Of the Herculean Sort

I have some people I love dearly in absolute crisis at this moment.  My texting thumbs are screaming in pain, but also in proof that I have their backs no matter what.  Each of these women are going through situations the likes of which could make up the stuff of best-sellers.  Seriously, we’re talking about folks going through heartbreak that is monumental.  They’ve all been betrayed in the worst kinds of ways, and my heart breaks with theirs.

As I look at each, I am wowed by their exquisite beauty and strength even through the worst.  These women are made of the toughest stuff, and I swear I can see their emotional and spiritual muscles forming before my very eyes.  There are things they have experienced in the last year that no one should have to survive, and I can promise there were moments that they thought they couldn’t — but they have.  They’ve not only survived, but they have turned positively Herculean.

Beautiful brutes, all. Don’t even mess with them now.  :o)

I know how it feels on the flip-side.  I hated my extreme growth period.  Hated it.  But, wow –I earned the crap out of those spiritual and emotional muscles!!

I have these bum arms.  Well, especially my right arm.  It’s been giving me grief since I was a teenager; not sure if it was the car accident or the dog bite, but something hasn’t been right.  In my early thirties, I was told I’d never regain feeling in my fingers.  Through much massage therapy, I do indeed, have feeling.  I also have really bad spells with lots of debilitating nerve pain, swelling, and numbness.  It gets worse the more I use it which is kind of a big bummer since it’s my right hand and all.  But, life goes on.  My family helps pick up slack for me when I’m in a rough spell, and I really vacillate between the *screw the pain, I have stuff to do* mode and trying to let it rest and heal.  This last year has been the worst with it, by far.

I have been also dealing with some, ahem, later-in-life-female-stuff.  This has caused some weight gain and screwed with my metabolism.  In an effort to get that revved up a bit, I’ve been doing this neat metabolism-boosting workout program.  Pretty stinking proud of myself!  Day one, the agenda included about 50 push-ups.  I almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of these arms doing ONE push-up — let alone 50.  I used to be pretty great at them a few years ago.  Wait.  Maybe that was a couple decades ago — oh well, who cares how long ago! I was, okay?  But when workout guy told me to do some push-ups, I was committed to the process and I just got down on my mat and did the stupid things.

And I kept going.  I was doing push-ups!!!

The next workout, with the sorest pecs of my life, I did more.  And I added some fancy, scoopy moves to my push-ups.   My arms did not rebel!  They maintained their position.  No better, but no worse.

Man, I’m stronger than I thought!

There were some moments on some epic hikes we did last summer where I found myself waaayyyy stronger than I thought possible.  Something about being out in the middle of absolutely nowhere with no help available and camp on the other side of a mountain and maybe even with a fever in the rain with eight more miles to go until you get help, makes you dig deep and find some deeply buried something that you didn’t know you owned.

There are moments in life were you are 110% convinced that you just can’t — but somehow, you can and you do!

Last fall, I brought a dear friend of mine on too long of a hike.  She didn’t feel well to begin with, and she hadn’t conditioned with crazy, stupid hikes like I had all summer.  We went way too many miles up and down mountains (she’s a flat-lander, geographically), and in order to get to the car at the end of the loooooong day’s hike, we had to literally climb a mountain.  At the top was going to be the view of a lifetime.  I knew this.  At the top, we would finally get to the car and a drink and a snack, and be done walking.  But first, we had to hike some serious switchbacks.  Looking back, I’m surprised she still loves me at all.  The last 15 minutes were rough.  She just looked at me and I think she was pretty sure she couldn’t go any further.  I decided to give her some visual goals.  I would walk ahead to a tree and stop and turn to her and ask her to just make it to me.  She did.  She would stop when she got to me, and breathe, and I would go on ahead and do it again.  This is how she made it victoriously to the top.  Once there, she took an epic picture with her arm showing her muscles as she overlooked a mountain range.  She looked weary and a little glisten-y, but she looked absolutely beautiful and positively Herculean.


It reminds me of a verse about finding strength.  “I look to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.”

He put it in us, friends.  He gives us just what we need when we need it.  Like manna-food from the sky that comes out of nowhere, He gives us strength and courage and wherewithal that we would’ve sworn we didn’t have.  Just when we’re ready to call it and not only throw in the towel but douse it and burn it, we get some muscles out of nowhere.

We might end up all glisten-y and not smell the prettiest from the fight, but you cannot PEEL that victorious look off our face or SCRAPE that smile off or DAMPEN the light in our eyes.  If you’re fighting for all of your worth, look to some hills.  If the hills seem too big, look to the next tree and put that shoe in front of the other one and just step.  You’re going to love your new muscles and the view from the top.  I absolutely promise.



You! Yes, you!

Today, I write with a heart filled with wonder at the soft, curvy, emotion-rich beauty that I see around me in the women I admire and call my friends.

This week, I have helped my oldest daughter prepare to move a few weeks before our big move, and part of our mission was for her to have a chance to hug the necks of the women we love.

As I spend moments with each of them and look at the faces of the ones who literally changed my every idea of what a woman should be, I am in awe.

At this moment in my life, I know examples of beauty that leave me in tears even as I write.  I don’t have words enough for the way they have proven to me how love embodies a human heart.  How God can change and reshape and use women to bind up, to help each other heal, to fill the gaps.  But I will try.  I owe them at least the effort.  Especially this week, when we are given a day to celebrate womanhood.

On Mother’s Day we hold high the position of a mother, but ever since the day that I was put in charge of ordering the number of carnations to hand out in church on this holiday, I find myself quite aware that mother or not, this heart I see, the heart of a woman, deserves recognition.  The unique strengths that women carry in our very fibers is where the beauty begins.  Even those not yet fully grown have a beauty that is precious and vital.

I would imagine that our Creator knew that though the man he made was capable of many great things, he would lack–there was a void.  So He reached into the part of Who He is that nurtures and pours out kindness and softness and added it into the mix for round two of human-making.

(Men, don’t you worry.  Father’s Day is not too far off and I might be inspired to write about how great round one was as well.)

Today, I hold high those who, with dignity and femininity, have risen to meet their life challengesapple blossom head-on.  Who have made the choice to love with abandon and have settled into what a woman was created to be with grace and humility and joy.  Who make those around them better just for the very presence in this world.  Who build up even if they came from a torn-down place.

I take my metaphorical hat off to each of you…

You, the woman awake all night praying for your children.

You, the single mom making every single end meet even when you don’t want to or feel like you have one single thing left to give.

You, the mom holding the sticky hands juggling several children in Meijer on your birthday.

You whose own mother did not show you love, yet you allowed a legacy of love to begin in and through you as you loved your babies.

You, the woman working all day and then coming home to make a home for those you love.

You, the mom who would give a limb for a half hour nap because you give until the tank is dry.

You, the woman holding everyone up emotionally when no one sees how much you could use a little holding yourself.

You, the woman taking care of the needs of folks who once took care of you–elderly parents and grandparents.

You who listens well to the hurts and words of those you love, somehow smiling with tears a heartbeat away–barely hanging on.

You the woman who would give anything to be a mom and the time isn’t just right quite yet–or maybe ever.

You, the woman who took in children of someone who had no business birthing a child, yet you love them, become their family, create for them a home, and make them your own.

You, the new mom who pours out every single bit of herself physically and emotionally–stretched to the very limits–and still selflessly gives and gives, day and night, into this new and precious little human.

You, whose children have grown and you find yourself in a brand new place in life;  yet, you choose to live a life of purpose and joy and come alongside those you love to build up and encourage.

You, the younger woman who is in the midst of finding who she is.  Who stands quietly strong in her convictions, poised and ready to rise to the unique challenge of womanhood.  

You, the mom who finds a way to feed hungry bellies from a few ingredients in the pantry, perhaps feeling a little hungrier yourself.

You, who teaches her children at your own cost of time and plans because it is simply what you were called to do…

You, the woman who holds the hands of a friend in tears and hears her heart and weeps with her and covers her in your prayers.

To you who has an inkling of hope that her efforts and sacrifice have import that is both eternal and exponential.  Be assured.  It is. They are.  You–you are the safe and soft place to fall for those you love.  You are the steady that keeps lives around you in forward and fluid motion.  You are strong and graceful, capable and a precious expression of the heart of God.

And well worth celebrating.