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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A Little Light

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.)

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.

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.

For the Six Other Days

I want

an expression of faith

not

religious practice.

I want

a wisdom that surpasses all earthly knowledge

not

intellectualism.

I want

a relationship that only ebbs and flows

with the movements of Christ

not

a religion with rules that only ebbs and flows

with legalism and rituals.

I want

inexplicable supernatural experiences

not

a superficial love movement built on good feelings.

Give me

Passion worth dying for

Dedication worth pursuing

Love worth responding to

Peace that is everlasting.

Leave

Pride disguised as shyness

Anxiety disguised as jittery hands

Loneliness disguised as silence

Resentment disguised as criticism.

Instead,

Greet me with

A humble beginning

A virtuous love

A kindness of heart.

Show me

God.

It only took a drop…

and now I’m running over on all sides of my cup. Today, Papa isn’t just Papa. He is my family. He is my best friend. He is my husband. He is my everything. He is my God. My King. My LORD. He is every desire I have ever had fulfilled times 1000. He is the Love of all Loves. He is the heart of my world. Today, I got a quick flash of everything He is, and it left me speechless, mesmerized, giddy, and overwhelmed. My God.

My GOD.

Psalm 33

“Sing joyfully to the LORD, you

righteous;

it is fitting for the upright to

praise him.

Praise the LORD with the harp;

make music to him on the

ten-stringed lyre.

Sing to him a new song;

play skillfully, and shout for joy.

For the word of the LORD is right

and true;

he is faithful in all he does.

The LORD loves righteousness and

justice;

the earth is full of his unfailing

love.

By the word of the LORD were the

heavens made,

their starry host by the breath of

his mouth.

He gathers the waters of the sea

into jars;

he puts the deep into

storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the LORD;

let all the people of the world

revere him.

For he spoke, and it came to be;

he commanded, and it stood

firm.

The LORD foils the plans of the

nations;

he thwarts the purposes of the

peoples.

But the plans of the LORD stand

firm forever,

the purposes of his heart through

all generations.

Blessed is the nation whose God is

the LORD,

the people he chose for his

inheritance.

From heaven the LORD looks down

and sees all mankind;

from his dwelling place he watches

all who live on earth—

he who forms the hearts of all,

who considers everything they

do.

No king is saved by the size of his

army;

no warrior escapes by his great

strength.

A horse is a vain hope for

deliverance;

despite all its great strength it

cannot save.

But the eyes of the LORD are on

those who fear him,

on those whose hope is in his

unfailing love,

to deliver them from death

and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts rejoice,

for we trust in his holy name.

May your unfailing love be with

us, O LORD,

even as we put our hope in you.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭33:1-22‬ ‭NIV‬‬