Monday, December 31, 2018

Forward Falls, Storybooks and Roller Coaster Rides (For 2019)

Hey everyone, I hope your holiday season was warm and bright. I’m back to blogging after a much-needed holiday hiatus, and, per usual, I’m in a space of reflection.
Image source: Pinterest

*cue music* “Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down...”
A lot of changes have taken place since the last time I sat down to write. The first half of grad school is in the books (pun intended), and I did really well. Now that I’m at the end of the fall term, though, I’m coming to a weird realization: The best seasons of my life are the ones where I’m not in control. (And before you ask, yes, I am continuing my studies. I’m just re-evaluating where God is taking me...and how I’m getting there.).

Usually, I’m the look-before-you-leap type. Before I make a decision, I like to carefully weigh out the pros and the cons—to the point where I overthink them—and if the cons even slightly tip the scale, it’s an almost definite no every time. Even if I have no clue what I’m doing (which, honestly is most of the time), I like to feel like I know what’s coming next. Not this time.

Before I wrote this post, I went back and reread the one I wrote at the end of 2017. This time last year, I was so frustrated with God. I was in a drought season which lasted the entire year and spilled over into the beginning of this one. At the end of last year’s post, I asked God something I’d never wholeheartedly asked before. Inspired by Hillsong’s “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”, I prayed, “Lord, tear down the borders of my trust so I can be led by You even when things don't make sense. Even if the waters You lead me into look troubled or murky, even though I can't swim, strengthen my faith and give me the courage to go anyway. Position me to move, and prepare me to go forward without hesitation.” Looking back, that’s exactly what He’s done this year. A few months after I prayed that prayer, a season of enough began. I felt like I could trust Him because it seemed like He had stopped the drought and was finally sending rain. Now, the rain He sent feels like troubled water...but the thing is, I’m not troubled. I feel like I’m being rerouted again, but this time, I’m not worried. I’ve realized that the pulling and stretching I did last year wasn’t God stretching me. It was me...pulling away from Him. In 2019, I’m stretching toward Him. Falling again, not down, but forward...on a roller coaster ride. 

God is using this season of uncertainty to show me His sovereignty. I’ve said that before, but it’s different this time. I said, “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders,” so I shouldn’t have been surprised when He actually did it. It felt like He was throwing me for a loop, and then I remembered something that I hope you’ll take to heart, too: God can choose to “edit” your story at any time because He is the author of it. It’ll seem like an edit to you because you don’t get to proofread. The change will not be what you planned, but it’s no surprise to Him. He checked your story for errors before you were even formed (And since the only thing He CAN’T do is fail, spoiler alert: The ending is always victory). I feel a new song in my spirit for 2019: Tasha Cobbs Leonard’s “I’m Getting Ready” from Heart. Passion. Pursuit. (2017).

Victory is here

Kicked defeat out the door!

God’s doing a new thing

Get ready for overflow!

Here’s how I see it: If 2017 was lacking and 2018 was just enough, the logical next step is overflow! I’m learning that while it’s wonderful to expect increase, it’s not your job to know what’s next. The only thing God asks of you is surrender, because surrender is the signal that tells Him, “I’m ready!” He’s got the twists and turns covered. All you have to do is lean back, throw your hands up, and watch Him blow your mind. Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Examining the “Gray” Area: On the Outside Looking In

Yesterday, all my social media feeds were flooded with video footage of Pastor John Gray’s latest appearance on Sister Circle TV. When I saw that he was trending (again), my first thought was, What has #BlackTwitter found now? I love us, but we can dig into other people’s business like nobody’s business!

If you read this blog, you know that Pastor John and his wife, Aventer, are one of many couples that I admire. After watching John’s clip, I respect them even more. For those of you who disagree, read on and hear me out.

In the now-(in)famous 59-second clip (watch below), Pastor John honors Aventer, saying, “The wife that I chose is better than the man that I am...She’s had to cover me while I grow up.” That part of the conversation raised a few eyebrows, but it was what he said next that caused a social media uproar. He said, “My wife has endured more pain birthing me than both of our children.”

I can see how this could be interpreted as toxic masculinity, misogyny, and even an Oedipus complex, but let me explain what I think he meant by it. Actually, before I give my interpretation, I’ll insert a screenshot of Aventer’s Instagram response for further clarification:

Now, let me ground this biblically. Genesis 2:18, 21-22 says, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’...So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man” ‭‭(NIV‬‬). This was profound to me because as I read and reread it, I realized something: Men really need women. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (NIV, emphasis mine). Nowhere in there does it say it is not good for the woman to be alone. I’ve always said that everyone has a purpose, a specific assignment to carry out. We are all a solution to a specific problem in the earth. In this case, the woman is the solution to a problem that the man has. Fellas, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not trying to emasculate y’all here. What I’m saying is, there was a deficiency in Adam that he could not fulfill on his own. He, of course, could function without Eve, but the addition of her presence enhanced the garden and made it good. She was the favor factor, the missing link. Ladies, so are we! When “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis‬ ‭2:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬), she assumes the role of rib and shields his heart from the outside world. She covers the core of who he is, the parts that only she and God can see, and helps him actualize greatness.

As a man’s rib, the woman was physically designed to fit him, but since he was created first, he may not necessarily fit her right away. This why Pastor John said Aventer is “two sizes too big” for him. She was tailor made for him, but she, as his wife, had to give him the grace to grow into who she needed him to be. Her love (and, of course, the love of Christ) shaped and refined him, but that doesn’t mean she settled. She didn’t just see his potential. She saw who she knew he already was in the Kingdom, and she chose to walk beside him.
John Gray’s phrasing threw some people off, but I believe this is what he meant when he said Aventer went through birthing pains with him. She was helping him birth purpose! This does not negate the fact that Pastor John was clearly a broken man when they married. He admitted that himself, but he also said he didn’t understand how broken he was—which meant he couldn’t communicate that brokenness to Aventer effectively until she began to help him heal.

Ladies, in NO WAY does this make it okay for us to go out and try to fix broken men...and be careful who you label #RelationshipGoals! As we see, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. However, this IS proof that wedding vows are nothing to play with. When Aventer stood before God and everybody and said, “I take thee to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you" (The Knot), that agreement is binding! Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes, it’s not. Either way, it entails honor. That means that when Aventer chose to have John as her husband, she had to hold him down...when it was good, bad, and ugly. She had to honor him whether he was the pastor of Relentless Church or the poorest man in town. Why? Because when she said those vows, she pledged her life to him—and here’s the part that so many critics are leaving out: When he said his vows, he also pledged his life to her. In that 59-second clip, we only heard about what she did for him. We don’t know the other side of the story of how he covers her, but he was also quoted as saying, “I’m gonna live the rest of my life to honor her.” I hope Pastor John is making up for lost time, becoming the man his family needs him to be...and I hope Aventer is not staying in a marriage that’s draining her. From the looks of her post, though, it seems like she’s got it covered (pun intended).

I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors in the Gray house, but I do know this: I pray that even in my singleness, God will dismantle the myth of the “perfect” man and send me the one whose heart I’m supposed to cover. I pray that He will give me the tools to simultaneously protect and be protected. I pray that regardless of the ups and downs my husband and I face privately, God will allow us to display honor, not so as to cover up dirt or scandal, but to keep people out of personal matters, especially when one or both of us is experiencing the vulnerability of growing pains.

Both the man and the woman should be working towards wholeness before walking down the aisle, but growth doesn’t stop when you get married. Growth is a continuous process, and marriage shines a light on the gray areas in your life that need improvement. When you get married, your struggles become your spouse’s struggles and vice versa. You work through issues together. Marriage is give and take, but what I see now is that it’s not always 50/50. Some seasons are 80/20, some are 60/40. The grace, the covering, is given to who needs it the most at the time. No outside questions should be asked, because most people are judging from the outside looking in. Now, can we please stop throwing stones inside of glass houses? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of replacing shattered windows.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Returning to the Throne of Grace: Tasha Cobbs Leonard, August Alsina, and the Accessibility of God

On Friday, while scrolling through my Instagram feed, I stumbled upon a surprising collaboration. Gospel artist Tasha Cobbs Leonard brought R&B sensation August Alsina onstage during her Revival tour in Charlotte, NC to sing “You Know My Name,” from her 2017 album, Heart. Passion. Pursuit.

I haven’t followed August Alsina’s career closely because his rise to fame began right before I stopped listening to secular music. I do, however, remember the single that put him on the map: 2013’s “I Luv This S***.” The song was a street anthem, a hip-hop track sprinkled with R&B flair, addressing the usual hip-hop subject matter (sex, drugs, objectification of women) and riddled with profane language.

The August Alsina I saw in that clip Friday is not the same one from five years ago. The new Alsina has a testimony, a purpose, and a calling, and this post (which I hope he gets a chance to read) is a call to action. What I heard Friday was the sound of redemption. 

Check out the special duet below:

I may not listen to secular music that often anymore, but I appreciate a unique tone in any genre. Alsina definitely has that, but what I heard Friday was...different. There’s a certain something about Jesus music that sets it apart from every other genre. When the worship is for real, there’s a distinctive cry, a raw sincerity that tells listeners that it’s coming from the heart. That’s what I heard, or rather, what I felt, when August Alsina opened his mouth: A shift in the atmosphere, a stirring that let me know that his soul needed to sing that song. From what I know about gospel music, one doesn’t just sing a song with that much conviction unless they have a reason to. I wanted to find Alsina’s reason.

Since I was a little out of the loop on what Alsina’s been up to these days, I googled him—and when I did, I found an interview he did on Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk” earlier this year. During his sit down with Jada and company, he opened up about his struggles with drug addiction.

In the interview, Alsina said, “I was pretty much doing way too many shows, not taking care of myself. I was drinking so much liquor. Smoking so much weed. Just one night at a show in New York, I literally passed out and fell off the stage.” As a result of that fall, which happened back in 2014, he was prescribed Percocet...and before he knew it, he was addicted, taking at least six pills per day. He quit cold turkey, without rehab, and spoke candidly about the steps he took to put his life back together again.

As he sang: 

He knows my name
He knows my name

Oh, how He walks with me,
Oh, how He talks with me,
Oh how He tells me that I am His own...

I heard God say, “Give Me back what’s Mine.”

I listened, on repeat, with tears in my eyes, and I was reminded of James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (NIV). Every gift, singing, dancing, acting, etc., is given by the ultimate gift giver, God. Whether that gift is used in the secular realm or not is a choice made by the person He gives it to...but if it’s secular, it can only stay secular for so long. The Creator will always get the credit for His creation.

August Alsina sang those lyrics as if he realized in that moment that God really does still know his name. He sang like he thought about how long it’s been since the last time he called on Him just to talk, just to tell Him how good He is. He sang like he had the biggest epiphany he’s had in a long time: that no matter how far he walks away from God, he always belongs to Him.

Today, Tasha Cobbs Leonard shared a video on her Facebook page of the backstage moments following her duet with Alsina. In the clip, shown below, Alsina tells Cobbs Leonard how much of a positive impact her music has had on his life:

That moment was so relatable for me. As a gospel music lover and avid gospel concert-goer myself, I’ve had the opportunity to have that moment with a few of the artists I support. It’s a rewarding experience for them and for me. Record sales are great (#BuyKingdomMusic!), but being able to stand in front of these people and tell them how much their art of worship inspires me is priceless. I was glad to see that Alsina was inspired, and I hope he realizes that his worship can inspire others as well.

I pray that in the days that have followed that performance, Alsina has taken time to reflect on who God is in his life and what it is He wants him to do in the earth. I pray that the same conviction he felt while singing that song will cause him to run and never look back, to run into the arms of the One who first loved him.

Dear August Alsina (and every other creative, secular or otherwise)

God knows your name. He knew it long before the crowd screamed it at the top of their lungs. He knew it before you were ever formed. Whether you profess to know Him or not, He is always walking beside you, and He will talk to you if you’re willing to listen. Once you’ve accepted Him as your Savior, you are always His, and He is always yours. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how long it’s been, He’s always available and accessible to you. Give Him back what is rightfully His—your life and your song.


A music lover who cares

P.S. August, it’s time for a gospel album!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Dismantling the Myth of Mr. and Mrs. Smith: Why Will and Jada Aren't My #RelationshipGoals

It’s not always sunny in paradise...even when you’re married to Will Smith. 
I finally got a chance to watch the first couple of episodes of the second season of “Red Table Talk,” Jada Pinkett Smith’s popular Facebook Watch show, and I was pleasantly surprised to see her husband, Will, as a guest. Jada’s usual cohosts, her mother, Adrienne Banfield Norris, and her daughter, Willow, sat at the red table, too, and listened intently to the story of what Jada called a “unique union.” “Unique” is an understatement. The conversation became more and more candid as the episode progressed, and the audience was left hanging in anticipation of the next segment of the discussion. Since I was a week behind, I was able to watch parts one and two back to back. I learned some very important lessons from their discussion:

  1. Timing is everything.
  2. Everything is not what it seems.
  3. Will and Jada are not my #RelationshipGoals.

It’s time to dismantle the Smith myth.

For so many years, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have been one of black Hollywood’s “it” couples. All eyes are on them as they light up every red carpet they walk on, seeming to exude love and adoration for each other as they pose for photo ops. Black singles, and even Black, single, Christians—especially women—look at them and long for what they have. I’ve heard the saying so many times, “I want that Will and Jada type of love!” According to the conversation they had on these episodes of “Red Table Talk,” that love almost didn’t happen—and when it did, it wasn’t what it looked like. 

Will and Jada’s love story began before they ever met face to face. Will, who, at the time, was a fresh face on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” saw Jada in “A Different World,” and immediately felt a spark.

Despite the “thing” that Will felt, their “magical” meeting didn’t exactly go as planned. He went to “A Different World”’s set with every intention of introducing himself to Jada, but instead of meeting Jada that night, he got distracted by another girl...and ended up meeting (and marrying) his now ex-wife, Sheree. That was the first lesson I took from this episode: Timing is everything, and if you’re not careful, distractions can cost you your destiny. Will met the wrong person at the time that he was supposed to meet the right one, and it changed the course of his life. Will and Sheree share a son named Trey, but imagine how different his life would’ve been if he’d met Jada first...

Will and Sheree eventually divorced, and he and Jada started dating the day he signed his divorce papers. Two years into their relationship, they were pregnant with their son Jaden, and 3 months after that, they were married—not because they wanted to be, but because Jada’s mother insisted. 

(Bonus lesson: Never get married just because someone else says it’s a good idea. That’s a whole different story.)

So, both Will and Jada were successful actors with 3 beautiful children (by this time, they had added their daughter, Willow, to the bunch). All is well, right? Wrong. 

I’ve always thought it was cool how Will and Jada just seemed to “work” together. Behind the scenes, though, the angle was off. Turns out, the Smiths have very different views on marriage:

Will said he always wanted to be a husband and family man. Contrarily, Jada said, “I just never agreed with the construct [of marriage]...Till death do us part is real for me. I just don’t agree with all of [marriage’s] rules, all of the ideas...” Jada’s mother added, “And what you can’t do,” and she continued, “The accepted, conventional definition of wife, in the paradigm, I’m not that.” This is where the Smith myth fell apart for me, and I know it’s the reason for the unhappiness Jada mentioned in the latter part of part one, in the 45+ mornings she spent crying about being unsatisfied in her union.

Will and Jada broke up—within their marriage. They destroyed it privately, while in the public eye, it looked to be intact. Then they put it back together on their own terms, after they, in their own words, “found themselves.” They stopped living for each other’s (and the outside world’s) approval and figured out who they were individually. Now, they say they don’t even consider themselves married anymore, at least not in the conventional sense.

Here’s why what “works” for the Smiths would never work for me: I know that when you enter into a marriage, you don’t get to pick and choose what parts of the vows you’ll actually uphold—just like you don’t get to pick which verses of the Bible you take to heart. Marriage is all or nothing. That “paradigm” that Jada alluded to isn’t just the accepted definition of wife, it’s BIBLICAL! Marriage was designed by God to carry out a specific assignment in His Kingdom. Disregarding parts of that mandate just because it specifies things you can’t do is not Godly.

I won’t let my marriage get to the point where we’re living separate lives (especially not with separate people—that’s called adultery!) in the same house. It won’t have to get to that point for my husband and I, because I am in the process of doing the inner work now, before marriage. Choosing a husband or wife is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. It’s second only to your choice to submit your life to God. The time to “find yourself” is not after you’ve made a commitment to intertwine your life with someone else’s. You’re supposed to learn who you are while your life is still just yours, and of course, always, God’s. If you’re doing marriage the Christian way, you know that the vows aren’t meant to trap you; they’re there to hold you accountable—to God, to your spouse, and to yourself.

As I watched this discussion, I noticed a lot of my single, Christian friends liking and commenting on the videos, some even going as far as to say the Church can learn from the conversation. In a lot of ways, they’re right, we can learn from it, but we have to be careful about what exactly we’re learning. I still like the show because I enjoy intellectual, personal conversation, and their discussions tackle real issues head-on...but as for me and my #RelationshipGoals, Will and Jada aren’t it. I do appreciate what their story taught me, though: What we see on TV and red carpets is often just that—for show. Marriage, even the unions we consciously or subconsciously idealize, is not always as great as it looks from the outside. Saints, I know y’all don’t want to hear this, but here it is: Just because it works for Will and Jada doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to “redefine” marriage on my terms. I want to do it on God’s terms, the way He intended it, the first time around. 

*All videos featured in this post are from “Red Table Talk”’s official Facebook page. No copyright infringement intended.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Survival of the Fittest: The Trouble With Typecasting

Image source: Facebook

Last week, I saw this picture on Facebook and couldn’t help but laugh. For the past few years, it’s been a running joke in my family that I have a “type.” I used to be in denial about it, but now, I’m honest with myself. I do gravitate towards men of a certain height and build, and most of the men I find attractive have similar features. While I don’t think there’s any harm in looking (and liking what you see), I am careful not to get caught up in the trap of typecasting.

In television and film, typecasting is defined as “to cast (an actor or actress) in a part calling for the same characteristics as those possessed by the performer; to cast (an actor or actress) repeatedly in the same type of role” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). In relationships, typecasting happens when we allow the same type of woman or man to “audition” for the role of significant other. 

For example, let’s say I meet a guy. We’ll call him “Joe.” Joe seems to check off all my boxes as far as looks are concerned, and after talking for a bit, it seems we like a lot of the same things...and Joe loves Jesus! So far, so good. We go on a few dates to get to know each other, and soon, Joe’s true colors show. Turns out, he’s not the man I thought he was, and he ends up breaking my heart. So ladies, why is it that when we finally get over the “Joe” in our lives, when we’re finally ready to put ourselves out there again, we somehow end up attracting (and attracted to) someone who looks, talks, and acts like “Joe”? That’s typecasting. 

I’ve seen it happen too many times to count: Friends going from one guy to the next, not realizing that all the men they’ve loved are basically the same person. I want to avoid that at all costs, so I keep reminding myself of what I mentioned in a previous post. “Marriage isn’t based on feelings, it’s based on fit.” I don’t know about you, but I want my marriage to last, to serve as an example of how well love works when you do it God’s way. If it fits, it survives. That’s why they call it survival of the FITTEST! “Joe” can look good all day long (Fellas, “Jessica” can, too. Don’t flex. Y’all have types just like we do.). He/she may fit your type description, but are they fit to help you carry the calling on your life? Looks won’t lighten your load!

If God repeatedly allows the “Joes” or “Jessicas” in your life to break your heart, it’s because his/her heart (and others like it) is not the heart that’s meant to love you. God may send someone into your life who is the complete opposite of your “type” in every way, not only in looks, but in the “type” of job they have, the “type” of money they make, the “type” of degree they have (or none at all). That person could end up being the best fit for you, but you’ll never know if you keep wasting your time on people who don’t align with your purpose. I’m not saying you should settle for someone you’re not attracted to, but challenge yourself to broaden your horizons and look beyond your type. You may be surprised by what you find...or who finds you. 😉

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Relationships: Taking A Hands-Off Approach

Last week on his Instagram, gospel artist Will McMillan (get his album My Story here) posed a seemingly simple question to his followers. “If you’re single, what’s the reason? Honest answers only.” Answers ranged from silly to serious, but they got me thinking. My first response was, “I’m single because I know what’s for me will pursue me in God’s timing.” I thought about it a little longer, and then I expounded on my answer, adding, “I’m single because I believe in love in a generation that is fueled by sex. I’m single because I can’t afford to settle. I know that the person I choose will impact my purpose. My alignment will affect my assignment. I’m single because I’m waiting on God...but maybe He’s waiting on me. I’m not sure yet.” Those were my honest answers, or so I thought...until McMillan answered his own question. 

A few days after his original post, McMillan took to his Instagram stories to share the reason why he’s single. In reference to his past relationships, one of which was a failed engagement, he said something that really convicted me: “Anything in our hands is bound to fail.”

Source: GfyCat

Let me explain. I’ve always been very vocal about the fact that I’ve never been in a relationship, about how I’m waiting for the right one. When I answered that simple question the other day, I answered it truthfully...but those were the fluffy truths. If the FULL truth be told, a huge reason why I’m single is because I put potential relationships in my own hands and God allowed them to fail...before they even started. I got so caught up in the idea of relationships with certain people that I tried to make them happen in my own timing. Even if the relationship might’ve been a good thing, God didn’t let it last long enough for me to find out. He blocked me every time I attempted to force a premature thing because while I was telling Him I’d take it slow, my heart was saying, “I want it NOW.” I was so busy jumping through hoops to be seen, heard, and understood that I didn’t stop to hear Him saying, "Don't touch!" Honestly, my desire to be in a relationship was beginning to take His place. 

McMillan quoted my favorite scripture, Matthew 6:33, in his discussion, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.” Suddenly, I got it: God stopped those potential relationships in their tracks because He knew I wasn’t ready. He knew that before He sent me “the one,” I needed to realize that He is number one. I needed to know that a spouse is an addition. When they come into the picture, they should be adding onto a life that is already great because God is in it. I’m so grateful for every “no”...even the ones that didn’t—and still don’t—make sense.

This word is for me, but I hope it helps you, too: When your relationship with God is where it’s supposed to be, He’ll decide when to add the right person into the equation...and you won’t have to add anything to who you are to prove that you’re enough for them. You’ll just BE, and God will put it together—in His timing, not yours. If God’s hand is in it, you won’t have to put your hands on it. All you have to do is trust that He knows what He’s doing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Avoiding Buyer's Remorse: Dating In and On Purpose

If you’ve ever been house hunting, you know that the housing market changes every day. Properties come and go, and if you like a particular house, you need to put in an offer quickly...and even then, it’s not guaranteed to be yours until the seller accepts. The same applies to relationships, and this is where problems can arise. If we’re honest with ourselves, some of us are staking claim on “houses” that are not meant to be ours. The truth is, consciously or subconsciously, we’ve chosen to ignore the signs.

A little about me: I’m in my twenties and I’ve never been on a date. I’m a hopeless romantic and a millennial, but I don’t believe in dating casually. There’s nothing “casual” about choosing a spouse. When we say “I do,” purposes are intertwined and individual assignments merge to become a two-person project. Since I want my first marriage to be my only marriage, I’d rather date intentionally. I want to choose right(eously) the first time.

Image source: Room Sketcher

If you watch HGTV’s “House Hunters,” you know that buyers tour three homes before they decide which one they’d like to live in. They weigh the pros and cons of each (because no house is perfect), and while they may have to compromise on a few things, by the end of the show, they choose the one that best suits their needs. There’s a difference between suitable and compatible. When we’re “house hunting,” we have to look at the whole floor plan because the exterior can be misleading. It wouldn’t do us any good to choose something that looks good on the outside if we find out later that the inside needs to be gutted. Inspections are important because the choice has to be practical! We do ourselves a great disservice when we ignore the “little” issues behind the walls, because before we know it, they become big problems. Before we settle on who we think is “the one,” we need to check the electrical wiring and the insulation! Find what drives them, what makes them tick, and why they react to certain things the way they do. Before you sign on the dotted line, get familiar with their foundation! 

2 Corinthians 6:14 tells us, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness” (NIV)? Too often, Christians take that scripture at face value, but the truth is, being equally yoked goes far beyond practicing the same religion. We serve the same God, but are we working towards similar goals? Are we headed in the same direction? One of the most important aspects of marriage is being able to help your spouse cultivate their God-given vision. We can’t do that if we’re busy taking pictures with a “property” that doesn’t belong to us. Even if your foundation feels solid, it means nothing if the person you’re building with is not built for you.

Marriage isn’t based on feelings; it’s based on fit. The institution of marriage was designed by God to carry out a specific assignment in His Kingdom. Before you build, look in the nooks and crannies and make sure the partnership makes sense. Building the “right” foundation with the wrong person won’t be fulfilling for either of you because the foundation has to meet both of your needs. Your alignment affects your assignment! Be honest with yourself and seek God to make sure your purposes fit.

The bottom line is this: Before you go house hunting, inspect your own house. Examine the inner workings of your heart and make sure your foundation is solid on its own before you put yourself on the market. Hear from God in every step of the process. Tell Him your wants and needs, but never lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day, He knows what’s best for you. Follow His lead, and you won’t be “on the market” for long. 😉

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Wait: How to Avoid A 'Crushing' Blow

Yesterday was #NationalBoyfriendDay, but since I didn't get a chance to post, I figured I'd celebrate today instead. I couldn't ask for a better guy. He pursues me intentionally, and he makes me feel like I'm the most valuable, most beautiful woman in the world. This man is my biggest supporter. He prays with me and for me, encouraging me to go after the vision that God has given me. I do the same for him. We've been together for a while now, but we wanted to make sure this thing was real before we made it official. I'm so honored to be pursuing purpose with him. Here he is...

Image source: Getty

Sanctified, fine, and INVISIBLE. 😂 Had you going for a minute there, didn't I? I jokingly post the picture above every year to commemorate this Instagram-made "holiday." That introduction was just practice, but if I was seeing someone, I wouldn't post it. Privacy is priority in relationships. 😉

Anyway, while I'm waiting, I want to talk about something that makes the weight of the wait a lot heavier than it has to be: unrequited love. If I've learned anything during the wait, the most important lesson has been that it's not always patient. Sometimes it's frustrating, especially if you have a crush. When I say "crush" in the adult sense, I'm not talking about the puppy love grade school stuff. I mean, obviously there should be an element of innocence there if you're both abstaining, but in this context, a "crush" is someone you're interested in who you see potential with, but currently, they're just a friend. Those italics are intentional.

Image source: Emoji Request

Over time, I've learned that even in the adult waiting game, it is possible to still be crushed by a crush...because at this point, waiting isn't a game anymore. In adulthood, the "game" is played for keeps, and I would hate for you to end up like the emoji above. Sis, let me let you in on a little secret. Brothers, y'all lean in too, even though you already know the truth of what I'm about to say. Listen carefully: Ladies, a man's business is not your business until he makes it your business.

Trust me, when you like someone, social media is not your friend. We as women are emotional creatures, and let's be honest: If your potential guy (who loves Jesus, is fine AND single) suddenly posts a picture with a girl, the first place your mind is going to go is girlfriend. Don't jump to conclusions, though. Whether he's seeing the girl in the picture or not, making assumptions could set you up to get played. Here's the thing: You can't get mad about what you think you see when you're not even in the picture. If you're not an important factor in that man's life, you can't control who he may or may not be entertaining, because frankly, it's none of your business. There's no need to trip, because you can rest in this: What's for you will PURSUE YOU! Even if the friendship is in italics, it's the man's job to show you how he feels. After all, you're the catch. He should count it a blessing to have you! It's simple: If a man wants you in his world, he'll let you in. Until then, don't try to RSVP to a party you weren't invited to. Just play your position until he makes his intentions clear. Your heart will thank you later.

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*