Saturday, December 31, 2011

Shake It Out

I've been listening to one of my favorite artists Florence + The Machine lately and have fallen in love with the song "Shake it Out" off of the Ceremonials album.

Here's some of the lyrics:

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments I can see no way
I can see no way And all of the ghouls come out to play 
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself 
I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

And I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind 
I can see no way,I can see no way 
I'm always dragging that horse around
And our love is passed, it's such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground 
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it's always darkest before the dawn 

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out 
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out 

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back 
So shake him off 

I am done with my graceless heart 
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart 
Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn 

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out 
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out 
 And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back 
So shake him off 

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
 And given half the chance would I take any of it back
 It's a final mess but it's left me so undone
 It's always darkest before the dawn

I feel like this song is my anthem for the year of 2011. This year has been both Beautiful and Ugly. It has been a year of many adventures and many life lessons. During January of 2011 I was in South East Asia eating noodles everyday, speaking in a different foreign language, sharing the gospel, serving alongside some of the strongest men and women of God I've ever met, playing drums with street kids, falling in love with street kids, flying on a lot of planes, riding a lot of buses, and drinking a lot of hot tea. I also led worship and small groups for youth disciple nows and girls retreats almost every weekend during spring semester. I was playing drums in the ULM BCM Haven band which I loved oh so much. Ministry in my church Hope Alive thrived, grew, and increased my passion for both God and people. In April I decided to pursue one of my dreams and drove 24 hours to New York where I would wait in line several hours along with 600 others, be signed for a time slot, and audition for STOMP on Broadway. This was a dream come true itself. Though I didn't make it I still choose to Dream Big and live up to the saying "Go Hard or Go Home." This summer I was a leader for Cross Camp again and saw how God allowed me to go through such trials when growing up in order to minister to youth of all ages here and now. I got to spend time in Nashville, TN with my best friend Alyssa and began to fall in love with Music City and this pretty amazing music school named Belmont University. I was fortunate to be a bridesmaid in my friend MaeLee's wedding in Alabama on December 17,2011 exactly a year after spending some memorable days in serving in Asia together. I have learned to push myself even harder as a musician and student this year. I don't think I've ever practiced so long and hard until this past semester and it's finally starting to show which is incredibly
awesome. I began to become burnt out on ministry. I found myself doing so many different things constantly to which I never felt I was all there. I was so half way committed to everything that I think I was missing the real reason of why I was doing certain events in the first place. When I think of the year of 2011 I think of it being a Burn Out. A burn out on ministry. A burn out on school. A burn out on working. A burn out on socialization. A burn out on music. A burn out on everything pretty much. All my life I've seemed to always be on the go. I love it yet at the same time grow weary. For a while I've found myself neglecting God over all else. I'm still involved with the things of God and love God. But, somewhere along the way I lost sight of writing the word upon my heart and seeking God daily. I long for consistency and focus. I desire to grown more in my faith. I allowed myself to get caught in some sort of spiritual inertia and apathy which isn't cool. It's funny how sin can have such an effect on you. It doesn't matter if it was several years, months, weeks, days, or even minutes ago...Satan still uses your mistakes to taunt you and make you feel trashy and worthless.

"Regrets collect like old friends, here to relive your darkest moments.
All of the ghouls come out to play,every demon wants his pound of flesh.It's always darkest before the dawn."

This year I let the things I was once ashamed of consume me and beat me down. I let the devil convince me that I could not overcome. At the same time Jesus reminded me that I can do all things not on my own but with Him as my strength.

"And I've been a fool and I've been blind. I can never leave the past behind. I'm always dragging that horse around. Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground."

I love God. I love people. I love music. I love life. I love this New Year. A new year of more adventure and more excitement. A year of less constant activity and less burn out. A year of new beginnings and growth in faith. A year of ministering more to others and showing the love of Christ everywhere I Go. A new year to embrace and take what life gives me whether good or bad. A new year to cherish dreams that come true and to learn from the beautiful letdowns. 

Goodbye 2011 and hello 2012.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Time is Here.

I've never been the sharpest tool in the shed much less one to understand a lot of the things life wants to throw at me. My mind is blown when trying to comprehend how Jesus came to this earth as an infant and was white as snow, He was perfect in every way. Not only that but He was placed in a manger, not some fancy decked out crib from Baby Depot. This is the same Jesus that had no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). This is the same Jesus that was beaten and bruised and mistreated throughout His entire life. The same Jesus that would hang out with the lowest of the low and showed compassion to everyone He encountered. The same Jesus that died for me. It's difficult for me to understand such a crazy concept still to this day. That's because God will never fit in our little box of logic. He is Holy and so much Bigger. One thing I do know is that Jesus is the greatest thing that has ever entered into my life.

It's easy to say you won't get carried away this year during the Christmas season. That you won't buy as many gifts, wake up dreadfully early to get a big sale the day after Thanksgiving, worry if the tree isn't set up the way you like it, or let the idea of gifts consume you. But, do we truly choose not to cling to such things? I can tell you first hand that Christmas is certainly not all about getting gifts and spending lots of money and you fill in the blank_. Though all of that is good, fun, and lovely...if you didn't receive a single gift or have the finances to buy everyone and their mommas a present; would that ruin your day all together? Don't get me wrong that'd suck a whole lot and it's not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of having a "Holly Jolly Christmas," but never the less life will still go on. What if there were no presents under the tree? What if there was no tree at all? No "Holiday greetings and happy meetings"...? It might seem as if the world will come to an end at this point but it won't. I used to think so but time and time again I'm reminded that's not the case.

As I've sat here at my house alone for the majority of this Christmas day, I can't help but think a lot about a lot of things. I randomly decided to google the definition of "family."
Of course, most of the definitions define family as "a group of people who are related by blood."
However, there were a few definitions that said something different such as "a group of people who support each other and love one another." and so on.

"In today’s society most people consider family to be just blood relations but in reality it is the bonds you share with those you care for the most.  Family is a completely necessary part of anyone’s life.  Your family helps you through the tough times and provides the needed support to get through life.  Family cares about what happens to you, are always there for you, and above all, loves you. "

Mmmm....Can I get an Amen?!? This brought so much comfort to my heart. If it were strictly that of blood relations, I don't have much of a family at all the way I look at it. But if it's true that family is far more than that...well I have the largest family there is. 
Then I begin to think of what the phrase "blood related" means to me. 
Through the blood of Christ I belong to a family of believers all across the world. 
Many I've already had the blessing of meeting and many I will meet one day. 
I often say that "Music is within my blood." If so, I know of many who can relate that are considered to be family as well.

I would be foolish to ever say I don't have a family, because I most certainly do. 
What I consider to be family may not be your common definition found in wikipedia, but I care the most about a lot of folks and I come to find that a lot of folks care about me. 
I may not join family during the holidays but I know they are there for me. When I need support I can find it. When I need encouragement and affirmation, it can be a text away. Though certain situations can make me feel unloved, I know deep down I am loved and God is to be glorified rather than circumstances.  Above all it is Christ Who strengthens me. To have a loving Family on top of that, what better gift could you possibly ask for during Christmas time? 

Though things never seem to go as planned and though being alone while everyone else is celebrating can be a bummer...I am thankful for this special day the Lord has made. 
I'm thankful for time to sit still, relax, and REST. True Rest in the Lord is like no other. I'm thankful for time to reflect and take Joy in the God of my salvation. I'm thankful for those who sacrifice their traditional family settings to include a kid who has no place to go. I'm thankful for turkey and some burnt pecan pie. I'm thankful for coffee and a delectable Christmas tree cake. I'm thankful for those serving all across the country right now as I type. I'm thankful for the amazing time spent in Asia this time last year. Oh how I miss it so and wish I were there again at this very moment. I'm thankful for my Mammaw and another year I could spend with her cute lil ole self. I'm thankful for Everything God has chosen to bestow and bless me with. I am thankful for what the word "family" looks like in my life.

It all goes back to Christ in the end. The birth, crucifixion  and resurrection of Jesus will forever be the greatest gift there ever was, is, and will be. Because He came to die for the sins of man, Jesus is the Reason for the Season. Jesus is the reason I'm still alive today and can live life abundantly. It's my responsibility to be reminded of that. Though it may not seem to be "traditional" or provide that "home sweet home" kind of feeling, this day is to be cherished and that is something I am certain of. While I was in Asia, my teammates and I were told that we would never look at Christmas the same way again once we return to the states. I don't think I've ever found a statement to be so true before. I've discovered that I am my happiest when I am able to serve others. After serving in other countries to the fullest, especially during Christmas, it's easy to return home and feel as if I'm never truly serving others unless I'm on a trip far away. But after staying in town this December I see more and more how God calls me to go and serve everywhere. Even in Monroe, LA of all places. So though it's not a hard task to loose site of the true meaning of Christmas, I think I'm finally beginning to see what it's all about. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, Here's to Many More.