The time I had an identity crisis.

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I’m having a crisis.

I started missing high school the other day so I’m obviously having a quarter-life crisis. Really, why would I want to go back there?

Maybe worse than that is the fact that I’ve gone my entire life thinking, knowing I was a Hufflepuff, but I made a Pottermore account yesterday to find out my Ilvermorny house (Pukwudgie) and decided to get sorted into my Hogwarts house while I was at it. I was fully expecting Hufflepuff then the result came… Ravenclaw? That can’t be right. You’re drunk, sorting hat.

But after some research, I think I’ve been lying to myself. I think the sorting hat was right. I think I am a Ravenclaw. What is happening. Do I actually have enough knowledge to answer a complicated question every time I go into the common room?

The good news is that I’m fairly certain Pukwudgie is the Hufflepuff equivalent of the American wizarding school, but seriously. I’m having an identity crisis.

My serious Hufflepuff pride has turned into a confused whirlwind of canary yellow and black, blue and bronze, badgers and eagles. I can’t just change my allegiance. That’s like suddenly going from a die-hard Braves fan to a Cubs fan. WHO AM I?

I have no idea.

All I know is that I’m going to have to change my Twitter bio. And my About Me page (which needs changed anyway because I’m no longer a senior at the University of Tennessee… I’m an alum. Still weird).

It’s funny (or not) because this isn’t the first time I’ve had this identity problem.

I’ve been in a constant battle between identifying as an ISFJ or an INFJ for the Myers-Briggs personality test for a while. I’ve taken it repeatedly and gotten both more than once. I think I probably more closely align with and most often say that I am an ISFJ, but I really aspire to be an INFJ. In my ideal self, that’s what I would be. But regardless, the question still stands.

Who am I?

Because it’s not really what I want or what I thought.
But it’s exactly how God made me.

You know, I think our culture (me included) is too caught up in categories and bios and descriptions. We have to have the perfect clever but descriptive social media bio and email signature. We have to be democrat or republican, liberal or conservative, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, pro-life or pro-choice, gun laws or 2nd amendment, ISFJ or INFJ, etc, etc…
Like there’s never a scale.

But I fall in the middle ALL the time which makes me question who I am ALL the time.
I don’t fit in one certain category so who am I?

Well, I’m me. Maybe I don’t perfectly fit into socially constructed categories, but I’m me. And that’s okay.

Hi, I’m Mikayla and I’m just a person trying to figure out who she is. Trying to figure out God’s calling and purpose for her life. Trying to follow His will. Trying to find herself along the way. Trying to be confident in how God created her.

And maybe that looks like a very confused girl (or woman, rather) who can’t figure out if she’s a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff. But it also looks like a woman who is trying to embrace who she is and be confident in it no matter what anyone else says or on which side they tell her she should be on. A woman who loves the middle and hates it too but stays there anyways because it’s who she is.

A woman who is also really indecisive and maybe that’s the real problem here.

Shoot, I am clearly a mess. But the Lord thought it was a good idea to create me like this so I might as well love it. We all wish for changes in ourselves, to be a little more this or a little better at that. And don’t get me wrong, it’s good to want to improve and we should strive for improvement. But loving yourself exactly how you are is important. So, I’m choosing to love who I am even if I don’t know what exactly that is. Even in the midst of confusion and uncertainty. Even if there’s qualities that don’t make sense or that I don’t want to like. I’m choosing to love who I am.

Whoever I am, I love it. Or I’m trying to at least.

Remember that you are beautiful. Love yourself well. And love others well because they’re beautiful too.

Also, never tickle a sleeping dragon. (and that’s why I’m single)

Until next time,
Your favorite RavenPuff (or is it HuffleClaw?)

He is Good.

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God’s plan is always good. That’s something that I am trying to remember  lately.

Even when,

Christina Grimmie was shot and killed at her concert last night.

There’s going to be a Trump vs. Clinton election this year.

I just turned down the only job offer I’ve gotten.

My pups can sit on command, but they still pee in the house.

There’s way too much poverty, violence, war, oppression and hate in the world.

There are so many “Lord, help me” prayers going on right now.

Really, I don’t understand His plan at all. But I know that it is good because He is good.

He is so, so good.

And maybe we don’t see His goodness in the mundane, horrible and unexpected things.
I know I don’t always.

But we see His goodness in His love, mercy and grace. In His death on the cross to save us from darkness. In His provision. In His blessings. In His creation. In His word. In His people.

And I am thankful for that. Oh so thankful.

It is easy to see His goodness in the good and lovely moments. It isn’t in the not so good moments, but we have to see it in those moments too because His goodness is unchanging. His goodness is always holy no matter what is happening.

Trusting the Lord and His timing and plan is hard and not something I’m good at. I’m not going to pretend that I am sitting here not worried about life. Because I am. But because I know that He is good, I am trying so hard to trust Him.

So trust Him no matter how difficult it is. Trust Him no matter how confused you are. Trust Him even if you think He’s wrong and your plan is better. Trust Him.

This song is always on my heart, but especially today…

“Let the King of my heart
be the mountain where I run
The Fountain I drink from
Oh He is my Song
Let the King of my heart
be the shadow where I hide
the ransom for my life
Oh He is my Song

You are good good ohhh
You are good good ohhh
You are good good ohhh
You are good good ohhh

Let the King of my heart
be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves
Oh He is my Song
Let the King of my heart
be the fire inside my veins
the echo of my days
Oh He is my Song

You are good good ohhh
You are good good ohhh
You are good good ohhh
You are good good ohhh

You’re never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let me down”

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1)

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.