I am an individual who is extremely sensitive to environment. When I’m in an environment not conducive to my health or well-being, my body responds. It can be a skin break out, stress in my shoulders, or body aches. No matter what it is, my body responds biologically to physical experiences. As such, I have learned to honor my body by removing myself from situations that violate my peace of mind and rest.
But I wasn’t always like this.
I remember, in 2009, going through a series of interviews as I entered my very first post-grad professional experience in higher education. God blessed me by surrounding me with amazing mentors who coached me through the interview process, read my resume, and told me what to wear, even down to how many suits to buy. I was marvelously helped in that stage of my life and still am today.
Of all the schools that recruited me, when I fasted and prayed for an answer regarding where to go, God directed me to take a job offer that paid $28,000 plus room and partial board. I want to give you some perspective. At the time, I had amassed about $60,000 in student loan debt from my undergraduate and graduate degree. I had a car note, and the car was starting to give me trouble. I was also a consistent tither. I don’t know what it is, but tithing is the first biblical principle I truly applied in my life — even when I was still clubbing from Thursday to Saturday and then teaching Sunday School, LOL. I think God knew I would need his protection on my finances, so he allowed it to be easy for my heart to receive that particular principle.
Fast forward to a few months into the job, my car was breaking down, my family members back home were in crisis, and I found myself driving almost 500 miles every other weekend to support my family during what was a very difficult and heartbreaking transition in the life of one of my siblings. I was burnt out. I was stressed. Furthermore, I was complaining to God about why he would send me to a job in the middle of nowhere, knowing there wasn't going to be enough paycheck, and then ALLOW all of these terrible things to happen to my family and life.
It did not feel fair.
At that point in time, there was a particular woman who was advising and praying with me on a regular basis. One day, during one of our prayers, she stopped mid-sentence and said, “Issata, stop complaining. Stop murmuring. God sees you, and he has a plan." I broke down in tears. At the time, I didn’t think this woman understood what I was dealing with. I thought I was serving God diligently, yet I watched my friends prosper who didn’t even care about God. Even in the midst of west bumble, with a run down car and no money left over, I tithed. Even when my car was breaking down, I still tithed and went to church. Even when my home-base and family were falling apart, I still worshipped. I did not understand what God was doing, but I persisted.
At some point, I decided to take matters in my own hands. I started aggressively applying for jobs back home, determined to get back to my family. I was even willing to take a job at Macy’s if it meant being with my family. After all, I was only making 28K, any Macy's could probably beat my paycheck at the time. Do you know what happened when I submitted my resume? I got no callbacks. Absolutely no job would call me back. Even the ones I was well overqualified for did not call me back.
After whining, complaining, and murmuring myself into a stupor, I decided one day I was just going to stop.
I said a prayer that went something along the lines of, "Lord, I don’t know why you brought me here. But I’m gonna stay here as long as you have a purpose for me to be here." I would still call my mom crying sometimes. Crying about financial issues, crying about unexpected bills, and then all of a sudden I started to have my own health challenges that seemed to just take more money out of me. But one day, the tide changed and I got a phone call. It was a former boss of mine informing me of a position opening up at my old workplace. He said I was a perfect fit for the role and should definitely apply when it came up. I did as he said. I went to the interview and, in spite of others being much more well qualified for the role than I was, God decided it was mine.
I left my former position only to find that I was now making more than double what my last job paid me. I always go back to that place when I find my financial life under attack. Even as a faithful tither, there are times in my life when I know the enemy is attacking my finances.
But if I learned anything in my season in upstate New York, and time and time again, it is that the answer is never, and has never been, more hustle; it has always been more rest.
I’ve also learned that sometimes I just have to give God what I have in my hand, no matter how meager it may seem. I have watched God deliver my family from one financial storm after another, only to bring us to a greater level when we obeyed.
In this stage of my life, I am in a different kind of storm, but the same principle applies.
Most recently, my son had a series of follow up doctor appointments. He has hit his two-year mark (Yay, Mighty Manny!), so every doctor who has ever dealt with him is requesting to see him. My son has so many doctors. He has many specialists due to his micro preemie nature and the level of complexity. We see at least three different eye doctors, a pulmonologist, physiatrist, cardiologist, airway specialist, audiologist, a G.I. doctor, nutritionist….you get the point. We got every kind of “ist” on the list, and that doesn’t include his therapists and nurses. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by the series of doctors appointments recently, and constantly trying to make order and sense of the complex life that is my little Emmanuel‘s care-taking. Between his doctors, nurses, and every other human in our life as part of Emmanuel's day-to-day, let’s just say, my life is full. My plate is full. My cup runneth over. Oh, and even the napkin dispenser, that’s running over too. But somehow, I manage by the grace of God to still hold a demanding position, to still serve, and do 65% of what I did prior to my son's arrival (yes, this is me at 65%).
I don’t feel sorry for myself. My husband and I chose this fight. People in our life, including pastors we really valued, questioned our decision to continue to fight for Emmanuel’s life when his situation seemed it could get no worse. My husband and I do not regret it. Emmanuel is a source of joy for our family. He is such a fighter and a lover. Such a pleasant son. He’s a healing child. There isn’t a person who has interacted with Emmanuel and not been able to feel the presence of God in his life. Many of his nurses have gotten breakthroughs for taking care of him. Even I found breakthroughs in my life as a result of becoming Emmanuel’s mother.
All of these blessings don’t make it any easier. It does not make the burden any lighter. The only thing that makes my load lighter is the time I spend with God.
The time I spend in his presence, the time I spend praying, the time I spend worshiping, the time I spend breathing. Oh, and writing, I love writing for EZ Breezy Life!
A few weeks ago, I found myself experiencing a break out and feeling very tense. I made a decision to take off five days from work. For the first two days, I fasted. I just ate nothing. By day three, my skin was completely clear. I looked in the mirror and wondered what it was in my diet that made me break out, what did I change? Something whispered in my spirit, rest.
You see, I am learning that the answer to many of my life stressors isn’t actually my hustle or organizational skills. It’s not my human strength and capability; it is rest.
God has tried many times in my life to get this message across to me, yet I always found myself giving up my rest. Whether it was attending functions out of a sense of obligation, or feeling like I must respond to every beck and call to support people I love, I am learning more and more each day that the answer to my life woes isn’t more hustle; it’s more rest.
It’s more time at God’s feet. It’s more time vegging out with my husband. More time relaxing at the spa. More time just cuddling with my son. As I quickly learn what is a priority and what is not, things get clearer. The process gets easier. The hassles decrease. As I learn to relinquish responsibility in my work, church, and every arena of my life, I find rest. I would say God and I are on a journey, a journey of transformation…and I love it.
True strength is not relying on our ability to get it all done. Our true strength lies in community. I am so blessed to be surrounded by people who are gifted and talented. The more I align myself with women who have just as much talent, brains, and focus as I do, the more we give each other rest. It’s very interesting. The other day I was talking to one of my friends and she was venting about how people in her life continue to pour responsibilities on her plate no matter how many things they see her struggling with. The truth is, it’s because she’s capable. This woman will literally run circles around me and every other person I know in my life. I know, because she personally helped me organize my house. Her skill sets are so unique and amazing. Everywhere she goes, she becomes indispensable. That’s the story of many Alpha Women. A lot of us are so gifted and talented, everywhere we go people want to put those talents to use. If we’re not careful, our desire to support, our desire to help, becomes our tragic flaw. It becomes the very thing that robs us of our rest.
As I sit here in the middle of another sleepless night with my son, who seems to be nocturnal, I am reminded that I need not hustle. I need not strive for my son’s healing, for my academics, or even at work. I am reminded that I have nothing to prove, defend, or gain if it does not come from God. And so, I will plant my seeds, I will sow my vineyards, I will borrow empty vessels if need be, and I will allow God to be my supply. My strength, the provision, the wisdom, discernment, and all of the strategic maneuvering I need for this season will be divinely orchestrated. I will write the vision and make it plain. I will prayerfully consider how I can streamline my academic, professional, and personal life. I will work smart and not hard, but most importantly, I will rest.
I will cease from my labor and allow God to take over.
What about you? Is there a part in your life you think requires more hustle, when really all God is asking you to do is rest? Rest in the confident assurance that he who watches over you neither sleeps nor slumbers, and that you are the daughter of the king; not subject to this world’s system, but the kingdom of heaven.
It's a relief to know it was never me. It has been God all along. Don’t get me wrong. You are still going to see every post with affiliate links and get those sponsorships on the podcast (okurrrr), because I do actually believe God expects us to be industrious. But I think my attitude and motivation are a bit different. Queens don’t hustle, they receive, and this is my year of harvest.