Saturday, November 23, 2019

ACE #455: The New Normal

My father passed away almost two months ago. Some days I wake up and I think it is all a dream. I often ask myself questions I know the answers to like, “Did this really happen?” or “Is he really gone forever?” The answer to both is obvious. Yes.

I’ll be honest, I am okay with his death because he was so sick. No one ever wants to see someone who he or she loves suffer. The reality of it, he was in pain all the time. Cancer was ravaging his body. And, most days, I think he handled it like a champ in my eyes. By the way, I hate cancer. I don’t fully understand why he had to go through what he went through. It leaves the age-old question, “Why do good people suffer?” I will never have an answer for that, no matter how much time passes. Spiritually, I was prepared for his passing. My faith has been firm. Physically, not so much...because my heart is still broken. One of my (and his) greatest joys was kissing his face when I entered or exited a room. Actually, it was one of the last things I did before he took his last breath.  

At the end of the day, my father, even in sickness, had a good life with my mother, their children, and their grandchildren. He left a legacy in our local community and beyond. Someone called him a hero. Another person referred to him as a legend. He was a role model and mentor to many young men because he specialized in body building and karate. They looked up to him. One man even said that it was because of my Daddy that his son toughened up and was able to go into the military. 

This year will be a year of “firsts”...our first holidays that we will celebrate without him being there. Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. Christmas is right around the corner. And, I am finally starting to feel it…the anxiety that comes with facing and navigating through “the new normal”.

One of my dear friends lost her father a year ago around this time. She talked to me specifically about how difficult that year of “firsts” was for her family. She said this year would be different because she was going to be intentional about planning activities that brought life to them because the first year was so sad. I refuse to celebrate the holidays with the mindset or outward appearance of doom and gloom. I will celebrate with gratitude...and thanksgiving.

It was my and my husband’s absolute pleasure to honor and to serve my father. Even in the “new normal” we’ll still honor him – his memory, his legacy, and his life.

Happy Thanksgiving, Daddy...the first "new normal".

Isaiah 61:3
and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Psalm 30:5
...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

ACE #454: The Enemy Tried It

The enemy has tried it this year! I have had a very strange one in terms of confrontation...and I am only half way through it. I have found myself in the middle of conversations with people looking around asking in my head, "Is this really happening?" or "Am I being pranked?" and even "Are they talking to me? They must be crazy!" 

People have really tested my patience and my self-control to the point where I have literally wanted to dispel a flurry of ungodly words in their direction. But my honest response has been "ok" or no response at all. I have surprised myself many times. In those moments, I could hear the Holy Spirit speaking clearly saying, "Don't say a word" or "Just be quiet." Of course, we all have free choice to obey or to disobey God. Oftentimes, we even pretend like we didn't hear Him at all. In the flesh, I have wanted to respond to the person in the same manner in which they approached me. You know how the old saying goes, "Take your medicine where you get sick." Then, God would remind me who I am.

Recently, I took a look at the story of Hannah, again. I've studied it many times because Hannah has often been my "go to" story of faith. Also, Hannah's name means "grace". And all of us can use more of that.

Hannah was provoked year after year by her rival, Peninnah, to the point of tears and hunger, perhaps it could have led to starvation had her faith not been sharpened by her frequent visits to the temple. Oftentimes, distraction and provocation are the only ways by which the enemy can get you off course or damage your witness. Some simple lessons I've learned from Hannah's story:

  • Do not allow the enemy to provoke you into unhealthy habits.
  • Do not allow the enemy to provoke you to compromise your testimony.
  • Do not allow the enemy to provoke you out of your postition of peace.
  • Do not allow the enemy to provoke you out of God's will for your life before you are about to give birth to your vision.
Samuel was on the way. He was coming to be a great prophet. He was coming to anoint a great king by the name of David who is part of the lineage of Jesus Christ. So, my friends, don't take the bait. Do remember who you are so you can stay focused on God's plan.

1 Samuel 1 New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Samuel

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite[a] from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?
Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.

Check out my book: From the Test to the Testimony: An Anthology of Women's Faith Stories

Monday, May 6, 2019

ACE #453: My Desire

A few days ago, my wife and I celebrated the day we got engaged to be married, now 16 years ago. She always remembers this day. Me, on the other hand, I just can’t seem to remember without her reminder. It might be a man thing. However, I should remember.
Why? Because this is the day the Lord of my life blessed me with exactly what I asked for in a good thing (Proverbs 18:22). I recall so many times just asking God for a specific woman. I dated and, trust me, my past is ugly. But, God. Anyway, I asked the Lord for an intelligent woman, a talented woman, and a beautiful woman. As the song writer says, “Won’t He do it…”.

Didn’t He. Undeservingly, He blessed me with everything I desired in a wife and then gave me what I needed in a wife. What do I mean? Notice I didn’t say I asked for Godly woman; but He knew what it would take to help me not to let the kid in me kill the King in me. God is so good. Even when we are not worthy of anything He can bless us with everything we will ever need.

When I think about the joy of this day, I am reminded of the Psalm that encourages us to “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart…”. 

As I look back and see how I wasn’t always walking purposely in God, yet I had a heart for the things of God. I know He heard me. He saw through what I was trying to be and is shaping me in to what I need to be for Him. In that, He gave me the desires of my heart to be used for His glory.

So, Lord I just thank you for this day. I am not perfect, but Jesus was the perfect Lamb - your desires for my heart.  

Psalm 37:4
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

ACE #452: Integrity and Honor Still Win the Day

In my 22 years of being in my professional career, I must admit I haven't always had the best relationships with my supervisors. I learned some of the best lessons in my early years about knowing when a battle is or is not mine to fight and when to keep my mouth shut all together. But I've also learned how to stand in integrity and pride myself in working in excellence.

As I'm reflecting back, I recall a time when one of my bosses did everything possible to block me from advancement to the point that I couldn't even get a job in a different department because my name had been sullied being blackballed. And it worked! I was young then and truly didn't know the dynamics of power in the workplace. But it pushed me out of the nest because I knew I couldn't win. The toxicity of the environment began to drain me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I went to my next job, took the lessons I learned, and got a promotion and a raise. But a few jobs later, my back was against the wall again.

I had a supervisor call me "problematic". The difference in my 20s versus my 40s...I stopped staying in jobs to be comfortable and learned to discern when my season was up. I would not have minded being called anything if it was true. But referring to me as problematic was a shot at my integrity, my character, and my performance. I could ignore most things, but I had to respond in truth. 

My response went something like, "I don't know how I'm problematic. I am the first person to arrive at work everyday. I meet all of my deadlines. And my work product is always presented in excellence." And it was all 100 percent true. 
The response I received was, "But you just don't seem happy here." 
I responded with, "I didn't know that was a requirement of the job. I do my job and I go home." 

I soon realized what that statement truly meant was that I didn't play office politics, suck up, or compromise my integrity to gain favor. The term "you reap what you sow" resides heavily in my spirit and in how I treat people...even in the workplace. God doesn't turn a blind eye to our behavior just because we are at work. We don't just get to say, "I'm just doing my job" in order to justify mistreating others and to abuse our authority. And you certainly don't betray others or throw them under the bus to get ahead. When you walk in God's favor, He orders your advancement and your increase.

But let me help someone out here that I learned from Bishop T.D. Jakes in his series about working in a hostile work environment - you don't go to work to make friends or to be appreciated. I've told people plenty of times that you go to work to get paid for doing a job. As long as you show up to work and do your job, then you have a reasonable expectation that you will get your paycheck. My mantra is, "The 15th and 30th." Stop allowing the environment of your workplace to penetrate your peace and your home life. But on the flip side, I learned something different.

A true leader will respect a person who works in excellence and maintains integrity even when it isn't popular. Being a supervisor and being a leader are not the same. A leader will treat people with honor and respect whether they like someone personally or not. They will make decisions that are best for the organization and not what is best for them personally. They will reward hard work and diligence, but also lead with heart. I have said many times that we often look at people as role models and examples of how to be. Sometimes the lesson is about paying attention to others so that you know how NOT to be.

But I must say, I have been blessed with some of the best supervisors too. One of my former supervisors drove more than an hour and another one 45 minutes to attend my first book signing event. My immediate past and current supervisors showed up at another location to support me. They honored me with their presence and it truly brought joy to my heart.

And it also made me realize all the more that integrity, honor, and excellence still matter...and will always win the day.

1 Samuel 2:30 English Standard Version (ESV)
30 Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Proverbs 10:9 English Standard Version (ESV)

9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

ACE #451: When Your Uterus Just Does Not Cooperate

I had it all planned out. The white picket fence. The millionaire, superstar husband. Because who doesn’t want to marry a Denzel-ish kind of dude. But the 2.5 kids was really the non-negotiable. After all, my mom had three kids, my maternal grandmother had four, and my paternal grandmother had seven. Having a baby should not be that difficult, right? It ran in the family.

As I watched Gabrielle Union sit with Oprah and talk about her journey to become a mother, it resonated with me painfully. Because, honestly, when I think about infertility, I just can’t fathom that any one woman really thinks at a young age that she will not be able to get pregnant and carry a child in adulthood if she chooses. It is usually society’s expectation. It is usually our own expectation. You women.

But, somehow, it just seems different for an everyday, 9 to 5 person like me walking through the struggle of infertility versus that of a celebrity. Celebrities seem to have the financial means to make everything happen that ordinary, everyday people can’t. I would never downplay any celebrity woman’s struggle either because what I realized is that heartache and pain are certainly universal. No amount of money or lack thereof can take that away.

Why would I write about this? Well, because, sometimes people are insensitive and downright rude. We were asked many times when we first got married, “So, when are you having a baby?” Many times I wanted to yell out, “When my uterus decides to cooperate.” Nobody truly knew the struggle. Nobody. If I’m being honest, a barren woman wasn’t just cloaked in shame in biblical times; it is still the reality in 2019.

I just want to say to the women who are in the struggle, don’t give up hope. But most of all, don’t give up your joy in the process. You’re just as much a woman, a whole woman, without giving birth. Hold your head up high and keep loving…you…your spouse…your life…your future.

To get the full story of my journey to become a mother, you can read “And a Happy New Year” in From the Test to theTestimony: An Anthology of Women’s Faith Stories.

I hope it blesses you.

Luke 1: 25
"The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

Thursday, February 14, 2019

ACE #450: Just Listen

In 2015, God whispered three things to me in a still, small voice.

1. He told me to contact a few specific women to each write a story about a time in their lives where their faith pulled them through a very difficult circumstance. Not every woman responded to the request. The ones who did, I saved their stories in a file. Then life got busy.
2. He told me the words "For Purpose" and led me to draft a list of services for editing and public relations. I saved the information in a document and filed it away. I hadn't really used my Journalism degree in years, so it would never have occurred to me I would revisit this document...ever.
3. He told me and my husband to expand our ministry efforts. That year we said "yes" to every ministry opportunity, if we were available. We were exhausted, but we did as God had instructed. It included me editing both a relative's and a friend's book. Again, life got busy and my time and attention went elsewhere.

In June 2018, I filed paperwork for Robert and Charliese Lewis Ministries Inc. That was when God reminded me of those things I had filed, really tucked away, with no specific plan years ago.

Fast forward to February 2019, I can say that it all makes sense and God certainly does all things well. I had no idea what God was doing THEN.

"From the Test to the Testimony: An Anthology of Faith Stories" was released in November 2018...and it is impacting women's lives. I've been stopped in grocery stores, department stores, and received messages from women who have read the book.

I randomly sent a text to one of my former students and mentee last week and told him to order the book for his mother. I dropped a copy in the mail the next day. He called me last night and said his mom received her book and was going on and on about how good it was.

He continued with, "Mrs. Lewis, she has told everybody about this book and said she can't put it down."

No, this is not about bragging. This is about gratitude. This is about obedience. This is about the fact that I truly had no clue what God was doing in 2015 that speaks to the NOW. The seven women, including me, who were brave enough to tell their stories are impacting women in other cities and states. God has truly blown my mind. All I ever desired is that if one woman is impacted, just one, we'd all done our part. Who knew? We didn't, but our all-knowing God did.

I've sold a few books at my doctor's office, in the wee hours of the morning via social media inbox, and out of my trunk. Seriously, who knew?

And, yesterday, I sent a client's first draft of a fully edited and formatted manuscript for the release of her first self-published book. Again, I had no idea that what God had me write down in 2015 would manifest itself years later as a consultant service under our ministry. No idea.

I will tell anybody that God orchestrates everything on our behalf if we would just listen to His instructions. Abraham is known as the Father of Faith because he listened and acted in obedience even in the sacrifice of his own son atop a mountain. Likewise, Joseph listened to God's instructions and saved thousands of people from famine, including his own family, even though he spent years in prison for a crime he was not guilty of. Jesus himself came in human form to die on a cross for sins He didn't even commit because of His obedience to His Father, our heavenly Father.

I want to encourage someone to get in the habit of listening to the still, small voice of God because you never know when or how your instructions TODAY will set you on the path to your future.

Just listen...

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

ACE #449: So, What Took So Long?

Several people have asked me, “So, what took so long to get this book out to the public?” If I’m being honest, the answer simply put is, “Life.”

In November 2015, I solicited a request for 12 women to write a reflection about their faith for a specific project that the Lord dropped into my spirit in the wee hours of the morning. I knew all of the women would not respond, but I knew who God led me to for this assignment. It was really an act of obedience. When it came down to it, only six women responded; I was the seventh. Since seven represents the biblical sign of completion, I was fine with that. I took it as a sign from God that a complete work would be done at the end of this project. And, then, life happened.

The first time I tried to compile the stories, the document didn’t save…at all. I had to start over. I was frustrated and took my time getting back to the document. When I started on it for the second time it worked, but it was very time consuming and complicated to copy from one application to another. What I thought would be a simple process wasn’t simple at all. Sometimes I had to retype certain paragraphs because they wouldn’t copy the right way. Then my job got hectic and I couldn’t commit the time because I was exhausted when I got home in the evenings. When the job got unbearable, I had to put all of my energy into getting a new one. That’s when distraction truly set in. Also, I was supposed to be completing my doctoral degree. I couldn’t fathom doing two very different types of writing at the same time.  Research writing and nonfiction writing are very complex all on their own. My brain would have been stretched entirely too far to imagine, especially when I was also having to shift my mind into an editing mode. While I would love to believe that it was all about external factors, it was just as much about the internal struggle within me.

Over the last three years, something has shifted in me. I went from being academic minded to being ministry minded. Not to say a person can’t be both, I just couldn’t do or be both. I’d changed. I’d grown differently. My ambitions for the marketplace shifted into discipleship. God's call on my life is priority. So, I made a choice...a choice most people might not understand. It was an act of obedience to surrender the old me to who God has called me to be in my kingdom assignment. 

I can honestly say that I am on my path to purpose. God knew it all along. It feels real. It feels right. It feels ordained. It’s freeing. It was necessary.

I am grateful for the women who stuck with me all the way until completion. They trusted the Word that God gave me – this book would help women all over the world…because OUR testimonies are worth sharing. We invite you to read our faith stories. We invite you into an intimate part of our lives.

Philippians 1:6 New International Version (NIV)

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Monday, January 7, 2019

ACE #448: “What Do You Have to Say for Yourself?”

What if you knew when your time was going to be up here on this side? What if you had an opportunity to plan what you would say about your living on this side? What would it be?

Can you honestly say you have done all you can to be what God has called you to be? Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good the fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Is this your valedictory as well? The witness of the Apostle Paul is amazing. After being converted, he knew the price it would take to be a true follower of Christ Jesus. He knew he had to reach with, teach and preach the Gospel. He was still all in. He knew his death would not end it, but it would only be the beginning. This is what he had to say for himself.

Friends, following Christ and doing His will is not easy. Like Paul, we are going to experience hardships, tests, heartache and enemies. We may have even started out as enemies to Christ. However, when it is all said and done there will be a crown of righteousness laid up for those who love Him and keep His commands. How’s your fight? How are you finishing? How’s your faith?

“What do have to say for yourself?”

2 Timothy 4:6-8