“I haven’t worn shorts since the second grade.”

That’s what I said to people when they asked why I wore pants often. It hasn’t been since the second grade. Maybe from the sixth grade until I was a sophomore in college. Either way, that’s still a long time. 

I remember the seed for my protest of pants life so clearly. I was in the second grade. The day was about over, so the teacher let us talk to each other. One girl came up to me while I was talking, stopped me mid-sentence to point at my leg and say, “Your leg is gross.” I looked at my leg then at her and said nothing. I earned my scar. I survived biking down one of the most vicious hills in my neighborhood. Most kids ended up with busted chins and rough knees and elbows. I had only a scar going down one of my shins. 

Being in the second grade, I took her sentence and ran with it. Although I didn’t verbally give much time or effort to what she said, I did mentally. I became heavily conscious about what people said when they spoke about blemishes on my body. 

“You’re gonna mess up your skin because of all that rough housing.”

“Your legs are gonna be covered in scars soon.”

“Your leg looks gross.” 

“Everyday you have something new on you.” 

They never commented on the scars alone but the whole entire body part. As if it was a crime to show you fell down. 

I always played hard as a kid, but by the time I was in the 6th grade, I hesitated. I second guessed every route. In seconds, I was able to analyze all possible outcomes. I started taking the road easily mastered–the road that led to minimum blemishes. I also, despite my inner protests, wore pants and long sleeves every day. Now, it would be an exaggeration to say that the one little girl in my second grade class altered how I saw myself, but when you tack that on to every comment after that, there was little wiggle room to be myself. 

There was always a reason to cover up: the dog scratched me, I gained weight, I didn’t want to get darker in the sun, I lost weight, there could be sweat stains. So much disdain grew out from every body part. I learned to hate myself and the roads I took because I thought everyone else did. 

By college, I was exhausted and hot. Having covered up for years in the Georgia heat was unbearable and unnecessary. I broke out the shorts, tank tops, and skirts. I finally let the breeze in and my personality out. I basked in the Sun. I hiked and rough housed and didn’t think twice about getting hurt. I moved forward without hesitation. 

All of this to say that I understand now how people pick and poke at the end result of something they don’t understand. It may not be pretty and put together to them, so they reject it. My battle wounds show that I not only survived but also thrived in environments that did everything to take me down. 

Sure, superficially this is about body image, but this is definitely about Christ. I still wasn’t all together good with Papa by my sophomore year. We knew each other, and we spoke often, but we lacked a relationship. It wasn’t until last year that I found out truly who He is all about. I can let people pick at part of my picture and say it’s gross, but it’s my responsibility to know who I am. I am more than an conqueror. That isn’t just a saying. That’s me not taking detours for an easier, less scary route. That’s me not getting lost in the reactions people have to my journey. That’s me acknowledging that when I came out of the thickets, I only had a scar while others lost their life. 

I could go through my time here covered up and safe, never pushing myself too hard or too far, but why? The beauty about a scar is that it will fade. The testimony will always be there, but the result won’t be, so if I brush it off, I miss an opportunity to share wisdom. I miss an opportunity to connect with someone about what God has brought me through, and that in itself is the biggest loss. If I refuse to talk about the Creator who got me through, then I’ve lost the whole point of the story. 

“I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭86:12-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Most times, praise comes in the form of proclamation, but sometimes, it comes in a simple whisper that says, “I have overcome because He did.” 

You Make All Things New

I woke up this morning humming Israel Houghton’s version of “Moving Forward.” It took me about 10 minutes to remember the words. I sang to my dog and moved at a glacial pace getting ready for church. I usually have some pep in my step on Sundays. However, I wasn’t too excited to hear the Father’s Day sermon the Apostle had planned. Would it be good? Of course, but I didn’t think it applied to me.  

See, my parents got divorced when I was twelve. I was seemingly the only one angry at that fact. My brother was too young to know what it was like having two parents, and my sister was old enough to not care. I got the short end of the stick. Throughout that whole ordeal there was a lot of manipulation and bad mouthing happening from both sides. No one ever sat us down to explain anything. As much as I hated that fact then, there was still no reason to be bitter thirteen years later. 

Unbeknown to my Dad, I’ve been neutral for years now. He existed as a representation of all the hurt, chaos, and unnecessary detours I’ve endured because of who I thought he was. That’s the image I fed myself until I met Papa. Eventually, the hurt, along with many other betrayals, were pruned away. I knew I was resolved about everything that happened, so there was no reason to reach out. We were just two strangers who happened to be related, moving about in the world with no connection and no relationship. I didn’t see a need to reach out until today. 

In the service, the Apostle talked about honor. Everyone needs it, but he preached about how fathers and husbands need to be honored regardless of all the faults we know about them. I heard what he was saying. It was all so simple really. Honor produces change. When you honor someone, you say, “Regardless of the faults you have or the circumstances we’ve found ourselves in, I still am grateful for you.” For years I grappled with honoring my father and mother. How could I honor my father after what he did? Yet, there the Apostle was making the road to restoration visible through Christ. 

The Apostle didn’t say it, and he didn’t even allude to it, but honor cannot exist without forgiveness. Before today I journeyed through my day ignoring the tug on my heart, yet out loud I’d say, “Oh yeah, I forgave my Dad.” That’s been a lie. Forgiveness is a lot like repentance. You can’t just say you’re sorry. You have to turn away from your behavior, so you don’t make the same mistake twice. Forgiveness isn’t just saying you forgive someone. It’s about extending love even if that love cannot be returned. It’s about admitting what happened and that it can’t be reversed, but you’re willing to let it go. With either one you can’t simply make a declaration, you have to also take a Jesus step in your behavior. I took that step today. 

After church I texted my Dad two sentences: “Happy Father’s Day. I know you did the best you could. – Aisha” I’m a long winded person, so I thought I’d have more to say. I didn’t. I meant those two sentences wholeheartedly because that’s what I’d been feeling for months. I took a nap after I sent it. I refused to let my mind wander about all the responses I could receive. I woke up to gratitude and a phone call. He told me that out of all the Father’s Days he’s had, today was the best. I invited him over to my house, my brother came over too, and we all talked. It was familiar. We hadn’t been in the same room for six years. 

I don’t have to agree with everything that my Dad does or says, but I do have to honor him and respect him. Did he do some things I don’t agree with? Absolutely. But, did they make me a better person? Yes. I took what I needed from our conversation. I put some things on the shelf for a later date. The things I didn’t understand I made a mental note to ask Papa about. I left the rest. 

I longed for a relationship with my Dad, but I ignored it. That branch had died never to be replaced. That relationship was one I had learned to live without. It’s hard, though, having something one day and the next living in a completely different world. I couldn’t be like my brother. I knew what it was like, and I missed it. I missed him. I always made sure to only tell Papa sometimes. I didn’t want to give that desire fully to Him because I thought that would be it. It would die with Him. It didn’t. He is the Resurrection and the Life. 

I believe someday I can look forward to, Ephesians 6: 1-3: “1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” So that it may go well with me… 

I have no clue what’s going to happen from here on out, but I think it’s already going pretty well. 

Truly, in Him, all things are made new. 

Lessons from My Rubber Band Ball

At work I use my breaks to bounce my rubber band ball around outside. It’s almost as big as a tennis ball, so it’s light entertainment. The rhythmic beating of the ball hitting the pavement is soothing. The echoes are a nice trade from the keyboard clicks. 

Today, I went outside alone. I bounced around and tried to avoid hitting any cracks, so I wouldn’t have to sprint after a runaway ball. I only played with my right hand because my left hand wasn’t as quick. Naturally, that started some internal debate. 

“Why not bounce it with your left hand?”

“It’s not quick enough. I’ll lose my ball.” 

“How will it be as good as the right if you don’t train it?”

“I could lose my ball.”

“Bounce low. Pay attention.”

“These aren’t my rubber bands.”

“Trust yourself.” 

I gave it a try, and I tossed my ball at an angle. For that half a second, I thought about myself searching through the patch of trees for lost office supplies. I watched the ball bounce and land right in my left hand. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited. I expected the ball to richochet off my shoe, never to be seen again. I walked and bounced. I wasn’t as bad as I thought. 

I strolled around the parking lot avoiding the cracks, catching with both hands, and occasionally chasing after a stray ball. I enjoyed myself more than I care to admit. I even stopped worrying if I would lose something that wasn’t mine in the first place. 

Although my break is over, I wonder if in 15 minutes my hand did get faster or if I believed that it did. 

Belief has the power to completely transform our perspectives if we allow it to. One moment I was okay with bouncing a ball with one hand and catching with one hand. I knew the result–a ball caught every time. No mistakes and no effort. The next moment I was okay with losing something that provided such comfort to me in 15 minute intervals if it meant I could be better all around. 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” James 1:2 NIV.” 

After all, what is faith, if not the belief in the power of the unknown? 

It’s Hard to Dance with a Devil on Your Back

Yesterday morning, I used my 40 minute commute to work to tell God how much I needed Him. I told Him that I missed the time we shared together. I missed how He was my refuge, my hope, my security. In the last month, I bought my first house, moved across the city, dated a man who I was unequally yoked with, and started a business. Needless to say, I’ve been pretty busy. 

Instead of making time to spend with Papa like I usually would when things get heavy, I magnified my problems. I made my stressors so big that the only things I could see were my blessings crumbling to pieces. Recently, things have calmed down, but I still didn’t have Papa like I did before. Something was missing. My drive made me realize that my obedience was missing. The love and passion I had for Him had taken a backseat to the things of this world. Instead of admitting that I didn’t know how to get Him back in the driver’s seat, I tried to bend and twist my way back under His umbrella of Life. It didn’t work, so I asked for help. I asked that He move me, change me, mold me. And He did. 

Yesterday, my friend gifted me a book which is everything that I prayed about. Later that night, I went to church and had the honor of listening to the father of my Apostle preach a sermon he’s held for 50 years. Do you know what that sermon was about? It was about a story of love. How John loved Jesus so much he wrote Him in 21 different ways. His sermon was amazing and ordained by God. I don’t want to be so conceited that I believe the Apostle waited 50 years for me, but I’m just saying I don’t believe in coincidences. 

On the way home, I couldn’t express enough how appreciative I was, how much I loved Papa, and how awesome He really is. I promised Him then that I’m not sleeping on the couch anymore (when I’m avoiding my prayer closet, I sleep in the living room on the couch). I was the only one missing out…until I asked for help. 

All the situations I put off, like bills, appointments, and studying, I collected. I asked for help one more time, and suddenly, things got easier. My problems fell by the wayside, and for the first time in almost 30 days, I could breathe. I wanted to get up and run, but it was too late and the way Georgia is set up with these coyotes, it wasn’t working out. I did the next best thing, I turned all the lights off and played Florence + the Machine’s “Shake It Out.” 

For 30 days I lived in front of God instead of behind Him. For 30 days I was lost and lonely. For 30 days, I didn’t dance. Last night I did. I danced hard, and when I got to my job this morning, I was still dancing. 

Some problems can only be solved by dancing it out. Dance hard. Dance in public. Dance freely with your arms out and your head back. Dance because you know that whatever is gripping your spirit will not last forever. 

As Florence would say, “Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa 

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa

And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back

So shake him off, oh whoa”

As my friend would say, “Dance like David.” (2 Samuel 6:14: “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might” NIV.)

Why a blog? Why me? Why now?

My entire life has been centered around wanting a family that I was good enough for (or one that was good enough for me). I used to spend hours upon hours battling with the things that were said to me. 

“It’s good, but it’s not great.”

“I didn’t think you were going to make it for a while.”

“I didn’t believe in you then.”  

Those things sting, and they sting a bit more when they come from the ones who should be looking out for you. I’ve grown up a lot since those words have been uttered over me. I’ve grown in God. I’ve grown up and out and always towards the Son, even when I didn’t know it (or accepted it). 

The tag line to my blog is, “It only takes two to make a family.” I’ve spent my entire life (luckily, only 25 years or so) chasing after people to get them to be apart of my life–to get them to stay. I’ve recently come to the understanding that no matter how hard I try, there’s only one person who can love me like I deserve to be loved, and that’s by my God. 

I spent so much time looking out and wondering why I couldn’t have what other people had, that I didn’t notice who I needed was The One I was pleading with. He saw every fight. He was there for every tear. He showed up to every event. He gave me strength for every battle. He was there for every new hobby and every single victory. He blessed me with favor in the most unfortunate circumstances. He was my family before I knew He was my family. 

Over the course of several months, I’ve grown to love Him in a way that is so much bigger and wider and deeper than I could have ever imagined. I love Papa with everything I am and then some. That’s why I’m writing a blog. My faith, although it began blossoming with what I saw as a setback, was something that was sustaining me for years without my knowledge. Hindsight is always 20/20. Always. Looking back, I see the moments where Papa was present. I see the moments where He guided me away from danger. I see the moments where He stood up for me, but more importantly, I see the moments where He let me fall. I see where He let me choose to get back up, to try one more time. 

There’s a million and one reasons to not do something, but all you need is one to go for it. Elohim is my one. 

My Faith Began with Failure

I remember lying on my floor writing my admissions essay for Truman State University that would ultimately alter the trajectory of my life.

I waited until the last two hours of the deadline date to start. The admissions essay was due at midnight, and there I was, hustling to make myself sound worthy of an acceptance letter. For sure, I knew, that this school was where I was supposed to be. It was a dream campus with a dream alumni list—Jenna Fischer and my cousin. I could be close to my grandma and cousins again. I could be home. My grandpa was gone, there was no changing that, but I could visit where he was resting. In one hour and fifty minutes, I wrote all my fears and shortcomings into my essay. I was transparent and terrified, but with only two hours, I didn’t give myself room to feel or be much else. I submitted my essay at exactly 11:59 PM. I woke my mom up because I was crying and excited, and I wanted her to listen to my essay. She didn’t that night, but she did tell me that she was happy I submitted something.

Two days later, I received a call from the admissions officer.

“The admissions board loved your essay! They loved it! When do you think we’ll receive your high school transcripts?”

I told her to wait while I checked my email. “You should have them today.”

“Great! We’re looking forward to you coming to Truman!” The admissions counselors were passionate about my attendance, and their passion gave me reassurance that I would get in with no problems. I took their enthusiasm as my acceptance.

I called my mom. I rolled off a list of things I needed for my dorm. I debated what kind of room I wanted, “I’ll take the five roommates, but I’d prefer only three.” I was able to go home again, and although the school was technically hours out from St. Louis, it was still in the same state. My mom congratulated me and hung up.

Around 4 o’clock, I received another call from the admissions officer.

“Aisha?”

“Yes!” I noticed her voice was less chipper, but I ignored it.

“Unfortunately, we are declining to accept you for this upcoming semester. They really loved your essay. It’s just,” she paused for what seemed like hours, “they’re a little concerned about how your last semester of high school. I’m sure if you went to a community college and applied again… Aisha?”

I swallowed and put on a smile, “Yes, I’m here. I definitely will go to community college and apply again. Thank you so much.”

“Good, good. That’s really the best plan. Go there for a year or two and get back with us. We’d love to have you. Thank you for applying. Again, I’m sorry.”

“No, thank you. Have a good day.”

“You too.”

I was lying on my bed—supine. My tears filled my ears. I couldn’t even bring myself to panic. Truman was the only school I applied to because I was sure my writing could carry me anywhere. It didn’t. It failed me.

For weeks, I stayed in my room in the dark watching Grey’s Anatomy and neglecting my life. I wanted everything to stand still because my only plan failed. My mom briefly reminded me of what I said in my essay and told me to apply elsewhere.

“Not every place has the same deadline.” As much as I hated to admit it, she was right. I found a community college in Albany. I applied. I was accepted, and the rest is history. Many more nuanced and intentional things happened, but what fun do I get if I lay out everything?

It took me about three weeks to pack all my stuff and get prepared for my new residence. I met my roommate on Facebook. I looked up helpful hints for first year college students. I was excited. Was the school Truman? Nope, but in a lot of ways, it was something better. Darton State College was the first place I met Papa. It was the first place I stopped holding on to what separated us. It was the first place I decided on who I would be. It was the first place I experienced a love that only exists in purple flowers on the side of the road. For ten exaggerated months, it was my home.

I posted my essay below. This is where I started, and since then, I’ve slowed down, but I’ve never stopped. Sometimes, I’ll get distracted and move backwards or sideways, but I eventually end up moving forward, and truly, that’s made all the difference.

 

Keep Moving Forward

 

Aisha Harris

 

Journey: passage or progress from one stage to another. I have heard of people taking steps beyond their comfort zones, and reaching these amazing goals that they have set, never imagining that they would someday reach them. As a child, we see, in movies and in books, how the protagonist must take this rightful step, feeling fearful and with hesitation, to begin a journey that will inevitably move them in the right direction. We also learn that it is never the actual destination that matters, but the path we must travel on to get to the destination; that is where the true magic lies. I write this to you as someone who has not stepped out of her comfort zone, yet. Someone so frozen in fear, that I am nearly incapable of following through with something that will do wonders to my world. Applying to Truman is the beginning of my journey. For the first time in my life, I am not just saying I am going to do something, but I am actually doing it. I am applying to college. This is something very simple, that millions of Americans do every year, but for the last six months, I have been frozen in a time frame—watching everyone move on with their lives, and me, solid, stuck in my sedentary spot. I believe I have clenched to the ground long enough.

Throughout this last week, I have been coming up with reasons on why I would not be accepted, why something that matches my personality to a T, will go wrong. Every time, I tried talking myself out of applying, I thought of the opportunities that will be presented to me, if I allow myself to take a leap onto the first stepping stone. I have lived my life so much on other people’s terms, trying to obey, to the severest measures at times, and it has done absolutely nothing for my self-worth. Now, when it counts the most, I have become the living definition of trepidation.

This, my life, is not something I like to take lightly. I have been trying to plan out my journey attempting to predict the obstacles that I could come across. Well, here I am, blindsided, because an obstacle I didn’t expect came along—my mom. She refuses to see me plan out everything, and instead of letting me move at my own speed of comfort, she has pushed me outward, hoping that my feet will firmly land on the ground. My mom is not an obstacle, but rather a moving barrier behind me, pushing me forward. She is always pushing me forward. I do not expect for her to always hold my hand at the beginning, but the comfort of having her there is more than enough to get me moving to the life I owe myself.

No longer will I allow myself to move at my leisure, to get anywhere in this world. I would have missed out on my life by the time I had it planned out. I have come to realize that with journeys, comes living, not just being, but having an essence for the admiration of life. I have to take things as they come, good or bad, in order to grasp a full appreciation of my life. I cannot plan my whole life out, so why try. The best way to get anywhere is to have faith that you will get there, where ever your ending is. Whichever way my admission status goes, acceptance or rejection, this is still the beginning. I have still moved forward, and I know this will take me somewhere that even I could not have planned for. To conquer: to overcome by force.