Thursday, March 16, 2017

Learning to Love the Challenge of Growing.

If you remember a while ago, I posted a little about myself and my struggle with certain strengths and desires here. I listed my top five strengths according to the survey in Now, Discover Your Strengths tried to better explain my constant desire to finish well, to do my best, and achieve the greatest possible outcome I can control. As I seem to be given many opportunities to grow in my areas of weakness, lately I have been inspired to see how I can use my strengths in ways that don't seem so obvious at first. These strengths are things I've known about for over 15 years now but I have rarely looked at them objectively, seeking to leverage them in order to fulfill a purpose or achieve a goal - despite being an achiever! Ha! But lately, I've been intentionally embracing these parts of myself and trying to enjoy them, to let them be a blessing to others, even if the opportunity to use them is less than pleasant, and grow into them as much as I can.

I've often been told I am energetic, passionate, and that my excitement over something rubs off on other people. But let me tell you, I hardly ever feel like that energized person for more than moments at a time. This really got to me the last couple years, as more and more strangers would talk about how I inspired them or encouraged them in their learning, or their ambitions, and I would feel a little bit dumbfounded. I tried really hard not to look confused, but that is definitely how I felt.

Days after a big event, or after and meeting where I got to talk about a subject I love, I'd often crash emotionally and wonder if I was being something other than my genuine self in those settings. It wasn't until after SheSpeaks last year that I began to connect the dots about this mystery in my life. With each passing month I am gaining more clarity about myself, my role, my choices, and see the different modes in which I operate. It wasn't that I was not being genuine during those times, but rather than much of my life does not include room for my natural strengths to be used, at least, not in the ways I envisioned, not in the ways that easily rejuvenate me.

How does one "achieve" as a SAHM without making herself overly proud of the role she is in? Plus, I'm bad at cleaning, so my daily list of accomplishments is rarely something to boast about. How does a SAHM feel good about the progress of her projects at home or the things she got started when it's very taboo to brag about home-life and homeschooling your children? I definitely think that is not the way to go, and it would just build walls. How could I possibly Win Others Over or win at anything important when I often prefer to stay home and read a book? Yeah, it definitely does not feel like a lot of winning on those days. Are you seeing how I was feeling? So many of my strengths are not ideal for being a homeschool mom.

For long bouts, I let this defeat me. I succumbed to the idea that a good homeschool mom makes everything from scratch, is 100 percent content to sacrifice most of her time for her kids, or is a patient, soft-spoken, morning person. If I met another woman who didn't struggle with the desire to accomplish something important, I automatically assumed she was better than me, or that something was terribly amiss in my heart. Women can be like this, as I'm sure you know. We analyze ourselves by comparison, it just comes naturally. But we need to start analyzing ourselves by God's standards.

Several things will happen when we do this.

We will be more humble. When we see that we can never live up to the level of perfection and love that God calls us to, we will receive His grace much more willingly and happily.

We will love other women without judgment... or at least less. We will recognize their flaws as innate, not purposeful or impossible to overcome and we will be quick to forgive and overlook offenses. We will desire to see good things in them, to know them better and be real with them more regularly.

We will be free from our own judgements. We will see that God has made us in particular ways for particular purposes, and different seasons of our lives will grow us in different ways. This will enable us to embrace difficult seasons, knowing they are not the only season we will have in life. We will not be fearful of enduring hardship, because we trust it will end in due time and will have its desired effect.

According to God's word, He is preparing me for good works, according to His purposes (Ephesians 2:10). A long season of sacrificing in ways that are not natural, or even desirable, is preparing me for different hard seasons, which may feel easier after having endured those other hard seasons. I will be stronger because of them, or at least, more willing to endure, because I know there will be another spring at the end of each desolate winter.

While I truly love homeschooling and being home with my kids, I see this season not as the pinnacle of my life, but as a season of preparation and opportunity. Part of the great opportunity lies in being the primary person my children turn to for help. They have come to trust me, to see me as the first person they can come to for whatever need they have. What a blessing that is! Another part of this opportunity is the chance to grow in ways that are uncomfortable in the comfort of my home. I stink at serving, I am often a lousy house-wife, and usually pretty bad at being tidy. But, I'm not called out publicly on these things (unless you count admitting this all to you). I can work on these in private and avoid being shamed in front other others. I can get help from people who love me as needed, and my job is not at stake because of my failures.

The preparation aspect of my role at home is a little harder to remember on difficult days. I have many interruptions throughout my day, a lot of people asking me questions, and so many demands placed upon me, both from myself and from others, that I am forced to be more organized and more intentional. But somehow, I still end up getting sidetracked, becoming distracted by other people's success or by my own misery (yes, that's a little dramatic, but I'm just trying to be honest here). I forget to trust the Lord and work with His plans instead of dwelling on my own. When I put my heart into my "work", no matter what that looks like on each particular day, I can trust this work has a good purpose, one God has set in motion to accumulate and build and grow into another purpose He has for me down the road. When I despise this work of being steady, patient, service-minded, and giving, I miss out on being ready for the other works He is setting on my path. They get delayed, or maybe I'm simply less prepared when I finally catch up to them, and there are few things I hate more than not being prepared for something important!

I hope you are catching my drift in all of this rambling. Our strengths are not always used in all the seasons of our lives, but we can find ways to grow no matter the situations we find ourselves in. I am practicing my strength of Winning Others Over by trying to Win my children's hearts and minds over to the Lord's purposes. I try to use my strength of being an avid Learner to show to beauty of learning to those I encounter, young and old alike, and homeschooling really does afford me great opportunity in this certain strength. While my strength of being an Activator is hard when often stranded at home with obligations other than the tasks I'd like to accomplish, I can work on getting the kids started on their tasks, investing in their needs and goals, finding contentment in God's purpose behind being home, not just in my own goals or personal endeavors.

Most of all, I really want you to see how your strengths can still be used in situations that are not what you had planned, or even what seem fitting. No matter where you find yourself, you can use your God-ordained gifts to grow, bless, and be content, despite every single challenge you encounter. When you look back at these seasons of difficulty, you will smile seeing all the ways you grew, all the ways God prepared you for the situation you are currently facing, and know that once again, you will grow, learn, and be fully capable to walk in the truth.

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