Friday, June 21, 2013

my dreams are coming true.

It's been a while since the last time I wrote (9 months...eek!). It's been a busy 9 months. A short synopsis: I got a job, finished my last semester at community college, got my associates degree, transferred to Southeastern University, completed my first semester, came home for the summer, went back to the same job, and I'm going...


But first, let's rewind to a few months ago...
The last time I wrote, I mentioned that I had been offered an internship with Centricity Music. I spent a significant time with this offer in my hands, waiting for God to reveal when the right time was for me to accept it. There were a lot of factors that  were weighing into my decision, and it was all kind of confusing, so I just waited quietly and patiently. Once I arrived at Southeastern, I was surrounded by people who were living out the calling that God had put on their heart so passionately. I was hearing a lot of talk about internships, which led me to begin thinking more seriously about my own offer. I still had the same questions and uncertainties. What were those, you may be wondering? Well, it was all about timing for me. I knew that I needed three months of time to do a full-blown internship, but I knew three months wasn't feasible for me this summer. I also didn't want to do this too early, have the possibility of a job being offered to me, and then have to turn the opportunity down because I had to come back to school. So, I was still stuck, but I was feeling God stirring something up. 

In March, while I was on spring break, I had to do an assignment for one of my classes where I had to interview an individual in a management position in media. I decided to go to a radio station in Orlando since I knew quite a few of the people who work there. While I was doing my interview, I asked the individual who I was interviewing for some advice on the subject. He suggested that I contact the label, see if it would be a possibility for me to spend two weeks with them during the summer, and then go back later for a full internship. It seemed like a genius idea. I left with my head swirling and couldn't wait to get back home and finally put some action to this opportunity that I'd had dangling in front of my face for so many months. After e-mails were sent back and forth, I had a phone interview in April that went really well. I received an e-mail a week later informing me that they would love to have me come for two weeks this summer to work on a couple of projects surrounding the release of Aaron Shust's new album release in July!

Fast forward to right now...

I will be in Nashville in two-and-a-half weeks. It's bizarre, it freaks me out, and I'm out of my mind excited for the opportunity that is waiting for me. From the beginning, I've been saying that if all of this is God will He will make all of the pieces fall into place. So far, I have all of the evidence to prove that God's mighty hand is in this. He set me up with the opportunity to talk to Steve from the label in September, He provided the right advice in March, He gave me the confidence in April during my interview, He provided me with a job this summer to save for my trip and for my return back to school in August. 

I stepped into all of this blindly, taking a leap of faith. It's quite possibly the biggest leap of faith I've ever taken. While conversing back and forth with my mom about this opportunity, before I ever sent an e-mail, my mom asked me "Where will you stay?" "How will you get there?" I told her, "If this is God plan, He'll work it all out. What will be will be." I've seen God work and move in this situation, and I've heard Him telling me consistently to trust Him and to not worry. I've never been so calm and at peace with a situation this big in my life. I still don't have a confirmed place to stay, or confirmed transportation back and forth to work each day while I'm there, but the Lord has worked everything else out, so I have to have faith and trust that He will work this minor detail out, too. 

I'm truly watching my dreams come to life right before my very eyes. I can't wait to see what God does...

If you'd like to follow my adventures, you can follow me on Instagram.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Interpretating "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis.

**This was for an assignment I wrote for my literature class. Please, if you do not completely agree with something that I am saying here, let all of our discussions point back to God in the end. Thank you.** 

In C.S. Lewis’s “A Grief Observed” he is writing through his own personal hellish pain and grief as a result of losing the love of his life. Through Lewis’s grieving he is asking hard questions about the goodness of God, and how He could remain pure, noble, and true if He has the power to take away the people who are closest to us. Lewis writes about the characteristics of God from a different perspective and scope than we are all used to. C.S. Lewis said that God has the characteristics that all living and breathing human beings “regard as bad: unreasonableness, vanity, vindictiveness, injustice, cruelty.” C.S. Lewis also talks about the depravity that is within all people that makes these hard characteristics of God look like “blacks”. Lewis says that it is not that they are actually blacks, but “our depravity that makes them look black to us.”
To begin with, this part of C.S. Lewis’s “A Grief Observed” was quite perplexing to me as I read it for the first time. Not so perplexing that makes it so I cannot understand it, but perplexing in the sense that is it theologically deep. What C.S. Lewis is saying is understandable once it is read the first time through, but it seems as though a little bit more attention needs to be called to what C.S. Lewis is trying to say to the reader, and quite possibly, what he is saying to himself as the writer. When C.S. Lewis writes about some characteristics that God possesses as being “bad”, it seems as though it may be mandatory for the reader to stop for a while and look at the God of the universe through a different lens.
This excerpt is about being called to look at God through a different lens. It is true that God is good, loving and sovereign. However, I believe that C.S. Lewis is calling us to look past all of the magical and mystical qualities of God and see Him as a being that is truly all powerful who holds the ability to unleash His wrath upon His people. Beyond that, C.S. Lewis is challenging us to not see these qualities of God as negative, but rather, to look at them as qualities that are still good, noble, and true.
As human beings we cannot fathom qualities such as “unreasonableness, vanity, vindictiveness, injustice, cruelty” as qualities that God could possess. We struggle to wrap our minds around the possibility that God holds these qualities in his hands. We have always been taught in Sunday school and in church that God is good, and that he always has our best interest in mind. Our brains have been trained to view God as a being that can only bring good things to His followers. Perhaps this is why, when something “bad” happens, believers struggle to believe that this could possibly be from the hands of God. When we experience any sort of tragedy in our own lives we automatically turn to God – not for help. Instead, we cry out to God and shake our fist at the sky and utter this question, “How could you do this? Why?” We take our heartbreak and blame the God of the universe for our pain. All of our beliefs about God being a good God are flipped and we begin questioning if God is even there.
 Perhaps, it is due to our Sunday school teachings on the goodness of God that cause us to see God this way, at least in part. As human beings, we’ve always grown to know that if someone loves us they will show us through kindness and tenderness. Not through taking loved ones from our lives or cruelty from people we have always believed loved us. C.S. Lewis says that our depravity is what causes us to see “whites” as “blacks”, which is what causes us to view the grief in our lives as bad. It may not be until we see Jesus face to face that we will be able to fully understand this in full, but it might do us some good to try and view God through a different lens than what we have always known.
The details in the text that point to the reading I have just given include C.S. Lewis’s musings on the possibility of humans viewing God as a being with characteristics that are viewed as “bad” as an excuse to completely write God off. This directs us back to our depravity, and our inability to view God as a being who possesses characteristics that could potentially hinder us on purpose. Not only that, but it also shows us that we have this one sided view of God in our minds and that we are practically incapable of getting past this one specific viewpoint of God. We want to know in our hearts and in our minds that God is and always has been good, and that he would never do anything to harm us. If we decided to give our lives to a God who was wrathful and cruel, would we really want to be associated with a being who possesses these qualities? I am not so sure.
What does this mean for us as the readers? I think it is important that we become aware of our attitudes toward who we say God is and who we believe God to be. It is simple to go to God with our problems, but when something in our lives goes haywire we reject the goodness of God. Maybe viewing God differently than what we have always known may do us some good, and might help us to understand the work of God in our lives. Not only that, but it may help us to grieve better, and to trust God’s presence in our lives better. It may teach us to not put God in a box. Instead, we can learn and keep in mind that God is a very powerful being. He has the power to drop a hurricane in the ocean, and he has the power to take loved ones from us. This does not discount His goodness, but it is a reminder to us that He does possess qualities that we never thought He did. We need to constantly be reminded that God loves us, but sometimes His love is just like that of the parents who raised us. He puts trials in our lives because He loves and cares for us. We need to hold on and trust in this God who is wrathful, beautiful, cruel, and loving because He still holds us in the palm of His hand. He cares for us.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

thoughts on momentum 2012.

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to spend Wednesday September 5th-Sunday September 9th in Orlando at the Yacht and Beach Club for a music conference called Momentum. It's a gathering of radio people and record labels from the Christian music industry. I was able to get a super cheap ticket for the whole event as a college student, along with a free ticket to Night of Joy both nights thanks to my friend Jen. The whole entire weekend was a complete steal, so how could I not go?

My whole reason for going in the first place was to meet people and hopefully make connections. I realize that getting into the music business does have something to do with the education that you have, but the connections that you make along the way are just as, if not more, important than your education. So, off I went to momentum with no real expectations...

Jen didn't really tell me much about what to expect from the weekend, so I really had no idea what I was stepping into. But I suddenly realized that I had stepped into the right place when Steven Curtis Chapman walked into the lobby of the convention center and I turned to Jen and said, "Jen, that's Steven Curtis Chapman right there. For real?" After a minor inward freak out, I realized that this was how the rest of the weekend was going to go, and I accepted it. That was when I came up with the saying "My life is so strange..." to describe the entire weekend.

There were a number of crazy opportunities to meet people from all over the place, and to take in an insanely large amount of music. Like on Wednesday night, for instance, when there were little stripped down acoustic sets put on by Dara Maclean, Jason Castro, and For King and Country in a suite on the top floor of the beach club, or chatting with Andrew Peterson who introduced me to Steve Ford, who offered me an internship at Centricity Music after only chatting for 15 minutes. Or riding in an elevator with Jason Castro, his guitar, and his baby's stroller one night, and riding in an elevator with Matthew West the next afternoon. Or passing Amy Grant as you're running late for Night of Joy and exchanging an extremely awkward "hey".

Seriously...My life is so strange. I'm happy for the strange, but I'm even more happy that the Lord is leading me down this path, and that he keeps reigniting the passion within my soul for the music industry. I'm so grateful for the reminders that I receive on a weekly basis that I am doing the right thing with my life. So grateful...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

part three: how do you say thank you?

(Nikole and I, 2008)
Part 1// Part 2



It was something that I'd been in search of for months. The people from my church and in my youth group were blessing me beyond measure. I was learning more and more, and growing in my spiritual walk with the Lord, but the community that I found on downhere's message boards was completely different. We all had a mutual love and appreciation for our favorite band which is what brought us together in the first place, but God had woven this community together and I "just so happened" to stumble into it.

I started realizing that we all had much more in common than just liking the band downhere. Many of us had struggled with making friends in the past and had felt like outcasts at one point or another in our lives. I suppose you'll find that you have many things in common with a group of people when the band that drew you together in the first place sings about "the broken, the beat up, and so called losers". My church family and the downhere community were pouring into my life, and I couldn't help but overflow with the things that God was doing in my life.

I no longer felt like an outcast because I was accepted. The loneliness? It was gone. The presence of God was permeating from my every pore and I couldn't keep it inside. Remember my high school friends that had stopped talking to me? Well, one day while I was sitting at home doing my school work, I got a myspace message from one of them. This was the first time we'd communicated via myspace in months, even though we saw each other frequently each week for colorguard practice. In her message she said that she noticed that some things had changed in my life. She could tell that I was changing by the words that were coming out of my mouth, and she said that I seemed much happier than I was before. It was purely by the grace of God that the changes that were taking place in my life were now visible to those around me. But it was true! I was happier than I had been in a long time. After that myspace message from my friend, things started changing in our relationship. While we both knew that our friendship would never be the same as it was before, we were talking to each other and we were able to enjoy each others company again.

 (Brad, Sarah, Ryan, Gina and me at Perkins in Clermont, FL, December 2007)

(Jason Gray and I, December 2007)

Throughout 2007 I was getting to know more and more new people through the message boards, and found out that one board member grew up in South Florida just like me. She lived in Michigan now and was going to college there, but she visited her family in Florida a couple times a year. In December of 2007 we had planned to meet each other at a Jason Gray concert a few hours away (it was through downhere's music that I discovered my favorite musician and friend, Jason Gray). I was awkward about the whole thing, and didn't let on to my mom or step-dad that my friend Gina and her brother Ryan would be there, and that I knew Gina from online. So I tried to play it off all cool like I didn't know that they would be there, and I had just bumped into them. It didn't work for long, and my step-dad called my mom and told her that they were there. Of course, my mom was a little worried and told Brad to keep a close eye on me and make sure they were good people. They were. And Brad and my step-sister Sarah ended up loving them. We laughed a lot, and it was like we had known each other forever! After the concert we hung out while we talked to Jason for a little bit, but it was still pretty early so my step-dad asked if I wanted to invite Gina and Ryan to go to Perkins with us for a little bit. So we followed each other to a Perkins at 8:30 at night. We laughed until our stomachs hurt and had tears falling from our eyes. Sadly, Gina and Ryan had to drive back home that night, while we stayed in a hotel to wake up the next morning and see Jason Gray play again.

Unknowingly, downhere introduced me to three people who would enrich my life in more ways than I knew at the time. After that weekend, I listened to Jason Gray's music non-stop. And when I say non-stop, I mean I listened to it over and over and over again. It was the only thing I listened to for a week after I saw him. And the kindness he showed toward me when I met him, and through e-mails and facebook messages and comments was encouraging. And Gina was always praying for me and answering questions when I had them. She taught me how to rely on God and trust Him with everything.

It was in February of 2008 when I logged onto myspace and clicked over to downhere's page when I realized that dates were posted for their upcoming Spring tour. I scrolled and scrolled and scroll...DOWNHERE IN KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA ON APRIL 18TH WITH JASON GRAY AND SHAWN MCDONALD! Jumping and screaming and clapping and cheering ensued, and my Mom promptly told me I needed to get a grip on life and calm the heck down. So then, I waited for the opportunity to meet my favorite band...

to be continued...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

part two: how do you say thank you?

 Aurora, IL - May 2009 (Photo by Liz Ahlberg)


While I was sitting amongst my friends, in an amphitheater filled with many other people I didn't know, something new was taking place within my heart. During the Barlow Girl set, one of the girls began to pray, and something started moving within me. I really and truly felt the presence of God more in my life than I ever had before. I felt God nudging me to trust Him with my whole life. With all of my decisions, all of my worries, all of my victories. Everything. So I did. Just there in my seat, it was a silent and personal offering of my life, but I promised and knew that my life would never be the same. 

After the Barlow Girl's played we all settled in our seats and prepared for David Crowder Band and Third Day to take the stage. The long day in the Florida November sun was taking its toll on all of us, and we were starting to feel the results of the many hours of walking and taking in good music. With achy feet we listened and cheered to the rest of the music. As I sat there, I had to wonder how many other people's lives were being changed on that very night. What was going through other people's minds? Were they just there for a good concert? Had they gone because all their friends were doing it, but God swooped in and did something radical within their hearts when they least expected it? Either way, I knew that I was one of the latter, and was left wondering what my life would become and where God would take me.

Later that night, once I got home, I went to bed with a smile on my face and memories floating through my mind as I drifted off to sleep. I awoke the next morning with that song about rock stars needing money in my head. I was walking around my house humming it, along with another song by those guys from Canada. Something about little being much when God is in it. I liked that song a lot and felt as thought is resonated perfectly with the things that were going on in my life. 

I went to Wayfest only wanting to see Barlow Girl and nothing else, but I left with a new heart and a new band to fall in love with. The morning after Wayfest, I logged onto my Myspace page and immediately sent downhere a friend request. I added one of their songs to be my back ground music on my page, and began searching to find every little bit of information I could about them. I burned a CD with downhere's songs from their most recent album, Wide-Eyed and Mystified, and a mixture of my favorite Barlow Girl songs. It was like I was taking a little bit of Wayfest with me where ever I went, reminding me of the emotion and change that took place that night.

The year or so before this point was really rough for my family. One of my brothers was diagnosed with a rare lung disease that should have been found when he was an infant, but it wasn't found until he was 18 years old. Before he was diagnosed, it took months and months and many doctors appointments and hospital stays until the doctors finally figured out what was wrong. My brothers surgery was scheduled for the weekend after Wayfest at Shands at University of Florida. This was a major surgery that would involve removing the upper left lobe of his left lung. 

It was during my scouring of the web that I stumbled upon downhere's message boards. I shyly posted a prayer request for my brothers surgery on there, and was amazed at the amount of people I didn't even know who so generously poured out their prayers upon my family. The body of Christ...brothers and sisters. I left home with my mom, brother, and his girlfriend. I felt completely hollow inside. My heart was broken. I took that burned CD with me and listened and listened and silently cried. I covered up my tears by pretending my eyes were itchy. I didn't want anyone to know how nervous I was for my brother and his surgery and whether he would be okay. While it wasn't a surgery that was as risky as open heart surgery, there was still the risk of something going wrong. We drove up to Gainesville a day early because my brothers surgery was early the next morning. My dad, step-dad (then my mom's boyfriend), and grandparents drove up the next morning to join us in the waiting room for the day. My brothers surgery was completely successful, but he had a long road to recovery. My step-dad, brothers girlfriend and I left that night to head back home. It was tough, knowing that we were leaving my mom and brother. I knew how difficult it had been for my mom, and it was hard for me to leave, knowing that she had to do this on her own. 

My brother was in the hospital for about a week with my mom, which meant I was at home by myself all day until my step-dad came home. I'd try and do my school work, but my mind would wander elsewhere. I found myself on downhere's message boards a lot, and the encouraging words that were offered to me, knowing that people were praying for me, the community that was in this place, it was what I needed just then. It was what got me through when I felt so alone.


to be continued...

Friday, July 27, 2012

part one: how do you say thank you?

Sophomore band banquet, 2006.

I was just a 16 year old girl, newly taken out of public school, and beginning an adventure down the homeschooling road. I was a typical teenager trying to find her place amongst her friends, trying to figure out how this whole "high school" thing really worked. I'd just come out of a really rough summer where my childhood friends ditched me, my high school friends didn't want to be around me, and I ended up sitting at home for the entire summer, while working and spending copious amounts of time with my Mom. Every sixteen year old's dream, right? Right...

During the first month and a half of my junior year of high school, while I was still in public school, I felt so lonely. I would run into the people who were my friends just a few short months before, and I couldn't talk to them. I'd wait in the lunch line, see them laughing together, they'd look at me and immediately look away and go on with their conversation. It wasn't just the lunch line, though. We were in colorguard together (the girls who march with the marching band and spin flags, rifles and sabres). What was once us laughing and goofing off together, turned into me watching from across the room as they accepted other friends into their circle as I was pushed further and further away. 

It was in late September that I began my online virtual home schooling. I was still able to be a part of colorguard. It was hard to be at home all day long, but it was always nice to get a break and go to colorguard practice and do something I loved. It made me happy to just be away from my house, even if I still wasn't really talking to my old friends. 

During this time, I was going to my church's youth group, but wasn't really engaged. But I kept going because I enjoyed being around the other people who went, I liked the youth leaders, it was an opportunity to get out of the house. That was about it, though. 

Something strange started happening shortly after I started spending my days at home in front of a computer screen. Youth group became much more than just another place to hang out with my friends. I started paying attention to what my youth leaders were talking about, my pastors words on Sunday morning were being spoken directly to my heart, I found myself becoming more involved with my church, I was beginning to enjoy meeting other people outside of my little youth group bubble. These people were kind. They were approachable. They were loving me. All of the things that I was feeling in my heart began clicking in my head. Every Sunday morning it felt as though the Lord were speaking to me personally. Like he was sitting right next to me. I would sit in my chair frozen, my eyes locked on my pastor, taking in every word that he spoke, letting the Holy Spirit fill me up (Although, I didn't know it was the holy spirit at the time). I started wondering things that I'd never wondered before. Am I saved? Am I a Christian? Was I ever baptized? These were just questions that I kept to myself, though.


There was a concert coming up that the youth leaders had been talking about for weeks. I figured it would be a good time, I liked music okay, so I decided to go. It was Saturday November 11, 2006. We all met at the church, were assigned our cars, loaded up and departed for our 45 minute drive down to West Palm Beach, FL. I was riding with my youth leader, Ron, and friends from youth group. They were chatting about who they were most excited to see, naming off these obscure band names and all I could say was, "I'm excited to see Barlow Girl!" Then Ron said, "I think Third Day is going to be great!" I shyly said, "I don't know who they are." It was almost as though the worst possible string of curse words had just flown out of my mouth and hit them all right in the forehead. They all said, "I'm sure you've heard their music before, but just don't realize it." "We sing some of these songs in church!" I'm thinking, "Yeah, yeah, sure...okay."

We arrive at Cruzan Amphitheater and everyone is so excited about what fun we are going to have at Wayfest! We all walked around for a lot of the day, visiting booths, listening to the no-name bands in the background. Who am I kidding? They all had no name to me! This whole Christian music thing was a new world to me. I didn't even know Christian bands existed, aside from those old, gray haired men who wrote the worship music that we sang along to in our church services. Anyway, my friend David and his brother Nathan started talking about this band they they wanted to see play on the small stage. They said, "We have to go see downhere play. They're awesome!" We all said, "What? Where?" Nathan said again, "Downhere! They're a band! They're really awesome!" I didn't know anything, so I was very agreeable and decided that I wanted to go see the down under's. We all headed over, and waited for these people, whoever they were, to come out on stage and play some music. The time finally arrived and they stepped out onto stage. They opened their set with "We Will Rock You" by Queen. I especially liked that, since the marching band show that I'd just finished was a Queen show, so I at least knew one song that they were singing. Their music was enjoyable, but what really caught my attention was this song about rock star's not being able to live on bologna sandwiches, or something strange like that. Everyone was jumping around, clapping, cheering, tossing their beach balls around in the air. These two men from the audience ran up to the stage waving dollar bills in front of the lead singer that kind of sounded like a woman when he sang, but sounded strangely like Freddie Mercury. He politely turned them down and kept on with the song. Man, that song sure was catchy! They played a few more songs, and I learned that they were from Canada. They had an array of jokes for us silly Floridians about their band name and being "down here" in Florida. Their set came to an end, and we all decided then would be a good time to go get our seats for the rest of the evening at the main stage.

Some guy named Matthew West came up first. His music was fine, he was kind of funny, but I was so ready to see those Barlow Girls. They were the whole reason why I came to this concert anyway! Matthew sang and sang, told his silly jokes, made up songs about Florida. Then...FINALLY! Barlow Girl took the stage. I sang along to the songs I knew, was quiet and listening during the songs I didn't know. It was in those moments that my heart was finally able to rest. In all the excitement that had been taking place throughout the day, my mind was racing a million miles a minute. The Lord had brought me to this place, on this particular day for a reason. 


I've decided to do this in installments. It's taking me longer to write than I thought it would, and has turned into something very personal. I want to make sure I get it right. Hope you enjoy!

big news!

Hey everybody! Sorry I've been absent for the past week. I've been working on one blog post, but life is full and new and exciting things keep happening every time I turn around.

As many of you know, I'm getting ready to start my final semester at my local community college. I decided to live at home my first couple of years of college, work on getting my grades up, and cut down on college costs (hahah!). So, by the end of December I'll have my associates degree. But with finishing my associates degree, I obviously needed to start looking for somewhere else to go...right? Well...drum roll, please...

Last Friday I got my acceptance letter in the mail from Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL! It was an exciting day when I got it. I've been working for so long to get to this point, and to finally be here, where I get to take classes for what I really want to do after college, to start getting hands on experience...I feel like I'm finishing some sort of marathon. Although, the real marathon is getting my bachelors degree. So maybe I'm finishing a half-marathon? Either way, it's exciting, and I'm looking forward to moving in January. Yes, I said MOVING! Into a dorm room, no less. That will be an adventure. And hey, I like new adventures!

My mom and I are driving up to Lakeland next Friday to tour the campus and meet with my admissions counselor. I'm excited to see the campus (I've heard it's gorgeous) and start preparing for this next big step. Thanks for being excited with me!