Finding My Place

Romans 12:3-8 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

A lot of us have done those tests that help narrow down what your spiritual gift(s) are. I love tests like that because I always need help narrowing things down. Even with that, I have two that are pretty dominant. Using your spiritual gifts brings fulfillment in service to God. We are all created with a different part to play. It is a cooperative play with beautiful individual pieces working together to form one amazing working body as the bible says. When we examine the scriptures comparison, it makes so much sense. When our body has all of the different parts working the way they were designed, it is a beautiful thing. It is beautiful when your arms are able to reach out and extend an encouraging hug; your legs able to walk with your child/grandchild up that mountain; your heart pumping the right amount of blood at just the right the second and so on. Then there is the alternative, when the cells in your body are attacking one another resulting in potential death; your legs slowly becoming too shaky to use and almost becoming as if they are no longer your own; your brain has now become an enemy and made even your most loved ones, strangers. When each body member is not performing its function, it creates strain on the other parts of the body and chaos.

I feel like this lesson is something I had learned awhile back. But, it’s funny how God teaches you lessons then reteaches with a little twist to remind you, hey, you don’t have this figured out, dude! It’s just like part of verse 3-“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought”. Throughout the last year with the pain and reduced activity, I have not been able to live out my spiritual gifts the way I had or planned too. The key words being-the way I had planned and “my” spiritual gifts. I had to learn to live out my spiritual gifts differently and serve in a new way.

I have always been an “action” type person. I am going 24/7 and if I’m sitting still then I feel like I’m doing something wrong.Image result for funny for 24/7

I applied that to how I served God and subsequently others as well. That was until God stopped me in my tracks. So, you have a choice, either stop serving until things are in pristine circumstances again or adjust and grow. We usually have a picture of how things are “supposed” to go and then God has the actual canvas laid out. When we truly surrender ourselves to being used in any way that He plans then we can sincerely be used in the body of Christ.

The gifts that I have really been focused on now are service, by prayer, and encouragement. I struggled with prayer, at first, as if sitting back and praying for someone rather than being present serving was somehow not enough. Service has always been one of my spiritual gifts, but it has been more in a physical capacity. So, I had to adjust my thoughts in this area. When it got down to it and I really took a hard look, (Psalms 139:23-24), I had to realize that I was really thinking of myself “more highly than I ought” in a sense. When we pray, we are crying out for God to move in a person’s life, a situation, a crisis, etc. We are interceding on someone’s behalf in the name of Jesus who has the power to move Heaven and Earth; speak and heal; and to dry every tear. But, I thought “my presence” would mean more than that? You see where I’m going with that??? It’s not to say that physically serving is not Incredibly important. We are called to be the hands and the feet of Christ. But, at the times when we cannot physically be there or in any case really, we are called to pray. God is supremely powerful and He wants to hear us cry out to Him on our behalf and on the behalf of others. It is such a service that I think we forget about.

I have always found music to be an encouragement to me. God has always used the words in songs to really lift me up, convict my heart and motivate me at the different times I needed it. There is something about encouragement that just gives you the strength to keep going and climb to new heights.

Image result for encouragement meme

God has really given me a heart for this. I have realized through these trials that you don’t have to have everything figured out yourself in order to encourage another. You don’t even have to “feel” encouraged yourself necessarily in order to encourage another. God will give me a scripture, a song, a quote, anything that I can pass on to another. As a side note, I never share unless I feel like He is leading me too. Even then sometimes I hold back because I start to think well maybe they will think it is a nuisance, I’ll seem to preachy, etc. But, those are the times I know Satan has in turn used me to block a message that someone may have really needed. The times I have resisted that, I have had people say, man I really needed that. It is never something that I feel I did on my own because it is always something that I wait on God to prompt my heart for. I say these things not to try to sound proud in any way. I say it because it is something that I do in order to keep myself humble. I struggle with the tug-a-war of wanting to be used by God and then sometimes feeling like I somehow did something great. Therefore, I try to build as many caution tape barriers as I possibly can and pray like crazy that God will guard against it. So, that is one of my caution tape barriers. I don’t send an encouragement out unless I feel the Spirit prompting. I feel as though if I began to do it without the Spirit leading me, then I would start to want to take credit for it. Then it becomes something done not out of worship and glory to God, nor out of service, but about me.

I am slowly learning that through every circumstance to consider it joy just like James 1:2-6 says about trials. Because it is producing perseverance and growth in ways that would not have happened without the struggles. I do not enjoy the trial, nor am I enjoying the current trials we are going through, but I am so thankful that God is teaching me who He is through it. I have to cling to it. And I refuse to remain idle. I will serve, thrive and help build his kingdom in any way that He gracefully sees fit in the process. All too often, we (I) get bogged down in our struggles and forget that there are so many around us that are drowning, trying to cling to any life preserver in sight. We can use the gifts He has faithfully given us, through His grace, to help the people around us. No matter the difficulties and trials you are facing today, find your strength in Christ. Hold on to His promises and meditate on them. Then find your place to use your gifts He mercifully gave through His grace. Even if you have to adjust based on your physical condition, I urge you to pray. I urge you to find your place in the body of Christ. All members of the body are needed. If your member has changed a little based on your physical/mental condition, grief, finances, etc., find your new member and start now.

Why Must It Be an “IT” in My Life?

Why must it be so severe?

Why must it be so limiting?

Why does it make my actions feel so insignificant?

Why won’t it allow me to be who I need to be for those I love?

Why can I not escape it no matter how hard I try?

Why do I feel like I am drowning underneath its weight?

Why are my screams not loud enough and the streams of my tears not flowing strong enough to disrupt the current of its electrical shocks?

Why must my only resolve against its constant battle wages be to lie down and give up or cringe at the feeling of bone upon bone?

Why must it taunt me with dreams of the sun over the horizon, meanwhile, it has a storm lurking behind the clouds?

Pain, why do you plague me, so?

 

But you LOOK so Good!

Pain is a balancing act that has to be mastered and continually re-mastered.

I read an article the other day that I felt the urge to share and comment on. It points out how subjective people can be when viewing another’s “invisible disability”. It’s almost as if someone has severe chronic-pain they should constantly live downcast, bed-ridden and barely existent lives. The article revolves around a lady that is denied disability because of her social media account as it revealed that in their subjective opinion she did not look sick enough. I am not naïve-I’m sure there is more to it than what is revealed in this short article. However, I believe this argument goes beyond just denied disability. We as a society have become so dependent on social media as counting that as the accurate depiction of someone’s life. I have personally experienced this with people thinking oh you must be doing better because you have make-up on and look really happy in your pictures! What?? It’s funny because if you honestly think about your social media account(s), do you think they accurately depict the total version of your life? Personally I know that I put up the best photos where my make-up looks on point, my hair looks great and my child looks like she dresses perfect 365 days a year with no stains and perfect hair. We don’t want everyone to know about our acne, crazy hair days  and the stank attitude we just got from our toddler while putting on said outfit. Oh and God forbid any one find the pictures of our stained outfits with our “fat pants” on. Come on, you know you have all had them at one point or another!! We put our best foot or “face” forward on social media. It’s just like that happy couple you see on social media with loving romantic pictures where you wish you were them with status’ about how their spouse is the best in the world. Then out of the blue you see they are divorced. You never know the truth behind the veil of social media. I know for me, if I was truly honest with my Facebook status, almost every couple of days it would say “Feeling like a dump truck just ran over my back; Can barely get out of bed today, but I’m trying to fake it until I make it for my family since things still need to get done; My left arm is still swollen and I barely got sleep because it hurt so bad all night, but it’s all good.” However, no one…let me repeat…NO ONE…wants to read that everyday. They want to read-“I climbed a mountain today! I conquered such and such! I am happy and wonderful!” You know what I mean. I totally get it. I don’t want to read the negative all the time either. I’m right there with it. On the other hand, I do want to know when my friends need prayer, are going through a hard time, etc. But, you get the difference I’m sure. The honesty of our lives is not on display on social media and somewhat for good reason.

This same principle applies to when people view you out in public. I think for friends, family, acquaintances, etc. it gets hard to understand unless you have personally gone through it. There are times when it looks like you are doing excellent yet you are really dying inside. You desperately want life to continue on unscathed for those you love or even just for friends to not feel like they are at a disadvantage when they are with you so you try to overdo what you know you can. Then you are the one who has to lay in bed for days or go in a room by yourself and cry quietly because the pain is overwhelming. Those are the lonely times no one sees. Those are the times no one will understand except those who are going through it or who have been through it.

Pain is a balancing act that has to be mastered and continually re-mastered. It doesn’t go away no matter how much you “will” it away. That has been one of my biggest struggles. I don’t want to have live downcast in a cave somewhere because of it though. I also don’t want to live that way just because it will convince someone I am in severe pain. It is crazy that our society works that way with invisible illnesses.  The way I see it is if I live a life the way some of the world expects and always live bed-ridden and looking sick I could be living for human approval instead of God’s approval.  I could instead choose to take advantage of some of the good days I have and use some of the strong-will/power God has given me to persevere in order to live out my purpose. I know God has a bigger plan for me in all of this. I am not broken in my spirit. I just heard the song by Hawk Nelson “Live Like You’re Loved” yesterday. The lines “So go ahead and be who He made you to be; Live like you’re loved” really resonated. It’s just a reminder of the verse Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” He knew this would happen to any of us that are effected by any invisible illness. He still has plans for a bright, hopeful future where you prosper through Him. No matter how the world views you or may judge you, please don’t let it discourage you. God knows your true heart and struggles. He is there to lift your spirits and hear your cries when nothing will relieve what you’re going through. Christ loves us more than we will ever begin to understand so our struggles and pain do not fall on deaf ears. Find your comfort in the true comforter who understands all struggles even if the world does not.

Continue reading “But you LOOK so Good!”

Prayer

I blogged the other day about not knowing how to pray during this time. It’s funny how God answers those prayers. Things have continued to worsen and I have spent a lot of time in bed only getting up for what I have to do. Tonight got really bad and I just got fed up. I felt like I was losing control of everything. I finally locked myself in my room and decided to have some alone time with God. I needed to just sit with God. I listened to worship songs and it just reminded me of how Great and how powerful our God is. No matter what life brings, that is undeniable. I am so thankful for everything that He has done, who He is and how I can see Him work all around me. I began to do two different devotionals. The first one spoke of how God chooses each individual to go through whatever difficulty in order that we might have an impact on others around us to  display Christ (Holy Emotions-Biblical Responses to Every Challenge written by Carol McLeod and Just Joy Ministries on the Bible App). I firmly believe that. I also know that I allow, just like the study described, my selfish attitudes to get in the way and I fail so often. I pray that God renews my/our strength and that His light will shine. That, by far, makes any and all of this worth it if even just one comes to know Him or is strengthened through my suffering. God is a good God. His ways are always good and I trust that He is allowing this for a reason. Then I read the other devotional and it just made me super pumped. It was the one that offered a prayer at the end. It was the complete answer to my prayer and I didn’t even see it coming. I love how God works! The devotional discussed how we always pray for God to provide comfort, but we don’t even really understand the true meaning of the word.”The word is made from two Latin word parts, com-, an intensifying prefix which means ‘together with,’ and fortis, which means ‘strong or strength.’ Later, the Latin word confortare comes to mean, ‘to strengthen much.’ Eventually, an Old French word, conforter, would add words like ‘solace’ and ‘help’ to the definition. Finally by the 17th century, the English version of the word implies the sense of physical ease that we understand today” (Finding Comfort in Pain provided by Life Church.tv to Bible App). They tied that all in to the prayer at the end. I couldn’t help but cry out the prayer over and over. It says, “God, I don’t like pain, but I love You. Please change my understanding of Your comfort and help me to feel it. Holy Spirit, show me where Your “together-strength” is carrying me through this. Jesus, help me to know how You bore my pain.”

I think this is the perfect cry out to God. It is not asking Him to take away the suffering necessarily. If that is His will and draws us closer to His face, then bring it on. Our earthly suffering will never compare to what He bore for us. But, He understands how we hurt, how we suffer, and that we don’t desire to feel that pain. No matter what His will is, whether to take it away or keep it, please show me your “together-strength” carrying me through. That is all that carries me through. I need you. I need Your strength. I cannot make it on my own. Amen.