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A Love Letter To The Past

Waling in victory, not victimhood.

Dear Omowunmi,

You did it. It has been five years and five months since you had your second son and I just want to let you know that you did it. You found the pace of grace in motherhood and your children are thriving. Every day is no longer a struggle and there are stretches of deep joy and loud belly laughs in your family. Each day has its own challenges but none of the hard days have outnumbered the wonderful ones. You are doing it, mama. And your family is grateful.

It has been nine years since those word curses released over you told you that you would be a hindrance to your husband; and I am just here to report that you uprooted the demonic assignment those words were meant to complete. You escaped from under the weight of the spirit of inadequacy.

It has been fourteen years since the fear of failure kept you stuck in a life and career that felt like you were failing yourself with every year spent racking up losses instead of employment. I am just here to let you know that you are two years removed from walking away from those dead ends. You did it. You built a life that is brimming over with meaning in every aspect – spiritually, relationally, and even financially.

It has been nine years since those friendships you thought were lifetime connections fell apart. It has been seven years since you mourned them; and it has been five years since you stopped reaching back for something that was never yours to begin with. I am just hear to let you know that you did it. You healed from the trauma of broken community. You did it. You did not allow the bitterness to swallow you whole. You opened your heart to sisterhood again and you have created deep and lasting friendship with women who see you as you are and love you without measure. You did it. You healed!

It has been almost five years since that argument with your husband had you questioning your ability and your worth as a wife. I just want to let you know that you did it. You broke free from the torment of the orphan spirit that had you feeling inadequate and rejected at every turn. You did it – you built a friendship with your husband that is not poisoned by your once secret fear that he did not actually love you. You did it! You matured into a wife who is secured in her husband’s love because she is secured in God’s love for her and secured in her own worth.

The last twelve years of your new life in Christ have been filled with all manners of adventures (both good and not so great), but I just wanted to let you know that you fought for deliverance on every aspect of your life and the Lord won the battle for you. You are no longer a people pleaser. You no longer bear false responsibilities for how others mishandled you. You are no longer afraid of money. You broke free from the curse of poverty. You are no longer a walking collection of other people’s sins against you. You are a healed and whole woman. You walk tall as a wife and a mother and you embrace your calling as a woman of influence and wisdom.

You did it. You healed. And I am so grateful.

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“Even If He Doesn’t…” – Trusting God In The Impossible

Two years ago anxiety tried to take my life. I had such a severe panic attack, the thoughts that raced through my mind to find relief could only be described as demonic. Since then, every major life change, unfavorable circumstance or health scare has done its best to bring back those terrifying feelings of drowning in air.

In February of this year, I went through an intense and purposeful weekend of healing to attend to everything that has contributed to this life that was previously lived in fear. Since that memorable weekend, it has been a journey of walking out my freedom daily. Recently, I got an email that sent me down what could have been the deep and dark spiral of panic. The familiar feelings of unease came over me. I instantly lost both my appetite and my peace. My mind took off racing as if someone yelled “GO!”

Then all of a sudden, a thought that interrupted all the other fearful ones.

You’re not who you were. You have more control over your emotions. You know how to persevere. You do not have to allow your feelings to take you into darkness.”

And just like that, there was a great calm. And a new thought followed.

What if my healing and deliverance from anxiety and fear does not look like never ever being fearful again?

What if my healing from anxiety means that when the ground is shaken beneath my feet, the fear may come, but I allow the work that the Lord has already done in my heart and mind to fight against the wiles of the enemy?

So, it is likely that being healed from crippling anxiety and panic attacks does not mean I will never be triggered by anything ever again. It may actually mean that when old and new triggers rear their heads, I decide on a different reaction. Even if my heart races and my knees buckle at the thought of unseen threats that appear fifty feet tall, maybe my healing looks like taking a deep breath, looking them square in the face and asking – “so what happens if my worst fears are materialized?”

What happens if this is just as terrible as I thought it would be?

The answer?

The same God who protected me from armed robbery, car accidents, unfavorable health during my pregnancies, witchcraft and occultist powers – and ensured that they could not accomplish the evil that the enemy desired – will protect me against these new weapons that are being formed.

God is able to keep every evil from manifesting in and over my life. The God of Heaven who created me for good works, who promised that my life is in His hands, who said He knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb is powerful enough to keep me from all evil.

But when the enemy retorts “well, He did not prevent those bad things from happening in the past, so why would He prevent this one?” – I have an answer for that as well.

He doesn’t have to prevent it if He has the power to redeem it.

I would prefer that the Lord keeps the enemy hundreds of miles away from me, never even allowing him to breathe in my direction. But when the devil brings the fight to my doorstep, I have to rest assured that I serve a God who remains God, no matter how hellish my circumstances.

God does not lose His sovereignty because my situation looks dire or beyond repair.

God is no less the Almighty because it seems that the will of the enemy is overtaking me.

God is no less a healer when sickness tries to ravage my body.

God is no less my Father when I feel desperately isolated and unloved in the valley of my brokenness.

God is no less my keeper because it seems that the arrows of the enemy keep finding their way to my house.

God is no less my deliverer because it seems that the chains of bondage have found their way around my hands and feet.

He is God all by Himself.

The same God who told Israel to make a life, build houses, give their children in marriage and thrive while they were in Babylon because He would rescue them in the appointed time still reigns today.

It does not matter what my circumstances look like.

It does not matter what anxiety and fear try to tell me.

It does not matter how the enemy tries to terrify me. Even in the darkest of moments, my God does not change. What He does not prevent, He will redeem. He will bring me out. I will not be consumed.

So I say to fear and anxiety again, if the God I serve exists, then He can rescue me from the furnace of crippling anxiety and panic attacks, and He can rescue me from the power of you, you strongman of fear. But even if He does not rescue me, I want you powers and principalities to know that I will never serve your gods or worship the idol of worry you have set up in this earth (paraphrased from Daniel 3:16-18, HCSB).

God can and God will rescue me from every anxiety and panic. God can and God will rescue me from the paralyzing symptoms of anxiety attacks. God can and God will rescue me from every unfavorable situation that the enemy designed to destroy me.

… but even if He doesn’t, I will not bow.

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Unconventional Motherhood

When I pictured being a mom, I figured I would have a more secure sense of what I was doing and who I was before I became a mother. I thought I would be a very intentional mother who never questioned her decisions because they were well thought out, and someone who always knew exactly what to do because I am a follower of Christ after all – the Holy Spirit should give me the cheat code to this journey. I became a mother at the age of thirty and although that was considered late in my culture, it still did not feel like I had enough information about this journey. Almost seven years into my mothering, and I am still expecting someone to show up and tell me that there was a mistake and they cannot allow me to raise my children because I do not have enough knowledge to raise these boys into men.

When I pictured becoming a mother, I figured my husband and I would do the work hand in hand – evenly sharing the responsibilities. I did not imagine him being gone for 15 to 20 hours daily or being consumed with responsibilities that are necessary to prosper our household. I did not imagine being trusted to raise our children by my best efforts and judgment and making decisions that affect both their present and their future largely by myself.

As a new wife and mother I was racked with self-doubt and insecurity whenever other wives and mothers bragged about their hands on partners who seem to be killing the fatherhood game. My husband was mostly gone because his workload and career were unforgiving to our plans as newlyweds and parents. When he was here, he needed an optimum amount of rest to tackle the next 12 to 36 hour shift he would take on. I was not prepared to take on motherhood as a happily married woman who needed to operate like a single mom out of necessity.

For months I was too ashamed to ask for help from my community because inevitably they would ask why I needed so much help if I was happily married and my husband and I lived together. Staying silent denied me of the opportunity to connect with mothers who were in similar situations as mine – military wives, wives in -long-distance marriages, and those whose husbands worked upwards of 20 hours per day like mine. When I got passed the shame of feeling alone in my parenthood, I discovered that there was nothing to be ashamed of. I also discovered the provision of God to send me help and support outside of just my spouse. I thank God for a husband who is emotionally and spiritually vested in our family even when his schedule does not allow him to be as physically present as we both would prefer.

Now, on the other side of mothering a newborn and a toddler around the clock, I can see the hand of God more clearly in my mothering. The Lord provided me with a solid community of sisters who empathized with my situation because their marriages were similarly situated to mine. I also met women and wives who were eager to support me in my journey into health and wholeness as my children were growing.

Being married with children was a dream I have had for decades. The journey has unfolded for me in ways that I did not anticipate. Initially, I wanted the idealized image of motherhood in my head – beautiful nurseries, a doting spouse, picture-perfect milestone photos each month and etc. When my journey unfolded into multiple days and nights alone with a newborn, waking up by myself every night for three years because my children did not sleep through the night (and their dad worked third shift), and being shamed for breastfeeding in public – it was hard to reconcile my idea of motherhood with the reality of our day to day life.

Every effort to live up to my own expectations of parenthood, and those thrusted on me by my community (“clean your house, make the meals, let your husband rest, be sexually available at all times, breastfeed your baby but only for a few months, cover up when you do so”) made me feel like I was drowning. One word changed my life and gave me more peace than I had experienced since my first pregnancy test – grace.

God has graced me for my portion, my motherhood, and my two children – and I needed to show myself a full measure of grace. After that revelation, I learned to let the house be unkempt so I could nap. I gave myself permission to serve Chick-Fil-A as a nutritious lunch five to six times per week. PBS Kids became a regular part of our preschool-at-home curriculum. I would call a friend and ask them to watch the children so I could shower or nap. Once I stopped trying to be every woman and realized that it was not all in me, the crushing weight of perfection that I had carried on my shoulders immediately lifted.

My children will not be scarred for life because they ate noodles regularly, or watched TV for multiple hours in a day. The measure of my motherhood is how loved my boys feel and how safe they know themselves to be. If these soon-to-be-men of mine recognize that they are accepted, loved, and safe – then my job is mostly done. If I can steward their heart in such a way that they fall in love with Jesus for themselves, my life’s work is complete. I am no longer holding myself (or my husband for that matter) to impossible standards of what parenting should look like. I am no longer subscribing even to Christian parenting standards that tout socio-economical preferences and privileges as if they are Gospel-truth.

I am done shaming myself and lamenting my portion as wife and mother who works outside of the home because all the ideal pictures of Christian mothering feature a wife who stays at home and homeschools her children. As much as I adore my sisters who do the grueling work of full-time keeping of the home and raising their children, including homeschooling – the false dichotomy between working moms and stay at home moms made me internalize quite a bit of shame for not homeschooling and not staying at home full-time. To quote one of my friends, “all moms are working moms.”

My mothering does not have to fit into one category, or look like anyone else’s – especially when my entire journey as a woman and a believer has transcended all the neat little packages I have tried so hard to portion myself into. Even as a believer, a married woman, a mom of boys, and a working adult (categories inhabited by millions of women worldwide), I am finally at peace with my unconventional circumstances because they are giving birth to a glorious finished product – joyful lives submitted to Christ and stewarded to the glory of God.

The lesson I have imbibed for the last eight years is one I want to pass on to you because it saved my life – yours does not have to look like theirs to be approved by God. Whether in your motherhood, ministry, marriage, relationships, or calling – you have permission to be unconventional. Glorify God in your own Bible-approved, unusual, uncustomary, non-conforming, and distinctive circumstances.

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Pay The Cost

If you have read my last blog post [Grace] Under Fire then you know that my life is in transition. This is a big one too. But today, after about a month of feeling like I was trying to walk in quicksand, everything came together. I got caught up on my chores around the house, our home is finally clean, we have something to eat (thanks, Mom), and my oldest is all caught up on distance learning. Having some semblance of normalcy gave me time to think and get off this hamster wheel of perpetually trying to find my feet. I am on solid ground now. I am good.

One of the things I have been pondering today is the fact that this life I currently have cost me a lot just a few short years ago. Today, being able to see my dreams of writing my book to fulfillment still brings me great joy. Having a job that pays me well for my time and effort gives me great joy. Having a marriage that literally fills my love tank to overflowing brings me great joy. Having sisters who would drop everything when I need them is an honor. But these things did not just come over time. I had to “do” something.

Writing my book took hundreds of hours between the years 2018 and 2020. I was taking notes during podcasts, conversations, at work, and then sitting at my computer for hours at a time fleshing out these thoughts. And the effort gave birth to something beautiful. This 400-paged manuscript is a love letter of sacrifice and I will always be honored that it is mine to share with the world.

Before I got my current job, I had to heal from my fear of failure and success. It took six months of conquering my fears, and eleven months of submitting applications to secure this position. I have invested hundreds of hours with my employer to gain their trust and earn my place in the company. It took sacrifice and hard work but I am finally seeing a semblance of career satisfaction. This job literally gives me the financial ability to pursue my dreams.

My marriage is enjoying one of our sweetest seasons ever. But we didn’t just arrive here suddenly. This was not a matter of time. This was a matter of investment. Four years ago, I invested eight months into marriage mentoring through Good Thing 101 by Wives in Waiting. My marriage is STILL reaping the reward of the work, lessons, and in-pouring I encountered in the program, and I keep the lessons on the forefront of my mind in my daily interactions with my husband. I recently took on the Respect Dare through Good Thing (as a leader this time), and even that little tune-up has brought new joy into our marriage and friendship as husband and wife. Four years ago, my joy in marriage was disappearing and mentorship literally turned the whole ship around for us. It took time, investment, intentionality and prayer but we are on solid ground today.

I prayed and cried out to God to prune me and make me a better friend than I had been in the past, and to give me women/sisters who would love me and accept me. God did the pruning and I saw the fruit of it. The friendships and sisterhood I enjoy now were a direct result of God teaching me how to be the type of friend I would desire. It took tears, prayer, listening, learning, forgiving and humbling myself to be ready for the gift of friendship. But the risk was more than worth the return I am enjoying today.

Today, I saw some publication from women and leaders whose work, life and ministries have impacted me for years. These women have been ministering and pouring out publicly for years at no cost. Recently, most of them have launched masterclasses and mentorship programs that require a fee or an investment. And I immediately had a thought. As much as I have benefited from these women and their free content and wisdom for years and decades, there is a reservoir in them that is strictly for those who will INVEST their money and substance to gain the wisdom and gold that these ministers carry. I fully expect that if I pay the fee/make the investment, the level of access I will have to these women’s insight would be deeper, richer and more transformative. It would be foolish of me to expect to grow to the same level from the free content as I would have if I had paid for mentorship or a masterclass. That is the very definition of trying to reap where you did not sow.

Every new level has a cost. Every single one of them. There is a cost for a better marriage, a deeper walk with Christ, more fulfilling personal relationships and even a top-notch career. And when I say cost, I am not talking about dollars. I am talking about sacrifice. We must sacrifice comfort for growth. We must sacrifice the familiar to conquer new territory. That is just the nature of the beast. Comfort zones are overrated. And when we get too comfortable, they transform from places of rest to places of bondage. The new joy in my marriage cost me a great deal of selfishness. I had to lay down my pride and my own will so that I could esteem my husband above my selfish tendencies. The new job costs me time and availability. I cannot just pick up and go as I feel like it (I still feel like I can because I am working from home but “home” does not mean available). I have to sacrifice my schedule and my desire to do whatever I want whenever I want for the sake of being an integral employee and a woman who honors my commitments.

Even my relationship with Christ cost Him his very life. Just because it was free to me does not mean it was cheap. Every good, godly, and worthy thing in this life has a cost. Some have been paid by heaven, others we must work out on earth. You cannot see the depths, heights, breadth and width of what God has for you by refusing to sacrifice.

From one sibling in Christ to another I advice you, pay the cost. You will not regret it. When you sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel, the return on your investment is out of this world.

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[Grace] Under Fire

I very briefly contemplated titling this post “Through The Fire Part 3” as a continuation of the journey of From Breakdown to Breakthrough -Through The Fire Part 2 but I quickly abandoned the thought because this is an entirely new journey. Bear with me as I take you through the adventure that is my life.

Over the last seven years (hello, marriage) I have noticed that before any significant breakthrough for my family, we encounter hell on earth. There have been unexpected crisis upon crisis at each turning point of our lives only for the clouds to suddenly lift and we find ourselves better off than we ever were before the bottom fell out of our world. I did not always recognize the cycle. The bliss of newlywed life had me temporarily unable to spot a pattern. We were still trying to find a new normal after all. But in the last couple of years, I have been very intentional about paying attention to what is going on with us. If you read my post from last month, I wrote that post after one of the most personally productive and fulfilling eight month stretch of my life and exactly one month after one of our family’s biggest win. It is not even a full month later and I am already updating you about being “under fire.” Coincidence? Only if you believe in them.

I serve a very intentional God and I also happen to agitate a very calculating enemy, as old as the fall of man. My family and I have been flourishing despite the pandemic and I pray God’s continued grace over us. But the last two weeks of our lives were completed upended. We lost our normalcy, our sense of well-being, and the ability to plan for our foreseeable future. It is literally the 100th or so transition for us as a family. Something is always changing for us, and as soon as we establish a new normal, everything is thrown into a blender and blown to bits again. I have come to expect the unexpected and I have gotten quite good at it if I do say so myself. I have become something of an expert at establishing a consistent home life for our family even when the changes happening around us are moving at a million miles per hour. But even THIS current pivot took me completely by surprise. We are looking at three major life transitions before the year ends, all happening simultaneously. I should be reeling from the force of impact (and last week I was). Just today, I had my first GOOD cry about all the changes and the loss in stability that was in the works for us for the next several weeks and months.

But after my good cry, and about two hours of check-ins, texts and conversations with my village of sisters, I had an epiphany. Every time God elevates my family, it is preceded by the worst kind of warfare, destabilization or crisis. The elevation is never one we know was coming and we never realize what our heartbreaking time of wilderness ushered us into until we are actually walking in it. It happened before we became homeowners, it happened before every major pivot we have had as a family, and it happened again before my promotion and before I successfully published my book. It definitely happened before I took the leap to close my practice and follow God’s voice in the direction of my dreams (hello, panic attack. You guys remember that , right?). Every victory has been preceded by a battle we never anticipated fighting.

So I am sitting here, in the midst of one of the most life-altering experiences of my life, living in a peace I cannot really explain. I have no clue how the other side of this valley looks for my family. We are going to be living life moment by moment and day by day – unable to make long term plans for probably a few more weeks, maybe months. But I am deeply assured that God is orchestrating this time to bring me to a “promised land” I did not know was even available for me and my household. He did it three years ago when He brought us to our “Rehobeth” after seven transitions in one year. He is faithful to do more than I can ask, think or imagine in this situation as well.

In the meantime, I intend to pull on my history with God. The goal of this time is not just survival. It is to live gracefully. Full of grace, abounding in grace, rich in the grace of God. Because it is available for me. God’s grace is the ointment that soothes every smarting sting of loss. Grace is the oil that keeps the machine of my life operating at full capacity. So in this place of yet another “wilderness” experience, my goal is to see God with fresh eyes; rediscover just how deep, wide, tall and vast His wealth of grace towards me happens to be. God has proven Himself to be exactly who He said He was and is. And because of that, I am more than convinced that I can prosper in anything – even under fire.

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Still Finding Beauty in Christ: Life Updates 2020

Lately, I have been thinking about my therapist. I have not seen her in over 8 months but I would love a “tune up” just to check in. I thought about the work we did in our 7 months together and I know that much of the progress I have made in 2020 is due in large part to our time together in 2019 and beyond. I thought about the panic attacks that sent me running for her office for the first time in May of 2019. I still get a little nervous about those waves of overpowering emotion that makes it seem like I will never know peace again. I sometimes wonder if remembering them would trigger another such attack. But I wave away the worry and re-center my thoughts on the progress, and the incredible things God has done to meet me in my darkest hours.

I think about how excited and focused I was at the beginning of the year. Work was flourishing. I finished my book. I had big plans for the rest of the year 2020. My last project wrapped in April. The work promised for June and beyond has yet to materialize but I am here still. I have grown by leaps and bounds in my creative ability. I cherish the flash of inspiration and the continued discipline that motivates me to engage with my audience daily. But a part of me worries about the stall in my income. Again, I have to continue the work to silence the voice echoed by various sources doing their best to convince me that I am not a good (enough) woman (wife, mother, person) if there is no paycheck coming in my name. I have to repeatedly give myself permission to be in this in-between stage of willing to work but not yet working. I have to keep reminding myself that the primary opinion I should be weighing along with my own lives in this house with me. And based on our numerous check-ins, we are in a really sweet spot. Yet, the voices of self-doubt try to convince me that my value has dwindled since my main stream of income has dropped. The work continues to shut those invisible critics up for good.

Over the last few months, I have developed into my most creative version of me. Unapologetically so, too. I launched a podcast on a whim and I have passed the ten episode milestone. I began documenting my day to day looks in photos on Instagram. I created a growing community of like-minded women to have transparent conversations and chats with me online. And I am having an amazing time doing it all. I no longer give any credence to the voice that loves to tell me that I am “doing too much” for enjoying beautiful creations – myself included. While the world has been slowed down, shut down and “safer at home” – I have found new aspects of my creativity to love. It has been such an adventure.

Additionally, I am finally reconciling with the fact that being thrown into teaching my children while working from home full time and running a home as the primary caregiver gave me some form of PTSD. It was utterly demoralizing to witness how quickly life went off the rails for us as I attempted to do worthy work, parent, homeschool and give adequate care all at the same time. The thought of diving back into distance learning this year was completely terrifying. Amazingly enough (it’s only day two so stay tuned), it has been a pleasant surprise and not the nightmare I was dreading. I think I have finally learned the language of grace with myself when it comes to my parenting. I am not in competition with any other mother. I am not even in competition with myself. I am simply going to make the best of each day (or moment). Yesterday may be outstanding while today is a dumpster fire. Neither one takes anything away from what God has deposited in me for the benefit of my family.

I am really grateful for my growth as a minister of the gospel. Even admitting that I am a minister of the gospel is growth. Years ago, I would have shied away from that language because I would have called it presumptuous since I am not ordained. But I have grown. Thanks largely to my training as a leader in Wives in Waiting, I have learned to exist in my identity without questioning it, attempting to dissect it, or quantifying it. I am what the Word of God says I am. I am grateful for the opportunity to study to show myself approved, and rightly divide the word of truth – both for my private growth and for public ministry. The privilege to teach other women what God has taught me never gets old.

By all accounts, life is good. My husband and I are experiencing what I would consider a time of flourishing in our friendship and union. I am grateful. The lessons and challenges of our first years of marriage have given birth to a steady love I cannot stop marveling at (nod to India Arie).

If you are still reading (bless you), let me wrap it up for you here. This year has been anything but predictable for the entire globe, but I can honestly say that God has shown Himself faithful to me in the last eight months. I am safe. I am well-loved. I have grown. I am better equipped than any of my years before. In short, I am flourishing. I pray you can say the same for you and yours.

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Tension

I am living in a new kind of tension. For the first time in my life, I am closer to my dreams than ever before. When I was just dreaming of writing for a living, there was lots of time to make mistakes, to falter, to disappoint those that I love and find forgiveness. As I have found the courage and boldness to venture out with my gifts, there is a quiet fear brewing in my heart. What if I am still too flawed for this platform that I find myself growing?

Just the other day (thanks to the work I’ve done in therapy since May 2019), I recognized immediately when something that was said publicly triggered my feelings of inadequacy. I am healing, but I am still susceptible to some of my old wounds. The old whispers that I am not good enough to be loved, knowledgeable enough to teach others, or worthy enough to be on the forefront still try to silence my giftings as a teacher and a writer and a minister of the Gospel. My emotions still enter the dance when someone questions my relationship with God or my theological standing. I am learning to dissect who I am and what I do – I am not accepted by God because I teach Bible study or pray well in public. I am His and He is mine.

This new tension of living a private life of consecration while also obeying God when He asks me to step out on to deeper waters (by publishing a deeply personal book for example) has me re-examining myself every step of the way. The missteps that would have minimal fallout as one woman living a quiet life have a greater and wider impact now that I am leader and teacher in public ministry, encouraging and helping other women find their own deliverance (www.wivesinwaiting.com). I find myself oftentimes terrified of doing long-term harm. I do not want people to have a misunderstanding of Jesus Himself and the Gospel because of my own failure to handle either the scriptures or the people of God rightly.

My ability to “cancel” someone because I do not like their attitude, their behavior or their beliefs has been severely limited because when I want to turn my back on those who have turned their back on me, the thought “but you are a minister of the Gospel” convicts me immediately. What kind of minister am I if all it takes for me to no longer want any parts of someone’s humanity is a little offense? And why is my heart so inclined to be offended when God is literally calling me to a world that rejects Him daily? Who do I think I am to be offended when Jesus Himself was crucified for the ones He came to save?

This is a new kind of tension. Over the last seven years, the number of times I have thanked God privately and publicly for the luxury to make my mistakes in private is without number. A part of me feels like that season of being able to fail privately and it have no public repercussions is coming to a swift end. And I know already that I am going to miss it.

I thank God for the growth that has allowed me to get to this place of leading publicly. I pray for the grace to grow in private so that whatever I give publicly is coming from the overflow of my inner growth in Christ. I pray for myself (and every minister in public ministry) that I will never lose my fear of offending God by mishandling His people. I pray that I never see a public platform as something that belongs to me by virtue of merit. I pray that I always see the privilege in walking alongside women and sisters who are looking for freedom in Christ and seeking deeper fulfilment in their relationship with our heavenly Father. I pray that this never becomes common to me. I pray for the grace to carry this season well.

The tension for me is in my realization that my season of being behind the scenes may be coming to an end and although I am overjoyed at the opportunity to serve more women than ever before, I will definitely miss the luxury of living a life that did not affect anyone beyond the four walls of my home. I trust that the Jesus I have walked with since September 2009 has pruned me to bear much fruit and He has made me a planting of the Lord that others can eat from. I have no choice but to depend on Him for what comes next.

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Your Skin Is Not A Crime

I lived the first ten years of my life where blackness was the norm. To be black was to be in the majority. Every millionaire, government official, and CEO I knew was black. Every last person in my world who was doing something worthwhile was black. Blackness was the norm. I knew my skin was a deep shade of brown and it deepened in the sun, but it did not feel like a crime to be black. It never occurred to me that I could not be anything my mind dreamt up because of the color of my skin.

The first time I realized my skin was a problem (for others, not me) was when a classmate who was also black told me I was not black like the others in our class – no, I was purple. After that, I was an “African booty scratcher” (whatever that meant or means). Then I was the girl who would “do voodoo on you” if you got too close. My introduction into the American system of education and daily life reminded me constantly that I did not belong here. My hair was wrong. My skin was wrong. My clothes were wrong. My name was convoluted, and on and on the list of transgressions grew. From the age of ten till seventeen, when I went off to college, I was grappling with what it meant to be black in America.

I have had to keep my race in mind pretty much since the day I arrived on US soil and realized everyone around me was not black. I am overly reverential to police officers and law enforcement in all our interactions (while I’m driving, in my community or in my home) to make sure they see that I am not a threat. I still get a lump in my throat when a police car pulls up behind me but I hope with each interaction that my law degree and education (and the expertise they’ve afforded me on how to navigate the world) provides enough shield to get me home safely to my family.

I miss the freedom of being a Lagos girl who did not have to think about her skin and anticipate what people would be thinking of her when she steps into rooms at school, at work, in court, behind the wheel, or on public platforms. I breathe differently in Nigeria because despite the deep-seethed issues of colonialism in Nigeria, I never felt like I had a target on my back because of my skin color.

So, to my skin-folk (black people all over the diaspora), our skin is not a crime. Being black is not synonymous with being suspicious or being “criminal,” no matter what the neighbors on your NextDoor app happen to think (“suspicious activity – 3 African American teens seen walking in the neighborhood”). Your skin is not something people need to “look past” or be “colorblind” to. God created us in His image so our melanin is purposeful and worth celebrating. Celebrating our culture is not synonymous with “playing the race card” or “making everything about race.” We have a godly heritage in the Lord and He rejoices in our full expression, our joy, our creativity as a people – even in the midst of a world who would rather we just ‘shut up’ about being black because all lives matter.

Your skin is not a crime and your blackness is not a sin. God delights in us. We bear His image and we display His glory.

Embracing your God-given dignity and worth in a world that is hell-bent on “keeping you in your place” is a revolutionary act. With all godliness and grace I bid you to “fight the power.”

Yours in Christ,

Omowunmi

Uncategorized

You Can Outgrow Them…It Is Not A Sin

When it comes to people, I am a pack rat. I want everyone to come. Every season of my life, I make room for anyone connected to me to come along for the journey. It took becoming an adult and facing a heartbreak in friendship to realize that every season of my life is not for everyone I happen to know.

For five years after the heartbreak, I was processing the loss of a friendship that had spanned six years of deep sisterhood and decades of acquaintance. As soon as I thought I was over it, I would run into the former friend and my heart would break all over again. Every milestone in either of our lives felt like something was missing because I could not celebrate it as I would if we were still the sisters we once were. I blamed myself for five years, wondering how I could have been stupid enough to jeopardize such a sacred connection. I fought back resentment in my heart because it seemed I was the only one mourning the loss of our connection.

Losing that one friend (and the friends connected to her who chose sides) gave me a burden for sisterhood done right. I cried, prayed and lamented for God to send me sisters who would see me, accept me, love me, correct me and hold me up, spiritually. And let me tell you what, God outdid Himself in the answer to my prayers. As I encountered and grew in relationship with new friends, the Holy Spirit would open my eyes to which part of one another’s purpose we were meant to support. I had friends who sharpened me or whom I would sharpen. I had friends who challenged me and friends who needed my perspective to open up their own once-limited worldview. I had friends whose convictions mirrored mine and friends whose preferences were worlds away from mine. But somehow, I had exactly what I needed in each sister that came into my life.

Over the last four years of writing my latest book, I went through a transformation that changed me physically, emotionally, spiritually and even financially. When I hosted the first live book-reading event in honor of this latest work, there was a moment of reverential awe and dawning for me. In the room were twenty-five women who had supported, encouraged, witnessed or directly impacted the transformation that gave birth to my book. These women loved me deeply, supported me unconditionally and had traveled across hundreds of miles from varying states to be present at my moment of celebration. God blessed me beyond anything I could have asked, think or imagined when it came to sisterhood.

The women in my life are perfectly suited to God’s purpose and plans for me as a daughter who speaks truth to power, an unapologetic encourager of others and a transparent story-teller. My previous friendships fell apart because I had written transparently from a desire to share my own journey to encourage others. My words were the sword that severed a cherished sisterhood. But eight years later, my words and my book were the cord that God was using to bind me together in love and covenant friendship with women who “got” me. The same storytelling and truth-speaking that killed one sisterhood gave birth to dozens of others that God has used to heal and grow me over the last eight years.

I had been so anxious to keep friends that I completely missed the fact that the connections I cherished were not necessarily compatible with the growth I desired. Had I insisted on keeping the friendships that have now faded, I would be constantly stuffing down my desire to speak (and write) the truth about my life and journey with God. My desire to not offend and to be accepted by friends whose outlook on life differed so fundamentally from mine would not have allowed me the freedom to do what I do today. In all honesty, if I had the same friends I did eight years ago, my journey would look every different than it does right now.

One of the reigning themes in my journey with the Lord is the continuing deliverance He is working in my life to rid me of the fear of man. A part of me honestly believes that without God severing the ties from my past friendships, I will be living with just a teeny-tiny bit of idolatry in regards to those friends. A part of me knew without asking that my friendship with these previous sisters was very much conditional on my good behavior. So, I did my best to not disappoint them. I guess deep down, I knew that if I did something that was deemed wrong enough, I was the disposable portion of our friendship. So, I always did my best not to ruffle any feathers. Now, imagine trying to obey God unapologetically while being genuinely afraid of offending others? At some point, obedience to God and the offense of man will butt heads, and one will have to bow.

“We ought to obey God rather than men.”

Acts 5: 29 NKJV

I struggled for years with the thought that perhaps I had sinned in some way by letting these friendships go. They died a violent death that felt very much like my fault but no matter how much I apologized and what olive branches I extended, we just could not seem to find our way back to what we had prior. It took me years to make peace with the fact that these connections came to a necessary end; and an even longer period of time before I could stop blaming myself for the connections that did not survive this new season of my life. The friends who saw me through singleness seemed like they should also be there to witness my life as a wife and mother. I am just now making peace with the truth that every season of my life is not for every person in my life to access.

I am deeply grateful to God for the friendships that have spanned twenty years, fifteen years, ten years and even those that are only months old but have grown deep and godly roots and bear fruit that pleases God. Every person that has invested in me in this season of my life is a gift from God. But I am learning to be okay with the fact that some friendships that fed me in past seasons may not be appropriate for this one. It is not a sin to allow seasons to end or change. I am learning to honor what fed me in the last season without cursing it for being unavailable in next season. God will always provide.

If you are in a difficult season with any friend, I encourage you to seek peace with all men. Reconciliation is the heart of our Father. But, if God has shown you that a season of friendship is transitioning or coming to an end, embrace the change – painful as it may be. If it is God’s will for your season with certain connections to be over, He will not leave you empty. He will make provision for you to have life-giving, godly and abiding friendships to go with you in this new season. Outgrowing friends is not a sin. It happens. Lean into what God is doing. Keep your heart free of resentment or anger. Seek peace whenever possible. Pray for your friends, both former and current. And keep your heart tender towards the instructions of God. He is too good to fail.