Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Keeping Up with the Joneses

(Lost, Empty, and Broken II)

23, straight from college to Washington, D.C.! Her own car, traveling, VIP tables every week, hair and nails were on point, a CAREER not a JOB, 3- bedroom townhouse with 1 roommate, AND she owns a pair of "red bottoms"? Seems like the perfect girl, right? Seems like she has it all together, right? Seems like she's living the life, right? Wrong. I owned a pair of $700 shoes, but I was late on my rent....

..."I'll catch up on the next check", is what I would consistently tell myself, but wasn't the next check for cable? Internet? Cell phone? Car insurance? Utilities? Making only 45k...I was putting myself in an even bigger bind, but hey, as long as I looked good on the outside to everyone it didn't matter. The other girls at the clubs had expensive bags and shoes, so I had to fit in too. My curves just wasn't cutting it anymore, I needed more, to get more attention. Past duepast duelatelate, past due. These bills were adding up, but my bank account was rapidly decreasing, negatively. So negatively, I had to leave the town-home with my roommate, and get out on my own. I couldn't let her know that, because my pride was too high. I went and found a 2 bedroom condo to lease that next week, even posted the picture of my keys like I had "really" done something big, but to me, it was big. I started working at a lounge for additional income, thinking that would cure my financial problem, but being more in the club scene 3 nights out the week only made it worse. I'm now trying to keep up with the girls I'm hanging around, the girls in the clubs, and the social media models. 

I was constrained in thinking that spending money on status symbols, name brands and luxuries for the sake of flaunting your “wealth” was what defined you and made you somebody. It was beyond "Keeping up with the Joneses", it was a lifestyle I had to portray in order for people to “like” me, “notice” me, and “worldly define" me. I only dated men of "status"; if you didn't have a job, your own place, making at least 60k+, tall and handsome, I wasn't interested. I envied relationships that I saw on social media, and then jumped into situationships one after another, man after man. Is this what the average 23 year-old woman looks like? It was for me, it was my story. At 22, I found Christ, (read lost, empty and broken) and at 23, I was lost in the world yet again...

I thought working at this lounge part-time was the best decision ever. I met high caliber men, I was able to get drunk for free, I wore the tightest and shortest dresses for attention, and men told me I was the baddest thing walking, and I had a lot of "likes" on my pictures. People defined me, men defined me, social media and the world defined me. I was insecure, and I had low self-esteem and I used false materialistic things to bring me happiness, but I didn't know that back then. I would compare my life to the people around me, I didn't know my identity, or my purpose in life. I was portraying to be everyone but ME. Who really is bold enough to admit they falsely flaunt to impress people knowing they are broke? Who admits they live paycheck to paycheck but have the latest Gucci bag or a new pair of Loubs? Who has the courage to share a transparent testimony from their test they have endured to help the next person? I did.

I did, and now I'm sharing my testimony and what I went through to help you. Many of the people driving around the suburbs in their giant SUVs, Benz’s, while talking on their multiple new cell phones are deeply in debt and some still get declined. If you ask them how they are doing, they will tell you that they are doing extremely well, but in reality, many of them are just barely getting by. The big homes, expensive toys and other goodies seem nice, but in reality they are unnecessary from a practical perspective, and will only make you happy for a very short period of time before the next "must-have" item rolls around. 

Why does the majority of the world try to "Keep up with the Joneses"? 

* The Desire to Show off our Success through Temporary Happiness
* The Need to Have What Other People Have
* The Desire to show your "Haters" that You're Doing So Much Better than They Are
* Low Self-Esteem
* Ego Boasting
* Prolific False Advertising 
* A Society that Favors Instant Gratification over Hard Work

When I first started dating Mark, I was 24 years old, a babe in Christ, I was attending church twice a month, and I knew a few scriptures. Basic scriptures. Although I had matured in age, I still had some "keeping up with the Joneses" residue left in my system and that had an effect in this new courtship. I still expected Mark to treat me to the finer things in life during the initial stages, I still expected him to wine and dine me (and he doesn't even drink) on our date nights, but in reality, he couldn't. Mark couldn't afford my fake luxurious taste that I tried to portray, and he tried his hardest, but little did we both know- we both were struggling, but was too ashamed to communicate it to each other. Mark was still living at home in his mother's basement rent-free, drove his little sister's hooptie car to get around, and worked as a part time substitute teacher only two days a week (if that). (Read Boy to Man). Mark was living a starving artist lifestyle. Yes, he had many accomplishments as an actor, but his income was never consistent. One month he could make $5,000 off of acting gigs, and then the next three months not make a dime. $5,000 stretched over 3 months until the next gig equals...Broke! 

Arguments came, stubbornness came, and sexual activities due to frustration came. Next thing you know, we had established soul-ties with each other. (Read Breaking Soul-TiesDo you know that when you have sex with someone, you begin to pick up their habits and their feelings? We would randomly find ourselves mad or upset with each other for no apparent reason, but we looked perfect on social media didn't we?  Doesn't most of those celebrity relationships that we die to be like paint the same exact picture? I think we call it, #RelationshipGoals. We had spiritually, emotionally, and physically become a mess. 

We knew if this courtship was going to last, we had to make some serious shifts in our lives. Mark took the lead and stated that he couldn't do this anymore. He had been celibate for four years prior to meeting me, and he just couldn't do it anymore. It was one Sunday after church, he made a declaration in my prayer journal, that moving forward, there will be no more engaging in any sexual activities, we will attend church, bible study, and get more involved in ministry. He told me he needed me to get more in my word for myself, not for him. He left this scripture in my head for me to meditate on.. Ezekiel 36:26, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." For me, coming from being in the world, transitioning to living fully for Christ was hard, but when I look at my life today- it was the best decision I've ever made in 26 years of being on this Earth.

As a 26 year-old CEO, business owner with 4 streams of additional income, I had to make the decision to live and follow the "world", or live and follow Christ. I choose to live and follow Christ. I wouldn't be the woman I am today, if I didn't trust God, and if I were to continue living for the world. I choose to spend my 20’s living for God, living cheaply and investing my money in my business, mutual funds, and investments. Many people think that if you live cheaply, drive an old car, wear cheap clothes, that you aren’t doing well, but you can’t worry about what people on the outside are saying, you have to continue doing what you know will pay off in the future. My family jokes all the time asking, “How are you a CEO driving a 2002 Honda Accord”? I laugh and say “Because paying off bills, debt, and establishing a nest egg is far more important than indulging in a sprawling home, car note (like all of you have) or high-end fashion.”  I am using my 20's to inspire people who may be dealing with what I went through, avoiding credit-card debt, building my savings, while remaining humble on this journey, so I can thank myself later. The more you stress over bills, the more difficult it is to focus on your goals. Whether you're using your 20's to build your own business or establish a rewarding career, I promise you, the cheaper you can live, the greater your options will be in the future.

The bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:6; Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. The Bible describes humility as meekness, lowliness and absence of self. Humility in Colossians 3:12 means “lowliness of mind,” knowing that humility is a heart attitude, and not merely an outward demeanor. How can you say you practice humility but still have a heart full of pride and arrogance? Jesus said to us, those who are “poor in spirit” would have the kingdom of heaven; being poor in spirit means that only those who admit to an absolute bankruptcy of spiritual worth will inherit eternal life. 

Are you someone living for world, or are you living for Christ? Do you struggle with wanting the expensive luxuries of the world, and it causes issues in your relationship? Are you sometimes prideful, arrogant, and find yourself always comparing your life to people you see on social media? Decide today to make a change. Decide today to let God steer your life in the direction that He has for you. Don't be afraid to ask for Him and seek Him when you don't understand. God has promised to give grace to the humble, while He opposes the proud. Therefore, we must confess and put away pride, arrogance, jealousy, anger, pettiness and competitiveness. If we exalt ourselves, we place ourselves in opposition to God who will, in His grace and for our own good, humble us. But if we humble ourselves, God gives us more grace and in the end, it is only He, who will exalt us. Share with me some things you are praying that God delivers you from, I will be more than gladly to pray with and for you. You are not alone.

God Bless You!