Living Life Purposefully

Where Purpose Meets Passion

Monthly Archives: July 2018

God Knows.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

It’s a beautiful verse. Many people look to it for confirmation of better things to come when going through something difficult. So…here’s the thing — I think we’ve misunderstood the context of that verse because we don’t read the verses surrounding it. In essence, the beginning of Jeremiah 29 is a message to Jerusalem (God’s people). But more than that? It’s a reminder. Jeremiah 29 not only contains messages of joy, peace, and comfort.

It’s instruction of the highest order – it’s God reminding his people of the agreement they made in following him. So let’s talk the key points of these verses, shall we?

I. Prosper Where God Places You

At this time, God’s people were in a foreign place & captivity. The Elders at the time knew WHY they were there (God made it pretty clear) & knew eventually they’d be in a better place. Even in knowing they’d be in a “lower” position socially, God still gave a very clear instruction – THRIVE. They were commanded to live “as if” they had never lost their position as God’s favored. The reality is they hadn’t lost favor even though circumstances suggested they had.

That’s the thing about life. Difficult circumstances manage to convince us that we aren’t worth our weight in gold. Life will suggest we don’t matter. Complicated relationships will blur our vision on who we truly are.

And that’s where we start to ask, “Well, what’s the point?”

The point is that our lives – and who we are really – are our callings and we are to serve God (your Creator as you know of them) even in the most humbling positions. It’s tough but that’s…just how the cookie crumbles.

Live even when you don’t seem to count. Thrive anyhow.

II. There’s No Such Thing as an Unknown Place

Life doesn’t present unexpected circumstances. It’s a series of transactions that follow the formula of “If I do A, then B is a possibility.”

What makes circumstances seem unexpected is that we never expect the worst to happen. We like to bet on the best thing while saying we’ll be ok with just the good. We go through life unfairly using grace, mercy, love, & forgiveness as tools to manipulate people/things to work in our favor. It’s an ugly truth to swallow (I’ve been sitting on this admission for weeks). We apologize with the hope it’s enough to not be held responsible for our behaviors. We pray with hope that a miracle shows up to get out of trouble we shouldn’t be in.

Here’s the thing – accountability matters and you can’t grow to who you are supposed to be running from it. The thing about true, authentic, and actual accountability is that it takes place in parts.

First? You know better. Then? You do better. Finally? You teach what’s better.

This is why you see generationS (plural) of God’s people in captivity. The separation was intentional. The question being asked of you when you’re the foreigner is: “Do you confirm what’s in your spirit or conform to what’s around you?”

Being an outsider tests your commitment to promises you make because it’s easy to get caught up in what the ppl around you do. Not only that but when you’re the “Odd One Out,” your behavior is easier to spot. What you do “right” stands out just as much as what you do “wrong.” And when you stand out? You find yourself explaining why you do things differently more than you’d like.

III. Acceptance (Actual Acceptance) is a Part of Obedience

This is something I struggle with but there is something to be said about the freedom that comes with saying, “This is where I am. This is what my life is. Okay.”

Acceptance is “Let your will be done.” in action. Acceptance is present-tense. The blessing in actual acceptance is that you live in a space of who I am now isn’t who I used to be or who I’m growing to be. It’s acknowledging everything about yourself and striving towards better anyhow. Authentic acceptance is what allows you to accept the blessings that come your way even when you feel you aren’t deserving (because 9/10, you know you could have done things with more care and concern than you wanted to have at any given moment).

And it’s THAT kind of acceptance God (cosmic laws in general) wants us to approach living purposefully with. When you aren’t accepting, you start to list out the things you thought you were supposed to have & the timeline you expected it.

My point…

Why be determined to live a life outside of God’s promise for you?

Stop questioning the good stuff because you’re focused on your (un)worthiness. There is no way to fulfill your purpose here when you decide to postpone or refuse blessings God has promised you.

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Peddling Perfection

For the last 26 years, my life has been defined by a series of accomplishments and accolades others would be proud of. Was I kind? Check! Was I smart? Check! Was I involved in organizations and did I stay out of trouble? Check! And well? Check!

By the time I graduated high school in 2004, I was already in the beginning stages of what I’ve come to call an identity crisis. I wasn’t ready for college but I was going because “it made sense.” Why would a well-rounded Honor Roll student NOT go to college? That decision to stay home and figure things out would have made little sense to others because it was the logical next step for a “good kid.” On a late-August day, I buried my concerns deep within myself and committed to “Peddling Perfection.”

My definition of perfection has always been going with the expectations others set for me. This was the pact I made with myself and transitioning to college became a traumatic experience. I realized I was stuck in a place where the level of expectation suddenly changed. This was a place I’d have to decide everything for myself. To be honest, I’d lived through some pretty devastating experiences and learned skills to ensure my survival; but this transition made me realize I wasn’t equipped to thrive.

I was existing as a shell of an expectation but I desperately wanted to live.

As I went through college and graduate school, I was constantly stuck between unraveling completely to figure my shit out or moving forward with the hope it would work out on its own. I chose the latter. The routine that rigorous study offered to students gave me just enough to keep going. Inside, I knew I was breaking down. But I was okay with moving forward as long as it looked like I was still doing what I was supposed to.

All of that changed in December of 2010. One night, I sat on my floor in tears. Nothing had taken place to cause a breakdown. I was simply tired. I was extremely overwhelmed. I needed a break but I didn’t think I had the room or support to take the time I needed to get myself together. The cost of Peddling Perfection meant that I would have to admit the image I presented for so many years was false.

And I couldn’t do it. That kind of honesty would mean I’d have to admit I was lying to myself and others.

This moment of clarity prompted me to do what I should have done five years before that when I’d had my first panic attack in college – seek the help that would offer both security and support. I’d found the number of a crisis line and called. The woman connected me to a number of affordable treatment programs and I made the decision to go.

When I got to the inpatient behavioral health program, the intake specialist remarked that he’d seen people like before. “You just keep going knowing that you’re almost out of gas and hoping a station pops up before you run out. Don’t be too hard on yourself while you’re here.” The people I met there made me feel like I could finally be honest with myself about who I wanted to be and what I wanted from life. Answering the question, “So what brought you here?” was the first time I cracked the mask of perfection. It was the first time some light finally felt like it was shining into my world.

The day I told my in-house art therapist that I didn’t know shit and I was scared to move forward because there was no guarantee it would work out. That was the day I finally paid the price I could afford for the life I wanted. That was the day I made the decision to finally

I closed shop on perfection and decided to move forward in honesty. My hope fore the person who reads this while at a similar crossroads is that you know you aren’t alone. You can trade in a life built on other people’s expectations and grasp the one truly meant for you.

You can and you absolutely should.

 

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If you are (or feel you know someone) in distress and crisis, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a network to point you in the direction of some resources.

Call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.

In God’s Time

“Don’t worry, Baby. It will happen in God’s time!”

This was a phrase I used to hate hearing. In these moments, I could understand the person who said them meant well, but it usually left me feeling like, “Well, shit. If it’s going to happen anyway, why do I have to go through all of this mess?”

But that all changed one day while I cooked dinner for my family. Standing in my kitchen, my countertop was cluttered with the various things that would go into the meal. I had raw chicken, uncooked rice, vegetables that were in the process of being prepped, various seasonings to enhance the flavor, and the tools to actually prepare the meal. Mentally, I went over the order of the steps to take to make sure the different components of the meal would finish at the same time. Reaching over the stove to turn on the appropriate number of burners I’d need, I thought to myself, “OH MY GOD!”

I stepped back and once again surveyed my counter. I realized I had all of the ingredients for the meal but I did not have the meal itself. I also had all of the necessary tools to make sure I’d have the meal I wanted, but I had not yet used them. In that moment, I understood exactly how I would interpret the phrase, “In God’s time!” moving forward.

You see? When we talk about our purpose and living purposefully, we fail to realize we are a lot like the ingredients for a meal. We fail to realize the trials, tribulations, and devastating events we experience in our life are a lot like the stoves used to prepare food for consumption. Finally, we fail to realize that being stuck in a place or meeting the same obstacle is a lot like the time it takes to actually cook the meal.

Knowing now that God’s timing is all about preparation for a task ahead has changed the way I think about my personal struggles. Speaking candidly on one issue in particular, I have found myself in the same kind of job environment for the last ten and a half years. It’s been a struggle to reconcile the dissatisfaction stemming from the understanding I’ve worked for the same kind of managers in the same kind of job cultures. The tapes recorded throughout my job experience had started to play a devastating message in my mind: “I wasn’t in the right places doing the right kind of work and having the right kind of impact.”

The struggles I felt and still face today led to a lot of self-loathing that I work daily to unpack. I thought maybe, just maybe, I was the problem.

Until this realization clicked for me.

Knowing what “God’s timing!” is actually about has allowed me to move forward with more conviction about what it is I’m here to do. Sometimes, I fumble things when I share new ideas with more people, but I’m always reminded of the importance of “God’s timing.” In the moments where I’m not as sure of myself as I wish to be and things around me still feel completely devastating, I tell myself I’m still on the stove. It’s practice and the bits I’m prompted to share are just me allowing others to taste what God wants them to have.

That’s why I’ve decided to share this personal reflection for others to see. If you find yourself facing challenges while trying to move forward on the path you know God has for you? If you find yourself wondering if you’re supposed to be in those rooms talking to those big people but worry they’ll think you’re a fraud? If you find yourself asking the question, “But why is this happening to me?” Don’t give up. It doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to be there. It just means you’re not yet ready for where you are to go.

Your time is surely coming.

The Power of Relationship

“The nature of the relationship dictates everything!”

As I sat at my work desk attempting to remain present-minded enough to do my work, that phrase rose in my spirit. I realized I was caught in the uncomfortable familiarity of walking a thin line of depression while wedged between job dissatisfaction and the inability to just quit. Once again, I felt stuck – and feeling stuck left me feeling trapped.

In this body I inhabit as a Black Woman in the USA, I find myself often revisiting the idea of freedom. That is what I crave. That is what I clutch onto when any semblance of it lands in my hands. With a low-paying job, high student loan debt saddled to my back, and a bunch of other stress-inducing issues? I was often left feeling like I am a walking embodiment of unrealized potential; and this moment was no different.

I had become a star that burned too strongly. Too brightly. Too soon.

As I sat as my work desk a few days after my 32nd birthday, I was almost brought to tears by the magnitude of this quiet realization. My Soul was reminding me of the kind of wisdom you bring with you into life. The kind you just know without it being explained. It dawned on me that the conundrum is we often forget this knowledge because it isn’t explained. We are taught so much about what’s acceptable that this is the wisdom we forget to apply to life.

“The nature of the relationship dictates everything!” The voice reminding me of this was resolute. In my confusion, I paused long enough the voice was able to follow with, “And everything in life is relationship.”

Now I said before that I was almost brought to tears. In my mind, I saw my life move in reverse as though God, my Inner Self, or some other deeply revered source of wisdom flipped through a picture book. I started to see pivotal moments and the barrage of emotions – ones I can name and some I can’t – poured over me. To feel everything at once without any way to stop it left me stunned. Similar to other moments where small realizations are posed to become significant breakthroughs, my Spirit asked, “And what will our relationship with life be going forward?”

What will my relationship with life be going forward?

Answering it quietly in my heart, I made up in my mind to find myself and reclaim my power. My life feels like a tapestry of grief being held together by very thin threads of punctuated joy. I know going forward that I have to prioritize recoloring those experiences. In other words, what was once soft grays, biting blues, ominous blacks, and occasional threads of gold? I will look at those very same experiences as a canvas and choose to repaint parts of it in my heart with the vibrant colors signifying who I wish to become.

I am here.

And my relationship with life going forward will be acceptance, accountability, and peace.

This is my toast to life and what’s to come.