This post is really long but it is my testimony! Read and be blessed.
In January of 2016 God began to purge me. A crutch that I relied heavily on was abruptly kicked out from under me and I was left with a decision to fall down or stand up. The impact of the downfall was felt immediately. I was down for the count. With a broken heart and a bruised ego, I tried to put the pieces of what was left of my life back together. I dove head first in to books on business, marketing, self help, motivation, inspiration etc. I found Lisa Nichols and Les Brown and Zig Ziglar, and TD Jakes and many more. In March I’d been listening to Lisa Nichols during what she was calling “Power Week”. She had a different speaker on everyday that talked about their journey and how they are creating a life of abundance. I was completely captivated. I made sure I tuned in everyday at 11:00 so that I could get more of what they were talking about. It was all speaking to my spirit. During that week Lisa kept talking about an upcoming conference in California called Speak and Write to Make Millions. I was so fired up by all of the inspiration I was getting that I started thinking about going to the conference. I’d been nominated for an “Emerging Leader in the Arts” award given by the Fund for the Arts. The award ceremony was the same weekend as the conference. Before I’d started thinking about going to the conference I’d been praying that I won the award. I’d claimed it actually. I wrote it in my journal that I’d win and everything. By the end of the week something in my spirit was telling me that I’d be in California. I didn’t know how but I will be in California, but I wanted to know if I’d won the award or not. On the last day that Lisa was taking reservations for the conference I got a letter in my mailbox at work that said. “Congratulations… for being nominated…… although you did not win the award this year (and “this year” was underlined) ….” I don’t remember the rest of what the letter said I just know that it was my confirmation and it was right on time. I had a little less than 12 hours to book a flight, reserve a room, and buy my ticket. There was one problem. The money! I stepped out on faith and went ahead and bought my ticket for the conference, my flight and my hotel room. I stepped out on faith and went in to action on how to pay myself back before my next months bills and financial responsibilities started to roll in. I created a Gofundme account called “To San Diego or Bust” and explained that at this conference I was expecting to learn and master how to build a profitable brand, grow the youth services department that I run at LCCC and grow my personal business. I explained that this would be a professional and personal development investment that I’m making for myself to aid me in my calling. I needed $1035 to cover my hotel expenses for 3 days at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. I was blessed with the $1060 of the $1035 I needed in less than 2 days! I was so overjoyed and began to thank God for providing me with the funds to pay for my hotel stay! I had a little less than a month to prepare myself for the trip to San Diego. I continued to read and watch Lisa’s and Les Browns motivational videos. I had my cable subscription cut off and put on a temporary hold because I wanted to start watching MY vision instead of the television! I scheduled a photo shoot and began working on my website. Shaking and trembling, I gathered enough courage to reach out to a man that I’d watched and admired for his leadership and business sense and asked if he’d be my mentor. I told him all about what I was trying to do and why I wanted to do it and he ended up blessing me by reimbursing me $424 for my plane ticket!! Another gentleman in my life who’d been watching me from afar sowed another $500 in to my life after he’d heard about where I was going and what I wanted to do. Then I received an inbox message from someone who needed an opening speaker for a women’s empowerment workshop and asked me if I could speak and to name my price! Now mind you I had NEVER EVER promoted myself as a speaker but I’d been planning to take my business that route. On my new website I’d listed myself as The Artist, The Motivator and The Entertainer. This person had no idea that I wanted to be a motivational speaker because I hadn’t said it on FB nor had I released my new website to the public so she couldn’t have known that I wanted to be a speaker. I agreed to the gig and asked for $250 to speak for 30 mins. The lady inboxed me back and said, “Ok, we can do that.” My mind was blown at what God was doing in my life. I was going to a conference that trains you on how to “Speak…” and a week before I go to the conference I get a PAID speaking gig! I go to the speaking gig trembling and shaking for I’m about to speak to women about how to “Jump” into their destiny by sharing my personal story of overcoming addiction and depression. I made it through it and was proud of myself for having stepped out of my comfort zone. Later I found out that the lady had confused me with another speaker she’d been following on FB and had really wanted her to speak but she inboxed me on accident! Listen, NOBODY but GOD can do something like that! During this preparation time I had before my trip I was also in a private group on FB with others who were attending or desiring to attend the conference. Through that group I was able to find 3 roommates to bunk with who were willing to split the hotel bill! I’d already paid for a room and didn’t see the sense in having a room to myself. I could get some money back and force myself out of my comfort zone and stay with 3 other women for 72 hours!! I’d also been able to sell the extra ticket I received when I signed up for the conference on the last day the 2 for1 special was being offered. I was ready. I got to the conference and people were there from all over the world and they each had a plan. They knew who they were and why they came to the conference. I was exposed to a level of energy that I’d never been exposed to too and I cowered. I did not operate in my full power. I received what I could and what I got was good but it was all too much for me. The information came like rapid fire and I couldn’t absorb it all. I couldn’t make it make sense to me or see how it was supposed to help me on my journey. On the last day of the conference Lisa shared a story about how she forgave the father of her child. She talked about how she was able to have a relationship with him in spite of all they’d been through. She even called him on the phone from the stage. She called him in prison! The level of forgiveness she showed was remarkable and got me all in my feelings. I went back to my room after that and thought about my crutch. I wanted to forgive my crutch for allowing me to fall. I wanted my crutch back. I needed my crutch to walk with me and hold me up. I believed that with my crutch I could overcome any obstacle and if I could overcome the blow that separated us in the first place, then together my crutch and I could overcome anything! If I held on to my crutch long enough it would become a part of me and I’d learn to live with it. I came back from the conference different. I felt some kind of way but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. The fire was gone. Turmoil started to enter my life almost immediately. I arrived at the airport eager to get back home and execute everything that I’d learned in San Diego but my eagerness was short lived. My flight from San Diego to North Carolina went well but my connecting flight home had been delayed. During this delay I had time to sit idle. My mind wandered and began to reminisce about how my crutch had been a major part of my life. I started longing for my crutch and I picked it back up right there in the airport. My flight ended up being canceled and by the grace of God I had enough cash to get a hotel room in North Carolina. I departed to Louisville the next day not fully knowing what to make of my trip. I was confused and defeated. By May, I was fully dependent on my crutch. Again. This time I knew the crutch was enabling me but I used it anyway because I was too afraid to walk alone. I was about to embark on one of the biggest projects to date in my career and I needed my crutch to pacify me when the day was done. I couldn’t bear the thought of working 12 and 14-hour days and coming home to emptiness. I needed my crutch to validate me and I COULD NOT STAND UP without it. For eight weeks I worked tirelessly producing and directing The Wiz for the Youth Repertory Theater Troupe of Louisville. The community stepped up and supported that show beyond what I could have ever imagined. Anything that we needed for the success of the show I asked for it and I got it! I was seeing the work of God happening all over that production. I knew that if I poured in everything that God gave me to give it would be a successful show. We got money, supplies, costumes, props, advertisement, media, articles, and reviews, you name it, and we got it! I’d also been coordinating and planning my 15 year class reunion at the same time I was producing and directing The Wiz so I’d reached a level of exhaustion you wouldn’t believe. On the day of my class reunion I’d been running around all day preparing, checking and double checking everything and making sure the class reunion I’d been working on for over a year would be successful. I looked around the room and admired what I’d been able to accomplish. I had a moment of reflection and for once I was happy with my life and myself. I had my crutch back, success was happening in my career, and with my entertainment business. I was on cloud nine. I was HAPPY. So I thought. That night I came face to face with my crutches crutch! My class reunion is a blur. I didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of my labor at my class reunion because I was outside fighting in a war of Battle of the Crutches! I went into battle unarmed and ill equipped to handle the stand off before me. It’s not easy trying to fight with one hand. The more I held on to my crutch with one hand and tried to fight with my free hand, the more blows I took. Pow, to the gut. My crutch left me defenseless. I couldn’t stand up on my own but I fought. I fought until the final blow of the battle hit me like a ton of bricks! My crutch needed its crutch more. I wasn’t going to win. I cried out. And then I let go. Six days later was the opening night of The Wiz. I started to feel so much anxiety not because I was worried about the show. Actually all 5 of the performances were sold out a week before we opened so my anxiety was not coming from stress about the production. My anxiety was high because it was all about to be over. I didn’t have another project to throw myself in. I didn’t have my crutch. What was I going to do? I went through a whirlwind of emotions. I started to revert back to old habits and ways of thinking. I started to fall in to depression. I’ve suffered from depression before but this time was different. Between August and November I was pretty much just going through the motions. I stopped going to church for about a month and when I finally showed back up to church my body was there but my heart and soul was not. I’d been contemplating leaving my church because I just wasn’t feeling anything there. I rejected the teachings of Les Brown and Lisa Nichols. I’d felt bamboozled by them. I felt like I’d had the wool pulled over my eyes. It wasn’t fair! I was mad. No, I was PISSED! I rejected God. I had no compassion for His people and I’d lost my ability to feel. The youth that I work with at LCCC saved me from shutting down completely. The holiday season was approaching and I’d promised the youth and my colleagues that we were going to produce another show. There was only one problem. I was empty. I didn’t have it in me to produce another show like The Wiz. I didn’t have the energy. I was tired, defeated and my storage was empty. I had nothing to draw inspiration or motivation from and so I dragged me feet picking the show we’d do. I tried all kinds of ways to get out of doing another production so soon after the last. Finally Black Nativity a classic retelling of the story of the birth of Jesus written by Langston Hughes presents itself. I did NOT want to do that show. I wanted to steer clear of religion and the “black” experience because I didn’t want our troupe to fall in to the common misconception that all black theater companies produce are gospel stage plays and buffoonery. We’d already done one “black” show and now I’m being led to do another one?! I searched and searched for another musical. I even had the youth try writing their own holiday show. Time was running out and I had to do something quick. I reluctantly went with Black Nativity. When I tell you that the enemy tried to STOP that show on several occasions. The enemy started attacking me and then started attacking the youth who were involved. There were spirits of envy and covetousness, resentment, and unworthiness flowing through my cast. My once reliable car started to break down piece by piece. First it was the blower, then the converter, then the heat then a tire blew out and now it’s sitting in the lot of a car shop with who knows what wrong with it. (I will tell you about that in a bit). I was afraid the whole time during the production of Black Nativity. I didn’t have the same fire under me I had when I was doing The Wiz. I made decisions out of fear. The house was to hold 150 people and because tickets hadn’t sold like The Wiz I told them to set the house up to seat 100 people. I only ordered enough playbills (programs) for about 300 people as opposed to how many we’d need if the house sold out each night. I only ordered 2 bags of popcorn to serve at the concession stand instead of 4 bags. I was operating out of fear instead of faith. But God. He stepped in at the last hour and I’ll be dag on if we didn’t have to add 50 more seats to the 100 on opening night! We were sold out! The rest of the run was 90% sold out as well. We ran out of playbills and had just enough popcorn. Lives were changed during that production! It was an amazing experience that will stick with me, and the youth who participated forever! At the end of Black Nativity’s run I looked around and said I did this without my crutch! I’d finally released it! I wasn’t thinking about it anymore but my spirit was still unsettled. What am I going through? On December 1st I started Steve Harvey’s 21 day jump, I was in another group on FB called the 21 day womb cleansing and I’d also spoken with my good friend and mentor about what I needed to reveal by the end of the 21 days. By Dec 21st I STILL hadn’t received what I needed to free me. But I was searching. Determined not to go in to 2017 with all of this baggage, heartache and uncertainty. On December 28th I got a call that my long time friend and music producer would be taken off of life support. I arrived at the hospital and at 11:27 I watched my friend take his last breath. My friend had been the first person to ever tell me I was an artist and he believed in me more than I did. My friend was a brilliant musician and was truly a genius, a name he gave himself. My friend was also an alcoholic who’d become toxic to me over the years and I had to cut him off. He’d call me out of the blue during crazy hours of the night to remind me about the music. I stopped accepting his calls. He’d been homeless and in and out of jail and I couldn’t save him. His family had written him off and so had I. But I was in the room when he left his earthly body and his soul ascended into the heavens. God wanted ME to be there. But why? That moment changed me. This was the beginning of the shift. There was an apparent shift in the atmosphere and I felt it. It reminded me that I’d forgotten who I was. I’d been so busy creating a life that accommodated my crutch that I’d forgotten who I was before the crutch. I reflected the night of my friend’s death and more and more God started showing me who I was again. I realized that God had begun a good work in me years ago! I started to get ready for the end of 2016 by cleaning my home, washing clothes, buying a new toothbrush and a new journal and new sheets and a comforter for my bed. That had become my ritual every year. On December 30th I’d had a date scheduled to go to the movies with a guy friend. I’d told myself that I should end the year dating so that 2017 would be filled with dates! I wouldn’t be able to find my husband without dates now would I? Tuh! As I was getting dressed to head out that day I randomly uploaded a video of me explaining how I was devastated that my paint brushes that I’d left out had been ruined. That video was so random and off the cuff you don’t see my face because all I had on was my bra and underwear. I was getting dressed for God’s sake. I don’t know why I stopped getting dressed to go LIVE on FB at that moment. I finished the post, which was only 1min and 47 seconds long. I checked the comments and OMG, Dr. Juanita Bynum had commented at 11:21am asking how much my brushes cost! I had to do a double take after I responded and said wait… You’re Dr. Juanita Bynum!! I couldn’t believe that she had actually watched my video and commented!! I sent a screenshot to my family and friends giddy with excitement. I continued to get dressed I set out to get my hair flat ironed after almost 2 years of not having heat on my hair because I wanted to see the growth. I got my natural nails done that day and had my eyebrows arched and while I was under the dryer, I get a message saying that the time I was available to go to the movie wasn’t a good time for my date. I chalked it up and said ok, maybe I shouldn’t be trying to go on dates. I will go by myself. I left the salon feeling really good about myself. My hairdresser had been another angel who invested money through my Gofundme account back in March. She’d actually donated $425, which was the remaining balance I needed to meet my goal. She said God laid it on her to do it. My hair was gorgeous and cascading down my back, luxurious, and longer than I’d ever allowed it to grow as an adult. I headed home, got dressed and headed out to the movies alone. I’m not on the expressway for more than 2 minutes and the light on my radio goes out, then my car started stalling and slowing down. I had just enough time to pull over on the side of the expressway before my car completely shut off on me. It just died!! I sat there as cars whizzed by me close enough that I felt my car shake violently as each one passed. At that moment, a calm came over me much like the calm I’m experiencing now as I write this. There was an overwhelming sense of peace that came over me that I can’t explain why I wasn’t afraid on that expressway by myself, in the dark and in a very dangerous location. It was cold and my sunroof was open. The car was dead so I couldn’t close it. If the driver of a car had sneezed and swerved just a fraction to the right I could have been hit! I didn’t call any of my friends or family for help. I knew where my Help was coming from. I did call my insurance company and requested a tow. The tow was going to take 60 mins! For an hour I sat there in deep reflection. I decided not to spend my time scrolling through social media on my phone. I put my phone down and listened. After a while I received a random text from my roommate who’d been in my room in California back at the Speak and Write conference and she said beware, Dr. Bynums account may be a fake one. It may not really be her just be careful. (paraphrased). That text confused me because I had not seen my FB yet but I figured Dr. Bynum must have responded because of what my roommate had texted me. I checked my FB and was notified that Dr. Juanita Bynum had responded to her comment on my video. It was 8:48pm when she responded. Hours later!! While I was stranded on the side of the expressway! She said she wanted to pay for a new set of brushes for new creations in the arts. She then asked me to send her my PayPal information. I didn’t respond right away because I was still processing it all. Finally my tow truck showed up after about an hour and a half and it’s strange because It didn’t feel that long. I felt like I was only stranded for a few minutes! I had my vehicle towed to the shop where it currently sitting (hopefully) and called Uber to take me home. I got home around 11:30 ish. I texted my roommate back and said “It’s her. She’s a FB friend of one of my friends.” By the time I responded to Dr. Bynums comment it was 11:53pm. At 12:09am December 31st I inboxed Dr. Juanita Bynum my PayPal email address. From 12:28 to 12:41am I chatted back and forth with Dr. Juanita Bynum. At 12:40am I had $200 in my PayPal account from Juanita Bynum Enterprises. At the bottom of the transaction details it said “INSTANT”. Whew Lord!! I could just shout right now. I thanked her profusely but didn’t quite know how to tell her what an impact she’d made on my life in just a few hours. If I’m honest I had only heard about Juanita Bynum over the years. I had never seen her speak, teach, preach, pray or read any of her books. I had only HEARD about who she was. I knew she was famous and that she was in the same category as the TD Jakes, Joel Osteens, and Joyce Meyers of the world but that was it. Out of all the books I’ve read and videos I’ve watched my eyes had NEVER stopped on one thing Juanita Bynum. And if by chance I have come across her before in the past it was in passing and nothing drew me to her or her teachings. So I began to research who she was. I found tons of videos on YouTube, I read her Wikipedia and everything. The more I read and watched the more I started to feel God start talking to me through her. I ended up going to bed and woke with a brand new perspective on life. I’d had plans to break bread with a few of my friends that I wanted to end the year with so that I could end the year surrounded by the people who would journey with me in to the new year. I didn’t have a car and that was a good excuse to cancel my plans for the day but I was determined to see who I needed to see and do what I needed to do. My brother came and picked me up, we rode by the shop to check on my car and then he took me to my mom’s job so that I could borrow her car for the day. There was only one person who kept the lunch date with me. The only one who was supposed to be at the lunch date and God removed the others who weren’t. It’s not to say that the other ladies who were scheduled to come are bad or anything like that but they just weren’t supposed to be there at that particular time so God had things come up in their lives that prevented them from coming. I love them but they weren’t supposed to be there. I then left the lunch date completely filled up again by the one person who WAS supposed to be there and who always pours in to me the word of God and restores my storage. I left my lunch meeting with great anticipation about the next meeting I had scheduled. Earlier I spoke of Dr. Bynum being a FB friend of one of my FB friends and that’s how I knew it was really her. I’d seen my friend post about Dr. Bynum calling my friend by name on one of her videos. I’d also seen how Dr. Bynum had sowed into my friends business by purchasing from her and sending her flowers etc. Well on December 30th the same day that I recorded the random paintbrush video I’d inboxed my FB friend who was also another one of the angels that blessed me back in March when I set up a Gofundme account to get to San Diego and helped me get the money I needed for my hotel room. I’d inboxed her at 10:12am approx. an hour before the random paintbrush video and said that I was ready to give her the painting but before I gave it to her I needed her to meet me a coffee shop and that I needed an hour of her time. (I’d promised anyone who donated to my Gofundme account that I would paint them a custom piece of art if they donated. I hated asking for money without giving something back in return.) Listen, it had been 9 months that I held off on giving my friend and my hairdresser their paintings! I’d wanted to sit down with her because I felt God telling me to end my year surrounded by people I wanted to go in to the New Year with and she was one of them. I felt a tug in my spirit to talk to her. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to talk about, I just needed to meet with her on the last day of 2016! She agreed to meet with me at 3:17 pm December 31st. During our chat, she told me about Juanita Bynum’s sermon “No More Sheets”. She told me that I should check that video out. After a great spiritual encounter with my friend I came home and started to prepare to end 2016. I started watching “No More Sheets” on YouTube, writing notes, cleaning up my home, and getting ready for watch night service at my church. For the FIRST time in my life watch service was moved up from 10p-12a to 8p-10p. I’d always tried to go to church and ring the New Year in on my knees but this year I was home by 11:00. I hadn’t been in my own home at the turn of the New Year probably since I was a teenager. I’d gone to church, testified, sang and headed home to ring in the New Year in the shower. I’d hooked my phone up to my speaker so I could play Leandria Johnsons album (her music saved me this year) while I showered. My phone rang at 12:16am on January 1, 2017. I’d just finished my shower and was washing my face when my phone rang and interrupted Leandrias anointed voice from flowing through my speaker. At first I was annoyed and wondered who the first caller of the New Year would be. The first voice I spoke to in 2017 was another friend of mine who said (paraphrasing) “Juanita Bynum huh? I saw your FB video. I love Juanita! You need to watch her sermon No More Sheets” I was cleaning 2016 off of my body at the strike of midnight as I entered into 2017! After my shower and that phone call I watched the rest of the “No More Sheets”. My life will NEVER be the same. That sermon spoke to every inch of my being. It was as if God entered in the physical body of Juanita Bynum and spoke to me directly through her. Every word she spoke resonated with my spirit. The answers I’d been looking for were revealed. God knew that I needed to know that He was real. It wasn’t enough that he’d been speaking to my spirit all along. He’d been protecting, providing, for and covering me all this time but I needed to know it wasn’t all make believe. I needed to know that the radical stuff He’s been telling me to do my whole life isn’t me being mentally ill or crazy. He had to show me in the natural that He had the power to INSTANTLY connect me to people in high places. He had to show me that he could instantly change the trajectory of my life. He had to SHOW ME!!! It wasn’t enough that I saw the vision in my head. He had to SHOW ME how it was going to get done. Now as I write this and am coming to a close, it’s January 2, 2017 at 5:03am. I’ve been awake since the New Year. I started writing this at approx. 11:00 pm last night and I’m still up writing. I went to church yesterday, had communion and broke bread with my family for the New Year with the traditional dinner of cabbage, and black eyed peas but this year I wasn’t stuck on superstitions. I wasn’t hoping the black eyed peas would bring me luck and good fortune or that the cabbage would bring me money. My only hope was that God reveal Himself to me and speak to me in a voice that I can recognize is His and show me the way. I found more of Dr. Bynums videos that she’d posted during December 2016, and received more and more direction from God. I am on a divine assignment. Dr. Bynum is on Divine assignment as well. She was obedient and turned down the offers to be on TV and decided to sit on her own floor and reach His people where they are. She’s using FB and FB Live to gather His soldiers. Through her, God told me that I am on schedule and that I am apart of the army that will heal this land. AmERICA, The Land of the Free. I don’t know how or what will be done but I am confident that it WILL be done.
I hadn’t intended to share this much with FB and if you are still reading I pray you are blessed and I hope your life will be impacted in such a way that you begin to seek His face. You too can join the army of soldiers that God is raising up to Free His people from bondage. I was supposed to launch my new website back in March of 2016 but I was delayed for such a time as this. I am Erica Denise. The Artist, The Entertainer, The Motivator!