Breathe. Sometimes I get terribly overwhelmed by the offset intricacies of life that I hold my breath. I hold and ruminate and create infinite passageways down roads I will never see. I journey through fears that are only real to me. But, when I find myself being consumed by unforgiving, never-ending darkness, I remind myself that although I can’t see the Light, it is there. So I breathe anyway as an act of defiance against all my anxieties. I breathe.
New converts are funny to watch. I mean converts in anything–the faith, yoga, home ownership. They throw themselves into their new passion with a great pride and zeal that others always congratulate them on. But, who cheers us on when the zeal fades?
Recently, I’ve gotten back into yoga, and I guess you could call me a new convert. I’ve thrown myself into the practice rather responsibly. I don’t overdo it. I’m resting when I need to. However, I still find myself day dreaming about my play time (yoga time). I find myself going over different flows in my head, counting down the moments until I can try it out on the mat. Once I get to the mat, it’s such a relief. Sometimes, the flow I imagined is successful by my body. Other times, it is not (looking at you crow pose). The practice in itself requires honesty and commitment. I must be honest about where I am and where I began. I must be committed to continuing, even on days where I sense no progress.
I find that most things in life are like yoga, particularly school. Lately, for the past month or so, I’ve felt that zeal for school fading. It seemed to have disappeared overnight. Almost regularly, I’m asking, “Why did I begin?” That question goes unanswered still. I’ve gotten to the point where because I don’t see my M. Div. taking me anywhere, I have stopped. I have stopped all things except for attendance. It is a miracle I am still passing. But, if yoga and Jesus have taught me anything, it’s that we continue into the unknown. That march into the unknown isn’t always brave. I might forget what the goal is. I might find myself to be more lonely than I expected. But, I know what will result is a more honest Aisha, a more committed Aisha. Most days, that’s all I can ask for.
I don’t know where or if this post finds you, dear reader, but I hope wherever you are, whatever you’re doing that you continue. Hold on just a little while longer. Stay committed. Soon, you’ll remember why you began. In the words of a very wise fish, “Just keep swimming!”
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.
I’ve been looking for this book I read way back in the third grade. I could only remember that the main character was Indian, and she went into a tent and married a man and took a bath. I couldn’t remember the details except that I knew I loved the story. For months, I googled variations of the phrase “children’s book about an ugly girl going into a tent.” I looked on lists for children’s bestseller books, yet still got nothing. I couldn’t find anything that would jog my memory, so I let it go. No amount of googling was helping me and if anything I was only becoming more frustrated with the entire thing.
Today, I was in a fourth grade class, and as I was walking around checking out the books my kids were reading, I noticed the book I agonized over on a student’s desk. I lost my cool. I freaked out in front of twenty-something fourth graders over a book I read in the third grade. They asked me if I was going to read it right then, and I told them I was waiting.
I tried, for MONTHS, to find that book and had no success. It didn’t matter what I searched or how many websites I visited or links I clicked. I couldn’t find it on my own. What’s funny is this book was probably on a bestseller book list, but honestly, I didn’t know what I was looking for, so I could’ve been passing it up all that time.
I hear so many times from different people to let certain things go. I can’t control every outcome nor anticipate every variable, yet still I hold on. Why? Because I’m a control freak, but things are really that simple. Right now, I’m in a not-so-good situation, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure in my adult life, and I’m clenching it tight to my chest. Why? Because if I forget about it then I might actually start enjoying my life again. I hold on to too many things, and I finally understand that I can’t if I want to live a joyous life. What is the point of holding on when you’re not getting the result you desire? That whole, “Let go and let God,” adage comes to mind.
That book finding me was the reminder I needed: Most times, life finds you exactly where you end, so I’m letting go of my problems in hopes that when the time is right, I’ll gain solutions I have yet to discover.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Matthew 16:24-25 NLT
(For anyone wondering, the book is called The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin.)
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.
I learned some little nuggets during my sabbatical. I hope you gain something from them.
1. When my pain is all I see, I lose sight of where God is in that pain.
2. I was created to be loved.
3. God chooses to listen. He loves to see my relationships through my eyes.
4. To see Jesus is to see man and God as one.
5. I am in the center of God’s love and purpose.
6. God can do unspeakable good out of unspeakable tragedies, but that doesn’t mean He orchestrates the tragedies.
7. Look around, Aisha. You need to enjoy the journey.
8. Even the “evil doers” are God’s children, and He’d like to redeem them too. The moment you condemn them to hell, is the moment you become the judge. You do not determine someone else’s worthiness in Christ.
9. Every act of kindness matters.
10. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through. You don’t ever have to do it alone.
11. You can’t wait for things to level out. You have to take each day as it comes. Every single day you unproductively wait for what you know what is to come is a day that you miss out on being productive. FIGHT. Sometimes that means cleaning your bathroom, doing your hair, going for a 2 mile run. Sometimes, oftentimes, it means giving a little bit more than you have to be okay.
12. Live by design not by default. Don’t ever get so egotistical in believing that you have control of your trajectory. If you judge things as “beneath you”, then you’re living by default, but if you walk into a place you can’t stand and do your work to the glory of the Lord every single day, then you are living by Design. It’s not about where you are physically. It’s where you are spiritually. Stand with Christ. Run with Him.
13. Withholding your presence cause you’re uncomfortable or something is new negatively impacts the environment. It’s selfish to not be out in the world fellowshipping.
14. How can you make your life more about someone else?
15. Life can be mending or messy. Take your pick.
16. God knows you better than you know yourself, and because He knows what you’re called to do, He’s giving you things that will strengthen your faith, courage, endurance/stamina, and spirit. But, they’re still for other people!
17. Life is happening for me.
18. You’re not going out into the world as a teacher. You’re going out as a student. That’s what a disciple is. You’re going out saying, “Hey I learned this, what’d you learn?” And you’re comparing notes. You’re not the expert. You’re not going out as the Lord.
19. Jesus tells you to go out and be a servant. That’s how you win people to Jesus. Not by manipulation or anything you could say or do. It’s by being a humble servant.
20. They lied. No relationship is 50-50. Some might feel like that, but if closely examined, you’ll see it’s 49-51 or vice versa. Sometimes relationships are 80-20, but you gotta be okay with that. Cause if you go into every relationship, friendship, or being an associate and say, “I get to do x, y, and z” then that changes your perspective and you don’t care what you get out of the relationship because you’re walking in it with the heart of Him who came before you.
21. Every struggle is a humbling experience. Don’t let your pride get in the way of making you believe you’ve got everything on your own.
22. Asking for help and actually positively receiving that help will be two different things.
23. Who were you before the fall?
24. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
1. You’re already okay. An okay, put together you exists right now if you believe it and claim it for yourself.
2. When you realign with God, you receive a confirmation of your placement.
3. Humor children. Answer their questions. Don’t think they can’t handle the truth.
4. Always check your heart.
5. Always pray for your students.
6. Don’t be afraid to step into what you’ve been called to do. Welcome the new opportunities.
7. Just because you don’t see what someone else sees in you doesn’t mean you won’t ever see it. It means you’re not ready for it yet.
8. Continue to compliment Papa on His Creation.
9. Wait on The Lord.
10. When you stop reading The Word, sin becomes easier to justify.
11. It’s so difficult to hear, but even in the terrible, life-altering, traumatic experiences, God was still there.
12. People come to you saying different things like “this might seem selfish…” or “this might be rude…” or “this might be mean/racist/etc.” reply with, “If you don’t want to be selfish/rude/mean/etc. then don’t be.” It really is that simple.
13. You can’t just say you need help. You have to be willing to receive it.
14. Not judging is one thing. Not compromising your beliefs is another. Know the difference.
15. You are a sweet, gentle spirit.
16. Move past theory into practice.
17. Impacting 1 child out of 30 is and will always be a victory.
18. When you wanna quit someone because you don’t understand them, don’t. Move towards them. Watch how your perspective shifts.
19. There is beauty in growth.
20. You remember The Wiz? “Home is not just a place you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind. Knowing your heart. Knowing your courage. And when we know ourselves, we’re home anywhere.” Know, without doubt, exactly who you are. You are God’s special possession before you are anything else.
21. Ask others about their dreams. Listen. Match their excitement. This is something precious to them.
22. There are no bad students. There’s bad behavior.
23. When God rains, He pours.
24. Self-care ain’t all bubble baths and Netflix. Sometimes it’s paying your mortgage before your car note.
25. “Be a thermostat, not a temperature.”
26. Listen. You don’t have tinted windows. People see you dancing. So, if you can dance in your car, then you can dance at church. There’s only a mental block because you put it there.
27. Shyness sometimes comes from never wanting to be embarrassed, which is a manifestation of pride. Cut that out.
28. Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” God’s gonna do what He says He’s gonna do because He said He was gonna do it. That’s just who He is, so don’t you worry ’bout a thing. God’s got it.