the heart shaped box

I was having trouble giving You these things.

I would come and say to You
that I have many things and that I should give them to You
because You can take much better care of them than I can.
But these things are very dear to me.
I really want to keep these things.
I have offered them to You many times before, and some of them I would hand over,
but some would stay wrapped around my finger without my intention
and without my realizing that I was withholding them.
And other times, without my noticing, I have stolen back the things that I had given You before.
These things are very important to me.
Yet I know that they would be much better in Your hands.
For I have realized over time that when I cling to these things that are so important to me,
fear and anxiety overwhelm me.
I worry so intensely about losing or breaking these things.
My grip is either so tight that I might suffocate them, or so loose that I might drop them.
I can not be trusted with these things.
Yet these things mean so much to me.
I love these things.
I love them more than I should.
I love these things even though they can’t love me back.
But I must give You these things.
You are the only one who I can love that will never leave.
You are the only one who can see which of these things I do not need.
You are the only one who I can trust with my greatest joy.
While I hold on to these things they block my view.
While I hold on to these things, I can’t see You.
While I hold on to these things, I keep You from caring for them in a way that I never could.
While I hold onto these things I forget about Your love.
So I have found a way to give to You all of these things without leaving any behind.
I have taken these things: my hopes, my fears, my love, my future, my anxiety, my life, my joy, my heart.
And I have placed them securely in a heart shaped box.
Gently I laid them and made sure to leave nothing out.
I wept as I sealed each corner of the box.
Though I know how wonderful You are, there is still a part of me that is afraid of losing these things.
I set the box before you with my knees on the ground, my head bowed low, and my arms raised above.
Please God.  Take my life.  Let Your will be done.

born again

When we become born again, we get a little annoying. 

It’s like we just discovered the most amazing thing!
And it is!
Like we just found the secret to happiness and we want to let everyone else know!
Our lives are changed and we’re so happy about it and we want to share it with everyone!
And then…! ….. Then we also realize that our non-believing friends are in danger!
We want them to be saved, too!

We want them to be loved and accept the Lord the way we did so that we will see them in Heaven! It’s such a burden… We want to drag everyone to church with us and hope that they have the same experience that we did so that they understand, but unfortunately it’s not that easy.  Most people aren’t interested in going to your church.  Most people, even if they are Christians, aren’t interested in things when you’re over-excited about it. It’s a little exhausting actually.  Chill out, baby Christian.

But it’s so painful when we’re rejected… Yet it’s so joyful when our friends say yes to the invitation and join us.  It’s like they just accepted their spot in your family.
I say all this because not all of my friends are Christians and I accept that, but they also accept me and my excitement about Jesus.  Sometimes I am “that christian girl”.  Sometimes my friends don’t want to talk to me because I will eventually bring God into it.  And I accept that maybe I go about communicating the wrong way and sometimes I probably step on toes (usually my friends are too sweet to tell me, but I feel it) and say things that are cringeworthy and probably sound judgmental. In saying that, if I have ever said anything that put you off, I ask your forgiveness.  There are also times when I act or talk not-so-Christian-y and in those times I probably confuse my friends or seem like a hypocrite.  I apologize for that, too.
Forgive us overzealous Christians when we try to “help” you and instead end up annoying you. For most of us, our only goal is that you will experience the joy that we do. That we can share the deepest and most amazing love that Christ has for all of us (including you!).

I’m not talking about the judgmental people that build a bubble around themselves and call themselves Christians and then use that to ridicule and put other people down.  I’m talking about true followers of Christ who only want to see your familiar happy faces in Heaven.

I was “born again” unintentionally in 2009.
I wasn’t exactly seeking God because I thought I had already found Him.  I thought, “I grew up Christian, I already believe so that’s that.”  That’s all there is to it.  In 2008, I made a new friend who talked about God a lot.  I hardly ever talked about God in those days, so this was new to me.  Not that she was some Super Christian (-insert image of Wonder Woman but with a cross on her chest instead-), but whenever she struggled with anything she’d always talk about God and Jesus and she’d talk about reading her bible.  It made me curious.  Why did she feel the need to talk about it all the time?  Aside from Christianity, we had a lot of other things in common and a lot of things that we didn’t have in common that we enjoyed talking about, so we became fast friends.  Eventually she told me that she was thankful for me because she had prayed for a friend and I was an answer to that prayer.
Whaaaaaaat?  ME?
An answer to someone’s prayer???
“Do you eat quinoa?”
She explained to me that just before we met she was at a point in her life where she knew she needed change and she knew she couldn’t do it alone. She needed a friend who was in a healthier place that she could talk to about life and that could help her get on and stay on the right path.  She prayed that God would send her a friend that could help her.  One day at work, Liz witnessed some of our coworkers “gang up” on me during lunch when they found out my son was vegan.  After lunch one day she approached me and the first thing out of her mouth was, “Do you eat quinoa?”, which today is our way of reminding each other of how far we’ve come since that day.  After that, we started going to lunch together and talking about healthy life styles, fitness, diet, exercise, family, relationships, and eventually Christianity.  We then started hanging out after work and began to constantly encourage each other and help each other improve our lives. It’s a beautiful thing.
Back to the answer to her prayer thing.  No one had ever said anything like that to me before.  I was extremely (and still am) humbled and felt so loved and appreciated.  This woman is one of my best and closest friends to this day and I am so thankful that she came into my life.  We talk for hours and hours about everything and anything under the sun and she’s one of those people who is just never afraid to mention Jesus and talk about how He’s blessing us and answering our prayers.  And she has no idea that she’s doing it, so that makes it even better. It’s just who she is as a person.  What set her apart from my other Christian friends at the time was that whenever I came to her with a problem her reaction wasn’t to give me advice, but to openly admit that she didn’t know what to do and that we should pray about it together.  She told me about what brought her to Christ and she talked about how she felt that if she didn’t have family and friends that prayed for her through the hard times in her life when she wasn’t praying or caring for herself she wouldn’t be here today.  Just the other day, now seven years later, I realized how amazing it is that God was able to use me — a girl that had no “relationship” with him — to answer her prayer…. and I’m even more humbled when I realize that not only did He answer her prayer, but He changed my life by bringing her into mine.  He knew that she needed my help as a friend and that I needed HER in my life to bring me to Him.  The very thought of it overwhelms me with a sense of love and gratitude.  If He had given up on me and I had not let Him into my life, I would be so lost and have made so many poor decisions without Him.  I certainly would not be who I am today.
You don’t pray???
One day I told Liz that I don’t pray much because I feel like my complaints and worries aren’t important enough for God. Why would I waste God’s time on my problems?
“Vita!” she said…. “He WANTS you to pray to Him!  He WANTS you to have a relationship with Him and talk to Him about EVERYTHING!”
I told her I felt weird and uncomfortable praying and I didn’t understand why would I need to pray to Jesus.  Why “in the name of Jesus”?
She couldn’t explain to me the Jesus thing.  That’s fine, most people can’t explain that. I mean really — how can you explain the divinity of the Holy Trinity to someone who has been told about it since birth but still didn’t get it???  That’s okay.  She did however explain to me that I didn’t need to think about prayer as this big thing that you have to do in a certain way. It’s a conversation. It’s inviting Jesus into your every day life and being open and vulnerable with Him as your Friend and Father.
So I started to pray a little more here and there.  I still didn’t understand Jesus’ importance in the whole thing, so I prayed directly to God and that was fine, too.  One thing I began to realize is that prayer isn’t just about having a relationship with Jesus… it’s about humbling yourself before God.  It’s about taking a moment to open up, lay all your troubles before Him, admit that you can’t handle them alone, and submit yourself to His will.
Look at it this way, you’re in second grade and your teacher assigns the class a complicated project that requires magazine clippings and glue and poster board.  You can handle that, right?  You can use those kid scissors, clip things out, paste them on the board… You can do that on your own.  But how are you going to do that with no magazines? No poster board? No supplies?  You know what you’re going to have to do… You’re going to have to ask your parents for help. So when you have a situation in life that you can’t handle on your own (and some of us need help even just deciding what to have for breakfast…) who do you ask?  Your perfect Father in Heaven. But before you ask for help, you have to admit that you can’t do it alone.
If you know me outside of the internet, and if you’re unlucky (har har) enough to know me personally… you know that I’m a control freak.  I like to have things a certain way and if they are not that way I get stressed out. My sister calls me out on it aaaaaaaaaaall the time.  For me, a Type A personality who needs to be in control and see the outcome of every decision before I make it… giving that control over to a God that I can’t see and who basically has to constantly tell me “Be still and wait on Me”, was and is extremely difficult.  Not to mention I STILL didn’t understand this whole JESUS thing.
How could someone who lived over 2000 years ago die for my sins???
Let’s pause here for a moment.  I will admit, I’ve grown up in a Christian family, but… I’ve never read the bible all the way through in its entirety.  I started reading it when I was a kid and it was confusing and weird so I closed it and decided I wasn’t going to believe in it because it was written by men anyway so it couldn’t possibly be as true as Christians say it is.  When I came back to Christ in 2009 I decided to start reading it again, cover to cover.  It’s 2015 and I’m in the book of Ezekiel.
DON’T JUDGE ME! It’s a hard read! ^.^’
In the meantime, I do jump around from chapter to chapter and I have tons and tons of bible studys and sermons under my belt, so while I continue to read it page by page, I don’t stop myself from looking ahead or going back again and re-reading things.  The reason I bring that up is because I feel that you can’t really fully understand Christianity and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross without studying the bible.  I’m not saying you have to read it first, but I’m saying it makes a WHOLE LOT more sense when you finally do.
But I digress. This isn’t about me now, this is about me in 2009.
Easter came around and Liz invited me and my son to join her and her son to go see an Easter play at her church.  I thought it would be fun for the kids and I always enjoy hanging out with Liz so sure.  I remember walking into the church and saying in my head, “Okay God.  I really don’t understand this whole Jesus thing…. so…. I’m asking you.  Explain it to me.”
Funnily enough, the play was actually about a Christian couple during the Easter holiday. The wife was a devout Christian and the husband didn’t understand why.  The play was about how the husband came to learn about, understand, and finally accept Jesus.  It didn’t hit me completely at first, but I was open to it.  I walked out of there knowing that I had just tapped the surface of something completely different and that I was interested in learning more.
Everything in its own time.
Moving on now to 2015.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

I have changed a LOT in the last six years.  And I will likely continue to change as I feel like I haven’t grown really much at all until I stop and take a look back at the decisions I made back then compared to how I make decisions now.  There is still so much work to be done on my body, mind, and soul.  But it’s hard.  It is hard work… and one of the most challenging parts about it is that when you decide to follow Christ and really dig deep into what that means most people will not understand.  They’ll be happy for you and they will encourage you because they will see the good things that are coming into your life, but they won’t understand why you do things differently or why you view things differently than the rest of the world.
I’m not saying NO ONE will understand, but you will certainly find that people will take a step back and make a conscious decision whether or not to spend time with you any more.  They will assume that you’re judging them or that you think you’re better than they are.  Even if you never judge them, even if you are the kindest most generous and truthful person they ever come across there will still be people who are looking for something to pick apart because of your faith.  Let them.  Love them for it.  Strive to be a positive example of what a Christian should be even if it seems impossible.  Even Jesus admits (Matt 10:22) that people will hate you for being a Christian.  But He calls us to endure it, stay firm in our beliefs, and to be the light of the world.
I’ve lost some friends, I’ve made new friends, and some old friendships have become even stronger since I started this walk.  It’s funny, though. I’ve always been weird for one reason or another whether it’s my decision to go vegan or just my tendency to walk a different path from most people, so I’m used to being the odd one, but being born again and developing this relationship with Christ has made me embrace that even more.  Realizing that God made me the way I am has given me the confidence to be exactly who I am no matter how weird or different than others that makes me and no matter how much that might isolate me from the world.
I’m a mom, I quit my job and started my own business, I write music and poetry, I journal constantly, I talk about God a LOT, I listen to whatever music I feel like listening to, I hang out with whoever I want to, I study martial arts, and I attend church on the regular and sing in the choir. These are the basic things that make up who I am but what I’m really looking forward to is just leaving my life entirely open to whatever God puts in my path. I have no idea where I’m going to be in five years and I LOVE it.
And on that note I’m going to end this super long blog post right here. If you read it all, thank you and I love you. <3

Fear

I don’t think the problem is that there aren’t talented, intellectually stimulating, interesting, and challenging individuals out there. I don’t think there is a shortage of people who are amazing and inspiring.  I think the real problem lies in that many people are afraid to be who they are truly meant to be. Fear prevents people from being different. Fear prevents people from digging into their own subconscious and getting their hands dirty. 

Fear of condemnation, fear of being different, fear of being vulnerable. 
Fear forces us to forget our dreams and pursue careers that have stability and security but lack creativity and inspiration.  
Fear forces us to settle down into relationships that are boring or even bad for us when we could stay single and content to wait for someone who REALLY knocks our socks off. 
Fear even keeps us from allowing ourselves to love someone that’s good for us because we’re afraid WE’ll mess it up!
Fear keeps us from telling people we don’t agree with what they’re doing and instead we laugh it off, pretend to agree, or just stay quiet and do nothing, hiding who we are and even blocking us from potentially inspiring someone else to do the right thing.
How much more amazing would daily interactions be if everyone left fear behind and boldly showed the world who they are on the inside. 

“Women”

I recently participated in a project by Kati Driscoll for Delaware Fun-A-Day in which she interviewed and photographed twenty nine women with the theme centering around what it’s like being a woman, or how we define the word “woman” and compiled them into one book so that the reader can see the different points of views from women of all walks of life.

Well, I just finished reading it and I have to say that I absolutely love it. Not only are some of my long time friends included so it almost felt like a post-high school yearbook, but I read some of the stories by women I’ve never met or spoken to before and was surprised by the different opinions we had about gender identification or gender roles in our personal lives and society.  Surprised in a good way!

I have to say my favorite was Brielle. I’ve never met Brielle, but she uses the term “gender awkward” and talks about how difficult it is to present herself under any of the pre-established labels because she doesn’t feel like she fits completely into any of them.  While she’s happy being who she is, it seems to make other people more uncomfortable when they don’t know which box to fit her in. I think it’s important to understand that we don’t all fit under one category not just in gender but in life in general. I love it when people are comfortable enough to admit that they can’t be fit neatly into any box.

What really stood out for me in the book was that we all feel the pressure to become wives, mothers, and sexually attractive starting at young ages.  For some girls as they grow older they go with that flow. They are pretty, so they embrace it at a young age. They like the attention from boys, so they dress provocatively and flaunt their bodies and it works for them.  They may be creative, intelligent, or bold in their opinions, but they might also decide to set those things aside because let’s face it… being mediocre is easy.  And it’s much easier when you follow a path set before you by society.  You’re young, you’re pretty, you can get a boyfriend and have fun.  When you’re older, you get married and you have children and build a home. There is nothing wrong with that and building a home, raising a family, and being a wife are completely challenging life choices so I respect that.  But that’s not the only thing women were meant to do with their lives and it doesn’t make us any less of a woman if we decide not to do those things.

Men go through a similar pressure. They have to deal with society pressuring them to do what makes them “manly”.

I think when it comes down to it we have to remember that being a man or being a woman is only part of who we are. God put us all on this earth to be much more than a body.  We are more than baby machines (and I’m including men in that term, too). We each have unique skills, talents, and abilities that define us. We each have our own sense of personal style that doesn’t HAVE to fit into any one particular form.  We each have the opportunity to take our lives and do amazing things with them. Create beautiful things. Inspire people. HELP each other. Everyone has something to contribute to the world.  Let’s stop focusing on how nice of a home you keep and how many children we have and start thinking about what makes us different than everyone else and what makes someone unique (and therefore beautiful) because that is just what the world needs.

What’s Happening?!

Hey everyone (anyone?)

I’m doing a little pre-spring cleaning and I decided I should probably drop a little note on this ol’ blog.

What’s going ON!?

Well, a whole lot. Unfortunately, a whole lot of it is not music related. But it’s still a lot of good and yes, I’m still singing and writing music.

I had to step off the stage for a little bit to get some things in order, more specifically, start my own business.  This came as a surprise to some folks but most people close to me know I love to bake and veganism is extremely important to me.  When I realized the opportunity I had to leave my “day job” and start my own business as a vegan baker, I hopped on it!  But it’s time consuming and it’s hard work, so music has temporarily been put on the back burner.   I still write in my down time and I still sing every day and I’ve even got some projects coming up in the future, but as of now if you want to show your support drop on by the facebook page or follow me on instagram!

Thanks!
Evangelina

I’m sorry. I lied.

Okay, so I know I didn’t make the announcement here on my blog, but earlier this month I posted to my band’s youtube page that we would be releasing a new music video today for Lives Lost.

The thing is, I thought I could compile a bunch of photos of loved ones over three weeks and put out a heartfelt video.  Nothing complicated, just a basic slideshow of people we love, but something happened while I was reaching out to friends and family… I realized this could be something bigger and better and more meaningful than just a handful of pictures.  I’d really like to make this video something really good for the soul.

I’m no videographer, photographer, or visual artist by any means, but everything I do I do it from the heart. So I’m apologizing to you, for those of you who have submitted photos and those of you who were patiently waiting for the release.  I’m apologizing for not releasing it today, but I realized that I want to take more time on this one.  I want to put more love into it.  I’m not going to give a release date as of now, but I am going to be doing a little more outreach and (regardless of my saying this wasn’t going to be a PSA in the video) I’m going to put more information in it.  Maybe it won’t reach many people. Maybe it’ll only get a few hundred views and never make it on any charts.  But if our song can make you smile, if it can give you a little peace, or if it can touch one person who’s struggling with addiction or suicidal thoughts, my job is done.

On that note, I can at least do one thing for you today.  Here it is, the full song, downloadable on our ReverbNation page.
Please listen and enjoy and if you like it, share it with your friends.  If you’re still on the fence about sending your info, contact me.
evangelinaandtheboys @ gmail.com or though fb: http://www.facebook.com/veganvita

Here’s the direct link:
http://www.reverbnation.com/evangelina/song/22157834-lives-lost

Another MMA vs Kung Fu blog post.

I never liked the “my style is better than your style” attitude that rolls around the world of Martial Arts.

I do believe there is some truth to it at some levels, yes. I personally believe that some styles are less effective than others, but for the sake of this post, I’m not going to get into which ones and why–plus, I might be wrong. No reason to open up that debate at this time.

What I really wanted to blog about is specifically “Kung fu vs MMA” or really “Kung fu vs anything”.

I love kung fu.

I have been raised with kung fu and I have been personally training and teaching kung fu for thirteen years.

I also love other styles of martial arts and I do enjoy watching MMA fights.  Now I don’t know the names of the top fighters or have any favorites or anything like that, I just like to watch them when they’re on and I like going to live fights, that doesn’t mean it’s my passion.  In the martial arts world, I definitely would say my passion is kung fu.

That being said, lets take a moment to explore the term “kung fu”.

Kung fu translated means “learned skill”.  So in essence, kung fu can be anything.  I have amazing cupcake kung fu.  Holy crap I should name my business that. “Kung Fu Cupcakes!”… Don’t steal it, it’s mine now.  Anyway, What most westerners mean when they say “kung fu” is actually “wushu” which means “war art”. In today’s martial arts world, “wushu” refers to the performance sport. Like below:

(This is an old video but one of my faves)

That’s pretty amazing, right?

But “wushu” didn’t start as a performance sport. It started out as fighting and later developed into a performance sport due to many different reasons, most of which having to do with government crack downs on martial arts practitioners in China and introducing kung fu into dancing, theater, and the rest of the entertainment world–watering it down and taking out the application aspects.  There’s also some that would argue the elitist attitudes of some schools/teachers in their refusal to teach their styles to outsiders and their refusal to allow their students to cross train due to their own pride, is hurting the styles themselves. I’ve seen that happen so I can believe it.

But really “Chinese martial arts” includes so much, you can practice many many different styles and they would all be considered “kung fu” so when I started hearing people dissing kung fu vs mma, I was very confused. Especially because everything I saw the MMA fighters doing… I had seen kung fu practitioners do in various forms.

Believe it or not, kung fu has grappling, submissions, boxing, kickboxing, etc etc etc.  All of these things can be found in various styles of Chinese Martial Arts.  The hard part is finding a good school/teacher that will train you how to actually USE your kung fu.  You can’t do it alone and you have to be flexible (mentally.. and sometimes physically).

A good teacher is a good student. A good teacher will teach you how to be a good student.  And a good student learns from every situation they’re in.  I see kung fu in everything I do, inside and outside of the ring.  What people need to focus on is not whether or not MMA style fighting is better than kung fu, they need to focus on the athlete.

If you train only kicks and you refuse to learn how to punch or block, guess what? You’re going to get knocked out.  If you train only punches and never learn how to kick or protect yourself from kicks, you’re going to get kicked in the face.  If you train only throws and submissions, you just might get knocked out before you get the person on the ground.  And I’m sorry to break it to you, but “kung fu” or Chinese Martial Arts has a method for all of these things.. so in a way Chinese Martial Arts are a form of MMA.  Maybe not in the technical sport fighting sense, but in the literal sense.

I’m rambling now, but the point is… it’s not the style, it’s the athlete.  The best athletes I’ve known are the ones who learn to adapt to other styles even if they’re maintaining their own styles.  So be open to learning everything you can and stop trash talking my kung fu. ;)