A Talk With God

I hang up the phone with the social worker and pondered as I sat outside of the restroom at my office. “My life can really fall apart…” I say to myself as my eyes get watery. What do I do now? Suddenly I am reminded of Luke 22:42 which says 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus was in agony and I’m sure He desperately wanted God to take the agony away. However, He didn’t want what He was feeling to distract Him from carrying out God’s will so He said “yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ His words will forever be a resounding gong in me in all my trials.

I don’t want to do this. I just want to have a peaceful life. I need to establish a life for myself.

It was as if every selfish thought ran through my mind. I was worried about missing work although I have so much flexibility at work. I was worried I may lose my job and won’t be able to afford rent or contribute to savings. I was worried I won’t be able to take on a second job if I kept the one I have. I was worried I’d have to leave my apartment and move in with my aunt.

But then I thought…this is not about me.

His grace is sufficient for me. And if He was able to walk this earth and endure all of the temptations we have and yet not sin and carry out the will of God, then who am I to be? A woman who proclaims to be Christian; a woman who strives to be Christ-like. Am I truly operating in grace? Am I really compassionate?

God gives us trials to test our character and mature us.

But Lord I am so tired of these trials. I know You didn’t promise us an easy life but can I just have a few years of uninterrupted bliss? Is that too selfish to ask? I love my aunt and I’d lay down my life for her! Or will I? To what extent do I have to lay down my life? And why do I feel so alone in this? I know it could be much worse but how come I see most of my Christian friends living the good life? Maybe that’s a generalization, I’m guilty of portraying my life as such. Things aren’t always so good but I praise You regardless. Lord, I honor You and I trust in You. Please reveal to me the mysteries of Your heart?

I want to have a family someday. I want them to be blessed. I want to be a good wife and parent. Why is it that every time I feel I’ve taken a few steps closer to a healthy future I feel like I am taking a few steps back. My father always told me “Life is hard” and I strived not to repeat those words but why does life have to be so hard?

My dad is gone and my mom is in hospice care. My aunt is the closest relative that I have right now and she just experienced her second stroke. This just doesn’t make sense. Lord help me! Help me to rest in Your strength, Your strength which is in me. Fill me with Your grace oh Lord and help me to lean not on my own understanding. My life is in Your hands. Use me to be a blessing to others.

As I prayed today I heard that I am covered. Lord even if You are all I have, I have everything.

A Tree and It’s Fruit

As I journey through my walk with Christ, the more I notice how much He has transformed me. If I can create a facebook challenge called “How Much Has Jesus Transformed You?” you would see a stark contrast in my before and after photo. I admittingly was a lukewarm babe in Christ when I first started on this journey. The Holy Spirit had to process me through some things which took some time. His Word needed to become real to me, I needed to face some trials and I had to have real encounters with Him. I remember being brought to my first Bible study a year after graduating college. I was still drinking, partying and smoking. I was also in a toxic relationship.

In addition, I wasn’t raised in a Christian home. So although I was esteemed as a good person and held on to particular values, I was still very carnal. Worldly values and perspectives were very entrenched in our family despite my relatives professing they believed in God. In retrospect, there simply was no understanding of what a walk with Christ meant.

My first year as a Christian bore little to no fruit. I’m reminded of Luke 6:43-45 where Jesus describes the difference between a good and bad tree.

screen shot 2019-01-14 at 12.42.43 pm

In the beginning, I had no real relationship with God. I hardly ever prayed or read scripture while I was alone. I would intentionally miss worship at the beginning of Sunday service because I didn’t like it. I know, I can’t believe it myself especially because worship is my favorite part of service. My favorite was bible study primarily because I love learning, and I liked the community and intimacy aspect. So I would come into service on Sundays mainly to be with friends. My attire wasn’t very conservative either. I always dressed up but wasn’t always conscious of what the Holy Spirit would approve (Sidenote: not in a legalistic sense but I didn’t have a desire to portray what a godly woman looks like at the time). I didn’t attend prayer meetings. Gossip was normal. I didn’t serve in the church until maybe a year after joining. I actually never joined the church as a member.

In addition, my romantic life was in shambles. My dating life became very toxic and none of the people I dated were Christians who truly loved Jesus. So when I decided to stop dating and took a vow of celibacy it changed everything for me. It was a significant act of obedience that compelled me to want to know Jesus more. At the time I felt it was the road least traveled and I wanted to surrender my entire life to Jesus. I felt that I had to start with my romantic life hence I was weakest in the area of love.

Yes, I’m giving it to you raw.

However, I feel the need to show you how God can still love us in our brokenness and transform our lives. 1 John 4:19 says “19 We love because He first loved us.” He loves us despite our mess. He saved us before we encountered Him. He can transform anyone who accepts Him. You don’t need to be perfect. No one is perfect but Him.

Now that I have matured spiritually, I see His providence through it all. I see how He’s developed me. I have a deeper, loving relationship with God. My prayer life has strengthened. I read scripture and devotionals every day. I fellowship with believers more often, in and outside of my church community. I give more than I did back then and I actually enjoy it. I serve in my church. I’m more comfortable with evangelism and desire the gifts of the spirit. I won’t date a man who isn’t a man of God and sent from God.

Yet I’m still imperfect.

Our walk as followers of Jesus is a process of sanctification until we are united with Christ in heaven.

Most importantly, how can we tell if a tree bears good fruit?

If that person demonstrates the fruit of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. I’ll let you determine if I or yourself bear any of this spiritual fruit. Doesn’t necessarily have to be abundantly but any bit of it.

Screen Shot 2019-01-16 at 1.12.10 PM.png

God needed to break me, tear down my pride, bring me on my face after struggles with my mother’s health and father’s death and verbal abuse in relationships. He needed to process me and give me strength in my weakness. I needed to completely rely on Him and not myself or anyone else.

I pray your relationship with Him grows deeper and that you are prolific in spiritual fruit. Jesus loves you so much!

May God continue to bless you!



Re-Defining Love

Love. How do I explain?

Is it even possible to explain?

Some believe it’s a feeling, subject to being whimsical at best but I believe it’s beyond that, it’s a level of sacrifice we are not humanely privy to. I’m convinced there is only one being who can give authentic, unconditional love and that is God.

I never knew how much of an impact the absence of love from a father can have on a child. But hindsight is 2020.

In reflection, my accomplishments and behaviors may have demonstrated someone who felt truly loved by others and who truly loved herself but nonetheless, I had many struggles.

I never heard my father say those 3 beautiful words “I Love You.” Perhaps he expressed it by buying me stuff: the newest tech gadgets, video games, nice clothes. He even spent time talking on the phone with me, purchasing lots of takeout, and playing video games with my sister and I but I somehow cannot recall a day or time when he’s verbally expressed his love for us.

I can’t fault him. My family struggles with expressing love in many ways. I’m sure we may feel it and we may sometimes say the words but does the alignment of our actions and words cohesively portray a family who genuinely loves one another?

By the way, I truly love my family.

My dad was from a different generation of course. The baby boomers. I like to call them the “work-hard” generation. They pursued stable education and careers devoting their entire lives to work. Many times, spending little to no time with their families. I work with a few of these gems today. Although they love their families they can sometimes seem apathetic but it is possible that the many years of drowning themselves in work has caused that. However, it’s not their fault. Their parents also exemplified this.

My grandmother. A woman from the south who laid down her life to take care of her family. She helped her sisters and brothers escape the Jim Crow south and start new lives in the north. Although her past was always very colorful and intriguing to me I noticed how much she struggled to express the love that we desired. I recently learned about her past as a Jehovah’s Witness and how she held bible studies in her apartment before she became a Christian. She’s always portrayed herself as a believer and she was the first to bring my sister and I into a church. Even then I knew something was wrong, her lifestyle didn’t bear much fruit. If God loved us, why on earth was she not expressing that? Her expression of love for us was limited to cooking, cleaning and attending our school events. Although I love her for that and it’s taught me many things, her struggle with love is much more apparent now than it was then. I’m pretty sure she’s not a Christian today although despite her being convinced of her faith, I always question if she’s saved and share the gospel with her every chance I get. I am intrigued by how much she’s changed and how her zeal has disappeared over time.

Not to vindicate her in any way,  I had a dream about her last night. In that dream I heard her voice and as she usually does, she criticized my mother and I. I looked up and I saw a man which was strange. And I yelled out “why don’t you love me?! I love you!!” I woke up frantically from that dream feeling well aware of my family’s issues. They all struggle with love. In many cases, they do not know what love is or how to love because of the absence of a father.

The absence of a father doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve never met your father. I KNEW my father. However, the absence of a father is equivalent to a father in the flesh who does not demonstrate the true love of a father. A love that our Father demonstrates for us through Jesus Christ. One of God’s attributes is perfect love. Our Father God is the most awesome model of love we can ever know. His love exceeds far beyond anything we can ever comprehend. 1 John 4:7-8 reads Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 

7 beloved, let us love one another, for love is from god, and whoever loves has been born of god and knows god. 8 anyone who does not love does not know god, because god is love.

Once you’ve had an encounter with Jesus Christ He will transform your perception of love and help you to love deeper, love your neighbors, love enemies, love strangers but ultimately love Him. Your love for Him will pour out on others and help you to forgive your relatives and friends that may have hurt you. His love will help you to love just about anyone in your path. I pray that you have an encounter with Jesus, that you experience this love and allow Him to mend every broken part of your heart. I pray that His love transforms the paradigm of love that you have, your parents have and your parents’parents have. I pray that your families are restored, filled and overflowing with His love, forgiveness, and protection.

After giving my life to Christ at 23, the absence of a father no longer bothers me the way it has in the past. Although my father has passed away and his absence still lingers in my heart, the presence of God fills the void that was once there. His presence humbles me, convicts me and fills me with joy and peace and confidence all at the same time. Yet I still have a habit of sometimes of juxtaposing my Christian friends’ family to mine. I often reflect on how dysfunctional mine is in comparison. But then the Lord whispers to my heart and reminds me of who I am in Christ and that He has adopted me into His family. I am so grateful and overjoyed. Now I know that the love of the Father prevails, despite our past or any dysfunction our families may have. Our identity lies in Him.

May God continue to pour out His love unto you!


What Are We Passionate About?

According to most millennials, our work, also known as ergasia in Greek is unfortunately not always aligned with our passion. Many of you can attest to the life investment we devote to a weekly 9 to 5 or better yet 60+ hour week. We strive to earn a living that is more meaningful only to realize, for most of us that it feels more “meaningless” than intended; it’s as if we are “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). I often ponder of the true meaning of work. Being a person who has fell victim to the mundane “workaholic” lifestyle during many seasons in my life, I continue to seek meaningful work and to find motivation even on my most difficult days.

Nothing motivates me like God’s Word. I began to seek God’s perspective on this hence work is a significant factor in our design yet many of us aren’t passionate about it. Truth is, many of us are passionate about something even if we do not feel passionate about anything at all. We are passionate about comfort. Our inherent nature desires it. However, Jesus says “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”(Matthew 16:24). Therefore, we must deny our flesh and pursue His will despite our feelings.

“From the beginning, God intended human beings to be his junior partners in the work of bringing his creation to fulfillment. It is not in our nature to be satisfied with things as they are, to receive provision for our needs without working, to endure idleness for long, to toil in a system of uncreative regimentation, or to work in social isolation. To recap, we are created to work as sub-creators in relationship with other people and with God, depending on God’s provision to make our work fruitful and respecting the limits given in His Word and evident in his creation.” -Theology of Work

I don’t know about you but the thought of being “sub-creators” in God’s story convicts me. It convicts the lazy side of me that strives for comfort. The book of Proverbs refers to this type of individual who is resistant to working as a “Sluggard.”I’m sure you’ve heard the principle of reaping and sowing. For the sluggard, there is nothing to reap because it was never sown but yet the sluggard still searches for a reward. That’s comparative to looking for snow on the ground on a day when snow is forecasted, expecting your manager to inform you about the office being closed and expecting to be paid for the day. Yes, I know we’ve all done it at some point.

Escape to these places

I often times wonder if I need to be passionate about my work all the time. However, what I am learning is that I do not. In fact, work wasn’t designed for that benefit. Yes, it’s so fulfilling to be motivated by what you do and contribute purposeful, meaningful work. That’s a tremendous blessing but you’re not always going to enjoy it. God granted us free will so that we can choose to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, choose to worship Him in a fallen world, choose to have joy, peace, and contentment in menial or uncomfortable tasks. However we choose to feel, we are still commanded by Him to work. To be fruitful and to multiply whether we feel like it or not.

Escape to these places (2)

Remember, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” (Gen. 2:15). God gave Adam the pre-ordained task to till the land and maintain it and Adam honored the first instruction until God decided it is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18). Once sin entered the world, work was no longer a breeze. In Genesis 3:17, God says to Adam”Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. Therefore, sin caused our labor to become “painful toil.”

There are times when work will feel painful. When we won’t have the same desire to complete the tasks we were once so passionate about and that’s ok. Our feelings are completely normal. I’m made aware of this in my own industry. I do not always feel passionate about what I do and there are seasons when the work feels really challenging. Some days my brain feels really stretched and I’m reluctantly banging my head against a wall struggling to solve a problem. My code compiles with errors and the program crashes each time. That is when I recall how far God has brought me and His purpose for providing me with this job. I think about what probably lies ahead if I can only complete His assignment. How many people will get saved or the offspring who will be blessed by the fruit that comes from my labor. If I allow myself to be led by my emotions, I just might miss out which is especially difficult for me to accept when my ultimate desire is to be used by God. So don’t pursue comfort, pursue God’s will whether it feels good or not. He always has a good outcome.

God bless!

When The Unexpected Happens: Part 2

I remember when I felt prompted to go on my church’s Fall Retreat last year. I also remember not having budgeted enough money due to emergency circumstances but I was determined to encounter God. And that was the premise of the Fall Retreat, it was called Encounter. I knew that if I surrendered everything to God on this retreat, I will encounter Him and be sensitive to His voice. Surely, that’s what happened. In addition, I met so many wonderful people, established relationships and learned valuable lessons all in one weekend.

Now, after leaving the campsite and basking in His glory for 1-2 weeks after, I eventually transitioned back to the mundane, day to day life. Not expecting much yet trusting God to do exceedingly and abundantly. I noticed on the days I didn’t spend much time in His presence, I felt the weight of hopelessness; as if it was impossible for God to do a miracle in my life.

In November when I found out that my team at work will be relocating to an office in New Jersey I felt dismayed. Nonetheless feeling a strong nudging from the Holy Spirit to fast because my future felt uncertain. I don’t particularly enjoy patterns of complacency or non-stimulating tasks which is also why I felt the need to pray for uncertaintly in my career. I felt like there was more to be done and I wanted to serve wherever God wanted me to serve and be challenged as much as possible.

So I decided to start my 2019 financial breakthrough fast in December. Now around this time, I was in conversation with someone I met on the retreat in October. She insisted on meeting up with me. We kept planning our reunion but of course, there were some scheduled conflicts on both of our ends that caused our meetup to be delayed. During the fast, she texted me about a book she wanted to give me as a gift when she got back from Aruba.

We eventually met up on New Year’s day. We had a wonderful time of fellowship. It was amazing. Before we departed she gave me the book and a card. I thought it was extremely sweet and unexpected. I said thank you as she suggested that I open the envelope when I got home. So I followed her instruction and…I found $100 as soon as I opened the envelope. I wept immediately. I think what was so profound to me was the way in which God answers prayers. It’s always unexpected and always on time. His timing is perfect and I see how He blesses us when we least expect it so He can get all of the credit, the glory, the honor, and praise. Hence only He can use His people to carry out His blessings during a time of uncertainty and despair.

I truly did not deserve such a gift. I couldn’t understand why she was so kind to me. She and I only met once on the retreat and she didn’t know me or my situation. An outstanding display of  Christ’s character to show grace in such a way! It was such a remarkable way to start 2019. Moments like these are significant reminders of God’s provision in our lives. His praise will forever be on my lips and I will always be reminded of His divine providence. I pray my testimony blessed you and that you will continue to trust God during seasons of uncertainty in your lives. Only He has foresight. Only He knows the beginning and the end. So continue to seek His kingdom and His righteousness and do not worry about tomorrow.

God Bless!

When The Unexpected Happens: Part 1

A day after Christmas in 2017, I started my fast for financial breakthrough and healing for my family as planned. I went into this fast with an expectation perspective. I was expecting to encounter God in a special way but I was also facing a ton of uncertainty in my life which caused me to feel uncertain about His timing during the process. I thought I had prepared efficiently for this. I used my vacation hours at work, I planned to also fast from Facebook and limit communication with friends to emergency only. I’ve never felt more excited to spend time with God and see Him move in my life.

However, a few days before Christmas the unexpected happened. After church, I went to visit my aunt at her house as I usually do on Sundays especially because she lives so close to my church. I noticed something different about her. It was as if she was a different person. She seemed very unengaged in our conversation. Not thinking much of it and not worrying, I went home. The next day my sister calls me mentioning that she also noticed the changes and that we needed to take her to the ER. A bit of history, my aunt recently suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke in early 2017 so any changes in her behavior are expected to raise urgent concerns for us.

She was rushed to the ER on Christmas eve but sent home because she “appeared” to be fine and told that it’s best not to use unnecessary radiation like a CTscan (on a person with a history of stroke). The coming days were rough. Her symptoms seemed to be more apparent; From memory loss to apathy. She couldn’t remember the year we were in. I caught her saying that we were in the year 1981! That was very alarming to me and provoked my study of Alzheimer’s disease. I had to remind her to do almost everything and I felt really overwhelmed. Now, I’m not usually very open with my emotions in this way and I appear to be very emotionally strong but I wrestled with God on this because of how unexpected it was and the pain I felt. And I felt the push, even more, to pray for healing over my family in addition to financial breakthrough. I leaned a lot on prayers from friends and loved ones. For those of you who do not know, my mother also suffered from a stroke 6 years ago and is now paralyzed and struggles with speech. My father passed away 2 years later. So the closest relative to me is my aunt.

laurel and james

That week I fought tears as I prayed in God’s presence. I waited and rested in Him. I’ve reflected on His divine providence in my life and I knew that He wanted me to trust Him. During that fast, I noticed as He started to open doors for me in just 2 days. The second day I felt so much peace it was overwhelming. I also received random emails for opportunities I did not initially apply for. On January 2nd, my aunt had an appointment for an MRI and I was excited to have them finally take a look at her brain especially because of the concerns we had that ER physicians found hard to assess. I fell asleep in the waiting room expecting to wait for at least 2 hours. However, they woke me up within 30 minutes, “Vanessa, she’s done!” When I followed the technician to the area where my aunt was I asked “she’s finished already?!” she replied, “No, the doctor will explain it to you.” Now my heart beats are on one thousand per second. The doctor explained that she did indeed have a stroke and they were now rushing her to be recessed in the ER.

This stroke was different from her last one. It was smaller and affected her much less. Thanks to God! Also the timing in which we brought her in did not make a difference. she’s now in recovery and doing better. I no longer have the same fear I had the initial week of the symptoms but I’m so grateful to God for giving me that peace and for the recovery she’s made thus far. I’m glad we have more of an awareness of what happened to her and that she is God’s hands. I am also thankful to all of the friends that have extended prayer during this rough time.

A lesson I learned from this experience is that life will be full of unexpected occurrences and challenges. What’s most important is how we react to those events. Sometimes it may seem like God is not present during these times but He is. He is showing us something but we must pay attention and be sensitive to His voice. I noticed during these moments an urgency for prayer, a need to commune with Him. He is a good God and He uses these experiences for a specific purpose but in the end, it all works out for our good. I pray that during times of despair that the Lord is able to fill you with hope, wisdom and a peace that surpasses all understanding. Love you! God bless.

To be continued…

Dealing With Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a new and ambiguous concept of emotion we all face to some extent in our careers. In some cases it can be analogous to explaining why we dream; there are many scientific arguments for it but it’s still a mystery. I wanted to present a surface level approach to this concept on Living with Grace and reason some solutions to handling it hence my peers and I often have this feeling that we may be a fraud. I don’t know what season you’re in in your life right now but you may be feeling like a fraud in a position that God has called you into and it may be causing you some delays. That position is not limited to a career, it can be marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, positions of leadership in the body of Christ, evangelism, etc. I’m writing this to encourage you to remember your identity in Christ and why you were called to your specific purpose and to ultimately unmask the lie that you are not equipped for the position you were called to.

What is imposter syndrome?

According to The Scientific American “Impostor Syndrome is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  It strikes smart, successful individuals.  It often rears its head after an especially notable accomplishment, like admission to a prestigious university, public acclaim, winning an award, or earning a promotion.” (What is Imposter Syndrome, 2015) 

The root of imposter syndrome is fear. It’s the fear that someone will notice that one is not equipped for the position. However, let’s shift that perspective and suggest that we are equipped because we were chosen for the role. If God is sovereign and we were offered the opportunity to work for the company we work for in the role that we’re in then that suggests that God permitted us to operate in that role. Therefore, He will equip us to successfully fulfill all the responsibilities of that role. However, we must be intentional about it. One thing I’ve learned is that the more I feel discouraged and I allow the “imposter” feeling to steal my identity, the less confident I am in God’s Word and the process in which He’s positioned me. It’s important to pray and speak life over your identity. Ask God to supply all your needs for the specific role, meditating on scripture such as Philippians 4:19. 

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Remembering Why You Were Called to This Specific Purpose

In a practical sense, we may not understand how our roles ultimately tie into God’s will for our lives and how they will bring Him glory. I learned that it’s less about the specific task at hand (also important because God created work before giving Adam and assignment – Gen. 2:15) rather more about the spiritual fruit that will develop by completing the assignment that is a part of the greater whole of God’s sovereign will for our lives.

The Lord gives us particular assignments to develop us over time and prepare us for the next season in our lives. His desire is that we fully develop the fruit of the Spirit which are “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control…” Galatians 5:22-23. Therefore,  it’s important to understand how we are being developed spiritually in the process. Walk into every opportunity with confidence always asking God “what am I supposed to learn here?”

You are not an imposter. There is a specific purpose for your life; nothing happens by chance. God qualified you for that promotion or else you wouldn’t be there. I pray that you have surrendered your life to Christ, you have acknowledged the value that comes from being a child of God and you are walking in His will. I work in the tech industry where imposter syndrome is prevalent among software developers and it feels inevitable even to the most seasoned engineers but I have the hope planted in me that the Lord has given me access to everything I need to accomplish all that is required for my role. However, that takes time and intentionality in overcoming fear when the thoughts that provoke it comes to mind. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7). It’s a struggle for us all but together we will get through it. Just remember we are not living this life for ourselves we are a part of a much larger story. So you are not alone on this journey, you’ll be surprised at how many people feel the way you feel, share it with someone. I pray that the Lord provides you with the confidence to overcome imposter syndrome, that He supplies all your needs to produce the fruit needed for the position you are called to and that you walk in faith in His Word, acknowledging that in His will you are capable because He is able! (Ephesians 3:20)

May God bless you!