True Unconditional Love

Most of us feel pity when we see others suffering.  If we see a woman crying or a child who has fallen and hurt themselves we feel some type of empathy.  We feel sorry for the people who have been unjustly killed or sacrificed for the sake of hatred.  We become responsive.

Funny thing is, most people can’t even stand the people that they see every day like co-workers, bosses, family members, church members, and/or neighbors.  Since they irritate us we would rather not deal with them at all and we aren’t even compelled to figure out what ails them.

Ministry is so much more than a pulpit, a stage, and a microphone.  Sure we appreciate a praise team who helps to usher in the presence of the Lord.  We are inspired and encouraged by the word of the preacher, but what about us?  Outside of “church” related areas of ministry what else should we do?  We should love.

My goodness!  It sounds like the easiest thing in the world to do, but apparently it’s harder than it sounds.  How can I get on stage and minister to a group of people, but then refuse to deal with the ones who are in some way related to me?  Doesn’t God require me to love all?

I watched a doctor show a little while ago and there were two doctors talking.  They were arguing over whether or not to help a patient who was deemed a bad man.  One of the doctors said something so powerful.  He said, “We don’t get to choose who we help.  That’s the oath that we took. We help whoever needs help.”

I know that it sounds so plain and simple, but ministry is the same way.  We don’t get to choose who we minister to.  We minister to everyone that we come in contact with.  This list includes: annoying family members, cruel bosses, jealous co-workers, rude neighbors, and prideful church members.  Add to the list if you like.  The point is that as a disciple of Christ we can’t minister to or love people on the left while turning our backs on the people to the right because they “get on our nerves.”  Let’s love with a true unconditional love.

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Overcoming Shame to Inspire Hope

Today I saw a beautiful illustration of hope on Instagram. It was a picture of a root deep below the dirt.  The caption on that picture said, “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but actually you’ve been planted.”  I love that.  That’s called hope.  It’s the light at the end of the tunnel that tells you that you can make it and better days are coming.  That’s what I aspire to represent for others.  I want people to see me, hear my story and be inspired by hope.

I learned an important lesson about giving hope.  It starts with overcoming shame.  We don’t go through storms and make it to the other side so we can hide the past.  We aren’t supposed to bury our struggles and challenges.  I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t have a story.  There’s something lurking in everyone’s closet that is a part of their past.  If you don’t get healed from it, that thing will continue to lurk around and you will never be able to inspire hope in others.  I personally cannot and will not be ashamed of where I have come from, where I am, or where I’m going.  Walking in shame says that I don’t appreciate what God has done for me and keeps me from acknowledging my progress.  On top of that shame is like being shackled and bound.  It’s oppression.  It’s also pride and my bible says that “pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Like I said I want to be the person that people look to for hope and inspiration.  Don’t look at my life and think about perfection. See the struggles and the journey that has brought me to where I am today, then you can look at your own life and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you too can make it.  You are bigger than your circumstances and trials in life do not have to define you. You can be victorious while walking through the storm and triumphant when you choose not to be consumed by your issues.

I haven’t always been this passionate about overcoming shame.  At the end of 2011 I found out that my husband was “dealing” (selling).  Yes.  I said it.  At the end of 2012, he went to jail to serve a four year sentence.  I was devastated.  Here I am this Christian woman known for loving Jesus and my husband is a wannabe thug.  It’s okay. You can laugh.  I was a stay at home with three kids (one with autism) and I had never lived on my own before.  I cried out to God and screamed and hollered.  I had to move into a new house without the help of my husband.  I have been raising our three children since 2012 by myself.

At first I wanted to die.  Seriously, I just wanted to die. I couldn’t believe that something like this was happening to me.  Not me!  Yes me.  I even stopped going to church for almost a year.  It was too embarrassing.  I was so worried about what religious folks and naysayers would say about me that I couldn’t bring myself to go and be ministered to.  Crazy huh?

Let me tell you what I learned during that time.  First of all, I have the best family in the world. I love them.  They love me.  Nuff said.  They rallied around me and my sister, God bless her and her husband, they have come to my rescue so many times I lost count.  This journey was as much about my husband’s rehabilitation as it was about mine.  For years I have learned to rely on others. The thought of standing on my own two feet was terrifying.  I am the prime example of the damsel in distress who awaits her knight in shining armor. I had to decide that I was either going to be crushed by this trial or I was going to grow stronger.  Like I’ve said before, I have always had a desire to motivate and encourage others so I had to make a decision that I was NOT going to allow this situation to take over. I am not someone else’s mistakes. I am not a damsel in distress. I am not weak.  I am an overcomer.  I am a warrior and I am not alone.

I started reading the Bible after I picked myself up off of the floor.  “He will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  I eventually went back to church and even got involved in the infant’s ministry and I served as a greeter/usher a few times.  I had to move beyond self.  It was hard.  I stuffed tears back into my eyes many times.  (You know how you look all the way up so the tears roll back?)

Let’s cut to the end shall we? I went back to school with a determination like never before.  I worked and really learned what life is like as a single parent.  It aint’ easy, but I survived.  I learned to pay bills…on time.  I learned to take out that nasty trash…on time.  I learned to be thankful for every blessing that I have.  I stopped feeling sorry for myself and got up.  I graduated from Regent University on May 9, 2015.  I had an amazing teacher that talked me into writing this blog.

Guess what else?  My marriage is the most surprising part of the whole story in my opinion.  We didn’t fall apart.  Nope. Even though our union seems impossible, I learned that nothing is impossible with God.  He keeps showing me this over and over again.  It’s refreshing each time I relearn the lesson.  We are still a work in progress. I don’t want to take away from his testimony because he can’t wait to get out and share it so I won’t go too much further on that topic.  I will end with this.  It ain’t easy, but I survived and I’m doing well.  I have a smile on my face and I’m happy.  I haven’t been able to say that in a long time.  I’m happy.  Feels good to say and to type.  Guess what?  You can make it too!  Don’t let the naysayers and religious folks keep you from walking in victory.  Hold your head up.  You are an overcomer who triumphs not because you’re perfect, but because you don’t quit.  Don’t roll over.  So long as you have breath in your lungs you keep fighting and keep believing.  “He will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  Be inspired!  #loveshopeheals

Your Past Is Just That…the Past

How many times have I said to myself that I would never …and then turn right around and do it anyway?  I thought that I would grow up to fully experience the American dream. You know, the one that includes a white picket fence, two beautiful children, boy and girl, an amazing husband, the perfect career and a partridge in a pear tree.  So basically I had this dream in high school and I thought that my entire life would be filled with warm and fuzzy feelings.  I don’t even know why I thought that because I grew up in a dysfunctional house. I digress.  The point is that in addition to this dream I had a long list of things that I would never do and never deal with. Then reality slapped me in the face.

I’m 32, and I just graduated from college with my B.A. about two weeks ago.  I have THREE children and the youngest has autism.  My husband and I got married when I was 19 and a world of woes was bestowed on my little princess head.  I do have a house with a white fence.  It’s a broken fence like the story of my life.  With the exception of that broken white fence I have managed to have very few of the things that I thought and believed I’d have and I ended up with more of the things on the other list.  My marriage, like my fence has been broken, tested and taken through the fire.  I won’t dish up a whole story here on where my life has come from but suffice it to say that I have a past rooted deep in pain, shame, and betrayal.

But that was yesterday back in yesteryear.  I’m no longer broken and neither is my marriage.  I have thrown away my crown of shame and replaced it with wisdom from the garments of experience.  The pain that once marred my face has also been dispelled.  I’ve learned to push past the tears and learn from the pain.  I stand with my feet firmly planted in the shoes of this new being that I have become.  Like a butterfly I endured the process of my cocoon and I’m free.  I’m not bound by any of the sorrow that took me out yesterday because my past is just that…the past.

Strength comes from brokenness not from the ability to hide pain. By taking the pieces of me that were broken and offering them to the Lord I realized that I don’t have to fix me and I don’t have to pretend that nothing is wrong.  I simply have to trust Him.  I can be still and know that He is God and His grace is enough. It is sufficient for me.  I roll away from the pain and learn from it so I don’t have to stay broken.

I’m a 32 year old recent graduate from Regent University, proud mother of three, faithful wife of one, loyal follower of Christ, bold, courageous, strong, black woman.  I am here in part because of my past but my past is yesterday’s news.  I am who I am today and I don’t have to hide from yesterday because my past is just that…my past.

Congratulations, You Can Make It!

Sometimes the Lord hides us and protects us.  He takes us away from situations so that we can get stronger.  It feels so good to hide in the shadow of the Almighty and know that He is with us but, there will be a day when we have to stand and fight.  There will be times when we are ushered back into the presence of the very thing that we were taken away from.  In those times we have to remember not to be afraid.  Don’t fear the things from yesterday because you were strengthened during your time with the Lord and He has not left you.  You aren’t the person you were yesterday.  You’re stronger.  You are wiser.  You’re braver and you have what it takes to make it.  You don’t cower in fear and you don’t run and hide.  Your time for hiding is over.  You remember that this is a new day and you are a new creation.  The old you was afraid and the old you couldn’t make it but how can you go back to what no longer exists?  “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).

What Are You Feeding Your Spirit?

Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to the ways of the world but instead we should be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.”

Every single day we are bombarded with the things of the world.  We are bombarded with images on televisions and messages in the media that contradict the word of God.  We hear about horrible things happening all around us that cause us to grieve.  It’s so easy to get trapped in the sorrow and hopelessness of the world.

If we allow this “stuff” to outweigh the word of truth then life will seem too hard to bear.  The things that we hear and see settle in our spirits and if we don’t have something down there to combat the world’s tainted view of life we will eventually begin to conform.  Our lives will seem empty and our hearts will feel a void.  We’ll struggle with blurring lines of right and wrong and eventually “our truth” won’t be far from the “world’s truth.”  We become like an old instrument that is out of tune.  Our spirits aren’t strong and vibrant anymore and the weight of life will beat us down.

Oh to be full of the life of Christ!  It doesn’t come because we “will” for it to exist in our lives.  Since we know that we are constantly besieged with the world’s views we have to intentionally fill our spirits with the word of truth.  God’s word is our two edged sword and it is strong enough to combat the fiery darts of the enemy.

When feelings of loneliness arise just remember:

“…he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut. 31:8

When you feel ugly or inadequate remember:

“Thank you for making me wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it.” Psalm 139:14 NLT

When you feel defeated and burned out remember:

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” Isaiah 40:29 NLT

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.” Psalm 139:14 The Message

What are you feeding your spirit today?