My Hair Is a Lot Curlier These Days

(This doesn’t actually have much to do with my hair)

When I was a baby, I didn’t have any hair at all. My parents scotch-taped bows to my tomato-shaped head until I was two so that strangers would identify me as a little girl.

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When my hair finally started growing, it came in as a mop top of golden ringlets. Some said I looked like David Letterman. Others compared me to Shirley Temple. My family members certainly didn’t think I looked like any of them, but when I looked in the mirror, I just saw me.

I used to swing my curls around in the back yard singing made up songs in a wedding dress my grandmother sewed for me. I cradled baby dolls, inhaled grilled cheese sandwiches and watched Nickelodeon. I was free in the way all little girls who don’t know about shame are free.

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When I was in 2nd grade, I wandered into my mother’s bathroom. Everything on her counter was so beautiful and perfectly placed. I tried on a little bit of her lipstick, pillowed a little powder on my nose and walked through a cloud of her perfume. That was when I saw her tiny round brush. It only took one pull of the wiry, round blow-drying brush through my insanely thick, curly locks before it bound itself at the nape of my neck. My dad did the best he could to clip the brush out with nail clippers, but that day I lost 6 inches of baby curls to a tragic bowl cut and a great clips hair dresser.

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My hair grew and the curls came back, but when I looked in the mirror I started to see the girl that everyone else wanted me to be. With irons and sprays and serums I flattened and fried my hair. I barretted and bobby pinned the halo of baby hair that crowned my face to look more like the sleek blonde Jessicas and Jennifers at Dodgen Middle School.

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I studied note cards about my crush’s favorite bands. I dieted when I didn’t have to. I dieted when I didn’t want to. I wore these terrible, gaudy pink cowboy boots to impress another guy I liked. I said the things I knew other people wanted me to say. I drank my first beer after school in a boy’s empty house. Jerry Springer was on in the background. I repeated bible verses from memory. I did the right things, I did the wrong things. I lost myself.

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My hair seems curlier these days. My thick locks fall right at my shoulders and even when I pull it back into a ponytail, my bangs still bounce around my face. A few months ago I stopped using all the irons and sprays and serums that I’ve been using for years to flatten my curls. I stopped saying what I thought people wanted me to say and doing what I thought people wanted me to do.

I know that some people don’t see what I see. I know that some people probably don’t understand my dreams or laugh at my jokes or even enjoy spending time with me. There are some people who think that the things I believe in are unimportant. Most likely, there are people who don’t like the things I say. There are those who think I’m doing the right kinds of things and some who think I’m doing the wrong kinds of things. I intimidate some people. Some people think I’m weird. Some people think I should be spending more time on dates and less time daydreaming. And maybe some people think I shouldn’t wear my hair curly.

But they are just some people and I’m too busy dancing around in my back yard to pay them any mind.

My hair is a lot curlier these days; at least it feels that way.

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What I Learned From My Christian Education

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A week from today I will be a college graduate. Shhhhhh….. can you hear that? That’s the sounds of a thousand angels singing and playing harps in perfect harmony.

Okay, so it’s probably not a secret that I’m PUMPED about crossing the finish line, but you might not know that this year there have been moments when I’ve regretted attending a small Christian institution.

I’ve had thoughts like “Gosh I wish I’d gone to a school with more diverse perspectives.”

or “wow I wish I’d gone to a school with less rich white people.”

and my  personal favorite ,”Geez, the selection of boys at this school is so pathetic.”

And, of course, there have been aspects of the faith integration portion of my education that have seemed laborious and stupid. Chapel started to feel aritificial so I just stopped going and (despite what you’ve heard) required service isn’t actually service.

Nonetheless, there is something precious I’ve gained from my Christian education that I’m not sure I would’ve gotten anywhere else. This is big- no huge. It’s vital. And, to be truthful, it has kept me hanging on to my faith.

The truth is, there are professors at Lee that have taught me more about what it means to live out my Christian calling than service learning, required chapel and religion classes combined. 

Thank you Doc Moe, Prof V, Dr. Barnett, Dr. Singletary and others for showing me what it means to be like Jesus.

Thank you, Dr. Singletary, for coming around the desk to comfort me when I cried. 

Thank you, Prof V, for helping me see everything I’m capable of and reminding me to treat every person that I interact with like they are the most important person in the world, because in that moment, they are.

Thank you, Dr. Barnett, for seeing me in a sea of students and caring for me individually.

Thank you, Doc Moe, for showing me what a strong, intellegent, bad ass woman looks like.

This is what my Christian education taught me: People will forget about books and bullet points and what grade they got on their midterm, but they won’t forget how you treated them.

I graduate in a week. I plan to change the world and get a PhD and write books about the things I know. I plan to spread the seeds of my knowlege on fertile soil that will grow into mighty oaks.

But I know that all the education in the world could never be as important as treating people with dignity, respect and love. None of that could be as influential as being Jesus to someone, and that’s what Lee has done for me.

So, I guess I don’t regret my Christian education one bit. What the hell- I’m proud to be a Lee Flame! (but like could we take the mascot under review bc it’s so lame you guys)

 

 

 

I Went a Month Without Praying


*****This post was shared without my permission on several political blogs. As the author, I DO NOT FEEL as though these sources accurately reflect the sentiments expressed in this post. Also, please see the below addendum for clarification on my thoughts**** 


I went a month without praying. Not on purpose and not because I stopped believing that someone was listening. I stopped praying because my heart got so blocked up and hard that I didn’t even know how to anymore.

How did I get there? I’ve never felt far from God. In all of my life, it’s never been difficult to turn to Jesus when I feel pain, doubt, loss or discomfort. Each time the world licked me with its lashes, I ran to Jesus. But… when the Church punctured me with her pernicious pride I drew into myself and armored my heart with iron.

I watched in horror and disbelief as Christians I love and respect supported a man full of greed, hate, arrogance and prejudice in the name of Jesus Christ. “We won!,” they said. Who won?

I wept bitterly at the photos of refugee children and grew furiously angry when Christians I know thought only of protecting themselves.  I became disgusted to the point of physical illness when Christians passed off jokes about sexually assaulting women as “loose lips” and “locker room talk.”

And then there were those who said nothing- an offense more desructive than any other.

I grew hot with rage. Is this the bride of Christ? Are these the people who are supposed to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus? I feel so incredibly distant from that Church. I will run as far as humanly possible from that brand of “Christianity.” If that is what Christianity is about then count. me. out. 

And Holy Week comes. For the first time in my 22 years, I identify more closely with the death of Christ than His Resurrection. I feel an absence of Christ in this world. On the evening we remember the crucifiction of Christ, I worship in a room with 100 other people and I wonder if we’re even worshipping the same God.

I feel like I’m greiving the loss of my Jesus. I’m greiving the loss of compassion, selfless love, benevolence, peace, generosity and kindness.

And though I haven’t prayed in a month, I hear His voice, “I AM the Lord. I change not.”

The iron armor falls. My heart pounds furiously with her new freedom. I worship Jesus for who HE is and forget the awful rest of it.

On Easter I weep with hope, because although the Church can feel like a terrible thing, Jesus will always come back to set things right. 

I’m turning a new page in my book. I’m setting out to find a community that seeks to be like Jesus. I’m done living out my faith like I’m a member of an army that’s fighting for converts and voting republican every election because “democrat” is a bad word.

Being like Christ should mean that my heart breaks every day for the lost and hurting. It means that I’ll break bread with any type of person and that I’ll fight for justice and for the liberation of the oppressed. All that’s left of my Christian faith is Christ, but I’ll take Him. Every single day.

Addendum: As someone who practices inclusivity, I want to clarify that I do not want to shame anyone for practicing their freedom of voting for whoever they choose. I am very aware that many Christians voted for President Trump with the motive of improving the world, and I can absolutely respect that. In this post, I was aiming at the spirit behind the sorts of evil that I feel Presdient Trump has evoked in many people. 

Also, I want to clarify that I ADORE the people of my church. This was written in reference to the chruch at large (That’s why I used the uppercase C). My church has contributed so many wonderful things to my life and made me who I am.

feminism // abigail hewins

There was a popular article circulating the web not too long ago detailing the ten types of women that Christian men should avoid when considering marriage. On this list, in spot number 4, was (you guessed it): The Feminist.

As the author of the original post put it, “There’s no room within Christendom for the ‘Christian feminist.'”

When Abigail Hewins was a freshman at Lee University, she would’ve agreed with the aforementioned article wholeheartedly.

“When I first came to Lee, I thought feminism was dumb, and wrong, actually,” Hewins said, “Not only was I not a feminist, but I thought that men were greater than women. Not just that we didn’t need feminism because men and women were already equal, but I legitimately thought that God’s best way for us was that God loved men and He loved women, and he created them differently. But, men were designed to be…

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5 Things I Wish I Would’ve Known

I’M GRADUATING COLLEGE IN 41 DAYS. I write this in ALL CAPS but honestly I have no idea how to quantify the emotions I’m feeling. Churning around in my belly is a powerful   concoction of excietment, sadness, elation and sentimentality. It’s all goopy and sloshy and unprocessed, but it’s there. And it demands to be felt.

Over the last month or so I’ve done some significant reflecting about my past and dreaming about my future. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about it.

The fact is, I know a hell of a lot more now than I did that hot, sticky August day I moved into Sharp-Davis Hall. I wish so badly I could reach back in time and deliver a letter to that girl warning her about all the stupid things she thinks are true and all the stupid boys she’ll waste her time on. But I can’t. And I shouldn’t. She didn’t learn that way, but she learned. I learned. And now I am writing a commemorative blog post that will hopefully land in the lap of another well-intentioned, bright, sweet, lamb-like young lady.

Here are the top five things I wish I would’ve known then, but I do know now. 

1.You’re not always right and your opinon about virutally EVERYTHING will change at least once. 

I like being right, and most of the time I (think I) am. I educate myself, make a choice and commit to that decision fiercely. This is a great quality in relation to friendships, faith, etc. The same principle does not apply so well when it comes to things like social issues, politics and just generally having empathy for other human beings.

I wish I could just go back and tell that girl to be more open-minded. Lean in and LISTEN. I’d tell myself to stop looking through my thick, dusty rule book and see people as who they are.

Now about changing that voter registration….

2. Your parents aren’t right about everything. 

WHAT??????!!!!!!!! It’s true. They’re human beings and it’s okay to disagree with them but it’s not okay to not try and understand them. You are your own person. Think like it.

3. Choose your friends with wisdom and then fight for them with all you have. 

In college, your friends become family and your family become your friends. It’s weird. I found those miracle people who have loved me through thick and thin. I almost lost them more than once along the road, but we fought through our circumstances because of love.

I can say with absolute certainty I couldn’t have made it through college without them. I love you guys. Find your people and FIGHT FOR THEM.

4. Boys are a  w a s t e   o f   t i m e. 

Self explanatory. Powerful girl, you have far more important things to do than fall for boys who will never see how valuable you are. Fall in love with yourself and (maybe) someday a man will see your unbelieveable magic.   Ya no- I’m still pretty skepitcal about romantic love to be completely honest. Check back in four more years?

5. The tension is good.

Hands down, I’ve grown the most in the past four years during the crappiest times. I’m talking no money in the bank account, no sleep all week, heartbroken, lonely, failed a test and have nothing to hold on to kind of crappy.

Observe the pain and grow from it. How? You’ll figure it out. And when you do you’ll be even stronger the next time.

 

Now I prepare to end the chapter but not without starting a new one. This summer I’ll begin a new season in a new city with new friends and new food and new hardships and probably new heartache.

I promise I’ll drink up the sunny, smiley days just as much and I soak in the gloomy rainy ones. I’m taking what I’ve learned and I’m standing on it. Watch out, world. I’m brave. I’m beautiful. I’m brawny. I’m brainy. And in no particular order. Here’s to the next chapter!

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The Four Year Surrender

I’m a believer that incredible power is found when we tell people’s real stories. They have the power to connect to the heart in a way that nothing else can. There’s also power in remembering. I did a little bit of both today.

Here’s the story of my Four Year Surrender.

Year One:

Throat tightening, eyes burning, breath rapid, she closes her computer and snatches headphones from the desk. She ducks her head as she passes a group of girls on the stair well. No one will see her cry. Weakness is unnaceptable and failure is inexcusable. Her blue asics pound the ground as she charges toward the south end of campus.

Not good enough to make the list posted on the cinder block wall. Not worthy enough for a second interview. Invisible to the boy she likes. She’s petrified of disappointing the people she loves and conceals that fear behind a beautifully crafted mask. She fools everyone, even herself.

There’s nowhere to hide, so she runs. Tears mingle with the sweat and prayers bang on the walls of her mind until the pressure overwhelms her. She finally surrenders with a yell, “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!”

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Year Two:

The long days stretch out into late night car rides made up of coke icees, french fries and pajama bottoms. Somehow the rejection isn’t quite so heavy when she lets people help her carry it. No one has any idea where they’re going. They feel loss and stress and incredible heart ache, but they feel it together. They battle through boyfriends and breakups and backstabbing hand in hand.

This might be the place she takes off her mask for the first time. It’s been so long that she doesn’t really know what exists underneath. But it’s so hard to breathe behind the mask. Concealing the ugliness cannot be worth the struggle.

One night, cross legged in front of her friends, she surrenders. Pieces of the mask crumble to the earth and they gaze at her in wonder- not because of the ugliness, but because of the astounding strength and beauty.

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Year Three:

She breathes freely and she uses every ounce of that breath to fight. She fights to keep the mask off. She fights for her friendships. She fights against fear of rejection and fear of the future. Most of all, she fights to become the woman she wants to be.

The world is a new place filled with new thoughts and feelings and ideas. With every inhale she takes in the fresh air of intellect and with every exhale the composition of her heart and mind change the smallest bit.

The heart inside her chest beats harder every day with new love, crisp pain and unrefined passion. Her old self picks up fragmented pieces of mask and fights against the forgien. The tension builds and builds until the day she finally falls at her knees and surrenders with a prayer, “Help me be brave.”

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Year Four:

The days are gritty and lavish with feeling. Her newborn strength laughs at the rejection she felt the night she ran south through campus. She smiles at the fear she felt sitting cross-legged in a circle. She longs for last year’s fight.

Somehow she’s simultaneously full of confidence and insecurity. She longs for the future and clings to the past. She’s weak and strong, peaceful and frantic.

She’s beauty, brains and brawn in no particular order.

She drives with the windows down past the landmarks that have built her story. She lets herself feel every memory, experience every regret, cry out every fear. Surrendering, she prays, “What do you want from me?!”

Suddenly, she’s sweaty and crying in her blue asics. Tears sting her eyeballs, not with sadness but hope.

The very question that gave birth to the life changing four-year surrender reminds her that many days of surrender still lie before her.

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Room At The Table

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Purple lunch box in hand, I follow my classmates into the gigantic fluorescent-lit room full with the sound of chattering nine year-olds. The smell of corn dogs and ketchup make my already squirming stomach begin to churn. Panic  overwhelms me as I scan the long wooden row for an available blue disk-like seat near a friendly(ish) face. Groups of boys playing pokemon and girls whispering secrets curve together with backs facing out- a barrier that is too difficult for me to overcome alone. Bravely, I find a place only three blue disks away from the trashcan, pull out my turkey sandwich and silently pray, “God, help me make a friend.”

I want to talk about The Table. Not the one my 3rd grade self longed to find a seat at or the ones in our homes that we invite friends and family to dine at. I’m talking about that fabled, preverbial Table that we’ve heard so much about. As Sarah Bessey puts it,

“It’s the Table where all the decisions are made. Gatekeepers surround it, all reading the same books, spouting the same talking points, quoting each other back and forth, vilifying or mocking their straw men and women. It’s the Table where coalitions and councils metaphorically sit in swivel chairs to discuss who is in and who is out, who is right (usually each other) and who is wrong (everyone else)….”

This is the place they talk about when they look and ask “so what do you bring to The Table?” With well prepared lists of accomplishments, awards, and experience we submit ourselves to the scrutiny of those who sit at The Table, hoping and praying that we’ll be offered a seat.

Experts and leaders of the different parts of our world stake claim of certain portions of the table. Artists, business people, educators, athletes and the like stake flags in The Table and create standards for seating. Innevitably, with so many conditions, there is not adequate space for all to be heard. Thus, many are silenced.

The Church is not immune to this condition. Our leadership sit around The Table and talk amongst themselves about which sins can be allowed and which are simply inadmissible. A pornography addiction is common enough to be forgivable, but out-right cheating on a spouse is unacceptable. They might decide that a woman is allowed to do the dirty work of changing diapers in the church nursery and scrub pots after luncheons. She may even be permitted to lead a certain area of ministry as long as we’re careful to call her a “Director” and never “Pastor.”  The man and woman who live together outside of marriage are quietly chided or maybe completely overlooked while a homosexual person is made to feel unworthy to serve or even be a part of the family because of their relationship.

Hear me say, I do not believe that moral relativism is an adequate substitute for the Word of God. Hear me also say that I am a young woman who has sorrowfully witnessed many other Christians respond to our world in indifference, ignorance, fear and hate and do it in the name of biblical morality. How did we get here? Have we forgotten the words of Jesus, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

“A new commandment I have given you: love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

Do you think the mothers and fathers of our faith who fought against slavery stopped at Ephesians 6:5 and said, “Whelp! Looks like God is pro-human slavery!” Certainly not! They kept reading. They didn’t settle to for a modern-day that merely imitates the ancient culture in which the Bible was written. They pressed into the heart of God. They searched the scripture and followed the Spirit toward a world that glints and glimmers just a little bit more like the Kingdom of Heaven.

Sisters and brothers, hold fast to God’s saving Word, but please do not neglect to make room at The Table. Lean in and listen. Hear the plight of the oppressed. Peer into the heart of the sinner and not merely their sin. In humility, consider others above yourself, your theology or your political agenda. Look up from whatever meal your eating and see Jesus jumping up and down on top of The Table yelling to our broken world, “THERE’S MORE ROOM! THERE’S MORE ROOM AT MY TABLE!”

I unlace my fingers and readjust the velcro on my purple lunch box. I take a deep breath and look up. A girl teeny tiny blonde girl called Amanda clears her throat and asks, “Is this spot taken?”

“No, there’s room at this table.”

photo taken from: (http://asimplehaven.com/31-days-of-real-simple-hospitality)