Reflect Christ & Love Wins…

reflectChrist
Can you believe that the year is almost over? I don’t know if the year has flown by for you or slowed down. It seems like it was just a month ago when we were told we would have to take precautions because of some virus that may soon impact our organization. At first, I remember thinking it was blown out of proportion due to other things going on in the organization. I think that may have been the end of February. Besides, I had plans. My wedding anniversary was coming up in March. I had decided to leave a job I loved in anticipation of what God had in store for me next. I had plans!


If only I had known that the world was about to change and there would be nothing I could do about it. Well, the world did change. A shift occurred almost a week after leaving my old organization to sit it out for a while. Not only did I go home, everybody ended up going home and staying there for months. During that time, people experienced trauma also. Companies had to shut down businesses, learn how to teach their kids at home, spend money to work from home, some lost jobs because of shutdowns, and the ultimate trauma happened when we found out that this virus was deadly.
If there was ever a time that we could complain, it was undoubtedly during this season. I don’t have to remind anyone of all the craziness of 2020. The virus, killing people of color, and the racial protests all happened this year. When I watched the news, I feared we were about to experience some of the same demonstrations and riots I saw on television from the 1960s. I don’t know about you, but I could not help but think what had our world come to?

Many times throughout the last months, I have prayed regularly for the USA. In fact, I don’t think I have ever prayed for a country so much than this year. The world, I have thought repeatedly, has gone wild. Why? What triggered the hate and fighting? What caused the absolute worst to come out in us? Are we really that divided? What grew even scarier to me as I watched myself evaluating the attitudes and actions of people I have cared for many years. People who worked together, worshipped together, played together, and cared for each other seemed to turn on each other. To my surprise, none of us stopped and said, this is enough. God did not make us like this. Stop the madness. No, instead, lines were drawn, and it became us versus them.


What I have asked myself is this: Would God be pleased with what He sees in you? Would He recognize His Son in your actions? When I stopped and carefully evaluated my thinking and, ultimately, my efforts, I have repented and asked for forgiveness on several occasions. During September and October, I believe God gave me Galatians 5:22-23 to focus my attention. Each week, I began to read about and consider scriptures that tied directly to one of the Fruits of the Spirit and discuss it with my staff. Also, during October, a full week was dedicated to a conference that focused on Luke 10.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is Love, joy, peace, Galatians+5_22-23forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” I believe the reason this scripture has been one to stick to through dark days is so we remember God has called us out of that darkness and expects us to live as a shining example for others to see. We are supposed to live for Him. The Word of God tells us in Matthew 7:19-20, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, they will know us by our fruit.”


Amid the chaos, Christians, we are standard-bearers for Christ. Even when we want to scream and yell and insist on our way, we need to return to the scriptures and find the strength to do what Jesus would do and exercise self-control. In the end, I believe, Love wins. I think about Galatians and the very first fruit listed in Love. Why? I think it is because when we act in Love, God can transform hearts, including our own. Self-control is another fruit that can keep us out of many problems if we would quiet down, walk away, and simply pray.love-wins-cursive_u-l-f8ek710


There is too much I can write on this subject, but I will stop here and say, I believe, in the end, Love wins. I don’t have to fight with those I disagree with and don’t have to associate with them either. I have been charged to pray for them. That’s what I will do, and I hope they will pray for me

Praise Him in the Hard Times…

It is so easy to lose focus right now. The Pandemic and all the things that go with it; working from home, teaching your kids at home, and balancing a full-time job all presents challenges. Also, there is racial strife and political tensions. For sure, 2020 has beedon't be afraidn a year that none of us could have predicted.

I was listening to a Pastor who had me raising my hands and praising God. He caused me to look deeply at Mark 5. Thinking of Mark 5, my attention turned to the famous story regarding the woman with the blood issue was healed after many years of being ill. I thought about how she had probably decided that she was not worthy of anything good in life. I wonder if she had written any life of happiness would ever be hers. I think of her desperation to touch Jesus, may have been a final act. Maybe she thought, what the heck, and just reached out and took a chance. That act of faith caused Jesus to heal her. Jesus met her desperation.

Keep in mind that Jesus was on His way somewhere else. He wasn’t supposed to be taking His precious time with a person who no one knew. She wasn’t a prominent person. In fact, He was with a prominent person, a synagogue leader, a CEO, who was taking Jesus to see his sick daughter. Wasn’t this guy much more important than this person?

As I listened and pondered the scriptures, all I could think about was how important that woman was to Jesus. After years of disappointments and let-downs, eventually, Jesus showed up. Amid people pushing and pulling and crowding her out, Jesus passing by got her motivated enough to reach out for him.

A desperate prayer

Now, think about the high-level synagogue leader. What about him? He was desperate too. He probably wanted Jesus to hurry through the crowd to get to his daughter. The girl is deathly ill, and if Jesus did not get there soon, she would be gone! I am sure he was exasperated when Jesus stopped and interacted with this woman. Oh, my and when Jesus finally finished, it was too late! The news came that his daughter had died. Wouldn’t you be upset with Jesus? I would.

As I looked at both of the people in this story, I saw myself. I recalled the days when I was desperate, and no one helped. I remember being overlooked, and those less qualified kept getting promoted over me. I was upset that Jesus didn’t step in and override those in authority who forgot me. After the initial shock and embarrassment of being sidelined, I kept reliving the disappointing experience in my head and many times feeling humiliated. That experience is probably closely related to the woman who had seen tons of doctors. No one did anything to help her.

Then there is Jairus, the synagogue leader. He was the authority in charge. He had control over people and processes. Yet, he had to wait on Jesus. He had

don't be afraidno control over what Jesus would do or when He would do it. Jesus took His time going to Jairus’ home, and his daughter died. Jairus had to be so upset with Jesus. He had to have questioned why Jesus did not care about him or his situation enough to hurry to get there.
That’s been me! I bet it’s also you. Haven’t you called for Jesus to hurry up and come to help you, and He stayed? Have you pleaded if He didn’t do something soon, you would be destroyed? Have you prayed and prayed about how you had been treated at work, and if Jesus did not intervene, your career would die? If He did not help you, heal your illness, your marriage, or your children, your life would be over? Of course, you have.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I know that right now is the time to look at the words of Jesus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” I cannot recount how many times I had to tell myself to stop fretting and to believe. When promotions escaped me, I had to say that it wasn’t for me; He had something better. When I was ill and did not think I would live, I had to tell myself not to be afraid; God had more life for me to live. When I felt desperation, humiliation, and shame, God gently reminded me that He was in control. He told me to hold my head up because I could trust that He would never leave me or forsake me.

He did not forsake the woman with the 12-year blood disease. He did not leave Jairus with deep regret and resentment. He did not leave me, and He will not leave you.When we feel stressed because of restrictions brought on because of the Pandemic, when jobs are lost and stressors set in, when you feel forgotten and feel that no one sees you or cares, Jesus does. He knows what to do about the Pandemic and all the other things upsetting our world. He knows, and He cares. Just trust and believe. Don’t forget to praise Him in the hard times.

Is it Your Time?

If you are on any social media platform, if you listen or read the news or talk to people in general, I am sure you are just as confused, confounded, and perhaps a little worried about what is going on in the world today.

I am a professional, and I have been just about all of my adult life. From the early days in government

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to now, as a leader of a social services organization. Things have changed in our world, but things have also remained the same and, in some cases, declined.

At the beginning of the year, we were so hopeful, looking forward to what this year would bring. Like many of you, I established goals at the end of 2019, getting ready to take on the world in 2020. I traveled so much in 2019. I had a blast going from New York to Dallas and back to California and Paris! I looked forward to 2020 because January would kick off my year in Yaounde, Cameroon. What an exciting time I would have there. And it was.

You could not have prepared me for what was about to happen after that trip. I came back to California, got ready to move out of the house we had sold in December, started the move, realized that I needed to make a new start, and resigned my job in March. Days after I had decided to do that, COVID showed up. A couple of months later, we found ourselves in the middle of a significant civil rights issue again. As I said, some things change, and some things remain the same.

One thing that the pandemic has done for me is that it has allowed me to stop, recalibrate, read, reflect, and think about what I am suppose to do in the middle of the mess in which we find ourselves. My niece sent me a book by Sister Joan Chittister, The Time is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage. I began to read that book and just as the Holy Spirit had caused me to reflect and make a move earlier in the year, this book only confirmed what I believe God was getting me ready to do. Sister Joan challenged me to look at my spirituality—something I have been doing for quite some time now.

In last month’s blog, I mentioned that I found myself sitting back and saying nothing when questionable things were going on around me. Once I left my previous job and accepted a position at this new place, I could sense almost immediately that the last year was preparation for today. This job is what God had been preparing me for my entire life! It is here where what I believe and what I do meet each other, and the two will impact me, those around me, the communities where we serve, and society at large.

Since joining my organization, several quality, honorable, and high character executives followed. They, like me, see themselves as being put on this earth to make a difference. We see our roles very differently, but we take them very seriously. We have a heart for people and processes that makes sense. Nothing will keep us from doing good work, God’s work.

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In a time when we can focus a tremendous amount of negative energy, or experience fear, because of what has impacted our lives over the last several months, we need not forget that God called us for such a time as this. My question to you is, do you believe that God called you to be where you are right now for a specific purpose? Could it be that you are supposed to be sitting and waiting? Preparing yourself for the next thing? Could it be that you are suppose to be leading and not following the crowd? Could it be that you are to be interceding for others and not gossiping or talking bad about them? Could it be that you have taken your life for granted, and He stopped you so that you could appreciate all that He has done for you? I had to say “yes” to many of these questions. How about you?

The time is now. The time is now to focus on God and not ourselves. What would Jesus do if He was here today? Would He still visit the homes of those who are not considered worthy? Would Jesus feed the 5000 today? Would He heal? Would He restore? Would He help those who cannot help themselves? Would He point out injustices, cruelties, disparities? I think so. Does He call us to be like Him? He said to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men…” (Matthew 4:18-22). So yes, I believe He calls us to be like Him.

When I took the step of faith from what was known and comfortable to doing and trusting, He placed me where I could indeed do what Jesus would do. Do I claim to be equal to Jesus? No. However, I do claim to be a child of the King, and I believe and know that to those He calls, He will equip.#cll

Times like these…

What do I say about the last months?  I say God may be shaking things up. At the least, He is allowing things to be shaken up.  I think back at the end of 2019 and remember how uncertain things looked for me.  I was thinking about changing jobs; quite frankly, I had enough of what I saw as dysfunction and my part in seeing people mistreated, devalued, and outright humiliated by others.  I remember saying to my husband, I know I make a good amount of money, but I cannot continue to sit by and watch it.  I am complicit.

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One day the senior leaders met and, although a senior executive also, one associate said, “why do we allow this to happen? Why do we sit back and let it happen?” The person did not have a clue how much she said forced me into action.  I had prayed repeatedly, asking God to change the heart of the person who created so much fear and uncertainty, but no answer. I can promise you that I prayed over the decisions being made for more than six months.  Finally, at the beginning of the year, I had the opportunity to travel to Africa, and while gone, I again got to see things from a distance. Again, I just prayed.  During the time I prayed, I also tried to offer reason and a more inclusive and rational approach to the situations I was witnessing.  Then in February, things seemed to settle down, but on the first of March, they started up again.  I recall it was right before my 38th wedding anniversary. I had enough and submitted my resignation; I did this approximately one week before all hell broke out and Bam! COVID-19 entered the scene and what would become a new way of living for months.

During the week I was home, I started seeking God more and spending early mornings in the backyard communing with Him. I remember the weight I felt lifted after I had taken the step to resign and trust God for the next thing.  Within a week of that decision, I had at least three serious opportunities present itself to me.  One of the three spoke to what I believe to be my purpose, but certainly, it was my passion.  When I read about the organization and saw their mission, vision, and core values’ statements, I was overly excited and felt God was saying to me, “Didn’t I tell you to trust me? Didn’t I promise that I was going to give you the desires of your heart? Didn’t I tell you that what others meant for evil, I would turn it to your ?” All I could say was, Yes, Lord.  

Out of the three opportunities, all invited me back for second interviews, and I had serious opportunities before me.  The one that won is the one that I know God purposed and designed specifically for me.  

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God has been speaking to you about speaking up about some unjust situation, and you chose to remain quiet.  Perhaps you have participated in systemic racism by using some stereotypes to keep others out of the club. Maybe you have not, however, you know people who make racial or religious comments (as I sat quietly and watch this happen at my previous organization) and laughed just about being included. Or you have spoken up but then experienced the wrath of the one holding power.  You were labeled as not loyal or too sensitive or too whatever. Maybe, God has heard your prayers, and He has allowed a shake-up!

We wonder what has happened in the world. What has happened is a wakeup call. Regardless of what is happening, God has a plan for it all.  COVID-19 stopped us dead in our busy tracks.  George Floyd’s death, as tragic as it is, I believe God is still in control and has used it to wake up America and the world.  If nothing else, perhaps we will stop and not just look at inequalities in society as someone else’s problem, but a challenge for all humankind. 

Do I believe good will come out of all the chaos? I do. It is in times like these; God can be God. He shows us just how much He cares for the minor and major things that affect us all.  It is in these times if we are interested, we can ask God to show us what He wants from us to do.  If our hearts are dark, we can ask Him to change it. When our minds are closed, we can ask Him to open it. If we do not understand each other, we can seek to understand rather than to be understood. Whether we like it or not, there is an awakening happening throughout the world.  We can choose to be a part of the solution or commit never to be a part of this world’s continued cycle.  People are not the same. We see things differently because of different lived experiences. 

At the organization I left, it was my choice due to misaligned values. Others saw and commented on the same things I saw but chose to stay. Who is right? I suppose it depends on how one rationalizes what one will accept or will not. I would venture to say that many of the people I left behind are good people, but I am a good person too. I see things differently than my counterparts. I say this also as I end this article in the face of a racially divided country and world.  

For Believers, just know, Racism exists, and we will never agree that it does not. I will not remain quiet when I see injustices. Proverbs 31: 8-9 says, Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”—Nelson Mandela

Wait on the Lord…

In my early years, I did everything to achieve my goals. I always felt destined to be great, so I was going to do everything possible to attain that greatness. As the years pass, I find that I am not as aggressive as I was in earlier years, but I am still a go-getter. However, recently, I was wondering why, in this stage of my life, do I always go after goals I had dreamed of when I was younger.

I have concluded that what I have been saying for years about God calling me to something greater, is really what I believe. I have always said that I think God created me for something bigger, but I wondered, as the years passed and some things happened, and some didn’t, that maybe I “thought” I was destined for something bigger, but I was wrong. I thought God told me that I was going to achieve certain things, but He didn’t, and the things I thought came from Him were all my ideas.

This brings me to the topic I want to discuss this month, trust your instincts, keep striving and wait on the Lord. Just because God hasn’t done what you thought He would do in your timeframe, doesn’t mean that He won’t.

When we pray and ask God for something, believing that we are asking in faith, considering that He will answer our prayers, we expect that He will do it right away. When He doesn’t, year after year, we finally say to ourselves that He won’t. Or we say, it probably wasn’t His will for me. Or we question whether something we claimed as a promise was ever really a promise at all.

Recently, I listened to a sermon about David. The speaker took me back to 1 Samuel 16, when David was first called by God. I loved how he brought David’s calling into perspective for me. I have read my Bible many, many times. I know the stories of David, inside and out, but this time, I really reflected on how long it took for David to get what God had promised. If you remember, David was called and anointed by Samuel as the future King of Israel. Yet, once David was anointed, he didn’t go right to the throne. In fact, David went back to his sheep. Many things happened before David became King. Most of all, David continued serving; he served his father, his brothers, and his sheep. He continued playing and practicing with his slingshot (polishing his craft) and one day, as he took food to the “real” soldiers, he had the opportunity to meet a part of his destiny, Goliath! Where others were fearful and weary, David was perhaps a little naive, yet courageous. You know the story, David killed Goliath with that slingshot. Fast forward, 1 Samuel 24, the reigning King Saul, was getting worse mentally and trying to kill David, but David, who could have killed him, spared him. I won’t preach because the many things that happened to David along the way to the throne, are hills and valleys, frustrations and pain, ups and downs, but God still did what He had anointed David to do. Also, remember, how long David waited. Look at all the things he went through before he took the throne.

When I reflect on my life, I think about how I had to face the hills and valleys. I think about the jobs I have held, and how angry, sad, or disappointed, I became when someone did not give me what I felt I had earned. I recall the highs when someone would notice my value and reward it too. I know how let-downs feel. But let me share another perspective when you let go and trust. The farther you move away from the disappointment, you can look at it more objectively. What I found, looking back 10 or 15 years, is that what I wanted to be was much smaller than what God wanted for me. Going through the lows, prepared me for the highs. Waiting, also allowed me to develop and cultivate my skills, getting ready for something I never imagined years before.

I wanted what I wanted, which would have amounted to crumbs compared to what He finally gave me. I tell you this because if you are about to give up, don’t. Wait on the Lord. He will exalt you in due season if you remain faithful. He never reneges on His promises. They may be later than we want but trust His timing. It is perfect.

Reflect & Connect…

There has never been a time in my life where I have witnessed so much despair. Isolation might bring out the very worst in some of us when it could help us be better and do better. What a perfect time to connect with ourselves and with God as we quietly reflect on our lives.
connectwithGodDuring these times of isolation, it is so easy to fall into a state of sadness, depression, and maybe even anger. However, we can also choose to look for the lesson in our current situation and try to redirect our thoughts. Think about it, isn’t this the perfect time to see how we can help someone who may be feeling alone, feel loved? Isn’t it an ideal time to take our loneliness and turn it into a tool that can help ourselves and others? One means of doing that is through social media. What an excellent way to reach out to laugh, enjoy the jokes, the comments, the memes, and some of the silliest things people are coming up with just to connect and make life a little more bearable.
I have always believed that there are two types of people; those who see opportunities in messes and those who see the inevitable disaster in them. The people who see the glass half-full and the ones who see it half-empty. I also believe we can choose which of these two we want to be.
Are we going through a difficult time right now? Of course, we are, but what part can we all play in making someone’s life easier? I believe that everything happens for a reason. God is not surprised by what is happening in this world. I look over the last month and see where the things I grew up being taught, came rushing to the forefront of my mind when I needed them.

I recently left a job I loved because I knew, in my heart, that whatever assignment God had for me there was finished. Was it scary? You bet. For a woman who plans everything, did I have a plan? Yes and no. Did I have a well-thought-out strategic plan? No. Did I have a faith-walk plan? Yes. I planned to seek God and to trust God for the next thing. You see, I had begun to feel alone, and I thought that I was losing a little more of myself each day. During the entire time, I felt these various ways, and I had to keep encouraging myself to trust God. I read scripture more desperately, trying to hear from God. I had friends saying to me, trust God. I heard myself staying to myself, I will trust God, but my feelings to move on got more anxious. One day, I said Lord, I am trusting You for the next thing. It was within days of me resigning, that the “next thing” just showed up. It showed up during a time of uncertainty. It showed up during a time when we were shut-in when I was quiet, reflective, and not distracted by other things. It showed up when God had my undivided attention!

theLordismyshepI am about to begin that next chapter. I am excited about what God is doing in my life. More than that, I am excited about what He will do in yours. I am not saying to be foolish. I am saying to take time to connect with God during these days of isolation. Reflect on His goodness so that you are not paralyzed with fear. Look back on where He has brought your from and what He has done in your past. Trust yourself too.
And always remember, “the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”

 

Uncertain?

 

I am sure you have seen the comments about the pandemic from the news media, your friends on social media, and probably family members and close friends. People who are experts in one area are now experts on the pandemic too. I believe we will all do well to press into God and listen to His voice, especially during these times of uncertainty.
We don’t know what the future holds; we I know who holds the future. No joke. I also know that even if I knew what the future had in store for me, I cannot do one thing about it except watch and wait. So, I sit at my home, just like you, and wait to see what’s next.

uncertaintyWhile I wait, I pray that my faith stays strong. I pray to shut out all the “experts” who are not experts, and I pray to take things seriously and also not to overreact.
I remind myself when the semi-experts begin to talk that God empowered professionals to study medicine and all kinds of diseases. I will listen to them. Also, I remind myself that everything is not a conspiracy. So when I read where people are spreading innuendo and gossip, I move right pass them. Listen, this is the time to trust God and listen to the scientists and medical experts.
I am no medical expert, nor am I a Biblical scholar. I am, on the other hand, a Believer. Not just a Sunday Believer, but an every day, Bible read and prayer Believer. I know that God has a plan and purpose for each of us. I do trust that His will be done. I also have to trust what the medical experts tell me and take their guidance seriously. So I wash my hands regularly, stay away from crowds, go out to exercise alone, and then I go back to my house and remain unless there is an urgent need.

Like you, I don’t like uncertainty. What keeps me going? Believing what the Word of God tells me. 2 Timothy1:7, “For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-faithoverfearcontrol.” So I try very hard not to fear, but to trust. His Word says in John 14:18, “I will not leave you desolate: I will come unto you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” So, I remind myself the God is here right amid this uncertainty. He said He would be, so I will not fear. The scripture that really speaks to me during these times of uncertainty is found in Psalms 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Feeding my mind with the Word of God rather than people reduces my anxiety.

There is no doubt that uncertainty fuels fear. However, faith can help us to overcome that fear. Recognize that having faith does mean we are void of fear; it means we can look at fear and trust God despite what we see or feel.
I want to encourage you today. If you do not generally read, start reading your Bible each day. Also, stop and say a simple prayer and remember to think about the needs of others. These acts will reduce your anxiety. More importantly, these acts will take the focus off yourself and cause you to care for the needs of your family, friends, and neighbors. These acts are contagious and will have a domino effect that can impact your attitude and the attitudes of those around you.

Brokenness…

I read something recently that said in sum, “when we figure out just how broken an individual may be, it is easier to show them more grace.”  I had to think about that for a minute. However, not too long after reading that post, I had to agree.

Some say “hurt people, hurt people.” Others, like me, understand what is being said, but I have a problem buying it.  Why is it that some hurt people go out of their way to be brokennessbetter? What causes them to recognize their brokenness and say, I will not do that to others? What makes some so different in their approach to their brokenness than others?  Is it that not everyone is able or capable of looking inward? Is it that it’s just hard to see how our actions affect others?

I cannot explain away the actions of others. Brokenness is a variety of things from broken hearts to messy lives and imperfections. For some, it is a way of demanding pity while for others, it is something that has motivated them to change the world.  In the Bible, brokenness means one who is crushed and torn, yet they are at the point of repentance. For example, look at David.  When Nathan confronted David about the horrible things he had done, after Nathan’s long rebuke, David said in 2 Samuel 12, “I have sinned against God.” David is known as a “man after God’s heart.”  He admitted his failure and sins. He didn’t make excuses, he owned what he had done wrong.

Don’t ever forget that we are all broken in some way. The Bible tells us that “we were born in sin and shaped in iniquity.” Therefore, we are capable of horrible things too.  What can help with dealing with brokenness? Who can cause us to exercise self-control when life becomes messy?  The Holy Spirit.  John 14:1 says, “do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in Me (Jesus). Another scripture says, “Come to me, all you who are tired and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). He will help with our brokenness.

Do we show more grace when we learn of a person’s brokenness? Maybe. I would like to think I do. Brokenness is no excuse to hurt others. Brokenness doesn’t give another person that right. However, when they do hurt me, I hope I am big enough to forgive them and pray for them more than once even if they never acknowledge, admit, or own up to their actions.

Think on These Things

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Each year many of us take into account what happened during the previous year. We stop and reflect. We also establish goals that we have the sincerest desire to accomplish. I, too, set goals every year. However, this year, I am most interested in one thing—God’s perfect peace and His will for my life.

As old as I am, I never expected that I would be caught up in the same stuff I was caught up in during my early years. Yet, last year, that’s exactly what I found myself doing. I was continually battling; battling trust issues, as well as competition, and other stress-related issues. I am not a worrier at all, but I found myself doing that too. For many years I have written and talked about my belief that fear and faith cannot coexist. However, during the last year, I found myself dealing with worry a great deal of the time. I dealt with ups and downs and constantly questioned my abilities. I questioned my ability to select the right relationships and I even questioned my overall judgment. Throughout the year, I feel, I was battling crazy people and the crazy ideas that were bouncing around in my head.

As I reflect on that time, I recall teaching a class over years titled “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyers. What Joyce talks about in that book is how to win the battle that goes on in our minds. What comes to mind now is that a woman like me, who has taught many people regarding thinking positively and relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit to help, found myself, battling the negative voices in my mind and intentionally trying to think positively in spite of my challenges. I desperately relied on the Holy Spirit to help me. Still, to turn around and find myself feeling doubt, confusion, anger, fear, and many other negative feelings caused me to feel condemned. 

I know the Scripture. I know that “there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1. I also know that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, but does not condemn us. Why then, was I feeling condemned? I was suffering from negative thoughts although I read my Bible daily. I began reading and consuming more of the Bible and other positive faith-based books that would help to edify my mind with positive thoughts.

The Word of God tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, “ Do not be anxious for anything, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I remember running during the early morning and repeating that scripture to myself. I also read Think on These Things by John Maxwell and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. I was in prayer constantly, asking God to keep me in perfect peace during my most trying times. I reminded God that His Word said that He would keep me in perfect peace if I kept my mind on Him, so I tried to keep my mind on Him. God is so good. What I found was, when my days got too frustrating, too disturbing, and I wanted to throw my hands up and walk away, God would have someone send me a word of encouragement. I would get an invitation to go and speak somewhere, or some small thing would happen that was bigger than what I was experiencing but spoke volumes that it was God. He would reassure me and encourage me. 

I share this to say to you, do not be discouraged; do not be afraid. God knows what is going on with you. He knows the ups and He knows the downs. He cares for you and is willing to step in and help you through it all. Trust Him and when your times get hard, trust Him more. Remember, we are bombarded each day with all kinds of negative thoughts. Don’t let them overtake you. When the voices get loud, let the Word of God get louder. You won’t hear God, though, if you let the negative words saturate your thoughts each day, and you sit idly by and let that happen.

How do you combat those negative voices? The answer is found in Philippians 4:8: “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

A New Year. There Was a Lesson in the Challenge…

When I hear someone try to tell me that a challenge I am facing will help me grow, I challengeswant to say hogwash! However, at my age, I can honestly say that many of my challenges have equipped me for greater things. I know, I know, you might say that I am only saying that because I haven’t faced what you are facing. That may be the case, but you never know what people go through. We don’t really share our deepest troubles on social media. At least I don’t.

Anyway, I would like to share a little about what I have endured over the last year and point out along the way that repeated challenges can get to any of us. Trust me, they have gotten to me. As for me, however, I choose to move beyond them. I learned long ago not to hold onto stuff. If you allow your challenges to get the best of you, you will most assuredly become beaten down, you may get despondent and decide to check out altogether. Counter your challenges. Find joy elsewhere, and I don’ mean in a bottle of drugs either. Find it in a walk, a run, with an animal, at a spa. Just find it.
I find joy in Christmas. The reason I love Christmas so much isn’t because of presents; it is in the people I get to share life with. The hustle and bustle of Christmas can be exhausting, but I always feel joy this time of year. This past year has been one of the most challenging I have experienced in a very long time. Things I thought I was done with years ago, visited me again but in grand design this year. I had not felt the sting of a person trying to demoralize and marginalize me in such a long time, that to experience it at this stage in life really shook me. I had to take stock of my life over and over again. I kept telling myself, “You must be crazy. You don’t need this. Why are you subjecting yourself to this?” I would ask God repeatedly if I was doing the right thing by remaining quiet, ignoring the actions of others, and staying the course. When I was about to throw in the towel, I would get an impression from God that I was supposed to stay the course. What I heard from God was this: “LaSharnda, don’t give up. I didn’t make you that way. Besides, trust me. I am teaching you a lesson. There is always a lesson in the challenge.” So I said, “Ok, Lord.”
At one point during the year, I felt that I was at my wit’s end. I was on my morning run, suddenly, a scripture began to play in my head over again. The scripture was Isaiah 43: 19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Well, of course, I felt God was about to break the cycle I had been experiencing. I waited and waited, and nothing happened. I got discouraged again. Too many things gave me hope throughout the year, only to get my expectations up and dashed back. To this day, I still do not know what God is doing in my life, but what I do know is that I am a different person today than I was a year ago. I know that I have learned some powerful lessons through my challenges.
Challenges can cause flight or fight, and even the strongest among us can get to the point of flight. Don’t feel bad when you finally throw your hands up and walk away, but before you do, I want you to ask yourself, “What lesson am I supposed to learn in this?” Take your time, pray, trust God, and trust yourself. Look at the challenge and determine what brought it on and decide what you can do about it. You always have a choice; you don’t have to put up with anything. However, you may learn to trust God more and rely on yourself less.
If you decide to stay the course, you may find that He is equipping you for something far more significant and even better than what you had before. The skills you develop during the challenges are skills you will take with you to the next level. You may also find that you are stronger, tougher, and brighter than you thought.

Learn from the past and look to the future.  God is about to do a new thing. Can’t you see it?