Be. Still. {The Blog}

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Signs You’re too Young Minded for a Commitment

Today was the day that the term marriage was redefined. Whether you agree with the decision or not, the institution of marriage is on an examination table. A whole collection of people will finally get to experience the challenges & heartaches of marriage. On some level.

Ironically, there is an entire generation that will simultaneously rally behind marriage equality but are wrestling with commitment. The term “prolonged adolescence” means that young adults are waiting longer than ever to finish college, move out of their parents’ homes, and get married. Perpetual bachelorhood is romanticized over romance itself. It seems to me that there is more warring against traditional marriage besides the recent declaration.

But I’ve been thinking….current culture reveals so much evidence that not only are most 20 somethings not choosing to get married, but they aren’t even prepared for the commitment. And not only that, but they aren’t attempting to prepare themselves. I can’t speak on this without having the experience to back it up. I wasn’t married at 22. I made a ton of mistakes.

…so, I’m not at all pointing any fingers here…

Anywho. Here’s the list I came up with of signs that you are too young minded to handle a long term commitment. Feel free to comment/add/minus any of these….

1. You cannot take constructive criticism with humility.

2. You haven’t the foggiest idea of where you’d like to be in 5 years.

3. Your ideals/beliefs change depending on who you’re around.

4. You have multiple personal electronics which their cost add up into the $1000s but you can’t seem to save for a car.

5. You cannot make a full meal on your own (including a starch, a meat, a vegetable, and maybe dessert).

6. You stink at having roommates or always choose to live alone.

7. When out with friends, you can’t (at least once) pick out the restaurant.

8. Your FB timeline is filled with passive aggressive/attention seeking posts.

9. Your previous relationships ended due to the same, exact reason. Doesn’t matter which one, but they are all identical.

10. You believe its the opposite sex’s fault you aren’t in a relationship.

11. You spend most of your time looking for someone, rather than becoming someone.

12. If you’re female, you still say the following: “I have more guy friends than girls. I just don’t get along with girls.”

12b. If you’re a male, you still use derogatory terms for women (e.g. thot, etc.).

13. You either feel like marriage is a) a prison sentence or b) your salvation.

Concerning Charleston.

I have a confession to make:

This morning, after reading through countless updates on the Charleston massacre that occurred at the infamous AME church , the night of June 18, I wept. Angry, painful tears. It was the first time I’d actually cried when hearing of stories with race as a backdrop of the tragedy. I wasn’t expecting to cry. But I genuinely felt something well up in my soul when I read the specific script the shooter uttered before he opened fire on the attendees…after having spent almost an hour sitting among them while they had Bible Study.

Those people had welcomed him. They were doing exactly as their faith instructs. And without warning, 9 lives were taken. My tears became angrier as I read a 5 year old girl was there that night and had only survived because her grandmother told her to “play dead”.

This wasn’t the first time I felt angry. From Eric Garner’s death by choke hold (#Icantbreathe), to the shooting of young Trayvon Martin, I was able to find strength to carry on despite constant evidence that the undercurrent of racism was getting stronger and bolder.

But today, I wept. Not only because of the blatant act of domestic terrorism that ended 9 lives. No, I cried because public opinion (and some of my friends/acquaintances) still refuse to see that there is a race problem in America. My pain continues to be policed and forced into politics and generalized explanations (e.g. mental illnesses) that makes me feel I have NO room to properly grieve. I want to lash back in anger, but I know that reacting will only add to the wounds that exist.

Here’s a summary from an article on CNN.com:

Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney, said she heard about what happened inside the church from a survivor, a close friend.

Johnson told CNN her friend recounted the man coming into the church, asking for the minister.

“My cousin, being the nice, kind, welcoming person he is, he welcomed him to his congregation, welcomed him to the Bible study, and he sat there for an hour … At the conclusion of the Bible study, they just heard just a ringing of a loud noise, and it was just awful from what I heard,” Johnson said.

When the son of her friend pleaded with the shooter to stop, Johnson said the gunman replied: “‘No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country … I have to do what I have to do.’ And he shot the young man.”

Her friend pretended she was dead.

“But she watched her son fall and laid there. She laid there in his blood,” Johnson said.

From what she heard, the gunman reloaded five times.

Before he left the church, he asked one of the elderly members whether he had shot her, and she said no.

“And he said good, because we need a survivor because I’m going to kill myself,” Johnson told CNN.

A law enforcement official said witnesses told authorities the gunman stood up and said he was there “to shoot black people.”

This was undeniably a hate crime, where black people were targeted. There was fore-thought. And I’ve been told countless times today, both directly  and indirectly, that my emotions aren’t warranted. The script of my outrage has been snatched from me in an attempt to change the conversation.

Majority culture is allowed to be vocal and outraged about abortion. Christians being targeted by ISIS. Supporting the troops. Even gun control (or lack thereof). But bring up racism and doors will slam shut in your face. It is the pink elephant that Americans cannot talk about. It does not exist. It cannot exist.

Accepting its existence would mean that we would have to have an old, uncomfortable conversation about the very fabric of American culture. We would have to miseducate and reeducate our children about what it means to be racially unified in America. Apologies would have to be given and accepted. Change would actually have to happen. Social justice would have to become synonymous with Christianity. And hypocrisy would stick out like a sore thumb, finally, instead of being successfully hidden in the threads of our nation. And I would no longer have to apologize for being young, black, and angry.

Weights & Scales.

While watching Good Will Hunting (one of my favorite movies, by the way) with Nick, I looked at him and said its good to be a little self depreciating while attempting to reach people. He agreed:”Yeah. A little bit.”

I say this to establish that the following topic is not meant to make light of anyone else’s beliefs or passions. 

Alright…let’s continue…
I am probably at the heaviest weight I’ve been since I was at the climax of my pregnancy last year. I’m not fond of that fact, and am actively pursuing a change in that area, obviously. Oddly enough, immediately following that statement, I can say with full confidence another, seemingly contradictory one:

I’ve never been happier at any other point in my life. 

  

The above picture is recent, at my daughter’s 1 year birthday party. I remember many things about that day: I remember momentarily stressing over how I felt in my outfit. (“This dress definitely looked better on me last month, didn’t it?”) But I also remember my daughter’s laughter and how she played. I remember hugging on beloved friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. I remember seeing the pride in my mom’s eyes. I look at this picture…and even though my eyes briefly sweep over flaws, I step back and see something massively more important.

Our smiles are genuine; Nick’s and I’s. 

2014 was a test. A battle. And by Gods grace we were victorious. Stress and pain could have marred us but instead we shine. 

God deserves all the boast: This year, I’m working in a job/position that I love and get fulfillment in. Nick is making amazing, tangible strides in a dream/vision he was born with. We have survived disappointments, closed doors, & lack. 

I’ve gotten a few compliments recently. People telling me I look great. I laugh because I’m at least 30 lbs heavier than I was 2 years ago. Maybe people can see deeper. 

Who, Me? (Thoughts About Work)

2014 was a seriously challenging, emotionally draining year for me and my close family. It wasn’t until 2015 was peeking over the horizon did I start to experience relief. My faith was stretched in amazing ways. (Feel free to go back a half a dozen posts to see what I mean…)

2015 has been both chaotic and peculiar. Doors have been opened for me professionally, ones that I hadn’t planned on walking through until maybe 2016. Granted, the nature of my job remains both taxing and challenging, it’s wonderful to work with kids and teens in a variety of roles. Muscles that I haven’t used in over a year are starting to gain their strength again, and I’m feeling my therapist brain becoming sharp where it had grown dull.

I don’t feel 100% prepared, if I can be honest. But then I realized that I felt a similar anxiety when I first started the associate counselor position back in September. But, I threw myself into the role, and sought to give my all to kids every single shift. And I began to gain my own rhythm. I recognized that many of my coworkers, with rhythms of their own, were seeking the same goal. On the majority of our shifts, we were harmonious. And kids found refuge, solace, and safety within the walls of our unit. 

Surpisingly, I found a sense of satisfaction in a high-stress environment. I’d taken the career assessment tests that told me high stress environments are the antithesis of a healthy work environment for me, and thus I should stay far from them. But here I am….in it, and feeling purposeful. 

I feel valued at work but I also feel like I have not all the way earned it. That is truly a hang-up of mine, and I recognize that. What is clearest to me, is that God has a plan for me, and being here with my coworkers and the kids/families who come to us in crisis, is a part of my destiny. 

ME, though? Jeez.

The Race Card (My One Post about Race)

With regards to race, I have come to rest on two main truths:

1. There is both an individual manner and a collective manner to experience race.

and

2. If you have a heartbeat, you have the potential to be a racist. And there are many ways to be racist.

Let me break each one down, as candidly as possible…

1. There is both an individual manner and a collective manner to experience race.

Each race in America has both individual, day-to-day experiences as their race, as well as experiences shared with the remaining people of the same race. Those shared experiences can be at a community level, a state level, class level, political lean level, national level, etc. Both manners are necessary for statistical purposes. Some people make the mistake of assuming that their personal experience is the same for others of the same race, but that may or may not be true. This is why it is dangerous for people to use generalizations when discussing race, without the correct stats to back it up. Even our modern media can use “race baiting” tactics to make people conclude that a small collection of experiences is the majority. Whatever the race, you should be examining your community (the smallest collective you have easy access to), to see what the racial climate is like.

Having said that, it is easy for some to hide racist agendas on the institutional level (e.g. Job discrimination). Plus, people who have no local awareness of racism, will assume that racism does not exist, or that it isn’t a “big deal”. Many will assume that “the race card” is being used unfairly, and will experience frustration towards the “victimized” people group.

I have seen people compare their individual racial experience with an entire people group of another race. Example: “I don’t know why they need welfare, I’ve worked hard for everything I’ve owned my whole life and never got a single hand out. Those people are just entitled.”

Here’s the problem with that reasoning:

a. This person is making both racist and classist generalizations about that particular people group who are on welfare. This person isn’t just assuming that people on welfare are lazy and entitled, but that the people of that race (who are on welfare) are lazy and entitled.

b. This person is also assuming that just because his individual experience was favorable (He worked hard and received the just due for his hard work), that EVERYONE’S experience will be the same. This is ideal, but naive. If we have learned anything from America’s history is that even though Lady Liberty welcomed many demographics onto her land, whom all had the same hopes and aspirations, not everyone has been able to achieve a piece of her coveted American dream. While it is honorable to teach others that individual hard work gets you success, it should also be taught that often times, the SYSTEM has uneven playing fields. Certain races teach each other to look out for those uneven places, not so we can sit and complain, but so that we can know how to survive and thrive IN SPITE of those places. The person who claims they do not exist are actually doing certain people groups a disservice.

If our nation is truly based on a free market and open, fair competition, I would rather win my place over the next man HONORABLY.

Okay. I hope you’re keeping up. On to #2.

2. If you have a heartbeat, you have the potential to be a racist. And there are many ways to be racist.

Inside, we are all the same. Historically, we were taught that blacks were born inferior due to the shape of the skull (re: Phrenology). Thankfully, we now know race to be both a sociological construct and a way to classify and experience shared culture. Some people promote a “racially blind” society, where they believe that if we would simply erase the racial lines, we would all see our similarities clearly and racism would thus be eradicated. Others feel that ridge separatism is the answer; that we should just stick to our own kind.

I’m of the school of thought that a balance should be achieved. That celebrating our differences, and seeing the beauty in each curl pattern and skin tone, will accomplish two things:

a. We will be amazed that we are all capable of great things that are carried out in different ways. It’s the same as with the Biblical analogy of the Body of Christ. Some are feet, some are hands. Their differences in role and gifting are all needed for the Body. Unity does not have to equal uniformity.

b. We will recognize that we are all identical in our ability to commit the worst atrocities. We create a shared humanity by seeing that we are all human. I am amazed by how some people groups fight for equality, but will only fight for the best and brightest claims to being human. Here are a couple of examples: White Privilege exists because some Whites accept the benefits of their race but little of the responsibility that comes with it. And Blacks are infamous for being quick to distribute blame on a collective front, but take no responsibility back to their communities. We all hurt. And we are all responsible.

Going back to the two manners of experiencing race: we share responsibility on both individual and shared levels. If you never examine both manners, then you are only taking half of your responsibility. And you may feel that racism isn’t a huge deal, but it may be because you are only looking as far as your front yard. Look deeper. Look farther.

There is still so much to be done.

Let Them Play

I’m reading the book, Scary Close by Donald Miller and it is jarring loose major parts of my life and thinking.

He tells a story of one of his breakthroughs that occurred while in therapy: speaking to his 9 year old self, who’d he had given the burden/responsibility of gaining attention and validation from others. His 9 year old self had the mindset that he had to be bigger and better in order to gain love from others. Also, this 9 year old represented his outer self; the persona he projected for others. There was also his inner self that existed, his true self, whom the author decided was about 35 years old. His inner self was at peace and okay with being alone most of the time, meanwhile the outer self was stressed and fearful.

The therapist told him to sit in a chair across from his 9 year old self and talk to him. Donald Miller said, “I also want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for pushing you out there in the world so you could impress people for us and fight for us and make money for us while I sat in here and read books”.

I paused after reading this and begin to cry. Looking across my bedroom, I stared at the wall and imagined the age/image of my inner self. She is 14 years old; bangs covering up her quiet, wise eyes, but sitting up straight for fear that others are watching. She wears baggy clothing so that her shape doesn’t show too much, and she’s picking at the sides of her jeans to help keep her from running off to her room; her place of refuge.

She sees me staring at her, so she straightens her back even more, and waits for me to speak.

“I bet you’re exhausted, huh? I’m sorry I let them put so much pressure on you. You’re not even close to being done being a kid, but you’re preoccupied with so many burdens right now. Here, let me take those from you. I know just what to do with them. Please, go off and play. You’re far from done playing.”

Those last two sentences resounded deeply inside of my heart.

Children find both expression and freedom when engaged in play. Imagine, the whole world is filled with turmoil and pain, but our children (the brightest and purest of us) actively seek Play. I had not reached the age where I no longer needed play to express my joys and frustrations. In fact, I needed play at 14 more than ever. It was stripped from me, and I was given adult burdens in its place.

A child who is unable to play is a traumatized child. They see the world with a different set of eyes, and without an adult to protect them, they are left to both understand and defend against this new world on their own.

This was a profound truth to realize because it made me understand why I interact with others the way I do. Why I still throw up a wall when I have conflict in my marriage. And why I still struggle with trusting spiritual authority.

I’m so thankful that God sees me as His child, no matter my age. And that He still encourages me to have liberty and joy in Him. I can cast all burdens to Him and truly be “as a child”. I still believe my days of play are far from over.

Additionally, my struggle fueled my purpose, which is to work with children. Provide them with an atmosphere where they can play freely, without judgement, and encourage their sense of joy and abandon. There are many children who do not have anyone to defend their right to play. Some who have placed adult burdens on to their shoulders and emphasize correct behavior over exploration and the process of becoming an individual. My heart of hearts is to “let children play”.

Their…our…lives depend on it.

Second Wind.

I am NOT a runner. Never have been.

Oddly enough, I hate running outside. If I must run, I’ll do it in the comfort of an air-conditioned gym with a big screen television obstructing my view of the all of the incredibly fit people. I am a poor runner because I am a bad breather.

Let me give you another, unrelated, example:

I remember the year I worked at Liberty University’s Career Center as a Career Counselor, we would go make presentations in various classes. It was a blast, but also anxiety-producing for me. There was a particular class, a freshman Communications class, that had at least a hundred students stretched across the room in theater seating. I and another colleague made a presentation on resumes. I struggled that day, because I had forgotten to breathe in between powerpoint slides.

…by the 4 slide I was completely out of breath and sounded like I’d gotten punched in the stomach. I recall seeing a couple of students in the front row looking amused.

Terrible, right? I stink at breathing (albeit, pacing myself) when under pressure.

I’m drawing a similarity with my life at the moment: lots to do, many hats to transition into and out of, but starting to struggle with pacing all the responsibilities. I won’t write out a list here, because you could probably look back on my previous blog posts and see that I am an incredibly busy woman. Duh.

And at times, I feel that if I have to think of ONE MORE obligation (merited or not), that I’m going to run away. Dramatic, I know. But, it honestly agitates my introversion. My desire to grab my favorite blanket (the one that my former college roommate made for me — thanks Jess), my cell phone, and hide in my bed. Somehow I can do that because the baby has enough milk to last her a month and my husband’s love tank is full so he won’t miss me for at least a week. And miraculously enough, I was able to clone myself to go to work FOR me so that I can continue to help support our family, meanwhile taking care of the finances and managing the home (and never feeling like a failure of a wife). That same clone will also be incredibly active and innovative in church, and call all of my family and friends to give them personal time every week so  no one feels neglected. My clone doesn’t need sleep or pampering or nutritious meals or self-care. And she battles all of the mommy guilt for me, thankfully.

She will take care of all of that, so I’ll be able to sit in my bed and take that much needed second wind.

Glorious, isn’t it?

I feel like I’ve been running for ages but rarely take time to breathe. God the Father Himself took a break after creating EVERYTHING. Why can’t I? Maybe God wasn’t tired, but rather He wanted to show me the way it’s (and by “it” I mean Kingdom building) done appropriately.

All of my efforts to rest won’t satisfy my weariness if I don’t look in the right places. I tend to look for rest externally, when I’ve been commanded to find my rest IN God. And I can free up my schedule to the bare necessities, but still not find rest.

I can have more free time. But miss having genuine rest.

Isn’t that sad? So, is it really about just “not running” or trimming back the distance?

Maybe not, because the race MUST be run. It will be. Once my life is done and over, there will be a summary of how well I ran. How far. And where I ended. Maybe the point is to learn how to breath in the midst. On the journey. Staying connected to the Source that can breathe new life; the One who first breathed into us.

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