On “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

I’m not going to write about The Hate U Give in terms of pros and cons: this book doesn’t fit into standard categories and is way beyond a simple review.

It took me a while to read The Hate U Give because it was so intense. Although I feel uncomfortable reading something with so much swearing in it (and other edgy material), the writing was beautiful. Angie Thomas knows how to use words – she is amazing. I cried and I don’t think I’ve ever cried reading a book before – so that says a ton. But I won’t let my kids read it until they are in high school (I’m pretty liberal about what I let them read, but this book was no walk in the park).

Angie Thomas used the characters to show me a world I had no clue about. I enjoyed her commentaries on faith, family, community, race, economics and relationship. Like I said, there is so much in this book. So much to process.

The part that I loved most, but that also left me most puzzled (because I’m trying to figure out how to relate it to my own life) was on friendship – starting at Momma’s advice to Starr when they are eating pancakes and how that all unfolds: the story left me wrestling with the concepts of forgiveness versus reconciliation versus breaking ties (not that they are always mutually exclusive, but from the book there is definitely a clear message about breaking ties). Hard questions.

That’s what I’m left thinking about. Weird probably, but that’s what it is. I think it comes down to relationship and figuring out how to handle destructive and hurtful ones. When do you draw the line and how? What happens when you get hurt over and over again? Hard questions, especially if you are trying to follow Jesus.

Okay – that’s all I feel like sharing about the book for now.

It’s a beautiful, but heart breaking book.

 

 

When your goals are greater than your capacity

This is what scenes in a novel consist of: goals that are beyond the capacity of the character. The character wants something, a major obstacle stands in the way, the character attempts to overcome.

Life can be the same way: we want something, obstacles are in the way, we attempt to overcome obstacles.

But sometimes the obstacles are huge.

Sometimes the discouragement is paralyzing.

It’s like gridlock on the H1 after an accident: there’s nothing you can do about it, you ain’t going nowhere, no matter what you try and do.

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Except it’s your life on gridlock mode.

What do you do then?

My tendency is to have fear and anger, and a lot of it. But God has been working something new in me.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7

In the midst of gridlock, power, love and a sound mind.

From God.

My circumstances stay the same.

But my fears become less.

Power, love, sound mind.

I’m sending out an Easter prayer, that if you read this and if you feel your life’s in gridlock mode, you might trade in your fear, and allow God to fill you with power, love and a sound mind.

I think that’s what Easter’s about: taking the worst of life’s gridlocks – injustice, death and evil – and overcoming, beyond all logic or natural capacity, with power, love and healing. That’s so beautiful. And I believe it, because I’ve experienced it.

So, when my goals are greater than my capacity, I go back to Easter.

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How to figure out what your dream is…

After a previous video I made, three benefits to pursuing your dream, several people asked, “what if you don’t have a dream?” and “how can you figure out what your dream is?”

Here are some thoughts I have on those questions:

1) Maybe you don’t have your full dream or vision, but do you have a partial image, or a hint of a thought? I would tug at that, and see what unravels.

2) We see more and find more as we takes steps forward, in courage. Make the effort to explore and pursue small hints of joy. As you step forward, have hope, and invest time in what captures your imagination. Then, doors to adventures will surprise you, sometimes in very unexpected places!

I hope this helps. Please leave comments, thoughts or questions. I LOVE to hear from you!

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When life hands you jerks…

What do you do when life hands you jerks? Over the last year, the lightbulb finally went on and my approach towards relationships radically shifted.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “[b]ut I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” In addition, Luke wrote, “[d]o good to those who hate you.” Accordingly, these are the three ways I used to respond to jerks:

  1. To the best of my ability, be sweet and do acts of kindness.
  2. Try to connect with them and figure out the underlying reason for their jerkiness; dig up the root cause for any issues, deal with it, empathize where possible and create peace.
  3. When all the above failed, pray that time would yield healing in the relationship.

These habits became entirely depleting. Can anyone relate?

What I was trying to do was chase after the jerks: in fact, I found that the more jerky a person would be, then the kinder I would try to be.  While those attempts are beautiful, the problem is that we only have so much to give and that there are consequences when our energy is consumed with the wrong people and situations.

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Trying to make people who didn’t care for me happy and striving to be likable was exhausting, and disappointing, and an impossible task…leaving me with little left to give back to those who actually filled my life with goodness.

The Bible has a lot to say about fools (I’m going to use the words fool and jerk interchangeably, because it’s helpful for me to think of jerks as fools). For example, “[l]ike tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool.” (Proverbs 26:8)

How I handle fools now:

  1. I take my focus off the fools and invest my energy in people who are awesome: those people who are kind, diligent, authentic, and inspiring are the ones I give my time, energy and resources to.
  2. When someone is a fool, I will be courteous and pray for them; I don’t start acting like a fool myself.
  3. If the fool starts acting less foolish, then I might offer them new opportunities for trust.

Time is a valuable asset and it’s important to be smart in how we invest it. Just as one would not invest money in some venture that promises loss, one might want to think twice before investing in a relationship that promises depletion.

However, a wise investment reaps: accordingly, I have now found that as I assign time and energy to great people and big dreams, the result is that my cup overflows and my life is rich.

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Ready for wholeness

Because of my feelings of failure, and also, because I had been reading about J D Salinger’s life and how he sought to isolate himself (and that strangely scared me  – it resonated with me, I guess), two day ago, I asked God to reveal an area in my life where I needed growth.

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Anyway, here’s the story…

Thursday, after school, when most students had already gone home, a dear colleague of mine, someone I have tremendous amounts of respect for, pulled me aside. “Vanessa, I have to talk to you – as a friend.”

I had no idea what she was going to tell me, but my anxiety levels escalated as she mentioned an issue with a particular person. My gut reaction, that I somehow managed to keep quiet about, was to think this “issue” was all in the other person’s mind…and how ridiculous.

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But then, I remembered a time when I had brought up something  with someone, and they had brushed it off as my problem and/or that it was all in my mind. So, rather than be defensive or dismissive, I listen and committed to empathy.

That night, I had a hard time sleeping. I realized that I was anxious about the situation because I had no idea what to do. Then, that Bible verse popped into my head: “do not be anxious about anything, but with prayers, petitions and thanksgiving, make your requests known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” So, I prayed: I mentioned to God that I had no idea what to do, and that I needed help. And then I fell asleep.

The next day (yesterday), I still didn’t know what to do. I looked for opportunities to approach the person, but strangely enough, there were none. I prayed again, and then somehow, it occurred to me and I sensed in my heart, that the issue wasn’t just with that person, but with a group of people…panic. Cluelessness. The tip of the iceberg. Sigh.

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After lunch, an unusual set of circumstances “just so happened” whereby I found myself alone with – you may have guessed it – that group of people. This has NEVER happened before.

By some miracle, instead of saying a bunch of nonsense, I asked some questions…and my eyes were opened to an entire situation I had no clue about. We ended up joking around and even laughing as we discussed the situation.

Of course, this is still only part of the iceberg. I believe God was showing me a whole area of my thinking and processing that was off and hurting. Now, I can begin to grow in that area.

I didn’t put the pieces of the puzzle together until this morning, when I was reflecting back on this past week: God answered my original prayer in a peculiar, yet common-sense way. My original prayer, my senses of fear and failure, my friend, a few conversations and good laughs, all together, they led to awareness of an area of my life that’s ready for wholeness – not fear or failure.

Three bits of inspiration from ants – how about that?

I thought it would be fun to look for inspiration from ants…it’s like being a kid, all over again : ) Though there’s a lot already out there on this, here are my three cents worth.

Ants stay on course. Pretty much no matter what, ants find their way around obstacles, sometimes really big ones! I, on the other hand, am quite easily distracted or discouraged – but like the ant, all I have to do is find my path again and keep on going : )

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Ants do their job…as far as I can tell. This is not some brilliant idea, but there is something to be said for just doing your job. Solid, reliable consistency: I like the sound of that.

“Go to the ant you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” – Proverbs 6:6-8

Ants are awesome explorers. Whether its exploring in physical places, or thoughts, or in writing, I love the possibility that exploration holds!

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” – E.L. Doctorow

For those of you who might interested in seeing a cool little video on ants, here you go:

How should I define success?

As I write my book, I have to ask myself: on this writing journey, how will I know if I am successful? Is ultimate success finding an agent and getting published?

There is a lot out there on how to achieve success…

Winston Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

Thomas Edison said, “Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”

The Proverbs say, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

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…and about determining what success is…

“SMART” goals are supposed to be specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Right?

To me, the specific goal or achievement, the finish line, is what everyone else sees, and how society will determine my success. But what is success to me?

Having considered different perspectives on success, I think, for me, success is joy. Many times, joy is hard earned and the fruit of much labor. But sometimes, success seems to comes simply and easily, in unexpected little miraculous ways. Whenever I have joy, despite my circumstances or failures, then I know I’m on to something…

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With Mirror of Sparrows, I think I’ve already succeeded because the writing process has brought me such joy.