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.

March to April Mending Affirmations

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

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.

February Fruits

Enjoy!

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.

Give Your Dreams to the Wind

Say your dreams out loud. Let the wind carry them off to the right ears.

Say your dreams out loud. Watch God as He takes the smallest of seeds and grows it exponentially. Delight in every part of the process.

Say your dreams out loud. Give specifics and be excited about them! Do not hoard them or save them up for a rainy day.

Say your dreams out loud. Appreciate those who help you attain them. Love those who doubt you.

Say your dreams out loud. Give them away freely to people on the train, in the park, or at your job. Know your softly spoken dreams are protected against all threats.

Say your dreams out loud. They are your dreams, and they are worth having. They are worth pursuing. They are worth every hurdle and every frustration. Your dreams are where you will find life’s simplest treasures, so say your dreams out loud.

January Jewels

This month is coming to a close, but me oh my, have I learned quite a bit about where I’ve been. Slowly yet surely, I can see where I’m going, and it’s oddly bright and filled with singing. Here’s what I learned:

1. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal.

2. You are never alone.

3. Aaron Burr was wrong. Talk more. Laugh loud.

4. Be less about “I” and “me” and more about “us” and “we”.

5. Get over it.

6. Change. You’re too young to be so rigid.

7. Fun is a thing you have. It cannot be calculated or analyzed.

8. Get to know who you are first.

9. Who cares what they think!

10. Do not respond to every reaction.

11. Give yourself room to be angry.

12. Change requires a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

13. Good friendships are hard to come by. Apply 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12 to a new one.

14. Dude, just sing. You sing all day every day. The song ain’t end cause you’re in public.

15. Never again will you dull your shine, intelligence, affection, honesty, or loudness because someone else is uncomfortable.

16. Every day is a gift.

17. Love is revolutionary, and it comes in all forms–laughs, shared experiences, songs, dances, smiles, correction, and acceptance.

18. You don’t have to be good at something to love it.

19. Put. Your. Shoes. On. And. Go. RUN!

20. Joy is something that remains. Choose happiness.

21. Give people room to be who they are.

22. Fight for your students and their education.

23. Take a new perspective that doesn’t begin with I or me.

24. You have not cause you ask not.

25. If you say no now, you won’t have to apologize later.

26. Some people just care. They just meet you and love you, and I know it weirds you out, but please let them love you.

27. You teach people how to respond to you.

28. It’s okay to laugh guilt-free again, Esh.

29. You’re a hugger, and everyone knows it.

30. You can’t be right all the time. Take the criticism cause it’s coming from a loving place.

31. Grow up, bebe.

A Friend Loves at All Times

My friend, A, who is very near and dear to my heart, recently unveiled some things about me that I hadn’t realized I did. What I thought was me simply arranging words out of my mouth was actually victimization or putting myself below other people. Now, as much as I adore A’s straightforwardness, it stung. It stings a bit every single time she points something out. When she gently says something, I react with a defensive response. Being on the defense is what I know, so I fall back on it often.

Yesterday I met with her, and she said, “I’m gonna stop telling you things cause I don’t think you can handle it.”

And in an instant I said, “I’m doing my best!”

“There you go being on the defense again.”

By that time, I was a little less than irked. I went home, took a nap, and when I woke up I was screaming about war veterans.

“It’s like when someone has been in a war and they get home and realize that some of the things they’re doing aren’t normal, but it takes some time to adjust. I’ve been fighting a battle for 20 years! I need some time to adjust!” I felt justified, yet I was still wrong.

It finally clicked after I spent 90 minutes tutoring a 3rd grader who refused to speak to me because I told him he needed to focus more and study or we’d have to discuss if I would return. He listened to what I said. He silenced all his hyperactivity to reach the expectation I had of him. He thought about every problem we went over, and he responded exceptionally well for someone who was not speaking. That’s when I got it. A just wants me to do better, to be better, to grow up.

I’d been walking through this life for a long time believing that my trauma was on my face, but my trauma does not determine how someone responds to me. My trauma does not justify impartiality, victimization, or defensiveness. It explains it, sure, but it is not a resting point for projecting my life off of.

My 3 year old nephew’s Bible memorization phrase a couple of weeks ago was Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times.” A Friend sure does, but sometimes, that love comes in the form of a gentle rebuke that begins with, “I love you, but you’re incorrect.”

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. 

“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