Tamara shares her takeaways from her interview with Jeff Steinberg. They include some personal stories and 4 critical choices we can make during hard times.
4 Critical Choices in Hard Times
Hello my friends and welcome to another episode of Tamara’s Takeaways. Last week I had an amazing interview with Jeff Steinberg. Jeff was born with no arms and ‘gimpy legs’ as he calls them, and yet he was one of the funniest people I think I have ever interviewed on my podcast. He had such an amazingly optimistic outlook on life. And so it naturally begs the question, if Jeff can be happy having no arms and gimpy legs and live life to its fullest–How can each of us with whatever circumstance we’re in, follow that same path?
I would like to build on and dive into 4 choices we make during hard times which I got out of Jeff’s episode last week.
Choice #1: Choose to Remember Your Worth
The first Jeff Steinberg quote I want to share with you is this: “God makes no mistakes. God makes no junk. God has a design that’s bigger and better and that we have value and goes beyond appearances.”
So the first thing that Jeff teaches us is you have to understand who you are. You have to understand your worth, that God knows you and that He isn’t going to make any junk. This means you have value as His child. And our value goes deeper than what we see on the outside.
I found a really great quote by Dieter Uchtdorf I want to share with you which goes along with this.
“You are not ordinary, rejected or ugly. You are something divine, more beautiful and glorious than you can possibly imagine. This knowledge changes everything. It changes your present. It can change your future and it can change the world.”
This choice Jeff made of realizing who he really was flowed into the next choice he made.
Choice #2: Choose Better not Bitter
And we saw that in Jeff’s life. He did not let his circumstance define who he was. In fact, he talks about that specifically. He says, “I’m identified as the guy who has no arms, has gimpy legs, but he seems that doesn’t define me. But given the opportunity, my circumstance or my story can refine me, it can make me better, not bitter.”
And you’ll notice that there’s a choice there that he made because we each have that choice. We can make our circumstance or we can choose to have our circumstances make us better or bitter. There are days we might feel bitter and there are days we might feel better. It just depends on the day. And so remind yourself that you can actually make that choice.
My Better or Bitter Choice
My family moved to Argentina when I was eight years old and it was quite a challenge because I had to learn to speak a different language. I had to go to school where my sister and I stood out because we were American. And so every day at recess the kids would gather around us and stare at us like we were some oddity. And that was hard. But the great thing about being a kid when we moved there is that we were able to pick up on the language quite quickly and we learned to speak Spanish fluently.
The Bullying and the War
The problem was the following year, the Argentine government declared war on the British over the Falkland islands. Now you may or may not know where the Falkland islands are, but they are these two islands off the Eastern coast of Argentina, which in Argentina’s mind means that they are theirs. The only problem is that these islands have been under Britain’s power for a very long time. Of course the United States sided with Great Britain. This meant that all of my cute new little Argentine friends now saw me as the enemy because the United States sided with Britain.
Because of course, little 9-year-old Tamara Klein had total control over what America did, right? No, I was just the only American they knew and they didn’t know how else to take out their frustrations except to pick on me. And so I began to be bullied at recess and my feet were stomped on and I was called bad names. And it wasn’t my favorite time of life.
There was one girl who was particularly vicious in her attacks. Her name was Lucia. And if I could think of any one person who was the perpetrator, it was her. And I remember my birthday was coming up and my mom wanted to have a birthday party with me and my friends.
My mom asked me, “Are you going to invite all the children in your class?” I thought about it for a while. Do I even want to invite Lucia? And I finally decided that, yes, I did want to invite Lucia to my birthday party, even though it was hard. And believe it or not, she came. Lucia came to my birthday party.
There’s a beautiful saying in the New Testament that talks about turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). Now, while this is something Jesus taught, it is not always easy to do. And this was the case with Lucia. I decided that even though she had treated me with unkindness, that I would turn the other cheek and show her kindness in return. Believe it or not, she stopped treating me unkindly after that and she became a friend.
Now we weren’t bosom buddies or anything like that, but she stopped stomping on my feet and calling me names and all of that. And so sometimes guys, doing the right thing is the hard thing to do.
It Really Is Our Choice
Jeff was in a similar situation. He was treated unkindly. He didn’t even live with his own family, but he had others who found him and loved him.
We are going to have circumstances where we’re going to need to choose to become better or bitter. And I will tell you that looking back now at that childhood memory, I am happy I chose to make it better because now I’m not bitter about it. I can look back at Lucia and think, I love her. I really do.
Choice #3: Choose to Hope in God’s Masterpiece
The next lesson that I’d love to point out is all throughout Jeff’s podcast, he talked about us being a masterpiece in progress–a masterpiece being a painting that you see on a gallery wall. In fact, when I asked Jeff if he had any final thoughts at the very, very end of the podcast, this is exactly what he told me. He said, “You are a masterpiece in progress, and He (God) wants to put us on the gallery wall and showcase us to the ages. Let God change your life because sometimes you and I are the only picture of God others get to see.” Isn’t that beautiful?
I want you to think of your life as being a masterpiece right now. God may be painting the sky of this masterpiece, adding little dabs of blue in different different shades. Maybe He is adding some clouds and maybe some of those clouds are stormy. But He’s painting this masterpiece. He’s allowing circumstances and events to come into your life where you get to choose how you react. And those choices are hard and we learn from them.
Why I Had a Hard Time Believing in my Masterpiece
There was a time in my life when I could not even fathom the masterpiece God was trying to make because I was so overwhelmed and so worn out and so tired. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically. I was not taking care of myself emotionally, spiritually–even though I was trying to put nourishment into my soul. It just wasn’t enough when I felt completely exhausted or in survival mode.
And when you’re at that point in life, it is hard to contemplate that God has some grand masterpiece He’s trying to make out of you because all you can see is the doldrums that you’re sitting in. Right? Perhaps you, like me, can only see the challenges and the exhaustion and how you aren’t strong enough to bear the burden that has been placed upon your shoulder. And that’s a hard place to be. It’s a hard place to live. It’s, it’s hard to imagine the future.
Half an Ounce of Hope
People often say stuff like, “Hang in there.” And you think, “I don’t know if I can. I don’t know what I can change. And you feel very stuck–even paralyzed.
So my daily prayers to God at that point in my life were help me make it through the next five minutes because I honestly couldn’t imagine farther than that. And even though I was doing my best to take care of myself, that’s where I felt I was.
It’s hard to feel hopeless. It really is hard to not be able to look at the future and have hope. When you’re in a spot like that where you can’t imagine a better future, summon half an ounce of hope in God to get you through the next five minutes. And that is a good place to start because half an ounce of hope is better than no hope at all.
God’s Grand Design vs. My Anger
I could not see the masterpiece God was painting that 15 years later, Tamara, because of this incident you’re going to start a podcast. I couldn’t have envisioned that masterpiece. But God did. He knew that because I was hitting rock bottom where the only person I could really cling to and depend on was Him. And the great news is God is strong enough when we finally humble ourselves before him and quit fighting him (which I did).
Jeff actually talks about in his podcast, and he gave this bit of advice. “Stop looking in the mirror telling God what’s wrong.” He knows, oh, believe me, He knows. He knows because we tell him and because He can hear us talking and complaining that we can’t take it anymore.
My Semblance of Control
And sometimes if you’re like me, you need to be humbled just a little bit because you think you can control every part of your life. Yes. I admit I’ve been a bit of a control freak in my life. Maybe moving around as a child may be want to control my circumstance.
But one thing I’ve noticed as I’ve interviewed people for the past year is that we all seem to hit some point in life where we do hit rock bottom, where we, where circumstances are completely out of our control completely. Maybe it’s a diagnosis like cancer. Maybe it’s the health of your spouse or your child or the choices of another person that have brought you to this point. Whatever the circumstance is, you will hit this rock bottom point. And there’s a choice that happens at that point. We tip better or bitter AND We tip towards God or away from God. At this point we choose to either surrender to him or we just fight him.
I’ll admit, I did a bit of both. I fought for a really, really long time because I thought I knew what was best, best because I didn’t want my sons to be diagnosed with autism one after the other. That was not the life I wanted. And so I fought against it really hard.
Submitting to God
And finally (exhausted) I submitted to God. I thought, Obviously fighting isn’t working. Maybe I should stop complaining and stop looking in the mirror and telling God what’s wrong and place an ounce of trust in him. He’ll help me figure it out.
And maybe that ounce of trust was given five minutes at a time. I knew I couldn’t go on for another five minutes on my own strength. It was too exhausting to keep trying. So I needed somebody stronger than myself. And the only place I knew to turn was God–the very person who I was mad at.
But He helped me just like any loving father helps a tantruming two-year-old because He loves me. And I’m thankful that He did because I could not have gotten through that decade of hard times without Him.
Choice #4: Choose to Be an Instrument
Jeff also trusted God. He came to realize when he read Psalm 139:14 he was “fearfully and wonderfully made.” He was not perfect, but God knew Jeff was the way he was for a reason. And He helped Jeff use it for his advantage.
I love that Jeff also said, “God uses the least likely person to accomplish the most extraordinary things in the most unusual ways.” Isn’t that great? He basically talks about being an instrument in God’s hand.
Ironically that is actually how I view myself now. In fact, I recently finished writing my affirmations which I say every single morning. And today I’d like to share that with you because I think we can all be instruments in God’s hands.
This paragraph is at the very end of my proclamation or affirmation.
“I am committed to my mission and living every day as an instrument in God’s hands because I know I am just as worthy, deserving, and capable of creating miracles and achieving everything I want as any other person on Earth. With God’s help nothing is impossible.”
The critical point is we have to figure out who God wants us to be and align ourselves with that. And sometimes that takes some trial and error. It takes some skidding on our knees and sliding through the dirt over mounds of rocks. And that’s how we feel at some points in our lives–bruised, broken, and bleeding. And the miracle is God can take that bruised, broken, and bleeding person and make them a masterpiece.
We Can ALL Be Instruments
And so in conclusion, I would love to leave you with this thought, which Jeff shared. “Everyone has a moment in their lives when they exceed their own limits and achieve what seems to be impossible.” This is usually when we realize, “We all make a difference and we all have an impact in somebody’s life.”
Now you and I, we reached different people. Our sphere of influence is different and unique and God can use each of us to touch different people’s lives. Maybe someone in your sphere of influence is bruised, broken, and bleeding right now. Maybe they are drained and don’t have the strength to go on, and maybe just maybe you can be an instrument in God’s hand, help lift and buoy and help that very friend or family member.
And so I invite you today to spend five minutes in meditation or prayer talking to God about your situation or the situation of those around you and asking how you can make a difference. Because honestly, when we make those meaningful impacts on other people’s lives, it is not because we are great. It is because God is using us.
I think Jeff described it as a glove. We are the glove and His hand is in us and He is using us to help and impact and reach and touch others. And so I invite you to do that. Spend five minutes today talking to him.
And if you’re at a point where you need to submit, say, “God, I got to give this to you because it’s too big for me.” But spend those five minutes either to him about your own situation or asking how you can help those around you and God will use you.
God is pretty great that way. It shows how much He believes in us and how much He believes in the masterpiece that He is painting. And so if nothing else, know God cares about you enough to make this masterpiece beautiful, refined, and better.
He’s going to cover those bitter parts of paint up with bright colors and someday you will stand back as you walk through this gallery with God. And you will see your masterpiece–the masterpiece of your life, of who you have become because of your challenges, and it will all make sense and it will all be made right.
So, remember the 4 Critical Choices in hard times:
1. Choose to remember your worth.
2. Choose better not bitter.
3. Choose to hope in God’s masterpiece
4. Choose to be an instrument.
Cling to that hope that it does and will get better if you’re in a bad place and build on The Rock if you have hit rock bottom. Have a blessed day!