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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Reset Button Anyone?

I don't feel like I earned my degree.

There. I said it. They always say "the truth will set you free". To be honest, I don't feel much better letting it out, but regardless, there it is.

I started school just wanting to play music because I thought that was all I could do. My professor pushed me to pursue performance, providing me with the logical reasons why, but really, I just think he believed I could do it.

I realize that much too late.

The first two years featured Angelica attempting to muddle through college life and practice. Constantly. I made challenges for myself and I felt determined to chase after them. But somewhere in the middle of that, something changed in me. I don't know what caused it...I just know that during sophomore year I began to care more about the opinions of others and less about my true opinion of myself.

Junior year, I took private conducting lessons. To be honest, I stunk at it. I know I could have done much better if I wasn't afraid of looking silly or being made fun of for facial expressions. I knew what had to be done, and if I could go back now, I would give it my all and to heck with what everyone else thinks!

I had to work even harder in my lessons to achieve the level of success that was required of me. I know it was then that I started becoming a terror. A seed of discontentment rooted itself deep in my core as I listened to every critique my professor brought to my attention and translated it as "you aren't good enough", "you can't do this", "you won't succeed", "why can't you do this right".

I kept fighting my inner self, trying so hard to refocus my mind away from caring about what other people thought and get myself back to caring about my development as a musician.

But you know what?

I failed. Miserably. I cared so much about the opinion of others that it drove me mad. I was a terror and downright bratty more times than I would like to admit. I was always angry and emotional and said so many things in a tone that I regret tenfold. All I wanted was to make others proud of me...to make my professor proud of me...that I lost sight of who I was and how I truly played.

This is what failure feels like. Not messing up a note or forgetting a passage or even missing an hour of practice. Failure is committing yourself body, soul, and spirit to the wrong thing so violently that you cannot free yourself. At least, it was for me.

I listen to pieces I played in orchestra or lessons and amidst the nostalgia are remnants of agony. I can still see my professor bouncing on the podium as he led us through the musicals and giving us musical cues simply by the look in his eyes. I wanted to be like him, but I was afraid of what I would look like trying.

I listen to my senior recital and I can't help but think that I could have walked onto that stage far more confident if I wasn't so hellbent on hearing my professor say "I am so proud of you". Sure, I can hear the growth and improvement from my freshman year performances, but it was no where near where I thought a senior performance major should be and it killed me.

My professor is one of the most amazing and patient men I have ever met. I would have thrown the towel in and stormed out of my office if I had to teach a student like me. He gave me a stern talking to now and then, but he never stopped believing in me. He pushed me so hard to be the musician he knew I could be and I will be forever grateful for it. In my anger, I saw that as nitpicking; trying to prove that I couldn't be as good as I hoped to be. Now I know what a lie that was.

After graduating, I took a sickeningly long hiatus from my violin because there was so much pain and sadness rooted in it. Instead of practicing for twelve hours a week, I often cried for twelve hours. I knew what I wanted and I knew what needed to be done in myself, but I couldn't figure out how to get there.

I know life doesn't have a reset button, even though we often wish it would. I know that I will always regret the attitude I carried through college, even though I know it will help me grow as a person later. While those four years were some of the best I've had in my short life, they bring tears of sadness to my eyes because I know I missed and messed up a lot of opportunities because I wanted something so bad I was scared of it.

I love music. I love the violin. I love playing. I love to learn new pieces and I love the feeling you get after mastering a hard passage. I love performing in the pit with actors above me. I love sitting on that orchestra stage and making music with other people. I love standing alone, and singing out with my strings. I love the sound of applause.

I love performing.

I was so convinced all through college that I hated it, and I didn't know why I was a performance major. I think it was really that I hated the pressure of performing because letting people down and knowing I disappointed them was my biggest fear. And in the process of attempting to avoid it, I brought it down on myself completely.

If I could go back to IWU and study music again with my professor, I would do so in a heartbeat. I would love a second chance to conduct, play, and perform. If IWU offered a master of music degree, I would be one of the first to sign up, no matter the sacrifices I would have to make. No, I still don't want to be a world-famous concert soloist and travel the world playing concerto after concerto. I simply want to be the best violinist I can be and accomplish amazing things with my music. You may think it would be a waste of time to go to grad school for music when I don't intend to use it in seeking a job.

It would be my second chance.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pre-resolutions

I know it isn't 2017 yet, but I already know what I am going to focus on next year. I want to be a part of the solution. What that will look like, I'm not sure, but I do know that with the future being presented in such a terrifying way, I will not simply sit and let it come how it may. Jesus didn't die on the cross for me to sit and let life pass me by. No, I will stand and devote my every single day to being a light to those around me.

I want to seek after God with such fervor that I can't help but act on what He leads me to do. This year, I will be at the ready for whatever God would put on my heart. Each day is a miracle in itself, and I want to treat it as such.

This world is broken. We are broken. People are scared. People are angry. People are lashing out. People are being people. Is that wrong? Not really. It's all about how you respond. Are you going to make things worse because you're scared and angry, or are you stick your chin up and say, "My turn!"

I want to go out there and make a difference. I want to make one person's life better through something as simple as a smile. I want to encourage someone through the way I treat them, not matter how my life is going.

Life is not about me. It's about you.

Now, reader, read that statement as yourself. Do you see how this works? Life is about other people, always. Life is meant to be selfless and sacrificial.

Life is hard, man. I don't always like putting other people first and frequent pity parties for myself. In the last month alone, I have griped and complained and even cried countless times because something didn't go my way or someone wronged me in some fashion.

But I need to give myself a good slap in the face and keep walking. Because life isn't really about me. Take time to make sure you're healthy and put together, but let your true focus be on others. It's a rough balance, and even though I think I'm better at it from the beginning of college, I still don't have it down.

(Do we ever?)

Romans 12 has always been my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. Lately, a certain passage has completely rocked me to my core, wrenching everything I thought, or wished, to be true away and bringing something new to light.

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." (Romans 12:14-20)

First of all, each sentence will take more than three years apiece to make some decent headway on at the very least, let alone all at once. Second, this world doesn't like this sort of mindset anymore for themselves, just from other people. Third, this hurts. My human response is to lash out in tearful anger when someone wrongs me, kicking and screaming and throwing a fit over why they are wrong and I am justified.

Where does that get me? It only burns the bridge more. Almost everything is fixable, salvageable, until I get involved and finish the damage. There are so many singed bridges that I want to get involved with...yet I know that I will only make it worse, even if I feel I am justified in my response. Only through the grace of God can it be mended.

This year, I want to embody Romans 12, especially these seven verses. Because if I act in such a selfless manner, I can be a part of the solution instead of the problem. And that is all I want for Christmas, for Valentine's Day, for my birthday, for every single day of every single year. I want to be a part of the solution.

Jesus, be the center of my everything. Light up my life; be my only explanation for my actions. Be my focus. Be in me so strongly that I cannot help but act and speak and love as you do. Dear Heavenly Father, give me your grace and your peace for every day that you allow me to walk this earth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Confessions of a Control Freak

Dear Jesus,

I am scared. I am terrified. I am shaking. I am weeping. I am waist-deep in my unbelief.

I am not good at trusting you.

There's so much going on in this world, in the country, and I am so afraid of what it will bring. God, you know all about this election and the insanity that has ensued. You know of the crazy movements that have spawned, wreaking havoc on so many lives. You know of all the hurt, the pain, the hell that has broken loose.

And I'm afraid of it all.

Almost every Sunday, I hear more about the craziness of our country and the world and how it seems we are in the last days. I hear so many amens and hallelujahs that I want to scream. It's all I can do to not rock back and forth, holding my head in my hands, chanting, "It's just a dream, it's just a dream."

God, I'm not just scared of the election and what could happen if either main candidate is elected. I'm scared that they're right; that these are the end days. That Revelation could happen at any day.

And I don't want it to.

It makes me sick at heart to feel this way. I am at war within myself because I know where I'm going; I know that You are in control and I have nothing to truly fear. You are God, after all. Why should I fear?

But just because I know where I'm going doesn't mean I want to go there just yet.

I am selfish. I am so, incredibly selfish. There are so many songs we sing in church that talk about "surrendering all" or placing all my "hopes and aspirations" into Your hands, yet I realize that I have not done that if I am keeping a vice grip on every single one.

I have dreamed of being a "wife and a mommy" for as long as I can remember and I don't want to see that being ripped away from me. I don't want to miss out on that. I want to be able to raise my children in a safe place and teach them about Your goodness, about true love, and how to make the best buttermilk biscuits money can buy. I want those long, after curfew discussions where I lecture my teenage daughter for staying out too late. I want to try cheering for my son's first sports event. I want to hold my little girl's hair while she's up all night with the stomach flu and cradle her all day. I want to jump for joy when my son brings his fiance home. I want to cry at the sight of my first grandchild. I long for this; I desire this.

But Jesus, God Almighty, all these things are holding me back from you. My stubborn refusal to fully hand the reigns to you indicates that I don't fully trust you, that I am determined to live my life my way, whether I consciously think that or not.

Lord, I need you. Oh I need you. Every single hour of every single day I need you because I have no real control. None of us do.

1 Samuel talks about the Israelites demanding a king. You kept saying no, but they insisted. Finally, you gave in. This wasn't because they were right, but because you were tired of their unbelief. You know your children inside and out, because you created them. You knew what they needed, but you gave them what they thought they needed because sometimes, the only way we learn is by grave error.

And I'm afraid that's what you will do this election. You know who we need as our President. You know if we even need one. Yet, you have turned us over to our sinful desires before to teach us a lesson and I know you will do it again.

I'm just afraid of what will happen if you allow it for this election.

Lord, teach me to belief in you and not in me. Teach me to trust in you and not in humanity. Teach me to be satisfied with you and not in my daydreams. Teach me to surrender to you and not to myself.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The post-graduation talk

My dear friends,

As most of you know, I recently graduated from college. For those of you who didn't know that, you're welcome.

As is customary whenever someone reaches a crucial turning point in their life, they are bombarded with questions of "What's next?" or "So what do you want to do with your life now that there is no more homework?" or "Will you start getting help for your coffee addiction?" Oh, no one asks that last one...shhhhhhh.

Let me spell this out for you so that there is no confusion: I have no idea what I'm doing.

I got to my final year of college and realized finally what I wanted to do. Except there was a snag; it was too late to change my college direction. So I stuck with what I was doing--also because I really hate being considered a quitter no matter how many times I was tempted--violin performance. Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot and I am very grateful for my time spent in those practice cells, I mean rooms. (Although, to be honest, I did spend a lot of time actually kicking and screaming.)

But now I'm stuck.

More than anything in the world, I want to work with the development of music programs. I want to be an administrator who works front and center with event coordination, fundraising, building relations, all of it. I want to change the lives of kids through music by making such a program happen.

Unfortunately, just having a music degree isn't going to qualify me for such a position. I have to get leadership experience first. And here comes problem number two; most administrative assistant jobs want you to have a specific degree or more than a year of experience.

I've spent hours scrolling through many pages on many websites of job opportunities. I've applied to over a dozen. I've been turned down for 85% of them. The other 15% I've either turned down after the interview or haven't gotten back to me.

I'm discouraged and frustrated.

But that's not it.

I have long said that I want to go back to Africa and live there for a few years and work with forming a music program there. That dream hasn't died. Rather...it's fighting with another. Maybe I've been watching too many television shows with successful business women as the protagonist that I've started to want their life, or maybe I am more of a career person than I thought I was. A long time ago, all I wanted was to play violin, be a wife and a mother. But I also imagined I wouldn't have a few awkward years of downtime in between. And as much as I do love music, I need a big fat break!

And so the battle begins.

I want a job in administration with a company that changes lives. I want to be that woman who kicks butt in her high heels when she marches down to executive offices and explains the situation as it is and doesn't leave until everything is resolved as it should be. I want to be that woman who gets to be a voice in a project that brings life to a broken place. I want to get up every morning, dab make-up on my face and dress up in a suit and go work with a bunch of different business people to make something happen.

But I want to live a simple life where I can be able to just go to Africa and do what I love; making a difference in the lives of individuals.

I'm torn folks. I am absolutely torn. I don't know where to find a job, or when to call it quits and start at the bottom and pray for something better to come up. I don't know if I need to look for a job elsewhere because my college roommate could call me up and say, "I've got a job, let's get an apartment together." I don't know when I'm going to get married. I don't want to take up this apartment with my roommate and then have to leave her in a year.

I am so lost and confused and every day I get more nervous and stressed out about jobs and making money.

I'm told, "Go do what you love", but then, "You really need to get a job and get out there". (Guys, I'm kinda getting mixed signals here...)

I knew transitioning to being a working adult would be hard (although I have to admit, I didn't anticipate it being quite this hard). I'm not looking for answers (although if anyone has any good ideas, I am certainly open!). I'm looking for support. I just want prayers for peace and guidance, since we all know that only God knows what I should be doing and how the heck to get there.

Cordially hopeful,

Angelica


Monday, February 1, 2016

God, you reign

There's a lot of uproar about this new religious freedom bill or civil rights bill, or whatever it's technically called. So many people picking sides and attacking viewpoints or just hiding in the corner until it all blows over. I'm not gonna lie, I'd like to be one of those people who huddles out of sight in the corner.

But if I'm going to be a good citizen, I'll formulate my own opinion.

As a Christian, I do not believe that the LGBT movement is biblically sound. But hear me out: that does not mean that I find LGBT individuals unworthy or less than humans. I am still going to love them regardless. You don't agree with all of your friends on everything right?

I didn't think so.

It's normal to disagree with people. It's part of what builds character and maturity in individuals. Disagreeing is NOT the same as bullying, but that's a different conversation for another day.

However, everyone believes in something. Am I right? Even if you don't believe that there is a God who holds the universe in His hands, then that is the truth you hold to. Everyone has faith in something, even if that something is that there is no one to have faith in. Everyone holds to religion in some fashion.

So shouldn't we all care about religious freedom?

I don't claim to understand to understand all that this Religious Freedom Restoration Act repeal or amendment is all about. I've tried to read it, honest I have! So keep that in mind as you read this. Remember, I'm human. I don't know everything. And I will freely admit that.

From what I understand, whatever is actually happening to this bill could limit the religious freedom of organizations, including higher education. If that is true, doesn't that sound backwards?

No really, stick with me.

If my university, as a Christian organization, is penalized and condemned for sticking to our religious beliefs or disagreeing with the views of others, then aren't we technically being discriminated against? That's how the LGBT community feels right? (If I am wrong, I apologize!) (I also apologize that you feel that way. People sadden me sometimes...) Fighting fire with fire never really gets us anywhere. Because instead of "winning" the battle of granting freedom to a specific group of people, you will have subjected another group of people to the same treatment. And swapping places doesn't really solve any problems.

There is so much more to life than singling people or groups out because they believe differently. I wish we could just love people. Have friendly debates and arguments. Grow in our knowledge. Wouldn't that be nice?

But you know what??? It is finished! It is done! God has won the war over this world and over sin and no matter what happens, he reigns.

So I will rejoice. Even if I feel that my "religious freedom" is taken away, my true freedom comes from Christ and the sacrifice he made to save me from my sin. He saved me a life in bondage to myself. I am free because He died and rose again. I am free because he lives. I will proclaim that no matter what the outcome is.

Man has no control over my freedom. Freedom is a God-made idea. He will win every single time.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Broken Worship

Worship is more than the songs we sing. We've all been told this at some point in our lives.

But do we believe it?

I thought I did.

For over a year, I haven't been worshiping God with the gifts He's given me. I've talked about it, I've been reminded of it, but it hasn't sunk in until tonight. The only opinion that matters in life is the Heavenly Father's. He has so much love to give you, more than anyone else. So why shouldn't his opinion be the most important?

I got focused on man's opinion of me to the point that it became my idol. No wonder my craft, my music, was physically painful to practice. I couldn't find the joy or fulfillment in following what I believed God was calling me to do. Practicing had become such an agonizing chore that I died a little in my spirit every time I went into the music building.

And then my boyfriend reminded me that I was becoming so focused on what others thought of me and the competitiveness I was overdoing in my attempt to improve that it was killing me on the inside. I had lost sight of the main reason I was studying music: to better the lives of others by introducing music and giving them the resources to pursue it on their own. I had forgotten the truth of God.

God is the one calling me to a life in music, not man. Man's opinion is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. As long as I am following Christ, His opinion of me is the only one that holds any weight or importance. And I'm called to bring Him glory through my music.

There's this book I was told to read that my roommate and I spent hours laughing over one week. However, there is a statement that actually has some validity to it. My practice room is my "practice temple". It is here that I bare my soul to the God of the Universe and give Him all the praise and honor through my practice.

Instead, my practice room had become the place where the dark depths of anger and frustrated took hold of my attitude. Many emotions have been experienced in those little rooms. They feel like prison cells sometimes.

I forgotten what it was like to worship God through my music. I wanted it to be right and for me to improve the way I wanted.

But you know what?

Worship isn't supposed to be perfect. We aren't perfect people. Only God is perfect. He loves us perfectly. All I can do is worship Him completely.

Completely worship God. That means my worship is going to be messy. It's not always going to be the right notes or sound the best. But it is the cry of a broken daughter of Christ who is desperately in need of the love and grace of her Heavenly Father every day. My praise will improve the more I practice and the more I worship, but it's a process.

God reigns in this place. And a weight has been lifted from my chest and I feel so completely beautiful in the grace of my Savior.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Love Letters Are More Than Slips of Paper

I haven't written very many love letters. It's something I've always wanted to do but now that I'm dating, I find that I don't know what to say. It's a process.

But love letters are so much more than mushy, elegant words printed cleanly on that perfect paper. It's all about the meaning behind the words. They aren't always meant for proclamations of romantic love. It's not a single definition concept.

I wrote a love letter about a month ago in the form of a song. It's one of my coping mechanisms. It's one of the ways I grieve.

I know some of you might wonder why I still grieve over Dallas's mom's death. I hadn't spent a lot of time with her and she wasn't even my mom yet. I still have my wonderful Mommy who is very much alive and well.

I still grieve because I am constantly reminded of the relationship I will never be able to have with her. I grieve because of the hurt her friends and family still and always will feel, even if it dulls after a while. I grieve because that is the best way I can show her my respect. That doesn't mean I sit in solemn weeping constantly. But I respect her by grieving through remembering what I know of her and loving her family in their time of need.

And occasionally shedding a few tears as well.

So, I wrote her a love letter in the form of a song. I know she can hear it in heaven. (Yes, I know this is something parents tell their little kids to make them feel better. I can be a little kid sometimes still.)


Did you think that I was pleasant; that I had a nice smile?
Did you that I could hold my own even when life got wild?
Would you laugh with me for hours on end until we couldn't breathe?

Did you think that I was honest; that I would keep my word?
Did you think that I'd stay by his side no matter what I heard?
Did you think that I'd still hold his hand even when life got hard?

So I promise to take care of him even when my strength is gone.
And I promise to love him even when the days get long
And I promise to prove to you I'll support him faithfully. 
Until the next time I see you...

You'll have your own wings. You'll shine and you'll smile and you'll laugh for a while.
You won't be in pain. Your soul is at home and you won't be alone.
You'll take me on the royal tour, pulling me along. 
I'll tell you all about our life that you've watched from afar.
And then I'll come in close for the hug we've both been waiting for.
And maybe then I'll hear you say, "My daughter, welcome home."

Did you think I'd make him happy; that I could make him whole?
Did you think that I'd be good for him, that I could mend his soul?
Did you think that I would make you proud to call me family?

So I promise to take care of him even when my strength is gone.
And I promise to love him even when the days get long
And I promise to prove to you I'll support him faithfully. 
Until the next time I see you...

You'll have your own wings. You'll shine and you'll smile and you'll laugh for a while.
You won't be in pain. Your soul is at home and you won't be alone.
You'll take me on the royal tour, pulling me along. 
I'll tell you all about our life that you've watched from afar.
And then I'll come in close for the hug we've both been waiting for.
And maybe then I'll hear you say, "My daughter, welcome home."

This pain inside my heart will never go away.
It may only dull with time but the emptiness remains.
These questions they'll always burn deep inside my mind;
Not knowing what you'd say if you could only reply.
I never thought I'd lose you. I never thought I'd miss you.
I never thought I'd need you like I do.

So I promise to take care of him even when my strength is gone.
And I promise to love him even when the days get long
Mom, I promise to prove to you I'll support him faithfully. 
Until the next time I see you...

You'll have your own wings. You'll shine and you'll smile and you'll laugh for a while.
You won't be in pain. Your soul is at home and you won't be alone.
You'll take me on the royal tour, pulling me along. 
I'll tell you all about our life that you've watched from afar.
And then I'll come in close for the hug we've both been waiting for.
And maybe then I'll hear you say...

"You have your own wings. You shine from your smile, so stay and laugh for a while.
You have no more pain. You're finally home and you'll never be alone.
I'll take you on the royal tour, pulling you along.
You'll tell me all about your life I have watched from afar.
And then I'll pull you close for the hug that I've been longing for.
And then I'll finally get to say, 'My daughter, welcome home.'"