A Year After Hurricane Harvey

Rebuilding your life after a hurricane tears it apart takes time. It only takes a drive through my old neighborhood to remind me of that. I woke up early this morning to drive the 35 minutes from Katy to Houston to see my former home. Last night last year was the last night I would have spent there, and I didn’t even know. It’s a tragedy that one doesn’t know that memories are being erased. As I sat outside my home, I stayed long enough that I only cried, but didn’t weep.

This past year has been the greatest unwanted challenge of my life. I have been vulnerable in the best and worst ways, and I know it is still not over. The same feeling, I had towards my birthday last year is the same as I have now. Why celebrate? I don’t have the lightheartedness needed to supplement the festivities. I survived, losing my roommates, home, and things. I survived, living in a homeless shelter. I survived failure that near ruined everything. I survived, living in 3rd Ward and moving to Katy. I survived another challenging year of seminary.

I survived and I’m grateful, but when do I get to go back to living? When does life start once again? All of the pains and perils of prehurricane are still present. I still want to root myself in Houston, but I don’t know when or where. I still want to have someone to companion with, but who and when? I still want to know why I’m in Texas. It will always feel easier to start anew that to remain where you’re planted, but remain I must. When will life feel like it is settled again?

One thing that I am confident in, is that God is faithful to me even when I am profoundly unfaithful. God could have and should have left me this year. It would not be unwarranted. He didn’t though. He used people, His people, to love me in ways, I didn’t know I needed to be loved. I have been loved at my worst this year. I have been loved when filthy and writhing in my detestability. I have been loved in rebuke and counsel. I have been loved in discipline. I have been loved with people’s time and money. I have been loved by a child who brings praise and his mom and dad. I have been loved by a girl filled with beginnings. I have been loved by an Equa-Nore couple who God has just used in simple and profound ways. I have been loved by my pastor and his wife. I have been loved in settings where I get to place my feelings on a canvas. I have been loved by my family in Atlanta and my family in Katy. I have been loved by classmates and roommates. I have been loved by former coworkers. I have been loved by a woman with a shy dog. I have been loved through the Spirit, from the Father, by Jesus. I have been loved by God.

Hurricanes destroy things, but they help us know who will be there to rebuild when life falls apart.

Dear God, 

Thank you for uprooting everything. I mean this sincerely and sarcastically. I know there are some things I would have never uprooted if You hadn’t plowed through, but I’m grateful you did. I am exhausted. I’m always exhausted. I’m grateful for another year. I’m hoping and praying for a good one next year, but if sorrow comes once more, I pray I would be more faithful to you than before. 

God thank you for loving me when I was unlovable. I don’t deserve it and never will. Thank you for knowing the depth of my failure and still allowing me to know You and be associated with you. 

Amen

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Divine Discontentment

I have been in New York for three days. It is a small city with a lot of people and a hotbed for culture and dog poop. New Yorkers say the “f***” as much as they breathe with no discrimination for whether there are children around or not. They are not as mean as people think, but place insurmountable value in wit and sarcasm. While a bit pretentious, I have learned the more comfortable you are with yourself the more comfortable you will be in New York.

The most important lesson I have learned in New York is that, I am not meant to stay in Houston forever. I know I tell people, I will leave Houston eventually, but these past three days have nailed in that truth, in the same way moving to Houston did for me in 2012.

The following is an excerpt from my personal journal (Yes, I write things that no one else gets to see). Most times, when I write in my journal it is to God. So, remember that when you are reading.

Living in Houston, I have settled there. It has been almost 4 years. However, I am not called to “settle down” there. I am not supposed to be in the United States forever. Remembering that resettles my  heart and creates a contentment in my singleness that was not present before. Singleness is not freedom per se. (As if marriage was bondage) Singleness is increased opportunity for ministry…

…Father, give me a divine discontentment with this season. I do not want a bitter heart. I do want a longing for whatever You deem as the next step.

Atlanta is not home.

Houston is not home.

New York is not home.

Heaven is home. Point me in the direction of an earthly dwelling place.

Home

The term “home” has been extremely salient for me this year. In January, my home was with Claire and a flower, a bird, a repetition, and a baby. By April, home had lost its meaning for me. There were many houses I stayed in, but moments in which I struggled to find my place in them. I questioned whether, I was an obstruction or a blessing. I loved all the places I stayed, and experienced feeling homey, but never got the absolute feeling of home.

I recall a conversation with my mother in June. She urged me to come home and get a break from my instability. I remember my words clearly, “Mom, if I come home; I will never go back.” Home is where you feel at peace and where you don’t struggle to find belonging.

As I sit in Hartsfield-Jackson Airport waiting to board my flight, I leave home to return home. I make things unnecessarily difficult sometimes. I didn’t want to claim Atlanta as my home since, I hadn’t been here in over a year. However, being in the presence of my family reminded me that I do have a home here. My family is not perfect, but neither am I. My mom and sister and brother and even my dad are my family. And, with them I am home.

I need to stop writing about my family though before, I start bawling in an airport.

I return home to Houston today as well. Not, to a couch or mattress or daybed, but to a room in a house that I live in. Yes, everyone I have a place to live, and it is scary. It is frightening, but here I am home. There I am home.

Here in this Place

If you read through a couple of my blog posts (like the previous one) or have a heart-to-heart conversation with me, you will know I have had my lot of daddy issues. From hating the man to ignoring his existence to being here in this place with him, I have struggled greatly with the way that I relate to him, but all of that has taken an interesting turn recently.

September 17th, my and my dad had a conversation, where I let it all out. Many times, I have unsuccessfully attempted to do so. All ending in failure and frustration, but at the end of the conversation I said something to him that gripped both him and I. He often makes references to being the spiritual head of our family and how I should respect that. He talks about how he is without honor in his own home. Knowing God, intimately and personally, I take offense to both statements. One, because I honor him. My lifestyle brings honor to him. I am an African-American women, who has graduated from college with honors and without loans. I moved to Texas to work with people I have never met in my life and did extremely well. I was accepted into one of the top seminaries in the nation. My whole life revolves around how I can please the Lord. The one time I was drunk (and before some of y’all get ya panties in a bunch I realize bad choice), I kept screaming, “I’m so sorry, Jesus! Jesus is so ashamed of me.” So, the no honor thing just pissed me off. More than that I hated it, because that scripture (Mark 6:4) was used in a way to belittle me. And they did. I felt so little, but worse than feeling little I felt insignificant. I felt like everything God created me to be was pointless. And folks, that is a hellish place to be. But back to the conversation. I ended it with this phrase,

“If you want to have a relationship with me, you need to pursue me! Because that is exactly what God did for us. He didn’t ask me to meet him halfway or to pursue him. Because, HE is my Father and HE wanted a relationship with HIS child.”

After letting the tension settle, my dad agreed. He FREAKING agreed with me. I went into my room that night and bawled. I turned on a song called When I am Afraid by Laura Hackett and just cried. I don’t know why I was crying. The conversation ended as good as it could, but it was just one of those where I was overwhelmingly (and frighteningly) emotional. I haven’t thought much about it until today. Because, I realized something: I am worth pursuing.

I jokingly boast with friends that I am awesome, but oft-times I think of myself in relation to my deficits. I look at my left hand holding on to all the things that I assume make me lesser than some fictional other person. The biggest of them all being my body. Not simply just weight, but health issues that are out of my control. I would focus on them and just imagine, “How in the world am I going to present this to anyone? I’m so ashamed. Why would anyone even waste their time?” But in this time off I have had the time to concentrate on the abundance in my right hand. Oh my GOD (literally to God), the perspective. I don’t want to list them off, but the ways the LORD has blessed me far outweigh the pitfalls of being me. And it didn’t see that. I never noticed that and for that reason I am worth pursuing. Let me tell you why this is important.

I am the WORST at liking guys. I pick out guys based on my deficits. I say I don’t have a type, but I do. My (previous) type are nice guys with terrible decision-making skills. Typically, he is a well liked guy in a group of people, but he makes really really stupid decisions. More than that, I have always pursued these “nice-ish guys”. But I am not a tyrannosaurus looking for a partner so I don’t miss Noah’s Ark. I am a woman and I am awesome. I ain’t no Halle Berry, but let me tell you something Halle Berry ain’t no Tosin Akande. GOD has brought me to a place in our relationship where I am understanding myself a whole lot better, because I am understanding HIM a whole lot better. I am worth being pursued. I am worth being pursued because if God pursued me, then a man (the right man) can too.

I can’t believe that took 23 years to figure out.

So, if you are wondering about me and my dad. He is actually pursuing a relationship with me, but pray for me y’all. My heart very easily falls back into the bull it did before. I have forgiven my father. Forgiveness is a purposeful decision, but reconciliation is a whole new battlefield. Can I ask the readers of this blog to leave a prayer for me in the comment section or a message on Facebook that my heart would just soften towards my dad and I would just give him a chance. The way God is constantly giving me chances knowing I am a screwball.

Lord Jesus, here I am in this place. It is such a funny process walking with You. I always ask You to take me deeper than I could ever wander and You do. By the way, I meant physical location wise. However, this is much better than I had in mind. I never seem to know my destinations, but I get there and then everything just makes sense. I don’t ever think I said this before, but thank You for pursuing me. Thank You for thinking me worth the journey from perfection and holiness to sin and folly. Thank You for always loving me even when I never noticed and even when I didn’t love You back. You are so good to me. Thank You for this amazing journey. The past six years walking with You have been epic. Thank you for this month of reflection and recharge. Whether You send me to Mozambique or Sevilla or to Iran or Venezuela or to remain in Houston or return to Atlanta, thank You. My trust is in You alone, and as long as You are in my heart then I am home. I love you and Amen

Insomnia Posts are the Most Crazy of Them All

Some people like to work because they want to feel productive. Other people enjoy work because they like being busy. Me, I like working because it makes me exhausted. On my second day of not working I am already bored because I am not exhausted. For some people sleep is a natural and lovely process. For me it is a war with my brain to shut itself down and go to sleep.

So, what do I do in my insomnia. Think. I think way too much and never over anything productive of course. Because who in the WORLD is productive at one o’clock in the morning (except the several thousand procrastinating college students across the world). Current thoughts are about England. I may or may not be going to Europe next week and I am kind of stoked. I have a heart bent on adventure and exploration. So, this is naturally right up my ally. I’ve never traveled to another country by myself so, I am kind of scared. But who cares. What is a little fear? I laugh in the face of danger. Not really, I do more of an awkward chuckle at danger. Even if I am scared, what an opportunity. There is a world so much bigger than a town in Georgia and a big city in Texas. There is life completely beaming elsewhere. Doesn’t it fascinate anyone that across the world there are people living their lives? I may meet those people next week? I may walk into a pub for shepherd’s pie or fish and chips and walk out with a story or a friend.

I just think it is quite beautiful how God allows for lives to intersect. He could allow us all to be like ants traveling to and from the hill. Gathering food and functioning, but we are more like pollen. We can be blown so far away from our origin and grow. Ugh, I am not condemning it, but I don’t know how people never want to leave their hometowns. Easy is not interesting to me. Easy is boring.

Think about it. There are women who are my age, who are starting families. FAMILIES. Guys, I am 23. In society and especially Christian society, I think there is this prevailing notion that God wants the same routine for all His children. This routine goes as follows:

  1. Born
  2. Kindergarten
  3. Elementary School
  4. Middle School
  5. High School
  6. College/Workforce
  7. Graduate/Stabilize Job
  8. Marriage
  9. Kids (longest part I’m assuming)
  10. Retire
  11. Die

Again, I am not against this, but this is not for me. Actually, I don’t think it is for a lot of people. I think a lot of people buy into it and end up unhappy because they are not where they want to be. If it makes everyone feel better. I’m not where I want to be either. However, I would rather wander a bit and figure out what I am supposed to do than simply do something because it is what is easier or expected of me. For as much as I say, no guy would ever be able to handle being married to me, I could in fact be married right at this moment. I could be married tomorrow or a year from now or ten years from now or never. Why does everything always seem to come back to this boyfriend issue? I could have a boyfriend right now if I want, but having a “special someone” would not satiate the desire I have for something else. What that something else is? I dunno? Maybe adventure or purpose or achievement or some fourth item to put on the list.

All in all, I think I am open to letting life happen. I am open to meeting new people and experiencing new things. I am especially open to England and meeting Tom Hiddleston.

(start of Tom Hiddleston rant) Ya’ll, don’t even understand. I NEVER EVER EVER have celebrity crushes. Tom Hiddleston is my only exception. Literally my love for him began as a joke. I would just scream out Loki randomly when I was around my coworkers. Then the more I listened to his beautiful British voice and watched him be a velociraptor on YouTube it spawned a genuine appreciation for his life on this earth….also I think he is my soulmate…..(end rant immediately and run away awkwardly)

Lord, just let my life happen. I am not overly concerned about being single or having a boyfriend. I don’t care about being “on track” in my life. If I could ask for one thing Lord, please Jesus, just let me have an adventure. Take me anywhere and everywhere. Place me in the most interesting and awkward situations. Let all I do come back for Your glory. While, I have fears, You comfort me. You are always been there. You will always be.

Selah

Before I moved to Houston and matured into using WordPress. I was on Tumblr. The time I had my Tumblr, I was extremely transparent. (If you want to see simply click here and scroll to August 2012 and earlier) I wrote liberally and probably produced some of my greatest personal blogs in that time. My WordPress has become so impersonal. I feel so distant from it at times. I feel like I am writing for a job. Well, now that I am finished with my job, I want to spend the month writing and getting more personal again. My posts will not be as long, but they will be much more me-ish. With that I begin actually writing Selah.

Constantly working with kids in foster care bred restlessness in me. Before my year, I could spend all day in my room and have a grand time. I could do absolutely nothing and be in complete bliss. I am spending the next month at home in Atlanta. I cannot enter my house without finding DIY projects I could be doing, something I could be cleaning, or just some sort of activity to make me move around. My mom is telling me that I need to transition into rest, but there is so much that I want to do in the house.

All, I can think about though is the word Selah. A Hebrew word found in several psalms and in the book of the Habakkuk, it is often translated into a liturgical music mark meaning stop and listen. It is meant to stress the importance of the preceding passage or underline the importance of the next paragraph.

That is the only way I can describe what this next month is going to be for me. This is my Selah.

Lord, give me the rest and peace I need. Rest to calm down and peace to simply hear You. Help me to stop so I can listen. Help me to reflect on the past and prepare for the future. Amen

A Year After Graduation

May 6, 2012 I graduated from college. I wasn’t to thrilled about it. I didn’t want to attend the graduation ceremony, because I didn’t care. I borrowed my sisters cap and gown from two years before because, I didn’t care. Honestly, I hate impersonal ceremonies. Some would say I did a lot with my college career, but all of it is just fluff. I only attended because my family asked me to. I would have been content staying home or just going about my normal Sunday routine. I hate the pomp and circumstance of it all. I know for some people it is momentous because they are the first in their family to graduate from college, or it took them a long time to complete college. However, I just didn’t think much of college. I have a degree in Psychology (which means nothing, just ask all the psychology majors who didn’t get into PhD or PsyD or Counseling programs). Honestly, I don’t think it mattered because nothing in college really shaped me. Honestly, I feel like all of it (jobs, classes, people, friends) were experiences that are rapidly fading into the nether regions of my brain. Gosh, that was harsh.

We do the same thing in college that we do in high school. We climb social ladders that lead to nowhere. I did it as well. In college I associated myself with the Incept office as if I had nothing else to offer the world. I mean that is what I did for three years in college and the truth is none of that matters. I bought into this lie that if people know me that it is something special. It’s not. The more people who know you; the more people who don’t actually know you. I graduated and Incept and where I worked on campus and anything related to Georgia State (including my degree) did not mean squat. In the next few days people will get the harsh realization that everything that invested in means nothing outside the context of college. You know maybe if I had a more carefree personality I would feel differently, but I hate believing people do things without purpose. Look, I don’t regret going to college and look forward to attending seminary, but I don’t look back a year ago and wish I had mustered up more excitement for the graduation.Truth be told, the last “academic year” of my life has taught me more applicable skills that any on campus job or student organization.

I am a relational person. I love people. I will always love people. I am the person who goes into a job and wants to have deep friendships with my coworkers. I don’t like shallow. I like real problems and real people. Jobs will come and go, but people are a constant in the world. So would you rather use all your energy and resources in roles or in relationships?

I have had a new sort of education since last September. If there was a title to the courses, I would call it Relational Management 4000, because it is not easy. I spent 6 months of my time in Houston as a foster parent working for a nonprofit managing the relationship I have between myself and my kids and myself and my coworkers. Not easy, but in time it leveled. I loved learning with them. Everyone was so open to the experience that in time our constant was splendid. However, the second semester rolled around April 10th, and the classes got harder. Managing the relationship between me and my kids is pretty fantastic, but myself and coworkers is harder because I am readjusting to new people with different personalities, and I have two new classes: being in charge and managing relationships between myself and administration. I wouldn’t change it for the world though. God used the time in my old house to pull out some roots of pride in my life. I am forever grateful for my old house. In this new home, I am learning a lot as well. God is not withholding anything to teach me patience. Obviously, I am calling on Him more frequently.

A lot of my class time is working everyday with my kids. Since I have been here I have had 15 children in my care. Fifteen. College is not a reflection of who you are. You are not members of an organization or on executive boards or in a fraternity honestly there comes a day where none of that matters. My fifteen kids have been a mirror reflecting back who I am. With my kids it is not about the role I play, but about engaging with them as Tosin. I value this past academic year in Houston more than my four in college. I don’t regret the people I met or the work I did, but it was so embedded in the mantra of networking that you have to question the motivation of people’s interactions with you. With my fifteen it is not about networking or who I can use as a reference or any other self-seeking relationship. It is about them and about how I live out my life for them. It is about loving them for who they are. It is about loving them for surviving. It is about humility and grace. It is about abounding in love when you are so burnt out. It is about long days filled to the brim with tantrums and longer nights with newborns. It is about living not for yourself. College was all about me. This has nothing to do with me. I am merely a piece in this puzzle. I genuinely love what I do. I love my kids. It is not simply volunteering; I am parenting and this time has shaped me.

It is harder than psychological research methods. It is not clear and clean-cut. It is messy, and still I get to see beauty in my children. You have not lived and you have learned NOTHING until you live a life that is not about you.

God, I pray for all the people I know graduating. God just make your plans clear for them. Some people are disappointed about not getting into the program they want or not getting the job they want. God, I know first hand Your plans are better than my plans. I know nothing about life, but what You have mad e clear to me. Direct them as well. As, some people are made freshly aware that they are at the bottom all over again use this time of humility to teach them.

God thank you for my time at Georgia State. I am not ungrateful for that time. It served a purpose and brought me closer to You. However, I do not cling to it. It is not the best days. There are many more days to come. You have taught me more that I could learn in the past 8 months, and I look forward to all that I have left to learn. Make me quick to hear and slow to speak. Thank you for everything.

Amen.