GIRLS COMPARE. WOMEN EMPOWER.

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My husband and I had just relocated to Houston and I was feeling more homesick than ever for my beloved New York City. When Emeka suggested we go to a wine tasting party I figured it would be a great opportunity to get out and shake myself out of my New York-coma. Within five minutes of walking into the party, the lovely hostess introduced me to a stunning woman with bright eyes and fierce style named Lea Bodie. Little did I know this new acquaintance of mine would become my dear friend and business partner a year later. 

Over the night there was a safety about each other's presence that led us into vulnerably sharing our individual stories; from the joys and triumphs, to the tears and heartaches. Within moments of discovering that we both were survivors of abuse, it was as if an eternal bond fused us in the deepest understanding. That's the beautiful thing about the hearts of women. When we make the choice to lay down comparison and take up the tools of encouragement and love, we are then able to nurture and unveil the fullness of true beauty bestowed upon us by the Creator. That evening with Lea, I was reminded that where two are gathered in authenticity, home never feels too far away. 

In the past year, Lea and I continued to grow closer in the same way our husbands conveniently became best buds; fostering friendship over homecooked meals, dance parties in the kitchen, late night laughs and deep conversations until 4 o'clock in the morning. Even after my husband and I relocated to The Philippines, we kept in close touch with the Bodies, already planning our next family vacation. 

I could have never imagined that the seeds of longing to lead a generation in fighting against human trafficking within me would be a holy burden simultaneously growing in Lea's heart. After much prayer and much leading in The Spirit, Lea and I decided to join together the desire of our hearts to see women step into a revelation of their worth. The brainchild, or rather, heart child of this prayer is Láro

For the past few months, every effort on both our ends has been done in love with one mission in mind: to reclaim celebration for those who have been robbed of their joy. "Laro" in the Philippine native language means: to play. There is something that happens to those who have suffered abuse; a paralysis in your ability to laugh, to love...to play. Láro seeks to leverage fashion and our support of those longing for more to inspire light in the midst of darkness. Our mission is to empower women while advocating for underprivileged and marginalized communities around the world, specifically through supporting indigenous artisans and joining the fight against human trafficking. 

I recently spent a week with Lea in Houston, Texas officially launching our brand. In reflection, I still cannot believe the power and passion that has sprung forth, already impacting more than we could have ever hoped for in such a short amount of time. All because two women decided not to compare but rather, to EMPOWER one another. Even as I type this, Lea is off running our very first fashion show collaboration and is no doubt, giving every moment no less than her very best. I couldn't be more proud to call her not only parter, but above all, friend. 

I wish I could say that all my relationships with women are rooted in mutual respect, love, and genuine desire to see one another succeed. The idea that celebrating another woman's milestones somehow hinders your own growth and success is a lie from the pits of hell. And yet, how many of us women fall to this deceit, crippling the friendships around us? Ladies, may we always be the biggest advocates for one another, seeking to build and never to tear down. And may the solid foundation on which we band together be our unshakeable worth and identity in The One who created us unlike any other; fearfully and wonderfully made. Without rival may we rise; for we are stronger together. 

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To learn more about Láro, click here.

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Featuring: Láro

www.shoplaro.com

Instagram: @shop.laro

Facebook: ShopLaroHandbags

 

Photography: Debbie Porter Photography

MY STORY: RECLAIMING CELEBRATION AFTER ABUSE

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I was 17 years old when I became a victim of sexual assault by a boy whom I trusted. A boy who claimed to love me. I will never forget the gut-wrenching, soul-suffocating feeling that I still, 11 years later, somehow can't find the words to adequately describe. How do you begin to articulate a pain so unfathomable that the very breath that gives you life becomes an unbearable reminder of the innocence that was mercilessly stolen from you by a monster in the dark? You see, there is something mysterious that happens to the abused. For when you are used for a purpose in which you were never intended, you are left devoid of the desire to laugh, to enjoy... to celebrate.

And yet. Here I am. Breathing. Laughing. Enjoying. Celebrating. Living proof that what the enemy meant for evil, God used for good. Good in that I, in and through my process of redemption and healing, now have an authority unlike any other in the face of someone else in pain desperate to be heard. Because when a woman opens up to me for the first time about the bruises under her shirt and I look her in the eyes saying "I know", she knows without a shadow of a doubt that I do. And when she witnesses me rise above the very thing that should have killed me, she knows that she too, can not only heal, but THRIVE. 

This is the power of our testimony. It is the lifeblood that heals broken hearts and restores the lost to become found. And first and foremost, it is the miracle in the matchless Name of Jesus that is the solid rock on which I stand. 

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When I felt God's calling tug in my heart to The Philippines I never could have guessed the way he would grow my heart towards distressed communities suffering due to circumstances beyond their control. Slowly but surely my passion for anti-human trafficking awareness and adoration for the dying culture of artisanal craftsmanship developed into the collaborative celebration of artisanal handbags that is Láro

Together with my partner Lea Bodie, we are seeking to be problem solvers in a world that demands change. The problem is an underprivileged and marginalized society fallen under social injustice; particularly indigenous artisans lacking a sustainable livelihood and women affected by human trafficking in need of awareness and/or active rehabilitation. The Láro solution is a 3-point cycle of change designed to support artisanal communities, leverage fashion as a means to educate and empower consumers, and join the fight against human trafficking. We do this by hosting empowerment workshops to raise awareness for our advocacies as well as donate a portion of all sales towards the fight against human trafficking. To learn more about Láro, click here.

Our collection is lovingly handcrafted by local artisans and drenched in the rich heritage and legacy of The Philippines. Láro integrates traditional signature techniques of weaving, embroidery, and beadwork from various indigenous groups. We are launching an inspired collaboration with Adante Leyesa, a local designer and artisan from The Philippines. Each handbag is an exclusive, one-of-a-kind creation, made of local materials in partnership with indigenous artisans. We seek to celebrate the vibrant handiwork of the Ifugao basket weavers, the embroidery of the Abra Tribe of Luzon, and the beadwork of the Gawad Kalinga communities; sharing their vision with the global market. To be the first to shop the collection, click here

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Our deepest desire is that every woman who comes across our brand would leave inspired by a revelation of her worth. That those who have survived pain in their life would no longer be enslaved but rather, be set FREE in the face of unconditional grace. For the hurting to know that they are not alone and there is a love bigger than their pain. Láro is our homage to those who have been robbed of their sacred purity; it is our way of reminding them that it is not only their privilege but their right to reclaim celebration once again. 

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Featuring: Láro 

www.shoplaro.com

Instagram: @shop.laro

Facebook: ShopLaroHandbags

 

Photography: Japhet Arcedera

WHAT IF THERE'S MORE?

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What if this is it? Is life just a meaningless string of events where you are lost in translation?

What if you're right? And flirting with danger would only last a night and leave you unharmed in the long run?

What if it's true? They say "everyone is doing it" anyway so what's one more statistic?

What if no one notices? Because if you feel this insignificant, you can't be accounted for anyway.

What if this is it?

These are a few lies that we believe. The secret thoughts we struggle with in the deep recesses of our souls. The mess we try to photoshop and filter away into picture perfect faux-lawlessness. We internalize and reason and debate with ourselves on a loop that seems endless. What if... what if...

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But what if there's more? What if each day is ordained for a specific purpose and your role is to play an irreplaceable role in an epic journey?

What if you're wrong? What if taking even a tiny step into that lair of darkness pulls you in faster and harder than you are equipped to handle?

What if it's false? What if the cheap promises lead to a dead-end and a broken heart? 

What if you are seen? By a God who crafted you fearfully and wonderfully in His image, with a greater plan and purpose for your life? 

What if there's more?

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Your life is far too precious to gamble on a guessing game that belittles your innate value. Each day is a gift not promised, with an opportunity to maximize JOY to its fullest potential. I find that often we are our own biggest enemy; that we are most unforgiving with the past and unrelenting in comparison with ourselves. I'll be the first to admit that I am simultaneously my biggest advocate AND biggest bully. 

This is why I have found that the art of commanding truth over lies is one of the most crucial tools in a fruitful and fulfilled life! That most often, it isn't actually my circumstances that need to change but rather, my mindset. So how does one begin to combat the inexplicable maze of self-doubt?

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)

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I find that a sure-fire way towards victory over the battlefield of the mind is focusing your entire being - heart, soul, and mind - only on that which edifies you. This is the checklist I run through during a personal "heart check" as I like to call it:

Is this true about what God says about me as chosen, special, royal, holy, and light-filled?

Does this act honor the woman of value I know I am?

Is this just and an example of fairness I can be proud of?

Are my actions a result of pure intentions and an honest heart?

Are these words lovely and contributing to an encouraging environment?

Is this step commendable in regards to the integrity and dignity I strive to uphold?

Does this thought contribute to the excellent character I desire to embody?

Even if I am alone, are these thoughts and actions praiseworthy?

Full disclaimer: I am by no means rattling off a  of self-righteous rules saying that if you miss a mark on this list then "shame on you!" If anything, let me go ahead and burst your worry bubble / give you relief in sharing the spoiler alert that you will 100% fail on checking off multiple items (more realistically every single item) on this list at one time or another. AND THAT'S OKAY. 

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The point is that raising your standard and  actively choosing to think on things that are empowering to heart, soul, and mind should always ADD to your confidence and never take away from your dignity. And in the many times I have been caught up in the what if's of life, measuring against whether or not my inherent value is reinforced and celebrated has proven to always be a wise idea. 

Why do I advocate in believing for more? Because life is not a string of random events and empty encounters; but rather a journey with a unique purpose to your existence. Because a revelation of your worth is worth fighting for and protecting.

Because not only is there so much more.

YOU, Beloved, are so much more.

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**All photography is owned by MEGA MAGAZINE per the January 2018 Spirit of Success Feature with Nika Diwa.

Sprit of Success by MEGA MAGAZINE // Written by Trina Epilepsia Boutain // Photography by Yukie Sarto of Studio 100

HOW I PUSHED PAST FEAR AND ((FINALLY!)) LAUNCHED MY OWN BUSINESS

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I said goodbye to control and stability in 2016 when I left my corporate fashion job to pursue passion and purpose. Because life is too short to live in fear. I believe that at the root of all human anxiety, stress, and frustration is simply

fear. 


Dread over imaginary ghosts and bad guys; villains we have self-created to sabotage the glory God created within us. For as long as I could remember, creating extraordinary disruptions within ordinary moments was the unseen electricity behind my motivation and drive.

To be outrageously different.

Perhaps this outside of the box mentality was the reason I got on that plane to New York City with nothing more, nothing less than a dwindling bank account, a worn-out suitcase, and most importantly a calling in my heart for more.

It was that same calling, the pulsating da-dum-da-dum in my veins, that pushed me over the ledge of fear and into the great chasm of the Unknown. I, a creature of habit and comfort, finally put in my two-week notice after years of negotiating against my own self-doubt. My goal was a tiny but nonetheless vivid light leading me towards my mission: to empower through beauty and style.

In my years of experience as an executive for leading luxury fashion companies, I could no longer ignore the blatant disorder and chaos resulting in a convoluted string of lies damaging the truth of self worth for men and women everywhere, all ages alike. 

I began by writing my first series in empowerment called The Theology of Fashion, with a heart set on dissecting, uncovering, and reclaiming the redemptive message of God’s love and relentless pursuit towards us in and through the beauty and fashion industries. My goal became to help inspire a revelation of worth; to release the value inherently created within each and every being, regardless of past, body type, or status. 

Thus began my journey to challenge those at a top level in the beauty and fashion industries to be the change makers impacting a complete shift and breaking ground towards a more positive future founded in love and empowerment. 

Almost simultaneously throughout my one year process of building my business plan came a familiar voice of darkness, mocking my desire for more. “You small, stupid girl,” it said, “What makes you think you are qualified to create an empire based on nothing more than a notion to make people feel good? What is empowerment and worth but an attempt to write happy songs and movies? But to create a business?! You went to school and excelled in a career of buying and merchandising under the best leaders in your industry. Don’t be wasteful of your resources. Stick to what you know.” 

Every time this dark voice whispered, the foggy cloud of fear blurred my vision. Sometimes only for a brief moment of confusion; sometimes for long, drawn out moments of deep despair.  And yet, a Voice louder and brighter than even the bleakest lies had already decided victory over my future long before I was born. And His Name was Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace. Jesus. 

And when the Voice told fear to flee it crumbled back into the earth like a worm without a home. Day by day, second by second, the still, Small Whisper continued to lead me towards more.

More joy,

more fruition,

more of Him.

Slowly but surely, He drew me out of the darkness fear had created around me, coaxing me into His marvelous light and into my destiny. What would happen next would leave me forever changed...

To be continued...

((Stay tuned for next week's post. I am FINALLY announcing some pretty major news and I want you to be the first to know!))

 

With Love + Light,

Nika
 

Featuring Nha Khanh

DEAR MEAN GIRLS...

You step into the doorway clutching the veggie assortment you brought for the potluck meal. It's a brand new city and you figured the best way to make new friends was to dive into community. As you round the corner and see a group of new faces, you gulp down nerves and take each forward step in the hopes of making at least one friend before you leave. After a round of "hello's", you reach the last girl in the corner of the room. As you extend a smile, your greeting is abruptly shut down with a grim expression as her eyes scale your outfit from top to bottom. You feel stripped naked; like the object of a 90's pop band poster that one may roll their eyes at in personal distaste. You try your best to shrug off the ice cold interaction and pick at your dinner, but can't help but notice the girl actively avoiding any engagement with you. Fear of isolation shrinks down the initial hope that inspired you to attend the event in the first place. The girl figures you aren't aware of the frequent side eye thrown your way in between bites of salad. But you can see. And it's not a pretty sight to be judged without being known.

Ladies, can we talk seriously for a minute? Because the above narrative, while a true story, isn't an anomaly. The comparison game started sometime in middle school and seems to have never ended. The result? Girls who look like women. While outwardly we swear we have matured, the childish propensity to put down others as a means of elevating ourselves suggests otherwise. We SnapChat stories and post Facebook pictures of #GirlsNight and #Sisterhood only to promote gossip and slander behind the backs of the very women we claim to love. Walking hypocrites in high heels.

This damaging behavior is so the norm that it is often reflected in mainstream reality shows like The Bachelor and The Real Housewives of [every city]. When did it become socially acceptable to pile twenty five women in a room to desperately vie for their chance to make out with one spoiled man? When did the scale of one's lavish lifestyle become an accurate measure of joy and fulfillment? We excuse the shocking performances and chalk it up to social entertainment. But I find that the most poisonous lies are often the most subtle ones that slowly creep in, ultimately destroying your own self awareness.

It is a dangerous lie to believe that by putting down other women, you are somehow elevating yourself. If anything, this juvenile behavior proves the perpetrator's little to no regard for her own value as a daughter of The King. The truth is that each one of us is "fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:14) God says that "you are altogether beautiful; there is no flaw in you." (Song of Songs 4:7) This is true for EVERY WOMAN; regardless of cultural background, social status, or physical appearance.

You see, when you belittle another woman, you belittle the innate treasure you are. To judge or cast out another creation of God is to say that you yourself as an invaluable part of creation is undeserving of basic respect and honor.

Girls vs. Women; there is a BIG difference:

Girls judge; Women encourage.
Girls exclude; Women embrace.
Girls compare; Women empower.

Which one are you?

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Featuring The Shopping Bag provides a one-stop, convenient source where shopping is always in style! They bring you unique, one-of-a-kind items at every price point with new arrivals every week. The best part? They ship right to your door so you can be your most effortlessly fabulous self!

 

A TRAGIC STORM AND THE PILOT WHO SAVED ME

We had been circling the gray clouds for half an hour waiting for clearance from the airport to land. I was instantly reminded of the year Hurricane Sandy hit New York City several years ago. My roommate Shelby and I were stoked for the additional day off and stocked up on Netflix movies instead of food. We thought that surely this was yet another formality. 

The sky was dark the night the storm hit our corner of the Upper East Side. I completely missed the steady crescendo of turbulence building outside our windows, distracted with whatever chick flick was playing on the television. 

Then Sandy hit. 

Shelby screamed for me from downstairs. I ran over to the top of the stairs half expecting an unwelcome guest, perhaps a mouse seeking shelter from the rain. My eyes widened and I had to catch my breath as I witnessed a relentless current of gushing water invading our home through a shattered window. Through tears, I begged my frantic friend to let go of her possessions and run upstairs lest any wires electrocute her. 

In less than 20 minutes, the power had shut off and an aggressive flood had crept to the top of our stairs, completely submerging the first floor of Shelby's room. Suddenly neighbors emerged from the black hallway to assist. Some offered strength to quickly move our valuables to safety while others offered light with whatever candles they could find. 

As the horrors of the night subsided and the morning flickered back into our home I sat at the top of the stairs. I remember watching the happy rays dance across the walls and growing resentful that the same sky could bring both utter darkness and sublime light. It seemed like a cruel trick; an abusive relationship. 

As I watched the water slowly drain back down, I shook my head in frustration for not foreseeing this monster of a storm. I played back the past events of the last 24 hours, pinpointing all of the opportunities I could have done something, anything to prevent the loss I now faced. I felt reckless for ignoring all the persistent weather advisories; maybe I could have nailed the window shut somehow had I been more prepared. I was a fool drowned in debris and regret. 

And though the years since have past, the cycle of storms continues. 

The foreshadowing.

The hit. 

The regret. 

I can't help but recall and reflect on this reality as I am faced with yet another reckless storm. And before I fall back into my usual cycle of attempting to pin point how I could have prevented this unfortunate outcome, I am comforted when I remember God's consoling answer in response to my despair as I sat on the top of the stairs post Sandy. 

I am not qualified to be in control. Rather, I am called to stillness and trust in the hands of The One who holds the whole Universe in the palm of hands. A flashback from my childhood comes to mind. I gripped my dad's hand while a storm rocked our plane spontaneously to and fro. My dad met my terrified gaze and held out his hand with an imaginary plane floating above, assuring me that amidst the turbulence, God would personally carefully carry the plane through.

My eyes widened as I realized that the real pilot on the plane was The One who created and set all things into motion according to His perfect plan. I held onto this precious knowledge and as the peace that surpassed all understanding washed over my anxiety, I loosened the grip on my dad's arm and let the plane rock me to sleep. 

And so it goes with the unpredictable and often vicious life we are called to. Even the best weatherman simply cannot predict all of the little and big tragedies that plague our day to day. And yet; we continue to press forward, trusting the Pilot to carry us through from glory to glory come what may. 

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Featuring Metisu

 

THE EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY BLOG POST

Do you ever feel like you have a million things on your to do list and yet, you just can't find the passion or strength to cross off a single one? I'm going to level with you here because I'm too exhausted to lie. I've been sitting in front of this blank computer screen simultaneously fighting the urge to doze off and willing any inspiration to hit. I wish I could honestly tell you mine is a charmed life of thrilling stories and colorful words to share. And while I have been blessed to experience wild goodness in my 27 years, the truth is that most days are filled with mundane tasks. That the climax of 24 hours can be challenging to identify. 

I am a dreamer and this makes the humdrum reality very challenging for me. My way would mean being swept up every day in a new chapter of a wonderland adventures. Perhaps this is why I get the dreaded "vacation blues"; I feel so dreary once the delightful high of frolicking on the sandy beach wears off and I'm left fidgeting in front of a computer screen on a blog post deadline.  

And yet this is the story we are called to. So I ask God how in the world to move through what feels like stagnant stillness. Is there even a point to the dragging monotony? And before I even complete the whisper in my heart I remember Paul when he said:

 "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

Press.  

The Webster's Dictionary defines "press" as "to move or cause to move into a position of contact with something by exerting continuous force." The prize is not found in even the best earthly adventure or vacation but rather heavenward in Christ Jesus. And through His power given to us, we are equipped to influence movement and cause change, both in ourselves and the people around us.

By exerting the continuous force of love and light within us in the ordinary, we are able to impact the extraordinary. 

No one ever built anything great without routine faithfulness. And we are the GREATEST creation at the hands of God. So why in the world would we think to be exempt from this daily strain? Ohh, that God would grant us eyes to see the miracles woven into the greater tapestry of our lives. I pray that in even the most common tasks we would lift up our hearts in gratitude; aware of the everlasting prize ahead of us. 

"Her greatest confidence is not what she has done, but what God has done in her."  -Unknown Author 

 

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Featuring Sachin & Babi

 

Photography by Luke Polihrom  

 

HOW WORK ALMOST KILLED ME

Work and Rest.

Rest and Work.

Rinse, and Repeat. 

Forever.

I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. (Psalm 55:6)

It's been seven months since I said goodbye to corporate fashion to venture into the world of entrepreneurship. One of the reasons I left my 9-5 career was the conviction to no longer be enslaved to a traditional form of churning away day after day only to leave me worn down and stripped of joy. And yet, months after reporting to no one other than myself, to my horror I found my own standards to be the most crippling of all. I realized that it is actually far easier to run a ship when you are not the Captain. The stakes are much higher when the consequence of a drowning ship is your going down with it.

And so work no longer was about stewarding God's gifts in a way that exalted His Great Excellence in my industry. Rather, it slowly morphed into a never-ending quandary of chaos with one goal: survival. I was determined as ever to justify my existence as a business owner, fashion blogger, and career enthusiast. 

Analyze social media insights. Solidify new brand relationships. Maintain longevity for current partnerships. Mentor and guide assistants. Procure summer speaking engagements. And oh my goodness, is it already time to write another blog post? Bullet point after bullet point, wave after wave; my ship never found a steady position for me to step back and breathe.

Days of this turned into months and thus began a love-hate relationship with my blog. It seemed that the more successful I was becoming, the inevitable increasing workload sucked all the passion that used to freely run through my veins. My mind was perplexed and my heart was torn as I found myself plopped down on the floor surrounded by more brand collaborations that I could have ever dreamed for. 

I had far exceeded my 7 month milestone and yet, my heart was a jumbled mess of emotions running on countless cups of coffee and never enough sleep. And it dawned on me. Have I become too tired to celebrate God's goodness in my career? As the tears of epiphany hit the floor, my hands reached the ceiling and I imagined breaking the roof to reach the sky. Between exhausted gasps I whispered a desperate prayer to my Father; not for more growth or success but for something seemingly simple yet most overrated: REST.

I then remembered how the angel of The Lord ministered to Elijah in his moment of desperation not with a to-do list of demands but rather a good meal and sleep. And so at 4 o'clock in the morning I prioritized the most pressing task that had been long overdue. I snuggled into my bed as The Lord's protection lulled me into the deepest most gratifying sleep. 

Hours later I woke up rejuvenated and electrified with a brand new mindset. As I rolled over the sun bathed my face as I watched its rays dance around my room. In light of my newfound refreshment, the dozens of boxes surrounding me were no longer a burden but rather a blessing. The checklist left on my desk still had the same amount of squares to be checked off yet they were no longer strenuous tasks but rather God gifted opportunities. My workload hadn't changed and yet it seemed that rest had cleared my tired vision towards a shifted perspective. 

Do you ever find yourself endlessly scrambling in a world with all work and no rest? I urge you to stop and drop absolutely everything to hear me when I say that you have been crafted with a powerful mind intended for a healthy balance of work AND rest. Would you join me in asking God this very moment to teach you to trust Him with your workload? That together, you would lay down the burden of worry in exchange for everlasting peace?

This is my prayer not just for me but also for you. That in the shadows of rest you would view life in the longterm decades of glory you were destined for. In this revelation I pray that you would find the freedom to take each day, minute, and second one step at a time; offering both the chaos and quiet to The Lord. He alone is not only willing and able, but deeply longs to satisfy your soul. You are a wondrous being created in the image of an Almighty God who knew the precious need for rest to the point of leading by example when He Himself rested on the seventh day of Creation. God desires that we would follow and know the pleasures of the dynamic fullness of life within His perfect plan and blueprint.

A rudder of a ship is defined as a flat piece, usually of wood, metal, or plastic, hinged vertically near the stern of a boat or ship for steering. While often overlooked, this seemingly small but crucial directional device guides an entire vessel. By God's grace I have found ultimate rest in the rudder of His small, still voice ever leading me through even the fiercest waves of work.

He is my rest. 

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Featuring Sachin & Babi

 

Photography: Brian Green Photography

 

WILDERNESS OF STILLNESS

We all know the value of the hustle; of "making moves and taking names." The go-getter mentality has been engrained behind every #girlboss and celebrated in our successful role models. But I want to admit something to you. For me, the difficulty is not so much actively fighting for what I want in life. On the contrary, my challenge is drawing the confidence to be still in patience and trust during the unsettling seasons of life. 

After high school, I exchanged my safety blanket of home in Texas for the vast uncertainty that is New York City. A week into moving into my shoebox of an apartment on 61st and 1st, I was overwhelmed by the loneliness I felt in a buzzing city of 8 million people. I put on my best outfit to treat myself to an ice cream sundae at Dylans Candy Bar, hoping to channel my most fabulous "Carrie Bradshaw self". Instead I found myself overcome with fear and regret as I ran back home slipping in my high heels, tears mixing with the pouring rain. After trekking up the five flights of my pre-war walk up, I slammed the door and fell to my knees, ready to give up my dream in the concrete jungle. 

 "Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken." (Psalm 62:5-6)

Five years ago my dad was diagnosed with a tumor that had even the most skilled of doctors mystified. His was a one in a million case; so rare in fact that the medical field had yet to diagnose it with a name. Russell Diwa: Affectionate Husband, Loving Father, Loyal Friend. My father wore many names and the fact that this monster who threatened to take him from me was too cowardly to name itself enraged me. I flew home straight away from New York to be with my family; all the while wresting with God, pleading for him to work a miracle. I remember noticing something different about my dad's eyes during lunch one day. The usual steadfast certainty in his gaze had been replaced with a broken down weariness that can only come from the most relentless of storms. I kept gulping down the lump in my throat just long enough to finish my sandwich, run upstairs, and hide inside the tiny closet from my childhood. It was in the dark safety of that familiar private space that the tears broke. Violent streams of anger, pain, and despair flooded the floor. And I gave up trying to stop the tsunami. 

 "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:24-26). 

I was about 17 years old when I stopped loving myself. I let a lie unravel in my soul that said exchanging my value for a few fleeting moments of flimsy, faux validation would be worth it. And so I gave bits and pieces of myself away to countless meaningless relationships until the loved and cherished girl my parents raised was no longer recognizable. "Just one more time", I would lie to myself, knowing all the while the ugly truth deep down. Not too many years ago a wolf in sheep's clothing came into my life, enticing me with promises of unconditional love. He was the Prince Charming to my fantasy fairy tale. Little did I know that the grotesque reality of his true intentions would not only break my heart but threaten to take my very life. Violated and worn down like a flower in the rain, I fell before God pleading for even an inch of his mercy and grace. To move on behalf of me. 

 "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

The common thread in all these seasons of my life is that I was called to the Wilderness of Stillness. Many Christians love the unwavering confidence in the Bible verse, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..." (Romans 8:28). However; few of us dare to read further, finding that this promise is true with one vital caveat. God works all things for good IN THE END. We are so hell bent on our own selfish needs that we forget that the apex of joy is that His Name be glorified! That His strength be made perfect in our weakness! The main character in this life narrative is HIM, not us. We may never know the result of the painful seeds planted in our life. And YET; for those who love the Lord our future is eternally secure. Come what may. 

 "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans‬ ‭8:35, 37-39‬)

THIS, friends, is the secret to stillness. Knowing that we are forever safe in the arms of The One who holds the whole universe in His hands. In each of those seasons I have shared I was sure God had forsaken me when in fact, it was in the perceived quiet that He led me out of the fiercest of battles.

That move to New York jump started my dream career in fashion, where I graduated suma cum laude and went on to work for legendary companies like Barneys New York. The doctors who feared my father would never walk have been astounded at not only a benign tumor, but that my superhero is now biking 10+ miles a day with a ferocity fueled by Grace. My final breakup with Abuse catapulted me into the greatest love story I have ever known with the Lover of my Soul; and two years later I met my husband who's heart reminds me of Jesus.  

Mine is one in an ocean of stories and as you read this, perhaps your heart resonates as you recall your own precious journey. So if you are finding yourself in your own season  of suffering, knowing that the God of angel armies is at the front lines of your story, I ask what may be the most crucial question in this delicate time.

Do you have the boldness to be still?  

 

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. (Exodus 14:14) 

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Floral Print Maxi Dress by The Shopping Bag

The Shopping Bag provides a one-stop, convenient source where shopping is always in style! They bring you unique, one-of-a-kind items at every price point with new arrivals every week. The best part? They ship right to your door so you can be your most effortlessly fabulous self! I used this service for my last trip to Turks and Caicos and fell in love with the service! I needed a standout dress for my Cayman trip and knew that The Shopping Bag would have exactly what I needed. This embroidered beauty made me feel like a beach queen! If you need a few show stopping looks for your next summer getaway, look no further!

 

Photography: Lyda McIver Photography

 

THE DEATH OF MY CREATURE OF HABIT

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a creature of habit. As a young girl I had developed an affinity for "same-ness." In the "Nika Dictionary" this can be defined as "creating a space of regularity with the purpose of feeling safe and sure." My pattern of "same-ness" manifested in the meals I ordered at restaurants, daily routines and even friends I chose. My deep desire for stability was especially prevalent in my fear of leaving familiar environments like my hometown in Garland, Texas. 

I felt stuck in high school. Stuck in the impossible standards of conforming to perfection, stuck in an awkward body trying to understand itself in the context of puberty, and most of all, stuck in a small town that no longer resonated with me. Deep down I had a big dream to explore the world of fashion in the context of one of the most adored cities in the world: New York. However; every choice I had made in my life thus far directly contradicted this daydream. Instead of focusing on achieving the grades to land a decent college scholarship, I spent most of my time invested in the latest gossip and hottest parties. Regardless of the constant disrespect and blatant immaturity of my toxic high school relationship, I was completely convinced that I could never move away lest we break up and I be doomed to a future as an old single cat lady drowned in sorrow and loneliness. Although my standards for life had exponentially lowered throughout my turbulent years of adolescence, I was certain that although bland and mundane, a certain fate was better than the unknown. 

And still, the longing deep inside me for more refused to quiet. Even in my most rebellious moments of self damage I could feel the vibrations of hope coursing through my soul as if to say, "there's more...there's more...". After a particularly chaotic fight with my boyfriend, I decided to apply online to LIM College, my dream fashion school in Manhattan. I remember half hardheartedly clicking the "submit" button, sure that nothing would actually come of it. I never even disclosed my desire for New York to my boyfriend as I was sure he would write me off as a crazy and nonsensical dream chaser who would surely crumble under the big city pressures.  

Imagine my utter shock when one seemingly normal day, I got a letter addressed from LIM College in the mail. I still can feel the way my heart stopped as if in those few moments the world ceased to spin on orbit. My family gathered around me as my shaking fingers ripped open the envelope and in those final seconds I thought to myself "Could there really be more?" My mother and sister's screams of joy in the background gave away the verdict faster than my eyes could scan that first sentence on the letter stating that I had been "ACCEPTED." My eyes remained fixated on the piece of paper in my hand as I felt the rush of possibilities sweep through me like a coursing river. I fell to my knees in tears, stunned that regardless of my string of destructive choices, I still had a second chance. A chance to step over the ledge and finally allow faith to catapult me into greatness. A chance to choose more; to be more. 

To no great surprise of mine, my less-than-thrilled boyfriend broke up with me shortly after I broke the news of my inevitable move to New York. For weeks after, I mourned what I was sure was the biggest heartache the world had ever known (thanks to Taylor Swift's enabling reinforcement!). In the time leading up to the big move, fear began to creep into my bones, paralyzing me from being able to rejoice in my approaching transition. All of the "what if's" plagued my mind as I began to grasp the reality of relocating from the safety of my small town to the unknown territory of a big city. What if I became too homesick? What if I never made any new friends? What if I realized I actually hated fashion? What if I wasn't enough? 

Instead of liberating me from my life of monotony, the vast expanse of possibilities began to cripple me in panic. The creature of habit that had grown to inhabit me was writhing and squirming; completely out of its element. I had spent my whole life so intimately intertwined with consistency that it had become an idol. Relocating to a brand new environment and way of life had caused years of disordered thinking and behavior to bubble up to the surface and for the first time, I had no choice but to deal with it head on. I found myself at a crossroads. The first road meant submitting to my dark and imaginary anxieties, thereby missing out on realizing my most extraordinary self. The second meant boldly standing before my creature of habit, calling out the monster it had become and slaying it once and for all, thereby reclaiming the bright future I was intended to have. 

I chose to fight; to wage war against all the lies that told me NO and for the Voice of Truth that always told me YES despite my kicking and screaming insecurities. I had gone almost two decades shrinking back like an undeserving pauper when in reality I was created in the image of God to move forth as a QUEEN. I fought not only for the adult version of myself that had been abused and mistreated by the lashes of darkness, but also for the young girl in me that once hoped and fully believed that anything was possible. I took back the unknown and made it beautiful again; replacing uncertainty with confidence in The One who holds ALL things in the palm of his hand. The Word of God became my no-fail weapon against the enemy in myself. When doubt would sweep in I countered with His promises.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

"Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be." Job 8:7

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19

Truth slowly but surely began to uproot even the deepest lies in my heart, soul, and mind. With the power of Jesus sustaining me day by day, I became vindicated from my longtime shackles of fear. For the first time in my life freedom marked my present and shone brilliantly into my future. And while a part of my heart still ached for the home that I loved and the goodbye's were bittersweet, I was able to stand with steady conviction as the woman God was refining me to be. When I boarded the plane to LaGuardia Airport, there was no way for me to know that I would go on to graduate summa cum laude, land a buying role at the infamous Barneys New York, make lifelong friends, and meet my now-husband. In that moment of take off, my confidence in Him was enough to carry me as high as the plane lifted off up and towards the sky.

Alas, the creature of habit was dead.

The creature of redemptive possibilities reigned supreme. 

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Featuring Santa Marguerite

 

Photography by Lyda Ham Photography

 

SPONTANEOUS FRIENDSHIPS IN ICE CREAM SHOPS

My intrigue with Lyda began on Instagram. I was so caught up in the liveliness of her photos as I scrolled through her feed; it was as if each one had a story that was just dying to pop out of my screen and come to life. I immediately messaged her asking if she would like to collaborate on a project. Delighted to get a response only a few moments later, Lyda and I set up a time for a photo shoot. We later met at a local gelato shop in Austin, Texas. I was new and visiting the area and will never forget the way this sunbeam of a girl lit up the room with her smile as she welcomed me to share her ice cream. In just a few minutes, we were drawn into one another's stories and giggled with elation over our newfound friendship. Our photo session took less than 10 minutes because we worked so seamlessly together (And for my other blogger gals out there, you know this is impressive record time!)

Since we had so much time left over Lyda offered to take me to a delicious brunch spot in the heart of downtown Austin. In the most organic fashion, we bonded over authentic conversation, opening up on our personal joys and struggles as women navigating the crazy chaos of life. Fast forward several appetizers and main courses later and I was in full rejoice-mode; thanking God for my new sister! Our meeting could not have been more perfectly timed and orchestrated; Lyda and I had both individually been searching and praying for a community of women to do life with! We meshed so effortlessly in only a few hours; it felt as though we had known one another our whole lives! Before saying goodbye we made sure to set up a follow up date to meet again later on in the week.

I believe that one of the reasons my short stay in Austin has been so rich is because of Lyda's friendship. In the limited time I have been here, we have ventured to all the trendiest food trucks, danced around the city until our feet hurt, and even went on a family mini-trip to Houston! I'll never forget when Lyda mentioned that she prefers to stay behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight. That her passion has and always will be helping tell stories through her camera lense because each person's testimony is so precious and should be shared with the world. To this day when she explains her heart for photography her whole being lights up with an electricity that can only come with a God-given calling.

This week marks the end of my time in Austin and I'm sorry Lyda, but I really must put the spotlight on you for a moment! I remember you packing your camera for our Houston trip and marking all the colorful walls to potentially shoot because you know how I have a bit (okay, fine...a lot!) of an obsession for street art. I asked you to let go of work for the weekend; to put down the camera and step out from behind the lense to really take in and enjoy your surroundings! You were so surprised at this request because as I have learned in the time we have spent together, that's just the kind of selfless heart you have. Always seeking to serve and put others before you. 

Friends, I think too often we enter into relationships with a hidden agenda. In this success-driven day and age we are taught to always ask the question: What can you do for ME? What is in it for ME? This self-absorbed mindset is not only expected; it is celebrated. The problem is that we begin to lose authenticity with those around us. Even our day to day one-on-one relationships begin to morph from personal to business seeking. We think, "I wonder what skill set this person has that can compliment and benefit me?"

When is the last time you allowed a new friendship to blossom naturally without any hidden agenda or pretense? When was the last time that it didn't matter how wide that person's network was in relation to your private goals? What would happen if we just cut the bull crap and were intentional with one another; genuinely hearing and honoring our respective journeys? I believe that friendships are so precious because when two people are committed to edifying one another in honesty and love, both parties slowly but surely become refined like gold through fire.

I challenge you this week to step out of your comfort zone and find "a Lyda" (I can already feel her squirming in her seat reading this- sorry boo, you just have to receive this. It's on you for being such a spectacular example!). In other words, consciously remain open to the possibility of new friendships in any and every season of your life. And when a gem of a person (side note, we are ALL priceless!) comes into your life, learn to appreciate him/her for nothing more and nothing less than exactly who they are. Be available. Don't just listen but actually hear. Respect the path he/she is on. Get comfortable giving. Be humble in learning to receive. 

As we get older, friendships tend to ebb and flow with increasing distance and time apart. I believe that while some friendships are meant for a short season and others are ordained for life, each is a gift freely given and not to be taken for granted. While I must say goodbye to my friend for the time being, I am confident that God will continue to nurture and deepen our sisterhood, adding more powerhouse women to our growing "girl tribe"! I believe the same is true for friendships in your life! You may be reading this with a big smile on your face and warm fuzzy feelings as your current besties come to mind. Or perhaps the thought of friendship stings on the surface while underneath you long for true companionship. 

Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, I want you to know that God cares deeply about the friendships in your life! He isn't finished yet! I am inviting you to join me in believing in God-ordained possibilities, specifically in friendships. We serve a BIG God who is so invested in life-giving, wholesome relationships that He is fully able to orchestrate your next life changing encounter in a place as spontaneous and ordinary as a local ice cream shop.

"If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. I'll always be with you." -Winne The Pooh

 

For Lyda.

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Featuring Santa Marguerite

 

Lyda McIver Photography

 

BECAUSE YOU ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR

FULL DISCLOSURE FOR ALL ANTI-ROMANTICS: I am about to quote The Notebook. You have been fully warned. Proceed at your own risk.

Young Noah: "Well, that's what we do! We fight! You tell me when I'm being an arrogant son of a b[rother] and I tell you when you're being a pain in the a[rm] (Sorry guys, curse-free zone in the Dollhouse!), which you are 99% of the time. I'm not afraid to hurt your feelings. They have, like, a two second rebound rate, then you're back doing the next pain-in-the-a[rm] thing...So it's not gonna be easy. It's gonna be really hard. And we're gonna have to work at this every day."

I know what you are probably thinking. Ah, here we go again; another blog post on romantic relationship goals and the struggle to keep the lifelong flame ignited until death-do-you-part. Nah, not quite. This blog post is about a type of relationship you have had much longer than any romance: friendships. No offense to Nicholas Sparks, but with all due respect I think we all get it; fight for the man/woman you love because he/she is worth breaking down all walls and boundaries. Please don't think I am annoyed by this sentiment; in fact, I find it to be quite true! It is not that I have an issue with fighting for the love of your life at all. I just find that when it comes to friendships in general we are so much less eager to dive into the nitty gritty and stick it out when the going gets hard. 

Since I've been married, my eyes have been open to many things I failed to consider before. One of them has been the role of friends in my life. And i'm not talking about the surface, fleeting kind. You know what I mean. The women you engage in light but frequent texting with, are sure to take selfies together at parties because you run in the same circle, perhaps meet for brunch just to catch up on the latest gossip but never really go too deep in soul matters with lest they see too much of the real you (And God forbid you become the object of gossip at the next brunch!).

Since my wedding, a handful of women I was sure were genuine, lifelong friends disappeared one by one as quickly as they came into my life. It's never a good feeling when after the hype of the biggest party of your life ends, reality hits you square in the face as friendships die down along with the wedding cake and music. I remember a few months after my honeymoon crying to my new husband, utterly perplexed and angered as to how in the world friendships could be so brittle, falling apart after a single moment of dissonance. Emeka wiped my tears and responded, "Remember, Jesus Himself only had an inner circle of three friends. You are blessed beyond measure to count the authentic friendships given to you. Let this painful experience teach you the true value of these friendships; that you would never take them for granted and recognize what is worth fighting for."

Even now as I sit here and type out these words my heart is spilling over in the deepest gratitude. There remain a handful of precious women that have marked my life in faithfulness and loyalty drenched in love, specifically when we have had moments of quarrels. As a matter of fact, every single one of the closest sisters in my life all have that common thread: our journey together has at some point been marked with a committed resolve to push through conflict. I have always been delighted to have friends from all walks of life, whether it be in family dynamic or culture. However, the truth of the matter is when two people who are so inherently different come together, it is only a matter of time before they clash. The redeeming quality about my true friendships is that we do not shy away from disagreement as we know the stark reality that it is indeed inevitable. Rather, we have each made a conscious decision to CHOOSE reconciliation regardless. 

I have learned that reconciliation does not mean that you will always agree with the other person. Websters dictionary defines "reconciliation" as the restoration of friendly relations. Note that "relations" is the object of reconciling. The relationship. Not the problem. The focus in mending issues should always be the person of value before you. Even in the very worst of circumstances, this remains true. Jesus said, "Hate the sin, not the sinner." That is the power of agape love (1 Corinthians 13) which is of the highest kind: selfless, unconditional, and no more or less exactly how God loves you and me. 

Another vital part of reconciliation in friendships is that BOTH parties must make a full and conscious effort to find peace and harmony. This most challenging piece of the process is where the real fabric and strength of the relationship lies. Weak and counterfeit friendships don't stand a chance here. It takes a ton of humility to lay down your own preconceived notions and assumptions in order to hear another person's point of view. Often times when confronted with opposing view points, we immediately feel like we are being attacked and in turn draw our own weapons (whether they be blame shifting, anger, silence etc.) at the other person as a defense mechanism. A damaging cycle fueled by pride then ensues, at the very least leaving both parties with wounded feelings and worst of all, potentially shattering the friendship altogether.  

I'm no expert at reconciliation by any means; however, I am deeply committed to choosing restoration over pride, selfishness, [insert your own struggle here]. No, my friends aren't perfect; but before God Almighty I am the farthest from flawless. Yes, my friends and I have and will continue to bicker in disagreement and THANK GOD because that only means they aren't mindless robots who automatically agree with everything I say just to appease me! I have found that healthy conflict refines both parties in the way that iron sharpens iron. 

I leave you with this final plea: For goodness sake, fight for reconciliation in your friendships! Consciously deny that selfish inkling lodged deep within yourself - you know, the little guy/girl who always says you're right - and actively choose the more difficult path. I assure you that if both parties stick it out, you will find that LOVE trumps any and all feuds 100% of the time. And you will be able to look at your friend decades down that rough and tumble road and confidently say... Ah, I'm just going to let Glinda from Wicked finish this closing sentiment because let's face it, no one can do it better...

"I've heard it said,
That people come into our lives,
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are lead to those,
Who help us most to grow if we let them
And we help them in return
Well I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today,
Because I knew you
Like a comet pulled from orbit,
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder,
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better,
But because I knew you,
I have been changed for good."

"For Good", Wicked

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Featuring Nha Khanh

 

Photography: Haoyan Ge, Instagram @hycvision

 

JUST SAY "THANK YOU"

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A few years back, a dear friend of mine complimented my outfit and called me beautiful. Instinctively I dodged her kind words responding with, "Oh no; this dress was only like $20! But YOU, you look absolutely radiant!" My kind and honest friend then gently brought to my attention my tendency to refuse compliments; sometimes even going so far as to boomerang the praise right back at the person who gave it initially. Fortunately, because my friend provided such a safe space for me, I was able to explore the depth and truth behind why it was so darn difficult for me to receive any kind of admiration from anyone.

Not even a week passed by before another person offered a compliment and I caught my old behavior creeping up on me yet again. The moment the affectionate words hit my heart, I could almost physically feel a wall within me harden and catapult the words off my heart like a bouncy ball off pavement. That night I fell to my knees before God in prayer, desperate for answers. 

I remember how impossibly intimidating the wall in my heart felt. I was a little David trembling before a raging Goliath. But before fear could wash over me, I felt the Holy Spirit's leadership take over. A peace and strength that surpassed all my understanding prompted me to take that scary wall apart, piece by piece. Brick by brick I began to dislodge the monster, shocked by the hundreds of lies each one represented.

1 Timothy 2:9 says that "we have a mind of power, love, and self control." Like a secret weapon crafted for that exact moment, I activated my mind to call out the truth over the lies. This brick said, "Never enough"; Jesus said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (1 Corinthians 12:9). Another said "Less than"; Jesus said, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans‬ ‭8:37‬). Little by little, the voice of truth began to dissipate lie after lie. The impossible weight began to lift off my shoulders for the first time in many years.  Finally, the last brick that was especially large remained. It said, "Shame"; Jesus said, "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love... For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:8-12). With a deep breath, I asked God to help me fully believe this truth. I picked up the full weight of the final lie off my heart and flung it far, far away until the only remaining evidence was a million shattered pieces in the distance.

As I wiped away tears of joy and relief, I closed my eyes and no longer saw a colossal wall. In its place stood a majestic temple assembled with golden bricks declaring empowering truth; reinforcing the woman of supreme value and worth I am through Christ! Even more than that, I suddenly became aware that I wasn't doing the heavy lifting at all; Christ had me covered and my only role was to CHOOSE to let go and allow Him to rebuild my broken identity!

No longer did doubt have the last word! For the first time in a long time, I found myself free to rejoice in a deep confidence rooted in the gospel. My security was no longer tied to affirmation from others or the latest definition of beauty in Vogue Magazine. No, no; my validation drew from a bottomless well of eternal love that would never ever run dry.

I finally realized that the reason it was nearly impossible for me to receive compliments was that I genuinely didn't feel like I deserved them. I felt so unworthy because of the guilt and shame that marked my past that in response I was deflecting all signs of love. In a disordered way, I felt that by cowering into self pity I could somehow compensate for my past sins and regrets.

WOWZA right?! I have a strong feeling that I'm not the only woman (or man) who has become an expert at dodging compliments like bullets over many years of self deprecation. Friends, please hear me. Does the stubborn wall I referred to earlier resound somewhere deep within you? If so, you need to know two things. First, you are not alone. Second, that wall is never coming down without your permission.

You must CHOOSE to roll up your sleeves and dismantle your fears one by one. It sounds incredibly daunting, I know. But what if I told you that the foundation of freedom from this bondage mindset has already been made available to you? Good news; that is EXACTLY what I am telling you now! "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."  (1 Peter 2:9)

Oh my, that is the ULTIMATE compliment! You are chosen, royal, holy, special... called into wonderful light! The first step is humbling yourself to confess that your own way has been a complete and utter mess (Can I get an AMEN?!); laying down your sins at the cross of Jesus who out of his unconditional love for you, died as punishment in your place so that you would know eternal life. Once you give over your life to be renewed and sanctified, The Holy Spirit then takes up full residence within you; empowering you day by day, moment by moment! GOOD FREAKING NEWS RIGHT?!

Being able to receive compliments is great, but the gospel truth gives you access to so much more than that! Rooted in the knowledge of your precious identity in Christ, you are able to celebrate your inherent beauty and dignity while simultaneously remaining humble and eager to share this incredible message until the whole world hears!

So the next time someone gives you a compliment, just say "thank you"; letting your gratitude roll back up to The One who moved Heaven and Earth so that you would know that you are worth the most relentless and passionate pursuit.

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Featuring Sachin & Babi, 

 

Photography: Haoyan Ge, Instagram @hycvision

 

Designer Revival: Making Women Feel Beautiful

There is something oh-so exhilarating about scoring a fabulous designer piece at a fraction of the price. Perhaps that is why I love consignment so much! I feel like an explorer roaming around Manhattan, loving the chase and chance for a piece of hidden treasure. Most of my favorite picks are located in the Lower East Side south of St. Mark's Place; however I am so pleased to announce my latest consignment shop find: Designer Revival. 

Tucked away in the heart of the  Upper East Side, this lovely boutique is a designer resale dream! While it has been a part of the neighborhood for almost 25 years, in 2015 owner Tiffany Keriakos took over, updating the space with a trendy and chic feel. I had the pleasure of meeting Tiffany in person the first time I stepped inside the boutique and instantly felt like I was chatting away with my long-lost fashionista friend! I learned of Tiffany's mission to bring a fresh and exciting new look to the brand while maintaining the vision of making women feel beautiful. 

This vision resonates so deeply within me! I am a strong advocate for empowering women through fashion. I believe fashion is an art form to help define and accentuate the innate beauty of a woman. A woman is inherently beautiful not by any merit but rather for the simple and powerful truth that she is fearfully and wonderfully created. While this vital realization has forever changed my life for the better, I cannot say I always had this mindset.

Since I was a little girl, I always loved playing dress up which grew into a deep appreciation for style as I got older. In my adolescent years however, I fell into an extremely turbulent time of rebellion leaving me in a complex web of confusion and despair in relation to my dignity and beauty. While on the inside I was violently falling apart at the seams, it was my mission to appear as put together on the outside by hiding behind the latest trends and top designers as if I were a clown covered by an intricate mask.

It wasn't until I fully understood accepted the truth of my value and worth over the lies of my past mistakes, wounds, and failures that I began to learn what it meant to authentically love myself. In light of this epiphany, I was free to enjoy fashion for what it was meant to be: a means to express my true self and share the light and beauty God has given me! This precious knowledge is like getting a major makeover that starts from the inside and shines brilliantly on the outside! I feel like I've discovered the secret to everlasting beauty and I can't help but shout it to the rooftops!

In addition to their vision of making women feel beautiful, I love Designer Revival because I no longer have to break my bank in order to collect luxury + contemporary designer pieces! From Chanel and Hermés to Derek Lam and The Row, Designer Revival is a one stop shop for the most standout stylistas! I will never forget feeling so delighted as I perused the endless racks of clothing and accessories at very accessible price points. I was even more elated to find that beautiful new pieces come in every single day so with each visit, the client is on a brand new treasure hunt! In case you are overwhelmed by all the gorgeous goodies, not to worry! A team of stylists are on standby to help you curate the look that feels most fabulously you! They also offer fashion consulting services so you have your own personal style squad ready to help you dress to impress for all occasions. Lastly, you can be assured that all merchandise has been individually hand inspected for quality assurance.

Make sure to stop by Designer Revival the next time you find yourself in New York City! You can shop the boutique here online or come say hi to Tiffany in person at 324 East 81st Street! Happy shopping!

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

All items available now at Designer Revival

 

Photography: Luke Polihrom

 

MY HUSBAND SAID HE DIDN'T NEED ME AND IT CHANGED MY LIFE

“We desire to possess a beauty that is worth pursuing, worth fighting for, a beauty that is core to who we truly are. We want beauty that can be seen; beauty that can be felt; beauty that affects others; a beauty all our own to unveil.”  -Staci Eldredge

Since we were young girls, we grew up with a burning desire in our hearts to be pursued. We watched longingly on the screen as Prince Charming whisked away Cinderella from a life of dark abuse towards full freedom rooted in the love of a lifetime. There is something undeniably alluring in every Nicholas Sparks film about a strong man vying for the affections of a woman no matter what the cost. The reality however is that somewhere in the timeline between childhood and adulthood that desire was damaged within you. The ugly truth is often a side effect of life and each time it hits it feels a lot like a dream being chiseled away slowly but surely. Perhaps you watched the parents who once loved one another break apart in a nasty divorce. Maybe a man whom you once trusted coaxed and forced you into a sexual encounter you never asked for. And there is a solid chance that the dating scene you find yourself in feels a lot like a minefield of endless risk and heartache. 

And so you build up a wall to keep anyone and everyone out in fear that you will be known deeply and abandoned in the end. Maybe you even hide behind the noble banner of "feminism", swearing that you don't care to ever be in a relationship because you are so much better off with "me, myself, and I." The problem with building walls is that they never exclusively affect the people around you. You inevitably end up building a barricade around YOURSELF as well. So you may think you are secure and foolproof to pain when in reality you yourself are in a prison of you own making. 

I know the sharp and lingering pains of the struggle for love all too well because for most of my adolescent years, I found myself a victim to disordered relationships. Out of self protection, I was determined to play each short and long term relationship like a game of chess, carefully and strategically calculating my next move so that no man could ever call "check mate" on my heart. And this facade works fine as long as you scratch nothing but the surface.

It wasn't until I got married that many longstanding issues I never even knew had existed began to bubble up to the surface. I have to be honest; a big part of me expected that finding a lifelong love would fill all the missing holes in my heart. That just like in Jerry Maguire, my husband would "complete me." 

It didn't take long for my rude awakening. It was day three of our honeymoon in Mexico when the union we had professed to forever have and hold til' death do we part just days ago burst into a string of heated arguments. The marital fairy dust to fix all my woes seemed to have lost its spark and I was in a full out revolt in the name of self protection. In the climax of our fight I screamed in outrage at my husband "YOU NEED ME!" What he said next I will never ever forget.

He responded, "No, Nika. I love you. But I don't need you. And you don't need me. You were made complete the moment you were fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a daughter of the King; THAT is your identity and no man can take that truth away from you. Our marriage is a gift of grace, nothing more, nothing less. We are two individual people saved through salvation, giving one another the same kind of love we have already received from Christ; showing the world what it looks like to be known to the bottom and loved to the skies anyway."

That truth began to unlock years worth of lies within me and since then, I am proud to say that by God's grace I am no longer a slave to fear. I realize now that as a woman, it is okay to have the desire to be in a relationship and marry one day. God created us to be communal beings who crave fellowship. We know this because God Himself is part of a Holy Trinity that loves, adores, defers to, and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love. However at the deepest foundation of those desires must always remain the heart, soul, and mind knowledge that you are VALUED, TREASURED, SEEN, WORTHY, and ENOUGH. The King and Creator of the whole Universe is crazy in love with you just because He loves you, just because He loves you, just because He loves you...to infinity and beyond! You are loved just by being you. 

This truth holds the life-changing key to freedom in your love life. In the eternal security you have in Christ, you are now free to boldly ask for the desires of your heart concerning your love life without fear. You are no longer shackled to your circumstances because whether or not you are given a lifelong romance, you know without a shadow of a doubt that you are made full and complete in the image and loving arms of Christ. The bonus is that any relationship you enter into rooted in this knowledge becomes an overwhelming deluge to express the love you have already been freely given.

Your vast desire and capacity for intimate relationships tells you of God's vast desire and capacity for intimate relationships. In fact, this may be the most important thing we ever learn about God -that He yearns for relationship with YOU.

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God." -John 17:3

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Featuring Sachin & Babi

 

Photography: Luke Polihrom

 

TOP 3 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT #NYFW FASHION BLOGGERS

Prior to becoming a blogger myself, I used to scroll through photos of New York Fashion week through Instagram, each perfect image increasing the envy within me. I had this effortless and glamorous idea reminiscent to the front row experiences depicted in Sex and the City. Fast forward to today as a full-time fashion blogger and I find myself on the other side of the lens. And it is just as charmed and emasculate as the story social media tells. 

PSYCHE. 

The celebrity-like fantasy surrounding the famed #NYFW couldn't be further from the truth. And now more than ever I am unapologetically dedicated to celebrating TRUTH and exposing lies in the fashion industry. Only then can we enjoy and respect the art of dress for what it was designed to be: a means for women (and men of course!) to have an authentic conversation with the world. So forget the fluff and join me as I trump the top 3 misconceptions about #NYFW fashion bloggers.

Misconception #1: Fashion bloggers have an endless supply of expensive clothing due to a bottomless budget for shopping. 

TRUTH BOMB: HECK NO. While there are definitely those blessed to have a bigger allowance to appreciate and purchase beautiful fashion pieces, the reality is most of us are on a budget that feels a lot like a tight leash that just won't loosen. So I am speaking for the majority when I say that the variety of clothing worn are the result of weeks and even months of brand outreach for potential collaborations. And in those many, many days prepping for NYFW, less than half of the endless emails and messages you've sent with a business proposal and press kit attached won't even be answered. And if you're like me, a snow storm will spontaneously hit New York delaying all last minute packages from reaching you in time, spiraling you into a styling frenzy, consequently resulting in the debris of your closet and taking over your whole home. (I thought about revising this massively long run on sentence but decided the chaos was apropos.) And when the night before fashion week the score is Monster Closet = 1 and Nika = 0, it is nearly impossible to confidently add that "#bosschic" hashtag to your next Instagram caption. 

Misconception #2: All photos are effortlessly and spontaneously taken in between shows.  

TRUTH BOMB: I have too many feelings about this one, so I will instead start with a short story. As February approaches I beg God to please, oh PLEASE send me sun and warm-ish temperatures around NFYW so I can dress to my heart's desire sans the fear of contracting pneumonia. Well apparently Mother Nature was on her period because she PMS'd all over NYC with a snow storm the night before the first shows. The following morning, my photographer and I frantically texted back and forth discussing whether or not we were ready to die today on the sinking Titanic that was our frozen city. But because we were so determined (that or straight crazy!) we decided to proceed with shooting. Due to inclement weather, we relocated our shoot to the indoor Oculus in the World Trade Center. We weren't sure if we would even be allowed to shoot inside but as it was our best option at the time, we chose a corner and worked as quickly as possible. In a matter of fifteen minutes the following series of unfortunate events commenced: I got tangled several times in the balloons I used as props. Mid shoot one of the balloons popped resulting in a horrifying shot gun sound as we sprinted away, fearing an arrest before the Tadashi Shoji show. After attempting to shoot in the snow outside, the balloons ganged up on me causing major static hair while simultaneously pulling me away like a helpless puppy being walked against her will. Kind of ironic since the point of the balloons was to evoke a whimsical, childlike wonder. Point being... absolutely, wholeheartedly NO to effortless and NO to spontaneous. 

Misconception #3: Fashion Shows are a seamlessly chic and relaxing time to sit back and get a first look view at the latest collections. 

TRUTH BOMB: Since the "Bryant Park era" the fashion shows are now more or less sporadically scattered throughout the city. Nonetheless the lack of time in between shows is a guarantee you will be late, causing inevitable drawn out anxiety attacks throughout the day. As soon as one show ends you frantically call an Uber in a sea of equally frantic fashionistas (Thank God for Uber Pool in this case at least!). After finally arriving at your new destination, there is a 93% chance your show will start 15-30 minutes late, regardless of the fact that you've spent your lunch money on your Uber. There is also a solid 7% chance that the show was overbooked and if you are at the back of the line towards the door (VIP or not) you simply won't get in due to "over capacity". And if you do get in, your job is to be the access point for your followers through social media. What your followers don't realize is you haven't been eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom and as soon as that Instagram story catching the final look is posted, you're off to desperately catch another overpriced Uber and continue with the madness for the rest of the week. 

PHEW; I feel like I just ran a couple miles recounting all of the above! Chances are half of you nodding with full conviction at these truths shouting, "Amen sister!" The other half are probably unsure what to do about the magical illusion bubble that has just popped right in front of you! I think it is important to note that I do not share these truths to gripe for the sake of griping or feel sorry for myself in the hopes that you'll join me.

Let it be known first and foremost that amidst the unpredictable whirlwind that is New York Fashion Week, it is still undoubtedly one of my favorite times of the year to celebrate the fashion industry in its fullness. And just like any other, this field comes with it's fair share of ups and downs.

I believe part of my responsibility as a fashion influencer is to break down the barrier between unattainable goals vs. reality. As I get to know and love myself more and more, I become more willing and able to put down the flawless facade and bare myself #nofilter before you. Part of fully appreciating something, in this case New York Fashion Week and the world of blogging, is taking the good with the bad. Understanding that no one is perfect but that each of us are far more valuable than the number in our bank account, designer labels in our closet, or Instagram following. 

There is undeniable power in promoting truth over lies as you stand in your story. Remember that your story is a one of a kind treasure. Your sharing with the world is like giving away free gems in the form of lessons learned and encouragement to empower generations to come. Your reality matters, regardless of your goals. So will you join me in collectively laying down our masks in exchange for vulnerability? This kind of rawness requires both boldness and security, all of which is sourced from a God who knows you to the bottom and loves you to the skies. This is the biggest truth of all my friends! My prayer is that by being emboldened to stand in your truth, you grant others permission to do the same. 

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Photography: Laurel Creative

 

THE ART OF LETTING GO

My heart beats, standing on the edge

But my feet have finally left the ledge

Giving into your gravity  

Knowing you are holding me

I'm not afraid

-I'm Letting Go by Francesca Battistelli  

All of us know the heart thumping, palm sweating feeling right before taking a big leap of faith into the unknown. For me personally, I've battled with control for most of my life. Because life is so unpredictable and can be unexpectedly tumultuous, I tend to grasp on to as much control as I possibly can. The problem is that is ends up being a lot like desperately trying to chase the wind. You can feel it but it's always just out of reach and never truly attainable.  

I believe one of the most important valuable lessons one can learn in life is the art of letting go. Lao Tzo said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” I believe that a main reason letting go is so challenging is the fear of the unfamilar. We are generally creatures of habit and anything outside our comfort zone often seems too unbearable to face. What is counter-intuitive seems too terrifying. But what ends up happening when we succumb to this fear is we miss out on the innumerable possibilities and opportunities that could enrich our lives for the better. 

I have found this to be true so many times throughout my life. As a teenager I remained in several abusive relationships never daring to leave because although the pain felt insufferable at least it was familiar. I cried during my first week in New York City because I didn't have friends to find comfort in even though I had finally landed a spot in my dream fashion college. The day I left my steady corporate fashion job to blog full time I was plagued with anxiety because I couldn't imagine what I would possibly do with my new-found freedom and space to create. And yet for each and every situation in which I found myself in a death grip on my "ledge", when I finally decided to let go, the free fall was the most exhilarating and liberating experience. 

The choice to trust in God's plan for me is the fuel for free falling. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." God's plan for us is a lot like a safety net; the same hands that hold the entire universe are holding you. Isn't that wild?! 

What would you do if your Father owned all the planets and everything inhabiting them? If your Father owned time itself, controlled all power, and set each and every moment into motion all with a single word? What if you fully realized that all that and more IS a reality for you and me?! Ohhh how I pray that we are granted eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel the gravity of this truth! 

"Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from You, and You are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in Your hand, and it is in Your hand to make great and to give strength to all." -1 Chronicles 29:11-12

If we honestly realized the fullness of our inheritance based on who our Father is, I truly believe that courage would trump fear every single time. I know what it is like to work out all the potential disasters, missing the mark completely on what could have been had I answered the call. I know what it is like for my knuckles to turn white from grasping onto my past too tightly, paralyzed in my own skin for what lies ahead. 

But that fear in you that creeps in causing hesitation and blocking you from leaping in faith is not a part of your inherent design. We were created to be beings of POWER, emboldened by the freedom of the gospel. No force in hell and no person on earth can thwart the plans God has for you if you would just trust His heart towards you! "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him." -1 Corinthians 2:9. 

The most liberating secret to finally letting go is that in Christ you are equipped with a superhero ability and assurance that every time you release your grip and free fall... you will fly.

So let go. 

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Featuring Boy Meets Girl: No Secrets Oversized Denim Jacket

 

Photography: Wild NYC Portraits

 

WE ARE THE 100%

I believe we are all born with the same inherently pure mindset, free of the damage inevitable pain inflicts. As children untouched by trauma, our innocence is a magic of sorts, empowering us to believe that anything is possible. Somewhere along the timeline between childhood and adulthood, a shift in that untainted mentality begins to happen. The person is then left with a crucial decision. Will he/she fight for light or succumb to darkness?

My family moved to Texas from the Philippines when I was 6 years old. I have always been proud of the loving home I grew up in. Both my parents were very dedicated to me and my sister, teaching us the gravity of our self value and worth. One of the biggest misconceptions is that since a person grows up in a loving home devoid of trauma, he/she will not experience major issues with self love or identity. From personal experience, I can attest that the external forces that affect one's heart, mind, and soul are far more complex than that.

I had an identity crisis in elementary school when I was bullied for my quirky sense of style. My bright pink hair extensions and metallic purple bell bottoms were shrugged off by others as "weird". However, my desire to express myself through bold fashion outside the norm of my hometown only grew as I entered middle school and then high school. Oh, how mean girls can be. The years of snickering comments and menacing side glances took a heavy toll on my self esteem and I became desperate to fill the gaping hole in my heart.

I quickly learned to distract myself with men, longing to find validation in an string of empty, senseless relationships. I found that each devastating breakup only left me more insatiable for love and before I knew it, I was "on to the next". It was a drug and I couldn't see I was addicted. If I am perfectly honest, even then I knew in the beginning of those relationships that those men regarded me with little if no respect and honor.

It was the same old pattern. The deterioration was first verbal long before it escalated. I believe that people stay in bad relationships because the situation gets worse only little by little; by degrees over time. It is said that a frog will jump out of a pot of boiling water. But place him in a pot and turn up the heat very slowly, and he will stay until he is boiled to death. Those who inflict abuse know this very well.

From 17 to 22 years old I was sexually abused by 3 men. Within those relationships, it happened weekly, often several times a week.

As you are reading this you may notice the temperature in your own body drop a bit. The reason that may be is I believe there is a chance that you may relate to this very subject I am sharing- whether it be verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse. 

The word “abuse” in the Oxford dictionary is to “use an object for a purpose for which it was never designed.” And for 6 years I was used for a purpose for which I was never designed. It became impossible for me transition into different stages of development in a healthy manner. There was major developmental wounding that manifested in many various forms of defense mechanisms. They looked like shame. They looked like guilt. They looked like indifference. They looked like anger. They looked like unforgiveness. But what happens with these defense mechanisms is not only are you keeping other people out to protect yourself, over time you are keeping yourself in a prison. So that even after you are out of that abusive relationship and think you are free, the reality is you are still in a prison of your own building. 

Before I move on I need to stop and say that I firmly believe the reason I (and many men and women who have experienced abuse) allow this perpetual pattern to continue is because we do not fully grasp our inherent value as human beings fearfully and wonderfully created. We are empowered beings crafted with a purpose but have made something someone has done to us bigger than that truth. And until we make that truth shine brighter than what someone has done to us we will never walk in full freedom. Even if we are no longer in that physical bondage, we won’t be free from the battlefield of the mind, heart, and soul. 

In attempt to find freedom from my own bondage, I hopped on a plane to New York City. I graduated college with the highest honors, landed my dream job at Barneys New York and moved on to work for incredible fashion companies. For the first time in my life the very thing I was bullied for became a point of celebration. I felt my heart begin to open up every time a kind stranger would compliment me on the street. I'll never forget the time a woman told me that my outrageous style made the sidewalk look like a runway show. I was overwhelmed with joy and felt like I could breath for the first time in a long time. I embraced my unique style with joyful abandon, which jump started me on a path towards freedom from validation, specifically from abusive men. 

I have always said that fashion is a conversation to the world about yourself. Yves Saint Laurent said, “Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.” I believe fashion is a reflection of the unique blueprint created within you; and there are no duplicates. You are the one and only original copy. A one of a kind Mona Lisa. Priceless beyond measure. 

While working in corporate fashion, I started this blog in the hopes of empowering women through fashion. I prayed that through my story, I would play a role in ushering women towards the same freedom I found. As authentic engagement grew, so did my passion and commitment for the blog. I then decided to take the biggest leap of faith and quit my job to pursue the blog full time. Above all else, through my work I seek to promote a revelation of worth in the hearts of women. It is important to note that worth is not based on your past wounds, failures, or fears. You cannot purchase or merit worth. The inherent truth is that you are worthy because you are worthy because you are worthy because you are worthy... do you see? You are worthy just by being created. That’s where it begins and ends. In the Constitution it says,We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The truths are: You are chosen. You are royal. You are holy. You are special. You are light.

1 in 3 women have been physically abused by an intimate partner and every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States. These statistics are not mere numbers to me because my name and my face is on that data. It is personal. I believe we are the 100%. This means that even if you have not personally been a victim of abuse, there is a 100% chance that you already have encountered someone else who has. As women I believe we have been empowered to reach above and beyond ourselves to extend that power on behalf of our brothers and sisters. To stand by one another in our individual stories intertwined in a much larger meta narrative. We are the 100%.

This year I partnered with an incredible non-profit called Reveal, committed to helping women recovering from domestic violence and sex trafficking through strategic partnerships with local women’s shelters and safe houses. Reveal offers monthly workshops at local women’s shelters to provide women a safe space to learn about self care through fashion, beauty, health, and career counseling to name a few. The mission is to support the healing process by celebrating beauty and dignity. 

I have two simple promises that I challenge myself with every day and I pray that you join me as well. The first promise is: 1) I promise to actively stand in the truth and reject the lies. You are fearfully and wonderfully created by God. When I realized this inherent truth, everything about my life began to change. Although I may never understand why those terrible things happened to me, I am empowered by a force much higher than anything on this planet. I am not a workmanship of abuse. I am a workmanship of LOVE. And no matter what story you stand in today, I am living proof that no assignment from hell and no person on earth can disqualify the plan and purpose God has for your life. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. 

Many of us here are still doing laps around the same old mountain again and again. Someone once told you that you are ” ugly, stupid, that you’ll never amount to anything." And for too long you have been letting those lies define you rather than stand in the truth of who you really are. But your history does not need to define your destiny. When the memories of your past begin to haunt you and play in a never ending loop in your head, you have been given full authority to say “NO. You are not welcome here.” You have been given a brilliant mind of power, love, and self-control. What happened to you is NOT you. But what it will do is tell a story of beauty from ashes.  A story of life winning over death. Which leads me to the second promise.

2) I promise to stand in the gap through my story. One of the most freeing realizations I have had is simultaneously that not everything is about me and that I have an irreplaceable role in an epic journey. Never underestimate the power of your voice through your story. How do YOU tell your story? For me, it’s through fashion. For you, it may be through education, hospitality, or medicine. Whatever your story is, shout it from the rooftops loud and proud, flaws and all. Look to your brother and sister and say “I stand with you in the mess!” There is nothing more liberating than being known to the bottom and loved to the skies anyway.

Marianne Williamson, in one of my all time favorite quotes, said, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Spoiler alert...Light wins over darkness every time.

So my question to you is this: What are you going to do with your light?

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

In partnership with Reveal NYC

 

Multi-color Faux Fur Coat by SheIn

 

Photography by Denton Taylor

 

A VALENTINES LOVE LETTER TO MY SISTERS

Dear sisters,

There was once a time when you were younger and untouched by the disorder and evil in this world. When you dressed up as a princess and being swept up in a love story was a consistent scenario during playtime. Your heart longed for those dreams not because Disney wired you that way, but because as a woman you are designed by God to be romanced and pursued. Your heart is a reflection of God's heart; a mirrored heartbeat where passion meets empathy. 

Somewhere along the timeline between childhood and now, a dark force invaded your safe space and like a thief in the night stole your innocence and worst of all, your dignity. It (in whatever form that was) walked away from you like it was nothing. You were left huddled in distress, robbed of the most precious parts of your soul.

From that moment on you were changed, but not for the better. You put away your royal crown in exchange for armor of steel. With a dagger sharpened by your pain you killed your desire for love in exchange for self-preservation. You bitterly wiped your own tears away and over time built a wall designed to keep all possible assailants out. You thought to yourself, "What good is love when there is so much pain in this world?"

You continue to seek the antidote to numb the pain; anything to stop your memories from replaying on loop in your mind. From happy-feeling inducers to bar hopping one night stands, you promise yourself that the inevitable sinking feeling in your gut isn't regret, just indigestion. Men circulate into your life like pieces in a game of chess and you brace yourself for the final checkmate, convinced that this is not more than a petty self-ego game. 

But there is One who cries the tears you are suppressing. There is One who intimately knows every gash in your broken heart because He is the one who created it. Whether or not you acknowledge him, God sees you. Not only does he see you, but He knows you to the bottom. Not only does He know you from the bottom, He loves you to the skies. 

You are the only thing in the whole Universe that makes God foolish. So foolish that he came down from all His rightful glory and plunged into death to rescue you from condemnation. Condemnation from the sin of this world, condemnation from yourself. Make no mistake, God weeps for you. You are his beloved and regardless of those who deserted you, He remains at the door of your heart patiently knocking. 

He wants you to know that you are worth the wait and that NOTHING can separate you from His love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height not depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

This love my beautiful sisters is the ULTIMATE VALENTINE. You are called to play an irreplaceable role in an epic journey where RELENTLESS LOVE WINS. A love where TRUTH CONQUERS LIES. Where you live in the freedom to be a WARRIOR AND A QUEEN. God IS love therefore you are a descendant of LOVE. And so the story begins with a question, not only on February 14th, but every day for the rest of your life for as long as you live. God is asking you: Will you be mine?

 

XOXO, Diwa Doll

 

Photography: Edward Gebel

 

Handbag Feature by Ms. Little's Bag: Mini Monster Bag

 

A LETTER TO SINGLE MEN SEEKING LOVE

Dear single men seeking love,

This may be the most honest letter I have ever written. Before moving on further let me add an important disclaimer. This letter is for men, not boys who can shave. This letter is for men who are done with date-hopping, one night stands, and lack of accountability This letter is for men who are seeking a committed long term love leading to finding a wife. If you choose to read on you will be faced with many hard truths you most likely weren't prepared to hear. You may have difficulty accepting my unapologetic stance on the issues I am about to address. But I can assure you one thing. Your eyes will be wide open to the possibility that there is a better way; that you can be better because you yourself deserve better

Too often I saw the same patterns in my own past dating life and continue to bear witness through the stories of my girlfriends. It goes like this: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl exchange phone numbers and proceed to text back and forth for an indefinite amount of time. Finally someone initiates the much awaited first date. A string of dates follows thereafter in which it becomes girl's full time job to decode boy's intentions. After a drawn out series of stagnant interactions, boy confesses that he really doesn't "see this going anywhere" and hopes girl can remain his friend. Inevitably however, boy and girl do not remain friends. And the cycle goes on. 

Before I ask you to clarify your own intentions let me first clearly state mine. My intention is to start a conversation that will break this devastating cycle by revealing what I believe the role of men should be in regards to dating women. The pursuit of a woman is an original design that falls singularly from God's design. Although we have sophisticated indie versions of this unique pursuit, nothing compares with the gravitas of why woman was crafted alongside man.The key is the intent of relationship. The Hebrew word for sex (yada) speaks of the flourishing of relations between a man and a woman. This covenant venture is sourced from the very heart of God who declares and applies His love towards us in full measure. I invite you to join me as I re-write the current narrative in the hopes that you walk away convicted and inspired in your own journey to find love. 

Before even entering the unknown pool of dating, PLEASE make sure you are self-aware of what you are looking for in a relationship. Be brutally honest with yourself. As mentioned above, if you find yourself seeking a string of half-way committed relationships with expiration dates then good riddance, good luck, and good-bye. If you are genuinely seeking a shot at a lifelong love, then it's worth stepping back and intentionally assessing your desires and needs from a woman. Start with a blank sheet of paper and without hesitation, jot away to your hearts content. Go back through the list and check mark any "non-negotiables." Once completed, go back once more through the list and highlight your top ten most important items in a woman. I urge you to use this top ten as a baseline and throw every other nit-picky expectation out the window.

Spoiler alert: There is no such thing as the perfect woman. There are women who have a compatible baseline to you, you may or may not feel the rumored "magical spark", but you will have the opportunity to make a choice. SO MAKE ONE. By stubbornly sticking to your perfect ideal, you are missing out on the infinite possibilities of incredible women and that is truly such a shame. To take it a step further, since when did you look in the mirror and decided that YOU are perfect? Spoiler alert: There is also no such thing as a perfect man. 

When you come across a woman in which you see baseline potential, ask her on a DATE for goodness sake. Don't settle for her phone number and take weeks to muster up the courage to maybe ask her out. Trust me, by the time you come around she'll already decide you are a coward and take you a lot less seriously. YOU ARE BETTER THAN THAT. Built into your very DNA is the ability to be a warrior full of confidence, fully capable of taking initiative. Is there the possibility of rejection? Of course, but at least you'll know she turned you down because of incompatibility, not because you lack the gumption of the man you could have been. 

Now, let's say all goes well with the above and you begin dating. Regardless of the time span of the relationship, do everyone a favor and maintain honesty. Realistically, you will not fall head over heels in love with every woman you encounter. If you did, the plethora of dating apps available today wouldn't be such a lucrative business. But back to honesty; there is nothing worse for a woman than feeling led on. Be respectful of both her and your time and if at any point you do not see the relationship progressing, gently let her know. Breakups are never easy but I assure you once over, she will not only get over it, but more importantly she will honor your sincerity throughout the process. 

Finally, let's talk about sex. (Yes, we are going there and you got this far already so please, read on.) Sex was created by God to further deepen intimacy inside a  committed covenant relationship, i.e. marriage. To have sex inside marriage means, "I am not only naked physically, I am naked with my whole being in complete vulnerability for as long as I live." You are giving your body to one another as a token of how you have given your whole life as well. Outside of marriage however, you are saying "I will be vulnerable physically now because it feels good but I cannot promise my commitment outside of this moment." Sex then becomes a fleeting means to take without giving, ultimately damaging the trust and integrity of the relationship. A true man of character is able to forgo immediate desires of the flesh for the hope of a much longer lasting reward in a wife who's honor and self-worth is intact. 

Too many years have gone by where I have personally witnessed even the of best men around me disregard their responsibility to pursue women with integrity. I don't believe this is due to a conscious decision to fall short of expectations; I believe it is because we as women fail to have these honest conversations out of fear. Fear of being misunderstood, fear of hoping for too much and being let down, fear of not being worthy of pursuit.

So as a woman, I step in the gap. As a woman, I speak on behalf of my sisters when I say that we are tired of being strung along and treated as less than the royalty we are. We are weary of lowering our already shaky standards to avoid being alone. We are terrified of admitting we desire love because the examples of notable men are too far and few. We desire to be swept up in a love story of a lifetime. We seek to join the power of our femininity with the strength your masculinity. We desire to be an irreplaceable role in your epic journey. 

As men, you hold the power to unlock a revelation of worth in the women around you. The mantle has been bestowed. Now what are you going to do with it?

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Photography: Mirna Plakalovic Photography

 

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