“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” Psalms 139: 13-16 (ESV)
There are moments that seem so surreal that you’re not really sure if you’re living within time and space. One of these moments was on June 24th, 2022. I was browsing my Facebook feed and saw a particular post that read “Great Job Supreme Court”. I immediately opened up a second tab, typed in CNN.com and saw “Breaking News: SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS ROE V WADE”.
I should have been elated.
Then why did I have such a sinking in the pit of my stomach.
I thought a lot about what I wanted this post to be about. Would I passionately defend my pro-life position? Would I go on a tirade about how sinful abortion was in the eyes of God?
Truth is, I have little idea how to address my feelings about what has transpired this past week.
All I know is my conviction. That I believe life begins at conception. How I hope that some unborn lives will be saved. How my prayers include pleas for God to change the hearts of people so they can see the humanity and value of human life.
How I’m terrified to express my satisfaction at the court ruling. If I said my piece, my point of view, the backlash I might face from colleagues, friends and even some family members.
Yet, I must stand in the truth of the Scripture. Jesus already prepped us to face opposition to our beliefs. Through Him, we can stand firm in our convictions despite what others say about us.
I recall the story of many disciples deserting Jesus in John 6:66. Much of Jesus’s teachings required His followers to deny themselves, walk on a narrow path and preach the gospel which had many detractors.
Jesus gives us the courage to stand up for our beliefs. A scripture that helps me is Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”.
Well, I believe in life. A right to make your mark on this world. That life matters no matter what life form.
“I hope I’m not becoming a misanthrope” I sighed to my friend, *Janice, on a Tuesday evening. We were relaxing in her cozy, 10th floor apartment after a dinner of hard shell tacos. I explained that people are irritating me to the extreme lately and I didn’t want to become closed off to others.
Lately, I’ve grown to empathize with cranky and cantankerous characters like All in the Family Archie Bunker or The Grinch. Each time I venture out into the open world, I grow frustrated with abrasive New Yorkers shoving past me with so much as an “excuse me” to cram into an overcrowded city bus (I admit, I may have too high expectations of NYC dwellers in terms of courtesy and politeness). I clench my hands into fists while waiting in line at Mc’donalds while an indecisive customer decides to play 50 questions with the cashier. I give my scariest evil eye to the lady at the restaurant who is playing an obnoxious video on her phone at maximum volume (This also happens on NYC buses ; newsflash there’s this nifty little invention called headphones)
What’s bothering me is that my specific prayer, recently, is for God to cultivate a love like Jesus. A pure, sacrificial, no barriers and complete love.
Instead the mere existence of the human species vexes me to the point I want to pull an Emily Dickinson; shut myself off from humanity and continually churn out novels from the refuge of my bedroom.
Yet God gave this one commandment in Matthew 22:38 that admittedly causes me great angst ; Love your neighbor as yourself”.
Lord why are 90% (a guestimate) my neighbors so darn unlovable.
Of course I am not 100% lovable myself. Stated at the beginning of this piece, my misanthropic tendencies are growing faster than weeds in a field. I shy away from conversations, connections and can be downright standoffish to others. My therapist and I have talked through childhood learnings that contributed to my behaviors. However, as a child of God I am called to the highest standard (which I sometimes throw tantrums at). I often wonder why “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son” (John 3:16). Yes, the world. Not just Christians. Not just my parents. Not just my brother. Not just my aunts, uncles, cousins and my cozy network of close friends. God loves everyone.
And as much as love is a struggle for me, I must love everyone too.
This sunday at church, a young woman talked about how Jesus wept for humanity. She used a term that I mentally kicked myself for not coming up with on my own “We need to sow tears for humanity”. She discussed loving without barriers, limits and expectations. The sermon hit me with a proverbial arrow to the heart and I realized my heart needed God to perform major surgery.
For this summer I’ve decided to give this “love without limits” thingy a try with the expectation that it becomes part of my DNA makeup. I want to bleed 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. To live out 1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (New International Version).
Most of all, I want to love like Jesus. Unconditional and without limits. A sacrificial love.
Well, I’ve come to a place in my seven day writing marathon where I’m feeling the strain and exhaustion of pouring out intimate parts of myself. There’s a rawness to realness and right now my innermost parts are sore. I find that the second to last part of any journey or goal is the hardest. I’m almost to the seven day mark of my writing sprint, but this sixth day is pushing my limits!
What I’ve found fascinating about the writing sprint is the different directions each blog piece has taken. As if the words came alive and said “not this way, but that way”. Originally, today’s post was going to be about love and an intense conversation I had with a woman in my Bible talk about the topic. I sat down to write about our conversation and my learnings, but the words were stuck in a pipeline of the muckiness of writer’s block. I crossed out sentence after sentence until I paused. “Perhaps I should write a poem about love” I thought. No go.
That’s when I realized that I was tired. The week had been long, strenuous, my students ancy in anticipation for the weekend. For five days straight my fingers sprinted across the keyboard, producing words that were pent up for years and years. The process was liberating, exhilarating and a hundred mile per hour coaster with dips, loops and twists. My energy is at an all time high.
Now I’m pooped.
And that’s perfectly fine.
I think about the concept of a marathon. The goal isn’t to finish first or finish the quickest. The goal is to simply persevere and finish. At times, that means taking breaks. Or say more with less. Writing is hard! Even if the words are flowing perfectly in my head, getting what I want to say on page is a whole other event. I wish I could lasso the words in my brain and yank them right on the page. However, each lap I complete is a victory. Each time I put my writing out into the world of the web is an accomplishment.
Last summer I went to Seattle,Washington with a good friend I met at graduate school. She’s an experienced hiker who thrives in nature. I’m more of a “sit my tush down underneath a shaded tree in a park with a Starbucks a few blocks away” type of gal . One foggy morning we hiked up Mt Rainier. I thought I was either going to pass out or tumble down the mountain. There were times I needed to slow down. My friend would be way up ahead and I was far back huffing and puffing the higher the altitude became.
But I hiked that mountain.
A scripture I came across in the Bible is 2 Chronicles 15:7 “But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!” (New King James Version) There were times I didn’t know if I would be able to commit to all seven days of writing a blog . Yet, God has a lot to say through me and trust me it’s best to let Him speak!
“Hopeless”. “Desensitized”. “Numb”. “I don’t feel safe here”. “I’m always looking over my shoulder”. “ I feel like I always have a bullseye on my back”. “This happens all the time”. I’m honestly ready to die”.
These words, spoken by my former students, shattered my heart. I looked around at the Black and Brown solemn faces, resignation and weariness etched in the expressions. What was frightening was how permanent those etchings were.
I teach 9th grade English and part of the school culture is “healing circles”. Healing circles happen when there’s harm done in a community; usually a classroom where a fight breaks out or a major conflict between two students. The circle is meant for everyone to express, openly and without interruption, how they were impacted by the event. In this circle, we spoke about the Buffalo, NY massacre where almost a dozen, mostly African American, were killed by an 18 year old white male.
A young man who could have been one of my students.
We are living in troubling times; a two year pandemic, natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, the war crisis in Ukraine and ever present gun violence. According to the National Public Radio there have been 198 mass shootings in the United States. Everyday a news article pops up detailing a shooting in New York City.
Sometimes it’s all too much.
When I listened to my students a heartbreak and fury arose in me. I am furious at lawmakers, politicians, guns rights advocates, adults in general. We have to do better for our children. They deserve to live in peace. They deserve to live without a cloak of heavy fear weighing them down.
I too at times feel hopeless. The Bible tells us “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, and they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31, New International Version).
What happens when all you want to do is faint?
There is no easy, quick 1-2-3 remedy. In troubling times, God understands that we are running on empty. The Bible is excellent at giving feedback on when you’re just too fed up with this chaotic world. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). In thinking about this, here are a few ways I can share on how I remain hopeful when the world is going crazy around us;
Find a quiet place in nature (a park or taking a walk in a garden or wooded area): I love going on nature walks when I need a break from the noise of the world. Praying in a park or a beach, sitting down under a tree and journaling are great ways to appreciate the natural artistry of God’s creation. Being in nature reminds me how vast God’s majesty and sovereignty are.
Healing circles and support groups: Part of what attracted me to the High school I teach at was their response to community tragedies. The support staff and administration do an excellent job of preparing students to lead Healing circles. Being able to hear from your peers and know that we are feeling going through the same trauma helps us be more connected. Churches are also great spaces to s
eek out people who will pray with and for you when the world gets too overwhelming.
Gratitude Journaling: One of my friends gave me a challenge; everyday list five things you’re grateful for. focusing on what’s going well and how God blesses you can shift your mindset away from the negativity around you.
Lastly, living without fear. When you look at the news, Facebook, twitter and other social media; we’re inundated with negativity. I always hold on to 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (New King James Version). God wants to live without looking over our shoulder for something to go wrong. Of course we should live wisely, be aware of our surroundings and let family and friends know where we are if we have to be out late or going on a long trip. However, God gave us life to live in full, not in fear.
At the end of our circle, one of the students said “This is why I cherish every moment like it’s my last”. I hope that all of us have an aquarium filled with moments of laughter, joy, peace and love.
Resources: These are the websites of churches I’ve attended that have prayer teams and support groups.
I sat across from my friend, ***Tara, as she took another sip of her drink. What she was referring to was for me to ask the women in my Bible talk how they perceived me.
Earlier in the day, during the fellowship break at Sunday church service, *Tara approached me me all smiles and sunshine radiating in each step she took. I tried to smile away the unease that had been resting inside my stomach since I left my apartment.
“How are you?” She asked.
“We’ll talk”. I replied. “We’ll talk”, is code for when I’m absolutely overwhelmed or inexplicably lonely in a place where I’m supposed to experience love, friendship and unity.
Tara and I made plans to meet around seven at night. She mentioned a craving for Wendy’s fries and the sugary strawberry lemonade. She picked me
A little after 7, Tara picked me up in a cute black and white Mini Cooper and we drove to a Wendy’s close to my apartment. After we ordered our food, settled in our seats, I spoke openly.
“Honestly Tara, the only reason I think I’m still with the church is because of accountability”. Our church has a culture of “discipling” where each member meets with a man or woman who holds them accountable to the standards of the Bible. Each of us is supposed to meet with our discipler once a week to discuss areas of spiritual growth, pray and confess any sin we need to get out into the open. Tara had been my discipler for 9 months at one point so I rapport was easy and light. I knew she wouldn’t judge or rebuke me harshly.
I continued softly. “Sometimes I think I made a mistake coming back to the church”.
Tara nodded at me to keep pouring out my thoughts. “It’s like people only like me for who they think I should be or who they want me to be”. I stared at my half eaten bourbon bacon cheeseburger.
“I feel so pressured by people to be someone else”.
Ever since I joined the church I currently attend almost four years ago, the members, mostly well meaning women, have tried to mold me into a gregarious, spiritually fruitful, bubbly social butterfly, hoping I will shed my bashful nature.
I remember one woman from my Bible talk told me that my love for the congregation will be proven by the way I hug the other members of the church. I’m a side hugger, but the expectation is that you greet each sister and brother with a full sized bear hug.
When disciples coach me on how to be a more social member of the church, I smile, nod and do my best to take the feedback. Yet something inside me seems hollow, inauthentic and unnatural. As if I have to put on a performance or dress in a personality that is too oversized for how God created my fit.
I’ve grown to appreciate the quiet, reflective, and sensitive nature that God is cultivating in me. I’m not sure other people do.
The topic is a recurring theme in my therapy sessions. My therapist repeatedly encourages me to “honor the spirit of God inside you”. I think the struggle with the culture of the church is that there’s an expectation to conform to a certain way of behaving. Of course I’m going to be obedient to God, serve others, and do my best to love like Jesus does.
However, there are times that people are trying to be my potter when there is a perfectly capable potter in Heaven. One of my anchor scriptures, particularly when it comes to identity is Isaiah 64:8 “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter ; we are the work of your hand” (New International Version). I wish people understood that its not their role to mold other people into who they expect them to be.
Too often I tried to mold my identity into what was pleasing to other people. Through prayer, therapy, and self discovery, I’m figuring out who God intended me to be. Turns out I’m royal, chosen, special and holy (1 Peter 2:9). That I am wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139: 13-14).
Of course God wants us to grow into a holy and righteous person. He made us in His image and He’s the standard for how we should live and behave. But the unique characteristics He created in us shouldn’t be stripped away for another person’s preference . I’m learning to set healthy boundaries when people offer me feedback about myself. I discern, take what’s useful and leave the rest at the door.
Every Sunday the church I attend participates in communion. Prior to the symbolic breaking of bread, there’s a sermonette segment of the service dubbed “What the Cross Means to Me”. The purpose of the time is for each member to reflect on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. A member comes up in front of the congregation and shares about how the sacrifice of Jesus has changed them in a certain way.
In Luke 9:23, Jesus discusses that His followers must pick up their “crosses” everyday and follow Him. For Jesus, the cross was bearing the sins of the world, past, present and future. For us, God gave me a revelation that we will have various crosses to bear in our lifetime. I see each day as a new cross to carry.
When I think about what the cross means to me, there’s victory. While I was on hiatus from the current church I attend, I worshiped with a bilingual Spanish church. One of the Sermon’s was titled “The Victorious One is Here”. The sermon examined Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem a week prior to His crucifixion (I think this was the palm Sunday service). The pastor passionately asserted that Jesus was crucified so that we could have victory in our walk.
Most of my life, I lived in a constant state of defeat. . I brushed off life, expecting to fail at my goals, dreams and desires. I developed a defeatist attitude in all areas of my life; ministry, jobs, friendships, leadership roles at my school, and different degree programs. Mentally and emotionally, I gave up on ever truly belonging or finding that solid forever friend group. One little setback and I’m saying “nothing ever works out”. I gave up on marriage. Having children. Writing. Feeling peace. My anxieties, fears, depression, insecurities and doubts were waging war in my mind and at times defeat felt imminent.
Jesus is victorious. He didn’t suffer for hours, almost naked, lungs bubbling with blood, flesh hanging off and bearing the crushing weight of my sins for me to dwell in defeat. He conquered death, a victorious eternal king. Paul directly states in 1 Corinthians 15:57 “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Whenever I’m tempted to walk with the weight failure, I cling to God’s truth. That because of Jesus I can overcome, persevere, dream, and try.
The next steps are to put on the victorious casing in my daily walk with God. A practical way to walk victoriously is to celebrate and thank God for the victories I experience each day; a lesson plan that my students enjoyed, making a colleague smile or uplifting the spirits of someone who was having a crummy day. I can look forward to and believe in future victories; a family member or close friend saying yes to Jesus, my students graduating from High school, a finished manuscript of my first novel. SOmetimes I will fail or take a misstep. Yet I remember who I belong to, the one who overcame the world, death and sin.
Side by side with Jesus, I’ll always strut in victory.
*Scriptures related to victory*
1 John 5:4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Deuteronomy 20:4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” (New International Version)
If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.-Toni Morrison
As we move into March (Woo hoo for spring time!) I am in awe of how time speeds past us faster than the Road Runner (and like Wile E. Coyote, catches us off guard and knocks us on our bum). I’m grateful to share my adventures, musings and confessions with you. Let the sharing continue!
One of my favorite pastimes is going to the movies; winter, spring, summer and fall. I stroll into the lobby of a movie theater (shout out to AMC Theaters) and am greeted by the aroma of buttery popcorn. After I purchase the salty, buttery goodness, I eagerly enter the subdued lighted room which will transport me to another world for the next two hours. Since I possess a short attention span, movies provide the perfect voyage to new worlds, complex characters and universal themes such as love, family, adversity, fate, and dozens of other themes. The craft of storytelling is an important part of film. With every film I see, I try to absorb the message the author is sending to the audience.
The last movie I saw was The Photograph, starring Issa Rae, Lakeith Stanfield, Y’lan Noel and Chante Adams. This post isn’t a review of the movie per se, however I definitely recommend going to see the film. With a predominantly African American cast, The Photograph tells the story about a young woman named Mae who recently lost her mother to cancer. An art curator at Queens Museum, Mae meets a young man named Michael who works as a photographer. Mae’s mother, Christina, was a famous photographer who came from the countryside of Louisiana to pursue her passion for photography. Michael wants to do a profile of Christina’s photograph collection for the newspaper he works for and Mae becomes the platform for his research. The two meet at a gala sponsored by the Queens Museum, develop a relationship, fall in love, and, well, I’ll let you see for yourselves.
What I appreciated about The Photograph came from the universal themes of discovering your past, love, following your dreams, and longing for connection. Christina, the dreamer (Mae’s mother), falls in love with Isaac, a fisherman from Louisiana. Isaac wants stability and to build a life with Christina. Christina wants freedom to pursue her passion. Her steeled concentration of her passion led to her distant relationship with Mae. Mae tries to revisit that lost connection with the support of Michael (who struggles to maintain connection).
Each scene of the film presents snapshots of the characters’ lives. One of the strongest elements of the film is the lighting and cinematography;the way the camera zooms in on Mae through Michaels’s point of view (love at first sight), the brightness of the countryside of Louisiana, the calm blue hues during a storm (this is where I caution parents with children under 13) while Michael and Mae make love for the first time.
If you are looking for an action packed romp, The Photograph is definitely not the film. The subtleness of each scene is the movie’s core strength. More importantly, the film told a story with two African-American leads which didn’t involve drugs, gang violence, racism, poverty, or slavery. The topics listed are a part of the African-American experience, but that can be said for whites, Asian Americans , Latinx American, and Native Americans.
I remember numerous conversations with my friend *Macy about how lucky young people of color are to have young adult authors such as Tomi Adeyemi, Nicola Yoon, Jenny Han, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Jason Reynolds to tell stories about youth who look like us. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” highlights how stereotypical storytelling can harm a group of people (her Ted Talk is amazing and one I will be covering her talk in a future blog post). I remember growing up and constantly reading stories about young African-Americans escaping slavery, dealing with gangs, or overcoming racism in the Civil Rights Era.
Yes, those stories need to be told as they are an integral part of African-American history. However, I could have used stories about powerful young black girl wizards, warriors, scientists, and superheroes. The reason I reclaimed my love for storytelling is because I aim to write the stories that were missing from my bookshelves.
I am also a Christian who loves God and one of my goals is to write young adult Christian fiction. Oftentimes, I’ve observed the media portrayal of christians, particularly in America, as haughty, judgmental and hypocritical. When I write, I know I have the power to share my story, my testimony while showing the power, saving and redeeming love of Christ Jesus. God himself is a storyteller! The Bible is a true story of God’s relationship with mankind. Genesis 1:3 read “And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light” (NIV) . God used words to create us! Psalms 139:16 reads “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (NIV). God writes the story of our lives, creates us and sends us off on an adventure to share His love. What a story to be a part of!
Whether you’re Christian, African-American, white, Latinx, Asian, Native American, male, female, Differently Abled, or Klingon, we each have our own unique stories. Our stories can be powerful and engaging narratives that make a positive impact on our fellow humans.
“Everything negative — pressure, challenges — is all an opportunity for me to rise.” _Kobe Bryant
I was unsure how to begin my first blogging post on “The Bashful Butterfly”. I sat staring at a blank google document trying to come up with a snappy, witty opening line. Dozens of ideas raced through my head and but did not transfer to my keyboard. One of my goals for 2020 is to regularly post on a blog. “The Bashful Butterfly” will be my 3rd attempt at blogging. I posted to my previous blogs sporadically; years went by without a post. Part of the long stretches stemmed from changing life circumstances, disinterest in writing, low self-confidence and the pesky comparison bug that has spread throughout the 2010s.
I read blogs from influencers who amassed thousands of followers. I saw pristine pictures accompanying poignant prose. I thought to myself, “No one wants to hear what I have to say” or “I can’t write like (insert blogger name)”. I spent years daydreaming of the stories, personal anecdotes and random musings I wanted to put out on the blogging sphere. I became trapped in the labyrinth of unrealized dreams of my “writer life”. Jet setting across the world, writing about my experiences seeing world wonders, snapping pictures of myself in front of the Great Pyramids, the Serengenti, or in the middle of jostling energy of Tokyo.
Then somewhere in my mid to late twenties, I abandoned my aspirations of starting the writer’s journey. Ages 23-27 were a blur of moves to cities in the southern United States, hopping from job to job, firings from jobs, and a life in genuine disarray.
I decided I was exhausted of the zig-zag my life manifested into. If writing wasn’t my destiny, then I needed to be an adult. No more fantasizing about living the life of a scribe. I needed a career. Security. Income. Health insurance.
I became a ninth grade English teacher.
Teaching provides me with the security and an honorable profession. I am able to share my love of literature and writing with spunky fourteen year olds (although my enthusiasm often does not transfer to them). Yet, I feel a tug, a call to share my story. The excitement of writing never left me. I wake up with my heart longing to begin the day with a fresh document on Microsoft word. Instead, I grab my laptop I use for school, folders with ungraded student work (due to my penchant for procrastination ), and lesson plans. My brain nods in approval, “finally, she’s making wise choices”. My heart says “But, why does she feel a pit in her stomach each morning she walks out her apartment?” The brain says “She needs health insurance”. The heart retorts “She needs to write”.
And thus here I am. Here to take you on the zany adventures (which mostly take place my noggin) of a socially awkward thirty year old Christian woman. The more I type, the more my mind floods with anecdotes of growing up with a autistic brother, being bullied from grade school until I graduated high school, being raised by introverted, socially awkward parents, life with generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and life as a teacher.
Oh, did I mention I was a Christian, aka a disciple of the awesome Jesus Christ?
If I want to be a writer, then I need to write. No more excuses. No more comparisons. No more doubts. No more succumbing the pesky procrastination bug.
I have to write, because if I don’t, then I have neglected to use the gift God has blessed me with. The apostle Peter was on his “A” game when he said in I Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”.
My hope is for my words to encourage young women who walk through life invisible. Who feel like no one sees them or they have no place in God’s kingdom. My words are for women who lived most of their lives blending in to walls, who were passed by unnoticed, longed for friendship yet were too timid and insecure to pursue it.
2020 has started off tumultuous. Wildfires, earthquakes, deadly viruses and the deaths of cultural icons. If there was ever a time to start grinding on our dreams, the time is now.
Thank you all who have read and I am thrilled to share my voyage with everyone who reads “The Bashful Butterfly”. Maybe you’ll laugh (Oh, what wit she has!) . Maybe you’ll tear up (Oh, this touches my soul!) or maybe you’ll scratch your head (what the heck was this girl thinking when she wrote this post??).
Whichever thought crosses your mind, I am grateful for.