Finishing The Race

Pursuing God One Shin Splint at a Time

7 Years

I’ve written this sort of state-of-our-family address each January 5th since 2010 and this one feels a bit different. Maybe when I find my way to the end of pushing these keys it will be a bit clearer. It tends to work that way for me.

One thing I know has carried over each year is how I try to minimize my feelings leading up to “the day”. I try to convince myself it’s just another date on the calendar. What’s it matter?

It just does. Never mind how I try to compartmentalize, rationalize, or -ize it away, it always ends up mattering. Dates carry weight. They give context to events and cause people to connect to where they were (or weren’t) when dates are mentioned.

December 8, 1941

September 11, 2001

January 5, 2009

Depending on the proximity of yourself or loved ones to these dates it matters very differently. And each time the date rolls around again we remember. My timeline has other dates important to me and, Lord willing, I predict there will be more of those to come. But the one that flipped everything I thought I knew to be true is the 1/5/09 one.

The new normal I was forced to work through reverberates to this day. The ability to reconcile “God is good all of the time” and my husband dying before getting to meet our second child was critical to our little family’s future.

And it’s a part of our story. How His grace really does reach me, the way He lifts me from the ashes with new mercies every morning, and the overwhelming urgency I have to tell others about our loving God.

It’s not that I’m “healed” from what happened to me. I still grieve, fear, worry, and have many questions left unanswered, but I’m learning to use those feelings as a catalyst to pray. Continually.

Before this date 7 years ago I didn’t appreciate daily comings and goings like I do now. I look at life differently. It is a gift to be alive, free to make choices. And as I study Jesus I find not death, but life. In abundance.

I am crazy grateful for all the support our family has been given. I am praying today this post will be a reminder of what a good Father we have. And to remember this earth wasn’t ever meant to be heaven, or our final destination, but there is a lots of joy to be found here while we fulfill our purposes and finally get called home!

Christmas 2015

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From Tears to Joy in a Day

if we can remember the hope will be there when we are ready to receive it, (1)

Yesterday I saw a lady crying in her car as she sat at a four way stop. I’ve wondered for years why I don’t see more people crying in their cars because this was definitely a “safe” place for me to cry.

When my husband passed away I had a 30 minute commute to work so with my two year old daughter safely away with her grandmother I’d drive crying the whole way, suck it up to teach for a few hours, and then cry all the way back home. It was exhausting…the crying. Grieving is physical work.

But now I realize why we don’t see more people crying as they drive. It’s not that it isn’t happening.

It’s the sunglasses.

Man, it felt so safe behind my sunglasses to let tears flow and strangers in their cars wouldn’t be the wiser. No one would be uncomfortable or weirded out by me.

But yesterday this sweet lady didn’t have on her sunglasses. I could see her tears and you know what–it didn’t weird me out or make me uncomfortable in the slightest bit. I wanted to yell “Me, too!! I’ve been there!” But through our closed windows it would be useless so instead I prayed out loud. In the safety of my quiet car I could call out to the One who can and does help. I know first hand what prayer does and it’s nothing short of a miracle. I prayed for the peace that surpasses all understanding for this lady. I have zero doubt God heard this prayer and helped her.

And it helped me.

It’s reminded me that just because we can’t “see” people crying very often, they are. It’s not just me. And often it’s hidden because of those sunglasses shielding us from the light.

We think we can hide there, but obvious to the world or not, God knows our pain. When we let down our guard and bring the pain into the light, hope is able to fill the darkness.

I know this can take time to get there. Lots of time.

If only we can remember the hope will be there when we are ready to receive it; it can help us hang on until then.

The lady may have been crying because Rick’s bakery canceled her big order of holiday cookies or a diagnosis was received . Either way prayer helps. On any given day either of those circumstances can feel overwhelming.

My busy day ended with a celebration of answered prayers and hope. Some of our girls gathered to shower our friend who is the proud foster momma to a precious baby and to see another dear friend before she moves away with her family to spread God’s kingdom even further. As they finished sharing just the tip of the iceberg of God’s goodness in these life changes, another friend announced her pregnancy, a rainbow baby for this family. No kidding, we barely finished exclaiming our excitement when someone shouted in disbelief, “It’s snowing!!” I truly thought someone was playing a trick on us as I saw the flakes falling outside the door.

The story goes I knocked down no less than four children running to open the front door, but who’s counting? Most of us were able to rush outside to witness this amazing surprise, as it has been about 60 degrees for over a week.

I am still marveling, as I type this, at how well our God loves us. Earlier this same day I had remarked to the lady checking out my groceries (just moments before seeing the lady crying in her car) “My kids are praying for snow, but it will take a miracle with the weather we are having!” She agreed . And then just a few hours later, the biggest snowflakes I have ever seen…the picture is blurry but the joy is clear:


God sure put an exclamation mark on the day for me. “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

This crying stuff may not apply to you, but it might be the anxiety of the season or fear or some other emotion that takes control under stress.

Last night Jen Hatmaker’s emailed newsletter came through and it speaks to this season for all of us trying to survive…and I believe it applies to all four seasons.

“Finally, a short word to those of us who…endure some stuff during the holidays. This is a time to dig deep for grace and patience and forgiveness, no doubt. In the name of Jesus who came for the love of people, we too can use this time to be radically merciful toward those who’ve hurt us, who are hard, who aren’t sorry, who still struggle.

But it can also be a time for healthy boundaries, safe spaces, hard but productive conversations, and the word no. You have permission to make your home a sanctuary. There is no amount of crazy you are required to bear the brunt of. You do not have to go to everything, help at everything, host everything, or do everything. You can set your own odometer. Whatever takes you further away from Jesus and love and generosity and goodwill, shelve it. The earth will not spin off its axis and you will not retroactively prevent the birth of Baby Jesus. Be healthy, be merry, and may this season be wondrous all over again, because unto us a child was born.

Joy to the world.” –Jen Hatmaker  (emphasis mine)

Good to know.

Lower your shoulders, breathe deeply and remember no matter what happens–we can’t retroactively prevent the birth of Jesus!

Love and blessings to all of you! -Bonnie

Protect Your Promise: What I learned that Time I Almost Got Divorced


by Robyn Hubbard

your spouse's role is not to be your life, but to enrich a life lived for Jesus.

We thought we had it figured out. We couldn’t understand why all of our couple friends had such a hard time getting along. We didn’t know why they found it necessary to plan a weekly “date night” in order to keep their marriage intact. We didn’t get how someone could consider divorce if they had simply chosen their spouse wisely. We left get-togethers and dinner parties rolling our eyes knowingly. Amateurs.  If only everyone knew what we knew and did what we did. They wouldn’t ever fight either. We were happy. We liked each other. We had fun together. And that was enough.

Until it wasn’t.

Donny and I both had stressful, demanding jobs that we absolutely loved. We found our identity in them. He had his thing and I had mine. We were both doing what we always dreamed we would do. We bought a house that we loved. Even our dog was perfect. He was obedient, well-trained, and easy to control. Life was easy. Why did everyone around us not know how to do this?

After about six years of marriage, we finally got the itch to bring a baby into our little perfect world we had created out of our own hard work and determination. We welcomed a breath-taking baby girl with lips so red she looked as if she were wearing lipstick when she greeted the world for the first time.  Perfect.

She was a perfect, above-average toddler, of course. She was obedient, well-trained, and easy to control. Life was easy. Why didn’t every parent know how to do this?

We were so good at this parenting gig, it was only natural to add another perfect child to the mix to round out our perfect family. But in spite of our hard work, determination, and flawless parenting, we couldn’t control the miscarriage that would take our second child from us or that our third child would be born into this world with autism.

Life became very messy very quickly. Things were no longer going as planned. We were over-stressed, over-worked and over-tired. We were short with our daughter and were utterly disappointed when she didn’t live up to our idea of perfection.

We became secluded from others to hide the embarrassment of our son’s public meltdowns. I became obsessed with becoming knowledgeable, being my son’s advocate, and exposing him to every possible scenario and theory that might make him better. Donny threw himself into his work. It was all he knew to do. He had to provide so we could get our precious baby boy the help he needed.

We grew apart.

It was so slowly. We had no idea it was happening. We never saw it coming.

We were just too busy.

Things went from happy to content to discontent to downright terrible before either of us knew what hit us. This left us vulnerable to everything this broken world tells us is the norm. I started bad-mouthing my husband to girlfriends who encouraged me to “just vent”, which accomplished nothing other than adding to my resentment. He spent more time away from home and found more excuses to escape the reality of our difficult situation. We murmured “I love you” frequently, but not with the same meaning as before.

We didn’t talk about it. Talking about it might cause a fight or worse, make it real. We were both peacemakers. Non-confrontational. We’d rather sit in silence watching Seinfeld episodes than have to actually deal with the truth.

Finally, the worst case scenario struck our marriage and shook me to my absolute core. He filed for divorce and left our once happy home. How had I let this happen? At what point had things gone wrong? It was as if the scales had fallen off and I could finally see what we had both become. His love had become the pursuit of success. My love had become the pursuit of perfection. Neither had anything to do with the other.

I spent four months alone. My perfect life had been stripped away from me and I was left wondering why. I spent my days and nights praying, reading scripture, seeking truth and answers. What I found was the will and the need to FIGHT for my imperfect family. 

By the grace and mercy of God alone, my husband and I reconciled our marriage and made the intentional decision to make it our priority. During the time we were apart and in the year that followed, I learned so much. Every single day I intentionally thank God for my marriage and think about what I can do to keep it healthy and strong. I read books and get advice from godly women who are farther along in their marriage journey. I pray and ask for guidance. I actually talk to my husband about our marriage. (What a concept, right?) What if I had done this before I almost lost it all? If I knew then what I know now, could all of the hurt have been avoided? My sincere prayer is that others will learn from our mistakes and take a proactive approach in their marriages. We have to do everything we can to end this damaging, socially acceptable cycle of broken families.
These are the most important things I have learned that I feel lead to share. However, let me make a disclaimer and say that if you are in an abusive relationship, these suggestions are not for you. There is no excuse for abuse and you have every right to get out of an abusive situation. Also, if you have been divorced, I am in no way judging you. Lord knows I have no room to judge a soul on this earth. Your situation is unique to you and restoration looks different for everyone. And then there’s grace. Thank God for his grace.

  1. Your marriage comes before your children.

Every mother I know struggles with this. We think we are bad moms and fear the judgment of others if we get a sitter too often or go on a trip without our kids. I lived this false guilt for years. I said no to invitations to join my husband on business trips and decided it was just easier and cheaper to stay home on a Friday night. Listen to me. The absolute best thing a mother can do for her children is to invest in her relationship with their daddy. Take time for each other. If you can’t afford a sitter, make a deal with a friend who also has kids and share babysitting duties. (She needs time with her husband too!) Eat a nice meal without a kids’ menu or a highchair. If Taco Bell is all you can afford, then have an adult conversation over a couple of burritos! Talk about the old days and dream about the future. This is what will remind you why you fell in love and ultimately help you not fall out of it. You will go back to your children refreshed and ready to be a better mother than you were when you left. Hit that reset button. It’s okay. You have to make time. You have to find room in the budget. It is crucial.

  1. Your marriage comes before your job.

Most men have an innate need to provide for their families. This is often where they find their worth. They want to give you everything you ever dreamed of having and feel like failures if they are unable to do so. It’s easy to get caught up in work and success when this is the case. I know from experience, working moms don’t have enough seconds in the day. We feel as though we already have two full time jobs and our husbands just have to understand that at the end of the day, we just don’t have anything left. Stay-at-home moms feel the same way. I know because I stayed home for a year and I’m a teacher, so I get to stay at home every summer with my children. During those months, I feel like I’ve given of myself all day long. When Donny comes home from work, I feel like I have no more to give.

Dig deep, girls. Let your husband bathe the kids while you take a second to breathe. Do your best to get your second wind, put on some lipstick, change out of the yoga pants, and make time for your husband. I always have papers to grade, but I’ve made a habit of saving them for Saturday afternoon nap time so my evenings can be spent with my husband. Put the kids to bed and spend time doing what you both love. Start a new series on Netflix, read a book together, play cards, or just TALK. Now that we are making an effort, we sit out on our deck sometimes at night and talk to each other about the things we used to avoid. Your time to unwind with your spouse should be the best part of your day. When the kids are gone, you will have to know how to do this. You might as well start now.

  1. Never assume your spouse knows how much you love him/her.

Say it. Text it. Email it. Tell others. Be proud of each other. Donny started writing messages on my bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker. Such a small gesture that probably takes him less than a minute makes me feel loved and valued all day. I used to think saying “I love you” after a phone conversation or when we kissed goodnight was enough, but it’s really not. Don’t let those words become meaningless. You have to be the one who makes your husband feel wanted and needed and desirable. If you don’t, someone else will. Let that sink in for a bit… He might not act like he needs you to tell him he’s handsome or good at his job or a great dad, but he does. We all need to feel loved and appreciated and if we don’t we are setting ourselves up to find it somewhere else, even if we didn’t know we were looking for it. Tell your spouse WHY you love him or her. Be specific. Love intentionally.

  1. Stop “venting” about your spouse.

Women are the absolute worst at this. It starts with one woman “venting” because her husband never puts his dirty dishes in the dishwasher. The conversation builds and builds until we are ultimately trying to outdo each other. “Well, my husband ALWAYS forgets trash day! He’s so forgetful and it makes me crazy!” Before we even realize what has happened, we have reduced all of the men in our lives to absolute pea-brained morons who would be completely helpless without our superior supervision. It’s just not okay. Most TV sitcoms might base their comedy on the idea that men are complete buffoons, but this mentality does nothing but damage our marriages. Try building him up rather than tearing him down. When other women start verbally displaying all of their husbands’ weaknesses, change the tone of the conversation by bragging on your husband’s strengths. I guarantee the other women will follow suit. After all, we do hate to be outdone, don’t we?

  1. Protect your promise.

You promised before God and men to be married forever. Sometimes we forget the “for better or for worse” part of that promise. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the time a 5th grader in my class stood up to give a presentation on her research of another country. She gave all of her facts and at the end, she said with an expression of disbelief in her voice, “and once they get married, they can NEVER GET DIVORCED!!” The entire class of 10 year olds, both from families that had been torn apart by divorce and those who had not, gasped in shock. One student yelled out, “But what if they get sick of each other? What happens then?!” The knowledgeable little presenter said matter-of-factly, “They’re just STUCK with each other.” My entire class was so appalled by the notion, they just about sucked all of the air out of the room with another giant gasp. I was speechless. This is the norm. This is what we are teaching our children. Everything is temporary. Nothing is forever. Are we all conditioned to think this way? To give up when things get hard or when one of you makes a mistake? Has unconditional love become socially unacceptable?? I can tell you from experience, unfortunately it has. But the good news is that we can be the generation that changes things. Protect your promise.

If you get a funky vibe from a woman who speaks a little too highly of your husband, nip it. If you start noticing a handsome man at work is giving you some extra attention, avoid it. If your spouse spends all of his time on the computer and you are seeing red flags, confront it. Don’t be afraid to fight for your marriage. We are living in a get-what-you-want-when-you-want-it society, which is an extremely dangerous place to live. Protect your promise. Don’t allow poisonous people into your circle. Pray over your marriage and your family. Pray against temptation and distraction. Be on guard and don’t ever be so naive as to think your marriage is safe from attack. Stay in the Word and believe God’s truths, because they tend to be very different than what the world wants you to believe.

  1. Your relationship with Christ comes before your marriage.

Above all, the most important thing I have learned through all of this is that God is for marriage, but He doesn’t want us to find our fulfillment in another human being. Human beings are flawed. We are imperfect and make so many mistakes. God wants us to find our fulfillment in him. You can only pour into your spouse when you are filled up by Jesus. Your relationship with him will directly affect your relationship with your spouse. You can only give grace when you receive it from him and grace is essential when two people decide to live together forever.

Grace is essential.

God wants you to find joy, companionship, intimacy, and divine love in your marriage, but your spouse’s role is not to be your life, but to enrich a life lived for Jesus.

No matter who you are, how you met, or how much you love each other, marriage is work. But when you do make the decision to become intentional, your marriage can be some of the most beautiful, fulfilling, rewarding work you have ever done. Don’t give up. Protect your promise.

“Great love isn’t two people finding the perfect match in each other. Great love is two people making the choice to match.” – Lysa TerKeurst

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