Grateful Heart Monday 04.14.14

Today I’m linking up with Emily to share what I’m grateful for on this gray Monday.

  • New boots, courtesy of the clearance section at Target
  • The completion of my taxes (finally (oops))
  • A Kroger employee who was kind enough to reach cereal on the back of the shelf for me (curse you, short arms!)
  • Leftover Chipotle
  • Green grass
  • The beautiful Overcome the Lie community
  • (and more specifically) The incredible weekend I had, thanks to #OTLtakesIndy
OTL takes Indy / Maggie's apartment

six of the seven lovely OTL ladies who took Indy by storm on Saturday.

What are you grateful for today?

A Dirty Cross and Me

I tend to feel a little nostalgic on Thursdays, thanks to the #ThrowbackThursday trend across various social media networks. Actually, I’ve felt a bit nostalgic each day this week, remembering great memories from high school and my time at Calvin. I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about my transition to Cincinnati and my first summer here.

I was listening to a Spotify playlist this afternoon and Bastille’s “Things We Lost In The Fire” came on. The lyrics instantly brought me back to a missiontrip we went on here in Cincinnati during my internship that summer. We spent the first day helping a family clean up after a house fire that occurred the day before. I left that afternoon with a small wooden cross that survived the fire and when our trip was over, I wrote about how I found beauty in the ashes that week.

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The cross now sits on the top shelf of one of my bookshelves, right next to a beaded keychain I received from a wonderful Navajo woman on that summer’s trip to New Mexico. I see it often and it brings back beautiful memories of that summer when I had no idea what the heck I was doing in this city.

That summer, it taught me about finding beauty in the ashes and joy in dark places. Since then, I’ve found new meaning in this small piece of wood. It’s still dirty and if you smell it up close, there’s still a faint smell from the fire. If I’m honest, it’s a little gross, but I love it anyway. Not one part of me desires to wash it off or throw it out.

I love it because it’s not perfect. It has literally been through a fire. It’s discolored. It’s dirty. It’s something that would have been thrown out, had I not kept it.

I look at this cross in my room and I see myself.

I’m so incredibly far from perfect. I’m broken and sinful. No matter how hard I try, I will still fail because I’m only human. My life has been one season of rollercoaster rides after another. In the last five years alone, I’ve battled so many different things; I’ve been in and out of more figurative fires than I can remember.

And yet Jesus looks at me and calls me His. His child. His beloved.

He looks at me and doesn’t see my brokenness. He doesn’t see my failures. He doesn’t see how dirty or discolored I am. He sees me and he calls me beautiful. Redeemed. Worthy.

Society kind of sucks sometimes and it can feel like they’re throwing me out, but dang, is it comforting to know that there is not a single thing I can do that will make Jesus love me any more or any less.

What I’m Into | March 2014

It may be a Monday, but today is a beautiful day. It’s Opening Day – baseball season has officially arrived and I could not be more excited for another season of cheering on the Reds. It’s the official launch day of Bedlam Magazine, a beautiful place that I hope you will check out. It’s also the end of the month, so it’s time for another recap post, but in a slightly different style. I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to let y’all know what I was diggin’ this March.

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Feel free to follow me on Instagram for more photos like the ones in this post – @nrulason

Books // I finally read Divergent a few weeks ago and I LOVED IT. I read it in six hours and bought Insurgent the very next day. That one took me around a week to finish, but I also really enjoyed it. I haven’t purchased Allegiant yet and probably won’t for a few weeks, so I’ll probably let you know what I thought of it next month. I also sort of started reading Multiply by Francis Chan, but I don’t know how much I like it or if it’s one I’ll finish. E-book-wise, I’ve been digging into Ashley Beaudin‘s 33 Questions to Ask Your Heart, which has been really good for figuring out what makes me me.

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Naturally, my favorite line in Insurgent.

Movies + TV // It took me a few months, but I finally hopped on the Frozen train… I’m not sure there’s a single person who didn’t like that movie. I was working at Target the day it came out on DVD and I swear, I personally sold fifty copies in the first two hours I was there (and if you were only buying Frozen, I could tell you your total based on which version you bought within 45 minutes). I think that might actually be the only movie I watched this month, which is a shame. The roommate and I have been stalking the movie listings at the cheap theater, so maybe we’ll check out more this coming month. On the TV front, the season finale of Teen Wolf aired last Monday and it was overwhelming, but relieving. I’ll miss a few of the characters who won’t be returning for season four, but for the most part, I think I’m okay with the storyline. I watched a handful of episodes of Parenthood this weekend while dog-sitting and I AM SO INTO IT. If someone wants to hook me up with a Netflix account so I can keep watching, I wouldn’t be opposed to that.

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Because sometimes, simplicity is key.

Music // La Dispute’s new album “Rooms Of The House” came out on the 18th and I can’t stop listening to it. Seriously, I have the CD in my car and I don’t even listen to the radio when I’m in there. I can’t choose a favorite song because they’re all SO DANG GOOD. I love how their sound has evolved with each of their albums and I can’t help but love a band that talks about Michigan so often in their music.

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Casual selfie the day my copy arrived.

Community // March was a good month for seeing people I don’t get the chance to see very often. I had dinner with Ava and lunch with Taylor while they were home on spring break. Lots of good conversation and laughs were had with those lovely ladies. I also took a little road trip up to Indianapolis to visit Maggie and Jazz and it was pretty much the best.

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Taylor and I cheesin’ it up after consuming #alldacarbs at Olive Garden.

Growth // I’ve started experimenting a little with different fonts and different mediums and it’s been a whole lot of fun. I’m still nowhere near considering myself an artist, but I’m finding new ways to express myself and new ways to experience joy. On a completely different front, I’m training at the Starbucks in our Target and I’m really excited to be back around coffee again. Earlier in the month, I joined a crew of fabulous people to help plan this year’s Pride festival. I’m serving as media coordinator, which is a little stressful, since I’m the youngest person, but it has been a really good time. OH – I also bought a bed(!!!) last week, which is a very adult thing to do, and it also made me feel like I can truly call Cincinnati my home.

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I’m really proud of this one, even though my black pen was dying.

I can’t share blogs I liked with you this month because I did some serious slacking on blog reading and I can only think of two posts off the top of my head (on that note, you should check out Ben’s responses to the World Vision fiasco here and here).

Feel free to let me know what you were into this month and if there’s anything (blog posts especially) that you think I should check out!

Finding Myself

I don’t want to write this post.

I know I said that I was going to be brave, that I was going to speak up. I know I need to share my heart because the world needs my voice.

If I’m honest, I just haven’t been able to find my voice lately. I have so many thoughts in my head, so many feelings in my heart, but I don’t know how to share them. I don’t know how to put them into coherent sentences. I don’t know how to make them have meaning.

I drove to Indianapolis yesterday, partly because I didn’t have to work, but mostly because I needed to find myself. I needed to understand myself better in order to find my voice. It’s almost funny that Indy was the place I felt drawn to, since I hadn’t visited this city before.

I met up with some dear friends and celebrated their church’s third birthday. I worshiped with them in a way my soul has craved for months. I shared a meal with (mostly) new friends and I felt whole.

On my way back to Cincinnati today, I stopped by The Springs, a beautiful retreat center in the middle of nowhere Indiana. I spent a few hours in a cabin with an assortment of paints and canvases and my Bible. I read through Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians and I was reminded of these simple truths:

  • In him I have redemption (Eph 1:7)
  • Because of his great love for me, God made me alive with Christ even when I was dead in my transgressions (Eph 2:4-5)
  • The peace of God will guard my heart and my mind (Phil 4:7)
  • I have been raised with Christ (Col 3:1)
  • My life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3)

I’m back in Cincinnati, but I am not the same. I feel refreshed and renewed. My soul has been replenished. My heart has encountered my Jesus once again in a way that it hasn’t for many months.

I’ve rediscovered the love of my Savior and the truth that I am…

redeemed

In Review | February

It’s that time again, folks… though I’m not sure how it’s already MARCH. Where is this year going? To be honest, I’m glad it’s March now because it means registering for summer classes in a few weeks. I paid off my tuition balance from the fall semester last week, so I can officially go back in May! This also means I’ll be returning to the admissions office in late April and I am STOKED. Anyway, February has been a weird month with a lot of ups and downs, but as for now, life is good. Like, really good.

ANYWAY! Here’s some of my favorites from February. Believe me when I say it was NOT easy to narrow it down – so many good things out there this month.

Read:

  • Some Thoughts on Ellen Page by Ben @ Registered Runaway // ICYMI – Ellen Page came out this month. I love what Ben had to say about it. You can also catch her coming out speech at the end of his post.
  • Church is not my priority, healing is by Rebekah Richardson // Over the past month, Rebekah has become one of my favorite people from the Internet. She’s hilarious and supportive and she posts great Instagrams. This post made me realize that it’s okay if church isn’t the answer for you in certain seasons of life… which is nice because I’ve been wrestling with whether or not I’m in one of those seasons right now.
  • Where Have They Gone? from the Banner // Simply put: “Isn’t it time for the church to welcome back its gay sons and daughters, along with their spouses and children? Isn’t it time to encourage everyone to know the love of God for each and every one of his children?”
  • I Don’t Have My Shit Together by Micah Murray // It’s no surprise that Micah made the list again this month, especially after I read this: “I don’t want to be a Christian writer, if it means writing from the heart and then hitting backspace until it feels safe again.” Way to hit the nail on the head, friend.

Listen/Watch:

  • Finding Nemo (CENSORED!) // This video gets me literally LOLing every time I watch it.
  • “Just Don’t Go” – Local 12 Parody // GUYS. I have no shame at all in bringing back Bob Herzog’s parodies this month. This man is GOLD. But really, this Frozen parody went viral, so if you haven’t seen it… where have you been?
  • Pentatonix’s cover of “Say Something” // I’ve never been a big fan of Pentatonix, if I’m honest, but this cover is just too beautiful not to love.
  • Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm” on GMA // You’ve probably heard Mary on Macklemore’s “Same Love,” but you are seriously missing out if you haven’t checked out her music. Also, her live vocals are just incredible.

What were some of your favorites from February? Let me know!

No More Masks

The following words come from a journal entry dated 2/28/13.

We’ve been talking about transformation and wearing masks lately at Navs* and it makes me happy for what will be eventually. The joy that will come when Jesus reigns on earth again… but also when this mask is thrown away and people know the real me. When I can boldly proclaim to the world: I am Natasha Rulason. I am in love with my Heavenly Father. And while you may not approve of this, I like boys, and I also like girls. And you know what? Jesus still LOVES me.

I reread these words earlier this week and wanted to share them with you because that joy has arrived. I’m finding new joys each day and many of them are due to the fact that I’ve shed various masks and started leaning in, started really becoming the person Jesus made me to be.

Thanks for being part of this journey, friends.

*Navs aka The Navigators, a campus ministry at the University of Cincinnati

Not God, but Jesus

I’ve had a lot of thoughts lately and my journal is filling up quickly because I just need to let them out. These are some thoughts I put on the pages today and since I’m aiming to be vulnerable with a lot of areas of my life, I wanted to share those thoughts with you. Here they are.


I can’t start a prayer with “Dear God.” I can’t say I’ll dial in or hang up. I can’t call Him my Daddy or say that I’m Daddy’s little girl.

If we talk about faith, I’m not going to tell you about what God has been doing in my life; I’m gonna tell you stories about what Jesus is doing in and through me (sometimes I’ll even be possessive and call him “my Jesus”).

If I post an Instagram from one of my journals, it’ll likely be about Yahweh.

To me, “Dear God” is like writing a letter to Santa. To me, dialing in and hanging up sounds like a joke. To me, Daddy is what I said when I was young, not how I can ever speak to my Father God.

I relate better to Jesus than God likely because Jesus was a MAN. God is still hard for me to grasp because He is this Being I can never fully understand. But Jesus, he was made fun of and betrayed. Jesus faced some of the same things I face today. Jesus gets me.

Today, I’m just glad that I can live and grow with Yahweh, my Jesus in the same way that you can live and grow with God, your Daddy.

Redefining Bravery

I’m currently in the middle of the 40 Day Challenge with Overcome the Lie. Each day, we get an email from my girl Ashley with a challenge for that specific day and man, does this girl know exactly what I need to hear. From today’s email:

“We’ve been spending a lot of time over at OTL talking about bravery, fearlessness and courage. And that bravery is not what we have always defined it as. That sometimes bravery is getting up in the morning. Sometimes bravery is looking in the mirror, lingering and seeing your beauty. That sometimes bravery is letting people go, laughing at the days to come or even speaking up.”

This week has been really difficult and full of life knocking me down over and over again. I spent the entire day yesterday in my room with the door locked, trying to ignore the world. That’s all I wanted to do again today.

But I didn’t because sometimes you need to look past your crummy circumstances and find a reason to be brave.

So today, bravery looked like getting out of bed; wearing a tshirt and TOMS while walking to the mailbox because it was 68 freaking degrees in the middle of February; taking a long shower; listening to old-school Nelly from 2002; wearing my favorite jeans and a rockin’ band shirt; taking shameless selfies in the bathroom; and rediscovering an old Spotify playlist full of songs that tug at my heartstrings.

Sara Bareilles wants to see you be brave. So does Jesus. So do I.

How are you redefining bravery today?

For more information about the Overcome the Lie community, check out their website. To join the 40 Day Challenge (it’s never too late!), email info@overcomethelie.org.

Aside

Speaking Up

Vulnerability is one of my biggest fears. If you’ve read some of my recent posts, you’re well aware of this.

But why? What holds me back from being open about my story, from sharing who I am?

How people will react. What people will think of me. What will change. Acceptance.

But I’m done.

I’m done worrying about what you think of me. I’m done staying quiet out of fear. I’m done feeling shame about my own life. I’m done keeping to myself instead of sharing my feelings. I’m done remaining silent when your words are hurtful.

I am speaking up.

I’m letting go of this shame. I’m accepting freedom because Christ has set me free from the chains of fear. I’m telling my story because you need to hear it. I’m putting aside my fears because Yahweh makes me brave.

Teach Me to Grieve

On Tuesday, I started attending a grief support group at my church. It lasts thirteen weeks and I know it will be beneficial, but it is scary. Really freaking scary.

There’s roughly 10-12 people and I’m almost positive every single one of them is at least twice my age. It’s strange because some of them are there because they are grieving the loss of a child my age.

I’m not good at being open with people, especially people I don’t know well (or at all). Vulnerability is a serious weakness of mine, so being in this group is a pretty big step outside my comfort zone.

In addition to meeting each week, we also have a “workbook” that walks us through personal reflection for five of the six days between our sessions. Each day’s reflection includes a prayer, just a few sentences to engage with God. The prayer for tonight really resonated with me.

“God, the pain of my grief is pressing in on all sides, and sometimes I can’t breathe with the force of it. Lift me into Your arms. Comfort me with Your presence, and teach me to grieve.” (emphasis mine)

The first part is painfully true. Literally. On some of the worst days, I struggle to get oxygen into my lungs. I lay in bed and yell at God over and over until noise no longer comes out. I sit in this overwhelming silence longing for comfort and community.

The last part really hit me and is something I’m going to try to really focus on over the next twelve weeks. I think part of why I’m still where I am is that I’ve tried moving forward in the grieving process, but it’s come with so much force.

I’m in a season of learning about humility. Sometimes I try to shift the focus from Jesus back to me and what is occurring in my life… and then I have a really long day that ends with a 45 minute drive home, a worship playlist full of truth, and straight-up ugly crying because He is so much more than I can ever comprehend.

So I’m stepping back, taking things slow, listening in, and waiting for His voice to teach me to grieve.