The Power of Princesses And Discipleship

My body melted into the chair, tired from such a long and intense week full of emotions and stress and upsets. Even though it was early, it felt SO nice to sit in the presence of a trusted companion – a confidant. We had two little angels dancing their way around us periodically…movies, coloring books, dolls, and other random toys littered the floor. Sleepovers and princesses, dreaming and dancing, silliness at it’s finest and most innocent. These beauties are priceless. It brought me joy just to watch them be unashamedly themselves in a world where, outside these doors, we are so often demanded to be anything but ourselves.

Little girls…dancing, swaying, laughing, singing. The purest image of innocence and love. Even though it helped my heart to watch them be themselves, my poor heart still felt unbearably heavy. I sighed – feeling the chair against my back, trying to sort through the confusion in my own head…where do I start? Where do I even begin?!

As I spilled my week out before this wonderful and trustworthy friend of mine I could literally feel myself get lighter. What a relief it is to share our burdens and our heavy loads. We don’t EVER have to struggle through life alone – there is always someone who is willing to help us carry our baggage and sort through it – compartmentalize what we need to keep and what we can toss out. And in the early morning light, the rain soft on the windows, and the back ground of little princesses laughter, this sweet human said something that stuck with me throughout the entire day…

We often wonder why God lets the awful things happen in our lives and in the world around us. We tend to look around and zone in on the tragedies, wondering where He is and what good could possibly come from all of this. What we neglect to remember and think about is the shear amount of catastrophe that he is preventing moment by moment. We think about how bad things are right now, but just imagine how much more awful they would be if God wasn’t interceding on our behalf every single moment of every single day?!

It blew my mind. All I ever zone in on is the things in my life that feel uncomfortable and “bad.” I don’t focus enough on 1. thanking God for the trials, knowing that He is sovereign and will work them for my good and 2. thanking God for all the pain I will never experience and feel because He is preventing it and stepping in on my behalf without me even realizing it.

I think if we experienced even the smallest fraction of the things God is protecting us from, it would literally (and spiritually) kill us. There is so much heartache and pain in this world – can you imagine if we didn’t have a God who was fighting for us? What if we didn’t have a God who has already stepped in and won the battle for us – the ones we don’t even realize are happening and the one’s we haven’t even faced yet?

Another reminder from this sweet, sweet friend: We don’t always have to know. We don’t always need the answers. Our drive to know as much as possible or even to know EVERYTHING is not admirable – it’s a quest for control. There is a difference between seeking out answers and feeling as though we can’t exist without them.

I think one of my new goals in life is to maintain joy and peace in the midst of trials and especially in the midst of the unknown. I seek out answers constantly, I lose sleep over the things I don’t know. Sitting in the unknown and finding joy and peace among the fear and confusion is ultimately what God wants for us. Trusting that He is fighting on our behalf – the battles we can see in front of us as well as all the millions and trillions of battles we’ll never be made aware of – these are admirable things. These are the things God wants for us.

Find your person. Find your confidant. Sit with them. Talk to them. Mostly, listen to all they have to share with you. We weren’t made to do life alone. If you can, find little princesses to lighten your heart – to watch them dance is to watch God create life in places we may have never thought to look, to hear them laugh is to hear the angels applauding in heaven.

Though we may not be able to see his purpose or his plan, the Lord of heaven is on His throne and in firm control of the universe and our lives.”

-Max Lucado

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2 Corinthians 12:9

My grace is sufficient for you.”

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Hidden Prayers.

Still. Cool. The light shines through the stained glass windows creating constellations of bright colors on the floor – shifting and swaying as the breeze softly blows the limbs of trees outside. The room is dark aside from the light from these windows.

I strike the string of my instrument – bow hair meets metal string and the sound echos through the wooden instrument, propped against my collar bone, and resonates throughout my entire body. Deep inside my bones, I can feel the pulse of the vibration as the sound waves trickle through the atmosphere. I can feel the sounds reverberate through the stillness of the air around me.

One note. Then Two. Then the opening of a Bach Partita. I am trying to make friends with this music. I am trying to convey a message. I over think, over analyze the rhythms, the pitch patterns, the chords – I try to read between the lines of what was happening in Bach’s life as he wrote this music. But right now, right here – all alone in this quiet and darkened sanctuary, I am not thinking about what note comes next or how to phrase the next four measures.

Right here and right now I am allowing myself to be free. I am connecting with the Lord. I am playing music for an audience of One. This is me in my element – a spiritual moment of intense intimacy falling on an ordinary day, not pre-planned or sought out.

In these serene moments I find that I lose myself. I lose track of time. I lose track of what note comes next – I lose track of the planning and focusing that music so often demands. I lose track of my surroundings because I am unaware of anything but the Lord.

My greatest, most intimate prayers happen through the notes I play on the violin when I am alone in a room worshiping God with my music. I allow myself to become aware of the feeling of my hand on the fingerboard – lightly pressing down on the metal of the string. I allow myself to feel the weight of my arm as I drag the horse hair of my bow across the string – up and then down – the string vibrating back and forth with fervor each and every time I play. I allow myself to notice the way the wood feels against my neck – safe, comforting, familiar. I allow myself to trust my feet, planted firmly to the floor, and I close my eyes. I am literally whispering prayers through the notes that float up into the air – a chorus of all the deepest thoughts – my fears, my joys, my insecurities, my hopes, and my dreams.

In this moment I am most authentically myself. Nothing matters but my connection with the Lord. Time seems to stand still as I use everything He’s given me to give back to Him. These little moments – tucked quietly in my days, often times hidden and disguised underneath other things – these are why I play violin. These moments are my way of worship, they are how I remind myself who I am and Whose I am.

I needed this moment today. Thank you, thank you, Jesus!

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When introverts go to church, we crave sanctuary in every sense of the word, as we flee from the disorienting distractions of twenty-first-century life. We desire to escape from superficial relationships, trivial communications and the constant noise that pervade our world, and find rest in the probing depths of God’s love.”
Adam S. McHugh

Where words leave off, music begins.”
Heinrich Heine

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When What We Say Isn’t What We Live

I jammed my finger down hard on the button labeled “backspace” and furrowed my eyebrows as I watched 2 hours worth of work disappear off the screen before me. Unraveling the sentences and words faster than I had been able to string them together – like a badly knitted scarf that comes undone at the edges and then quickly spirals out of control until it’s back in it’s original form….a single strand of yarn….a black page with that obnoxious cursor blinking.

That little line taunts me – black, white, black white, black, white – because there are so many ideas that I have; so much that I want to say that sounds good in my head and then when I go to write it down, to try to articulate it in written words, it just never feels as though it adds up to anything that’s worth anyone’s time.

I’m trying to orchestrate a story. My story. But the trouble comes when the words we’re writing down on the page aren’t the ones that we SHOULD be writing to accurately speak our truths. Is the story we’re writing for ourselves the one we see ourselves in or is the story we’re writing for ourselves the one that God has gone before us and already written?! When what we’re writing for ourselves doesn’t fall in line with what God has already written for us we end up with a lot of – black, white, black, white, black, white – cursors taunting us again and again. And then again.

When I’m most able to write is when the words I’m typing are in line with the way I’m truly living…when the story I’m telling is the actual story I’m living. It’s so tempting to tell all the great parts of our lives – to talk it up and make it sound like “everything is good” and we’re living our dream life with our dream people in our dream places. But that’s a measured life. That type of living isn’t fulfilling because it isn’t real. We can be seen and loved to our core when we aren’t able to sink into and invest in the lives of others – and we can’t invest in others when we’re so busy staring at a blank page – black, white, black, white, black white.

If the story we’re articulating isn’t the one that God’s already written, there’s a beautiful truth: We don’t have to stay in stories not meant for us (yes, even if they’re the ones we wrote for ourselves). Failures, heartaches, trials, loss, burdens, mountains to climb – these are all beautiful parts of our lives that make up our TRUE stories. Those are the things that give us connection to others and have helped shape who we are. Those things create the words that we string into sentences to decorate the white pages that lie before us. Those painful, heart wrenching, and tear stained stories are what chase away the – black, white, black, white, black, white – mundane of our lives.

If we are telling a story with our life and it’s not the story God’s written for us, there will be a lot of – black, white, black, white, black, white – moments filled with frustration and roadblocks. If you find yourself there in that unauthentic, closed off place, be comforted by knowing that you can always start where you are and start rewriting your story. Use what God’s given you and write your true self down on paper – when yourself authentic, vulnerable, and wholeheartedly YOU in all the glorious ways God designed you and wrote out your life, you will find that you no longer struggle with the – black, white, black, white, black, white.

Make the stories that you’re telling the world count. Make the stories you’re telling be worth repeating. Make the stories you’re telling change hearts and change lives. Make the stories you’re telling be the actual stories you’re living, no matter whether they’re the stories you would write for yourself or not.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Maya Angelou

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After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
Philip Pullman

Masking Your Story

Maybe it was because I felt as if I didn’t know the lies from the truths. Maybe it was because I felt as though I’d been misled my entire life. For 12 years I believed one thing to be the only thing that was true – I didn’t question it or even really think about it all that much. It was what it was and what it was, was truth to me. But then suddenly it wasn’t. Suddenly it was a lie…I had been misled, misinformed, lied to for 12 years.

I realize now that it is actually much more complicated than all of that. However, at the young and vulnerable age of 12, I saw it as a lie. The reality hit me that lies are easy to tell – often times, in difficult situations, lies are easier to tell than the truth. But lies hurt a whole lot more. I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut – and what’s worse, no one even acknowledged everything that had previously been lies…to me, it seemed as though they were only sorry that they got caught in the lie. My family, the people I loved and trusted the most, suddenly felt distant. I felt so alone and scared and the reality finally hit me – people can wear invisible masks. Not everyone is who they say they are. Discretion in life, in choosing who to trust with our vulnerabilities, is a learned skill. One that I was forced to learn in a matter of minutes, not from lunch time drama or after school shenanigans, but within the comfort and confines of my very own home – the place that was supposed to be my refuge.

All that being said, masks are probably my least favorite things on earth – they symbolize and take on a literal meaning that I have had such awful experiences with that I can’t help but feel my stomach drop and get dizzy and sick when I encounter them. They are one of the scariest things to me, not because of what they literally are, but because of what they metaphorically symbolize.

So when the topic of Sunday’s sermon was the importance of group life within the church community, I was a bit confused when my pastor pulled out a mask and put it on (and internally screaming!).

As he is preaching about the dire need to be our authentic selves, I was reminded of something that was said by Laura Yougkin in a speech I sat in on during my time in Nashville last week. She spoke to how often times the stories we tell about ourselves are not the true stories we’re living behind the scenes.

I desperately long to be authentic and vulnerable, to wear my heart out on my sleeve. I want to connect on a deeper level with the beautiful people surrounding me – I want to allow myself to be my true self and lean on them for support and guidance all while having them know that they have the space to do the same with me. I so badly want to trust and be trusted. But how?

If I let my guard down with others, I am taking a HUGE risk – it may be well received it may not be, they may prove to be untrustworthy or they may end up being my greatest confidant. There’s no way to know without trying. I’ve been burned SO many times before in such overwhelmingly huge ways, that for my to trust others is an anxiety-inducing, nauseating thought to even entertain, much less to act on.

But if I hide from others then others around me will hide too. By making the conscious decision not to hide, I am thereby giving others permission to not hide and to be their true selves. By telling the story that’s true and living authentically, I am calling others to do the same and I am giving them permission to be real. And when I’m real and the people around me are also real, that’s when the true connection happens.

We won’t experience growth or transformation while wearing masks – no matter how intricately or beautifully designed they may be. It’s impossible to experience, in its fullness, the community that God has designed and created us for unless we are willing to take a blind leap of faith, remove our masks, and be who we truly are – burdens, brokenness and all.

You see, the story I was told during my younger years was not the real story. I know the real story now and I’m working every single day at healing from story it’s self, but even more so, I’m working at healing from the lie that was the mask of the true story. What’s beautiful about growth and learning is that we don’t have to stay in a story that doesn’t serve us. Some stories aren’t meant for us and it’s okay to walk away from them. But we don’t need to hide them or be ashamed of them because the failures, trials, and heartaches are the things that have helped shape who we are and what we’re becoming. We don’t have to stay in a story we don’t like. But we shouldn’t just put on a mask around others in order to cover up what we believe to be our weaknesses and pain.

Make the conscious decision to remove your mask. Address your story, even in all your fear and shame, address it and then decide if you want to walk away and start afresh on a new page.

Our stories are the books of our lives, but we don’t have to stay stuck in one chapter trying to hide and manipulate things with masks on and facades up.

No more hiding.

No more masks.

Tell your story as it is – raw, vulnerable, authentic, real.

Then, if you choose, start a new chapter.

The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
Jim Morrison

Colossians 3:14

And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

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Who is to Blame? Clinging to God in the Midst of Unfortunate Circumstances.

Something about this women I had never met before intrigued me. After the meeting we both happened to be at the candy table sneaking extra handfuls of jelly beans – hoping and praying that we didn’t get the whacky vomit flavor or the buttered popcorn. Ick! I began talking with her about who she is and what she does…and we ended up exchanging very abbreviated parts of our stories. She battled cancer….twice. Once when she was 18-19 and once a few years ago. Because she had cancer her college situation was “atypical” similarly to mine. We battled different diseases and fought for our lives in different ways, but when you meet someone with whom you can relate and share war stories with, it leaves a mark on you. It’s like you already instantly have things in common and share a special bond.

One thing she mentioned was how angry she was at God when she was first diagnosed at such a young age and then forced to live life differently from how she planned. It struck me because I had felt the EXACT same way (although time and distance and life have put me so far from that feeling that I’d simply forgotten I had felt it in such intensity). We chatted for awhile longer about how our individual experiences helped to shape us and more importantly, our relationships with Jesus and by the end of our conversation I felt like I had a new friend, someone I could lean on and also provide support for. Life is easier when you do it alongside friends.

So, who IS to blame? Who is to blame for illnesses – both physical or mental? Who is to blame for the unfortunate circumstances or the negative things we experience?

For the longest time I blamed God for my struggles – the viciousness of an eating disorder, the black cloud of depression, and the brain numbing anxiety. I had the victim card out and I was playing it STRONG. Then there was a portion of time where I blamed God AND my family. Then there was even a portion of time, the most difficult, I would say, where I actually blamed myself. During that last portion of time I ran from God, but in a different way – I was scared, fearful, and ashamed…thinking that neither God nor anyone else could ever love me because I had made too many mistakes and hurt too many people. I believed I was unlovable and I did my absolute best to hide from God (to no avail, obviously).

I know now that, by running from God, I actually inflicted more pain and heartache on myself than would have been experienced if I had run TO God. In looking back I wonder why my first reaction was to find someone to blame? Why do we always have to blame someone or something for anything bad that occurs?

I believe that Satan uses blame as one of his primary tools to trap us – blaming leads to shaming…either others (which then creates relational issues which typically always end in isolation or abandonment) or ourselves (which then leads to an immense shame which drowns us and leaves us crippled by fear).

What I’ve realized over the years of my own struggle is that in my own case, and the cases of many others that I know, there is actually NO ONE to blame. No one WANTS to get sick and 99% of the time no one else wants someone else to be sick either. Why would someone HOPE that there family member would develop an eating disorder and almost die? Why would someone wish cancer on anyone? Our friends and our families love us with an imperfect, often times broken, love – but it’s love, nonetheless. So imagine how much our heavenly father loves us?!?! His love is PERFECT, and covers the entire world. He created everything around us and within us. But He didn’t create cancer, or eating disorders, or mental illnesses, or physical illnesses that leave people crippled in pain, fear, and shame. He didn’t create those things that break us down and rip families apart. Those things, those are from Satan – those are Satan’s tools to rip us away from God. Satan trips us up with those things, leaving us feeling alone, abandoned, unlovable, and then we lash out with blame and shame and who gets targeted? It’s different for everyone and sometimes, like with me, it evolves….but typically it’s God we take our anger out on. The One being who loves us unconditionally and without reserve – the one who sent His son to die for our sins so that we could be forgiven and enter through the gates of heaven.

If He is an all powerful God then why does He heal some people but not others? Why do people die of cancer or other disease? Why do I have to deal with this burden of illness and others have perfect lives?”

I’ve heard it all and so much more. But I hope you can find comfort in this, my friends: God didn’t create those painful things – emotional, physical, mental, spiritual – He wants us to be well and to thrive. God didn’t create diseases or wish early deaths on people. Those things that are breaking you down, the things that you don’t understand and that make you angry at God – those are from Satan. Satan swoops in and bestow those nasty surprises on us. But God can take any work of Satan and transform it into good. He can take the ugliest, most hopeless situation and use it to change the lives of many people.

Max Lucado says, “He will heal you, my friend. I pray that He will heal you instantly. He might choose to heal you gradually. But this much is sure, Jesus will heal us all ultimately.” (God is With You Everyday, page 270).

The hardest thing to wrap my head around is the fact that God heals and provides restoration, but it’s not always as WE would choose to provide healing and restoration. We have to accept God’s provision and trust that He knows best – after all, He can see the entire picture where we can only get a glimpse at the portion right in front of us. Sometimes He heals instantly and miraculously…sometimes He heals gradually (although no less miraculously), and sometimes He uses the pain and heartache of brokenness to heal us in ways we didn’t know we needed (or would choose ourselves) and sometimes those broken things that never seem to heal – those end up being the most miraculous gifts we have ever received.

I am alive today because I chose to quit fighting against God and run to Him for strength, help, and guidance. I couldn’t fight anorexia on my own, and I especially couldn’t fight anorexia while being angry at God (and literally the entire world). Once I leaned into God’s strength and trusted His provision, my life changed in ways I never could have imagined.

Restored relationships.

Healing.

Michigan.

Church.

Music School/education.

The SWEETEST pup ever.

Writing.

Friends.

A renewed sense of life and a new found freedom…all because I made the choice to accept that no one, especially not God, was to blame for what happened to me. Satan will try to trick us, friends. He will go to any lengths necessary to rip us out of God’s grasp and then he will use our weaknesses and vulnerabilities against us – trapping us in a cycle of blaming and shaming. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to trust that God has a plan throughout all our brokenness…that He sees us, He hears us, He is fighting for us, and that He knows best.

Holding anger is a poison…It eats you from inside…We think that by hating someone we hurt them…But hatred is a curved blade…and the harm we do to others…we also do to ourselves.”
Mitch Albom

2 Corinthians 5:7

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

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I am blessed beyond measure and there aren’t words that could accurately depict my gratefulness for the Lord’s provision in my life….from 2014 when I was a walking dead person to 2017. I still have my struggles, no doubt – that won’t ever go away (because we’re human and we live in an imperfect world) but I am more alive than I have ever been and I have a renewed sense of peace because my hope is in the Lord. I am living proof that He can take what Satan intends for evil and mold it into good.  I am living proof that He works miracles each and every day. Anger holds no place here! To God be the glory – forever and ever!

Taking Control of Your Uncontrollable Life.

This will come as absolutely NO surprise to anyone who has known me for more than 5 seconds, but I am a control freak. Not in the, grab-things-out-of-your-hands-and-do-it-myself kind of way, but in the I-must-always-know-what’s-coming-and-have-a-say-in-the-outcome type of way. I am more than happy to follow the lead of others, but when it comes down to controlling my own destiny – believe you me, I have tried relentlessly to force pieces to fit where they were not designed to fit.

I spent a lot of time on boats this summer (and when I say “a lot” what I actually mean is that I spent more time on boats this summer than I, personally, have ever spent on boats before but not actually a LOT of time, generally speaking). I didn’t realize how much I loved the spray of the water and the gentle lull of the boat as it rocks back and forth, swaying me into a restful sleep under the warmth of the sun. It made me wonder what it would be like to be on a huge ship! I’ve never been on a cruise or even on a large boat, and to be honest – being trapped in an enclosed space with the same people, surrounded by miles and miles of shark infested waters, doesn’t exactly sound like the type of vacation I’d be interested in. I digress. I’ve never been on a ship before, but I can only imagine how the captain of the ship must feel.

Can you imagine being responsible for all those people’s lives? One wrong move and the ship goes down. It makes me anxious just thinking about it.

In a way, we’re kind of all captains though. We all feel the burden of trying to take control of our uncontrollable lives – until we finally surrender and acknowledge that we can’t ever be FULLY in control. Our lives are our ships. We can be the captains, we can steer the ship (on or off course, as it may be) but the reality is that we are NOT ever in control of all the variables.

Mostly, we can’t control the weather. We can try to prepare if we know a storm is coming, but we can’t ever control the weight of the down pour, the length of time it rains, the height of the waves that are like boxers in a ring, throwing punches and threatening to toss us overboard.

Life, as much as it pains me to admit it, is unpredictable.  I can attest that I have wasted SO much time and energy worrying about and trying to control the outcomes of situations where I had ZERO control. There comes a time when we have to accept that we have the power within us to do whatever it takes to prepare ourselves for success, but then at some point, the results are no longer in our hands.

Choosing to surrender is not the same as playing the victim card. We either did our best or we didn’t. We either put in the preparation time and efforts or we chose not too. We either assessed all the possible outcomes and put in the time to consider all the variables or we didn’t. Acknowledging our lack of control of some variables is not to say that we have no part to play in the outcome of our lives.

Acknowledging our lack of control is our way of making peace with God’s plan. Time and time again I have to constantly remind myself that the work I’ve done is enough. I am enough. My self deprivation and burn-out are not medals to be worn or trophies to be flaunted. I am not rewarding myself or proving myself more worthy by walking the EXTREMELY thin line between barely getting by and collapsing from exhaustion. A smile plastered on my face and accompanied by a weak and feeble, “I’m fine, how are you?” serves no one if there is no life behind it. When I am too focused on controlling my life – the outcomes of my hard work and all my seemingly noble efforts, I am too distracted to enjoy the benefits and the rewards that come from whatever the outcome happens to be.

I don’t know what’s best. All I know is what I’m experiencing in the moment, what I’ve felt in the past, and what I HOPE to accomplish in my future. But you know who holds the answers to all those things?

God. God knows my past, my present, and He has a MAGNIFICENT plan for my future. But that plan can only be fulfilled if I let Him be my guide.  I can steer the ship, but I have to be willing to follow the path He sets before me if I want to reach the end destination on His map.  My best life, my greatest accomplishments, my future self – He knows all of that already. In fact, He planned and wrote all of that Himself.

I can be the captain of my own ship, sure. But sometimes when it rains, it pours, and accepting that I can’t control the weather is the only thing that will allow me to be able to stop, breathe, and dance in the rain.

His plan is perfection. His plan is awesome, unreal, and unimaginable to us in our present day circumstances.  His plan ends with heaven. Storms are a part of life – a part that we have no control over. We can fight, struggle, and tear ourselves apart trying to manipulate and control the storms that cross our paths. We can try to swim against the crashing waves, but even if we are successful in fighting them a few times, eventually we’ll drown beneath their weight and force.

Surrender. Ride the waves. Let God calm the storm and watch the magnificent paths that open up before you as you follow His plan.  You can be the captain, but He controls the waves and the currents around you. Release control and breathe in the salty, fresh air. Enjoy where life takes you and follow where He leads.

There are ships sailing to many ports, but not a single one goes where life is not painful.”
Fernando Pessoa

God Is God…And I Am Not.

Yesterday morning as I wandered up and down the hallways of the practice corridor at the school of music, anxiously awaiting the time of my orchestra audition I began to see lots of familiar faces (as well as quite a few new ones). I exchanged hellos and quick conversations with some people and kept meandering up and down, up and down – anxiety works its way into my legs and forces me to move otherwise I often times feel as though I may literally explode and burst into a million tiny pieces.

I’m walking and walking, waving at people, saying hello, occasionally introducing myself to someone new – one thing becomes blatantly obvious to me…everyone’s hickeys are so much worse than they were when we left school last April. (For those of you who don’t understand that reference, violinist and violists often times get a bruise-like mark on their necks where their instruments rub and create a callus from hours and hours of playing. People often time refer to it as a “hickey” because, from a distance, that’s what it looks like.) I can literally feel myself becoming self conscious and red in the face as I realize that my hickey is actually LESS apparent than it was last Spring. I begin the downward spiral of second guessing all my decisions I’ve ever made in my life and tearing myself down for not “working harder” or “doing more”. I begin to wonder if I’ll ever be good enough.

Those downward spirals never lead me anywhere worth going, yet somehow I still fall into their trap more often than I’m willing to publicly admit on the internet.

A few hours later and I can’t feel my fingers – my nails are a beautiful, yet slightly alarming, shade of blueish purple. My cheeks and the tip of my nose are a fresh shade of rose-pink and my lungs are rising and falling, being filled to the brim with cool, crisp, refreshing air. I close my eyes as I fly across the ice, the laughter from my three best friends rising up into the air and dancing all around me. This morning feels like it didn’t exist, like it didn’t even happen. I am here. I am in this moment with these beautiful people – the ones who don’t care what grades I get or how I perform on any given day, they love me for ME. They value me for ME.

A few laps around the ice rink and some valuable one on one conversation time with each of these special souls throughout the afternoon reveals my anxieties and fears to be real feelings, but false facts. Sweet reminders from them pull me back into the reality of my own life – my own story:

My values are different than those of the people around me.

My life has a different trajectory.

I am going different places.

My life will (and should) look different.

And most of all: THAT’S OKAY!!!

I don’t want to sit in an orchestra for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be a soloist or a professor at a university. I want to travel, do missions work, use music to benefit God’s kingdom, teach in foreign countries to underprivileged communities, start up music programs in schools where they don’t exist, help others to seek out the Lord, bring people to Christ, and just generally make a difference in the lives of the people around me. There aren’t many people dancing in my school circles who have those same interests. And that’s okay, maybe that’s even a good thing?!

I am finding that I have to constantly guard my heart. I have to relentlessly remind myself that God is God and I am not!!! God is good ALL the time. He sees, not just the big picture, but the WHOLE ENTIRE picture whereas I can only see a few measly puzzle pieces.

I am slowly learning (and relearning time and time again) that God will close doors in our lives and, at the time, it may not make any sense to us. BUT, God always knows what’s coming, what’s next, and most importantly: what’s BEST in the long run.

Often times, what feels like rejection in the immediate moment will prove to be God’s hand of intervention and grace. Sometimes doors close and they feel like they smack us right in the face as they slam shut. The sound of a door closing can be deafening and the sting can feel like it will never subside. But it will. Time heals a lot of wounds, and God heals ALL wounds. God will close the doors that need to be closed because He is God. We are not.

One thing I have to consistently keep telling myself is that God cares about (and HAND-MADE) my destiny – everyone’s destiny, in fact. God made each of us for a unique and individual purpose…a job that only we can do. We may not know what that is, what that looks like, or sometimes we may THINK we know what that’s supposed to be, but I speak from experience when I say that we can THINK we know and be completely wrong.

It’s never the end of the world. I sat with some dear friends of mine last Friday as we did a book study on “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. It came up in discussion and so I felt it appropriate to assert to them my own belief that there is NO mistake any of us could ever make that is not fixable, treatable, amendable, etc. For one thing – miracles exists and are happening every single day. But mostly, there’s nothing we can do to make God stop loving us and if our identity is rooted and grounded in that love, then there’s no mountain we can’t climb. We may mess up, trip up – sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. Even if a door slams shut due to our own sins, you can rest assured that God will step in and open another one. If pain rears her ugly head, steps in to throw a fit and starts slamming doors left and right – no fear. Ride out the waves knowing that, although God never inflicts pain on us, He will step in and provide a way out for us…He will use our pain and our past sins to better our future. He uses everything for good.

Because He is God and I am not.

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Our God is a God who creates opportunity. He opens the most unconventional doors in order to persuade us to keep seeking Him above all else. He closes doors we so desperately want to walk through. He shuts the doors that we cling to much longer than we should – trying to jimmy open the knob, pick the lock, kick down, or do anything we can within our own strength to force OUR way. Doors close for specific reasons. Sometimes we don’t like those reasons, a lot of times they hurt as they’re closing, and occasionally we may never figure out the reason for a closed door. But we can lay our heads down at night and sleep peacefully knowing that God is in control of the opened doors and the closed doors. He is behind the scenes orchestrating it all because He can see the whole picture whereas we can only see our immediate surroundings.

Here’s to the sweet, priceless memories made with friends – the people who remind us who we are, what we value, and where we’re going. Here’s to the start of a new school year, a crazy semester filled to the brim with opportunities, experiences, and tons of hard work. Here’s to a God who knows every moment of my day before I open my eyes each morning. Here’s to a God who ALWAYS has the final word.

I’m so glad that God is God so that I don’t have to be.

He is God.

And I am not.

Hallelujah!

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
C.S. Lewis

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.”
Erma Bombeck

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