blog-tember

Solo Vacations

It only took a day for me to find out, I don’t vacation well.

I make hasty decisions. When I think back to adult decisions I have made, I have never spent more than 5 minutes before I have said yes. I know I should be a better Christian and “pray about it”, but God gives me wisdom and a gut feeling. My move to Texas, my car, and currently this vacation were rall decisions I made in less than 30 minutes. Most times, it pans out. I have now been in Texas for 5 years. I love my car. Sometimes though it doesn’t. Chicago is a struggle.

I came to Chicago for a Christian conference. Yesterday, I made it through the first general session and workshop. I walked to find something to eat. I settled in at Gino’s East for my first deep dish experience. Before my first bite of doughy, cheesy, meaty goodness, exhaustion hit me. And months of feelings and fears began to surface. Fortunately, a friend called me. I cried. I tried not to, but my tears escaped me…little bandits.

This is not my first time vacationing alone. I have been to London, Spain, Colorado, Portland, and Seattle alone. I revel in those memories. Walking the streets of London in the middle of the night. Driving haphazardly to Seattle. Prayer walking with a faithful dog named Lazarus in Divide, Colorado. This is the first time, I have been lonely while vacationing. No one should eat deep dish pizza alone. I want to experience life with a person. After lunch, I resigned to my room. In the building across from mine, people were living and moving and dancing and jumping. I lay on my bed. I didn’t go back until the next general session. I did the same today.

The only difference between yesterday and today is this. Today, I acknowledge I have run, filling my life with work and school. God will find me in my quiet resignation. I am uncomfortable being here. I am scared being here. I don’t like my withdrawal, but I can’t muster the will to engage. Luckily, God has always found people in the most random places.

Find me in the cave

Find me at the well

Find me in the river

Find me in the jail

3 Voices

There are voices I hear. I have heard them since I was twelve years old. It was always at night. He told me wretched things. I laid trembling, with covers raised over my head. Lest, I peek for a second and open myself to a full attack. Quickly, I would turn on the light in the hallway, with hope that the radiance of the light would serve as defense against this violent assail. I placed a Bible under my pillow. So, when sleep finally came the voice wouldn’t terrorize me in my dreams.

Disturbing isn’t it? If there was room for mental health in Nigerian culture, I would have been diagnosed. Night and sleep became fearful. I laid wide awake hiding in view of my aggressor. Knowing, insomnia was my sole defense. This voice was not my own, but another’s. The owner of that voice was evil. His malfeasance was deep, for there was no good in him. His demented affliction was malicious and vile. His voice preyed on my adolescent insecurity and romanced it. Quickly the two became one, sharing features: my voice with his words.

His voice softened, but his message endured. I stopped being scared and listened. My voice made the message sound like mine. The words sounded too familiar to be questioned as lies. They were true. They had to be true, because it was me saying these evil things to myself. I followed that voice and its messages all through out middle school and adolescence. The message? “You are not ___________.” Fill in the blank: beautiful, smart, friendly, skinny, funny, good, desirable, clean, lovely, wanted, needed. Like an addict, the voice knew that with each and every message, it needed to steadily increase my dosage for the same high of misery. “You are unworthy. You are unloved. You are bad, there is nothing good in you.” The messages increased to fearful levels. “Why are you even here? No one wants you. No one loves you. No one will ever love you.” As I type, my soul quivers at the familiarity of this feeling. I remember my response to these thoughts. I was dark. There was no joy in me. The voice was not separate from me. It was me. My identity was in the darkness I felt, and it clearly displayed itself in my actions.

For five years I was guided by this voice in all of its rage-filled melancholy. It was not until college, I began to address this voice. Simultaneously, I was introduced to another voice. His Voice was nothing like mine. It was authoritative and gentle. It was the voice an outdoors man who tries to free a frantic animal from its trap. His Voice was (and is) comforting, safe, and dominating. As this Voice spoke to me often the demented monster of my voice would scream louder, attempting to drown out His. There is something about His Voice. Even in the cacophony of  chaotic clamor, His Voice is beautiful. It is the C major to my D minor. The more I heard His, the less I heard mine. I fell in love with His Voice. I followed His Voice.

Soon divorce papers were filed, and I got my voice back. As, I looked at the abusive refrain I sang to myself, the true nature of the voice in the night returned with a new message. “Do you really think your voice can sing with His? Do you really think your voice can even sing His song?” Like an badgered woman returning to her abuser, I listened. For this voice knew there were two ways he could control me. I could sing with him, or I could not sing at all. I was silent. I was scared if I sang His Voice, the voice in the night would heckle me.

But His Voice comforted me. Oft in my weakness, during the night, I’d feel His Hand on my cheek. His Hand would graze toward my chin and lift my face to His. He is breathtaking in may ways, but as I marveled at Him, I could not elude the sureness of His Voice. This sureness was rooted in the truth of His Words. I could trust His Words; I could trust His Voice.

I sang with His Voice. However, the voice in the night still comments. “Do you think you are really pleasing to God?” In the moments when my voice sounds discordant. He says, “Has God really forgiven you?” Sometimes, I stop singing trying to respond back to the voice in the night. However, His Voice has taught me that His Song is my response to the voice in the night’s accusations. So, in all my feeble predilection, I continue singing His Song, and the wretched voice in the night cowers back into the corner and dissolves into the night. As my head rests tranquilly in His Hand, and He sings His Song over me.

Do You Trust Me?

Much of human relationships hinges on trust. We disclose tiny bits of information to test the waters and see if we can trust other people. Sometimes, we are thrown head first into situations that require that we quickly trust in someone else’s abilities. It is scary, because we don’t know if it will pan out in our best interest or screw us over deeply.

Last year was so spiritually noisy, silence with Him was unbearable. He is faithful. As another storm begins to roll in, my faith in strengthened as I turn to Him.

I hear Him meekly ask me, “Do you trust me?” 

“Yes, but…”

“No. Do you trust me?”

In this moment, the realities of God’s incommunicable attributes are displayed. I can trust Him. I keep treating God like people as if, I have to test His trustworthiness. He is faithful. He has kept all promises, He has made. He is worthy to be trusted.

We welcomed sunny days with the occasional cloud

With sprinkles of rain, not making much sound

The Captain and helpmate have set sail. 

Post monsoon, we have prevailed. 

In the hurricane, as the Captain steered

My courage fled me, introducing fear.

The Captain has saved me from wretched woes

Ounce for ounce, He took my blows.

I have reason to trust Him as the storm looms ahead

For He is not just my Captain, but Compass and Friend

So, as we traverse mountains, air, and sea. 

I will answer, “Yes”. When he asks, “Do you trust me?”

Faith

I wrote this post over two years ago. It has sat in my draft box simply out of fear or someone making a joke of my faith. I love the Lord, but still often cower at the idea of being more open about it. Especially because, I am scared that if I let it be known I am a Christian (and a devout one at that), that I am immediately associated with the college campus rebel rousers who were hateful toward homosexuals, and I just don’t want that. So, read along. And leave your thoughts in the comment section.

To be in your twenties and be a devout Christian is a paradox in our society. In our intellectual society, the need for religion in the sense of salvation is meaningless. We don’t see ourselves as lost people. We are people who brim on the edge of self discovery. What exactly is this self that we are unlocking? What exactly lies behind the door of ourselves that we don’t know? I have glimpsed before. There is little value. Anything of worth is cheapened by the vast amount of destruction and disaster that surrounded it. So, yes I turned to Christ, but not after looking at myself and determining this: “If within me lies the burden and weight of me, mustn’t I be stronger than myself to save myself.”  I long to be stronger than myself. I long to solely overcome my vices. However, I am not. The weight on my chest is much heavier than I can lift.

Perhaps, you consider Christ a cop out. He is a simple man’s fairy tale. I use my faith as a crutch, to ease my conscience, of the shame it feels for not being able to correct myself, without the aid of a being far more superior and infinite than my silly intellect. Pride would not allow me this honor. My pride is such an arrogant beast that the notion she needs someone to tame her sends her bucking wildly in her sinfulness. In less allegory, who wants to admit that they cannot fix themselves? No one. No one does. It is embarrassing to know that while I gossip constantly, I even with my best attempts alone, I cannot control it. It is hard to admit that, in my mind a war wages for my sanity, my trust, and my livelihood. My flesh, this carnal composition stuffed to the brim of self, does not want to admit that it needs help saving my soul. Maybe you do not believe in a soul. Are you not still prideful?

In my work, there are instances where my knowledge is limited on a task. I will not complete my work unless I request help. Yet, I still meander meaninglessly because I would rather disappoint my coworkers with my shortcoming (that hurts us all) than humble myself and admit I need help because I simply don’t know how to do this (only hurting my pride, who in fact needs to be continuously murdered; my pride does not deserve a kind death). Again, one could say he is a simple man’s fairy tale. However, I spent years watching Disney movies. I have seen princess’s saved by princes hundreds of time. While, it is not factual, it is believable. Consider the story of Cinderella. A young woman, whose father and mother have passed, lives with her stepmother and two homely stepsisters. She is forced to do all the housework and care for all aspects of the home. One day while crying in the garden about not attending the Royal Ball, a woman appears transforms her and sends her off to the ball. She meets the prince, they dance, she is on a time crunch so she runs back to the house. Prince is so infatuated with her that he sets out to find her using the only thing she left, a shoe. {Aside: Seriously prince charming you spent all night dancing with her and you can’t remember her face? This is not a dark club. It’s a brightly lit ball. Also, her shoe? Like no one else has the same size foot….SLOP} He finds her, love, happiness, blah blah blah. This story is so believable it has several modern remakes including, Cinderella Story and the lesser Another Cinderella Story.

While fictional tales, those still are insurmountably more believable than Jesus. Jesus, eternal and part of the Trinity (which is another interesting and difficult Christian concept). Jesus, the coming Messiah prophesied from the days of old. Throughout the Old Testament several prophets foretold of what the coming Messiah would do. From the way He would look (Isaiah 53:2) to what He would do for us it was all spoken about. Prophesy after prophesy was fulfilled from His miracles to His death to His Resurrection. All of it, completed. If it were simply a story it would be the most glorious tale of all. If measured by the means of man, it would stand at the pinnacle of mortal altruistic events for all humanity from now until eternity. However, it is not a story. It is not a myth or legend. It is real. It is supported by faith. And recognizing faith is a completely unnecessary skill, except for belief in something that is hard to believe. I know my belief in Christ is unbelievable…for not all have faith, but the Lord is faithful.

Faith is the evidence of belief in Christ (Hebrews 11:1). Our society tosses the word, faith, to freely. It doesn’t take faith to win a football game. It takes skill, practice, and good leadership. It doesn’t take faith to believe that our world is going to be alright. It is not going to be alright. We can keep calm and carry on as much as we want, but this world is going downhill so steadily that we think we are going up. Or maybe if you just believe in yourself you can lose weight. Actually leave your belief in yourself at the door, as well as your fattening foods and pick up a gym membership. See, faith is a substance. Faith is the matter of things hoped for. Faith is the evidence of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Christ. He takes some belief; he takes faith. Even unpopular and unbelievable in His own day and age. Fastforward to 2013, I sound insane. However, it is my immovable faith in Christ that has carried me. The weight of sin and self bound me down. He lifted it. He lifted me.

I look at this post now through the filter of the fight that was 2014. These words ring truer now than before. While, my faith wavered-drastically at times-it never stopped. It was wise for Christ himself to promise us struggle and pain in this life. Struggles when siphoned through Christ produce hope. Not hope, that I will travail, but that Christ already has.

My Body

I identify with my mind, more than my body. My body is never who I imagine it to be. When, I close my eyes, I see myself as this strong and feminine woman. My hair has naturally wavy curls. I’m a size 10. I have lean legs and the ratio between my bust and bottom are similar, with the midsection being smaller than what it is. I open my eyes. My hair is in disarray especially today, when even the strongest of headbands, cannot tame this disastrous mane. I am a size 18. I have horse calves and the ratio between my bottom, bust, and waist are pretty much the same. None of that matters today though.

Today, I ran a mile. Did you hear me? I RAN a mile. Never in my adult life have a run a mile.

God knowing my exhaustion was gracious enough to allow class to be cancelled. Giving me a 3 hour reprieve from the chaos of work and school. I immediately knew, the gym was going to be my venture. I have come to love cardio. I like mindlessly getting on a machine and reading or watching television or zoning out. It is easiest for me to be silent when my body is occupied. While, on the elliptical, I read through 1 Kings into 2 Kings, and paused to reflect and pray. 35 minutes quickly ended. I cleaned my machine and began to leave, when clearly I left the inclination to run a mile.

I believe this was the nudging of the Holy Spirit. I hate running. Yesterday, I said Amen, when someone else said they hated running at church. I hate everything about it. I love dancing and skipping and walking, but running can just die. I mean, I loathe it. So, I knew it wasn’t me telling me to run. However, I was obedient. I walked onto the treadmill and began to run. It was amazing, until I reach .2 miles. I slowed my pace, and then increased again. My chest burned. I slowed then increased. .95 miles remaining. I amped it up to 6 mph hour and just ran. Then, it was over. In 15 minutes, I had run a mile.

Today, I appreciate my delicate body, not so much for what it is, but more so for what it does for me.

Blessed (bless-ed) Self-Awareness

In my Appraisal and Assessment course, my professor asked us on the second day to become more aware of how we measure ourselves. Mostly because we often the measure of ourselves is incorrect and unreliable. So, the only way to rightfully think about myself is from the perspective of the One who created me, not solely from my experiences and my own fallen perspective.

Tuesdays are crazy. I wake up in morning. Arrive at work by 8:30am. Leave for school across town at 12:45pm. Leave to return to work by 4:00pm. Leave work at 9:15pm. Today, I didn’t pack enough food for lunch. I stopped at Kroger to get some curry chicken salad and cantaloupe. I get my items and then realize that I was hungry, NOW. I look at the  hot items and see BBQ chicken strips. I purchase two, and begin to walk to my car. That is when, I began feeling terrible.

I didn’t really need those two chicken strips. I already had cantaloupe and curry chicken salad in my hand. I should have just been patient. I don’t need this. I just finished Whole30. I am going to gain back the weight I just lost. I haven’t even worked out this week. I feel sick.

Deeply, underlying my food issues, is the mentality of and immigrant. I cannot waste food. I ate the chicken strips in the car. After consuming both chicken strips. My thoughts grew.

Why did you eat that? Did you even enjoy it? Feel that in your stomach that is all the processed garbage you just ate. The way you eat is disgusting. Did you even think about it before you started eating? Glutton. Don’t eat the chicken curry. Eat it tomorrow. You have already eaten too much. Don’t eat the cantaloupe until you have a break in the class.

Ya’ll my brain has some catastrophic tendencies. However, in this season, God has gripped at my heart and mind and is making it very clear, He will have nothing short of all my affections. And, if my affections for Christ are to grow, then my obsession with self must decline.

I felt the Lord, tell me to stop. As, I park my car and get water from the fridge, God begins to very reorganize my thoughts.

All you have eaten today are eggs and strawberries. You are hungry. You have not worked out, because you have been focused on work and school. It is only Tuesday. This was not a wise choice. Do not base your worth on two chicken strips. Are you satiated currently?

Yes.

Then don’t eat right now.

What have you accomplished this week?

I have given invitations out to my teens, collected dressed for Friday, put in IT tickets, put in a donations ticket, completed 40 pages worth of reading notes, created announcements, created a teen departure inventory, talked to parents, made bookbags for 4 new teens, served a family that only spoke Spanish get uniforms for their children, was available to talk to my teens when they found out they lost a loved one, restrung Christmas lights, attended several meetings, created Biblical Counseling lesson plans.

It is not that you have been doing nothing.

Think rightly. Think completely.

Often times, God manifests Himself in glorious ways. Today, He spoke and I listened. It was the best choice I made today.

Weighing In

I finished Whole30 yesterday. I capped it off with my favorite dessert: melon trifecta (watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe). Today, I simply attend work meetings and have the rest of the day to myself. When, I wake I will go to the gym, where I will be able to weigh myself….and I don’t know why, but that thought scares me.

Thanksgiving, after months of a poor girls diet, I stepped on the scale and weighed more than I ever had. Two hundred and sixty-five pounds. Instantly, I hated every pound of myself. I didn’t want to look at myself. I couldn’t find anything lovely about me. My face was hideous. My body horrendous. My esteem demolished. Every insult hurled at me about my looks resurfaced. Fat. Ugly. Cow. Behemoth. I clearly saw the faces of all the boys and girls who made me feel so small. I began believing that my weight was the reason no man was interested in me. No one wants to date a fat girl. I remember telling that to myself as a teenager. I told myself that yesterday.

I am scared to step on that scale, because I know that a massive part of me still places such deep value on that number. My beauty is in that number. My value is in that number. My hope is in that number. I don’t even know what that number is. There was no set amount of pound I desired to lose. All I know is that a number dictates so much of how I feel about myself and I hate it. I really do hate it. I hate that a decade past adolescence, I still have similar fears. I hate that I believe no one wants to date me because I’m fat and because I’m fat, I’m unattractive. I know this massive body positive movement going on, but even if I am positive about my body it does not mean I am perceived to be more attractive. Most of all, I despise that I work with teenage girls and still struggle with this. The young women, I serve, are so beautiful. It is easy to see their loveliness, but so hard to see my own…..

This is an area where I needs God’s grace. Because ultimately, I choose to surrender my worth. I choose to operate from a lie…even if feels true because of my empty relationship history.

God, silence all these voices. Silence me. Remind me my worth, that it was ordained before my birth and that is has nothing to do or say. When, I am slim or weigh 310 pound remind me that my worth is not assigned by man, but by God. You make me worthy.

Today, I step on a scale and pray all I see is a number.