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

 

SAYING YES TO YOUR CALLING

Not even 9 months ago my career consisted of a string of 9-[insert obscenely late hour] workdays amounting to little to no inspiration, slaving away in front of a tiny computer screen. The promising sweet relief of the weekend would come around; only to find myself Sunday night utterly exhausted after a full Saturday catching up on errands leaving me with a recurring date with Netflix, ice cream, and my coziest pillow. All this only to wake up the following week to do it all over again. Sound familiar?

Please note that I am in no way bashing or belittling the structure of a traditional 9-5 career. It is just that since I was a young girl, I always had two passions when it came to my future career: 1) Building something of my own, and 2) Reaching out to and building community with other girls around me. I believe that within each of us is an inherent calling; a whisper where our deepest longing meets the possibility of reality. 

When we are young this unique blueprint inside us seems so tangible and within reach. This is the reason why it is so delightful to ask little children what they would like to be when they grow up; their expectations are so bold and pure. But somewhere along the timeline between childhood and adulthood, life often steps in and shatters those dreams with unexpected twists and turns. We look back on our childhood hopes and shake our heads in disappointment and resentment. Often we resign to keeping our heads down, making due with the "cards we have been given", not daring to take a leap of faith in fear of facing more rejection. And so we stay stagnant in our comfort zones and meanwhile, our inherent calling slowly but surely fades like a stranger we used to know.

This was me. And maybe it is you too. Mindlessly clocking in and out, losing more and more gusto for the life around me with each passing week. But at least I could pay the bills right? Oh my, for so long I became an expert at making excuses, standing in my own way of fulfilling a bigger destiny that the four corners of my cubicle. Because my company was so grossly understaffed with an impossibly heavy workload, I was never able to enjoy the basic luxury of paid time off until my wedding and subsequent honeymoon in Mexico. I remember in those two weeks feeling so blissfully free. I don't think I quite knew the extent of how enslaved I felt in my job until I took the time to stop, look up, and breathe. I remember standing on the edge of the ocean with my palms lifted up to the skies along with a prayer, crying out to God to deliver me from the droning bondage in my workplace. 

Within a month of returning home from my honeymoon, I began to find a refuge from the monotony in my fashion blog. For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about the art of dress in the way that I can only imagine a painter becomes awakened as color dances together in harmony on a blank canvas. Previously, I would exclusively post style inspiration and advice on my website. However one day I was feeling particularly defeated after a long commute home from work and decided to write a blog post on my honest and raw struggle in the corporate fashion industry. I still remember each click of my finger over the keys slowly pouring out all the tension and anxiety I had been holding in my muscles.

Over the course of the next few weeks I found my heart spilling over more and more in shared words on my personal joys and struggles, whether it be my celebration as a newlywed or my challenge of comparison on social media. Diwa Dollhouse became a diary of sorts; a safe haven for me to vent out my innermost thoughts. I will never forget the first time I pulled down the facade of perfection and allowed my most authentic self (flaws and all) to shine through on my Instagram. At first I was extremely self-conscious and nervous as to how the public world of social media would handle my new #nofilter approach; but the moment I logged on I was shocked to see the encouragement and camaraderie of my followers! What inspired me the most was their gracious vulnerability and openness in response to my honesty. I found myself overjoyed and for the first time in my career, felt truly aligned with my calling. 

In July of 2016 I put in my resignation and said goodbye to the corporate fashion industry with full intention to start a movement to empower women through fashion on my blog. It's been about 9 months and I wish I could truthfully tell you that from the moment I let go of that familiar ledge to now that the journey has been effortless and easy. No; on the contrary it has been paved with frequent challenges along the way. The secret however is that within each obstacle is an underlying life and/or career lesson that is no more or less valuable than a rare gem. Slowly but surely I have (and continue to) build a business of my own that is committed to women discovering a revelation of their worth. 

Last week I had the honor of standing in my best friend's wedding at the beautiful Turks and Caicos. Because I now get to create my own work schedule, my girlfriends and I decided to stay an extra week to soak up the sun and bask in fellowship with one another. My phone was often left at home while I ran off on a new adventure for the day; whether it was exploring a new beach on the other side of the island or tasting the island's best fresh seafood. Since I quit my job to start my own venture, I have been on four vacations, get an average of eight hours of sleep a night and finally know what it means to "unplug." Exponentially more gratifying is the deep privilege I have every day of logging on and connecting with my incredible Insta-family. With every post, I am deeply humbled by the stories exchanged with one another in the spirit of authenticity. I know that my mission is to empower women through fashion but it is I who find myself daily enriched by the  friends who share their precious time to connect with me and the work that I love. 

Maybe you currently find yourself at the precipice of insanity at a job you are increasingly resenting. Maybe someone in your life shattered a dream you once had, calling you "unrealistic." Maybe you still have a little whisper inside you asking, "Could there be more?" If I were to choose one piece of advice to share with anyone resonating with anything I have just shared, it would be this: The only reason the enemy of your soul tries to stop you is because he has peeked into your future. And ohh baby, is it BRIGHT. 

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

State of Mind Floppy Hat and Palm Leaf Print Jumpsuit by The Shopping Bag

The Shopping Bag provides a one-stop, convenient source where shopping is always in style! They brings 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! This service was perfect for last-minute shopping for my for Turks and Caicos trip as all my favorite fashion pieces were shipped to me in record time!  Why would you shop anywhere else!?

 

Photography: 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

 

Featuring Make Me Chic: Gold Sequin Maxi Slit Dress

 

THE FRIENDSHIP FORMULA

The easiest kind of friendship for me
is with ten thousand people.
The hardest is with one.

-Joan Baez

 

Friendship takes on many forms. There are those that are meant to last only for a season, leaving behind precious memories and lessons to last a lifetime. There are others that linger on for years that turn into decades, deepening in intimacy and trust as time passes. I have never been a wealthy woman, but I have always said an area where I am rich is friendship. As I step back and reflect on the friends that have marked my life, I can't help but notice a few core similarities between them. After journaling all of the reasons I am grateful for these key people, I stumbled upon what may be the most precious epiphany: The friendship formula.

1. A servant heart

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)

Years ago, I went through a painful breakup leaving me feeling extremely broken and damaged. By God's grace my childhood friend Jill happened to be staying at my apartment, witnessing the whole catastrophe unfold. Up to that moment Jill and I had weathered our share of teenage fall outs, perhaps largely due to our similar stubborn temperaments. But I vividly remember sitting on the floor, paralyzed in my tears and bad decisions when my friend pulled me up and stayed alongside me in prayer until I finally fell asleep. For the next week, Jill served me with the strength of a commander at war. She lovingly enabled me with the voice of truth to not only survive, but thrive through my dire situation. From making sure I continued eating well to being a companion to lend a listening ear, Jill remains a perfect picture of the healing power of service to a friend in need. 

I believe one of the marks that one is ready to love well is the freedom to serve. When I am fixated on my own selfish needs and desires, it is nearly impossible to think about anyone other than myself. But living in the freedom that I myself am fully known and fully loved by Christ enables me to reach outside my own impulses to serve my friends. This is one of the best ways others can know the love of God! A wise mentor once told me, "You are only able to give the kind of love you have received." To be free in the fullness of unconditional love is kind of like being a cup that is overflowing. You are able to run with an excess of service to those who may not even be able to return the favor! But in the fullness of freedom, you are able to lay yourself down for others causing a ripple effect that could change the world.

2. Ability to empathize

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)

I met Kait in the buying office of Barneys New York. We had both started with the company on the same day but hadn't the slightest idea that one day we would become best friends. On my way to the copy machine I was intercepted by the click-clacking of heels and the most cheerful greeting. Kait explained that we attended the same church and invited me over for wine. The rest is history. You name it, we've been through it together. We have seen each other through toxic breakups, career milestones, and most recently, Kait stood by my side as a bridesmaid at my wedding. I remember right before saying my wedding vows looking back and making eye contact with my dear friend. In a flash I recalled the countless times she cried tears of mourning alongside me in prayer and encouragement, reassuring me that true love is worth the wait. And as I saw Kait crying tears of joy at the alter her eyes seemed to sparkle and say, "I told you so!"

A major epidemic with women today is comparison. Comparison is the thief of joy. I notice that even in our own closest groups of friends, we cannot help but use them as a measuring stick to gauge our own success in life. This disordered behavior makes it nearly impossible to genuinely rejoice and mourn with one another. I have been on both sides of the measuring stick. I know how it feels to receive another's good news and mask my envy with faux squeals of excitement, secretly harboring resentment and wishing it had been me. I know how it feels to have to suppress my own good news in fear that another person's bitterness would overshadow my joy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is the ability to enter into another's deepest gladness or heartache as if it were your own. Empathy is the ability to authentically say to another, "I stand with you in this, free of agenda or pretense." 

3. A will to persevere

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16-17)

There was a time in my life shortly after college when I was running from the plans and purpose God had for me. As a result, I isolated myself from even my closest friends. Out of frustration, most of my confidantes fell away with the exception of a precious few. Asis was one who refused to leave me to my wicked devices. She faithfully stayed on, calling out my weakness in exchange for strength. Asis came from a challenging past that left her no choice but to fight for what she believed in. Her resilience shined in her self-sufficiency through college, her difficult choice to leave a troubling relationship, and finally her refusal to give up on our friendship. When I felt too weak, Asis showed me what it looked like to stand up for truth in the depths of despair, inspiring me out of my self-pity. She continues to be a warrior for the sacredness of friendship and if guardian angels do in fact exist, I am pretty sure Asis was appointed especially for me.

Have you ever experienced a hot and heavy friendship for a season only to part ways once things got a bit rocky? This is one of my main issues with friendships today. I think our culture of instant gratification has made us lazy in the pursuit of one another. Our muscles for loving confrontation have grown weak. The result is half-hearted friendships where both parties are walking on egg shells in fear of being authentically known. In this stunted environment it is impossible for any growth to take place. If you are friends with anyone long enough, being two different people will absolutely cause dissonance and call for confrontation. A refusal to persevere through differences and challenges will cause an inevitable death in the relationship. I'm not saying you have to be best friends with everyone, but for goodness sake fight for your friendships! Friends are a gift from God and before parting ways, a will to persevere should be the first and last response. Without it, we lose out on the priceless gift of sanctification through reconciliation. 

A drop of servant hood, a dash of empathy, and a splash of perseverance; this is my friendship formula. I'm not a scientist decoding a top secret list for a potion or a master chef concocting an award winning sauce, but I am convinced my formula is far more valuable than most. To love and be loved as a friend has contributed to some of the greatest joys in my life. If I do not accomplish anything other than being a good friend, at the very least I could say I know what it is to be near the heart of Jesus. After all, He Himself is a more pure and distilled formula of friendship that one could ever dream to concoct.  The reality is, all our friends will let us down in one way or another. After all, they (as we) are only human. But Jesus is the perfect friend who are all the things mentioned above and so much more. And the marvelous news is that He is already your best friend, whether or not you choose to have Him. Even now, He is patiently knocking at your heart. Will you open the door?

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and [be a forever friend] with that person, and they with me." (Revelation 3:20)

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Photography: Mirna Plakalovic

 

Featuring Romwe: Black Top with Ruffle Tail

 

TIMELESS WITH MY NEW JORD WOOD WATCH

When I was 6 years old I had a recurring nightmare about my parents passing away unexpectedly.  I would wake up in a state of panic, frantically reassuring myself that I had decades ahead of me before that would ever happen. I would then run into my parents' bedroom and hop under their covers while dad prayed over me and mom held my hand until I finally drifted back to sleep. I was running desperately from Time. 

When I was 19 years old I hit rock bottom after a series of tumultuous relationships. I found myself isolated from family and friends and detached from my own sense of self-worth and value. My mind became my worst enemy as it replayed each haunting memory leading up to my demise like a broken VHS tape. I was incessantly haunted by Time.

When the honeymoon phase of my marriage ended a couple months ago and my husband and I got into our first "married fight", I blurted out a sequence of horrible words in a fit of unbridled anger. Words that in no way held any weight to my true feelings but nonetheless carried impossible heaviness within each syllable. Even after I asked my gracious husband for forgiveness, I locked myself in the bathroom weeping in shame and wishing God would turn back the clock so that I could take it all back. I was held despairingly captive by Time. 

Today I am 27 years old and still catch myself attempting to cradle Time like sand slipping between my fingers. I happened upon Alice Through the Looking Glass on Netflix, a whimsical tale where Alice travels back to Wonderland to find the Hatter in a horrible state. The Hatter insists that the only way he will recover is for Alice to travel back in time to save his family.  In desperation, Alice steals the Chronosphere from Time (played by Sasha Baron Cohen) and goes back to several key events in the past to try and re-write history for the better. In a series of very unfortunate events (another wonderful Netflix series!), Alice realizes she can never go back and alter the past. Upon this epiphany she recalls Time's ominous warning, "You cannot change the past. Though I dare say, you might learn something from it."

I saw so much of myself in Alice as she nearly drove herself mad attempting to re-assemble broken pieces of a troubled past. I could not help the tears streaming down my face as I witnessed the familiar grimacing lines on her forehead as she chased after this fleeting ghost we call Time, only to find that he cannot be caught. But alas, redemption had the final word in the end of the story. And the curious thing is, the healing was not dependent on re-writing history. Rather all things turned around for good once Alice chose to reconcile the past with the present. Turns out, the secret to unshackling fear of Time was living unapologetically today, secure of the future!

I'm going to level with you honestly here. It would be nearly impossible for me to move forward in the fullness of joy regardless of my past, without security in my future. Without a hope in the days to come, I simply couldn't garner the strength to press on. But I have good news that changes everything! Not only are we given hope for tomorrow, we are given a promise signed by the blood of the Lamb. God Himself sent His Only Son to die for you and me as a means to stand in as a perfect guarantee to complete salvation. There isn't a better guarantor to sign for you than that! Fired up by this revelation, I decided to go back through Alice Through the Looking Glass to offer a response to all the despairing remarks and questions regarding Time.  I like to think of it as Nika Through the Word of God!

"Everyone parts with everything eventually, my dear." -Time, Alice Through the Looking Glass

"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 8:38-39

 

"You cannot escape Time." -Time, Alice Through the Looking Glass

"My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me." -Psalm 31:15

 

"Is it true that you heal all wounds?" - The Mad Hatter, Alice Through the Looking Glass

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." -Isaiah 53:5

 

Today I am 27 years old and my past is still marked with painful choices and consequent heartache. But my present rests in a much more powerful and tangible truth. Because of Christ, I am a chosen person, a royal heir, a holy daughter and God's special possession, who has been called out of the darkness and into His marvelous light! (1 Peter 2:9) My future is immortally secure for The Lord knows the plans He has for me. Plans to prosper and not harm me. Plans for a hope and a future! (Jeremiah 29:11) You see, Time is not an enemy but rather a ticking reminder that each day is a gift granted by grace and not a second ought to be wasted. 

In celebration of Time, I have partnered with the amazing JORD Watches. My new watch's name is Frankie 35 and she is made from dark sandalwood, slate, and a whole lotta-love! Not only is the craftsmanship of the highest quality, but I was also very pleased with JORD's attentive customer service, particularly in sizing my watch. I usually stay away from purchasing watches online in fear that the fit will be incorrect, but everything from the sizing chart to my personal watch specialist made the whole process so seamless! I also really love how the wood-based  aesthetic of the watches remain unique to one another in hardware and embellishments so that there is something for every style! 

If you are contemplating the perfect Valentines gift for your loved one, look no further! Love is TIMELESS, and what a better way to warm the heart of your sweetie than gifting a natural wood watch from JORD? This way, they'll know your time always has and will continue to belong to them (feel free to use that in your V-Day card, free of charge! *wink, wink*). As a bonus, you can even have the back of the watch engraved with a custom message to make the gift extra special! 

Lastly, make sure to enter my #JORDwatches instant giveaway by clicking here. All entrants will receive an e-gift code for $25 off a watch of their choice and when the contest concludes, one lucky winner will receive a  code for $100 off a watch of their choice! This giveaway ends January 22, 2017 so hurry and get in on this sweet gift now! 

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Photography: Mirna Plakalovic Photography 

 

JORD Watches: Mens Collection / Womens Collection

 

FEAR OF MYSELF

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I spent most of my adolescent years running. Fear was a subtle but powerful force driving me for most of my life. I ran from my faith in fear of losing control and spiraling into the unknown. I ran from my family in fear of being fully known and found out to be a fraud. I lived in Garland, Texas but spent most of my younger years miles away in my head, desperate to escape. You see, my biggest fear was finding the truth about myself... and not liking it. Not liking me. 

In high school, I got lost in a fascination with fashion. Using clothing and accessories, I would dream and create outrageous outfits which quickly became a new channel of escape. It wasn't long before the idea of moving to the fashion capitol of the world, New York City, was on the top of my to-do list. I applied for LIM College for fashion business and upon acceptance took off on the first plane to the big apple I could find. It was perfect timing. I had endured yet another crippling breakup and had isolated myself from nearly all my family and friends. I barely had any ties left in my hometown and decided it was time to break free once and for all and fly, far far away.  

I will never forget the drive away from home. For the first time in years, I began to feel a pang of nostalgia. I recalled the morning we found my childhood house, praying in the car on the street corner that one day it would be ours. We passed my old route to elementary school and I recalled the day I met my lifelong friend Taylor in second grade on the bench during recess. We drove downtown and I recalled the nights my friends and I spent in karaoke bars belting to Whitney Houston. Good and fond memories.

But then I began to mull over the not-so-good parts.  The streets where I would scream angry tears at my boyfriend like we were straight out of a cliche Taylor Swift music video. The exit I took to drive to Oklahoma after I swore to my mother I was spending the day at Hurricane Harbor, only to be shamefully found out. Finally we drove by Deep Ellum and I my heart sank as I recalled my first night at the club, hiding behind thick mascara and a bruised ego. I shook off the nostalgia as quickly as it came, hugged my father goodbye as we arrived at DFW Airport, and headed towards my gate convinced it held the key to my freedom. 

Since that day I have lived in New York for almost seven years. I walk this concrete jungle and reminisce on the memories that lace the streets. Good, fond memories. Grand Central Station reminds me of the shortcut I would take to get to class on time in college. I walk along 5th Avenue and recall my first day at my dream job in the buying department of Barneys New York. I pass shoppers on the sixth floor of Bloomingdales, reminded of the designer boots I purchased for my first New York winter. Then I mull over the not-so-good parts. My first apartment on 61st street where I cried alone in my closet wondering if moving here was a mistake. The Meatpacking District still reminds me of my reckless single life and my search for love in swanky nightclubs. And when I stroll through a certain restaurant in the East Village I remember the first date shared with the boy who would almost irreparably break my heart.  

I ran approximately 17,000 miles away from home in an attempt to flee my fears. I had convinced myself that Texas was the issue. That the bad memories were the problem. I was sure that if only I could get away, I would never have to face the truth. But whether in Texas or New York, the good and bad memories came and went and I realized that although I was physically in a different location, I could never run far or fast enough from myself. In the Bible Psalm 139:7-10 says, "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol (or in this case, NYC) you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." 

Out of sheer fatigue, I put away my running shoes so to speak and just stopped. I was intentionally still for the first time in my adult life and asked God to reveal to me the truth of who I am, with all the good and the bad. I braced myself for what was sure to be a rant of condemnation as I began to search through Scripture. I thought: If I am to discover myself, then might as well go to The One who created me. 

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."(Psalm 139:14-15)

"The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-39)

"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)

I expected condemnation and instead received grace. Tim Keller once said, "The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” It is through the eyes of Jesus that I stand boldly today. Fear no longer has a stronghold on me because I know that God's love has and will always have the final word over who I am. This is also true  about who YOU are, regardless of past, present, or future circumstances.

You are:

Fearfully and wonderfully made...

Rejoiced over...

Quieted by love...

Exulted over...

More than a conqueror...

A chosen person...

A royal priesthood...

Holy in the God's eyes...

God's special possession...

...and oh, so much more! This truth has freed me to celebrate life in all its triumphs and failures, rooted in the knowledge that I am unconditionally loved. What a gift! Recently, I returned home to Texas and on the way home from the airport passed through Deep Ellum. This post is a tribute to the home where I grew up and the memories, both good and bad, used by God to renew and transform me into the woman I am today. Because of HIM redemption is my anthem. To God be the glory!

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Photography: Emma Donohue Photography

 

THE SECRET TO FINDING LOVE: SPECIAL FEATURE BY COACH

In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Benjamin Barry inspects Andie Anderson's handbag after she intentionally leaves it behind on their last date. What Ben doesn't realize is Andie planted two New York Knicks tickets inside one of the pockets as bait. Lo and behold, Ben can't resist the allure of courtside tickets and calls Andie to finagle a last minute date. Andie hangs up the phone and with a satisfied grin proclaims to her girlfriends, "And that... is how it's done." 

To the untrained male eye, the handbag is a tiny portable storage space for feminine products and lipstick. But alas, it is so much more. On a first date for example, a handbag is a first and last line of defense in the war that is the dating game. The dating game can be defined as the endless hoops one jumps through to prove that he or she is worthy of being deemed as "date-able." Let me explain in the context of a first date. Inside a woman's handbag is her cell phone, innocently tucked away. What the man doesn't know is that there is an army of besties fully prepped and on stand-by via group text, eagerly awaiting to be debriefed during a restroom break. Inside the handbag is also a makeup pouch full of beauty essentials, including but not limited to sweat-proof napkins to wipe away the stress and ensure a faux, but very convincing effortless glow that says, "I woke up like this!" 

I use this illustration not to poke fun or chastise dating, but rather to bring up a chronic issue that I myself struggled with throughout previous relationships: playing to win. I've seen this manifest in my own behavior as well as the men and women around me, whether it be my closest friends or the latest rom-coms. In a society that over-romanticizes relationships, the pressure to love and be loved has never been greater. As we get older, potential prospects seem to dwindle in number, leaving a twinge of doubt as to whether or not we will ever find the one. 

One of Cosmopolitan Magazine's most searched articles featured The Secret to Getting Any Guy. Lofty promise, eh? I couldn't help but cringe as I scrolled through the feature, not out of judgement but more so because many of the tips were once upon a time my very own go-to secrets. Secrets that not only lost me every guy, but also a sense of my dignity and worth. So I beg you to indulge me as I counter each of Cosmo's secrets with the truth that I am convinced led me to find true love.

1. "Choose your wingwomen wisely- you want to be surrounded by friends who are outgoing..." Since when did women need to have wings to be considered worthy of a night out? And who says the value of a good time lies in being an extrovert vs. an introvert? Lies, ladies, lies. This is the kind of talk that garners rivalry between women. You deserve to feel welcome as you are, not because of the perks you bring to the table.

2. "Show off your neck and shoulders." Let me clear- a woman's body is worthy of praise because she is fearfully and wonderfully created. To say that showing off any particular body part holds any weight in getting a guy is disrespectful to the honor and care you deserve. A man worthy of a treasure like you will be primarily interested in the fullness of your heart...not your bra. #truthbomb

3. "Use your drink as a seduction prop." Disclaimer: If this article is about how to get any guy for a one-night stand, then this piece of advice is exactly on point. In which case the entire article could have dropped this line alone and the guy would be got. But for those seeking a long-term love, I pose this question to you: If it takes props to get your man's attention in the first initial moments of contact, what makes you think you as a person will be enough for him? This isn't an audition and the relationship isn't a Broadway play pre-set for a limited time only. No, no. You are the leading lady deserving of all eyes and a standing ovation. Any guy who needs a prop isn't looking for a woman to love, he is looking toys and really should marry his X-Box. (Can I get a witness?!)

Your worth is far more valuable than the most precious gemstones in the world. So much so that the Creator and King of the Universe gave up His life to know you to the fullest, devoid of secrets. Tim Keller once said, "To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us." Wowza! If that isn't pursuit, I don't know what is! When you ask God to see yourself through His eyes of grace, you are then awakened to the treasure you are. You are "loved with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness [He] has drawn you." (Jeremiah 31:3)

You see, the ultimate secret to finding love is: "It's [already] in the bag!"

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Brought to you by COACH'S SADDLE BAG 23

 

Photography: Mirna Plakalovic Photography

 

MY ISSUE WITH NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS

New Years Resolutions. Even as I type the words my fingers freeze in conjunction with my mind as I try to evoke my personal response to the weightiest phrase of the year. It is utterly paralyzing to make a promise to span throughout the next 365 days when we are creatures of habitual failure constantly in need of grace. It is far too heavy and impossible a burden in my opinion. Why wait until December 31st to choose better when every day has a final hour and every minute has a final second? My issue with New Years resolutions is that every day is a choice to resolve because every day could be your final hour. Your final midnight. 

A current trending Facebook meme is describes 2016 vs 2017. 2016 is as a dark hole of despair marked with insurmountable obstacles and brokenness; while 2017 promises a dramatic comeback to once and for all "get it together" and proclaim to the world that you have finally "arrived" [Replace "arrived" with your New Years resolution]. Think Meryl Streep in August Osage County vs. Devil Wears Prada. 

We all chuckle because we are aware of how utterly silly it is to put such an impossible pressure on a new year to save our dire circumstances. But at the same time for many it is the only hope to pin on for much needed change. We think perhaps a year will hold 365 times more power to fix "it" [Replace "it" with the opposite of your New Years resolution].

But what if resolution isn't a Big Bang Theory type of magic to hit once a year at midnight? What if resolving is  a daily, moment by moment transformation? "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 ‭3:12-14‬)

Onwards and upwards is our path to glory. The prize is too magnificent to hold in a year; rather, it rolls up into eternity. "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) In light of this profound truth, you are free. Free to fail, free to get up, free to press on again and again. All in light of the knowledge that you are fully known yet fully loved by Christ. 

To be untouchable in resolve frees one to supernaturally forgive, extend grace, and love fully. So this year, my New Years resolution is a daily prayer: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm‬ ‭51:10)

My hope and prayer is that you would embrace the very hour you are in as if it is your last. Be aggressive towards forgiveness. Lavish yourself with kindness. Embrace the seconds that pass by with a determination to love in all that you do. Tonight as you ring in the new year, laugh irresponsibly and dance until you need to kick off your heels because you have been given one life to live and your debt has been paid in full. So resolve to live it fully. 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Photography: Edward Anthony Photography, @edward_anothony_ on Instagram

#GOALS VS. #REALITY: CHRISTMAS AS NEWLYWEDS

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I am almost at the six month mark of being married to Emeka. Our marriage has been a whirlwind of newness, challenges, and lessons on how to love one another more and more every day. We are soon approaching our very first Christmas together as husband and wife. In my mind prior to marriage, I used to daydream about what it would be like to spend the holidays with my husband. Fast forward to today and being in the thick of it all, I must admit that expectations vs. truth can differ quite a bit. That being said, here are two examples of #GOALS vs. #REALITY for celebrating Christmas as newlyweds...

#1: HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

GOAL: Per my entire life leading up to now, all old holiday festivities shall resume. This includes but is not limited to Mariah Carey's Christmas Pandora station on blast the day after Thanksgiving and rockin' around our decked out Christmas tree with an ornament very carefully chosen and engraved "Our First Christmas." Not to mention the Grinch and hot cocoa on stand by.

REALITY: Just because I come from a background where Christmas is on steroids doesn't mean my husband does. While for some families November means preparing for Thanksgiving, in my home  it meant: Let's start curating our Pandora Christmas station with the latest Pentatonix holiday hits while brainstorming whether the theme of the tree should be 1) A Barneys New York Christmas: Minimalist SIlver + White or 2) A Whoville Extravaganza: All Colors Unite. For Emeka on the other hand, Christmas traditions were more of a suggestion. Christmas entailed nothing more, nothing less than spending quality time with loved ones over a delicious meal and exchanging gifts and stories. Fast forward to both of us approaching the Christmas season together as a new family, and we are quickly learning that part of the joy of marriage means starting a clean slate and creating new traditions together! And for us, that also means incorporating old customs we have grown to love.

#2: CHRISTMAS GIFTS

GOAL: "Santa [Emeka], slip an iPad under the tree for me, I've been an angel all year. And hurry down the chimney tonight! Oh, and if you could fit a puppy into my stocking that would be so great! XOXO!"

REALITY: A wedding for 250 guests ain't cheap, ya'll. And my loving husband was kind enough to do whatever it took to give me the wedding of my dreams! Not only that, but he continues to be gracious and selfless in supporting me while I pursue my dreams of building a business with my blog and working in the nonprofit sector. It is also important to note that being a newlywed comes with plenty of unforeseen expenses, i.e. furnishing a home. While the glamorous Santa Baby idea continues to captivate the desire of many during this time of year, I believe the Grinch said it best: "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, ...perhaps... means a little bit more!" The truth is, the gift is the covenant my husband pledges to me every day he says "I do". The gift is my family and friends that call out of the blue to check on my heart and speak to me in my love language, no matter how far in distance we are from one another. And ultimately, the gift is God loving me so much that he sent his Son in the form of a baby so that I would know everlasting life.  

The goals are pretty, but only in theory. Sure, a picture perfect idea is enticing. But when the reality of life steps in, so often expectations are shattered leaving us confused and frustrated, thereby missing the whole reason for the season in the first place. "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6. A King became a baby so that you and I would know love to the fullest and share it with the world. No matter what stage in life you find yourself in, let's collectively lay down our expectations and embrace the truth that the prize of Christmas has already been given to us. Remember that the first Christmas tree was an old rugged cross so that today, the joy of Christmas would not merely exist in holiday traditions and gifts but rather, the salvation in Christ that lives inside you and me.

Wishing you and yours a very, Merry Christmas! 

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Photography: Jamie Wong Photography

 

CARRIE BRADSHAW LIED

Before moving to New York, I had this glamorous idea of what it would be like to live in the city. The streets would glitter to match my heels and if all else failed I could quit my day job, become a writer like Carrie Bradshaw, and spend my disposable income on Manolos and Jimmy Choos. Simple enough right? WRONG. Oh, so very wrong. I will never forget the first time I stepped through the door of my very first apartment on the Upper East Side (At least I had that in common with Carrie!). I gasped in horror as I scanned the entire layout under five seconds. My bedroom was a closet. I would have to use my oven as a drawer, I thought to myself. (At least another similarity to Ms. Bradshaw.)

From that day forward to much of my disappointment, my glitzy concrete jungle dream began to unravel. Not to mention my very limited student budget and close relationship to student loans gave zero leeway for shopping sprees. Yet the fire in my heart for all things fashion continued to grow and window shopping at Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman began to feed inspiration in me that was far more valuable than shopping bags full of goodies. The city itself also mesmerized me;  the street style of bold New Yorkers, elegant lines of sky high buildings, and an energy that never slept fueled my love for the art of dress. Since Fifth Avenue couldn't agree with my slim pocketbook, I ventured into the lower East Side to explore a less expensive option. I was strolling down 7th street and Avenue A when I noticed a quaint shop reading "AuH2O". And thus began my seven year love affair with the fashion fun-land of thrift shops.

I fondly remember eagerly waiting for the last tick on the clock in class so that I would finally be released to go "thrifting". Thrifting in my definition is "to find treasure through adventure." I had found a little nook in the East Village where tiny thrift shops were scattered. It became the highlight of my week to rummage through all the unwanted clothing and jewelry, very well knowing that there were hidden gems lying somewhere beneath the rubble. I was no longer merely a shopper. I was an explorer chasing the diamond in the rough! I also began noticing trends in the different neighborhoods per the demographic. For example, in the Upper East Side, I spotted more high luxury, coveted goods like a Celine luggage tote. In the West Village, I scored tons of unique and edgy finds like the  bright red fringe jacket in this post! 

Below are my top five favorite go-to thrift shops in NYC (for most of these, $50 goes a long way!):

AuH2O (Has a $10 and under rack!)

No Relation Vintage

Cure Thrift Shop

Vintage Thrift

Housing Works

 

The bottom line is: Never allow designer brands or the size of your wallet dictate the fun you have with style. Fashion goes so much deeper than what someone tells you to wear because for whatever reason they decided it was "in" or a must-have item or trend. I challenge you to shift that mass consumerist way of thinking. Take the current idea of what is "in" and make it about expressing what is IN YOURSELF by whatever means are available to you. God created a unique blueprint within you to share with the world! Remember, you have an irreplaceable role in an epic journey and fashion is one way to express yourself! Join me then in not only thinking outside of the box, but maybe taking the box itself and creating a hat just because it's fun, budget friendly, and downright fabulous! So sorry Carrie Bradshaw, I love you but no, high heels are not functional for running and catching cabs and yes, my shoes are just as exceptional as your Manolos and yes, yes, YES, they were under $10!!!

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Photography: Mirna Plakalovic Photography

 
 

WEAR YOUR CROWN, BELOVED

Ever since I was a little girl I have had a love affair with dresses. The poofier, the better. I remember at about age five my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and without a moment's hesitation I answered, "A princess." Even at such a young age, there was a desire growing inside me to be a part of some grand story in which I would be the leading lady. Stasi Eldridge in her book Captivating says, “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.” I don't know about you but for me, this rings so true. 

Flash forward a couple decades and that longing to be an irreplaceable character in an epic journey continues to tug at my heart strings. No wonder when Duchess Kate married Prince William, no matter what time zone, the world held bated breath while longingly staring at their television screen (Insert mental note to watch the latest Netflix series "The Crown"; I hear great things!). When I think of royalty, sovereign power, unprecedented grace and elegance come to mind. As a princess, you are an heir to a golden name that can never be taken away from you, although you did nothing to earn it. While I long to be a princess the full truth is that more often than not, I feel more like a pauper with a counterfeit identity. 

I used to have this terrifying recurring dream. There was this noble and good King who lived in a lavish castle. He was pacing around distraught and ran outside where he mounted his horse and sped down to the village. There was a deep sense of remorse and urgency. The dream flashed forward to a dark alley tucked away. It was filthy with trash and full of unexpected danger lurking around every corner. I began to notice a girl covered in dirt digging around and hiding in the gutter. To my shock, the King jumped off his horse and ran straight to the girl, gently coaxing her with kind words off the ground and into his arms. The girl turned towards me and to my horror I recognized her face. The girl was me. I held my breath as I watched the King carry her on his horse and back to castle. Upon arrival he dismissed the servants and himself bathed her in perfume and dressed her in fine garments. I was confused because instead of anger and frustration on his face was pure compassion and love at her return. She must be his princess, I thought to myself. Finally, the King revealed the most exquisite crown and tenderly laid it on her head. They both fell into the sweetest embrace full of forgiveness and in that moment, all had been washed clean and all wrong had been forgotten. 

The reason I share this dream is that the very behavior of this girl has marked my own brokenness for most of my life. As a believer in Christ saved by His grace, His spotless Name has been put on me and I have become His adopted princess. 1 Peter 2:9 says, "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." This is the truth, and yet more often than not, the reality is that most times my insecurities, anxieties, and doubts seem much bigger and louder. And in these moments, I am guilty of running. Running from the truth of my salvation and who I already am in Christ: Chosen. Royal. Holy. Special. Light. 

I have a feeling this very thing resonates with many of you as well. I want you to know that you are not alone. I hear you and know exactly how bleak the struggle for identity can feel. But even more promising is that the King of whole Universe not only hears you and knows you. He CHOSE you. Did you know that you are the only thing God was foolish enough to die for? That's how loved you are. That's how bottomless the price to ransom you cost. And if Duchess Kate didn't have to lift a finger to earn her crown, then surely you are eternally secure in your royal inheritance! 

Personally, not having to work for my royal status is the biggest relief! No matter how many times you slip up or run back to the gutter, God is always eager to forgive and wash you clean with His Presence. You are forever declared His Princess. I guess that's why He had to wear a crown of thorns when he was being mocked on the way to the cross. So that today, you and I can confidently put on the royal crown of His salvation. And in the times of weakness when you fall to the darkness in this world and think you are a pauper, you can (and will!) be empowered to get back up, stand tall, and declare the truth over the lies.  

Wear your crown proud, beloved; you are fully known and fully loved just as you are.

 

Xoxo, Diwa Doll

 

Dress: Wear The Paint

 

Photography: Edo Photo Media