Drifting Thoughts: Still Me

Earlier that day, before the results came, I was unhappy with myself for not thinking ahead and buying a “I’m with her” or “Nasty Women Vote” t-shirt. There was no doubt that things wouldn’t go our way. That she wouldn’t win. There was no fear that my position in this country as a black woman would be shifted any more negatively than it already was.

I wasn’t naive. I didn’t think that by standing with her that all my problems would be solved. They made sure to beat, shoot, and strangle that out of me when they failed to recognize the man who said “Yes, we can”. I wasn’t naive but I was still hopeful…

Hope.

I was worried about what I was going to wear. That’s who I was.

I’m still worried about what I’m going to wear. That’s who I am.

Things have suddenly changed so drastically and yet, remained the same…

I still wake up early. I still go through a nearly two hour commute to get to class. I still hang out with and love my family and friends.

I am still me.

I am still the me that worries about my black and brown friends and whether or not I will see them the next day. I am still the me that cries for the hate and utter bigotry shown towards those in the LGBT+ community. I am still the me that is always aware of how much harder I have to work to be given even a passing glance as a woman and as an African-American in this country. I am still the me that wonders how the country that has been known as the  world’s “melting pot” can decide that it no longer wants to melt and blend but instead it wants to purge until all that is left is murky and tasteless.

This is still me. This has always been me, fighting the fears that hold down my soul, that take away life and love and joy…

We cannot give into our fears, friends. Yes, we should mourn. Yes, take a step back and go through your process of self-care. But remember, you have the God given right to cry, to scream until your throat bleeds raw but please remember to never fear. To not be shushed for speaking too loudly. Too boldly. Too freely. Too honestly. To remember that love trumps hate!

“Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams” ~ Hillary Clinton

And for those of you who do not understand, who do not grieve, who may think we’re over reacting, show some compassion nonetheless. We are human. We are fallible. Just as you are. Just because you do not resonate with our pain does not discredit it or us any less.

Remember, friends, “History has its eyes on you…”

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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.

 

Drifting Thoughts Friday: Feeling 22

To be honest, I don’t really think turning 22 is that big of a deal except for the fact that I now have a year to be able to sing TSwift’s “22” and actually have the lyrics be somewhat accurate. By the way, who wants to dress up like hipsters and make fun of our exes with me tonight?

Any takers? Anyone?

But seriously, there’s not that much about 22 to get excited for. It’s not the year where you can start driving, be viewed as a legal adult, or even begin drinking (though let’s be honest, how many of you reading this actually waited until you were 21 to have your first drink? No shame/judgement!). If anything, 22 seems like the beginning of the downwards spiral of just getting old and being called “ma’am” by tweens or whatever the heck they’re calling themselves now…

Is this what it means to be an adult?

Honestly, I look into the mirror sometimes and see a 5 year old crashing from a sugar rush staring back at me from the mirror most days instead of a 22, soon to be graduating from college and thrust into the “real world”, adult. Like seriously, if the fact that I wanted a Batman onsie for my birthday, my TWENTY-SECOND  birthday, doesn’t say I’m not ready nor should I be allowed to enter the “real world” I don’t know what does (Sadly, mom didn’t get me the onsie. Epic sad face). Obviously, if you haven’t already figured out by now, I’m having “epic” first world oh-my-gosh-I’m-graduating-from-college-in-10-weeks-but-I-don’t-have-a-job-yet problems. Woe. Is. Me. Cue the world’s tiniest violin.

Ok, I promise, this post is not going to be me complaining about my early quarter life crisis. I promise. (Just stick with me through this tangential train of thought turned blog post. Which is what you have been doing if you’ve been keeping up with this blog.) But yeah, turning 22 was pretty anti-climatic even for a Tuesday birthday (didn’t even have cake), and yet within this first week of the double 2s, I’ve been really blessed by the lessons God has been giving me.

As a graduating senior in college, I want to do all things/be all things for the people that I am leaving behind but honestly, that’s really stupid and most importantly, emotionally draining. Oh, don’t get me wrong. In no way am I just giving up on people or suddenly dropping all my responsibilities to be a recluse in my dorm room (I don’t have enough snacks to do that, sadly). However, as one of my staff workers told me the other day (I hope I get these right, they said a lot of really good things. I should have been taking notes.), there are things I can and cannot control in regards to my last few weeks on campus and in life in general:

  1. I CAN control what I do or do not say.
  2. I CAN control what I do or do not do.
  3. I CAN NOT control what others do or do not say and/or do.
  4. I CAN control whether I will continue to let my feelings and beliefs be swayed by things/people I can not control.
  5. I CAN choose to forgive someone, especially – and sometimes most importantly – forgiveness for myself and find Shalom (or peace) whether or not things go the way I initially hope they would

These things all seem really simple and honestly, none of this is new to me. But just like when I was was 15, 18, 21, and now 22, they’re not always easy to remember and they’re even harder to do. They require giving up a lot of pride, in myself and my own ability. They require me to rely a lot on God. They require me to really believe and take comfort in the knowledge that whatever is God’s will is infinitely better than what I could have done or imagined.

 I think a lot of times we – myself included – try to create these long term plans, whether it’s for a year, 4 years, or the rest of our lives. And sometimes, we’re able to hit some of the key points in our plans but sometimes, God is like “Sorry, kid. That’s not what I have plan for you,”. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that it doesn’t initially suck, that what you wanted is not what you’ll get. And that’s fine. It’s fine to mourn that possibility that will probably never happen. To even be angry with God and let Him know that. But as I mentioned before, what’s most important is whether or not you will CONTINUE to mourn, letting that sadness control your actions and miss the awesome opportunities and people God does provide for you. I have definitely been guilty of that and knowing myself well enough, there will probably be more than a few times where I’ll mourn for longer than I should throughout the rest of my life. It’s not the best thing but that’s fine, because red swollen eyes, tear stained cheeks, and snotty noses is still beautiful to God and He doesn’t love us any less for it and I’m grateful for that.

Yeah, everything will be alright if I’m next to God! See what I did there?

 But let’s be honest, I rather mourn, put those few bitter-sweet feelings and experiences in a box, say my farewells, and see where God leads me next. And who knows, maybe the path that God initially drew me from, He leads me back but stronger and more equipped than I was before.

So…HERE’S TO FEELING TWENTY-TWO Ooooo (sorry, had to do it) and not being too old to find and seek comfort in the Lord. Amen.

TSwift just gets me sometimes.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” ~Psalm 55:22

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

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 (Delayed): Another Word in Need of Redemption

So this is obviously delayed but it happened on a Tuesday so I’m still counting it!

The other day I had a really amazing conversation with a brother-in-Christ. It began with an online conversation we were having during the summer over this article I posted about the Proverbs 31 woman. We finally met up yesterday to talk more in person about it. It was seriously a great conversation and one that I was seriously blessed by.

Obviously, I’m not going to go to in-depth about what we talked about but the word “submit” came up and it’s been in my head since our talk.

Now, whenever I hear the word “submit” I internally cringe, especially in a Christian context. As a Christian woman, the most overused verse directed towards me about submission is Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Getting past the fact that I am not married and don’t plan to be married until I can fully support myself by myself, the ever growing baby feminist in me cries for equality and not wanting to be viewed as inferior than anyone else, let alone my future husband. However, like I found with the word “abide”, you can’t just stop at the surface level of a word, especially not in the Bible. There must be deep digging not only into the definition but also our own hearts.

Granted, I will still probably cringe at the word “submit” when used with any other meaning other than turning in a paper that I pulled two consecutive all-nighters over. However, submitting to someone in the Bible is not about becoming a slave to someone but of loving someone, of realizing that instead of always pulling into yourself, we should also be giving out to others as well. I mean, Jesus showed many acts of submission during his time on earth. He didn’t allow us to rule over him. That was only something he allowed the Father to do. However, Jesus did humble himself in order to love us. His whole existence living as a man was an act of submission. His death and resurrection was an act of submission. He had been there from the very beginning with God (John 1:1) and yet he gave up chilling with God in Heaven to save us when we kept messing up and pushing God away. Honestly, I would have just pressed the “reset” button and been done with it.

True submission, without any other agenda, is love.

There’s so much to talk about in regards to redeeming the word “submit” and maybe I’ll do a longer post when I finally catch up on all my schoolwork but I’ll end this post with the overly used but not any less true 1 Corinthians 13:4-7,  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, let us submit to on another and others in our lives in love.