Dark purple lips to match my shirt and skirt. I was ready for the job fair! PC: KSB

My story: how fashion reflects my spirit

Purple lipstick is always a good choice. Wearing it last week, I felt confident and on top of the world, basically like Fena Gitu. I wore it to match my skirt, and it changed my outlook on the day. I love lipstick and purple and the two combined. But there’s a spiritual point to this, and it applies to people of all genders.

Thanks for sharing in my story.

Today when the cashier at Wendy’s said purple looked good on me, it reminded me of how far I’ve come. I dress how I feel, but I have a rule now that I must always wear some splash of color in my outfit to share some joy. I began this practice during an eternal Chicagoland winter several years ago when everyone around was wearing black and grey like the gloomy sky above. Even when I’m mourning, I’ll wear a bright scarf or necklace on top of the black to symbolize hope.

But this was not always the case. In junior high, life was rough. Some girls at my tiny Christian school bullied me, and I had few friends. Why they excluded me, I never knew. I was different than them and refused to conform. Did our particular differences weird them out? I honestly never found an answer. I tried to keep a pure heart and to be on good terms with these girls, but that didn’t stop my understanding of my worth from dropping as they treated me poorly and ignored me.

My attire also reflected my musical interests, one of the differences I mentioned. Skillet was my favorite band at the time; I was obsessed with the band that evolved from grunge when I was born to hard rock around the time of my obsession. A quick Google search will show how it impacted my fashion choices — in short, with lots of black. The punk, rock, and emo scenes drew me. I still enjoy those genres, but my situation and outlook on life has changed, as have my clothing tastes. I don’t wear t-shirts displaying mummies anymore, although I really loved that one in eighth grade before I lost it at a basketball practice. (Sorry I can’t find it online to show you, but here’s a photo of me around the same time.)

Me and a special friend the summer after eighth grade, lol. Photo belongs to KSB.

My special friend and I the summer after eighth grade, lol. Photo belongs to KSB.

Life was miserable at school, and so I dressed how I felt: in black, lots of grey, sometimes olive green — generally lifeless colors. At the time I thought I just liked the colors, but I see now that I wore them as a reflection of my emotions.

I had a total of two friends at school in eighth grade, and I must have had a few clothes items that weren’t black or grey, because one day one of those two girls told me my purple sweater looked good on me. This comment, however random it was, stuck with me.

Slowly, I began incorporating more color into my wardrobe, including a lot of purple. (Towards the end of high school, a girl I babysat was wearing a turtleneck she liked asked me what my style was, and I could only think to say purple.) School also grew gradually better over the years. College was the real game changer. People accepted me with all my quirks and unique interests there.

Today I adore color — particularly purple, which does go well with my complexion and green eyes, but I appreciate anything bright. Color is beautiful. It represents life, joy, and hope. Color makes others smile. This is why I love to wear it now: to bring smiles to those around me, particularly when the weather is grey and everyone’s attire matches it. I want to be a ray of sunshine.

And I’m not the only one who’s had to overcome something difficult and came out rocking colorful lips. Nyakim Gatwech faced discrimination and harmful ignorance based on her dark skin in her modeling career but decided to rock bold colors in the face of the naysayers. Her story is quite different than mine, but I encourage you to read it here. Her colorful style is symbolic, too.

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As a disclaimer, I do know some exuberant people who prefer to wear dark colors, but I personally view color as symbolic of life and have found that a bright sweater can make people smile when it stands out amidst grey coats on a rainy day. I praise God for bringing me joy in Him so that I can share it with others, even through something as simple as my wardrobe. Evidently, our outfits aren’t always just clothes, after all; as symbols, they contain meaning.

Seven years ago, I felt invisible. Now I am a new woman, a confident one who is learning her worth and beauty and calling that out in others. As Fena sings*, do your thing and be a queen. And of course, remember that you were created in the image of a loving, holy, and entirely capable God who sees you.

 

*See link in first graf. Really. It’s worth it.

 

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Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Inspiring youth, Independence Day, and the DRC

Fifty-seven years ago on June 30, the Democratic Republic of Congo won its independence. While I won’t go into a political history right now, I will celebrate Independence Day by telling you about my generation and how amazing they are.

Congolese youth are artists, talented photographers and musicians. They are teachers of elementary students and ESL learners. They are preachers and leaders and peacemakers. They are aspiring doctors.

They are aware of their socioeconomic status in their country and their country’s status in the world. They are thinkers and doers. They are innovators and prayer warriors.

Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Blackman Bausi recording with Skye. PC: Katelyn Skye Bennett

My friends, Congolese men and women in their teens, twenties, and thirties, are hilarious, too—just ask me about Charles sometime. They are humble, kind, and very passionate. They are dedicated students and worship leaders and evangelists and creatives. They are uncomplaining friends, patient mamas and brothers and husbands.

They are amazing.

I wish I could tell you about each of my friends in detail – Victoire, Blackman Bausi, Patricia, Patrick, Clarice, Dieum, Sumaili, and so many other dear ones. You could meet some of them or get to know other incredible Congolese youth by visiting Un Jour Nouveau (Africa New Day) in Goma, actually. UJN is always happy to have visitors.

Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Some youth at UJN after Sports Sunday at church. Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Organizations like UJN in Goma and Congo Initiative in Beni work with and employ these youth for social change and a better Congo. They teach Christian leadership and peace in a country tarnished by suffering yet underlaid with resilient beauty. They are part of Congo’s ongoing history.

I’ll say it again: my generation is part of our country’s history. The youth are making change.

Today we celebrate the freedom we have from colonialism. Today we celebrate our victories. Today we remember what we have accomplished personally and as a nation, and we strive forward towards a brighter future.

Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Me and one of my best friends, Dieum. Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Happy Independence Day!

Rocking the purple hair in South Dakota with my bestie. PC: KSB

Thick, curly hair

Thick, curly hair:

Some say it’s a mane, wild like a lion,

But our hair is beautiful, not beastly,

not something dangerous needing to be “tamed.”

Is it unruly simply because it does not lie flat?

Are “tangled” locks not close to the heart of curls,

which intertwine to form a loose and lovely lattice

around our stately domes?

If you imply we ought to control our hair,

maintain our hair for a week;

Our hair requires constant upkeep

for health.

We do control our hair, and our halos of coils and curls

are the glorious result.

I will wear my hair with pride.

Call it wild because it is purple and, yes, twirls off at all angles,

But also see that it is thick, curly and naturally beautiful.

God Gave Me a Mountain

Walking towards my house in the flat state of Illinois this evening, I thought I saw a mountain peaking over the trees. Struck by the beauty, I halted. I then realized it was merely a purple-grey cloud, but I remained still, gazing forward and pretending that it was a snow capped peak in Nepal stretching away, way, way into the sky.

Continuing onward, I thanked God for that beautiful illusion.

Every Monday for the past three weeks, it has rained…typically on me. First I had to walk to work through a flash flood. I arrived at the library soaked up to my thighs from the rain and puddles. Last week I escaped the rain in time, but this week I chose to walk umbrella-less through a sun shower. It was glorious.

At least half the days this summer have been rainy. The earth and streets smell fresh, and because my work is indoors, I am mostly dry. I find joy in the after-effects, however—the dripping grass squishing between my bare toes, muddy puddles along the roadside.

The downside of having so much rain and persistent puddles is that mosquitoes are finally breeding. Until last Sunday, only one insect had bitten me during the entire summer. Then I got three expansive spider bites that thankfully dried out by the time I got re-bitten yesterday on my hand and knee.

I still love the puddles, though.

I love rain and puddles and trees and mountains. They’re majestic, and they remind me of my old home and places I’d like to go such as the Adirondack Mountains, Kenya or Montana.

For living in what I call the “flatlands,” I live in a pretty beautiful place. Flat, open land was never my ideal, but I’ve learned to find beauty in the wide fields, straight roads and of course the railroad tracks. Still, I’m blessed to live on what is probably the most shaded street in Wheaton. I’m blessed to live in a house that has trees out front and lining the side. It feels enclosed.

When we lived in Connecticut, my mom always disliked Hartford Turnpike because the street was walled in by a tunnel of trees. She preferred the winding beauty of Upper State Street, with its more sunny view, the elementary school and the pond where I once caught a fish with a french fry. Dad preferred the direct route of Hartford Turnpike. My parents would race each other home, testing which road was the shortest, but it honestly depended on the traffic lights. I’d drive both roads depending on my preference that day, but I loved being surrounded by trees and rock faces on the interstate and highways in Connecticut.

I haven’t seen any rock faces in Illinois yet, but today God gave me a mountain. And he took away my breath.