The Importance of Knowing What Season You’re In

13957414_1021119508006291_550689597_nWhile in college my life was extremely busy. My schedule was packed. At one point I was working two jobs and taking 19 credit hours of class. For those of you who don’t know, that is the maximum amount of hours a college student can take. Not to mention, all the time I spent in a practice room practicing instruments or singing and doing homework. I had every hour of my day on a strict schedule and if I didn’t stick with it, I wouldn’t get homework done, or I would miss meals, or I wouldn’t get enough sleep, or I wouldn’t get to see my friends on the weekends, or I wouldn’t get to spend time with God. That amount of work was needed for that season. I had to buckle down and finish my degree. That was a season of hard work and a full schedule.

On the day of graduation, however, my season of life immediately changed. I didn’t need to work so hard anymore because I had accomplished my goal. I got my degree. It was such a strange feeling. I always felt like I should be doing something. I tried to fill my schedule with unnecessary work that I felt I should be doing. My plans to basically work myself to death always fell through because I didn’t recognize what season I was in, and God simply wouldn’t allow it. I was in a season of rest. A season where God wanted to take care of all my needs and not have me work for it. Not once did I take a moment to ask God what season I was in. It would’ve saved me a lot of trouble. I would get frustrated and stressed out when God wouldn’t allow me to work for all the things I wanted. In my logical mind it didn’t make sense how my needs would be taken care of. I was used to working hard and it’s very much in my personality to work hard and get things done and accomplish goals. No matter how hard I tried, my plans just did not match up with God’s plans. I planned to work myself to death with a schedule full of never ending tasks, while God planned for me to rest and not lift a finger because I had just come out of a season of busyness.

You see, when you don’t recognize what season you’re in, you will make plans and get upset, frustrated, discouraged, and even think that God isn’t answering your prayers because you’re trying to force your plan and idea of what season you should be in on your life when that was never something God had for you. Instead of getting angry and trying to conquer the world in one day and complaining, asking God “Why aren’t you on my side?!” Try asking Holy Spirit what season you’re in. Ask God what his plans for your life are. His ways and his plans for our lives are so much higher than our own. It’s quite possible that his plans and ways for your life are different than yours. Struggle comes when we don’t surrender.

We can make our plans,
    but the Lord determines our steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Each season has a purpose that will prepare you for the next. Currently, I’m still in a season of rest. I’m learning here and now that there will always be an opportunity to work hard and have a busy full schedule, but a moment of peace and rest is few and far between and must be fought for. Rest is so important that when the Lord created the earth, he took a whole day to rest and look back at what he had built.

There will be a time for everything. Take time to learn what season God has you in and enjoy it. Be present in the moment and stop worrying about tomorrow. God loves you and his plans are never to disappoint you, but to give you a better, brighter tomorrow.

 

xoxo,

Ndi

Maintaining Peace in the Storm

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Psalm 23:1-3

Most people that know me would say I’m always laughing, making jokes, and smiling. Some probably think I’ve never seen a bad day. It’s only because God has delivered me through so many traumatic life circumstances that I’m able to have joy. 

Can I be honest with you guys today? This last month has been really hard on me. Within a very short period of time I have gone through loss after loss after loss. My family went through a difficult situation where all of our lives were in danger. My summer plans to do my dream internship in New York fell apart. I lost thousands of dollars of savings. My cat ran away. A close friend of 7 years was choosing not to speak to me when I needed her most. My phone was stolen (later returned). I was being gossiped about. And most recently, my little chihuahua that I’ve had for almost half my life passed away unexpectedly. You would think it would stop there but it doesn’t. I could go on and on with this list but I just want to give you a picture of my life lately. 

Before any of this happened, I was already feeling tired,emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. So when all of this happened, saying I was tired was an understatement. I was exhausted. There were a few nights that I just wept and poured out my heart to God. I told him I don’t know how much more I can take. I was starting to feel like Job. In the Bible everything was taken from Job suddenly. Servant after servant came telling him his family, his wealth, his animals were all gone. Later his health deteriorated as well. Everything he had was ripped away from him.

After my dog Princess died, it felt like salt in an already open wound or like being kicked in the stomach when I was already down. The demonic attacks on my family and I were getting more and more personal. I sat in my room praying to God “Lord, please don’t take everything.” He didn’t answer me, but brought to my remembrance what he spoke to me at the very beginning of 2014. While everyone was making New Year’s resolutions I prayed and asked God what this year would be like. He revealed to me that this year would be like Psalm 23. He said that I would watch each verse unfold in my life. When I read the scripture I wasn’t really looking forward to the whole darkest valley thing.

At one point or another each of us will go through a storm in our life. It’s not a matter of if but when it will happen. Some experience more extreme storms than others. Sometimes they are brought upon us because of our own choices other times they are simply an attack of the enemy. However, we are not entitled to an explanation as to why we go through the things we go through. God’s ways are sovereign and his thoughts are so much higher than ours. If God allowed it, there has to be a purpose. He will never allow us to go through something that is more than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). Even if something terrible happened and it was not a part of his plan, He can turn it around for his glory (Rom.8:28).

Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me. Psalm 23:4

Through each storm in our life, God will always provide comfort. The Israelites were having a hard time after escaping slavery in Egypt. However, God still comforted them. When they were stranded in the wilderness, God provided manna as food for them. In Hebrew the literal translation for manna is “What is this?”. When we go through trials in life God provides comfort for us and we say “What is this?”. It could be exactly what we need, but we still question God and ask him to explain himself. We look at our circumstances and say “God, what is this?” We want to Him to explain why we are going through these trials. But God doesn’t owe us an explanation. Sometimes he will give us one but not always. God is so wonderful and mysterious we couldn’t possibly understand everything He does. When he doesn’t give us an explanation we still need to trust him because He’s faithful. If everything is His, then it was never ours to begin with. It’s important to release everything to Him. We are only stewards of his possessions.

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? Job 2:10

God gave me a revelation while in the midst of my own storm concerning Psalm 23. After reading this portion of scripture over and over I realized that in order to receive a greater measure of anointing, blessings and favor, you HAVE to go through a dark season with God. If you look at the order of the scriptures in Psalm 23 first God establishes that he’s with us and he’s guiding us. Then, He walks with us through the darkest times of our life. Then immediately after we see in the next verse it says “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:5-6.

The day my dog Princess died I took my other little chihuahua Tito for a walk. I have had Tito for even longer than Princess and they were companions for several years ever since Princess was born. I knew Tito was starting to realize that Princess had passed and was getting very sad about it, so I thought a walk would get his mind off things. Tito who is usually a very vocal dog was silent as we passed people and other dogs in the neighborhood. I remember that day being very dark and cloudy outside because it was about to storm and rain. At the beginning of our walk Tito was excited to be outside, but as we turned around to go back home he was starting to lag behind and look discouraged. I said to him, “Come on Tito. We’re almost home.” He looked at me and had a burst of energy to keep going, but soon was tired again. I picked him up and held him while he laid his head on my chest. We finished the rest of our walk that way.

Suddenly, God showed me how He does the same for us during the darkest times of our lives. Sometimes we don’t know it, but the trials are about to end and there’s breakthrough on the other side. Tito didn’t know we were almost home. We hear God’s voice and try to keep going but it feels like we can’t. Just like I held Tito, God holds us when we feel that we have no strength left. Notice I didn’t pick up Tito and run home. God doesn’t pick us up and run to hurry and get out of our darkest valley. He lets us know he’s present. Because He’s Lord, we don’t have to be afraid. It doesn’t matter what the circumstance is. God can handle what we go through. We just need to relax and rest on His chest. In my arms Tito was safe from other dogs that came chasing after us. In God’s arms we’re safe.

After all of Job’s tests and trials. God blessed him with twice than what he had before! A lot of times God wants to use these trials and storms to bring promotion and bless us. Even though the enemy meant to destroy us, God uses our situations to position us to be blessed even more and to bring him glory. We have to maintain the right attitude though. God wants to be just in blessing us with more. It’s so easy to get a bad attitude, lose your peace and miss what God is doing in this season. When you’re going through a storm, it’s a critical time to draw closer to God and strengthen your relationship with God.

Here are practical ways to maintain your peace during a storm. One is to magnify God and not the problems. To magnify means to enlarge something. By constantly dwelling on the problems you start to make them larger than they really are. God is so much bigger than any circumstance. Also, don’t feed fear. Don’t give in to fear and fearful thoughts. By feeding fear you are diminishing your faith. Ask God to cover you in His love because His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Declare scripture over your life. If you feel like you are becoming fearful, remember that faith comes by hearing. So declare out loud what the scriptures say about you and God’s promises. Another way to maintain your peace is by worshiping. When we worship the Bible says His Spirit inhabits our praises (Psalm 22:3). Our praise literally changes the atmosphere. Encourage yourself by remembering all the times when God has done something for you and shown himself faithful. And finally, count your blessings and be thankful for all that God has blessed you with even while you’re going through a hard time. If you feel yourself getting bitter and discouraged about your circumstances, it’s because you haven’t released it to Him. Let go. It’s out of your control, so just let Him in to comfort you. Bitterness and discouragement can fester when we listen to the lies of the enemy. He’ll tell us we’re alone and that God doesn’t love us and things are only going to get worse. But when thoughts like that come up quickly cast them down in the name of Jesus. Don’t listen to them. Most times when we go through a storm we have an open wound from that. We have to acknowledge the pain and not just brush it off. Pour out your heart to God. Tell him how you’re feeling. It’s okay to cry. It’s not a sign of weakness. Even if we are weak, in our weakness Christ’s power and strength is made perfect (2 Cor. 12:9). The quicker we admit we are hurt to God, the quicker we are able to start healing and be comforted by His presence. Ignoring a wound and listening to lies causes bitterness and discouragement. Another way to combat bitterness and discouragement is by putting on the full armor of God (Eph. 6) and stopping any negative thinking and speaking. Negative thinking and speaking is only going to encourage your pity party. With everything in you fight the negative thinking and speaking.

I know a lot of you reading are going through a storm right now. It may seem like it doesn’t end, but just like the night has to end, the sun will rise again. Don’t let the devil steal your peace. Keep your eyes fixed on God and not the circumstances. He’s taking you deeper to places of trust where you’ve never been. He’s preparing you to be effective in your calling. Learn what you can now. Don’t miss what God has for you in this season. Because he loves us, we can trust him. We may not understand why everything happens, but the one who does is leading us. Sometimes God strips us of things to bless us with better. Allow this night season to refine you in your character. Surrender everything to him and just rest. His promises are true and you’re going to make it.

.. appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:3

xoxo,

Ndi

How to Worship like a Prostitute

It may seem strange, but if each of us learn to worship like a prostitute our lives would be less stressful, and our relationship with God would be much richer. 

A few weeks ago, I went on a mission trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, during spring break with a campus ministry. For months I had been preparing my heart for the trip because I knew God had something special He wanted to do on the trip. The first day the team got there we worked with the Dream Center (a city outreach ministry that feeds the homeless, does dental procedures, and offers veterinary services for animals) which only operated one day out of the month. It just so happened that the week my team was there, they were operating. My dear friend Jovita and I worked on the prayer ministry team. The objective was to go to each person waiting in line, ask if they needed prayer, then pray. Jovita and I came up to one woman who visibly had all her walls up. She had a scowl on her face and did not look approachable. I said, “Hi, do you have any prayer requests?”. She was quick to say no. But I was not going to give up that easy. I was thinking to myself, “Oh come on lady! You don’t need anything??” Jovita and I began speaking with her more and she began telling us her whole life story. It turned out that she was from Florida and she had been sex trafficked for more than 12 years of her life and was now homeless living at  a women’s shelter. What broke my heart was that she had experienced all this heartache and more and she was only the tender age of 22. Her name was Kathy. Kathy had no family to turn to or anyone to say they love her just because of she’s herself. She told us she believed in a higher power but doesn’t know what to call him and didn’t believe in Jesus. I could feel the love of God welling up inside of me. She still refused to have Jovita and I pray for her, so I asked the Holy Spirit to tell me anything that I could say to get her to lower her walls. The Holy Spirit told me “Ask about her bad dreams at night.” So I said, “You’ve been telling us all of this, but what about your bad dreams that you’ve been having at night?” She looked at me very shocked and said “How did you know?”. I just told her the Holy Spirit told me. She described to me very demonic attacks that she had been having at night and in her dreams. I interpreted her dream and said finally “See there’s a prayer need! Can we pray for you?” She just smiled hesitantly and said “I guess…” I was so excited!! As Jovita and I prayed for this woman, you could sense the power and love of God touching her life.  She told us later that she felt peace, like she was floating, and like she was clean. We began to encourage her in the Lord, but then I realized she didn’t even have Jesus, the person who made a way for us to get to God. I asked her if she would like to accept Jesus into her heart and she said YES! As Jovita and I led her to the Lord, her whole countenance changed. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. It was especially special to my heart because last year on a mission trip to Thailand when I worked with a sex trafficking ministry, I did not have the privilege of seeing a prostitute I ministered to come to know the Lord. I was honored that God used my friend and I in New Orleans to touch another woman’s life that was victimized by sex trafficking. God allowed me to witness the power of His love firsthand. Being apart of that experience was like seeing a young daughter reunited with her with her father after him being absent for a long time. Kathy was so excited. Afterwards, we connected her with a local church.

Can you just imagine the way that she’ll worship God when she goes to church? For so many years of her life people had abandoned her, judged her, beaten her down, and used her. God’s love is so persistent though. He sent Jovita and I on to go on a specific trip at a specific time just to meet her so He could show her how much He loves her. He revealed to her that He’s not like people who take advantage and leave. His love is pure and here to stay. I can’t imagine how much abandon she will worship with.

Fast forward to last week and I’m on my face before the Lord. I’m pouring out my heart to Him because I’m tired. Physically, I’m tired. Emotionally, I’m tired. Spiritually, I’m tired. Tired of not surrendering everything. I don’t care who sees or knows. As I’m bowed down, my hair is on the dirty floor and my tears cover the ground. I don’t try to fix anything to make it look prettier. I just close my eyes, and the Lord shows me a picture of Mary Magdalene. The prostitute who poured out everything she had probably quite literally for Jesus. She gave him every drop of oil in her alabaster jar. Her oil was worth more than a year’s salary back then. She cried at his feet and wiped her tears with her hair. In my head I thought, “So what are you trying to say Lord? So, I’m a prostitute now?”. Haha but in all seriousness, how many times do we prostitute ourselves to other lovers? How quick do we make other things idols in our lives? It could be anything from relationships, to games, to social networks, to hobbies.

Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones, even though they are not gods at all? Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! The heavens are shocked and shrink back in horror and dismay,’ says the Lord. ‘For my people have done two things: They have abandoned me- the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!’ Jeremiah 2:11-13

We exhaust ourselves worshiping all these other things that cannot and will not ever fill us. God will allow us to become tired and frustrated from prostituting ourselves, until we surrender and realize He alone is worthy of all our adoration. He is our first love. The one who fills us and makes us whole. 

Mary Magdalene got it. She realized she was a prostitute literally and spiritually. She was culturally unworthy of love. She was tired. She tried other lovers and always came up empty. Yet despite all these factors, the Messiah did not overlook her. At the revelation of who Jesus was, she decided to surrender everything, not caring what other people thought or how ugly or unacceptable it looked. You better believe the fragrance of her worship permeated the whole room. 

As she knelt behind him at his feet weeping, her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Mary Magdalene worshiped with abandon by kissing Jesus’ feet and anointing them with perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied. Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”…… “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Luke 7:38-47

 

Because Mary Magdalene recognized her sins and how merciful Jesus had been to love her unconditionally, she worshiped him extravagantly. She humbled her heart and gained favor from God.

Time to examine yourself. Are you taking the grace of God for granted? “Long ago I broke the yoke that oppressed you and tore away the chains of your slavery, but still you said, ‘I will not serve you.’ On every hill under every green tree, you have prostituted yourselves by bowing down to idols.” Jeremiah 2:20. Are you prostituting yourself to other lovers? God has been faithful to set us free, so are you still only showing God a little love? He’s worthy of making ourselves undignified. He’s worthy of our affection, even if others talk about us. Jesus paid a high price for all of us. The least he deserves is all of our love. 

So you’re wondering how you can worship like a prostitute? When you think about it, a prostitute gives herself away wholly in body, spirit, and soul. Do you give yourself away to God in body, spirit and soul? Step one: Leave your other lovers behind that have taken your First Love’s place. Step two: Realize how much you’ve been forgiven and set free from and most of all how much God loves you. Step three: Surrender everything. So many times we stress ourselves out by carrying all these extra things God never told us to carry in the first place. We want people to fill us. We want hobbies to fill us. We want things to fill us. Release it. It’s okay. Let’s get our eyes fixed on Christ and give him the praise and worship he deserves. Mary Magdalene, the had the right idea. Let’s follow in her footsteps.

I love you with the love of Christ,
Ndi

 

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