Celebrating Strong Women: How to Do it All

http://www.anneleenphotography.com
http://www.anneleenphotography.com

I’m pleased to introduce Renata Pepper as our Strong Women contributor today. Renata is a Franco-Italian-American living in Paris. She is a mother, works as a location manager (www.renatapepper.com), and loves anything food-related.

How to Do it All

I am one of those people who likes to be involved in many things and who thrives on activity. I am a mom of two young, active girls, I have my own business as a freelance location manager for film and photo shoots in Paris, and I have a tendency to say yes when asked to be a part of anything exciting. A lot of people look at me as I muddle and juggle through these roles and ask me how I do it all.

The answer is simple. I don’t.

It’s impossible to do everything, and especially to give every part of your life the same level of intense commitment.

Recently I have been realising that maturing means learning to let go. On one hand, letting go of expectations, of disappointments, of not getting what you want, of restrictions on yourself and others, and of many other things that don’t matter when looked at through the wide-angle lens of a lifetime.

On the other hand, letting go can also mean to lose grip on something, and therefore to not have a handle on it. It seems that keeping it together and keeping up appearances continue to be strict expectations that we and society put on ourselves. In order to be capable of handling the season of great self-sacrifice, risk, and responsibility that comes with parenthood and also with starting a business, I have come to accept that I will never have a firm grip on every aspect of my life simultaneously. In fact, it has surprised me to see that at times, the looser the grip, the better. I accept that I will often reach the end of my reserves of time, inner strength, patience, and resourcefulness. It is an uncomfortable place for me to be in, but I am trying hard to learn to accept limited energy and a constant vulnerability.

Practically, I aim to be realistic about what is actually achievable in one day, streamlining and shedding superfluous tasks as I go along. I invest myself and my time in fewer things, but try to be fully present in every moment for those that I choose to be a part of. Considering that I am so much more aware of my limited reserves, I try and rest more, and I also lean more on my faith in God and on those around me.

This is a season of strength in weakness. I am learning to take joy in this season, and take heart because there will be others.

Celebrating Strong Women: This Side of Heaven

Author PhotoAndrew Budek-Schmeisser lives on a mesa in New Mexico, with his wife Barbara and a whole lot of rescued dogs. Though now sidelined by serious illness, he has working in construction, security contracting, video scriptwriting, and was a college professor for several years

He is the author of a Christian contemporary romance, “Blessed Are the Pure of Heart,” published by Tate Publishing and available from all he best online retailers (as well as Hastings outlets in the Albuquerque area).

A Wife This Side of Heaven

If I may, I like to have the honour of introducing you to the strongest woman I know – my wife, Barbara.

I should begin at the beginning of our relationship – we met through a Catholic singles website; she lived in Indiana, and at the time I lived in Texas. She lived in the town in which she’d been born; I was used to moving every few years. Her roots were deep, and mine were nonexistent. I was 40, I’ve got a few years on her.

After a month and a half of email and telephone communication, she flew to Texas to visit me, on August 9, 2001. She made the trip because, well, I had nearly severed my right arm in a woodworking accident. This might have been a warning to the less robust.

Barbara and BrayI met her at the airport in Austin, at the gate at which her flight arrived, wearing my usual summer garb of ratty shorts and a loose shirt. The flight was 20 minutes early, so she had time to build up some anxiety! She later told me that at first sight, she thought of slipping back down the jetway. Glad she didn’t.

I proposed to her within five hours, and we set the wedding date a year to the day from our meeting, August 9, 2002. She would move to Texas, and leave her family, friends, and the job she’d held for seventeen years, as an accountant.

Wow. And in the meantime, I found another teaching job, at Texas Tech, in Lubbock. This should have been another warning.

A few months before we married, I became ill on a trip to see her. Very ill; my gallbladder needed to go. Since the insurance I had wouldn’t pay for out-of-state surgery, she flew home with me to Texas, to make sure I got there. Her employer had to simply deal with it.

And then we were married – in Indiana – and immediately moved both houses and homes and the seven dogs we collectively owned to Lubbock.

And I got sick again. The surgery had gone bad, and I developed the beginnings of the illness that is killing me now. My first term teaching at Tech was a leave of absence, during which I had another, unrelated surgery that ALSO went bad…I was sent home with internal bleeding, and she noticed that I was in trouble…in the nick of time.

Eight more days in the hospital, and I was given Last Rites twice.

I recovered from these, enough to return to the classroom in January 2003.

And in May I filed for divorce. The fault was entirely mine. I wasn’t unfaithful, but I was unfeeling, immature, and something of a cad. I don’t like who I was, then.

And I did it when Barbara had gone home to visit her parents, for a chance to get some rest after the stress she’d been through.

On June 24th, 2004, we were remarried…in a helicopter over the Las Vegas Strip, at night, by a Catholic priest.

It had been a long road. I’d gone through therapy to deal with the monster I had become, and during that time there was another monster, beginning to grow inside me…one which necessitated a trip to the Mayo clinic in Arizona, and a surgery which had a 70% chance of killing me. I called Barbara, and asked her to act as my medical power of attorney. There was no one else I would trust. It was January, 2004.

The surgery didn’t kill me, but it was not successful, and the beast continued to grow.

In April Barbara said, in a telephone conversation, “I think I want my husband back.”

And in June, I got my wife back.

And she left her family all over again.

To give a man who was capable of the most callous disloyalty a second chance.

Not out of pity.

Out of love.

If that isn’t living the example of Christ, I don’t know what is.

It seems I will be going on to Heaven…if that is my destination…rather sooner than she will.

But I’ll wait outside, so we can go in together, for how can it be Heaven without her?

Celebrating Strong Women: Five Minutes to Happiness

unnamed-1This week’s strong woman is Valerie Brown, a friend who lives out generosity and compassion. Valerie has been a Colorado Native since 1982.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and has a career with helping people with tax issues.  In addition, she also helps people through her public speaking for weight loss and weight management.  

She is a dedicated mother of one son, a wife for nearly 20 years, a daughter and a friend.  Her hobbies include hiking, volunteer speaking, reading and spending time with her friends and family.  She’s a full time working woman always trying to seek that balance between her personal life, her work life and herself.  

Five Minutes to Happiness

Over the course of a year and a half I have lost 135 pounds.  The first question everyone asks me is, “What’s your secret?” They look at me with wide, anticipating eyes waiting for me to deliver the most poetic, beautiful and miraculous piece of wisdom they have ever heard.  They think there HAS to be some secret to weight loss they have overlooked somehow.  I can almost hear the game show failure buzzer (whah whah) going off in their head when I tell them the age old answer…diet and exercise.

Diet and exercise — that is how one loses 135 pounds.  But why did my diet and exercise suddenly work?  I have to admit, this attempt at diet and exercise was probably attempt 147.  Prior to this attempt I was one of those people always looking for the miracle answer myself.  146 attempts later I finally figured something out…in order to be successful at diet and exercise you have to stop beating yourself up and take it in small steps and put some new habits into place.  

First came the diet.  Of course I wanted to eat those delicious yummy foods that had given me such pleasure in my 39 years of life.  How could I break this habit of not turning to food in my time of sorrow, boredom, happiness, or needing a reward?  I decided to break it up into small time increments.  I told myself, I’m going to stick to my diet today.  If temptation arises, I will give myself 5 minutes to decide if I REALLY want that doughnut, cheeseburger, pizza, etc.  After 5 minutes if I still want it, I’ll eat it.  No guilt, no punishment, I’ll eat it; I’ll log it in my food journal and move on.  What I started to discover is that after 5 minutes of distraction…I forgot about my craving.  So the first days of diet 147 had days filled with at least 20 five minute food challenges.  Gradually over time and as the weight started coming off, my five minutes challenges decreased.  I found I didn’t need the 5 minute challenge.  This new diet slowly started to became a habit.  

Second is the exercise.  Same concept.  In the beginning I would tell myself…get your rear end on that treadmill for 5 minutes.  No matter how much I weighed or was out of shape I figured I could at least walk for 5 minutes.  At the end of my 5 minutes if I felt my workout was complete, I gave myself permission to stop and be done.   Oh my, I was horribly out of shape.  There were actually days that 5 minutes WAS all I could do.  But somehow or another, 5 minutes turned into 10 turned into 20 and so on and then I didn’t have to challenge myself at all to exercise.  It became habit.

Annie’s husband Frank gave me a book about habits and how that is pretty much the key concept to success on many different levels.  I wholeheartedly believe this to be true.  No matter what you are attempting to conquer or overcome, you probably have to put some new habits in place.  Give yourself permission to fail as long as you tell yourself you will give them another try.  So maybe I failed my five minute test at lunch and ate that piece of pizza in the break room…it’s okay, I’m going to attempt this again at dinner with whatever temptation arises.   It won’t be long before many failures turn into success just because of the repetitive motion of performing the act itself.  It will become habit and soon you won’t even be thinking about it. 

I’m sure this is a broad oversimplification of a very complex theory.  But I urge you to give it a try the next time you are faced with a difficult situation of any sort.  Give yourself five minutes to try something different.  My hopes are that after a while you will start to see a new habit starting to form and won’t need the miracle, poetic, beautiful answer to your problem.  You had it in you all along!

Celebrating Strong Women: Daughters of Eve

unnamed-1I am thrilled to introduce Caroline Wenger as this week’s Strong Woman. When we met in Paris, Caroline was the first of my peers to help me realize that we are leaders now – not when we’re “grown up.” Caroline is British-born. She lived in Paris for 5 years  before moving to Swiss-German-speaking Switzerland with her Swiss-German/French husband of 9 years. She tries to keep linguisitc confusion to a minimum in her house by only speaking English to her two children aged 6 and 7. She sometimes writes, often bakes, would like to blog, attempts to garden, lives to sing and is still working out her vocation in life.

Daughters of Eve

Strong women are those who know themselves. Those who are strong in their identity and ultimately, those who know their identity in Christ. Who know where they come from – really come from. Not just their parents or place of birth (although this is important, of course) but those who have understood an accepted that they are a daughter of Eve, redeemed by Christ. I am a woman, made in the image of God. God was excited when he created me. I am fearfully and wonderfully knit together. I am not perfect, but I was made good. And what was not good in me, Christ is perfecting. This is my identity. There is no other foundation stronger than this and is the rock on which I try and build by life.

I guess that’s why my very first thought when I hear ‘strong women’ is nuns! Nuns have nothing to prove. In their rejection of all our ‘worldly trappings’, they have chosen the freedom of a disciplined life without the distractions and exhaustion of the life that I have chosen with a husband and family, work, and a home to care for. (Not that I would swap any of that!) Nuns can only do this when they are convinced that God is enough, that life without those things is not only enough, but the way they have chosen brings the abundance of joy that comes of living wholly in the presence of God and being able to concentrate on him.

I live near to a Christian community (it’s not a convent) whose women are known for their very modest dress, lack of make-up, and simple hair-styles. I recently made a comment about how these women were not free to be themselves and wear what they like. And I’m glad that a wise friend pointed out to me that they are more free. They do not have to worry about whether double-denim is in our out this year. Or if their bob suits their wide jaw or not. Or if their heels are going to be cramping their feet at the end of the day. These are strong women. They do not cow-tow what society accepts as acceptable and they know their identity in Christ is firm and established. It even made me feel a little jealous of them as I caught myself checking my make up before leaving the house. Again. Whose approval am I seeking when I walk out the door, and am I strong enough to accept myself as God sees me and not as the world thinks I should look?

As Christians we are always taught that in our weakness, we are strong through Christ. This is quite hard for me to live out for two main reasons. Firstly, I come from a family (my father’s side, at least) where dependence and weakness are frowned upon. My 94 year old grandfather still lives alone and begrudgingly has help every day getting up, washed and dressed. Independence is paramount and was to be maintained at all costs. Needless to say, this side of my family have missed out on the pleasure and the satisfaction of a life of inter-dependence. I am only strong because someone else completes my weaknesses. But I have to admit my weakness in the first place!

And secondly it’s hard because I know that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness, but sometimes I struggle to receive that power. Always berating myself for not having enough ‘quiet times’, blaming children, housework, my phone for distracting me from tanking up on God’s love and strength. But thank God there is another way of receiving him: Thank God for communion  – one of my absolute favourite things in life.

It is such a holy and precious thing to be able to receive God in a concrete and tangible way. For those of us with minds like butterflies flitting from one thing to the next, to be able to come to the Lord’s table and actually hold something in my hand and digest something that comes from God (or is God – who knows?) is very life-giving and strength-transferring. I once learned that communion is food for pilgrims on the journey of life and for me, this is true. I truly feel fed by the body of Christ when I have received communion. The Bread of Heaven sustains me and strengthens me. Even if my quiet-times and Bible reading habits could be a lot better. It’s a moment of grace that I could not live without. In this way, Christ is my strength.

I am closing with a poem written by a strong woman I know very well  – my mum Marian Thomas. She wrote this whilst on a retreat in the cathedral city of Ely in the UK. She does not know that she is a poet, so perhaps seeing herself published on-line will strengthen and inspire her in this direction.

Quartering an apple – time to consider

In silence,  cradling the apple in my left hand
Adeptly cutting it in two
In silence cradling the half apple in my left hand
Adeptly cutting it in two
In silence cradling the quarter apple in my left hand
Adeptly scooping just enough to remove the core, the pips, the potential for
Thousands more apples
They can return to earth in green waste
But left for me
The apple, rosy, juicy, crunchy
For me

How many apples have I prepared like this, for me, for my children?
How many apples did my mother prepare for herself, for her children?
How many apples will my  daughter prepare for herself, for her children?
Daughters of Eve – the apple is redeemed – Allelulia!

Celebrating Strong Women: Weapons of My Warfare

unnamed-1Today’s Strong Woman is Shannon Maddox, my first blogging friend. Shannon, aka “Auntie,” is a writer, artist, and musician whose 9 to 5 …well actually 5 to 9… job is as a Member Care Specialist at her local YMCA.  Her blog, The Iron Diva (www.iron-diva.blogspot.com), chronicles her ongoing quest for total health (and anything else that may be swilling around in her grey matter).  She resides in Weaver, Alabama.  

The Weapons of My Warfare

Thanks to my sister-in-blog, Annie, for the opportunity to share.

When I looked up the word strength in the dictionary, among every definition was a common theme—power.  Power conjures up the image of a superhero with superpowers.

Most people would understand my power if I were a wife, a mom, or a CEO.  But don’t be fooled, I have mighty weapons they in themselves don’t seem like very much, but they bring strength and courage to others.

The First Weapon:  A Crochet Hook

Picture in your mind a young lady pregnant for the first time with a child who wasn’t planned.  Then picture a 30-something career woman who feels she doesn’t have time for a baby right now.  Then picture a 40-something divorce’ pregnant with her fourth child.  Her husband cheated on her, and she really doesn’t want any reminders of him to deal with.  Now, bring her to a pro-life crisis pregnancy center.  Not only does she get kind, loving words, but real help.  The first gift she receives is a pair of baby booties.  Why?  She needs to know that there is a real little person with feet growing in her womb.  Not tissue, not a cluster of cells, and not a mistake to be erased, but a real person to love.  The baby booties give her power to carry her child to term and care for the child or lovingly give him up for adoption.  I’ve made hundreds of pairs of booties for our local center and plan to make 100’s more.

My crochet hook also brings comfort and strength to deployed or wounded soldiers, joy and strength to the elderly in nursing homes, and loving strength to children fighting illness.

The Second Weapon:  A Paint Brush

Nehemiah 8:10 says “…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Recreating the beauty of the world on a canvas or paper not only brings me joy, but shares that joy with all who will look.  Art critics are notorious for saying that a piece should “say” something.  The main “statement” of my art is “Feel the joyous strength.”  If I can’t relay that message, anything else I try to say will be lost.

My paintbrush brings joyous strength to all who view it on my blog or social media pages, those who purchase or receive it as a gift, and to my local senior citizens center.  I am on the lookout for ways that my paintbrush can bring even more strength to those who need it.

The Third Weapon:  A Keyboard or Pen

I hold true to the old adage “The pen is mightier than the sword” though sometimes my “pen” is a computer keyboard.  Words have power.  Proverbs describes words as having the ability to build or tear down.  The Bible also says that words reveal the true nature of the heart.  I try to use my words to build up the good and tear down the evil.  Others have found strength through the words of my blog or essays I’ve written.  Some found strength to keep fighting for their health, while others have taken up the “pen” themselves to pass on their own version of strength.

For those who only see one kind of power, my weapons may seem flimsy and not up to the task. For those who truly understand that power and strength come in multiple forms, my weapons are mighty indeed.

Celebrating Strong Women: Grateful for Strong Legacies

IMG_3325This week, it is my pleasure to introduce my sister-in-law, Mary Beth Rim. Mary Beth is delighted and honored to participate in Celebrating Strong Women. She is a filmmaker and accountant currently residing in Media, Pennsylvania. She loves life, loves goodness and loves happy endings.

Grateful for Strong Legacies

My journey is not one of enormous struggle or enormous success. It is not one of divine inspiration or aha moments. I come from a white middle class family, had the opportunity for top education, the opportunity to travel, the opportunity and encouragement to follow my dreams. My life has had the privileges of many middle class Americans and I do not take this for granted. I am very grateful.  My journey has been only 38 years long and much road is yet to come. Full of all the laughter, tears, betrayals, triumphs and lessons that 38 years can offer, here is where I stand…

I live in Media, Pennsylvania in a cozy house tucked in the woods with my husband Brad, our two children Grace Eve (6) and Rosalie Elle (2), and our Chihuahua Emma Marie (8). As the majority of names imply, our house is full of an abundant amount of females. I must also mention, my youngest sister and niece are currently living with us.  A 6:1 female to male ratio. Brad deserves a medal.  

Many amazing, wise women have shaped who I am and have influenced me in everything from what perfume to wear to what social justices to fight for. I’d like to highlight several of them from my paternal and maternal lineage.

To start off, hanging above me as I type is a framed picture and newspaper article of my paternal Grandmother. In 1920, and only 8 years old, she took a boat from Italy to Ellis Island. She went on to make history by being the first woman to receive her insurance license in the State of Pennsylvania. In 1940, she opened her own business and became a woman ahead of her time. She was a pioneer and blessed with bravery. As a child I just knew her as my mom-mom. A women who made her own clothes and the best food I ever tasted. She carried small Snickers bars in her hand bag and went to church every morning. She was not to be reckoned with and had an intimidating presence. I never felt entirely close to her, but I always had enormous respect for her. She passed her bravery and adventure along to her daughter, my beloved Aunt, who left the East Coast and settled in Oklahoma where she ran her own business and supported her husband in his political pursuits. After the passing of her husband, she raised their two boys alone. My Aunt was my idol and I often dressed like her and wore my hair exactly as she did. My Aunt always smelled like flowers and pretty women, and her home was full of beautiful antiques and books. She was strong, talented, classy and an amazing mother. I would count the minutes until we saw each other again. And when we did, my eyes went googley. I still adore and admire her and she has much wisdom left to bestow on me.

My maternal grandmother was a radio show actress, had green eyes and red hair. She was kind, always politically correct and incredibly nurturing. She was the kind of women who made jello molds and tuna fish casseroles. She wrote humorous scripts alongside of keeping journals full of adorable things her three children would say. To me she was super fun. We would sleep over, stay up real late, watch Saturday Night Live and eat wheat thins. We played Boggle, Scrabble and hang man. I loved this woman and secretly always wanted to hear her curse, but she never did. (Sounds bizarre, perhaps I will delve into this strange desire in my next essay.) This woman passed her love of culture, love of literature and love of the arts onto her two daughters. My fantastically fun and creative maternal Aunt also ran her own business. A balloon making business! It was amazing. Her home was full of balloons and helium tanks and little toys to put inside the balloons. She loved me and my siblings, we could feel it, and we loved her right back. I always wanted to visit her in New Jersey and it still holds true to this day.

This brings me to my mother. My mother is real. She is human. She is constantly growing and learning from life. She gave me life and has taught me the most about it and I will be eternally grateful to her. She is like a hummingbird and her eternal love and belief in me is the most incredible feeling. May my girls be as lucky as to feel this from me.

These are just a handful of women who have touched me along my journey. I am lucky enough to have so, so many more. If anything, I am feeling so grateful. So unbelievably grateful to so many wonderful women in my life, my friends and family, who are the poets, the doulas, the bosses, the in-laws, the doctors, the moms, the activists, the teachers, the seekers, the children, the motivators, the fighters of illnesses, the daughters, the entertainers, the lawyers, the artists, the board members, the progressive thinkers, and to the wise women everywhere. I am grateful to them all and the mark they leave on me. I think that might be the key to my fulfilling journey thus far, to remain constantly grateful. I am excited for the future and the celebration it will hold.

Celebrating Strong Women: Becoming a Turtle

cropped-dsc042161This week’s Celebrating Strong Women contribution comes from Kinita Kadnar Schripsema, author of I Am Hagar: Forgotten No More. Kinita was born in Pune, India; grew up in Ontario, Canada; and currently resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is devoted to her husband, Ken, and their four children. As God writes her story, she writes about her journey with Him in an inspirational blog kinitaschripsema.com. This post is an excerpt from I Am Hagar, which released earlier this month and is used with permission.

Becoming a Turtle: Transformation takes Surrender

Several years ago, I heard some fascinating and intriguing family stories that really got me thinking. Since some of the stories might bring disappointment and sadness to some family members who might be reading this, I will choose not to share them. Suffice it to say that through some of those stories I came to understand that I come from a very long line of dangerously strong women.

As I got closer to my fortieth birthday, I discovered that a turtle represented a “strong woman” in the Native American culture (of which I am not, for those who don’t know that).

Right away, I knew what I wanted for my fortieth birthday. a tattoo of a turtle. Now that you’ve recovered from the shock that Kinita has a tattoo, like most tattoos, this one has great significance. It is a turtle with its head cocked up set at the foot of a cross. You see, God and I had a little chat and through reading Scriptures and godly counsel, it became clear that I would have to surrender some things in my life. Sounded doable. I also learned that I would need a more concrete reinforcement, thus the tattoo. Little did I know what was going to happen over the course of the next few years.

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That was a busy year. That year I learned a lot of things, sometimes simultaneously. I learned that I had a toxic strength that only a loving God would accept me with. Eventually, he would use his gentle and holy strength to mold me and shape my strengths so they would be more useful to him. After reading a book called The High Cost of High Control by Dr. Tim Kimmel, which led to another (secular) book called Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., the second book gave me a task to take a strengths test. On the computer, I would be required to answer several questions that would eventually “diagnose” my strengths and give me the results of my top five. For not being a lover of tests, this one was great. I walked away with a “diagnosis” that would look like this: Connectedness, Responsibility, Activator, Belief, and Winning-Others-Over (in short CRAB-WOO).

Just by themselves, they are a great list of strengths that help me develop in confidence, not only in ministry but also in parenting and my marriage as well. When I stopped and took a deeper look at each of them, it became quite clear that a couple of those strengths really required some tempering. In the Christian life, as we grow to become God-glorifying believers, Scripture teaches us to be “weak,” to make less of ourselves so God can become more in and through us. There are thirty-three verses that help us unpack “weakness” in the Bible. Strengths are good for us to have. But they also have a hidden side that could cause us to develop a hard heart, or grow a belief that “we don’t need others, we are strong enough by ourselves.” I’ve learned (through several situations-gone-bad) that the best results come when we can acknowledge our weaknesses in the midst of those strengths.

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Over time, it became very clear that I was having trouble managing my Responsibility and Activator strengths. Responsibility was the strength, but had the potential of presenting as Control. Activator was a strength that was going to take a little more work to subdue. To not activate in a situation would require me to grow self-control (which happens to be a fruit of the Spirit). I learned that with surrendering Responsibility to the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit, he would give me responsibilities of his choosing. By surrendering my Activator strength in the same way, it would allow God to grow self-control and patience in my life. Both of which are fruit of the Spirit that I needed in my life. (I just didn’t know it.)

Let me give you an example of how that played out in my life. My firstborn broke me in by way of his stubborn, strong-willed, defiant, disobedient, and hard heart. However, I think I did what any good mother would do. I took my responsibility seriously. So seriously that the lines between what was important to discipline and what wasn’t were quite blurry as he approached his teen years. As God addressed my strength of responsibility, he made it very clear that I was to surrender my son, just like Abraham brought his son, Isaac, before the Lord and laid him on the altar. No I didn’t build an altar made with wood, and I didn’t hold a knife over him. (However, sadly, some of the words I said over him might have looked like knives, they were so sharp.) I came to an understanding that even though I was being a responsible parent in most things, the job of my son’s heart was in God’s hands.

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So I closed my eyes and stretched out my empty hands before the Lord. I imagined that I was standing before the cross, as I sat in my living room. I envisioned my son lying across my hands as I lifted him up in surrender to God. That day I chose to let God be God in my son’s life and I would go back to being his mother.

An Activator is a person, who lives life with the following question at the forefront of his or her mind: “When can we start?” Over the years I have been known to be impatient for action (my husband need not respond to this). Okay, so sometimes I still am but right now, you are the one wondering when I’m going to make my point, right? Just saying.

In the book Now, Discover Your Strengths the authors put it very clearly for us Activators, by saying, “Action and thinking are not your opposites. Action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can’t.”

The next part of their explanation conflicts with my faith and belief in a sovereign God, but I’ll share it anyway, so you can perhaps hear why. The authors go on to say, “You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.”

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If I were to write that portion of the definition from a faith perspective, it might sound something like this: “You must wait on the Lord, allowing him to show you the next step. Stay in prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind while you wait. You know you’ll be judged by what you say and also by what you think. You don’t want people just to see what you get done. It frightens you to live a life that doesn’t please God.”

God has been gracious and very faithful in my life, every step of the way. I am nothing without him and I mean everything to him. Every door has been opened and closed by him. If I’m really honest, not every request has made it to the pages of my journal. Some have remained in my heart. Sometimes wondering if the request was really worth praying for or worth God’s time. Yet my Sovereign God remained faithful and time and time again answered those prayers as well. However, almost always not in the way I was expecting, but in the way I needed.

For the last several weeks, I have started to feel like that turtle.  Humbled and blessed. But I know God isn’t finished with me yet. I’m just celebrating his goodness. I’m okay with that. If I get too far ahead of myself, then this Activator is going to get a serious time-out!

How do your strengths and weaknesses impact your journey of surrender? How and when have you seen your strength become a weakness?