Nov 19, 2010

All That Glitters...

Death can take on many forms. It can be phsyical, emotional, spiritual, or even relational. Death, although seemly daunting, is a necessary element for growth.

I went back to my home away from home NYC this past week. Of course, as always, I went back with the notion that I was going to have one revelation and one revelation only (as if Haiti wasn't lesson in that enough!). I was nervous at would I feel going back after so long? Would I feel out of place? Would I want to move back? Would I absolutely hate it? Would my old friends and I have grown apart. Would the memories be too painful? Or would I end up wanting to stay and cancel my return flight home? I even went so far as to tell my friend who graciously drove me to the airport at 5 in the morning that I didn't even feel like going....the 6 hour delay that followed changed my mind of course!

When we finally boarded the flight to LaGaurdia, I discovered in-flight Worship music on XM! So, I decided to use that time to for Worship and prayer and preparation of the experience that lay ahead. My apologies to the flight attendants trying to get my attention for a drink :) When we finally were close to landing, there out of the grey sky of the rainy November afternoon, emerged that alabaster city. Only this time, I would actually set foot on its concrete for the first time in almost a year and a half. My heart raced...mostly because I forgot how it looks like you're going to land either in the Hudson or on someone's house.

The taxi couldn't get to my friend's apartment in Chelsea fast enough! When we finally arrived, I hurried down the street with my luggage, ran up to the stoop, rang the B5 buzzer, and practically plowed my way through the doors! As I spotted my dear friend for the first time in what seemed like ages, I couldn't even move. In fact, she actually had to walk down the hall to get the luggage I had dropped, in my excited jumping up and down and "Oh, my gosh!'es". Once inside her apartment, we drank tea and chatted for a bit before heading out to lunch. As we walked down the street, I didn't want to look up. I didn't want to let it in for the fear of the emotion that might follow. Although, a strange feeling was beginning...a new sense of empowerment, still tinged by the oppression that had been a daily theme in my New York life. What was this weird feeling?

We walked around for a bit, met for dinner with another old friend, and ended up in Union Square..and then it happened...I looked up.

I looked up with the same sense of wonder that I had experienced that first day back in 2004. This spot where in my New York Life I had spent so much of my free time, met up with friends, etc. I saw the sparkling buildings that I had walked by so many times. We sat down and then the flood came. At first I didn't realize why I was crying and then it hit many things at once! I realized that it was over! All the heartache! All the struggle! I realized I was grieving to lay to rest the old life so full of heartache and despair that had brought death to my soul. I grieved to celebrate because I realized that God has redeemed and restored every one of those broken parts of my life in such a short amount of time. No longer do I live with that overbearing sense of oppression and mind numbing stress! I cried because I realized I could love this city again. I grieved the death of a dream created so long ago that had turned so ugly...and then realized that dream was not dead, but had reincarnated itself. I realized my dream had come true! I had dreamed of becoming a singer and then I look at my friend and realized that I am! It doesn't look like how I thought it would, and it didn't turn out how I thought I wanted it to, but isn't that always the way? You think you know exactly what you want and then God gently taps you on the shoulder and whispers, "no, it's over here". I realized that if ever a time came where God would call me back to this city, it would be completely different and I would live here in Victory. New Yorker's call it "putting on your armor"....and SO DOES HIS KINGDOM.

As I we stood up, I felt it all fall away. The pain of my old life NY that I had been carrying for so long was laid to rest that night in Union Square...and I fell in love with New York again...:) I was finally FREE!!! This beautiful city, where you can be anything or anyone you want to be and do anything you want to do. For all it's faults, I had done it, I had moved here, worked my butt off, fought, struggled, and made it work for 5 years. And then when it was over, I chose to come home...and I didn't have to. I could have stayed if I wanted to. I could have let myself die a little more each day and become something I did not want to be. But I chose to let God heal my spirit instead. Knowing that if I wanted to move forward, I must first go back.

I watched my friend go through her own death and reincarnation this week. As my friend grieves the recent death of her marriage, an ugly monster reares its head. Whatever was salvagable in once loving marriage has reincarnated itself in the form of a disease which fights to take her life everyday. I had talked to her about this many times over the past year, but this was the first time I had witnessed it firsthand. I saw her struggle and battle this disease to save her own life and could only stand by helplessly. This is a demon that cannot be fought by medication alone. This is a demon that she must love herself enough to fight to save her life and her soul. It's hard to watch a friend that you love go through something that you are powerless to stop. This was not the friend so full of life that I remembered.
So, I shared what I could and prayed over her and with her. She came to my old church with me for WeWo (that's David-speak for Wednesday night Worship!). The irony is that not 2 minutes after the service was over, she received a nasty email from her soon-to-be ex-husband, which she later declared that being in church had actually helped to prepare her for that message and soften the blow.
She and I had shared this theme of death and reincarnation within ourselves and together this past week. Hmmm...coincidence? I think not. God's plans are perfect!

This week for the first time, I was able to enjoy myself in that big city. I felt peace and empowerment. I was able to walk through that city with my head held high and share with my friends what God has been doing in my life. I pray that that in itself is a testimony.
I thought my life in NY was over, but as the week progressed I realized that this is not a period, but a continuation. I don't know what lays ahead, but I do that God has been giving me unique experiences lately to study and learn from. All I can say is, "Hallelujah"!!! I am ready...

Oct 3, 2010

Rebuilding Faith

As we near the end of our 2 and a half hour flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince, I peer sleepily out the window...nothing yet, just miles of sparkling Carribean blue. The pilot announces that we are beginning our descent into Port-au-Prince. Then, I see it...emerging from the mist like a magical, mystical land. "Mountains"...I wasn't expecting that. Not pointy, snow-capped mountains like what you'd find in America, but rather green, round, and flat-topped. Almost resembling bunches of green, crumpled-up pieces of paper. The fog begins to dissipate as we fly further inland...beautiful undeveloped blacktop roads, no perfectly squared-off backyards...just this beautiful mountainous, primitive looking land.

As we near the runway, concrete, blue tarps, and rubble replace what on an American landscape would be strip malls, highways, and neon signs. Smoke billows up randomly around the land, which we would later find out to be charcoal fire pits where people cook their food. As we land, it's as if we are surrounded by mountains on either side with the ocean beckoning behind us. Then it hits me this absolutely gorgeous land is also the most impoverished country in the world. How can that be?

Then, as we debark from the plane and begin our long walk down the windowed departure gate, the cracks appear...literally. Out the window to our left more magestic our right, the old departure gate, no longer safe for usage due to huge cracks caused by the devestating earthquake. "Over 300,000", someone says in the background...the number of lives lost in a matter of seconds.

About an hour later, we are out of customs, out of the airport, and into mass chaos. Men in "uniforms" try aggressively to latch onto our luggage in an attempt to collect some sort of monetary compensation. Our 25 pieces of luggage are causing quite a stir in the eyes of the hundreds of hungry Haitians gathered outside of the airport...some to stay cool in the shade, some just to people watch, and some to work as "skycaps" in the hopes of a tip. "Women in the bus now!", Nadar our bus driver says as the guys stay back and guard our luggage as it's loaded onto the bus. The independent woman in me laughs at this, but I'm also relieved to be out of all the chaos. I see the reason for the hurry, as Nadar climbs into the bus and slams the door behind him, before random people make an attempt to beg. At this point, a few people are beginning to gather around outside the bus as we drive off to Tortug' Air, which will take us to our final destination...Port-de-Paix. And so begins what will be the most marking and memorable experience we could have ever hoped to have had.

Each of us went on this mission with something different in mind...some fulfilling a lifelong dream, some for a fresh perspective, some dreaming of the chance to work with the kids. My reasons for partaking in this mission stemmed not only from craving a fresh perspective, but having an unexplainable feeling that God was going to move in a big way. In my own limited human thinking, I went expecting one big revelation. As if God could prepackage destiny in one message. But once again, God in his amazing way, and as He so often does, opened my eyes to so many things and in so many unexpected ways.

One thing that is striking down there, is this incredible sense of peace that you feel. God's protection and provision are tangible. Lack of phones, internet, and tv, translates into no distractions, agenda, or unnecessities, and an amazing thing happens...God speaks instantly! I wonder how often we miss this at home, caught up the midst of our own distractions and obsession with more, more, more. Even at the American poverty level, we are still considered rich in comparison. What would happen if all excess was stripped away and only necessities remained? Would we actually begin to want and be content with what we already have? That's not to say we should never have or aspire for greater things, but it's the attitude that goes along with it. Not deserving what we have, but rather thankful for the privilege...and we are privileged. And maybe someday, if we are able, to spread that those less fortunate.

Over the course of the week, I think God spoke to each of us in different ways. Whether it be forming friendships with resident missionaries, touching the lives of the children, creating a new-found appreciation for our own lives back home, fueling the fire to be a traveling missionary, or creating an even stronger conviction of a calling to be a resident missionary.

Touching back down in the states, our group was a mix of emotions. Some cried, some thankful to be home. The first thing I noticed was the landscape, this time descending into Miami. Trade those magestic mountains for perfectly manicured lawns and pools. I don't know why, but the first thing that popped into my head was the Berkin bag (more commonly known as the purse on "Will and Grace" that Karen's puppy pooped in). This purse at one time cost $20,000...! $20,000! The fact that anyone would charge or even thinking of spending that much on a bag to carry around your stuff that's going to wear out in a year or so anyway is absolutely ridiculous to me. So, I guess my mind just went to the most extreme example of excess that it could think of in the moment, lol.

One thing I'm noticing this week is American excess is becoming so much more obvious. Things that seemed to matter before, just don't anymore. My faith increases as I see how God provided for and protected us in so many ways on this trip. As He continues to reveal the bigger picture, I am so thankful for this experience and I can't wait to see how God will piece everything together!

Aug 28, 2010

The Summer of "Wow"

So, I've been on sort of a "writer's hiatus", so to speak. As I grow in my faith and within myself, God continues to amaze me. I think, at this point, it is safe to say that I will not have a "normal" life, lol. I love that God has given me the freedom in my life to go and explore not only the world beyond, but who I am as well...or should I say, who He has made me to be. And while I still search for her, I grow closer and closer to the truth everyday.

An acquantance of mine once told me I have a rebellious spirit...and while that may be true, I think "stubborn" is more appropriate. I'm stubborn in that I don't always want to take the time to listen to what God has to say. It's more like, "Ok, God, I'll listen, but I have to leave in a half an hour. Oh, wait, if I'm leaving in a half an hour, I need to get ready now. Ok, I guess I'll just listen while I wash my face." ..and etc., etc. Not out of pride, but rather fear. Fear that if I don't fix this situation, it will get worse or fear that if I must take control over my life before it spins out of control. And so this went on until God decided to take away everything in my life that could cause a distraction...namely, my job, lol.

And so, I've spent this past spring and summer searching for what lays ahead, be it employment, a relationship, a move, etc. I went on countless interviews only to find that either the person who was leaving which made the position available had decided to stay in that position, or the company ended up hiring from within, or the position became unavailable due lack of company revenue to finanace the position, etc. So, of course, if you're human, you think, "ok, what the heck is going on here? Am I missing something here?". Little did I know, God was saying, "No, not this. I have something better for you." And so I went off the beaten path and tried something new, never expecting it to work out, almost doing everything I could to make sure it didn't work out...and you know what? Not only did it work out, it fell right into my lap! To quote one of my favorite pastors, 'Jesus is sneaky like that!'!

The worker in me saw 6 months worth of "missed" opportunities and paychecks. God saw 6 months worth of spiritual bonding and preparation for what lies ahead. I am about to embark on what I'm sure will be a life-changing, pivotal point in my Walk. As I prepare to travel to Haiti with 11 other members of my church, I can feel a change coming. I feel the start of a new chapter where the "I want's" fade away and the "God, what will you have's?" become increasingly prominent. And so on that day, I will close my eyes, hold out my hand, open my heart and say, "God I am ready!"...only this time I will mean it! I don't know what lies ahead, but this I know for certain, God is going to MOVE.

May 5, 2010

Put Your "Cross" Where Your Mouth Is

This morning, a friend of mine posted a note on Facebook. In his note, he references L.N. Tolstoy's Resurrection and gives a critique of the blurred lines of Christianity, or as Wikisource puts it, the "hypocrisy of institutionalized church". My friend focuses mainly on the inconsistencies of the actual "religion" aspect of the church, which in some cases (emphasis on some) focuses solely on the legalities and takes away completely from the Divine Relationship itself. While I don't presume to know the extent of my friend's beliefs or the depth of his own personal understanding of Christ, I felt this speak to my spirit regarding those who have been turned off to Christ due to "false witness" from someone who calls themselves a Christian. It seriously ticks me off to think that so many people will never experience the true joy, freedom, and love that is God because of a brother or sister's careless behavior. Now, I might be stepping on some toes here, so I encourage you to read this ENTIRE post so that it can come full circle.

We as Christians, we have a dire responsibility to try our best to "get it right" when it comes to Christ. Not only for God and for ourselves, but as an example for those around us who don't even know the Truth yet and may be looking to us for some glimmer of an example. Yes, I know that we should look to God first for that knowledge and not to man, but let's face it, how many of us, before we learned the truth, sought out the advice or mentorship of someone who already had a relationship with God? Why? Because until we knew the Lord, we needed a tangible reference.

People who don't know what it means to be a Christian are going to look to other Christians first for an example if for no other reason than the fact that it's human nature. How many times do we see people talk about God's love and then turn around and talk crap about another person? Or shun someone because they "don't feel like" dealing with their drama or they think that person is "weird"? Or commit a hate crime? Or just be completely small-minded and ignorant in general? Hello?! I thought the whole point of Christianity was to die to self and stop walking in the flesh.

Of course, we "don't feel" like dealing with certain things...we are human! Our fleshy side doesn't feel like doing a lot of things, which is why we look to God in the first place. He is the one who gives us the strength and perserverance to push through where we as humans do not want to go. Yes, there are times that we need to guard our hearts from those who actually cause us harm, but we can't purposely shun someone for not fitting into our "social circle". We can't just sit back, smack a "Christian" label on our foreheads, say "Ah, well, I'm saved now", and then go back to being a jackass pulling the "saved card" whenever it's convenient for ourselves! For Pete's sake, Jesus even made the effort to save someone while he was flippin' nailed to a cross and beaten to a pulp! You didn't hear him say, "Sorry, man, I just have too much going on right now." We ALL have drama in our lives, but that is why God gave us to each other so that we can relate to each other and lift each other up when we fall.

We sit here and talk about the anti-Christ movement which gives Christianity a bad name, but honestly, it can also be our own sisters and brothers. I'll be the first to admit that I am a heck of a long way from "perfect". Lord knows, I screw up many times and fall short of His glory. My heart is just on fire for the body of Christ to step up and not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

We will never be "perfect" and that is where His grace comes in, but God intends this not only to be about a relationship with Him, but our relationships with other people. How foolish would it be to ignore that?

Apr 18, 2010

Forfeiting to Win

Life is full of power struggles. Some are purposeful; others we may not even realize. If you're like me, you worry...a lot. A quick way to alleviate that worry? Take the reigns and hold a death-grip for dear life! lol Don't we all do that from time to time? But more often than not, it's that very "warrior" mentality that can ultimately cause us to fail. We do everything in our power to avoid painful situations or to hurry things along. As humans, it's an almost unavoidable, natural response to the things around us that may seem so out of control (and I stress "seem"). We can become so impatient with our circumstances...this isn't happening fast enough, or we don't want "this" to happen so we do "this" to make sure it doesn't happen...yada, yada, yada. I could go on and on...but I won't ;)

I learned the power of letting go...lifting up and surrendering my life to the only One who can make it right....only to take it back just a few weeks later...and, boy what a serious boo-boo that was! At first it seemed harmless, but oh, the heartache that followed. Lesson learned? If something is not right for you, no amount of love can make it right. Everyone has different capacities to love.

"Just because someone does not love you the way you want them to, does not mean they don't love you with all that they have".

I've never liked that saying. When you get right down to the point, that "all that they have" love is still not enough. To me, it sounds like a cop-out; a weak and useless way to justify what is undoubtedly behavior that is painful to another person. I could almost gaurantee that one person in that scenario is laxidasical and the other person, as a result, is undoubtedly left with a horrible void in their heart. In short, at the end of the day, that "love" is not where it is supposed to be.

Yes, I am aware that there are people out there who have ridiculous demands and diminish love down to nothing more than a series of intricate hoops to jump through... and I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about Love in its purest form; the real and true definition. When Love is real, there is no room left for question. It is as evident as night and day; tangible. You need not search for the actions beyond the words...not because the actions are unnecessary...rather because they will stare you in the face. You will trip over them. Accept no immitations...true Love walks the line!

Love is not a toy; it is not a game. "Love" is not a word to be taken lightly or to be said in passing. Love is not a power struggle; not something with which to beat another person into submission. Love is not meant to be used as a trinket to dangle over another person's hopeful head. Love is not neglectful, conniving, or fruitless. And most definitely, love is not manipulation. Love is a precious gift; and when used correctly, it has the power to transform a person's life. Love can build a person up or send them crashing to the ground. No doubt, love is powerful and it is a critical responsibility to use it wisely.

When "love" falls short, it's not mature or it's not right altogether. This is not God's best for us. We need to trust Him...obviously he knows what He's doing! lol

God reaches His hands out to us; not so that we can take back what we have already given to Him, but rather that we may take His outstretched hands and let Him gently lead us away from what is harmful to us and towards where we are meant to be. It's so easy to forget that His plans are perfect and anything that I may try to create or accomplish, in my own power, pales greatly in comparison. It is only when we truly and honestly relinquish that power, that we become more powerful than we ever could have imagined.

Apr 11, 2010

From Biting the Big Apple to Roasting Little Buckeyes

I missed my "One Year Back in Ohio" anniversary! Why? Because I was deathly ill and puking my guts out from a lovely little thing called dehydration. Not fun! (Although, a little ironic as puking is what I felt like doing a year ago to the day when I realized I'd crossed over the Hudson into the oblivion...go figure! lol). Ok, so now when you read this blog, you're going to pretend it's the 8th of April. Why?...Because I was meant to write this on Thursday, which would have been the 8th, which coincidentally is the one year anniversary of "the move". I was going to blog about it then so, if you don't pretend, it won't be chronologically true, so just hush up and do it, lol.

:) Ok, so now we're pretending it's the 8th of, la, la...fade into....WOW! This year has flown by! I seriously cannot believe it's been a year already and yet I cannot believe how full this past year has been at the same time. From a new job, to picking up where old friendships had left off, newly formed friendships, getting back in touch with my roots, and (cue the drama)...facing family. I've most definitely been blessed and I've probably learned more in this year and grown more in my relationship with God than I ever have before. Why? Because I'm finally freaking paying attention! lol

"Jesus Bootcamp"-that's what I said it was going to be before I even left the city. A varitable Jesus Buffet, if you will. I was determined to make this a time to pay attention and learn as much as I could from everything that was going on around me. And, gosh darn it all, if that isn't what it's cracked up to have been, than my name isn't Sarah Lynn...Ha! That rhymed :) But seriously, that day was special and I can't help but take some time and reflect as I look back on that last day...

6am: I woke up, stretched, and thought, "this is the day!". Sleepily squinting one eye, I took a look around my apartment...Boxes everywhere! Not nearly the comforting little apartment I'd taken so much time to personalize so that I could call it "home". Funny how every single noise you make can resonate that much louder just by moving all your stuff to the center of the room. The only thing left standing was the mattress I was sleeping on; I'd taken the box frame apart the night before to the sound of my lovely neighbor banging in protest on her ceiling/my floor. Seriously, lady! It's rod iron meets hardwood floors, sorry I couldn't make it sound like an ant walking on feathers! Also, New York is noisy and why do you live here if you don't like noise? Consider it just-cause for having to listen to you practice for your many off-broadway productions....loudly...but I digress. The guys were going to be here soon and I needed to be up and ready with coffee, breakfast treats, and the truck.

I'd taken some time to reflect...Man! It just seemed so surreal to me that this was the last day I'd be waking up in my apartment that I loved so much; in a city, which I'd learned a lifetime of valuable lessons. One thing I remember vividly was, that it was the first day in 5 years that I had woken up and didn't feel instant pressure the minute I opened my eyes. I knew by that night, I'd be back in a truely safe place and all the hard work and stress of the past month's preparations would be over. I loved the city, but after 5 years, I was burned out, worn out, and desperately needed a break...anyone who ever asked "why?" has clearly never lived there before! lol

I step out the door and am greeted with a beautiful cloudless, sunny spring morning! I savor every step as I walked for the last time that long block from 3rd Avenue to Lexington to my favorite neighborhood treasure and daily coffee stop - SpaHa Cafe. Only, this time, I wouldn't be getting on the train afterwards.

Tika and Ty are busy with their usual early morning rush, but stop to wish me well and give hugs before arming me with enough coffee and danishes to feed an army...or 5 people, lol.

Ok, now all I need is the truck! I'd been lucky enough to happen upon a Budget Rental literally right around the corner from my building. Woo-hoo! I didn't even have to cross the street to get to it...bonus! Imagine the looks on the guys faces when this little lady goes walking in to ask for her 10' truck reservation. They were looking at me like, "Really? You are going to drive this big honkin' thing??".. (Needless, to say, I bought the insurance). Seriously, though, I hadn't driven in 5 years. My modes of transporation had been the train (subway), bus, taxis, and my own two feet. A pinto would have been intimidating, let alone a 10' truck! (If you don't believe me, hey, just watch me try to park my SUV!)

5 minutes, 10 confused and disturbed Spanish Harlem natives, and one seriously frazzled Sarah later, I am parked in front of the apartment waiting for the guys from church to graciously travel their long journies from Jersey and Brooklyn at 7:30 in the morning to come and help me load the truck. They are so wonderful and I would have been a mess without them there to support.

After all is said and done, I take some time to walk the length of my now empty apartment. The tears are flowing...I don't know what's to come, but I know (for now) I have to leave. So many memories, but I know that many more are still to be made. This is only the close of a chapter.

Back downstairs, we stand in a circle, pray, and say our goodbyes. The next 10 minutes are a blur of traffic and mapquest, until I'm over the bridge and into Jersey. "Route 80! I made it!". My only company is a lone wild turkey who delightfully pranced right across the highway in absolutely no particular hurry to clear the way of the large truck barreling towards it. Keep it mind, it had been a while since I'd seen wild life that wasn't surrounded by a bed of arugula, so, to me, this was hysterical!

The rest of that 8-hour drive was beautiful, clear, sunny, and blue. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. When I finally rounded the corner onto my friend's street and pulled into the drive, I knew whatever was coming, was going to be big!

Here's to you, New York...

Mar 23, 2010

Peace Cometh

"Change is never easy, you fight to hold on, and you fight to let go"...

Letting go can be one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do, but it can also be one of the most necessary things you'll ever need to do. We all have situations in our lives that may be holding an invisible question mark over our heads. Maybe it's something so terribly important to you that you're blinded to the truth; not realizing that all that may stand between you and the answer could be the tight grip of fear. If you are not able to see the forrest for the trees, all you have to do is ask yourself, "Do I have peace in this situation?".

It's amazing how life can come full circle as you begin to see how every event in your life is connected. Not necessarily in a step-by-step pattern. Sometimes a current situation can trigger a lesson learned long ago. Sometimes those situations can be totally unrelated to each other.

Last year, around this time, I had to make a decision to leave a place I dearly loved, which was one of the most, if not the most difficult decision in my life. Surely, God would never ask me to leave! He of course, as He so often does, reminded me in no uncertain terms, that HE is the one in charge and not me. Feeling so torn, I sought out many avenues that I believed would help lead to an answer. I spoke with close friends, had countless discussions with my Reverend (which inspired a ministry series on the Will of God!), and spent many nights praying and seeking God for an answer that was right in front of my face...literally. One month later, after much soul-searching and prayer, I was sitting in church one Sunday...I asked God one more time that His Will be revealed...we began a hymn...and wouldn't you know...the very next lyrics..."Come home, come home, All who are weary, Come home"...I had to laugh right there quietly joking to God, 'ok, I get it, I get it!'. Then, a magnificant and incredible peace flooded my entire soul in a way that cannot be described. There was absolutely no room left for doubt.

That is what we are looking for. That peace which comes when we know we have made the right decision. You will know that it is real because you will not doubt it for a second, all fretting will cease, and it will stay. His PEACE is to be found in every decision that must be made. If we are paying attention, we will know which is the way that leads to that peace.

Now one year later, I find myself in a similar situation. Once again a decision must be made. Once again doubt, fear, and uncertainty knock at the door. Once again, I have sought the opinions of others, as so many of us do (hey, we're only human!). Of course, all this really means is...I haven't learned my lesson!

It's so easy to forget what that initial experience with true peace looks like. Overtime, that knowledge fades with it's corresponding issue and, when caught off guard, we can revert back to that natural human tendency to feel as though we need to take back that control, believing it's all up to us. I am reminded of another recent experience in which closure was absolutely necessary. Three years of nothing, but uncertainty. I felt like I was in chains; torn between a need to be supportive and patient; and denying the realization that things that should not have been "okay", were becoming "okay"....until I finally realized that I could lay this at His feet, walk away, and trust that He would take care of it, either way. I had to give my loyalty to God BEFORE I gave my loyalty to man. And, Oh! The peace that followed! God was faithful and he covered my heart in the process. Not only did the peace come in such a supernatural way, but He protected my heart in the aftermath...bonus! Sheer proof that if you are faithful to Him, He will be faithful to you!

We just need to let go and let Him take care of it! All we really need to do is quiet ourselves...and stop and listen...and God will meet us there...and it is here that He will show us the way...and after that...if we are listening...Peace comes.

Mar 9, 2010

Sing out, Louise!

"Silence, I KEEL you!", I am not watching Ahmed the Terrorist. These were words which came from my vocal coach's talking bird (she once told me what kind it was...heck if I remember), right in the middle of a warm-up no less! Now lately it's been difficult enough for me to get into the spirit of things musically without a talking bird telling me to shut up. My vocal coach explains that he is just showing off his newly acquired vocabulary. Of course, now I'm laughing because the bird won't shut up. I find it quite ironic that a bird is basically telling me to zip it in the middle of a vocal lesson. Seriously, it's hysterical!

"Okay, come on now. Concentrate!", she teacher, not the bird.

I'll admit I've been purposely slacking at my lessons lately and my attitude has been pretty (for lack of a better word) sucky. Why? Well...I just haven't felt like it. I haven't felt like giving it "my all"....I figure I'll leave that up to Mariah Carey.

Warm up continues...and stops as she pulls out the dreaded mirror which I immediately greet with dramatic raspberries. The mirror is "punishment" and I hate it with a passion because now my crappy attitude is staring me in the face.

"Alright now watch what you're doing, open your mouth wider, sing OUT!", she says.

"I don't want to", I say stubbornly. Which of course is such an eloquent form of expression for a 29 year-old. Of course, my music teacher ain't buyin' it and she gives me a look that says without're too old for this nonsense.

But the truth is, I really just didn't want the time. She reminds me, "This is the only way you can see what you're doing wrong, so you can correct it". I agree reluctantly. I can be damn stubborn when I want to be and have any number of close friends who will tell you the same! What can I say?

So, we continue our lesson with my half-hearted attempts, until she stops again, takes her glasses off and stares at me intently.

"la, la, la, la, l-...what?", I'd been singing the scale until I realized she wasn't playing the piano anymore, but preparing no doubt to give me a good-natured lecture.

"Do you realize you're sabotaging yourself?", she asks. "You have this amazing gift and you're really holding back. Why are you so afraid of your own voice? I know what you're capable of, but you get in your own way. Do you realize how far you could go, if you would just get out of your own way? Because YOU are the only one standing in your way." That was the most valuable verbal kick in the ass I've had in a long time. Why do I do that?! Why do I purposely set myself up to fail? And I could say I don't realize when I do that, but I'd be lying. So, what is it that makes me feel like I need to sabotage something I once would have given my left elbow for? And I'm sure I'm not the only one. What is it that makes us abandon our talents, dreams, and aspirations?

It's simple. So, simple that it only requires one Life gets in the way. Things happen all around you everyday that cause your spirit to sag. Maybe you've lost your security or a love. Maybe someone has treated you cruely. Maybe no matter how hard you have tried to make that airplane fly, the wings fall off and the fuselage comes crashing to the ground. Maybe little negative comments here and there have slowly creeped into your soul and you start to believe them. Of course, this doesn't all happen at once and you may not even realize what is happening, but over time, these are all ingredients which lead to heart-smothering cocktail; shaken, not stirred. That once inpenetrable wall so strong and defiant against all odds, now crumbles in effect to the proverbial "acid-rain" which falls steadily over time.

And yet, that's no crutch to lean on, we still stand in our own ways. Even with the knowledge of how you have gotten to your own personal point at which you have now found yourself, it is your responsibility to go above and beyond your circumstances. It is a rare occurence where someone else comes along and turns your own gift into fruition with little to no effort on your part. You've got to take responsibility for yourself. You can't let "life" stop you from living out your potential.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Try out for that major league team? Move to a new city? Take that dream job? Start a business you've been dreaming of? Step into a new "right" relationship? But the key is you've got to use what you know you were given for that distinct purpose. Not your friend's purpose or your neighbor's or your co-worker's. You've got to dig deep inside of yourself and find whatever it is that your own personal "no-fail" may be and you cannot let the details of meaningless life circumstances stop you. You've got to own it!

"You are the only one standing in your way"...those were the greatest words my vocal coach has ever given me. Like my own personal "mirror" into my subconscious. So, now I have that responsibility to take ownership and use that knowledge wisely. You can take those broken things which were meant for destruction and turn them around, let them build character, and use them for a greater purpose. We cannot let the enemy take from us what God has ordained for us! Even when voices all around are giving their own version of, "Silence! I KEEL you!".

So, go! Stand up tall, live life the way you were meant to live it, and sing OUT!

Mar 1, 2010

Revelation - Getting My "Feisty" Back.

I've been stifled lately. Now, I know what you may be thinking..."but you've moved back to Ohio, where the air is crisp and clean!". No, no, not that kind of stifled. I mean I've been inhibited. Surpressing myself away for fear that people won't understand me. And now I've reached a point where I can't take it anymore. The straw that broke the camel's back? Someone very special, dear, and close to me in not-so-many words, telling me to withhold my feelings because, in the end they didn't matter because their feelings were more important...what??? Now for those of you who truly know me, I am not a meek person. I am not one to sit back and accept such total mind-screwing crap.

So, why did I accept this, not only from this person, but from other sadly misguided people as well? I was thinking being a Christian meant you hold back at all costs, even if it hurts you repeatedly. But that couldn't be further from the truth. God wants you to guard your heart, but he doesn't want you to lose your brain in the process. God made you who you are for a reason. Yes, He wants you to be more like Him, but He doesn't want you to turn to a mindless pile of mush. God intended for me to live my life the way as He created me, strong, couragious, and energetic! I was once that girl and I will will find her again.

After living in the crazy city of New York for 5 years, I moved back to Ohio last April; broken in every way. I never thought I would heal from the pain that I had experienced in the cold, concrete city. It all took on various forms, of course, but the cruelest manifestation of all was my hopes and dreams; everything I believed with every fiber of my being; dashed and scattered and the harder I tried to grasp for the pieces, the faster they fled away from me. A dear friend was gracious enough to invite me into her home and family to "reintroduce" me to my own hometown, which now seemed so foreign to me. I felt more like a fish out water than I'd ever been. I had to learn again what it was like to have a "normal" life from people all around me. I felt like people didn't understand me or would never understand what I'd been through. So, I hid it all away, including my own personality in the process, for fear that people would not be able to relate to me, or judge me or criticize; not having any understanding of what it was like themselves. Until I realized that I was hurting noone, but myself. I had been reading something a friend had said about me. This person hadn't seen me since before I moved to New York. One of her answers to a question asking her to describe me in one word was "FREE". I began to cry when I read it because I realized I wasn't that person anymore. Yes, I had a crazy life in New York, some good, some bad, some ugly, most you would think was straight out of a movie. I experienced great joys and lows and even some things I'm less than proud of. Although, I can safely and proudly say I kept my dignity through it all.

But the point is it was my life for 5 years. Those were my experiences, my struggles, my battle to survive in a city that is laughably not what they show on TV or in the movies. I can't hide those experiences as they are a crucial part to who I am as a person now.

So, I am going to be myself...fully...and ignore the pleas of those who try to make me feel that my opinions and feelings are not valid. When the honest and blunt truth is those very people have NO CLUE themselves. Can you really spend surface time with a person and say you know them well enough to blanket-label them? Not hardly! The people who know me and love me and have seen first-hand what has happened along this journey are the only people that have a right to form any kind of in depth opinion at all. My trust is in God who has covered me and continues to heal me from that lonely, broken, terrifying place. What a disservice it would be to the God who made me to be vocal, cause fighting, and charismatic woman that I am at heart to hold myself back for the fear that it will make other people feel insecure in themselves. Quite frankly, I'm getting pretty sick of it!

If we all took the time to evaluate ourselves IN CHRIST and realize who EACH OF US were made to be through Him individually, I gaurantee, we all would be a lot more comfortable with ourselves. God has made all of us to be unique in our own ways and if He wanted us all to be the same, He would have made us all the same. I don't strive to be like the next person. I strive to be that woman who in ultimate glory, is the woman that the Lord has made me to be through His Will! So, if that makes me "weird"...bring it.