Friday, September 23, 2016

To The People Back Home

For so many years I heard “you’re not really black.” “You’re the whitest black girl I know.” “You’re such an Oreo-White on the inside, Black on the outside!”

I laughed and went along with it for so many years. Because I felt it was true. And not because I hated the color of my skin, but because I didn’t know to be offended. You all expected me to be a certain way. After all my parents were white so how would I know what “being black” really was?

Being around you all shaped my own prejudices. For years, four years specifically, anytime a new black person came to our school I viewed them through YOUR lens. “Ghetto. Loud. Those earrings are so big, her clothes are too tight, doesn’t she know we don’t dress like that around here?”

There’s an image burned into my mind from Junior Year. It was the end of the day and everyone was heading to our lockers. Right in my pathway I saw a white guy and black girl screaming at each other. “SHUT UP YOU BITCH” he yelled. “GET OUT OF MY FACE.” She screamed back. “I’M GOING TO TEAR THOSE EARRINGS OUT OF YOUR EARS.” “GO AHEAD. DO IT.”

I swiftly walked past them but my heart was pounding out of my chest. He was rude. But so was she, right? She should have walked away, I decided. I gathered my things and went to the bus. Something didn’t sit right. I didn’t know why, but I was bothered by it.

Let’s back up. I lived 5 minutes from school, but I always rode the bus. Bus 25. Blanche was our driver, and a family friend. It was 7th grade and I had taken the bus home after school, but this particular day I had lugged my tenor sax with me. I was sitting on the bus and I can’t, for the life of me, remember how it started. But suddenly the boy two seats ahead of me was yelling. I’m sure I said something...I wish I could remember what. I know I asked him to please leave me alone. And he yelled at me. I said “Please, leave me alone. I just want to go home.” More foggy memories...then suddenly: “Ugh. I hate niggers. This is why I should start carrying a rope and chain with me to school.” I started to cry and when I got off the bus, I screamed. My sister had picked me up on our moped and I threw my jacket against it and screamed and sobbed. It took her and my mom to calm me down to get the full story. My mom immediately called the superintendent. He was on our side of course, and said there was no room for racist behavior and death threats. The boy was suspended from the bus and also got in school suspension for a day. He also was told to apologize. I don’t remember that, but I remember being terrified to ride the bus again. Shortly thereafter he started to drive to school and I was so thankful.

Senior year, two popular football players were sitting on the Senior Benches. I was walking from the office to class and suddenly I heard an all-too familiar, and very outdated tune.
“Is he whistling Dixie at me?” I furrowed my brow and chuckled. They looked at me, I stared right back and thought “You idiots. My parents are WHITE. My dad takes care of your animals. You know me.”

But they didn’t.
None of you did.
You thought you did, because I was friendly, and nice, and outgoing.
But you didn’t know the stories of how even I was treated by some of our classmates.
You didn’t know that I tried so hard to differentiate myself, and failed over and over again.
You didn’t know that when I called one of my friends a “cracker,” I didn’t know it was a negative term. But everyone who heard it was shocked, and one of you tattled. I felt awful. I almost cried in front of you.
I would never “be black.”
I would never “be white.”
I would always just be an Oreo.

Thankfully, my sister finally cleared something up for me. “What do you mean ‘act black?’ A color doesn’t act a certain way. You mean act/talk ‘urban.’” It struck me like a bolt of lightning. “Oh my gosh, YES. That’s what I mean!” She rolled her eyes at me, like all big sisters do and we went about our business.
But now, I’ve changed. Yes I’m still adopted and my family is still white. Yes I still shop at Target, and Gap and American Eagle. I listen to country music, and pop, and I’m a sucker for acoustic covers (what I’m listening to as I’m writing this.). My boyfriends have all been white.
I went to a very white private college. I am constantly self-conscious about dancing in clubs. (Like..really, I’m black AND a theatre person so where’s my rhythm when I’m just having fun??)

I struggled with singing a soulful slave tune in one of my dream shows this summer because in the back of my head I heard “You’re not really black. You’re not like Patina Miller, or Renee Elise Goldsberry, or Jasmine Ceaphas Jones UGH. You can’t do it. You’re not black enough.” And you know what? I freaking NAILED that song. I shut down the demons and I didn’t try to be like my favorite black actresses. I dug deep into my own darn soul and found Star and what she was going through, what so many minorities in our country are going through, and what our ancestors went through while trying to escape to freedom.

Escape. How do I escape? How do I escape your cop apologist posts? How do I escape you telling the world that you “don’t see color” because it’s not important? How do I escape you posting memes of “black people who listened to the police,” or “here’s a black celebrity going against the majority of his black peers,” or “here’s a successful black woman, be more quiet and unassuming like her.” It’s crap. It’s all crap, because you want these people to be flawless.
You want safe black people. Yet, you don’t want Michelle and Barack. I don’t know why, because they ARE successful, and I’m sure in the past they have been pulled over, and they do go against the majority of their black peers. I mean for heaven’s sake they’re the First Family, but God forbid you praise a black man becoming the Leader of the Free World. That’s too much, right?

You want relatable black people.
You want me to keep wearing clothes brands that you think are appropriate for me. I shop where you shop, so I’m safe. I like Panera, and going to fancy restaurants and pubs, so I’m not like “those other black people.” I don’t “talk urban” so you aren’t threatened to start a conversation with me. I chemically straightened my hair for 15 years, so it’s not “nappy and unprofessional” like those girls with braids and Senegalese twists at your jobs.
Oh, but I did just cut my hair, and really it has nothing to do with joining a movement, and it has everything to do with the fact that I look like a badass with short hair, but now you probably see me as unrelatable.
I danced for 3 hours in a club the other night with some friends, with other black and Latinxs, and white people, and mixed people and Natives, and this is probably never something you expected Star to do, so now she’s not safe. Not approachable, because she’s becoming too much like “those other black people.”
I post things that should be common sense, especially if you consider yourself pro-life (which I know a lot of you do.) Yes all lives matter. But guess what- I can say “Black Lives Matter” and still know in my heart that all life matters. But not all lives are threatened right now. But the people with my color skin? Whether you consider them to be safe or not, their lives are threatened and they MATTER. And I will continue to say it.

Someone recently asked me if a certain relationships are worth salvaging. I daily, hourly, minute-by-minute ask myself that as I’m scrolling through my newsfeed. Some of you are willing to dialogue, but the majority of you are not. Those relationships to me, are not worth my emotional energy.
And I don’t say that to offend you. That’s simply to show that as a black woman in America, I’m exhausted. I’m so tired. I can’t comment on every post, no matter how much I want to. Because I know 98% of you won’t answer back. You’ll say to yourself “Wow. She’s not the girl I remember from back home.” And you know, I’m not. I left. I grew. I gained more friends of all colors and cultures, and I LOVE it. I broadened my world and my circle, and I learned, sometimes painfully, how to dialogue with people who don’t look like me.

We all need to do this. If you truly want racism to disappear (which by the way it won’t), you need to leave your bubble. You need to travel, grow, gain more friends of all colors and cultures and broaden your world and your circle. Growth does not happen inside of your comfort zone, but I promise you the second you sit with someone you don’t feel is safe, you will grow and you will learn.

You need to teach your kids that their brown friends’ lives are as important as theirs. Teach them that God made people with different skin colors and that diversity a beautiful thing, not a hindrance! Teach them about African American, and black, and Latinxs, and Native history. If we don’t learn from our past, it’s going to repeat itself, and it’s already happening. You keep posting that you want change. You keep posting that you want to pray for change. But the only way to actively see change at a small level is to talk to your black friends. Talk to your minority friends. Meet them for coffee, and ask them how they are, and what their thoughts are on the events of this summer. But more importantly: listen to their answers. Take notes. Ask them how you can bring change into your home, church, and community. Ask them to join you in being the change you so desperately want to see.

We, as minorities, need your help. We want to dialogue. But we can’t if you aren’t willing to talk. Stop shutting down. It’s clear you have opinions. But maybe set them aside to hear the opinions of others and then talk about them.

I’m still Starleisha. My family is still white. I live in a city now, and not my parent’s farm, and I still don’t talk “urban.”

But I am no longer safe. I’m done being safe. I want change, and that’s dangerous, but I’m willing to go after it.

Join me?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

To the Class of 2016, from Someone Who's Been There

Your senior year is a time for celebrations. Your big class trip; your last musical; your last baseball game; your last orchestra concert; your last art show. Even though everyone is headed in different directions, you never look around at your friends and think “this is the last time I might see them,” because there is always Summer. Summer is for bonfires, riding around with the windows down, getting ice cream at Milky Way.


You never think that your class will bond over something tragic as losing a classmate. But sometimes, and only God knows why, that brings you closer as a group.
Quite frankly, losing a classmate sucks. It’s inexplicable. It’s hard. It’s unfair. It’s sad. It’s all of those things plus a million more emotions you didn’t know you had.


As someone who has Been There, here are a few quick things I wish someone would have told me about losing someone you love.


First of all, I want you to know that everything you are feeling is valid. You are not being overemotional, or overdramatic. Allowing yourself the space to feel and grieve is okay. It’s necessary. It’s your body’s way of releasing stress and tension. Let it happen. If someone tells you that you are being overemotional or overdramatic, it’s ok to disagree with them. Only you can assess how and what you are feeling, and that’s ok.


Secondly, grief is strange, and everyone grieves differently. Some of you will cry, others will be silent. Some will be callous and say “I don’t care that much” because they are confused about what they’re feeling. Others of you will gather and tell stories and laugh at the silly things she said, or the way she used to joke, or remember how smart she was, and honor how beautiful she was inside and out. Again, let it happen, and don’t discount anyone’s form of grief. The beautiful thing about every one of you is that you feel and process things differently. And that’s okay.


Grow in your grief. Figure out how you, as the wonderful human you are, process these emotions. Talk to someone you love. Parents, friends’ parents, a counselor, a teacher, a coach, youth pastor, whoever. Your mental health is too precious to tackle this alone. Please talk to someone.


Lastly, it’s important to joyfully remember your friend. What happened was tragic, yes. But the life she led was anything but that. Get together and celebrate who she is, and the fact that you know she is healed and whole and with the God she loved so much. Joy is also strange. It’s strange to feel so incredibly sad yet so incredibly joyful at the same time. I think of the movie “Inside Out.” Riley’s emotions and memories finally work together to form her different Personality Islands. Sadness and Joy pressing the button together is the perfect example of allowing our emotions to blend together, but not control us.


It’s hard, but as one of my favorite writers says “Together We Can Do Hard Things.”
Spend time together. Spend more time together than you ever thought was humanly possible. Be amazed at how you support each other, and take pride in how your community has come together during this time. Remember that even though you’re in a small town, each person has shown that they have a big heart. Don’t take that, or anyone you encounter, for granted.


And always remember: Love Wins.
-S.


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(Flckr: slgckgcBy: slgckgc  )



Monday, October 19, 2015

Ideally...

This morning I had coffee and colorful conversation with my dear friend Lizz. She's a writer, and has recently become a Kindred Spirit to me. As we were discussing our lives and our various quirks she presented me with a fairly normal question. "Star...if your life could be anything right now, what would it be, ideally?" I paused, opened my mouth, and then paused again, Lizz anxiously awaiting my answer. My head was immediately flooded with all of the things I've wanted to do. Oh, easy. I'd move to New York. Oh wait...no, I'd have a boyfriend. No...wait...I'd...uh... "Oh my gosh, I have NO idea!" was my super deep response. Lizz laughed and said "EXACTLY. Because no one knows what our lives would be like if we could ideally do anything."


Her statement sparked my brain, but I found it incredibly frustrating all at the same time.
I was instantly plagued by the thought that I'm not doing "enough" with my twenties. What am I doing?


Is working a full-time job in my field, chugging 3 cups of coffee a day, and not acting part-time really what I would ideally like to be doing?


No, it's not. But it's where I am right now, and there's so much to be grateful for.


The more I think about it, the less I stray from the idea of having an "ideal" life; I inadvertently begin to seek what my life would be if it were "perfect." I'd be acting (for money! what a concept...), I'd have a Godly, sexy boyfriend who supports my love for theatre and whom I support wholeheartedly (he's owns a start-up and serves in our church, by the way), I'd have a steady income from my day job, and we would have a kitten named Sasquatch.


But God didn't design our lives to be "perfect." If we were meant to lead perfect, spotless lives, then God's grace and Jesus dying on the cross for our messy, messed-up, silly sins is pointless. I'm inclined to think that we aren't even to strive for "ideal" lives either. Ideally, I wouldn't struggle with perfectionism to the point of being sick to my stomach...ideally, I wouldn't sass my mother after we both have had long, taxing days. Ideally...ideally.



Friends, we're all sinners. We mess up. But there is enough grace for us to receive over and over again.
I think having endless grace is the closest we will ever get to having anything "ideal" in life.
And for right now, I'm ok with that.




Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dear Christians: We Need To Talk About Broken Engagements

By now, I think everyone knows my entire life story. Usually upon meeting someone new, I don't bother to use a "don't spill your guts!" filter. "Hi I'm Starleisha! I'm adopted, my family is white, I have two cats, Tater-Tot and Cricket, a beagle named Sweetie and until the end of this past January, I was engaged!" 

At this point, if the poor person's eyes haven't already glazed over, I can usually predict their next facial expression. It's a shifting mix of shock and compassion and concern. For the first few months after my relationship was over, the most common response was, "Wow! You are so brave." "That was such a brave decision." "I could never be that brave!" It finally got to the point where I turned to a friend and said "I swear if someone says brave one more time, I'm going to punch them in the face!" 

To me, my decision wasn't brave. It was simply a necessary decision; for our collective and individual preservation. In a sense, it was as if you gave the keys of a car to a stunt man and said, "Okay, Rod. Two options: no protective gear, or all the protective gear we have. But either way we are going to light the car on fire. What'll it be?!" If Rod is thinking clearly, he'll at least take some of the gear so when he has to bail out, some of his bones stay intact.


For the sake of this analogy, I am Rod. My engagement was the car. My impending marriage was the inevitable fire; wearing no gear was walking down an aisle towards divorce lawyers and a year of tears and hurt, and taking all the gear and bailing was breaking the engagement.

No one faces fire without doing something to keep themselves and the ones they love from getting burned.

Right now you might be thinking "Okay, but how did you know?" "What if it was the wrong choice?" "What if D was the right guy for you and you were his perfect match and you RUINED EVERYTHING FOR THE REST OF FOREVER?!"

I'll tell you, honestly, the answers to those questions.

1- How Did You Know? How do you know that you don't like jalapeños? I'm assuming that at some point you tried them accidentally (or on purpose, you psycho. why would you do that?!), and you didn't like them. They burned. They hurt. They weren't pleasant at all. You learn what you like and dislike, tolerate and hate, love and loathe through the same process: personal experience. I'm not saying that you should go accepting proposals willy-nilly, but what I am saying is that being engaged is recommended before marriage for a reason.



All of a sudden, two people who think they know each other have to agree on how one single day, The First Day Of The Rest Of Their Lives, should look like, sound like and taste like. No one tells you this, but planning a wedding is hell. I know people who have done it and escaped seemingly unscathed, but they will eventually come clean and tell you that there were fights over napkins. Literal pieces of cloth almost ended a lifetime commitment. That's terrifying. No one wants to be known as the couple who couldn't agree on napkins. 


But that's what happened. Things weren't falling into place. We couldn't find a venue. We couldn't agree on a time of year. There was a lot of "number crunching" and ice cream eating to avoid the bigger issues. The issues that, as we sat on our counselor's couch that July afternoon, I could feel, she could see, and D was avoiding.

I didn't think I was strong enough. I didn't have closure from a previous non-relationship. I didn't this, I didn't that, all while on the inside I was screaming that I COULDN'T. But the months went on and these fears were shoved deeper because "we are planning a wedding, we can't just stop!"
But I knew. We both knew, because the experiences we were having were hurting us. Burning. Not pleasant at all. Just as we thought it was all falling apart, it got better. We found a kick-ass venue, we began to communicate better, he got a job, I got a job, and then the single spark that would eventually illuminate the bigger problem, caught flame. 

2-What If It Was The Wrong Choice? You know that stupid saying "if you love someone, let them go."? I'm here to tell you that while I think it's the most cliché thing anyone could say during this situation, it's also one of the more welcomed and "reassuring" things people can say.

HOWEVER.

I grew up in the age of purity rings, and "save yourselves until marriage," and "pass this chewed gum around and that's what you are if you don't save your self/love/heart for one person," I've recently realized that there was one big part that was left out of these teachings. And that part is, "What To Do When You Obey God's Will And Things Go Wrong."



Because of course all Christian couples go through hard times, but if you marry someone who has lived by the Red Letters and has never even THOUGHT about glancing at porn, nothing will go wrong. I'm here to say HAHA BULL. It's utter crap, you guys. We are ALL sinners. I don't care how devoted you are to the Lord. You're still going to screw up.

And the well-meaning, possibly unknowingly manipulative, adults who taught you that "married sex will be perfect sex" might say "well, maybe you weren't trusting God enough. Maybe he had a 'rough past.'" (Which we all know is Christianese for "he had sex once.") And that will make you feel ashamed. It will make you want to hide under your covers on Sundays and attend Church of the Box Spring. 

But what these adults are missing in their youth group lessons is the fact that shame is not from God. This summer I heard exactly what I needed to hear on this subject: "Guilt says 'I did a bad thing.' Shame says 'I am a bad thing.'" If you've ended a long-term engagement with a mixture of turmoil and shame, listen:


You did the right thing. You are not a bad thing.



You have not wasted yourself or your heart or your love. You are not a chewed up and spit out piece of gum. You are God's masterpiece. Whether you believe this or not doesn't make it any less true. In fact, I'm inclined to say that those of us who have loved so deeply with our whole hearts, and haven't been afraid to be vulnerable are probably the most beautiful. Usually we are artists, and we are mishmashed anyway, so what's a broken engagement? It's just another part of the mosaic of events that make us who we are.  

*Don't read me wrong here, friends--I do think that God blesses obedience/hard work/etc..., but I don't think that just because someone couldn't stay engaged or married it means God is punishing them for past or present inequities. Sometimes staying together isn't the right or obedient thing to do. Sometimes God is more subtle than we expect him to be. It's more proof that He can't be put in a box. I think many of us, myself included, want God to be bigger and louder in our lives. But sometimes it's the tugs in the corners of our heart, the Still Small Voice, that we should be paying attention to more and expecting more readily. 

3-What if D was the right guy for you and you were his perfect match and you RUINED EVERYTHING FOR THE REST OF FOREVER?! He wasn't. I wasn't. I didn't. But occasionally, almost 8 months to the day later, I still ask myself these questions. Some people might read that and think "Well she obeyed God so she should just let it go. The past is in the past!" To that I say: YOU ARE NOT QUEEN ELSA STOP IT. And, just because I think these things doesn't mean I'm not trusting God. 

And that brings me to the heart of this post. (You thought I forgot!)
As Christians, we need to stop trying to fit our expectations of marriage and couples into a box.

I will say this until I'm on my deathbed: No one is perfect. We are humans. 

After I accidentally found out about The Ring, but before we even began planning our glorified Fancy Party, I was researching videographers. I stumbled across a video of a Picture Perfect Christian Couple. I recognized this PPCC because I had seen their wedding in The Knot magazine. I fell in love with the venue that was close to where we lived, the cute groom's sweater and the beautiful bride's furs that she and her maids were wrapped in. It was late and I was supposed to be studying, but I HAD TO click their video. I wept like I had never wept before. Perfect music, snow, candles! THE FURS YOU GUYS. But what got me were The Vows. They promised to lead one another in Christ, to submit to each other in Christ, to be an example, to love, protect, serve, pray for, and honor each other purely... No joke, I cried for an hour, and watched the video eight times. After doing some creepy Facebook stalking, I found the bride's business website and sent her a long email detailing every.thing.I.felt about their Vows. I never heard back and was crushed, but showed the video to my sister who cried with me, sent it to all my friends, and to D, who promptly said "oh I know her." It was the typical small town Pennsylvania response. I huffed and told him that I wanted our wedding to be exactly like that PPCC's wedding. 

It wasn't until after The Ring and after I met people who were at that wedding (one person, who I now know and love dearly said to me "it wasn't that special...."), that I realized that I was idolizing their wedding. Intrigued, I dug deeper and realized what it really was: I idolized their relationship with each other and their relationship in relation to God.

 These perfect strangers had become my gods for how I wanted D and I to feel about God. But we weren't there. Because we weren't right for each other and because the whole thing was wrong. We didn't rely on the Still Small Voice for anything in our lives. I was waiting for the Winds and the Fire and for some Disaster to force one of us to end it. 

Sometimes the Still Small Voice comes in the form of your Mom. Sometimes the Fire is in the form of SisterDear who you fought with relentlessly which ended in a panic attack and regrettable words and slamming doors. Sometimes the Winds are your best friends...your Council who have held their tongues until they've bled and they are forced to finally break their silence with love and honest words. Sometimes the Disaster is finally taking the ring off before you end things, and praying you don't see anyone you know so you can avoid answering the dreaded question that comes after the Left Hand Wedding Band Glance: "Is everything okay with you and D?"
Sometimes it's laying in each other's arms in moments of vulnerability and sacredness and exhaustion and knowing in your heart of hearts that this isn't Forever. It's just Right Now. And that's what I think we Christians don't talk about. That sometimes Right Now is okay. It might not be in God's long-term plans for our lives, but this is the path He has led us on, and sometimes Right Now is all you have to remind you that God is in control. Sometimes Right Now ends and becomes Not Anymore. And that's okay too. 
God has gone before you, into every place you will step foot as an engaged person, a married person, a divorced person, a single person, a mother, father, sister, brother, etc...he blesses your obedience but in order to be obedient you have to let go of the shame that we as Christians, for whatever reason, carry around surrounding the issues of broken engagements or long-term relationships, and truly listen to and feel and acknowledge the areas of your life where God is asking for your obedience. 
It's hard, but it's good.

It's hard to talk about, but it's good to talk about. You wouldn't believe the amount of women I've run into over the last 8 months who have said "I was engaged too. I understand what you're going through. It's hard, but it's good." It makes me wonder how many people we miss in our daily encounters who, no matter the event, can lend a truly empathetic ear.

What if we gently normalize broken relationships? What if we say, "Sometimes life doesn't go as planned. Sometimes you think you're following God's plan but he gently leads you down another path, and that's okay. It's hard but it's good." How many of us would find a companion to walk through the storms with us, if we were willing to just be okay talking about this openly? 

Truthfully, I've found that sometimes not having a filter pays off. Sometimes all we need is a little too much information to make a solid connection. I'm open, and I'm asking you to be open to the idea of telling your story as well. Don't worry about it being messy. It's important and beautiful. Let's share them with each other, together. 




Photo Credit: Svatia Michelle Photography



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Welcome Back! [Welcome to My Life in Lancaster!]

Welcome back everyone! I've reinstated my blog now that I have found a full time job. Today I'm writing about transitions, and My Life in Lancaster. (That sounds like a great book title...) This one is a little long, but I have months of life to catch you up on, with a good resolution at the end. Join me, and stick with me during this new chapter! Love you all!
-S.

Transitions are hard.

Whether you’re starting the next level of your schooling, a new career, or a new chapter of your life, it’s hard to deny--change is tough.

I have always had an immense amount of pride in my ability to handle change. My top StrengthsFinder is Adaptability...I go with the flow, and whisper that first part of the Serenity Prayer. You know, “God grant  me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” If I were brave enough, I’d tattoo it on the back of my hand as a constant reminder.

But recently I’ve come to realize that “change” and “a time of transition” aren’t always the same thing. We often use them interchangeably, and this of course varies for everyone…my definition of “change” is something that happens unexpectedly and throws off my routine or balance. And my definition of “a time of transition” is something that has been anticipated.

This new chapter that I’ve started is undeniably a life change, but it’s more of a transition. I have been anticipating moving to Lancaster for 5 years. It was the summer of 2010 when I made my first long-term visit. I stayed for a week with Liesl and we had our inaugural year of kids theatre camp. I met so many people who have influenced the woman I am now and I will never forget that. Each year since then, I’ve made the trek back and forth for various reasons, and about 6 months before I got engaged I knew that I had to spend my engagement in the city of Lancaster.

That didn’t happen. Instead I had to deal with change. He moved, I stayed. I was plagued by crippling panic attacks for weeks after he left. I shoved the idea of moving to Lancaster out of my head and tried to tread water for as long as I could. 6 months later, our engagement ended, and a friend who knows absolutely everything about me looked at me and said, “you should move in with me. It could just be the change that you need.”

I said a bold "yes." Forgetting that my bank account had barely enough money for a shopping spree let alone rent and a security deposit.

In June, we found a place.

In August, I moved in.

And here we are, September 15, 2015. I've been here exactly one month, and I have not stopped to breathe. And I don't regret it at all! I'm doing audience services for PRiMA Theatre, which was the best leap of faith I could have taken. I've transitioned from working part time in a theatre (Shout out to my State Theatre family! I miss you guys!) to working full time in a boutique as a stylist (getting paid to suggest clothes to people? Absofreakinglutely up my alley.) And this time next week, I will have started training at my new full-time job at the American Music Theatre as a box office associate! A job in my field that I LOVE and that I'm darn good at too!

I have had one day "off" since August 15th, and honestly, as someone who has [regrettably] taken pride in being a bit of a slacker, I'm enjoying stretching myself thin. (Although I'm exhausted beyond words.)

But sometimes being busy is an excuse to not focus on the hard parts of transitioning.

In the last two months, I've had my heart broken, I've had to wrestle with issues of race in the outside world and where/if I fit into those hard conversations, I've been misjudged, argued with, and have argued with myself about my own intentions, convictions and integrity. All of these things are hard to deal with. And then add moving on top of them! I was a mess! I still am. And that's okay.

Admitting that you're a mess (yes, YOU), is the first step to recognizing where you are in life. My roommate has this little window decoration that says "Your beautifully messy complicated story matters. (tell it.)" and I'm pretty sure that's become our motto over the last few years. It's ok to feel lost. It's ok to not know what's coming up even if you have it seemingly altogether. Even though I might seem "set" career wise for now, I'm anticipating more changes and transitions coming up. Because that's the way life works. 
You can't avoid change, you can only react to it the healthiest way you can. Maybe for you that means having someone "on call" who you can vent to--a friend, mentor, or therapist. Maybe that means a visit home to see your mom and have her make you a good home-cooked meal. Maybe that means going on a dating hiatus and figuring out yourself. Maybe (UGH) it means deactivating Facebook and digging into the Bible or a good book study. Maybe it means getting a dog or a cat!

Figuring out what you need to do to keep yourself intact is the only way to survive transitions. Everyone copes differently, but I'm confident that you cannot and should not do it alone. I have my Council of women who I can go to whenever life gets scary. And as weird as it might seem, I'm finally seeing that my mom is one of them. Your mom is less intimidating once you get into your 20s. Trust me.
Having people who know you and that you trust is essential, and super helpful. I'm thankful for all those people in my life; without them I would have drowned in an ocean of uncertainty. Everyone's story is different, and that's what keeps the world so beautiful. We connect over the mess, over someone saying "you too?? I thought it was just me!" Be vulnerable. Surround yourself with like-minded people. 

So, all that to say: change is hard. But it's inevitable. Deal with it the best way you know how.

If nothing else I've written sticks, remember this:
Your story, changes and transitions are important. They're messy, but that's ok. So are everyone else's. They matter, but more importantly, you matter.

Hold on, everyone. We are all in for one heck of a ride!
-S.





Monday, March 2, 2015

A Quick Update

Happy Monday, everyone! 

I'm wiped OUT from this weekend's XStream youth winter retreat. We had a great time at Pocono Plateau with two other local churches. The snow was gorgeous, the food was good, and a lot of great connections were made. Unfortunately around 5 AM Sunday, a nasty stomach bug befell one of the guy students. His fearless leader, who had been taking care of him, sent out a group text around 5 PM saying he had contracted it as well. Please say a prayer for David and Colin, and the rest of our team and students as a lot of us are sliding into midterms and can't really afford to get sick! 

While I'd love to take this time to talk about how amazing the weekend was, this post isn't about XStream. It is however, about my relationship with Lando.

In December, Lando and I decided that it was best that we postpone the wedding. I don't really remember a clear reason why, other than the obvious fact that something was "off." Several weeks and insane arguments later, I knew that something had to change. After seeking wise counsel, and a few awkward encounters, I decided it was time to end our relationship. It truly wasn't a mutual decision, even though we have both painted it that way out of respect for what happened. We have decided to focus on other separate life opportunities (note: There are several things I want to do that would have kept us apart for our first year of marriage, and no one wants to do that...), and focus on strengthening our relationships with God. We are trying this whole "let's be friends" thing, and we  most definitely appreciate the support from our family and friends. 

Yes, it's hard, and it sucks, and it has probably shocked the pants off of you, but honestly, God has already blessed this decision. He's gone before us and we have willingly followed his path. It doesn't completely make sense yet, but it will. 

We are both willing to talk about this, so please don't shy away because you're afraid of saying something "wrong." We are still Star and Lando, even though we aren't StarAndLando anymore. It'll be good. It's already good. We are resting in the truth that we have an entire lifetime ahead of us, even if it's not a lifetime we share as husband and wife. 

We love you all, and look forward to having you continue this journey with us in this new way. 

Peace and Blessings
-S. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

XStream Talking Points/Blog Post: Lies I Believed In High School

We're doing a dating series in XStream right now. And for those of you who have been keeping up with my life, you probably know that this is a strange topic for me right now. (For those of you who don't know, I'll be happy to talk about it privately over coffee, or via carrier pigeon.) This is the last week of our series, and we are splitting the guys and girls up for the Group Talk. The girls are going to be talking about body image/identifying our worth in Christ/confidence etc...and the boys will be talking about the lies of pornography. It's going to be a heavy night, but I'm praying it will be worth it. (I know it will be!)

I'm sharing tonight on the lie that I still have a tendency to give into: the lie that I'm "too much" or "too intimidating" or "too loud." When I was in middle school, I was the girl screaming at the lunch table over nothing. I talked loudly because I liked the attention. But sometimes it felt like I was losing the attention I desired because I was loud. My mom always told tells me that my voice carries. I'm just a loud talker. And it wasn't until I was in college that I realized that being a loud talker/being a great projector, isn't going to make or break my life. In fact, projecting well, as an actress, is actually one of the best things for your career.

In high school, I was always told, "be mysterious. Boys like girls with a little mystery." Even now as a 26 year old, I'm furrowing my brow at that. What the heck does that mean? I guess now it means "Don't lay out all of your personal baggage on the first date." But what does it mean to a 15 year old? To me, it translates to "Don't be too loud. Don't burp like one of the guys. Don't talk loudly about sports if you don't really know what you're saying." (Side note: last week at XStream, Juliandra and I asked the girls to write down what they thought they could do to become more "datable." 98% of them said "learn more about sports.")
 Anyway, I don't in anyway intend to downplay this bit of advice from my mother, but I wish I had known to ask for clarification. I would try to "be mysterious" around the boys I had crushes on...talking quieter, not really answering their questions, etc..., but that's not who I am. I'm outgoing, and vibrant, and when I think "mystery," when it comes to a character trait, I picture some girl hiding behind a thick Mark Twain (J.K. Rowling? Who is popular these days...?) novel, and wearing long skirts, and avoiding eye contact with all humans. And that's not a bad thing if that is your true personality! But I think for a long time, I tried to be something I wasn't when it came to having "mystery." I'm not the type of girl who has the time to have people hem and haw over what I like, or what I might be interested in doing on a Friday night. If you want to hang, if you want to get to know me, let's communicate about that. I will say, "Hey, my name is Star and I'm un-apologetically outgoing and I will tell you everything you need to know about being my casual acquaintance, or friend." I understand and respect that not everyone is wired like that (97% of my friends are introverts), BUT, I am truly of the belief that if you aren't being true to your personality, you are not living up to the person God created you to be. So if "being mysterious" is something you're good at, rock it! If being outgoing is something you're good at, rock it!

Either way: 
Never let anyone tell you you're too "this" or too "that" 
as if it makes or breaks your entire life. 
It doesn't define you now, or ever.

The lie that we are too much comes from a place of insecurity. But it doesn't need to be a hindrance when we realize that we are made in the Image of God and and grasp onto the idea that our identity is found in Christ only. No exceptions. 

You might ask what this means or what this looks like and, honestly, I don't know if I have an answer other than this that fits every single person: "Women must think rightly about being representatives of God made in His image, and fulfilling his purposes" (Matt Chandler, Beautiful Design). Each one of us is made with a purpose that is more than being the prettiest girl in the room, or the most talented, or the most mysterious, or outgoing. What matters is that we are here to do God's work...to live the life he has set before us. Younger girls might not realize it now, but each one of us is called to a higher purpose..whether that's going into ministry, being an actress, or being a professional athlete- God will use us to His glory.

Who you were created to be is already accepted by God. Don't worry about being accepted by others. Who you are in Christ is "enough." You are never too over-exuberant, or too mysterious.  

You are enough. Don't let anyone try to convince you that you need to change that.