Uncategorized

GRACE…

In my September post I talk about losing my job and the journey that led to starting “The Rise Project”. Well that job was paying relatively well, had amazing benefits/incentives and I was comfortable in my function. I would say that in my 15 years of work experience, it was the best job I had landed thus far. I was three years in with the company and I was finally settling into my new responsibilities. I was warming up to the idea of being with the company for a few more years and saving up before moving on to the next level.

For the first few months after being home, I struggled mentally with my own will. I had spent years receiving from God but I felt entitled to do so. I thought I had already given and sacrificed enough in my latter years, it was my turn to sit back and reap the harvest. I felt that I deserved every ounce of blessing and I wanted even more! I was becoming greedy and ungrateful and it was also manifesting in my speech. Rather than thanking God for what I did have, I began to focus more on all of the things I wanted to change. Of course, there is nothing wrong with progressive thinking but God had to remind me through my husband that I was border lining being ambitious and stepping over into being ungrateful.

Gradually, God had to peel back the layers of my dead weight thinking. He revealed to me that I had been operating in a spirit of pride, fear and self righteousness for quite some time. Everyday, little by little I was forced to relinquish my grip on my life as I knew it before He could do anything else with it.

There was more to living a fulfilled life than acquiring material things. And in my mind, that job was my ticket to affording my dreams.  God had to remind me that “to whom much is given, much is required”. I had to learn to be satisfied with what I had in front of me first. I had to learn how to maintain a spirit of gratitude even when things weren’t going my way.

I was forced to tap into other gifts and talents that had been laying dormant for years. Gifts that I “chose” not to use for His glory because of pride. He quickly reminded me that the “choice” was not mine to make! My thinking was this: “if I cant do it BIG or be PERFECT at doing it, then I wont do it at all”. Or, I would make the excuse of waiting for the conditions to be just right. I was afraid of trying and failing. I was afraid of just being “ok” or “mediocre” at whatever I did, so I simply shrunk back. And to be honest, I secretly judged anyone that tried in their own endeavors and did not meet or exceed that standard that I had set for my own self. I had to recognize that, that level of thinking was associated with the spirit of pride and self righteousness at work in my life.

Many days during that nine month period, my late senior pastor’s voice echoed in my ear, words he had spoken just months before his passing back in 2014. “Never despise small beginnings” but I was doing just that. I despised the thought of starting small and not measuring up to my high minded thinking. I started to find faults in the many blessings that I had already been afforded. So it was time to self evaluate.

In that time, I rested physically yes but I also had to learn how to “rest in Him”. He had to retrain my thinking to “Not my will, but His will” being done in my life; no matter how miniscule His plans may appear to me. I had developed tunnel vision, but my vision was clouded by my own selfish ambitions. I had to learn that how He chooses to use my life is not always about me “winning big”. It wasn’t all about me. Rather, it was about being a conduit of His love to others.  I wasn’t the only one that had aspirations. I wasn’t the only one to have gone through things. And I wasn’t the only one that needed encouragement. I had to learn that my story was unique to me but that it was unfair to compare it to anyone else’.

The position I had taken with family and friends was “I have endured more than them, and I would never behave or respond to that situation like that”. With that mindset, I was sitting comfortably in the seat of self righteousness. It was scornful. I had to remove the chip from my shoulder; one that I had been carrying for years.

God is still working on me. The way I see it, its a daily process that I am prepared to walk through.  Everyday I am committed to renewing my mind. Old habits and old ways of thinking are constantly being discarded and replaced with a new mindset.

So even though I “lost” a job, much of the process that I have walked through has gained me an even larger degree of insight.

I created this blog a month before I was laid off but hadn’t published my first post until weeks into me being home. So for those of you that have been following my posts, as I learnt more about God and a surrendered life, I have been sharing it with you. I pray that it has been a blessing to someone.

Of course, sometimes written words get lost in translation and are limited in expressing the true intent of the heart. I have probably offended a few people along the way. Some of my views may not be agreeable, but it is my journey, nonetheless. One that is filled with lessons on both practical application and spiritual insight.

I have come to recognize that it is vastly important to know when to apply either of the two.  There must always be balance in making life altering decisions. Even though we ought to walk by the spirit; there is absolutely nothing that we can do physically that would “earn” us the right to the depth of His love and grace.  I guess, that is the beauty of being the perfect imperfections that we are.

Through out that process, God remained the loving father that He is. In all of His infinite wisdom He ensured that my cupboards were never empty and all of my family’s bills were paid on time each month. I still cant quite figure out the math BUT To God Be All the Glory!!! See, when He breaks us, its never to harm us but to heal us; to teach us that its only by His grace that we are here.

I approached 2019 with a much different view from the way I did 2018. Yes, my husband and I have written plans and have presented them before God but we remain open to whatever adjustments God chooses to make. Sometimes, He allows things to happen to jolt us. He has to temporarily remove His hedge of protection to remind us all that He ultimately has the final say. We are never completely in control!

It is important to remember that He is a jealous God. He will never share His glory with anyone or anything. Yes, we should be confident in ourselves and in our abilities but we should never cross the line into thinking that what we have achieved was done in our own strength. It could all be taken away in a heart beat. We should approach every single blessing in our lives with a spirit of humility! Our relationships, our children, our spouses, our material possessions, our careers, our titles, our gifts and talents, our health and physical attributes; everything is a gift given to us by God. Nothing should be taken for granted. They are all dispensable.

He is faithful to His promises but He operates on principles. They are unwavering, they don’t change. We must always check and balance every decision, motive and intent against His divine character to ensure that we are in line. I have found that once I hold up my end of the agreement, He makes limitless possibilities available.

Its only February and He is already working things in my favor. That’s the kind of God He is.

 

Forgiveness, Healthy Living, Healthy Mindset, Godly Living, Mental Wellness, Uncategorized

Once Bitten…

We all know the expression “Once bitten, twice shy”. Well I don’t know about you but personally that saying had become a mantra in my life at one point. For years, I walked from one year into another bound by the spirit of unforgiveness and felt justified in walking in it because I felt that I was the victim. Little that I knew, in attempting to move forward with that mindset, I was actually delaying my own progress and subsequently giving even greater power to my offenders. It took some time to come to the realization that I had gone from being the victim to now creating my own self inflicted wounds.
In this post, I would like to talk about forgiveness, letting go and moving on. First things first. Let’s establish God’s take on Forgiveness.
In Matthew 6: 14-15 it states:
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.”
If we sit and think about the magnitude of God’s love towards us, that He would go to the extent of sending His beloved son in human form to suffer through the beggarly elements of this worldly system, to be ridiculed, abused, mocked, beaten, humiliated and suffer the most brutal death under the hands of men just for our sins. To have gone to such an extent just to save us from eternal death, then turn around and say “Yes, I did all of that for you but if you do not forgive the people that hurt you then I won’t forgive you.” Now to the human intellect, this doesn’t seem reasonable but you must understand that God is a God of principles. If we are to walk and act as though we are made in His image and likeness, then we must reflect His nature and character even when it hurts to do so.
Ok, I know what some of you may say “You have no idea what he/she did to me!” “You have no idea what I had to go through because of them…” No, I don’t know your personal experience, but I think we can all relate to being hurt by someone.
I know all too well how it feels to be hurt not just by random people, but by family and those I considered to be friends. My experience of emotional and sometimes even physical abuse go as far back as childhood. And in many of those instances, it was usually perpetrated by those that I allowed myself to become vulnerable to.
As I got older and began to establish my adult relationships, I began to notice a pattern though. I realized that my introverted personality helped me to master the art of suppressing my pain and anger. And what I would do is allow the pain of what people would say or do to me to fester without openly addressing it. So, I never really released from my heart, the people that had wronged me. In the blog post, “Clean Hands, Impure Heart”, I talk about coming to terms with this realization during a teaching by my late senior pastor. He talked about “iniquities” which were the hidden sins of the heart. He said, sometimes we see people that appear to be living a Holy life; to the natural eye they appear to have it all together as far as their Christian walk is concerned, their hands are by all intent and purpose “clean”. However, hidden in their hearts are unresolved issues such as pride, bitterness, envy, jealousy and unforgiveness.
I discovered years ago, that harboring unforgiveness is like drinking a cup of poison with the expectation that the person who has hurt you would feel the effects of it. Rather, your holding on to that resentment, bitterness or pain hurts you more than it hurts the other person that you hold in contempt. In most cases, you will find that the other person has moved on with their lives, and you are left trying to fight through those internal battles resulting in sleeplessness and generally an unhappy life with unhealthy relationships as a result of not being able to let go.
Sometimes we are apprehensive to forgive because we feel that others might interpret our forgiveness as a sign of weakness or vulnerability. One might even feel as though forgiving the other person would indicate validation of their actions towards you, or in other words “I am ok with what you did”, but it doesn’t mean that at all.
Forgiving the other person actually magnifies your strength and maturity. It puts you in control of the situation and in control of your own emotions. Forgiving means “although I do not agree with what you did, I make a conscious decision to be the bigger person and release myself of any negative thoughts or emotions that is causing me my peace and could possibly hinder my relationship with God and my emotional wellbeing.”
Forgiveness for some does not come easy and the process to get through it is often times determined by the severity of the offense. Some of us are holding onto unresolved issues with a superior, coworkers or just an acquaintance. While some of us have gone through years of repeated emotional and even physical abuse under the hands of a guardian, significant other, family member or close friend. Whatever the depth of your scars, I have jotted down a few steps that have helped me to get through my process of forgiveness.
1. Understand the “Why”: It is often difficult to come to terms with “what” someone did to cause the hurt, discomfort, inconvenience or loss that you experience as a result of their bad judgement or actions. However, in my experience with working through the process of forgiveness, I have found that when I took the time to properly analyze a person’s behavior towards me, it made it easier to process. Being able to work through why a person does what they do helps to put a lot of things into perspective and it helps you to see things from a different vantage point as oppose to seeing it through the lens of the victim. BUT Simone, what if I never find out their “why”? Good question! Which leads me to the next point.
2. Understand the Season: Very early on in my adult life I was introduced to the concept of seasons and relationships. This has helped me a great deal to be able to release people from personal expectations. Some people come into your life for a specific purpose and season. Knowing the role that they play, the lessons you should learn from them in that season and when the season has ended will free you up from feelings of resentment and bitterness when the relationship begins to take a turn for the worse. Sometimes it means that there is merely a breakdown in communication and perhaps issues can be resolved by simply sitting down and talking it over. Of course disagreements are inevitable and necessary for any healthy relationship but you must recognize the signs of when a relationship is coming to the end of its season. I have found that once you begin to see a continuous or habitual trend that is associated with negative behavior and a lack of peace, then that is most likely an indication that it is time to move on. Understand, not everyone is meant to play the role of loyal longtime confidant in your life. And this does not mean that you have to completely cut people off. Its ok to re-categorize relationships without throwing them completely away. Relationship categories can change over time but you have to know at what point the shift has taken place or you will find yourself becoming angry or disappointed by the other person’s actions or lack thereof because of misplaced expectations. Once you are able to decipher between seasons, it will make life a whole lot easier for you. Carrying someone or something into one season that you should have let go in a past season can and will create unnecessary stress. Dare I say, moving into a season with what you should have left behind in another season can contaminate and poison your vision for the new season. Whether it is a job, a business, a community, a plutonic relationship or otherwise, it is very important to know when to let go. Disclaimer: This point is NOT intended for married couples. Please seek professional counseling before making any life altering decision concerning your marriage; especially if children are involved.
3. Take back Control: the longer you allow what they did to affect you emotionally, the more control you continue to give them over your emotions. Rather, choose to redirect that pent up energy in a more productive fulfilling way. Investing your time into an activity that adds value to your life will help to take your mind off of the negative. What have you always wanted to do but never could find the time to do it? Maybe it’s taking a course, starting a new business, completing a project, joining an organization, making an investment, going on a trip somewhere you have always wanted to go. Whatever it is, channel some of that energy and fill up that mind space with self-improvement/self-empowerment activities; you will be surprised at the positive outcome. It is important to note that whatever you choose to do, it is with the right motivation though. Do it because it is something that you truly want to do and not to get back at the other person or to gain revenge. Make sure that your heart is completely in it. If not, you would have defeated the purpose. Busy yourself with making your life better instead of focusing on what the other person did or is doing. You will find that once you become so caught up in “doing you” that you will be too tired to think about anything or anyone else. By the time you’re through embarking on your journey, you would have created new lasting positive memories. And the memory of the last season will be a distant one, with no emotional strings attached.
4. Protect your Health: I am a firm believer that the quality of one’s life is not determined by any external factor, but rather by the condition of their heart. Nothing or nobody is worth the value of your inner peace. The longer we hold on to unforgiveness, the more the seed of bitterness grows like a cancer; thus making us vulnerable to both physical and mental malfunction. Proverbs 14: 30 (AMP version) states “A calm and peaceful and tranquil heart is life and health to the body, but passion and envy are like rottenness to the bones.” You have to deliberately make a decision that your health is more important than holding on to bitterness. Proverbs 13: 12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” As mentioned in point 3, it is very crucial to your healing that you release the weight of disappointment which comes from the expectation that you have placed on others. Unresolved disappointment will steal your joy and peace! The best way to move pass the stage of disappointment is to take on the mindset that besides God, YOU are the only person in control of your inner peace and mental well-being. Everyone else, regardless of who they are, are never obligated to making you happy; that is too great a responsibility to give any human being.
5. Close the Door: Last but certainly not least, this (in my opinion) is the most important step to overcoming unforgiveness. In order to truly be delivered from the stronghold of unforgiveness it is important to talk to God about how you are feeling. In your quiet time with God, be completely honest about what happened and how it made you feel. In some cases, you might have an opportunity to confront your offender and express yourself the way you want to but this is rare. What better way to release all of that than during your private devotion? Allow the Holy Spirit to begin peeling back the damaged layers of your heart until you look and sound more like Christ. And remember forgiveness is a process but once you get through it, it is important not to keep revisiting the past. You have to let it go! Close the door and never reopen it again except as a point of reference when to help others through their process.

So there you have it. These steps have helped me with overcoming unforgiveness and I hope that this post will assist someone in moving into 2019 with a renewed heart and mind. Blessings and Love!

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” Bernard Meltzer

Meditation, Mental Stability, Uncategorized

What Are you Meditating On?

Nowadays there are so many voices speaking out, fighting for their opinions to be heard. Whether those voices are echoing from a physical stage, over the air waves or some social media platform, many are vying for the attention of the masses. It is as if the world was one big classroom and every one were students all trying to speak at the same time. Dare I bring it closer to home and say that even on our jobs, amongst close friends and families there are varying levels of opinions on the topics of family, relationships, faith, finances, politics, environment and world issues that either affects our lives directly or indirectly. Most times you will find that if you are not careful you have taken a position on an issue because external opinions have now taken form in your subconscious mind thus creating perceptions.

According to columnist and member of Association for Psychological Science, Nalini Ambady in a survey on “The Mind in the World: Culture and the Brain”: “One of the most fundamental ways in which cultural beliefs, practices, and ideologies influence psychological processes is in the cognitive schema or self-construal style that people use to think about themselves and their relation to others.”

That being said, the question now remains- As a believer living in the world that we live in today where everyone is in pursuit of the fundamental keys to happiness, success and peace- with all of its ideologies and philosophies-what voice do I listen to? Who do I trust to give me clear instructions on how I should live my life? How do I know how to decipher between the motivations that are in my best interest or whether the opinions of those speaking into my hearing are self seeking or manipulative in nature?

This might sound somewhat super spiritual but you must pray for discernment when it comes to this area. I am of the view that everything that is manifested in the natural comes from the spiritual realm, that includes ones thoughts, which becomes ones beliefs, which become words and thus become actions. Therefore the word of God admonishes us to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6: 11

Who Is Speaking?

You must know the difference in the voices around you…whether they are of God or of the enemy. It is my experience that when God wants to speak he does one of three things; He directs you to it in His word through the leading of the Holy Spirit, He speaks to you through dreams or He sends a message through man to affirm what He has already told you.

Often times we become distracted by the everyday challenges that life brings which results in us becoming insensitive to God’s voice- hence He has to use the latter two methods in order to get his message across to us. However, it was never His intentions to use another human being to speak to his creation or speak to our subconscious through dreams. Just as He communed with Adam in the garden one on one, he wants to commune with us. (Genesis 3)

During my season of processing I found that opening my ear and eye gates to carnal communication created a whole lot of mind battles. I began to allow my own assumptions of people’s opinions to consume my life. Rather than focusing on thoughts that would take me to new levels, I focused my time and attention on defensive actions. For nearly a year I suffered from recurring night mares and even insomnia all because instead of feeding my spirit with the word of God and meditating on things of good report, I meditated on all of the wrong thoughts. I did not know then that by failing to digest the right kind of information I was leaving myself vulnerable to spiritual attack thus creating what I now know as spiritual warfare. Here are a few principles that I learnt during that time.

Protect Your Eyes and Ears:
Remember that the adversary is crafty, if he cannot control your mind through the use of the internet or other literature you might obtain by way of the internet or media; he will attempt to gain entrance to your thoughts through other methods. The enemy will use anyone who makes themselves available to be used by him; family, friends, coworkers and even those that are in authority. Remember that the job of the enemy is always to kill, steal and destroy. He comes to kill your dreams and Godly desires, steal your peace and joy, he comes to destroy your life. Ultimately his job is to destroy the seeds of the word of God that has been planted in your heart- seeds of faith that says that you are more than a conqueror through Christ, seeds of confidence that says that you can do all things through Christ that gives you strength, seeds of healing that says that by the stripes that Jesus bore that you are healed and that healing is the children’s bread.

Understand that the enemy knows that once he can control how you view yourself, once he can control your thought pattern, then he can control every decision you make regarding your life. How does he do this? Well just as God doesn’t physically step down from His thrown in Glory to bring you a word, the enemy doesn’t physically ascend from the pits of darkness to destroy you- he uses people. He uses people’s words and actions to breed seeds of doubt, despair and discouragement. Once he can gain an opening to your ears while your guards are down he knows that he has won half the battle. Soon enough, if you are not completely protected in your spirit, those seeds of discouragement will begin to take root and before you know it you are subconsciously meditating on the negative rather than on that of what your heavenly father has said about you.

Protect Your Mind:
If truth be told, half of the challenges that we face in our everyday lives are not as a result of external factors but it is our own thoughts that debilitate us and creates stagnating and self defeating behaviors leaving us opened to the “fiery darts” of the enemy. Just as God speaks to us through people and dreams, so does the adversary. If we do not make a conscious decision to consecrate our minds and hearts daily with the word and worship, we leave room for the enemy to plant seeds through our thoughts- seeds of doubt, fear, bitterness and inadequacy. It is imperative that you are very intentional about what you spend time meditating on during the hours that you are awake. What kind of literature are you reading? Are you reading material that uplift you and add to your personal, spiritual and financial progress; or are you merely soaking up information that add no value to your life. What are you watching? How much time do you spend on social media meditating on the opinions of others rather than finding information that will enhance your daily living? What kind of music are you listening too? Are the lyrics positive or God centered? Or are you listening to songs that denote and encourage violence, profanity and lute behavior? If you ever have to question whether what you are digesting is beneficial or God approved, simply search for the inner voice to direct you in your decision making.
During my season of soul searching I watched countless videos that were geared towards spiritual healing and self empowerment. I had to make a conscious decision to flush out the negative with positive words of encouragement and enlightenment if I was to ever move forward. I knew that if I could change my thought pattern then I could ultimately change the course of my life. I had to dispel every negative word that I had ever heard spoken over my life from childhood straight through to adulthood; words spoken into my hearing about my birth, existence, worth and abilities.

Maybe you are battling with the opinions of others today and it has held you captive to stagnation and even setbacks. I encourage you today to self evaluate your situation and make the steps in the right direction by discerning the voices around you. What and who you choose to listen to will determine your thought pattern which will eventually determine the course of action that you take for your life.

Uncategorized

“What If I Let you Go?!”

During our downtime at home, my husband and I usually gravitate towards the den room where we spend our time watching T.V. etc. It was a Friday afternoon in early September 2017. We along with hundreds of other families had retired to our homes, now hunkered down awaiting the impending hurricane Irma which was scheduled to make landfall in just under forty-eight hours. Most of the local necessity stores, banks, private businesses, and government agencies had already closed their doors until further notice, all awaiting the fate that lay ahead. All U.S. and local networks had dubbed this hurricane as one of the largest and most dangerous natural disasters to ever hit the Caribbean islands. To say that most people were concerned is an understatement.

We anxiously watched the weather updates flashing across the television screen as I sat in the living room’s recliner chair holding my then nine-month-old son in my arms. Of course, as with all growing little baby boys, he never keeps still and every opportunity is an adventure or exploration! So he proceeded to lean over the armrest of the reclined chair in an effort to get to the ground; now tipped over the side of the chair head facing the floor he struggled and fought to loosen my grip around his waist. And as any responsible parent, I held on to him pulling him back from the danger that he clearly could not see…needless to say he remained focused on trying to release my grip to meet the floor. It was then that I firmly said: “What if I let you go?!” And at that very moment, reality and revelation collided!

In my mind, I had already fast-forwarded into time and saw the numerous unfortunate scenarios that could have resulted in me releasing my grip and allowing MJ to have his way. I saw him falling head first unto the cold hard tile floor, while we frantically tried to console a now inconsolable hysterically crying baby. I saw him not being able to move his neck without screaming out in pain, unable to articulate exactly what he was experiencing. I saw us having to fight through deteriorating storm weather to the hospital, which was a good distance from home, since all nearby private and public clinics would have already closed by now; staff members nestled safely in their homes with their families awaiting the impending storm. I saw us in the hospital’s ER waiting room for what would seem like forever to receive some sort of medical attention that would assure us that there was no serious damage done to our little one’s sensitive little head and neck. I saw us possibly having to wait overnight for x-ray results because of the other “more pressing emergencies” that the already overwhelmed medical emergency team were attending too. I saw what every concerned and first-time mother saw before it could happen.

Michael Junior at the time was completely unaware of the approaching storm, nor was he aware of the inconveniences and dangers that would have resulted from me simply just letting him go. At that moment in time, his main objective and goal was to get down off the chair…head first! Many years from now, MJ will not remember that day but I would hope that if I was to recount this very simple story he would be grateful and appreciate the principal it holds and that is- despite his fight, I did not allow him to have his own way, I did not let him go.

It is my belief that this is what God is saying to us regarding many of our desires, prayer requests and failed pursuits- “What if I let you go?” How many times have you wanted something so desperately, thinking that the very thing that you were pursuing with such intensity would somehow bring you the comfort, security, peace or success that you have always wanted? You strive for it, you prayed for it, sometimes even fasted for it- only to be disappointed because “life” pulled you back into what at the time felt like a never-ending struggle to fulfill this dream.

I don’t know if you can relate but I have had a few experiences where I wanted and pursued jobs and relationships. I mixed prayer with works and faith, hoping that my efforts would somehow land me that dream job just to be disappointed with letters of rejection. Then to find out years later, the company would suffer public embarrassment, bankruptcy or downsizing. I have pursued relationships, doing my part, praying and preparing to be that Proverbs 31 wife hoping that my efforts would somehow eventually lead to marriage, only to be disappointed and suffer heartbreak because God would allow the other person’s heart to become hardened or allow the relationship to somehow come to an end. Years later I would see that it was for the best. I would come to see from a distance, unfavorable characteristics in that person that I could not see before or perhaps find that our destinies took completely different paths. It was then that I reflected back and thanked God for not letting me go, for not answering my prayer by giving me what I wanted.

As a parent now, I can almost hear God saying to us sometimes “What if I let you go!?” “What if I allow you to get that job?” “What if I allow this relationship to get to the next level?” “What if I allow you to go that route?” And while we are pursuing our desires that are out of God’s will for our lives, we never see the dangers that we have been protected from until long after…We kick and fight and sometimes become angry with God for not answering our prayers.

Little did we know he has in fact answered. I read some years back that God gives us three answers to our prayers “Yes”, “No” and “Wait”. This philosophy has held true for me and brings me a sense of comfort when faced with disappointments.

We are usually elated when He tells us yes, that we can have what we have been desiring; but when He tells us “No, that is no good for you, it’s not my plan for you, or I have something better” we don’t accept that very well. Sometimes it’s not that God is denying us of our desires altogether, sometimes He is simply saying “Wait, you are not ready for that yet, you won’t be able to handle the level of responsibility that comes along with that position or I am still preparing you”.

Now almost a year later, my son can almost do summersaults off of the same recliner and without reservation, I gladly release my grip and allow him to roam free because he has gained enough strength in his legs to hold his weight and walk independently. He has completely developed his motor skills and is able to stand on his own two feet without me worrying about him falling and hurting himself. Sometimes God is allowing us to build momentum and character before letting us go. He sees every possible unforeseen circumstance that can result in prematurely granting us the “desires of our hearts” when we want it.

Paul said it best in Romans 5: 1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Perhaps there is a situation that you have prayed about and you see that the odds are not currently moving in your favor; maybe God has a different plan for your life and you cannot see it clearly yet. You have to possess the kind of faith that says “Even though I cannot see you moving I know that you are in control and you won’t let me go.” Maybe God is telling you that what you want is not what is best for you right now. Maybe he is telling you that He has something so much better in store, that when you get it, you won’t have any regrets. Maybe he is preparing you for a much greater position than you can see with your natural eyes. Remember that you serve a God who is omnipresent which means that he is present everywhere, he already saw what we couldn’t see. He is also omnipotent which means He is all-powerful and supreme, he has the ability to change any circumstance to suit his favor if He so desires.

How about we take some time out today to focus on the characteristics of God. Let’s learn about His nature so that our faith will be stirred up and when disappointments arise we have an eternal hope and confidence that says “God I know that you won’t ever let me go!”

Uncategorized

I’m NOT Coming to The Party!

Some time last week, I was having one of those days where I was feeling down and sorry for myself. I was thinking about all of the things that I had not yet accomplished and how far fetched my aspirations all seemed in the grand scheme of things. How everytime I took 10 steps forward, I was being pulled 5 steps back because of circumstances I could not control. I wasnt where I used to be but I was far from where I wanted to be. I was looking at the glass half empty instead of half full. For a good few minutes I began to throw myself a pity party, inviting self doubt and anxiety in to join me. Before I knew it, depression was trying to get in too. …Even caught myself asking the question “Lord, is anyone praying for me?” Dumb question right? I know! In that very moment, it was as if God came in the room and whispered in my ear “I am always with you. You are never alone!” Then He reminded me of His promise in Jeremiah 29: 11. With that said, I knew that fear and faith could not coexist in the same space- I had to choose. At the end of that little conversation in my head, I had no other choice but to leave the party!

If you are not careful, the enemy will try to catch you off guard, he waits for the opportunity when you’re most vulnerable. All he needs is a foot in the door of your heart and he will begin setting up! Don’t give him the attention! Slam the door in his face; tell him he’s not welcomed in your space! AND you will NOT be attending his pity party!

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Breaking Depression

Growing up, I was constantly being reminded of how “blessed” I was. I lived in a fairly decent home, I had been afforded the opportunity to private school education, never wanting for food, clothing and the basic necessities. I had, what appeared to be a better life than my siblings who were being raised by my biological parents abroad, yet I felt incredibly empty. In my young mind, no amount of material things could ever compensate for the massive void I felt from not being a part of a “normal” nuclear family. I could not see past the fact that I had been separated from my birth parents and siblings and felt deprived of the opportunity of forming a relationship with both mother and father. From the outside looking in, one would conclude that I was for the most part a normal teenage girl yet my then living arrangements created feelings of loneliness and rejection very early on that took me down a long road of unhealthy relationships and self-destructive behaviors. As the years progressed, my life became increasingly complicated because added to my already young troubled mind was the responsibility of managing the drama and most times unwanted attention that accompanied the first toxic bond.
So by the time that relationship ended, I had only added to the myriad of unresolved issues that were still buried beneath the surface. In between the years of the first relationship and getting married, my dating life was limited to say the least. During the process came two short term relationships; one that lasted a little under a year, and ended on mutual terms because of geographical distances. The other one lasting only three months and though short lived, was the very test that revealed the ugly festering sores of my unhealed heart. You see, that relationship did not end on my terms like the others did; it ended after a disagreement that resulted in the young man breaking up with me. For more than a week, he had ignored my calls, messages and attempts to reach out to him; naturally I interpreted his actions as rejection. After numerous attempts on my part to resolve the issue without success, I slipped into a state of depression that for the first time in my life led me to thoughts of suicide.
One might ask, how could a failed three-month old relationship cause someone to want to harm themselves. However, those thoughts had very little to do with the length of time that had been invested in the relationship, nor did it have anything to do with whether there were any real feelings for that person or vice versa. My thoughts of suicide had much more to do with the unresolved deep rooted issues stemming back from my childhood. Again, I had been faced with the outcome of someone else’ decision that directly affected how I chose to see my own self-worth; and it triggered those old feelings for which I did not know how to properly appropriate at the time. Not allowing myself time to completely heal from my past, woke up those sleeping demons that had been lying dormant for so long. It was only by God’s divine intervention that I was able, in that moment of complete hopelessness to shake myself out of that place to tell the story today.
Over the years, through time, observation and my own personal experiences, I have gained a certain level of understanding of depression from both a practical and spiritual perspective. I recognize the sensitivity of this topic and felt it necessary to share just a small piece of my personal experience of overcoming chronic depression so that those dealing with like symptoms will be able to relate and perhaps find relief from the information provided in this blog post.
Before I continue, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not a trained professional counselor. The steps that I am about to share with you, are simply preventative methods that I took to help me break the cycle of depression. Healing from depression is definitely not an overnight process; it took me years to fully recover from its cycle. From a practical point of view, I am convinced that beyond God’s intervention, our human will is in fact the strongest element to overcoming this mountain. Here are some of the steps that I took that helped me in the healing process.
1. Writing: I know this sounds so cliché but creating a journal is not just therapeutic, it allows you the privacy to be completely free with your innermost thoughts. You are the only person reading it, so no need for pretty articulate accuracy; you can release raw uncut, uncensored feelings and thoughts that you would not otherwise tell anyone else. Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, put pen to paper and let it rip! Allow your deepest, darkest thoughts to spill onto your journal. For me, reading back through my old entries gives me an opportunity to reflect on my progress or lack thereof. It also allows me to reevaluate my thought process, make adjustments if necessary and correct old habits.
2. Music: My choice of music has always been worship whenever I am feeling down simply because its lyrics are not just soothing but directing my thoughts away from whatever I am feeling onto God somehow gives me relief. The scripture says to put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. This method of worshipping is actually my favorite and it has never failed; I call it musical therapy. In fact, some days I do this for hours, and depending on my mood, I pick one song and if the words resonate with me and the message is corresponding to what I am going through, that song stays on repeat. The objective is always to release the negative thoughts by flushing it out with positive words so that you maintain a healthy internal environment. Your genre of music might be different but make sure that the lyrics of the music that you choose to listen to are uplifting, encouraging/inspiring and hopeful. So that means opting for your Adel playlist when you are feeling depressed may not be the best decision; especially if you are suffering from a broken heart! IJS
3. Join a Support Group: During my early adulthood my single friends became my support system; especially following my break ups. We were all around the same age, all going through similar situations during that time in our lives and were able to lean on each other for emotional and moral support. However, often times we also became the outlet for each other’s frustrations; so choosing the right group is also very important as well. You want to connect yourself with people that may be dealing with adverse circumstances but is still able to understand and respect the importance of effective communication. Otherwise, you may end up doing more damage than good to yourselves and each other. Your situations may differ somewhat, but it is always comforting to know that there are others like you that can relate to what you are experiencing on some level or the other and are able to shed some positive light on your situation.
4. Seek Professional Help: My help came in the person of a mentor/spiritual advisor. I reached out to one of the female leaders in my local church following the advice of the young man that I dated for a year. Prior to that, I had never been exposed to the term “mentorship” and had no idea what the whole concept entailed. After my friend heard my story, he strongly suggested that a spiritual mother was just what I needed. During that season of my life, my mentor played a very crucial role in my healing process. She became more of a surrogate mother to me, providing a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and a voice of reasoning through her advice using Godly principles. I don’t know if she had ever received any formal training for the role that she played but she was the closest I had come to getting what I considered “professional” help given my background. Going from not talking to anyone at all about what I had experienced to being able to open up to someone whom I considered an authority figure was a relief to me. Also touching base with someone else regarding my progress aided in building discipline through accountability. Sometimes, just the thought of knowing someone else cared and being able to call on that person whenever I was feeling down brought a certain level of healing within itself. It is important to note that, if you are not connected to a church or perhaps are not comfortable with the choices available in the church that you attend, there are other avenues that you can take. There are professionally trained counselors that can provide the support that you need through their services within the frame work of the medical field. Also don’t be ashamed to take advantage of the special call centers available around the clock if you ever get to a point where you feel like you have exhausted all possible options and are now at a point of taking extreme measures. What is most important is that you reach out to someone that has been trained to take on the responsibility of providing sound advice or direction for your steps towards healing and wholeness. It is critical though, that you are open to sharing your most intimate feelings so that that individual will have adequate knowledge of where you are emotionally in order to provide you with the best possible support and outcome.
5. Get Out: Getting dressed up and going out on the town with your friends/support group is just the thing to boost your mood and confidence. The mundane routine of being confined to work, school or home can become depressing in and of itself. Making weekend plans for an outing with the girls or guys or both is definitely something to look forward too. If your budget is tight, a night out doesn’t have to entail dinner at a fancy restaurant, you can find creative ways to have fun. As much as I like fine dining, some of my best GNOs were spent at a friend’s house, ordering pizza, watching a movie, just chilling and having good conversation. And if you’re a single lady with other single female friends, you can even plan a sleep over and make it a late night pamper party. It’s a really good time to connect, share laughs, tears and “Kum Ba Yah” moments together.
6. Help Out/ Volunteer: I found that joining an organization that ministered to the needs of others helped to take my mind off of my own challenges and at the same time gave me a sense of belonging and purpose. During the early stages of my healing process, I would volunteer in my local church in various ministries such as the Singles Ministry, Womens Ministry and Young Girls Mentorship Program which were geared towards meeting the specific needs of those target groups and also provided outreach programs that served the wider community. I got to meet and provide support to young girls on a weekly basis, some of which lived in rural communities and Children Hostels and had been handed the same fate as myself or worse. I also had the opportunity to accompany my women’s group to a local Old Folks Home where we presented them with some much needed supplies and spent the afternoon singing hymns to them. To know that our small gesture was serving as a beacon of light and hope gave me a sense of fulfillment. Additionally, observing and hearing the stories of some of their circumstances provided me with a different perspective on my own situation and also served as a learning experience. Of course, there are a number of none religious organizations that you can join independently that are community service oriented and meet the same objective. E.g. soup kitchens, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Children Hostels/Orphanages, Geriatric Homes etc.
7. Develop Intimacy with God: I saved this one for last because I feel like it has been the most significant step in my road to healing and recovery from depression. I would be remiss if I excluded the fact that during that season when I was dating the guy from the three-month short relationship, I had moved away from God. The biggest mistake that I made in my rededication to Christ was allowing myself to become involved with a guy that was unsaved. I let the fact that I had met him in church sway my decision to even entertain the thought of going out on a first date. He was young, well educated, socially graced, well groomed, goal and career oriented; most of the qualities that a woman would want in a potential husband. However, although he believed in God he confessed early on that he did not have an intimate relationship with God nor did he display any immediate intentions of developing one. Our views on faith were very different and I had every opportunity before becoming exclusive to discontinue the relationship on my own terms, but somehow I thought that I could perhaps convert him into the potential that I saw in my imagination. Rather, I found myself slowly changing who I was and the standards of my faith to fit into his world instead of him conforming to mine. I had lost focus, leaving myself completely open and vulnerable to spiritual and emotional attack. So when thoughts of suicide came up following the breakup from that relationship, I cannot say that I was surprised. In order to overcome that bout of depression, I had to dig myself back into that secret hiding place that I had built all those years ago. A place where, even during my darkest days, there was not even the slightest inclination to end my life because I had given myself entirely over to praise and worship even when I couldn’t find the strength to pray. There is a level of unexplainable comfort that comes from spending quality time in the presence of God. Talking to friends and counselors was helpful but expressing my deepest thoughts to my Heavenly Father brought me the greatest sense of peace. To be able to give all of my cares and concerns to God and not wonder if they were going to be misinterpreted or misused was comforting and therapeutic. Sometimes during my lunch break from work, I would drive to a nearby beach, sit in my car, and spend time alone with God. I would find a scripture that was relatable to what I was dealing with, meditate on the words after I would’ve spent a few minutes in worship then I would pray, releasing all of my cares and concerns in the most natural way. Know that talking to God does not have to be a performance with eloquent words and phrases, be completely honest and open about what you are feeling and let it all out. He can handle it and He knows your thoughts anyway so no need for pretenses! Trust me by the time you’re done throwing off your burdens on him, you will feel a whole lot lighter.  Sometimes by the time I was done, I would have to reapply my makeup but the relief that I felt was worth the drive and every ounce of mascara.

If you or someone that you know is battling with depression and thoughts of suicide, my hope and prayer is that you are able to take something away from this blog and apply it to your life so that healing can begin to take place. Also, I cannot express enough, the importance of speaking up, please make a deliberate effort to reach out to someone. Know that whatever you are facing you do not have to suffer in silence alone. Your feelings matter; your life matters! Someone, somewhere is depending on you to survive. Making a permanent decision to correct a temporary problem is never ever the answer.

“Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas Edison

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Faith Versus FUD

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.  People often become more committed to a familiar discomfort than they are to an unfamiliar new possibility.” Lisa Nichols

Today I want to address the issue of fear, which has so many dynamics that it would be nearly impossible to cover it all in one blog post. After meditating on the topic for this post, I referred to google to see if my initial key phrase actually made any sense. In my search I came across the acronym FUD meaning “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt” which was a term used in the early 20th Century to describe the marketing strategy of the well-known IBM computer company. It is speculated by its first competitor, that this strategy was used by IBM’s sales team to instill disinformation in the minds of potential customers who might be considering a new competitive product.
American software developer, Eric S. Raymond wrote:
“The idea, of course, was to persuade buyers to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors’ equipment. This implicit coercion was traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors’ equipment or software. After 1991 the term has become generalized to refer to any kind of disinformation used as a competitive weapon.”
I am convinced that just as it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual realm. Isn’t it interesting how the adversary uses fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) as a competitive weapon against the children of God? He plants seeds of doubt by creating the illusion that the obstacles or setbacks that we can see are more real than the promises that God has spoken over our lives through His word. I guess he knows that in our finite human intellect, it is a lot easier to believe in the tangible (seen or proven) over the intangible (unseen or unproven). His ultimate goal is to replace our faith with FUD. If he can get us to believe that staying in the comfort or safety of what we know will protect us from unforeseen failure, then he has successfully created fear thus producing stagnation. And the enemy knows full well that that is not a spiritual environment conducive for our faith to thrive.
Trust me, I speak from years of experience in this area but I am about to tell you how I was able to conquer my fears, uncertainties and doubts.
One of my favorite writings by the Apostle Paul is found in Hebrews 11. Whenever I need a boost in my faith I go there, it never fails! He outlines the precedence of some of the greatest miracle stories in the bible to sum up faith in action, but the part that resonates most with me is verse 6 when he said:
“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.”
So if our faith pleases God, and the absence of faith is fear, it suggests that the enemy’s plan has dual purpose! He knows that once he can get us to become doubtful of God’s promises, fearful and uncertain of the unknown, not only do we ultimately derail God’s divine plans for our lives, we also displease God by the very presence of our fear. I can guarantee that there is nothing the devil loves more than to feel like his plans have succeeded over our trust and confidence in our Heavenly Father.  Let me remind you  that his strategies are as old as time; he has been using FUD since the very beginning of mankind. Case and point: Adam, Eve and the apple!
I think Paul recalls the stories of all of those ancient saints to prove to us that God’s plans always prevail once we put our faith into action.
Let’s look at verse 7 and 8:
7 “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.”
Wow! So here we have a man who in holy reverence to God builds this massive ship on dry land proclaiming to his family, neighbors and friends that a flood was coming. Now bear in mind that this floating vessel was the first of its kind back then. They knew nothing about The Titanic or Royal Caribbean’s Symphony. Additionally, their world had never experienced a flood before so I’m pretty sure to his native people, Noah looked like a walking talking lunatic! He came up against incredible opposition during the building process of this boat. I would imagine as a normal human-being although he maintained his faith, he still went back to God a few times just to verify that it was really God’s voice that he had heard. After weeks of building, with no sign of rain, he was probably tempted to give up. However, after being laughed at, scorned and ridiculed, his character beaten down and his self-esteem completely deflated, each day that he woke up to make his way down to that building site he made a conscious decision to maintain his focus on completing the work that God had entrusted to him.

Needless to say, the flood came and it not only solidified Noah’s confidence in his ability to hear God’s voice; it also reassured his faith in God’s protective and redemptive power because he and his family survived the storm and God eventually restored everything that had been destroyed. As for the mockers, sadly enough the flood proved to be dooms day for them because of their disobedience and lack of faith in a God they could not physically see.
8 “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”
Now here is another phenomenon that required much faith. Here is a man that left everything that he knew to go to an unknown place under the instructions of God. Imagine leaving the comfort of your birthplace to wonder around in a strange land in hopes that you will eventually reach this never before seen “promised land”. With no map, compass or directions, travelling thousands of miles on foot, horse and donkey as a means of transportation, this scenario would’ve definitely spelt disaster and defeat for most of us living today, but not Abraham. He had tunnel vision to continue on his journey in hopes of reaching Canaan; BUT his path was by no means clear cut. It consisted of many unexpected detours, obstacles, and opposition along the way that would’ve otherwise create FUD. In the process of travelling to Canaan, he had to overcome exile, abuse, hunger, family disagreements, and the list goes on.

This is the same man whose wife, through a promise made by God, did not bare him a son until they were both well in their 80s. Now if that isn’t faith in action, I don’t know what is! And to top it all off, God later challenged Abraham to sacrifice the very son that had been promised and given to him after 80 years of waiting! Though saddened by the strong possibility that he would have to kill his own son out of obedience to God’s instructions he goes up into the mountain still believing by faith that God would provide a way out. And just in the nick of time God steps in to save Abraham’s son from death by his own father’s hands! Can you imagine what level of faith it must have taken for Abraham to come so close to killing his own son all because of His desire to obey and please God?

So in essence what Paul was telling us is that with all of what Noah and Abraham endured and still maintained their faith, then it gives us more than enough ammunition against the tactics of the enemy!

Nowadays, we are no longer restricted to a horse or a donkey with only the stars as a guide if God gives us instructions to move. The advancement of technology has given us computers, navigational systems, cars and airplanes to make the process a whole lot easier. You may say, but what about the resources needed to do what I need to do? Like Abraham, it is important to see beyond the limitations of our present circumstances, to block out all doubt and dispel the fear by activating our faith to action. Sometimes making the first step though small it might be, could very well be the step in the right direction to seeing those plans come to fruition! The resources may not be readily available yet but perhaps writing the vision will lead to the next step and then the next until God makes the provisions or the way clear for the next level.
I can attest to the fact that every time I faced an obstacle, whether it was the loss of a job, a broken relationship, a failed endeavor or a disappointment from derailed plans, God always provided a much better outcome than I could have ever planned on my own. I have seen God provide for me in the most unconventional ways. He has used people and avenues that I would least expect to come through for me during my times of need. So as time progresses, it becomes easier to handle each setback or curve ball with a degree of grace because my faith stands on the foundation of the last miracle and the one before that. I had to train my mind to interpret every single obstacle, detour or delay simply as a temporary setback for a permanent set up.

Now with that being said, I have also come to realize that sometimes our greatest battles are not the illusions (external factors) created to look like failure, rather they are delusions (internal wellbeing), battles of the mind, which is of far greater concern. Delusions are internal beliefs, that have been proven to be wrong but is still maintained by an individual. How you view yourself, those around you and the world at large can create a degree of fear, uncertainty and doubt. This kind of obstacle, in my opinion can be considered as a strong hold that requires both fasting and prayer to break free from this mindset.
It is also very important to create an environment that in conducive to growing your faith. You cannot meditate on the words of pessimistic, negative people and expect to maintain a healthy faith life. Remember the enemy also uses people’s opinions as a target to destroy your faith. Whether you are receiving those opinions directly from family, friends or foe or indirectly through various media streams, be mindful and vigilant of Satan’s craftiness. Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with those that will provide encouragement and solutions rather than ridicule and unfavorable outlooks. Feed your spirit with positive and uplifting material that flush out any thoughts of fear, uncertainty and doubt.
I encourage you today, that whatever obstacles, detours, setbacks or oppositions are staring you in the face, know that it is only an illusion to what is ahead. It is up to you to remain focused, obedient and prayerful. Remember that having faith without action is just as detrimental to our growth as having FUD. See those setbacks as an obstacle course if you may, allow each disappointment, delay, or set back to build the endurance that it takes to push past the fears of the unknown, building up your spiritual muscles and bringing you closer to the finish line.  Make the first step in the direction of your desired outcome, practice patience, learn to be sensitive to God’s voice, so that you know timing, when to move and when to be still. With these components, I am confident that in due course, God will reward you for your diligence.

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Your Pain Has Purpose

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

Let’s be honest, Paul sounded crazy! Why would anyone in their right mind delight in pain?! Furthermore, why would a merciful, compassionate, sovereign God allow insults, hardships, persecution and difficulties to be inflicted on those that he loves and calls His children? How could a God that claims to love us so much, in his infinite power foresee our pain and not block it from happening?

Oxford dictionary describes pain as:
• highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury.
• Mental suffering or distress.
• Great care or trouble.
• An annoying or tedious person or thing. (informal)

Pain takes on many faces and does not discriminate against age, gender, color, class or creed. It is a fact of life, an inevitable occurrence for every single breathing human being. And if you’re anything like me, the pain that I have experienced in my life has taken on all of the facets described in the list above. Now, before I continue, let me be the first to admit that, yes, some of that pain was self-inflicted. My decisions to “figure it out” on my own rather than allowing my life to be guided by the word of God resulted in much of the adversities that I faced during my early adulthood. And, if there is anything that I have learnt along the way, it is that violating natural and spiritual laws can have negative effects on one’s physical, financial, mental and spiritual health and stability.

What do you mean by that Simone?

Well, for argument sake, let’s say a chain smoker overtime developed lung cancer, one would conclude that their illness was as a result of the direct violation of the natural law that says “Smoking can lead to cancer”. If someone ate at least three cheeseburgers a day and washed them all down with 16-ounce bottles of coca cola soda and overtime developed a heart disease, it is safe to say that they have violated the natural law that dictates “the excessive consumption of certain foods causes high cholesterol which leads to clogged arteries and ultimately heart problems”.

If at the end of every month I took my salary and went on a shopping spree and neglected to pay my monthly obligations, the laws and policies of the companies for which I owe would automatically take effect, no? So wouldn’t it be hypocritical of me to pray to God for a miracle when the electricity company comes to disconnect my electricity for none payment because I decided that having that designer bag or shoe was more important? I can go on but I think I’ve made my point.

Those were some examples of how violating some natural laws can lead to self-inflicted suffering. This same theory holds true even in our pursuit of finding our true north or moral compass; there are always consequences for every decision that we make in life, both good or bad. For every action, there is a reaction. People less spiritual tend to refer to it as karma, but it is the simple principle of seed, time and harvest.

The reality is, because we are human and subject to human error and failures, through the gift of grace God makes provisions for such shortcomings. So despite our disobedience, God’s love for us as a father, protects us from ourselves, to the point that although we may feel the sting of our own actions, he does not allow it to completely destroy us. However, God has also given us all free will, so in order to receive total deliverance or healing from our strongholds, it is up to us to first come to ourselves, take responsibility for our actions, change whatever those habits are that is causing discomfort in our lives and then take the necessary precautionary measures to ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes again.

Ultimately, God is able to turn what was meant for our destruction around for our good but also for His glory. By that same token, not only would we have grown from the experience but we would’ve survived it to provide moral and spiritual support to others; cautioning or advising them against such behaviors, and encouraging them to take a more progressive approach in their future decision making.

One may ask, “Ok, I understand all of that but what about the pain that I know I didn’t deserve?” This seems to be one of the most challenging questions in the life of a believer. “God why?” Many people have suffered loss, be it the loss of a loved one, a job, material possessions, broken relationships, broken marriages. Some are facing poverty, various illnesses and infirmities for which they did not bring upon themselves and they question why God would allow them to go through what they are being faced with. There is never an easy response to that question because the answer always sounds so cliché but I am a firm believer that God does not place on His children more than He knows they are able to handle. The question then is “How can we truly know the strength of our abilities or the depth of our faith, if they have never been tested?”

Job is a perfect example of someone that reflected the epitome of righteousness but yet God allowed Satan to destroy all that He had so that Job’s faith might be tested. He lost everything, his family and his wealth, but the story didn’t end there. The end result was that God gave Job double not only for his trouble but also for his faithfulness. Thus proving to the devil that Job was in fact an overcomer and He had the final say.

As Mothers’ Day approaches, I am reminded of the pain that many people who have lost their mothers will be faced with this weekend. For some, the wounds created by their loss are still fresh, while for others, this weekend of celebration bares with it the bitter sweet memories of old times coupled with the old wounds that followed their passing. It is a constant yearly reminder that she is no longer here on earth to celebrate another Mothers’ Day with them.

This coming Sunday will mark the 4th Anniversary of my grandmother’s passing, but it wasn’t the day that her breath left her body that I remember most about the painful experience of her death, it was the days leading up to it. Let’s face it, she was 92 years old and had well exceeded her promised years here on earth. I had long been preparing my heart and mind for the inevitable but absolutely nothing had prepared me for the toll that caring for my ailing grandmother would have on me. For ten years I watched the once, healthy, vibrant, independent, proud, poised statue of a woman slowly deteriorate to the frail, helpless, completely dependent and now bid ridden structure. I remember in the final hours of her life, walking into her room and becoming overwhelmed with a feeling of total helplessness. I stood there for what seemed like forever and watched the life slowly drain from her body. It had been days since she had eaten, she was rapidly losing weight and slowly she was becoming more and more unresponsive. Completely incapacitated, her breathing faint, unable to move, speak or even comprehend anything that was going on around her; it was more than clear that it was only a matter of time.

I remember in that moment turning away, walking back into the kitchen and bursting into tears, as I asked the question, “God why?!” And it was not a question of “why was this happening?” I knew full well that it was her time to go; she had lived a full life but mine was just starting and I was already mentally and emotionally exhausted from the journey. My question carried a far greater weight for which I did not have the mental capacity to fully articulate at the time.

Someone once said “Sometimes you don’t realize the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release.” You see, the passing of my grandmother did not just signify the loss of a mother; it was symbolic of the end of an extremely long season. As her primary caregiver and only blood relative living in the same country, that season carried with it, an incredible level of responsibility that at times felt like a massive load that I was far from equipped to carry at such a young age.

However, along with its pains and challenges came also an equal amount of skills, a wealth of knowledge and an uncommon level of wisdom gained, that could not have been obtained any other way than through that experience itself. It also forced me out of the comfort of dependency on others to think and to do for me what I thought I never could. I had to learn very early on in life to become independent in everything that I did. The responsibility of caring for someone else gave me a sense of courage and commitment. I was forced to keep moving and to be strong even when I didn’t want to because someone else’ life depended on it.

I have learnt that the pain of life’s experiences acts as a catapult to some of life’s greatest achievements. It is the bridge that connects our weaknesses to that of our strengths, the scale that balances our confidence to that of our humility. It is the ladder to which every step upward symbolizes another weakness conquered.

So it turns out Paul wasn’t so crazy after all, he was on to something. In Romans 5 he again reiterates this same notion:
“ Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

The revelation that pain does serve a purpose became even more evident during the birth of my son. I was excited about finally meeting the little person that had been sharing my personal space for the last forty-one weeks; but I was just as relieved to finally be rid of the extra weight that I had been carrying around for the last nine months. My sleeping pattern had become increasingly uncomfortable, as my bathroom trips forced me to get up multiple times throughout the night because of the pressure of the baby’s weight pressing against my bladder. Moreover, normally I was most comfortable sleeping on my stomach but by the third month my options were limited to left side or right.

Overall, pregnancy was an overwhelmingly beautiful experience but I was more than ready to be done with it! The overnight bag was packed well in advance and it was time to serve the little person who had outgrown his shared space an eviction notice! He was doing well and was in full formation to make his grand entrance into the world but my body was very slowly dilating.

It seems, the advised at-home-remedy that I had taken just the day before had triggered contractions but didn’t work out quite the way I had anticipated. After settling in to the delivery room, four hours had lapsed and there was still no progress; I was tired, hungry but patient nonetheless. I had watched enough TLC Baby Stories to know that sometimes these things could take all day, but time was of the essence, so my doctor ordered the oxytocin to help speed up the process. Now, initially I had a birth plan that included an all-natural birth, free of any form of medicine or chemical. I was hard fixed on it for months but in the grand scheme of things, I had to come to the realization that a safe delivery and a healthy baby was far more important than my own dream of becoming a super hero. So when I saw that I had already passed the first half of the day, I was well aware that I needed reinforcement and with a narrow window of opportunity I ordered the epidural. I was done playing Wonder woman and I recognized that after so many hours of labor there was only so much that my physical body could take. I also needed to be well rested with enough energy to push when the time came and this chemical injection would make that all possible. So with birth plan now tossed out the window, I gladly surrendered!

The anesthesiologist came into the room and began making the necessary preparation to administer the commonly known miracle drug used by wise women the world over during labor. Prepping the area for the injection and insertion of the catheter, the words that came next held the most profound meaning of the entire labor day experience “I need you to be completely still, while I am doing this. Now, you will feel a very cold sensation around the spinal area but that is normal. I will give you a low dosage which is just enough to help alleviate some of the discomfort and relax the muscles but it won’t be enough to completely numb your system because you need to be able to feel some level of pain or pressure during labor. That pain is an indication that you are having a contraction and that you should push. If I completely remove your ability to feel anything at all then you won’t be able to bear down and push with the contractions.”
In the moment, although I understood what was being explained to me, the revelation of it all held absolutely no relevance until months later.

Needless to say, three doses and five hours later, it was time to push and sure enough there was sufficient pain to indicate exactly when I needed to do just that! I will spare you the gory details of what the next 30 minutes of the labor experience entailed but just know that for me it held one of the greatest lessons on the purpose of pain and the power of persevering through it all. During labor, my tunnel vision was in full effect! I had already been forewarned that if I didn’t get this done soon, the doctor would have to move on to plan B; and plan B was not an option for me!

Though exhausted from nearly eleven hours of labor, I knew that the pain that I was feeling was temporary and pushing through the pressure would ultimately give way to a much greater purpose. With my husband at one end of the bed and the doctor at the other, they relentlessly cheered me on with every contraction, both holding a leg. LOL! I was determined to get this right! I had failed at many things in my life but this was not going to be one of them! A life depended on my ability to push. So with everything that I had left in me, I pushed and after thirty minutes of pushing and a total of eleven hours of labor a healthy baby boy was born.

The analogy of childbearing maybe physical in nature, but I think in so many ways, it can be likened to most of life’s challenging situations. Most times, it is very difficult to focus on what is ahead when our temporary set backs are staring us right in the face. It is in those times that we must always remember that we are never in it alone. We might not always see them, but God is there every step of the way cheering us on as we push beyond the pressures of our present circumstances; he releases his angels of grace, mercy and protection as reinforcements during our weakest moments but it is up to us to call on Him during those times. Sometimes our plans get derailed because of circumstances beyond our control, but God in all of His infinite wisdom always provides for us a way out. His plans for us are always far greater than we can ever think, hope or even imagine. So when you are forced to tap out or give up, it is imperative to see beyond the scope of your current temporary situation. It is important to know that with every struggle that you face, pushing past the pain of that season will eventually give birth to a greater purpose. You might not be able to see it now but the reward for your troubles is wrapped in a beautiful gift yet to be unveiled.

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”
― Lance Armstrong, Every Second Counts

 

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Clean Hands…Impure Heart!

 

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Gandhi

So many people share the same sentiments as Mahatma. This is not only the cry of those that have never darkened the doorsteps of a church building, but sadly enough, this is the lament of those that have experienced by participation the religion called Christianity. Unfortunately, as a result, there are people that have completely given up on the gospel of salvation and God because of one bad encounter with an individual or a group of people that misrepresented the true nature of what a Christian is supposed to look like.

The saying is true, “hurting people, hurt people”. I will be the first to admit, I have been on both ends of the spectrum. You see, although I had made a conscious decision to walk away from the religious dogma that held me captive and develop a genuine relationship with God, the experience(s) of my past had left behind years of bitter memories and scars from which I had not completely healed.  I  had dedicated my life to God, I was praying, reading my bible and had reconnected myself to a local church.  I thought I was walking the straight and narrow, by all intents and purposes, my life was now “clean”! Saved, sanctified, water baptized, spirit filled…No longer ashamed to lift up “unholy hands” for fear of scrutiny under the watchful eyes of those that knew my secret sins.  I was now able to walk with my head held high, and that I did! For the first time in my life, I felt like a free independent woman, in control of her own life, not having to compromise her standards for anything or anyone! I felt accomplished!

Little that I knew, time and life would soon reveal that I wasn’t as “righteous” as I thought I was. You see, my hands were now clean BUT my heart…what was the condition of my heart? For a brief moment I went through the new born baby Christian stage; you know the one I mean!  The “happy-go-lucky over zealous I want to save the whole world” stage.  I was just so happy and relieved to be freed from so many years of mental and spiritual bondage that I basked in that phase for a good while!  As time progressed, and the months turned into years I discovered that confessing my sins, dedicating my life to God and walking the “straight and narrow” did not in any way guarantee a smooth journey through life as a Christian and it certainly did not protect me from the battle that would soon rage from within.

I recognized that although I was now “saved”, my mind and my heart to a large degree, still mirrored the brokenness of my past. It did not manifest immediately though, once there was no opposition, all was well in my world but as soon as I felt like I was being mistreated or humiliated-those familiar spirits of rejection, inadequacy and insecurity would cause me to react in ways that were far less than “Christ-like”.  And 95% of the time it was in cases where I honestly felt like the victim, not realizing that my reaction or need to defend myself actually made me the villain in the eyes of the culprit and those that were watching.  I was slowly losing my witness and it would take more than a prayer of confession and some scriptures to break through the thick walls that had been built up around the perimeters of my deeply scarred heart.

I recall a teaching delivered a few years ago during a corporate consecration service at my church.  The pastor was teaching on fasting and prayer and some of the things that can hinder our prayers from being answered. “One of those things is iniquity” he said, “these are the secret sins of the heart, the inner thoughts that contradict God’s nature and character”.  He went on to list them  “…pride, jealousy, covetousness, hatred, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness…to the natural eye you look like you have it all together, you walk around wearing your long dresses, your religious regalia, your religious bumper stickers, you can quote the scriptures from cover to cover, you take your big bibles to work and put it on your desk for all to see.  You make it clear to the world “I am a Christian” but I wonder…what does God see when He looks at your heart?”

At the end of the pastor’s teaching he compelled those in the audience that felt like God was speaking to them through the message to kneel down from the place where they sat and confess every iniquity before God; allowing the Holy Spirit to wash our minds clean from those secret sins of the heart.  I felt convicted that God was speaking to the spirits of resentment and unforgiveness in me that for so long had controlled a large part of my life. That night, I made a deliberate decision to release the people that had hurt me unknowingly and intentionally, from my past and my present.  I recognized that carrying the load of someone else’ wrong doings on my shoulders was too great a burden and it was not worth the weight.  I had to ask the Holy Spirit to give me the grace that I needed to release them from my heart.  I had to release my mind from the negative labels that had been placed on me and embrace God’s thoughts toward me- that I was more than a conqueror, that I was the apple of God’s eye, that I was fearfully and wonderfully made in the image and likeness of royalty. I had to renounce every negative word that had ever been spoken over my life and declare the promises of God for me- that He had plans to give me a hope and a bright future.

I had to believe that if I never got an apology or there was no vindication God had me and that somehow every thing that had been meant for my bad, He was orchestrating events and circumstances to turn out for my good in the end. I had to believe that I would come out bigger and better because of it. I had to believe that God was on my side, I did not have to fight my own battles.  I had to come to the realization that some battles were not worth fighting and that not fighting them did not make me weaker, but rather, it would inevitably make me wiser. I had to believe that in the fullness of time God would reward me for letting it go and taking the road less travelled.  I had to LET IT GO, not just for me but for the few people that were depending on me to be ok, not just physically but mentally and emotionally.

Forgiveness did not come overnight, it was a process but walking out the process with that mindset made the journey a whole lot easier.  And guess what? I have come to understand that the process of forgiveness is an ongoing one! Why? Because although I have forgiven those past sins of myself and others, I recognize that as long as I am breathing more offenses will come. And whether I am on the receiving end or the one dishing it out, the fact remains, we are all imperfect beings living in an imperfect world where we will be challenged one way or the other…it is simply apart of life. I have learnt that I cannot control another person’s actions but I can control how I choose to respond to it and that is all the control that I need.

Many of you, like me have encountered offenses of varying levels that have placed you in the category of victim, villain or both. Some of you are still struggling with issues of the past while others of you are currently facing those same mountains. Maybe, you have disqualified the notion of developing an authentic relationship with God because of what someone else did to you. Perhaps, you have a relationship with God but there are some grey areas that you have not completely surrendered to Him because you have become discouraged or distrusting.

May I submit to you, that we are ALL on a journey to becoming the very same characteristics that we strongly desire to see reflected in someone else that call themselves Christians. “How much of my life have I decided to yield completely to the will of God?”- the answer to that question is what draws the distinction between all of us. That is the one thing that makes the difference in our thought patterns, our intentions and ultimately our actions.

Living a Christ-like life for me now has so much more to do with the posture of my heart and mind. I am no longer concerned about keeping up external appearances for the sake of looking “holy” as much as I am concerned about actually pleasing God for real. I find that the more I submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit regarding my daily walk as a believer, the easier it becomes to live a life of complete freedom in Him. Everyday is not easy and I’m sorry to disappoint you but I don’t think that it ever will be, but knowing that my life is hidden in Christ is so much more reassuring than living without him or living in the grey area of uncertainty.

There is an indescribable peace that comes with knowing that no matter what others do or say, whether saved or unsaved, my relationship with God is independent of it all.  Knowing that the only mediator between me and God is Jesus Christ puts my mind at ease. With that kind of relationship comes an incomprehensible level of confidence in knowing that I belong to a God that is sovereign, all knowing, omni present and can do the impossible in my life.

He made me so many promises and I am looking forward to seeing those promises fulfilled in my lifetime. Those same promises are available to you. In order to receive them, all that He requires from us is that we have not just clean hands but pure hearts…who could resist a deal like that? #Psalm 24

“All the water in the oceans cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside. Nor can all the trouble in the world harm us unless it gets within us”
― Goi Nasu