We Are One

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

 

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Presidential elections, threats of war, blatant and pervasive misogyny, racism, and xenophobia. At the heart of it is all is the fundamental misunderstanding that we are all different breeds when we all share the same bloodline.

A month ago I returned to the states from a two week trip to Kenya. My heart has been heavy with grief in the time since my return. I am mourning the loss of humanity that plagues our country.

When people are run down on the street for opposing points of view or shot because of the color of their skin, there is a disease that infiltrates the minds of the “greatest nation.” We believe that we are irreconcilably different, that there is no salve to the pain that we feel. No solution to the fear. It is fear that drives us to kill our brothers and fear that divides families.

We fear the conservatives and we fear liberals alike. We argue over semantics and fight over legal trapezes, while African American teenagers are shot in broad daylight because they looked “suspicious” for their skin color or bomb threats sweep through our campuses as students try to make their voices heard. The loudest sound is violence.

It is normal to see a murder when scrolling your newsfeed, common place to see black bodies slain on the television, even more common to make terse jokes about racism and hide behind a veil of ignorance that says if it’s a joke it doesn’t matter. But it does matter. Because segregation is segregation no matter how you slice it.

I will never understand the plight of African Americans on a personal level, and I will never be ignorant to believe that I could share in the pain of isolation — centuries of fighting simply to be recognized as human, targeted because more pigment somehow equates to a more violent person in the minds of the xenophobic – but I cannot stand by while our brothers and sisters are slain in the street because of misunderstandings of God’s design for humanity.

God designed us to be one.

Not one up, not one better, not one less – but one.

How good and pleasant is it when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

For the past year my heart has mourned in tenfold what I have felt my whole life.

I cannot understand how we could ever justify a system that places any percentage of God’s creation above the next when each of us is fully known and created by a God who created culture. I have been stunned by our lack of response to the violence in our world within the church. We cannot continue to fear what we do not understand.

I wish I had some sort of extensive thesis, or extremely persuasive argument to make you believe it, but the truth is, no one will ever believe in equality until there is a radical transformation of the heart.

This has become increasingly clear to me as I have been processing my time in East Africa. The world is a small place. We say that a lot, but we often don’t understand what it means. But, like I wrote last week, we are all connected, we are all one – and therefore, it doesn’t matter if there is 12,000 miles or 12 miles between us, we need to be fighting for the humanity that we have forgotten. We need to be fighting to understand, to learn, to know the plight of our brothers and sisters from every background.20414154_10213976682917662_5065182618558825172_o

On the night we said goodbye to our new friends in Kenya I wept the entire time. Fat, warm tears that coated my cheeks until they were sticky with red dirt. I hugged all of the babies at the orphanage close, kissed all their heads, told them I loved them and wept because I had to leave them.

I made my way over to my friend who worked at the orphanage, and looked him in the eyes.

“Why are you crying, sister?” He asked.

“Because I am sad to leave,” I said.

He smiled at me and I cried harder.

“Get strong sister,” he said, “get strong so you can come back.” He traced a line down his forearm, along the vein, “this blood is the same as yours. We are one. Go back to America and tell them we are one. Get strong sister.”

And of course, I cried harder.

Throughout my time in Kenya the Spirit had been pressing one thing on my heart: the unity of God’s creation. No matter if we are across the world or in the house next door, we are one. We were all designed to be one. We were all designed to love one another as a unit.

So in response, I would like to offer the cry of my heart these past weeks (and months, and years):

To everyone who feels overlooked and forgotten: I see you. To those of you who feel like your voice isn’t being heard: I hear you. To those of you who feel small and insignificant: you are known, and you are deeply loved. We have the same blood, no matter the color of your skin, no matter where you come from – you are so loved. I am sorry for the ways that you have been hurt and I am sorry for how complacent we have all become. I know that I cannot understand what you have been through, the obstacles that you have had to face for reasons that are inhumane at best, but I want to listen. I want to fight for you and I am fighting for you.

It can be hard to see the light in the midst of darkness, but I have faith that there is something bigger than the turmoil of our world and the corruption of our society, because no matter how many corrupt politicians or evil leaders come into power none of them can be credited with the creation of the world.

So let’s love one another, and let’s serve one another well. That’s what we were created to do. Before the color of our skin, our gender, our abilities, our socioeconomic status we are a family. So let’s fight for each other as the brothers and sisters that we are.

“Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3)

Until next time, wonder on.

 

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Always Joyful

I do this thing when I’m panicked where I let out bursts of breathy exclamations of horror. A guttural sort of grunt that somehow embodies the whole of my angst. Sometimes I open the front door of my house, proceed to the kitchen, greet my roommate and then we scream together — because we’re arts majors and theres a lot to be angsty about in the world. Other times I just repeat the phrase “I’m panicking” over and over at increasing volume. Recently I’ve been expressing both of these tendencies at a more frequent rate. *Feel free to interject said coping mechanisms wherever fitting whilst reading the following*

Today is Wednesday. It is the second week of my last semester at WSU. Three years has flown by. I know that everyone says that — “watch out, you’ll be surprised how fast it goes” and then you respond with a snarky comment about how you wish it was quicker and you roll your eyes because they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Continue reading “Always Joyful”

AJ Bares All

If I was going to most accurately name this post I would probably call it: WTF Just Happened: The Blog Post I’ve Avoided for a Year. But I thought that might be a little offensive, so we’ll just include the title here.

At the beginning of my junior year of college I hated men, feared the world, and felt more alone than I have in my entire life. Continue reading “AJ Bares All”

Why I’m Wearing a Dress Every Day of December

If you’re living in the Palouse you may have seen me strutting around in a black dress these past six days. The same one. It’s a black sweater dress with nothing really significant about it, except the thick fabric I picked to brave endless cycles in the washing machine and the cold weather of December in the east of Washington state.

It’s been cold here, today the sky spit bits of snow that stuck for barely a moment before fading into the damp grass again, but we’re lucky to have maintained warm enough temperatures that the white dandruff doesn’t have the stamina to stick around. Something I’ve been particularly grateful for considering that my litany of allergies includes an intolerance to the cold that turns me into one massive walking welt-factory in freezing temperatures. A hindrance that is not particularly welcome during a season in which I have pledged to wear a dress throughout the entirety of December. So why subject myself to such torturous behavior?

The simple answer is that wearing a dress in the dead of winter raises eyebrows, and those raised eyebrows lead to conversations, and conversations breed opportunities to talk about advocacy, and advocacy is the avenue by which we must be approaching the victims of the systemically thriving business of slavery in the modern world. Continue reading “Why I’m Wearing a Dress Every Day of December”

A Letter to my Dad on the 13th Anniversary of His Death

Dear Dad,

Every year I wait for the sting to be a little less potent, but despite the well-wishes of others, it never gets easier. Every year that passes without you I lose more of you.

I forgot a long time ago what your voice sounds like, it wasn’t until last year when I found home movies that I heard you again, and I cried for hours because Eli sounds just like you. If I’m honest, sometimes when I see Eli I panic, because something in my heart still thinks that you’re going to walk through my front door someday and prove this is some sort  of elongated nightmare.

I think that I am more angry than anything else. I often look at the hand I’ve been dealt with so much disdain that it cripples me. I wonder why in twenty years I’ve lived more life than some fifty year olds, and more often than not this leads me to bitterness instead of empathy.

Continue reading “A Letter to my Dad on the 13th Anniversary of His Death”

Europe, It’s Been a Month.

I am currently positioned in the middle seat of a full airplane on its way to Washington, trying desperately not to jam an elbow into the ribs of my seat-mates as I transcribe this… so here’s to three hour flights (aka unadulterated writing time), too small public transport seats, and bladders the size of peanuts (see my future memoir for the time that I flashed an unsuspecting business man trying to muscle my way to the back of the plane – on a Washington-Arizona flight nonetheless; also that pun was somewhat intended…)

It has been just over a month since I came back from England and my heart hasn’t stopped aching since. There is something inside me that can’t let it go, even as I write this my computer window gives way to a sunset picture of King’s College on my desktop. Studying at the University of Cambridge was a literal dream come true, and besides the fact that it makes me feel like a badass because I can say that I studied at one of the WORLD’S premiere universities and survived, it was so much more than the academics that have left my heart yearning for the unimposing university. *insert wink emoji*

I was wholly unprepared for what I would experience during my time in Europe, and I am completely and utterly beyond grateful that I made the decision to be there. I cannot imagine a better, more life-giving and life-changing way to have spent the summer, my time at Cambridge was the hardest and greatest months of my life. I think that’s why I am still staring at pictures of formal dinners and thinking about rainy summer days on the daily.

And now that its been a few weeks, I think I’m ready to try to articulate the ways that living in England this summer has changed my life and the things that I have learned.  Continue reading “Europe, It’s Been a Month.”

Isle of Wight, U.K.

A few weeks ago I had a magical weekend, and I’ve finally got a spare second to reflect.

After a full week of classes in Cambridge, my friends and I took off for the Isle of Wight, an Island “forgotten by time,” as they say. A place of retreat into natural beauty and the sights and sounds of what I have always imagined to be the quintessential English town, all by the sea.

I was first made aware of the Isle of Wight by one of my professors from my home university who grew up on the island. She mentioned that I had to make a trip down while I was in England and after a little research and some help we figured out how to make the trek. I gathered a few friends from my program here and we were off. We left from London in the morning to arrive in the historic town of Portsmouth for a Ferry to Ryde.

From the moment that you arrive, it is a picturesque affair.
Continue reading “Isle of Wight, U.K.”

Words

Recently, as my sophomore year of college has met its end, I have been thinking about a variety of different things, and I figured I might as well word vomit them onto a webpage so that the entire world can see the frantic mush that my brain has become.

This is basically the sales pitch versions of random thoughts that I’ve had or things I’ve been processing recently.

Continue reading “Words”

Sophomore Slump Almost Did Me In

I survived the first semester of my sophomore year… barely.

Its been over a week since break began, officially leading to the close of the first semester of my sophomore year of college, and in the time that I’ve been back home with my family I’ve already had two hysterical crying episodes and lost sleep over the horror of the semester that unfolded much to my chagrin.

Between a twenty credit workload, a failed quest for a profitable job, living off campus and paying bills for the first time, medical failings, fractured relationships, professors without my best interest in mind, a university system which failed to advocate for me, a GPA on a steady decline and the weed out classes for my major it’s safe to say that this semester traumatized me.

I failed a lot this semester – academically, in my friendships, in my own faith, in basic humanity. I have very seriously considered calling it quits — pulling the blanket over my head, holing myself in, and hiding from the world.

I think that my brain is actually broken. I have been trying to write this post for almost two weeks now, but the simple function of formulating sentences has become a luxury which my brain rarely affords. What little sleep I get is permeated by nightmares of the past semester and the horror of returning to do it all over in the Spring. My family has more than once commented on my state of disarray, but I feel powerless to change it. Sophomore Slump has become my kryptonite.

This semester feels like a season of life that is never-ending.  I am in a constant state of longing to be anywhere and everywhere else in the world, and somehow recognize amidst that that God has placed me uniquely where I am at, now. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t bitter.

Bitter is actually an understatement. I think that I am pissed at God.

This past semester he called me to a new church, pulled me out of relationships that I loved, and has continuously confronted me with the nastiness in my own heart.In the pressure and nonstop mundane of college, I’ve been able to push Him out. To tell Him I’ll deal with my heart when I have the time, that I’ll spend time seeking Him after I get my life in line. But I never got my life in line. It continued to crumble, and I continued to run from it, at a price.

 

When I am put under extreme amounts of stress, just like I believe most normal people also do, my body starts to shut itself down. Subsequently my body goes into panic survival mode, and this semester I wound up having almost three or four panic attacks per day until I completely blocked it all out. The anxiety attacks mostly manifest themselves in shaking fits, muscle spasms and an accelerated heart rate, sometimes accompanied by a flare up of my asthma. Naturally, when my body begins to panic I become anxious, further feeding the vicious cycle, and on and on it goes.

I am so tired from contracted muscles and the mental stress after an episode that the last thing that I want to do is get back to the school work which has piled so high its led to the physical decline of my health. I am so tired.

And I have never felt farther from God.

In trying to do the right thing I hurt the people that I cared about more times than I would prefer to recount. In striving to live right I refused to deal with my own crap and continuously hurt the people that I love, failed them over and over because I was terrified to be disappointed in their failures. I have realized so many things these past couple months – but the biggest thing that I’ve realized is my absolute terror of commitment.

I have sabotaged so many relationships because I thought I was doing the right thing. Not consciously, not out of spite, but something in me is convinced that I am not worthy of love from the people that I love and therefore I must sabotage the relationships I care about before I’m disappointed.

This semester I wanted nothing but to just completely shut down. The ultimate extrovert who is me was so terrified of spending time with others that I would rather spend my time bent over vomiting up my anxiety than trying to find the corner of a room where no one can see me.

I neglected to pray because I thought that I was too far away for God to hear. I neglected to dig into the Word because I lost my enthusiasm for it. I neglected my own well being because I was too tired to deal with it. I was stressed to the maximum and with that came second thoughts that sent me questioning everything.

Do I really want to keep going? Is the effect that school is having on my physical health enough to call it quits? Am I a quitter? Do I believe the promises that I have been speaking to others on God’s behalf? Do I genuinely believe that God will never leave me or forsake me? Do I believe that God cares about me?

I know the truth. But I am having a hard time believing it.

Without God what hope do I have to keep pushing?  With a lost hope in His plan I have no interest in foraging forward.

This semester broke me in so many ways, and as I have continued to lose sleep over it these past weeks I wonder what the future can hold. But there is one thing that I know to be true:

Its okay to doubt. Its okay to be scared. Its okay to be confused. Its okay to not feel great all the time.

But I don’t get to live in that.

This semester sucked, and theres no doubt about that, but perspective is a game changer. Away from Pullman I can think about things separate from the University, I can think about the long term, and with that in mind I can’t wait to get back to campus and kill Spring Semester.

Until next time, wonder on.

The Change in Summer Plans

I sit here in the midst of dead week composing these words because they have gone unaddressed for too long and I feel awful about it.

Earlier this year I told all of you that I had committed to a discipleship program called “Elevate.” I was going to spend ten weeks in San Diego learning how to live missionally and dependently on the Lord. Previous to this I heard the Lord’s calling me to give my summer to him, and when I heard of Elevate a few days after coming to terms with His command for my life I jumped into the program almost uncomfortably quick – I figured that if God was calling me to give my summer to him, this must be the way.

But my heart ached as I prepared to go. I sent out my support letters and spoke to my family and friends without joy because there was something amiss in my heart.The further that I progressed toward leaving for the summer the more burdened I became. It’s not because I believed the project to be poor or have the wrong intentions, but the more that I processed the less excited I was – this was the type of thing that I should have been ecstatic about! And yet, my heart was incredibly heavy. There was something about it that I felt was wrong.

So I took my concern to the Lord. For weeks I prayed and fasted and processed, begging the Lord for clarity. I was so frustrated. I couldn’t understand why something that was designed to be so great and God honoring would lay such a burden on my heart. Naturally, I tried to ignore it. The more that I heard the others talk about it I convinced myself that I would be okay, that I could be as excited as they were. They were all stoked out of their minds and I was just trying to force a smile. I felt wrong about it and I couldn’t figure out why.

I wasn’t sure what my options were. I felt awful resigning from the project when I had already sent out support letters and committed, but at the same time, I was growing more and more worried as the weeks led to the event. I knew that if I went I wouldn’t have an open and happy heart – I would have been closed and frustrated with the notion that I didn’t belong there. And that’s not what God calls me into. He calls me into a gentle vulnerability and joy, and I was feeling the polar opposite.

And in the midst of the processing and begging the Lord showed me his face in a beautiful real way, even when I fought him.

I believe that the Lord gives a choices – not because one is right and the other is wrong, or because one is better than the other; but simply because he loves us and wants to see us thrive. I believe that the Word of the Lord is alive and active. And I believe that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf I have the Holy Spirit alive and active in me.

And the Holy Spirit brings with it the gifts of the spirit, in which the Lord gives us a discerning heart. And as I prayed through the process of understanding what the Lord was calling me into I recognized his heart in calling me out to the Nations.

I believe that we thrive when we pursue our passions passionately – and try as I might, the truth is that the Lord just hasn’t set within me a heart that is as passionate about urban missions as it is for people of the nations. That doesn’t mean that God cannot use me, nor does it mean that I lack the desire for urban missions – simply it means that my heart was designed with a passion for the nations and a desire to walk alongside my brothers and sisters of different nations.

And so I have decided to back down from the Elevate project in order to take a missions internship in Burma, South Asia. It is here that I will get to walk alongside college students for ten weeks to teach conversational english and serve at a local coffee shop run by the Assemblies of God missionaries in the capital. In addition I get to work with the children’s ministry and live with the long term missionary – FOR TEN WEEKS!

I am enthralled by His personal pursuit of my heart. He pursues me via my passions and desires, and gives me clarity when I am silent and quick to listen to his call. It has been a trying couple months in deciding how to address my heart concerning my summer plans, but the Lord has been faithful to allow me to go where he calls me.

This does not mean that Elevate is bad and this internship in Burma is the only God-Honoring way to spend my summer, but rather it means that it is more suited to my own passions and desires. I am beyond stoked for this experience and I am incredibly faithful that the Lord is going to use it in a big way for his glory.

That being said, for those of you who have walked alongside me as I prepared for Elevate  – either financially or prayerfully – I am so incredibly thankful for each and every one of you. If you supported me with your finances it is important to me that you get all of your money back and I will be contacting you shortly, and for those of you considering this route, I would ask that you prayerfully consider walking alongside me in this way as I serve overseas this summer. Needless to say, I still need copious amounts of prayer.

From Ecuador to the Dominican Republic to Mexico, I can’t wait to add Burma. I’ve just purchased my tickets and made my travel plans – everything a test of faith in a huge way. Let’s continue together to reach the world for His glory. Thank you for your support!

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