nobody gets to sing my song

We all know that my dream side hustle would be to help authors launch their book babies into the world.  I blame Jen Hatmaker for making it such an amazing experience.  And while I’m not always timely with my reviews and updates about said books, I promise I’m bragging about them in my real life to my in person people.  All that to say, I’m long overdue to review this latest one, but better late than never right?
I had been following Jo Saxton via the internet for about a year before I was ever in the same room as her.  I had read parts of her book More than Enchanting and listened to her voice on the Lead Stories Podcast.  I had the privilege of attending the Lead Stories Live recording and a leadership conference that she had created for women.  After that I signed up to be a part of her launch team for The Dream of You: Let go of Broken Identities and Live the Life You Were Made For.  I was so excited to read this book and from the moment I received it in the mail I started devouring it.  It’s taken me this long to be able to really process what to say about it other than, “Oh my goodness – read this book.”

“When our voice has been taken, we redirect our lives toward ‘more acceptable’ interests.  We excuse the damage caused by having been silenced by saying we are only being realistic.  We downplay our gifts and subdue our talents.  And instead of the life we were designed for, we live the life we think we can get away with.” – Jo Saxton, The Dream of You  (Emphasis added)

When I read the above portion I felt my heart drop into my stomach.  It was like looking into a mirror under the worst lighting while trying on clothes that are not right.  I think I actually had to put the book down for a few minutes before I could go on.
I have always been a wildly passionate person.  I have opinions and feelings about all the things.  Because of this, I have found that there are times when people don’t really know what to do with me.  I’ve been told I’m intimidating, off putting, too much, negative, etc.  I’ve been told that because of these things I’m insubordinate, I’ll be single forever, I’m not a godly woman, I’m not good enough, etc.
And while I’ve always known those things to be lies and not true about the person God created in me.  I’ve let them into my brain and into my heart.  I’ve allowed these messages (and many others having to do with my gender, my race, my singleness, and my broken pieces) silence my voice.
In The Dream of You, Jo calls these things for what they are – lies and stumbling blocks.  She battles insecurity with the truth of God’s love for us.  She replaces the lies of the world around us with the soft whisper of the Almighty who created us.  She calls out injustice and points to a God who longs to redeem even the most broken areas of our hearts and spirits.
Each chapter starts with a letter from Jo to all women who have ever felt as if they had to apologize for being who they are.  Then she dives deep into biblical narratives that help us to see God’s agency in our world.  Her vulnerability in sharing her own struggles in all of these areas and her wisdom gained from walking these difficult paths help us all to take a deep breath in and remember we are not alone.
The journey that Jo takes us on in this book is one of dismantling the coping mechanisms we’ve learned to live within.  As you read through the book, you’ll feel as though the weight of years of striving to measure up are falling off.  Then Jo helps us to see the tools to unlock our true God-given identities.  Jo helps us to imagine a whole where we are all encouraged to live exactly as we were meant to – in close community with our God who created us exactly as we are.
If there is one thing I know to be true it’s that God sent Jesus to walk this earth so that we may have life to the fullest.  So that we may be truly free.  The other thing that I know for sure is that there are forces at work trying to make sure we don’t live out of that freedom.  This book is a great tool in helping us remember that God sees each and every one of us.  It is a step toward letting God redeem your story.
*Blog title from Nichole Nordeman – “Sound of Surviving” off Every Mile Mattered 

walking the thin line between Oppression and Privilege

I recently heard someone describe privilege as the ability to walk away. It struck a chord in me the moment I heard it.  Because when I’m honest with myself, it’s a feeling I’ve had before – you can walk away from this conversation if it gets too hard or too real for you.  When people look at me, when they interact with me, most people see what they want to see.  Sometimes that means they think I’m just like them and sometimes that means I’m nothing like them.
Let me clarify, because you’re reading this and not seeing me, I’m biracial.  My mom is Caucasian and my dad was Hispanic.  We moved from CO to NJ when I was three, far away from my extended family on both sides.  So all of my early childhood that I can remember was spent in North Eastern New Jersey.  Looking back at the demographics (according to the census), my town was approximately 13,000 and 91% of the population identified themselves as white.
My parents never really talked about the fact that they were an interracial couple.  If it was ever difficult for them, I didn’t know about it.  I never thought we were that different from the run of the mill families that surrounded us. I was just your average kid.
Until one day when I wasn’t.
I remember we were playing at a friend’s house.  I must have been about 8.  We were out in the front yard and a pick-up truck drove by.  In the bed of the pick-up truck were a group of Mexican American men.  One of my friends stopped playing, spit on the ground next to her and muttered, “Dirty Mexicans.”
It sent shock waves through my whole body.  I watched the truck drive away and thought about my dad.  I thought about my grandma.  I thought about my aunts and uncles.
I didn’t say anything.  Looking back on it now, I’m sure she had no idea what she was saying.  She must have just been repeating something she’d heard and I am almost certain that she wasn’t thinking about my dad or my family.
I don’t recall ever telling my parents that story.  It wasn’t something we talked about.  I don’t even think in that moment I could have named what changed in me but it was the first moment that I realized something was different.  That a part of me was somehow less than the rest of these girls.
It began the journey of a segmented life for me.  Because we were far away from any extended family and because we didn’t talk about where either of my parents came from, I never really wrestled with this identity.  I was simply drawn to others around me that didn’t quite fit this classic mold that was being praised by TV shows and magazines.
From that moment on there are countless moments where I felt that same feeling I had felt in my friend’s front yard.  I have had to wrestle to become comfortable inside my own skin.  To love the things that are so oddly distinct to my biracial make-up.
I recently was talking to a friend and I made a comment about how most people look at me and think I’m white.  His response to me was, “it’s because they aren’t looking hard enough.”
And it’s true.  Most of the time when I’m interacting with white people they see what they want to see – my lighter skin.  It’s given me the privilege to walk away when I didn’t want to engage and to hide behind the majority culture surrounding me.
But it’s also shown me the ugly side of privilege.  I’ve had comments made to me and around me that were nothing short of racist.  It has felt obtrusively oppressive.
In my early years of identity work, I could walk away from these conversations with my true self still hidden.  Almost like a mole, I was able to take in the information without being found out.  But I did not leave those conversations unscathed.  It started this narrative of white supremacy in my life –
That one half of me was better than the other half.
The thing with lies is that when they creep into your brain, they tend to repeat themselves over and over again.  The beauty of living in community and knowing the saving grace of Jesus is that those lies don’t have to win.
What wins is that I was made new by a creative God.  That my biracial make up was no mistake.  I’m biracial because God created me biracial.  As I walk this line between oppression and privilege, I get to decide how my voice is going to be used and how my story will be told.

laying down what's not mine

I’ve always wanted a tattoo – a reminder that will be there with me forever of who I am and who I was created to be.  The problem is – I’m constantly discovering a new facet of what that means in my life.  I find a new word, phrase or image that I want to be my guiding force and it causes me to question if I really want to permanently put any of them on my body.   So I tend to use jewelry for my reminders instead.  I love to find wearable symbols that remind me of who I am and where I’m going in this season of life.  Words, phrases or images that help to ground me and declare who (and whose) I am.
I recently heard someone speak about the significance of wearing your own armor.  She referenced the story of David and Goliath, when David initially goes out to go toe to toe with Goliath they want him to put on Saul’s armor.  But when he puts it on it’s too big and it inhibits his movements.  So he takes it off and goes to face Goliath without it.
The woman sharing this image with us was encouraging us to put on our own armor, not the armor of someone else.  It hit me deep.
So much of the world around me tells me who to be.  From the superficial things: how to dress, how to put on make up, how to do my hair; to the deeper things: how to carry myself, how to be a leader/pastor/writer.  I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to figure out what my niche is – where it is I feel most alive.  But part of the problem is that I’ve let others tell me who to be and what to place value on.
It has resulted in me putting on someone else’s armor.  Sometimes because their armor was shinier than my own.  Sometimes because they told me their armor was thicker and more protective than mine.  Sometimes because I didn’t realize it wasn’t mine to put on.  Sometimes because they were someone I wanted to emulate and therefore I put their armor on to be like them.
But the problem with putting someone else’s armor on is that it doesn’t protect you the way it should.  It doesn’t amplify the places where you are strong and protect the places you are weak.  It isn’t meant for you.
If I believe that God created us each uniquely, which I do, then I also believe that God equips us each for a unique calling on our lives.  The calling serves the same purpose for each of us – joining in the mission of God – but it’s lived out by each of us differently, based on who He created us to be.
So of course our armors are all different.  As I journey through discovering my own armor, I’m learning what it means to pick my way through my own calling and journey.  I’m learning what my armor is, what my battles are, where my path is leading.
These days there are two pieces of my armor that I put on myself each day.  One is a bracelet that says “FEARLESS” which was a bridesmaid gift from my dear Lo.  The other is a bracelet with a feather on it.  The company who made this bracelet says that a feather is the bearer of truth and justice.  As I walk forward into this next season of ministry and leadership, I am choosing to put on these two things – truth and fearlessness.
What armor do you need to put down today? And what armor are you picking up?

We're never getting older

This last week I traveled back to my hometown to go to the Belong Tour with the Goddaughter.  It was part of a trip to renew myself – spiritually and physically.  My hope was to take time to vision cast.  For myself, for ministry and to spend time pouring into myself.
There’s this lake near my house that I used to walk around whenever I needed some perspective.  It’s right outside my neighborhood and throughout high school and college it was a sacred place for me.  It has this hill on the backside of the lake that when you got to the top you could look out over the neighborhood and see the mountains in the background.  It was my favorite view.
This last trip home I realized the view changed.  I hadn’t walked the lake in several years.  So many trips home have been too busy to even get a walk or run in, but this trip I took to the trail to get a glimpse of that view.  But when I rounded the corner, up the hill, I looked out and realized I couldn’t see the mountains anymore.  The trees of the neighborhood have grown over the last 10 years and all you see are the tops of the trees.
The pictures above are my best efforts to capture this change.  On the left is a picture from March of 2006.  I was a junior in college – life in complete disarray – or so I thought.  I clearly remember the walk I took, desperate to see something bigger than myself.  I almost wish I could go back to that 20 year old version of myself and tell her what’s to come.  To take a deep breath and brace yourself because it’s gonna get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
In 2006 I was in the throws of my first heartbreak.  I was on staff at my home church for the first time, working out what it meant to be called to youth ministry.  I was mentoring a group of girls for the first time.  I was coming to terms with the concept of a broken family.  I spent my days doing homework at a random little coffee shop in a theater because my friend worked there and sometimes gave me free upgrades on my order.  I was just getting to know some friends who would become my closest allies in the darkest parts of my story.
The picture on the right was last week.  Every time I go home I have that nostalgia for the life that I lived in CO.  But this last trip really gave me some perspective.  I ran into that boy who broke my heart and was genuinely happy for the man he’d become all these years later.  In a moment of divine appointment, I ran into one of the girls who I was mentoring back then and met her son, watched her loving talk to her husband and tell me all about their life these days.  That same friend who used to give me free coffee now owns his own coffee shop and I spent the day dreaming about life and ministry in that gorgeous space. Also attending the Belong Tour was my own youth pastor who gave me my first chance to do ministry.
In the 10 years of life between these two pictures, so much has changed.  It’s not just trees that have grown, I have too.  In those 10 years I have lived in 5 different states.  I have worked at 4 churches doing internships and gaining experience.  I was ordained and called to a church that I love to do a work I feel very passionate about.  I’ve learned to become healthy in the midst of heartbreak and joy.
I’ve become someone who knows there is no truth to the feeling that we will never get older.  Nor is there really any desire in my heart to not get older.  These years have been a gift to me, a blessing that has been bestowed on me.
As we grow, we keep adding identities on top of one another.  The girl I was 10 years ago that took that sunset picture in an attempt to be artsy is still in me, like a nesting doll with head phones blaring John Mayer.  She’s been covered with new versions of me.  And what I’m realizing more and more is that I like this most outer nesting doll.  And I can’t wait to see what the next one looks like.

When we were young we were little but we didn't know it

This week’s #FridayFive is coming in under the wire … I say that because as I type this, I am packed up and ready to leave on a winter retreat with my Jr Highers.  A weekend at our denomination’s camp, with other jr highers from our conference, for an intentional few days of worship and fellowship.
Kelly, over at Mrs. Disciple posed this week’s #FridayFive : Five Adjectives about You.  So here we go, I’m cheating a little bit because since my mind is in retreat/youth ministry role, I’m going to share Five adjectives others have used to describe me, and Five Adjectives that I use to describe myself.  The way that others see us has the ability to change the way we see ourselves, sometimes we have to fight against that in order to see who God has created us to be.

#FridayFive: 5 Adjectives about Me

5 that others have used to describe me:
Easy Going
I heard someone once say that the best thing about me was that I was easy going.  I’m going to take this as a compliment, even if the circumstances that surrounded it weren’t really a compliment.  I do have a “go with the flow” type of personality, which I think is what he as getting at when he said it.  I picked up this habit a long time ago and for the  most part, I like that about myself.
Another thing I’ve heard said about me (rather than to me) is that I’m Intimidating.  Sometimes it’s in the realm of relationships with guys – I’m too intimidating for them.  Other times it’s with friends.  I’ve been described as brooding, when I was younger.  I have this tendency to be up in my head – over analyzing everything – this sometimes comes off as stand offish to those who don’t know me.
I’m not sure if this is actually an adjective.  Every personality test I’ve taken has told me that I’m someone who enjoys taking care of others.  It’s partially what led me to being a pastor.  Partially why I love being an aunt and a godmother.
I have always been loud.  I’ve quieted down over the last few years, but my “quiet” is an average person’s loud, so I guess that still makes me loud.  I’ve been shushed a lot in my lifetime, especially in public.  I’m also told my laugh is really loud and distinctive.  I’m still on the fence as to whether this is good or bad.
Stubborn/The Princess
This one comes from my family.  I’m the only girl in my little family of origin and the youngest.  That’s where the “princess” nickname came from – my brother was always lamenting that I was never in trouble while he always was.  We have this hilarious story about the time that I accidentally backed up through the closed garage door and he got yelled at.  He would say that my stubbornness got me preferential treatment, I would say it was because I was the cute one. #YoungestSiblingsUnite
5 Adjectives that I would use to describe myself
One positive aspect of always being up in my head is that I self critique a lot.  I tend to over analyze all sorts of situations, but it also has helped me to understand myself better.  Understand why I act certain ways and what needs to be changed about my behavior.  I come to these realizations about my life and I try to make the change that makes it better.  I love this about myself.  I love the new found self-confidence that God has given me in my older age.
I’ve seen a lot of life.  A lot of things have been challenging over the years.  But this has made me deeply compassionate.  Deeply loving towards others.  I have a lot of empathy for the pain of others.  I try really hard to see things from others’ perspectives because I think it makes me a better person, a better pastor. 

I know this one’s true.  I don’t think I’m a princess though – but I do know I’m stubborn.  Most of the time I think it’s a good thing – it helps me to stand my ground, to stand up for what I believe in.  It means I don’t let others walk all over me or over others.  I’m a justice seeker. …But I also realize this makes me a little difficult to deal with.
I think this is different than compassionate.  I have a high capacity for love.  I love easily and I love hard.  It helps me in friendships – they seem to sprout out of the ground.  But a high capacity for love means a high capacity for pain.  It means that when I get hurt, I get hurt hard, and it makes me retreat into myself a little more.  But I work on it, I lean into God’s love to help me love others better.
I am deeply deeply protective.  Of others, and of myself.  Sometimes to a fault.  I protect those I love by being loyal and caring for them and by standing up for them.  I protect myself by setting boundaries in my life.
What are 5 adjectives that others have used to describe you?  What does God say?  What do you say?

colour me in

I heard a discussion recently on these new emojis that Apple has released that range the full spectrum of racial diversity… well probably not the full spectrum but the fullest you can probably get on a little emoji head.  It was a discussion about how people are “supposed” to use these emjois, are we supposed to be the emoji, or is the emoji the person we are texting, or are we just referring to random people who are just sort of out there and therefore can be any race?
The conversation got really interesting as they continued to reach out to their white friends and ask this question – what emoji choice do you make?  And what does that choice say about you?
I, for one, have always struggle with my racial identity.  Well, almost always.  Being bi-racial in a predominately white world has mostly caused questions in my world, from me and from others.  There came a point where I started to resent the assumption of being white.  I can’t fully explain what that means fully – it probably has something to do with losing my dad, and the idea that identifying as white is in some way forsaking him and his history.
But identifying fully as a Latina, that has it’s baggage too.  It means that I’m shutting down the other half of my family – even though we don’t know our heritage as well on that side of my family.  Add into this midst my internationally adopted goddaughter whom feels more a part of me than anyone I’m blood related to.  I look at pictures of our family and I see a beautiful mosaic.
Represented in our little family are many cultures, many worlds.  And it is so beautiful to me, to us.  We cherish it with open arms and hearts.  We don’t see different races when we look at each other, we just see family.
But outside in the “real world” – the story doesn’t feel as beautiful.  I try to fill out my ethnic background on forms and I find myself asking those same questions.  Please – just give me a bi-racial box.  Give me a Multi-Ethnic option.  And some forms have, to which I am so grateful to proudly check that box.
So when Apple gave us options for emojis, I admit – I was excited.  I wanted something to represent my skin tone better.  And I know that sounds weird.  I know that sounds like I’m putting too much stock into those dumb little cartoons that I use to jazz up my texts…  but in a world where I get asked “what are you?”  Where people look to me to raise my minority flag but also feel free to mock me for liking tacos and salsa.  Where I see my goddaughter mocked for the color of her skin at a young age.  Where I hear her struggle through what it means to be Asian and to be proud of a culture she left at a young age.
In a world where race tensions are still entirely too present, whether purposely malicious or ignorantly neglectful, I sometimes just need a win. I’m not going to say it’s a win for all minorities.  I wouldn’t dream to make an assumption for every person of color.  But for me, a tiny little emoji that gets closer to my brown hair and darker skin, is a win.
This post’s title comes from a Damien Rice song, I discovered it while writing this post and it hit, it hit my heart so hard.  I’m still processing it, but sometimes my struggle with my own racial identity feels like the tension in this song.  I’ve had moments when I feel like I’m trying my hardest to help people see things through my eyes and it ends in pain, when I’ve been looking for Christ’s love in others but when the love of others has let me down.  I’ve often confused it with Christ’s love letting me down.  But I realize his love will never let me down.  But as followers of him, our love lets others down all the time.  We do it wrong.  And I know that I’m called to love others through the tension – but it’s so hard at times.
But I have to keep trying.  To love others through this racial reconciliation journey, and when it’s hard to love, I have to rely on Christ’s love for others through me.  I pray his love can shine through me stronger than my own frustrations.