Written February 20th, 2013
Laughter fills the cafeteria one evening as me and one of my best friends, who also works at the same place, reminisce on our more “fit” days. Slowly, I am taken back to the days where track was my life, and getting a chance to mingle with the boys on the basketball team was a nightly occurrence. We were all young, all friends (some of us), and the idea of what the next 4-5 years would look like were far, far away from any of our thoughts. We defined who we were and what we did at school through the eyes of our sport, academics, and incredible physiques.
Now fast forward a couple 5+ years later and as I sit in the cafeteria and watch all the students at the tail end of their teenage years, and some are just starting the early part of their adult years, things have changed, for me.
I’m relearning who I am.
Sitting at the cafeteria a few nights ago like most conversations with my still very active friends and former teammates (who still run) I am continually being reminded of the old days, and that night, in particular, a brief conversation struck a chord with me.
“Eunice, dang girl! You’re skinny now”.
“Yeah…I. Know. So and so tells me all the time she can barely see me, and that it is quite noticeable. I’ll get back into shape eventually. I want to but don’t have the motivation. I will soon "soon”, I laughed, "don’t worry."
“Well, I don’t think it’s bad. This is you at your natural state. So this is how God intended for you to be…”
Her words trickled off into the controlled chatter of the cafeteria but yet sirened loudly in my head. “…this is how God intended for you to be.”
Damn. That’s right I said it…damn. We are either too skinny, too fat, not enough of either…oh well. When I graduated from college and began working a job and no longer working out, I didn’t realize just how much relearning of myself and body I would have to do. And over the past few weeks, it has been the topic of my brain’s thoughts, primarily due to all the reflections I have been writing up the ying yang at work.
Long story short…the Eunice I thought I knew, is a very different Eunice than the girl who works out, eats, loves Jesus, and talks to people. This Eunice is insecure, emotional, a worry wart, and I am not sure if I am 100% sure this is a good thing or not. I am sure my friends who knew me then and know me now sometimes think the same things, but I guess it isn’t that bad. It has opened my eyes to the inner workings of myself.
Which brings me back to my main point…I am relearning who I am, and it at times sucks.
I tell you about this, not to brag but to make a point. Life is continually changing, and what makes these changes so tricky is there is never one aspect of the change that is completely 100% where we want it to be. We feel strong spiritually, and so we then begin to focus on getting the body right where we want it, which in the process we begin to realize we are becoming vain, and so caught up in how we look that slowly we are spending more time working out and less time with Jesus. Or more time at work becomes less time to help others. Or assisting others turns into less time to pursue our passions…does it ever get easier?
The truth is, it doesn’t.
I am not one to talk about my body, and I’ll be real, as much as I miss being in excellent shape, I genuinely believe there is a time and a season for everything. Life is continually changing, and so are we, and for so many years, I had a foundation that wasn’t foundationally built on God but built on sports and the friendships that it gave me. So once sports left the equation after being a part of my life for 14 years of my 23 years, and the bonds it brought me, though still active were not present as frequently, the solid confidence I always carried diminished a little bit along with the muscles, and my stress increased and my relationship with God stayed the same.
Which has ultimately become my biggest revelation…my relationship with God stayed the same.
When I think about having a relationship with God, the simplest way I can ever break it down to being somewhat understandable, is too think of my love for Him in the way in which I would love my husband and kids someday and then add way more love to that feeling. That meaning just like in any relationship, you have to make changes to things as life changes or seasons change, I imagine that my relationship with God does something similar. As I develop into a different person both emotionally and physically, my relationship with God could either suffer or flourish within the realms of this change.
There was a time where God used that lifestyle to bring me closer to Him, but now I think He is saying, those things have decreased so that I must increase in your life, in a new way.
He is the filler of the unfulfilled.
Restorer of the broken.
Takes what is partial and completes it with HIS WHOLENESS.
He is the completer of incompleteness.
I may be in my “natural state,” exposed and vulnerable, struggling at times to figure out who I am apart from athletics. It is so comforting knowing that everything I need to know, and everything you need to know can be found in HIM.
So when life gets tough and things begin to change. Your paradigm begins to shift; you must start exercising the spiritual to sustain the natural.
Life is a workout in and of itself, and if anyone is looking for a workout that works on all aspects of the body, shoot live life to the fullest!
I am continuously reminded that without Him, there is no balance, there is no equilibrium and just as much as working out and looking good is helpful when that is all said and gone, not done. When I have a job, career, maybe someday a family, if that was all taken away instantly, would I know who I am?
Do you know who you are?
I am learning that there is so much I have yet to learn about myself and Jesus.
Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
So apart from Him, we can’t experience true abundance.
If you can help it, never get caught up on what you do, but who He is. I may be in my “natural state,” but I am learning that with God, the natural can and will always meet super. Which, as a result, creates something supernatural.
I know what John Mayer meant when he sang the words, “Your body is a wonderland,” and in every sense of what he meant, it is. God also created the body and every part of it with intent and purpose, and that all encompassing realization is wonderful. Of course, if you’re not content with it, you can change it, but even though God created our outward being with intention, I love that He still chooses to look at our heart. I figure if we all focused on that as well, naturally we’d stop worrying so much about missing a workout or eating one too many donuts. Or we’d take the time to care for our bodies, not because society makes us want to look like someone else, but because we want to offer the best of ourselves to the one who loves us no matter what.
Whoever said being skinny or losing a lot of weight makes you automatically healthy or beautiful was dumb. That isn’t always true, Your body is a wonderland, and I feel to have a real revelation of that, we need Jesus.
Take care of your heart. Guard it and learn who you are based on what He says and not what you do, and what you do will naturally fall into place because you know who you are in Him.
I’m on a new journey to self-discovery and as tough as it is…I am relearning who I am and starting to love it…okay not quite LOVE it yet but be in the likeness of it.
Written May 11, 2012
I’m officially a college graduate. Now ask me, "what is the biggest thing you've learned these past five years Eunice?" and to be honest, I would respond by saying, "I feel as if I’ve time traveled backward and forwards." I remember praying to God and asking Him to send me somewhere I would leave and return home a completely different person. Little did I know He would answer that prayer.
I’m currently making the long drive to watch my teammates compete at Track and Field conference. Like my freshman year, a few months ago, I received a season-ending injury costing me my track career. When I tell people this, they seem saddened and angry by the news. They are also shocked to see me so calm, knowing how much I love the sport. The truth is, years of ups and downs prepared me for this. I came to the realization a few years ago that my purpose was not being the "fast black girl." I've found joy in things outside of the sport, but most importantly, I’ve learned to trust God and His plan for my life. So, here I am, done with track forever and surprisingly at peace.
When I was injured my freshman year of college (first meet of the year), I was disappointed. I was in the best shape of my life, and I felt I had a good shot at winning nationals in the 100m hurdles that year. Looking back, what seemed like a tragic conclusion to hard work was a set up by God to position me in other places of my life. For example, halfway through my sophomore year, I decided to change my major, which put me back a year in school. Luckily for me, that redshirt year helped me afford the additional year of college. Realizing that many of my close friends would be graduating before me, I knew I needed to do something to create a new community. I was approached by an area director, who felt I'd make a great Resident Assistant. Unsure of how true that was at the moment, I applied, and to my surprise, I got the job. Becoming a Resident Assistant was the first time in my life, I would consistently put into action my life purpose, "serving others." Lastly, had I not got hurt, I never would have plugged into a church community. A church community that I'm still a part of today. Stepping out of my comfort zone, and pressing into the community, gave me lifelong friends and people who for the first time in my life, made me feel accepted.
I no longer see the sport as something that defines who I am. Instead, I see track and field as one way God’s world and love reached me. I will always be a runner and more specifically, a hurdler. I will always try to attack obstacles in my life the same way I attacked the hurdles, knowing with each barrier, I have the potential to get better and improve. I will always have to train to surpass, where I’ve been to get to where I am going, and I will always have the best coach in the entire universe showing me the way.
I've learned not to get caught up on the little setbacks because they are steps forward, and I've realized any gift we've been given is more than a gift. Track has not only taught me I am a good athlete, but that with God I’m pretty darn good at life. I cherish the wins and even losses because that’s life. You win, you lose, you get hurt, but ultimately your love for the sport or life never changes especially with Jesus as a coach. Everything is for a bigger purpose and a bigger picture. I started my time here hurt, and now I’ve ended hurt. Call it time travel, I feel stronger and more hopeful than ever.
I ended yesterday's blog post by writing, "Intimacy with God unearths who we are created to be and frees us from the burden to perform." That statement has helped me define femininity as, "Living my life as who God has called me to be and nothing less." I've struggled at times to live life from this posture. There were times where I've felt pressured to stay in the shadows of the men in my life. Partially because growing up, the schema that represented the relationship between femininity and black women was limiting and constraining. I thought that I could only live as one of two things: docile or combative. Both of these extremes were perpetuating a narrative that too much of anything was not a good thing.
As I "came into my womanhood," in my weaknesses, and moments of despair, I recall God reclaiming my identity and reminding me of the creation story. How everything God created was good. On the first day, he created the heavens and the earth, followed by light, darkness, land, water, animals, and then man. He did all of that, rested, and yet despite all the goodness, something was not right. Something was incomplete, missing still. As a result, He placed Adam into a deep sleep and from man came woman. And as that story would unfold in my head, I remember hearing God speak to my heart,
"Eunice, creation was and is incomplete without you. Everything I created was magnificent and yet even in all its beauty; it was not complete in my eyes until I created you".
It's such a powerful thing to realize that you serve a God who didn't need us, yet He chose us. A God who saw creation as good once Eve entered the world. The world wasn't meant to be enjoyed or watched over by one gender. It was about humanity living in partnership and relationship with God and one another. So in the years that have followed, I've had to remind myself in moments of doubt, that if He saw me as that important, as the completion of everything He created, I couldn't choose to live my life like I am nothing. True femininity says that I live as all that I am, through all that He is.
In 2015, I started this website. I got out of a two-year "situationship," lost a close friend in the process of grieving, and as if that wasn't enough baggage to carry, I decided it was the perfect time to start grad school, along with taking up more responsibilities in church ministry. None of this was entirely "planned," but I knew I had to say yes to some of the things God was calling me to do, and I've since realized that God has a strange way of calling me into things when I'm feeling ill-prepared.
That's been a lesson in and of itself, but add my uncertainty of self during that time of grieving to the complexities of what felt like a major life breakdown, and it was the perfect recipe for God to bring me to a place of total reliance on Him. What I realized in 2015 was a bit of what I shared yesterday, I had a very misconstrued understanding of who God is, and what that uncovered was my fear of embracing my femininity and understanding what it meant to be me and love myself.
Here is my truth, finding out that you are a sexual being with biological desires at 23 years old is not what I consider ideal. You might be shocked by me saying that so openly, but that's part of the problem, we aren't open enough about this reality in church spaces. There were many mistakes I made in my early and mid-twenties that stemmed from a misunderstanding and weak image of what it meant to be a Godly woman and a righteous one at that. So that misunderstanding coupled with the pressures of society and my Nigerian roots to experience x, y, and z by a specific timeline, had me so confused and just susceptible to making some very dumb decisions. Dumb decisions stemmed from trying to hit "pivotal life marks." Looking back that was stupid of me, but I can't change that as much as I can speak openly about it, and the reality is, I have countless stories of friends who have compromised their standards solely because they feared those decisions holding them back from finding love, or gaining a deeper understanding of self.
What I realized and what I write about in my first post on Chasing Proverbs (you can find that post HERE) is that I was living my life afraid to acknowledge the attributes of feminism and femininity that made me, me. And it was that fear that often times kept me in hiding when I wasn't living up to the standards I was raised to live by. Was it okay to have the feelings I had, to desire to be loved, shown affection, to dress how I wanted, wear what I felt good, shoot, sexy in, and somehow still represent Jesus? Surely, life and my relationship with God was more than those things, but I somehow couldn't figure out what that looked like for me, without hearing the voices of others, and worrying about what they might think. As I wrote in that post several years ago, "My femininity often scared me, and I was afraid of being "too pretty," sexual, or perceived as trying too hard." I now know that wasn't the heart of God (it's not God's heart for humanity). For me to worry so much about what other people think, as much as it was for me to develop an intimacy and a relationship that had me so wrapped up in how God saw me, that I couldn't see anything else. It was about the posture of my heart, more than my image, and if any desire to embrace anything or even myself, took my heart away from His light, and how He saw me, it wasn't for me. Taking it a step further, intimacy with God unearths who we are created to be and frees us from the burden to perform, and in that God gave me a new definition for femininity, and simplified it down for me. I'll reveal more of that tomorrow.
5/23/2019 0 Comments
If I asked you to name all of the things that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?
Let me tell you a story.
Several years ago, I met with a counselor that asked me a life-changing question. She said, “Eunice, do you hate yourself?” It was a question no one had ever asked me. It would have been easier if she asked me if I loved myself. THAT was a question I had an answer to, and I probably would’ve responded to it by saying how much I loved certain aspects of myself, not realizing that most of those aspects were ways I loved others, not ways I loved myself. So once the word HATE rolled off a strangers tongue, it was like a flashlight had illuminated my past hurts and traumas. Suddenly all the things I wished I could've done differently or been careless about in my life resurfaced. It was true. I didn't love myself. I wasn't even sure if anyone did. Tears streamed down my face, and in that moment I muffled up any bit of courage I had left, and answered, "Yes. Yes. I guess I do. I guess I do hate myself".
I remember the counselor sitting across from me, and smiling without any doubt or hesitation as she said, "You're much further than you think Eunice. You are much further in all of this than you think. And this is where the healing begins. This is where it can start. There is hope, and you will find it, you've already found it. Now to just trust and believe it".
* * *
I've definitely come a long way since then, but if you’ve followed my writing over the years, what you just read may have sounded very familiar because it is. Several years ago, after going through a dark time in my life, I wrote and shared that story about a girl I named Anaya and titled it, “Freedom". Today, I decided to re-share that story as it happened, to me, because Anaya is and was me. I don’t share this story for pity or sympathy. I share this story to set the stage for the next 30 days. To show you one of the many challenges and lessons of life I’ve had to work through and experience, “the journey of learning to love self.” Every lesson I've had to learn in my life falls under this theme. So it seemed fitting to start day one of thirtyfor30 here. Sharing lessons I've learned along the way about femininity, identity, and loving myself. These lessons will be placed under the category Revelations because well, that's what all these lessons were.
I recognize not everything I’ve been through is meant to be shared publicly, and trust me when I say I won’t be sharing every detail of the last 29 years of my life for all to see. However, when I was talking to a friend yesterday, they reminded me that no matter what aspects of my journey I decided to show the world today, tomorrow, the next 29 days, or in the future, people will always judge, so why not have them judge authentic me.
Every day, every year, and every moment gives us all an opportunity to uncover something more profound about ourselves, which in retrospective is a beautiful thing.
So here we go…authentic me…thirtyfor30 — cheers to day 1.