Song of the Week, “I Am Yours” by Lauren Daigle

                         Listen here! 

I’ve heard this song a million times, but lately, the lyrics have stuck out more than usual. They mean more. It’s almost like a war cry. I listen to it and envision myself on a battlefield with the Lord as my commanding officer. 

It makes me feel brave and protected. And when I really stop to think about it, the God of the entire universe is head over my life. Suddenly, everything else seems pale in comparison. Miniscule to worry myself over and whether my needs will be met or my prayers answered. 

I serve the same God who split the Red Sea. An ocean! A wild, unpredictable, endless body of water was split at His command! 

This song makes me want to take on the Devil! It makes me realize that there is absolutely nothing he can do to break me because I am an heiress of my father! 

Even the thunder and the wind obey
At the command of my Father, Father
I set my feet upon Your mighty name
So let the rain fall harder, harder. 

Song of the Week, “Don’t Want to Live for Me,” by Moriah Peters

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If this song were a dress, it’d be a perfect fit! The lyrics are my life’s cry.

Another day come and gone
I do what I hate to do
A little right a little wrong, it’s true
Another choice another fall
I tell myself to stop
But on my own it’s a war and I’ve lost

It’s always comforting to feel understood. Knowing you’re not the only one failing at life can really make the difference. So horrible of me to say, but it’s true. By no means do I wish ill will on others, but it is validating to know that you’re not the only one tripping over that stump.

God knows our weaknesses. But He also knows our strengths. That’s the part we tend to forget. God knows us inside out, through and through. He won’t tempt us with anything past our ability to overcome through our reliance on Him.

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Recalculating

I’ve always viewed school as a necessity. Whether or not I liked it was never a factor, it was just something I knew I had to grit my teeth and do. Naturally inquisitive, the desire to learn and acquire knowledge has never been an issue for me. No, my problem is that I have trouble acclimating to structured learning settings. I remember being two semesters shy of earning my bachelor’s degree when I decided to mentally check out. Between being burnt out and having senioritis, I gave myself permission to stop caring. As a result, I stopped turning in assignments, showing up to class, and lost interest in my grades. Soon after, I was threatened with being placed on academic probation: they gave me one more chance to get my crap together.

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 I recall meeting with my academic advisor:

Her office was a neat little nook tucked away at the edge of the building. It was dark, save for a small lamp on her desk that dimmed the area just enough for me to see the knickknacks and stacks of papers that comfortably cluttered her desk. Despite being afraid of the reprimand I was about to receive, her office seemed to exude warmth. Almost like a refuge: Somewhere you go for safety and refueling, but only for a short while.

She asked me what was going on and why my grades had fallen. I of course, tried to make my lousy excuse sound as justifiable as possible. She listened quietly as she busied herself with paperwork. When I’d run out of words to fuel my explanation, she turned to me, sighed and said matter of factly, “Okay. You’ve checked out.”

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It was like she was a doctor diagnosing me with a common cold. She knew exactly where I was mentally and she understood how I had gotten there. She gave me no sympathy but there wasn’t a strong sense of reprimand either.

Her final words to me during that meeting were, “You need to find a way to check back in.”

I left the campus feeling much more fueled than I did going into the meeting. Our discussion had given me just enough charge to find my way back to my why. 

Two semesters later, I graduated.

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I find myself at a similar impasse. I checked out about a month ago. I knowingly and intentionally submerged myself into the mindset of a defeatist. I was beginning to feel like everything in life was just too hard, so I figured I’m done trying. I knew that it was a momentary phase, but I didn’t put up much of a fight against it. I became more frivolous with money than usual and I didn’t beat myself up about it. My spiritual upkeep was slacking. I missed almost two weeks of talking to you guys. Deep down, I knew better, but on the surface, I refused to allow myself to care. I just wanted to be. I wanted to do whatever I felt like doing without feeling bad or rehashing fifty times over, every move I made and every thought that even considered crossing my mind. Just for a second, I wanted to be completely human and not feel bad about it.

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Things are still a bit hazy but I’m on the back end of that phase. I think my final salute was my purchase at Victoria’s Secret today at the Las Vegas airport. And in my defense, their semi-annual sale is going on so it could be argued that it was a logical and reasonable purchase.

That liberation I was looking for is returning to its former glory of frustration. I’m back to beating myself up. I’ve made the same mistakes so many times I’m dizzy. I want new mistakes! I want to be able to reflect and say, I used to be that way, but it feels impossible. Like it’s some sort of cruel joke to even think we can actually overcome our problems or become better.

In this time of reflection, I’m trying to figure out my why, because I really don’t want to go down this dead end road a millionth time.

I remember exactly when the downward spiral began. It was the first time I’d missed a post since recommitting myself to the blog back in February. It was a big deal to me and in my mind, it proved that I could not be committed or driven enough to accomplish anything. It shouted and reverberated throughout my entire being that no matter my efforts, I will always circle right back around to who I’ve always been. And that’s when I said

Forget it then, I’ll just stop trying.

One mistake sucked me into a black hole of psychological abuse toward myself. It should not have been that catastrophic, but because it was, that tells me that there’s more. I don’t think I actually believe I can be different. I didn’t realize that truth until just now. Looking at the words staring back at me on the screen, I can’t deny it. Whenever I’m doing well: praying, reading my Bible, keeping up with my blog, making smart money choices,  I am proving to myself that I can change. And it feels good. until I mess up. Then it feels really bad.

I think maybe my mistake is that I don’t ask for God’s help often enough. For a long time, I went through this battle of understanding that I don’t have to prove myself to God. I could never make myself worthy of Him through deeds. Instead, it’s grace through His sacrifice that I fall on time and time again. I know that with absolute certainty and I live my life through that belief. But now I find myself trying to prove me to myself. As if life isn’t complicated enough. I only ask God to bless the outcomes of my goals, not the entire process. Like with my blog, I ask:

Dear God, I want to be dedicated to my blog, please help me.

There are smaller steps I need to be praying to God about concerning my dedication to the blog. For instance, if I know I have a busy week coming up and I’m not sure how I’m going to have time for the blog, I could pray and ask God to help me create time, give me the words to write and let them come effortlessly. That way, I’m being specific and I’m showing a constant need for God to help me in my endeavor. As opposed to praying for this colossal idea one time and expecting no hiccups.

Life is life and there will always be mistakes. But doing the wrong thing or making a mistake provides us with an opportunity to improve.


Reevaluate then Recalibrate.

Assess then Address.

I’m pretty much back on track, but I know I’ll eventually make another mistake. But the next time, I’m looking forward to it being an opportunity to improve and recalculate, not a self-bashing session.

I saw this commercial a few weeks ago and it stuck out to me. It’s a perfect ending to this piece.

What I Learned from “Moana” 

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I  saw the movie Moana four times in two days. I blame it on my three-year-old niece Journee, who not unlike any other toddler, never tires of watching the same thing over and over. And over again. To her defense and my hypocrisy, I do the exact same thing. I’ve seen Aladdin at least a hundred times. Usually, I’m knocking down theater doors to catch the latest animated film,  but Moana didn’t pique my interest like usual. The storyline didn’t draw me in the way other Disney movies did and…fine, I’ll just say it: I felt like we had already done the Hawaiian thing with Lilo and Stitch so it seemed a little been there done that-ish. I know, I’m sorry.

After being practically forced to watch Moana, I set aside my preconceived notions and gave the movie a fair chance and I can honestly say, it wasn’t my favorite. The whole demi-god deal was different in a way that didn’t quite suit me. And then the songs weren’t as up to par as I expect from Disney- I know I’m in the minority on that one. What I did love about Moana though, was the out of this world CGI cinematography. It was everything: colorful, exuberant, and breathtakingly real. I swear, I thought I could walk right through my television screen and onto the warm sands of Motunui. For that reason alone, I’d be willing to watch Moana a fifth time.

Just because I didn’t like the movie all that much, doesn’t mean there was no takeaway. There’s always a lesson to be learned. Moana’s journey was both inspiring and relatable. One that we all face in a way. Deciding to choose our destiny despite how hopeless the odds appear, is a battle we must all face. Moana made me feel capable. Like whatever it is I’m supposed to do, I can do it.

Moana left an impression of confidence, resilience, and courage on this 27-year-old heart. There were three lessons in particular that resonated with me.

Ready?

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Running from or ignoring the truth won’t make it any less real. Moana’s father did everything in his power to stop her from embarking on a Journey he knew would be dangerous. Even after he saw the effects of the curse beginning to infect the island, he held on to stubborn fear. He pretended that all the signs were coincidental and not a derivative. Blinded by fright, he chose to ignore it. But the burden of the curse did not lighten because he pretended it didn’t exist. If anything, he further encouraged it by being complacent and unacting. It was able to spread more rapidly because there was no resistance to it. Our problems don’t dissolve just because we don’t face them. Unacknowledged, they fester.

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Do it scared. I loved Moana’s courage. She knew she had to fulfill her destiny of restoring the heart of Te Fiti. She didn’t know exactly how or what to do, but she went anyway. She had no idea where to find Maui, yet she found him. What we often fail to realize is that the answers are within the journey, not before it. We spend a lot of time worrying and being apprehensive about trying to gather all the tools we need before we embark. Some tools, we simply acquire along the way. So, so what because we don’t have a military like plan on how to fulfill our purpose. Jump anyway. Leap nonetheless. We’ll do it scared if we have to, so long as we do it.

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What we do affects others. Because Moana was courageous enough to war against fear, her entire island was saved. Our society preaches a lot about self-love, but I think it’s truly about loving others. Finding ourselves in others. Learning to embrace those that are broken so that we may also allow ourselves to be embraced beyond our faults. And yes, I do believe that it is possible to love others without first loving yourself. When we do for others, it allows us to see an entire community within ourselves. What we do matters to others. How we live our lives today sets precedence for future generations. Many times dreams and purposes go unfulfilled because we lack confidence in ourselves. But say we were to shift the focus onto others and how us accomplishing our goals will have a positive impact on them. How different a place this might be.

XXVII

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A woman’s age is one of her best-kept secrets. It’s a powerful weapon with the ability to be either an ally or an enemy. Revealing this most sacred information can have irreversible effects. It can clothe a woman in wisdom and knowledge just as easily as it can strip her of beauty and youth. It may impress upon people the idea that she doesn’t know what she wants or take her beliefs and dreams for folly.

Stuffing a woman into a box of characteristics based on her age is an archaic adage as simple-minded and ridiculous as the notion currently impeding my celebratory spirit.

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I turned 27 yesterday, which means I’m a year closer to my dreaded 30th. I guess every birthday has put me a little closer to it, but now I can feel it. Like air coated thick with the call of springtime showers, I can smell it, and it’s too close.

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In three years time, 30 years of age will be asking me what I’ve done with my life for the past three decades.

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My fear is that I’ll have no answer. At least none that will live up to the pedestal I’ve placed this stupid number on. I’ve no idea where I developed this ridiculous notion that I have to have all my ish together by 30. I honestly don’t think that we as human beings ever get our crap together completely, but there’s no harm in trying.

Or is there?

I started preparing for 30 after I turned 25. And to an extent, it’s fine that I’m working toward stabilizing myself for the future, but when does it become too much? Because- and I don’t mean to be morbid- but the length of my future could be tomorrow. I’ve had an incredible life so far, not without its highs and lows of course, but a pretty decent life. Yet there’s a lot that I skip out on because I choose to work so that I can be debt free by 30. I’d be really pissed if something happened to me before then and I missed out on that trip to Venice or the experience of skydiving. They key is to balance my responsibilities while still allowing myself to enjoy life.

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My birthday advice to myself would be to take it easy. Enjoy what you have in the moments you have it because nothing is forever. Do for others. Keep smiling. Continue saving. Have patience. Trust God. Enjoy life. Be 27. 30 will come, and when it does, you’ll be ready. And that doesn’t necessarily mean everything will turn out as you imagine. It simply means that it will be okay nonetheless. 

Song of the Week, “What the World Needs Now,” by Jackie DeShannon

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Music can be like deja vu. I heard this song over the weekend after watching “Boss Baby,” for the second night in a row. Like second nature, the words came out. I didn’t remember where I’d heard the song, but there was a striking familiarity. It’s a pretty popular song, but somehow, not one I (consciously) hear very often.

There are quite a few renditions of this song. I went with Jackie’s recording because it’s the original, but I’m listening to Burt Bacharac’s version now and thinking maybe I made a mistake. But that’s beside the point.

I chose this song this week because it’s true. We need more love. We work so hard toward success and riches, but not nearly as committed to working toward loving one another. 

My favorite line of this song

What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

For everyone.

That means the people who don’t appear to be deserving of love, also need it. 

Are we really Praying?

The headlines didn’t sink in right away. I thought here we go again and went about my day. As the evening progressed, chatter regarding the incident grew and it was only then that I began to understand the gravity of the situation. I finally pulled up CNN and read for myself what had occurred in Manchester.

Even after I fully comprehended the devastation of the bombing, I still felt hollow. The only word I could think of was more. More death and more hate. More tragedies my heart cannot bear to contain.

At times I am so overwrought with despair at the ceaseless death and destruction swallowing our world that I don’t allow the painful realities to sink in. An embarrassing and selfish admission, yet true. If I did, I fear I’d never be happy again. So I force myself to forget. I sometimes forget that my aunt passed away a few months ago or that my best friend’s dad has cancer. I forget that suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents, that there are terrorists who kill innocent people, and that human trafficking is a $32 billion per year industry.

I’ve seen the tweets of people proclaiming solidarity, the thinking of Manchester statuses on social media, the pictures and stories remembering those who perished, but what I’ve come across most are those who claim to be praying for Manchester.

It all appears very hopeful on the surface. It makes us each feel good inside to step out of our own lives to offer condolences and prayers to those affected by this horrific event.

But are we really praying?

I lost my brother almost three years ago. I still remember all the people who came to my parent’s house to console us. I’m sorry they all said. Which I’ve no doubt they were, but those two words peeved me to no end. What were they sorry for, they hadn’t taken his life. Moreover, their apologies could not bring him back. What irked me most was that I felt they were saying sorry partly out of obligation. Because that’s what’s you’re supposed to say when someone dies.

My pain that day was too real to have been blanketed by social formalities.

The day following John’s funeral, my best friend’s family was throwing a 90th birthday party for her grandmother. In an effort to get back into the swing of normalcy, I went. I arrived before the party started to help out. I’ll never forget, the moment Cherise ( my best friend Ashley’s cousin) saw me, she immediately enveloped me in an embrace. To this day, every time I recall that moment, it brings tears to my eyes. No words, just an embrace, filled with strength, safety, empathy, reassurance that it would be okay, and love. It was one of the only times I felt understood regarding my brother’s death.

I wish with all my might that I could pass that embrace along to Manchester right now. But the truth is, I’m not as certain as Cherise was that everything is going to be okay. I feel powerless because I know that in the next few months, I’ll be reading the same headline about a different city.

To answer my own question, no, I’ve not been praying for Manchester.

Did I say a little two minute prayer asking God to provide peace to the families of those lost and that He would cover them with His love? Yes, of course I did. And indeed I meant it. But to think that that was enough is a shame. We need to be falling on our faces in prayer, begging in desperation for peace in our world. Saying one little obligatory prayer simply will not do.

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Remember when King David’s son fell ill? He did not eat or bathe. He spent his nights on the ground pleading with God to heal his son.

That is the type of prayer we need to be submitting ourselves to. And I don’t mean literally (although, if you feel God leading you to fast, so be it), but we need to be tenacious in our prayers.

Part of the problem is that we don’t actually believe our prayers have power. Some of us aren’t even sure who we’re praying to. How then, can we be meaningful and confident in our prayers when we’ve no belief?

We’re in this religious limbo where everyone wants to be free and send their good energy out into the universe because they don’t want to be bogged down by the burden of religion. That’s another post entirely, but what’s interesting is that no one prays to the universe in times of tragedy.

There’s no hope in disbelief, and there’s no faith without hope. What then, is the point of our prayers?

That’s just it. They’re not prayers as much as they are empty words that temporarily make us feel better.

Guys, we have to wake up. We have to make decisions about what we believe. We have to have a spiritual foundation. Deep down, we know that we cannot take the evil out of this world on our own.

Because really, without God, what hope do we have to offer those affected by this horrific event?

To Manchester:

I am sorry. I’m sorry that my prayer for you wasn’t fueled by complete faith. I’m sorry that I only prayed once. I apologize that I’m not sorry enough to do more. I’m sorry that I can’t possibly imagine what you must be going through. If I truly did, I’d still be praying now. I’m sorry that this world is filled with a despair so deep that hope, at times feels impossible. Please forgive me for my perfunctory handling of this devastation.

If you would allow me to try again, I would like to say most sincerely, with all my faith behind me, I am actually praying to God for you Manchester.

Stay strong in Him,

Celestial