Sacrifice and Wonder Woman

I think I need to write. And it is exactly at this crossroads where I just want my bed to plop right down in the middle of the road where I can curl up under my covers and snuggle with my pillow and ask God for clarity. 

Crossroads at the Yellow Brick Road.png

It is at this point where I have to choose what is healthiest for me… then actually do it; something that is becoming more salient these past weeks: doing what I say I believe in.

Just Do It

On the outside, I might seem like a human being who, for the most part, has her life together: a trajectory, (an awesome one at that – grad school at the top school in the nation for social work), joyfully and passionately pursuing it, good health, close relationships with those she loves most… Additionally, she is one that professes a strong faith and intense, fierce love for Jesus, has a strong inner compass for justice and holds people accountable to their word.

Hmmm. There is more to the picture. This human being is also just that…human: imperfect, struggles with doubt, insecurity, body image, is easily angered…passive aggressively acts on it… Although these things only partly define me and although I know where my true worth and identity rest – in the righteousness given to me by God through Jesus’ sacrifice of his life for ME – I still often fail to put into practice what I preach.

Humbling.

I am learning to align my words, thoughts, beliefs, heart, and most importantly God’s will for my life.

Sacrifice…

Steven Trevor Sacrifice

This scene literally ripped my heart open. So many of my friends, men and women equally, have told me how good the movie Wonder Woman is and that I have to see it. It was almost annoying how many people told me I would love it and had to watch it.

There was no resistance on my part to seeing the movie, just an intentionality of timing. This movie watching experience could not be taken lightly. I knew to take the ratings and rave reviews with a grain of salt because indeed, it is Hollywood, after all – an industry with no problem exploiting women, exploiting flesh, degrading language and the human experience to those oft used “four letter words” and the fiery explosions, fighting, degrading sex scenes, and pure muscle power for the sake of profit and fame.

BUT….I had hope.

I trusted that in some way, this film would be transformational, not only as setting a huge standard for young girls and women globally – but for me as well.

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE STOP READING.

Spoiler Alert

Not knowing anything about the comic books of Wonder Woman,  I didn’t catch on, until the moment he got on that plane full of the poison gas, that Steve Trevor was sacrificing himself for the lives of thousands – that despite Diana giving up on humanity (at least for several moments) he was willing to do what he knew was right. He held onto hope, seeing his life not as his own, but rather seeing beyond himself, acknowledging the bigger picture and giving his life for the purpose of giving others FREEDOM.

This happens at the very end of the movie and by the time Diana killed Ares (aka Satan), decided to help humanity become the better version of itself, and everything came to a close, I was desperately fighting back sobs that were forcing themselves out to mourn Steven’s sacrifice and death.

diana-wonder-woman-steve-death.gif

It struck me deep like a sword and I couldn’t wrap my mind around anything else. Tears streamed down my face as I said good-bye to my friends, tears streamed down my face as I drove home and got ready for bed, and tears streamed down my face as I fell asleep.

In the morning, the tears were still there, but the sobs came out as well, the heaving, the open flow of pain and hurt…actually mourning and grief and I reached out to my friends asking them to pray for me. But it was one friend in particular, who doesn’t necessarily label herself a Christian, but is the most Christlike person I know (aside from Jesus, ha), texted me two short sentences that ripped me apart like a vulnerable child:

“Sacrifice scenes really get you  –  Rogue One too”

It was in that moment that it dawned on me what was happening and why these raw emotions started exploding forth.

It has taken me 7 years, since I seriously committed my life to following Jesus, well actually, all 30 years of my life, to fully grasp, receive, mourn, AND grieve the sacrifice that Jesus made giving his life for humanity, suffering for hours being beaten and tortured before breathing his last, so that might have the FREEDOM to live life at it was intended for me to live.

Ever since I started giving Young Life talks, there was one that I could never fully connect with – although I believed it with all my heart for the children I was sharing it with, I was never able to accept it for myself. I just couldn’t. I wanted to, but the wall was too high, it was too thick, too protected, and removed from the center of the battle. That wall protected my heart, but this wasn’t a form fitting wall, close in proximity, hugging the curves of my heart; this wall was secured 3 miles, 15,840 feet from my heart, so far that I couldn’t even hear the beating of my own life, but it sure provided ample protection to prevent even the slightest painful experience from entering in. My heart was safe, protected, secured. I’m good.

Israeli_West-Bank_barrier-110412

When I talked about Jesus dying for us at Young Life Club, I said sincerely and genuinely, fully-believing in this next statement, “Even if YOU were the only person living on this earth, Jesus would have sacrificed his life so that you would be able to live freely.” I always came home after one of those nights thinking to myself, “But would he really have done that for me? Well, he doesn’t need to, I’m fine…”

Last night, when I watched Wonder Woman  and I watched Steve Trevor sacrifice (by the way, it was NO small sacrifice) his life for the freedom of others, something ripped open in me. This morning as the tears continued as I journaled. I opened my Bible to John chapter 19 and there glaring back at me from the middle of the page was the title: The Crucifixion.

I broke apart. Rather, I was torn apart, and I read, for the first time, the account of Jesus being murdered, taking it personally. I screamed inside, “No! Jesus, don’t do it! Stand up for yourself, you can!” I cried, “Don’t let them do this to you! It’s wrong! It’s unjust!” “Jesus, don’t leave me! Why are you doing this? I’ll be all alone without you. Where will my hope go? What am I supposed to do?!” One last desperate plea, “You CAN’T leave me!”

(WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW)

I kept reading…”they beat him 39 times, they shoved a crown of thorns into his skull, they put him in a purple robe, mocked him, and beat him as a “king”, they struck him in the face, they spit on him, they hurled insults at him…they crucified him…” His own people. His own people, racial, ethnically, religiously, took his life.

My head in my hands, I heaved and sobbed and couldn’t stop. I relented and let it wash over me. I grieved Jesus’ death for the first time. I accepted his death for me and it was horrible.

 

When the tears stopped and the emotions that washed over me receded like the tide in an ocean, knowing it will eventually come back, I laid back down into bed and rested… thanking Jesus, telling him I love him. Because I do. And I truly see now that he loves me.

Jesus’ death didn’t stop there because he came back to life and is now living, just invisibly to our eyes, but he is with us, he is with me. 

I am so thankful that I live in a time in human experience to be able to visually see works of art created to extract humanity’s deepest thoughts and emotions that challenge us to rumble with ourselves, to fight the good fight, to pursue justice embracing innocence, and to live the life we were created to live, acknowledging that it’s not only about the singular “me” but about so much more…it’s about how to love one another well and even demonstrate love, through our actions, for those that don’t deserve it.

It's Not About Deserve.jpg        Or who we believe in…

I will go forth doing my best to be the best version of myself and practice tenderness, acceptance, and love with those in my life and who’s lives are yet to be met. I resolve to align my faith with my actions…and furthermore….I will equip myself to be a BADASS for justice.

Wonder-Woman-No-Mans-Land

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2 Year Old Girl and Abandonment

So today is the day I am supposed to house sit/dog sit for ten days…and I found myself getting depressed…rather….sad and anxious. More than sad, actually, a deep sadness. This was a rare time where I let those feeling surface fully – where I let myself acknowledge them consciously – and one of the rare times I reach out for help to process those feelings.

I texted two trusted and valuable people in my life….”I’m feeling really depressed and sad about not sleeping in my house for the next week and a half and not being with Lamar. It’s bringing me down. It’s triggering abandonment issues.”

Ok…so the other important thing you should know...Lamar... is …my cat… Yes, my cat. I am overly attached to my cat, and when I talk to people about him, people think I am talking about my baby boy, like an actual human baby….NOPE, it’s…..my ca-T. (You gotta admit, he is cute though).

Lamar!

So this is where I say, “Hi, my name is Nathalie Selleslags and I am addicted to my cat.”

I fully acknowledge, recognize that I have an attachment issue to my cat and experience much anxiety when I feel like Lamar isn’t being treated well, is neglected, or is in danger. I am fully aware that as a grown woman, I project my experience with childhood abandonment onto my cat.

Whoa —- admitting that, saying that —- there is this emotional welling up not only behind my eyes, but in the back of my throat that makes it hard to breath, to swallow and to sit in quiet stillness. That emotion sits there, unable to fully be expressed and this is my process.

It’s coming out more. Since working on my “Family of Origins” paper, a paper assignment generally assigned to master’s candidates for graduate degrees in marriage and family therapy, social work, counseling, psychology, more of these emotions have been become conscious and have been wanting to be released. I think I am more ready than every, at this point in my life to unravel yet another layer of my complex life experiences.

I won’t get into more detail, but I acknowledge that I continually struggle with things that happened to me before I even turned three years old. People, this stuff AFFECTS us and the EFFECTS of our early childhood experiences remain a part of us…..if not our whole lives….a large portion of our time here on earth. And….IT’S OK.

Another revelation…I’m not sure I can fully feel for myself the effects of having been abandoned by my dad, abandoned physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually…I haven’t been able to fully experience that for myself. “Who am I to have been abandoned?” “No, I am OK. I was abandoned, but that was back then, I should be fine…I AM fine.” “I’m 30, abandonment issues don’t TRULY bother me anymore.” Oh nay nay, they do.

Wow. There is work yet to be done. And it is empowering. Songs that help me to sing and express the song in my heart during the period in my life that I call THE RUMBLE:

Party People (featuring Social Club) by Derek Minor

Crowns & Thorns (Oceans) by KB

Optimus Prime by Cookie Monsta

Hot Like Sauce by Pretty Lights

The Lonely Trumpet by The Demon Diaries

Intro by DJ Felli Fel by Timbaland, DJ Felli Fel

Tombstone by DJ Ricky Luna

Mosh Pit – Instrumental by Flosstradamus, Casino

Stripped Intro & Stripped Pt. 2 by Christina Aguilera

I Just Needed to Cry It Out

“Thanks for just holding me today. I just needed to cry it out.”

“Of course! Totally. I’ve been thinking abt how delicate life is all afternoon.”

This morning my boyfriend and I carpooled with some married friends of ours to visit their church in Ventura. In the car ride, my friend, we’ll call her Ann, asked if  I had seen my friend’s Facebook post? We call this friend Kate.

“No, why?”

“You should take a look, Kate posted about her brother I think, him dying or something like that, I’m not sure. But you should look.”

Some back story on Ann and Kate – the three of us have been hiking the past several months until June every Wednesday. Ann and I have known each other since junior high and have gone through life together very much in parallel experiences. We relate to each other as sisters, not only because of our mutual faith in Jesus, but in being able to connect together in some of the deepest experiences of pain and supporting each other through the healing process from that pain.

Ann and I had been wanting to connect more consistently, so I invited her to join Kate and I on a weekly hike.

Now Kate; she holds a tender place in my heart. Although I am 12 years older than Kate, I have known her since her freshman year in high school and had the honor of watching her make it through school to her graduation. What a victory! We met through Young Life club (if you don’t know what Young Life is, just look it up). Our relationship has been one of me being a complete dork, intentionally for the purpose of embarrassing and also to get back at her farting on me all the time. She at least thinks I’m cool enough to go on hikes with and periodically calls me about random things – like to talk about alligator onsies, to ask for rides to school, and when I worked at a coffee shop next to the high school, she would come in after class and grab a glass of cold water and hang out with me until she was ready to walk the rest of the day home. We have been camping together. Her dad expresses his thankfulness that I am in her life, yet, I think to myself, your daughter teaches me so much, I am thankful for HER.

So Kate, Ann, and I have been going on hikes together for months and just through the sheer consistency of weekly get together’s we have formed a quirky and fun triadic relationship. We talk about anime, boys, dating, drugs, what it means to be healthy, future plans, money, school, and sometimes faith…faith much less than one might think, considering I love Jesus and people who know that about me, might expect me to “evangelize”, “persuade” or “try to convert” my friend to believe what I believe.

But no. I’ve lived at least long enough to learn that people are going to do what they are going to do, no one but God can change people. I am obedient to what I believe God’s will is in my life and act that out to the best of my human and frail ability, but I also acknowledge that God is so much bigger than me, that He is a powerful God and that my thoughts, my judgments, my beliefs do not have more authority than God’s. I do desire to share my faith with others, but ultimately how people receive that is up to them and God’s Holy Spirit. SO – the pressure is off. I seek to love people how they deserve to be loved, as God’s child, but that doesn’t mean that I am a doormat to be walked on. Anyway, I digress. Much fodder for a future post or discussion. And if you have any questions, I’m an open book.

So…I check my Facebook, go to Kate’s page and see a post about her older brother, photos from the graduation we both attended only a few weeks back, and language that brought a sinking feeling to my gut… I called Kate and ask what had happened. Her brother, only in his 20s having died from an overdose 8 day prior. She had just found out in the wee hours of this morning.

The Rumble

When we rumble –> it’s not with others – & to think that… means we’ve got it all wrong.

The Bible verse that always comes to mind is from Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 10 that says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of darkness” – and those dark forces often anchor themselves in our minds.

You’re ugly.

Shut up.

No one’s listening   –   because they don’t care.

You are alone   –   nothing will change that.

Things will always be this way……….

All the voices, influences, entertainment, powers that be – are telling us to settle – “What difference does it make?” – “What does it really matter?” – “No one will see in the sea of social media news.”

Settle… – you’re fine where you are…

But that gnawing – that small whisper that quietly gnaws in the back of your mind –

– you quiet down a bit –

– you tune in and the whisper augments –

…no…

radiates out…

noo…

ripples…

nooooo

and finally emerges from within – escaping from your lips

NOO!

I will NOT settle!

I’m RUMBLING!

I’m putting on my battle gear

helmet

breastplate

shoes

belt &

man… will I use that sword

to cut through all of that shit.

I will not listen anymore to everything else

I will listen’s to God’s spirit in me.

Focused – cutting away lies like a double edged sword.

Intolerance toward settling as my fuel for battle.

I will fight

The war rages, but oh just wait,

– the opposition is

RISING UP –

the valley of dry bones is breathing  –  it is saturated with living water now.

Oh just wait, the opposition is marching on the battlefield

ready to engage – full forceleo-animal-savannah-lioness-55814 (1)

Are you in? Or will you settle?

Musings close to Anniversary of Significant Man’s Murder

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My good friend sent me an article from the Washington Post today titled, Opinion \ Crucified man had prior run in with authorities. 

After having a chance to finally sit down and read it tonight, my soul was stirred by a more accurate picture of the man of Jesus Christ, both fully human and fully God when he lived and walked on this earth. PARADOX (but I won’t get into that now.)

Jesus WAS radical, he was unconventional and he showed us by his actions aligning directly with his words, how to deeply and genuinely love one another. It seems often that we take this phrase at face value, “love one another as Jesus did” or just, “love one another.” But what does this look like? Actually? Truly? Practically?

At the end of the article by the Washington Post, I watched the video about a Kentucky doctor being pulled off a United Airlines plane for failing to “volunteer” himself to deplane because it was overbooked and they needed space for company employees to travel. When I watched the video, it was shocking and made my stomach turn. He was an Asian man with a heavy accent, but a doctor from Kentucky. The cops who pulled off the plane were not Asian…

This is the ensuing texting conversation that followed with a close friend, with whom I have rich conversations about the current state and climate of our nation. We do not see eye to eye religiously. I will not speak for her religious beliefs, as those are her to share, but I follow the Bible, and Jesus, seeing him as the perfect role model and seek to live like him and honor God in all I do (realizing this is impossible, but also accepting the fact that relationships are not perfect and God loves me unconditionally). We enjoy hashing things out and at the end of each conversation I feel that we have gone deeper and stripped away the surface level getting to the root of what really is going on and truly laying in the depth of our minds and hearts.

Me: I loved that article [you sent me about Jesus in the Washington Post]. But did you see the video of the doctor being dragged off the plane? (the video at the end of the Washington Post article). How awful, it actually makes me sick and my stomach turn

Friend: I couldn’t watch it, but I read about it. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Me: It’s worse when you watch it. [My other friend] was telling me about it today but I honestly didn’t believe her and thought she was being dramatic. I feel bad for not trusting her. When I watched, it was horrifying not to see people stepping in. Poor, poor man. He kept saying, “I want to go home, I want to go home.” Did you hear about the Air BnB….?

Friend: The Asian woman who got denied? Or a different (ugh that there can be so many)

Me: Who was verbally (over messaging) abused…yes, when the woman said, “one word…Asian” and then something like, “Trump will take care of you” or something hideous like that.

[A bit more texting dialogue occurs between us about a previous article she sent me regarding an interview with a Black doctor who performs abortions but is a devout Christian. Before you get your blood boiling either way, I highly recommend reading the article, or his book for that matter http://jezebel.com/dr-willie-parker-on-why-abortion-rights-are-a-moral-im-1794180318]

Friend: So how do we bridge the gulf between our individual experiences? How do you create enough shared space experiences to encourage empathy? Is that even possible? Sorry, I am in a rhetorical mood.

Me: (apparently didn’t heed friend’s ‘rhetorical mood’ comment) Hmmm, yes it is possible because Jesus did it and he did it being fully human on this earth (and fully God at the same time) PARADOX! Ah! But yes, I think it IS possible, but we have to be very clear about our beliefs, the fundamentals of our existence and why we do what we do. And I think at the end of the day, this world is pretty messed up and people at this point in our history can do anything and justify whatever they want. Morality is relative and that is a very dangerous place to live in. The ‘you do you’ and “I’ll do me’ doesn’t create shared space. I believe it creates a distanced morality where it becomes acceptable, for example, to sit in an airplane seat and do nothing when we see a man being molested and abused. Ya know?  I think you’re right, the abortion issue is so polarized and heated [Referring to previous dialogue not included here].

Friend: It feels like EVERY issue is going that way :/

Me: Which is all the more reason for us to be very conscious about what’s happening around us and to check ourselves when empathy starts going out the window within ourselves…like when we lose our sense of empathy. Also the more reason to know what we are going to do and how we are to step up when we see something wrong. I wonder if I would have been arrested for trying to pull those cops off of the passenger, or if I had helped the passenger, if the cops would have tried to stop me, if I would have even felt at liberty to physically and actively step in or if I would have let fear overcome me. I’d like to say I would have been brave and humble enough to stand up for the man, but I don’t know.

Friend: I know…I ask myself that a lot. The gap between who I would hope I am and who I may actually be seems wide sometimes.

Me: Yeah, it seems there will be/is always a gap…and it often is wide.

Friend: Yeah, I guess sometimes it seems exceptionally wide.

Me: But acknowledging that is to acknowledge that we are not immune from acting like the Nazis did in the Holocaust or any of the other many atrocities in our world history.

Friend: Yup. Precisely.

Me: If we think we are immune then we are deceiving ourselves – seems ironic.

Friend: Yeah totally haha It’s like that poem. You know it? Like “first they came for x and I stood by”

Me: Oh yeah, sounds familiar but can’t place it…yeah yeah, now I know what you’re talking about.

Friend: Basically it requires an incredible amount of effort to act like we are personally being threatened on behalf of another when we are not.

Me: Profound. Instincts kicking in for others, counter-nature.

Friend: Yea. Instinctual response is so strong and yet on behalf of another…

Me: Yeah – or when it’s in a group setting, I think that’s almost harder. Because it happens in just an instant when you have hesitation, then no one steps in. There is always the pause and people go dead silent and don’t step in and speak up. But once there’s momentum and you have one or two people that start stepping in, it opens the situation up for the rest of the group to act.

[More texting dialogue relating group dynamics to a youth group “coffee house testimony” night we had last week, I am a youth group leader, where students shared their stories and relationship with God, and the real struggles they are going through. Also, me reflecting on my opposite experience being in full-time youth outreach ministry for Young Life versus being a youth group leader – such different dynamics.]

Me: As hard as it’s been to lead this year, it has been an honor to be a part of it and watch the youth pastors have such solid and healthy relationships with the kids, with each other, and with the church; like who I was in Young Life is the opposite of who I am at youth group. I’m learning a lot from a different perspective and it hit me last night that the kids we worked with a few years ago are the same kids that come to youth group – just from different socioeconomic backgrounds, but the same struggles. It’s humanizing and humbling.

Friend: Good thing to be a part of 🙂

Me: And it makes me think of what I’m learning about Full Service Community Schools, and goes back to what we are talking about – we do ‘good, philanthropic’ things to help the marginalized and the extreme outliers in our society, but essentially, life is one big, hard mess in general and everyone has the same needs as everyone else. That empathy needs to be extended to everyone – especially our enemies. Ugh, because we all act out of our wounds, personal experiences, and perspectives on life.IMG_1615

UNASHAMED

I can’t lead people where I won’t go.

Groups are as strong as their level of unity.

Be content with what I have.

Wake-Up

 

A cry out to the Lord last October, this is what I wrote:

Dear Gracious Father,

You know I’ve been increasingly struggling, overwhelmed and frustrated. Help me.

I need your wisdom, not more than that I need you and your comfort, your arms around me, your hugs and your love – I need you.

I’m stuck in a cycle of behaviors I am not happy with, yet I do what I don’t want to do and that which I want to do, I don’t do it. 

Lord, I lift my thoughts and burdens and doubts and dreams and stress to you – take it please.

This is what I would imagine His response to be:

I love you sweet child. You are mine and will never cease to be. I have put in you great wisdom. You have my thoughts; THAT is my gift to you. What you struggle with is the condition of mankind. Hy heart is always for you, never against you. There is so much more going on under the surface than you realize. My daughter, you are lovely and beautiful in my eyes. You walk in purity and my strength is with you. Oh daughter of the King, walk confidently, for my plan, the tapestry of your life, the tapestry of my kingdom is GLORIOUS beyond any imagining. 

Let me be your comfort. Let me be your hope. Hold fast to me and love others passionately, for then they will know me. Stop trying to beat the world because I already have. You are secure in me.

Isaiah 66:2 
This is the only I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit. 
Isaiah 57:15
For this is what the high and lofty one says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 
Psalm 37:23
If the Lord delights in someone’s way, he makes his steps firm, though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord uphold’s him with his hand.
Psalm 37: 7-8
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do no fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath: do not fret – it leads only to evil. 

Back in California

(Written April 11, 2010)

I’m back (imagine in Governator accent).  So a week after being back, I had a mini-revelation where I came to accept that even though I wish I was back in Berlin and miss everyone terribly, I can’t do anything about my situation now.  I have accepted where I am now and am enjoying my time here as much as I can.  Each day, I gain more insight on my experience in Berlin and how it has changed me for the better.

Emotions are so stirred up now, though, that I realize it will take time for them to settle, to be able to see more clearly.