Friday, March 23, 2018

Lost And Found

When my husband Jeremy and I got married on May 18, 2006, we could not afford rings. Although we were rich in the love department, we were pretty bankrupt in finances. Our wedding consisted of me wearing a $20 off-white, chiffon-like dress from Cato, Jeremy in his one good suit, six of his family members, our oldest son, and one of my friends. There was no music, no flowers and d├ęcor, no wedding party, no one to give me away, and no rings to exchange. It certainly wasn’t a grand occasion, but it was the best day of our young-and-in-love lives.

A ring didn’t matter to me. I was marrying the man that my heart adored and that was enough for me. I remember a short time after we got married, I purchased a $10 silver ring with a fake diamond from the flea market, and placed it on my ring finger. I always tell my husband that he is a lucky guy, because I am one of the least materialistic women on earth. Things don’t flatter me; substance is what makes my heart go pitter-patter.

I happily wore that ring for a good seven years. The only reason I stopped wearing it is because on Christmas day in 2013, Jeremy surprised me with a real wedding ring. Since he and I don’t typically exchange gifts for Christmas, I totally was not expecting it. When I opened the small box, tears quickly filled my eyes. I recall screaming something like, “Oh my God! You’re kidding me! Is this mine?!” Of course, it was mine, and I could tell he was so proud that he had finally gotten me a ring. That beautiful gold ring with a diamond in the center instantly became one of my most prized material possessions. It was special to me and I treasured it.

I valued it so much that I didn’t sleep in it, clean while wearing it, or wore it much around the house. Every day I took it off and placed it in the same spot, inside the top drawer of the nightstand next to my side of the bed. Its keeping place never changed.

Imagine my shock when, back in November, I went to get my ring and it wasn’t in the spot I’d always kept it. At first, I thought that in my hurry to make it out of the house on time I had overlooked it. I’ll find it when I get back home, I thought to myself, still puzzled at why it was not where I know I’d put it. Long story short, I all but ripped my nightstand apart and have searched every corner in my home, and I could not find my ring. I had no idea where it could be or how it got away from me, and it made me so sad. I was real-deal heartbroken about this, and every time I looked at my left hand, I wanted to cry.

I was so broken over this!

Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but I was seriously hurt over my lost ring. And I’m sure Jeremy was probably tired of hearing me say, “Bae, I’m so sorry I can’t find my ring.” I never stopped looking for it, though. I still had faith that it would show up somewhere.

My search for my ring made me think about how God searches for us when we are lost. I likened it to this time when my family was vacationing in Orlando, Florida and visiting Animal Kingdom. If you’ve ever been, then you know there’s always a large crowd of people. Somewhere in transitioning from one attraction to another, our middle son, who was about six years old at the time, let go of his dad’s hand and got away from us. We realized it once we were standing in line doing a head count for the next activity. While my mommy-heart panicked at the thought of my baby being lost among thousands of people, his father went into immediate search mode. He told me, “Don’t worry, I will find him.” I stayed back with the rest of the children, but I could hear him screaming, “Jaxon! Jaxon, where are you? Come to your daddy!”

After what felt like an eternity, Jeremy and Jaxon came walking hand-in-hand. His father had found him. Jaxon told us that he was so scared not being able to find his way back to us, but was happy his dad searched for him and found him.

How much more does Abba Father search for us when we lose our way and get lost in the twists and turns of life? Although He has countless other children, He searches for us as if we are His only child. Much like the story found in Luke 15:8-9 – “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.”

God, our Father, shines the light of His love on us until we find ourselves back in His arms. He sends a prophetic word that speaks directly to your heart; He puts someone in your path that has the answer to your specific need; He provides a way for you when you didn’t think one existed; you read something that’s only missing Dear You as a salutation; He shows you things in dreams that you know could only come from Him. All of these things are God’s ways of saying, “Hey, I’m searching for you. Come to your daddy.” And when you find your way back to Him, all of heaven rejoices.

On New Year’s Eve, while sitting in church waiting for service to begin, I reached into a pocket inside my purse, searching for a hair pin. I pulled out a bracelet. It happened to be the bracelet that I always wear along with my ring, and I always keep them together. So, I knew that if I’d found the bracelet, my ring had to be close. Sure enough, there it was right where I had put it weeks prior. I had looked in that purse several times and never saw it. I guess even finding my lost ring had its perfect timing. Now, it’s reunited with my left ring finger, and all is well with my world.

Just as I found my lost ring, God can and will certainly find you. No matter how lost you may feel, you are never outside of God’s radar. He never, ever loses sight of you and His love continually searches for you. You are special to Him, a treasure, and it is not His will that you should perish.

The Father has His eye on you. He sees you, and He will find you. Don’t worry, you won’t stay lost for long.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Comparison Kills

I'm an avid music lover. I honestly cannot go a day without listening to some of my most favorite tunes. I enjoy different genres, but, of course, Gospel music is my number one. I particularly favor  music that speaks about the awesomeness, love, and power of Jesus, and scripture-based lyrics that beautifully express deep thoughts of real issues.

These days, in my personal opinion, it's a bit challenging to find music of substance. Or maybe I'm just picky. In any case, I love it when I find an artist that excites both the minister and Christian psychologist in me.

For me, Jonathan McReynolds (Who is incredibly underrated in the Gospel music industry) is one of those artists. I discovered his music a few years ago when I heard a song called No Gray, and I've been following his ministry and supporting his music ever since. So, when I learned he recently released a new album entitled Make Room I was all over it. Needless to say, it has been in heavy rotation all day, every day, for the past week. Every song is a favorite, but there is one that I especially love. It's called Comparison Kills.

It speaks about the tragedy of comparing ourselves to others. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am strong advocate against comparison. It grieves my heart to see so many women hating themselves, living in emotional misery, and leading false lives because they feel like they aren't good enough as they are. I know firsthand what that's like, and it breeds nothing but insecurity and jealousy.

There are two verses in the song I really, really like. They say,

You spend all night admiring pictures
They make life perfect as they should
But you don't know the picture story
And how long to make it good

The grass is fine
'Til it looked greener on the other side
Now you're believing that you fell behind
But why try to match what should be one of a kind?
You're one of a kind

I have a very strong interest in exploring the human mind and how it works, especially as it relates to the emotions, and I am always trying to figure out and understand why the mind is so good at painting pictures - whether true or false - and making one believe them. Even more, I'm constantly digging to exact where comparison originates from. Where and why does one learn to compare? Who taught us to consciously and subconsciously pit ourselves against one another as competitors in this journey of life? Who told us that there is, somewhere and somehow, a one-person award for being the best at life? What exactly is the prize? How long is the race? Where is the finish-line? Does it ever end?

So many people spend far too much time focusing on what appears good in the lives of others, that it totally blinds them to what is actually good in their own. Somehow, minds have been programmed to believe that there is one standard that defines a "good life" and anything that does not reflect that false narrative is worthy of not even existing.

How incredibly sad, right?

I love social media, but for someone who is not quite confident in themselves or happy with the state of their life, it can be an unsafe place. Scrolling through your timeline, you see all the smiles, the perfect family picture, the exquisite homemade dinner, the luxuriously decorated home, the perfectly shaped body, the long hair, or whatever it is you admire, and then you pinpoint all the areas in your life that aren't like that. What you often fail to realize is that pictures are finely orchestrated snapshots of a moment of someone's life. It doesn't even paint the total reality. You have no idea that five minutes before that #relationshipgoals post, she and her man were fussing like cats and dogs. You don't see how she struggled to put on that waist trainer, suck in, hold her breath, and arch her back to capture what seemed to be #bodygoals.

See, the problem is that we allow trends, popularity, likes, and people who don't even know us dictate what our goals should be. If more of us would take back our ability to think for ourselves, we could throw up those false realities that are constantly shoved down our throats. The problem, though, is that we allow our favorite celebrities, reality TV stars, IG models, and Facebook bosses to tell us how we should look, what we should have, how we should live, and such.

Our model for good living is completely misconstrued. As daughters of  God, our lives, in all areas, should reflect HIS image, not the images we double-tap.

I wonder what could happen in people's self-esteem if this ONE little truth would be grasped, believed, embraced:


Imagine grasping the beauty in realizing that you were not designed to compare to anybody in any way. Imagine finding the confidence in walking your unique journey in your own way. Imagine how happy you could be if you stopped looking at the pictures of other people's lives, failing to consider what it even took behind the scenes to capture what appears to be a perfect image. Imagine feeling free in your personality, and your quirks, and your priorities, and your style, and your interests. Imagine the sturdy life you could erect if you used the foundation already inside of you, instead of trying to build upon the pallets constructed by the pieces you've put together of everybody else's life. Imagine the contentment in loving yourself as you are, while extending yourself the grace the grow. Imagine giving yourself permission to be both a masterpiece, created in The Master's peace, AND a work in progress.

If you look at yourself - in whatever area - and are unhappy with what you see, guess what? It's okay. Why? Because you have the ability to change it and create what you wish to see. Just because you aren't "there" yet does not mean you cannot get there. That's why we evolve.

Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don’t compare yourself with others.  
(Galatians 6:4 CEV)

Allow yourself the capacity to grow into what you desire to be, instead of beating yourself up about not mirroring the people around you. You, dear, are one of a kind. God did not create you to reflect any other person on this earth in any kind of way. Every single thing about you is unique. God's spirit is the only standard you're required to live up to.

Please, I beg of you, take that pressure off of yourself. Stop comparing yourself to others; you're doing the world around you such a terrible injustice, robbing them of the beauty and awesomeness of who YOU are.

Sis, you are enough, and I echo my brother Jonathan in saying, "Ask God to heal what comparison kills." Whatever it is that has died within you as a result of comparing yourself to others, ask God to resurrect it. Then, declare death and destruction to that deadly comparison trap.

Take a listen to the song, Comparison Kills:

Monday, March 12, 2018

New Growth

 In March 2017, after a year of transitioning from relaxed hair to natural, I made the impulsive decision to chop off about 80% of my hair. I was laying in bed one morning and it just hit me. So, I watched a few Big Chop videos on YouTube, went in my bathroom, grabbed my scissors, followed the instructions I'd just learned, and cut my hair.

As I watched my hair fall into the sink, I honestly felt no apprehension. At least not at that moment. The picture to the left, however, describes my reaction once I realized what I had actually done. I began having all kinds of thoughts. Was I completely crazy for cutting off my hair? What in the world was I going to do with this short, puffy hair now? Will my husband still find me attractive with this new look? What was I thinking? I don't know enough about natural hair to make such a drastic transition! Oh-Em-Gee, what did I just do?!

In that moment, all I wanted to do was find a way to reattach the hair that I'd spontaneously cut off. But what was done was done, and there was no way I could turn back. I had no choice but to accept the decision I'd made and do whatever I needed to do to make it work.

Those first few months were HARD! I couldn't figure out how to keep my new head of hair moisturized, so most days it was dry and brittle. I also struggled with discovering the right products to use, so I ended up spending so much money on stuff that just didn't work. On top of that, the texture was rough, I had no curl pattern, and my husband didn't like.

It was just a mess, a whole natural mess!

In the beginning stage, I felt so uncomfortable being without my longer hair. I really wanted to kick myself and wear a hat every time I left my house.

Although the transitioning process was extremely frustrating with trying to manage two hair textures, if I could have reverted back, I would have. I mean, the transitioning process was tough and my hair was badly damaged, but I had become comfortable in dealing with it. I learned to make it work.

Can't we be just like that in life? We can know that a situation is bad, but rather than facing the adjustment to something new, we'd rather hold on to it as it is. Even though it's causing more damage and stunting our growth, we will still choose comfortable complacency over a new normal, because we are too afraid of what life will be like without the very thing that's hurting us. In a sense, we want both familiarity and freedom, but it just doesn't work like that. If we ever want to grow in life, there are times when there has to be a cutting away. It's impossible to experience newness while keeping a grip on what is old and damaged.

So, yesterday, I was thinking about how it's been a year since that seemingly dreadful choice I made and found myself standing in the mirror, looking at what had actually happened as a result of me making the decision to cut my hair.

Will you look at that?! My hair is strong, long, beautiful, and healthy now. I am in love with it! Had I continued to hold on to the hair that was weak and damaged, I would have robbed myself of the opportunity to experience new growth. It has been a journey and it took a lot of trial and error to discover my rhythm, but I have fully adjusted to my new normal of natural hair, and I think I'm rockin' it out!

I wonder, what experiences of new growth are you robbing yourself of because you are too afraid to let go? How are you responsible for stifling your own growth? What misery have you decided to "just make it work," because you're scared of the unknown? What is it that you know is no longer good for you, but comfort is holding you hostage to?

I charge you to let it go. Cut it off so that God can do a new thing in your life. Just imagine the strong, beautiful, healthy life that lies on the other side of what you're too afraid to step towards.

Change is scary, I get it, but remaining the same and struggling to make stuff work should be much more frightening. Jesus came that you might have life abundantly (John 10:10), but life cannot thrive in dead environments.

I implore you to cut off fear.
I implore you to cut off comparison.
I implore you to cut off toxic relationships.
I implore you to cut off unhealthy habits.
I implore you to cut off not loving yourself.
I implore you to cut off anything that is a hindrance to you blossoming in life.

Yes, it will be challenging.
Yes, you will have second thoughts.
Yes, you will want to go back.
Yes, you will want to give up.

But nothing changes if nothing changes. Stick it out and watch what happens.

New growth is your portion, but you must first make room by getting rid of what is no longer providing an environment conducive to growing.

"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22 NIV)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Their History Is Not Your Destiny

I was having a conversation with my 15-year-old son Joseph during  one of our afternoon school pick-up commutes. He began 9th grade this school-term and has been having a few thoughts about his interests and potential future career. During his middle school years, he was a part of the band and played the alto saxophone. My husband, who comes from a musical family and was a drummer, organist, and part of marching band in high school, was ecstatic that his son had taken interest in an instrument. He was so excited about Joey going to high school and joining the band, following in his footsteps. I can’t say that I shared in his delight, though.

I know my son, and I knew he didn’t have a real interest in playing an instrument or being in the band. Throughout his three years of middle school, I can count on one hand the times Joey brought his saxophone home. Whenever he did, it usually just remained in the trunk of the car until it was time to take it back to school for the next use. He never practiced outside of class, never made mention of it, and barely enjoyed performing for band concerts. To him, it was all just for a grade. Joey is amazingly gifted as a singer, songwriter, and arranging melodies; as a musician, though he has the ability, he lacks the passion. So, I would often say to Jeremy, “You know Joey’s not really into that sax, right?” He would respond with, “It’s in his blood. His granddaddy, daddy, and uncles all played instruments; he’ll learn to love it just like we did.”

In true LaKeisha fashion of not being one to crush another’s dream, I would simply say, “Alright, babe. But you do know that just because y’all did it, doesn’t mean that he will.” He wasn’t hearing me though. That man had hope, hear me?!

What a sad day it was in the Collins household when, right before band camp was to begin, Joey finally revealed what I had known all along – he was not in the least bit interested in playing an instrument or being in the band. My poor husband was crushed! I tried to tell him so he could prepare his heart and mind for the inevitable, but he was so sure that because his family history produced a lineage of musicians and band members, it would automatically be our son’s destiny.

We often hear the term, “History repeats itself,” but I am one to believe that is not always true, particularly when it comes to determining one’s path according to their bloodline.

This may sound harsh, but I come from a family history that I prayed I would not repeat. I grew up seeing male relatives physically abuse women, drug activity, unsuccessful marriages, poverty, complacency, and division. To think that any of those things were assumed automatic for me because of family lineage is frightening. I did not want to follow in any of those footsteps. I love my family, but I did not want to repeat any of their behaviors, interests, or lifestyles. Truthfully, though, I believed it was inescapable for me, simply because environment effects evolution, and sometimes it is hard not to become what you come from.

Oh, but God!

Naturally, we are identified by our family name, who our parents are, or whatever our lineage is known for. As daughters of The Most High, however, our identity and our destiny lies in the history of Abba Father.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we find this assurance: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” When you accept Jesus as your Savior, God adopts you into His family, and you then become a product of who He is. Regardless of what your family history is in the natural, your future is determined by your Father in the spirit. When you take on the nature of Christ, it obliterates your natural identity, and you are not on automatic pilot to follow in the footsteps of your family’s lineage, but in the steps of the path that God has determined for you. You have freedom to become who He says and not what they did.

God alone knows the plans He has for you, and His plan is not at all determined by who you come from. Who your mother is, what your father did, or whatever is normal for your bloodline, is not who or what you will become. It doesn’t even matter if you see yourself repeating the downside of your family’s history right now, God can redirect your steps. You are not bound to where those before you have been, but you are free to walk your own path to destiny.

You are every bit of who God says you are.

You shall do what God has predestined you to do.

Generational curses stop with you.

You will not carry on a history of shame.

You are not the mistakes of your lineage.

History does not dictate destiny.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Broken, But Repairable

If there is one thing I am sure of in my life, it is the lane of purpose God has designed for me. I know with full certainty that I am called to infuse hope and confidence into the broken woman. It has taken me a while to see it clearly, but there is currently nothing blocking the view of my Father's purpose for my life. I used to feel like my constant dealing with issues of pain, brokenness, mental anguish, and heartache created an aura of doom; however, as the years have passed and God continues to use me to speak to the deepest  hurts of His daughters, I have seen clouds of heaviness lift from the hearts and minds of women of all ages from all across the world.

I now fully embrace my calling and consider it such an honor that the Lord would allow me to serve as a beacon of hope for His precious daughters. I have realized - and it has been amazingly humbling - that it is an incredible privilege to be trusted with another's pain and shame. Here I am, working for God as a hope builder and confidence infuser. It is, by far, one of the greatest honors of my life.

Because of this beautiful call upon my life, I often feel the anguish of other women, literally. It's hard to explain, so I won't even really try, but it's just like my heart carries women's burdens. So when I woke up this morning and one of the first things on my mind was thoughts of a woman in despair because she feels broken beyond repair, I knew it was for the woman God has assigned to His purpose for my life. Before my feet ever hit the floor, I envisioned this woman sitting on the floor with her back against the wall. Her legs were pulled tightly up to her chest, her arms wrapped around them, and her face buried between her knees. I saw her crying, sobbing actually, and picking up pieces of something that had been broken, hopelessly trying to figure out how to put it together. Growing frustrated and giving up hope, she grabbed some pieces off the floor and violently threw them against a facing wall, and she fell onto the floor in the fetal position and cried uncontrollably.

My initial reaction was, Lord, can I at least wash my face first? It's too early for this deep stuff! 

I kid...kinda!

The whole while I cooked my children's breakfast and transported them to school, while I drove back home and went about my usual morning duties, all I could see was this woman. I couldn't get her out of my mind. I don't know who she is specifically, but God certainly does. And I'm willing to bet that she is reading this right now. 

Hi, sis. You're not here on this blog post by happenstance. God sees you and He showed you to me early this morning. He gave me a message specifically for you, so here it is:

Those piece I saw you picking up and trying to put back together are the pieces of your life, left behind by heartbreak, disappointment, bad experiences, loss, betrayal, rejection, rape, and many other things that have ripped you to shreds. You're broken, and you're frustrated because every time you attempt to even try to figure out how to put the pieces of you back together, it seems completely impossible. And when you manage to find some pieces that you can glue back together, something happens and it's broken all over again. You want so badly to be whole, but your heart, and your mind, and your spirit are so shattered that you're not even sure if all of the pieces of who you are can be found. Your tears are those of exhaustion, exhaustion of trying but getting nowhere. And you're angry. You're angry because this is not the life you envisioned for yourself and many of the things that broke you should have never happened to you. You feel like if God loves you so much, then why is it so hard for you to gather your pieces, put them back together, and get on with your life. At this point, you give up. You feel utterly hopeless and destroyed.

God sees you and I feel you.

Yes, you are broken; you are immensely broken. You are so broken that you are unrecognizable to yourself. You can't even figure out who you are anymore. But, sis, you are not destroyed. And there is a big difference between broken and destroyed.

Broken: having been fractured or damaged and no longer in one piece or in working order; separate or cause to separate into pieces as a result of a blow, shock, or strain.

Destroyed: put an end to the existence of (something); ruin (someone) emotionally or spiritually; defeat (someone) utterly.

When I see an "Out of Order" sign on a machine or piece of equipment, I never think, This thing will never work again. I know that after a bit of maintenance, it will again operate just fine. It's broken, but it's not destroyed. If it were destroyed, it would be thrown out and demolished, with no sign of its existence left. But because it's just broken, all the manufacturer has to do is go inside the machine, make some repairs, and it's back to doing whatever it was designed to do. 

Brokenness separates pieces from its original state, but what is separated can be put back together. 

Sis, you can be put back together. 

The problem you're having is that you've been trying to fix your brokenness on your own, but only the manufacturer of a thing truly knows every single detail about it well enough to know what is necessary to fix it properly. So, those pieces that you can't seem to mend, give them to God. Only He can fix what is broken in you, because He knows exactly where every piece belongs. 

Yes, you're broken, but you are repairable. And the wonderful thing about God's Fix-It Plan is that he's not like the neighborhood repairman who will just patch it up so it'll work for the meantime. No, His repair plan is a guarantee. It's a guarantee that He will fix you up so well that you'll come out brand new. And anytime you find yourself broken, you can take your pieces to Him and He'll do the same guaranteed work all over again.

You don't have to be frustrated anymore. You can dry your tears. Abba Father says, "Daughter, bring me those pieces. I know exactly what to do with them."

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; " (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV)