Sunday, February 20, 2011

The minor fall, the major lift.

Hey guys! I'm sorry it's been about a million years since my last update. I promise, I'm alive and at least mostly well.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks for me, full of many new developments both fantastically amazing and utterly depressing. Let's get the bad out of the way first, shall we?

I'm still having a lot of trouble with this bothersome slipped spinal disc. We finally settled on a course of treatment: heavy medication to reduce the swelling in my spinal column, which will subsequently diminish both my pain and risk of further damage as I continue on to step two of the process, which will be physical therapy once or twice a week in hopes that my vertebrae will readjust and the protrusion will heal on its own. If it's not healed in a few months, we'll have to discuss surgery, which is something I'd really REALLY rather prayers would definitely be appreciated :)

Another pretty irritating development was that my car was stolen last week. Right out of my driveway in the middle of the night- and I live in a nice neighborhood! Granted, it was a '94 Civic with about two hundred thousand miles on it, accident damage, and a shot transmission, but it was still my car and I depended on it a lot to get me to school, work, and my boyfriend's house. Plus, every member of my family had random stuff in there....including hundreds of dollars worth of my CD's and a lot of my little sister's baby pictures. The last part is the thing that really makes me feel sick. The car was found this morning in a random field, but it's completely stripped; even Kelsea's baby pictures are gone. We can't afford to buy another car at the moment, so we're all working together to make sure everybody gets from Point A to Point B as they need to. I truly don't understand how people can be so utterly disgusting and evil. So on this front, I just ask for prayers for a peaceful heart since there's truly nothing I can do.

And now, on to the good stuff, because there's plenty of it and I'm excited to share it!

First of all, this is my first blog post on the other side of my teen years. My birthday was last Thursday, the tenth, and I am now officially starting my third decade of life. The big 2-0. Twenty. Ridiculous! Adam spoiled me with tons of flowers and an equal amount of hugs and kisses, and my family showered me with love as well. It was a great day.

I started my new job as a personal assistant for my friend Eric. I've known him my whole life- our families are friends from church, he and his older sister used to babysit us on occasion, and seven years ago I sang at his wedding to a wonderful woman named Tricia. He's the manager of a branch of Vector Co. that sells engraved Cutco knives as closing gifts to realtors. It's a weirdly specific market, but apparently a viable one, because he's got about a million clients. I love this job- I really enjoy officey things like typing and making phone calls, and he's a great boss and a lot of fun to share an office with.

My friend Carol asked me to take over her job as the instructor of a musical theatre class at the Dance Academy in Modesto! This is basically the exact same thing I do at iWorship and when putting together shows with TOP & DMCF, so I'm really excited about it. Plus, it's a relatively small commitment, so I don't have to worry about it conflicting too much with my OTHER new job, which is....

A steady gig as the singer for The Modern Jazz Duo, which is a jazz band from downtown Modesto! It consists primarily of a fabulous jazz trumpeter and bass guitarist, and sometimes a pianist. I've got a pretty heavy song list of jazz classics and standards to memorize, but I could not possibly be more excited about this job. I literally get to dress up like an old-school movie star, sing dreamy jazz with my very own band, and get paid really well for it- which is especially amazing considering that this is something I would gladly do for free just because I love it so much! My first rehearsal with them is this Thursday, and my debut gig will be playing for the Art Walk at the Mistlin Gallery in downtown Modesto a month from now. I'll keep you all posted. But in case you just can't wait to come see me do my music thing, you'll have an opportunity next week, because.....

I get to open for the fabulously amazing indie/folk singer Danielle Anderson, aka Danielle Ate the Sandwich! If you don't know who she is, I'm so sorry, but please, observe her brilliance and hilarity:

She opened for One Eskimo, Weezer, and Train at the Mile High Music Festival in Denver this summer, and just opened for Mumford & Sons before their trip to that little thing called THE GRAMMYS. So this one's kind of a big deal, kids. My delightful friend Aaron Will and I will be playing a set of our original songs and some super groovy covers at 7 pm at the House of Java in Turlock next Monday, February 28th, and I'm SO THRILLED. 


I'd love to see you there :)

In light of all these exciting new jobs, I bit the bullet and quit my job at Papapavlo's, the Greek restaurant I've been working at since Fall of 2009. This marks the first time in about five years that I haven't been working at a restaurant and have been able to pay all my expenses with jobs that I totally enjoy, and that are almost exclusively performance related. That is such an incredible feeling! The really amazing thing, though, is to step back and realize that none of these things would have happened if I hadn't been forced to drop my classes for this semester, which was at the time a devastating decision for me. And that initially depressing occurrence was a direct result of the slipped disc. So as it turns out....this debilitating spinal injury is turning out to be one of the best things that's ever happened to me.

This is a classic example of one of the most universally quoted truths about the Lord, which is that He moves in mysterious ways. One of my favorite authors is a Christian writer by the name of Patsy Clairmont, who shared in her book "God Uses Cracked Pots" a story that resonated extra with me, because I'd experienced it myself. There's a children's worship song that goes like this:

"Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah,
Praise ye the Lord!

Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah,
Praise ye the Lord!

Praise ye the Lord, hallelujah!
Praise ye the Lord, hallelujah!
Praise ye the Lord, hallelujah!

Praise ye the Lord!"

Patsy writes about a time that she overheard a child singing this song to himself, but his young ears had interpreted the term "praise ye" as "crazy." Thus, the song changed from a call for us to praise God into a declaration of praise unto itself, and in all truth, a pretty accurate one.

"Crazy the Lord, hallelujah!"

How many times have we had to sit back and just shake our heads at the awesomeness, and sometimes sheer weirdness, of the way God reveals Himself to us? I know it happens to me all the time, and whenever it does, I sing this to myself with a spirit of reverent laughter. I like to think that my loving Father is chuckling along with me- I truly do believe that He has a great sense of humor. I imagine it must be wildly entertaining to see us FINALLY get something that's been in front of our noses the whole time, just like the way we rejoice when we watch a child's face light up as they figure out how to pull themselves up to their feet for the first time. God delights in our joy and our triumphs, and is always there to see us through the dark times. This dichotomy of involvement in our lives is rarely expressed more beautifully than in the Psalms, especially in what is arguably the best-known Psalm of all time, Psalm 23:

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want!

He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death,
I fear no evil, for Thou art with me- Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

This passage is undeniably beautiful and powerful, but if you look at it closely, it seems to contradict itself. David begins and ends with declarations of God's blessings, which are so great that he wants for nothing and his cup overflows. He doesn't say, "I think some days I'll be happy and well," but rather, "SURELY goodness and mercy shall follow me ALL the days of my life." That's a pretty definitive statement. And yet, in the middle, he acknowledges that he walks in a place called "the Valley of the Shadow of Death." I don't know about you, but that place doesn't sound particularly good or merciful to me. If I was there, I would definitely be found wanting- to get out! How can David combine such opposing concepts?

The answer is simple, yet hard to swallow for many. God doesn't promise that there are only going to be great and happy times. The existence of sin in the world prohibits the perfection that God intended for us and perpetuates Earthly suffering. But God DOES promise that He will always be with us, even in the times that are awful. There's a reason that the little story "Footprints in the Sand" can be found on everything from throw pillows to coffee mugs to calendars, and that's because it's one of the most fitting analogies to convey this concept. But even if we acknowledge in the good times that we know God will be with us even in the bad times, it's a lot harder to remember that when we're actually there.

To me, one of the most important verses in the Psalm is verse 3: "He restores my soul." Sometimes we will suffer and our faith and internal joy will falter. Sometimes things are going to suck and we're going to feel utterly defeated. But the Lord promises that He will restore us! Even when bad things are happening, even as we sit "in the presence of [our] enemies," God is continually blessing us. Our challenge is to continue seeing with the eyes of our faith even in times of Earthly darkness, so that we can seek out that holy rod and staff that will comfort us.

I've definitely been spending some time in my own Valley of the Shadow these past few months. Physical pain, emotional stress, tough life choices......they take their toll. But God has used even these hardships to bring about great blessings in my life! And that DEFINITELY qualifies as goodness and mercy.

"And even if it all goes wrong,
I'll stand before the Lord of Song,
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah."

(Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen.)

1 comment:

Praising God one day at a time said...

Aaaaand for the other one I missed...

OMIGOSH...I'm SOOO sorry about your car...I know I'd be devastated if that ever happened to me...I was reduced to nothing short of a silent, angry wreck when my drivers door was nearly torn off by an elderly and non-english-speaking man six months you manage to remain relatively calm when the entire car is stolen is beyond me, but I certainly commend you for it :)

I'm also glad that there's some good coming out of your spinal injury :D I'd give ANYTHING to be performing for a living...but then, I'm also heading for teaching, which I'm THOROUGHLY excited for :P Really glad for you!!!

God's ways of working ARE strange...I'm kinda in the middle of one of His plans as we speak, and let me tell's looking kinda dark in this tunnel right now. But I'm holding to Him and I'm waiting for Him to say, "Alright, now that you've done what you need to, let me show you where to go next." Until then, I'm following what He says :)

Glad to see another lengthy blog from you! I've been a busy little blogger myself if you're interested in reading some :)