Seasons, weakness and anthems


There I was, 8 1/2 months pregnant, with a 3 1/2 year old and 20 month old in tow, waddle limping through the grocery store. Why waddling? Because 8 1/2 months pregnant. Why limping? Because broken foot and giant walking boot. I had joked that as I looked down at the black monstrosity, that at least now I could see part of ONE of my feet. But as I waddle limped away from the toilet paper display my toddler had knocked over, after realizing there was no way I was going to be able to bend down to pick up the mess, as I tried to wrangle two hangry kids (three if you counted the one in utero), as the grocery bag broke in our drive way spilling a jar of spaghetti sauce all over the driveway and cans of beans rolled down the driveway into a slush puddle at the end of it, as I lugged in bags of groceries and crying kids and shoved them into the pantry and fridge and feeding seats, with only slightly less gusto than I shoved a cookie in my own mouth (my pacifier)-I realized what a metaphor this was for my life at this time. It was pitiful. I stood hunched over the kitchen counter, contracting, crying. The tears and cookie crumbs mixed together on the counter to make a perfectly gross goo. And that is what I felt like, a puddle of goo.

Just a week or so before we had found out Peter’s dad had stage 4 Prostate Cancer. We didn’t know yet the time line he would be given since we didn’t know how well his body would respond to the hormone treatment. I touched my swollen belly and wondered, and cried, and gritted my teeth at God. Peter’s company had messed up his commissions AGAIN, meaning we had to basically rub sticks together for heat and we didn’t have the money to replace the jar of pasta sauce that had broken in the driveway. Looked like it was dry pasta for dinner. I hastily tucked the kids into their beds for naps. I didn’t want them to see me really lose it. The tears were coming. The ugly tears, the gulps and sobs that shake a person. I turned up their fans to the highest setting so all they could hear was the steady, peaceful wirring of the breeze-constant, soothing.  The tears came before I could even make it downstairs. I sat on the steps, gripping the banister and sobbed. I was broken.

Then a few weeks later my Roycie was born with the same force that brought the tears. I couldn’t hold her in either, when she decided it was time. She broke my tailbone when she came. Soon after my foot healed, but the pain in my tailbone lingers. For some reason I thought to myself that this was the end of the season of tough stuff. With each milestone I thought the same thing. Royce turned “One”. It had been over a year now of constantly being broken. Surely this season was ending. I had to stop calling it the “hardest year” of our lives because it stretched into 15 months, 18 months… During that time I was horribly sick from a Gluten Allergy, my Depression and Anxiety were threatening to take control of me, Peter’s company STILL couldn’t get his pay right, a family member lost a loved one in tragically heartbreaking circumstances, my dad went on disability and was later diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 56, and a slew of other things. Life went on. And I kept waiting for the calm-you know, the calm after the storm. But the waves kept crashing. I begged and gasped for air. They say when someone is drowning their entire body takes on the mission of just trying to breathe. They cannot shout for help, when their head bobs above the surface. All they can do is try to catch a breath-a life saving gulp of air. In many ways that was my existence for well over a year. Instead of waddle limping, I found myself flinching and cowering through my days, bracing myself for what was coming next-for the next wave. And it always seemed to come, just as hard as the one before, knocking the wind out of me, leaving me gasping for life and breath.

In these days of feminism and the “you-go-girl-superwoman-busier-is better” culture being weak is far from noble. We are peer pressured into doing more, being more, being able to squeeze chubby toddler thigh in one hand and push over a giant tire with the other. We should rise early to sip coffee, answer emails, journal with colorful hand lettering and perfect the top-knot. And then stay up until the wee hours of the night building our business, washing our dishes, editing our perfectly staged photos with some trendy matte filter, and decorating our homes like something out of House Beautiful.  “Do more. Be more. Hustle.” There isn’t a place for weakness in our culture.  In our culture strength is admirable and weakness is deplorable. And that is how I was feeling on top of the weakness and weariness :deplorable, hideous, guilty, hopeless.

But thank you sweet Jesus that God’s economy is different. Thank you Lord that your economy turns the world’s economy on its head. Thank you that in your world view resting in you isn’t laziness, a woman’s worth is measured more by the state of her heart than her kitchen sink, and thank you God that when you look at me you don’t see the (un) hot mess than I am; you see Jesus. Thank you that I don’t have to do it all. I don’t have to do more, be more, hustle. Thank you for making space for my weakness, understanding that I am but dust. (Psalm 103). And thank you for not leaving me there to blow every which way. Thank you Lord, for turning my life upside down, literally. Thank you. Because in God’s economy weakness = strength.

I have learned a lot over the past almost 2 years now(!) since the difficulty meter got turned way up. Struggle is a very good teacher. But one of the things I have learned, and re-learned, the most is this powerful and life-giving truth. Weakness = Strength. Not my strength, but God’s. And because of that, Weakness = Grace. My weakness causes me to rely on God in ways I never would if I felt strong. It has taught me things I never would have learned otherwise and allowed me to experience God in ways we just don’t when life is easy and we are busy in our strength. If Peter’s paycheck always came in on time I would be tempted to boast in my husband, not in the Lord. Or to find my sustenance in material things, rather than in My Daily Bread. If life was always easy, I would be tempted to keep comfort the idol that I have often made it to be. I would never understand the depth of His grace, the comfort of his compassion, the magnitude of His great love, or learn to trust in His sovereignty. I would tend to think that I had accomplished much on my own. But instead I see that at times all I can do is gasp for air. He is the One who fills my lungs with air, my mind with peace and my heart with joy. He gives me life and strength. So, this weakness, these struggles-they are not my adversary. They are not my greatest curse. They are my greatest blessing, because they lead me to my greatest Hope.

There are still plenty of times where I catch myself limping along, trying to do it all myself. Or I find myself sulking in the corner, throwing myself a pity party with a pile of sugar. But His grace reaches there too. Just the other day a wise and wonderful mentor of mine spoke truth that resonated with me. A group of sweet younger ladies and I were talking to her about difficult seasons of life. (We are all young moms, with kids in the “little years” and husbands who work many hours, God bless them). We were trying to encourage one another by giving perspective from “the other side” of a similar season. But for me the greatest encouragement came from our mentor. She said “Every season is hard.” She said a couple other things to along the line of:  “Oh my dear friends, every season of life is hard. I am sorry this is the part that is hard right now, and it really is hard. But learn what to do when its hard, because the honest truth is every season is hard. Life is hard. It is supposed to be. What are you going to do with it?”

What she said echoed inside my head. I have been waiting and waiting for things to ease up. I have been waiting for a break, for things to be, (gasp!), easy. I have times where I really think I am trusting God and one more thing goes “wrong” again and I lose my marbles. I guess I am not waiting on the Lord so much as waiting for my season to change. Instead of feeling deflated by her statement that every season is hard, I felt such freedom. I can stop waiting. I can stop feeling discouraged or full of self-pity when another wave crashes down on us. Maybe this season is never going to end, or at least the pain of it is something we will carry with us through all the rest of life’s seasons. I am pretty sure that is the case when it comes to our dads. Her words gave me such freedom and such purpose. I can stop waiting with expectations for circumstances to one day change, or for us to transition to an easier season of life. I can instead wait on the Lord with eager anticipation for what He is going to do through these circumstances, through me even, to bring Him glory!

I need to focus less on my storms, less on bracing myself for the next wave. I have spent so much time trying to preserve my life through this “season”. Jesus never did that. He didn’t try to preserve His life. He came to lose it. He came to willingly give it away. I am called to do the same.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
Matthew 16:25
My purpose is not to weather a storm. My purpose is to glorify God, in a storm or not. And I think the best way for me to do that is to be weak, because it is then that His strength shines though me. I have often considered myself to be a weak person. I have a weak constitution. I am weak emotionally. I used to try to hide my weakness. Then I accepted it as just being who I am: less than. But because of God’s economy, I can actually see it as an amazing privilege to be weak, to need Him. So, if my goal is to bring God glory, and the way that God gets the most glory is His strength shining through me when I am weak, then I consider weakness a gift, a blessing, an honor. |Even so, I have to admit, there are many times where I am just so tired of being weak. But I usually find that those are the times where I am struggling and fighting to be strong. Those are the times I have lost my focus, where I am focusing on the storm, rather than the one who can calm it.

“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’”
Mark 4:35-41
When I have faith in the One who can calm the storm with a single word, my weakness does not matter. I need to let God quiet the storm within me. I need to let Him speak Truth to me to quiet the storm of other voices pulling me in other directions. I don’t need to do more, be more. I need to do less, rest in Him, and strengthen my faith through my weakness. It is when I accept my place of weakness, rely on His grace to carry me, and seek to bring Him glory that I find I have the most strength-despite my circumstances. That certainly is not because of me. It certainly is not for my glory. I am the one who waddle limps, and cowers, and ugly cries, remember? I am learning to surrender daily to Him who carries me. I am learning He will quiet my storms and bring me safely to the other side (even if the journey is long and tumultuous). I am learning to actually be so, so happy and content in my weakness. Weak people just can’t be strong on their own. It causes me to feel more exhausted and more weary to try to pretend I am strong. So I am giving up the pretenses. I am not strong. I am not even close to strong. I am much closer to that slush puddle my cans rolled into. And I am okay with that. Because it is not about me. It is not about me. It is about Him. So I am going to waddle limp when life calls for it, if it brings Him glory. I am going to cry out in pain, putting my faith in Him. I am going to breath in His grace and breathe out, shout out His praise.  I am going to let Him raise me up on eagles wings, because it brings Him glory.
“Those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:31
And this, this will be my tearful anthem:
“Therefore, in order to keep from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Yes, Lord. This.

Photo by Rachel Ann Photography

1 comment:

  1. Oh Emily- God's words through you rebuke me. I am eating the sugar in the corner with you. I'm so evil that I can't handle the well-intentioned words from people that love me, reminding me about what I should still be thankful for despite my "discomfort" (I won't even call it struggle because I think that is too strong for the reality of my particular situation, which seems awful to me but probably not so much to others).
    This whole bringing God glory thing is what is hurting me the most. I broke out in tears to a coworker today because I know my attitude is not pointing others to Christ here at my job- and if it isn't, then what is the point? She assured me that I am still planting seeds, but I know the truth about the selfishness in my heart. Can you help me know how to put into practice what you know to be true mentally, but struggle so much to feel it in your heart? I really look up to you, because you have SOAKED yourself in God's word- maybe that is really the only answer. The bible. Prayer. The bible. Prayer. Thank you so much my weak friend!!!


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