Row

During class today, I just got really sad. It was around 7:41pm and if I had been alone, I would have probably cried, but I carried on in my usual rambunctious nature. I journaled during the last group’s presentation. I needed to get words out. I remember why I journaled as a thirteen-year-old. I had no one to talk to. I have talked to a lot of people in the past three weeks, but sometimes, it still feels like I have no one to talk to when I really need to talk. My struggle is in my general distrust of people. So sharing sorrow and opening myself is a long-term process. I disclose only when I feel safe. There’s an article about a baby seal that took three years to photograph because it took that long to trust the photographer. I’m a baby seal. I know I am wrong. I know it. I don’t need people to tell me I am wrong. I need people to prove me wrong.

I left class and just sat in my car listening to the same song. Row by The Autumn Film.

She hid under her covers
In fear for her life
The water rushed over
While she capsized

May your heart hold on
When it gets hard
And may your pulse stay strong
When you’re falling apart

Row, row, row your boat
Row, row, row your boat
Gently, gently

All these words transcendently resound my life.

Songs turn into pictures in my mind. I see a girl departing an island, she should have never ventured to in the first place. Leaving the island and entering the ocean again was a wise decision, but came with its challenges. Exiting the island meant two things: (1) she opened herself to the ocean never knowing when and where she will drop anchor for a final time and (2) she exposed herself to the harshness of the seas. If departing was hard, she immediately enters a storm in her little rowboat. There are moments where the eclipse of the waves seems manageable, but there are other moments like these lines where she capsizes. The winds and waves crash and collapse and overturn her little boat. So, she just holds her breath as she manages to turn herself the right way up once again to fight the wind and the rain and the salty ocean water. With tears of determination in her right eye and tears of pain in her left, she just keeps rowing. She just keeps rowing, slowly, painfully, gently.

I finally drove away to pick up Chick-fil-A. I needed a change from my steamable Veggie Pasta meals. I went home and ate dinner in my bed like I always do and watched Totally Spies to numb whatever I was feeling until I garnered enough emotional and creative wherewithal to document it and share it with people on Friday morning.

There’s no perfect resolution to a storm except to keep rowing. So, I will keep doing exactly that.

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MY LIST OF UNANSWERED MAN-RELATED QUESTIONS…ANSWERED…WELL KIND OF

In May, I attended a retreat for single adults. Overall, the retreat was a lot of fun. However, you know it is not a retreat for single people unless you spend one session discussing the complicated, but simple nature of the relationship between men and women. Luckily for me (peep the sarcasm) there was an entire session dedicated to women asking a panel of men questions about how men think. I had high expectations, but was left unfulfilled by the panel and the women’s questions. The questions centered around boundaries and if men are really clueless. If you meet me in person I will share my rants on both subjects, but I digress. And, I have to think the panel avoided my questions.

Saddened, I retreated to my blog to post my unanswered man-related questions (click here for the original post), with the hope that some men would answer them. Well, only one did. However, it is probably one of the most outstanding men I know. In the past 4 months, he has sort of become one of the most fascinating people to me. Which is stupid since I have known him for two years. Even if wasn’t fascinating, he has a sincere love for Christ and always expresses joy in both learning and knowing who Christ is and exploration of his Word. Perfect by no means (who is though?), but stellar in several. He has answered half of my original questions. I am going to list out the questions and then post a link to his blog.

  1. Ephesians 5:22-24 and other scriptures ask women to submit to their husbands. What do men assume that to mean for women? Also, do you understand the fear attached for women to be obedient to that scripture?
  2. Are there any differences (if there are any differences) are there between a woman who has had a positive/negative relationship with her earthly father? What are they?
  3. Is flirting ungodly?
  4. Do men understand that lust is not a gendered sin?

Alright, ladies and gentlemen. the answers…at least some of them. I humbly present Sculpture Shop Rumours.

Jesus is My Home(boy)

This was the tagline of shirts made popular in 2004. Blame it on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ or the frequently fluctuating nature of pop culture, but at church, school, and life the shirt was rather popular. Note, it was also on trucker hats; thank you Ashton Kutcher. As trends tend to do, the shirts faded into obscurity and can probably be found for sale on Craigslist or repurposed on Etsy. However, as I have had my sense of home challenged, this thought as remained constantly on my mind. Not so much that Jesus is my homeboy. In hindsight, that shirt was a bit rude. I don’t even think the disciples would have the audacity to call Jesus their homeboy. Even if they didn’t figure out who he was until after His resurrection, they knew He was a big enough deal not to refer to Him as that, but I don’t want to get legalistic. If that shirt led you into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, then praise the Lord.

Last year around this time, my friend Marianne went to Kenya on a two-week mission trip. Before she departed, we met at her house to celebrate her birthday and pray for her. I cannot remember all the words of her sweet prayers, but these couples sentences have always stood out to me:

God, you know lies in store for me when I get there. Lord, I am scared to leave the comforts of my house, but Jesus wherever you are, I am home. Jesus, you are my home.

For four months, I have attempted to procure permanent housing. Most nights, I spend on the couch of two of the most constant reflections of the hospitality of the early church. Every so often, I will give the poor couch a break and sleep on the air mattress at another friend’s apartment or on the best of days an actual bed. However, I have not had my own bedroom in 4 months. Please do not assume ungratefulness. I am beyond grateful. I could be sleeping in my car or in an abandoned building. I could be wandering the streets at all hours of the day and night. I am not. My situation is far better than many other people. I daily work with homeless individuals; I know they would rather have a couch than the shelter. Nevertheless, my situation is difficult.

It is hard to be 23 and without a place to call your own. I want to host events and small groups, but this space does not belong to me. I want to have friends spend the night and do brunch, but I can’t. After a long day at work, I want to hole myself in my room and debrief and be alone. I want to cook and have a schedule and go running. I want a bed that I can sprawl out on and roll over in. I want pots and pans and decorations that I get to decide. I want a place to call my own. I don’t want a space; I want a home.

That is what I have been so desperately searching for since April. Where is my home? I have no home. Why can’t I find housing? Why is this so difficult? Why have we been rejected again? I hear the Lord, whisper to me, “I am your home”. My heart breaks. I know He is, but have I believed it? Have I trusted in the idea that Jesus really is my home?  That when, I acknowledge His presence and dwell there that I have peace and feel like I am home? Do I even remember that this place, I am so desperately searching for, this house, this residency is my temporary residency and that Jesus is my actual home? Or that, God knows exactly how long I will be on this couch. Or even that He knows where the location of new home will be. Even further down the line, could it be in God’s infinite wisdom that He is simply preparing me for missions work in the future in which my housing will be unstable?

I don’t know? For every one thing I know, there are 17 billion that I don’t. Humph, for every one thing I know, God knows how many ways I know it incorrectly. What remains is this. Home is not your house. Home is not a bedroom or a bed. Home is not just a space that one occupies during periods of rest. Home is where Jesus is. Home centers on Him. In Him, I will find the comforts of a warm bed, the peace of my own space, the joy of freedom. Though, I will probably struggle with this come Monday, it remains true. Thankfully, truth is not based on my emotions.

It is a hard reality to come to terms with; especially, when I would rather tantrum it out or panic. The fear is sometimes still there, but it is slowly decreasing. Let my faith arise, O Lord.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”

Psalm 91:1-2

Jesus, is my home.

Also, this is my 100th post!!!!!!!!!!

Rejection: Humiliating, Humbling & Hilarious

I have had my fair share of rejection. I think of elementary school. The only thing that it worst than being last picked is not being picked at all. Never getting asked out on a date…ever. Not getting into graduate school the first time. All of that pales compared to the rejection I have faced in the past month and a half. Being unduly fired from my job. To the more current circle of no’s from the leasing offices I have called harassed.

Rejection should make you feel like a loser. Shoot I know I did. This whole weekend I felt like loser. Heck, if we are being real here, today I feel like a loser. I have a college degree. I am working on a Masters. I am responsible. I was darn good at my previous job. In fact, I would go so far to say I am highly competent. It is rare to give me a task that I cannot do. So, why is the best job that I can find one in which I am working part-time, on an hourly budget, and essentially a job I could do with simply a high school diploma?

Rejection is humiliating because to some degree, I know that I can do the job. I can afford the apartment. I can do whatever, they are telling me I can’t seem to do. It is humiliating because I am hopeful. I have had so much hope, and I now feel like I cannot spare my last few coins of hope on anything that seems too far-fetched. I cannot give it to jobs I have applied for. I cannot give it to apartments that are perfect in every way, but keep saying no to me. I am tired of telling my friends and family about potential jobs that don’t want to hire me or potential apartments that don’t want to house me. I am tired of having to share the failures.

Rejection is humbling because it forces me to self evaluate. When jobs and leasing offices reject me, I know it is not personal. However, when I hear no after no after no, it begins to tear at me as a person. It is personal to me. The are not rejecting my application. They are rejecting me. It makes me feel like there is something wrong with me. That I am not good enough. I am not smart enough. I am not competent enough. I am not enough of anything to be given a chance to prove myself. And that my friends hurts. Anyone, who struggles with their worth and value will get where I am coming from. After a month and a half of rejection, I feel like a fraction of the person that I am. Emotionally, I feel like my energy either goes to just not crying or choosing happiness.

I mean I love the Lord so much. So, I don’t want people to think that I’m doubting His faithfulness and goodness to me. I also don’t want the reader to assume I am throwing a pity party. However, I think it would be an outright lie to not also share that there is a REAL struggle in all of this. That the prosperity gospel is one written for the spirit and soul of a man and not the pockets. That the notion of God never giving you more than you can bear is downright bull. This is more than I can bear. This is crushing me. My back is broken by the weight of this. Yet, I still look for deliverance. I think that is why rejection is so scary, because I know God has not forsaken me. Because, if He had I could easily throw in the towel, drop out of seminary, go home, and forget about Houston and everyone in it. More than that, if there was anyone who could rightfully reject me it would be God. Nevertheless, I know He is still present even as all of this is happening. One of the qualities, I love most about Him is His intentionality. The beauty and purposefulness of His creation. The artistry and functionality of Scripture. The elegance in which He provides redemption for a world so vast, but so small. It is amazing and scary. Because this same God was intentional in allowing my life going this way. He was intentional in my departure of  a job knowing I had done nothing wrong. He is intentional about my living circumstances. He is intentional as I venture into the valley and the shadow of death. And, He was intentional in allowing to be the next phrase being, “yet I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” He ALLOWS for me to pressed, but no crushed, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed, rejected, but not forsaken.

Finally, rejection is hilarious, because for me I have to find a way to laugh at life or I’ll cry. So, I didn’t get picked to play kickball. I have saved my classmates from the embarrassment of watching me run. It is also funny because I have the calves of a horse and could kick that ball with impressive and freakish velocity, their loss. So, I didn’t get asked out on a date. Well, there is something majestically awesome about being the only senior on royal court to not have a date. Also, hilarious to interact with men, with no desire for them to see me sexually. So, I didn’t get into graduate school. I moved to a new city and started seminary. I made some major life changes. So, I lost my job and still don’t have a place to live…I’m trusting that at some moment in time, there will be a funny second half to this. It is not today, but it is some day. It is one day.

Lord, you know this is only a fraction of the emotions that I feel. You are present as I sit in silence in my car. You are there as the breeze shifts my tears across my face. You are there as my anger blends with confusion. You know I can’t handle it. You know the purpose behind this. You are purposeful in this. I don’t know. I have no idea. I am scared. You know the effort it takes some mornings to just breathe.

You have not rejected me. My Lord, You have not forsaken me. You have not turned Your face from me. You love me. Even in this moment when I feel my earthly value diminishing, You still ascribe value to me.

The Lord is my Shepherd. 
I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores me soul. 
He guides me down a path of righteousness, for righteousness is who He is and His character.
Despite, my ventures in valley and shadow of death, You, God, are with me.  
Your rod, it comforts me. Your staff, it comforts me. 
You prepare a table before me, in the presence of those who seek to harm me. 
You anoint my head with oil and my cup overflows. 
Surely, Your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
As, I dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 
Psalm 23

 

My List of Unanswered Man-Related Questions

This weekend, I went on a singles retreat. It was coed and amazing. I feel an overwhelming sense of peace and joy. I had a great amount of alone time with God. I feel amazingly bonded to my class. I mean, I love them. We have our stuff to work through, but we are walking in life and God’s truth together. We love Jesus intently and intensely. While, we are not perfect, I can say that the other singles in my life are seeking God. In all this amazingness there is one thing that was a bit lackluster.

There was a breakout session. This was an all women’s session lead by a panel of men. The men simply answered women’s questions about what men think. I was blessed enough to have a one-on-one with the leader of the session prior to it beginning. He told me, I had good questions and I should come and ask some more. So, I took some times to sit and think of GOOD questions. I wrote them down and turned them in and none of them were answered. We actually spent most of the session discussing setting boundaries with men. Which is fine, but as a psychologist I am ACTUALLY interested in what men think. So, I find my lack of knowledge completely unsatisfying. So, I am going to write my questions down here and I would love for some God-loving, God-fearing, Christian men (I’m not to exclude other men, but as a Christian woman, I want to work on navigating relationships with Christian men better) to answer these for me. Feel free to comment on this post or write me a message on Facebook. In fact, I will even include my email address if you would prefer that (tfakande@yahoo.com).

  1. Ephesians 5:22-24 instructs wives to submit to their husbands. What do you assume that means? How do you think women see this instruction? Could you imagine the fear attached to this instruction?
  2. Ephesians 5: 25-31 instructs men to sacrificially love their wives. What do you assume that means? How do you interpret this instruction? What fears do you have with this?
  3. Are there any differences (if you have noticed) between a woman who has had a positive or negative relationship with her earthly father? What are they?
  4. What do men think of women’s emotional baggage? Are men compelled to fix it or leave it? Do you feel like you have emotional baggage to deal with?
  5. How do women reconcile the feeling of wanting to be desired with also not wanting to lead brothers in Christ astray? How do we lead you astray?
  6. Do you think there is a difference in how we view God based on our gender?
  7. Do you consider physical lust to be a gendered sin?
  8. Is flirting ungodly?
  9. How can women honor you in friendship, and in what ways can you honor your female friends?

Alright gents. Have at it.

Do I Suffer Enough?

As a first world Christ follower it is easy to wrap my head around glory. The American society idolizes the notion of being glorified. In the earliest of life stages, we are taught to be my/the best. Which is not necessarily bad. I condone being your best. However, when my joy comes when others validate my achievement, I have to question, “Am I a glory seeker?” Am I someone who reads about the glory of God-a glory that I will one day take part in and desire that glory now?

I see glory through my sin-colored glasses and assume people should glorify me. Ugh, when areas of pride are revealed in me I want to gag. The issue for me (and I would assume others like me) is I have a sequence of occurrences in Roman 8:18 completely askew.  Here is the way I saw it.

NO SUFFERING→PRESENT GLORY→FUTURE GLORY

That is absurd. More than astoundingly ludicrous, but it is vehemently contradictory to both Biblical texts and the life of my Lord, Jesus. The proper sequence is as follows.

PRESENT  SUFFERING→FUTURE GLORY

This is exactly what Jesus did. He wrote the book on it (John 1:1 (insert attempt of funny Biblical joke)). Yet, my focus is on this glory that is to be revealed (future tense) in me. You know why? Because that part sounds AWESOME! I like the sound of that, GLORY! In me? I’ll take it. I’ll take it…..suffering….suffering I could do without. And after going through this series of thoughts, I had to ask the title question.

DO I SUFFER ENOUGH?

I have wrestled with this question for three weeks. I am so infatuated with the glory, but so repulsed by the suffering.

I probe my extent of suffering, and I realized something. I don’t suffer. I don’t suffer at all. Any point of pain caused to me by my affection for Christ was so petty and minuscule, I dare not even list it for embarrassment. I will though to keep me honest. My idea of “suffering” was managing an unsettled (still unsettled) tension with a fellow Christian. That is not suffering. It is awkward and painful and heavy, but it is NOT suffering. It is struggling.

In 2 Corinthians 11: 23- 29, Paul declares boldly his “suffering credentials”.

I have worked much harder been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and exposed to death again and again. FIVE TIMES I received from the Jews the forty lashed minus one (195 lashes). Three times I was beaten with rods, one I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my OWN countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often on without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

I am a wimp. I know Paul was a person like me, but seriously. It seemed on a day-to-day basis Paul was suffering or recovering from suffering. When, I think of suffering I assume physical pain, but Paul’s suffering was deeper than that. When Paul wasn’t being beaten he was in danger of being attacked by bandits, Romans, Jews, Gentiles or false brothers. He was in danger in any location whether it be the city, country, or sea. He was hungry, thirsty, cold, and exhausted. He was not even operating at Maslow’s foundational level of the Hierarchy of needs. Moreover, his greatest concern is for the church. Seriously, I feel like if I was Paul I would have a hard enough time keeping my life together, let alone carrying this burden of my concern for the churches. However, Paul does not lift up his sufferings in agonizing defeat. HE BOASTS IN THEM!

2 Corinthians 6:4-10, Paul talks candidly and sincerely about his suffering and it is beautiful.

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way. In great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine yet regarded as imposters; known yet, regarded as unknown; dying and yet we live on; beaten yet no killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

This is where I want to be one day. In this suffering is where I want to live. Because while there is a glory after suffering. There is also a glory within suffering.

Lord, teach me how to suffer well. Don’t fix my eyes on future glory. Just fix my eyes on Your glory. Lord, let me be satisfied in who You are.  Amen

Here in this Place

If you read through a couple of my blog posts (like the previous one) or have a heart-to-heart conversation with me, you will know I have had my lot of daddy issues. From hating the man to ignoring his existence to being here in this place with him, I have struggled greatly with the way that I relate to him, but all of that has taken an interesting turn recently.

September 17th, my and my dad had a conversation, where I let it all out. Many times, I have unsuccessfully attempted to do so. All ending in failure and frustration, but at the end of the conversation I said something to him that gripped both him and I. He often makes references to being the spiritual head of our family and how I should respect that. He talks about how he is without honor in his own home. Knowing God, intimately and personally, I take offense to both statements. One, because I honor him. My lifestyle brings honor to him. I am an African-American women, who has graduated from college with honors and without loans. I moved to Texas to work with people I have never met in my life and did extremely well. I was accepted into one of the top seminaries in the nation. My whole life revolves around how I can please the Lord. The one time I was drunk (and before some of y’all get ya panties in a bunch I realize bad choice), I kept screaming, “I’m so sorry, Jesus! Jesus is so ashamed of me.” So, the no honor thing just pissed me off. More than that I hated it, because that scripture (Mark 6:4) was used in a way to belittle me. And they did. I felt so little, but worse than feeling little I felt insignificant. I felt like everything God created me to be was pointless. And folks, that is a hellish place to be. But back to the conversation. I ended it with this phrase,

“If you want to have a relationship with me, you need to pursue me! Because that is exactly what God did for us. He didn’t ask me to meet him halfway or to pursue him. Because, HE is my Father and HE wanted a relationship with HIS child.”

After letting the tension settle, my dad agreed. He FREAKING agreed with me. I went into my room that night and bawled. I turned on a song called When I am Afraid by Laura Hackett and just cried. I don’t know why I was crying. The conversation ended as good as it could, but it was just one of those where I was overwhelmingly (and frighteningly) emotional. I haven’t thought much about it until today. Because, I realized something: I am worth pursuing.

I jokingly boast with friends that I am awesome, but oft-times I think of myself in relation to my deficits. I look at my left hand holding on to all the things that I assume make me lesser than some fictional other person. The biggest of them all being my body. Not simply just weight, but health issues that are out of my control. I would focus on them and just imagine, “How in the world am I going to present this to anyone? I’m so ashamed. Why would anyone even waste their time?” But in this time off I have had the time to concentrate on the abundance in my right hand. Oh my GOD (literally to God), the perspective. I don’t want to list them off, but the ways the LORD has blessed me far outweigh the pitfalls of being me. And it didn’t see that. I never noticed that and for that reason I am worth pursuing. Let me tell you why this is important.

I am the WORST at liking guys. I pick out guys based on my deficits. I say I don’t have a type, but I do. My (previous) type are nice guys with terrible decision-making skills. Typically, he is a well liked guy in a group of people, but he makes really really stupid decisions. More than that, I have always pursued these “nice-ish guys”. But I am not a tyrannosaurus looking for a partner so I don’t miss Noah’s Ark. I am a woman and I am awesome. I ain’t no Halle Berry, but let me tell you something Halle Berry ain’t no Tosin Akande. GOD has brought me to a place in our relationship where I am understanding myself a whole lot better, because I am understanding HIM a whole lot better. I am worth being pursued. I am worth being pursued because if God pursued me, then a man (the right man) can too.

I can’t believe that took 23 years to figure out.

So, if you are wondering about me and my dad. He is actually pursuing a relationship with me, but pray for me y’all. My heart very easily falls back into the bull it did before. I have forgiven my father. Forgiveness is a purposeful decision, but reconciliation is a whole new battlefield. Can I ask the readers of this blog to leave a prayer for me in the comment section or a message on Facebook that my heart would just soften towards my dad and I would just give him a chance. The way God is constantly giving me chances knowing I am a screwball.

Lord Jesus, here I am in this place. It is such a funny process walking with You. I always ask You to take me deeper than I could ever wander and You do. By the way, I meant physical location wise. However, this is much better than I had in mind. I never seem to know my destinations, but I get there and then everything just makes sense. I don’t ever think I said this before, but thank You for pursuing me. Thank You for thinking me worth the journey from perfection and holiness to sin and folly. Thank You for always loving me even when I never noticed and even when I didn’t love You back. You are so good to me. Thank You for this amazing journey. The past six years walking with You have been epic. Thank you for this month of reflection and recharge. Whether You send me to Mozambique or Sevilla or to Iran or Venezuela or to remain in Houston or return to Atlanta, thank You. My trust is in You alone, and as long as You are in my heart then I am home. I love you and Amen