PREFACE/DISCLAIMER: I'm still getting used to this whole blogging thing. There have been so many scriptures I've come across, moments in class that have had me like "Yes Lord" *insert praising hands*, new things happening, etc. As my friend put it the other night, life has been happening so fast and I haven't been able to keep up #facts! So... this post is my attempt to play catch up and cover about 2-3 weeks worth of happenings for me in one post! I'm still working on getting better ya'll so bear with me, haha.
"But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint."
-Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)
Like most people, the thought of waiting makes me uncomfortable. Confession time! I'm a perfectionist, super type A personality, always need to be doing something, however else you want to define it, type of person. I'm so used to trying to juggle 5 balls at once (key word, trying) and barely keeping them all off the ground. But, that was a lifestyle I had grown accustomed to; it was a lifestyle that made me feel "comfortable." Why? Because when you're so "busy" you can make excuses for yourself for not always being on your 'A' game. You can justify your lackluster performance in certain areas. You can defend not spending time with friends, not doing well on a test, not going to church, or even alone time with God. One of the biggest lessons I learned from my undergraduate experience was the importance of being intentional and purposeful with your time. As I grow deeper in faith, I attribute that desire to be intentional to wanting to serve God and fulfill the purpose, and desires that God placed in my heart and that He has brought me to graduate school to do.
These last few months matriculating into graduate school have been a serious test of faith and one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life. Moving to a new place, and starting a new life is challenging for anyone. I have had many moments of feeling alone, inadequate, unintelligent, etc. Feeling pressured to take on certain roles in organizations or do things that graduate students are typically expected to do. And feeling like a disappointment to my department for choosing not to. Or even constantly comparing myself to friends and colleagues that are doing things the "right way." Trying to live and trust in God's way is hard. It's challenging. It's uncomfortable, especially when everyone and everything around you are telling you to do the exact opposite to be successful or significant. It's difficult to say no to the world when God is telling you "I need you to do things my way, not yours." Since I've been here I've passed on several opportunities, even recently, that really would have made a lot of sense for me to take on. Opportunities to begin new projects, leadership roles, etc. But I had to seek prayer in those moments to see if they were what God wanted me to pursue. After clear messages that the answer was no, I had to say no, even if it didn't make sense to me at the time.
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."
-James 1:2-4 (NLT)
When you're forced to enter into this space, it forces you to face all of your insecurities, demons and anything else you were trying to mask or evade by being so busy. It forces you to spend time in solitude with God. To face whatever plaguing thoughts, attitudes and behavior you may still be dealing with. I've shed tears, I've had setbacks, but it didn't change the fact that I've had to deal with it. Ultimately it forces you to grow, and amidst the discomfort that has been the most rewarding experience for me.
I was going to originally title this piece, "Finding Comfort in my Discomfort." But I changed comfort to peace realizing that these terms are far from being synonymous. I still live in that discomfort, every day almost, but I've found peace in it. Comfort is so fleeting but peace is eternal because it comes from God and being convicted of the Holy Spirit. I've found peace in my discomfort because I have trust and faith that God is stretching me, and no amount of comfort, nor person, nor organization can supersede that!
So how have I been dealing with all of this.......?
"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless."
-1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT)
I've begun finding more joy in my work, yes even classwork. Strange, I know! But I have to actively remind myself that the dreams I have aren't going to happen overnight. They won't happen unless I put forth the necessary effort now, during the non-glamorous stages. With every opportunity I turn down that was not of God's plan for me, He opens another one that is. Opportunities for grants, additional fellowships related to my work, internships to expand my research, etc. All falling into place with what He has brought me here to do. In these moments, I'm motivated to keep pushing because He constantly reminds me that I am doing His work and that is more than enough motivation to have late nights, early mornings and to push me to work more diligently than I ever have.
2. "Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself..."
-1 Corinthians 6:19 (NLT)
For years I used to struggle with working out, because my only motivation was, well to look good, which clearly wasn't enough motivation for me because it never happened, and if I'm being honest because I already thought I looked good! ;) But when I began thinking of the ways I could serve God, this became one of them, and now without hesitation I regularly go to the gym (and yes this started even before the new year's resolution season) as another service to the Lord. I've begun eating healthier, cooking more, and I've begun feeling so much better to actually do the work He needs me to. This seems so simple, because it is. But we often times forget that even our bodies, that were created by Him, can be used as a service to the Lord. Now don't get me wrong, are there still days I just want to eat some fries and a chocolate milkshake, or just not cook anything at all, absolutely! But the challenge has been in being able to say no. For me it's been an interesting experience, but I again I've found joy in living healthier because the motivation this time around is so much different.
3. "When this vision came to me, I, Daniel, had been in mourning for three whole weeks. All that time I had eaten no rich food. No meat or wine crossed my lips, and I used no fragrant lotions until those three weeks had passed."
-Daniel 10:2-3 (NLT)
Last semester during a time when I felt I was too easily slipping into the very things God was trying to pull me away from, I decided to do a 21-day Daniel Fast on a full liquids diet, as a way to experience true repentance, renewed spirit and to find peace with God. I cut myself off from food, Netflix, secular music, and committed myself to twice daily bible reading and prayer. This was probably one of the periods where God stretched me the most but it allowed me to be so focused on strengthening my relationship with God that by the end of it I almost felt like a new person!
4. "Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace."
-Ephesians 4:3 (NLT)
I recently joined a new church home, Heritage Christian Community Baptist Church and the fellowship and genuine love I've gotten from my new church family has been phenomenal! I've visited somewhere between 10-15 different churches in Tampa since I've been here, and for a while I knew I wasn't being called to join any of the previous ministries. But then, a friend of mine invited me to Heritage and I KNEW from the moment I walked through the door that it was home. I'm excited to grow in fellowship, and in faith and I can truly call this church home, even after only a few short weeks.
5. Last but certainly not least, after finding a church home I wanted to publicly declare my faith to Christ as I move forward in this next stage of my journey. So, thanks to my new church family, this past Tuesday, February 16, 2016, I was baptized!
See, I told you a lot has happened in a few weeks! :) These experiences are by no means a secret recipe, but they've worked for me. Am I still learning, growing, stretching... Of course! As I said in the beginning, it's forcing me to deal with my internal issues head on, but has allowed me to be so intentional with my time that I have less moments of doubt and so many more days of diligence that He consistently reminds me I'm doing His work. I'm embracing the discomfort and looking forward to continually growing in faith.
Closing Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for another opportunity to be able to share my journey with others. Father I ask, that for myself and whoever may be reading this that you allow us to find peace in the discomfort in our lives. That in these moments of discomfort, rather than seeking comfort from the world, that we seek you, to grow in faith, so that you can use us for what you have created us to do! Dear Lord, I ask that guide us, and provide us with the strength and wisdom to discern what is meant for us, and to be able to say no to the things that aren't. I pray that we seek your will, and seek fellowship from those around who are also pursuing you so that we can strengthen your body and use the gifts you have given us to make this world a better place. I pray these things in the name of Jesus, Amen!
Until next time, stay blessed! Much love! :)