Story one in the series of “Weak Made Strong” monthly blogs
Recently, I heard someone speak of the “Strengths Finder” assessment and I remember years ago taking the test, being given the guide book to better understanding your strengths and making changes to make your weaknesses less weak.
I can’t recall my scores, but I began to think of attributes of mine that I considered weaknesses.
Naturally, I made a list. Just as quickly, I countered each trait with a contrast, a different view.
Sensitive, too transparent and “in my head” became empathetic, authentic and contemplative.
I reframed my barriers to the real life evidence of my tools. I rethought the hardships life had caused me to be avenues towards resilient strength.
Esther was orphaned by both parents and raised by a cousin. She found herself amongst a bevy of beauties competing to be chosen. She was a listener and an observer. She paid attention. She recognized that courage often cannot often be delayed.
I think of the well known verse,
“…Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”” Esther 4:14 NLT
A verse that’s prompted many of us to be brave, be wise, be responsive because we believe whatever circumstance that is calling forth our bravery
We were chosen for it.
And that acceptance of whatever brave thing it is, is strength.
Is weakness moving towards strength.
I am far from a theologian, even less a historian. I simply love reading the stories of women who had lots to overcome or lots to move beyond. I rarely expound on the interpretation of scripture. I’m not wise enough, but I sure do love seeing myself in others.
Women who had weaknesses, but became strong.
What holds you back?
For me, it’s age.
I decide I’m not “on my mental game” enough to be the things God keeps telling me not to pack away. So, I keep them close, I don’t give up. However, I am very slow to try again.
What can you resume or bravely begin that you’ve convinced yourself it’s not yours to do, you’re just too weak, too old, too unskilled
I hope you’ll follow me here for a new story of a woman in the Bible each month.
After a very long time, I pulled the stubby stems from the dirt. The four times or more repotted “lipstick plant” was not thriving.
The plant sent by my fellow choir members at the time of my mother’s death. Inside, then outside, repotted and revived, try and tried again until it was decidedly time to let it go.
The forest like ferns in the window box were just there, not thriving either. My master gardener cousin suggested them and I liked that she called them “Fall ferns.” To me they looked like a walk in the woods, a reminder of creeks and pine trees.
My husband’s recent hospitalization (he’s greatly improved) reminded me not then, but yesterday, I’m good at operating on auto-pilot.
I’m skilled at begin subtly hyper-vigilant, of draping myself in sort of an emotional bubble wrap.
And praying throughout it all, praying believing in the power of prayer and the nearness of God,
Until I’m not.
Until I remember, “this feels like that”.
While I believe in my healing because of my faith in Jesus, the physicality of past trauma and memories are remnants and threads in my tapestry. I’d love to believe I’ll one day not be affected, but I’m more hopeful in knowing my hopefulness in this regard is real progress.
Is peace, is going forward in peace.
Still, conversations about options for life, long days hoping for turnarounds, ICU waiting rooms with siblings taking turns to visit and calls with the announcement “gone” are realities I have experienced.
No wonder it all came back to knock me off my feet when I quit trudging forward in a fog, when I finally slowed down.
Grief catches up. Trauma is skillful in its tactics.
It’s best that we not avoid it, rather go down the road again and again to the place where the view is more clear, better, an invitation to known peace and comfort.
Allowing the intellectual revelation that my life has been affected by trauma and loss, I have an understanding of the fallout rather than falling apart because of it.
I am in tune with myself.
I can grieve what happened back then in a way that brings a tender resurgence of sadness, but not one that destroys me.
Because I know Jesus told many “to go in peace because you’re now well, you are healed”, but the brain often rebels.
I’m not a clinician.
I believe understanding leads to disciplined healing and I don’t think remembering our hard things is always detrimental. I believe it leads to both understanding and to gratitude for who we are now
Despite what happened then.
Remember my mama’s broken pot with the miraculously spreading succulents from her funeral?
Well, they withered like an old flattened tire. The December frost took them. I brought the pot inside, too late, maybe.
I ran my fingers across the soil and tried to help the plants perk up.
Just one tiny plant like a miniature palm is standing. I’ll wait before adding more. I’ll hope more will rejuvenate on their own, find the nourishment to keep on.
The window box ferns are limelight green in the terra cotta pot. They’re happier on the porch in new soil. They must love the chance to grow in the place where death was accepted to invite new flowering.
Life continues. Life reminds.
New days bring new acceptances of our responses that hinder our acceptance of hardship or hope and invite us to know which are best.
To be brave enough to know ourselves and even braver to invite a new perspective.
Or not so new, just remembered.
Redeeming our days, because we’ve been redeemed.
Knowing ourselves in light of knowing the God who knows even more deeply and says I’m with you here, I was with you there.
Go in peace, daughter.
Go in peace.
Be gentle with yourself. Keep growing.
“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12 ESV
Yesterday, I paused at the end of the road, amazed at the sunset and the one first star. I snapped a photo (I thought) of it, but instead I captured the glory of life here against the heavenly sky.
All day long I’d been thinking of “your majesty fills the heavens” in between thinking of one sentence in Psalm 23…you lead me on paths of righteousness, for your name’s sake.
Often, a verse will captivate me all day. The truth of God placing me on a path that leads to righteousness and it being for the sake of sharing His goodness and name enlightened me in a new way.
Yesterday, I meditated on Romans 8:28, realizing again in the same way, God lays out our days and we often wonder why this interruption, why this lingering trouble, fear or frustration.
The house at the end of the road has a brilliant Christmas display. Santa Claus on one end and Reindeer the other. In the center in vivid gold glistening with white lights are two angels over a manger. In the middle of this impossible to ignore yard decor, is Jesus.
God with us, Immanuel. The Lord is near.
“Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?” Psalm 71:19 ESV
I sang “O Holy Night” from memory, listening to those around me.
I sometimes wonder even in a setting surrounded by believers, how the miracle of Jesus could be so, if I’ll ever truly understand the complexities of the Trinity and how in the world there could be such immeasurably undeserved grace that I’ve been given, been shown, keep receiving.
In contrast, I wonder things like why my children had to be grandparentless so young. Why bad things like fatal accidents happen around Christmas, why the threat of violence and fear feel so palpable in our day.
I understand. This is earth not heaven and I know God has and had a plan for my parents I can’t yet fully understand.
Still, contemplating life with question draws me closer to steadfast faith. The woman at the well stood next to Jesus, Jesus who knew all her secrets and sins and yet offered her himself for a new way to live.
She walked away wondering “How could it be?” and shared with all the townspeople who then decided for themselves…it must be so! I, too choose belief.
We don’t always understand. Often, we won’t ever. But, choosing to believe in the one who hears and responds to my prayers, often in big ways, more often small, is the way to believing even more.
““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17 ESV
Merry Christmas. May your questions always lead you back to believing what is humanly unbelievable.
Believe in Jesus, the baby, the boy, the man amongst men, women, and children. God’s Son, our Savior because of underserved crucifixion and a glorious resurrection.
Jesus, who is seated next to God, the Father and is seeing me, sitting on a quiet Christmas morning and typing words about Him, maybe saying…see, she’s growing. She’s believing more and more. She knows she’s fully known and loved.
Flipping through the pages of this worn book, I’ve been anticipating today. Before it was December 24th, my thoughts have been on this one verse.
There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
There was no place for Jesus to be welcomed, no place that could have possibly made space for him, Mary and Joseph. So, they walked on until they found an obscure place that would be suitable. Although no one would take them in, Jesus was born and Mary sat and pondered the majesty of it all.
Nothing could stop God’s plan, no earthly inconvenience or obstacle.
I think of “no room in the inn” as a metaphor for the busyness of life, the inconvenience of accommodating Jesus. That may sound harsh, but I believe it can be true. As hard as we try, we fill our schedules and our spaces until we don’t have space for our Lord and Savior.
There was no room for them in the inn.
Yet, he came and he continues to come, born in us as we continue to believe into our being born again
Or maybe you decide to let him in brand new today. Ask for his nearness. Believe he is God’s son who died for you. Confess your sin, the truth that you’re not able on your own.
Let him in.
He giveth more grace, astounding unmerited favor.
On this Christmas Eve as day turns to dusk and then clear starry night, give God room. Let his peace live in you.
Merry Christmas all!
He giveth more grace. Grace to those who refused space to a young woman pregnant and weary, she and baby’s father.
Grace was given those thousands of years ago as Jesus came and they with all the others, the innkeepers, the shepherds, the scholars, the wives and children saw Him, Immanuel.
With them, with us.
Surely, many believed firsthand in this grace, this light of the world.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but yesterday on a couple of occasions, I felt God seeing me. I felt Him near. The veil between earth and heaven was translucently thin.
In my car, with a list of places to deliver art and calendars, in between being among hurried and intent on shopping people, a playlist emerged. Songs I hadn’t heard before both caused me to pray and to praise. A deep connectedness to God’s spirit within me, led to warm tears and others to a lifted open hand.
No wonder, I’ve been resting with the words, “Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay.”
My favorite people in the Bible are the vulnerable and uncertain ones. I’m drawn to Job. I’m strengthened by David. I adore Martha and can relate to Jonah. Thomas, the one who needed proof and wasn’t afraid to admit it. I love the ones who wondered.
“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29 NIV
Who believe and cling to times when their belief was solidified, made tangible evidence.
The Lord is near.
Believe. Accept the freedom of a sweeter commitment, the language of the heart, not rational.