Verse of the Day

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”‭‭James‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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I’m Right Here

My day started at 3 AM. I woke up early out of a habit that I can’t shake. By the time I was ready to go back to sleep, my alarm was going off for work. I went into the day knowing I was going to be about thirty minutes late to work because I had to put air in my tires. 

I’d practically been riding around on a flat, so my mom drove with me to a gas station to make sure my car was all set. She even helped me put air into my tires. It wasn’t until the air machine silenced that we heard all the air rushing from my front wheel. By that time it was 7:30. Not a problem, I could still be at work by 12. We dropped my car off at a service center. It would only take an hour to fix. Everything was on schedule until I got a phone call at 10:30 notifying me that my rim, not my tire, needed to be replaced. No big deal. All I needed to know was if it could be fixed and how much it would cost. Unfortunately, life rarely works out the way you want it to, if ever, which meant my car could be fixed just not by a mechanic at that location. 

I updated my mom. What was once gratitude for her giving nature turned into guilt. She had her whole day planned, and I was messing it up. She told me to call my dealership. Before I did, she started rattling off questions that hadn’t even crossed my mind. I felt my frustration growing, so I jokingly held out my phone to her, “You wanna talk to them?” 

“I’m right here.” There wasn’t anything to say back. If I needed help, there she was. I couldn’t argue with that, so I began what would be a series of phone calls and estimates and lovely holding jazz music. 

With every, “Do you mind if I transfer you?” my heart sank. I was supposed to be at work by 12 at the latest. I was actually excited to go into work for no other reason than I wouldn’t have to be at home. You can only do so much running from yourself before life catches up.

I ended my final phone call feeling annoyed and frustrated. My mom asked, “You okay, Esh?” I wasn’t okay, and I didn’t feel like lying, so I kept quiet. It was almost as if she were in my head because then she asked, “I know you’re not good, but are you okay?” 

Okay is such a relative term and it never actually means that someone is a-okay. It means that they’re present and aware of the things around them. They are moving, not necessarily forward but moving in a direction with the least friction until they’re stable enough to change direction. More than anything, they’re probably tired too. In that moment I was all of those things. “I’m okay. You ready?”

We retrieved my car from one service center just to move it to another one. Instead of going back home, my mom drove behind me in case I needed immediate roadside assistance. That’s my mom’s thing. She may not know how to do something or what exactly to say, but she’s going because, “We’ll figure it out together.” (But that’s a different post for a different day.)

The car service center was only eleven miles away. Two miles into the drive I realized I wasn’t okay. I acknowledged the circumstances around me, and I started to cry. There was little in that moment—completely unrelated to my car—that I could control. There were things that I wanted that I now had to give up for a season, so I cried. I looked in my rearview mirror, constantly wiping my face as if my mom could see me crying through the car. We were minutes out from our destination when I heard her voice echo, “I’m right here.” Again, I checked my mirror, and sure enough there she was as promised.

When the truth is spoken no matter the state of the person or the circumstance, it echoes louder than anything else. My mom’s declaration was just words to fill the air when I was disappointed in her living room, but my spirit held on to it for a later time. 

Today, the consequences of my actions and the reality of all my circumstances were staring me in the face demanding payment. Every situation, no matter the severity of the matter, had their hand out asking for guilt, shame, and regret. Every situation wanted something that I didn’t have to give. Were my circumstances less than ideal? Absolutely. Would I die from them? Not a chance. 

How I treated someone, how I left someone, how I would be introducing someone didn’t matter. What mattered is that I was not alone, and that if I chose to, I could begin anew in that moment. I didn’t have to hold on to guilt, shame, or regret to pay back for my mistakes. The mistakes I made were paid for in full at Calvary. My debt is zero. In the middle of my hurt feelings, it’s almost as if Papa reminded me of His truth: “I’m right here. Let’s begin again.” 

I was reminded of the very end of Matthew, “Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be)” Matthew 28:20 AMPC. How glorious it is that God is with us perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion. Simply put, He’s always right there through all things all the time. 

I started my day off thinking I could get by with just a little air in my tires. I ended the day replacing a rim and a tire. I am a lot like my busted wheel. I needed to be reminded that there is a “Do Over” button with God. Once I accepted that He’s on the scene, everything was more than okay. It was blessed, fixed, and made new. Honestly, the moral of this story boils down to neglect. I neglected my car, which then caused me some problems, but with the help of a good person, I was able to get everything fixed. I also neglected myself, which I then went on to create more problems for me, but with the help of a good God, He was able to get everything fixed. I love when the creation mirrors it’s Creator. 

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Keep Your Head on Straight

This evening, I found myself being stood up yet again by a man who says he wants to marry me, but he doesn’t know the first thing about commitment. I decided to blow off my anger on the way to the gas station. While driving, my bitterness began to creep out in the form of Meghan Trainor’s “No Good for You.” After the third time of it playing and my jaded feelings in the front seat, I turned it down. 

“Papa, I just don’t understand. Was he out to prove a point? I just…” Before I could continue, I saw my house completed and being used for a bigger purpose. I saw myself teaching. I saw myself with my goofy friends. I saw myself doing amazing things with what I’ve been blessed with, and I started to giggle. God continues to bless me with infinite opportunities and honors. The greatest honor of them all is being called His child. 

The thing is, I am His daughter. I dwell in His Presence, and I keep leaving the safety of Him and getting angry when people don’t treat me like the royalty I know I am. There’s a couple of things at work here. 

The first one connects directly to 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” ‭‭There is no need for me to keep going back into the dark, willingly exiting from God’s Presence just because I know I can come back. Why not be apart of this amazing priesthood, and wear it as the honor and privilege that it is? The thing about being in the dark is, it doesn’t offer anything new or beneficial. Why not stick with the light?

The second one is, how people treat me should never determine my attitude. People will do or say mean things. They will do things I believe are unfair or disrespectful. Now, I can choose to react to every last one (which is very exhausting), or I can let it roll off my back and continue being the person He designed me to be. The latter is the most difficult one but the most rewarding.  

I’m not sure what I expected on the drive to QT. Pity, maybe. I was throwing a pity party for one, but my God and my Spirit decided they weren’t having any of that. I’m grateful. Those parties can spin out of control very quickly. 

On the drive home, I listened to Israel Houghton’s “Friend of God.” With every repeat of the verse, my smile and my praise got wider and bigger.  

“Who am I that You are mindful of me?

That You hear me when I call.

Is it true that You are thinking of me?

How You love me it’s amazing”

I am a friend of God. As His friend, He reminds me to keep my head on straight when I forget that I’m already standing in the light. His light doesn’t come with any gimmicks but strength and wisdom. Most times, it comes with courage to move past how I feel and step into what I know: I am His special possession. 

Good. And you?

I’m sitting on my front porch listening to Beauty and the Beast (the Celine and Peabo version) while reading Love Does by Bob Goff when my neighbor Nancy walks up. I won’t put an age on Nancy, but she has a nice crown of grey and white hair. She wears a gold chain, and when she’s working in her yard, she always has on a grey or white t-shirt with her work pants and tool belt. She always says hello, and she always asks me how I’m doing. Today was no different. 

Today is the first time I’ve talked to Nancy in about two months. Some time ago, she had a heart attack, which took her out of her house for a bit because of obvious circumstances. I hadn’t seen her for a while, and admittedly, I missed her. I had small talk with Jules, the other woman who lives there, but I felt a special bond with Nancy. She was the first one to come over and introduce herself when I moved into my new neighborhood. She was kind through and through with no motive except to get to know who she was living next to. I not only appreciated that gesture but also respected it. 

I look up from my book and see Nancy with her hands on her hips. We exchange hellos. 

“Well, how ya doing?” She looks up to the sky then at me. One thing I notice is she gives me time to think about how I am before I respond. She has never given me the “Good n you?” Response most people give in passing. She listens. 

While she stood there, I thought about my day and decided on it would be accurate to say I was good. “Good. I’m doing good. How are you?” 

Nancy turns away from me, looking at the direction of my back yard and says, “By the grace of God…” We both let her words coat the atmosphere. “By the grace of God. I don’t feel so bad for someone who just had a heart attack!” 

We laugh. “I noticed you were gone for a while, but when I saw you, you were right back in your yard.” 

“I love my yard.” She spoke like a true sculptor of the earth. 

We finished our heart attack chit chat and discussed our now shared backyard due to Hurricane Irma. She elaborated on how she was going to cut a tree out from my back yard, but truly all I could focus on was when she said “chainsaw.” 

“Ohhhh, okay.” She made the whole process sound easy. Woman who just had a heart attack with a chainsaw? Sounds about right. I didn’t question it. I told her to be careful in the back yard and with her chainsaw. 

She left me with a warm smile and a “take care.” I was alone again with Mr. Goff and my music. 

A lot of the time I think we ask people how they are out of habit. We don’t really want the answer, or if we do, we want to hear that they’re okay and that’s it. One of my co-workers told me, “Don’t ever ask how someone is if you don’t really want the answer. I asked a lady once and she broke down on the spot—crying uncontrollably. If you’re not prepared for that type of answer then don’t ask because there’s good and bad responses.” 

When I asked Nancy how she was, I had no idea what she was going to say. Am I glad it wasn’t a break down? Sure, but that would’ve been okay too. My how are you today wasn’t just a how are you. It was a “I’m glad you’re still here. I hope you’re feeling better. Your absence made an impact.” What I got in return was the honor of getting a bit of who Nancy is, and I think that’s pretty cool. 

We’re called to love everyone as Jesus loves us. That requires being genuine all the time, not only when it’s convenient. 

““The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:29-31‬ ‭NIV‬‬

You can’t really love your neighbor as yourself if you aren’t loving God with all your heart. Could you really love God and hate your neighbor who is also His creation? 

You Can’t Build a New Life on Old Foundation

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.