Wednesday, September 26, 2018

In The Waiting, It Is Well

Have you ever felt like your soul was at war with itself? As people, and especially as Christians, I feel like we are constantly battling the “what ifs” of life, feelings of inadequacy, doubt, and fear, always questioning who God has called us to be and wondering where he’s taking us. At the end of 2017, I spoke candidly about being in a season of proverbial drought where I felt like I didn’t have any resources (people or things) to turn to. At the beginning of 2018, there was a little rain, but not enough, and I almost felt like God was punishing me, keeping me in timeout. I was kicking and screaming inside and it felt like I would never be able to come out of that corner of “what’s next?” This is why Tori Kelly’s “Soul’s Anthem (It Is Well)” resonated with me so much. I listened to it for the first time about 45 minutes before writing this post, and I’m still crying as I type.

Tori Kelly - Hiding Place (2018) / Amazon

I’ve been a Tori fan since she first started out on YouTube, but none of her material has stirred me like this. I’m so glad she’s chosen to give her gift back to God with her latest release, Hiding Place (2018). Her sound has gospel written all over it, and pairing her voice with the musical genius of Kirk Franklin is almost too good. The lyrics coupled with the rawness of a capella is a delight to the ears...and the spirit. As I listened, the feelings of frustration and confusion I’ve felt over the last year or so came flooding back...and then they settled.

[Verse 1]:

Teach me how to love You

Show me how to trust You

More than with my words or with a song

No, it's not been easy

To live life down on my knees

But with faith I know I'll carry on

I’ve often asked God to teach me how to trust Him, because trust is definitely easier said than done. I recognize that the work I do on this blog, the words I write to Him and the worship music I love is not enough to sustain my relationship with Him. Trust is a verb. We can’t just say it or sing about it. We have to put it into action. Faith strengthens as we learn to lean on Him.

[Chorus 1]:

There is more to see than with my eyes

But fear sometimes can leave me paralyzed

I realize that I'm not in control

Yet it is well with my soul

This is where the tears began to fall. The biggest thing I struggle with in my Christian walk is patience. I’ve written several posts about the wait (and I hope y’all aren’t sick of it yet, because there’s more to come!). For me, that wait is not only about waiting for a husband. It’s about waiting to become. All my life, I’ve been waiting to become who God has called me to be. I try to walk this walk with confidence, but the truth is, I have no clue what I’m doing—what He’s doing. I’m always checking myself because I want to make sure I’m waiting productively, and I never want to walk outside His will. The problem is, I’ve been trying to figure God out, and that’s impossible because, well, He’s God. All I can do is follow His lead...and the good news is, that’s all I have to do in Him. He doesn’t require anything more.

[Chorus 3]:

This fight I'm in is not of flesh and blood

The weapons that I need are in Your love

Lord, don't You ever let me go

You make it well with my soul

While I feel like I made it out of my drought season, even on the other side of it in this season of “enough,” I felt like I was waiting in an entirely different capacity. For what? I’m still not sure, but I do know this: Something inside me broke a good way. As I listened to this song, I realized that I don’t have to wait anymore. I am becoming as we speak. While I’m waiting, I’m not still or stagnant, I’m moving forward, even if I can’t see it yet. I had planned to write on an entirely different subject today, but I needed to put this out for myself. God allowed me to hear this song when my soul needed a pick-me-up, a reminder that even in the waiting, it is well.
Check out the video below:

Friday, September 21, 2018

Instagram Access Denied: Prioritizing Privacy in Relationships

Based on the title of this post, you're probably expecting a list of reasons why you shouldn't give your significant other the password to your phone. Well, this is not what you think it is.

Remember that friend I talked about last week who advised me not to lower my standards on what I wanted in a man? Well, that friend had some more great advice. It can be summarized in a quote I’ve seen floating around social media for several months now: “I am not accessible to everyone, and that is my power.” I’m not sure who coined that phrase, but it’s definitely a mantra to live by. My friend not only told me not to settle based on looks, she also said that even after I choose someone to date exclusively, I am under no obligation to make it “Facebook official”...and she provided concrete evidence to support her reasoning.

Image source: Ambition Magazine

See, my friend and her boyfriend are a fairly new item. She’s a very private person to begin with, so only her closest friends and family know that she’s dating. She said that all her friends are already asking her when she’s going to move into his place, and they raise an eyebrow when she tells them she’s not posting him on her Instagram. This, of course, seemed against the grain to me, too, especially in the digital age where everyone uses Instagram to display their highlight reels. Naturally, I wondered, So...he’s not a highlight? Still, I listened.

She explained that she doesn’t believe in shacking up because it would be an unnecessary temptation for her flesh. She said, “I love Jesus, but I’m human. If I’m attracted to a guy and I move in with him, that’s too close for comfort.” I agree 100% , but it was the next thing she said that really piqued my interest. She said that until engagement, she had no plans to post her boyfriend on social media because, in her words, “Until he puts a ring on it, he has no right to access that part of my life.” That really resonated with me, mostly because I’d never thought about it like that. I’ve always heard the saying, “A private life is a happy life,” but this was next level. As if she was reading my mind, she answered the question I had earlier. She explained, “It’s not that he’s not a highlight in my life, it’s just that people on social media love to be in your business. Besides, what if they say, ‘Oh, y’all are so cute together?’ What if they tell us we’re ‘relationship goals’? I might, consciously or subconsciously, start to idolize him. Then, what if the relationship goes downhill? What if he’s the best boyfriend ever on Instagram, but behind closed doors, he’s disrespecting me? I don’t want to feel obligated to stay with him to keep up appearances if it’s not what it looks like.” 

I was floored. This had never crossed my mind before, mostly because I’ve never been in a relationship, but also because before this conversation, I looked forward to the day I’d be able to post cute pictures of myself and my boyfriend on social media (I’m a hopeless romantic and a millennial. Don’t judge me!). Anyway, I was struck by the validity of her statements. She said that in her mind, being featured on her Instagram is a husband privilege...and we all know what the church says about giving husband privileges to boyfriends. She closed with this, “Honey, men are hunters. We as women need to let them hunt! If they don’t have anything to chase after or look forward to, there’s no point. Make them work.” When she finished, I wanted to take up an offering. What a word!

Later that day, I met her boyfriend. Not only is he about the Father’s business, but he pursues her with intentionality and treats her like she’s a treasure. Her method must be working, because that’s Proverbs 18:22. Our conversation left me so inspired. I’ve often said I’ll be married and pregnant and nobody will know until we post the baby pictures. It used to be a running joke, but I might be taking it a little more seriously now. *takes notes*

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Wait: Gift Wrap

Image source: Occasional Planet

A couple weeks ago, I jokingly made a Facebook post about a guy I met here in grad school. I use the term “met” loosely, because we only spoke in passing. The status was as follows: 

A cute guy spoke to me today & my first thought was, he’s short. & then I thought, let me not be too picky because guys are hard to come by here. At my school, traditional undergraduate is all women. Adult undergrad and grad school are coed. Listen, I’m not trying to miss out on my blessing, but I’m 5’9, so I’d prefer my man to be at least 6’0. #FatherCanYouHearMe? #GradSchoolChronicles

Almost as soon as I posted it, I wished I hadn’t, because the judge-y responses started pouring in: “All he said was hello...” “Look beyond his exterior and look at the heart,” etc., etc. First of all, it was a lighthearted post, and wasn’t meant to be taken seriously at all. Secondly...I know all that already. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I got rid of my “unlisted list” a long time ago. Still, all those comments just rubbed me the wrong way.

Later that week, when I shared my status with a friend and told her how bothered I was by the responses, she made a valid point. She said, “Honey, God gave you two eyes for a reason. There’s no harm in looking. He knows what you need and what you want. Be specific and ask for it! He will give you the desires of your heart.”

That made me think: If God desires to give me a union that pleases and glorifies Him, would He really send me a man I’m not attracted to? I don’t think so. As long as the primary reason I’m attracted to a man is because of the God I see in him, I don’t see any harm in also liking what I see on the outside. After all, if I marry him, I’ll have to wake up to him in the morning—every morning—for the rest of my life.

Now, that doesn’t mean I get to be shallow in my choosing. Pastor Keith Battle said it best, "If you're looking for a relationship, don't get distracted by how they're formed and miss what they're full of." He’s right. I still need to, first and foremost, examine a man’s heart and his walk with the Father, but I also don’t have to pretend that I’m blind. I want my husband to be fine and of fine quality. I don’t plan to get distracted by how he’s formed, but I will notice. I don’t want a lump of coal wrapped in pretty Christmas paper, but I want the gift inside to be just as beautiful as the paper that drew me to it in the first place.

And yes, I realize that this works both ways. He has to also be attracted to my interior and exterior as well. I recognize that we all have preferences, we all have “types,” and while I do want to be physically attracted to the man I marry, I hope that his outer appearance won’t overshadow what really matters. As they say, it’s the inside that counts—the outside is just a bonus. Definitely something to think about.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

'Thank You for Being A Friend': Why You Shouldn't Sugarcoat Your Story

Image source: Quotabulary

I only want what and who God wants for me, and I REFUSE to settle. That applies to romantic and platonic relationships. He is getting ready to send me people who are equipped to encourage me. He will direct me to those who know how to cover what I'm carrying. They won't be intimidated by or jealous of my gifts. I won't have to question their motives because they'll genuinely want to see me win! I already see it in the spirit. By this time next Him work. #SpeakingIt #WaitingForMyWinnersCircle #GodSendMeMyTribe! 🙌🏾

This was a Facebook status I posted months ago, but I was led back to it this past weekend. The month of August was a month of major changes for me: relocation to a new city and state and the start of a new chapter—graduate school. I’ve opened up a lot on this blog about how I desire covenant friendships. In this season of newness, I am actively seeking them. All my introverts out there know that the struggle is real 😂, but I’m being obedient to the voice of God. I heard Him say this clearly: “In order for Me to send you the friendships you desire, you need to BE the friend you desire." That hit me hard because it means I have to apply my prerequisites to myself. I have to be a friend who is supportive, who encourages and edifies, who covers and helps carry, whose motives and intentions are pure and good. I've started working on that, and I discovered something: Being THAT friend is a never-ending learning process. It's giving what you take and taking what you give...and if done right, it pleases Him. That's the ultimate goal.

I really want to do better about connecting to people. In order to be the type of friend I want to have, I have to make myself available. And I have to give people the real me...the first time. I’m learning a very important lesson here in uncharted territory: If you give people the sugarcoated version of yourself the first time you meet them, you'll end up having to jump through hoops to keep up "appearances." Quite frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that! For the longest time, I thought I had to walk, talk, and act a certain way for people to accept me. Now, my mindset has shifted. I’ve realized that people won’t know what kind of friend they need to be to you if you don’t tell them who you are. If I give people the unadulterated version of my story, I won’t have to wonder if they can handle having a friend like me. Their actions will speak for themselves and I’ll find out who’s really supposed to be in my life for the long haul. From now on, what you see is what you get. If you choose to rock with me, thank you for being a friend. *cue Golden Girls theme song*