Be Intentional

As a type A person, we often take issue with doing things that do not yield immediate or clear cut results. We like for our actions to be meaningful and intentional. Take joy in the fact that we have this in common with God.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to God’s purpose.”

Romans 8:28

Everything that God does is intentional and meaningful. Everything that God doesn’t do is intentional and meaningful. Everything that happens to us that is not of God, but that God allowed and has overseen, God has the power, ability and desire for the outcome of it to work in our favor. Nothing just happens by coincidence outside of God’s watch. God is intentional in the care of God’s children.

A personal challenge for today is to work toward being intentional in what we offer to God. Every gift, every talent, every ability you have was intentionally given to you by God. God gave them specifically to you and you have a unique way of presenting these gifts simply because you are the only you. Let’s be intentional about the way we use our gifts to honor God. Think through ways to use your gifts and talents and think about the outcome of how your efforts toward walking in God’s will and purpose for your life can be received. Let our behavior toward God and in representation of God in our lives not be coincidental, but let’s be intentional about how we behave in accordance with his will.

God is intentionally making sure that everything you encounter will eventually work in your favor for his glory. Are you making sure that everything you put out into the universe is working in God’s favor for his glory?

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Grow Up

discomfort

A good sign of outgrowing something is when it becomes uncomfortable, too tight, too loose, etc.

Discomfort in your life may be a sign that you need more space to expand beyond your current location and circumstances.

“Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Matthew 9:17

sometimes we, in all our control freak tendencies, linger in a particular place or circumstance with a particular person or persons simply because we aren’t finished. We haven’t quite gotten out of it what WE felt like we needed to get. That could mean anything from not getting the desired outcome from a project and wanting to repeat it in hopes of a different result, to giving something or someone everything we could possibly give and not getting the reaction we feel like we deserve.

The above verse is about wine skins. Back in bible times, people carried around and drank wine from a sack usually made out of the skin of an animal. Once stretched to fit the desired amount of wine, the wineskin was done. There was no refilling them or reusing them. You could not put new wine in an old wineskin.

In this next season of taking our hands off of what we can’t control, remember that when you ask God to take you where he wants you to go, everyone and everything can’t go with you and some things will have to be left completely as is. No cleaning up, no tying up loose ends just leave them where they are. You are growing. Growth is often uncomfortable, it’s lonely and tiresome but it is for the best. Your new outlook, habits, attitudes, your entire new self won’t fit into your old lifestyle no matter how hard you try and make the situation one that you can function within. It doesn’t mean you’re better than or above anyone in your past life but it means you are better off outside of those circumstances. It may even mean that the people in your past are better off without you as well. Trust the process and allow God to do what God does best… and that’s pretty much everything. God does all things well.

Shake off the desire to fix things that are out of your control, grow and move on.

There’s Power in Partnership with God

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Order my steps in your word and let no inequity have power over me

Psalms 119:133

You may be a brand new Christian or you may just be new to the realization that most of your issues with your faith come from a problem surrendering to an authority. Either way, we have some work to do. If you are a type A, control freak, the fact that we have to put in some work should excite you. It means you actually have a role to play in this whole thing.

It’s a common misconception that once you’ve committed yourself to a faith, that you are supposed to believe that everything is out of your control and you’re now just at the mercy of a mystical deity. This is not even a little bit true and there’s plenty of evidence in the bible to refute this misconception. There are numerous passages in the bible in which God or Jesus requires that a person who is expecting a miracle actually participate in their miracle.

My favorite example is that of the Israelites crossing the Jordan river (Joshua 3). To sum up the story, the Israelites were freed from slavery and had been through all kinds of crazy stuff. At this point, they are wandering around in the wilderness and they come to the Jordan river. They needed to get across it but it was too deep and too dangerous to just walk through it. Nobody had enough boats for all those people, so Joshua, their new leader since Moses had died, asked God to make crossing the Jordan possible for them. Keep in mind, this isn’t the first time they’ve had to cross a body of water, they had been there and done that at the Red Sea back in Exodus. But God didn’t just roll the water back for them this time. Instead, they had to participate in their miracle. God’s words to them, as written in the bible, were “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s river, go stand in the water.” No explanation or anything. But he gave them a task, they had to get their things together and be prepared to move and then just go stand in the water. No telling what God was going to do.

Long story short, once their feet touched the water, it stopped flowing and became safe for them to cross. But the blessing for us control freaks is not even in the actual miracle. It’s in the fact that though the river was out of their control, their ability to receive their miracle was totally up to them. They had to get prepared, to pack up their things in anticipation that God was going to work it out for them, to PLAN. Thats our favorite thing right? Essentially, God told them to plan to receive their blessing and then take literal steps toward it.

This story, among the many others in the bible, are proof that God is only seeking to have a working partnership with you. Yes, God has authority because God is most powerful, but he’s not looking to exert full power over you using force to subtract your agency. We may not be in full control but we are in partnership with God to reach our Goals. You have part to play. Ask God to guide you, but you have to actually MOVE.

The opening verse is our prayer for our daily lives.

Pray this with me:

Dear God,

Give me the vision you have for me, the passion to press forward and the strength to see it to the end. Let every step I take be closer to you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

With a Silent G

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The last post ended with me heading to college and for a lot of people, college is where the storm starts. For me, college was college. It was exactly what I expected it to be. It was tough and it was all over the place. I never had money but always had just enough. I went to school in Atlanta and had the time of my life. There was always something to do and new people to meet. I danced on the hottest dance time in the city, I pledged a Greek Letter Organization, I won a spot on our school’s royal court and went to all the functions. I made some friends, acquired some family and fell in love. I worked 2 jobs and had an internship and I just knew my career was eventually going to be poppin’.

I majored in public relations management as an undergraduate student and eventually was going to be an entertainment publicist. Atlanta is the perfect place for that kind of career. I was doing all the interning and networking everyone told me I should be doing and I was honestly having a great time. I even found time to still be active in the community because that’s what I was raised to do. The life I was living was just on the edge of the life I had told God I wanted to live. I felt like as soon as I graduated, I was on my way to professional media relations maven-hood. Then, I could show everyone that I was going to be everything they expected of me. I had a handle on things.

In 2012 it was time for me to graduate and I was beyond ready for life after graduation. I was working at Footlocker in the Westend Mall and at a local hair salon as a shampoo assistant, neither of which were in my career field but it was all good. I was feeling inspired watching my peers who were securing their careers in Atlanta and across the country. I was applying for jobs in the city and planning my next moves toward entering graduate school. I had about $40 in my bank account and my lease would be ending soon but I told God what I wanted and I was expecting him to come through.

July of 2012 rolls around and I still had  nothing. I know I know, July is only 2 months after May when everyone graduates. “Give it some time, Imani. Things don’t happen over night,” was everyone’s advice. I heard them and I believe that but this time was different.  I didn’t have any money, which wasn’t new, but there had been two shootings at the mall where I worked so I had already told my manager I wasn’t going to be back because I didn’t have time to be getting shot.  So now I was down to 1 job. I was about a month away from not having anywhere to stay, which wasn’t really that jarring either to be honest. Something was very different this time. I felt different inside myself. I felt wrong and I couldn’t figure out why I felt extremely uncomfortable living my life.

This wasn’t the kind of discomfort that happens when money is tight and you’re just trying to figure life out from paycheck to paycheck, no I had experienced that for the last 4 years so I would have been ok with that for a little longer. This was the kind of discomfort that felt like everything I was trying was supposed to fail. Like failure was chasing me down. Remember, before now I had never known failure in this way. Things work for me because they just do. I do the work and I say a prayer and things go the way I said they should go. Yet, in July of 2012 I felt like I was being pushed out of the life I was trying to create. At one point my car had been broken into about 4 times in a span of 4 weeks; 2 of those times happened within a day of one another. I had a tire blow out on my way to my internship making me late for the final time and eventually, among other things, costing me that opportunity. It was like all my aspirations were standing over me in true mean girl fashion saying “get outta here, girl, this ain’t for you.”

I felt so many emotions in July of 2012. I was confused, I was exhausted, I was frustrated, I was so mad. I remember laying in my boyfriend’s (at the time) lap crying because I was so hurt that God was trying to tell me the life I wanted is not the one he wanted for me. I knew for sure that’s what it was because any step toward that life fell apart. I cried every day for a week in July of 2012. Every single day for 7 days I came home from work, I ate a meal and I cried until I got tired enough to fall asleep. I told God what I wanted and in July of 2012 I heard a resounding “no” that would rearrange the next 4 years. In July of 2012 I called my parents in Kentucky and asked if I could come home. And just like that, I was leaving the life I was building with my friends, my boyfriend, and my career aspirations in Atlanta to go back home to Louisville.

There was so much resentment and many more tears. I felt like a failure. I had gone away to college to prove to everyone that I was everything they expected of me only to move right back into my parents’ house at age 22 having failed at building the life I felt like I was entitled to simply because I had told God that’s the one I wanted. In August of 2012 I packed my things and went back to the room I lived in when I told God I wanted to live in Atlanta as an entertainment public relations manager. God told me “no” and there was nothing I could do about it.

Feelings of failure take a real toll on you emotionally when you’ve always excelled. My life was still fine. I had two parents who were willing to take me back in and allow me time to figure things out. But I could only focus on the fact that I had tried something that didn’t work out. I was trying to believe that everything would work out but the spirit of failure was whispering in my ear a list of things I should have done to have a different outcome. This was my fault. I didn’t do enough. I didn’t work hard enough. I didn’t network enough. My parents sent me to Atlanta and I came back home with only a degree (imagine being mad you got a degree lol) and nothing else.

In August of 2012 I laid in my bed in my room in my parents house with tears running into my ears and I said aloud “What do you want from me?” and I heard absolutely nothing back. My experience with God has always been listening for God’s voice inside myself. Whether it’s a feeling pushing me toward something or a thought that comes to mind that answers a question I asked. God’s voice has always been very real to me and this time I couldn’t hear it. I didn’t hear anything, I didn’t feel anything different from the same hurt I had been feeling for a month so far. And it continued for months. I was sometimes literally shouting at God and I was hearing absolutely nothing.

Naturally, because I believed everything to be in my control with some assistance from God, everything was all my fault. I failed, and now  OMG with a silent “G” because God is obviously beefin’ with me and is giving me the silent treatment. This went on for months. It began in August of 2012 and continued into the beginning of 2013. Silence.

This post ends here but my journey had just begun.

Measure Up

measure-success

How do you define success? What do you have to do and how much do you have to accomplish to feel successful? What is your measuring stick?

Commit to the LORD Whatever you do and he will establish your plans

Proverbs 16:3

Have you asked God today what he wants from you?

This is an important question for us. Knowing what God wants is essential for knowing exactly what we should be doing. As type A people, we like to do. We like for things to go the way we planned for them to happen. In order for us to do this Christianity thing with the personalities we have, we have to also want things to go the way God wants them to go.

Figure out what God wants for you, then want that too.

It sounds simple enough but it will prove to be very difficult when what God wants doesn’t make sense and trust me it will not always make sense. Instructing us to do things and go places that don’t make sense to us will be a common occurrence the stronger your faith gets. This is the nature of faith. It’s believing in spite of not knowing everything.

To help deal with not knowing everything, which is a problem for folks like us, it’s important to remember the following about God:

“I know the plans I have for you,” Says the LORD. “Plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

God always wants what is best for you. God WANTS you to have hope and a bright future. Know that and be encouraged that whatever you’re doing, regardless of how it appears to others,  is successful if it is toward your purpose in the vision God will give you. So ask God, what is the vision? What do you want from me? God will be so excited that you want to know and will show you over and over again that letting him lead will always take you in a direction that is beneficial to you.

Stay the course!

 

 

 

Confessions of…

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I’m Imani.

I’m a (late) twenty-something who is still figuring it out. By “it” I mean all of it. Life, love, health, career, purpose etc etc etc and I’m trying to root it all in faith. The crazy part is , I’m also a control freak. I like things the way I like them and any time they aren’t the way I like them, I’m near anxiety attack. Even crazier than that, I JUST realized this about myself because up until about 2012 my plans have pretty much gone uninterrupted. From 2012 until now I’ve been on a journey to revise and re envision my life according to my purpose within the body of Christ and I know that a huge step in this process is sharing this journey with others.

This blog will be hard for me. Truthfully I’ve been putting it off because of how difficult it will be to share my highs and lows with total strangers. It will be even more difficult to share without being able to control how my vulnerability is received. I can’t control readers’ reactions and perceptions and as a person with a career in controlling perceptions, that is absolutely terrifying. What’s even more terrifying is knowing with every fiber of my being that God is trying to do a good thing with my life and never being obedient enough to reach my full potential.

So here I am. Sharing. Over sharing. Committing.

Praying that my vulnerability blesses someone.

These posts will not always be formally written. Sometimes they will be in narrative form. Other times they will include my free flowing thoughts. They won’t always be properly punctuated. But they will be original and authentic.

This blog is my voice while I navigate God’s plan.

 

 

 

A Shiny New Year

to-god-be-the-glory

It’s a brand new year! You made it!

In this new year, let’s all be mindful of the role we play in God’s master plan.

 

In the same way, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

In our constant struggle for balance between feeling stable and successful and submitting our will to God’s, it can be easy to get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we forget why we’re doing it. Let’s be real, appearances are important to us. A lot of the satisfaction we get from feeling “in control” is appearing to others that we have a handle on things and that we’re doing well. It is not wrong to feel like others should see you doing well. The above verse is proof of such. However, be mindful of why the gaze of others is important to you.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I seeking the approval of others before God’s?
  2. Am I too excited about the way I appear to others?
  3. Is my reputation pointing others to God’s presence in my life?

In this new year, every goal you set, every milestone you reach, every win you publicize, should be a testament to God’s faithfulness in your life. None of us achieve anything of our own strength, courage, guidance etc. By committing ourselves to God, we draw those things from God’s power.

Be sure that all of your actions are rooted in a love for others that mirrors God’s love for you. it is that love that will direct them toward your love for God and the availability of God’s love for anyone open to it. Put forth the work but the glory is not our own. It is God’s.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

I’m Not New to Jesus

the-new-you

I’m not new to Jesus.

You know how people say they grew up in church? My father is a Pastor and I literally grew up in church. I spent almost every day of my formative years at church. In elementary school, my school bus stop was 2 blocks from my church. I walked there everyday after school and helped the church secretary fold bulletins or read hymns to myself, pretended to teach lessons, choreographed praise dances, whatever to pass the time until I could go home. I went to service every Sunday and twice on 4th Sunday for baptism. I went to bible study Wednesdays and choir rehearsals on Thursdays. I went to all the programs and any other service around the city where my Dad was ministering. Someone reading this thinks this sounds dreadful but listen, I LOVE(D) church. My very first friends and chosen family are people I met in church. Thankfully, my church was fun and progressive. We always had some kid-friendly activities happening, so going to church was just life for me.

Aside from being the churchiest kid in Louisville, I mean it when I say I’ve known Jesus my whole life. I mean technically I was baptized October 6, 1996 (yes I remember because churchy) but I cannot remember a time not feeling connected to Christ. I was taught very early who Jesus was as a person and as an extension of God. I prayed and believed in my heart that God heard me and loved me and that Jesus’s life is proof of that. I was a very spiritual child. Always looking for signs that God is real, always asking God to show up for me. There were things I felt as a child that, although I didn’t think much of them when I was younger, I would realize much later that God and I have a special relationship and that things I said and did as a child helped to cultivate that relationship. I’ll get more into that as the blog continues.

All in all, I had an awesome childhood. My parents worked hard to make sure that I lived a carefree life as a child. Outside of school, which I excelled in,  and normal childhood responsibilities, I had no worries. Here’s the hang up. My entire life, I didn’t have very many things to pray very hard about. Like, I prayed but my prayers were reflective of my lifestyle. There was nothing that I prayed for, that if God told me no, would dramatically alter my life. But, of course, I didn’t realize that at all. As far as I was concerned, God and I were just on good terms. Of course I did regular teenaged stuff (Mom and Dad skip the next few sentences), lied, stole some small things, snuck out of the house, Snuck people into the house, hung out too late, experienced some things too early but still within “reasonable” boundaries for myself because I had things I wanted to do and people I wanted to impress and I couldn’t do that addicted to drugs, pregnant or dead. If that statement comes across judge-y, that’s because it is. I meant absolutely no harm by that mindset at the time, but things were supposed to happen a certain way for me and I was very in tune to what was happening with everyone else and how other people reacted. I just could not have that.

People expected certain things from me, therefore I expected those same things from myself. So, I went to school k-12 and did well. I was active in the church and community and had everything under control. In the fall of 2008 I was off to college and I was determined to make things happen the way I imagined. I was convinced that everything I wanted, would happen because I had already told God that’s what I wanted. I told God, and I did it in Jesus’ name.

Here we have identified my problem; a problem I would only recognize years later in retrospect.

Again, I am not new to Jesus. I’ve known God my entire life.

However, the realization that I need him in a much different way than I’ve ever needed him is very very new to me. This post ends here but my journey had just begun.