The Power of Intentionality

I believe that our lives are the sum total of our thoughts. If you take a second to look back over your life, you may be able to pinpoint certain thoughts that landed you in your current position. I know I sure can. Contrary to popular belief, my thoughts are not always good. Sometimes, I actually have horrible thoughts and before I know it, I’ve thought myself into a bad day. And, as a result of bad thinking, I usually begin to speak negatively over myself and towards others.

This is an awareness post. More times than not, we allow our thoughts to run rampant without any accountability, and then we wonder why we receive certain outcomes. At some point, I grew tired of thinking lowly thoughts. I was irritated by the lack of quality of life that I was experiencing. I was frustrated more times than I was peaceful, and this is when I started to take a look at myself.

If we hope to accomplish anything great, we must learn the power of intentionality. We have to be aware of how the process of directing our thoughts towards a certain goal will begin to yield fruit. We have to start taking inventory of every negative perception, word, idea, or understanding, and bring those unto subjection to God.

Sometimes Christians believe that God is able to shift circumstances, lives, jobs, [insert your request here], but we don’t always want to do our part. We don’t always input the effort needed for us to partner with God. We don’t want the responsibility that comes with living our best lives. But, we do want better, just not the work.

Intentionality is an understanding that we must work to see things change. It is an agreement between ourselves and God that we are in partnership. That we accept responsibility for ourselves. That we understand what is required of us and we agree to the terms and conditions. That we will start being intentional about our lives.

When I started being intentional with my thoughts, conversations, words, relationships, and actions, the quality of my life started to change. The essence of who I was came forth, and that, my friends, is living my best life. Intentionally.

If you haven’t heard, my book is available for pre-order now!!! You can order online at http://www.brianawhiteside.com

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What Did I Do To Make Him Give Me A RATING?

IMG_0169I remember it like it was yesterday. We were driving back to my apartment from a museum tour and he was mainly silent. Granted, we got into a small disagreement that morning, but nothing that warranted his extended silent treatment. We were newly reconnected, and though God warned me that someone from my past would attempt to re-enter my life, I dismissed that the warning was about him.

Until the moment that he rated me.

Ok, I was in the wrong because I allowed him to stay in my home for a few days because he said that he missed me. And, the curiousness as to why I had never given him a chance in past kinda fueled my decision.

We were enjoying one another…until we weren’t.

For some reason, our long nightly conversations on the phone did not equate to the real time we spent together in person. We were on two completely different pages and while it was obvious, I still wanted his company. I was lonely.

While he was a guest in my home, I made sure that he was taken care of. This was hospitality, right? Ha. Farthest thing from it. I was petitioning for the place of girlfriend in his life and I purposed within myself that I would cater to, and anticipate his every need.

I thought that I was doing good…until. Fast forward.

As we were driving back to my house, I asked him to talk to me. He said a few words to me before he pulled out his phone. (I cannot recall the beginning of the conversation). When he opened the note app, he started to read me my report card. What I mean is that he said, your life is too planned, you are not spontaneous, your cooking is a “B,” your attitude is a “B-,” etc, etc, etc. Negative. Negative. Negative. He seriously had letter grades that dissected any possible weak area that I had.

I was stunned. I never had anyone rate my efforts in the manner in which he did. (Well not to my face). It was an insult to everything I worked hard to make happen for him. It didn’t matter to me that he came during the busiest part of my academic semester. It didn’t matter that he was a bit inconsiderate for the things that were happening in my life. All that mattered was that he proved to me that I had not measured up to his expectations.

That moment still sits with me because I allowed him to do it. While I think that constructive criticism is helpful and heed should be taken, when it comes out of a spirit of destruction, it is problematic.

I didn’t stand up for myself. I actually took it and I felt myself sink lower. I didn’t have words to counter his observation of me. I let myself down. I was not who he wanted, but I allowed him to finish out the rest of his trip with me.

What type of woman would do that? A broken woman.

Now, this is not a post to bash the individual in this experience. In fact, it is to point you back to my dysfunction as a result of a flawed identity. I didn’t know who I was and as a result, I allowed him to start to attach meaning to my life. Labels. I allowed him to measure my worth by the stretch of sight, but he didn’t have true insight into who I really was. (I didn’t know this then).

I internalized his rating. I started to pick at my self-confidence–the little that I had–causing it to become even more infested with lies. It took me a while to rebuild after this experience but it all made sense after I discovered my identity.

In my upcoming book, Woman of Royalty, I provide 10 practical steps for how to find your identity. It is not enough to just want to be better, but you must put your desire to action. You don’t have to be alone on this journey.

Pre-order your copy today on www.brianawhiteside.com. (I will personally sign your copy).

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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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The God of the Last Minute–I Don’t Like It

My Post-102.jpgWhile He’s an awesome God, He is also the God of the last minute and if we are honest, in these times He doesn’t feel so awesome. As we move into the “deeper” things of God, He starts to show just how multi-dimensional He is. He shifts us out of the courting stage in Him and into the training, the breaking, the molding. He challenges our ideas, our limitations, and our processes–and this is the LAST MINUTE GOD.

I’ve often heard people say that “He’s an on time God.” In fact, there’s a song about it as well, but I don’t believe that we really understand the magnitude of this statement or even the unrest that it evokes within us. While the timing of God is perfect in His sight, it is not always perfect in ours. I’m learning this hard lesson as He destroys every plan that I’ve constructed for my life.

Can I be honest? It’s quite unsettling. It hurts. It makes me feel schizophrenic. One minute I’m up and the next I’m in the valley in tears. The God of the last minute is one that I’ve never met and I can’t say that I really like this side of Him. I’m used to the doting God. The one who tells me how wonderful I am. I like the God of the blessings. The God of mercy. The God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

But, didn’t He do this to Abraham? Didn’t God wait until there was no more time left in the game to show up? You know the story of how Abraham was instructed by God to take his son Issac on the mountain to offer a sacrifice unto the Lord (Genesis 22:1-19). God gave him the instruction but He didn’t offer much else. In obedience, Abraham went to the top of the mountain with His only son and was about to slay him until he heard the angel of the Lord speak, warning him not to kill Isaac.

But, what was going on internally with Abraham? While the scripture is silent on the matter, it does not take away from the human side of our father of faith. He was a man trusting God. And, trusting God is not always easy, especially if you can’t trace what He will do. I believe that Abraham had the ability to go through with the command because He had already learned God as the God of the last minute.

Let’s think through this: Abraham was impotent when God quickened his body with the ability to impregnate his wife. The Message version of Hebrews 11:12 says that Abraham’s body was “dead” and his “loins were shriveled.” (The shade is real). This shows us that God waited until Abraham couldn’t produce a seed within his own body to give him a supernatural seed. And, if God could do this then He certainly could provide the sacrifice, right?

This is where we come into a deeper relationship with God. It is not enough to say that God is God, the Lord, magnificent, a way maker, a healer, a provider, if we don’t have that type of history with Him. Yes, in the past I’ve known God as a way maker but never as a provider and they are distinctively different. Yes, He opened doors for me and gave me favor, but I didn’t have context to understanding Him as a provider until now.

The God of the last minute is God the provider.

Our timetables often get in the way of our understanding of this. Our desperate need to have timely provision restricts our faith and this is where God has to move in and change our understanding. God of the last minute is the same God of faith. It is only through hard circumstances, tight situations, unfavorable pressure that we can please God through our faith.

In Hebrews 11:6, it says that “It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him” (MSG). Sometimes we think that our works please God–and they do. Sometimes we think that our moral standing pleases God–and it does. But, what pleases God the most is our faith in Him.

I had to learn the latter half of the scripture, which says that we must believe that “he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” In essence, I had to believe that God loved me and because he loved me that He would never withhold anything from me that would be for my benefit, but first He had to enlarge the territory of my faith.

This, He did through the last minute moments in my life.

 

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.

Should We Celebrate Making It?

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I sat to write in my journal a few moments ago and the first words that I wrote were, “I made it!”

These three words have never meant much to me honestly. In fact, they were like a catch phrase that we use in church to signify that we’ve been through something but made it to the other side. It’s equivalent to the phrase “…but God!” But, if I can be honest, hearing this phrase often kind of diluted its significance to me…until now.

“I made it” signifies that we are still alive. It does not mean that we haven’t been hurt during the journey, or even that we’ve dropped off the things that we’ve carried along the way.

“I made it” means that we are still breathing though some of us may have stopped living when the impact happened.

“I made it” means that you had the courage to admit that you made it through but not that you’re willing to show your scars.

“I made it” can be an imprisonment if we’re not careful.

So many times, we like to praise ourselves and others for making it through. When we hear someone’s testimony, rarely if ever, do we wonder if they’ve fully recovered.

No, “recovered” isn’t the right word because we never return to our pre-scarred state.

Somehow, “making it” stretches us out of shape. “Making it” makes us uncomfortable in our own skin for a while. “Making it” is just that…making it.

I wrote that “I made it” before I realized why I wrote it. I wasn’t speaking about “making it” through a storm or even a test, but “making it” through the day.

I “made it” because I was able to master my emotions today that threatened my productivity.

I “made it” because I was able to speak–no matter how briefly–about what I had/was/am experiencing. And, we all know that experiencing something in the present is completely different from looking back on a thing with distance.

So, cheers to everyone who made it today. To everyone who struggled to keep moving in spite of their feelings. To every mother who kissed her children. To every father who sacrificed. To every woman who prayed for her future. To every man who was sustained.

You. Made. It.

And, while your making it may not be mine, we can celebrate together.

*If we celebrate the small wins then we are more prepared to bask in the big ones.

Fighting Wounded

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I killed a giant today!

Not a metaphorical giant, but one that has threatened to kill me for over 6 years. Do you know what it’s like to live in fear? Do you know what it’s like to try to outrun, outlive, outmaneuver something chasing you? It’s tough, if you don’t know, and the mental unrest that accompanies your fight is even more unsettling.

I became a doctor today. YAY! While I am not a medical doctor, I did obtain a Ph.D. And, the road has been anything but pretty.

While on the outside, many saw me smiling today, what few understood was that I won wounded. There were numerous times within my program that caused me to absorb spiritual, mental, and emotional hits. These experiences, more times than not, threatened to harden me. They left small ticks on the canvas of my body that are only traceable through my moodiness. But, I made it, right? Of course, that’s all that should matter but it’s not.

When we get these degrees, we leave changed. And, while change can be seen as a good thing, we cannot overlook the negative impacts of certain experiences. More times than not, if you’re ever able to listen to graduate students talk, you will hear about the horrors of their experiences as they pass stories that are as common as initiation rituals.

But, that is not the point of this piece. Today I killed a giant, but I had to kill it wounded. I don’t know if you’ve ever fought wounded before, but it takes more energy to fight when your body is struggling to recover as opposed to if you were well.

For 10 days, I’ve been struggling to recover. Not from the fight with anxiety that I had a few years ago. Not from the emotional wounds that I acquired when I felt marginalized in a classroom. Not even from the consistent critiquing while in school, but from the wound made by my brother’s death.

In my previous post, I scratched the surface about how I felt about my brother’s death. While I didn’t go into detail at the time, I did express my unrest with the situation. But, for the last 10 days, I’ve been battling wounded.

See, I could not drop the weight of my responsibility because I was grieving. I could not set aside my commitments, deadlines, goals or dreams because the breath had been knocked out of me. I was already fighting to maintain my breathing.

The world kept going. People kept smiling. My phone kept ringing. People still needed me. I still had to defend my dissertation. I still have to graduate.

I know now what it means to fight wounded. I know how it feels to hold the wound with one hand, and fend off attackers with another. I know the feeling of helplessness and weakness. I also know what it is like to feel satisfaction.

I defended my dissertation wounded. Every 15 minutes I found myself checking the clock because I felt myself coming undone. Can you imagine coming undone in the last hour of your career as a student?

I was under a pressure that I’d never felt before. I was dealing (avoiding) grief, finishing a degree, and breaking the glass ceiling off of my family. I was under pressure and people were counting on me. I was counting on me. But, I was hurt deeply.

I killed the giant though. I killed the thing that was standing in the way of my promotion. I shattered the glass ceiling and created a new floor on the next level. I fought the good fight of faith, and I fought hard.

I write this post to let you know that it will never be a perfect time for you to live on purpose. It will never be the right time for you to overcome. But, you have to stay the course. You have to do it even when you don’t want to. You have to push even when you feel like wallowing in self-pity. You have to stand even when you don’t desire to.

…even if it means fighting wounded.