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.

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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.

October Nuggets 

1. Salvation is for everyone. 

2. Everyone deserves a second and third and fourth and fifth and sixth and twenty-ninth chance. Everyone deserves forgiveness. No one gets to be self-righteous. 

3. Loving thy neighbor doesn’t mean a superficial love. It means if the behavior you are performing was done to you, would you like it? If the answer is no, then love differently. 

4. What you believe, you achieve. You must work to have faith of the Centurion, so when Jesus says, “You’re good,,” you know that. 

5. Once you realize who your Savior is, you’re already free from those shackles around your ankles.  

6. God has orchestrated your life perfectly. He has given you what you needed before you knew you needed it. 

7. Don’t be afraid to be honest with Him because you feel ashamed. He knows it’s there, and He wants to take it from you. 

8. You must always give. 

9. Be a fool for Jesus. 

10. Recognize all His promises—from Genesis to Revelation—and act accordingly. 

11. Don’t be afraid of your life-defining moments. 

12. Sometimes the loudest one telling you you can’t is yourself. 

13. Find one good thing about every single person you meet and tell that person that compliment. They are God’s special possession too. 

14. Love with a love that puts all other loves to shame. 

15. Those who reject the truth in public but embrace it in private need to be corrected not shamed. 

16. Dance like David. Sacrifice like Abraham. Remain faithful like Ruth. Reform like Hezekiah. Evangelize like Paul. 

17. Just do what He says. He will not force you to do it, but every single thing bends to His will, so eventually you will do what He originally asked of you. His Word never comes back void. 

18. Have a moment in your day when you welcome the Counselor (The Holy Spirit) back into your day. 

19. Know that when you are in Him, you will run and not grow weary. 

20. Seek understanding as much as you seek wisdom. 

21. Intercede on everyone’s behalf. The woman at Waffle House, your mailman, your neighbor, your distant relatives, that man you met in the park once, that woman whose car broke down at Kroger. Everyone needs prayer all the time under all circumstances. 

22. The same measure that you judge you will be judged. Do not look at someone and call them an eye sore. Do not look at someone and call them a snake. Do not look at someone and call them something other than redeemed, cherished, priceless, one of God’s special, anointed children. 

23. You always need both parents. 

24. Pray and write down your goals. Let God do the rest. 

25. Do not entertain arguments with other Christians about how you express your relationship with God. Whether those differences happen in tithing or worship, disregard it. There should not be any division in the Body of Christ. 

26. Sit and talk with your Father and your father. 

27. Don’t ever allow someone to tack on their earthly ideas to your spiritual existence. You do not govern your life by things of this world but by God and His Word. 

28. In every circumstance of your life, you are taken care of, so do not worry about anything. He makes a way out of no way. 

29. Don’t wait to give someone flowers at their funeral. Love them now. 

30. All greatest journeys begin with forgiveness. 

31. Try again. Love again. Dream again. 

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.