For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
More than six years ago, I moved to New York City from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That statement by itself has impressed quite a few people. But I didn’t move to impress anyone. At the time I just wanted to be in New York City. Moving here had been an acknowledged desire of mine for more than ten years prior to me actually doing it. With what I know now, I would call that desire a “calling”. Now, I would say I was called to New York City; indeed, I was instructed to go to New York City. It was part of the plan God had for me and it took over a decade for me to answer His call.
Of course I didn’t know it then, but I see it so clearly now.
At that time, I knew I was on a journey of self-exploration, but I had no idea how the road would unfold before me. The only thing I was focused on was learning more about me. In my simple-mindedness, my self-exploration centered on having a sexual revolution because I thought all my problems rooted from my childhood sexual abuse. I’ll tell you now, I thought God was going to let me have my way because it was something I thought I needed in order to heal myself. I believed that I had been repressed back home in Milwaukee – confined to what everyone else expected of me and wanted from me. I saw NYC as my opportunity to burst free.
When I moved to the City, I was working on my second self-publishing venture, VoLux Full-Figured Calendar. One of my goals with the calendar was to show that women of all shapes and sizes (with natural looks and curves) deserved as much media attention as the women starving themselves to be on magazine covers. My wholesome goal of showcasing women in an attractive fashionable spread that would encourage self-esteem and positive body image was received as a highly sexualized product. Through I was trying to explore my sexuality in my personal life, I was not interested in pimping images of women through my business.
However, I did get momentarily caught up in the dream of high fashion and how I could apply it to my life and my talents. In other words, when I came to the City, I had an intention to be an active participant in all things pertaining to plus-size fashion. And I was active for a couple of years. My second calendar was published in 2006 and I admit to being “MySpace-famous” when that cover hit my social media network. Uncomfortably so. During that time, I realized that I was not interested in the attention I was receiving – people who would only talk to me if my product could do something for their product or service; models who only wanted to meet me so they could be in my next calendar; and main stream fashion folks who had no interest in my work at all because my black “wasn’t relevant” and neither was my size.
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. [Says the Lord your God] ~ Isaiah 55:2-3 NLT
After a couple of years of battling myself and trying to sustain the business model I had developed in Milwaukee, I stopped trying to force myself on the narrow-minded fashion industry in New York City and started asking myself questions. And surprisingly, I was able to answer my questions too.
Why is it so important to me to have a plus-size fashion calendar? It’s not. Then why am I working so hard on this? Because I had planned a course of action and committed to it. Well, if it’s my plan, myaction and my life, can’t Ichange my mind? Absolutely! So, going back to the beginning, why did I want to start a business in the first place? I wanted something I could do from home. Something seasonal in nature that would allow time with my husband and children while contributing income to the family. What else can I do that this goal would apply to? I can write.
My blog started on MySpace.com. I started writing about plus-size fashion and my adjustment to NYC. Two years later I published my first Christian lifestyle book, My God and Me: Listening, Learning and Growing on My Journey which consisted mostly of my MySpace blog posts. I did not foresee my change in perspective, priority or purpose. However, when I conceived the idea for My God and Me, I was then able to trace God’s active guidance and instruction in my life. Up to that point, I hadn’t believed He was paying much attention to me. Moving to New York City with no family or friends to depend on and not going hungry or homeless for one day has certainly shown me my God is very attentive to my every need. Over the last six years, I have grown to trust God more and more every day. My hearing has sharpened to pick up His whispers. My eyes have cleared to recognize the good things He is giving me and the bad things I need to steer away from. My heart is open to His Kingdom, therefore His Kingdom is open to me.
…because I believed the lie of the world…
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. ~Matthew 13:22 NIV
I’m going to speak to those who have been abused, mistreated or violated in any way because my old way of thinking came from the mindset of a victim – a captive. I was thinking and acting like someone in bondage who was desperately seeking freedom. All I could recognize was that I needed to reclaim what was taken from me. In my simplicity, I sought to redeem myself by casting what is sacred (my body) before swine (any man who is not my husband). However, the only way to keep the sacred holy is to set it apart. The sacred must remain clean and untouched by that which is unholy (anything not sanctioned by God).
I had been sexually violated in my youth, so I grew up thinking that my power rested in controlling who had access to my body. In my foolishness, I fancied being loose with my favors and indiscriminate with my choices. Those thoughts appealed to me because I would be able to choose. Please note: there is definite power in our ability to choose, however we are only truly empowered when we make the right choice. The right choice will always line up with God’s word and His will for our life.
Seek the LORD while you can find Him. Call on him now while He is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously. ~ Isaiah 55:6-7
If you’ve read my recent post, 18 Years Celibate: An Anniversary I Didn’t Plan On, you know that God didn’t allow my foolish thoughts to grow into action. When God took hold of me and brought me to New York City (what I thought would be the perfect playground for my ridiculous fantasies), He put me in an incubator of sorts. He began weeding through my consciousness, and uprooting ideas. He cleansed me of the lies I believed about myself, my life and my purpose. He shook the loose soil of the world off of me and repotted me in His Kingdom. He’s been watering me and feeding me ever since. I’m still getting pruned. He still has trimming and shaping to do, but my environment now if God’s Heavenly Kingdom, not the world I inhabit.
My early internal struggles were resolved when I realized that what other people expected of me was not nearly as important as what I expected of myself. And what I expect of myself is not nearly as important as what God expects of me. The business I began building in Milwaukee was a business that appealed to the senses of the world. Worst yet, the images I created incited lust in the viewer – lust ranging from a desire for fame, exposure or sex. The work of my hands was feeding the flesh and dishonoring the God I was beginning to know and walk with.
…but I was transformed by the Light.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. ~ Isaiah 55:8-11 NLT
When I first moved here, I was looking forward to all that the City had to offer. I was eager to experience as much of “the life” as possible. I did my fair share of arts and cultural events. I did as much of the dance club scene as I could stand. I went corporate for employment and the ladder I’m on seems to extend and expand only by the grace of God’s attention to my life. All of my experiences in this city have been good – even the painful ones. The City has embraced me as much as I’ve embraced it – but certainly not in the ways I first thought. Over the years, I thought it odd that God would bring me to a city steeped in sin, the Babylon of the U.S. if you will, only to purify and sanctify me….
But His thoughts are so far beyond my own…. I have learned to follow where He leads and to do what He tells me to do.
I’m not so humble that I don’t recognize the remarkable work God has performed in my life. He has been building an amazing one-of-a-kind woman who has found comfort in His strength, purpose in His word and love in His presence. The confidence his care and attention has imbued in me makes me equally confident that He has put just as much effort and time in my mate. For God’s Kingdom is a kingdom of partnership and order. He has molded me into a helpmate with a thirst for His Spirit. This means that the one I am to assist has also been re-modeled into God’s image and character.
May you be so blessed in your journey to recognize the hand and the work of the Master in your life. And trust Him to do His part as you obey His instructions and do your part.