Blog Post: Is that It?: Mastering the Divine…And Now What?

College Graduation back in 2011 was glorious. It was filled with tears and laughs, with much joy and was quite a celebration. Ultimately, I knew where I was going after caps were thrown, after diplomas were passed around a circle to find your own (a Smith tradition – if you don’t know, when you walk across the stage, you don’t get your own diploma, but someone else’s, and it isn’t until after graduation that you find yours. Concentric circles are formed and diplomas are passed around civilly at first, as grads look for their diplomas and then civility turns into a frantic search for the proper name delicately embossed in gold upon the front.), and so for me, this whole day was a stepping stone, a part of the journey, and yes, the closing of one door, but the opening of another. Tears were indeed shed, but I knew that in eight short weeks, I would be answering God’s call and meeting my long lost best friends in Princeton – they just didn’t know it yet. But never would I have imagined that I would be meeting people who would change my life, and people I would consider my family. 

Graduating a few short days ago from seminary was something different. I think I now understand the meaning of pure joy, as there were no tears, only elation. It felt exciting to be in the university chapel, but also a bit strange as well – strange that my time had come to receive a diploma, and my time to depart from this place. 

Now what? Princeton prepares you for a lot of things. To think theologically, to speak in large words, to argue with colleagues about eschatology, ecclesiology, sacramentology and a whole lot of other theologies. And yet, they don’t prepare you for what comes next. For the adjustment to a community that is no longer yours, for what it means to call yourself a graduate from the seminary, not a seminary student, looking for a call, or transitioning into a call (in my case), looking for new housing, and all the emotional mess of not living with your bestest of friends anymore. Lets face it, seminary is three years of easy access to the best theological minds, the most incredible people, and the greatest library in the US, and once you’ve been handed the diploma, you’re off into the wide world of ministry to teach, preach, and as Dr. Barnes said yesterday morning, “be amazing.” Well, that’s a lofty expectation for us, and my class is certainly capable of such a statement, but a bit of a transition period should be expected as well.  

This amazing place that I have called home for the last three years will always carry a special place in my heart, and yet, it will no longer be the community I love after commencement. When the people I care greatly about move on to their own ministries, calls and mission fields, the feel of the place will naturally change, and my space in it will close, slowly pushing me out. This is all normal – the normal ebb and flow of time that I have grown to depend on, look forward to, and look to for the comings and goings of my daily existence no longer include me, no longer exist. Princeton as it was a few weeks ago is no longer as it stands now. It is summer in Princeton, as it was in 2013, 2012, and 2011 when I was here in years past, and yet, the sounds made, the way the wind moves and the smell of the air is different. Everything is bittersweet, as each day is a last in its own way. 

I still feel a great sense of joy about this past weekend, about receiving my diploma, and about walking up to shake the hand of the president who has come to hear the story of how I arrived to be where I am, and in doing so has called me a miracle. Every step I have taken over the last few years has had a purpose, even if for no one else, it has had purpose for me. I have learned here, been called here, fallen here, been nurtured here, and now, am being pushed into the great unknown from here. 

Perhaps it is with this amalgamation of emotions that I greet this new chapter of my life – with great joy, and also with a great deal of trepidation – am I truly called? Did God get all this right in calling someone as fearful, inferior and unprepared as me? I am ready – ready for this next hop, skip and a jump, ready for the beginning of the next chapter, ready for whatever small challenges are thrown at me. 

But to do it outside the bounds of this community is frightening – all my challenges and battles have been fought and won here – all the difficult life lessons have been learned here. Will life be harder when I don’t have the soft cushion of my wonderful community? God is everywhere, and therefore, God will be with me no matter where I go, and no matter what ministry I am a part of, who I am serving, and what area I am in service to, and the problems I face will be rather interchangeable. Same problems, different clothing location. 

Seminary prepares you for the book stuff – the heady knowledge that is nice, but you’ll likely see on occasions that come few and far between. Seminary doesn’t prepare you for the transition away from the place – the saying of goodbyes, the finding of jobs, the searching for calls, and the looking for the Spirit in all sorts of places. That’s where your friends, your community of faith, and your deep down hard and home-grown faith comes in. That’s where your ability to be selfless and not egotistical comes in. 

So as I head into a summer of working in the administration office of the seminary that has just given me the stamp of approval to head into my Father’s world. I don’t feel ready right now, but if I don’t go, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be. I’ve been deemed ready and fit, and been told that I’m quite something, and if that’s not reason enough, then I might as well get the heck out there and see what this world has to hold for me. It was created for me, just as much as I was created for it, and at some point, I need to just get out there and see what needs to be done, however scary it feels to be the new kid on the block again! And by the grace of God, community will form elsewhere, in a new form, with new people, and with a new purpose.

 

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Blog Post: Stuff.

Messages are powerful. Life stories are powerful. But how they are told is key. My CPE supervisor once told me that the words we use to tell our stories have the power to either magnify or mute them altogether, to either open the ears of our listeners or deafen them. As people in the 21st century, we have tremendous access to many more people through social media of all sorts – blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the like. Emotions of all sorts can be conveyed in 140 characters more or less, and people can be hurt in just as many. Relationships can be ended with the click of a button, and friendships can be ended by simply “unfriending” someone as though it is just that easy. Grades and GPAs are bragged and boasted about in Facebook statuses, lives are celebrated, victories are announced, and passive-aggressive natures are praised and celebrated, if not made the social norm. 

Something I have realized in the final few weeks of my seminary life, although in reality, it has been perhaps mulling around in speech bubbles over my head for much longer, are the words we use, not the grades we gain. As grades and cumulative GPAs are released over the coming days and weeks, it is expected that the desire to post whether we got an A or B, a 4.0 or a 3.9 and so on in a certain class for the world to see, to collect bragging rights, to one up someone, to show people who may have doubted us and our potential. But what does this really and truly gain in the end? Perhaps it does make us feel better, and it should. Doing well academically is to be celebrated – but grades are not the be-all, end-all of ministry, nor do they assess how we are doing in relation to the body of Christ. Yes, seminary life does depend heavily upon grades, as grades determine whether one can stay on for another year, but they certainly DO NOT determine how respected someone is, nor do they evaluate one’s call or fitness for ministry. The ability to regurgitate academic information does not equate an ability to relate to people in a healthy or proper way. 

In the last few months of seminary, many of my favorite and closest administrators asked me to tell my story – to other administrators, to people who write for the website and other publications, and even to other students. While I have struggled at times to see the beauty of the seminary at times – sometimes professors have given me a hard time with extensions or missing a class or two for my EP clinic (which only is on Wednesdays), or having to schedule my procedures during the academic year – having to prayerfully discern how to tell my story, and which parts of my story to tell to certain people gave me a unique opportunity. Yes, I could have pointed fingers at certain people and said, “You never said I would graduate, you told me to withdraw…” all messages I heard at more than one point, especially within the last 15 months of seminary from professors, administrators, deans and even a few students, who insensitively or awkwardly couldn’t understand that when you are genuinely sick, you can’t imagine being anywhere else than where you have chosen to be – you don’t skip class just for any old reason, like cutting to be with friends. Before CPE, I told my story in different ways, enthusiastically, angrily, and mostly, with an attitude of, “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME.” And that’s definitely true. No one could possibly understand what I have been through – how could they? But rather than pointing a finger, or shutting people off entirely thinking they are being selfish in their feelings, I realized that people are just plain awkward, and don’t entirely know how to react at times. But how my story is told can reduce the awkward, the anger, the frustration – both for me, and for those around me. 

My story has the ability to empower, to change, to help, to work in, and do all things in between. My words can hurt, they can wound, they can scar, and they can truly do damage to others. My grades in the grand scheme of things can’t do any of those things. Yes, they can be really cool, and look awesome and be a bragging right, but are they really anything to be proud of when others don’t think much of me? No, I don’t think so…

Telling a story is a learnt skill for some, if not many. It must be done in a certain way, and sometimes, some aspects of the story must be omitted for the sake of brevity, audience, or sensitivity – either your own emotional, or that of your audience. Hostility, for example, is never a good way to advance and deliver a message, and often causes others to shut down and run away. Anger and confrontation as well have the same type of receptivity, or lack thereof. This doesn’t mean that the message or story is being changed in and of itself – the core of the story remains the same, but the delivery changes. 

So, think about it. What kind of impact do you want to leave? Do you want to be the kind of person who accuses and points a finger, but is brilliant? Or do you want to tell your story, and be a positive influence, leading by example? If you have a story, tell it. Each and every one of us have a story and a message to tell – God has given us both a path to walk, a message to tell, and therefore, a voice to tell it with. But He certainly never intended us as His children to accuse others, alienate one another, and point fingers in the process. 

How does your story impact others? Are your words the source of inspiration? Does the path of your life inspire others or does it cause others to run in the opposite direction? 

Be someone that you would want to look up to, not the person that you think you ought to be for the sake of a social media page, or some stupid fake bragging rights. Life is far too short for that kind of stuff, and in the end, no one will gather round to help when you are in need. 

Gauge the need of the listener – what do they need to hear? Are you telling the story because YOU need to rant? Or are you telling the story because they are in need of its message? If its the former, back away, and consider your motivations; self-centered story-telling is not genuine, and can actually harm your story and the listener. If its the later, consider what you are telling them, and how you are framing the message, tell them only what they need to hear, and consider how they might be hearing the story. Be available emotionally for them, not for you, listen to their story, encourage them to share, and don’t try to compare stories – this is not a chance to “one up” one another. 

Storytelling is precious, generous sharing. It is pastoral care, the exchange of the Spirit, and definitely sacred and Holy. To share this moment is Holy, and to break the bond of storytelling is sacrosanct, a bond that perhaps cannot be rebuilt. Honor the boundaries, protect them, guard them and love them. But it can only do those things if the teller is open and receptive, non-confrontational and ready. 

Be a storyteller. Use the words God has given you, not to wound, not to point fingers and not to “one up” another or to make a point, but to help others, to give another a hand up out of the pit, just as someone else has done the same for you. Because to make the claim that you have never been there is false. Be that person who is reliable, pastoral, not the person who escapes, skips, undercuts, points a finger and mooches. But most of all, be a truth-teller.

Blog Post: Changes

When I accepted Princeton Seminary’s offer to join their class of 2014 four years ago, I never imagined the changes this singular decision would involve. At the age of 22, life revolved around a few things: my friends, my job as a ski instructor, my faith, and what was coming next in life. Change – how I was going to be changed, and how I was going to change those around me – wasn’t by any means on my radar.

Four years later (including that last year in college), I have been most certainly changed. I have been molded, cracked, ground down and reshaped by the one who made me in the beginning, and who loved me enough to subject His own son to crucifixion on my behalf. I have met people – other people who feel the same, similar and completely different calls to ministry as/than my own – who have changed and formed me, some without trying and some because of how different we are from one another. 

The call to Christian community was not one I answered lightly, and at times was strange; it felt odd, and yet, the kinship I developed as a result of this very place is true community. I have been prayed for, visited, my cross shouldered and dragged, my tears and deepest fears heard and wiped away, and belly laughs shared over pizza, burgers and beers. 

Change didn’t happen overnight. Change happened because I broke – physically, spiritually, academically – and then I was rebuilt. I didn’t break alone, but I broke with others. But in this brokenness was a great deal of beauty, and progress, and as a result, I got better. I didn’t necessarily get “all the way better,” but I became better by the grace of God and with the help of those around me. In high school, we had this slogan when we were trying to build a turf field: It takes a village to build a field…well it took a great circle of friends to build me up again, and thanks to them, I am better. My ministry is better, my mind is better, and my soul is better. 

On the eve of graduation in just a few days, I am in awe of all the changes that have occurred – so many that I cannot even count in fact. But at the same time, I feel the need to mourn this change, the closing of this door. This place, Princeton Seminary, has been my home for three years, and has been the catalyst, the source for the change. Whether it has been the actual source, or whether it has only given a home to the people who have been responsible for the changes themselves, this place is special. 

Changes occur throughout a person’s life, that is, if we let them happen. If we stay in the same place for the entirety of our lives, I wonder whether change will actually happen, or if we will remain the same person, and the same issues we have been dealing with forever will persist and fester, lingering beneath the surface undealt with and seemingly ignored. Perhaps this is why I have chosen to move, or why I have chosen an adventurous spirit in the face of illness – perhaps it is because I have no choice but to accept changes, as they will always happen whether I like them or not. Or perhaps change is best taken standing up, with courage and a fearless spirit, with grace and faith, rather than with heels dug into the dirt and a spirit of fear and irrationality. 

When I arrived at PTS three years ago, it was a very hot, sunny day. I was giddy with excitement, and saw the world before me. I loved God with all my heart and thought that everything was possible. I never imagined that I would spend time in the ICU a few times, have five procedures on my heart, have some very heart wrenching discussions with some amazing cardiac specialists, and be flying to California to have the opportunity of a lifetime to serve God again. But every breath I have taken over the last three years has been in service to God in some way, and every one has been a change. Seminary has caused significant changes, and has forever impacted my life in ways I couldn’t be more grateful for. 

When I get my diploma on Saturday, there will be tears. But I have been changed for the better, and God willing, I will be able to change others with the way in which I have been called to ministry. I cannot do it alone, but can only do it by the grace of God, an by the grace of God I will. 

I never thought Saturday would come, but it finally has, and at the same time, I cannot push Saturday away hard enough, because once Saturday comes, PTS won’t be the same place. It won’t be my seminary anymore, but it will be the community of those who will enter in July, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed, excited and beaming with excitement for all that ministry might hold for them. Some will be filled with that same excitement that I had three seemingly short years ago, and others with arrogance over the amount they already think they know. But regardless of the attitude they bring, this place won’t be mine anymore come Saturday. But maybe its time to pass on the keys, to allow change to happen on my own terms. 

A life of faith is all about change – the ebb and flow of the waves against the beach. God is the constant, and the location and people are the things that change. This chapter has been truly incredible, mostly because of the partners I’ve had along the way. It will be sad to say “see you later,” but never goodbye. 

To be changed again means to be broken again, to have these newly healed edges sheered off and made raw for the world to see. Vulnerability never gets easier, but in the company of true companions, it becomes less heart wrenchingly painful. But I grow bigger and stronger and more capable in the sheering and changing if I allow it to happen. God willing, change will continue to happen. 

Change is ok. Sometimes it is a sign that good is afoot. That doesn’t mean that a bit of fear isn’t normal as well; have faith, jump into the change, and know that the change will form and inform the journey.

Blog Post: 5 Things to Remember at 25: The Things that Parents Don’t Tell Their Adult Children

Yesterday, I went home for the day and had my hair done by the woman who has been doing my hair since I was a pretty young kid. She has been cutting and coloring my hair since I was 14 if not younger, and as she was doing my hair, we just sat and chatted, and since we had not seen each other for at least four years (she keeps a crinkled 4×6 index card as a record of all my haircuts and colors, which by her record said that I hadn’t seen her since 2010, but I thought it had been much longer than that), we had a great deal to catch up on. We talked illness (mine and hers), divorce, kids (not mine, obviously), breakups (hers and mine), graduations, surgeries (five), the thinning of my hair, weight loss (mine), weight gain (hers), and practically every subject in between. She has known me since I was a little girl, since this is also where my mom also gets her hair cut, and so she has watched me grow up, go off to college, and now, graduate from grad school and go off to lead my own adult life.

But as I was sitting in the chair getting my hair done, I realized that there are a few things that have definitely changed since I lived at home, and a few things that are drastically different. Growing up and moving away, growing into adulthood means a shift in perspective, a course correction of sorts – to borrow a phrase from one of my dearest mentors in ministry. The way reality is painted for you as a child is certainly NOT the way it is in adulthood, and while that doesn’t mean that the world is a dark, scary and big bad place, it does mean that there are certain expectations to have, and a realistic perspective of what is out there. I’m a New Yorker by birth, and therefore, being jaded is in my blood. But having faith and giving my decisions up to God is even more a part of my life now that I’ve lived in the seminary and church world for a while. No longer is my vantage point one of “I’m going to do X now and do Y later,” but more one of, “I wonder how God is going to work in me and the world now?”

So I decided to make a list of 5 (or so) things to remember at 25, and beyond. Things that have changed in adulthood from before, or things that need illuminating.

  1. Life is not a fairytale, but it sure is amazing in its own way. Taylor Swift sang a stupid song “If Today was a fairytale,” and while I love TayTay Swift, I wanted to kick my iPhone down the dumb Jersey Turnpike (that’s another story for a totally different day), because it paints an unrealistic picture of what life is really like. Life is not the fairytales of children’s storybooks. Girls don’t meet their knights in shining armor, and frequently, first relationships end poorly. Life isn’t perfect, and frequently is flawed. Take mine for example – a lot of really unexpected stuff happened and derailed my so-called “perfect, fairytale” life. Now I get solicitations from the AARP and sit in the Pacemaker clinic with people old enough to be my grandparents. #sonotcool #Imnoteighty #notgoingtofindmyhusbandhere But in the same way, life is still amazing, even though it isn’t all bright and shiny, with perfectly organized plans that are wrapped nice and neatly in a box with a bow. Even though my life will always include surgeries, stitches and hospitalizations, I have met some of the most incredible people in the process, and have had the ability to tell my story (and learn how best to do it). My story is not life-changing by any means, but my life has been changed by the people in it. My stuff is not cool – it is broken, painful, and at times, it makes me cry. But it also makes me laugh, and hard enough that my stomach hurts, and tears fall from my brown-lined and mascara-lashed eyes. My fairytale included a battery and leads, a man named Dr. Vivek Reddy and an army of nurses and EP fellows, and in and of itself, is both a nightmare and a dream.
  2. Have Faith, and learn to jump. This one might need an explanation, most likely the last part. I was raised in a faithful household, and went to church a lot growing up, so the “having faith” part is not strange for me, but in my adulthood, my faith has become an even more essential part of my existence. In the bad times, God was my confidant, my companion, my soft shoulder to cry on. At times, it felt like the only one who could understand my plight, and cared to hear what was truly going on, not just the censored version of my bullshit pollyanna message to the world. God listened, never judged, and then, when I had cried all the tears in my eyes, guided me in the right direction, gave me the “what’s next,” and was with me. In the good times, my faith was everything. It gave me purpose, direction for my life, and a companion. You see, faith works like that – it isn’t just for the “oh crap, my life is going into the tubes,” moments. It is also for the, “My life is amazing! Wanna hear about how awesome it is?!” moments as well, and everything in between. The learning to jump moments, however, are the really difficult parts; God likes the trust, the ability to listen, to pray, all that laud and honor, the singing, the kneeling, yaddah yaddah yaddah. Its great, really, it is. But if there isn’t anything beyond that, well, is it really faith? Then its just praise. Its the jump into the freefall, and trusting that God will be there to catch me, regardless of the outcome – THAT’S FAITH people! God’s there, regardless of the good and the bad, the in-between and the icky, not so pretty, but somewhat lovely smelling days. God’s in them all, and wants us to know about it, if we are willing to jump.
  3. I am not invincible, and therefore, my actions have consequences. What I used to do as a kid without much fear of consequences is not the same now. I learned this most readily over the last year, with each ablation and surgery; every single surgery was not performed without fear and understanding that there was indeed no going back. Every ablation resulted in scar tissue being formed in my heart, and once it had been formed, it could not be removed. It could migrate elsewhere in my body, but the healing damage to my heart could not be undone. Illness teaches that invincibility as superheroes possess does not exist, and as humans, we cannot live forever, nor can we do anything we desire and not reap the consequences as a result. Therefore, we must live somewhere between fearlessly and cautiously – a symbiotic existence to some extent but a critical one as well – and enjoy every experience, every breath and love every minute. We can do a great deal, and yet we cannot do everything. We must listen to our bodies, we must respect our physical and emotional limits, and recognize that sometimes, there are boundaries to be drawn, despite how emotionally charged this may be. Boundaries are not closed doors, they’re just leaving room for opened windows elsewhere, maybe now, or later in the future.
  4. My opinions are mine, but not the only ones out there. This last week (only a week prior to her speaking commitment), Smith College faced a horrible tragedy when its commencement speaker, Madame Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) withdrew following protests against her and the fund. Earlier this Spring, Smith students started an online petition to prevent her from speaking at the 2014 commencement, citing that both Lagarde and IMF were leading to the strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide. However, what these entitled women failed to realize was that in the recent years (since the 2008 economic crash), IMF has been the source of great economic advice, warning against the dangers of “lowflation,” which can push economies into long slumps, by making it harder for wages to adjust and debtors to deleverage. Yes, IMF has been the source of great economic hardship for some (but bear in mind, these countries were already in great depressions to begin with, IMF was NOT the source of the depressions in the first place…), but also has been pro-redistribution, pro-inflation, and anti-austerity. Its story was one that Smith College needed to hear, but was unwilling to listen to. What I take away from this, as a Smith College graduate, and a Smithie who is rather frustrated with the attitude of many of my fellow graduates at times, is that different opinions are ok, even if they challenge my norm, because my norm is BY NO MEANS THE NORM. There has been the overwhelming fear rumbling around in Western Massachusetts that individual norms are therefore the only norm, and that big business is dangerous. But what is so wrong with hearing an opinion that might challenge and expand my world view? God forbid if my opinion is changed, expanded and made broader as a result of someone else. I may not agree, and I may be opposed – morally, ethically, politically, religiously, or otherwise – to the position being presented, but out of respect to the other person speaking, I should sit down, shut up, and listen to their position for a moment, because I may very well learn something, and be changed in the process. And from that, I may very well change others as a result. Change breeds change…but only if change is permitted.
  5. Freeloading is unacceptable. Asking for others to pay for something that I can and should be paying for myself is not a sign of adulthood. If I can’t afford it, I should have it – plain and simple. Taking trips, buying new cars, all those things are nice, but if they don’t fall in my budget, they don’t happen. Living within a budget is hard, and sometimes, life’s hardest lesson to learn. Working more than one job is an even harder lesson, and learning to say no to social temptations can be a great letdown, but it opens the door to no debt, future potential, and the opportunity to have “nice things” when they’re needed, and even sometimes, when they’re wanted. To know the difference between want and need is a lesson worth learning early, because once its learned, it won’t be lost, and is more valuable than gold.
  6. One more…learn to ask for help. I was never particularly good at asking for help growing up, and this often got me into a great deal of trouble – trouble that I would then have to get myself out of afterward. Asking for help as an adult means a lot of different things, and can be really difficult. It can also mean putting egos aside, being humble, and having to step aside for a while for the sake of the other, but in the end, it can mean strengthening a relationship, becoming a stronger and more capable adult, and more reliant (in a good way, not a weird, clingy, icky, strange way) upon healthy relationships with others. Help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of great strength and self-awareness. It is a sign of courage, and in the end, will allow you to help others in return.

 

Adulthood is not the thing of fairytales, and is often a lot harder than people say it is going to be. Sometimes it is filled with wounds, scars, and plenty of disappointment. But it is also filled with lots of adventure, surprise, and a great deal of faith. Faith that things will happen, that things are meant to be, and that everything will be ok when things simply aren’t. And so far, everything has been, even when things aren’t.

Returning home yesterday reminded me of two things: I have grown a great deal in the last few years, both as a result of the personal journey I’ve been on in seminary, and that I’ve really grown apart from the place I call home. This isn’t a bad thing, it just is a natural progression of growth – growing up often means growing away and out of the very place you call home. It means becoming a new and very different person, and therefore, having to reshape and differentiate oneself from that very place by default. Growth is a natural part of life, and either one goes with it, or goes against it.

Change is upon me again, and soon, I’ll be leaving the very place I’ve called home for the last three years. I am both very excited and fearful of what the future holds, and yet, with the above list, I know that I can do and withstand all the challenges that come across my path, as I have faith in the God who has brought me thus far, and who will continue to guide my path.

Blog Post: The Lip Product Addict Tag

Well, in all honesty, all you out there know I have a bit of a love for my lippies. In fact, I have a real love, not just a bit. I can’t leave the house without color on my lips, even if I don’t have foundation, eyeshadow and liner on my eyes and face. Lipstick and gloss makes me feel dressed up, even if I’m not really going anywhere, and after the last few years, I love that feeling. On some days, I need that feeling, and it can make the difference between a great day and a just plain, eh day. A bold lippy color can even give me the courage to conquer a really difficult situation some days. 

So on to the tag questions! 

Q1: Favorite balm/treatment?

This one is difficult, because I have a couple of favorites. But the top two are: 

The Nuxe Reve de Miel lip balm, which is one of my May beauty faves so far, and smells and tastes like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange; it is thick and paste-like and is fantastic for really chapped and scaly lips, like mine! 

Jack Black Intense Lip Balm. My favorite flavor is the Cherry Pomegranate flavor, which was limited edition from the holidays (it came in a 4 pack with a few other great flavors), but I also really like the mint flavor, and have already finished a few of these over the course of this year! It is extremely moisturizing and has SPF in it! 

Q2. Best eye-catching red?

I’m actually not much of a red lip person, but if I were to go for a red lip, I would go for the YSL Volupte Sheer Candy Glossy Balm Crystal Color in 06 Luscious Cherry. It is a sheer wash of red that is initially sheer, but can be built up to a bold and moisturizing lip balm finish. It is great because it doesn’t feather, and even better yet, it doesn’t get all over your teeth like a lot of reds do (hint hint, MAC’s Russian Red…). I have even worn this on an every day basis, and gotten complements. I highly recommend it! 

Q3. Best luxury & best drugstore?

Best luxury: 

My YSL Volupte Sheer Candy Glossy Balm Crystal Color Balms. They’re not highly rated enough in my opinion. They are $34 each, but they are simply gorgeous, and provide a buildable wash of color on the lips, and depending on the color, can actually be built up to a bold lip color. These are the perfect every day lip colors for me frankly, and are very moisturizing. These might be perfect for people who don’t like lipstick, but want more lasting lip color than a lipgloss can provide. 

Best drugstore: 

-The NYX Lip Glosses (that smell like cherry sweet tarts). They’re definitely hit or miss in terms of formulation, but the glosses in “Beige” (which is actually pink), “Sweet heart,” and “Salsa” are simply divine and extremely pigmented, and while they are a bit gritty feeling (because of the amount of glitter in the formula), they last a very long time on the lips without straying outside lip lines. 

Q4. Best MAC lipstick?

MAC lipsticks were my HG at first when I fell in love with makeup, and how foolish I was; I ran out to my local counter and bought up all the titles that all the gurus on YouTube had, regardless of whether they looked good with my skin tone or not; but as I grew into a better understanding of my likes and dislikes, I began to realize that I REALLY DON’T LIKE MAC LIPSTICKS ONE BIT. I find them waxy, and drying on my lips, and that they aren’t very natural looking on the lips. They just sit on top of my lips, and settle into the fine lines or cracks, or even worse, feather. (And frankly, there are better drugstore options for less than 1/2 the price, especially since the lippies are $16-20 now). 

So, in conclusion, I don’t have a “best MAC lipstick,” because I simply don’t love them. And don’t wear them. Because I dislike them. A heck of a lot in fact. 

Q5. The most disappointing?

I really really wanted to love the Tarte Pure Performance 12-hour Lipsticks. In fact, I bought three of them, in 3 different shades. But they were melty, and feathered on my lips, and were absolutely icky shades. They were earthy, like I rubbed my face in the dirt, rather than vibrant, pretty pinks. It was just horrible. I really wanted to love them. And it made me sad that they weren’t better, especially with a $26 price tag (and now they’re on sale for $16 on Sephora, which makes me even more disappointed). The lasting power also isn’t $26 worth – it usually is gone within an hour, leaving me regretting even putting it on in the first place. Long story short, a huge regret. (actually, three regrets…)

Q6. Liner – yes or no?

Absolutely NOT. Liner just doesn’t work for me, and is one extra step in the morning that I don’t have time for. Plus, it just looks odd on my lips. So no. 

Q7. Best gloss?

My NARS lip glosses – they’re creamy, pigmented, and really nice to wear on their own or on top of a lipstick. I initially didn’t like my NARS gloss in “Turkish Delight,” which is a milky light pink (not too unlike a milky or icy cotton candy pink), because it reeked of a plasticky, chemically, icky scent, and the taste was horrible. And so I put it away for maybe a year. But then I pulled it back out this fall after seeing my favorite YouTube guru talk about how it is one of her favorite glosses to wear and bring along in her purses. And so out it came, and this time, it didn’t smell so bad, and in fact, it seemed to smell sweet. I really am enjoying it so much that I went ahead and purchased two more in “Super Orgasm,” (a shimmery pinkish purple) and “Coeur Sucre” (an icy raspberry pink). They’re wonderful, and worth the price tag.   

Q8. Something extra!

I need to mention my Chanel Rouge Coco Shine Lipstick in “Boy”. Ever since I bought it a while back, I have worn it every day, to interviews, around the house, out to dinner with friends, and just plain to the grocery store. Its that kind of lipstick that is “my lips but better…” – that phrase that all those YouTube Gurus use but is impossible to actually find. Well praise the Lord in heaven, I’ve finally found it. Its glossy, smooth, and moisturizing. And just plain looks great! And it doesn’t drift down toward my chin by the end of the day! Which is great, and not to mention is flattering too. I hate to find lipstick down on my collarbone by the end of the day. Ain’t nobody got time for that…

Well, that’s it for the tag…if you like tag blogs, let me know in the comments below, and if you have any suggestions, tags you’d like me to do, or things you think I need to try out, let me know! Have an amazing week!

Blog Post: May Beauty Favorites…So Far?!

Well, with the stresses of seminary finished now (I can’t believe it!), I can sit down and think about my May Beauty Favorites…Thus Far! 

First: Nuxe Reve de Miel Lip Balm. 

I discovered this lip balm through EssieButton or Estee on YouTube; this is one of her favorites, and smells exactly like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. It is a British Favorite for the lips, and I had to order it from Amazon to get it, but lets just say, it was worth it, because not only does it smell amazing, but it also works wonders as a lip mask for my parched lips! No matter how much I put stuff on my lips to make them less yucky, they still yell for more! And this product (in a glass jar, no less! How glam! I’m a sucker for product appearance…such consumerism!) screams luxe! And it really is. It is soothing, smells wonderful, and tastes great. Nuff said! 

Second: Amazon Kindle App. 

I know, not a beauty product, but now that I’m done with finals, I feel like all I want to do is sit back and read for fun. No theology, no scripture, no biblical studies, no seminary related anything. And it is so nice to have an app that can hold all my books in one place and if I decide I don’t want to read one book, I can switch to another book on my iPad. It is so awesome. I’m not new to the Kindle App, but I just am really growing to love it more and more, especially over the last few weeks. 

Third: Chanel Rouge Coco Shine Lipstick in Boy. 

I have been admiring this lipstick from afar for the last 7 months at my Chanel counter, and finally, I bit the bullet and purchased it while I was at the mall doing the “Back to Mac” and “5 containers back to Lush” business. I also picked up the new Chanel foundation while I was there, and saw my beloved “Boy…” and decided to get it. And it was definitely fate, since the saleswoman said there was a sale, and it was the last one. Definitely fate. Well, I don’t believe in fate, but I’ll humor the woman, who didn’t know what I do for a living. And sometimes, I just don’t want to tell everyone that I’m a pastor. But that’s another story…

Fourth: Esse Naughty Nautical Nail Polish.

This is a teal nail polish with a teeny bit of sparkle, and I bought this on a whim a while back with a coupon, and I have NOT stopped wearing it on my nails. It is super springy/summery (I’m already moving toward summer…how sad is that?!), and has a little bit of shimmer. It is definitely more green than blue, but it is extremely pretty. It is a two coat polish, but dries very quickly despite being a two coat polish (with a fast dry top coat like Out the Door or Seche Vite).  

Fifth: Jack Wills Strapless Floral Dress.

I wore this dress to my Class of 2014 dinner and chapel service and got so many complements on it. I wanted a dress that showed my pacemaker scar (since I’m proud of my battle wound!) and wanted a dress that was a little flouncy, and this dress is definitely both of those things! It is extremely fitted in the bodice, and then very flouncy in the hips, which makes skinny ladies like myself look curvy. The fun thing is that it has hidden pockets, which is great for nights out where you might not want to bring a clutch, but you still need to bring a wallet or little pouch with keys, ID, cards, lipgloss/lipstick, etc. It was playful and fun, and super comfortable to wear (minus me having to pull it up every few seconds…I’ll be having straps put on to make it a strappy dress) for a few hours out on the town. I highly recommend this dress, but the brand makes finding the perfect size a bit complicated for small ladies (there is no middle size, since everything is in British sizing, and I was in between a 4 and a 6 US – I could have used a 5? But no such size existed…so I went larger, which meant the dress didn’t quite fit perfectly…). 

May Beauty Poops: 

First: The Mac Counter at the Quakerbridge Mall. 

Your service. Let me just say. Your service stinks. I went to “Back to Mac” a few things…6 in particular, and when I left and got home, the lipstick I wanted was the wrong one in the bag. But the mall is just far enough away for me to not want to trek all the way back. Also, it was NOT in the box, but just hanging out in the bag. The guy “helping me” was a bit off, and mentioned that the other woman wasn’t feeling well…the poor pregnant woman getting her makeup done by the sick makeup artist. Suffice it to say, I won’t be going back to that Mac Counter…for anything.

Second: My Lungs. 

Well, sorry lungs, you go in an unfavorite section this month, because you suck right now. Antibiotics in, and you still suck. This smoker’s cough is not attractive, and all the boys don’t like it. So knock it off! 

 

Other favorites: 

-Favorite Song: I lived (OneRepublic) 

-Favorite Food: Nature Valley Oats & Honey Granola

-Favorite Mug: Dutch Neck Presbyterian 185th Anniversary Mug

-Favorite Book: Uhhhh I can just read anything right now so BOOKS!!!!! Books are my favorite because I don’t have to read because someone TELLS ME TO! 

-Favorite Blush: Milani Luminoso OR Hourglass Mood Exposure

-Favorite Bronzer: The Body Shop Matte Bronzer in Fair Light 

-Favorite Concealer: Radiant Creamy Concealer

 

Blog Post: Just Wow. Read On.

Recently, I have noticed an uptick in the number of amateur and terribly created memes with unresearched and unconfirmed statistics like “1 in ____ women/men under the age of ____ have diagnosed [INSERT MEDICAL CONDITION HERE].” Underneath the meme, the Facebook “Friend” will have included some proper litany of their own, usually including another large amount of unsubstantiated medical information. 

Having been through the medical ringer over the last several years, my alarm goes off when I see these, especially one that I saw last night regarding cardiac “stuff.” Cardiac stuff is no joke, and is to always be taken incredibly seriously. I have written many a post at this point discussing my own journey through the ICU, the EP lab and even through the OR, and even on the other side of the scalpel, I still am not cured. My pacemaker was not a cure all, I still have symptoms, I still am a cardiac patient, and I still deal with a daily reminder that I have a slightly different heart. I will have battery changes every 3-4 years, and lead changes every 7-8. This is a lifetime commitment that is both expensive, opens me up to infection, and to other life-threatening complications. It isn’t and wasn’t an easy decision; but it was a no-brainer for me. And continues to be a no-brainer. 

But the one thing you’ll never see me do is post a remarkably uneducated meme on my Facebook wall regarding my cardiac stuff, or anyone else’s. This is the sure sign of something and someone who has used the internet for diagnosis, rather than a physician. The internet is not a place to advertise or call attention to a health condition. 

This week has been a bit overwhelming for me, as I finish up my last semester of seminary; seminary has been a remarkable place for me, but it has also been the place where I was met with some of my most difficult challenges. I had to face my cardiac nemesis in seminary, and here, I will leave my struggles. Ok, this is delusional, since my stuff will come with me wherever I will go for the rest of my life. But the actual scary of what happened will stay here. I have been forever changed here, and to see my time in this locale come to a sudden end was rather astonishing this week, especially given a few conversations I had with people who have fought tooth and nail to get me to this point, and have been my greatest cheerleaders along the way. 

Suffice it to say, I say all this because posting memes on a social media page, or advertising a condition for the sake of calling attention to it publicly doesn’t make it real. In fact, it calls it into question on the part of those who actually have it, and know all that it involves on an every day, every breath, every heartbeat basis. For those who have fought tooth and nail to get through something, and have had to ask for more help than their pride might permit, a meme or Facebook post simply isn’t appropriate, nor is it emotionally sufficient to sum up all the sacrifices the condition requires. In fact, it is frankly insulting. Being rare isn’t cool, it is insulting, and a daily, constant reminder that the human body and biology sucks. Being rare means treatments don’t work or don’t exist yet, and that you have to sit back and wait until medicine catches up. And being rare definitely doesn’t mean you kick back and brag that you’re rare. 

Memes don’t work, and definitely don’t gain the respect of others; but what does is how you choose to live and carry yourself. What type of attitude you choose to have regarding the life you have, and the cards you were dealt. Yes, it sucks. All of it sucks. Being ___ age and having ____ condition definitely does suck, but it doesn’t mean that the whole world needs to know how simply sucky it is all the blankity time. What does matter is how you impact the world for the better. The world is too cluttered with complaints, with negativity, pissed off people and rants, and it definitely doesn’t need yet another collection of them. 

So choose to take the real rare – not the internet-diagnosed, meme-using rare, and use it to help someone else. Use it to empower, use it to be more positive. Use it to brighten a corner that is dark and ugly and in need of some positivity. Spending time feeling yuck and trying to milk pity out of others for being ___ age and being ____% rare or what have you isn’t going to help empower your message. It is only muting your strength, silencing your voice, and weakening you. 

Tell your story, as everyone has one. Pick your words carefully and artfully. Don’t mince words, but savor each and everyone one; stories are things that have the power to change the lives of others in ways that we might never imagine and might never see. That old adage says, “A picture says a thousand words…” And this might be true, but a story tells a thousand more in my opinion, should the storyteller be willing to open up. 

On the verge of a life transition, story is critical for me; everything, experience and moment needs to be captured, in a photo, in a sense. I worry that if I don’t capture it, it will slip away forever, never to be captured again. Seminary has come and gone too quickly, and I won’t be in school, with these people, in this place again. It has been a long road, and the road has finally reached a different fork, where we are all going our different ways. We have shared our stories, gathered information for the journey, and exchanged bits and pieces of our lives, forever changing one another.

My story has hopefully impacted others forever, as those I have walked alongside has certainly impacted mine. I won’t ever forget my dear friends, and cannot wait to continue to walk with them throughout our ministries, even if from only afar for a while.

No memes, no weird pictures with statistics, all authenticity and true storytelling. Thus it began this way, and thus it ends this way. Relationships are not built upon false information, but only upon the real, the authentic, and the stuff that sometimes takes a tear, a laugh, and a “so, what’s next?”