A Lion, The King, and The Past

I was recently scrolling through Facebook when I came across a post from a person whom I used to be close with. Once upon a time this person and I conversed on a daily basis, but now I can’t recall the last time we texted. Then I got to thinking, since I’ve really stopped including this person in my everyday world, I’ve been more blessed and happier than I’ve ever been. And I think I’m okay with that.

This person probably won’t read this, but seeing that status made me recall a lot of our past history, our past friendship, and how much they have hurt me. How much running I had to do, and how that not only exhausted me, it made me afraid. Afraid of who I was, and who I was becoming. It’s like we both decided to go out onto the Safari and poke at a sleeping lion. Then the lion wakes up…fight or flight, and I was running…in the wrong direction.

lion kingThis brings me to one of my favorite movies growing up: The Lion King. Simba tried to outrun his past and forget about what he did (which, spoiler alert, we all know that he didn’t kill Mufasa) in hopes of continuing to be who he thought he was. Granted, he was tricked by an evil fiend who was supposed to be someone he could trust.

In 1 Peter 5:8 it is written, “Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (KJV). See, the devil walks around, he’s a lion in a zebra costume, to see how many he can devour before people catch on that he’s lying (he’s a-lyin’ [bad pun, I know]).

Simba’s life story in a way resembles my own. I had a carefree life, then I had to face a lion, my lion. I had to decide whether it was best to try and outrun or try to stand motionless in hopes that the enemy wouldn’t see me. I decided to run…and I kept running until I was thirsty…and still I ran. But God still kept His hand on me…for some odd reason. Eventually I took on the courage to face my lion, I took my sword, and I defeated my lion.

Since I was able to overcome the power of that lion, I shouldn’t dwell on what used to be, because I am more than my past. I have a God who lives within me, and  I’ve gained the strength to take on the any lion who dares to trespass on my turf. lion king3The term Hakuna Matata means no worries, or at least that’s what they sung in the movie. “It’s a problem-free philosophy: Hakuna Matata.” When I have the power of God inside of me, I’m not necessarily living a problem-free life, because let me tell you, they do come. However, I am able to take on my problems ‘like a boss’ (as many kids will say these days). I’m able to face my fears, when the past decides to catch up to me.

Eventually, Simba’s past did catch up to him. Sure, he enjoyed spending time with Nala at first, but when she gave him the proposition to face it or to turn his back (again) he chose to stay where he was. He willingly chose to avoid his fear.It took a wise friend, Rafiki, to allow Simba to see who he was: someone who had to go back and face his fears in order to overcome his past. By running away, Simba’s problems didn’t go away, they [it] literally festered into a bigger problem that would be harder to defeat. Scar is obviously representative of the past problem, and each hyena symbolizes every outcome that has happened since he [Simba] tried outrunning the past. Like me, when I was running away every thing I did or didn’t do was an outcome of me choosing not to take on my lion. More and more hyenas were laughing at me because of my fear…

lion king5I stopped running, turned around, gulped more than once, and took the first step towards my fear, let out some battle cry as I began chasing after the lion that was trying to prey on me. I stopped talking to that person. I don’t think they really noticed, and if they did, well they never tried asking me why I stopped talking to them. They didn’t try reaching out for my hand and a stick to poke the lion. I thought that perhaps they got devoured themselves. Not quite. They were running yet too. But they had learned to ‘tame’ the lion by giving it some food. A temporary fix in a very dangerous, almost permanent situation. I hope they learn to pick up the sword and slay that lion, because feeding it will only make it hungrier. A hungrier lion is much harder to tame.

I learned that my past does not define me, but He does because He lives inside of me. Because of this, I’m not necessarily braver, I just have the strength to carry on. He is my Mufasa, and I am a warrior. The question remains, who are you    a warrior or a runner. lion king 2

A Rose and its Thorns

I stand on a beach engulfed in a nighttime darkness. The sand is cold and dampened by the breath of the ocean. The still air is filled with the sound of ocean waves. Fear has stiffened me and I don’t know where to go.

Then I see a light in the distance. So I start moving towards it. At first I am walking, this sand is hard to trudge through. After awhile, my pace quickens. I don’t know where else to go except towards that light. It’s small, but flicking back and forth. I keep my pace.

Suddenly, there appears in the distance over the ocean another light. This one brighter and bigger. It’s rays allow me to see an outline of a boat ahead of me but still somewhat of a distance off. The tiny light slowly flickers away until it is sucked into the darkness. Suddenly I feel so alone, and far away from any speck of hope.

That’s how my story starts.


 

I’m home for my Winter Break. The plans have been set for me to attend the annual Winter Youth Convention. I was thrilled and nervous, but yet felt a twinge of guilt in the back of my mind. I thought didn’t deserve to go. Yet there I was, given an opportunity to attend something that would supposedly help me.

Where had the fire gone that was full life and passion. It was fueled from a summer of overwhelming worship and praise to God, and then as I went off to college my fuel supplies began running out. It diminished from fire into red hot coals; from red hot coals to ash.

An overwhelming shadow of sadness followed me around on those sunny days, and on cloudy days I was soaked through with a shower of gloom. And even though I was surrounded by thousands of students, I still felt a tinge of loneliness. As my roommate sat a mere 20 feet away, I still felt all alone.

Then I’m at Winter Youth among my fellow youth members (okay…I am the oldest in the group, next to my youth leader Bethany). Not only am I with my eleven other comrades, I am completely surrounded by hundreds of other young Apostolics. I felt uncomfortable and unworthy. “I didn’t deserve to be here.” I am constantly repeating in my mind.

After the first service I feel slightly uplifted. Yet I still feel chains of shame holding me back. I am choking in my own self doubt and fear.

The Next Day

I wake up feeling slightly tired and ready to go home. It’s during the first service when I feel a slight prick in my heart. Tim Vik is talking about how one can’t fall in love with a church or a pastor or a sermon, but must fall in love with Jesus. What had I fallen in love with? I question myself. Had I fallen in love with the constant feelings of sorrow?

Then he talks about a rose and how it is not just the big beautiful rose, but it is also the stem and thorns. To get to the beauty one must tend to the thorns and prune and shape it to get it to bloom. That was me. I was a rose, but minus the blooming part. I was a big ol’ thorn patch that needed to be tended to.

At the alter call I begin praying to God, and apologizing for how far I have drifted away. I drifted so far because I had purposely set sail for an island far away from the rest of humanity. Then the rain came. It began to wash away my layers of shame, and guilt, and all the dirt I had built up. God had began to prune away at all my thorns, and he was clearing away all the dead pieces I had attached to me. The light was slowly being allowed to shine back onto me.

It will be awhile before I can blossom into a rose, but still I am a thorn bush. He’s still pruning away at me, and watering me with his Word. His Spirit is surrounding me like the rays of the sun.

I’m no longer on that beach surrounded by a nighttime darkness. I have found my way to a large rock that stands above the beach. The sound of waves is more like a calming peace and it doesn’t fill the air with a sting of loneliness. So as I sit on my rock, I gaze out at the ocean and marvel at the Wonders of my Creator. How he could create something as big and beautiful like the ocean, and yet loves (unconditionally) something as little as myself.

So I’ll stand here. With my arms high and my heart abandoned, in awe of the One who gave it all. I’ll stand here. My soul surrendered to you, oh Lord, because all I am is for you.

 

Living a Life…Singlely

I’m not trying to brag when I say this, but in the past year I’ve been asked out several times. I’ve even been proposed to (it was very awkward). In every instance, I’ve always turned them down and make an excuse as to why. It wasn’t until I’ve recently attended the Winter Youth Conference, one of the most amazing experiences ever, that I realized I shouldn’t have to make up an excuse as to why I “can’t date.” Am I ashamed that my relationship status on Facebook reads single? N-O. I’m not ashamed to be single, so I should be able to just say “No, I’ll wait for a man in God’s timing.”

Why is being single one of the most frowned upon things? Is it too bad to be independent? Is it so bad being so engrossed with God that one simply doesn’t have the time or desire for a relationship?
Here’s the deal, I’m single. And I’m okay with that. thumbs up

I have no problem being single because frankly I don’t have time for boys. See, I am running towards God in the Big Marathon called life. I don’t have time to stop for anybody. If I stop, which I have done before, I might lose focus…again. If I stop, I might forget the reason as to why I even started running. Then I might feel the ache in my legs, and never have the desire to get back in the race. If I forfeit now, then I will never cross the finish line. Or if I do manage to cross the finish line, I’m going to wind up in last place. Last place isn’t an option for me, not if I purposely stop in the middle God’s plan.

finishline

I don’t really have the dedication for a relationship. I go to school full time and I work part time. My Sunday’s are dedicated to church; Wednesdays are full to the brim with either running media at church, or attending meetings for a school organization. My only free day    Saturday’s    are always spent catching up on my z’s and doing all sorts of homework.

Another reason I’m okay with the single life is because after a long day, I have zero energy for a relationship. I even find it difficult to read my bible sometimes because of how exhausted I am. Not gonna lie, somedays I have to force myself to read at least a chapter of scripture. So how can I possibly add onto my daily activities “call or check in with ‘bae’?”

I know what I want in a guy, and I have yet to find a man with all of the qualities I desire. You know, I could choose to settle or allow one thing to slide, but I can’t. I’ve already lived that life     ask me how unsatisfactory it was. If I want a man who is very careful with money, and he spends all of his funds willy-nilly, then I’m not going to be 100% satisfied. If I want a man who is modest, then I probably shouldn’t date one who constantly is flashing himself shirtless on Instagram. I don’t want a guy who is lusted after    eww. Yes, I have high standards. Yes, some might say that no man is perfect. You are correct, no man is perfect. But, if God’s plan for my life includes marriage, then there is a perfect man out there for me. One I’ll be 100% satisfied with.

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.     Proverbs 31:30

poopHonestly, I’m still picking up the pieces from my previous relationship that ended over a year ago. Ya know what? It stinks. Like stinky-McStinky pig manure. Bethany, my youth leader and mentor, had to walk me through all of the hardships I’ve endured. And tell me countless times the same repeated phrase that God has a better plan. Every time I would ignore her, until one day I realized she was right. That there is a better plan out there.

Bethany makes singleness look awesome. Her high standards have inspired me to strive for the better. She’s one of the most independent women I know, and she’s not about to stop and sit around for a guy. She’s going full force after God, and because of that men treat her with such a high respect. They know she be a Godly woman, and ain’t none of them prepared to be a following her (sorry, my southern hick voice just came out).

DSCF3743Bethany loves God with all of her heart. She shows it in her worship; she shows it in her dedication to drive her youth group through the biggest snowstorm of 2015, just to get them to a youth church conference. If there is somebody out there that deserves a husband, it’s Bethany. But if there is somebody out there that proves not all women need a man, it’s Bethany. Someday, when I finally do grow up, I strive to be just like her, even if it means I follow in her footsteps of being single.

Are Bright Colors a Thing Anymore?

Pop culture is not about depth.

It’s about marketing, supply and demand, [and] consumerism.       
—Trevor Dunn

Forty years ago, when my mother had nine years notched into her belt, bright and vibrant colors were the biggest fad that had hit the pop culture. That and bean bag chairs. Today, one cannot easily tell if it’s better to be fat or skinny, or to be a nerd or a cool cat. If a lady is not a lover of Taylor Swift, and her constant repeat of the same song different lyrics, then one is probably into the whole Miley Cyrus and her “punk” look. When it comes to pop culture, my thoughts do not differ from Trevor Dunn’s opinion; pop culture is a fake way to secretly swoon everyone onto the same path, even though we’re all meant to be different.

I do enjoy sitting down and watching a good episode of Sherlock or Supernatural, but I cannot say I’m so obsessed with it. I’m far from following the “Superwholock” fandom, because it would be silly to spend so much time and energy, and especially money on materialistic things that are supposed to “originate” me. Plus, these things don’t really do anything in particular for me; all that these products do is taking money out of my wallet and sticking it in the company’s. If I spent $22 on a tee shirt with Benedict Cumberbatch’s face on it, what am I proving? I could take that $22, go to Walmart, and buy maybe a few shirts, or a shirt and some food (after all, I’m in college, and I need food).

Pop culture is far from important to me because I am my own person. I am me. I don’t follow “the norm.” I enjoy watching old TV shows that are in black and white. Culture today yearns for thrillers—the more blood the merrier. I wear skirts almost all of the time, which makes me like a woman before the roaring 20’s and the term “flapper” came about. If Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, or Chopin were alive today I would probably be their number one “fangirl.” Today, if one isn’t wearing the hottest trends, downloading the latest app, or even banging as many people as possible then he or she is most likely considered a prude, or technologically illiterate.

Today we have the phrase burned in our head “Be you. Be different.” Yet, when a fish strives to be that purple hue in a tank of yellow fish, that fish is bullied until it lives its life in the shadows of a fake, hollow rock. In a world full of people defining what is hot or not, we get eyed suspiciously for dressing or looking different. The world orders us to be different, but being different is frowned upon.

I haven’t gone to a beauty salon in about 5 years, not even for a simple “trim.” My hair, which is now past my booty, is almost always in a bun. When I do let it down I get so many comments or questions on it. “How long has it been since you cut it? Why don’t you cut it? Wait…you don’t even get it trimmed? For real? Your hair is probably unhealthy. You DON’T have split ends?! How?!”

Akil Thompson once said, “Today teenagers are more worried about losing their smart phone than their virginity.” So true. Ever see someone freak out because he/she thought that their phone was lost? Ever see someone freak out because he/she lost their virginity? No…they’re most likely bragging about it, or proud of it. I’m proud to say at almost 22 years old, I’m a virgin. Still. After enduring all the temptations that high school, and college both have thrown at me. Even though I spent half of my college life in a committed relationship, the world screams, “If you aren’t having sex in your relationship you’re pathetic.” It was something that my boyfriend at the time and I talked about a lot. That trying to stay pure until marriage is so hard.

Stay strong. Be different. Don’t let the world push you down because you’ve decided to stray from the majority.

A Hero is a Hero

How does one define a hero?
With a suit?
Super strength?
Wild flying abilities?
A cape? (No, “The Incredibles” taught us that capes are destructive to one’s life)

In comic books the hero is always the person dressed in a costume that saves everyone from day-to-day evil. Arrow saved people, they even made a modern day television series on it. Bruce Wayne made black look good. The chest bearing “S,” Clark Kent is one of the oldest superheroes.

So back to the first question. How does one define a hero? Every person has a definition the differs from the next. Many people consider Robin Williams a hero. And in recent months there has been a big debate as to whether the acts of Caitlyn Jenner have been courageous or not. Now, I’m not stating that either one was or is a hero, nor am I proclaiming that they aren’t, because that’s not up to me to decide. The point I’m trying to get across is that the word “hero” is applied differently for every person.

[I found this article of interest,written by Illuminating Truth “Bruce Jenner is Not a Hero”]

My hero as a child, and still today, is my mom. Working two jobs and raising two kids practically on her own was definitely not an easy task. I have other folks I  consider a hero as well, maybe not my personal hero, but non-the-less they still deserve the gold.

A hero is usually someone who is “admired” or “idealized” for courageous acts, having “outstanding achievements” and “noble qualities” (dictionary). There are different heroes in this world. Caitlyn Jenner is hailed as a hero; based on the dictionary definition, she is considered heroic because of his/her courage for taking a step as the “woman she was destined to be.” Chris Kyle was awarded as a hero for what he did as a Navy Seal, and for what he did after his military days; his life was taken from him at the young age of 38.

If anyone dared to speak against these two people, two human beings that were created and brought into this world just like you and me, that person would be shunned. If I were to write a Facebook status tomorrow saying, “Bruce Jenner is not a hero, and what he did wasn’t courageous at all.” I probably would have a war not only on my status, but also personal messages would be shot at me like a metal arrow.

Kim Davis, a lady who has been smeared in the mud because of her faith, and staying strong and upholding her beliefs and values. Her act to stand for her faith, despite the majority of the people around her, is very bold. How many people preach what they proclaim to be? We are given free will; we have the freedom to choose what we want. America allows every individual to practice their own personal religion without any consequence of imprisonment or death. Every Muslim is allowed to pray facing towards Mecca. Every Jew has a right to celebrate Hanukkah. Every Christian is allowed to attend church on Sundays. Every atheist is allowed to not believe in God.

The couple could have walked out of the office, and chosen to go to a different place. But they chose to add some fuel to the fire and bring publicity on it. Much like the couple a few months back who chose to sue a baker for choosing not to serve them based on their lifestyle. Kim Davis chose to stand for her belief, and is willing to go to jail. She is willing to fight, despite the persecution. Courageous acts? Hero? How many Christians would so willingly jump on the boat of gay marriage, despite their conflicting beliefs,  to avoid the stones of death? So that they would be accepted as an “alright person.” I’m not stating whether she is a hero or not, because that’s not up to me to decide. I am not saying I hate any specific person for his/her beliefs, or for his/her lifestyle. I don’t hate anyone. Not even those who spit and cast stones as if they sinned not. Because everyone is given free will; he/she has a right to believe or disbelieve whatever his/her heart desires.

But before sharing that meme of Kim Davis saying her hair is bad or her forehead is too big, before commenting about her four failed marriages, or that she is homophobic, consider your personal past. Where would you be if you never stood up for your beliefs. Where would you be if maybe you swam against the current and differed from the majority? Would you be willing to go to jail for it? Would you feel good? Bad? Are you scared to stand for what you believe? Or do you truly speak and act out on what you believe?

“…he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
John 8:7

Other reads that I thought were interesting.
Kim Davis is an American Hero
This is a Fight Worth Fighting
The Gay People Against Gay Marriage
Madonna’s gay brother’s intense words about Kim Davis
Pastor Anderson’s opinion on why she is Not  Hero

The last first day

I’m about to start my first day of college. Well, my last first day of college. My final year.
How old am I supposed to feel? Because I feel old. It seems like just yesterday I was starting high school. All excited with a new atmosphere. A new step towards adulthood. And making new friends.

Now, I just wish I could go back and re-do high school with the knowledge I have now. I would have studied a lot harder my Sophomore, Junior, and Senior year. I probably would have taken more English classes. Read more. Reached out to more people. I would have chosen to not smoke weed my Sophomore year, so then I wouldn’t have gotten suspended from school for 15 days. I would have chosen to play guitar more. To eat less.

Granted, if I could re-do this part of my life, my world now would be significantly different. I probably would have different friends then (and now). I probably wouldn’t have chosen to attend church. Which means I wouldn’t be at UWGB. I wouldn’t have met Cynthia, all the Abby(s), Maria, Carrie, Andrea, Skyler, Ashley, Danielle, Scott, Kim, Brigitta, Hailey, Lacey, Rosie, Faith, Emily, and all the other many friends I have made. And I wouldn’t trade the connections I’ve made for any others.

So as I start my final year of college, I have to be fully on board with where life and God will take me. Am I to be here in Green Bay after college, or am I to go home. Maybe I’m supposed to be somewhere else. I don’t know, but God knows. I’m excited.

When I first started college, which was 3 years ago, I had high hopes. I would be someone different, someone with a boldness to talk to others, not this flimsy shy girl who didn’t speak much in high school. I would be someone who wasn’t afraid to express who I was. A girl who chooses to wear skirts and not cut my hair. I would be someone who took her studies seriously, and I really did. I would do my homework. I think I watched TV like 6 times the entire school year. I would force myself in bed by 11. I was a good parent to myself (Now, not so much).

It’s a bittersweet feeling. Because in a year, I won’t be in college. I may or may not be talking to some of my friends. At the same time, I’m ready to finish this chapter of my life. Move on to bigger and better places. As I start and end my last first day of college, I pray my hopes stay high. That I am not easily discouraged when I find a class difficult. And that I can make one new friend each semester.

I hope that I enjoy my last first day of college, because our days are numbered. And I won’t ever get this day back.
Can I get a word, Son?
Word.

My Giant: Fight or Flight

When I went off to college, I had no idea that I would become a backslider.

It wasn’t a rapid change overnight. I would call it more like a slow progress over months and months. Unlike many backsliders, I didn’t stop believing in God…completely. I still went to church. I didn’t cut my hair. I still dressed all “Apostolicy.” There is a lady who I am blessed to have met, who actually has a testimony similar to mine. She was a backslider for a few months, and in that time frame she still looked like an Apostolic, but she wasn’t living like one. Side not, sorry.

As I attended every class dutifully (I’ve only missed maybe but a handful of classes in the three years I’ve been going to college) my faith slowly slipped away. It’s like with each step a tiny piece of my relationship with God crumbled under my shoe. I don’t know why it happened or really how it happened. Well I mean, I sort of do, but I can’t completely pinpoint all of it out. And for thee solid school years, I was an Agnostic Christian (if that makes sense).

“God, are you real? Are you the healer? Where is my healing? Where is my blessing I need?” I’d belt these out inside my mind as I sat in a church pew amidst my church family. As they worshiped, I half worshiped. As they prayed, I half prayed. As they attended, my body was there, but my mind was running elsewhere.

I was doing things that I knew were hindering my relationship with God. I knew I wasn’t right with God, I felt conviction of that. But instead of facing my giant, I chose to ignore it in hopes that it would go away. Let me tell you, it didn’t, it just festered into something bigger.

As I learned to finally let go of what was blocking my path towards God, I’ve been extremely blessed. This past summer has been amazing. More than amazing, but words cannot describe it completely. Oh sure, I basically had to re-learn to trust and put my faith in the One who created everything in 6 days. I had to allow my heart to be shredded and sewn back together; it’s patched with scars. Can God love someone with scars? Absolutely. Because it was those scars that showed I was not always where I am today. Those scars are proof that I have lived through some intense storms, and that my testimony is unique. That I am an overcomer. That I have a victory. That I’m not, nor will I ever be, perfect.

I’ve overcome my addiction to being depressed. I yearned to never get better, because if I was to ever get better I had to first admit that there was something majorly wrong. And I wasn’t ready to admit that I wasn’t fully on board with God. So I became numb to any feelings but sadness. I smiled. But anyone can fake a smile. Anyone can pretend to be anything that one sets his/her mind to. As I overcame other addictions as well, I realized that I truly was trapped in bondage.

“Like a fire” has been my victory song for the past few weeks. I listen to it almost every time I get into my car and drive to work. Because I want to be a fire. Spreading the love of God to everyone I meet. Being a light in the darkness.

“Like a fire shut up in my bones
I want the world to know You are God
With a passion burning deep within
I want the world to know that You live”

As I soon depart for my final year in college, I hope to be that fire that this world so desperately needs. As I journey along, and I come face-to-face with more giants, I will now have the strength to fight them, instead of turning away in distress.