The Old Taylor Swift

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)

Beauty PSA

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.

You’re welcome.

(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.

Unbad

I read something recently in response to which I wanted to comment that the existence of worse things in the world does not make a bad thing unbad.

And then I talked to a friend today who just got back from a service trip in the Philippines and I realized that maybe I was wrong.

Maybe in some situations, the existence of extreme poverty makes the idea of taking a minimum wage job at a restaurant after getting your bachelor’s degree sort of unbad.

 

Or maybe it was just never bad to begin with.

 

I often hear stories of third world countries and barefoot orphans running through the streets with nothing to eat, but today I was reminded that the life I have really isn’t my own.

It’s God’s breath in my lungs so I will pour out my praise to the one who has ordained that I be here at the exact time and in the exact place I am this very uncertain post-grad moment.

Because I’m realizing that so much of what I thought was bad, is actually unbad, and that if I really think about it, all the unbad things in my life are actually gifts from God.

Enough Faith for Today

So here’s the thing.

My fourteen-year-old friend, Josh, is gone. And sometimes it feels like nothing else really matters except that there’s a giant hole in the world where he just isn’t anymore.

For a while, I didn’t feel like I could post anything about me or anybody else living life, because I felt like Josh had been robbed of sixty or so more years that you and I get to have, but that he doesn’t.

It feels as though with each social media post we publish, we flaunt the breaths we are taking for granted, the beats of our hearts that we don’t even stop to think about, the countless miracles occurring in our bodies that we don’t deserve, that are happening anyway.

I felt, and sometimes still feel numb.

Because I spent three days at the Children’s Hospital on Sunset with a family going through a senseless tragedy and I was surrounded by other families going through immeasurable pain as well and what do you do, but sit? What do you do, but push your tears away, because there are enough crying people in that hospital with broken babies and wounded children? What do you do, but find your inner autopilot? Try to remember to eat, try to remember to breathe, try to anticipate needs, knowing there’s nothing you can do to fix this kind of broken.

I felt like a zombie.

Because I didn’t know what to tell Josh’s older sister as she hugged crying person after crying person and smiled at baby cousins and her brother’s little fourteen-year-old friends. Because my brother is alive and if he wasn’t, I’d fall to pieces, and even the thought of losing him is too painful to bear.

So, numb it is.

I’ve been wrestling with my own grief because Josh’s family has this incredible faith in our Lord. And they want to celebrate his life, rather than mourn. They want to rejoice, rather than weep. And I’ve just been angry. And afraid.

Angry at the robbery of life. Angry at the injustice of it all. Angry that so many people throw their lives away and still physically live, while Josh had all of this potential, but no choice in the matter. Afraid of the God that created Josh’s life and took it away. Knowing I should trust, knowing I should be like Job and I should hang on to Jesus and praise the Lord. But I am weak. And I asked the question no person should ask in times like this–

“Why?”

And I started to question whether Josh’s God would let me down when it comes to my future too. I’m over here worrying about my life’s calling and being passionate about my career path and making enough money to support myself when there’s a kid lying in a hospital bed who will never have to think about any of that now. So if in a day, Josh can just not have a future, does God really care about mine? Can I even trust God with my dreams or am I expendable?

You’re probably thinking, “You faithless, heathen!”

You’re sort of right–sometimes it feels like my faith is all out and I’m running on empty.

But I’m taking it one day at a time–one moment at a time.

It helps that I’ve realized that Josh didn’t get gypped out of life–we got gypped out of his life, but he gets to hang out with God in heaven–which is infinitely better than dealing with a heart condition in a sinful world. So, I’m happy for you, bro. But devastated for us. All I can say right now is that I hope you read my balloon, man–I chose blue just for you.

It helps that I went to Teen Camp this week and was forced to sing, “Good Good Father” even when the words didn’t make any sense to me and I cried–not because I felt them to be true, but because it hurt so badly that for once they didn’t seem true at all. It helps to say the words when you mean them least. It helps that God blesses our mustard seeds of faith.

It helps that I was reminded that four years ago, I made a decision to follow Jesus in sickness and in health, through trials and tribulations, through greatest pain and loss, and through deepest joy and gladness. So here I am. I am living. I am breathing with lungs undeserved and heart undeserved and brain undeserved, typing with fingers undeserved.

And I know this is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but I’ve decided to write everyday.

Because God created me to write. And until he calls me home and I get to hang with Josh again, I will write. It’s taking the mustard seed of faith I have to share this with you, and I apologize if you needed more encouragement than this post brought you today. I’ll probably share something more faithful tomorrow so check back, but that’s all for now, folks.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

–Lamentations 3:22-26

Shout out to Olivia Gaines for inspiring me to just write. You can check out her stuff at https://medium.com/@livitupproject 🙂