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 Victorious Heart

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(Repost)

Life is a struggle. A battle. An uphill climb.

They say it takes heart, but my heart is weary. It is overloaded with pain and the cares of the world. It strives. It aches. It weeps. I feel like I am losing the battle and losing heart.

What can turn this around? Is there anything that can be done?

YES!

  • I can offer my heart to the Healer of brokenness.
  • I can offer the heart of this warrior to the one who leads the host of heaven.
  • I can place this lost, wandering, confused, and lonely heart into the hands of the One who knows every trail and trial, every battlefield and tear.

Every step of my journey is already seen and known before I have even stepped. Every battle has Someone to come alongside me. Every hopeless moment is waiting to be filled with the God of all hope. And every desolate battle cry (that sounds more like a whisper) can find its voice in I AM–the One who spoke the world into existence.

No longer will my heart lie downtrodden and defeated. No longer will it fold inward in silence. It will rise up in the power of God’s Spirit, and I will press on. For it is not by my might or power, but by His Spirit. He will lead me to victory. I will see it. I will taste it. I will know it. My heart will know it–because my heart knows Him.

This is the heart of victory.

 

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, February 13, 2020.  Reposted February 7, 2021.

Author’s note: This article is one of three featured in a post entitled “The Heart.”   You may access the other two articles individually by searching the archives for “Hearts of Stone” and “Your Heart Can Rest.”

Overwhelmed, Again

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Two years ago, I wrote a post entitled “Overwhelmed,” and I asked these questions: Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Too much to do? Too many places to go? Too many people to see? Too much laundry? Too many dishes? Too many pieces of paperwork to read? Too much pain—inside and out? And now, here we are in 2020, and I could add a new assortment of questions to the list. Life sure has changed, but one thing still hasn’t: we get overwhelmed.

Sometimes, life is just too much—and then a whole new set of circumstances rolls in, and we almost don’t even know what to do or think. Overwhelmed describes our state of being and our emotional state. We take the circumstances that surround us and internalize them. The “stuff” of life becomes the emotion of life. And sometimes it is just too much. Overwhelmed then describes our status.

Overwhelmed by circumstances, by emotions, by the present reality.

And then, more questions come: Why? Why is it like this? What made things this way? Will things ever change?

And then comes a question we can actually answer: Do things have to stay this way? My answer is an overwhelming NO!!!

Things do not have to stay this way. Our being overwhelmed can be overwhelmed by God! His greatness and His power, His majesty and His authority, His presence and His involvement can change all that we are and all that we are in the midst of.

And even when circumstances do not change, we can change. We can let ourselves be overwhelmed differently. We can be overwhelmed by the presence of God. His peace can flood our minds. His joy can spill from our hearts. His strength can empower our actions. We can be made new.

And again, questions: Have you ever been overwhelmed by God? By His goodness, His love, His mercy?

You have…you just may not have known it.

Did you wake up this morning? Did you see and hear and feel and taste? Did you see the beauty of His creation all around you? Did you lay your head on a pillow last night and sleep beneath a blanket of stars? You have been overwhelmed by God’s goodness.

Did you awaken this morning with an opportunity to know God and know He loves you? Do you know that you have the capability to be forgiven for every wrong thing you have ever done? You have been overwhelmed by His goodness, AND His love, AND His mercy.

God has been good to us in body and in soul. Do our minds understand this?

What an overwhelming thought: to think that the God of the universe loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to save us. He wants to be with us and cares about every detail of our lives. He has made Himself available to us. The gift of salvation is free for the taking. And after that, His strength and power are abundantly available to help us through all the things of life that would overwhelm us.

My heart is overwhelmed with awe and gratitude.

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
Psalm 107:1 (NKJV)

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 30, 2020

Between Seasons 2

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These are difficult days. Long. Hard. Tiring.

We beg for relief from the firestorm that blazes around us. Will these days never end? Aloud we commentate. Silently we muse. In our hearts we wonder. In our minds we question. Confusion and chaos seem to reign supreme. But I want to encourage you to hold on. Hold on to hope. A change of season is coming. Refreshing rains. Beautiful colors interspersed amongst the landscape. The fruit of harvest.

Things will not always be as they are now. We are simply between seasons. Beyond what our eyes can see and what our minds can comprehend stands Jesus Christ, reigning supreme over all. Fully aware. Fully engaged. Fully planning to keep His promise to return for His own.

But something amazing can happen before the time of His return—He can speak peace to our storms even now and cause the raging winds to cease. We may not see it with our eyes, but we will know it in our spirits. Rays of light and hope will burst in and pervade the darkness and despair hanging over our heads. Peace will flood these plains of anxiety. Rivers of calm we have never known before will fill our quaking hearts.

We can invite His presence to enter into our situations. Today. Now. Even while this relenting heat beats down on our heads and tries to scorch every drop of hope we have remaining within us. He will come if we ask. We won’t need to fret or worry about what tomorrow holds because His power is real, His plan is perfect, and His peace is available.  He created the world from nothing, and in Him all things exist and subsist.

So, while we are here between seasons—enduring difficult days and bracing for more yet to come—we can access His strength.  He will enable us to pass through this dry season into a bountiful harvest.

“The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.”
Psalm 29:11

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.”
James 5:7

~~~For further reading, see my blog article entitled “Between Seasons.”~~~

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, July 26, 2020

Scripture quotations taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982, Thomas Nelson.

When It Just Doesn’t Quit

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Sometimes, it just doesn’t quit. You know what I’m talking about. The stuff. It just keeps coming at you faster than you can swallow, or even blink. There you are, and there it is. And that, and that, and that too. Overwhelmed. Swamped. Buried. Defeated. Hopeless. Despairing.

The trials compound. The stack of bills mounts. The calendar is crammed to capacity. The seams are about to burst. And you are about to unravel.

The crises become commonplace. The hours fly and crawl at the same time. The supporters grow tired of supporting. And there you are, left all alone with a mess in your hands. And in front of you. And on all sides. Pressing in. Weighing down.

When is this going to stop? Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve all of this? I am so ready to be done. I am past ready.

And then, guess what?  It rains some more.  The straw that broke the camel’s back is joined by more straws. You stare bewildered. You stare blankly. You are staring it in the face.

But then—if your heart belongs to Jesus–a still small voice will come. It will remind you of the words. “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Be still, and know that I am God. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”* What precious words. And these words are truth, spoken straight to your heart from the source of all truth: God Himself, the One who holds the world in His hands, and the One who holds you in His hands.

A few blinks will clear away the haze, and the clarity will dawn. God Himself, the Maker of the universe, is right there beside you. He holds your hand, and He holds your heart. Strength will begin to infuse you. Joy will begin to rise up. Hope will be restored. And you can have a plan. He can be your plan.

The piles will still pile on. The stuff will still keep coming. The pain will still be real. But you will be different. With God on your side, the hopeless heart will become hope-filled.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NKJV)

*From Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 46:10, and Hebrews 13:5 NKJV

©Text and photo Francee Strain, February 14, 2019. Reposted March 7, 2020.

 

The Victorious Heart

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Life is a struggle. A battle. An uphill climb.

They say it takes heart, but my heart is weary. It is overloaded with pain and the cares of the world. It strives. It aches. It weeps. I feel like I am losing the battle and losing heart.

What can turn this around? Is there anything that can be done?

YES!

  • I can offer my heart to the Healer of brokenness.
  • I can offer the heart of this warrior to the one who leads the host of heaven.
  • I can place this lost, wandering, confused, and lonely heart into the hands of the One who knows every trail and trial, every battlefield and tear.

Every step of my journey is already seen and known before I have even stepped. Every battle has Someone to come alongside me. Every hopeless moment is waiting to be filled with the God of all hope. And every desolate battle cry (that sounds more like a whisper) can find its voice in I AM–the One who spoke the world into existence.

No longer will my heart lie downtrodden and defeated. No longer will it fold inward in silence. It will rise up in the power of God’s Spirit, and I will press on. For it is not by my might or power, but by His Spirit. He will lead me to victory. I will see it. I will taste it. I will know it. My heart will know it–because my heart knows Him.

This is the heart of victory.

 

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, February 13, 2020

When It Just Doesn’t Quit

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Sometimes, it just doesn’t quit. You know what I’m talking about. The stuff. It just keeps coming at you faster than you can swallow, or even blink. There you are, and there it is. And that, and that, and that too. Overwhelmed. Swamped. Buried. Defeated. Hopeless. Despairing.

The trials compound. The stack of bills mounts. The calendar is crammed to capacity. The seams are about to burst. And you are about to unravel.

The crises become commonplace. The hours fly and crawl at the same time. The supporters grow tired of supporting. And there you are, left all alone with a mess in your hands. And in front of you. And on all sides. Pressing in. Weighing down.

When is this going to stop? Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve all of this? I am so ready to be done. I am past ready.

And then, guess what?  It rains some more.  The straw that broke the camel’s back is joined by more straws. You stare bewildered. You stare blankly. You are staring it in the face.

But then—if your heart belongs to Jesus–a still small voice will come. It will remind you of the words. “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Be still, and know that I am God. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”* What precious words. And these words are truth, spoken straight to your heart from the source of all truth: God Himself, the One who holds the world in His hands, and the One who holds you in His hands.

A few blinks will clear away the haze, and the clarity will dawn. God Himself, the Maker of the universe, is right there beside you. He holds your hand, and He holds your heart. Strength will begin to infuse you. Joy will begin to rise up. Hope will be restored. And you can have a plan. He can be your plan.

The piles will still pile on. The stuff will still keep coming. The pain will still be real. But you will be different. With God on your side, the hopeless heart will become hope-filled.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NKJV)

*From Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 46:10, and Hebrews 13:5 NKJV

Francee Strain, February 14, 2019

Photo by Francee Strain

Carry Me

When the road is long, carry me.

 

When I’m not strong, carry me.

 

When all is wrong, carry me.

 

Carry me on the road that is short to You.

 

Carry me in strong arms that will pull me through.

 

Carry me in the way that is right and true.

 

Carry me straight to You.

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Copyright text and photo,  Francee Strain November 2017

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)

 

Strong to the Core

Well, it’s a new year. I have made a new year’s resolution: I am going to work on strengthening my core. Those flabby parts and over-sized sections that ought not to be there–those are my focus. The weakness that resides within me–I am going to replace it with strength. I have a great personal trainer lined up for the task, and I have a willing spirit. Ready. Set. Go to Jesus.

Yes, I am going to be trained by Jesus. I need to work on the core of my spirit. The neglect of the previous year has caused me to grow flabby. Unwanted things like apathy, pride, anger, and fear have grown in size. As I have neglected to deal with these problems, not removing them and replacing them with better things like love, forgiveness, fervency, and boldness, I have grown weak.

I am my own worst enemy. If I do not wake up early enough to go to the gym before heading out the door to work, the slippery slope of neglect begins, because often by the end of the workday and the home tasks, I am too tired. I tell myself I will try and do better tomorrow, but tomorrow usually never finds me doing so. Change takes desire and commitment, time and attention, a want-to and a know-how. I want to. He knows how. So let’s do this!

I look to my trainer, and I ask Him what I need to do. He tells me to approach Him and watch what He does, and then follow His example. I come to Him, trusting in His perfect knowledge and unfailing skill. He is kind, loving, and patient. He forgives me when I fail. He walks right along beside me, offering encouragement and further instructions. I take a step forward, and then another, and then another. And before I know it, I realize this is what I was made to do and I am becoming who I was made to be.

My focus changes.  My tone changes.  My ability changes. I mature as I remain teachable. Soon, I have a passion for rising up to begin my day by being infused with strength. When my day comes to an end, I look forward to more of His presence beside me tomorrow. I close my eyes in sleep, and I know in my core that I am strong because of the strength that has been placed within me by the hand of God.

“[T]hat He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:16-21 (NKJV)

By: Francee Strain, January 12, 2018