life

Confronting My Shadows

It has been almost nine months exactly since I went through deliverance for every long-standing issue that has hindered me, lied to me, or stunted my growth in one way or another. The freedom on the other side of that process has been mind-blowing. Now that I have experienced deliverance in all four seasons (winter, spring, summer, and fall), it is time for a tune-up.

My first post-deliverance maintenance happened almost immediately. I needed to lay down some false responsibilities I had been carrying around after confessing a sinful mindset to my accountability group. The days and weeks following that confession were rough. Over and over again, thoughts about how negatively I would be viewed, perceived or treated tried to torment me. Thankfully, I had the tools to cast each one down and the presence of mind to continue to submit myself to the process of self-deliverance. The fear of rejection and feelings of inadequacy had me fighting for my life and my identity for a while. But I won.

In the last month, rejection shape-shifted and came for me yet again. Where it had been easy to spot the temptation to give in to the spirit of rejection when I am dealing with an ongoing conflict with the same people, or feeling ostracized where I had once been accepted – this time the demonic opportunity came in a more nuanced form.

A part of me had assumed that because I was loved and accepted by those that I also love, I would always be included. When I began to recognize that being loved and accepted by people did not equate to having unfettered access to them, emotionally, it bothered me to no end and I could not understand why.

I have developed good boundaries over the last few years of growing in emotional wholeness.

I knew that not everyone had to like me and I had found peace and freedom in that truth.

Why could I not let go of this grief of knowing that even the people who loved me would not allow me into certain areas of their lives?

[Unbeknownst to me, the lie I was telling myself internally was that being excluded in any regard by people I love was proof positive that they did not love me like I thought they did.]

A part of me had assumed (incorrectly) that all I had to do was prove myself worthy of their trust and surely, they would open more and more of their lives to me. After years of walking in integrity, sowing good seeds, being a faithful sister, surely I had earned my place in the corners of their hearts that had once been closed off?

I waffled between anger, resentment, and sadness for days, unable to pinpoint why I was feeling what I was feeling.

Eventually, the Lord confronted my negative emotions head-on and gave them a name. The deadlock I was experiencing was actually another battle with an old foe – rejection. The spirit of rejection was having a field day in my thoughts and emotions because being held at what felt like arm’s length by people I have grown to love reminded me vividly of being rejected by the church community I once called my safe place. The reality that the people I loved had parts of their hearts reserved for others and simultaneously withheld from me had all the “danger” alarm bells ringing in my feelings.

“They don’t really love you. They don’t really accept you. You will never belong. You will always be on the outside looking in. You are only as good as your gifts. Nobody wants anything to do with you outside of what you can provide.”

On and on the lies poured in. The enemy had taken a pin-hole and brute-forced it into a floodgate. I sat in the rising waters of my emotions for what felt like an eternity (it was likely a few hours or a day). I knew better than to let the old, stagnant, putrid water of bondage drown me. February’s deliverance sessions had equipped me with new tools, godly beliefs, generational blessings, and soul spirit healing that were divinely designed to bring me out of any chains the enemy would try to wrap around my throat.

“I am not rejected. I am accepted – fully known, fully seen, and fully loved.”

“No one owes me anything, but the Lord has already given me everything I need, including godly, safe, and intimate sisterhood.”

“I belong in Christ, and because Christ loves me, it is His good pleasure to plant me in a community that loves me like He loves me and has His heart for me.”

“I am not responsible for other people’s emotions, or their reactions to what I share. My task is to speak what the Lord has asked me to speak, how He directed me to say it, and when He tells me to speak it.”

Over and over again, I drowned out the enemy’s lies with God’s truth. I committed to my daily time of worship and prayer and began to find myself in God’s word in a new way. There were no “new tricks” with God. What worked was what has always worked – dedicated time in the presence of my Heavenly Father. Laying my head in God’s lap allowed Him to reaffirm my identity, comfort my heart, and confront my brokenness.

I have been walking this new dedicated walk with the Lord for eleven years, two months, twenty days, and twelve hours (and counting). Sometimes, it feels like I should be passed certain struggles. Rejection was something I battled in year one. Surely, I should have grown past that by now? But I know the enemy has no new tricks; he will try to use what has always worked in the past.

However, he is not dealing with the same Omowunmi.

I am equipped differently. I have matured differently, and most importantly, I am #healedDifferent than the previous versions of me. Confronting my shadows still comes with the temptation to give way to shame (“how can you call yourself a Christian and be thinking/feeling like that?”), but I know who I am and I know WHOSE I am. Shame does not get to have a voice in the process that God is using to ensure that His daughter remains freer than the day before.

Deliverance is the children’s bread. I fully intend to feast for the rest of my life.

life

You Are More!

712A64F4-B026-4CA5-A63E-0CC12417F957.pngThe most beautiful part of life in Christ is the daily, hour by hour growth that occurs when we are consciously committed to walking with the Lord. The topic I want address is actually already here in the form of a previous post. You can go read my post “For the Daughters of Eve” written in 2016 here:

https://naijabeauty.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/for-the-daughters-of-eve/

It is password protected because it was only meant for women I trusted with an issue that was painful to discuss. The sting is gone so I’m free to share with any of you that’s interested (password Sisterhood).

When I wrote the previous post, I was dealing with a lingering sense of inadequacy.

It started when I graduated law school and was unable to find a job for six grueling months so necessity led me to open my own practice. It deepened when I was engaged to my husband and some of my pastors told me in no uncertain terms that a woman without an income was a liability to her man. It grew wings after my first born when my husband expressed that my time as a stay at home mom was not only hindering us financially but also showed a lack of care concerning his attempts to provide for our family. Each of these episodes shook me in different ways and I endured a tedious process to heal from their unintended consequences.  The last time I tackled this feeling of inadequacy was a few months after our second son was born. All around me women I knew were working and providing for their families or themselves. These same women whose opinions I valued and whose lives bore godly fruit were also telling me that any wife or mother who was successful at home but without her own business, enterprise or  income was incomplete. Their words added salt to an open wound. It seemed no matter how much I grew in my character or how much I contributed as a wife and mother in my home, if my income did not reach a certain amount, I was failing. I took the sentiment personally and honestly it broke me.

Today, my story has changed. When God delivered me from the fear of failure, He gave me a boldness and assurance that I did not have  before. That is where I want to draw from to encourage you, my readers.

A woman who agrees with her husband to stay at home to raise her family and forego a paycheck as part of her reasonable service should not be penalized with our disdain simply because it is a choice other women would never make. She’s doing what God has asked of her in her own home even if God does not require the exact same choice from me or you.

Most women I know would never openly condemn a stay at home mother for not working but still they say things like “I didn’t get all this education to stay home and raise some kids” (actual comment directed my way). Comments like these did much to damage my perception of my worth before I found my assurance in Christ. After my second son was born, my income was non-existence. I had missed months of work and declined taking on new clients as I grappled with the sickness of pregnancy. As a business owner, my maternity leave was at my discretion but woefully unpaid. So I did in fact acquire all of my education to “stay home and raise some kids,” at least for the first six months of each of their lives. As believers we pay much lip service to the dignity of mothers and wives, but in my own experience, we are often demeaned by the very body of believers with whom we belong. We are excused while pregnant or immediately after giving birth because of course we need some time for our bodies to heal and to bond with our newborns.

”When are you going back to work?”

Because raising children is not enough “work” by itself and nobody is going to pay you to raise your own children. And of course, you can’t possibly expect your husband to be the only one who earns an income. You can’t afford it.

Only millionaires are entitled to raise their own children as they see fit. The rest of us need to keep our nose to the grindstones and pay others to care for our children while we do the more important task of keeping food, shelter and clothing readily available.

I am being facetious.

A wife and mother who earns an income by working either within or outside her home, for herself or for another is doing a dignified service. She is supporting her husband’s responsibility to provide for his family. Her help is indispensable to her family. Most households could not survive without dual income so a wife’s paycheck is a physical representation of what her support means within her family.

Likewise, a woman who stays at home and does the dignified work of raising her family in the fear and knowledge of the Lord is doing a work that cannot be quantified. Her role in her family cannot be overemphasized. Without the unwavering support of a wife who sacrifices to be the primary caregiver of their children, many husbands could never earn the income they use to provide for their families. Without a wife who can oversee parent-teacher conferences, doctors appointments, family meals and household budgets, most men with children would not have the time to earn the income their families require.

But you are more than the income you earn or the measurable help you can provide at home. You are literally made in the image of God for His divine purposes. To quote a social meme “there’s no way you were put on this earth to just pay bills and die!” There’s immeasurably more to you than your roles at home, no matter how invaluable you are in those roles.

The reason those past quantification of my worth based on my income hurt so deeply was because I had lost my personal sense of purpose. I knew God would not have created me if He did not have a specific purpose in mind for my life. But in the years lost in self-doubt, I also lost my sense of passion, and thus my sense of direction. I was not the wife who couldn’t properly help her husband because her income was limited. And I was not the mother who could not provide the needs of her children if they ever depended on her. I am my husband’s strongest ally; his favor from God in human form because I am uniquely equipped to help him bring his God-given vision to pass. I am my children’s protector and first example of a godly woman. I am their window into the heart of God towards them as I love them with God-given grace.

I am more than my income. I am more than my roles at home. I am more than my title and I am more than the work of my hand. I am God’s beloved. And I choose to rest in that knowledge.

I invite you to do the same. You are more!

 

 

 

life

2017 Ten Years A Slave

The year was 2007. I graduated law school, passed the bar on my first try, spent 6 months looking for a job and finally, told myself that I was too old to dream. In 2007, my dream died and a fear was born. For ten years, I carried that fear like a cherished belonging. Fear spoke louder than the voice of reason so for ten years, I stayed. Rooted in one place like a miserable tree. Far from flourishing but unable to see another life beyond the one in front of me.

In 2017, the roots started to come up. By God’s grace, I started dreaming again. I put feet to my prayers and did the scary things. I put myself out there. I took the terror out of the word “no.” The worst they could do was say no; it would not kill me.

And in November 2017, the fear of failure died the gruesome death it earned.

I am free.

In 2017 I grew in my role as a wife. My love for my husband took on new roots and meaning. I invested in us. As a family, we did the work to secure an inheritance for our children and reaped the rewards. I stewarded my children’s lives well. I found my place in ministering to God’s people. I wrote. I prayed. I fasted. I dreamed. I applied. I interviewed. I believed and I saw victory. I saw breakthrough on the horizon.

I welcome 2018 with open arms because living free from the fear of failure means that the world has opened up to me in a new way.

In 2017, we did great exploits. In 2018, we conquer.

The End.

life

When Sisters Become Strangers (A Word On Friendships)

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A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Moving continents away from everything and (almost) everyone I knew at the age of ten gave me a deep sense of longing to “belong” somewhere with someone. Coming to the United States from Nigeria meant that my close-knit family would finally be together under one roof but it also meant losing every friend I ever had, except my older brother. In middle school I struggled to make meaningful connections with my classmates who didn’t quite understand why I was so “dark-skinned” or why my shoes weren’t name brand, or why I “spoke funny,”  and a host of other things. Thankfully, my community had a close-knit Nigerian population and I was able to make friends my own age who were either immigrants or children of immigrants from my homeland. The first two friends I made within the Nigerian community became more like sisters to me and we journeyed through my teenage years arm in arm – forming our own three-strand cord that was meant to be unbreakable. We called ourselves – Three B – I was Brown Sugar, and my lovely sisters were Baby Girl and Baby Boo (LOL!) Cheesy right? But we loved it! So much so that I still have an email account dedicated to our little sisterhood (anyone of yall ever emailed me at threeb_forlife@yahoo.com – now you know where that name came from lol. Give me a break – I was 15).

When Baby Girl moved from North Carolina to Michigan, our little lives were rocked but we were determined to stay best friends. Baby Boo and I clung to each other as the remaining North Carolinians and made it a point to call, write and keep in touch with our long-distant sister. Other friends who became sisters came along and added much joy and richness to all of our separate lives but for me, there was no replacing my Baby Girl and Baby Boo.

I finished middle school, graduated from high school, finished law school and passed the bar exam to become an attorney and the three of us were still as thick as thieves. My two sisters went on to college, one gained a track scholarship, one was pre-law and pre-med (lol yes the same person) and many more adventures and accolades along the way. Through it all, we had each other’s back.

Baby Boo became my unofficial little sister in the eyes of the watching world. We stopped introducing one another as “cousins” and simply told those we asked that we were siblings. I took my position as big sis very seriously – doing things like hosting 90% of Baby Boo’s birthday celebrations from the age of 13 till she turned the big 21. We were inseparable. Baby Girl, although still living in Michigan, would come to visit periodically and solidify the bonds of our three-way friendship. As far as I was concerned, we were unbreakable.

When I came to Christ four years ago, Baby Boo and I were still closer than sisters and more like twins separated by years. We had expanded our friendship to include another childhood friend who deemed herself both of our best friends. I was happy with our group. Both girls were to be my sisters just like it had been with Three B. A year or so before I came fully to Christ, I was experiencing some pangs of jealousy over the friendship between Baby Boo and our new sister – they seemed to be forming a duo that excluded me and I didn’t like that – at all. I kept most of those feelings at bay and we went on in our friendship unhindered.

After I came to Christ, I recognized with a deep sense of urgency that my lukewarm ways had set a very bad example for my two sisters, both of whom were younger than me. I was in a hurry to make amends and get my sisters on the path of purity and holiness with me. Rather than trusting that the God who convicted me of my sin and brought my heart to repentance would capture my sisters hearts as well, I started trying to manipulate their friendships and relationships to cause rips between them and anyone I felt was a bad influence. My attempts at trying to play God in the lives of my two sisters, especially Baby Boo, backfired on me big time and we lost a lot of our friendship for the next following months and even years. Our newest sister had her own instance of betraying Baby Boo’s trust and that friendship fell apart as well.

I was devastated by the loss of both friendships. Baby Boo had been my constant companion and listening ear for fifteen years at the time. Not having her to call on, laugh with, and share with broke my heart. My other sister that fell by the way side was someone I had confided in time and time again. I had given her my secrets, my deepest darkest fears, the things I dared not repeat to anyone else for fear of being shunned, and she had dropped out of my life without a word. The most devastating part of that loss was this – when we last spoke of our friendship she told me that she “heard” some things about me that made it difficult for her look at me in the same way and thus continue a friendship. She wouldn’t fill me in on the details. Hearing those words from someone I had entrusted with the most vulnerable parts of myself also broke my heart.

So as a new Christian, I was flying solo; my most treasured friendships had fallen apart and I had nowhere else to turn. I had other sisters and friends who were still in my life but most did not understand my new walk with Christ. Many were cool with me being a real Christian but were not ready to live their own lives solely to please God. The others, like Baby Girl in Michigan, were separated from me by distance that made it difficult for me to effectively communicate the new things that God was doing in my life.  After almost twelve months of what became the loneliest time of my life, God graciously brought like-minded women into my life through Bethel Campus Fellowship (a college ministry that has played an intricate part of my growth in Christ), and through my home church – as more of the young ladies in my own age group caught the vision of a life sold out to Christ.

I was (and am)  so grateful for my new sisters in Christ. With them I learned that transparency can bring healing; I learned to love sacrificially and unconditionally and to rebuke rather than entertain jealousy in the midst of a friendship. Even with these new friends, a part of me still desperately missed my Baby Boo. We had become more like strangers, acquaintances on a good day – but not sisters. It was hard to watch her go on to make new “best friends” and share her thoughts and secrets with others who hadn’t been a part of our 17-year history. But I prayed for God to give me a heart that would love her without limit, even if she never reciprocated. And I prayed for God to restore our friendship, if it was His will for it to continue.

Once again, God’s mercy and grace prevailed. My prayers were answered at a pivotal point in my life – right after  I got engaged. My two sisters, Baby Boo and Baby Girl flocked to my side and were bridesmaids, listening ears, shoulders to cry on, prayer partners and much more as I prepared to become a wife. I am so grateful for the restoration of these friendships and the deepening of our sisterhood. By God’s grace, I pray to continue to be a great sister, friend and example to these ladies who have journeyed with me since I was barely eleven years old.

Now, let’s switch gears.

Coming out of my loneliest year, I had yet another friend who was more like a sister. She and I had known each other for more than four years at the time. She supported my law school accomplishments and was one of my biggest cheerleaders during my courtship with my husband. This particular sister-friend was special to me because so many people were rooting against our friendship, yet we prevailed. People didn’t understand what we had in common and why we would even like each other. Nonetheless, we thrived. I loved her and I did my best to support her as she had supported me – through school, graduation, courtship and marriage. I had one insecurity with this particular friend – I was never sure if her friends liked me for me or tolerated me for her sake. Having others constantly question our friendship make it hard for me to fully trust that others were rooting for us. Without getting into the details, I managed to offend this friend, in a major way. I wasn’t immediately aware of my offense but once I realized the rift between us, I made efforts to mend the bridges. Because the manner in which I offended my friend also affected her family, it was difficult for her to overlook and rightfully, it took some time for her to heal. I fully trusted that this friendship would be restored once I had given my friend enough time to search her heart and make peace with me. I was dealt a deathly blow when in the midst of my hopes for reconciliation this friend of mine told me that my behavior confirmed every (negative) thing she had heard (and overlooked) about my past.

I was devastated. This was someone I had shared my heart with. This was someone who knew me before I came to Christ and who witnessed, first-hand,  the woman I became after I gave my heart to the Lord. This was someone the Holy Spirit had used to rebuke and correct me in the past concerning my areas of failing. This was someone I thought was invested in my growth in Christ. I kept trying and trying to make peace with the fact that I had lost a friend but my mind would replay those hurtful last words repeatedly. It made it difficult to accept my new role as “acquaintance” rather than sister to my lost friend. I kept praying about the friendship, wondering if there was more I could have done to seek restoration, more I could have said to communicate my regret and beg (yet again) for forgiveness. God, through my husband, eventually gave me peace about this friendship. I didn’t have to continue to grovel and beg and plead to be accepted once again by this lost friend. I didn’t have to be resentful about being an acquaintance rather than an ally to this sister. I can rest assured that, yes, I made a mistake and I will probably fail in my friendships in other ways, but the God who forgives does not intend for me to continue to punish myself for my bad judgment in my past dealings. I can make peace with the fact that friendship is a two-way street. Just because I want reconciliation does not mean that this sister is ready for it. I don’t know what her personal struggles might be and I cannot impose my will upon her. This sister does not HAVE to embrace me. After all, she was the one betrayed. Perhaps wisdom on her end dictates that she keeps me at arm’s length in order to prevent being further offended and losing her own peace with God.

And guess what? For the first time in eight months. I’m okay with that.

I pray this post has spoken to your heart. Many of us have lost friendships that we still look back on with regret; we are unable to fully move forward in life because we keep revisiting the past. Some with regret, some with resentment. As someone who has had many seasons of losing and gaining friends, I’m here to tell you that dwelling on the past is not worth it. You can’t undo what has been done, all you can do is trust God. If you are the offending party, make every effort to make peace, seek forgiveness from God and from the one you have offended and, above all else forgive yourself. If you are the party offended, seek forgiveness from God for any resentment that you may have held on to, clear your heart of any trace of unforgiveness and seek God’s wisdom on whether He would have you continue in your friendship or move on to have peace with Him. It is not always possible to regain what was lost in a friendship, but there are times when God’s desire is to completely restore what was once broken. Be open to either and let God’s voice dictate and His will prevail.

A closing thought – This post is coming from a place of transparency about my own failings in friendships. Nothing written here was meant to embarrass or dig up dirt on any of my sisters. I did my best to apply wisdom in using identifying language concerning the persons to whom my unique circumstances refer. I freely used the identifiable nicknames Baby Girl and Baby Boo because these are my trusted sisters; they know my heart and they trust me not to besmirch their good names and I believe I have kept that trust. To everyone else who may have been referenced in this post, my goal was to share my heart and my life from my perspective, not to place blame or cause controversy. I pray that you see that clearly as you read through the entire (lengthy) post. God bless you.

To everyone else who is struggling from the pain of a lost friendship, I pray that the peace of God rules over your heart and mind. I pray that the Holy Spirit equips you with all that you need to continue to have flourishing friendships that will not be hindered by the hurts of the past. Trust God to give you like-minded friends, and refuse to be anxious for anything, even if life at the moment is very lonely.

Feel free to email me at threeb_forlife@yahoo.com with any prayer requests regarding this or any other topic discussed on this blog. Thank you for reading; please share and/or comment as you feel led. God bless you once again.

Yours in Christ,

Omowunmi

life

The Demon of Comparison

For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

(2 Corinthians 10:12)

When I was about twelve or thirteen, my cousin and I were best friends (still more like sisters than cousins till this day). We did everything together and shared every secret with one another. One week she came to spend spring break with me after I hadn’t seen her in a while. At that time one of my biggest sources of teenage accomplishment was how well my hair was growing. I was quite pleased with myself. Well my cousin arrived at my house sporting her hair in two simple braided ponytails on each side of her head. I was both shocked and dismayed to see that my cousin’s hair (her actual hair) was down her back, almost waist-length.

Wait a minute.

How did she achieve such an awesome amount of growth when my hair hadn’t even reached shoulder length? For the rest of the week, I would stare and obsess over my cousin’s hair. I could barely enjoy the time we had together because I was so focused on the fact that her hair was so much longer than mine. I would ask her questions about her hair care regiment while trying not to seem too interested. At one point, I considered cutting off her ponytail while she slept (I didn’t DO IT! Lol, I just thought about it a lot). Comparing my hair growth to my cousin’s left me jealous, totally dissatisfied and borderline resentful of someone I considered one of my best friends.

That little anecdote is my way of sharing with you that I have struggled with the need to compare myself to others for a very long time. Regardless of what the object of comparison happened to be, the result was usually the same – I was left dissatisfied, envious and borderline resentful if I found my portion inadequate in comparison to another’s.

There were very very rare times when I would find myself the “winner’ of these contests that take place in my mind. One of the things I’ve always been grateful for is a slender and athletic physique that takes little effort to maintain. Once I reached adolescence and realized that I would never be one of the girls with the perfect hour glass figure, the one with the biggest breasts or most shapely backside, the best I could do was strive to be the most slender and athletically built. I was on a constant venture of comparing and contrasting my body to ANY other woman who crossed my path. If I find my competition to be a bit more rounded or less toned than me, then I WON! I was more beautiful than whoever this other woman might be and I could go about my day gloating inwardly about my success. This mindset made my body a source of pride and obsession. I HAD to stay skinny. I would FREAK OUT if people told me that I looked like I gained weight. Nine times out of ten they meant it to be complimentary but I would not see it as so. I couldn’t be “average” weight and built. I HAD TO BE SLENDER! That was all I had going for me and I had every intention of holding on to my title.

Comparing my life to others left me with one of two options – envy or pride. When I came to Christ, I found my worth in who God says that I am and in what Christ has done to redeem me. I no longer needed to compare my physical attributes with those of other women. So I moved on to spiritual attributes. All around me were women who were serving Christ diligently. Some of them had the love and respect of people whose approval I had chased after for years and never received it. Were these women somehow more godly than me? Were they more loving, more beautiful in their service of our Lord? Was that why everyone who didn’t seem to care one way or the other about me seemed to flock to their sides? What about their spiritual gifts? Weren’t theirs somehow “better” than mine since I was new in Christ and they had operated in these miraculous callings for years? The results of these “secret” competitions in my mind were the same as they were before i came to Christ. I would find myself envious when I didn’t measure up or prideful when I “won”. Comparing spiritual attributes and not physical one was no less sinful in the eyes of God nor did it yield any less destructive results. I was still weighed down by  feelings of inadequacy that stemmed from my constant comparing to others in and out of the body of Christ. I was still operating in false humility (pride) when I found myself “better” in areas of my walk than other Christians.

There was no way I could ever see the fullness of God in my life if something did not change about my petulance for comparing all aspects of my life to others. God used one of my sisters in Christ to call me on my pride about two years ago. That conversation was a slap in the face and a reality check that I badly needed. I sat down with the Holy Spirit as He began to expose me to me. Around the same time I started reading a book that exposed the demonic foundation of the spirit of comparison. The angel Lucifer who became satan began his fall from grace by comparing himself to God, becoming both prideful as well as envious and trying to be as God in the Heavens (Isaiah 14:12-21). The fact that the attributes that I was manifesting as I compared myself looked A LOT like the enemy and nothing like Christ was a shock and a blow! I fell on my knees in repentance and asked God for the grace to stop comparing my live with others. I asked for a heart of thankfulness about the things He has given me. I asked Him to help me humble myself before He had to step in and humble me (when God HAS TO humble you, the pain of brokenness is NO JOKE!). All this didn’t happen in one moment; rather it’s a continuous work that the Holy Spirit has to do with me as He continues to refine me in my walk with Christ.

I am grateful to the Lord for teaching me just how demonic comparison is. This lesson has made it easier for me not to envy any other person’s portion, no matter how many wonderful pictures they post on Instagram, how many “likes” their thoughts receive on Facebook or how many gushing approval their tweets garner on Twitter. I am ever grateful to God for my portion. I am learning by His grace to rejoice in EVERYTHING I have and not worry about what I do not have. I serve the God who owns the Heavens and the Earth; no good thing will He withhold from me because my delight is in Him and Him alone.

I am thankful for my physical attributes because God gave me enough of what I needed to serve Him and feel beautiful in that service – any more and I would be worshipping my looks, any less and I would be obsessed with a sense of inadequacy. I am thankful for my marriage and my amazing husband. If you ask any of my married girlfriends you would think we are all married to the same man because each one of us is convinced that her husband is the best man in the entire universe lol. It’s not because our men are perfect; it’s because we have chosen to celebrate the marriage and the lives that God has graced us with and refuse to be discontent in any of it. Whatever is not going as it ought has been submitted to Christ daily and we trust Him to have His way in those areas.

I pray that this post will cause you, my wonderful readers, to abandon the spirit of comparison and pray for a heart of thankfulness. Your joys will be multiplied and your sorrows divided as you learn to thank God for His many blessings upon your life.

life

Ex-Slave – Breaking the Bondage of Public Opinion

If you live for the approval of others, you’ll die by their rejection. – Rick Warren

Today, thanks to the encouragement my sister in Christ, Brittany, I spent some time contemplating the why’s and how’s of public opinion, particularly why so many of us are bound by the approval and disapproval of others.

At the very beginning of the year, I wrote a blog post about “people pleasing” and how the Holy Spirit desires to take that habit away from me in 2013 (you can read it here https://naijabeauty.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/confessions-of-an-ex-people-pleaser/). Beyond abstaining from making decisions that pleased others but dishonored God, I needed to be free from the bondage of public opinion.

When I was growing up, I depended heavily on others to tell me who I was. From my parents to my friends, people in the community, other Nigerians, teachers, church members and pastors, I clung to outside opinions about my character, abilities, failings and potential like a lone life preserver in the midst of a tumultuous sea. Whatever anyone said about me was my truth. I did my best to be beautiful, kind, nice, funny, respectful, smart, intelligent, entertaining and a host of other things, all at the same time. I had to be these things or I wouldn’t be acceptable, and if I wasn’t acceptable, I would never be happy. Such were my thoughts from the age of 3 (my earliest memory) to the age of 26.

The older I got, the worse my situation became. As a young adult who had experienced disappointment and heartbreak and loss, it was no longer easy for me to put forth an easy-going facade. Being hurt by others brought out the worst part of my character as I grew older and those “ugly” parts of me (the insecure, jealous, angry and embittered side) began to rear their heads more often. It became harder to be the beautiful, kind, nice, funny, respectful, smart, intelligent, entertaining and thus lovable version of myself that people wanted to see. The more hurt and disenchanted I became, the harder it was to stay the “acceptable” version of me.

The worst part of it all was that I was fully aware of my flaws, so it wasn’t like people’s dislike of my ugly side was unwarranted. As far as I was concerned if people hated me it was because I wasn’t worthy of their love.

I started jumping through a lot hoops to earn the love that I wanted. Having others love me was proof positive that I was lovable and if I had to “perform” in order to be lovable, so be it. With my parents, it meant lying about my true colors. I would be the perfect daughter who got straight A’s, set ambitious goals for the future and had no bad habits. If it meant that I couldn’t speak with them about my struggles with purity or the overwhelming temptation I was facing in college then so be it. In relationships, it meant trying to convince men that I was “marriage worthy” and if that meant performing wifely duties without the commitment then so be it. With the viewing public, it meant putting forth the appearance of perfection. No one from the outside looking in would be allowed to see my flaws, my scars and my ungodly proclivities.

This mindset itself was a form of bondage. The relationships, friendships and reputation I built could only be maintained if I continued to perform – tap-dancing for each audience (parents, friends, church folks) according to the version of “me” they preferred.

It did not occur to me that the woman I was created to be was not meant to be acceptable to everyone. There will always be people who are turned off by who I am. Redeemed in Christ or not, some people will not like me. I can spend the rest of my life tap-dancing to please them or I can choose to have peace with God and move on. The Bible says that as much as it depends on us, we should live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18). God knew what He was doing when He put that qualifying language in that commandment. Some of our “peace with all men” will not depend on us. They have to want peace as well. Despite our best efforts, some people are wholly committed to finding fault and belittling the person that God has created us to be. It is not our job to change their minds. A person whose heart is for you will see your flaws and your failings and will still persist in saying “I’m not going anywhere.” We DO NOT have to be perfect for others.

I didn’t even have to be perfect for God, and He has the highest standards in the entire universe. If God saw me in the filthiest of my habits and saw the deepest, darkest and most disturbing of my thoughts and STILL only has good things to say about me, why am I killing myself trying to be good enough for another human being? A created being just like myself who has neither the power to redeem me nor the authority to condemn me.

When I gave my life to Christ, He became my all. The deep sense of inadequacy I had lived with for decades melted away as I began to see myself as God saw me. I use to see myself as this dirty, disease ridden woman wearing filthy rags, wholly unfitting to approach the unapproachable holiness and purity and majesty that is found in God’s presence. I don’t see that anymore. I see now what God sees, a beautiful, blood-washed, bejeweled, redeemed Bride who is specially reserved for her Bridegroom. I don’t have to strive to be beautiful or virtuous or worthy because I AM all of those things and more in Christ. Christ paid the price for me to be these things, there is no striving involved. All I have to do is continue in my relationship with Christ, growing and blossoming and going from one level of glory, holiness and purity to another ( 2 Corinthians 3:16-18; also consider the imagery in Psalm 45:13-15).

There is a deep level of bondage that comes with attributing your innate worth to people’s ability to see you as worthy. You are not precious because other people recognize it. You are precious because God created you to be so. You are no less a diamond because someone mistook you for a rock. I pray that the knowledge of your intrinsic value in Christ (which by the way is priceless) frees you from continuously attempting to find your worth in other people’s measure of you.  Whatever price you can put on the blood of Jesus, that is the price at which you are valued; and there are simply not enough zeroes on our numeric scale to quantify that.

life, marriage

Are You Ready?

As I count down the last 4 months and 1 week of my season of singleness, I can’t help but reflect on where God has brought me from. If you browse any of my blog entries prior to September 2009, you can see the growth for yourself. I use to think I was ready for marriage as soon as I was an “adult” (over the age of 21 in my book). Because I was always starving for love and affection from a “special someone” I wrongfully believed that those urges meant that I was ready to settle down. So around the age of 22, I started diving heart first into one committed relationship after another looking for the perfect guy. It never worked out. My inordinate affection for a human being’s love guaranteed that I would idolize those relationships if any of them had blossomed into marriage. God loves me too much to see that happen so He always intervened before things got to that stage. Along with God’s divine intervention, my own selfish, manipulative, Proverbs 5 ways ensured that I never got what I wanted more than anything, a stable relationship that was marriage focused. In case you were wondering, here’s what Proverbs 5 (v. 3-6) says:

For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey,And her mouth is smoother than oil;But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,Sharp as a two-edged sword.Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of hell.[a]Lest you ponder her path of life—Her ways are unstable;You do not know them.

You might think it mighty odd that I would describe myself in those terms but let me explain. As THAT woman who was compromising and saying ANY and EVERYTHING to get a ring, I was definitely a smooth talker. I would flatter, flirt, cajole or nag my way to get a guy to see me as “wifey material” (I hate that term now, by the way, lol). I wasn’t thinking about the guy. I wasn’t considering whether I was suitable for him and the future plans he had. I wasn’t praying for God’s will in his life. I wasn’t concerned with how I could help him grow in Christ or achieve his destiny, I JUST WANTED A RING!!! A woman with those kind of selfish motives is the EPITOME of a Proverbs 5 adulteress. This is not to down myself but to give us all a reality check. You’re not ready for marriage just because you’re lonely. The best piece of advice I ever got when it  comes to singleness, godly relationships or marriage is this – don’t be obsessed with FINDING the right person, be committed to BEING the right person (paraphrased from Chip Ingram’s Series Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships).

Are you in a fruit bearing relationship with Christ by yourself? Do you daily exhibit the character traits of the Holy Spirit by being loving, joyful, peaceable, long suffering, kind, good and faithful? If you are currently NOT bearing this fruit with family and friends, how the heck do you think you’ll be able to do so while you’re yoked with another imperfect human being in the covenant of marriage?

These are important questions to ask oneself because marriage is not about a WEDDING. It is about spending a lifetime with someone who will cause you to look more and more like Christ with each passing day. A marriage built on anything other than Christ is built on a shaky ground and before God fully prepared me, I was headed for disaster.

Look out for another post on singleness. I pray this one has given you reason to pause, examine yourself and pray. God bless.Image

life

Discretion Will Preserve You

“Discretion will preserve you, understanding willl keep you” – Proverbs 2:11 (New King James Version)

I’ve always loved this verse even before I fully comprehended what it meant. For the past few months I’ve been wondering what it really means to be discreet. For nine months now God has been doing a wonderful thing in my life and although I am grateful and joyous about this new adventure that God has set me on, I’m very careful about who I share the details with. To a large extent, I’m trying to be discreet. I heard a quote recently that resonated with me…

“Stop announcing the birth of your chickens before they hatch” – Olori Swank (@OloriSWANK on Twitter)

Discretion comes into play here for me because I don’t want to undermine what God is putting together in my life by announcing it too quickly. I believe in my heart that the work of God will speak for itself at the appointed time.

More than just being discreet in a particular situation or circumstance, we should live discreetly. For some the word discretion may have a negative connotation, bringing to mind people who are sneaky or underhanded. That does not have to be the case. Acting with discretion often means that we are carefully considerate of the long term consequences of our actions. In fact, the definition of the word states that it is “the quality of having or showing good judgment or discernment”  As a child of God, you can’t live without discernment. It is necessary to life! A child of God without discernment might as well be an unbeliever! Because you will make the same foolish mistakes as those who are not listening to the voice of God to direct and dictate their lives. Everyone needs discretion.

One of the places that I see a complete lack of discretion, sadly, is on social media sites. I don’t know how many times I’ve cringed or stared mouth ajar at my computer screen, flabbergasted at what some of our young people (and older people) are posting about. Seriously, I’m scared for them. Posting everything about yourself from the kind of man/woman you want to be with, to the “private pictures” of yourself  in your bedroom, to the details of every emotion and turmoil you experience leaves you WIDE open to the manipulation of others. Anyone can go online, read all about you and know exactly which buttons to push to get you to do whatever they want. Your list of turn ons and turn offs gives someone of the opposite sex all the ammunition they need to pretend to be perfect for you. And without the discernment to see through their ploy, you’re headed for disaster. Beyond just posting too much about our lives online, a lack of discretion will cause us to post things that reflect our temporary circumstances but have LIFE LONG consequences. Many people seem to forget that as a human being, you are suppose to grow with each day. The weaknesses you had yesterday should not be the same weaknesses that hold you bound a year from now. As people of God, we should be deeper in Christ with each passing day. With that understanding, nothing but a lack of discretion will cause you to badmouth a loved one online because they made you mad. Even if you take the post down or delete the tweet, you can’t control how other people are going to use that information. If today you are the party girl who loves going out and letting it all hang out, and tomorrow you’re the mother and wife who wants to honor her husband and build her household up, the evidence you’ve left online will make it hard for some people to forget. You’ve given them ammunition to attack you for years to come. People are not always going to be happy about our growth and sadly some people make it their job to remind us VIVIDLY of the mistakes we’ve made; the less we publicize and celebrate our indiscretions, the more we’ll have to be thankful for when we outgrow them. Discretion will preserve you, understanding will keep you!

life, Mentoring/Discipleship

Rebellion vs. Ignorance

“Rebellion is deadlier than ignorance” – Dr. Mike Murdock

This quote reminds me of the following verse…

Acts 17: 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. (NIV)

I read this quote on Twitter and it immediately got me thinking. When someone is unaware of the consequences of an action, they are liable to make foolish decisions that must be later rectified. The good news is that ignorance can be cured with knowledge. Anyone who was once ignorance does not have to remain so. They can forge out on their own to learn what they KNOW that they do not know. Or, they may encounter a teacher, someone willing and able to share wisdom with others. But what about someone who knows the consequences of a particular course of action and still chooses to travel a path that’s almost assured to lead to destruction? That’s rebellion. It’s funny how easily rebellion can be camouflaged nowadays under the guise of doing it your way of finding your own path. In a generation that touts independence and individualism so much, it’s no wonder that young people don’t want to hear someone’s cautionary tale. Everyone, young and old, knows the danger of unprotected sex. Most Christians know the greater dangers of premarital sex. Societies, whether spiritually inclined or not, are becoming aware of the dangers of casual sex. Yet and still young people engage in all three with reckless abandon. Among some young people, there seems to be a disconnect between the knowledge they have of the great risk they are taking and their ability to make sound decisions. Knowing that something has the power to overcome and destroy you yet pursuing it anyway – that’s rebellion, and yes it is dangerous. Reminds me of another verse.

Hebrews 11:26-27 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (NIV)

If a parent has a child who is ignorant about the ways of the world, the parent will always try to educate that child. Parents do this by equipping their children with the skills, tools and mindset necessary to face and overcome challenges. When a parent has a child that has been properly equipped from home yet persists in making poor decisions, that parent has to go to extremes to bring the child back in line. This is where we see young people who end up in the juvenile or criminal justice system or end up with life-altering problems such as incurable diseases, injuries or addictions. This is often where we hear parents say things such as – “He/she was not brought up this way”, “we did everything we knew to do,”they should have known better” “we don’t know what went wrong”.

No matter how much we may want to ignore it or chuck it up to being “independent” or the desire to find our own way, when we embark on a path that we have been warned against and that has led to the destruction of others – it is rebellion! Plain and simple, and if left untamed, it will lead to destruction. Ignorance can be cured just as rebellion can be deadly.