What If I Were Given the Instructions?

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Sometimes I reflect on my journey and I like to imagine the ways in which my life would’ve been easier had I had certain things. You know, the silver spoon, access to wealth, rich parents, a maid to clean my room…the finer things in life. I like to think that these things would’ve made my journey a bit easier for me because I know what it is like to struggle for almost everything that I’ve earned.

One of the main things I like to think that would’ve made a difference in my life is instructions. Yes, instructions. While many people have the grace to put together items just by looking at the box, I don’t have that anointing. I need to read the manual to understand how a thing should be working and how it should be constructed, but what happens when the instructions are not included?

This sense of panic is how I felt for majority of my life. I was navigating without a detailed blueprint, but with an entire picture of how my life should look. And, in an effort to get to the place called “there,” I made some major mistakes because I didn’t have the most important component to my life–the instructions.

When I was trying to come into the essence of who I was as a woman, people would tell me that I needed to find my identity in Christ. Sometimes more seasoned Christians will throw phrases around without doing their due diligence to unpack what they mean to the listener. So, when people would say, “Briana, you have to find your identity in Christ,” I agreed. Yes, that’s what I’ll do! I’ll find my identity in Christ. I’m on the right track.

Then I would realize that I didn’t know HOW! I once asked someone how to find my identity in Christ and they told me to ask God to show me. Um, ok. Yea! But what’s next. I wanted them to provide me with some tangible steps on how to do so, and they couldn’t, unfortunately. So, I had to ask God, “How can I find my identity in you?”

He took me through the book of Esther for an entire month. A short 10 chapter book of the Bible took me 30 days to unpack because it is filled with so much revelation on identity. Esther was a girl who was orphaned at a young age, but she manages to find her identity in Christ and move into her position as a Queen in the palace. Esther showed me how to find my identity in Christ and I offer this revelation to you.

My new book, Woman of Royalty: Rule From A Place of Authority, provides such insight and is now available here (signed copy) and here!

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The One Reason I Settled: I Wanted To

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He tricked me. I mean really tricked me into believing that he was different. Though he told me that he appreciated me and would never do me wrong, something happened to change that. He went back to her. She, the woman of his past. The one who had his heart the entire time, so why did I think that I could change him?

So many women feel this way, right? We fall for a trail of lies that only lead us into deception. So, why do we do it? Why do we think that something will change if all the signs are there? We really believe that we can turn water into wine, and that is our own fault.

I used to tell myself the above narrative. In some way, shape, form, or fashion, I truly believed that I was deceived. And, I was, but I deceived myself. I settled and it was by choice. He was fine! He was a butter scotch complexion (which isn’t usually my type), light brown eyes, white teeth and nice smile, athletic, broad shoulders, and had a voice that was beautiful. He was fine and the weakness within me–both emotionally and physically–made me want him even the more. I wanted him so badly that I brought down my expectations. Purposefully.

I bet you never thought that you would hear me admit that I settled a lot in life because I wanted to. I mean, there are several people to blame for my mistakes: my mom, my dad, my aunts, uncles, teachers, and anyone that refused to give me a chance, but that would be misleading of me. The truth is that I settled because I wanted to. Though my mouth told a different story, if you peel back to onion of my life, you will find that I am at the core of my decisions. I decided to live and date beneath who I was created to be and I did so because I didn’t know who I was.

My fractured identity lead me to this point. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to feel something…anything. I needed him. I thought. I needed his attention. He saw through me and capitalized on it, but I allowed him to do so. Why? Because I wanted to settle.

Can you relate?

My upcoming book Woman of Royalty: Rule From A Place of Authority, challenges women to find out who they are in an attempt to show them how they’ve been living beneath their essence. I use Esther’s life (biblical) and my story as a blueprint to show how living devoid of identity leads to traumatic experiences, decisions, and lifestyles. Don’t believe me? Order to book to find out.

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October’s Booklist

Each month I try to read a spiritual book to further encourage spiritual growth. This month, I was so anxious to read Tim Sheets’ Angel Armies and Matthew Stevenson’s Abba that I couldn’t choose between the two, so I decided to tackle both.

angel armiesSheets’ text enlightens readers about the nature and assignment of angels. It tells about their significance in the earth, why their presence is important to the believer, and how they assist with our purposes. Unfortunately, while several of us know about angels, we don’t necessarily know how to partner with them to help bring the plans of God to the natural realm. In essence, we could be missing out on instructions as well as opportunities to partner with angels. Now, I’ve heard many people talk about seeing angels materialize in church services, or relay instances when they’ve entertained angels unaware, but I’ve never studied them. And, I can admit that Sheet’s book is helping me not only understand the angelic realm, but also the protocols and nature of heaven. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about how angel armies are designed with humankind in mind.

Now this next book is taking me a little longer to work through and for obvious reasons.

Stevenson’s book directly confronts our perception of God. Now, until fairly recently I didn’t have the best relationship with my father because I was raised in a single parent home. However, as God started to mend our relationship, I noticed that there were areas abbaof myself that I reserved as “off limits” for my father. These were the areas in my emotions. In guarding against my natural father, God began to show me how I also guarded my heart from him. Because of my fear of the new relationship with my dad, largely due to our broken past, I transferred those feelings to my interaction with God. Ultimately, I didn’t have the courage to see God as Father, but rather as Lord and King. This broken relationship with my dad seriously impacted my ability to be vulnerable with God even in private. I had trouble seeing him as Father who loved me because I once didn’t believe that my dad did. I was sadly mistaken. As I work through Stevenson’s text, I notice that layers are falling off of my heart. I am aware that my callousness is dissolving, and that I am more willing to try to open my heart to receive both of my Father’s love.

In essence, I believe that it is important that we feed our spiritual selves just as much as we feed our physical bodies. We must continue to educate and stretch our spirits if we ever hope to FULLY become who God created us to be.

-B

The “S” On My Chest

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t find myself at an intersection. Largely mirroring a liminal space, my life has always reflected that of a hybrid. Living in the borderlands, rifting off Gloria Anzaldúa’s mestiza concept, I think of myself as a boundary breaking being. Never fitting comfortably into any box that I attempted to limit myself to, there has always been an inability to grow comfortable. Perhaps, it’s like the baby eaglet feels when its mother stirs her nest.

The “S” in which I am referring stands for scholar. Yes, scholar. While I once thought of my school work as isolated from my personal life, I was wrong. In fact, my personal life has largely informed my academic pursuits. In essence, the two are not separate from one another, and can be used interchangeably in a lot of ways.

For instance, in order to study and understand black women’s spirituality and practices, I had to conduct research. While that is expected of one in my field, the research in which I am referring is within myself. I could not approach texts with a closed mind, acting as a voyeur in someone else’s life. I mean, I could but that would do the text injustice. Largely, in literature, we read through the lens of our experiences. Whether we realize it or not, we superimpose our lifestyles and rearing onto the characters in the text. My practice is no different.

When I read a novel or autobiography, I am prompted to search within myself to establish some form of common ground. Several texts prompt me to examine why I am the way I am. They ask me to question my beliefs and lack of decisions in most cases. The books also pose as a mirror to show a reflection that asks “where are you?”

My walk with Christ largely informs the way that I interact with books. Yes, I used the word “interact” in talking about books because the narratives are timeless. In fact, when I read close enough the characters come to life, and I find myself entangled in someone else’s life. I give the characters advise, laugh at their jokes, and feel anxious if I think something bad may happen to my favorite character. However, this is not the only reason why I love literature.

My interest and investment in my personal growth leads me to certain texts, especially the ones where women grow spiritually. I think to be stagnate in life is to first be stagnate in the spirit. If change comes from the inside out, then the physical is only manifesting what is internally present. Interestingly, I did not learn that from a literary novel, but from the bible.

While I understand the intellectual’s reservations about Christianity and its problems historically, through personal time with Christ, I’ve learned how to separate man’s actions from Christ’s. You know how they teach students to close read in school: the practice of reading things into a text that might not otherwise be there? It is called having revelation from a theological perspective. Therefore, I approach the bible as well as literary texts seeking revelation. I do not wish to simply see what others see, nor do I wish to regurgitate what they have already spoken. I do, however, seek to be original in my interpretation of both areas of my life.

If African American literature teaches us that the same time the sacred was arising, so was the secular, then why can’t we think of our academic pursuits and our spiritual walk in the same manner, especially when they inform one another? My answer is that for so long we’ve been taught to choose because no one has been able to be  vocal successfully about two areas of concentration and be great. We’ve been taught to stuff our big minds and big God into an either/or category only to be left frustrated because the box we’ve stepped into is too small.

You don’t have to choose! You don’t have to conform to the mediocrity of other people’s intellect. You don’t have to bend to occupy a space that is too low for your destiny. You can be both/and. You can defy the expectation of people in your position and set a new standard.

With that being said, I am a scholar in every sense of the word. I am an avid researcher, teacher, reader, and writer. But, more importantly, I am a student of the Word.

That is the “S” on my chest.

 

25 Ways to Prepare for Marriage other than Dating–Reading Jamal Miller’s Book

I’ll be the first to admit that due to previous dysfunctions in relationships, not guarding my heart, and allowing popular culture to influence my thoughts, I had an unrealistic outlook on relationships and marriage. Namely, I used to think “when I get married I will be happy” or “If I just had someone to share my life with, it would be easier.” These thoughts were the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, I believe that they are two of the most revealing thoughts that hinder singles.

Around 2014 God began to deal with me about setting my house in order. More specifically, he encouraged me to set my finances in order. Now, if you’re like me–a college student–you know the struggle of living off refunds, and check to check. I had made a system for it even. Because I was never really taught how to handle money, I allowed money to handle me. Going off impulse, I spent lots of money on clothes and shoes which landed me in debt. A couple thousand dollars worth. SO, when God began to impress on my heart to get out of debt, I kind of ignored his instruction. But, God is faithful and he doesn’t give up.

Let’s move to my current season: God not only continued to tell me to get out of debt, but he also instructed me to live by the 20/80 rule. This requires one to give 10% of their tithes to the local church, save 10% and live off the 80. Now, how could I even attempt to implement this strategy in my life if I was living off a fixed income, which only paid for 7.5 months out of the year? Needless to say, I started to try to obey. I didn’t immediately stop spending money, but I did start to live off the 20/80 rule. He showed me that for my future husband to inherit unnecessary debt was childish.

SO, when God began to impress on my heart to get out of debt, I kind of ignored his instruction

Finances are just one aspect of Jamal Miller’s book. He delves into 25 ways to prepare for marriage. This text is highly important because it allows you to see that it takes more than a pretty face, and good conversation to sustain a marriage. In fact, preparation for one is hard work. Thankfully, several of the things listed and explored in Miller’s text were things I had become sensitive to, through the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Miller solidified the importance of singleness. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with their single season. I believe one reason I struggled initially was because I didn’t have anything else to focus on. I was the one who spent majority of my thought life dreaming about marriage and my future spouse. However, I didn’t prepare much in the beginning.

Now, I take the time to access where I am. Am I a good thing to be found? Many people loosely throw around the scripture that tells us when a man finds a wife he finds a good thing. However, several of us are far away from the good thing. As women, we think we can naturally transition into wifehood. I learned by observing that this is not true. If you are impulsively spending, selfish, have a smart mouth all the time, and a person that complains, you need to continue to do work. I suggest that we study the women in the bible who were actual wives. Majority of the time we want to be the Proverbs 31 woman,and don’t get me wrong, she is the bomb. However, what happened to the other women who were married? What about Anna? Hannah? Sarah? Abigail? We can glean from these women biblical truths.

Miller points out the importance of wholeness, confrontation, submission, preparation, and a host of other things in his book. For the people who don’t know where to begin, he provides a very detailed outline. For those who are in preparation, he offers validation. And, for the ones who have crossed the threshold of marriage, he presents a review guide.

I will be returning to this book frequently throughout this season.

Healthy Boundaries

I once was a victim of unhealthy boundaries with my male friends. Let me rephrase that. I was once a perpetrator of unhealthy boundaries within my relationships with my male friends. Ultimately, they satisfied a deep-seated insecurity of mine that craved attention. Needless to say, I got my little feelings hurt when they recited the line “but we aint togetha” or their actions did not play out in my favor. Granted, at some point in our exchange, the men would be all into me; however, slowly but surely they would lose interest after some time. And, because I had an insecurity that they were no longer feeding, I registered their disinterest as rejection. Therefore, I would up my attention game to them. I would shoot them the text “hey stranger” or even play into dead-end ego boosting conversations. Overtime I was making emotional deposits into their lives, but voicing that I wasn’t looking for anything but friendship. So, when they got tired of playing cat and mouse–because it will happen–they left, and rightfully so. Each time I superimposed my insecurity on the backs of the men to carry, it was I who dropped the ball.

So many times I gave male friends of mine, things that should have been reserved for the man who promised commitment in the form of marriage. I would pay special attention to them over everyone else. I would show up for them at major events, family functions, and show an unprecedented amount of support for them. We would text all day and twice on Sunday. As time progressed, I had become tied to them whether we had physical relations or not. Contrary to popular belief, memories and experiences create soul ties. Unfortunately, the church has led us to believe that the only way to have a soultie is to have physical relations with someone. However, experiences have the potential to be just as strong and physical contact.

Recently, I read the book Emotional Purity: An Affair of the Heart by Heather Paulsen and it answered so many questions that I had about male and female relationships. The text moves in and out of narrative style stories to illustrate the complexities and hazards of not guarding your heart in your single season. Utilizing various scenarios, Paulsen eloquently walks the reader through levels of potential dysfunctions that accumulate over time due to emotional brokenness, through fictional characters Tracey and Mike. From her narrative, readers learn the importance of relational definitions to avoid further emotional turmoil as well as how to interact with the opposite sex and not go off into some fairytale land in your head.

Reading this book, I had the ability to reflect on so many times I overruled the reality of the situation, in order to feed a pain that was already far gone. There were times where I knew I shouldn’t be communicating with certain people but because I “wanted to be a God send” to them I did it anyway. I was out-of-order. God never told me to go evangelize the men. As a matter of fact he told me to not entertain their company. But being the person who migrated towards projects, I overruled the promptings of the Holy Spirit and ended up flat on my back.

Pauline’s book helped to put in perspective my past experiences. In essence, she helped me realize the error of my former actions that lead to more scars on my heart. Though my feelings got hurt in my times of disobedience, I was not a victim. Understanding my active role in my past has helped me to come to terms with the reality that I was a willing participant. No, I did not hold up a sign that asked people to come hurt me, but I did not hold up a sign that signaled I was guarded and wasn’t interested in wasting my time. In retrospect, though I may have voiced my intentions as not looking for anything serious, my heart was. Women are not designed for casual affairs. No amount of sexual liberation movements can convince me otherwise. If the bible warns us to guard our heart for out of it the issues of life flow, don’t you think we should guard the body that comes into contact with someone else before they get to our emotions?

Just food for thought!

SN: I’m writing a book and it’s almost done!!!!!

-B

Calling in the One

When I first decided to become whole, it started with a book entitled Calling in the One by Katherine Woodward Thomas. I’ll admit that I’ve said I wanted to be whole several times in the past. However, I don’t think I really wanted to be whole, but wanted to stop hurting. There is a difference.

Becoming whole is hurtful in itself. It is outright painful because the process that one must undergo is agonizing. Becoming whole is about growth, sometimes isolation, but more importantly introspection. These three things many avoid because they cause a lot of friction in our lives. However, these three tenants are unavoidable in a successful journey to wholeness and health.

Though the book’s title suggests that in seven weeks you will attract your soulmate, the content reveals something much more meaningful. For seven weeks, I learned that calling in the one meant literally reconnecting with yourself in a delicate and meaningful manner. So many times I’ve attempted to meet my soulmate, at the risk of devaluing myself. More times than not, I hurt myself much more than the other person hurt me.

Through the journey with the book, I’ve learned to reconnect with the neglected parts of myself. The parts that people ridiculed and made fun of because they didn’t understand me. The parts that I hid from myself because they were too painful to remember, or they did not fit with the image of myself that I constructed. Overtime, I lost connection with who I was before all the traumatizing events transpired. How could I unpack years of neglect and bottled up frustration? Who would love the outer shell of a woman who pretended to love selfishly?

Calling in the One was the book that jump started my emotional rollercoaster in a positive way. It allowed me to confront the things that I had forgotten about. It reopened old wounds that healed improperly and tore down the facade that I created. For seven weeks, I had to confront myself. I had to take responsibility in areas that I once blamed others. I realized that I was a participant in my own story, not a victim like I once portrayed. I had to do better if I wanted to get well.

Thomas’s text helped me to see myself in a more open manner. It  assisted me in standing in my truth and moving past it. The text helped to free me from emotional dysfunction and self-destruction. There were times that I wanted to stop reading but the inner part of me would not let me quit. I could not give up on myself this time