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Sharing our Lives

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Do you know just HOW important it is to live in community with others? To share your triumphs and struggles and to connect with others on a deeper level? Whether you’re comfortable with it or not, we are made to share our lives with those around us. Our souls crave companionship and God never intended us to live this life alone.

 

I am very aware that opening up to others can be an uncomfortable, scary, and overwhelming thing. Is it easy to be honest and bare it all? Not for the majority of us! We feel as though we are going to be judged and ridiculed or thought of as less of a person if we admit our faults and struggles. But there is something SO freeing about laying it all out there. And once you can do that, there is a deeper connection that begins to form. There is a level of comfort that comes when we openly share about all aspects of our life. Feeling compassion and encouragement from others lightens our load, strengthens us, and gives us courage to keep going.  When we extend and receive the love and forgiveness of others we are essentially feeling the love of Christ on this earth.

 

When we share our lives we aren’t burdening others, we are lightening our own load and actually giving life to those we are sharing with. When we are open and honest and REAL it gives others a feeling of “permission” to open up and be themselves. If we never talk about the nitty gritty details of our lives, it’s easy to imagine that others have it all together – but no one has it all together. Friendship is formed by commonality and if we only ever talk about surface details of our lives we will never form those deep rooted friendships we long for. By pushing fear aside and choosing to be real and transparent we are able to make an impact on our own lives AND the people we open up to. We also tend to see situations from a different perspective and may be able to rectify something we couldn’t previously see a solution to. Our lives become richer by hearing different perspectives and points of view.

 

Have you ever come away from a conversation with a friend, or group of friends, and felt absolutely refreshed? Maybe it’s a conversation over coffee, a walk at the beach, or a discipleship group gathering. You all of a sudden you have a ton of energy and feel like you could conquer the world. That’s the power of building friendships and living in community! Talking about the tough parts of our lives doesn’t necessarily stop those situations from continuing, but it sure does lift the weight of the situation off of us. Having that weight lifted can give us the room we need to breathe again, gather our thoughts, and tackle the problem. Through these relationships we can receive prayer and accountability and we can begin to experience the full power and delight of life with God when we are sharing life together with our brothers and sisters.

 

As believers in Jesus Christ we are called to make disciples of all nations; we are called to tell others about our loving Jesus. How do we do that? By forming relationships! Forming trust through relationships is such a key part of reaching this world with the Good News. Do you typically take notice and really, truly listen to someone you don’t trust? I know I don’t! Trust is key for making an impact on others and trust is more easily built when we are honest and open.  Don’t fear community and relationships – welcome them! There is so much we can gain from each other and we can make a much greater impact for Jesus when we step outside our comfort zone and have deep conversations with the people God has brought into our lives.

Turning Disappointment into Thanksgiving

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We’ve all felt disappointment. That sinking feeling when things didn’t work out as we had hoped or because our expectations exceeded the actual outcome. It’s a very real feeling that can cause us to experience a large spectrum of emotions: sadness, despair, grief, frustration, anger, thanksgiving.

 

Thanksgiving???

 

Yes, you read that right. We can feel thankful in our disappointment. But how? Why?

Isaiah 55:8 reads, “’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.’” Our thoughts are nothing like God’s. Isn’t that powerful? In our simple, human mind we can devise all sorts of ideas and plans; we can piece together the perfect storyline for our future and then we expect that God will follow through with our plans because they sound pretty awesome to us. But how silly is that? If we know that God sees everything and has a beautiful plan for our life, why do we keep expecting to write our own story?

Now don’t get me wrong, having expectations can be good. I’m not saying we need to drop all of our expectations in life, but I think we need to examine WHAT our expectations are. Are we expecting to always get our way or are we expecting that God will do amazing things in our life in HIS way? Are we expecting that we’ll be perfect in everything we do or are we expecting to do our very best and then receive grace and help for the rest? The bigger our expectations the more we can find ourselves fighting to stay on a path that may not be where we should be walking. But how do we examine that and determine where we need to be?

 

Prayer.

Stillness.

Reflection.

 

Pray and ask God about how He wants to use you within the situation. Release your need for control of the situation – because, let’s face it, when we expect a situation to have a particular outcome we are essentially trying to have control – and pray that He would give you peace. Search for the goodness and celebrate those things. Then be still and wait to hear what God has to say to you. I know that this is a struggle for a lot of us, myself included; in the busyness of life, it’s hard to sit quietly and wait, but we are told that “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14). It’s in the stillness that God can work.

It is also in stillness and reflection that thanksgiving flows. When you sit quietly for long enough to REALLY see the situation you’re in, you’ll likely begin to notice the amazing way that God has His hand in it all. Instead of seeing what you don’t have, you begin to see all that you DO have. When you lose your job you really are being given a fresh start and new opportunities to disciple. When your physical capabilities become limited you are being given a chance to focus on more inwardly things. When a relationship isn’t working you are being given a chance to learn about yourself and reflect on your contribution to relationships. We can reflect, learn, and grow within every disappointment we experience and be thankful for what we have learned. Every trial and disappointment is a blessing – it’s all in how we look at it.

I love the view that Norman Vincent Peale has about disappointment. He writes, 

“When disappointed, try loving God all the more. Carefully analyze yourself to make certain you are thinking and living in harmony with His spiritual purpose. It could be that you are off the spiritual beam. Instead of dwelling upon the word disappointment, think of it as ‘Hisappointment.’

What you regard as a disappointment may actually be a wonderful new appointment or plan for your life, namely, His plan. Always take a positive view toward disappointment. It could be that through disappointment you are being shown another way or being led toward something different. If you have tried sincerely and prayerfully, and things have not gone well, then look upon disappointment as an opportunity to ask whether you should move under God’s guidance in another direction.”

Thanksgiving within disappointment: it’s not easy but it’s acknowledging that God knows best. So have confidence, my friends. Do not be discouraged but rather encouraged that the path you are walking will take you to places far better than what you can imagine! Be thankful that we have a God that loves us so much that He won’t always give us what we ask for because He has much greater things in store for our future. Find freedom in the surrender of your expectations and joy in the stillness of His presence.  

 

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