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. 

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?
 

“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.