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Tuesday

Tuesdays begin early. Alarm ringing at 5:30am, telling me I have 30 minutes more of rest before I need to get up. School begins in an hour and a half. You know 7:00am is real early to discuss when the union between soul and body. I love it. By the time, my mind arrives my body is prepared. Theology was meant for the beginning of the day. To ponder and discuss the divine as light breaks the chill autumn morn. It’s a transcendent three hours. Where the mystery somehow gets revealed but all the more becomes more enigmatic.

Transitioning to the tiniest of spiritual formation groups. Lead by a girl who is spiritually disfigured. Hands inverted inward, spine distorted twisting, limping hobbit-like with two women who find me “insightful”. Constantly wondering, finding truth in the quote, God draws straight with crooked lines.” So crooked, I don’t know if I could be considered a line anymore. I’m trying to align myself with the One who sees straight, but it is hard to straighten what is twisted without breaking it. Two white women and one black woman talked about race. It was good. It makes me grateful for grace.

Time between school and work is minimal. Scurrying, my drive is mindless. I just begin composing my mental to-do list, while chatting with a friend. Drafting up conversations I will have with my staff. Dreaming up ways to change the world. Damning myself for my weight. Dropping the responsibility of caring about it this week.

Tip-toeing into the office, hiding from those who want to talk or task me with what is not mine. The youth floor is so self-contained. I don’t even know what goes on beneath me. I’m more aware of matters taking place elsewhere in the facility. Texting my Chick-fil-A order to a friend who loves me beyond what I deserve. Receiving her love and general presence was a gift. Once she left, the afternoon soared. Until it pummelled into having to find a lost student. We found him.

Tears flowed this evening, unexpectedly. Trying to reach a beautiful adolescent mother, who needed encouragement. I was never told my heart would be taffy in the hands of adolescents with strong hands. She trembled in my arms, tears falling out her eyes, torn hearted. I held her as my own. She is my daughter, browned and slight with glimmering eyes.

Tired, I refuse to stay late. I walk to my room and author this to commemorate a Tuesday. Thankful that it happened.

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Thirty-One Days Ago

Thirty-one days ago, I postponed my 27th birthday. My existence was in too fragile of a space to generate emotions, positive or negative. I just needed to know that I could live. Much has happened in the past month. There have been days where anhedonia set in so deeply that even food was not captivating. I know I have lost weight in this season. I moved away from the home I have dwelt in for nearly 3 years. Tucking my minimal belongings in a 5×5 storage unit. Work and home have become synonymous. School resumed for me and my students at work. I cried really hard. I have felt nothing. I have been depressed. Thirty-one days ago, I thought my life was over. Postponing my birthday was my own feeble attempt at creating a timeline where problems are solved in the span of a sitcom.

I drove past the Caversham Estate last night. Someone else had moved in already. I wept. I knew the house would not remain abandoned. I just didn’t know life would resume so quickly. There were plants and a chair on the patio with my old bedroom lights aglow. Selfishly, I wanted to be the only one to move on. I didn’t really want the house to be repaired before I was. Why does restoration of a home only take a month? Why can’t my healing process move more quickly? Why has God chosen an agrarian pace for growth? Is my life pruning or punishment?

Thirty-one days ago, I postponed my 27th birthday. I celebrated with friends yesterday, who have slowed their pace to walk with me in mine. Life doesn’t move at sitcom paces. Life moves at the rate of life. Thirty-one days later, I am realizing that that’s perfectly okay.

God, You’re gracious

God, You’re good

Help me change my attitude

By Your Hands

I am fed

Remind me that You’re Home again

Amen

My Name is Funke

Four hundred and seventy-seven pages into Americanah, I saw it. Shocked by its presence, I sat and stared. Fixated so deeply by the letters, they ambiguated into modern hieroglyphics. I couldn’t decipher them. Familiar but distant. I took a picture and what I saw was my name.

Tosin (toe-seen) is a name of modernity. I didn’t actually discover my first name was Tosin (actually Oluwatosin) until I was in 9th grade. For a significant time of my life, I was called by my first middle name, Funke (foon-keh). As a child, Funke lent itself to humorous, but uninspired name calling: funky monkey, funky chicken, you smell funky. The one time, I fought, it was because someone made fun of my name. His name was Caleb Brown, and I hit his head against a window sill. (I won). Unfortunately, I didn’t have the resolve as a child to own my name.

When I transitioned into middle school, I went by Ola, taken from my second middle name, Dolapo (doe-lah-poe). Ignorantly unaware of the Spanish language, anyone reading this could clearly see how Ola got real old, real quick. Unfortunately, I was highly temperamental in middle school, and “Hola, Ola” lost its humor quickly. I never got into a physical fight in middle school over my name, but I did have mastery of a couple of choice curse words, that aided me in my verbal assaults.

In high school, I landed on Tosin. My most preferred moniker. Half of my life, I have answered to Tosin. I love my name. It fits me well. It has a balance of edge, softness, wisdom, and verve. It has followed me through high school, college, and Texas. I have heard “Tosin” pass beautifully through the lips of friends who have loved me like family. There are not any American songs written about girls named Tosin, but I don’t really need them. Tosin is unique for me. I like that when a friend hears my name, they are not filtering through millions of Tosin’s. There is (typically) a singular Tosin, whose name creates some sort of reaction for them. It is me.

So, why was I so startled by Funke?

Two reasons. First, it was awesome to see my name in the pages of a book. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was not thinking of me when she wrote Americanah, yet I felt represented. I joined along with a 1,000’s of other Funke’s who never thought they would see their name in a novel. Dumbstruck and awestruck. I was mesmerized by the idea that me a Nigerian-American second generation immigrant, whose name was caricatured, would see my name as a complex character even for one paragraph.

Second, it brought back memories of childhood. Dormant beautiful memories of Funke, who was spunky and sweet, tomboyish and rugged. Funke, whose mind was a wonderland of colors and stories and weirdness and spontaneity. I don’t revel in my childhood. Reflections of that time period are embittered by abuses and terror. It was nice to get a morsel of it back.

Hi. My name is Funke.

Next to my many names are the proper phonetics for accurate pronunciation. 

Do Teenage White Females Understand Their Privilege?

Last Saturday, I went to Tout Suite to indulge in their infamous brunch and do some leisure reading. As I approached, four young white women stopped to take selfies, bare-shouldered and Birkenstocked. I stood patiently waiting for them to either finish or notice they were blocking me. Eventually, they politely let me pass. I walked into Tout Suite and was struck by the privilege I afforded them. One they didn’t even know they had. They had a luxury most minority girls don’t. In their aloofness and adolescent frivolity, they had been privileged with innocence. This innocence, that made them not a blockade, but just teens being teens. This innocence, that if something happened to them, they would automatically be victims. This innocence, that frees them to be nonspeculative of the world around them. It was a careless and free innocence.

I hadn’t ever noticed it before. I wasn’t angry or upset with these girls. As I settled into my book, I watched them. Lingering in front of the case of desserts, unaware of the line behind them. No one tempting to urge them or hurry them. They took selfies in front of everything. Older couples looked upon them and smiled. One spilled their drink, and several people stopped to help this damsel.

I don’t want to spend much more time discussing these 4 white adolescent females. I cannot speak on their assumed innocence. Rather, I was heartbroken for my own. I work with a predominantly African-American community. I spend a substantial amount of time with black girls. We talk. We laugh. We cry. We do each other’s hair. When I look at them they are innocent girls, but I know the world does not see them this way. Black girls don’t get the luxury of innocence. My girls get hyper-sexualized earlier. I don’t know if it is hitting puberty earlier or the commodifying language we use with black skin. All, I know you never hear anyone saying about little white girls, “Your skin is like a yummy dollop of mashed potatoes”, but there lives a level of impurity and “chocolate sinfulness” in a black girls’ skin.

Those 4 girls, were allowed to be free, and the world accommodated that.

Perhaps, history or society or a blend of the two has placed a filter on the innocence of the black girlhood. Recently, a study was released discussing the Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood. It is a good read. It is pretty spot on. I agree not only based on my experiences but the experiences of my girls.

I don’t know where is post is meant to go. I have thought about this for a week. It makes me scared for black girls. Worse, if there is little innocence to be given to black girls. I cannot imagine the consequences for black women.

Actually, I can…

God help us.

Life

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ embodies the conquering of death by the Source of Life. I believe this as truth. I believe that death has been conquered for me. So, that when my physical bodies withers, I am brought to real eternal life with God.

So, what do I do here? Suspended in a real (yet quasi) life experience that is riddled with death and all his friends. Where in the middle of loneliness there is a real sorrow. Where in the middle of sickness there is a real pain. Where in the middle of hatred there is a real violence. I don’t know. I don’t know. I take the cues of Christ and move towards the mess. Where there is sorrow, I mourn like Jesus with Mary. Where there is pain, I acknowledge someone is reaching out for a touch like Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood. Where there is violence, I bend down to the ground writing mysteries in the sand like Jesus on the Mount of Olives.

Last year around this time, I was very invested in modern liturgical practices. I came across meditative tracks, by a group called the Liturgists. There is a track on their Garden album titled Sunday. In this track, Rob Bell discusses the Resurrection how ultimately the moments of joy and life and laughter in this life point to the immense beauty and worship that will occur in eternal life. And that the sorrows and pain and violence are temporary.

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt the Resurrection and the Life. Hula hooping and eating chili with popsicle wine and bubbles reminds me of life. It was worshipful and beautiful. It was children running around throwing pillows. It was laughter and naps. The Resurrection allows me to take a simple meal on a simple weekend and call it holy. It allows me to reclaim something that feels secular and find how God can make it sacred.

Resurrection is Life, not only eternal life. Resurrection is the embracing life in the way Christ embraced life now and eternally.

Happy Holy Life Friends.

Lenten Prayer #8: Body Shaming

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) at the age of 17. I never dealt with it. I have spoken about it with friends before, but for a long time, I just wished it away. I lived my life. I don’t overeat, but ate normally. As if my body would somehow just magically begin processing food normally. It doesn’t. I have been frustrated with my weight gain in mid-adulthood. I weighed myself on Friday at work. Three numbers on the screen. I quickly stepped down and recalibrated the scale. No one should see those numbers.

Shame infected me like food poisoning. I wanted to throw up. I was disgusted and nauseated. So much work has been done in the body positive movement, but I can’t feel positive about my body. I don’t. My shirt felt clingier than ever. Sticking to every pound of unprocessed meals from times before. I sat behind my desk most of the day. I began thinking of all the stupid things, I ate that week. I ate my lunch and wanted to vomit it back up. I loathed myself.

These feelings are not gone. However, I recognize this. Having PCOS is not my fault. I cannot control that. Not treating it for 10 years is my fault. I could have controlled that. I start Whole30 tomorrow for the 3rd or 4th time. Tomorrow though will be different. Tomorrow’s Whole30 begins with a complete transition into a Whole30 lifestyle. It is what my body needs. I don’t know if I care about the weight as much as I do about the shame associated with it. I don’t want to feel that shame anymore.

On my bedroom mirror, I wrote these words, “You have PCOS. Through diet, exercise, and the grace of God, you can be healed. Choose today to make wise food choices.”

Father, 

The work of Christ removes shame, right? I have so much. You know where it all lies. Currently, it sits within this broken body of mine. I have used humor and wry self-deprecation, willpower and diet plans, but nothing works. Shame comes when sin has occurred. Lord, I could justify why I didn’t do anything. Why I pretended not have a problem. You know those justifications before, I breathe them. Rather, I confess my negligence and ask forgiveness. Shame removal is a work of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit work. 

God, thank you for Your abundant Grace. You don’t see my weight or my shame as trivial, but they are of importance to You. Whole30 is just a diet, but I ask you would work on my from the inside-out. There is a brokenness in my heart about my body. Heal that brokenness. Help me become open to your healing. 

I humbly ask this, in the Name of the Risen Christ Jesus, through the Power of the Truthful Advocate, 

Amen

Lent Prayer #1: Mammon Spirit

Today marks the beginning of gloom. The colors and sinfulness of Fat Tuesday have died, and we sit here amid consequences and penitence. Lent is fast becoming my favorite season in the liturgical calendar. I have privately sought the Lord. He has responded. As a means of accountability, I have decided to post daily prayers marking this journey into immense spiritual sorrow. If it be the Lord’s will journey with me, writing prayers of your own.

Father,
I have this mammon spirit seeking gain and control, working in opposition to the Gospel. In this season may its pervasive dominance in my life be diminished. As I seek Christ, may this heart be filled, to be poured out as an offering to the Lord and an act of love to humanity. 

In Christ’s Name through the Holy Spirit,

Amen. 

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