changes in latitudes, changes in gratitudes

“My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness”, is what Jesus said. And Paul’s reply to that was an excited one. He was glad to be weak so that Christ would be strong through him. I can’t count the number of times I have read this and agreed to be more weak, and then moved on. I don’t think I understood what it means to be weak. My disclaimer to you today is that all of what I write is very personal and I don’t expect that what’s right for me is what’s right for everyone else.

When I am weak, then I am strong, Paul writes. I have always thought of Paul and other preachers of the gospel in biblical times as being so wise, so in control, so on top of their game and very, very strong men and women of God. And so I had taken on this idea that if I could get my issues in check and I could power through hard times, just ignoring the pain, then I would be strong. And of course since I’m “in” Christ, that I would be strong in Him. Everything I do and feel and accomplish can be through Christ if I just tack on those powerful words at the end… “in Christ”. But to actually be weak in and of myself and to be strong in Him is quite a different reality in my life.

I needed people to see how strong I was “in Him” or it wasn’t real. In the last couple of months I have made no attempt to hide my struggles, my weaknesses, and my feelings. I have made more than a few people mad by sharing how I felt, but I always felt like I was lowering my status as a ‘good Christian’. When I had troubles with a relationship or in my parenting, I wanted to hide , but just couldn’t. So many times I felt like I was all out of strength, the will, or the ability to pretend to have it all together. If Christ was my strength I wouldn’t be having these problems or struggling so much, right? Not so, in my life anyway. Lately I have tried hard to stop feeling bad about how incredibly stressed or worn out I get. I have made it my job to stop trying to be so strong during trials and struggles. I have made it my job to be open and honest about how weak I am. In that way, His strength has been made known. This is how…

I get up everyday despite the feeling of being able to, I homeschool my children with a strength that I really don’t have. I just start doing it and as I do it, we manage to get through the school day. I rest in Him every time I look out the window into my backyard and I know He is with me. His peace washes over me. I slow down and stop caring about what I’m wearing or my home. That’s got to be Him, because I was having panic attacks when I got dressed, especially if I had to leave the house. So the fact that I don’t care anymore is all Him. I am drawn to a simpler, slower life as I make unusually large batches of pumpkin butter, decorate my home with hand-sewn fabrics, lesson plan as I spend time with the Lord, bake all kinds of breads, pick weeds from the yard for home-made salves and remedies. I begin to prepare the grounds for our vegetable garden, and my heart slows down when I recognize His fullness in me instead of the circumstances surrounding me. My slowed down life as a country girl is making me happy. I never thought I would ever turn into a mid-western mom.

My phone triggered panic attacks for a long time. I felt so guilty for not being able to pick it up. Especially since I wanted friends so bad and friends call each other. I was able to make phone calls here and there after popping an anxiety pill, but otherwise, I just couldn’t do it. That, my friend is a weakness. I have seen His strength in that as I no longer feel guilt, but I accept that the phone is a convenience, not a necessary. I have texting and email and playdates and all those things are just as good and in the meantime I am beginning to make phone calls- here and there. My Mom was shocked when I called her last week, just to say hi. I think she thought something was wrong because I called her. That’s the Lord showing His strength as I am not even looking at my weaknesses anymore, I am resting in Him. I am no longer soaking in the guilt or the “should’s”, but I am letting go of what others think and I am okay with waiting on Christ. He builds strength as I look at what He’s got going on in front of me instead of looking back at the life behind me.

It’s no coincidence that the Lord is calming my soul as I begin the relaxing work of gardening. He is everywhere in nature. In homesteading patience is required while intentional, sacrificial hard work is needed at the same time. I need to daily water the plants and feed the chicks and if I don’t, they will become weak and wither and the fruit won’t be the same. It’s the water that flows and gives life each day. I must tend to the plants and keep watch over the ones that strangle the others, in the same way my worries and panic strangle me.

The inside of my home won’t be mopped and scrubbed daily as I spend my time working on a garden that will give us food, instead of trying to be a perfect housekeeper. The stress of cleaning and cleaning all afternoon so that I don’t get behind is such a picture of how I strive and I never reach the goal of a perfect home. It will never be perfect. I will have some balance in my life when I put my time and effort into the living organisms outside, instead of the non-living ones inside. I am excited to see what becomes of a home with a little dust on the shelves.

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend. Thank you for reading.

Love,

Jackie

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