Asceticism

It’s been a year since I got baptized and the process has not been easy. I got baptized partially because I knew it was something I had to do to remain active in my church but also because I was ready to proclaim my relationship with Jesus Christ publicly. I was afraid. Apart of me felt pressured. I wasn’t ready to give up certain pleasures and behaviors. I didn’t know how to be the “perfect” Christian. The fact that I would think I had to become the perfect Christian once baptized is proof of my ignorance about its significance.

After classes and interviews to make sure that I was ready, the day came; it was time. I felt the presence of God during my baptism ceremony. An overwhelming warmth and burst of tears solidified he was there with me. Even before getting dunked in the water, I knew at that moment my past was forgiven and it has never haunted me again.

Yet, after my baptism, the tests and trials began. Everything that I have ever stood for came to a halt this year. I gave up on myself and gave myself up. I became weak. I became lonely. I gave into temptation time and time again despite the feelings of conviction I had. I didn’t know who I was becoming. I was a functioning wreck without self-control. I no longer knew how to defend my beliefs because I was confused myself. What did I believe in? Was I still an advocate for celibacy? Did I believe in saving yourself before marriage or did I only believe it because someone told me I should? I began talking to old boyfriends. Boyfriends I clearly left in the past because their beliefs did not align with my own. I resented singlehood. I began to feel lonely and unworthy of a relationship. I let thoughts plague my head about being alone and a spinster forever. I gossiped. Loved celebrity gossip too much and reveled in the latest “tea.” I had no self-control; no inhibitions. I did things in the dark hoping it wouldn’t come to light. I was far from the perfect Christian. I struggled more after my baptism than I’d ever done in my whole walk with Christ. I was a sinner. I am a sinner.

I’m not perfect. I believe we sometimes go through these things to have an amazing story to tell that would one day inspire others. I am thinking I went through these things to share with believers that it’s not easy. The more you step forward in the light, the more the devil tries to bring you back into the dark. The closer I got to God the further I was from him.

Asceticism is the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. This is my overall goal in year 2. I want to practice self-disciple and techniques in defeating the devil when prompted to give in to desires and temptations. However, there are other compartments in life that can teach lessons on self-control and I want to build on that as well:

First I will start with food. I come from the school of thought where we only have one life to live, so why deprive yourself of good food. Yet, as satisfying as this mentality maybe, I have no self-control. I eat brownies in the morning and dinner after 10PM. If I create some sort of control in my eating habits, it will resonate with me spiritually as well.

Secondly, waking up in the morning. I am a snoozer. I will set the alarm for 6:45AM and will not get out of bed until 7:45AM. I need to start waking up when the alarm goes off, no excuses.

Lastly, I want to be intentional with the amount of time I spend with God. Sometimes we let the hustle and bustle of life get in the way with our relationship with God and that’s unacceptable. If I know I can’t go to bed without reading the word, marinating on his blessings and teachings and saying a prayer then I will carve out the time throughout the day to spend with God. No excuses.

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Peace. Love & Let God.

As the holiday season is among us, I am reminded of the immense work that God has done in my life. Unfortunately, by the people around me who are doing reflections of their year and overall life and feel like it’s not enough; they are not doing enough; they are not fulfilling a purpose; My heart is heavy as I hear their pleas of inadequacy, searching for the right words to calm their discontented spirits.

In November 2013, I was in the same predicament. I had no peace in my life nor in my heart. I wanted more. I worried about the past, the present and the future. I had very little hope that change would come. I found myself in Barnes and Noble one Sunday morning, wanting so desperately for my life to change. I spent the whole day reading books. Books about travel, books about pursuing a higher degree, books about writing my own book and books about relationships and wedding planning. What exactly did I want out of my life? All of these things. The question was, how to take the first steps towards attaining my innermost desires? I found that the answer was in humility. My number one issue was that I was not happy with my present. I felt stuck. I didn’t feel like I was progressing as fast enough as my peers. I hate to admit it now because I always consider myself my own competition, but I was looking at others and comparing their success to my own, which is the worst thing to do. I didn’t feel like I was growing professionally, I felt more than competent to take on more responsibility at work but didn’t see an avenue to pursue this growth. I’d never traveled beyond the Caribbean and I wanted to see the world so bad, I didn’t have my own apartment nor did I have a car (which was a personal choice) but hey it could’ve been nice, and I was single and hadn’t been in a substantial relationships since I was in my late teens. Humility came with acknowledging that I was more than capable of having everything my heart desired simply by putting my life in God’s hands wholeheartedly. I wouldn’t complain about my job, I would thank God for it. I wouldn’t pout when hopping into a friend’s new car I would thank God for their blessings. I shut my mouth and continued to pursue excellence in all aspects of my life even though I didn’t see nor did I fathom the plans and the ways God would shake up my life in 2014. I found peace, not only in my present but in my future. My security in God grew stronger and I learned how to truly forgive. Forgive my past, forgive those who said something to me or did something to me that did not align with how God defined me, now all that was left to do was watch God’s plans unfold and it did.

After getting baptized in January and declaring publicly that the lord was my savior, I soon booked a trip to Europe that changed my life. I planned my first event for my organization Reserved that turned out to be a success. I went to a seminar that taught me how to write and publish my own book. I went on to travel through Europe and all the cities I only dreamed of seeing. It changed my life and showed me that all things were possible through God. I came back from Europe only to discover that I was getting a raise and a bonus at work…what? I wasn’t expecting both. I completely bounced back financially overnight, it was as if I never took money out of my bank account to pay for Europe; all was covered. I started dedicating my Tuesday nights to prayer meetings at my church. The thing that I enjoyed about prayer meeting was that it taught me how to be selfless. We didn’t spend two hours praying for ourselves and our own problems, we prayed for others. We prayed for those individuals living in Asia, Haiti, and the forgotten Native Americans suffering from alcoholism and poverty on reservations. We prayed for women caught up in human trafficking and for people whose family members were suffering from cancer, mental illness, and other serious ailments. I learned that the world didn’t revolve around me, I learned to pray and I learned to worship. I even began listening to gospel music. Alpha and Omega by Israel Houghton is my favorite song ever. Eventually, things began to look up for me.

I began to take the idea of going back to school seriously. What I would go to school for was still a mystery but I knew I was beginning to love business and entrepreneurship and I always wanted to be a writer and write for a magazine.

I stopped partying as much, matter fact I didn’t party at all, yet one day I decided to go to an event called “The Greatest Day Ever” and met my boyfriend. Turns out he’s so gentle, giving, and intelligent, a little bit CRAY-CRAY, very introverted but overall a great person and I am happy he’s in my life. I soon realized in order to pursue a new relationship I would need to make sure my closet was completely cleaned and all skeletons were gone. I co-hosted a sister circle with some of my closest friends. We spent the whole day forgiving; forgiving our past, confronting skeletons that were holding us back, and praying for one another. We wrote our insecurities on an index card and released it out of our souls. It was one of the highlights of my year. All was forgiven.

Later on in the year, I began to plan to go to South Africa. Africa was just a mere dream of mine and it was just about to become a reality when my manager left the company and I was promoted into her position. Promotion comes from God, and that had God’s promise written all over it. Now, I am sitting in my bed pretty much typing my year in review anticipating my conclusion so I can thank God for his blessings. But before I do that, I want to share the inspiration for this post. I was listening to a sermon today by my Pastor Cymbala and he preached about peace and the four types of peace we need to have in our lives and in this New Year:

  • Peace with God (When you have peace with God, there’s an understanding that you’re covered)
  • Peace that covers our past (Letting go of the recriminations and sorrowful memories that might be holding you back. It is what it is; you can’t change your past all you can do is forgive yourself and others)
  • Peace that covers the present (Letting go of those feelings of inadequacy and desires of not having what you want at a certain age or not being where you want to be. Be content in what you are blessed with but continue to pursue your goals.)
  • Peace that covers the future (being secure in that all things work together for the greater good)

In life, there are ups and downs, highs and lows, good days and bad days. But one of the things God has shown me this year is that he has a plan for each and every one of our lives and it is not chance or coincidence that we are where we currently are in our lives. We are exactly where we need to be. The present, no matter how monotonous it might be, is preparing us for our future and our past cannot be changed so let go of the baggage. God has mapped out our life from when we take our first breath to when we take our last and we have to be secure in knowing that he knows what’s best for us and he will provide beyond our innermost desires. He will unleash dreams we never imagined could unfold in our lives. So get ready.

Peace, Love and Happy Holidays!

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Blessings for Obedience

Deuteronomy 28:1-6

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands, I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God. You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock-the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading through will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out…”

Blessings. I believe I am living in a great season, one that I don’t even deserve. It all began in January. I booked my trip to Europe and 2-months later I was traveling to the very cities and countries I’ve only dreamed of seeing. I was living in my dream and my very purpose thanks to God. He allowed me to see the world, he allowed me to experience European culture. He allowed me to LIVE. You can read more about my travels on travelbyky.com

By April, a week after I returned from my trip, he blessed me with a bonus and raise at my company. I wasn’t expecting both. It was a Tuesday when this happened and I headed straight to Brooklyn Tabernacle’s Prayer Meeting. I’ve been going faithfully ever since.

In August, after attending my friend’s wedding I was so sick of my love life or lack thereof. Fake men, fake relationships, nothing authentic. I yearned for something real. I connected with Joe and sparks flew; we’ve been together for about 3-months now. Yes, we have our ups and downs. Yes, my biggest issue with him is that he needs to be more invested in God but he’s a great person. He’s thoughtful, we want the same things out of life that I want and I enjoy being with him. I pray for his salvation and rebirth. There was a reason God put him in my life and I hope that my faith can have a strong influence on him.

Yet, things still were not feeling complete for me. Work was draining. I was sick of people talking to me any kind of way. Sick of the routine and non-growth in my position. Until one day everything changed. They let my boss go and suddenly, I had to step up and get her job done. It was a big deal and a huge game-changer for me. Suddenly, I had a purpose and believed I could do anything. Nothing was impossible with God. He answered prayers I never knew I was praying for. He proved himself faithful. He’s my protector, my provider, my father, he loves me. He knows me. He wants the best for me.

I’ve been obedient to him but I can always stand to be more obedient. Jesus has proved himself so faithful to me this year. Looking forward to the blessings of 2015.

Up and Down and Up and Down

I just finished the book of Genesis and it was powerful. I mean, of course, the Old Testament is really hard to follow with its list of lineages but the stories are amazing. The story of Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel captivated me the most. Joseph literally went through highs and lows in his life but not once did he lose faith in God. He was favored by the lord and God always looked out for him. Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son and his brothers were envious of him. He had a dream that could be interpreted as his brothers one day bowing down to him and this made his brothers mad. So they came up with a plot to throw him in a pit to die. However, that planned changed when they decided to sell him into slavery and tell their father that he was killed by wild animals.
As I said, Joseph’s life was pretty tumultuous filled with highs and lows which I want to illustrate.
When Jacob found out about the news of his cherished son, he was heartbroken. He believed he was dead. Meanwhile, Joseph, who was sold into slavery, was faring well, in spite of his circumstances. The slave master found favor in him and asked him to rule over his house, a high in Joseph’s life (HIGH). However, his master’s wife thought Joseph was handsome and attempted numerous sexual advances towards him in which he denied each of them. She, in turn, accused him of trying to rape her and they threw him in the pits of jail (LOW). While in jail he found favor with the prison guard and was able to rule over the jail (HIGH). Soon, two men of Pharaoh’s court were thrown into jail and they had troubling dreams in which Joseph was able to interpret through the spirit of God. He told the men to remember him when they got out of jail but they didn’t (LOW). Two-years later Pharaoh needed a dream interpreter and no one in the vicinity of Egypt could interpret the dream…finally, the bread bearer of Pharaoh’s court, that was in jail with Joseph remembered that he could interpret dreams and told Pharaoh. Pharaoh ordered Joseph to be released from jail and interpret his dream (HIGH). Once Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and predicted that there would be seven years of abundance and seven years of famine, Pharaoh ordered that Joseph reigns over Egypt (EXTREME HIGH).
During the years of the famine Joseph brothers, the same guys that sold him into slavery bowed down to him humbly and asked for grain to survive. Joseph recognized them immediately but they didn’t recognize him. He was only 17-years old when they sold him into slavery, so with all the years that passed, he was a man now.  He played around with their heads for a bit until he finally confessed that he was Joseph and they glorified him (HIGH).
As much as it hurt Joseph to confront his past, he forgave his brothers and they lived abundantly under his rule. This story was amazing and just showed that we may go through highs and lows but God remains with us always. This story illustrates purpose. It was God’s purpose all along to have Joseph sold into slavery and to rise to the top. God has a purpose for all of our lives and this story instilled in my purpose, patience, and trust in GOD!
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