The Persevering Heart (Part 3 of 3 in “The Runner” Series)

“Mrs. Strain?  This is So and So’s doctor’s office.  I am calling to let you know that we found something on the ultrasound indicating something may be wrong with the baby.  It is something with the spine.  It could be spina bifida.  You will need to come in again in a few days and have another ultrasound performed.”  Not exactly words a pregnant mother wants to hear to start off her week, nor are they words a pregnant mother wants to hear ever, on any day of the week.  My reaction?  Fear gripped my heart.  Tears spilled down my cheeks.  And then…I prayed.  And then I asked others to join me in praying.  I’d already been through a high-risk pregnancy two years prior—a risk to both me and my baby.  Many people had prayed, and my miracle baby girl was born safely and was healthy.  And now, for days, many prayed again, and when that next ultrasound was performed, a perfect spine showed on the screen.  And five months later, a perfect little boy joined our family.

“Mrs. Strain, I’ll be right back.”  The pediatrician left the exam room while I kept my nine-month-old son laying on the exam table.  The doctor was gone for what seemed like an eternity, and when he came back, he was not alone.  Two other doctors followed.  Talk about fear gripping a mother’s heart.  The pediatrician instructed the doctors to examine my son and perform certain motions with his legs.  They did so, and all left the room.  What is going on?!  The pediatrician returned presently and informed me that he believed my son had a neurological disorder, and we were being referred to a specialist.

“Mr. and Mrs. Strain, your son may never walk.  He has a genetic muscle disease.”  What?!  I had always joked that I wanted my son to be a musician like me rather than an athlete like his father.  And now?  All I wanted was for him to be an athlete.  A mother’s mind races at times like these.  The chest tightens.  The tears spill.  And the fears come.  “Mr. and Mrs. Strain, we will put him into some physical therapy and see what happens.  There are one of ten possible diseases he has.  Do you want to do invasive testing now or just wait and see if he deteriorates?”  We opted to wait on testing for a bit and see what would happen with some therapy.  And people prayed.

“Mrs. Strain, your son is late in reaching physical milestones.”  (He had sat up late, didn’t crawl other than army crawl, and he wasn’t standing or trying to walk yet.)  “If we have some custom braces made for his feet and ankles, that may help him.”  And so, off to the orthopedist we went, and then back to therapy, and all the while, people prayed.  The therapist said most children with my son’s condition do not progress—they give up and sit there.  Well, this is when things got good.  My son walked, threw balls, and climbed on things. 

“Mrs. Strain, your son will lag behind other children physically, but it looks like he will be able to do things okay as long as he keeps building muscle strength.  Eventually, that strength will offset the disease, and people may not even know he has it. He will have to wear the braces until early elementary school when he’ll eventually have enough muscle strength to compensate for the disease.  After that, he will always need something in his shoes for shaping and support.”  Eventually, we did not have to go to neurology appointments or therapy anymore, just the orthopedist and podiatrist.

And then, my son ran.  And he has not stopped running since.  And people prayed, and have not stopped praying since.  My son ran around the house with his sister and out in the yard with the dogs.  He is the one who led the way in new physical endeavors.  And in second grade, he began his athletic career (after he’d had some piano lessons!). 

In second grade, he completed a 5K and got 2nd place.  He competed in other races while in elementary school and even placed first.  He built a collection of ribbons, medals, race tags, and participation t-shirts.  In 7th grade, he played football in the fall and ran track in the spring.

And then in 8th grade, my son, whom we were told might never walk, became a long-distance runner on the cross country team.  In high school, he trained by running over ten miles at a time.  Who can do stuff like this except God!

As the years have passed, difficult seasons have come for my son, as they do for us all.  He went through years of bullying which included physical injuries.  Challenges came in school and college and come now at his workplace.  But he gets up every morning, and he pushes through.  While our hearts ache along with his, he continues to do the hard things, the right things.  We undergird his life with our persevering prayers and support him with hearts full of persevering love.  And we all persevere in keeping our eyes on God.

Yes, hearts that have persevered in prayer and petitioned God have seen God in His great mercy and grace give my son a persevering heart.

Every day we have to get up and do the hard things, the right things.  But we remember, whether the valleys are dry or they are flooded, whether the sun beats down on our heads relentlessly or we never see it, we can persevere.  The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us, and we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.*  Because our hearts belong to Him, we can persevere.


I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 3:14 KJV)


*See Romans 8:11, 35, 37–39.

Author’s note: the above conversations with the medical professionals are not direct quotes but rather paraphrased summaries.

And just a fun thing to note: in addition to becoming an athlete, our son also became a musician on several instruments. Our cup overflows, and so do our hearts!

©Francee Strain, February 28, 2021

Photo credit goes to my aunt Cheri. She took this photo of my son while visiting us in April 2014, fifteen years after that first phone call regarding the ultrasound findings.

The Staredown

I wrote this as a guest post for a friend’s website.*

Invisible disabilities.  The world may not see them, but they stare us in the face every day.  And some days, they stare harder.  What will we do with our gaze?  Avert it and pretend this is not happening to us?  Look down at our feet in defeat?  Level the gaze and freeze our movements?   Or, stare down the disability and then look up and move forward? 

I’ve observed an interesting phenomenon: people with disabilities, myself included, sometimes add more disability to the original amount.  The mentality changes into one of “I can’t.”  The focus is on the freedoms lost, and then the heart gets lost, too.  And when the mind and heart give up, there is not too much the body can do; it is at the mercy of following where it is led.  But, if the pattern of thinking is changed, and the focus shifts to what is still possessed and what can still be done, hope will infuse the heart, and there will be an ability to move forward.

There are choices when it comes to invisible disabilities.  True, the choices may be limited, but they still remain.  While the reality exists that one cannot fully control what happens with the body, there is still some measure of control.  One can retreat or press on, wither or flourish, become a victim or a victor.  It is up to each one whether to take advantage of what is available, and thus, thrive in the midst of invisible disabilities.

How does one press on while unable to function “normally?”  Well, the days of disability do not have to be random, purposeless, and inconsequential; on the contrary, they can be extraordinary by simply choosing to make them so.  A life is not only full when it consists of good health and time spent “out amongst the real world;” it can be full while being stuck at home dealing with disabilities and chronic illnesses.  When thoughts, actions, and attitudes are adjusted, things can change.  Lives can become purposeful and impactful.  Instead of pessimistically hanging onto glasses that are half empty, intentional actions can be taken to make them overflow.  These actions involve being conscientious, creative, and conquering.

Be conscientious.  Life is to live, not shrivel up and die.  Disability does not have to become our winter.  We can forget what is behind and press forward.  Being deliberate and taking decisive action can keep us from becoming stuck in our limitations.  Having a hidden disability doesn’t mean we have to remain a hidden figure.  We can make a difference and devote ourselves to doing so.  By taking the focus off ourselves and redirecting it, we can make the lives of others better.

Be creative.  We do not have to be passive and let disability “happen” to us.  We don’t have to get stuck in the mindset of “what used to be” or “what can never be.”  Instead, we can be inspired and get creative.  God designed us to impact lives and make a difference in this world.  We can examine the resources we have and move to do something with them.  We can do a new thing—or do an old thing in a new or modified way.  And with our new skills and knowledge, we can reach out to touch the lives of others.

Be conquering.  We can push ourselves to improve and become stronger people.  Taking good care of our bodies and mastering life hacks, such as using assistive devices or modifying our space to accommodate our disabilities, can help us move forward.  We can hold on to hope and vigilantly battle the enemies of despair, discouragement, and depression.  Processing what is happening and realizing that today is a new day gives us new opportunity to bloom.  We can use the worst circumstances to become our best.

The staredown can come to an end each day as we stop staring at our disabilities and our four walls and get busy instead looking at how we can bloom in the field in which we have been planted.  Look up and move forward.  Win the staredown.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 30, 2020

*Visit https://www.navigatingthestorms.com/ to find resources to help you as you live with invisible disabilities or care for someone who does.

Steadfast

Are you weary?  Steady on.

Are you tired?  Don’t quit.

Are you faltering?  Don’t stop.

Are you losing touch?  Reach out.

Do you feel like giving up?  Look up.

Keep on Keeping on.  Steadfast.

Stand firm in the faith, and walk forward in it, too.  Have faith in the Only Begotten Son of God who loves you and gave His life for you.  His love is steadfast.  He spent a night with no sleep, being betrayed, arrested, falsely accused, mocked, and beaten.  And then, He made His way to the cross—for you.  He gave His very life so you would never have to journey on alone.

He holds the hands of those who hold Him in their hearts.  He never leaves His own.  He was faithful unto death, and now He is faithful unto life.  Eternal life awaits those who place their trust in Jesus, the Savior of the world.  There is hope for better days, days with no more pain, sorrow, or tears.

Life is hard.  And tiring.  And painful beyond belief.  But His presence will go with His children, and He will give them rest.  When the earth shakes, and the mountains fall into the sea, our quaking hearts can walk forward unafraid.  Do not fear.  He will hold us fast.  Having our foundation firm in Christ will give us a solid rock upon which to stand.  He never lets go of those who belong to Him.  He is the Creator of all.  He holds all power and knowledge in His hand.  He does not change, faint, grow weary, or close His eyes in sleep.  If you are on His side, He is on your side.

When we keep our eyes steadfast on Him, we will see His glory and His beauty.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is steadfast and faithful.  His mercies are new every morning.  His love is unconditional.  His peace is beyond understanding.  His joy is indescribable.  His grace is freely given to us, undeserved. 

Do not look for other things to fill, comfort, and satisfy you.  Only He can save, and only He can perfectly help.  Set your heart on Him.

Keep your mind stayed on Him.  Do not let it be overtaken by doubt, impurity, lies, and deception.

Set your ears to listen for His voice.

Set your voice always determined to praise Him.

He is high and lifted up.  He is the King who sits enthroned forever.  And He has said that we can boldly approach His throne and find grace to help in our time of need.

So, for all of my days, I will be steadfast in Him.

I will endure and continue, unshaken.  I will be confident, strong, sure, and peaceful.  I will continue on course, on task, on focus, on point, onward.  Steady on. Steadfast.

My soul follows hard after You; Your right hand upholds me.*

*See Psalm 63:8 KJV.

For further reading: Psalm 40, Psalm 103, Romans 12:12

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 20, 2020