Embracing Our Weaknesses to Live in God’s Strength by Victoria Mejias

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Our culture tends to idolize strength. We love stories of the underdog who rose to the top despite seemingly impossible odds. But Scripture paints a different image of strength–one found through surrender and revealed through weakness.

When I first met my guest, Victoria Mejias, I was instantly drawn to her sweet spirit, her authenticity, her hope despite incredible challenges, and her steady reliance on God. She’s suffered more than most of us ever will, and yet, it is perhaps because of her weakness that she most reveals Christ. The same is true for us. When we release our expectations and presentations of perfection, something beautiful happens. In the raw and the real, we demonstrate what it means to rest in God’s grace.

A Woman With Issues

By Victoria Mejias

My loved ones will be the first to tell you- I am a woman with issues. I know, I know, as a Christian I should have my act all together but I don’t.

I am admittingly not a morning person. I drink way too much coffee and don’t seem to be technically-inclined. And that’s the superficial stuff.

Despite my faith, I get anxious. I can have trust issues. I’m a planner that can be irritatingly-scheduled. And those are a few of my finer qualities. The ones most people cannot see.

On top of that, I’m a single mother with two children and multiple sclerosis. My illness has effected my body for more than 10 years to the point where I can’t hide it anymore. I’m now colorblind, most days I ambulate with a walker, other days a wheelchair. Not to mention, half of the week I struggle with a terrible stutter that I fear makes me sound inarticulate and uneducated.

Somehow the latter issues make me the most self-conscience. The thought of people knowing the former, more able-bodied me, versus the disabled me can render me too anxious to think clearly at times. The loss of my straw-like, brittle hair at the slightest touch and the weight gain brought on by my medications can reduce me to tears. And the inability to participate in my children’s activities like I used to can make me feel helpless.

And boy have I tried for years to treat my illness—and to do it privately. In fact, most people didn’t know I was disabled until fairly recently. Oh to think of the years of failed treatments, the thousands of dollars spent for me to just get worse, the effect my illness took on my marriage … it’s daunting.

The fact that people can see these issues only add to my sense of defeat. My challenges are far too visible to mask with a Sunday smile and too real to pretend all is well, even at church. It’s during these moments that I have to fight the negativity that bombards my mind by clinging to Scripture.

Mark chapter 5 describes a scene in which a large crowd follows and presses around Jesus. Among them is someone many people refer to as “the woman with the issue of blood.”

A woman much like me.

Mark 5:25-26 says, “And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” Reading this paints an all-too-personal image for me.

Here was a woman with issues, who knew what it was to suffer and to suffer publicly. She’d been to multiple doctors, drained her life-savings, and had been basically cast out of society. After all, this took place during a period of time where even godly people avoided the unclean. Yet, here she was, unapologetically reaching out for Jesus.

She didn’t just “follow” Him the way the others did she came up behind Him and pressed in through faith “because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed’” (Mark 5:28). She let the Lord lead her and she pressed in to the point where she touched Him. So much so, that the Lord Himself felt the healing power leave His body.

I love Jesus with all my heart and I still believe the Lord will physically heal me. In the meantime, I’m grateful God’s healed my need for approval and my embarrassment surrounding my weaknesses. I long for the day when I’ll hear “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34).

I’m still physically hurting. I still have issues. But I’m determined to let Christ lead and to press into Jesus through it all.

My comfort comes from knowing that He goes before me. I am His. I trust Him, despite my suffering and, regardless of Image of a flower with text pulled from post.how He chooses to respond to my prayers.

I pray you can, too.

Let’s talk about this! Consider your current struggles. How has God revealed Himself to you through them? How might He want to use you and your difficulties to reveal Himself to others as well? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

If you haven’t done so, we encourage you to join our closed Facebook community. Wholly Loved Ministries’ Facebook group is a confidential and safe place where women can share their struggles, doubts, fears, and celebrations.

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A place for women to come together, share their struggles, celebrations, and insights, and inspire one another to be all God created them to be.

We also encourage you to check out our Bible reading plan, 30 Days of Emotional Health, on YouVersion. You can find that https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/15904/.

Get to Know Victoria

Victoria Mejias is a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska College of Law prior to making a leap into public service. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the private, public, legal and non-profit sectors. She has previously served as the Missions and Small Groups Pastor at StoneBridge Christian Church and the Development Director for Open Door Mission / Lydia House. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Heartland United for Puerto Rico and her past service includes a variety of other boards.

Victoria received her Certification in Urban Ministries from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s Urban Ministry Institute in 2012. She has spoken at a variety of venues on matters of leadership, diversity, spirituality and faith– locally, nationally and internationally as far out as Damoh, India at the World Leaders Evangelical Conference. Recently Victoria was the recipient of two Congressional awards for her service by Puerto Rican Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón and Nebraska’s Congressman Don Bacon during a floor speech at the US House of Representatives. She has two children, loves the Lord, reaching the lost and enjoys travel, arts and culture.

She serves with Wholly Loved Ministries as a translator, speaker, and blogger.

Waiting Well

jrlkfafz-4e-elijah-hendersonWe all have struggles. Challenges we must face, uncertainties we must embrace. And sometimes, in the pressing forward and the waiting, it can feel as if God isn’t listening. And in the silence, we may be tempted to think He doesn’t care. But as my guest shares in the following post, He does, and He’s given us marching orders in the middle of the tough. Or should I say, resting orders … 

Waiting Well by Dr. Leslie Parker Umstattd

Over the past two years I have been sick. You wouldn’t know it to look at me on most days. Most days I’m up before my kids, getting lunches fixed, working, and going about my daily life. I may look a little tired but most people don’t notice. If you asked me, I’d say “I’m fine” because to tell you what has transpired over the last two years would be too much for a five-minute conversation.

There are days when I simply wanted to feel better, and in my mind I wasn’t asking for much. I’d cry out to God wondering why in the world this was happening but it felt like He was deaf to my tears, my suffering, and even my anger. I was frustrated at myself for getting sick and God for not taking it away. I read, I prayed, others prayed, and still nothing. Then finally, His answer–Wait!

I didn’t get there overnight and some days I don’t rest here but for today, I can rest well knowing that God is bigger than whatever is wrong with me and whatever my diagnosis turns out to be.

So waiting well sounds good, but how? How do I wait well when I feel lousy and I’m having a bad day? How do I wait well when I become frustrated at insurance and uncaring doctors? How do I wait well when it seems my cries to God for relief from the pain or just an answer seems to go unanswered? How do I wait well when I know that God could heal me if He wanted to but doesn’t?

I don’t claim to have all the answers but I can share five things God has taught me thus far. Waiting well isn’t easy but it is something that God calls us to do, just ask Abraham or Noah, maybe Esther or David, or even Jesus. All of these people had to wait on God’s plan to unfold.

lesliequoteone1) Realize it’s okay to question and get angry—just don’t stay there! Sometimes this is hard because there’s a very real struggle in keeping perspective when you are lonely, exhausted, in pain, or generally depressed. The emotions of the moment take over and judgement is clouded. Remembering the truth of what I know doesn’t negate my feelings but it tempers them long enough for me to gain perspective. The only real truth I know is God’s Word which leads me to number two.

2) Your lifeline as a believer is the Word of God. It is the only true and righteous place to find comfort and peace in times of wondering, wandering, and waiting. Scripture doesn’t always have specifics for every situation but it does have guiding principles for all situations. I know what God’s word says about waiting on Him. This is nourishment for an emaciated soul that doesn’t understand or needs to be quiet in times of chaos or simply needs direction in times of waiting.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As believers we are a community and there are brothers and sisters in Christ who desire to minister to you. Don’t steal that blessing. (P.S. I fail at this often!) There are others who are walking in this life with you and desire to be a part of what is going on in your life. Pick and choose wisely who these people are going to be for you. Believers whom you trust can serve you well in your wait. Whatever we are waiting on, someone has walked this road before and it is easy to forget that in the moment.

4) Keep doing! -don’t allow whatever you’re waiting for to stagnant your ministry or your life. God has created you for lesliesquote2something, allow Him to keep working in your waiting. Whether you are waiting on a diagnosis, a spouse, or a different pay check God is fully aware. Situations don’t determine your usefulness to God. He can use you, just the way you are-just where you are. With that said, a new season or situation brings about opportunity and sometimes in ways you never expected.

The last thing for me is sometimes the hardest, next to asking for help.

5) Keep an eternal perspective. Romans 8:28. “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord.” This is our hope that there is more than just the waiting. God is ALWAYS doing something. Keep in mind it may not be what you expected or even what you wanted but He is doing something in your or in someone else that is watching you.

Be reminded and encouraged He is faithful even in the waiting, allow Him to work and move, and don’t allow what you are waiting on to steal your first love. In your moments of waiting, take heart that God has never left you there.

***

16523735_10154246558168093_1704661183_oDr. Leslie Umstattd was born and raised in Alabama with her high school years being spent in Fairfax, VA. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a business degree. While there, God called her into full time ministry so she moved to Texas to go to seminary after graduation. She graduated from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth with my Masters in Religious Education and Marriage and Family Counseling and also met her husband there. They’ve been married for fifteen years and have two beautiful daughters, Ashtin is 13 and Jordan is 10.

After graduation from seminary, she worked in the public and private school sector as an elementary teacher until she moved to Kansas City. After moving to Kansas City, she completed my DEdMin at Midwestern Seminary. She’s been teaching and doing online development work for Midwestern for several years and serves at her local church on staff as the Children’s Ministry Director and heading up their women’s ministry. A couple of times a month she guest writes for a women’s devotional blog, Gracefully Truthful.

Let’s talk about this! Are you in a time of waiting? If so, which of Leslie’s suggestions resonated with you most? If you’ve livingbygracepic-jpcome through a time of waiting, do you have any advice to share with others who might be in a tough and uncertain season? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all encourage and learn from each other.

Walking In the Wilderness

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I hate being stretched, prodded, and poked. At least, emotionally. But I’m learning to view my struggles and frustrations differently—through the lens of grace. I’ve shared before, but our family has been called to a challenge, one that, at times, takes every ounce of our energy and endurance. One that often leaves us feeling uncertain and one that also brings every selfish and un-surrendered thought to the surface.

This morning, after a particularly trying day the day before, I opened my Bible to James 1:1-3. And was challenged. Inspired. And invited to participate with God in the growth He is initiating in me. 

Then I open my computer and begin reviewing today’s post, and received yet an extra dose of encouragement to stay all in. And to lean hard on Christ. My struggles are nothing like Julie went through, but maybe that’s what makes her post so encouraging–to see faith and strength in the extreme.

 

Don’t Despise the Wildnerness
by Julie Arduini

It was 2003. I lived in Upstate NY and the financial consequences from 9/11 hit our small city hard. The main corporation in town, Corning Inc., let go 20% of their workforce. At the time, their stock was worth less than a slice of pizza at the local shop. Most businesses in town were somehow connected to Corning, including my husband’s employer. His work dried up to the point that the employer left the business and told his employees to keep it baby-1178539_640running—without salary or benefits.

Our baby came into our lives that August and I thought for sure my new role as a full-time mom would be the needed turn. Not long after her birth my husband realized he had to get another job. Our health insurance alone was a huge amount per month plus a 20% co-pay. On paper, we never had the amount. In reality, God provided. Yet, something had to give.

Once my husband started working as a temp to help make ends meet, we received news that our daughter’s newborn tests were abnormal. After hearing all was fine, we later learned the office made a mistake and our daughter was not fine. They sat me down and told me that because she lost 8 weeks of needed medicine, we were to prepare our child for mental retardation.

The hits became relentless. Our daughter got sick before Thanksgiving. Although we were changing doctors, we still hadn’t found one, so we went back. He prescribed a medicine with codeine, something I questioned for a three-month baby. He assured me he’d prescribed this for years.

Our daughter nearly died on Thanksgiving Eve.medic-563425_640

As she recovered, we learned my dad had lung cancer. I refused to believe it. He looked so good. They didn’t want anyone to know for fear he’d be treated differently. As Hannah battled RSV and pneumonia and my husband learned his second job was ending and that a company five hours away wanted to hire him—my dad wasn’t getting better. Three weeks after my husband moved to his new job knowing no one in an apartment the company found for him, my dad passed away.

I was grieving while taking care of two small ones, including a chronically sick baby. My mom was beside herself losing her husband and her daughter’s family. Once I sold the house and reunited with my husband, I remember sitting in Ohio, shell-shocked.

I felt completely abandoned by God.

It was in Ohio I found mentors and Bible studies that helped me. One day I was reading Beth Moore and she mentioned Hosea 2:14: therefore-i-am-now-going-to-allure-her-i-will-lead-her-into-the-wilderness-and-speak-tenderly-to-her-hosea-2-14-niv

That verse made this season almost feel like a gift.

A blessing.

As the grief subsided, I realized there were lessons I learned in the wilderness I never could have grasped in the clearing. I was introduced to opportunities that I never imagined I could have been prepared for. Those excruciating times were when God drew me close and taught me things. Showed me secrets and strategies. Most of all, loved me in an intimate way I’d never known.

The wilderness is scary and no one would voluntarily sign up for it. However, I don’t resist it anymore. I know a lot of fruit comes out of the wilderness. I wouldn’t be writing without those times. I hope my story encourages you. Don’t be afraid of your Hosea 2:14 wilderness.

***

“You need to leave me alone. It’s the least you can do.”

entangled2_editedCarla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son’s father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He’s the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will’s ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He’s bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

Buy Entangled on Amazon.

***

profileJulie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the  re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE and the weekly e mail. SUNDAY’S SURRENDER AND CHOCOLATE.

Connect with Julie on her websiteFacebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

 

 

When it Feels as if God Isn’t Listening

We’ve all been there–in a place of desperation, crying out to God, only to experience … nothing. No change. No JohnStudy1response, nothing but silence.

That diagnosis remains. We don’t get the job offer we’d hoped for. And that precious child, your child, is still in crisis.

This morning, my sweet friend Chaka Heinze shares what it feels like to fear, night after night, that she might lose her son, a very real possibility with his condition. She’s prayed. Oh, has she prayed, and yet …

And now, her thoughts.

Where’s God by Chaka Heinze

14310587_10211065852831043_6142776882429651081_oA few days ago, our ten-year-old son had surgery to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator and attach some leads to his heart (his fifth device). The night before surgery he was so frightened he threw up his dinner. Throwing up his dinner made it that much harder to give him his precious heart meds. During the night, his cries brought me back to his bed again and again to make certain his heart was still beating correctly. At 2:30am—during his second dose of night meds—I finally brought him to our bed. And there I lay across the foot of my bed, curled up around the feet of my husband and our two youngest children, and I prayed: “Where are you, God? Can’t you see that I need you? Why are you silent?”

Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a society in which children were not merely desired to complete a family, they were a sign of God’s favor and an “inheritance from the Lord” (Ps 127:3 NIV). “Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them” (ib. verse 5); “your children will be like olive-plants around your table . . . yes this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord” (Ps. 128: 3, 4 NIV).

A family without sons would be without children to care for them as they aged, and would have to endure the skepticism of the pious: What sin did Zechariah and Elizabeth commit that caused the Lord to withhold his blessing?

A status symbol, financial security, and the tangible representation of the Lord’s approval.

How easy it would be for Elizabeth to feel like she had failed at her most sacred duty. Indeed, God had been silent for so long that when he finally spoke in Luke 1:18, Zechariah had a difficult time believing what he had to say: “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

In those long decades of childlessness as they yearned for God to take away their misfortune and bless them with children, there must have been moments where their hearts cried out: “Where are you, God? Why are you silent?”

And in the midst of your unemployment…

woman-1006102_1920Or after the tragedy of losing a child…

Or when your marriage is falling apart…

Or when the cancer comes back…

Or when your child raised in the church turns to drugs…

Or when you’re abused and mistreated…

Or when you’re in the grip of depression or anxiety…

Or when you’re lonely…

Or when you feel you’ve done everything God has asked of you…

And you cry out to the God who promises to never leave you or forsake you and are met with silence.

How do we weather the “dark night of the soul?” How do we persevere through those inevitable periods in life where our anguish is met with God’s silence? How do we maintain the same faith as Elizabeth when God chooses not to answer our desperate pleas for days? Months? Years? Decades?

1) Lament to the Lord. In 1 Peter 5:7, Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” It is not only “okay” to lament to God, it is the Lord’s desire that you give voice to the pain, the disappointment, the hurt. No tear is wasted when offered to our God. (Psalm 56:8)

2) Trust that God is good and God is with you. His silence does not mean that he has deserted you. God may be using the silence to deepen your faith, or perhaps the time simply isn’t right for God to reveal himself. A few things are certain—even in the silent times—God is good and he is using his goodness to work on your behalf! “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

3) Wait on him patiently. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire” (Psalm 40:1-2 NIV). After offering your lamentations and determining to trust—hold on. Persevere in your faith. Our God will not always answer when we want him to, but his answers will always be right on time to accomplish his perfect will in your life.

As I write my closing, my son cries out in his sleep and my heart leaps into my throat. Lament, trust, wait. I will wait on you, O Lord.

13433264_494764977387535_5596239249582488184_oChaka Heinze lives in Nebraska with her husband, four children, and two havanese pups. She has always admired C.S. Lewis and desires to emulate his ability to glorify God without slapping people in the face with religion. Her debut novel, Under A Withering Sun, is in the process of being re-released (stay tuned for more details). Chaka also enjoys speaking to groups of women about the faithfulness of God through difficult times. She is a member of ACFW and NWG.

 

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. What resonated most in Chaka’s story? What about her suggestions on dealing with unanswered prayers or divine silence? Have you experienced something similar? How did you handle it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on Facebook at Living by Grace, and join the ongoing discussion in our For the Love Bible Study page–because life is hard; we need encouragement and support from one another, amen?

For those just joining us, you can read past posts in this study by clicking the links below.

Week one, we explained what we’re doing, why, and what I pray this study will accomplish for each of us. You can read about that HERE.

We opened talking about Zechariah and Elizabeth’s character and lifestyle–their obedience in the mundane, and how we can demonstrate this kind of integrity as well. Read more HERE.

This week we’ve been talking about prayer–making it a priority and making it meaningful. You can read more HERE and HERE.

Before you leave, listen to this song. It’s become one of my favorites. As I’ve faced difficulties and disappointments, it’s a reminder–He is God, and I am not. He does hear us. He is good, regardless of what our circumstances lead us to believe. He is always-always-always working on our behalf.

Come back Monday when Maria Morgan, author of the Outrageously Fruitful Bible study will encourage us to choose faith over doubt, because we are in control of our thoughts.

Then on the 22nd, my sweet friend Susan Aken will share an uplifting and God-infused post on what happens when the waiting ends.

On the 29th, we’ll transition to thoughts on parenting and how we, like Zechariah and Elizabeth (and perhaps the Essenes), can raise children who live to bring Christ glory with my guest Candee Fick.

This launches us into October–oh my!

On the 3rd, we’ll take a look at the way God instructed Zechariah and Elizabeth to raise John, what that looked like, and how we can be diligent to stay focused on God’s will, even when our actions are unpopular and deemed strange.

On the 6th my sweet friend Mikal Hermanns will take a break from her wedding dress obsession ( 😉 ) to talk about loving the weird in our kids. Because honestly, John was strange. Locust dinners and camel hair clothing–hello! But he was weird on purpose–God’s purpose.

1,324 blog post words later, I leave you with this:

Pause to connect with Christ today; to carve out some time to simply spend in His presence. To draw from His strength and comfort. And take comfort in this, whether you feel Him or not, whether you hear a word He utters, He is with you. James 4:8 promises us the moment we take one step toward Christ, He is already drawing near to us.

And bury God’s Word deep in your heart. This week’s memory verse:

chron16-11verse