Sunday, April 17, 2011

10 Questions

I help out with our youth group by leading a small group on Sunday nights, and it has been such a cool "out of my comfort zone" experience.  The girls I meet with are awesome - I love each and every one of them, and am challenged by them every week we meet! 

This week all of the small groups combined to form new "mixed" small groups.  4 students: 2 guys + 2 girls... plus 1 leader.  We were given a piece of paper with questions to ask the students and then we were to let them do the talking.  The purpose of this was to create openness in our youth group, to grow closer to each other, and to gain practice sharing our stories with people.  The leaders were simply there to ask the questions.

As we went through our time together, I got to think about how I would answer these questions too... so, I thought why not blog about it?!   I eliminated some questions that wouldn't make sense outside of a small group setting.... So.... here goes 10 questions:

  1. What three words/phrases would you use to describe yourself?
    Creative, multifaceted (in terms of interests), likes to be in control

  2. Name the song that best describes your life at this moment.  Why?
    "Awake My Soul" by Mumford & Sons.  This song has really spoken to me, specifically as I am going through somewhat of a change in the direction of my life.  It talks about my humanity... how fickle my heart, I struggle to find truth, stumbling upon things I don't know, and showing my weakness.  I feel like I've been learning a lot about myself, and more specifically, how God wants to use me.  Every time I hear this song, I feel reminded that it is my soul that needs to be freed up for God's purpose for me.... and that my love needs to be invested in things that really matter.   One day we WILL meet our Maker, and I want to be sure that I am living my life in a way that is truly alive & vibrant & filled with hope... a soul awakened, if you will.

  3. Describe your upbringing.  How has that affected your relationship with God up to this point in life?
    I grew up in a Christian home.... great-grandparents, parents, siblings, and almost all of my relatives are Christians.  I think as a young child, this greatly influenced me and moved me in the right direction to finding Christ.  I was only 5 when I asked Christ to be in my life.... and then when I was in about 6th grade I re-dedicated my life.  The biggest blessing that came out of this was having a safe & nurturing environment to grow in my faith.  The hardest thing, however, about growing up in a Christian home has been learning to genuinely make my faith my own.  It is so easy to fall into a routine of church and serving and "Jesus talk".  While college removed me from my home, I was still surrounded by Christians, and the temptations were minimal.  Now, after having lived in Los Angeles for a period of time, and after doing a lot of significant traveling in the past 2 years, I have realized how much time I've wasted in previous years preparing my heart and mind and body for the spiritual challenges that would come my way.  I feel like I am still learning the basics of living a different, changed life... and not because of my parents, but because that is what I genuinely believe and trust in.

  4. Describe a time when you were upset with God.  What caused the frustration?  How did you react?
    I don't know that I've ever been truly "angry" with God, but I have certainly felt lots of frustration when I don't understand why certain things happen.  The most recent I can think of are the past 2 times I was in California.  The first was for an (unpaid) internship at a music magazine in the heart of LA.  The second was for a job interview in Oceanside, CA... right in between San Diego & LA. For both of these, I felt like God was opening up doors to get started with my career working in music.  The internship turned out to be incredibly bad.  I enjoyed the people I worked with... the other interns were fun. However, I spent my days basically worked in a mail room... boxing CDs, magazines, posters, etc.  It felt like such a waste of time & money & skill.... there I was with a college degree and loads of experience, only to get put to work doing stuff that required zero skill.  I spent more money than I care to think about during those 3 months, between the $2,000/month rent & cost of living, etc... it was bad.  Then, after the opportunity presented itself to fly to CA for a job interview, only to not even get to the 2nd interview (which would have covered my transportation costs), I was very confused at why.... WHY did God let me spend SO MUCH MONEY, money that took me so long to save, for these opportunities that seemingly yielded no results?  I've since made my peace, and am hoping that God did or will in the future use those experiences for good... either for myself or in someone else's life.

  5. In what area(s) of your life have you experienced freedom that is found in Christ?
    There are many, many examples.... but right now the biggest one is the freedom that I've been experiencing with my career (or lack of one).  I feel like God has really been working in my life to show me that I don't need a big-time career to experience fulfillment &
    excitement towards life and what I am doing in life.  He has shown me how he wants to use me in ministry, even if it means only getting paid part-time and therefore having to continue living at home!  I've felt freed from the expectations of this world, and instead am experiencing such joy and hope for what is to come and how God will teach me, change me, and use me in the upcoming months and years!  Another area I've felt freedom is in physical appearance. I don't know why, but God has blessed me with a beautiful freedom of not being so worried about looks, specifically related to my weight. I am not a small, skinny girl.  I'm actually a short, stubby girl... and no, I don't like it.  BUT, God has freed me from feel self-conscious or depressed about these things, things that are real, hard issues in girls' lives.  I do have days that I do get distracted by not "feeling" pretty... but overall, I feel like God has shown me so many other ways he has placed beauty in my life, and why waste my time thinking about what beauty I DON'T have, when I can rejoice in the beauty that He has given me and wants to use in me!  Now THAT is freedom!

  6. What is one area of your life that God is working on at this stage of life?
    I feel like I kinda already hit on these.... but with the whole "career in question" stage of life I'm in, I've been really relying on God for direction.... this requires significant amounts of patience, hope, and confidence in His perfect plan for my life.  I can feel Him bringing healing from past pain, an excitement for the greater things that are yet to come, as Chris Tomlin says in his song, "God ofThis City"!

  7. What moment in your life would you describe as the moment you truly sold out for Christ?  How did that change your perspective on life?
    Hmmm, tough question.  I honestly don't know that there has ever been some sort of defining moment.  I think it's been a continual growing process.  I think I'd be lying if I said I live truly sold out for Christ.  I am still a selfish being, and while I am learning how to be sold out, I continue to sin and find ways to make life about ME, and not about HIM.  As I've grown deeper in my relationship with Christ, my perspective on life has shifted from being based on the world's view of what a successful, good life looks like.... and instead being based on how much I am allowing God to use me.  I think true fulfillment can ONLY come if you are living within God's will for your life, otherwise you will always be left wanting more.... more money, more fame, more success, more friends, or whatever else you may desire.  I am consistently learning how to better be fulfilled in Christ!

  8. In what ways have you given yourself to be used by God?
    I am trying to surrender my time more and use that time to be more involved with the ministry of the church.  I am serving as a worship leader, leading a small group with the youth, and trying to offer my services as a graphic artist, as inexperienced as I am, to help the church.  In addition, I am trying to help what few local musicians I know through the giving of my time & knowledge about the music industry, recording, songwriting, performing, etc.  The really cool thing is that the more I invest my time in these ministries, the more joy and excitement I have for doing it!

  9. What is the vision that you have for your life from this point forward?
    I'm not sure if this means spiritually or in terms of career/living/etc... but I will go with the latter.  One thing I have discovered is that I really, really love variety.  I have a hard time handling the same day-to-day tasks, and so I would really love to be able to be involved in a wide variety of ministries / activities.  Just as an example, I think it would be really awesome to be able to split my time up between marketing/office work, music, coaching volleyball, working in the church (with worship, student ministries, and everything creative arts related), and then have some free time to do random opportunities that come up.  Eventually, sometime I'd like to be married and later down the road possibly have children.  I even envision possibly adopting a child from another country.  I constantly have ideas of things I'd like to get involved in, which works well in my favor when life is so inconsistent!  I am able to adjust my vision and find a new vision!

  10. If you could meet face to face with God, what is the one question that you would want answered?  Why?
    Yeah, pretty sure I don't have a solid answer for this.  I have a feeling that when I meet God, it's going to be a pretty intense time... you know, with the judgement and all going on.  It's going to get uncomfortable.  So, I might try to lighten the mood a bit.  Like... what was the one thing that happened in my life that made him laugh the most?  Or, what's the best joke he's heard.  I mean, he's heard them ALL, so I bet he's got some good ones stored up.... I'd like to hear them!

And there you have it.  10 Questions.  10 Answers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Discover Your Potential

Here are a few things you can do to embrace your inner child, uncover your hidden talents, and get your creative juices flowing:

Imagine. Take a daydream break.

Express  Yourself.  You don't have to be any good at it, just do something, anything, that is artistic.

Take Notes.  Keep a notepad handy, at all times, to write down new ideas.

Experience.  Whether it's a hot bath, a hike in the woods, or taking a moment to smell the roses, engaging your senses will inspire your creativity.

Play.  Children are good at making up games, so take a cue from your children or grandchildren and join in on the fun!

Change. Routine leads to the rut of boredom.  Change some aspect of your daily routine and gain a new perspective.

Use Your Hands.  Try knitting, play a game of handball, make shadown puppets, or pick out a tune on your grandfather's banjo.

Create.  Carve out some quiet time every day to be alone and explore/expand upon all of your newfound creative ideas and endeavors.

Adapted from The Good Among The Great:  19 Traits of the most admirable, creative, and joyous people.
Donald Van De Mark


Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else,
a refining of the sense of truthfulness.
Willa Cather
The Song Of The Lark

Thursday, April 7, 2011

School of Knowledge

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
- Alfred D. Souza

After my recent search for new blog topics, a friend suggested that I write on areas I have grown in the past year.  I have done so many different things in the past year, it's almost hard to compile a list of areas I have grown, yet I keep coming back to the word knowledge.  I feel like in the past year, I have been exposed to more ideas, people, places, and experiences than the entire sum of years spent in school!  This obviously isn't completely true... but the past 12 months certainly served as some sort of school of knowledge, if you will.  I've decided to list some of things I have learned over the past year... hopefully you can relate, or perhaps learn a thing or two yourself.... either about my life, or life itself.

- I can make my own choices.  I know this sounds silly, but as Mr. Souza pointed out above, the obstacles that had always been in my way can be, to a certain extent, pushed aside if I allow myself to make sacrifices, and more importantly, to make decisions that lead to action.  If I stop making excuses, it is amazing how a world of possibilities opens up!

- Despite not having a full-time career started, my own place to live, a large income, or even a huge group of friends to hang out with regularly (all reasons to be frustrated with life)... I am blessed in ways that many, many people may be envious of.  While I don't have a full-time career, I get to do what I love, very frequently, because I have a lot of "free" time.... this includes traveling, photography, visiting friends, spending time with my family, and so much more!  Also, despite not getting paid for my work at the church, I have been gifted with the responsibility of being a worship leader at my church, and as a result I get to lead rehearsals, pick out music, plan services, and practice music... all with a very meaningful purpose!  While living at home has it's own frustrations, my parents have seen it as a small portion of their contribution to ministry... their way of being my "host" family, while I serve in the church and struggle to find a way to make a full-time income... and so they let me live here, rent-free!  And, as far away as my friends may be, that means that almost always, when I travel to other states or even countries, I have a wide-spread network of friends... really good, quality, outstanding, and generous friends... who let me stay with them!  All in all, this can be summed up as this:  I have realized in the past year just how supported and loved I am by my family, friends, alma mater, and church!

- My parents are a wealth of knowledge... and a resource that I have most happily and graciously utilized in the past year as I make serious decisions in terms of career, finances, and even travel!  I definitely have not tapped into that resource enough, mostly because it involves humility and admitting I need help from someone with more experience and more wisdom!  My appreciation of my parents has grown immensely!

- I am a prideful person.  This has not been something fun to learn.  In my brain, I usually fall into one of two mindsets:  either "I can do this on my own, and I don't really need someone else's help (nor do I want it)"  OR  "I don't know if I can do this on my own, or I definitely can't do this on my own, so I'm not going to do it at all".  Yikes, that's a scary thing to realize.  It is especially scary when you realize that a lot of it comes from the fear that because I am a woman, I will not get respected as much as a guy would be, or trusted as much.  I think that fear was started when I decided I wanted to be a musician... and immediately assuming that men would never respect me for my work or abilities as a musician.  As a result, I started putting up a strong exterior, which led to pride.  So then, of course, I am reminded of these verse in the Bible that say,

"A kindhearted woman gains respect..." (Proverbs 11:16),

"Wives, submit..." (Ephesians 5:22... and in many other passages),

"Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words. They will be won over.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight . That is the way the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority..." (1 Peter 3:1-5)

"Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."  (Titus 2:4-5)

So, you women out there may not be like me, but when I hear words like "submit", "quiet spirit", "busy at home", and "subject to"... I cringe.  I never thought of myself as a feminist, but turns out I may be more of that mindset than I ever could imagine.  So, as a result, I am trying to work on this definite issue.  I have talked to friends, family, and even authority figures about this and mentioned my struggle with pride.  It has been encouraging to find out that I'm not the only female who struggles with this.... even some women who I was nervous to talk to about this have shared with me their similar struggles, and how God has had to do continuous work in their lives to keep them humble and selfless.  Encouraged in the testimonies of these other women, I, too, am trying to learn from my own mistaken need to be seen as strong, stable, and worthy of respect.... and instead, act in a manner that is holy and Scripture-based.

- It is OK, even liberating, to not have a "career" that consumes my life.  While some of my friends are concerned at moving up in their company, or pursuing one specific dream that must come true for them to be happy... I have felt the boundaries of those paths lifted, and instead I have found just how much I enjoy being able to involve myself in so many different things!  It can definitely be scary, not knowing how the future is going to pan out.... but right now, I have been able to employ myself in many different areas, and it has been so freeing!  At my paid job, I get to do marketing & advertising, graphic design, photography, event planning, administrative work, legal work in downtown Fort Wayne, and even the occasional delivery or roadtrip.  In my volunteer position at the church as the worship leader, I get to organize & build a worship ministry... one that had fallen somewhat stagnent in previous years!  It is amazing to be involved in that kind of ministry and see such awesome results, and that it involves all sorts of things I love doing!  As a small group leader with the youth, I get to form relationships with high school girls, encourage them, and be challenged myself to live to a higher calling.... and boy, have I been challenged!  Working with youth definitely opens up your eyes to some truths that you tend to forget when life starts picking up pace later in life!  As a "photographer", I get to have fun, and show others just how fun it can be to do photography!  While I'm not a professional by any means, it is something I enjoy a lot, and love sharing with other people!  As a traveler, I have had many, many opportunites to serve others in unexpected ways.  Whether it's helping set up for a wedding, helping someone I don't even know move to a new apartment, or even just be a listening ear to someone who has been longing to be heard.... the opportunities are everywhere!  I'm sad to say that for every opportunity seized to serve someone, there are probably 20 missed opportunities.... but once you are looking for and become aware of these opportunities, they become harder to miss!  One last thing that my life right has afforded me without a serious career started, is that it has allowed me to consider a lot of opportunities as possible realities....  whether it's becoming an assistant volleyball coach, starting an Open Mic Night ministry, recording my first official EP, doing a music ministry trip to Sweden, or a number of other things.... it's been so awesome to be able to look at my current life situation and see possibilities, rather than disappointments! 

- Travel can be addicting.  VERY addicting.  While I'm at a point in life where I can afford to live with a higher level of adventure and risk, God has definitely shown me that I need to be careful that my life doesn't become focused so much on travel.  For a while, it felt like every time I returned home from a trip, the next trip was already being planned.  And while not much has changed as far as that goes, I had found that last year my entire being was focused on TRAVEL.  When I was at home, I wasn't really home... I was dreaming that I was somewhere else.  So, rather than being able to focus on how God wanted to use me at home, in my home church, with opportunities that presented itself at home.... I was continually wrapped up in my own plans for travel.  Even just in the past few months, my mindset has drastically changed, and it is so refreshing to not be so continually focused on travel.  While I am still planning trips and all of that good stuff, I have found that when I am at home, I am MUCH more focused with how God wants to use me HERE.  I've let God in, to show me areas He wants to use me.... most specifically in the church.... but even in my community!  It actually has been exciting to feel a new desire being formed to be used in ministry.... I've realized that so many of my abilities that I use at my paid job, I could also be using in the church, and so many of the skills I use in church, can be used in my community... and so on!  It's been exciting to feel God moving in that way... to feel like I am needed, wanted, and that I have the purpose of a higher calling on my heart

Well, those are just a few of the MANY, MANY things I have learned.... but for now, those are the ones I chose to write about! Just consider it Chapter 1, in my School of Knowledge!