Tuesday, April 3, 2018

An open letter to my childhood mentors...

***Disclaimer: I realize that the vast majority of people who read this blog are not being addressed in this post. However, something is brewing in my soul and I believe this reflection is the first drop of that something. I hope and pray it will provide insight into my continued transformation in Christ, as unusual as these words might seem.***

My dear childhood mentors,

Remember when we talked all the time? I do, but I'm trying to forget.

That's not meant to be an insult, by any means. I just know who I was back then, and I'm sorry. Lately my heart has been aching, and I have started to realize it is because I am remembering who I used to be. From the time I was 12 up through high school graduation, three of you in particular stuck with me (although I wasn't really giving you much of a choice in the matter, was I?).

You each shaped a different part of who I am today; I didn't really believe that I was worth loving, and you each loved me in some way despite my doubts and stubborn declarations. Together, you watched me grow from a shy 12 to an angry 14, and separately you nudged me towards kindness to myself. Sweet 16 was everything but the kitchen counter because adolescent me couldn't leave anything alone and I needed more space than the sink provided to spread out my mess of a life. I guess 18 was better, but by then we had dealt with six years of...well...me.

Gentle admonitions didn't quite reveal to me how much my OCD was controlling the way I treated each one of you, but you all tried to teach me anyway. Whether it was my failure to hold onto friends because I scared them away with the intensity of my attention or my fixated loyalty to each one of you, my teenage self let obsessions rule everything I did. No wonder I wanted to study writing in college; when I was 13, I wrote letters to particular people in my life in a journal...every day. There's a little spot in the back of my neck that tingles with embarrassment at the cringey content of those journals. Last year I burned the last of those notebooks...at least, I hope it was the last.

And now that I'm 24 and I hardly see each one of you at all, I have plenty of time to reflect on how I have changed, how you have had to watch those changes from afar, and how I wish I could have processed those changes with each of you face to face. I claimed all of you as my mentors with great pride and love...and I would be doing you a disservice if I said that I don't still love you all very deeply. That love has matured and become far healthier than it ever could have been in my teenage years, but it has grown in depth just the same.

This blog has hosted my thoughts for eight years now. I could have moved on to a different platform at some point, but part of me clings to this URL for the sake of reminding myself of the growth I have experienced throughout the time I have written here. It's a public space for sometimes private musings; I am at peace with this knowledge. So with eight years under my belt, please hear my words and take them as you will.

To the one of you who has stood with me the longest, who told me it was okay to cry and gave me hundreds of hugs during my worst moments:
Your prayers for my success in building friendships and keeping them were answered when I finally established a group that I have kept since I was a sophomore in college. You told me to be open minded and to listen to people with different opinions than me. I doubt you hoped for my political views to shift as a result of me taking that advice, but I know I am a kinder, more compassionate person because of that wisdom. At Christmas, we talked about finding a church home and I'm so thankful for your prayers as I struggled to fit somewhere during college and after graduation. I love you and I can't wait to connect for real someday soon.

To the one of you who has given me the toughest love, who wasn't afraid to laugh at my stupid ideas and tell me I was capable of being someone's friend:
You told me at Easter that maturing and changing is one of the most important parts of a person's life. I often wish to sit down with you and pick your brain about topics I know we probably don't see eye to eye on anymore; your wisdom and grace for silly kids like me indicates that our conversations would be just as rich now that I'm not that shy teenager. I admire your courage in leadership and your love for the least of these. That compassion is what inspires me to do likewise. I love you and I miss your consistently selfless presence in my life.

To the one of you who has been a patient listener, who stuck with me even through the most intense days of my struggle with obsessive behavior:
First of all, how? My respect for your endurance is endless. Before I knew why my behavior was strange or uncomfortable, you kept listening to my awkward problems and stories. Thank you, I'm sorry, and I am grateful. What an example of compassionate mentorship you set for me by your continued patience with my problems. It must have been purely by the grace of Jesus that you put up with me for six straight years. I love you and I am humbled beyond what I can describe.

My dear childhood mentors, I don't miss being a child. But I miss your guidance now.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The year I wish I could erase.

The past week has been one of silent reflection on my part.

At this time in 2013, I was nearly 19 years old and still pretty new to the college scene. Friends I thought I had secured early on in the year had collectively cut me out of their lives, and left me wondering how I could be so...well...unwanted. The rest of the spring semester would be spent watching dorm neighbors walk past my open door to go to dinner and never stop to invite me along. I hadn't yet built the friendships that lasted for the rest of my college career. That wouldn't happen for another eight or nine months.

I'm trying really hard to be diplomatic and not too dramatic when describing this time in my life, because quite honestly, it was absolutely horrible but necessary to get me to where I am now. Freshman year Justine tended to be far too clingy and had no idea who she was as a person, generally. In that respect, I can see why so many of those so-called friends decided to play on another playground without me. And at the risk of setting up my thesis a little too obviously here, I ended up not needing any of those people, anyway.

During that miserable semester, I built relationships with people from outside my immediate living area, for the most part. I also had no roommate, which allowed for way too much time spent with the door closed, watching TV shows seasons at a time and rolling out of bed the next morning to shower in five minutes and walk to breakfast. For anyone reading this who might be starting college soon or just getting into the swing of things, this is an example of how NOT to be a college student.

There was an up side to this time in my life, though. I discovered YouTube creators for the first time (sure, I had watched viral videos, but I had never really paid much attention to actual content creators). Right around 2013, YouTube was growing out of its early elementary years and had graduated to middle school. One of the few people living on my dorm wing who still talked to me made it a priority to introduce me to Olan Rogers, a storyteller with about 15 times more talent than most of the other uploaders to the site.

Most of the stories detailed painfully embarrassing or sometimes downright terrible life experiences Olan had as a younger person, dramatized only to the point of making it funny. Olan never pretended to be the grand prize winner, even when everyone raved about how funny he was. I fell hard for the style of comedy and story that Olan typically used in his videos, and five years later, I still follow his work closely.

Which leads me to the reason I am digging up memories from the year in my life that I would rather erase.

On Monday night, I curled up on the couch and watched episode one of a new animated show. One of my favorite creators made his television debut, followed by his late night show debut. A couple tears welled in my eyes and for a second, my nose stung with quiet emotions. An underdog had reached the top of the mountain. I don't watch many cartoons; they don't tend to be my genre of choice. However, I had been waiting to watch this show for years. Five years, to be exact.

Last year, Olan Rogers got the green light from TBS and Conan O'Brien to create Final Space, a sci fi adventure story based on a silly cartoon video he had released on his YouTube channel while I was still learning algebra. Olan pitched the concept that turned into a 10 episode event. Charming, clever, family friendly storytelling, helmed by a guy exiled on a space ship named Gary. After only one episode, I know I can remain invested, even if I didn't have a sentimental connection to the creator behind it.

When I pressed the power button on the remote and shuffled towards my bedroom at nearly 11 p.m. on a work night, I couldn't help but think of Freshman Justine. As I lay in bed, waiting for sleep, I reflected on the timing of this show's release. Many days this February when I opened my Facebook Memories, I found encouraging notes from people back home, mostly saying "Hey, I love you. Hang in there. You're strong. You're a great person and I miss you. Keep your chin up." All of those posts dated back to 2013. In the midst of my year of brokenness, some YouTube videos and little messages from concerned friends (and a sister) kept me from drifting away indefinitely.

Looking at those posts from the position I'm in currently, I can't help but draw a line from dot to dot, remembering the journey I never asked to take. From naive, friendless freshman to confident, filmmaking junior to settled, full-time employed college graduate, I lost nearly everyone I thought mattered in my immediate space and then gained so many others who built me back up. While I was never suicidal, I do believe that Christ's redemption in my life pulled me out of a dangerously low place. It took a year and a half of camp friends, a surprisingly united group of women on my wing sophomore year, and some hilarious videos by an overly dramatic bearded guy to heal those wounds.

Five years feels both so long ago and like it was just yesterday. 2013 is the year I wish was erased, but it also brought forth some of the deepest love for people I have ever acted upon. I'm not too outwardly expressive about my personal relationship with Jesus, generally. But He has worked in some mysteriously wonderful ways in the past five years. Besides my family, all of the people I love the most in the world came into my life after 2013. You don't see me complaining.

Do you have a year you wish could be erased? Or have you, like I am beginning to do, decided to pick up the pen and commit to tracing the dots from then until now?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Another day, another job.

So life changed recently.

Sometimes I agonize over these cold openings. I feel as if I need to pull you all in, to keep you invested in my words because I'm afraid of boring you to the point that you click away before I'm finished. It's probably just part of being human, right? Always afraid that someone else doesn't care about us or what we have to say. That we may be shouting into an empty void that laughs coldly at us when we ask for a response.

But I digress. Life changed.

If you weren't aware, I had previously been working for Panera Bread as a delivery driver, starting back in August of 2016. I started that job with a sinking heart, still recovering from the summer I had endured full of emotional breakdowns and zero income. It took a while, but I gained some confidence back; specifically, I learned my way around parts of my city...which at the time, didn't yet feel like "my" city.

I picked up a couple of freelance gigs, but mostly I just struggled through each month, praying for every paycheck to be large enough to cover my too-expensive rent and my student loan payment. Meanwhile, I slowly built friendships with some of my coworkers. I had a goal of getting a better job by the end of a year's time.

My first year anniversary came and went, with no exciting revelations. It wasn't until late October that I ran across a business card for a cleaning company; quite literally, the owner handed me her card when I delivered food to her, saying, "You and the other drivers should come work for me!" I tried not to look too excited about the idea of a full time job with weekly paychecks and no weekend/night shifts.

Fast forward to November 6...my first day of work. I came home and cried for the first few days; it was a lonely existence to clean a house with just my trainer after having coworkers who knew and loved me for more than a year. I moved past that, though. The office staff is so kind and supportive, and the work culture (I hate that phrase, but what else could you call it) is positive and not at all competitive. It's hard work, and I currently have a stress-related strained wrist from lifting too many vacuums one-handed, but I love the new freedom in my weekends and nights.

So do I love it? That's a pretty strong response to have to such a new job, and I wouldn't promise that I will get there. But I don't hate my job, so that's good enough for right now.

But a full time job isn't actually the BIG news.

After close to a year and a half of saving for a DSLR camera, I have finally made a purchase. If you ever doubt the validity of online surveys as a way to save fun money, let my experience change your mind. Just in time to break a new camera in for Christmas, I have obtained a Canon Rebel t6i. A Christmas miracle, if you will.

I'm sure most of you won't care much to actually click the link to find the videos I have been making with it...but here it is, just in case: Project 1,461. It's a weird little undertaking that I have invested way too much of my life in over nearly a year so far. But now that I have a fancy camera, I WILL be making sketches and (hopefully) some short films over the next couple of years. So if you don't want to invest time daily, just check in every once in a while. :)

Remember when I used to post music recommendations? I was cuter back then, I think. But this band has evolved from Blood and Water (my high school crushes, honestly) to Talkie. You could say that we grew up together, in a way. So here's a song about being grown up now:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

On social media and the art of word choice.

"Millennials are fueled by their ability to get offended by things."

That isn't a real quote, but it could be. A couple nights ago, Julia sent me an article she had just finished reading that made a more complex version of this argument. The piece was written by a well-researched guy with a doctorate, but I definitely sensed a bit of the "kids these days" vibe that typically puts me off pretty quickly. Needless to say, I definitely gleaned some ingredients to make some food for thought.

The past nine months have been chaotic. People from two primary political parties still hate each other and will do anything to undermine and belittle the other. No one would actually admit that they "hate" someone who voted differently...but their Facebook posts indicate otherwise. Demonstrations and introduction of new possible legislation have created additional opportunities for conflict. Everyone agrees that the U.S. is divided more severely than it has been in decades.

Or is it?

What about the harsh divide between those who were protesting the war in Vietnam and those who wanted everyone to respect the authorities in charge at the time? Or the constant tension hanging in the air during the height of the women's rights activities half a century ago? Let us not forget how many resisted the mere idea of Reconstruction, much less the actual implementation of policies that could rebuild the shattered South.

So what do these bookmarks in American history have to do with millennials and the current divide in our nation? Social media is the significant factor, and it's been taking away the blue ribbon at every competition for our attention.

When I hear someone comment about how quick people are to get offended, that "you have to put a trigger warning on everything!", I think about social media's influence on spreading a message. It's not about the "fake news," it's about the speed at which an unresearched opinion or a completely false report can fill the Internet at every corner. A tweet stating a political opinion sent to 10K followers on a Monday night can reach a million readers within two hours if enough angry people retweet it. If someone posts a YouTube video making an insensitive remark about a type of person or another ethnicity, it might go viral simply because a public figure shares it with a caption discussing their indignation.

I get it, I really do. Freedom of speech is one of the most valued rights in this country. Walking around telling people what they can and cannot say feels very much like a freedom of speech violation, even to me, a left-leaning middle dweller. But you know what else I value? Respecting every person and rooting for them to live their life to the very fullest. One of the best ways I can think of to do this would be to choose my words carefully.

For me, it's not about telling others what to do or denying someone their right to speak when they feel like it. It's about being kind. Words are often nasty and dirty, but they can also be redemptive. One of the ways I have been able to reconcile my conservative upbringing with my more recent liberal influences is to ask how Christ would have me speak. Nine times out of ten, He would have me shut my mouth before I make that joke. And not because it might offend someone...but because it wasn't a good use of my God-given ability to form words.

Social media gives all of us a chance to speak our piece whenever we feel like it. In decades and centuries past, people still expressed opinions and faced heat for choosing words that divided. But before, there was no easy way to jump on the hate bandwagon. Everyone had a small circle of influence, and most knew who they were reaching. These days, words can travel oceans in seconds. What used to be a big deal for a day can now last a week, and usually does.

When your server at a busy restaurant fails to bring your order promptly and you go home to rant about it on Facebook, leaving out the part about the busyness of the establishment, you have exercised your American right to express yourself. When a group of demonstrators gathers in a public place and the news crews arrive, ready to grab 30 seconds of footage from a 13 hour event, both sides have agreed to speak up and have their words misunderstood by one side or another. Some are angered by the f-bomb in an indie worship song while others are exasperated by unwillingness to leave the n-word behind for good.

Millennials are fueled by their ability to get offended by things. But so is every other generation. "That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. There is nothing new under the sun," as a wise man once wrote in a Book so many years before 2017. We can only control what we say, not how others perceive our words or how they speak in response.

Personally, I'd like to see a whole lot more compassion and kindness from our words moving forward.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why storytelling and art matters.

It was late and I had just finished a French film that made me think but also annoyed me. Clearly it was a good time to read an article from my favorite multi media news and critique sources before getting some shut eye.

But I clicked on the wrong article to induce peaceful sleep.

"Donald Trump moving forward with plans to kill National Endowment for the Arts, PBS and NPR," the chilling headline announced. And below it, an equally cold subtitle: "Federally funded art programs stand to be eliminated as part of 2018 budget." My heart dropped to my stomach. I scrolled down; my insides threatened to do the opposite.

I had heard this might happen during the next four years. I first read about it on Inauguration Day; in fact, this rumor was the exact fuel that fed my passion to begin a daily video project during the days President Trump is in office. If my desired career choices were going to be devalued, defunded, and denied entry into civil conversations, I was going to make some sort of thumbprint to be found when this is all over. After only 33 days, I have been frustrated at times but always determined to continue without missing a post. I still feel I must do my part to put thought into art.

According to the article, a final budget is expected to be announced on March 13th. That's a Monday, but I honestly checked the calendar to see if it was a Friday. And only a day after I turn 23. Happy late birthday to me.

Every time I open Facebook, someone is ranting about the dishonest media, the disrespectful and ungrateful liberals, the need to pray for our leaders and give them a fighting chance. I will never say "F**k Trump" because that really isn't something I wish to say about any individual. I also will never regret my vote (which I will not be talking about here, except that it was not for Trump).

I just want to process with you, my fellow human beings, about what the arts and freedom of the press have done for me. I'm not sure how many of you will even care to finish this post (probably left when I made that Friday the 13th joke), but for those of you who give even half a damn about me or the feelings I am processing tonight, here we go. Bear with me as I get a little wordy.

Telling stories is the only thing I have ever wanted to do with my life. First it was through stupid little fiction pieces I wrote inspired by the Barbie worlds I had created with my siblings. Then came the angsty teenage blogs I wrote on this very platform...which I have not deleted because they tell my story. While I was trying to avoid my parents' pleas with me to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I stumbled upon Northwestern at a college fair. Writing & Rhetoric. I was intrigued...and after a visit to the snow blown campus, I fell in love with everything about that school. But especially the English department.

When I arrived at Northwestern, I dove into a Publishing class that almost immediately inspired a fascination with editing. I learned what a copy editor did and decided, right then as an awkward 18 year old, that I needed to have that job someday. And then I did get that job; three times, in fact. First for a magazine blog, then for a literary journal, and finally for the school newspaper. My love for writing blossomed into a more specific passion for helping polish others' words. Every word told a story of its own, revealed a tiny glimpse into its history of usage and abuse.

I met my current friend group as a sophomore, and all of them--literally all of them--loved either writing or theatre. My heart broke as I watched them struggle in writing workshops and come home from rehearsals exhausted; then it soared with them as they were published in journals and handed awards at festivals. We collaborated on seven films the next year, and during our preparation for those films, we collected stories from all over campus to share with an attentive audience.

I learned how to sound design for a production; I wrote a one act play and directed another. My love for art and artists grew with every project I took on. While my relationship with words had changed to something quite unrecognizable compared to my junior high attempts at fiction, I loved words more than I ever could have as a child. Every person had a story, and every story had tiny tidbits of stories waiting to be revealed if told by the right person.

I watched tears and laughter and indignation and heart wrenching pain come out of words during those four years. When I graduated and moved to Ames, I lost my connection to most of those resources and nearly all of those people, at least in physical closeness. I longed for the comfort of an environment where the people around me actually cared if I stretched myself through art. Before graduation, I had people surrounding me who wanted to help me create new pieces of beauty. But now...now I only had social media connections. And all I saw for eight months was hatred, bigotry, and division.

No more stories were being told openly. When someone tried to begin, they were met with cold Facebook rejections and petty, biased articles leaning left or right, depending on the original point of view. So many passive aggressive, holier than thou posts full of so much crap that I could barely recognize people I thought were Christians. And when I occasionally reposted an article, hoping for a discussion, no one bothered to respond. When I shared a video from my project, longing for at least one person to express a different point of view or ask me to have a one-on-one conversation, I didn't get a single bite.

And so now we have arrived at the present. By talking of eliminating funding for the arts (of all kinds), this administration is sending a message to storytellers like me. That message reads, "We don't care about your stories. You aren't a priority." Our stories already only receive 0.003% of the annual budget, but now there could be concrete proof that these stories are not wanted.

I know some people may view artists as lazy, entitled, or just liberal (which is used as an insult instead of a label for a political viewpoint). But without us, there would be no books. Even instruction manuals and science textbooks require a layout designer and several editors, not to mention the freaking writers. Without us, radio and television and film simply could not exist. Without us, museums could not have even been imagined (an artist had to design the building and all the pieces on display). Architecture and construction work would not be possible. Music would be limited to the natural sounds of the outdoors and whatever squeaky wheels didn't get oiled.

Maybe it's a silly idea to try and imagine what the world would be without artists. But I don't think so. To tell us we don't deserve any funding at all is to tell us you wish we would not express ourselves freely. If it comes down to what is best for "everyone" in this country, artists make up the majority. It isn't only the small group of young hippies wishing for an end to violence. It's also the intellectuals and the creators and the logical thinkers who make this country different in every state, town, and home.

I've written so many words, and I am sure 99% of them are practically worthless. What would I know? I'm just a lazy millennial who wants to create art that makes people think. If anything in this post is salvageable, feel free to point it out to me. Oh, and here is the link to the article I mentioned. Also the National Endowment for the Arts' website. It's a cool place.
Consequence of Sound article
National Endowment for the Arts

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Remembered by the ones I love.

"I'd rather be remembered by the ones I love," says Caleb Chapman in his song "Remembered For." Written for Colony House's second album, Only The Lonely, this song has been running through my head over and over since it was released two weeks ago. It's been a while since a song so precisely described my greatest wish. "Wish" sounds so petty, so weak; I'm not sure what word replaces it, though, so I'm stuck with it for now.

I feel so completely sheltered and insulated in my safe little Iowa bubble this week. I've been watching this country's latest events spinning wildly around me and I can't help thinking I am no more than a hamster, nibbling on whatever is closest to my nose, running pointlessly on a wheel, burying my small head in wood chips. What good is nibbling (researching) or running (speaking out) when much of my audience would rather I bury my head in wood chips (sand)?

I determined months ago that I would never stop looking strangers in the eye and smiling at them every day. I'm scrolling past Facebook posts defending the new president's executive orders because I can't stomach them. I'm reading tweets from people who attended marches and anxiously scrolling through updates from people in airports across the nation. This week a line was crossed. It's not about politics, anymore. It's literally about lives.

I've typed and erased so many paragraphs tonight. Thought after thought has been filtered and rejected because each one doesn't feel bold enough, honest enough.

Can we just STOP and acknowledge that there are refugees in need of a safe place...and we are denying them that safe place because of POLITICS and FEAR and PRIDE? People are beginning to speak up, but there are still so many Christians who are either silent or defending this move.

You're kidding me, right?

Can we back up and contemplate the healthcare that was just snatched out from under the noses of so many people? Human beings...without access to both simple and complicated forms of medical treatment. And why are some Americans against this healthcare being provided? Because they would be helping to fund it by paying more taxes. Because when you think about it, that sounds so awful...helping provide for those in need, and all.


I am disgusted with the silent majority in my own faith today. If the element of this week that made your blood boil the most was the way some people dressed or spoke at a demonstration, how are you reflecting Christ at all? If you call yourself a part of the Church, where do you stand on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, ministering to the imprisoned?

Are you going to stand and sit and bow your head today with a light heart or a heavy one? I would argue that as American Christians, we'd better have a burden on our hearts for those who are weary today.

I have not lost faith in my Jesus. He can and will do miraculous things in the 1,451 days left in this presidency. But I have nearly lost all confidence in so many of my brothers and sisters who share this faith. Lift your heads and open your mouths, fellow believers. Do it now, so that it will be said of you that you truly loved your neighbor.

"I want to still be standing when it falls apart. I want to be a shoulder for the broken heart. It's what I want to be remembered for."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A reflection from a breaking heart.

People I care about are weeping today. They placed every ounce of hope they had on an imperfect political function and turned their fear and anxiety and anger onto those who disagreed with them. I feel that same fear, not for myself but for the men and women who are desperate for a ray of hope to shine on their lives and instead they are seeing blackness. My heart bleeds for every one of those individuals. Whether or not they will be persecuted more often for their sexuality or their race or their beliefs is nowhere near as obvious as their fear of the possibility.

People I care about are celebrating today. Their votes were cast without a flinch or a doubt, even if they post on Facebook about wishing for better options. This isn’t to say they are lying intentionally, but I used to have the exact same ideals and thoughts they are having today, and I remember how indignant and angry I was when President Obama took office because I believed those ideals would be trashed and forgotten. What I mean is that when I was in their shoes, I would have shot down any whisper of a disagreement with my choice at the polls, even if I didn’t actually believe that individual would carry out my ideals. It’s either red or blue, and one must win for anything to be settled…right?

Those who feel they have lost are posting constantly on every social media outlet about their fear, their anger, their determination to protest what has occurred. Those who believe they have won are pointing fingers at the former party, laughing or shaking their heads with a gallon of judgmental blood and an ounce of love. Everywhere I look, I see Bible verses used to condemn the fearful, the prideful, and the triumphant. Here and there I can find someone who genuinely wants to remind the world that we are still one nation, but somehow I don’t think very many of the people they are reminding will believe that we are under God after what happened this week.

An expert is, by some definitions, anyone who knows more about a topic than anyone else in the room. Today I have seen a hundred opinions by the local experts on Thy Kingdom Come, Love Trumps Hate, #ImStillWithHer, and You Damn Liberals Finally Lost, Thanks Obama. Some intend to inform, while others intend to show malice. Most of the opinions have failed to sway me in any direction other than sorrowful contemplation. None of these expert opinions feel overly thought out, no matter the intent.

The root of my name is “just,” or “justice.” Maybe that’s why my heart has been raging within me for the last 24 hours. I am seeing so many fearful people clash with so many rejoicing people. Along the sidelines, there are some who choose to throw a Bible verse out in the arena, hoping it will help the waters settle enough for them to wade in. Yes, I believe Jesus is my King, too. But if all I do is claim that and then sit back, stating “My hope is in the Lord,” I am a hypocrite and a fool, deserving to be punished by the One Who has given me this sense of justice. Proclaiming my allegiance to the King should only be followed by one action: reaction.

Because I believe in the King, I must stand beside those I love who are every other ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and political affiliation. I am a Midwestern white twenty-something woman with a college education and only a small amount of student debt ahead of me. I am so, so blessed to live in a safe neighborhood and hold down a job that allows me to serve other people. But if I use those privileges to hide from the pain I see in my friends’ eyes, I do not deserve to be known by them.

My right-leaning friends and family will read this post and probably fixate on the part where I pledge my love and support to every person who is not white, straight, and evangelical Christian. My left-leaning friends and family (although I’m not sure how much family I have who fits in that category) will read this post and likely wish I would just shut up and join the protest against what happened this week. I’m not claiming to know the reaction of every person who will read this, but based on the social media posts on both sides, I know many will think these thoughts.

Pray for the brokenhearted, the wounded, the fearful. Pray for the rejoicing, the triumphant, the complacent. I believe every person in America fits somewhere within one or more of those categories.

Yes, we are a divided nation today. But that is not new, not in the least. We are all broken people, after all. So most of all, pray for peace that surpasses all understanding, and love that knows no limits.