Sitting and Being Still in 2016

NOTE: I had meant to post this around the start of 2016 but life happened and…well, here we are. Better late than never.

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One of my friends who has been following my blog on and off for awhile brought up the fact that my blog has turned more into a book review blog than a faith blog recently.

Well, in a sense, that is true and it isn’t. The Saturday Reading List section of my blog was originally started for a few reasons:

  1. I wasn’t updating my blog regularly enough: This is my fifth blog. The others I never really took seriously or they were only meant to be used for a short period of time like my travel blog. This blog I want to keep going. I figured by having something that would be posted on the blog on a regularly scheduled bases would not only keep the blog updated by help me with my blog writing skills.
  2. I’m learning the art of relaxing: In college it never really felt like I was had a moment of free time. I always had to be doing something. If I wasn’t doing something then I wasn’t doing enough. Therefore, reading for pleasure wasn’t really a thing. Now that I’m out of college and I want to make up for lost time. Also, whether you’re a Christian or not, it’s important to have moments of rest to ourselves so we won’t run dry.
  3. I’m still figuring out my faith: I know, that’s such a vague Christian phrase. But it’s true. I’m in a new place in my life and I’m still adjusting to not being constantly surrounded by Christian community like I was in college. I don’t want to post something to just to post something if I truly don’t feel convicted. I still believe in God and the Good News of Jesus Christ, that hasn’t changed. However, I don’t want to write blog posts that are filled with “flowery good feelings” if that’s not what I’m feeling – and also that’s not what Christianity is about, or at least that shouldn’t be the main thing it’s about. Sometimes a blog post will be about faith, sometimes it’ll be about books, and sometimes they’ll just be about life. I rather write something more in the spirit of Ecclesiastes and even some of the Psalms that force me to question my faith instead of spouting hackneyed expressions with no real convictions.

I’m truly grateful for all of my followers, whether they’re here for posts about faith or about book reviews. In the upcoming months – and honestly for as long as this blog will run – there will be changes in what I post and how often I post. I think that’s fair since this blog is supposed to reflect someone currently wadding through their early 20s. For those who are following only for the book reviews, don’t worry. Those will still happen though don’t be surprised if “The Saturday Reading List” gets renamed to “The Weekend Reading List”.

If you choose to continue to stick with me then thank you. If you choose to never read anything else from me, well thank you for the moment or second that you did spend here. And for those just joining in, welcome. I hope you find something likable here, no matter where you’re coming from.

 

Healing Heart for Reconciliation: Lost and Found in Translation

Not to put pressure on you but I really wish you had been in class the other day. We were talking about the article relating to the black feminist movement and no one was talking and it was awkward. We needed you there. You should have been there.”

Well. Hello to you too, Stranger.

Ok, the person who said that wasn’t really a stranger. They were from my class and they weren’t totally wrong. I probably would have said something if I had been in class…and if I had done the reading…but that’s besides the point. Though I replied back with a chuckle and a somewhat agreeing comment like, “Yeah, I guess I only do talk when the topic of black feminism comes up,” I really was surprised because of their comment. Not due to the implication of what they seemingly meant – that because I was black that I obviously had an opinion about anything black related – but by how much that sort of comment didn’t tick me off when it definitely would have a few months, even a few weeks ago.

“Why are you on the campus that you are on?”

Well in terms of percentage and I guess actual money compared to the other schools I applied to, the university I picked actually cost me the least amount of money after financial aid was awarded… Um, it’s also a pretty good school…And the fact that it looks like Hogwarts has to be a plus too, right?

“Are you there because you feel called?”

Yes? No? I plead the fifth! I mean, what does being “called” even mean?

The last two set of questions and responses were ones that I had this weekend at a black Christian student conference that I attended. I’ll be honest, I really did not want to go to this conference for several different reasons but after many “strong” suggestions from some of the Christian staff members I knew (black and non-black), I begrudgingly agreed to go. The conference itself wasn’t bad and I met a lot of new faces and saw a few old faces I hadn’t seen in awhile but if I’m being perfectly honest, I felt disconnected…

I just explained it to a friend that my experience this weekend, and even long before this conference, felt like a  person very fluent in a second language who goes to live in the country of that language. Yes, that person understands the language being spoken by the natives and the natives understand their own language coming from the mouth of this foreigner as well. However, there’s still a disconnect because the foreigner is not a person of this country. Yes, they speak the language flawlessly and they respect the people and their heritage but there’s this thin but seemingly indestructible barrier that even being fluent in the language doesn’t get rid of and stops them from truly feeling like they belong.

I felt like a foreigner in a land that I thought should have been my homeland.

Now let me clarify. I had a really great time and at no point did anyone make me feel not welcomed. I mean I’m black and I was provided a very rare space where I was part of the majority, not the minority. And yet, though I was with “my people”, welcomed by “my people”, loved upon with the grace of God by “my people”, there was just a disconnect. And yet, I go back to my campus and the feeling of being a foreigner in a foreign land doesn’t go away either.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

~ 2 Corinthians 5:20

Francis Schaeffer, a Christian evangelical theologian, philosopher, and pastor said, “[A foreign missionary] must learn the language of the thought-forms of the people to whom one speaks.” Though this may be taken slightly out of context, it still very much relates to what I realize God is calling me to.

I am a drifter.

I have no homeland to call my own.

I am fluent in two different “languages” that neither feel like my mother tongue.

I am a drifter.

I am a translator fluent in two different “languages”.

I am a bridge builder.

I told a few staff members that I was close with that going to this conference felt like “home” which to a certain extent was true. Gospel music was actually Gospel music and not just songs that happened to be written by someone black but played like a Hillsong song gone wrong. My roommates didn’t ask me why I wrapped my hair before going to bed (though in reality I forgot my headscarf) because they were already wrapping their hair up for bed as well. I didn’t have to explain my desire for a praise break because it was already happening before I could think about it. Despite these things and many more, I really had to ask myself, that if this conference was supposed to represent “home” for me, why did I suddenly have this “homesickness” for my campus that never really felt completely like home? Why did I feel like I was chasing something that always felt within my grasp but not quite?

“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” ~ 1 John 4:13

I am a bridge builder. I help two (maybe more) different “languages” learn to communicate with each other. Sometimes they mispronounce things and meaning is lost. Sometimes they say the wrong thing and feelings are unknowingly hurt. Sometimes I flub and incorrectly translate something or resonate with the lulling and comforting tonal sounds of one “language” more than the other.

I am not perfect.

I am fluent but miss the cultural nuances that make each “language” unique.

I am a drifter picking up new “words” and “phrases” every day.

I am called to be a bridge-builder, wanting to see two groups united by the universal language that is God’s grace.

Drifting Thoughts Sunday: “It’s Like Coming Home”

This past week, I had the amazing opportunity of going to Pray Chicago where Christians from all 77 neighborhoods of the city came together to pray for the city of Chicago. Pray Chicago is part of a larger ministry called “Heart for the City”. Its vision is “to ignite a movement of locally-focused, globally-minded churches and organizations that serve their communities in healthy and sustainable ways”.

It was a really great experience and in all honesty, it felt like going “home”.

I should probably make it clear that I am from Chicago, go to school in Chicago, and thus, rarely, if ever, get homesick. However, there I was, standing amongst a few friends but mostly strangers in a mega church and it finally felt like I was home.

The songs that the choir sang were songs that I remember my church singing since I was little. There was no powerpoint, no hymnal, just the choir director singing out the words right before the choir and audience were expected to sing back. It was the obvious call and response style of worship that I don’t get too often at my campus fellowship. The structural familiarity of the night was so familiar that even in this new space it felt like “home”.

But as good as it is to come “home”, we as followers of Christ are called to leave safety and comfortableness of “home” as well. Though it’s good to have a community where you will be understood, affirmed, lifted up, and allowed to feel comfortable being vulnerable with, Christians – myself included – need to challenge ourselves to be uncomfortable and go to those places that may never really feel like home.

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

Sometimes being part of my campus fellowship feels very isolating. There are those who immediately feel at home there. I wasn’t one of those people and sometimes I still don’t feel like one of those people. Before coming to college I thought every Christian person my age knew at least who Kirk Franklin is (I was sadly mistaken…repeatedly). I had never heard of Hillsong before college. As a first year in college, the idea of not having a mass choir backing up the main singer was somewhat foreign to me. Worship was just so different and it didn’t feel anything like home at all…

Fast-forward to now as a fourth year and yeah, there’s Hillsong now residing on my i-Pod, some All Sons and Daughters, Newsboys, David Crowder, and Chris Tomlin but MaryMary, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Cece Winans, and Hezekiah Walker still overpower my Christian playlist. And that’s fine. Though Christian Contemporary Music wasn’t what I grew up with and some days I really have to stop myself from taking the hands of a brother or sister clapping on the wrong beat, forcing myself to be uncomfortable, to not feel at home, has really drawn me closer to Jesus and a closer reliance on him to aid any “homesickness” I have.

Because of differences from worship styles to prayer styles to conflict styles, I have been forced to rely more on Jesus in these times of uncomfortable foreignness. Being comfortable is really easy, but it’s not what Jesus calls us to. Just because something is comfortable does not mean it is good or Christ-centered.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

We live in a society that teaches us to fear the uncomfortable, to fear what is not “home”. But honestly, for me when I think about it, what in my life is more uncomfortable on this earth than being left to hang nailed to a cross? Not much and therefore I really don’t have that much to be uncomfortable with.

I used music as an example that has both made me feel at “home” and “without a home” but there are so many things that we forgo reconciling because of the fear of being uncomfortable like issues dealing with race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc. However, like music, instead of just sticking with what we know, we need to branch out, try things that at first may not be what we’re used to (like CCM) and see the beauty of God’s creation in it, making “homes away from home” along the way. Who knows, maybe Kirk Franklin and Hillsong will record something together one day.

Anyway, it was really great to go to Pray Chicago. It was like going home. But, I realized as I drove away from the church that was both new but still so achingly familiar, back towards my campus where my still somewhat foreign and not-quite-home fellowship was that I didn’t want to stay “home”. That it was a nice break, but I needed – no, wanted – to leave. An already built home is nice but there’s something beautiful about seeing something that once hardly resembled a home become a “home away from home”…

Drifting Thoughts Monday: Letter from the Past

6 months.

Six. Months.

Half a year. 

It’s tripy how time flows sometimes. I really didn’t realize it had been six months since my month long lifetime at IVLI until someone brought it up.

Six months ago I was preparing for my last year of college. Six months ago I was both excited yet terrified about the future of my team, chapter, and fellowship. Six months ago, I was still hiding emotional scars that I was too afraid to even let people, except for a select few, be aware of.

And yet…somehow I still had so much hope and love and desire to see God work not only in my life but the life of those on campus. I won’t share my entire letter, because there are parts that are a little too personal and/or also involve others but I will share some:

“Even though it sucks, God is calling you to racial reconciliation at least for InterVarsity. It will definitely be frustrating…but it’s worth it because Jesus cares. Though you may feel like you’re at this alone, you’re not. Jesus is with you. Remember that you are not called to do this for your own glory but because Jesus calls us to go to the broken and hurting places in our world. You may be done with it but God isn’t done with it or with you. Remember that God’s creations are beautiful…Remember that you are loved by the Living God, the King of Kings, your beloved Daddy in Heaven…[Zozo] you are beautiful and created with a purpose. You have God given gifts and talents just as everyone else. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else…I hope that you will have found peace in the Lord by now. I hope your faith and relationships with God has gotten stronger…” – Past Zozo

Did I write that?

But seriously, this letter, written from myself to myself was greatly needed and appreciated. If you know me, it’s really hard for me to take words of affirmation well and sometimes I wonder if I would make my past self, at whatever stage of my life proud. However, I can say that Past Zozo is probably proud of the hard but worth it steps that Present Zozo has taken in the past 6 months. I wonder where I will be at in another 6 months. Maybe I should write a letter to myself for then…

I guess I’ll end this post with a Psalm that Past Zozo told me to read:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

 The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
 The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
 The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

– Psalm 121

Amen.

Zozo’s 2015 Personal Vision Statement

So ever since going to IVLI the term “casting vision” has probably been said to me and by me enough times that if each utterance equaled $1 my college loans would be covered (…ok, maybe not my college loans, but I would be covered with doing laundry for at least a few weeks). But anyway, for weeks, I’ve been trying to think of some awesome way to summarize what has happened to me during 2014 and honestly, I started falling asleep writing it so I figured you guys would fall asleep reading it so…YAY FOR STAYING AWAKE! And Christianity today for giving me the idea of Crafting a Life Vision Statement. Whether or not you consider yourself a Jesus follower, anyone can create their own Vision Statement. The linked article is more so long term and where I got my inspiration to do this. Mine will include visions for both long and short term. Note: this isn’t usually how I write my vision statements but I decided to follow the style that Pastor Derwin L. Gray created. So without further ado, here is “Zozo’s 2015 Personal Vision Statement”: 1. How do you want to be seen in 2015 and the years following?

  • First and foremost, I want to be seen as a follower of Christ, not letting my fear and insecurities in my abilities stop me from sharing the Gospel with those God is calling me to share it with.
  • In 2015, but also in the years following, I want to be seen as someone who is responsible, reliable, and easy to interact with. Though this doesn’t mean I want to be a pushover. I do want the person who I think I am to be similar to the person others think I am, which hopefully will be dedicated, loving, and welcoming.
  • Also, as someone who is about to graduate from college in a few months, I want to be seen as employed/going to grad school -_____-

2. What do you want to be known for in 2015 and the years following?

  • Similar to before, I want to be known for my faith. Not one of those crazy and hateful people who claim to known Christ but someone who really has a relationship with Christ. Obviously, there will be highs and lows with my faith, that’s unfortunately human nature but if nothing else, I want people to at least that they always saw me trying to get closer to God without fail. This will without a doubt mean learning how to discipline myself when it comes to have a consistent quiet time with God. 2014 has definitely been a better year for me in regards to that in general but if you really look at it, some parts of the year were better than others.

3. What do you want your relationships to be like?

  • Existent. -_____- Totally being serious. When I graduated from high school, I let a lot of friendships go. Some were on purpose though a few I do regret were just because time just drifted us apart. However, I feel like the relationships that I made in college were undoubtedly a lot more substantial than most of the relationships I had in high school. I don’t want to be one of those people who graduate with and you never hear from again unless it’s via social media. (I know that may shock some of you.) Essentially, if you have seen my cry more than 3 times, we’re best friends for life. Not kidding. YOU’RE STUCK WITH ME FOR LIFE!!!!! Ok, actually being serious, obviously even some of the ties that I made during college will probably loosen over time but I honestly feel I made some great friends during my four years of college, and though I undeniably won’t be able to talk to them as often as I do now, there are definitely people who I know I will always consider my “siblings” and I hope they feel the same in return…because that would just be awkward if they didn’t… >___>
  • I want to also continue to grow in my relationship with my family, specifically my mom and grandma. Granted, I can be a bit of a spoiled brat and probably don’t express it as much as I should but I do love and appreciate these amazing women in my life and want to spend the time I have with them wisely and with love…even when their teasing gets annoying 😛

4. What makes your heart sing, both in terms of career and places where you feel passionate?

  • It’s funny, at one point during the summer, I had a many freaking out, convinced that I had made a mistake with my chosen major and minor, which is really ridiculous because I love them both and my reasoning for choosing them – a major in Comparative Human Development w/ a focus in mental health and a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies – are totally sound and valid. But now, more than ever especially after reading a recent article about a transgender teen who was emotionally hurt by her conservative Christian parents when she came to them. Putting aside where ever you stand on issues of LGBTQ, I don’t believe any child should ever feel like their parents don’t love or support them, Christian or not. Though I still haven’t figured out if I specifically want to be a Christian counselor/therapist or not, I do want to make sure that for whatever reason the kids I’m working with have for coming to me, they know that their lives are important and valued. I also want to help more Christians realize that having mental health issues does not mean that you’re any less of a follower but I also don’t want to just sweep these issues under the rug with a prayer (YES! Prayer is powerful but sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we expect Him to and we need to be more open to the fact that maybe a possible answer to your prayers is seeing a licensed professional for counseling.) So, “Too long; Didn’t read”: I want to continue to pursue being a child/family counselor.
  • Also, I want to continue to grow in issues of reconciliation (racial, gender, LGBTQ, etc.) and instead of letting myself fester in hate, anger, and frustration, realize that the experiences I have had can be used to help others, both similar and different to me.

5. Who in your life will tell you the truth about yourself?

  • Ah…the tough question. Honestly, I don’t really know. Things are definitely going to change a lot in 2015 and at this point, I don’t know who will be with me for the long run (besides my mom). Even though I don’t yet know who will still be with me next year, I do know that God will provide people in my life to slap some truth into me when I need it so I’m really worried about that.

So that’s it! My 2015 Personal Vision Statement! Thanks to everyone who has made 2014 awesome! It was honestly a rough year from beginning to end but there was a lot of growth that I doubt I would have gotten without those rough patches. I pray that God will bless you all with a Happy New Year and that you also will keep some of my prayer request for 2015 in your prayers/ thoughts/ good vibes as well:

  • That I will find and GET a gap year opportunity that pays and that I will love or at least learn to appreciate especially during my time there.
  • That I will end my time in college well in terms of academics and also the relationships (though hopefully some of those will continue long after graduation). That I enjoy my time on campus with friends and make the most of my opportunities there.
  • That I will also not procrastinate on studying for the GRE and my gap year opportunities app.
  • That I continue to grow closer to God and remember that in every circumstance He is always faithful.

O Lord, Length of days does not profit me except the days that are passed in Thy presence, in Thy service, to Thy glory. Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour, that I may not be one moment apart from Thee, but may rely on Thy Spirit to supply every thought, speak in every word, direct every step, prosper every work, build up every mote of faith, and give me a desire to show forth Thy praise, testify Thy love, advance Thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year, with Thee, O Father as my harbor, Thee, O Son, at my helm, Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails. Guide me to heaven with my loins girt, my lamp burning, my ear open to Thy calls, my heart full of love, my soul free.

Give me Thy grace to sanctify me, Thy comforts to cheer, Thy wisdom to teach, Thy right hand to guide, Thy counsel to instruct, Thy law to judge, Thy presence to stabilize. May Thy fear by my awe, Thy triumphs my joy.

Amen.

~first read on She Reads Truth, originally from “The Valley of Vision”

Drifting Thoughts Thursday: “But if not…be a crazy topless dancer!”

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3:17-18

A Reflection From My Most Recent IV Conference:

What have you heard from God? How has God transformed you?

“Need to stop being an island swim w/the sharks as a ‘topless dancer’ aka, be bold in where I’m sent and be in prayer for a 1st follower.”

Ok, because I know both my home church pastor and the pastor at the church that I go to on campus, as well as my great aunt reads this, I’m going to say this: NOTICE THE PARENTHESES!!! I don’t actually want to be a topless dancer, as you will see if you keep reading. DON’T TELL MY MOM I WANT TO BE A TOPLESS DANCER!!! #whyIshouldhavedeniedtheirfriendrequest

Sorry, had to clarify from the beginning because apparently my IV staff worker read this and did something similar to this:

(How was I supposed to know that she actually read our reflection sheets? I thought they were just for us to, you know, reflect on the weekend. Sorry Warrior Sheep)

Ok, back on topic: At IVLI, the month long summer conference I went to, one of the speakers talked about the Book of Daniel. Though I remember much of what he said, there was a total disconnect from Daniel and my own life. As always, the realization came in hindsight, but whether late or not, the message from the speaker and that I learned/am still learning is still important.

So here’s the low down of what happens in Daniel 3: There’s a king, King Nebuchadnezzar (but I’ll just call him King Nebby for short),  who is kind of really into himself and his gods so much that he makes a golden image and any time anyone hear “the sounds of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music,” everyone is supposed to stop what they’re doing, bow down, and worship this golden image that he made. Well, there’s this guy Daniel (Belteshazzar) and his friends – Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) – who are Jews that work for King Nebby and have so far found favor with the king – decide to not do what is literally the law: bowing down and worshiping this golden image.

Now, I think what’s really important to realize is that what they do and say to the king is not some guys actively trying to stir up trouble. They’re seriously just four friends who were taken from their home when they were young and are trying to get by in this place that they are now forced to call “home” without being killed. Just minding their own business, noses to the grindstone when King Nebby’s music started to play. Despite the amount of sass that I (or anyone for that matter) write them in, they seriously had the crap scared out of them when they were called before King Nebby. I mean, who wouldn’t? So there they are, in front of the King, hands maybe sweating and shaky, being told that if they don’t just hurry up and bow down, they’ll be thrown into a fiery furnace. Their response?

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16-18

Cool? Heck, yeah!

Confident? Um, undoubtedly!

Humble? Totes!

Something that I would say right off the bat? Um…well…

You know, a lot of times, taking the easier way out just seems so…well, in the case of Daniel and his friends, less fiery and painful. I mean, I really feel called towards areas needing reconciliation (Probably why I want to be a child/family counselor). On my campus though, issues of racial reconciliation, especially with recent events, has been the biggest thing on my mind in regards to leading my fellowship. A lot of times though, I feel like I’m the only one who actually cares about these issues, whether that thought process is true or not.

At the conference that I wrote the reflection at the beginning for – you know the “topless dancer” thing – I first started out feeling very separate and isolated from people in my fellowship who were there even though through most, if not all the time, in the track that I was in I was sitting next to people who I would say were/are good friends. However, they all felt called to one area and I felt called to another. They all were talking and coming up with plans for reaching out to one group of people while I wanted to reach to another. It was that weird tear inducing feeling where you feel alone even surrounded by people. It honestly wasn’t until they played the following video that my situation just…clicked:

Get the topless reference now?

What was really cool about what Daniel did wasn’t the fact that after they were thrown into the fire they stepped out, clothes and all, unburnt. What was so cool was that whether or not God saved them from being thrown into the furnace, they were still not going to bow down to anyone but their God. It was that “but if not”. The unpopular choice. The road less traveled. They fully expected a miracle but they would also fully trust and follow God without one because they believed that God knew better than them.

And what happens to them for having this belief even in this situation where it honestly looked like there was no way out?

Let’s remember. God does not save them from being thrown into the furnace. He lets them. And then, He lets them walk out of the furnace because they believed He was faithful. Daniel and his friends didn’t put God in “a box” and therefore they gave Him a lot of room to just be God and do something way cooler than what they probably had in mind. They fully depended on God.

Dependency (n.) – the quality or state of being influenced or determined by or subject to another; reliance; trust

With this whole, lone “topless” dancer thing, yeah, I definitely need to be praying that God will send me people who also feel called to the areas that I feel called to. But if not, I will still trust in God and work in the areas that I’m being called to, even if I am in that area alone and continue to be praying for God to just continue to do His thing, whatever that is. In general, I really need to get into the habit, especially as a leader of my fellowship, of doing the right thing even when I know I’ll get little in return. The lone dancer isn’t remembered for the crowd that comes, it takes time and doing things that may not be popular or easy, and inviting others while have a dependence on God that is remembered. Daniel and his friends are cool but without their dependence on God I doubt anyone would have remembered them if they had been burnt to a crisp.

So what are some practical steps I can take?

  1. Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. (Essentially more prayer than I’ve been doing.)
  2. Invite others to join me. Be that lone “topless” crazy nut dancer. (And not just through social media but actually in person.)
  3. Even if others don’t join me, trust in and depend on God and his faithfulness, like Daniel did.
  4. Rinse, wash, repeat…

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—

he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—

the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,

nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—

he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going

both now and forevermore. Amen.

– Psalm 121

More Than Just About the Pilgrims

Ok, I really hate the forced “I’m thankful for” obligatory Thanksgiving post but I finally finished my 100 blessings that I started awhile ago. A lot of the time I know I’m seriously guilty of not remembering things to be thankful for, especially when most of my problems are typical “first world problems”. So…without further ado…

“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.”  -Psalm 105:1

  1. Mom
  2. Granny
  3. water color paints
  4. music
  5. a man who lived, died, and overcame death for me
  6. tea
  7. IVLI
  8. TanUp Fam “TanUp For WHAT?”
  9. sweater weather
  10. snail mail
  11. peace of heart and mind in God
  12. waking up every morning
  13. being able to share happy moments with friends
  14. people who donated to IVLI
  15. sharing testimonies
  16. spending time with friends
  17. sunny days
  18. safe travels
  19. being able to smell yummy foods
  20. being in overall good health
  21. spending time with God
  22. a clean and warm place to call home
  23. being able to go to UChicago
  24. to be able to praise God openly
  25. that all “storms” pass…eventually
  26. to be able to really think about my blessings
  27. resources to study for the GRE
  28. friendship bracelets that haven’t fallen off (…well they hadn’t at that point…BUT THEY’RE RETIED!)
  29. the love of God
  30. hope in God
  31. never truly starving
  32. a mom who worries about me
  33. that I can put my trust in God
  34. being able to celebrate another life lived of a friend
  35. the resources of the Reg
  36. bosses who understand the struggles of being a student
  37. not being able to describe something simple and beautiful like love
  38. older friends who reassure you when you’re freaking out
  39. excited first years
  40. excited returning students
  41. conflict/difficult conversations that lead to growth
  42. encouragement from IVLI fam
  43. being able to bring issues directly to God
  44. even when I am not faithful, He still is
  45. multiple ways of expressions
  46. friends who will stop what they’re doing to pray with you
  47. community and fellowship
  48. failures that I learn from
  49. NSO opportunities
  50. talks with guys about feminism
  51. inspiration for MLT
  52. classes I’m excited for
  53. fuzzy socks
  54. free coffee
  55. Gilmore Girls on Netflix
  56. people interested in racial reconciliation
  57. John 15
  58. 1 Peter 1
  59. strengthening friendships
  60. late (by 4 years) but still appreciated care-packages
  61. speakers who agree when asked last minute
  62. getting through each day
  63. conversations with my brothers and sisters in AAIV
  64. having two paying jobs
  65. autumn days
  66. Skype
  67. being a “lone nut”
  68. 1st follower
  69. 2nd follower
  70. the crowd
  71. dependency in Christ
  72. GALS
  73. a certain Christian law student who has really been an encouragement when it comes to social justice
  74. people who hold open doors
  75. V-Team movie night
  76. engagements
  77. hugs
  78. favorite pair of boots being repaired
  79. oatmeal
  80. friends who knit slouchy hats for you
  81. boba tea
  82. pad thai
  83. teachers who understand the struggles of being a student
  84. grelfies (group selfies…hey, I didn’t come up with the term…)
  85. scarves
  86. Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
  87. power and authority in Christ
  88. quesadilla Tuesdays
  89. hot chocolate + coffee mix
  90. for King and Country
  91. Bernard Kokou Edoh
  92. Psalm 25
  93. loving and beautiful sisters in Christ
  94. forgiveness
  95. Sunday worship nights in South basement
  96. friends near and far
  97. weddings
  98. a good night’s sleep
  99. that God’s love is relentless
  100. there being more than 100 things to be grateful for (to be continued obviously)

I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness. I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” – Psalm 7:17

Happy Blessings Day!

A Glimpse at IVLI

So as some of you may or may not know, this blog started as a space to write about where God has been working in my life after an amazing month long experience called InterVarsity Leadership Institute or IVLI. Check out this video to hear from others who were there about their experiences there. 

Drifting Thoughts Tuesday: Love Song

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

So the other night, in anticipation for a for King and Country concert I will be attending in a few weeks, I listened to their new album on Spotify, “Run wild. Live free. Love Strong”. Their song, “Without You feat. Courtney” (yep, just one name) really stood out to me. I was just sitting there, attempting to do some readings for class, half-listening to the music and the chorus plays:

So let’s dance a little
Laugh a little
And hope a little more
Yes let’s dance a little
Laugh a little
And hope a little more
Cause I don’t want to live without you
No, I don’t want to live without you
Without you…
I’m going to be honest. My half distracted mind wandered to a place where all hopeless romantics such as myself know so well. It was the typical faceless guy daydream where the nameless guy in question confessed his deep feelings for me after some overly dramatic event that pushes him to finally reveal his heart to me…Yeah, I’m rolling my eyes at myself too. Don’t worry. Join the party. But being serious, was that necessarily the wrong way for my mind to go?
I don’t think so. It is a love song after all. Though not to some faceless guy of my imagination. It’s a love song to God. Which once I made that realization hit me kind of hard. I mean, “Without You” is not the first Christian song that I’ve heard that I ran the risk of having my spaced out mind think about in a somewhat romantic light. Recently, there’s also been “You Won’t Relent” by Misty Edwards where part of the song where this awesome guitar and base ballad goes:
Come be the fire inside of me
Come be the flame upon my heart
Come be the fire inside of me (you wont relent until you have it all)
Until you and I are one (my heart is yours)
Come be the fire inside of me (you wont relent until you have it all)
Come be the flame upon my heart (my heart is yours)
Come be the fire inside of me (you wont relent until you have it all)
Until you and I are one (my heart is yours)
For me, this song gets me every time. I mean the passion behind the words and singing always makes me go, “I want that. I want that intense love so much. How can I get that?” But the thing is, I already have that. I’ve had that type of love that I desired for awhile now, with God. With my Lord and Savior. But more time than I can count, I reject it. Either out of fear of where God’s love will take me, the places that I have convinced myself that I’m either not ready/worthy for or, I’ve deluded myself into thinking that some earthly love is more fulfilling than the source of true love.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19
I think one thing I have to constantly remind myself as a young female college student is not to look for love in all the wrong places. That if I want a love story, I already have one, one that has been many, many, many years in the making…And though having an earthly significant other would be pretty cool, I have to pause and seriously ask myself how can I even think of loving someone else (and this even included non-romantic situations) when I can not love the greatest Love that I will ever have?
“I love you, O Lord, my strength.” – Psalm 18:1
Dear God, Thank you for such an amazing love story and the opportunity to sing love songs to you…

Drifting Thoughts Tuesday: The Bike, the Hoodie, and the Random Guy

Today, a friend and I were walking on campus to the location of our second meeting for our fellowship for the day. He was walking his bike and I was happily sipping at my soy pumpkin spice latte that I unfortunately couldn’t get earlier this morning because I wanted to avoid the newscaster stalking outside Starbucks (wasn’t going to embarrass myself with my lack of current football news).

Anywho, we were just chatting when this totally random guy that neither of us knew started to walk pass us. As he went by, he nodded to my friends bike with a grin saying “Nice bike,” before while continuing walking, nodding to my black Cedar Campus hoodie saying, “and nice hoodie” before he continued to go to wherever he was going.

Randomness aside, I found both of our reactions interesting as we both awkwardly looked from my friend’s used but still fully functional bike, to my bum-looking but comfy hoodie, all while awkwardly saying, “uh…thanks?” with looks of disbelief on my friend’s face and undoubtedly my face as well as the man continued on his way. Though there wasn’t any malice in the man’s voice, we immediately thought the guy was being sarcastic with us for no reason.

But why was that?

Why was our immediate thought of something that could have been a genuine act of trying to spread positivity looked upon as “weird”, “strange”, or “not genuine”? Why wasn’t our first impression that this man was merely trying to spread joy by finding ways to say something positive to the random people he came upon throughout his day.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. In a world where we’re so mistrusting and our faces are constantly hidden behind smart phones and laptops and all this other technology that manages to both bring us together while tearing us apart, it’s kind of sad that people today are so quick to jump to the negatives about a complete stranger, in whatever capacity. For me, sometimes I wonder if I have mistaken the difference between guarding my heart from things that can truly cause harm to me – like toxic thoughts about myself or others – and being flat out jaded towards maybe even the most well meaning, but still random, of interactions.

So yeah, still have no idea what the guy’s intentions were. Maybe he was just being friendly, maybe he was double flirting with my friend’s bike and my hoodie. Whatever his intentions, the world may never know. Whatever his intentions were, he did inspire me to pause and be more aware and really be more intentional in trying to improve someone else’s day.

My campus, is infamously known for being home of the socially awkward. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate (it’s totally true). However, instead of steadfastly starring down at my boots or avoiding contact by shuffling through music on my i-Pod, I can totally smile and say “hi” or “good morning” to people I walk by. They might think I’m odd like my friend and I thought about that guy as he continued on his way, they may think I have some sort of ulterior motive, or maybe, I could actually make someone’s day and remind them that they matter and are seen on a campus that a person can so easily get lost and sometimes forgotten on.

Who knows, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to try…