Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Shut Up And Listen

   As you might have guessed, it's time for one of my favorite segments I like to call "Shut Up And Listen." Just kidding I don't do segments but that is the title of this post and maybe I should start all my rants off with this picture. Heck, with the way I do things here I should have just named my blog that. I mean let's get real: all I do is rant here anyway. You should be forewarned that this will be a vicious rant. And there might be blood. I also would like to say that I mean everything I say with love and respect. Yes, I will not deny the fact that I got into a stupid Facebook argument with a woman from my church which started this; no I do not regret what I said. It was in defense of my sister. There is only one person who's allowed to bully my sister; and it's me. Because if you mess with her...yeah I can't finish that without having someone scold me. Not that I would mind. I'm a big sister. It's what I do. While I mean no disrespect, I'm not afraid of offending someone. Its the small price you pay for standing up for your beliefs. To all the people who did give my sister crap; just understand that I still value you as a person while I disagree with what you said.

   With that being said, I shall begin. Read at your own risk.

   I've always loved teenagers. Always and forever. It started at a very young age and I never told anyone about it because I thought it was stupid and I didn't want people to make fun of me for it. I was terrified of standing up for myself. If you read my last post you know all about my childhood; how I hated adults because they made fun of me. I remember my AWANA leaders and people from church and my dad; how I felt like they put me down and made me feel awful. It was rough. I realized that this was why I'm so shy now. I don't speak much as a teenager and it was because my whole like I was told that my opinions didn't matter and if I spoke up, someone would pick on me for it. So many years of conditioning taught me to stay quiet. I've got 17 years worth of emotions to sort out. In light of all that, me commenting on a status doesn't seem so silly now does it? I was actually proud, because I stood up for myself and my sister; which was something I used to be terrified to do. You see, my sister posted a status saying "If you don't have at least a little respect for Kurt Cobain than I am judging you so hard." First of all, everyone was forewarned that she was going to judge them so hard. She basically stated upfront that she would fight for him; therefore the angry commenters knew what they were getting into. Yet they commented anyway saying horrible things about Kurt Cobain and how immature she was for looking up to him. 1. Just don't. I don't care who it is you don't hate on someone's role model; its not going to change their opinion. 2. Clearly my sister knew he had gotten into some seriously bad stuff; so it was even more beautiful when she said that anyway. That's what God does with us. He looks past our sins; having that same ability is genuine. I don't want to hear "but he's not a Christian so it doesn't apply to him." because that is a stupid argument that Christians use to not feel obligated to love someone they don't think is worthy. Besides, if your sins were broadcasted to the world, people would think you were full of it too. Don't hate someone because they sin differently than you.

   While the status was the original spark, I want to move into a more broad topic. Adults in a general, tend to treat teenagers like crap. They assume they're rebellious and everything they do is selfish and immature. Adults judge by appearance. That kid has a lip ring? "Must be goth." Has scars? "It's for attention." Oh, and my personal favorite: listens to screamo? "He's a Satanist." Where in the heck did we get those ideas from?!? Do you even have a solid argument?! Sure there is a "stereotype" for those kind of kids. You know what its called? Mutual understanding. Allow me to show you.

   These kids that you make fun of and ridicule, they're onto something. I noticed it at 10 years old; they were using self expression. I mean, come on now. Are you really so ignorant you can't see it?! It's practically spelled out on a bright neon sign for you! "You are what you love, not who loves you." That's from a Fall Out Boy song which I thought was perfect for this. We are what we love. When someone says a song is their favorite, you shut the heck up and listen to that song because you'll learn something about someone that you never would have known. If someone likes a book, or a quote, or someone to look up to...what does that say about the person you're speaking to? If I said I admired Kesha, would you be so shallow to think "Wow. So what you're trying to say is that you love getting wasted and partying?" No. You missed the point. Try a little harder. Actually use your brain instead of simply looking at the outside of the situation. If the pieces don't fit try to turn it around instead of discard it.

   In my ministry I work with teenagers who self harm and have depression and eating disorders. I talk to them on a daily basis. One thing that 98% of them share in common is their taste in music. What does this say about those artists? They're doing something right. To attract a ton of hurting kids....wow. They're looking for something, they need a voice; and through music, they have one. Before you go judging someones taste in music, try just listening to it. Here's a taste of some of these "satanist" bands my kids and I listen to. (By kids I mean my RAIM kids.)

   "I kissed the scars on her skin. I still think you're beautiful and I don't ever want to lose my best friend."-A Match Into Water, Pierce The Veil.

   "You have many options in life. Don't make giving up one of them."-Austin Carlile, Of Mice And Men.

   "Wrists are for bracelets, not for cutting."-Kellin Quinn, Sleeping With Sirens.

   The word "Nirvana" (where the band got its name.) means to find a place of happiness without suffering.

   To "Pierce The Veil" (being a business and religious term.) means to cut the problem off at the root.

   "Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self respect and everything that goes along with your self esteem. They're no good at all."-Kurt Cobain.

   "Therapy is about every kids worst nightmare. When people are telling you that you need to get help but all you really want is a hug."-Alex Gaskarth, All Time Low.

   "I know you want to leave but friend please don't take your life away from me."-Friend Please, Twenty One Pilots.

   Andy Biersack (of Black Veil Brides.) wrote the song Knives And Pens about coping. You can either run to knives to cut, or you can write. He chose to write.

   "It's okay, there's always another day."-Another Day, Paramore.

   Basically everything about the song and video of Stay Together For The Kids by Blink 182.

   I could end it there. What more proof could you possibly need? Music saves lives. Most mainstream music, and dare I say even a lot of Christian music, is just so shallow. We don't need people to say how happy go lucky everything is. We need honesty. Sometimes its not enough to be happy. Have you ever felt like that? Because I know I have. I'm allowed to hate my situations and I'm allowed to say so. Also, a lot of artists don't address much needed topics like self harm and eating disorders because they're so stigmatized. Yet punk rockers do this because they've been there and they understand.

   The point is: shut up and listen! Stop seeing teenagers as crack heads with no future or purpose because they're living exactly as you expect them too! Do you get that?! They're living up to the potential you placed on them! Maybe if you started expecting more from teenagers they'd grow to fill in the shoes.  "People always complain about this generation but you're the ones who raised us."-My sister, Dayle. Teenagers are just following the example that you older folks set for us. Check yourself.

   Another point: let me use an example of depression. Just because someone has depression doesn't mean they're depressed. Get what I'm trying to say? You aren't your struggle. I'm not Faith That Prideful Chick. I'm Faith God's Daughter Who He Has Forgiven And Cleansed Of All The Stupid Crap She's Done. The same is true for drug addicts and people who struggle with alcoholism or whatever the case. It doesn't define them. But maybe they think it does; maybe the believe that this struggle runs their life; you gotta show them it doesn't. We are called to be the light. Christians are so freakin judgmental and I'm going to stop that there before I rant more because that's a blog post for another time.

   If you still don't believe a word I say, take it from two pretty punk rock people I have the honor of knowing. Introducing Thurston and my sister, Dayle.

   "Another thing, how do you dress gayly? Last I checked, actions determined you're sexuality." This is Thurston, who rants about people calling certain punk rockers "gay." Can I get an amen?

   "We're told to stand up for what we believe in, but how come if someone older is against what we believe in; we're wrong?"-Dayle

   "I don't get why people in this world have to go about attacking rockstars without even first considering what they might have gone through."-Thurston against the "you shouldn't have those type of people are your role model" argument.

   For one second let's pretend this whole "they're different" factor isn't there. (That's why everyone hates them right? "They express their individuality by dressing the same." Ha no.) Have you considered that teenagers just want to be treated like regular human beings instead of outcasts?! Wow! Who would have thought! Honestly, don't judge a book by its cover. Take the time to get to know someone. Having a nose ring doesn't make you a failure and having a tattoo sleeve doesn't make you a criminal. They only make you one thing...awesome as heck. Because piercings and tattoos rock and if you've got the confidence to stand out in a world that hates, you go Glenn Coco. I salute you. Rock on and continue to inspire. This isn't just for emo kids; its for all the kids. For the Directioners who get labeled brats, homeschoolers that are said to be antisocial, and shy people who are called boring. Just be your amazing self and who gives a crap what anyone else thinks? If God approves, then you got the green light; and that's all you need. Stop judging everyone without first trying to understand them. Shut up and listen. Who knows, you might just find that you were wrong all along.

(I am not even sorry.)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Story Of My Life

When I was younger I was such a deep thinker. Today I went through a re-read my journal entries and I realized how confused I was. I saw so much at 10 years old. I had so many burdens. I saw things no one else did and I got angry when they couldn't see it. Let me walk you through my life. Come walk in my shoes and see through my lens. Because I never thought I could make someone understand and now I can.

   At 8 years old I saw demons in the trees.

   At 8 years old I met God; and He rescued me from my fears.

   At 10 years old I wanted to be seen. I felt ignored and confused.

   At 10 years old I wanted to be goth. I knew "punk teens" and I saw the hurt and I wanted to tell them I understood.

   At 10 years old I wrote all my anger down in a journal because I was afraid to be ridiculed for my feelings and was petrified to speak up in fear of being made fun of; because that's all anyone did to me anyway.

   At 10 years old I saw someone make fun of a crying girl and didn't understand why they called themselves Christians and hated God's children.

   At 10 years old I noticed there were parallels to Star Wars and God and made a list of bible verses to match up with certain books.

   At 11 years old I wanted to tell the world about God and all I learned because I felt called to tell the world about His unchanging love.

   At 11 years old, I had this dream: A gothic boy climbed to the top of a street light over an intersection. My dad and I were standing by at that intersection. Then the boy fell. A car almost hit him. A woman came over and pulled him out of the street and as she passed us my dad said "what a jerk." and the woman said "punks,  they're all a bunch of idiots." But as the boy passed I looked at him with caring eyes and I saw his bleeding heart and the longing. He just wanted to be seen. And I saw that as a child, when my dad didn't as an adult. And I didn't know why.

   At 11 years old I wrote in my journal. I said that my dad told me teenagers dress in all black because it was how they feel. He said it with sarcasm. But he was right. And I didn't know why if they felt like darkness, no one wanted to show them light. I wondered why no one was doing anything.

   At 11 years old my dad laughed at me for defending a book character and laughed even harder when I said it was because he had taught me about God.

   At 11 years old I said my favorite word was mercy. "Because you can never fall from grace or mercy."

   At 11 I wrote this: "I wish people would stop making up who they think I am. I wish people would see who I really am." and "I want to tell them who I am. But no one ever believes the kids."

   At 11 my dad was scaring me with a dead bee. It made my cry. But my cousin hugged me and told me it would be ok. Then he told my dad he was being mean to me. That was the first time someone had stood up for me.

   At 12 my sister and I lied about liking high heeled shoes because we were afraid our dad would tease us.

   At 13 I was homeless for a year.

   At 13 I liked a boy and I thought he liked my best friend and I thought my life was over because of it.

   At 13 I hated adults because they never understood and never listened and they only made fun of me.

   At 13 I thought everyone hated me.

   At 13 I lived in a homeless shelter and met a family I wanted to help but was unable to.

   At 13 a woman called me remarkable; which was something I had never considered before. I had just needed someone to tell me I was on the right track.

   At 14 I made my first step towards not caring about others opinions. I secretly entered a talent show at my youth group. I did it secretly because I didn't want people to tell me I couldn't sing. And I showed them all up.

   At 14 I was accused of child abuse.

   At 14 I finally got respect from adults and in turn, I respected them more.

   At 14 I became insecure.

   At 14 I went on my first missions trip. The day I had been waiting for since I was 9. I met a woman who taught me to live no matter what your age and I watched God free another woman from a burden she had carried for over twenty years.

   At 15 I felt called to speak and share my story.

   At 15 I found out I had low platelets and they thought I had leukemia. But I was soon diagnosed with ITP.

   At 15 I met my best friend.

   At 15 I got high on God's love and never came back down.

   At 15 I began to realize that I hadn't been wrong all my life. That maybe I had the right to feel the things I did.

   At 15 I began to put together the puzzle pieces from my childhood. Why I had been so troubled, why I had those dreams, why I always loved the color black.

   At 15 I went on another missions trip and people showed me the power of the little things.

   At 15 God began to dramatically change me.

   At 16 my friend told me he wanted to kill himself. So I took a bus to his house to be with him. That was the day I wondered if my life meant something significant. That maybe I could be all I had dreamed of being.

   At 16 I said I wanted to change the world.

   At 16 I realized I didn't have to agree with everything that everyone had to say. I didn't have to like every youth group talk or every word they said. I didn't have to believe all the stupid things people said about me.

   At 16 I got depressed.

   At 16 my dad had an affair. After a few horrible months of fighting it and dancing around it, he just left to be with someone else.

   At 16 I realized that not everything was my fault. I was finally able to realize that my dad hadn't always treated me right; that the way he treated me as a kid was unacceptable. He put me down with his words and got away with it. I was finally able to accept that.

   At 16 I started a ministry with my best friend; Rise Above It Missions.

   At 16 my fear reached its new high. I had a real phobia. And it was trying to take over my life.

   At 16 I let go of some things and embraced new things. I went on a missions trip that had a huge impact on my life.

   At 16 I met someone who changed my life.

   At 16 I began having panic attacks from fear.

   At 16 I realized I could be whoever I wanted to be. I could wear ripped jeans and get piercings and listen to Black Veil Brides and I didn't care what my dad had to say. I was finally free from his opinion of me; and it took him leaving for me to realize I didn't need his approval.

   At 17 I was afraid of church.

   At 17 I had nightmares that would paralyze me with fear. Eventually after much prayer and reading my bible, they stopped coming every night and became less frequent.

   At 17 I thought I wasn't good enough. I thought any guy would just leave me, because that's what my dad did.

   At 17 I realized this was war; so I grabbed my spiritual guns and got ready. I realized all too soon that the devil didn't play nice. He was going in for the kill.

   At 17 I shaved my head because God asked me to.

   Today I realized that all my life, God was shaping me to be who I am now. Nothing more and nothing less. Today I realized that I felt alone a lot as a child, but God used it. I realized God gave me a vision; one that bothered me to no end when I was younger. I didn't know there was a plan for it; I didn't think anyone noticed me. Yesterday I got ticked off at an adult for messing with my sister; and now I know why. No one had ever stood up for me. No one told me it was ok to be different or to love without limits. No one told me to listen to whatever music I wanted to. I just didn't want to be judged; so I went along with anything anyone ever told me. I assumed that "they knew better" because "they" were adults when in reality, they were wrong. That's right. They were wrong. It can be hard to admit when someone wronged you; especially if you're a people pleaser like me. I try to make everyone happy; especially adults. Because God forbid I tick one of them off. I am finally free from all of that. I finally know why God gave me these trials; I know why I felt so hurt and burdened as a child. God gave me a gift. I see things differently. My best friend told me that for the first time a few years ago and it blew my mind. It was such an eye opening thing. I see things differently. I wasn't wrong for thinking all of what I did. I really wasn't. And now here, at 17, I'm finally able to acknowledge that all of these things happened and share them with you. I believe I've found courage, my friends.

   I want to stand up for those who are too afraid to stand up for themselves. I want to take your hand and teach you to walk. No more living in a shell; be free. Be all you were made to be.

   "Arise! And be all that you dreamed."-Flyleaf

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bald And Beautiful

   Today was the big day. I shaved off all my hair and am officially bald.

   My head is buzzing from the razor and I still feel a little odd. But let me tell you about how fantastic I feel. I can honestly say this is one of the bravest and most significant things I've ever done in my life thus far. I also donated my hair so that a child who can't have hair, can now use mine as a wig. When I got up on the stage I was so nervous. A bunch of my friends and family were in the crowd with cameras and the hair stylist asked me if I was ready and said yes. I felt the razor hitting my head and a tingling sensation and then I felt the hair fall off my head. After it was done the hair stylist gave me a big hug and told me I was so beautiful.

   I cried the entire time.

   I pictured Ellie and Silas and my friend Stephanie who all inspired me to do this. I was so overwhelmed. You see, I can recall a conversation I had with my friend when I was a freshman I believe, and she asked me if my child ever got cancer if I would shave my head if they asked me to. You know what I said? No. I didn't think I would. That just shows how much God can change you. I went from saying I wouldn't even shave my head for my own child to shaving it because I simply felt called to. I am not who I was and that is a beautiful thing. I can't wait to see who I'll be in a few years. I had no idea I could ever do this; I didn't know I could give up so much or be so bold; but God did. I know He has crazy reasons for calling me to do such an audacious thing, and I probably won't ever know all those reasons, but right now, on day one, I can already see some ways that He is using this.

   I wanted to do this because I wanted to show people that beauty isn't physical. I'm beautiful, but not because my hair was freaking fabulous (which it really was.) but because I was created by God and He lives in me. I am beautiful because I am a masterpiece of my Creator. Being someone who struggles with self esteem issues and lack of confidence (I mean, don't we all?) I didn't think I would ever do something like this. Why would I make those issues worse? Yesterday when I was thinking about the big shave I thought about what other people would think; and not just my friends, but random strangers. What if people don't think I'm pretty anymore? What if no boy will like me? What if people judge me? What if what if what if?! I realized how ridiculous that sounds. I mean, is hair really all that important?! And, if a guy doesn't like me because I don't have hair, forget them. I'm not defined by my looks. I am so much more than that.

   God also taught me about faith. He showed me that I am so much stronger than I thought; that I can trust Him even in random things. If He says "shave your head." I say "Yes sir." and do it. What more can I do that I was unaware of?! I learned today that I can be confident. I don't need to let the opinions of others get to me; I can follow God and not worry about what people have to say. I know I'll be able to minister to a lot of people through this and be able to share God's goodness; but I think this was about me. It was about Him teaching me to be free. After today I am able to say that I did something courageous. I did something that frightened me. I feel invincible and unstoppable.

   So what is God calling you to do? How can you be courageous? Doing God's will can be terrifying, but don't ever let it be a burden. Because carrying out the will of the God of the universe is the highest privilege and honor. Step out of your comfort zone and be bold. This is your time.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Princess' Battle

Once upon a time in a world full of mixes of beauty and shadows, there lived a princess. She was the Princess of Light; daughter of the mighty King of Light. She was loved by her father and oftentimes he would speak to her and remind her of the duties and obligations she held as a princess. Her father ruled the land, but there was a man who sought to overthrow them; the Shadow Lord. He had legions of soldiers and they fought day and night to gain the kingdom; but the kingdom of Light would win. The King told his daughter that one day she would have to fight, that they would try to take her away but she must remain strong. She would nod her head and her father would kiss her cheek and she knew she was safe with him. Yet little did she know what great struggles lay ahead of her; for she was unaware that the Shadow Lord fought not only with men, but with magic; a magic that she knew of but had convinced herself she was immune to.

   That was when the nightmares started. They would come in the night and torture her; those nightmares were the work of the Shadow Lord. Every night she would wake up panicked in the middle of the night and be unable to sooth herself back to sleep. Sleep eluded her. One night after having a nightmare of the worst kinds, she screamed for her father to come in. She heaved giant sobs and begged him to tell her if this was the work of the Shadow Lord. As she had feared, her father nodded. "So teach me to stand." She told him. So the training began. Under the Kings supervision, the Princess began to learn how to fight off their enemy. She studied in the castle library and listened to the Kings advisers and some scholars that lived in the kingdom. She learned under some of the best strategists, and they taught her how to outmaneuver and trick the enemy. But at last she also was trained in the art of attack; the King gave her a weapon: a sword. She named her sword Tharsos; which meant 'courage.' It was the sharpest sword known to man, even sharper than the enemies sword, Pseudologos. The Princess was equipped for battle.

   As his daughter trained, it became apparent to the King what his enemy was attempting. It was a fair strategy, kill the Princess of Light, the Kings beloved. It enraged him, but he knew that he would have to let his daughter fight, for he too, had a plan, and as clever as the Shadow Lord was, you can't outsmart a King.

   With new knowledge of her enemy, the Princess was now able to fight; and she did so valiantly and with good courage. She spoke truth against the lies of the shadows and shone light on the dark places.He knew she must be stopped; if she wasn't, it would surely lead to his downfall. But she was invisible. He found that no matter how much he tried, he could not kill her. But the Shadow Lord only realized her new strength and he forged a new plan; one that was even more clever and twisted. The attacks on the Princess' life became subtle and nonchalant; so subtle, in fact, that she would often mistake them as being from her own father. He left his poison in beautiful goblets and his flying arrows looked like fireworks. The Shadow Lord was a master at deception and he treated it as an art; he blended lies with truths and fact with fiction to the point where the Princess couldn't tell her father's voice from the enemies'. He sought to overtake her mind and bend her to his disturbing will. The plan, I must say, was ingenious. It was as dark as could be; so perfectly fitting for a lord of shadows. Using his dark magic he began corrupting the Princess' mind. What a devious plan: convince the Princess to kill herself. If he couldn't do, surely he could convince her to do it herself! 

   This dark magic caused the Princess of Light to become terribly ill, and the King saw his daughter and her sickness and he helped her all he could. The light was fading from her eyes and her spirit was heavy with burdens. Three times she asked the King to take the burden from her; and three times he denied her. In the night she pleaded and spoke of how she wished this had never come to her, and in the morning she felt sorrow. Her world was melting away into things she couldn't understand. Her advisers and strategists turned against her; for they were unknowingly under the influence of the Shadow Lord. The whole castle was under siege. With her fortress now a battlefield, the Princess fled into the tower and found a goblet on a nightstand. She was now exactly where the Shadow Lord wanted her; alone with a single goblet of poison. The Princess knew she could escape through the drinking of poison and with the enemies' voice in her mind, he told her it was the only way. She grasped the cup and moved her fingers along the enticing engravings and smelled its contents. The beautiful smell filled her lungs; she brought the cup to her lips. 

   "My grace is sufficient for you." her father whispered.

   She dropped the cup. The sound of the shattering cup pierced the silence. The warmth of another body wrapped around the idle Princess. Her father was here. She fell into his arms and he picked her up and carried her away from the tower. He took her to the safety of his chambers and cleaned her battle wounds and began the process of healing his sick Princess. After that day, the goblet of poison seemed to follow her everywhere. The monsters that haunted her in her darkest days never left. The attacks would press on continually. Her father assured her that they would always be there; they wouldn't stop until she was dead; but one promise gave her strength.

 The King said to her "They will always be there. But so will I."