Embracing the Grace in Obscurity

As one year ends and transitions into a brand new series of 365 chances to grow, there must be preparation. If you live in a “faith-based” environment such as myself, then you know the barrage of slogans, decrees and war cries started back in November. You’ve heard them, “Blessings Unforeseen in Eighteen”. I know, I know, total cheese fest!  But hundreds of thousands of people will dance, cry, shout and feel the spirit at the pronunciation of this and similar sayings around midnight on New Year’s. Amidst all the catchy phrases, soul stirring New Year projections, and epic prophetic announcements, we will go home on incredible spiritual highs. We will partake in bountiful spreads and toast to what God’s about to do in our lives. Only, we won’t stop long enough to consider that He does his best work, and best displays His grace in obscurity.

See, we will embrace the declaration over 2018, journal our deepest prayers, list what we’re believing for, and maybe even create a vision board. But that’s it! We will then fall into the same inactivity of previous years, just hoping and waiting for things to miraculously manifest. Even more disturbing is the immediate need to reveal our blessings and display our “come up” for all to see. The frustration that comes from being in neutral, supposedly waiting on God, is nearly maddening. The reality of heaven turning off the lights, tucking us away and requiring us to participate in our development becomes unbearable.  When the decrees are made, we expect God to instantly change our tax bracket without us having to learn money management.

We expect to be invited to sit at tables of great influence, but can barely differentiate a dessert fork from a salad fork. We’re not prepared to hold meaningful conversations about global topics, and wouldn’t know the appropriate protocol or what to wear in that environment. We believe that it is our year that God is bringing the one, but won’t engage in healing our souls from past hurts, so we can be available and fully capable of loving. We desire to get married but fail to prepare for marriage by learning how to communicate, how to cook, manage a home, (applies to both genders), healthy living, or simply doing whatever is required to become “the one”. Becoming someone that somebody wouldn’t want to live without requires development and preparation. Is God just supposed to let us be great at the snap of a finger?

Not only is your full participation required, but God will perfect you in darkness, in obscurity. You’ll write songs that  eclipse the top songs on the Billboard charts and no one will hear them. You may work twice as hard and be smarter than the person that gets the promotion, all while no one even notices your contribution. What if you audition for a lead role and get cast in a supporting role because no one knows your name yet? You might even be an incredible speaker or preacher, full of revelation and anointing but you’re stuck in your small little town coordinating Vacation Bible School every summer. See, obscurity will expose your heart, your motives and your passion. Will you go just as hard at your gift when there are no eyes on you?

Obscurity allows you to be shaped, to be formed and be corrected while you’re still in the developmental stage. God himself, being the potter, will place you on the wheel and His own hands will apply pressure to areas that are not smooth, that are imperfect. He’ll touch the places that, left unhealed, will later cause you to crack and shatter under the spotlight. The amount of pressure applied on clay while on the wheel determines the quality of the vessel made as well as the longevity of use obtained from it. Who wants to start well, but not end well with a strong finish? How many people do we see and read about who’ve made incredible contributions? They’ve wowed the world with their talents, but their character causes them to become notorious for their brokenness.

To be hidden, while being perfected… that’s the definition of grace. God covers us with darkness, so we can be authenticated. There’s a reason a wine that’s been aged in solitude is costly… it’s been perfected! So many of us want to “be great” while the world is watching. But greatness is harnessed in obscurity. You sharpen your gifts and skills when your only audience is sheep (ask David!). Master character, integrity, excellence, and wholeness before your name is in lights. The greater the spotlight the more every flaw, imperfection, attitude and deficiency is equally exposed along with your gift.

No one is expecting you to be perfect, but by all means be prepared. Obscurity will work for your good if you don’t mishandle it. Jesus altered the scope of history in 3.5 years as a result of 30 years in obscurity. Why are we in such a rush? In 2018 don’t get frustrated with obscurity, leverage it. If God cares to even pull you into a season of obscurity, that’s a down payment on your greatness. When you have completed your time of hiding, heaven itself will announce your arrival. You will know, everyone will know. Until then, do the work and get ready.

Here are my top ten tips for managing obscurity:

1. Relax, you’re not the only one

2. Stop fighting the process, surrender

3. Complaining elongates the Process

4. Capitalize on solitude; pray and listen

5. Let God show you your heart

6. Let God heal your heart

7. STUDY for where you are going

8. Personal development; get a Coach, a Counselor, submit to a God-fearing Pastor

9. Get a clear vision and plan

10. Wait for the green light, then GO

The Truth About Trust Issues

A simple Google search on the subject of trust issues is like unravelling a spool of thread, with no end in sight. Immediately articles reviewing the “10 signs  you have trust issues ” pop up  leading to self interrogation and introspection. Let’s not even talk about the endless articles about celebrities broken up over unresolved trust issues… Nauseating! Trust is a hot commodity apparently. It is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something, according to Google. We were born trusting, it’s our natural inclination. With the rampant and constant breaking of trust in our world, it’s no wonder many have self- diagnosed as having trust issues. Our hearts have been broken, we’ve been disappointed and let down by people and systems that we relied on and believed in.

An issue with our ability to trust denotes a problem, a deficiency or a malfunction of some sort. It’s an acknowledgment that our ability to trust was fully functional at one time but then somehow, after being mishandled, has become defunct. Broken homes, broken promises, abuse, neglect, rejection and betrayal perhaps the culprits to the demise of our trust. So ultimately we become resigned in believing that we are permanently broken, incapable of trusting and relying because our experiences have labeled and categorized us. Rather than fight against this unnatural disposition, we allow it to define us and to become our crutch.

One of the many difficult and challenging aspects of growing as a PK ( Pastors’ kid) was the unavoidable breaches of trust. In my particular experience, my faith community was extremely relational, truly intertwining our daily lives, even outside of church. The extension to “family” status was natural and bound together by faith and love. So as a child, I had adopted Aunties, Uncles, Cousins etc… Our lives were connected and I trusted their devotions to our church, our community, my family and to me. So the amount of hurt that I experienced when these same people would angrily leave our church, turn against my parents and become different toward me, though I had personally done them wrong, would rip my heart out. Despite my parents’ valiant attempts to protect my heart, disappointment and not understanding why so and so was no longer in my life was inescapable. Eventually I learned to build walls and became a card carrying member of the “trust issues” club. I became great at being friendly, loving even, and an expert at constantly watching and waiting for people to switch up on me. I mastered the art of building walls of separation between myself and others. It’s been a process of healing, deliverance and forgiveness to come to a place of freedom from those experiences.

I wonder if there’s anybody else out there, reading this blog, that can identify. Maybe like me, you saw how your trust issues began to affect multiple areas of your life. When you talked yourself out of new opportunities or new friendships because you were resolute about your brokenness. When you kept perfectly good people from loving you because you were suspicious of their motives, and thought they’d try taking advantage of you. When you started doubting God and his promises towards you, filtering your view of Him through your trust issues. Think about it, you didn’t have difficulty trusting God until you started confessing and believing that you had a problem and that your trust muscle was somehow defective. Have you ever questioned this identity to determine its origin and whether or not it is real? Have you established if in fact your trust muscle is indeed broken?

How often have you double checked a chair before sitting down, ensuring it would hold you? Have you insisted on watching over the preparation of your meal at local restaurants? Do you personally inspect the plane before flying to ensure that it will function properly( would you even know what to look for!)…. ABSOLUTELY NOT! If you’re like me, you go to your ASSIGNED seat, pray and go to sleep. Not once being concerned if the Pilot has the proper license and training to fly the plane. We place our lives and our futures in the hands of men everyday, without question. We engage our trust muscle without much thought. It’s interesting that we’ll often struggle to trust God without question. The only One who will actually never leave us nor forsake is the one on whom we project our “issues”, shutting Him out, blaming Him and keeping his love at bay. Our woundedness concerning how people have mishandled us deceives us into doubting our Heavenly Father.

We embrace worry, fear and anxiety even when we have a promise and a Word from God. Our relationship with God becomes about Him having to continually prove His love and presence by meeting our demands. Instead of believing in His love towards us, we yield to enslavement to fear; afraid God will leave us, afraid that we’ve messed up and He’s angry at us, afraid that He won’t come through or that grace will not be sufficient. See I believe that It takes just as much energy to fear as it does to trust. Both states will produce results and multiply in your life. It’s not that you have ” TRUST ISSUES”, you actually have “FEAR ISSUES”…. there’s nothing wrong with your ability to trust. You do it all the time. Your trust muscle is not broken. You simply allowed your fearful state to be misidentified as a trust issue. Our culture is so obsessed with being brave and fearless that we refuse to own up to the fact that many of us are afraid at times. Furthermore, we don’t want to admit that fear is a spirit and it can be cast away by love. Decide today to bypass your intellect and engage your heart in trusting Abba. HE’S GOT YOU. I humbly submit for your consideration that maybe trust was never the issue, to begin with.

Growth: On the Way to Maturity

Do you remember having your food cut up as a child? Great care would be taken to ensure that your bite sizes had no bones and were manageable, requiring little to no effort on your part. Your parents and care givers recognized your limitations, knowing that your capacity was not yet fully developed. There was an unspoken understanding that time, patience and experience combined would eventually equip you to cut up your own food. The expectation was that as you grew and developed you would be taught and eventually trusted to extract the bones by yourself. So then imagine being 30 years old or even 45 and still needing someone to cut up your food. That would pose a serious issue socially, and point towards the presence of some type of developmental delay. Only thing worse would be refusing to eat at all due to the presence of bones.

Maturity eats the meat and throws out the bones, while immaturity gets offended that there are bones. Life is full of uncertainty and challenges. Nothing is easy! Nothing is handed to us in a perfect state; not relationships, marriages, careers, or ministries. The common denominator in all these arenas is the presence of PEOPLE. If someone out there has figured out how to excel on their own without the help of other people, by all means kindly share your secret.

The most incredible yet infuriating creatures on this planet are people. Broken,beautiful, inspiring, contradictory, hilarious, maddening, perfectly imperfect all wrapped into one. Because we are raised to get what we want when we want it, many of us mishandle people. When we are accustomed to having things done for us and never having to extend ourselves, we develop unrealistic expectations rooted in immaturity.

I remember meeting my husband and thinking that he was a nice guy but there were too many bones. This meant I would have to work. I was going to have to stretch myself to embrace someone that didn’t come ready-made and perfectly prepared for me. The bones made me uncomfortable and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be bothered. For a moment I was prepared to walk away from our friendship simply because the presence of boney areas of his life inconvenienced me. Reality is it revealed my immaturity. My expectations were unrealistic and I had watched a nauseating amount of romance films.

I nearly missed out on one of the greatest gifts God ever gave me because I was offended that it came with bones. Look, that’s just how this life thing kinda goes. You pray for a “Promised Land”, God brings you to it and then expects you to rid the land of giants and whatever else is occupying your land. You can’t just walk away and pray that the giants die or that God leads you to another promise. Immaturity will have you offended that your promise requires your participation. Offended that all the work wasn’t done for you.

Maturity on the other hand says ” this is just a bone, throw it out and eat the meat”. There’s a grace and compassion that comes when you choose to be mature. You can celebrate another’s genius but understand their human frailty. You learn from their wisdom but don’t disqualify them when you disagree in a separate area. When you’re mature you don’t walk away from a job because a colleague doesn’t like you. You determine to learn and grow from your work experience, despite the obstacles. Don’t leave a church you said God sent you to over foolishness. Don’t quit on life because it presented a challenge or difficulty… it’s supposed to! And you’re supposed to GROW THROUGH the challenges. Don’t give up on your dream because you encounter pushback.

Life is a journey and maturity is a choice. There’s so much beauty that can be seen if we decide to not get tripped up. We can’t be offended over minute things, majoring in minor things when the whole is actually greater than the sum of the parts. I’m not saying that we should overlook character issues or tolerate negative and toxic environments in the name of maturity. I am saying that sometimes we walk away without having even tried. Maturity requires a discerning eye, so look a little deeper into those around you. Find a reason to love, believe and hope for the best in others and for heaven’s sake… EAT THE MEAT!

Selfie

How many times have you heard someone use the phrase ” Take care of yourself” or “Be good to yourself”? At least a million, if you’re like me. It’s normally followed with the suggestion of seeing a movie, going out to a restaurant, or indulging in a spa day. I love a good massage and spa mani pedi like anyone else, but why do these activities exhaustively translate to self care? A “mental health” day trip to the mall does wonders for lifting spirits. The adrenaline rush of finding the perfect hand bag or a couture piece at a discounted price can feel like Christmas. But how far do these things go in really promoting solid self care.

We invest money into things that only provide temporary relief. We make declarations about how we want to feel better, be better, and do better, without taking the necessary steps to realize our claims. Our real issues and real struggles are denied true expression and healing, rather only receiving band aides. The irony is we’ll pay for a fancy dinner, new hair, or a new purse without question. But the services and people that can actually help us grow spiritually, intellectually, in our careers, or just as better human beings, we don’t see the value in. Many would rather spend money at the spa than invest in themselves by buying books to expand their thinking.

Some people have amazing business ideas but won’t invest in certifications, programs, courses, and mentors. Their idea is just supposed to magically actualize and make them millions. Some want to be elevated to new heights in their spiritual journey but won’t pay for a teaching series, a workshop or conference that can be the catalyst to launching them higher. Does anyone else find this to be a strange phenomenon? The $200 dollars spent on a pair of shoes is an investment into someone else’s dream. There is no residual benefit for you past that initial moment of purchase. The same $200 used to get with a personal trainer, a life coach or even invested into an online class will actually benefit you in the long term. That’s an investment in you! The degree of growth and amount of harvest from true self investment is unlimited. If you’re waiting for people to validate, push and believe in your dream before you make a move, you’ll waste years on the sidelines. It’s time you start investing into yourself!

I believe that within each person lies the potential to be great!  We all foster the divine hand print of God inside of us. The difference between those who embrace and express greatness, versus those who don’t is simply the presence or absence of investment. You must violently take hold of your purpose and destiny by force. Love yourself enough to read a book. Be good to yourself and pay for coaching that will get your life and career unstuck. Take care of yourself by investing into your spiritual growth. It is insanity to engage in the same behaviors and thought patterns and expect different results. If your destiny is as incredible as you believe it to be, then invest into it. The ultimate power of an investment is that it may be inconvenient, sacrificial, and may be even seemingly insignificant BUT the return is always greater, exponential and worth the trouble. There’s always something of substance to show for what was put in. So I say to you dear friend; Be good to yourself! Take care of yourself!

Do You Need A Mentor?

I am learning that there’s a growing sector of people, in our culture, who are self professed “Lone Rangers”. Fear and insecurity have masked themselves as pride and self sufficiency, coaxing us to wave flags of individuality. As much as I believe in and celebrate uniqueness, I’m watching people drown, meanwhile refusing to ask for help. Because we are a generation raised without Fathers, accustomed to being left behind, abandoned and unaffirmed, we have believed a lie. ” I don’t need anybody”! “I’ve made it this far by myself !” ” No one understands me anyway!”

The truth is that we were created to need each other. We are wired for community. Our hearts respond to love and our souls crave connection. But we must be willing to run to the light houses. We must fight the urge to live in seclusion and in caves. Come off of the island!!!! Give your soul permission to be loved and your heart the right to be molded. No matter how much you know or how great your achievements, you need someone who will keep it real with you. Inevitably you will plateaux and reach your perceived limits. You need someone who is not afraid to love you with truth, even when it hurts. You need a fresh set of eyes and ideas to get you unstuck and to enlarge your perspective of possibilities. There’s no growth beyond your degree of knowledge. Here’s the thing… You don’t know everything! OUCH!!! There are amazing people out there just looking for someone to pour their life into. There are those whose experiences will so resonate with yours.

You can find a mentor for almost any area of your life; spirituality, parenting, marriage, business, education etc… You can connect with mentors through various organizations and platforms. Your local church, community groups, interest groups, and work can all be starting points to identifying someone who is a bit further along than you are. Of course you want to ensure that whoever you approach is a person of honor and integrity. They don’t have to be perfect ( nobody is!), but just make sure they can be trusted with your heart, and your development. A good mentor isn’t looking to benefit from connecting with you, they genuinely want to help and support you. You don’t have to be Superman in front of a good mentor. He or she graciously encourages you to take the cape off and just be Clark Kent.

So, how do you know if you need a mentor?

*You are an island

*You believe that you are self sufficient

*You are embarrassed to admit to feeling “stuck”

*You would rather suffer in silence than ask for help

*Theres no apparent growth in your life and development

*Being Superman 24/7 has become exhausting

If any of these characteristics sound like you, please take heart. My aim in writing this blog post is not to beat you up. There are more people in this space of needing a mentor than you would think. Hopefully, this has gotten you thinking. Prayerfully, you are closer to opening your heart, and lifting your voice to say ” GET ME OFF THIS ISLAND! HELP!”

Doing it Afraid…

It never fails that the start of every year brings resolutions that more often than not, never come to life. We all have our repeat offenders; I’m going to join the gym and finally lose this weight; I’m going to start eating clean; I’m going to start journaling and having quiet time every day; I’m going to pursue the dream in my heart THIS YEAR!!! Most of us have stood wether alone or surrounded by people, watching the seconds count down to midnight every December 31st, thinking…. Here I go!

Unfortunately, our best of intentions and our best self motivating pep talks so often fail in getting us to take a step. We Google meal plans and food prep ideas, we even PAY for gym memberships, we buy the journals, we write out the business plan, but somehow don’t seem to fully engage. Some of us don’t even venture that far toward our dream because we tremble at the thought of committing by writing it down or telling someone about our goals.

Have you ever seen a small child discover their shadow for the first time and get so scared that they run. The only problem is that the shadow doesn’t go away… It keeps returning!!! This has been my story! I’ve so often ran away from the shadow that reveals my own greatness, the dream that validates my own existence. I’ve left books and songs unfinished because they required too much vulnerability. When the dream in my heart demanded faith, I chose to allow fear to paralyze and immobilize me. Afraid of this shadow, this unknown and undiscovered part of myself, I resorted to running away as though I could turn off the ideas, the songs, the dreams, the version of me that was alive in my head and in my heart… The better me!

In hopes of turning on the light so the shadow could fade away, I began to give language to my fears. I’ve been afraid of being misunderstood, afraid of exposing my heart and maybe people see me… And don’t like me! What if I fail? Better yet, WHAT IF I SUCCEED? What if the demand is greater than my capacity to give? What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if I wait too long and never fulfill my purpose? Too many fears to name, but one thing is for sure, I’m busting out of this self imposed prison. I’M DOING IT AFRAID!!!! I’m going to blog, write my books, and finish my songs. I’m going to speak what’s in my heart regardless of who disapproves. I’m going to live out loud!!!! The reality is, the shadow never goes away, so I’m choosing to embrace it.

I no longer want this better version of me to only exist on paper, or only in my heart. I want the world to meet her. I WANT TO MEET HER. So here I go… For real!

The Wait Zone…

There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting! Especially if you’re working, pushing, praying and believing while you wait. I posted a few weeks ago on my Social media, asking the question  “how do you celebrate others when they get what you want?” I was blown away by the messages that flooded my inbox. From waiting on promotions to waiting to be the bride to waiting to finally be financially secure… I heard it all!

So many people can relate to believing so hard, and then watching someone get what you’re desperate for. Not sure what’s worse; the fact that you didn’t get it or that they didn’t wait or work nearly as hard or as long as you… If even at all! Trying to muster up genuine joy to celebrate yet another friend’s blissful nuptials while you’ve been waiting on love for the past decade is no small feet. What about being overlooked for a position when you have put in years, have been loyal, consistently exceeded goals and expectations?

I can remember a time in my life where I was committed to growing with a company. I loved working there and felt connected to the vision and values, i felt the company represented. I did what was expected and more. Anything that I could do I did, believing that I was being positioned for promotion. When the opportunity became available I applied! Much to my surprise another candidate was chosen. I had a superior track record, more time invested, the experience needed and the required skill set.

So to add insult to injury, once this person was brought on, they became my boss essentially. That was the day I had to make a decision. Would I allow my hurt and disappointment to keep me from celebrating them. This was pushing me to heart-check. I had to determine my motive for wanting the position. Had I allowed this pursuit and this desire to somehow consume my heart to the degree that it affected my joy? Had I given that much power away? That day, I made a difficult choice… Nevertheless, the right choice.

I decided that no person, no position, no title had the ability to define me or control my emotions. This is not to say that it was easy to find reasons to embrace the individual and the situation, while trusting God. I had to trust that God was ordering my steps and that even in this door closing, he had answered my prayers. People expected me to be upset, complain, be bitter or be insubordinate. But I made it my business to show kindness, respect and joy toward this individual. I believed that my blessing was tailor-made. I settled in my heart that God was not keeping something FROM me. He was keeping it FOR me.

It wasn’t long before my proverbial ship came in. I had celebrated someone else, even when I was hurting and God rewarded me. My decision to trust in faith unlocked my reward. What God did for me was so unexpected and simply miraculous. So many people celebrated me! But because I couldn’t take an ounce of credit, I simply gave all glory to God. Friends, celebrate even when your name isn’t called by men. Trust that Heaven is going to call your name in such a way that no one will be able to take credit… Not even you! God is going to put you on display like a precious jewel. You are next in line for a miracle!

The Miracle Was in the Mustard

Early this past fall, I had quite an experience that truly showed me God’s heart for me. It had been a busy day at the office, and I knew time would not permit for a sit-down lunch break. Ever the multi-tasker, I jumped in the car and headed to a nearby restaurant for take out. I managed to check and respond to email, text, and place a to-go order simultaneously. I was so consumed with a conference call I barely noticed the waitress handing me my food. Graciously thanking her I grabbed the food and headed for the door, when I realized that I had forgotten to ask for condiments. Returning to the counter I said “ma’am may I please have some ketchup and mustard packets”. She put the ketchup in my bag and explained that they were out of mustard packets. I just assumed she would give me mustard in the little clear plastic containers and I looked away. Without ever checking the bag, I thanked her again and quickly headed back to the office.

My husband had another meeting and I wanted him to eat before it began. I ended my conversation and started to dig into the take out bag to set up lunch on the desk. I looked down and much to my surprise, I noticed a family size bottle of mustard. Clearly, the girl had made a mistake and accidentally given me the wrong thing. I could remember specifically asking for ketchup and mustard packets….the little ones. This had to be a grave, but honest mistake.  That poor girl could get in trouble for this at work, and so I grabbed my car keys to go return the large mustard. As I started walking to the door  I was stopped cold in my tracks. The Lord began to deal with my heart on the spot. I felt like He was saying to me “when you expect me to bless you, you believe I’m going to do it. But why is it that the level in which you think I’m going to bless you is so small compared to the capacity in which I desire to bless you?” If this question just resonated with your spirit man it’s completely alright to say OUCH!!!!! To say I cried as these words rang out inside my heart is a total understatement.

I had just been presented with the reality that I had been wishing rather than believing. See, what characterizes a wish is the desired possibility of something happening. However, there’s a sense of safety in wishing, nothing lost and nothing gained. If it happens great, if it doesn’t happen, oh well. Faith, my friends, is irrational. It’s the absolute nonexistence of a plan B, a second opinion or alternate option. I had wished for a small mustard packet and would have been alright eating my sandwich without it. I didn’t expect to get a huge family sized bottle of it. God was showing me that I had to enlarge my expectation. I had allowed myself to settle into the safety of my wishes, rather than to soar into the risk that is my faith in my Father who is willing and able. God was teaching me that I had to learn to partner with his dreams for me, if they were going to become a reality in my life. No one wants to be left on a boat without a paddle, but if it’s sinking just get out and trust you CAN walk on the water.

This incident with something as simple as mustard, so challenged me that I had to relearn how to believe and trust. What is so amazing is that within weeks, my husband and I moved into our home, which was so much more than what we so called “ were believing God for”. In this season of fasting, I’m reminded of this lesson, as once again I find myself believing for more. But now I want the family size manifestation of God’s blessing. I’m learning to enlarge and expand my vision. Exceedingly and abundantly above, really means just that. “ …For when you grant a blessing oh Lord, it is an eternal blessing.” I Chron 17:27

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