Welcome Home

After 14 long months….I am finally home!

It’s been a incredible ride. It’s only been 6 days since I’ve been home in Atlanta (pictured in the header image) and I feel so at peace. It was a tough few months. Trying to understand my next steps and having faith. I just wasn’t myself. Now that I’m at a good place I’ve been able to reflect and really realize that that I was losing my faith in God. I wasn’t trusting Him to work in my life. Walking through life without faith is like walking blindfolded with no one leading you to where you need to go. That’s terrifying. And I think that’s how I was beginning to feel.

I’ve been reading and reflecting which has given me a piece of knowledge that I’m so glad to have gained.

“Your position is a result of your faith, not your works. You were saved by faith, you live by faith, and some day you’ll be welcomed into heaven by faith.”

Faith. Is. Everything. 

Especially being so young and at a point in life where I’m trying to figure out my next steps…it can get SO discouraging. But by faith, you can move mountains. You can do anything. And in the midst of all of that God’s love is there…for me.

My advice for myself and for others is to always live life by faith. Believe and I mean really believe that God is and will take care of you. In the devotional I’m currently reading it says:

Exaggerate His love. Overstate His goodness. His faithfulness. Overestimate His kindness towards you and me. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to. You can’t exaggerate infinity. 

Be blessed people and remember to love. Love is woven into the fabric of our nature. Always choose love. 

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In the Midst of My Storm

Before my heart was beating, I was already in your plan. You are my peace of mind. 

It’s been a challenging couple of months. I’ve had some good times and some bad times. But I can say overall, these past 3 months have been very—very hard. It’s almost unreal how you can go from being so high, where you feel invincible. You feel and believe like you are so unstoppable. And then you hit rock bottom. Emotionally, spiritually and mentally.

When He moves in your life it may not be exactly what we understand. 

He’s moving in my life. Although it may seem like He’s silent. He’s moving. I think right now, I’m beginning to live a life where I need—actually HAVE to be like Peter. I need to have that reckless faith. If you all go to Matthew 14:22-32 you’ll be able to capture the time when Peter had to have complete and utter faith to walk on water towards Jesus in the midst of the storm. It’s the type of faith that people will question and ask you “are you sure what you’re doing is what you should be doing?” Because it’s SO crazy. Like walking on water. All the disciples on the ship thought Peter was crazy for even attempting to walk on water. They couldn’t understand his faith. That’s the type of faith I want and need. The type that shakes you and makes people wonder, “what kind of God do you serve?”

I want to be like Peter where I don’t question God. I don’t question His work or how He is working in my life. Because, I have been questioning Him and that’s why I feel like the storm has been controlling my life, when instead I should be controlling it.

You think you do everything as you’re supposed to do. I did everything God asked of me. I went to Ethiopia. I listened and stayed for over a year. I stayed obedient to Him. But I still hit a storm. Not realizing that it’s okay to hit a storm. It’s how you behave and consume faith throughout the storm that leads you to your victory.

Just like the scripture says, if God is for us than who can be against us?

The mind cannot process the things of the Lord. 

When you’re going through a storm and it’s really— and I mean really ferocious, sometimes Jesus seems like He’s a ghost. Like where are you man? I cannot see you. Why have you left me astray?

“But Jesus spoke to them at once. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage. I am here.” Matthew 14:27 

Jesus told Peter to come. Trust me and come. Peter’s eyes were on Jesus. But at the second he lost faith, he began to sink. That’s how faith works. That’s what I’m going through. You can’t afford the luxury of doubt in the supernatural realm of God. I’ve been entertaining the notion of doubt.

I cannot. And I refuse to. 

Don’t focus on the storm. Look at Jesus.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Empress

If there is one person someone associates Ethiopia with, it’s always Emperor Haile Selassie.

Yesterday, I experienced the most unexpected. I was able to visit the church “Kidist Selassie” or as some know it to be, The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Arat Kilo. Amazed, shocked, stunned, overwhelmed, emotional, overjoyed are just a few emotions that hit me all at once when I entered the church. This church was requested to be built by IMG_4175Emperor Haile Selassie as a commemoration of Ethiopia’s liberation from the Italian occupation. It is known to be the second most important place to worship after the “Re-ese Adbarat Kidusan Dingel Mariam Tsion” or the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum. This is the church that claims to have the Ark of the Covenant.

Kidist Sealssie is where Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife, Empress Menen Asfaw are buried.

You may be wondering what tombs were those on the picture of this blog. Well, it’s Emperor Haile Sealssie’s and his wife’s tomb— which is unbelievable that I was able to see and touch them. Completely unbelievable.

Coming into the church, you’re immediately mesmerized by the immaculate beauty. How could something be so well crafted aIMG_4180nd made into a place of worship? It’s amazing. And then when you walk into the church the overwhelming sense of emotion begins to captivate your heart. When I say captivate, I really mean it. It’s jaw dropping. Everything about the church was so compelling and made me so proud to know this was hand crafted and built so beautifully by Ethiopian people.

As you walk inside, the walkway is gorgeous and lighted so well. I was able to take pictures all throughout my time inside the church and could take snapshots of history going back to 1930!

You reach to the front of the church. That’s when you start getting the goosebumps. Everything is so real and all there for you to see! IMG_4186These two seats are the seats of the royal couple. Emperor Haile Selassie would sit on the right and his wife would sit on the left. You can see on these two pictures, the empress’ picture is pictured first and the emperor’s picture is next. The church continues to ravish with beautiful detail. This picture below shows the area where the couple is buried. At that particular moment, I couldn’t believe what I was about to see.This is where Emperor Haile Selassie used to sit during church services.

As you walk into the opening pictured below, you enter the area where their bodies are. To be able to touch the tombstone of Emperor Haile Selassie was crazy. I felt so blessed to see all that history in just a blink of an eye. It almost felt like a spiritual renewing to be quite honest. I don’t think many countries have such immense history offered so publicly to their people.

Now Emperor Haile Selassie is no Jesus, but he made efforts for his family and for the Ethiopian people to have such a beautiful place of IMG_4215worship and to give back to his generous doing— the Ethiopian people wanted his and his wife’s body to be buried there. This was a place for the royal family and for people who lived close by to worship. Kidist Selassie was not just for the wealthy or well known, as it is not even now. It is for everyone. Just as every church should be— a home to everyone.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!”

Genesis 28:16-17

Year One

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.

 

Year One. 

What an extraordinary year of growth, change, strength, love, passion and perseverance. In 12 months, I took a leap of faith and conquered what I once thought was the inevitable.

This time last year I was on a plane headed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the first time in my entire life. I just graduated from college and finally listened to my heart. I went after my dreams—how life should truly be lived. But in order to do this, I needed a fortitude of faith. What perfectly depicted how I felt on that plane was this exact verse: “Do not be afraid [Naome], for I will protect you, and your reward will be great” Genesis 15:1. I rose my level of expectation because I believed to prepare now for what I would.

God always makes a way when there feels to be no way. Always.

Challenges are conquerable. Impossible is just a challenge no one has conquered, so be the first. I choose to be the first. 

Now that’s something very easy to say but not so easy to do. The first 6 months of being in Addis was honestly a spiritual renewing. My life was changing right before my eyes. So much good was presented to me. It almost felt unreal. My identity was becoming more clear to me. I was becoming a confident and strong-willed woman. I was passionate. Everything felt so right. After I completed my fellowship program, I was offered a full time position with an amazing company and sealed the deal. I accepted. The job offer was great. I got to travel. Life was bliss. I was even blessed with an amazing relationship with an amazing man. I was joyous. I was at peace. The honeymoon stage of life was really in full effect.

Then, I was left alone. In solitude. Everyone that I was so comfortable with seemed so far away, literally—7, 681 miles and a 7 hour time difference. There was a strong force of loneliness that inhabited my heart.

It was January. I was experiencing so many emotions. I kept asking God, “what was this that I signed up for?” I didn’t think it’d be this hard. I didn’t think I’d feel how I was feeling. I didn’t think being away from my mom would make me feel so lonely. I didn’t think a long distance relationship would require so much work and patience. It was a time to really learn how to love and care; for myself and for the people most important to me. But at the same time, I felt like giving up. Although I had an amazing job in Ethiopia, the spirit of loneliness captivated my life. I felt trapped. It was not until I heard a sermon one day at church. Pastor Z said “God isn’t looking for your ability. He’s looking for your willingness.” God really was seeking for me but waiting to see how willing I was to seek His kingdom.

At the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. When God speaks, He’s shifting you to a new day. God was speaking to me. He wanted me to depend on Him, especially for what I was going to experience moving forward. I needed Him.

I really connected with my family during my time in Addis. Meeting them for the first time was the greatest gift. My mom was able to come in January and we visited family together. After my mom went back to the states, the hardest three months invaded my life.

My aunt and grandma both passed away. 

It was a very difficult time for me. I couldn’t understand what was happening. It was all so unexpected. It took me some time, but I approached a period where I became thankful. I had an amazing support system that really helped me get to that point. I was thankful for the lives they both lived. I was thankful my mom and I were able to share memories with them, together. I was so thankful. I had faith. I had faith that God works with such power and might. Faith changes what you do and how you think. You connect faith into hope and then turn that into a seed. I had hope that God would give me strength—and He did.

Work was progressing and I was growing in my position. I was beginning to understand how much my life was changing and coming to peace with it. With growth, comes a period where you lose friends and gain new ones. The people who have come into my life throughout this year have been a beautiful blessing. It’s all apart of the process. I knew God was working. He was working so perfectly.

I was then able to finally go back home for vacation in June. Those 21 days were the best days. I was rejuvenated. I spent time with my mom and friends. My relationship was becoming more and more of a blessing to me. I was and still am SO happy. Everything I was fighting and pulling through for was coming together.

God is good and will always be good. 

I’m back in Addis now—finishing up my time here.

Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I’ve conquered what I once thought could never be a reality..

Cheers to one year. God paved the way. I’m just walking on the path He set out for me. 

That Beautiful Mind

I’ve been in Ethiopia for almost 6 months now and my life has evolved. I’m unstoppable. For all my life, I’ve dreamt of coming to Ethiopia and hopefully finding my purpose. The fellowship is over and now I’m on my own. What’s next for me?

God is really just so undeniably great. Not only is He great, He is so great to me! After a lot of hustling and hard work, I can proudly say I have been offered a full time job here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I will be the Creatives Coordinator for a new channel launching in the city. I couldn’t be more excited about the job and the people I’ll be working with. I just got back from Dubai and really felt like I was walking on cloud nine. From the good ole South, driving through the streets of Atlanta; to the beautiful Motherland and then to Dubai. Wow. You can only imagine how speechless I can get sometimes. Life is just beginning for me. I’m so thankful.

I feel like I’ve lived in a bubble for quite sometime; just my mom and myself. When I see people embrace me and love me, it really warms my heart. To be able to see how others treat me and accept me for who I am speaks volumes.

To have come so far in life and realizing it’s just the beginning gets me excited. I’m thrilled to see God work in my life. Pushing yourself to be the best you that you can be is the best accomplishment you can make for yourself.

This all means that Ethiopia will be my home. I’ll be here for 2 years and I’ll make frequent visits to the states when I can. I’m glad God gave me this time of solidarity to grow. Once January comes around, I will be on my own. It’ll be a new life, a new beginning. Of course, any normal person would be at least a little nervous. I definitely am. I’m starting a new chapter of my life. I’ve grown to understand that God really unveils Himself when you’re uncomfortable. When you really have nowhere to turn and you’re left to find comfort in Him. All He wants is for us to find peace in Him. I’m happy He’s given me this time to really just fall so in love with Him. To not have to worry about what’s going to happen to me and if I’ll find love with someone or if I’ll have a family of my own…if I’ll get married or if I’ll be successful as the years go on by. If I’ll be the most beautiful girl in the world…all these questions are already answered by God himself. To Him, I’m already the most beautiful because I’m made in His image. To Him, He’s already found my perfect soul mate. It just requires patience. It requires falling in love with Him and myself. To Him, He’s already paving the path to my success because I chose Him and He chose me. He’s perfectly planned my family and future because He knows my heart’s desires. How beautiful is that?! I’m so lucky to be recognized as a child of God. I’m His and will always be His.

May this verse from John 14:12 lay on your heart as it has on mines. I declare my life on this verse because this is a written testimony for me. Believe in the power of YES. May this year be my year of the YES and may it be yours as well. Say YES to Him and let Him work in you.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:12

Sweet Dreams

It’s been 3 months. What?! How?! There’s no way.

I’ve been in the Motherland for 3 whole months. It’s unbelievable. Where did the time go? I’ve had such a fabulous time here. Like I’ve said, I’m learning so much about myself and day by day, I’m becoming a better human being.

Some really cool things have been happening to me. I’ve mentioned a few already in the previous posts. I’ve been networking with amazing people. It’s really eye opening to see how many people in Ethiopia admire Diasporas. They want to give people opportunity… all the time! It just makes me want to work harder and get better at what I do, as well as fulfill my passion. One thing I learned while I’ve been here is “my network is my worth.” I made sure I took that advice to heart. It’s a powerful statement.

My time here has really helped my passion grow. I know what I want to do with my life. I know how I want to do it. Being so clear about what I want to do in the future and how I want to impact lives is really what I’ve been searching for my whole life. Patience and respecting God’s timing in my life is all that’s required of me. At times, that can be the hardest part. Trust and believing in God’s will can be challenging. It’s the servant’s heart that helps overcome the challenge.

I took a “test” if you want to call it that. It was more of an experiment to see where my values were at in my life. I’m a 22-year-old young woman exploring all that the world has to offer. It was about 30 values. I had to rank from 1-30 the values that were most important to me too least important. The first 3 were spirituality, love, and compassion. I wasn’t surprised I put those 3 as my top. They are all interconnected. They all make sense, together. I can’t be Naome without spirituality, love and compassion. It’s how I identify myself. It makes sense.

I’m about to embark on a new task at work. I’m working for a children’s television show here in Ethiopia. It’s called Tsehai Loves Learning. The organization in itself is called Whiz Kids Workshop. The shows consist of ways children can be healthy and clean every day. In the midst of that, the characters are puppets. It’s family of puppets. Some of the “Tsehai’s” friends are included in episodes as well. All of the scripting is in Amharic. The organization also sells books and flashcards that are ALL in Amharic. Can you believe that? I would’ve loved that as a child. Editing these episodes has made me learn more about the mission and purpose of the show. It’s such an impactful service to Ethiopia. I can only imagine how it’ll effect Ethiopians elsewhere. It’s about to be a huge success in due time.

There, I’ve been working with the production team. I’ve been on shoots and met some precious kids who were actors for the show. I’ve helped the crew. I’ve edited over 16 episodes and learning so much neat things on how to become a better editor. An editor here tackles with sound, green screen animation, and all the other nerdy things that go into production. It’s pretty cool. Now, I’ll be shifting to marketing and branding. I’m going to be working on the Diaspora network in states. My goal is to reach out to a couple of popular markets and see how I can distribute the content that is being made here to Diasporas. I’m excited for this. You all have NO idea how great these shows are for children. Ethiopian Diasporas in Georgia, California, D.C., Ohio etc. will be able to learn Amharic and excel at it because of these shows. Just stay tuned and be alert. Lives are about to be changed!

I’m halfway through my trip, so of course I’m thinking about what I need to do after the trip is over. Will I stay in Ethiopia? Will I go back to Atlanta? Will I move somewhere else in the states? What’s next? Then, apart of me is just like, “relax Naome. God’s got you.” I’m trying to live my life as blissful as I can. Ethiopia does that to you. It introduces you to a unique bliss. I have my goals that I’ve set for myself. I have new ones as well. I’m in no rush to accomplish them. I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m learning to enjoy the NOW instead of being so burdened with the future. I’m dreaming now. No more hard-core planning and overthinking. I’m just dreaming.

Serendipity

Luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for. Serendipity is one of my favorite words and also one of my favorite movies.

One of my line sisters wrote me 4 different letters to read throughout my time in Ethiopia. I’ve opened three. The one I opened just recently was “Open When You’re Worried.”

She starts off the letter with two scriptures…Proverbs 3:5-6 and Philippians 4:6-7. I want to share what she said because I know it will touch someone else just as much as it touched me.

Hey Honey!

“You can strain every fiber of your being trying to be flawless, only to face inevitable failure-or you can stop worrying about perfection, which instantly makes everything feel great.”

If you are worried, Why Pray? /Why Pray? If you are worried…In other words give all your worries to God. Everything that is worrying you is already taken care of. Smile that beautiful smile and be great!”

I’ve had a lot on my mind. I’ve been anxious and worried, but reading that letter really eased my heart in a way. God says to cast all our worries on Him. He’s always there for us. He always is.

This past weekend was Meskel, which is a holiday, celebrated nationally in Ethiopia. It’s the “burning of the natural cross.” It’s also a well-known Gurage holiday. My family’s tribe is Gurage so I know how important the holiday is to celebrate. I went to a town called Welketay. My aunt lives there and it’s about 5 hours outside of Addis Ababa. It’s in the opposite direction of where my aunt and Emama live, which is Butajera. In Welketay, I was able to meet some of my cousins who I’ve only been able to meet via Facebook. It was such a great feeling finally meeting each other. I also met my mother’s baby sister. Meeting my grandma was a huge deal for me. It was impactful because I’ve longed to meet her my entire life. I never really had that great of a desire to meet anyone else. When I met my mom’s baby sister, it was fine. I said hello. I hugged and embraced her as she did for me.

My mom always told me she was sick. When she told me that I expected a very basic illness. I was wrong. She’s probably in her late 30’s and is a mother of two children. She is epileptic, bi polar, has seizures and sporadic episodes. That blew my mind away! I wasn’t prepared facing that; especially having her as my own family. It was very heavy. I was full of emotions. I was sad, angry, happy…you name it. She seemed so helpless. I felt so guilty. I felt so selfish. I just didn’t understand anything, I was mad at my family. I was mad that no one was helping her besides her husband, my other aunt and my mother. There are 10 siblings and she’s battling this all on her own.

I had to take a breather. Of course, when I speak with my family, I’m speaking in Amharic. They barely know any English. I had to call my mom and just vent. I didn’t even care what time it was. I just let it all out. She sympathized with me and understood my frustration. I didn’t comprehend why our family could be so big but no one is ever apt to taking the initiative and helping a family member out, despite the disagreements. We’ll always be family regardless of any circumstance.

The Ethiopian family dynamic is different, especially when the family is as big as mines. I’m accustomed to just having it be my mother and myself. We’re always there for each other through thick and thin. She always has my back and I always have hers. That’s my idea of family. Family is that unique, unconditional love. I came to Ethiopia thinking that’d be the same love I’d be faced with. I was wrong.

My mom said it’s my responsibility to mend the broken pieces of my family. As huge of a burden as that might seem, I want to be that person for my family. They need that. My aunts were very emotional because they know our family needs fixing. There’s a religious dispute between the sisters and brothers. There’s the power struggle the brothers have. It’s just a lot of clashing amongst the family. Although that’s normal, in the end, a family needs to be one. My family isn’t one.

One can only imagine all that I had to take in this past weekend. It was a lot. I’m happy that I was able to withstand the pain and struggle. I just know that in the remaining time that I have here, I need to make sure my family becomes one. I need to make sure that they understand that in the end, people will come and go but family remains forever.

Family is love.

So, going back to the idea of “Serendipity.” I didn’t think I’d find the experiences that I’m experiencing. I didn’t think I’d meet the people I met and they have such impact on my life. I didn’t think I’d be used as a vessel to bring unity to my family. I didn’t think I’d be where I’m at now emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritualty. It’s luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for. It’s serendipity.