How We Love

The world we live in

So dark and gray

Unlike what I was used to growing up

Neighbors looking at each other

With judgement and disdain

Families divided, separated

Who they are is not enough

 

Whether it’s the skin you’re in

Or the way you pray

Language and heritage

Walking or wheelchair bound

Recovering or running around

 

Can we pause for a minute?

Strip away the signs and speakers

Deep down we’re afraid of change 

What we can’t control

“This is the way it’s always been”

Excusing without seeking to understand what it means to be human

On this side of heaven

 

But what does love look like in such a divisive time?

Love includes

Building kingdoms over castles

Discomfort, not distraction

Grace on the ground level

Freedom over inconvenience

 

To be love is to be a light

A light that shines not just for one community, but for all

Lighting the way for building bridges instead of walls

Not relying on power, but promise

Promise of hope, joy, and contentment

A foundation that can be trusted

 

Without pain, there is no fuel to produce light

The purpose of the hard seasons

Where love is rooted, and growth can occur

To give

To broaden perspective

And deepen

 

A lack of love is a lust for power

And power benefits from poverty

But such does not make one a real man or woman

It just makes you blind

Stunting in body and heart

And without a growing heart

One cannot love at all

Inspired by this recent but timeless message.

Reason’s Voice

 

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Reason’s Voice

I’m often overwhelmed

By the division before my eyes

Shouting and yelling all around

An expectation that I must take a side

 

Trying to observe and comprehend

A lot of what I don’t understand

Gender, faith, race, politics

It goes over my head

Like a ball too-high in the air

 

And so I sit quietly

Not without an opinion

But without proper argument

Not know what research to trust

Or having a way to fully wrap my mind around it

 

But what is arguing if it doesn’t lead anywhere worth going?

Nowhere but the same circle

Without broadening ways of thinking

Considering the different experiences

And acknowledging a lack of insight as a result

 

Like being in a cartoon

When everyone else around you squabbles in a big crowd

For the same prize

Being right

Having all the answers

And I’m trying to keep my head above it

Choosing to hear different viewpoints, different ways

Without judgement

For I do not wear their shoes

Some ideas might be misguided, but they’re no less valid

Whether or not I agree

 

I want to be a voice

A calm voice

Without screaming and shouting

Demanding action

Yet not like a child demands a favorite toy

I want to speak not for those, but with them

As I seek to understand various angles and perspectives

Because I do not believe in an “us versus them”

It’s not about winning, but about seeing and listening

Finding middle ground

A place of rest

A voice of reason

 

Yet how to do that

While protecting my health

Mentally and emotionally

It’s exhausting and scary

The toll it takes

Is fighting cultural norms even worth it

If you lose yourself in the process?

 

Anger should motivate, but not consume

Passion for a cause should lead to real change, not violence

Get up, but don’t get dirty

Be fierce, without inciting fear

For that is where monsters feed

And I refuse to be one

Photo Credit

Body Wars (And Peace)

It’s that time of year again; the time where a lot of us look in the mirror and analyze every inch of our reflection. Whether it starts on New Years or a month before spring break, we stare, we scrutinize, and we tell ourselves that it’s a matter of practicing good posture or actually sticking to doing those fifty crunches that we were told would make our stomach’s flatter in six months. Soon enough, that all-too familiar voice chimes in and gets louder by the minute; it sounds like nothing yet comes from everything around us, from the media to even friends and family.

 
You are too much of this, and not enough of that.
 
Growing up, I never dealt with any major weight-related issues, unless you count the time period when I was an infant and had to gain four pounds in order to go home from the hospital. My grandmother affectionately nicknamed me her “Bag O’ Bones”, because of my lack of body fat. Some will argue that I’ve had it easy, and I won’t deny that in some respects that’s true. I was, and always have been fairly active person, especially coming from a family of athletes. My fast metabolism and a liking for healthy meals early on in life have definitely helped as well. When I went to college I avoided the freshman fifteen by long walks around campus a lot (rather than taking the bus) and learning how to make decent food choices. 
 
Yet somewhere in there at least one person would make some sort of comment about my figure: 
 
“You’re too skinny!” 
 
“You need to eat more!”
 
“Why do you even work out? It’s not like you need it.” 
 
“We’re going to fatten you up when you get home.”


It’s as frustrating now as it was back then, given that I’m constantly taking care of myself to the best of my ability. I’m well aware of my eating and exercise habits, along what works for me and what doesn’t. But it’s not so much the remarks in themselves that I find annoying as much as whom those words are coming from; it’s sad when those who should be encouraging you to love and accept yourself are the ones trying to convince you that you’re somehow not healthy.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t genuine concern, but there are better ways to go about the conversation than making snarky comments or dropping hints.

Maybe it wasn’t even about me, but more so about people projecting their personal insecurities onto me.

With developments in technology over the years and the fact that more are now openly discussing the subject, dealing with body image and what’s healthy versus what isn’t can be complex. New studies regarding what to eat and what to avoid are being released all the time and it’s constantly sending people into a tizzy. There’s a love/hate relationship for Victoria’s Secret and “Fitsporation” on Pinterest, while celebrities are being glorified or attacked all the time getting older or having babies. A lot of popular music urges people to celebrate who they are, but not without undermining others by referring to them as “skinny bitches.”

Do we really have to look at one side as the enemy in order to embrace the other? It seems exhausting and completely unnecessary.

While I was training for my first 5K race last spring, I went to a health specialist at the my University’s rec center to make sure that I was doing the proper preparation. Not only was she incredibly helpful, but it was nice to hear that I wasn’t necessarily doing anything wrong as it was. She explained that because I’m living with Cerebral Palsy, it’s perfectly normal that I have a slightly different diet and exercise routine. And as I went about my days getting ready for my upcoming run, I noticed a change in how I felt because I ate certain foods or focused on specific exercises. As I type this, I’m recalling a line from a commercial that I saw on TV a long time ago; it’s been well over a decade, but the message is still relevant now as it was fifteen years prior.

“It doesn’t only matter what you look like, but what you feel like.”

It really comes down to this: Pay attention to how you feel while and after you’re doing something, and that goes for both workouts and food. I like  to involve lots of cardio and movement, where I’m aching by the time I’m done. I’m not one for a ton of greasy or heavy food because they both make my stomach hurt. And in terms of how I eat I’m much more of a grazer throughout the day as opposed to eating three big meals at designated times.

No one body is exactly the same, so I don’t think you can determine whether someone is living a healthy life based on looking at them. Yes, this country has problems with both obesity and eating disorders, but how one navigates that is not exactly black and white. I get the reasoning behind some countries banning models who don’t meet a specific BMI requirement, but who’s to say that they’re always in control of that? It’s kind of insulting to those who do struggle with such life-threatening conditions, because there are other factors that go into it besides dramatic weight loss. As I said previously, if the signs do indicate that something isn’t right, there are more genuine and loving ways to discuss the subject then just demanding that they eat.

But there are times where body acceptance does not just involve clothing size or weight.  For me, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m fairly petite for someone my age and am done growing. I have moments where I absolutely hate it because it’s difficult to find shoes that fit, while tops and swimsuits can be a struggle because the straps don’t stay up a lot of the time. I know that some aspects of sex are not going to be easy (at least at first), and while that might be awkward to read, it’s important for me to think about as I determine what I want in my life and who I want to surround myself with. I’m an adult now, and even not everyone understands that, I have to choose what’s best for me.


Just as choosing to make lifestyle changes is honorable, so is choosing to accept things as they are, as long as that person is doing so in a safe way and for the right reasons. As much as I wish women would stop complaining about getting back to their pre-pregnancy bodies (or struggling after a certain age), I have no room to comment because I have not been down that road. As much as I wish that some of my family members would exercise or that others would stop smoking, I can’t force them to do it. I believe in leading by example, but not in the way that we shame or blame others if they choose not to follow. 

I hope one day that we’ll realize that our bodies are not the enemy. Food is not the enemy. Instead, it is that false, monotone voice that spits out unrealistic expectations without experiencing real life. It speaks out of fear, rather than speaking from a place of love. That’s where I’ve found peace; knowing that I am what I am because I’m a human being and a child of God. I don’t need anything else to define my worth.

I’m ready to put my weapons down.



 

 

photo credit: Tell me that you’ll open your eyes via photopin (license)

Dreaming In Adversity

For those who dream to create, and for those who dream to create change.

Dreaming In Adversity

With a spark it starts
In the heart of those who those
Who see beyond their tired hands
The hands that have built fences of tradition
At best
Oppression at worst
With a vision it begins
Colors of possibility dancing on a blank canvas
Words of hope and faith darting across blank pages
The whisper of change runs through
Cracked walls, lifeless trees, and stale, bitter air
There is something more than just what you know
And the voice(s) rise
Getting louder as passion and urgency collide
Intertwining with a calling and creativity
Speak! Some say
Stand Up! Some respond
Follow, and then live

But

Chains remain
The chains of insecurity
And fear of not being enough
Of defeat
That weightless feeling in one’s stomach
In the midst of a freefall
Surrounded by the wind that screams
“This is the way it has always been!”
“Who are you to dare?”
But dare one shall to dream
If it means becoming
Creating what others couldn’t
Worthless! Useless! Failure!
The world points an unclean finger
Shooting flames of adversity
Jump, duck, run
Keep walking
For who can measure the strength of the tenacious spirit
Given by God to fight when needed?
Fight not to kill or win
But to claim and proclaim the gift of life
Because each one life matters
Walk through hell to get to heaven
Rest, be still, and know peace
If only in mind and not on streets
This is our victory

This is how we dream in adversity

photo credit: BdwayDiva1 via photopin cc

Reverb: A Final Reflection


We’re a couple of days into a brand new year, and I can’t say that I’m sorry to see the previous one go. Reverb13 has come to an end, and within this next week I hope to be back to my regular blogging routine. That being said, I have a few final thoughts that I’d like to share. 

This go-around was very interesting; instead of following one particular website or blog that was hosting, I would pick prompts from different blogs, sometimes finding ways to make them my own. I didn’t write every single day (which usually is the case each year) but I frequently found myself going days or even a full week without posting something. At first I thought it was because I was stuck in some kind of rut or experiencing writers block; but the truth is, this year has been filled with so much emotion and major ups and downs that the thought of blogging about it was almost too overwhelming. I definitely wrote about it, but did so within the private pages of my journal or in essay form that I only allowed certain people to read. With so many unknowns and what-if’s, I simply thought it best not to share at this time, and that’s OK. 

Looking back on both my public and private writings, I can only sum up the past year as the year of coming undone. The year that what I thought I knew about myself, my family, and my life began to unravel; not necessarily in a way that was bad, it just gave me the opportunity to look at those aspects with a more mature attitude. It forced me to confront how often I tend to idolize or romanticize things, rather than view them for what they ultimately and truly are: imperfect. Imperfect, but still beautiful and worth appreciating. 

As I ponder and pray about my own resolution for 2014, I can’t come up with one singular word that encompasses what I envision. Instead, I’d like to think of it as a cluster: multiple words that point to the same thing. 

Hope

Surrender

New Beginnings

These are the three words, the cluster that comes to mind as I look ahead. 

Hope in what I cannot see. Putting my hope and faith in God alone. Building a firm foundation as I transition from one chapter to the next, so even in the times of instability and not knowing, I can rest in the fact that I have my faith. 

Surrender what I can’t control. I’m not going to sit back and let everything just happen; with that mindset, I wouldn’t get anywhere in life. There has to be an effort on my part. That being said, I’ve realized just how important it is to understand that getting there will not be easy. I may reach my end-goal and/or get what I want, but it will most likely be full of unexpected setbacks, detours, and changes. And it’s easier to deal with all of that when I stop trying to control what isn’t mine to control in the first place. It’s trusting in the One that is greater than myself to put all the little pieces together as opposed to trying to force it all to come together on my own. 

New Beginnings are what I have to create for myself, and I’m even more aware of that now than I was in high school or middle school. I don’t have to carry my past with me and I can break this dysfunctional cycle that I’ve been trapped in for years. I feel like a lion that’s been in hibernation and will probably come out roaring. But what I’m trying to get at here is that we all have a chance to do things differently and perhaps do something great: you just have to be willing to start walking, and keep going regardless of how hard or scary it gets. 

Despite the setbacks and roadblocks, 2013 was a great year for writing, growth, and connection. I have a feeling that it will only get better from here on out!


Stepping In Tragedy

Today marks the beginning of Reverb13, an annual journey that focuses on reflecting on the past year and anticipating what is to come. This is my third year involved in the project, and I can’t wait to share all that I have experienced, learned, and have grown in these last twelve months. Feel free to join me!

One event-something that happened outside of your community that either changed you, or at least impacted you. 




Bits and pieces first started streaming in through Twitter with the hashtag “Boston Marathon.” I remember watching General Hospital in my apartment and being annoyed at how it had been interrupted by an ABC News Brief, where reporters said that there had been some kind of bombing during race. Camera crews showed medical teams and smoke and various forms of chaos. Immediately I could only think “Oh God, not again!” as Newton and Sandy Hook was still on the minds of many. But my thoughts were done from racing and my heart was far from hurting. 

Days passed and details kept pouring in; by Wednesday or Thursday I was also aware of the explosion in Waco, Texas. I’m pretty sure I was in a now-familiar fog that practically gets draped around me like a cloak whenever I hear bad news. I began texting anyone and everyone that I knew, friends or family; they were basically variations of “I love you.” Most vividly was the one I sent to my dad, where we both agreed that this particular expression was not used enough between the two of us. I listened to “Hole In The World” by The Eagles several times over, which was actually written in reflection of September 11th. The question of what’s next? frequently came up in my thoughts. 

It’s crazy to realize that nothing is truly safe anymore; that simply being in public poses some kind of threat of danger. I don’t recall what blog or article I read this in, but the author mentioned how several generations have been living in fear for the last decade or so. From Columbine to 9/11, to all that came afterward and in between, that fear has yet to ease. Now that I look back on it, something awful has happened (on a mass level) almost every single year since I was a freshman in high school. People raise their voices in justice, but it pains me to see that such devastation is now being accepted as something that is normal. 

And you know what? It shouldn’t be.

 Death is a part of life and everyone goes through it, this is unspeakable. Just because you’re angry at the world does not mean that some people in it deserve to have their lives taken, and in a gruesome manner on top of that. But admittedly I don’t understand a whole lot regarding the debate on the gun control, so I’m not going to say a whole lot on that other than I think there is more to zero on than just banning weapons or iron handling who gets access to them. 

Somewhere in the midst of it all, it dawned on me that I didn’t want to wait until the end of the following year to mend broken relationships. I reached out. I wrote letters, one which is still sitting on my dresser because I can’t seem to find an opportunity to give it to him. I wanted to truly let go and just live, but its hard when those around you don’t see it the same way. 

That message would get louder as time went on. Louder and Louder, until it was the only thing I could (emotionally) hear. I don’t know what the answer is to all of this. I don’t know where we go from here. But there heart can only take so much, and I’m sure mine is not the only one that is tired of breaking of senseless acts of violence.

photo credit: drp via photopin cc

In The Cracks

Over spring break, a girl from my hometown passed away. She was the fifth person I knew of from the area that has died young in the last year and a half. Shortly after getting back to school, I learned that one of my former Girl Scout Troop leaders, as well as the mom of an old friend, had lost her battle with cancer. My TA for one of my classes then informed us that she had been diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer and that we wouldn’t be having a final exam. Nearly a week and a half later, the bombings in Boston happened. 

It has been a lot to take in, and I’ve started to wonder, how do we really go about not taking anything for granted in life? Is it possible to truly live and make the most of the moments that we have without ignoring personal pain? On one side, there’s the acronym made famous by a popular rapper. On the other, there’s the notion of having an “eternal mindset.” Instead of trying to explain it all, I’ll just let the poem do the talking. 

In The Cracks

Bombs flying
Buildings collapsing
She says she’s got cancer and the other is one breath away
From the other side
It seems like the world has been brought to its knees once again
And as much as I don’t want to ask what the hell or why
Together it doesn’t make sense
The short span of time
And so I’ve realized that real life
Is not just short, but precious
Like grains of sand coursing through my fingers
The question then becomes
How do you hold on when something moves so fast?
Which side do you choose when you’re standing in the cracks?
The side where the rocks are always moving
And you’re slipping and sliding
Living for the thrill of the unexpected adventure
Maybe not always doing everything right
But trusting God to guide you
Then there’s the smoothest path
The one without any roots to get stuck in
You never get scraped, or bruised, or burned
You just simply watch from the cracks
I don’t want to live by a silly acronym
Or wait till Jesus comes back
Is it possible to live for the moment, to not have any regrets?
At least without betraying beliefs
I’m not sure and I probably won’t ever be
And that’s OK

It’s silly to wait another five decades to live like I have nothing to lose
And spend time caring about what other people think
Love, forgive, and accept Grace
Inhibitions will not keep me at bay
Others opinions will not change my mind
If I’m that determined to accomplish a goal or get something done
I’m not going to stop until all the doors have been closed
Maybe we’re not always supposed to know what to do
Or how to do it
Maybe the most beautiful things can only be seen
When we end up in the cracks 

Stream of Consciousness

I have to leave for class in a little bit. Thankfully, I’m not as tired (well, more like exhausted) as I was a couple of days ago. It’s amazing how productive I can be when both my mind and body aren’t begging for a decent night of sleep.

 I’m now just easing out of the whirlwind which was these last two weeks. So much has happened, both in terms of events and emotions that it is still taking some time for my head to stop wobbling and to put my priorities back in order. There are so many things that I want to write about, from the perks and cautionary tales of being twenty-one to my whole view on Beyonce and the Superbowl. Yes it might be a little bit late to add my bit into the discussion about certain topics, but I’ve been so busy with school work that it was hard to find time to write about them; especially when those thoughts tend to be lengthy at most. However, I’m looking forward to being able to articulate all of it as time goes on.

If I’m being honest though, it did leave me with a “where do I go from here?” feeling. Not that I don’t have anything to look forward to, but I’m not entirely sure what’s going to come next, either. 

But maybe that’s a good thing, because I’m not putting my hope in what isn’t guaranteed to happen. Sometimes it’s better to have faith than to have a plan. And almost always, it’s better to have faith in God than in your circumstances 

Again, I will elaborate more on these subjects as time goes on. I just wanted to let everyone know that I haven’t disappeared. Thanks for reading!