What barriers keep you from moving forward? Whatever it is...overcome it!
To unearth the gifts and talents that God has given you, you will need to overcome spiritual barriers.
"You'll never do it if you put all your confidence in the flesh." That's what I kept telling myself as I sat there after having a VATS (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery) procedure done. During the process, samples of lung tissue were removed to determine if lung cancer was present. Unfortunately, cancer with ALK Positive mutations showed up. I was 30 days away from receiving my Master's Degree. I spent two weeks in the hospital, thinking I had nasty pneumonia or bronchitis infection. While I waited for test results and other labs to verify or confirm the doctors' hypothesis of what was going on, I wrestled with completing my Master's Degree or not.
Whatever you set out to do must be done in love for it to have any meaning, virtue, or value. If you want to examine your achievements and success, see, write your obituary. Would it sound like a resume or a story that future generations could use to "press toward the mark of their high calling in Christ Jesus"? Besides, I reflected on how my husband and I came from generational poverty and brokenness. We knew that hard work and education would make a difference in our lives.
Studying while living in a trailer that my husband and I bought as a demo, raising three children, we powered through insurmountable odds (I'll unpack these odds at a later time). Just to quit now didn't rest well with my spirit. I would have given up too until I looked over who was looking up at me. My 4-year-old grandson was the next generation to reach and teach the importance of not quitting. No matter what. But I was weak and felt my self shutting down to the point where I had to pray through moans and groans. I was heavy and sorrowful. I was grasping for Jesus and was starting to question my entire life's journey. I was just too frail to see that I would make it to graduation day. My spirit is willing, but my flesh was weak. I surrendered and said, "Thy will be done Lord." The next morning, in excruciating pain, I had my husband read Daniel chapter 10 over my failing health. I meditated profoundly on Daniel 10:8-12.
Daniel 10:8-12 New International Version (NIV)8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. 10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.
After meditating deeply on this passage, and I too fell into a deep sleep, I became strengthened from a divine encounter with Christ himself. I woke up one day from the VATS surgery while hospitalized and worked to complete my Master's Degree in Educational Leadership. I didn't care if I was going to live or die. It was something that I'm compelled to complete. I was persistent, determined, and highly motivated as I sat with a tube in my back while working on my laptop. I was not in my strength. I know this. The Spirit of the Living God touched me. Before I knew it, I received my discharged documents from the hospital. April 26, 2014, I walked vigorously down the aisle and received my Master's Degree even 24-hours after taking intravenous chemotherapy. Look, I cannot boast. I can't do anything without Christ. I never could. I was brought low so that the Spirit of God would get glorified. God is writing my book.
"Does it sound like we’re patting ourselves on the back, insisting on our credentials, asserting our authority? Well, we’re not. Neither do we need letters of endorsement, either to you or from you. You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it. We couldn’t be more sure of ourselves in this—that you, written by Christ himself for God, are our letter of recommendation. We wouldn’t think of writing this kind of letter about ourselves. Only God can write such a letter. His letter authorizes us to help carry out this new plan of action. The plan wasn’t written out with ink on paper, with pages and pages of legal footnotes, killing your spirit. It’s written with Spirit on spirit, his life on our lives!" 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 The Message (MSG)
Receiving my Master's Degree 30 days after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer was a testament to who God is. He is faithful and able to do the impossible. God created us for His glory. "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) These good works are WHATEVER brings him glory! Graduation Day for me, was a glorious day. "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ." (Philippians 3:7)
The Master's Degree graduation ceremony was over five years ago. I am still dreaming and setting goals. "Take It to the Limit" by the eagles was always one of those 70's songs that I can sing almost word for word. One of the lines in the song, "You know I've always been a dreamer," fits me. As long as I'm alive, I will dream and dream big. Here's a poem I wrote in 1996 while I was at Southwestern Michigan College.
The Dream I See, I Live
I see doors open up
and I'm on my way.
I see light at the end
of a darksome day.
Here I go
with an encouraging song.
Here I live
that I see.
Hurt and sadness
fear and madness
were all I once knew.
I searched high
I looked low
couldn't find a friend to talk to.
Then I heard Jesus say,
"I am your only way.
Come with me
share my dream
and you'll see."
Twenty-three years later, since writing this poem in a two-year community college, I still believe I have a divine purpose and a reason for still being here. Rereading my poem written over two decades ago in my singsong voice is fantastic. God gave me the vision to be the first in my family to go to college. I was 25 years old with three small children, married for only 5.5 years then. But I wanted to teach. I was born to teach. I knew it was my call and gift from God. When you're on a mission, and the vision is clear, there is no need validation. Validation comes from God. He makes that clear in His Word.
Psalm 37:6-17 The Message (MSG)5-6 Open up before God, keep nothing back;
he’ll do whatever needs to be done:
He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day
and stamp you with approval at high noon.
7 Quiet down before God,
be prayerful before him.
Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder,
who elbow their way to the top.
Oldest of five brothers and sisters, I'd play school almost every day of my childhood. God brought the day of my graduation to fruition. He'll bring my dreams to pass. Why? Because I decided to share His vision for his children and encourage you to surrender your gifts and talents to God Your creator. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) He will show you how to use them in meaningful ways to bless and be blessed.