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On the Joy of Really Living

I was going to tweet this—I'm pretty sure I still will (I did eventually tweet this). But here goes for the blog too! It's Sunday morning, and knowing me, I won't hit publish till days later (I was right...exactly two weeks later and I'm only just publishing haha). Anyway, I am in London. I may or may not write an entire post about visiting England and the fun time that was had. Anyway, I'm feeling very introspective (even more than usual). I just read a money diary of 31 year-old dying of cancer. She has just six months to live. I'm thinking dang. She's also handling it very gracefully. I'm pissed about the people telling her to just pray and find God because then the cancer would disappear. Such baloney. Anyway, she's handling it well. She's anxious and worried, like any sane person would be but she's handling it well. Yet it caused somewhat of an unrest in me, you know? I started to think about how many of us are passing through the motions instead of living.



London also means I got to hang with  my amazing cousins. And I was truly  inspired by how creative they are, but not just that. They seem to be pursuing their interests, and they have sooo many: dancing, singing, drawing, designing, acting etc. Even their coursework in school; they don't do stuff because it's what they are supposed to do, they do because they love it. I especially love that. And yes, I found it very inspiring. I'm not naive, so I know not everyone can afford to this this. I know some people just need to survive, and that's fine. You gotta do what you gotta do.


The rest of us though... Me for instance, I have decided to pursue things I'm interested in, and let me tell you they are many. Ha. I have been too laser-focused on ONE thing for like five years now, at the expense of others. And to be honest, I don't even know if it still brings me any joy. For sure, it has taken more than it has given. Look, my sister had to practically beg me to take this trip, and even at that, I barely slept because I would do touristy stuff during the day, and work all night. So yeah. I'm now interested in LIVING. Making memories, taking adventures, loving more, spending even more time with my family (my favorite thing to do in this life LOL), laughing with said family and friends of course, and doing things I love, especially writing for fun and telling stories through writing. Fin.

End of emotional, but necessary rant. I'm not going to lie, I am BLESSED to have the kind of life where I can even afford to do this. Hashtag blessed (you know I never pass up the chance to take a dig at instagram influencers lmao). Seriously though, I don't think I have any regrets at all. I think I have a great life with a good balance of the good and the bad as it should be. But man, I want to experience them not chase the next high of making another deadline or getting another fellowship or passing another hurdle. nah.

Okay for real now, fin!

Love,

I

Friday Reflections

1.) As a Grey's fan, here are nine monologues by Miranda Bailey everyone needs to hear.

2.) Chimamanda's striking essay on Lagos.

3.) Why you will marry the wrong person.

4.) The Showrunner SHONDA RHIMES: First woman to create three hit shows with more than 100 episodes each.

5.) Why you will marry the wrong person. Lol marriage is such a gamble.

6.)  Chimamanda Adichie is such a profound human being. Check out her BRILLIANT commencement speech at Yale and then the one at American University.  No seriously, the one at Yale is really, really good.

7.) Be careful. Your dream job might in fact be  a nightmare.

8.) Three women on what following your dream looks like. ooooh another reason I alway say I don't have a dream job. Look, things are pretty attractive when you are only dreaming about them. The nitty gritty of anything can be very daunting. No matter how sexy or aspirational a thing is, it is still a JOB.

9.) "Follow your passion" is bad advice.

10.) Y'ALL. A white woman with no college degree turned herself to a savior, travelled to Uganda and has been practicing medicine on CHILDREN under the guise of an NGO. The caucasity yooooo. As in, practiced high level medicine on kids (some of whom have in fact died now)...I actually CAN NOT.

11.) Soooo except you're under the rock, you must have heard of the new Netflix series shedding some light on the Central Park jogger case and the five boys who were wrongly charged. Okay, now read this chilling article on the other women whose lives were forever changed because the actual perpetrator in the Central Park case was not arrested on time. The consequences of injustice reverberates, I tell ya.

12.) And goodness, NYC was something in the late 80s/early 90s. It's really hard to be a woman in this world, I say as I double check to make sure my door is securely locked. This world is too insecure.

When They See Us, The Heartbreaking Story of the Exonerated Five.

When I first heard of Ava Duvernay's latest film/mini-series/documentary, When They See Us, I knew it was something I needed to watch, but I also wasn't sure I wanted to watch it. I wasn't sure I had the emotional capacity to watch it. I am after all the person who refuses to watch slave movies, because hashtag self care. Even more, I am actively staying away from what I like to call sad porn: motion pictures that are specifically engineered to make people sad. I remember stumbling on one episode of Station 19 (not even a show I watch), and somehow, they made a main character and love interest of another main character pass away senselessly, and he was about to die and was saying last words to his lover. That was already a particularly hard weekend for me, I was like nope, nope. Not today, satan. Real life is hard enough as it is.


But When They See Us isn't fiction or a carefully curated piece to get y'all weeping for no reason. When They See Us is real life. So I knew I would watch it. I had to. When I started watching, and just about twenty minutes into the first episode, I was FURIOUS. I needed something to scream into. I was mad. I thought, for the sake of my mental health I better not complete this. Boy, I'm so glad I wasn't that foolish. I'm so glad I did in fact watch all four parts. If those little boys could go through that injustice, if they could LIVE it, then the least they deserve is that we ALL watch it and learn. Because as a society, this country and the justice system failed those boys. They were robbed of their innocence and childhood. And we need to do better.

"In the movies, courage can be loud. In life, courage is something different. It's quiet. Courage means strength of heart. Courage makes it possible for a man to suffer adversity; to persevere; to prevail." - Michael B. Jordan

When They See Us is a mini-series by Ava Duvernay  based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case, in which a 28 year old female investment banker was brutally assaulted, raped, and left for dead in New York's Central Park. Five young boys (now men) Antron, Kevin, Yusef, Raymond, and Korey were accused, arrested, and and wrongly convicted of the crimes. The convictions were eventually vacated in 2002. So this mini-series shows us how these boys were brutalized by the media and our sick, twisted criminal justice system. We also get to explore how our criminal justice system works, especially how it was used against brown and black boys. We see how they were coerced to give false confessions after being held for 48 hours without food. We also see how they were interviewed without legal guardians, and how they subsequently were treated like animals by police.


The part that stung the most was that the minute the prosecutor decided those boys were responsible for the crimes, there was nothing else that could have changed her mind. Not the fact that DNA evidence revealed these boys weren't at the crime scene; not the fact that these boys did NOT know each other before the incidence (so how could they be a pack?); not the fact that these boys said over and over that they were innocent. Nothing. These boys were victims of a system that brutalizes the poor, the marginalized, and people of color. The media also painted these boys as victims even when there was no single evidence tying them to the crime. Ninety percent of the media coverage at the time of the crime never used "alleged" in describing these boys. Everyone just concluded they did it; they believed what the state said and took it as fact, even barely two weeks after the incident.  Our current president took out full page ads calling for these poor babies to be sentenced to death. No one person can explain or fully understand the trauma and terror these boys experienced, and at such young ages.



I really implore you to watch this mini-series no matter how hard it seems at first. In the words of Korey Wise, one of the EXONERATED Five (because yes "The Central park five" is a political moniker for the purpose of further victimizing these boys), "this is not a tragedy, this is a celebration of life". Korey Wise. Korey Korey. Oh please, just watch this film to understand how this boy specifically suffered soooo badly. His was the worst of it. And his words are what surprise me. I have been poring over the lives of Yusef, Kevin, Raymond, Antron, and Korey since watching the show. I gotta tell you, I don't know how people who went through hell, who were so viciously hated, and who suffered that much trauma (beginning at ages 14 to 16) can still be so positive. Yet, somehow they are. They are committed to changing the system and making sure that the innocent does not suffer the way they did.

As I was watching the show, I kept thinking why. Why, God? Why did innocent boys have to go through this hell? And what kind of world are we that allows that sort of injustice and wickedness? What kind of people are we? What type of injustice is this? I also can't imagine how those detectives, prosecutors, district attorneys and everyone else involved in this cover up...how do they sleep at night? How are they okay with themselves?

This already happened and I think moving forward as a society, we need to really ponder on our values, our moral fabric, and who we are. It means no matter where you are or what slice of this world you find yourself, day in, day out, you better remain committed to doing good. To treating people fairly and fighting for justice and fairness and equity. You better examine your prejudices very very carefully.

In thinking about this case, we tend to [rightfully] focus on the men, but what many people don't see are the families. The families of these boys that probably lost their jobs, suffered the stigma and shame, went bankrupt hiring lawyers, and so much more struggles. SO MUCH STRUGGLES.  The despair, the loss, the heartbreak, the confusion because a couple of people got together and decided that these boys (largely based on the color of their skin) were guilty of a crime they were probably too young to even comprehend. Just watch this show. If for nothing, just so you can feel that fiery, burning anger. Just so you can be unsettled. Because chileeee, we must never get complacent or comfortable. That anger should cause us to do better.

I am really thankful for Ava and to Ava for telling this story. I am also thankful for these men somehow finding the courage to turn their pain into something so strong and so powerful; for the willingness to share their stories.

Love, and some justice,

I

How To Make Decisions And Move When Your Faith Wavers

"Let's go across to the outpost of those pagans,' Jonathan said to this armor bearer. 'Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!" 1 Samuel 14:6

When people talk about faith, they are talking about a daring faith: A faith that is confident and secure; a faith that suffers no doubt; a faith that never shakes no matter what is thrown its way; a faith that just knows; an impervious faith. But this is not my reality. In my walk with God, I have rarely had this kind of faith. In fact, I remember moments of doubts more than moments of unshakable faith. I doubt too much. What has never, ever shaken is the knowledge of God's greatness and sovereignty. So what about faith that wavers? Faith that is unsure? Who will write about that? I will.



The first time I heard that it was okay to not have the more popular type of faith, that it was okay to not be so certain was from Pastor Furtick. Every definition of faith tells you, it's the confidence of things not seen. How should I be confident about something that I have not seen? Why should I desire something I might never get so strongly? That was a struggle. Then Pastor Steven mentioned the notion of a 50/50 faith in his "Maybe: God series" talking about the will of God. Huh. That's new. You mean, it doesn't have to be a hundred percent? Wow.

And then I recently stumbled on that chapter again, and read about Jonathan myself. Woah. Pause.

Perhaps the Lord will help us.

PERHAPS?!

Er. Jonathan, what we often hear is that you gotta know for sure. Let's take a step back. Jonathan was going to fight the Philistines. Describing the Philistines' army is a post on its own. But he was  going to fight them without the knowledge of his father (Saul, the king), and he was going with his Amor Bearer. The thing was he didn't know whether he would succeed. He also didn't know what the circumstances were going to be. Normally, you would expect he would have been a hundred percent certain of his success before embarking on this journey. But he wasn't. He also was not sure whether God would even help him. But he went anyway. Saying, Perhaps God will help us.

I feel like this is the reality for a lot of Christians. The problem is many other Christians tell you how they knew for sure. They do not hesitate to let you know how God directed them in his clear, loud audible voice. I'm not saying this is not the case (I don't know). I'm saying a lot of times you won't know whether God will help you, whether that business venture will succeed, you won't know what you want to do with your life, you won't know whether you should actually marry that person, you won't know if you will get accepted, you won't know what tomorrow will bring. However, something Jonathan knew, was the capacity of God.

...nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few.

Sometimes, all you gotta know is the capacity of God. You don't have to know whether for sure He will help in that circumstance, but you have to know that He CAN. He CAN, but the question is, WILL he?

I KNOW He can, I think He will

I know God is with me and I think this is where He is leading me

You don't have to know that part BEFOREHAND. You just have to know that He can. Yet many Christian thought scholars expect you to be absolutely confident that He will. The thing is, I don't care if you speak tongues that bring down a high-rise, you still don't completely know God. No one does. I always used to marvel at all the: God told me to marry him. God told me to take that job. God told me to wear color purple. Girl Bye. The actual truth is, *come closer and let me whisper it to your ears* many people are just making it all as they go; we are all just winging it. So don't feel bad when you feel that way too.

Let's take a step further into Jonathan's journey. When he said perhaps, he was still in between two rocks and had the opportunity to turn back. To actually fight the Philistines, he had to go across to their outpost, and then go up to them. After deliberating with his Armor Bearer, he decided to cross over and make himself seen by the Philistines. Do you know how he decided on whether to actually then go on up to them? He said, when they cross over, if the Philistines said "Stay where you are or we'll kill you", then they would not go up to them. But if they said "Come on up and fight", then they would go up because that would be God's sign that He would help them defeat the Philistines. Wait, you mean God didn't actually say audibly to Jonathan to go on to the Philistines? Nope. God gave Jonathan victory without saying a single word.

Sometimes you just gotta work with what you have. And literally, li-te-ra-lly decide that if that thing works out then yay, that means God will be with you. It can, in fact be so basic. But we love to complicate things. If someone disagrees with you on your fundamental principles, if they are on a completely different path than you, or if you are not in the least attracted to them no matter how hard you try, maybe that's sign enough that you are not meant to marry them? Why overthink things? Why not work with the knowledge you have now. Look, it might not work but that does not mean God is not working. Like Pastor Steven said in that message,  maybe God will use this thing that i think i'm supposed to do to lead to something that i was really supposed to do so that even if the first thing fails, at least i'm not sitting in fear.

The thing this does is help with decision making. Because in waiting for God to speak or call us, we become paralyzed into inaction. My favorite saying of Bishop TD Jakes goes something along the lines of, "God already gave you trees, He is not going to come and make furniture for you." Similarly, Steven Furtick said, "why would God do for you what He gave you the strength to do?". God has given us critical thinking skills and capability, and I feel like given that, you should be able to, for instance, decide on what to wear yourself. I mean, COME ON!

So if you waver, it's okay too. Just remember  his love and his redemption are certain and constant. Know that part well. Everything else, perhaps?

The point being, there is a faith that can withstand the silence from God, that can withstand ambiguity and mystery, that can withstand the worst kind of problem

Love,

I

For Rachel

Last week, a formidable Christian writer, Rachel Held Evans (RHE) passed away. Her death was tragic and not just because it all started as a "simple" allergic reaction to antibiotics she was taking for the flu, which she tweeted about (!), but because of the impact she had on everyone. As testimony poured from several people about her personal reach in their lives, I couldn't help but marvel at this wonder of a woman God crafted for earth and well, decided to take at His own time...because He is ALL KNOWING.



I was so heartbroken because we lost a brilliant and courageous writer. She used her writings to embody compassion, to challenge norms, and to help people better understand their faith. She never shied away from controversial topics, and she understood her spiritual journey enough to acknowledge that God is never afraid of tough questions. She was a force. My favorite thing about her was that she constantly demonstrated that to know God is to have unanswered questions and moments of doubts. She welcomed ALL to the fold of Christ. Another thing to love about her (and there are a TON: see #prayforRHE and #Becauseof RHE on Twitter) was that she did not have that condescending smugness lots of social media Christians tend to have. There was a humility to her profession of the Christian faith that drew me to her. What a devastating loss!



As many women have also mentioned, she was a "catalyst for a freedom they didn't know was possible because of the wounds of patriarchy within the church."

I guess you probably know how I found her now. She was a Christian feminist. That's not something that is commonplace. She loved the Lord but she also believed women were first and foremost human beings, and also equal to men (including their husbands!) in the sight of the Lord.  RHE was as Bishop Curry put it, "a fearless seeker of truth and servant of God." A lot of Christians are often afraid to question, to dig deeper, to uncover truths, to challenge norms, as though if they went any deeper, they would find out it's all a lie. However, what such depths bring; what they uncover is the majesty of God, the kindness of God, and a fierce and powerful love of God. RHE knew that.



She was only 37.

Here are some befitting tributes to her and her work: on religion news; in New York Times; Christian Post; and CNN.

In honor of RHE, I want to share some of her writings that inspired me and emboldened me in my walk with Christ, and belief in equal rights for women. For instance, she writes here that if you really think the husband is the head of the wife, then you must also argue for a relationship between slaves and masters, no? She attempts to remind us that adhering to the wives submit to your husbands reasoning is accepting Greco-Roman household codes. And yes, God created them man and woman, but did he make man dominate woman? In addition, see the common misconceptions about egalitarianism. As a bonus, here she is explaining how she can be pro-life but still vote for Hilary Clinton. Oh Rachel, eshet chayil.

I hope that each time I remember RHE, I remember to be bold; I remember that social justice is a core of our Christian faith and principles; I remember to write without bother or fear because after all, God has not given us the spirit of fear but of LOVE, POWER, and a SOUND MIND;  I remember to be courageous; I remember to dig in on the values and principles I have come to cherish because my father in heaven cherishes them; I want to remember and see God as compassionate the way RHE saw God; I want to remember that it is sometimes okay to doubt; and if I can find just one gift to utilize the way RHE used her gift of writing, I think I will be okay. Because of RHE, I will speak out more. Because of RHE, I want to be brave.

Rest in peace and power, Rachel.

eshet chayil

Love,

I

Can the Internet Hurt Your Child?

The answer is yes. I want to talk about kids. This is a first for me and will probably be a rarity. See, I don't have kids but I was very bothered and sick to my stomach by this article. So much that I have already decided my unborn kids will not have smartphones and social media until they are about 16 or so. The article is by an amazing mom who wrote about her experience on a social media app. Her child had begged her to sign on to it, but mom wanted to try it out to be sure it was safe. And my God, thank goodness she did. That app is HELL. Preteens dealing with body issues; older men sending naked photos to little boys and girls; little girls posting nude photos of themselves; little boys using sexually graphic and violent names; little boys and girls talking about suicide and violence; and these are not the worst of it. Just read that article for a better description. I'm so glad that mom said no to her little girl. In fact, the woman also wrote another article one year after showing that it is possible for your child to not have a smartphone and still SURVIVE. Yes. Now if you go ahead and listen to this cop whose job it is to protect your kids from the internet, you might altogether give up having kids because this world and the internet is crazy.



Think about it, what is a ten year old doing with an iPhone? I'm a fully formed adult with fully formed frontal cortex in my brain and even I find social media to be too much and overwhelming sometimes ALL THE TIME. So imagine a child on social media. A lot of parents are convinced they KNOW their kids, but they don't. A lot of parents are also to concerned with being "besties" with their kids. This is hard, because examine your life: how many of your best girlfriends can you say no to? The answer is, not many. Yet, children need to hear NO. Their brains are not even fully formed yet.

"Tweens and teens have an underdeveloped frontal cortex. They’re impulsive and self-centered. They make terrible decisions and they can be meaner than a bull shark. Also, their conflict-management skills are lousy. Sixth graders have yet to master the skill of fully rinsing conditioner from their hair, and we’re giving them the power of unfettered public expression?"
- Anastasia Basil

I, myself did not have a phone till I was 15 or so, and there was no social media in my time. I mean, there was Hi5 but I think it was mostly for losers or something haha. Anyway I begged my mother for a phone: BEGGED, appealed to her ancestors, I even went for those extra lessons she organized for me. A little background on those lessons: some kids rebelled by smoking or partying, my form of rebellion was never attending after-class lessons my parents organized for me. I'm laughing while typing this because it's a touchy subject for my mom. I mean, they paid so much for those lessons and I really had no reason not to go except again, teenagers can be sociopaths. They don't think. So no, I would chat away instead of proceeding to my lessons. This time around though, I even went to lessons/classes I hated to appease my mother. I thought, perhaps, I would get a phone. Noooppe. I resorted to anger and silent treatment because ALL my friends already had phones and were therefore cool kids so I needed one. Nope. I did everything short of offer myself as a living sacrifice so I could have a phone. The answer was No. Now, my parents, bless their souls, were a very unified front with us. If mommy said no, it meant daddy was saying no too and vice versa. So no, I never got a phone until towards the end of secondary school (high school) or maybe after secondary school graduation? And you know what, I did not die. I was fine. So if your child does not have a smartphone or access to Instagram, they will be okay. More than okay; probably great.

"Kids don’t belong to parents. Their childhood is on loan to us. It’s our job to raise the kid part the best we can, and then they’re supposed to take it from there." - Anastasia Basil.

Hey, do what you want with your kids of course, but please try to monitor them. Ultimately, there is only so much you can control but there are still some measures that can be taken to protect them. Again, take this with a grain of salt because I do NOT have kids and know nothing about raising them. And if there is one thing the internet has taught me, it's that y'all really despise hearing advice about raising your kids generally. But this disgust is multiplied by 100 when the advice is from a childless person. So ahem, don't be too angry.

Love,

I


Book of the Month: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

First of all, the fact that the book of this month came early is a testimony in and of itself ha.

This is an unusual book because while I like nonfiction, self-help books are not always my jam. But this one is actually pretty interesting. Now I had heard a lot about the book and the author, Mark Manson, from my brother and just everyone, but right of the bat, I was hooked. It takes a matter of fact approach to actually argue against typical self-help books that preach a culture of mindless positivity. He uses his own personal experiences to show that life's struggles are a necessary component to living and that we should learn to embrace it instead of trying so hard to be positive all the time. It is a surprisingly great book and quite hilarious too.



Basically, it tells us to stop trying to be positive all the darn time, and for us to get true, genuine happiness, we need to stop giving too many f*cks. So really, what are you giving an eff about? Simply put, what are your values? Because he argues, and rightfully so, that your values drive everything. What are you choosing to care about? As someone who gives too many f*cks, I feel like I needed this book as a not-so-gentle reminder. You probably do too. Let's recap some interesting points, shall we? And hopefully in the process I can get you to become interested in the book, despite being somewhat of a self-help type book. Now the sentences in bold fonts are the opinions I formed from reading the book. Is it possible that you would read it and leave with completely different opinions? Perhaps. And that's fine too.

Stop trying too hard.
There is too much fixation on being happier and being positive, but what that really does is remind us over and over what we lack. And if you are really happy, you would not need to tell yourself or tell everyone [in yet another Instagram post] just how happy you are.  You would just be...happy.  Same goes for being wealthy. You just are or you aren't. The obsession to be more: happier, richer, thinner, prettier is unhealthy. Might I add, same goes for being great: people who are great don't make noise everyday about being great; they are too busy working hard.

"The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it's giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important." - Mark Manson

Having negative experiences in life is fine.
Social media (YES, the mother devil haha), and everyone and their mama would have you believing that experiencing negative things like guilt, fear, anxiety is totally not okay. I mean, the flood of pictures and tweets from other people enjoying their lives is enough to convince you that your life sucks. So now you feel bad about feeling bad, and feel guilty about feeling guilty. Manson calls this the feedback loop from hell.

"The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. and paradoxically, the acceptance of one's negative experience is itself a positive experience." - Mark Manson

The one thing that he doesn't really say and I wish he said was, suffering through some emotions are good. Sometimes it's okay to be anxious, nervous, and you don't have to get rid of it. Live through it and experience all of it. BUT, like Manson says in the book, don't base your entire life on your emotions:

I dropped out of school and moved to Alaska just because it felt right.

No honey. Like Manson again mentions in the book, only three year olds and dogs should base their entire lives on emotions. This is because emotions seldom last. What makes you happy today will not necessarily make you happy tomorrow.

You are not that special.
When we have a problem, we have a tendency to think it's just us. We think we are special. But this book points out that many others have most likely had the same problem, are having it, or will have it. The fact that you are going through something bad does not mean you deserve special treatment. It's just life, mon ami.

Along those lines, if you want to be truly exceptional at something, you have to keep working at it. You have to become obsessed with improvements. People who are like this are certainly not entitled. If someone tells you every person can be extraordinary, they are lying. The vast majority  of your life will be boring  and most of your actions will not matter in the grand scheme of things. Accepting this fact is the "ticket to emotional health".

The author gave five counterintuitive values that are beneficial to adopt. One of them is taking responsibility for everything that occurs in your life, regardless of who is at fault. This was such a brilliant point: distinguishing between taking responsibility and being at fault. The second is uncertainty. The third is failure and the willingness to discover your own flaws. The fourth is rejection: the ability to both say and hear no. And the fifth is contemplation of one's own mortality. His expansion of these points were the core aspects of the book and what made it worth reading.

In a nutshell, the book is telling you to find something meaningful and important in your life: this is a much more productive use of your time, instead of choosing to care about every and any thing. You can also check out his post here for an abbreviated version of the entire book.

Love,

I