How to Finish: A Reminder for Myself

For the past five years or so, I’ve set yearly goals for myself. My goals vary each year. Some goals I hit and other goals get rolled over into the next year.

This year, I decided not to set any new goals because I was falling behind in finishing the ones I already set for myself. I wanted this year to be a year of finishing.

I was told by someone who had a big influence on my life, good and bad, “You never finish anything you start”.

To be honest, it struck a chord with me. I want to be a person that not only starts but finishes. And not just finishes but finishes strong. It is easy to start projects but finishing them takes grit and sheer determination. When you’re half way into your goal and growing weary, it’s easy to think, “Is this really that important?” Or “Why am I doing this again?” That’s when you have to dig deep.

As many of you know, I recently earned my black belt. But, when I was two months away from my test, I struggled to persevere. I was tired. I didn’t feel like I was ever going to become a black belt. The material felt like it only stayed in my short term memory. So, every time I trained I felt like I was starting at square one. It was frustrating and discouraging.

I felt like I hit a wall. I decided to take a moment away from training in order to pin point why I was struggling so much. I wrote down why I wanted my black belt, and why I started in the first place. One of the reasons was to prove to myself that I could finish and finish strong.

Sure enough, when test day came around, I felt ready. Why? because, I pushed through the days I didn’t want to train. I pushed through the excuses. And I pushed through training while fighting off a cold that kept coming back. I realized during those months that the mental battle was harder to overcome than the physical.

I once heard a marathon runner say that in order for him to finish a race, he had to look for outside motivation. Which makes sense why marathoners often raise money for charity. Or, they dedicate their race to a loved one.

As I thought about this I had two verses comes to mind:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

So, here are some points I needed to be reminded of when I’m growing weary and feel like I’m not going to finish my race:

1) I can do all things through Christ.

2) I am only required to run my race — not anyone else’s.

3) I am surrounded and cheered on by a great crowd of witnesses.

4) Jesus is a finisher and teaches His kids to finish through His example.

5) What Jesus has started in me, He will finish it.

So, if you’ve ever been told, “You can’t finish anything”,or maybe you’ve said that to yourself, I want to remind you, in your own strength you will fail and fall short. But we have a Father in heaven who doesn’t let His kids quit. He exemplifies what it means to finish and finish well.

What He started He will finish!

Happy Father’s Day, Dad 💕

I woke up at 3:45am and drove south without looking back. The only breaks I took were for gas, bathroom and food. I arrived at home 15 hours later— exhausted but so grateful to be held by people who loved me.

The transition home was not an easy one. I spent a lot of time lost in my own head. Setting up my things and having no idea what was ahead or when and how to take the next step.

One afternoon, I found myself at my Dad’s computer. He always shared it when he wasn’t working on a sermon, or a talk or a new book.

I spaced out and analyzed every book on his bookshelf and every trinket in front of those books. He had his MacArthur Study Bible and commentaries closest. Then he had little nicknacks from all over the globe (given to him by people who lived all over the world). He had artwork from one of his 3rd grade students and love notes from us kids and grandkids. And proudly displayed on his shelf was the “Best Dad” trophy we got him for Father’s Day one year. Although he was a remarkable man, that was the only trophy he ever received.

I sat there and thought, “What a great man.” I told myself that I needed to write a blog on him, but I got sidetracked. Time passed. And then, suddenly, the same office and bookshelf I had admired just a few months prior was being disassembled. And as we disassembled it, it proved to me again that my Dad was a great man.

I wished I had written this blog when he was alive, but I know he knew exactly what I thought of him and how much I loved him. So Dad, this is for you.

My Dad. He wasn’t a flashy guy. He was the most steady, driven and disciplined man I have ever met. He loved my mom and us kids well. He always made time for us. If I ever needed him, he’d finish what he was doing and give me his undivided attention. He loved his sports, his popcorn, and his peanut m&ms. He was the smartest and the wisest man I’ve ever known.

And there was a side of my Dad that a lot of people didn’t see and I think my Dad was misjudged a lot because he was ridiculously confident. The side that speaks volumes to me and will for the rest of my life is how no matter what, my Dad never would retaliate. There was a season in my Dad’s life when he had some people against him. It tore him apart on the inside, but he persevered. I’ve never seen such a pain in my dad’s eyes. But, my Dad never spoke ill of them. Instead he just showed up day after day, week after week even though he was misunderstood and hurt by the things being said.

There was also a side that not many people saw. It was the “Doctor Dad” side. He may have lectured us on how we should have avoided getting hurt, but while he was lecturing, he’d be bandaging us up. And there was the side of my Dad who invested in us once a week during our “one on one time.” And there was the side that showed up for all the games we had that he could attend. You could never say that my Dad wasn’t present. And it’s his lack of presence that I miss every single day. But I hope that in my choice to show up every day, I honor his legacy.

You may not be able to pick my Dad out of a crowd, but you could never pick his place out of my heart. He was the greatest man I’ve ever known. He was a man of great character and integrity. Happy Fathers Day. I love you so much and I miss you terribly! And don’t worry you’re not missing anything with the Dolphins— they still stink.

Fighting the Fear of Living Out A Missionary’s Life

I am excited to introduce you all to my friend Sara! I met her sometime during the year we were at Bible College. It was a small school so eventually you met everyone. I was never very close with Sara, but as the year went on I saw how much she changed and grew. She became determined to live a life worthy of the gospel — no matter what the cost. I have always had a deep admiration for her.

She is the type of person who once she sets her mind to do something, she will do it with her whole heart. It truly is a gift to know her. Sara currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay with her husband and three beautiful children. I know you will enjoy what she has to share today!

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My first year out of high school, a year after becoming a Christian, I was sitting in a mission’s conference. I learned about missionaries all over the world. When I heard that there were people groups who still didn’t have God’s word in their language, I knew God was telling me to go. It wasn’t a hard decision. Just like it wasn’t a hard decision to leave the states 5 years later with my new-ish family and head to Montevideo, Uruguay to help form a new church in the capital city. The packing and support raising and leaving were difficult, but the call was clear. And we were excited and nervous, not fearful.

The first few months in Uruguay were fun and adventurous. We were like honeymooners in our new life, learning so much and experiencing so many new things. But as we settled in and started the hard work of language learning, and actually living (not vacationing) in a culture not our own. I was surprised by the fears that arose within me. We weren’t being persecuted or even living in a dangerous country. But, before I knew it, my zeal and love for communicating the gospel, turned into fears about my ability and adequacy. My linguistic, and cultural weaknesses became a stumbling block for my faith.

Should I speak about Him if I can’t communicate His message clearly in my host language? What if I share the gospel and they don’t understand me (literally)? Does my life really reflect His love under all the stress our family is experiencing in a new country and culture? What if I mess up and offend them? What if I share a truth poorly and they misunderstand who God is and what He has done?

While many of these wonderings were legitimate concerns for wanting to respect and love the people around us. They also revealed an even greater fear that had been lying dormant in my heart for a long time. Could God really use me and all my weakness on the mission field?

The truth is, these fears have never left me. We are four years in and these same doubts are sometimes my daily battlegrounds. The fear of not being enough is not just a fear for the mission field. I know the same fear in my life as a homeschooling mother, as a friend, as a wife. It is a fear that touches the core of who I am and what I was created to do. It is the question of identity and it pervades every area of Christian life.

Thankfully God answers this question thoroughly in His word and through the very message of the Gospel. In a society where we are constantly being told that we are enough. Or, that we need to just believe we are enough, the truth of it all is that we aren’t enough. We see our own insufficiency and it bothers us. I do not speak Spanish well enough. I am not patient enough with my kids. Our family does not have it together enough. I don’t know enough theology to answer every doubt or opposition to the gospel. And, I do not have enough wisdom to be a perfect mother or missionary. I am not enough. And trying to convince myself that I am is looking only toward the flesh and not toward the Savior. The answer will and should always be no. But I don’t stop there. The gospel continues with transforming hope.

When we enter into a relationship with Christ, we receive a new identity, old things are washed away and we are made new. Our not enough on our own becomes perfectly enough in Christ. At the Cross, Jesus took our shortcomings, sins, and fears and conquered them. But He was raised and us with Him. His resurrection clothed us in His righteousness and made us new vessels to be used by Him. In Him our weakness becomes strength and all our shortcomings become purposeful. And we have the surety of His Spirit who offers wisdom and sweet companionship along the journey. And so as Christians we learn to look to Him. Is HE enough to conquer death and sin? Is He enough to take a sinner and make her new? Is He enough to work through weakness and pain and difficulty and suffering? Is He enough to use my poor language skills to shine the light in the darkness? Is He enough to use my mite to bring life to a dead heart? The answer is always, and unconditionally, a resounding yes because all things are yes in Christ.

When fears arise within us we are never asked to suck it up and pretend we have it all together. Nor fake a smile to make it look like all is well. Instead, our fears tell us that we are lacking intimacy with our Father. To embrace and abide in the message of the gospel is to have true intimacy with our Father, and in true intimacy we find safety. John 15:1-11 is a powerful reminder to us in fear. It confronts our: ‘I can do nothing,’ with the glorious hope of the gospel:

“You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me he can do nothing. Just as the Father has loved me, I have loved you. Abide in my love…these things I have spoken to You, that My joy may be complete.”

He abides in us! We are made clean! We are loved! And we will bear fruit! We have so much in Him. But how do we abide? We believe the gospel and walk in it. We reject lies, and we embrace the truth. We walk with Him, talk with Him, and enjoy Him. We spend time in prayer and fasting. We study His word and meditate on and memorize it. And when we do we will find that we bear much fruit, even in our weakness and inadequacy. Our hearts will fill with joy, He will be glorified in us and will use us to minister to others.

As we abide we can say with David:

“I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed…Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!” Psalm 34

So, taste and see! Abide, friend. Take refuge in Him. Seek Him. Fear Him. And watch Him take away your fears and turn your lack into overflowing fruit for His name and kingdom.

Fighting the Fear of Living a Life You Didn’t Expect

I am so grateful to have my friend, Mary O’Brien, share with you today. Mary will forever be one of my saving graces because when I first met her, she came to my rescue!

I was at the National Religious Broadcaster Conference trying to carry 6 foot banners and a box of things for my boss’s book table. Suddenly a woman comes right by me, pulls on my dress and nicely said, “I’m sorry your dress was riding up, and your hands were full.”

How can you not become friends after that! I met up with Mary again at a conference her church where my boss was speaking. Mary is someone after being around her, it makes you want to live better. It truly is an honor to have her as a guest blogger today. I know you will enjoy what she has to share!

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I grew up in a loving yet dysfunctional home. As I have aged – I realize that my younger years were wrought with fear of outcomes I could not control. If I could control a situation, then it hurt less or caused less stress. But that simply was not often possible in my home.

Faith was ever present, but it was not until college that I came to have a personal relationship with Christ. I came to know that God wasn’t a far off God, but a God who loved ME and was intimately involved in my life. He used a very traumatic incident in my 20’s to break me free of my false sense of control and fear of “what ifs”.

I was a single 27 woman when out of the blue I was diagnosed with bacterial endocarditis (an infection in the lining of the heart) and hospitalized. A few days later I was told I would need open heart surgery to repair the damage. I was in shock. I had gone from a normal, healthy young woman to being told I would have congestive heart failure within the next year if I didn’t have this surgery. Within a few days came another blow:

“Did we mention that depending on the outcome of the surgery you may not be able to have children?”

Um no, no one had mentioned this.

My mind was racing. Who would want to marry me if on the first date I had to tell them: Oh! By the way, I cannot have children and I have a foot-long scar down my chest.

I went into control mode. How can I be sure to manage the options so that is not the outcome (there were a few extreme options available to me that might have prevented this possible outcome).

As a believer who had just begun studying the Word seriously for a few years, I knew enough to know I needed to run to God and His promises. But this was so hard (I was still learning about God’s sovereignty and His goodness).

I thought maybe I could handle this better. There were several Scripture passages that really ministered to me at this time…

Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 139:16

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

As I explored my options, the Lord confirmed to me that what I needed to do was let go and trust Him. Trust that whatever the outcome of the surgery was – He was good and faithful, and nothing was outside of His plans for me.

I recall kneeling by my bed a few nights before surgery and through tears just telling Him that I was giving this to Him. I was trusting Him. I knew that He loved me deeply and no matter what happened, He would see me through it and had a plan.

I woke up to good news- the valve had been repaired perfectly and there was no need for the strong medications that may have altered my health and ability to have children. I was so comforted in many ways by this. And, in my limited vision, I saw this as His promise for what life would hold for me.

However, years later, at around 39, I was in a place of striving against where the Lord had me as a single woman with no children. I just didn’t understand His plans or why my life didn’t look like I thought it was going to. In a place of fear – what if what I always thought my life would be doesn’t happen – I recall saying to the Lord that I felt a little bit tricked by Him. Why did you do that with my surgery only to NOT give me children. And in such a loving way I recall Him revealing to me that what He did was for my good, for my best. He took the best care of me with an outcome that allowed me to have a perfectly healthy life with no further concerns or issues. He never said it was about kids and marriage, but I had wanted it to be about that. He was simply taking the best care of me as a loving Father and blessing me with that outcome.

Around 42, he did a big work in me. He released me from the striving, and frankly the shame I had of being an older single woman whose life didn’t look most everyone else’s. I began to see His sovereignty and faithfulness in a new way.

Fear is natural, but the more we recognize the character of God the more we rest in knowing we have nothing to fear. He gave His Son for us. He knows every hair on our head. He knows the ugliest parts of us and loves us, graciously working to refine us and call us out of shallow waters into deep ones with Him. I love that I can look back on these times in my life when I start to get anxious about a situation and recount His goodness and that I have nothing to fear when He is in control.

A Suffering Servant — A Life Well Lived 

Life is so unpredictable.
Two weekends ago, I was at a wedding, celebrating with one of my girl friends.

This past weekend, I was at a memorial service for a beloved family friend.

Isn’t that life, though? In an instant, everything can change. You could meet the one you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. Or, you could lose the one you thought you would spend the rest of your life with.

In the case of these two events-two contrasting life events. They have something that ties them both together.

They both were celebrations. Of course, you celebrate at a wedding; unless, you disagree with the choice.

A memorial service, is not necessarily one you equate to a celebration. The one I went to on Saturday was.

The memorial service was for a man named Bill Zink. There was an open mic at the service. However, I didn’t feel like I should take up that precious time, so I am writing the impact he had on me here.

I grew up knowing him and his family. His youngest daughter and I have been friends for as long as I can remember. I never knew a time without their family being in my life. His wife was my Sunday School teacher during some of my most difficult teen years.

Mr. Zink’s greatest impact on me was not the words he said, but the way he lived. I started to understand Jesus as a “suffering servant” by watching the way he lived. He was in no way perfect. He would be the first to admit that.

Mr. Zink suffered enormously. For eleven years he fought Churg-Strauss syndrome. His health was up and down. He was in an out of the hospital more times than anyone I have ever met. Yet, when he was out of the hospital, he always had a smile on his face, and a hug ready for everyone he greeted.

Last October I went over to Mr. and Mrs. Zink’s house for dinner. I remember Mr. Zink saying something along the lines of, “suffering is good for us”. That was his attitude. The more he suffered, the more he leaned into Christ. I never remember him complaining about his illness, but only boasting in God’s strength to endure it.

I’ve met people who believe in a “name it and claim it” health. I know God could have healed Mr. Zink. Our entire congregation prayed for his healing. But in His suffering, God shone the brightest. Through his weak and fragile body, God showed Himself strong.

Mr. Zink was a warrior. He prayed hard. Lived well, and endured graciously. He taught me so many life lessons. I pray I never forget them.

If there were a verse to sum up Mr. Zink’s life I think it would be 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’”

The suffering Mr. Zink endure was not the end of him, but it was the beginning. Through his suffering, he became, more like Christ. He became a greater witness. He became a greater friend, a greater husband, and an even greater Dad.

Through suffering, he was going from glory to glory. And now, he is home. He fought the good fight and remained faithful until the end.

That was the impact he left on my life. I saw suffering in a light I don’t think I ever could have, had he not lived it out for me and others to see.

Mr. Zink, I will miss you. Thank you for your faithfulness, your kindness, and your impact my life. Thank you for living out a godly example for me and everyone who knew you!