What is your current understanding of your strengths and weaknesses?
I believe that we have some characteristics that we thrive in and others that we need some work in. We are our lived experiences, those that have made us who we are today. Our experiences are those which became life lessons or things to remember. These moments where we have made choices and the Spirit has been with us regardless of the outcome. The strengths become what we thrive in, what we love, and what we are good at. Our weaknesses are our work in progress, a way that I am reminded that I don’t know it all, that I don’t have everything put together, and that regardless of how many steps I need to take the Spirit will lead me in these areas of growth.
These experiences could be ones of joy or sorrow but experiences that allow us to understand ourselves with a deeper meaning to who we are and qualities that we can strive for. Some of the qualities that I have been given with my life experience and stories are empathy, adaptability, and organizational skills. Empathy has become the most common strength that people that I work with, roommates, classmates, and family have pointed out. I believe that God has allowed me to live through some circumstances that have given me the opportunity to want to understand the other person. I have lived through scarcity in a single-parent home, I have seen power and greed take over people that I loved, and I have been given the opportunity to experience life and ministry with people around the globe.
Some of the things that have made me the strongest could also lead to finding weaknesses and areas of growth. Some of my weakest qualities are my self-criticism, lack of confrontation, and public speaking. I tend to criticize what I do a lot, I push myself to the point that I question if what I’m doing is right or wrong. Growing up I saw a lot of confrontation in my family. I learned that talking about things usually works, and that as long as I can communicate I would be okay. I don’t like arguing and I avoid confrontation unless I have to. I always try to figure out a way that would not lead to confrontation whether that is by talking to the individual, trying to communicate an alternative, and expressing how I feel and how whatever happened made me feel. Lastly, public speaking is an area of growth. Although I can stand up and speak, and say what I need to say I still get nervous when I speak. This has been something that has improved during the last few years but it is still a work in progress. I know that these weaknesses are something that God is working on in me and preparing me to stand up and continue to find my voice. I have seen improvement in this and in other areas and I have seen how my strengths have attributed to this progress. I hope that as I continue to work and develop this urge and excitement for ministry that my growth areas become stronger and that my strengths continue to develop with new skills.
How are you growing emotionally? Share a specific story to illustrate a learning experience in personal growth from your life and/or ministry.
The last three years during seminary have allowed me to learn many things about myself and what I believe. My life and my ministry have removed many blindfolds that I had with what I believed and how I believed it. I had the time to process my faith, to analyze and see what were things that I believed and things that were taught to me to believe. Growing up I was the churches I went to had taught me that what the pastor said was the law, that the pastor knew the bible better than anyone else, and that I should listen to the bible based on what they said. That was quickly shattered in seminary. I had to figure it out, I had to find answers that I didn’t know and research what I believed. During my time in seminary that was exciting but also challenging to figure out how that would look when I graduated in a ministry setting.
For the past two months, I have been working in a new role as a Family Discipleship Minister at Epworth UMC in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This role thus far has provided the space for me to put into practice what I had to decipher in seminary. I am slowly seeing how I can now apply the lessons learned in seminary to the context and the community that I work with. The community is very similar to the one I grew up in – traditional, conservative, listening to what the pastor and only the pastor or leader say. Although the dynamics of the community are shifting and some look for answers the culture is very similar to how I grew up. I am learning how to communicate what I learned and share our stories to learn from one another. Even if this might be a little hard at the beginning I’ve seen how people’s perspectives are shifting and how we can all learn from one another in life and in ministry.
What personal challenges are you currently facing? How are you dealing with those challenges in your ministry?
Last December my mother-in-law was a victim of an assault in her store in West Virginia. She was shot in the face and was in ICU for three weeks and rehab for seven months. These past eight months I’ve had to adjust to recently being married, processing, supporting, and comforting my husband and family during difficult times, graduating from seminary, moving, and looking for a job. These personal challenges have allowed me to be thankful, and to remember that every day is a gift and that our lives are one of the most important blessings that we receive daily.
After being three weeks in ICU caring for my mother-in-law, seeing car accidents, injuries, and gunshot wombs it has made me worry and doubt about safety and security in everyday things. During my last semester at the seminary and in my new ministry setting I have received nothing but grace, love, and compassion from all that around us. People have made the weight on my shoulders feel like it was being shared and that I was not alone. Being able to trust that I will be okay, that my husband would be okay, and that our family would be okay is hard. But one thing I do know is that we have not been forsaken or forgotten. That God has granted us more time with my mother-in-law, that her health might never be the same but that she’s okay. Through our family and friends, my husband and I got counseling sessions to help us cope with trauma and high-level stress, and we were able to process our emotions and understand one another better. Talking it out allowed us to feel comfortable, accept our new reality and see that challenges will come but that with God’s help we would take them one day at a time.
What means do you use to maintain the Sabbath, spiritual disciplines, and care of mind-body-spirit?
Our lives today are lives that are planned with schedules and appointments and blocked times. Sometimes we even have to block a time for our sabbath, our spiritual disciplines, and our care for our mind-body-spirit. We are so caught up with our schedules that sometimes we tend to rush in whatever part of our duties we missed.
We have to remember to keep the Sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8). We are taught at a young age to keep the Sabbath, but we get so caught up in our ministry, families, life, etc. that we don’t follow it. I have learned that if I don’t take rest if I don’t stop and reflect and take in my mind, body, and soul reach a point where they make me rest. My body begins to shut down with headaches or I’m so distracted by what I’m doing that I tend to lose track of my tasks. I’ve learned the meaning and the significance that it has for my health and for my ministry. Sabbath has become one of my weekly disciplines.
A discipline makes us dig deeper, ask and wonder more. It challenges us and makes us think of things that otherwise we wouldn’t. God expects us to have discipline, to be busy and have a life but to also keep our spiritual discipline. A spiritual discipline is “God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us.”
If I want to connect to all that I do, respect it, and do it to the best of my abilities I remind myself that I need time for prayer, worship, and journaling in order for me to synch with God. I need to re-energize with the Spirit in us for me to continue.
- Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2018., pg 5-7