SERMON: Thirst Trap: Searching for a Feeling

Many of us are searching for something, but we keep coming up empty. We may be searching for validation but yet we remain unvalidated. We may be searching for someone to love us, but yet we keep ending up unloved. Pastor Michael Todd preached a sermon called “Thirst Trap: Searching for a Feeling” that addresses how to receive the things that we’ve been searching for and asks you to dig deep to answer the two questions 1) What are you searching for? and 2) Where do you go to find fulfillment?

Peace vs. Piece of Mind

We will never experience peace of mind until we take back every piece of our mind.” – Bianca Baymon, Founder/Senior Editor of Silhöuette Magazine

What if I told you that your thoughts were not your thoughts? What if I told you that everything that you think about yourself and about the world was once an external idea that entered into your mind and became an internal thought?

The biological structure of every human being is composed of entrance-only or exit-only gates. Your eyes and ears are gates that only allow ideas and beliefs to enter, which is why you have to be careful what you see and hear. Your mouth is a gate that only allows ideas and beliefs to exit, which is why you have to be careful what you say. Every single thing that you see and hear becomes what you think and eventually what you speak…unless you have a filtering system on the powerhouse we call “the mind.”

There are two minds. One is the subconscious mind and the other is the conscious mind. The subconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious mind because ideas and beliefs can enter without your active consent. When listening to a song, scrolling on social media, and watching a television show, most people are operating in their subconscious mind. Rarely does someone take the time to realize that every scene in the television show, every post they scroll past, and every line in that song is downloading itself into the mind. The biggest winner of that scenario is the marketing industry.

Marketers utilize tactics that take advantage of the natural vulnerability of the subconscious mind. The most successful companies are not the ones that have the best business plan or even the companies that have the best products. The most successful companies are the ones that are highly effective at creating a desire for a product or service in the subconscious mind of as many consumers as possible.

Take a moment and reflect. How many things do you need that were not always needs? Nobody knew they needed an iPhone until Apple’s marketing department convinced the majority of the world that they did. They were effective at creating a desire in the mind of many consumers and now they are one of the world’s most successful companies. They mastered the art of influencing the subconscious mind like many other companies, which is proof that the many forces we encounter every day are battling to enter our minds when our guards are down and our conscious minds have taken a backseat.

We can no longer allow external forces to affect our internal thoughts, beliefs, and desires. It is our turn to become masters of our own mind if we want peace of mind.

We will never experience peace of mind until we take back every piece of our mind that we’ve allowed social media, television shows, music, conversations, and societal structures to steal. We have to become more aware of the things, words, and people that we expose our minds to.

Don’t allow the subconscious mind to drive the direction of your thoughts and beliefs. Get in the driver’s seat and direct your thoughts. Direct your desires. Direct your beliefs. Direct your life! The moment you get out of bed every morning, you step into a mental battle. Are you prepared to fight?

7-DAY MENTAL AWARENESS CHALLENGE: Before you open your social media apps, play your favorite album, or watch your weekly television shows, I challenge you to check with your mind and your heart. Ask your mind and heart what condition it is in. If it isn’t at its optimal level of strength, then I challenge you to find something positive to expose your mind to. Protect your mind like your life depends on it…because it does.

Mustard Seeds & Mountains

“Faith of a mustard seed can move mountains and when the mountains don’t move, God will give you the strength if you have the faith to climb it.”

The Bible says that with the faith of a mustard seed you can move mountains. Initially, that verse led me to believe that if I was facing mountains that weren’t moving then that must mean that my faith was lacking. But for some reason, I couldn’t receive that message. I couldn’t receive the message that my faith was lacking, because it was in the face of the steadfast mountains that my faith had enlarged. During my vacation last week, God made me realize the reason why I couldn’t receive the message of my initial conclusion. It was because the steadfast mountains were not indicative of my level of faith. It was only an indicator that I had a choice to make. Rise or fall.

I hiked near the top of Mount Rainier, one of the nation’s highest mountains, which was a challenge I was ready to meet. When I got out of the car to begin my hike, the challenge heightened as I realized I was about to hike a mountain covered in snow with neon pink Nike’s because the shack to get snow boots was closed that day. I looked around and saw other hikers pull out snow boots they had in their trunk and it was clear that they had all of the necessary tools to hike this mountain but I had nothing but faith and my Nike’s. Later I found out that was all I needed.

I’ve never been the person to let circumstances stop me, so I took a few deep breaths and began my hike. The beginning was the hardest because it began with a very high-inclined slope. The slope was so steep that I would take one step forward and slide two steps back because of the unsuitableness of my shoes. I had to realize that the mountain was not going to move for me, the mountain wasn’t going to magically dry up from the snow in order to adapt to my un-adapted shoes, and the mountain wasn’t going to decrease the magnitude of its steepness to make it easier for me to climb. Although I was not in control of the challenging aspects of this mountain, I also couldn’t let its challenging aspects control me. So, after sliding back so many times I had to make a choice to either try a different method or settle for not climbing this mountain which wasn’t an option for my over-ambition. So, I dropped to my knees and decided to crawl up this initial steep slope until I reached a point where I could walk. Was it my first choice? No. Was it the most glamorous sight to be a grown woman crawling through the snow like a child at Winter Wonderland? No. Did it get me up the slopes? YES! And that was all that mattered to me.

No matter how you have to climb the mountain you’re facing in your life, just make sure you grab your faith at the bottom and make your way to the top. If you got off to a disadvantaged start…climb it disadvantageous. If you’re insecure in your ability…climb it insecure. If you’re tired…climb it tired. The reason why I encourage you to climb regardless of the negative feelings is because as you climb higher you will notice that the heaviness of those feelings is causing a strain in your ability to reach the top. You will make the choice to either fall back to where you started or remove the disadvantageous feelings, the insecurities, and the tiredness but keep the faith because the faith of a mustard seed is a lighter load to carry. All I needed was my faith and Nike’s to climb Mount Rainier and all you need is your faith and your works to climb any mountain in your life.

 

Colorism & Confidence

Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there. I’ll tell you how I became a confident woman in my own skin (you thought I was going to say “became the prince of a town called Bel-Air right? Ha…I wish).

Like every child of the 90s, I grew up watching reruns of television shows like, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, A Different World, Living Single, Family Matters, (and for some reason I fell in love with The Golden Girls, Cheers, and Three’s Company but that is beside the point). Among all of those shows, I vividly remember the many times I sat in front of the television watching the first Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince…before they replaced her character with a woman with a lighter skin tone.

From an early age, I formed a connection with her role because she was the first woman I saw on television with just as much melanin in her skin as mine. With every episode, I would take mental notes of the woman I desired to be when I grew up. Vivian Banks was a strong woman with a confidence and beauty that entered a room before her presence ever stepped inside. She fearlessly spoke her mind and handled all conflict in the classiest manner while never compromising her dignity. She was admired by her children and desired by her husband. She defied all of the stereotypes that I would soon encounter as a darker-skinned woman in hue-obsessed America of being less attractive, less intelligent, and less desired.

There was a point in my life where men could not see past my skin color. I’ve heard plenty of insulting remarks but most people don’t voice their color bias, whether man or woman. It is a hidden belief that they operate in silently because the high-pitch tone of their ignorance quiets their mouth. It is an ignorant belief with roots in slavery that have caused some in the black community to believe that the level of my beauty is affected by the shade of my skin because I don’t pass the paper bag test. The only thing worse than complete ignorance is false knowledge accepted as truth.

Imagine this. There are two identical million-dollar homes built right next to each other. Both have ten bedrooms, twelve bathrooms, granite countertops, marble flooring, crown molding, and a heated jacuzzi and Olympic-size pool in the backyard. Beautiful, right? One day, the news reports a major storm coming their way and the families of both homes decide to evacuate. The storm eventually passes and both families come back to check on their houses. One family is relieved to see that their house is untouched and still standing. The other family is devastated because their home has collapsed and is severely damaged. Now, if the homes were identical to each other then why was one still standing and why did the other one collapse? Although, it was the same storm that hit identical homes it affected each home differently because of the foundation each home was built upon.

When I was younger, my self-esteem was built on the approval and validation of other people. So, as long as men were validating me and the sun was shining, then my self-esteem appeared beautiful and of high-value. But the moment I would encounter the storm of being rejected on the basis of my skin color, I would come back to find that my self-esteem had collapsed because the rejection I faced had taken away the validation I depended on to uphold the structure of my self-esteem.

As I got older, I learned the importance of validating myself and I realized the beauty in the shade of my skin to the point where I thank God for the extra dosage of melanin he sprinkled over me. I’m not defined by the shade of my skin, although I do love it. I take pride in everything that I am and I live every day like Aunt Viv. I’m a strong woman with a confidence and beauty that enters a room before my presence ever steps inside and I fearlessly speak my mind and handle all conflict in the classiest manner while never compromising my dignity.

I refuse to ever diminish my self-worth or the magnitude of my confidence because someone has chosen to subscribe to the historical ignorance of colorism. I can’t control how others view me, but I can control how I view myself and I am a confident million-dollar house created in the image of God and built upon self-validation. That is who I AM.

The Roots of Not Enough

Who told you that you were not good enough?

At least one person came to your mind before you finished reading that sentence. Maybe it was the words that your mother, father, 3rd-grade teacher, or ex-boyfriend said to you. Those negative comments fell from their mouths like seeds and rooted into your mind, and ever since then you’ve felt that are not enough for anybody and have wondered will you ever be enough.

A bad seed can only find roots in a ground that is willing to plant it and absorb it. If you find that your current thoughts about yourself align with the words that someone has spoken unto you, then it is quite possible you have planted and absorbed the bad seed, allowed it enough space to root, and fed it to produce its growth.

A lot of us have absorbed a bad seed at some point, but the most important part is staying proactive about which seeds you allow to root in your mind. You can absorb something and if you’re quick about it, then you can catch it before it roots. On the other hand, you can cut a plant down after you’ve given it food to grow, but if the roots still remain then it has the power to grow again. That is why if you want your circumstances in life and love to change then it is important that you uproot your roots.

Throughout grade school comments like “your laugh is unattractive” rooted in my life, so I started covering my mouth to hide the sound. Comments like “no one wants to date the tall girl” rooted, so I stopped wearing heels. And comments like “you have a personality that intimidates men” rooted, so I showed less of my intelligence, wit, and sass to make men feel more comfortable.

Then, I arrived at a point in my life when I decided to no longer care about what men thought about me because I knew that the same things other men disliked about me, the right man would fall in love with. So, I did a lot of self-loving and absorbing seeds of God’s word like “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you,” (Song of Solomon 4:7) and uprooting the roots of the bad seeds I allowed to plant in my life. Then, I went back to the loud-laughing, six-inch heel wearing, intimidating-personality-having-woman and I’ve never been so happy.

There is power in living out loud and loving exactly who God created you to be. That means that you, with all your flaws and imperfections, are his perfect seed. Take root in his word and grow in unapologetically loving who he created you to be, and you will see a harvest in your life.

God’s Unwritten Why of Waiting: My Letter to Young Girls

They taught us our ABCs at a young age. They taught us how to tie our shoes with bunny ears into a perfect well-balanced knot so that we don’t trip over our feet. They even taught us fractions and how many halves make one whole, but we’ve struggled to stay whole within our hearts and now we’re left with fractions of who we once were with a math problem we were never taught to solve.

I was having a conversation with a young girl and I could tell that she also had not received that same lesson. All of her was standing in front of me physically, but emotionally all I saw was a puzzle piece of a girl that had given her heart and her body away to men that didn’t deserve it. I gave her the same lesson I always heard growing up in the church, “wait until you get married to have sex.” The moment I said it, I realized that I didn’t want her to walk away from our conversation with the same religious cliché statement that she could get from anyone else and the same cliché statement I had gotten. I wanted her to walk away with what I believe to be God’s unwritten why.  I wanted her to walk away with the truth. That is why God inspired me to write a letter to all of my young girls sharing the unwritten why of waiting for marriage to have sex.

Dear Young Girls,

Most women find out God’s unwritten why through heartbreaking life experiences, which is why you see a lot of women that have been through a series of bad relationships choose a path of celibacy. Most women realize this once they are at a fractional state in their life, which means they have either given pieces of themselves to people that God did not ordain for them to be with or to people God did ordain them to be with, but they gave of their body before the sacred commitment of marriage had been made.

Let me attempt to paint a vivid mental picture for you as I express God’s unwritten why. You, like everyone else, started out as a whole work of art and because sex is an exchange of souls more so than bodies, then every person that you have sex with gains a piece of you that you can never get back. My fear is that you will wake up one day and go out into the world and see all of these men that are walking around with pieces of you while you are left empty because you have given all of yourself away. My fear is that you’ll have nothing left of yourself for yourself, for God, and for the man that God has ordained to be your husband. My fear is that where you once were wholehearted, you’ll look in the mirror and see a fraction.

God doesn’t want his children to become whole with someone through marriage while we are still yet a fraction of ourselves. I’ve learned through observance that marriages don’t become broken…they start that way. Broken marriages are the result of two people that entered with fractions of themselves and a fractional biblical view of what marriage is supposed to be. That is the unwritten “why” to why God wants us to wait until we get married to have sex. He desires that we remain whole so that we can enter into a healthy marriage with another whole person and receive all that he has for us.

I also want you to know that just because you’ve already given away pieces of yourself doesn’t mean that you can’t become whole again. The beautiful thing about God is that he will never give up on you and he already sent his son Jesus to die for our sins so he has already forgiven you. No matter how many pieces of yourself you may give or have already given away, God will restore you. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you,”.  (1 Peter 5:10)

3 Daily Affirmations to Live Your Best Life

The words that you speak to yourself have a greater impact than any word from someone eles’s mouth. You have the power to control your life with the words that you speak and each day you have to become intentional about maintaining that power. These three daily affirmations will help you do that and so much more so that you can live your best life!

Open Palms, Open Mind, Open Heart

When you’ve allowed people in your life that have caused you pain and heartbreak, your initial reaction is to put up a barrier so that future pain doesn’t even have a door to walk through. What you may not realize is that when you put up a barrier to block potential pain, you also block potential joy. The same barrier that protects you is that same barrier that is holding you back from experiencing all that God has for you.

This affirmation is intended to open all parts of your body, mind, heart, and soul to endless possibilities. Find a quiet area and sit with your legs crossed on the floor. Place your left hand on your left knee and your right hand on your right knee with both palms facing up. Repeat this mantra.

“With open palms, an open mind, and an open heart, God, I’m ready to receive what you have for me.”


You Are a Light The World Needs

Sometimes circumstances, situations, and people will attempt to steal your smile. They will attempt to hijack your happiness. They will attempt to dim your light. And when your life seems unfavorable, it can become easy to feel rejected and unwanted. You are wanted! You are accepted! And the right people and the right opportunities will be drawn to you just because of who you are and how bright you shine.

This affirmation is intended to remind you how important you are to this world and how important your light is no matter how dim your life may seem. Every time you pass a mirror, whether you are in the bathroom, in the dressing room, or at home, I want you to repeat this mantra.

“In the midst of darkness, my inner light shines bright. I am a light the world needs and the right people will be drawn to my radiant spirit at the right time.”


You Are Enough. You Have Enough.

In today’s society, it has become increasingly difficult not to compare yourself to others. If you’re single, you’ll compare yourself to your friends on social media that post about how happy they are in their relationship. Then, you’ll wonder why you can’t find that. If you’re struggling financially, you’ll compare yourself to your friends that came out of college with six-figure careers. Then you’ll wonder why your check is lacking a few zeros. If you’re thick, you’ll compare yourself to your skinny friends that post their beach bikini photo. Then, you’ll wonder why you’ve been eating salads and still haven’t lost enough weight to fit in a two-piece. Comparing yourself to other people lead to feelings of insufficiency. You’ll begin to feel like no matter how much money you make, how much weight you lose, and how much you try to find love, you’ll never be enough. That is not true! You are enough just the way you are and the right people will love you without you having to become someone or something else.

This affirmation increases self-awareness and helps you become intentional about staying in your own lane and not comparing yourself to the people driving next to you. Your lane. Your speed! Your life! And you, my dear, are enough for the life that you are living! Anytime before you unlock your phone or get out of your car, I want you to repeat this mantra so that you prepare for whatever may come your way.

At this moment, I am releasing all of the disempowering thoughts of insufficiency. I AM enough. I HAVE enough. 

 

The Definition of Insanity is a Myth

“Don’t change your desire. Change your expectation.”

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result. Living by that definition means that we should never do the same thing twice if we want to be considered sane. It insinuates that if you try something once and it doesn’t work, then you need to let bygones be bygones because if you try it again with different expectations then you are insane to believe that this time things may turn out right. You must be insane to believe that because your prior relationships failed, that this one will be successful. You must be insane to believe that this time the same bank that denied you the loan will grant it to you. You must be insane to believe that if you try it again, then God will open the door unto you. All of that is highly invalid because the only thing you must be insane to believe is that the fear of insanity is a valid reason to stop trying at whatever God placed in your heart.

I have attempted many things including relationships, weight loss, obtaining a career, and following my dreams and all of them failed not just the first time…but time and time again after that. If I would have allowed the fear of insanity to control my decisions and my actions then I would have never succeeded at any of the above. I would have never come to God to give me the knowledge to navigate a healthy relationship because I would have allowed the failed ones to stop me from trying. I would have never lost the weight because I would have allowed the first hundred diets I failed to stop me from trying to find a healthy lifestyle. I would have never obtained my career in marketing because I would have allowed the first thirty-four rejection letters stop me from going on interviews. I also would have never started this magazine and began writing a book, because I would have allowed my first blog that nobody paid attention to stop me from writing my heart out. In order to meet the goals I had for myself, I had to invalidate the fear of insanity and make a daily choice to operate outside of it.

When you want something and God has placed it in your heart, then you must keep trying the same thing multiple times until the result matches up with your expectation. God does not honor the fear of insanity. God honors persistence. He honors those that will step out into the same battle and expect that this time victory will be theirs. In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told a parable to his disciples about a widow that came to the same judge with a plea to grant her justice against her adversary and each time he said no. She didn’t change judges and she didn’t change her plea, but yet she came back time and time again expecting the judge to grant her the desires of her heart and each time she was denied. Her persistence was eventually honored by God and after so many times the judge finally said, “I will give her justice so that she doesn’t wear me out with her persistent coming.” (Luke 18:5). Some may call her insane, but her invalidation of the definition of insanity concluded with God rewarding her persistence. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. And don’t even try something new. Give that desire that God placed into your heart an unlimited amount of chances until the manifestation is evident in your life.

 

Failure Comes Before Success: 7 Famous Failures

“Failure is nothing more than a chance to revise your strategy.”

The journey to achieving your dreams is not an easy road and there will be things that will attempt to stop you from reaching your destination. What will you do when your dream crosses the intersection of failure? Will you allow it to stop you or will you keep going? Here are 10 people that prove failure comes before success. You just have to allow every failure to be the fuel that drives you in the direction of your destiny!

#1 Oprah Winfrey

In her early 20s, Oprah Winfrey was working as a news anchor in Baltimore at WJZ-TV. She was told that she was “unfit for television news” and gets too “emotionally invested” in the stories that she reported on. After 4,562 episodes of her own talk show, 46 Daytime Emmy Awards, and serving as Chairman and CEO of her own television network and production company, it is safe to say that her tendency to get emotionally invested in her stories paid off greatly. Today, Oprah is worth 3 billion dollars and is steadily succeeding in any new endeavors she takes on.

#2 Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

Dr. Seuss’ first book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was rejected by 27 publishers before one publisher said “yes.” After the 27th rejection, Dr. Seuss was discouraged on his way home to burn the manuscript of the book when he bumped into the editor of Vanguard Press who bought the book from him the next day.

#3 Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier was rejected by the American Negro Theater for his accent and difficulty reading. After his first audition, he was told “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” Poitier did not let the rejection stop him and went on to become the first black actor to win an Oscar.

#4 Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan let the world know how his greatest mishaps contributed to his accomplishments. Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Now, Jordan is known for being the greatest basketball player to ever grace the NBA with 6,672 rebounds, 5,633 assists, and 32,292 points.

#5 Bill Gates

Before there was Microsoft, Bill Gates had a product called Traf-O-Data, which was a device that read and processed traffic tapes to create reports for traffic engineers. The company had “virtually no customers” and ended up plummeting soon after startup. Traf-O-Data’s failure was instrumental in Gates’ formation of Microsoft, which is projected to be worth $1 trillion dollars by 2020. Today, Gates’ net worth is $97.8 billion dollars and he is known for being one of the most successful entrepreneurs.

#6 Walt Disney

Walt Disney was working at the Kansas City Star in 1919 when he was fired for lacking imagination and having no good ideas. He and his brother, Roy Disney, went on to establish Walt Disney Productions. Almost 100 years later, Walt is known for having one of the greatest imaginations and his company is a prominent media corporation with a net worth of $113.1 billion.

#7 J.K. Rowling

Before being a renown author, J.K. Rowling was a secretary in London at Amnesty International. She would secretly write stories on her work computer and brainstorm ideas about a character named Harry Potter, which contributed to her being termination. She used her severance package to support her while she focused on putting her ideas about Harry Potter in a book. Seven books, 1,084,170 words, and 6,095 pages later, J.K. Rowling’s is making much more than her severance check with a net worth of 1 billion dollars.