and I'm okay with that. This is my story, and I am not ashamed...I am forgiven.

About four years ago, as Chris and I were being called into the ministry, Brandon began facing some of his own changes. The once calm, well behaved, easy-going toddler was all of the sudden much more temperamental, demanding, and hard to manage. MaryBeth and Benton had dealt me their fair share of trials and challenges, but Brandon really seemed to know how to push my buttons. Not to excuse any of my actions, but one can only handle just so much. Little by little, I finally lost control and began to really let my temper fly.

While I have spanked all three of the kids from time to time, I've never been one for too much physical punishment. My tongue, however, is way more powerful than my hand or a belt. In my anger, I would lash out hurtful things to punish Brandon, and I would say things to try to "put him in his place." Honestly, it felt good sometimes just to let out the anger that was raging in my soul, and in the moment I didn't care about the damage...I just cared about myself.

A few weeks ago I was simply trudging through life. This fall has been especially difficult with our finances, my job-related stresses, busy sports schedules with the kids, living in one community but going to church in another, gas and groceries eating us alive...and Brandon. He just has weighed heavy on my heart day in and day out. Regardless of what happy circumstances were going on, I knew there was a deeper sadness within my soul, and I was unaware of what the root of it was. As I poured my thoughts out to the Lord, He slowly but surely unfolded one of the most beautiful stories I have ever known.

The Lord first revealed to me that I had damaged Brandon" spirit (I was actually unaware of this); and like the wall in Nehemiah's day, Brandon's spirit was broken. As one can imagine, this broke my heart. How could I have done such a thing? What was I to do? I couldn't undo my actions...how do I change the past? That old childhood saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," simply was not true. The Lord led me to John 8:11 where Jesus tells the adulterous woman, "I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more." There it was. He was telling me I was forgiven and I wasn't condemned. I had to "go" and be mom (i.e. discipline as needed) but my harsh words had to stop. He then took me back to Nehemiah to the wall around Jerusalem...He showed me that it was humanly impossible to rebuild that wall in 52 days (Neh. 6:15), but with the Lord it was possible. I may have spent the last 4 years tearing down Brandon's wall, but the Lord, Jehovah Raphe, is the Great Redeemer and Restorer. He can repair and restore anything that I've messed up, but like the people in Nehemiah's camp, I must work and do my part in the rebuilding.

As the scriptures were coming alive from the pages, I started getting excited! And this is the point that it really got good!!! Every time I prayed about this restoration, the Lord kept placing in my mind a phrase from a verse: "beauty in ashes." As I searched and found that verse, I found the most precious promise the Lord could make me in regards to Brandon. The passage was written to the Israelites, but I have somewhat adapted it to my own personal situation. Here was the promise God gave me for Brandon:
Isaiah 61
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me...to bind up the brokenhearted...to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They (he-Brandon) will be called (an) oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated..."

My little Brandon...the very one I had been tearing down...is going to be an "oak of righteousness." I have to do my part to work to rebuild him, but the Lord can restore Brandon with God-speed. A few nights after I was able to connect all of these scriptures and circumstances, I was laying down with Brandon, loving on him and doing a little "rebuilding." The Lord laid on my heart the need to acknowledge to Brandon what I had come to understand about my past words, and I needed to ask for his forgiveness. I explained to him how the Lord had shown me what a treasure he was and how I had not been treating him like the precious jewel that he really is. Of course, he accepted my apology and we snuggled till he fell asleep. It was one of those "It is well with my soul" moments. What had started out weeks earlier as me pouring out my complaints to the Lord had resulted in sheer excitement to see what the Lord is going to do with and through Brandon.

In short, I failed. I messed up. I mistreated one of the greatest gifts ever given to me. I had basically spit in Jesus's face...much like the people did as Jesus marched to Calvary. I was more able to understand what Jesus meant when he asked the Father to forgive them because they didn't even know what they were doing. There is no reason the Father should forgive me. There's no reason He should clean up my path of destruction. There's no reason He should restore my treasure. Not only does He still love me but He also gives me a second chance. As if that were not enough, He then blessed me with a promise for Brandon... a future and a hope. This may possibly be the most tangible lesson of grace I have ever known. "Amazing grace...how sweet the sound (and the peace)...that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost (in my own mean,selfish nature) but now I'm found (thank you, Jesus) was blind, but now I see (the beauty only He can create out of my ugly old ashes!)"

I don't know if you can relate to any of this or not, but the truth of the matter is, none of us deserve God's forgiveness. I believe this little segment in my journey has forever changed me, and I am so thankful for God's unending grace!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mile 18

Most people wouldn't even care to understand this word picture, but "Mile 18" describes what The Williams all seem to be feeling. When you run a marathon, the first 5 or 6 miles are exhilarating. You've trained for this; you've thought about it for months; and here you are...actually doing it! In miles 6-10 you settle into a groove...the scenery becomes more obvious to you. You can breath easier and take in the joy of knowing you are doing an amazing feat. Miles 10-18 seem to get a little longer and you start showing signs of fatigue...maybe you walk through the water stops or you refuel with some nasty "goo" that feels like you're eating raspberry or strawberry/banana flavored toothpaste. (nice,huh?) At mile 18, you are just plain tired. In your mind, you know that mile 20 has significance...it's called "the wall" and if you could just get through "the wall", then you are practically home-free. At mile 18; however, "the wall" feels like an eternity away. And then you start fighting a battle in your mind when you realize that once you get to "the wall" you still have 6 more miles to go...8 more miles (total) seems impossible. You wonder,"Have I bitten off more than I can chew? What was I thinking? This is ridiculous! The pain far outweighs the victory that is still nowhere in site!" You know that others have gone before you and made it across the finish line without dying from pain or exhaustion, and you know that they say the victory is oh-so-sweet...but you just can't believe all of that at "mile 18."

So how does that compare to our story? Well, the challenges of seminary were, at first, difficult but also exciting. Maybe it was because we expected the challenges, so the difficulties easier to swallow. As time has passed; however, we've grown tired. We've grown tired of the financial stresses of not having enough money to make ends meet. We're tired of having to always tell our kids "no" to the simple things that all kids want. We're tired of knowing we are in a transition period, and this is not a permanent set up. There's always that wondering of "what's next?" We can't help but put down roots where we are, but in the back of our minds, we know the pain that comes with pulling up those roots to move on to somewhere new. The end seems nowhere in sight. A year and a half feels like an eternity. Even when we get through this year...we still have another year to go. We start fighting that same battle in out minds. "Have we bitten off more than we can chew? Did God really call us to this? Why is it so hard?" We know that others have passed through these very waters before, and they are all joyfully living on the other side of the story. They can tell us that "this too shall pass" but it's hard to believe at our "mile 18."

I have to believe that, just as it is true with running a marathon, it is also true in our little journey through seminary as well. The Bible even compares the Christian journey to the life of an athlete competing for a prize. The athlete must be faithful to his training, and he must be willing to push his body to new challenges along the way if he has any desire to ever grow. The athlete gets tired along the way, and he wants to quit. There are days when it just doesn't seem worth the sacrifices of getting up early everyday to hit the gym, drinking only water, eating only healthy foods, etc....Others seem to have it easier. They sleep more , drink more, eat more...no sacrifices, just comforts. But in the back of his mind he knows that, in the end, it will all be worth it when he's holding his prize. The temporary comforts that he is sacrificing are just that, temporary. The internal joy of personal victory, hard work, and accomplishment make it all worthwhile.

So it is with us as believers...not just seminary students, It's true for all children of God. Without trials and challenges driving us closer to God, we would never naturally push ourselves to new levels of intimacy and dependency on Him. There will be obvious sacrifices we will be called to make along the way. Other people may seem to have it easier...but their story is not your story. God calls all of His children to their own story. If He takes us through a challenge, then there is a purpose in it. He may be refining blemishes, strengthening weaknesses, breaking chains of bondage, or developing passions that mirror His own. He's the ultimate trainer. He only has our best interest at heart. God is good all the time...we have to realize that He's been right there beside us all along the marathon journey, and He promises that He will carry us from "Mile 18" to the finish line.

Even as I've been typing this, my spirit has been lifted. I know God is carrying us. I have to remind myself of that truth, because I am tempted to feel alone. I am tempted to think it's not worth it. I am tempted to think I want to jump ship and take the easier path of comfort and pleasure. Then I remember 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." This too will pass, but so will life. I need to slow down; quit focusing on the temporary troubles that seem so heavy; lay my burdens on my Father who desires to carry my load; and run the race that is set before me. The prize will all be worth it at the finish line!!!!

Followers