Have you ever gone through a set number of hours and it just feels like…constantly moving. It can be hard to process everything because life is coming at you so fast, but at the same time, you are exhausted because the days feel so, SO long. You can’t sit down or stop to take a breather because it’s just one thing after the other – but it’s all SO good. Everything feels so great that all you can do is anticipate the fall that is sure to come after such a remarkable high. Ever experience that or is it just me?
The 72 hour stretch between 12am Friday morning and 12am Sunday evening were some of the most remarkable of this entire semester. I wish that I could accurately depict the experiences and all the feelings I had but there aren’t words to adequately describe things or ways that I could do them justice.
My friend, Julia, arrived around 12:30am Friday morning. She drove across the country from Florida to visit potential graduate schools and Michigan was her final stop – LUCKY ME! We were counselors together at Meadowmount School of Music this past summer. She is a remarkable, strong human being and one of my favorite memories with her from the summer is when we went on a hike – we were both at the tail end of the group, trying to keep up (somewhat unsuccessfully), and we got talking about deep, meaningful topics – we exposed our weakest spots of our lives and the mess ups and screw ups of the past that have undoubetdly played a crucial role in how we’ve developed as human beings. We shared some remarkable things and she displayed so much strength and grace (through words – neither of us showed much grace while hiking haha). When we got back from that hike we were both exhausted, but I know that I felt so much more peace and so much more strength – it was as if her courage and bravery had rubbed off on me just a teeny, tiny bit.
And here she was – in my neck of the woods! She arrived from Chicago and we went to bed almost immediately. On Friday she had a lesson with a faculty member and I got to show off my school, my friends, and Ann Arbor, in general. I felt proud of where I am and the things that I have. It felt good to be able to share it with her!
Friday night we attended a women’s event at my church – Color Our World. It was a fund raiser for our orphans over seas. 400 women bought tickets to dinner and we were served by the “men in ties” (the men of the church). There was a speaker, music, and then a boutique sale (people made things and donated things and we got to get a head start on our Christmas shopping). I played violin for the music portion, so I dragged Julia to the event with me. My heart was so, so full – there was such a wide array of emotions that floated through the room where 400 women ate, talked, worshiped, and prayed together. Within my own soul, I felt so much emotion.
There was love and comfort – women who I didn’t know and hadn’t met before embraced me and lifted me up. I felt such a huge sense of community and welcome. I met some wonderful women and had some marvelous conversations that I can hopefully build upon and pursue further in the near future. I got to share my music with God and with these women – I collaborated with some other church members to perform a Bruno Mars-Ingrid Michaelson mashup which was so much fun and unlike anything I’ve ever done before!
There was pain too – witnessing these women, many of whom were surrounded by mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, etc. It made my heart ache for the relationships in my life that feel so shattered and broken. It made me long for the embrace of my sweet momma, and it left me fighting back tears at the truth of the sad reality that this will never be an experience I share with my sister, cousins, grandmother, aunt, etc. I KNOW that I am so lucky to be surrounded by friends and people who are sisters to me in my life – I have a support system like no other and “My Tribe”, as I refer to them, is nothing short of fabulous. But the pain is still there. It’s still there sitting in the bottom of my stomach when I see sisters laugh and interact. It’s still there when I watch a young person embrace a grandparent. It’s still there when I see families sitting around a table and talking, sharing, and living in love. Sometimes I wonder if there will ever be a time when it doesn’t hurt, at least a little bit.
As I sat at a table, surrounded by older women, embraced in love and community, with one of my best friends by my side, I listened to the speaker for the evening give her talk. I was expecting some cheesy, “Jesus loves you” speech and, while there were cheesy and humorous aspects to her talk, it was far more than I expected to receive that evening. Here’s my take away from what she shared…
We are women. We often times struggle with feeling like we are far too much, all the while feeling as though we could never possibly be enough. Trust me, I know because I’ve been there. I basically LIVE there. Here’s something that is comforting and maybe a bit scary if you’re a control freak like me:
Our lives are not OUR projects.
We have been designed by a designer. We have been constructed, built, painted, molded, modeled by a God who knows the before, the during, and the after of every moment of our existence. Gosh, I spend so much time (more than I would ever admit) comparing myself to those around me – my place in recovery, my musical capabilities (or lack there of), my grades, my clothes, my body, my money (and again, lack there of), my instrument, my needs – I can talk myself out of practically anything and straight into a perfect storm of doubt and insecurity. But why? I’ve been designed by the One who knows me better than I know myself. All comparison does is isolate us from the people God has placed in our lives who are wanting to love us and know us just as much as they are wanting us to love and know them! God designed us – our lives, our purpose during our time on this earth. I felt as though I had gotten the wind knocked out of me when the speaker said that God specifically placed us where we are for a reason – in our specific body, our specific mind, our specific capabilities, our specific FAMILIES. I’m ashamed to admit this, but my first thought was, “Why would God do that to me? Why would He place me in a position to take on more pain than sometimes it feels like I am able to handle – and certainly more than I ever have wanted to handle?! Why? Why? Why?” and I felt anger. But then I paused because I felt a new, weird feeling crop up inside of me…I felt…pride? I am proud of how far I’ve come. I’m proud that my mom and I are working together to break the chains and patterns that have been passed down in mother-daughter relationships in our family generation, after generation. I am proud that, after years and years of torture, I am finally learning to use my voice and speak my mind. I acknowledge that I still have so, SO far to go and there is tons of progress still to be made – but I am stepping up and speaking out – I am doing more and learning more about who I am and all that I am capable of through Christ. I am pursuing my Savior with enthusiasm and with the doors of my heart flung wide open. I know it’s not my job to fix people, especially to fix my family members – but it IS my job to take care of myself and to follow where Christ leads me and I believe that He placed me where He did…in such a broken, stifled environment, because He knows I’m capable of change. God knows I look to Him for comfort, love, and guidance and He knows that when I am focused on Him I am capable of breaking barriers and enduring discomfort. God designed me with a purpose. I am still discovering more and more about my purpose each and every day, but I am proud of where I am and I’m excited to see where He will be leading me.
We are known. It can be terrifying to realize that we are known COMPLETELY by God – we are known intimately, every thought, every fleeting feeling, every emotion, every sin, every temptation, every hurt, every struggle, every triumph, every celebration, all the ins and outs of every moment of each and every day. I feel as though that’s just a tad bit scary and intimidating sometimes. The speaker compared this to a game of Hide N Seek – the ultimate game of the human race. We are hiding and Jesus is the seeker. The game isn’t over until He finds us. He won’t give up until He finds us. No matter where we hide, or how great of a hiding place we think we’ve found, He will pursue our hearts and our minds and never give up on a relationship with us. To think that there is someone who knows all my sins and all the times I’ve crumbled under temptation, given in to the power of guilt and shame, made mistakes, spoken mean words or thought disgraceful thoughts – that’s scary. But when I think about how God knows all the times I’ve cried myself to sleep, tried to hurt myself because of the pain I was feeling, seen my tears and even collected them in a bottle, felt my frustrations, experienced the pain of words hurld at me like steak knives…when I (try) to comprehend how He was there through all of that and He felt that with me and took on the burden of that pain for me – that is remarkably powerful. And the thing about all of our sins and all of our downfalls? The thing about that is that we are forgiven. Christ died for us so that we no longer have to bear the burden of those things. All it takes is a simple conversation with Christ in order to confess those transgressions and be rid of the heavy burden of carrying them on our shoulders.
The final thing that the speaker spoke to Friday night was the FACT that we are celebrated! God delights in our victories – no matter the size of them! When we do something that follows His design for our lives, He knows it, and he celebrates that with us – He is throwing a party up in heaven and jumping for joy with all the Saints and the angels. I, personally, can’t wait till I get to heaven and get to get in on one of those parties – I bet they put even the wildest parties here on earth to shame. As women, we are celebrated by God. We should make an effort to celebrate with each other as much as we are capable, but when we aren’t – we should know in our hearts that God is up in heaven giving us a standing ovation for even the smallest victories which lead us closer to His design for our lives.
Friday night reminded me that we are women. We are always enough and never too much. We are designed by the Almighty Creator of the universe. We are known by a God who sees all our flaws and still loves us unconditionally. We are celebrated by a Savior who rejoices in even our smallest victories so long as they are a part of His great design! Our lives are not OUR projects – they are God’s projects, but what a joy and what an honor that He is blessing us with the passion, the strength, the joy, and the endurance to live out His glorious design for our lives.
Saturday morning was the calm before the storm hit! My sweet friend, Julia, went out to explore Ann Arbor while I got some stuff down around the apartment and took care of Rachi. We met up for lunch at what I think is one of my all time favorite restaurants in Ann Arbor – The Jolly Pumpkin! We had some great talks – about life, about school, about religion, and pretty much everything across the board! Lunch was, as usual, delicious and then we parted ways so she could continue exploring and I could go to my rehearsal. Shortly after my rehearsal ended my friends from Oberlin arrived and the rest of the evening was a blur of hugs, laughter, good food, AMAZING music, good talks, etc. Heewon (who came from Oberiln) was also a camp counselor with Julia and myself at Meadowmount this past summer. Let me just say – spending 8 weeks in the woods with limited contact to the outside world really makes you close with the people around you. It was so amazing catching up with her and meet her friends she brought with her TO SEE THE BERLIN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA CONCERT!
The Berlin Phil is arguably the best orchestra in the entire world. They did a residency at University of Michigan. Saturday night they performed a contemporary piece and then Mahler’s 7th Symphony. On Sunday morning they did a master class with U of M students and then they did an afternoon concert comprised of 14 short pieces that they did attacca and then Brahms 2nd Symphony. It was remarkable. There are not words I could use to ever come close to accurately depicting the fluidity and ease with which they revealed the nuances of the music they performed. It was unlike any sounds I have ever heard before in my life!
Sunday morning I played my violin in church and…I just can’t really even say what it means to me to be able to honor God with my music. I just play for Him. And I play for Him all the time, but it feels more powerful in a church setting. When I am in the sanctuary and I play music it’s as if my entire body physically becomes lighter. I feel like a weight is LITERALLY lifted off of my shoulders. I performed Meditation from Thais for the prelude for our first service and then I played with the praise band for our second service – both are so remarkably different experiences, but they have the same effect. I feel free. I feel light. I feel joyful, regardless of what’s going on in the outside world or what I have hovering over my head when I step out of church later that day. I feel His presence so vividly clearly, unlike any other time of the week when I often times feel as though I have to search for Him in the ins and outs of my days. It’s refreshing, uplifting, inspiring, joyful, passionate, and it sets the tone for my entire week. No matter what my condition is, physically, I always feel stronger after church on Sunday. I feel stronger spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically. There is definitely something to be said for being in a room with a bunch of other people and praying together, worshiping together, and sharing in community with them.
What was even more remarkable about this specific Sunday was that after I played the prelude for the first service, I went to pack up my violin to go down to the rehearsal space where praise band practiced before the later service and a women I’ve never met approached me. She hugged me and whispered in my ear:
“You are absolutely beautiful. I just have to tell you. Every time I see you, something stirs in my heart. Your music moves my soul and brings me to tears and something about you – I mean, you are beautiful on the outside, but when you walk into a room you just exude light and beauty. Thank you. Thank you for making a difference.”
I was speechless. I thanked her for sharing and for being able to see those things in me. I told her how much it meant to me that she was able to view me in that way. I walked away with my jaw probably still on the floor and my mind reeling. What had just happened? Could it be true? I was practically in tears – that is my only goal in life: to be a light to others. I want to share God and His truth and His love and ALL I WANT IS TO BE A LIGHT.
I’m not sharing this story to try to brag or make myself sound better than I am because I am no different than anyone reading this post – I am no better, no higher up, no more acclaimed by anyone in this world. I’m sharing this because I believe that it is crucial to us, as a human race, to share. Share things. If you like what someone is wearing, or the way they did their hair, or something they did – share. Say it. Tell them. Don’t feel like it’s weird and don’t worry about how they’ll react. If you love someone – say it. It’s now or never. It’s especially important to share the things about people that you see in them that they are likely not to be able to see in themselves – the beauty in their smile, or the light that they exude, the way their laughter makes you feel happier, etc. Share the things you like about them that have nothing to do with appearance – their humbleness, their gratitude, their strength in the face of adversity. SHARE. SHARE. SHARE. We live in a world that is far too self-focused. Very rarely do people take the time to admire others, to look at the people around them and appreciate what they see, much less to speak to the beauty that surrounds them. What that lady shared with me made a extraordinary difference in my day. It gave me hope, inspired me, encouraged me, brought me joy, made me smile, and I could go on and on. It’s important to speak to the strengths and the beauty of the people around us, because we have no idea what they may be going through or struggling with.
FINALLY, Sunday afternoon I had a friend (again, another person who was a counselor at Meadowmount with me this past summer) arrive to see the Berlin Phil. It was so nice to get lunch, meander around campus, catch up over coffee, and of course – to witness the Berlin Phil perform their magic! After the concert we parted ways and finally some silence set in – some peace, some stillness, some breathing room.
I crashed into bed super early Sunday evening – exhausted from the pace of a crazy 72 hours. But despite the hectic pace, which normally would have left me feeling mentally/emotionally/physically depleted – my heart felt so full as if it were bursting at the seams. What a blessing the people in my life are to me. The 72 hours between Friday morning and Sunday evening brought me such joy and inspiration and gave me the strength with which to face the remaining 4 weeks of the semester. I am tired, but my cup is overflowing and that is a beautiful, beautiful place to be.
Thanks be to God!
“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’s not just in some of us; it’s 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.”
― Marianne Williamson
“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
― Francis of Assisi