Keep Your Head on Straight

This evening, I found myself being stood up yet again by a man who says he wants to marry me, but he doesn’t know the first thing about commitment. I decided to blow off my anger on the way to the gas station. While driving, my bitterness began to creep out in the form of Meghan Trainor’s “No Good for You.” After the third time of it playing and my jaded feelings in the front seat, I turned it down. 

“Papa, I just don’t understand. Was he out to prove a point? I just…” Before I could continue, I saw my house completed and being used for a bigger purpose. I saw myself teaching. I saw myself with my goofy friends. I saw myself doing amazing things with what I’ve been blessed with, and I started to giggle. God continues to bless me with infinite opportunities and honors. The greatest honor of them all is being called His child. 

The thing is, I am His daughter. I dwell in His Presence, and I keep leaving the safety of Him and getting angry when people don’t treat me like the royalty I know I am. There’s a couple of things at work here. 

The first one connects directly to 1 Peter 2:9, “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.” ‭‭There is no need for me to keep going back into the dark, willingly exiting from God’s Presence just because I know I can come back. Why not be apart of this amazing priesthood, and wear it as the honor and privilege that it is? The thing about being in the dark is, it doesn’t offer anything new or beneficial. Why not stick with the light?

The second one is, how people treat me should never determine my attitude. People will do or say mean things. They will do things I believe are unfair or disrespectful. Now, I can choose to react to every last one (which is very exhausting), or I can let it roll off my back and continue being the person He designed me to be. The latter is the most difficult one but the most rewarding.  

I’m not sure what I expected on the drive to QT. Pity, maybe. I was throwing a pity party for one, but my God and my Spirit decided they weren’t having any of that. I’m grateful. Those parties can spin out of control very quickly. 

On the drive home, I listened to Israel Houghton’s “Friend of God.” With every repeat of the verse, my smile and my praise got wider and bigger.  

“Who am I that You are mindful of me?

That You hear me when I call.

Is it true that You are thinking of me?

How You love me it’s amazing”

I am a friend of God. As His friend, He reminds me to keep my head on straight when I forget that I’m already standing in the light. His light doesn’t come with any gimmicks but strength and wisdom. Most times, it comes with courage to move past how I feel and step into what I know: I am His special possession. 

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Good. And you?

I’m sitting on my front porch listening to Beauty and the Beast (the Celine and Peabo version) while reading Love Does by Bob Goff when my neighbor Nancy walks up. I won’t put an age on Nancy, but she has a nice crown of grey and white hair. She wears a gold chain, and when she’s working in her yard, she always has on a grey or white t-shirt with her work pants and tool belt. She always says hello, and she always asks me how I’m doing. Today was no different. 

Today is the first time I’ve talked to Nancy in about two months. Some time ago, she had a heart attack, which took her out of her house for a bit because of obvious circumstances. I hadn’t seen her for a while, and admittedly, I missed her. I had small talk with Jules, the other woman who lives there, but I felt a special bond with Nancy. She was the first one to come over and introduce herself when I moved into my new neighborhood. She was kind through and through with no motive except to get to know who she was living next to. I not only appreciated that gesture but also respected it. 

I look up from my book and see Nancy with her hands on her hips. We exchange hellos. 

“Well, how ya doing?” She looks up to the sky then at me. One thing I notice is she gives me time to think about how I am before I respond. She has never given me the “Good n you?” Response most people give in passing. She listens. 

While she stood there, I thought about my day and decided on it would be accurate to say I was good. “Good. I’m doing good. How are you?” 

Nancy turns away from me, looking at the direction of my back yard and says, “By the grace of God…” We both let her words coat the atmosphere. “By the grace of God. I don’t feel so bad for someone who just had a heart attack!” 

We laugh. “I noticed you were gone for a while, but when I saw you, you were right back in your yard.” 

“I love my yard.” She spoke like a true sculptor of the earth. 

We finished our heart attack chit chat and discussed our now shared backyard due to Hurricane Irma. She elaborated on how she was going to cut a tree out from my back yard, but truly all I could focus on was when she said “chainsaw.” 

“Ohhhh, okay.” She made the whole process sound easy. Woman who just had a heart attack with a chainsaw? Sounds about right. I didn’t question it. I told her to be careful in the back yard and with her chainsaw. 

She left me with a warm smile and a “take care.” I was alone again with Mr. Goff and my music. 

A lot of the time I think we ask people how they are out of habit. We don’t really want the answer, or if we do, we want to hear that they’re okay and that’s it. One of my co-workers told me, “Don’t ever ask how someone is if you don’t really want the answer. I asked a lady once and she broke down on the spot—crying uncontrollably. If you’re not prepared for that type of answer then don’t ask because there’s good and bad responses.” 

When I asked Nancy how she was, I had no idea what she was going to say. Am I glad it wasn’t a break down? Sure, but that would’ve been okay too. My how are you today wasn’t just a how are you. It was a “I’m glad you’re still here. I hope you’re feeling better. Your absence made an impact.” What I got in return was the honor of getting a bit of who Nancy is, and I think that’s pretty cool. 

We’re called to love everyone as Jesus loves us. That requires being genuine all the time, not only when it’s convenient. 

““The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:29-31‬ ‭NIV‬‬

You can’t really love your neighbor as yourself if you aren’t loving God with all your heart. Could you really love God and hate your neighbor who is also His creation? 

“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

Live to Give

Today, I wrote a letter to two people telling them how much I truly appreciate everything they’ve done for me. 

Today, I made plans to volunteer my time to an organization I believe in. 

Today, I’m giving away as much love and kindness and encouragement as I can. 

Don’t let the world sink in and tell you that Monday’s are mundane or the worst. Don’t give yourself more things to overcome. Today is a good a day as any to spread some love. Be a gift that keeps on giving. 

“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭11:25‬ ‭MSG‬‬

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.