Of Fridays Past & Future Joy

“It must have been sad when Jesus died,” I remember thinking, as I went through Good Friday services as a child. Even at a young age, I thought of Jesus’s friends and followers, of Mary Magdelene and Peter and doubting Thomas, of how Jesus told John to look after his mother, as he hung from the cross.

But Sunday always came swiftly, ever beautiful and painted with spring, making us all happy again.

I remember one Easter in particular, when I was quite young. It was the first time I’d discovered the Easter bunny and it was a glorious morning indeed. I couldn’t believe my eyes at the chocolate trail leading from my room to a pile of presents in the living room. It was a gold mine. My own gold mine. I was so excited that I picked up my sister’s chocolate, too!

And I recall these strange thoughts running through my head, as I contemplated my childish joy. I often spoke to myself aloud and I did then. I remember saying, “I’m not going to sing again,” “I’m not going to play dolls again,” and the like. I still don’t understand exactly why I said those words. But perhaps suddenly, as I was hit by that sweet five-year-old bliss, I thought I’d got it all, I thought I didn’t need to keep on trying, I thought my joy was complete at last.

That was a long, long time ago now.

Now I sit in church on Good Friday, watching a beautiful service unfold, much like the one it was last year. It’s one of five services happening around town and so various members of the church community gather in my own place of worship today. I enjoy the beauty, try to worship, and contemplate it all.

But I’m distracted, caught up in the memory of Fridays past. Of Easters gone by. My thoughts lead me far through life and back again to the present as the band starts up again and we take the communion cup.

I’m wearing black today. But I remember a Good Friday when I wore a light blue dress and greeted visitors at the door. I was just a baby then, in my faith, in my growth, in personhood. There were so many things then I had yet to do and know and learn. My immaturity, the poor decisions, the bitter disappointments of past days haunt me as I sit in the pew. Sometimes I hate to think of what and who I was. But I remember the fragrant joy with which I had towards life, and the love I was growing for God and church and people, the love that was only beginning, the love that still churns now.

“And if only I knew then…” So many things. So many words. So many problems.

Four years ago, I was fifteen, sitting perhaps in the same row, in a blue dress. I remember the older Dutch man who became a friend to me and my family that year and that day in particular, as he helped us greet folks at the door. But that was four years ago and a lot can change in time and now he’s not even here and he won’t be coming back.

“It must have been sad when Jesus died…” I think again. I’m sure it was, for his friends and followers. But then He rose again.

I remember that dear old Easter when a trail of chocolate made my little heart soar high. He came to make our joy complete.

I remember the person I was yesterday, last year, and four years ago. The pain, the mistakes, the strife. He came to change us, to set us free, to give us life.

I remember the ones who have died, the ones who will never sit in church pews again. I regret, I mourn, and I wonder. He came so that we might never die, so that we could live forever, so that we could find perfection with Him.

Good Friday reminds me of the strife of this world. It reminds me that there is something better, even than a living room full of chocolate. And with it all, I remember the joy past, and most of all, the joy that is yet to come.

On Choosing Theatre

“So are you glad that you became a theatre artist?” he asked me, settling down in the seat which happened to be next to mine.

His question took me by surprise. He was my professor in first year and he’d learned many of my struggles and problems with choosing theatre. But I was still taken off guard. I just hadn’t thought about the choice in so long; it had become so routine, so mundane, so natural to me.

Yet I’d been mulling my choice, whether I realized it or not, over in my head this past Christmas and in the weeks since the break, too. My holidays were wonderful, but I was very much out of the “theatre loop” and I began to wonder what the heck I was doing all over again. Most of my “back home” friends are working and others are studying to be engineers and nurses or planning to go to law school post-degree. Where does theatre fit into all that? I wondered. I know that I love it, I know that I can do it, and I even know that God loves it, but is it really valuable to others? What’s the point?

It was hard to wake myself up that first Tuesday morning of school. Besides feeling burnt out from the last three semesters and the recent summer, the question of why we do theatre still rumbled in my head till it was sore.  Really, I was asking: Am I valuable? Is what I do needed? And if it’s not, why do it?

I resisted, at first. I refused to be excited. Every semester, especially the last, has left me strongly disappointed. I refused to feel that disappointment again.

But that first week took me by surprise. And so did the next. I was filled with absolute joy in the presence of what I loved. My classes were amazing and inspiring and much more than I could have asked for.

The truth is, in my state of resistance and bitterness, I began to love acting like never before. It became exhilarating once again, in more ways than ever. My play. My acting class and the scenes I’m involved in. Voice & Movement. They brought me the excitement I’d lost hope in.

This all came back to me as I answered my prof. “Yes. I mean sometimes I’m not; sometimes I’m just tired and worn out, I guess. It’s work. But we’ve been doing Meisner and these Lindy Davis exercises and I’m playing Sister Aloysius in Doubt and Much Ado is a challenge but it’s fun and well, I’ve never loved acting more.”

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But is love enough? That’s the question I pondered next.

Does loving something make it valuable, useful, or right?

I’m definitely an advocate for doing what you love with your life. I believe in following your own dreams and not the ones someone else’s. But still. It can all be a little disheartening when other people’s dreams seem to be so useful and important and you’re left feeling like a joke. What then?

I’m not trying to play the martyr here. Theatre is hard, but I realize I won’t get burned at the stake for it. This isn’t Shakespeare’s time when actors were below slaves in status, or something like that. Yes, theatre and art are socially acceptable vocations, but sometimes I feel a little lost in the dust, as others, I’d assume feel, too.

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“We’re the messiest of them all,” the aforementioned prof has said before. Often times, he’s right. We get dressed up and walk around campus doing photo shoots. We take classrooms apart so we can rehearse or fill them with camera gear for a promo video and clean up just in time for the next class to start. We make people sweat and quicken heart beats when we swear and kiss people we’re not married to and portray lots of conflict on stage. We put humanity, in all it’s flaws and horrors, on display for the world to see. And it isn’t always pretty.

Plain and simply, I find theatre valuable because I love it. I do it because I love it. Frankly, I don’t have to justify that.

I believe in its value for a lot of reasons. It teaches us to have empathy, both as actors and audience members. It is art and it allows for creation, which I believe is very biblical. Last but not least, people love entertainment and people like me who study BFAs in Acting provide that. And really, this list could go on but it won’t for now.

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I get a lot of reactions on the answer that slips out of my mouth after the infamous student question, “What is your major?” That sounds fun! and Cool! or I could never do that! and What’s that like? are among the top. One person laughed out loud when I told him, but that’s a story for another time. Lots of people ask me what I intend to do with it, too. I tell them I want to be an actor.

This isn’t a pity party. As another professor says, we all have choices; it’s just silly to say we don’t. Thus, we honestly can’t complain about a lot of stuff because 95% of it likely stems out of the choices we’ve made. I made the choice to study theatre a year and a half ago. I continue to make that choice day after day. And I can make the choice to quit at any point.

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I suppose what I’d like for you to know is that choosing theatre can be great. It is for me, at least. Choosing what you love, I think, is best. Do it, if you can. No matter what it is. What you do, whatever it is, has value because of Christ. He created everything good in this world and has an intention for it. So go out and do it. Choose what you love.

So yes, I’m glad I chose to be a theatre artist.

What about you?

Today

Today is a Thursday.

Beep. Beep. Beep. I rise early. My door knob, the shower faucets, and the kettle are the first things I touch. Somehow, I feel awake, even at 6 AM.

I arrive at school ahead of schedule. I wait, sort of do some homework. My scene partner comes. We work with another friend. We sit knee-to-knee in the theatre, she whispers us our lines. You see, we’re not allowed to look at them just yet. Not today, anyway. Our Acting prof calls it Meisner or one of his techniques, at least. So our friend feeds our ears words and we go back and forth with them, reciting, strangely, beautifully.

Today, I go to chapel. I sit in the front row of the balcony for an easy get-away. I sing with the others and it is lovely and I listen to the speaker. But I leave 5 minutes early for class, to beat the rush.

Today, I arrive at class early. I change my clothes. Chat with a friend before class starts and eat jello for lunch. Today, other friends arrive and we ask each other questions about our Christmases and compliment new hair cuts.

Today, is the first Thursday of the semester. We have Voice & Movement. There are thirteen of us and one brilliant teacher. We all sit in a circle on the floor.

Today, we breathe, we learn, we discover. We write a bit, reflect, and then we talk. There’s a sweet intimacy that pervades the room and I’m happy and comforted by the time I leave.

Later today, I finish my homework in the collegium. Playwriting homework. It’s easy, but I’m distracted.

Today, I grab a mug and attempt to open a package of hot chocolate mix. A friend I hardly know is making tea, and then he offers to bring me a mug full of milk for my hot chocolate.

Today, I see many people. Many friends. I help lead youth group and we talk about evil and lies. I’m reminded of my thoughts in Voice & Movement and I smile.

Today, I drink from cups that others have filled. There are many because my life is very full. And I am so grateful for today.

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What was your today like? I’d love to hear about it!

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Cultivate 2014

My New Year’s resolutions. 14 aims for living wholly in 2014:

1. Love people well and be intentional in friendship.

2. Work hard, but rest harder.

3. Write something everyday. Doesn’t matter what. Just has to be something.

4. Dialogue with my Father and listen to Him more.

5. Learn to let go and relax.

6. Continue to get to know myself better.

7. Develop patience.

8. Take care of myself, body and soul.

9. Invest myself freely in my art, whatever it happens to be.

10. Remember joy and find it in life’s blessings, both big and small.

11. Make specific goals for acting, follow them and fly with others, and most of all: just dive right in.

12. Cultivate my own character.

13. Drink more tea, read more books, bake more cookies.

14. Live missionally, wherever I am. Seek justice. Be merciful and humble.

These 14 goals are brief and somewhat vague. They may change and I’m not holding myself to the originals, if they do. I’m also not giving up on them, even if I find myself letting go. In a nutshell, I’m an imperfect person learning to be whole. Every step, every day, every year in my life is part of my journey to that wholeness. And this list is made up of things that I believe make a person whole.

2014 will not be a perfect year. It may not even be the best year yet, either. But I’m going to do everything I can to make it a year in which I stepped a little closer that wholeness I seek.

This is a new year. This is 2014 and my theme word is cultivate. Cultivate joy, hope, love. Freedom. Passion. Salvation. Forgiveness. Productivity. Rest. Healing, justice, and beauty. Everything good. Cultivate Life.

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Here’s to 2014!

What are your resolutions and hopes for the new year?

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Recap & Dreams

2013 was a roller-coaster.

First year second semester didn’t pull me by the ear lobes like my first had done. It was stagnant at first; difficult, strange. I had to grab it by the neck and make it what I wanted and needed. I did just that. In the words of my professors and friends, I transformed in my art and I think also, in myself.

Summer came much too quickly. I put acting aside for a while, on a shelf though, to be found again, come September, no doubt. Core requirement books piled on my desk and for six weeks I devoted my time to completing courses in Old Testament, Self-Defense, and Human Kinetics.

June brought my first article to publication. One I’d worked at since January. It began as a tiny proposal forced from my hands. I never thought my first attempt at a magazine submission would lead to publication, but it did, somehow, beautifully.

My first real job, as a cashier at a Thrift Store, came and went. July and August were filled with long days and hard work, dust, unfriendly voices, interesting objects, and weird comments. But there was love and joy and peace and satisfaction there, too. And for those things and the lessons learned, I miss it every day.

Last semester boomed along. I played a small role in my first university play. I took hard classes. My professors pushed me and I pushed myself. And I forged friendships like never before. There was beauty and life, but at the end, I was burnt to the core.

More. There was always more. More to do, more to be, more to learn. It was exhausting.

My holidays have been quite the reverse. School flew away and I nearly forgot the little homework I did have.

I spent a lovely four days with a friend and her family, relaxing and celebrating the new year. I had a beautiful Christmas, filled with Christ, family, and sweet things. I’ve had a wonderful holiday, seeing fabulous people and creating to my heart’s desire. In everything, I’ve learned more about myself and the person I want to become.

And now, as I sit and think on January 3rd, I am hopeful. All of what happened, both the good and the bad, makes 2014, a new year, brighter to my eyes. Because we learned and we finished and came to believe in 2013, through every blot and beauty.

And this — why this is only the beginning. We’ve barely breathed on the new year yet. Hardly made mistakes. The days ahead are still coming and we don’t know what will fill them. And while unknowns can be scary, adventure lies in what we do not know or even understand.

It snowed this December. It rained a lot, too. And in it all, it “sunned” as well.

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2014 should bring similar weather, I believe. But who knows what the colour of the rain will be?

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Here // This is Beauty

I often find myself longing for the exquisite. I dream of adventure, beauty, and joy. Slowly, I pass through life, wondering if there’s more and when happiness will ever abound.

Every person has a dream. I have several. They say every girl longs for a prince and a castle and I’ve spent life looking for mine.

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But then sometimes I find myself, caught gently in snow-globe moments, within the passage of everyday life.

The sun rises, glorious, majestic, golden pink and sets in the same beauty and colour. A winter wonderland in the morrow. White magic glistens from the tree tops and everywhere, promising a white Christmas after all.

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Later, we bundle up, gloves on hands and boots on feet, ear muffs, toques, scarves and all. Giddy, we venture outside, dashing through fluffy snow, we prance and play. Two forts, we build. A snowball fight ensues.

Well after midnight, we sit around the instruments, playing and singing. One groggy body after another curls up in some sanctuary corner and falls to slumber. But soon enough, we’re laughing again, running through hallways, playing, and telling stories.

The table is set early, the smell of pancakes and sausage drifts through the space, and sleepy limbs settle on chairs. Christmas carols stream from the iPod in the kitchen. We say a prayer before eating, and the light from the wonderland shines in on us. Silence ensues as we gobble. Hot chocolate for still sleeping souls and scrambled eggs fill our tummies.

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And as I look upon the exhausted faces, smiling in spite of their sleepless night, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve found what I set out to. Its a snow-globe moment. Adventure, beauty, and joy are all in this room. The secret, daily longings I’ve struggled so long for have reached my soul at last.

~~~

Today, we skated round and round. Half the church came out. We drank hot chocolate and smiled in each other’s presence. The exercise and cold air and companionship filled my lungs and gave me strength.

And I realized, the answer of these longings is never far away.

What I’ve been looking for has been here the whole time. Perhaps it was hiding just beyond reach or maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. But it was here.

Perhaps the exquisite is simple and beauty looks like the smile in your eyes when we talk.

Maybe adventure can be found in building a snow fort in the church parking lot.

Perchance joy is grasped in simply being. Yes, I think joy comes from realizing each daily adventure and seeing the beauty for what it is.

Fulfillment is right now. Today. This moment. I’ve found it.

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Is there more to life than this? You’d better believe it.

But it is here, found among the ordinary, dancing in our souls. This God-given, blessed life is the more that we crave.

Here. This is beauty.

Every Day Can Be A Blessing

I don’t like Thursdays. I’m not sure if it is just my “end of the week attitude” or the general vibe of the Thursday customers at the store where I work or perhaps both which make me dread the day. Either way, I usually end up drained and wishing for Sunday.

Tuesday’s are usually my day off. Wednesday’s are my favourite, Fridays are a breeze, and Saturdays are short. And my once-dreaded-during-school-days-Mondays are actually quite lovely. But I hate Thursdays at the store.

Except for today. Even though I went into the morning like it was a battle ground, I came out at 5:00 feeling like I’d tasted a piece of Heaven.

After a hard week, in which my day off had not yet appeared, and customers had been stealing and bargaining right and left, a new air entered my little Thrift Store. Suddenly, everyone was incredibly nice. The customers were sweet to me and I could once again naturally be sweet to them without having to fake it. No one tried to bargain or steal. When I asked for people’s bags, they easily complied or left the store. No one gave me trouble. I enjoyed many friendly conversations with customers and felt satisfied in my work. A splendid, beautiful joy pervaded my space behind the till and somehow, I found richness in the ordinary, mundane, and often difficult work of a cashier once again.

And as I thought about it, marveling in the glorious day that had been so opposite to past Thursdays, I remembered the power of prayer. That God will bless us as He sees fit and that joy is often a choice between a smile and a grumble. Yes, there are bad days, but that doesn’t mean that today can’t be a blessing, at least in some way.

Tomorrow, I have a day off. I’m hoping for a blessed day, relaxing and doing my favourite things.

But I’m looking forward to Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I’m remembering that I’ll probably have to work next Thursday. And even though I’ll have sore feet and a somewhat drained spirit at the end of each work day, there will be blessings.

Blessings like cute dishes that remind you of your childhood or a customer who speaks Spanish or fresh coffee on your break. Blessings like a cousin who teaches you her songs after camp and a mom who makes you lunches and fills up your water bottle.

These are the little things; this life is mundane. But these small things are what make up life–at least, they make up mine. So don’t let them pass you by.

Remember: any day–and every day–can be a blessings.

On Letting Go

When I was a little girl, I loved balloons. It made me very sad to lose or have to pop one; I hated to let go, feeling as if I were hurting the poor balloon’s feelings. It was like losing a good friend.

I remember distinctly one time in which I was in a parade and a boy had given me an orange balloon. I carried it proudly with the sign for my group. But then, somehow, as we started to walk, the string slipped from my fingers and the orange ball of delight went up, up, up into the wide, grey sky. I tried to catch it, yelling out as I did, but it was in vain. My poor balloon was gone for good.

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Over ten years later, I sit out on the deck with a cool summer breeze passing off my shoulders, pondering life’s memories, both good and bad. I’ll be nineteen in August and as I enter into adulthood, I can grin, giggle, and grimace at the paths left behind.

Since that childhood incident, I’ve lost many other “balloons.” Sometimes I meant to. Sometimes I didn’t. In either case, the pain was sharp and sure enough, I tried to get it back, just like that day at the parade.

One thing I know, among many things that I don’t, is that no matter what it is you’re losing, letting go of something or someone hurts.

There are dreams I’ve left aside. Relationships and hopes for people and trust broken. Love I’ve wanted, but could not get; loves that I must leave aside. Ideals and rules I thought were proper and which made me feel right, but really weren’t. Bad things I’ve done and poor decisions I’ve made which bring me shame. People who hurt me, but who I loved all the same. And just like that balloon, I let go of them physically and tried to get rid of them emotionally.

  you can't hang onto it forever.

 

Photo source

But it was hard. It remains difficult. It always will be.

Yet as a Christian, I believe in grace and redemption. I know that I must not condemn myself for sins forgiven by Jesus any longer. I know that God has plans and dreams for us that are bigger than our own. Sometimes, I believe, we are even called to let go. Often, it is best.

But as we let go, let us grab hold of another thing and anchor it to our self firmly.

Let go of anger and malice for love. Throw away regret for renewed hope. Forget about shame and remember grace. Take off evil and put on righteousness.

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At the end of the day of my parade, my mom pointed out a tiny orange dot far up in the sky.

“I think that’s your balloon!” she said. “It looks nice up in the sky.”

And suddenly, I wasn’t sad anymore. I’d decorated the sky and made it pretty for the parade. I’d let go and given something good in return.