Monday Morning Musings

Today, Rachi and I woke up WAY too early. My alarm was set for 6:30am, but my brain was wired for 4am apparently. I mean, hey, what can ya do? So, we played for a little bit and then she went back to sleep (lucky dog!) as I read my bible and spent some time with God…and with coffee. At 6:30am I decided to start my day and so I took Rachi to our favorite park. With humidity still asleep and the sunlight just peeking over the edge of the horizon, we walked. It was the perfect temperature and the perfect time too because there were only a few other people out on the trail. And so, with time alone with my pup and in one of our favorite places, I kept up the dialogue with God that I had going on in my head and I tried to relax and breathe in my surroundings and the fresh cool air.

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Time in nature is so crucial to my well being. I am starting to find that I thrive off of what’s natural and what’s authentic. I used to think it was my dream to live in a big city. But I need water. I need mountains. I need sunrises and sunsets that are pure and not tainted with smog and high rises. I need early mornings and evenings where I’m crawling under the covers as the sun is setting outside – even though that’s not the “early 20’s” thing to do. I need a few really good friends, not a bunch of acquaintances. I need people who know me, ALL of me, and accept me for who I am….a human, sinner, imperfect, but also honest, empathetic, and loving. I need people who push and encourage my creativity – not ones who stomp it out like a smoldering fire. I need people who aren’t scared of the very parts of me that scare me the most and I especially need people who will be vulnerable enough to share their own scary parts with me. I need open space and quiet time. And even though I am outgoing and love interacting with people – in order to be healthy and happy, I also need a lot of time to be alone.

I used to think I could save the world. I used to think I wanted to be well known, loved by everyone, and have my name up in lights. The older I get, the more clarity I’ve received – although all those things sound nice (at times), what I truly want to do is love. I want to simply be. To exist. To live in a world where, even if I just save ONE person, that’s enough. I want everyone whose paths I cross to feel as though they are special and loved and valuable. Because they are. When people see me, hear me, and interact with me what I want more than anything in the world is for them to see Jesus, hear Jesus, and feel Jesus. I wanted to be a well known musician. But my dreams are slowly changing. More than anything in the world, I want to be like Jesus – I want to be His hands and feet. I want to help others find and experience His love and I want to love them in the ways they so badly need.

There is so much that this world does NOT have – there is so much that our souls need that is lacking. I used to think I could find it somewhere around me…that I could somehow find some magic thing that would automatically bring me happiness. I know now what I was truly looking for. I know now that it’s possible to catch glimpses of Jesus in everyday places – the passion of music, the creativity of writing and art, the serenity of nature, the joy of children’s laughter, the tears that are cried in happiness. But those things are not a means to an end…they are just the beginning. They are just the start of a wildly romantic and intimate relationship with our Savior. I want everyone to feel and experience that kind of unrelenting, compassionate, unconditional, and joyful love in their lives.

I don’t have any idea where to even begin to do these things that I want to do. All I know to do right now is to live in ways that honor God, to continue seeking Him and learning about Him, to always keep a dialogue going and to tell Him everything that’s on my heart, and to be open to receiving His love and His guidance – to follow wherever He leads even when (ESPECIALLY when) it’s hard and uncomfortable and I don’t understand it. I know that He is molding me, changing me, growing me for the use of furthering His kingdom and I want to be His light for the world.

Here’s to Monday…to early mornings, long walks, river swims, talks with God, and to hearts that constantly ache for Jesus – may that ache never stop encouraging us to strive to love and share His glory!

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“It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, she said, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.”
Shauna Niequist

“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed.”
Audrey Hepburn

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Cry Me A River

This morning I broke down in tears. I don’t cry a lot. Okay, I RARELY cry. It came on slowly and when it rains, it pours. So after a slow onset, the flood came crashing through.

The cause? Well, I think the cause comes from multiple sources, but the specific source that pulled the trigger? Social media. What a trap those darn news feeds and instagram stories can be. They can be so toxic in that they encourage and promote comparison and they aid people in painting their lives in whatever way they see fit. No one wants to log on to social media and talk about how awful their lives are (well, most people don’t set out to do that). When we log on to our computers, unlock our phone screens, sign in to websites, we are asking to see the highlights of other people’s lives – the pretty, defined, set apart things that they are choosing to share with us.

So, this morning I cried. I cried because I miss my old dog, Chloe (pictures of her showed up in my facebook memories – DARN YOU FACEBOOK!). I cried for friendships that are broken or that are slowly changing. I hate change. I even hate GOOD change. I will dig in my heels, scream cry, do whatever it takes to resist ANY form of change. I cried over guilt that I feel – shame is strictly from Satan, my friends, and unfortunately it can sneak its way into our lives and manifest in places we don’t expect – places we wouldn’t think to look for it, and then before we even have the time to recognize it – BAM! Shame is there, and it has made itself at home in our heart. What a nasty, pesky, sneaky little (huge) thing shame can be. I cried because of uncertainty – not knowing what’s to come or what my next 2.5 months will really look like, not knowing what to expect from people or places or experiences. All the fear that I’ve been absorbing and pushing down came bubbling up again – what if I’m not good enough? What if I fail? What if people don’t like me? What if I can’t do this?

Once you’re on the “what if?” train, it’s exceedingly difficult to get off. It leads to nowhere good. In fact, it usually only leads to “shoulds” and “would haves” or “could haves” and those aren’t good either.

After crying a few tears and word-vomiting on my ever-gracious-and-patient parents, I washed my face off, put on my big girl pants and tried to empty my mind of all things negative and consuming.

I think God created me to be literally incapable of meditation or of clearing my mind. I have tried SO many times and simply can’t do it. I continue to keep trying in the hope that something miraculous will happen and I will suddenly be able to just BE. No such luck today, though. What kept coming back to me? What kept popping back into my brain?

Blessings.

Grace.

Miracles, really.

Yesterday I was sitting in the back seat of a car with 3 lovely humans. I don’t actually know them all that well, but we grabbed a bite to eat, chatted, laughed, and connected. As we were riding back to church the thought occurred to me, “How did I end up here?”

How did I end up in this car with these people? How did I end up at this church? How did I end up at this school? How did I end up in this state? And then there were questions with no conceivable answers….how did I end up with this journey? How did I end up with this family? How did I end up so broken, so fragile, so weak?

But mostly this: How did I end up so lucky? And that’s where I had to pause and remind myself….I don’t believe in luck. I don’t believe in fate or coincidence or anything of the sort. I may say it lightly in passing, “You’re so lucky!” “Wow, what a coincidence!” but in my heart I know that nothing of the sort actually exists.

It’s God. God’s design. God’s plan. God’s perfect, sometimes extremely frustrating, timing.

All the answers come full circle back to God. All of them. Every time. I didn’t end up where I am, with the people around me, or who I’ve become because I “got lucky” (or some days, arguably, unlucky). I wasn’t placed in my specific family or this state, this school, this church, by mere happenstance. It’s not coincidence that I’m human—broken, flawed, weak, sinful.

It’s never random. And this is both comforting and extremely unsettling. As I rode in that car and listened to the laughter, the stories, the community forming in the air around me, I felt my heart settle. How did I end up here? God. God placed me here. He didn’t do a random toss, or a lazy throw – He placed me here. Me. Here. In this place, for a reason. My story doesn’t look like other people’s stories. That’s okay because my story has a purpose. God has a plan for all the things I’ve endured and all that I will endure in the future. God knows it all and it is all already written in His book.

That doesn’t really answer all the questions, but it eases all of the anxiety, the worries, the fear. And the fear and worry is where Satan sneaks in with his buddies guilt and shame and plants seeds of doubt in our hearts and minds. At the end of the day I don’t really believe that we NEED to have all the answers to the questions we face in life. Actually, I think it would be bad if we all had ALL the answers – then we wouldn’t need to rely on each other so much. If we all had all the answers that we need our communities would be lacking in love and friendships. Questions can be scary, especially when we feel panicked because don’t know the answer or if we suspect the answer may be something we don’t want it to be. But rest assured, friend…God has your life all mapped out – from your first cry to your final breath. He knows it all by heart.

And it is and it will be G.L.O.R.I.O.U.S.

It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel anger, sadness, and loss over broken or lost relationships, dreams, goals, families, etc. It’s okay to tell God that you’re confused, angry, hurting – He wants to know all those things. He simply wants us to talk to Him – to keep a conversation going as constantly as we can! But it’s not okay to stay sad, to continue to cry, to wallow in your hurt because when you wallow is when you open the door to Satan and he has the ability to assert himself into your life. Instead of wallowing we must remember that God is a god who cares, who knows us, who loves us, who has our entire existence planned out – every step we will take, every word we’ve spoken, even the number of hairs on our heads…He knows it ALL. Wallowing leads us to those questions without answers. They are fine questions to ask, so long as we don’t expect a concrete answer; so long as we can find peace accept that we may never know the answer. God works in mysterious, majestic ways – with plans and dreams that are greater and bigger than even our most wildest imaginations.

Thank the Lord for that! And thank the Lord that we don’t need to have all the answers to the questions surrounding us. Thank the Lord that we don’t have to map out HOW we got where we are, we simply have to thank God for getting us there. Praise Him in the triumphs and praise Him in the storms, my friends!

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Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”
Ayn Rand

Reheated Coffee.

3am. After rolling around restlessly and pleading for sleep to return for 2.5 hours, I caved and crawled out of bed. I reheated yesterdays coffee, now ever-so-slightly stale from sitting on the kitchen counter for 16 hours and sat at my kitchen table with my journal and devotional books in front of me. Okay God, you wanna talk – I can’t sleep, I can’t even rest, so here I am to listen. Let’s chat.

The very first thing I read?

God has gifted you with talents. He has done the same for your neighbor. If you concern yourself with your neighbors talents, you will neglect yours. But if you concern yourself with yours, you could inspire both.”

-Max Lucado

It’s not that I’m any less inspired than I used to be. I’m no less passionate, no less motivated, and I haven’t lost any interest or desire in pursuing my “dreams.” It’s just that maybe my dreams have changed?

Changed is the wrong word. My dreams have expanded – they have grown bigger and wilder than I ever realized that they could. It’s totally a God thing, ya’ll.

It feels weird, foreign, and even wrong to share my new dreams and goals with people. When I tell people of my plans or what I feel has been placed on my heart I often get a shocked looked and, “Wait, really? Seriously?” and conversation that follows is basically a bunch of jumbled up words I try to awkwardly string together in order to justify myself and my own pursuits.

One thing that these incremental “deviations from course” have taught me is that comparison truly is the thief of joy. I’m finally learning that I can be okay if I’m just okay. I don’t NEED to be the absolute best at everything I do. I don’t have to constantly say yes, yes, yes. I don’t need to be the best student, the best musician, the best whatever-it-is-I-try-to-do-er. I just need to be MY best.

Maybe it’s a confidence thing? You see, when your identity is rooted in Christ, you no longer feel threatened by other people’s successes. You are finally able to stand along side them, cheer them on, and not completely hate yourself while doing it. Sure, sometimes jealousy creeps in, but you are able to identify it, call it out for what it is, and then walk away from it. I feel so much more at home with who I am and what I’m doing with my life – I am honestly o proud, not of my achievements or the things I’ve done – but I’m proud of the life I’ve built for myself. It doesn’t look the way I thought it would look 6 years ago – it doesn’t look like I envisioned it would look even 2 years ago. But here’s the caveat: it looks WORLDS BETTER than I ever imagined it would or could look.

I truly believe, with all my heart, that God has big plans for me. I believe that He intends to use me to further His glory and His Kingdom. I believe that He will show me the way to go and He will always be willing to lead me if I am perceptive and open to His callings for my life. I believe that God gave me talents and that there are things He wants me to do that only I can do. And I believe that all of these things are also true for everyone else surrounding me. I have so much confidence, not in myself, but in my God and what He is doing in and through my life that I don’t have to worry about what the person beside me is doing. I am able to free up room in my heart and my mind in order to cheer them on, to encourage them, to love them, and to be light in their life when I am able to realize that – just like God plans to use me – He plans to use them for purposes jut as important and just as great.

We can ALL get so much farther and do so much more good in this world when we work together. If you’re going to look to your left or to your right and concern yourself with your neighbors talents and achievements – let it be so that you can speak words of encouragement to them and build them up in their endeavors, let it be so you can ask how you can help them reach God’s goals for their lives or how you can pray for them.

But mostly, have confidence that God is and will use you for a purpose He has designed specifically for you. Focus on your talents and gifts, listening for His guidance, following His footsteps, and surrendering to His will. It’s not a one-time-and-your-done-type of thing. It takes repeated commitment day after day after day – sometimes hour by hour!

When you have confidence in God – in who He is and who He created you to be, you don’t need to be concerned with your neighbors talents. You can be confident that who you are is enough, what you have to offer will suffice, and as long as you give life your best shot – you can’t miss the net. Ever.

There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder, either.”

Life sneaks up on us every once in a while and gives us something we didn’t ever know we wanted, and lights within us a love we didn’t even know existed.”
Shauna Niequist

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“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

-Proverbs 19:21

Great Things Never Came From Comfort Zones.

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I should have known that it was a sign of foreshadowing. But, caught up in my own ignorance of the universe and all the signs God was giving me, I called it cute and went on about my business – tending to my own day, my own needs, my own desires, and everything me, me, me.

Until I was stranded in a busy street in the middle of a hot afternoon with Rachi and a broken down car that was blocking traffic. Talk about embarrassing – people kept honking their horns at me or tossing their hands up in the air in frustration. And it wasn’t because they were creepy old men who thought I was attractive – it was because I was just flat out in their way and they just wanted to get home.

Tell me about it, brother. I just wanted to get home too. And I did, eventually. The sweet tow-truck driver showed me a lot of grace and patience as he towed my car and let me and Rachi sit in his passenger seat, enjoying the air conditioning – a novelty when both your car and your apartment have no 21st century forms of air flow.

People sometimes assume that I enjoy being the center of attention simply because I am a performance major at school. Dead wrong. There is always a time and place where acknowledgment is welcomed, but ultimately I fear/dread/hate/loath/detest being the center of attention – especially when it means LITERALLY stopping everything and everyone in their tracks. In that moment, I wasn’t sure whether to be furious at the world, to break down in tears, or to check out and zone out into my own little alternate world (not a drug reference, for the record!). But alas, a very attractive 26 year old tow truck driver, lover of dogs, and post military duty, man came to my rescue. I was humiliated. I hate being the center of attention, I hate asking for help, and I hate, hate, HATE situations that are 100% out of my control.

When I finally got home I broke down in tears – I can’t fix this. I can’t control this. I can’t do anything to make this better. And it actually only got worse.

One car rental, one more trip to the shop, and a lost grill (yes, the grill FELL off of my car?!?!) later I’m sitting on a $2,500.00 bill and still have a broken window switch and an unreliable car.

Dear universe,

Is this karma because I complained about my car not having AC. Or a working rear window. Or a decent radio. Or literally ANYTHING that’s wrong with it – which is apparently a LOT?!

But my car starts. At least, it starts some of the time.

I’ve realized so much during this painful, tear-ridden, headache-inducing, scary, and frustrating process…

  • Your friends truly care. They will make time to do their best to help you and take care of you.

  • People won’t take you seriously if you walk around with your shoes untied.

  • You don’t have to apologize for a situation that is out of your control.

  • Regardless of your age, it’s okay to call your parents and cry.

  • You have to trust that other people will be honest with you about their limits/boundaries and their wants/needs. This is mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially.

  • There’s an extra fee if you rent a car under the age of 25. Apparently I’m still a child.

  • I mean, are you even really in college if your bumper isn’t hanging halfway off your car and your window isn’t duct taped and your gas gauge isn’t consistently on “empty”?!

  • People who honk at you on the road are probably having their own type of really rough day.

  • God will use these moments to design you, if you let Him. They don’t have to destroy you – they can be moments of growth.

  • It’s okay to be upset, angry, frustrated about the things in life that are outside of your control, but you shouldn’t allow them to exhaust you.

  • Relying on others for help does not make you weak, needy, burdensome, etc. It makes you human.

  • Breathing is always a good thing to do.

  • Duct tape really does fix a lot of things. Be proud of your rainbow duct taped car window.

  • There is no such thing as too much diet coke.

  • It’s perfectly acceptable to call your mom at the end of a long, rough day and tell her everything that’s heavy and also that you love her. She’ll probably take the opportunity to remind you that she loves you too.

  • Your Dad can (and will) be your (and your bank accounts) greatest advocate – he wants to help you. Let him.

  • You will look back and laugh. Hopefully. And even if you won’t, tell yourself that you will because it makes things seem less stressful now.

  • Take your vitamins, kids.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • It is not greedy to ask God for things – ask Him for a new car, money to deal with the one you already have, or just ask Him for some sort of solution. Never let the dialogue between the two of you die down.

  • It’s okay to whine. For 10 minutes. Then you better put your big girl pants on and move the heck forward with your life. Don’t let Satan win by poisoning your heart/mind with negativity and doubts.

  • Cry, scream, write, throw things, take a nap – do whatever it is you do to release all the heavy stuff but whatever you do, DO • NOT • GIVE • UP!!!!!

    You are valued. You are wanted. You are loved.

My comfort zone has been completely obliterated this past week – I have had to advocate for myself and deal with things I’ve never had to deal with before. I’m still here to tell about it, so at least I proved to myself that I am okay. I survived. I asked for help and the world didn’t completely turn on me and shut me down. I am still standing, breathing, and able to laugh and smile with my dear friends.

I am so grateful for this sweet summer time and the new found freedom that comes with not having 20+ hours of class commitments each week. Last night a sweet friend and I took our dogs for a walk around Gallup Park – I love spending time with this lady and her pup because we can be so real with each other. She gets it and she’s open and honest and I admire and appreciate that. Then this morning I spent two hours over brunch with one of the dearest ladies I’ve ever met – such a sweet, spunky soul and a heart for God that I aspire to have. It’s so freeing to be able to sit across the table from someone and hear them say, “Me too!” or to be able to listen to their stories, their struggles, and to be able to say, “Really? I was afraid I was the only one!”

Moments like these are what fill my soul up – they ground me and remind me that there are such bigger things to life than money, cars, mechanical mishaps, etc.

“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my every day to make God belly-laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”
-Shauna Niequist

What is it that you want with your life? This situation has been scary and it’s forced me to be vulnerable. I took a leap of faith in deciding to go to Belize this July with a group of wonderful people – the cost was about $1,300.00 – money that I didn’t have at the time that I agreed to go on the trip. But sure enough, God always provides and by the skin of my teeth I was able to just BARELY find the money in time. Regardless, God was there…planning, preparing, testing, etc. And because that money was just BARELY there, I’m now left with a staggering bill and nothing to even begin to start paying it off with. Thankfully, my parents are right by my side and lending a helping hand (and a helping credit card) but I’ve got to be honest – this feels like failure. It feels like the most uncomfortable situation in the world (a gross exaggeration, I know, but that’s how it FEELS, even if that’s not how it is in reality.) As uncomfortable as this has been and likely will be for the next few months, look at the amount of growth that’s already come out of it – look at the way it’s forced me out of my comfort zones in a multitude of ways. I’m not suggesting that it’s ever a good idea to live outside of our financial means, but isn’t it sometimes worth it to maybe live on the edge? It’s important to have life vests that we can throw on when we reach rough waters – friends, family, church family, etc. And I have these people – they have come to my rescue more times than they realize and I am so so grateful.

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Of all the great things in life that we can experience, isn’t personal growth one of the greatest? I can choose to allow myself to be defeated, to give up, to put my life on pause because of these repeated issues with my car or I can choose to accept reality for what it is, ask God for guidance, and keep putting one foot in front of the other (albeit, both figuratively and metaphorically). At the end of my life, I don’t want to look back and realize that I spent my entire time here on earth being comfortable. I want to have had life changing experiences that have shaped me, grown me, challenged me, and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I want to have seen, tasted, and experienced the world and all it has to offer. I want to tell stories of bad things that happened in my life and how they led to better things and I want to tell stories about great things that happened because I wasn’t afraid to take that next step. That next step – the one that is scary, the one that makes you anxious, the one that excites you, the one with no clear pathway in view. I want to take leap after leap of faith. I want to spend time with the people that really matter and do the things that truly matter. I want to live a life of experiences – not routines, alarm clocks, monotonous days in and out, in and out. No, I want to accept that life won’t go as planned and I want to lean into that and allow myself to step outside of my comfort zone – allow myself to be shaped in positive ways by both the good and the bad experiences I have in life.

Most of all, I want to be receptive to whatever God is trying to teach me in these tough moments. I want to be present and be real with the people around me. I want to teach, lead, and share what God has done and is doing through my life – I want every day to be a day that increases my awareness of God and my love for all He has done for me, my life, and the world in which we are blessed to reside.

Not every day will be “good” but every day will have some good in it.

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All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”
Orson F. Whitney

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Lessons From A 1998 Volvo.

I’m currently sitting at an auto shop. I’m watching the oil stained, grease-smeared guys walk too and fro between cars and trucks, chatting about fixes and discussing estimates. My car-dilemmas are at a point now where they are simply comical. I have a clean driving record, aside from a slew of parking tickets, but hey – can’t win ’em all. However, when it comes to working vehicles I think I just got dealt a lot of bad luck.

I know what you’re thinking – it can’t be that bad, right? Wrong. Last summer, in the course of 3 months I drove all three cars owned by my parents at some point or another. The first to break down was my own 1998 volvo. My dad was following me through Ohio in his own car (thank the Lord!) and my check engine light came on. One hotel bill plus a $700.00 auto shop bill later, we were back on the road. A few weeks after that I was driving my father’s car to Ann Arbor when I discovered it had somehow gotten a flat tire. Add $200.00 to the already sky high $700.00 car-fix-bill. THEN I had my mom’s Ford Escape with me in Westport, New York and something happened – I honestly don’t even remember what was wrong, but add another $150.00 dollars to the ever-mounting-pile of “Sarah Catherine manages to break every car she ever uses” bill.

It’s not me, I swear it’s not me. The things that break in these cars are never related to how the car is driven or how it’s maintained. But still, the odds aren’t appearing to be in my favor. Especially because just last week my parents paid almost $400.00 to have my car serviced, an oil change, and the breaks worked on and yet here I sit at an auto shop. I had driven from Virginia to Ohio to Michigan and when I was finally back home yesterday I went to roll my back windows up (because you see, my air conditioner is permanently broken – that would have been a $1,000.00 fix and the car isn’t even worth that much so whenever I go somewhere in the spring/summer I just sweat it out and thank God my car even started up to begin with.) and low and behold – one of them would not budge. I tried everything. I even watched youtube videos about what could possibly be wrong and how to fix it. Nothing.

I feel as though I can hear God chuckling at me from up in heaven. I just roll my eyes because this is His way of reminding me that life happens. I can strategically plan out every second of my day, but it will never actually go as planned. I need to accept that these little things will occur and they need to be dealt with. This wasn’t a part of MY schedule. I didn’t budget time for this. Or money, for that matter. But here I sit.

I digress – more on the car saga later.

Last night I walked into church to rehearse with the worship team and I finally felt like I was home. I love these people, this place, this home of mine. These human beings are so special and unique and every other positive adjective in the book. They are honest, kind, funny, talented, humble, loving, and I could go on and on. But mostly, they are Godly and inspiring. I realized last night, more than ever before, that this I where my heart is – this is my safe place. Right here. Right now. With these people who keep me grounded, lift me up in prayer. I can be real here. There is space for me – ALL of me…even the messiest, broken up parts.

Dear God, I am so grateful for these people and this place.

And I’m realizing that it’s time to reevaluate, rebuild, remodel. Myself. From the inside out. Because God has been whispering, prodding, nudging me towards doors that I have been refusing to open for fear of what may be waiting on the other side, for fear of what people around me may think or say, for fear of not being good enough.  As much work as my car needs….maybe I need just as much (let’s be real – I need a LOT more than this sad, old vehicle.)

I’ve hesitantly cracked a few of these doors open, hoping I could just catch a glimpse and then somehow work their contents into my own plan. Plot twist: it’s not possible. God is a magnificent God, but we can’t live to our full potentials while clinging to our own plans. It’s a door fully open or door fully closed type of living that will either make or break us.

My determination to see what’s on the other side of the door before allowing myself to walk through it has done nothing more than left me feeling unsettled and unsteady…maybe even a bit empty. So, one of my goals for these precious summer months is to fling the door wide open – whatever that may mean in the moment. I plan to search for stillness to get me through the emptiness and the pain of whatever comes my way.

Stillness.

Peace.

Unshakeable Joy.

My people – my tribe – have taught me that it is safe to be seen and heard. Where being seen and heard has previously felt terrifying and life threatening, I am finding that, with the right people it is safe, solid, comforting, and even healthy. It’s in the stillness I am searching for that I know I will be allowed to be seen and to heal, grow, evolve, and become grounded.

There’s a quiet place inside me that I bring with me, and when I start to feel the questions, the fear, the chaos, I locate that quiet, that stillness, that grounded place. When you begin to carry God’s love and true peace deep within your actual soul like a treasure chest, you realize that you don’t have to fling yourself around the planet searching for those things outside yourself.”

-Shauna Niequist “Present Over Perfect”

I slammed the doors shut so that I could feel safe, protected, and reside in the familiar. But in slamming the doors shut I also shut out all the love, adventure, freedom, and joy that they contained. When you shut yourself off from some of it, you end up shutting yourself off from ALL of it. I so badly want to be present and live in the here and now – the mess, the pain, the fabulous, and the amazingness of all life has to offer, but I find myself resorting to closing the door at the first sign of failure. Fear is a messy, messy thing, my friends. Fear causes us to react in ways that aren’t pro-active or positive.

Here’s my reality: I can do far less than I have always believed that I can do.

I would set myself on fire, drown in a bucket full of caffeine, fly off on a rocket of productivity, check-lists, to-do’s, etc, as long as it would help me keep going…thing after thing after thing, time after time after time. But I can’t do it any longer. And I won’t do it any longer.

I’m realizing that people are more important to me than performance. Relationships are more valuable than resumes. Wholeness and stillness will get me farther than check lists and certificates of achievement ever will.

What is rest? What is relaxation?

It’s been far too long since I’ve felt all of that.

So the doors I’m throwing open this summer are the doors to stillness, to wholeness, to rest, to relationships, to worship. I so badly want to be good at what I do. But it’s more important to me to be present in my life and the lives of those around me. I want to be an encourager, a good listener, and above all else – I want to love as many people as I possibly can.

Life is too short to be wound up tight and obsessed with checking things off of lists, living by a strict calendar, and running from place to place frantically trying to get as much done as possible.

I’m searching for stillness, wholeness, and rest and I am leaning hard into my tribe of people to help me make it all happen. I’m determined to quit living my life in order to build a list of accomplishments and start living it to build my soul – to make space for whatever and wherever God leads.

Summer sun, road trips (Lord willing the car will cooperate), adventures with my favorite pal, worship alongside my tribe of magnificent people, learning more about my Savior, and getting more in tune with wherever He leads me. I’m apprehensively excited about what’s to come.

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Here comes the mechanic working on my car – stay tuned for more of the car sage later on (there’s still 3 months of summer so I’m sure that more things will break – likely at the most inconvenient times. But hey, that’s life right? And if I’m living in the stillness of life, living for my soul, not my self, then I can take whatever life throws my way.)

A little bit of coffee, a little bit of sunshine, a great deal of prayer, and a whole LOT of my sweet Jesus ❤

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
Helen Keller

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

-John 16:13

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I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
Anonymous

Summer 2017 Update

I suppose that it’s about time for a summer update. This feels as though it is long overdue but at the same time I have been wondering how to go about presenting my thoughts in such a way that they won’t feel awkward, foreign, or…insignificant. But in reality, they truly are insignificant.

I would love to believe that my words can change the world. I’m all about dreaming big, ya’ll. But what I’m trying to come to accept is that – if my words can change even a small portion of one person’s world – that is enough. God gave me words and however he chooses to use them is out of my control. I’m trying to revel in the fact that God is trustworthy and His design is greater and more wild than I could ever truly comprehend.

It’s funny how much sense the nonsensical things make when you turn back and review them in hindsight. Everything from illnesses to broken relationships to opened (or more often, closed) doors…it all seems to fit into the most glorious – and often times complicated and confusing – puzzle. And then there are some things that just don’t fit. The puzzle piece is too awkward, to big, to small, or just plain wrong. Sometimes things in our lives just don’t match up and we have to walk by faith – we are forced to surrender and to trust that, although we may never achieve clarity in certain areas, God is always, ALWAYS in control and He DOES see the bigger picture…the completed puzzle.

Wow. So vague. My apologies. Let me cut to the chase here.

My first month of summer is coming to a close and it has already yielded so much fruit (some which is ripe and juicy and other that has withered and lays bruised and broken on the ground). There has been a lot of fear – mostly over relationships but there has also been so, SO much love. And for that, I am endlessly grateful.

I am currently in Virginia. I did a solo recital where I got to play with some old friends of mine. I suppose they should be referred to as my “colleagues” but they are more like brothers to me. Words can not express how much love I have for these boys (turned into men) and how proud I am of them both. I also got to work alongside a pianist whom I hadn’t previously worked with and let me just say….what an honor and a blessing it was to be surrounded by her talent, her creativity, and her KINDNESS. What a joy to make music with such driven, passionate, and musical humans. Blessings upon blessings.

You can’t experience how warm and bright the sun truly is though unless you’ve known some darkness along the way.

I found it. I found it in the cracks of broken relationships, lies, manipulation, and, more specifically, a very awkward phone conversation. Some times the people we most want to please, to love and be loved by, to have standing along the sidelines cheering us on – sometimes those people are the ones least capable of giving us what we need. And sometimes they work in pairs. Although some of the people in my life are absent or – in the less ideal situation…far too present in an explosive, angry, manipulative way – I am learning how to love them and leave them. I love them because they are human and created by God and I leave them and their baggage behind me. For the sake of their own privacy (because even though I don’t like them, I truly do still love them) they shall remain unnamed. However, I am slowly learning and coming to terms with the fact that they issues they bring up and the attacks that they make are “them problems” and not “me problems”. That doesn’t make it any easier emotionally, but it does make it easier to sort it all out mentally and to compartmentalize it.

I digress. Anyways, I spent a week at home – 4 days doing rehearsals and preparing for the recital and then I spent 2 days with my sweet Momma. I am so, SO proud of both my parents for way more reasons than I could ever compile into one readable blog post. So I will state the most recent reasons: My mom is retiring after teaching for 32 years. I am mostly proud of her, not for her fabulous and life-changing teaching abilities and talents, but because she is finally doing something that she wants and needs. She is putting her passions aside for newer passions and she is also putting her health first. Sometimes out wants and our needs change from what they were originally. God gives us gifts and callings but they aren’t set in stone or a life-sentence. She has bigger things ahead and I am so proud of all she has accomplished and I am excited for all that is to come in her future! She is such a wonderful role model for me! And I’m especially thankful that she took 2 days off of work to spend with me while I was in town – we went on adventures, painted pottery, got our nails done, tried a new restaurant, took our puppies out to socialize, and relaxed together.

 

My father is one of my very best friends. After working his butt off to make sure everything went smoothly for my performance and after all the sacrifices, phone calls, emails, etc I was so thankful that I got to see him do his thing as he conducted a band concert last week! My parents are so supportive and they come to every performance that they can, but it is very rare for me to get to see my dad perform. He is SUCH a great conductor and I am so proud of him for all he has achieved, musically. But what I love to see the most is the way he interacts with his middle and high school students. They look up to him, admire him, and love him so much and he has such a way with them – so much patience but also able to receive so much respect from them. I was really glad I got to see him “do his thannng” even though it meant sitting through 6th graders playing hot-cross-buns and yankee doodle before getting to hear the high schoolers perform Pirates of the Caribbean! :p Also, shout out to my sweet father for hiking to the top of Sharp Top Mountain for the first time since he had a heart attack back in October of 2011. So proud of you!

I’m proud of both my parents and everything that they’ve accomplished and achieved with their talents and their careers. What I’m most proud of though is how far we’ve come as a family. I’m not only proud, but extremely, EXTREMELY thankful. God is good, ya’ll!

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I was so fortunate to spend 4 days with one of my dearest friends in Richmond VA! We don’t get to see each other more than once or twice a year but when we are together we pick right back up where we left off. One thing I LOVE about visiting my darling sister is that I also love all of her sweet friends! It was such a joy to spend time with all of them – to laugh, to eat good food, to spend some time at the beach, and also to worship at her church with her congregation! I cherish these moments with friends more than words can adequately describe.

1 month of summer down and 3 left still to go. My summer has fallen together in ways I never could have envisioned for myself – things I never could have planned or mapped out on my own. We serve a mighty God, my friends! One of the many things I’m learning is that even when I can only see the fist few steps of the staircase – he can already see the entire thing AND He knows what’s waiting for me at the top. What a relief that is – it takes some of the pressure off of me to feel a though I always have to make the right decision at the right time and worry (read: obsess) about doing the right thing in the right way.

This summer looks unlike any summer I have had before. Because when it came to planning this summer I did my absolute best to let go of the reigns and hand them over to God – I surrendered up my control-freak ways and told God that I finally realized I didn’t know what I truly wanted and I couldn’t plan it all out myself. And so God orchestrated my summer in a way truly unique to me and to my personal passions and interests. I will be doing a 10 week internship with the youth groups at my church in Michigan and I will also be going to Belize for a week in July as a part of a missions team from a church in Virginia. Not only that, but I also am able to take lessons from a faculty member at the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance at U of M. God provided – as he always does. He provided a source of income, a job with people in a place that I love and am passionate about. He provided adventure – my first overseas missions trip. He provided education and a chance to continue pursuing my love of music. It appears as though I will have a chance to get my toes wet in practically every area I am interested in and passionate about all while being able to balance work, play, education, and RELAXATION (a word that often times becomes foreign to me during my school semesters.

I’ll get to spend the summer with my pup, in my own apartment/space, with most of my tribe, and I KNOW that it will yield so much fruit and so much growth. In the past 12 years there has only been one summer where I haven’t done a music festival or program and it was not by my own choosing, but because I had just returned home from treatment and couldn’t yet attend one. I gotta say – it feels pretty darn amazing to just let go and let God do His thing. He knows my journey and my life better than I ever could. There is no doubt in my mind that He has amazing things planned for this summer and out-of-this-world things planned for my future. It’s holding on to that hope that helps me make it through the difficult days.

As I return home from Virginia and start this new, fresh, and uncharted portion of my year, I am praying each and every day that I will grow in Christ, grow in grace, and grow in love. I don’t know what the futures holds for me – career, relationship, health, education, etc. But I’m learning to take blind leaps (or teeny tiny step) of faith and I’m also learning that life is pretty stinking great when you let God forge the path and you make the commitment to follow wherever He leads.

Here’s to the first month – time with old friends, performing with magnificent colleagues, and spending precious time with my parents. Here’s to the next three to come – may they be filled with adventure, courage, growth, grace, and the love of Jesus Christ!

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
John Muir

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And here’s to the mountains – a symbol of God’s unmoving, unchanging, unshakeable love, grace, and mercy.  Blessings upon blessings, my sweet friends.

 “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.”

-Psalm 95: 3-4

Tell Me.

And so here it comes – the feeling almost too difficult for words to describe…a sinking in the pit of my stomach, a searing burn in my chest, my mouth waters like I’m about to throw up, my vision starts to blur. All the words left unsaid:

You don’t matter to me.

You aren’t worth it.

You aren’t good enough.

I’m not proud of you.

You are just a pawn in my game.

You are worthless.

You are too much. But never quite enough.

You don’t matter.

You don’t deserve the things you think you’ve earned.

I’m ashamed of you and who you are.

I’m mostly frustrated with myself, honestly. I can’t believe I’m still allowing another human being to have so much control over my emotional well being and state of mind. It’s hard though – when someone was your very best friend for the first 13 years of your life. When You saw them every single day, you loved them, you felt loved by them, you shared all your secrets, all your dreams, they stood up for you and gave you advice as you stumbled your way through the far-too-complex struggles that come with elementary and middle school mean girls. Every holiday, every performance, every concert, every award assembly, every violin lesson, every snack time after school, every weekend – arts and crafts, cooking, catching and saving hurt animals, collecting acorns in the yard. What do you do when someone who was your biggest hero takes your heart and throws it against a brick wall, watches it shatter, and then turns and walks away?!

I still have nightmares, dissociative episodes, flashbacks involving moments with you. August 2009, I will NEVER forget the sound of your voice as you snapped at me, “You are an awful sister. Your big sister deserves all the things you’ve just been handed in life. You are so selfish and conceited. It’s disgusting.” I could literally feel your breath on my face and see the anger in your eyes. I know now that you weren’t even truly mad at me that day, you were mad at my parents. But to my 15 year old mind, it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me and I couldn’t make sense of it all. February 2007 – my 13th birthday dinner was the night the switch was flipped. You loved me when we sat down to dinner and then throughout the conversation something happened and at the end of dinner you were a completely different person. Angry, frustrated, mean, judgmental. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Again, I know now that you were angry with my parents – but it felt so personal because you took it out on me. All of the sudden, one of my biggest supporters, one of my life-time heros just…disappeared. No longer attending concerts, celebrating victories, doing arts and crafts, spending time with me. I watched my mom burn your letters in the fireplace as tears ran down her face. I listened to my father’s frustrated whispers as he vocalized how angry he was(is) at the way you’ve treated our family. I had to try to understand why you still supported, loved, and showed up for my sister but suddenly acted as though I wasn’t even alive. It was like mourning the dead – except you were still so very present. I struggled silently through guilt, shame, disgust – always wondering why you stopped loving me, why I was never good enough, what had happened? I tried everything I could to fix it – to make you love me again, to make you proud. I wanted our little family to go back to the way things had been.

But it wouldn’t. It couldn’t. And so the first 13 years of my life felt unreal – like a lie. I had no solid footing to stand on because I didn’t know what was real anymore. Suddenly I was unable to trust any other human beings, I felt as though I had been robbed, lied too, left out in the cold. I watched as all this pain came rippling to the surface – my mother suffered IMMENSELY and so did the rest of our family. I became angry and silent and isolated. I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t be good enough. I couldn’t make it go away. No matter how hard I tried to be perfect, tried to perform, well, tried to give you something to be proud of me for…nothing worked. So I tried to disappear.

That didn’t work either. And now I’m sitting at the kitchen table in my parents house, tears running down my face because I realize how much of my life you stole from me. I’m still angry. I’m still hurt. But I want you to know that I’m choosing to forgive you. I’m forgiving you so that I can move forward with my life – so that I can build a family and relationships on solid footing – the footing that you had previously stolen from me.

Lynchburg is not my home anymore. I may know my way around these streets, I may still have friends who live here and all of that is fine. But, if I’m being 100% honest, I feel completely sick when I enter this city. It subsides once I’ve adjusted a bit to being here, but I literally can’t stand the associations that I have with this town. I love it for it’s good memories and I am able to acknowledge that it’s a great place to raise a family. However, I drive around, I walk into familiar places, I sit in my own house and I can feel the situations and memories sneaking back in. Sometimes I feel like I’m reliving them.

I feel like someone walked into the little life I thought I was building for myself and trashed it – graffitied the walls, punched holes in the ceiling, scratched up the floors. I feel like I have been robbed of what I thought was true…all the things I knew and believed feel like they were lies. I know that’s dramatic and not 100% reality, but that’s how it FEELS.

I don’t know what to do because I have tried for so so long and I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted with putting on a show, pretending that it doesn’t matter, pretending that I’m fine, that I don’t care about all the time and all the things you’ve stolen from me. I do care. And I hurt, immensely. I’m tired of apologizing for living my own life, for walking away from you and from all the pain you’ve caused. I’m tired of coming back and tip toeing around you for fear of you self-imploding and leaving a mess that, once again, I have to clean up.

So here’s the truth:

YOU were wrong.

YOU hurt me.

YOU made bad choices.

YOU are continuing to choose to not be a part of my life.

I love you but I don’t have to like you. I don’t have to keep coming back to you and allowing you to twist the knife farther and farther into my back. I can walk away. I can do my absolute best to remove the knife and allow the deep, DEEP wound to heal. I can let you know that you’ve hurt me – even though I know you’ll never see it. I can also let you know that, even though it is so excruciatingly difficult, I am choosing to forgive you. I wish you only the best in this life and I pray for you every single day. I want you to be well and to live fully – even if it’s without me. I hope you know how much I love you…all I ever wanted was for you to love me and be proud of me. I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that, it’s not that you don’t want too, but for whatever reason you simply aren’t capable of loving me and being proud of me in the ways I feel I need.

I have a tribe of people who love me and who support me in all the ways that I need. I will never quit believing that, despite all this pain, brokenness, and hurt, I am still one of the luckiest girls alive. I am going to lean into the tribe God’s surrounded me with and I am going to do my best to allow them to love me in all the ways I need and in all the ways that feed my soul. I’m making the conscious decision to let love win. God is tearing down the walls of my heart and breaking the chains. It’s time to lay down my weapons and let love win.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKWm0bGZlDU

God tells us that we are His children. We are His. He loves us, unconditionally. We don’t need to do anything to earn His love. He offers us grace, not because of anything we did or didn’t do – but because He loves us.

We are loved.

We are known.

We are worthy.

He tells me.

He tells us.

We are His – forever and ever. No matter what anyone else says or does…Jesus died on the cross. The victory has already been won.

When the world shouts and screams that we are nothing, useless, worthless – God will declare that we are everything, loved, worthy, and fully known. I’m trying to remind myself that’s all I truly need.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjEUyTBySq8

“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
John Green

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“Count your blessings. Once you realize how valuable you are and how much you have going for you, the smiles will return, the sun will break out, the music will play, and you will finally be able to move forward the life that God intended for you with grace, strength, courage, and confidence.”
Og Mandino