The YouVersion verse of the day is Zephaniah 3:17. While the quick message they featured focused on the celebration/singing part of the verse… I was encouraged to focus on God’s delight in us.
The idea that God takes joy in us brought me joy. In their featured devotional, the author compares God comforting us with song to a parent comforting their child in the same manor.
It was no coincidence that merely 30 minutes prior I was using that same method to comfort my son. Singing him a song that brings him joy whenever it escapes my lips.
This led me to think even more on the idea of God as our Father:
As I’ve grown closer to God I have utilized the phrase Abba Father (Galatians 4:6) quite often in my prayers because He has been that to me. It was one of our first steps in true worship. So to now be a parent and once again be prompted in scripture of who God is to us, but from a completely different perspective, it just made everything hit different.
And this made me think of how we, as parents, emulate some of the ways in which God cares/parents us:
How when we delight in our children, it’s despite them doing much. In fact, it’s in large part because we see ourselves in them.
We delight in how they look, and talk, and can be stubborn at times like us.
We find joy in their learning and progress and curiosity. We feel at peace knowing that they are comforted by us when they seek it and that they seek guidance and comfort from us at all.
We live in an overhyped society. Hyper-sexualized, hyper-politicized, hypersensitive, and in many ways, hyper-Christian.
It’s all so overly abundant that we miss the mark completely.
But yet and still, God delights in us.
He, who did not sin, who loved us so greatly that He sent His OWN son to save us… Looks at us and feels joy.
Despite our sinful nature. Despite our errors and ignorance. Despite forgetting to seek Him…
2018 was a pretty rough year for me. Besides the realities of having to move 3 times, losing my car, and moments of feeling like I’d lost my mind, I was also dealt some pretty heavy blows regarding both of my parents.
The complexities that 2018 yielded left me in a constant state of… confusion and wonder.
I was sad but hopeful.
I was hurt but could literally feel my healing at times.
I was broken but could see each and every piece
that resulted from the breaks.
That was how 2018 was playing out for me.
I was left with SO many questions almost daily.
But then, between the months of August and October (my birthday month) with the weight of all that 2018 had brought upon my shoulders; with more than 2/3 of the year done, I began to find the answers I had been looking for. As I yielded to God and started to take that wonderful gift, called time, to listen and Hear what God was telling me and what He was showing me…. I began to understand the pieces. The pieces that were left after God so purposefully allowed my life, well what I had tried to make of it, to fall apart. After God methodically pulled out every single weed that existed in my life and showed them to me one-by-one… I saw what He was doing. I understood what He had done.
I remember a time during the summer while I reflected on this bamboo palm tree that I had. As I looked at it in my room. It’s leaves sparse, but growing, and it’s twin having been uprooted because of my initial ignorance and neglect… I reflected on my life. And how my life mirrored that palm…
How I too had slowly but surely neglected myself. How I had been unsure of how to feel rejuvenated. How I was confused about what I needed during my growing season and my stagnant seasons. How when things started to fall away, I saw the urgency of the matter but still remained uneasy about what steps were necessary to heal.
Did I need more water?
More soil (or of the Word)?
A different soil?
And as things started to die. I had to be brave enough to let them and pull those things out from their very root as not to harm what was left.
God did that part though. As I prayed for the ability to start over. As I prayed and wept and wrote and didn’t write… as I lamented and pushed through…
He saw me.
He saw what was hurting me.
He saw what was falling away and was wise enough to call it Good.
He saw what was dying and what could cause harm to me… and was strong enough to pull it out from it’s very root.
He was kind and gentle enough to wait until I was listening and showed me each and every weed and dying thing that was set up to cause me harm.
That was set up and planted in my life, to cause His Kingdom harm.
He showed me those things… and was Sovereign enough to call it Mercy and Grace.
So as I reflected on that small tree with so much potential… I knew what God was doing in me and I submitted to it.
It hurt y’all… so much. And as that last weed was picked and exposed…. I cried so much…. for my faith (or the lack there of).
For that child who was SO hurt and confused by life but didn’t know it. For my body that I had unknowingly taught to live a life of gluttony… and I cried for every mistake and seed of evil and sin that had ever and will ever be planted or grown in my life….
But as the year ended… and we discovered my Dad’s cancer… I felt the oddest and most necessary sense of peace.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7 ESV
Not because I knew that my Dad would be okay… but because I understood, without a single second of wavering, what I needed to do and why.
I understood that it was time to go Home.
That God had not just pulled the weeds for the sake of revealing them to me (because 2018)… but he had meticulously shown me what good had grown. That, despite the enemy’s and sin’s and, honestly, my own, best efforts…
There was GOOD.
There was righteousness.
There was Faith and Hope and Wisdom.
There was His Spirit.
Fully formed and increasingly developing within me.
Rooted and Built Up.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Colossians 2:6-7 ESV
And that, because of what God has in store for me. That because of what He sent me to Arizona to do in the first place… it was time to take all that has grown (without the weeds) and give it back to where the first seeds were planted. It was time to give it back to MY Home.
And God, in all His beautiful Glory… whispered to me… that it was time.
“And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”
1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV
All of this so that I could understand when it was time to move… to go… to come back Home… and so I had nothing to hold me back. No tangled roots. No people that did not understand but would desire to keep me back. No questions about this decision.
Now, in true humanly Benita fashion, I tried, a few times, to pretend like what I knew, was not, in fact, Truth. That I was to stay in Arizona for at least another season… That it was not time. I tried my best to ignore the pulling away from the place I had done so much of my growing… tried to replant my own roots… but they failed to stick.
And I didn’t even want to follow-through with the care they required… eventually I had to accept what God had revealed to me. I had to leave…
So I did. After 8 years and 7 months of living in Arizona. On March 25, 2019 I packed up my entire life into an SUV and took a road trip across the country. Traveled through 7 different states over the course of 4 days… with just me and my dog (who, to this very day I believe was created just for me and my journey) and went home.
While I’m still figuring things out… I’m mindful that there is purpose here. There is light here… there is so much beauty that I’d missed…
And although it won’t be perfect… it WILL be Good.
God WILL be glorified.
It WILL be beautiful.
“and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Last year I posted this on my Facebook page, along with 2 images of my Mom.
There’s SO much I could say to this post.
But I won’t say it all.
I have struggled this past year, coping with the neverending loss of my mom (and I say never ending because my Mom is still alive, but I grieve, constantly, for the loss of the mother I grew up with).
As I make this transition back home, I am mindful of this opportunity to nurture and support my mom like she has done to me, my family, and others around her throughout her life.
While I am growing increasingly aware of the cyclical nature of life, I am grateful for the gift of nurturing bestowed upon me by this woman. Through the God that she so purposefully introduced me to YEARS ago.
Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends…
Take some time today and Be still. Rest in the uncertainty, the knowledge, the wisdom, the purpose, the breath, the boldness, & the potential of your Womanness.
On #InternationalWomensDay take heed of my friend, Amber Rochelle’s, advice and #OwnYourTruth.
That does not mean to simply acknowledge it, but take ownership, control, and care of it. Embrace it. Know its ins and outs and be a steward of it.
The following is My response to Dwayne & Whitley Were Never Relationship Goals written by Jennifer Renee.
I saw this very, opinionated and detailed article via the xoNecole.com Facebook page and your girl HAD some thoughts. However, instead of just posting them as a comment, I decided I would just write it out and post it on my blog (mainly because I had THAT much to say).
Firstly: Before you read this, you MUST first read Jennifer’s article because, it’s though-provoking . And… I’m not going to be repeating much of what she stated, but I will be responding. Lol
So, let’s discuss, shall we?
My first thought upon reading this here article was: How one can say they watched A Different World over 50 times but come out with this… article, is beyond me.
Despite the fact that my dear Jennifer is ignoring any of the ACTUAL characteristics, flaws, and false perceptions of reality that Whitley had (and how Dwayne’s more objective world view was why their balance was what it was)… there are some significant things one must consider before we can proficiently rule out our beloved Dwayne Wayne from #boyfriendgoals / #husbandgoals.
Let’s discuss some basic television 101 in regards to our characters here.
Jennifer notes some extremely concerning realities of the Whitley and Dwayne dynamic. Many of which stemmed from their interactions during their Freshman year of college (otherwise known as “Season 1”). While there are reasonable objections to the first season dynamics of Dwayne and Whitley and WHY there was such a shift in their relationship upon the years that followed…
I think we’re going to have to chalk that up to the writing and production.
Now Jennifer is 32 (so we’re like the same age) and she should be aware and understand that although we’re talking about the characters as they replicate real life…. we have a bit of a skewed situation here because it’s a sitcom.
And we can’t act like the main reason Whitley & Dwayne’s dynamic WAS so different in season 1 vs all the other seasons is because the show was originally written to be about Denise. But when a young Lisa Bonet… shifted in her life for a year or so, they took her off the show…
You know what that means for a new show entering into its 2nd season without its intended protagonist? They gotta change the dynamics of ALL the characters and how they interacted.
In that, both Dwayne’s and Whitley’s characters shifted. Whitley was a little softer and more empathetic (because she went from being an antagonist, to the main character and she has to be likable as a main character) and Dwayne became a little less dorky (so he could be more attractive and the chemistry between the two felt more natural)… And the writers did a great job because we loved it.
So taking that into consideration, half her argument is thwarted.
*pats self on back*
Stepping out of writing/scripts & the like… and back into real…
Second, their characters were 18/19 when the show started…. as the show progresses over 6 years… they’re now 22/23… they’re supposed to change. Maturity, education, & relationships do that to you.
It’s expected. It’s not solely or, necessarily, mostly a reflection of one relationship. Both Dwayne and Whitley had other serious relationships throughout the years. Each one left its own impact on them. They both had career experiences and family experiences and other non-intimate partner related things that challenged them. They grew up. Together and separately. Why would we really expect otherwise.
Thirdly, I’m definitely taken aback by the insinuation that Dwayne low-key stalked Whitley or manipulatively kept tabs on her (especially considering Whitley HIGH key did the MOST when she was and was not with Dwayne). They, technically remained friends despite their relationship statuses and that genuine care for one another (because, again, Whitley played a VERY active role in their relationship) was reflected in their interactions with each other. I feel that this was not just intentional for the show, but also for reflecting the realities of relationships. Especially when you share the same friends and general living environment (‘cause they were in college living near campus).
And let’s just briefly touch on the idea of Dwayne being someone Whitley was “settling” for. There’s truth to Dwayne not being Whitley’s “type”, but that’s because her “type” or preference was almost completely superficial. And that’s not even saying much since, technically, that career-wise, our boy Dwayne was doing EXTREMELY well. Not only was he a professor he was actively working and making significant progress in his field as an engineer. Yea, Byron’s career would have led to a potentially more public affluence, Dwayne’s income was almost guaranteed to be greater. That was one of Whitley’s first moments of attraction to Dwayne (ponders the business card in the bra scene). Whitley was the one who took a bit to get her bearings in a specific career choice (since she pretty much only went to college because that was expected of her). Dwayne and Byron were actually very similar in personality, relational skills, & ambition. They were both relatively kind, loved their mothers, supported and served their communities, and were intelligent. So where exactly was Byron more of a match than Dwayne (aside from, maybe, age?)
And finally, there’s a major assumption and misinterpretation, really, that Whitley had no flaws. We know she had flaws. One of them being, her materialism (which came into play a LOT during their marriage and all her relationships with men really) as well as her need to do whatever it took to please her parents (especially her mom). And it was pretty clear that THIS dynamic was one that prevented Whitley from being her true self the majority of the time.
The idea that Byron wanted Whitley for her is false. In regards to personality, Byron was like Barack during his campaign: He was considered humble, down to earth. Not wealthy, but charismatic enough to gain the attention and respect of the wealthy. Whitley looked down on him a bit and even his mother for not being of higher class. (We’re forgetting Whitley’s bridal shower before the wedding, are we?) Byron, on more than one occasion belittled Whitley and considered her more of a trophy wife with potential versus actually truly believing that she had valid opinions and beliefs of her own (especially by the time HE met her). While he didn’t need her to “pressure” him… he didn’t see her fully.
However, Dwayne did. Because he saw not only her growth, but his own. In THAT way, yes, she became a reflection of him… but, honestly, he became more of a reflection of her.
So if we’re going to talk about Dwayne’s flaws, we can agree he had messy moments.
No, women should not feel like they have to settle for someone who isn’t ready for a real commitment yet.
And women should also pay attention to those signs (as they WILL show up).
We also have to be self-reflective enough to see how we need to adjust and accept “how maturing love can be” 🎶🎶 (idk, but I felt that Lauryn Hill quote fit). And make sure their is proof of this part.
But really, Dwayne and Whitley were just in the perfect position to continue to grow together. And that’s important. Not something to be looked down on or disregarded as a “toxic” relationship. It’s something that many young adults can look forward to. Growing with someone who reciprocally gives you space to grow… with grace.
Ok. I have one last thing to add….
The characters of A Different World were very young adults. I believe there are and should be very different expectations of young adults in relationships and adults 30+. We gotta date different. But we also have to live single differently. There’s more to that, but ultimately I don’t necessarily consider Dwayne and Whitley “Relationship goals” either but it’s mainly because… they’re fiction. 🤷🏾♀️
It Takes Time:
There’s a Yuna song, Timeand the chorus goes:
“It takes time
It takes a little time, baby It will be fine, yeah It takes time, baby”
That song along with watching my newly acquired bamboo palm tree growing, inspired this piece.
I’ve never really valued time. Either I was feeling as though all days were the same or, I was just feeling like I’ll always have it.
As I’ve gotten older, it only became an issue because it affected others. Not me… I got time.
That is until recently… And I started to see my “lax” internal timeline start encroaching in on itself… And my time seemed less like… time.
When you’re black, your lack of value towards time and all that it means, is simply called CPT. We’re always late.
The cookout will start late.
So will church.
And any gathering of the masses… We will be late. But it’s ok. We have time.
But as you integrate into the real world and interact with others…. There’s less… time.
On-time is actually 5-15 minutes early…?
Church runs on a TIGHT schedule.?
Parties start on-time and end… Early…?
And you find yourself struggling so much that you miss one of your best friend’s ENTIRE wedding (true story, ask her).
You find yourself not only late, but lost… And different. And… ALWAYS LATE!
I mean, in retrospect, black people have been late, systemically, for a LONG time… But dang. This time concept is… A real thing.
But I digress, because aside from being late to important things you still aren’t as phased, until, that is, you start to see that God is getting a little lax on His time with you.
(Well, specifically on the timeline you gave Him in secret, over a decade ago cuz you felt like it was sufficient time for Him to do what He does and fulfill his promises or your heart’s desires or whatever.) But Lord, why has the decade passed and I’m not really seeing you doing what I thought I told You you said you would do?
But why am I still here? Feeling like I’m actually going backwards? And why don’t I feel like I’m making progress on any of the goals that I set? Why am I not married with kids or dating with expectation? Or talking with excitement? I mean… We’re still here? Or back there because, again, I’m where I said I wanted to be a few years ago, not where I said I wanted to be now?
But then you hear poems about breaking up with God. .And you see small messages from people speaking to people like you about the importance of this…time.
This time of singleness, solitude, wilderness, desert, fire….
It is time to refine You.
Reconceived the notion, the concept, the idea, and the value of Time.
And see that His timing is not Yours. His values are not Yours.
He VALUES time.
It is with Time that he forms his most precious things.
Like babies in their mothers’ wombs.
Like some of the greatest of trees.
Like this World.
Like… your Faith.
He values Time. There is time for everything.
And He requests and requires your time as well.
You seek Him and can’t find him because you seek him as if he is hiding under your couch and when He isn’t there you give up. Like it’s a game of hide and seek. Be this is not a game but a lifestyle of worship.
This is not a game but a relationship.
You must SPEND time AND take time with Him.
Get to know Him. His heart. Learn His desires for you.
Time with Him is not guaranteed and while you still have breath in your lungs, spending time with Him to truly develop this relationship of worship is what is most important.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: [Ecclesiastes 3:1]
He has soo much for you. Plans to share. Weeds to pull. Seeds to plant. A heart to expose. A diamond to refine.
But time is of the essence.
The essence of who He is.
The essence of how you will get to know His desires for you outside of your own.
The essence of your time.
I have spent WAY too much time being afraid
And confused. And absent. And confused and afraid because I was absent.
And then one day, God reminded me of why I was struggling so much. He reminded me of a poem that brought me to tears. But really has me bawling now. Because I NOW understand where I have been. How I have been.
Learning to value time after 30 years is not easy. It requires FIRST being told that you don’t.
And then learning skills to put into practice that work for people that do.
Thinking outside of the box you created for yourself… Which often means trying things that you tried before, but felt didn’t work… And prioritizing.
And remembering that you, your time, what you focus on is of the utmost importance. Worship is of the utmost importance.
So take your time… His time, and give it to Him.
I used to do “Dates with Jesus”. It was a fairly direct and structured way to spend time with God. To improve our relationship.
The problem was, I let that be the only way. So if I didn’t put aside 40 minutes a day to do each. Or if I did and didn’t feel different… I felt discouraged.
That’s the enemy. He perverts things that way.
But that discouragement worked and over time I took away His time, out of guilt or shame.
In return I felt even more disconnected. And then more shame…. It cycled.
And to the point that the very thing that connected me to God was perverted and I could no longer believe that I was worthy or capable of connecting with Christ unless I went to extremes.
Makes me think of those images you see in movies or books about preists beating themselves when they fell short.
But finally, in pure frustration with how far removed I had become…
(That was the Spirit. He shines light into your darkness like that.)
I cried out to God. And asked Him what I needed to do. And he simply said: Give me time.
He didn’t say: exactly 40 minutes, 40 days of fasting, and 6 days a week in the gym (this was a thing for me as well)… But, simply: Give Me Time.
This is not omitting what you may need to do but, rather prioritizing what I need you to do right now. Let me show you. But I cannot show you what you are not giving time to receive.
So, basically. Read the Word. Pray. Sit in silence sometimes, but if that feels like something you’re not ready for… Read some more. Write. Talk. Talk it out. Write it out. Listen to sermons. And talk to those friends, those people that will really speak Life into you.
And then…. Give IT time. Time for the seeds I have planted, specifically, and maticulously inside of you to grow… They will. You will see them. Those and the weeds that we need to remove.
It takes time.
I’ve learnt and lost along the way
Yeah, I made mistakes
Yeah I felt all kinds of pain
And the reason why I’m here to stay
Is because my momma said
For things to be alright
“It takes time It takes a little time, baby It will be fine, yeah It takes time, baby”
Many may not know this about me, but I haven’t been a part of a church community, on a consistent basis, in over 3 years.
It’s super unlike me, but, unfortunately, this has been my life for the past 3 years. Life has been weird. Between being diagnosed with and battling depression, changing jobs, and dealing with (read: avoiding) my mom’s mental illness… I have not been dealing with life…
I would say I haven’t been dealing with it well, but really, I’ve just not been dealing with it at all.
But this past weekend I was reminded of a few things:
1) God will never leave me.
I have had an underlying fear, consistently invade my mind for the past few years: I can no longer reconnect with God.
It has been this thing. This thought that, somehow, I have procrastinated too much. That I have ignored Him for too long. That because I have not been diligent in my search for a new church home or consistent with prayer or reading the Bible… That God no longer cares about me. That He no longer wants to hear from me or connect with me. That God has left me.
But these are lies. Lies literally created so that I won’t reach out to God. So that I won’t pray or read the Bible. Lies and fallacies. lol
Although it’s different, my relationship with God; God is the same and He isn’t changing. I’m the one changing. As I grow in maturity, like an infant transitioning into childhood, I am seeing the world differently. And it affects me. So my needs, desires, and how I engage, have changed. Sometimes people say for you to check-in with God and ask Him to show you who you are.
Sometimes that’s scary, but it’s necessary to see how that is affecting your relationship/worship with Him.
So, when I took just a bit of time and thought about where I was and how I was feeling, I realized the lies that were invading my livelihood. And I took some more time to rebuke, reject them.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” [Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV]
2) God desires for me live my BEST life. About a year or two ago one of my former pastors told me “You can’t afford to just live”.
Although, I got what he was saying at the time, I don’t think I let that statement penetrate my heart like it should have. I knew that I didn’t really have the privilege of living life without focus, but I don’t think I accepted that at the time.
I wanted to live in a space that was comfortable and be with friends who made me feel comfortable and in a job that allowed me to live comfortably… but… That’s not my purpose.
As a disciple of Christ, I have been chosen the live life and live it BOLDLY. As disciples, we have to be intentional in everything, especially once we have been blessed to understand our gifts and callings. And, I have been blessed.
Not only do I understand my general purpose, I’m fully aware of how God wants me to go about fulfilling it. That is not something I should take lightly. In fact, it is something that should ignite me to live live with more intention.
There is definitely fear attached to me, more intentionally, pursuing certain aspects of my purpose, but as we know, Fear does not come from God. Just like I said above, it’s very purpose is to distract and detract from my relationship/worship of God.
But here I am, today, finally accepting that I will NOT just live. I will live the BEST way possible. Learning more about and following God’s Word. Allowing His Word to penetrate my heart and guide me in as many areas of my life that it can (which is every area if you were curious). Guarding my heart from things that do not reflect His Word. Allowing my friends who see me and my purpose, to hold me accountable and I them.
I commit to doing all of this and more in order to live MY best life. Which means being an example of Him in this world.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
[Matthew 5:13-16 NIV]
3) There is NO shame in starting over. I’ve been here before. I’ve had to start from the beginning and learn what this worship/relationship really means to me. I have had to find a church home that made me feel like I was in the right place for where I was in my walk. I have served and gotten connected to lifelong friends. I have leaned in so much to God that I could clearly identify the person I used to be versus the person that I was; because they were distinctly different.
Yes, I have been here before.
But today, I have so much more knowledge that, I see that… I have NOT been HERE before. Not like this. I am a different person than both of those previous people. My needs are completely different because I see EVERYTHING with different lenses. There are no longer scales on my eyes.
Because of that, transitioning to a renewed commitment to Christ is different. And that’s okay.
I have things that I may have to fight a little harder to combat, but really, that’s what the Spirit is for. Despite all of MY challenges, God remains the same. And the Holy Spirit inside of me IS God… So it does not change either. The Word has not gone away. So the Spirit is still alive and active within me. And I feel it. Whenever I spend time in the Word I can feel the difference in how I think and how I act.
Starting over, isn’t really starting over when I understand this. When I accept it. It’s just committing to obedience. Re-committing. I’m grateful for one of my friend who reminded me of that this weekend.
I have to remember, also, that we are not expected to be perfect. A righteous man fall 7 times… We battle the flesh, the humanness of us daily. Although this is not an excuse to sin, we still cannot ignore that our flesh does not go anywhere. We just have to remember Grace is what helps us get up again. It is what helps us be strengthened in our weakness.
Accept it instead of running from it.
Nope, we don’t deserve it. But it was offered to us simply for believing. Embrace it. He loves us that much.
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” [Romans 8:1-2 NIV]
And because of that, I can declare: 4) I am a Carefree Black Girl.
(well, woman, but you get it)
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” [2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV]
I don’t know why, but the idea of the Carefree Black Girl has been something I have been loving. Freely embracing who we are, flaws and all. Beating the odds. Ignoring what the world may try to tell us about ourselves and just being.
And then, randomly, it occurred to me…. I don’t really want to be Care free, I just want to be Free.
Again, we don’t have the privilege, as disciples, to just live this life. I have to care about what’s going on around me. I have to care about this life I have been given, this calling that I have on my life. I have to care.
But I am still free.
Today I am free from lies (ones I have been told and those I have told myself). I am free from being stuck in self-deprecating patterns that have caused me to be in negative relationships. I am free from feeling like I am not good enough or not worthy. I am free from the power of sin.
So… I’m going to live like it.
And I pray that you do too.
“I’m free. I can live and speak and love openly because I believe I am who God says I am. My insecurities are quieter (not gone, but quieter), my worries are lighter (not weightless, but lighter) and my heart is fuller because I know how God feels about me”
– Annie Downs
If I’ve learned one thing during my weight-loss journey it is the importance of having grace for myself.
I know this series usually focuses on my relationship with God, but for me, my weight-loss/fitness journey is my visual representation of my walk with Christ. For me, I can see no difference between how I take care of my body & how I worship God. After all, we are called to worship and honor God with our bodies [Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:20]. So it only makes since that I use this example when talking about grace.
Currently I am in this place in my weight-loss journey that I’ve seen before. Feeling a little hopeless. Hopeless because of countless attempts to eat better and exercise but I keep allowing myself to be distracted or unmotivated. I fail. And because I keep telling myself that I’m failing or I suck at this, I remain in this pattern of self-hate. And that’s unhealthy.
So, I had to step back (and really I have to do this often) and remind myself that I truly can start over at any time. And although I might be operating in fear right now, God has given me grace and victory over anything. I have to remind myself that every error I make is just that, an error. It’s a part of the journey and I can’t hold onto a false belief that I’m going to get everything right the first time I try. I spent 20+ years creating bad habits for myself. One day won’t immediately erase those habits.
You have to have grace and allow for mistakes because in all realness; You’re learning how to live again.
The same thing can be said for your Spiritual journey. You’re a new creation which means old things are officially in the past, but this doesn’t mean old habits just end. It doesn’t mean old beliefs that we held on to just go away. And this doesn’t mean you will automatically be able to do everything you’re supposed to do the first time you try. This is why I choose to emphasize this as a “journey”.
Ultimately God intends to work on us as individuals and as a Body until the day Jesus returns [ Philippians 1:6]. This means there will always be areas of growth and improvement. And this means that there will also be times where we fall short or even give up. That’s the human in us. The goal, however is that, eventually, we become completely Spirit led.
The thing about that is, we have to put in a lot of effort and time throughout our lives in order to know God’s will for us and in order to do His will. Again, this is where error is expected. And this is why God’s grace is sufficient. We just don’t want to become dependent on Grace when we can do better with His Spirit in us. God’s grace is what has frees us from having to live in sin [Galatians 5:13; Romans 6].
So… today, I’m going to walk in God’s grace and forgive myself for the mistakes I make along this journey to full health. I will proclaim victory over my entire life because God has graced me with it. And I will NEVER give up on myself because God chose me and adopted me. Because God needs me to help Glorify Him. And God loves me so much that he allowed Jesus to be crucified for me.
I will rebuke any thoughts that attempt to keep me trapped in my old ways and rebuke myself if needed.
I pray that in all things… we ALL experience and dwell in God’s grace & glory.
Not in relationships… well, I guess in relationships, but not the kind you’re probably thinking of.
You see, I have a problem with committing to myself.
With committing to changing myself fully; with committing to accepting my purpose; and really, with committing to my personal relationship with God.
I’m a faster… as in, I fast, kind of often… well, at least I try to.
In 2012, when I did my first fast, I must say, although it was a challenge, once I got the hang of it & made it a habit with purpose, I was good. At one point I fasted for 40-days. I’m not bragging, because the circumstance kind of required it, but I’m just saying…that was me over a year ago.
But then…2013 came. Last March I wrote a piece on “No Compromising Season”… that was the season I was in. During that time, it was my intent to fast again because I’d noticed a few things and I felt my flesh getting too strong. I had started to lose control.
Before I move on, I feel that it’s necessary to reiterate that when it comes to my relationship with God; my physical health is pretty much my visual indicator of how I’m doing. (And on a funnier note, I’ve kind of used my natural hair journey as an indicator too).
So last March when I noticed my weight gain + my hair breakage I was perplexed. I had felt that I was doing the right things in my walk to at least maintain a healthy weight (and healthy hair), but my body said otherwise. So when I wrote “No Compromising Season” I had a few revelations. The biggest one being… I was allowing myself to be content with mediocre efforts.
The reality was, although my eating wasn’t horrible, I was inconsistent. And didn’t go to the gym. And when it came to my relationship with God, I went to church, but had stopped meditating on God’s Word as soon as I felt that His Spirit was no longer responding to the effort.
I had become lax… I had started comprising during the process. RIGHT when I had to start making a little more effort, I fell off. And that is how I became vulnerable. The minute I let go of what worked was the minute the enemy crept in and presented me with opportunity after opportunity to forget where I was going and why. And with some of the smallest of thing. God had continued to tell me I was in a season where I couldn’t compromise within the journey, but the longer I ignored that voice the easier it was to give in and indulge in things that weren’t good for me. I, in essence, started cheating on God. I couldn’t see it though because it was nothing “major”. I still attended church & served, & listened to Christian music every morning. I just listened to my secular music the rest of the day and had stopped making efforts to improve my service or even make sure I did it to glorify Him instead of myself.
As a result… eventually I couldn’t even tell whose voice I was hearing; who I was really devoting myself to; whose spirit I was really walking in.
And I’m still in the struggle. It’s better, but after a year of compromises, I’ve found that the things that I used to do, like fasting, take 4x as much effort a day than it did that first time. And that’s a scary place to be.
I said a while ago that I will never give up on my fitness journey and this goes for maturing in Christ as well.
He didn’t create me to be mediocre. He created me to glorify Him. He created me to be His child. He created me to be set apart. And for a God that loved me so much that He died for me… I can never give up allowing my flesh to die for Him. And for the God who rose from the dead for me… I will always take each day to rise out of my failures for Him.
It won’t be easy, and that’s ok. Because I am His I receive victory. Because of His Spirit in me & His grace, I have strength & wisdom. Because of His Word I have all the weapons I need to be an overcomer.
And the same goes for you! Today you may not be the best “Christian” you can be or life may generally suck; that doesn’t mean you can just do the “fade away” with God. One, He’s good for chasing after you. Lol. And, Two, He deserves better.
How can you get re-committed?
Seek His face… get to know who God is; how he operates; for yourself. Take a little time (5 minutes never hurt anyone). Read His Word & pray. Keep a verse in your head for the day. Learn who He is.
I personally love Psalms 119… longest book in the Bible, but probably contains something for everyone. One verse from that can reveal your heart. Give it a try… you have to start somewhere.
And trusting God will only come when you forgive Him…
Being in a relationship with Christ isn’t always easy.
People tend to have this perception that once you get Saved or reborn or whatever that life is grand from there… but the reality is… it’s tough. Maturing in Christ is probably the epitome of “The Struggle Life”.
As a case manager a lot of the teams I work with get extra excited when I get assigned to them. Not because of me, but because of what I do. They have this idea in their head that life will be grand from that first meeting on…
And then… several months later when things are either the same or worse I have to have that conversation that “things will likely get worse before they get better”.
Coming to Christ is sometimes like that. At first the sheer thought of finally accepting Christ builds you up & holds you over for a few months. After all, the weight of un-forgiveness is heavy so being able to accept God’s forgiveness and having that load removed makes everything “feel” better.
But then… reality starts to set in. Change isn’t happening as fast as you thought it would. In fact, you find that you’re having to put in a little more effort just to feel peace. You start to see things within yourself that you never noticed before. You start noticing that some of the people in your life aren’t who you thought they were and you notice some of the hurt you either hadn’t remembered or hadn’t realized.
This is when forgiveness and trust start to become an issue. Not that you need to forgive people, but you have to forgive God (not because He did something wrong, but because we feel that He did).
In the midst of your hurt, you start to feel even greater hurt because God didn’t stop the pain or because God allowed you to experience a time in your life that you would have rather been omitted from your story.
And that causes some bitterness.
And… you hit a wall.
The moment I realized I had to put an effort into trusting God was after I hit this wall for the first time.
All my life I was taught to love God & worship Him and have faith, but no one ever taught me that these things aren’t instant. And trusting God will only come when you forgive Him…
And the easiest way to forgive is to understand His Word & KNOW that ALL things work together for the good to them that Love the Lord & are called according to His purpose.
And remember that OUR purpose is to Glorify God & bring people to Him.
So… even if you don’t know WHY that particular something happened. Know that it is in the benefit of you. Either simply to give you a reason to come to him or as complex as being a testimony for someone you may never meet.
I started a devotional today. I’m always starting devotionals… But since I finished one, I started another. It’s started off pretty good because it got me writing. I love devotionals that encourage mindfulness; especially ones that encourage you to write down answers to questions or thoughts…
This one did that.
It had me read scripture passages and write down what they revealed about God’s purpose for me.
Specifically: “As you read today’s verses, write down some of new perspectives of purpose for your life as seen from God’s view.”
I immediately wrote down the following:
For God desires me:
-to be free
-to be faithful/to be Faith-filled
-to follow His Word, His Will, His Ways
-to honor Him
-to have peace
-to be light
-to be bold
-to be strengthened by His Word
-to Love others
-to Love Him (with all my heart, all my soul, & all my mind)
-to grow in Faithfulness, & Love, & Patience, & Kindness, & Self-control, & Goodness, & Joy, & Gentleness, & Peace
(Fruits of the Spirit)
If you noticed, I didn’t say God’s purpose or my purpose is…
That’s because, honestly, I’ve been struggling with remembering my purpose. Or rather, with believing my purpose, the one specific to me. That’s one of the reasons I’ve taken to devotionals so hard (I read about 3 a day). I want to remember. I want to believe. And this helps guide me into scripture a little more consistently.
It’s helped a little. The general practice of spending time in God’s Word is really the key.
However, I’ve noticed a trend:
Oftentimes there’s this discussion (especially throughout these devotionals I have been reading), to “remember God’s promises to you”; “hold on to His promises”… But as I’ve been transforming, it has been difficult to remember or, really even discern, God’s promises that are specific to me vs the desires of my own heart that I just HOPE He has for me.
As such, I feel like I can’t ‘hold on’ to those things as assurance of anything…
God changes our hearts. Gradually but He does. So I’m feeling that the things I wanted aren’t things I necessarily need. And, ultimately, they have been weights in my relationship with Christ. Not that they were sinful, but just that they were becoming significant pieces in my resentment or indifference towards God.
Because I didn’t have what I wanted, I was starting to doubt Him. And me. And seeds were planted and became confusion and fear. So much fear.
So I can’t hold onto “promises”… I have to hold onto His Word. And God’s DESIRES for me.
There’s a difference. I’m not saying that being aware of God’s promises isn’t nice. They can bring assurance. But when you understand the ROOTS of those promises… When you understand that His promises are simply symptoms or results of His DESIRES for you… THEN you have something to hold on to.
God’s desires and plans for us are how we can truly experience confidence and peace in our purpose. Because they expose His heart. And there is NOTHING stronger or more dependable than the heart of God.