Sunday, June 8, 2014

The one advice I wish we would stop giving to Newlyweds!

There are many advice we give to newlyweds that just make me cringe...know your place/role in your marriage, always be joyful, always be beautiful for him, don't create drama for him/her and on and on it goes. But the one advice that gets me every time is: Never Go To Bed Angry! 

Aaaaah!!!!!

Of all the "Rules" that we try to impose on newlyweds this is probably the hardest to live by. This advice is setting couples up to fail and feel like failures every single time they become angry and cannot resolve the fight in the same day. If you're anything like me, your conflicts with your partner will not be resolved in the same night. Sometimes conflicts begin at night because that's often the only time of the day we get to check in with each other.

The biggest problem I have with this advice is, we make anger out to be an evil force that will destroy anyone and anything in its path. Anger is a natural emotion that's felt when our boundaries are crossed, when our feelings are hurt, when are lives are in danger. Anger is as natural as all of the other emotions; joy, happiness, contentment etc. These emotions make us human, reminding us that we're not robots going through life without ever experiencing feelings. We're humans with the ability to feel, to laugh, to cry and be angry.  


Anger is not a bad emotion for newlyweds to feel, true emotions give us an opportunity to connect authentically with each other and newlyweds need to learn how to be real and authentic with their new mates especially when anger boils.

It's what newlyweds do with the anger that will make a difference in their marriage.

Instead of saying Never go to bed angry, maybe we should say: in your anger don't make any permanent decisions. In your anger do not hit under the belt. In your anger, Do not say things that can't be easily forgotten. In your anger somethings should be off limits.

It is perfectly okay to get a time-out to sort out the thoughts and feelings underneath the anger.  And forcing newlyweds to resolve conflict before going to bed might make matters worse because they have not not had enough time to think through and process the feelings.  Sometimes the feelings one experience during an episode of anger are so raw that deep and meaningful conversations cannot be achieved at that very moment.
Newlyweds need to be loving enough to give each other space to process without demanding a resolution right away.

And lastly, just as we love experiencing all of the other emotions and lavish in them, we need to give each other the grace to feel angry without being admonished or shamed. In grace we are able to handle each other's anger with honor, respect, by listening and paying attention to each other's needs; now that's love.


So let's do better than passing on unrealistic advice to newlyweds.  Let's give them advice that will help them mature as a couple in their unique partnership.  


So your turn, what newlywed advice do you wish we would stop giving?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Finding Your Purpose (Part 1: Are You Ready For your Purpose?)

"When change winds swirl through our lives, especially at midlife, they often call us to undertake a new passage of the spiritual journey: that of confronting the lost and counterfeit places within us and releasing our deeper, innermost self-our true self. They call us to come home to ourselves, to become who we really are." When the Heart Waits-Sue Monk Kidd

We often hear people talk about finding their purpose as if it's this elusive thing that's out there, a concept that has nothing to do with who they are now and from the past. Of course I disagree, finding your purpose is not just something that's out there that you need to chase but more of something that's presently in you and has been with you in the past.  Your life then and now are the biggest clues to living the life you were created to live.  

The biggest challenge is not finding it or realizing it but are you ready for it.  Contrary to popular school of thought, I don't think all of our time is now.  I grow very leery of motivational speakers telling their audiences that their time is now and all they need to do is to step into their destiny.  I don't think we're all ready for living a life of purpose. Not just yet. Some things must first take place before we can get there.  We must be properly positioned to receive and live out God's purpose for our lives.  But we must all be willing to live and daily walk into becoming.  

 Living a life of purpose is not something that can occur overnight but it is a process that requires patience and perseverance. 

Life is the greatest teacher of finding your purpose and if you can't do the time and go through the process and faithfully walk one foot in front of the other, your purpose will continue to be out there and you will miss the magic of discovering what has always been with you.  Living a life of purpose requires honesty as you relate to God, self and others.  But before finding that purpose you must be ready.  

I remember for many years I was impatient with the process.  I would wrestle with God.  Disappointed with myself for missing out on opportunities.  Mad at the world for being unfair for narrowing my options.  But the truth is I wasn't ready.  I had many fears holding me back.  I would succumb to the trap of comparison over and over again and that trap kept telling me: you're not as good as so and so.  I had some personal pains that needed to be addressed.  I had childhood insecurities that continually made me feel like I was 12 all over again.  But I was blind to all of those things and I kept blaming my lack of purpose on others. 

So my question for you is: are you ready to start taking steps into your purpose?  

If so, here are some suggested questions and challenges to ponder to ensure your readiness:
  1. Be honest about your fears.  The longer you allow your fears to drive you, the less likely will you be able to realistically engage in the conversation of your purpose.  Do you have a fear of failure? A fear of not being financially secure? A fear of not measuring up to your family's definition of success?  Take a honest evaluation of your fears.  Write them down and address them one by one.
  2. Get over the trap of comparison. If there is one thing that keeps us from fully living in our purpose it has to be the trap of thinking we have to do it as good as so and so.  I'm so sick and tired of seeing Michael Jordan and Lebron James comparisons.  It's the most bizarre thing I have ever seen, comparing 2 different people from 2 different families, with 2 different unique experiences, with 2 different stories and expecting them to have the same results.  Please stop it.  We're not meant to be the same.  That's all I'll say on this but if you're stuck in this step, you need to address this before and during the journey of realizing your purpose.
  3. Address any personal pains.  I can't tell you how long I nursed personal pain.  And the longer I nursed it, the farther away I moved from my purpose.  Personal pain can also be the trigger that propels you into your purpose. So don't waste your pain.  You can either nurse it or use it as a teacher into the journey of living in your purpose. 
  4. Address the pain of your childhood.  Ok this one might seem far fetched but hear me out for a second.  Many of us are running around in circles because we have unresolved childhood traumas where we created false selves as defense mechanisms to cope.  We are people pleasers, drama queens/kings, damsels in distress, and on and on.  Sue Monk Kidd says: "By naming the inner patterns that imprison us, we come to know them more fully and obtain a certain power over them".  Get to know your false selves, name them and heal from them.  
  5. Let go of control.  Or be willing to let go of control.  If you're in the least bit interested in finding your purpose, you have to let go of control.  Rather than having your hands tightly gripped around your dreams, you must be willing to have your hands wide open for God to give and to take.  Many of us are not at all comfortable with this hands wide open position but in order to get to a place of living a purposeful and meaningful life, we can't be afraid of losing control.      
So go for it.  Take some time to assess where you are on this journey of finding your purpose.  Are you ready to start realizing your purpose?  

Take a step!  




Friday, May 30, 2014

So Really, What Have You Been Up To?

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go" Joshua 1:9

First of all I want to apologize to all of my readers for dropping off without an explanation. This blog will serve as an update of my activities throughout this past year.

I've always heard the saying "be careful what you pray for" I never really knew what it meant up until now. In the past 5-10 years my constant prayer has been "God I want to live a life of purpose, I want to reach those that are in the greatest needs and I want my life to matter." What I didn't realize was to accomplish all of those things I would have to be strong and courageous and to honest with you, I was weak (I know in the Christian world being weak is commended but in this sense my weaknesses were not allowing me to progress; they were debilitating) and I was wounded with a tremendous amount of fears. And that was problematic because living a life of purpose means being strong enough to listen to the small and faint voice on the inside (the spirit of God) drawing you closer and closer to that purpose and responding to that voice in spite of fear.  To be unleashed to step into a life of purpose also means wounds need to be in check and I needed to start walking towards healing.  

My weaknesses were taking over and my wounds were invading everything that controlled the process of dreaming, which is a key component to living a life of purpose.

So God took me on a journey to develop my strength, help me heal from the wounds that have held me back and help me conquer some of my fears (Keep reading my blogs, I'll share some of that process or perhaps my future book).

The journey wasn't smooth and predictable but rugged and filled with surprises.

After years of wrestling, this past year God said "Ok now you're ready to enter into the next season of realizing why I created you". It's funny, finding your purpose has a lot to do with you aligning yourself with what God had already created you to do.  I think this is the first time in my life I sense myself releasing control and aligning myself to the purpose God had already created in me. 

So here's what I've been up to this year:

In August of 2013 I landed a job working with inner city teenagers at a charter school focused on meeting the needs of inner city teenagers. I thought I would not enjoy the experience because it wasn't on my radar of things I wanted to do but I've fallen in love with those beautiful and resilient young adults. It's given me many opportunities to work with immigrant families and first generation college bound children like I was. One of my greatest joys was the parenting class I was privileged to teach.  Most of the parents in my classes were immigrants and their stories resonated with my family's stories and again I fell in love with the strength and resiliency of those parents who were able to sacrifice almost everything for their families to have a better life. 

Another surprise was being hired to speak at 3 different events.  Let's just say I was beyond elated, I could not believe that God was using me a black woman, from a different country, with English as a third language to speak to predominantly white audiences.  Was I scared? Absolutely!  But when God unleashes you to what He has created you to do, you can't help but to walk in it in spite of fears. God breathed strength and courage in me and I walked boldly on those stages and breathed my purpose and helped women heal and find purpose.  By the way, in the past, I would never have extra income to attend these events but I was able to be a speaker at those events.  Who else but God. 

This year I also completed my 2nd year in prison ministry.  Every Tuesday night, after working with my students in downtown Dallas, I would drive to Dallas prison to work with the women. This experience has stretched me beyond measure, specifically how to sit and be in the presence of those who choose to make decisions that I do not condone.  There were some great days and there some days of frustration but in all God was present in every meeting.

The greatest surprise this year was being installed as an associate pastor in my church. Let's just say, there are times God puts things in your path that you did not even know were negotiable.  And this was one of them.  This position has been another stretching experience but every time I'd get on the pulpit to preach, I would feel my chains falling, I'd feel the power of God saying "you are mine and I've created you for this purpose".  Confidence has started developing.  Fears can no longer get in my way.  My chains were falling. I think God for using my pastor to know exactly how encourage and help develop me.  My chains are falling.

And after accomplishing all these things, I'd come home to the greatest family.  A husband that has always supported me in whatever the Lord had called me to do.  He's been my number one fan.  He's challenged me over and over again to follow God's vision and purpose.  And then there are my children who would say things like: "mom you're a pastor pray for me to get well because the Lord listens to pastors right??"  "Mom how was your day? How were your students?  How were the women in Prison?"  

This year is indeed a year of gratitude. I am beyond grateful for how God has cleared the path to show me that he is for me.

Let's continue to Elevate together.

Monday, February 17, 2014

God IS For Women

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28

It pains me tremendously to even write in the subject of this blog that "God is for women". That declaration seems to be answering the question "Is God for women?" In the year 2014, women should not be asking the question, is God for us?  But I understand the question.  

A few months ago, my sister jokingly said "in my next life, I will come back as a man".  We both laughed hysterically about the statement but underneath her comedic words were years of pain, years of seeing gender based injustice, years of seeing wives submitting to husbands who did not have their best interest at heart and abused them, years of being silenced in our place of worship and if you're a black woman, years of being on the bottom of society's hierarchical latter.  So I understand the question: Is God for us? 

I could fill this blog with biblical passages answering this very question in the affirmative that God is for women because there's Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, the woman by the well, Huldah, Priscilla, Lydia and so many more but there are also modern day examples like Dieula.  Yes, Me!!!

Part of the reason I've been absent on this blog for the beginning part of this year is because God was busy proving to me that He is for women with my church installing me as pastor and speaking/preaching four times in the first week of February.  So yes God has been busy saying I AM FOR WOMEN. 

Just briefly, here's how he has proven that in my life: 

In 1975, I was the fourth daughter born in Haiti. Let's just say being born a female in countries like Haiti isn't always the greatest news especially for the girl that's born.  God saw it fit for me and my sisters to move to the US to study and get a chance at life.  And that we did.  God is For girls and women.

Years later, after graduating college and pursuing my career as a school teacher, God called me once again to move.  This time it was to attend seminary. What?? Seminary??  Isn't that the place where men learn to be pastors??  When I first started seminary, family would ask: are you going to seminary to learn to pastor?  I wouldn't even let them finish their question, I would quickly respond with a "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"  In my mind, I just wanted to get a degree in biblical counseling; never to preach and never to pastor.  

I graduated seminary with every intent to pursue counseling, every door to counseling closed except for one: a class to learn to preach and present a biblical message by Jackie Roese.  I walked in those doors and the more I walked, the more doors God opened.  I began to preach in women's bible studies, conferences, retreats, seminars, I preached at my dad's funeral, I preached at a Haitian church which was not for women on the pulpit but I stepped forth by their requests for a woman to preach for their Sunday morning service, I preached in India (have you done any research on how they treat their women?  And there I was, a black woman preaching in India...Tell me God ain't for women), I preached in Africa and in Haiti.  Please, please, please don't tell me God is not for women to be used in every aspect in the church.  

And just recently, I felt the spirit moving once again, saying I want you to be used in your local church to preach and pastor.  I shared what I felt with my husband.  As my number one fan, he said "do you want me to go and talk to the pastor for you?"  I said "No, if this is from God, he'll find a way to talk to my pastor and he'll approach me".  A month later, I was contacted by my pastor, affirming my gifts in preaching and pastoring and he invited me to a conversation. 

And that's how God has been writing the story of being for women in my life.  I wish I were making these things up as a way to convince you that God is for women but I'm not as creative.  I tried so hard to run from this call but God kept seeking me out, he kept digging through the rubble of societal earthquakes to bring me out so I could speak on his behalf.  

This has been by far one of the hardest journeys I've traveled, there are insecurities, disappointments, the pain of not being affirmed by your brothers and sisters in the faith but this journey has brought me closer to the heart of Christ. I've had to learn what it means to live in obedience of God, when to speak when not to speak, when to sit and when to walk.  So I continue to say yes to God and I continue to walk as he leads. 

God is for women.  God is for us.  God loves us.  And God is good. 




  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

10 Life Lessons Learned in 2013

"The unexamined life is not worth living".  Socrates

As 2013 ends, I think it is fitting to take the time to reflect on the ups and downs of the year.  And to also reflect on some of the lessons learned throughout the year that we will take with us unto the next year and beyond.

These are the lessons I've learned throughout the year of 2013:

1) Grief does not have to be your end.  After losing my dad at the end of last year, I really thought I didn't have anything else to give to the world and my family but little by little, I started emerging.

2) Don't ever, ever give up on your dreams and life.  Man everything that could go wrong, went wrong in these past few years; financial problems, marital problems, family problems...and every time something else happened a part of me wanted to give up but there was an even stronger part of me that would not allow me to.  Listen to that stronger part and don't ever, ever give up.

3) God is real.  So I vacillate back and forth from doubt to faith but this year God reminded me once again that he is real and present in our day to day life.  Only God could allow me to interview for a job at the airport on my way to Haiti and getting the job that very night while I was in Haiti.  God is real even when he is silent.

4) Letting go of past pains and hurts is something that must be done over and over again.  I have heard many people say that "letting go is an act of obedience and once you let go it's done"; maybe for some it is; for me it has not.  For me it has been a daily process of letting go bit by bit. There are days of revisiting anger, sadness and the pain of loss. The key is to commit yourself to letting go even if it takes a while.  There is nothing wrong with one day at a time.

5) Don't be Afraid of Detours.  So I'm still processing this one but sometimes in life you know exactly where you want to go, God has revealed it to you, you have the skills for it and for whatever reason God says "not yet I want you to spend sometime here first". At first I wanted to fight God and challenge him on that decision but I've learned over the years that God makes no mistakes and to just go with it.  So I'm learning to go with it while at the same time not forgetting my passion and vision.  To Be Continued on this detour.    

6) Preparation is an important part of the process.  Do not skip over this step.  Whether you're an associate, assistant, apprentice, mentee; you're in preparation mode.  Learn as much as you can because you will be called to step up eventually.

7) Perfection is not the goal, stepping out and entering the journey is.  Golly, I tell you, I had it all wrong and this backward thinking held me back for too many years.  If you're trying to complete everything perfectly before you enter the journey, sorry to disappoint you, it will not happen.  The journey will help you hone in on skills and teach you the lessons you lack.

8) You do not need permission from others to do what God has already given you the green light to accomplish. No words needed here.  I'm so ashamed to admit this, but I waited and waited for the "right" people to say good job that I almost ruined God's calling on my life.  Needless to say, I got tired of waiting; I stopped serving for the applaud of people and started serving because I was created to do so; I became a much happier person.

9) The best way to leave a legacy is by investing on other people.  I know I may be late on realizing this truth but I'm here.  The legacy I want to leave on this earth is by investing on the lives of others.  To Be Continued; God is still working on me.

10) REST IS IMPORTANT: I love serving others but serving others can sometimes be a depleting task which is why when I'm home resting, I fully enjoy myself.  I work hard but I also rest and party hard.  It's only right.

Examine your life, learn from it, grow from it and live, holding nothing back.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

We Were Afraid of Them


"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

I can't believe I was so afraid.  I've done many fearful things throughout my life; I've served in post earthquake Haiti, the DR Congo, one of the rape capitals of the world, in India where a dark skinned woman isn't always safe, in post war Kenyan mountains and even behind bars in Dallas prison, so I was surprised of the depth of my fear handing out sandwiches to the homeless in downtown Dallas. 

Our plan for Christmas this year was to travel to downtown Dallas and serve the homeless. We would pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a drink and dessert and find the homeless to hand them out. 

We got in the car, prayed and with great excitement we headed downtown. The first homeless person was a man under a bridge, we asked him his name and if he wanted something to eat, he said yes, we handed him the bag and drink and took off to the next next bridge or person without a home. Simple enough. Our plan was in place. 

The one thing we had not anticipated was our fear. Our car was heavy with fear, thanks to too many episodes of Law and order and Criminal Minds. At the stop of every bridge and homeless person, a negotiation would take place; whether my husband would go out alone, me and my husband, my husband and my oldest or the twins and my husband. We were pitiful. At one negotiation, my husband ended up going alone. We spotted a man under a cold bridge; we weren't sure if he was sleeping or dead. We called out to him and he neither moved nor responded. We were all scared to approach him. We parked the car and my husband approached him. Come to find out, he was asleep, hungry and cold. He was beyond grateful by my husband's presence. Their gratitudes were humbling. 

Besides our cowardice fear, the other thing that surprised me was the homeless's need for touch. The smell of urine and body odor, missing teeth, unkept appearance and visible intoxication were undeniable but in the midst of all the externals they would reach out for us to touch them. One man went around and hugged every last one of us. Another would not let go of my husband's hand from the driver's seat. And another asked for us to take a picture with him, mind you he had no camera (pure comedy). Their need for touch reminds me of a lesson The Lord has been teaching me over and over again: we need each other, we need community, we were created to be known, to be loved and to be touched both physically and emotionally. 

I can't say we're over our fear of the homeless but we have taken a first step towards conquering those fears.

Needless to say, We have experienced an unbelievable Christmas this year. I believe if Jesus were to be born in this day and age, we would find him under one of those cold bridges. Let us continue to serve the least of these as if we were serving Jesus himself. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Christmas Prayer For You


On this great Christmas season I bow my heart to the God of the universe to say a prayer for You.

I pray that God may shower you with his very best and may look upon you with favor.

I pray that he may open Your eyes to see the miracles he daily performs. 

I pray that lack of answers will not cause you to renounce faith in God but will cause you to call on Him to sit with you in the obscurity.  

I pray that daily you may be awed by the mysterious presence of God even if in a gentle breeze.

I pray you may sense that there is something greater than us at play in this world; this may be the beginning of you embracing God.

I pray your Christmas has a lot to do with serving others; there you will realize how full you truly are.
  
I pray for peace; that even when your world seems to be surrounded by turbulent waters, the peace of God will sustain you.

I pray for joy, even when circumstances are not ideal that you can find joy in something greater than your circumstances.

Please join me in praying for these women that I've met along the way, their faces are forever etched in my mind, they help me be a better follower of Christ.

  • Ashley who wept by the mere thought that we were created to be known on a deeper level and for more than sex; I will forever remember her smile.  I have no idea why she was in prison but she seemed to rejoice over the kind of love Christ has to offer.
  • Red is what I called her because of her hair color but she had a passion to know Christ and to also teach the other women in her pod about him.
  • Bluette the woman I met in Haiti after the earthquake; she suffered greatly but her faith in God helped me believe just a little more.
  • Karen the homeless woman I met by Ross who wept when I prayed that Jesus understands her more than any human can since he too was often homeless.
  • The little old woman I met in India who in her frailty shook my hand to thank me for preaching.  I don't think she had ever heard a woman preach before.
  • The sexually abused women in Congo-two years ago I met a group of women in Congo who caused me to ask God "where were you when these women were being abused?" I promised them that I would return.  Please join me in praying for these women and for us to be courageous to stand up for justice for the women in the DR Congo.
  • The precious women of Kenya, we met on a mountain marked by violence-your strength inspire me daily. Your worship in the midst of lack reminds me that we can have life in spite of chaos.
Let our hearts continue to break for what breaks the heart of God.  In Jesus name, AMEN!