From Gold To Goal Digging

This is an honest confession.

So for those of you who do not know, I have mentioned a few times on my blog that I have only been saved for a few years; 6 to be exact. I had a very different life before giving my life to Christ. In fact, you probably wouldn’t believe it if I told you all about it but it all gives glory to the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.

God is still processing me through some of those old thought patterns but one of the patterns that has changed for me is the desire to be loved by someone with value or wealth. Back then, value equated to wealth and because I didn’t have much money, I didn’t believe I had any value. I believed I’d find it in a boyfriend and that I would then be valuable by association. Which only depicts my past struggle with self-image and worth.

I remember prior to surrendering my life to Christ, I had a conversation with a wealthy agnostic man who was almost twice my age who I adored very much. We argued about whether Jesus was real or not. At the time, I was still a skeptic but something just didn’t feel right. I felt the need to defend Jesus. After that night I knew, that I probably wouldn’t talk to this person again. I knew something unfamiliar was happening because I had never felt the need to defend Jesus the way I did before.

However, even after giving my life to Christ, I was still obsessed with this man and I didn’t know why. I enjoyed having religious debates with him because it challenged me to exercise my deep thinking muscles which I loved. But I also admired his success, his wealth; the luxury apartment and the cars. I fantasized about the wonderful life I can have and what people would think of me if I was associated with him. As my walk with Christ grew stronger and with time, that admiration faded. I became more obsessed with the person of Jesus.

Yet I still made mistakes. I remember clear as day when I finally surrendered the gold-digging attitude and started focusing on my own value. It was the day I broke up with another person that I admired. He was someone who didn’t have a lot of money at the moment but was very well on track to it. He was a computer science masters grad who attended Columbia University and worked there. He already had a blueprint of what his future looked like. On paper, things were great. He was getting offers for six figure jobs. I was inspired. He was also one of the people who encouraged me to pursue my passion for STEM. However, he was also would often laugh at my passion for Jesus.

Once that relationship ended, I wrestled through the pain of a bleak future that I didn’t envision. However, I became tired. I was tired of depending on others to paint a future for me. More importantly, I was tired of trusting people who I was not equally-yoked with. I really wanted to find myself, know my value and work on my own future. I wanted to become the person that I would be attracted to. Yes, in the midst of that journey, I continued to make mistakes. I became very materialistic. Financed my 4th car (brand new) and shopped at Goodwill twice a week for clothing (thinking I was saving money but frequented the stores too often) that made me look successful. In addition, I studied. Got enrolled in technical schools, built things, presented at Google NYC, graduated, got involved with executive leadership, got hired as a Data Analyst, got hired at an investment bank as an engineer. I became obsessed with success and having value. But it only left me longing for more to fill a void that I didn’t realize existed.

I have learned that no matter how much money I make or how attractive I am, none of those things matter because the only value that I have comes from the Lord. Once we are justified by our faith in Christ Jesus, we have become sons and daughters of the King. That’s royalty! Only He can fill every void in my heart. Therefore, I no longer desire to have value according to what the world thinks is valuable. Of course I want to be financially free but I have a deeper understanding that even if I am not, I will always have joy and I am still worth it because He says I am.

The Inexpressible Joy of The Lord

We waited in excitement for the next number to appear in the roulette draw at The New Jewish Home Casino Night.  This wasn’t an unfamiliar game for the seniors at the nursing home. They’ve had assigned positions for their wheelchairs at the roulette table and there were more seniors actively engaging in this activity than in Black Jack combined. They were all aware of the the monetary reward at the end and we were there to cheer them on with phrases like “Big Money!” and “You got this!” Their chips would be counted at the end of the game and they will be given 25 cents per chip. I can recall the joy on Sabrina’s face when her number was called. She looked up at me with a smile and said “I won!” My heart melted. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a deep compassion for the elderly and disabled population. So when my boyfriend and I saw there were spots left at this New York Cares volunteer event, we decided to make it our first volunteer event together (hence we attend separate churches). We were seeking to serve together not just in our respective churches but for external volunteer organizations.

I wasn’t prepared for how much of an impact an hour and a half with these beautiful people would have on me. I felt more blessed by their presence than I expected. But what I really wasn’t prepared for was to be so moved by one simple statement from a woman named Joyce. At the table, I noticed this woman named Joyce and I was startled by how much she reminded me of my mother. She seemed to be older than my mother but it seemed as if she had a paralysis similar to my mother’s that was probably a result of a stroke. She had the same complexion as my mother and a towel was draped around her neck. I could tell she has been very dependent on others for her care and I immediately felt so much compassion for her.

I remember rooting for Joyce in my head, hoping that she would win. I became anxious as the game continued and she didn’t win a single chip. Suddenly, her number is called and she finally wins! I felt joy leap from my bones. I was so happy for her however, I felt myself feeling unsatisfied with the reward. 25 cents. That’s it?! I wanted to give her more but I remember we were informed that we are not allowed to give them any money. At the end of the game we pushed all of the seniors to the elevators and dropped them off at their floors. I remember pushing Joyce. She was quiet at first. I was feeling very abnormally extroverted so I tried my best to strike up a conversation. So I asked her if she enjoyed the game and she said in her Jamaican accent “I didn’t win nothing but a quarter…” My heart ached with sadness. She continued “But I know my Lord provides…”I was immediately in awe. Not only did I pray to meet other believers at this event but I prayed that God’s Holy Spirit would move and He did. That one statement moved me in such away that not only gave me hope but profoundly humbled me. My eyes welled with tears. Yes, I’m very sensitive.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,

As I responded with a joyous “Amen” and pushed Joyce to her floor and we told each other “God bless you,” I pondered on that statement. I walked back thinking, who am I that the Lord would bless me in this way? How can I have the same hope that Joyce has? This woman is living a life much different from mine and still she feels no lack. Embarrassingly, I am now middle-class, living in my own apartment in one of the most expensively gentrified neighborhoods in New York City, and yet I still sometimes struggle with feelings of lack. At this point, I wanted to give Joyce all of my money. All my life I strived to have financial freedom because maybe that’ll bring me joy even after experiencing the joy of the Lord in my salvation. I learned quickly that money doesn’t bring me happiness, so I’ve strived to use it to make others happy instead. That’s what ultimately gives me joy. However, I knew Joyce already had joy. An inexpressible joy in her heart that nothing in this world can afford or compare to and that’s the love of Jesus Christ.

I learned so much from Joyce that night. That despite your circumstance, or how the world may value you, our value comes from the Lord, our joy is found in Him and in Him there is no lack. The Lord is faithful and He will provide. God reveals His glory in countless ways, as numerous as the stars and I believe that I learned a valuable lesson that was very refreshing for me in my walk with Christ. Praise God!

My brother and sister I hope you are encouraged. God bless you!

 

Jesus Loves You

I remember lying in my bed when I was younger and simply saying “at least Jesus loves me” and feeling a peace come over me. I didn’t understand it then because I wasn’t a believer. In fact, I wasn’t raised in a Christian home. This is my testimony of how God chose me before I even knew Him. Once I experienced this peace, I began using it more often. When I couldn’t sleep at night because I thought there were monsters under my bed, I would say it and be able to fall asleep. I even shared it with my sister and she experienced the power too but over time life happened and I forgot about this. My life became filled with sin and pain and in the midst, I began to doubt if there was a God.

I often wonder what inspired me to say “at least Jesus loves me” not knowing much about Him and only occasionally attending church. I wonder if I felt unloved in those moments and I needed something greater to wash away that emptiness. Even in my walk with Christ, I sometimes feel this way. In this season in my life, I know that Jesus loves me and He’s shown it in so many ways. Yet I forget and like when I was young allow the cares of the world to come in and overshadow that love.

Yet, I know Jesus’ pursuit of me and His determination to break our cycles. Today is the 4 year anniversary of my father’s death. He passed away a few days before my birthday. We do not know the actual day of his passing but we know the day that he was found in his home – August 12th, 2015. Since then, I’ve experienced cycles of grief. Most times I’m not aware of it but I notice the changes in my emotions when the month of August is approaching and I am preparing for my birthday. I tend to feel very alone as if I have no family or friends or people who love me or understand the pain I am experiencing. I try so hard to move past it, walk in my healing and be empowered. It works sometimes but other times I feel as if I’m just burying it and I get triggered by innocent conversations about family. I feel very convicted about my triggers because not only am I not alone, I have a community of family and friends who love me. Yes, I may not have a united family who are all believers in Christ but I have family and that’s all that matters.

I think the most difficult part of losing a parent is replacing that emptiness with the love of the Father. Sometimes I long to be hugged by or just talk to my parents and do life with them and I can’t. Praise God, my mom can listen to me but my inability to understand her response bothers me. However, I became cognizant of the many ways God wants to bring glory to Himself through trials such as these. He wants us to have a deeper understanding of His love, and to totally lean on His strength. He wants others to see that although we may not have earthly parents, He is a Father to the orphan and He still has a good plan for our lives. He has chosen us and made us radiant and our strength is just a reflection of His. Being able to talk to my mom but not always understand her response (due to stroke) has taught me that although I can not see God and may not always understand His response, He still listens to me. And unlike my earthly parents or anyone else in my life, He will never leave me.

God bless you! I hope this encouraged you, love you!

What Are We Longing For?

As I write this I reflect on the many paths I’ve taken in my life as well as the many oaths and commitments I’ve made. My career trajectory has changed a few times in my twenties, in efforts to find the most suitable and successful career for me. Yes, I’ve chased success, even after I became a Christian. There’s just something about success that I enjoy. The thrill of being promoted, highlighted, awarded, getting a title change, a higher salary, as well as new and exciting responsibilities, skills or challenges.

But the older I get the more I reflect on what success really means to me and what I am really longing for. My success not only encompassed my academic or professional work. Success also meant buying a car (I had 4), having my own apartment ( I have a studio in Williamsburg now) or having the boyfriend that fits the standard (I’ve had a few of those too). One thing, I’ve noticed even with having these things, the money, the status, the beauty is that I found myself still longing for more.

In John 7:37, Jesus says “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” Jesus makes us aware of just how much we need Him every day; that we’ll always be thirsty and empty if we do not seek Him. I realized how difficult it is to apply the basics of God’s Word every day. Especially in a world that distracts you with social media’s highlight reel. When you see your friends getting Ph.D.’s from elite schools, buying houses and getting married, traveling or even just spending time with their family. That stuff starts to get to you, whether you’re a believer or not. That’s why it’s so important to put on the full armor of God daily. No weapon formed against you shall prosper, my friend!

I felt encouraged today when I thought about just how wonderful my life is right now but just how empty I still feel at times. I noticed this feeling comes when I’m not consistently meditating on God’s Word and promises. Essentially, I miss my father and I wish I could talk to my mother. I long for a father’s embrace. I long to be loved and feel loved and I realize that feeling loved can be so difficult even when others around you are extending it to you. Especially when you were never told by your father that he loved you or thought you were beautiful.

We live in a broken world and practicing divorce can really damage your psyche. I realized that we don’t only practice divorce when we leave a romantic relationship, we practice it when we leave a job that was invested in us or when we walk away from relatives that loved us or those relatives pass away. It’s interesting how the only circumstances where divorce is acceptable are when adultery is committed or your spouse dies. These are very painful experiences to endure and we carry this pain with us throughout our lives.

However, Jesus warns us in John 16:33 “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Knowing that He understands us and that He has overcome these troubles is so encouraging. Jesus is not only savior, But He is also Father incarnate, He is restorer, redeemer, friend, healer, sanctifier, lover of our souls and so much more. Praise God! He wants us to know just how much our Father in heaven loves us and that there is no one or any material thing that can bring us love the way He can.

So even though, there are times I feel unloved at my current job (because love manifests itself in various ways) I trust God’s Will and I trust His love that is demonstrated through His Word and I encourage you to do the same. Don’t be dismayed by everything you see or hear, it isn’t what you think. The enemy uses those devices to discourage us. Beautiful people may get a lot of attention but they don’t have it all together and they don’t stay that way. And not all Christians are living perfect and holy lives, many of us struggle with the basics every day. We’re all just thirsty without the everlasting well that flows from Jesus. The beauty of it all is knowing that we don’t have to be perfect because His grace covers all. Going back to my old job where I felt loved and thought I had the best manager in the world who cared about my growth doesn’t mean I won’t thirst again. Trust that God has you in the right place at the right time. Trust me, I’m still working on how to fathom this myself so we’re in this together.

Love you and God bless!

Unbelief

Psalm 86:11  (ESV)

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.

Some of you know, that I only have one ovary. I lost my right ovary on my 21st birthday. I was forced to have emergency surgery after my ovary suffered necrosis due to the weight of an over-sized cyst which caused the torsion of my Fallopian tube. So I had to undergo, a procedure called a laparoscopic unilateral oophorectomy (never forgot the name of it).  This procedure removes the left or right ovary through small incisions in the belly button and stomach (still got the scars). At that age, I wasn’t aware of the magnitude of the emotional roller coaster ride I would be on for the next 8 years. I was young and living for the moment. I thought I had my life ahead of me and although I felt a bit concerned at the time, I wasn’t really thinking about legacy or children. In fact, I wasn’t even a Christian yet. However, in retrospect, I see how God’s hand was on my life.

This is a very sensitive topic for me that gets more sensitive as I get older. The older I get, the more I fear I’ll have complications with pregnancy. The fear mostly stems from me feeling as if my eggs are getting old and that I may run out because I only have one ovary. So it’s usually coupled with anxiousness although there is no proof that I most certainly will have this issue. I feel so exposed talking about this but I’m hoping I can encourage someone struggling with the same thoughts to not believe the deception.
Amazingly, I’ve experienced the peace of God amidst all of the troubling fears. He’s even revealed something about His character and His favor in my life. But strikingly, He’s exposed the contents of my heart and exposed my desires and helped me see a clear reflection of myself and the ugly parts. In fact, the fear hit me again this morning and I felt forced to step outside of my office and pray. I’ll get back to what triggered it in a moment, it’s important too but the most profound aspect of my experience with this is that He led me back to the first sin. How can I profess that I truly trust God and still struggle with this fear?
He reminded me of why the first sin was committed. It was committed because of unbelief in God’s Word. God warned Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:17 not to eat from the tree of good and evil, that the day they eat from it, they will surely die. However, because of the lack of trust in God, they allowed a created being to deceive them by asking them, did God really say that you will surely die? God gave me a promise a long time ago and I have seen some of it already come to pass. My experience with worry about my future is a lack of trust in that promise, it was unbelief in what He already told me. Hence, I allowed myself to watch a YouTube video that fed into those negative beliefs and allowed my mind to reason with what science or biology says disregarding who God is and what He said. He is the creator of all things, not a created being. He is Spirit, not a man-made field of study like science. He can do miracles, men can’t. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways. Most importantly, His Word is unfailing. There are many things that we will never understand but God will because He created all things. Nothing is impossible for God.
If we truly know that God’s Word is unfailing, then why do we not trust in Him with all of our heart? We know that worry and fear are a result of the lack of trust in God and lack of focus on God and His kingdom: Matthew 6:25-34. Fear is a sin because it is rooted in unbelief. The scriptures emphasize the importance of having faith in God and believing in His Word. It’s the only way to obtain favor from the Lord. Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Also, where there is fear, there is no love because fear is not a character trait of God, love is. 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
God sent Jesus to redeem us from our sins to restore a broken relationship between us and Himself and the only way this can be done is if we have faith in Him. Without faith, there is no restoration, no relationship, no hope. The scriptures teach us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10. Therefore, in order to know Him, we must fear Him first. Not anyone or anything else.
Want to know how to have favor from the Lord? Have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and pursue God with reckless abandonment. Jesus commands us to in Luke 10:27 “And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
If you are worried about something today, I encourage you to seek God. Draw near to Him and ask to be sensitive to His voice. Put your trust in Him. Remember His promises because His Word is unfailing. There’s safety in His presence.
God Bless!

God’s Provision

It’s incredible how much God cares about the smallest needs in our lives. Many of us may forget to include such needs in our prayers because we may not deem it as valuable enough to get God’s attention. What I’m learning is that He truly knows all of our needs before we ask and most times He’ll give us what we need in His perfect timing even if we never intend on asking for them. Most importantly, if we ask for help with a sincere heart and faith, He will answer our prayers according to His will.

I moved into my new place just a few weeks ago. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I had to move in two weeks and I was not financially prepared for such a major expense at the time. I was also nervous about living on my own for the first time and taking on such a large responsibility. However, I knew it was God’s will for me to have the apartment.

How did I know? I received a call that my application (submitted 2 years ago) was selected in the affordable housing lottery via housing connect and that because my log number was so low (#20), they wanted to give me a chance. The odds are very slim for applicants to get selected and be approved by HPD. I know this because I have been selected twice in the past and didn’t make it past the interview. I was also informed that the process normally takes 6-8 weeks but because they needed to fill the building by the end of February, the process would be much shorter. It is an incredible blessing to have affordable, stabilized rent in New York City. Especially in my location.

Not only were the events leading up to the move a clear indication of God’s will but the events that took place after I moved in. So I mentioned I was not financially-prepared. So I was notified that I will be receiving a bonus and a raise at work the same day I sign my lease. Patience was very important in this process. Although I wanted to sign earlier, I decided to wait and then I received great news about extra income. However, things didn’t turn out as planned. Turns out the bonus wouldn’t go into effect until a few weeks later. So I gathered all I could from my savings and paycheck to afford the lease signing and the move and realized I still didn’t have enough. But I trusted that it was God’s will. So I discussed with my friends how terrible my day was going because I didn’t know how I was going to pay rent and security deposit in 2 hours and both friends offered to help me out. I thank God for good friends! Lord knows I hate asking people for help but they were able to offer help.

However, I spent everything on my move. SO I was extremely worried about food and whether I’d have enough to last a week and a few days. I distinctly remember praying in the shower after I spent my last bit of money on food. It was a very sincere and honest prayer about how hungry I was starting to feel and how I didn’t want to ask anyone for anything but that I trusted Him that He will not allow me to go hungry and that He will provide. The next day I woke up with $500 deposited into my bank account.

After that, although I could afford it, I decided to delay immediate gratification and hold out on buying a microwave. I knew in my heart that if I just waited a bit longer, that God would provide. The last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle, cooking and bringing my meals to work to warm up but nonetheless, I learned it’s not difficult living without a microwave. However, I still desired it, I just don’t recall asking for one in my prayers. BUT God provided. A post was sent out by another alumnus from my school about free furniture and someone posted that they had an extra microwave so I claimed it.

God is good all the time and all the time God is good!

A Whirlwind Called Life

I was talking to someone who said life normally doesn’t turn out the way we plan it to be. She couldn’t be more accurate. I immediately thought about Proverbs 16:9 which says

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

So although you may plan to be wealthy at 25, God is going to direct your paths in the way that He wills you to go. We’re all playing a role in a bigger story.

When I reflect on my life in the last 5 years I think about how much has changed in such a short amount of time. God has been really faithful. Despite the seasons of pain and struggle, I’ve experienced God rescue me from every trial. He’s never left me in those depths that I once thought were permanent.

I thought that if I carefully planned my life, and worked really hard toward my goals that I will achieve all of my heart’s desires.

I didn’t think about all of the arbitrary decisions I’d have to make on the journey to achieving my goals, you know the ones you do not plan for, such as changing my major, moving back home, being laid off, losing my car, burying my dad, taking care of my mother or my aunt.

It helps to know that Jesus has experienced far greater disappointments and pain than we have ever experienced as the son of God; that He’s had to make the most uncomfortable decisions this world has ever known. And as a pastor once mentioned, “that He died waiting for the promise to be fulfilled.” How many of us are willing to die waiting?

As a millennial, many of us are inclined to immediate gratification whether we’d like to admit or not. Try being a Christian millennial ha! It’s one of the most challenging, patience-producing, journeys in the world. Some of us may or may not be aware of the blessing that lies at the end but I’m convinced that the leading cause of depression among millennials is the lack of immediate gratification. We’re problem solvers so we’re always looking for solutions to our trials or our pain, whether it be emotionally, financially or physically. And the moment we feel we do not have these things, we feel like failures.

This generation needs Jesus…seriously.

Yes, we don’t own anything. We’re thousands of dollars deep in student loan and credit card debt and we face more divorces and singleness than our parents (mostly a result of the lack of finances). The stock market crash in 2008 not only ruined the housing market but the job market for us, leaving many of us underemployed.

But God continues to reign on His throne amidst all the chaos we may see happening around us. There’s still hope, a hope that is beyond what we can see here on Earth and it’s far more rewarding. So not only the fruit of patience is matured through our trials but ultimately our faith. God will use trials to test our faith so that we may learn to inherently trust Him. I’ve noticed this several times in my life. I’ve felt hopelessness and had no idea how I was going to do basic things like eat and I cried out to God and watched how He provided. Kind of like when He sent manna from heaven to the Israelites in the wilderness.

Scripture says: “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (ESV)

What this generation needs more is faith. Faith, that despite our circumstances that Jesus is alive and that He loves us deeply, desires a personal relationship with us and wants to walk with us through our struggles because He has overcome it all and has prepared a beautiful place in eternity for us. Hallelujah!

I love the verse that reads:

“10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (NKJV)

Brothers and sisters, I hope this has blessed you and I pray that despite the many directions that the seasons in life may turn that you never forget that Jesus wants to walk with you through them. He knows your brokenness very well and He wants to heal you and set you free from it. He wants to develop faith in you, a faith that genuinely trusts God. May His grace and favor be with you always.

Many blessings!