To: The Process

I am a speeder.

Like I go ten miles over on streets and fifteen over on highways.

This isn’t just me. Everyone speeds. We’re all in a rush to get to our destination – all the dang time.

Once I got pulled over for going six over the speed limit. It was around midnight and the cop came to my window and asked me one question.

“Why are you speeding?”

I replied, “Because I want to get home.” He let me off with a warning, granted I was a minute from my house, but that question resounded in my soul.

Why are you speeding?

Because I want to get there. I want to evade all the pain and suffering and just get to the good part of life. I want God to snap his fingers so I can be healed. I want to skip all the way to the end of the movie and see the happy ending.  I want shortcuts instead of a long road with twists and turns. I want to tiptoe around the process and get to God’s result.

Guys, I fear that we are forgetting here and now because we are incredibly hyper-focused on the there and then. I fear that we are speeding through life, and as a result, we are neglecting all God wants to reveal to us, in us, and through us. I fear we’re missing a big thing. I fear that we’re missing THE thing: Jesus. And his promises to give us exactly what we need, nothing more and nothing less.

We miss God all around us when we speed. We get frustrated. We get discontent. And we simply aren’t present in the here and now.

God gives us exactly what we need for the year, nothing more and nothing less. God gives us exactly what we need for the month, nothing more and nothing less. God gives us exactly what we need for the day, nothing more and nothing less. God gives us exactly what we need for the hour, nothing more and nothing less. God gives us exactly what we need for the minute, nothing more and nothing less. He gives us exactly what we need for every. single. second. Not an iota less. Not an iota more.

We have enough love for the year, month, day, hour, minute, and second.

We have enough grace for the year, month, day, hour, minute, and second.

We have enough peace for the year, month, day, hour, minute, and second.

We can rest and not stress. We can trust Him for this moment, and we trust Him in the next.

We have God’s goodness.

We have God’s power.

We have His joy.

We have His Truth.

We have Him.

And God is all about slowness. God is all about the process.

He chooses words such as abide, delighting, and dwelling. (John 1:15, Psalms 37:4, Psalms 23:6) Abiding, delighting, and dwelling are things that are cultivated and continuously tended to. God has cut some bad fruit. He has to take us into the dark room. He has to prune us. Sometimes He has to break us. We have to die before we truly live. God can use us with limps but he desires to use us fully. Growth happens in the abiding, delighting, and dwelling. We morph into the image of Christ and become who God has called us to be.

What are you trying to speed through? Join me in NOT speeding both in life and on the road. Let’s watch God move here and now. There and then cannot happen without here and now. Let’s trust the process. Because God chases slow. Will we?

 

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The Next Right Thing

from the corner of my couch

Here’s what I’ve learned: when everything and everyone around you is messy and complicated and uncertain, you sit in stillness and quiet, and you wait for the Next Right Thing.

It is both simple and complex. It is straightforward and mysterious.

But to bravely step into the NRT, as it will henceforth be known, is to step into wholeness and peace and joy, knowing you are precisely where you need to be. To bravely step into the NRT is to discover what Brian McLaren refers to as aliveness. The beauty and thrill steal your breath, the contentment bathes you with strength and equanimity.

This is what I have learned.

God has tilled the soil of our family and planted seeds of justice and mercy from the beginning. I vividly remember a distinct nudge while Michael and I were starry-eyed college students: Your home will be a safe place where…

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To: Never Turning Back

Four thousand people. Four thousand different stories. Four thousand hearts.

Worship at Gateway Student Conference.

Worship at Gateway Student Conference.

The One common factor?

Eight thousand arms raised in complete and utter abandonment. Enraptured by the Presence. Entranced with the scandal of Grace.

Four thousand voices shouting at the top of their lungs as they whisper their hearts desires and shout their prayers to the most high God.

The One common factor is THE One.

King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Our Father. Our Dad. The Incorruptible. The Infallible. The Extraordinary. The more than Adequate. The Liberating. The Absolute. The Faultless. Immaculate. The Vigorous. The Distinguished. Concrete. The Truth. The Flawless One.

The common factor is our ever omniscient God.

Four thousand kids purchased tickets and waited with expectant emptied hearts ready for the One who can fill.

In walked four thousand kids who were anxious to worship. We stood packed at the doors waiting for that thirty minute mark so we could run and attempt to get the best seats. We ran down to the altar excitedly in anticipation.

In walked four thousand hearts who had lots. In walked hearts that were partially obedient. In walked  people kept letting their lot in the car. In walked those who were settling for less than God’s best. In walked calloused impenetrable hearts. In walked shallow superficial hearts. In walked crowded hearts filled with weeds. In walked hearts that were in a state of waiting. In walked people who were waiting for permission. In walked those who were bowing down for everything and standing up for nothing. In walked those who thought it just wasn’t enough. In walked broken hearts searching for solace. In walked those who were stuck in the bed of hell burdened with a weight that was never theirs to carry in the first place.

In walked me, Embo Priscilla Tshimanga, with a crowded heart. A heart that has suffered a great deal of pain. Shoulders that carried mountains. In walked me, a seventeen year old girl whose heart has been wounded by the gradual rejection of fatherlessness, bruised by an emotionless foster care system,  beaten from homelessness, and battered from circumstances.

My little miracle came in the form of a peppy seventh grade girl named Chandler Shabay who asked me one simple question: Will you come to 180? We have donuts.”  One eighty was a group led by Chandler’s dad Chris and Tasha Gale. A group of about twenty girls would meet once a week before school and hear the Word and start our day. Chan is a coffee loving girl who LOVES the Lord with all her heart and longs for all of the world to know Jesus. We both love powerhouse female preachers, fangirl over Priscilla Shirer and all her amazingness,  and thirst to know Jesus more- to make the world know Jesus more. My little miracle asked me another question a couple months ago: “Do you want to go to Gateway Student Conference?” And saying yes happened to be the best decision I’ve ever made.

Brooke, Mackenzie and I at Gateway Student Conference.

Brooke, Mackenzie and I at Gateway Student Conference.

Out walked people who decided to kick their lots out of the car and never looked back. Out walked hearts who decided to be obedient. Out walked those who refused to settle for nothing less than God’s best. Out walked hearts with fertile soil. No more weed. Out walked people who realized that we need to stop waiting because the time is now, not later. People who realized that they’re already free- you don’t need permission. People who realized that there are people out there who are waiting for you to step into the calling and purpose God has created you for. People who realized that the world changing starts NOW, right where you are. People who realized that our age doesn’t define God’s power that rests in you to change the world. Out walked those who were one for all and all for one. Out walked those who decided to stand for everything and bow down to nothing. Out walked those whose hearts were made whole and new. Out walked weightless shoulders. Out walked freedom.

Out walked me, Embo Priscilla Tshimanga, with a heart with fertile soil and roots. A heart made new and whole.

Cody & Kari Carnes.

Cody & Kari Carnes.

Out walked those who decided.

And never turned back.

So, to the person who is unsure of themselves: Be sure in Who you belong to. I promise, the rest will fall into place.To the person who is contemplating suicide: Jesus thought you were worth dying for.Death NEVER gets the last word. The enemy NEVER gets the last word. Love does. Love ALWAYS gets the last word. The cross and blood shed wasn’t the end of the story. On that cross Jesus bared the hatred we were capable of. He attained over hatred with Love and died with whispers of forgiveness on His lips so when you think of ending your life, think of the One who died to save it.

To the person who carries baggage on their shoulders like it’s their last name: On that cross He bared the weight so we wouldn’t have to. Don’t carry something that isn’t meant to be yours.To the person who feels like your life isn’t enough: you were worth dying for. Yes, you. The very essence of you was thought of as every transgression pained the Man on the cross. To the person who feels as if they carry mountains on their shoulders: you aren’t alone. Give. It. Away. Those mountains aren’t yours carry. They’re not meant for you to walk through the valets alone. To the person  who can no longer stay quiet: Speak. There are people waiting to hear your voice. To the person who carries pushes everything away: You aren’t gravity. You don’t get to push everything and everyone away. Feel it. All of it. Feeling precedes healing. Only the Great Physician can do that. To the person who thinks they can save themselves: you’re human. Only the One who created you is the only One who can save.

To the person who believes the world is intent on punishing them: This suffering is only a season. Praise God through the suffering. He wants to do something through you not to you. To the person who has a tendency of forgetting good scenarios exist too: The Good News is that darkness never wins. It cannot hide from the Light. We only see part of the story. God sees whole- He sees all of it. The knowing always remains in part leaving us in a state of dependence. How finite we are is where God wants us to be so we realize our strength is not ourselves, it’s Him. We are developed because of our circumstances, not in spite of them. 

To the person who feels camoflauged in the world: Don’t bow down to things of this world. Stand for Christ and He will show you the best you you can be. He’ll show you how to be who He called you to be. To the person who feels they stick out like a sore thumb in this world: Keep standing. You’re doing a phenomenal job. To the girl who is broken: Bring the pieces to Jesus and watch him formulate something all together new and whole.To the one who’s scared: Why are you? You’re already set free. The life God has called you to live is one of fearlessness. As Pastor Robert Madu said, “ Faith begins with you leaving a god for GOD.” Take a step. Walk on water. To the person who can’t stay quiet anymore: Your voice reverberates off of your internal walls. Let it be free because you already ARE free. Speak. As Charlotte Gambill said, “The time is now.”

Because at seventeen,  twenty one, fifty, sixty or seventy, I will look back on my life and utter three sweetest words known to man: “I made it.”

I whispered those words to God before walking out of Gateway Church on Friday.

You will too. And it will be because at this conference, God did an incredible work in your life. Heaven and earth became one and the Holy Spirit was tangible. Because at this conference, you decided. You decided and there was no turning back.

No. Turning. Back.

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To: Dad

It shouldn’t hurt this bad. You were never there to begin with. I don’t know you. I have no recollection of you. It shouldn’t hurt this bad that you left Dad, because it did. It does Dad. Seventeen years without a Dad and you’d think I’d have it down by now. It doesn’t get easier. It still hurts. See, here’s the thing: Being fatherless doesn’t feel like a loss; it’s more like gradual rejection.

I wanted a dad who would be the flow to my ebb. I wanted a dad who’d whisk me away on Father Daughter adventures. I wanted a dad who’d tell me beautiful I am. I wanted a dad to teach me self worth over self deprecation like it’s my first name. I wanted a dad who showed me how loved I was in more ways than one. I wanted a dad who showed me that I was worthy. I wanted a dad to protect me from all the brevity in the world. I wanted a dad who would slip me ten dollars to go to the movies when mom said no. I wanted a dad whose shoulder would be able to cry on. I wanted a dad who would know my quirks, my likes, and my dislikes. I wanted a dad who would know me. I wanted a dad to be the example of the man I deserve to marry, and feels lucky to marry me. I wanted a dad who loved my mother and displayed it for the world to see. I wanted a dad who’d listen. I wanted a dad to be the first man I ever loved. I wanted a dad who’d be my hero. I wanted a dad who was there at my basketball games and track meets. I wanted a dad who supported my gifts, laughed at my quirks, and understood my sarcasm. God, my heart ached for a hug. I wanted a dad who was there.

But you weren’t Dad.

And for that, I want to thank you.

Dad, this is me slowly lowering the shield I’ve spent years expertly crafting. Soothing isn’t healing and Dad, I need to heal. This unspoken brokenness needs to come to light Dad, the glass has been cracked since the day you walked out that door. I’ve been underwater for years because I don’t like creating waves. I didn’t want to come up for air. I didn’t want to face the immensity. Father’s Day became Fatherless Day and I hated you for that. You broke my heart. What hurt more is the fact that you took no responsibility and accountability for the wounds you created. You walked away and felt no remorse. How can I miss something I never had? How can my heart crave for a I don’t know Dad, I just do. I’ve hated you for so long. Sometimes, I still do. You made me hate living. You made me feel unworthy. You made me feel unloved. If the only man I ever truly needed left when I wasn’t done ever needing him, then it was fair game for anyone else to decide it wasn’t worth it.IMG_6432

For anyone else to decide that I’m not worth it.

I want you to know that I’m still the little girl with the giant smile craving the affection of a father. Using the word ‘Dad’ brings up images of years spent questioning why I wasn’t enough for you. Dad, I want you to know that I forgive you because I know that I am enough. I know that I’m worthy. and I know that I’m cherished. Here’s the thing Dad: You’re human, all humans make mistakes, part of me understands. The other part of me still questions how on earth you could’ve abandoned four kids. You were supposed to be the first man to tell me I’m beautiful and help me discover myself. I was supposed to be your “little girl.” Little girls love their dad so much because a dad is meant to be the one man who’ll never hurt you.IMG_6431

But you did, Dad. Your sudden absence foreshadowed a series of unfortunate events. I sometimes wonder how different life would’ve been if you stayed. I wonder if we would’ve endured homeless shelters, sleepless nights in cars during hot Texas summers, and bathing in 7/11 bills. I wonder how different I would be. I wonder if I’d have more siblings, where I would’ve went to school, and whether or not I’d be who I am today. The truth is I wouldn’t.

And for that, I want to thank you.

A daughter without a father is the saddest scenario on this earth. I wish I could wish it all away. Not just for me, but for every girl out there that feels incomplete. For every girl who grew up never really understanding how to love or be loved. For every girl who wanted a hug. A hug is one of the simplest form of affection, yet its meaning holds much depth and power. The first relationship a little girl has with a man is the one she has with her father. This relationship is impactful and oh so neccesary. It’s importance cannot be reiterated enough. Still, what happens to the little girl who doesn’t have this relationship with her father?

Well hi, you’re looking at her.

Dad, I sometimes have a hard time deciphering what I deserve or who I’m worthy of having in my life. There’s no blueprint or rule book to help me understand the right way to be loved. I get validation externally not internally and the one person I needed validation from left. I blamed myself Dad, and it affected my self esteem. I grew up with all the ramifications of growing up without a dad and Dad, I want you to know that this is me coming up for air and facing the immensity. This is me exhaling a breath I’ve been holding for seventeen years. Dad, this is me letting it all go.

I hope that you’re happy. I hope that wherever you are with your kids and other wife I truly do hope that you’re happy. I hope you are all a family. I hope my half brothers and sisters have the pleasure of having a Dad.

Dad, I want you to know that your absence does not define me. You created me, you were there when I was born, and you’re fifty percent of my DNA but Dad, your absence does not define me. I want to thank you for leaving me. You’re absence helped me discover myself. That pain was the birthplace of something beautiful. I fought like hell to become the person that I am today. Your absence led me to mold myself. Your absence led me to define my own life. I’m sorry you missed out on someone so great, but I can gurantee that your actions will never break me. I pray daily that my future husband will be the dad to my kids hat I never had. That my daughters will know the comfort of their fathers arms, his voice, his care, and his love. That my sons will have an amazing man to be their hero and best friend. IMG_5136-0I also want you to know that you missed out. Tish, Jeremiah, and Bilonda are amazing. Seriously. Tish and Jeremiah are two of the most sacrificial, sweetest, hardworking, annoying brothers on the planet and Bilonda? The amount of sass that somehow found its way into her five foot seven frame is actually astounding. She’s my biggest headache and my best friend. Dad, the four of us have been through hell and back together, and we’ve always come back stronger than ever. Tish graduated early. Jeremiah graduated early and got a full ride to Oklahoma State. I’m graduating a year early as well Dad, and Bilonda, has a few years left. Her goal is to get a scholarship. Us Tshimanga kids are going to do big things. I’m telling you Dad, you missed out. And that is okay. One day, I’ll be walking down the aisle without you and that is okay. Thank you for the pain because without it I wouldn’t know healing. I wouldn’t know love, and I wouldn’t know God. Because of your absence, I know what it’s like to be loved. I know what it’s like to be cherished. I know what it’s like to be worthy. I know what it’s like to have a Dad, Dad despite your absence. Thank you for sweetly breaking me Dad, God knew what He was doing. Father’s Day isn’t Fatherless Day anymore. And for that, I want to thank you. I know it’s not Father’s Day, so Happy Early Father’s Day Dad. Thank you. Your absence is the greatest gift you could’ve ever given me.

(To Scott + Mike + Tommy + Nick + Ricky, you all are the most amazing fathers in the world. At some point in my life you all have cherished, loved, and called me worthy as if I were your own daughter and for that, I am forever grateful. Love you all times infinity.)  

Posted in Absent Father, Foster Care | 1 Comment

For the Love of Marathons

“What are you worried about?”

My youth pastor asked me this question today and instead of saying I don’t know, the truth, I said absolutely nothing, kind of shrugged, and looked away inadvertently (obviously), avoiding the question. What I really wanted to say is that I’m worried about myself. I’m worried that I’ll believe the lies of the system. I’ll simply become a statistic and amount to nothing. I’m worried that I’ll believe I’m unlovable, unworthy, and infinitesimal. I’m worried that I’ll become the face of the stigma foster care has. I’m worried that I’ll believe that I’m condemned to a life of hopelessness just because I’m in here. I’m worried about college. I’m worried that I will never know what consistency looks like. I’m worried about my family. I’m worried about what comes next. I’m worried that the system I reside in will begin to distort the one thing that I’m sure of: God loves me, He calls me His own, and all things work together for my good.

I went home this weekend and I hated it. I tried to enjoy it as much as I could but the fact that I had to come back loomed in my head the entire time. It killed the experience in its entirety.( I also don’t come back until June so there’s that.) I listened to my Aspen and her family laugh incessantly as they reminisced about their times together, I watched a two year old who has yet to experience the harshness of this world, and it hit me. I finally got the feeling. IMG_6063 The one where you know nothing is the same anymore. It wrecks you like a tidal wave and you just know nothing is the same anymore. Heart? Broken. Trust? Doesn’t even exist in here. It’s like walking in a hurricane of depravity twenty-four seven. Some moments, the weather will get better, the sun will shine a bit brighter. The raging waters cease, the wreckage is dispersed but in the thick of it all, you’re still standing. Then the tulmultous waters will begin to rise again, the storm will brew, multiply, and you’re faced with the imensity of the ocean, the unknown, because at any given moment, everything could change.IMG_6084

I live in a system that condemns you to a future of hopelessness. It’s there for you but it isn’t really there for you. Being in the system is like a whole different world. This world is so sinister and seems so intent on wounding me. Coming into foster care was very unexpected. It was different when I was younger. This, I was never prepared for. The suffering, the heartache, the loneliness. It was never in my description of what foster care would be like at seventeen. I never thought my sister and I would be seperated and only able to see her twice a month. I ache for a lot. I ache for my mother. She’s known suffering so deeply and all too well. I ache for my family. I just want normalcy. (Normal is SO overrated.) A huge part of me wants to erase all the suffering my family has known all to well for far too long and rewrite a simplistic wonderful story but I’m not God. I don’t hold the pencil and I don’t write the story. I ache for my brothers who have beaten the odds and are going to go on to change the world. I ache for my sister. I want her to be a kid during her high school years. I don’t want her to grow up fast like my brothers and I had. It’s not too late for her. I want her to go to prom and have lots of friends and be the sassy diva I know that she is. I ache for the future- the next trial awaiting me. Will life be smooth sailing from here on out? The answer is no, and I’m okay with that. My future is secure in the hands of the One who created it. It’s okay to have an ache. We all have an ache.

I face time Meghan and I nearly cry myself to sleep at night.

I talk to my brothers and I just crave their bear hugs.

I call my mother and I yearn for the day she gets to sing ‘You are my Sunshine’ to me in person.

My sister sasses me and I want to be near her so she can see me roll my eyes and laugh.

I love social media. I honestly don’t know how older people lived without it. How ever would you have shared a picture of your delectable food? Social media for me, is my scrapbook. Years later I can look back and think, “What was I thinking wearing that god awful shirt?” or even tell my kids, “Yes sweetheart, we did wear leggings, white hi-top converse, high socks, and our brother’s giant t-shirt, and yes, in hindsight it doesn’t look good but you know what, it’s comfortable Don’t judge me. Go to bed.” It has introduced me to some of the best people I have ever met, told me that I’m schizophrenic, sixty five, try to sell me lingerie, and tell me that the color of my soul is magenta.(Facebook is crazy.It’s like an asylum. I don’t know how you people do it.) I can lay in my bed, watch countless vines for hours on end, not even realize that it’s 4 A.M., only to realize that I have to be up at 6 A.M. so I should probably go to bed. Social media has its successes and some downfalls.(I really did not need to know that the dump you just took looks like a gun.)

Today, I spent the day being knee deep and muddy in rest. It’s a weekly ritual- I go back and look at all the pictures I’ve taken, what I’ve written about my daily endeavors, (Life isn’t all that exciting by the way, I only go to school.) and I rest. I reflect through social media. I look back at the tweets, instagram pictures, and facebook statuses and rest. I let all the feelings and memories flood my brain and I remember. And I rest. I rest in the belief that God is the I Am, the creator and sustainer. It’s Easter. Jesus has risen. He conquered death so that I may have life and have it abundantly. He conquered death so I can rest in Tetelestai and know that it. is. finished. He rose so that I may know this world I reside in that’s so sinister isn’t home, it’s temporary. He rose so my doubts, fear, and anxieties wither at His name. He rose and now I am tethered by grace. Tetelestai was the cry of victory, fuffillment, freedom, and completion. He rose because He loved me so intricately and deeply. He rose because I am His. When I feel unloved, unworthy and infintesimal, I keep running. When that isn’t enough, I sprint until I can’t breathe. I’ve started the race. This is my marathon. I signed up for it and I’m not quitting.

Thank you for running the race with me.

(Shoutout to Meghan for just being there and well, crying with me. No one ever knows what to do with a crying Embo. Love you times a trillion. The #4500, you are my people. Love you all.)

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To: The Never Ending Race 

I. Am. Wrecked. My heart is beginning to shatter. My back is about to break. My body is bruised and I am ever so weary. Last week, I had a friend text me and say, “Embo, ya know, sometimes you’re so quiet that I forget you’re suffering.” I read this sentence repeatedly and my heart broke. I wept. And wept. And wept. I’m tired. Not the I-only-go-to-school-and-do-nothing-else tired, but so tired that I feel as if I’m on mile ten of a marathon and my legs are about to give out.

 My first thought is, “What the hell did I sign up for? This is hard. Too hard. Life has been hard since I was five years old. I don’t like hard.” The next is, “Why am I still running? I’m tired. So unbelievably tired. My heart can’t take this. This is too much.” Last but not least, I’m wondering how much farther I have to go before it’s over. “When is the pain going to stop? When does the suffering end? This is excruciating. My legs are done for. I quit. Where is the finish line? I’ve been running for what feels like forever and I still don’t see it. This is a never ending race.” For the love of marathons, this is a never ending race.

I’m in the fire. I’m in the midst of what seems like the hardest crucible of my life and much like Job, I’m wondering where God is. The foster care system is suffocating, my foster parents are suffocating me, school is suffocating me, and oddly but still true, the new church I have to attend is suffocating me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that instead of telling people how you actually feel, you tell them what they want to hear. Sad truth, but nothing happens when you explain how you feel. You aren’t heard. You’re just a kid. You aren’t regarded. Your opinion does not matter. You have to make them happy and bite your tongue. You slowly dissolve from the inside out. You’re voiceless and powerless in a failing system. We take great care of ourselves by shutting ourselves away. No feelings, no attachments. Just expect the unexpected. Have the audacity to hope for best and always expect the worst. Waking up and realizing that this is your reality is the worst part of every. single. morning. This is what you call surviving. 

 Imagine a teenager — let’s say she’s a 16 year old — who lacks a voice, a family and even a home. Now, stop imagining, because she’s real and probably lives within 100 miles of you. The truth is, she exists all over our country, yet many of us remain unaware. We remain unaware of all of the young boys and girls who lack a voice, a family and/or a home because they remain in a system that leaves them powerless.

A fellow foster kid told me, “I wish I was aborted. My mom didn’t want me and they promised her I would grow up like a normal kid with a normal childhood. I’ve been in 10 homes and I’m 14. What part of this is normal to you?”

It’s a broken government-run foster care system that is condemning kids to a life of hopelessness.

Welcome to the system.

Children are being damaged so much more in the system than out.

Your independence is crippled. You are furious because you don’t have normal. You wouldn’t know what normal was if it written in big black bold letters on your hand. You miss home, and yes, these problems probably do sound trivial, but trust me, it hurts ten times more when you finally allow yourself to call a place home only to leave again. Returning home is the worst. The worst thing about leaving to go home, a friend’s house, or a church camp for a weekend is that all the while that you’re there the one thought that’s looming in the back of your head is: I have to go back soon. And that’s the worst feeling of all. When you leave you dread it and when you come back you dread it. It’s the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. Your heart hurts. You don’t get to have the normal last summer with my friends before you head off to college next year. You can’t even explain how hard this is or put it into words that pinpoint the pain you feel. It is excruciating. 

It is both a blessing and a curse to be so keenly aware of affliction. 


I’m the type of girl who doesn’t like to wear her emotions on her sleeve. No matter how confused, anxious or upset I feel on the inside, I’m always trying to keep the image of someone who has it all together. I hate vulnerability and I hate feelings. My view on this has changed over the past week. God slapped me upside the head with truth. Funny thing about truth, it has power. It’s a death and resurrection . It crushes us. It kills us and it hurts us ever so deeply though the instant it kills us, it formulates into something true and honest, and somehow we’re revived, alive again. 

Vulnerability creates all sorts of possibilities and it is the unknown of those possibilities that frightens us. It makes us run. If we’re wrapping ourselves to conceal the vulnerability the unknown has to go through copious amounts of layers and sometimes love doesn’t reach to where we truly live. It’s the subtle reminder that the cross is a symbol of the very essence of humanity: vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability where you struggle openly and honestly. The kind of vulnerability where admittance can occur.  The kind of vulnerability where we can divulge in our fragility and demonstrate just how put together we aren’t. The kind of vulnerability where the mask falls as we allow ourselves to be known fully, deeply, and intricately. It’s a hard truth. Jesus died for my humanity. He died for my vulnerability. He died so that I could be fully known. He died so that I could know that there is much more hope in vulnerability than there is in my false wholeness. 

Genesis 6:6 states “And the Lord regretted that He had made man on earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.”

“… It grieved Him to His heart.”

Read that verse again. WE grieved Him to His heart. Humanity grieved Him to His heart. WE broke His heart. Humanity broke His heart. Like me, some probably thought, “God’s heart can be broken? How? He’s this big all mighty powerful being. God’s heart can be broken?”

The answer is yes. God created man. He loved them, but man didn’t love Him back and God’s heart broke. God’s. Heart. Broke.  The unshakable, forever victorious, all mighty, undefeatable, and infallible God had his heart broken. His. Heart. Broke.  Our God is vulnerable.  He is. Jesus was pinned to the cross enduring more than excruciating pain because He loves us so, so much in fact that He did it first. Humanity did not come to Him first; He came to us. He didn’t wait for us to get better. He didn’t wait for us to clean up before the approach. He loved us while we were still sinners. This vulnerability, this love all encompassed into a person who came down from the most perfect place for humanity is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. 

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

— Romans 5:6-8 NIV 

 Adam fell in a garden and was thrown into the wilderness. Jesus triumphed in the wilderness and was raised in a garden so that we could conquer all. Peace will never  be obtained if we’re still holding on to the hurricane. The hurricane will crush us and we’ll be drifting in a pool of despair. 

I’m giving myself permission to feel deeply, openly and honestly. I give myself permission to suffer. I give myself permission to feel anger, hurt, sadness, pain, love, joy, happiness, and elation. I’m give myself permission to recklessly abandon and not harbor my feelings by placing them into a collective box. I give myself permission to cry, kick, and scream up to heaven knowing all the while that He is STILL sovereign. I give myself permission to admit that I am not invincible. To admit that I have scars, I’m deeply wounded and I’m suffering ever so deeply. I give myself permission to feel freedom despite it. To know that in order for God to use me He has to work in me so He can work through me. I give myself permission to drop the mask of put togetherness that I’ve seemed to keep on for so long. To know that God loves me in the midst of my depravity and my not put togetherness. I’m giving myself permission to drop the veil. 

Give yourself permission. I’ve started the race. This is my marathon. I signed up for it and I’m not quitting. I’ve got a running partner who is always there to pick me up when I stumble and when my legs are about to give out. This is the never ending race. 


Shoutout to the lovely  Ronda Visintainer, who sees straight through my mask via phone and in person. You’re my gem. Love you! (Cue the incessant need for Dr. Pepper, Sour Patches, Jolly Ranchers, and Mike N Ike’s. This is going to be rough guys. Thank you for running the race with me.) 
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To: The Crucible

I remember the three of us, cocooned in our blankets laying on a pallet, binge watching Smallville and One Tree Hill, incessantly laughing together, a melody to my ears. I remember my mom singing and dancing around the house, praising Jesus without a care in the world. I remember the Thanksgiving when all four Tshimanga kids piled into Tish’s car belting out the lyrics to Kanye West’s latest CD, grabbing McDonald’s for dinner—best Thanksgiving ever. I remember those times when we’d all sit in the living room and laugh freely, telling that day’s stories. I remember all these things and more, for they were the intricacies that made home, home. I remember the love and I remember home

I remember the misfortune. Our lives, as a family, was a messy dichotomy of good and bad. It was a cleverly arranged set of beautiful ironies. It wasn’t black or white— it was always gray. Life was a sad story told three times over. Some would say we were born into, raised with, and carried bad luck on our shoulders. That we’d had so many misfortunes and the misfortunes had begun to define us, becoming our story. That the entire world was crumbling upon us. 

I’ve given my life a moniker: The Crucible.  A crucible is a severe test or trial that refines us, just as the goldsmith melts impurities from gold under intense heat. I’m in the crucible right now, and perhaps I’m writing this blog more for me than you. After sitting down to write this, I’m beginning to recall every memory I typically wish to forget.  I’ve been in foster care for a month and a half now. The long ride to an unknown house I would live in. With a lady I had never met. Not knowing what to expect or how I would be treated. Were there other kids there? Would I have my own room? What kind of food would I eat? These questions and so much more swirled around in my head the entire ride from Keller to Dallas. In here, uncertainty was the only familiarity. The difference between being in your home versus a foster home is that every move you make— every mistake, every decision, and all of what you say— is determined and analyzed by a whole team of people.

 You’re five years old. You’re standing at the top of the stairs, obscured from view listening to your social worker tell your foster mom that you have to go to another home. This always scares you, and makes you wish you were a normal kid. You hear the creak of the staircase and know your social worker is coming to break the news to you. She’s always been kind with me, breaking the news to me in the most gentle of ways. It’s always be something along the lines of, “Hey sweetie, it’s time to go on a trip. We have to go meet your new family.” 

Children aren’t supposed to feel this way. They’re not supposed to wonder where they’re going to be in a week, month, or two years. 

You put everything you own in a big black trash bag. You have no idea of what lies ahead. You just brace for it, prepare for the worst, and question if you should even have the audacity to hope for the best. You place your bag in the back of your social worker’s car. You get in and you fasten your seatbelt. 

This is what foster care is like. A cloud of uncertainty. A whirlpool of anger, despair, and pain. 

There are over 400,000 children in foster care and the kids that find themselves in the system come from difficult circumstances. This number is staggering. I am one of the 400,000 stories. 

Foster care affects thousands of kids across the nation; unlike The Dress, this topic doesn’t get a million hits on vine. You can’t pick it up and read about it in the latest edition of Vogue. This is what foster care means to me and thousands of other foster kids. Not The Blind Side fairy tale depiction of foster care you were expecting huh? Movies depict foster care so horribly I literally laugh out loud at the inanity of it but then again, every home is different. Yes, the movie was based on a true story, but for most of us there is no Sandra Bullock to whisk us away in a fancy car. 

There are two polarities, two extremes, two dichotomies, and some paradoxes of being in the system. 

We want you to have a normal high school life but only within the limits of our rules. 

We want you to see your siblings but only for two hour and did I mention it has to be supervised? 

We want you to see your friends but they have to have background checks AND be approved by the supervisor before you go. 

Oddly enough, these dichotomies, polarities, and paradoxes remind me of those of Jesus. The brokenness in life has taught me more about grace than any of its positivity has. 

You have to suffer with Me in order to glorified with me. Isn’t God a God of life and not death? 

Go and make disciples of ALL nations but make sure to keep the Sabbath by resting.

We know God as glorious ,magnanimous, the Creator and Lord of all yet Christianity says, “Seek Him in a manger in a humble stable.”

We look to him for life and light, and yet the story of the gospel begins at night in a candlelit stable— its core is found in the dark chapters that express the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. 

Jesus ate. He bathed. He spoke. He walked. He slept. He wept. He felt pain. He felt elation. He felt anger. He. Was. Human. As I go about daily life, I cannot forget that. 

I’m very independent and used to caring for myself. It’s innate. Suddenly, I need permission for everything that I do. I feel like I’m about ready to take care of myself and I don’t want strangers intruding on my life. There is an upside to this though. I’m learning to develop patience. It is a frustrating place to be in and there are a lot of rules that seem unfair with no reason. I live with people who have different beliefs, religion, tastes in food and music than I do. Though incredulously, I’m apart of a system that gives me free college. The idea that one has to hit the  lottery to have a happy and productive life in and after foster care infuriates me.  There’s nothing I can do to change all that has happened to me but what I can do is use that to propel and cultivate me into the person God’s created me to be.  While I still wish that I could have a normal and happy childhood, I am oddly grateful for what this crucible is showing me. I am more than blessed to be in the most amazing foster family with both an awesome foster mother and now father. They exude Jesus in the home and lead us by example.  Although I barely get to see my brothers and my mother and sister for two hours every two weeks, I’ve realized home isn’t a place. I’ve moved around too much for there to even be one. It’s not a building or a landmark or a childhood treehouse. Home is where the people are. Home is at Whataburger or McDonald’s or even in a car. A building doesn’t make up a home or even define the term family. The people do. The system has its flaws, and though I’m in the crucible, the life I’m fighting for—though I don’t know what I’m going to be doing—is so close I can almost taste it. I have never stopped hurting from these experiences but, despite all, I’ve overcome. 

All in all, I hope all have gained somewhat of an insight into the foster care system. It’s not the ideal family, but I would love to tell the future and current foster youth that anything is possible. Whatever your goals are, they are nothing but achievable. Your time is coming—it is at the tip of your fingers. Keep fighting.  I have been in the crucibe before—I am in the crucible now— when the crucible season passes––and it will––I will look back and see that I’ve grown in wisdom, love, and integrity. 


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The Seasons of Life

I have been there—through the seasons of life. Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall trust me when I say, I have been through them all. The sweltering torrid heat, the frigid arctic winter, the enchanting foliage of fall and the spring showers that bring May flowers. I am there.

The fire in the Summer makes me fall to my feet and I question: why? Why me? My burning feet can no longer bear this heat.

The downpour falls upon me and I question: God, the fire is gone and I’m left with this rain— where are you? I don’t want this pain.

The rain becomes sleet turning into snow and I begin to question: God the rain has stopped but I am left in the snow. Where are you? God, I’m beginning to let you go.

The snow has changed and now it is fall. And I question: God where are you? I thought you called me into the banquet hall.

God says yes you are in the fire but don’t you see? This was my desire.

God calls you daughter or son and He says yes, you are in the rain but nothing will compare to the pain of the red rain I shed on the cross for MY gain.

God says yes, the heat has transformed into the frigid snow but daughter, son, I’ve never let you go. Don’t you see? The snow can never compare to the piercing nails— blow after blow.

God says yes, I am here. Don’t you see? I’ve been there through it all—winter, spring, summer and fall. Daughter, son, I called you into the banquet hall because you are my all.

God says I am here don’t you see? I’ve always been near. Things got gory for My glory. The brawl of life is the beginning of your call in life. Tetelestai! It is finished, I cry, once and for all.

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17🎈

Today, I am turning seventeen years old. I have lived on this earth for a total of seventeen years, 6,205 days, 148,920 hours, 8,935,200 minutes and 536,112,000 seconds. Though I’m only turning seventeen, I feel as if I’m turning sixty-five. I’ve never felt adequate for my age. (I guess it’s true what they say about old souls. Age REALLY is just a number.) Sometimes my mind meanders and I think somehow fifty years worth of life lessons have been compiled into my short seventeen years. Other times I question myself. How did I even make it here? How did I not give up? How did I make it this far?

The answer?

Grace.

Throughout the 536,112,000 seconds I have lived on this earth I have been to twenty-eight schools, lived in homeless shelters, slept in a car(which wasn’t easy when your whole family is ten thousand feet tall.), bathed in a Seven Eleven bathroom, and have been in four different foster homes. Often I catch myself in a state of disbelief that I can type that sentence with a heavy heart and such conviction. Birthdays have always been a time of reflection for me and this year, seventeen, means more to me than most. Every year, just two weeks before my birthday, I reflect. I reflect on the messy dichotomy of life- the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the changes, and more importantly, I reflect on God’s great grace. Birthdays have always encompassed a plethora of emotions for me, ranging anywhere from utter exuberance to complete despondence.

I’ve recently started at school number twenty-eight where it is ninety-seven percent Hispanic and I kid you not that I literally cannot tell a single soul apart, as well as the fact that there are five Jose’s in one of my classes is uncommonly confusing.(I’m dead serious.) Though funny, school has quickly become my least favorite place in the world . School number twenty-eight is in the heart of Oak Cliff and trust me when I say that the kids I attend school with are more than disrespectful to the wonderful staff here, so naturally, all the staff love me. Every day I walk into that school all around me I see potential and it’s heartbreaking. These kids could be someone but instead they choose to cuss out their teachers and not do their work. It’s hard and the most draining thing going to a school where people seem to care about where they’re getting their next joint more than their education. I find solace when I’m anywhere but there. This abrupt move was unexpected, to say the least and luckily, I am STILL to graduate this year.(Thank God.) “Senior” year has hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve quickly realized that I have a crippling disease that is striking high school seniors across the nation: senioritis– a disease of laziness, lack of studying, and a dismissive attitude whose only known cure is graduation. (116 days and counting!!!) The worst and best part of “senior” year is that I’ve quickly realized how many lasts there are.

Last first day of high school. 

Last homecoming.(which I couldn’t attend this year. :/) 

Last exam. (Can I get a hallelujah?) 

Last prom. (which isn’t really what it’s cracked up to be.)

Last paper, and my least favorite, the last time I will ever walk through the doors of Adamson High School as a student. (It’s actually my favorite.) 

I’m feeling particularly nostalgic yet I’m filled with a multitude of anticipation, incredibly hesitant yet filled with copious amounts of excitement, and ever so eager accompanied with a whole lot of tenacity yet (still) lazy. 

Though senior year is filled with lots of lasts, my heart cannot help but smile at all the firsts coming my way. 

First car.

First day of college.

First college homecoming. 

First college exam. (not at all excited) 

First paper. (trust me, I really am excited.) 

First time walking through the doors as a college student, and my most favorite, the first time I will have true independence. So many good things are fast approaching and I’m excited to see what God’s going to do with me. Jesus is my first love, theology second, and words third. (At the moment, T.D. Jakes is at the top of both of my ‘Favorite Theologians’ and ‘Wish you were my Grandpa’ lists.) I’ll have my first bit of real consistency and I am so looking forward to it. I’m ready to start my life on God’s terms. I’ve been waiting for this day since I was five years old. Adjusting and abruptness are things that I have grown so accustomed to and I never want my future children to say the same.  For this reason I have yet to revel in the fact that I’m graduating early because it has yet to happen.  Often I catch myself in these ever so still moments of perspicuity. They’re miniscule, fleeting, and full of grace.

I’m also going through the books of the Bible and just going wherever God leads me and Jesus. The Book of Job. Forty-two chapters of glorious ruin and an unwavering faith. It perfectly depicts the messy dichotomy of life and how to survive in it. The wonderful and the ugly. The beauty of joy and the  of pain. The world is a place where sunsets and car crashes can somehow coexist, where people will astound you with both their kindness and cruelty,where all do an intricate dance between joy and pain. Though scary, it isn’t something that should deter you from living in this fine place. What it is, to put it quite simply, is an absolute and absolutes are something you learn to embrace because they are just that- absolute. A heartbreaking, gut wrenching, joyous, beautiful absolute. Job 17:1 says this: My spirit is broken.
My days are extinguished. A graveyard awaits me. In a previous post here I shared a brief overview of my story. I negated the big question, “How did you meet Jesus?” In a previous post here I was at church with Atlanta in 8th grade and during worship I told her I wanted to commit suicide because I couldn’t handle the pain my circumstances caused me. She did what any great best friend would do. She grabbed my hand and like clockwork ‘How He Loves’ was the next song playing. Now it is with such conviction I can say that the same room Jesus sought me out in is the same room I told my best friend I wanted to commit suicide. I will never lose the wonder of Jesus and all that He is. Grace. I will never lose the wonder of His oh so amazing grace. If God takes you down and raises you back up He WILL use you. He WILL bless you abundantly just as He did for Job and I knew immediately this book was for me. God tore my foundation down so that it could be rebuilt on Him alone. I didn’t fall in love with Jesus because of my situation, I fell in love with Jesus despite my situation. 

 

My seventeenth year on Earth has been nothing short of amazing so here’s a few pictures of my most memorable moments and people who helped me get here. (And if you aren’t pictured, you know who you are.)

“May I never lose the Wonder, oh the Wonder of Your mercy. May I sing your Hallelujah, Hallelujah Amen.”

Happy 65th Birthday to me!

 

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Here’s a few pics from tonight. Thank you Haley for spoiling me!

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Racial Reconciliation

Racial tensions/reconciliation has been on my heart for a while now. I’ve been fervently pursuing and praying about this and God’s finally told me what to say.

Racial tensions/reconciliation is so much more deeper than I originally expected and I’ve come to realize a few things Firstly, proximity matters. In fact, proximity is critical. Diversification is annihilated in God’s eyes because first and foremost He sees us as His— people of all ethnicities created in His image. Racism is the minimization of God’s value of an ethnicity. Racism is the equivalent of saying a certain ethnicity wasn’t worth Jesus dying for. Second, there is only one race: humanity and within humanity, there are many ethnicities. The idea of different races is belligerent. Third, this isn’t just a black versus white problem— this is so much bigger than that. This is a problem concerning classes and poverty. Think about it this way. There isn’t hostility towards only African Americans. There is hostility against Hispanics, Asians, and Muslims which leads me to one of my main points: if this hostility and indifference towards other ethnicities hinders us from fulfilling The Great Commission and equally important, loving our neighbor then what are we doing as followers of Christ? What are we doing as the family of Christ? Are we really as the family of Christ going to let disunity hinder heaven from somebody?

Let me ask you a question: When you read the bible and you read of Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Titus, Paul, Peter, and John the Baptist, how do you picture them? Are they white? If you’re like me they are and like me, you’ve let societal and cultural context you your view of those in the bible. Why do we read into cultural context? Because we all have some level of prejudice and we all have some level of preference. The bible is a multiethnic book. This may sound controversial but archaeology, history, and text prove it to be true. For example, Moses’ second wife was black.(Numbers 12:1) Phineas, an Egyptian whose name is directly translated to ‘negro’. (Numbers 25) If we cannot accept that our bible is a multiethnic book how will we be able to accept multiethnic churches? Ethiopia is mentioned forty five times as well as Egypt, and Africa is mentioned more than any other landmass throughout the bible in its entity and entirety. The heart of reconciliation is between God and the sinner. For we all all united by one… One person who died for one race in order to become one family. As that family, we’re gonna have to think. The criticality of morality is at an all time high. Thinking is what’s going to cost us. It’s going to cost us our comfort. It’s going to cause discomfort and vulnerability and that combination alone makes all people want to run but uncomfortable and vulnerable is where God works. We will never -individually or unitedly- be able to move forward until we step out of our comfort zones. These conversations are hard but necessary. We must enter in humbly with humility armed with forgiveness, compassion, and empathy. The wrath of God alone should make us shrink with humility. That alone should change the feelings of indifference towards racial reconciliation and tensions. There will always, always, always be more grace in Jesus than your sin.

Let me ask you another question: Does Christ reign in the way we think and view others? Let me put it this way: Would you rather have your daughter marry an ungodly white male or a godly black male? When you see interracial couple, do you view that as wrong? Interracial marriage is affirmed in the bible but interfaith marriage is not.

To all my black brother and sisters: Do not let yourself become a victim. There is only one victim and that person is He who chose to die on the cross for us. Be armed with forgiveness and do not become disheartened for God forgives you. Refuse to hide other’s sin against you from God’s grave and forgiveness.

To harbor racism in your heart is to spurn the cross— to go against the very thing Jesus died on the cross for— one race, the human race, to become one family.

Love your family.

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