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.

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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.