self-care

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

(some)BODY

When I think of my body, the best I can do is not think aesthetically but functionally. If I keep myself concerned with the things my body can do, I never have to worry if it is pretty or beautiful or good. The problem with this is that there are some things my body cannot do. There have been many things people have said about bodies like mine. There are so many more things I have said about my own body.

Running is one of those things that I don’t expect my body to do. All, I can focus on is excess flesh just moving and how grotesque a sight that is for onlookers. Gravity becoming the immortal enemy of my physicality. If I am still enough, then I can maneuver around slowly enough for things to stay in place. It is all one big optical illusion of Spanx and slimwear and clothing in a size too big. It is weird to see the thoughts, I have displayed on a screen, but this is the reality where I reside.

From Tuesday to Wednesday, I had a case of insomnia. It wasn’t even that my mind was running. I literally just could not sleep. At 3:30am, I decided to go to the gym. Most times, I just walk on a treadmill, but in delirium, I decided to run. I ran for 5 minutes straight. I remained on the treadmill for 35 minutes and upon completion, I had run/walked a little over 2 miles. I hoped this would tire me out, but it only invigorated me. I did squats got in my car and departed, for a 4am drive through the city. By the time I arrived at work, I was tired enough to hide behind my desk for a 20-minute nap…..but I didn’t.

Today, I took a half day. I went to the gym and consciously decided, I was going to run. I began running for 7 minutes. At the end of 32 minutes, I had run/walked a little over 2 miles. 16-minute miles are nothing to brag about. In comparison to even the average runner (maybe walker), I am slow. BUT my body ran. It ran and it felt wonderful and it hurt. It is unfamiliar and fascinating.

I don’t really have goals or expectations for my body. I have worked towards a lifestyle that serves my body best. I have made some progress. I am hoping I can remain consistent. Today was just a day, where I just finished running, breathless and sweaty and smiled.

“Damn, I got some body.”

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

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

Poustinia

poustinia (Russian: пустынь) is a small sparsely furnished cabin or room where one goes to pray and fast alone in the presence of God. The word poustinia has its origin in the Russian word for desert (пустыня)

It was Holy Saturday, on my nightstand sat Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. I turned to the chapter titled, Solitude. Hours before, my home was filled with people and laughter and divine contemplation. How did I get here so quickly? Where do these messages come of depression and isolation and ostracization? Why don’t I feel like fighting them?

Perhaps, the shortest chapter in Foster’s book, solitude introduced me to this simple word: poustinia. I googled it; I hoped to find that I had landed on a Greek word. I didn’t. It is Russian. I did stumble upon was poustinias all over the United States. I scrolled down the results page, The Potter’s Inn at Aspen’s Ridge was one of the first hits. As I browsed, three words beamed at me, Soul Care Day.

There. There was what I needed. I needed a day, where care was given to my soul. I needed a day where I was alone with God. I needed a day where silence was the norm. I needed a day where I could mourn and be consoled by the Father. I needed a day where no man could reach me. I needed a day in the desert. The desert just happened to be the mountains of Divide, Colorado. What happened there could be explained in a million paragraphs; I will only write one.

Upon arrival, I sat still next to a blazing fireplace. I began reading John’s account of Christ’s last discourse with His disciples before He was crucified. What could I do, but weep. His words were to me. He spoke them to me. He spoke them over me. I read the same 5 chapter over and over again. Each time with increasing conviction of God’s Presence with me. We gathered for group meditation. There, we read a passage, I have become too familiar with. The humanity of the story captivated me. Finally, my day culminated with a prayer walk. I journeyed two miles with twelve stops. With each and every stop, God handling me with great encouragement, care, rebuke, discipline, and grace.

Why write about this 3 months later? Because, solitude is this. Solitude is creating an inner silence in oneself where at anytime you can hear the sweet whisper or the violent thunderclap of the voice of God. The beauty of this solitude is that it can be done in the presence of the multitude or alone. As, God draws me back in to solitude, I feel myself backing out. However, this time there is no sorrow or isolation, but only the pleasant expectation to hear His Voice and be with the Holy One.

Click this link for some photos of my time in Colorado.

When You’re a Fat Follow

When you are a fat follow you have this amazing superpower. You can be both visible and invisible at the same time. People can see you, but pretend not to see you because they don’t want to dance with you. It does not matter how good you are. It does not matter if you have great musicality. It doesn’t even matter if you put on a nice outfit hoping that it would attract people to dance with you. You will need to put in double the effort to get half the attention of your slight and wispy counterparts.

This is a lesson I learned long ago, but had forgotten. Until, I went salsa dancing in New York. I have partner danced for two years in Houston. It has been amazing. I can now go most places and am recognized by several leads and follows. I am not the best follow in the world, but I am fun. I try to make every dance a great experience for the leads. I smile. I twirl. I work to connect with the leads and communicate to them no matter the skill level that I enjoyed dancing with them. In Houston though, I have noticed there are particular leads who seem to dance with women who are at a not very good (but very attractive) simply because they are slim. I have disregarded this most of the time because most leads in Houston are so lovely and I am kept so entertained by conversations and dance that it does not even register that men don’t want to dance with me. New York was not the case.

Wednesday night, I’m sitting at a salsa social. I am already aware that I have several factors working against me: I’m new, I’m fat, and I’m not wearing anything to make me stand out. An hour passes by and only two people ask me to dance. I mustered up the courage to ask a lead, I had watched for the past hour. He looked very friendly and was highly skilled in salsa, cha-cha, and bachata. His follows always seemed to enjoy themselves. I walked to him and asked if he wanted to dance. His mouth said yes, but he face was unenthused. As we danced, he put no effort into leading me well or sending clear signals of what he wanted me to do. In the middle of the song he says to me, “You know this song is just to fast for me to dance to”. I wish he was truthful. He was done with me. I freed him from the torment of dancing with me by saying, “Oh, it’s fine. I need a drink of water anyway.” I escorted myself off the dance floor and into the woman’s restroom. I cried.

Eventually, we left.

I don’t have a nice resolution for this post. I refuse to camp out in the fat acceptance movement. My personal experience is not a testimony for a well-intentioned, but silly movement. I agree with you on the my weight does not determine my value, but weight does decide health. I will not condemn the leads who prefer to dance with normal sized follows. I also don’t want to alleviate them from recognizing that we notice.

Because this issue is not just one that surrounds be a fat follow. It is one that surrounds just being fat. Period. When you are fat you there is this silent pressure that you have to be funnier, smarter, and kinder if you are going to survive alongside your skinny counterparts. It sucks, and I think most people who are fat would agree with me.

The obvious solution is to lose weight. Believe me, I’m working on it and have been for years. Let me propose to you a less obvious solution: take away my superpower.

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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