4.27.2018

This Is Why I'm Not A Model [Christian]


I've never been one to fit the stereotypes.

My Mama always told me that I was the most difficult child.  I was the stubborn one, overly-confident, very honest, and a go-getter.  I didn't let mere things or circumstances stand in the way of what I wanted.  I would tell you whatever was on my mind.  And yes, I was good at sneaking around the rules and lying to cover up the disobedience.  Quite the handful, as you can imagine.

As a teenager, I graduated two years before my peers, ignored the stares whenever all 7 of me and my siblings would walk into a church or store, and I got used to seeing the shocked faces of people when I told them that I had been homeschooled - because apparently I "didn't act like a homeschooler".  (This must've come from their unfortunate encounter with socially awkward Bill Gothard cult followers.  Poor things.)

What I'm getting at here is - like I said, I don't fit stereotypes.  Never have.  And this, dear readers, is why I'm publicly announcing that I am choosing not to be a Christian prototype anymore.

And yes, I use the word "anymore" because for the longest time, I had this assumption (whether planted there or simply thought to be true based on what I observed in the environment I lived in/church I attended) that, as a self-proclaiming Christian, I had to have a distinctive appearance, give a certain kind of impression, fit into a specific mold: the definition of what today's Christian is and looks like.  And believe it or not, I actually tried to.  Crazy, right?  After me just telling you that I don't go with the flow of things, I'm admitting that I attempted to mimic the crowd calling themselves "Christians".

No, I'm not going to tell you a sob story about how imperfect I am.  Or how one day, I realized that I could never reach the standard of a "good Christian".  And no, it's not because I had some crazy revelation that I didn't have to try anymore.  I simply chose not to.

And here is why...

I remember once talking to someone I had recently met.  He candidly asked me if I was a Christian.
"Yes," I replied.  "Why do you ask?"
"You act like one," he said.  "But you don't talk like one."
When I asked him to elaborate on what drew him to this conclusion, he said that my tattoos and piercings threw him off, and the fact that I had spiritual reasons behind each of them.  My "casual yet edgy" fashion statement was also similar to how I expressed myself with words.  "But the way you mention Jesus or church - it's like those are natural parts of your life.  You're not forcing yourself to look spiritual."

I guess I could understand his intrigue.  The most common feedback I've heard from non-Christians is how fake claiming Christians seem to appear.  "It's as if they have their life all together and they don't have any relatable issues."  I've had non-believing friends tell me that I am approachable about my faith because I don't try to force it down anyone's throat.  I guess I'm unlike many Christians because I don't have a goal of how many people I must lead to Christ every year.  If you do, more power to you, but in my eyes, reaching the lost and hurting shouldn't be a race to see how many eggs we can get in a basket.  It should be a loving connection-based and nurtured relationship viewpoint because, honestly, how many of us jump feet first into a life-changing decision unless we've weighed the pros and cons, feel comfortable and connected to whatever we're choosing to allow be a part of our lives forever?  I believe that I am simply called to live like Christ.  He will open doors of opportunity for me.  He will lead me to the people He wants me to influence and talk to and befriend.  And then He will do the rest.

The fact is, I'm not that great.
Yes, I lead worship at my church.  Yes, I love to lead prayers.  Yes, I have a very intimate spiritual relationship with my Jesus.  I know I am called to be like Him, but ultimately, you shouldn't be looking at how I'm living.  You should strive to look more like Christ in your own life.  We are all convicted differently.  You may not feel His blessing to get a tattoo or piercing, whereas I have 8 piercings and 20 tattoos.  (And those very things have opened doors of opportunity to share His good news with people who also have tattoos and piercings!)  You may not feel His blessing to wear any type of pants, but I wear jeans, shorts, capris and leggings.  We're all unique in our personalities and characters and yes, our relationships with Him.  Each person's spiritual life is theirs and His, not theirs, His and yours too.  It shouldn't be about looking like the person in your life who fills you with inspiration and wonder.  It should be rather - "What about my role model imitates Christ and how can I look more like Him through following their example?"

All I know, though, is that the Jesus of the Bible wasn't some holier-than-thou guy with a standoffish attitude who spoke with a deep monotone voice talking all about how God is going to punish everyone who goes against His commands.  But He didn't beat around the bush either.  He said the truth and the truth wasn't always pretty, but wow was He real.  He loved.  He forgave.  He healed because He could and wanted to.  He hung out with the people no one else wanted to be seen or associated with - thieves, beggars, whores, loud children, single mothers.  He Himself was homeless, He wasn't super educated (according to some), came from a humble and hard-working family, and I bet you anything, He smelled like fish most of the time. He called people out on their crap, flipped tables, called religious leaders poisonous snakes, washed dirty feet like a mere slave.  He knew the very definition of the word "suffer" like no one else has or ever will.  Some guy, huh?  Not the typical model person you would mold a leader after and decide to follow with your whole heart.  But oh, He's my biggest role model.  I hope I look like Him, at least in some areas.  I wish in all.  I want to be known for rocking the boat, speaking out for the lost and broken, taking that extra second to speak life into someone's world of hurt, to hang out with people the Christians of today's mold wouldn't want to be associated with.

You see, molds are manmade.  Molds can be broken.  Molds aren't eternal.
I think today's culture is so fixated on titles and cliques that even Christians get caught up in the labels and create subcultures of perfectionism when in reality, it's not about who is doctrinally sound, who worships the "right way", which pastor speaks better, who prays the most eloquently, which church building is the biggest.  If you took all that away from the average church-goer, what do you think you would have left?  I know that for me, if you took away the complexity of it all, you'd be left with a twenty-something year old woman who struggles day to day to silence the enemy's lies, who is always fighting private battles, who has a battered and bruised heart, a powerful story of redemption, sixteen tattoos, seven piercings, who practices meditation, douses herself in essential oils, uses crystals and nature as a way to recharge, who cusses sometimes, who has some songs labeled "explicit" in her iTunes, who strives every day to touch just one person with words of life and love and hope, who tries to become a better human, in any and every day attempting to mimic the life and walk of a Man who lived on this earth 2,000 years ago but Who is eternal and reaches through time just to touch my soul and remind me that I am wholly, fully, and completely loved.

"When someone asks me about tattoos, cussing and parties, I'm more bothered that we're not bothered by greed, poverty, dichotomies, and self-idolatry.  Jesus navigates the caves in our hearts before the cracks in our behavior.  Love saves us into truth, not the other way around." 
- J.S. Park

No, I don't have all the answers.  I'm not claiming to "know the way to draw people to Christ".  I do believe that living out our faith by example is the greatest show of vulnerability and the way to be the most relatable and appealing.  We have enough things in this world forcing us to be better, be more perfect, be sexier, be more in shape, be more attractive.  What about the people - like myself - who feel like they fall short of that?  Where can they look for realism and encouragement?

All of my faith is based on a deep knowledge in my soul that what I choose to believe is the truth.  And I believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.  The same God who made this universe, who knit me together in my Mama's womb, who knew all the mistakes I would make, all the days I would screw up, all the times I would knowingly go against Him, and yet He chose to sacrifice Himself for me in spite of it all.  And because I have been shown the greatest example of love, only through this can I say that I will love people no matter who they are or their background or what they believe.  I don't talk to people for the sole purpose of converting them.  I talk to people to grow connections and to show them - through my example, through my life, through how I live - that I serve this awesome Spiritual Being who made them and desires to have a personal relationship with them.  Our souls are what we have in common with God.  They're eternal and made in the very image of their Creator.  This is why I can say that I see His art in and through everything.

I'm not saying that I've rejected Christianity and I despise churches and everyone who attends them. Or that people who claim to be Christians are fake, or that the door-to-door evangelist is doing it all wrong.  What I am saying is that God won't be found in anything that tries to put on a show - whether that be your life or a church sanctuary.  We aren't here to bring attention to ourselves.  We're here to live out this wonderful one time thing called "life", to live it fully, and for His glory.  If someone asks where we get this living water from, then by all means, we should share this crazy amazing story of forgiveness and hope that we all have planted in us.  But lets not go up to someone and try to drown them with it through labels and pointing fingers and judgement.  Because that's not how Jesus won any souls.  Throughout the whole Bible, there is story after story of God using super messed up people to accomplish some of His greatest displays of love, hope, redemption, and grace.  He used someone who got blacked out drunk partying one night to repopulate the entire world.  He used an adulterer and murderer to restore justice to His chosen people.  He used a man who had 700 wives and 300 concubines to design and build His holy temple.  He used a hooker to be part of the lineage of that would bring His Son into the world.  He chose people who made mistakes, caused pain, tore families apart, doubted, disobeyed, questioned who He was.  He can use anybody.

And this is why I can look at myself and know that if He can use those people, He can use me somewhere in this mere breath of eternity.

"I have learned that I will not change the world.  Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person.  So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time. Because this is my call as a Christian."
- Katie Davis
---

Also published on Thought Catalog

3.26.2018

6 Simple & Easy Ways To Make Your Life [Healthier], part 2

Welcome to part two of my little series on creating a happier and healthier lifestyle for yourself!

[See part one here.]


1.  Eat breakfast.
I will be the first to admit that this meal is easy to skip.  I've been known for habitually not eating anything at the start of my day, but honestly, it was mostly because I was out of ideas on what to eat.
Breakfast doesn't have to be boring though.  Some people settle for a piece of toast with a slab of butter, or a bagel with cream cheese, and call it good.  But hey, get creative.  And a little goes a long way.  Make yourself a delicious omelette with some veggies and all the cheese.  Or a bowl of oatmeal with berries.
This morning, I poured myself a bowl of organic raisin bran (thanks, Trader Joe's), sliced up a banana and a couple strawberries into it, sprinkled some flax and chia seeds over it, and topped it off with coconut milk.  Let me tell you: it was delicious.  And healthy!  It's amazing what some simple additions can do to a meal.
I also made myself a cup of Jasmine green tea, sweetened with honey.
And I may or may not have had breakfast in bed, while enjoying my current read.



2.  Eat healthy snacks
I was talking to a girl I picked up while driving for Lyft and she said how difficult it is for her to find healthy snack options.  I encouraged her to start out small.  Making big drastic changes in your life all at once rarely works for a long-term result.  My advice is to start with fruits and veggies.  These are easy to pack, healthy and delicious.  Add an apple or banana to your lunch bag.  Or if you have time, cut some up into a fruit salad.  Throw in some berries.  Kiwis and mandarin oranges are often forgotten about but have great nutritious value to them.  As far as veggies go, my favorites are carrots and snow peas.  But broccoli is yummy too.  Grab some hummus for dip and you're good to go.


3.  Honey
If there was just one huge food-wise ingredient I would tell you to change in your diet TODAY, it would be this.  A lot of people have difficulty finding a substitute for sugar.  But let me introduce you to honey.  It's your new best friend.
Not only can you get different tasting honey (orange blossom, clover, apple, cherry, blackberry, etc.), but it can go in anything (even dishes that sugar wouldn't work in) and adds so much more flavor than white or brown sugar ever can.
Benefits:
- natural energy source
- helps with relaxation and preparation for sleep
- a weight management alternative
- heals wounds and ulcers
as opposed to sugar, which:
- is a high intake of calories
- has high blood fat levels
- is a risk factor for heart disease
- is bad for your teeth and causes cavities
- is high in fructose and can overload your liver (which also causes break-outs, primarily on your cheeks)
- and causes massive amounts of dopamine to release in your brain, which can cause sugar addictions

4.  Ingredients are key
While shopping for groceries, always look at the ingredients a product has.  And 9 times out of 10, if you can't pronounce a word, it shouldn't be entering your body.  Also, stay way from anything that contains sugar, corn syrup, anything bleached, and doesn't say "no GMO" (Genetically Modified Organisms).  Also, flavors are everything.  Being half-Peruvian, I'm huge into spices and herbs and adding lots of flavorful pops to my dishes.  Young Living essential oils comes in handy for this as their 100% therapeutic grade oils are able to be taken internally.  Some favorites I use are thyme, oregano, peppermint, and lemon.

5.  Make lists
Grocery lists, favorite food lists, meal lists.  These will save your life.  Throughout the day, be thinking of foods you like and jot down any ingredients you would need to make a meal.  And before you go on your weekly shopping outing, look over these lists, consolidate them, budget them, and you're good to go.
A great meal-planning app that I discovered recently is called Mealime.


6.  Simple meal planning
Like I said in the point about snacks: start out small.  Don't overwhelm yourself with planning every meal perfectly and becoming 100% healthy right away.
What I like to do is: from the lists I make (see #5), I then choose which food I am craving.  Say it's ravioli, for example.  Trader Joe's (yes, people, that's where I shop) has some delicious and healthy ravioli options.
Next, think about what you want to eat with the ravioli.  Maybe some red sauce?  Find a yummy sounding one, look at the ingredients and price, then move on to... cheese?  Pre-shredded is always helpful.
I like adding a veggie dish (even if it's just a simple salad) to a plate of ravioli, so figure out what you're craving - maybe just avocados and tomatoes? - and voila!  You have a meal.
Or make a quick rice stir fry, as pictured above.


Regardless of where you are in life, if you can financially "afford" buying healthier options, or don't have a lot of meal prep time, making your life - and body - healthier is one of the keys to being a happy human.  Enjoy food, and learn to look for the delicious-healthy, instead of the quick-and-easy-unhealthy.

- - -

Comment below some of your favorite yummy foods!

3.16.2018

6 Simple & Easy Ways To Make Your Life [Happier], part 1

I have often heard people complain about how difficult it is to "be healthy".  And I also see a lot of individuals who aren't happy.  I feel that the two can oftentimes relate because, as a fellow writer stated,

"Improving our mental health is one of the most important investments we can make.  We're happy to spend time toning and shaping our bodies, so why not get our minds in shape, too?"  

We can make conscious efforts to do both, though, and in this two part series, I hope you will find some helpful tips on how to make your mind, your body, your space, and your day just a little better.


1.  Have a good morning routine.
Did you know that every morning you wake up, new baby nerve cells have been born while you were sleeping and they are crazy ready to go in whatever direction you send them?  It's true.  And the way you choose to use them is completely up to you.  Some people wake up and are grumpy and these nerve cells become grumpy and last throughout the day being grumpy little energies that emit through your persona.
Or you can wake up, open your eyes, smile, stretch, leap out of bed with the mentality that today, regardless of what it holds, will be a good day - a great day! - and you will make the most of it.
It's all a matter of perspective.  And the type of perspective you choose to have will impact your brain short-term and long-term.
A simple way to start this is to have a good morning routine.  What makes you feel best in the morning, when you first wake up?  (And no, "hitting my snooze button" or "sleeping more" won't work for me.)  Figure this out on your own and write down your preferred first-thing-in-the-morning action.
Personally, I like to wake up and get out of bed right away.  This prevents me from being lazy and choosing to just lounge in bed and get nothing done.  Once I'm up, I brush my teeth, tame my mane's bed head, and honestly, I will crawl back into bed but I'm too awake now to sleep, so I do one of two things - I either read or write.  Even if it's just for a few minutes.  There's something spectacularly peaceful about recording one's thoughts or reading someone else's just as the sun is starting to ebb through your curtains.  The world is waking up and so are you.

2.  Love your space.
Rearranging your room is one thing, but there's nothing wrong with giving it a little extra love too.  So buy that pretty set of sheets you saw, spend a few bucks on that cozy pillow or blanket, add the tapestry to your Amazon cart, hang lights above your bed, write encouraging notes on your mirrors, buy yourself a bouquet of flowers, rearrange your bookshelf by genres...  There a many ways to make your space YOU.  And don't forget that it's your sanctuary - where you come home to after a long day of work, where you want to relax and enjoy yourself.  Make it your haven.


3.  Surround yourself with positive energy.
And no, I'm not gonna get all weird on you.  I know people get freaked out by the words "energy" and "aura" and "vibes" but it's not all just New Age-y-ness.  There really is a sense of spirituality that comes with these words and it's something to learn about, not fear.
I have educated myself, over the years, to cycle out anything that is bringing negativity to my life - whether it's a person, place, thing or feeling.  Doing this has brought me to a place of identity, self-confidence and positivity because I create and guard my space, my heart, my surroundings.  For example, I don't let just anyone into my room.  I try to keep any arguments, negative emotions I'm feeling, anything that triggers bad memories, books/movies I don't like, etc. out of my space.  If they do end up in there for some reason, I use essential oils and crystals to purify.

4.  Music.
Music is so powerful, and no matter what mood you're in, there is always a genre that will fit your emotions or be the means to change what you're feeling.  I keep music on 24/7.  If it's not playing, I'm singing to myself.  If I'm not singing, I'm humming.  If I'm not humming, I have a song playing in my head.  From the second I get out of bed, till I'm winding down with meditation and reading for the night, I have music going.  This is a way I keep myself focused, and happy.  I have found myself in situations where I start to feel anxious and then I realize - "I don't hear any music", so I'll immediately turn some on or start singing until I can play a song on my phone or computer or in my car.  This may sound like I'm relying a bit too much on it, but I believe music is something God has given us to utilize for many different reasons and next to spending time in His presence and talking to Him, music and writing are my other outlets for sanity.

5.  Keep natural elements around you
This can include essential oils, plants, crystals, a window that gets a lot of sunlight, whatever you decide works best for you and what your soul finds most attractive and invigorating.  I've grown up always having essential oils diffused around the house or wearing diffuser necklaces/bracelets.  I have a diffuser in my room that I turn on at the beginning and ends of my day.  I have an assortment of about thirty different oils that I can use, as well as a big window near my bed that I allow natural light to come through and shine onto myself and my plant babies.  If I can't be outside in nature, I try to bring as much nature to surround me.


6.  Yoga/Meditation
Before you start creating some crazy mental image of yoga poses and are freaked out by even attempting to try it out, remember that stretching and being in touch with your body, mind and heart is so very healthy for you.  Meditation centers your mind, too, after a fitful night's sleep or a long, hectic day.  Start out small and simple.  A couple breathing techniques here, a yoga stretch there.  Don't overwhelm yourself right from the get-go.  Ease into it, watch tutorials, listen to podcasts.  Learn about it and enjoy yourself along the way.

Recommended apps:
- 1 Giant Mind
- Headspace
- Yoga
- Simply Yoga
- Daily Yoga
- Oak

- - -

Comment below ways that you make your day and life healthier, and stay tuned for part 2 of this series!
SaveSave