Expect the Unexpected

I believe following God’s instructions is the wisest yet hardest thing we could ever do. His way of doing things is never ordinary but always yields amazing results. Like building a massive structure in preparation for a storm, all while the term “rain” was foreign to man. Holding a stick over a raging sea to create a way of escape from the enemy. Marching around the walls of a secured city seven times, then playing instruments in order for the walls to collapse. I know I am not the only one who thinks God’s directions are a little…unusual.

I became all too familiar with His unusual instructions as I was planning VISION NOW. From inviting a speaker whom I knew very little about to allowing a young lady to do my hair whom I had never been to before (ladies, we all know this is a no no!), He kept telling me to do things that, to me, were crazy. Even down to the date. When I accepted that He wanted me to have this event, I just knew it would be in January to help women kick off the new year, but He kept saying NOW. So on the first day of the last quarter of the year, I hosted a vision party. I literally asked Him, “Who in the world is going to come to a vision party in October? It’s not close enough to the end of year nor is it at the beginning of a new year.” God told me there is nothing magical about January 1st. It’s just another day on the calendar. VISION NOW!

So I did. I did everything He said. No matter how uncomfortable I was. And no matter how much the enemy confirmed that God’s instructions were a little off-kilter. I did it and I did it just the way He told me to.

And guess what??? The event was amazing!

 

Andrea Snyder, co-founder of the Urban Cookhouse, whom I briefly crossed paths with in Corporate America, shared her story of giving up her $40,000 salary plus benefits, bonuses, and promotions for a job that paid $13 but allowed her to pursue her vision. That transition paid off! In 2010, Andrea and her husband opened their first limited-service restaurant. Today, Urban Cookhouse has seven locations with 2 additional locations opening later this year. Andrea spoke from Matthew 25 and challenged the ladies not to bury their “talents” due to fear, but instead to use what God had given them in a manner that would please the Father and bring them joy.

Andrea’s inspiring message was followed by my dear friend, Pamela Phipps, Executive Director of Grace House Ministries. Pam told us how she sought God to determine His plan for her life. And although she did not understand what He was telling her, in time, she realized that everything in her past was preparation for her present. Pam concluded by challenging the ladies to: 1) write down their vision from God, 2) speak it out of their mouths, 3) surround themselves with like-minded people who would be honest with them and supportive, and 4) look forward to fulfilling the vision.

After the ladies laughed, talked, and work together to find specific items for their boards, they flipped the boards over and to their surprise was a roadmap. I explained that in order for their vision to become reality, intentionality was the key. The roadmap was comprised of 10 blank billboards. Before the evening ended, each lady was to write on the billboards which steps they would take before the end of October. Some wrote they would create a business plan. Others noted spending more time with God was their first priority. A few admitted they need to let go of people in their lives who were headed in a different direction.

But the gentle voice of Karmen Ali brought the evening to a close in a way that only God Himself could have ordained. See…Karmen is the young lady who did my hair for the very first time and yes, she did an amazing job! Friday morning as I sat in Karmen’s salon, I inquired about her availability on Saturday to do my makeup for VISION NOW. She wasn’t sure if she could accommodate me but asked me to tell her more about the event. I told her all about it, even invited her to come. She said yes but I could tell there was bit of hesitation. She then told me she believed God had sent me to her. Karmen shared that a few years ago, she created a vision board. She had many things on her board but specifically remembered adding three letters, G O D. Her vision began to unfold. She did not understand it, but the pictures and words she glued to the poster board were actually happening. As time went on, Karmen drifted away from God and almost instantly, her life became a downward spiral. Everything she had placed on her board was slowly stripped away.

I asked Karmen to share her story because more than anything, I wanted every women to know…The vision is unachievable without the Visionary. Apart for Him we can do nothing. It is only WITH HIM that all things are possible.

I told the women to get ready! Expect the unexpected. God’s instructions would not be ordinary. They most likely would not make sense. I was their example. I invited someone to speak at VISION NOW whom I had never heard speak before and I went to a salon for the first time, one day before the event. Who does that??? Me, when I follow His instructions.

This is what I want you to remember whether you were able to attend VISION NOW or not….Regardless of your ability to comprehend the true purpose behind God’s prompting, it is most important that you trust and obey Him…no matter what!

To see pictures from VISION NOW, click www.facebook.com/tijuana.johnsonwilliams.

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The Ultimate Sacrifice

I recently participated in a twenty-one day fast with my church family (I guess it’s ok to talk about it now that it’s over). We did not have to give up food, but were instructed to sacrifice something that consumed our time. The Sunday the fast began, I listened to a powerful story of how fasting and prayer had impacted a family’s life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzQJhdQDxuE) and I knew this was for me. The timing was perfect. I wasn’t looking for any “thing” from God. Just greater clarity in the things He was guiding me toward.

So I thought…what would it be? Coffee? Beef? Maybe Facebook? But this time, I heard God whisper, “Sleep.” I literally turned to my husband during worship service and said, “You will never believe what He just told me to give up…SLEEP!” My husband shook his head because He knew if I were ever to appear in a MasterCard commercial, it would always end by saying, “Sleep for TJ….priceless!”

You see, I love a good cup of joe. And hamburgers…one of my closest girlfriends and I have the best conversations when we have hamburgers! Both are important in my life. But sleep. Sleep is in a category all its own. Nothing compares to a good nights sleep. There’s nothing like a good ole nap. I reminded God that I wasn’t fasting in expectation of getting some “thing” from Him. I just wanted to hear Him clearer and gain more understanding in the things He was calling me to do. Sleep for me was like…The Ultimate Sacrifice. As His still, small voice became silent, I knew all too well what it meant. I had heard Him clearly. Getting up earlier and going to bed later so I could spend more time working to fulfill the dreams He had placed in my heart. I  knew this would be a sacrifice like none other.

Monday morning, 4:30am! The alarm buzzed but the only thing that moved was my finger to turn it off. I knew it would be hard but had no idea it would be this hard. The second morning, after snoozing and snoozing and snoozing, I rolled out of bed and went downstairs to work out. When the kids went to bed at 7:30 each night, instead of me answering the call of our 1000 thread count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, I turned the computer on and began to write.

I soon realized what God was doing.

He was not trying to get me to sleep less, but instead was helping me understand that if I was really going to commit to fulfilling His plan for my life, there were sacrifices I must be willing to make. I began to understand there would be times when I would have to do things I would not ordinarily do (like give up sleep). Times when my comfort zone would be a mere memory. Times when I would have to make hard choices that may not be popular. Times when I would be uncomfortable but still have to push my way through. Times when others would make plans that I could not be a part of because my priorities had shifted.

God told me I was walking into a place where I would have to say, “Not my will but Yours be done” and mean it.

Over those twenty-one days, I gained more knowledge than I ever expected. Knowledge to prepare me for what’s ahead. And now, before I go to bed at night and when the clock goes off early in the morning, I think twice. There is a quote that says, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

How important is your comfort? Are you willing to sacrifice it in order to grow? In order to attain the vision He has given us, we must willingly make The Ultimate Sacrifice.

comfortzone

 

SHARING MY HEART EVENT INFORMATION

LADIES….It’s time for VISION NOW! Register for this amazing Sharing My Heart event where you will have an opportunity to write the vision, make it plain, and develop a plan so that you can run with it! Make the sacrifice and join me on Saturday, October 1st and begin to grow and go in the direction of your vision.

Click visionnow.eventbrite.com for more information and register today!

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CAST YOUR CARES!

A couple of weeks ago, I took a break from writing my blog. Well, it was actually in April and was only suppose to last a couple of weeks, but instead, my 30-day productive sabbatical turned into multiple weeks where I allowed frustration to overrule productivity. I told God during my break, “I am tired! I can’t do everything!” You see, being a wife, mother of 2 small children, working full time, and blogging part time is a lot, especially when excellence is the goal. Then recently, God presented an opportunity for me to be a Contributing Writer for one of the oldest, most well-respected newspapers in the southeast, The Birmingham Times. I was grateful for the opportunity, but as I looked at my plate, to say it was already full was an understatement. So I did what the ‘ole folks use to do back in the day. I decided to have a little talk with Jesus!

Just as the writer of the old hymn said, “And He will answer by and by”…guess what? He did. I don’t know the time frame as it relates to “by and by,” but He answered me pretty quickly. God simply told me to cast my cares. I knew the scripture “cast your cares on Me, because I care for you” and I felt I was doing just that. After all, I made sure God knew how I felt about each and everything on my plate. And being the perfect gentleman that He is, He let me ramble on and on and on….

As I wrapped up telling God what I could not possibly handle, I sensed that He agreed with me. At that moment, God so gently reminded me of a fond childhood memory. It was fishing with my dad. I remembered standing on the shore and casting my fishing line as far as I could into the water. As I reminisced, God said, “I need you to do the same thing with everything that concerns you. Don’t just tell me about it. Give it to me. Cast it.” God continued. “My child, the reason you think you are tired is because you are trying to do everything in your own power, in your own strength. Apart from Me, you can do nothing, but with Me, all things are possible. Trust Me with your cares. Give Me all your worries. I really do care for you.”

As I thought back to those days of casting my fishing line into the water, my thoughts were dominated by the serenity of the environment. Even in the waiting, my dad and I knew if we were patient, what we were waiting for would come to us, almost effortlessly. The key was to relinquish control.

Today, I challenge you to “cast your cares on Him.” I did and believe it or not, God sent people to help me…some I knew, some I didn’t know. The things I once thought were burdensome and impossible, seemingly overnight, were resolved. Now, I chuckle when things are thrown my way. The tension is significantly lessened when the solution seems nonexistent. With each occurrence, I simply respond by saying, “God, here you go! I’m casting my cares!”

Now It’s Your Turn:
1 Peter 5:7 says, “Let him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” If you are willing to trust God and give Him your anxieties, worries, and concerns, type here in the comments or on social media, CASTING MY CARES!

“I” is for Instructions

We want more! More money, more recognition, more opportunities, more open doors, more chances, more favor. We simply want more! I’m not saying that more is always a bad thing, but how far will you go to get more? Where do you prioritize integrity when it comes to attaining more? Would you go after more if it meant less time with your spouse and children? Is gaining more worth your life or is your life worth more?

Achan sacrificed all he had for more.

I know, I know. By now you are probably wondering how the vowel “I” relates to all this talk about more. But Achan’s greed for more caused him to negate God’s instructions. His thirst for more took a turn that no one, but God, saw coming.

Joshua 6 wastes no time in telling “whodunit’! It was Achan.

When the wall of Jericho was destroyed and Joshua and the Israelites entered the city of Jericho, they knew exacted what they were to do. God had already given very specific instructions. Rahab and the members of her family who were in her home were the only ones to be spared along with items made with silver, gold, bronze, or iron. These were to be brought to the treasury of the Lord’s house. God was also very intentional by telling them what would happen if His instructions were not adhered to. Complete destruction and trouble for the entire camp was His promise.

Even though, God was providing everything the Israelites needed, Achan still wanted more. His greed trumped the instructions of the One who kept him while in the wilderness, safely led him across the Jordan River, and provided nourishment beyond the manna to which Achan had become accustomed. Achan’s desire for more led him to steal and bury many of the devoted items God explicitly told them not to keep for themselves.

And what happened?

Just what God promised. During the next battle, which should have been a simple victory, the Israelites were defeated and no one understood why. But God knew. Achan’s failure to follow instructions brought a victorious nation to a stumbling halt. His noncompliance not only affected him, but led to the death of more than 36 of his fellow soldiers, placed fear in the hearts of men who were walking by faith and obeying God without hesitation, caused his leader to question God’s faithfulness, and ultimately brought death to his children, his livestock, and himself. Achan allowed his desire for material things to overshadow the instructions of the One who had always been faithful.

So often we too ignore the instructions of God. Our reason may have nothing to do with greed; nevertheless, it is still disobedience. But we must always remember, God knows best. For if Achan had just been patient and followed God’s instructions, he would have been privy to an even greater plunder that was given to them in the very next city they conquered.

Today, if you know someone who is tired of waiting, about to give up on God, or feel His instructions are just not working for them, please share this post. We can save lives or deter people from making bad decisions with a couple of taps on a smart device or the click of a mouse. Don’t allow someone to give up or settle for good, when God wants to give them His best. More, so much more, is available to us when we follow God’s instructions.

Next week, “O” is the vowel of choice. Follow my blog so that you’ll never miss a word that will surely empower or uplift!