الخليل, al-Khalil, Hebron

I know I left y’all with a cliffhanger, but hold on to your seats because things are about to get a little crazy. This post will provide a little bit of history, and I’ll add some hyperlinks if anyone would like to do their own research.

I was staying in Hebron (Al-Khalil in Arabic), which is considered to be one of the holiest cities in the Holy Land. It’s about an hour away from Jerusalem and 30 minutes away from Bethlehem. It is a bustling city that overwhelmed this suburban girl, who is not used to dodging yellow taxis and trying not to run into all the people on the street. Hebron is a resilient city that continues to thrive in the midst of occupation. I walked down the street every day greeted with smiles, welcomes, and sometimes free coffee or falafel! I was never harassed or objectified which is something I have come to expect whether I’m abroad or at home. This was a massive relief as I was able to travel freely by myself throughout the city and that was so liberating for me as a woman traveling alone. I looked lost more than once, and people would take time to direct me to where I needed to go. One time my taxi driver called the person I needed to meet up with because I was so lost and my Arabic was horrendous. I was a frequent visitor to the Nutella shop, drolled over the fresh falafel being cooked outside, and literally fell in love with shisha. My host family was THE best, and I plan on sharing my experience living with a Palestinian family because they are seriously AMAZING.

Hebron-Map-022312
H1 and H2

When I first arrived in Hebron, I had no idea how conflicted the city was and how it is divided between the Palestinians and the Israelis (see above). I knew that obviously there is a divide between Israel and the West Bank, but it was a shock to learn that THE CITY was divided into H1 (Palestinian) and H2 (Israeli).  My first few days, I lived in blissful ignorance in H1 until I realized the Old City of Hebron is in H2. My host mom took my roommate and me to the Ibrahimi Mosque, and we were greeted with a checkpoint and two armed Israeli soldiers.

I had the privilege to have a tour of H2 with my Palestinian history teacher, who has special permission as his family is one of the few Palestinian families still living in H2. The amazing, Amos Libby, did an interview with my Palestinian teacher that you can check out here. His voice is so important as you hear first-hand someone who grew up in H2. I also encourage you to friend Amos Libby on Facebook, he gives an unfiltered view of life in the West Bank. He is a fountain of knowledge and taught me so much during my time in Hebron.

Something that I learned and could not shake was that in 1994 an American Jewish settler (which a lot of American people are illegal settlers in the West Bank) entered the Ibrahimi mosque and killed 29 people and injured more than a hundred while they were praying. In response, the Israeli government began to take control of what was once Palestinian land in the name of protecting Jewish settlers. If you would like to read more about it in detail, click here. It is also important to note that in the illegal Isreali settlement this man is regarded as a martyr.

We walked down Al-Shuhada Street that segregates Palestinians from Israelis. This take over of Shuhuda street forced many Palestinians to leave their businesses, homes, and livelihoods. For example, Palestinians who live in H2 are no longer allowed to drive, but Israeli settlers are free to drive throughout the settlement I go into more detail with pictures on my Instagram story. I will make sure to archive it under H2 when the 24hrs is up so it will stay on my page. Also, a break down of the checkpoint leading to H2 (pictured below) can be found here.

As an American, I have the privilege to move between H1 and H2 freely, but I quickly determined that if my Palestinian friends couldn’t go then I wasn’t going either. Martin Luther King Day is coming up, and it’s easy to search google and find an MLK quote that makes you feel good. But I challenge you to think and meditate on this quote.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Think about it. 

 

 

Ps. Next, I’ll spill the beans about my experience in Jerusalem and Trump’s decision, and if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, educate yourself.

Pss. I’m open to questions and comments. Starting conversations are vital in demolishing ignorance and establishing justice.

and yes, it took me forever to type Al-Khalil in Arabic. I’m trying y’all.

 

 

Why Palestine?

Over the next few days/weeks, I hope to publish a series of post about my two weeks in Palestine. I am determined to share my authentic experience and hope that whoever reads this, reads it with an open mind and heart. 

When I first found out about going to Palestine, I made sure to tell everyone I was going to Israel. I didn’t want all the extra questions and wanted to avoid all the “warnings.” The idea came when I ran across an internship program that offered Arabic classes and immersion in the Palestinian culture. I was instantly intrigued, but also a little apprehensive.

Growing up and having a southern, Christian education there are certain things you learn, and you learn them fast. During my middle school and high school years I was in and out of Christian schools, and my first memory of genuinely learning about Israel was in a series of books, the Zion Chronicles, that my teacher encouraged me to read. I was enamored and instantly enthralled with the history of Israel and how God brought it all together for them. In high school, we had Bible classes and Bible history that literally had me repenting every other minute because I was sure the rapture would happen anytime. These classes educated me on the superiority of Israel and the evilness of Palestine for making it hard for Israel to become a nation. For example, for a project, we were assigned to write about some of the “evil” (non-Christian) leaders in the world, and mine was over Yasser Arafat. I used texts from my school and literally wrote about how bad this man was, not knowing anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s important to note this teacher was utterly disgusted that there was a mosque a mile away from our Christian school.

I say all that to say, it wasn’t until a year and a half ago I decided to step out of my comfort zone of what I had known my whole life. I allowed myself to doubt, question, and explore the things that bothered me about my faith. (i.e., evangelicals obsession with Trump, lack of diversity in church leadership, the cliche verses, diverted gazes, awkward promises of prayer, and pity filled eyes that were directed at me when I tried to explain why I needed a break from serving in the church and church people, etc.)  It has been a long, lonely, scary season of discovery and I realize that the most significant thing I have gained is that I am open to genuinely learning about things outside the safety of my Christian bubble.

I realized that I wanted to step away from mission trips (something I will expound on soon) and begin to unlearn the ideas and the preconceived notions that were weaved into my Christian education. SO all of that lead me to find a program in Palestine. While Harvey wrecked havoc on Houston, I locked myself in my room and researched for hours about an occupied land and an oppressed people that I had NO idea about. I read so much that I started to doubt half of the stuff I was reading, and that’s was when I knew I needed to go and see for myself.

My goal in going to Palestine was to learn. No agenda to try and convert people or go on some vast spiritual journey to the Holy Land. It was to go and see if the stories I read were real.

And man, was I in for the most heartbreaking reality check.

New Beginnings

I just felt like I had to be real because life happens and I sometimes suck at dealing with it, and I love airing my business out anyway. This past year, almost to the date, my life was shifting faster than I could handle. I had just gotten back from Haiti, and that trip honestly left me broken. I was angry at God and confused at what the hell I was doing with my life. I looked for answers in my church community but learned to hide my pain by pouring all I had into the local church. However, my bitterness for the church began to grow, and I isolated myself and felt like I lost all my “church identity” when I stepped back from what I’ve known my whole life.

My family was crazy as any family is, but I didn’t have the emotional capacity to deal with the drama and lashed out more than what I’m proud of. It wasn’t until the panic attacks came that I knew I was in trouble. The long nights, the nightmares, and the chest pain were suddenly part of my life. But that wasn’t my breaking point. Not until a month ago, when I couldn’t pep talk myself out of my sadness, I couldn’t pray away what was plaguing me, and I couldn’t find that Bible passage to flood me with peace; did I finally take my mom’s advice to go see a therapist.

I remember the night before beating myself up because maybe I wasn’t trusting God enough, or I was less of a woman because of my inability to handle emotional stress healthily. BUT surprisingly, therapy has been a Godsend in more ways than one. I’m still a mess, but a mess that is seeking help and can’t lie anymore that I have it all together and that I read my Bible and pray all the time. Cause I don’t. There is a stigma around mental health that makes me scared even to post this, and I’ve gotten some backlash for even admitting that I’m even seeing a therapist. All I can say is Jesus knew I needed a little extra help and therapy will only help me grow into the healthy young woman I’m called to be.

Good

Last year I wrote a post called I Have Issues (read it first!). I want to give a little back story to the post and wrote about how things have changed in the past 11 months. I’m excited/nervous writing this because I have been somewhat private on social media about my relationships. He has been faithful in the midst of the choices that I’ve made, and I feel comfortable sharing a little bit of my journey.

Last year at the beginning of April, I was broken up with. The relationship didn’t last that long, but I was hurting. I had never really experienced heartbreak and I got my first taste last year. It sucked. It really truly sucked. I cried and prayed a lot. I was essentially broken up with because our dreams didn’t align. I was stuck on Haiti and not compromising a cent about it. I had to process through some anger and rejection that I had never felt before.

The relationship dissolved and soon after I get a message about how I got into the Haiti internship. I was over the moon ecstatic and it somehow eased the burden of my broken heart. Just a little. However, if you read in my post I turned down the internship. Oh boy, there were not enough tissues. I was heartbroken, defeated, weary. I mean all of the sad words you can think of I was embodying all of them. ALL OF THEM.

Days lead to weeks and then to months where my pain was building up in my heart and I felt something had to give. I was angry at God, angry at men, just angry. So like a crazy person I deleted my Instagram (the craziest, most emotional thing that I regret to this day), I deleted around 400 people off of my Facebook and deactivated it, I deleted Snapchat, and I stopped writing. I was on a mission to ease my pain, but I ended up causing myself more pain as I isolated myself and found myself embarrassed for feeling how I was feeling.

For months, I wrestled with Jesus. FOR MONTHS. I couldn’t find or see any goodness coming out of my situation. I honestly wasn’t looking for it either. I had somehow gotten comfortable in my “woe is me” attitude. I was done wrong and things didn’t go my way, so I had every right to feel the way I felt. I read my journal from that time and I cringe. I was a hot minute away from losing my mind.

To make a really sad and long story short, I never took that class. I dropped out the second week, started working full time over the summer, and then enrolled into Prairie View A&M. Funny how NOTHING ever goes as planned.

All of this leads me to today. I am a little over a month removed from being out of a relationship. Again this one didn’t last that long and was way more amicable than the last. Not that the heartbreak wasn’t as bad. I’m still feeling throbs here and there. But it’s crazy how literally a few days after the relationship ended I got the call that I got into the same internship again! Hello.

Hello.

I took inventory today because I realized how I am in a much better place than I was last year. I’ve had an awesome community of women holding me up and covering me. All-nighters, sparkling wine, belly laughs, weepy telephone calls, prayer nights, car worship sessions, check up calls, and funny memes on Instagram; every single one has been instrumental in my healing. Instead of disconnecting like I did before I forced myself to open up to my closest loved ones about what I was walking through. I gave myself permission to cry to sad songs, but also gave myself permission to be happy. I acted out in emotion, but I repented for my wrong doings. I gave myself time to be alone to process, but also made sure I was connecting to others in a healthy way. Now, I have not been perfect. I have lost my cool a few times these last few weeks. The people who have been on the other end of my mishaps can testify. This breakup has shown me so much about myself more than anything and it’s been a little unnerving. But I’ll write a post on that soon because it’s a lot!

Jesus, Oh Jesus. I can’t tell you how true the scripture is when it says He is close to the brokenhearted. There are no words to describe the presence that I have felt these past few weeks. I found that as I earnestly sought Him He would meet me where I was at. EVERY SINGLE TIME. My prayer and worship life have undergone some transformation. There is a dependency that I have found in this season that I have never possessed. An intimacy that is undeniable and has carried me through the longest of nights.

At the end of the day, I have an understanding that I lacked going through my last break up. The very nature of the Lord is that He longs and is delighted to be good to me. It is His pleasure to shower me with his goodness and mercy. There is not a day that goes by that I am not on His mind every second, every minute, every hour of the day. He sees my choices and decisions and doesn’t condemn me for them. Whether they be right or wrong He never removed himself from my side. Every step of the way, every right and wrong choice, I have never been alone. Walking through relationships, and walking out of relationships His goodness has never failed. His plan for my life had not been broken down or halted. His mercy has a way of transforming every situation for His ultimate glory. This truth has carried me through my bad days and my good days.

The Lord is good to me. Always.

One Day At A Time

*Sorry if this blog post comes across as choppy, vague, or evasive. Over time, I plan to write more about the time I took to process and the things I learned but for now, it’s good to be back!

It’s been a while and a long time coming. There have been so many instances these last few months that I wanted to spell out everything going on in my life but ended up staring at a blank screen. Somehow, the words and stories fell short of actually reaching my computer screen and I was stuck. I was stuck for a long time.

It’s been a process, a long process. Now that I look back, I had to heal. There were things I had walked through and were walking through that didn’t necessarily need to be publicized. I was learning discernment throughout and realized the Lord was protecting me from a lot. If I were to have written in those moments it would have been out of a place of hurt, shame, pain, and hopelessness. I needed time to let the Lord truly minister to my heart in those moments. He had to take me back to the basics and remind me who He is and who I am in Him.

Today, I’m in a much better place. I took some time to seek wise counsel, I made time for myself to focus on what I was lacking, I made big girl decisions regarding my spiritual growth, and prayed like never before. I had to learn a lesson these past few months. It took me a while to understand exactly what was going on, but now it’s like a lightbulb has gone off.

“Say yes for today.”

I wish I could go on and on about the fear that cripples me as I think about the future, and how it causes me to  immediately start shaking my head. I hear the promises of the Lord and instead of receiving it and claiming it, I immediately allow fear and doubt to take over. This has happened more times that I would like to admit as a “believer” especially since the New Year rolled around with a fresh new set of promises.

I realize now just how much time I have wasted feeding into this fear. I could have been working on seeing these promises come to fruition but I’ve locked myself down and haven’t moved an inch. I realize now this is how the enemy likes to play. To try and make the possible seem so impossible, and use fear to rob you of precious time. I have been robbed of time, sleep, and peace of mind worrying about something that I don’t even have to worry about!

So today, I take back my peace of mind. I’ve been letting fear cripple me, and stop me from sharing AMAZING NEWS!

In January, I got accepted into Coreluv’s Internship. I have the privilege to serve in Haiti for the whole month of June this year. 

I’ve been so hesitant to share or even try and grasp going back to Haiti. It’s been a long time coming and to have it sitting in my lap, I’ve literally been stuck like a deer in headlights. I’ve allowed fear to rob me of my excitement because I knew fundraising would have to happen, and we all know fundraising stretches your faith like no other. I’ll have a blog post about the story and the internship soon!

But today and every day after, I say Yes. I say yes because I have experienced the goodness of Jesus. I say yes because it is Jesus’ nature to be good to me. I say yes because He has never failed me, not once. I say yes because in Him all promises are yes and amen. I say yes because He had this planned out before the beginning of time and He knows what He’s doing. I say yes because I trust Him. I trust Him to do what only He can do, to calm this anxious heart of mine, and give me rest. I say yes because I love Him. I love Him not for what He has done or what He will do, I love Him for who He is. He is mine, and I am His. Always.

Jesus, give me the strength to say yes even when I don’t understand. In the moments where confusion or doubt creep in, remind me of your faithfulness. Give me the peace knowing that when I say yes you have control and you won’t let me fall.  Help me say yes in my weakness, to not let pride rob me of my promise. Let my days be filled with yes.  Forever and ever. Amen. 

Black + Woman

Black Woman,

Your history in this country is one soaked in prejudice and corrupt perceptions. You, the first black woman slave, was shipped across the water to be the property of a master. From the beginning you were targeted and abused. Your body was vandalized and crudely labeled. You carried the shame of black skin and were constantly penalized for it.

You were forced into a mold. A happy slave who loved their master. You were Mammy. You did what you were told, and never forgot a smile. You were painted plump, with dark skin. You were depicted as loyal, but you always knew your subordinate place. However, you were Jezebel too. You were labeled as promiscuous and blamed for your voluptuous body. You were known to seduce other women’s men. But if they knew the truth, they would know that it was never your choice to have your body ravaged by those who refused your freedom.

You, black woman, have a history. A history that continues to show truths of a horrific arrival in the land you now call home. You have come a long way as you have lived through the legacy of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Jacobs. These women paved the way for your heroes: Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and Ella Baker. Your history has been a fierce battle for basic rights and a chance to rise above the stain of your skin color.

Today, black woman, you live in a country where you are free. You breathe and hold on to what those before you could not fathom. However, you have your own battle to wage. Your sons lay dying in the streets and diminishing in jail cells. Your daughters are objectified; losing hope and pride in what once was their refuge.

You, black woman, have seen and felt it all. You have dealt with the pain that you would never wish on another woman. You are aware of the system that belittles you, and continuously drowns out your voice. You are battle weary and broken from your fight. This battle continues to wage from one generation to the next with no end in sight.

But black woman, don’t give up yet. You are not alone. Your black skin holds together a body that can and will brave any storm that comes your way. Your black skin houses a mind filled with brilliance, intelligence, and wisdom. Your black skin protects a heart that has been broken and mended many times over for the injustices you and your family have endured. Your black skin is fashioned to withstand the birth and nourishment of your black children. And your black skin encloses a voice box that creates a cry that refuses to be silent.

Rise up, black woman.  It is too soon to be weary. Pursue the legacy and the wisdom that your grandmothers granted you. Pursue the dream that your mothers prayed and spoke over you. Pursue hope, peace, and beauty for your black daughters, and continue to pursue justice and restoration for your black sons. Your change will come like the rain, pouring healing on a soul and renewing dignity to the heart.

You, black woman, are not alone. Millions of others have walked this jagged and uneven road before you.

You are resilient.

You are strong.

You are a black woman.

“My grandmother and my two aunts were an exhibition in resilience and resourcefulness and black womanhood. They rarely talked about the unfairness of the world with the words that I use now with my social justice friends, words like “intersectionality” and “equality”, “oppression”, and “discrimination”. They didn’t discuss those things because they were too busy living it, navigating it, surviving it.” – Janet Mock

You Are

You are a woman.

A marvelous tapestry of nurturing tendencies and emotions.

You have permission to laugh loudly at the wrong time, to be clumsy, and to say the wrong things.

You can be emotional, and allow things to touch you deeply.

You have permission to ugly cry in secret and in front of others.

You have something to say, so why not say it?

You are creative and a force to be reckoned with.

You are filled with grace. Not only for others, but most importantly for yourself. You will forgive yourself for the things done in the past and the things you will do in the future.

You are dynamic.

A constantly evolving story that anyone has the privilege go be apart of.

You are allowed to spell things wrong, spill things on your nice dress, and speak your mind on what stirs your heart.

You are not perfect and you might not ever be able to wear heels after a long night, but you have your whole life ahead of you to improve. And what a glorious adventure that will be!

You are a traveler. One who knows no stranger.

You are not bound by other’s words, misconceptions, or judgements.

Continue to talk fast, sing loud, and laugh till your cheeks hurt.

Remember your Maker, and remember your shame no more.

Let your hair frizz and tangle. Let your hands get colorful and dirty. Let your insecurities know who you are.

You are well-loved, so love deeply and confidently. Continue to study love, learn to love others better and more fully.

You are no fool. Your momma made sure of that. She taught you that you have wisdom granted to you from the Good Lord to get you through every situation. All you have to do is ask.

You won’t forget those who came before you. You honor those who sacrificed for you, and set the foundation for your many years to come.

You are strong and unique. You are all you need to be for such a time as this.

You are fiery and brave. Nothing can stop you or discourage you from what the Lord has called you to do.

You are hopeful. You continue to hope, expect, and pray for what’s to come.

You are confident that no weapon formed against you will prosper.

You are loud! Heard by all and loved by many. However, make sure you continue to use discernment for those times when silence is key and words aren’t needed.

You are a beautiful woman.

You are brighter than any sun, richer than any chocolate cake, and bolder than any strong coffee.

You are a life that reflects freely of your Creator.

Embrace what the Son has to offer you, you beautiful woman.