Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spoken Word Poetry

About a month ago, I spent the afternoon with girls who had been dealt some hard life experiences. My task was to lead a "Life Skills" class that would engage them, which was hard to plan since I barely knew them. Still, I was hopeful and wanted to connect.

In the last few years, I've begun listening to spoken word poetry - basically whatever I can get my hands on. It's amazing the amount of hours you can spend on YouTube when you're going down the rabbit hole. I have begun to have a collection of favorite poets and have been inspired by their honesty and often subtle wit.

There is something courageous about telling your story, but we all don't share the same way. In a society that is so concerned about image and conformity, a single voice can get muffled. This is particularly true if that person is already part of a marginalized group. Spoken word shows up on this scene as a advocacy tool and even megaphone, often sharing brokenness or outrage through art.

As I began this group, I brought some of the videos, excited to see the response, even believing that these girls would appreciate them as much as I do. What happened changed me though. The girls participated, but not with the thrill I thought they would, until they got to share their own. As I showed them a video I had found to be life-giving, they pointed out the ways they liked it but also where they didn't connect. But, they lit up as they played the ones they loved. I found myself learning from videos I would probably not have watched, except by their insistence. And, I was thankful. As I watched, their voices became stronger and bolder. And, they were beautiful.

Monday, October 14, 2013

On Calling It Quits

One of the things I have had the hardest time admitting in the last several years of my life is that sometimes I just can't do the thing I want to do.

At first I thought it was a motivation issue. I'm just not motivated enough....If I wanted it badly enough...If I had as much gumption as...woe. is. me.

Well, folks, it turns out that it's less a lack of personal prowess and more a realization that somethings just can't be controlled. Some things just don't work.

That is tough for me to say, because I have such a deep belief that the impossible can be possible. That the situations that others have given up will one day enter a new season of growth.

The problem is that I would like to control said situations and sometimes forget that if my free will were to dictate such redemption, it would not be redemption, but dictatorship. The joy of change is that it is chosen individually and corporately and that no one person can force another person - that is the power of the human spirit. It is both corruptible and glorious.

Now, in the realization of that, sometimes it seems as if it would be much easier to simply control myself - and I have tried. But, controlling ones's self is just as difficult.

So, a new season is beginning.

It is fall. The old is passing. The new is coming. See, I am looking for the clouds.

Monday, March 18, 2013

To Don't List

In the spirit of this darling post, which is based off Shawna Niequists' thoughts in her book "Bittersweet" (I have yet to read, although I did love "Cold Tangerines" which I borrowed from a friend, immediately lost on an airplane, and then casually replaced), I have put together my own "To Don't List" otherwise titled "What I have tried and will not choose to try again or pretend to know anything about"....meaning "Please don't ask me to."

  • Fashion - I don't think I really understand fashion or what's in or how to dress for my body.  But, I try to like what I wear.  And, I try to like my body. 
  • Direct quotes or funny stories - I can't quote the movie we just saw word for word, but I can tell you the theme. And, my stories will probably end up with me rambling and no punchline whatsoever. 
  • Large groups of people - I just would rather be having coffee with one person. Maybe two. 
  • Being on time - Okay. I have worked on this. But, please understand that I would much rather exist in the movement and rhythm of the day, and if that means I'm a few minutes late for something, I'm okay with it. 
  • Having a green thumb - This one is hard to admit, because I want to be a gardener so badly. But, as it stands, I have only one living plant (there were many others to start, believe me) and that lavender pot is probably living despite me. 

The thing about all of these is that they may change.  We're always becoming.  But, if they don't, it's absolutely okay. Heck, it probably makes me more myself.  And, that's the only self I've got. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I believe a lot of things.

Tyler Lyle is someone who never ceases to produce music that hits the doubts and confusion perfectly. Enjoy.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What's Lent got to do to do with it?

Hi, my name is Nia.

I've been trying to follow this Christ figure since I was six. That's when I decided I wanted to "give my heart to Jesus." And, I grew up in a fairly charismatic, evangelical circle. My family moved often because of my dad's job, but we tended to join faith communities that were of that similar vein.

I grew up with Christmas and Easter, with youth retreats and Bible drills, and with avoiding hard questions. But, they grew like kudzu in the heat of July.

Post high school, I got involved with parachurch college ministry, and loved it's fresh, accepting, and sometimes seemingly controversial ways. No, we were not handling snakes, but there was an emphasis on knowing Jesus, where you were, and letting transformation take place without trying to fit yourself into a mold. And that meant we were messy. Midway through university I had been going to a church similar to those in which I had found myself in throughout my childhood. But, after studying and serving a ministry in Spain for a semester, I came back disillusioned by mainstream Christianity as I had known it to be.

I am not saying that everything is wrong about the Church. But, those doubts, hurts, experiences, and questions that had been rooting and knotting began to push out my cultural bias and desire a larger understanding of the Bible and why we're all really here.

I did not grow up with Lent.

What's Lent got to do with it? I was given a book a year ago called The Accidental Anglican. Towards the end of university, I began attending an Anglican Mission (formerly Vineyard, so yes, a little unique). So, when I received this book, I had been going to this church for two years and was drawn by its simple, yet challenging look at faith. One thing mentioned in this book and that I resonate with is a focus on history, and understanding where we came from. That is a goal and purpose of the liturgy. It also recognizes the beauty of those people who have struggled with this faith before us.

And, that's why I'm struggling through Lent.

I first tried Lent in college. I gave up chocolate. I lasted 7 days, and then decided the amount I "feasted" on Sunday defeated the whole purpose so I just began feasting everyday and forgot about the whole thing. I've been retrying it the last few years, thinking more honestly about what and why I'm trying to fast.

What's the point of this whole practice then? Honestly, I'm still learning. But, as difficult as it is, I connect with the pushing towards discomfort, the wrestling, and the living in darkness. Lent requires me to believe that God is more powerful than the evil, and that the evil is still very real and I am not immune to it simply because I quote scripture and put on my best Sunday face.

Lent points me toward my need for Jesus and others. It's not about giving up for the sake of giving up, but rather, it empties so be filled by something real. The thing about emptiness is that creates space for anything to live in, so the temptation to be pulled in any direction is immense. I've realized addiction is second nature to me, so I have to fight it. And, I fail often.

But, when I do, resurrection is on the other end.

Monday, February 4, 2013


I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by surprise
Of it's own unfolding.

-John O 'Donohue

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


A friend who has a kindred musical spirit sent me a video earlier this week and I kept putting off watching it, claiming busyness. I finally pushed play early this morning and I'm not embarrassed to say it's been repeating ever since.

Sometimes a song gets stuck in your soul and you can't do anything more than just let it play. This is the kind of video I get lost in, asking questions and hearing stories with depth that leads me tumbling down a hole of childish imagination.

My friend called the lovely ladies singing "sirens." I couldn't agree more.