Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Just in The Nick of Time

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. - Romans 5:3-5

The space between praying for something and getting an answer from God can be confusing and frustrating. If you're like me, patience is not your best virtue and the waiting can literally drive you crazy. For the last several months I have been specifically praying that God would open a door for me. There were days I lost my faith and there were moments when I forgot that God can do anything. My faith was most definitely tested and many tears were shed. Well, today I got an answer and it was just in the nick of time. I'm not only grateful for this new beginning, but I'm also grateful for God's grace and mercy along the way.

There is someone reading this who is asking God why they haven't gotten an answer to their prayer. They may be mentally and physically exhausted. Their spirit might be broken and it seems like their situation isn't getting any better. If this is you, I want to remind you that God has not forgotten about you. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). Whatever you are hoping for and whatever you cannot yet see with your own eyes is just a prayer away. Keep praying. Keep speaking into existence. Rest in God's word daily and let it renew your mind and your spirit. Take life one day at a time and know that God is working things out. 

Just think, if we always got what we prayed for right when we prayed for it, we would never truly build a relationship with God. Our pain, our joys, our triumphs, our let downs, etc. are all part of a bigger plan. They are all meant to teach us something and hopefully we don't miss the lesson. As such, I am convinced that no matter what we ever deal with in life, God is at the center. Those things we don't understand, God is there. That answer we're waiting for, God is there. The uncertainty of what the future holds, God is there. Whatever you are praying for, God is there. God's presence in our situation doesn't mean we will always get what we've asked for but I've learned that closed doors are just displays of God's protection. 

My experience has taught me the value in running to God and not people. It has reminded me that the most logical advice can many times be so very far from God's word. People may have the very best intention but there is so much power in giving all our cares and worries to God and God alone. He is the prince of peace and when we allow Him to move as only He does, things start to happen even if we can't see it just yet. 

To the woman who is tirelessly praying, know that God hears every prayer you pray. The harder things get, the harder we have to prayer. The more uncertain things become, the more we have to speak life into our situation. Again, it's not easy but I don't think this walk with Jesus was meant to be. When it's all said in done, I truly believe our suffering will never be in vein. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Free from Clutter

Over the last few months (Yes, months!) I've been slowly getting rid of all kinds of junk in my apartment. From shoes to clothes to papers I wrote all the way back in college, I've been getting rid of things I just don't need. I graduated from under grad in 2005 so that should tell you the magnitude of how much stuff I've been carrying around from Houston, Texas to Alexandria, Virginia, to Austin, Texas. I guess you can say that I've had this undeniable desire to get rid of clutter in my life and I’ve found so much clarity from doing so.

I can remember a time when I was living above my means without a care in the world. Saving money wasn’t even a priority for me at that time in my life because I just wanted to look like everyone else. Funny thing is even with all those “things” I still never really fit in. That’s my truth but no matter your situation, we can all find peace in knowing that our value comes from God alone. When our favorite things are stripped from us, we can still walk with confidence because we are who God says we are.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

As I’ve boxed up books, packed up clothes, and put my shredder to work, I have felt so free. While I still have the impulse to splurge every now and again, I fully understand that my value comes from God alone. There is nothing that we can buy that will ever give us the joy and peace that comes from God. I’m certainly not here to say that there is something wrong with buying nice things. I absolutely believe that if you work hard it is more than okay to treat yourself, especially if you deal with hell for eight hours a day! However, I do believe that there is something about understanding needs versus wants and I haven’t always understood that.

We live in a world that encourages materialism and being in debt almost seems like the norm. Even if we can afford it, many times we just don’t need it. Not everyone is going to travel the road of minimalism and that’s okay. As long as we are living within our means and managing the things that God has given us, that is all that matters. May we never find our purpose or our identity in things hanging in our closet, sitting in the driveway, or the roof over our heads. No matter how much we enjoy the things that we have, let us always remember that the only constant in this world is our God. You are enough simply because you are a child of God and that is good news.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Tired of Waiting

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

I haven't blogged in quite a while. I guess you can say life has had my mind a bit occupied. I started 2016 with a hope and a prayer that some big changes would happen in my life. Well, sometimes we pray for things and we don't get the answer we hoped for. Then there are times we just have to wait a while to get an answer. When that happens we have a decision to make. We can either trust that God is in control or we can kick and scream out of frustration. 

In the last couple of months I’ve felt completely lost and confused when it comes to what exactly I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I’ve grown a bit impatient waiting on God to tell me what to do with myself and I’ve wondered if the season I’m in is meant to teach me how to rest in God’s presence. Maybe I need to stop worrying about the next chapter of my life and focus on pleasing God right where I am. I don’t have it all figured out but I’ve made the conscious decision to stop trying to map out my life. Our lives have already been planned and I can’t forget I’ve been here before. I survived then and I’ll survive now because God hasn’t forgotten about me. He hasn’t forgotten about you either!

I’m still feeling a bit uncertain about the future but on the other side of all the question marks is a peace that can only come from God. I’m thankful for the people in my life who remind me daily that God is intentional and nothing is by accident. I’m grateful for those moments when I feel the presence of God surrounding me and it gives me a boost of confidence. Our minds and our flesh can so easily go in the wrong direction but when we consciously fix our minds on God that is when we experience true peace. We have to be so intentional about feeding our faith because if we don’t, there’s the tendency to lean on our own understanding.

I can tell you that I have no idea where I’ll be career wise in the next few months. I’m not sure what God has in store for me in Austin, Texas but something tells me when it’s all said and done that He will exceed every single prayer I have prayed over my life. I understand that I’ve got to let go of the how and the when. When we pray for things we have to be open to what God has planned for us, fully knowing that His plans are better than our own. In those moments when we want to let out a scream or maybe some not so nice choice words, we’ve got to stop in our tracks and just breathe. We’ve got to hold on to the promises of God. We darn sure have to remember that as long as we are connected to Christ that somehow we will always land on our own two feet.

So while we wait on God to give us direction, I’m convinced we just need to focus on how good He is. We ought to fix our minds on those things that ignite our faith and quiet those voices in our heads. Let us not miss what God is trying to tell us exactly where we are. After all, victory awaits!

P.S. I haven't been a complete waste of space since January 1st. I'm slowly but surely finishing up my second book. I also had the opportunity to speak at the She Inspires Creative Brunch on March 5, 2016, organized by an amazing woman who goes by the name of Nycia Emerson. Visit her blog and check out some pictures from the event. 

Visit Lilac and Fig!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Making Moves Together

Women who support other women are CONFIDENT, GENEROUS, VISIONARIES. - Mariela Dabbah

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of sitting with one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met in my life. Over coffee we talked about life, the challenges of chasing our dreams, and most importantly, we exchanged stories of how God has moved in each of our lives. It was a perfect afternoon filled with complete transparency as we encouraged one another with no hesitation. We ended our day with a prayer that left me smiling the entire ride home.

Over the last six months or so I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the most supportive women I've ever met. While we may not all have the same interests or goals, we all share a drive inside of us to do something big. We don’t define success the same way but we indeed have a desire to set the bar high for ourselves. Most importantly, we want to see one another win. The conversations I’ve had have with these women have been nothing short of uplifting but life has taught me that this isn’t always the case. Sincere gestures of love and support can also take place in a room where there is division, cold shoulders, and a whole lot of side eye. The ugly truth is that many times competition, jealousy, and envy seem to take precedence over connecting, mentoring, and sharing.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phillipians 2:3-4

I can’t help but think that God feels disappointed when women are unable to support one another. As woman of God, I don’t think we were created to size up each other or huddle together to talk about the next woman on the rise. But more often than not, that is very well the case. Even if it may not be your truth, there is the tendency for us as women to not be as kind and gentle towards one another as we should be. Call me crazy but I strongly believe that there is power in coming together and loving on one another. 

What is even more powerful is the fact that God doesn’t have to take away from one person in order to bless the next. We must always remember that our God is powerful. When He blesses you, it doesn’t take away from what He has blessed me with and vice versa. No matter how many doors He opens for the next person, that doesn’t take away from the plans God has for you. When we pour into other people it will never take away from what God has for us, but rather it’s like planting a seed.

The spirit of competition among women who have each been given their own talents and abilities is so unfortunate. When we understand that our gifts, our talents, and our unique abilities have absolutely nothing to do with us, that is when God really starts to use us.  We are merely vessels and at the end of the day, without God we are nothing. We must always get down on our knees and give God thanks because it is all because of His grace and mercy. Again, ladies this isn’t about us. It’s all about Him. So that means we should never walk around with our nose stuck in the air. Never should we look at the next woman as our competition but rather an ally.

To the woman who feels threatened by the next person coming up, know that God has already planned your life and not a devil in hell can’t keep you from your destiny. To the woman who isn’t so willing to share information with others because she’s afraid they might do better than her, know that when you sincerly bless someone else God will honor that. And to the woman who struggles to be happy for others when they succeed, please remember to count your blessings.

May we as women of God come together and learn from one another. May there be more support and less criticism. More words of sincere encouragement and less whispers of sabotage. More community. More love. More women coming together to pray for one another fully understanding that God has a unique plan for each of us. When we do this, that’s when God really shows up. That’s when we take our maturity and faith to the next level. That is when we find confidence in God's word. That’s when we really express to God that we are secure in knowing that He has great things in store for all of us. That is the beginning of true sisterhood.

So that means the next time you walk into a room full of brilliant minds, know that you are enough. Know that you are not lacking anything but rather you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. Walk with confidence not because you think you're better but because you know that you are capable. The woman sitting to your right may look different than you and the woman sitting to your left might have more money than you, but so what?! Our God is intentional and I can assure you that no matter how many people do what you do, they don’t do it like you! There is room at the table for all of us as and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can make moves together. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Year of Intention

This is the year of INTENTION. I feel like I’ve only gotten a glimpse of what God has in store for me, so now it’s time to focus like never before. While we may not share the same goals, one thing is for certain, a dream will always remain a dream unless you are willing to take some risks. More importantly, a dream backed up by purpose and prayer is an unstoppable combination. It took me thirty-one years on this earth to have enough faith and determination to go after my dream of being an author. THIRTY-ONE YEARS! It’s time to stop talking about it and do something. It’s time to stop sitting on the sidelines feeling envious of others when all you have to do is put some action behind your ambition. It’s time to be bold!

There are practical things we can do in order to be more productive and intentional about our goals. I’ve shared a few below and I hope it gives someone some motivation to make this year their best year yet. Whatever you are hoping for, praying for, and believing, for, remember that faith without works is dead (James 2: 14-26). We can quote scriptures all day long about how good God is and how He’s in the business of blessing folks but let’s not forget God is not Google. It’s time to put in some work!!

Sometimes we have to choose between people and our purpose. I know for a fact that if certain people were still in my life, I wouldn’t have been able to discipline myself last year. Often times we connect ourselves with people who are merely distractions. It’s not always easy to identify that when our hearts are involved. Only you know your situation but take inventory of the people in your circle because they indeed have influence on you.

Identify the distractions. Distractions aren't just limited to people. You’d be surprised by how much we can get done if we actually spent less time doing things that add no value to our lives. I didn’t realize just how much time I spent watching television until I started the process of writing my first book. (Take it from me, if you have DVR, record it and watch it later. If you don’t have a DVR, you aren’t missing anything! Most of what comes on television these days is contrary to God’s word anyway.) Set yourself up for success by identifying what distracts you from your purpose. 

Don’t confuse socializing with networking. Last year I couldn’t always hang out with friends. I couldn’t always accept every invitation to go to dinner either. Sure I went sometimes because we all need a break from time to time, but I was intentional about making sure I met deadlines. If that meant staying home on a Friday night, that’s what I did. 

Start networking and connecting. I can remember a time when I was too afraid to go to events by myself. No more! I met some amazing women last year who are kind, uplifting, and eager to support others. Remember, God did not give us a spirit of fear, so seek out opportunities to network in your community. You’re bound to meet some amazing people who will inspire you.

Don’t rush into something without doing your homework. Sometimes excitement can get the best of us and we move too quickly on things. There is value in investing in yourself whether it’s taking relevant courses in the industry you’re in or simply using Google to get the answers you need. The more you know, the more educated decisions you will make.

Stay true to yourself and your talents. God gave you the ability to do what you do in a unique way. Own that! You don’t have to conform to how someone else does something just because it works for them. Sure you can learn from others but don’t get hung up in being a mirror image of someone else. Be teachable but stay true to yourself. 

Don’t be so hard on yourself. I think setting specific goals are important but life happens. For me I work a full time job in addition to writing, so it gets a little crazy sometimes. I hate to push things back but sometimes I just have to do what I have to do. When things come up, we can choose to waste precious time complaining or we can focus on adjusting as needed. It’s up to you.

Take a good look at your finances. I think it’s extremely important to look at your finances before starting a business. Taking a good look at your spending, your credit score, and whether or not you can afford to start a business is important. I’m not a fan of taking out loans or creating debt but make sure you make an educated and wise decision before taking off. Your dream is not denied if you need to save up this year and execute later. Just make sure you do what you can afford. 

Don’t compare yourself to others. I don’t believe in competition. Period. We all bring something to the table and there is no need to measure our success by comparing it to someone else’s. Was my book a best seller? Not according to Amazon. I could beat myself up about that but I choose not to. I could compare myself to others authors I know who have been Amazon best sellers, but what good would that do to my confidence or my purpose? When we compare ourselves to others, it’s almost like we turn a blind eye to what God has blessed us with. We should always be supportive of others as well because their blessings don’t take away from your own.

 I saved the best for last....

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; The evidence of things unseen. Hebrews 11: 1 

Your faith is your secret weapon. I think we sometimes complicate things out of fear. We hesitate to even try and then when the first set back happens, we run for the hills. Well, I’m pretty sure every successful person on this planet has experienced tough times. Set backs are inevitable in this life. Mistakes are going to happen. Not everybody is going to like you or support you! You might even shed some tears wondering how your dreams are going to come to reality (I've been there). Keep feeding your faith. Trust in God. Make sure you partner with God first before anybody else. That is my main priority this year. I want to make sure that I don’t get lost in my ambition and forget from whom my blessings come from. If we can hold on no matter what is in front of us and believe that God is in it with us, we cannot fail.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dear Dreamer - Farewell 2015

Dear Dreamer,

I couldn’t think of a better way to end a year of blogging than to write a letter of you. We may have never met in real life but I’m pretty sure we have some things in common, from moments of feeling immense joy to seasons of feeling completely lost. There’s this tendency to feel like no one understands our pain or our frustrations in life, but really, if we peeled the layers of pride away, we would all learn that we indeed share more than we realize. So, before I go any further, I want to remind you that you aren’t alone.

There is someone out there feeling a bit down in the dumps. Maybe you didn’t achieve everything you set out to do in 2015. Maybe you experienced more failures than victories. Maybe heartbreak kept you from living life to the fullest. If you can relate to any of the above, don’t walk into a new year feeling defeated but rather understand that you were not created to walk around with your head down (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). The enemy knows what lives inside of you and you better believe he will look for every opportunity to keep you from your purpose! It’s time for you to pick your head up and exercise faith, patience, and pure determination.

I can tell you that it's not easy to do something you've never done before. There's uncertainty and doubt and sometimes we look to people to validate our dreams. We feel like we can’t step out on faith until the people closest to us tell us that we can do it. Well, there are women out there who are still waiting on those words to be spoken by their friends and family. If this has been your experience, let me be the one to tell you that you are more than capable. The Holy Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 3:16) and therefore, that is the only validation that you need. Don't wait for anyone to tell you that you can do something and if you're lacking support, use that as your motivation to start chasing your dreams. 

Believe in the gifts that God has given you. Believe that the journey will not be the same for all of us but the outcome will be the same and that is victory. Even if you don’t know the how or the when, don’t let go of the dreams that keep you up at night. Don’t be intimidated by all the question marks but find peace in knowing that God has all the answers. Position yourself to hear from God so that His plans become your plans. Let God do His thing but you have to take the first step. Whether it be enrolling in school, starting that business, or starting a non-profit, you’ve got to get up and get to work.

I don’t know where your relationship with God is, but I believe with all my heart that true success comes when we partner with God. This might be the perfect time to take a look at your relationship with God and how it can be better. Sometimes guilt and shame can make us feel like we are unworthy of God’s love but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Know that nothing will ever separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:39). He is better to us than we are to ourselves and His love runs deeper than any mistake, sin, or strong hold we have ever experienced. I want to encourage you to walk into the new year knowing that God has never and will never turn His back on you. He loves you deeply with no stipulations.

Falling in love with God is something I hope we all experience throughout our lives. We have to do more than just read God’s word. We have to believe in it, trust it, and practice it. It takes discipline but intentionally seeking God in all things is so worth it. We have a responsibility to make God a priority in our lives so while we make time for whatever it is we want for our lives, let's make sure we designate time for God as well. 

One of the biggest lessons I learned in 2015 is that God is bigger than any fear that we have. While we may not share the same fears, it can still have the same effect. It can hold us back from our purpose and strip us of our confidence. It’s time to face your fears and exercise some faith! Let’s approach all things with boldness because we understand that with God is our strength and through Him all things are possible (Philippians 4:13). Sure set backs will happen, but when the unexpected happens, that’s when we can expect God to show up! Our God is a powerful God and life has taught me that sometimes set backs are really just reminders that we aren’t in control of anything. That means when things don’t go your way, keep going!

I hope and pray that 2016 will be everything you want it to be. It’s my prayer that we would be a light in this world that seems to be filled with so much darkness. I hope that we as Christian women would encourage one another. Remember to never put God in a box and never let your circumstances distract you from whatever God has placed on your heart to do. I hope that you will experience abundant joy, success, and growth in every area of your life. 

Remember that daily reminders of who God is and who you are because He is your father is critical because this world can be mean, ugly, and down right discouraging. Walk into the new year knowing that you are enough. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are capable. Dream without limitations and trust that God will be with you every step of the way.