#bepetty for Jesus

Last week I had the privilege of preaching for the first time.

Now, anyone who knows me personally or who has followed this blog for a while may be saying, “You’ve been preaching for years.”  But last week was the first time I’d been invited to speak…in a church…from a pulpit…with the express purpose of bringing the Word.

I was nervous and exhilarated and humbled that God would choose me for such an awesome and important task.  But the word He gave me for this young adult audience was unique and on-time…just as He is and just as our relationship is.

Gratefully, my dear friend Penny videoed the entire 13-minute sermon.  Take a few minutes, check it out,  and commit to #bepetty for Jesus.

And I have to give credit to the amazing Awesomely Luvvie who is the genius behind all the “petty” names at the end. Pick up her petty T-shirt here!  *And no, she didn’t ask me to endorse this and I’m not being compensated.  Just giving a shout out to something/someone who inspired  me.

Blessings to you!  I hope it inspires you and speaks to your situation.

June 23 Leap of Faith Prayer Call

Many thanks to everyone who joined our next to last prayer call.  They’re going by so quickly! Next week is our last week already.  I pray this series has been a blessing to you Ladies.  It’s certainly been a blessing to me.

To hear the recording from last night’s call, use the call-in credentials below:

Playback Number: (641) 715-3589
Access Code: 859-866
Reference Number: 4

Below is a transcript of the devotional I shared:

I didn’t prepare a traditional devotional tonight because I really just want to talk to you; to encourage you.

Sometimes, when we stop to think about the enormity of our God, how good He is and how undeserving we are, we can become frozen in our own tracks.  The enemy will begin to lie to us, telling us we have nothing to offer.  Or trying to convince us that we’ll never be able to get our lives together enough to be of service to such a good God.

But my prayer tonight is that in sharing a little bit of my testimony that you’ll be encouraged — not just to tell the devil to go to hell (literally!), but to also keep pursuing God on your walk with him.

I won’t bore you with the details of my birth story or anything quite that long ago.  But what I will tell you is that in late February/early March of this year I felt like God was so far away.  I felt like for all the good I thought I was doing, I wasn’t sure where God was and I wasn’t sure that He was pleased.

In January, I’d done a stint of praying everyday at the same time.  And from that time with God the idea — and the guest — for my first Leap Luncheon Series™ was revealed to me.  But, like I always had, I soon found myself “too tired” to stay up later or to get up earlier.  And, the “habit” quickly became past-tense.

The following month, when I tried to recreate the magic of the first luncheon, I found that I was a day late and a dollar short.  An advisor told me that invites to really notable folks had to go out a month in advance, if not sooner.  And just like that, what was supposed to be a monthly luncheon was on its first hiatus.

I sulked for a little while over why my event seemed so short-lived and what the Holy Spirit revealed to me was that I’d stopped seeking the Source.  I’d become so enamored with the gift, that I’d turned my eyes from the gift giver.

The revelation convicted me and I immediately committed to returning to my 4:45am prayer and meditation times.

Since then, I’ve had five more successful Leap events.  I’ve been blessed to bless others — giving gifts of money and resources to other folks who cross my path.  I’ve been invited to be a guest speaker at a few different events as well.  And the future looks…exciting.

I look back now, seven months into my decision to give God the first hour of my day, and I realize that it wasn’t until I chose to physically and literally seek God first, as we’re admonished in Matthew 6:33 that things started to turn around for me.

I decided to live out the truth that God was and is my Source.  That means not worrying when bank accounts run low – or overdrawn – but choosing to trust God instead.  And He’s proven that He is indeed an on-time God.

I decided to live out the truth to lean not to my own understanding and to commit my ways to Him.  That meant asking God simple things like, What should I put on my to-do list today?, and then prioritizing the things He gave me.  And He’s proven that every detail of my life is important to Him.

What I’ve found was that at that time  when I started this daily prayer time, I felt like I didn’t have anything to give God.  I literally felt like, I have nothing to offer you, God.  But I know you’ve been good enough to warrant me missing a few winks, so here I am.

There have been mornings when I’ve hit snooze one too many times and had to make up my prayer time at the end of the day.  There have been mornings that I’ve been so tired that I’ve fallen asleep intermittently throughout.  And times when I literally wrote in my prayer journal, God, I’ve got nothing to say this morning.  I’ve gone to Him angry and disappointed.  Sad and confused.  I’ve prayed in tongues some mornings, sobbed uncontrollably others, and simply sat in silence for some others.

But in the six or so months since I’ve been really trying to commit to this thing, God’s moved in a mighty way in my life.  He’s grown this luncheon idea to a multi-city brand that one day may make me a little money and give me a national platform.  On May 19th He told me write down some declarations.  One of them described a house in great detail that I, at the time, never thought I could have or afford.  Today, I’m excited to say we’ve placed an offer on the very house He described to me and we’re just waiting for the confirmation that its ours.

I’ve often in the past few months made it a priority to give big gifts, to give when it hurts, or to give when I’m down to my very last dollars as a means to show God I trust Him and/or to sow seeds for the desires He’s placed in my heart.  Just last week a couple gave my husband and I a substantial sum of money to help us get our down payment together for the house God told me was ours.  Just like that.  Out of the blue.

Look, I’m not perfect.  And I don’t share these testimonies with you to brag or to somehow say I’m better than anyone.  I’m a sinner of the worst kind perhaps.

But I share these bits of my story with you to say this:

1.  God sees you.  He knows how you’re sacrificing and sowing in tears and labor.  He sees all that you’re doing and going through and He is faithful to reward your efforts.  I’m a witness to that.

2.  You are all the gift God needs.  Don’t ever think that you have nothing to give God.  If all you give HIm is your time and attention – and it doesn’t have to be all at once or for some long period of time, it can be throughout the day, while you’re sitting in traffic, or even in the shower.  But if you give HIm you, if you choose to seek Him first literally, He’ll bless you for your efforts.

And 3.  You are not alone.  I struggle all the time with figuring out how to get it all done in a day.  Whether you’re juggling a business, a husband, and kids like me, or you’re just trying to figure out where to live, what to do, or who to date, you aren’t alone.  God loves you and He cares about every detail of your life.  If you’d ask His opinion, tell Him, Lord, I’ll do whatever you want me to today, He’s faithful to direct your path.  I’m a witness.

I don’t always get up in the morning.  And I jack up on my walk many times every hour of the day.  But I can say that since I’ve decided to prioritize time with God, my faith has grown, my expectation has grown, and the room that I leave in my life for God to do miracles has grown, too.

The sellers of our new house haven’t accepted our offer yet, but they will.  I don’t yet have all of the money I need for a down payment either.  I don’t know how we’re going to afford the renovations and I’m not sure when we’ll move in.

But of this one thing I am certain: Philippians 4:19 NIV.  God will meet all of my needs.

And He will meet yours too.  Just have faith, have expectation, and trust Him enough to take the LEAP He’s planted in your heart.

…all He really wants in return is you.

Obsessed

appleofmyeyeFor the past day or so, I’ve been listening to The Walls Group album “Fast Forward” almost non-stop. (if you haven’t heard it, you should!  It’s awesome!)  And one song has been on repeat in my Spirit — I woke up singing it: “God on My Mind (feat. Brandy).”

Now, I’ll admit, a minuscule part of the reason why the song resonates for me is because it samples Brandy’s “Always on My Mind,” and hers was the first CD I ever owned back in middle school.

But this morning, when I woke up singing the song’s chorus, God gave me a revelation about its lyrics.  They go:

From the mountains to the seas, from the day that we believed to the beginning of time.
I can’t get you off my mind.
From the stars in space, to that empty grave, no matter how hard I try I can’t get God off my mind.
Always on my mind, your always on my mind. Thoughts of you all the time, your always on my mind.

I’ve listened to the song so many times and found myself inspired by the aspirational quality of these words.  I aspire to have God on my mind ALL the time.  In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV to “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  And what more is prayer than thinking of and talking to God?

But this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me this epiphany: “You’re always on God’s mind.  He never stops thinking of you.  He’s obsessed.”

And suddenly, the lyrics had even greater meaning.

“From the mountains to the seas…”– No matter where we are or end up physically, nothing can separate us from the love of God.  He loves us so big and so wide and so deeply, that even when we stray from Him – physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, whatever – He’s still thinking of us.

“…from the day that we believed to the beginning of time..” — The Bible tells us in Jeremiah that before we were even in our mothers’ wombs, God knew us.  Even then, He was thinking of us.  And as we grew up, even before we chose Him, He was thinking about us enough to send his Son to die in our place.  From before our lives started and every moment since, we’ve been on God’s mind.

I can’t get you off my mind.” — The Psalmist tells us in chapter 139 that God’s thoughts on us are so numerous that they outnumber the grains of sand.

From the stars in space, to that empty grave…” — Everything that God has ever done for us, from stringing the stars in the sky to sending His only son to die, has been for us as an act of love because He was thinking about us.

“…no matter how hard I try…” — He keeps track of our sorrows.  He captures our tears in a bottle.  Our names are written on His hand.  He couldn’t get away from thinking of us if He tried or wanted to (don’t worry, He doesn’t try and doesn’t want to!).

Always on my mind, your always on my mind. Thoughts of you all the time, your always on my mind.” — And His obsession with us is consistent.  It’s constant.  He is always thinking about us.  It, like Him, is unchanging.

Isn’t that overwhelming?  To consider that God is always thinking about me.  About you.  Your situation.  Your hardships and trials.  Your joys and successes.  What’s important to you.  What you’re worried about.  What you fear.  What you need.

Every moment of your life, God is thinking of you.  Nothing surprises Him.  No circumstance sneaks up on Him.  He knew.  He knows.  He’s thinking of you.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, but I hope you’ll know this: God is absolutely obsessed with you.  You’re the apple of His eye and, because you’re so important to Him, He’s made you more than a conqueror; He’s defeated your every foe; and He is always working things out to benefit you.  He’s thought about all you’ll ever need and want, and has created a plan to give you hope and a future.  To bless you.

God can’t get you off His mind.

So walk through today in godly confidence that the Creator of the world, the King of all nations, the Alpha and Omega is thinking about you.  Right.  Now.


*YouTube courtesy of Stênio Nóbrega

Unbowed

As time does, today finds us acknowledging that time has swiftly passed.

It seems as though it was just summer…just autumn…just Christmas. And now, we’re embarking on a brand new year.

For a lot of folks, the New Year is filled with the hope of what’s to come. There’s so much possibility in the coming days, weeks and months. I’m excited, too.

But what I feel in addition to excitement is a renewed confidence. A belief that no matter what comes or what the future holds, God brought me this far. I know He won’t leave me.

Much like the line from “Invictus,” we’ve made it “bloodied but unbowed.”

Last year was hard for so many. Folks lost loved ones and jobs. They fought physical, spiritual and mental illnesses. They sacrificed, nearly succumbing to hell all around them.

So while many are facing this new year with excitement and optimism, there are a great many still who are simply relieved. Those who are glad to be done with a year that tested and tried us — our patience, our faith, our fortitude.

We were bent to near breaking last year. We often felt as though we cried more than we smiled. Worried more than we hoped. Fought more than we simply lived.

We struggled and scratched and clawed through layoffs and loss, debt and depression, sadness and sacrifice. We prayed and pursued. We protested and proclaimed. We worked and waited.

Many of us made it to 2015 only by the grace of God. And we’re relieved just to have made it.

If this is you. If all you feel about 2015 so far is relief that 2014 is over, know this: you made it.

The storms that the enemy thought would take you out only made you stronger. The traps the devil meant to harm you only catapulted you forward with more focus and greater determination. What would have literally caused someone else to lose their mind motivated you to keep going, to not give up.

And you’re here, standing at the dawn of a new year. Bloodied, but unbowed. Bent, but unbroken. A little weary, but still a battle-ready warrior.

To you I say own your stripes. There’s a courage, a confidence, and a determination that comes with overcoming. Yours is a testimony no one else can give because they haven’t walked in your shoes, haven’t fought the battles you’ve won.

To you I say stand tall and proud. Because while others were too busy wishing away their todays hoping for tomorrows, you lived and breathed every moment — the good, the bad and the unbearable.

To you I say don’t shrink back. Don’t be so overcome with relief that you forget the strength, the faith, and the resilience your trials earned you. Yes, you may be bloodied, but you remain unbowed.

To you I say this is a new day. A day ordained for your victory; predestined for your triumph.

This day. This week. This year is a year of restoration for you.

God saw every test, every trial, and every tear. He heard every prayer and every plea. And for you He has worked in the background to bless you in the open.

Time will not slow down. It won’t ease because we’re tired or overwhelmed or overcome. But it is the knowledge of what we’ve already been through – and beat! – that spurs us on in our weakest moments.

My prayer for you is that even as you make resolutions, that you’ll also make it a point to count your blessings and your wins. In all of your forward thinking, look back long enough to claim your hard-earned strength and faith and fight.

Own your stripes, your bruises. And honor the important parts of the “old” you in this new year.

Bloodied, but unbowed. Bruised, but unbroken. And blessed in spite of it all.

*A version of this post appeared on The Huffington Post yesterday.  You can check it out here.

Huffington Post Blog: On Bedside Baptist

I can’t remember how many times I’ve learned – and relearned! – the lesson about the pitfalls of busyness. (Check out one of those times here.)

But a few days ago I found myself in that space again: suddenly realizing the toll overcommitting was having; this time not just on me, but my family as well.

Head on over to the Huffington Post to check out my latest post on my membership-in-good-standing at Bedside Baptist and, most importantly, the liberty I found there.

Own Your Story

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 the added details of mine.

I thought that by keeping my story to myself I could best encourage you as you go through.  And up until now that’s worked.  But as I think back on where God took me in my career a few weeks ago – and in my life overall –  the Lord told me plainly that my story is not just for me, but for others as well.

So while I won’t make this a habit, I do want to share a bit more about myself with you; believing God that doing so will help you keep the faith, renew your hope, and restore your expectation.

Currently, I own a boutique media and communications firm in Washington, DC.  I’m a consultant working to get my clients on TV, on the radio, in newspapers, or wherever else they need to be to get their messages out.  I also write for my clients – op-eds, press releases, brochures, etc.  I’m gifted to do it and passionate about giving voice to folks’ visions™.

A few weeks ago, God gave me the awesome opportunity to begin working with A+E on a number of programs as a subcontractor for one of my clients. As a result of my client’s opportunity, I had the chance to do some publicity work for Lifetime TV on its promotion of the movie “A Trip to Bountiful,” the TV adaptation of the award-winning Broadway play.

After lining up a few interviews for the movie’s stars, I was invited to staff those interviews in NYC for the day.  The stars?  THE incomparable Ms. Cicely Tyson, Ms. Vanessa Williams, Mr. Blair Underwood and Ms. KeKe Palmer.

I spent an entire day in their presence; listening to their reflections on the importance of their craft, the significance of Women’s History Month, and all kinds of things.  Just in awe of where God had me and grateful, supremely grateful.

Proverbs 18:16 keep running through my Spirit:

Proverbs 18:16

New International Version (NIV)

16 A gift opens the way
and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.

Certainly, operating in my God-given gifts were the reason why I was there with such great people.  It was God’s will that the gifts He gave me would land me smack dab in the presence of greatness.  I was very clear on that.

In fact, that day was, to date, one of the biggest days of my professional career (followed SUPER CLOSELY by the day the Honorable Elijah E. Cummings allowed me to join his team as his press secretary and the day I resigned from another job to protect my character with nary a back-up plan in sight).

So imagine my excitement when a few days later I found myself on a cross-country flight to California for the first time. Working with another VPI client there, God revealed new talents to me and gave me fresh revelation about some existing strengths.

This is the essence of the God WE serve: He wants to take us to more places, give us greater blessings, and use us in more profound ways than we allow ourselves to dream.

But what God really showed me in New York and California, and what I’ve been reflecting on and reveling in since, is this truth: I could not have experienced such highs without having gone through ALL I’ve come through.

I had to go through to get to where God wanted me.

I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to leave the “security” of a consistent paycheck to hunt-and-gather for clients.  But it took every mistake of my past, every moment of disobedience, and every misstep in my story – and all of the good stuff, too! – to get here.

I spent many years of my career trying to fit into offices; trying to be the right square peg for the right square hole.

I had great jobs, too.  I’ve worked with Judy Smith (the inspiration for Olivia Pope’s character in “Scandal”), Anita Dunn, Members of Congress, Presidential Advisors, and the lightening-rod education reformer Michelle Rhee, to name a few.

But it never failed: I’d always reach a point where I was restless, inexplicably.  And so the search for professional fulfillment began anew.

God’s been faithful, too.  Every time I’ve sought, asked and knocked, He’s opened doors that I never knew existed and certainly never expected to walk through.  Heck, He even gave me jobs that weren’t His will simply because I asked Him for them.

And every time, no matter how great the job or boss (or how terrible), I ended up reaching a place where I felt like I should be on my own, doing my own thing, and applying everything I’d learned to building the dreams God’s given me.

I had to have every bad boss I ever had to know how to be a good one.

I had to be picked over, promoted over, and passed over to know how to validate and value the gifts of others.

I had to endure insecurity and out-right mean-spiritedness in colleagues to know how to strive to walk daily in love and empathy.

I had to make mistakes to know how to groom others through theirs.

And I had to be willing to walk away from the world’s definition of security to become truly secure in my only Source: God.

My life hasn’t been easy.  And I haven’t always been as reflective as I am now.

And even now, I’m still learning about the cause for which God’s created me. This is just the beginning! …for me and you!

In the coming weeks and months you’ll see a lot of changes here: the site will be redesigned, some of the content will be changed, and some new information will be added.

As I continue to be groomed by God, through faith, I know that I’ll be used in new and exciting ways to encourage you to own your story, validate your vision, and expect even more from God.™

There are Cicely Tyson moments in your future! There are places God wants to take you, people He wants to introduce you to, and work He wants to do through you.

Don’t be discouraged by your current circumstances: they’re temporary and won’t look like what is really yours in the Spirit.

But decide today that you deserve your dream™, and everything that God has for you.

Stop trying to fit in when God made you to stand out and stand up!

You’ve earned every strip and scar. You’re stronger because of it, wiser and more powerful.

God knows it. And when you accept that about yourself, you’ll begin to see God’s favor and orchestration unfurling in your life in ways you never imagined before.

I’m excited for YOU because there’s so much God has for you this year. ;

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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.

 

Labor Day

These are the Scriptures that are on my heart this morning:

Deuteronomy 28:8
“The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

Deuteronomy 28:12a
The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.

1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Proverbs 18:16
Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!

Although I’ve been blessed to be employed for many Labor Day holidays, this one today feels different.

It’s different because today I celebrate Labor Day as someone who went to God with an explicit, detailed and bold prayer request for a new job more than six months ago and today I am in that job. A job that God, quite literally, created for me to fit the criteria of my bold prayer and bold faith.

So where, quite often in the past, Labor Day was an all too brief but welcomed respite from the drudgery of a 9-to-5, today I have a different perspective because I feel like I’m using my God-given talents in a job that glorifies Him; in a way that glorifies Him; and through a vehicle He ordained to bless me.

You know, there’s nothing logical about my professional progression. I majored in journalism in college. Worked in Higher Ed administration and admissions for a couple of years after college (probably because I just wasn’t ready to let my college years go). I earned my Masters in writing and in that time did all kinds of writing for all kinds of outlets. I followed a passion for people and telling stories and desiring justice for everyone to a communications stint at the Salvation Army and then into (my first) public relations as the spokesperson for DC Public Schools. From there, I continued to wonder what I wanted to do when I grew up…right into the office of Congressman Elijah Cummings as his spokeswoman.

Now in all of that time, I made a ton of mistakes. I learned a lot. Made invaluable connections. But more than anything, I prayed non-stop that God would use me and that He’d close any doors I was not meant to go through. Let’s be clear, I did not and do not deserve anything that I have. And I didn’t always “get it right,” but the one thing I never waivered in was my desire for God’s will for me and my belief that He woudn’t take me anywhere that I wasn’t supposed to be.

I’ve quit jobs because I trusted Him that much. I took jobs that I thought were beyond my ability in positions I thought were too good for me because I trusted Him. And now, today, I sit in a job that He made for me to glorify His name and kingdom because it’s where He lead me and because He knows far better than I what I’m capable of and what gifts He’s put in me.

Don’t be fooled: I’m still scared about a some of the requirements of this new job. There are things I must learn and improve upon — and fast — but the thing about trusting and waiting on God is that He won’t promote you before you’re ready because He wants to see you succeed.

See it blesses God to see you succeed using the gifts He’s given you. It’s a testimony to His greatness when we allow him to bless the work of our hands. He has no desire to see, gets no pleasure out of seeing, us drag ourselves into jobs day in and day out just for the check. Why? Because, first, He’s our Source and provider, and second, because He came to give us life and life more abundantly.

…I guess I say all of this morning to say this: take time today to seek God’s face about where you are in your career or profession. Be honest with Him about how you’re feeling about where He has you placed right now, and then get serious about living and working on purpose!

The Scriptures above are all promises of what God will do with our work when we give it to Him for His glory and are obedient in using our gifts. They are promises available to all His children. They are work realities that can be yours!

Use today to reflect on how God’s gifted you and how you can glorify HIm with it.

I’m a living testimony that it won’t always look right or feel right, but if you trust God to lead you and believe in Him, He will use the seeds He’s planted in you for His glory AND your good.

I’m a believer that this Labor Day is about taking a moment to check the work of our hands to ensure that it’s fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.

God wants more for you than just a J-O-B. And if you want that, too, take some time today to talk to God about it! Ask Him to give you a plan for getting back in His will OR preparing for His promotion and then get ready, get ready, get ready!

God has a plan JUST FOR YOU and a purpose that ONLY YOU CAN FULFILL.

Your living ain’t in vain. Live on purpose and He’ll promote you. No matter what you do, where you’re gifted, or what you’ve got, give it all to God. He’ll bless it and multiply it just like HIs word says!

Video: Keyondra Frederick YouTube