When You’re In The Wilderness

When you’re traveling through the wilderness, and it feels like life is hitting you with everything it’s got, it’s amazing to finally look up and see the growth that has occurred. Like many of you, I’ve been going through a storm in my life and truthfully, it’s been extremely hard to navigate. I think the main lesson here is that I shouldn’t be navigating… period. But that’s for another blog post.

This season of my life has put me in some pretty low places and has had me asking extremely important yet vague questions. I’ve been so low that anxiety attacks and breakdowns often occur, and I’ve been so confused and full of questions like, “What’s the point,” “What am I even doing here on this Earth,” “What’s my purpose,” “If I’m supposed to go the heaven, and that’s the goal, what is the point of this lifetime,” the list goes on.

But with all of that said, just recently, I got a chance to look up and realized just how far God has taken me through this season. So here is a little bit of what I’ve learned so far traveling through the wilderness.


God Is Still With You In The Wilderness

I must say, I never thought God left me during this season; He’s been with me all the time, but He’s been quiet. It’s weird to move from a season where God is chatty, and I’m talkative, and we’re really “vibing,” and I can feel Him and see Him moving, to a season when I’ll pray, and I start to wonder if He’s heard, or if He cares, or if He’s a little too busy for me. But if I’ve learned anything from Bible stories, it’s that God is still there. He’s always there, even when you’re in the wilderness. That was true of the Israelites when they were traveling from Egypt to The Promise Land, and it was also true of Jesus when spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. God was there, the whole time.


Perspective

If you take nothing else from this blog post, please understand the power of perspective. It truly can change your life, and it’s something I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. After weeks of breakdowns, crying, and then finally realizing that things aren’t going to change, I need to, I adopted a new perspective. Often times, it’s just that, understand that things won’t get better, but you can. More often than not, it’s counting your blessings a little more than you have in the past, or seeing a situation from some else’s point of view. Whatever it is, I promise a change in perspective will do wonders for you and your ability to get through this tough season. Keep in mind, much of the time, the season you’re in has a lot to do with how you wait. I’m sure the Israelites who ended up wandering for 40 years when they should have reached The Promise Land in 11 days could tell you better than I can.


Trials Produce Growth

I’ve heard it many times before that you can only grow when you’re going through something, and I am here to say that is true. It’s true for when you’re building physical muscles, and it’s true for when you’re building spiritual muscles.

You don’t build muscle by just hanging out and being comfortable. You build muscle by lifting, working, running, etc. That’s how you grow your muscle tissue. So that’s the same for your spiritual muscles. You can’t grow when you’re comfortable and what’s more uncomfortable and growth producing than a good ‘ole fashion test, trial, or walk through the wilderness?


Stronger

I don’t know what the Lord is preparing me for, but I do know He has taken me through the wilderness to prepare me, and because of that, I am stronger. One place, in particular, I have found myself to be stronger is in my mind. This wasn’t an easy one. I am a thinker guy, and because of that, I can think myself into great moods, bad moods, sad moods, whatever emotion, I can think myself into it. But because I’m only human, I often think myself into the lowest, most unhappy thoughts. This season has caused me to work on my mental. God exposed my weakness, humbled me to the ground about it, and then showed me that through Him alone I can overcome my thoughts.

He also changed my thoughts towards work. I find this so ironic that He changed my perspective on work during a season I’m not really working (full-time). Like LOL, God is funny! Despite not having a full-time job, He has shown me the importance of being grateful, being humble, stewarding small beginnings, and hustling. I always thought of myself as a hard worker, but this season and being an adult in general, has really taught me what hard work is, and how to stay consistent when you feel overlooked, uninspired, unappreciated, and bored.

To say the least, the Lord is working on me, in the wilderness, and for that, I am thankful.


I’ll end with this… recently, I heard a pastor say, something along the lines of, “Sometimes you’re not moving out of this season because you haven’t thanked or praised God yet.” That wasn’t the exact quote, but my take away from it was, you need to thank God for what He’s giving you, but you also need to thank Him for what He’s about to bring you into.

Praise Him for what you’re believing for as if you already have it and see what happens. Thank Him for what you’re believing for and see what He does. I find myself getting into a habit of always asking God for things, but rarely praising Him, or thanking Him for what I do have, and for the things He is doing but I can’t see. I’ve been making an effort to change this, and I hope you do too.

Until next time, get up, get moving, and be salt & light!

 

5 Things I Learned In Haiti

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I recently traveled to Haiti and that trip taught me a lot. So in this blog post, I will share 5 things Haiti taught me.

1. My Love for Culture and People of Color

Living in America in predominantly white places, I have never really gotten a chance to be surrounded by people of color for extended periods of time. The feelings I got in Haiti were quite similar to the ones I got after watching Black Panther. It’s hard to describe, but there is so much power in being around people who look like you. Very cliche, but I felt at home in Haiti. I didn’t feel like I stuck out, I didn’t feel out of place, and I loved it! Also, I loved the culture. Coming from a household of blended cultures (Nigerian and Kenyan) it was no surprise I fell in love the with Haitian culture and the similarities I found between it and the environment I was raised in. I saw simplicity, work ethic, and joy just to name a few but also just a strong sense of community. Most of all I saw beauty in the way the people around me lived their lives, and I found God at work in the details, the big picture… I saw Him in it all.

2. Paved Roads and Driving Laws

The last time I went to Kenya, I was two, so I don’t remember much. I rely on the stories of my parent’s childhoods to paint the picture of living in a third world country. My mom has always talked about how long it takes to do things there. Doing one thing can be an all-day event, and most of the time it’s simply because of the commute. The minute we hit our first gravel/dirt road, I finally began to understand what my mom had been talking about for all those years. Paved roads are truly a blessing and driving laws are too because they save you for almost having a heart attack on the road.

3. The Importance of Communication

As a black girl, the most frequent questions I got when I was in Haiti were are you Haitian, do you speak Creole, and do you speak French, to all of which I answered no. People were in shock, mainly because I look like them and they just assumed I was or could do all of the above, but also because it really limited my ability to talk with them. Thankfully I had wonderful translators around that were more than amazing, but I felt so entitled and even rude to be in their country without knowing even a little Creole, yet they knew anywhere from one to four languages. To say the least, I don’t plan on visiting a country without knowing at least a few common phrases. But in all honesty, I’m in the process of learning Creole as you reading this.

4. People are People

Cultures are different but people are people. While languages don’t always translate, smiles do and thank God for that! It’s funny how when you can’t communicate very well sometimes that’s when it’s easiest to see someone’s heart. It’s easy to get distracted by looks, status, etc., but nothing says more about a person than they’re joy, they’re smiling, and their heart.

5. Less Is More

A lesson I’ve been learning recently is that there are pros and cons to everything. I love living in America, but because of the privilege I have living here, a lot of my worries and concerns are of things that don’t actually matter. To put it more simply, the things I worry about most are things that I am privileged to actually worry about. But living in a third world country, many people only worry about the things that actually matter: God, food, clothing, and family. It’s amazing how short that list is how long I make mine sometimes. Or how often times we think things will bring us happiness when in reality the exact opposite is true.

So those are a few of the things I learned while in Haiti. If you haven’t already, I hope you get a chance to visit the wonderful country. It is beautiful!

Until next time, get up, get moving, and be salt and light.

Peace > Clarity

A wise man once said, “It’s hard to get your gift from God when both your hands [are] full.” – Tobe Nwigwe

Recently, not only my hands but my mind have been full, overflowing really. In this season of unemployment, I have been plagued with worry. To be honest, when I first entered this season, I was fine. I still had faith that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. But it’s funny how the testing of your faith can reveal the truth.

This is not to say that I don’t have faith in God, but this season has shown me that I need my faith to be stronger. It’s not as strong as I thought it was and just like when you grow your muscles through lifting, you are in pain and quite sore, the growing of my faith has left me just the same, sore and in pain.

I think I entered this season with a vague timeline of when I would exit. It wasn’t like I said, “On September 15th, I will have a job,” but as days continue to pass and I still don’t have one, and there isn’t much progress being made, anxiety has set in.

So, what do you do when God is late? What do you do when you underestimated your season? Well, I recently watched a sermon by Transformation Church (TC) out of Tulsa, Oklahoma called “Planted and I Underestimated.” TC is in a series called Planted Not Buried (it’s incredible, and you should watch all of it when you get a chance) where they have explained that both planting and burying is the same processes, but the outcomes are different. If you’re not careful, you could be having a funeral when you should be celebrating growth.

But in this particular sermon, one of the points made was, you need to embrace the delay when you’re waiting for God or you feel like He is late. I know when I heard that the first time I was like, “Really? You want me to be happy while waiting? You know I’m a millennial right?” But honestly, that statement couldn’t be more accurate.

It’s no surprise I haven’t been great at embracing delay, but as I have been forced to wait, it’s been amazing to see how God has revealed parts of His plan and his goodness to me.

For example, I recently went on a mission trip to Haiti. The timing of the trip couldn’t have been better because I really needed a break from my normal life. I was losing my mind… I’m not kidding. But it’s funny, how this trip popped up at the right time. Only God!

I needed to serve, I needed to live with less, I needed to lead a simpler life, and more importantly, I needed to be disconnected from the things that were causing me stress. (There will be more on my trip to Haiti in upcoming blog posts, so if your interested subscribe.) But with all that aside, I needed Haiti because I needed clarity. My current situation was draining me and I was drowning in my own sorrows.

I didn’t have high expectations for the trip because I knew it could go a number of ways. Truthfully, I was hoping God would give me an aha moment. That I would be there and realize my purpose, or get a word from God, or something and to be honest none of that happened. At least not in the groundbreaking, earth-shaking, mind-blowing way I expected. But instead, it happened subtly.

I didn’t gain the clarity I was seeking, but I did gain peace.

On the flight back to the States, I reflected on this exact topic and realized that God didn’t tell me my purpose then or give me clarity on anything, but by allowing me to live a simpler life and understand what is important, He gave me the peace to know that everything will be just fine. So, for now, I am free from worry, free from anxiety, and choosing not to dwell on uncertainty.

The funny thing is, while I am fine now, these are demons I will have to fight again, and again, and that’s okay.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:19

Worry, anxiety, and discontentment were, and still are my temptation. But Haiti was the escape God provided for me, and that trip allowed me to rediscovered God’s goodness, how unworthy I am of His love, and how He loves me dearly anyway. For that I am thankful.

Until next time, get up, get moving and be salt & light!

The Erryday: Honesty

As I try to seek God in all aspects of my life, sometimes I find myself being stagnant.

Did He really call me to do that? Am I doing the right things? Should I continue on this path?

These are all questions that come to mind and to be honest, with so much uncertainty I find myself living with anxiety. But fortunately, I have wonderful friends and family who can speak life into me, and one of the friends who I love so dearly mentioned to me that anxious is not how God made us.

It really got me thinking, “Why I am so anxious then?” After a lot of reflection and praying, it was because while I was feeling certain ways about aspects of my life, I hadn’t truly presented those things to God. I hadn’t invited Him into all of my life.

If I’ve learned anything about the Lord, He is a gentleman. He will stand at the door of your life and knock until you let Him in, and that’s in all aspects of your life. It’s not just about the one decision to be saved. It’s a decision that every believer has to make everyday.

So no matter how big of a problem you’re facing or how small, know that to a God who created the whole universe, everything is quite small. And to a God who has overcome the world, nothing is too mighty. So present everything, your triumphs, your disappointments, and especially your anxieties to Him, and in Him, you will find peace.

Until next time, get up, get moving and be salt & light!

The Erryday: Tests

Two weeks ago, I created a video about trials and in that video, I reviewed James 1:2-4.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

This week it’s all about tests. At first glance, I thought these were the same thing or at least synonymous. While they are synonymous, the difference is, trials can come from anything, friends, family, co-workers, the devil, etc., and are a way for you to refine your faith, leaving you purer than before and closer to the image of God. But tests, in my mind, are solely given to you by God. To me, it’s God’s way of checking to make sure that what He instilled in you during the trials is built to last. It’s His way of checking to see that what we’re learning in our quiet time, what we think we’ve mastered, what we boast in Him about when all things are well, still stand true to us even when everything seems to be falling apart.

To be honest, I’ve never met anyone who loves a good test or trial, but when you’re sitting in the midst of one like I am, you have to remember that God is still good and that without tests, there is no true movement towards sanctification.

Maybe for you, your test is in understanding God is your sole provider. It’s really easy to say that when you have a full-time job, benefits, a steady check, and life is good. But what happens when you’re laid off and your severance is running out? It’s a test. Will, you still say God is a provider, your sole provider, or will you doubt Him?

Or maybe it’s your health or the health of a loved one. It easy to say that God is a healer when no one is ill. But when your medial bills are racking up and you still can’t find out what’s wrong with you, things can get kind of scary. It’s a test.

Now, this by no means is meant to make light of tests or the tests you might be experiencing in your life. The goal of this blog post and video is to help you put things into perspective. Despite the tests, God is still SO good and we still don’t deserve Him, yet he chooses us daily. “I should be in Hell”, is my favorite phrase to use on days when I am particularly peeved with the Lord, because who am I really to be upset with Him?

But with that said, even through the tests, remember who He is, who you are in Him, and that He has already overcome the world, so there is no need to worry. Whether you’re on the mountaintop, or in the valley, understand that God has you in the palm of His hand, always.

Until next time, get up, get moving, and be salt and light!

Vulnerability

V for Vulnerability

When I hear the word vulnerability, it’s like someone said the word “moist.” It just makes me queasy and uncomfortable. It’s funny because I used to think I had no issues being vulnerable, but what I really found out is that I’m great at keeping people at an arms distance.

The act of being vulnerable is uncomfortable, and I’m really bad at sharing personal details about my life.

I know what you’re thinking. “Sydney, you have a blog… about yourself. What are you talking about?”

I know, track with me for a minute. I do have a blog about myself, but much of what I share isn’t what I would call vulnerable information. I am willingly sharing it because it doesn’t take much out of me to share it. I share it because I love writing. I share it because maybe it can help someone else. But rarely do I share it with the intention for people to know the real me.

So about this vulnerability thing… For years, I’ve been praying for quality people and friendships to come into my life. I’ve wanted support groups, accountability partners, people who can look at me and say, “You’re not acting like yourself, what’s up?” even when I put on the facade that everything is good. I’ve wanted people who could call me out where I fall short, help me as I move towards sanctification, and much more.  Now, I’m finally in a position where I have those people, or I could have those people, but again, I keep them away.

I want you close, but not too close. I want you to know me, but only what I want you to know. Really I just want to be the introvert that goes to a coffee shop to be around people but doesn’t actually want to make conversation. That is me in a nutshell.

But as I learn more about what it means to live in community, I’ve learned those behaviors are actually the furthest thing from community. Community is allowing people to know you, all of you.

Not the Sunday morning you. Not the Beyonce version of “I woke up like this” you. But the you that nobody really wants to be around because you have problems, you.

Vulnerability is allowing people to get so close they could hurt you, but choosing the right community so that you can mitigate the unnecessary pain. You will get hurt being vulnerable, you will get hurt in community because people are imperfect, but as you exercise vulnerability in community, you begin to see what love actually looks like.

Vulnerability, community, and love. It’s hard to have one without the others, right?

It’s hard to be vulnerable, but it’s a prerequisite to community and love which are both things that we were built for because we were made in the image of God. So as I strive to become more vulnerable, no matter how hard and uncomfortable it is, I hope you strive to do the same.

Is vulnerability a hard thing for you too? Let me know in the comments below.

As always, until next time, get up, get moving and be salt and light!

The Erryday: Grace

Grace. Often, I find it so hard to wrap my head around this word.

By (Christian) definition, grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.”

To put it plainly, grace is not earned. It is the gift freely given by God… period.

Again, like I said, I find it hard to wrap my brain around this.

So you mean to tell me that there is nothing I did to earn this? That there is nothing, I can do to earn this? That the way I live my life will not help me “gain greater grace”?

If you’re puzzled too or are just realizing the magnitude of what grace is, then I’m right there with you. Often, in my walk with God, I have to revisit the idea of grace through faith, not by works.

I don’t know what it is, but it’s like every once in a while, I forget that I didn’t earn God’s grace or favor. He gave it to me (and you) because He loves me, and that’s it.

As someone, who is a type A personality and likes to control many things, my salvation, righteousness, and ultimately His grace are all things that are truly out of my hands because my Heavenly Father did it for me.

There are no works I can do to gain greater grace. There is no law I can follow either. The grace we experience from God is indeed a gift that we do not deserve, and as I remind myself of that, each time, I realize just how great and how gracious, the God I serve is.

Until next time, get up, get moving, and be salt and light!