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Growing Through Adversity

Before we dive into this month’s blog I have some exciting news to share — my latest book “The Gift: A Leadership Fable on Growing through Adversity” is now on sale HERE and for pre-order on Amazon HERE. I hope you find the story and the lessons within it helpful as you grow through adversity and seek out wise mentors like the book’s main character Marcus. Thank you all for your encouragement and support, God Bless and Lead with Love!

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Teddy Roosevelt [1]

Imagine being told you weren’t allowed to go outside. Your mother feared that in your weakened state doing so would literally kill you. You also witnessed as she battled her own mental and physical demons and the way she continuously withdrew. Some nights you would wake up out of breath with a sense that you were drowning. Many would give up hope and curse God for this, but not Teddy Roosevelt or his father.

When one of these bronchial asthma attacks occurred, Theodore Roosevelt Senior (known as Thee) would hurry to his son Teddy’s room in the middle of the night and instantly wrap him in his arms. Often he would carry him throughout the house for hours until his breathing normalized. Or better yet, he would wrap him in a blanket and drive their horse and carriage through the night to awaken his lungs.

Roosevelt said of his father, “he got me breath, he got me lungs, strength — life.” [2]

Throughout this pandemic many of us can relate in some ways with young Teddy. Our “normal” has been turned upside down. We are bombarded with messages of fear. It’s a constant waiting game for the next turn in the story or news of the next variant. And yet just like Teddy, we are not helpless. We can face our fears and overcome this adversity.

Why Can’t I Do It?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Alex Rivers, was born without a left arm due to a congenital limb deficiency. While many in his shoes might have looked at basketball and thought it wasn’t for them, Rivers did just the opposite.

He decided to work on what he could control — his footwork, defense, a pure shooting technique “with no chance [that his left hand] gets in the way”, and being a great leader on and off the court. He exhibits what leaders in life and often in sports know well — it is what you put in to be YOUR best version of yourself that counts. As a multi-sport athlete he hopes to inspire others who see him to consider “If he can do it, I can. What’s holding me back?” [3]

Rivers exhibits the kind of attitude I want to have each day. I want to focus on the things God has blessed me with. I want to push myself to get better and to be an example to many. How can we have that same determination and attitude about ourselves?

Built to Last

Teddy’s father feared that his son would give up, much like his mother did, and become incapacitated. He told his young son “Theodore, you have the mind but not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make your body. It is hard drudgery to make one’s body, but I know you will do it.” To which young Teddy replied enthusiastically “I’ll make my body.” [4]

His father, the foremost loving role model in his life, hired a local gym owner to build a gym for Teddy in their home. Teddy hoisted himself, lifted weights and day by day grew stronger. With the love and support of his father the young man worked until he gained strength and could confidently venture out without fear of suffocating.

Bend But Don’t Break‬‬

“It’s better to conquer grief than to deceive it.” — Seneca, On Consolation to Helvia, 17.1b

Teddy would carry that inner strength with him following the death of his father and once again would be seriously tested. On one fateful day he would learn in a series of telegrams that both his mother and wife had passed away on the same day.

Roosevelt initially turned inward and mourned the great loss. Many who knew him said there was an aura of sadness about him that had never been there before. Looking for a way to revive his spirits and strengthen himself through this new test he decided to move to the “Badlands” of North Dakota to drive cattle.

For the next two years he faced several fears — from grizzly bears and bucking horses to gun-fighters. But through this new test he grew stronger. His father had once challenged him to strengthen his body. This time he knew he also had to train his “soul and spirit” as well. He had lived through his own personal nightmare — yet by facing his fears and demons many would say he exhibited an “indomitable courage” from that point on. [5]

Onward and Upward

Maybe you’re going through a challenging time as well. Do you have a loving Father like Teddy? I believe that God can be that same loving Father in your life as well. So many times in our lives when we look back it’s those difficult times that are the turning points that send us onward with greater strength and courage. When I have turned to God at those points in my life He has lifted me up in His arms toward my greater purpose and strengthened me.

So what is holding you back right now? Can you look at your circumstances like Alex and ask “why can’t I do it” rather than see what’s missing? Where can you build up endurance and strength to better face the future challenges ahead of you? I pray that you will be encouraged by these great examples and be fearless in the face of adversity. Use it all as a Gift from God, and he will give you the strength you need to overcome.

[1] Doris Kearns Godwin’s “Leadership in Turbulent Times” pg. 133

[2] This quote and several references in the post are from Doris Kearns Godwin’s “Leadership in Turbulent Times” pg. 24

[4] Doris Kearns Godwin’s “Leadership in Turbulent Times” pg. 27

[5] Doris Kearns Godwin’s “Leadership in Turbulent Times” pg. 130


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