Sunday, February 12, 2017

Are Mistakes a Good Thing? (2/12/17)

The Academy of Arts seminar is over... I still can't get over what an amazing and blessed week last week was! I already miss all of my good friends so much, and am aching to talk to them all in person again - and I saw them only yesterday! I can barely remember the performance, it all happened so quickly... I can only remember a handful of the scenes I was in, and even fewer of the lines that I only assume I spoke. Friends and friendly acquaintances continue to congratulate me on what they called a fantastic job, when I really don't know whether to believe them or not because my mind has completely blanked out and I have no idea what all happened when I was on stage.

But I do remember the mistakes... good grief, so many mistakes! And yet, no one in the audience really seemed to notice; they didn't know that I was supposed to begin a certain scene on my throne instead of gracefully gliding onto the stage and stepping up to it in the middle. They didn't know I was supposed to be wearing a headdress in a specific scene, which I was unable to put on in time. There were so many itty-bitty things that could have been done better...

...But I don't regret a single moment. Not a single mistake. Not a single thing.

The night before the performance, I prayed as I was crying alone downstairs from both pain and nervousness. As a lot of people know, I slammed into a horizontal pole at a pretty high speed that evening and found it a little difficult to breathe. Every time someone made me laugh, I would start tearing up because my lungs hurt. As I laid there, sobbing on some chairs that were lined up beside a table, I started speaking my heart aloud to God. At first my prayers were the instinctive, "Please take this pain away," and "God, this hurts so much,", but after another moment or two, I started to think a little more about what I was asking. The whole week of Academy, the team had encouraged us to make every part of this performance about glorifying God... so I changed my prayer to something more like this.

"God, if it be Your will, take away this pain so that I might be able to better say my lines tomorrow... but if I can glorify you more when I am hurting - if You will receive more honour and glory and credit if I work through this difficulty - if Your strength will be shown much more in my weakness... give me more pain, God. Make me hurt worse, if that will give you more honour and glory."

And I think part of that sort of mindset is also asking God to somehow use whatever mistakes we might make - even if we can't see how. Thinking, "If making these mistakes will give Him more glory, then I don't want our performance to be perfect." I'm not saying we should try to make mistakes, but if we do have an occasional mess-up, we shouldn't worry about it, but rather leave it in God's hands. The Bible says, "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" (Luke 12:25)

I'm grateful that I did find it easier to breathe the day of the performance and that I was able to say my lines the way I was supposed to (and if I didn't, it wasn't for pain's sake). I'm not saying all this to boast or brag about anything I might have done right (if any such thing did happen at all), but to state something I learned last week that I never truly thought about before. If I wanted to brag, I wouldn't have been honest about bawling downstairs by myself; I hate it when people see me cry (which really happens more often than I like to admit). I'll confess that I hated walking back upstairs when I knew my eyes were still really red and people would ask questions, but I felt God was calling me to go back and help, despite the pain. He placed something on my heart that day to share with the elementary students, who had their performance that day - so I went back up and shared it. I don't know how many of them were listening or took it to heart, but I did what God called me to do in that moment.

And I'm so glad I did.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Story of... Esther (2/7/17)

The story of the life of Esther is the story of a girl, an ordinary girl who was made extraordinary by what God did through her. Not only did she obey her God, though - she also heeded the word of her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as his own daughter (Esther 2:7) and whose love for her was demonstrated as he paced outside the court of the women's chambers every day for 12 months while she was receiving the beauty treatments allotted to her (Esther 2:8-11). Later on, that role was reversed and he obeyed her in turn, when their people and all their kindred were threatened with the edge of the sword - both man, woman, and child (Esther 4:15-16).

Mordecai. Esther. Haman. Xerxes. Vashti. Zeresh. Abihail. Memucan. Harbonah. These were all real people, with real lives and real stories. Every person on earth has an unfolding drama, with varying emotions and events that happen, plot twists and character introductions. Every person on earth considers themselves as the main character in a story - their story.

These people, these faces, these personalities - they had as just as real a story as you or I do. Their lives were just as complex as ours, their world as real

That's part of why it is such an honour to play a representation of these people this week. Esther was a girl with such faith and trust in God - even in the face of likely death. Vashti had refused to come before the king when called, and she had been exiled - Esther was in the opposite situation: she was coming before the king when he had not sent for her - something punishable by death. The only exception was if the king held out his scepter, that the offender might live. Esther had no way of knowing (unless God revealed it to her) that this would be the case: she might just have easily been put to death, and her people perish
So she went, not knowing if she would ever see Mordecai (he loved her as a daughter, remember? He was the only father she had ever known) or any of the people she loved ever again. Such faith in God is an absolute honour to portray, and there is pressure to get even close to conveying the bravery and fear (the two can be mingled) she must have felt.

Hopefully, I'll be able to write up a post tomorrow about Mordecai, but I may get swept up in all of the Academy drama. To wrap this up, here's a few pictures of us preparing so far! :)
(Disclaimer: these pictures are from yesterday, which was Superhero/Sports day... just thought I'd explain some of the memorabilia) ;)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Born Ready (2/3/17)

Next week (starting Monday), I have the pleasure of being in an incredible production of the Bible story of Esther and of how God rescued his people through her obedience and faith in Him. It's one of my favourite stories, and I'm so excited to be a part of it... the Academy of Arts is giving us such a great opportunity by coming to our hometown and helping us put it on.

But now and then, I wonder: what if I'm not ready? Do I really have my lines down as well as I ought? What if I can't remember the blocking that they're going to teach me? What if I let everyone down? My self-doubt kicks in, and it used to be pretty hard to brush off... but not anymore. I have learned what it is to put one's faith and trust in God, and to leave all worries or anxieties that gnaw at me behind me. They serve no purpose but to unnerve me and keep my mind occupied with thoughts that don't matter instead of on my lines or on the story. 

I wanted this part, but I also knew that if it be God's will that I play a different role, that would be the better option for me; when I prayed, I asked for it - but I also asked that His will be done, before any want or wish that I might have. If He did not want me to have this role, then I did not want it. I resolved that I would be enthusiastic and excited about whatever He wanted me to do this upcoming week, and that I would do my duty cheerfully and with a servant's heart. 

I still intend to comply with that conviction, with my whole heart. I want to work hard and learn everything I should, and help others learn what they can; I want to do what I can to make the Academy staff's jobs easier and help my fellow cast-members to memorize their lines and blocking and cues; I want to be the first to volunteer to help, with any job that needs done or any challenge that may arise.

Everyone in the cast is so supportive, and I couldn't ask for a better group of people to put on this drama. I'm so excited to be working with them. My best friend sent me two surprises in the mail - I'm wearing one of them right now - and they almost made me cry. Everyone is so kind, and I wish I could repay them all.

I can't say how excited I am to be a part of this, or how grateful I am to God for giving me this opportunity.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Uncertainties - In My Life (1/11/17)

In my life, there are so many questions and answers that somehow seem wrong
In my life, there are times when I catch in the silence the sigh of a faraway soul
And it sings of a world that I long to see
Out of reach, just a whisper away waiting for me...

- In My Life, Les Miserables (look up the 10th Anniversary edition, it's the best one) ;)

This portion of the song resonates with me greatly at the present moment... I feel so much uncertainty, so much strangeness, and I wonder so much. I wonder about nearly everything now, and it unnerves me just a little. I think about things and question why such oddities would cross my mind and then wonder why I care. Does it really matter?

I suppose it shouldn't... but, as I said, it unnerves me. 

I've convinced myself it's normal to have images flash in my head of different scenes I've never seen, but have imagined so many times, they feel like memories; stories I have conjured up so vividly, they seem to be relaying before my eyes. 

Is this what it is to be a writer? To always be noticing quirks and flaws in everyone around me and concluding, "That's something that my Lena would do," or, "That guy in the corner makes me think of how I imagined Josiah," or, "I like the way the girl I'm talking to closes her eyes and crinkles her nose when she laughs. Someone (in my story) should do that."

But it doesn't stop there. I feel like I'm having these stories - this one specific story - trapped inside me all of the time. And so far there's only two characters, and both are based partly off of two people from the real world! I would almost venture to say that it is beginning to distort my view of who they really are and I get it muddled with the characters I based off of them. My thoughts can get as strange as, "Is it too unrealistic for her to do such-and-such a thing if she's dying?" or, "Would my esquire really be able to believe that the servant girl is a mute, or would he keep trying to trick her into saying something?" or, "Will people really be able to see what I'm seeing when they read this, or will they picture it in a totally different way (because I think I would hate that)?"

I guess I'm just feeling some uncertainties, some misgivings.

Is this what being an author is really like?

I'm beginning to question my calling. ;)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sparks of Creativity (12/30/16)

Chase the ideas that challenge your creativity, chase the things and thoughts that tie your mind in strings and knots until you blurt out in frustration, "But that's impossible!!!" 
Any nonsense, any fantasy, any magic - and wonder to yourself aloud, "What if it could be possible?" 
Let your mind expand and explore all the possibilities; let your heart run rampant and fall in love with such paradoxes and parables as it pleases as you create the lives of other people and shape their lives into what you wish yours might have been... shape their actions into what you wish you would have done - or left undone.

And maybe - just maybe - you will discover what it is to have a world that's all your own. 

Write what terrifies you; write the most complicated and terrible of ideas into the simplest of words; paint a picture of the peace and prosperity you cherish and entertain thoughts of in your secret heart; go on adventures and copy every detail down as you go along so that others may enjoy and learn from your tales; write the things you dream of forgetting, but you know you cannot; write the memories that make you blush and laugh to think of, but treasure all the same.

Put the world into your own words.

Chase after growth. Challenge your mind. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Life Can Be So Hard (12/20/16)

Guys, life is hard. I'm not going to sugarcoat it or try to beat around the bush. It can be so, so hard, so scary. 

I have a friend that I am worried about because she is going through incredibly difficult things, specifically things that are being said to her by people that ought to encourage her and lift her up. She is hurting, and all I want to do is take the hurt away because I've had a small taste of how it feels. I just want to make everything better, but I can't. 

I have a friend that I am truly scared for because of all the crazy, terrible things that are happening around where she lives. Every time she tells me of a new occurrence, I feel like my heart starts to shut down inside me. 

I have a friend who has a terminal illness; I can't even imagine the battles she fights and has fought for her entire life. I can't imagine being in a hospital that's that far from my home. She is quite probably the bravest person I know, and I wish I always had the peace she has through it all.

I'm scared sometimes, guys. The world is a scary, scary place. The uncertainty can be tantalizing, but it can also be feared for the lack of control it gives. 

When I was little, my parents taught me to recite Psalm 23 whenever I got scared; I had nightmares rather often (if I'm remembering rightly) and I remember one time standing in the hallway with my dad kneeling down so he was level with me. I was still at the stage just below hyperventilating and I was crying, and he asked me to think of different things I liked.
"Kittens!" I burst out, choking on tears (yeah, it's kind of humourous, looking back on it now).
"That's good. What else?"
"Holiday World..."
After naming one or two other things, he had me say Psalm 23 before sending me back to bed, feeling slightly reassured. Even now, I recite it when I'm scared or disconcerted - I even started quoting it when I had to run a mile in less than 10 minutes for a test and I started getting exhausted (we had done other exercises beforehand as well). I wasn't scared - I just realised that I needed to be running those laps for God and for His glory, and when I realised that, it helped motivate me to run hard until the end.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want. 

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Monday, November 21, 2016

I Want to Live Like That (11/21/16)

I love reading fiction, particularly stories that can make me feel something. Conviction, compassion, hope - these are just a few that come to mind. 

My favorite author is Charles Dickens; he writes stories with humour and romance and action and satire, all bound up and woven together into a masterpiece. He was a master of his trade, and in every story (at least, all of the ones I've read), there was some lesson, some problem that needing fixing in society. I love how he used his gift to not only entertain people with his imaginative storytelling, but also to help people. His books truly make me feel something, without fail.

Recently, I finished the book David Copperfield and absolutely loved it (which was no surprise, seeing as I haven't disliked any of his works thus far 😉). The character that really stuck out to me the most, besides the namesake and hero, was Agnes Wickfield. Throughout Copperfield's adolescent years, she is a sort of guiding-light for him, a beam of truth and goodness that shines in his life, and he recognizes and treasures it. Their relationship is that of a brother and sister and it is so precious. When he first meets her, she stands at the top of a staircase and a light is shining from a window on her, and in his mind he thinks of her as of a stained-glass window: without fault or blemish, only good and true, someone precious and pure, something rare. And I realised something, early on.

I want to be someones' Agnes Wickfield.

Not in a romantic way at all. I want to be the person that people can turn to in their troubles, like struggling sailboats in a gale turning to the lighthouse on the shore. Someone that people know they can trust to confide in and receive good, godly counsel. I want to be the kind of person that reserves their judgement until they are sure of the truth, and does not hesitate to forgive those who have done them harm. A godly woman who never doubts the goodness of God, who never falters on His path, who abhors evil and chases after the good and pure. Utterly selfless, ever focused on others and what can be done for them. There's a tranquility about her, this Miss Wickfield, and I should like very much to have the same heart as she.

Take that, Mr. Gradgrind of Coketown, you hater of all things "fanciful" and fictional! 😜

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Little Words - Big Impacts (11/17/16)

It was only a week or two after I had turned 16; we were attending a friend's graduation party and I was holding the 3-week-old little girl, the child of acquaintances who were also there. She was so tiny... her little fingers curled up into fists, her little mouth yawning... so precious. As I cradled and murmured soft nothings to her, my dad told me, "You're going to be a good mommy one day."
I ducked my head shyly and thanked him, but inwardly my heart was beaming. Dad thought I would be a good mom someday... that meant a lot to me, even if he didn't realize it. He may not even remember that it happened, but I'll never forget it.

It was my first time presenting a leadership lesson, and as if that was not hard enough, I felt like God had called me to do one on suicidal thoughts. I struggled through it, trying to get a discussion going among the cadets, but it started to fall apart. I was so nervous about the whole thing that I had over-prepared by making 6 pages of different notes, so I was constantly flipping back and forth in my binder trying to find what I needed, which flustered me even more. Whenever I answered a question, I was afraid that I would take my own experience and assume it was fact, so before I answered anything I stuttered, "In my own experience..."
After what felt like an hour (but was closer to 15 minutes), it was over and I packed up my binder and gear to go home. It wasn't the worst it could have been, but it wasn't the best either, so I was a little heavy-hearted. Friends and fellow cadets congratulated me on my lesson (which heartened me a bit) and the father of my friend (who I had never met) came up and shook my hand, saying, "Thank you for putting a piece of yourself in that; it took guts."
Nothing could have meant more to me in that moment than someone I had never met telling me, "That took guts."

They are little words, little nothings... but they mean so much. I can find so many instances in my life when only a few small words were spoken, but they shaped who I am today. Times when I thought no one had seen a small good I had done, and a person would come up and say, "I saw that; you did good."
Honestly, it's very seldom that you find something more treasured than these little validations and appreciations. Be liberal with kindness; toss words of love like confetti into the hearts of those around you. Maybe it makes you feel awkward, but it can mean the world to the recipients.