The Similarities of Sisters and Swine

pig_ringWhat does a nose ring-clad pig and a woman who uses poor judgment have in common? Well, let’s first explore the ridiculousness of swagged-out swine. No really. It’s ridiculous. And so is thinking that good looks and thickness in the hips and lips is what gives you value as a woman. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are (although being up in age and having this mindset does up the level of ridiculosity), you are not and should never be defined by your exterior, or your posterior for that matter. Use of discretion (making sound, godly decisions) coupled with beauty (inner is more important than outer) is what we should strive to develop and walk in as women of God.

King Solomon realized the value of discretion in a woman in Proverbs 11:22.

“Beauty in a woman without good judgment is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.” (GNT)

Besides being ridiculous, a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a major devaluing of what is made to have great value. The ring ends up wallowing in the same mud and slop as the pig it’s attached to, and in that state it isn’t fit to adorn anybody’s hand as it should. It would have to be removed from its previous environment, washed thoroughly clean, and placed in the possession of someone who would properly care for it before being able to shine and add that expected bling factor.

Well, my sister this describes the sanctification process for believers as well. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from unrighteousness, delivers us from the hands of satan and places us into the hands of our Heavenly Father, and we must remove ourselves from our former environment and ungodly influences in order to reflect God’s glory in the earth.

It is our job to allow a continual cleansing to occur in our lives by the Word of God. Returning to or staying in the same old environment with the same old friends, hanging out in the same old places, and doing the same old things is what keeps us in the same old defeated, misused, and abused state. It’s time for a real, lasting change, and that starts with a decision from you.

When I was about 18 years old I had a life changing come-to-Jesus moment. I had just graduated from high school and was a few weeks away from going off to basic training in the Army Reserves. Now having access to the local Army base, I decided to attend a concert with a friend of mine to hear one of my favorite male singing groups perform.

I wanted to look my best and a little sexy too, so I wore a slinky, form fitting dress with no support for the my girls (If you know what I mean). I was so sexy (and I guess groupy looking) that one of the members of the group invited me to his hotel room. In retrospect I realize that was a trap set by satan to get me in a compromising position literally, but in my eighteen year-old head I thought this was an awesome opportunity to hang out with a celebrity. How cool? Not cool at all because what I thought was an innocent and fun after party turned into  a proposition for sex. Thankfully, I declined the offer. Thankfully I made it out of there without something terrible happening to me. Nevertheless I was still devastated. I felt foolish because I misinterpreted his intentions. What about me said “I’m easy” to him? I wondered. I’m sure my outfit and the fact that I ended up following their limousine to the gas station had something to do with it. At that moment I decided that I didn’t ever want anybody ever again to draw that conclusion about me. When I got home I cleaned my closet of all suggestive clothing (including the dress I had on) and asked the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom and a conviction about my appearance to avoid sending the wrong messages to men.

Just in case you think you’re off the hook because you are already modest in your dress, good judgment also applies to non-clothing related things as well. It applies to any decision you make that either brings shame or glory to the God you serve. It applies to the things you say, the things you post, how you treat people, what you do when no one is looking, and how you respond in tough situations. Do your current actions honor God or do they offend Him? Do they make you a beacon of light or a promoter of darkness? Think about that the next time you pose for a picture or share intimate details of your life with others that really are none of their business anyway. Think about that when things or people make you angry or an opportunity to do something dishonest presents itself.

I want to strongly encourage you make a decision today to be the woman God has called to be and shun the woman the world is saying you should be. You are a precious jewel in the sight of your Father and have been snatched out of the pig’s snout (aka.the world) for His holy purposes. Think it, live it, and be proud of it!

Building Up the Gratitude Muscle

muscleI was watching Dr. Oz yesterday, and Robin Roberts, the Good Morning America anchor, was on the show sharing her story of triumph over cancer and another disease caused by her cancer treatment. She credits her recovery to maintaining a positive attitude throughout each ordeal and to a spirit of gratitude, a phenomenon that even her physicians find interesting enough to research. She said that gratitude was like a muscle. I thought that statement was very profound, so I’ve decided to explore that analogy a little further in recognition of this season of thanksgiving. Let’s get ready to work our gratitude muscles, shall we?

There are several similarities between gratitude and a human muscle.

1. Gratitude, like a muscle, remains underdeveloped if it is not exercised. Have you ever seen someone who started out skinny as a twig and after months of weight lifting looked as big as an ox? It is amazing how much muscles can transform when a little iron is pumped. But what happens when that same man stops working out? The muscle mass is lost, and he ends up back where he started. In order to maintain growth he must continue to do what built up the muscles in the first place.  Hebrews 13:15 (KJV) says “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Praise, or gratitude, is expected of believers, and it is expected continually. The more we express our gratitude to God the more it builds us up, but if we refuse to do it or do it only sporadically, then our gratitude remains weak and so do we.

2. Gratitude is strained when pressure is applied to it. Lifting weights causes muscles to tear and that causes soreness in the muscles worked.  When those muscles are sore it can be difficult to continue exercising them and we want to quit, but when we continue it gets easier and easier over time. Similarly, when we face difficulties in our lives our attitude of gratitude is challenged and we feel as if gratitude is pointless or impossible, but that is when we should be grateful the most. It is much easier to have a pity party and go around complaining when things are not going our way, but the Bible tells us to give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for us (1 Thessalonians 5:8). God is very clear about when and in what situations we should be thankful–in everything and at all times. He did not say we should like or enjoy everything, but that we must maintain a thankful attitude through everything. Perhaps you don’t like your boss or your coworkers or the amount of money in your bank account or your relationship status.  There is still plenty to be thankful for in spite of it all.  Work through the tough times and no matter how painful things become press forward in praise.  The pain is good for you because it only leads to your growth.

3. The more you exercise gratitude the stronger you become and the more weight you can handle. When we lift weights regularly our muscles develop muscle memory.  The weight that seemed too heavy to lift one week becomes easier to lift the next week.  That’s because your muscles learned to adjust to the weight. The next time they are called upon to lift the original weight they are ready. They are stronger and ready for the next physical challenge. Gratitude works in much the same way. The familiar saying “trials come to make you strong” is true. Those trials are our opportunity to be built up in our faith and gratitude through practicing the habit of thankfulness. If we learn to be thankful when we find our bank account overdrawn one time, we can still be thankful if it happens again or if something worst happens to our money because we’ve learned how to handle it. In other words, the situations that shook you before won’t shake you anymore because you’re stronger and ready for the next spiritual challenge. Moreover, we will be able to say, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57 KJV). I’ve witnessed others who have managed to keep a smile on their faces and a praise on their lips in what I would call the most difficult circumstances. That is true spiritual strength.  Hear this, that strength is not reserved for special people.  It is available for those who put in the work necessary to become stronger and better as a result of the things they go through.

Yes, gratitude is a muscle we cannot afford to leave undeveloped. It takes work, but the work pays off in strength that we never knew we had all along.

IJS

How will you develop your gratitude muscle?

Five Pieces of Advice for My Fifteen-Year-Old Self

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Me at fifteen years old

I was listening to the Yolanda Adams morning show the other day, and the topic for the day was “If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?”  My fifteen year-old-self was pretty innocent and naive.  I didn’t get into much trouble, and I made good grades in school. I wasn’t perfect though by a long shot. I made my share of mistakes, and in hindsight would have done some things differently.  After thinking about it some I think I would offer the following pieces of advice to the younger me.

1. You are beautiful no matter how small your curves are compared to other girls. When I was younger I was disappointed by the booty genes I inherited.  I wanted a bigger butt like other girls I knew. Whenever I tried on clothes in a store I would imagine how I’d look if I were a little thicker. Of course my mom would try to reassure me that I was fine just the way I was, but I still felt inadequate.  Over time I realized that there were girls I wanted to look like who actually wanted to look like me.  That taught me that everyone has something that they’d like to change about themselves.  I have also learned to appreciate who God made to be, which is somebody pretty special and well built.

2. If a guy doesn’t want you, you don’t want him either. I spent too much time as a teen pursuing relationships with guys that were one-sided–I was more into them than they were into me. I spent even more time trying to figure out why these particular guys didn’t like me in a romantic way.  What was it about that me that wasn’t good enough?  I thought. Child, please!  The answer to that question is absolutely nothing. Man’s rejection does not determine someone’s worth.  Thankfully, my self-esteem, or should I say my God-esteem, has improved tremendously since then, but I really could have saved myself a lot of time and heartache had I learned this sooner.

3. Learn to save your money.  I definitely would be in a much better place financially if I had learned this concept as a youngster. Financial literacy was just not one of those things that my family discussed, probably because they didn’t have the knowledge either.  My goal is to make sure that changes with the next generation.  I will teach my children the importance of tithing, saving, and managing money wisely so that they can be much better off at a much younger age.

4. Finish what you start.  Dance lessons, piano lessons, track, and an economics class–I quit them all.  I got bored with dance because I wasn’t advancing as fast as I thought I should; I didn’t like the recital aspect of piano nor the practicing that came along with it; my college economics was more difficult to understand than I liked, so I gave up.  Fortunately for me, I’ve developed a more persistent mindset as I’ve aged.  My husband describes it as a bulldog mentality.  Once I decide I want something, I go hard after it until I get it.  But I can only imagine how much more I would have accomplished in my life by now if I thought that way all my life.

5. Spend more time with your grandma, and learn how to make biscuits like her. Everyone loved my grandmother’s homemade biscuits.  I tried making them once and let her taste them. I admit I was kind of feeling myself because they were pretty good for my first try.  My husband joked about there being a new biscuit maker in the family, which was a big mistake.  My grandmother sat up straight and tall in her chair, stretched her eyes wide, and said matter of fact, “I’m the only biscuit maker in this family.”  Maybe she wanted to go to her grave with that title and her secret recipe. Nevertheless, I would have tried even if it meant sneaking a peek while she made them. Now that she’s gone I think it’s a shame that we’ll never taste biscuits quite like hers again.

What would you say to your 15-year-old self based on what you know now?

22 Habits of Unhappy People

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Are you or someone you know unhappy?  You sure don’t have to be. Click the link below to find out why.

http://www.infobarrel.com/22_Habits_of_Unhappy_People/6

Be Consistent and Win!

consistency

Lately I’ve been thinking about the importance of consistency.  For the past 4 months I have consistently gone to the gym and actually worked out for at least 4 days a week each week.  During those months I have consistently followed various workout programs and completed from beginning to end.  I have shocked myself!  I have never been that consistent, of my own accord, with exercising.  Is it easy to get up at 4:30 am to kick my own butt with weight training or to sweat my hair out doing cardio?  Absolutely not!  But what keeps me going back is results.  I’m seeing muscles that I didn’t know I had and fitting back into clothes I had already packed up to give away because I had outgrown them.  For me, those are serious results.

Funny thing is, results (or at least desirable results) are only achieved through consistency.  A quote on Bodybuilding.com says it all.  What had previously been there was “Start Something,” but they’ve replaced it with the words “Finish Something.”  Truth of the matter is we all start a lot of things, but never finish:  degree programs, home renovations, business opportunities, and of course workout programs.  What is the missing ingredient?  I would argue that it is consistency.  I believe the saying that it’s not how you start that matters, it’s how you finish.  And in order to finish you have to be consistent.  Moreover, if you fail to be consistent, you will consistently fail.

Through this experience I have learned a few things about myself.  That I CAN be consistent.  That I HAVE what it takes to accomplish my goals no matter what they are.  And that I WILL experience success if I persevere.  That makes me feel pretty darn good.  If I had to narrow it down to five keys that have helped me reach this point, they would be the following…

                                                                                    diet and exercise

1. Never quit, no matter how hard it gets.  There are people who are watching you try what they want to do, but are hesitant to do.  They need to see you push through the hard times to know that they can too.  Since I’ve been committed to changing my lifestyle, my mom has started working out also, and she’s beginning to see results.  Again, early morning wake-ups are a killer, but I’d rather push myself to do that than have my workout interrupted by a large crowd of people all trying to use the same equipment during peak gym hours.  So, I make the sacrifice.  Sore, achy muscles are no joy to have either, but now that I know what the end of those sore muscles will be, I’m willing to endure the temporary pain.

2. Visualize your goal.  In order to perceive you must first conceive.  That means establish your goal and then see yourself obtaining it.  I actually found a set of abs in a picture (on someone else of course) that I want mine to resemble.  In my mind, I visualize having those abs, and that’s one of the things I’m working towards.  If your goal is to finish your degree, see yourself making good grades, graduating, and snagging that dream job in your field.  If your goal is to remodel your house, see yourself with the finished project and the new furnishings to go along with it. These pleasant visions will serve as motivation through the tough times and remind you that it’s all worth it.

3. Engage in some healthy competition and accountability.  My husband and I have a little abdominal competition going on to see who will have the best looking abs the fastest.  Of course he teases me about how many more crunches he does than me, and I tease him about how much more healthy my eating habits are than his, but it’s all in good fun.  I’m somewhat of a competitor by nature, so this is right up my alley.  I can’t wait to win.  Maybe you’re different and don’t desire a competitor.  Having an accountability partner is just as good.  This person should help keep you on track to accomplish your goals with friendly reminders and reality checks.

4. Make time, not excuses.  I hate to miss a workout due to a scheduling conflict because I feel like my whole schedule is thrown off.  However, I don’t just throw the whole week away.  I make the necessary adjustments to fit it in, which requires thinking ahead and planning for the activity in mind. When other things come up (and they will) carve out time elsewhere to make up what you missed on your personal project.  Remember, excuses are for those who need them.  If you have a plan then excuses won’t be necessary.

5. Invest in your success.  If I was truly going to make working out a lifestyle I had to start looking the part.  So, I bought some new work out clothes, weight lifting gloves, and I even had to buy different types of foods for healthier eating.  I never wanted to spend more than a few dollars on active wear because it wasn’t a priority in the past, but now I’m willing to pay more for something I know that I will use.  It can get expensive, but I consider it an investment into a new way of living.  Investing in your own success is vital, because at ti mes you might find that you’re the only one who is.  Not to worry though,  soon enough everyone will be able to see the fruit of your labor and the hefty return on your investment.

Now if I could just apply this same level of consistency to a few other areas in my life I’ll be good to go.  Pray for me. 🙂

Aside

Ten Reasons to Take the Natural Plunge

Me with braids on one side and spiraled twists on the other.

Lately, I’ve noticed more and more women are taking the plunge and going natural.  I have been natural for about 5 years now, but this is not my first trip down natural lane. 

In 2003 during my deployment to Iraq, I cut my long, relaxed hair off with a Leatherman Micra.  After six touch-up free months I got tired of trying to comb and detangle it in the in between state, so I did what most natural sisters call a BC or big chop.  There I was in the shower snip, snip, snipping.  I went in a mop head and emerged a sponge head.  I never felt more free and scared at the same time.  While I loved it, I feared what others would think about it.  With the encouragement of my battle buddies, who were also natural, I wore it proudly.  Besides, I didn’t have to worry too much about being cute in the desert.  Now coming back home was a different story.

When I came home I got a mixture of reactions:  some loved it, others hated it.  It got to a point where I began to question whether or not I had made the right decision in cutting it.  After about a year-and-a-half of being natural I gave into the pressure, the questions, and the plain ol’ ridicule and relaxed it.  Boy, did I regret it.  I regretted it so much that I had nightmares about it.  I missed my kinky texture and all the different things I could do with it: twist it, fro it, straighten it, bantu knot it, comb twist it, etc.  Relaxed hair looked nice, but it felt boring to me.  Sure, there were days that I was not pleased with the look of my natural hair (bad hair days), but I also had bad hair days with a relaxer. 

It wasn’t long (actually about six months) before I decided once again to go natural.  Only this time I grew it out gradually instead of doing the BC.  When I finally had cut off all the relaxed ends of my hair, there were still naysayers trying to discourage my decision.  Can you believe someone actually told me that I wouldn’t be able to get a husband with my hair natural unless I went to Africa?!  I mean really?  Is hair an issue that is too hard for God?  Obviously not, since I am married now in all my natural glory.  Now run and tell that! 

Although the transition was rough, it was definitely worth it.  I don’t miss a relaxer at all.  When I look in the mirror I see a beautiful woman with her own sense of style and uniqueness.  I wouldn’t go back to a relaxer if you paid me.  There’s just something about it unlike anything else.  So I’ve compiled a top ten list of reasons why anyone considering going natural should.  I’d say once you go nappy, you’ll always be happy.  All my naturalistas can let me know if I’m right or not or add your own reasons. 

This is me wearing two-strand twists for the first time. I was draped in a towel, trying to be cute in Iraq. Shout out to Jennifer Brown for twisting it for me.

This is me two years after transitioning to natural the second time around. Lovin' it!

 
10. More versatility.  You can do all sorts of things with natural hair such as various kinds of twists, braids, wearing an afro or a puff, bantu knots, blowing out, flat ironing, locing, and the lists goes on and on.
9.  It’s an accessory.  The additional bonus with natural hair’s versatility is that you can dress it up or down, depending on your mood for the day.  You can switch it like you switch a pair of earrings.
8.  It’s a confidence booster.  If you can get over the occasional stares from your haters (just between us, they are secretly admiring your hair when they do this), then you know that you are one confident diva who is not moved by the opinions of others.  How freeing is that?
7.  Easily lends itself to at-home styling.  I don’t know about you, but I was growing weary of the trips to the hair salon with the long wait and prices.  It’s comforting to know that I can achieve a killer cute style with the help of Youtube videos and some good products, with my own two hands (or with the hands of a loved one).  Shout out to my mother on this!
6.  It’s an icebreaker. You know how a man can just walk up to a random man and instantly begin a conversation about sports? Well, it’s not uncommon for a random person to just walk up to you and compliment your hair or to have a conversation about products and stylists.
5. Healthier, longer hair.  Being chemical free allows your hair the chance to grow, if properly cared for, of course.   
4. Shake and go.  Wash and wear.  If you’ve got a twa (teeny, weeny afro) you can walk out the door after washing with little maintenance.  With longer styles you can add a little moisture and tousle it with your hands in the morning to revive the style.  Saves a ton of time!
3. Freedom to scratch.  Nothing was more aggravating than having to pat my itchy scalp a week before a touch-up.  Hated it!  Now I can scratch whenever I get good and ready.
2.  No more chemical burns.  No longer do I have to worry about leaving the shop with scabs on my scalp from all that scratching I was doing.  Nuff said. 
 
And the number one reason to go natural is…
 
1.  Best. Sleep. Ever.  I don’t have to sleep cute anymore with my natural hair.  All I do is tie it up at night and sleep with reckless abandon.  I wake up in the morning with my hair still in tact.
 
I hope you’ve enjoyed this.  If anyone makes the decision to go natural from this post, welcome to the club!
 
I’m not judgin’.  I’m just sayin’.
 
Written by Briana Whitaker