We’re Not The Same and That Should Be OK

I don’t look like everybody. I don’t know if you knew that, but apparently I really hadn’t. Otherwise I don’t think I’d be in shock like this. To address current events is more of a need now, rather than a desire to speak. This is not addressed to the #BlackLivesMatter family or whatever we’re calling the other side… but to everyone in the middle or those who are “staying out of it”. Here’s what I hope you understand:

  • Please know that “I don’t see color” is not a peaceful stance. I want you to see my color, it’s beautiful. I just don’t want you to be angry or afraid of it. You not seeing my color is basically you ignoring a huge part of who I am and who I will always be. Being proud of it is not bashing yours.
  • It’s absolutely ok to not be able to completely grasp it. I know there are a lot of angry people on both sides, but I hope you’ll seek someone who can tell you the reality of how it affects us. Rather than what you see on the news because I hope we all know that’s not the real ‘real’.
  • I and the people that I stand with are not anti-police. We’re anti being killed because of our race. We’re anti being scared of the people who are supposed to protect us. I do not condone violent, vigilante retaliation.
  • I’m very literally afraid of my dad to getting pulled over for any reason. You can say “well then he shouldn’t speed” but only if you never speed. I’m literally afraid that if I ever have a son (despite his father’s race), he will be born in danger because he looks like his mom. I (ME) am afraid of being pulled over and if I do, I need to make sure I’m recording the whole thing…. not so I’ll survive, but in case I don’t.
  • I’m mad that no matter how ‘good’ of a person I am or how hard I work, I still need to keep my head down and not make any waves to not be seen as a threat. That I’ve been afraid to give myself permission to be angry at this injustice for the sake of keeping my life in tact.
  • Even if this isn’t my blood relative, this DOES directly affect me. Therefore, my emotions and reactions probably won’t look like yours. Similarly, the country I inherited may not look like yours. My days look more like “Do what you gotta do” to keep it together more than a daily routine.
  • Yes, ‘all lives do matter’ is absolutely true. However, that is not the life we live. By me saying that we matter, I’m trying to tell you that we are of equal importance, not superior.
  • I hope the people you talk to about this (assuming you do talk about this) with don’t all have the experiences you have. If so, it’s hard to take your opinion to heart.
  • I, we, are not against you. This is literally survival, not discomfort or hypothetical or even history class. We’re not trying to get ahead, just stay alive.

Check Point Cleared

It’s been awhile, I know. I tend to write when I feel led rather than systematically to stay current. That’s not business savvy, again, I know, but it works for me. I may not have something every week (or month) but you can be sure that when I do, it’s genuine. So here we go…

For the first time, I decided to start 2016 with a specific prayer list. Most items on the list are measurable, like any good ‘goal’ is, but I couldn’t leave off a very vague yet powerful prayer: Recognizable progress in my relationship with Christ.

I never intended to share this and it’s not an indirect way to brag about my wonderful heart, because you know what, God has been answering this prayer resiliently and I’ve been trying to tell him to tone it down.

When I prayed that prayer, I meant it sincerely, but I had an idea on how it would look: me doing a review of 2016 on December 31st saying that I barely stumbled this year because I was more obedient. However, what it actually looks like in July (just over halfway through) is me on my umpteenth round of “What in the *bleep* going on?! Again?!” It’s been hard, really really hard. Even that doesn’t quite capture it all.

I’ve been a bigger brat (there’s probably a better word that can be used here) in this season than I remember ever being. Honestly, there’s been so many temper tantrums and a common theme of “Can we just take a break?” and “Why me?” in my prayers. Years ago I specifically remember saying I want to be like Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8 when he responds to God’s question with willingness and enthusiasm. Instead I identify with Jonah fleeing to Tarshish.

I think the best way to describe it would be like an internal earthquake that doesn’t stop. God’s shaking my world to knock down all that I’ve built on a faulty foundation. All the while, I’m putting forth a constant effort to regain my footing, to reestablish my comfort zone, to get back to a place where I feel safe enough to let my guard down. That’s what the last 7 months have been. I’m already looking back on January’s Simone as a distant memory. I’m already looking ahead to December’s Simone confident that she will be able to say that God answered her prayer, but she will not be able to say that it was because she was faithful, rather that He is.

I’m not saying this as someone who’s looking ahead declaring “I’m gonna make it after all!” It’s more like someone who’s looking back already and admitting “I can’t believe he’s carried me this far”. Two things have been made perfectly clear to me: I will make it (whatever that means) and it will not be out of my own strength. On December 31st I will look back at this year and say that progress has been made in my relationship with Christ, even if I merely attribute it to a deeper understanding that He is the only one holding me together.

My faith has become much more than an activity or a surrounding. It’s being tested. Do I believe what I say I believe when it’s not convenient? What will I choose when I’m being pulled in a different direction than those I love? What will I choose when there’s an option of instant, empty gratification? Am I following people or am I following God? Am I following God or am I following my plans? It’s more than what I do on Sunday, more than what I do in my quiet time, more than what I like (or don’t like) or follow on social media, it’s more than what I pray for.

These are all questions and realizations that are common to man and woman in life to some degree. It all seems so abstract and somewhat exciting until you’re actually faced with them. Then you feel the weight and it’s more than heavy.

This isn’t much of a pep talk, but it is a reality check. Life isn’t easy, no matter where you put your faith. Everything is temporary, no matter how long it lasts; even life itself. You’re not strong enough on your own. Sorry, but I hope I’m not the first to say that to you.

Check point cleared.

 

 

 

 

 

Orlando and Beyond

I have so many drafts of this… I can’t figure out what to say, but I’m confident I need to say something. Since yesterday I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out first, if I should engage, and if so, how. There’s this paralyzing internal tug-of-war between knowing something is wrong and the inability to fix it. Mix in the sharp pain of “but I have to do something” and that pretty much encompasses the last few hours.

I want to grieve, to make room in my mind for what’s important, and it’s not answers. There are no answers that can be given to make any of this settle peacefully. The reality is that many people are gone because someone decided they didn’t deserve to be here anymore. It’s an ‘us vs. them’ mentality that’s becoming more and more prominent. The Them and Us shift and change name, but the argument doesn’t.

I’ve said this several times in response to many other tragedies: I have to do something. Often that sentiment becomes steps taken, but met with closed doors. And instead of knocking or trying another door, I retreated and settled into my safe, predictable, well-worn ‘home’. No, I haven’t fruitless, but I’ve keep my basket small and I’ve stayed in my own garden. I should have kept knocking. I may not always be welcomed, but I’m not empty handed and if I’m committed to what I say I am, then an inconvenienced and bruised ego is worth it.

Anything I have to spare isn’t of much value to anyone. Spare time, spare change, spare prayers, spare thoughts, spare passion, spare commitment; all of the things I decided to give because I wasn’t using them. I’m not educated in tragedy (really, who is?) I don’t know that statistics, I haven’t conducted interviews or read all of the books. I don’t have the money to fill the hole of a missing loved one. I don’t even have all the perfect Bible verses memorized to say at the right moments, Stigma be damned:

Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT)

36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

All other so called rules and guidelines bow to these two things, as I need to do. If my safety opposes it, I need to choose this. If my dreams oppose it, I need to choose this. If my loved ones oppose it, I need to choose this. If my lack of anything opposes it, I still need to choose this.

My impulse is to say I’m sorry, doesn’t ease anyone’s pain and I hold no responsibility, but I still want to say it. I need to take claim over what I am able. I’m small, but I have this. I have a voice, I have a mind, I have a heart, I have a will. I choose to pick up my journey of knocking on doors. I have to have faith that the right one will be opened and I won’t have all I want to walk through it but, I’ll have all I need. That even if it looks like I’m alone, I’m not. That even when it looks like I’m on the wrong side, I’m not. That even when it looks like I’m useless, I’m not.

But I am a rose

You are the flower of the sun, wild and free

Reigning over fields as far as the eye can see

Stretching toward heaven, you grow as mighty as you do tall

And admiring you objectively, it looks like you have it all

Fore I live in a world that’s crowded and thorned

Encompassed by twins, all with similar leaves to adorn

Because I am a rose…

Not as energetic, but my elegance still shows

I’m not a giggly gold, but a romantic red

Not ideal for wall art, but for a bouquet instead

I’m strategically pruned and my ‘fields’ are bushes

I lack the adventure of a wildflower but my gardener calls me his

I’m only impeccable when properly maintained and in season

And I can only be so when in my own region

I am a flower just like you; no less, no more

We are both dominant, but only in what we are created for

You, my statuesque friend, that shines brighter than any

And I, the ideal symbol of love for many

Though I adore the land where your army grows

I can only bloom here in subdued brilliance, for I am a rose

 

Little Pink Journal Part 2

I’ve sifted through a lot of my journaled prayers and there were some things I said that make me smile; that make me say “you’re on the right track, Simone”. There were some things that make me sad and really wish I could go back and comfort my past self. There were something I wrote down hoping to rid myself of he feelings, but now I’m happy I have them to remember.

What’s below are a mixture of it all. Some make me sound awesome, some make me sound horrible, and some make me crazy, but all of them were honest. i can’t promise that they’re biblical, I can see a lot of fallacies in my thinking, but all if it has brought me here. Written anywhere between 6-2 years ago, never with the intention of being public, but maybe they have a place here now.

  • “I’m going to make it. You promised.”
  • “It’s touching to see how it looks when the church runs as a body, not a group.”
  • “You’ve shown me that following you isn’t hard, but sometimes the work is.”
  • “…because I know it’s impossible for me to keep growing in you, never discovering the role you want me to play. Thank you for letting me play a part at all.”
  • “Before I start, I want to lay down my heart. You know I ache to be in a godly relationship and I know you have great reasons why that hasn’t happened yet. It’s hard, but I do trust you. Now, back to what’s important tonight…”
  • “My sin doesn’t take away from your mercy and grace.”
  • “I need you. This is all a part of the process. When I look like you and when I don’t, you will get the glory.”
  • “I’m desperately longing for satisfaction”
  • “I’ve let go of you though you haven’t let go of me”
  • “I want to care too. I don’t really know if I care about myself. I want to care enough about myself to say no to things that will take me away from you. I’m not worthy but you’ve still found a way to love me”
  • “Seeing you was like seeing a ghost or reliving a memory. It’s like you’re not here… or I wasn’t really there. I think that was my closure. I don’t suppose I’ll ever see you again and I’m not sad. You truly were a good part of 2013 but you have no place in 2014. I’m not sure if I’m being cold-hearted. Sometimes I have to fight off the bitterness but I’m not mad. You’ve done nothing wrong. There are some things I wish we both did differently, but you did nothing to intentionally cause me pain. There are still some things I hang onto that I need to rid myself of but that comes from inside and not from you or anyone/anything else. You were an experience I needed to have. I didn’t think I’d survive but I did and it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I hope one day only good things will come to mind when I think of you. Until then…” {not about God}
  • “I got very far off the path and it’s been hard to find the will to get back and stay there. It hurts God and it hurts that it doesn’t hurt. I want to be close to you again. I know that’s where I belong, God. So badly I need to be renewed in you. I need a fresh dose of who you are and who I am in you.”
  • “Feelings come and that’s ok as long as they are met with truth.”

I didn’t expect this to be so long so I’ll probably continue with Part 3!

Little Pink Journal (Part 1)

Recently I decided to go thru a 6-year-old journal of mine. I was a newborn Christian, desperately hungry for all things Christ. Little did I know I was sitting on a gold mine of encouragement, wisdom, and faith. Though I’ve learned so many things and can see flaws in past thinking, I can see how ‘smart’ I’ve become. I need to become a little less ‘smart’and a little more ‘child-like’

I’ve decided to go thru it and to get back to the roots of it all. Thought I’d share just a few gold nuggets I found. As I keep digging and fleshing things out, I’ll keep you all updated, but for now:

  1. Barnabas is probably my favorite non Saviour person of the Bible. He’s first mentioned at the end of Acts. I love that though he initially lead Paul, he stepped down and became a powerful follower under Paul’s leadership once he saw the call on his life. That’s true leadership.
  2. Hebrews 10:35-39 Jeepers that’s a good verse! Basically “You’ve come too far and you know what waits for you at the finish line. Keep going!”
  3. Wisdom –  knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action
  4. An appreciative heart attracts gifts/blessings
  5. “Christianity is not a life improvement or behavior modification program”
  6. “The Enemy does a great job of ministering to those in the church who love the fame & power associated with helping others heal”
  7. “Your strength in life is not determined by your ability; it’s determined by God’s authority”
  8. God’s power is only potential until we convert it by faith in action
  9. Intimacy requires risk
  10. The outcomes of my life does not rest squarely on my shoulders (THANK GOD!)

 

That whole quarter life crisis thing

 

A week ago I had a depressing epiphany that lead to a promising one: my life is not going according to plan. I’ve never been the girl that had a detailed answer to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” but I’ve always been one who exuded confidence in wherever my future looked like. Well, I’ve hit that 5 year mark a few times now and this is far from the future I was so confident in.

First, let me say that I truly do have a great life. Not to be braggadocios, but any complaint I have is superficial and small. However, it’s only a temporary balm to the fact that I’m overwhelmingly underwhelmed. Naturally, I found myself turning to God to point fingers. “This?! A 26 year old, single receptionist living back with my mom? I think we need to upgrade a few things.”

I was so disappointed in what was ‘supposed to be’ that it started to evolve into apathy. My prayers were small because my faith was fading and that’s why I think God wanted me to lose it. Not to inconvenience or embarrass me, but to get me to the place where engaged these feelings of disenchantment and disillusion because even though I didn’t see it, they were deeply affecting me and hindering my relationship with him.

Here’s the short version:

  1. My Heart – Had I postponed that fit any longer (because it was going to happen by will or by force), He couldn’t have shown me how calloused I’d become. I didn’t hate the world, but I’d become so jaded. My excitement would come in fits and starts, but I didn’t have true joy and I never stopped to let myself realize it. I was discouraged and I wouldn’t let myself be ok with that. I’d always combat it saying I had no basis to be so, but I never worked through those thoughts with God. Instead I let all the little defeats build up like plaque on my heart. I was only able to live in the moment, but God also wanted to give me hope for the future.
  2. My Expectations – I never learned how to handle my wants and desires well within the scope of my will and God’s will (I still don’t really know ow, but I’m more proactive about learning now). I’ve always tried to talk myself out of the gray desires, the blessings I weren’t automatic (marriage, a comfy life, paid bills, etc). In reality “talk myself out of” is really more like “shame myself out of” and I can tell you firsthand that that doesn’t work. I didn’t know how to walk thru wanting the things I didn’t have while also being fully satisfied in God. I knew there is a way, but what did it look like? I know this is a little graphic, but I tried to brutally murder the good desires God placed in my heart over and over again thinking they couldn’t coexist with a healthy walk. I thought wanting something I didn’t have would inevitably lead me away from God. Turns out that when properly surrendered, they actually bring me closer to him. Still, thinking about how I treated myself so bad thinking I was doing something good breaks my heart.
  3. My Faith in Him – Lo and behold, these desires didn’t die. They came back as zombies, the undead, following me around all day, eating away at my brain (thoughts) which directly ate away at my heart (drive). Since these things would never stay dead, and God wouldn’t give them life, something had to die and it seems my faith in Him was it. You can’t live a life of authentic faith and relationship with God assuming that He can do great things but just won’t do them with you. That is literally non-biblical according to Hebrews 11: 6. God is good. He’s good now as he will be and has been for all eternity. My circumstances may not look to point to that, but somehow they always do. If praying that I make it to work safely is the biggest prayer I have for myself, there’s something wrong.

A week later, I try to stay consistent in an honest prayer to get to know God better, which will lead to greater faith, asking that God renew and realign my heart with his, and to reveal the brokenness and sin that hinders the intimate relationship we both desire. I can sincerely say that I have no recollection of ever being so aware of God’s mercy and grace in my entire life. I consider experiencing them to be vital to a full life in Christ, so I’ll say the progress has already been immense.

Just another day unlike any other day:)