This month's Inspire Me testimony comes from a person when I think of her, I immediately smile. This person is a dear and genuine friend of mine - Madeline (Maddie) Lewis.
Maddie and I's relationship is really hard to limit to words. We are sisters, friends, confidants and the list goes on. Maddie is one of my friends where we can just look at one another and start laughing. We are really in sync. We just click.
Maddie is a wife, a mother, a mentor, a leader, a hard and resilient worker and is in constant pursuit of what God has destined for her. Honestly, it gets no more real than Maddie. I won't go into too much detail as you will see her story below but I will tell you to be prepared.
When I read her story, I was in complete awe of her level of realness, openness, and transparency.
I ask that you cover her in love and support as she works to become bolder and more confident in who she is in Christ.
Maddie, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I love you and I am thankful to be apart of your life's journey and I look forward to seeing where God is going to take you. I love you babes.
How Did I Get Here?
I have started writing this six times and the enemy kept tricking me, but I know what God said so hold on sis, here we go.
Before you go further think about the hemorrhaging woman in Luke 8:40-48. She is me. No, I have not been hemorrhaging for 12 years, but there was a time my soul was bleeding uncontrollably.
So much happened in my life as a child that I didn't understand. Bigger than that, I didn't understand why it happened to me. I was fatherless. My mom got married and what a poop show that was. Drug abuse. Mental abuse. Molestation. All of these things were happening to me and around me. It left me weak. Depleted. Used up. Washed out. Purposeless. All of this piled on me; caused me to search.
Truth is, I would like to say I was searching for love, but I had no idea what I was searching for. No idea what image I was chasing. Some facade.
I ended up pregnant at 16 chasing some make-believe validation (this is another story for another day). I was so confused about how I got to this place. This wasn't who I was supposed to be. I was supposed to be great. I was supposed to go off to college. However, I was knocked up and people convinced me that I wouldn't make it if I went off to school.
So I stayed. In all the dysfunction, I stayed.
I began letting myself be used by any and everyone in pretty much any capacity they wanted to use me. Again, how did I get here? Why has all of this happened to me?
I ended up in a relationship similar to my mom's and the truth is, it could have killed me. What an "unloved" person will do for love, huh? I literally was so anxious and depressed that being around anyone other than him was terrifying. At this point, my soul was full-blown hemorrhaging. I was bleeding out on the inside and nothing was being done to stop it and no one knew. I was such a victim.
Why me? How could all of this happen? How did I get here?
Fast forward a few months. I got out of the relationship but jumped right in with the next guy (my now fine husband). A good ole country church boy. My knight in shining armor. My savior. Haha! NOT! However, he took me to church. We got pregnant. We were engaged. Boom! He broke up with me. I was so hurt. He was the "one"!?!? Now I'm a single momma two times and I'm alone.
Again, how did I get here? Why me?
I remember one day being in my living room, sobbing uncontrollably because anxiety and paranoia had taken over. In this place, was the first time I heard God. He said, "Get up!" I remember when I heard Him I couldn't cry anymore. Then he said, "Why not you?".
Now let's be honest, this is where I wish I could say, "They all lived happily ever after." NOT!
Remember, my soul is hemorrhaging. One of two things will happen, I'll live or I'll die.
I remember saying "God, I'm going to trust you!" Now let's pause and look further at this. I grew up in craziness and had been used by so many people so as one would expect, trust was something I was not familiar with. And now I am going to trust someone I can't see? Haha! OK, sis!
But, I asked myself, "What do I have to lose?"
So, I start trusting God. Lies. I was wishing to God like He was a genie that would grant all my magical wishes. Nothing changed and I made myself a victim of God.
Then one day, there was a change in my mind. I'll never be able to explain it to you but I got up determined one day. Like the hemorrhaging woman, I was so weak and frail but I was determined. I was determined to press. I was determined to push. I was determined to elbow my way into God's presence. I could no longer worry about what happened to me. I just knew I needed healing. Not for my kids, not for any guy, not for anyone else, but for Madeline.
I started to heal my hemorrhage. This mindset change and the healing process began 10 years ago and it has been a continuous work. It has not been easy work. There was so much I felt I needed to hold or keep to myself. I thought it was my right to be a victim.
I watched myself change. I watched my situation change. My "How did I get here?" thinking changed from a depressive, victimized thought to a position of empowerment. God used the angry, bitter victim and turned her into someone who is now pushing, pressing, and leaning.
Obviously, a lot has happened in the last ten years. One thing is, we received full custody of our oldest daughter. She has her own testimony that I pray she shares one day. She has been an angry bitter kid for some years because of her past. One day she was telling me why she felt like she did and in the middle of her talking, it was like I had looked in a mirror. She was one of the "whys" in my "Why me?". At that very moment with her, my life made sense. I heard people say, "What you go through isn't for you, it's for someone else." What kind of nonsense, shenanigans is that? Ha! In hindsight, it all makes sense.
Just like the hemorrhaging woman, I suffered for years. Truth is, some of my sufferings were my own fault. However, when I decided to fully trust God at His word, I positioned myself (actually He moved my big behind into alignment) to be in a place where I was able to press into His presence and be healed from the things that were preventing me from walking fully in my purpose. Remember, healing isn't always for physical sickness. The mind and soul need healing too. No one and nothing is more important than your mental and spiritual health.
God sees you, sis. He loves you to your core. Even those dark, hidden, hurt, broken places, He loves that. He wants you healed to walk out your purpose in fullness. Just press. Don't give up. The best is yet to come.
All the love,
This month's Inspire Me testimony comes from my beautiful and vivacious friend -- Janae. Janae is another beautiful soul I met at church. Being able to see God move in and throughout her life has been amazing! Her life has been and is a testament to the power of walking confidently in our purpose once we surrender to Christ.
Janae has a YouTube channel -- the Janae Fraizer Show. The purpose of her channel is to leave others feeling inspired and motivated to go after their dreams. Be sure to check her out! I know you will leave feeling inspired.
PS. This beauty just became engaged recently. I pray many blessings on your upcoming union love.
It’s Not Going As Planned...
I’m growing to love this reality more and more as the days go by.
It’s not going as planned...
It’s a loud reminder that we must trust God with the life He’s given us and the story He has written!
My dreams of becoming a TV news reporter began in the fifth grade growing up in Bloomfield, CT. I remember my mom telling me that I had a big mouth, that I was nosey, and that I loved being the center of attention so voilà she suggested a career in news and I immediately latched on to the idea.
I studied broadcast journalism at Elon University in North Carolina, and had several internships at TV stations including NBC Nightly News in New York City. I graduated in 2013 and took a job at WECT in Wilmington, NC. I started out as a news producer not a news reporter. I thought, ‘Hey Jesus, it’s not going as planned...’
I was initially embarrassed by the job. I had all these great internships and applied to over 100 stations for reporter positions, surely I was going to be on-air immediately. Nope! The only job that I could get was as a producer.
It’s not going as planned...
I worked hard at it and six months later, I was a full-time reporter/producer.
What I realize now is that it was actually a great blessing to be a producer first. I have more skills than I would’ve had if I was just a reporter. And both skill sets—reporting and producing— complement and enhance the other.
My plan was to always move after each reporting contract. I would work in different markets, increasing in notoriety with each move until I got to the top. So my two years were up in Wilmington. The next stop on the journey to the national stage was WLTX in Columbia, SC in 2015. Columbia had so much more for me than I anticipated. I covered high profile stories, met the love of my life, consistently anchored newscasts, got super involved in church, crashed, and burned.
I saw dead bodies, talked to victims on the worst days of their lives, and ran to danger. Insert tragedy here_____, okay Janae we need you to go.
The emotional, physical, and mental toil of reporting is real. And neglecting self-care is deadly. My depression and anxiety became “my depression and anxiety.” I didn’t realize these were even “my issues” until I got there. I wouldn’t eat, sleep, or take care of myself. I was always busy with work, church, social circle, something. I didn’t know how to stop. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. I had a meltdown in the newsroom. I was crying. I couldn’t breathe. I could no longer ignore the promptings from God. I quit at the end of 2017. I didn’t just quit, I quit with no backup plan. There wasn’t another job lined up, no next city.
It’s not going as planned...
Somehow, my rent was paid, my stomach full, and my car had gas while I was unemployed for two months. God is real.
I applied to communications jobs across Columbia. I landed at the Manufactured Housing Institute of South Carolina as a Communications Coordinator. The job gave me more freedom and a pay increase.
A few months later, I started a weekly inspirational YouTube show in my free time. (I guess those producing skills came in handy.)
The show was a hit. It led to speaking engagements, a special events reporting gig, and a weekly radio segment. Blessings on blessings on blessings on blessings.
But... it’s not going as planned...
In the midst of all of this, I still doubted my decision of leaving news. I just didn’t understand what God was going to do. It was still so hard to let go. To me it felt like this was the first time I wasn’t in control. I realize now that I never really was in control.
During this time, I started counseling and learned the value and necessity of self-love and self-care. Eating, sleeping, resting, relaxing, and manicures are regular occurrences in the life of Janae! My new motto is “work hard, rest hard!” More skills needed for my journey.
After 11 months in my new job and a few months of the show, it felt like I was ready for a new path. The next city, a new plan. I didn’t hear specifics from God about what was next, but I sensed a change was coming. I thought maybe I was to get back into news. I really didn’t know what to do. I prayed and I applied to a news station.
During the process, one of my Elon classmates reached out to me about moving to Washington, DC. He is a Communications Director for Congressman Mark Walker. I was taken aback by the inquiry but he told me his wife (another Elon graduate) had seen my show and suggested that I would be a great fit for their DC team. I was hesitant, but after much prayer and a lot of nudges by my mom, I was open to the opportunity. In the matter of weeks, I was named Press Secretary for Congressman Mark Walker. I moved to Virginia and started on the Hill on February 19, 2019.
Can we talk about plot twist? I am amazed by God’s plan. Government? DC? Press Secretary? What?
It’s not going as planned...
But thank God I’m not in charge!
I could’ve never written this story. A chance to serve this country? Huh? And you want me to be creative and use my TV skills? WOW!
He also gives us the desires of our hearts, this new job is a national stage! God just had another way!
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Although it’s uncomfortable, we’ve got to learn to lay our plans at His feet to follow His. Take your hands off the steering wheel!
It’s okay to not be in charge. It’s okay to not know what’s next. It’s okay that it’s not going as planned... It’s okay, because God is in control and He won’t lead you astray. In fact, He already knows where you’re going; He wrote the story. He knows how it ends, trust and rest in Him...it’s good! What He’s writing is better than your wildest dream!
Now unto him, that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
He’s never failed you before and He won’t start now!
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.
This month's Inspire Me testimony comes from my beautiful Ghanaian friend -- Nana. Nana and I meet through our small group at my church. We instantly connected and have been friends ever since. Nana currently lives in the UK (London) and the Lord continues to do great things in her life.
Nana has one of the sweetest, genuine and most gentle hearts that I have seen. I pray that her testimony regarding her move from the States encourages you to be persistent in your faith and trust in God.
Nana is also a co-host on her podcast, Afropolitan Central (@afropolitancentral). Here, she serves to provide us with fresh and exciting discussions about Africa and its diaspora. Be sure to check her out!
PS. This beauty just celebrated a birthday on May 5th! Happy Birthday love!!
The year 2016 will always be a landmark year for me. At the time, it marked the most challenging and uncertain period of my life. Now, it’s a resounding testimony of the Lord’s unending goodness.
By that year, I had been living in the US for over 5 years after moving there from Ghana to attend college. The initial job search after graduation in 2014 had been rough because I needed a visa permit to work which for many employers, equaled a legal hustle that they didn’t want to undertake regardless of my qualifications. However, by the Lord’s grace, I secured an attractive offer at a bank in Wilmington, NC. The leadership took a great liking to me with the visa issue being a non issue for them- a bonafide miracle.
By the summer of 2015, I had already been granted a promotion a year after joining the company. I was integrated into my new team, learning the ropes of my new role and already envisioning my next career steps. Outside of work, I had settled into life in Wilmington. I’d finally put my stamp on my apartment and was also developing great friendships. But most importantly, my relationship with God was the best it had ever been. Through my small group at church, I was finally discovering the meaning of fellowship and diving into God’s word with a depth I had never experienced before. Life felt good. To me, this was the very definition of the Lord’s goodness and herein laid the problem as I would soon find out.
On a seemingly ordinary day in February 2016, I received news that turned my world upside down. My visa application which had been submitted almost a year earlier had been refused based on what I always describe for lack of better words as a technicality. Effective immediately, my immigration standing in the country was now void and I had 30 days to leave the country. So many emotions ran through me in the ensuing hours- shock, sadness, anxiety, fear and everything in between as I spoke to friends and family to alert them of the news. What’s funny is that a few months earlier, in leading my small group’s discussion on Ruth and her trust in the Lord, I’d briefly considered this outcome when the topic of my visa came up. I remember saying “Of course I trust in the Lord but I hope His goodness means that I will probably get my visa” and finished it off with a small laugh like "Lord you better grant me that visa!"
He evidently had other plans for me but I didn’t trust His plans. How could I trust a now uncertain future that involved shaky career prospects and a room back in my parents’ house? I tried to reassure myself that I trusted in the Lord’s unending goodness but it rang hollow. Deep down, I was sad and angry. I had defined the Lord’s goodness on my own terms and now that my circumstances weren’t in line with that, I was struggling. I believe this is something we as Christians can often wrestle with when things don’t go how we want or need them to. We can quickly forget the million other times that the Lord has carried us through and delivered us because the devastation in the present precludes us. We wonder how He could have ever allowed us to go through such circumstances in the first place. But He never promised smooth sailings, only that He’d be with us even in the midst of the stormy seas right?
It took months for me to finally get to a place where I was vulnerable enough with the Lord to admit this in prayer. I had bottled up my anger and sadness because I felt like giving voice to those emotions would make me a textbook example of a bad and entitled Christian. But I still grew distant from Him anyways without voicing these thoughts. Finally, I allowed myself to cry about everything that had happened, prayed and let all my worries and fears out. And being the Good Father that He is, He was there with open arms for me. Things didn’t magically get better of course- I wasn’t hearing back from my job applications and I was still not sure if I could get my Masters degree- but all that was irrelevant. Most importantly, I was learning day by day to let go of my strong ideas of what the Lord’s goodness should look like. I was learning that trust meant turning to Him, not away from Him, when things were hard. That trust wasn’t a linear process free of doubts or anxieties but one which involved continued vulnerability and communication with the Father in spite of those feelings. I also came to understand that His goodness doesn’t equal the immediate existence of the comforts and realities that we've dreamed up for ourselves. But if we will trust Him and walk with Him, He has a reality for us that’s more than we could have imagined.
Almost 3 years later, I've since graduated with First Class honours in my Masters degree and currently work at a Big 4 accounting firm here in London. On that fateful day in February, my version of the Lord’s goodness was to just for Him to keep my life as it was but instead He gave me a different reality that has been more than I could have ever imagined.
This month's Inspire Me testimony is one that I believe we all can say, "I've been there" or "Yep, that's me." This month, I am ecstatic to share the story of another beautiful soul and sister-friend, Kobe Campbell. She is a licensed and practicing therapist and is wholeheartedly pursuing her purpose in assisting others in their healing process. As always, I pray her testimony encourages and inspires you just as much as it did for me.
Be sure to connect with her on IG @thehealingcircle_kc or her website: https://www.kchealingcircle.com
PS. My sis is GAWGEOUSSSS!!!
To My Sisters In The Desert
I never thought I'd be a therapist… ever. There were a million things on my list of possible careers like a doctor, teacher, lawyer, even gymnast (even though I couldn't touch my toes and on some days, still can't). So when I felt called to apply to graduate school to become a counselor, at a seminary none-the-less, I was a bit confused. It was 2015 and I had the hardest year of my life. I was struggling with a major depressive episode, I didn’t want to be around people and nothing got me excited. I’d just gotten back from a 2-month long trip to Brazil where I had an amazing encounter with the Lord and a cute old lady that I got to share the gospel with. I felt so close to God, but when I got back, I felt like God turned his back and ran as far away from me as He could. I’d committed my life to Christ about a year before I took my trip to Brazil and was on the “everything-is-perfect” high that sometimes comes with a new commitment to the Lord. Little did I know, everything was getting ready to fall apart.
No matter how hard I tried, my grades were sub-par, It seemed like everyone magically hated me, my relationship with my parents was on the rocks and I would walk into rooms only to hear people in mid-sentence speaking poorly of me. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life and graduation was just months away.
I was in the desert.
I can say that now with pride and a tinge of hope in my tone because though I knew what God was doing at the time, now I understand what He was doing.
I knew that I cared what people thought of me, but God was showing me how absolutely enslaved I was to other people’s opinions of me. I lived a life of performance. I had since I was a child and that season of my life was when God decided the show was over. He took away any validation I could get from anyone other than Him. He allowed people to perceive painful narratives about me because He needed me to see that without the praise of others, I felt worthless. Little did I know, my worth was established before I took my first breath.
When I committed my life to Christ, He became a friend, an accessory of sorts. But as things fell apart, He showed me that what I needed even more than a friend, was a savior. When all the validation was gone, I was a wounded child stuck in a 20-year old’s body. I was starving for validation because that’s what kept me going. When people loved me, I loved me. When people hated me, I hated me. And to make sure they loved me, I made sure I was useful in their lives. But now, nobody wanted anything from me. And who was I without my usefulness? Who was I if I couldn’t make someone happy, or offer them what they want or need? I was and am beloved. I didn’t know that then, but I’m learning that now.
I needed to be in the desert because the desert is where you learn how to develop faith in God moment-by-moment. The desert is where you understand the depth of your weakness and brokenness. The desert is where you discover the endless grace and power of God. I don’t think I’m out of the desert yet, but I do think I’m on the tail end of my trip. I used to struggle with feeling betrayed by God but as I enter into some of the promises that God spoke over me years ago, I realize that losing my ability to depend on the unstable and ever-wavering standard of other people’s opinions of me allowed me to develop dependence on a never-changing God and a character that can be trusted with all that He wants to give me.
As a black, Christian, therapist, God allows me to go back into the desert every day with my clients, as we navigate trauma, abuse, shame, anger, fear and all the things that are at the foundation of the idols that we worship. I'm reminded that my desert allowed me to be who I am to my clients, to my child, my husband, and my family. The Israelites felt abandoned by God in the desert, running back to the deadly slavery of an emotionally and physically abusive Pharaoh seemed better than living a life where God was in complete control of the smallest details, even their meals.
I’ve identified with that feeling, sometimes I still do.
To my sisters in the desert: Don’t go back. You’re going to want to run back to that thing that doesn’t love you, that exploits you, that demands that you perform for it, that asserts that your worth is only in what you provide because the desert is long, hard and painful. The Israelites could have gotten to the promise land using a quicker route. Similarly, you can get to your promise land quicker too, but the desert is the only way you'll develop the character necessary to enjoy the promised land without being enslaved to it. Allow your desert to develop you. It’s painful, it's uncomfortable and it feels like dying because it is dying. The old you is withering away in the heat of truth and Gods glory as the new you blooms forward. Yes, a blooming flower in the desert. My season in the desert lead me to a profession I love, and into a space where I get to partner with the Lord in healing and restoring the hearts and lives of people who look just like me.
What is your desert developing you for?
God has blessed me to be connected with so many wonderful people. It is truly a blessing to be around like-minded people who are also seeking to fulfill the calling on their lives in spite of fear and insecurities.
I would like to introduce my first shared or inspire me post on my sister-friend, Jessica Gaskins. Jessica is such a beautiful spirit both inside and out and I am thankful that we get to share our lives together. Although we do not talk or see one another often, whenever we have the chance to see or speak to one another, it's like we never missed a beat. I pray that her journey and testimony of how God is using her life encourages and inspires you as well.
PS. I also shared some photos of her Be You brand. Feel free to check out her on IG @beyou_llc + @jsslynne and her website - www.BeYou.online.
Hello, my name is Jessica Gaskins and I am the Founder and CEO of the conscious brand Be You. I founded Be You out of my God-given passion to empower others with what I've learned through my personal walk with Christ. That we are each fearfully and WONDERFULLY made and are perfect as who we are. Our quirks, our uniqueness, our passions are all beautiful and are gifts to this world. And that despite what society may tell us, the absolute best thing we can do is to be who God created us to be. Our unique, awesome selves.
I believe that completely being yourself, means to own what makes you YOU! Growing up, I struggled with not being the most outgoing or the most outspoken among my friends. Most of the time, I simply struggled with my qualities that made me different from others. And I failed to realize that they were just that...qualities! But as time went on and as I grew (spiritually and mentally), I learned that those differences were what made me who I was and am now continuing to learn to embrace those differences every single day. And while learning to embrace those differences, I’ve found myself falling in love with ME more and more.
When God first gave me the idea to create this brand, I was ecstatic because I felt that God had given me something to encourage the world with. I felt that the simple two words, Be You, would carry such a powerful message and would not only give people the courage to be themselves, but most importantly be themselves through Christ! Although I knew the message was an encourager for me, I had no clue that God would use this idea to change my life. Yes, God wanted me to encourage others, but He also wanted to heal ME in the process.
So, after He gave me the idea to start Be You, it seemed like every day then after, He would put me in some type of situation that would make me have to stand my ground and just be myself. He was literally making me the first partaker! It was in those moments that God would show me that there were still some beautiful things about myself that He’d put inside of me and I had not yet embraced them. I was terrified to do so. I was beginning to understand that Be You was not something that I could just create and like, but it was something that I had to finally learn, love, embrace and live it. Ultimately, I had to start learning to love every part of who God created me to be and use what He put inside of me.
Naturally, I love the arts and finding creative things to do, which are qualities about myself that I’ve embraced throughout my life and have often used, but those things didn’t require me to use my voice. There would be times where I knew God wanted me to speak up, encourage someone, or let others know about who He is, but fear would grip me so. Laughing at myself now looking back, I was the person that would always say, “People can witness God by the way I live my life and carry myself, not always by what comes out of my mouth.” Which is true in some cases! BUT, that was usually my escape to stay in my comfort zone and keep my mouth closed. Even in times that I would need to speak up about something concerning me personally, I would not do it for the fear of offending someone with my feelings or thoughts. How crazy is it that we sometimes feel that we can’t be ourselves for the fear of offending someone else?
But you know what helped me? In Genesis 1:31, (paraphrasing) it says that God saw everything that He had made, and it was very good, and He validated it completely. That means that when He knit us together and put all these great things inside of us, that He knew exactly what He was doing, and He was very pleased with what He had created. Who am I to hide that? That passage alone has helped me to understand how valuable I am and to know that I also have something to offer.
Now with the help of Christ, I can be brave and confident about who He created me to be. I can be brave about how He created me. So, during those times that require me to be a little more outgoing, I can do that…and those times that require me to speak up a little more, I can do that as well. But once I’m done, I’m done! Lol. I can do what I need to do and still be who I am at the end of the day. This is what BE YOU means to me!