Happy New Year Everybody!
It’s 2019, and I’ve been asking myself what does that mean or look like for me? I personally love New Year’s, because for me it represents a new start, a fresh beginning. It’s also a time of reflection to look back at the ups and downs of the previous year. But most of all, it’s a time to reflect on the fact that God brought me through it all, and I’m still standing.
Statistically, it is said that 80% of the people who make “New Year’s resolutions” fail by February! Not only is that sad, but I believe it’s directly aligned with the society we live in today. Simply put, we are lazy, unmotivated, undetermined, distracted and confused people, who constantly procrastinate, have little to no goals, and a lack of clear vision for the future – and yes, this includes those of us that are Christians as well.
We too, so often fall into a trap of just “existing” on earth, when God has placed us here for a purpose. I’m not writing to convince or influence anyone to make a list of resolutions. I’m writing to motivate and encourage having a vision that is aligned with the Word of God. A vision of where we want to be or go; of what we want to become; of what we want to accomplish. After all, the bible dictates who God wants us to be as believers. Our entire Christian journey is supposed to be about getting there. The problem is that most of us don’t want to align ourselves with God’s plan for us, so we result to simply having no vision at all when it comes to our spiritual growth.
This lack of vision on the spiritual side, so often coincides with a lack of vision in all other aspects of our lives: physical, mental, social, educational, financial, relational, etc. Other believers may even find themselves at the other end of the spectrum, where their entire vision focuses on all the other aspects of life, while the spiritual side gets little to no attention. Either scenario is detrimental.
God has called us as believers to grow in our relationship with Him and to become more Christlike. How do we do that? Well, like all things spiritual, it all starts with spending more time in His Word. It always baffles me how Christians want and expect so much from God and yet we do so little to cultivate our relationship with Him. The more time we spend in His Word, the more His Word can convict and change our hearts, attitudes, words, thoughts, desires, actions, and our goals to align with Him. I promise, in fact I guarantee, that everything else in our lives will begin to fall into place from there.
Whether you want to work on having a better attitude, lose weight, save money for a new car, get your master’s degree, buy a home, learn a foreign language, travel overseas, get married, or start your own business – whatever the goal may be (short or long term) – aligning ourselves, our goals, our lives, our everything, with God and His plan for us, is the best way to ensure success! In fact when you align your vision with God’s Word, God begins to work in ALL aspects of your life, in ways you could have never imagined!
My family and friends can attest to what God did for me in 2018 – far beyond what I envisioned, prayed for and set out to do via my list of goals! And now, I’m all the more motivated to continue to seek His face through His Word even more in 2019, because I know for a fact, that it will indeed be an even better year for me!……..and yours can be too!
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So often we try so hard to help others. Whether its by giving advice, writing a recommendation letter for a job, letting their kids carpool with yours to school, loaning them money in times of need, letting them sleep on your couch for a night or two, keeping them from literally beating the crap out of someone, taking them to AA meetings, making sure they have a ride to bible study, being an accountability partner to keep them out of trouble, or even bailing them out of jail – these are all great gestures and acts of love and kindness.
Sometimes these gestures are exactly what the recipient needs to keep them from making a bad choice, going off the deep end, ending up in prison or even committing suicide. But sadly, sometimes, these good gestures only yield temporary results that keep the recipient off the ledge for only a day or so. Then the next thing you know that same person does the exact opposite of what you advised them to do. They take your money, spend it on something completely different from what they said it was for and never pay you back. They start drinking again after 5 years of sobriety. They stop coming to bible study and church. They get fired after a week from the job you helped them get. They bash their neighbor’s head in and end up arrested.
Whatever the outcome may be, I am learning that in either scenario I am NOT God. My responsibility is to do what God has called me as a Christian to do – show love, in whatever way I can. So many years, especially in ministry, I used to try to “fix” so many people, solve their problems, answer their prayers, and patch up their lives. In short, I tried to be God. Although, He definitely uses us a vessels to accomplish His will and influence others’ lives, we have to remember that ultimately, He does the “fixing”, the “changing”, and the “problem-solving” in the world around us. We shouldn’t feel guilt, or pressure for that matter, to try and be God – not even for our family or closest friends.
I’ve even been guilty of changing my own personal goals and dreams just to allow myself to be a “savior” to others. God has recently taught me, that I should definitely help if and when I can, but that I should continue to walk in His plan for my own life in the process. The awesome thing about all this is that when we do “step aside” and allow God to work, time actually passes. Then you look back and see not only how God has worked in your own life but also in the life of the person you were originally trying to help. Its even more amazing when you realize that God works things out much better than anything you could have done.
As cliche, as it may sound – do what you can to help, pray, and then let go, and let God!
Don’t overcompensate by doing things for people, but balance it out by being there.
When you don’t know what to do, do what you know to do!
A situation may be out of your control, or maybe you’ve exhausted your resources, pursued every possible avenue, sought help everywhere you could, and you have no clue what step to take next.
All you can do is what you know to do: wake up each day, get up, read your bible, pray, and leave the rest with God. Sometimes all you can do is keep moving, as if its a normal day, all while putting your trust in the Lord. Not only is that sometimes all you can do, but its the absolute BEST thing to do!
This past Sunday, I gave my kids at church 10 minutes to write down the things that they were thankful or grateful for. I also participated in the exercise. Afterwards, we all shared our answers with the class and it was refreshing to not only hear them express gratitude for things in their lives, but to take those few minutes to express my gratitude as well.
Of course there were some common items across the lists such as: God, family, home, food, health, transportation and clothes. There was also gratitude expressed for things that make us happy like: Starbucks coffee, Xbox games, cheer leading, music, our favorite TV shows and bubble baths. Then there were also the things that tend to get overlooked: the maintenance team for your apartment complex, best friends, education, the weather, God’s protection, intelligence, challenges that make us stronger, and opportunities to help others.
So often, around the holiday season each year, we all pause to give a “lil bit of thanks” to God for all the things we are grateful for. The bible teaches that gratitude is not only a powerful thing, but in fact it is something that is a part of God’s will for our lives as Christians. Let us not only “give thanks” during the holiday season but rather remember to give a “lil bit of thanks” everyday! After all, God’s love is evident all day, every day, in everything, all around us. We never have to look far to see the goodness of God in our lives. So often we simply allow the “not so good things” going on to overshadow His greatness in our lives. Lets make it a point to take time daily to give thanks and focus on the wonderful things He is doing in our lives – no matter how big or small.
It’s so important to realize that the moment you decide to accomplish something, especially if its for God, that the enemy will try to do everything he can to distract you, so that he can steer you off course. It’s even more important to realize that these distractions are not always blatant or obvious, but are often rather subtle. Distractions can come in the form of person, a thing, a place, a circumstance, thoughts, or temptations.
The moment you decide to go back to school, a good friend you haven’t hung out with in awhile suddenly becomes available to hang out several times a week, distracting you from your studies. Having gotten drunk 3-4 times a week for the past few months, you get your first semester grades which show you’re failing half of your classes.
The moment you decide to quit your job so you can start your own business, you get a job offer from a company offering you $10K more a year than what you were making, distracting you from the fact that your goal is to work for yourself and eventually earn six figures. Six months down the line, you’re making more money, but you’re physically burnt out, never see your kids, hate your job, and haven’t thought about your own business at all.
The moment you decide to write a book with the vision that God gave you, negative thoughts rush into your mind with every reason why you shouldn’t do it. Now its a year later, and you haven’t picked up a pen to write anything since then.
The moment you decide to relocate your family to another state for everyone’s benefit, a gorgeous new home becomes available in the next county over, distracting you from why God told you to relocate in the first place. Three years later, you’re behind in your mortgage, neighborhood violence has impacted your teenager who now sells drugs, and you just got a notice that your job will be laying you off in three weeks.
The moment you decide to get out of a bad relationship and spend time focusing on your independence and growing in God, a new guy/girl comes along that makes you think its love at first site. Three months down the line, you find out they are married and have been lying to you the entire time.
The moment you decide to focus on growing your blog community, every technical issue imaginable begins to arise, discouraging you immensely to the point that you give up. Nine months later, a friend shows you a free online marketing course that you finish in two days that solves all your technical issues.
You see distractions can end up costing us time, happiness, peace, joy, money, and success. After all, John 10:10 tells us that “the thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy”. The good news is that its never too late to get back on track and redirect our focus to our goals. Even after we let our distractions steer us off course, ruin relationships, set us back months or years with our goals, or costs us money, our jobs, or our peace – God is still there for us, to give us the strength we need to try again and move forward. As we move forward, let us not repeat the mistakes of the past. Let us not allow the devil to distract us. Remember, even the most subtle distraction could cost us! And its definitely not worth it.
This morning I had one of my true “mirror moments”. You know one of those days where the reality of life just hits you all at once. You get a rush of negative thoughts that flood your brain and all of a sudden you feel like you’re alone, not in control, and that the worse is about to happen.
I was out Ubering and had to literally pull over to the side of the road and just burst into tears. Nothing bad or major had happened. It was just a whirlwind of things that I had been suppressing in my subconscious from the previous week: my son starting to grow up and dealing with all the new challenges that comes with that; my new real estate venture that I’m praying will come to fruition quickly; my blog and newly published online course that I was literally having to beg family and friends to support; my divorce process that hit a snag in the road; my paycheck that was delayed by a week.
Suddenly I just felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders and that I was all alone and no one cared. Thankfully I keep my pocket bible in my vehicle and immediately opened it up. The first verse I saw was:
Psalm 42:11 (CEV)
“Why am I discouraged? Why am I restless? I trust you! And I will praise you again because you help me, and you are my God.”
It was just enough of a reminder to get me to stop crying, wipe my tears and smile. Too often we have meltdown moments like these and too often we get “stuck” in those moments. Which turns moments into hours, days, weeks, or maybe even months.
I’m learning that I’m NEVER alone. Even on the toughest of days – when you feel like you have no support, friends won’t text or call you back, family goes M.I.A., you’re handling your problems and everyone else’s, work literally sucks, your children give you hell, or every thing in the world that could go wrong does go wrong – God is still there.
I’ll be the first to admit that being a single mom is by far the most challenging thing I‘ve ever had to do. But I’m grateful that when these moments of emotional breakdown, frustration, sadness, and even anger arise, that I quickly turn them into “mirror moments” by reflecting on the mirror of God’s Word. For it is then, and ONLY then, that God reminds me that I’m not in this by myself. In fact, he knew I was going to have the meltdown. He knew what was going to trigger the meltdown. But, most importantly He knew He would be with me through the meltdown and He sees my testimony coming down the road after I push through several meltdowns.
At what point are we as Christians going to start living our lives “with” God, rather than simply keeping Him on the sidelines and only “using” Him when we think we need Him or when it benefits us?
God isn’t someone we should call on only in times of trouble, need, or desperation. Rather, He should be a part of our daily lives. In fact He should be just as “integrated” into our lives as our family, friends, co-workers, or neighbors that we see everyday. Sooooo, are we just “using” Him or are we building a relationship with Him by spending time in His Word?
This past week was my first week of getting back into the gym regularly, and Friday was the day I would meet my goal of working out for 5 days. However, Friday morning I woke up an hour earlier than usual around 5 a.m. with a slight headache and couldn’t get back to sleep. Because it wasn’t time to get up yet, I decided to login into my banking mobile app from my phone and check my direct deposit since it was payday for me. To my utmost surprise – no direct deposit! Then I nearly fell off the bed trying to get up and stubbed my toe. With mixed emotions – tiredness from lack of sleep, anger from the missing money and pain from the headache and toe – my mind automatically started going with random thoughts: “I’m not going to the gym this morning”, “I’m not going to work”, “why can’t things just go right”, “OMG, my rent is due, where is my money”, “life sucks”, “I just want to go back to bed”.
Those few things that happened all within minutes of each other had already started impacting my entire day and it was only 5:15 in the morning! It’s so easy to get angry, frustrated, discouraged, depressed and lose motivation when things start to spiral downhill in our lives. It may start with something minor, then it may turn into something major that you may or may not have control over.
Either way, God’s Word tells us how to handle those situations, and no part of the resolution involves giving up, running away, or crawling back into bed for the day. All those reactions are exactly the way the devil wants us to handle all bad things that come are way – by retreating, quitting and getting frustrated. God created us with a ball of emotions, but He also equipped us with His Word and access to Him personally to talk to in moments just like these. We can find encouragement to push through in Scripture and we can talk to Him about anything at anytime.
So today I ask, what stops your progress on a daily or weekly basis? Is it your circumstances? Something someone says? A situation going on at work? A personal relationship or lack thereof? A negative friend? Financial struggles? Your health? Whatever the case is, remember that everyday life is going to happen to all of us. As Christians, God did not promise we wouldn’t have any troubles. However, He promised that we would be equipped with the tools to handle our troubles. We have everything we need in Him to face any of life’s challenges. The problem is, our most valuable resources are often under utilized.
In fact, the moment you start to set goals or set your mind to accomplish something, there will be several things that come your way that will try to distract you, kill your motivation, or hinder you from progress. If we prepare our minds for this by spending time in God’s Word and prayer, nothing should hinder our progress.
These past few weeks as I poured time into completing my first online course, I realized that one of the reasons it had taken me so long to finish it, was because I was trying to make it “perfect”. Then God spoke to me through various means – a friend, an episode of Shark Tank, a book I was reading, and then a confirmation through His Word: If we wait until things are “perfect” before we act, move or make a decision, we’ll never accomplish anything. Whether its writing a book, creating a course, starting a business, group or organization, launching a project, producing your first product, or simply taking a step out on faith about something God has called you to do…..we simply have to just go out and “do it”.
The first “version” of your work may not be perfect, but its a step in the right direction – a step that so many of us won’t take to begin with, because we are waiting on perfection. I honestly believe I could easily have delayed my online course for another year to perfect the audio, power point color, slide transition, grammar detail, font style and size, but God reminded me that it was the content – the message in the course itself – that He wanted me to get out to the masses. Rather than spending another minute working on the little, less important details, it was time to publish!
Will there be a need for some editing, revisions, and/or future upgrades? Absolutely! In fact there will be some corrections that I’ll end up doing that I wouldn’t have done otherwise if I hadn’t got the course published and released to the public so that I could get feedback and constructive criticism from my followers and supporters.
So for that project you’ve been working on for what seems like forever, or the goal that you wrote down but never even took the first step towards, that unfinished book you started writing and pushed to the side a year ago, that gym membership that you only used once, the women’s group you keep “talking” about starting, or that business that you dream about but haven’t even begun to start making a reality….just do it!
If you’re in the beginning phase – get started! Today!
If you’re in the middle – finish it! And don’t stop until you do!
If it’s pretty much a done deal and you’re simply scared to submit, publish or send it for approval because you don’t think its ready – DO IT!
This month of November 2018, I’m encouraging a “NOW” mentality. As the year is wrapping up and coming to an end, let’s end strong to go into the new year with momentum to tackle new things for ourselves, our families, and most of all for God! Let’s get it done!