Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Ride of Temptation

Who doesn't look forward to going to the Fair or Amusement Parks? There's so much to see, eat, and do. One of my favorite rides was the Gravitron. It's the ride where you lean up against the wall on a padded
My favorite ride: The Gravitron
panel. Once the ride starts, your get "sucked into" the padded panel, your feet leave the floor and you spin around in circles. You aren't holding on to anything and there's nothing supporting your feet. I remember trying to pull myself off the wall during the ride, but I was "sucked" back in. I couldn't move. Even trying to lift up a leg took lots of energy.

This ride reminds me of temptation. Temptation has sucked me in, taken control over me, and made me feel powerless. This doesn't have to be you. Take heed of these three things:

1. Temptation will come. Yes, even to you. You are not exempt from being tempted. You might not fall prey to the serpent, but he's coming. Be ready! 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." Notice that the scripture says "but when." It doesn't say "but if." If the serpent has started whispering to you yet, know that he's headed your way.

2. Keep your eyes open. Although you will be tempted, you don't have to give in. Matthew 26:41 and Mark 14:38 encourages us to "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Pay attention to the warning signs. Stay focused on him and his ways. God always provides us a way out. Choose to listen to God ... before it's too late.   

3. Trust the power within. You are stronger than what meets the eye. You have the ability to resist. Just do it! Resist! James 4:7 urges us to "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." At times, temptation is so strong that it makes you feel powerless. You are not powerless. You are amazingly strong. Decide to resist temptation. It's nothing but the devil. When the serpent sees that he can't coax you, he will surely flee.

Temptation is coming! Be ready to resist!   

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The HEART of Soccer

I remember when Saturday mornings were sleep in days. Days to sit in front of the t.v. eating a bowl of cereal and watching cartoons. Not just any cartoon. Tom and Jerry was the best. Admittedly though, I never really knew who was who. I mean, who was the cat and who was the mouse? (I sure hope this is a judgment free zone! 😅) It didn't really matter. I still laughed throughout the whole thing and looked forward to my morning routine. On most Saturdays, my cartoons were followed by a series of dance classes. Ballet. Tap. Jazz. I had a routine and carried it out for many years.

As time passed, my routine changed. Many years later, I found myself creating a Saturday morning routine for my daughter. I needed to guard her time. I needed to control her environment. I needed to protect her developing a spirit of laziness. She needed a routine.

Having relocated from Philadelphia to Tallahassee and transitioning from a two-income household to a single-income household, the options for routines were limited. Dance classes were quickly replaced by soccer games.

We attended every scheduled practice and every Saturday morning game, no matter how cold it was. Oh, the sacrifices that parent make.

In the beginning, I didn't always understand the master plan behind the practices but I quickly figured it out. The coach used practice time to not only equip the kids with the skills to be successful in a game but also to assess their skills in preparation of the game. The coach needed to identify the players with their best suited position.

One of the most challenging positions to fill was the goal keeper, also known as the goalie. This wasn't a position for everyone. Here's what I learned about this position:

  1. The ultimate goal of the goal keeper was to do anything possible to keep the opposing team's ball from going into their team's net. This required several concurring characteristics. Attentiveness. Steadfastness. Determination. Commitment. Initiative. 
  2. To guard the net, the goalie had to watch the entire game. They had to know when the ball was coming in their direction. They needed to plan a way to counter-attack the ball to get it out of their area. They needed to be ready to act quickly and strategically. 
  3. Unlike other players, the goal keeper had full authority to use any body part to accomplish their goal. Similarly, he goal keeper also had the unique advantage of accessing areas that were off-limits to everyone else. The goalie had space to work. On soccer fields, the net that requires guarding is set inside of a special goalie box. With the exception of the goalie, no one is allowed to access the box. The goalie has complete control over the box in order to protect the net. 

A goal keeper/goalie is to soccer net what we are to our hearts. Our hearts are the gateway to life. Our hearts are the very thing that allows blood (life) to flow through our veins. When our hearts are contaminated, our entire system shuts down. Proverbs 4:23 commands us to "above all else, guard our hearts, for everything you do flows from it." Like the goal keeper, we are to do the following:

  1. We (yes, you and me) are each responsible for doing anything possible to keep the lies of the devil from entering into our hearts. We have already been created in God's perfect image. It's time to hone in on everything that we are. When we hone in on our predetermined God traits, we minimize space for haphazard negative traits to seep in.
  2. We are to stand guard against the attacks of the enemy. The attacks are sure to come. When we develop a true relationship with God and get grounded in the word, we are better equipped to see the enemy before he attacks. We are also, then, in a better position to prepare for his arrival. When you stand guard, you are able to get your plan of action identified and in place. Don't get caught off guard. Be ready to protect yourself, your family, your purpose, and your destiny.
  3. We have unfettered access to God. He is sitting high, yet looking low. He is just waiting on us to access Him. God will open doors that we can't see. God will shut doors that we erroneously opened. God hears everything we say to Him and responds to us individually. He will enlarge our territory as we demonstrate our readiness. There may be times when we have to step outside of our comfort zone. But just remember, in those cases, we are never alone. God is with us. We are in control of how we allow God to work through us.

You are the ultimate protector. You get to take control. The inflow and outflow are all up to you.

What steps will you take to guard your heart?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Couch to Clarity

Life was beginning to wear us down! Our days were draining the life out of us, so 9:00pm was mommy and daddy t.v. time. He would lie on a blanket on the floor and I would lie on the couch. Occasionally, we have our cell phones in hand. On this particular evening, the periscope symbol popped up on my screen. When I saw who was broadcasting, I immediately clicked the button to view the scope. I listened to this couple have a fun and frank conversation about relationships.

It was early February and I began to feel myself sinking into a pool of emptiness. My heart was broken. My joy was gone. My church affiliation had turned upside down in the blink of an eye. I felt completely disconnected from God. I felt like I was talking, asking, and crying out to him but receiving the silent treatment in return. I felt like I was running around in a circle and not getting anywhere.

My husband and I were on the brink of celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. I was clear that this milestone was a true honor. I knew that many marriages didn't make it to this stage so I was overjoyed that we made it and still liked each other. In the midst of this joy, I felt empty. My daughters were all doing well in school and in their extra-curricula activities. Their happiness consumed my world and always had a way of placing a smile on my face. Yet, I felt empty inside. I didn't have my ideal job but I did have a position that paid me well for my responsibilities. A position that gave me flexibility to serve my family in the way my heart desired.  Still, I went to work daily feeling empty.

There was something missing and I couldn't figure out what it was. 

I listened to the periscope and at the end, there was an offer to attend the Complete Women's Conference at RainFire Church in Douglasville, GA. I immediately looked at my calendar on my phone and didn't see any other activities for the conference dates. Less than 24 hours later, I was registered for the conference.

As time passed, I kept the conference in the back of my mind but I didn't make any concrete plans to attend. At the time I completed my household budget for the month of March, I had completely forgotten about the conference and didn't budget travel costs.

The time came for the conference and there was conflict after conflict. One of my daughters had a track meet on that Saturday. My sorority had one of its biggest events of the year on that Saturday. My bank account had $0.17. My attendance at the conference seemed impossible. Shouldn't I be at the track meet with my daughter? Since I'm the 2nd Vice President, in charge of programming, shouldn't I be at the sorority event? Wait a minute, how would I even get there with no gas and lodging money?

In spite of what it looked like, there was a yearning inside of my to press my way.

This was an example of when I gave my Best Yes to ME.

I unapologetically said Yes! My daughter did not participate in the first AAU track meet of the season. I missed the Finer Women Rock banquet. I sent a last minute message about housing opportunities and was blessed with a hotel room. I attended the conference and my many things things. My Return to the Well not only filled me up, but it also taught me/ reminded me of the following life lessons:

Lesson #1: We have not because we ask not OR because we ask with bad intentions.

Lesson #2: God will always make provision for you to follow His will for your life.

Lesson #3: Impossibility is a state of mind, not a state of reality.

Lesson #4: Self-care is paramount to fulfilling your life's purpose and destiny.

Lesson #5: God is always present and patiently awaits your willingness to listen.

Lesson #6: Your willingness to get uncomfortable will lead you to a place of comfort.

Which one of these lessons resonates with you the most?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Eliminate Arbitrary Decisions

“Mom, would you let me wear eyeliner and mascara?”
This was the question of the day from my oldest daughter when she was in middle school, somewhere around 12-years old.
Without thinking and with no hesitation, I responded “Sure, when you turn 16!”
Where did that age come from? I still ask myself that same question every day. I know I spit it out so quickly because I used to hear my mother tell me that. If you’re in your thirties and beyond you know we didn’t question momma back then. Whatever she said went. So I assumed there was some rhyme or reason. 
But nope! It’s an arbitrary number…at least it was in my home.
Arbitrary is the only word I could use to describe it. The magic number was definitely set ‘based on a random choice or personal whim.’
The last couple of months have reinforced the idea that I need to be more careful with setting arbitrary boundaries. Here are the specific lessons learned: 

1.     Mindless decisions made on a whim may hinder preparation. Sometimes, if a decision is made on a whim, there is no opportunity to prepare yourself for the outcome. This isn’t the case for all decisions. But when a quick decision is made without much of a thought process, it makes us much less equipped to know what to expect. Have you ever heard of the 6 P's? Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. When we spend time thinking through the situations that come into our lives and praying for God's guidance, we are able to handle those situations. Of course, there will be some situations that we cannot plan for. However, that should be the exception, not the rule. Consider Ephesians 6:10-20. If we are dressing ourselves in the full armor of God daily, we will be in the best position of preparation. Don't mistake this. It doesn't mean that we will escape the pains of the process. It simply means that we will expect them and will be ready when they come. 

2.     Mindless decisions may not always account for the situation at hand. Sometimes, we make decisions based on the information readily available to us at the time. Not totally problematic. However, what happens when we fail to account for future possibilities? After all, things don't always remain the same. Your experiences and opportunities will not be the same as those available for future generations. Prime example: I was raised in the inner-city with public transportation at my finger tips. From my perspective, there was no need to drive.  The circumstances were different many years later. Her driver’s permit was in hand before her 16th birthday so actual practice with driving…a real car…was on the horizon. The goal was to have the full license just 120 days after her birthday. My anxiety started to kick in big time. My entire system went into shock. My emotions were all over the place. I completely missed the warning signs. I expected her to remain in her infant stage forever. There was too much to handle all at once. Don’t let this be you! Remember, God's ways are higher than our ways. If we follow Psalm 119:125, we can acknowledge our roles as servants unto God and request discernment of the understanding of His statutes. In other words, He will give us direction of his will for our lives and that of others around us. As long as we give Him time to direct our paths, we will be able to account for the things yet to come.

3.      Mindless decisions may cause too many things to activate all at once. When she asked me about wearing make-up, I was not paying any attention to other adolescent transitions such as driving and dating. I felt like a Mack truck hit me right on the eve of her 16th birthday. Everything was happening all at one time. The joys of adolescence were upon me. She was transitioning into a new phase of life, whether I was ready or not. When I was a middle school and high school student, I asked my mom about wearing make-up and dating and was told that I could when I turned 16. My mom lucked up because by the time I turned 16, I was no longer interested in make-up (and sadly didn’t have anyone to date).  I expected that I would experience the same luck with my daughter. But no! Not only did my sweet girl study make-up like it was a subject in school but she ordered a few essentials and had them delivered to the house for arrival to occur just before her 16th birthday. She already had plans to get her official driver's license and was planning her parking spot for her Junior year (which was still six to seven months out). And as my luck would have it, the request to go on a date quickly followed. I couldn't believe so may things were happening all at the same time. What happened to the idea of handling things one at a time? Wait just a minute, was I trying to blame someone else for my ignorance? It sure sounds like it! But stand firm in the belief that God will not give you more than you can bear. He just wants you to lean on Him. None of these teenage behaviors were new or foreign concepts. I just didn't properly equip myself. But baby, let me tell you...I am ready for the next two. I refuse to be caught off guard by quick, arbitrary decisions.  

Don't allow arbitrary decisions to get you off-centered. Get grounded in the word and develop open communication with God so that you are prepared and equipped to account for the current impact of your decisions as life begins to unravel as a ripple effect. You're not the first and won't be the last to trust God with the process.

If you have experienced the remnants of arbitrary decision making, please share your experience(s) in the space below. Help others as you heal yourself!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Season of Rain

"The rains are coming!"

This was the prophetic word spoken through Dr. Nicky E. Collins.  The word was not a weather forecast. Instead, it was a warning for us to prepare ourselves for the shifting about to take place in our lives.

Valley of Dry Bones

This word ran through me like a bolt of lightening. I was reminded of the strength and power of God. I recently shared a word of empowerment about broken bones. In the book of Ezekiel, we learn of a dream where Ezekiel finds himself in a valley. He is walking amongst a number of dry, nimble bones. The bones were lifeless. The bones were disconnected. The bones were barren, with no covering.

Have you ever found yourself in a valley? Have you found yourself in a low place? A dry place?

At some point along this journey of life, we all come to periods in life where we dry up. A place where our finances don't balance out. A place where our marriage is on the rocks. A place where our children turn wayward. A place where the job is a challenge to go into each day. A place where man let you down. A place where your housing options dwindle. A place where the refrigerator is more empty than it is full. A place where doubt or lack of confidence consume us. A place where rejection binds up us. A place where we feel that God is silent or no longer with us.

Oh, but the rain! It's coming!

Of the many faces of rain, I am most appreciative of these three (3) things:

The rains are coming!

1. Rain allows things to live. Rain water is the most natural form of water and is saturated with minerals. People, animals, trees, plants, and flowers survive because the rain. They also have the ability to survive through the rain. The outpouring the rain provides a source of nourishment. It rehydrates the land and the air. Hydration is the key to proper functioning. It's the key that allows people, things and systems to function as they were created to. Rain helps us to live out our purpose. 
2. Rain allows things to grow. When seeds are planted in the ground, they are covered by dirt. The seeds are buried underneath other things. They become invisible to the naked eye. The dirt becomes a layer of protection. It becomes difficult for things to get to the seed. Not impossible, just requires a little work. A little patience. The seed waits for the rain to come down and seep through the dirt. The rain is the source that supports the growth process. Rain is the necessary impetus for growth. No rain, no growth.

3. Rain cleanses things. Consider the car or truck that was driven through a mud puddle. The body of the vehicle is brown and tarnished. Once the rain begins to fall, the mud begins to drip. Slowly the dirt begins to fall away. The inpouring of rain is used to get rid of the dirt and grime that tries to hold things in bondage. The release that comes from rain is refreshing and allows a sense of renewal. With renewal sometimes comes a new boldness. A fresh start. Old things are passed away and all things become new. 
Embrace the season of rain that is about to pour out directly over you. It's a chance to live, to grow, and to be cleansed.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Your Inner Spartan

The weather was perfect. The sun was shining but not blazing. The temperature was just right. No rain in sight. It turned out to be much better than we expected for a weekend in December.

This was our first Spartan experience so we were hoping for just the right conditions. The Spartan Sprint was set for 3-5 miles with 21 obstacles. The running part would be the easy part. It was the obstacle requirement that bred anxiety.

Against my better judgment, no strength training occurred before this off course race (OCR). I heard the volunteers say that 30 burpees was the penalty for failing an obstacle. I quickly learned that 30 is can hurt and slow you down. I made it through 17 obstacles and vowed that I would be more successful on my next go 'round.


The next go 'round came upon me.

This time, with training!

Here are a few things my training taught me:
  1. Endurance is not just a term used for running. It's about more than running laps around  track or running down the road. It's a physical manifestation of mental toughness. It's about enduring in tough situations. It's about persevering at times of loneliness. It's about pushing through trying time. All in all, I've learned that endurance is mental stamina!                                                                                                                                                
  2. The journey is better with partners. Introverted individuals enjoy spending time alone. They are energized from times of introspection. There are, however, times when an introverted person will need to step out of their comfort zone and embrace the company of others. Taking a journey with others is fun. It's motivates us to be better and lifts us up when we're weak.                                                                                                                                                 
  3. Physical activity can be good for the soul. Sometimes, feeling yourself move beyond your normal limits allows you to smile in the moment. Finding opportunities to smile and laugh during physical activity releases endorphins into you brain. Those endorphins help you to push pass pain and keep a positive perspective. 
So...perhaps you should consider a Spartan race or some other road race. The journey is more than physical. The end result is unimaginable. A sense of accomplishment. An increase in confidence. A start of a new beginning. AROO!!!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Get Uncomfortable

The true essence of life begins at the end of your comfort zone. 

The last 72 hours have taught me that refinement rears it's form in the midst of discomfort. You see, it's in the place of discomfort where you really have an opportunity to see all that you're made of. It's the place where you stretch yourself. It's the place where you challenge yourself. It's also the place where you impress yourself. 

I was given an opportunity to travel down to the city of Miami, which is much more urban than Tallahassee. I was in an uncomfortable place is deciding how to travel, where to stay, and what my budget could afford. So many decisions. So little time to process. 

Along the journey, I learned so much. Here are just a few life lessons that I was reminded of:
  • God is in control. God's plan has already been laid. Every detail is already set. Releasing control to God is necessary to seeing His promises fulfilled. You don't believe me? Check out Ephesians 1:11. "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.What are you holding on to instead of releasing it to God? Are you trying to take too much control over your situation and your destiny? Remember, God has already predestined you. Take heed to his direction. Allow His will, not your will, to be done in your life. When you relinquish control you allow God to execute his plan. You allow him to recreate a new work within you. You are His masterpiece. Give God an opportunity to let his light shine brightly in and around you.
  • Your past prepared you for your present. Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us that "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Far too often we try to leave the past in the past. We refuse to find the silver lining in the circumstances we've endured. Instead, we block some things out. We forget that everything has a purpose in our loves. We move into a house and update it to make it a home, all the while forgetting about the slums we grew up in or the apartment we shared as young adults. We move to the suburbs and forget about our experiences with city life. We dismiss the importance of our very first job or the internship that got our foot in the door and only hang on to memories of the salaried position. I urge you not to forget. The past is what set you up for your present. Your past plants the foundation for your future. Don't miss the lesson. Everything we experience and endure is for our greater good. Accept your circumstances and be willing to learn and grow from them. Recognize the strength you developed along the way. Embrace the opportunities you were provided. The foundation was laid. Stay ready to walk into your destiny.  
  • Be willing to consider the inconceivable. Sometimes we hold ourselves back from reaching our full potential. We use many excuses to erroneously justify why we can't accomplish something. I use the term 'erroneously' because there is no justification to why something can't be accomplished...unless, of course, the thing you are trying to accomplish is outside the will of God. Be willing to ask for the support your need to accomplish your goal. Be willing to make sacrifices. Catch may have to make more than one sacrifice. Be willing. Be willing to fail. Be willing to think. Be willing to dream. Dream big. Dream wide. Dream beyond your wildest imagination. You never know where it will lead. Remember Isaiah 55:9, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Be careful not to limit Him! 
These aren't new ideas. I'm sure you've heard them before. Meditate on them. Accept them. There's no getting around them. Get uncomfortable! God is waiting to use you. Get ready! 

Of the life lessons listed above, which one stands out to you the most? Why?

The Ride of Temptation

Who doesn't look forward to going to the Fair or Amusement Parks? There's so much to see, eat, and do. One of my favorite rides was...