Dear SAHM: There Are More Important Things

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Growing up, I remember doing many chores.  I remember all of our responsibilities. Dishes, vacuuming, dusting, Windex glass, picking up after ourselves, daily floor sweeps, any other assignment either parent assigned, plus homework.  It was life.  It taught us all a great deal. We learned how to be responsible, that actions had consequences, that what we do affects others, how to be considerate, etc and how to clean. Even now, as adults, all of my three siblings and myself, can clean a house spotless.

Our house did not go past a certain messy point. Clothes never stayed on the couch for too long. Dishes were never in the sink for more than a meal. The floor never crunched with food or any other substance. We didn’t grow up in mess. My home, however, is not that.

Right now, there are clothes on our couch; clean clothes, but clothes nevertheless. The sink is full of dishes. Clean dishes are in the dishwasher and on the side of the sink.  The kitchen floor has food in the crease where the wall and carpet meets all along the wall. I have two piles of laundry on the floor of our bathroom. I could go on but you get the idea.

A while a go, I posted that I was going to have Jazmine follow a chore chart. It is going pretty well. She is developing good habits and, gradually, learning to choose not to do a half-way job with her chores. I am a task oriented person. I practice not stopping for any kind of break until all or at least the vast majority of a task list is complete. I want to instill this in Jazmine. The thing is, I am sure I was born with the wiring for this kind of thinking but it did not present itself right away.  It was groomed and allowed to grow. I have to give this same time allowance to my Jazmine.

I have a habit of measuring how well my day has gone by how my home looks.  I get where this thought process comes from. I am a SAHM. I don’t work outside of the home. I don’t have a desk or a boss to please. No one readily recognizes my work and says ‘good job’. Not that that is a daily occurance at any job but I don’t get performance reviews etc. All I have as a showcase, if you will, is my home. When people come in, my home is what reflects me. If, by the time I go to bed, my home is tidy, I feel great.  If it is not, I tend to beat myself up.  I think I spent my day doing too much of everything else and did not incorporate tidying up. This evening, it occurred to me that, on a scale of importance, the nurturing of my husband and children’s hearts and their spirits is vastly more important than having a tidy home. Not that my house should remain untidy but if I spend far more time grooming my children and nurturing both them and my husband, while allowing everyone to grow, I have invested my time well.

The state of my home is no longer a personal measure of my worth.

 

Mommy Who Is Scared Of Chore Enforcement

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First of all, I understand.

You are not alone.

Let me relay my story.  I hope you take comfort.

My daughter Jazmine is 8 years old. If you are new to this blog, for the first 7 years of Jazmine’s life, we lived with my mother-in-law.  Life was very different then.  I had a lot of “help”; most of which was an easy fix to a current situation. During this past 11 months of living under our own roof, I’ve had to grow A LOT! Jazmine had to grow a lot. It could not and did not happen all at once. Discipline is an area where I’ve had stunted growth. I am not talking about behavioral discipline. I am talking about enforcing chores and household responsibilities.

Jazmine has chores, meaning I’ve assigned them and she knows what things she is responsible for doing.  She also knows how to complete each task to Mommy’s specifications. However, I have not done a consistent job of enforcing those responsibilities. She knows she is to vacuum after dinner but, often enough, because I dismayed at having to address her non-verbal unpleasantness at being told to complete the chore, I would not say a word but let it go.  Other times, it’s not that I didn’t feel like enforcing but that a greater need arose. Namely, Baby Grace needed and eye kept on her while I finish something in another part of the house. Jazmine can not yet vacuum and watch a toddler so, I nixed the vacuum for babysitting.

My husband and I just got back from having some time away.  Now that we are back home, and our weekly routine gears up again tomorrow, I have had time to reflect. I can not be that worn out anymore. I can not stay up late after our girls are in bed to clean, fold, and wash. My husband does not need to stay up after working to straighten up.

The Bible is clear. It says, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19).  Although that verse is referring to the Israelites teaching their children to carefully obey God’s commands, you will notice that the children are with their parents. The children are with them in the house, on the road, at bedtime, and in the morning. I’ve not had Jazmine by my side while doing most of the things needed to run a household. I’ve let her entertain herself while I completed my chores. I’ve done her and myself a disservice.

I was afraid to enforce before because of what it would cost me. Time.

It’s like teaching her to tie her shoes all over again.  When she was 5, I had to add an extra 5-10 minutes to the get-out-of-the-house routine to allow her time to work at tying her shoes. It was worth it but oh so labor intensive. Until today, I’ve shied away from enforcing chores because I did not want that labor intensive work day-in and day-out for the next few weeks (months) on end while raising a toddler whom, I swear to beans, has hit the terrible twos at 14 months of age!

But the Bible says, “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17) I can take comfort in that, as much hard work that will go into this next stretch of mothering, delight is awaiting me on the other end.

So, fellow scared Mommies, let us journey on together shall we?

Disclaimer:  My decision not to act was selfish and unloving. My desire for perfection (regarding cleanliness) in my home effectively killed much-needed instruction from me to my child. I am armed with laminated and posted chore charts (one of which is pictured above) and a determination to make household responsibilities just as important as school. I will enforce the chores she knows how to do.  Whatever task I am about to do in our home that is new to her, my Jazmine will be by my side.  I will be teaching and she will be observing and learning. We will be conversing. I will not expect perfection when she first attempts task nor when it’s her 50th attempt. I will, however, expect improvement. 

How To Let Go And Let God

PreparingBabyLayetteLet Go and Let God is a song and a cliché within the church. Not that that saying has no truth, but it is often used so haphazardly that the full weight of the words is missed.

I long for more children. An itch has been scratched since having Baby Grace but it still feels that my family is not yet complete. I long for the boy my husband can father in the home; a boy from my womb. While we have been trying, I have not yet felt the desperation I had while waiting for Baby Grace to come. As Baby Grace continues to grow and out grow, I have not parted with a thing.  I have been, once again, hoarding but calling it wisdom.  Better to store and wait for another child than to give away and have to repurchase right? No.  Saving is wisdom.  Hoarding is folly.  Hoarding/Storing takes on the mindset that if we give it away, we could never again regain it. God provided the first time and He can and will provide again. Let go and let God.

During today’s sermon, God impressed upon me that I was hoarding his blessings.  He had to remind me that He provided for Baby Grace and He will provide for the next baby, whenever that happens.  I had to release my coveted Puj Baby Tub, stretchy car seat canopy, sneak-a-peak car seat cover, and nursing cover. My bargain bought breast pump, Close & Secure Portable Infant Sleeper, and my numerous baby wearing gear, all I released.  I released EVERYTHING over and over and over again until it was complete and real and not just lip service.

God provided before.  He will provide again. Why? Because He told me to let go. I didn’t decide to just let go and hope he’ll catch me because I desire for new. No. He told me to let go so I am. I know He will provide yet again because He did for Jazmine and Baby Grace.  I KNOW He will do it for whenever the next baby comes.  By the time you read this, I will have already made a call to see if a new mom needs anything I have and I will have sent a text asking another mom to come view my wares and to take whatever she needs. Whatever is left will be posted on my MOPS group Facebook page.  Whatever is left after that will be consigned at the next local Tot Swap for $1-$3.  I look forward to being a conduit for God’s blessings.

Homeschool Jealousies

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In the culture of homeschooling, there is no “right” way to do it.  It is all based on what is needed, wanted, and works for your family.  As  long as you meet the requirements of education set forth by your state, you can get there as creatively as you please. That is a beautiful part of homeschooling.

On of the subsets within the culture is not pretty, biblically or otherwise. Homeschool jealousies. Homeschool jealousies can arise in almost any aspect of homeschooling. curriculum used, activities attended, activities completed, co-op group choices, child development, etc. etc. I have found myself wrapped up in homeschool jealousies at one time or another. It’s not pretty, it’s not fun, and it wars on your family.  God prepared me for this most recent bout.

Kelly is a very dear friend of mine and I’ve had the privilege of watching her children grow up. When her eldest was in elementary school, she had a very best friend.  They were in the same class and all the same activities.  Kelly stayed home so the very best friend was often over after school.  One day while I was there after a school day ended, the girls were doing their homework.  Kelly told me that the very best friend was very behind in her education.  I sat down to work with the her to try to assess where the disconnect was and offer encouragement. The very best friend was SEVERELY behind. Not because she wasn’t capable or didn’t want to learn.  She was behind because she needed more help in getting the lessons. I recognized it in how she tried to get the right answer just so she could be seen as keeping up even though she had no understanding. Kelly talked to the mother of the very best friend about this and the mother said she and Kelly’s daughter were the same and her child could keep up just fine without any additional support.  This did not address the issue and years later, it is not better.

My Jazmine has a very best friend. They are the same in many ways and participate in many of the same activities.  However, in this case, my Jazmine, though not behind, is on par (if not slightly advanced) in her second grade education. My Jazmine’s very best friend however, is advanced. Most recently, and this is often a occurance in homeschooling, her very best friend moved up in grade level. At my first hearing this from my Jazmine, I was taken aback. My initial Mommy reaction (thought in my head not said out of my mouth) was, ‘how is she moved up? You both are the same? She can’t out learn you!’ Immediately, in my mind, I was trying to decipher ways my Jazmine could keep up. After all, she’s not incapable.  Perhaps she could be challenged more? Perhaps she could benefit from an increased workload? Perhaps I could move her curriculum up a grade level too? Perhaps we could add more educational activities/opportunities to allow her to further flourish? Perhaps…perhaps I could get a dag-on grip!

I could have smacked myself.  I IMMEDIATELY remembered the mother of the very best friend. I sounded just_like_her! NO FREAKING WAY! Children can remain friends regardless of educational prowess. Activities may change but, especially in homeschooling families, as long as parents make the effort for the child to be with their friends, that friendship can flourish! My Jazmine’s very best friend will remain her very best friend because all parents involved are committed to that happening!  All parents involved in this situation are actual adults, not children pretending to be adults.

So to my Jazmine’s very best friend, fly baby fly! achieve! We support you!

To my Jazmine, your Mommy is not going to move hell and high water to keep up with ANYBODY! You move and grow at your own pace and your father and I will be here to support you always!  Fly and soar sweetheart!  We remain proud of you!

The Quickie Queen

Physical intimacy is an important aspect of marriage. (Hmm.  That sentence wasn’t powerful enough.  Let me try again.)  Physical intimacy is vital to a healthy marriage. (There I think that was better.)

When my husband and I were to be married, we had pre-marital counseling.  During those 6 sessions, our Pastor said in most marriages, husbands are the sexual aggressors, but in some marriages, the wives are.  I was stunned to hear that.

I knew me.  I knew I was not getting married to be celibate by ANY means.  Being the good Christian girl that I was, my husband was going to get ALL of this woman as soon as we said I do. I was prepared for all the sexual struggles (he wants it all the time) I’d heard married women talk about and just knew it wasn’t going to be in my  marriage.  I was ready to be ready at ALL times.

It is not always lack of desire that prevents physical intimacy in an otherwise healthy marriage.  Life and its burdens can get in the way. Anxieties, deadlines, and sheer exhaustion can prevent the best efforts. Both husband and wife can try MANY workarounds, strategies, and time set aside to circumvent the negative repercussions of a lack of physical intimacy. Sometimes they work.  Sometimes they don’t.  It all depends on finding out what works for that couple. Trial and error is GREAT when it works but depressing when it fails.

Prayer to protect physical intimacy is important.  Ask God about it. Tell him what you desire and share that with your husband.  Watch God work it out.  He created sex to be with you and your husband. He will make it happen.

There is something to be mindful about when you do pray about physical intimacy.  Do not sabotage your effective prayers with your presets.  The Bible says ask and you shall receive, but be warned not to sabotage the receiving process. God will work in that important area of your marriage.  Start by having him work with you. My story is that while I asked, I remain the same. I responded the same way to my husband when he made an efforts.  That is self sabotage. His gentle touches, impromptu hugs, requests to have me sit near him for a bit (even while I was in the middle of making dinner) are all signs that he desires me. It may take ALL day for the bedroom to take place but he gives clues ALL day that it is on his mind too.

I have sabotaged myself. I was never one for the build-up to the end; not for common everyday practice.  That mess was cool when the only children we had lived with their mothers but now that we have two cock-blocking terrorists (yes, they are blessings and we love them but they do NOTHING to enhance the bedroom), I am in hit-it-and-quit-it mode, ALL the time. No chill. I have become the Quickie Queen.

My work around was to be “ready” at a moments notice. What should have been a temporary fix had become my preset to the point where all I looked for is “right now”.  My preset became to brush off all forms of telling physical contact because it wouldn’t produce immediate results.  Why? Because we could build up all day and one phone call (church, children, or job related) would change the evening.  All the build up for blue clit (female version of blue balls). The emotional build up would be there, the physical touches would be there, the anticipation high and then, nothing. Like a romance novel that ends with nothing but a goodbye wave.

To protect myself from the let down, I would say things like, “Don’t start anything you can’t finish,” and similar phrases to convey that I was not satisfied but desired to be. Talk about poor word choice.  That did nothing to build up my husband. That did nothing to bolster our bedroom. I sabotaged my desires.

While praying for God to move, I still spoke and responded the same way. While in the process of receiving my request, which was evidenced by his touches, words, and nearness, I sabotaged the receiving process by being unresponsive/negatively responding to what was offered. My fear of the possibility of something interfering with our bedroom became a brick wall that prevented me from receiving anything.

Once that realization came crashing down on me, I am now eager to respond to all promise offerings my husband gives me. Why? Because the phone calls weren’t his fault.  I wasn’t the only one disappointed. However, instead of working through that shared emotion together, I shut me and my blue clit off. Shutting off inhibits receiving of any kind.

If you want to receive from the Lord, don’t shut off and don’t sabotage.

Happy Humping!

“I Want Hot Breakfast Mommy.”

I put the brakes on what type of Mom I was not going to be long ago.  One of those types was the fresh-breakfast-making type. I have a friend of mine who makes her children’s’ breakfast even now.  She has two high schoolers. She has been frying up bacon, sizzling sausage, scrambling eggs, and flipping pancakes for many a school day. Couldn’t be me.  That is what I said to myself.

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I have brought many brands of cereal, pop tarts, toasters strudel, cereal bars and the like to make the morning meal as easy and portable as possible.  As a preference, I don’t do mornings. It was a sad day for me when Jazmine was a baby and I could not longer offer her the breast as her pre-breakfast meal while I remained in the bed. I now had to get up and gather breakfast up! Baby Grace still takes her morning tata-meal and goes back to sleep for at least an hour before requiring that I get up and gather her breakfast.

My Jazmine is not a big breakfast eater. I usually have to force her to eat something.  She will eat a donut or pop tarts without hesitation though, but we can’t have that every morning.  (Her father’s preference, not mine…regarding the pop tarts).  However, recently, my husband has taken to making bacon in the morning. I bought orange juice to help my husband get over a cold. Since then, my Jazmine will get up, toast some cinnamon raisin bread, eat it with bacon, and drink orange juice. I asked what gives?

“I like hot breakfast Mommy,” she says. Truth be told, she has been saying it for years but this is the first time I heard it for what she was saying without trying to shortcut my way out of it.  I used to make pancakes in bulk and freeze them so she could have them every morning.  That worked for a time but one day she abruptly quit that. I asked why.  She said she prefers fresh pancakes.  I asked why.  She said because there is no love in frozen ones. I would make her bacon on occasion in the microwave.  She prefers pan-fried. I bought chocolate cereal. She stopped eating it after a while.

This is deeper then just breakfast.  My Jazmine likes to be pampered and catered to. It seems that one of her love languages is Acts of Service.  My primary love language is the same. I thought it would be easy to express this love language to her since we speak the same language.  I was wrong.  Her acts of service are different from mine.  I think that is because at her age, how many acts of service can she really receive as love? I can’t vacuum for her.  I can’t do her school work.  I can’t put her toys away.  I can do all of those things but those chores are her training for adulthood.  I can’t show her love in those things on a regular consistent basis and still expect to raise and adult who can take care of herself.

What I can do is make her hot breakfast every morning.

Did I Mention I Hate Being A Pastor’s Wife?

Of course, the title of this post is rhetorical.  I’ve answered it SEVERAL times in this blog. Just search the archives and you will see. 

 

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Let me clarify so assumptions are not made.

I love my husband who is a Pastor.  I love being his wife. I HATE being a Pastor’s wife.  How is that different? Let me explain.

I would remain married to my husband if he weren’t a Pastor. I don’t hate my husband. I’m not leaving my husband because he is a Pastor.  I love my husband. I enjoy being a wife.  I hate being a wife of a Pastor.

If you still don’t get it, that’s fine but please no comments on what you think I am feeling if you don’t understand my opening statement.

Our Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are for preparing a sermon.  Not that my husband only starts on it on Thursdays but that is the day it usually becomes more solidified. When are birthday parties, adult outings, and other social gatherings usually held? Fridays and Saturdays.  How many times do I show up looking like a single Mom with two children to events where there are whole families (moms and dads)?  Much more often than not.  Case in point. I rejoined a local MOPS group. They were having a fun pool event that I knew my Jazmine would love.  I was excited to see how Baby Grace would do in the pool.  I took my girls and went.  I wasn’t expecting to see so many dads. I assumed MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) and thought it would be a large playdate instead of a family outing. My mistake.  The pool event was titled a family outing but it my mind, I envisioned women and children.  With the exception of one other mom, I was the only one there unaccompanied by my husband.  The other mom’s husband stayed home with the infant while she came with the toddler.

I felt horrible.  I wanted to shout, I HAVE A HUSBAND WHO LOVES ME AND IS A GREAT FATHER TO OUR CHILDREN! I equally wanted to tell anyone who said hi to me that my husband is writing a sermon so he couldn’t come.  I felt the need to quantify why I was alone.

Being a Pastor’s wife is so lonely. There are few you can share your feelings with.  Even in a group of Pastor’s wives, you can be told to put your big-girl panties on and suck it up.  Well guess what?  I suck it up all the time!  Can’t I vent? Am I not allowed to be upset? Angry? Hurt? Can I not desire to have an entire weekend to myself? Can’t I desire to have our family hang out late on a Saturday night with friends and go to late service on Sunday? Why is it only a Pastor’s wife that can’t want anything?  Why is it a Pastor’s wife that is supposed to suck-it up and (this is the part that is never said but ALWAYS implied) like it?

I love my husband but I hate this role. There aren’t enough Pastor’s wives appreciations on the planet to make this job worth the sacrifice! I’m not dealing with all of the facets of being a Pastor’s wife in this post. This post is specifically about showing up unaccompanied by my husband to family events. Oh but trust, there are many more gripes that I am sure will come out in posts to come.

If you are a Pastor’s wife, you are not alone in feeling alone.  You are not alone in hating the role.  You are not alone in wanting more. You are not alone. I give you permission to feel, to desire, and to want. Talk about it. Not sweep it under a rug.  That is how resentment grows and resentment never grows into anything pleasant.

 

This Is Where I Meet Him

You can search this blog for the post about living in the ark.  God brought us out of the ark last year.  I always envisioned what my quiet time space would look like in my new home.  I would see me sitting at my kitchen table looking out a bay window.  Sitting in a Lazy-boy in my living room looking out the window.  I always imagined it being a peaceful place of solace.

Real life? I have two girls that love being near their Momma. I can’t even pee by myself!

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This is where I meet Him.

This is where I have those precious morning moments of quiet prayer with supplication, thanksgiving, and requests to God. I don’t always make it every morning. I desire to but sometimes my morning pee is so rushed, I forget to pray. Baby Grace is crying for her tata-meal, my husband needs the bathroom to get ready for work, or I forgot to grab my bag with my prayer journal in it from the bathtub before sitting on the toilet (the tub is out of reach from the toilet).

Oh but when there are those few moments in the morning that I remember to take, where I meet with the Master.  Oh how precious it is. I don’t have a window to stare out of. My “quiet” time is usually accented by an almost one-year old’s knock and whine on the other side of the bathroom door.  More often than not, my quiet time involves me praying aloud with my eyes closed while Baby Grace bangs on the bathtub and Jazmine holds me tight.

I hope they see their Mommy’s reliance on Christ and learn to rely on Him as well.

She Said I Was Beautiful

I clearly remember my father specifically, saying I was beautiful when I was growing up. He would tell me I was a “gorgeous hunk of female”.  Of course I enjoyed hearing that and that affirmation told me I wasn’t ugly or undesirable.  When I was becoming a young woman and was passed over by guys I liked, I looked for other reasons why they did that because I knew I wasn’t ugly.

When I got to college, things were different.  I started seeing beauty as defined by clothes, makeup, hairstyles, and mouth sassiness. Not an accurate description by far but I used it to form my opinions because those that had those things usually got the man. As I became a grown woman, and more spiritually mature, I learned beauty, of course, is measured from within. It is in how you treat people, what you value, who you serve. That being said, and if you caught what I didn’t say in my first paragraph, I didn’t think I was pretty. I knew I wasn’t ugly but I never considered myself as being beautiful.  I had good days yes but most of the time, I would think, out of the group of people I hang out with, I was not in the top ranking for looks.

That is truly a sad thought.

Today, as I was at church holding Baby Grace, one of the parishioners commented on how pretty my Gracie is.  I smiled and said thank you.  Shen she went on to say, ‘I mean it and I can see where she gets it from.  You are a very beautiful woman.’  Never. NEVER in all of my adult life has someone I was not related to call be beautiful. I think that is truly sad.

Her words gave me wings.  Her words caused me to look at myself in the mirror differently.  Her words freed this thirty-something year old woman to look at me as worthy.  Her words caused me to no longer shrink back because of negative self-image. Her words caused me to walk with a confidence and self-assurance that I often see in others but did not have.

I’m going to thank her next week. Oh I thanked her today but I will tell her just how touching her words were to me next week.

PS. My husband calls me beautiful all the time.  People you love are supposed to tell you that right?  Not that I don’t think he thinks I’m beautiful, but hearing it totally unprompted from an outside source was life changing. 

I Can Do All Things Through Christ

Some scripture become so familiar to me that I no longer experience the power of God’s word.  Philippians 4:13 was one such verse.

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Today started off pleasantly enough. I was able to go to the gym by myself (woohoo!) From there, the day took a turn to that which I did not plan.  Jazmine has been on antibiotics for a few days now and is happily on the mend however, Baby Grace woke up with a cough.  Oh I can not explain how sad that made me. So my day of finally getting out of the house turned into ‘what essential oils can I use to help her kick this cough/runny nose combo’?

I was handling things well until I got snappy.  (Praise God for the Holy Spirit showing me that I was being snappy.)  Baby Grace wasn’t sticking to her schedule.  She nursed a lot and barely ate her breakfast.  Did I mention she is teething too? Yeah, fun times.

Jaz and I are pushing through school and all Baby wanted to do was play with her sister. Fine with me.  I adjusted the order of our day (which is code for the order of which I wanted to get things done) so Baby and Jaz would play.  I took a shower. It wasn’t until Baby G FINALLY went down for her nap that I reflected on the day so far.

I couldn’t figure out where I had gotten off track.  I prayed first thing this morning so, I’m thinking, the day should not have gotten away from me like that.  Jazmine and I are in the habit of putting on the full armor of God each morning during devotionals or in the car before I start driving.  We didn’t put in on this morning. So, while nursing Baby Grace down, I did just that.  After putting on the armor, we also say an affirmation I got from Beth Moore’s Believing God when she talks of the Shield of Faith. Part of it says, I can do all things through Christ.  When I said it today, I paused.  It finally occurred to me the totality of this verse.  Not that I get it all but until then, I had only applied this verse for big things.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me to: talk to this person about Jesus, call someone I barely know to see how they are doing after they had surgery, asking a complete stranger if I can pray with them.  I never ever applied it to my little day-to-day needs. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me: to smile when I want to fuss, listen when I want to respond, exercise patience when I’d rather force my will.

In my glider, with my prayed, long-awaited, baby on my lap, I let the full power of this verse wash over me as I repeated it over and over. I really can do what is required of me because Christ strengthens me.