Kicks

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” – Isaiah 52:7

I love shoes and I hate that I love shoes because shoes cost money. However, there is no better feeling I have found in my adult life that when someone compliments my shoes. It’s a little sick – When I get a new pair of shoes I sit there and stare at them all day, and I usually take a picture of them either on Snapchat or Instagram, just in case someone didn’t get to see them. I’m also the girl who will forgo saying hello or even acknowledging your entire presence to point and gasp and go, “SHOES!” if my friend or acquaintance has on a cool new pair.

When I was really sick and in the intensive care unit in the hospital, shoes took on a new meaning. In the ICU, there aren’t solid walls – there’s glass everywhere so nurses can easily keep their eyes on patients who may not be able to communicate because of how ill they are. The most you can do to get a semblance of privacy is to close a long curtain that hangs along the glass wall. Thus, when people are walking by, all you can see is their shoes.

The last time I was in the ICU before I got my transplant, I distinctly remember seeing and acknowledging three people’s shoes: my father’s work shoes, my best friend Andrew’s white tennis, and my pastor’s brother’s loafers. All three of those meant something great but also very different. My dad meant comfort and that my mom would get a chance to go get some air. Andrew’s shoes meant comfort, fun, and probably some kind of delicious food he’d smuggled in (a pack of Oreos, most likely). And Dr. Paul’s….that was special. Dr. Paul spends half of every year as a surgeon in Kenya. He’s a career missionary who had a successful practice in the United States but felt the calling – and answered it – to go provide healthcare to people in underdeveloped countries. He has performed surgery on probably thousands of people in Kenya, and helped establish a hospital there. He’s the biggest deal. And he made time to come see me. To this day, thinking about watching his shoes walk past the curtain makes me incredibly emotional.

Honestly, it makes my hurt do something weird when I think of all three of those men coming to see me. When I saw their feet, I always knew things were about to be good for about an hour. I wouldn’t be scared anymore for a while. I would feel special for a while, and not like one of many patients in big, cold, sterile hospital. It made me feel a feeling that you don’t usually associate with being in the ICU. Seeing their shoes made me feel good.

What if when people saw us coming they got excited? What if, in a time when so many people had a terrible last year, when there are so many fearful, depressed, and hurting people, they got excited to see us coming because for however long we were with them, they were smiling?
It’s really an amazing feeling to have my nephew light up and run to me when he sees me. It’s as if he was waiting for me and didn’t know it. Like, I’m just who he wanted to see every time he sees me.

That’s our job, y’all! We have the awesome privilege of knowing the Truth that has set us free. The Church should be the place where there are a ton of happy people, all loving life and wanting to share life with those who need it most. Instead of being the ones who are bringing judgment and opinions, we’re called to be the ones who bring the Gospel, which simply means “good news,” to people. Look around you: We’re needed more than ever. I was just telling my friend’s dad that everyone I knew who was complaining about 2016 being horrible was outside of the realm of my church family. It’s poppin’ in the Church! So our job now is keep the party going when we leave.

What if my three guys would come to the hospital happy and then immediately become as somber, sad, and scared as I was in my hospital bed? I sure would have been fine with them turning right around and not passing that curtain. I was doing bad all by myself!

It’s the same for our loved ones and the people we come across every day. Make sure you’re carrying the news that there is hope, joy is possible, and freedom is here to everyone in your path.

I had a friend tell me that she had no idea I had ever been sick in my life because my “soul is always glowing.” I’m so thrilled that she noticed my shoes!

This year, let’s remember to shine our shoes before we leave the house.

That’s all.

The Sweetest Thing

IMG_8979When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Psalm 8:3-4

I didn’t make a post-camp blog this year because it was kind of overwhelming. I had a bunch of people from the lifegroup I used to lead come to camp without being coerced by me, which was such a blessing to see. The girl from last year’s camp blog came back and brought her sister, which was really cool. One of my nephews came to camp(!!!). And just the experience in general was pretty humbling to be a part of.

The only thing I was pretty bummed about was the loss of one of my favorite earrings. Now, this is super vain, but I wear a certain pair of earrings when I work out because, although I’m intentionally getting sweaty and gross and all nasty-looking, I refuse to not wear earrings and further risk looking like a little boy.

The thing is, I didn’t realize I was so attached to these little purple studs until I lost one. I legitimately went home so sad because I couldn’t find one. I emptied out every bag, checked every crevice of the cabin and everything I could have possibly dropped them in and found nothing. The worst part was, I remembered thinking I shouldn’t have put my earrings where I did immediately after taking them off at camp – but I couldn’t remember where that place was.

The other day, I was yelling at my dog to not eat a piece of trash on the floor and thinking about how badly I needed to sweep, and I stepped on what I thought was one of many pieces of lint laying on my floor – and it was my other earring! I was ecstatic that I would no longer have to look male in the gym, but more than that, I was blessed by how sweet of God it was to align that for me.

I began to think of the many things that could have gone wrong: I could have given up and thrown away the matching earring; my dog could have eaten it; I could have swept/vacuumed and thrown it away unintentionally. But God seemed to know even more than I did how attached I was to those little fake earrings.

To me, that spoke to how faithful God is even when we’re trifling (because I still haven’t swept my place smh) and to how HE knows our hearts, even when we don’t. He’s protecting what we love, even when we haven’t done the right thing and taken our losses to Him first.

This was such a seemingly frivolous event, and such a seemingly unimportant deed, but it was a sweet nothing from my Father. He does the sweetest things to bless us, just because He can.

What a Wonderful Creator.

That’s all. I’m gonna go sweep now 😉

In Light Of Recent Events….

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

I’ve been very hesitant to write a full blog about this, but not because it might offend someone. The recent events in our nation: the Orlando shooting, a woman killing her two daughters, the constant, systematic purge of black men and women, the Dallas police officer shooting…those things are offensive. You should already be hurt by them. There is no reason for me to be afraid to hurt someone’s feelings by writing a blog addressing those events.

 

The reason that I have been so hesitant to write a blog about these things is because I would have to immortalize forever through writing the extreme fear and anxiety I have waking up every morning and going to bed every night. I do not fear for myself. Quite the contrary. I have a black father who, in fact, hung the moon. I have a black brother who, in fact, is the most loving person on the face of the planet. I have black nephews who make me wonder if I should bother having children because I don’t think I could love anyone more than them. I have black cousins who are the hardest, toughest men alive…except when it comes to me. I have black uncles who are crazy about me and I don’t even think I could express how much they mean to me. I have black friends who make me wonder what kind of magical man I am going to marry that they will approve of…or that I will respect as much as my friends. I have gay friends who tell me something about Jesus I didn’t know every time I see them. And the list goes on…

 

I can’t say much about what’s going on because there are no words to describe it. I can’t say much about what’s going on because what’s going on isn’t a series of events to me; it’s a question: What’s going on?

I have that feeling where I just want my mommy. I have been through an awful lot in life. But this is so different. And the most different part about it is that I wasn shocked and disappointed in so many people I’ve known for years. The lack of grace and compassion has deeply disturbed me. Suddenly Christians no longer believe in grace, but rely on someone’s criminal record or Facebook posts to rationalize why the person was “probably a bad person” because “your past says a lot about you.”
I don’t believe they’re not Christians anymore, I just think it’s time for a Churchwide heart check. A reality moment where we all come to terms with what we believe, about both secular and societal issues.

 

Mostly, it hurts me because I feel that in friends’ unexplained quests to objective, they’ve overlooked the fact that someone they claim to love  (me) is just as black as the person whose murder they are trying to justify. It makes me feel as if they have been purposefully overlooking the fact that I have been black this whole time in order to be friends with me. Suddenly, when I say #blacklivesmatter, they think I am a racist? Since when have things been so cut and dry? Why are people reading things I didn’t type?

 

I remember in college wanting to get an apartment with a friend. She was white, and told her parents that I was “black, but not black black,” because otherwise her parents wouldn’t approve. I think about that every time something like this happens and people who say they love me have something idiotic or insensitive to say online. Is it because they think it won’t apply to me?

 

With every tragedy that’s happened, people spark up a gun control debate. Have we become so desensitized to death and grief that our immediate response is to reason out why or why not this is happening? What happened to being sad?

 

You know how atheists always argue and try to convince people there is no God? For what? At least religious people are trying to save souls. But nothing happens if there is no God and I believed there was my whole life. In the same vein, what’s wrong with being sad that a human life was lost, and that people across the nation are scared for their lives? One of my friends put it best when he said, “You have nothing to lose by acknowledging injustice.” A life was lost. Grieve with those who grieve. It’s almost biblical.

 

I might seem all over the place with this post. But if I don’t make sense, it’s probably because nothing much else does to me right now. Trusting and believing in God is all I have right now, and I’m praying more than ever for protection for me and my loved ones. Every time, though, that thought just creeps up, “Did the people killed not have someone praying for them?” The most powerful thing I can do – praying – feels the most helpless.

 

But friends, this is where faith becomes faith, and not just hope. Do we really believe God is in control? Do we really believe that we should be taking care of our neighbor and loving like Someone who died for us when we were criminals? It’s time to act like you believe there is more to this life. If this was the end, if this was all there was to it, then I could see the concern. I could understand why we’re up in arms. But this isn’t real life! This isn’t what our hope is in. Our purpose is beyond this. We’re supposed to be showing people Jesus – not our opinions, not our knowledge of the law. Just Him. He’s the only One that can give us Peace, and the only One who will still be standing when everything else fades.

 

So what’s it gonna be?

My Illnesses Absolutely Define Me

If you’re the sum of your life’s experiences, then illness has been a big part of mine…and has taught me a lot.

Up until this year I hadn’t realized how much being sick for so long had taught me. I was lowkey (read: super high key) mad at God for making me so “different,” and for shielding me from the bad decisions I would have inevitably made. That might sound silly, but it’s exactly what I mean. I listen to all my friends’ stories about how much fun they had doing stupid stuff, and I kinda wish I would have had that opportunity, rather than being stuck in the house or afraid I’d be made fun of if I got sick in front of friends.
According to doctors, I have ulcerative colitis, sickle cell, and up until three years ago I needed a liver transplant. Thaaaattt’s right. Alladat. I’m passionate about dance, but had to miss a bunch of practices. I’m passionate about leading and serving in church and doing community service, but I couldn’t do too much activity without getting worn out. I’m passionate about food, but I could never tell when I was gonna able to keep it down.
I hear people with diseases and challenges say those things don’t define them, and it’s never really set well with me to say the same. I have accepted that as a truth in my life, though, until recently, when I realized my mind, soul, and body are just now figuring out I’m not as sick as I was anymore. A couple of years ago I wondered what the point of all of that grief was, but now I think I’m slowly beginning to figure it out:

My experience with illnesses taught me about who I am and who others are – especially who they are to me.

Let me explain.
You’ll never meet anyone who chills harder than I do.
Being ill, you learn that you have to listen to your body. If I feel like I absolutely cannot get out of bed and work out, guess what I’m not doing that day? I’m not slacking off; I just don’t want to overdo it and get sick. I used to laugh at people who threw up in the gym because it seemed like they thought they were invincible and would be able to push themselves to whatever breaking point they’d set. I learned to accept that I can’t do everything, and when I can’t I just gotta chill.
You’ll never meet anyone as adaptable as I am.
Of course, everyone hates being disappointed. I hate seeing disappointment on the faces of people whom I love. But I’ve dealt with my fair share of it. Nowadays, when I get disappointed I tend to think, “Well, at least I don’t need a liver transplant.”
You can’t tell me who I am. I’ve spent a lot of time with me, and I know me very well.
I will be the first to tell you that I know a lot about who I am, even the fact that many times, I try to deny it when other people tell me truths about who I am. That’s not to say I don’t learn more about myself with each new situation I encounter, it’s only to say that I have no desire to “find myself,” and I’m not defined by what others think of me or want me to be. I can say “no” to things and situations because I got very comfortable with being alone and having time to myself. Loneliness doesn’t scare me, and neither does nonconformity.
I am sure there are other ways in which being ill for a lot of my life has defined me – even negative ways. While I know I can change who I am at will, my experiences have made me who I am, and while I do wish some things would have been different and question why they didn’t change sooner, I appreciate the person I am because of what I went through.
So far, that’s enough of an answer for me.

That’s all.

Don’t Let the World Outdo You

In the past few months, I’ve been doing some introspection on who my real friends are. Having been ill for much of my life, it used to be very easy to gauge that – it was all the people who stuck around, visited me in the hospital, and put up with the special conditions I needed to adhere to in order to stay healthy and in a good mood.
One of the first lessons I learned as a fully functioning adult with the ability to move around freely was that not everyone is on your side. There were people – inside and outside of the Church – who would smile in my face and stab me in the back. It was much harder to deal with from people inside the Church because I knew they knew what I did about how to love people, so I expected them to do it. Alas, that wasn’t always the case.
I don’t want it to come off like all my church friends were horrible – that’s not the case at all. In fact, my very best friends come from my church. I just found out some surprising behaviors from my church friends that I would expect from my “unchurched” friends and vice versa. Let me explain:
Every now and then, people decide to go to different church services, different churches, or opt out of certain services to pursue other passions or career opportunities. I find no problem with this, as long as they’re being spiritually fed in a healthy way. However, there’s this weird, icky trend in churches where if you’re not choosing that specific church or service anymore, people don’t ask why, they just speculate whatever reason they feel you aren’t around anymore.
Now, that’s not always the case, and I’m not saying it doesn’t happen out in the world. But here’s the thing that actually made me laugh about the whole situation:
I was one of the people who chose to go to another service at one point, then I opted out of an entire service (working at a church and attending every service gets to be a lot, as you can imagine). Only very few people directly asked me why, and then some people just would randomly walk up to me and go, “Hey, so what has God been teaching you lately?” as if to insinuate I couldn’t possibly still be hearing from him only going to 3 out of the 4 weekly services I attended. I realized I could literally just fade away from church altogether unnoticed.
But let me miss one night at the turn-up…
When I stopped going out on the weekends to clubs, parties, concerts, etc., just about every one of my “unchurched” friends contacted me and asked why. LOL. Every call, every text was like, “Hey girl, you OK? Your car working? You sick? You depressed? I’ll pick you up!” HAHAHAHAHAHA. It was so intense!!!
While that was hilarious to me, it was also incredibly sad. Shouldn’t we be that way with our friends who we see aren’t coming around as much? Shouldn’t we be doing everything in our power to make sure people are going to the one physical place they can get healthy? If someone switches churches and your church is so great, why not ask them if there was a problem, how you can fix it, and how you can get them to come back instead of speculating and making up stories about whyso-and-so is “backsliding?”
It’s time to stop assuming people are OK and are just rebelling when you don’t see them anymore. It’s crazy how hard we work to make sure people who don’t know Jesus get to church, then when we get them there, we don’t take care of them anymore to make sure they stay there. What good is having tons of people come to church and then retention sucks?
The difference between my two sets of friends, I found, was that the unchurched friends realize that we’re all out here on our own, and they don’t know that there is a Savior to help us out, so they feel that we need to help each other. Guess what? Since we have the privilege of knowing there is a Savior to help us out, we also need to realize that what He did as a human on this earth is what we are to do: take care of people.

That’s all.

He Broke My Heart So he Wouldn’t.

I’m gonna go ahead and admit something that a lot of people, Christian people, seem to have forgotten from the looks of social media: I’m not perfect. Far from perfect. Nowhere near perfect. Perfect is a dot in the distance…
You catch my drift.
This year, I have randomly dated more than ever. I guess the “glow-up” is finally in effect? Anyway, it has been AWFUL. Things have happened to me that I have only seen on TV. Like, where did this horrible men come from all of a sudden? Out of the men that I have dated this year, I can truly say I believe only one of them came close to breaking my heart, and not because of what he did. I had asked God not to bring any men across my path unless it was The One. And I was chillin’ up until March, when I met a guy randomly at the store. He was super cute, came from a great family, and had a little change in his pocket. He was everything I wanted…until he told me he was engaged to another woman the whole time. I felt used, like I was his “last fling before the ring,” but I oddly still felt like I wanted to be with him. Sick, huh? Well, homeboy got married, and I moved on to more terrible choices. The oddest thing happened, though, none of these men were able to break my heart. Yes, they hurt me, and some more than others, but my heart was never truly broken, and it wasn’t until I sat down with a friend for a catch-up session that I realized why…
My friend was trying to cheer me up, telling me that I deserve the best from God and people, and that I do so much for people, and then it dawned on me:
I find the people God has strategically placed in my life so important – my family, my close friends, people who I don’t even know who need help (poor, heartbroken, low self-esteem, generally unhappy, sick, etc.) – and their needs so pressing, that right now, dating seems a tad trivial. The boy/girl thing, the chase, the pining – it’s all pointless at the moment. Sure, I want to be a wife. I can’t wait (I can kinda wait) to be a mother. But at this moment, I am neither. Thus, at this moment, I can be entirely selfish with my time and decide who I give it to, and the citizens of this world are so important to me that if I want to, I can give them all the time I have without answering to anyone but God, and I feel like He’s OK with that.
There’s a song called “Hosanna” by Hillsong that says a line I have always loved: “Break my heart for what breaks Yours,” meaning “God, give me a passion for Your people and the world You created.” I sing that line with my eyes closed, really asking God for that. Well, be careful what you wish for! God has, especially in this year, awakened in me a new passion to give my time and attention to the things that are on His mind and in His heart.


No man who has nothing to do with my destiny has been able to break my heart because it is already sweetly broken for the best reasons.

As Christians, the Bible tells us to “stay alert,” and what that means is that we need to keep focused. The Enemy has no real powers: he’s not omnipresent, not omnipotent, and is completely powerless to do anything else but lie. Lest we forget, he was an angel whose sole job was to communicate. He can’t kill us, but he can confuse us so that we get off track. I find that one of the biggest ways he distracts us is to play on what got him kicked out of Heaven: our ego. If he can make us feel unimportant, he can really trap us into straying from our purpose.
I’m going to be honest; I can fall to this pretty easily. Recently, however, it hasn’t been working. One of my mentors told me that he has learned that one of the best things God can do is shelve us (put us in the background) to help us grow. Think about it: If you’re in the limelight all the time, you’re too busy to look around you. You can’t process things because you’re so overwhelmed with busyness. I know that I have been shelved in this season. But I have learned more than I ever have from sitting at the feet of people who are wiser and more learned than I am – my proverbial elders. Know where they are? In the background. They’ve had their time and now they’re looking at our generation. I want to know what they see. I want to learn the history of what they’ve experienced so I don’t repeat it.
So tonight, when I was (finally) cleaning my apartment, I opened a package with a shirt I had ordered from a Christian company called Bold Love. I thought the shirt was really cool, and I noticed they had sent me an extra shirt, and there was a handwritten letter attached:
“Hope –
            There is hope in Jesus Christ J. Know that in His Presence is fullness of joy. Be encourage(d) God sees you. I pray that you continually receive a revelation of Jesus’ love.
Live Bold. Love Bold. Bold Love.”
Be encouraged in this New Year. Stay focused. God sees you.
“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13


Lessons From a 14-Year-Old

Camp was awesome. I knew it would be. 1. It’s camp. 2. I was with one of the greatest high school ministries in the world. 3. Where only 2 or 3 are gathered in the Name of Jesus, He has to show up…and there were 500 of us. So He was in full effect. 

I went to camp to help with games. That’s it. No children. And I made it very clear of that point. But if you know me, you know that I hate seeing people feel left out or just sitting alone when everyone else is having fun. So the first night there, I saw Natalie. Alone. I asked my friend Shanceler about her and was told that she didn’t really open up much to anyone. Bells and whistles went off in my head: NO NO NO! On a Wednesday night, if kids alone, it’s only for 2 hours then they go home to their families. But she was gonna be alone for a WEEK. Shanceler told me that was gonna be my girl. “But Shance. I said no kids,” I told her. Shance, knowing me since birth (literally. ugh.) reiterated what she said before: “That. Is. Your. Girl.” Goodbye, free time. 

I introduced myself and asked Natalie why she was sitting alone when everyone else was jumping and having fun. She said she came from and orthodox Christian church and she was very disapproving of Lakewood, including the fact that the pastors were not priests. I immediately knew why God had put her in my sight: I’m somewhat of a “go-hard” when it comes to defending my church and how I worship. As a dancer, and as someone whose body constantly rebels against her, I use every opportunity I can to risk looking undignified to thank and honor Someone who suffered the ultimate humiliation for me. We went back and forth for 3 DAYS on this subject until she finally just said, “It’s just so loud.” I gave her that lol. It’s pretty loud. 

The last night of camp she was sitting in the back by herself and I went to talk to her. She immediately started crying and saying she hated being made to come to camp for so many reasons. She opened up about her life and her struggles. Turns out, she lives in Russia most of the time and attends school there. Lakewood Youth was a GIANT culture shock for her. After she finished, she let me pray with her (she didn’t close her eyes haha…and I had to convince her we were praying to the same God LOL). Then, we just walked around the camp and she let me hear some of the music she listens to in Russia. She’s a really cool kid. The next day as we were leaving, she told me she would come to church Wednesday night if I was there. Guess where I’ll be Wednesday night!

This experience was one of the best I’ve had a camp. I’ve had a lot going on lately, but I don’t think I prayed for myself once the entire time. I just couldn’t get her out of my mind. It’s such a tugging feeling to want someone to experience God so much, forgetting completely about yourself in hopes that someone just “gets it.” 

I don’t know if Natalie will ever jump up and down during worship or pray out loud in a big room of people. But that’s not the point. 


The point that Jesus made on earth was to be completely about people. And people are different. Sometimes, they’re not going to ever agree with you or change to fit what you think is right. Your job is not to make sure people “get it.” Love is love despite differing opinions. And it literally only takes your following the prompting to go up and say, “Hey. What’s your name?” to someone who looks like they need a friend.  If you have a mouth and legs, you got this “love” thing covered. 


Natalie summed up every camp message for me by being difficult lol. I can definitely say my “make room” experience was allowing God to create space in my head and my heart to realize that my purpose is about OTHER people. It has nothing to do with me. When I go to ask God what he’s going to do in my life, I’m being entirely selfish. My question should be, “Lord, WHO CAN I BE in SOMEONE ELSE’S life?” Serving Jesus is not a “me” thing, it’s an “us” thing. 

That’s all.