to set tle

is to excuse

time

away from the table before

it

has finished    eating.

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The Velveteen rabbit & the E a s t e r bunny

As a child during the awaited Easter season, the hunt for colorful eggs left by some esoteric rabbit was always an exciting plot twist in the Resurrection of Jesus. Yet, unlike most children, I always preyed on the real eggs vs the fake ones packed full of sugar-coated candies.

I remember rummaging for as many of those hard-boiled canvases as I could find while my siblings and cousins bolted for the shiny plastic ones. Maybe it was the creation process, turning them from eggs into art, or maybe it was the treasure in finding colors that plastic-makers couldn’t touch. Whatever it was, I always found myself on the slate-grey steps of my grandmother’s porch trading my plastic eggs for the hard-boiled ones of my competitors. Later, I would take my precious cargo into the living room and sit atop a very enveloping black bean bag, peeling one after another and devouring as many as my belly would let me. Art never tasted so good.

So what was it about the real eggs vs the tantalizing sugar I could have participated in had I taken a fancy to those fake eggs?

I didn’t know it then but now I truly understand the value and the goodness of the real things in life versus the seemingly real things in life versus the not-so-real things. It sounds simple and agreeable, yet there’s so much biding for our attention, so much that enters into the rooms of our hearts and begins rearranging the furniture in there-sometimes even motivating us to toss the good pieces out. We find ourselves so quickly and so effortlessly distracted by the sugar-coated plot twists in life which usually leave us empty and sick and craving more.

I don’t know about you but I know about me and I want the real things. I want real love- the kind where I love someone more than I love myself and the other way around, where love grows beyond that “in-love” feeling into a forest of commitment and security, that even and especially on the days when I don’t feel like loving this person, I still choose to by my actions and with my words, and that I make the choice to eternally do so every single day.
I want real friendships where we truly see one another and hear one another. Where sharing the deepest, most real pockets of ourselves pulls others in and we build not just a forest but a city, a country, a world of vulnerability, of real.
I want work that I really love, that I believe in, that’s true and that propels good into the world. I want to make real art and not attempt cheap tricks to get people to like me or to win some lacking approval.
And I want a real God. One that entered my humanity, Who has endured my suffering and can empathize in my pain. One who has experienced insurmountable joy and Who shares it freely with me. One Whose patience astounds me and Whose grace overwhelms me. A God that would do anything for me and has proved that through the immeasurable sacrifice of a cross, through love. A God Who I don’t have to work to obtain love or approval from but Who unleashes it and lavishes me with it every day. A God who chooses me every single day whether I choose Him or not.

“It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 

Getting a sugar rush from a fleeting moment in time leaves you longing for more but sitting in the waiting room for the birth of something ever-lasting is fulfilling and makes us whole. It makes us real. Don’t settle; wait and fight for and pursue what is real.

Hip Hop Hippy to the Hop you don’t stop… but really you should S T O P

I recently took an Uber home for the first time tonight and neither the driver nor I wanted to talk so we turned the radio on instead. Within two minutes I felt that same wave of awkwardness we all experienced while watching Pretty Woman with our parents (I know I’m not the only one.)

Dos Cadenas, clothes are genius,
sold out arenas you can suck my ______.
Boat or jet what do you expect
her _____ so good I bought her a pet.

I won’t fill in the blanks for you although if you aren’t able to do so yourself I envy you. (Ignorance is bliss, am I right?) Clearly there’s a very different message the music industry wants to make sure we all hear and due to its power and influence, hip-hop has been the targeted medium for this. What happened to the culture of hip hop that was predominantly used as a platform for artistic humanitarians? What happened to the many voices that brought truth and sobriety to the many ears that heard it, where minds were awakened and lyrics were like flashlights leading to truth? Instead of lyrics that bring awareness or healing to a people, our minds are being assaulted with violence, perversion and aggression. Each time we move our hips to their hops we are metaphorically spreading our legs and asking for it.

Dancing began as an act of celebration so every time we dance to lyrics filled with violence, perversion and aggression we’re celebrating them. Every time we move our bodies along to these beats we make an agreement between ourselves and the music, whether or not we would actually agree with the song were we to truly listen. I want to make it very clear: I am not against hip-hop. This article does not come from a small, white, Midwest girl who thinks hip-hop is evil and that it should be eliminated from the music industry. To clarify, this comes from a small, white Midwest girl who respects hip-hop, who understands as much as she can in her small white-girl body how influential it is, how intentional it is, how powerful it is. It is because of hip-hop’s power and influence that I believe it has been targeted and purposed for darkness. I believe it’s why we find that more so than in any other music genre, hip hop is so inundated with perverse lyrics that do not empower and do not bring life but cut it out from our very veins.

I’d like to take a moment to rewind and reflect on the past state of the music industry, specifically hip-hop and the shape it has taken from whence it came. I’m not going to refer so far back as James Brown, the godfather of soul, because I realize one might argue that times have changed and the music industry is only reflecting that (a sentiment I do not disagree with, I only wish the reflection weren’t so dark). One name, two words: Tupac Shakur. A force not just in the hip-hop culture, but world-wide. His influence spanned beyond continents. Tupac’s talent was unmatched and his gift with words was undeniable. Below is a sample of lyrics from his song

Keep Ya Head Up

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up.

These lyrics are clear to me and I am not distracted by the violent mention of anatomy because there isn’t any. There is nothing overtly sexual that causes me to resent the fact that I am not deaf. On the contrary, it is a message that brings awareness to the violence against  women and also uplifts us, that though this is a man-made and male-dominated world, women are absolutely necessary in it. These are lyrics that carry life and are words I would be willing to move my body to (ie dancing). It is a powerful call to men for upholding the lives of females, to treat us well because we are of great value; a necessary and positive reminder for our society and culture. Sadly, these lyrics are few and far between- a  s t a r k  contrast to what we find on the radio today.

I challenge us to really take a listen to the beats we think we’re just dancing along to at the club that don’t mean anything or the ones that come on the radio with the catchy melody we sing aloud to. We must be aware of what we’re singing along with and what our bodies are celebrating because if it’s true that words bring life then it must also be true that they can do the very opposite. Sprinkled with subtle words of violence, perversion and anger, if we are not careful these songs and words will begin to form an anthem inside of us and a rhythm we start to live by that we would have never consciously claimed over our lives. If we continue to listen and allow the words in, they will consume us and we will start to reflect the darkness that bides to blot out the light.

And I still say long live hip hop. Long live the James Browns and the Tupacs of the world. As far as Mr. Derulo is concerned, (and anyone else who assimilates being a woman with being a female dog and who also believes that female anatomy is for violently rapping about over sweet-sounding hip-hop tracks), please leave the music industry and volunteer at a battered women’s shelter for a minimum of one year then come back and sing for us. I bet you’ll really have something to say and something we all need to hear.

The W O N D E R Years

As children, wonder wasn’t just easy; our way of thinking was to wonder about everything around us, it was our natural thought flow. We were affluent in wonder. Yet now that we are adults we have responsibilities, disappointments and failures that have hardened us. We no longer live in a world where the floors are made of lava and we jump from couch cushion to couch cushion to save ourselves before bedtime or make up friends when we find ourselves without any. We now live in the real world where just getting out of bed in the morning can sometimes be a struggle and making friends can feel like a part-time job.

To wonder as an adult is a daily battle. 

Author and Pastor Rob Bell says this about wonder: “At some deep level, whether from loss or expectations that were never fulfilled, we lost the ability to be surprised, to be filled with wonder and awe. Life has a way of beating it out of us and while we all want to be successful, what we really want is awe and wonder. That’s our real desire. To experience this awe as an adult we must become like children. 

While there is truth in what Bell shares, I do disagree in that I don’t think our ability to wonder is lost so much as it has been misplaced. We seem to have hung it on the coat rack of our childhood before walking out the door but we must make our way back to her, we must return to her and cloak ourselves in her curiosity once more. It begins with a choice and works a lot like love. You choose it. After the thrill is gone, you choose to be thrilled; when beauty seems to fade you fight to continue to see it. It takes a conscious effort to decide that something is still what it once was when you first experienced it. I think it also takes an absorbent amount of positivity.

Don’t just see the glass half full, wonder about the waterfall it came from.

I think wonder is always within us, resting in humankind. Though, if not used and put into motion, it expires and becomes something very different. Enter, doubt. Maybe doubt occurs through wonder when unused, un-sourced and un-tapped. Maybe it happens when we choose to respond to the surprises in life with shock, the beauty surrounding us with a mere shrug of our shoulders. Or perhaps it’s as subtle as staring at the blocks of cement below our feet ignoring wonders call, pushing it further and further away from us. Simply choosing to look up invites the possibility of wonder.

When we choose to exercise doubt we disregard awe.

Push the pause button on doubt. Stop doubting yourself and the world around you. Begin wondering and allow yourself to rediscover. Choose to make the familiar unfamiliar. If you’ve become bored with your city, go on a walk in an area you haven’t spent a lot of time in. Observe the landscape and architecture while pondering the history that lay beneath your feet. If you’ve worked at the same job for years, walk in tomorrow and meet someone new. Really ask about their lives, wonder about who they are and the path that lead them here, next to you. Or if you work alone, the next time you’re at the grocery store ask the clerk how his day is going and if he knows what his name means. Invite others to wonder with you.

Wondering will make you a better human.

Bell does us a favor by reminding us to be more child-like. Children accept what they see and they trust their experience. There’s a wonderment we witness in every child who sees the ocean for the first time or lets a ladybug crawl up their arm. There is a newness that takes place within them and it trickles off onto the rest of us watching. Become like a child; children don’t doubt they experience. Put on new eyes every morning and try making every day your first day allowing those around you to watch. And if you still find yourself struggling with wonder, try hanging out with a child and experience the world through their eyes for a day.

As I contemplate the cosmos and the possibility that all of it was made with love for all of us, perhaps the wonder we experience in seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting is merely our response to that love. Perhaps wonder and love are in conversation with one another and are not separate experiences. Maybe wonder is simply our response to the beauty that surrounds us in this world.

Stephen Hawking reminds us to “look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist, be curious.” Look up. 

Creation is calling, what will your response be?

M a s Q u e r a d e

Paper faces on parade! Hide your face so the world will never find you.” – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera

I was rejected recently. I chose someone and I wasn’t chosen back. Then I decided to play dress up.

A year ago I called my mom about a guy and I never call my mother about boys. My sister received a text that read ‘it’s him’ and I spent way too long on the phone one afternoon with my best-friend debating whether or not to purchase the $1,500 Beholden wedding gown I had fallen in love with while browsing online. In my defense, the dress was on sale and it was the very last one in my size. Also in my defense, while it is not entirely uncommon for me to sporadically browse wedding dresses online, it’s never been done while I was dating someone.

(I promise.)

A month after he declared that he wanted to die with my hands covering his eyes (yes those were his exact words), he called to tell me that he just didn’t think he had met his wife yet.

OUCH.

After the phone call, I had conversation after conversation with mentor, friend (and coffee shop girl) and we whittled the situation down to a much more manageable dagger to pull out from my heart. The dude had a classic case: fear of commitment coupled with mommy issues that have caused a stunt in his growth and maturity. There. That should have made me feel better, right?
It didn’t.

While these things seemed to be true about him, I uncovered something more unsettling about myself. It was easier to call him out on the reasons he was incapable of seeing how awesome I was rather than face myself and my own struggle: I didn’t really believe I was awesome. BURN.

The truth is, when we are rejected by another we tend to use phrases like, “I guess he’s just not mature enough” or, “it’s cool, we aren’t really that compatible anyway” and these can certainly be valid. However, when used in the context of pain they are like masks we pull over ourselves to hide from the insecurities we have about ourselves.

Rejection is a great solvent to uncover what you really think about yourself.

We all take a step closer to the mirror after we’re rejected don’t we? We wonder what we did or said that was reason enough for the other person to end things with us. It can be as ridiculous as “It’s my bangs. He’s not a bangs kind of guy…I shouldn’t have cut them” or as profound as “I need to really conquer this people-pleasing obsession I have, I see how this was destructive to the relationship”.  The latter makes us better. The former is where we get muddied because the reality is, we wouldn’t even bother going to the mirror if we really believed what we tell ourselves when things do end. We wouldn’t wonder what we did or said if the reason things ended really were due to his immaturity or her lack of compatibility and not an absence of our own self-confidence.

And the masks are quite useful. They work just like they’re supposed to: saving face; keeping us from looking foolish for having had faith in the possibility that this human was our forever just before we were put into the “sister”/”brother” zone. They’ve also got a great numbing property against the inevitable notion that creeps into all of our brains after rejection occurs; we aren’t good enough and we have nothing to offer someone. But numbing is just a form of coping and coping is just another way of getting by. As purposed bodies on this planet we should not merely be living to get by, we should be flourishing. A plant will not grow if, through the dirt, it cannot catch sunlight just as we will not grow if, through our own dirt, we cannot.

You need to hear this and you need to begin to believe it: 

You  are  e n o u g h.

Regardless of your dirt, you are enough. Regardless of your past and the battle wounds you wear, YOU ARE ENOUGH. Let this be your sunlight. If someone does not choose you, let it have nothing to do with you unless it propels positivity in becoming a better human. Though painful, rejection should not have the adverse affect and if it does, question your choice not yourself.

The reality is that every time we pull on one of these masks we bury our pain and build up walls. Walls are much harder to climb than keeping an open doorway so that it can be entered by the right person.
I submit to you and encourage you, take off your mask. Let authenticity be your guide through not only the rejections of life, but also the ratifications. Acknowledge the power that your heart creates in making a (wise) decision whether it is reciprocated or not. If it is not reciprocated (nor wise) learn something about that decision- what does your choice say about you?

Know that you are worth it, believe that you are enough and allow yourself to learn things that can better help you navigate that next road with someone.

On the V e r g e

“I’m happier in my thirties. I feel clearer about who I am and less apologetic about it, and more accepting of my limitations and also more aware of the ways in which I’m capable. I was always looking forward to this time because people talk about it in very romantic terms. And I think it’s true. Gravity hasn’t had too profound of an effect, and you’re a little less emotionally gangly. The twenties are a deceptively challenging-slash-painful time. I’m just glad to be out of that phase.” -Claire Danes

I’ve been having a conversation with myself for some time now along with my many friends who are either on the verge of ending their twenties or who have already packed their boxes and moved out. This marks my very last month renting space here.

Unlike most twenty-somethings, I have absolutely no fear of entering my thirties. Without wishing my life away, I’m actually kind of aching to turn thirty. I’ve endured my twenties (endured being the operative word) and I’ve felt it to be less like the these-are-the-best-years-of-your-life-live-em-up idea I heard upon entering them, but rather like a second, more painful and more obvious puberty. In your twenties you’re more aware of yourself than you were in middle and high school when you first discovered what a “t-zone” was and the embarrassment you experienced when your parents dropped you off at school. Your twenties don’t graciously gift you the distraction of a class schedule, the luxury of hanging out in the hallway with your friends as you eye your crush leaning up against his locker or the math test that will end your world if you fail it. You are deceitfully free in your twenties; held hostage by not knowing how to make friends as they stop being given to you when you graduate, the quarter-life crisis of not knowing if you really do want to pursue a career in the major you so confidently (and recently) conquered, and when exactly you might be lucky enough to stumble upon that love and marriage thing everyone else around you seems to be doing. (I won’t even get started on the baby thing that follows.)
Yet, it’s supposed to be this epic epoch where parental and institutional authority no longer apply and you’re allowed to be selfish and foolish, even encouraged to be. So what of the old soul that would rather share life with someone selflessly and learn the art of compromise now; that would rather sit beneath wisdom’s tree and eat of her fruit; the tug of war between new and lived-in, independent and free, blind boldness vs. courageous confidence?

 You wait it out with  i n t e n t i o n.

While incredibly challenging and undeniably uncomfortable, you absorb each awkward moment. You relearn the kindergarten art of making new friends while practicing the girl-scout-skill of keeping the old. You risk revealing interest in the guy with the great smile at church holding onto a hard hope he’ll finally ask you to dinner, without writing him off if he doesn’t but most importantly without writing yourself off if he doesn’t. You give yourself grace for not knowing exactly what you want to do anymore because your childhood dream turned out to be less of the dream you fell asleep to every night and more of a cement freeway you don’t move for hours on. You take those weird jobs you’d never imagine doing while you explore more endless interests and opportunities to do some of that other stuff you loved doing before you were pressured to pick a major.

And you  stop  apologizing   for   who   you   are.

That twelve year old who dreamt of winning an Oscar, who chased after romance like a child with a net after a butterfly and who participated in water balloon fights on the sidewalk of a small town is the same twenty-something year old staring back at you. He/She wants to dream again, to play again, to make friends worthy enough of friendship bracelets, to romanticize among the wildflowers and to take adventures to unknown places on bikes befriending bravery. So let them.

To the twenty-somethings treading water: don’t let your twenties stifle you. Rise up to the challenge of liberating yourself within them so that moving into your thirties is less like getting a lung transplant and more like a breath of fresh air.

Your twelve-year-old self will thank you tremendously.