Welcome to College, You’re Going to Hell

On my first week of college in the Fall Semester of 2018, I sat outside my biology class waiting for the previous class to exit the room before my class began. A person then walked down the hall handing out papers folded in half. Since this was our first day of class, I thought that maybe they were the TA, and were handing out a syllabus or other document important for the class. I took a paper from them, said “thank you,” and then unfolded it as they continued to pass them out to the rest of my classmates. Much to my surprise, this had nothing to do with my class, but was instead a hateful document handed to me by a member of a discriminatory church in our college town.

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(Image Description: photo of a document titled “Are you REALLY a Christian? If not, turn to Jesus!”)

Less than a week later I would be aggressively handed another one of these papers when I didn’t take it right away. The cynic in me finds it humorous. People like this have no power over my feelings, and are incapable of invalidating my identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. However, the Christian in me is saddened by their complete lack of understanding of the way Jesus lived and loved. The aggression and clear bigotry shown in this document does not correspond to the message of love Jesus preached. I also find it a bit paradoxical that one of the “deadly sins” they list is anger. They seem pretty angry to me.

I do not think it is right to push your religion on anyone else. Faith is an incredibly personal thing, and should not be forced on another person. The last thing anyone is going to do when reading this paper is want to join their church. As a queer Christian, and progressive person, I find it incredibly hard to identify with other Christians. So many of their actions are the exact opposite of what I believe in and feel is right. The anti-catholic rhetoric is also incredibly unhelpful, and leads to even more divisiveness within the church.

My college is very progressive for being located in Texas. If you are a hard-core conservative, you are in the minority at my school. This has lead to street preachers targeting our campus two years in a row with a similar (yet much more vulgar and aggressive) message. While many members of the student body have loudly protested these hateful messages, it still leads to students feeling unsafe on campus. Many students came to my college to flee their conservative and unwelcoming Texas hometown. It deeply saddens me to think that they would feel unsafe here because of people like the street preachers, and the group who handed me that paper on my first day of class.

These hateful actions need to be called out, but disruption and arguments are often the goal of these groups. It can be difficult to find ways to rebuke the ideologies of these people, without giving them the emotional response they are seeking. As a Christian, it is my job to speak up when groups discriminate against others in the name of Christianity. While I am proud of the student bodies response to messages like these, I hope we can progress to a time where these messages are not sent in the first place.

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When The Happiness Breaks Through

When the happiness breaks through

And the weight of heartache is lifted from my shoulders

My spirit begins to flutter

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I lay down my burdens

And for the first time in too long I’ve let you take them

This sensation is distantly familiar

Oh my does it feel good

You’ve been waiting here all along

but I just come to visit

and I know that should change

I’m tired of making myself feel unwelcome

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My spirit awoke, as cliché as that sounds

My soul feels light

And my inner most being has been lifted

For too long I’ve been trapped

Stuck under neath the weight of it all

And I shut down

Shut you out

The rain poured and I tried to make myself comfortable in these wet clothes

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But you’re my umbrella

In that one shade of yellow that I’ve always felt was too happy

Maybe that’s it

I’m afraid of being happy

Because happy means things could go wrong

Happy means I could crash

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But I already crashed

and never really got up

I only fell further and further into a hole of despair

Reaching for a hand I was not ready to take

Occasionally I’d crawl out only to fall back in

From the unbalanced weight of the boulder on my back

The boulder I let sit there, grasping tightly as you pulled, signaling for me to let go

All my life i’ve been told I’m too stubborn

But I don’t want to be stubborn with you

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This isn’t the first time I’ve been here

I want to say it’s different now

My breaking point was long ago

Yet I’ve continued to shatter

I don’t know how much further I can break

Before the pieces are too hard to put back together

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I hide under a mask of cynicism and small talk

This used to be a character I’d play

But we morphed into one on a dark day long ago

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Part of me always feels silly when we get here

Why hadn’t I done this sooner?

I know the truth but I let the pain over take me

I’ve been running on sarcasm and anger for far too long

Contemplating things that aren’t what I want, aren’t who I am

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Now I rejoice

Praise you till my throat dries and my tears run empty

For the first time in a long time happiness is appealing

Loving and being loved is desired, no needed

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I want to say this will last forever

I want to believe I’ll continue to show up

I’m tired of being a guest within my own soul

There’s some cobwebs to clear sure, I won’t pretend like there isn’t

But when you break through

I want to delight in your name

Unconditional

Unconditional love is something that I find hard to wrap my head around.

I don’t think most people truly love each other unconditionally. I wouldn’t fault someone for “conditional love,” it isn’t easy to love someone no matter what they do.

In church we use the phrase “God’s unconditional love” a lot. I believe he is truly the only one who can have unconditional love. In Sunday school over the summer we discussed this subject and we were told to come up with words that we believe unconditional love should be. One of mine was tenacious. I threw it out there not thinking much about it, but now I keep coming back to that word. Love should be tenacious. It should be unwavering and we should persevere through the hardships.

The easy thing to do is give up, except when it’s the hard thing. I don’t believe you should have to have unconditional love for someone who is abusive, and although I’ve never been in that type of situation from what I understand it isn’t always easy to walk away. I have a door-slam mentality when it comes to relationships sometimes. When things begin to go awry and people hurt me I want to get them out of my life as soon as possible. That isn’t the healthy or mature thing to do though. That kind of love is conditional. That love isn’t unwavering or preserving.

I think I have a fascination with unconditional love because it’s so rare. The closest thing to unrestricted love is some parent-child relationships. I say some because there are always those awful parents who kick their kids out for being LGBTQ+, getting pregnant, or are abusive.

Parents who whole-heartedly love their children no matter what are so beautiful to me. I hope I can be that open and loving towards any future children I have. I honestly think my parents would love me no matter what. I have a sibling who has tested that belief time and time again over the past few years and they have continued to stick by their side. As frustrating and painful as it can be, it has taught me a lot of lessons about relationships.

Unconditional love is something I will continue to strive for in all my relationships. Continue to love boldly, whole-heartedly, and unconditionally!

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

 

P.S. The whole time I wrote this, I couldn’t help but sing “Unconditionally” by Katy Perry😉

 

“Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally
There is no fear now
Let go and just be free
I will love you unconditionally

Come just as you are to me
Don’t need apologies
Know that you are worthy
I’ll take your bad days with your good
Walk through the storm I would
I do it all because I love you, I love you”

Hope Amongst the Chaos

I have hope among the chaos.

The American people may have voted for racism, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, transphobia, and general bigotry, but I still have hope.

I have  hope in those who have responded with civil disobedience, strength and love. I have faith in those who led protests, and marches, and used their voices to speak up against injustice. Together we are strong, but contrary to popular belief you can be strong on your own.

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You can live in a red state, in the south, or in conservative family and still hold your progressive values. You are allowed to speak up amongst family, friends, and peers to let them know their choices have consequences. Those people will never see their wrong-doings if no one points them out. Be kind, loving, and educate rather than reprimand.

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Giving up will not fix anything. This situation may make us feel like the end is near, but it’s only near if we don’t do anything. I will not give up. I will not stop being loud and opinionated. I will not stand by and let myself or my fellow human beings be assaulted with words or violence. Do something, anything, but I beg you please don’t stand still.

I have hope in God that he will lead me to the right opportunities and people to be able to make a difference and help others. I have hope that God will continue to love and accept all people, no matter how his followers respond to others in this world. I think we should look at this as a wake up call rather than a curse. I knew hate and bigotry was alive and well in America,but I had no idea just how many people would be driven by the irrational fear of people who are different from them.

In the words of Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.” Respond to others with love, compassion, and respect. Stand up for yourself and others who are discriminated against. I’m not going to tell you everything is going to be okay or it isn’t going to be that bad, because I don’t know that and definitely wouldn’t assume that, but I still have hope.

Have hope amongst the chaos,

Alyssa

That’s Christmas to Me

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is upon us, and in full swing. I hope you’re having a great holiday, and spending time with someone you love. Here are some little things I love about Christmas – and try to remember in order to make stressful holidays more enjoyable.

 

1.The Smell of Fresh Pine

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Every year my family gets a real tree, and the aroma of the fresh pine fills our house – both with holiday joy and lots of sneezing! Plus how cute is Sophie?

 

2. Hot Tea

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I am a tea person, as coffee gives me a migraine. There is nothing better than drinking a cup of warm tea when it’s cold outside. My favorites are green, chai, and citrus.

 

3. Pentatonix

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If loving Pentatonix Christmas albums makes me basic – then so be it 🙂 I have seen them in concert, and they are such talented individuals. My favorite songs are White Winter Hymnal, That’s Christmas to Me, and Hallelujah.  Listening to them always puts me in a cheery and festive mood!

 

4. Dessert Galore

My mom is an amazing baker and cook. The rest of my extended family – not so much. Since that’s the case, my mom makes all the desserts for the holidays. Everything from pie to cookies, and fudge has been made over the years, and it’s always delicious. Calories don’t count at the holidays, right?

 

5. Christmas Movies

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It doesn’t matter how cringey it is, if it’s Christmas related, I’ll probably watch it. We watch “A Christmas Story” every Christmas Eve, which is my favorite holiday themed movie. I also really enjoy Elf, Christmas with the Kranks, and the animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

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6. Family Time

It doesn’t matter how crazy they drive me – I will always love my family. At the end of day I am grateful for everyone of my family members and the time I get to spend with them. Not everyone has a great family support system behind them, and while I can’t imagine how that must feel, I know those people will meet others who will love and appreciate them forever.  I don’t think blood makes family; unconditional love does.

 

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Chuanakah. Let me know how your holiday has been/ is going!

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

Merry Christmas Eve!

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Merry Christmas Eve, and Happy Chanukah!

If your house is anything like mine, then you’re probably rushing around trying to get everything done for the big day tomorrow. I always prefer Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, because my favorite part of the holiday season is the candlelit service at our church. The festive hymns, and the story of Jesus’s birth always put me in a good mood, and help me to take a step back and examine what Christmas is to me.

Since my faith and religion are very important to me, most of my Christmas celebrations involve talking about Jesus, because it’s kind his day, ya know? I find the story of Jesus’s birth very empowering as a woman. Mary was a virgin, and only a young teenager, yet she brought the greatest gift to the universe into the world. She gave birth in a manger – and all without any pain meds, or medical professionals to help her might I add. Mary was completely obedient to God, even when she afraid, and is responsible for raising the son of God. If that isn’t crazy , I don’t know what is! God could have chosen anyone or any way to bring his son into the world, but he chose a young, woman living in poverty, and I think that’s beautiful. Women weren’t respected back then, and were treated as property, but God gave Mary the greatest task of all, and she responded with nothing but complete faith and trust in the Lord.

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Every Christmas Eve my immediate family always watches “A Christmas Story.”  I could probably quote the whole movie from start to finish, but it’s still one of my favorite traditions we have. We even have a miniature leg lamp as a decoration upstairs during the holidays. Sitting around the TV, while the fireplace going, all laughing and commenting on the movie, always brings me lots of joy. As crazy as my family can drive me, I truly cherish the moments I get to spend with all of them.

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I hope you are having a good holiday season, if you celebrate any holidays in this winter. And if the 24th-25th are just regular days for you, I hope you do something fun, and have a good time. Christmas is always a joyous time for me, and I pray that whatever your situation may be,  you find a little glimmer of happiness or positivity this holiday season.

Wishing You Lots of Love and Joy this Christmas Season,

Alyssa

12 Deeds of Christmas

We’ve all heard the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” composed by Fredric Austin. Every Christmas for as along as I can remember my family has done something we call, “The Twelve Deeds of Christmas,” in which we do 12+ things, big or small, in order to help someone else or bring a little bit of joy during the holiday season. I’m not sharing this to boast, but rather to hopefully inspire some of you to start this tradition.

Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa, are approaching fast, but there is still time to help others before the big days arrive. A “deed” does not have to be big, or expensive to count. I thought I would compose a list of suggestions for ways/places to donate this year.

  1. Johnson & Johnson Donate a Photo

If you download the free “Donate a Photo” app, you can upload a photo daily and choose a specific cause for Johnson and Johnson to donate a dollar to. This is completely free, and only takes a few seconds each day. Some things I have donated to through the app are GLSEN, Girl Up, The Trevor Project, Nyumbani, and The American Diabetes Foundation.

2. Bake cookies!

Making cookies is fairly inexpensive and a great way to spread some festive cheer. Giving them to neighbors, friends, firefighters, or anyone in your community is always a great act of kindness.

3. Donate Old Clothes/Household Items

We all have old clothes and things we don’t need or use laying around our house or in the back of our closets. Get ahead on your spring cleaning and get rid of clothes that don’t fit or you don’t wear anymore. Donate them to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other local resale shop.

4. Donate Pet Food/ Toys to your local animal shelter

Cat litter, dry dog/cat food, and canned dog/cat food are all pretty cheap depending on the brand you buy. A selfish motive for me is always getting to look at all the cute cats, and dogs up for adoption, but the donation defiantly helps them out 🙂

5. Buy a Child a Christmas Present

Foundations like Toys for Tots take toy donations around Christmas/ Chanukah to give to family in need. They don’t have to be big elaborate toys, just a little something to help brighten a Childs holiday season. Churches also often take donations for church members  and others in the community who could use it, so if you can’t find a Toys for Tots location to drop off, a church might be a good option.

6. Go Caroling at a Nursing Home

Elderly people love hearing people sing Christmas carols. Plus staying around afterword to talk to them really makes their day. Lots of people who live in nursing homes don’t get many visitors, and life can be lonely. Having someone to talk to can really change things for them, and who knows maybe you’ll make a connection and go back to talk to them again!

7. Make Christmas Cards for Children in the Hospital/ Soldiers

It may be too late to send cards to soldiers for this Christmas, but you can always do it next year. However it’s not too late to make Christmas cards for children in the hospital this holiday season. Also donating blankets and stuffed animals can bring a little joy to children who are sick.

8. Donate your time

It doesn’t matter where you donate time, its the fact that you do it. Nursing homes, local resale shops, and homeless shelters, are great locations to help out at. Donating your time won’t cost you anything, and it can be a big help to organizations that depend on volunteers to keep them alive.

9. Skip out on a Holiday gift and ask for a donation in your name

If you like this idea here are some causes I support and think you should donate to

10. Make a donation yourself to an organization you support. Here are some more good foundations if you don’t know who do donate to.

11. Pay it forward

When you’re in line at Starbucks, or a fast food restaurant, pay for the person behind you. This is an easy way to bring unexpected joy to someones day.

12. Donate Food to your local Food Pantry

Many Food Pantries across America try to make Christmas extra special for people in need. They can’t give someone the ingredients to a great Holiday meal without your help. Call the food pantry and ask what they are most in need of, and then make a grocery run! It’s easy if you are really busy this year, because everyone goes to the grocery store.

 

I hope this list gave you some good ideas of how to help others this Holiday season. I tried to make most of them fairly inexpensive because I know the holidays are costly. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, or if you don’t celebrate anything this time of year I hope you have a great day, and do something fun.

Lots of Love,

Alyssa