Category Archives: the Bible

A pearl of great price.

pearl of great price

 

As I grow older, I appreciate my mother more and more – even down to the smallest details. Something as simple as understanding the sacrifice my mother made every time I begged her to take me anywhere when I was growing up. Now that I’m a “grown up” myself, I understand what it’s like to work hard for a tank of gas and how every dollar adds up – and quickly. There were plenty of times she said yes when I’m sure she should have said no. Knowing now what it takes to earn and keep a living, I can only imagine how difficult it was to be a single mother of two very knuckle-headed children. To this day, she still tells me yes when she should tell me no. The only difference is now that I’m older, I try my best not to ask. I try to work as hard as I can to take care of things myself; to be a big girl. Am I perfect? No. But as I grow older, as my respect for her grows stronger, so does my understanding of my own life and what I aspire to be like.

 

When my brother and I were younger, my mom had the wisdom to know that in order for her children to have a better future, she was going to have to make some changes. As a child, I didn’t understand that. The only thing I understood was that my family, and my heart, was utterly broken. One day a few years ago, we were discussing what happened and my mom shared with me that after she and my dad told us they were splitting up, I stormed off to my room and at just five years old, vowed at the top of my lungs, “I just don’t love anybody anymore!” Without realizing it, because I hadn’t remembered saying that, I kept that promise to myself for over twenty-five years. Those words took strong root inside of my heart and it hasn’t been until recently that God has been able to start digging up that deeply planted seed. My mom was brave enough to stand up to someone that although she loved, she knew could not be around her children. She knew that if they were, they were going to cause more harm than good. As a result, she nearly lost her life. My mother was willing to lay down her life for the future of mine and my brother’s. The more I think about that statement, the more I’m in awe of the strength and the love my mother had for us.

 

This instance in my life used to torture me. It instilled a fear so deep in me that to leave my mom for even five minutes shook me to my core. I was so terrified that if I left her, she was going to die – and even worse, I would be tormented with images of all the ways it could happen. I couldn’t let myself leave her – I let myself leave her when I was five years old to go outside and play… and she nearly died trying to protect me and my brother. I couldn’t let that happen to my mom again. If I was invited to sleep over at a friend’s house, I would tell them I had a stomach ache and had to go home. I had to get back to my mom; she might die without me there. I attempted a sleep-away camp once when I was younger. I cried every single day and every single night. My counselors didn’t understand it and I know I did nothing but annoy them because I didn’t even understand it! I cried my heart out because I was terrified that my mom might die without me there. And that dream I always had growing up to move to New York and pursue my love of tap dancing and dance rehabilitation? I choked. The idea of leaving my mom paralyzed me. She might die without me there. If we’re being absolutely honest and transparent here, there are some days I still get scared – all because of one (major) incident that happened when I was just five years old. She never asked me to stay home, she never asked me to stay close for college or live with her until I’m 73. She never wanted that for me. That’s not the future she envisioned when she fought for it. She never knew I had that fear. I didn’t even understand that I had that fear.

 

I just knew I couldn’t leave my mom. It wasn’t until the past year or two that I began to realize the link between the fear of leaving my mom growing up and what happened when I left her to go outside when I was five. I used to think if I could just go back in time, maybe there would be a chance for me to change what happened. Maybe I could protect her in some way from what happened and the months of recovery and pain that followed could just somehow slip away, could just simply never have existed in the first place. What could I have done at five years old? Nothing. But when we don’t understand our heart break, we will always keep questioning what we could have done in situations that are so completely out of our control. It isn’t until we understand the truth of the situation that we can be set free. We have to lean into the sting (as one of my dearest friends once said) of our heartache to understand the root of it. Once that seed is exposed by the truth, God can then uproot it and we can be healed. I am living, breathing proof of that.

 

My mother survived. My mother pushed through everything because she knew that she had to raise me and my brother. She knew that if she wasn’t around, there would be no one to look after her children. Every single move my mother made was for the future of my brother and me. Every breath she took was so my brother and I could have a good life, a good future. I see that now. I understand that now and every day, I grow to understand it even more. And my mother didn’t fight so hard for me to sit around, paralyzed with this fear and this idea that I can add even one second on to her life. I can’t. But I can fight for my future, just like she did. I can fight to make it better. I have to fight for my health. I have to fight for my career. I have to fight for a good, successful future, because my mom fought for me. God saved her life so that I could see what it means to fight, to push past every obstacle that seems to be in the way, and come out stronger.

 

My mom is everything that I aspire to be. She is strong. She is brave. Although there may be times where she’s afraid, as I could only imagine that she was when she stepped into our childhood family home that day, she could only think about one thing; the future and what’s to come. She’s taught me, perhaps without her even realizing it, that although something may hurt right now, the most important thing to remember is why you’re fighting and let that keep pushing you. And when things seem hard, when things aren’t turning out the way you thought they would, trust. Trust God. Trust that there is a plan at hand; that all things happen for a reason. And don’t let it stop you. You can’t let your fears paralyze your future. Because if you do, you’ve stopped living. She is my biggest inspiration. She’s my best friend. She’s my mother.

 

All day long, I’ve heard the phrase, “pearl of great price,” repeated over and over in my spirit. Thinking about everything she’s been through and what she did for my brother and me reminds me that we are ALL pearls of great price. We have purpose here, no matter what walk of life we come from. The enemy will try to stop it but we have to fight, we have to push forward, no matter what the cost. In Matthew 13, there’s a scripture that says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” I believe on this Mother’s Day, God wants to remind us that we are that pearl of great price. Why? Because WE are His Kingdom. And He gave everything to purchase us. He laid down His life so that we might find ours… because we are His pearls of great price. We cannot let ourselves be trapped into thinking that we are anything less.

 

Thinking about how my mom nearly gave her life so that my brother and I could have life and life more abundantly takes my breath away… It brings me to tears every time. I no longer cry over the heartbreak of it all; I cry because of the love expressed that day. You see, we are her pearls of great price. My mother loves me and my brother more than words could ever say and for the first time in over twenty five years, I let that love touch my heart. Why? Because for as much as my mom loves me, it doesn’t hold a flicker to the love that burns inside of God for me. But not just for me – for you. You are His pearl of great price. And He would do it all again if it meant that He could have you. That’s amazing. That’s love. Selah; “now pause and calmly think of that.”

The war on perfection.

Perfection was always the goal. It was around fourth grade that people began going out of their way to teach me just how imperfect I was. We’d moved from New Orleans, Louisiana to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and I was starting at a brand new elementary school – but it wasn’t new to others. Everyone else had their friends, their circles, their inside jokes and I was simply the new girl… an instant outsider. I’d suddenly gone from having fun on the playground during recess at my old school to being taunted while everyone else played together against me. The real shame in this wasn’t their making fun of me – it was letting myself believe that they were right. And it became abundantly clear that if I wanted people to like me, I was going to have to be perfect.

But what was ‘perfect’? Skinny was perfect. Beautiful was perfect. Being funny was perfect. Perfect was this imaginary destination that no one expected me to ever be able to reach, myself included. Those freckles were not perfect. Those triangular chicken legs were not perfect, especially when compared to that imperfect chunkier stomach. That mole on my arm was not perfect. Those teeth were definitely not perfect! I always found myself missing some mark set by unrealistic standards. I can’t blame anyone for those standards. I think standards are a product of what we’re surrounded by and what we’re silently being taught while other’s sneer in our direction and judge us because we don’t look or sound or act like they do. I always felt like I was one word shy of the perfect joke or one straight tooth shy of the perfect smile and was never able to obtain this state of happiness rooted in popularity contests and social circles… because perfect was the destination and I was far from it.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to understand things that happened to me when I was younger. I’ve been able to forgive people of the ways they hurt me. I know that most kids don’t understand the full extent of what they do. Had they known that I went home and cried, had they known how hard I tried to be someone they would like, maybe they would have treated me differently. But what I still found myself struggling with was trying to be perfect. I so strongly believed that I could never succeed at anything that I worked even harder to try and prove to other people that I could do it.

In 2009, I went to the Aveda Institute and got my cosmetology license. Before even graduating, I landed a job at one of the most well-known salons around. People in my class actually told me that I was wasting my time applying there because they would never hire someone like me; they only hire “blonde-haired barbies” was the term. In other words, I was too fat and not pretty enough… but I’d gotten the job! And I could not have been more proud or happier with myself. I honestly loved that job and that salon so much; I treasured the opportunity to grow and learn there. However, because I didn’t believe I was pretty enough or skinny enough to work there, I still found myself trying to overcompensate. I tried to be the perfect assistant, the perfect makeup artist, the perfect hairstylist, the perfect laundry folder, the perfect color room cleaner… I tried my hardest to be in at least three places at once at any given time that I worked myself to the bone. I worked myself so hard, it ended in a very serious back injury that took 8 months to recover from. And I still didn’t feel good enough. I felt as though I had to work a thousand times harder than anyone else there – just to prove that I belonged. I fell into a bad depression after injuring my back.

Although I had forgiven those kids all those years ago for hurting me, I hadn’t let go of all of those imperfections. And in my mind, it cost me the job and opportunity of my dreams…

Recently, as I’ve been redefining success for myself, I’ve been trying to open my heart to healing as well. Part of that healing started to come when I came across a scripture in the Amplified version of the Bible that really struck my soul. I mean, I read this scripture over and over and each time, it cut me a little deeper with the freedom of understanding.

“You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

The word ‘perfect’ always catches my attention, as you can probably imagine, seeing as I’ve tried to live a lifetime of being perfect. But what struck me the most was the word that followed: growing. You see, I love the Amplified version because it breaks down the actual definition of certain words used in scripture. This term ‘perfect’ didn’t mean a state of being, it didn’t mean some final destination or that someone has it all together. The first word following ‘perfect’ is growing. This term ‘perfect’ means growth. Oh, I wish you could feel the fire in my bones every time I type it! Perfection is not a destination. Perfection is growth. It’s growing into the complete person that God has called me to be and the only way to do that is to find myself in Him. That’s it. There is absolutely no one thing that can make God love me more. There is no amount of work that I can put in to earn His love. It just is. It just exists. It’s there. To Him, I am perfect. Why? Because I’m continually growing in Him, in Who He is and in how much He loves me.

I know I’m not alone in this journey of perfection. I know so many people struggle with wanting to be perfect. If you’re one of those people, please read these words carefully and let them settle deep into your heart: ‘perfect’ is not a destination. ‘Perfect’ is growing. As long as you are growing as a person, you’re perfect. Lose yourself in the Love that freely pours out for you. It’s there. It does not matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve come from, where you think you’re going – it’s always there. And it is a perfect Love because in that Love, you will find yourself growing into who God has created you to be, whether you know it or not. You don’t have to wrestle. You don’t have to war for Love. God has already made war for your perfect, growing heart.

What is Success?

A husband. My own children. A career. Financial stability… These are all the tangible sources of success I’ve been working toward for as long as I can remember now. I’ve always wanted to be a mother and a wife – even back when I was a child myself. I flipped back and forth between wanting 6 kids and a daunting, crazy 12! I had a certain age limit to obtain all of these things, of course, and it was way before I turned 30. But here I am, scratching at the surface of my early thirties and not a single one of those things has happened for me. And I have to be transparent with you: I often feel like a failure because of it. Am I not beautiful enough for a husband? Have I ruined my body too much with reckless eating and depression to be fit to carry a child? Am I not worthy enough to have a successful career? Have I made too many mistakes to finally be fully financially independent?

These are the questions that torture my mind nearly every day. As much as I try to hold on to my faith in God and that He has a perfect plan for my life, there are times when I just want to throw in the towel of my hope and accept the spoken and unspoken lies disguised as truths about myself. Why? Because I can’t see it. I cannot see His thoughts about myself. I cannot see His plan for my life. And my dreams and desires for my life are so much bigger than me, I know I cannot do it without God. But what if I fail? What if I’m wrong? What if I don’t get to do any of the things I love so dearly and want to accomplish? Am I the only one who fears failure? Am I all alone in this journey I’ve chosen for my life? Because after moving to an entirely new place, where I know no one, it certainly feels that way.

Lately I’ve been able to spot a recurring theme in these questions, and maybe as you’ve read above, you’ve been able to spot it as well: seeing. Vision. Or should I say, the lack there of. My vision for my future has stopped just short of perishing all together. To be honest with you, as that’s what I created this space for, it’s waivered in and out for quite a while. My vision would ignite with a fiery passion at every new project I started and a few months later, it would begin to slowly diminish until I found myself repeating the same destructive cycle of my past. I wasn’t truly growing, although I could fake it for a while. But for true growth into the woman God has called me to be, I needed a move – a shift. I needed a new whirlwind thrown into my every day routine. Even more than that, I needed something to shatter my every day routine. It wasn’t working for me anyway.

I know it may sound contrary to questioning feeling alone earlier, but I believe God called me out here to Texas for a reason: to restore my vision for my future. And I think part of that process involves confronting the questions that have burdened me for so long now. I never knew how to be my own person. I would often times hide behind the security blanket of my friends and family, accepting that I was grafted into their lives but never fully accepting that God has a life for me as well. Questioning is okay. In fact, I think God likes it. When we begin asking questions, it means that our hearts are opening to Him and to His truth. Some of those truths may be easy – we may laugh, we may feel foolish for wasting so much time worrying about such an easy answer. And some of those truths may be difficult. Some of those truths may hurt. Some of those truths may reveal things about ourselves that we don’t like… some of them may even bring up pains and scars and bruises we either thought were gone or just ignored all together.

But that’s the beauty of growth. Through these experiences and through these trials, through these questions, we learn who we are. We learn who we can be. We learn who we’re called to be.

I’m currently in a season of redefining success for myself. The whispers of the world (the same whispers that leave impressions on our hearts of who they think we should be) place success in careers and relationships and money. What do I place success in? What do I believe true success is? I took to social media the other day to ask others what they think and over on my Instagram my (incredibly wise) mom hit the nail on the head for my life. She said, “A large component of success is refusing to listen to the enemy who is constantly telling you that you are not good enough, that you could have done better, achieved more.” Who doesn’t struggle with that from time to time, honestly? But she’s absolutely right. I cannot achieve success while I believe the lies of the enemy chattering away in my mind. It’s time to silence the enemy and define my own success. It’s time to define who I am in God and settle my heart there. It’s time to not just read the scriptures but move into the reality of the Word of God so that my heart can mold into it.

What defines success for you? I would like to know. I also invite you to find peace in your questions tonight. It is okay to question. Question everything. But also trust that God has an answer, even if you don’t receive it right away. Be patient in your waiting and be strong in your growing. You’re not alone. And you are a success.