Be Still

Monday. Get up, make coffee. Read my bible. Make breakfast. Eat breakfast. Practice Piano. Sing. Workout. Drink smoothie. Shower. Make lunch. Eat lunch. Work. Jeopardy. Food Network.

Tuesday. Get up, coffee. Read Bible. Make breakfast. Eat it. Play at the keys a little bit. Sing. Sit. Drink more coffee. Drag myself to the fitness center. Workout. Drink smoothie. Shower. Lunch. Work. Jeopardy. “You’ve been Chopped”. Read.

Wednesday. Ugh. Snooze. Snooze. Get up, GET UP! Coffee. Bible. Breakfast. Look at piano. Scroll through Instagram. Play major chords. Get frustrated at lack of improvement. More coffee. More instagram. What’s Vero? It’s time to get up and get moving. I’ll move when I damn well please. Sigh. Workout. Smoothie. Shower. Lunch. Work. Read. GO TO SLEEP. Read. Sleep.

Thursday. Snooze. Snoooze. Snooooooooze. Grumble. Coffee. Bible. Why am I so slovenly? Breakfast. Put your phone down. Look at piano. Sit on the couch. Open laptop.

 

Disciplines. Why am I even trying? What are my goals?

Practice makes perfect.

Last year, around Christmas (I wanted to start before New Years resolutions) I decided I wanted more disciplines in my life. Little daily “tasks” that would keep me fresh in some areas, grow in others, and just refine my life. I wanted to spend less time on my phone, more time with the Holy Spirit, I wanted to live a better life. I wanted to be more frugal. I wanted to trust God better. I wanted to be ready for the day when I would be called into an audition. I wanted to be ready to have more people in my life, I wanted to be ready to have a person in my life. Significant other. Girlfriend. Leading lady.

I digress.

I set out with a few different areas I wanted to “master” so that I would be “sucking the marrow” out of life, taking the most of every opportunity. I wanted to live fully.

Now I’m sitting at my computer (previously on the couch) feeling sorry for myself. I feel as though I haven’t improved in piano playing much at all. I don’t see any audition in the near future (in fact I will be quite busy for the next year with this new job). I don’t have a six pack, I just have five packs of girl scout cookies. And I’ve been getting super critical of my lack of progress. And the most frustrating part of this, I feel I am worried about what other people are thinking.

I can’t even get through one of these blog posts without wondering if people will think I’m clever.

It’s a weird dichotomy, because it’s like I’m obsessed with how people perceive me and I assume it’s all for the worst. I don’t believe people’s genuine compliments because I’ve such an unhealthy view of myself I think they’re just trying to make me feel better.

“You’re doing a great job”

What’s funny though, I think the less I try to impress the more people actually like the real me. That’s scary though, because you know, I’m a mess. I probably don’t give myself enough credit, too.

I got corrected when I said I did nothing to deserve this amazing job I have now, this amazing journey to be a coffee roaster. I have worked hard and I have been consistent.

I have made working out a habit. Even if it’s something small, I still do it.

I’ve improved my eating habits.

I have been on social media less (this one is a weird ebb and flow, some weeks are better than others).

I have allowed myself to become closer with some people, inviting them into my broken areas with honesty. I’ve got some great people in my life.

I have been playing piano weekly (almost four times on average). There has been some improvement.

 

But more than anything and not because I am super awesome, but I think I am doing better at spending time with the Holy Spirit, even when I feel like muck. I am allowing myself to be honest with Him. To invite Him into those days when I feel gross. When I spend time with Him, He makes me better, more like Jesus. I think that’s progress.

Then I realize. Regardless of  how “good” I am, how much I discipline myself, I cannot make myself truly good. I cannot do the work that the Holy Spirit came to do, so I think I’ll be okay.

I definitely don’t deserve what Jesus did on the cross for me. And though I think I could try to spend my life “earning” it, I will never love enough, give enough, hope enough, or be enough, but that’s okay, because I don’t have to. Part of what Jesus did was to set up an exchange, my failing, my failed attempts at goodness, my mistakes, my broken life in exchange for His holy one. It doesn’t make sense why He would do that, but He did. So now  I have His holy life. Now I have submitted my old life to Him, I will follow where His spirit leads, just as He did. I will abide. I will lean on His strength.

Maybe practice doesn’t need to be perfect.

I think for a long time and even now, on a Wednesday morning, or a Sunday evening, I worry I am not abiding enough, that my journey of becoming more like Christ is not going well enough, fast enough, “I should be perfect by now, I’m nearly 27”. Ha!

Breathe in. Breathe out. I’ve got forever.

But…

But what about all I am supposed to accomplish, all that I want to do, all the people that need to know, what if I mess up again, I mean what will happen when I mess up again? Am I no longer victorious? Does that mean that I am not allowing enough of the fullness of God’s presence to overwhelm me? What if I never speak to a stadium of people to get them to know how good God is? What if I can’t even get the courage to talk to a coworker? A friend? Will they know? Will I ever get past my vanity? My too strong desire to be well received, liked.

Breathe in. Breathe out. God is bigger than me. His grace is bigger.

Be still, for He is God.

Be still and know

Be still…

But, my disciplines. I keep messing up. I am like that slob who can’t even bring his hand from the bowl to feed himself.

Be still……..

But, I mean I know He is good and His grace is sufficient, but surely He’s tired by now. I mean isn’t he disappointed.

Do I think my failings are some how bigger or stronger than the creator of the universe?

Breathe

Be still…..

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You’re Wrong, I think

I have a problem with the concept of safe spaces.

I’ve been toying around with this idea for a while. Letting these ideas ruminate. I didn’t want to share my thoughts if I was feeling particularly incensed about something. I tend to neglect someone’s perspective or feelings. when I’m upset or angry. My next move was to share following the conference I served at last week, I’ll share more on that later. The turning point was yesterday when my anxiety spiked again for no reason, well a reason I can’t quite pin down.

Safe Spaces. From what I’ve seen, heard, and read. Safe spaces are places where people can feel free to express themselves without disagreement. Now, as long as I am not vastly misunderstanding the premise, I have a problem with this in practicality and conception.

We live in a world of many different people each with their own identity and thought processes. That’s honestly one of the most beautiful aspects of humanity, or so I believe and have been told. When we are all different that means we will not all agree. One could argue that the existence of difference does not necessitate conflict. How can you tell me you have conviction in your beliefs and thoughts if it once does not ever cause you to come into some conflict?

You only need to look at the current political climate here in the USA to see how contentious disagreement can be, how differences can cause dividing lines. While it is nice to say that everyone should live in disagreement and not contention, I think it is a pipe dream, unrealistic and like I mentioned it means that people show little or no conviction. A personal observation on the polarization of the country: as long as we keep vilifying people based on information provided by those who are paid according to sensationalism, we will never see eye to eye.

Safe Spaces. While it would make life easier to have a “safe space” where only my opinions are shared, where everyone acquiesces to my particular frame of mind, it would severely limit me, my life, and in turn my world around me. More than just unrealistic, safe spaces lead to lives stunted, growth in egoism and as a result partisan factions. In fact, I’ll say that “safe spaces” are mini fascist communities.

Before you grab the pitchfork, think about it. All those novels and movies about dystopian societies feature similar narratives: sameness. No one like’s the sameness that is imposes on them, but if all conflict is stymied, then those with differing opinions to the popular thought are silenced.

Conflict on the other hand provides opportunities to learn, to see a situation in a perspective distinct from your own. Conflict brings a challenge that either helps you fortify the way you see a situation or amends it. There are so many metaphorical examples in nature that reveal this to be true. When a smith forges he (or she) uses intense heat and force to bend metal to the shape that is desired. Diamonds require heat and pressure to form. Purity in gold comes through heat and time. People are refined by conflict, if they allow it.

A bird will never learn to fly if it never leaves the nest. A caterpillar will never become a butterfly if it does not endure metamorphosis. I will never become stronger if I do not push my limits. I could never learn to swim if I left the shallow end.

We are refined in fire if we allow it.

No, conflict doesn’t feel good and oftentimes it requires time, but the things in life that are “worth it” need both. Our active participation allows the difficulty to change us for the better, whether that means our perspective is changed or strengthened. We have to be willing to face the difficulty and walk through it.

Well, I suppose this is unfair to just say “I walk through difficulty and grow every time” when in fact every time I face conflict on my own I buckle under the pressure. You see, I cheat. I depend on someone that is capable of so much more than I am able and He does the heavy lifting making sure I know I’m not alone in the conflict.

Last week I served at a rather large Church conference in Brooklyn New York at the Barclays Center. I was put in a role in which I was not prepared. My experience going in was on a much smaller scale, so this was beyond my skill or ability. And you know what, I soared. I felt, in an indescribable way, that I did well, despite the circumstances. I could regale you of the pressures of trying to seat about 5,000 (one night nearly 8,000) people in a venue within 30 minutes with very specific instructions, leading others who lead others, listing out every struggle from lack of sleep and food to rude and inconsiderate guests, but it would pale in comparison to the experience of it.

I was out of my depth, but I came out with stronger skills and intuition. While I believe anyone and everyone can grow in their lives, in character, in whatever way by being open to risk and trying, I believe I was able to make great strides because I had someone bigger than me helping me along.

But this is why safe spaces are harmful, we are not allowed to be tempered by fire.

Yesterday was a difficult day. It would have been nice to shut myself up and demand that no one require anything of me, but that is not realistic. We live in a world of people and responsibilities and we cannot run from them to shelter our precious psyches and personal comforts. I was forced to face life, to face my difficult situation and I’m still breathing. The circumstances haven’t changed but I have to allow myself to be tempered.

Now, to those who have serious psychological maladies (self-proscribed or clinically diagnosed) I believe the same is true for those. In my own experience, when I give into the anxieties, when I shelter myself from the world, there is no improvement, perhaps a slight abatement, but now growth or progress. (Now is when I would get told I don’t understand, or my struggle obviously couldn’t have been awful enough or else I wouldn’t say such. My challenge is twofold: 1. Using your logic, you cannot tell me what I have experienced is not significant 2. Before you get defensive take a moment and process my thought before disagreeing. I don’t have a problem if you disagree, I may be wrong, but please listen to what I have to say before you shout).

A safe space.

Now, I’ve hinted at how I cheat, now I will give you the full breakdown. If you immediately disagree, you have understood nothing, and there is nothing that I can say to change that. I hope one day, you will be able to digest someone’s words without immediately disregarding them.

My safe place. Jesus. It may sound cliche, but it’s real. I am not always so good at going to Him, but I am getting better. You see, in the Bible, He promises that His burden is light (Mt. 11:28-10). Now that doesn’t mean we get to disregard the conflict, that we ignore it. Contrarily, there are many times when Jesus says life will be difficult, but if we walk with Him, if we seek Him, if we talk to Him, cry out to Him, trust Him, argue with Him, find rest in Him, then we can face the furnace and come out stronger. I cannot face most conflict alone. I need God there with me every step reminding me who He is, who I am and that these situations just mean I am being refined, becoming better.

I believe Jesus is the best and final solution to life’s troubles and I will tell you that, but I will also listen. How else can I grow?

I have a problem, a serious problem. I don’t know how to ask for help. The very idea of it scares me, almost to the point of a panic attack. I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t know if it’s pride, not wanting to admit that I can’t handle life on my own. I think that is part of it at least.

But you know what really gets me?

The idea of writing this, makes me anxious, too. Because this is an indirect ask for help, part of me wants this to be an ask, but the biggest need is to be cathartic because not sharing is also hard. Whenever i get stressed out the best way for me to figure it out is to talk about it, but often as not when I talk about needing something people want to help.

Which stresses me out.

I love helping people, in fact, I don’t know if I like anything more than to be that dependable friend who helps in times of need. I don’t know how to be helped. I feel mixed up, grateful and happy, but also indebted and stressed. I keep mental notes of what I need to do, but you know what is awful, typically I cannot pay it back.

This past year has been extremely difficult and it seems to be culminating up as the year comes as a close. I have been paying all my bills, some a bit late, but they get paid in full. If you’ve been reading my posts over this year you know this. I am tired. I know I need to be faithful, I know I need to hope and that God will come through and I will wait for that, but I am tired and stressed and I don’t know how to ask for help.

Christmas is a week away and I’ve managed to get the week off, but you know what? I don’t have anything after that. I just paid last months rent three days ago. I probably won’t be able to pay next months on time. I have eaten grilled cheese about three times already this week. I have zero dollars in my bank account, well a little more, but I have to keep shifting it around so that my bank doesn’t give me any penalties or some money doesn’t get charged for something random. I have all these parties this week too, and I can’t figure out to attend and not be the party pooper who can’t bring a gift, or someone buys a gift for me to give, or I can’t afford to get anything other than water.

But how do I ask for help?

Aren’t I supposed to prove to the world that I can handle this? Isn’t God supposed to prove to everyone that this was where I was supposed to go? If I ask for help won’t people think that this wasn’t actually where I was supposed to go? Or perhaps it’s a different sort of success we are to see in our lives, that the people of the bible who were called places faced a lot of adversity? Or perhaps what’s scarier is maybe I’m deluded.

A few years back there was a difficult time in my family and when I finally broke through my own insecurities about asking for help I was accosted and told to “grow up” from someone I trusted. It hurt. I know it’s not correct, but it’s still in my head that I need to prove myself a capable adult, but I don’t know if I can. I can’t do this on my own.

I can’t even complain because there are so many people that have worse off and I have so many people that I have in my life that care for me and even people working to get me home, it’s still uncertain, but there are those who are really trying to get me even now, and perhaps this is going to be an eleventh hour miracle, or even 11:59 miracle.

And here’s the takeaway, I suppose, sometimes life isn’t full of roses and rainbows, but you’ve gotta just keep going. I think it’s alright to ask for help though, and I think it’s alright to be stressed and anxious, but I think you can’t let it ruin your life.

One time I had a conversation with a good friend and we were mentioning the cliche (which is Biblical and true) that God’s mercies are new every morning when it dawned on me (pun completely intended) that it’s always morning somewhere.

Well, who knows I may write a “amazing God came through, everything worked out” post, or it may be one of those “well I was surrounded by friends and sometimes life is difficult but it’s okay” post. Life is weird that way. Anyway, this was kind of a ramble but that’s where  my brain is at currently, so sorry.

Merry Christmas!

Faith or Foolishness

Wheres the line? How do you know if you’re making a decision or speaking something in faith or if you’re just being irresponsible? How do you know you’re not being naïve or just trying to avoid the difficult situation.
Well I suppose one indicator of faith is not ignoring or avoiding difficulty but knowing you have to go through it.

Recently I was asked in a hypothetical situation how you know to differentiate between faith and foolhardiness. The question arose when a group of friends had gathered together and were pondering life and the choices we make. As often is the case with young (mostly single) adults, the conversation about dating and relationships arose. Most of the group remarked how glad they were that they had not found the person with whom they would choose to make it work with yet. Most of the reasoning came that none of us felt prepared for that kind of responsibility or commitment and the sacrifices they require. We superciliously thought about the people we knew who had made this decision young and how at one point we were jealous of their bliss, but now looking on we could we the faulty points and the great struggles. It seemed to the caucus that to have these relationships with!d require the sacrifice of our aspirations. It was the general consensus that for a lot of people young marriage was a copoutof sticking it out for your dreams. That somehow, somewhere a person had to lose faith in their dreams or simply that it was base instincts that required the settling down and there was no forethought as to what it meant for the future.

How do we know? How do we ever know?

An idea, a question rose from this, how do we know if we’re making a decision in faith or in foolishness. Are we following simple passions and ignoring harsh realities or are we somehow seeing and believing for something above or beyond circumstances.

Two days ago I had my first audition under the banner of my agents. It was for a print add. I’d get money if I booked the job, but they’d triple it if they actually used the photos. I get money just for showing up and having my photo taken (if I get the job). Almost immediately afterward I spoke to my family about it. As part of the natural segues in family conversations, the topic of Christmas came up and whether I would be able to go home. Now I am honestly not sure how I’m going to pay for rent this month and flights are expensive, but if I landed this ad gig I would be able to do it. Which I followed up with the declaration of my intent to quit Starbucks, or at least step down from supervisor to shift.

Faith or foolishness? How do I know?

My sister seemed imoressed by my faith, I’m still trying to see it as that. Perhaps I’m too hard on myself. Yesterday I turned down the opportunity to move up in the company.

Faith or foolishness??

God helps those who help themselves. This is a lie. If I understand anything about Jesus, the whole concept is thatnno one is able to “help themselves”. But I’ve seen so many people just make whast appears to be an arbitrary decision and sometimes it seems to “pay off” and others it falls flat on its face. I’ve don’t both myself.

How do I know?
Based on my experience, the faith moments are those moments where I feel a tug, something I know I ought to do, but I have this internal struggle of knowing what I am will see to do, but this fear of what might happen if its not real. Those moment s, when I follow through are the ones I needed to trust God and He followed through.
“God is a God of peace and he wouldn’t put you in a place of confusion and anxiety”
This is true, He wouldn’t place me in a place of anxiety, but if I am an anxious person, anything out of my comfort zone will give me anxiety. The peace I have comes where it seems illogical and impossible but there is no other option to trust Him and He always comes through. It is the moments where I am over confident in my own skill sets that prove to not be the direction God wants.

Faith or foolishness?

For some they look the same, but I think the best litmus is the fruit that a decision bears.

What am I doing? Where am I going? How am I gonna make it through this? How will I weather this storm? I feel anxious? I feel worried? I feel afraid?

I suppose regardless I’m going to trust Him. I wonder what Caleb thought waiting 40 years to see the land He was promised to see? Did Abraam feel at ease and peaceful when he uprooted his family? When he was on that mountain with his only son?
There was once a man who was so anguished over a path in front of him he wept tears of blood as he begged God for a respite, but despite his anxiety, he stopped and said, “Not my will, but yours”.

Alright God, I’ve been uprooted and uprooted, you know my desires, I’m scared, this doesn’t feel great, there’s no appropriate plaque or throw pillow that describes this moment, but not my will, yours.

Before the Breakthrough

Today has been just one small episode in this season of my life, one that foreshadows the finale; hinting at the possible tomorrow.

I went for my fourth dental visit in the past three weeks. I found a dentist, they told me I needed a lot of work, we got started on the work, and now we are almost finished. I had my fitting today, my coronation fitting. I kept thinking of clever ways to tell Facebook and Tumblr that I was getting two crowns and I kept coming back to the idea of a coronation, but because I am so royal I require two ornamental headpieces. Well that’s what the play on words would insinuate.

This has already been an expensive process that today became just a little bit more expensive, money I don’t have.

After the fitting today I was informed about two different kinds of crowns (why I wasn’t informed of this prior to today, heaven knows): one, the traditional porcelain one with metal wiring which discolors easily and not as long durable, but “free” (read included), two, a special alloy that looks cleaner, doesn’t discolor and is extremely durable but costs $150 each crown. I immediately felt down.

Insurance is covering most of the bills, but not all and the rest I have taken out a loan from the lending group that works with the dentist’s office. This new monthly bill is $115, which I don’t have but I said yes to because I believe this is something I need to do and honestly I believe God will provide for it, not specifically because of the teeth, but because he will help provide for all my needs, that’s a promise I believe because it’s what the Bible says about Him and I have seen Him do it time and again for my family and me, He just does it in His own unique way.

I though I could possible add this new $300 cost to my loan, because the credit company gave me a line of credit that greatly surpassed my cost. The receptionist at the desk assured me she would find out and let me know for sure. I walked out of the office slightly more anxious but slightly relieved because I had chosen the better option because I knew it would be a better investment in the long run, but knowing my monthly bill would be bigger. I hadn’t even walked a block away when she called my phone telling me the company required a minimum of a $500 procedure to give more money from the credit line.

Crap.

“Sir, would you still like to go with this option? Sir?”

A million things started running through my head. The chiefest of which was, “I don’t have that” I have my rent money in my pocket and $40 in my bank account.”

Do it.

“When will that money be due?”

“When you come in for your crowns, so in about two weeks when we get them in.”

Do it.

“Okay, yeah, Ill go for it.”

Aghhhh. What? Why would I agree to this? I can’t afford this.

Amidst this money stress, I have been dealing with a difficult situation at work. My manager has not been managing the store well and treats the partners (the employees) poorly. I had been trying really hard to make her happy and do a good job, but when every encounter I had with her was negative, was a listing of grievances that I always seemed responsible for, I became too exhausted and reached out to our district manager. Last week she came to the store and talked with the other shift supervisors and myself because apparently I was not the only one who had reached out to her about our manager.

She was extremely concerned about the situation and wanted to hear as much as she could about the situation. When I reached out to her I had mentioned a transfer to another store and in our conversation she mentioned it. She wanted to know if I would be willing to stay to help out with the adjustments that would be made. I then began to explain to her about how money had been really tight and so a transfer, though beneficial to my work life would not necessarily be what I in fact needed, a job with more income.

“Have you considered moving up in the company?”

“Yes, I have, but I actually really want to act, to be in theatre and I know that with the higher position there would be less flexibility”

“Yes, that is true. I would hate to see you go, but at the end of the day you need to do what is right for you and your goals. Just let me know”

I told her that even though I have the flexibility now I am nowhere near to where I need to be to start auditioning. I don’t have the money to start. Before I can even think of that, I must think of how I am to finance this venture. I decided I wanted to go for it (much to the chagrin of my compassionate roommate who didn’t want to see me continue working for a place or manager that was stealing my life away).

She told me to read over some material, fill out some paperwork on my skills and what progress I believe I need to make and in what areas, and then we would go from there.

I sent the paperwork Wednesday. There has been no more word of it, since.

I am only four days late with rent this month. I said yes to a $300 bill, in addition to the $115 one I won’t be able to afford.

I hate griping about not having money. I hate that I worry about it so much, that I’m always thinking about it.

God has always provided and He will again. I don’t know how and honestly I am a little scared and worried and I know I shouldn’t be. He will take care of me, he always has. As I was thinking about this brushing (and flossing, using Listerine, and a special prescribed fluoride toothpaste) I believe God wanted me to share.

I said no, people know I am stressed. They can hear the victory. They don’t want to hear me talk about money again.

But people need to see how much you needed to trust me and how well I came through. They need to know, like you, how to wait in faith, before the breakthrough

So, here I am, waiting, before the breakthrough.

By faith

Money has been tight for a while now. Each week it seems like I won;t reach the surface, where I can be at a point where I am just a little ahead of my bills. No, I am not pinching pennies; no, I am not hungry; and yes, I have a roof over my head. It just seems like I have been coasting like this for a while, and I know it will turn around, but it just seems like I am holding on by a small thread.

I’m exhausted.

I can never complain of my circumstances because I know I am doing well, I mean I even have health insurance. Something to me that was a luxury I did not have growing up, thank God we were not sick often. And I mean thank God.

My insurance is nearly rounding it’s first year and I have yet to utilize its benefits. In part I have not used my insurance because I kept finding other ways to spend the money that would go towards a copay for a check up. The other reason being that I was a little anxious about what “issues” might have developed since the last check up, and finding that out would just acknowledge the need to spend more money and the less money I could potentially save towards this acting thing I’ve been meaning to start.

Well, it turns out my insurance is so awesome that it covers check-ups, eye exams and teeth cleaning without any co-pays. So, without any other excuse, besides my apprehension, I sought out an optometrist, a doctor and a dentist. When I found a good eye place, I asked the questions and found out my specific eye exam and follow up would cost about $60 because I want contacts (doable). I have yet to see the doctor (three weeks away), Now the dentist was the cause of the most fear because out of all the medical personnel, this was the one that has lapsed the most time between visits.

In my best estimates, the last time I went to the dentist was over a decade ago.

Now I don’t share that special dislike of the dentist that people commonly have, but I know that after a while there is natural buildup and the repercussions that follow. Plus, that added bonus of a kind of knowledge that my teeth are already sensitive (thank you dad and your genes) and I feel some discomfort when I eat certain foods. Suffice to say, I knew with the case of the dentist, no news was only good news, but I could definitely expect news after seeing the dentist.

A saw the dentist two days after I began this search.

I am pretty sure God was pushing for me to have this happen.

The news was not good. Cavities. Sensitive teeth. Two root canals. In the next two years I will probably have to spend at least $2,400 on my teeth out of my pocket.

Right now, I’m excited when I have $24 extra dollars.

Everything in me wants to freak out. Instead, my heart plummets. I feel as though I’ll never reach the surface. I try to convince myself that everything will be okay, that I’ll make it through, whatever happens. I mean God has always been there before hasn’t He? He has always provided when I need it. Why couldn’t He provide for this?

He’s keep me afloat.

Floating.

Just above the surface, you know, so I could breathe.

Breathe.

Don’t get upset.

He’s providing. He will provide.

You know you still have it better than most. Stop moping. Pick yourself up.

God helps those who-

You promised me I would walk on water!

Why can’t I walk on water? Why am I not strong enough to have the faith to see? Why can’t I persevere through this storm, head held high proclaiming how good my God is? I don’t understand.

I can motivate my friends to trust God, telling them my story of how He came through, but why won’t I believe it? Sometimes I feel as though God is my last ditch effort, but is that because I try and find a solution first? Is He waiting for me to ask Him to grab my hand? Is He waiting for me to believe He is who He says He is? That He will honor the promises He’s made me?

Why do I have to doubt Him? Why do I think this way? Why do I run around moping that God won’t help me, when I just need to stop and ask.

Today in my devotions I read Hebrews 11. Whomever wrote Hebrews had a specific point they wanted to get across in this portion of their writing. Something quite obvious.

By faith…

Hebrews 11 has the phrase, “By faith…” repeated 21 times. The book goes through countless examples of people who were weak and broken but trusted that God was enough to get them through.

By faith these people were called and they responded.

But you know what? Faith is blind. Faith is going where it seems murkiest and trusting you’re not alone. It’s building the tunnel, trusting that there is light on the other side. By faith, these people laid foundations for later generations to inherit the blessing of promise. By faith these people planted seeds and buds of plants they would never see grow. They had to trust that one day there would be a harvest.

Now, in this moment of doubt and wavering I know my God is good and He always fulfills His promises. There are many promises God has given me, trusting me to respond in faith, that I will never see the results of, but I also know He is good to take care of the needs I have.

Regardless of how I feel in this moment, the anxiety, I am choosing to believe and know that God is with me, even if I am underneath the waves, in the dark. By faith, I am believing God will take care of my every need and more, I will patiently wait. By faith, I believe that God moved me to this city to extend roots of His kingdom and even if that means working in the same place until the end of my days, I will carry on, because He is good and worthy of everything I have, even if this is all it is.

Trying

Heart racing, knees shaking, hands sweating…well my hands are always a little moist, or so my sister tells me. I digress, there I am heart all a flutter, waiting anxiously.

“Are you ready? Yeah, okay you’re part of group one”

What? Okay, best to get this over with.

“Alright everyone, we’ll just be singing this verse of the song together, then we’ll go around to everyone of you to hear you sing a verse, then we’ll repeat with us singing the melody line and you the harmony? Ready”

No.

Well ready as I will ever be. I mean I shouldn’t be nervous, I’ve sang in many choirs, this one is no different. No I am not the strongest singer and I typically cave under pressure, that audition for the performing arts school was a good example, but this should be different I am worshiping, so I shouldn’t stress.

See, I’m sounding okay right now when we’re all singing together. I am singer the lower part and probably could sing higher but this is more comfortable. Alright, now onto individual. Wow, she’s good. Okay, she cracked a little but she came back. I  can do this. Oh she’s a little flat, but she’s doing alright. I can do this.

“Your turn, and by the way extra ten points for the mustache.”

“Thanks” I never really know how to respond to this.

Deep breath. And ….crap, why? I know the melody, I can hear it. Why can’t I make my voice sing it? I sound like a scared mouse. Great. I am messing this up.

“Sorry”

Ok, perhaps I can…where is the harmony? What is going on? This is humiliating. I am a terrible singer. Hurry get out of here while you can.

“Thanks. Wow I am so amazed at all of you, so brave”

Oh God, that’s what you say to people who  can’t sing and try anyway. This is awful. Why did I do this?

I’m shaking.

I quickly walk out of the venue church was in today into the bright lights of Times Square. Wasn’t it just two nights ago when God had me stand here and promise me I would one day see my face on these billboards? How could I possibly do this? There is no way. I need someone to teach me how to be fearless. I need more lessons in singing craft, but more than anything I need to learn how to believe in myself, or rather believe in the me God created.

I find it so incredibly frustrating. I know I can sing, well at least I think I know, I mean I can carry a tune. In fact I think it sounds fine when I’m in the shower, or in the basement at work, or when I used to have a car. I could match pitch, I could sing harmony, I’ve even had a few people who have heard me sing tell me I can sing. Perhaps that is the problem. I need adulation, I want people to tell me how well I sing for me to feel good enough to sing.

The other night at work, I was just playfully singing, having fun singing a Beatles song I think. One of my coworkers casually asked if I ever thought about singing professionally.

Wow! That was a confidence boost.

Where was that today when I auditioned for the Worship Choir? The place where I should be fearless, singing songs of praise to God?

I’m pretty sure all of this is connected with that deep seeded need for approval I have had all my life. I want to be everything, I want to be talented, but more than anything I want people to believe I am talented. I think I am talented. I know I have certain strengths and gifts, but once I have to put it on display it washes away. It’s more than stage fright, because I’ve learned to channel that and in fact I am more comfortable singing or speaking in front of hundreds of faces than three.

There’s an intimacy, a real knowledge of who I am that cannot be faked. With a crowd you can be an illusionist, making people believe what you want them to see. In a small group, you are more bare and vulnerable. You can see their faces and know if you have been accepted or rejected.

There it is, I botched a choir tryout, and probably a performing arts school audition. How is it that someone so terrified and frightened of not being approved to reach the city, to reach the others trying to perform.

Perhaps it is that I know the struggle so I can speak to people with first hand knowledge. But it has to be more than that. I am here for the city, not just those terrified that they won’t be adored by audiences.

Perhaps it is simply I am weak and the only way I will be able to fulfill my calling is on the strength of God. Him made strong in my weakness. That people would know Him, not me.

When is the next opportunity to try?

Mourning my Mother

I have been mourning the death of my mother for probably about three years.

I say probably because my mother is still living.

About ten years ago my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that attacks the nervous system. Each of your nerves has a casing around the length of a long strand that enables the signals that travel through your brain and nervous system to act at the rate at which it does, so when you want to say a word, lift your arm, type on a computer you do not have to consciously tell each muscle what needs to do what in order for the activity to be performed. With MS your white blood cells think your nerves are attacking the body so they attack the nerves and wear down the cells myelin sheath (the casing).

All that to say it slowly breaks down body functioning and it’s one of those weird diseases that has so many varied symptoms case to case that it is difficult to diagnose and then difficult to track, not to mention there is no cure.

For the first couple of years after the diagnosis (which was comparatively fast) seemed like the disease wouldn’t affect our family that much. Mom just got tired a lot faster than she used to, which just meant instead of working all day, making dinner, and working on household chores, she just worked all day and made dinner. After a while she stopped making meals, the heat seemed to bother her more than anything. Then she got in an accident and stopped driving. Then she got let go from her job, but that seemed like a blessing because she was exhausted all the time and it provided a nice severance.

Slowly but surely Mom slowed down, but she was still my mom, a rapier wit and full of wisdom. She always seemed to know what to say. The first year at college I was able to see the changes better. When you are with someone as they consistently change you don’t see the gradual shifts, but when you only see your family every once in a while you see the different milestones better. When Mom started using a walker I knew things were serious, but I don’t think I realized how bad it was getting until a Disneyland trip.

We had passes so we would go probably once a week or at least once every other week. We brought the wheelchair because it was easier to maneuver. We had begun to stick mostly to rides it was easy to get in and out again.  This time we thought Matterhorn was a good idea because it was low to the ground and the way the seating used to be, she could sit right in front of my dad and he could hold onto her.

I don’t think I can ever forget the sound of her crying throughout the entirety of the ride. It wasn’t a sad cry, but a terrified wailing.

The problem was because she couldn’t hold herself up she felt like she was going to fall out. You know the game jello where you “let loose” to fall and sway with the turns on a car trip, mostly just an excuse to hit your siblings or push your friends into the side of the car. For my mom, this ride was jello, but she couldn’t stop. My dad was holding tight to her and kept reassuring her, “I’ve got you.” “You’re not going anywhere” Even my sister and I tried to offer support from the back, but it didn’t matter. I think at that moment she realized she would never ride this ride again and that there were a lot of other things she would never be doing again. Something changed for me that day.

Moving away from my parents was difficult, but coming home after leaving excruciating. Mom was getting worse and there was nothing I could do.

Multiple Sclerosis keeps winning.

While home for Christmas I found out my mom has opted for a “DNR of no resuscitation” which basically means if she ever collapses and is no responsive and/or is in a coma the EMTs and Medical personal are to not try and save her. To let her die.

People say that there are five steps to grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

I think I have experienced all of these already and as I mentioned she’s still alive. There’s something to be said of the emotional shock of someone passing suddenly, the surrealism, of them being there one day and gone the next. Something else entirely to be said of the slow kind, the one that slowly steals the one you love away. The one where you could have the immense hope of recovery surge up only for it to fall and you to wonder if it were better if they were gone already. When sentences like, “If she stops eating she would not feel pain or the feeling of starving, hunger would just go away” is devastating and at the same time a relief.

It’s confusing and painful. I know God is here with me and I am trying to see the sense. There may not be any. I know He cares for my mom, more than I, my sister or my dad ever could, so I know He will care for her and I know there’s complete healing in Heaven, but I want my mom back.

Just a Layover

I’ve been meaning to type this out for three days, but I suppose better late than never.

This whole past few weeks has been a whirlwind, and though I want to call it winter break, I shouldn’t, because I am no longer in school and therefore no longer have a winter break. I digress.

In my flight from Portland (where I spent Christmas with my parents, okay well it’s not exactly where I spent the Holiday, anyway) to New York I had a layover in LA. While this did not logistically makes sense why I had to fly south to fly North East, I was struck with an idea all the same that had a deep significance.

I had a layover at LAX.

LAX, the airport I had been flying from and returning to for 15 years of my life (this is still a majority, yea I know I am still young…) was just a layover. While my sister and many of my dear friends live there and I love being with them, my life living in California is over. It has been for a few years now, but having a layover really set the idea in stone. What else was significant was I wasn’t flying to New York or DC only to take a midnight bus ride to South Western Virginia anymore. I was flying to New York for good.

Now last year I was able to go be with my parents for Christmas as well, but it was a very different feeling. I was anxious, confused and lost. The plans I had fell through. What direction I felt from God was missing. Anguished, I hashed and rehashed the events leading up to the “not move” and nothing made sense, I felt as if I had been caught by the undercurrent and suddenly everything was upside down.

While this Christmas had worries of it’s own (generally thinking about how I could survive in New York and my mom’s deteriorating health), it felt different. I wasn’t confused, I knew the direction I was going.

It’s strange how much can happen in a year. Stranger still what can happen in five. Five years ago I lived in Southern California. Five years ago I was getting ready for graduation. Five years ago I didn’t know where I was going. And now, five years later I an living out a dream I never knew I even had.

I can’t wait to see what dreams I will get to live out that I don’t even know about yet.

It’s What He’s Doing

I should be sleeping.

But I can’t. I’m anxious.

I haven’t written a blog post in six months. My last post talked about what my adventures would be like “Not in New York”. I had resigned myself to not going for a while. I didn’t know when it would happen.

Well, it’s happening. I am moving in five days.

It all started very much the same as it did a year ago. I felt a stirring. I felt like God was saying it’s time to go to New York City. But this time I told Him no. I could not go through the ordeal of hoping for this and having it not happen. But, as any stirring from God it wouldn’t go away.

I decided to visit New York in order to assuage this feeling. Perhaps if I visited I could get this whole New York thing out of my system and be content where I was, but it didn’t. Because I wanted to be sure, I laid out a fleece for God, I set up something that I wanted Him to show me specifically in order for me to know that it was Him saying go. He answered it, above and beyond.

When I got to New York, it felt good. Like breathing air (smog filled air). I felt like I was right where I was supposed to be. You know that feeling you get when you are away from home for a while, but then you return to visit, well, it felt like that. I didn’t care so much about wanting to do tourist things, so much as I just wanted to walk, or maybe sit in a coffee shop and drink coffee. I visited my old Starbucks twice in one weekend.

I was made for this city. I know it. I pushed onward and a midst the craziness that was my life this semester, I took the steps I needed to take. I have been working hard, saving up, I talked to my bosses, I set up a transfer, I reached out for housing and all of it was responded to well and now I am here. I am about to embark on this next season, into the unknown and I am terrified and yet excited.I cannot wait what life has in store for me, but at the same time I am worried. What will it look like? Will I have enough money? What will people say?

But you know what? All of these things don’;t really matter because one thing is for sure: God has called me to this city, I don’t know what it will look like, but I know He will lead me and take care of me.

Oh and I will do my best to keep you updated on how He does it.