We Can Do Better

Am I qualified to write about difficult subjects like race? Not necessarily. But as someone who loves people and loves people the way Jesus loves people, I cannot stand aside and be silent. I do not have all the knowledge, but I have a heart and a voice; and I am called to use it.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of what I have been reflecting on for the past few days, I want to say a couple more words to get our hearts in the right place. First: whether you are Black, White, Yellow, Brown, you do not need to apologize for the color of your skin. You were beautifully born this way, into a broken and fallen world. You are a chosen child of God, even if you do not believe in Him. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in His perfect image.

 

Let’s Admit We Are Wrong

“Sometimes in order to take a stand, you must take a seat” – Steven Furtick.

One of the first things that I want to call out on myself, is not being able to admit that I’m wrong. I have a difficult time doing this on many things, but especially when it comes to moments where that if I admit that I’m wrong, then I admit that I have wronged others. But I am wrong, about so many things. Which is why I am inviting you on this journey with me as I dive deeper into my past and my inaction.

The goal is not to bring these things up to just brush it aside the next moment, to check a box and move on as if nothing has happened. It’s not so the person of color in your life can pat you on the head and give you a gold star at the end of the day. The goal is not to feel bad about our ancestors, our past, our present, or the things that are happening around us. No, that is guilt. And guilt is not a strategy of movement but rather one of reclusiveness and silence.

The goal is repentance. Admitting we are wrong, turning from our old ways and walking in the opposite direction. Repentance changes things. There is no law that can be written, no bill that can be passed, that will change the hearts of those who are racist. There has to be a change of heart: the only real change comes from inside. And if we are going to change our minds and hearts we need to be honest with how we got here in the first place. What makes us think we own everything under the sun but yet we cannot own up to own own faults, or cannot think about or speak out about race?

 

But…But…But…

I have seen a lot of excuses just on my own news feed that I’ve given some thought to:

“All lives matter.”

I’m glad you think that people matter, I think they matter too. But this not about us. By saying that all lives matter, we are dismissing and devaluing the experience of Black people. We cannot position ourselves to stand up for Black people if we are pushing our own agenda, trying to make justice for Black people in America all about us.

“Not all cops are bad cops, there’s always going to be some bad apples out there.”

Again, a very dismissive statement that brushes over the widespread racism, marginalization and privilege in America. Remember, this fight is not cop versus people of color. This is generations of systemic racism and white supremacy versus humanity.

“People need to show respect and be sentenced & held accountable for looting and setting buildings on fire.”

Are we really going to equate the value of a man’s life to the inventory at a Target store? By thinking this way, we are limiting and placing value on someone’s life. The love of Jesus does not isolate scenarios and define people based on their actions, but sees the whole person, their story, beginning to end. Instead of seeing the riots at a store He sees an entire race of people who for generations upon generations have been hurt and traumatized, instead of celebrated, seen and recognized.

 

Let’s Listen

Listen with the goal to understand, not to respond. Everyone’s life is so beautifully unique and we need to be open and available to hear from those experiences. We need to see and empathize with people’s pain, not blame people for how they act while in pain.

I am personally praying that I continue to see my brothers and sisters in Christ (and out of Christ lol) through the eyes of God. A God who gives everyone endless grace, love, and new mercies should they choose to accept it. I pray that as our country continues to walk this road together, that we become radically defined by grace. That our new narrative is how well we empathize with each other.

 

Check in on Your People

Reach out to the people of color in your lives. (And if you don’t have any people of color in your life, I suggest you open your eyes and step into new experiences). Spend some time to speak gold into their lives, to call out the truth. Make them feel seen, loved and heard in a world that does not see them. Let them know that they are worth fighting for! Encourage them the way that Jesus did. This is a small step in the right direction. The “how are you, really” text (which I’ve sent recently-oops) is not always best way to let someone know we are here for them in life’s heaviest moments. Lift someone up when they are tired and weary. When things are heavy, try to find a way to lighten the load.

Put in the Time & Do Your Homework

One of those most important things that we can do to educate ourselves is to do some homework. Yes, we are about to get schooled. Personally, I have felt overwhelmed by the amount of content that has been shoved in my face for the past week. So by taking one bite at a time, we are able to digest and fill ourselves with the knowledge and the truth about the experiences of others.

Revelation-knowledge is a delicacy, sweet like flowing honey that melts in your mouth. Eat as much of it as you can, my friend! For then you will perceive what is true wisdom, your future will be bright and this hope living within will never disappoint you. Proverbs 24: 13-14, TPT

Resources

Black voices have stories. Listen to them, read them. Take in their knowledge. Below you will find a sampling of works that have moved and impacted me. As I keep learning and growing in this area of my life, I will keep updating this list.

Books

Jacqueline Woodson: Brown Girl Dreaming

A book of simple, impactful, and poetic words. Jacqueline’s childhood memoir is extremely moving, a story full of poems that will change your perspective and soften your heart. Below, I’ve included one of my favorites. Purchase Here. 

Podcasts

Why Tho: Why Whites Will Not Make America Great Again Tho

I liked this episode of Tiffany Bluhm and Ashley Abercrombie’s podcast because it sheds light on how injustice is viewed in the eyes of God; and how our words and our subtleties can impact others. It provides examples of Psalms to lament to, to collectively cry out for justice to. Personally, it was eye opening to see how different ways that racism has been steeped in my life. Listen Here.

1619: The Fight for a True Democracy

Recommended by my boss, this is the first episode of an audio series hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones that dives into the beginning of American slavery. I’m still working my way through the series, but this first episode enlightened me to the ignorance and manipulation that America was founded on, but never addressed. I recommend this series if you haven’t before taken the time to learn about the timeline of slavery and the impact it had on the world we live in today. Listen Here. 

Why Tho: Why Justice is Not a Trend Tho

As Ashley and Tiffany have said: justice is not a trend, it is the heart of The Father. It is here to stay and in your every day. “But wait! We’ve had a black president! Racism doesn’t exist! Slavery was 400 years ago! None of this is biblical! Stop being political!” If any of those statements are triggering, give this episode a listen. Listen Here.

Head to Heart: Is God Really Good?

I first listened to this episode of Christa Black’s podcast a few years ago and it helped me to make sense of the old “if God is real, then why do these things happen?” question. My biggest takeaway? God is in charge, but He is not in control. I repeat this to myself when I feel helpless and hopeless in a world where there is so much hate and suffering. Listen Here.

Articles

Medium: 75 Things White People can Do For Racial Injustice

One of the many things that I love about this article (besides being incredibly practical), is that it is continually updated with current information relative. This article has challenged me to rise up and show up. Read Here.

NPR: One White Fear Being Weaponized

This was written almost 2 years ago to the day that Amy Cooper called the police on Christian Cooper this past week. “We’ve got to come up with some policies that raise the costs of bad behavior — of treating people differently than you would want to be treated. And that is a problem of white fear being weaponized, and that is a problem of police officers being a little too prickly when people are upset about having been judged harshly or inappropriately.” Read Here.

Teen Vogue: Beyond The Hashtag: How to Take Anti-Racist Action in Your Life

This article provides incredible resources and I love the way the author Zyahna Bryant challenges the existing narratives that we so often hear. Here is what they write about Black Lives Matter: “Not only is it a signal to call out the injustices that have prompted us to continue to take to the streets to defend ourselves, it is simply the act of saying that we do matter in a world where it’s obvious some people believe some lives matter more than ours.” Read Here.

Vocabulary

Hopefully (and I say hopefully with a grain of salt) we know that racism can take the form of things including but not limited to hate crimes, neo-nazism, and racial slurs. But what about subtleties and microaggressions? Before combing though the below photo and taking a look a sampling of the ways that we (we = white people) can be covertly racist, I (ashamedly) could not tell you what many of these things meant.

Photo via The Conscious Kid 

Does it take time to learn these words, to put in the work, to examine your own heart and the impact of your actions? Absolutely. Is it necessary? Even more so. On behalf of God’s creation: we cannot afford to be lazy about this. Below I have included some of the microaggressions I have felt personally convicted of over the past few weeks.

Reverse Racism. The concept that affirmative action and similar color-conscious programs for redressing racial inequality are a form of anti-white racism. That just because someone is a minority that they receive preferential treatment based on the color of their skin. At one time, I partially believed this to be true. As if affirmative action was solely an effort to create diversity, to make sure that all the boxes were checked. The truth is that this gives underrepresented people opportunities that they may not have had previously based on their qualifications and merits. We cannot celebrate diversity without addressing the disparity. I found this article from the Atlantic very helpful.

Prioritizing White Voices as Experts. This limits our point of view and perspective. One of the incredible things about this world is knowing people who come from different backgrounds. Let us use these experiences and resources at our disposal, to gain well-rounded knowledge and not a narrow mindset.

Denial of White Privilege. There are some things I knew about my privilege: being the victim of a racial joke, having bandages available in the color of my skin. But my privilege runs much deeper than that. After reading many stories, there are countless things that I don’t have to think twice about, that I can do without being afraid. Just because of the color of my skin. Things including but not limited to: driving 5 miles and hour over the speed limit, walking around my neighborhood safely, going for a run, taking out my wallet, not being afraid to talk to a cop (although that could change), the list goes on.

Assuming Good Intentions Are Enough. Without actions, intentions are nothing. Without impact, intentions are nothing. If your movements don’t make ripple effects, your intentions may as well be nonexistent. 

 

Speak Up and Take Action

It’s not enough to read over these words once. We have to study them, become familiar, so that when we are needed, we are equipped, educated and ready for action.

If you don’t know where to start start small. Every if you feel like your voice is a whisper, a drop in the bucket, say something. Have those difficult conversations with people who we are close with in our lives, people who are in our circles who are otherwise unreachable. People who will listen to and value what we have to say. And don’t stop bringing it up.

Here’s another thought: do we really think that reposting the same traumatizing video is really constructive to bringing this country together? Do we really think that posting an on-brand word art graphic saying “I stand with you” is really enough? There has to be more than just these surface-level mindless excuses for action. Words, faith, and knowledge without action is dead. Justice isn’t here today and gone tomorrow. It’s a lifestyle.

Action can be anything from signing a petition for a call to action in the face of injustice, to donating to an organization that gives Black people their voices, to speaking up in the face of an uncomfortable covertly-racist situation, to reading a book about a Black person’s life experience and how they have felt oppressed and suppressed, to supporting Black-owned businesses. It is not God’s job to be Mr. Fix It, while we sit back and do nothing. He provides the resources, and we do the work. So let us let action permeate our lives.

And please don’t wait. Why do we feel like we have to have all the facts and wrap everything in a pretty bow before speaking out, before reaching out? Why do we feel that we have to wait for someone who in our lives to be hurt in order to take action? It’s entitlement and it’s selfish and I am so guilty of this as well. We can do better.

 

“Epilogue”

At the end of the day, we can have all of the best intentions, but what matters is the impact that those intentions have. Before we jump to conclusions, before we point fingers, before we assume: think of the other human being on the receiving end of your intentions. Let us be willing to step outside of our comfort zone into someone else’s reality. It creates empathy. It creates humanity.

P.S.

I’m not here to prove anything, qualify myself, or present myself as a knowledgeable expert. I’m here to share what I have learned recently and to keep myself accountable for updating resources on this page that I have found helpful and can come back and refer to them any time I like. I share these things in the hopes that there are people who are otherwise unreachable will also repent, get curious, and learn. I pray that these words and resources are thought provoking (and convicting if necessary).

If you find anything here out of context, don’t get me started on “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

Why Taking a Break from Social Media Was Good for Me.

I’m not here to tell you to delete Instagram off your phone (or Snapchat, or Twitter, or Facebook). I’m here to tell you why I did in the first place and what I learned in the process. This is not someone everyone will do, nor can do (depending on your line of work). I’m here to tell you why taking a break from social media was good for me.

The decision was inspired by that new feature that Instagram has put in place to tell you how much time I’ve been spending on the app. I know that Apple also has this feature for iPhones now as well, but I’m staying true to myself and not updating my phone until it force updates itself. I was looking at those stats in the app in late October and realized I had spent an average of 1 hour 45 minutes on Instagram alone per day! (For some of you, this may seem like a lot, for others it may not seem like that much). I was in shock. Time is my most valuable commodity and I looked at this as me spending over 12 hours a week avoiding doing things that I complained I didn’t have time to do. Things like sleep more, go for a run, do laundry. It honestly made me upset and I knew I needed to make a change.

At the beginning of every month this year, I tried my best to set “intentions” (small, attainable goals), knowing that over the course of the year, these small actions will result in a lot of change. So when I planned out my intentions for the month of November, I chose to delete social media from my phone for 21 days to see if it made a difference in the way I spend my time. So here’s a little recap of how it went:

 

Straight from the diary: The First Week:

My hand is constantly trying to find the apps on my phone. I almost forget that I’ve deleted them and become sad trying to figure out what all my friends are up to. “What should I post about when I reactivate the apps?” “21 days seems too long – what if I just did a week? Yeah, that’ll be good.” I think it’s really nice to be out of town, but not feel like you have to let people know. What is the point of even taking pictures if no one sees them but me? I like being off the radar. Do people even know I’m off the radar? WOW I AM SAVING SO MUCH PHONE BATTERY RIGHT NOW. I feel like life is going on without me even though I am living it. It’s nice I can concentrate on more “me” things. Without constant bombarding, it’s easy to be more in tune with what you like instead of what’s trending.

 

Straight from the diary: The Second Week:

I feel like I’m replacing social media with Netflix… which doesn’t help anything. Should I ever get on social media again? Is this fast working? I miss my online only friends. I’m nervous about going from 0 to 100 when I get back online. I feel like I’m missing out on my real friends’ lives too. I just met someone new and added their phone number to my phone instead of asking for their insta handle – weird!

 

Straight from the diary: The Third Week:

I don’t really miss it that much.

 

That’s all she wrote for the third week. I honestly didn’t spend too much time thinking about it the third week, let alone journaling about it. Looking back, over the last few weeks I had gotten used to just not seeing the extra content that I just didn’t miss it. I spent more time sending photos to my family and friends over text, catching up with people I hadn’t seen in awhile over the phone.

 

What I learned:

It made me more aware of my relationships.

Not everyone I want to connect with is really active on social media. Just because I post something, I assume that everyone has the time to see it, which is not the case. I need to be more intentional about connecting with other people outside of social media. Relationships matter. And while online connection with the masses is valuable and serves a purpose, it does not replace intentionally reaching out to an individual someone.

It made me more aware of what and why I am doing the things that I do.

I constantly asked myself this questions: what are the things I am doing just so I can post about them? What are the things that I do for myself when no one is watching? What am I gravitating towards? These are the things that are important to me.

When my 21 days was up, the only thing I downloaded for the day was Snapchat (random, right?). To be honest, the only reason I had downloaded it was to get attention from a specific person; and when I became more aware of my why, I deleted the app immediately. This break for social has made me more aware of my why; and whether my motives are selfish, or more joyful and focused on others.

It made me more aware of how I’m spending my time.

Before taking this break, there would be times that I would be doing nothing but sitting in my bed. On Instagram. For hours! I could have at least been playing a movie in the background or on public transportation, or something.

 

What does spending time on social media look like for me now?

It probably means continuing to set limits for myself to not get caught in what everyone else is doing so much so that I can’t even connect with myself. It means continually asking myself, “why do I need to be on here?” How do I feel about my life after looking at other people’s lives (or what they choose to post)?

I have to recognize that this, like many other challenges in life, is not a once and done thing. I will need to always make a conscious effort to regulate how much time I spend on these apps; and be honest with myself on whether I am truly using it as a platform to connect with other people and build relationships that I may not otherwise be able to grow.

Until next time!

Kylie-Signature

Expect the Unexpected (Part 1)

Lately God has blessed me with things that I have not expected to be blessed by. More specifically, situations that have already ended badly in my mind, yet turned out for good. The only reason I have been able to be blessed in situations that look unfavorable is because of my attitude.

Let me tell you about the Cleveland wallet story.

This past weekend, I was visiting a good friend of mine in Cleveland. We had planned to explore the downtown / Tower City area, and so when she picked me up, I rearranged all of my belongings so that I would carry a small bag around town, rather than lug around my huge Jansport backpack (which my friend immediately recognized from my nerdy high school days – they have a lifetime warranty, can you blame me?!).

Anyway, I had taken out everything: my wallet, keys, phone, the all-important umbrella, and repacked my purse and then we were off to see the moments, church, and the arcade downtown. We popped into a souvenir shoppe for some postcards and as soon as I went to pay, I noticed my wallet was missing. I must have left it on the seat of the car, I thought. I didn’t think much of it after that, and we continued to explore Downtown Cleveland.

When we had returned to the car, I noticed that my wallet was not on the front seat. Okay, play it cool, don’t panic. So I check the trunk, where my backpack was. Still not there. Okay, clearly I dropped it on the grass or something. Well, maybe someone stole it. Someone definitely stole it. It’s a dog eat dog wor–

And before I let my mind get any more down that slippery slope (and then have a full-blown panic attack), I just prayed. I probably said something like, “Okay Jesus, work your magic.” It was simple, but it was enough to calm me down. I turned to my friend and suggested we retrace our steps. She looked at me like “this cannot be a good thing,” but came along anyway.

Just as it started to rain (which, would have been a super sad scene if it wasn’t for what happened next). I received a phone call from an Ohio number. A woman had found my wallet and she was at a local bar not too far away. Overjoyed, I said I would be there momentarily and we hopped into the car to speed a full two blocks away where I found a woman who had returned my wallet. With everything inside. She said she found the wallet just lying in the middle of the parking lot.

Where I’m from, that would have been fair game. Everything would have been missing. Credit cards. Coffee punch cards. Cash money. Yet everything was just as I left it (even the butterfly necklace in the coin pouch – because, you never know when you are going to have a butterfly necklace emergency).

The whole thing was wildly unexpected. Losing the wallet. Finding the wallet, with everything inside. Even how I responded. Wildly unexpected. A year ago, I would have been in tears, probably in some sort of half tantrum, half panic attack. But I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. It took me awhile to get to that point, but the past year God has taught me so much about peace in the midst of chaos. I’m still a work in progress, but learning to train my heart and mind to be peaceful when all seems chaotic is an invaluable characteristic to have.

Here are three of my favorite Bible verses to whisper to myself when I feel I am not at peace:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philipians 4:6 ESV).

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13 ESV).

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all (2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV).

While this is just a small example of things that could happen in my life, seeing progress in this area brings me hope. And when I see that progress I can become stronger, knowing that the peace of God has helped me before, and it will help me again.

I’ll soon be sharing a video highlighting all the fun I had in Cleveland this past weekend! Some of my favorite sights were the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Cleveland Art Museum, House “Hunting” on Fairmont Road, and seeing the Orchestra (highly recommended!). Enjoy!

Kylie-Signature

Call It What It Is

To be honest, yesterday was a tough day for me.

I was sitting at my desk completely frustrated and defeated, knowing that while God’s hand IS on my life I have not seen the fruit of the seeds that I have sown. While I have come a long way spiritually, nothing really monumental has changed in my life and I feel like I’ve been going through the same struggle I’ve had for the past 3 years.

“I’m not really being used to my maximum capacity” and “I would have so much more to give for God’s Kingdom if He just put me somewhere else,” are things I whisper to myself multiple times daily. Anyone else feel like that from time to time? You’re not alone.

I cannot discount the season that I am in, because I have to live it day in and day out until God moves me elsewhere. I am not any less valuable because of where I’m at today. I’m not any less or more valuable because of my job title, what someone says about me, or even my past. I hope for tomorrow, but persevere and be present for today.

Romans 5:3-5 reads “Not only so, but we also praise God in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not fail us.” So I ask myself this question: What character am I building out of the suffering / disappointment / frustration am I experiencing?

In a moment of frustration, yesterday I found myself saying “How can I possibly thank God when everything around me seems to be completely draining and pulling me in a million different directions??!!!??” and “How am I supposed to give God the praise when NOTHING IN MY LIFE IS MOVING?!”

But the truth is, God can bless you anywhere.

I was listening to a timely sermon by one of my favs Steven Furtick from Elevation Church and he said that “If I say it’s a blessing, it WILL be a blessing If I say God is in it, he IS in it. If I say it is an opportunity than IT IS an opportunity. If I say it is a setup, than IT IS a setup.”

So I decide the purpose of the place by what I speak over the situation. If I say that there’s nothing to give glory to, then that is the attitude that I choose. But if I say, I’m going to find something that is a blessing in this situation and call it a blessing, then that situation WILL be blessed. When I walk away from a frustrating situation, will I become disgruntled or will I make it worthwhile by learning something?

Today I find myself saying “this opportunity is a stepping stone for something greater.” or “today is another gift from God and another opportunity to give someone a bit of encouragement.”

What can I do today to combat frustration to build character?

I DO have the power to choose to bring purpose into something that seems mundane. I DO have the power to breathe life into the lifeless because I have the Spirit of God living inside of me. If I put limits on myself, I put limits on what I believe can be done through me, when we are all called to great works no matter who or where we are.

God may have the power to redeem my time, but I have the power to call it what it is (free will, anyone?). Don’t lose heart, there is a plan.

2018: The Year of Intention

Do you ever just make plans and then they get pushed off or put on hold due to something unexpected?

For example: last night I had planned to go out with a few girls to dinner, ring in the new year, and then dance the night away (among other things like writing this blog post and cleaning the apartment). I woke up with an incredible sinus headache and the chills. The only thing I actually did yesterday was start and finish Mindhunter on Netflix and rewatch some of my favorite episodes of Arrested Development and play HQ Trivia (no – I have not won any money yet, no I’m not bitter about it).

When I make my plans for the day, I never factor in if something goes wrong. I just assume that everything will go as planned. Over the years, that has put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. Pressure just to try and make sure that nothing goes wrong (apparently I forgot that I am a human and that the grace of God exists).

Looking back on how I have planned out my life for my previous years, I set resolutions with the expectation that everything will go according to plan. I say to myself “No, I won’t get injured and I will be able to perfectly complete my training program in time for my marathon.” Or “I don’t plan on getting sick so any money I set aside for the doctor can be automatically put into savings.”

Well unfortunately that’s not what I have encountered this past year. It has been full of disappointments and realizing that life happens and doesn’t stop just because I make plans otherwise. This year, I’m aiming to set realistic resolutions. Resolutions that I have carefully planned out with a buffer for when things don’t go exactly as planned. For me, instead of looking at the year as a whole, it means breaking the year up into 12 months to set monthly goals instead of yearly ones. Instead of calling them resolutions, I am calling them intentions. Intentions have more meaning to me: it’s saying despite what happens in my life “I intend to do this.” I’ve planned it out, I’ve planned for buffers, and I will get this accomplished.

This year, as I look at my “resolutions” “intentions,” I ask myself are these realistic? Or am I banking on the fact that “life” won’t actually happen and everything will go according to plan? Plan for your goals and dreams, but be sure to leave buffer for the unexpected too.

Kylie-Signature

Lost in the Sauce

Everyone says be true to yourself, be who you want to be. While this is great vague advice, it often leaves me wondering what that really means. I find it so easy to jump into trends, and gravitate to what is popular, what everyone else is doing. Nothing wrong with a good third wave coffeeshop, but sometimes I take a step back and I feel like a clone. A couple years ago, I could look in the mirror and see everyone else: everyone else and not myself.

A few years ago, one of my best friends, Isabella, gave me this piece of paper to fill out. She called it an “essence matrix.” You fill in each “box” with three things for each category. (Categories are: Music, Moving Image, Avocations, Colors, Flavors, Textures,  Visuals, Plays, Literature). The end-product looks something like the picture below (or better, if your handwriting is more legible than mine!) Every six months or so, I make a new one and fill it in again. It’s interesting to see how (and if) my answers have changed over time. It is a really nice way to explore the things which impact my decisions that I simply don’t think about every day.

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“Be true to yourself. Be true to yourself,” I whisper and ponder. What did I use to love that I stopped doing becuase I was afraid I was too different, afraid the world would judge me?

More importantly what does God say about me, who I am and who I should be? At the end of the day, God’s judgement of me is the only one that matters. Not my peers, not my friends, not even my family. Do the people speaking into my life have my best interest at heart as it relates to your God-given destiny? Because trust me, my best interest for myself is not always what is best for myself.

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1 Corinthians 3:12-13 says that “now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” How I am picturing this is a house made of wood; and there is a bonfire next to the house. When the foundation of a house is built of wood, of hay, or of stubble- how does it stand against the fire? A quick change of the wind in the wrong direction and it sets the house ablaze. Once that fire finishes burning, the home owner is left with nothing.

The ways of the world are like an unpredictable wind. We do not know what the next trends will be, how the dollar will value against other currencies tomorrow, or what life changing invention will come into play. Instead of being subject to the wind- build a house on truth, what is everlasting, and what makes you grounded. If you are rooted in the ground and in truth, and the strongest winds of the world come your way, you will not be shaken.

New York City is a constant space of inspiration, influence, and change. It is all to easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing with their lives. Comparing my life to others not only hardens my heart, but it takes the focus off of myself. I no longer am focusing on the truth that God is speaking into my life, nor am I living out my unique calling, the things I feel uncomfortable doing because I am under the influence of what the world wants me to be. If I am not too careful, New York can be a place of “sinspiration,” a place distracting from truth. The only reason I am tempted at times is because my heart hasn’t changed. Those who are truly filled with the spirit of Christ cannot be tempted, just as Christ cannot be tempted. Rather, they can stare temptation and the things that are not of truth – things that do not speak to who the truly are – and say “be gone.”

While we all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, sin is not in the nature of those who have devoted their lives to Christ. So while I can be true to myself, I am also subject to the nature of what I have chosen to devote my life to, what I have built my house on, and who I tell myself that I am. So what brings me joy? What brings me closer to Him? What draws others to see that Christ-like nature in me? That is what is most true to myself. Don’t get lost in the sauce: build your house on solid rock.

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The Cost of Impressionism

Impressionist Paintings at Met

As someone who calls herself an artist, the idea of creating scenes, capturing moments, and sketching beautiful architecture came from my love for the Impressionist period of art. I love the way that Impressionists leave little interpretation to the viewer: the paintings from this era evoke an “impression” the artist carefully curated specifically in that moment, tailored for that viewer.
Winter Morning on Montmarte
Upon hearing the word Impressionism, most think of the artistic and historical definition of the word. Perhaps the lesser known term is the following (as defined by Webster’s): “the depiction of scene, emotion, or character by details intended to achieve a vividness or effectiveness more by evoking subjective and sensory impressions than by recreating an objective reality.”
This leaves me thinking: what impression am I trying to give people to leave no interpretation as to the reality I am trying to portray? In other words, am I sacrificing who I am to make sure that I impress others? To make a perfectly curated “moment,” a tailored view to seem like I am more vivid or more effective (if we are still following Webster’s definition)? At the end of the day, I may be impressing people, but at what cost?
I remember first moving to New York City in college. The magic of New York was soon traded for the need to keep up with the Jones’s. I remember coming back from my first semester during Christmas time and someone would tell me “omgsh… look who is living their best Gossip Girl life xoxo.” At the time, I had not yet seen the show,  but I knew it was about Manhattan Socialites of the Upper East Side being invited to parties and soirees and galas wearing the latest fashions off the runway. Truthfully, it felt sooooo good to hear someone say that. I felt accepted. I felt like I got the “seal of approval” from the world, something I didn’t really “get” when I was in high school. So I continued this lifestyle and persona of giving others the impression that I was always living this vibrant fabulous life (according to world, Hollywood, and socialite standards of course).
$11,000 in credit card debt later, I was struggling to really make ends meet. I worked more than 3 jobs just to keep my head above water. I felt so overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. Overwhelmed by the burden I had placed on myself, yet underwhelmed and unimpressed with the gap between how my life actually looked and how I had expected it to look. I would even throw in the word “hustlin” to justify the fact that I had more than one job to even make rent, just to seem busy and important. Unfortunately, our society, especially New York, prides itself on the 14-hour work day and the phrase “everyday I’m hustlin” (which, is a song I still love, thanks Rick Ross). Trying to keep up the pace with someone I wasn’t was exhausting. It was a mistake that cost me money, time, real relationships, and honesty with myself & with God.
With every decision comes an opportunity cost. By choosing to engage in something, I am inherently choosing to say no to another opportunity. When I was choosing to buy into the words the world was telling me, I was giving up who I was. Why on EARTH was I giving up who God has called me to be and what plans God has for my life because I was worried about maintaining an impression that was chosen for me by the world and not by God’s design?! I was impressing people who’s density was not relevant to mine, people who weren’t encouraging, people who didn’t have my best interest at heart. And what’s worse – I was afraid to tell the people I actually cared about becuase I feel that they would think less of me, not respect me, and judge me.
Our actual reality, not the objective one we curate for other people, gives us peace and honesty in all areas of our life. I know that I never have to pretend and I never have to compromise what makes me unique. You know who is impressed with me? God. You know who’s approval I don’t have to strive for? God. And I can rest and live my life knowing that that to continue to walk in truth is the only impression I ever have to make.
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