a promise of strength.

I promised I’d stay strong. 

I took stability for granted. I didn’t realize just how much I craved it until now. I didn’t realize how much things would shift and sway and pull me apart inside.

I feel caught in the middle–more like trapped–and claustrophobic, yet drowning in a sea of space and time and ticking clocks and changing numbers.

I hear cries for help and heavy tears, smacking the ground with pounds of sorrow in every drop.

I see a cloud of death swarming around an innocent spirit, and I feel God slowly pulling her home. And I’m here to watch it all unfold.

But then I find myself in silence. I look within myself, and I find love. I find hope. I find God. And so, I find strength.

I have my rock, I have my foundation, and now, I need my peace.

I need my peace to feel secure within this life of mine.

I need my peace to feel my faith at its fullest.

Most of all, I need my peace to keep my strength, for you, and you, and because of You.

I see the peace. I feel it. I’m holding it in my heart, and I’ll try my hardest to never let it go.

I can break down in tears and still be strong. I can yell at how unfair life feels at times, and through that, I will still be strong. I can ask God questions and even doubt His plan at times, and I will still be strong.

When you know God’s strength exists, you’ve found it, because you’ve found Him… and that’s all you need.

I have all I need for strength.

I will stay strong for you.

I promised I would. And so I will.

xoxo,

Siena

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proverbs & poetry.

God is loud. I’m surprised at the fact that I don’t always hear Him. But this week, I started to hear Him again, clearer than I have in a very long time.

I suppose that for a little while, I had forgotten who God is, and who God wants me to be. I forgot that my life is a prayer. I forgot that my life is not in my hands. I forgot that if I want to find peace, I need to stop trying so hard. I need to let go, and let God.

It was dialogue shared over two Subway seafood salad sandwiches that instigated this change in mindset. What I assumed would be a typical lunch with my good friend turned into some sort of honest and introspective self-analysis.

I don’t know where to begin, but things need to change. 

I realized just how empty I had been feeling since I had spent less time with God. I convinced myself that I had things under control in my own mind, until I became so overwhelmed with life that God decided He needed to give me a stronger nudge. I’m glad He did.

After that conversation, I felt stronger. I went for a run and trimmed some time off my mileage and felt as though my spirit was shifting into place once again. My brokenness was beginning to heal, only by the hands of God.

I still felt lost, though. Not overcome with irrational anxiety, just lost in a maze of personal confusion. I was so honest with myself that I frightened my own heart. I questioned my life, especially my future. I’m still questioning it, but with more certainty now than earlier in the week. It’s just now that I’m finally beginning to find the authentic stability that I’ve been craving.

And I don’t remember when, but I sat down on my bed and prayed. I told God something along the lines of, I don’t know if I’ll regret this, but please help me to want what You want for me, and please do what You know is best in my life.

In that moment, my entire life felt transformed. I felt renewed, in a really overwhelmingly inspiring and cleansing way. My anxiety began to fade away (or at the very least I realized how pointless my worries were), and instead I was left swimming in a sea of enlightening questions, asking myself millions of things. What am I meant to do in my life? God, what do You want for my future? Do You and I want the same things? Are my desires coming from You? How can I distinguish between what You are telling me and what I am telling myself? Will You help me see clearly? 

And so I continued to pray, and I continued to ask for guidance… as I’m still doing, because these questions are still swarming around in my mind, yearning to be answered. I feel much closer to the answers now, after surrendering to God and asking for clarity, and so I’m not full of anxiety. I’m full of excitement, because I trust in God that He will take care of me and only lead me where I am meant to follow.

I was so afraid of losing control. I was so afraid of opening my heart to God in a deeper way, because I knew that He often has a completely different path than the one we strongly desire for ourselves. Now I realize that God’s plan is much more secure than any plan I could ever have for myself. If you ask God, He will help you want the same things that He wants for you. And when you’re on the same page as the Creator of the Universe, you can do even more amazing things.

I’ve heard God speaking to me in countless ways throughout the past week, both in the silence of my own heart and through other people. I can recall numerous instances of unexplained kindness, the admirable absurdity of a beautiful circumstance, or the conversations that came out of absolutely nowhere and touched my heart exactly when it needed affirmation.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with another good friend of mine, and our time together just so happened to center around spirituality and love of God. She began discussing her favorite Bible verse with me, Proverbs 31:25, which says,

“She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear. It was exactly what God had been whispering all along.

My strength is found in Him, and so I should be confident about my beautiful future. I’m learning how to love and embrace God’s unique plan. It’s a bit different from my own, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I can’t live this life on my own, and I never will. I’ll always be carrying God inside of me, and I’ll always be meeting Him through the beautiful minds and hearts of others.

I wrote the following poem last year, and I’ve been waiting to share it for a little while, but I’ve been waiting for the right time.. and I finally found it. I spent the last week of my life consumed by question of God’s intention for my life, or in other words, my purpose. Here is my reminder to open your heart and give God endless room to work in your life… and don’t worry, because He will take care of you.

PURPOSE, by Siena
To write, to scream, to fail, to reap,
To wake, to sigh, to live, to die.
Purpose: the final word of my question.
Lending me to an abyss of uncertainty, of doubt,
Of fear, and of hope.
Oh, Hope – she glistens in the icy morn and swallows me in the lack of light
Because who is light but Who gives her to me?
Cardiac drama, adrenaline desire!
She fills me with my humble ego and forces me within myself.
The writer’s sore hand, cracked yet strengthened;
The girl who screamed, throat hoarse and swollen;
The one who failed, he tries again;
The reaper has not changed,
And neither will the child who wakes tomorrow.
The sigh of the relieved, the mistakes of the alive,
And the reminiscent memory of the past and the passed.
A look in my own eye as I sigh smiling subtly
Reduces my fear and increases Hope within
For those who worry not of purpose are those who win.

I love you, beautiful people. Continue to shine like the sun and love every moment.

xoxo, your friend, Siena

vacation violation.

Things happen.

I must preface my writing in two ways. First, what I am about to say is in no way in criticism of the European culture or European men. This just happened to be my circumstance, and I have used the cultural context for details based on my particular situation. Things like this can happen anywhere and everywhere, and can be instigated by people of any gender or age.

Additionally, I have serious boundaries, and that is very important to keep in mind throughout this entire story. I have high expectations for the treatment that I should receive, as well as additional conditions for that treatment because I am in a committed relationship. As a woman in a foreign place, I cannot expect all men to be aware of these boundaries, but I try very hard wherever I am to make people aware of them. I speak of my boyfriend and my relationship early on to inform others that I am only interested in pursuing further platonic friendships and conversations. I thought it was common sense that people would respect that, but I was wrong.

My sister spent a month in Sicily, including the one week that I was there, and so she made plenty of friends and was well-acquainted with the town of about only four-thousand people. She befriended three young men who are a couple years older than me. They shared plenty of positive energy and jovial laughter. I spent time with my sister and the group in a public place, spoke of my boyfriend who I missed greatly throughout my travels, and attempted to speak the Sicilian language all the while. Everything seemed overall normal to me, aside from a few uncomfortable moments when one of the boys uttered a dirty joke or shared some sort of sexual innuendo. I didn’t think much of it.

There were at least a couple of times when my sister wanted to stay and spend time with the boys as she had in the past, but I didn’t know them, so I left. After I had felt more comfortable with them once I had spent more time in the group, I decided to go with just my sister (instead of having my parents in the nearby vicinity) to spend time in the town square. I ate pizza and sang and texted my boyfriend and posted a picture to Instagram and felt fine. After at least an hour in the Piazza, my sister and her friend (one of the boys) were ready to leave, and so I naively entered the car with them. People in that town drive around to pass time because there isn’t a wide selection of activities locally, and I didn’t think anything of it. It was a beautiful night, I was with my sister, and everything felt fine.

Things went downhill after driving around town and stopping the car to allow the other two boys to enter the backseat, where I was sitting. The youngest of the three boys sat next to me. He began joking around and making suggestive faces. I laughed awkwardly as a coping mechanism. Soon after, he put his arm around me. At first I thought he was stretching his arm out because the car was crammed, but then he managed to get a bit closer. I leaned forward in pure discomfort, and told my sister that I was disturbed, which was evident in the way that I was responding to his advances.

He became more persistent. He grabbed my hand and tried to kiss it, and I pulled away. I repeatedly yelled NO, which I know for a fact he understood. I couldn’t leave because I was stuck in the backseat of a moving two-door Fiat. The drive was longer than expected, and his actions became more and more aggressive. He tried to kiss my shoulder, my cheek, and eventually tried to force his face into mine. I pushed him off and away, and continuously yelled NO. Eventually, he stopped trying. I was somewhat relieved, other than the fact that I was slightly traumatized by the awkwardness and discomfort, and on top of that, my phone was out of battery. I was in a foreign country and couldn’t call or text anyone, although I did use the last few percent to text my boyfriend and friend, informing them that something was happening and asking for support in the moment.

Plenty of meaningless conversation occurred in the interim, and eventually the context of things became sexual once again. I thought I would be spending a wholesome evening with my sister and her friends, but it felt like everything was spiraling downward. The boy who had attempted to force himself onto me all of a sudden became disgustingly condescending. He began talking about my female anatomy and called me derogatory and objectifying names. I didn’t know what to do. I was not only physically traumatized in that moment, but my entire femininity was violated… and I became infuriated.

My sister yelled at the boy to stop insulting me, and a few moments later, I said goodbye to him when we pulled into the driveway at 1 am and slapped him across the face. Then I yelled in Sicilian, “I want respect,” as I left the vehicle.

(**Just to clarify, I don’t recommend using any sort of physicality unless the situation truly merits it.)

I feel ashamed that all of this happened to me, but I shouldn’t. The only mistake I made was being naïve enough to trust people I didn’t know. I did not invite or encourage any of the objectifying behavior that I received, and in reality, situations like this are not uncommon. I’m sure that all of my female friends, as well as many of my male friends, have been the result of objectification at one point or another.

For me, things could have been much worse. I am blessed that I am okay, and that I left the situation unharmed.

Never put yourself in a situation if there’s even a slight chance of endangering yourself. Even if your friend or family member supposedly knows a person or group of people, analyze the situation and treat these people only according to your knowledge of who they are. Don’t be too trusting.

However, beyond the issue of safety and naivety is the issue of objectification. Humans are often treated as objects in general, and I happened to be treated as one in this situation. I was completely disrespected to the point of feeling enraged, and it takes a lot of disrespect to fill me with that amount of anger.

It’s time to set the bar higher. It’s time for everyone of all genders to fight against objectification and settle for nothing less than authentic respect.