Huffington Post Blog: On Being A Dictator

Things not going the way you expected? Stop looking at the HOW and return to the WHO.

For the past few months, the Lord has really been working with me on one simple, yet significant, principle in my walk: trust My promise, don’t worry about My plan. You see, my husband and I have been believing God … Continue reading

My Balanced Plate Post: Wearing “God Goggles” and Waiting with Purpose

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How many time have you heard/been told/told someone to just, “let go and let God”? It’s a well-used colloquialism.  Christian-ese meant to help us restore our peace about a situation by trusting in God. Well let me ease your mind: … Continue reading

Own Your Story

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I have purposely tried to not include details about my personal life on this blog.  My thinking has been that all of you have so many of your own challenges that you’re facing; surely, your life is complicated enough without … Continue reading

Brokenness

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I had an experience last week that I’ve shared pretty widely on my personal social media channels, but whose impact was/is so profound on me that I wanted to share with you all. I have three children, two daughters (5- … Continue reading

Huffington Post Blog: On Being Radical

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I’m pretty sure my latest piece for the HuffPost is going to piss some folks off. I’m almost certain of that. But, it had to be done. I get so tired of Christians crying victim, living and walking a “woe … Continue reading

Sick and Tired

The Lord asked me plain as day, “Aren’t you tired of being sick and tired?”

The question took me aback.  Here I was sacrificing hours of precious sleep before the kids awakened to “seek ye first the Kingdom,” and this was how my prayers were met?

After the shock wore off, I quieted down to listen and the Holy Spirit pointed me to 1 Peter 5:7 [Amplified]:

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, [once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

The Vincent Word Studies commentary went on to offer this footnote to the verse, giving greater context on “casting” and “all your care”:

  • Casting – participle denoting an act once for all; throwing the whole life with its care on him.
  • All your care – the whole of your care; “Not every anxiety as it arises, for none will arise if this transference [sic] has been effectually made.” Care. See on Matthew 6:25, take no thought.

The “once and for all” glared at me from my tablet’s screen.  Then I heard again, more gently, “Aren’t you tired of being sick and tired?”

The sad truth about Christians being “sick and tired” of things is that “sick and tired” is a consequence, a symptom if you will, of not casting all of your cares.

If you’re like me, a wife and mom trying to balance family life with a career and carving out some semblance of your own identity on the side, it’s easy to cast your cares as they arise – as the bank account is overdrawn, as the milk runs out, as the bills stack up, as the car needs repair, or whatever – and then, unknowingly take them back; swapping them for whatever the new crisis du jour is in your life.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is not casting all of your cares; this is placing them temporarily and then snatching them back.  This is tasting God’s peace instead of owning and walking in it.  This, my friends, is the definition of insanity.  And we all do it.

It can be easy to forget our need to minister to ourselves when we’re so focused on being everything for everyone else.  It’s a lot of work and someone has to do it.  But what the Lord reminded me of was that our faith cannot take a backseat to our lives.  In fact, our faith must be the driver. 

When we can’t get a moment of peace between tantrums, ear infections and sibling spats, we must cast our cares because the word says that God’s grace is sufficient for today.

When we can’t catch a break between the misplaced debit card, lack of luster in the marital bed, and the surprise ER visits to dislodge marbles from, well, places, we must cast our cares because the word says that no weapon formed against us shall prosper.

When we can’t go another day in that job, in that house, or even in that relationship, we must cast our cares because the word says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. 

And when we just can’t see a way through the dark despair and desperation we sometimes find ourselves in when we have to be so much to so many other people, we must cast our cares because the word says that God has a plan to give us hope and a future.

It is imperative that we remember to pray for, uplift, lay hands on and prophesy over ourselves.  Because if we don’t, when we don’t, the enemy takes that opportunity to whisper lies to us about who we are, our failures, our mistakes, and what we can’t have 

If we don’t speak life and truth back to him the moment he begins his mind games, we allow him to heap back onto our already-too-full plates the worries, concerns and cares we previously gave to God.

It can be incredibly difficult to find a few minutes of silence when you’re juggling a million other things, let alone string enough minutes together to read and pray, but I urge you all to find the time.  Not only do your peace, joy and even sanity rely upon you doing so, but your family’s welfare does, too.  After all, a sick, tired and worn out momma (or daddy) is no good to anyone.

Are you tired of being sick and tired?  Are you ready to have an extended season of peace and joy?  Are you ready to focus more on your testimony than your tests?

Take care of your Spirit. Take care of you, and then, as the Bible says, all these (other) things will be added to you.

Pursue Peace

In my relatively short life I have learned a lot about people, about change, and about choices.

I think one unifying thing I’ve learned in all three areas is this: prioritize your peace.

Let’s be real. There will always be another fire to put out, drama to navigate, and problem to solve. Work won’t end. Responsibilities won’t cease. And time won’t stop.

These are things we know and should expect and that we cannot control. But what we can control is how we respond to these trying times.

Will we let someone else’s emergency send our day into a tailspin? Will we let someone else’s priorities trump our own? How should we react when life itself threatens constantly to rob us of our joy?

I propose that we must prioritize our peace over our problems. Set our own boundaries. Respect the boundaries we put in place, and don’t allow others to trample them either.

In a meeting with President Obama’s chief advisor, Valerie Jarrett, I was told: “You should never have to hide who you are to do a job.” That’s always stuck with me.

One, because it is a relatable way to remember that we must be true to who God has created us to be. It’s why we get the job in the first place and it’s the best way to keep it.

But Ms. Jarrett’s sage advice also reminds me that God is my source, not accounts payable, my boss or even my job.

We’re assigned to jobs to be different, to be lights, and to use our talents to serve others to the glory of God. That’s it. God remains the real and true source. He is the one who pays bills, provides money, and keeps a roof over our heads. And I know this because when I didn’t have a job – and even when I have and wasn’t being paid enough or at all – our family never wanted for a thing. Bills were paid and our lifestyle never changed.

Look, the reality is that there are many things in this life we cannot control. But what we can control is our God-given, divine peace. We can decide to not allow the ever-changing, temporary circumstances in our lives to interrupt our joy and peace.

God tells us that we should tell Him what’s on our minds and hearts and then He will give us peace. It doesn’t say that He’ll fix whatever bothers us, or that He’ll shoo our challenges away. What it says is He’ll make us feel calm in spite of our circumstances.

So what that should say to us is that our power lies in our ability to refocus, change our perspective, adjust our thinking and priorities. Our peace comes in there, not in the solving or eliminating of the stressors. That’s a blessing because it means we don’t have to wait for our peace. It means that our peace is much more readily and immediately accessible than all of that – and is completely independent of what is going on around us.

This is the peace He gifts us that we must doggedly protect.

Your boss will always have a new project and deadline. Your ex will always have a new gripe. Your bank account will always be assailed by new expenses. And your life may always be busy, full and hectic. But you have the power to remain calm in the midst of the chaos. It’s your divine ability and a right you must enact and choose daily.

If your spouse and kids are important to you, protect your time with them. If the gym is sacred space for you, protect your workouts. And if your quiet time of devotion is as important as the air you breathe, don’t allow the temporary trappings of life to violate it.

That’s what we do with things we love, that are important to us. We protect them as God protects us.

I didn’t really know how things would work out when I went to my boss, a Member of Congress for whom I’d worked less than two years, and told him I was leaving to work with faith groups and have more time at home.

All I had was my divine confidence (read: faith) that my family was my first ministry and I needed to be physically AND mentally available to them everyday. I’d tried to do both well and what I was left with was a boss who was pleased, but a husband and children who felt neglected and unimportant.

I knew God wasn’t pleased with that, and neither was I. I needed to protect what I loved and I had to put action behind my every “I love you.

So I left the Hill, the security of a W2 (lol), and the best boss I’d ever had to reconnect with my family and to retain my peace. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fear-free, but it had to be done.

Because the peace of knowing I was going to have an active hand in raising my children, and that I could go back to prioritizing my marriage and honoring my husband were more important than my fear of letting my boss down or leaving a “safe” income.

I made my peace more important than my problems.

(To be fair, I told my former boss in our interview that I’d be on “black out” from 5:30 to 8 pm nightly to do dinner, baths and bed. And he’d agreed and always honored that boundary, but I found that that wasn’t enough so I had to adjust.)

To this day, my former boss and I are still close and there is no love lost…and I am at peace. No, I haven’t always gotten a paycheck, not have I always known how the bills would be paid…but I am at peace. And I don’t know what tomorrow holds for me or my family as it relates to the expense of life…but I am at peace.

You need to know that you know that you know that God will never leave you (Deut 31:6-8 NLT). And when you decide to pursue your peace, to stand up and do and be all that He has created and called you to do and be, He will supply your every need (Phil 4:19 AMP).

I don’t know what is competing with or threatening your peace right now. But my message to you is this: you have every right to fight aggressively, doggedly and passionately to protect your peace. It is one of the greatest gifts God has given us, and one of the few things in this life that we can control.

My Balanced Plate Post: Quitters Win?!

I am so honored to be a part of the great things going on over at My Balanced Plate, a blog curated by my long-time friend, Esther.

My Balanced Plate is for those of us who are trying to figure out life in general: Who we are now, and who we want to be when we “grow up”! We’re working on putting ourselves first by learning to balance our mental and physical health, our careers, our finances, our homes, our social lives, and more. We’re trying new things, and most importantly, we’re moving beyond the fads and into a life that’s full and fulfilling in a healthy way.

Starting this year, I’ve joined as a guest faith contributor and I’m excited to share my inaugural post with you, “Quitters Never Win!

If you’ve been believing God for a breakthrough personally that you just can’t seem to reach, maybe quitting is the key to your success!

You can head on over to My Balanced Plate to read my post, check out the site and subscribe for updates on everything from good food, great fashion and other fun topics!

…or, you can of course, read the entire post below.

Thanks as always for your support.  As I’m sure every pastor who preached on NYE told you, let’s move FORWARD IN 2014!

My Balanced Plate: Quitters Never Win!

I may be the only person you will meet who will say these words to you: be a quitter.

Really. It’s ok.

Just quit.

We’re a few days into 2014 now and I am giving you permission to quit your New Year’s resolutions. (And if you never made any, kudos to you.)

In fact, can we all just commit now to NOT making New Year’s resolutions ever again?

Let’s forego the latest lose weight fast fad. Pass by the “30 seconds to a new/better/slimmer/different you” section at Barnes & Noble. And say “thanks, but no thanks” to yet another “great deal” on a gym membership.

Let’s decide right now that for 2014 we will not look to outside sources for fulfillment, satisfaction, self-validation or self-improvement.

Instead, I propose that we all do this one thing as the New Year picks up steam: let’s accept ourselves just the way we are. Our stories. Our mistakes. Our curves. All of it — the good, the bad and the unbelievable.

No, this isn’t some reverse psychology initiative to get you to look at what lies ahead and forget about all the hell you’ve been through. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

I’m challenging you to love every test, trial and challenge you’ve come through.

Every level of hell, torment and obstacle that you overcame last year.

Every heartbreak, let down and failure.

Every tragedy of your past.

Every lie told about you and story told on you.

Decide today to accept your story because if it weren’t for the hell in your life, you wouldn’t be who you are right now. And you wouldn’t be capable of accomplishing all that you’re going to this year.

Our downfall is that we focus too much on getting through, getting over, and get past stuff. We just want it to be over.

But, in burying the lessons of our lives we miss out on critical opportunities to grow stronger, better, faster, and smarter.

We actually take longer to be our best selves when we choose to deny parts of who we are.

I know it hasn’t always been roses for you. I know we’ve each had our fair share of trying times. I have personally had more overdrawn bank accounts, underappreciated efforts, gained pounds, and yet un-realized dreams than I’d like to count.

But if we take the bold step to shift our perspective, to say, “I’m better because of what I’ve overcome,” then we may actually be able to change our loves.

The reality is that what you’ve been through would have taken someone else out. Someone else would have lost their minds – literally – but by God you’re still here…and making it look easy.

See, just by changing how we look at our pasts can catapult us from being victims to victors. Only then are we free to love all of ourselves and welcome the love and blessing of others.

Your testimony is far more than a tale of triumph. It’s your key to your next season and is critical to the growth of those around you who have to know that they too can make it, will make it too.

So save your dollars. Don’t go borrowing against your tax refund to finance this year’s “get fabulous”-quick gimmick.

All you’ve got to do is decide that you’re fabulous because of everything you’ve overcome and who you are right now, not in spite of it.

When you stop hiding from your past, other folks lose the power to hold it over you, and you are free to walk boldly and unencumbered into 2014.

You are one of the strongest beings on the face of the planet. There’s nothing you have to do to earn that title, nothing you have to prove; you just are.

So this year I pledge to myself to accept myself, my entire story, and I am committed to encouraging, equipping and amplifying your voice as you do the same with yours.

Ditch your New Year’s resolutions. Resolve to be you, fully, fiercely and without fear.

Safiya Jafari Simmons is a wife and mother of three in Washington, D.C. Her 9-to-5 is Partner at Values Partnerships Inc., a consulting firm, but she curates a blog of Christian encouragement and guest writes for The Huffington Post on the side.

 

Huffington Post Blog: On Keeping the Faith

Recently I was asked to pen a guest blog post for another Saved Mama, Wife and Blogger that might inspire others.  After writing that post (details coming soon!), I thought long and hard about what would most inspire people whose lives look like mine, or who aspire to have a family and career.

When I really boiled it down, the greatest truth I discovered was that often walking out my faith is less about insurance on my eternal home and more about just keeping me sane today, right now.

So, I’d be honored if you’d check out my latest Huffington Post blog on just that: the sanity that comes with being saved.  While you’re there, check out my two other HuffPost Pieces, “On Millennials and Faith” and “On Not Ruining Christmas.”

I’d welcome your feedback, and greatly appreciate your likes, shares and Tweets.

Be blessed and keep keepin’ on!

On Keeping the Faith

I’m not sure if it was between my first and second child, or my second and third, that I literally thanked God for Jesus.

Sure, I’d heard church mothers say it before, but somewhere along my journey of parenthood I realized that without faith I’d most certainly lose my mind.

Before our first child arrived, my husband and I sat down at our kitchen table with pen and paper to plan our family.

We would have four children (because I like even numbers).

We wouldn’t speak to our children in “baby talk.” Instead, we’d speak to them like little people. Accordingly, we’d also empower them to disagree with us — respectfully! — and express that disagreement in the spirit of raising confident little people.

We wouldn’t teach about Santa Claus, choosing instead to teach only the story of Christ’s birth as the reason for the season.

And, before we broke our huddle, we agreed that we’d have our children back-to-back, because only then, we deduced (with all of the wisdom that two 24-year-olds could muster), would we have any shot at having a life together after the kids were out of the house.

And that was that.

But, when our first child was delivered by emergency C-section, my husband and I quickly realized the true meaning behind that trite saying, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.”

Despite all of our best-laid plans, my husband and I have come to the realization that the only way we are still “clothed and in our right minds” is because of our faith.

It’s faith that keeps us from releasing blood-curdling screams when our son trips down the stairs or falls off the bed.

It’s faith that opened my tightly clasped hands the first time we saw our little ones off to preschool.

And it’s faith that helps me hold my peace during the never-ending chorus of “MaMa” that has become white noise in our home.

Truly, if it weren’t for my belief in a higher purpose, I’d question who thought it a good idea to allow me to parent at all.

After all, we are our worst critics. For every mistake, bad choice and misstep I’ve made in my life, I nary think I’m worthy of the air I’m breathing. But God…

I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’ve said things I’m not proud of. I’ve gone all-in on bad bets and taken risks I should have avoided. But God.

Even now, I raise my voice at my children more than I’d like. I’m not always patient. Sometimes I wish I could close my bathroom door without seeing little fingers wiggle beneath its jamb. And there have been times when the most I could find the energy to offer my family for dinner is microwaveable pancakes or oatmeal.

But God.

Or, is it because of God?

Because of God I know that all things work together for my good. Because of God I know that there is no weapon (nor tantrum, fussy baby or explosive diaper) formed against me that will prosper. And, most importantly, because of God I know that His grace is sufficient to get me through any and everything I will face daily.

Parenting is tough. Being married is tough. Running a household — whether solo or with a partner — is hard work. But I believe that I was created to do exactly what I’m doing right now. And so were you.

There is no one alive who could love your partner the way you do; care for your kids the way you do; kick butt in the office the way you do; or walk in your shoes. Period.

The same God that blessed you and I with the spouse, the kids, the home and the careers knows what it takes to keep everyone of those balls in the air. He knows our limits and He knows our every shortcoming.

And in spite of all of this, He keeps blessing us, pouring out His favor and grace and mercy on us every day.

This is why we keep at it. This is why we don’t throw in the towel. Because at the end of the day, we know in our hearts that we were built for this. We know that God made us specifically to overcome every obstacle that comes our way.

And He made us to win.

It’s not going to be easy. It almost never is. But, just in case no one has told you today, you are a freakin’ rock star. You are kickin’ butts and taking names as a parent, a professional, a friend, a servant and in whatever else you’re doing.

And thanks to God, you’re doing it all and making it look like a piece of cake.

So, parents-, spouses- and professionals-in-arms, hold on to your faith. If nothing else, it’s keeping you sane, keeping you motivated, and helping you keep it moving.

How ya living?

During my reading and journaling this morning I found myself – dare I say it – complaining. ::gasp:: Yes, on the first day of the new year, I was rattling off all of the problems I was facing. I was quoting to God HIS own words and promises and demanding He tell me where He was in all of my problems.

Imagine my surprise when He literally cut me off mid-sentence, “I know about your situation. You made the decisions that put you in these circumstances. I did my part. I upheld my word. Now do your part!”

I sat for a while in silence. Ironically, or at least unexpectedly, I was grateful for His candor and response, even though it pinned the blame squarely on me. And as I sat there, repenting and walking through how He’d have me to right the ship, a peace washed over me.

But somewhere, in the darker recesses of my mind and heart, I still felt pangs of anger and frustration and accusation. A victim mentality that was bubbling up seeking to usurp the peace I’d just had restored.

So I asked God, “What about this anger? This frustration?”

I didn’t actually have to ask really. He saw me struggling and offered this answer:

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
[22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

…and I read on, with verse 25 hitting me like a ton of bricks:

Galatians 5:25 AMP
[25] If we live by the Holy Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.

It said I IF we live by the Holy Spirit.

Look, this may not be the “new year! new you” message you were looking for, but the truth is that I don’t believe we can simply and cleanly walk into 2014 by forgetting 2013. There are people like me who still are learning from 2013. Who are still waiting on promises from 2013, walking through tests that began in 2013, and are still seeking truths and new direction from decisions we don’t want to repeat this year.

If this is you, you could be, like me, finding yourself feeling left behind, left out of the jubilant celebrating of the new year of those around you. You could feel frustration and wonder where God is in your new year when you lost sight of him last year.

If you aren’t seeing the manifestation of God’s promises in your life, I’ll ask you like God asked me this morning: How ya living?

Are you seeking his kingdom first, striving to show others and yourself the fruit of the Spirit?

Or have you, like me, found yourself mired in what feels like unending fatigue, frustration, impatience and overall blahness?

If we live by the Holy Spirit…

If you closed out 2013 feeling like God was far away, know that it is you who moved. Somewhere along the lines your focus shifted and we met a new calendar year stuck in our last spiritual year.

But we don’t have to remain stuck. I took God’s loving rebuke this morning, accepted that I’d stopped chasing him to pursue other things. And realized that those pursuits are what caused the distance and the darkness.

I am excited this morning to know that although I may not have rang in a new year in my Spirit when the clock struck 12, I have now turned the page on 2013 in my heart and can move forward in peace and with expectation now.

I walked away from my quiet time this morning with these takeaways:

    God’s promises and plans for our lives don’t change because we walked away/got off track. He’s still faithful and still wants to bless me.

    The only thing standing in the way of God manifesting me seeing God’s blessings in my life is me.

    IF I live by the Spirit, I am seeking Him first and He WILL add all good things unto me.

    God wants to demonstrate his immeasurable, limitless and surpassing grace and blessings in my life. (Ephesians 2:7,10)

    Per Joel Osteen’s I Declare, ” I will see an explosion of God’s goodness, a sudden widespread increase.”

You can have all of this, too. In fact, I believe God wants you to. But you’ve first gotta do some real soul-searching to find out…

How are you living?

Because how you’re living will dictate what you see manifested of God’s giving.