will

When I was a little girl, it is clear in my memory a time that I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to pray for something very specific. I don’t exactly remember what I was going to ask for in prayer, but I do remember her adding some comments to my inquiry that have stayed with me through the remainder of my life and truly made an impact on the way I approach my prayers. I remember her telling me that when I pray for something, I need to remember to ultimately pray for God will’s to take precedence. This has really molded and transformed my prayers throughout the years, indicating to me which prayers I truly wanted God’s guidance and counsel on, and the prayers I sent up that were viewed as “wish-granters”. I have heard this “If it is God’s will” echoed throughout the prayers lifted up my grandparents and family members all of my life. Praying for God’s will to happen before mine removes my emotional attachments to the situation and really puts my request in God’s hands.

When I find myself saying a prayer, maybe something like “God, I pray I get this [fill in the blank]” and then I add “God, I pray I get this [fill in the blank], if it will be Your will.” There is a fleeting moment of truth that follows that expresses how my personal feelings are towards giving God full control of the situation. Often, I realize that I am inclined towards God’s will supporting my own will (naturally), but I need to realize that sometimes it isn’t going to. And I need to truly, genuinely be happy with the outcome of either situation. So if I make a request to God, and find myself anxious or nervous that He might see the outcome different than I do, I know my emotional attachments to that request are deeper than my trust in God. This happens to me OFTEN, and I am definitely not claiming to be perfect (and I never will be). But I will admit that I no longer have the inability to accept an outcome different than my own. Maybe He doesn’t want me to have something now because there is something better waiting on the horizon. Maybe He wants to teach me something or show me someone and that doesn’t coincide with what I have requested. I have learned to take control of my attachment to worldly materialism and pride and subordinate them to the will of a God that has my best interest at the core of His purpose.

Let me clarify that not all of my prayers are seemingly selfish requests to God. But some of them are, and I think it is important to share with you all how much adding, “..if it is Your will” at the end of my prayers has transformed my self-awareness of my feelings towards what I am asking. I really think it has made me less attached to the outcome of things because I know that my requests were not asked in selfish desire but in an attempt to give God control over something in my life I find important enough to lift up in prayer.

Ultimately, God’s design for situations will always prevail. His will holds importance in our lives, where ours holds none. So my prayer tonight, is that all of you will find the truth in your requests and will pray with sincerity and a heart that seeks the Lord, if it will be in God’s will.

open #oneword2016

Open.

A trend I stumbled upon on wordpress was this #oneword2016. After reading through a few articles I got the impression that this is a one word “mantra” dedicated to 2016. I started contemplating some of the words that I would like to implement into 2016. Some of the words that came to mind were words like real, strength, imagine. All of these words were fitting for my life, but for some reason I felt inclined to think of word that didn’t “fit” my life. A word that wasn’t something that didn’t just come to the top of my mind. A word I had to search for.

Then I thought of Open. I would like to be more open in 2016.

Open to having coffee with a stranger.

Open to reading books I don’t think I will enjoy.

Open to having meaningful conversations at odd times in the day.

Open to change.

Open to suggestions.

Open to commitment.

Open to challenging myself mentally.

Open to challenging myself physically.

Open to creating novel ideas and writing about them generously.

Open…

I would like to be more open. I dedicate 2016 to the year I step outside of my comfort zone, explore new ideas, learn more about the world, make silly choices, and be a more open person.

I encourage you to find your #oneword2016. Analyze where you could use some remodeling in your life. We all need to rearrange our perspectives sometimes.

Comment your #oneword2016 so I can be a part of your journey to liberation, success, and happiness!

a tree falls in the woods

A tree falls in the woods, and nobody hears it. Did it really fall and make a sound?

The action may have occurred. In fact, the tree most likely fell. But can we prove that it did?

No. Someone could have chopped the tree down. Someone could have uprooted the tree purposefully. But here we are, immersed in this deciduous forest, and we are all trying to semantically determine the source of the fallen tree. We are all surrounded around the tree, painstakingly and vehemently trying to validate our theories. The tree was knocked down by violent winds. The tree was aged and had fallen due to its worn age. Of course, the qualities of the tree are meaningless. In fact, we have such a lack of care for the tree that we intentionally set it on fire. We, individually, pick at its bark – bark that cannot be replaced – until it is near bare. We see the tree as a great source of profit to our intellectual accounts and spend our time hacking away at its sides, as a miner blindly hacks away at a cave. Except this cave is so magnanimously mysterious. But now there are other theories; the tree was spontaneously uprooted by a theoretically powerful but infinitely improbable force. We all so conscientiously try to put an identification tag on the cause of the fall. We are surrounded around the tree, with blinders on to everything but our own theories. Some theories are substantiated in scientific arguments. While others are rooted in supernatural phenomena. Individually, there are flaws in both. But we would never allow ourselves to hear the views of the other side. We only listen to ourselves. We care only about our own flawed reasoning.

But what if there was a branch that fell off the tree on the way down? Attached to the branch are the punctilious and explicit explanations for the cause of the miraculous fall of the tree. The branch, we know, is most definitely a part of the whole original tree. There are no earthly questions of the authenticity of the branch being a part of the tree. In fact, the branch is the only other existing remnant of the tree. The only other terrestrial evidence that the tree actually exists in a place other than our minds. When the branch is discovered, some people wholeheartedly believe its instructions are pure and divine. The cause of the tree is disclosed in the ink of the pristine instructions.

This is where we are. We are destroying the tree. We are disrespecting the entirety of the causality behind the falling of the tree. We are here not to question whether or not the tree is on the ground; that is not denied. We collectively believe that. But we are out here to determine why it fell. What caused it to fall. Is there significance in the falling of the tree? Are there other trees that will fall in these same ways?

Where are you in this amass of theories, facts, and distorted beliefs? The one hacking away at the tree, disrespecting its origin of death? Are you blind to the branch that is an unquestionable part of the whole? Are your theories based on what the obviously puzzled person in front of you told you? Have you even thought about why the tree fell at all, or are you outside the forest, only believing what those who are running wildly out to tell you? (This is an unsafe place to be)

But the truth is a tree fell in the woods. Someone heard it. We all believe it. Why did it fall?

illusions

I am thankful that God gave me the ability to experience beauty.
What is beauty? Where is the idea of beauty derived from? What molds our minds to think something is classified as beautiful? I am not talking about exterior, superficial beauty. I am talking about things that are truly beautiful. Truly extravagant and truly awing. This type of beauty leaves me humbled and thankful. It makes me feel small but important. It leaves me confirmed in my faith and sincerely amazed. Have you ever seen an illusionist or magician perform and leave thinking, wow that was incredible. How did that happen? What was the trick or the hidden performance that caused the illusion?
I feel this way about things that are beautiful.
The biological sciences leave me almost daily in a state of appreciation and utter awe. Every day, every second, every single millisecond, our bodies are performing some incredibly complex and intricate processes. The human body blows my mind. My biology professor, Dr. Laura Stephan, was lecturing this morning about a protein found in the mitochondrial matrix (remember from middle school, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell!) that is so fundamental to our beings that it is a testament to the enormity and intricacy of our God. This protein, ATP synthase, is the sole proprietor for the functional energy created by our cells. This may sound like mumbo jumbo but let me elucidate – this single, microscopic molecule enables our cells to produce energy, which enables our cells to do amazing things like fight disease and fix problems in the body. I am able to write this post and think these thoughts because of a tiny, seemingly insignificant protein. I am able to laugh and enjoy apple cider and watch endless amounts of Netflix because these minuscule mechanisms within my body are functioning – and not just functioning but functioning in a way that is conducive to living and thriving. I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me, but that is beautiful. The way everything fits together so well, the way everything works at the right time and halts at the right time, the way the body has all these crazy complexities that allow me to live and breathe is absolutely awesome, in the true meaning of the word. Beauty to me is seeing how God enables our lives. He put all of those proteins in the perfect places. When I was being created in my mother’s womb, all of my cells came together in a fashion that enabled me. So much is going on in our bodies at a given time that it is almost incomprehensible. I think God works this way. He silently creates these beautiful pieces of our lives and when we are exposed to them, it takes our breath away and leaves us in awe and wonder. God has shown me the beauty that He is capable of uncovering. It makes me hopeful and excited to know that my God can make things so indefinitely beautiful.
Last night I attended a symphony at the University. I love classical music, but this was my first attendance at a true symphony with an orchestra. It was incredible. Hearing sounds created by instruments that came together in a way that seemingly flowed into a single piece caused my thoughts to navigate towards what was actually going on. Individuals on the stage were performing with their instrument, those sounds were combining with other sounds; the sounds danced around each other, and then that music traveled to my ears and I was enabled to experience the combination of it all. During the symphony I just thought to myself Thank you God for allowing these things to enrich my mind and fill my ears. This is just another form of the beauty you allow me to see. Whenever you let God take you to something beautiful, you know it. Last night was one of those moments.
Beauty is all around us. Maybe you have difficulty seeing beauty; if that’s the case, I encourage you to look for the beauty. He has placed it all around us: in the leaves, in conversation, in our bodies, in the mountains, in His merciful grace, and most prominently in ourselves. God has given you a beauty so unique to you that no one else can replicate it. He has given us the ability to recognize this beauty in others and verbally acknowledge it (I think we should utilize this ability more often). God, thank you for the beauty you have shown me. Thank you for the incomprehensible, transcending, munificent, and amazing beauty you have allowed me to see. I pray that you guys see this same beauty around you and within yourself.
Like the magician, we see only what is exposed to us. But instead of living a life of wonder and incessant pondering of unanswered questions about how the magic tricks are working, God is transparent. He lets us know that He is the illusionist behind all things beautiful and all things wonderful.

plastic hands

flower envelope.

I started college this past week, and I already have the addition of so many unique experiences. I have been to an outdoor free concert in downtown Nashville, I have exchanged “hellos” with more people than I thought imaginable, I have made friends that I plan to hold onto, I have ran and explored around my magical campus, I have had moments of homesickness, I have attended interesting lectures, I have attended boring lectures, I have eaten at amazing restaurants, I have heard fantastic musicians, and I have most recently spent quite a bit of time in my dorm reading and writing notes and trying to decipher scientific text into simpler terms for my own understanding. But tonight as I write notes over chemistry concepts, my thoughts keep navigating towards neuroscience…

Plasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt to change and conform to new environments, new demands, and new experiences. It is a rather novel concept but to me it is absolutely awe inspiring. Our mind is the single most complex organism on our planet and remains the most complex system even when we extend to the Milky Way that envelops us in its gravitational embrace. Our minds, the envy of computational and electrical engineers across the world, is able to physically adapt to change. It is living, growing, and becoming more dynamic with every encounter we have and every memory we form. Your neural connections are on fire as you read this very sentence. Your brain is processing every bit and piece of information and deciding instantaneously where it is to be stored. Why does all of this fascinate me? Because I sometimes feel we as humans forget that we too have this plasticity feature. We are not supposed to remain complacent or dormant. We are not encouraged to become comfortable as the character we were cast for the play of Life. If the brain has the unique quality of changing when needed, of becoming better adapted for the role that it is required to fill, then we need to replicate this quality in our everyday lives. Open up your mind, your home, your heart, and your eyes and look for ways you can become an asset to the vast world around you. Find your passion and fall deeply in love with what it takes to pursue it. Be adaptable. Be the moldable human being God designed you to be. Stretch your beliefs, stretch out your hands to others, and stretch yourself vehemently in ways previously unthinkable. It is my belief that when we use our plasticity as humans, and as lovers, and as sons and daughters, and as warriors, and as citizens, that we have moved towards the bright and hopeful road of satisfying the great Creator.

So go out here. Look for the changes you need to make to be a better person, to make better decisions, and to make the world a better place.

I pray you find your ability to change and use it.

“His master replied, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” Matthew 25:23.


weighting on the world to change

I am not a writer. I cannot formulate words into the sentences I want them to be read. I hear my thoughts and I want other people to hear them, but it is often hard for me to communicate my thoughts to other people. I am an awkward person. I am a real person who gets uncomfortable in situations. This post is going to be careless. Not careless in the way that I don’t care what I am writing, but careless in the fashion that my grammar may be wrong at times. I may not make sense. Actually, I probably won’t make sense (that is how my brain functions). I am going to write my thoughts as I think them, not as I want them read. I have always enjoyed writing, whether it be prose fiction or research papers. I enjoy writing, but why?

I enjoy learning. I thoroughly enjoy learning. I am a creative thinker. I love to create things in my mind. Scenarios. Problems, realistic and scientific. Stories. I love learning about new people. I love discovering new places. I am passionate about gaining knowledge in every aspect of my life. I have always said I have a curious mind but honestly I think I have a curious heart. I am passionate about learning about other people. Their likes, dislikes, loves, hates, emotions, worries. I love learning about people. I often silently watch others and just soak up what I observe. How they speak, how they articulate their words, how they choose to love, how they choose to breathe even. Every body is different. And I mean that in every body is different.

I hate the media.

We as women are so often, for lack of better words, tricked into believing lies. Skinny women are everywhere. NO, photoshop and hungry celebrities are everywhere. This post is written for myself. The average weight of an American woman has gone up 11 pounds in 20 years according to thehuffingtonpost.com. The ideal weight for an American woman is 140 pounds. We, on average, weigh 156 pounds. Now, I don’t weigh 156 pounds. Or 140 pounds. I know women that do though. I have a petite frame. I have always been naturally skinny, but I am just as victimized by the unrealistic idea of beauty that is portrayed in the media as my other lady accomplices that weigh 156 pounds.

I hate the media.

I looked myself in the mirror this morning and kind of freaked out. Not because I was embracing my typically atrocious morning hair. But I thought to myself (prepare for the messy thoughts I conceive), this is who I am. I am this face, I am this hair, I am this body, and these eyes. I am those feet and these hands. To other people, this is who I am. But to myself, I am not those things. 90% of the day I never see my face. The other 10% I am taking snapchats or fixing my messy hair in the bathroom mirror. The 90% is who I really am. I am my thoughts. I am my actions. I am my words. I am not my body weight or jean size. I am not my brown eyes or green nails. My body is merely a camping place for my brain and my heart. One day, my two most important inhabitants will get up, and leave. And my body will be left here. The exact thing I have been agonizing over and perfecting for all this time will be left behind. What will be left of me?

Oh yeah, those two things we oh so frequently forget about. The first, my brain. What did I leave in this world. Did I make a difference? Did I learn all of the things I wanted to learn? Did I learn about people and places and things and emotions? I want to learn about those things before I leave. Did I create something beautiful? Or did I destroy something beautiful? Did my thoughts build me up or break me down?

The second, my heart. Did I love passionately? I hope I gave. I hope I graciously and openly always gave. I want to give to others. Love, hope, and faith. Did I share my feelings? Did I tell every single person I knew that I loved them? I hope I created something beautiful. I hope I loved openly. I want to embrace my heart. I hope I was sensitive. I want to be sensitive to others. I want to invite others into my tent. If someone can make it past the flaws in my camping place, they can fully embrace my delicate brain and complex heart. If someone can see past their own camping grounds. Their own flaws. The rocks they have lying around their grounds. The wind that affects their tent. The trouble that storms have left on their place. If someone can move past all of those imperfections and enter into the tent of their beautiful mind and heart, they have won. They have beat the media, their own minds, the words and actions of others, and the war against themselves. See past your imperfections. See past your flaws. See past your weight and hair and face and clothes and image. Look inside your tent and care about your mind and your soul. Care about the things you hold inside you.

Our bodies are a camping place that one day the greater things inside us will get up and leave. Make sure what you take with you is greater than what is left in the ground behind you.

some thoughts

  1. We are more than the things we see every day
  2. We are the words we say and the actions we perform
  3. A weight cannot make you beautiful
  4. You can beautiful at any weight
  5. The media lies to us
  6. We choose to accept those lies
  7. We need to stop accepting those lies
  8. Everyday is a beautiful day
  9. There are ugly moments in every day
  10. We must embrace them
  11. Beauty truly comes from within you
  12. A heart that gives is more beautiful than a hand that gives
  13. number 12 might not make sense
  14. Give loving words in private not loving gifts in public

I love you guys and I pray we all, talking directly to myself here, love ourselves for what we are worth on the inside. Not the outside.

xoxoxo

mary catherine

Well, This Is Different…

This is unlike anything I have ever posted; for that reason, I am choosing to post it! I think it is important to reveal my dynamic side as well as my not-so-dynamic side (yes, I do thoroughly enjoy painting my nails and being fashionable, but even more so I enjoy reading and writing about complex ideas such as this). This is an essay I recently wrote for my Intro to Sociology class for college. I found this topic to be intriguing, and I enjoyed researching and studying the concepts throughout the past two weeks. I have to view these ideas (and all the other ideas studied in this class) through a sociological perspective. Meaning I try to leave out personal bias, opinion, and thought. Of course, that isn’t always as easy as it seems! I must tell you that these concepts are based on factual evidence provided by professors, biologists, anthropologists, geneticists, and professionals in their field of study. I hope you take the time to read (it is quite lengthy, my apologies!) and maybe it will inspire you as it has me to find faith in humanity again.

Let me warn you: this is an educational blog post. It may not be as popular as my others but I still wanted to share it with you guys!

This is written as informal discussion post so all in-text citations have been excluded and proper format isn’t required.

“Race is a socially constructed category composed of people who share biologically transmitted traits that members of a society consider important . In America, for several years we have used physical differences to classify people into four or five groups we call races. Races are categories that are assumed to be unchanging. Meaning, once you are in a race it is often very difficult to escape the racial group and all of its stereotypes and prejudices that come along with it. Race assumes that genetics sets us apart; however, these things aren’t rooted in biology, but instead ascribed to biology according to biological anthropologist, Alan Goodman. Americans have had many assumptions about different races and what characteristics pertain to certain races. For example, blacks are better athletes, Asians are more intelligent, whites are wealthier, and Hispanics are hard workers. These assumptions are often generalizations we call stereotypes. Among these assumptions are also the beliefs that interracial marriage lessens the integrity of a society, racial inequality is essential to a functioning society, certain diseases cause racial groups to die earlier, and races have genetically determined traits for sexual appetites and reproductive capacities. According to pbs.org, race is a modern idea. In fact, ancient societies did not divide based on physical differences as we do today, but instead on religion, class, status, and language. We as a society have developed these groups that often lead to lost job, business, and marriage opportunities. So, how do we as a society “unmake” what we have “made”? Race, though it seems simple and fixed, is often complex and changing. First, we must define what our perceptions are about race. Then, determine the facts of race; and lastly, more forward towards a goal that benefits society, and every race in it, as a whole.
Race is assumed by most (including myself prior to my research on these topics) to be a genetically inherited trait. I think most people do not think any differently of this concept due in part to the fact that they don’t actually think about this concept. Race is a socially accepted idea in America. Because we accept this as Americans, we also accept all of the issues that come with it. It is important to realize that yes race is real, but not in the terms that most people think it is. What I mean is that no, race is not real in the theory that one inherits it genetically from the traits passed down from his or her mother and father. One does not inherit race the same way he or she inherits eye color, hair color, hair texture, skin color, body shape, musical, athletic, and intellectual ability, personality tendencies, and other genetically determined traits. However, one does get ascribed a race based on these inherited qualities. For example, an African American male does not inherit a gene that labels him “African American”. He does, however, inherit a gene (or multiple genes) that control his skin color. Furthermore, based off the premise held by the color of his skin, that we as Americans have institutionalized, he is classified as African American. Although this concept is clear cut and comprehensible, the complexity of disapproving race as a biological concept would be a major paradigm shift in society. For it to be accepted that race is indeed something we have “made up” would be as to the ancient philosophers accepting that the world is indeed not flat: a concept not easily accepted. I noted during the Race: The Power of Illusion video that race has no definite physical markers. Some determine race based on skin color and some determine it by hair texture. This was proven to me to be true in the PBS exercise. I was asked to categorize people into racial groups based solely on physical appearance. There was a particular female who had white skin with unruly, curly hair who I classified into the African American category; my answer was accurate, and unfortunately I had answered it based solely on the texture of her hair. Just as the physical markers for race are uncertain, so are the actual races. For example, a black person in America may not be classified as black in Brazil or South Africa. As Ms. Warner stated in her synopsis of race, these physical differences are no more significant than two people who classify themselves as white but have different eye color, hair color, nose shape, and body shape. These are insignificant differences that hold great significant importance in our society’s eyes.
When studying this topic, a common argument is that African Americans are genetically favored towards having superior athletic ability. In Race: The Power of Illusion, a comment was made by a white man that blacks have superior athletic ability because they were closer to the primitive. Contrarily, a comment was made by a black man that whites often use this argument as a disposition for their tendency to have inferior athletic skills. Of course, both of these are opinions have no evidential support. In biological terms, the alleles for skin color and hair texture are inherited independently of one another; meaning that a black person may have silky, straight hair and a white person may have coarse, curly hair (Race: The Power of Illusion). In contrast to these seemingly “simple” genetic situations, the genes for musical talent, athletic ability, and intellectual ability are very complex, but they are also inherited independently of skin color. This is to verify that a white person is capable of having just as much athletic ability as a black person and a black person is capable of having just as much intellectual ability as a white person.
Statistics show that blacks make up only 12% of the total population but 75% of professional football players. A black woman stated that African Americans across the globe are often better at sports because they run or perform physical activity on a daily basis for survival. For example, Kenyans often have to travel long distances to retrieve food and water; thus, Kenyans are typically better performers at long distance races. These aren’t inherited behaviors though. They are learned behaviors. There are no doubt physical differences do encourage athletic performance in blacks, but whites with the same physical differences are just as capable of performing on the same level. One man indicated that it all comes down to drive and how bad you want it.
In Race: The Power of Illusion, I was very shocked to hear about the findings of the experiment executed by the teenagers. In short, the teenagers were asked to identify who they thought they would be most closely identical to genetically. As assumed, the whites chose whites, the blacks chose blacks, and the Asians chose Asians. They performed an experiment where they tested the mitochondrial DNA from each individual. Mitochondrial DNA doesn’t code for physical differences, so traits such as skin color and hair texture were excluded. After the experiment was concluded and the findings were displayed, I was shocked. From the beginning, the students thought they would be most similar to the ones they shared national origin with. Astonishingly though, the most differences between any two individuals, regardless of race, was 12 base pairs. One male was a 100% genetic match to individuals from Iceland, the Balkan Peninsula, and Africa; three completely different races. This was revolutionary to me because it showed that there are very few differences between any two individuals within a society, despite skin color. It proved that race is in reality just a socially constructed concept. (All of these concepts were applied from Race: The Power of Illusion).
There is a lot of evidence in racial stereotypes that cannot be denied. Animals are often instinctively forced to make judgments based on physical differences to survive. Just like animals, it is often innate for humans to make judgments. “We automatically, immediately, and unconsciously judge people based on race and sex,” says psychologist John Dovidio. In the exercises performed by the children asked to choose who they perceived as nice, mean, weird, etc., they displayed great stereotypes. These are just children who already have perceptions about race. Somewhere they have been exposed to negative stereotypes associated with certain races. This isn’t a surprising statement though. It is essential that we stop ignoring these stereotypes. To lessen discrimination, we have to address and identify these perceptions. After we recognize these stereotypes are real and are affecting our nation, we must next disclose the facts about the biological myth of race. Many are uneducated about these topics and need to be informed. Following the clarification that race is a socially constructed concept that we inevitably “made up”, we have to present the realities of the flourishing racial discrimination and inequality in the United States. Finally, to promote equality and decrease racial prejudices, we must educate the upcoming generations. We have to shatter the false premises of racial purity, various “subspecies”, and ethnocentrism. We have to inform and engage our youth with the truth about racism, genetic myths of race, and the future for racial concepts in America. Promoting change for racial institutions contemporarily would be favored, but it is critical to educate our younger generations about the reality and consequences associated with race.”

Sources:
Race and Ethnic Stratification Outline – Candace Warner, Associate Professor of Sociology
Video: Race: The Power of Illusion
pbs.org: What is Race? Is Race Real?
Video: Race and Sex: What We Think (But Don’t Say)
Sociology in Modules – Richard T. Schaefer