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

 

What's Mom Got To Do With It?

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In one of my previous blog posts I touched on my relationship with my mom. Feel free to read that one first and then come back to this post.

I have realized that Mom has to do with my whole life.

  1. Mom laid down pursuing her dreams to awaken the dreamer in me.
  2. Mom made $10,000 her first year as a single mother.
  3. Mom worked part-time at Ann Taylor to support us while building her life-coaching business.
  4. Mom served others.
  5. Mom served me when I was so unworthy of her generosity.
  6. Mom stayed strong when I was in pain.
  7. Mom told me that I would influence this generation so many times that I actually believe her now.
  8. Mom taught me life lessons I'll never forget.
  9. Mom never judged me and always welcomed me home with open arms when I made mistakes.
  10. As an adult, Mom taught me to think on my own and make informed decisions.
  11. Mom let me grow up and she let me have space to learn on my own.
  12. Mom always stayed close by.
  13. Mom is beautiful and taught me to love my beautiful brown face and hair. She would look me in the eyes and say, "You are a beautiful brown girl and I love you."
  14. Mom affirmed me, even when I went through a phase where I was convinced she did not love me.
  15. Mom cheers me on and encourages me. My favorite quotes from her are: "You are Faitth with two t's because you are unique and no one can be you" "Go for it my little trailblazer" "I love you princess" "My little fireball"

Yeah, she ran an half-marathon or maybe it was a full marathon...either way she ran a long distance.

My mom would always correct me when needed but she was careful not to crush "my spirit." I have a strong personality. I am opinionated, I talk a lot, I am animated and dramatic, I am passionate, there is not an introverted aspect to my personality at all, and I talk to strangers. I am the child that calls home to tell my mom about my passion for missions and at 20 years old I am leading a trip to Thailand with a bunch of college kids. I am the child that rides on an elephants neck in Thailand and feels alive, I am the child that said "I am not a girly girl" and kept up with everything my brother did, I am the child that would harbor sins of the heart and not overt disobedience. I am the child that made her get on her knees and pray a lot, I hurt her feelings several times, I made her cry several times, and I was a whole lot to handle. Somehow, she never spoke negatively about me. In fact, she told me how much she loved my bubbly personality and the fact that I could make the whole family laugh till they cried. She let me sing to my hearts content and encouraged me to write songs and pursue my love for music. If I was being disrespectful she would say, "Faitth you are very respectful." She wasn't saying it sarcastically either, she would call out greatness and eventually (sometimes years later) see the fruit of those confessions. My mom knew she was raising leaders. She would often pray over my brother and I "God don't promote them to a place their character can't keep them." Her prayer was that our character would always be developed first before we were promoted to any position. This has remained her prayer and she has seen it answered time and time again.

When developing a relationship with my brother and I as adults, she completely switched gears from mommy to friend and guidance counselor. She still does mommy-like things but she lets me have freedom. I moved in with my mom after college and it was a little rough at first but my brother told me to stick it out. He literally had to tell me how good it was for me to have this time with my mom, I felt he was fooling me because he had roommates and that seemed more appealing. In the beginning I was counting down till our lease was up so I could move out. Well 2 and a half years later, we are still living together. Our only request to each other is to keep one another posted on our whereabouts, that's it. She set up no rules for me- we are roommates. I pay my half and she pays hers. She will give suggestions laced with prayer and guidance; she has learned how to influence me as an adult. She is sneaky but it works.

My mom went skydiving with friends while I was in college.

 We are so opposite. I will run around and stay busy at all times. My mom will stay home and read books and throw in occasional socialization. She reads probably one book a week. She is brilliant people. I mean brilliant. She is my opposite but I love it. I love introverts so much. It has taken me a while to understand you people but now I want to be your friend. Obviously it's not surprising that half of my close friends are introverts. My mom is so calm that I get frazzled when I am surrounded by people that are easily stressed. She would always say "don't sweat the small stuff Faitth." She has learned all about who I am from living with me as an adult. She has learned that sometimes I want affection, other times I don't want to be bothered at all (this is my "do not talk to me at all" mood), I want her to listen to my ranting social justice discussions(She is so gracious- I have a lot of these moments), I want us to watch a show together, I want to sleep in her bed because I had a hard day and I want her near by. She is always available. She lives her life like that for other people as well.

If I go through a break up I can expect ice cream girl talk at Chick-Fil-A. If I go on a road trip and I am tired she will talk to me most of the way. Sometimes she is just on the phone and we aren't saying anything. She has prayer meetings with me and my friends( Jessica you know what that is all about! lol). She makes my friends her daughters. In fact my best friend Abby and my mom text each other, Ha. It is the funniest thing ever. She is present and her presence gives me confidence. So mom you should write a book on parenting because being an African-American homeschool mother with her Masters Degree in Christian counseling, creating your own high school transcripts for your homeschooled kids that went onto graduate from college and begin successful careers. Raising two children that adore you- is pretty rare these days. People need your voice.

Did you know my mom is a life coach, speaker, and author? :)

I could go on and on about how my mother's influence has changed my life. In the teenage years a lot of times girls disconnect with their mothers because we see things about our mom's that we don't want to be. Little do we know, years later we will take on some of those character traits that we loathed (Trust me mom's you will get a laugh when this happens). We will realize that we need you and holding you at bay is not productive. Give us time mom's. We will come around.

XOXO

signature-wordpress  Francine Pierson: facebook and website 

Taking My Shoes Off

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As a young professionals, we have days where we wake up and think, yes I am looking good. That was me today, pencil skirt to my knees nice black shirt. I was looking right. Until I finished my 10 minute walk from my parking garage to my building and realized that my skirt had completely turned and the split was now on the side of my thigh instead of behind me (like it started). So imagine me trying to fix my skirt in horror and hope that no one is in the stair well so I can fix it, only to have a man graciously come out of the stairwell as I am entering it in utter distress. He leaves; I attempt to straighten my skirt. Then I think “okay I will fix the rest when I get to my office.” As I am walking to my office I see my reflection in the windows and realized the 10 minute walk also destroyed my hair and of course, humidity has permission to take hold of any hairdo and mess it up.

Needless to say I thought I looked cute until I got work and had to “get dressed” all over again.

Today with my outfit all messed up, I was reminded that life happens. Skirts get turned around and your hair gets messed up. Nothing is perfect. I have wrestled with trying to be the perfect in my relationship with God, it was tiring and stressful. I've spent a lot of time dressing up for church and "dressing" up as a Christian. All the while, I was feeling like I was in a box and had to love and serve Jesus a certain way. Recently, Romans 14:22-23 has helped me a lot in this area.

I graduated from college with bachelors in social work and an associate’s degree in Biblical Studies- and I still had questions about God. I wondered if that was allowed, but inwardly I wondered if all of the things I had been told growing up truly reflected the heart of God.

I’ll admit I have had moments of real unbalance where I was just angry with Christians and really did not want to be associated with the callus words that were brought to life through their fb status. I just did not want to be a part of showing hatred to people with different views than me. I really wondered if this was who we have become as Christians. Do we really treat people this way? Do I treat people this way?

I was wrestling with why I believed what I believed but I wasn’t talking about it.

RELIGION NEVER BECKONED ME TO TAKE MY SHOES OFF and get dirty.

I watched this TED talk with Brene Brown about vulnerability.

I realized that I was not a vulnerable person. Am I honest with people, like really honest? No. Remember I am the one trying to put myself together in the stairwell before I get to my desk. I have not been really vulnerable with anyone except my family and two friends.

I talked with my "brother" Jerome and Shonda and they gave me some life changing advice. 

They gave me the Permission to Wrestle and did not condemn me.

That changed everything.

The permission to wrestle led me through a deep season of self-evaluation.

Earlier this year in a matter of months, everything I had in place and all my plans had been stripped away. It was me and Jesus and that was when the work began.  During this time I never heard the audible voice of God but through these books 7 by Jen Hatmaker and Love Does by Bob Goff, reading my Bible, worship, and prayer I put myself in the position to ask some hard questions. How was I behaving? Was any of my behavior reflecting the heart of Jesus? How long had I been missing the main point of my whole existence on this earth- to love people and lead them to Jesus? Not lead them to believe they had to do all this STUFF to stay right with Him. I was worn out from being regimented in my faith.

I have spent more time in the past two months digging deep and addressing real issues of my heart than I have in my whole life. Granted I am young, but it’s so easy to use age as an excuse. I refuse to use age as a reason to not address my mess and my issues. Yes I said mess and issues because guess what, we all have STUFF. Everyone’s stuff looks different. For me lately is has been defining who Jesus is to me. It has been about dissecting everything I was taught and searching out the heart of God. It’s been about me truly finding him and him wrecking me and changing my view of this world.

So here is what I have found out over the past months:

  • My desire to love Jesus and please him has increased
  • My longing to love people like Jesus has caused me to be more compassionate and less judgmental
  • I used to be awful with talking about people, it was easy, now I barely do it (I am not going to lie and say I don’t do it all because that is not the truth however it’s greatly improved and I am really growing in this area.)
  • I spend less time trying to figure out why people do what they do, and more time loving them
  • I am even more passionate about justice, the orphan, and teen mothers
  • I haven’t invited someone to church since I was in junior high (because all my friends were Christians) until yesterday when I invited a co-worker who said they would think about it.
  • I have found freedom in defining my relationship with Christ and not feeling like it needs to look like someone else’s relationship.
  • I need the Bible. I tried to go without it for a while but that did not work out too well. I need to read the Bible in order to learn how to live more like Jesus. I do not have a regimented "quiet time" but I make time to read my bible and pray through out my day. No day looks the same. Sometimes I miss days reading my Bible. That is okay too. 
  • Having a body of believers to fellowship with is essential and it is great to be plugged into a church. Also, you also won’t be stoned if you don’t get to church on a Sunday morning or if you watched online. It is important to connect with people that can encourage you.
  • I’ve found that being honest with myself has allowed me to embrace who I am and to really love myself.
  • Keep Jesus Simple.

 

 It’s in the moments where I am not rushing to “fix” myself and keep it together that I can actually take my shoes off and give them away to a homeless woman with gladness. It’s in those moments where Jesus works on me the most, when I am tangibly living how he lived and not just reading it and memorizing it. 

 

XoXo,

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