August 18, 2014

25 Ways to Prepare for Marriage: Q&A with Jamal Miller



By Tatianah Green

The book of the month for August has been Jamal Miller's "25 Ways to Prepare for Marriage Other Than Dating." You may have seen Miller's website before, Married & Young, as it ministers to both singles and married audiences in the Body of Christ. His book has been a blessing to me and has hit home several times while reading it. We should look to challenge ourselves in getting wisdom and knowledge with a Biblical perspective. I found the book to be helpful and when I found out that there's going to be a webinar with Jamal and his wife Natasha this week, I had to reach out to him and ask a few questions beforehand for you all.


Now available in digital and print copy
TG: You mentioned peace when it comes to dating. How can singles pursue peace in the midst of making decisions in their romantic love lives?

JM: "Singles can pursue peace by keeping God in front of you, behind you, and beside you throughout the entire process of dating."  

"When God is involved not only on your end, but the other persons end then you will have two people with the goal of pleasing Christ.  When God is in it, you can’t deny it, but if He isn’t then you will know."  

TG: How can people who are attracted to one another and are getting to know each other keep their relationship Christ centered?

JM: "You keep it Christ centered by establishing Christ as the center from the beginning, and then having a community of trusted individuals who are able to keep you accountable to that commitment during the process.  Determine from the beginning what Christ centered means to you. For each it varies. The essentials are boundaries, community, and safe dates." 

"If a person before they enter into a relationship have people in their life who they trust to keep them accountable then it shouldn’t be a problem to transition into a relationship with boundaries because you were living that way beforehand. Many live an independent lifestyle before they enter into a relationship, and that makes it a challenge when entering into a relationship to have people now begin to check on the status of it. So, start now. Think of 2-3 people at minimum one of them being an older, mature person of the same sex that you can set in place as an authoritative figure for this area of your life."

TG: Of all of the ways to prepare for marriage in your book, which seems to be the most challenging for singles today? Is there a difference for men and women?

JM: "I believe the most challenging of all the ways to prepare for marriage is having healthy relationships with the opposite sex.  This was one of the most challenging for me when I was single because it was an automatic thought when you begin to get to know someone of the opposite sex in the friendship stage to begin to assess if they are spouse potential."  

"It is very easy for Christians to fall into the emotional trap of talking with someone of the opposite sex and building a friendship and not recognize the boundaries they are crossing with sharing to much information or even a random late night text message. It’s hard to find that balance, and every scenario is different."  

"When I was single, each close friend I had of the opposite sex I knew already I could not see myself marrying them.  But, I still had to guard my actions in order to guard their hearts.  I lived by 1 Timothy 5:2, treat the younger women as sisters, with purity.  I knew I shouldn’t do anything or say anything I wouldn’t say to my own sister.  It is the same for men and women, but it will manifest differently." 

There will also be a Q&A session during the webinar, you don't want to miss this event! 

Click Photo to enlarge

Please register for the VIP 25 Ways to Prepare for Marriage other than Dating Webinar on Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 8:00 PM CDT


This is the VIP Webinar hosted and taught by Jamal and Natasha Miller, Founders of Married and Young.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

August 15, 2014

Ciara, Future, and the Boaz Illusion



By Tatianah Green


Future and Ciara (Source)
This post is not going to be all about singer Ciara and the reported break up of her engagement to fiance (and father of their son) Future. It's something that unfortunately Ciara has to go through in the lens of the public eye. This is not the first time she's had a bad public break before, but my heart goes out to her and women like her who have been in love with men who unfortunately have hurt them in a way that can't restore the relationship.

I sincerely ask that folks pray for her healing and strength. Let's also pray for Future (real name Nayvadius Wilburn) and his life and for God to guide him in the choices he makes in the best interest of his family. It's hard to not only go through a breakup with someone you've planned on spending the rest of your life with to now potentially co-parenting with, but to do so in public. No one deserves that, especially the innocent children that are involved in these circumstances.

Now, one could argue that she should have seen the signs of Future's past before: going forward in a relationship with him, calling him her "King" on many occasions, getting a tattoo in his honor on her body, and having a child with him before the commitment of marriage. We all make mistakes, and what she's going through right now may be the lesson some of us need to learn before we run the same narrative in our life's story.

One mistake that women make in dating and relationships (me included) is to have the "Boaz illusion." God dropped that term in my spirit one morning and it peaked my interest to search it out. The Boaz illusion is a problem in which one projects the image and ideals of a "Boaz type of man" onto men who do not fit the description in reality. 

Basically, calling someone who you're interested in "your Boaz" because they have a few things good going for them, giving boyfriends husband status and privileges, trying to fit your life into an idealistic fairy tale or like in the movies and putting any guy that gives you attention in that placeholder for the lead role of "Prince Charming." You're willing to overlook some issues and call it grace, but are you in denial about this person?

The book of Ruth reveals a great testimony and I noted several characteristics that was mentioned in the book. Boaz...

-A man of standing (2:1)
-Looked after Ruth's well being (2:8-9)
-Spoke life and blessings over Ruth (2:12)
-He was non-stop in showing kindness (2:20)
-Recognized and respected her virtue and nobility (3:10-12)
-Provided for her (3:15)
-Honored his family's name and customs (Ruth 4)
-He married Ruth and built a family legacy (4:13+)

For further reference, one blogger even shared more on the characteristics of Boaz in relation to her husband. Anyone can show you those characteristics on the surface but is that who they are at their core? How have they been raised or learned to become this way? Will their actions change after a month or six?


Don't just wait, actively wait for your Boaz
Our idea of a perfect mate may not line up with God's plan so be flexible for Him and no one else. There will be false Boaz-es. Don't create something out of nothing for the sake of having a relationship or someone to be dating and spending time with. You've come too far to settle. Put down the idols of the perfect man down in your life and put up the only one who is perfect: Jesus.

You set yourself up for disappointment when you force things to go a certain way. It's confusing and emotionally draining because they will do something against your idea of perfection that you'll rationalize with your flesh all day long about the wrong/issue. Perhaps that's what Ciara did before with Future, ignoring the warning signs and red flags in his behavior that made him seem less than how a "King" should treat his "Queen." This is reportedly, by the way; we won't know the real reason why they broke up for who knows when. Either way, keep them in prayer.

The key point in all of this is what do you feel or sense in your spirit? Is it peace or confusion...honestly? Emotions (i.e loneliness) can steer you off course spiritually. There shouldn't have to be guessing games, God doesn't bring in confusion--we do. This is just a reminder to not settle for less, or an ideal man that isn't truly ideal (and not in the "we're all fallen from grace sense"). There is nothing God cannot do. Don't lose hope in Him meeting your needs, Ruth didn't. She was active and served in good faith and was blessed for her obedience.

August 7, 2014

Get rid of it! Getting past your past


By Tatianah Green


I remember recently getting mad at a friend for not being available to talk to them. We had a steady pattern of communication and when the pattern got broken I was thrown off for a bit. What’s the problem? I wondered. 

Then my thoughts and emotions tried to compete to rationalize the circumstances. I thought about a number of things, from God moving this person out of my life by means of slowing the communication, to perhaps they’re no longer interested in talking to me. The thoughts also brought me back to a time when I was going through an emotional roller-coaster with a guy I was in a relationship with.

The major red flags that I overlooked then was the inconsistency of communication due to God knows what on his end. Regardless of the reason for not hearing from him for days and sometimes weeks on end, I would be dealing with a range of emotions on my own and with no assurance or peace. I had to eventually take all this emotional abandonment and walk away and cut him off for good, no matter how many times (few) that he’d come back later on to see about me or connect with me. I was done and I never wanted to go through that again.

Now finding myself thinking about the lapse in communication from this friend now, I began to have paranoid thoughts drowning my reasoning. I didn’t want triggers from my past relationship to pop up, I wanted to know if things were okay between us and I can trust him with my time and energy. I wanted to badly not compare my past to my present, I didn’t want to relive what I swore I’d never go through again. A word came to me while in Bible study that helped me understand something. You’ll do what you’ve known until you learn to change it.

How many of us can relate? We go through a minor trial with someone and it triggers memories of hurt from the past and we can’t help but go back there and entertain re-enacting the past in the present. Saints this can’t be so. We are to desire to move forward and leave the past actions and thoughts behind us each level and chapter we reach. We have to stop being so familiar with our past to the point that we can’t do anything different in the present or the future. We truly need to heal and not just let time go by and call that healing; it's going to take some effort. 

When I got a chance to talk to my friend—who called me twice that evening-- I was actually upset at him as if he did something severely wrong. My hurt feelings tried to bring the past with them and make me irrational with my present; I was doing what I (in my limited thinking) knew to do. He explained his reasons for not being in contact with me like we used to and apologized for it. He wanted to make amends and set another set time for us to talk. It later dawned on me that I have not done enough to 1) understand his end of this situation; 2) I hadn't given enough effort for communication to happen between us. Time zone differences and work schedules have been affecting communication and I had to calm my mind down and see it for what it is and not what my thoughts tried to make it out to be. I had to stop assuming and stay in the present.

I felt a sense of calm in my spirit and realized that it wasn’t fair for me to get upset over something like that when I could have asked questions or put forth more effort to make communication happen. Sometimes we get in our own way of progress and blame the results on everyone else. That’s why God tells us in His word that we have to reset aka renew our minds daily. 

We ought to love and act in the likeness of Jesus, who set an example of how to build and maintain relationships. No holding grudges, not using the past as a weapon or barrier, and not assuming, but showing love and having enough wisdom to understand others. I had to take the time to tell God that I forgive my ex for the pain I received in my past and that I want a renewed mind in the present. Renew your mind to better thoughts and get better results out of life. 

Ask God to calm the storms in your mind and listen to your spirit man: the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. We can’t live out the past in the now; it’s only going to stunt our personal growth and our relationships with others. It’s time to unlearn the past ways and take in the new ways of handling circumstances and tests that come our way. Relevant Magazine has a post on how to get over your past for further reference.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

“My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to Him [Christ], been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything -- and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces His character in you.”
Ephesians 4:21-25 MSG

August 4, 2014

6 Tips for a graceful breakup



Have you been to church services or conferences where people tell you to break up with someone who isn't benefiting your walk with Christ or any other reason? I have before but the main issue I've had with that was there was no real explanation on how to best go about breaking up. It's hard to do, and there's never a good time to break up with someone, especially when things are pleasant, but you just know it's not going to work out in the long run, or you have emotional or soul ties to this person. 

Breakups with friends are hard too because of the close emotional connections. We are meant to be relational, not bridge burners. There are the exceptions in which abuse, neglect, total disrespect is involved, but there is even a graceful way to go about that. You can't let the devil get a foothold and stoop to the levels other people have tried to drag you down to. 

In this new post on Black and Married With Kids, I share six tips that I have received from God in my prayer time about gracefully breaking up with someone. I hope this will help people as I will be better about doing this in my own life. We go through to help others get through. Be blessed <3 Tatianah

August 1, 2014

Dear "I thought I'd be married by now"


"One day and one month closer to 28, I'm reminded that I'm single, with no prospects, and not yet where I want to be on many levels. As I was reading a book for singles, I went over the discussion topics and took account of what I've been accomplishing and what still needed work. 

It's a challenging read because it's real talk for you, there's no where or no one to hide behind. The book delivers important steps to consider following through before getting married. 

As I was reading, the feelings of inadequacy started to creep up. Overall I was starting to feel like a loser for not attaining what I wanted at 25. I wanted to be married at age 25 and be ready to have kids by my age now. Neither has happened, and so yes, the devil and his lies tried to keep me down and make me feel like a left out loser who missed her chance because of too many mistakes. How can I get over this? -I thought I'd be Married NOW"


Dear I thought I'd be Married by NOW,

Immediately in those times of getting attacked by the enemy, you have to recognize the lies and acknowledge some truth. Satan aka "the accuser" is always going to say something to keep you down and condemned with guilt and shame. He's going to get his little word in on everything that you are about and his plan is to kill steal and destroy your hope in God's promise and your purpose. We all have these moments, but you can't sit there and have a pity party for yourself; it's time to acknowledge some truth instead.

1) Here's the truth: marriage is NOT the end of your story, meaning that it's not the end of your life goals, dreams, assignments. You have much more to look forward to beyond the marriage chapter in your life. Expand your mind, see a bigger picture, and be thankful for God's plan for your life. 

2) God has you exactly where you're located and He's been preparing you since your first breath. Trust His timing for your life and don't be discouraged if you're not going at the same pace as others around you. Be faithful and patient.

3) God's ways are better than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. God's divine wisdom has you right here making the effort to learn more about what it is you need to do to prepare to be a better single and a better spouse in your future. It's important to prepare for what you pray for, as DeVon Franklin stated in a recent sermon. You're preparing-- that's a good thing! The Holy Spirit is bringing things to your attention to educate you and equip you for what's to come.

4) You may be delayed, but not denied. I have a faith theory that God has a remnant of people that He's chosen to be single longer than others. Being married at a certain point in life doesn't make you better or less than anyone else, for we all have challenges on every level we reach. You have to bind the competitive, envious, and jealous spirits that try to keep you from staying your course in the race. So what if you didn't get married two years ago? No matter how long it takes you must trust God's plan. You're in this life to live for Him anyway. Remember that, and remember God's word will not return to Him void. 

So when your "woe is me" attitude tries to pay your thoughts a visit one day or night to take over, fight them back by declaring the truth. Get some scriptures and have them with you to recite and repeat. Speak life and prophecy over yourself, encourage yourself! You have to open your mouth and speak the word out loud so that your thoughts will be on good things. 

Remember what God has said about you and play that over again to drive out all negative vibes. Time is flying! There's no time to be down about what hasn't happened yet in your life. Your time will come. Find joy in the present, the right now.

Blessings,
Tatianah 

P.S. This was a letter to myself from last night's reflection...God has a plan and I'm happy He's including me <3

July 30, 2014

Summer fashion: how much is too much?


By Tatianah Green


1 Timothy 2:9-10 NIV “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and respectability, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

We’re well into summer, and this has been long overdue of a post. I ride the bus and train every week day for work and I see things. Unfortunate things.  Fashionably unfortunate things that would make the listing on your Facebook timeline or humor blog. I kept delaying my commentary on summer fashion until I saw this photo of Beyonce in this outfit last week. 

I’m not here to denounce Beyonce, I’m commenting on the outfit itself. As I’ve gotten older and more mature, I realize how important it is to properly celebrate your femininity through style.  This means that there are just some things we should not wear in the Body of Christ. Ladies, we want to look cute, put together and presentable, but the options nowadays are more for a video shoot than an afternoon out.

Clothes that irk my nerves the most are leggings; and typically, in Chicago, they are worn out of context. Leggings are not meant to be pants, meaning I don’t want to see your whole behind in them so cover it up with a nice long top, blazer or jacket. Plus many of the materials that these leggings come in are not only cheaply made, they are sheer and not breathable, posing multiple problems for you hygienically.

Crop tops came back this summer, and I think they are okay when used in moderation.  A general rule is If you’re showing too much skin, it’s hard to be taken seriously. If you show just a sliver or wear the top sized appropriately over your choice of bottom then it could work, but this is not for everyone and everywhere, so use discretion. For instance, Bey could have worn high waist denim or colored pants or a midi skirt instead of the short shorts. Crop tops are great for high waist bottoms; once put together you can barely tell that they are separate pieces and you don’t get unwanted bunched fabric underneath your skirt or bottoms. You can also pull off the crop tip look without showing skin by layering with a colorful solid or printed top underneath. Don't limit yourself, get creative!

Having an air of mystery has always been in style. You don’t want to showcase everything you’ve got because “what you’re willing to show, you’re willing to share.” With all the scantily cladness running around today and being sold in the stores, it’s refreshing to see a woman covered up. I’m not advocating for ankle length skirts, baggy layers of clothing, and no makeup. I’m saying that there should be a balance with your overall look. At the end of the day, we want to show that we’re women without having to prove it, if you know what I mean.

A friend of mine posted a photo of herself in shorts and a top that rode up in the photo, showing her waist. One of her followers made a comment suggesting that a woman of God shouldn't be wearing that look and she felt convicted about it. I said that she should ask God what He thinks about the outfit and if she feels convicted by what He says, then she should reconsider her style next time. We have to consider God’s opinion as well, not only through His word but even praying a simple prayer. God won’t have you out here bogus! If we also paid attention to what messages we sent, we’d be more cautious to present ourselves as the classy and virtuous women that God made us to be.

Above it all, as the scripture above suggested, we are to dress respectable, respecting ourselves and worship God in how we present ourselves to the world. We are not to be like the world, but be world changers and game changers. I believe that God made us to be more than just to follow the crowd. Standout in your own way and it will give God glory because you’re embracing yourself with a desire to please Him inside and out.

Below is my list and links of figures, stylists, designers, and resources for modern, classy style that will inspire you all year long:

                             Aaja Corinne   


   

July 21, 2014

Singles Uncut: Candid talk on singleness and self control


By Tatianah Green

Recently I’ve had the privilege of attending a singles event at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church (Fellowship Chicago) in which they were discussing topics in dating that often don’t get addressed in a series called "Singles Uncut."

With the perspectives and experiences of four panel members, the audience had an opportunity to speak and hear Godly wisdom on topics such as singleness, dating, marriage, and sex. No topic was off limits, the only issue unfortunately was not having enough time. I’ll share a few of the notes taken from this event below and a word on self-control:

Why are the majority of people at singles events and conferences women? One of the panelists shared that according to men, there are not as many steps to get into a relationship as women perceive. I can see where they were coming from because women are the receivers and like to communicate. We have our lists in mind of whom we want in a mate along with perhaps some idealized timeline of how the dating, courting, and engagement process is supposed to go.

What was brought up at the event was that men are not asking about soul mates as they don’t have that added pressure from society. The dating to marriage process seems so simplified in the average man’s mind: guys pick a lady they like, ask her out, and if things go well then maybe they will get married. That may be a generalization, but it’s important to live the life that God tells you to live and in the midst of living you could very well meet someone special along the way. “We have to use common sense and do what our spirit lines up with.”

Sexuality and sex are often seen dirty or taboo to some. We are sexual creatures, we were hardwired that way by God. Sexuality is a part of our human nature. What was stated at the event was that there’s a difference between thinking about sex and being fixated on sex. Sex is not dirty, it’s only wrong when it’s out of the context of God has set it up for. “Not that it’s wrong, but what do I do about those thoughts? You can’t get mad when you are tempted by the very things you put up.” 

Panelist Pastor Alisha Jones also mentioned that while it’s okay to have a thought about sex, if you’re getting tripped up about it and lost in sexual thoughts then you should check your eye and ear gates. For instance, posting those Man Crush Monday or Woman Crush Wednesday photos on your social media can be a source of temptation if you participate in that. From movies to music and other forms that you entertain, question are they feeding your desire to have sex in your mind?

So about this masturbation thing…A brave single asked about masturbation and if it was okay even if they just needed "an energy release." Reverend Christopher Harris broke it down in a practical and relatable way for all when he shared this:

“It’s impossible to engage in a certain activity without impure thoughts. We must ask what does the Bible say? Is it really helpful? Is it enslaving or could develop a habit? What’s my real motive for doing this?” I think that last question is powerful because it takes your sobered mind to think about why you’d want to pleasure yourself, no matter the reasoning behind it. “It becomes an issue of self control. We have to be willing to make whatever sacrifices or adjustments to please God. Love God with your all; it’s hard to do that when your heart is determined to submit to unnatural desires.”

Marriage is promoted as the Promised Land when it’s really work. Singles are often feel that they are in the desert going to the promised land which is married life. Society makes it out to be like that but that’s not necessarily the case. We as singles have to get to a place where we are completely content with being single and embracing the numerous benefits of that. 

Marriage is not a destination; it’s a new chapter that prayerfully you will get to experience. But in this current chapter, what stories are you telling? What’s your life saying right now? Is it a comedy, romance, adventure, mystery, thriller? Let’s be grateful for the present state that we are in and ask God to prepare us for the work that will come with marriage such as killing your selfish desires daily for the sake of the marriage and serving God together as a couple.

If you want to know more about Fellowship Chicago and their young adult ministry, visit their Facebook page. If you are in the Chicago area the weekend of July 25th, they are hosting a relationship weekend for singles and couples!

About Self Control

Self-control is an important factor to consider within yourself and the person whom you want to be in a relationship with. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, but is it something we tend to look for in others? Galatians 5:22-25 give the fruits of the Spirit and instructs all “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

Observing the characteristics of self control can be spotted in simple observation. When on dates, communicating, etc. with this person of interest, you may notice little things as to how they approach food (gluttony), if they drink anything other than water (sugary drinks is as addictive as alcohol), their approach to spending and saving money for just a few examples. Then there’s the biggie when it comes to physical touch and intimacy. Do they respect your boundaries or do they push your buttons to get you to give in or compromise?

Also consider your own behaviors. If you have any issue of self control that is unhealthy to you in your single state, consider how much it will affect your spouse who you will share your life with. It’s important to take care of that issue now instead of bringing it into your marriage relationship. This is only to help you hold yourself accountable to the everyday things in life. As believers we can break free from the things that try to control us. Your appetite for _________ does not control you! Take back the reigns and ask God to keep you and provide you the ways to escape that pit or cycle of destructive habits that can keep you from fulfilling your purpose and destiny.