Running My Own Race (Late Post)

It’s been a long while since I have posted. Partially because I was waiting for something spectacular to happen first and partially because I hadn’t made sharing my journey a priority. My plan is to share with you a minimum of twice per month on Mondays. I may occasionally post more but twice is what I can commit to at this time. Be encouraged and enjoy.

 

In December of 2015, I hung up my hat as a Case Manager to take a change in career as an entrepreneur. I don’t know what I thought back then about my choice other than it was necessary. I would be lying to you if I told you that it was easy and that I have excelled in every way possible. The truth is, that this has been the toughest yet rewarding year of my life.

I have been stretched in ways that I would never allow myself to be stretched before. I have failed repeatedly, got up and asked for more in the midst of frustration and disappointment. Some would say that my actions are crazy but they don’t understand that it’s necessary for me for me to grow. See, in the past if I faced a challenge where it seemed that I would fail, I would quit. I would convince myself that it was not a good fit and move on to the next thing. I have learned that I was chasing perfection not progress.

There are days that I get up and wonder what the heck did I get my family and myself into? I also asked, who am I to think that I can actually be an entrepreneur? It’s competitive and I don’t like the idea of competition. I wondered if I was alone in my thought process and then I remembered that I have heard other successful entrepreneurs like Steve Harvey, Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran have asked similar questions in their journey. Then I realize that the only difference between them and me is the fact that they kept going. They kept running their race despite the walls of doubt or discouragement not to mention, real life happening during the fight for the dream.

Fighting through real life financial challenges, sickness and frustration will make anyone reconsider the dream until you consider the alternative. I actually got a call from a former supervisor, who I love to life, in the past few months to consider taking a position as a case manager. I will be honest. I thought about it. With two graduations and preparation for a new college student, I tried to convince myself why I should return to work temporarily. I even considered offering it as an option to her that I would take the position on a temporary basis but I knew the truth. If I went back to a 9 to 5 this time, I would not return to trying to make being an entrepreneur work no matter what lie I told myself.

Thank God for an awesome husband who was my voice of reason. Despite the financial stress on his shoulders, he told me to keep going and not to look back. He noted the difference in my approach to life as a result of this new journey. I have become more optimistic about the future and can see beyond our present circumstances. I have hope again that God’s promises are for us, too despite what it may look like, now. He helped me to see all of that and I am forever grateful.

The journey has not changed but what I think about the journey has changed. I hope to be able to share my lessons along the way with you as transparently as possible to help encourage another person who may feel stuck or giving up. Keep watching and let’s stay connected.

Just another day’s journey of learning how to run my own race.

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Will you be known for your love?

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http://bible.com/114/jhn.13.34-35.NKJV

When I think about what has happened in the media since same-sex marriage was “made legal” it makes me sad. I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t have an opinion about the decision. I am saying that it is not the principle matter. Jesus called us to go and make disciples for the Kingdom of God and that comes through relationship.

The Bible is not meant to be a weapon wielding it’s contents on unsuspecting people – people who do not believe that it is true. It’s a guide book for those who believe. It’s a guide book for those who are in relationship with God who desire to know more about Him. It’s been abused by believers and non-believers alike to prove a point that the two will never agree on.

Love is left on the side to defend itself.  Yes #LoveWins but at what cost? What are we doing? Bible study is for those who believe. How can we make disciples by having unsolicited bible study out of context and out of order? When Jesus taught the multitudes, His message was one of hope and love but growth came long after the lesson.

Would you rather win souls for the Kingdom of God with love or through misguided intentions that only wins the attention of men?

Just another day’s journey of checking to make sure that I am known for God’s love.

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Check Your Motives

It amazes me how the devotionals that I have shared over the years are timeless and necessary. I have talked about checking your motives on Periscope and with some co-workers. This post always seems to come to mind but today, I thought it was important to share. Please enjoy this post that was originally posted on the Elect Ladies  blog in February/2012.

“And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” (Colossians3:23KJV)

 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,” (NIV)

Many times we do things to get a certain response such as praise, a pat on the back, or get whatever we desired from a spouse or a loved one but the fact is that doesn’t always happen.  When that thing that we were looking for doesn’t occur we are angry, disappointed or unreasonably upset.

What was our purpose?  Were we doing it for God to get the glory or for us to get the glory?  Ouch!  Were we doing it to get our own way or for things to go God’s way?  Were we doing it so that we looked good or so that God looks good?  Point blank, we were trying to manipulate a situation or response for our own benefit?

Now I am not saying that a gentle nudge in the right direction is wrong but check your motives.  If your feelings are hurt when you don’t get the desired response, was it truly for the Lord.  If you are upset or angry ask yourself why are you really angry?  The scripture is clear “whatever you do…” not some of the things that you do are to be done as if you were doing it for God not men.

So, the next time you do or say something for someone check your motives and your purpose.  If you are serving as if you are serving God, go for it.  If not, check yourself and save your hurt feelings.  Go ahead and cook the meal, make things better, fix the problem at work and make ministry suggestions as if you are making them for the Lord.  Since He is the rewarder of all things I will take His sincere response over man’s missed or shallow response any day.

Be blessed and encouraged and do it all for the Lord.

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What is in Your Hand?

The truth in love hurts but hopefully it heals, too.

I reread the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) recently and realized that the Master meant to call the servant lazy. Jesus taught the disciples about a a master who had three servants. He gave each of them talents according to what he thought that they could handle. In other words, he handpicked these three servants because they each had something special that would add value to him and help them grow in the process. Two out of the three received a return on their investment. The other servant did not receive a return on his investment because he did nothing. He chose to dig a hole and bury his talent.  Which one are you? What is in your hand and what are you doing with it?

Talents in bible times was currency so imagine taking $100 and burying it. Then add the fact that there was some time before the master returned from his trip since trains, planes, and automobiles did not exist yet. What did the servant do while waiting for the master to return? If he was living today, I imagine that he would spend his time on social media talking about his plans that he never does. He may even get busy doing other projects but nothing related to the talent that was placed in his hand. Is that you? What is in your hand and what are you doing with it?

After the master returned, he gathered the servants together to assess their progress. He was proud of the progress of the two who had worked while he was gone. He told them that because of their faithfulness over the little that he would give them more responsibility. No matter how small your project is, do it in a spirit of excellence. Be willing to ask for help if necessary and don’t waste time wondering how much more time do you have to finish. Work while you have time. Are you working? What is in your hand and what are you doing with it?

The servant with the one talent did not receive the same response. He must have immediately realized his mistake because he began to give excuses as to why he was not productive. The master saw through his flimsy excuse and called him lazy. He told him that he could have at least put the talent in the bank so that he could have earned interest. In other words, even if he believed that he was afraid of doing the wrong thing with the talent, he could have at least asked for help. Instead, he chose to do nothing. Have you asked for help? What is in your hand and what are you doing with it?

These three servants were completely different in their approach to work. The two immediately jumped right in and went to work. They did not appear to second think about the responsibility of the work they had to do. They did not overanalyze their plan to the point of paralysis analysis. They were given a task and they followed through. They looked at their hand and decided that what they had was valuable. What about you? What is in your hand and are you doing with it?

The other servant had a different approach. He second thought his approach. He under-analyzed his approach and decided to do nothing. He did not ask for guidance from the two even after he observed their progress. He did not seek out wise counsel from someone that he could share his thoughts and ideas. He chose to do nothing. He looked at what was in his hand and thought this money will do best in the ground rather than invest it. What about you? What is in your hand and what are you doing with it?

Which servant are you? What is in your hand and what will you choose to do with it?

Just another day’s journey of realizing the value of talent in my hand and choosing to do something about it.

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Trusting God’s Perfection Instead of My Imperfection

Count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. James 1:2-3

For many years I have struggled with perfection but this morning I received a burst of fresh air by rereading James 1:2-3. This scripture tells us to celebrate the lesson in our failures or delays to destiny because it is teaching us to depend on something bigger than us. It reminds us that it is God who is control and not us.

As I continued to read James chapter 1 I learned that the perfection is in the patience, allowing God to move in His own timing. It goes on to tell us  that if you want wisdom about how to proceed in a matter even after the failure, even after the mistake, even after your vision seems to be on an indefinite pause to just ask God. He is so gracious that He will give it to you without regard to what you have done. God wants us to have a sincere and humble heart. Coming to ask Him for help is an expression of that sincerity and humility.

Now, when you ask God for wisdom for your next steps, you cannot ask him with a doubting heart. The bible calls that double minded. You cannot do something negative and positive at the same time. Think about your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time. Who did you think more about in that moment? It’s the same principle. You cannot ask God to bless something that you believe is His will and doubt that it is going to happen. Faith requires a full commitment of trusting that no matter what, God is in control. The faith is not in receiving the blessing. It is trusting that God will give us the blessing that belongs to us.

Ultimately we have to decide who we will allow to drive our spiritual car. Will we allow God to drive or will we move Him out of the way? Will we not be overtaken by shame and guilt when our plans fail or will we count it all joy? I am learning to count it all joy and to ask God for wisdom on next steps to move forward. What will you do?

Just another day’s journey of trusting God’s perfection instead of my imperfection.

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Learning to Love My Neighbor by Loving Me First

Matthew 22_39The Bible tells me in Matthew 22:39 that I am supposed to love my neighbor as myself but I have a confession. I am not sure if I should love my neighbor the way that I love myself. My love has been conditional and I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind. What about you? Can you remember the last time that you didn’t quite reach your goal? Were you kind and patient or were you a little rough? Did you offer yourself some grace or did you remind yourself of similar failures? 1 Corinthians 13 gives us some help on how to show love not only to our neighbors but to ourselves. It teaches us how to receive and give unconditional love.

Unconditional love is different from the type of love that we see on a daily basis in the media. It is that kind of love that keeps giving even when it’s challenging. It is the kind of love that keeps giving even when we have made mistakes. It is the kind of love that keeps giving despite our history that seems to be stuck on repeat in the worst chapter of our lives. I have another confession. For years I thought that I had to learn to love my neighbor better but what I am learning is that I need to learn to love me better — first.

If we can learn to love ourselves unconditionally, it will be easier to love our neighbor as ourselves. We will learn to be patient and kind. We will learn to not envy, be boastful, or behave rudely. We will learn to not seek out our own agenda, easily become provoked, and not keep record of past wrongs. We will learn to not rejoice in wrong doing but learn to rejoice in truth. We will be able to bear all things, believe all things, and endure all things because we will accept where our True Strength lies. Our strength is in God. We will know that Love never fails because He never fails.

In the next few weeks, I plan to share with you how the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) is a reminder of how God expects us to love ourselves so that we can love our neighbors in the same way. This is a journey that I don’t want to take alone so I invite you to join me. Take notes and ask questions. Pray and ask God to show you how to love yourself more unconditionally. I also invite you to tell your neighbor. Let’s learn how to love as Jesus commands.

Don’t be afraid to leave a comment. You might encourage your neighbor 🙂

Peace.

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Will You Let Perfection Rule?

cracked potI have had a busy week and I considered not writing. Each time that I sat down to write both my body and my mind betrayed me. I was either sleepy or unfocused because of all the things that I had to do.  Once I realized that my personal deadline to post had come and gone, I thought I can try again next week but… I knew that was not true.

I have an unfortunate pattern of becoming paralyzed by my attempt at perfection in certain situations. If something isn’t quite the way I pictured it, I push pause indefinitely. The sad part is that I only do this dance with things that are really important to me. I usually press forward and complete the task for someone else but my plans need extra special attention and more planning.

Who am I kidding? My pastor’s wife calls it analysis paralysis. I have tried in the past to overcome this challenge but once I fail or see potential for failure I pause indefinitely. I tried reading about people who pressed on in the face of failure to learn their secrets. I even began personally interviewing people who I admire about how they live an unstoppable life so that I can figure out how to overcome my challenge.

They all had one thing in common. If they failed or saw potential for failure they kept moving. They did not allow their circumstances to prevent them from pushing forward. They did not allow the pain of the past to push pause on their purpose. They pressed forward despite the broken picture of perfection.

A motivational speaker that had a pattern of being in abusive relationships chose to try dating again and found true love that did not hurt. A former substance abuser is now a certified alcohol and drug counselor and founded a non-profit softball team. A once quiet and unassuming founder of a non-profit organization who felt intimidated by the experience of others in her field now commands the floor when she speaks.

Although it is long past my personal deadline of completed work I am posting this more for me than you. My picture of perfection was shattered 3 days ago when I missed my first deadline and then again at 12:00 pm (CST), which is my preferred posting time.  I will not let perfection rule me.

Will you let perfection rule?

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Do You Feel Worthy to Move Forward?

10606139_10204718277897721_8840112257559121325_nThe above picture was taken last year during the weekend of my fourteenth wedding anniversary. I remember asking my husband to take a picture of me at this exclusive hotel so that I could remember what it felt like to sit in a hotel suite in downtown Chicago writing my next big idea for a book or blog. In that moment I knew that all things were possible if I trusted and believed in what God was going to do through me.

I posted that picture a few months ago as my personal profile picture along with a cover photo that that says, “When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.” If I am honest, I had a lot of days to remind myself why I started this journey.

Thoughts of feeling unworthy, inadequate, and like a failure attempted to invade my thought space but I reminded myself that if my thoughts were not true, noble, just, pure, lovely, or of good report I would not meditate on those things (Ephesians 4:8). When my confidence was failing me, I reminded myself that Philippians 1:6 said that, I was to be confident of this very thing that He Who began a good work in me would complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. I have lot more scriptures to add but my husband would say that I am preaching. LOL That is not my gift but I accept that I am on mission to do what I was called to do.

As I shared last week, I did not make all of the right decisions in this process. I wrote things just to get noticed rather than sticking to the core of who I am. I attempted to copy the style of other popular writers without considering that a part of me died each time I wrote like them. I listened to other people’s unsolicited advice about where they thought that I should write who had no connection to the vision that I believe God gave me. Worst of all, I ignored offers to write for free not realizing that they could lead to paid opportunities. I messed up but this is a new day and I will not dwell in the past. I choose to move forward.

The picture above is a reminder that there are promises for me that I have not even begun to receive or go after. I never thought that it was possible for me to stay at a hotel where the more affluent would come when they are in town. I never thought that I deserved to receive anything more than what I could realistically reach but my dear sweet husband believes the total opposite. He believes in me and prays daily that I would see who God sees. His prayers are working. 🙂

That picture is not just a portrait of me sitting at a desk that chronicles a weekend celebration of my life with the greatest husband in the world in an exclusive hotel. It is a sneak preview of things to come, if I stick with the process and follow through in my journey. There are many other blessings that are in store for me when I am obedient and patient. There is work to do and I choose to do it.

What work are you choosing to do?

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Do You Need to Change Your Direction?

faith necklaceSometimes when God gives us instructions we think that we know what should logically be the next step but God is in control. Earlier this year I was obedient in resigning from my job to follow what I thought was a full time writing career. I had no idea what that phrase meant or understood how I would accomplish that goal. I left a job with a regular paycheck for no paycheck. I must have had faith like Abram when he left his home without knowing the next steps.

People who understood what I was doing on an intellectual level commented on my level of faith because they knew that I had bills. Truthfully, if it weren’t for the fact that I understood that I had to be obedient; I would have run back to that job. It’s been more than six months since I left and I still have not received a paycheck. I have had offers to write for free but didn’t see the value of simple exposure.

Admittedly, I wondered for a brief moment if God had told me to write but when I reread some of my favorite posts it reminded me that writing is a part of His plan for me. During this waiting period I considered helping God just like Sarah and Abraham did with their promised child. I wrote things that were outside of my comfort zone for the purpose of getting “noticed.” I considered writing a gossip blog or a soap box blog that focused on anything other than why my readers enjoy my work.

Although the pieces that I wrote may have gotten views, it is not the reason that my faithful readers join me on my journey. It is not why I choose to share my gift free or for desired pay. I want my readers to feel empowered, moved to action, or changed in some way when they finish reading whatever I have shared. That is exactly what inspired my post from two weeks ago. Just because I can write about certain topics does not mean that God intended for me to use my gift for that purpose. That is not me.

My pastor said to the congregation at the end of the service on Sunday that some of you may need to take a different perspective on what you are doing.  He used the illustration of one of the disciples who was fishing on one side of the boat that caught nothing. Jesus told him to change sides of the boat. He was reluctant at first but in the end was obedient. It was not until he changed direction on the boat did he catch a net full of fish. Do you need to change direction? I know that I do.

Out of everything that I heard that day, that message stuck with me. I haven’t caught any fish since I left my job but I also didn’t change my perspective about how to catch them either. I was stuck doing things the way I thought that I should to achieve my goal. My expectations along with my perspective had to change.

I decided last week, before I heard those words from my pastor that I needed to do something different if I wanted different results. My pastor’s words were confirmation of the actions that I took. I cannot explain why God chose this path for me any more than I can explain Sarah and Abraham’s long path to parenthood, David’s volatile path to kingship, or Jesus’ tumultuous path to promise and fulfilled prophecy. The only thing that I know for sure is that it is for His glory.

I don’t know what my next steps are but I know that I must trust God with all of my heart and not lean on my understanding.  I understand that I have to acknowledge Him in all my ways and He shall direct my path. (ref. Proverbs 3:5-6)

Do you need to change your direction in your journey?

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Why Are You Waiting?

waterThere was a man who went to a restaurant with his friends after work. He and his friends asked for water for the table and then each ordered their individual drinks. The man asked for his beverage to come out with his meal. The server finished taking the other orders and disappeared into the kitchen.

When the server reemerged he placed all the drinks on the table except for the man’s. He apologized and said it will be right out. The server came back again with the meals but still no drink. Once again the server apologized and said he would bring his drink out. Silence came over the table as the men ate and drank. The man’s drink never came. Even though his meal was spicy he did not drink the water because he chose to wait for the promised drink. One of his friends looked up from his plate and said, “Man! Drink the water!”  He told his friend that he was waiting for his drink that he had ordered. His friend told him, “Man, either you are going to drink the water or go thirsty!”

The man in the story was so busy waiting on the promised drink that he forgot about the water. How often do you want to do something different but you tell yourself that I have to wait until something else happens first? I have to wait until the kids are older, buy a house, or meet the right people.  All he wanted was to quench his thirst but he would not. He had access to something but would not take it because it was not what he really wanted.

Some of us live our lives like this. We are waiting for some special event to happen in our lives before we live, before we change, before we take the next step, before we take a risk on our dream but we are discounting the things that we have access to in the mean time. When will we stop overlooking the thing that we have access to before we begin to live the life that was meant for us?

Don’t overlook what you have now while you are waiting for your promise. Work while you are waiting. Your promise might be wrapped in a package in which you did not order.

What are you missing while you are waiting?

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