Category Archives: hopes and dreams

Her Children Rise Up!

“Her children rise up and call her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28 ESV).

The Proverbs 31 “woman of valor” was something of a warrior. After all, the Hebrew term chayil, translated “valor,” is a military term. When I asked my husband whether he saw me as a fighter, he didn’t hesitate. “You have fought hard for our children’s dreams.”

It’s true. I fought fiercely to help our kids reach their dreams. Not that I didn’t love setting goals and working hard to reach my dreams. I still do. But this quote says it best: “Reaching your own dreams is fulfilling—helping someone else reach their dreams is sublime.” And when that “someone else” happens to be your own children, it’s joy on steroids.

I wonder if the Proverbs 31 woman of valor discovered this same joy in seeing her children reach their dreams? We’re told, “Her children rise up and call her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28 ESV). The Hebrew word translated “rise up” is very strong. It means, “to accomplish, to endure, to build or establish, to strengthen, to succeed.”

I’d like to think her children were now grown, happy, and fulfilled. They had reached their dreams, in part, because of their mother’s impact. She had taught them. Nurtured, clothed, and cared for them. Modeled a life of giving to the poor. She displayed joy, faithfulness, and laughter. Perhaps they saw their mom in prayer, seeking the Lord and fighting for their dreams. She gave her life to them.

Nothing makes me happier than when my children “rise up” and succeed. If the Proverbs 31 woman of valor poured her life into her children, then I can imagine her joy as she watched them flourish.

To love our own children, and other children who are like our own, calls for self-sacrifice. But we may just discover that loving others more than we love ourselves can be oddly liberating. Perhaps the freedom from self-centeredness is the best kind of freedom of all.

 


In Honor of Ordinary Fathers

Sometimes you find heroes in the most unlikely places. Since today is Father’s Day, I want to honor those ordinary dads everywhere who are living quietly, faithful lives. These guys are the real heroes.

A few months ago, I traveled to our nation’s capital. I was there with my husband for the 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast. David and I walked our nation’s corridors of power and met influential men and women who faithfully serve our country. We spent time with our congressmen. And we took fascinating tours of the capitol,  awestruck at the compelling stories about the faith of our Founding Fathers. They were truly great men of honor. Their names are written in history, and their impact will last for generations.

But the real hero showed up—of all places—in a taxi while we were traveling back to our hotel. Our driver was a gentle,  friendly man with an east African accent. He began talking about his 33 years driving a cab in Washington DC. Times had changed, he explained, and drivers now had to guard against criminals who no longer just robbed, but sometimes killed taxi drivers.

So he had moved his family to the suburbs. His three kids, he went on to tell us, had all graduated from fine colleges on scholarships. He beamed with that special dad-kind-of-pride. All three now held prestigious jobs in the DC area. “I’m blessed,” he smiled. “I have my health and I’m able to work. I have all I need,”

“You must have done some pretty good parenting on your part,” I commented. “What’s your secret?” “My secret,” he laughed, “is America.” “In America, if you’re willing to work hard, you can reach your dream.”

“Hmm,” I replied. “There are some who would say it’s not possible here.” “Ah,” he paused. “They have never lived in another country.” He was from Eritrea, he went on to tell us. One of the most oppressive countries in the world, Eritrea heavily persecutes Christians. Some refer it the “North Korea of Africa. He was a man of deep faith and I noticed the cross prominently displayed on his dashboard. “People here don’t know what it’s like to not have freedom,” he said quietly.

He fled the persecution and came to America. Educated as an accountant by trade, he managed to find work as a cab driver.  A job he’s held ever since.  Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. But he made sure his kids were successful. “They are very smart kids,” He smiled.

His other secret to raising successful kids, he confessed, is his wife. “My wife, too. She is very nice.”   “Even though our kids now have professional careers, they call every weekend and want to come see us.” They say, “Mom, what are you cooking?” “Yes, I am a blessed man, indeed.”

I reflected on how the extraordinary can happen when an ordinary man lives a faithful, ordinary life. I knew we’d been in the presence that day of an honorable man. A hero.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject of honor this year since David and I completed our books on how to reclaim honor in marriage: Eight Great Ways to Honor Your Husband and Eight Great Ways to Honor Your Wife. One way I’m trying to recapture this lost art is to notice and celebrate honor when I see it.

Let’s reflect on those quietly honorable husbands and fathers in our lives today. And perhaps let them know just how thankful we are for their faithfulness in the ordinary.


First, Make Your Bed–Day 13

Welcome to 21 Days of Strength.  We’ve been focusing on how to strengthen ourselves in the Lord.  No doubt, if we follow Christ, we’re always in some kind of battle.  And like any good soldier, it pays to be strong–fit for the fight. I’ve learned through the years that it helps to be practical, as well as spiritually prepared,  if I want to be strong.  Simply lightening my load, both mentally and physically, gives me more strength. Decluttering my soul and my surroundings renews energy.  I’ve also found that structure and order keep me mentally healthy–able to stay positive.

Strength is somehow connected to our habits.  I’ve discovered that simple daily habits build strength—which in turn, helps keep hope alive.   Small habits can lead to large actions. Large actions lead to big dreams and big dreams have wider reaching and even world changing impact.  And since we are talking about ways to increase our strength, I thought I’d share the following words of practical advice from a member of our armed forces and a man whose life, and the lives of his men, depended on staying fit for battle.

Navy Admiral and former SEAL William H. McRaven challenged graduates in his commencement address at University of Texas to dare to change their world.  But he started off by talking about the importance of our habits:

“Changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it,” he said. “But change starts with small actions. Every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

His advice to the graduates? “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the reminder that the little things really do matter.  Please show me some small, daily habits could help me build my strength in You.


Clean House-Day 12

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19).

God’s strength helps us to keep our hope alive. Hope, in turn, makes us even stronger—like an anchor for our soul. Perhaps you’re fighting to hold on to your hope. The mountain of obstacles look too big to overcome. We’d all agree it takes spiritual muscle to keep dreaming when circumstances look bleak. Strength to resist the aggressive intruders of discouragement and fear. I pray that you’ll find encouragement as we continue our 21 Days of Strength.

Years ago when I was walking through infertility, I experienced God’s strength in practical ways.  The lessons are with me even today. But one thing’s for sure.  Waiting is hard work!  One day my husband spoke words that helped me turn a corner. He looked at me and said quietly, “You know, we’ll never be happy with a baby unless we’re happy without one.” We were on vacation at the time.  So I went for a walk to do business with God. Two hours—and a very long walk on the beach later—I returned. I had surrendered my dream to God. “Buried” my dream to have a baby in the sand. But I still held onto hope that God had a plan for us that was good.

I felt strangely empty and free at the same time. There was a new fire for change. I wanted to begin again. And this time, hold my dream with a looser grip. I took stock of where I was. What I had. What I lacked. Where I could grow.

In short, I began to clean house.  This was part practical and part spiritual. I worked at redoing the fixer-upper we purchased a few years earlier. Paint, wallpaper and yard work were doable. These, I could control.

I also took stock of my physical “house.” My health had suffered from all the infertility drugs and treatments. Plus, I had always been a junk food addict. So I found a good naturopath and began to eat organic and healthy, not easy or even embraced by most people thirty years ago. I also found ways to discipline myself through exercise.

I discovered that structure and order kept me mentally healthy. There was some comfort in controlling what I could control. I could not control when I would get pregnant. But I could make a conscious choice to declutter both my soul and my surroundings.

Friends, we grow stronger when we lighten our load. The Bible encourages us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).  Is there anything in your life that’s slowing you down?

Prayer: Lord, please reveal any sins, habits, or circumstances I need to “throw off” so that I can grow stronger. Empower me anew to pursue the dream You have placed on my heart.


Our Source of Strength-Day 11

Sometimes the journey to find strength is an uphill climb.  Especially when our hopes keep getting dashed, and we begin to wonder if this desire of our heart is truly from God.  My friend Bethany Kortekaas has watched God do amazing things to restore her strength in difficult places–especially during her hard fought hope of holding a baby in her arms.  Bethany has shared some of the heartaches and joys of her journey.  I believe you’ll be strengthened by her beautiful story of Resurrection Hope on this Easter Sunday!

GUEST BLOG:  Bethany Kortekaas

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). 

“I would love to see Baby K grow into a young and beautiful version of the wonderful people that you and Adam are. We will be seeing you in just a couple of weeks now!” These were the words of the young lady who is giving us the gift of our baby girl.

Strength from the Lord comes in all kinds of vessels. There are no words to describe how I feel about this young mother who is willing to walk the hard road of a full-term unexpected pregnancy. In a time when everyone points to easy solutions, she was determined to bless us with this child regardless of what that meant for her.

See, strength is more than just muscles and a work ethic. Strength is the courage to stand when you want to hide. It is the willingness to walk when the way is not clear. It cannot be measured by outward appearance nor reserved for the privileged. It is turning everyday to something more than what is visible to others.

Adam and I have uncovered this strength in our path to parenthood. God provides Himself as a source of strength to each person. If you are willing to admit that you need it, He is willing to provide it. How do you cope with being single longer than you hoped to be? How do you respond to yet another round of infertility treatments? What do you do once you discover you have a brain tumor? Where do you turn when your adopted embryos die? When you miraculously get pregnant and then miscarry? Do you say yes to adopting a baby?

How do you keep praying, keep thanking God, and keep hoping? Our strength to answer these questions has come from God. He is the almighty, powerful Creator of all we know and the only trustworthy source of strength that can never run dry.

Our family has tapped into God’s strength through three main ways: reading the Bible, prayer, and community:

  1. There is a deep comfort when you pick up your Bible and read Jesus’ words in John 16:33, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” We read our Bible for encouragement, insight, and to learn more about our Father who loves us and wants the best for us even in the pain. The Bible reveals that there is more to our story than what we can see right now.
  2. Prayer is direct access to God. Because of Jesus, we have the freedom to talk openly with the One who created starfish, Jupiter, and all the synapses firing in our brains. In prayer is where we acknowledge that the world is outside of our control and we need more strength than we can muster up for ourselves. It is safe for me to cry, question, feel, and hope as I pray. Prayer is where we respond in relationship with a God who can provide strength in the waiting and in the wonder.
  3. God created community. He made it clear that it is not good for man to be alone and He reinforced this by how He instructed the people of Israel to work, worship, and celebrate together. Without our friends, family, and the community of believers around the world, we would be lost in this journey.

We have seen others adopt embryos because of our story. We have heard how God provided financially in other adoptions. We have felt overwhelmed by the love at our baby showers. We have even been strengthened by the very words of our future daughter’s birth mom.

God has given us vessels of His strength through promises like Psalm 46:1, through prayer, and through the give and take of community. By His strength, we can walk forward in confident hope toward our next adventure.