Women.

I am a woman, and I think women are wonderful.

But I don’t think society thinks that. Actually, I know that.

Well, maybe it does but only for our bodies. Only for the pleasure of men.

Women’s bodies are so sexualized. It has always perplexed me as to why men can freely walk around pretty much anywhere without a shirt on while women are continuously put down because they’re wearing a bikini, sports bra or crop top. It’s always bothered me that dress codes disproportionally affect women. It’s ridiculous that women are criticized for breastfeeding in public. People get so offended over women’s bodies being exposed, and we wonder why young women are so at-risk for eating disorders.

It’s because A) women are blasted with photoshopped images that are literally unattainable and B) their bodies are continuously viewed as objects and nothing more.

In fact, maybe we could just stop that sentence at viewed. Women’s bodies are looked at and noticed while men’s aren’t. No one notices when a man gains five pounds or if they do, they don’t care. No one cares what a man is wearing. The attention always goes straight to the female body in the room.

And we are confused to why rape and sexual assault are so prevalent?

I’m not. It’s because everything we do teaches boys that girls are objects made for them instead of human beings.

Because we tell each other that women are only valuable because they are a daughter, sister, wife or mother. We are only valuable because of our relationships to men. We are only valuable if we look good enough. We are only valuable if we are the right amount of feminine and nothing less and nothing more.

But that’s not true.

We are valuable. We are loved. We are important. We can contribute. We are capable.

Simply because we are humans.

Our identity is not found in the men who surround us. Our identity is found in Christ.

We are able to do so much more than society tells us we can do. We can do anything because Philippians 4:13 doesn’t just apply to men .

And it would be really cool if men would stop getting in the way of that by telling us we can’t. By not supporting us. By using our bodies for their pleasure and telling us that it is the only valuable thing about us. By catcalling. By raping. By making us go home and change instead of staying in class to learn. By pointing at a picture in a magazine and asking us why we don’t look like that. By telling us to stop feeding our babies. By mansplaining. By telling us our sexual assault was our fault.

And I could go on and on and on…

Think of how beautiful it would be if all men stood behind and with women instead of in front of them blocking their view. Gosh, that would be amazing. I can’t wait for that day.

I’m so privileged. I have not been pushed aside like too many women have, and my heart hurts so badly for them. I want them front and center. I want them to accomplish everything they want to do. I want them to never go out at certain times or to certain places in fear of their safety. I want them to always be consensual in every sexual encounter. I want them to get paid the same. I want them to wear what they want and be who they want. I want them to live to their full potential. I want them to live how God intended for them to live. And I don’t want anything to hold them back. Especially men.

For both of our sakes.

Women are wonderful and beautiful and amazing and I want the world to know that. To see that. To agree with that.

But not just for our bodies. And instead for our hearts, brains, souls. Because we are breathing and here and deserve to be loved. We deserve to be heard. Because we are human just like men. Because society literally needs us to survive.

Women, remember that you are powerful. Please don’t ever feel like you’re not good enough because you are. You are, I promise. You and your own special gifts and talents can do anything and don’t forget that. Don’t allow anyone to stop you from doing your calling. Don’t let anyone stop you from following your dreams. If a woman hasn’t done it before, you can be the first. We were made for more than having babies, getting married and cleaning the house even though those things aren’t inherently bad. We were still made for so much more.

I want you to know that it’s okay to be a woman. I know it sucks sometimes. I know we have to be the ones who get pregnant, have babies and menstruate. I know we are looked at as the lesser half even though that’s the furtherest thing from the truth. But we’ll be okay. We can push through. It’s not going to be easy but we can survive because we are strong.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14

You are fearfully and wonderfully made and you are SO loved,

Mikayla

Diversity and Inclusion.

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(Picture found on the UTDiversityMatters’s Facebook page)

I’m frustrated. It’s not uncommon for me. You probably know that, but today I found myself so overwhelmed with all of these negative emotions that I couldn’t even form a thought that made sense. So, naturally I’m writing about it to try to form something coherent.

This morning in my Law and Society class we talked about immigrants. Immigrants are people, and that’s all that really matters to me. I don’t care where they’re from, why they needed to leave their country, what they’ve done… All I care about is that they’re people that need help. But we (America) don’t do a good job at helping them. We make citizenship impossible to achieve. We arrest, detain and deport them just for existing. Because somehow it’s possible for a human being who God placed on this planet to be illegal for just breathing. We make it loud and clear that we are exclusive.

It’s like we’re saying “Sorry, we’re known as a melting pot but we actually don’t like anyone who doesn’t look, act or talk like us. Oh, there’s political conflict, natural disasters, war and stagnant economies in your country? Well, that’s just too bad you’ll have to deal with it or find somewhere else to go because I have to eat my post-dinner ice cream, fill up my new car with gas, charge my iPhone and watch my Netflix shows. I don’t have the time, energy or resources to help you.”

Are we really that afraid of people who aren’t like us? Are we so afraid of diversity that we’ll risk their lives? Like our luxuries and  privilege are more important than their lives. They leave their country out of fear. They don’t want to leave their home, everything they know and love, but they have to. They don’t have this big agenda to destroy America. They’re seeking refuge, and they think they can find it here. But they don’t because we don’t give it to them. Because we make them live in fear here too. Instead of being welcoming and kind, loving and caring, we make them continue to live in fear.

That entire conversation in my class this morning reminded me of the current big UT issue, The Office of Diversity and Inclusion. As most of you know, there is a bill trying to defund the office for In God We Trust decals for law enforcement vehicles and minority scholarships. Now, I have a lot to say about what they want the money to go to, but I’m going to skip that to talk about the importance of why we need diversity and inclusion. A more important conversation.

We need diversity because we’re scared of people not like us. Why is that? Because we aren’t exposed to them. Why is that? Because we aren’t inclusive. We kick people out of the country, our bakeries, our churches, you name it because we’re exclusive. Just like segregation. Only whites allowed. Only white, Christian, heterosexual, men allowed. And there’s always stereotypical reasons to allow this discrimination and oppression to happen. All blacks are criminals, all Hispanics are trying to take our jobs (like we have an entitlement to those jobs), all Muslims are terrorists. They don’t seem wrong, though, because some (a tiny minority) have done those things. We have seen them do it. But it is absolutely essential for us to remember that not everyone falls under those categories. This is why categories are so damaging. They lump all people who look the same into one category when maybe that category doesn’t fit them at all.

And I know. Trust me, I remember 9/11. I know that it scares us, it scares me. Some terrible things have happened because of outsiders. And I’ll be honest, I don’t have the magical solution. I don’t know how to keep all “bad” people out and let all “good” people in. It’s hard and complicated and tricky and risky. But all I know is that they’re people even the “bad” ones. They’re people who deserve to be treated like human beings, like a precious life worthy of living.

And I also know that less than 20% of all immigrants commit serious criminal acts. Most immigrants are arrested and deported for minor crimes like a broken tail light or not using a signal light or for simply existing in the wrong place in the wrong body.

Like I said before, I am frustrated because I want everyone on this planet to be recognized as a human. I am so tired of dehumanization, and we do it all the time. Just the other day I was reading an article about Jajuan Latham, the 12 year old who was shot as an innocent bystander by gun violence, and the comments were absolutely disgusting. The racist language being used was so dehumanizing towards all individuals of color. The violence in their words was almost as bad as the crime itself.

Dehumanization is the third step of genocide, and oh goodness are we there. I’m so scared for this nation and our inability to care or maybe our unwillingness to care. We don’t even care about our own citizens, about our neighbors, let alone the rest of the world. We only care about two things: ourselves and profit. Caring about and helping others doesn’t get us there, does it? So we just don’t do it.

I will say this. It’s easier not to care. Sometimes I miss the times when I didn’t. Caring and acting on that care is exhausting. It takes work, but it is so worth it in the end.

We’re all people created by the Creator and deserving of love and kindness because that’s what Jesus mimicked for us on the cross. He loved the unlovable, cared for the ones not cared for, sought out the ones who were ignored. I strive to be more like that every day, and I really hope you do too. We can start right here, right now on UT’s campus, not allowing the legislature to defund the Office of Diversity and Inclusion because diversity matters.

Confidence.

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I’ve been thinking about confidence lately.

I really don’t have much confidence at all if I’m being honest.

It’s the ultimate reason for why it’s frustratingly impossible for me to take part in class discussions. It’s why I worry about what I look like. It’s why I trail off on my sentences or take back what I said. It’s the reason I second-guess myself and can’t make decisions. It’s why I get nervous before things like presentations or going somewhere new or talking to someone I don’t know.

It all goes back to confidence.

But in all of that, I’ve realized that not being confident in myself means I’m not confident in God. He made me. He made my passions, my knowledge, my opinions, ideas and thoughts. He made my appearance. He made me exactly how I am for a reason and a purpose. So, I should be confident in that because it’s from Him, and He is perfect. Because He is perfect and knows all things and sees all things, I can be confident in Him and trust Him which means I can be confident and trust myself because He is in me.

I was listening to The Artist by Rend Collective on my car ride home and it says “You make all things bright and beautiful, wild and colorful. You make our lives bright and beautiful, wild and colorful. You are the artist.” It’s so good and so convicting. It’s so easy to love God’s creation and other people because of the beauty in them. (For the most part, anyway.) But I struggle so hard to love myself and find that beauty in me. Why, though?

I’m just as much His creation as everybody else. I’m loved like everyone else. I’m forgiven and given grace and mercy. Jesus died for me too. But I seem to forget that.

I think it’s hard because I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want the attention to be on me because then I’ll look self-absorbed. I want to care about others so badly that I tend to neglect myself. That thought process is almost prideful, though.  It’s almost prideful of me to not be confident in myself. It’s prideful to want to be better or prettier because then I’m hoping to change how God created me. I am perfectly Mikayla, and you are perfectly you. We’re not perfect, but we’re the perfect one of us because we’re the only one of us.

I’ve learned that it’s nearly impossible to love others the way you should if you don’t love yourself like you should.

So here’s my challenge to you and me… embrace yourself. love yourself. be yourself.

Be exactly who God made you to be, and don’t let anyone especially yourself give you a reason not to be confident in that.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  your works are wonderful, I know that full well. -Psalm 139:14

Spring Break.

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A few hours ago I rolled up to the Baptist Collegiate Ministry in the co-pilot position of a twelve passenger van after riding in that van for approximately twelve hours on the way home from New Orleans, Louisiana. I thanked the Lord for familiar territory, my own bed, less humidity and kisses from my dogs.

But I want to go back. I don’t want to do my homework or go to class or my internship. I don’t want to be stressed out and anxious like I always am. I want to go back. Not just to NOLA, but to New York, McAllen and Chicago too. Each of these places I have spent only a week of my lifetime in, but they have huge pieces of my heart. I find peace in those places. My worries don’t exist there, and my mission is simply to serve the people there. I decrease while He increases… while the people I’m serving increase. I deny myself and my needs and worries so that I can tend to the needs of the people there, and I love it. I don’t want to be worried about myself all of the time. It’s exhausting.

Something about serving makes those places so real. They’re not just pictures. You see firsthand the brokenness, the pain, the heartache, the darkness but you also see the joy, hope, peace, and light. There’s the good and ugly of every place including Knoxville and serving makes you see both and learn to appreciate both. Serving isn’t easy. Mission trips aren’t a breeze. You leave tired and sunburned and probably in need of being poured into and filled back up. But they have done so much in shaping who I am now, and God molds, pushes and grows me on those trips.

I’ll admit that I can do all of the things I did on each of those spring break mission trips in Knoxville, and I don’t. I don’t treat Knoxville as a mission field. Maybe if I did I would do better at finding peace in my everyday life. In lessening myself and trusting the Lord more. I should be serving the people of Knoxville as boldly and as energetically as I did in each of those cities because Knoxville is just as broken as any other city. Knoxvillians need Jesus just like anyone else. That is something that the Lord really taught me on this trip as the realization of this being my last BCM mission trip sunk in. I am dang sad about it, but if I treated wherever I am as a mission field with people that need to be served, I think I will find the same satisfaction and wonder that I find on each mission trip I’ve been on.

I love to travel, though, which is one of the things that makes these mission trips so special to me. Each time was a new place and adventure. When you’re away from home in a new place, you absolutely have to rely on God and those around you to make it through. I’m thankful for that growth, and it is something that I can’t find as easily here because I’m in my daily routine of comfort and busyness. But I will continuously try to find that here or wherever I end up because I can’t let the comfort distract me. I can’t let the busyness push evangelism, praying or serving off until later. It’s an urgent matter, and I can’t forget that. Oh goodness, it’s hard though.

I also love the servant’s heart that explodes out of the people I have the privilege of exploring these places with. I love my BCM family. I honestly don’t know how I made it through life before I met them. They have pushed me and challenged me in ways that no one else ever has. They have loved me unconditionally and sacrificially. I think watching them serve and love on others is my favorite part of my college spring breaks. They are so passionate about the gospel and Jesus’s love literally overflows out of them. They inspire me in ways that I hope to continually see after I graduate because it teaches me so much. I have grown one hundred times more in my faith and as a person by knowing them for four years than I did in the eighteen years before I met them. They are so incredible, and I would brag on them all day, every day.

To be real for a minute, I’m scared of what will happen when I graduate. The thing I will miss the most about college is the amazing community of believers that God gave me at the BCM. My brothers and sisters in Christ there are in my favorite life memories, and I know I’ve found forever friends with them.

You might have expected a little bit more of an update of what I did in New Orleans in this blog, and I’ll be glad to tell you but this is what I needed to say here.

I love to serve especially with my BCMers beside me. It may just be my favorite thing on the planet.

Labels.

You know what I would love? A world without labels. I was thinking about this the other day after another depressing lecture in a Sociology class (I really do love my major, I promise), and I decided that Sociology would be a whole lot less depressing without labels. Because that’s honestly where all the problems begin. That’s where discrimination and oppression start. That’s where the Holocaust began. It’s where violence and hatred and war stem from.

It all starts with labels. Labels quite literally tear us apart.

What if race had never been socially constructed. What if we didn’t call another person fat or ugly. What if we didn’t label someone based on their crime or sin.  What if we didn’t identify ourselves and others by gender, sexual orientation, religion, country, etc. What if we were all just humans. We are all just people. What if we all identified each other based on God’s image and that’s it. What if we forgave. What would happen if beauty didn’t have only one specific look?

Can you imagine? Sociologists would be studying all kinds of wonderful things instead of terrible ones.

Question: why can’t I just say that I love Jesus instead of calling myself a Christian? I mean I can, but if I said that I loved Jesus I would automatically be labeled a Christian in the head of the person I said it to. It’s automatic. This is only one example, but it makes it so obvious how necessary labels are in our world. Do they have to be necessary though?

Labels come with so many stereotypes and baggage. If you are black, you’re supposed to act one way. If you are a woman, you’re supposed to be another way. Then if you’re a black woman, you’re supposed to be something entirely different. But why can’t we all just be human beings? Seriously. Why.

I read a piece by Derrick Bell the other day where he claimed that racism is never going to go away. It’s so true and dark and can be said about sexism, ableism, ageism, whatever else. But racism (and all other “isms”) won’t go away because we’ve created race. I will always see those who look different than me, differently, maybe negatively because race exists. We created racism when we created race. And don’t tell me that race isn’t socially constructed. Yes we look different, but we made it to where skin color is the first thing we notice about someone. We made definitions out of skin color.

I just (disclaimer: this is going to be crazy radical)… I just want to live in a world where there’s no continents, no countries, no races, no labels. Where we are all one unified people. Where we don’t build walls between countries for fear of each other. Where we don’t tell others to leave our home because they don’t belong. Where we don’t tell others that they aren’t welcome. Where we aren’t afraid to be immersed in a different culture because they’re different. Where black people aren’t shot because they’re black. Where I am not commanded to be a certain way because I am a woman. I just want us to be us. Whatever that may be.

Unique but united.

I’ve given up on the fact that this will ever occur unless we can go back in time and change everything. Where’s the Doctor at? Peter Capaldi, could you come pick me up in your Tardis? Let’s go change the world.

But anyway, I look forward to… in fact, I long for the day when I arrive in Heaven where this will be reality. We won’t notice any labels about each other… we’ll just be rejoicing together. Unified. But until then, I will try my best to love everyone and treat everyone like they are human. Like they are me even when they are different than me. Knowing that God loves them just as much as He loves me. Loving them with crucifixion love instead of reciprocal love not expecting anything in return… sacrificing something. Just loving despite of the labels. Loving even though I’ve been socialized to see labels. Choosing to love anyways.

Two Little Truths

I wouldn’t usually be sitting here writing this when there’s a pile of homework beside me waiting to be done. But here I am. It’s easier because I already wrote all of this in the journal I started today. I bought a journal that I was supposed to fill with the times I was stressed out (aka all of the time) for a class, Stress Management, that I dropped because it was stressing me out. Long story. So, I changed the journal into journaling about Jesus because why not. I should have been doing it all along.

God has been reminding me over and over the past few days of these two little truths. Truths that once I realized have already significantly changed how I view life.

The first is this. God is enough. He and His love alone satisfies me. I don’t need other’s affections. I don’t need other’s compliments or Facebook likes. I don’t need people or food or things. Because none of that will satisfy me. It’s a hard thing to realize especially for someone like me who feels like she needs all of those desperately. I need acceptance. I need other people. I need my iPhone to survive. But those things won’t fill me like God does. I will always be left unsatisfied, feeling not good enough, disappointed, unloved and empty when I rely on those things or other people. Because they all fail. People fail you and make you feel unloved. iPhone’s die. Food spoils. Flowers fade. But God? He will always satisfy. He will never fail you or stop loving you. Ever. He is enough. He is all I really need. I never truly grasped what is meant by He is the bread of life, and now I do.

The second hit me suddenly and out of nowhere. But it relates to my constant fear of missing out. I’m basically like a kid who won’t fall asleep for a nap for fear of missing something awesome. I don’t like missing things. I don’t think anyone does. But God stopped me in my tracks and told me that in whatever moment I am in, He put me there. He designed the moment I am in right now intentionally and purposefully. So I shouldn’t be thinking of other moments I could be missing or what else I could be doing. I should be living this moment to its fullest. I should be completely present and engaged in every moment that I am in. And admittedly, I don’t do this very often. I am constantly thinking about something else instead of living in the exact moment that I was placed in. So this is definitely something I needed to realize. It’s something I need to work on improving at.

So there they are. Two little truths that I wanted to share with you.

The time I tried the Daniel Fast.

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I’m beginning to write this seven days into the Daniel Fast, and I’m already doing a pretty great job at messing it up. I’ve cheated more than once, and I haven’t read a chapter of John every day.

It’s basically turning into a period of giving up sweet tea and donuts (not anymore on the donuts… Update: Or the sweet tea…) and overwhelming guilt.

The Backstory: My pastor asked our church to participate in the Daniel Fast as we begin the new year. If you don’t know what that is, it’s where you limit your diet by taking out meat, dairy, sweets and leavened bread for 21 days. You essentially eat like Daniel did in Daniel 1. In addition to this, we were supposed to read a chapter of John every day. So since everyone else was doing it, I figured I’d give it a shot. Why not right?

I could make up excuses to why I’m sucking at it like food is my ultimate weakness and even though John is one of my favorite books of the Bible, I’ve read it so many times in the past year that I just don’t want to read it right now. Plus I’m doing a pretty solid job of keeping up with She Reads Truth at the moment and adding a chapter of John each day will probably mean sacrificing one of them, and that’s just the truth of my current state of Bible reading.

But honestly, those excuses don’t matter because my heart wasn’t in it. It still isn’t.

But despite all of that, the Lord is still faithful and He has taught me significantly  more in these days of attempting and failing miserably at the Daniel Fast than I think He would have if I would have executed it perfectly.

I realized that I love food. Maybe too much. I don’t really know. I just know that I don’t have much self-control when it comes to food. Maybe I’m gluttonous. I only overeat occasionally though, and I can mostly control my portions. But I just can’t turn down free food, and sometimes I drool in grocery stores. I love food especially the food that you can’t eat on the Daniel Fast. It’s delicious, and I thank God for it. Life would be boring without good food.

Can food be an idol? Probably. In fact, our whole day is planned around meals (and class and work and everything else that’s important to us), but maybe it should be planned around time with God instead. Whoa. That’s intensely convicting isn’t it?

But food isn’t bad. Besides the fact that we need food to survive, I think back at all of the sweet, meaningful times spent with friends and family over meals or coffee.

I’ve also realized how damaging legalism can be to me. I’m not saying in any way that this fast was legalistic. But I am saying that I made it that way. I held myself to a standard that I couldn’t reach. I looked at the list of foods I wasn’t “supposed” to eat for 21 days and made it into a set of strict rules to follow. I do this often with so many different things. I even make my relationship with Christ that is full of love, kindness and forgiveness into a set of rules I have to follow. If I don’t follow them, He won’t love me. I won’t be good enough. But that’s the furthest thing from the truth. The truth is He loves me regardless of whether or not I follow the ten commandments at all times. Regardless of whether I succeed at the Daniel Fast. Granted I should repent when I sin but the point is He loves me, and because of that He forgives me when I fail Him. When I break His heart by turning down the path well traveled instead of the narrow one, when I turn my back on Him and walk the other direction, when I run right past His open arms into the arms of something else, when I sin.  He loves us at our weakest and most disgusting moments, and that’s what makes the gospel so beautiful.

My promises will never be good enough. I won’t keep all of my promises. I can’t because I’m not perfect. I am human. Flawed. But God always keeps His promises because He is holy. His promise to love and care for me. His promise to forgive me when I mess up. Never failing and never ending. His promises are forever. I am so thankful for that.

I have to remind myself that God doesn’t call us to a new law. He calls us to a relationship with Him. Christianity isn’t supposed to be a set of rules and regulations. And I know that. It’s been drilled into me since I was born. But I make it that way so often. Do I really act like this is a relationship? Or am I just trying to be as good as I can because that’s what I am supposed to do? So I can impress God or other people?

It’s not a set of rules. It’s a relationship. And relationships are messy. They are far from perfect. They’re up and down. In and out. Sideways. You argue. You cry. You smile. You fight and make up. You forgive and forget. You move on. You laugh. You serve. You give. You sacrifice. You hug. You hit. You walk away. You communicate. You reminisce. You encourage. You comfort. You get mad. You hate. You love. It’s a roller coaster.

And that’s exactly what we have with God. Thankfully one side of the relationship is perfect, but my side… definitely not.

Every relationship is different. My relationship with my sister is different than your relationship with yours. So my relationship with God is going to look different than yours. What works to grow your faith is different than mine. Your spiritual gifts are different than mine. Our struggles, where we find our joy, how we tell others about Jesus, where and when we pray, everything is different. And that’s okay. We don’t have to all look the same. We don’t all have to interact with God the same. We don’t have to act out our faith the same way. And so often I look at other people who seem to have it all together and seem to be such good Christians, and they are, but I compare myself to them. Then I think that maybe I should be acting more like that girl over there or sharing my faith like that guy on the other side of the room, but what if that just doesn’t work for me? What if I’m not good at what they do? Because God has gifted me and called me to something different. Something unique to me.

This may be why there’s so much disagreement among Christians. Because we’re all unique and we think we’re the only one who’s right when in reality God is the only one who’s right. But isn’t our uniqueness what makes it so beautiful? That God can reach such a wide variety of individuals. That He doesn’t just love one specific set of people who are all similar. That despite our dissimilarities we are all the same in that we are all sons and daughters of Christ. Heirs to His throne. We (should) love each other despite our differences because we’re all the same. We’re all loved by the one who created us.

Finally I realized that for the first time doing something remotely close to the Daniel Fast, it wasn’t wise for me to start with a 21 day fast from my favorite foods. So, I think next time I am going to fast on my own when God tells me it’s a good time, how He tells me it should be done and for how long I should do it. It’ll actually be something attainable where my heart is in it. Where I’m not guilty because I’m failing man, but convicted because I’m failing God. Where I can grow as a Christian and grow closer to the Lord. Then eventually maybe I’ll try the Daniel Fast again because I don’t hate the idea. It just wasn’t for me this time around.

Guns are not more important than people.

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I don’t know when precious guns became more important than actually precious human lives, but I don’t like it. I don’t know when my life became more important than a potential robber’s life, but I don’t like that either.

I also don’t like guns. They terrify me. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t love them. It doesn’t mean that you can’t use them or own them. The second amendment is clear that we all have the right to bear arms.

Guns are such an idol, though. Why is your right to bear arms more important than people in poverty or the oppressed? I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why the protection of the second amendment is one of the most fought for issues. Why not the basic rights for those who don’t have any? Food for the hungry? Maybe homes for the homeless? I don’t get it.

And I am absolutely exhausted from hearing about gun violence. Exhausted. And angry. Heartbroken. Confused. Shocked. Dismayed. Depressed.

There’s already been 135 gun deaths in 2016.

Since 2011, there has been a public mass shooting every 64 days.

As President Obama recently pointed out, America is not the only country with violent people, and we are not more prone to violence than other countries. But we are the only advanced country that has mass violence at this scale. And apparently we don’t care. Because when moves are made to try to decrease the violence, we lash out and firmly say no because we’re scared of our precious guns being taken away.

Maybe it’s naivety, but I trust people. I see the good in people. And our President said in his speech that he did not have an agenda to take away your guns, and I believe him.

Gun control is good. Stricter laws on background checks is good. While it will not completely erase gun violence. It will save some lives. And some is better than none.

And “locking away all of the criminals, thugs and bad guys” is not going to more effectively solve the problem than gun control laws.

While I don’t like that mental health care was considered beside gun control like they are one in the same, I am glad that more funding is going to mental health. I find it troubling that the stigma of mental illness is automatically associated with violence, but  many suicides are committed with guns and some gun owners are haunted by mental illnesses that make them violent meaning they probably shouldn’t own guns. Regardless though, mental health is something that desperately needs more attention, and I’m ecstatic that it’s getting some.

Also, guns do need to be safer. Far too many people, children in particular, die from accidental gun injuries. This is a combination of unsafe storage and unsafe manufacturing. Both of which need to be addressed.

And by the way, guns are different than knives. They aren’t comparable. Guns were designed to kill. Knives were not. This is why gun control is significantly more important than something like knife control. People will still die, yes. Maybe from a stab wound. People will still kill. Maybe with a knife. But maybe, just maybe the violence and deaths will decline. And with that slight hope, I say go for it. Change some laws. Make the world a little less violent. A little less heartbreaking.

Because guns are not more important than people.

I don’t completely buy this but let’s say the violence is a people problem. A sin problem perhaps. Maybe we are all just inherently evil. We are violent and want to kill others. So then why won’t we do everything in our power to help limit the violence? Why not make responsible and safe gun laws so that we don’t have easy access to act on that violence? Why not make it easier for us to act on goodness, kindness and love? Because if I had a gun sitting beside me, it would be a whole lot easier for me to act on the anger I have for the person across the room by shooting them than talking it out peacefully. Even though my heart cannot handle violence. Even though I think I’m a pacifist. Even though guns scare the crap out of me.

Many times violence is easier than peace, and we are making it so easy to be violent. We are encouraging violent responses to fear or anger instead of peaceful ones. And I know we can’t fix all of this with gun laws.

Some “good people” do bad things which is why these gun laws won’t prevent all gun violence. Some “bad people” want to own guns for self-defense but would never pick it up to willing kill someone which is why these gun laws may be unfair. They don’t solve everything. But it’s better than nothing. It’s the best thing we’ve got right now.

If you’re against gun control laws, tell me what’s better. Please. I’d really like to know. But don’t tell me in the cruel and condescending way I see in Facebook comments. Like just because someone has a differing opinion they’re an idiot or attacking you. You’re better than that. Tell me how to fix gun violence, gun deaths, without throwing everyone in jail (because I don’t like that) and without gun control laws or taking your guns away (because you don’t like that). What’s in the middle? Let’s work together and figure it out.

In all honesty, though, I would be perfectly satisfied if guns didn’t exist.

And here we are at the end of some word vomit about gun control that might make everyone hate me. I hope you enjoyed.

Here’s the full text of Obama’s speech: https://sojo.net/articles/full-text-president-obamas-emotional-speech-gun-control

Four Goals for the New Year

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2016 is two days away and I am terrified. In 2016, I’m graduating from college. This will probably force me to figure out what I’m doing with my life… at least for the time being. That should probably lead to finding a big girl job considering I’m confident(ish) in my decision to take a year or so off from school before grad school. Okay wow. Cue panic attack. 2016, you don’t have to come so fast alright?

Breathe. With all of the changes that will happen in 2016, I think it will be a good idea to set some goals for myself. Goals that aren’t things like eat better, exercise more and get less emotionally attached to fictional characters. All things I should do but really aren’t that life changing.

Lately, I’ve been particularly convicted to work on some things. While I’m not typically a New Year’s resolution type girl, I do think that it’s not a coincidence that these convictions have occurred right before the new year and right before the year where potentially the most amount of changes will take place that ever has in my entire life.

So here’s four of my goals for the new year.

  1. Love better.
    Loving is something that I continuously want to work on and do better at. Because it is painfully obvious to me that I don’t love deep enough, and I don’t love anywhere close to everyone on this planet. I’ve also realized recently that I cannot love everyone to the best of my ability until I first love myself fully and completely. I do a pretty crappy job at loving myself. So in 2016 I want to love myself better so that I can love others better.
  2. Act more.
    I am quite passionate about a good amount of issues particularly anything that oppresses or unfairly affects those who are far less privileged than I am. Because I am immensely privileged, it should be fairly easy for me to help those in need. But I so often find myself doing absolutely nothing. I talk a lot about it. I talk about how everyone else should be doing something while I sit on my couch and do nothing. I let myself off by saying that informing is doing something and it’s true. Informing people about injustices is doing something and it’s something I love doing, but I refuse to let that be enough. I should be doing so much more, and I intend to do more, act more in 2016.
  3. Be courageous.
    Let’s be real here. I am not a Gryffindor, but I’m going to have to be brave in 2016. I’m going to need to step out of my comfort zone. Do new things. Do hard things. And I will have to have courage. Courage and a whole lot of trust in my Lord.
  4. Become less argumentative and more gentle.
    I usually stay far away from conflict, but I do get defensive over my opinions, beliefs and thoughts. If someone challenges them, I often fight for them. I argue my case and don’t like admitting I could be wrong. The truth is I am wrong. Often. And sometimes I should be a little more open to what the other person is saying. I should be listening to what they are saying instead of tuning them out while searching for my next response to prove my rightness. It’s a goal of mine to be more gentle. To listen better and learn more and not be afraid to admit my faults and wrongs. I’m not perfect, and I shouldn’t act like I am.

So there they are. My challenges to myself. Now my challenge for you is to hold me to these and more importantly to challenge yourself to do and be better at whatever it is that you need to work on. Look deep for some life changing goals and resolutions then feel free to tell them to me so that I can help in holding you accountable. Happy New Year, friends!

Let Us Be Women Who Love.

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I’m ten pages (now eighteen) into Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey (forward by Rachel Held Evans… have I expressed how much I love both of those ladies?), not even on Chapter One yet and absolutely in love. While I would love to quote the entire book for you (or at least all that I’ve read), I’ll just leave you with a few things. The first is the manifesto Sarah begins the book with. It’s the manifesto for a magazine called SheLoves which I just discovered but it’s pretty great, and you should check it out. The manifesto goes like this:

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women willing to lay down our sword words, our sharp looks, our ignorant silence and towering stance and fill the earth now with extravagant Love.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who make room.

Let us be women who open our arms and invite others into an honest, spacious, glorious embrace.

Let us be women who carry each other.

Let us be women who give from what we have.

Let us be women who leap to do the difficult things, the unexpected things and the necessary things.

Let us be women who live for Peace.

Let us be women who breathe Hope.

Let us be women who create beauty.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell.

Let us be a garden for tender souls.

Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God.

Let us be a womb for Life to grow.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us rise to the questions of our time.

Let us speak to the injustices in our world.

Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation.

Let us shout down the walls that separate and divide.

Let us fill the earth with the fragrance of Love.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us listen for those who have been silenced.

Let us honour those who have been devalued.

Let us say, Enough! with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.

Let us not rest until every person is free and equal.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who are savvy, smart and wise.

Let us be women who shine with the light of God in us.

Let us be women who take courage and sing the song in our hearts.

Let us be women who say, Yes to the beautiful, unique purpose seeded in our souls.

Let us be women who call out the song in another’s heart.

Let us be women who teach our children to do the same.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of fear.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of our stories.

Let us be women who Love loudly, beautifully, Divinely.

Let us be women who Love.

I love everything about it, and I strive to be a woman who loves like that.

Her introduction is beautifully and stunningly written so I have high hopes and expectations for the rest of the book. But in the introduction she confesses to being the person who was defensive and fought and was angry instead of being faithful and kind. As I read her confessions, I realized that sometimes I’m that person too. Probably way too often, and I don’t want to be.

She says “May there be grace and kindness, gentleness and love in our hearts, especially for the ones who we believe are profoundly wrong. The Good News is proclaimed when we love each other. I pray for unity beyond conformity, because loving-kindness preaches the gospel more beautifully and truthfully than any satirical blog post or point-by-point dismantling of another disciple’s reputation and teaching.”

I want to remember that so badly. I want to practice it. I want to be kind, gentle and loving instead of angry, argumentative and harsh. Because she’s right, it’s way more effective in sharing the gospel. It’s also exactly what God asks of us. Ephesians 4:1-3 is just one of many places in the Bible that speaks on this. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The last thing I’ll say about this book (for now) is the subtitle is “Exploring God’s radical notion that women are people, too.” I love that. It’s empowering to know that God thinks I’m a person. It’s sad that so many treat women as though they aren’t human. It’s discouraging to realize that it’s treated as a radical notion when it actually isn’t radical at all. But isn’t that what’s so wonderful about feminism? About Jesus? Both are striving to radically love everyone equally. Something that shouldn’t be radical but is.

Jesus was the number one lover of any and all women and any and all people. This is so important to remember. To love like Jesus is to love everyone equally and fully. Excluding no one. I long to love like that. There are people in my life who I don’t want to love which makes it impossible to love like Jesus does. So that’s my goal. To love those I don’t want to love. The ones who are hard to love.

Now onto Chapter One, Jesus Made a Feminist Out of Me… ain’t that the truth.


 

Oops, I started reading the first chapter before I published the blog so I have to add in a bit more… she begins the chapter with debunking myths about feminism (like it’s not man-hating PREACH) and urging the church to reclaim the word. Oh yes. I think I’m definitely going to like this book.

I already know that I’m going to be recommending this book to everyone so I’m just going to go ahead and tell you to read it. I don’t even care who you are or what your beliefs are… it doesn’t matter… read it.