By: Nicolle Polanco
It’s that time of year again. School buses and school bells. School zones and school supplies. New shoes, backpacks, teachers and friends. Early days packing lunches and late nights doing laundry. In my house, it’s time for stocking up on things like Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, sports tape, ice packs and pedialyte as this year two of my boys take the field for varsity football in Friday night lights. As I start school again too, it means weekly drives and juggling helping with their homework while trying to finish mine. I have spent a lot of time lately reflecting on how grateful I am. Sometimes with a smile on my face as I watch them on the field or just sitting around the dinner table listening to the stories of their day. They have grown so much but even more amazing is the way our relationship has grown. Some parents fight to get their kids to talk and I find it’s hard to get mine to stop. Sometimes my reflection comes in the middle of tears as I fight the feelings of the challenges it is to be a mom, especially one with a past like mine. This new season will also mean new challenges and a whole new level of what I refer to as craziness. It seems like life never stops. Never slows down. There is always something coming up, whether good or bad, it’s just something. I long for a pajama day or at least just a day to sleep till the sun is actually up. Rest is a word that I am all too unfamiliar with these days. But as I reflect, I smile, because I wouldn’t have it any other way. It wouldn’t even be this way if it wasn’t for Coastal Bend Grace House and it is joy to celebrate their anniversary at this time of year as well.
Recently, a friend who I hadn’t talked with in a while, was asking about my journey the past couple years. She had been going through some stuff herself struggling with 4 girls under the age of 4, two of whom she fosters. She asked what was different this time. How did I make the changes? How do I now live by the Spirit and what does that even mean anyway? I get asked those questions often when I share about my past. Most people expect that I would have thoroughly worked the twelve steps and continue to attend meetings. Some people rattle off a list of things to do that should have helped me make those changes. All those people are surprised when I say that there were no meetings and still aren’t. There weren’t twelve steps, just one. One step of surrender to my Savior. I have usually said that this step made me stronger. That my time at Grace House gave me the time to get away and get stronger in my faith and stronger as a person. But that’s not it at all. I heard a quote the other day that has changed the way I think about this. When I heard it, it all actually made greater sense. I mean, if I got stronger, then why do I feel so weak sometimes? Why do I still cry and have days when it all just seems too hard? Not that I feel like drinking, but I mean, just the everyday battles we all face in life. Kids. Finances. Relationships. If I was so strong, why would these things rattle me at times?
As I pondered this, I noticed something. For me, what I have learned to focus on is not why they rattle me but why now these things can’t knock me down the way they used to. I have learned to stay sober, focused, and determined to keep my eyes on the throne of God. I have learned to overcome challenges and to teach my boys how to get through them when they face them as well. How was I staying in the fight this time? How was I actually winning the fight? I have an enemy who is out to destroy me on a daily basis and an enemy who has defeated me before, so what is different now? Was this in some way because I had become stronger? And if I am stronger, then how did I get that way? The quote reminded me: “Fighting is not about who’s stronger, It’s about who’s smarter.” That’s it! I am smarter. I started thinking about all the mighty men and women of the bible. David wasn’t stronger, he was smarter. Numerous examples in God’s word show that being smarter wins the battle every time. It was smart to walk into Grace House. It was smart to surrender to God. It’s a smart choice when I remember my identity in Christ and when I choose to learn and believe the truths of God’s word. It’s smart when I choose to pray and repeat scripture out loud to drown out the voice of the enemy and listen to the voice of the good Shepard instead. It’s smart when I choose to not let shame, frustration and inadequacy hold me down. It’s smart when I remember to keep my feet grounded when the good things are coming my way. It’s smart to not forget about God when the days are good and full of laughter. Yes, being smart eventually led to me feeling and being stronger but it all started with smart decisions. This may sound like semantics to some but it’s important to me. It’s important because in those moments that I don’t feel strong, I can be smart. I can be courageous. I can overcome the moment. That doesn’t require me to feel physically or emotionally strong. In any moment I face, I just have to make the smart choice. Being strong is thinking you have to handle everything in your life. Being smart is HOW you handle everything in your life. I do not have control over anything except my expectations, responses and choices. I can stay miserable when circumstance go crazy or I can be smart and get stronger. It takes the same amount of work. Please know, I do not do anything in my own strength. Everything I have written about comes because of the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit but I had to make to smart choice to listen and follow Him. I am a dedicated mom now who cooks the pregame meals for the football team and is there every day, physically emotionally and spiritually for her boys. I am a strong woman of God now. But I wasn’t born that way. I got that way and continue to grow in that way because I started to make one smart choice at a time. That’s what is different this time. That’s why I am winning the battle. One part warrior. One part worshipper. By His grace, for His glory!!!