blogtember

Day 7: Meaning Behind My Blog Name

Life does not progress in a linear fashion. There are assumptions on how life should be ordered, but the older I get the more I realize that’s not going to happen. However, I am grateful. Life is nonlinear and I’m grateful for it.

It’s my nonlinearlife.

If you want to know more about it. Start at the beginning when I have kids with four other women.

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December Blogtember

If you have followed my blog at all this year, thank you. I write from my heart and experience. However, I know I hyperfocus on the melancholy and complexity of simple things. It’s a flaw. This year has been difficult for me. The last time, I had a year this struggle-ridden a friend sent me a link to something called Blog-tember where I was given prompts on different topics.

It has been three years since my last Blog-tember and about five years since, I started this blog. I’ve decided for the month of December to post daily with prompts. I may post other things, but I want to do something light. Also, prompts generate creativity.

So, stay close and attentive, and enjoy Blogtember.

First Rain Since Harvey Left

It is the first rain since Harvey departed. In his wake, he left ruins that still remain unbuilt. As disastrous as the Houston landscape has been it was merely been a physical representation of the human heart. I have been gutted. Noahic flooding that seems like judgment, but actually is healing. Personally, I still don’t know what to make of a hurricane that felt like that of a Grecian epic. I don’t think it is mine to decipher. I am not the one who controls it.

God is the Author. He is quite the Author, but such an interesting Reader and Listener to the story as well. He placed Himself in it momentarily, but it has always been about Him. He is a mysterious Author. The best books are the one that leaves me wondering what the author was trying to tell me. He has left a Commentary who teaches, but even then, mystery. Divine and material mystery.

I have gone through the gamut of human emotions since Harvey.

Sorrow. Anger. Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Anger. Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Displacement. Fear.

Fear.

Those have been my most persistent friends in this season. They are terrible friends; they leech themselves onto me. As I turn to them, they turn on me. I don’t think they have all departed. I still think they linger, but in this moment, I have felt something I have not felt since the flood waters rose.

Hope.

It was by way of a woman I have always admired. How kind is God in the midst of ruins to sift through the rubble.

Good Father,

I am devastated, in both definitions of the word. I have looked inward for so long, that I have lost sight. Your truth is so simple. Your call is so clear. My cross is so much. Teach me to trust. Teach me to bear burdens better. Remind me that you are both the Builder and the Cornerstone. When I burrow into the complexities of the human ego, remind me of the simplicity of the Gospel.

The Good News is the hope for those who have fear.

The Good News is a refuge for those who are displaced.

The Good News is reclamation for those who feel abandoned.

The Good News is gratitude in a heart that envies what is not hers.

The Good News is penitence in the place of shame.

The Good News is the hope of companionship for those who are burdened with loneliness.

The Good News is understanding rather than anger.

The Good News is joy in the middle of sorrow.

I am not fully “telos-ed” by the Gospel today. I will not know if I will be tomorrow, but Mrs. Ellen, thank you for the reminder. I don’t know if you will ever read these words but bless you.

In Christ. By Way of the Spirit. Directed to the Father.

Amen

Hope.

Hope. Refuge.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship. Understanding.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship. Understanding. Joy

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. 

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

Torn to Be Healed

Each year is rationed the same number of days, 365. Most of these days are forgettable. Some stand out more than others, even now my heart awaits with tremendous expectation to celebrate the resurrection on Sunday. However, there are days in my life, where something outstanding happened. So outstanding, that as these dates pass it will remind me of a sequence of events. January 7, 2011. September 7, 2012. Today.

If you have followed my blog through 2014, you realized most posts were lamentations. The lament began today. This day is branded on my mind. I remember the tension and the fear in this day. I will recall it briefly.

After months of pushing for change, with passive resistance came Monday. Mondays were busy, I awake and took a flower to school and then zoomed off to school myself for my first semester of seminary. Sunday, there was a conflict, but I thought it was resolved. I thought it was over. I was angry, but I could keep my anger to myself. I could be functionally furious. I could be angry and do my job well. As, I sat in Dr. Hanna’s class that Monday, I received a text from my boss asking me to meet with her the moment I was done with class. This was a normal request, but filled my heart with dread. As his class concluded, I got in the van and panicked. Prayers jumbled in my mind. I could not get my words straight. I did not know what to pray. I was scared.

I sang. I sang “Order My Steps” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. I sang songs of His sovereignty over plans. I didn’t know what was in that conference room, but I discerned it was not good. However, when I entered, I felt peace. Not in the knowledge that everything was going to be all right. I felt the peace of God, whispering deeply into my soul, “Tosin, I am in control.” As, I entered the room and the doors closed behind me, I knew I didn’t walk into that room alone. Like, the three Hebrew boys, Christ was with me. Christ’s presence softened the immediate impact of my forced resignation. He is who equipped me in that room to respond in His grace and His love and not my fear and anger.

As, the next 24 hours unfolded, I told my family and friends and situated a place to stay. I reserved a rental vehicle. I packed away 18 months of my life in Houston. And, I left. Not without painful conversations with coworkers and other staff. My heart hurt to bid farewell to the women I had shared 6 months of parenting with. The most painful of them all was explaining to my kids that I was leaving. I walked them to their rooms for their nap. I held my rose, my duck, and my tiny religion and sang to them for the last time. I went to what was my room and wept.

I drove off my only Houston home rejected and began a 274-day process of drifting. My immediate response to the impact was positive. I busied myself. I would treat myself to coffee as I journaled, about new beginnings. I would spend the whole day looking for jobs and apartments. Within two months, I began working at the GAP. I was able to enjoy that season within a harsher season of time. There was one day, however, where the realities of my peril could not be avoided. Where my hope took a massive blow. I woke up on a Saturday morning to go to work. I was staying with a friend and parked my car on the street. As, I turned the corner, I saw items of mine strewn across the sidewalk. My heart rate increased. Glass, everywhere. Someone had busted my windshield to look through my items and steal absolutely nothing. At least nothing that I would not have simply given to them. As, I drove to work, I frantically called my mother (who did not answer) and my sister who did.

I could barely get my words out between the tears, “Someone broke into my car. Why is this happening to me? I didn’t do anything.” Eventually, I calmed. I walked into work, made a joke of it, and went along with my day. It was easy to avoid thinking of it. Until, I clocked out and went back to my car. I drove to Kroger and attempted to create a trash bag windshield for the time being. As people looked at my struggle, I cried. I asked God to send someone to me. He sent a Samaritan, who did not exactly fix my window, but decided to be present in that moment.

I was only at GAP for a month. By the beginning of July, I found a full-time job at Star of Hope. Even that was chaotic. I did not know exactly what I was supposed to be doing with the teens, but I knew their constant fighting was not it. In time, the teens who made my time there hellacious left, two amazing men came, and work became a safe haven. I would work late because, I knew my office and my car were the only places of true solitude that I had.

I between, those days, and now are a blur. Again, some days stood out more than others did. Twice I slept in my car, once in August and again in September. I had my first intense interaction with the police. I almost watched a teen get tazered. I lived on couches and daybeds and mattresses in living rooms. I contemplated walking away from religion (on multiply occasions). I liked several dudes and cried multiple times.

However, I am now able to look back at my experiences last year and see the merely a fraction of the ways in which God has been glorified in it. And that’s what this post is honestly about. It is about giving God glory and given (wo)men thanks.

Working at Star of Hope has been one of the most complex blessings I have experienced. Not because I am the blessing, but because I have been blessed by those who live here. In my first 3 months, the loveliest times I had were in moments where I shared with parents of teens my housing struggles. In response, they prayed for me. It was absurd at times to think that a meeting about their child getting a written warning would end with us praying for one another. It reminds me that those who believe in Christ and have a relationship with Him are not just guests, but they are my family in Christ. A family who keeps me accountable and lifted in prayer.

In addition, in experiencing a season of displacement and at times homelessness, I believe it gives me a way to empathize with people at Star of Hope. In moments of deep depravity, I would stare at my purity ring. I would contemplate taking it off for the night and trading my virginity for a bed in a room with a door that I could close. That is the story of many homeless women, but especially mothers. I never went through with it, but that is a testimony of God’s grace and my weakness.

I desire reconciliation with my former workplace. Mostly, because I love them still. Even the people who fired me I love them and I am grateful to them. I am grateful for 18 months of motherhood. I am grateful for all the lessons I have learned through them. I am most grateful because working there stretched me to love my teens at Star of Hope. I don’t love perfectly. There are days, I get in my car and sigh and acknowledge that I hurt one of my teens. I replay moments when I yelled when I could have been understanding. I see condescending remarks rather than kind words. There are days where I am selfish with my time and spend more time alone than with them, but I love them. I love them when they are annoying. I love them when they fight. I love them when they are disrespectful. I love them when they don’t like me. I love them for where they are. I love them because; I see God’s creativity in them. I love them because they remain strong, but open. I love them because, I don’t think I couldn’t. I love them with their flaws, while in trouble, and in the midst of meeting in my office. I love them without condition. I love them as a youth minister, a sister, a parent, a mentor, and hopefully like Christ.

I hope they know as I challenge them that I love them. With every small thing I point out, I desire for them to know it is not about criticism, but about preparing them to be ready when God calls them to follow Him fully. Like my kids at Casa, I cannot save them, but I believe that there is a God in heaven who can. I believe God can redeem the years of pain they experienced and make them whole. He has already begun redeeming my year and me.

I think that is what this post is about. While last year brought pain, which I still am working through. If it is what brought me here, with my teens at Star of Hope. Then the sleepless nights, the crying, the fear, the pain, the rejection are all worth it.

God, I have never been more scared than last year. I have never questioned You more than last year. I have never been closer than walking away from You than last year. Forgive me. It seems easy to appear strong after a season of sorrow, but you have shown me how weak I am. I am a house made of sand and when a storm came, I drifted. Lord, it was only Your hand that preserved me. Last year should have  destroyed me. If it were not for Your protection, I would have been consumed.

Even now, as I look to Good Friday, I am humbled that You would stoop so low to experience this world in all of its sin and destruction. You saved me. You save me. Why does You love me? I am unrighteous. I am a sinner, but You call me Yours.

God. I am so sorry. I trust You. Let me be a light for Your kingdom. Open my capacity to love You more. So, I can love my teens more. Even now, minister to their hearts. Break down the strongholds that keep them from You. Holy Spirit, You are so much bigger than our present problems. Help us.

Finally, Lord I want to express my love for You. There is no one like you. You are God. You live outside of space and time and my logic and reason. You are my Father. You have been a good Father to me. You have cared for me as a daughter. Where my earthly father falls short, You perfect in your love. You are my Savior. Before, I knew I needed You, You saved me. I have no fear because, You are the one in which I place my trust. You are my Guide. You show me the way I should go. I trust You. I adore You. I love You.

Let me bring honor to Your Name.

“Come, let us return to the LordHe has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the LordLet us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” Hosea 6:1-3

In Christ’s beautiful name,

Amen

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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.