Stay in the Closet

“Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children.”

Today’s morning devotional led me to this scripture in Ephesians 5:1. The Holy Spirit suspended my heart within the words as he painted a picture of a young girl playing dress up in her mother’s closet. I still remember being a child, awkwardly stumbling around in my mother’s high heels trying to emanate her femininity. I never got farther than two or three steps without losing my balance and my feet spent more time outside of the pumps as my size fours struggled to remain grounded in a size I won’t mention. As I think back to those glorious days of exploration in my mom’s closet, I’m drawn to the absence of the one emotion that seems most befitting to the experience. Fear.

In a closet completely packed with things too big for me, I never once felt swallowed. The thought never crossed my mind that I should be afraid of putting on things that weren’t my size. Why? Well, there’s a few reasons.

One: my mother was my safe place. My trust in her far outweighed my own inabilities. If she wore these things, how could they be harmful to me? Two: more than anyone in the world, I wanted to be like my mother and the force of that drive blocked out any would be fears from stopping me. And finally three: running pretty concurrently with my previous reason, I simply wanted to be like my mom and in my childish head, the best way to do that was to imitate her.

God is ushering us to step into His closet: put on the patience you have to hold up as you trip over its length, slip into the selflessness that seems to slow your pace, and try on the kindness that overwhelms your own will. Christ has invited us to put on His attributes as our own and in that invitation lies trust, fearlessness and the grace to don the character of the savior. And hear this, you don’t have to feel capable of being like Christ in order to be like Christ. You just have to trust Christ and take Him at His word. You have been redeemed. There have been many times in my walk with God that I’ve wanted to throw in the towel because being patient, kind, and putting others before myself felt too difficult. That’s because I was trying to wear my own version of God’s character. I felt overtaken by my inability to mirror Christ. Yet, I never left His closet. I never stopped putting on His clothes, no matter how much they hung. I played dress up until the dress fit. I stayed, seeking God and drawing closer to Him as I matured into (some of ) the garments. Just as the little girl in her mother’s closet will one day walk confidently in the shoes she once stumbled in, so can we mature into the articles of Christ’s love.

A final note…

In order to be like someone, we have to know them. When actors take on roles where they have to portray real people, they delve deep into the life of that person. In preparation for biopics, actors will study the way a person speaks, their mannerisms, and they even try to get a grasp on the proclivities of their mind. If people trying to portray other people go to such great lengths for the sake of a believable work of art, how much more should we draw closer to our creator, so that we may imitate Him in all holiness, righteousness, truth, and love?

Hidden Idols

An idol, simply put, is a false god. Although scripture warns us time and time again not to fall prey to idolatrous behavior, it’s one of the most prevalent sins. Over time, the meaning of the word has evolved, allowing its true denotation to be hidden. For instance, in the old testament of the bible, we see the original meaning of the word in action through carved idols, such as Israel’s golden calf. In the new testament, however, we find a world a bit more paralleled to our own where idolatry takes the form of physical pleasures and worldly pursuits. Still, today’s iteration of the word proves itself more cunning through shows like, “American Idol,” where we are encouraged to idolize others for their talents and abilities.

The connotative evolution of the word has made the act of idolization difficult to spot. While the church has gotten comfortable with the lie that idolatry exists only in worldly behavior, satan has weaved this sin into the body of Christ in ways undetected. To be clear, anything we put before God in our life is an idol. This includes, but is not limited to: marriage, spouses, children, careers, obsessions, entertainment that doesn’t glorify God, and… fear. Yes, fear. That’s what I want to talk about.

As I was having QT with God a week or so ago, I was mulling over some ideas He had inspired within me. I tried to tip toe around addressing why I’d been dragging my feet in pursuing them but before I could deflect into more pleasant conversation, God outed me: you have made an idol of fear. It took me a moment to grasp that reality because I’d never thought of negative emotions as idolatry. I viewed them as struggles to overcome, not idols to strike down. But as I pondered God’s revelation, I began to understand that idolatry is not limited. Anything outside of God has the potential to be an idol; anything we place over God IS an idol. Even things of God. Hear me. Marriage, for instance was created by God as something good. However, If I were to obsess over a desire to be married, I would then be worshiping the creation (of marriage in this instance) and not the creator Himself. In my case, God didn’t even create the fear I had, and yet I bowed to it. I allowed it to dictate my decisions, define my abilities, and appraise my worth. I was living in light of my fear, not my faith.

My faith will not be belittled by my fear. I don’t want that for you, I don’t want it for myself, and it’s not what God has for either of us. But it’s important that we keep our spirits alert and our armor fastened tightly about us because satan will enter in through whatever door is open.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1Peter 5:8

I wanted to shed light on fear as an idol, specifically, because I think Christians accept it too easily. Yet God has called us to war against the spirit of fear through His Word, prayer, and worship. Take heart in knowing that, God has already defeated the enemy, we are simply at war with his lies.

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

I Choose Purpose (Pt II)

Alright, you’ve convinced me. I’m ready to wake from this dream and step into my purpose! Now what?

Now begins the journey.

The first order of business: surrender.

You’ve accepted God’s invitation to go beyond the borders of your dreams and into the land of Destiny. Don’t be ashamed at your hesitance to call this new place home. Resistance to change is natural and your flesh will make every excuse to send you back to the familiarity of your previous residence. Don’t give in. Strengthen your resolve through prayer and meditation on the infallible truth of God’s word. God is calling you to lay your worries and fears at the foot of His throne and step into the life He has called you to live.

After surrender comes action. You’ve committed to living God’s purpose for your life, but what does that actually look like? As I was praying for direction and insight on what needed to be addressed in part two of this post, God revealed to me three major hurdles people face when choosing to live a life of purpose. I pray that as we cover these three struggles, God would give you peace, direction, and courage of heart to embrace His will for your life.

Let’s get into it!

1. I don’t know what my purpose is.

Don’t panic if you don’t know what your calling is, God knows. A good starting point, however, is to explore your interests: what are you naturally good at that you’re afraid to admit or pursue? Put yourself in an environment (Church is a great option!) that will foster those interests and see where it leads. Discovery may not happen right away. That’s okay, keep at it. I recently read a quote that really stuck with me.

A struggle I still grapple with. What if I’m not good at it? What if people make fun of me or don’t take me seriously? Drop the what ifs and just go for it! So what if people laugh at you. Not one servant of Christ has been called to please people. In fact, Colossians 3:23 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” And really, looking stupid comes down to a matter of pride, and you must let that go if it’s purpose you’re after. Above all else, seek the Lord through prayer in regards to His vision for your life. One of my favorite prayers over my own life is asking God to take away any wants or desires I have that don’t align with who He’s purposed me to be. Be patient. The journey is just as much a part of your purpose as the purpose itself. Read it again ya’ll. Delight in inching closer to you’re destiny, not arriving overnight.

2. I have responsibilities preventing me from living my purpose.

If this is you, check your priorities. God has not given you a purpose that you are too busy or tied up to fulfill. A while ago, I read a book called, “Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets them Free,” and it truly changed my outlook on so many things I thought I understood. One of my favorite topics from the book dismantled the idea that we don’t have enough time to do all the things life requires. The truth: we have enough time to do the things God requires.

“The truth is that all I have to do is what God assigns me to do. What a freedom it has been for me to accept that there is time for me to do everything that is on God’s “to do” list for my day, for my week, and for my life.”

If you feel your plate is too full, talk to God about what’s suppose to be on it and what’s not. Now, lean in close for this one: STOP MAKING EXCUSES, STOP MAKING EXCUSES, STOP MAKING EXCUSES. Excuse me—no pun intended—for shouting, but for real, you’re not fooling anyone but yourself hiding behind your why nots.

3. Fear.

The most intimidating four letter word there ever was, fear is written over five hundred times in the Bible. In each verse, we are either being instructed to fear God or incited not to fall prey to it. The verse I remember most comes by way of a worship song I sang in church as a little girl.

“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

You have no reason to fear because God goes before you in all things. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul even goes as far as to say, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” As you journey into your purpose, God will call you to places that go far beyond your own abilities. Remember the story of Jesus calling the disciples from the boat to walk on water with Him in the midst of a stormy sea? God will test your faith in the same way and if you fail to step out, you will be giving your fear power over your faith. Steady your sight on the author and finisher of your faith and rest in the knowledge that He has already overcome your fears.

Please understand that living in God’s will for your life will require constant sacrifice. Get ready to be uncomfortable, tested, and pushed to your limit. You will quickly learn the depth of your inadequacies. But God has not a called you to a purpose you are capable of fulfilling on your own. It is solely through Him that you will accomplish the things He has set before you.

Wanna know where I got my inspiration for this two part, “I Choose Purpose,” post?! Be on the lookout for a post about the movie that encouraged me to encourage you to choose purpose!

I Choose Purpose (Part I)

What’s the difference between a dream and a purpose?

Dictionary.com defines the word dream as “An aspiration; goal; aim.” Also, “A wild or vain fancy.” It defines the word purpose as, “The reason for which something exists, or is done, made, used, etc.”

Dreams are centered around what we want out of life, while purpose seeks what humanity needs out of us. The thorn in the side of human existence has forever been that we are a tragically self-serving race. We get so consumed by our ambitions and dreams that rarely do we stop to consider whether our goals are in alignment with our purpose. It’s not in the genetic construction of our souls to contemplate whether what we want is actually what we were created to be. Our dreams are spun into gold from the ideals, desires, and innate passions that fuel our notion of what it means to be happy. Purpose however, exists outside of what we want; it lives in the space of who God created us to be.

Why choose your purpose over your dream?

Dreams are man-made and temporary. No matter how long they last, we eventually wake up. For example, a successful vocalist may one day realize that her voice can no longer carry notes—smooth and effortless— the way it once had. And if said singer had made this vocal career her entire world and depended upon herself to nurture it, what would remain of her life once she awakened from her dream? Dreams fashioned, pursued, and purposed by human intentions will always have a shorter life expectancy than a God given destiny. As Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 informs us, the entire human experience is fleeting when under self-direction.

10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,
For my heart rejoiced in all my labor;
And this was my reward from all my labor.
11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.

Another incentive for choosing God’s purpose over our dreams is that we have more freedom in His plan. When we hand over our raw materials to Christ, he can make us into anything in this whole wide world. After all, Moses tells us in Genesis 2:7, that “…The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” Could we have done more with that dust than God himself? Perhaps we would’ve fancied ourselves cooks and made mud pies or sculptors and created elaborate sand castles. Though, our most feeble nor our greatest hypothetical use of the sand can be acknowledged, because without the breath of life filling a heaping pile of dirt, we don’t exist.

Are our talents worthless?

Absolutely not. God gifts us with all manner of talent and skill and He certainly intends for us to use them. However, it is our choice to decide how we wield these gifts. God created all things to glorify Him: If you sing, sing unto the Lord. If you dance, dance unto the Lord. It took me a long time to admit that I was passionate about writing because I was afraid of loving something I wouldn’t be good at. And even when I finally mustered up the guts to create this blog, I was in it for my own benefit. I wanted to prove to myself that I was good at writing by being validated by others. My pride and need for approval made me overly critical of my writing. It became more of a burden than a joy or gift, and I’d go stretches of weeks, often months without writing a single word. I was misusing my gift by allowing it and not God to define me and eventually, it made me miserable.

I hadn’t realized how deeply I associated my self-worth to my writing until I wrote that last paragraph.

Only up until a few weeks ago did God deliver me from that mindset. He told me to stop thinking that I had to achieve man- made merits and putting undue stress on something He gave me to enjoy. Whatever His will is for my gift will be accomplished through Him, not me. So, I let go. I gave my gift to God and ever since that day, I feel more free than I’ve ever been in regards to my writing. I traded in a gift; a talent; a dream, for a purpose. No, I don’t know the details and my purpose may not bear any resemblance to the dream I thought I needed, but it will be everything I never knew was waiting for me. It may not be bright and shiny, with flashing lights like I had dreamed, but it will be eternally fulfilling, spiritually satisfying, and a life that was hand chosen for me before I ever thought to dream my own dream.

I choose God’s purpose for my life over my dream(s).

Are You Willing to Give up Your Dreams for God’s Purpose?

Stay tuned for part II... 🙂

These are the Good ole Days

‘Tis a shame that tomorrow, I’ll long for today. While today, I long for tomorrow. And yesterday I longed for the day before. Can happiness truly be that elusive? I shudder to think that felicity exists everywhere but here and now. I can’t recall, ever, a time in my young life where I was content with the present beyond brief highs. Bursts of pleasure when surrounded by the warm laughter and company of my loved ones. I’ve known bliss in the moments when I received jobs I desperately wanted— and eventually hated— or when strolling down the magical streets of cities unknown. My contentment has always been dependent on the constant demand of something new. The millennial Y2K of THIRTY, is encroaching and I don’t want to enter it wishing for anymore than the present. In high school, I had grand ideas of what my life is suppose to look like a year from now. In reality, my life couldn’t be farther from what I anticipated. And I’m supremely delighted to be totally okay with it! I’m looking forward to the treasures of the unknown and the beauty of God wrecking my plans. Life is never, ever what we plan but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Today, filled with mostly rest, “Designing Women” reruns, absence from church, shortcomings and nothing new except a new day is still, “The good ole days.” ✌🏾

Climbing out of the Cave

I slept for over twelve hours last night. I didn’t get up until noon today. I want to go back to sleep but I can’t. I’m awake and being plagued by all the bizarre dreams I had last night. The most frightening one: I got fired. Dreams sometimes feel like an extension of reality. Dream emotions don’t feel any different than those of reality. I woke up to my heart drumming the beat of fear. It took me a few minutes to realign myself back to the dim room in New Jersey. And even once I convinced myself that it was just a dream, I still couldn’t completely shake what had seemed real just a few moments before. The dream was a replay of the year 2014 for me. A new job, a new place, and a wrecking ball.

I want to go back to sleep, but I don’t want to dream. My friend thinks I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I only wish it was that simple. Go back to bed, wake up, feel better. No this is much more. Today my burdens have mounted to the apex of my soul, and have nowhere to go but out. That’s made obvious by my melodramatic writing and bitter attitude. Truth is, I don’t have any real burdens. None worth mentioning in light of real atrocities.

I am my burden. Stubborn and strong willed about things I never do. I read my Bible. I read spiritually enlightening books. I think. Sometimes I hear from God. I do…I do nothing. I told my best friend today, God himself could stand before me and point out the direction I’m to take and I would remain another throw pillow on this couch. Given clear and direct instructions and still doing nothing.

I am my burden. “90 Days of Reign,” is my burden. A book God gave me that I only talk about because I’m too afraid to write it. Everyday, blank pages haunt me. I fill those pages with sleep, useless conversations, and thinning oxygen. Where does confidence come from? How do people know they can do something? Why aren’t they afraid to go for their dreams and I am. Is there a secret store that sells confidence and self assurance? Did I miss something growing up? Was I not pushed hard enough? Or am I just a coward. I know that God says our confidence should be in him, not ourselves, but why doesn’t that feel like enough? I thought I trusted God, but now I don’t know. My actions don’t reflect that I do. It’s not my book, this is not my blog, the vlog I want to start will not be my vlog. It’s all in his name and to his glory, right? Then, why am I still afraid to do any of it?

This post is obviously more questions than answers and maybe I’m just having a bad day. I’ve been in an apartment by myself for a day and a half, plans unknown. I’ve run out of distractions. If I hadn’t chewed my nails off, maybe I would’ve painted them. I cooked last night. I washed last night. I just discovered, “Gilmore Girls,” maybe I could watch that. No, today calls for bigger distractions than nail painting and television shows. I guess it calls for poor grammar writing.

I’m also reading this book. “Driven by Eternity,” by John Bevere. It’s freaking me out. It’s not at all for the faint of heart, let me tell you. It’s all about purpose. Well heaven and hell…and purpose. I’m not concerned about heaven and hell, but I do worry about what my life will look like when I stand before God. I want to have fulfilled his plan for my life here on Earth. The thought of watching some holograph of me sleeping my life away or travelling, or getting married and buying a house, and never answering the call of God is such a dread filled and terrifying prospect. What’s the point of being in this beautiful revolving hell if we don’t douse it with heaven?

And still, why am I so petrified? God’s influence in my life is growing but my body is floating in quick sand. Maybe, I just have never been exposed to hard work and I’m afraid of getting my hands dirty. Maybe I really am a coward. But should it matter if I am? Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord. I mean, right? What am I missing? I sense the key all around me, but never tactile. I don’t trust God or do I? For he has not given me a spirit of fear but…of power, love, and a sound mind. I had to look the last part up. What exactly is power?

According to Dictionary.com, power is: ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something.

Did I just grasp the truth that’s been surrounding me all along? He has given me the spirit of power…of action. I feel lifted, so much lighter. Better. I’m going to call my friend and apologize for being crabby earlier today.

If you’re reading, thanks for joining me in this nonsensical climb out of the enemy’s cave. I don’t know a lot. In truth, I don’t know most things. Though there are two things I’m quite certain of: God is perfect and everything makes sense in written form. Even if I’m bad at it, I’m accepting that writing is my super power. I know it’s an oxymoron, but it’s very befitting of my day so I’m sticking with it.

The End of Me

Six years ago, I was sitting eagerly beside my Dad in a Ford Dealership showroom. “I’m impressed that your credit score is this good at your age,” the car salesman inquired from the opposite side of the round table. Beneath his surprise, respect and confidence lingered in his voice. I was a fervid twenty-two-year-old desperate to kick down the doors of my adolescence and strut into adulthood.

It was my first major solo purchase and as pathetic as it sounds, I needed the validation of a well informed stranger to tell me, yes you’re doing it right. Though it was likely a part of the car salesman’s pitch, he’d made me feel like I was on the right track. My newfound surety soon ushered me into a season of skipping merrily down the road to my downfall.

Fast forward to 2014. I’d gone through three jobs, (one of which I was fired from) and was surviving off of what was left of my two credit cards, the aid of my parents, and meager unemployment funds. I had a car payment, an apartment and no income or savings. Adulthood had really taken me through the wringer. Eventually, my credit cards went into default and I stood idly by as my credit plummeted to a new low.

Here, in 2018, I’m still picking up the pieces from one hellish year. Working to improve my credit this year has been a constant reminder of my shortcomings in 2014. A few months ago, I set a goal to have my own apartment by the top of next year and purchase a home within the next few years. I knew my credit would be a major factor in reaching those goals, so time after time, I made plans to pay off the bills that had gone into collections. Every time I was close to saving the amount I needed, something else came up. It was difficult to save rainy day money, put away for retirement, pay current bills and save extra money for the debts that were ruining my credit.

I felt stuck. What’s worse, the more research I did, the more discouraged I became. From what I read, even if I paid my debt in full, the stains would remain on my credit for the next seven years, so why bother? Still, I was frustrated with the bill collector calls and constantly being reminded of past errors.

Eventually, I saved enough money to pay off my smaller debts. I then decided to take out a loan from my 401k to pay off the rest of my credit card bills that had gone into default. I didn’t expect to see any immediate changes to my credit score, I was just tired of that cloud of debt looming over my life. By this point, I’d reached the end of all of my resources and had done all I could to right my wrongs. I surrendered to patience and accepted the reality that I had to allow time to heal my credit score.

Much to my surprise, over the next couple of months, my credit score rocketed. It had gone from the red zone to the yellow zone, poor to fair. I was shocked, to say the least. To top it off, not only were my debts showing paid in full, they were removed entirely from my report! My past mishaps no longer had a place in my future!

What I find most interesting, is that out of all the worrying, researching, and effort, my breakthrough took place when I became still. It happened when I reached the end of myself. In doing so, I gave God the opportunity to work on my behalf in a way that only he could.

Sometimes, we don’t know when to stop. And by stop, I mean rest. And by rest, I mean turning over our situations to God completely. This is not an invitation to give up, but a call to recognize the power of the God we serve. We wait too long to come to God for the answer. Yes, be active in working toward whatever your goal is, but remember that we should be in tandem with the Lord, not passing off our problems to him like a baton at a relay race.

If we put God at the center of what we are trying to accomplish, we’ll get there a lot easier. I understand that there are times when it is beneficial for us to go through the storm but there are also times when God wants to bless us and we create unnecessary storms by trying to bless ourselves. 

We put too much effort into trying to fix our problems, rather than resting in the panacea that is Christ. God has already given us everything we need to succeed in fulfilling his glory in our lives, it’s simply a matter of activating those resources through him. Stop exhausting and worrying yourself over not having the answers and put that energy into prayer and faith in the one who does.

Traveling Light

 

In March, I spent two days at Newark Liberty International Airport completing recurrent training: a dreaded but necessary requalification course required annually by all flight attendants. Never a fan of school, I huffed and puffed all the way there on that first day, but by the time class was over I realized how light I felt— literally.

 A normal workday would find me weaving in and out of the ever-crowded Newark airport, my forty pound luggage dragging behind me like a fractious child. But because I wasn’t actually flying anywhere, all I’d brought to training was a backpack to house my wallet, a notebook, some snacks, and a blanket.

Eager to soak up the rest of the day away from work, I galloped down the escalator and hurried to meet my uber driver at arrivals. I shrugged my bookbag off as I slid into the car. Leaning back, I sunk into the worn seat as the driver eased on the gas and the airport faded out of view. Wow, that was seamless.

My temporary dismemberment from my suitcase had given me the freedom to walk and maneuver as I willed without having to factor in their extra weight. On the ride home, I couldn’t help wishing I had access to the science used in the movie, “Honey, I shrunk the Kids.” Of course in my case, the kids would be my annoying luggage. How much easier my life would be if my bags weighed less than a pound and fit in my pocket.

giphy (35)

Putting aside silly notions, I thought of more realistic ways to lighten my load. As I began taking a mental inventory of the items in my suitcase, I found my thoughts drifting off to the less obvious baggage I tote around daily: the unecessary bulk I carry in my spirit.

We spend so much of our lives internalizing weight that was never ours to carry. Our spirits weren’t created to support life’s burdens, yet we bathe ourselves in the worries and trials of this world expecting to be cleansed.

cc229e2fbf5e2a5605dff7640a174527

Hard as it may be to grasp, we don’t possess the antidote to not even a single of life’s troubles. Blinded, we sometimes think we have a responsibility to carry the load on our own, but that couldn’t be farther from what the word of God says.

9e95ec1f1612e22859a7bede82806479.jpg

Anger, unforgiveness, and abandonment are a few of the more recognizable poisons we hold onto, but it’s the worries we think are natural and harmless that mature into beasts over time. Constantly stressing over money and bills, the future, health, our kids, marriages, and employment— all these normal worries carry heft as well. With time they ossify our spirits and we begin to block the blessings God wants to bestow upon us. Philippians 4:8 instructs us on what our thoughts should be consumed by.

7322b66c7656e4881f88bfad0d966bed

Giving our lives to God means trusting him entirely. Not only with the big things, but with the minutia of our lives. We cleverly disguise our pain, making sure to evenly distribute it throughout ourselves so that no one will notice the extra weight. We can’t hide from God. He formed and knew each of us before the foundation of the earth. He has purposed each of our lives for his glory. God is not perplexed or intimidated by our pain. However, we must make the choice of whether we want our struggles to be barriers or breakthroughs.

I see so many Flight Attendants hobbling through the airport with their luggage. It’s usually the ones who have been lugging around three and four pieces of baggage for twenty-five years. The weight and strain catches up. The baggage, if we let it, will attach itself to us like barnacles. Thank God though, our pain doesn’t have to be irreparable. We can opt to surrender our excess weight to God and let him deal with it. Trust him to deal with it. Know that He is more than capable of giving us the peace that we need to released our baggage.