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 ( 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 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 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 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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Look out for your sisters, don't forget your brothers.

You know those days when you realize for the first time in a long time just how fantastic your friends are? Yeah, that was the majority of this past week.

Classes began on Tuesday for most, although I didn't have any until Wednesday morning. Three out of the four courses I am taking are in some way connected to my major or my minor, which is exciting for me even if most people think I'm crazy for taking so many writing classes at once. You might have to be an English major to know why I don't mind my schedule.

Because I don't have classes on Tuesdays or Thursdays, I have decided to set aside those days for working and catching up with people I care about. Thursday hosted a wonderful conversation/friend date with Brianne, which was much-needed and appreciated. Between that lunch and our later conversation on Friday night, I was finally able to talk about the summer and how God has changed me in the last three months. But even more importantly, I got to hear how God has been working in her life as well. While we had to stay up until 2:30 in the morning to have that conversation, it was worth the exhaustion on Saturday just to spend time with my Aaron-friend and remember why I value her friendship so much. I left her apartment with an overflowing heart that night.

Dorm life has been...well...different. The family I found last year is scattered all over campus (and in other states) and I constantly have to remind myself that this year is going to be a new experience with a new group of people. My motivations are different this year, as are my goals for building relationships. Junior year will probably be focused more heavily on learning how to love the people I already know more selflessly. I am excited for that prospect but there is still an ache in my heart whenever I think of my 3South sisters who are no longer able to pop into my room at odd hours of the day and night.

There are so many things I could say about this week, but I summarize it more briefly than I often do. As for ways you can pray, please continue to think of my adjustment process to sleep schedules, work schedules--heck, all of the schedules you can name, I might be adjusting. Our TENTS project has been slowed down (by our choice) but certainly not abandoned. Please remember us this week. It's time to start a new movement on Northwestern's campus...a movement that informs without condemning and tells stories without exploiting.

The song of the post is one that I have been waiting to share for a long time. "Sisters and Brothers" by The Vespers continues to change the way I view other people and its lyrical beauty alone is enough to make me listen to it on repeat. "We already know the ending of the story. We don't have to worry about the little things. Look out for your sisters, don't forget your brothers. Gotta take care of each other."

Enough said.

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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hallelujah, He is with me.

I don't really know how to begin this post. Mainly because expressing my thoughts this week might be a little bit more difficult than I would prefer.

I've been in Orange City since Wednesday afternoon, and it is has been fantastic to gradually reunite with my Northwestern family. As of Friday, I have my Julia and as of Saturday, Michael has arrived as well. I got to spend some time with nearly half of my old 3South family last night, and my crazy theater family has finally reconnected. Freshmen orientation is nearly over now...there are more than 20 women on my wing who seem to be adjusting to 3South quite well, which makes me so happy. My countdown to coming home has passed the zero-day mark.

Coming home to 3South last year meant starting fresh with a roommate I barely knew but was excited to learn about. It meant building relationships with a group of women who much preferred a cuddle pile in the hallway but somehow got homework done at the same time; it meant singing in the bathroom and eating in the back of the cafeteria because we couldn't fit all of us anywhere else. I learned to feel safe at Northwestern because of those women. Sophomore year was the best year of my life so far.

Coming home to 3South this year means...well, starting over again. It's funny how you get comfortable living in a routine, a group, and then God plucks you out of it and drops you into something new as if to say, "That was fun. Now I want you to learn how to do it over again."

Over the summer at Haven, God continued to place me in situations where I had to lead others in order to accomplish simple things like washing dishes or cleaning bathrooms. It stretched me in ways that often hurt or frustrated me. The past two days have been filled with moments that remind me I have to step up and lead more often this year. It's like Jesus is trying to teach me something by pushing me out of my comfort zone. Funny how that works.

So if you are wondering how I am feeling about this year, wait a while and ask again. Because right now, I am just trying to figure that out myself. But my main prayer request is that I would find peace somehow during the confusion going on in my brain.

The song this week is a little different than usual. Last year I came across this cover of one of my favorite Jenny and Tyler songs, "Psalm 46." So rather than posting the original song (which I love and you should definitely listen to it), I decided to put this one up. The words are God-breathed--I mean really, it's Scripture in musical form--and I needed to remember them this week. Hallelujah, He is with me. Hallelujah, we cannot be moved. Hallelujah, I rest secure.

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

All of the happy things are coming!

The time has finally come. I'm moving back to Orange City tomorrow. I'm going back to live with some of the women I love most dearly, and I cannot contain my excitement.
For those of you who worked with me this summer (as well as anyone from school who kept in touch with me), you already know that I was keeping track of the days quite closely. In fact, I have kept a countdown on my computer. Now, this was not at all because I didn't want to be at camp. I chose to keep track for the simple purpose of getting increasingly excited for the next thing: junior year.

To back up a little bit, I'd like to talk about Saturday and moving back from Wyoming for a minute. It seems like much longer than 10 days ago that I rolled out of bed and washed my hair in the dish room sink to avoid digging my shower shoes out of my packed bag. Yet I can definitely clearly recall the sleepy hand clasp and "I love you" exchanged with Jordan at 6 in the morning; the awkward goodbye conversation with Bri that made me smile; the hugs from my favorite wranglers that I didn't want to end; the two goodbye hugs to Katelyn that happened an hour and a half apart; the talk with sleepy Danielle that almost made me cry; the goodbye hug from Alice that felt a little too final; the acknowledging salute from Greg Berry as we pulled out in Hannah's car.

But all of this was made far more significant by the two lines of friends outside the door as we got ready to get into the car. It was as if they were purposely giving us a formal send-off. I don't know if that's true or not...but it had the effect regardless.

The last 10 days at home have been good. So, so good. I hadn't been expecting that, frankly. I don't like transition times (that is pretty obvious in my blogs about previous breaks) because there is a lack of structure that stresses me. But I think this time has been different because of the summer I just had.

I reconnected with Jesus this summer. There were times when my heart would break and I would have to force myself to turn back to Him, but those times were less often than they were last school year. My Haven family blew me away day after day as they reminded me of what it means to live in a Christ-honoring community. And when I returned to Gravity, Iowa, I missed them intensely but didn't hurt from the missing.

Besides binge-watching Monk and Jericho with my family, I haven't done too much else. Well, besides get sick. That didn't take long. But I have thought over and over how glad I am that my body remained healthy while I was at Haven. I actually have time to be sick--that's a strange concept for my normal life schedule. 

Speaking of real life, I had the privilege of going to a future Red Raider's birthday party on Friday night. It was so encouraging to talk with a girl who will become a 3South family member in a few short days and remember all of the great things about welcoming freshmen last year. Freshmen have had an important influence on me at Northwestern...I would be missing a future roommate and several dear friends if this hadn't been the case. I am so happy that I once again have the opportunity to arrive early enough to welcome the freshmen to 3South as they move in.

Things will be much different this year than they were last year...but I am becoming more ready for that as the time draws closer. My heart still aches at the memory of the neighbors who won't be there to crash on my futon this year...and those who will be a little farther away. But working with Student Activities and tutoring for writing as well as kicking off the TENTS film project will keep me even busier than ever, and I have so many people I am ready to spend time with again.

Prayer requests:
I learned to speak more boldly about Tourette's this summer. The people I worked with grew used to my jokes about it and a couple of them helped me deal with my disorder. I don't want to stop being so open just because I am living in a place where I don't feel as safe to talk about it. 

Sleep schedule (or, in my case, willingness to be an insomniac); last year I was terrible about getting more than 4 hours of sleep per night. I don't want that to be true again.

Honesty with people; my first reaction when I feel unheard is to be passive aggressive. As much as some of my fellow staff members joked about that with me, it doesn't fix things. If I don't communicate when I feel alone or threatened, my life for the next 9 months is going to be miserable.

My walk with Jesus; Northwestern simply does not promote good time with Jesus in my life. I don't want the next few months to become yet another dry season to crawl across.

The song of the post is a little more difficult to present since there wasn't a decent video on YouTube for it. Shadows of Doubt (Attalus) is a part of a beautiful concept album called Post Tenbras Lux. This song conveys all of my emotions and thoughts about my walk with Jesus over the last year...but I plead with you to listen to all of the tracks to get a clearer story.

I am anchored by a Divine Love. God loves me, and God's love is enough.