Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Give Your Weaknesses a High Five

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There's a great debate about weaknesses vs. strengths. 

In college I had to read (rather, GOT to read) the book Now, Discover Your Strengths. It's all about embracing what you are naturally good at and focusing more on improving and using those traits instead of spending all your energy getting rid of your weaknesses. There's a lot of helpful advice in that! Sure, you've got to make sure your weaknesses are not wiping out your strengths, but spending priceless time and energy trying to become that much better on a skill that you will likely never be great at is just not wise.

However, it's different with Jesus (as are most things, right?). 

It's not that we can't work to improve in our areas of strength, or that we shouldn't spend some effort making sure our weaknesses aren't drowning us. It's that in Jesus, our weaknesses can be like magic.

Well, not a magic for us to harness ourselves, but they are an avenue Jesus uses to make Himself so glorious

Before I go into that, one more thing about our strengths. When we rely on them, we are going to eventually encounter some level of disappointment. After all, we are human and we have limits! If we boast in what we are skilled in or what we can accomplish, that stuff can be wiped away in an instant, putting us to shame. Thankfully, there is one thing we can confidently boast in: knowing God

In Jeremiah 9 there is a conversation going back and forth between God and Jeremiah about the people of Israel. In it he tells Jeremiah to tell the people:

"Thus says the LORD: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight declares the LORD.'" Jeremiah 9:23-24

Knowing and understanding God is what God says we can boast about; knowing what God loves and does and delights in. I'm pretty sure that turns into us loving and doing and delighting in those same things. 

So, we boast in our understanding and knowing God, and then Paul, hundreds, of years later tells us we can boast in one more thing: our weaknesses.

Photo credit: Siora Photography @siora18

Paul has gone over this ideas several times in 1 & 2 Corinthians, that is it through weakness that Christ's power is revealed. Finally in 2 Corinthians 12 he begins to tell about his personal struggle with a "thorn in the flesh," which he saw as a weakness, something he desperately wanted to be relieved of. After much pleading, God speaks to Paul telling him "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness." 

But what does that actually look like? 

Cindy Rollins posted something about this recently, and it really spoke to my heart as a homeschooling mother since my weaknesses are constantly being revealed to my children. Head over to her blog to be encouraged by her experience of Christ showing up in her weakness during a talk she was leading. 

It's so easy to be discouraged by all of our errors, weaknesses, and potential failures. We strive so hard to give our children the best of everything, and when we can't do that, we automatically assume we must not have what it takes. We fear they will miss out, that they could get something better at a "real school" with better trained teachers or more "friends" around them. But God says it is not with the better that humans provide that He shows up. It will be through your weaknesses that your kids will see Jesus more clearly and experience His provision for themselves. 

He shows up where we cannot. He makes things happen that we have NO power to make happen. He has unlimited strength, resources, and divine love to pour into their lives, but He cannot do it when we stand in the way trying to make it happen in and of ourselves. When we become more okay with our weaknesses being on display, the Holy Spirit steps in to cover that gap and then other people get to see it happen. 

This is what will change the hearts of your children and the people who influence. Seeing the work of God in their daily lives is life-changing and it is not something you can force, but the more you embrace your weaknesses, the more you are okay with failing and going to God for help, the more the Holy Spirit can show up. The more beautiful you make Jesus look

I hope this reminder helps you to find comfort in all the ways you feel like you are not measuring up. God doesn't want you to focus on measuring up. No, this doesn't dismiss working and preparing and does your best, it just means He wants your hearts set on Him and His ability. Know Him, seek to understand Him, and pray to love what He loves. When you are pursuing this, God will meet your needs and importantly, He will become undeniably visible to your children. What a blessing our weakness can be! Let's celebrate that. Not just exulting in our failure, but being excited that when we are weak, He is seen as strong

Let's share together: comment with a time that God's strength showed up in your weakness. We can all help bless each other with the reminders of His love and power!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

What is it About Knowledge?

 There are a couple quotes or ideas about knowledge that have been bumbling about in my brain lately and I thought putting my ideas about them here on the blog might make for some interesting reading.

I've often heard people claim "People who know better, do better" but I'm fairly certain society has proved this wrong over and over again. For instance, we all know that drinking during pregnancy is dangerous, and unhealthy for a baby. Does that stop people? Often, but not always. There's also plenty of evidence to show that regularly watching TV or any type of screen before the age of 2 has negative effects on children. Does that stop us? No! Did it stop me? I'm sorry to say, no. 

Why is this? Why does knowing what is right, or better, or best, not equate to doing better? I'm not a psychologist of any sort, and I probably don't have enough experience to rightly explain all of it, but I am a thinker from birth, perhaps an over-analyzer, so I do believe my thoughts can lead to some insights that might help all of us turn our knowing into something more than just facts tumbling around in our brains.

There are endless examples of things we know are good for us that we just don't do: eating more fruits and vegetables, getting more exercise, watching less TV, laughing more, drinking less alcohol, sleeping more, spending less money, and the list goes on. We have such an abundance of knowledge about things that are good or bad for us, but so little willingness to take action. 

Photo Credit: Yogesh Pedamkar

Mark and I often talk about the idea of an internal switch. At different points in time, we both felt like a switch was flipped in our brains that finally helped us take the initiative to lose weight. Mark lost over 30 pounds and I lost 20 pounds, each in within four months. Mark says that part of it had to do with his shirts not fitting right, and my reasons might have stemmed from a bit of envy (just being honest here) and being encouraged my other friends' results. But why did those things finally flip the switch for us? Why don't those things work for everyone, at all times, about all things?

You have likely heard the quote "Knowledge is power" but in the bible, Jesus says that if we abide in Him and become His disciples, we will know the truth, and it will set us free (John 8:31-32). What is the difference between knowledge and truth? What is the difference between power and freedom?

In case you thought I had answers to all these questions, I don't. I do want to explore them more, and I hope you do too, but what I genuinely want to understand is what is it that flips that switch? What is it that takes our knowledge and turns it into action? 

I think a lot of this has to do with belief. Knowing something is not the same as truly believing it, or rather believing ON it, and true belief in and on something will lead to action. I don't think you can really believe something is true without taking action upon it, whether that mean you oppose that truth or stand behind it. In the bible, James says something similar about faith and works: "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead." (James 2:26) 

This is where we have to get a tiny bit philosophical in order to make some of these information make applicable sense to us, because this now needs to become a discussion on thinking, values, priorities, and truth. 

Sure, maybe I believe that TV is not good for my one year old, but I don't believe it's bad enough to make me want to change. It's easier to let them watch here and there, and in that way I am valuing my convenience more than the well-being of my child. I haven't looked at the studies in depth, and maybe it's more damaging than I realize, but during that phase of my life, I felt like the pros (me getting a little more peace and therefore being a nicer mom) would outweigh the cons (addiction to devices, lower attention span, etc.). I didn't believe it was bad enough, or worse than my other options, and sometimes that becomes legitimate enough for us.

We do this type of negotiating and weighing the costs over and over, every day, often without much thought. We believe eating a salad for lunch is not worth the effort of preparing the salad. We believe the walk during lunch is not worth the time and effort and discomfort it might create. I know I tend to believe that the work of waking up early, putting on workout clothes, getting sweaty, showering, and then finally getting ready for the day are not generally worth the benefit of a solid, early-morning workout. We think in our minds that these things are true, but we don't take the risk to step ON them and let them carry us to the destination they proclaim.

This might be where you are hoping I have a grand solution, or at least a method that has been working for me. This is also where you might be slightly disappointed. 

I'm sorry this post doesn't have a lot of answers, but hopefully it has enough food for thought to get you going. What do you believe in your head to be true but not believe with your actions? What do you think would be good for your life but not really believe deep down that it is worth the effort? What can you do to flip that switch? And more importantly, do you genuinely want to?

A couple years ago I wrote a post for The Joyful Life about reading Christian biographies. I value looking at the lives of other Christians so highly because it helps give me a more biblically accurate view of my own life. I see their dedication, struggles, triumphs, and habits and it all helps me better see what it means to actively follow Christ. I think the same type of principle applies for getting our hearts to take the knowledge we obtain and turn it into action. If we can see how our knowledge plays out in real life, it increases our faith in the value of that particular action. It increases our willingness to give up our comfort, energy, time, and effort for the reward on the other side of that knowledge. 

So now, I'm turning over this idea to you. As this idea continues to roll around in my head, I may come back and offer a few more insights, but for now, you need to let it roll around in your head too. What else can we do to turn our knowledge into belief? The Sunday school answers are pray, read your bible, ask God to help you, etc., and I really do believe those to be true. Maybe you'll find that the more you think about the things you know the be true, you just start to believe them. Maybe as you pursue them you'll find that God miraculously helps you to desire the rewards knowledge in action will lead you to. Who knows what all that knowledge will become! But I don't think I can ever go back to thinking that knowledge by itself will bring me anything worthwhile. Knowledge is only power if you use it as a key and actually walk through the door it opens.

What keys are you holding onto? What knowledge have you been waiting to use? And what are you going to do now?

Monday, February 1, 2021

Hello February!

 Well hello everyone. Can you believe that it is February already?! As you can imagine, January was a wild month for us. It challenged us to remember that God knows our futures and it reminded us that His plan is always good for us (even when it doesn't feel so good). 

Getting to the airport with our 9 checked bags, 5 carry-ons, 5 personal items, and our cat was quite an event! Thankfully, I am fairly gifted in figuring out that sort of thing, so while it took a bit of time, it was nothing unexpected or crazy. We got to our gate for the short flight to Seattle, armed with pastries and coffee, with a solid 20 minutes to spare. Surprisingly, it felt very normal to be leaving. During the weeks before, I wondered what it would be like to go, knowing that we weren't just hopping back sometime soon, but God must have just given us grace for all of that. The kids were a little sad, but not crying or acting out, so I know His grace extended to them as well. 

The second flight was SO turbulent. Not in spirit thankfully, just physically! Cole was probably the most disturbed by it, but it was a good time to just reiterate that God knows our futures and that we can trust Him. I guess everyone flying over the Rockies that day had quite a time with the turbulence. 

Picking up all our bags took a bit of time. Bucky must have meowed almost the entire time because when we picked him up, he didn't make a peep but seemed plenty awake. Poor thing! His voice was so gone that we only heard him make sounds a few times over the next couple days. His nose was a bit scratched up, but otherwise he seemed okay. He was eager to be pet and drank water right away too. But man, dealing with picking up the rental cars took FOREVER. Then, once we got to the apartment, we ran into more bumps. 

Getting into the secure building took some work - figuring out the keypad was interesting, as buttons didn't work quite right, and there was more than one J Armstrong on the list (called the other one the first time - oops)! Then, our apartment which was supposed to be unlocked for us, was locked. After hours. After a LONG day. With 3 hungry kids, one disturbed cat, and two hungry parents toting a ridiculous amount of luggage. Eventually, I was able to leave a message with the after hours emergency line and the maintenance man came within 30 min of our discovery! Phew!

Mark and two kids went to get food while Cole and I unwrapped the mattresses that had been delivered for us. We even unwrapped one of the sofas that was also delivered (early, thankfully). We made a late run to Target for two cart-loads of necessities and everyone got a decent night's sleep. 

What a day! I'm so proud of how the kids handled it all. We had been prepping them a lot over the previous couple months about moving and I'm really thankful for that. Just being able to know ahead that they would feel tired of waiting, tired of shopping, tired of being in limbo seemed to help them cope better and us parent better. The next week was full of errands and car-shopping, which we were all so OVER after just the first day, but we powered through, got our cars, got the rentals returned, and have managed to do more than survive our first couple weeks. 

It's hard to say how exactly I have seen God in all this. A lot of it has just been really practical. No major surprises, but lots of needing to get stuff done. We have what we need, and always a little more. We are all learning to deal with not having all the things we want, and that has been healthy for sure. We are making time to explore and are meeting new people. We LOVE getting to actually eat at restaurants - that first week we had to eat out SO much! But, even with only going out a couple times a week, we are thankful there are some options and that people are pleasant about it. 

You might be wondering about masks... and yes, people DO actually wear them here. Not much outside, but I am good with that. All the kids are making friends, and it has been wonderful to actually be with our new CC community each week. We are all learning, growing, and feeling like we are getting to live a semi-normal life, and I am definitely grateful for all of that. 

I won't comment much on Mark's work - it's so much to take in when you start a new job! But he is being stretched for sure, in all the best ways though. He was brain-dead and exhausted that first week, maybe a little less so on his second. He's on his third week now and eager to learn more. This weekend, I think we'll spend a little more time exploring as a family. There's so much to see nearby, I think it'll keep us busy for a long while. 

Thanks for checking in with me, and sorry that these updates will probably not be as thorough or frequent as you might be expecting. I always hope they will be, but, LIFE! Things get crazy fast ;) I am thankful for all our love and prayers, and we are thankful for this opportunity to do something new and different. Who knows what else God has lined up here in TN!

Enjoy a few pics from our adventures...

Everything out here is SO open! 

First night, getting things somewhat arranged so we could sleep and have at least ONE place to sit.

Hike at Preservation Park. Such a lovely day!

Our future house! We got to go inside once, but they are quickly adding things like cabinets, trim, doors, and more :) It's close enough for us to walk to, so every few days we go look from the outside.

Jovi is eager to use her roller-blades, and Bucky is becoming more and more relaxed here.

We've gotten snow on several days, but never enough to make a full-sized snowman.

Figuring out homeschooling in our small space, with no kitchen table (yet).

Only a few tears on Jovi's first day at CC. She participated well and made 9 friends!

I think the trip was SO traumatic for Bucky, he decided to allow us to sit next to him in return for rescuing him ;)

I'm thankful that while Asher had a little catch-up to do with his schoolwork, his science fair project is really coming together!

Hope to sit a give some other updates soon! But, no promises, it might be another few weeks :) Blessings to y'all ;)