If God's "don't do it" was a person
2020 was many things, but for me it, was a year of hard decisions, especially as it pertains to the people in my life. As I mentioned in my first article, 2020 started with a challenge. I told God that 2019 broke me in ways I couldn't describe and if he wanted me to continue on any path, I was going to need to see tangible evidence of what he'd been talking about all these years. Sure enough, Buddy came through skrong! (no typo) and entered me into a Clean Slate Season. And when I say Clean Slate, I mean he came at me like the hell in my life was a closing store: Everything that is not of God must go. My relationships, my businesses, my motives and my work habits, all of that and more went under the microscope to determine what could stay and what needed to go. If it was allowed to stay, it still needed to go through a rigorous revamp to ensure that nothing from my past was allowed to contaminate what God was about to do.
The first aspect of my life that we assessed was my relationships. As I mentioned last week in my video, "Who were you before they came?" God had me take a hard look at all my relationships to assess who fell into the category of leech and distraction. By the end of the assessment, I realized four of my longest relationships were also my most toxic. One was stagnating me in childhood trauma by way of that person continuing the same behavior I faced as a child into my adult years. In another relationship, I saw that I was just being used as the placeholder he only returned back to anytime his life was in shambles. I could no longer allow the third relationship to hold me hostage in fear nor could I continue forfeiting my own peace as she struggled to find hers. The last relationship was the most devastating, as I soon, and still continue to, realize that relationship tried to steal everything from me.
Once the ball was rolling on closing the door to the relational toxicity in my life, God started rebranding TCV. He started with my paintings. He had me move my studio from the smallest room, to one of the larger rooms in my house so I could see the lack of cohesion in my work. My work had long since taken a new direction into the conceptual, which meant 90% of my work was now outdated and no longer had a place in my portfolio. Finally coming into agreement with God's new direction opened me up to receive a new vision and a new set of instructions to do a Clean Slate Sale. Anything that didn't sell was to be given away.
From there, he took me down memory lane and highlighted my business strengths and weaknesses. In the Beginning there was Green Eggs and Ham details the full story, but the short version is this: God showed me that I'd spent the last three years running myself ragged by forcing myself to operate in every business weakness I had. The truth he had me confront was that I wasn't much of a business mind at all. My strength is in people. I love connecting to them through the sharing of my own journey in hopes that my story brings some healing to theirs. Understanding that helped me restructure TCV away from focusing on sales into focusing on my personal brand and story. Changing the structure of my business also meant I had to restructure the photography branch of TCV, which is where things got interesting.
He had me watch a sermon called Wolves. Originally, I thought he was having me watch this sermon to reinforce my understanding of wolf like behavior since one of the people I'd let go of was like a wolf in sheep's clothing. The first half of the sermon was helping me understand what happened with her. When I got to the second half of the sermon, I was not prepared for God to say, "this is about you." *dramatically puts my hand on my chest* Me? Kitten? Nal. I couldn't be. Until the pastor proceeded to describe wolf like behavior as getting so caught up in paying bills it corrupts the motive of your ministry. You're name dropping God but what's really driving what you do is money....
Yal, when I say this gif was me and I was this gif, I'm not exaggerating!! This was one of those harsh reality type of rebukes. One of those smooth, I'm going to slide in so quiet and so calm you won't even be able to run from it when it pulls up on you type of rebukes. And the crazy part was God wasn't even mad. He was just waking me up to and warning me about a truth I hadn't even realized was in play. What's even crazier is how easy it was to track the root of when my photography had become about money.
I started my photography career my junior year of High School, with nothing but a camera phone and random desire to capture the candids of life. I was all passion when I first started. The money was just a bonus to pay my bills. I went to college with a plan: Spend my college career building my portfolio and my clientele so that when I graduated I was graduating into a business in full swing. Well, of course, my plan didn't come close to being what I wanted it to be. I graduated with more skill, but not the clientele I was hoping for. Plus, I had decided to embrace art as a side career, which meant my plan had to change. The new plan was focus on finishing my novel while using art shows as a side source of income and my photography as my main source of income. The creation of this self-made plan was the exact moment my photography became about money, though that wasn't my conscious intention.
In my mind, my photography was the skill I had honed the most and had the most experience in. Out of all three of my gifts, this was the one that could bring in the quickest and most of amount of money. It was innocent and culturally induced thinking really. Every artreprenuer knows, when you're first starting out you need a primary source of income to sustain you. As a rebel against corporate America, mine was going to be my photography. The problem was...God...don't...play...that! He is not at all here for pimping out your gifts and he has always been super strict with me about that. He once called me a juggernaut. Once I find momentum in anything I do, I'm gone! There is not a force on Earth that can stop me or slow me down, which is why God had to shut down my plan before it could yield any results.
For years I struggled to get hired by anyone. Since I'd spent college building my resume across different industries and demographics, I knew it was God blocking me from finding any real momentum. The lack of work only made me more desperate as I got older and took on more bills. Eventually my photography became what God called a get rich quick scheme. To clarify, I wasn't doing anything shady with the way I went about my photography business. He called it a scheme to highlight and emphasize his feeling like my motive of paying my bills was liken to that of a get rich quick scheme. I was so focused on making a quick dollar to pay my next bill that God's mission of impacting others was no longer the priority or the driving force behind my business. Understanding that brought me to a hard decision: It was time to let go of my photography business.
In all honesty, it wasn't as hard to let go of my photography business as I would've thought. It didn't have much of a pulse and realizing it was in the way of all that God had for me down the road made me more comfortable with putting it down. Closing this branch of TCV meant I had to server all its ties, which brought me to an even harder decision: Choosing to let go of a favorite client.
This client is someone I've worked with for a long time. We've done some amazing work together and this client's gift is by far one of the greatest I've come across. That said working with this client has led to more disappointments than I care to admit, mostly because I loved the person so much I was too willing to overlook the business related issues. Welp! You know God. He wanted me to admit it all and brought me face to face with those issues. We might as well have been in a courthouse. No matter what excuse I made for this person, God brought another witness (incident) to the stand. He brought up the lack of dependability and the inconsistency of this person. Then he hit me hard by bringing up how much I'd noticed and been bothered by the revelation that this person doesn't respect me as an adult. This person only saw me as mom's daughter, not as Sanese the business woman, which affected the way this person dealt with me. All of this, and a few other things, kept bringing me back to the same conclusion: This person wasn't a good person for me to continue to wait for. And trust me, I was all to willing to wait.
Despite knowing this was the decision I needed to make, I was having a hard time concluding it. In-sert the dramatics-of-God-here. In the midst of me talking to God about it, I made a gesture with my head that made me think of Skip Bayless from the Skip and Shannon Undisputed Show, my favorite sports news show. At first, I got distracted and started cracking jokes on Skip because Skip makes a lot of random head ducking gestures while he's talking. And then I stopped and realized...wait a minute....You're saying "Skip!" as in yes smurff Skip! this client you want to hold on to. Yal! The way I was rollin'!! I could not stop laughing. If God's don't do it was a person it would be Skip Bayless or Shannon Sharpe's saying Skips name. *continues to laugh*
Anyway! Between the truth of the situation, the sprinkles of God's wisdom and the very dramatic cosign I got from him, I'd decided to let this client go. A few months later, God confronted me about the fact that I still hadn't let this client go. Yes, I'd temporarily retired the photography branch of TCV and stopped expecting future work from this client, but I hadn't let go of this client in my heart. There was still a small sliver of me that was holding on to the possibility of a maybe one day. Now let me just say, I am the reigning Queen of One Day. When I get an idea in my head or a desire in my heart, it is hard for me to let go of it. God had to show me this client represented a fully realized dream I hadn't seen yet and hadn't seen anywhere else. As long as I held on to this client, I could hold on to my dream.
But what happens when the idea you're holding onto isn't from God? Or better yet, it is from God but the way you imagined it and tried to execute it was all wrong. Now you're disappointed, and probably mad at God, because he didn't give you what you wanted, not realizing what you wanted wasn't the best course for your life. In my case, I was on the right track, but just went about it the wrong way. As soon as I put down my idea for what I wanted to do and picked up his approach for what I wanted to do, all kinds of new visions, instructions and opportunities opened up.
So now the question becomes...what are you holding onto? What's stagnating you and blocking you from seeing the true vision God has for you?