From Masks to Mastery: Navigating the Midlife Journey of Self-Rediscovery

From Masks to Mastery: Navigating Your Midlife Journey to Self-Rediscovery

Have you ever felt like there’s a version of yourself hidden beneath the surface, waiting to be rediscovered? The journey towards uncovering our true selves is a powerful one, and it’s a concept I first encountered a few years ago. It all started with a lecture by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr on ‘True Self, False Self.’ Since then, these terms have resurfaced in various contexts and teachings, resonating deeply with the idea that each of us is born with a soul – our true essence – which can become buried under layers of a false self. Join me on a transformative exploration as we delve into the realms of the true self, false self, and the neuroscience that supports this fascinating journey.

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Discover Your Spiritual Gifts

Discover Your Spiritual Gifts

“Each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7

The apostle Paul was one of the most gifted evangelists of the early church. He planted churches from Nabataea (modern-day Petra) to Rome traveling thousands and thousands of miles to share the good news. But he did more than that. Paul stayed in touch with his converts for years and provided them with encouragement and spiritual direction—some of which have been preserved to this day.

In many of his letters sent to the churches he planted in Asia Minor and/or the people he trained to lead them, Paul mentions “spiritual gifts.” Paul offers a few lists of the gifts, but none of the lists are identical. That said, there are a few characteristics they each bear in common: they are given by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of unity and edification of the church.

Spiritual Gifts Image

Today in the twenty-first century, Christians are still encouraged to discover and develop their gifts for the same purpose: unity and edification of the church. The resources on this page will help you discover your own spiritual gifts. This is only an overview, but it’s solid.

Step 1: Download the Answer Sheet

Spiritual Gifts Answer Sheet

I created an answer sheet to supplement the resources already available for this Spiritual Gift Assessment. It should be used in conjunction with the video linked below. Be sure to download the free Leader’s Guide which includes an overview of spiritual gifts as well as brief definitions of the eleven categories explored in this assessment.

Step 2: Take the Assessment

Take this first.

Step 3: Download the Guide

The FREE Leader’s Guide will provide basic information about spiritual gifts as well as basic definitions of each gift. I created the following PowerPoint to be able to share the definitions visually with my class.

Step 4: Differentiate

After taking a group through the spiritual gifts assessment, our discussion turned to whether or not spiritual gifts were actually a thing. Is a spiritual gift something a person is born with? Or is it received at baptism? Or some other time? Is it a one-time experience, or can a person receive more than one gift? At the same time or later?

Since Scripture doesn’t exactly explain the how or when spiritual gifts are given, the answer to these questions must be extrapolated from biblical passages that mention them. There are three main passages that include lists of gifts, and no two lists are the same.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 makes it clear that the gifts are given by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 12:4-8 uses the metaphor of one body “in Christ” and explains the gifts are given according to God’s grace.

Ephesians 4:11-12 states that the gifts were given by the one who ascended (a.k.a. Jesus Christ).

Based on these passages, it is clear that there are gifts are given to those saved by grace for the purpose of unity and edification within the church. In other words, yes, spiritual gifts are legit. They are bestowed by the Holy Spirit at and/or after conversion.

Hospitality

Aren’t Gifts the Same as Talents?

If you’re wondering whether or not gifts are the same as talents, you’re not alone. People have been asking this question for years. The answer is no, they are not the same. Talents are innate, possibly even inherited. Spiritual gifts come post-conversion as well as later when God equips a person for a specific task.

Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace skillfully lays out four distinctives in his excellent article, The Difference between Natural Talents and Spiritual Gifts. I’ve included these in the PowerPoint (below).

What to Do with Your Spiritual Gifts

So, now that we’ve established that spiritual gifts are legit, that they are different from natural talents, and that they are given for the unity and edifcation of the church, we need to talk about what to do with them.

Once again we will turn to the Scriptures for illumination. Gleaning what we can from a variety of passages, we can confidently act according to the following examples.

1. Develop Your Gift

Once you’ve identified your spiritual gift, it’s time to develop it. In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul instructs his protegé Timothy not to neglect his gift, and in 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul reminds him to “fan it into flame.” ??? Clearly, Paul believes that gifts are given to be used: Developed.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NIV)

Sometimes gifts are given in “seed” form, and other times, gifts build off of one’s natural talents. Whatever the case, spiritual gifts are to be developed by using them. So practice, practice, practice!

Be brave and inquire about using your gift in your local church. If your church won’t allow you to use your gift or if there are “territorial issues” that make it impossible to serve well, then pray about your next steps. You need to decide if you should stay there and look for opportunities elsewhere it to use it; if you should push harder for the opportunity; or if you should seek out another church where you would be allowed to develop your gift.

Spiritual Gifts - Shadow Conversation

What if they say no?

Keep in mind that being denied the opportunity to use your gift is not a sign that it’s not your gift. (Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.) Sometimes churches focus more on tradition than what Scripture clearly teaches. And sometimes there are other people already serving in that capacity who prefer to be in control of everything. Or maybe there are hidden biases at play that make you feel unwanted in that environment.

Seek the Lord’s guidance. He gave you at least spiritual gift for His purposes, and He will open another door somewhere your gifts can be used and be appreciated.

2. Desire the “Greater” Gifts

I almost didn’t include this part, because we’re so familiar with the biblical principle of considering others better than ourselves; however, Paul clearly states that those in Corinth should “eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31). The purpose of desiring “greater” gifts has nothing to do with the individual and everything to do with building up the church.

Jon Bloom, co-founder of DesiringGod.org, rightly concludes that “we are to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 as a means to pursue the love Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13.” He explores what it means to “desire” the gifts and how to partner with God in pursuing them in his article “Why We Must Earnestly Desire Spiritual Gifts.”

?For an even deeper dive into the “what” and “when” of spiritual gifts, I encourage you to listen to the After Class Podcsast (episode 2.24): Eagerly Desire the “Greater” Gifts? The podcast is hosted by three Bible and theology professors who teach at Great Lakes Christian College: Samuel C. Long, Ronald D. Peters, John C. Nugent.

Supplementary Resources

PowerPoint Presentation
This presentation includes definitions, discussion questions, and a brief review of the differences between natural talents and spiritual gifts.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Photo Credits:
Giving Bread photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash
Replanting Small Plants photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash
Shadow Conversation photo by Jonathan Sharp on Unsplash
Young Band Playing photo by Andy Lee on Unsplash

One Word. Choose It Wisely.

Laura Zielke

I cannot believe it’s already November and Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season in about two weeks! What?! Where did the year go? And what will next year bring? 

Over the past few years, I’ve traded in my old, rusty New Year’s Eve tradition for something modern and efficient. And I can testify that the results of this new habit have been pretty darn fabulous!

I’m talking about choosing a one-word theme for the year versus creating a list of New Year’s Resolutions which may or may not be achieved. 

Back towards the end of 2013, I first learned about the “one word” challenge on the radio and thought I’d give it a try. I’ll be honest: I don’t actually remember what my first “one word” was. I think I gave the process about as much thought as my resolutions were getting around that time in my life. I certainly didn’t embrace the process!

2014 was probably the hardest year of my life ever. I felt lost. Alone. Sad. Confused. Overwhelmed. Depressed. Worn-out. As the end of 2014 approached, my favorite radio morning show hosts were once again discussing the “one word challenge.” This time, I paid closer attention. 

The concept was birthed out of a desire to address failed New Year’s resolutions. According to Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen, co-authors of My One Word: Change Your Life With Just One Word, our resolutions tend to fail because they focus on characteristics we want to change versus who we want to become. The list can become overwhelming and yield little results. 

The My One Word challenge is simple: lose the long the list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you in the year ahead. This process forces clarity and results in focus. (website)

I decided that for 2015, I would take the one word challenge and write it down this time. So, my word for 2015 was “CLARITY.” I felt like I had been living in a fog, so clarity seemed like the perfect word for me at the time.

Phew! I had no idea at the beginning of the year just how much clarity I would receive regarding my life, my priorities, and my passions. I was tested beyond anything I could imagine, and my vision became very clear. 

For 2016, I chose “DISCERNMENT” (while secretly holding onto “clarity” from the year before). Over the course of 2016, I needed discernment regarding all kinds of choices and commitments for both me and my family. 

By end of 2016, I was already praying about what my word for 2017 would be. I eventually landed on “COURAGE.” If you’ve followed me for any time, it’s possible you knew that, because I wrote about it on my Facebook page and created a cover image to explain it.

Here’s what I wrote on December 29, 2016 when I posted the above photo on my Facebook page: 

So, my #oneword for 2017 is COURAGE. I chose this photo, because it was during one of the most courageous moments I’ve had in my life: Putting on chains by myself in the middle of a freak snowstorm on the first day of my drive home from California to North Carolina.

(I was the only driver–my son is too young to drive, but not too young to take pictures of mom with the chains!) I first had to purchase the chains…in case we needed them, and then when we did, install them.

I got the process started, but then God provided three French men and one French woman to help get them on correctly. I still had to take them off by myself in five inches of slush. But I did it.

And if I can do this, and then continue driving for HOURS and DAYS… I can do whatever comes my way in 2017. (Phil. 4:13) What’s your ONE WORD for 2017?

Back then, I honestly had no idea what lay on the horizon for 2017—which has been one of the most fulfilling, busy, exciting years of my life! Here are just a few things I got to do this year: 

  1. WRITE one devotional every month to be featured on RachaelCarman.com
  2. ESTABLISH Prayat12.com to pray about the 2016 election and for the leaders of this country every day at Noon.
  3. babymPinch-hit BABYSIT for 2 months for dear friends who are foster parents. The little baby who stole all our hearts had been in the hospital for one month due to apparent abuse. He had multiple surgeries, required a feeding tube (which he still has), and a neckbrace which he wore for six months. 
  4. Help LAUNCH two books, one online Bible study, and one movie:
  5. Accept the COMMUNITY MANAGER position with the Nonprofit Leadership Lab
  6. ATTEND a Pre-Grand Opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

I also turned 50 this year. I cannot even believe that. Where has the time gone? I don’t feel that old, and yet, my knees don’t lie: I’m 50. 

the deckFor my 50th birthday, my hubby, son, and I rented our first Airbnb in Plymouth, MA. I sat on a deck overlooking a lake and enjoyed a week’s vacation with my family. On the way there, we saw the Statue of Liberty and a 9/11 Memorial in New Jersey. We used our cottage in Plymouth as a hub and enjoyed touring the Northeast. We ate Maine Lobster in Maine on my actual birthday; visited the oldest Marine Society in the world and touched an artifact from 1752; toured the U.S.S. Constitution; and We toured many historical sites and enjoyed a few too many Dunkin’ Donuts. 

I’ve already begun praying about my word for 2018. I think it will be “STRETCH,” but I’m letting it marinate for a while before I fully commit. 

I definitely prefer having one word for the year versus a list of resolutions which may or may not be kept! 

You can learn more about the One Word Challenge at MyOneWord.org.

Why stay the same?! Please join me in this transofrmational process and choose one word for 2018. Share your one word in the comments below! 

“Being Brave Is Hard” (Poem)

Being Brave Is Hard

Being Brave Is Hard
by Laura Zielke

God doesn’t always ask us to do the easy things.
Sometimes He asks us to do the hard things.
I mean HARD. Really hard!
Something we could NEVER do under our own strength.
Something we would never do without HIS prodding.
Something requiring EVERY OUNCE of courage we have (plus more).
It will be UNCOMFORTABLE.
CHALLENGING.
DARING.
TOO BIG.
And it will have serious CONSEQUENCES.
Consequences we CANNOT control.
Consequences which may
—or may not—
be in our favor.
It’s almost TOO MUCH to ask.

But then, the choice IS ours, isn’t it?
We have FREEDOM of choice.

We could choose to OBEY.
To be BRAVE.
To let God take care of any CONSEQUENCES.
Because it’s not about us, is it?

OR

We could choose to SHUT DOWN.
Close our eyes. Plug our ears.
Sing “fa la la la la” until it all goes away.
Because,
in the end,
it’s all about us, isn’t it?
Our comfort.
Our strength.
Our reputations.

Bottom line:
It’s a choice.

Oh, LORD.
Make me strong!
Make me HEAR your voice.
Help me KNOW it’s YOU,
not I,
who is calling me to this
difficult task.

Help me rely on YOUR strength.
Guide me by YOUR Spirit.
Give me words to speak–
only YOUR words to speak.
Keep ME out of it.

And somehow…
Some way…
Make YOUR will known.

Even if it means people think differently about me.
Even if the consequences are unfavorable.
Place YOUR words in my heart, and light them on fire.
Let them burn in my soul until I have garnered
the strength to speak them.
Out loud.
To deliver YOUR message to the recipients.
And let me leave NOTHING out.
Let me speak every word.
And then let me walk away in peace.
For I have done what was required of me.
And I answer only to YOU.

Amen.

“But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,’
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.”
Jeremiah 20:9

“Me in Three Words” Challenge

Me in Three Words Challenge

Yesterday, I was listening to a webinar where the host challenged us to e-mail five of our friends with this request: “Describe me in three words.” The original purpose of this exercise was to help listeners narrow down the focus of a book or blog or talk in order to write in our own voice—not someone else’s. Since completing the challenge, though, I have realized this is an amazing method anyone can use to monitor where they are on the path to becoming the person they’ve always wanted to be. 

*** If you take the challenge, let me know by commenting below. ***

The result of this exercise is to learn how others see you and experience you. Don’t be shocked if you’re surprised with some of the responses. The fact is, we are often “stuck in the past” with distorted images of ourselves which no longer match our current life situation. Over time, with great effort, we change. We grow. We mature. We develop. We blossom.

Oftentimes, “new” friends see character traits in us that we can’t fathom in ourselves. They see us for who we are, not who we used to be. This can be a refreshing shift in perspective, or possibly a snap back to reality for those of us who think we are doing better than we actually are. Reality checks, though sometimes painful, are super-necessary in life—especially for the person who wishes to become the best, most authentic version of himself or herself.

“Describe Me in Three Words”

Do you recognize yourself in their words, or are they sharing something with you that you thought you’d lost years ago? Do they see the real you? Are you ready to embrace that person? Or possibly do you need to change the reflection? You’ll never know unless you ask. 

All I did was ask, and I kept it very simple. Here’s the email I sent:

Dear ____________,

I was listening to a webinar yesterday, and I was challenged to write to five friends with this request: “Describe me in three words.”

Will you do that for me? Pretty please?

Thank you,
Laura

I encourage you to give it a shot. First start with five of your more recent friends (people who have known you less than five years). After that, if you’re feeling brave, move to long-term friends (people who have known you at least 5 years). And if you’re still feeling brave, email your family (but only if your relationships with them are healthy—no need to reinforce negativity or dysfunction). If you think someone is going to be insulting or sarcastic, don’t bother adding them to your email list for this experiment.

Three Words Can Change Your Perspective!

Taking this challenge was scary, but I’m glad I did it. My friends’ responses showed me that I’m on the right track for becoming the woman I’ve always wanted to be…and that’s a good thing, considering I’ll be 50 next year!!! Finally, I’m getting there. I haven’t arrived, for sure; however, I’m on the right track, and on some level, that is comforting. 

Identify your themes. Look through the list of words you’ve received and group similar words/concepts together. For example: If one friend uses the word “compassion” and another friend uses the word “compassionate,” then you would group those together. Another example: If one friend says “contemplative” and another friend says “deep thinker,” group those together. Once you have the words grouped by theme, take a good look and see which themes occurred most often.

My top three themes were: 

Compassionate ~ Studious ~ Deep Thinker

The “compassionate” description surprised me more than “studious” and “deep thinker”—although I never knew my friends thought of me as “deep.” I have to testify that if I have any compassion in me, it is from the Lord. And I would also like to mention that “compassion” was not on my husband’s list of three words for me!
*cough* *man flu is real* *cough*

I hope you take this challenge and start with your newest friends! Then work backwards if you feel like it. The goal is to start off the year with a more objective, realistic view of who you are rooted in truth.

*** If you take the challenge, let me know by commenting below. ***

You’ll find the results are definitely insight-full.

Keys to Understanding Yourself

Keys to Understanding Yourself

If you’ve never studied the different personality types before, you’re in for a treat! Although your personality is comprised of characteristics and qualities that make you uniquely you, you  may be surprised (and relieved!) to learn that you’re not the only one who approaches life in this manner.

Introvert Heaven

You’re not the only one who prefers a book to a party (or a party to a book). You’re not the only one who cocoons after being surrounded by a crowd (or seeks a crowd after too much time alone). Learning about your personality is fun and exciting, but why stop with yourself?  

Personality Types Matter

For me, the most rewarding part of understanding my personality came when I learned the personality types of my husband and son and parents and siblings and inlaws and friends. Yes, I enthusiastically asked them all to take the quiz, and they did! It was amazing to see how each person was “pegged” correctly and how insightful the descriptions were regarding how we relate to each other.

Know Your Personality type MBTI

TAKE THESE FREE ONLINE QUIZZES:

Here are a few of my favorite proven-in-real-life online quizzes to help us not only to understand ourselves and each other better, but also to show each other love and appreciation more effectively. Add your personality type in the comment section below! 

KEY #1: Know Your Meyers-Briggs Personality Type

In layman’s terms, the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI) explains our “preferences” (how we act, how we re-energize, how we make decisions) Here’s a link to the best (in my opinion) FREE Meyers Briggs Personality Test on the internet: http://bitbike.com/cgi-bin/pt?language=en  (There’s also a personality test you can take for your children here: http://www.personalitypage.com/html/pqk_indicate.html)

Once you know your 4-letter MBTI personality type, read about it. See if the description fits you (that’s really the best way to know if you were typed correctly). Here are a few good resources to get you started:

KEY #2: Know Your Enneagram Type

The Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) complements the MBTI by providing insight into WHY we act the way we do (i.e., what is our motivation for making the decisions we make?). The sample Enneagram test below will give you enough information for you to figure out your main Type and your secondary Type (“wing”).

It’s important to know your wing, because it has great influence on your main type. To figure out your wing, simply look at your main Type (the type with the highest score), and look at the scores to the immediate right and left. Whichever of the two is the highest, that is your wing. Click here to take the FREE Enneagram Test.

Once you have your main type and your wing, Google is your friend. Simply enter your type & wing followed by the word “Enneagram” and enjoy the learning process! For example, I’m a 1w9, so I would type “1w9 Enneagram” into Google to learn more about my type.

KEY #3: Know Your Love Language

Marriage and family counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman, concluded years ago that people generally communicate in five basic “love languages.” The premise is that each of us has a certain way to give and receive love (our love language), and that we should each work hard to “speak” in the love language that is understood/spoken by the other person rather than only “speaking” in our own.

Learn the 5 Love Languages

This concept has been revolutionary in not only marriage relationships, but also family relationships and even co-worker relationships. Click here to take the FREE Five Love Languages Test.

Once you know what your primary love language is, you can continue learning about it by either purchasing the best-selling book (highly recommended) The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts or browsing their site.

KEY #4: Know Your Strengths (not free)

People are finally realizing how important it is for us to know our strengths (a.k.a. “themes” or “inborn talents”) and work within them versus focusing on our weaknesses in order to be more well-rounded. There are  basically 34 strength categories (“themes”), and this test will give you your Top 5 Themes.

This test is known as the Clifton StrengthsFinder® which requires a code. The research was done by the Gallup organization over a number of years and is some of the most SOLID data you will find. It’s very accurate and insightful. You can either purchase one of their books which includes the code, or purchase the code separately for $15.00.

It’s worth it to know your strengths! I suggest purchasing either Strengths Finder 2.0 or Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Strengths and Inspire Your Community (highly recommended for people of faith), and then use the code inside the book to take the test.

Once you know what your Top 5 Themes (your strengths), you can begin researching what they mean and how they impact your behavior and performance. Here are a couple resources for additional information about your strengths:

Here’s a short video series that goes through each of the 34 themes:

PHOTO CREDITS:
African American Family by @leighann-renee on @unsplash
Reading in France @mvp on @unsplash

Friends Talking @helena-lopes on @unsplash
Cotton Candy photo by @valerie-elash on @unsplash

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”