My Ten Must Follow Writing Commandments

Everyone isn’t called to be a writer, but I believe that everyone is called to tell their story – and what better way to do that than to write it?

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Whether you’re just beginning your writing/storytelling journey from scratch, half-way through your book proposal, thinking about starting blog or just buying your first journal, it can be a difficult process to navigate without the right mindset. Get your bearings with the 10 commandments I’ve come to learn as a growing writer  and storyteller that have helped me stay motivated and consistent(ish).

1. Thou shalt not judge your stories (cradle them)

As writers, we are often our biggest critics. We doubt our craft, judge our amateur mistakes and expect every draft to be a masterpiece, but not until you learn to love your words. 

Stop being so hard on yourself. Everyone has to start somewhere.

 

2. Thou shalt not interrupt your creative flow with editing (edit later) 

I wish someone had told me this in the beginning. I was famous for writing and editing at the same time. I’d jot down a line, pause and draw a line through half of it. I was killing my creative process, slowing the soul dump that was taking place on the page. Let yourself get it all out on paper. It’s there that gems are discovered. Go back with a fine tooth comb after the creative dust has settled a bit. Your first priority is to the page. 

3. Thou shalt not rely on inspiration to start writing (schedule it)

This is a big one. When I first started writing intentionally, I thought that if I didn’t have a great deal of inspiration, I wouldn’t write anything of great value. Wrong. Some of best lines, stanzas and verses have come from the disciplined act of writing in my journal or in a daily notebook just for the sake of writing. When you write by habit instead of by an unpredictable muse (inspiration, energy, synergy, recent experience), you train your mind and your creativity to show up on cue and repeat. Don’t wait for the right moment to write, create it. 

4. Thou shalt not expect everyone to understand your work (surprise them) 

Let me say that again: everyone will not get it. Your poetry, your novels, your memoirs, your songs, or self-help books have an audience. Your tribe is waiting, but that doesn’t mean that uncle Bennie, your high school bestie or even your own parents will understand everything you create. Do you welcome feedback? Of course, is all of it necessary for your growth? Not necessarily. Use wisdom. Prayer regularly. If you feel the call to write, find yourself jotting down memories, quotes or character dialogue, and even if you’re just thinking about these things, you’re a writer. Don’t look for acceptance or approval. Find or create a community that waits for your next post and that you feel both honored and responsible to share your writing with on purpose. 

5. Thou shalt not stop at draft 1 (revise.revise.revise.) 

I’ve had quite a few moments in my 24 years when I thought my first draft was ‘all that.’ I turned in those papers with a smile, confident in my ability to move the reader to give me an A++ for my superior effort. That’s didn’t happen. Instead, I would get a paper full of red marks reminding me of the simple errors – human errors that are common to the first draft: spelling, incorrect word use, auto-correct (that you didn’t intend), missing words and lofty sentences. The most I would get on one of these ‘fly-boys,’ as I fondly call them was a note from the professor: “Good start…” Take it from me, multiple drafts means multiple chances to perfect your ideas. 

6. Thou shalt not wait to start writing your book (write now) 

This is something I’m still working through. I have so many ideas for books, chapbooks and the like, but not enough time to get them all done as quickly as I’d like. But that shouldn’t stop me or you from starting. After doing my research on the book pitching process, I learned that I don’t need to write my whole book to work with an agent, but that doesn’t mean that the book ends there. I am committed to to finishing what God has starting with each of the moments that have shaped my story. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will or even worse – they won’t. Start now. 

7. Thou shall not sell your soul or the soul of your work (passion over profit) 

As I continue to learn more and more about the business of writing, it’s very tempting to only focus on the monetary rewards (or lack thereof) instead of staying true to your passion. Yes, passions can be profitable, but I believe that once you marry your passions – give them the time, priority and belief that they deserve – you will have something worthy of sharing and worthy of monetary value to add to the success of committing to creating your work of art. 

8. Thou shalt not write in a vacuum (be well read) 

Though I strongly advice against over saturating your inbox with blog and other types of media outlet subscriptions (thank God for Unroll.me),  I do believe in developing our craft through the very lens we want to craft with our own stories: reading. Reading about the craft and sport of writing as well as the works of great, widely and scarcely known writers is a great way to expand your knowledge and challenge yourself to become a better writer on a daily basis. I know you may be wondering, why read the scarcely (not uber popular) writers if I read the big guys and girls? I’m glad you asked.

What I have found in my thousands upon thousands of hours reading, googling and stumbling upon the lesser known writers of the world is that talent is talent. Large platform or shaping platform. Good writing is good writing. There are quite a few self-published authors I adore more than the traditionally published. There are more off-the-wall, brutally honest and gut punching emotion filled words on blogs than in some books. Diversify your idea of a ‘good read,’ and some of the magic might just rub off on you.

9. Thou shalt not skip the process (bloom slowly) 

If you stay on this blog long enough, you’ll realize that the word, ‘process’ comes up a lot. It’s a word that I have hated,  admired, refused, had dinner with and eventually said “I do” to in the past 12 months. This is the meat of every story. Everyone tells us about the A and Z of their claim to fame, but what about the E,F,G? What about the times where you doubted yourself, when you fell in love with a God you couldn’t see, or that time that you were actually the problem? You can’t skip these intimate details of your story or the intimate moments of the writing journey. Embrace your beginning, celebrate every small victory, remember where you were six months ago and keep writing your way. . 

10. Thou shalt not compare yourself or work to others (there’s only one you) 

I touched on this some in number 8, but what I have learned in my quest to find more writers in my age bracket and similar writing stage is that there are a lot of good writers/bloggers out there. Ones that are more detailed, experienced and comfortable in their writing skin than I am. At first, it was a little depressing. Here I was thinking that my little blog was doing something spectacular, and then I get to Blog A, and Blog B, and Blog C and found myself rethinking my passion.

That’s the wrong attitude to have for so many reasons. A) God had gifted each of us with unique perspectives and gifts that only we can deliver. B) Those other blogs are not supposed to discourage me. C) They are there to remind me that my gift is needed. That there’s someone on the other side of the world and maybe even in your backyard who is waiting to hear your story. Waiting for the confirmation that their life has value. Waiting for you to press ‘publish’ and bring a little light into a dark world. Pick a few silent writer mentors, subscribe to their blogs, use them for inspiration and leisurely reading and unsubscribe from everything else that makes you feel inadequate or insecure. Believe in your words. 

And one more thing:

***Thou shalt not become passive about your passion (be intentional) Schedule your writing. Make a habit of creating at a certain time. Miss a few social events to reach a life event of meeting your goals. Don’t live in a vacuum, but don’t let distractions keep you unfocused. Plan well and execute even better. You can do this.

To our becoming,

Chiereme

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Goal Getting 101: How to Keep Going Past January 1st

Goal setting is an important part of growing up and developing routines that can lead to  dipping our toes into what we hope to be life long habits, professions and passions. Every year more and more of us make goals and don’t end up revisiting those same goals past the first 2-3 moths of the new year.

Over the years, I’ve developed a few practices to help me remain consistent with my short-term and long-term goals. They are by no means exhaustive, but they have helped me to make good progress, and I want to share them with you!

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  1. Anticipate Interruptions

Family needs you. Washing powder runs out and that assignment is actually due this week instead of next. Be okay with starting, stopping, and coming back to your work – just make sure you actually come back within the next two days. After a more than two days, you’ll find it even harder to start again.

  1. Make your goals portable

Leave the cute tiny purse at home and find a spacious satchel, messenger bag, knapsack or wheeled bag (save your back) to lug your planner and tablet. You need to be able to carry your planner, workbooks, laptop or tablet, camera or any other materials/equipment you may need to setup a mobile workspace. You can try to cram it all  into your cute MK hobo, but I guarantee you’ll have a sore shoulder by Wednesday (trust me, I know). Don’t let being on the go slow your progress.

  1. Make every minute count

Disclaimer: downtime during a workday is not a license to use company resources to work on your personal stuff; but lunch breaks and as gross as it may sound, bathroom breaks are the perfect times to flush out ideas (no pun intended) and get a jumpstart on your devotional, next blog post, query emails or LinkedIn profile. When you’re investing in your dreams, every minute counts.

  1. Find Ways to keep yourself Accountable

Make your goals public – IG them, blog them, email them – whatever you need to do to help yourself stay on track. Start a challenge with your friends, family or audience to see what you can accomplish in community. Placing reminders on my phone, in my planners and on my desk help me remember the purpose of what I’m doing and why. 

  1. Don’t forget you are on a journey

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of success and forget that everyone’s journey is unique. If you’re comparing your three months of newbie blogging to a three year blogging veteran, you will always feel like the losing team because of an unbalanced comparison. Look at the established influencers for inspiration, but stick with those only a step or three ahead of you for the purpose of motivation and research. Having someone in the same grind with as you, gives you a sense of relief and breeds more room for possible partnership. Remember: Comparison kills creativity. The world needs your voice, your ideas, and your story. Don’t become another copycat.

  1. Don’t lose focus:

It’s easy to get distracted in the moving parts of reaching  your goal instead of remembering the big picture. Make revisiting your big goal for refocusing a routine practice. We all get a little distracted every now and then so don’t be hard on yourself. We all want to be doers, but platform building, email lists and growing an audience can be enough to drive you crazy. Remember that your platform means NOTHING without your writing. Focus on your sweet spot and set specific times for mechanics like marketing, branding, networking and web maintenance ect.

  1. Don’t ignore your source

Someone or some situation inspired or influenced the passions that lead to your goal. Whether it’s God laying it on your heart, inspired by a family member or friends, or born out of frustration and pain, don’t forget what brought you to this point. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you would feel a year from now if it didn’t happen.

  1. Clear your mental space

If you’re house/office needs cleaning, homework is waiting to be completed, laundry is piled up or your meal prep is non-existent, even a scheduled hustle hour won’t be as fruitful. Declutter your mind and free-up more mental space by eliminating no brainers, weekly priority items and routine to-dos. Have designated days and times that don’t conflict with your goaling sessions. Do them throughout the week to leave bigger chunks of time available on the weekends. Dump it  by doing it and getting it out of the way! 

  1. Goal Session planning and task breakdown

If you want to be really consistent with working on your goals, having monthly, weekly and daily planning routines really help to make one gigantic goal more digestible by breaking it down into smaller, daily achievables.

  1. Use technology to compliment your strategy and hold yourself accountable.
  • The Evernote is my FAVORITE go-to tool for organizing my thoughts. Whatever I save on my phone is accessible from any computer and (1) additional device of my own on the free plan. Ditch the blah notepad that comes on every mobile phone and start using Evernote!
  • Integrate all of your calendars. What happens when your work computer crashes or you can’t access the fb event to find the address you’re headed to? Use your personal email  calendar and your work calendar to keep you on top of everything you’re scheduled to do. This method has save my butt so many times! Whether I was running late, out sick or having an off-day, the gentle reminders that a meeting was happening at 10:30AM or that I needed to buy a gift for a party that weekend made life ten times easier.
  • If you’re a list person, write it down and digitize it by simply taking a picture or download an app for task completion
  • Reminder: Your phone can help you succeed and not just distract you. Use your phone to link all of your email accounts (in use) and set a recurring day and time for getting specific task completed. These tasks can include time to plan, to write, to work on your blog, or to complete a work or home-related task. This little hack has helped  me establish consistent routines for working on my first book, getting my blog up and running, keeping up with work and grad school and having enough socks to make it through the week. There are also plenty of apps dedicated to helping you schedule reminders, complete tasks and visually track your progress. For me, integrating my google calendar and outlook have worked best, but checkout these apps below that have great reviews if you need an extra nudge to get things done. 

Now that you have a few strategies in mind for how to conquer your writing goals, blogging goals, or life goals, make sure you implement what you learned right away. Don’t read another blog post, click another pin or check any of your social media streams until you have put a few tasks on your calendar for this week.

Was any of this helpful? If so, I’d love to know!

To our Becoming,

Chiereme

2013: The Year of The Exclusive Friendship

As I approach another year of possibility and inevitable challenges (whatever the year brings), I want to always try make sure I don’t repeat the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. When it comes to romantic relationships, here’s one truth that has held true time and time again in my life: there’s a huge difference between seeking God’s will and actually walking in it – especially when it comes to relationships. In 2013, I learned that lesson, and I want to share some of the truth God shared with me during that season with you.

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I didnt want to put myself what back in the category of, “friends with benefits, so I created my own, “exclusive friendship.” I was super convinced that there was in-fact a way to be friends and still remain focused on getting God’s approval for marriage at the same time.

I desired to be married, but had omitted the idea that marriage is a perfect union made by God (not by my own efforts or even prayers alone). Everything that was recorded as being made by God had no signs of life or even a hint of it’s creation prior God giving it life:

“Then the Lord formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 1:7, NASB)

That knowledge alone is the key to my relational frustrations – if God didn’t make it, it wont work. Okay, so you get that, but how does that relate to my present situation? Well, it’s simple, sorta. I met this guy back in 2013, we started a friendship and that quickly turned into a desire to be married. From that has come a lot of lessons, failures, triumphs, joys and pains. And honestly, I’m still questioning as to why God didn’t tap me on the shoulder and tell me to recalculate my course (or how I missed the big, “EXIT,” signs along the way), but then I wouldn’t have the invaluable lessons to share with you.

Though that relationship didn’t work out (or maybe it did), God used that experience to reveal so much to me about where I was spiritually and how that related to my reasons for wanting to be married.

God has shown me that before Chiereme could be joined with someone else, I had to be made whole as an individual. As I said earlier, marriage is a perfect union and you don’t go into a perfect union any kind of way. When I was new in my faith, I didn’t really understand what being made whole meant completely. I thought that we would be broken people living in grace until we upgraded to chilling with Jesus 24/7, but that’s only half of what being made whole looks like. Becoming whole is a process that starts with our relationship with God and will eventually touch every broken area of our lives until we are 100% renewed (aka with Jesus), but that process starts where we are and wholeness can be experienced if we are open to letting God into our brokenness daily.

Through that failed relationship, God taught me a lot about myself and the areas of brokenness I was still hiding from Him. It took about a year of wandering through this relationship to realize that I wasn’t as ready for a committed relationship as I thought. The beauty of it all is that God blessed me to be able to see those holes in my heart back in 2013, so that now I can look back and trace my journey to wholeness.

Looking back, this is what my journey to wholeness looked like:

1) I accepted Christ and He began to fill the God-sized voids in my heart.

2) As I grew as believers and began to see Christ shine in my live, I saw that there were some holes in my heart left from prior sins that I either brushed under the rug or was unaware of before the Holy Spirit brought it to my attention.

3) God allows experiences, people and the convictions that poke in those sensitive areas and I began desiring to fill those holes with the right things.

4) As God healed my scars (and still is), I moved on to the next stage or level of being made whole where God makes us more like Him – beyond avoiding sin, doing His work and being His hands and feet in our relationships, families, churches, communities and this world.

It wasn’t as clean cut as 1,2,3,4, but essentially, that’s how God works on me. We serve an all powerful ever-capable God, and He will work on different areas of our lives according to His agenda so this isn’t the golden rule for how God heals us.

And that’s the beauty of it all – that figuring out the exact process for how God is going to move and change our lives is not our burden.

I came to realize that in my process of being in an exclusive friendship, that there were A LOT of personal issues, past issue, heart-issues that I needed to work on. There were old memories, sins, and failures that crept back into my mind and heart during this time that I hadn’t felt or thought about in over a year. Was the friendship the culprit of these unwelcome thoughts or feelings? No, but I do think that it served as a true mirror. What started out as a God-focused endeavor turned into a more romantic and sensually stimulating experience. We didn’t have sex (thank God) but we did dabble in what should have been reserved for our future spouses. – even if we thought, “us,” was a part of God’s plan for our lives. I knew then that I was not ready, practically or spiritually.

Marriage is more than just another step for me to reach in my relational goals. I now understand that marriage is another level of spirituality and an even deeper level of intimacy and commitment to God to be committed to another person.

In my senior year of college, I was on a desperate pursuit of going to a higher level of communion with God. I read and saw how God spoke to others through prophecy, dreams, and miracles and wanted to experience God like I never had before. The result was months, weeks, days and long nights of prayer, tears and frustration as to why I couldn’t reach ‘that level’ with God that I desired. I see the process of getting married the same way. There will always be three seasons in our life:

Planting (dropping good seeds on good soil )
Sowing ( getting rid of the weeds so the seeds can take root and grow)
Harvesting ( reaping the produce/blessings of what was sown)

In each season, God works on different areas of our lives to prepare us for the next season (which is always on the horizon no matter how long or short your current season is). As I considered how to proceed with telling my then love interest about what was on my heart, I began to examine myself and the why behind not feeling ‘ready’ or anywhere close when it came to marriage.

I knew that I was in a season of transition – Literally.

I had just moved back from college, and I was looking for the right job… or any job really.
I had a million things on my to do list that seemed to get longer with each passing day.
There were so many readjustments and changes that needed to be made in my life, and I was having a hard time keeping up with them… and him.

I really liked the guy, and God still used that relationship to teach us both valuable lessons, but I think that we were so busy seeking God’s will that we missed actually walking in His will by fully relying on Him and not trying to write our own story.

We began to be consumed in the ‘preparation process’ and quickly realized that were not prepared – or at least I knew I wasn’t, spiritually or practically.

Initially, I thought that it was perfectly normal to ‘prepare’ together, isn’t that what husbands and wife do anyway? – work together on themselves? But that was the problem! We weren’t married or engaged and though that was our desire, God only ok-ed our friendship which we had taken a step further by making it ‘exclusive’ and interacting as if the deal was already sealed.

And trust me, I’m not saying that you can’t better yourself alongside another person (that’s what friends are for), but that wasn’t working for me in that particular season.

All that to say, I realize that marriage is a serious commitment and a level of spiritual maturity that I wasn’t ready for. I knew that being a good wife was more than just making dinner, cleaning, and being sexually attractive to your husband. It is a commitment to God to honor the covenant you made with Him individually and making the effort to pray with and disciple a spouse. That’s a lot to focus on, and I didn’t want to bring my mess – past scars, sins and shortcomings into marriage, when marriage itself, has its own battles to be won. I knew that the perfect union is of two imperfect people, but I also believe that we owe God our best, individually before we can offer it to another person in marriage.

I knew that I wasn’t in the place with spiritually, physically or financially to join myself to anyone else. I didn’t expect to have everything together either, but I knew that the same way I prayed night and day and sought the Lord in my senior year would be the same hustle plus some, to be approved to be someone’s wife.

And a lot of you may be thinking, ‘okay, I see what you’re doing, but what about the guy? What was his response or take in this?

Well, that was the exact thing I had to pray about. It just so happened (only God) that he was going on a men’s retreat with his church the next day and would be focused on hearing from God anyway so we both had time to pray and seek God . Over that time, I prayed my hardest that God would say the same thing to him so it wouldn’t seem as if i just wanted to stop talking to him without a purpose. I remembered that when we first started talking, I was very skeptical of him and the whole idea of a ‘friendship’ with a guy I didn’t know and who claimed to be all of these things, to love God and later that he wanted to share that love one day in marriage with me. Every time I had a doubt or question, I would pray and literally in minutes or by the next night , the guy would bring it up in conversation or text something to me that answered the prayer I had. God was always moving ahead of me and all I had to do was ask and rely on Him to take care of the rest. God gave me peace about our friendship and that He had something in store. So I trusted that God would do the same this time around. I knew that his family, mentors, friends and others in his life would have questions and he may be a little confused or just hurt ( as was I ) from the pain of separation, but that’s really what we needed. We needed to rely on God and let Him heal our hearts so that our focus on Him would be restored.

I needed to focus my attention on how to become the woman that God was calling me to be. A disciple, a visionary, a worshiper, a writer, a leader and hopefully someday a wife and mother. but before I could get to those heights I had to continue learning as I walked through the valley, learning to trust in God and in what He has already written as my love story.

To our Becoming,

Chiereme

What lessons have you learned in your past relationships?

What has God challenged you to do differently?

I’d love to know, do tell!

 

Everything I Learned in 2015

When I started 2016, I wanted to have a different narrative for my usual new years resolution so I decided to start a tradition of pinpointing the moments of growth, discovery and recovery that God brings me through each year. It’s my hope that over the years, I will look back to find an anthology of grace and healing that only God could write for me. This is the beginning. Here’s everything I learned in 2015, and I hope you find the time to reflect and share yours too!

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Everything meaningful comes in the form of process:

learning and unlearning yourself, learning someone else, learning to pray, learning to love and learning to live.

People won’t know how you feel until you tell them (even if it doesn’t come out the right way the first time.

Try and try and try again – even if it’s almost five years later).

Prayer is circling.

I used to pray about something and forget about it. If it’s meant to be, God will make a way. And He does, but if we stop praying about something after a few weeks, why would God think it’s that important to answer you? Circling in prayer is having the resolve that even if your prayers outlive you, God is still able to answer it. Prayers don’t die – even after we do.

I can’t live in partiality.

I have to be whole first in thinking and doing before I can be whole in being. I can’t think of Jesus in one way and not love the imperfect human I see in the mirror everyday. I can’t expect to see a harvest in my love life if there is no harvest in the time spent loving the family and friends I already have. All or nothing.

Creativity is an occasion.

I don’t need a speaking request, event flyer, wristband or mic stand to put something out into the world. It’s my calling, my responsibility and privilege to soul detox whenever my heart feels like it.

I don’t need permission.

Somewhere along the 24 years of life I have occupied, I developed a bad habit of letting situations, people and fear dictate what I did or didn’t do with my time, resources, gifts and bottled up personality. I worried. I waited. I weakened. Until I realized (a.k.a. was told) that God isn’t flattered by my timidity. I’ve known Him long enough to talk to Him like He’s listening and work like He’s coming back expecting to get a good report.

Stewardship cannot just be about money.

Stewardship is about the discipline and diligence to not just handle God’s money with care and tact, but also the gifts, talents responsibilities and one-of-a-kind assignments He has me on. Budget your finances, your time, your investment in relationships, your church and community service and yield a full return on investment.

There is a blessing (or two) in the uncomfortable.

Throughout this year, there have been many days where I thought, my life is falling a part. And it was – on purpose. How quickly I forgot that little prayer I prayed more than once the year before and into 2015, Lord, unravel me. And that’s exactly what He has been doing. Letting the ground crumble beneath my feet, leaving me in the middle of His ocean without a paddle or life-vest to hold onto and letting me wander aimlessly in the wilderness called waiting on God. I felt uneasy, unsure and completely at peace all in the same breath. Growth is uncomfortable. Trying something new is uncomfortable, but if uncomfortable gets me closer to Jesus and one step further into my calling then uncomfortable is where I call home.

Perfectionism is the enemy of progress.

There are so many projects, books, blog posts, poems or songs that I’ve created over the years that have gone to creative waste because of my need for everything to look or feel, ‘perfect.’ That’s until I realized that my need for everything to be ‘together,’ had actually hindered my progress, dampened my creative mood and discouraged me more than anything else. Thankfully, perfection paralysis is no longer a road block for me. It’s like a light bolb went off: I started writing, opened up my wordpress (after about three months of sulking) and pressed the ‘schedule,’ button. I didn’t worry about the SEO or the likelihood of anyone actually reading it. I just did it.

There’s probably a meme or a .gif for that.

When I tell you that this has been the year of the meme, please believe me! There’s something almost therapeutic about finding the exact facial expression or illustration to convey how you really feel at any given moment. At the core of the meme is the medicine of laughter which has helped a lot of wounds heal a lot quicker than any prescription could ever do.

[INSERT HERE: fave memes and gifs]

Every wound hasn’t healed.

Though Jesus has been gracious to me, giving me peace in moments of emotional chaos, filling my cup when I’m running on empty and surrounding me in communities and circles filled with His love, I realize that there are parts of me that are still bleeding. Fresh wounds that may not be visible at first glance, but still burn, still feel tinder to touch and have yet to heal. These wounds don’t make me, but they have shaped who I am – in some good ways and in some not so good ways, but thanks be to God. One day I will talking about these wounds in past tense. I will wear these healed scars like badges of courage. He will make my scars beautiful.

Marriage is another mission field.

I’ve always looked at marriage at something sacred, beautiful and for mostly everyone – that is until the last two years. I saw the the beauty and the beast that can show it’s ugly head between man and wife. I watched pastors like Francis Chann strip my initial understanding of marriage, rip it to shreds and give it back to me again smeared with the blood of the Gospel.

I had dozens of conversations with single and married women and realized I was seeing it all wrong. It’s not just the “next step” in this thing called ‘adulting,’ marriage is another level of spiritual growth. It is not a garden to go frolic in – it’s more like a dessert. Where God has placed you and your new accountability partner for life to cultivate while He makes something beautiful out of the both of you. Marriage is another plot of the mission field. It doesn’t start when you’re ready. It starts when you commit to be committed no matter what.

I am stronger than I feel.

I’ve always held fast to the idea that as a human, as a Christian, and as a woman, it’s okay to be weak. It’s okay to admit that you’re not strong enough to handle something. It’s perfectly biblical…right? Not according to Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” For the last (2) months of 2015, I have been hanging on to that verse for dear life. It challenged what I thought to be true: I’m supposed to be weak so that God can be the strong one. Which is true but only after I have done my part.

My pastor recently made this statement in relation to New Year goals or resolutions: “pray for the miracles and work on the manageable.” And that’s exactly what I think Psalm 27: 14 is saying. This verse is our permission to completely exhaust our human capabilities so that when God steps in, we are 100% aware and thankful that He goes above and beyond our strength to do things we could only dream up. I have learned to be strong.

September will never be the same.

A lot of things happened in September of 2015: conversations, my lowest of lows, some great moments, events conversations and new friendships, but most of all, I realized how small I am and How big God is. I realized how accurate words said in the heat of a moment can be. And I began to understand why some women, men, and children find ways to take the easy way out of the pain, the redundancy of bad decisions, the seasons of waiting.

I began to see with God’s eyes that deep down inside, no matter how we try to dress it up, bury it or veil our depression, our guilt, our disappointments, they will always find a way to surface. The question is who will uncover it in you?

Find joy in the unexpected.

As I reflect on 2015, I can’t help but wonder what I could have done differently or how I can make this year even better, but I realized that almost every moment of pure delight, sheer joy and wonder happened unexpectedly. I didn’t plan it, didn’t see it coming or had no clue what I was getting into – but it worked (or it’s working) out to be for my good.

I’m challenging myself to do more and be more. I’m embracing God by embracing me – the way He made for the purpose He made me. I’m finding contentment in this wilderness. In the forest of uncertainty, the unbeaten paths of learning to fully love myself, the quiet mornings of learning to be still. I don’t know what will happen in 2016, in the next six months, or the next six minutes, but I’m waiting on the Lord. Expectant and preparing for what is to come.

What was 2015 like for you?

What lessons did you learn now that you can look back at that page in your life?

To our becoming,

Chiereme

Book Review: You and Me Forever

If you’ve ever remotely thought about dating, marriage or having a family, it’s safe to say that you may have read a few (or a few gazillion if you’re like me) blog posts, books and how-to guides giving you the dirty dets on this is what to expect. 

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I can say that I only remember about a handful of things from each book that actually stood out to me and didn’t sound like every other dating/marriage book, but Francis and Lisa Chan’s, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity is not one of those books.

If you know Francis Chan’s sermons, books or heard anything about him, you know that He and his wife , Lisa are firm believers of reading, interpreting and living out the Word of God as is -nothing to add, nothing to take away. If you’re looking for a raw, realistic and utterly freeing look at becoming one, this is one book you won’t want to leave out of your marriage prep arsenal.

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What I thought it was about:

Typical, date Jesus, be who you want to marry, do it God’s way general, overused advice that just fills pages without much direction or explanation as to what that looks like, but with a Francis Chan twist and a few gems to hold onto.

I was wrong:

It was nothing like that. In fact, I think I learned more about my relationship with God than I have in most Christian self-help books on different topics. This challenged me in ways I wasn’t expecting from a book on marriage. It was a two for one.

I was right:

It did touch on doing life God’s way, but not just the meeting, dating, courting and marrying your spouse, but the spiritual care, continuous dying to self and presenting that daughter or son back to God in pristine condition to the best of your ability.

What I loved the most:

A huge game changer with this book was the dual voices. Both Francis and Lisa shared their insight and gave different perspectives to each sub-topic within the book which I was thoroughly grateful to have.

I loved the plain language, honest truth and undeniable feeling of, this is the marriage book I’ve been waiting to read. I also loved that it still gave many practical things to look for, but far beyond  having a good job and goals (which are important), but more focus on his/her spiritual backbone, ability to lead and make tough decisions that effect your entire family.

What I didn’t like:

The Chans in general come off to some as very radical and little preachy (I know ironic), but that’s who they are. There wasn’t much I didn’t like or enjoy in this book, but I don wish they did talk more about their journey from friends to married. What that looked like, how they knew, at what point they were decided to move forward, all subjective things I know, but still worth the story.

They did include bits and pieces of several different periods in their marriage, but a cohesive, this is our story instead of just this is what we’ve learned would have added a lovely fullness to the book, but it was still a timely, informative, wow and aha! worthy read.

Why I Kept Reading (and finished it):

Technically, I listened to this book, but I found myself stopping, rewinding and jotting down notes as fast as I could. I thought I could listen to this while doing menial tasks around my home and office, but there are so many great things that the Chan’s share that it was best to just get the printed copy or schedule time to go through the material without a lot of distractions. It’s that good!

 

A few nuggets from my reading:

  • Stop just always trying to be found – what you gonna do with the God who found you?
  • How are you thinking about your trade/business for the kingdom?
  • Do damage, reek havoc on your knees
  • You have to fight for your intimacy with Christ, your life gets worse as your grow, it’s not a one-time thing – it’s an endurance race
  • May things that rival my love and commitment to You lose their savor O, God

Why I Recommend it:

It’s not a book telling you how to be married for a long time, have kids and settle down. It’s a book that will challenge your ideals/desires for marriage while speaking straight from the Word of God that will take your marriage (or ideas of marriage) beyond now and into forever, eternity and beyond. It will speak to both women and men without making the recommendations for each spouse exclusive and encourage reciprocity of both disciplines and expectations.

It will poke at your core desire to be married, make you think about what that really means and evaluate your current or past relationships to see if they line up with the unadulterated version of marriage that the Chans strive to live and believe God has called all believers to mirror to a broken world.

Have you read YMF? What were your thoughts? Have any books that have changed the way you view relationships or marriage?

Share below!

To our Becoming,

Chiereme

10 Reasons You Can’t Stop Writing

With writing, getting started is often referenced as the hardest part of the process, but I disagree. What challenges me the most about writing isn’t just staring at a blank page, it’s the process of revisiting what I’ve actually written. Sometimes looking back at a diary or journal from my past is like revisiting old wounds, becoming that immature, insecure girl again as if no progress or growth has taken place. It can be tough, but the beautiful thing about intentionally reading through all of your writing is this: that part of you is now (thank GOD) just a page.

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Whatever is keeping you from writing is also keeping you from a special type of reflective healing, from seeing the growth God has produced in you, the many difficult seasons, relationships and hardships He has brought you through and potentially blocking the blessings that come with letting go and letting others in to how God has moved in our lives.

When I feel like writing is the last thing I want to do, here are a few thoughts I try to visually store somewhere near me to remind me of why I NEED to keep writing (and you too):

  • It’s one of the most authentic ways I connect with God

Before I knew what I was doing, journaling became a daily practice of release, exploration and invitation for God to answer some of the deepest and darkest questions I have asked of both Him and myself. It wasn’t until almost my senior year of high school that I realized that God was reading my journal. What I thought were just rants turned into prayers, prayers answered and testimonies because I knew that if God didn’t meet me or show me Himself anywhere else, I could count on Him being there. Sometimes I don’t have words to write and it’s often in those times that I invite Him to say to me what He wants to say and I end up with a sweet reminder that communion, fellowship and authentic relationship and time spent with God isn’t as complicated as I think it is. Most of the time it’s as simple as ink and paper.

  • Everything I write is like my own personal collection of “remember when’s and I thought I’d never…”

We all have memories. Some that we like to reference and others that we wish we didn’t have – either way, they are our memories to treasure whether they celebrate or provide caution for the steps we have taken and those that are now behind us. Writing helps me connect the dots of my story. It’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Document your journey for reference, for sharing, for celebrating and recognizing the woman that you have become.

  • I can say how I really feel

Ranting to our friends and loved ones is a great way to release pint up emotions, opinions and responses, but we can’t always say everything we feel even to the people we love. For me writing is often my sounding board for how I really feel. I’ve learned that in emotional moments and environments, even the best intentions can get really screwed up in a flurry of useless words exchanged in the heat of the moment. Though there are certainly times to just talk it out, there are also times when writing it down is both therapeutic and revealing that maybe we don’t need to say everything that comes to our minds. Writing has served as a filter of sorts for me as I navigate the chemical, emotional rollercoaster becoming a woman includes.

  • There’s a paper trail of prayer, answers, and faith

Many churches have (sadly) stopped the tradition of sharing testimonies out loud in church settings. Some churches are too big, some are too busy, and others are too modern to make time for one of the celebrated traditions of the early church in Acts. As a results, we walk around as if the only miracles to share involve physical conditions or shiny new cars. Writing provides a paper trail of the many prayers that God has answered or has left unanswered in our lives. It provides a detailed faith journey that only we know to capture, and can also help jog our memories the next time we are asked, any praise reports?

  • I can always reference things I’ve forgotten

It’s easy to feel like God is ignoring us, especially when everyone else seems to be super connected or in tune with Him as we struggle to be consistent. I find myself longing for things, people or experiences that look so more appealing that what I have encountered over the years, but when we really take the time to record every experience God brings into our lives, we find a pattern of generosity that only God can provide. You may not have a valentine this year, but has anyone ever bought you roses or made you feel special at one time or another? You wonder if it will ever be your turn, but did you so quickly forget the opportunities you’ve had in the past year vs. the previous year? Writing helps us organize and reference the times in our lives where we’ve felt most alive – proof that we have lived.

  • I can see where and how I’ve grown

One of the most painfully rewarding aspects of reading what you’ve written in the past is realizing how far God has brought you. Seeing how you used to think, feel, act or view life compared to where and who you are now is nothing short of a miracle, but you won’t know what you haven’t documented on paper. You can’t revisit who you used to be if on paper, she doesn’t exist. I didn’t want to get to 21, 25, or 30 and not be able to recall, reference, or share my story with my loved ones, other women on this journey or my daughter because I wouldn’t make the time to write it down. You owe it yourself. You owe it to the woman you will become.

  • It relieves stress and anxiety

Sometimes… a lot of the time, I get overwhelmed with everything that I need or want to do. Whether it’s the weight of juggling work, home life, serving, passion projects and those oh so lovely surprises we encounter week by week, writing has always served as my way of laying down EVERYTHING that’s on my plate to the all-knowing, all-capable God I serve. If I’m stressed, there’s usually a big correlation to the amount of time I have spent in prayer, in the Bible and in writing down what’s going on. Call it withdrawal, but going more than a do or say without writing usually means I haven’t prayed or sought God sincerely either since those times has been combined for me. If I want to stay stress free, I have to keep in constant communication with God and writing is one of my best ways of doing so.

  • It brings me joy

I often wonder if I’m on the right path when it comes to my purpose. Have I chosen the right job, am I making the best decision, is this the person I should date? All questions that have varying answers, but one thing is for sure: when I write, I feel the pleasure of God. It makes me feel like I’m walking in my purpose without having to force it, read it from a book or try to figure it out. It’s natural, it’s fulfilling, it’s peace and it brings me the most joy.

  • It’s a form of therapy

The funny thing about writing is that you amy start with a question or complaint and by the time you get to the end of page two, you realize that the issue or problem you brought before God was really a question or point He was posing to you. There have been so many times that I found myself examining my thoughts after penning a few pages of my concerns or feelings. It’s like a mirror that sometimes shows you what the real question is. Writing out my thoughts helps me to navigate my cluttered thoughts and really reflect on what it is I’m trying to say to God, someone else or myself. Writing reveals the little Oprah living in all of us.

  • I want to save you the many unnecessary headaches and heartaches I’ve experienced

The biggest reason I decided to start sharing my writing on this blog is because of you. I’ve been the woman lost in the wilderness of my thoughts, thinking that no one else knew what it was like to go through what I went through. I’ve been the woman who looked around and couldn’t seem to find anyone to relate to or ask questions. I’ve been the woman in a room of women who still felt like I was alone. I want to let you know that you’re not alone. I’m here too. I’m still questioning, I’m still praying and I’m still wondering how God is going to piece this patchwork story called my becoming together. I’m still learning how to spread my wings. I’m still hopeful that what I have learned will not go to waste. I’m still writing because I know that somewhere between the women I have befriended and the ones I may never meet, there’s still one who needs to know that her story and her words matter. I keep writing for myself and for you.

I hope this helps in your journey to keep writing your story. Your words have power and I’m here to help you find them.

Was this helpful? How do you stay motivated to keep writing?

Share in the comments below

To our Becoming,

Chiereme

An Open Letter to My Goals

It’s a lot easier to work for someone else. To believe in their dreams and cheer them on as they tackle them one step, one post, one client or task scratched off their to-do list at a time.

To help them make lists, setup spreadsheets, map out strategies for growth and improvement while my own passion projects get the sloppy leftovers of my passive-aggressive attempts at creative consistency.

I’m doing exactly that as I type. I’m working on a few deliverables for a client I adore, but serves as a constant reminder that I am my biggest enemy when it comes to my progress.

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Sometimes I’m so sure that I’ll fail, that I won’t bother start.

I let my shortcomings, my unfinisheds, my excuses and my doubts somehow become bigger than the God in me. Bigger than His promise to provide all my needs. Bigger than the vision He laid upon my heart three years ago and reminds me of constantly.

It’s just that I know myself – maybe a little too well or maybe I think I know myself and have been living in perpetual state of self-blame and denial about my ability God’s ability to change even the most unlikely and unwavering bad habits and short comings.

It’s not like I don’t think God will come through on His promises…I just can’t seem to keep mine.

To keep showing up here when I want to give up. to keep believing that every revision, every moment spent planning, writing, re-writing and repeating will bring me to a place of harvest and     victory over the thoughts that tell me, “it won’t ever be enough,” “you don’t have what it takes,” “try something else.”

It’s hard when you feel like you’re your only cheerleader and no one really gets where you want to go because the people you know haven’t actually been there.

Then there’s that little thing we have that makes a giant of difference: hope. 

Hope that pushes me forward. That calls me out of isolation, out of the negative thinking that tries to swallow me whole. Hope that tells depression it can’t stake its’ claim in my life or on my calling to be a writer.

Paul says it best:

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil…” – Hebrews 6:19

Dear Goals and Dreams: Here I come. 

To our becoming,

Chiereme