In The End

I honestly have no idea what brought Brooke Fraser to mind. But for some reason, I found myself looking up her music this morning, adding “Albertine” to my offline music downloads. And tripping out on the realization that album is ten years old. (Almost eleven!) Released in 2007 and tied to some memories that I can recall better than I can remember last week.

I was living in Australia back then. And part of the church that she was part of. And I remember her playing a song off the new album during a service – just her and her guitar. And I remember thinking “Hmm. I wonder what it’ll sound like when it’s done.” And then experiencing the done version with a full band and video backing at the women’s conference that year. And being blown away. It was an exquisitely well-produced experience of a great song from a great album. An album named after a Rwandan orphan Brooke had met in her travels… her Compassion child, was it? I can’t remember that part clearly and I may be mixing up Hillsong sponsored things. Anyway, as that song (track #5 on the album) started to play this morning, I remembered the origin story of the song and I felt a flash of panic. This is a song written ten years ago about a Rwandan orphan, by a white Kiwi-slash-honorary-Australian, wonderful and easy-going people who are not particularly known for their racial sensitivity. So I braced myself for the possibility of losing another thing in the fire of “well that didn’t age well”. But it was fine. Still a moving call to action. Which made me sad in a different way.

“Now that I have seen, I am responsible.
Faith without deeds is dead.”

That’s the hook and the primary message of “Albertine” – Responsibility. Once the excuse of not knowing is stripped away, deeds are proof. Of sight. Of growth. Of change. Of life. Brooke had seen the aftermath of the genocide that had taken place in Rwanda, some ten years before her visit, and felt the weight of the storyteller: to tell the story.  And so she did. And she wasn’t the only one, there was a lot of concerted effort at that time to help the people of Rwanda, to rally the world to restore hope there. And God bless everyone who took part. Who took on bits of the responsibility. But I do remember a quiet question being asked from quiet corners: What about the Aborigines? There was an undercurrent of cynicism about the willingness of so many Australians to restore hope in Rwanda in the light of their unwillingness to confront the harm done in their own country. And as an outsider with no skin in either game – Rwanda or Australia – I kind of felt like help is help and a rising tide lifts all boats and all in good time. And all of that. I understood where the murmurs were coming from and I got it, but I didn’t get it.

Now I do.

Do you know what the best kind of responsibility is? The optional kind. The ones what we don’t actually have to do.  The “extra mile” things. It’s the difference between arriving on the scene to pour hope on another country vs. stepping into the messy issues of your own history to extract justice. The difference between being a hero and being here. But if we’re honest, we’d all much rather be heroes, because it’s hard to be here.

Which is why listening to “Albertine” made me sad today. Because I know a lot of heroes. Compassion photos of brown kids worlds away decorate many a fridge in my world and it wasn’t that long ago that practically every birthday I knew of was being donated to Charity:Water… I know a lot of very helpful people, good people doing good things: Heroes. Who are absolutely useless here. Who would rather talk about it, than actually be about it. Because they think talking is actually something. And in this climate, yes: saying Black Lives Matter is better than nothing. But actions still speak louder than words. And to say Black Lives Matter, but continually only hire white folks… guess what? Your “better than nothing” is actually just nothing wearing some trendy merch.

I got this text the other day and I wish I could say that it stopped me in my tracks, but what it actually did was remind me that I haven’t actually been making any lately. I’ve been quiet. And getting quieter. And some of that has been good. I’ve been able to step back and reassess a lot of the noise I’ve surrounded myself with and some of the old favorites – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – got cut from the playlist. Quite possibly forever. (jk about Snapchat. It was NEVER a favorite.) And a lot of my own words have been coming back to haunt me. To remind me how long I’ve left them lingering in limbo. Out of my mind, but not yet in your sight where maybe… just maybe they could help you see something. Something that might just make you say, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible…”

And so with that in mind, I’m definitely letting go of this blog.  “SingularShe” started as “The Miss League” which was started as a safe place for single women to grapple with being single. And I’ve struggled to write consistently for it for the past year and some change because my grappling has changed. My conclusion on my singleness is this: It is what it is. But more importantly, what it’s not is a punishment or an indicator of worth or sign of personal deficiency. It just is what it is. And until it changes, there is nothing I can do about it other than do everything I can to be the best, most whole, most honest and authentic version of me – good, bad and ugly – not for some man, but for myself and for everybody else. Which means I have to see these other grapples through – the ones between my faith and my religion, my race and my nation, and those places where the failures of my religion and my nation in regards to my race are not matching up with my faith. It is messy stuff. And I love it. It’s what I’m here for. But it’s not exactly what you, reader of this particular blog, signed up for, so… I have to let this go.

My thought right now is that the SingularShe will officially end as what it was originally going to be when I wrote its first words: a book. I’ll finish going through all the old posts and compile the best, brightest and most relevant of them and throw that bad boy on Amazon for whosoeverwill.

And operating under the assumption that my friend is right and the world does need my voice, I’ll be working on speaking up in the ways that I can: through scripts and songs and scripts full of songs. Some of which are going to ruffle feathers. (Some of which already have. #SAINTS.) But I have to do it. Because I’ve seen too much. And I don’t think that was by accident. I have stories to tell and like Brooke Fraser, surveying the aftermath of ten years time, I feel the weight of the storyteller. To tell the story. Because now that I have seen, I am responsible.

And faith without deeds is dead.



So that’s that. Hit me up in the comments or via email (livelovelagata@gmail.com) to let me know if you’ve got any favorite posts you’d like to see in the book. (Or most definitely don’t want to see.) And please don’t think things between us have to be over forever – we can still kick it, you can find me at JaniceLagata.com and spoiler alert: there are already a few warm up posts over there…

Nothing To Lose

Nothing To Lose

I have prayed for a lot of things over the course of my life. Significant things, insignificant things. Things I never got and still think about; things I did get and don’t even remember. I have prayed prayers that have been selfless and others that were completely selfish. I have prayed in anger, happiness, confusion, sadness, frustration, guilt. And lately, I have been praying a lot of thankful prayers for heartbreaking things.

For a long time, I thought God and I had a deal: that He wouldn’t take one love without giving me another. And so as my cat was getting older, I was sure I was getting closer to finding/being found by “the one” who would be there to fill his spot as the love of my life. Because my cat was the love of my life. Not just in a crazy cat lady kind of way but in the very real day-to-day sense of him being the sole thing I had to tangibly love and care for everyday. Regardless of how I felt or what was happening or how much money I did or didn’t have or where I was living or what I was working on or struggling with, David was there. Depending on me, grounding me and loving me. And that cat didn’t just love me; he loved me more than he loved anyone else. And that was the important part. That was what I would lose if I were to ever lose him and what I thought God would surely have in place before he took him. Because without him, without that more-than-anyone-else kind of love, I would be so… optional. So unclaimed. And yes, I am loved. I know there are people who love me. But… not like that.

So when David got sick in April, so did my faith. And I got so angry. Because I could see the writing on the wall and seriously God?! You’ve had 16 years to give me something else to hold. SIXTEEN. And you couldn’t do it?! And I’ve been here, doing the best I can to stay close to You while progressively becoming more unlovable because I’ve had all this free time to become more and more passionate and vocal about things most people would rather not concern themselves with, and now You’re just going to leave me out here? Completely, like completely, alone? Well… alright then.

What?! I know. I’m sorry. I keep wanting my story to be more inspirational, to be a better example of “Look at God! He will test your faith and then He’ll really reward you!” but… that’s not how my story is going. Not so far. Not on the surface. Because my life is nothing that I wanted it to be. But my suspicion/hope is that it might be something close to what He always wanted it to be.

So much of Christian faith has become about our wants, about God fulfilling our dreams, while forgetting that He actually has us here to fulfill His. And while there are parts of what He has for us that we can’t wait to get to (wife! mother! superstar!); there are other things, the harder things (advocates, forerunners, warriors) that He can’t wait for us to get to.  But if we’re honest, most of us didn’t sign up for that kind of faith. We didn’t sign up to work, we signed up to be loved and comfortable. To be challenged and changed, solely for the sake of becoming better people for the better lives we’ll be rewarded with. And yes, there are rewards and good things ahead of us, but they are not the goal. And they are not the proof of God’s faithfulness or His pleasure.

Think about that parable of the three servants and the 1, 3, 5 talents that the master left them. When the master returned and saw what they had done with what he gave them, what did he say/give to the faithful servants? Basically, “You have been faithful over a little, so I’m going to put you over more.” But more what? MORE WORK. And yes, along with that would probably come more fun, fortune and fame, but those were byproducts, not the main thing.

So if we can’t reliably track God’s faithfulness through comfortable rewards, how do we locate it? Well… for me, I’ve found it in the grace and strength I’ve had to do the hard work. And the peace I’ve felt in the moments that should have devastated my faith. And in thankfulness for the prayers that He has answered. Because sometimes answered prayer looks like holding on to your cat as he takes his last breaths because you prayed that he not suffer and that he not die alone. And God was faithful. And so, even as I was walking straight into the reality of the thing I feared most (being completely alone), and when I probably should have been doing everything I could to hold onto love and comfort wherever I could find it: I actually had the peace and strength to forsake another comfort zone for the sake of the work that I feel I’m supposed to do.

I’ve lived in New York City for seven years. And there were only two things that were constant the whole time – my cat and my church. And coming into this summer, I had a feeling I would be losing them both. And sure enough, as of two weeks ago, it’s a whole new world. David died in the first hours of a Monday and that Tuesday afternoon I sent an email officially withdrawing from Hillsong NYC. So that’s that. I’m out’chea with nothing, y’all! (Which isn’t exactly true, because God is faithful. #staytuned)

But I just wanted to write this post, partly because I am starting to break the news that I’m no longer at Hillsong (surprise!), but mostly to send up a flare from the dark side of faith. So much of social media and the parts of our stories that we share are from our highlight reels – the moments of triumph and success – but those aren’t the only kinds of moments that God shows up in. Or the only moments we should be using to gauge His love for us or His interest in our lives.

Listen, I would be lying if I said I’m never terrified that this is it, that I’ve peaked and am already living the best life I can expect. That I’ll die someday and it won’t really matter to anyone. But there’s a flip side to having nothing that I thought would by now, I also have nothing to lose. And I do have the faith that I will have a family someday, but I don’t have to wait for that to start building a legacy. And neither do you. There is work for us to do. Now. And it probably won’t be found in the comfort we’re chasing, but there is comfort to be found in the work we were created to do. At least I hope there is. Because I’m betting everything on it right now.

7.5

7.5

This time last week, I had no idea where I would be living today. My sublet was ending on Friday and I had known that for over a month and had been searching for the next place for just as long but… nothing. Nothing had come together. So I had booked a mover with only half helpful information – a pick up address with the drop off location still TBD. Awkward. So awkward. And frustrating. And annoying.  AKA: So very New York. And I’m not gonna lie – it was hard. Emotionally more than anything else. Moves are usually stressful due to finances, but thanks to my job, my side hustles and tax season, money wasn’t even an issue. What was a very real issue was the feeling of not just being uprooted, but feeling completely un-rooted. And being stuck in this cycle of not really belonging anywhere. Or to anyone.

Moving in New York is nothing new to me. I just did the math and since arriving 90 months ago (in October of 2009), I have moved 12 times. That’s an average of once every 7.5 months. Can you imagine that? At some point every year (twice in the really good ones!) packing up everything you own and moving it someplace else. It is exactly as fun as it sounds. And absolutely exhausting. And I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I moved on Friday night and by Sunday evening, I had every box unpacked. “Seriously?!” One of my friends was shocked (and I imagine, mad impressed.) “It took me 6 months to get to the last box!” Which isn’t unusual at all, but the way my vagrancy is set up, I just can’t afford to wait 6 months to unpack a box I’ll be repacking in 7. So if there’s something I can leave boxed up for 6 months, it’s something that I can leave behind. And I do. Not just when I move, but in day-to-day life, I’ve gotten really good at realizing that things are just things. And letting go of them. Because it’s all just stuff. And whether it’s something I bought or something that was given to me – if I got it once, I can get it again. Bad days and general annoyances aside, my life is on an incline, it’s getting bigger, better, stronger all the time. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I was and to be afraid to let go of something because it’s the best I’ve ever had and “what if I never get it again??” is to be afraid that this is as good as it gets and that God has done all He can. But I know that isn’t true.

And that’s what I had to remind myself of in the moments when I just wanted to walk away from everything. Those moments when everything about the situation was screaming how much I didn’t matter, didn’t belong and didn’t have anything to show for all the years here. And honestly… there were some moments when if a door had opened someplace far far away, I would have thrown my cat in his carrier and run through it. But NOTHING was opening up. Except in Brooklyn. And I never got that desperate.

Ask anyone who knows me how I feel about Brooklyn and they’ll probably tell you I hate it. In fact, you can ask around and even people who don’t really know me can probably tell you two things: I love cats and I hate Brooklyn.  They are well-worn facts from the folktales oft told about Jani The Cat. But are they true facts? Well… they are like Lifetime movies: based on real events, but exaggerated for entertainment value. I don’t have any real issue with Brooklyn. I just don’t have any use for it. I feel about Brooklyn exactly the same way I feel about the artwork on the wall across from my desk at work – it’s there but who cares? And what most people don’t know is that once upon a time, I almost moved to Brooklyn. I actually got selected in one of those housing lotteries and was thisclose to moving into a brand new building in the Crown Heights area when the subject of pets came up at the lease signing. And being the crazy cat lady that (anyone can tell you) I am, I had to turn down the keys to that brand-new-elevator-with-laundry-in-the-basement apartment.

But because we had already gone through all the paperwork the management office asked if we might be interested in living in another other building they had. In Washington Heights. And that was how I ended up living (and loving!) uptown. Which is where I ended up building a connect group. And building friendships. And a life. And I know it’s different for everyone, but for me… I just have a conviction that uptown is where I’m supposed to be. So even with the clock running out and the possibility of being homeless skyrocketing, I would see ad after ad featuring open spots in Brooklyn, and I never even considered it. And no one ever suggested it. Not seriously.

Which is crazy, right??

You’re literally days away from have NOWHERE  TO LIVE and you won’t even consider putting your crazy conviction aside.  Well… I’m also on the edge of NEVER MAKING IT, but still can’t quiet this conviction to keep writing. And I’m definitely within spitting distance of being SINGLE FOREVER but still can’t shake the conviction that there is someone great for me.

So this move, was a different test of faith from the million before it. It was a trial by fire of believing a particular area is where you’re supposed to be and waiting, against all reason, for a door to open. And you know what? A door did open. This time a week ago. I set up an appointment to go view a room that had just popped up on Gypsy housing. It was a little more than I wanted to pay for another roommate situation, but the pictures looked pretty nice and desperate times, right? So I went. And I met the new potential roommate. And I thought, “Yeah, okay. This could be good.” And I was pretty sure that it was going to work out, but I didn’t want to say anything until the sublease was signed and the deposit was in. And that didn’t happen until Thursday evening. So I didn’t know for sure for sure until the day before I was moving.

And it wasn’t until the day after I moved that it hit me what an amazing door I had walked through. In the borough/area I love. In the best building/apartment I have lived in so far. Cat-friendly. With an elevator. Laundry in the basement. In a spacious bedroom. With two windows. And two amazing views of the Hudson River, GWB and New Jersey.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…

It is an Ephesians 3:20 kind of situation through and through. And it’s a new touchstone to remind me (and hopefully a testimony to encourage you) that you’re right where you’re supposed to be AND right about where you’re supposed to be. And what is for you, is for you and the clock may be ticking, but it’s actually on your side because it’s counting down to the open door that is just for you.

(And yes: 7.5 months from now, this sublet will be over and I’ll be moving on again, but I’ve already decided that I’ll be buying. And I’m already looking forward to seeing what “better than I can ask or imagine” is going to look like in that situation/process.)