What Is Your Gift?

What Is Your Gift?

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.

1 Corinthians 12:4  (NIV)

Don’t we all want to have gifts or talents that can be used to fortify our world…to help others? Christians refer to these as ‘gifts of the spirit’. That’s because the Spirit gives us all good gifts.

How do we know what our gifts are? What are we passionate about? What talents come naturally for us…We don’t have to force them. Are we a natural born leader, teacher, encourager? These are the gifts the Spirit has called us to use. God’s first call to us is to love one another as He has loved us.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3  (NIV)

Still not sure what your gift is? How do we show love for those around us? Ask a family member. They can probably tell you. Many times they see things in us that we do not see ourselves.

My gift seems to be inspiring others. I googled the definition of “Inspire”. It says  “to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural influence or action.” That makes me feel I’m in very holy company. The Holy Spirit is often called the inspirer.

I am NOT the good and holy God that the Holy Spirit is! I inspire others by moving about clumsily in an effort to regain my mobility. God chose to use that as a way to inspire others to take care of their holy temple, the body. So it’s true! Gifts can come from brokenness. So that means that as I stumble about with my physical therapy routines, I can actually motivate others. Who knew?

We can’t discount ourselves because we can’t see the influence we have with others. God sees it and put it there for that purpose.

I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

1 Corinthians 7:7  (NIV)

What is your gift? Search for it! How do you see your impact with others? Use that skill or aptitude in a way that bolsters others. Who knows! You may inspire them to reach out to support others!

 

Dear Lord,

You have given all of us gifts and talents . We know that You want us to use those skills and abilities to help others.

Show us where and with whom we can provide encouragement or assistance. Then we can be reminded of how good it feels to help others.

 

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Of Grace and Grit

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
 they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31  (NIV)

Do we rely on God’s grace to maneuver our life journey? Some rely completely on their own abilities and connections. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of those two alternatives. I was certainly one of them for the first thirty-seven years of my life.

My traumatic brain injury changed the way I look at everything in life. I had to rely on God’s grace more than ever. Tragedy or disaster will do that for us! Do we rely on our talents and connections to carry us forward? The combination of those two qualities can lead to a victory of our goals. When life happens, as it will, we realize that our circumstances were not the ONLY source of our good fortune.

What some refer to as luck or good fortune, I believe to be God showering us with His favor. We don’t need a tragedy to experience God’s grace though.

God’s grace is His unmerited favor for us as his children. We don’t do anything to deserve it! We are just part of God’s family. That’s what family does! I felt God’s grace dramatically after my accident.

God’s grace is most manifest when it’s combined with grit. That mean’s God’s favor combined with hard work! As a marathon runner, I always thought that I was the epitome of grit. I knew how to endure in difficulty and persevere to the end. And I certainly knew about passion!

What exactly IS grit? Yes, it’s our passion for something with the determined effort to achieve it. It’s also a diligence that never lets us give up on the dream. I thought that’s all that grit entailed. It’s not that simple though.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10  (NIV)

Grit means reevaluating our goals after setbacks occur. I could write a whole book on setbacks! Grit also requires a positive outlook on life. We call this hope. Finally, grit always looks out for the common good of all. That means it can’t be all about us!

 In an effort to become all that God wanted me to be AND increase my grit score, my new mission became finding all the ways I could help and include others in my goals. That was actually pretty easy with the business I established. I had become a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. My motive was to be out in the world again and prove to myself I could do it! I wanted to pass on to others the strategies I had learned from my years as a physical therapy patient. I never dreamed I would be inspiring my clients or students, but that’s exactly what happened!

After years tucked away in my own head, it’s wonderful to be interacting with others every day. Surprisingly, this took grit for me. It’s much easier to go my solitary way and not concern myself with the needs or desires of others.

By grace, my life was saved and my outlook always remained hopeful. By grit, I used my determination to forge an active, yet challenged life where not only me, but all those around me could be positive and hopeful.

God’s grace is a free gift He gives to all of us. Let’s find ways we can combine that grace with our natural talents to make the world a better place for others!

 

Dear Lord,

Help us use our grit and determination to communicate the message You want us to give to others…a message of hope!

You know what we struggle with. We want to do it ourselves. We don’t want to bother You. Remind us always that Your grace for us can carry us through any situation we encounter in this life. We CANNOT do everything without You!

 

Once you are on mvarga.com, please read through past blogs and find more about my books & fitness tips!

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Yet I was surrounded by God’s grace from the moment my accident happened. I still continue to see His grace in my circumstances every day. After my accident, friends and family kept constant vigil.

Once I became independent enough to live on my own, others didn’t feel the need to check on me all the time. I became so obsessed with recapturing my physical “normalness” that I was okay to spend hours every day exercising and doing physical therapy.  I had become self-absorbed with tunnel vision for my own self-improvement. So I did not reach out to others who had been there for me through thick and thin.

 

God’s grace is most manifest when it’s combined with GRIT. As a marathon runner, I always thought that I was the epitome of grit. I knew how to endure in difficulty and persevere to the end. And I certainly knew about passion!

What exactly IS grit? Yes, it is passion for something with the determined effort to achieve it. It’s also a diligence that never lets you give up on the dream. I thought that’s all that grit entailed. It’s not that simple though.

 Grit means reevaluating goals after setbacks occur. I could write a whole book on setbacks! Grit also requires a positive outlook on life. I call this hope. Finally, grit always looks out for the common good of all. That means it can’t be all about me!

In an effort to become all that God wanted me to be AND increase my grit score, my new mission became finding all the ways I could help and include others in my goals. That was actually pretty easy with the business I had established. I had become a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. My motive was to be out in the world again and prove to myself I could do it! I wanted to pass on the strategies I had learned from my years as a physical therapy patient. I never dreamed I would be inspiring my clients or students, but that’s exactly what happened!

I teach a class in balance and stability. The ladies and men feel confident that my class is a safe place to try challenging moves. They couldn’t possibly look as silly as I do! My new normal has become poking fun at myself as I move about awkwardly to keep my balance. That usually includes holding onto a chair.

No, I am NOT the ideal example of an active, tenured fitness professional. I do, however, try to look the part with the best yoga pants and athletic shoes, as well as fitness tops in every color of the rainbow. Then I try to use my knowledge of aerobic fitness, strength, flexibility and balance to demonstrate the best ways to accomplish their exercise goals.  Exercise takes discipline, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!

Are We Hopeful?

Romans 12:12 (NIV)

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

 

I’m not feeling any spiritual creativity this week, so I’m going to share instead an excerpt from one of the very gifted Guest Authors in my book, The Afflicted Healer. This guest author is my very own pastor at St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic church.

 

Fr. Shayne Duvall entitled the chapter he wrote as, Rejoice in Hope, Endure in Affliction, Persevere in Prayer. He writes…

I think we must ask the question: are we optimistic about life, or are we pessimistic? Do we first see the good in others or are we constantly searching for the bad? Do we trust one another so that we can share our joys, our trials, and our experiences with them? Do we find opportunities every day to simply rejoice – to laugh, to smile, to love, and to forgive? Hope is powerful, especially when we stop to give thanks for reasons to hope. A person of hope can take the good with the bad. They can see that this trial or this struggle will soon pass and something good or better is right around the corner. A person who lacks hope will tend to be a miserable person. What is there to be excited about? What is there to look forward to? Why do I need to engage with others? Why do I need to care? Because that is why we were created. God created us in His image and likeness, and God does not make mistakes. Just look at the beauty of creation. The sunrises, the sunsets, the changing of the colors of the leaves, the warm sun, the cool winter breeze. Each day is an opportunity for us to be a person of hope, a person who rejoices in the cards that we are dealt, whether they are good or bad, they are ours and they show us that rejoicing in hope will pave the way for an attitude of joy, love, happiness, and excitement. My friends rejoice and be glad and then share that good news with others.

 

What does Fr. Shayne say about Enduring in Affliction? I made sure I paided close attention to this counsel!

What does it mean to endure something? People will often tell me that they are not really sure how much more they can handle. One more hurtful or painful experience will soon push them over the edge. I try my best to assure them, because I have been there myself, to sit with the pain, to sit with the suffering, and place yourself at the foot of the cross. Now, look up! What do you see? You hopefully see Christ looking down at you. As drops of blood and sweat fall from his face, you see a man who was beaten and torn up, a man who was put to death to set each and every one of us free. You see a man who loves us so much that he died for us. In order to have the Resurrection you first had to have the Crucifixion. When we are experiencing pain, sadness, depression, and despair, we have to trust that the pain will either pass or subside and that a new opportunity is on the horizon. Suffering happens to people who are rich and who are poor. Suffering happens to people who are public figures and hidden ones too. Suffering has no bias towards sex, age, or race. We cannot avoid it. It is what we do with suffering which makes all the difference in the world, especially if we strive to be people of hope. Enduring affliction is very painful, and we cannot do it alone. God did not create us to be alone, He created us to be in communion with one another. Don’t try and fight these battles, these sufferings alone. Talk to someone who has been there before. Be open, be honest, be vulnerable and let others help you. I have always struggled with that. I think that I can solve all my problems by myself. I don’t want to burden anyone else with my problems, and then I quickly realized that people want to be helpful, people actually do care, and they want to make sure they can help in any way possible. Let them help you. Let them help carry whatever crosses you bear, either daily, or just for a moment. Remember, sometimes we have to experience pain, loss, suffering, and afflictions, in order to be changed for the better. Hope allows us to see that something greater is happening and that we will be ok, as long as we take it one day at a time. One of the greatest ways we can get through these difficult times is to take it all to prayer-to speak to God about our joys and our sufferings, and to let Him help us get through it all.

Then we can all persevere in our praying….knowing we can trust God’s timing…which can be different indeed from the timetable we have set!

You can purchase my book, The Afflicted Healer, to read more of Fr. Shayne’s counsel on Hope and Enduring Affliction. It’s available through mvarga.com or Amazon.com.

Dear Lord,

Fill our lives with people like Fr. Shayne, who lead us to see how God is working in our personal circumstances. Help us to also be witnesses for You by how we manage our own affairs…& especially, how we encourage others as they try to look after their own.

 

Once you are on mvarga.com, please read through past blogs and find more about my books & fitness tips!

You can also follow me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/mlvarga/

Be Still

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:6 (NIV)

 

How often do we wonder whether we’re praying in a way that reaches the ears of God? I talked about this subject in my post, https://mvarga.com/spiritual-insights/are-we-praying-the-right-way/. Over the last decade, I’ve become a real student of prayer. I have a dozen half-read books to prove it. I think maybe I need to spend as much time on my focus & attention, as I do on prayer.

I think I’ve found a way to do both at the same time. It’s called Centering prayer. I don’t know if I can get my ever-wandering mind to stick with this, but I’m going to give it the ole college try!

In Centering prayer, our only job is to surrender & be still before God. For 20 minutes, twice a day. Are you serious? Does God really expect us to have no thoughts for twenty minutes? We have a ‘SACRED’ word that we say to ourselves whenever we find ourselves thinking of anything other than God’s presence within us. My sacred word for this week is “divine”. I’ve tried several different sacred words trying to keep myself centered with God. Like I said, I’m still a work in progress.

Those who have practiced meditation will recall the mantra we keep repeating to keep our mind free of thoughts. Do not be confused though! The sacred word is NOT a mantra. It is consent to letting God enter our mind & heart.

No praise. No thanksgiving. No intercession. No petitions. That’s how we all learned to pray. God still loves and expects those prayers…but not during Centering prayer. It’s a type of Contemplative prayer. We don’t do the talking. We listen and bask in God’s presence.

We shouldn’t get mad at ourselves if we get involved with an interesting thought. Just go back to your sacred word. God is bigger than any thought that comes across our mind. Just let thoughts come & go without giving them any attention.

Fr. Thomas Keating, in his book on Centering prayer, ”Open Mind, Open Heart”, tells us that SILENCE is God’s greatest love language. We don’t communicate during Centering prayer. We just allow God to be inside us. We may feel an intense peace. We’ll feel a great love for and FROM God. We may feel frustration that we can’t quiet our mind.

I had a hard time considering this as prayer time since I wasn’t communicating. Words are not necessary with God. He knows our thoughts better than we do. This is our time to just rest in His presence…drink in His glory. Think of being in a room with someone you love. Remember that words are not necessary.

An immediate benefit of Centering prayer is that it makes our other prayer time more fruitful. Once time is spent in silence with God, we get used to feeling His presence. That will carry over to our regular prayers. We’ll feel as though we have a closer communion with Him…and we do!

Before Centering prayer, my prayers seemed more fruitful when they were ‘prayers in motion’. Long runs used to be the best time for me to pray. Since I can no longer run, the treadmill or the elliptical have become my favorite time to pray.

I was talking to my sister-in-law about my new endeavor with Centering prayer & the difficulty I was having with sitting still during that time. She responded, “Mary, prayer is prayer.” God listens to them all. Occasionally I think He rolls His eyes or chuckles at some of my prayers…but He IS listening!

Centering prayer does not replace our regular communication with God. It WILL make any time spent with God more fruitful. 20 minutes, twice a day? Can we really do that? Do we even want to try? Baby steps! Right?

Spending time with God with no agenda at all but to be with Him…can leave us feeling very fulfilled. Sometimes we will feel nothing. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t notice. Remember also that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. 

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6  (NIV)

 

Let’s try to add Centering prayer occasionally to our regular prayer repertoire. Our efforts to look for an even closer relationship will please Him. We can expect it to have a profound effect on how we view our life with our creator.

Dear Lord,

Is it really true that You love us most in silence? Help us to quiet our racing minds to listen & feel the love You have for us.

We know that You hear all of our prayers. Let us try Centering prayer as a way to bring ourselves even closer to You!

 

Once you are on mvarga.com, please read through past blogs and find more about my books & fitness tips!

You can also follow me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/mlvarga/

Be Set Apart

You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

Leviticus 20:26

 

We are commanded by God to be separated unto Him. How are we supposed to do that? Surely He’s asking for more than just our church and prayer time. How do we live a life separate for Him?

The Holy Spirit will nudge us. The Spirit knows the will of God. He will prompt us with His gifts for us and show us what to do.

It is not as difficult as we think to know what gifts the Holy Spirit has given us. We can envision what we do well…what comes naturally. What really gets our juices flowing? That’s usually a sure-fire indicator of our Holy Spirit gifts.

if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:7-9 (NIV)

I believe my spiritual gift is teaching. Two of the Spirit’s gifts are miracles and healings. If anyone possesses these gifts…please email me! Our gifts are meant to be shared with others!

In my book, The Light Through My Tunnel, I write about growing up with 5 brothers and sisters, and how it made me yearn to be different and special. Then I warn to be careful what you pray for. After my traumatic brain injury, I teased with God that having special needs is not the special I was asking for!

God always has my back though. Through my special needs, I discovered my spiritual gift for teaching. I may still have special needs, but through the Spirit, I am able to use them to show others how to move their bodies efficiently with or without special needs!

 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10  (NIV)

Look around! What can we do in our day-to-day life to honor God’s will? We can make someone else’s journey easier. Do for them something that’s challenging for them…but easy for us. Do we have contacts or influence that they don’t? Jesus gave us our gifts to be used for others. How can we use our influence to help others?

Using our gifts is how we can separate ourselves for the Lord.  We need to ask Him how He wants us to use those gifts, making sure we’re using them for Him…not just to satisfy some personal desire.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Romans 8:5  (NIV)

So we discover what we do best to assist others to live a life that is pleasing to God. By doing so, we please Him ourselves! God desires for all of us to live in unity as we help each other to live as He intends for us. Keeping His will in first place should be our main objective in life. That is how we live a life separate unto Him.

 

Dear Lord,

Living our life separate for You is not as hard as we imagine it. Help us to discover our gifts that help others. That is how we stay connected with each other, and even more important…live our life in honor & obedience to You.

 

Once you are on mvarga.com, please read through past blogs and find more about my books & fitness tips!

You can also follow me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/mlvarga/

STAY IN THE GAME

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12  (NIV)

 

How often have we found ourselves in a position where we just wanted to give up? Things are not turning out as we planned. We lost something of value. How could anyone expect us to keep going? How can we?

No matter how hard it gets, we need to just dig in and wait for the storm to pass. What if it doesn’t though? We try…and fail, try…and fail. Then we finally pray! What does God want us to do?

He wants us to honor Him right in the middle of our pain. He looks at our attitude and efforts…not our performance. He IS the God of the impossible, but maybe He wants to show us a different way…a better way.

He wants us to STAY IN THE GAME! If we’ve lost something, or SOMEONE of value the game may look different. If we lean into God for direction, that “different” will eventually become “better”.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Psalm 13:1-2  (NIV)

That was how King David cried out to the Lord. Haven’t we all felt that way? I know. I know! Our timing is not God’s timing. We are so impatient! Remember that God sees the big picture though. Perhaps He knows what we’re longing for would ultimately harm us. Then again…perhaps He has a better way in mind.

Remember, it’s not all about us. How can our struggle or problem help someone else? Maybe we can inspire others. We can certainly smile, be positive and inquire about others’ lives. I’ve learned the hard way that complaining about troubles only makes others want to avoid me. If they can’t fix it for me, it only serves to make them feel powerless. Nobody wants to feel powerless, so I’ve learned to stop complaining.

Better yet, complain to God! He knows our struggles better than anybody. He’ll be more patient with us than even a mom or dad. Unlike our family or friends, He is NOT powerless. He has a way of placing others in our life that can truly help us. God also has the power to change our outlook or impression of our woes!

Now that we’ve turned it over to God, we can get back in the game of life! Keep showing up! God can’t help us if we’re cutting ourselves off from the world. We can’t let our troubles take our purpose and passion away.

Our ultimate purpose is to honor God by serving others.  How we serve others may look different from what we expected. It could be easy & natural OR it could feel awkward. Just make it a natural part of the day.  We help by noticing others, by speaking kind words, by encouraging!

Are we really helping though? Did we pray first? I find I make smarter decisions when I seek His direction on how to help. It takes but a moment, but can leave us with a feeling of peace about what He wants us to do…and sometimes NOT do.

My good balance was taken by a traumatic brain injury. What could I possibly do to help others? I was the one always needing the help! God used my constant striving to ‘fix’ my balance, along with my life-long passion for fitness, to prompt me to begin my business, SilverStrength®… helping seniors to get stronger and be more mobile. I’m the perfect instructor to show them how to keep their bodies moving correctly so that they can avoid the balance problems that come with age .

No…that is not how I envisioned myself reaching out to help others. My method of assistance for others is a direct result of what I’ve struggled with for years. Can you turn your struggles into a way to help or inspire others?

I believe God is looking for us to turn our lemons into lemonade. First, we need to get our mind off our problem and imagine how we can encourage others by what we are grappling with. Ask the Lord for direction. Sometimes it shows up in very unexpected places.

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31  (NIV)

When God is behind our efforts, we’ll find ourselves doing things almost effortlessly. After we’ve prayed about it…give it to God! He’s the expert in turning our pain, our frustration, our sadness into a triumph that will help others as well as us.

Regardless of our problem, we need to stay in the game to be of any help to God or others.  In the previous blog, Make a Career of It https://mvarga.com/spiritual-insights/make-a-career-of-it/  I used the scripture below.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:21  (NIV)

Do we want God to say, “Well done!” to us? Then stay in the game! We just keep doing the next right thing knowing that He is pleased with our efforts.

 

Dear Lord,

Sometimes we don’t know if what we’re doing helps anyone. Remind us always to take it to You first. You see our motives and we trust You to show us the way.

Our lives can be difficult but we know they are also blessed! Help us to keep showing up even when life gets hard. We know that You will always bless our efforts. We know that You want us to STAY IN THE GAME!

 

Once you are on mvarga.com, please read through past blogs and find more about my books & fitness tips!

You can also follow me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/mlvarga/

New Beginnings

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:6  (NIV)

 

The name of my blog is Life Happens. Many joyful and positive things happen in our life. I’m writing this blog as I contemplate the upcoming nuptials of my niece, Noelle. Marriage is one of the first things that comes to our mind when we think of new beginnings.

The nuptials begin with much excitement. They have finally met the one God provided for them! The preparation…the parties…the family/friends! As beautiful & momentous as a wedding can be, real life will begin rather quickly. That’s when we remember this is God’s union.

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

Matthew 19:6  (NIV)

 

With the marriage solidified, the next new beginning is children. What a perfect illustration of a couple’s love for each other! A child is so precious and totally dependent on their parents for everything. It becomes hard to imagine what life was like before them.

God asks us to be fruitful and multiply. It’s how He designed us. Raising children is our way of fulfilling His command. Having children is a couple’s gift to God.

 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

John 15:16  (NIV)

 

How can we lead our children to new beginnings? My son rolls his eyes at me when I tell him, “God’s got this!” Like all of us, he wants the answer to his problems NOW! It can be frustrating to remember that God’s timing is not OUR timing.

We can lead our children, or anyone for that matter, by being a living testimony to the life God has called us all to live. We can do something we’re afraid of to show others courage. Emulate compassion by being kind to someone others know we don’t agree with. Bite our tongue instead of lashing out to show an example of humility and patience.

Most importantly, we can pray for others’ new beginning. We can certainly be an example to our children and others by our example of good living. Only God through the Holy Spirit can actually give them their new start. So we need to pray fervently for our children! Pray for others and watch as God begins to act in their life. NOTE: Remember that God’s timing is not our timing. So keep praying!

New beginnings can come in different forms…A new job, a new home, a new school, a new family! They all give us an opportunity to start over…to begin again. Most importantly, we can begin anew by praying God will give us change in our attitude.

 

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19

The Lord gives us that same opportunity each & every day. He’s not expecting us to change jobs or towns. The new you from a new diet program is not what He’s looking for either. He’s looking for a heart transformation. We see the same old things in a new light. We view things from His perspective, not thinking only of our life circumstances.

Sometimes we have to get out of the same old routine. Welcome some new friends into our plans. Try something we’ve never tried before. If we want a new beginning, many times our old way of doing things must change to make room for the new we are seeking.

New beginnings need to come from the inside out! That’s the heart transformation. This transformation happens naturally as we make Christ the center of our life….always contemplating on what He wants us to do.

The marriage of my niece, Noelle will begin a new way of life for her as she commits to living and growing with her husband, Will. We can all begin a new spiritual life by giving Jesus first place in all of our day-to-day affairs.

 

Dear Lord,

You give us opportunities to begin again all the time. We may not be getting married, having a child or moving to another city. Show us how we can start fresh by simply embracing a new outlook on what’s truly important in our life.

Jesus came to make all things new. Help us to turn to Him as we try to figure out how to make our lives a ‘new beginning’ that is pleasing to You.

 

Once you are on mvarga.com, please read through past blogs and find more about my books & fitness tips!

You can also follow me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/mlvarga/

 

LIFE HAPPENS

LIFE HAPPENS

I’m betting that many of you don’t know the name of my blog is Life Happens. You would have to go to the Welcome page of my website mvarga.com to discover that.

You will notice I’ve added a beautiful sunrise to identify Life Happens. You will see it on all future blogs.

It’s my desire to use my blog to share strategies for living a fuller life with you. I’ve also made my books available on mvarga.com to inspire you on your journey.

I am the survivor of a traumatic brain injury in 1997. It has defined my physical life for over 20 years. I am a Christian and a student of the Bible for many years. As I make suggestions for a better life, I will turn to Scriptures frequently to see what God has to say. You could say that I’ve been through the fiery furnace. Perhaps you have, too. Let me show you the ways I’ve found to be happy right in the midst of the flames.

In addition, as a personal trainer and fitness instructor, I believe a fuller life includes a strong and flexible body so that we are able and equipped to lead the life that the Lord has in store for us. So, I will also give tips that will lead to developing a stronger, fitter physique.

So please enjoy my twice monthly blog. I hope it gives you practical ideas for living your best life! Please share your own suggestions with me. That’s the best way for all of us to learn! 

SITTING TOO MUCH?

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Mark 9:35  (NIV)

 

When Jesus sat down, He was trying to make a point. How many of us spend a majority of our day sitting in meetings, sitting in traffic, at the computer, or on zoom calls? Our bodies were not designed to sit for an extended period of time.

So here’s another fitness tip!

It’s challenging to stay in good posture when we sit. Here’s a trick I use when sitting at my laptop zooming or writing. It takes only 2 minutes!

Push your bottom down into the chair you’re sitting on. Hold for a few seconds…then relax. Do this move for 30 seconds.

Next, push your lower back into the back of the chair while squeezing your abdominal muscles. Hold for a few seconds…then relax. Do this 2nd move for 30 seconds.

Next, imagine you’re squeezing a lemon between your shoulder blades. Hold for a few seconds…then relax. Do this 3rd move for 30 seconds.

Finally…put all three moves together for the last 30 seconds. Bottom pushing into the chair, lower back pushing back into chair, with shoulder blades squeezed together. If you do this frequently, you’ll find your body naturally going into this correct form of posture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So much time spent in a sitting position will make our hip flexors (where our trunk meets our thigh muscle) very tight. Below are 3 images of a lying, kneeling and standing hip flexor stretch.

 

 

 

 

In the lying hip flexor stretch, feel the stretch in the hip of your EXTENDED leg. In the kneeling & standing stretch, feel the stretch in the hip of the back leg. Stretch until you can feel it…then hold for 30 seconds.

 

If you have access to a TRX Suspension system at your gym, below is a valuable stretch for your hip flexors AND a great way to tighten your booty!

The below video shows Jennifer DeGrella, a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and TRX instructor at /Baptist /Milestone. Jennifer is also a guest author in my book, the Afflicted Healer. She wrote a chapter, Suspended Motion, about TRX ‘tricks of the trade’.

In this video, Jennifer demonstrates the figure 4, a useful TRX move for those with tight hips, specifically, those with piriformis and tight IT issues. So it will stretch the hips while working your bottom on the other side.

Figure 4 – How to:

. Grab the straps of the TRX. Dig both heals into the floor as you lean your whole body back, letting the straps stabilize you. Arms are fully extended!

. Bend the knee of your left leg, sitting your left ankle on top of your right knee.

. Load your weight into the right hip & leg as you bend the right knee. Then extend the right leg back up, keeping your knee soft.

. This is what works your right booty while opening your left hip.

. Repeat 3-4 times SLOWLY, working up to 8 reps.

. Then switch legs, doing the same with left knee on top of right knee.

 

Dear Lord,

Thank you for giving us fitness instructors and physical therapists to show us how to keep our bodies strong & moving the way You intended them to move.

Give  us the wisdom to seek the proper instruction, then practice moving the right way until it eventually feels natural.

 

Once you are on mvarga.com, please read through past blogs and find more about my books & fitness tips!

You can also follow me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/mlvarga/

 

 

 

MAKE A CAREER OF IT

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14   (NIV)

 

A parent’s praise or criticism will have a lasting impact on a child’s self image. Even as we get older, with our own children raised, our parents’ words continue to leave an impression.

This was the case with my father when I began my fitness business, SilverStrength® in 2010. Dad told me he was speaking with a friend about my endeavor, saying, “Usually when someone undergoes a personal tragedy, they ultimately make peace with it, and live the best life they can. But not our Mary! She’s going to make a career out of it!”

His remarks gave me such a confident feeling about what I was attempting to do with my business. I believe this is a calling! God wants me to transform what I struggle with everyday to help others. I want to show seniors ways they can maintain their mobility, and ultimately their independence by regularly challenging their bodies with strength and flexibility exercises.

I want them to hear my voice in their head as they bend, twist and stretch reminding them of the correct way to do it. It still gives me ‘goose bumps’ when a classmate remarks on how they can move easier because of the suggestions I give them.

So I guess Dad was right! I have made this a career of sorts. A career is different from a job. A job pays our bills. A career becomes a way of life. It gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. A career is how we give back for the gifts/talents we’ve been given. It’s the way we pass on the lessons we have learned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28  (NIV)

Our ultimate purpose in life is to honor God. Do we devote as much time to that as we do to our earthly career? We don’t have to be a healthcare worker, a teacher or a minister to honor the Lord with our work. We just work to the best of our ability… always concerning ourselves with those we work with and those we serve.

If there’s something we don’t really want to do…, offer it up to God. Offer the whole work day to the Lord! The change in our attitude will make others want to work beside us. If your business is making sales, building products, or serving people…, work in a way that’s pleasing to God. Then feel the peace of knowing God is pleased with our actions.

Wherever we are on our life journey, we can make a career of following Christ. We do that by following His example in how we treat others. Do we encourage? Are we interested? Do we give of our time?

 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

John 15:12  (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most importantly, stay in communication with Him! The realization of God’s presence in life circumstances will remind us He is guiding us. God is always with us. Look for Him in every situation…and every person. Ask Him what you want Him to do…and don’t forget to thank Him when He makes the way clear for us.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:21  (NIV)

 

Well done! That’s what we all desire to hear…from our parents…our children…our spouse…our friends…our boss… What a sublime compliment it is though, when it comes from our Father in heaven!

 

Dear Lord,

We are Your family. You love us completely, just as we are. You ask that we love and honor You by serving others. Show us how we can do that with others in our life.

Whatever our occupation, help us to make a career of following You by seeing Your face in those we serve.

 

Once you are on mvarga.com, please read through past blogs and find more about my books & fitness tips!

You can also follow me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/mlvarga/

 

 

 

 

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