Why Your Preparation is NOT Enough

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I prepared for a year. I did the hard work. I thought that I was ready. I learned the hard way.

You may know the story of how I didn’t date for a year. After a 7-year relationship ended, I decided to focus on inner healing–which is a job within itself–because I was tired of being a victim. Not only was I tired of being a casualty of war, but I was tired of making casualties. I guess it is true when they say that “hurt people, hurt people.” During the year of introspection, I looked back over my past and saw the bodies sprawled behind me. How didn’t I see them before, but saw them while healing?

Healing does that. It puts a magnifying glass up to your life and shows you the TRUTH. Unfortunately, I thought I knew the TRUTH before my year sabbatical. I thought that I was God’s gift to His sons, but I wasn’t. More like an emotional terrorist running in and out of people’s lives as I dropped bombs of tension. I was a broken girl who was trying desperately to walk in a woman’s shoes. I was lost. But, God found me.

This post isn’t to recant those experiences though. In actuality, it is a post to tell you that your preparation is not enough for your next season. Hard reality, right? Let me explain.

Focusing on inner healing is the first step to freedom. It gives you the courage to face yourself, your experiences, and your fears. It allows you to begin the process of moving forward but that’s it. You’re only able to face what you can see, and that’s why it isn’t enough.

Now, this is a bit contrary to what we are taught in church, on webinars, and in small groups. When I realized that Christians were overlooking this very real reality, it shocked me but not without teaching me first-hand just how short-sighted we can be.

Friend, when most people say that they are focusing on healing, they often mean the things that they know they struggle with: low self-esteem, rejection, patience, emotional dysfunctions, anger, loneliness, worry, [insert the 5 things you may have on your list]. And, these things are good to work on, but that’s not it.

If we hope to qualify for the next level. If we hope to get married one day. If we wish to overcome our circumstances then we must allow God to prepare our preparation. Yes, PREPARE OUR PREPARATION. We can prepare all we want, but when it is time for God to deliver on a promise, He is not going to give it to the unqualified. He will not give you passing credit on a test that you didn’t study for. But, you did study…for the wrong test.

Have you ever done that while you were in school? Study for questions that didn’t appear on the exam? How did that make you feel? Unprepared? Like a failure? Nervous about your grade? This is how many people feel when they enter into God’s preparation. His study guide might look foreign to the things we remember going over in our lives. As we stare at His questions, we may wonder…how will I ever pass this test? I need more time.

Indeed. You do. When God starts to prepare you for the next level, He will not always come after the big things in your life–you’ve already done that–but He will shed light on the minor details. You know, those character flaws, that thing you do once a year, your secret thoughts, your subconscious self, your running personality, your simmering attitude. Those are some of the things He starts to mess with.

And, while I know that you may think that since you can handle the “big” issues then the little things won’t matter much to your comfort, that’s not true. The Bible says that it’s the small foxes that ruin the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15). It’s those hangnails that cause the most discomfort. It’s that corn on the little toe that impacts the entire foot. It’s the hair in the eye that disrupts your sight.

God will come after the small things, and you may think that you are going to lose your mind when He starts preparing you, but I encourage you to study the lesson. Go over your notes (life). Look at what He’s showing you.

What might seem small in this season, could ruin you in the next.

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How Tragedy Exposes Commitment

picI had just received news that I’d been waiting for three weeks when I learned of my younger brother’s death. Just an hour before, I was on the mountain top experiencing a feeling that words could never capture. “Joy” was not right. “Excitement” wouldn’t do. “Thankfulness” probably isn’t sufficient ether. I can only explain it this way, I was feeling the emotion that only happens when God shows you that he hasn’t forgotten about you.

After the “happy” phone call,  I walked into an opening session of a conference where I would be presenting the next day. The speaker was talking about the importance of science fiction writer Octavia Butler and her impact on society. I was happy to hear this speech because I, too felt the same way. At the end of the speech, I looked at my phone and saw that my father had called. It was odd because we generally don’t speak in the evenings and his call was out of our normal routine. I missed the call. I called him back when I made it to my car.

He said, “stuff just got funky.” This phrase is something only his children know the meaning of. It means that something terrible happened. I thought he was going to say that someone got into an altercation, or perhaps a car accident, but never what he was going to say. I asked, “what happened?” He said, “your brother is dead!” My brother? I have two: one in Kentucky and the other in Atlanta. “Which one?” Jared.

I couldn’t ask many questions because I think that I was in shock. Jared was only 24. Within a matter of minutes, I went from the mountaintop to the valley. My dad didn’t have much information to share, but told me that he was headed to Kentucky right away. “Ok,” I said and we hung up. I called my mother and cried for a few moments. I was unsure how to feel. It was the best of times and the worst of times at the same time. Literally, a tale of two cities.

On the drive back to where I was staying, I wondered if I should give my talk the next day. I’m sure people would understand if I didn’t. Grief has the power to do that. Yet, this was neither my only responsibility nor commitment. What should I do? I am a feeler. I easily feel and take on the emotions of others if I am not careful. And, knowing my process, I am one who can allow things to completely consume me. But, this was not the time for me to fall apart. I could not afford it, but I could not afford to ignore that fact that one of my younger brothers was now gone. So what should I do?

I kept my commitment for the next day. I delivered the speech  though I can’t say that I was completely focused. I showed up because subconsciously I knew that in life things will always happen that will threaten to make me a liar. I had to push through. I had to do what I said that I would do no matter what. And, this is not to say that I neglected myself and my emotional well-being, but it is a recognition of my destructive emotional patterns and my need to overcome them. This revelation happened in grief.

Not only was I responsible for that talk, but I was also commitment to the members of my book club. I’d promised them a daily email for the book that we were reading and we still had 3 days left for me to fulfill my word. No, I didn’t want to continue reading and sending the email. No, no one would blame me for checking out on the emails. Yes, I would receive the sympathy but would I become strengthened? Perhaps, but I didn’t want to speculate. I HAD to continue. I HAD to keep going. I HAD to be responsible even when I didn’t want to be.

Grief taught me that I was committed to my commitment. Grief showed me that I wanted to keep going even though I wanted to stop. Grief showed me that some commitments are bigger than my emotions. And, while I will take the adequate time to grieve, I cannot drop my commitments and other people while walking through life’s ruins.

Insecure, How I Discovered This Shortcoming

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I thought that I had it all together. I was living my best life. I was finishing a degree program. I was in a relationship with the person of my dreams.

People always told me that I was attractive and outwardly I believed them, but something just wasn’t right. Somehow, deep down inside, I was still unhappy and very hurt.

These feelings caused a deep-seated insecurity within me that no one knew about. My emotional turmoil often surfaced in a bad attitude and a low tolerance for people. I was often snappy and held people at bay, why? Because I was insecure and insecurity often kept me lonely. Even around others.

I didn’t find out the truth of my positioning until I cut all of my hair off in 2013. I did a big chop (the process of cutting all of my hair’s relaxed end off), which left me with 3 inches of hair. When I looked at myself in the mirror I didn’t recognize the woman looking back at me. She was ugly. She was unsure. She was me.

It was a hard journey, traveling from insecurity to security. In fact, there are still moments where I negotiate between the two. One luring me to come back to the past while the other beckons me to move forward. But choices had to (and have to) be made and in that moment and the years after. I decided to try to love myself out of the insecurity that I was once bound to…and I did.

When we are insecure, we lack confidence in ourselves, which we then project upon others. This, more times than not, is when we put ourselves in prison to serve hard sentences that we were never intended to complete.

I discovered mine just by cutting my hair off and seeing myself in the mirror for the first time.

What about you?

The #1 Reason You Need to Focus

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Your life has always depended on your level of focus, but far too many of us have failed to really pay attention to how our lack of concentration hinders progress. I would also go as far as to suggest that you can trace your entry into a destructive relationship to a time that you were not as focused as you should have been (sigh).

In essence, it is important to understand that one of the ways in which we become derailed in life is due to our inability to remain locked into the vision. More times than not, we stop running to pay attention to our opponents, friends, and colleagues who are also participating in a race of their own. While it is a good thing to be engaged in the lives of others to a certain extent, it is problematic when we become consumed to the point of sabotage.

Ultimately, I believe that when we stop concentrating on our assignment in the Earth, we willingly stagnate our progress, and thus sabotage opportunities for elevation. Now, I know you might be thinking that this is an extreme thing say, but if you look back over your life and really pay attention to your actions, you might be able to see how my statement rings true.

Therefore, it is important that you stop this behavior now before it continues to restrict you in the areas that you seek to progress in most. Hence, the #1 reason that you need to focus in this season is because you are threatening to repeat the cycles of your past. Contrary to popular belief, destruction does not start with bad thoughts, but a lack of focus. Honestly, when you aren’t focused on the goal, then you leave room to think in ways that are contrary to what you are trying to accomplish.

So, I want to encourage you to FOCUS. If you’re already focused then remain that way no matter what!

Remember, your best life is on the other side of your intentionality that comes from your level of attention to its execution.

Going to Church Does Not Guarantee Spiritual Growth

So you purposed in your heart to “get closer to God” in 2018. Great! I think that’s wonderful, but more times than not, we don’t know what that really entails. If I can be honest, when I started my journey in 2013 I had the slightest idea about where to start and what to do; however, over time I’ve learned a few things that will ensure spiritual growth. And, in this blog I’ll share them with you!

Let’s start by dispelling the myth: Going to church will NOT ensure that you grow spiritually. Ok, now that that’s out there let me explain: On the one hand, people go to church for various reasons and some of those reasons are not necessarily pure. On the other hand, for the avid church goer it is a routine to be in the house of the Lord because that’s what they learned as a child. Yet, this does not mean that they are growing! Furthermore, more times than not, Christians get caught up in serving and sometimes are so focused on the “business” of the church that they are unable to receive the Word that goes forth. This, of course, is not a dig at all, but a very real fact that those serving have to be even more intentional about growing in their own time. Now, if you don’t serve but are a pew member who takes notes but never reviews them, you, my dear, may not be growing either. I found this out the hard way. It’s normal to say, “the pastor preached a good word today” and someone ask you about it and you can’t recall. That’s because the enemy works fast to snatch the wisdom from you. Therefore, you must review those wonderful notes you took.

This leads me to my next point: You MUST spend regular time with God! There’s no way around this one. You have to become childlike in his presence by admitting that you don’t know everything but you want to learn and are willing. Now, when people say “spend time with God” this does not mean in the shower or on your way to work only. I get it, we are busy people but just like we take the time to cultivate relationships with people we care about–giving them undivided attention–we must have the same attitude with God. This effort may require that you turn off the tv,  or radio to do so, but growing requires intentionality.

I spend an hour with God daily. This means that I have to get up at 5a.m to do so, but that’s what works for me. 5a.m. may not be an ideal time for you, so you should choose a time that is conducive to your lifestyle.

So, what should you do when you spend time with God? I’m glad you asked. Here are a few practical steps that I take to ensure that I am challenging myself to grow spiritually:

  1. Play worship music: Humans respond to melody. Therefore, you should set the atmosphere by playing some worship music to help  hone your thoughts. I am more of a Bethel, Hillsong, United Pursuit type of worshipper in the early morning. So my music is really soft and calming because I want to  worship more so than praise. Typically, I join in with the music singing to God about how wonderful and magnificent he is. Because I’m a natural worshipper–that’s my favorite part of the service–I generally do this longer than most people. I just love it!
  2. Pray: Alright so this is a big one. Prayer is the vehicle through which we access heaven. Sometimes people get intimidated by the ways in which the older saints pray. You know, the ones who pray down heaven…yea…them. Anywho, I want you to know that prayer is a conversation not a dialogue. In praying, it is ok to empty yourself out before the Lord and tell him your fears, doubts, thoughts, and whatever else mat be on your mind. Go ahead and get that stuff out because it could potentially hinder you from hearing God. After you’ve said your peace, take a moment to sit in silence. Furthermore, because prayer is a dialogue, you should take some time to hear from God. Generally, people miss this step because they assume that prayer is just one-sided. However, this is an unfortunate misconception because when you take a one-sided approach, you devalue the opinion of the other person (God).
  3. Study the bible and take notes: Notice that I didn’t say “read.” The reason I believe that you should study the bible is because it allows you to engage with the text. When I first started, I would use the bible reading plans on a bible app that was geared towards a specific idea: anger, forgiveness, hope, relationships, etc. In doing this, I was also able to learn scriptural references for what I was combatting. As I grew, though, I started using the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to lead me on topical searches such as identity, lust, power etc. In doing so, I often would consult my concordance, which is a book that breaks down the original meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words. It is in breaking down certain words that I learned how to understand what the scriptures really mean. And, because I’m a natural student, I take notes on the things that I’m learning so that I can refer to them later.
  4. Read books and actively read: There is power in mentoring relationships but sometimes we don’t have the access to those who we admire most. However, several of them have released books that provide insight into their teachings and this is a way to grow. Buy their books and read them often! I have a lot of spiritual books because I don’t have the privilege of having a “spiritual mentor” at the moment, but I grow through reading their words–kind of like mentoring from a distance. And, while I read, I make sure to engage with the text. By engage I mean underlining, highlighting, writing in the margins of the book, disagreeing loudly or crying bitterly. Active reading helps you to remember the nuggets of wisdom that you may discover.
  5. Journal: This is a bit more challenging for me if I could be honest. When I journal, I write out the things that I may not have prayed about and feelings surrounding them. Sometimes, it is difficult to verbally express your cares, but it is also dangerous to keep them bottled inside of you. Therefore, in another effort to empty myself out…I journal.

A point to remember, anything you wish to accomplish will require intentionality and repetition!

 

XOXO,

Bri

 

How I Found My Identity in 2016, How You Can Find Yours in 2018

cropped-fullsizeoutput_682.jpeg“New Year, New Me!” is the anthem that millions around the world chant at the beginning of a new year. We hear this phrase leave the mouths of teenagers, women, men, those seeking to get into a healthier state, singles wanting to get married, or those who are looking to be single. However, rarely, if ever, do I hear people utter the phrase “I’m going to find my identity in the New Year!”

If we are honest, more times than not, the condition of our lives is reflective of the understanding, or the lack thereof, of our identity during a time of decision making. If we sit for a moment and do the introspective work that this requires, we can trace some of the most critical turns in life to a choice that either lead us astray or pushed us into destiny.

With this in mind, I think it’s safe to say that you cannot have a “New Me” if the “Old Me” is still competing for its time on the stage of your life. Sadly, we really believe that we can change the trajectory of our lives without coming into a firm understanding of who we are and why we were created. This flawed understanding guarantees another year of bad choices and disappointment but it doesn’t have to be this way.

In 2016, I was a train wreck of a person. I seemed to be drifting about through life though I had it all together on the outside. In fact, no one heard the silent screams as I smiled and pretended to be okay day after day. I wasn’t happy then and as I look back at my previous state, I can’t believe that I measured happiness based on the lie that I once built my life upon. I was searching for something tangible then, but I didn’t know that what I was looking for was the reason why I was created.

Now, identity discovery isn’t as glamorous as many pretend that it is. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I had some restless nights, some silent mornings, and some very intense crying sessions, but once I got through the initial shock pertaining to the condition of my soul, I was fine.

Do you want to really have a “New Year, New Me” mantra this year? Are you tired of being stuck in a place that seems to disappoint you year after year? Well you have to do the hard work of discovering your identity.

Here are a few ways to help you along the journey:

  1. Be Honest: Honesty was my hardest lesson. I was a woman who was hell-bent on masking. In fact, I masked so much that I didn’t know who I was once I started the process. Ultimately, I had to admit to myself that I believed and lived a lie that never worked for me.
  2. Face the truth: Naturally, when things go wrong in our lives we look for someone to blame. “If my mom would’ve been around more then I would be prepared,” “If my dad would’ve loved me then I wouldn’t have given my body to that guy,” “If I had money then I would go to college.” When we blame people we strip ourselves of the very power that is needed to live our best lives. While this doesn’t mean that what they did didn’t have some bearing on your life, but if you continue to give them the authority over you then you can never come from under their influence. The truth of the matter is that your life is a sum total of the decisions you made or didn’t make. It is a direct reflection of the fears and the desires you let fuel you or grip your heart. Therefore, if you are to discover your identity then you must face your truth.
  3. Include God: Since God gives us our identity, it would be silly not to ask him for guidance or even to reveal why you were created. Now, I hear several people say that they ask God things but they don’t receive an answer. It is then that I ask them were they actually listening. This may seem like a foolish question but there is a difference between hearing and listening. When you hear something it could be done unintentionally. We hear things all the time and sometimes they don’t register in our minds. However, when we want to learn information then we have to intentionally listen. Listening is an active action and not a passive one. Ultimately, we have to be tuned into God to really understand what he is saying.
  4. Spend regular time with God: This one goes hand in hand with the previous point. However, it is a bit more work on your end. And, I recommend that you do it! The reason why many don’t know why they were created is because they don’t spend quality time with the Creator. Any relationship that will change your life is cultivated through one on one time. I often hear people lament that they don’t have time to spend with God, but they spend time scrolling on social media, reading magazines, and talking to friends. It baffles me because it is ONLY in the face of the Father that you will change your life.
  5. Spend time with yourself: I actually despised doing this one! When you really think about it, many of us try to avoid this very crucial action because it can be antagonizing. When you don’t know who you are and you finally begin taking inventory of the things that you let into your soul, you will soon realize that your life is quite cluttered. And, if you hope to ever find out who you are then you must declutter the areas of your life including your soul that prevent you from living authentically you.

In essence, in order to have a “New Me” in the New Year, you must make different decisions that lead to success and recklessly abandon your former ways.

Flying Requires the Right Keys

The airplane had just landed in Chicago from St. Louis Saturday morning. I witnessed a wedding ceremony the day before. Extremely exhausted from the anticipation of their union and the festivities surrounding it, I sat on an airplane waiting to head back to Alabama.

When the aircraft landed in Chicago (my hometown), everyone who’d made it to their destination exited the plane. The flight attendants instructed everyone who was traveling to Atlanta to remain seated as they conducted a headcount and boarded the flight with new passengers. I sat in my seat watching people board as I prepared for the remaining two hours of my travel. Once everyone was seated, a surprising announcement was made by the pilot.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the plane will be airborne as soon as we find the keys.”

Was I the only one who didn’t know that planes operated similar to the ways in which vehicles are started? Yes, an airplane is a vehicle, but because I never inspected the cockpit, I just figured it started a different way. Perhaps with the push of a button.

After about 15 minutes, the pilot announced that the right keys were located and that we were cleared for take off. What was interesting to me about the whole ordeal was that the aircraft had just landed. The previous pilot just used the keys in the cockpit to fly from St. Louis, so why didn’t they work now?

I asked the stewardess about the likelihood of the keys being taken by the former pilot, and she said that the old keys were still there, but something was wrong with them. Meaning, while the keys had just worked 40 minutes prior, they weren’t suitable for the remainder of the flight.

It was then that I realized why so many of us make it halfway through the journey and are unable to continue. So many of us assume that because the keys worked in the last situation then they will surely work now. Sadly, we are mistaken.

See, just because a strategy worked with one relationship doesn’t mean it will work in a new one. Just because your form of communication was successful with one friend, doesn’t mean it is transferrable to another. And, because we aren’t habitual in checking on the movability of our lives, we stagnate or just stay in one place.

Have you recently checked your keys? Have you ensured that you’re still on the right track? Moving?

Having keys that won’t advance your life is like having no keys at all. Your former keys won’t open the door of your future, but in many respects hold you captive to your present, and remind you of your past.

If we’re going to fly from one place to another…If we’re going to embody the will of God for our lives…If we are going to be intentional about the path we take, and the timing in which we get there, then we have to check our keys.

Your spiritual keys, I mean. You need your feet shined with the preparation of peace, the sword of the spirit, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, and the belt of truth. You must pray and fast. You must take inventory of the things that you’ll need for the journey, and all of this is to ensure that you aren’t late for your arrival in another place.

One thing I learned from my frequent air travels is that if you are late to leave one place, it throws off the order of your final destination. Sometimes the pilot will try to make up for the lost time in the air by increasing speed, but he cannot foresee any turbulence or other issues that may arise once in the air.

The same is true for us. Don’t wait to inspect and account for the necessary tools needed for the journey. Don’t wait until it is time to for takeoff to search for the God of the journey. Instead, prepare yourself and that requires that you become so intimate with Him that you gain the insight (inward sight) for the trip.

While the pilots were in charge of the airplane, they could not move without the keys that unlocked the engine. In the same way, while we are steering our own lives, we cannot get to certain places without God unlocking the doors of opportunity. With this in mind, I ask you,

“DO you have the correct keys for your journey?”