2012 – 2013: Let The Waters Rise

This year’s song is “Let The Waters Rise” by: Mikeschair

I don’t know where to begin, feels like my worlds caving in,
And I try but I can’t control my fear… Where do I go from here?
Sometimes it’s so hard to pray, when You feel so far away,
But I am willing to go where You want me to… God I trust You.

There’s a raging sea right in front of me… Wants to pull me in, Bring me to my knees.
So let the waters rise, if you want them to… I will follow You. I will follow You.

It seems that in my two year absence from writing a new years blog, life has happened and things have changed.

I refrained from writing last year, not due to anything but the fact that every time I sat down I couldn’t seem to write it out. I couldn’t find the words to write about a new year, because I didn’t really feel like it was a new year, a new anything.
Sometimes seasons in your life really do match the changing of a year. And other times they last through the years, not changing, leaving you with the feeling that the new year is just another day to live with the way things are.
Fortunately, 2014 doesn’t feel that way to me, leaving me the freedom to write about the season I have experienced over the last two years and how I feel that season finally coming to a close. But more on that in a second. 😉

— — —

At the open of 2012, I accepted a new ministry position. I accepted this position not because it was my calling, but because there was a need. And this need was one I was able to fill, and to do well at. So after prayer and lots of debate, I figured: Why shouldn’t I? I knew I would learn great things from being in a position of leadership, but I also knew that this position would take me further from what I felt was my heartbeat at the church: Music. This new position dealt in those things in a small way, I would become the new programming director, which means I would help to plan out the services of the year in a creative way (using music and drama and other things), “making things stick” is the phrase we like to use. Also, under this role was visual ministries, which is the projection screens team, who runs, maintains, and creates graphics for every service.

So it began. And boy, has it been a learning experience. I hit the ground with two feet running, stumbling on my own shoes and fumbling through obstacles, learning as I went and feeling the immense frustration of it all. Bad things happened, good things happened, everything happened that you could possibly imagine. And in the middle of it all, I was stalled in the direction of my calling. I felt like I had taken a long scenic route off of the main road that led to my calling in ministry. Only, if you were to ask me, I couldn’t tell you what that was, I only knew that this wasn’t it. I can’t blame anyone for this feeling, I knew from the beginning that it would take me further down a path I didn’t necessarily want. But I did it because I knew I needed to do it.

Six months in, I sat down with my pastor and told him all of this. He knew I had been feeling that way, and he told me something I’ll never forget: “It would be easy for you to quit.” He said, “It would be so simple for you to stop now and continue doing what you were doing. But I don’t think you need to do that. What have you learned so far? What have been the benefits?”
I began to think. I spoke it out loud. How, while unorthodox, the method of being thrown into the deep end, I had learned so much. I’d learned more in six months than I had learned in the past few years. I owed it to myself to continue, not because everything was suddenly okay, but I knew I needed to learn more.

I finished 2012 with triumphs and losses, and knew that 2013 held nothing much different, so I glided through the new year.
During this time, I had also accepted a new photography job, and began to develop my experience in that field. While it was a great thing, it very much added to the busyness of life, which undoubtedly increased frustrations. All the while, I knew that this wasn’t where I had planned to be, but it was very much where I belonged. I felt peace in knowing that I was learning and growing, just not in the way I had expected. I resolved to put more energy, more effort into this. If I was to be here, I would do my best. I finally felt and ownership with this leadership role.
Meanwhile, due to my increasing responsibility with programming ministry, my responsibilities in music (praise-singing) were being diminished. In all of the understanding and resolve, I hated that fact. I resented walking up on stage, trying to be 100% there in the very important role of leading worship, and being distracted by what was going wrong with the screens, or making sure that everything I’d planned would happen correctly. I was doing three things at once, and I felt more and more that I could no longer give of myself completely in the ministry I truly cared about over the others. I can’t begin to describe what that feels like. While what I was doing was fulfilling at times, my heart ached for a different route.

At the beginning of 2013, I went to a leadership conference in GA called “Drive”, held by Andy Stanley’s church. I went to learn from a programming director’s perspective, to make what I do more inspired and motivated. I was inspired and motivated. But I remember sitting in one of the sessions I happened to attend by myself, a session that I wasn’t really into. Immediately I felt so disappointed that I was here getting all of this great knowledge, and I wasn’t there. My heart wasn’t there. I was mad that I was sitting in a session about appealing to guests, when I really wanted to be in a session about leading worship. I hadn’t had any singing opportunities outside of my church in the last year like I’d had prior to taking this position, I felt like I wasn’t being used to my greatest potential and it was all out of my hands. I was throwing myself a silent pity party… when I get a text. An invite to one of those opportunities I hadn’t had in over a year. I know it was God in that moment letting me know that he hadn’t forgotten about me. I almost started crying, right there in the middle of a session. And can you believe it? I very nearly said no. I was so busy with everything, that I literally didn’t know if I could do it. But I said yes. If there was one thing I would say yes to, it would be this, no matter what I had to do to make it happen.  I finished out the conference actually sneaking into a session that was about music instead of attending the programming ones I was assigned to. I drank it all in, so thirsty for that motivation and inspiration to continue on.
On the last night of this conference, the leaders that were there all sat down and talked through what we’d learned. Some of the things we definitely wanted to implement had to do with what I could do to make it happen. I was asked point blank if I could do it. I answered honestly, I couldn’t. Not with everything I already had to do. I would have to let something go.
It was settled that this conversation would take place another day, but that it was definitely to be put in the works. What a relief I felt, knowing that there actually was a light at the end of this tunnel!

Sometime in the summer of 2013, I actually did have the conversation. I sat back down with my pastor and discussed letting something go. That something was visual ministries, running the screens and overseeing the screens team. It was the least fulfilling and the most time consuming and distracting from what I wanted most. We agreed, it would take place. But in turn I would take on what we discussed at Drive. Video testimonies. Collecting people’s stories to show the church, to inspire them and to draw people deeper into the meaning of why the church exists.
He also asked me, because I’d always expressed such frustration with going a different direction, what I felt the direction was that I needed to go in. What was I working towards? What was it about music ministry that made it my calling? Did I want to be a music minister? What was the goal? I told him something then that I had told few people before.

A year prior, in August 2012, I went to volunteer for a play at Tennessee Performing Arts Center (Something I LOVE to do, that continually inspires me). The play was the premier production of The Nutty Professor. If it were to make it here in Nashville, it could go on to Broadway and make it REALLY big. I lucked out with center row seats in a smaller theater. As I sat and watched this production I was taken aback at how well done it was, and it wasn’t even on Broadway yet! It was quirky and sentimental, it touched me in a way that no other play I’d seen had before. I drove home from Nashville by myself, like I always do with no one to talk to, and began exclaiming to myself at how great the play was, how it just blew me away.
And then something in my spirit said: “You could do that.”
I was silent. And then I scoffed. “Yeah, right. Me? No. That was amazing, I couldn’t pull something like that off!”
But it repeated: “You could do that.”
After a measured silence I prayed a simple prayer: “God, I don’t know if that’s you or if it’s just me. But if it’s you, please don’t let that dream die. Keep it in my mind always, don’t let me forget about it.” And then I cried all the way home. It was a joyful cry, I just knew God had given me that.
Over the year that I’d kept mostly silent, God continued to bring it up in my mind. He continued to show me that I could do it. He gave me ideas for plays and dramas, gave me direction for the logistics of it all, and slowly I began to believe that I really could do this.
This idea would combine everything I love. Music. Drama. Writing. Technology. Lighting. Set design. And all of the things I’d been learning about leadership? I would need those lessons for this. It seemed like in that mere moment God was showing me that he had a plan.

I recounted this all to my pastor in that meeting. I told him in that moment that I wasn’t sure if what God had planned for me was meant to be kept in the four walls of a church, that it was bigger. I told him I didn’t think I would ever grow tired of singing on a stage and leading people in worship, that ministry in church is very important to me, but the bigger picture was that I wanted to reach the lost with art. I wanted people that would never step foot into a church service to walk into a play that I’d created and receive that spark of a thought. What if God is real? What if there’s more? Art and creativity is a powerful thing. What if God could use me to speak to those people? To speak to the lost on a different level? That’s what I felt God was directing me to do.
My pastor smiled as I told him all of this. “Why can’t it start here?” he said.
“Well, I don’t see why it couldn’t.” I said.
“Come back to me in a year with a play written and a plan and we’ll get it started.”

I left that meeting soaring high. Things were falling away and things were coming together. The change wouldn’t be immediate, but it would be coming soon. I began to ask God to give me direction on what I needed to write. He showed me that it was something I was already writing. A story I received the idea for in May of 2010. I started writing a short story and stopped, due to various things, and hadn’t picked it up in over three years. That was the first play I was to write.

For the rest of 2013, I slowly let go of visual ministries, and was able to focus more attention on music ministry. I found myself standing right back where I was in music ministry a few years back. Still learning to become the confident worship leader I had once thought was all I’d ever be. But now it’s so much more than that. I continued to receive words from God that this is the first big step, that this is the beginning. I can’t be afraid, I can’t sit back and let it slip away. I have to seize it. I am more empowered than ever to make that dream happen.
I don’t know where following this dream will lead me, but I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is God’s will that I do. All of this time, the struggles and trials and taking the long road have been for the greater good. Every frustration was a lesson, every time I felt like giving up was teaching me to never give up. I am so thankful for those times. He never left my side. God led me through it all.

At the opening of 2014, I am unemployed. My photography job ended on January the 3rd, due to a mutual understanding that I was only going to work for a year and the dissolving of the position where I worked. I am looking for another job, one that will enable me to become more independent in my own life. I am still the programming director, I still have duties to uphold and grow in. I am still learning everyday that leadership isn’t easy, but it is entirely worth it. Starting in Februrary, I will begin to capture video testimonies for a large event happening at our church, and that’s just the beginning.

I’m not sure how all of it will play out this year, but I know that the winds of change are blowing softly upon my life. And for that I am entirely grateful. Overall in 2013, I learned to take risks, to trust, and to become more confident. In all areas. My life may not seem too different from the outside looking in. It seems I’ve stayed in one place for years and years. But I know that these past few years have been an internal work. So much has changed in me. And finally, in 2014, that change can become external.

The future is still as uncertain as it’s ever been, but it’s also as bright as it’s ever been.

I will swim in the deep ’cause You’ll be next to me,
You’re in the eye of the storm and the calm of the sea… You’re never out of reach.
God, You know where I’ve been, You were there with me then,
You were faithful before, You’ll be faithful again… I’m holding Your hand.

There’s a raging sea right in front of me… Wants to pull me in, Bring me to my knees.
So let the waters rise, if You want them to… I will follow You. I will follow You.

Don’t Stop This Train.

Let me share a bit of my day so far…

My beloved Macbook Pro turns three years old on Monday. This means my 3-year Apple Care plan expires and I’ve never had to use it. So I decide it’s a good idea to take it up to the closest Apple service center here in Nashville to get it checked for anything that might be wrong that could be covered.
Turns out, nothing is wrong with it that can be covered, which is good news that I’ve had my Mac for 3 years and it’s still running strong, and bad news because I used my last bit of gas money to make the trip for nothing.
Traffic is insane in Nashville on this blistering Saturday afternoon, and to make it worse they’re doing major inter-state closings all over the city. The car I’m driving has this weird thing where it likes to die randomly without warning and the hot afternoon is making it worse while idling in traffic.
This leaves me sitting on the side of the road, not being able to use my a/c, with a ‘feels like’ temp of 110.

All of this hits me as sweat rolls down my brow and thousands of cars pass in ignorance. I start thinking about my life. How this is just ironic that I make a trip for nothing to end up on the side of the road. How my life isn’t going at all how I planned it to be. How I don’t have a job. How I don’t have money. How I’ve never been able to afford a reliable car in my entire lifetime. How God has placed me on a path in ministry I hadn’t expected and truthfully don’t really want at this moment.
I suddenly prayed a prayer, not for my car to make it to the next exit,  but for my path in ministry to change to the place it was well on the path to going but can’t because I accepted a position that takes me further into a ministry that isn’t my exact calling. God, PLEASE send someone to take over this. I don’t know why you gave this job to me, but I don’t want it anymore.

After I shed a few tears and get ahold of my brother, who is a mechanic, and he advises me to try to make it to the next exit, I hobble into the parking lot of Panera Bread. Trying to mask the fact that I’ve sweated ten pounds off, I head straight into the air conditioned bathroom and lock the door.

A familiar song plays over the speakers in the quiet; John Mayer’s “Stop This Train”. I hear the lyrics:

“Don’t stop this train, don’t for one minute judge the place you’re in. Don’t think I couldn’t ever understand, I’ve tried my hand. Honestly, we’ll never stop this train.”

Not only have I known these words for a very long time, but I’ve also heard this song at the times when I most needed to hear it. It’s just like God to put a small, quiet moment into a day of disaster. It’s just like him to use a pointless trip and an outburst of a prayer to speak to me when I was least likely to hear his voice.

I walked out of the bathroom with a determination to write this thought down. To share with you the journey I’ve made in a single day. To find a still, small voice play over the speakers in a restaurant bathroom.
I know I can’t stop this train. I know things can’t be perfect right now. I know I can’t judge this place I’m in according the place I thought I would be. I can’t know the thoughts of an Almighty God who knows exactly where he’s leading me and exactly what I need. How could I have thought that he couldn’t understand this place I’m in. He did, after all, try his hand in life as I am trying right now.

Honestly, We’ll never stop this train.

Winter.

Made this short video of a beautiful snow that fell in Nashville a few days ago. This is my first attempt at shooting and editing a video with my new camera equipment.

Shot with: Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm lens
Song: “Winter” by: Shawn McDonald

I used this edited clip of the song as a skit in the Christmas Eve service I directed last year. When I watched the raw footage I took, I tried quite a bit of music to accompany it, aiming to use a copyright-free song from a website I frequent. I just couldn’t get away from this song though. It has such a melancholy feel to it, and yet it’s beauty shines through with an odd expression of hope.
That’s the message I wanted for the video. I wanted to show the beauty of nature covered in snow, but also the desperation and loneliness that it brings. The covering of something that appears dead with something that is frozen and heavy… and somehow we call it beautiful.
The destruction of ourselves truly is beautiful, because in that destruction we are able to consider hope. Hope helps us to live again.