Once a month, I convinced someone close to my heart to guest blog. Because these amazing people are all super interesting to me, I’ve given them free rein. I don’t mind whether they blog about something brave, what’s on their mind, or whatever. I can’t wait for you to meet them.
Markita makes life more fun. She really is the life of the party. Case and point? Just ask her, she’ll make a dance video for a song of your choice on your birthday (I’d post one, but I swore to keep them off social media. Alas, for you). If she loves you—which she will, because Markita loves everyone—she will cheerleader you until her dying breath. I mean, she starts her post with a quote from my book. (So many pom-poms!) Love you, friend!
“Creatures of light thrive from the goodness of life, from joy, from happiness, from love. Ugly Ones want to extinguish it, spread hate, destroy all that is good on this earth and beyond.”
~ Hank Conway, Gatekeeper
Hello everyone, my name is Markita Van de Riet (pronounced Van-duh-Reet), I am your first guest blogger. Yay me! This will be my first blog post, so you can say I’m following Rachelle’s lead by living bravely.
So, who is this amazing, funny, interesting, quirky person picked to be the FIRST guest blogger?
I’m Rachelle’s dear old college friend, who (I don’t mean to brag) helped find the love of her life. I’m confident to say I may be cupid.
Anyway, my beginnings are a little interesting. I was born in Detroit, MI, where I lived for the first two years of my life before moving to my mother’s hometown of Groton, CT. It was too cold so we moves to Oceanside, CA. Then back to Gronton. Still too cold. So, back to California, where we finally settled down in Vista, CA, located in the norther part of San Diego county (no, my mother was not in the military, just sort of rolling stone). I lived there until I went off to college, where I met Rachelle more than twenty years ago.
During that time my spiritual life started to diminish despite the fact my entire world, up to that point, revolved around the church. Moving back and forth across the country meant I had dual church memberships, one in Connecticut and one in California. The two churches served as surrogate extended families, framing my viewpoint of the role a church plays in life. But after graduating at the age of 19, that role was about to change.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have a passion for God. I mean what doesn’t scream devotion like choosing a Southern Baptist College over a tuition-paid state school? But I found myself seeking opportunities to rebel and shake off the Christian “good girl” image. To me, being rebellious consisted of staying out all night, drinking excessive amounts of Mountain Dew, or sneaking off to Mexico where street vendors called me Queen Latifah.
However, all that changed my junior year. I started attending an awesome church, got serious about school, and experienced a spiritual revival. Soon after graduating from college, I packed my bags and flew to Virginia (a state I knew nothing about) to attend graduate school. All I had was a job and an opportunity to continue on my educational and spiritual journey. This new adventure didn’t feel foreign to me. I felt like I was traveling in my mother’s footsteps, confident I’d get down the road towards whatever God had in store for me.
Unfortunately, this is where the story takes a rather sharp and twisted turn. Up until this point, I never really faced difficult obstacles or major life changing set-backs (well, outside of being held back in the 3rd grade. But remember, mama was a rolling stone, so it can’t be all my fault). I had lived by faith my whole life, even during my rebellious phase, but the move to VA proved to be unlike any move I’d made before.
Once I arrived, I found myself couch-surfing until I saved enough money to rent a room. My housing situation turned out to be a nightmare. By the time I finished graduate school with a MA in Journalism, I was like a deer in headlights. I had no plan, no money, nothing but a faith that was starting to waiver.
I finally got myself a bit together and started mentoring at-risk teen, which, I believe, brought them hope even though I was struggling internally to find my purpose. I eventually moved on to work for a church’s marketing department, which turned out to be my best/worst job.
At first, the idea of working for the Lord by way of marketing seemed like the best combo I could ever think of. I also fell in love for the first time ever and married the man. Everything was finally falling into place . . .
Perspective is a funny thing. Reality was a smoke screen of what I believed it to be. Work at the church became so important it needed my constant attention. Nothing could break the devotion it required of me, not my husband, not my friends, not even God. The job almost cost me everything: my marriage, friendships, sanity. My spiritual life shattered. I blamed God for all the wrong done to me.
I was so disillusioned, I stopped going to church, utterly broken into a million pieces by the church I believed was my family. I was in so deep, work had taken the place of my relationship with God. I thought church and God were one and the same. But they never could be. That belief was due to my ignorance. Even today, I still carry some emotional baggage that may never completely heal.
When Rachelle told me about her year of living bravely, it forced me to think about my own fears holding me back. As luck would have it (or divine intervention), in February, the church I attend now started the “Love One” initiative. The initiative is designed to encourage you to share your Christian faith with someone who is not a Christian. The “catch” is to purposefully build a genuine relationship with your “One,” gradually easing into sharing your faith. This is not meant to be a “drive-by witnessing” experience.
I was a lot apprehensive at first, because, I hate to admit, I stopped sharing my faith a long time ago. I wasn’t in the best place spiritually and I’m a little out of practice. However, my church is very serious about the “Great Commission,” Jesus’s command to go out in the world and share the gospel (So was my college. Go figure). They even gave out rubber bracelets stamped “LOVE ONE” to ramp up excitement and participation. There has been this buzz in the air as people talk about finding their “One.”
Not me. I held back, too caught up in the fear of actually having to talk to someone about Jesus.
Until one Sunday morning. My family was running so late, we missed church. But thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, we caught the sermon on Facebook Live. As I listened to my pastor share what it meant to “Love One,” I felt the guilt of not wanting to share my faith because I was afraid of feeling awkward about bringing up Jesus and salvation.
Not to mention, who is my One? Do I just go to work, survey the room, and pick someone who looks like they don’t know Jesus? Do I ask them veiled questions to see where they are spiritually?
I finally hit my breaking point, no longer able to hide behind my fears of rejection, I prayed for God to help me manage the fear.
I swear, later that same day, a co-worker looked at me and, in front of all our co-workers, yelled out, “You’re religious, how can prayer work if God knows everything?” I stared at him in shock. To add some context, I work in technology. For someone not familiar with that type of environment, it’s super laid back. But still! I overlooked the whole, “I know you’re religious” comment, quickly pulled myself together, and shared my prayer experiences and what having a relationship with God was like for me.
After a couple of questions, we ended the conversation without anyone feeling demoralized, judged, or disrespected. The experience left me with a renewed hope that I could survive the “Love One” experience.
My lesson? Don’t let your fears consume so much of your self-worth that you start to diminish and dwarf into half the brave person you truly are. I’ve read books and watched movies of people overcoming great adversity to achieve amazing things (Alexander Hamilton for one—I’m obsessed with the musical I can’t afford to see!), not because they didn’t have fear, but despite that fear.
I’ve enjoyed being your guest blogger and I hope you have a brave-filled year!
Told you she’s amazing. If you want to find out more about Markita, go stalk her at TURN, inc.
TURN is a nonprofit ministry created to provide opportunities for believers to use their gift, while helping communities receive healing and salvation through God honoring theatrical productions and other creative art events.