Grief makes you Think

So, on the 25th April my grandmother died.

The last post I did is the poem I read at her memorial; her funeral was to be held in her hometown in Jamaica. I’ve just returned from Jamaica: the plane landed in London at around 10:30am on Saturday 18th May. It was a lovely trip: I learned so much and was able to think about a lot of things, things that will inspire many posts on this blog.

For a while now I’ve procrastinated with a lot of things. I’m scared of failure, I suppose. Additionally, the magnitude of all the things I want to do in my life daunt me and I fall back, hoping to find something easier to do. I want to make an app and have my own business; I want to write a trilogy; I want to run an online magazine, I want to start up a women’s charity. So many things, just one person!

Not only has the past two months or so shown me that life is too short to just think about good ideas, but it’s also made me more confident in myself, strangely, because God put many things on my path which has opened doors. When I went to Jamaica I made a friend who has emailed me the details of an upcoming conference on how to make your own app; it was on the plane journey where I was struck with the idea of a business; the lives of my now late grandparents has shown me that you have to step outside your comfort zone to do things, and that doing things to help others is a wonderful thing.

So today, I resumed work on the trilogy. I started researching more regarding the app… and I’ve set up the writing project (well, the initial part). The project is for women who want to share stories about their lives. I’m creating an anthology of women’s experiences of their personal ‘rites of passages’! For more details about it, how to submit and all other things, head over to this website. Please pass on the message–I need your help! It’s a huge project, but I have faith that it will work. Please pray for me, as I will for you.

There are two more things I want to do that I definitely need to start this summer also: some friends and I have spoken about a prayer ministry that I really hope can start soon, as well as a small decorating business to make extra change through our studies.

Lots of things, lots of faith: one huge God who can make it possible!

xXx

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Fighting Fear and Being Encouraged.

It can be a frustrating experience to get into an argument with another Christian on any topic that involves God or spirituality. I’ve felt the frustration whilst trying to explain the Sabbath to someone a few years ago who was Pentecostal and I’ve seen the near-anger of two people arguing over the use of tongues in church. I remember a scenario being described to me about an Adventist, a Jehovah’s Witness and a Pentecostal (what joke is this?) pretty much bickering over a homeless man sat before them at a bus stop. Homeless man had been spotted: three religious people arrived at the bus stop around the same time; clocked each other, and after that it was all or nothing. Level-playing field, cups on, helmets ready–who’ll win his soul first? But they got into a bicker: the Adventist thought the best way to help the man was to get him a hot drink and some food, to help him at his needs; the Jehovah’s Witness suggested a copy of the Watchtower would be better; the Pentecostal urged them all to pray over him. They argued so much that by the time they had settled on a compromise, the homeless man had run away somewhere, and a person in need had run from the people who should have given it!

Sometimes, discussions can be helpful, especially if two people are coming from polar opposite views. In my opinion, a Christian should view such discussions as healthy: it can show you who you really are; how did you go about it? Could it have been better? What did you learn? What arguments from the other side did you agree with, but hadn’t thought about before, and will you take these views into consideration next time, to allow for empathy with others? A Christian who feels as though there is nothing to learn from others is one who thinks they are perfect already, and need a bit of a reality check. I try to keep this in mind when engaging in discussion.

Sometimes, however, discussions are next to pointless. I feel this way when debating with my dad sometimes: he’s very stubborn so if he’s found a text that makes sense to his viewpoint, nothing I say will change it. After a while we just keep saying the same things over and over and no one learns anything. There are others who are so enclosed within their Scripture that they don’t actually know how to discuss things coherently. You want an answer from them, but it sounds imposing and irrational; random Bible texts spew from nowhere; tenuous links from Old Testament stories about people who didn’t listen to others and all the curses that came upon them arrive in abundance; dubious exclamations of how much prayer you need and disingenuous offers to pray for you, because you’re going down a destructive path that can only lead to one place…

I got a lot of that stuff for a while. When I was younger, I was told my lifestyle was a dark one and I’d have demons around me; I was pretty much told to stop thinking and just obey what the elders around me called ‘God’, otherwise nothing good would follow me. At the time, it was a frightening thing to hear: years of trying to get over an actual phobia of God, and trying to reeducate myself about a God of love rather than one who watches my every moment to slip up so he can banish me from heaven, made me–and still makes me–sensitive to any allusions to threats like that. Very recently I got into a discussion with a church brother about feminism and some of the things he said ignited those fears and insecurities again and after that discussion, there was nothing I could do but pray. I prayed for God to remove those thoughts from my mind, because that isn’t of Him at all. I knew the brother didn’t actually intend to rouse those thoughts within me, but I’m too heightened to subtle threats and forebodings to not think negatively about myself and to worry and to fear about things I have no need to worry about.

Sometimes, the people who bring us down the most are our own church brethren.

But it’s also important to remember that there is always more than one party in an argument, and that if you felt offended, then it’s likely the other person felt offended also. What more can be done but to pray for insight and to step away from it all? If it’s causing problems, it’s not worth your time. If needs be, don’t talk to that person about that topic again. If it won’t lead anywhere, what is the point?

Life is too hard. You gotta pick which obstacles are really worth fighting for.

Sometimes It Feels Like There’s a Bomb in My Head, Waiting to Explode…

I’ve always been a victim of my own destructive thoughts. I have a habit of day dreaming that I’ve cultivated, fertilized and tended to for years now; I’m pretty much standing in a tangled mesh of roses, thorns and bristles at this point. This all started a few years ago, when I began suffering from psychotic episodes. My concentration was awful; I’d practically sit in class staring at a wall, and only regain consciousness with ten or so minutes of the lesson to spare. It was during this time that I saw just how sinister and self-destructive my thoughts could be. My day dreaming often led to long moments, sometimes hours, of lying in bed with my eyes fixed on the ceiling. And I’d think, and think, about how awful I was, how much I was unloved; that I was ugly; that I should be dead. This usually resulted in physical self harm. One night, I boiled the kettle and poured the water on my arm.

Thankfully, God brought me out of that. But the vestiges of the past haunt me from time to time.

If I’m honest, my levels of lust within my relationship has been hard to cope with. Before I had ever been in a relationship, I naively thought that ‘lust’ wasn’t a huge issue for me; that I could always control myself. Well, now I’ve grown up. It’s been difficult, but I prayed; I set boundaries and curfews; I spent more time studying the Word, got involved with loads of church work to keep me occupied. Those things worked brilliantly, in fact, but every now and then I slip, and end up feeling really awful about myself afterwards…

Today has been a low day. I got home really late last night (fell asleep sometime after 1am), and ended up waking up at half six in the morning, only to find I couldn’t get back to sleep, despite my eyes stinging with fatigue. I rolled over and looked at my university email from my iPod and saw that I received my lowest score of the year so far. That already put me in a bad mood, but coupled with the tiredness, and the spiritual stumble that I took the night before (I broke the curfew) led me to think again. I was thinking, thinking, thinking, becoming more entangled in the thorns; cut and bruised, I emerged in a fit of literal tears. I cried for quite a while and the more I cried the worse I felt. I tried to get rid of this image I’d created of myself in my head, but I couldn’t. I kept thinking, ‘how far are you going to push yourself to the edge before you end up participating in something you’ll really, really regret? What are you really worth? Why are you making yourself so open? Since when were you a prostitute?’

I understand that a lot of the self-blame stems from the cultural belief that a woman needs to exercise more chastity than men, and in the church, a woman who is ‘hard-to-get’ and perches herself on that pedestal, away from all male hands until her wedding night, is a woman truly fit to be given the title of ‘Proverbs 31’. A virtuous woman, indeed. And my boyfriend holds nonof these views. Not even a little bit. I kept reminding myself of this fact, but I chose to listen to the voice that did not have my best interest at heart.

We spoke on the phone in the morning. When we ended the call, I burst into tears again, mainly because he sounded so sorrowful and I thought I’d caused him unnecessary upset. I felt as though I shouldn’t have said anything, but I wanted to be honest.

I’m yet to eat a meal today. I had my shower late; popped to the shops to get some water and household stuff; got back into my nightclothes retreated to my bed, eating chocolate and turning on the laptop to write this post. I felt sorry for myself, but I checked on Facebook before logging onto WordPress, and the statuses I saw almost took my breath away.

I have many Adventist/Christian friends on my Facebook, so I’m used to Bible texts on my Newsfeed, but this afternoon something else happened: all the passages that people were putting up were about sin, and the penalty that Jesus paid in order for us not to feel guilty and dejected and depressed when we do something wrong, but for us to give all our burdens and baggage to Him, at the foot of the Cross. I almost cried again, but for a different reason this time. So many people, so many texts and words of encouragement–I hadn’t told anyone about how I was feeling or what was going through my head, but it was as if the Spirit moved, so that they all wrote texts that corresponded with each other. The text that really stood out to me is taken from 1 John 2:1-2:

My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world…

I was also reminded of the lyrics to a hymn that has been in my head ever since I read the Bible text: Jesus Paid it All:

I hear the Saviour say
“Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness, watch and pray
Find in me thine All in All”

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a Crimson stain
He washed it White as snow

Sometimes, God leaves me lost for words. Despite what has happened today, with my habit of self-destruction reaching such a high level, it’s finally taken a turn for the better…

…Because God has the power to save me from myself.

Fearful

Silence.
.
.
.
.
A noise to rattle the catacombs in my head
make me dizzy with fear.
The kind of feeling that weighs the body down
black treacle. Thick and imposing
too heavy to control
to move beneath.

Silence.
.
.
.
The one word to scare me
enough that I’d shun everything
crowds were my enemy for fear of that moment
when there’s now’t to say
but they all look at you as if you’re supposed to know
To be witty and articulate and make people laugh
they look at you because they think you know
what they think; what they like
you’re supposed to know
how to salvage their conversation
before the pulpy shreds of it
stick and merge with the floor

Silence.
.
.
My crutch and my crucifix.
Bullied by it
Taunted by those who said my mouth was too slow
because I was cursed with bullets in my speech
and my tongue was useless
a-a-and it w-w-was d-d-difficult to f-f-fight ag-g-g-gainst those
thick words; plosives and sentence starters.

Silence.
Became my favourite way of speaking
when I found the comfort of your eyes
and how soothing a sound it is
when your silence meets mine
Listen to me breathe
So I can feel your heart on my spine
as we sit
in
silence.

Woman

There is a woman that upsets me.
She calls herself ‘rubies’
readily adorned with the praises of men
then looks at me in disdain
her counter-onyx friend
the blood in me bubbles at her
like the poison in a cauldron
congeals, crystallises, readily broken
an imitation of a precious stone.

I’m not like her
because I have a voice
I talk too much
I don’t know my place, not what it’s like
to obey, to bow my head
to shut up.

My tongue, she said, will be my downfall
one day it’ll unravel from my mouth
roll onto the floor, red and fleshy
wrap itself around my neck and choke me
because I dress like trash
talk like trash
look like trash, dark and bruised
I’m not a woman like her
I’ve been too many places
around estates and tower blocks
through parks and forests
forever haunted, like some animal
in want of blood
or something precious.

There is a woman that I hate.
She is like a dolly dog
always happy and willing to please
she gets carried around in a bag
by people who think they own her
made to wear frilly things
pink things
things to mark her femininity
and she loves it.

I would rather be the wolf
running naked through the fauna
digging deep under the ground
to my secret trove
of diamonds.

The God Standard

Happy New Year….

This is my first post of the year. There was a long list of things I wanted to start off with: about my new goals as a Christian, about all the things I did wrong last year that I want to rectify for 2013; a prophecy post based on Daniel and Revelation and how the 21st December apocalypse scare was a bunch of hodge-podge.

And then something developed in the last weeks of November, leading to an event on the 2nd of December that has changed many things in my life, but in a good way: I’ve embarked upon a relationship with someone who has been in my life for five years. This means I can no longer read my posts of months ago, where I chastised the men in my church for leading me on, mainly because it reminds me of a bitterness I didn’t realise I had. I still stand by my arguments: trifling with a woman’s heart is ungodly, and a man of God should let his yeas be yeas and his nays be nays. However, the motive behind the writing of those posts came from a place of misguidance. I’ll say it plainly:

the person I am with now is someone I’ve cared about for a very long time. And even though what I had felt for him had abated somewhat when a ‘new man’ came onto the scene, I believe my underlying feelings for him manifested themselves to others, which may be a contributing factor of as to why I found my myself in those ‘false start’ relationships.

Being with my ‘someone’, has made me think about the list I had made about my ‘dream man’ years and years ago. When I was much younger, the list was very superficial:

Must be Six Foot something
Must have dark, rich skin
Must have locs, so we can have loc babies….
…And something about loving God.

As I began to give my desires to God and think seriously about it, the list changed to things that were practical and had a focus for spiritual things:

Must have the same view of God as I do
Must be someone who is trying to be a better person
Must be a reader
Must be intellectual and intelligent
Must appreciate my writing
Must respect me as a woman
…Must be someone I would have no problem submitting to, in the way God intended.

Fortunately, a sister has started up a series of Dating, Courtship and Marriage Bible studies at my church and last week a couple from our congregation, married for 19 years, spoke about how  God had put them together. The husband said that he had made a list of things he wanted and knew God would have wanted for him, and he found all these things in his wife. He asked God to help him make a choice.

It gave me hope for my relationship, as I was never a person who believed in the ‘God has one person for me’ (there are 7 billion people in the world. How will you possibly start searching for that predestined one?), and this husband and I had approached things in a similar way.

The last item on my personal list was a very recent addition (probably only a few months). It dawned on me just how important that factor is, because even if he’s intelligent, or he reads, doesn’t mean he is a good man, a man who respects a woman and understands what’s required of him as a man in a relationship. I began to read Ephesians 5: 22 in a whole new light. Literally, it only dawned on me what God is actually saying to women here:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Even in this verse, though directed at the women, has a rebuke for men all over it. What Paul is saying here is ‘women, God has such a high standard for you of as to what husband you should choose, He’s literally reserving a man that is only like Christ to be your husbands. Don’t settle for anything less’. 

This was huge for me to see. The fact that Paul immediately says that men have to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave His life for it (verses 25 onwards), there is no mistaking just what kind of men women are supposed to marry. The fact that God wants you to have a marriage that immediately reflects the relationship between Christ and the church, says a lot about the standard of man that God has reserved for his daughters. Now I know why we are described as ‘far above rubies’ (Proverbs 31:10).

This was just the kind of revelation that I needed for the new year. 

Also, the person I’m with is someone I have complete trust in to respect me. I’m always amazed at his reaction to Ephesians 5: awe and caution and self-reflection. He always asks himself ‘how can I be that man’? when he reads it, rather than ‘look, you’re gonna have to submit to me, woman!’

Very encouraging, indeed.

Have a good week.

xXx

I Like Naked Women

This is my first post of September. My posts have been irregular of late. Forgive me, I’d like to change that.

Last post I spoke about lust and beaches. I put a note at the end that the discussion would be continued because I have a lot to say on the matter—I reckon I could do three more posts on it, actually. Maybe in the future, when the time is right. For now, I want to address something that followed on from the discussion I had with my friend about swimming costumes…

I have very interesting friends. One of my other friends (male) has a problem with me reblogging photos of naked women on my Tumblr page. In another conversation I had, one of my male friends told me that it’s inappropriate. It led on to a discussion with the first friend about why he thought the way he  did about my blog having naked women on it. I won’t go into details because it was long and we went around in circles quite a bit, but I find it interesting that Christian men (in general) find issue with such photos.

For me at least, to be naked is to be in your natural state. We weren’t born with clothes on. So if I wanted to have a picture of a naked woman on my blog it shouldn’t (in theory) be any different from having a picture of a bare tree in winter. What it boils down to in essence is the sexual response one would experience from looking at one and not the other. Even though this shouldn’t be the case, a lot of people—in church and out of it—see a naked body as something sexual first, before they see it is something natural. Forget pornographic pictures, because I’m against pornography anyway, but to me nakedness in photography can provide a very bold statement about vulnerability, boldness and inhibitions. It can make us question our own responses to certain images and perhaps challenge them.

People aren’t as repulsed or shocked or uncomfortable at naked photos of children because it’s children, and only a very small group of people in the world would be sexually aroused by such images. It’s the photo of a fully grown woman, round breasts, wide hips and all, that seems to be  a bigger problem for some. Interesting to note: the same people aren’t as appalled to step inside the National Gallery, where there are hundreds of oil paintings from way-back-when of naked women. For some reason, that is art, but a real-life image is too much.

I speak not from a corner of condemnation, but from my own experiences. You see, Tumblr is a very free social network. It doesn’t have the same restrictions as Facebook and Twitter, therefore people go wild and it’s likely that you’ll stumble across blogs dedicated to naked people and, in some cases, porn clips. As a heterosexual woman, I have no problem seeing naked women on my Tumblr Newsfeed, because I’m able to rationally separate the photos that are supposed to be there for titillation and those that are there to make a point (or are just very, very pretty and empowering). I mean, breasts don’t phase me because I have a pair of my own! And I can look at them whenever I want to. However, when a photo of a naked man comes along my Newsfeed, I get all uncomfortable (“scroll quick! Before my eyes are burned.“) This isn’t because I actively objectify men, but because a naked man will—most times—strike me as an image of sex, before something more artistic. And, as someone who’s had problems with lust in the past and still struggles from time to time, I’m not too keen on having photos of penises in my face. I’m not completely unable to separate porn from art, but I find it much harder than if I was looking at a photo of a woman.

But this means that it’s my problem. I can’t look down my nose at the men posing, as if they’re doing something morally wrong, because they may not have taken the photo to arouse anyone, so if I am aroused, it’s something I need to deal with and the logical step would be to avoid certain users on Tumblr who I know like to post those things (no, I wouldn’t close down my Tumblr account because that’s a bit extreme in my eyes. There are harmfully unedifying videos on Youtube, but I still have an account there and the same can be said for the things you find on Facebook.)

What I was able to get from the discussion I had with both of my friends is a mutual understanding. I appreciate the male body, same way how my male friends appreciate the female body, so if they don’t think photos of the female body is appropriate, that’s their view.

As for me, I love women’s bodies. God is surely an artist ; ) . So yeah, I don’t have a problem with those photos, as long as the women in them aren’t being exploited.

Happy Sabbath.
(Gosh, sunset was at 7:16 today. Summer is over…)

xXx

The Scar

You held me like I was fragile
close to your chest, a pulsing heart
black raiment hugged my body
my prison and my shield

Would you still want me
if you saw the scars
like leeches patched to my arms
the rippled tiger-stripes
on my legs
seemingly drawn on with a blade
and insanity.

I know you love that Other Person
with the holes in His hands
and the crescent of broken skin in His side;
I know these markings remind you
of love and sacrifice and good things

but is my body good enough?
Will you love me,
knowing these things that I have done
where I have come from
and who I want to be?

Can I come as I am?
Or is my world
too dark and too deep
for you to tread?

The Great Husband War

For the first time (in my memory), my church did an entire afternoon programme focusing on singleness. Four people from the congregation sat on a panel and were asked questions about their life as a single person in the church. We then had a bigger discussion, in which people spoke about their experiences of trying to find a mate in church.

Whenever courtship and dating or topics surrounding it are discussed in church, it usually leads onto the same thing: the male: female ratio in our churches. There are roughly ten women to one man in church, and this leads to a lot of problems. Heartbreak is a major one. There are a small group of women who are evidently bitter that they’ve never been able to find a husband, even though they’ve been in the church for over ten years. It’s an inevitable problem: if there are so many women and so few men, the majority of the women are going to be left out. I suppose the realisation of this also worried me a little the other day. It has crossed my thoughts in the past that there may not be anyone there for me, even if I wanted there to be.

This struggle to find someone before all the eggs start vanishing can lead onto desperation, where a woman becomes infatuated with the first person who shows her attention (my friend mentioned this during the discussion in a not-so PC way and it caused a bit of upset).

There’s another problem that arises out of this imbalance, something much more sinister (in my opinion). Whenever what I’m about to say is mentioned, a lot of the men get upset, but I think this is because they don’t want to realise the truth. I speak of this “Sweet Shop” mentality that a lot of the “lucky few” have when it comes to women. They know they’re in a privileged position; they know there are women looking for a mate and they know they have plenty to choose from, so they exploit the system, damaging the outlook women have on men. I don’t know of any woman in church who hasn’t felt manipulated by a brother; he gives her all the attention and speaks to her about things that are inappropriate for friends and she finds out that she was one of many.

Amongst the youth, I’ve noticed guys do this a lot. Because everyone wants to be in a relationship, young men keep talking to young women about relationships in general and it gives the wrong impression. Nowadays I’m so weary whenever I meet a guy for the first time because they only ever want to talk about relationships. What do I want in a husband? What kind of family do I want? How do I feel when men do this or that? When this first happened to me, I generally thought the man in question was interested in me, before I happened to see on Facebook that he was with someone. Well that was good news.

Some of these guys lead women on unintentionally, but others are well aware of what they are doing; it’s fairly simple to guess how such questions will come across to the opposite sex. My friend’s mum warned me of these guys; she said that some of them do it because they want a general idea of what women want/like, and they’re simply phishing for information until they meet the woman they “really” want to be with.

This is a real shame, you know. Imagine how it looks. There are women, young and old, thinking: “if even the men in church are like this, is there any hope? Because they’re no different from the wastes out in the world.”

I’ll close with a quote from my girl Ellen:

To trifle with hearts is a crime of no small magnitude in the sight of a holy God. And yet some will show preference for young ladies and call out their affections, and then go their way and forget all about the words they have spoken and their effect. A new face attracts them, and they repeat the same words, devote to another the same attentions.

This disposition will reveal itself in the married life. The marriage relation does not always make the fickle mind firm, the wavering steadfast and true to principle. They tire of constancy, and unholy thoughts will manifest themselves in unholy actions. How essential it is, then, that the youth so gird up the loins of their mind and guard their conduct that Satan cannot beguile them from the path of uprightness.

The Adventist Home, pg 57

Just a little something to chew on. I really need to be wiser, before I get manipulated again. The person I spoke about the other day has really shown me that I need to slow down.

And think. I keep saying this but it’s true: God will provide (and gosh I’m so young, why am I worrying about this anyway???).

I don’t plan to join the Husband War any time soon—or ever.

Wales and the Man-Hating Thing.

So, this time last week I was in beautiful Wales. It was raining rather heavily by Friday, but there was still a serene enough atmosphere for the day to be enjoyable. I was at Camp Meeting, a religious conference that happens every year. I was able to meet lots of new people and saw friends who I haven’t seen for months. We stayed in a deluxe caravan which meant that many wanderers passed through our dwellings to eat and relax in a comfortable place. I was with five other girls, two of which I hadn’t met before the trip but I’ve since become friends with them.

On the Saturday night I had a chat with someone who told me that I “have a dislike for men when it comes to relationships”. At the time I laughed it off, but last night and today I’ve really been thinking about what he said. This blog has always documented my loop-the-loop of feelings regarding men, misogyny in church and a dislike for a certain type of man. I used to dislike men because all the men in church I met seemed to not take these issues seriously, but I never thought I still emanated a vibe of “misandry”. I find this a little worrying, if I’m honest, only because I’m currently in a “it’s complicated” state with the person who said this to me, and I wonder if this is one of the things that is holding him back from me.

I always knew that amongst some of my friends I’m just a Feminist Ranter, but those are my friends. Now it seems that potential love interests will see me the same way. I’m not sure how I feel about that. A while ago I made a post that I’m stepping out of the relationship boardroom, mainly because I was fed up with all the requirements given to women about how they should behave if they want a man and also because the relationship topic is constantly being talked about these days to the point of tedium. Since then, this particular person has come along, even though I wasn’t looking for anyone, and even though we’re definitely just friends, this situation and his subsequent comments have made me view my personal romantic life in a different light. It’s one thing to be single by choice, but another to be single because people are weary of you…

But then again, if church men are weary of me because of my views (which believe it or not are no where near as extreme as they once were), then maybe it’s best that I seek the Kingdom first before trying to get involved with anyone. Maybe it’s a good thing that I am single. I wouldn’t want to change who I am or not care about women as much as I do because it somehow makes some men feel uncomfortable. I’m grateful that this man made no indication that I need to change who I am (I take that as a good sign of his character), but what he said has made me think. I’m starting to learn a bit more about how others see me. I just don’t know if this will have an impact on who I am.

The mind wanders…