(this pic = me trying to look slyly interrogative) 😉

 

In 16 days, your girl will be celebrating her 21st birthday! Adulthood is officially going to begin! And this post also marks this journal’s first birthday, my first post having been written a year ago. It’s crazy to believe 12 months have passed! I’m so excited for the next season.

To be honest, September is feeling, as it often does, like a season of new beginnings. Lots of people are starting new school years or university, many people are turning one year older, and many are already preparing for 2018. So I wanted to write a few words of encouragement for new seasons, especially for those starting new academic years, or wanting to grow spiritually or personally. Here are some of my top tips for your next season!

 

Your New Academic Season

All of my best academic advice is currently chilling on my channel, but I want to highlight the importance of starting things early. Whether that’s planning your study schedule, buying your resources for the new school/uni year, or beginning to revise for your summer exams, start everything as early as you can.

I’ve found that this is often really fundamental to academic success. The people who start revising or preparing earliest always seem the least stressed in comparison to those who leave everything to the last minute.

Keep this in mind at all times: make life as easy as possible for your future self. To be honest, this mindset is probably worth applying to many—if not most—areas of our lives! It’s definitely one that I try to live by in all areas!

For example, why not make a commitment to revise systematically and throughout the year, starting in October? Or, over Christmas, revise what you learnt in first term; make notes as though they were your final revision notes for your summer exam—then that’s a third of your revision done/prepped already for Easter. You’ve potentially just lightened your Easter holiday revision workload by half.  That’s just an example, but it’s an easy way of consolidating what you’re being taught throughout the year.

Remember: make life as easy as possible for your future self!

 

Your New Spiritual Season

It’s going to sound cliché, although it really shouldn’t, but as a Christian, spiritual growth really doesn’t come without reading the Word of God and spending time in prayer. My biggest tip for those who struggle to read the Word because they don’t know how to analyse it is to watch sermons and observe how the speaker extracts wisdom from the text that can be applied to our lives. The more you see it done in sermons, the more you are able to try it for yourself and eventually find a way that works for you. A really good speaker I can recommend for observing this process of analysing the Bible is Sarah Jakes Roberts; in her sermon style she literally walks you through the text and how she’s analysed it.

To those Christians who don’t read the Word or pray because they don’t have time, all I can honestly say is: make time! I say that with as much love and gentleness as the urgency of the situation here allows: make time for spiritual growth, because the enemy be making time to bring spiritual attacks and steer you off track every day without fail! Be as committed to spending time with God and reading His Word as the enemy is to derailing you from doing so. That means 100%. Sounds harsh, but it’s the absolute truth.

For instance, you can read the Bible on your commute to work or lectures, listen to the Bible in audio form if you drive or walk to work, wake up a little earlier, spend a little less time on social media—the list goes on! Honestly, we humans are very, very skilled at making time for what (and who) we want to make time for. If we want to make time for reading the Word, we’ll find a way to do it. And if God instructs us to do anything, including reading His Word, it’s because it’s not impossible to do—whatever our circumstances.

 

Your New Personal Season

As I mentioned earlier, it’s a year since I started this blog! Many of you may not know that when I did, I did it off the back of one of the most difficult years I’ve faced. In August 2016 I was messaging my Mum from a small dorm room in east Africa where I was volunteering, planning the steps I needed to take to find my way out of the emotional storm I was experiencing. By September 2016, this blog was founded as the mark of the new season following my storm.

I followed my plan, and a year later am in a totally different place. This can be your reality, too. Persevere. Plan your way to your brightest season. Which fake friends do you need to drop? Which inspirational people/role models do you need to fill your mind and circles with? (Tip: as a Christian, Jesus must be the first and greatest here).

Sometimes it’s time for a complete revamp and renovation of our lives. Find the source of your sadness and, prayerfully and to the best of your ability, remove it, erase it, distance yourself from it, confront it once and for all—whatever is necessary. Your sadness-source might be toxic people around you, or it might be your thoughts. Identify it; realise you’re bigger than it with God on your side; take steps to embark on your brightest season yet. (I have a video with tips on how to do all of this here.)

Whew! This post may seem a little less warm and lovey-dovey than usual, but it’s because I’m so, so passionate about these areas and about helping people succeed in them and find breakthrough! And sometimes convictions work better than cuddles. 😉

So. With all of that said. All the best to everyone starting, or who’s just started, a new season! Whether it’s a new year of life, a new year of school/uni or a new season of spiritual or personal growth, I pray it is an excellent one for you!

Love always, and see you in October,

Imani x

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Oh, August. Where to begin?!

First thing to mention: I’m writing this post sitting on my bed in my new room in Paris, France! I moved here two days ago, and — praise God — am already feeling so at home.

I’ll partly remember August 2017 as the month I began my Year Abroad. A year, abroad, in France, during which everything from my health to my survival depends on my command of the language I’ve been studying from textbooks for years… (No pressure, lol! I’m so glad that, actually, God is in control!)

But aside from that, August will also be remembered, I think, as the month I rediscovered just how much I love people! And I can see why God loves them (us) so much, too. He made us and we are His children, of course, so He loves us immensely. But the more time I spend with people, listening to them, hearing their stories, their dreams, their successes and their goals for the future, the more I love them, too. And in August I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities to do this. There’s something so precious about meeting new people, hearing another person’s story, making friends. And here in Paris, whether they’re telling it to you in French or in English, it’s exactly the same…amazing and inspiring.

I think I’ve become so aware of how much God loves people because August has been a month of people. Of meeting them, connecting with them, and celebrating with them. And it has been so surreal!

On the first day of the month, I was flying home from a holiday spent with some of the most precious people I know — my family. On that holiday I’d learnt and witnessed everything from the beauty of quality time, to the preciousness of friendship in marriage. By the fourth and fifth days of August, I was blessed to be able to meet and spend time with more precious people — this time subscribers — and to sit on advice panels on stages in front of hundreds of them at the Summer in the City YouTube Festival, while also meeting amazing YouTubers. One intimate moment I remember: a YouTuber was moved to tears as she read one of the poems in my debut collection, Lip Balm, and then her mum cried as she read it to her, too; the next thing I knew she had announced me in two of her videos and on her twitter, and 3,000 people, full of love, found my channel and subscribed. Connecting with people can bear the most surreal and incredible fruit. I am truly grateful.

Around the 17th of August I was receiving emails and messages from — you guessed it — even more precious people, this time students who’d achieved their grades and were expressing excited appreciation of the revision and study encouragement videos on my channel. One tweeted me with a screenshot of her offer from Cambridge, another emailed me all the way from Hong Kong: ‘you are an inspiration’. Today, a subscriber who found out he’d got something incredible like 9A*s and 2As in his GCSEs told me: ‘thank you so much…this is your achievement, too.’ And later on today I was interviewed by a journalist from Business Insider about Lip Balm, and our conversation became more of a friendly catch-up than a press interview! I say all this simply to give a flavour of the range of people God’s allowed me to interact with in August, and to express how grateful I am to Him for the opportunities.

And then there’s the taxi driver, the first person I met on my Year Abroad, who drove me from the train station in bustling central Paris to my new home, and put me completely at ease as he told me in Senegalese-infused French about life back home in Senegal. We talked about everything from racism to his family life, and he was so warm and friendly. Even my landlady here in Paris is more of a friend to myself and the girls I live with than a landlady, and we’ve become like a mini family!

People are so precious. And as a woman in love with Jesus, it is such an honour to have the task of becoming known for loving people, because loving people is such an honour and privilege. It’s not always easy, granted, but when people love each other, and show love to each other, that’s when the world becomes a better place.

A sentimental post, perhaps. But it’s what has really been on my heart. Love God, love people. The world becomes such a vibrant place when we take the time to invest in, spend time with, listen to, meet with, and show people love. Random acts of kindness; taking the time to listen; treating others as we’d like to be treated; putting ourselves in each other’s shoes. Having patience even when it’s hard; showing love even when it hurts or it is undeserved. That’s the call of the Christian—and for those who aren’t religious, it’s a call that everyone who is a human is invited to follow.

I really pray that more and more of us would take up the call, especially in the face of the forces of violence and division we’re seeing in current times. Thank you Lord that you love me so much that I can overflow and pour out that love to those around me!

See you in September!

Imani x

 

P.S. You can purchase my debut collection, Heart Shards and Lip Balm, here! And to everyone who’s been purchasing, thank you for all your support!

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July 2017 has been such an incredible month. This month I’ve loved how God’s been teaching me lessons in three key areas of life— dreams, our relationship with Him, and the keys to any future romantic relationship. I wanted to be honest about what I’ve learnt, in the hope it’ll encourage you, too, so here are the three key pointers I believe He whispered to me during this season… enjoy:

 

1. ‘Live out your dreams fearlessly.’ (Purpose)

By far the biggest lesson I’ve learnt in July is how beautiful things become when you simply decide to pursue your dreams and do so fearlessly. Back in January my best friend and I vowed to scrap the fears and ‘what if’s that were holding us back from simply living out our true honest selves and pursuing our dreams like there’s no tomorrow. We realised that fears—of people, of inadequacy, of failure—were stifling us and so many of those around us, and determined that 2017 would be the year we let go of fear. We were so determined that we voice-recorded the prayer and conversation, to keep ourselves accountable!

Seven months later, by God’s grace and much hard work (and frequent FaceTime catch up sessions!) we have both achieved some incredible feats in our careers, and July has been a month of celebration and elevation into new seasons for us both. Personally, I would never have thought that I would be a published author at age 20—but God and His ways are simply extraordinary, and He is capable of all that is beyond anything we could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)! I am so grateful to Him for what He’s allowed to come to pass this year so far.

So here is my advice to you: drop the fears that are holding you back from living out your dreams. Jesus came that we would have life to the full (John 10:10). Determine your purpose by merging your gifts with what moves you most in this world; prayerfully walk with God along the path away from slavery to fear and out of your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is not where He wants you. If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to step out of the boat. This radical walk of faith and trust in Him was never going to be ‘comfortable’—and if it ever becomes comfortable, it might be time to start questioning why. God has immense plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11) and His flawless words and promises over your life will always prove true (Proverbs 30: 5-6). Take the plunge. With God for you, no one can be against you—and no-one can thwart the plans He has for you if you keep your eyes on Him. As the title of the book I’ve been reading most recently says: feel the fear, and do it anyway! Your destiny depends on it.

 

2. ‘Trust Me.’ (Walking with God)

If you’re a Christian, you’ll know that trusting God is key to our relationship with Him, and that hearing the instruction to trust Him can feel cliché. Dangerously, we can become very complacent in this and in appreciating what it actually means and feels like to trust Him. July reminded me that deciding to trust God (and yes, it is a decision, and sometimes a repeated one!) can often feel extremely uncomfortable, and He revealed to me that we can trust Him wholly in some areas and hardly in others, all at once.

I’ll be honest—I had reached a stage where I really thought I’d gotten the hang of trusting God because I trusted Him in many areas—from my studies to my health and His protection. But over this month, He gradually revealed to me areas where I trusted Him less—even though I believed I trusted Him completely—and it took a deep and sometimes very difficult process over a few weeks to uproot the root causes of this distrust. Sometimes we (especially those of us who’ve been Christian for a while or who have platforms of influence where we share the Word) say we trust God… but living out that trust is a very deep and different thing to simply talking about it. Wherever you’re caving into fear right now in your life, or battling with frustration, you’re probably not trusting God. It’s as simple as that; difficult to swallow, perhaps, but very straightforward. And a Christian who doesn’t trust God is an uncomfortable paradox.

Take some time to slow down and be raw and vulnerable with Him about those areas you find it difficult to trust Him with. He loves you so deeply and so dearly, and in His perfect love He wants you free of fear (1 John 4:18). There’s nothing about you He doesn’t know (Psalm 139), and He simply wants you to be vulnerable with Him. He is, after all, immensely moved by intimacy with you. I learnt this month that trusting God means trusting Him in every area.

 

3. ‘Trust My timing.’ (Love & Relationships)

I’m always super shy about writing about relationships on my platforms and I have no idea why, but this area is something the Father really spoke to me about this month, so I’m going to grin and bear it just for you! 🙂

On Sunday I got back from a beautiful two-week family trip, which was precious on so many levels. Our group of family members and in-laws comprised people from age 86 right down to age 17 and, importantly, several couples who have been married or together for 15 years or more. The trip was beautiful for so many reasons—mainly because it allowed us all to bond again after a hectic year—but what I especially appreciated and witnessed during it was the bond of friendship between each one of the couples.

I’ll write about this more one day, but God really revealed to me the preciousness of the friendship that should and must be underlying in any long-term romantic relationship if it is going to be healthy. I realised that the key to life-long love was friendship. Our generation has somehow reduced romantic relationships to image—the #relationshipgoals craze being a prime example—when really there is so much more to love than that. Image is what others see when they see a couple; it’s what they project onto a couple. Love, on the other hand, is what the couple has when it’s real. And the foundation of that love is a profound, true friendship. I pray nothing less than that for you, reading this, if you’re in a relationship or trusting in God for one!

And so, evidently, July has been a month of continued lessons and growth. I hope these three have blessed and encouraged you. Be sure to purchase your copy of my book, ’Heart Shards and Lip Balm’, for more wisdom—and thank you to everyone who has been purchasing; you have blown me away.

I’m excited to see what next month will bring!

See you in August,

Imani x

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This month’s post is super special for me. As all those who follow me on social media probably know by now, June has been the final month in an 11-month process of writing a book. My debut book, a poetry collection of 100 self-care poems and affirmative notes written to and for the reader, will be published worldwide and available on Amazon from Friday 7th July. It’s called Heart Shards and Lip Balm, and it traces the journey from hurting to healing. And I am so very excited, thankful to God, and grateful for all the support I’ve received from friends, family and followers. Truly, to everyone who’s shown support: thank you so much.

Elsewhere, June has been a month of immense blessings and opportunity. I finished my second year of university three weeks ago, and have since been planning a year abroad. And as I write this, I’m on a train headed across the country for a weekend of wedding preparations and excitement, as an amazing friend I made in my first year is about to tie the knot, and I’m a bridesmaid.

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet, and instead let you read about the book on the page I’ve created specially for it. I hope and pray it blesses you — it is, quite literally, love, in a book, written to and for you for when you’re finding it hard to love yourself. Heart Shards and Lip Balm, out on Amazon on 7.7.17.

Enjoy — and see you in July.

Imani x

 

P.S., there’s more on the book in my latest video.

 

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She recently swanned onto my Instagram featured in my Mothers’ Day post looking flawless as ever, and casually broke the record for the number of likes I’ve ever received on an Instagram post — just, you know, casually. I’ve been trying to get the same number of likes since and yeah… no.   🙃   Lol!

I’m her only child but I still have to share her with about 20 other girls who’re convinced she’s their mum, too. And she loves all of them, every one of my friends, as though they were her own daughters. Which really doesn’t help.

She radiates grace, elegance, love, wisdom, warmth and she’s set a standard of motherhood and womanhood that I can only hope to match one day. And yet she lovingly guides me closer towards it every day.

She is, of course, my amazing mum. And I wanted to take this post to honour her, since last month was her birthday month. I also wanted to honour some of the other women, particularly preachers and speakers I’ve come across, who have seriously been inspiring me over the past few weeks, and who hopefully might inspire you, too.

 

 

Mum

Our relationship is characterised by deep, close friendship. Not in a way where I see her as my age mate or my equal — she is my mum, and I respect and honour her accordingly. But in the sense that she is and has always been my very best friend. We have been through innumerable ups and downs together, things the world will never know about, and she’s raised me as a single mum for the past fifteen years.

Even writing this, I can already tell the words in this post aren’t going to be sufficient to convey even a glimpse of how much I love my mum and how precious our friendship is. It really is beyond words! So I’ll settle for saying some of the things I appreciate most about my mum, and some of the things she’s taught me. I know they’ll bless you, too:

 

1. You can do anything you put your mind to if you believe in yourself.

She and my dad were very intentional in naming me Imani, which means faith, and as I grew up it became routine to remind me what my name meant. ‘Belief.’ Including belief in myself and in my ability. That self-belief has carried me to where I am today. Thank God for parents who instil that in their children from a young age. I hope to become one of them.

 

2. Keep it simple.

Mum takes pleasure in the small things. She loves gardening, she loves cooking, but above all she is a people person and finds immense joy in simply loving others and encouraging them and showering them with warmth and affection. It is simply impossible to feel unloved in my mum’s presence. She’s taught me to take pleasure in the simple, constant things — nature, heartfelt conversation, family, quiet time, good food — and it’s something I’m so grateful for.

Linked to this, she’s also taught me to protect my peace. To maintain perspective. And to know that nothing is worth stressing over. Give it to God, and know He’s working it all together for your good.

 

3. The power of love, warmth and affirmation.

My mum is the queen of these three. You’ll feel it as soon as she walks into a room. At the end of a conversation with her you’ll leave with a renewed sense of who you are and how unique, precious and powerful your very existence is.

 

4. The value of conversation and of the ability to listen.

Mum and I have been talking non-stop since I was a baby, to be honest. The only thing that’s changed is the nature of the problems I’m facing; everything else — her wisdom, the amount of love in her advice and care in her voice, her ability to discern and decipher dilemmas, her availability to listen — has remained the same.

 

5. Perseverance.

Failure is simply a step in the road to success. You are not your failures. Giving up is not an option. Rest, reflection and learning from your mistakes are.

 

6. There is no-one in this world you cannot speak to.

As Mum would say:

You were raised to be able to interact with the richest of rich, the poorest of poor, people from all nations and backgrounds, and to allow each one of them to feel at home in your presence. There is immense power right there.

7. You were not raised to be ‘average’ or ‘mediocre’.

You owe it to yourself to strive to be your best self.

8. Know your worth.

(And know the worth of those around you, too.)

9. Stay humble.

Vital. That does not mean dimming your light (that’s fake humility). It means knowing that what’s yours is yours, and no-one can take a seat God ordained for you. So it’s okay to let others go first. There is room for everyone and every single person around you is unique, valuable and precious.

10. With God on your side, you’re unstoppable.

Stand tall, be confident, and remember your Heavenly Father flung the stars into space. There’s nothing He can’t do.

 

As you can tell, I am so grateful to God for my mum! It was so lovely to treat her on her birthday weekend, shown in the pictures in this post, with three views of London — one from the top of The Shard, one on a bus tour and one over dinner on a boat on the Thames. Three words to sum up my mum: loving, caring, discerning. I hope I’ve inherited some of those traits!

 

 

Inspirational Women — my current Woman Crushes

Aside from my biological Mum, I also have recently come across a number of spiritual mothers — older, wiser women in Christ, whose names I wanted to share with you. I pray some of their material will encourage you; click on their names to watch some of their videos:

  1. Dr Jasmin Sculark (also known as Dr Jazz) — preacher, pastor and hilarious. I admire her sass and her carefree spirit, also the fact she makes walking in heels onstage look so easy!
  2. Bishop Ernestine Reems. She’s an 80-something year old lady who doesn’t mess when it comes to giving REAL advice to us younger women. She is AMAZING!
  3. Joyce Meyer (my all-time favourite!)
  4. Ifeanyi Adefarasin (the video begins with her husband in the intro). First Lady of House on the Rock Church, a megachurch in Nigeria. Her husband , Pastor Paul, is also an excellent speaker.
  5. Dayo Benjamin-Laniyi. Entrepreneur, singer, woman of God. Extremely inspirational speaker.

Funnily enough, it was Mum who introduced me to the last two, after attending a women’s conference where they were both guest speakers! This is another thing I love about her – she seeks out inspiration and passes it on when she finds it!

I hope this post has inspired you in some way. Mums — whether biological or spiritual — are a blessing. Be inspired to honour your mum and mother-figures, and the women in your life who inspire you. Ladies, seek inspiration from them so that you are able to become the very best woman you can.

And as an added bonus, here’s a life-changing talk led by one more inspirational woman, Caroline McHugh, for anyone struggling to simply be themselves or to find their purpose.

 

Lots of love!

Imani x

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