love

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

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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.

Imperfect Love

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

I have reflected on this verse often over the course of the past six months. I hear its refrain as I ponder on those whom I love and those who love me. I know imperfect love. It looms. I know it’s imperfect. It is fear-inducing and creates unnecessary risk. Fear-inducing love is not loving at all. Imperfect love is an oxymoron as it does not exist; love can only exist in complete perfection.

I got a glimpse of perfect love today. I saw it over breakfast and a coffee two hours afternoon. It was not a fear-inducing love, but one that feels freeing. One that assists in letting go. I pray for more of that love.

I pray I find it in the Lord.

I pray I find it in friends.

I pray it is found in me.

Specified Lamenting

Sleep. Silence. Wake. Silence. Aldi. Silence. HEB. Silence. Clean. Silence.

A year ago my life was bursting with people. Busy was my normal pace. I packed in school and work and social obligations. I used busyness as a means of avoidance. I became hyper-productive. I still am. You can occasionally catch me in the office until 3 AM working on God-knows-what. Using the justification, it has to get done. People let me get away with it. I don’t really want them to, but everyone has their own busyness going on and I don’t feel the need to infringe.

People get into these rhythms. My weekend rhythm is empty most times. The peak of my excitement is the trip to the grocery stores. I go to Aldi and HEB. While standing in the checkout aisle (in Aldi), I longed for someone to share this rhythm with. I longed for someone to interrupt my rhythm with their own. I longed for a harmonious melody, where two sounds become one song, with seasons of discord of course, but one nonetheless. This thought carried to HEB. I stroll down the aisles mindlessly with tremendous amounts of time to waste, knowing I am only coming home to laundry and meal prep.

It gets exhausting telling God about your longings. I mean. We both know He already knows. Why does He even care to hear them? Why do I have to say them? Do, I even need to say them? Does God give me longings that will remain unmet? I think He does. Why would He do that? He is not cruel. I know He isn’t.

All the while, I hear the phantom whispers of well-meaning Christian singles and their leaders questioning my satisfaction and contentedness in the Lord. Stupid cliches about Jesus being their boyfriend or that they’re dating Jesus. Sarcastically, thinking in my head…“You don’t get to make out with Jesus like you would a human”. Then feeling condemned because positive female sexuality is not really a Wednesday night Bible study class offered in the church. Or people reminding me to live in a community that practices vulnerability. (insert eye roll). Maybe it’s not the community. Maybe it’s me.

I digress…

I don’t know, there was not really a point to all of this. I just felt these words ruminating in my mind over the course of two hours. And, I needed them to come out before I went to bed. Perhaps, I will find God in all of this. I am more hopeful that He finds me. I have not been searching for him. I am feeling a like the one lost sheep and really need my Shepherd to come along. I am a dumb creature, privy to falling off cliffs and being attacked. Please find me, Shepherd.

Words. Rest. Breathe. Rest. Post. Rest. Come rest.

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 #11: The Opposite of Regret

God, 

I speak so freely of my regrets: eating that third taco, not kissing Anthony, saying that hurtful phrase. But today, there are none. I don’t know what the opposite of regret is, but I’m glad it exists. I embrace the rest I took last night. I welcomed the early morning sun entering my room. I shared a final meal with a fantastic friend. I cared deeply about an animal but said no. I worked on my taxes. I laid in the spring sunshine. I read for school. 

I’m grateful for the opposite of regret. I didn’t even know it existed. Please give me more days where there are purpose and simplicity. 

In Christ by the Spirit, 

Amen