Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. “But he said to me,”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 
2 Corinthians 12:8-10

MY WEAKNESS, HIS STRENGTH


Until recently, my definition of weakness was almost exclusively negative. I viewed weakness – especially my own – as a problem. Something that needed to be fixed, overcome or healed. Recently, God has been teaching me His view of weakness, how far my perspective is from His… and how much more freedom comes from His view of weakness.

For the last month, I’ve been faced with the greatest battle of my life; a battle with physical pain. Around 15 weeks ago, I injured my lower back and have been in the process of healing – a process that has been unexpectedly slow and frustrating. Unfortunately, about 4 weeks ago, that process took a discouraging turn.

I woke up on a Wednesday morning, stood up… and nearly blacked out from the severity of the pain. I had somehow re-injured my back, worse than before… and I had to start the healing process over.

Since then, I have been in almost constant, severe pain, especially while standing or walking. My injury has caused nerve pain the runs from my lower back down through my right hip and all the way to my foot. The doctors have provided pain medication and some light exercises while they try to figure out why the problem is persisting. They’ve cleared my blood tests and now I am waiting for the results of X-rays. I have an MRI scheduled next week. The healthcare system here in England is free, which is such a blessing, but it takes time and the results will likely not come in for another 2-3 weeks.

In the meantime, I have learned what weakness looks like. A couple weeks ago, my roommate had to help me get dressed and put on my shoes. Everywhere I go, I have to ask the people with me to walk painfully slow to match my limited pace. I haven’t been able to carry my backpack to class or to assist with normal student responsibilities such as meal clean-up. I require a chair everywhere I go. I’ve had to depend on others to drive me to doctor appointments and pick up my medications. I can’t even count how many times and in how many different ways that I have needed others to help me.

Weakness isn’t naturally comfortable. Especially in my American culture, which is one of the most independent cultures in the world. The pain itself aside, I have never experienced anything as uncomfortable as being in a constant state of weakness. In the face of weakness in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul pleaded with God for relief. I can understand that now. In my own pain, I have had my fair share of pleading moments with God.

I realized during this time of weakness that I had very little patience for weakness, especially in myself. When the pain first started, I tried to manage it by myself, as independently as possible. However, as time went along, it became evident that it wasn’t possible to fight this battle alone. I needed help. And phew, was I bad at this! Needing to depend upon others brought up all kinds of fears. It made me feel very vulnerable.

But you know what? As this experience continues, God has used it to prove my fears wrong and teach me the necessity of our weaknesses. God’s response has been similar to his response to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In my weakness, I have been given the opportunity to not only learn to trust God and others to bear my burdens, but also… to encourage and inspire others with His ability. I want to be completely honest here: there have been many days in the last month that I didn’t want to get out of bed. Many moments where I wanted to give up and just stop; to give in to discouragement and stop fighting to trust God’s goodness and trust that his ways are perfect.

Some of my most painful moments have been right before I was due to give a teaching presentation or a performance for my communication training. I was so far from strong in those moments… between my pain and my fear of public speaking, I came so close, so many times, to telling our leaders that I couldn’t do it and walk away. Seeing my pain, they even offered to let me bow out once. But I didn’t. In those moments, I just hung on for dear life to God’s strength and what I knew to be true about Him. And within that, I had the strength I needed to hold on while God made the impossible happen. Not only was I able to show up, but I was able to touch people’s hearts with the message I delivered. Just like Paul writes… In my weakness, his power was made perfect.

This verse has come alive in my life lately. Whereas I used to see weakness as a problem, now I am learning that God uses weakness as an opportunity. He is aware of all of my weaknesses; they don’t worry or scare Him. In fact, they are necessary. And as I learn to acknowledge my weakness and finiteness, and be present and engaged even in them… I am able to understand my great need for God and allow His strength to take its rightful place in the midst of those weaknesses. And then He is glorified. And that’s the point of all of this.



1: My very precious Communication School Family at the end of week 7. 2 & 3: Our group during an afternoon retreat that we took in St. Albans (a nearby town). We had a refreshing time of teamwork exercises, a time of teaching and shared afternoon tea together. Check out the boat that we built together out of paper and sticks in the background of the second photo! 4: Our class during a time of impromptu worship in the woods behind our base. We have an extraordinarily musically talented group, so these times of spontaneous worship have been such a treasure.

WHAT I’M LEARNING

Despite my back injury, I’ve pushed to remain completely engaged in the communication school. I’ve learned an enormous amount during this time, and have been strengthened in so many ways. I believe that it will take me years to digest all of the truths that have been given to me during this training – and even longer to begin to walk them out in my life.

God has been speaking a lot about finding joy in the process of Him teaching me, not just in the acquiring of knowledge and wisdom. So much of what I learn settles itself into my brain and never makes its way to the place where it is applied; my heart. It can be frustrating at times… but God knows my capacity for learning, and honestly… He knows I’m usually only capable of learning one thing at a time. Here’s a snapshot of some of the things that God has been bringing from my head to my heart lately:

  • Just like in His original mandate to Adam and Eve, God has given His authority to each of us to carry and exercise on this Earth. This will look different for each of us, but it is something that is so important for us to seek out with God, steward, and pursue with passion! By the way… that authority is equally as important in ALL of our lives and places of influence. Our work. Our church. Our home. It also doesn’t increase or decrease depending on whether it’s used in ministry or not. If you are working as a garbage truck driver, your authority is no less than if you are pioneering new churches in Africa.
  • The process of learning and teaching is to be done as a service to others, not myself.
  • Tension and conflict in communication is a natural, normal, healthy part of life. God was ok with it (and used it often), and yet we often avoid it and are afraid of it. What would happen if I approached tension the way God does?
  • The goal is not to be perfect, but to be fully present. Often I will hold back from God to learn more or improve my skills, rather than being obedient and responsive to him. But He doesn’t expect perfection, just a continual presentness in my daily relationship with Him.
Of course, there have been so many practical skills that I have developed as well! I’ve put together and delivered over half a dozen speaking presentations, written a 15-page research paper on a people group that God laid on my heart (the Palestinians refugees in Gaza), and have learned so much about myself and my speaking style and strengths. I’ve also developed an accurate awareness of my weak areas so that I can continue growing.

This past week, we learned about the beautiful topic of Intrapersonal Communication or the internal dialogue that we all have. This has been my favorite topic of the school. I have such a love for learning the truth and exposing lies in our internal dialogues because this is the place in which we all relate to God… and it also feeds the way we relate to everyone in our lives.

One of the things that we did this week is a Risk Project. We hosted an evening community night for the whole YWAM base (80+ people) and each student in the school presented a 5-minute presentation on an internal process that God has been talking to us about. Within that presentation, we took a personal risk.

This was an intense project! I spent so much time in prayer and listening to God before coming up with my topic and my risk. About a hundred things came to mind that would be scary to do on stage in front of a bunch of people, but I really wanted to do something that would be meaningful in overcoming long-standing fear in my life.

After much prayer, God spoke to me about hiding myself because of my shame of my imperfections. During a really meaningful moment on Wednesday afternoon (the day before our presentation), He challenged me to lay down the shame that I felt from being less than what I thought others wanted… and to say yes to something that I had been resisting out of fear for my entire life. He invited me to get on stage and perform a solo song for Him. Here is the video introduction that I played before I sang.




 

Hopefully I can get a copy of the full performance soon and post it. It was an exhilarating experience. I can’t believe how nervous I was! This is something that I have been resisting for as long as I can remember. I’ve had countless opportunities to sing or lead songs, but have always said no, despite my desire to do it. To take a stand against that fear was powerful. The song performance was perfectly imperfect; my voice shook as I sang and I didn’t always hit the right notes, but it was so freeing. Honest.Vulnerable. And it was just for God, not the audience. I loved it.

After the show, I had so many people come up to me and thank me for sharing that part of myself and tell me how much it touched their heart and challenged them. All because I got up and did something imperfect in obedience. What a cool night! I am so proud of all of my peers in my class, who all took personal risks and walked out many challenging things that God was speaking to them about in their own lives. ❤️ I believe this night set a standard of risk and vulnerability that has challenged the entire community here, and will continue to bear fruit from that.

1: The program from our school’s Risk Night! Wish you all could’ve been there.  2: One of our speakers, Matt Rawlins, sharing with us about Interpersonal Communication. 3: When everybody on your table shows up for class wearing the same thing! Great minds… 🙂  4-6: Photos from our research oral presentations, in which we shared about the unreached people group that we wrote our 15-page research paper on. 

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

Because I have become very limited in energy and mobility lately, I have spent a lot of time praying about and discussing whether I need to change my upcoming plans to staff in Australia. Staffing a school in YWAM is not a small task. It was a difficult decision, but I’ve decided that I will continue with my previous plans, despite my back injury. In this battle with weariness and discouragement, amidst thoughts of returning home, I have been forced to ask myself the question Why am I doing this?. And I find that I’m surer than ever before that I’m not here because it is fun or interesting or adventurous. It’s not for the travel and definitely not for the comfort. No, I am here because this is what God has created me to do. He led me here. And, from where I am now, I don’t believe that God’s direction for my life has changed. So I am trusting His strength to continue to guide me as I walk out what He put on my heart. I have also sought the counsel of several leaders in my life, and they have heard the same in their prayers for me.

The communication training school is coming to a close this week. Our graduation ceremony is on Thursday, September 21st and I will be saying goodbye to this precious community shortly after. I am scheduled to fly from London, England to Perth, Australia on September 23rd, and begin my role as full-time staff on the YWAM base there.

Once I arrive in Perth, life will actually get busier. I’ll be in staff training for 5 days before my students for this year’s Foundations of Counseling in Ministry school (FCM) start arriving on the Perth YWAM base. On October 2, our FCM will officially begin and, at that point, I’ll be facilitating the school and these students for the next 6 months alongside my 3 other counseling school teammates – Adrian, Amy and Mark. I am so passionate about the FCM and equipping missionaries with counseling skills to share God’s love with the nations. Despite the limitations of my physical body at the moment, my heart and mind are fully present – and I believe that God will use me to enrich this school and to minister in the lives of this year’s students and staff.

As of now, we will have 13 students from 9 different nations! From October through the end of December, we will be in Australia and these students will receive training in counseling theory and practical skills. Then, right after the holidays, we’re off to the nations! From January through March 2018, I’ll be leading students to do outreach work in 2 locations. I’ll share more information about this journey as we get a bit closer!


1: Some of us enjoying a time of fellowship during dinnertime on a particularly nice and sunny summer evening. 2: Every week I turn in a reflection journal about the week as part of the training assignments. For me, this has been a really enjoyable part of the school, because I’ve been able to process creatively and use art to process what God has been teaching me. 3-9: So many dear friendships have been made in this season. When we’re not working on class projects, there’s always a reason to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company! I am going to miss the community here very deeply and I’m so thankful for this season of having these people in my life.


I have felt your prayers and encouragement so much in these past months. Thank you for your investment in this journey. I’m thankful to share it with you. Here are some areas in which I covet your prayers:

  • Please pray that my body would continue to heal and that my spine would straighten. My back is quite a mess at the moment, but I have seen small signs of improvement for the first time this week. This has actually given me the strength I’ve needed to continue to make plans for the future.
  • I need some serious grace for traveling next week! Please pray for provision of assistance with my heavy luggage all along the way, endurance to deal with any pain, and no re-injuries!
  • Please pray for the fast provision of a good doctor and physiotherapist in Perth – and the finances to pay for these necessary expenses! And for a good mattress in my new accommodation (this is a bigger deal than it sounds!) 😃
  • Pray for God’s supernatural peace for me as I walk through the end of this school and the goodbyes that come with that (I have come to so love the people here)… and the same peace as I settle into my new home in Perth, and begin a new season, which comes with a change of pace and location. You can also pray that I would have wisdom in knowing when to stop and rest, and what are reasonable expectations of myself during this period.
  • Pray for the FCM! There are so many details coming together right now with applications, visas, and student arrivals! Please pray for strength, energy, and endurance for myself and my fellow staff members as we welcome these students and launch this year’s school well. It is often a very exhausting experience.
  • You can also pray that God would begin to cultivate in me a love and servant-heartedness for the students that I will be working alongside the next 6 months. I so desire to love them well and create space for each of them to grow in their relationship with God and their skills.
  • Please also pray for the sale of my car in the US.

Thanks for reading, as always. I pray that you remain steady and strong in His strength.

Next time I update, I’ll be on a new side of the world! 😉

All my love,
Liz