families

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. 

Finding God where He has Always Been…

Lately, I have been consumed with this idea: “the Holy Spirit is always speaking, but it is on me to listen”. This came after an amazing conversation happened that could only be explained by God. This idea formed another thought that is far greater than anything I could fathom.

God is good. When, I say God is good, I am not utilizing the term the way we would describe a meal or a day or an action. God’s goodness is an entirely separate idea from what mankind believes good to be. When, I say God is good. I mean “the very essence of Him is good. He is goodness in its primary definition. His good and goodness is synonymous with Himself”. Meals are good, but high cholesterol foods are bad. A day can be good, but bad is happening somewhere. I can do good, but I also do bad. “There is no bad in Him. God is solely and wholly good. There is no bad after effect of God. His goodness does not wear like cloth.”  

God in His infinite majesty has declared that elements of His creation was “good”. Consider this, when God creates something and states that it is good, it is as if He is imputing His essence on it. Allow you mind to drift into the imagery of God speaking this world into existence, but the spark and beauty of the world coming to life as God in heaven declares it “good”. See, the things in which God has deemed as good through His Word will reflect His Goodness or serve as a symbol that points directly back to Him.

(1) Creation is the first thing God declares as good. Romans 1 explains how “God reveals His invisible attributes (eternal power and divine nature) through creation. I have a longstanding fascination with the expanse. One of the benefits of semi-chronic insomnia is watching my Father push back the darkness of night with the vast arrays of oranges, pinks, and blues giving way to the warmth of the day. Then, in the evening, they will bid their farewell to create a blank slate for the masterpiece to happen all over again.

If you allow yourself to get lost in this we are reminded of our size in this world. As stars fill the sky, they reflect God’s creation of us vast, expansive, typically hard to differentiate from one another. But, individual, lovely lesser lights reminding us and pointing us to the Greater Light.

It goes deeper than that though.

(2) Friendship is good. God has said it is good. Not simply because you have someone to spend time with. Friendship is good because of the difficult moments in our lives. The wisdom book, Ecclesiastes, gives us insight into this:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

We see God’s goodness not only in the physical realm of friendship, but in His relationship with us. In the beautiful narrative of Scripture. From the Fall (Genesis 3) onward humanity is known as an enemy of God. Defiant. Oppositional. Belligerent. Christ comes as a peace offering. He compels us into divine friendship with God. We are friends of God.  And friendship with a good God does not have a dark side. Even when it feels it.

…let’s go a bit deeper

(3) Marriage in the Christian faith is a religious symbol for Christ and His Bride, the church. Ephesians 5, talks about the responsibilities and roles of husbands and wives. However, Paul makes it clear that He is talking about the mystery of Christ and the church. Ya’ll why would I not want to share in this beautiful symbolism. Have you ever read Revelations 19? When Christ comes for His bride. It is beautiful. It makes Noah from The Notebook look like a joke.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Chills. Marriage is a constant reminder of Christ’s redemptive and restorative work in His bride. It is a reminder of His return. 

The point of all of this is to serve as a reminder. God is near us. It is in those silent nights, with star filled skies, echoing the song of their Creator. It is in those warm embraces after a resolution, restoring friendship. It is in the marital covenant between two believers. Without God’s goodness in all these things, they are vapors faded into oblivion.

The grandiose beauty in finding goodness in this world, is in realizing that the evidence of His presence is all around us, and He is simply waiting for us to notice.

The Language of “I Love You”/Loving My Teens

I have never met three little words as simple and complex and these. Each individual word is only one syllable, but it is as if every letter carries the weight of Kilimanjaro. Because each word means a million other words.

At the conclusion of my first year of foster parenting, I wrote a post titled Loving Your KidsThis post chronicled the beautiful agonies of loving someone with your whole heart and constantly seeing them go. There are several little boys and girls who will never remember me, but they carry fragments of my heart.  The way a parent loves their child is essentially a replication of how God loves me: unrelentingly, at my worst, sacrificially, unconditionally, furiously, purposefully. I don’t think I ever loved people as passionately and ferociously as those little ones. Until now.

I enjoy my job. It is interesting and beneficial and challenging. However, I love my teens. Working with them reminds me of each and every day of being a foster mama. In dozens of ways, God used working at Casa de Esperanza to prepare me for working with my teens. I look back on my adolescence and having a conversation with my friend Jon Butts. It was about those three little words. I remember in my adolescent melancholy telling him, “If you say I love you too much, people won’t think you mean it.” I still hold to that statement, but it is with the added phasing, “If you show I love you, then people will know you mean it.”

Saying “I love you” communicates you have an affect on me. You. You as you are, are so worthy of love. In fact my love is a gift. I want you to accept it, but if you don’t it is always here. Because in the midst of the cursing and fighting I realize, for me to love my teens it requires absolutely nothing on their part. They don’t have to change. They don’t have to like me. I just love them. Know, I don’t do things perfectly. I trespass against them and am rude. I am annoying, and sometimes don’t know when to back off. However, they respond, I love them.

It is a humbling love.

It is a love that let’s another human call you a b#&$@ and not respond in wrath. 

It is a love that forces you to sit in silence as another human pours out their rage on you. 

It is a love that seeks healing for the brokenness. 

It is a love that makes frightening police encounters opportunities to prove you are there for them. 

It is a love that cries the tears that have already dried on their face. 

It is a love that drives throughout Downtown Houston looking for truant teens

It is a love that when someone yells, “$@&# you” all you want to do is hug them. 

It is a love that allows you to sit and paint the nails of a girl who doesn’t speak English. 

It is a love that moves you from your desk to the basketball court while wearing a dress or a skirt

It is a love that finds opportunities for them to grow

It is a love that lobbies for the best possibilities. 

It is a love that does not look past faults, but corrects them. 

It is a love that sees potential and nurtures it. 

It is a love that opens you up to empathize deeply and many time painfully so. 

It is a love that daily wipes the slate clean. 

It is a love that brings you to a place of utter transparency. 

It is a love that desires to know the deepest yearning of their heart. 

 

I don’t do all of this perfectly. I barely do half of them averagely, but the more I look at this list, the more I realize my Father’s love for me. His love knows and drives and moves and seeks and allows and nurtures and finds and desires and cleanses. And, His love is like this unrelentingly and perfectly with the same intensity at all times. His love is best. We are best equipped to love others when we know many of the ways our Father loves us.

There are dozens teens who probably will never remember me, but there are little mason jars, abbreviated authors, troublemakers, teen mamas, and many more who hold fragments of my heart. My hope and prayer in this moment is that they realize it was never my heart in the first place, but the heart of the Father.

Do We Really Need Dads?

I try to write solely about my experiences and myself. I conscientiously do not talk about my family in immense detail, as I know people who know my family might read this blog. Today, I am writing about my dad, because it is 2:30 in the morning, and I have spent all week denying that Father’s Day is today. Moreover, for self-preservatory reasons, I need to divulge. If you are someone who is in Atlanta who knows my family, just pray for us. And if you do feel the need to comment please do so here. Do not ask for more details and feed your gossip demon. Recognize that when someone shares with you, you are experiencing a moment where someone who trusts you is being vulnerable. Do not be the wolf to this sheep, be a fellow sheep and if you can be a shepherd.

All holidays pertaining to my father, I do not celebrate. I do not wish him a Happy Birthday or acknowledge Father’s Day. As of recent, my father and I are consciously estranged. Now, I made this decision recently. I do not call him. I do not text him. I do not email him. He has minimal to no knowledge of what I do, where I am, or who I am. The distance between Houston and Atlanta is so great that it is easy to pretend he is not there. In order for some understanding to be had, you need to understand some things.

Around age 12, I realized my father had no interest in my life. Not only did he have a massive disinterest, but also in no way did he attempt to hide it from me. The only moments where he did show interest is when, I did something he could brag about to his peers. I remember having to beg him to come to recitals and concerts. Senior year of high school, I was nominated for homecoming court (which was a MASSIVE deal). Friday night, you are supposed to walk the field with your dad. Two Sundays before, my family is eating Chili’s, and I ask my dad if he could walk me down the football field at half time during the Homecoming Game. He looks up and effortlessly says no. If it were not for my mother’s intervention, I would have walked alone. Sadly, comparatively, this is not the worst thing he has done to me.

You would think as an adult that, I would be done with all of this…nope. Even in adulthood the ramification of my interactions with my father, affect me. God has healed so much of my brokenness; there is still much more to go.

Since, I was a child; I could see myself as a mother before a wife. I knew I wanted to adopt, but I did not know if I could handle marriage. Often my saying was, “I don’t need a man”. Having a husband antagonize me seemed more of a burden and less of a blessing. God used college to do some work on my heart towards men. He is still working on it now.

So to the question of “Do We Really Need Dads?” My answer is yes, but we need ones marked with humility and love for others more than self.

  1. We need dads because girls who do not have them are stunted in their development with men.
  2. We need dads because boys who do not have them are given many incorrect views of what manhood looks like.
  3. We need dads because God gave them a role in the family to fulfill.
  4. We need dads because moms and dads are meant to be partners in this journey.
  5. We need dads because…because…well, because we do.

One day, I will choose forgiveness; I will choose reconciliation; I will choose love. However, today is not the day.

Father, forgive me. Soften my heart.

As the Clock Winds Down…

Today, is perhaps, the most beautiful day in Houston I have experienced. The sun that scorched my skin during summer has dulled into a smile with glimpses of its ferocious teeth. The wind has been my dear friend today with its cool reminders of friendship. Even the air has easily been inhaled. It is October 7th and it is wondrous my friends. However, the year is winding down, and I feel it necessary to reflect on all the wonders and mystery that revealed themselves to me. This will be an ongoing series until 2015 commences. Let’s begin with Lesson 1 (more…)

Christian (Feminist)

Growing up, I was a tomboy. I was not very in touch with being feminine at all. The dresses and the dolls and were not my jam. I wasn’t athletic either. I think I was just sort of neutral. My favorite activities surrounded sitting on my butt and watching TV. I don’t think I watched any particular shows geared towards boys or girls. Most shows I remember as a child were Touched by an Angel, 7th Heaven, Hanging with Mr. Cooper, Family Matters, Step-by-Step, Full House, and Boy Meets World. Essentially everything I watched centered around the family. While, I wasn’t pushed to be any type of person in particular, the 90’s welcomed the rise of female empowerment…even in childhood. Common phrases recited: girl power, girls rule, you go girl. Essentially girls could be anything, do anything, and try anything.Then throughout elementary school, I was commonly a gender minority in class, but I didn’t know any better. All I knew is that I was 1 of 4 girls in a class with 20 students. So being around guys was the norm and feeling equal to them in every way was as well.

Whenever I realized (which probably was at the age of ten) that there were some nonphysical differences between boys and girls that is when my personal coup against the regime of patriarchal oppression began. Again I was ten, so essentially my favorite color became blue. My closet was overflowing with denim and t-shirts; it was a no skirt or dress zone for me. Unless greater powers forced them upon me. Dolls were a thing of the past. Aside from these minor physical changes, mentally, I believed that I was equal to men…if not better. I rose academically to the top of my class. I sucked at sports, but that had nothing to do with gender. I was a fat human that loathed exercise. Nevertheless, I was smarter and wittier than boys in my class.

Then thirteen kicked in, and hormones starting dictating some crazy stuff to me. My hormone homies were telling me the same men I had been in competition with for years were also super attractive and that I would develop romantic feelings towards them. CONFUSING? How about super? Do you know why? Because if there is something I had learned by the age of 13, about men it was that they do not enjoy being usurped, especially by a woman. However, I didn’t like the idea that I had to become lesser to be accepted by them. So, I repressed it, and if there was a guy that I did like I did everything in my power to dominate him and emasculate him. I wanted him to know three things. (1) I don’t need you. (2) I can do this (whatever the heck this was) myself. (3) You have to prove yourself. I have never envisioned myself as a princess awaiting to be rescued and falling in love with the rescuer. It seems more fun (in my perspective of course…this is in fact my blog) to envision myself as something…like awesome.

So, all of that leads to this point. I am a traditional feminist. I support the traditional philosophy of feminism. I advocate women’s rights on the platform of social, political, and economical equality to men. I am pro-life. (I am more so pro-contraceptives. I would rather live in a culture that makes condoms, birth control, and plan B readily available to people, than abortions) This contemporary version of feminism that perpetuates a lack of modesty and desiring immodesty without attracting any sort of gaze is foolish. I am not approving of rape culture, but there is something to be said about people (not just women) and covering their body. Nothing attracts the gaze of another person more than the sight of human flesh. I am talking to both women and men….especially the buff ones that run up and down Heights Boulevard…and fútbol players (you are not shirtless, but you are gorgeous).

There was a time, I was fine with my feminist label, but I seems I have an identity crisis. There is in fact a tension being Christian and feminist. And if you didn’t know, allow me to inform you that there has been a long debate about the role of women within the church, the home, the workplace, and every other place it seems. And most conversations with Christians that I have about this issue either end in an explosion (basically I mentally morph into Wreck it Ralph and want to smash stuff) or a draw. Because it is hard for me to believe that God continually wants women to play the apparently lesser role. This is an excerpt from a post I wrote almost two years ago on tumblr that I still hold pretty fast to.

In this culture it is almost impossible to exist as both a Christian and a feminist. In order to love one I must hate the other. Honestly, I don’t think God is anti-feminist. Throughout the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) there are tons of examples of women taking on a huge part, in both traditional and nontraditional gender roles. You have women like Mary, Jochebed, Hannah who were all mothers and caretakers for Jesus Christ (Savior of the world), Moses (deliverer of Israelite people), and Samuel (prophet who called David out on his adultery). Then you have Jael. During a time of war a captain of an army asked to sleep in the tent of a woman from the opposing army. Jael, was that woman. When the commander was fast asleep, Jael took the NAIL of a TENT and used it to kill the man. She killed a man with a NAIL and a FLIPPING HAMMER. I don’t know if I am easily impressed, but that just screams (forgive me Jesus) BADASS! Seriously Laura Croft ain’t got nothing on Jael. Then you have the prophetess and GOD MANDATED JUDGE Deborah. Deborah was actually the prophet God spoke through to inform everyone the Jael would be the one killing the commander. Interestingly enough there is a decent amount of women prophets in the Bible: Deborah, Miriam, Anna, Rachel, and more (I didn’t know the others very well so I didn’t want to mention them). You have women ascend into positions of power such as Esther who became a queen and Ruth who married into prosperity due to her amazing ability to care for an older women whom she had ZERO responsibility for. Ruth was loyal and devoted. Additionally, you have women who supported the ministry of Jesus Christ out of their own means. You have women who supported the early church. 

Then you have to contextually think about the Bible. Fast-forward to the ministry of Christ. People don’t understand that the way Jesus treated women was REVOLUTIONARY. Shoot if men treated women the way Jesus treated women now it would be revolutionary. Even when women were wrong (in our standards of wrong or the contextual standard of wrong at the time) Christ was so compassionate and loving. Consider the women with the issue of blood. As a women she had no right to touch a man. As a sick women she should have been put to DEATH the moment she exited her house, but Christ due to her faith allowed for her healing to take place. You also have the woman caught in adultry going to be stoned. The Pharisees wanted the “loving” Christ to condemn this women to what she deserved (AND LET’S BE HONEST IT IS NOT LIKE OUR SOCIETY IS ANY KINDER TO ADULTERERS) and again Christ asks everyone (Tosin paraphrase) “Anyone with no sin, no faults, no mistakes, no outstanding wrongness in you life, please take the first shot at her”. Nothing, except rocks slipping out of the hands of people and falling to the ground. No one condemned her that day not even Christ. He simply said, “Go and sin no more”. He wasn’t calling her a slut. He wasn’t ever calling her nasty. He simply knew that her actions were keeping her from being all she was capable of being. (I would love to see what her life ended up like after that encounter).

You know maybe those aren’t big roles in the Bible, but no one can convince me that there is not a reason they were placed in the Bible. Then there is that whole issue of Ephesians 5:22. Where it asks wives to submit to their husbands. Which leads me to this feminist point. IF I AM NOT DATING YOU I DON’T HAVE TO SUBMIT TO YOU. Technically, if I am not married to you I don’t have to submit to you. Nevertheless, I don’t know what exactly submit means…which kind of frustrates me. What does it mean to submit anyway? Is it so wrong to simply not want to be boxed into what feels unnatural? In most realms of Christian women I have seen submission become passivity. I don’t want that. I don’t want to be lorded over. I like the idea of an egalitarian marriage. Is that unbiblical? If I marry someone who submits to that ideal as well is that such a bad thing? Because, I honestly won’t date someone who feels they have the right to rule over me. I won’t marry someone who thinks I am lesser than him. I won’t marry someone who feels like I am a beauty to rescue or someone who needs to be saved from herself. I won’t marry someone thinks I need to tone down the personality God gifted me with. I won’t marry someone who thinks I am too sassy, because the truth is some men want a sassy woman. Some men need sassy women behind them.

Now to the various groups of people reading this allow me to leave you with these final thoughts. If you are someone who believes feminism is evil and are Christian don’t waste your time by trying to argue with me. There is nothing you could say to me that would make me miraculously change my mind. You can however pray that God reveal what His truth (not yours) is about this, because it bothers me not knowing. Also, please don’t pray for a man to come along and change my mind. That would just piss me off. I will be the first to tell you I have a warped view of men that often focuses on their incompetence and untrustworthiness. So, no miracle prayer angel of a man is going to coerce me into being a traditional gender role-playing women in a couple years. This is 24 years in the works dude. And requires some slow undoing.

To the feminists that are non-Christian. I still love Jesus and want to serve Him well. So, if it comes out that I am flat-out wrong, I will have to change my stance. I still love you though.

Finally to the other women who struggle with this just like me….this is confusing and the moment I know, I will let you all know.

God, Goals, and Sacrifice

The post will probably be all over the place. However, it is one o’clock in the morning; I have five kids; I’m about to do something completely reasonably nonsensical, and I am at complete peace with it all….kind of.

I have fleshed out Philippians 1 and 2 for two months now. I haven’t read past chapter 2 verse 7. I have worked to allow the words in each verse penetrate my heart and just live through me. At the beginning of Philippians 2, Paul begins talking about humility and servanthood. Verses three and four were impressed on me the most:

 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit. Don’t live your life attempting to become something great simply for the sake of people fawning after you or pride in yourself. But in humility count others more significant than yourself. In any position count those above you and below you as if the are more valuable than you. Let each of you not only look to his own interests. It is fine to have interests and lives and goals you work towards. But also look into the interests and lives and goals of others. 

The Lord has challenged me to look into the interests of others. For a while, I thought interests meant hobbies, and in some cases it does. When the Bible uses the word interest it means, a subject about which one is concerned or enthusiastic.  Imagine enthusiastic was not listed in the definition. Could you imagine the plethora of subjects people are concerned about? Some are secret and hidden. Others are obvious. They are so obvious that it is astounding that we don’t act on them so quickly. With my line of work it is often pretty obvious when I could live out Philippians 2: 3-4. But, I don’t. Many times, I sit wondering where is the person looking out for my interests and what concerns me? Man, don’t you see how ungodly that is? How un-Christ loving that statement is. Going back to my post about suffering, I also ask do I sacrifice enough? Do I look at all the resources I have -money, networks of people, knowledge- and put them on the altar for the Lord to use any which way He wants? Second, shot in the heart. Third, God is my source. Seriously, He is pretty concerned about my life. Why is that not good enough for me? Why do I sometimes live my life as if God is not good enough for me?

Do, I sacrifice enough? Do I count all I have as loss, to simply know Christ and be more like Him each day? I don’t know? I really don’t know. Money withers, but the older I get the more important it becomes to me. Finding a life mate is important, but my time here is so profoundly temporal. What does it matter if I am poor, but rich in love? Or perhaps I am not known by many, but because of me many know Christ? Where can I sacrifice more? And not only sacrifice for those who know the Lord, but for those who don’t. How can I regard others people’s concerns more than my own who do not know the Lord, who do not love Him, and may never ever know Him?

God, teach me to give it all away. Keep me out of the mindset that all I need is some material item to be secure or to be happy. All I need is You. Remind me not to rest on my limited knowledge about life, but to trust that if You want me to give it all away, that You will sustain me. All I need is You.

Sacrifice is covered. Now onto goals and God. One morning earlier this week I realized I have no hard and fast goals for my life. Which may sound bleak, but I am not dismayed. Some people have goals on when they want to get married. The way I see it when he is here, he is here. If I place a time frame on when I want him here, I am more apt to confuse another guy for him. I am in no rush. Also, marriage is not a goal. Marriage is a long-standing process, where the goal is forever the same: stay married. I want kids (5 and counting), but that is not a goal. That is a human, actually several growing humans. Ultimately, when I say goal I mean a career. Which is ironic because I don’t know what I am going to do as a career. I have all these ideas floating around in my head, but I have not been given clearance to see what my life will be. And ya see, while I don’t have life goals I have God. He guides me on what I should do, and then I do it (for the most part… I’m not worried about what I am going to be. Whether or not I should work in a church or missionary work or do something totally unrelated to my masters program. All i know is that when I need to know; I know then I go.

Welp, I am tired and have to work again tomorrow, but I have enjoyed getting back into the swing of writing. Hopefully, I can continue in love, kindness, and humor.