From Lessons to Blessings: When a 60 day hiatus turned into a journey to freedom!

If you follow me on social media platforms, then you know that I have not posted anything in approximately two months.  My closest friends were aware, but others were concerned and a few people  even texted me to make sure I was okay.  I assured everyone that I was fine, but just needed a break and some time to myself to regroup.  The year 2018 has been a great year thus far, but it came with many changes and fun surprises.  I launched a small business (and now a blog), I started hosting/organizing panel discussions, started a new full-time job, and started dating again after many years of being single.  So, seriously...I just needed a break, some time to breathe, and time to figure out where I was headed next without any distractions. 

At the start of May, I began to contemplate what I wanted to do for my birthday on July 7th.  I knew I wanted to go on a miniature vacation, but more importantly, I wanted to do something that would impact me internally.  I thought about how people typically do 30 days of gratitude, 30 days of happiness, or 21 days of fasting, but I struggled to figure out what would really penetrate the depths of my soul and ignite long-term change within me.  Then, it hit me, "I could do 60 days of positive thinking!"  This was not only big for me, but challenging, as well.  For most of my life, I have been negative...not with others, but with myself.  One of my good friends once said, "I have a difficult time understanding how you're so negative towards yourself, but so positive and encouraging with others."  I think negativity found its way in my life when I opened myself up to the standards of this world, decided to care what they thought, but at the same time realizing I didn't measure up to the popular beauty standard.  Negativity came from years and years of negative self-talk in reference to my image, my intellect, physique, and hair.  Negativity also crept into my life by way of unrealistic expectations that I set for myself.  It has always been so much easier to praise and celebrate others because it has always seemed as if others had the total package.

Repetition is key..png

So, as I set out on this positive thinking journey, I planned out the day I would start and end, as well as the rules for the challenge.  The challenge began on May 8th and was set to end on July 8th.  I started by deleting all social media apps from my phone- Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Messenger.  I didn't want any contact with people or sites that could possibly interrupt my peace and cause me to think negatively.  I attempted to incorporate the challenge into my daily routine at work by placing sticky notes on my desk that reminded me to "say 3 things that I like about myself" every morning when I arrived at work.  For about two weeks, everything was going well.  I named 3 physical attributes that I liked about myself and then I named 3 unseen qualities that I liked about myself.  I didn't really feel different and I kept trying to figure out if there was anything else I could do to increase positive thinking patterns.  I tried having an attitude of gratitude, but that didn't last long either.  Not because I didn't have anything to be grateful for, but because I kept forgetting and got caught up in the hustle and bustle of life.  After a few weeks of realizing that my positive journey wasn't going so well, I decided that abstaining from social media was enough.  I would just work on spending more time with God and work on my website.  

As time went on, I started to learn many things about myself through interactions with friends, bible studies, and during my quiet time.  There are a few themes that repeated itself throughout the 60 days, such as: assertiveness, deception, and freedom.  Let me explain. 

Let's start with a lesson on deception.  On May 18, 2018 I traveled to Columbia, SC to participate in a bible study with the Forward City Church women’s ministry led by the amazing Dr. Jackie Greene (you may also know her as Travis Greene's wife).  Two days prior she sent out an email stating that she would be teaching on the topic, "Be Still and Know."  I have been a fan of Travis Greene and Dr. Jackie for a long time, but it was the title of the bible study that really pulled me in this time.  I knew I had to be there.  I booked a hotel and right after work on Friday, May 18th, I went to South Carolina to spend time with Dr. Jackie and my fellow sisters-in-Christ.  Dr. Jackie discussed the importance of being still before the Lord and some of the reasons why the Lord may encourage us to be quiet before Him.  For instance, she mentioned that sometimes He wants us to Refocus or Re-center.  Other times, He may want to use that quiet time to restore us and affirm us.  The area that really spoke to my heart that night was when she said sometimes Daddy God wants to use the stillness to "quiet the lies that we embrace."  She was referring to the negative things  and lies that we tell ourselves.  For instance, for the longest time I told myself that God doesn't love me because He won't bless me with a good job or with a good man or with a home of my own.  Dr. Jackie went on to challenge us to sit quietly in the sanctuary that night and really dig deep and figure out what God was saying to us.  This is what I wrote in my journal during that quiet time: "I want you still before Me so that I can break the lies you are telling yourself.  You and the enemy have been lying to you for way too long.  Let Me give you instructions.  Rest in the way I fashioned you. Accept yourself."

 Pastor Jackie and I at her “Dig Deep” Bible Study. @drjackiegreen 

Pastor Jackie and I at her “Dig Deep” Bible Study. @drjackiegreen 

That night, I learned a valuable lesson about deception.  It wasn't just coming from the world or people around me, it was coming from me and God wanted to change that.  I had been lying to myself about God's love for me and my identity.  God wanted me to know that He loves me relentlessly, that he cares for me, that I am beautiful, that he wants to give me the desires of my heart, but I must trust Him and trust the process.

This song brings me such peace and joy when I'm battling the lies in my head about the love God has for me, "Relentless Love" by Chris Asbury. 

Free

The next lesson I learned was in reference to the freedom I have in my decision-making.  At the beginning of May, I was offered a job at a university that I previously applied to back in September 2017.  While the job would have provided me with the opportunity to move outside of rural Georgia with better pay and benefits, something just didn't feel right.  I had a week to finalize my decision about the position, but I really didn't know what to do.  The day before the director was scheduled to contact me, I became really anxious and upset with God.  I asked him numerous times what to do about the job offer, should I take it or leave it.  I weighed the pros and cons, but I still couldn't come up with an answer.  I prayed one last time and left it there, right there at His feet.  I went on with my evening and completed other tasks I needed to finish.  I remember thinking, "this is what people mean when they say enter the rest of God." I had such a peace with moving on with my day instead of obsessing over the decision like I did the day prior.  I woke up the next morning and prayed about the job once more since I knew I needed a final answer to provide to the director.  Just as clear as a bell, I could hear God say, "Make the decision that makes you happy."  Huh?!  All this time, I have been stressing out and looking for God to make the decision for me and all he wanted me to do was make the decision that would make me happy.  I heard Him say, "Do what you want to do."  I sat in my car for a moment and took some time to ask myself, "What do I want to do?"  I realized in that moment that I didn't want the job.  I didn't have peace about it and I had just gotten myself out of something that robbed me of my peace and I was determined not to go back.  So, I made up in my mind that I was going to decline the offer and keep moving forward.  I walked away from that job offer with peace and a new found freedom in my relationship with God.  You see, I had painted this picture in my head that if I was going to walk according to God's word, then God was supposed to tell me everything.  He was supposed to tell me the when, where, how, why, and everything else in between.  This experience showed me the total opposite.  It showed me that God doesn't want me to be unhappy and if I stop and take my time to really think about what I'm asking Him, I will notice that I already have the answer I'm searching for.  I knew that I didn't want that job, but I didn't take my time to really consider that.  Many times, we think that if we make a decision and it was somehow the "wrong" decision, then we're doomed.  That's not true!  God will still protect us, still cover us, and even get us back in line.  The decisions that God prompts us to make are always for our good and will always get us closer to where we say we want to be.  He knows the desires of our hearts and is really trying to bless us with those desires, but we have to keep our eyes and minds open because the answer may not come in the form we expect.  

Another lesson I learned was the importance of assertiveness. I have never been consistently assertive in my life, but this 60 day journey has taught me a thing or two about asserting myself; especially, at the age of 32.  I'm too old not to be assertive and boldly state my likes/dislikes. As mentioned earlier, I wanted to take a mini vacation for my birthday in July, but initially I was unsure of where I wanted to go.  Finally, I decided to take a trip to Charlotte, NC with my cousin.  I wanted the weekend to be low key with very few friends/family.  I didn't want a lot of people tagging along because that can be overwhelming for me.  There's a lesson in my previous statement- know yourself and honor yourself.  You must know what makes you happy, what makes you feel anxious, and what downright annoys you.  Be honest about it and be okay with it.  For me, being around too many people at once is just too much and takes the fun out one of my love languages, quality time, which is what I usually value with each one of my friends.  Okay, I just had to get that out, lol.  Back to the assertiveness story. So prior to the NC trip I didn't clearly state that I wanted to spend my birthday with just one other person; therefore, causing minor conflict within my circle.  This experience reminded me that being open, honest, and assertive (meaning "to state strongly; confidently" according to Dictionary.com) is always the best policy.  Choosing not to be assertive can be costly both financially and emotionally.  

 My cousin and I at the "Bring It" Live Tour at Ovens Auditorium.

My cousin and I at the "Bring It" Live Tour at Ovens Auditorium.

There's more to this assertiveness lesson...

When my cousin and I arrived at the hotel in downtown (or what they refer to as "uptown") Charlotte, I wasn't crazy about the room we were placed in.  It is pretty difficult to impress me and the room selection that they gave us did not wow my socks off.  It was a 4-star hotel in the downtown area, so I expected so much more.  Luckily, my cousin saw a bug crawling on her bed and we immediately made the call to the front desk.  I explained the issue and they stated that they would assign us to a renovated room or have someone come up to spray the room for pests.  I told her that we would take the newly renovated room when we return from our evening event.  When we returned we went straight to the front desk to get our new room assignment.  Concierge placed us on the 15th floor.  Right before we were getting ready to leave, I whispered to myself, "you have not because you ask not."  I remembered what guest services mentioned on the phone earlier about complimentary breakfast if we were unable to be moved from the room with bugs; she said that she would give us free breakfast, which was priced at $23 per person.  I thought, maybe they won't give us complimentary breakfast since we're getting a room change, but it's worth a try...be assertive!  I asked, "Is it possible for us to receive complimentary breakfast?"  "Sure," was the response of the hostess at the desk.  I thought, geez, it was that simple?!  I am going to do this more often!  This may sound like a simple story to you, but I don't normally rock the boat in situations like this.  I take whatever I'm given and move on.  But, I'm learning that closed mouths don't get fed, nor do they get the things they truly want out of life.  When we walked upstairs to the 15th floor, we had a queen size suite waiting on us!  I was so excited because the first hostess told us that there were no more queen bed rooms available, but this hostess decided to put us in the suite without even warning us.  Look at God's favor!! That was the highlight of my birthday trip! 

 I rode a horse for the first time through the hills of North Carolina! How cool is it that horses are symbolic of freedom?!

I rode a horse for the first time through the hills of North Carolina! How cool is it that horses are symbolic of freedom?!

Horseback Riding

I know this has been a long blog post, but it was also a long 60 days jam packed with tons of lessons and fun times.  If you have made it this far in the post, just hold on a little longer.  I would say that my 60 days of positivity wasn't 100% successful with me mastering positive thinking in every situation, but I definitely walked away with wisdom, new habits to incorporate into my lifestyle, and lifelong memories.  I would say this to you- be assertive as best you can (ask God to help you with boldness and the delivery of your assertiveness), ask for what you want even if you don't know what the answer will be, be free from rules and religion as we know it, God is not a dictator and wants you to be happy and peaceful, stop lying to yourself, positive self-talk is extremely important, and get yourself a great group of friends that will support you when times get tough.  Oh yeah, and be patient with yourself because "we are all doing the best we can."  This quote is from the book "Rising Strong" by Brene' Brown.  My dear friend sent me that book during my 60 day journey and it has been so helpful, go get your copy! So, again, surround yourself with people who will help take care of you when you can barely take care of yourself; people who will help feed your spirit and your soul with healthy conversation, laughs, literature, and anything else that lifts you up.  Be free!

Stay fashioned in confidence, 

Nolie B. 

 Finished my trip off with a visit to Elevation Church- Ballantyne!

Finished my trip off with a visit to Elevation Church- Ballantyne!