“For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.”Psalm 71:5-8 NIV
Last week, my coworker, H and I were talking about going back to school. H made it clear that she did school, was good at it, but now it’s done. When I asked what exactly she wanted to do career wise, she said she didn’t know yet. She majored in Psychology. Although she thought about being an English major, she didn’t think she’d get a job. Oddly enough, I majored in English when I wanted to major in Psychology. I chose English because it was what I was passionate about. H mentioned that while she was great at school, she lacked the passion that everyone else had. I related all too well to her sentiments. When compared to other people in my program, I was the least passionate, or so it seemed from my perspective.
When we talked more, I could see clearly how I was at her age. At twenty-three, I was left broken from college. I left school discouraged and feeling as if there were so many things torn down that I could not rebuild. I left feeling like I didn’t give my best. I see now just how much things can change in two years. It wasn’t until I was well into my post-grad resting period that I realized how wrong I was about how undergrad ended.
At twenty-three, I was devoid of passion. I felt as if my greatest passions were supposed to sustain me from one point to the next. When they didn’t, I was left with no momentum. Passion, like happiness, burns bright red and orange. It burns deep and sparks quickly, but just as swiftly as it finds me, it will leave. My life shouldn’t rely on passion but dedication. Dedication pushes me over the hump when passion runs out. Dedication makes me lay a stone even when I don’t know what I’m building.
I thought my time after college was a time for rest, but honestly, it was the busiest two years of my life. In two years I learned what it takes to live alone. I learned about how to sustain successful friendships. I learned how to love Jesus first, my family second, and myself third. I learned that when I plan, I fail. I get too detailed, and I begin veering off on a path that isn’t destined for me. I learned that whatever you feed will grow. If you love someone today, love them tomorrow, and just keep on doing that until it’s not hard anymore. I learned that hurting people hurt people. I learned that sometimes I can be the most petulant person in the room if I get offended. I learned how not to get offended. I learned that any relationship worth having is worth the good and the bad. Each lesson, its own solid stone.
Between my patches of stone building, I entertained talk from people who said I couldn’t go back to school after a long break. “People get lazy! It happens.” I listened to people bring up my mistakes of the past. “I just don’t want you going out on a whim. Remember what happened last time?” I listened to nearly all unsolicited advice that began with someone’s best friend’s child who waited to go back to school, and life took the wheel instead. I took it all in with a smile and wrote angrily about it later. I did not realize, that my God, my glorious, glorious God was up to something. He had me building a wall.
I didn’t leave school broken but ready for a new, everlasting foundation (Jeremiah 31:4). My discouragement came from shame, and it was good that those feelings and past actions were exposed (1 John 1:9). They were not authorized to mix in with my new foundation. I gave what I could when I had it, and at the time that was what I knew. Now that I know better, I do better, which means I give all of myself every single time (James 4:7). He was and is purifying the stones that He’s building in me and around me. He’s giving me the best, most solid foundation in all existence.
Now, I am nowhere near having myself figured out, but I know that with every stone that is being laid, I am becoming more secure in Christ and more secure in who He made me to be. He urges me every single day to keep building. Every day I am one stone closer to where I’m supposed to be. Every day, through my dedication to Him, my passions become a reality.
1. Life is not tit for tat. (1 Peter 3:9)
2. Your Jesus music ain’t all that loud when you can only hear outta one ear. Turn it up. Sing louder. You are praising your God. (1 Samuel 6:14-15 / Psalm 135:1-3)
3. Anything done out of hurt feelings will be instantly regretted. Forgive others, and forgive yourself. (Matthew 6:14 / Colossians 3:13)
4. Let. The. Cars. Over. Always. (Matthew 7:12)
5. A split mind is a divided mind. (2 Corinthians 10:5 / 2 Corinthians 13:11)
6. You don’t have writer’s block. You just didn’t pick up a pen. (Philippians 3:13-14)
7. If you ask for a month where your attitude is adjusted, you better be prepared for it. (Psalm 51: 10-12)
8. You must yield to authority in every circumstance. (1 Peter 2:13-15)
9. Don’t be afraid to cry in church. We’re all going through sanctification. (Proverbs 28:13 / Lamentations 3:40)
10. If you never seek, you will never find. As Cassey said, “How can the job call you if you didn’t even apply?” (John 16:23-24)
11. Trust God because of who He is, not what He’s done. (John 14:1)
12. Any gift from Him is a good gift. Do not doubt it. (1 Corinthians 12:4)
13. The further you get from Christ, the more you miss the gate that protected you. (Deuteronomy 28:6 / John 10:9-10)
14. Do not be quick to cut corners just because no one sees. That two second stop at the stop sign will not kill you. (Proverbs 17:20)
15. Do not choose your way when wisdom is readily available. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
16. People mistake your serious statements for silly ones. For example, “They should empty the mall and build a Jurassic Park.” *begins singing theme song* Let them believe you were joking. (Proverbs 17:22)
17. You love to plan. You love to do lists. You love scheduling, but don’t be such a stick in the mud that you can’t roll with the punches. (Proverbs 16:9)
18. Everyone always looks a little mean or sad until you smile at them. (Proverbs 15:30)
19. Eventually you must pay what you owe. (Matthew 22:20-21)
20. Quit keeping track of the past. Let go of the wrongdoings. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
21. “I love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” (John 14:34)
22. Give thanks always. Things are never as bad as they seem. (Philippians 4:4-9)
23. At some point you will have to go back the way you came. (1 Kings 19:9-11)
24. It’s very easy to speculate what you would’ve done if you were someone in a given situation. Don’t. You have no idea of the circumstances that person is in, and most likely, you will need that person’s assistance when you’re in that situation. (Matthew 7:2)
25. If it is meant for you, it will not pass you. (Romans 8:28-30)
26. All laments (Psalm 22) end in praise (Psalm 23).
27. His love sometimes means discipline. (Hebrews 12:4-8)
28. Try and try and try and try some more. (Jeremiah 8:4 / 1 John 5:4-5)
29. You can do it on your own, but you don’t have to. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
30. Be truly excited for someone else’s accomplishment. (Acts 11:15-18 / Romans 12:15)
31. “He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” (Galatians 5:1)
Give it some serious thought. I bet nearly everything you list is much more attainable than you think.
What’s keeping you from getting there?
Well, not the nail beds, just the calcium soaked powder that was covering them. They were a lovely mint chocolate chip. I’ve had the color for about three weeks, so I was due for an appointment. The difference between the last two nights and the end of a three week nail change was that I didn’t want to go. I didn’t care what color they were. I missed what was beneath the color. I missed my regular nails. Sure, I could’ve attributed this sudden change of habit up to “it’s hot and who cares,” but there was something else there–I never really cared.
Office politics is something serious, and the moment you open your mouth is the moment you make an unspoken allegiance with the people around you. Bonds gets even more intense once you divide people up by departments. It’s nearly almost as bad as having football rivalries. I made my allegiance a year into my current job, not because I wanted to, but because these women seemed nice enough. They are older than me, and I felt could make the day go by quicker when you have people to laugh with. That is partially true. What ended up happening, though, is that they would pick and poke at me, enough for me to question why I wore certain things and why I didn’t do certain things with my hair. Why wasn’t my nail polish lasting a week? Silly things.
Eventually, I succumbed. I assimilated and cared about what they cared about. When asked about the things I genuinely loved to do, I earned weird looks and a pretty cumulative response of, “Black people don’t do the outdoors.” As annoying as it was, I was used to it. However, no matter how normal their response was, I hadn’t prepared for the influence that followed. I stopped talking about my hobbies. I started indulging more into how these women were living. Although it made me feel a short-lived thrill, the pleasure was not sustaining. I blinked and months went by. I kept on doing less of me and more of them.
There’s a couple reasons why this is wrong. The first being I hated the habits it created. I began to gossip. I looked at people on a superficial level. I talked first and thought later. I hated who I was becoming because I knew I wasn’t that person. The second, and most important one, I was filling up on the wrong thing. I allowed these people, no matter how good-intentioned, to plant seeds on why I needed to be different and why I needed to look like them. This, although arguably incorrect, is how they tried to love me where I was at. They loved me by trying to improve me.
My interests have never truly aligned with my demographic. Statistically, culturally, and stereotypically I should fall somewhere on the other end of the spectrum, but I don’t. I never let my background keep me from the things that I love to do, like gardening, hiking, being outside. I was always okay with my interests not aligning up with who I was expected to be. However, here I was at 24/25 still hadn’t come into the woman my family, the world, and admittedly myself expected me to be. I gave into the change I thought I needed. I abided in the world.
However, last night, as I laid acetone soaked cotton balls on my nails, waited twenty minutes, then buffed away the remaining color, I laughed at the obvious: I’m too old to sit with nails I don’t like, wearing clothes that make me uncomfortable, and talking about things that have no value. Pre-nail ripping, maybe 4 or so months ago, I was able to nip some of the bad habits, the gossip, the superficial, but the nails remained. The “Them” I filled up on was running on empty.
My Pastor says, “Don’t do you. Do God.” I’d like to make an amendment to his statement. “Don’t do you. Definitely don’t do them. Always do God.” As I was so graciously reminded today, common sense ain’t all that common, and what I should’ve known, I didn’t.
I’m gonna be honest with you, I assumed “doing God” was all about reading my Bible, constantly being in prayer, going to most church events, having miraculous revelations, and not once making any mistakes. Always incorrect. I am always incorrect. Those things are true, yes, but when you abide in Him, He draws out things you have long sense forgot about. He teaches you in ways you would’ve never expected. He graces you with wisdom and knowledge of His ways that are both humbling and exhilarating.
For example, it is very well known that I am terrified of heights. I get the reward of beautiful views when I make it to the top of a mountain or down in a canyon, but you better believe I’m crying the whole way through and through. With that being said, I have an overwhelming desire to go rock climbing. This is a desire that has sparked enough interest to turn into a hobby. The act of climbing is more welcoming than the fear of heights. I get excited just thinking about the distance I can make vertically.
You see, I longed to be like everyone else to like what they like, look like they look, then maybe I could annihilate this feeling of foreignness in the pit of my core. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Emphasis mine.) I abided in God, which meant I decided to not live in fear. God and fear cannot co-exist and neither can the endless chatter from the world exist with God.
Sometimes, God is telling me to sit and wait on Him. Sometimes, He’s calling me out on the water. But all the time, He’s reminding me to look to Him. I forget that because He is God, He is God over everything. That means that I don’t have to be fearful of heights. I don’t have to be anxious in social situations. I don’t need to fit in with everyone else. I fit in just fine with Him. So, maybe, God is telling me to get dolled up and spend some alone time with myself. But maybe, He’s telling me to trust what I’ve never known (and never liked), and in that trust, is a rich experience that will deepen our relationship. When I abide less in this world and more in Him, I grow every single time. I forget that a lot too.
So I’m looking at my nails, my scratched up, low cut nails. I think about how pretty they looked before. It’ll take some time for them to get back to how they were, and I can barely remember what they looked like when they were healthy. But, as with all things, they will come back healthier and stronger than they were before.
After all, what good is pretty if they aren’t strong?
Today, I wrote a letter to two people telling them how much I truly appreciate everything they’ve done for me.
Today, I made plans to volunteer my time to an organization I believe in.
Today, I’m giving away as much love and kindness and encouragement as I can.
Don’t let the world sink in and tell you that Monday’s are mundane or the worst. Don’t give yourself more things to overcome. Today is a good a day as any to spread some love. Be a gift that keeps on giving.
“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.”
Proverbs 11:25 MSG
During my quiet time with Papa before church, I said, “I feel like I’m supposed to have an answer for a question, but I don’t know the question, and I don’t have the answer. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to fix whatever it is that’s broken.” I paused for a bit, waiting for a passionate response to a question I could not form. It didn’t come. The only thing that lingered in the air was my, “I don’t know.”
I got to church a little late and sat in the back. I knew only a few songs, and I could tell by the atmosphere that it was going to be one of those nights. A night when the Apostle ditches his sermon and speaks directly from the heart–a Holy Spirit kinda night. For one reason or another, I wasn’t having it. I wanted a simple sermon where I could take notes and read around the Scriptures given. I wanted to be spoon-fed my solution.
I typically sit in the back of the sanctuary for no other reason than I like it. I like the openness. I like that when I get there, no one’s there, but by the time praise and worship is over, a plethora of people have poured in without me noticing. I love seeing other people worship God. I think that’s pretty cool. However, yesterday, I didn’t even want to stand up. I made up my mind that praising Papa was not what I needed in that moment. But, the more I listened to the Apostle, the more I knew this night, like many other Wednesday nights, was intentional.
Somewhere down the road I swapped seats with The Driver. I gave Papa my map made out of crayons and napkins. I doodled my potential detours in the margins. Papa in all His glory, held my map. He said nothing when destinations were smudged off. He said nothing when I asked for directions except, “This is your map, but I can drive if you want me to.” (Sounds awfully similar to: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8 NIV.) I knew a little of where His map would lead me to, and that’s in a position that I didn’t think I earned. I pitched a fit, but I still pulled the car over to reverse what I had done.
How I see myself and how I think Papa sees me are thoughts that should not be dwelled upon. I saw myself as always doing one thing, excelling at it, but never being able to veer away from that core. That’s how I thought He saw me too. I can be a teacher, but I can also be a better counselor. I can be someone who excels at serving. I can be more than one thing.
What I found out post church was that I wasn’t nervous about succeeding. I was nervous about not knowing what it felt like to complete what He designed. I forgot that Papa wants to make me His multifaceted giver. For a while, I was doing what I wanted and occasionally looking at Papa in the passenger seat making sure He didn’t jump from the car. Oh, how wrong I was. He drives. I sit shotgun with a pen and paper ready to write down what He points out. As much as I couldn’t admit it yesterday, it was nice being back in the passenger seat. It was nice recognizing how and where I fall short and where Papa picks up.
My mind limited me to thinking God was rooting me into a small, grey box. A box that would only be opened for special occasions and events. I would never get happiness, but happiness is subjective and silly. Happiness is something I have in one moment and lost in the next. I was so focused on what I didn’t want to become or what I didn’t like, that I missed everything that I am. I am who He made me to be. If the driving force to His destination is happiness then I have already run out of fuel. I need peace and the patience to stand firm in the direction my life has already taken.
My doubt was nothing more than a reminder to remain steadfast. Nothing seems to make sense right now, but I have to know it will make sense later. That’s so much easier said than done. That’s a multiple times a day reminder, which is more effort than I am willing to give. Surrendering in itself is terribly difficult for me, but at some point, I have to put effort into something. I have to put effort into keeping my relationship with Papa, and part of that is always letting Him drive.
“Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”
Matthew 16:24-26 MSG