Verse of the Day

Don’t ever forget who you belong to. 

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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“I yelled at Grandma.” 

Those were the words I uttered to my Mom as I sat next to her hospital bed. Suddenly she was awake. Her eyes widened, “What did you say?” 

I calmly recited the words I shouted the night before. However, the more I spoke, the angrier I became. My voice rose. I sat up straighter. I dug out everything. If my Grandma was in that room for a Round 2, she would have passed out. 

Like many other mid-twenty somethings out there, I lack tact. I formed the conclusion somewhere that the loudest and the last voice is the most accurate one. I tacked in past faults, unnecessary, trivial comments and gave myself the victor speech when I was done. “It had to be said!” I justified my displaced and hurtful words. 

Intimidating is a word frequently associated with me. I’m not intimidating because I’m tall and hovering. I don’t look menacing. The consensus is that I speak too fast, use too many large words, and already have a solidified opinion on an issue, person, or place by the time I speak. While this isn’t wrong, it is limiting in some areas. When I’m angry, I struggle to express myself clearly free from petulant tactics. I want blood for blood, but if I remember anything from July, I remember life is not tit for tat. 

At around 3 o’clock this morning, I woke up to a text message from my Aunt addressing my tone with my Grandma. I initially sent the “new phone, who this,” text to show I don’t even care who it was. The longer I waited for a response, the angrier I got. I started typing a follow up response. What started off as a half-baked apology progressed to probably a 1000+ word count text message outlining why I was right, what exactly needs to change, and in case someone wanted proof of what I was saying, I had receipts complete with time stamps and exact quotes. 

I eventually cut and pasted the text into my notes in order to expand, but what happened moment by moment was a reduction. I cut out the trivial, the bitter. I opened with a sincere apology. No one wants to yell at their Grandma! I cut away the fluff, the worldly, and what resulted was a plea for change and compassion. I said what I needed to say without being nasty. I took accountability for my shortcomings, stated the issue, stated clearly what the issue should not be reduced to, and offered a solution. I closed respectfully. No opinions. No pettiness. No feelings. Factual statements, which were kind in delivery. 

As I was re-reading my message, I offered up much more when I spoke out of love. I offered an overlooked perspective, closure, and a new beginning founded on truth. When those are done in good faith, you can only hope that things change. Preferably, start out that way. Don’t go yelling at old ladies about their 70 year old community effecting habits, regardless of how wrong they are. Open with the good. 

Unfortunately, I know my family well enough to know that they are a stubborn people who refuse to acknowledge when old ways are no longer good ways. As much as my heart had cleared up by the time I sent my nicer (and shorter) message, I was still met with defensiveness and pettiness. Immediately, I wanted to react. I didn’t. I shouted one, “No!” at my phone, and politely declined to continue the conversation. 

I thought my defensiveness and childish ways were something I learned from the world, but I was wrong. I learned it from my root. 

My God is a God of redemption. That extends from my salvation to my foundation. I wasn’t raised in the church, so my patient God has a lot of digging and uprooting to do. If last years Aisha was in this situation, she would have gone off. She would’ve been combative. Ultimately, the encounter would’ve ruined her day. She would’ve discussed it thoroughly and vocalized to anyone in earshot. Today’s Aisha knows that reacting is only satisfying for half a second. It’s exhausting and most times doesn’t require a response. When I do respond, all I need to do is stand on His Truth. God will do the rest. 

This morning I am terribly grateful that I serve a God who uses all moments as teaching moments for His glory. 

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

You Can’t Build a New Life on Old Foundation

Last week, my coworker, H and I were talking about going back to school. H made it clear that she did school, was good at it, but now it’s done. When I asked what exactly she wanted to do career wise, she said she didn’t know yet. She majored in Psychology. Although she thought about being an English major, she didn’t think she’d get a job. Oddly enough, I majored in English when I wanted to major in Psychology. I chose English because it was what I was passionate about. H mentioned that while she was great at school, she lacked the passion that everyone else had. I related all too well to her sentiments. When compared to other people in my program, I was the least passionate, or so it seemed from my perspective. 

When we talked more, I could see clearly how I was at her age. At twenty-three, I was left broken from college. I left school discouraged and feeling as if there were so many things torn down that I could not rebuild. I left feeling like I didn’t give my best. I see now just how much things can change in two years. It wasn’t until I was well into my post-grad resting period that I realized how wrong I was about how undergrad ended. 

At twenty-three, I was devoid of passion. I felt as if my greatest passions were supposed to sustain me from one point to the next. When they didn’t, I was left with no momentum. Passion, like happiness, burns bright red and orange. It burns deep and sparks quickly, but just as swiftly as it finds me, it will leave. My life shouldn’t rely on passion but dedication. Dedication pushes me over the hump when passion runs out. Dedication makes me lay a stone even when I don’t know what I’m building.

I thought my time after college was a time for rest, but honestly, it was the busiest two years of my life. In two years I learned what it takes to live alone. I learned about how to sustain successful friendships. I learned how to love Jesus first, my family second, and myself third. I learned that when I plan, I fail. I get too detailed, and I begin veering off on a path that isn’t destined for me. I learned that whatever you feed will grow. If you love someone today, love them tomorrow, and just keep on doing that until it’s not hard anymore. I learned that hurting people hurt people. I learned that sometimes I can be the most petulant person in the room if I get offended. I learned how not to get offended. I learned that any relationship worth having is worth the good and the bad. Each lesson, its own solid stone.

Between my patches of stone building, I entertained talk from people who said I couldn’t go back to school after a long break. “People get lazy! It happens.” I listened to people bring up my mistakes of the past. “I just don’t want you going out on a whim. Remember what happened last time?” I listened to nearly all unsolicited advice that began with someone’s best friend’s child who waited to go back to school, and life took the wheel instead. I took it all in with a smile and wrote angrily about it later. I did not realize, that my God, my glorious, glorious God was up to something. He had me building a wall. 

I didn’t leave school broken but ready for a new, everlasting foundation (Jeremiah 31:4). My discouragement came from shame, and it was good that those feelings and past actions were exposed (1 John 1:9). They were not authorized to mix in with my new foundation. I gave what I could when I had it, and at the time that was what I knew. Now that I know better, I do better, which means I give all of myself every single time (James 4:7). He was and is purifying the stones that He’s building in me and around me. He’s giving me the best, most solid foundation in all existence.

Now, I am nowhere near having myself figured out, but I know that with every stone that is being laid, I am becoming more secure in Christ and more secure in who He made me to be. He urges me every single day to keep building. Every day I am one stone closer to where I’m supposed to be. Every day, through my dedication to Him, my passions become a reality. 

Kind Reminders from July

1. Life is not tit for tat. (1 Peter 3:9) 

2. Your Jesus music ain’t all that loud when you can only hear outta one ear. Turn it up. Sing louder. You are praising your God. (1 Samuel 6:14-15 / Psalm 135:1-3)

3. Anything done out of hurt feelings will be instantly regretted. Forgive others, and forgive yourself. (Matthew 6:14 / Colossians 3:13)

4. Let. The. Cars. Over. Always. (Matthew 7:12)

5. A split mind is a divided mind. (2 Corinthians 10:5 / 2 Corinthians 13:11)

6. You don’t have writer’s block. You just didn’t pick up a pen. (Philippians 3:13-14)

7. If you ask for a month where your attitude is adjusted, you better be prepared for it. (Psalm 51: 10-12) 

8. You must yield to authority in every circumstance. (1 Peter 2:13-15)

9. Don’t be afraid to cry in church. We’re all going through sanctification. (Proverbs 28:13 / Lamentations 3:40) 

10. If you never seek, you will never find. As Cassey said, “How can the job call you if you didn’t even apply?” (John 16:23-24)

11. Trust God because of who He is, not what He’s done. (John 14:1)

12. Any gift from Him is a good gift. Do not doubt it. (1 Corinthians 12:4) 

13. The further you get from Christ, the more you miss the gate that protected you. (Deuteronomy 28:6 / John 10:9-10)

14. Do not be quick to cut corners just because no one sees. That two second stop at the stop sign will not kill you. (Proverbs 17:20)

15. Do not choose your way when wisdom is readily available. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

16. People mistake your serious statements for silly ones. For example, “They should empty the mall and build a Jurassic Park.” *begins singing theme song* Let them believe you were joking. (Proverbs 17:22)

17. You love to plan. You love to do lists. You love scheduling, but don’t be such a stick in the mud that you can’t roll with the punches. (Proverbs 16:9)

18. Everyone always looks a little mean or sad until you smile at them. (Proverbs 15:30) 

19. Eventually you must pay what you owe. (Matthew 22:20-21) 

20. Quit keeping track of the past. Let go of the wrongdoings. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

21. “I love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” (John 14:34)

22. Give thanks always. Things are never as bad as they seem. (Philippians 4:4-9)

23. At some point you will have to go back the way you came. (1 Kings 19:9-11) 

24. It’s very easy to speculate what you would’ve done if you were someone in a given situation. Don’t. You have no idea of the circumstances that person is in, and most likely, you will need that person’s assistance when you’re in that situation. (Matthew 7:2)

25. If it is meant for you, it will not pass you. (Romans 8:28-30) 

26. All laments (Psalm 22) end in praise (Psalm 23). 

27. His love sometimes means discipline. (Hebrews 12:4-8)

28. Try and try and try and try some more. (Jeremiah 8:4 / 1 John 5:4-5)

29. You can do it on your own, but you don’t have to. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

30. Be truly excited for someone else’s accomplishment. (Acts 11:15-18 / Romans 12:15)

31. “He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” (Galatians 5:1)

I ripped off all my nails. 

Well, not the nail beds, just the calcium soaked powder that was covering them. They were a lovely mint chocolate chip. I’ve had the color for about three weeks, so I was due for an appointment. The difference between the last two nights and the end of a three week nail change was that I didn’t want to go. I didn’t care what color they were. I missed what was beneath the color. I missed my regular nails. Sure, I could’ve attributed this sudden change of habit up to “it’s hot and who cares,” but there was something else there–I never really cared. 

Office politics is something serious, and the moment you open your mouth is the moment you make an unspoken allegiance with the people around you. Bonds gets even more intense once you divide people up by departments. It’s nearly almost as bad as having football rivalries. I made my allegiance a year into my current job, not because I wanted to, but because these women seemed nice enough. They are older than me, and I felt could make the day go by quicker when you have people to laugh with. That is partially true. What ended up happening, though, is that they would pick and poke at me, enough for me to question why I wore certain things and why I didn’t do certain things with my hair. Why wasn’t my nail polish lasting a week? Silly things. 

Eventually, I succumbed. I assimilated and cared about what they cared about. When asked about the things I genuinely loved to do, I earned weird looks and a pretty cumulative response of, “Black people don’t do the outdoors.” As annoying as it was, I was used to it. However, no matter how normal their response was, I hadn’t prepared for the influence that followed. I stopped talking about my hobbies. I started indulging more into how these women were living. Although it made me feel a short-lived thrill, the pleasure was not sustaining. I blinked and months went by. I kept on doing less of me and more of them. 

There’s a couple reasons why this is wrong. The first being I hated the habits it created. I began to gossip. I looked at people on a superficial level. I talked first and thought later. I hated who I was becoming because I knew I wasn’t that person. The second, and most important one, I was filling up on the wrong thing. I allowed these people, no matter how good-intentioned, to plant seeds on why I needed to be different and why I needed to look like them. This, although arguably incorrect, is how they tried to love me where I was at. They loved me by trying to improve me. 

My interests have never truly aligned with my demographic. Statistically, culturally, and stereotypically I should fall somewhere on the other end of the spectrum, but I don’t. I never let my background keep me from the things that I love to do, like gardening, hiking, being outside. I was always okay with my interests not aligning up with who I was expected to be. However, here I was at 24/25 still hadn’t come into the woman my family, the world, and admittedly myself expected me to be. I gave into the change I thought I needed. I abided in the world. 

However, last night, as I laid acetone soaked cotton balls on my nails, waited twenty minutes, then buffed away the remaining color, I laughed at the obvious: I’m too old to sit with nails I don’t like, wearing clothes that make me uncomfortable, and talking about things that have no value. Pre-nail ripping, maybe 4 or so months ago, I was able to nip some of the bad habits, the gossip, the superficial, but the nails remained. The “Them” I filled up on was running on empty. 

My Pastor says, “Don’t do you. Do God.” I’d like to make an amendment to his statement. “Don’t do you. Definitely don’t do them. Always do God.” As I was so graciously reminded today, common sense ain’t all that common, and what I should’ve known, I didn’t. 

I’m gonna be honest with you, I assumed “doing God” was all about reading my Bible, constantly being in prayer, going to most church events, having miraculous revelations, and not once making any mistakes. Always incorrect. I am always incorrect. Those things are true, yes, but when you abide in Him, He draws out things you have long sense forgot about. He teaches you in ways you would’ve never expected. He graces you with wisdom and knowledge of His ways that are both humbling and exhilarating. 

For example, it is very well known that I am terrified of heights. I get the reward of beautiful views when I make it to the top of a mountain or down in a canyon, but you better believe I’m crying the whole way through and through. With that being said, I have an overwhelming desire to go rock climbing. This is a desire that has sparked enough interest to turn into a hobby. The act of climbing is more welcoming than the fear of heights. I get excited just thinking about the distance I can make vertically. 
 

You see, I longed to be like everyone else to like what they like, look like they look, then maybe I could annihilate this feeling of foreignness in the pit of my core. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Emphasis mine.) I abided in God, which meant I decided to not live in fear. God and fear cannot co-exist and neither can the endless chatter from the world exist with God. 

Sometimes, God is telling me to sit and wait on Him. Sometimes, He’s calling me out on the water. But all the time, He’s reminding me to look to Him. I forget that because He is God, He is God over everything. That means that I don’t have to be fearful of heights. I don’t have to be anxious in social situations. I don’t need to fit in with everyone else. I fit in just fine with Him. So, maybe, God is telling me to get dolled up and spend some alone time with myself. But maybe, He’s telling me to trust what I’ve never known (and never liked), and in that trust, is a rich experience that will deepen our relationship. When I abide less in this world and more in Him, I grow every single time. I forget that a lot too. 

So I’m looking at my nails, my scratched up, low cut nails. I think about how pretty they looked before. It’ll take some time for them to get back to how they were, and I can barely remember what they looked like when they were healthy. But, as with all things, they will come back healthier and stronger than they were before. 

After all, what good is pretty if they aren’t strong?