A year ago today I excitedly drove to the hospital to meet a precious baby boy named Leo, just an hour old. And as I left the hospital that day and got to my car… More
I met Cheyenne at a retreat and couldn’t help but adore her, so I was ecstatic out of my mind when just a couple months later, she asked me to take her engagement photos! Chris and Cheyenne are the cutest couple and after we got Chris some coffee, we had the most beautiful sunrise shoot! Congrats to these newlyweds!
Today, I substitute-taught a class of twenty second-graders and it was one of the most chaotic environments I’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of. If you didn’t already know, sometimes second-graders turn into little terrorists when fresh sub meat walks into the room–I’m fresh sub meat. So needless to say, it was a rough day.
But there were moments. Moments that made me feel like in the end, maybe the day wasn’t just a mess–it was a beautiful mess.
In the morning, there was a little girl who asked if she could be my helper. I was in no place to refuse any help with twenty tiny terrorists on the loose–I said, yes.
I could tell that this girl wasn’t miss goody two shoes, but that she wasn’t the conniving leader of the gang either. She struggled to focus at times, staring off into space or complaining that her back hurt, stacking three chairs together to make herself a throne, or getting up out of her seat when she wasn’t supposed to.
But she was my helper, so she helped how she could.
And on the way back from the library, this little girl decided to hold my hand. I don’t know why. She just did.
And when the little girls following us made fun of her for holding the substitute’s hand, she held on. Her grip didn’t loosen one bit. I don’t know why. She just did.
After recess, she came back with some stickers on her body, courtesy of one of the Dons of the Mafia. Without asking she took one off and stuck it on my hand. It said, Power. I don’t know why. She just did.
And I don’t know what it was, but in that moment, I felt like this little girl was everything a little girl should be. She wasn’t perfect, but she had a good heart. She embraced who she was and what it meant to be a second grader to her. She didn’t care what the other little girls thought she should do or be. She gave. She laughed. She expressed her feelings. This little girl shared the power of girlhood.
And I know that someday, she’ll be one of those women who knows that her journey as a woman is unique and that she need not conform to anyone else’s expectations of what a woman is and can be. She’ll be one of those women who knows the power she holds and who doesn’t shy away from her femininity. She’ll be one of those women who changes the world with her vulnerability and strength, with her willingness to try and fail before she eventually succeeds.
This is my hope for her, this precious little eight-year-old girl, and for every woman who is redefining themselves by the light of truth and not the darkness of social construct. Whether you believe that you were created in the image of God or that your incredibly beautiful and complicated self came about some other way, Happy International Women’s Day! You are braver than you believe, stronger than you think, and loved more than you could possibly know.
Here’s the deal–the haters are gonna hate hate hate hate hate, but Taylor’s just gonna shake shake shake shake shake it all off, because this is her life and she grows and changes just like we all do.
No one likes to look back at old photos of themselves with the blue lipstick and black liner or the awful bangs and the green braces (Why would anyone ever think that was a good idea?), and they’re certainly not going to hold themselves to the person they said they were ten years ago. Just because her phases and self-branding have been extremely public since she was a teenager, doesn’t mean that Taylor has to stay the musician she was when her self-titled album debuted (This is what I’m telling myself as I use deep breathing techniques).
So while I don’t love her new single, I’m not a hater. I love the way she tells stories through her lyrics. I love her old music. Fearless will forever be one of my favorite albums. And I’m curious who made Taylor do what, because it seems to me she’s changing her image all by her big girl self (plus or minus one heck of a PR team).
On another note, I don’t pretend to know her life and what she really means by the title of her new single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” (Kim, Kanye, Katy, or Calvin–does it really matter?) but I do know that regardless, taking responsibility is crucial to succeeding in life–vocationally, relationally–all the ‘-ally’s.
Growing up, I’ve heard my seven and twelve year-old siblings say these exact words, “Look what you made me do.” And my parents and I have always taught them that no one MADE them do anything, but that ultimately, they are responsible for their own actions, and that while we may do or say things in response to other people’s infuriating actions, all of OUR actions are in fact, our own. A person reaps what he or she sows–we bear the responsibility of our words and actions–or as Tay puts it–karma.
I long ago stopped paying much attention to Taylor’s personal life and do not intend to judge her where I have no right to judge. Instead, here’s a friendly reminder to take responsibility for your life and your actions, to be gracious in your social media presence, and to focus on the music that makes you happy (whether or not the artist of said favorite music is trying to break up with you by saying that the old her is dead).
A verse for the road:
“Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience. Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others – ignoring God! – harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.” –Galatians 6:5-9 (MSG)
“Who is my neighbor?”
In essence, Jesus answers that your neighbor is the man who looks nothing like you, has nothing in common with you, and is lying in the middle of the road, bleeding and nearly dead.
And as I reflect on what it means to love my neighbors, especially the ones who live way over in Charlottesville, I can’t help but think how fitting it is that at church today, we talked about compassion and the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
And as I wished my roommate a safe flight this morning, I couldn’t help but think how fitting it is that today, my best friend left to Washington D.C. to intern with Sojourners, an organization that is committed to racial and social justice, life and peace, faith in action.
It’s all so fitting because of the state of affairs in which we now find ourselves. Racism is alive and well, while people are dying in the streets. And while I’ve always considered myself a pretty compassionate person, sometimes it seems like there are too many problems and people in the world to care about them all–especially the people I never get a chance to meet myself.
This is why I’m grateful that my love of Christ and my friendship with Eugenia have both helped me to grow in my compassion for my neighbors whom I’ve never met, for my 32-year-old neighbor who was killed in Charlottesville because of hate, for my neighbors everywhere who are discriminated against, threatened, and murdered.
Today, I am confessing to you that I have too often been silent in the midst of injustice.
The countless wars that are waged, people killed, and injustices done, are too many for me to ever be able to know and comprehend–only God sees and mourns it all. But I cannot hide behind the excuse that because I cannot help everybody, that I will not help the one.
Today, I am confessing to you that I refuse to be silent when I see injustice done, even if I’m afraid to say the wrong thing, afraid to offend, afraid that my words and efforts will fall short.
Because what happened in Charlottesville is not okay, and what continues to happen around the world–the hatred, the murder, the silence–it’s not okay.
It’s time we all loved our neighbors–those near and far. It’s time we prayed for our enemies–those near and far. It’s time we started loving God outside of our comfort zones by loving people outside our comfort zone, and by fighting against gross injustices even if they’re 2,500 miles away.
And to you who finds yourself thinking, “Well, I can’t help them all,” I say to you,
But you have a voice so use it. It’s not time to be Wonder Woman or Spider Man–it’s time to be YOU and help somebody with the resources God has given you. After all, our lives are not our own. We were bought at a price.
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” –Esther 4:14
God will bring justice and the prince of this world will eventually be dethroned, but God has given you a voice in the meantime.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan left the hypothetical world a long time ago–people are dying in the streets.
Do not remain silent.
What is God calling you to use YOUR voice for today?
More on what’s happening in Charlottesville: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-white-nationalist-rally-car-crash/index.html
Goddess PSA Pt. 1
Have you ever wondered why women often tell each other they look like princesses? I realized recently that women have this innate desire to recognize beauty in other women and have their own beauty recognized. This is why we call each other princesses and mermaids and goddesses every time we get the chance. It’s why we play with each other’s hair and stare at each other’s eyelashes and lose ourselves in the deep brown or bright blue of each other’s eyes. We see the goddesses in each other when the rest of the world is incessantly shouting about how much we fall short–or ARE short. Too short. Too tall. Too thin. Too heavy. Too dark. Too white. Too weak. Not brave enough. Not funny enough. Not smart enough. Not talented enough. Always falling falling falling short.
Mermaid PSA Pt. 2
But deep down all we want is to be beautiful–for who we are. Not for the skin we reveal or the makeup we apply or the weight we lose. Not for the one thing we like about ourselves, but for the whole of ourselves. Not for the women we post about, but for the women we don’t post about–who cry everyday in the bathroom on their lunch breaks. Not for the women who smell like a tropical fruit basket at all times, but for the women who haven’t showered in two days…or four. Not for the contour, but for the acne. Not for what we can do, but also for what we can’t. We want to be beautiful because we are. So we women give each other these beautiful identities–princess, mermaid, goddess, but what we really mean is, “You’re beautiful. Wholly beautiful. And I really hope I am too.”
Princess PSA Pt. 3
Good news! You are beautiful. Wholly beautiful. And I’m so sorry because I’m absolutely certain you don’t hear these words enough–but they’re true. And I hope someday soon you’ll start to believe that you’re the mermaid princess goddess that God intentionally and lovingly created you to be.
There are steps to fully embracing the mermaid princess goddess that you are–the first is to tell the little voice in your head that you’ve often mistaken for your low self-esteem, but that’s actually Satan, to go back to hell where he belongs. Liars and thieves aren’t allowed to just walk into palaces and this liar and thief shouldn’t be able to just walk into the palace of your mind either. Protect your mind. Feed it beautiful, true words from beautiful, truthful people. For now, don’t trust a single thought that crosses your mind before you run it by a good friend and/or the Word of God. You’ve got to recalibrate your truthometer and assert your identity. You are Moana of Motunui, daughter of the village chief. You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know. You are Wonder Woman.
Which leads us to the second step–accepting compliments. When someone tells you that you’re a beautiful mermaid princess, you say, “Thank you, I receive that!” You will say those exact words until you stop sounding like a rusty robot in serious need of some WD40 because I promise you it works like Proactiv and Curology promise to. Right now, you spend way too much time accepting ugly lies about yourself, never accepting the true and beautiful things instead, and I’m telling you, girl, it is bringing. you. down. Fight back. Humble yourself. Accept the compliments–EVEN when you don’t think they’re true.
Step 3: Pray. Pray pray pray. Pray for a pure heart. Pray for no fear. Pray for the Spirit to give you the love, power, and self-discipline that you need to thrive in this world. Look at me–YOU. ARE. WONDER WOMAN. Because Jesus says you are. Because He gave you His Spirit or He will if you ask Him to. And His Spirit is a billion times more incredible than the incredible power emanating from a billion Diana Princes. I can’t even handle that–the power God gives us is freaking AMAZING. So pray! Pray always for wisdom and courage and peace. Pray and thank God for your incredible and innate mermaid princess goddess-ness. He adores you–let Him teach you who you really are in Him.
In the effort of full disclosure, I must confess that as I’m writing this my acne feels like it’s taken over my face and all that’s left is one massive painful itchy blob where my face used to be AND I’m still recovering from some unfortunate illness I picked up in Mexico that has led me to the bathroom way too many times the past couple days. Do I feel beautiful right now? Nope. AM I beautiful right now? Yes. And you are too.
(Both a reference to Maui and to the fact that you should have just said, “Thank you, I receive that!” OUT LOUD because I reminded you that you’re beautiful.)
Go forth and conquer, my beautiful mermaid princess goddess friend.
Special thanks to my girl, Diana, for calling me a goddess and for being my model on her layover to Cambodia.