January 31, 2015

Rise and Rejoice

This Sunday, my twenty-third birthday will be the beginning of a decade marker for some incredibly significant events that took place in my life: Ten years ago I chose to walk with God, though it would take me a long time to understand what that meant.Ten years of friendships that may not be present at this moment, but are still a very important part of my history. Ten years since I fell into a ravine of self-hatred and depression, a direct result of the lies I believed about myself. A ravine that I can now say I feel like I have completely crawled out of and therefore raise my hands in victory.

You would think that I'd be sad and depressed over all of it, and admittedly I was throughout high school and college. I never acknowledged or celebrated any of it because I still felt overpowered and defined by it. It was a gaping reminder of what I no longer had, what I still wanted, and what I feared would never be again. But as I was writing last night, I realized that I never truly lost it; I still had the memories, and it made me realize later on that I'm still capable of having those experiences. Though twenty-three isn't culturally considered a milestone, it personally is for me.

I don't celebrate such significance because of what once was, but rather what it taught me. I no longer need the promise of a happy ending to start living out the story that has been written for me. Yes, some things were painful and could have been avoided, but one can only have so much self-awareness, especially at a young age. We don't really learn anything worth holding onto until we've tasted salty tears and felt our hearts hurt, even to the point of breaking. So do I regret my choices that long ago? No. And I try not to regret the choices that I made thinking that I could protect myself afterward. The only thing I know for sure is that what I thought kept me safe ended up holding me hostage, instead of setting me free.

But where does that personal freedom come from? Not from self alone, I've realized. It comes from the One that knitted us together with both strengths and weaknesses so that we may experience wholeness. It's choosing to embrace what we were created to do and what for, even if doing so feels like us against the rest of the world. Not that it should be an "us versus them" mentality, but it does feel like it at times. There will always be those who try to put me (and others) in a box; when people can't understand or it makes them uncomfortable, they fight it by feigning ignorance. 

But I don't have the energy or the time to worry about that. Not anymore

This is not a time of 'starting over' as it tends to be emphasized. I look at it as a continuation of what I've already been doing, but without the self-denial. There's definitely changing and growing over time, but I truly believe that the core of who a person is always remains the same. I've always been a woman with a child-like heart and who finds joy in the every-day mundane aspects of life. I will always be an  old soul with a sense of romantic optimism who is fascinated by human connection, and tries to see the best in everyone. 

It's interesting in regards to what happens you get out of the bubble, and life is no longer about papers during the week and cheap drinks on weekends. I've discovered that I am so much stronger than I thought I was capable of being, and that with God's help, I will somehow get to the other side. What seems so complicated really isn't, and the only reason it seems that way is because I was afraid of making the wrong choice and then getting hurt. Overall, when I embrace who I am and love myself in the process, everything else tends to come together as it should. 

And so I will rise; rise and continue leaning into Hope that whatever lies ahead is going to be awesome. I'm not a fan of lowering expectations, but rather being open to the possibilities. I have a vision, but I'm willing to allow that vision to take different shapes over the course of time. I strive to take action and get involved, because that's what living is. 

Here's to rising, to going all in, and being grateful for every moment of it.

January 23, 2015

Dreaming In Adversity

For those who dream to create, and for those who dream to create change.

Dreaming In Adversity

With a spark it starts
In the heart of those who those
Who see beyond their tired hands
The hands that have built fences of tradition
At best
Oppression at worst

With a vision it begins
Colors of possibility dancing on a blank canvas
Words of hope and faith darting across blank pages
The whisper of change runs through
Cracked walls, lifeless trees, and stale, bitter air
There is something more than just what you know

And the voice(s) rise
Getting louder as passion and urgency collide
Intertwining with a calling and creativity
Speak! Some say
Stand Up! Some respond
Follow, and then live


Chains remain
The chains of insecurity
And fear of not being enough
Of defeat

That weightless feeling in one’s stomach
In the midst of a freefall
Surrounded by the wind that screams
“This is the way it has always been!”
“Who are you to dare?”
But dare one shall to dream
If it means becoming
Creating what others couldn’t

Worthless! Useless! Failure!
The world points an unclean finger
Shooting flames of adversity
Jump, duck, run
Keep walking
For who can measure the strength of the tenacious spirit
Given by God to fight when needed?
Fight not to kill or win
But to claim and proclaim the gift of life

Because each one life matters
Walk through hell to get to heaven
Rest, be still, and know peace
If only in mind and not on streets
This is our victory

This is how we dream in adversity

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January 19, 2015

Music Monday

Lately, I've been listening to....

Freestyle-Lady Antebellum

A Whole New World-Yuna
-My Disney side lights up whenever I hear this one. Granted it's on an overplayed commercial, but I never would have heard it otherwise.

Gasoline and Matches-Leann Rimes feat. Rob Thomas

I look To You-Whitney Houston 
-A beautiful reminder that often brings tears to my eyes; the importance of looking to God regardless of circumstances, and always keeping Him at the center.

Just Another Love Song-Haley and Michaels

Riptide-Vance Joy

Have a great week!!

photo credit: Peter Gorges via photopin cc

January 16, 2015

Friday Finds

The internet is such an interesting place in terms of how I experience community. In this last couple of weeks I came across some some incredible and thought-provoking articles, and I thought I would share them with you all. 

The wrong conversation about virginity  (via Mic) 

I didn't even notice this when I was watching the episode, but this article helped me to see just how many lies are out there about this kind of thing. It's sad at times, but it is definitely something worth pondering. 

How we look at singleness, and therefore look at God (via True Love Dates) 

This was so eye-opening for me; we so often buy into the lie that God wants to punish us or enjoys seeing us unhappy when the desire of a relationship (and perhaps marriage) goes unfulfilled. Her perspective is amazing!

The saving grace of Defensiveness and being flawed  (via Ten Thousand Places) 

I love this. SO MUCH. As someone who has been through the wringer in being told that I'm too (insert supposedly negative trait here), this resonated with me in a way that I had tears me in my eyes. 

Let It Begin With Me (via Momastery) 

So much emotion. Many feelings. Chilling, moving, and beautiful.

Burn The Candles (via Shauna Niequist) 

I am the kind of person that does this: that get's wonderful (and typically expensive) gifts that I'm afraid to use because I don't want to run out of it. I want to savor it as much as possible. Well, shelving isn't necessarily savoring. Don't wait for a special occasion; rather, create it.

Have a great weekend!!

photo credit: Danny Montemayor via photopin cc

January 14, 2015

Be Not Afraid (Of Baggage)

There’s a lot of talk out there about what’s ruining relationships: some say its technology and not knowing how to genuinely communicate. Some argue that good people no longer exist, or at least people with grounded morals and values. And while they all play a role in the fact that we make dating more complicated than it needs to be, there’s an underlying issue that doesn’t seem to get discussed very much, especially online.

A word of warning that not everyone will agree on this; while I don’t believe that this is a gender-specific or orientation-related matter, I can only speak from personal experiences, and those experiences as a woman. I’m more than open to conversation regarding other perspectives, and I invite those perspectives to be shared at the end.

The real problem is that we as a people have become way too self-serving and self-involved: it seems as though we fall in love with ideas and fantasies rather than real human beings. There’s an incredible lack of grace, and I’m not just referring to forgiveness. It’s something that I’m still in the process of learning about, but at the bare bones of it all, grace is the understanding (and acknowledging) that the person standing right in front of you has limitations, and can only do or give so much. And after coming to that realization, you still make a conscious effort to get to know them and walk with them.

When I first started dating (generally speaking) there was a lot of talk involving baggage. The attitude was that the older you get the more baggage you have, and the more baggage you have, the less you’ll be able to give to another person. That kind of thinking is what breeds shallow articles involving checklists for who we should be and how we should act in order to have worth.

Everyone has past mistakes or a history that they have to live with. It’s not a question of what or how bad, but how it’s dealt with and put into perspective. There are those that constantly blame or hold grudges for what has happened to them, never fully realizing that after a certain point it comes down to their own choices. In some situations, they depend on friends or significant others to take away their pain or replace what they’ve lost. And then there are those who live out a different story: they acknowledge what they’ve been through, perhaps by their own decision or at the hands of others. But they also make a point to forgive, if only for the sake of moving forward. They view their pain as something that can be used for good, a repurpose, as I call it. There are moments or happenings that will always stay with them in some way, but it doesn’t determine their dreams or their future. They’re not victims, nor do they just survive; they rise and they go on stronger and wiser.

Having reasonable standards and deal-breakers is healthy because it shows how we all have individual needs, and that no relationship is one in the same. Being with a man of faith, compassion, and willingness to be a helper is non-negotiable for me. But there is a fine line between needs and insecurities, which seem to orbit around conversations and articles that talk about sex. This warrants a separate post in itself because it has a lot to do with Purity Culture, control, and other harmful ideals that do a lot of damage. But I will say this: I’m beginning to think it has less to do with someone else’s past and more to do with a mindset, a matter of the heart even. Do we want somebody to love, or do we want somebody to show off?

Baggage does not necessarily have to be sexual or even romantic. I have battled with the notion that having Cerebral Palsy, a difficult upbringing, and other aspects would be considered as such, though over time I’ve learned look at it otherwise. I still struggle with knowing when and how to talk about these things, though it has gotten easier. I dreaded the idea of being “too much” of anything and therefore unwanted. So much that I barely spoke of therapy or anything deep until I was certain the other person could handle it. Little did I realize that one of them would end up offering to go with me to a session in order for me to see that I had nothing to be ashamed of.

And while I know now that sharing doesn’t have to be that calculated or scary, the anticipation is still there. I don’t have to tell my story, but I want to; it starts to feel weird if I’ve been connecting with someone for over a year and we haven’t touched on the Tough Stuff. It’s like there’s a barrier, and one that doesn’t need to exist.

Today, in my dark moments, I experience thoughts of wanting to take off and go somewhere where nobody knows my name or what I’ve been through. I cringe at being compared to the girl I was ten years ago to the woman I am now, only to be told that I’m still the same person; that I haven’t grown, that I’m still difficult, and therefore unable to be loved. It was only recently that I stopped worrying about having a situation all figured out before saying anything. When certain friends and I aren’t able to catch up for long stretches of time, I send them raw and unedited writings in order to convey the nitty-gritty. As I said once before, I can now appreciate the messy; it’s not always pretty, but it takes a lot less energy than trying to be neat.

I’m not one to outright depend on anybody to solve my problems; I used to believe that loving someone meant having it all together, thinking that I was the reason certain people walked away. Yet in the last four years I’ve seen how amazing it is to watch someone grow and evolve, and I pray that I’ve been able to bless others as they’ve grown with me. Note that walking together in life is not the same as trying to “save” another, or even each other.  Saving involves codependency and the desire to be needed, and it tends to lead to exhaustion. Walking is letting each other know that you’re there, you will support them, and you’re rooting for them.

There’s a saying that only God can truly heal; not counselors, significant others, families, or even friends. On the other side, God places them in our lives for a reason and uses them to speak to us. I learned how to love myself thanks to the wisdom of some special people, and I wouldn’t be the person that I am had I not known them.

This is not about changing anybody’s minds, but rather about deepening a very loud conversation. Maybe it’s time to re-think what real baggage is, or what being relationship or spousal material genuinely means. But while we’re pondering that, let’s learn to stop being afraid, please? There’s getting hurt, and then there’s getting hurt knowing that you embarked on something amazing.

Just as well, know that perception does not equal reality; you should not have to make decisions entirely based on what somebody else might think. It's not easy to own your truth, your history, things that if you had the chance to re-do them, you probably would. You don't need to depend on arbitrary lists to tell you if you measure up; you're a child of God and a human being, and that's all there is to it. 

Be not afraid.

photo credit: Julien Söderberg via photopin cc

January 09, 2015

Life Lately: Things Are Happening

Happy 2015, Dear Readers!! After dancing my boots off in the heart of downtown Chicago, I'm glad to be getting back into a solid routine again. I feel incredibly motivated, which is a surprise considering I normally feel drained during the month of January; not only have the holidays passed (and the blues have set in), but in my neck of the woods it tends to get insanely cold to the point where it's dangerous to go outside. Typically this makes me want to hunker down and hibernate, but to my surprise that's not the case this year. This week in particular has been fabulous because I got a lot accomplished, and I credit that to the goal of doing something right when I think of it, rather than putting it off. 

Good things come to those who wait, but good things also come to those who don't procrastinate. 

It's true that I've developed a habit of pushing tasks to the side, more so if they involve important conversations, emails, and the like. I would tell myself that I needed more time to emotionally prepare, or at least wait until nightfall so that if I read or talked about a subject that would naturally upset me, I could let it out when no one else was around. And I would be done for the day so I wouldn't be wasting time crying when I could be getting stuff done. 

These days, it's less about fear and more about weirdness or discomfort. I recently described it to a friend as that sensation I experience when on a roller-coaster; the kind of weightlessness that causes my entire body to clench up, and from a scientific perspective I believe it's called G-Force or something like that. It's not necessarily a bad feeling, but it's not one that I'm fond of either. 

That's what I experience when thinking about the future, about meeting new people and/or joining groups and getting involved with life. It's not scary, but it can be hard to envision myself in that position for whatever reason. 

Yet, often times the only answer is to do it. And the more I do it, the more comfortable I will become. 

The job search is still on in full force, but I'm trying to take a different approach, rather than just applying on websites and doing dozens of interviews at one time. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, but it personally became draining by the time December rolled around. I'm learning that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help and/or being mentored by someone that knows what they're doing. As much as our culture emphasizes this whole lone wolf mentality, the idea that true success can only happen by your own strength, I'm finding it all to be completely false. Whatever you accomplish and however you go about doing it, at the end of the day there's always someone to thank, even if you're too stubborn or prideful to admit it. 

Nobody does anything worthwhile without the guidance and influence of someone else. 

It's not easy, especially when you spend a lot of time with people who seem to have their lives together (i.e. jobs, relationships, confidence, and overall experience). I have moments where I wonder when on earth I'm going to catch a break, whether it be getting hired, getting published, and/or connecting/reconnecting with certain people. Life as a post-graduate is unpredictable, and that gets frustrating after a while. 

But I things are happening, even if for the moment they're not monumental or worth shouting on the rooftops about. I will continue to do what I do and celebrate the small victories, along with not beating myself up when I mess up or fall short in the process. 

Yes, this train is moving, even when I don't feel it. And for that I'm grateful.

photo credit: Paul-W via photopin cc

January 05, 2015

Music Monday

Now that I'm getting back into my regular blogging routine, here are a few tunes that have caught my ears over these last couple of weeks. Some aren't necessarily new, but they're still worth a listen. 

Waves-Mr. Probz

-I'm surprised that this didn't get much radio airplay in 2014. I've always pictured dancing to it in some kind of funky nightclub, and on New Years Eve I actually got to do just that.

Love-Jana Kramer

Take Your Time-Sam Hunt

-This one grew on me, and I love how vulnerable the overall meaning is.

Talladega-Eric Church

Uptown Funk-Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars) 

-Part of me wonders if this will get overplayed and eventually hated, but for now I'm going to enjoy it. And I would like to thank my sister for getting this stuck in my head!

Have a great week!!

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