Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Power of A Prayer Journal

I always worry that God doesn't hear/answer my prayers. I keep thinking, I'm doing this wrong, or, I'm not asking for the right thing...my prayers are too selfish, etc. It always seems to me that I don't pray often enough, or long enough, or in the right way. And all of these may be true, but what I've learned is that God answers my prayers anyway. They're not perfect prayers but God's perfection more than compensates where I am lacking.

About five or six years ago I decided to start writing down my prayers in a journal. [I've been kind of inconsistent with this over the years, but that is irrelevant here.] I started the journal because at that time, I realized that God had answered a prayer that I'd fired off in a moment of frustration. That prayer was one of those sighs that you send heavenward in the moment, and it took several months for me to realize that that prayer had been answered. It wasn't until I faced a similar situation, and responded to it very differently, that I remembered that I'd prayed about it, and I simultaneously realized that my prayer had been answered! That prompted me to start writing down my prayers so that I could have a tangible record of what the Lord has done, and does, and is doing in my life and in the lives of the people I care about. I think this is part of what David meant when he encouraged us to "taste and see" (Ps 34).



Since then I've seen lots of my prayers, big and small be answered, sometimes in unexpected ways. Some of these were wishlist prayers -- the "God I would like" prayers that are fulfilled by tangible things: jobs and opportunities, money where needed, etc. But the ones that have blown me away are the prayers that answered needs that I couldn't properly articulate in words. Here's an example: At around age 24/25, I kept feeling like I didn't have great, solid friendships, the ones that I truly longed for. I wanted to ask God for those kinds of friendships, but the best I could come up with was, "God, make me a better friend." I have seen transformation in my friendships since then (including with friends that I had before that prayer), and those friendships have transformed my life.

Sometimes all we need to see the goodness of the Lord, is to find a way to make us pay attention. Life is busy, and we forget (or don't notice) that God is continually, consistently good. My prayer journal has been this reminder for me, and an encouragement to pray more boldly, and as specifically as I can. I've seen how God says yes, and how God says no to my requests and petitions. My prayers, written down, have taught me more about the God that I choose to serve, because I can see God's hand at work throughout my life.

Be blessed and keep praying!
Shanique

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Half Birthday

Today is my half birthday. This means that in exactly six months I'll be thirty years old. I find myself looking forward to thirty, but not in quite the same way that I've anticipated other birthdays. There is, of course, the excitement as a new year approaches, but there is too,  a sense of peace that whispers to me that my thirties will be just fine.

Like most people, my twenties have been turbulent. I've finished college and grad school, transitioned from being a student to being an employee, lived in three different states in the US. My friendships have changed too: I've made new friends and parted ways with some old ones; and of course I've had friends that have been with me through it all. At the start of my twenties all of my friends were students, all of us trying to work our way through early adulthood, today my friends are students and teachers and wives and mothers and professors and educators and business professionals and writers and dancers and so much more. As we've gone down different paths I've been constantly reminded that there's more: more people to love,  more opportunities to take, more places to go.

My twenties have shaped me into the woman I am, and helped me determine who is the woman that I want to be. They have been filled with music and prayer and dancing and reading and writing. As thirty approaches I know these things to be true in my life:

1. Community in the body of Christ is imperative. I do not want to live life without being connected to, and serving in a church.

2. Prayer is important, and God is faithful to answer our prayers. I want to be a woman who prays consistently, in every season of life, not just the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

3. Fear of failing is not a good enough reason for not trying. I've been disappointed quite a bit over this decade, about things for which I've been most hopeful, but I've been the most upset about the things that I never tried because I was too scared.
"I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Phil 4:12-13)

4. I want to write. I've always wanted to write. I've been unknowingly creating opportunities for myself to write since forever. I will always want to write. I want to write as a major part of my job (which I do, currently). I want to write a book. And then another book. And then more books. I understand Jeremiah's feeling of having fire shut up in his bones.

5. There's nothing more encouraging than having friends and family and mentors who believe in you, especially on those days where you don't even dare to believe in yourself.

I'm thankful for the crazy turbulence of my twenties, and I look forward to seeing what the last six months of this decade will bring. Thirties, I'm looking forward to meeting you in six months!

Be blessed and shine through it all!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Disturb us Lord

This Sunday's sermon by guest preacher Rev. Thad Austin was on David & Bathsheba. He gave me chills as he tells the story of the magnitude of David's sin, the calculated, heartless nature of his actions, and most of all David's need for God's resurrective power to restore his soul: a new heart and a right spirit within. Rev. Austin ended the service with this prayer, which I had to share:

 

That we too might realize that we need to be disturbed, our dreams too small, our horizons too near. That we might have limited God's power or forgotten it altogether. Disturb us Lord, forgive us Lord.

Be blessed and shine disturbed.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

First Principles


This year one of my goals has been to read more. 

I've always been an avid reader, with the tendency to inhale books fairly regularly, and the reputation of always having a book in my bag (at least one physical book and my kindle for emergencies). However this year I decided to take an intentional approach to reading, something that I haven't done since my early teenage years. [Family lore has it that I once read 20 books in 21 days over a school break.]

My decision to read this year has brought me back to those days, reminding me of how much I love devouring a good book, and all the random tidbits of knowledge and whispers of experiences that come along with it. But more surprisingly, it's brought with it a renewed enthusiasm for life and an excitement that I'd begun to forget.


In many ways a return to the voracious reading habits of my childhood have been a return to first principles for me. A reminder that beneath, behind and between all the stress of adult life: the frustrations of the present and the uncertainty of the future, I have been rooted and grounded in somewhere safe.

God has been whispering to me through my reading habits, reminding me of first principles: love for all, commitment and consistency in my faith, a desire to grow deeper in my knowledge of Him. I have been reminded that:
  • we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)
  • seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt 6:33)
  • in this world we will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33)
  • God is my shield, my glory, the lifter of my head (Psalm 3:3)
These simple lessons have meant so much to me this year, these reminders that I am indeed rooted and grounded in Christ's love.

Be blessed and shine bright [like a reading lamp]!

Monday, February 08, 2016

Savoring Prayer: A Lenten Series


One of my goals for 2016 is to pray more. I feel like recently my practice of prayer has been erratic at best, and over this year I'm hoping to build a consistent prayer habit.


Even as I made this goal to pray more at the beginning of the year, I began to wonder what I would pray. The inspiration for this series came from the Gospels, where various people cried out to Jesus simple sentences that reflected their heart. So over the next few weeks, I hope to focus on each of these short sentences and the heart behind them. These include people facing doubt, those repenting, people desiring to be cleansed. These people, many of whom remain nameless in the various Gospel accounts remind me that many powerful prayers are also simple, and I hope to share my thoughts on these with you.

Also, wouldn't you know that my church is doing a series on prayer over the Lenten season? What great timing! Several posts over the next few weeks will be inspired by my church's prayer series, as well as by my own experiences.

This prayer goal is part of my #oneword365 for this year, savor, which inspired the name of this series, Savoring Prayer. Prayer invites us to savor God's presence in our time alone, and reminds us to take some time away from this busy life, to focus (and re-focus). Spiritually, prayer is that deep breath that we take before we give a big speech, or climb that next flight of stairs, or walk into that new situation. Our prayer time prepares us for every action and activity that comes next, and yet allows us to pause and reflect on what has come before.

I hope that you too, are encouraged to pray more over these next few weeks. And I'll end this short post with a prayer from Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
Ephesians 1:17-19

Be blessed and shine in prayer!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

OneWord365, the 2016 Edition

Late in 2013 I heard about OneWord365, and immediately I was intrigued by the concept of choosing a word to focus on for an entire year. I mean, just one word, instead of making a list of resolutions that would almost certainly be broken.

So at the end of 2013, I picked my word for 2014, intentional. It was a good word for the season of life that I was in, and for most of the year I keep with my goal of being intentional about the things in my life: grad school and my career, my walk with God, and my relationships with others. But then the time came to start considering a word for 2015, and I was stuck. I couldn't figure out a word that I wanted to focus on for the year. So I halfheartedly chose a word (forward), and then forgot about it for the rest of the year. 

However, at the end of 2015, I knew that I really wanted to pick one word for 2016. I went through lots of words in my head (most of which I've already forgotten), but none of them felt quite right. I was certain that like last year, I'd choose a word just to say that I had one, and it would have no impact on my life whatsoever. So I welcomed 2016 with no word in mind.

Then, on the evening of January 1, my word found me! I was flying back to Indy from the East Coast, just as the sun was setting. Watching the array of colors across the clear sky from the plane I thought to myself, "Wow, this is amazing, I should get out my phone and take a picture!" And myself replied to me, "No, no. Let's not look away to take a picture. Let's just enjoy the moment, and savor it."

At that moment, I knew that that was my word: savor

So this year, you'll find me trying as much as possible to enjoy life's little moments, while they are happening. I'll spend lots of time reflecting, having slow lunches and leisurely walks, hoping to savor every bit of this beautiful life.

If you could choose one word to focus on for all of this year, what would it be? Let me know!

Be blessed and shine anew!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Indy: A Next 'Nother New Place Again

The view from my living room window! This picture doesn't even do justice to the beauty of the fall season.
About five months ago I packed all my stuff and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana for a new job. I'm not sure why I thought it would be easy to move 700 miles from my sisters and all my friends to a state where I only knew one other person, but I was certainly wrong about that.

Everything about moving, and being in this new city has been...not easy. It's not Indy's fault, it's a nice city. It just seems like all the things that fell into place and led to me coming here haven't stayed in place since then.

But even in this there are lessons to be learned, and old lessons to be reminded of. Here are five lessons from the first five months here:

1. Life changes, and yet, it doesn't. There are lots of things that are different about my life here (like not having friends that I can randomly make plans with), but there are lots of things that are the same. Fall is still gorgeous, I still hate getting out of bed in the morning, and perhaps most of all, I worship the same God at my new church.

2. Friends are awesome. First, shoutout to my roommate who puts up with me, particularly in my first few months here when she was the only friend I had. She'd make sure that I'd get out of the house and do things. Second, shoutout to all my old friends who've been messaging and following up with me to make sure I'm still alive and okay in my new home state (y'all better come visit me!) Third, shoutout to the new friends that I'm making here, which is exciting and cool and different.

3. Know yourself. It's always funny how new things and new situations teach you more about who you already are, and influence the person that you are becoming. I've learned a lot so far about the person that I am (for better or worse) and what I need to be content.

4. Just go with it. Sometimes (actually, a lot of the time) things don't work out quite the way you expected. It's been tough to learn to go with the changes, knowing that it will eventually work out. Which leads me to my last lesson...

5. God is in the new place too. One of the things that I sometimes forget (especially when things don't seem to be working out) is that God is with me here in Indy, same as in Jersey, and in Ithaca and in Bim, and everywhere else I've been. And I still need God just as much here as I have everywhere else.

Be blessed and shine through the changes!


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Becoming My Mother

My mummy & I, Christmas 2014
I looked in the mirror the other day
And I realized
That slowly I was becoming my mother.
Somehow, her face was being superimposed over mine.
I opened my mouth the other day
And I realized
That my mother's voice was coming from my mouth;
The words and tone were hers, recorded in my voice.
I woke up the other day
And I realized
That becoming my mother wasn't such a bad thing.
My mother is superwoman
She has eyes in the back of her head
And the ability to read my mind.
My mother is a woman of high standards
"If you're going to do it, do it properly" she always says.
She will put me in my place
And push me to reach for the stars.
She's the one who would ask about the other 1%
When I brought home a score of 99 on an exam.
My mother is the embodiment of unconditional love
And my biggest fan.
She is my 4:30am wake-up call so I don't miss a flight
She still buys all my favourite foods when I come home.
My mother is Excel spreadsheets and lasagna
And reading all the instructions in the box.
She is tea in the morning 
(Two cups, and one more in the afternoon, and at night).
My mother is dark skin and curly hair
And singing hymns and reading books
And smiles and laughter (and scary silence when she's mad).
My mother is "If you don't know it, look it up"
She is "Godliness with contentment is great gain."
And "Tomorrow is another day."
And "Don't be sorry, be different."
She is the voice in my head that whispers,
"Keep going"
When I don't think that I'll make it to the end.
My mother is the reason why I can embrace change
Because she always has:
"Never a bad happening" she says.
I looked in the mirror today
And I realized
That if I could be half the woman that my mother is,
I'd be a remarkable woman indeed.