Rest is Holy

It’s so funny. I had big plans for this summer. I had all of these cities and landmarks I was going to visit, but none of it happened. It’s funny and relieving. I don’t deny that oftentimes traveling can be highly therapeutic, but that is not what I needed this summer. I needed rest.

My second semester of seminary was exhausting in a way that was completely new to me. I was spent emotionally, mentally, and physically. On top of school was life–family happenings, adjusting to the demands of a new job, and recognizing I was on a steady ground financially. My second semester, which began in January, contained a lot of resets. Last semester was one of the first semesters I pursued healing more than I did anything else, school included. My anxiety was through the roof. I was a mess, but I persisted. It was worth it. My grades turned out exceptional. My family life was whole, more so than it has been in years. The newness of balancing work and school was wearing off and becoming normal. And one more highlight…I paid my mortgage on time every month. Bonkers.

When the semester ended, I checked in with my therapist. I am that person that will freak out for weeks on end, then when it’s all said and done go, “Wow. That was fine. I’m fine,” when really I’m not fine. Therapists are lovely, and mine is quite great. She pointed out how emotionally difficult my semester was. She ran through every event of the semester, yet I still could not accept those experiences as highly impacting. I told her very quietly, “I just think that if it isn’t something that can be seen then I should be fine. If no one is dying, if nothing drastic is happening, then I’m okay.” It wasn’t until I said that out loud how invalidating I realized that was to myself. So, that led me to make a list of places I wanted to go and sights I wanted to see.

I rearranged my schedule so I only worked three days out of the week, with Wednesday being my Friday. When it came time to buying that first plane ticket, I accepted that I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to enjoy the tiniest of pleasures like sleeping in, cooking breakfast, strolling in the grocery store, coloring, going to a park, or doing absolutely nothing. For two days out of the week, I had no goals. I did what I felt, and do you know that I completed more work this summer than I ever have in a semester? I read more books. I wrote more stories. I opened up more to people, processes, and opportunities. Because I allowed myself moments of nothingness, sometimes just sitting outside for hours because I could and the weather was nice, I felt accomplished. If all I did was get up and breathe, then that day was enough.

This summer I thought a lot about Elijah. I usually relate to the “What are you doing here?” part of his story, but not this time. I think about him being spent, asking for death, then sleeping. Although our stories are a wee bit different, the outcome is the same:

Elijah Runs Away from Ahab and Jezebel

19 Ahab told his wife Jezebel what Elijah had done and that he had killed the prophets. She sent a message to Elijah: “You killed my prophets. Now I’m going to kill you! I pray that the gods will punish me even more severely if I don’t do it by this time tomorrow.”

Elijah was afraid when he got her message, and he ran to the town of Beersheba in Judah. He left his servant there, then walked another whole day into the desert. Finally, he came to a large bush and sat down in its shade. He begged the Lord, “I’ve had enough. Just let me die! I’m no better off than my ancestors.” Then he lay down in the shade and fell asleep.

Suddenly an angel woke him up and said, “Get up and eat.” Elijah looked around, and by his head was a jar of water and some baked bread. He sat up, ate and drank, then lay down and went back to sleep.

Soon the Lord’s angel woke him again and said, “Get up and eat, or else you’ll get too tired to travel.” So Elijah sat up and ate and drank.

The food and water made him strong enough to walk forty more days. At last, he reached Mount Sinai,[a] the mountain of God, and he spent the night there in a cave.

So often I think we forget that the best things we can do for ourselves are rooted in getting our most basic needs met. We need adequate rest. Our society is heavily built around the (now crumbling) idea that if you are not constantly working, hustling, producing something then you are failing at life. That’s not true. Being overworked, emotionally drained, and constantly on the go are not life giving. There is nothing beautiful about breaking down.

This summer has been a summer of healing. I have given away all my burdens, processed emotional scars, and became more vocal in the process. I trust my instincts the first time around and listen more to myself and other people. I am connecting with myself emotionally, which is helping me experience this world and the Spirit in ways can only be described as divinely magical.

I’m reading Beloved by Toni Morrison, and I’ve been holding on to this line: “Anything dead coming back to life hurts.” I feel as if I’ve been a zombie all this time. Coming back to life, healing from the tomb I was in, is exhausting. But, I am here. It took me resting to appreciate where I am.

Rest is holy. Get some.

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Remember Why You Began

I think it’s appropriate that it’s almost been a year since I’ve made a post on here. I stopped for so many reasons. I was transitioning out of a bad situation into a good one. I was nervous about life. I didn’t think what I had to say mattered too much anymore. I felt weird about where I was in life and who I knew, that I removed myself from anything that provided any amount of comfort. I removed myself from my daily reminder that the little things matter.

So, let me give some updates, in bullet point fashion.

  • Last August I started attending seminary, and incidentally, stopped going to church. Seminary has been a collection of experiences, some of which remind me how celestial we truly are, while others scream, “We are dangerously human!” The fragile state of human existence is rather beautiful, intricate, and complicated.
  • This year I started working steadily in a courthouse. It’s humbling and high-stress work, but I’d be lying if  I said I hate it. It brings me some odd satisfaction.
  • I started going to therapy in December. I’m sure I’ll write so many more posts about how therapy is a sacred space, and everyone should have a therapist. Right now, I will say that it is amazing what I can do when I feel understood.
  • I was honest about my job hopping, but I’m not sure if I was honest about my home. Last year, I almost lost my home to foreclosure. I’m absolutely grateful I didn’t. To be very honest, I’m not sure how it is possible that I’m still in my home. In the twelve months, I think I made four or five payments. Any other time, I would’ve said God wanted me to have my house. However, since beginning seminary, I’ve learned that it’s important what I’m saying and what I’m not saying. If I said God wanted me to have my home, then what am I saying to those who have lost their homes? Working in a court system, I meet hundreds of people who have been evicted due to nonpayment, and it’s humbling every time. Never would I stand before them and say, “Well, God just wanted you out.” I’ve learned not to speak for God. I’ve learned that there are no tiny graces. I hurt for those people who have lost their homes. I mourn for them picking up the broken pieces. I don’t have the words for what I feel, but I am grateful that I was able to stay in my house.
  • I stopped going to my heavily Pentecostal non-denominational church (that I love and miss) and floated around in my seminary education. Sometime in November I read about Pauli Murray. In the book, All Out of Faith, I read her essay “Full Circle.” I still am unable to describe what it is I felt after reading. The closest thing that comes to mind is overwhelmed. I took in a glimpse of her story and fell in love with her, with God, with how our lives unapologetically come full circle into reconciliation. That reconciliation with ourselves, our families, and our current societal positions looks so different than what we could have ever expected. Rev. Murray was the first African American woman to become an Episcopal priest. Her story inspired me to visit an Episcopal church. I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know the hymns, when to stand or kneel, but I did know the Nicene Creed (courtesy of my Church History professor), and I knew how to receive communion. There was something completely different about communion at that church than anywhere else. The experience was golden. It was fulfilling. There is something passionately intimate about being in silence, kneeling at the altar, and receiving the blood and the body of Christ. It was holy.

There’s so much more I could list, but that would take the fun out of all future posts.

Over the course of a month or so, I received notifications that multiple someones had liked a post from over a year ago. I would read what they liked, and remembered how I believed. How and who I believed God to be a year ago is drastically different from where I am now.  I began this blog because I wanted to further the idea that we are so much more than what we believe ourselves to be. We are magical and celestial and greatly heard. Since those notifications started popping up, those are things that I felt like the Spirit is trying to remind me of. All week, I have heard a whisper, “Remember why you began, Aisha. Remember why you began.” Those notifications and the feeling of freedom I have typing this is why I began. I believed this to be a space of transparency and freedom for myself and for others. So, I am beginning again on the same blog (instead of cutting and running like I would’ve before) and hoping that my life encourages someone else’s.

A Little Light

I’ve been looking for this book I read way back in the third grade. I could only remember that the main character was Indian, and she went into a tent and married a man and took a bath. I couldn’t remember the details except that I knew I loved the story. For months, I googled variations of the phrase “children’s book about an ugly girl going into a tent.” I looked on lists for children’s bestseller books, yet still got nothing. I couldn’t find anything that would jog my memory, so I let it go. No amount of googling was helping me and if anything I was only becoming more frustrated with the entire thing.

Today, I was in a fourth grade class, and as I was walking around checking out the books my kids were reading, I noticed the book I agonized over on a student’s desk. I lost my cool. I freaked out in front of twenty-something fourth graders over a book I read in the third grade. They asked me if I was going to read it right then, and I told them I was waiting.

I tried, for MONTHS, to find that book and had no success. It didn’t matter what I searched or how many websites I visited or links I clicked. I couldn’t find it on my own. What’s funny is this book was probably on a bestseller book list, but honestly, I didn’t know what I was looking for, so I could’ve been passing it up all that time.

I hear so many times from different people to let certain things go. I can’t control every outcome nor anticipate every variable, yet still I hold on. Why? Because I’m a control freak, but things are really that simple. Right now, I’m in a not-so-good situation, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure in my adult life, and I’m clenching it tight to my chest. Why? Because if I forget about it then I might actually start enjoying my life again. I hold on to too many things, and I finally understand that I can’t if I want to live a joyous life. What is the point of holding on when you’re not getting the result you desire? That whole, “Let go and let God,” adage comes to mind.

That book finding me was the reminder I needed: Most times, life finds you exactly where you end, so I’m letting go of my problems in hopes that when the time is right, I’ll gain solutions I have yet to discover.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Matthew 16:24-25 NLT

(For anyone wondering, the book is called The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin.)

The Fall

I bought my first house last May. I prayed intensely hard for my house every day for almost a year. Every moment my future abode came across my mind, I made a mental note of things to update Papa on. My requests extended past the personal into the impossible. I was specific in tree type, layout, color. Everything. Give or take a year, and God gave me more than my prayers demanded. He blessed me not with the pool I jokingly wanted, but the dragonfly wind chime, the Camellia japonica trees, the basketball hoop. He gave me the ability to run through all the rooms on the first floor without ever going back into the same room, the windows… I could go on for days. He heard every prayer. He had me wait, and then there was my house. I knew it was mine the moment I drove up the driveway.

I always knew my house wasn’t going to make me happy. It was never supposed to because that wasn’t its intended use. I moved in and still had the same issues I had at my apartment, but I stopped talking to God about them. I spoke with Papa only about surface things. It was as if He moved Heaven and earth to give me more than I could’ve ever asked for, so I couldn’t bring myself to lament to my Lord who blessed me something so big. You know what I did instead? I went out and tried to satisfy my loneliness, my depression, my dissatisfaction with work with worldly things. These things would eventually cause me to compromise my integrity over and over again.

I read a book by Lysa TerKeurst called Uninvited. It’s about rejection. Man oh man. This woman, God bless her. She is radiantly transparent, which makes almost every situation she mentions in her book relatable. At one point she writes about these tiny compromises she started making with her then boyfriend. She writes about how what started as her boyfriend sleeping over on the couch, turned into her justifying her desires, until it snowballed into something larger than she expected: an abortion. Her tiny compromises rolled into a giant.

My giant wasn’t an abortion. It was quitting. Don’t like them? Drop them. Don’t like working there? Quit. That man is unreliable? Leave him. Do what makes you happy. Never once did I stop to A) inquire of the Lord and B) fight—push past the negative. Not once did I think, “This rough patch is where I am supposed to be. Maybe me being uncomfortable is what grows me.” Instead, I manipulated everything in my power to create a pretty picture for myself. Truthfully, all I did was make myself more lonely and depressed and broke.

I Kings 19:4 says, “‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’” That’s exactly how I was feeling. I was ready for the rapture. Beam me up, Scottie! However, a few weeks ago, I heard that same question that God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Honestly, I couldn’t answer until last week. I must go back the way I came. I have to walk through every last thing I attempted to run away from, and that truth stings.

I thought who and where I am now would eventually circle back to pre-fall. I did. I’m just not where I expected. Who I was pre-fall was someone who was steadfast for God, but she didn’t want to bother her Father. The woman before the fall was someone who tried to people please God. I won’t be there again because I fell. I hurt myself on the way down, but I’m wiser for it. I’m going to push a little bit harder now because I know my footing is supposed to be in Christ, and if He’s willed it, then so it will be.

I’ve been watching Sing a lot lately, and one of my favorite lines is, “Do you know the beauty about hitting rock bottom, Eddie? The only way to go is up!” That’s so true. I might fall again. Actually, I will most likely fall again, but not in the same way and not with the same force and not as far down. Even now, there is great beauty in this breakdown.

During this almost year detour I learned I will never be satisfied until I live on God’s terms. That means loving God with all my heart and all my might, and everything else will flow from the relationship I have with Him. He has a plan to prosper me and not harm me. So, my goal in life should be to run towards Him and not away from Him. I could let my inadequacies build up against me, but I shouldn’t. Where I fall short is where God picks up. That truth alone makes the journey of life worth it.

March to April Mending Affirmations

I learned some little nuggets during my sabbatical. I hope you gain something from them.

1. When my pain is all I see, I lose sight of where God is in that pain.

2. I was created to be loved.

3. God chooses to listen. He loves to see my relationships through my eyes.

4. To see Jesus is to see man and God as one.

5. I am in the center of God’s love and purpose.

6. God can do unspeakable good out of unspeakable tragedies, but that doesn’t mean He orchestrates the tragedies.

7. Look around, Aisha. You need to enjoy the journey.

8. Even the “evil doers” are God’s children, and He’d like to redeem them too. The moment you condemn them to hell, is the moment you become the judge. You do not determine someone else’s worthiness in Christ.

9. Every act of kindness matters.

10. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through. You don’t ever have to do it alone.

11. You can’t wait for things to level out. You have to take each day as it comes. Every single day you unproductively wait for what you know what is to come is a day that you miss out on being productive. FIGHT. Sometimes that means cleaning your bathroom, doing your hair, going for a 2 mile run. Sometimes, oftentimes, it means giving a little bit more than you have to be okay.

12. Live by design not by default. Don’t ever get so egotistical in believing that you have control of your trajectory. If you judge things as “beneath you”, then you’re living by default, but if you walk into a place you can’t stand and do your work to the glory of the Lord every single day, then you are living by Design. It’s not about where you are physically. It’s where you are spiritually. Stand with Christ. Run with Him.

13. Withholding your presence cause you’re uncomfortable or something is new negatively impacts the environment. It’s selfish to not be out in the world fellowshipping.

14. How can you make your life more about someone else?

15. Life can be mending or messy. Take your pick.

16. God knows you better than you know yourself, and because He knows what you’re called to do, He’s giving you things that will strengthen your faith, courage, endurance/stamina, and spirit. But, they’re still for other people!

17. Life is happening for me.

18. You’re not going out into the world as a teacher. You’re going out as a student. That’s what a disciple is. You’re going out saying, “Hey I learned this, what’d you learn?” And you’re comparing notes. You’re not the expert. You’re not going out as the Lord.

19. Jesus tells you to go out and be a servant. That’s how you win people to Jesus. Not by manipulation or anything you could say or do. It’s by being a humble servant.

20. They lied. No relationship is 50-50. Some might feel like that, but if closely examined, you’ll see it’s 49-51 or vice versa. Sometimes relationships are 80-20, but you gotta be okay with that. Cause if you go into every relationship, friendship, or being an associate and say, “I get to do x, y, and z” then that changes your perspective and you don’t care what you get out of the relationship because you’re walking in it with the heart of Him who came before you.

21. Every struggle is a humbling experience. Don’t let your pride get in the way of making you believe you’ve got everything on your own.

22. Asking for help and actually positively receiving that help will be two different things.

23. Who were you before the fall?

24. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Who Were You Before the Fall?

My word! I’ve been MIA for a long while.

I mentioned in a previous post that I quit my job. I mentioned how okay I was with whatever direction my life took. That was true then, but the longer I stayed unemployed, I realized how not okay I was.

I ended up getting a job working 3rd shift at a homeless shelter that was only willing to work me as a volunteer until they wanted to finally pay me. After a couple of times of being duped, I quit. Things taken out of desperation rarely work out.

Then, I was hired as a substitute for the county I live in. Great! I get to work with kids, stretch my legs as a teacher. All good in theory, but children in real life are crafty. I will admit I lost my way (and my nerve) the first week, but by the second week I was prepared. I got really good at it and was recommended often. I enjoyed it and the kids enjoyed me, but I couldn’t afford to pay every single thing that I was responsible for, so yet again I went looking for something else to satisfy my financial needs.

Now, I work as a debt collector or “professional negotiator.” Either way, it’s about collecting money from people who are probably gonna use their credit card to avoid bad credit. Oh, the irony. I digress. All of this moving and shaking sounds like what? I’ll give you a hint. It starts with an O and ends with compensating.

Since October, I have been overcompensating with everything in my life. I’ve overcompensated with jobs, with church, with my finances, with family obligations all to cover up the fact that I was freaking out about a decision I made which seemed irreversible.

Admittedly, in my self-denial and self-pity, I became self-consumed. I checked out of the blog. I checked out of my friendships. I checked out mentally because why hold a conversation when it wasn’t about me? Consciously, that wasn’t my thought process, but it might as well have been. We all have our own stories. Some stories have a lot of highs and little lows. Other stories start out dipping low and maybe a few times get high. Most stories, I like to believe, fall somewhere in the middle. Whatever the case, I lost sight of the bigger picture. I lost sight of everything that once made me love my life.

Fortunately, Christ is real. The hole that took me years (this extends way before me leaving my job in October…more like when I accepted the position) to dig, will take some time to climb out of, but it’s not impossible. Brick by brick I am being pieced back together because Christ is the Redeemer. He is the Ultimate Fixer. I’ve been trying to do things how I want to do them because I thought I had the “best possible outcome.” That’s not true when you’re walking with God. He creates the best possible outcome. He determines my destiny.

My level of transparency in this post is intentional. I do myself, this blog, and my walk with God a great injustice if I don’t paint the entire picture. Life ain’t all rainbows, sunshine, and good feels. Sometimes it’s walking through the valley and keeping a brave face. Currently, I find myself actively battling my indifference towards every situation in my life.

So, where am I now? I’m sitting in my car reciting a question prompted by my manager this morning: “What made you successful in the beginning before a slump happened?” Truthfully, I have no freaking idea. I’m on a road to finding this vocation that everyone seems to think I have, and I’ll tell you what, I think I’m not where I’m supposed to be, and that truth makes me uncomfortable enough to move in the right direction.

Some People Just Care…

…is number 26 on my January Jewels list. I’ve written this blog post at least six times, and it doesn’t matter what words I use or what order I put them in, I still can’t bring myself to understand the notion of someone caring without an incentive. That’s a wee bit sad. I’m so used to everything else, but the moment there’s a good-hearted person, I’m out here withholding information and testing the boundaries of any given situation. Backwards, right?

I wrote some people just care and thought about people in general and a surface kind of caring. Now I’m thinking about one person in particular—A, who I mentioned in A Friend Loves at All Times.

This isn’t a surface type of caring like someone saying, “Get home safely!” or “Text me when you’re home!” It’s more than that. It’s a type of caring that gives you locks and asks for frequent updates when your home has been compromised. It is a type of caring that calls for three reasons. The first one to ask you to describe your Bible study. The second reason to say that she figured that was the answer, so she bought you a devotional book. And the last reason is to read you a Psalm. It’s a type of caring that when met with the distress in my voice immediately responded with, “We’re going to lunch. What do you want to eat?” A is the definition of love does.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was reading Bob Goff’s Love Does. That’s the whole book: Love does. Love doesn’t say it’ll do something with no follow-through. Love doesn’t only think about helping or doing. Love doesn’t mock or tease. Love does. That’s A. I’m gonna level with you, I assumed Goff was 1 in a 100 million and this wasn’t ordinary practice, yet here I am a living, breathing recipient of it.

I know I can annoy and maybe even tire A out, yet she still picks up the phone. She still tries to understand me. She still tries to connect with me. She keeps caring, and that’s a radical type of caring that makes me wanna do what she’s doing.

I’ve written all of this about seven different ways just to say that people who choose to love no matter how annoyed or uncertain they are, might be the best kind of people. Because, after everything, they still decided on love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Love in a way that puts all other loves to shame. Maybe that’s what I was trying to say.