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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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.

Healing Does Not Always Happen in the Church

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I was driving on the back roads of Alabama when I realized the danger of my body. As an African-American woman living in the South, I’m prompted to think about my body more readily than when I lived in Chicago.

Perhaps it’s the legacies of oppression attached to blackness. While I’m not completely sure, I do know that  my awareness is real and my experience still sticks out in the front of my mind.

Let me explain:

In 2015, I was headed to teach in African-American literature in a maximum security prison in Birmingham, Alabama. My trip required that I exit the main expressway and drive through some unknown territory where I usually lost cellular service. On one particular morning, I was stopped by a police officer who asked me, “What are you doing here?” By “here” he meant in the white community that I was driving through. In that moment, for the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to fear my body.

I told the police officer that I was headed to the prison to teach–my active duty as a responsible citizen committed to social justice. The officer asked for my license and insurance information and went to his vehicle to run my info through the system. When he left, I noticed that my hands were shaking. Just a few weeks prior, Sandra Bland was killed.

Now, as a Chicagoan from the inner city, I thought that I was accustomed to policing. However, I realized that I was used to black men being policed, and now that women were being targeted and killed it caused me to be unsettled even more.

When the officer came back, he must’ve noticed my parking decal in the rearview mirror because he asked if I were a student. “Yes, I go to UA,” I responded. He then asked if I could produce my ID as proof (ultimately, I need to show my “freedom” papers). After he saw my ID, he handed me all of my identifiers and asked me two disturbing questions:

Will you be traveling this way often?

Do you need an escort?

Whether the officer was showing concern or extending protection, I do not know, but what I do know is that I was made hyperaware of the fragility of my black body.

As a Christian, I struggled with the moment, and if I’m honest there are times that I still do. See, I was taught that if I got an education, stayed out of trouble, pursued God, and was a responsible citizen, certain things would not happen to me. I was told that I wouldn’t be subjected to certain treatments, but that is a lie!

And, I didn’t know where to turn because in that moment, the church house was the last thing on my mind.

Yet, as a student of African-American literature, I had an arsenal of books at my disposal. I needed validation and quick so I looked to the authors who readily spoke to this struggle–this policing of black bodies. The words of Angela Davis, Octavia Butler, James Baldwin, Martin Later King Jr., and Malcolm X brought my solace. Their words confirmed that what I experienced was traumatizing and that I wasn’t alone. In essence, their words helped me cope.

Now, this is not to say that I couldn’t have found this in the church, but this is an admittance that I’ve discovered that healing is not a linear process but takes place in multiple forms. And, more times than not, my access to education has helped me in more ways than I willingly admit. In essence, education has caused me to create community with individuals that I may never meet. It has helped me learn from their experiences, and in using discernment, I am able to figuratively take the meat and leave the bones.

I’m able to stand on the shoulders of the people who fought before me, while still being rooted in God. What I noticed in that moment, and what many Christians don’t like to admit, is that God called me to a mountain of influence and not just a pew. He gave me an experience to which many can relate, but equally put me at the intersection of christianity and social justice.

Ultimately, the words of the activists before me performed a sense of textual healing, and my personally cultivated relationship with God helped me to not grow bitter.

 

 

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.