Lessons Learned: Relationships

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So many times, I write things and then erase it, over and over. I do this all the time. Are my true feelings at this moment too raw? Maybe I should wait to talk about this...The story goes on and on. People tell me all the time, I loved your blog but do you realize that you told your business to everyone? The answer is yes. You see, I struggle with perfectionism and trying to put together for everyone, in fact, countless people have told me that they assume I am just a goody goody and do no wrong. This is of course very far from the truth. So I really started to blog last year because it helped me stay real, honest, and vulnerable. I convey my feelings best when I can write them out.Well I'm here to tell you all a story; a story that began with a kind gentleman asking me out on a date. At first, I was inclined to tell him no. I was about to move to Austin, he was in Houston, really there was no reason for me to even give him a chance. I met him at work and he FB messaged me to ask me on a date. I almost said no. In fact, that was my first reaction. However, some friends and my mom suggested I give him a chance, so I did. Our first date was dinner and church. I planned on going to church to say "see you later" to my people before I moved to Austin and I wasn't going to stop that for a date. So he was either coming or missing out on a date, he decided to come. At the end of the service and the pastor does the altar call, he decides he wants to go up there and rededicate his life to Christ and he asked if I would walk with him. (Let me pause the story here: Can I just tell you that my pride was in the way? I was thinking, "OMG all my people are going to think I've backslid and I'm trying to get my life right.") After swallowing my pride and realizing how shallow I was, I made my way up to the front with him. At the altar I was thinking "this is so my life, only I would have a first date that ends in a persons salvation." Nonetheless, I was happy for him. He asked me out on several dates and we talked a lot and became friends.Throughout this time I was extremely nervous. I didn't want to miss God. In previous relationships, I was desperate. This guy showed up at a time where I was really content personally. I didn't want anyone to mess up this "place" that I worked so hard to settle into. I decided that I needed to learn how to trust God with my emotions and heart and follow peace. There are several things I did differently when dating this time. I made my boundaries crystal clear and did not budge on them. We did not kiss and he did not sleep over at my apartment. We were purely getting to know one another. I did not feel the need to rush into all of that.If you know me, then you know; I don't want a boyfriend so bad that I desperately want to spend all this time and energy getting to know someone for kicks and giggles. I work full time, help out at church, and I'm in grad school. I am busy all the time.So back to my story...I had a blast getting to know him and dating him was fun. He was such a gentleman and possessed an incredible servants heart. I appreciated and admired that. In spite of all the fun and getting doted on and feeling special, I was by no means; ready to fall into his arms. I told myself, I was going to guard my heart and emotions ("guarding your heart" looks differently for everyone...that's a whole different blog I will write later).I fiercely protected my heart and really sought God on how to honor him with this relationship. Every step of the way I asked God to keep my eyes open and don't let me miss a thing. At the beginning of this year I was doing the Daniel fast. I needed God’s insight and direction on this guy. Things we're going seemingly well but I had a few reservations and I just wanted to really seek God about it so I chose to fast and pray.After several long and hard conversations, it was evident that we were running in two different directions. The Holy Spirit made it clear to me that this was something I did not need to continue to put my time and energy into. Once I got that answer, I went to Houston the next day to meet with him. I prayed that God would show him, I wasn't the person for him. We met up and talked and I said, "I think we should part ways" and he said, "I agree". I thanked him for being a gentleman and closed a chapter. You don't have to make someone "bad" just because they aren't for you. Our conversation was seamless and graceful. I felt such a peace from God. I felt confident because followed God’s leading for myself. None of my family or friends had to tell me what to do. I asked for insight and God gave it to me. (No God did not talk to me audibly, but he showed me though our conversations what I needed to hear and that our paths were not lining up).The reason I am so encouraged by all of this is because I don’t think dating is wrong. I’ve learned more from dating than all the books and purity conferences ever taught me. Everyone has to have their own experience and must chose to learn from it. A purity ring won’t keep me from having sex that is my choice. We all have a choice. There's no 10 steps to contentment plan, 12 ways to get a man in a year, nor a book on 10 ways to wait well, that will give you what you want. I am not a big fan of books with “steps” to _________(fill in the blank); everything works differently for different people. Not everyone has the same convictions. Not everyone will date the same way and that is okay! For me, I was able to learn how to date someone and leave my baggage behind. Oftentimes, I find myself overcoming an issue and I put it behind me and the minute it reintroduces itself in a different form, I am running back to pick up that old hurt, pain and fear. This time I said no more! I had to learn how to take risks and trust that God had my back.This relationship was short lived only 6 weeks of my time. (Guys, this is a big deal). The fact that I'm at a place to hear the Holy Spirit and obey quickly is so much progress. Before I wanted a relationship so bad that I would drag it out. Last year, I grew so much personally. I truly left the "old me" behind. I've learned how to obey quickly because it hurts more when you wait it out. Relationships take time and energy to cultivate. If you are investing your time in someone you have reservations about; get out of that relationship. It's not worth your time. I realized that having healthy boundaries was a safety net for me. I did not compromise. I did not give anything away. This was the healthiest I have been personally while dating someone. I valued myself. I felt beautiful. More than anything I am still a virgin (by the grace of God, it’s a miracle). I love my body and myself far too much to be disrespected because a man thinks I am beautiful. Its great to feel flattered and wanted but if a man is using his words to get in my pants, then he can hit the door.We all know getting physical causes us women to get attached. I’ve learned the hard way and don’t want to repeat that lesson ever again. In order for me to stay healthy and not fall apart, I kept my "cards" close and focused on a his character, which I knew would reveal itself, in spite of words spoken. Character will shine through, every “right” word spoken. Focus on character and how he responds to his family, the people he is around, and see him when he gets angry. Its not worth it to compromise, simply so you won't feel alone. I am so happy single, I would hate to be married and miserable because I was rushing. I will take contentment over turmoil in the home, ANY DAY!I learned so much. SO MUCH. It was a great dating experience because I allowed myself to overcome fear and all of the “what-ifs”. While life has it twists and turns, and making hard choices is not easy, I am encouraged. I danced unashamed in my kitchen today to a song that said, “Sometimes you gotta tell your soul to sing, even when you don’t fell a thing, that’s when you gotta sing, louder, louder!” I needed to sing louder this morning. Making hard decisions can be painful. Just remember to get up and dance, even if you are crying still. Letting depression settle over you will lead you to a dark cave. Trust me I’ve found myself slipping into that vortex. It can be hard to get out sometimes. Hard to find any footing and you feel like you are falling into an endless abyss with no way out. I get it.Be you, be bold, and beautiful, and brave. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Your character and how you carry yourself speak louder than words.Gentleman, be strong, courageous, and encouraged. There are women who know good men still exist. Everyone wants to love and be loved, this is fact; it doesn’t have to be romantic love, it can be platonic. Everyone wants to be accepted and wanted.Note: No, I haven't kissed dating goodbye. I have not pledged to never kiss again till I'm married. I plan on being intentional. I plan to take my time.Elizabeth Elliot said it best: “I do know that waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts. It is easy to talk oneself into a decision that has no permanence-easier sometimes than to wait patiently.”signature-wordpress

Grand Jury

As I watch the state our nation is in, most of the time I am moved to tears. I begin praying and feel at a loss for words. For weeks now I have been feeling the weight of this question: "what can I do?" How can I be apart of bringing change? Does my little voice really matter in these big conversations? In a sea of opinions and articles, is another voice necessary? It seems as if everyone is screaming a lot of things from several different angles. Instead of me going into who is right or wrong, I have been learning to focus in on what I CAN do. What is it that I can do in my community now to make a difference? One area I was curious to learn more about was the process by which ordinary citizens like you and me are selected to participate in the grand jury.We have seen how grand jury's have played a huge role in many of the recent court cases. Did you know that in Houston you can apply to be a grand juror? Each city in Texas has a similar but varied selection process. Explore the websites to learn about the process in more detail. Remember in order to participate, you must be a registered voter.Houston: http://www.justex.net/grandjuryinfo/faq.aspx"To be considered for the next grand jury, you must fill out the grand juror application, have it notarized, and mail it in to the Administrative Office of the District Courts, 1201 Franklin, 7th Floor, Houston, Texas 77002.  If you do not truthfully answer the questions on your application, you could be prosecuted for criminal offenses."Dallas: https://www.dallasda.com/division/intake-grand-jury/Austin: http://www.txwd.uscourts.gov/Jury/Offices/austin.asp

For ATX: "Federal law requires that a grand jury be selected at random from a fair cross section of the community in the district or division in which the federal grand jury convenes. Thus, all citizens have an equal opportunity and obligation to serve. Pursuant to law, the names of prospective grand jurors are drawn at random from lists of registered voters or lists of actual voters, or other sources when necessary, under procedures designed to ensure that all groups in the community will have a fair chance to serve. Those persons whose names have been drawn and who are not exempt or excused from service are summoned to appear for duty as grand jurors. When these persons appear before the court, the presiding judge may consider any further requests to be excused. The judge will then direct the selection of 23 qualified persons to become the members of the grand jury."

Education is so important. The more we are educated the more efficiently we can advocate for others. If we want to see change in our judicial system we need to learn more about it. All my lawyer/law student friends: tell me what you know! Your voices are so valuable right now.May we truly live and love our PEOPLE (neighbors, teachers, friends, and strangers) and our community. What a difference walking in love makes, it changes, everything.XoXoFaitth B

Chivalry isn't dead, I just don't know how to respond to it.

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I've found that since our culture has changed and we have said that "chivalry is dead" sometimes we as women don't know how to accept genuine kindness from a man without thinking he has ulterior motives. I mean, I struggle with letting a man open the door before I shove it open internally stating, "I am woman, my hands aren't broken, I can get the door, thank you." When I am with my guy friends I have to remind myself to let them be kind. I have been wondering what my issue is? Why is it so hard for me to accept genuine kindness from a man? These are the questions I ask myself.

[small rant about my own personal immaturity]

Let's face it. All the christian purity conferences ruined me. They talked about how a man should be intentional and how we shouldn't date around. They talked about the importance of friendship before a relationship, all great things but if the context isn't taught correctly, then we have to "re-teach" ourselves about fostering healthy relationships. I found it was hard to have a meaningful friendship with the opposite sex without assuming that maybe-possibly-kind of-there could-be-or-may-never-be-something-romantic there. I eventually got annoyed that mentally my guy friends move to potential husband candidates because we were "building a friendship " I mean, how was I supposed to know their intentions otherwise since they were never verbalized but subtly expressed in moments? Most likely we would be friends,scope each other out, "pray about it" and live in a gray area for a while before any action or no action at all was taken. I misunderstood a guy flirting for a guy being truly interested. Let's face it. People flirt all the time. Thus, this stupid confusing way of being a Christian and honoring the Lord through vague friendships with the opposite sex [and wondering if there was something more because the only glimpse of a deeper relationship was occasional flirting] became really confusing and weird. This is when I had to put my brothers advice to the test (My brother told me, "If a guy didn't tell you he likes you, then never assume that he does."). Guys weren't being forthright about their intentions. They were playing games. I didn't understand why some guys wouldn't open their mouth and say "hey I like you, I would love to get to know you better, can we go out sometime?" I understand it's hard and guys don't want to be rejected. Just a hint men, if you ask a girl out on a date, most likely she will say yes.

But back to men and chivalry.

For example: if a guy friend buys you a gift, that doesn't mean he likes you. It simply means he is being nice. My brother gave me the best advice ever. "If a guy didn't tell you he likes you, then never assume that he does."If a guy buys your dinner while out with friends or if you two are just hanging out, you don't need to go pray and ask God if that is your husband. He was just being nice.The problem we (I) have is that we can't accept genuine kindness from a man without assuming that he has bad intentions toward us. Some men are kind and honest. Some men want to be friends only. Some men want to be more than our friend and those men will pursue us. We need to learn to trust more and worry less. 

Trust me, I struggle with this. I have had guy friends show me genuine chivalry by opening my car door, paying for dinner, driving out to see me, and they only looked at me as a friend. Guess what people? Because I did not have a healthy view of chivalry there were times that I thought my guy friends must have liked me. However, I took my brother's advice and remembered not to make assumptions about a guy's feelings towards me in a romantic way. Can I just tell you that none of these guys ever told me they liked me. They were just interested in treating me well and being my friend. The sad thing is, I'm not used to any men besides my family being a gentleman. So when a man is kind, caring, and thoughtful, I assume they want something from me. In my stubbornness, I can project the vibe that I am not grateful for their kindness towards me, when 85% of the time I am truly thankful and humbled by genuine kindness.

I think in our fear of being betrayed or allowing ourselves to be smooth talked by a guy, we start in the defense every time. We assume that a man who approaches us has other intentions. We assume that.

This perspective that they are "all the same" is dangerous. Just because a guy is kind to you doesn't mean he likes you. Or if he is interested in you it doesn't mean that he is trying to manipulate you by being kind.  It can simply mean he is being kind. My guy friends have told me how hard it is to be a gentlemen to women nowadays because we can be so abrasive. I think we need to be more mindful of how we treat men because the very man we are sitting around praying for (or complaining about) could be right in front of us.

Let men be gentleman and let's learn to accept their kindness without proving that we can do it all on our own. Men know we can open the door or carry our own suitcase but if they want to display kindness, let them be men. There are still good men out there.

xoxo

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Dreaming Keeps Me Awake At Night

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One of my friends called me last night with the best news ever. We squealed like little girls for while, bursting with excitement. Do any of you dream with your friends? If you don't have a few trusted people to dream with it's quite boring. My old roommate and I have talked about our lives and dreams for years. To see a glimpse and a part of that dream come to life is heart warming. It's inspiring. It's worth squealing over. I've said it time and time again. My friends are world changers. They have the most giving hearts. I am so privileged to know them.

After dreaming with my sweet friend, I could not sleep. I laid wide awake. So of course I started to write until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. When I woke up, I was plastered to my pillow half-regretting my writing escapade into the wee hours of the morning. Yet, part of me woke up really excited and fulfilled because a dream worth pursuing is worth staying up late for. Dreams are worth believing in. Worth praying over. Worth crying over. Worth fighting for.

I believe Generation Y is a significant generation. We will either make a huge difference or mess everything up. I like to think that we will make a huge impact. I get excited when I see my peers starting a business, creating an app, becoming lawyers and doctors, moving overseas, getting married, having children,starting amazing careers, and writing. We have something to offer this world. We may be young but our age doesn't define us. We all have something unique and significant to offer.

The next time you feel like you have failed because you don't know what your dreams are, haven't found your dream job, or you feel really stuck; remember that you are valid. Keep working towards your dreams and goals. Things take time. Our generation believes in instantaneous success that will involve little-to-no effort, unfortunately, that is a shallow point of view. If you want something bad enough you will work for it. Educate yourself in college or trade school. Get some credibility and knowledge. Learn to present yourself as a professional. Carry yourself with confidence. Write out your goals and things you would like to accomplish. I recently wrote out my #Next5 (Goals I want to accomplish in the next 5 years). If I actually accomplished 3 out of the 5 goals, I would feel really great. My goals are pretty ambitious and a little fear started to creep in but I told fear to shut up.

 

So if you are like me and your dreams keep you awake at night, keep dreaming & drink a lot of coffee.

I'll be introducing you all to a few of my friends who have big dreams and goals in a blog series called "Not so Ordinary Dreamers". They are doing great things in their communities. I can't wait to introduce them to you! Gen Y, let's stick together.

 

XOXO

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Beauty In A Broken Shoe

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Somehow breaking my shoe, broke something inside of me.

[God speaks to me in the oddest ways so just keep reading]

As weird as that sounds, my last blog revealed what I've been struggling with, and I've been dead set on showing up in my life. I've been set on being present and not shrinking back when I make a mistake. I've been set on showing myself mercy instead of criticism. I've been set on choosing joy instead of wallowing in sadness. I've been learning that comparison will fail me every time. However,the one thing I've been trying to learn forever, is how to except and believe that I am beautiful. I wanted to really see it all the time. I wanted to see what people see in me.

Can I tell you something?

My idea of beauty is not what true beauty is. I've felt like beauty equates to women who seem to have their "hair done, nails done, and everything did" I am not that girl. While I enjoy dressing cute, I don't wear heels all the time. I would rather wear flats. I'm not the chick that needs to be perfectly put together every time I step foot out of my house. I've considered myself the "girl next door" in looks. Not drop dead gorgeous but good looking. Still, in spite of feeling beautiful when people tell me or looking in the mirror and thinking, "okay today you look alright", I had yet to get it for myself. Don't get me wrong people, I've been working on this area of my life. It has not been neglected. I have a plethora of Christian books about beauty and purity to supply a whole youth ministry. Somehow I still missed the point.

Today, I was almost at my job (I have to walk about .25 miles to my actual office from my car) and I hear a tearing noise. My worst fear was happening. I stopped. Looked at my shoe and thought okay it's fine. I Looked back up, took one more step, and then the strap on my shoe broke. Now I was faced with the problem of walking really weird all the way to my office. My shoes were making that awful scuffing noise and I was trying to hold them together. I tried taping them at my desk and that failed. I managed to get through the day scuffing my way through the office while my shoe was held up by a binder clip.

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Yes, I know, so tacky but I was desperate. Feeling confident about my contraption I decided to walk back to my car with my binder clip shoe on. I seemingly fixed the problem right? So why should I worry? I cross the street no problem, than I get to the sidewalk and immediately my shoe falls apart again. By now, This is when the light bulbs start going off in my head,
I realized that I could work really hard to hold something together and scuff my way through it. I could walk around trying to blend in and make sure no one knew my shoe was falling apart. Or I could just take my shoes off and stop pretending that they aren't broken.

When I took my physical shoes off, my mental shoes and blinders came off too. All the sudden the way I wanted to feel about my value and worth was clear because I changed my perspective. I wasn't worried about being put together. I wasn't comparing myself to those with their shoes on or how nice or expensive they were. I was enjoying my freedom. My feet were touching the unsanitary heat-filled concrete. And with every step on the .25 mile walk to my car, a little piece of self-doubt vanished. I got home looked at myself in the mirror and I could finally see what everyone else sees.

BEAUTY.

Hopefully it won't take you breaking your shoes to get a breakthrough like I did! I have no clue how these revelations come to me and bring me freedom but God knows how to speak to me.

Here's a little poem I wrote about beauty:

Beauty beauty
I want to be you
Easily desired
And easily pursued
They told me what your made of
And I'm buying all the ingredients
But when I dress up like you
I don't get the same results
You get love
I get side hugs
Measuring up to you and Proverbs 31 is much too hard
I'm not sure all I am is all of what you are
Then again maybe I've been given the wrong ingredients
I got my recipe from magazines,TV, men, and music
They have got you all wrong
You are strong
You are brave
You are wise
You are lovely
Yet, somehow you were belittled to looks only
If beauty was just looks, we would be in trouble
There would be no room for
Intellect
Character
And integrity
All of which encompass beauty
A Beauty that exists everywhere
A Beauty that is seen
A Beauty that is heard
A Beauty that is adored
A Beauty that is roared from the smallest soul to the oldest
I am beauty and so are you
Roar Beauty Roar

 
XOXO
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The Great Divide: How Do We Build A Bridge?

 

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I have spent the past two weeks pretty angry and disappointed. I would be lying if I told you the things going on in Ferguson did not affect me in someway. I have read a lot of blog posts coming from different angles, I have researched and watched lectures from professionals on the subject of racial reconciliation, and I have had open conversations with some of my Caucasian friends. I have prayed and cried about this situation in Ferguson and the national issue of racism. Wether we like to admit it or not, racism still exists. Not all white people are racist, it would be very ignorant to make such a broad assumption and accusation.

 Privilege refers to the idea that in human society, some groups benefit from unearned, largely-unacknowledged advantages that increase their power relative to that of others, thereby perpetuating social inequality

Some, Caucasian people may not have viewed themselves privileged or that they are afforded certain opportunities based on the color of their skin. Honestly, what I have gathered from conversations with my white friends, is that sometimes they don't think about being a "White privileged american". When you are a majority you may not have the needs of the minority on the forefront of your mind.

My parents did not teach me to fear white people, some of my closest friends are white. I did not begin to feel a little fear until Ferguson happened. Seeing all the hate out there and passive aggressive racism caused me to wonder who was around me that thought of me that way because of my color? Were there people in my life that harbored hate like that? People that felt I was an exception to "those black people" when in fact the "those people" are MY people. I became suspicious of white people-waiting for someone to change on me. I got concerned for my older brother who is over 6 ft. tall and a broad built black male. He has a heart of gold but people wouldn't be able to tell that if they looked at him. They could think he is a thug instead of a successful college graduate. What if he wears a hoddie or a big shirt on his days off work? Will they suspect him of mischief?

I get that people who are not minorities may not understand this perspective. I am not asking for understanding as much as I am pleading for you to listen. That is it.

I could focus on dissecting all of the hateful postings and blogs I have seen but that would be counter productive because hateful people are everywhere and I encounter them everyday. That will not go away. I had to let myself research and come to a place of peace and balance about the situation in Ferguson along with the killings of other unarmed black men, as well as, the issue of institutionalized racism. There are a lot of moving parts in this discussion and I may elaborate more in a different post.

What I really want to discuss is the racial divide in the church. I know I am about to discuss a "hush hush" matter but more of us need to talk about it. People must understand that the history of African-American culture is rooted in oppression. Although we would like to think that we have made a lot of progress, we have to an extent, there is still a lot to be done. We must be willing to openly talk about race and racial issues in order to really move forward. There is an elephant in the room- like it or not and until we stop passing over it or walking by it silently, we will not see change. We will be back in this spot in a few years.The comments I have seen on the internet let me know that racism is not dead, in fact, it just took on a new form. Nowadays, talking about race makes people tense and everyone comes to the table with their own inhibitions and preconceived ideas of what the other person plans to say. So instead of having hard conversations and breaking down racial divide, we don't at all. A lack of communication makes the divide grow and before we know it we have accepted passive aggressive racism. I believe the African-American community wants people to listen.

Matt Chandler says this best: "What is so deceptive about white privilege is that it is different from blatant racism or bias. A privileged person’s heart may be free from racist thoughts or biased attitudes, but may still fail to see how the very privilege afforded to him or her shapes how he or she interprets and understands the situations and circumstances of people without privilege."

We have allowed the media to feed into a racial divide. We would all be gravely missing the point if it was not evident that we need to have racial reconciliation in the church. It needs to happen. When was the last time you looked around your church and wondered why everyone else looked like you? This goes both ways, for predominately black churches and white churches. "Ninety percent of African-American Christians worship in all-black churches. Ninety percent of white American Christians worship in all-white churches," said Chris Rice, coauthor of More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel. "…Years since the incredible victories of the civil rights movement, we continue to live in the trajectory of racial fragmentation. The biggest problem is that we don't see that as a problem." I think the shooting of Michael Brown brought up deeper seething issues about race. Any group that experiences systemic oppression for a time will come to a point to where they can tolerate it no more. It takes work on all sides to dismantle institutionalized racism. If you are content with your multicultural workshops at your job, fine, but it goes far beyond that. We must be willing to talk and learn about one another in order to break down barriers.

Linda Brown (AP Photo)

Tell me this, if you have no black friends ( I am not talking about people you are associated with and hang out with every now and then) then where do you get your ideas and perceptions about black people? Do you make them up? Are they from the media? We cannot grow and move forward without having hard conversations and uniting together to see change. There are several people uniting to see change happen and guess what? They are not all black. People of all races are uniting together to see change happen. I have noticed that it is much harder to organize change and promote change in the church. Why is this true? I did not experience real overt racism until I went to a CHRISTIAN college. It was evident that some people at my school only knew about black people from TV or the people they saw in the hall at school. Why are the Christians who support racial reconciliation and recognize that we have some real deep racial wounds and issues to deal with, harshly critized by the Christian comminuty? Do you have to be a liberal to agree that human life matters? To believe that something must be done about the clear racial divides in our nation? Are we denying that "white flight" and racism still exist? Researchers will tell you that it still exists. What needs to be said for people to WAKE UP and STAND UP and say NO MORE? If I read the Bible correctly, as Christians, we are brothers and sisters in Christ right? If we are, maybe we should start acting like it. Also, the fact that every Christian who speaks out about racism and Mike Brown, has to give a laundry list of disclaimers so that some of their Christian friends will know that they "believe in the police" & "don't agree with looting", so they don't have to deal with a backlash of comments, is awful. As a Christian and African-American seeing posts from some of my Caucasian brothers and sisters is disheartening. We don't have to agree for you to show compassion on a mourning community and parents that had to bury their son too soon. I get everyone has their beliefs but dismissing people's pain and justifying a teen being shot over 6 times, because of an alleged theft, even though he reached a point of surrender, is cruel. I am posing a lot of questions because I don't have all the answers.  I want us to think about these issues together.

How can we unite together as a church? How can we break the walls of racial segregation in our local church? Let's start opening up this conversation. Honestly until we are able to have healthy productive conversations where neither side is predicting what the other will say, maybe we can move forward. Until we come to the table and lay our swords and daggers down, nothing will change. Remember the church has always been in the thick of controversy. This situation should not be any different. I want to work with others that desire to see change in our communities and churches. I want us to unite together instead of focusing on tearing each other apart. I have found that social media makes it way to easy to let our typed our words be used as daggers to hurt one another. Can we try for once to evaluate our typed words as well as the ones spoken? They are just as powerful. I believe we will have to account for them too.

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There are several things the African-American community is doing to actively better our communities around the U.S. and I pray these initiatives last and we see true change in my generation and the ones behind me. Despite having disadvantages that does not condone crime nor does it give people the right to murder over petty crime. This is a pivotal time for the African-American's to see change in their communities and push for a well-balanced local government. What Antonio French is doing with #HealSTL and registering young people to vote is huge. I hope this situation has encouraged young people to find their voice and to understand that their voice matters and their lives matter. I hope this situation has awakened black youth and that they realize their true value to society. I believe in black youth. 

Here is what I plan to do:

  • Join with other churches who will assist in providing relief and aid to the community/churches of Ferguson
  • Join a local organization that focuses on the empowerment/education of African-Americans in the community
  • Mentor African American Youth
  • Join in conversation with churches and individuals about racial reconciliation and be apart of building a bridge
  • Keep the conversation going: Silence will not bring about change

Growing up I did not focus on racial differences. I was taught to love people, all people. Even when injustice occurred around me, I was taught to stand strong. I love different cultures. My friends are very diverse. I love having friends of different cultures. There is so much I learn from our open conversations. If more people were open to talking, less hatred would exist today. Until you are open to talking to me about my culture and heritage in a kind manner, please do not expect me to be happy when I see comments that are clearly racist. It is hurtful and disappointing. I have cried enough over the senseless and hateful comments people have made about the black community. So I plead with you, come to the table ready to listen. I too am coming to the table with an open heart and an open mind.

I love being Black. I love my natural hair. I love my community. I am educated and I have a successful career. I vote and pay my taxes. I think we have some work and growing to do as a people but I will play a part in changing the narrative that has been written for African-American's in the US. If you are reading this and you are working to bring reconciliation amongst your church, let's talk together. I do not have all the answers but I want to hear from other people and church leaders actively seeking to unite their congregations.

Before leaving this blog post please watch this video:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNhcY6fTyBM&w=560&h=315]

 

Resources and articles I found helpful:

White Brother Shot Black Man

Kristen Howerton

Gospel Coalition

Matt Chandler 

Jennie Allen- To My White People

How To Deal With Racist Reactions to Ferguson

IS IT “GOODBYE EVANGELICALISM” OR “WE JOIN YOU IN YOUR SUFFERING”?'

A Cop's take on Ferguson

 

Try

imageIts no secret that Colbie Caillat hit the jackpot with her song Try. Women all over the world are embracing the message of her song. I never realized how much I could relate to the words of her song until yesterday after listening to it several times.

Since I was a little girl, I struggled immensely with my self-esteem. I built my worth an value on the opinions of others. I idolized perfectionism because I wanted to be accepted so badly. It got me no where, literally. Once I realized that “fake it to you make it” was such a stupid statement I aimed to learn more about authenticity. My parents divorce put a "stain" on the perfect life I was trying to lead. I was the actress and I had a role to play. I perfected the statement "I'm good" even when I was not. I did not want people to know how "not fine" I was. I spent most of my time trying to be the "best" Christian and the "best" daughter and the "best" friend. I put all of this pressure on myself.  I was on a mission to please everyone- until I realized that I was loosing myself in doing so. For the people that knew me well; they held me in the darkest of nights and made sure I was aware that joy would come in the morning- and it did.

Joy did come. It did not come all at once. It came in waves. With each wave I gained more confidence, hope, and peace. I went back to square one. I am so glad I did because Jesus met me there. I laid down things idolized. I found myself steadily desiring less of what I wanted and more of what God wanted.

To me Jesus meeting me where I am, reminds me of the homecoming of the prodigal son. I believe that moment of acceptance and love embodies each time I run to God with tears in my eyes and a broken heart knowing when I get in his arms everything will be okay.

Living my life based on "works" or "doing the right thing" or "trying" to be perfect did not bring me freedom. In fact, it suffocated me.

Traveling to Mexico, Rwanda, and Thailand allowed me to see his love in the eyes of people all over the world and to remind me that his love is deep and all he wants is genuine love and worship. More than my worship, he wants me to know of his never-ending love.

I am about halfway through the book Carry on Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed (Thank you Alison for telling me about this book) and I am so inspired by Glennon Melton's authentic dialogue. She made a statement in her book that I believe is so true.

"We are often not permitted to tell the truth in everyday life. There is a small set of words and reactions and pleasantries we are allowed to say, like, "I'm fine and you?" But we are not supposed to say much of anything else, especially how we are really doing. We find out early that telling the whole truth makes people uncomfortable and is certainly not ladylike or likely to make us popular, so we learn to lie sweetly so that we can be loved. And when we figure out this system, we are split in two: the public self, who says the right things in order to belong, and the secret self who thinks other things."

I love that powerful truth. She isn't saying go tell random strangers about your whole life but she is addressing our culture of always having to "be okay" for people so we can "save face". The truth is that a lot of people feel like they have to "try" in some area of their life. This goes for men and for women.

Now I am embracing my imperfections. I'm not "trying" anymore. I am not pretending anymore. I am truthfully and unapologetically me. I know I won't please everyone, oh well. I'm staying honest and showing up. Someday's it harder to show up than others but I still show up. I think that is the point. When we get lost in all of our issues we stop showing up because we feel we cannot win. The truth is we can win. Healing from wounds can be so painful but being on the other side is even better than standing still. Truth be told, when you are in pain, you may feel like crying, cursing,praying,worshipping or being silent. I believe everyone needs a friend that will walk though muck and mire with you and make sure you do not sink and that your faith does not fail you. I have some wonderful soul sisters, Abby and Jenna, that have been with me on my mountain top moments and in the valley. They have held my hands up when I was weak and danced with me in victory. Their unconditional love has been water to my soul.

I know life happens. There will always be something to overcome. We will have to press through tough times and seasons. But now I come to the table ready with God's word on my lips because I want to be more prepared than I was before. There will be days where I am weak and I will cry and I will feel tired but this time I will choose to walk in strength. I will not believe my emotions because they cannot be trusted.

Same goes for you. You are much stronger than you think you are. When you feel like the weight of the world is crashing down don't despair. You are only getting stronger. You may hurt now but it won't last forever- joy will come.

True freedom comes from knowing your daddy God is welcoming you home with open arms everyday- no matter what you look like or how much you messed up. Some people make God seem like he is sitting up in heaven waiting to punish us but I feel like he would be singing "You don't have to try, try, try, try" because we are already accepted. We are already loved and everyday he is drawing our hearts to His. He believes in our worth and value and I know He is beckoning us to believe it too.

Choose to show up and be present. This world needs you.

Here is a question we must all ask ourselves:

"When you're all alone, by yourself, do you like you?

Do you like you?"

Colbie Caillat

XOXOsignature-wordpress