True love and Justin Bieber

Sometimes I like to listen to the Top Songs on Spotify to try and stay relevant with the kids and to find my new jam. And one day, lo and behold, a song came on and I began to sway a bit at my desk, getting excited. Could this be it? Then I looked down.

Oh no. Oh, please no. Its Justin Bieber.

As I reached to change the song, on sheer principle, I stopped myself. I….I, oh double no, really liked this song.

Beyond the fact that I enjoyed the stripped down feeling of the music and vocals, the words themselves really arrested me. Its called “Love Yourself,” and its a song about Justin leaving someone because she thought only about herself in their relationship. She tried to change him into another person, what she thought he should be, and eventually, seeing how everyone around him, and eventually he himself, were so unhappy with her, he ended it. But this song’s message was more than just a “Forget You” type of song, where it calls the other person names and wishes them the absolute worst.

Instead, Justin seems to have realized something important from his time of pain: when we don’t love ourselves, it comes out in how we deal with other people. Someone as broken as this girl actually needs to learn how love herself. She needs to learn that she can’t project her own insecurities on others and demand that they fill that hole in her life, or that others are not just an object to make her feel better about herself, by making them her project and changing them into what she thinks is best.

Having been involved with people like this, I know this to be true: I (and Justin) may have been ready for a relationship, but the other person wasn’t. If they can’t love themselves, then they can’t love you. Signs of not loving themselves can come in many ways: putting the other person and themselves down, trying to change them, constantly seeking the other person as their fulfillment, being very possessive, and the list goes on. It doesn’t mean they are incapable of love, but it means that fundamentally, they haven’t learned to love and find worth in the one person who needs it the most in their lives: themselves. And maybe your role in their life is to be just their friend, until they are ready to start a real relationship, that has respect and real love. Either way, do not try and fill that lacking in their life, because you can’t.

So, crank up the Biebs and let them love themselves.

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The (un)common cold

I had won so many battles that I thought perhaps I had won the war.
What a foolish thought that I, a mere mortal, had. That beast of a common cold will always win out eventually. And so, I find myself once again loosing the fight against sniffles, coughs and sympathetic glances.

And because I am stubborn and its a crazy week at work, I am going into the office. That means, I need to be productive while my body just wants to be in bed watching a movie. I had this grand thought that I can at least watch some critically-acclaimed movies while sick, but if I try to wrap my head around some complex plot, I think my sinuses will burst from my head trying to think too much.

So instead, I am trying to ‘just be.’

We live in such a high maintenance world that just ‘being’ is a rather scary idea. Every minute of every day can be filled with something. From the moment we wake up to the radio to the movie playing softly in the background till we fall asleep, our life is completely full. Well, if we choose to believe that is a ‘full’ life.

But when you are sick, your body forces you to lay it all down, including itself.

I realized that me being sick means I can get down to brass tacks and prioritize. I need to eat today. Check. Hydration, yes, good. I need to get some work done. All right, don’t overdo it. Ok, now go home. What needs to be done? Right, laundry and call that person. Done? Perfect. Now, go rest. And maybe coming home will just means collapsing and sleeping. Maybe you didn’t go to work. But being sick strips you down to that bare minimum, which is terribly humbling and vulnerable and super necessary. We are flawed beings. We need help, we need to give ourselves time to rest. We have to allow ourselves time to realize we can’t do everything and to remove what is unnecessary from our lives. And, when we are back to our healthy selves, maybe we should leave aside some of the unnecessary things we were doing and try to live a life full of what really matters, which will differ from each person, but typically looks like a contributing member of the world, at least in some way.

So, despite my body turning against me, at least I have an excuse and a reason to ‘just be’ and to remember what that is like and what is really important.He c

For when you can’t and still do…

This is a shout out to all those times you felt sick and still went anyway because you promised someone you would. This is for all the times you swallowed that mean remark and helped someone anyway. This is for the times when you were busy but you reached out your hand. This is for the love you gave when you didn’t feel like they deserved it. This is for letting go and wishing well.

Maybe you didn’t get to see a reward come of these moments. Maybe people passed by with just a thoughtless thank you, or maybe nothing at all. Maybe they were sarcastic and unappreciative. Maybe they still left. Maybe they just went on with their lives.

But the next time you are faced with such a situation, you have stre-e-etched your soul so you are able to do a bit more, to stand a little more. And maybe this time you will see payoff. But, if someone else’s life is made better, you don’t even need to see the payoff. You just need the ability to do well towards others, because whether you see it or not, it makes a difference. In a world that needs it, it makes a good difference.

So, I raise a glass to you and me: I went into work today and felt hella sick but am still putting on a good face. There is a party today and I said I would bring lemonade and ice tea (you know I am making an Arnold Palmer, don’t even mess with me). And I hope to at least bring a smile to someone’s face.

But at least I was here.

Stop flirting with Jesus

Many of us might have heard the words “I have a date night with Jesus tonight.” I myself have used this phrasing to talk about setting aside some special time to pray. But, I have a bone to pick with this saying and the mindset that might accompany it..

Now, to begin, special time for special people, I think its very important. BUT, dating someone is very different from committing to someone. When you first start dating, you aren’t sure about where your relationship with the other person is going to go, what your future together is going to look like. You are a bit starry-eyed and don’t make the most prudent decisions. The first part of falling in love is all emotion and, by necessity, not a real commitment.

And this is where my dislike for ‘dates with Jesus’ comes in. God deserves more than uncertain dates and fleeting hormones. He deserves lasting love, just like you desire. Serious couples date to strengthen their relationship and to take time to appreciate each other more. They do not go on dates to replace a real relationship and the commitment to support each other in everyday struggles. And that is what I fear: that people will JUST go on dates with Jesus, that they will contain Him there in that hour or two, instead of allowing Him to enter into the whole of their lives. The God of the universe cannot be contained in an hour once or twice month, when our entire lives are about a soul constantly reaching and touching Infinite Love. He wants to pervade every part of our life. When you try and put a limit on God, you are only limiting yourself. You are limiting the heights to which you can reach, the people you can help, the journeys you could take. You are limiting the peace, love, joy, and graces that could fill your soul when you have a relationship with God. Honestly, i can’t even begin to enumerate what amazing things will happen when you really let God in.

Don’t just date Jesus. Go on dates with Him, but don’t just date. Have a full and real relationship with Him.

What my love of ballerinas and Vikings gave me

I am sorry if I have been writing a lot of posts lately on staying motivated. Well, I’m not sorry if you feel motivated because of them. But, I am currently discerning what is next for me in life. Right now, I am living at home, paying off loans, and getting my toes wet while I prepare to take the deep plunge into the next part of my life, away from what is familiar and into the unknown.

And in life, in order to stick to my dreams, I need motivation. I need the incentive to keep with my plans, even when they seem to go nowhere and I am in a horrible rut, sitting in the mud with a frown on my face like a kid whose mud pies surprised them by not tasting like chocolate. Nothing is easier than finding motivation and then losing it. And recently, listening to a podcast called “Catching Foxes (listen to it, you won’t regret it), they talked about how you should not only be persistent in your goals, but should constantly seek new ways of remaining motivated.

And hit me: I would always start something then I would loose my drive because I would forget why I am doing it. I would stop motivating myself. And why do something if you aren’t motivated to keep on keeping on?

So, for my exercise and healthy goals, motivation came to mean flexible superhumans and ancient invaders. I am not as flexible as a ballerina, nor am I am as dead-set on conquering foreign lands as the Vikings were. But they are the exact type of motivation I need to keep exercising and, one day, please Lord, do a split. I haven’t had the ability, let alone the desire, to commit to exercise since I had to stop running last year. I got kicked in the shins, TWICE, in a week. It wasn’t Fight Club; no, I just tried to play soccer without shin guards among FRIENDS and FAMILY and bruised my shin muscle so badly from being kicked that I had to step away from hard physical activity for almost 10 months. But after such a long time of not being able to do much, doing anything seemed like a lost cause. That’s when I listened to the podcast and searched for that motivation. And I found it in ballet documentaries and the History Channel show Vikings. In both, self-discipline and determination rule the day. There are insurmountable tasks and despite the hard days, the days when they had four AM wake up calls for ballet practice, after not doing well at their last recital, or they were lost in the middle of the sea in 700’s AD in a boat full of angry Vikings mad for being lead on a wild goose chase to die in the middle of nowhere, their training and determination helped them remain resolute and damaging things: land that pirouette or find England. They stuck with it and they made it, even if it wasn’t pretty or exactly how they planned.

And this is how I get through my workouts. This is part of how I keep going day to day.

My call to you? Go find those things that motivate you.

A call from the pop radio station

Remember that one song “Take me to church” by Hozier that may have confused you when it played on the pop radio station? You may have asked yourself why they were talking about going to church on a radio station that’s dedicated to butts and the pleasures of the world, rather than anything ephemeral. Unfortunately, It’s not actually about going to church. It is about a man, frustrated with the empty promises of church, who turns to his lover to fulfill him instead. He will “worship” her, in the “shrine” of the bedroom, because at least there he can find “plenty.” She is a demanding “goddess” but here at least the “starving faithful” have a chance of being filled. And this message is right up the alley of society, who attend more to the bedroom than to filling pews and thinking of the afterlife.

So, its mocking religion? Sure sounds like it. But, in my opinion, his leaving church, his throwing himself from the seemingly empty altar of God into the bed of “sweeter innocence” and “gentle sin” is not a loss of faith but it is a moment of clarity, a desire that has become too much and forces him to burst from the church where the faith that is taught is dead and will not satisfy, for it is not of God.

The true faith of God is not empty and stale, it is alive and ever changing whom it touches. It is a faith that is deeply connected to the everyday in every way. It is the faith that is interlocked with charity. It is a faith that can compete and beat with what the world has to offer. It is not for a moment “bleak” although it is a struggle. Life is a struggle, but notice that those with real faith live with one important ingredient missing in many lives and in Hozier’s song: hope. Mother Teresa did not live a useless or boring life. She changed lives because she allowed God to be fully alive in her, to shine forth like a lightbulb with no shade. She tasted a bit of heaven and was so transformed, transfixed, and transported that others were drawn to her, to know what set her apart, that made her joyful and hopeful in a world where many settle for anything that makes them briefly happy but never completely satisfies. What made this woman, who was a virgin and without a doctorate, money, anything of the world, so joyful? Faith, real faith. She listened to what God had to say and she lived it. She gave of herself, she held nothing back. This is the faith that would have kept Hozier in the pew.

Let God truly shining in the life of Christians take you back to church on day, Hozier. Christians, let’s get on living a faith that is truly alive.

Because the only sport I play is binge-watching…

I think most of us in this world of Netflix have been guilty of binge-watching at one point or another. For instance, one night of my senior year of college, I decided to start the show Scandal and breeze through part of the first season as I stayed up all night trying to write a paper and prepare for an oral exam the next day. I vividly remember most of the details of that night: the weird combo of the mint Starbucks drink I was drinking to stay up and the meatloaf I ate to keep the late night munchies at bay, the strange subject of the Italian figure of D’Annunzio I was writing about and his house/museum in Italy that I was both fascinated and repulsed by, the theology I tried to cram into my head before the oral exam (the exam itself was kind of fuzzy because of the whole ’no sleep’ thing) and the beginning plot of Scandal, which I haven’t watched since that inglorious night.

Binge-watching is a sport, a guilty pleasure, something that becomes a bragging right. We brag about our Netflix exploits like we are a teenager who just got their first kiss before all your other friends. If you have made it this far, you must have read the above paragraph and noticed that hint of bragging, because I pulled off good grades in those classes despite my idiocy the night before. And that’s only because I have had years of theology before that exam and I already had a good grade in the other class. My all-nighter didn’t help anything.

So why am I bragging then? Its not an amazing feat. I just sat there for hours doing nothing but stare at a screen-maybe I tried multitasking but it wasn’t that successful. Maybe I learned something, maybe I felt a little inspired, but on the whole after binge-watching I personally feel….frustrated, a little sad, disillusioned. My life isn’t the exciting life on the screen, it isn’t full of adventure and romance. My everyday becomes even more everyday and mundane after a binge watch. Its harder to get back into reality and appreciate the life I have been given. Instead of writing that blog post or talk, praying, helping my friend or family, finishing that project, exercising, doing something that will impact my life or others for the better, I often decide that my life really needs just ‘one more episode.’ (It doesn’t help that Netflix will just play an episode if you don’t react fast enough-because homegirl is pretty lazy let me be honest)

But, I don’t need that ‘one more episode.’ I am issuing myself this challenge and I challenge you to do the same: don’t binge watch anymore. A couple episodes is fine if you need to rewind or are catching up with a friend, but don’t go overboard. Don’t put yourself or others after a show. Realize how beautiful the world you live in is when you aren’t living vicariously through a screen.