After reading about the Women's Marches around the country last week I was so tempted to write a post with my feelings and response to this march. However, as I sat down to pull my thoughts together I found myself going an entirely different direction. Instead of slamming other women I choose to encourage them. I hope my story will help you reflect on your own. And I hope you will realize the strength you so desperately crave is right there waiting for you.
My name is Juliana and I have been married to my high school sweetheart for almost 14 years. I have two incredible boys, ages 11 and 5. I was blessed to be able to experience motherhood through childbirth and adoption. Life has not been full of sunshine and roses. My faith has allowed me to grow, mostly during the worst of times.
This is my journey of becoming a strong woman.
When my husband was in the Navy and had to go away on repeated deployments I felt incredible loneliness.
God used my loneliness to build a sense of confidence in myself and my abilities. He showed me that I am strong with Him. These years also built the foundation for our marriage.
We had a beautiful son. A few years later I learned my husband did not want any more children. I was heartbroken, devastated, questioning God's plan for my family.
A few years later another strong woman became pregnant. Instead of aborting this baby she chose life for him. Through a series of incredible events God orchestrated a beautiful adoption story. (Read it here.)
We had several extremely difficult years in our marriage. The time came where I had one foot out the door and no plan or hope for a saved marriage. I literally cried in my bedroom closet asking God why. God pointed me directly to scripture showing me that my husband and I were one and He gently commanded that I stay. I surrendered my marriage (all of it) to Jesus that night - the hurt, anger, confusion, bitterness, loneliness - all of it.
God gave me the peace and comfort I so desperately longed for. I learned that my fulfillment comes from Jesus alone. I learned that when I surrender everything to God He makes me whole. And over the next year God completely restored my marriage. He brought more joy and life to my marriage than I could have ever dreamed of. He transformed my husband and me, individually and together.
During and after these years God used my pain for His glory. He put women in my life and allowed me to walk alongside two of them during divorce due to infidelity. And He allowed me to see beauty come from ashes. Both of them found incredible, Godly men a few years later. God also allowed me to walk another friend through a very difficult time in her marriage. She too had one foot out the door but God asked me to keep speaking truth into her life. She always tells me I saved her marriage. The truth is God used me as a tool to save her marriage and for that I am grateful.
My youngest son was hospitalized twice with double pneumonia. He was almost 2 at the time and losing weight rapidly. The antibiotics were not helping and they attempted surgery but it was unsuccessful. I was terrified and honestly, angry. Why would God give me this beautiful gift only to possibly take him away?
I found myself on my knees night after night in the hospital room praying over my son and singing praise songs. These nights were some of the darkest and scariest nights of my life but also the most beautiful. Through this time I learned that my boys are not my own. They are God's. And he has given me the privilege to love them and raise them to know Him. This experience made me a completely different mom.
So...what is a strong woman?
A strong woman finds her fulfillment in Jesus.
She trusts God's plan for her family.
She is obedient to His commands, even when she thinks her way is better.
She knows that every precious gift is from Him and she treasures those gifts.
She supports her husband and his dreams.
She allows her husband to help even if he doesn't do it her way.
She asks God to bring the dreams in her heart to fruition.
She stays up all night with babies and soothes them back to sleep.
She keeps her cool while her toddler is throwing an all out tantrum in the store.
She disciplines her children and gives them the boundaries they need.
She does the all too often unappreciated tasks like laundry, cooking and cleaning.
She drives her children to what seem like endless school events and sports practices.
She is the glue that holds it together when life gets crazy.
Your story may be different. Maybe you are single, unable to have children or have chosen not to have children. You may be striving for a certain career or are passionate about missionary work. You may have a heart for kids (fostering/adoption) or animals. Whatever your story is, do not let anyone tell you that you are not strong enough or that this world owes you something.
In HIM we find an endless supply of strength. (Isaiah 40:29)
In HIM we find an endless supply of hope. (Psalm 147:11)
In HIM we find an endless supply of love. (1 John 4:7-8)
"Love is not about what I can get from this world. Love is about what I can give to this world." ~Lysa TerKeurst