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.

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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.

Brave

I just finished reading a Blog Post by Krista entitled,  “No Longer Anonymous: Alexis Kanda-Olmstead Overcomes the Terror of the Publish Button”, which was featured on Discover. I have enjoyed reading AKO Collective before and became an official “follower” today. It’s funny how ironic it was that I read it just today after battling constantly with this same question for the last (13) days to be exact. I have told myself once I started publishing this blog that I was somehow tougher because I was willing to share my struggles with “the world.” However, I have yet to become willing to even open up my blog to those closest to me (i.e. even my momma). There is something about being able to arm yourself too press that Publish button. For some, it may come easier than others. For me, this blog is personal. It touches the deepest parts of me because it is about the inmost, darkest struggles I face. This blog is about how without God’s strength I could literally not overcome another second of another day at some points. Even walking into the first step of starting this blog was a huge leap and one I did not take lightly. I did so armed with the strength that this was not for me alone. I do believe, in part, this is therapeutic for me. However, the bigger picture is how I yearn to reach those that are struggling just like me. Pain is a very personal, draining, emotional struggle. It is not one that others can see and touch. It is not one understood by most, therefore, we often end up fighting it alone. But, is my anonymity creating an environment that fosters the ability to fight in a community of numbers or in more isolation? What settled this question for me was AKO Collective’s reply to one of the questions asked of her about remaining anonymous “It wasn’t helping me access the truest parts of myself, which is also very important to blogging.” How can I be truly honest, move forward in healing for myself and others without opening myself up completely?

“It wasn’t helping me access the truest parts of myself, which is also very important to blogging.”

I appreciate the honesty that AKO Collective gave in her answers. The thought of opening up my blog to my community literally puts a knot in my stomach. The thought of no longer remaining somewhat anonymous make me want to run and hide. But, then I think back to one of the lessons I read in BU-Blogging University. The lesson was to Identify your Audience. Why am I here, what do I want to write and to whom do I want to write? I am here because I believe in the solidarity that community has to offer. I am here because I believe that no one should have to suffer in isolation. I am here because I have a God that rescued and gave me a new life that I have to share with others. I am here because I know He gives us blessings beyond just the healing that we often seek first and foremost (I know I did!). I want to write blogs that are honest and don’t sugarcoat the crap that comes along with these valleys. Anyone that has gone through pain or any type of loss knows that it just sucks beyond belief. That’s why I love how AKO Collective mentioned bad language. I’m just going to say, the words that come to my mind when I’m in severe pain are not always pretty or nice. And I would challenge anyone who has never felt that amount of pain to come tell me to never think that way. 😛 I doubt I’ll be sharing them on here, but my point is, I don’t want to just write about sunshine and rainbows because that isn’t real life! I want to write about the mud and grime; mixed with the hope we have. I want to write to others struggling with pain, grief, invisible illnesses, emotional pain, emptiness, etc. We all go through heartache on this earth and some heartache I will never begin to understand. But, I do know a God who understands greater pain and heartache than any of us will ever begin to understand who is always ready and willing to take our pain onto Himself. I can’t be afraid of what judgment or criticism will come anymore.

I want to say a special thank you to AKO Collective for your willingness to be open and honest. Also, Krista for featuring AKO Collective and those questions on Discover. You both have spurred on an amateur, nervous writer dreaming of doing big things.

 

Strength

The past few days have been rough for me. I met my new doctor since we’ve moved to a new area that will deal with the pain portion of my health. The impression I got from our short visit was that he is quite proud of his accomplishments and has no time to get a history on patients. I left with no evaluation being done, no pain score inquiry, no real questions about my history, and lots of unanswered questions about where to go from here. I feel as though I’m past that point now. I need someone that is invested in seeing where I am and helping to get me back to the best version of myself physically. I’m so ready and I want to skip whoever does not want to be involved in the process. I’ve grown too far past that point. I left the doctor feeling frustrated and a little hopeless. This appointment had been like a beacon of hope shining to further advance my recovery and hopefully continue to heal back to maximum strength. Then to be in so much pain at the appointment only to be spurned was a little less than settling.  On the way home my mom drove because of how much pain I was in and as we were talking she made the simple statement of “you will have to give it over to God.” It was in that moment that I took almost a gasp of air. I thought, why didn’t I do that immediately?  Throughout our struggles God has shown His strength, grace and blessings more times than I could ever count. So, why is that not always my first thought? It’s as if I think my anger or frustration will somehow change the situation.

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The day that followed was filled with even more pain. It was beyond a point of manageability. I was at a point that I had not been in awhile. I began to just sit out on the porch and stare at God’s beautiful creation. I started to just cry out loud out to God to take it all away. I am tired. I am tired of the constant struggle. The pain is just too much. I know God can take it away if He chooses, so why not? Then it was as if he stopped me somehow. I honestly don’t know how but He gently touched my heart so swiftly. Staring at HIS creation, I was reminded of all HE has done for me. Jesus came to earth and surrendered Himself so that He would suffer the entirety of God’s wrath instead of me, instead of you. I cannot imagine nor do I even want a glimpse of feeling just a part of God’s wrath. There are times to grieve and times to dwell in the sadness of your pain, disability, loss, etc. But, this was a time where God was saying yes, I acknowledge your suffering, BUT look at what I have done for you. Look at who I really am and focus more on that than your suffering. God brought back the verse of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “For our light and temporary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” I realize the context of this chapter is persecution but these verses, especially verse 17, God gave me about 1 1/2 years ago and they have never left my heart. It is so applicable. So, my prayer is now that the Holy Spirit will guide my prayers. I don’t know exactly what to pray for. I feel like relief from the suffering isn’t the right prayer at this time for me personally. That my focus should be more on deepening my walk with Christ. God has revealed himself so much through the suffering and continues to that I can’t help but be thankful in ways for the suffering. However, the pain continues to be almost intolerable. So, that brings me back to how to pray. I know God knows my heart and knows I want the pain to end like yesterday (or years ago ha!). I trust that He knows the way to wade through it all.  Through my life-my struggle, this blog, anything I do-I do it because I want God to receive all the glory and to encourage anyone else struggling that He is the only source of true, constant help through it.