Monthly Archives: March 2012

Heavy in Your Arms

This song from Florence + the Machine really stood out to me, not just because it is beautiful and her voice is simply mesmerizing, but because the lyrics reminded me a lot of myself when I first started dating Alexander (now my husband). Now, I’m not sure if this song is about her being in a relationship she never wanted to be in, since she says “this will be my last confession I love you never felt like any blessing” and it was a relationship doomed from the start since it was a burden for both of them to be in love with each other, but here is my interpretation. I see this song as a woman who is heavy to her beloved because she is testing his strength.

Here are the lyrics:

I was a heavy heart to carry
My beloved was weighed down
My arms around his neck
My fingers laced to crown.

I was a heavy heart to carry
My feet dragged across ground
And he took me to the river
Where he slowly let me drown

My love has concrete feet
My love’s an iron ball
Wrapped around your ankles
Over the waterfall

I’m so heavy, heavy
Heavy in your arms
I’m so heavy, heavy
Heavy in your arms

And is it worth the wait
All this killing time?
Are you strong enough to stand
Protecting both your heart and mine?

heavy_in_your_armsWho is the betrayer?
Who’s the killer in the crowd?
The one who creeps in corridors
And doesn’t make a sound

My love has concrete feet
My love’s an iron ball
Wrapped around your ankles
Over the waterfall

This will be my last confession
I love you never felt like any blessing
Whispering like it’s a secret
Only to condemn the one who hears it
With a heavy heart

I was a heavy heart to carry
my beloved was weighed down
My arms around his neck
My fingers laced to crown

I was a heavy heart to carry
But he never let me down
When he had me in his arms
My feet never touched the ground

Since I grew up without a dad and saw that most of my aunts were either divorced or widowed (and seemed perfectly fine with this) the message sent to me as a kid was that men were a) not to be trusted, b) not needed or c) a burden. The only stable man in my life was my uncle Larry, who treated my sister and I as if we were his own daughters. Throughout high school and the beginning of college I had dated here and there, but very casually. Xander was my first real boyfriend. At first, everything was fine. It was all very new to me and it was a lot of fun being someone’s girlfriend. However, as time went on, and things were becoming more serious, I subconsciously put Xander to the test. I had to make sure that he was “not like the rest”. From what I could understand based on my family situation, men were not to be trusted and could very easily abandon you. That was the message my dad had sent me. You are not important enough to stick around for. You are not important enough to build a relationship with. So, naturally, I had to see if Xander was going to do this to me as well. I would say that in the first 2-3 years of our relationship it was the most challenging, since pretty much the whole time I would do or say things (really mean things at times) to see what his reaction would be. It really confused me that he wouldn’t leave me. I was like, Seriously, I’m not worth it, can’t you see?! (Of course, I wasn’t doing this consciously, only now when I look back can I see why I did everything that I did.) It also helped me realize how I felt about my own relationship with God. Seeing Xander’s unfailing and unwavering love for me reminded me that this is exactly how God is in my life. No matter how many times I tested Him, left Him, forsaked Him or yelled at Him, He is always there. It was a beautiful moment when I realized that I was unconditionally loved, not just from Alexander but from God as well.

“Are you strong enough to stand, protecting both your heart and mine?” Love is a huge risk. You have to trust that the other person you are pouring your heart and soul to is going to accept you for who you are. Alexander had just gotten out of an emotionally scarring relationship and had to trust that I wasn’t going to do what his previous girlfriend did to him. Through all my testing, I was basically asking him if he was strong enough to protect both our hearts. He had to be the strong one for us, otherwise we would never have worked out. And so, the beginning of our relationship was Alexander doing his best to carry my heavy heart. He never let me go as I dragged my feet across the ground, didn’t unlace my fingers that crowned his neck, and he never let my feet touch the ground. (And I am very glad he didn’t!)

As our relationship continued and I realized that I was obviously not getting rid of this beautiful man, I began to let my guard down and fully trust that he wasn’t going to be like all other men. I began to see that I was worth it, that it is possible for someone (especially a man) to love me unconditionally.

Do you have a heavy heart? I’m not going to lie, it is pretty damn difficult to fully trust someone with your heart, especially if you have been burned before. One thing that you can always, always trust in, is that God loves you unconditionally. He doesn’t care about all the other stuff, how many times you have spit in his face, how many times you told him you didn’t need him, He is still carrying you and will never let your feet touch the ground. Your love doesn’t need to be an iron ball or have your feet made out of concrete. With other people, yes. That’s why God tells us to above all else, guard your hearts, because he knows how delicate and fragile it is. My heart was guarded to the max when it didn’t need to be, because time and time again Alexander proved that he was a solid guy who had no intention of leaving me.

Perhaps this is why I am so infatuated when men carry women (without struggling of course). Every time I would read about it in a novel or see it in a movie, my heart would give a little sigh and I would picture the day when my handsome strong prince was going to lift me from the ground effortlessly and carry me home. There is something incredibly sexy when a man is strong enough to carry his woman, not just physically but emotionally as well. Let’s face it girls, we are pretty crazy. Emotions run high and we are weary of giving up our hearts so easily. For a man to be willing to carry a woman despite all her baggage, or how much she may be dead weighting to test his strength, is a beautiful picture to me. I applaud all men out there who have carried their women’s heavy hearts and patiently waited for them to trust in their strength.

(Today, the only reason why Alexander struggles to carry me is because I weigh a bagillion pounds. It’s back to the gym I go!)

I love this song so much that I will even forgive Florence for letting them use it in the awful Twilight movie, Eclipse.

What Makes You Come Alive?

If you read my afterlife blog post, you’re probably not surprised that I want to keep talking about this whole “coming alive” thing. I honestly, in the depths of my heart, think that this is something extremely important and needs to be discussed. I want every single one of you to understand what it is that you makes you come alive and really live it out. Because, contrary to what some might people might think about Christians, we are not called to live a boring, dull, inactive life. That is not what God intended for us at all. We are here to be a light. We are here to bring Him glory. How do we bring Him glory? By using our God-given talents. Now, I am not saying that God wants us to all be happy. He wants something much better for us. Happiness comes and goes. It’s fleeting. No, what He wants for us is joy. Inner peace. Contentedness. Take a look at the physical world around you. Some sunsets, mountains, rain forests, waterfalls– they literally take your breath away. My husband comes alive whenever he gets to be in the snow. When I look at him, I can see his eyes dance. His smile is huge and contagious. I love snowboarding with him primarily for this reason. When I see him come alive and I know my being there helped with that, I am filled with joy.

come-aliveFor me, I come alive when I write stories. Ever since I was a little girl, I had a crazy imagination and loved to write my mom and sister poems and stories. I loved diving into a novel and getting completely lost into a whole different world. I always knew that I wanted to do this too. Every time I have written either a short story or novel, and my fingers can’t stop typing because I’m completely entranced, that’s when I feel it. There in the depths of my heart and soul. That feeling that tells me that I am supposed to be doing this. Now, this talent may seem a little boring in comparison to other talents you see out there, but I don’t care. I don’t care how “boring” your talent seems to the rest of the world, if it makes you come alive, then that’s all that matters. Too often, we get completely absorbed into the routine of everyday life. We go to work, or school, (or both) come home, browse through all our social media sites, have some dinner, maybe go work out, come home, watch TV and go to sleep. By the time we know it, 2 months have passed where we have been doing the same thing, day after day. What a waste! I encourage you to right now, take out your pen, or planner or phone, and schedule it in. WILL paint something for a half hour on Thursday. WILL come up with some new fashion designs. WILL cook something new for Friday night dinner. WILL take a salsa class. You get the picture. Baby steps. (Oh, and I also love waterfalls and water slides. The picture above was me at Slide Rock. I need to do more adventurous stuff like this!)

Now for those of you who may not know what your particular talent is or not sure what makes you come fully alive, here are my questions for you: 1) what have you done where you just felt the utmost joy coming from the depths of your heart and soul? 2) what have others told you “comes naturally” to you? 3) what do you remember loving to do as a kid? If you already know what you love to do and what your talents are, that is wonderful. Now use them. For those who are still on that journey, I would encourage you to keep these questions in mind.

You might be thinking, ok, so how does my drawing ability glorify God? How will I glorify Him by playing soccer? Cooking? Building cars? I believe that God created you and knew exactly what to bless you with and what would make you come alive. So yes, as crazy as it might sound, I do believe that brings glory to God when you crochet, draw, play basketball, whatever, because of what it does to you. You are loving life. You have a joy within you. And people will notice.

Don’t let these things hinder you from coming alive and living life to the fullest:
1) Fear: my biggest enemy. Fear might prevent you from working on a project because you think a) you won’t be good enough or b) you won’t be as good as other people. I know that for myself personally, I always compare myself to others. I think, holy crap, there are so many amazing authors out there and a million books that are already written. What makes me think that I will stand out? Something my sister said really resonated with me. She told me, “Yes, there are a million other authors out there. But there is only one Natalie Bahadori Ricker.” (I love her). Remember this whenever you feel any doubts coming on.
2) Laziness. Another big enemy of mine. Get up off your butt and do something! Don’t let months go by without you picking up that microphone or paintbrush. Let’s go, time’s a wastin!
3) Life. Yes life is unbelievably busy at times. But try your hardest to make time to do what you love. Schedule it in!

PS. I write this not because I have all the answers and I am the queen at being fully alive all the time. Heck no. It is a struggle for me every day! So, I write this for you and as a reminder to me. Let’s do this together!

P.S.S I envy people who have amazing singing voices. This is a talent where you can clearly see someone come alive. Every time I see this video with Carrie Underwood singing, “How great thou art”, I am awed by her talent. It is the perfect example of what happens when you use your talent to bring glory to God.

Check it out:

Change – The Inevitable Bastard

making-changesAs I grow older, I am realizing more and more how I hate, nay, despise change. I am still trying to figure out to this day why I so dearly want to keep canoodling with routine and familiarity. It’s true, most people struggle with this as well, but some people are lucky enough to welcome change. When I look back on my childhood, all I can see is me, my sister and my mom, living life in our 2 bedroom condo in Aliso. Since I was 2 to 14, every weekday consisted of my mom driving my sister and I to my aunt and uncle’s house in Lake Forest. She would then drive to work, pick us up, then take us home. When we were in school, she would take us there, my aunt would pick us up, take us to her house, then my mom would pick us up. Every day. We never moved once when I was a kid. I became used to stability, safety and familiarity (which I am definitely not complaining about- my mom was a rockstar). My first big change was going to live on campus at Biola University. This, strangely enough did not rock my boat as much as you would think it would. By the time I was ready to go to college, I was completely ready to taste freedom and independence. I think it also helped that I met an awesome girl at Golden Spoon who was going to be my roommate. Now that I think about it, my first memory of hating change came when my sister decided she was too cool to share a room with me and demanded to have a room of her own. My mom, crazy woman, actually agreed with her! So there I was, my little self trying to block the door, looking like a big X. They both were holding the twin mattress and easily shoved me out of the way. Once they pushed their way through, and I was scattered to the side, they placed my mattress right next to my mom’s bed. And I hated it.

The next REAL change came when my mom decided to sell our condo. The scary thing is that I didn’t really process it. It all happened in a blur. I remember being confused as to why this whole thing was happening. No one really sat down with me to explain it, and I guess I didn’t ask. After that, I went from living on campus, (while my mom and sister lived in Temecula), to living with my aunt on the weekends so I could go to work, to moving into a ghetto apartment in Laguna, to living in a nice apartment in Aliso, you get the picture. Although these moves were big changes, I believe that they happened at a time in my life when I was old enough to understand them. I really wasn’t hating life at this time because of all the change. I was just going with the flow.

The hardest changes that I have experienced were in my relationship with Alexander. Getting used to being a girlfriend then being used to a wife was unbelievably hard for me. It took a lot of time of learning and growth to finally accept these roles. Learning how to be a wife in particular was ridiculously difficult. It was so different than anything I have ever known, and that scared the hell out of me. Think about it. You grow up your whole life living with two other women and a whole lotta aunts (barely any men). The only stable man in my life was my uncle, but it was still different not actually living with a man. So I go from this, to living with other girl friends to being some MAN’s wife. It’s part of the reason why my first year of marriage was a lot like Supreme Scream. Actually, not part of the reason, all of it. All of it was just dealing with the change. I HATED IT. I’m not going to lie, it took a long ass time for me to get used to being a wife.

Now the next big change that I find myself (hating) to deal with is Alexander’s new career choice in becoming a flight attendant. This was especially hard when he had to be gone for a month in training. This is how it was in my head those 4 weeks… ‘hate it, hate it, hate it, hmm the house is soo nice and clean, hmm I’m gonna go hang out with my girls tonight, hmmm I’m gonna go home, get some dinner and read when I get home…wait, what…Xander’s coming back?…… My emotions were like (^%%$#%%*&(*&*^%%^$&) If you didn’t catch that, it was basically batshit crazy. Why? Because things were becoming routine and familiar. And then! Xander decides to come back and I honestly didn’t know what to make of it. I mean, part of me was happy to see him, but a part of me was terrified. How was I supposed to adapt to this kind of life? It was dawning on me that I now had to deal with him being gone all the time. So I kind of lost it. We got into a huge fight, and then….yes, yes I think we did get back together. Uh huh. Yes, we did. And then, I got used to the next routine—seeing him for three days, then he go to work for three days. Then he hurt his knee, and had to be on disability. He was home for 2 ½ months, and I loved it. I realized how much I missed the small things, like him being home and asking me how my day was, us watching our shows together, CUDDLING together. It was like I was married again. And then of course, his damn knee had to heal so now he has to go back to work. We are planning on moving in July and buying a house, and in order for us to be able to accomplish this, Xander would have to work a lot to make quite a bit of money. The only problem is that if he wants to make a lot of money, he will be home like never. He told me that basically he would only see me once for the rest of March. So I had another freak out moment for this next huge change in my life. So, after a lot of crying and talking, we came to an agreement. Xander did some research and figured out how to stay home every night this next week but still work 5 days. I told him I could live with this. Ease me into it. Don’t just all of a sudden leave me for a month…again (and expect me to not become a wreck!)

Now, I feel a little guilty about this, because I know that there are a ton of wives out there who have to deal with this as well. Army wives, athlete’s wives…etc. They might not even see them for a year! I cannot even begin to fathom how they can do this. If I am honest with myself when looking at my reaction to change, I see that the reason I have a hard time with this is because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, fear of isolation. My fear is basically telling God that I don’t trust Him. He doesn’t know what He is doing. God, just let me handle this because I know what’s best. You just sit back and relax. I got this. Really Natalie??

I think change can be a very good thing. If you aren’t growing as a person on a daily basis, you’re just stagnant. Just there. How can God work through you if you aren’t willing to change or be open to the changes that come to your life? I’ve been reflecting on all this and have come to a conclusion. My infatuation with routine and familiarity needs to stop. Is God calling Alexander to a life where he can be a witness and light to others while flying? I don’t know, maybe. If so, I don’t want to be that nagging wife who hinders him from doing what he needs to do. But I do know that for me, I need to let go. Life is scary. Yes. But in order for there to be growth, there has to be change. It’s a struggle, but it needs to be done and I need to be open to it. Like Pastor Dave Rolph says, whenever you go through a hard time in your life, ask God, “what do you want me to learn through this?” Learn something every moment in life.

If you have read this far to the very end, I salute you.

Switchfoot’s “Mess of Me” VS Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way”

I am sure that 99% of the people reading this blog post have heard the song “Born this Way” by Lady Gaga. Maybe 25% of you have listened to the Switchfoot song, “Mess of Me.” I actually just listened to this song not too long ago, and I couldn’t help but compare this song to Gaga’s Born this Way, solely due to the fact that they hold completely opposite mentalities. One song recognizes that the human heart is inherently wicked and that we have all made a mess of ourselves, needing some kind of redemption. The other song says, “I was born perfectly. I have no flaws, I am beautiful doing whatever it is I want to do or want to be.” Of course, most people who hear both these songs will naturally flock to the upbeat pop song that Lady Gaga created (in 10 minutes apparently) and love hearing that they shouldn’t feel any guilt at all for who they are, because A) they were born this way and B) God doesn’t make any mistakes, because He was the one who made you this particular way.

Compare the lyrics:

Switchfoot “Mess of Me”

I am my own affliction
I am my own disease
There ain’t no drug that they could sell
Ah, there ain’t no drug to make me well

I made a mess of me
I wanna get back the rest of me
I made a mess of me
I wanna spend the rest of my life alive

I made a mess of me
I wanna get back the rest of me
I made a mess of me
I wanna spend the rest of my life alive
The rest of my life alive

We lock our souls in cages
We hide inside our shells
It’s hard to free the ones you love
Oh, when you can’t forgive yourself
Yeah, forgive yourself

switchfoot_gagaLady Gaga “Born this Way”

It doesn’t matter if you love him or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
‘Cause you were born this way, baby

My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are
She said, ’cause He made you perfect, babe
So hold your head up, girl and you you’ll go far
Listen to me when I say

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way, born this way

Give yourself prudence and love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice of truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth

A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M
I love my life, I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah

Don’t be drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient

Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby, you were born this way

No matter gay, straight or bi
Lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to survive

No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to be brave

This is what Switchfoot’s message is with their song: We are a fallen human race. We have made a mess of ourselves. Just take a look at the horror and evil you see in this world. Rape, murder, genocide, pedophilia, etc. These are PEOPLE doing these things. Is Lady Gaga talking about those people too?Where does the line get drawn? Oh, rapist, just enjoy and love yourself today, cause baby you were born this way. Oh, pedophile, you go on ahead and love on those little kids, because God made you this way, and you enjoy it! Here is the truth guys. We are ALL a fallen people, every single one of us. Do you think that you are inherently a good person? Maybe you are a law abiding citizen, help out in some charities, and live your life not getting into anyone else’s business. Do we really, in the depth of our hearts and souls, think that we are a model standard of everything that is good in this world?

What would you do if you were put in a situation where food was scarce, you were driven mad with hunger and there was a child who had just snagged a bagel and was eating it in front of you? Would you sit next to that kid, pat his head, and be like “You enjoy that bagel, kid.” Maybe a few of you would. But most would either A) think about stealing it or B) steal it. My point is, at our core, we are not a perfect human race. We have plenty of flaws, so bad in fact, that we can’t even fathom some of the things we read or see on the news. And what is bad? How do we know that certain things are evil? Everyone can agree that murdering babies is wrong. (If someone doesn’t think that’s wrong then something is wrong with them). What makes it wrong? Is it just your opinion? If that is wrong, then what is right? Do we have a standard of something that is completely and perfectly good? Yes, I believe we do. I don’t believe that science or natural selection could provide humans with the sense of morality that we have. If this standard of ultimate good comes from God, then I believe Him when He tells us what is best for us, and what actions we should stay away from. He is the creator of the universe–I think He knows what He is talking about. Gaga is right. We are born this way, born with sin. No one is righteous except Him. Only when we realize how much of a mess we are, how we cannot keep living in this life trying to do things our way, can He begin working in our lives. In “Mess of Me,” the artists are saying to recognize that first, you are a mess, and second you are in need of some desperate help. They also say that once you realize this, you need to forgive yourself. This means you don’t live the rest of your life in guilt. You have been freed, knowing that you have been forgiven by the God that created you and loves you. You have been redeemed. I am not saying in any way, to think less of yourself constantly so that God can work more in you. I am not saying that he wants us to live life with low self esteem. On the contrary, I am saying to have a realistic idea of who you are, only then can you live a freeing life.

I love this quote, “The answer to “low self-esteem” is to understand that we do not DESERVE anything because we, in and of ourselves, are worthless. Yet, because the God of the universe has chosen to love us and redeem us with His very life, we have gained a value that is beyond compare. Knowing we are worthless humbles us before God and allows us to appreciate His grace and love, which are given to us even though we don’t deserve them. Knowing we are loved by God and redeemed by His blood, we see the value of each and every soul on this earth.”

Maybe Lady Gaga’s intention with this song was to celebrate how diverse we all are and that we should appreciate our unique personalities and talents that God has given us. I think she sincerely wants to have everyone love each other for who they are. I don’t have a problem with that. I do believe that we do need to love everyone. Jesus in the New Testament told us to love one another over 20 times. (And he did mean everyone.) Love isn’t the issue here. I believe Lady Gaga’s main (maybe a bit more discreet) message is that you should love who you are because you were born a certain way. I believe she specifically wants to address homosexuals with her song. Now, I am not going to dive too deeply in this, let me just say that it is uncommon for scientists to think that homosexuality is solely genetic. There are many factors as to why someone is homosexual. But even if it was, I would say, so what? Does that automatically mean it is morally appropriate? Yes, there are those who are genetically predisposed to be an alcoholic when they grow up. Do we still condone the act? There are those who are predisposed to become a sexual addict. Do we approve of that just because they were born that way? To learn more about this, click here.

Check out what this Denny Burk, dean of Boyce College and associate professor of New Testament , says about Lady Gaga’s understanding of being “born this way:”

.. It is true that God created human beings in His own image and that as a result every single human has intrinsic value and worth (Genesis 1:26-27). It is not true, however, that God endorses every thought and intention of the human heart. We live in a Genesis 3 world in which humanity and the cosmos are fallen and compromised by sin. That means that some of our desires are misdirected — even some of the ones that we are born with. That we desire sin from birth is not a cause for celebratory anthems but an indication of just how desperate the human condition really is (Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Jeremiah 17:9).

What kind of outlook do you have? Do you agree with the fact that we as a human race have made a mess of ourselves, or do you think that we all ought to accept the way we are because we are born this way?