leaving-room

Leaving Room

Today is my 34th birthday and I’ll be spending most of the day participating in a seminar hosted by the United Methodist Women on mass incarceration. Lead by three of my dynamic colleagues at the CCUN (Church Center for the United Nations), I’m running over with gratitude that my birthday will be spent learning about this work.

Lissen, my birthday’s used to be spent with hangovers. Which ain’t totally out the picture, but today we learn! >.<

Anyway, I wanted to write a quick word on leaving room.

People who garden know what it means to leave room for vegetables to grow properly so they may expand and reach their peak without being crushed by the presence of a wall or other veggies.

Whenever I bake cookies (like, the refrigerated, pre-made kind), the package always says to “leave room” between the cookies so they too can expand and reach their full potential of chocolate, gooey goodness.

After graduating seminary last year, I was left scrambling trying to figure out what to do with my career. None of the dozens of jobs I had applied for my last semester had panned out and, with my 33rd birthday around the corner, I had no idea what I was doing with my life.

Eventually, I stopped looking for jobs and said, “I’m going to leave room for what God wants to do.” Now, this meant that I would be a full time freelancer, using my gifts of writing and editing to make ends meet, piecemealing my life one contract job at a time, but I felt like that was the way to go.

By September, I  received two offers to go back to the classroom, one in my old stomping grounds of Douglasville, Georgia, the other for a KIPP School in Arkansas. Both offers were good (and the principals/leaders were relentless about bringing me on :)) — but I turned both down.

This was an act of leaving room for what God wanted to do (even though I didn’t know what that was at the time.) I knew that if I took those jobs, I wouldn’t be able to lean into anything that came my way that was more in line with my call to write, teach, and travel for Jesus. I’d be stuck behind a desk teaching kids, needing lots of time off to honor commitments I hadn’t even made yet.

Wouldn’t you know that by October, I would have a paid speaking gig for every month through January 2016? I’d speak at Allume in Greenville, travel to Palestine, and host of other opportunities. In November, I’d get the call to give the convocation address at Florida A&M University and Iowa State University. By January, I had booked to speak/travel somewhere every month through April 2016.

But what does all of this say about leaving room in your life?

We often fill our lives up with stuff because we are afraid. We are afraid we won’t have enough to live and take care of our families. We are afraid because we’ve been told for so long that the path we’re on is the path we’re supposed to take. It’s safe. It’s familiar. We take on jobs and situations simply because we feel like if we leave too much room for God to do something else that we might just have to rely on God more than we’ve ever done before.

We crowd our lives with so much stuff that we can’t make sense of what’s necessary to stay and what isn’t. You ever been in someone’s home that has way too much furniture in it? Every square inch has some piece of decor, furniture, personal belonging: it consumes the place, sucking the potential for life and light to be present.

But more often than not, we are afraid to leave room because there are people in our ear telling us to do so is a “bad idea.” Especially people who are close to us.

Some folks tried to tell me turning down those two teaching jobs were a bad idea. But I recognize now that they too, were afraid. Afraid of what it may mean for them to leave room in their lives for God to do something brand new if I did.

Here’s the word for today: leave room for what God is about to do in your life. Leave room for growth, for new opportunities, for your life to expand and take new shape today. Resist the temptation to fill your life with sub-par people just to say you got somebody. Resist the need to say yes to things simply because you’re afraid that what you currently have in your hands isn’t enough. It is.

When we leave room for God we leave room for us to GROW and EXPAND. Like a healthy garden or store-bought refrigerated cookie dough, when given a little room, can reach its highest potential if we just leave a little room.

On the Chase,

Alisha L.

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What I’ve Learned: A Week in New York

‘Bout a week ago [insert Shmoney Dance] I moved to New York.

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I preached about this 12 year journey  here. Since my move, I’ve learned a few things. Like to hear it? Here it go:

    1. People tell you how to get places through cardinal directions. “Go north on so-and-so.” “Take the southwest train exit.” Where I’m from, we tell folks to go “left” or “right.” You don’t realize you don’t know directions well until someone tells you to go “north” and you look at them like “what that mean?”
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2. $1 pizza slices will really save your life. My diet has consisted of $1 pizza slices, coffee, and more $1 pizza slices (don’t worry: I walk 10,000 steps a day most days.)
It’s a beautiful sight is to see people of all races, from business men and women to starving artists, standing outside the pizza stand, slices folded, scarfing them down in harmony. It’s a beautiful thing.

3. I haven’t mastered walking fast with coffee in my hand. I tried that on my first day of work. Epic fail. It really is a skill.

4. Speaking of walking fast: this city reeeaaally forces you to use your body. You’re walking while dodging people, things, doors, climbing steps, trying not to fall down steps, gripping MTA train poles while holding your bags and cell phone: A LOT.

5. Street harassment is real. I’ve always known this but really underestimated how often women get harassed on the streets. In Atlanta, we don’t have nearly as many face-to-face interactions with strangers as people do here. We go from car, to building, to car again. Here? You’re always in spaces with strangers — all the time. Street harassment is real.

6. Apartments are small. Really. Not a rumor.

7. I don’t really understand why g-r-e-e-n-w-i-c-h is pronounced “GREH-nich.”

8. I also don’t understand why “h-o-u-s-t-o-n” is pronounced “HOW-ston.

9. Sallie Mae and Navient will find you in New York.

10. People are nice. Not “sweet tea and biscuits” nice, but “black coffee and plain bagels” nice. Won’t give you a sugary warm feeling but it’s enough to get you going and send you on your way. People really want to help you because they know this can be a tough city to navigate. Just don’t expect much coddling in the process.

🙂

But most importantly, I’ve learned that I can do anything I put my mind to. I’ve always known that about myself but the last week has been quite the reminder.

Week one of New York living complete! I deserve a bagel. With Lox!

Love + miss y’all,

Alisha L.

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The Big Ask

I’m moving to New York City. It’s been a crazy six weeks since I found out I was hired as the Executive for Spiritual Growth at one of the world’s largest women’s organizations, The United Methodist Women. Excited is an understatement!

The story getting to New York City, believe it or not, started over a decade ago when I was a senior at Spelman College.

I tell the story in my last sermon at Impact Church, “The Big Ask.”

Using Luke 11:5-10, I talk about the work we are called to do between the “big ask” and the answered prayer. The work we do in between our prayers and the answering of them are just as important as the answered prayer!

Check out the video below and share with someone who has been knocking at the door waiting for God to answer!

[note: at the 15 minute mark, I accidentally say 2006 when it should have been 2010!]

On the Chase,
Alisha L.

The Big Ask from Impact Church on Vimeo.

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Transformation

A couple of weeks ago, I preached on the process of transformation.

One of the things I’ve learned in the very (very) short time I’ve been preaching is that you cannot effectively preach anything you haven’t lived or experienced.

Preaching effective sermons is deeply rooted in the lived experience; embodying the text is essential in translating what the ancient text has to say to modern audiences.

Transformation has been knocking at my door all year long, chile. I’ve been fighting it ’bout as long, too.

Acts 9:1-9 tells of the powerful transformation of Saul, a man whose life’s experiences were critically important to what God would call him to do as a transformed man responsible for sharing the Gospel and establishing the Church as we know it today. Saul was a persecutor of Christians, using his power and privilege as a Roman Citizen and Jewish leader against those who followed Jesus. He was a proven leader, a person of influence, and though he was using his skills to do harm, it would be everything God needed to take Saul’s life of destruction to Paul’s life of liberation and transformation.

We are often told that we must shed the experiences of our past in order to be used by God. We think that none of the things we’ve done, said, or experienced can be used by God — but what Paul’s transformation teaches us is that God wastes no experience; God will take everything we’ve done, good or bad, and use it to transform the world!

Check out the full sermon below!

Transform from Impact Church on Vimeo.

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Reclaiming the Narrative: Part Two

Last week, I wrote the initial entry on Reclaiming the Narrative: Single Motherhood, a series of posts that will explore how we can begin to re-imagine single motherhood in a way that is empowering, liberating, and purposeful.

As a public theologian, I cannot but help to write about these things through a Christian lens; my engagement in and with the Christian Church implores me to challenge and awaken the ways in which we engage Scripture as a tool for liberation because it has served as a foundation for the moral stances we take — whether we want to admit it or not.  There has been a longstanding trend of using Scripture to oppress and marginalize single mothers. We’ve taken Scriptures like Ephesians 5:3-17 (that shames sexual sin) as a grounds for single mothers to be perpetually punished for their “sin” of single motherhood. We’ve glazed over texts like 2 Esdras 2:20  that admonishes us to care for the fatherless (fatherless children are raised by single mothers, yes?) because it does not fit the narrative of shame that we ask single mothers to try on for size. Continue reading

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Reclaiming the Narrative: Single Motherhood

This is first of a series of blog posts that will discuss the reclaiming the narrative of single motherhood. Bookmark the blog or sign up for email notifications here.

A big part of my life’s work has been talking about the challenges, misconceptions, and hopes of single mothers. During my last year in seminary, I wrote a paper that explored single motherhood and the ways both church and society has misunderstood the nuances and varying experiences of single mothers. While it’s way too in-depth to go into in a blog post (there was conversation about eugenics, Christian ethics, and the Church) what was birthed out of that research was a need to re-imagine and re-frame the narrative of what it means to be a single mom. Continue reading