The Helper

To catch some of you up, I am currently in Colorado, but I am about to head back on tour with Spirit of Atlanta, the drum corps that I am teaching this summer. For those of you who don’t know what drum corps is (or think that it has something to do with drumming), here is a quick crash course for you:

*If you know all of this already, skip to the next section.

A drum corps is, simply put, a “professional” marching band consisting of brass, marching percussion, front ensemble (marimbas, etc.), and color guard. There are 150 members ages 15-21 from all over the country and sometimes world. These members come to audition camps in the fall/winter and then to a weekend rehearsal camp once per month through the spring. The corps then “moves in” to a location in mid-May where they stay for about a month (some corps move every few weeks too) to learn their whole show. Then, in mid-June, the corps go on tour. Corps from all over the country perform and compete in shows all over the United States. Each corps performs in a show most evenings, drives on tour buses to the next location during the night, sleeps the rest of the night in a gym, then rehearses the next day until it is time to go to the next show. We travel all over the country and rehearse/compete until the first or second week in August when all the corps meet in Indianapolis for the Drum Corps International World Championships in Lucas Oil Stadium. Here, all the corps compete against each other in a prelims, semifinals, finals competition. After the winner is announced, the season is over until the next fall audition camps start again.

Here is a video of the corps I marched in 2014 so you can get an idea of what drum corps looks and sounds like.  

*Next Section

This summer, I get the privilege of teaching visual with Spirit of Atlanta, a corps based out of Georgia. I am a visual tech, meaning I teach from the field and help the members with their marching technique, drill (formations on the field), and other visual responsibilities.

While on this last stint of teaching at Spirit of Atlanta, God showed me a really cool analogy between my job and some of what the Holy Spirit does in the lives of those of us who follow Jesus.

The Holy Spirit as a Visual Tech

Simply put, my job as a visual tech is to get all the members to look the same and to make the forms look perfect. Of course, it is a lot more complex than that.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. -John 14:26

Marchers first need to learn how to stand, march, and play with correct posture. If their posture is wrong, it affects everything they do as marchers and musicians.  Then they need to learn the correct marching technique, one that will get them to their dots the most efficiently and matching their fellow members in every detail. Throughout this whole process, my job is to help them learn awareness of what their body is doing and how to change it; to create good habits and work to get rid of bad habits related to how they carry themselves and march. I help them to learn their tendencies and then show them how to correct those tendencies to make what they do easier and more efficient.

The Holy Spirit does much the same in my life. He shows me the best way to live, the way to live a full and abundant life. As I learn more about the Bible, God’s guide for us, the Holy Spirit helps me apply it to my life. He helps show me the posture of my heart, shows me my tendencies and helps me to get back to the basics when I overthink. The basis of my faith is Jesus, which is like our posture in drum corps, if your eyes aren’t fixed on Jesus, everything falls from there. The Holy Spirit constantly points me back to Jesus. 

On top of just the individual parts of visual responsibilities in drum corps, each performer is part of bigger sections within the corps. As a visual tech, I help members look at forms and figure out, “which way should I be looking to make this form look the best?” I point, direct attention, remind, and show members what the form looks like so they can get perspective of where they are at and what their role is as they march to the next set. Sometimes I yell so they can hear me clearly while they are marching, and sometimes I wait until after a rep to whisper in their ear a suggestion or reminder.

This is so like what the Holy Spirit does in my life and the lives of those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. The Holy Spirit also points my attention to others, showing me how to relate as Jesus would. He gives me and reminds me of a broader perspective than just my own life. How do I fit within the church? How does the church fit within the city, the state, the world? I am not the only marcher on the field. I must be aware of my fellow marchers for the forms (and ultimately the show) to work. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is so clear on reminding me how to relate to a person that it seems like a yell, and sometimes it’s more like a whisper. 

Sometimes I will only have to say something once for a member to get it and make a correction for the rest of the season, but more often times than not, I need to repeat myself or give a reminder later in the season. “Johnny, check your shoulders,” or, “Sally, you’re two steps outside of the line.”

The Holy Spirit is the same way, sometimes He will speak to our hearts and we won’t need another reminder. But then there are the things like, “Miranda, do not worry about tomorrow.” I need that reminder A LOT…

The thing that struck me the most when God showed me this analogy was this part:

As a visual tech, I may yell, I may constantly be giving corrections (trying to be positive), I may push the members to a point where they don’t think they can do it anymore, but I always have their best interests at heart. I can see their potential, and I love them and want them to feel what it is like to reach that potential.

The Holy Spirit might lead us into things that are scary, unknown, or exhausting. We may find ourselves doubt God’s intentions once in a while; but ultimately He has our best interests at heart, and He loves us more than we could ever fathom. 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

*If you read this whole post and want to learn more about this “Holy Spirit” character, here are some awesome resources! You can also always contact me and I would love to explain more and talk with you. 🙂

https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/the-spirit-filled-life.html

https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/holy-spirit-resource-kit.html

Good Vibrations

Scientifically speaking, music is just a combination of vibrations disrupting the air around us. Vibrations?? THAT BLOWS MY MIND. How can a combination of different vibrations create something that can move us to tears? Why is music so powerful? As a musician, I have gotten to experience some extremely moving performances both from an audience and performer’s perspective. Some give me goosebumps, some make me feel overly joyful and excited, some actually move me to tears. I know that I am affected deeply by music, both as a participant and as a listener. But why does it affect me and so many other people so profoundly?

Today we had a dress rehearsal for a choir concert that takes place tomorrow evening. At the end of the concert we are doing a combined piece directed by a doctoral student whose specialty is gospel music, so it goes without saying that we are singing a gospel piece. After rehearsing a bit today, we sang through the piece together with piano, bass, and drums for the first time. By the end, I was in tears, and surveying the rest of the choir, I saw at least ten others were crying as well, not including a few of the directors sitting in the audience. Everyone was so excited and joyful as we walked off the stage at the end of the dress rehearsal. I overheard a few conversations as I left the performance hall in the vein of, “Wow, that was so powerful! I love gospel music!”

I however, left with a different emotion behind my tears. I was crying because my heart hurt for the the vast majority of my peers who didn’t understand the words we were singing, or the reason they were so moved by the music we had just created. I cried because I had just had an intimate moment of worship with the Creator of the World and and Sustainer of me, and I want everyone to know that God loves them and wants to have a personal relationship with them. We all sang,

“Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills knowing my help is coming from You. Your peace, You give me in time of the storm. You are the source of my strength. You are the strength of my life. I lift my hands in total praise to you,” and I meant it, because I have lived it and know that my help and my strength comes from Him. But the rest of the choir experienced the emotions and power from the music even though the words didn’t have the same meaning to them. How is that possible?

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  Romans 1:20

Those who don’t believe in God or haven’t taken a step to move into the personal relationship He offers through Jesus Christ may not believe or understand this piece, but anyone who has ever listened to or participated in music cannot deny that it feels like  more than just vibrations in the air. Music is proof. Music is a tiny glimpse of God’s glory. Music is a snapshot of God’s kingdom to come. Music is God speaking to us and an opportunity for us to speak with Him. Every loud brass chord that blasts your face off but also gives you goosebumps; every beautiful choral harmony that brings you to tears; every lullaby; every gospel song: all a gift from God. So much more than vibrations in the air: God’s love for His creation.

We were made to worship and bring glory to God. Music is one of the things God has given us to worship Him and therefore experience Him. I believe that is why music is so powerful!

Here are some songs from the book of Psalms in the Bible that talk about worship through music:

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord! 

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea  creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord! 

Psalm 148: 1-14

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. 

Psalm 19:1-4

Meow.

Well, I didn’t get much done on the paper I have due, but I was really excited about what God has been teaching me lately and couldn’t wait to write it down and share it! After talking, reading, and discussing a lot about the subject of hearing God speak, I have been learning that God likes speak to me through metaphors and things in the world that I relate to. It makes so much sense, because this is exactly what Jesus does throughout His whole ministry on Earth: He takes things like agriculture, fishing, cultural norms, etc. and uses these mundane, everyday things that everyone is familiar with to reveal heavenly truths. Of course, we need to know about the characteristics of and have a relationship with God to be able to recognize His voice in our lives, and that only comes from believing in Jesus Christ and reading and studying His living and active Word, the Bible. The more I have continued to dive into reading and learning more from this amazing book, the more I have started recognizing God in things around me and been able to distinguish His voice from all the others swirling around in this world. Now, I’m not saying I have this figured out in the slightest, but it has been fun to see a little bit of progress and depth-of-understanding in this area that I felt totally lost in previously, and I want to share with you so you might be able to come to a deeper understanding as well!

So…here’s a little lesson God taught me through His Word and the world around me yesterday:

Recently, I have begun studying the book of John (one of the gospels written by a disciple of Jesus about his life, death, and resurrection). It is fun to dig deeper into the stories I have heard my whole life and really attempt to understand more about who Jesus was and how that should affect my life now. After I had prayed and gotten my Bible, notebook, and pens out to begin reading and studying a passage in John, my roommate’s cat hopped up on the table and stared me in the eyes, preceding to lick my eyebrows (she’s weird), and eventually plopping right down onto my open Bible. I frustratedly pet her for a second and tried to forcibly remove her while she stubbornly purred loudly atop the Word of God. I finally got her to move, but she soon came back with a purring vengeance and began incessantly chewing on my pen and sitting on my notebook as I was writing down observations from the passage I was looking at that day. My normally neat handwriting turned to scribbles and I sighed. Putting down my pencil and feeling defeated by the cat, I prayed,

“God, you know I only have so much time to sit here and read your word. I need to leave for school soon and I want to finish this and have time to really digest and think about it, but this cat won’t leave me alone.”

In that moment, the cat jumped off the table and curled up into a purring ball of fur on my lap. God said, “Miranda, be okay with distractions. Distractions were Jesus’ ministry on Earth.”

God literally used a cat to remind me that I have been selfish with my time and comfort lately, not willing to stray from my schedule to bring the love of Jesus to someone. Since then, I always love on the cat if she interrupts my schedule…I’m still working on the people part. 😉

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Light in the Darkness

God has gifted me with an innate sense of empathy that sometimes feels like a curse. This world is so full of sadness, pain, violence, injustice, hate, and so many other terrible things that sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed with everyone else’s circumstances and just wanting to help or fix it.  Even reading a scholarly article about someone who is facing some kind of injustice or hardship usually brings me to tears. I am currently taking a class in which we explore and discuss injustices and problems with our school system. Every discussion basically brings us to a point of conclusion that there is no way to change this unless there is a huge shift in thinking from everyone involved (so pretty much impossible). Every Thursday night I leave discouraged and sad that I as one person can’t really do much of anything to even fight the injustices that innocent children face in schools every day. I long for the day when Jesus will come back and make this world right and whole again.

As I have been wrestling with the fact that the world is so broken that anything I do (or any other human being does) will never be enough to fix it, God gave me a sweet reminder while I was studying the book of John:

In John 1:5, it says, “The light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it.” With the context of this verse we can figure out that the “light” John is referring to is Jesus. I have heard this passage and this verse many times, but this time I understood it a little differently with an image:

Imagine a flashlight in the middle of the day. Turned on, the light exists, but you can’t see it against the broad daylight. Is the light still there? Yes, but it’s hard to see unless you know it’s there. Now imagine the same flashlight in a completely dark room or somewhere where no outside light is being let in. When the flashlight is turned on it’s very apparent because it will shine or light up the room. You can see in front of you when you could not before, and there is no amount of darkness that can get rid of the light that is shining. If you cover it up with a dark blanket, is it still there? Yes, but it’s hard to see unless you know that there’s a blanket trying to cover it up.

It hit me so clearly: God has given us Jesus, (pardon this cheesy and insufficient comparison) the flashlight to mankind (with everlasting batteries…)-or as John puts it in verse 4, “the light of all mankind.” As Christians, we have acknowledged that light and know that it’s always shining. It’s our job to take the light of Jesus and shine it in places that need His life, to remove the “blanket” for people who can’t see or don’t know that there is light in the dark places, and to show people who are living in a place/time of broad daylight that there’s a flashlight on meant for them to help others who are living in darkness or for the time when they are no longer living in the broad daylight.

We don’t need to be so discouraged in the midst of the brokenness of this world because there will come a day when Jesus will come back and bring light and healing to every one who believes in Him. In Revelation 21:23, referring to the “new earth” it says,

“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”

He will heal and restore the brokenness of this world, but while we are here, we are to “let our light shine before others, ” so they may see the hope that Jesus brings. So instead of mourning what we cannot fix, let us fix our eyes on Jesus and do what we can to bring hope to those who are suffering in one way or another. Jesus says in Matthew 5:14-16,

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see you good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

If you would not consider yourself a Christian and are not following Jesus, then I hope you are able to see this light I’m talking about from those of us who profess Jesus as our Savior. I know that there are some who are hiding their light and making it hard for others to experience it. I want to invite you to experience His light and the hope for the present and the future it brings. All you have to do is believe. In John 12: 35-36, Jesus tells his disciples,

“You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before the darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

After finishing this post I learned that today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I want to “dedicate” this post to the 6 million victims of the Nazi’s “Final Solution.” This date marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland which I had the privilege to visit on a weekend trip to Poland last spring. Having learned about the Holocaust all throughout my schooling, I thought I was prepared, but it was a sobering experience. The feeling of heaviness and darkness in that place was staggering, and the accounts of survivors made my stomach churn. It was an eye-opening experience to be in the place where a half-million people were killed based on their faith and family origins. Being there made me think that there could not have been any light for the people who spent time there.IMG_3361.jpgThe Holocaust may well have been one of the darkest moments in all of history, and there really doesn’t seem like there could have been any light in the midst of the persecution and murder of 6 million Jews.  I just finished reading the book, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom who used the light of Jesus to bring hope to so many people before, during, and after her time at a concentration camp in Germany. Her story is incredible and I highly recommend the book as well. It is an amazing example of how the light that Jesus gives His followers shines even brighter in the darkness and can not be overcome by any amount of darkness.

Jar of Clay

Frustrated. Defeated. Sad. Angry. What else can I feel when I’ve stumped another doctor? When I’ve cried all my tears for the day pleading with God for it to be different? When I can’t seem to see the purpose in this?

Joyful? Thankful? Hopeful?

The Bible tells me to “rejoice in (my) sufferings” (Romans 5:3), to “trust in the Lord with all (my) heart and lean not on (my) own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Sometimes that seems impossible; but Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)

I should probably listen to Jesus…

Not many people know, but I have been dealing with some health issues for a while now. It got really bad while I was overseas in Slovakia last year, and in April I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The diagnosis brought relief, but also defeat. Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects muscles and nerves. There is no known cause and no known cure. It is also a diagnosis made when pretty much everything else is ruled out, but I finally had a little hope of finding ways to deal with it and learning to overcome and get back to being normal, active, fun Miranda. I’m still working on that…

So far it seems to be two steps forward, one step back, one step forward, three steps back, four steps forward, one step back, etc. in this process of healing and figuring out how to deal with this piece of me. After a few good weeks of therapies and different appointments, I was feeling a little better and was pretty hopeful, but today was one of those five steps backwards kind of days…

Basically my muscles get super tight and tense anytime I do physical activity and cause a lot of other referred pain and fun stuff, so after a beautiful day of snowshoeing on Saturday, I have been feeling pretty rough. Today we tried lots of different therapies to try to get my muscles back to “normal.” Nothing worked, and I ended up hurting more than when I arrived. The doctors are confused and don’t know why my muscles are so tight and won’t relax, and I am frustrated with my body…I want to run! I want to hike! I want to be normal! I don’t want to be weak and broken!

I found myself questioning God’s plan for me in the midst of this during a teary drive home today from the doctor, and 2 Corinthians 4:5-18 comes to mind:

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:5-18

I am a jar of clay carrying the treasure that is the good news of Jesus Christ. I carry around the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in me! I am broken and weak so that others won’t see me, but they will see Jesus (the only reason I’m still standing) in me.

Today I needed to take a step back and remember the fact that God is faithful. I needed to take stock of the good this suffering has produced: the things I’m thankful for, and the good that has and will come out of my brokenness.

-I am thankful that my fibromyalgia is not debilitating and I can live a functional, pretty much normal life.

-Through times of pain and confusion, I have grown closer to God than I had even thought possible before.

-I have already gotten to use this part of my story to encourage and lift up others who are suffering in different ways.

-I have a great team of doctors around me for the first time who really listen and validate what I feel.

-God has allowed me to be thankful and feel joy even on one of the hardest days I’ve had in a while.

I hope my processing through this post can be encouraging or thought-provoking for others! It’s a little bit disorganized (like my thoughts at the moment), but I love that God has given me this newfound love for writing to express and share what He is teaching me with others.

The Good Teacher

Although there’s not a lot of time in my life for leisurely writing these days, I’ve decided to make this blog a fun, stress-reliever for me, and hopefully a source of interesting entertainment/learning for you! I can’t ever come up with things off the top of my head to write about, but once in a while, God will use something in my life to reveal something about Himself to me, and I love to write about those experiences (see my last post about waterslides…). So, here’s my latest little “understanding” from our good teacher…

Those who know me (and maybe those who don’t) know that I have always been and will always be a band geek. I started playing the trumpet when I was in fifth grade and played through the whole beginning band book at home the first week I got it. I knew immediately that music was my thing. In sixth grade, I decided that I wanted to learn another instrument. I had my heart set on percussion, but alas, the district rules said I had to have two years of piano before I could play percussion (I also think my band director was trying to rescue me from the craziness that is the percussion section). So, instead of trading in my trumpet for sticks and mallets, I got a new piece of metal, this time with a reed. Saxophone became my new thing. Long story short, I loved music a lot, did pretty much everything a girl could do related to music throughout middle and high school and eventually fell in love with marching band (and later drum corps). After marching four years in my high school marching band and two years with the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps, my body decided it had had enough, so I began to teach!

Teaching marching band is now one of my favorite things. It brings me so much joy to watch students enjoy one of my favorite activities and get to help them grow as marchers, musicians, performers, and human beings. My favorite moment is when a young marcher is struggling to do something and then,  after so much hard work, something finally clicks! The look on their face when I get to say, “I’m proud of all the hard work you put in to get here. It paid off and you look great,” is priceless. I am excited when my students are excited, frustrated when they are frustrated, sad when they are sad. I rejoice when they remember what they’ve been taught and apply it to look and sound good, and I wish for more for them when they don’t quite live up to their potential. It is always a rollercoaster of emotions and energy teaching marching band, and any decent teacher can attest to that.

Recently, we had a rehearsal that was especially tumultuous, and it left me thinking a lot…The beginning of rehearsal was great! The students were obviously committed to giving their best effort: their marching looked the best I had seen it all season; they were performing every rep; the brass sounded as beautiful, resonant, and in tune as I had ever heard them before, and everyone was obviously excited to be challenged and to get better. As we moved into ensemble rehearsal (where we put all of the sections together and run larger chunks of the show), something began to change. The brass started to sound bright, quiet, and pinched. The marching technique began to break down. No one was adjusting the spacing between them and the person next to them. No matter what I said to try to get them to do things better, the rehearsal continued to go downhill. I realized later that most of the students had forgotten the fundamentals we spend the first half of rehearsal working on and were now just overthinking everything, trying to do their best to get through the reps. They were putting forth so much effort, just not in the right way. This caused them to get tense, and forget all of the training we as staff work so hard to engrain in them.

As I sat frustrated in my car, reflecting on the rehearsal, God used what I was feeling about this rehearsal to show me something about what He feels about us as His children.

I have this deep desire for my students to realize the potential they have to be absolutely incredible. As a teacher, I have seen glimpses of it and can imagine what it would be like if everyone got there, but the students can’t see it. They only see me as a teacher giving them commands of things to do better, and even though I explain why we spend so much time on certain things in basics, or why it’s so important to keep your horn up during the show, they can’t see the potential in themselves that I can. So they do the things I tell them, but when they get tired, they forget. They forget the basics and end up overthinking everything. They try to muscle their way through the drill moves and the music without applying the fundamentals, and it crashes and burns every time. I’m never mad at them for doing this; I am sad for them, because they haven’t experienced what it feels like to perform when you’re not stressed about doing everything right. When the fundamentals of marching and playing come naturally, everything falls into place and you can perform and have fun. I just want them to experience that feeling!

God is the same way, but on a much larger scale that just marching band. He has a deep desire for us, His children, to see ourselves as He sees us: to recognize that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, and that even when we fail (in our minds), He still loves us. In fact, He gave us His words (the Bible) to teach us the fundamentals of what it means to live a life with Him at the center, and to give us a glimpse of what it could look like if we all lived in the way He made us to live. But, when we forget the fundamentals (the things that our relationship with God should be built on), we end up striving, taking matters into our own hands, and trying to live life without God’s help. We crash and burn, just like the end of a marching rehearsal full of overthinking and forgetting the basics. But God doesn’t get mad at us…He gets sad for us! God is sad because we aren’t experiencing true fulfillment, peace, and lack of fear or worry that comes when we stand firm and remember His fundamental truths and promises. This was such a cool reminder to me to rest in the truths of who God is and who He made me to be instead of striving to do things for Him and taking matters into my own hands. God is the ultimate teacher, and so so much more!

**Update: The band did awesome at their competition this Saturday! They are finally starting to remember the basics and it’s so much fun!

Waterslides

I have been back in the United States for 2.5 weeks after spending almost a year in the country of Slovakia. Since returning I have wanted to write something to sum up my year, but it is so hard to encompass a year into a blog post, or even just the feelings of reverse culture shock. It has been a tough transition home of missing the people and the way of life in Slovakia, and I often find myself wanting to go back more than stay here in the USA. However, there are so many things I love about my home country, and I know that God has called me here for this season to finish school and be missional in Boulder, Colorado. That being said, I still wanted to write a short post reflecting on the year, but I didn’t know where to start until the other day at the pool with my little cousins…

To set the stage, I need to explain my two cousins: Otis and Melvin are five and three respectively and full of youthful energy. Otis is an active, loud, daredevil, stereotypical five-year-old boy. He feels emotions bigger than anyone I know, and can’t help but make you smile when he is enjoying something. Melvin is the younger brother and has a head full of curls and two, adorable dimples on his cheeks. He is quiet, shy, creative, and goofy. He likes to have a good time but is much more cautious than his older brother. 

A few days ago, we went to the outdoor pool near my parents’ house. There is a children’s area with a water playground and a yellow waterslide. Otis wanted to go on the big, adult waterslides across the pool but was a few inches too short, so he settled for the kids’ yellow one. He decided immediately that he LOVED it and wanted to go down over and over. He also wanted to share this experience with everyone around and begged his little brother, Melvin to go down the slide. 

“Melvin, you HAVE to go! It’s so fun! You won’t get hurt and it will be so much fun,” Otis pleaded with his timid little brother. 

Melvin refused, but Otis persisted, visibly sad and upset that his brother didn’t want to try the waterslide. Otis knew how fun the waterslide was and just wanted his brother to have as much fun as he did. He knew that the waterslide wouldn’t hurt Melvin and that if he just took that first scoot of faith, he would have the time of his life. All Melvin saw was a dark, scary tube full of water.

Finally, after an hour or so, Melvin got the courage up to try the waterslide. He hesitated at the top, looking at his brother for reassurance. Otis encouraged him and Melvin went down the slide. Otis was standing at the end of the slide waiting the whole time to see how much fun his brother would have. Melvin’s face as he got to the end was priceless: giggling and smiling wide with both dimples showing, he radiated joy. Otis helped him off at the bottom equally as happy (or maybe more so) that his brother had finally gotten to experience the amazing, yellow waterslide. Immediately, they both ran back up the stairs and went again and again, laughing and squealing with joy the whole time. 

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This was such a cute reminder to me of what God did this past year. He got my attention and called me to do something that I thought was terrifying, like the big, scary tube of water for Melvin: taking a year off of school to move overseas and do ministry. It was a huge leap of faith and it took me a lot of courage and prayer to finally take the leap. God kept encouraging me, saying, “Don’t worry! I’ll be right there the whole time,” with all the enthusiasm of five-year-old Otis, because from His view, this journey was going to be the most amazing, yellow waterslide of my life, and He wanted me to experience the joy of trusting Him and seeing what He could do in and through me. So, when I finally went down that waterslide and trusted God with a year of my life, I got to experience the freedom and joy that comes from trusting God with everything. It was still scary at many times, as a waterslide is the first time you go down, but in the end I came out better than when I went in, and I am so thankful that God called me down that waterslide!

After Melvin had gone down the slide a few more times, he bounced up to his mom and begged her to try. “It’s so fun, mom! You have to do it! I thought it would be scary, but it’s not!” 

Melvin set an example for me and what God is calling me to do during this next season in Boulder. I’ve got down this crazy, year-long waterslide, and now I want to invite others to try the waterslide: to jump in to whatever God is calling them to.

Maybe it’s not taking a year off of school and moving overseas, but it could be anything! Is God calling you to trust him with your time? To stop worrying so much and trust Him to provide? Is He calling you to start a business? To share your faith with your family or friends? Maybe you don’t consider yourself a Christian, but maybe God is calling you to look into what it might be like to have a relationship with Him, to try out a church, pray, or ask a question to a Christian friend. Whatever it is, I challenge you to take that step of faith, try the waterslide and enjoy the ride! I am so thankful I did, and I will try whatever waterslide He puts in front of my next.