A Grace To Grind

Well HELLO—- I haven’t sat in my writing a space in so long, it feels like unfamiliar territory. It’s 2018, so I’m sure you think I’m riding the new year wave and have decided to blog once more. But truth is, I haven’t thought about blogging and the change of the calendar didn’t alter that.

But I read a blog called Where I have I been  by my friend, Amber Underwood that challenged me. You see Amber answered the question on a personal level, but I believe the Holy Spirit asked me that same question. Not just as it  pertains to this blog, but truly as it related to my relationship with Christ.

Since I last posted, sooo much has happened!! I completed my penultimate semester of undergrad and it was CRAZY Busy. Here are a  few signature moments:I turned 21, joined a new church (Faith Chapel in Birmingham), completed 18.5 hours of coursework, secured a summer internship and pledged the sorority of my dreams!! (DELTA SIGMA THETA)

 I’m not bragging but God was moving!!! His favor was shown in so many areas of my life and I’m ashamed to say I don’t really think I’ve held up my end of the bargain. Yes, I consistently went to church and small group. I listened to worship music and sermons in my free time. But somewhere in my grind, I missed God. 

I missed the personal touch of Jesus that made my relationship with him mine, unique. I missed the desire to talk to him in my journal every day. I missed the discernment to sense the Holy Spirit speaking continuously. I missed setting aside time to read my Bible alone outside church consistently.  I missed the ah-ha moments where I received revelation and needed to share that teaching via this blog using the gift of writing.

All those gifts, talents, and activities I had previously discovered in my relationship with Jesus weren’t utilized consistently by me in this last season of my life. And I for one am determined to be better. Because God has been too good for me not to honor him.

Many of the blessings I spoke of which were manifest in the last season were honestly the result of prayers and sacrifice from earlier seasons. I heard someone say you can’t attain new blessings from old sacrifices. And I believe that to be true. I’m asking God for Elevation in many areas of my life and I believe God is asking for re-dedication from me.

So, I’m choosing to be intentional about my relationship with him. In the words of my sassy friend, people make time for what’s important to them. Therefore, in an open forum, I’m declaring that my God is important to me. I choose to be better not because it’s an obligation, but rather because I want to. I miss the intimacy of my relationship with Jesus. I miss the peace of his presence.

Where are you in your walk with Christ? Are you stagnant or growing? Do you yearn for more? I know Jesus wants more of you and more for you. Will you join me in re-dedication? It’s okay if your method looks different from mine. God has called each of us beautiful ( Song of Solomon 2:10) and He makes our crooked paths straight (Isaiah 45:2)!

So…

Cheers to New seasons and new beginnings. Cheers to grace that has been poured out first in blood and now with Love. Cheers to Jesus, who is ever present even when I don’t give my best. Cheers to The One who is always waiting for me to re-approach his throne boldly (Hebrews 4:16) and whose love endures forever (Psalm 136:26).

 

UN-DONE

We live in a time where it’s all about movement. You’re expected to be on the go. Busyness is celebrated because to the world, busyness looks like you’re doing good. But what if busyness is emptiness. What if we’re filling our time and our calendars with things, but not God? How can we fulfill our purpose if we’re always on the go, but moving without a purposed direction?

In my young life, I have learned that EVERYTHING God is contrary to the world. When I say everything, I mean everything. One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 55:8- 9 which says his ways are not my ways and his thoughts are not my thoughts. We know this is true because it’s in the Word. So, how can we as believers expect to understand God’s way if we’re moving on the world’s schedule?

I don’t speak from a place of judgement, because I’m just as guilty as anyone of setting my clock to the world’s schedule. Many of my days have easily been ruled by school, by work, by meetings, and all these other responsibilities. But I have noticed that when this is my reality, my strength falters quickly. I experience burnout. I come UN-DONE.

     Everybody’s UN-DONE is unique, but we all have a common thread. Unbalanced emotions, lack of energy, feeling like everybody is requiring more of us than we can give. Operating in our strength leads us on a path of destruction; we will inevitably crash because our human strength is simply not sustainable.

BUT GOD!!! Well, his strength is made perfect in weakness (2nd Corinthians 12:9). He desires to give us our strength. He wants us to lean on him. The oft- quoted but not always spoken with power and context,I can do all things through Christ who STRENGTHENS me. That is our key; that scripture is the reason we don’t have to be UN-DONE. When we are intentional about giving God the best of ourselves, he carries us through our other duties. When we seek first the kingdom of God, He adds everything else we need to our life (Matthew 6:33)

So in the midst of your busy schedule, I challenge you today. STOP, wait on the Lord and allow him to renew your STRENGTH. (Isaiah 40:29)

 

EVE-N-Me

Wooh…… I was pleading to God about a situation. Lord why would you show me the gift and then say don’t unwrap it- yet. I want it. I can handle it. It looks good, can we try now. The season is here.
And I thought God would answer my plea in a dream. But as soon as I closed my eyes, he spoke. I heard the voice of the Lord say “you’re Eve”.
Remember the tree of knowledge that Adam and Eve couldn’t eat from. The one Eve ate from an changed the course of our lives… yea that one. Well for me, I have my own personal tree of knowledge, the gift God said don’t open right now. And I empathize with Eve because I feel how she felt.
In my mind, the time to open my gift is now. But God knows I’m not ready to handle all that is inside. Sure I can probably handle most of the gift, but do you want a pilot who says he can handle 80% of the flight? Yea me either.
So if I’m Eve as God said, my next thought was how can I at least be a better Eve. What can I learn from her fall,that I may be stronger in my battle? These 2 things…
1. Don’t believe the Lies
 Satan is a liar. There is no way around it, that’s who he is. Jesus told us that “he comes to kill, to steal, to destroy”. (John10:10)
He stole Eve’s promise and destroyed the purity of the Garden with his lies. He asked her did God really say you can’t eat of the tree. The first consequence of a lie is doubt. Doubt clouds your view of truth. And when Eve didn’t fall completely for the first Lie, Satan told her another one. He said God was hiding something good from her.  It was all a lie and it directly contradicted what God spoke.
2. Embrace the truth of God’s Promise
As I think about my situation, I must speak God’s truth to keep out the lies of Satan. Unlike Eve, I have choose to believe “God doesn’t withhold good things from me”.(Psalms 84:11) He’s trying to protect me when he says no or not yet because unlike me he sees the beginning and the end. Truthfully he is the beginning (Alpha) and the end (Omega). (Revelation 22:13) So, yes it gets a little shaky and I don’t always understand why the promise doesn’t come packaged like I hoped, but I know that it’s coming. Why?
                  Because God is not a man that he should lie. (Numbers 23:19)
                  Because God  is faithful to complete what he starts. (Philippians 1:6)
                  Because God is trustworthy. (Proverbs 3:5)
The challenge for me was seeing that I’m not above an Eve mindset. I can think God is punishing me when he’s actually protecting me. And Satan will try to convince me that I need to take matters into my own hands. When the truth is, I have the ultimate power to release my situation into far more capable hands, ones that can an will do exceedingly above what I can ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)
It’s okay that there’s Eve-iN-me because there’s also Jesus in me. And the Jesus in me is GREATER than the Eve and it’s definitely greater than the devil in me.

Missed His Presence?

The last weekend in October was suppose to be a glorious one for me. It was fall break, so I didn’t have school on Thursday or Friday. I could relax and work on some of my leisure projects. For the weekend, my family was gathering in Birmingham for the annual Magic City Classic. I was pumped because this would be the first time I saw my parents in 2 months, a long time for our close knit unit.

The weekend unfolded as I’d hope. I hung with one of my close friends, my brother, my parents, my Godparents, and even saw a couple of my cousins during the weekend. We ate great food, shopped at the malls, tailgated the Classic, and attended the game. My brother’s school, the AAMU Bulldogs, pulled out the win in what was a great game!!

Most importantly, I got to fellowship with my family. Quality time is one of my love languages, so I enjoyed every moment of the weekend with my loved ones. The laughter and the memories did not fade from my thoughts quickly.

So, as I said, it was a Great weekend. Which is exactly why I didn’t understand the feeling of emptiness and weariness that overcame me as I returned to school. At first, I thought it was just discontentment and lack of excitement for the school week ahead. But the more I thought, I couldn’t escape feeling disconnected. I felt disconnected from God himself. I felt weary and unheard as I prayed to God about some things on my mind. Lord, how come I don’t sense your presence after this lovely weekend, why do you seem so far away? – These were the questions trickling in my brain…….

Then, I heard a quiet voice whisper, Did you spend any time with me this weekend?

Me: I prayed twice…..

 The voice: Yea, but your prayers were a list of complaints, you didn’t thank me for bringing your family together or tell me how your days had gone—instead you complained about what was wrong and didn’t ask my input. Did you spend any time with me, just sitting in my presence or was I not needed because you had your family?

Me: A sense of conviction overwhelmed me… I knew the voice (the Holy Spirit) was right. I had gone the entire weekend without spending intentional time with God. Sure, I prayed a couple times but It was of shallow faith and complaining in nature. I blamed God and others for what was wrong in my life instead of thanking Him for all the good of the weekend. No wonder, I sat Sunday night and into Monday feeling disconnected and unheard. I had missed the presence of the Lord in the middle of a great weekend . Despite the highs, I was still unfulfilled. The Holy Spirit reminded me that he is my strength and my source—without God, I am nothing and doomed to failure. My hope and joy can’t be filled by my family as great as they are. I need the presence of God!!

I wrote this post long ago, but am just publishing. Truthfully, I have had a few days like this experience since October. I want to be one who is satisfied with Jesus and seeing the World from His View. I can’t do that if I don’t spend time in His presence. Let’s reflect, think on the questions below. They challenge me when I feel like God is silent. The truth is that God is always present, but we’re not always searching him out.

  1. Do you feel disconnected? Why?
  2. When was the last time you spent uninterrupted time with God?
  3. Have you ever missed His Presence? How did you handle the situation?

 

Post Election: An Open Letter To My Christian Brothers and Sisters

 

Dear Christian Brother or Sister,

The recent presidential election has caused so much division in our nation. Many people voted from places of fear, anxiety, anger, hurt, bitterness, pride, and so many other emotions. Well, the election is over and the people have spoken. It doesn’t matter which side you were on; the fact is Donald Trump will be our next President of the United States.

In the days and weeks to come, I’m sure there will continued tension amongst our nation. Many people of color feel betrayed, disappointed, and fearful. I have had friends reaching out telling me to be safe and expressing concern for me because of where I live and attend school. I would be lying to say I haven’t felt my own doubt, anxiety, and fear about what is to come.

But God reminded me of who He is and made it plain that I shouldn’t worry or walk in fear.  Can I tell you that God is not amused, fearful, or surprised of the election outcome! We serve a God who knows the beginning and the end. The beautiful thing is he’s given us a glimpse of these same things too if we’d only open our bibles and read them.

There seems to be an expected other shoe that will drop because Mr. Trump has been elected. Christians look the same as nonbelievers in a lot of cases. We’re making outrageous facebook and twitter posts, unfollowing and blocking people because their beliefs misalign with ours, and saying we’re scared of the next 4 years. If no one has told you, the spirit of fear you harbor is not from God, Its’ the devil. The desire to suppress every belief that’s different from yours is the devil, He wants division. The devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy: He’s like a roaring lion looking for vulnerable people.

The time is Now for us as Christians to stand united. I encourage you to not walk in fear because of who you are and whose you are. You are the Daughter or Son of the Most High God and He is still on the throne. Will we as Christians react to the election like unbelievers or will we be set apart? Will we love God and chase after him more in the midst of our confusion or do we run for cover and ignore His call?  Will we love people more despite their differing opinions and shortcomings as Jesus did for us? Will we allow the enemy to swallow us up in the distraction that can be social media?

I challenge you today and every day going forward to be SET APART. Its okay to feel a vast range of emotions in the aftermath of the election, but its not okay to stay in those emotions. Don’t ruin your witness arguing with people on social media or in person. Let your light for Jesus shine brighter than it ever has. In all things, point people towards an eternal Hope, and tell them about the One whose Name is the Highest title in the land. That name is Jesus!!!

The God who loves you is fearless! Let us, His bride (the Church), be fearless also. Let’s love people more than we ever have and actively work towards advancing the Kingdom in our personal lives. God loves me, you, and every person who disagrees with our political stance. So let’s be set apart and Love as Christ loves us. This is so much bigger than you or me: this love is necessary because souls are at risk and eternity is on the line.

Your Sister in Christ,

Maruka

 

See the Vision: Stand on the Promises

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Here’s one thing you should know about me; I am not artistically talented. Art has been a struggle for me, since I was a young girl. The most trouble I ever got in during grade school happened in art class. I was discouraged by my inability to draw simple things like the Sun or trees, so I would refuse to participate in art class in elementary school. Well, my art teacher said my negative attitude was effecting the class. So he sent me to the office as a disciplinary action. There was only one problem, the people in the office didn’t believe I had caused any trouble; they welcomed me with open arms, chatted with me for about 10 minutes and sent me back to class.

Why did I tell the story? I want you to know that I LITERALLY can draw nothing and have never been interested in art. My interests and appreciation for different forms of art grew once I started college as I designed and decorated my room. I still stick to less hands on art like picture frames and canvases with scriptures (not painted by me), but I like to have one personal art piece in my room every year.

What’s the one personal piece you may say???? Its my vision board. Calling it “my vision board” is a little misleading however because that implies its filled with my quotes, my pictures, my dreams of what my future will be and its none of the above.

Instead, my vision board is actually God’s vision board for me. The most recent edition is two canvases side by side. On one canvas, I made post it notes full with God’s promises to me. I have scriptures about His love, His plans, and His provisions for my life. On the other canvas, there are scriptures with God’s commands for me. I know God will fulfill His promises to me, but I challenge myself to Live His commands. The canvas with scriptures of God’s commands is a daily reminder of the importance He places on showing love to the world, being a light, possessing a servant’s heart, and living a life that Glorifies His name.

One of the hardest things I have done in my young faith walk was letting go of my dreams and plans and choosing to trust God even when I don’t understand. I can’t give the fullness of my testimony because I’m still in the midst of this season. However, I believe that as He leads and I follow: My God who promised is faithful to perform. I trust God’s heart even when I can’t see His Hand. My vision board is a reminder of God’s promises and keeps me centered on His word.

I try to read all the scriptures every day, but especially when I feel doubtful, frustrated, overwhelmed, confused, or any other negative emotions the devil sends in his attacks. Its in those hard times where I actively choose to remember and STAND On the Promises.

So, my challenge to you is to create your own rendition of a vision board. Be led by the Holy Spirit and allow the board to be God’s vision for your life, not your own. Jesus said that “if you lose your life for his sake you will Find life” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus came to this earth, lived a blameless life and died for our sins so that we could “have life and have it to the full”. (John 10:10). It’s great to know God for the eternal life He offers, but lets not miss the splendid earthly life He desires to give us also. The life Jesus offers is rich in non-material values like joy, peace, and hope. CREATE your vision board, DECLARE the promises, LIVE the commands and STAND on the Word of God!!

Write it Out– Connecting with God on Paper

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This is my current journal. Journaling has been one of the best outlets for me in my walk of faith. I write basically everything in my journal: sermon notes, ideas pertaining to my purpose, songs I discover during worship, prayer requests for myself, names of people who I’m praying for, praise reports, letters to God about my raw unfiltered emotions and feelings, lists of things God told me to… Like I said everything.

You may be like me and enjoy writing; it helps me process my thoughts and makes things more real. I’m queen of sticky notes containing things I need to do, so journaling comes naturally. If you’re like me, then this challenge won’t be hard or seem like too much. However, some of you may be like my brother. He hates writing an isn’t exactly into sharing his feelings. Whichever your personality type, I challenge you to start keeping a journal of your faith walk.

It can be formatted however you please, write as little or as much as you want. Just write something. I believe you’re gonna grow deeper and closer in your relationship with God. Journaling will help you be more accountable to God and to yourself, allow you to really think through and process your feelings, and connect on a more intimate level with God.

One beautiful thing about God is that he’s the BEST Secret keeper. So, whatever is in your journal will be between y’all.