Saturday, December 6, 2014

The contrast is killing me.

What a crazy four weeks. Family visiting here, Thanksgiving Break, writing workshops, deep conversations, a road trip home and back. Wow. My heart is full.

I'll be real with you here--I've been dragging from one day to the next for the past month. It's been a struggle to find motivation for anything, especially writing about not having motivation. But now that I am motivated, let me tell you some of the things on my heart.

I have seen such hatred and sadness and pain this month. It tears me apart. I just want people to see and practice the words of Jesus when He said, "the greatest of these is love." As my heart aches for so many reasons, I constantly remind myself of that command.

I have had conversations recently that reminded me of the different seasons in friendship. It wasn't easy to hear those words...but I know what I heard was true.

I have sat in a classroom full of people who do not know about my Tourette's, begging God to calm my tics down...just for a little longer. In turn, I have sat in a car with a friend who will soon portray my constant companion and received a refreshing curiosity expressed through probing questions. The contrast kills me a little bit inside. The more I speak, the less I can restrain myself from pointing out the pain that I can perceive in others who have not been spoken for yet.

That's what is on my heart, primarily. I want to seek healing for those who cannot find it themselves. If that means making six short films, that is what I shall do. If that means being an outspoken writer and speaker for my disorder, I shall find a way to do it. I cannot close my mouth any longer. There is too much damage to the broken hearts around me to ignore.

Is that a little over dramatic? You might say so. But if Twitter and Facebook users can explode news feeds with advocacy every day of the year, surely I can fill a single blog post with milder words.


I don't remember if I have posted this one before...but "Through Your Eyes" by Jenny and Tyler never fails to break my heart and put it back together again.

Prayer for this week...dead week is beginning. Wow, there is so much to do. That means less than 2 weeks of stress before a new kind of stress begins: Christmas craziness (I mean break, but you know).

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Growing Callouses

It's come to that time in the semester where my words are fewer and fewer. However, things have been tough this week and I currently have more in my head.

The last two days have been a learning experience...about growing callouses. I wish I could say that meant I have been walking more and dealing with physical blisters. But no, I mean figuratively. Because really, when am I not speaking metaphorically about something?

There is a Facebook page being run by someone on campus that posts anonymous confessions and compliments. I'm not going to name it because I don't want to lead any of you there (if you haven't seen it already, that is). Normally, I simply ignore the posts because I have refused to like the page and have no desire to read what is being said. But on Tuesday night, I accidentally stumbled across a post that, to be vague, said very unkind things about my videos. It kinda punched me in the gut. Not because they were being critical--which is fine, I need some perspectives from my audience--but because of the words actually used.

I walked to supper a few minutes later, my head buzzing in the way it does when adrenaline hits. I couldn't really breathe for a while. The cold air shocked me enough to keep me going to the caf, but when I got there, I kinda just stood and stared blankly at things. I talked to people I trusted about it, and then I went to work. Just stuff it down and pretend it didn't happen, right?

Wrong. I went over and spent some time with my former wingmates in their apartment after I got done tutoring, and I couldn't quite shake the pit the size of a volleyball in the bottom of my stomach. When I finally told them about the posts and cried for a while, I temporarily felt somewhat better. I remembered why I always come to these people for comfort and thinking time. They're safe. They're consistent. They're willing to be honest in ways that sting rather than cut.

Yesterday was a process of stuffing it behind all of my other priorities. I had supper with Michael, and we talked about using it as a learning experience to build a tougher skin. I went to bed last night beginning to feel at least a little bit less raw.

Then at lunch today, Amber looked at me and said, "So...you might have started a trend." Crap. Together, we read a post with quite a positive light about RED411...followed by a lengthy post with a thorough, kind critique of my work. This one named me rather than vaguely targeting the editor. While I am not sure how I feel about being named on a page like that one, I appreciate the reason behind it.

I also appreciate the feedback they gave me. Much of it is going to be implemented, actually. Based on this situation, I am working on making some changes to the weekly routine as well as the format of the videos. The suggestions were quite helpful as well as respectful, which did so much for my spirit. So to whoever you are, THANK YOU. You have not gone unheard. Your opinions and ideas have value and I shall work my hardest to improve based on these and other comments.

To the people who stood up for me (specifically Cosmin, Julia, Logan, Amanda, Brianne, Clarissa, and Melody): I am so grateful. To those of you who did not get named but quietly supported me, you are so appreciated.

I do not know who originally said the hurtful things, but to whoever you are: I'm sorry I couldn't please you. I'm trying to improve. It's really, really hard. I'm working three jobs and I'm a full time student. I haven't even had this job a full year. I plead with you to give me grace, if you have any desire to do so. Thank you for helping me learn a lesson, even though it hurt more than you know to go through this.

Prayer requests: People are getting sick, both here and back home. I don't like it when people I care about start to feel icky. TENTS is trying so hard to get moving...it's just taking longer than we wanted, I guess. I'm learning so much, both from Drew and from our recent experimentation. But there is always more to learn.

Lastly. The crap that I just spent quite a while explaining. I'm still hurting. Some people I love are still upset. I'd like to stop being upset and hurt and all of that. Please pray that I learn more than I hurt in this situation.

Video of the post...Jake Holman is a recent discovery of mine (or rather, recent obsession), and this track "ARAQACAD" is short but wonderful. I love it. I am haunted by it. I have found comfort in it this week. I hope you like it.

God loves me, and God's love will always be enough.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scattered...

Anxiously wait for it, sleep on it, stress out about it, pray about it.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Why haven't I written in the last couple of weeks? The honest answer is that I kept forgetting on the weekends, and I simply do not have the motivation to catch up on the weekdays. The preferred answer is that TENTS has begun to consume my life in a beautiful way. Yeah, let's actually talk about that for a bit.

After stressful days of planning and emailing and promoting, our team left for fall break. I stayed on campus with my two favorite Colorado Abby friends, and together we managed to be royally unproductive and watch lots of Narnia. Not a bad way to live for 3 or 4 days--sleep, eat, sleep, watch movies, sleep, eat. Perfect, actually.

But the highlight of break was the trip to Iowa City for the annual dance gala at the University of Iowa on Sunday. I traveled in a van full of RUSH dance choreographers and lighting designers, mainly because I would be bored if I stayed behind. The event and the day were fun; however, my favorite part of the trip was the five-hour drive home. Abby and I talked to our professor (and driver) about TENTS and Tourette's for the majority of the drive. I would describe the conversation in more detail...but much of it just feels more special as an untold story to be remembered through how I apply the things we discussed.

It humbled me to describe Tourette's to someone who barely knows me. The typical "what does it make you do?" question was rephrased to "what does that mean for you and your life?" Funny how a differently worded sentence gives a fresh perspective on a question that never gets any more enjoyable to answer.

I went to bed that night with a head full of ideas and questions about how to make TENTS better. Then on Wednesday, the first day back from break, we held auditions for the film project and 31 people tried out. God's greatness blew me away. Although 5 hours of sitting in a hot room was not my favorite thing, I loved watching people play improv games and stretch themselves.

This post is scattered and vague. Sorry. My life is crazy and stressful, making my thought processes disorganized.

OKAY. Prayer requests (dang, it has been a while!) for the following week. TENTS auditions and callbacks have come and gone, but now we have to begin scheduling and filming. Everyone on our team is swamped with work and projects...and stress. I'm waiting to find out whether I have heart problems or merely stress manifesting itself into dizziness and rapid heart rates.

Song of the post...because this week, I actually have an idea for one. "The Precipice" by The Classic Crime ends with an a cappella chorus that haunts my heart for hours afterwards.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Busy, anxious, happy days.

I remember a day during my freshman year when someone I respected (at the time) told me that she didn't think I should talk so much about personal things on my blog. Her words hit me pretty hard. For a long time, I could hear her voice running through the back of my mind every time I updated this blog. It wasn't until early this summer--nearly two years later--that I realized her opinion really did not matter. At all. While her thoughts may have been important to me at the time that they were expressed, I eventually walked away from our friendship hurt and broken...all because of things connected to that very conversation. Ever since then, my journey has been partially (though more cautiously) traceable through these posts.

Why am I telling that story? It came to mind as I processed what to talk about this week. The past week has been a blur full of busy, anxious, happy days. One of these does not seem to belong, but trust me. It fits.

We put another piece of the TENTS project puzzle into place when we set audition dates and times (to be announced in the next 24 hours, actually). The final details of our project proposal are being finalized tonight and then we can move towards actually promoting this crazy thing. Again, if you haven't checked out TENTS, you should definitely like the Facebook page and keep an eye on what we are doing this year.

As for schoolwork, tutoring, Beacon, and RED411 business, it was an overwhelming yet rewarding week. I love working with Michael on video projects, and he has been able to accompany me during filming much more frequently so far this year. I love having him to support me, even when he is rather distracting to my actors...and to me. Copy editing has also proven to be far more enjoyable than I had originally expected it to be. I take joy in working with fellow writers and sometimes I even get to help someone out with a few AP style book questions (if that doesn't make sense, don't worry about it).

Something that I found interesting about this week was that while my Tourette's calmed down considerably, my anxiety has been bouncing up and down almost daily. What a strange sensation it is when your body goes through an attack and you simply lie there, taking it in such a casual manner that it frightens you more than the attack itself. My roommate has been a champ throughout the entire ordeal...not many people have had to sit with me through multiple attacks in a week's time.

"But Justine," you might protest, "you said there were happy days this week!" And you would be correct.

As busy and stressed and anxious as I have been, one extended happy moment came when Natalie called Michael and I on Friday to say that she got the part of Belle in "The Carol," a Christian adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" that my church has done multiple times. Both of my parents also have roles (Bob Cratchit and Mature Belle), but I was most excited about my sister finally getting the role that she has been wishing to play for most of her life. God willing, I'll be at one of those performances in December and that will be the day that I can say "That's my sister!" when she finishes her solo at the end of her time on stage. And that will be a grand night.

Prayer stuff...because in case you haven't realized it, that is a pretty huge need. Of course, there is the TENTS project--please pray for actors. We kinda need them. :) The anxiety crap needs to stop happening. So there's that. Also, there is a possible internship thing (which I shall not go into detail about at this point) that I need to consider, as much as it tears me apart to consider anything besides camp for next summer.

Pretty sure I've had this song of the post before...but it fits. Really, really well. So it's back. "Slow Down" by Mike Mains and The Branches is one of my top five songs of 2014, but the acoustic version really hits me in the feels, if we're going to use totally nontechnical language.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Monday, September 29, 2014

"Are you really living by not doing it?"

Whoa, hey. Guess who is pretty late at updating around here? Sorry about that. Things got rather busy last weekend and then I forgot to post this weekend.

Life has been a whirlwind of class, meetings, video editing, and planning for TENTS--oh, and I did some homework and slept a bit as well. In all seriousness, sometimes I wonder how I actually accomplish everything without getting at least one late grade on an assignment. On the bright side, I have no time to procrastinate, so I suppose that is a good thing, right?

Our production team!
If you had told me a month ago that the TENTS project would have support from multiple faculty members, I would have been baffled by your creative thinking. Yet here we are at the end of September with a tentative release date, a project proposal, production team publicity shots, and a social media page with a quickly growing number of subscribers (https://www.facebook.com/tentstogether). There are two printed copies of the script; we have a tentative date for auditions; we have plans to design posters early in October.

We have an assistant director! That may not sound like a big deal, but we have been praying for an additional member to our team in order to effectively get this project running smoothly, and last week we were finally able to confirm everyone's roles and bring more people onto the team. We also have two faculty advisers, which means our conversations with Northwestern leadership will be supported and assisted. God is so good.

On Friday night, our team got together and talked for three hours about where we want to take the project. During that meeting, I realized yet again just how crazy this idea really is...but I also realized that it is actually happening. By this time next year, six short films will have premiered online and been released on Northwestern's campus. That's pretty crazy awesome. I have no idea where God is taking this thing, but I do know one thing: at this time last year, I thought I was going to be a copy editor and I was becoming friends with 80% of the people on this team.

That's the craziest part. Besides Michael, I barely knew or had not even met any of the other team members until September or October of sophomore year. Now we're about to kick off the biggest independent project that Northwestern has seen in a long time...or maybe the biggest ever. Funny how God works.

Next week I shall be back to thinking about what life has been teaching me day by day, but for now I'd just like to ask you to do two things.

The first thing is to like our Facebook page. Most likely, if you are reading this, you are already friends with me on FB. If you haven't connected to "Tents: Something Built Together," please do so. The wider our presence gets, the more people we can reach when these films are finished.

The second thing is to pray for us. Pray really hard. We're just now seeing ways that God is moving this project in the right direction, but we don't want TENTS to be limited to what we can see. Our team needs unity in order to function. Auditions are after fall break, but there is so much to do before then. We all have jobs and busy schedules and other commitments and--gasp!--other relationships to maintain.

Rather than finding a song of the post this week, I am leaving you with a quote from one of my film maker heroes, Olan Rogers:

"There will be people that will say you can't make a living out of something you love to do. But are you really living by not doing it?"

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The reality of living in-between.

So many thoughts. Yet I don't know how much is words and how much is simply emotion that cannot be processed at this point.

The past week teemed with possibility...and sometimes I failed to see it. I am finally settling into a position where I can sit and feel loved by those who have remained faithfully my friend, but then as soon as I think everything can be "normal," a memory pops up or a conversation travels down a path I don't want to be familiar with anymore. There have been times in my life when that meant crying; this week, it has simply been moments of intense pain followed by hours of joy.

After a year of getting hurt over and over followed by a year of healing that collided with depression, anxiety, and more hurt, this summer prepared me to accept a new reality: the reality of living in-between. Yes, I am often open with people about my journey through the past two years of college. But rarely do I willingly share the story of the nights I felt absolutely alone because I refused to see Jesus standing right in front of me. Camp helped me to be more ready to share.

They say we have Mountaintop experiences and Valley of the Shadow experiences. But what happens when you are stumbling along the edge of the valley, trying to climb the mountain? I came back to school feeling apprehensive about where junior year would take me, but determined to actually try.

They say communication is the key to a healthy relationship. But what happens when you go from avoiding your Best Friend and talking with people to talking with your Best Friend and avoiding people? For the first few days back at Northwestern, I wallowed in my mixed emotions and drew circles and squiggly lines in the ashes of my brokenness. The brokenness Jesus had been building into beauty all summer.

The end of spring semester was when I became fully broken. The conversation with a mentor in a van on the day before leaving for camp was what helped me realize how broken I really had become. Sobbing in the barn, surrounded by irritating chickens and blowing my nose into a plastic garbage sack, I finally cried out to Jesus and said, "God, I can't do this anymore." Shivering in Jess's arms next to a dark campfire mere days later, that brokenness took the form of anxiety and later morphed into ugly passive aggressive behavior. Because of that passive aggression, I learned how to say, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that." I left camp feeling apprehensive about where junior year would take me. But I also climbed into a van in late August determined to actually try.

Tonight I sat and listened as my former roommate shared her story...the story I had a part in last year. The realization of how much we have both grown came rushing into my brain and as we sang the final few songs, I couldn't always voice the words. Talking with a dear friend afterwards, I finally nearly cried and grew closer to mourning the gaping hole that last year left in my heart. It was at that point that I knew the reality of living in-between.

"It's your junior year. It's okay to be in the place where you have found your people and you stick with them. They can be your home...even if they aren't always right there. We aren't going anywhere, not forever. We might not be next door, but we also aren't leaving you."

And so here I am. Still drawing circles and squiggly lines in the ashes of my brokenness, but finally coming closer to seeing the beauty I know is waiting for me when the fog clears. The day that I learn how to live in-between with peace will be the day that I can talk with my Best Friend while soaking in the love of my friends...at the same time. That day has not yet come.

But I know it is coming. Soon.

Prayer...that's clearly something I need this week, but here are some specifics. The TENTS project is about to explode, and that's a reality I haven't quite grasped yet. Please please please continue to completely cover our endeavor in your constant prayers. This is so much bigger than our small group of college students.

There is so much sickness on our campus right now. It needs to go away. Schedules are finally getting figured out, but that also means people are busier and more stressed.

The song of the post is from one of my all-time favorite bands ever to exist. Blood and Water: Feeling Better "Feeling Better" by Blood and Water quite clearly captures the tangled thoughts in my head. (Sorry you can't just listen to the song right here...limited places to find the song and it wouldn't post directly in the text like it usually does.)

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Is it getting any easier?"

Clash of the Classes Slime Fight went fantastically...but these
dorks were one of the highlights.
What a week. If you were to ask me how I felt loved in the last seven days, I would tell you I felt loved in abundance by so many. If you were to ask me if I loved others well this week...well, I can't be the judge of that, but I would like to be able to answer "yes."

There were times when I sat in silence with my roommate or my friends and simply absorbed the presence of people I love so deeply. Sometimes I struggled to find the motivation to finish the day well, but there was always someone standing there reminding me to push harder. At times, I wanted to shout to the entire campus how much I love my friends...and this urge would quickly be stifled by the intense need to be still and snuggle closer to the ones who make me feel safest in the world.

Funny how that works.

I had deep conversations with people this week. A couple of times, I reconnected with people I hadn't yet talked to for very long this semester. But there were also the late hours spent in the apartment with the women I used to call my neighbors...laughing at Laura's remarks and singing Veggie Tales enthusiastically with Brianne, Emily, and Marisol. Those knowing looks I exchanged with Brianne over a comment only someone who has lived with me could understand; those conversations with Clarissa about, well, anything and everything. And those cat videos...good grief.

Last night many of us gathered for a reunion. There was a point when one of my friends looked at me and quietly inquired how I was handling the differences this year. "Is it getting easier?" she asked. I could honestly say, "Yes." I will never experience sophomore year again, and that is difficult to accept...but that needs to be okay with me. I have never felt as close to some of my 3South family as I do now. I am beginning to build new friendships with people I barely knew last year. I am working with a team on the TENTS film project and God is using that in mighty ways that none of us could have dreamed would come about.

I am not so weary as I was before. There is still an ache and a space in my heart, but my Jesus is filling it. In the midst of this stretching time, I can honestly say that I feel safe. I am not alone. I am not in bondage. I am not abandoned.

How you can pray this week...my schedule is jam-packed for the next couple of weeks, and I allowed it to be that way. But my friends are equally if not more busy than I am, and I want to be there for them. There is sickness all over campus, and it is icky.

The song of the post just fits the condition of my heart tonight. "Let Me Hear" by Great Awakening recently resurfaced in my music radar and I remembered why I was obsessed with this band when I was in high school. Let Him ravish your heart this week. You are loved. You are known.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.