“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”. Isaiah 41:10
What is strength? How would you define a strong person? Most of us immediately think of physical strength, right? Pictures of men lifting weights in the gym. Women running marathons in the blazing heat. Football players suited up on Saturdays. You can picture all those different people in your head with ease, right?
Being an athlete most of my life made me physically strong. At least, I thought I was well acquainted with what it took to be strong. Little did I know that being physically strong would do very little to help me when I was tossed in the ring with grief.
This opponent that I suddenly found myself facing was massive. It was hard to breathe. It was hard to think. It was nearly impossible to move. I found out really quick like that this game was going to make me or break me.
One day during the height of this battle I was introduced to a sweet, Southern lady named Ann. “Mrs. Ann”, as I now fondly call her, was a widow too. Like me, she lost her beloved husband unexpectedly. I sat on her couch one day and listened to her tell me how she had dared anyone to touch or move Andy’s toothbrush from the bathroom counter for over two years. She just could not bring herself to move it, but she knew she would eventually. On her own time, and she was not going to let anyone make that decision for her.
I remember thinking how much I envied her strength in that moment. Mrs. Ann made such an impact on me that I wrote a blog about it later that night. You can read it here.
Mrs. Ann was determined to hang on to that one thing that she could control from the life she had before coming home to find her husband caught under the lawnmower in their garage. He had been changing the blades and the mower had fallen on top of him. She was too late to save him.
I was sitting on the pretty floral couch not twenty feet away from the sight where Mrs. Ann’s worst nightmare had come true. I remember looking at her beautiful face and hearing the steel in her voice. That moment gave me hope that I could make it too. As lost as I was in my own battle; hope was what I needed more than anything. I remember thinking how strong she was and I highly doubted that I would ever be as strong as her.
Fast forward three and a half years to today. I passed by Mrs. Ann’s house and I saw her mowing her yard! She sat proudly on top of that lawnmower as she moved across the grass. I was taken aback again as I watched her. This woman has more strength in her pinkie finger than I do in my whole entire body! Not only has she moved the toothbrush from the counter; she has also moved the lawnmower back out to the yard where it belongs.
We live in the South where the grass grows nine months out of the year. It would have been so easy for Mrs. Ann to pack up her things and leave her house and yard for someone else to take care of every week. She could have called a lawn service and paid someone to come and mow for her while she left home for an hour or two so as not to hear it. She could had done so many things that would have been so much easier than what I was witnessing today.
Strength comes when we decide to do the hard stuff anyway. It comes from staring down giants and pushing forward when that is the last thing we want to be doing. It takes courage to face our biggest fears. I can’t imagine how hard climbing on that lawnmower must have been for her the first time she did it after pulling her husband’s body from beneath it. I can’t imagine how she chose to keep getting back on it week after week either. She is a lion in a well-aged Southern woman’s body.
The smile I saw on her face as she rode atop that loud machine today sent arrows straight through my heart. That’s strength. That’s being a strong woman. That’s facing down your giant and saying, “I’m the queen of this castle and there’s no room for you here!”
When I got home, I went back to that blog I wrote the first time we met. I was reminded again where Mrs. Ann’s strength comes from. It comes from the Lord. Faith like hers is unshakable! I remembered her telling me that she found out who SHE was supposed to be after her dear Andy died. I didn’t understand what she meant at the time. Today, I understand.
Let this bring you hope. Don’t run from the things that seem impossible. Face them down. Get back up when you get knocked down. Stay in the fight. That’s how you win. Mrs. Ann is winning. Strength like that is impossible to turn away from and never easily forgotten, but it must be built over time.
It’s been nearly six years since Mrs. Ann found Andy under that lawnmower. She has chosen to fill her life with fun, adventure, travel, grandchildren, and new people. I’m reasonably sure she’s happy. The smile I witnessed on her face as she sat on that lawnmower today proved she must be happy. I want to be just like her!
Stay strong my sisters! None of us fight alone, regardless of the battle. We always have a Father in Heaven helping us through every new opponent we have to face. He will not leave us alone in the battle. He stays and He sends people to help us! Our job is to realize that we have each other to lean on…learn from…and love.
Here’s a little Southern music video to remind you to keep Holdin’ On!