Thursday, August 30, 2012

Down to business.

With elections right around the corner, I figure there's going to be tons of debating, loads of opinions, and a bunch of people thinking that they're right about what they believe in.
More power to you. Seriously. I think it's cool when people are interested in politics and what's going on in our country. It's a good thing to have a hold on. 

I was born in Africa and primarily raised in California. I went to a high school that was Republican/Conservative to the max. I knew their opinions and view points. I appreciated them. Growing up in San Francisco helped balance out the right wing perspective education I was receiving as well.  I then proceeded to have my first semester at SFSU, which was at the complete other side of the spectrum. Transitioning from that, I went to Missouri and then to Massachusetts. Both of those colleges being very Conservatively based as well. 

My dad is a Democrat and my mom is a Republican. I've heard both sides. I've seen both sides in action. I love both of my parents so much. I hear them discussing what they think in terms of politics often. It's not an unspoken rule in our home. We're open about what we believe politically.

So, my perspective might just be a tad different then yours. I have nothing against you having an opinion. Please, go for it. What I have an issue with is the blatant attacking or maybe the the haughtiness that comes alongside of thinking that your way is the right and only way. This is what aggravates me above anything else. The almost ... hate that comes alongside experiencing someone in a different party. The harsh abuse of words that we use, and how quickly offended we become and estranged from one another that makes us. 

I have seen both sides attacking the other, and I have also seen how hurtful it is. I've felt defensive of both sides, since my family is rooted in both. I've defended cases to both the right and the left and I've seen it do nothing but divide. But seriously, can you listen for a second?

I'm glad you have an opinion.
I'm glad you think you've done your research. 
I'm glad you believe in something.
But do you think yelling and fighting and pushing it in other people's faces makes them want to have anything to do with you? 
It doesn't.

I was in a high school class and they were debating abortion. Since all the Republicans were speaking up, the discussion really was basically gaining up on the other side without them being there to defend themselves. I'll never forget when a member of my class raised his hand and asked why abortion was wrong. It was a simple question, and he was being so genuine. The members of the discussion immediately attacked him. They responded in harsh words and gasps. They pretty much made sure he would never ask another question again. 
This frustrated me. 
When a classroom full of one party gains up on the other party, it frustrates me. 
They can't defend themselves. They're not actually there. How is that ok? 
And of course you'll be right - there's no opposition.
I've had a few of these experiences in college as well.

I guess what I'm saying is, don't lose yourself in something that can cut off other people so recklessly, and I would even dare to say foolishly. When you push your beliefs so angrily and obnoxiously in people's faces it honestly makes you unattractive. 
What's attractive?
An individual mind who isn't flustered because someone believes something that is different from their beliefs politically or who isn't offended because someone chooses to side with a different party even though they have the same faith.
I call these people mature. 

So here I am, at a Bible college on the East Coast during election time and I've already heard the debates and heat beginning. It's not bad. But bashing... it's not attractive. If I choose to believe something different then you, like who I think should win the election, will you treat me differently? Will you get angry at me and attack me without hearing me out? Will you try to make me believe what you believe even though maybe I've thought through what I believe too? 
And maybe you won't understand over your opinions and strong viewpoints. 
But I can't help but wondering that if we all just listened for a minute to what other people were trying to communicate to us, maybe our world would be a little less chaotic and more understanding. Maybe people wouldn't feel so cut off, because you're actually giving them a chance. 

It's just a bunch of jumbled thoughts from an African-Californian who hates being pigeon-holed and attacked because I grew up in a different environment then you, and believe something different then every other typical, right winged Conservative who goes to a Bible college. 

Sorry for the mouthful. Keeping it real.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

While We Sing.

This song has been messing with me for a while. I don't know if you've heard me talk about it or not, but it's definitely worth a listen. Seriously. Get ready to be rocked.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Connections are powerful. Connections are what sustain us.
I can't help but wonder how people become entrapped in my heart. Not in a bad way, just in a real way. I think there's this moment where you realize that if it wasn't about you, you'd be okay with that. There's also this moment where you realize you're not alone. I think that's what makes connections so powerful. When you have the guts to look someone in the eye and realize that they know you, and you know them... the root of it is really being known. They KNOW you.

How scared are we to truly show ourselves to each other? We hide behind insecurity. We hide behind masks and expect other people to either realize it or not push too hard because then they'd really see us. We hide in our corners and churches, we hide in our groups and our comfort zones, while people are pushing and hurting and trying to understand what it means to be them. What it means to be human. 

Where did we get the mentality that we were meant to be alone? 
Because we're not. 

We all have a past. 
We all have closets and masks. 
We all choose what we want to be. It's a choice. 
Our past does a job to form us into the person we are in the present, but we're never restricted into remaining that person. It was never God's intention for us to always be fastened to years that lay behind us, trying to drag them into the future as we desperately try to push forward despite our chains. 

I don't expect to loose the chains myself, and I don't expect you to give them up so easily. I often refer to myself as a recovery patient. Sometimes recoveries take years. Everyone has a specific process. But you are not the only one who has ever gone through that process, I guarantee it. There are more people like you out there, cowering in corners and hiding, trying to intelligently decipher what it all means. We whisper in shadows and hang our heads down in defiance as if we're completely ruled. 

We're not. 
You're not the only one out there. There are other people like you. 
I know what it is to be hurt. I know the power and sting of rejection. I know brokenness. I know what it's like to carry everything around your shoulders, and I also know what it's like to see someone so weighed down and have absolutely no power to take any weight off their shoulders. 
Connections. People rooted in my heart. 

We know each other deep down, don't we?  We're just afraid to let it be known. Our past still restricts us. It's okay to be careful around people. I sure know I am. But never doubt for a second that you are on your own, and never assume that just because you see someone you know who they are. 
I despise pigeon-holing people. Some of the most influential and talented people I know are going unused because others can't truly see them. They only assume. It aggravates me. I look at them and recognize the impact they could have over thousands, while some just stand around and assume they have them figured out, and therefore they're not recognized or used. I can't help but wondering, if we're all made in God's image and we're all so different, maybe God specifically made people quiet or shy and still intensely powerful and inspiring, and as leaders we're failing to recognize it and let them fall by the wayside. There are so many walls that block a clear view.  To those people: you aren't alone either.

Be yourself. It's one of the most powerful tools you possess. 
It's in that, that you see you're not alone. 
And when you realize you're not alone, something shifts inside of you. 
You can make a connection. 
And when you are yourself, you give others around you the chance to be themselves because being genuine is so far-fetched today, that when you embrace who you are it's instantly noticeable. 

Know that if I could take that weight off your shoulders I would, in a second. Know that if I could take away any pain, I would. Know that if I could carry any of your past, I would try. Just so that you wouldn't have to. I might not be able to take away your pain, push you forward, and numb that raw emotion, but I can stand with you through the process and let it be known that I'm here. I can point you to someone greater who CAN do those things with you. Who CAN help you in ways that no one can. He's waiting for you. 

So, what CAN we do?
Sometimes all we can do is say three of the most powerful words: "You're not alone."
Words fail. Presence matters. Openness make a difference.
Start now.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I have these complete moments of intense inspiration. Realization. Honesty. And honestly, I love speaking my raw emotion. When you express yourself so fully and wholly that it might not make sense but those are your emotions, I just see so much power in that. 
Then there’s this fear: fear of it not being accepted. Fear of being misunderstood. For me it’s fear of it not being good enough or someone taking my raw words and walking away with them, and never returning. 
Fear usually comes from experience. I’ve heard that we’re only born with two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of the dark. Those were the only fears given to us at birth, yet we walk around with millions, just tumbling around inside of our hearts and our heads. Sometimes fear isn’t rational. I know it. 
But there has to be some beauty in it, right? My grandfather once told me to enjoy the uncertainty. Fear means you care, at least most of the time. It means you’re invested. It means you don’t want to lose something, and for someone who’s lost a lot and struggled with people leaving and being left, fear from that in an entirely different situation can indicate that I’ve actually allowed myself to feel, and be, and take part in that kind of communication and friendship again. Even though I take it overboard, it could be healthy for me, because I didn’t square myself away. I didn’t hold back.
I didn’t…. lose myself in being lost. 
I got back up, and now, experiencing this fear with people who are new, it’s scary. I’m not going to buffer it for you. But I have to trust them, because not trusting them only proves that everyone who’s ever left is still in control over my emotional behavior, and that’s not healthy. 
Have you ever missed someone so badly it hurt?
That kind of scares me, because for that to happen to me, it means they take up serious space in my heart. Not unhealthy space, or even bad space, just more space then normal in any regular friendship that I’ve ever experienced. There’s this natural insecurity that follows that, at least for me. There’s so much that could go wrong. But I can’t always think that way. I don’t want to live life that way. 
There’s so much that could go right, and I’m not going to lose one of the best gifts God has ever given to me in my best friend because of fear. 
This is pretty real, and you won’t see a lot of these. But I love so hard, and so fast, and so much sometimes that everything seems so real to me, including fear. Fear is real. 
But it is possible to have a best friend know you so completely and not run away with it. 
I have to believe that. I choose to believe that. And in that, there's freedom.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I realize that under the banner of the title of my blog, "For Helen", there's an explanation of who Helen is. I also realize that I've never really talked about Helen, so you might be a little bit confused about who she is exactly. I wish I could post a picture of her on this page, but sadly I never took one.

I went on my first missions trip to Nicaragua. This mission trip did so much for me. It opened my eyes to the world, essentially. It also is the place where I received a more specific call into the ministry. God showed me so much when I was in Central America. On one of the last outreaches we did there were hundreds of people packed into a square. They had all heard that we were handing out groceries. There was no stage and no sound system. We planted ourselves in the middle of the crowd and made space. As the choir was singing during the program I looked out at those hundreds of faces, but one specifically caught my eye. It was like everything and everyone else in that crowd faded as I looked at this little face. She was right in front and she was precious - dressed in a faded teal dress that looked like it should be worn on Easter Sunday if it weren't for how dirty and covered in dust it was. Her hair was in a high pony tail and her face was tear-stained. My heart... it just broke. I almost left the choir and picked her up then, but I knew I should wait until the song finished. 

The minute the song ended I walked right up to her. I knelt down to her level and just looked her in the eyes. She was still crying, and probably six years old. I didn't even say anything to her, I just reached out my arms and she fell into them. I hugged her so hard and then I just picked her up. I couldn't think of anything else to do. She nestled onto my shoulder for a moment and I wiped the tears from her eyes while I just prayed for her. After a while I decided to take her into the kid's program and see if someone could translate for me. 
The missionary's daughter, who was under ten herself, happened to speak both English and Spanish. Yes, this is who I resorted to. From what we gathered her name was Helen, and she had been crying because someone had hurt her. She showed me the scratches on her arms and I saw the dried blood. My heart beat so fast when Elyssa, the missionary's daughter, was trying to translate. She had been hurt. I hated that. It woke something up in me. I made sure that for the rest of the night I gave her special attention. I brought her on stage when the puppets performed. I made sure Elyssa was around afterwards so she could have someone to play with. Someone eventually came and got her, and I wished I could speak fluent Spanish to give her a proper goodbye, but when she left I saw the look in her eyes and I'll never forget it. 
I'll never forget Helen. I'll never forget the first moment I saw her, or when I realized that she had been hurt. I can't get her face or her dusty dress out of my mind. It's almost engraved there: her tears, her eyes, the moment I finally saw her smile when I brought her on stage with the puppets. 

And maybe God has a theme going here. 

I had the opportunity to go to Ecuador this summer. I actually arrived back in the States this past Saturday. Ecuador, and South America, was amazing. It was such a great experience and I can't wait to go back one day. There was a portion of the trip where I had the chance to go see where one of the missionaries, someone who's known me for a good portion of my life, Henry Smith, in his natural environment. It was awesome. The group we were in split up on the outskirts of Guayaquil and went on our way to do home visits. During this time I staid back to help my parents, uncle, and Henry, make a video for the church, and after we were done everyone was talking in the kid's tent. 
Three beautiful children ran over and started to talk and play with us. Henry kept going on about how one of the children had the most gorgeous smile. I asked what her name is and he said: "Helen."
I was instantly reminded of Helen in Nicaragua, and as I looked at this Helen in Ecuador, my heart made the same connection. I had the chance to love on her a bit, play with her, carry her around and just make her laugh and it was in those few moments that I think God was speaking to my heart, helping me realize that I'll come into contact with more "Helen's" around the world. That the Helen I met in Nicaragua wasn't the only one I would ever meet to be engrained in my memory forever, but He was calling me to have a heart for numerous children and hurting people around the world. 
My heart connected with this so much. 

I don't think it's a coincidence that I met another Helen in Ecuador. I don't think it's a coincidence that she's engrained in my mind like the sweet girl I met in Nicaragua, either. 
I think it was on purpose that I met Helen, and because of both of them God has awoken something in me to take with me wherever I go - a constant reminder, a humble perspective, and a heart to see that this isn't the end, this is only the beginning of places He's going to bring me and the hearts I'm going to carry with me for the rest of my life. 

Helen's only the start, and because of her tear-stained face and eventually her unforgettable laugh, I don't think I'll ever be the same. If meeting a little girl in Ecuador this summer who also had the name Helen helps me to remember that connection and also connect with God's heart, then I'll take it as God knocking on the door of my own heart and saying that this 2012, this trip, and even the past trip to Nicaragua, isn't the end of what He wants to show me is in His heart. 
It's only the beginning. 

This blog helps me remember that. I carry them both with me now. My life is my response back to this call. I'm going to do what I'm going to do for the rest of my life because of hearts like Helen.