family

Displacement

God,

In Harvey’s ending, many people, for the first time, considered what it means to be displaced. I did not. 2014 raced through my head. I saw the hand of believers move to serve me, yet I focused on the depression of that year. Remembering the August night spent in my car, terrified and alone. I dwelled on the isolation of that year. The many nights, I remained in my office hours past close simply to be alone. I concentrated on the loss of that year. Initially, it was a job, a home, and children, but by the end, it was a sense of identity, value, and self. When 2014 ended. I was broken.

When you are displaced you lose much more than a home. You lose a rhythm and a schedule. You lose your daily patterns and cadences with people. You lose your ability to control meals. You lose the ability to shut the door in people’s face. You lose control. The only thing I gained in 2014 was weight. 25 pounds exactly and I still haven’t even lost that three years later.

God, I am at a total loss. My heart lies somewhere in the debris of drywall and flooring. I don’t know if it is even worthy of repair. I do know You are the Original Creative. I know You take chaos and disorder and bring life, sustainable life. Take the chaos of a dismantled heart and bring about life and order. I know I have been distant from You. I have wandered from You, but I need You for You to find me. I am done being prodigal. Be my home.

In the Son. Through the Spirit. To the Father

Amen

 

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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

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. 

Memories of My Father

I hear my friends talk about their fathers. They talk about their quirks and likes. How their dad always uses a certain type of pen and when they see that pen they think of him. They reflect on stories or mentos and karaoke, homecomings and weddings, projects and just being there. My anger at my father is quenched. I don’t feel a wrath towards him. If anything I feel a pity.

The more stories I hear the more I grieve the memories that never were. When you have someone in your life who makes it more difficult, your brain never keeps the good moments. You work so hard to dump the bad, that you drain everything out. You are left with tiny fractured pieces that didn’t find their way to the recycling bin. I know nothing sentimental of my father, that I can reflect on and smile about privately.

My ultimate hope is forgiveness and restoration. My family is not perfect. We are a bunch of people fighting our demons. Many of us have slain the dragon, but for some, the war persists.

Dear Dad, 

I hope you have not given up fighting. You don’t have to do it for me. I don’t need you to. Do it for the sake of freedom. Happy Father’s Day.

Your Daughter, 

Tosin

Lenten Prayer #5: Mothering

Father,

A sleeping desire was nestled today. Motherhood has always been a sure desire for me. I could not imagine a life without children to love and care for. Matrimony would be nice, motherhood is my heart. To care for, to love, to serve, to be silly, to run, to learn, to grow, to correct, to be humbled daily. While nestled by three children today, she was not awoken. Give me patience to wait for my children. It is hard to not know someone, but already love them so deeply and dearly.

In the Name of the Son, through the Power of the Spirit,

Amen

Merry and Bright

I took down the Christmas decorations on Christmas Eve. I was tired of pretending I cared for the holiday. I wanted my world to return back to normal. I don’t mind being by myself most days, but I don’t want reminders that I am by myself. And the Christmas tree and snowflakes and ornaments were taunting me. I hung them alone. I can take them down alone. This is my choice. I could join someone’s family for Christmas, but the idea of being an awkward addition to someone’s family makes me cringe. People inviting me to spend Christmas with their family is even worse. I’m not their family. They’re not my family.

People describe Christmas as being merry and bright. I just can’t, at least not this year. I don’t feel it, and I don’t want to. Reading through my personal journal, for the past six months, I have written about a pervasive sense of loneliness and sorrow and hidden weakness. Since, June all have increased to troubling levels. I am not myself. Actually, I am myself. I am myself, without God’s presence. Initially, I was periled, but I have recently leaned into embracing His absence. This is the reason, Christmas distresses me, because it is all about His presence.

What does one do, when the cheer and the merriment and the “all seems to say throw cares away” spirit is here, and you just can’t? You won’t. The best, I can do is remember the birth story. Not the pageant churches put on this year, but the real story. The story of Jesus being born amid a wide spread infanticide rivaling that of Pharaoh’s. The story of an old couple whose home was barren because they were childless. The story of two devout believers who prayed for decades and saw nothing. The story where a young teen is marred by her pregnancy out of wedlock and her fiance has to carry that shame with him. The story of a woman birthing a child in unsanitary conditions. The Christmas story does have merriment and brightness, but it is held in front of a backdrop of dark and shadow. What does this contrast mean? I think it means hope. Maybe my story, my willful absence of God, is a perfect scene for His presence to appear. I have chosen darkness. Maybe God will redeem (for His own glory) by sending light.

It's the creation story told once again. 

But did the darkness know Light was coming?

Did it scurry back to the recesses of the galaxies to prepare the way?

It's the creation story told once again. 

Can I hurry to the hidden places and embraces the shadows?

Will, I be recreated or dwell in obscurity?

Creation or Darkness

Incarnation or Humanity 

Anticipation or Anxiety

 

Ticks in the Timeline

I was sixteen sitting in my high school psychology class. Our assignment was to create a timeline of our lives projecting ten years into the future. Bless our teacher, he must have thought us foolish. For he had the knowledge that adolescent plans rarely come to fruition.

I’m twenty-six in 10 days. Ten years from psych class and light years from my expectations of adulthood. I dreamt of meeting someone at 19 and marriage at 26. Now, I have succumbed to my singleness. One part blessing. One part burden. I have the whole world in my hands, but no hand to hold. I battle (albeit rarely) with the same tensions of adolescence. Am I pretty? Am I worthy? Is something wrong with me? Why will no one cast me a second first glance? Am I even good enough?

I believed, I would be sitting on this mountain of success as a psychologist. Counseling people into wellness, uncovering the depths of brokenness, being a conduit of healing. Now, I don’t even know if I agree with modern psychology, and it’s ability to “help” people. This is even more frustrating, because I am working on a Masters of Counseling and have invested too much to just walk away. The idea of meeting with someone one-on-one makes me anxious and bored. Now, concerning vocation, I am doing well. My work is my heart. The teens I work with make daily life enjoyable. They fill me with hope and light and excitement and laughter. I could not be more consumed with them than I am.

Then, there were my finances. Wealth knows few men, but poverty is popular. I’m floundering. I feel like a slave to my bank accounts. I don’t control money; money controls me. It is an abusive relationship. Where in the good times, we can enjoy each other. In the bad times, it places stringent limitations on everything. I am closer to my teens in that manner than they could imagine. I look to my next paycheck with dread. For a brief moment, there is hope. I awake to a text to see income has been deposited. By Saturday, bills have been paid and I have nothing. I greet fear as we will be acquainted with each other for another two weeks.

Nothing goes according to plans. I look on Facebook and Instagram. Everyone seems so happy. People are in love and getting married. People are getting their Masters and experiencing success. People are saving and buying homes. Is everyone this happy? How are you all doing it? Let me in on your secrets. Don’t leave me out please. I know we all have our different paths, but sometimes I just feel left behind. As, I tend personal injuries people pass me joyfully, effortlessly jogging, as I struggle just to walk. Comparison you are the bloody original thief.

Then there is God. Whom, I never wrote into my plans, not even on a subconscious level. He just interrupted everything. Whose to say, maybe if He hadn’t interrupted, I would have been a married psychologist sitting on wealth, posting pictures on Instagram with trite hashtags, but I am not. And even in this low with continual descent and lament, I know God well enough to know this is not the end of my timeline. It is just the beginning of a hard tick.