don’t cling

Sometimes when God answers your prayers, it’s just an opportunity to show you that what you asked for isn’t what you actually need. I believe He sends certain things my way so that I can use my discernment to prove to myself that I’ve outgrown the cycle, and to learn how to not fall back into my old ways.

I recently broke up with a person who I thought was the answer to my prayers for a real, healthy relationship. Since I met him after praying to God that I would not “fumble a real one” if He sent him my way, the timing seemed perfect. He is kind, fun to be around, financially stable, intelligent, and all of the other things I so desperately wanted in a man. The only thing is, in order to be with him, I would have had to compromise on my devotion to seeking healthy interdependence. Since I didn’t experience any heartbreak or poor treatment, I was pretty confused when things came, amicably, to an end. As always, I thought of any mistakes I might have made and how I could do better in the future. Finally, I realized that it was never about what either party was doing wrong or how we were hurting each other or missing red flags, it was just simply a test of how far would I be willing to go to keep my promise to God and myself. Like, hey, here’s your “perfect” guy but in order to be with him you’ll have to backslide into making a project out of his issues, being his therapist, making excuses for his quirks because you “understand him so well”, and becoming too engrossed in merging lives with him. Obviously, I refused.

I also became more aware of my own codependent habits, and worked to nip those in the bud so that I can be a more balanced and healthy partner when the right person does come along. I started going to therapy, working to be more open about my past and emotions, and more attuned to meeting the needs (within reason) of my partner. I’ve never been in a serious relationship before this one, so learning to honor the love languages of another person with more genuine interest and compromise was a new experience for me. I’m used to just doing things by myself, on my own time, and how I want them to be done. I’m used to men only dating me for sex or to eventually devalue and discard me when they were tired of the rush of a new “love” interest or realized that they didn’t actually like me for me but rather, what I could do for them. Learning to go deeper into the emotional and mental areas of what makes a real relationship has been an invaluable lesson. Starting therapy has been super helpful as well! I’m finally able to process trauma I didn’t even realize was still affecting me, with guidance to help me achieve real self-actualization and peace. I’m working on, and more aware of how my survival instincts and trauma-ignited insecurities don’t have to be a part of my new reality of security, independence and contentment. I’m finally learning how to be Denise. The Denise that God intended, before the world, family, school, and trauma started smothering my real identity, by telling me I was wrong and by forcing me into the role of taking care of others before myself, when it should never have been an issue for me to face as a child anyway. In the past, whenever I’ve become aware of things like this, I tried to rebuke them entirely from my identity, which is counterproductive. You can’t hate parts of yourself and expect to ever feel content or whole. Therapy has helped me see the strength in what I’ve experienced and how I’ve survived so that I can keep using it to my advantage, while actually becoming who I’m supposed to be. 

What’s even better is that, since I’m not the same angry, traumatized person, my ex and I are on great terms. The love that I feel for him and vice versa has not wavered or dissipated. The love I feel for him is not the controlling, idealistic nonsense that I equated with love when I was younger and just desperate for someone to fill my voids or validate me.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1 NIV

 When we can learn from God without clinging to our expectations, or what we want versus what we need and what He wants for us, lessons can be learned from a place of self-love instead of bitterness! Good things can be experienced without eventually souring in our hearts, as hard-headed behaviors often lead us to becoming so shredded and hurt by the thing we should have let go of that we must pick ourselves up from rock bottom. Walking in faith, without clinging, also gives God plenty of room to do His thing in your life! His plans are always for our highest good and in our best interest, even if they don’t feel that way in the moment or seem to go against what we want. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather let go of the small-thinking things that I want or think I need, in exchange for the amazing blessings God has in store for me!

Today, think about the things in your life that you cling to or want more than anything. Whether it’s a job, relationship, opportunity, etc. Ask yourself if you’re focusing so deeply on it out of desperation or a personal obsession, or if it’s actually part of God’s plan for you. Not sure how you can tell the difference? If what you’re into is taking everything out of you just to maintain or achieve it, it’s probably a you idea, and not a God idea. If it doesn’t bring you peace, feels forced, or something feels a little off, you should probably back off and double check that you’re headed in the right direction! I know it’s really hard to just let go and let God when you really love someone or you really have a goal in mind, but you owe it to yourself to receive the full amount of His inheritance for you, and to reduce the amount of suffering you have to go through in order to receive it. It’s cliche, but literally. Just let go and let God.

Daily Devotional: Walk by Faith

For we live by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

I know it’s been a while since my last devotional, but it’s been a rough time lately, y’all!

 Yesterday was my late mother’s birthday, which usually unearths a very emotional, introspective mood, but this one was particularly difficult. I’m at a crossroads between staying where I am, or walking with God through the fire to who He’s called me to be. I feel trapped. I feel like a failure. In my mind, it’s I answered His call, but now I’m not good enough. Or, He showed me where to go before, and now it’s radio silent and dark, so now what? I’d heard it would get hard in various sermons all year, and thought nah, I’m good! My leap of faith was hard, but a breeze! I realize now, that was just God throwing me a baby leap. He’d already showed me where to jump, when to jump, and how to jump. This right here? I don’t have a blueprint. I’m fumbling blindly through the dark, waiting for Him to turn the light on. For a second, I was feeling deserted. I felt tricked by God, or maybe that I’d only made up every revelation I’d received, and that my big leap was just a mistake. But it’s not that way at all. There has been too much confirmation and blessings where I am for me to ever think this wasn’t the right move. 

The real truth is, there comes a time in your spiritual journey that the Lord isn’t going to hold your hand for every leap. I know now that I really have to develop an unshakeable faith, let go of my selfish ambition, and truly sit still and continue working/living where God has called me so that His will can be done in my life. It’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable. I feel depressed. I’ve been moodier than I’ve ever felt in my life. My prayers now are just begging for Him to show me what I need to do next so I get some relief.  

But the message I receive every time, and that I want to share with you, is to have faith and stay present. Every time I cry to Him, the Lord just keeps telling me not to worry about money, about my next job, my next achievement in writing, where my relationship is going, where I’ll live next, who I’ll become. It’s all in His hands, and I have to believe that without a doubt. I know It would be a fatal error if I pushed my will right now, because everything that I want pales in comparison to what He has waiting for me. 

I know this is a more self-centered, and maybe not the most sunny devotional but I just want to keep it real with all of you. The road that we embark on once we answer the Lord’s call is not sunshine and daisies all the time. Of course, there are small victories along the way that remind you of the true glory of God and the fact that you are an incredible gift to the world, but I see now that some of this walk is done in the dark. I completely underestimated it. I can’t even say this is an attack from the enemy to knock me off course–this is truly my own insecurities, uncertainties and weak faith bubbling up to the surface to finally be destroyed. 

Today, if you’ve been feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place, I just want to remind you that we must walk by faith. When it comes to God’s promises, we have to focus on what we hear from Him, and positively reaffirming our strengths, His unfaltering love, and our worth to ourselves. If I focused only on what I can see, I would never be able to follow Him completely. I’m up to my ears in student loans, I make only about a third of what I owe a year, I want to quit my job and be a full-time writer and I’m nowhere near that level of security, I have no family, I don’t want to live in St. Louis, I have no savings, etc, etc. If I only focus on what I can see, which is the glass ceiling between just getting by and true wealth and happiness, I lose hope. If I keep my focus on the amazing marriage, stability, wealth and legacy that God has promised me, I can keep going. 

Please keep going. Where you are right now is not the best God has for you, even if it feels that it’s all you’ll ever have. You have to destroy the flesh even further; break the habit of trying to do things in your own strength. You have to truly submit to His will so that you can succeed and give Him the Glory. I promise you He will carry you out of the darkness, no matter what your plight is, what mistakes you’ve made in the past, how scared you are or how depressed you feel. His will, will be done as long as you keep going. Just keep going. I know you can do it.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

Daily Devotion: Motivation/Cutthroat

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and the gospel will save it.”

Mark 8:34-35

We have to be cutthroat about achieving the calling on our lives. Jesus expects real discipleship, in the trenches, striving for it. A disciple is a student, and the Gospel is a textbook for how to live a meaningful life that blesses generations to come, as Jesus did. By going hard for Him, we go hard for ourselves and for the world. What are you doing to make his sacrifice worth it? Are you still making excuses? Holding onto those relationships and jobs that don’t serve you? Sure, it sucks to cut off that person who’s holding you back or to leave a job and the familiar, but as soon as you finally let go, He’s going to replace them with exactly the person, network or position you need to grow exponentially. Get out of your own way!

To reach your highest potential for the Kingdom then you can’t keep allowing things to hold you back or keep looking back on your life before you knew your purpose. Stop going back and forth between your past life and the future the Holy Spirit has already revealed to you.

Declare today that this is the last time you look back, second guess or tolerate distractions in your life. Today is the day you look toward the future while working in the present. Today is the day you leap on faith, knowing and accepting and even excitedly anticipating the painful crucifixion of your old self that must occur. Get excited about the death of your old self. Your resurrection in power, a conqueror of all things through Christ that strengthens you is an outcome worthy of even the most extreme, violent, and tumultuous of ego-deaths.

kill fear. kill doubt. kill procrastination. kill distractions. burn it all down even if it means yourself too, then rise from the ashes. 

Meditation: Consider the things in your life that are getting in the way of your calling. Is it a job that you dread? A toxic relationship? Maybe a friend that doesn’t share the same ambition? Decide on ways that you can reduce these negative influences in your life, and commit to removing at least one this week.

Daily Devotion: Motivation/Be About It!

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23

About six months ago, I deleted my Twitter and Instagram. God had revealed to me the work that I was destined to do, and yet, I was too busy seeking validation online to actually commit myself. I found that the pressure to post consistently and watching other creatives seemingly do amazing things every day really demoralizing. I realized that our generational habit of seeking validation online or pushing out mediocre product just to stay relevant hinders how much worthwhile work gets done to achieve a goal.

Many people add photographer, musician, entrepreneur to their bio but haven’t actually touched a camera, hit the studio, or sold a product in weeks. The worst part is that for a lot of us, the validation of being perceived as an artist or entrepreneur is enough, since actually going hard and relentlessly stretching to reach our highest potential is way too challenging and scary.

Success only comes from unwavering, self-reliant passion and physical action. For example, being a professional photographer means buying the camera, booking the shoots, taking photos with the fervor of an addict, maintaining (with great discipline) your website, etc. So what if you’ve taken a few cool photos on your iPhone and have a few thousand followers on Instagram? There’s a million others who have done the same. You’re not making a difference or doing anything that will leave a legacy, bless others, or serve a purpose after they scroll past your post.

If the goals you’ve set for yourself and the things you create would become worthless to others or feel pointless to you without someone around to praise you or collaborate with you, it’s time to re-think what you’re really passionate about and commit yourself to embodying the person you want to become, everyday. Don’t just talk about it, Be About It!

Meditation: Take a moment to truly examine your motivation for the work that you do or the content that you create. Do you create solely to make money or be famous one day? Is there a specific difference you feel chosen to make in the world? Would you still be sure of your identity or talent if no one was around to confirm it? Be honest with yourself. It’s never too late to rebrand yourself as your true self. Write down three ways you can Be About It this week!

don’t settle

Intuition hits at all times. We just choose to ignore it! I knew the situation in the spiritual realm before it was revealed to me in the physical, and this time I chose to listen and position myself accordingly. Things are not always what they seem, only because we refuse to see it. We only want to see what we want to see, skewing reality, distorting, bending it until it breaks, then we have the audacity to get upset!

Save yourself for the real relationship that you crave and deserve. Heed the signs, keep your eyes on Jesus, and don’t settle for anything that is a shred or even a speck less than exactly what you desire and what God has planned for you.

Don’t settle for secrets, illusions, uncertainty.

Don’t settle for laughably awkward attempts at getting close to you, or being for you.

Don’t settle for an incomplete prophecy.

Don’t settle for mediocrity and co-dependence.

Don’t settle for confusion, wishful thinking, or day dreams.

Don’t settle for anything.