Walls

“[A friend] once said to me, after one of my more finely worded rants about stupid people who have the wrong opinions, “Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.” Damn.” – Nadia Bolz Webber, Pastrix

Just a few days ago, I was packing up my East Campus apartment. I graduated college, took pictures with my friends, and celebrated with my family. I didn’t know that as I was handed my diploma and told I could go anywhere in the world, there was a group of people boxed in by a big ugly wall. I didn’t know that as I walked the streets of Sioux Center to get to the Fruited Plain, there were students my age who needed to do so much just to be able to cross into Palestine from Jerusalem to go to Bethlehem University. I didn’t know that while my degree gave me a voice to speak into my country’s issues, men and women in Palestine were being arrested for posting something political on their social media feeds.

But today began a shift in me. I walked through a refugee camp and put my fingers in the bullet holes in an elementary school wall. I stood where a thirteen year old boy was innocently shot to his death. I read the messages of despair painted all over the wall that cut through the city of Bethlehem. I looked into the eyes of men and women who have been persecuted, oppressed, and silenced.

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And today, I stood in the same place where Jesus was born. There was no room in Bethlehem for His pregnant mother to deliver Him, so she and Joseph journeyed to the back of the cave alongside the animals. Right from His first breath, He stepped into darkness, impurity, and filth.

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I don’t have many (if any) answers regarding the injustice that I saw today. I was told it was complicated, but once encountering it for myself I know that “complicated” is too simple of a word. I’m eager to continue to spend more time both on the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the wall, learning people’s stories along the way.

All I know is “every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.” If He is able to bring light into the darkness of His birthplace, surely He can redeem even the deepest of conflicts.

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison.

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Why “Moonlight” Needed to Win

If you’ve spent any time around me within the past month, either in real life or on social media, you’ll know that I am completely obsessed with La La Land. The soundtrack is practically the only thing I listen to, I bought a poster to hang on my wall, I saw it a second and a third time in theatres, my wardrobe is more vibrant with primary colors, I wrote a review for In All Things . . .  but I didn’t want it to win best picture.

As a twenty-something, white female who has her own fair share of heartbreak and failure as I’m on this pursuit to discover my “calling” … vocationally, romantically, etc., of course I related to the plot of  La La Land, but it’s not the story that our culture needs. After a year of shootings, law changes, and protests, a story about a poor, black, gay man is far more important than a story like mine.

Moonlight was a story about authentic vulnerability. I think that each character wears a mask in some way or another to hide their shortcomings and who they “really” are. Some just don’t talk much, others do drugs, and some bully and harass others. But they all are living in some form of insecurity.

There are genuine declarations of love – not just between romantic partners – and they are met with human responses: strong eye-contact, tears, and a lack of words. It’s when we break down our walls and show our true cards to someone in love is when we are truly vulnerable.

Last night Naomie Harris  said on the red carpet “Once you make something specific it becomes very personal.” Moonlight is an incredibly specific and pointed story, and maybe I can’t relate to most of it. I’m a white, straight, female, who grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis; none of my story should relate to Moonlight . . . yet it does. I still know the pain of insecurity and beauty of vulnerability. I can feel the emotion that is strewn across this movie.

So what’s the point? Why does it matter who wins and who loses? I think the answer is found in my pick for Best Original Song: “The Audition” from La La Land.

“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us”

Who knows where these “mad,” new, diverse stories will take us? Culture and community needs stories that differ from the ones we experience for ourselves; that’s how we grow. We need films like Moonlight to break the circle of self-consumption. I recognize that I’m partially to blame, seeing La La Land three times while not seeing Moonlight, Fences, or Hidden Figures in theatres.

Moonlight deserved and needed to win Best Picture in order to show that our society values all different kinds of stories, not just the easy ones. I encourage all of us, especially myself, to take time to watch films, listen to music, and read stories that are outside of our own experience.

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My picks alongside the actual winners of the 89th Academy Awards.

 

Mirrors of 2016

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I didn’t have any resolutions this time last year. I was simply “hopeful that I would continue to grow and learn new lessons.“I tried my best to map out my year, knowing that things don’t always go according to plan. So, I walked into the year with my hands raised, unsure of what to expect.

And man oh man, was 2016 full of unexpected surprises.

Getting my hair chopped off in my kitchen.
Moving to Michigan for the summer.
Trying sushi.
Editing videos again.
Learning to love big dogs & going to the dog park.
Reading a new Harry Potter book and seeing a new movie(!)
Buying another ukulele.
Meeting a songwriter who changed my life.
Getting my cartilage & nose pierced.
Becoming a barista.
Applying for seminary.
Getting accepted into seminary.
Signing up to go to Israel.
Becoming addicted to buying houseplants.

2016 felt a bit like walking through a house of mirrors. Sometimes the path was smooth, but most of the time I felt as if I was running into walls. I was forced to take a good, hard look at myself … especially the parts that I didn’t like.

The internet likes to joke that 2016 was a bit of a dumpster-fire kind of year, but I don’t believe that’s true. Yes, my heart was broken by the songs of injustice, but the anthem of hope will always be louder; the beauty far outweighs the despair.

I’m looking forward to so much in 2017. There are new movies, new songs, new people, new coffee shops, new recipes, new classes, new apartment, new books, new poems . . . and so many other things I can’t even begin to imagine.

This is my favorite age I’ve ever been, and I cannot wait to start this new chapter in my life. This is the year where I “grow up,” the year where I graduate college, the year I (officially) move to Michigan and I am so eager for what is ahead.

Pour the champagne and start the countdown. 2017, I can’t wait to meet you.

Boxing Day

I’m quite ready to make way for spring.

Pack up 2016 and say your goodbyes.

We’ve had a good year, now let’s have another.

Take it all down, Christmas is over
But do not despair, but rather be glad
We had a good year, now let’s have another
Remembering all the good times that we had
Oh no more lights glistening
No more carols to sing
But Christmas, it makes way for spring
Through hearts of man are bitter in weather
As cold as the snow that falls from above
But just for one day we all came together
We showed the whole world that we know how to love
Oh no more lights glistening
No more carols to sing
But Christmas, it makes way for spring
Oh no more lights glistening
No more carols to sing
Christmas, it makes way for spring
Oh remember that Christmas, it makes way for spring

Know Who You Are

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This year, according to our tradition, my family went to the movie theatre on Thanksgiving Day to see the latest holiday blockbuster. This year the film of choice was Disney’s “Moana.” I hadn’t heard much before going to it; all I knew was it was Disney’s first princess film to not include a romance plot and that it received a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.

I was hooked from the opening song that began over the classic Disney castle. The Hawaiian words  in “Tulou Tagaloa” were sung in a same chilling way as Swahili did in “The Lion King.”

The movie was filled with adventure, vibrant colors, magic, danger, music, and of course adorable animal sidekicks. I was filled with goosebumps the entire time, especially during a soft, soothing song sung by Moana titled “Know Who You Are.” She sings:

I have crossed the horizon to find you
I know your name
They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are

The whole movie I felt a little silly interjecting stories of the Biblical narrative into the film. Moana is able to part the seas (Moses), her grandmother tells a creation narrative that parallels the account told in Genesis, and then this song when echoes Isaiah 43.

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

The whole movie is about Moana discovering her identity, and in the end I think she learns that identity comes from knowing others and being known. Isn’t that what we gain when our identity is rooted in the Lord? We are loved by our heavenly Father who has created us, formed us, and calls us by name. He chooses us, empowers us, and protects.

I’m not Princess Moana; I don’t think the ocean has chosen me for a special mission, and I don’t expect to run into Maui the demigod any time soon. Yet, I still want to be like Moana. I want to be someone who works on behalf of others, showing them that they are known and loved.

Bumps Ahead

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Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to go on bike rides with my family. There was one path in particular that my brother and I always loved; it was full of cracks and bumps that made it dangerous and exciting. My parents always made us take caution and go slow so that we wouldn’t fall and damage ourselves and/or our bikes. But . . . we never listened.

When I entered the neighborhood that I grew up in as I was driving home from Michigan a few weeks ago, I passed this path. Since I left for the summer the city added a sign that says “Bumps Ahead” before the path starts. I smiled to myself, thinking of just how bumpy the path really was, and I almost felt as if the sign gave away some of the fun that the dangerous path brought.

I feel as if I’ve passed a “Bumps Ahead” sign for this school year that I am about to enter. I wrote in my reflection of my summer in Michigan that I had seventy-eight good days, and this isn’t a lie. Since visiting my hometown and moving into my senior year of college at Dordt, I have continued to have good days. However, I’m not naive. I know that there is some rough waters ahead.

Senior year. The final few months before I need to become a “real grown up,” get a place to live, a job, and erase that pile of student debt. And who knows what bumps are going to come along in the meantime . . . classes, worship leading, working at the local coffee shop, relationships, family, and so much more. And yet, I’m excited to face these bumps.

I’m filled with a child-like joy, because I know that it’s the bumps that make the ride more exciting and more memorable. And better yet, I know that my heavenly Father is riding behind me, ready to pick me up if I skin my knee. Not only that, He has already gone before me making my path secure to lead me towards His glory.

I have no clue what is going to happen in these next few months, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’ve stopped presenting my five-year-plan to the Lord, because each time I do He seems to look on me with love in His eyes and say “Oh? Is that where we’re going? I have something better in mind . . . ”

I’m on this crazy path, full of bumps and cracks. I’m prepared to get scratches and bruises, but I know that my Abba Father is there with me until the very end.

Michigan

Michigan.

You’ve shown me nothing but love this summer.

You’ve shown me new roads, new coffee shops, new restaurants, and new lakes.

Your people have opened up and shared their stories, and they’ve sat back and listened to mine.

I’ve been romanced, by the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, and the people.

Memorial Day on the lake. Fourth of July backyard bean bag tournament.

Tuesday night dinners at the Dykhuis’. Saturday morning doughnuts with the Smiths.

Meijer Gardens with brand new friends. Whitecaps games with childhood friends.

Bubble tea at The Sparrows. Founders’ All Day IPA around a campfire.

The floor of the Grandville Barnes & Noble alone. The floor of my living room with Finely the golden doodle.

Familiar sights like Captain Sundae. New places like the shops in downtown Elk Rapids.

Michigan.

Thank you for everything.

All seventy-eight days were good; not one single “bad day.”

You’ve taught me how to love again.