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I AM THE NEW GIRL

11 Apr

I forgot what it felt like to be the New Girl. Sure, there’s something a little exciting about being the New Girl. Maybe the New Girl will be wildly accepted and instantly popular. Maybe people will find her mysterious but not threatening. Maybe the New Girl will find a place where she can grow and flourish…Or maybe the New Girl will just be that, another nameless face in the revolving door of the Christian church.

Today it dawned on me that I AM THE NEW GIRL! (insert dramatic pause)  This is a HUGE change. A few years ago I was very comfortable and active in my church. I felt accepted and welcome. I looked forward to Sunday worship and Bible study. I volunteered countless hours in the ministry. I studied at home so that I could be a better servant. I did this without hesitation because I was part of something bigger than me. I was part of a community. Fast forward to today….I am searching for a new community.  

Every Sunday I walk into a church and I don’t know anyone. I’m not a part of the group. I don’t have friends to sit with. I don’t know the pastor’s name, the church mission or the church beliefs. I don’t even know where the bathrooms are. I am the New Girl. Every week Christian community encounter visitors. There are enumerable New Girls I feel like we’re a forgotten group without a spokesman. So today, I’m speaking up. Here’s what I want you to know about the many New Girls that you meet.

1.       I want to belong. I want to be accepted.

2.       It’s not easy walking into a new church. Everyone has well established roles and I have to figure out where I fit in.

3.       I’m self-conscious. I hope that I’m dressed appropriate for your church. If I’m not please don’t point this out to me.

4.       I want someone to smile at me and say hello. It’s super important.

5.       I’ll need some help…I won’t know the words to every song, when to sit, when to stand or where the bathrooms are.

6.       I want to be appreciated but I don’t want to be singled out too much.

7.       I’m not a threat. I’m not here to take your church position. I’m also not the latest Jezebel to infiltrate your church.

8.       I’m nervous.

9.       I want accountability.

10.   I am a Christian. I’m forgiven. I’m secure in my salvation.  

11.   I have been hurt by church. So I might be a little apprehensive.

12.   I’m not into cliques. If you don’t know me that probably means that I don’t know you (just think about that).

13.   I love God.

14.   I want to learn and I want to grow spiritually.

15.   I might not come back. Don’t take it personal. Your church is awesome but it’s just not the place for me.

Unapologetically,

Arizona R. AKA The New Girl 

The Red Cup

11 Nov

Dear Christians,

I just want you to know that I’m saddened that you’ve united on such a simple issue. I call the issue simple because you are upset over a cup. Specifically, the design of the cup.  The color of the cup. When did we become so easily offendable that we believe everything is an attack against our religion? Are we so self-absorbed and distractible that we think everything and everyone is out to destroy our religion? News flash…this red cup was not targeted at us. It’s cup. Move on. Address real issues.

Unlike many of you, I live in a world that is a melting pot of religions, back grounds, race and gender. I don’t surround myself with like thinkers. I enjoy listening to other people’s perspectives.  I learn from them. I don’t judge, I don’t attack. It gives me an opportunity to see the world differently. It gives me a chance to touch more people and live a life more like Jesus.

Speaking of Jesus…Do you think that he would have protested the red cup? Nope. Would Jesus think that this cup was a representation of the world’s disdain of Christianity? Nope. Would he have defamed an entire organization (that employs fellow believers)? Nope. Would Jesus have held a Bible study at Starbucks while sipping a brew from a red cup? Yep. Shoot, Jesus probably would have turned water to coffee in today’s world LOL.  

Back to the real world. Have you ever asked someone about Christianity? Have you had a genuine conversation about Christianity with a non-believer or former believer? Have you taken a real look in the mirror? Have you looked that the problems that have silently infiltrated the church and too taboo to discuss over the pulpit? My guess is that you haven’t because if you had you wouldn’t be focused on a red cup.

Have you spoken with people that used to be Christians and completely reject the faith? Nope! Do you talk about the manipulation, sexism, idolatry, homophobia, racism and hate that have crept into our churches? Do you talk about the pedophiles that use their religious positions to molest and exploit children? Do we talk about other sexual deviants that’s target the men and women in the church? Do we talk about the hustlers that have elevated their game and now sell blessings? Do we talk about how the church leadership now resembles gang activity (If you have 10 armor bearers and 20 church members…You’re in a gang)? Do we talk about the church leaders that continue to use narcotics and street drugs? Do we talk about the leaders at the strip clubs or pornography stores? Do we talk about extramarital affairs? Do we talk about rejection? Do we talk about the fact that so many of our lives do not reflect Christ? Do we talk about the fact that we use prayer as a form of apathy? (I’ll scream at the next prayer vigil outside of crime scene…They’re gone! Focus on the living and problem prevention). Nope… We’re talking about a Red Cup.

So please fellow Christians, save your mindless religious rhetoric for your closed social circles of narrow thinking. We could actually learn something from the Starbucks cup. Learn how to serve the masses without losing your identity. Everyone that is drinking from the cup still knows that they are drinking Starbucks. My question is this, does everyone that meets you realize they are meeting a Christian?

Unapologetically,

Arizona

 P.S. I’m typing this while sitting in Starbucks…sipping a peppermint mocha from my Red Cup

The Pain of Perfection

30 Sep

I’ve spent my entire life being viewed as “perfect”. For some reason I was labeled as the Golden Child in my family and neighborhood. I had perfect posture, hair, smile, grades, behavior. My mother would always get complemented on how “perfect” I was. But I wasn’t perfect (my mom knew it but she wouldn’t blow my cover). I had a perfect image and I wanted to break free from it. Being perfect is painful.

I spent my entire adult life fighting the stigma of “perfection” only to become entrapped again by perfection. When I became a Christian, I suddenly had the desire to be perfect. I wanted my life to be a complete reflection of Christ. I think I took the phrase, “go and sin no more” too far.  I just knew that I would trust God and would do nothing wrong ever again. So I changed my life. I almost eliminated my social life, I stopped cursing, I stopped listening to rap music, my clothes were mostly modest mute colors, my diet was impossibly strict, I sowed financial seeds into ministries, I donated time teaching the gospel, I volunteered in ministry (blah, blah, blah)…All of this and I still couldn’t manage a perfect life. I still had moments of sin. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. The problem was that I didn’t trust God. I began working and changing myself instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to change me. My Christian experience was based on my works.

Perfectionism is a work of the flesh. In other words, I depend on myself to get everything accomplished. I was my source. The time that I spent studying would lead to my great knowledge. The time that I spent volunteering would lead to my rewards in heaven. Sowing money into ministries would lead to financial blessings for me. I could go on and on…I believed that my activities would lead to my blessed, sin free life. Wrong Answer!

Romans 3:23 tells us that we all fall short. We do not have the power to live a perfect life.  God in all of his infinite wisdom knew that some of us would struggle with perfection. And that we would be devastated when we failed (because we ALL fail). He lets us know He knows that we love Him and wants our lives to please Him. He forewarned us that all things will work together for our good and will be used for His purpose (Romans 8:28).  His grace kept me from being destroyed (mostly from myself because perfection is self-destructive). He loved me and my lowest points. He never abandoned me. When I thought I was totally lost to sin, He was showing me his grace.

God used my shortcomings to teach me about Him. I will fall but God’s grace is loving and forgiving. He loves me no matter what. Even when I don’t serve in ministry that He will still bless me. When I don’t sow financial seeds that he still blesses me finances. It has nothing to do with my works.  He loves because He promised that He would. And since He is perfection, I know that He is true to His word.

Unapologetically,

Arizona R.

Getting Back to Me…

22 Sep

In a world of social media – instant updates, likes, favorites you name it instant gratification and acceptance from others is rampant and often desired. Let’s admit it, no matter how much you say “I really don’t do the Facebook thing.” or “Instagram? What’s the point of just posting pictures?” We anticipate that like, double tap or response.

Somewhere deep inside we find it enticing and for some, even a stamp of approval towards your self-esteem. When did we lower ourselves to the opinions others? I will admit that I have fallen victim to this numerous times.

Arizona and I went to breakfast Saturday morning and noticed two cute high school aged young ladies, all dressed up and ready for their day. Full of hope, anticipation and ready to conquer the world. It wasn’t even noon and believe me when I say they were ready! Makeup, heels and cute outfits. We chuckled and said that used to be us….

My question is what made us stop? Maybe a failed attempt to not trigger the low self-esteem, envy or jealousy of others? Tired of hearing comments towards our appearance or not wanting to draw any attention to ourselves. Did we let negativity slip into our thought life and behavior? Who knows…I write this very carefully because I am not saying we are walking around looking busted and disgusted. HA! That is definitely not the case. But if we don’t have plans or an event to attend, it’s most likely a jeans and T-Shirt day and maybe some cute flats but heels, with no plans, not even a chance.

I remember a time when I would not even leave the house without a pair of heels on. I just love them. People would ask me if I even owned a pair of tennis shoes. One time in church someone even complained about our heels…said they were too high and stated we should not be able to serve in heels (really lady that is what you was focused on during service). Now that was funny!!!

Let me balance this out a bit for the analytical people, I am not saying that wearing heels shows signs of confidence and self-worth. However, I am encouraging everyone to be comfortable in the skin you are in. Take pride in God’s creation each and every day.

Be ready for whatever may present itself to you each day. To the two young ladies yesterday – I thank you for the reminder to conquer each day with sophistication, class and individuality.

Regardless of your plans, regardless of what people say and definitely regardless of any trials and struggles you are going through. Remember, God’s ways are higher and his plans for us are already ordained.

BE PREPARED AND READY!

Proverbs 31:25 “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

Psalms 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Romans 12: 1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

~Christine K.

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