Saturday, November 20

Hot Tea, Muffins, and Shauna Niequest

This morning I went with my good friend Mary to see Shauna Niequest, one of my favorite authors!  She was having a brunch event at the Edgehill cafe, which is about 3 minutes away from me on Music Row.  I had never been there before, but it is an impossibly cute little area and the cafe itself was incredible.  They had out muffins, tons of fruit salad, and mini cinnamon rolls to munch on while we listened to Shauna read from her newest book, Bittersweet, and answer all kinds of questions.  There were only about 30 women there, young and old, so it felt more like a intimate conversation between friends than a big, impersonal event.  I even got to meet her and take a picture with her at the end.  I feel so inspired by her writing and I am so so thankful for this wonderful opportunity to see and hear her!

Oh, one last thing, she said she has a new book coming out next spring entitled Bread and Wine.  I can't wait!  Here is a short excerpt from one of my favorite chapters, which is about being 25:

"Move, travel, take a class, take a risk.  Walk away, try something new.  There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither.  This season is about becoming.  Don't lose yourself at happy hour, but don't lose yourself on the corporate ladder either.

Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal.  Ask yourself some good questions like, Am I proud of the life I'm living?  What have I tried this month?  What have I learned about God this year?  What parts of my childhood faith and I leaving behind, and what parts am I choosing to keep with me for this leg of the journey?  Do the people I'm spending time with give me life, or make me feel small?  Is there any brokenness in my life that's keeping me from moving forward?

These years will pass much more quickly than you think they will.  You will go to lots of weddings, and my advice, of course, is to dance your pants off at every single one.  I hope you go to very few funerals. You'll watch TV and fun on the treadmill and go on dates, some of them great and some of them terrible.  Time will pass, and all of a sudden, things will begin to feel a little more serious.  You won't be old, of course.  But you will want to have some things figured out, and the most important things only get figured out if you dive into them now.

For a while in my early twenties I felt like I woke up a different person every day, and was constantly confused about which one, if any, was the real me.  I feel more and more like myself with each passing year, for better and for worse, and you'll find that, too.  Every year, you will trade a little of your perfect skin and your ability to look great without exercising for wisdom and peace and groundedness, and every year the trade will be worth it.  I promise.

Now is your time.  Become, believe, try.  Walk closely with people you love, and with other people who believe that God is very good and life is a grand adventure.  Don't spend time with people who make you feel like less than you are.  Don't get stuck in the past, and don't try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven't yet earned.  Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life's path."
                                                                                                 Shauna Niequest, Bittersweet

Saturday, November 6


I used to think I was so mature.
Now I find I keep discovering new steps in this crazy journey we call life.

Wednesday, October 27


My heart breaks tonight.  There are so many people in the world, many of them Christians, that are in need of so much divine healing and guidance.  Some are weighed down with physical issues that have no cure, some with depression that medicine cannot fix.  Some people cannot seem to find any hopeful or safe relationships, while others have been trampled by the worlds of poverty, drugs, homelessness, or violence.  Our world needs healing so badly, and the signs are everywhere.  A man spends all of his time at work in order to be more, do more, earn more.  A woman goes from man to man, never finding fulfillment, never finding a secure relationship.  Teenagers spend their time trying to be like the people on TV or the radio.  We seem to think if we could be "that" or have "that," our lives would be different.  Our churches feed us information about how to fix our marriages, how to get out of debt, and how to temper our baser nature.  We try to learn, we try to grow, we try to fix ourselves, but something is still missing.  Sometimes we even fall to our knees in prayer, or see a counselor, or try to move on and start over again.

Sometimes it seems that none of this works.

I guess you could say I'm in a melancholy mood tonight.  I realize that we are living in an "in-between" age: Christ has died and defeated sin, but the world is still not made whole.  Shalom is yet to come, this full, balanced, peaceful existence, just like we were created.  But not yet.  I am frustrated by the people who bicker back and forth, never making peace, but only getting angrier and angrier.  I am frustrated by politicians who think this is all "their" fault and they have the answer to our problems, I am frustrated by people who take advantage of others through greed or jealousy or hatred or prejudice.  I am frustrated by Christians who say they believe in Christ and all that entails but never even look a homeless person in the eye or help a family deep in poverty.  I am frustrated by a culture and a country that looks to more, more, more, at the expense of God's children everywhere.

Come, Lord Jesus.  We need healing.

Thursday, October 14


Just a quick post tonight.  I was at Starbucks over on 21st avenue tonight for about five hours working on a Christian ethics project.  I couldn't help but realize how much I love this city.  Sitting there with such a diverse mix of people, sipping a pumpkin spice latte, was so relaxing.  There were some people sitting at the table next to me speaking in Chinese and a group behind me speaking in a thick New York accent.  I witnessed a reunion where the parties just embraced each other and I even got a grande latte because the barista was amazing.  :)  It's technically already my fall break, and I had to work on a project, but tonight I honestly didn't care.  On the drive home from Starbucks, there was barely any traffic as I drove along music row back to Belmont.  It was about 65 degrees and I drove about 5 miles under the speed limit, just enjoying the beauty.  I am a big believer that the concept of 'place' has a big effect on a person, and I love how Nashville feels to me.  I feel at home here and it kills me that I have to leave after graduation!  Wedding plans are exiting and I absolutely cannot wait to marry the man of my dreams, but the bittersweet part is that I may never live here again.  I guess one of my goals for this year is to enjoy the time I have left in Nashville and at Belmont, because I know I will miss it after I earn my diploma.  I am so grateful that God led me to Belmont and Nashville!

Thursday, August 26

Fresh Start

Well, it's official!  I am now a Religion and the Arts major and a music minor!  For the sake of my voice, I am still taking elective music lessons with my teacher to figure out all of my crazy vocal issues and see if we can fix my voice.  The best part of all of this is: no more MUG, no more seminar, no more juries!  I don't have to do a senior recital, which is a HUGE relief!  I only have four songs this semester and I can wholly focus on my vocal health, without the added pressure of performing.  Also, my accompanist, whom I love dearly, will still be able to play for me this semester before she moves to Bolivia next year.  I cannot tell you how excited all of this makes me for this semester!

As happy as all of this sounds, the most important thing I have gained from this quick transition is peace that only comes from God.  I am not going to lie, making the decision to drop my music major was a bit agonizing.  I worried about telling my parents, about telling my voice teacher, about telling all of my music major friends.  I worried that I would regret the decision and that I was only doing it to find the 'easy way out.'  I prayed and prayed and cried and cried, until I decided that I couldn't put it off anymore: I had to decide what I was doing.  Dustin and I happened to be eating at Friday's talking about all of my options (which he totally supported me dropping my music major--he knows how much of a theology nerd I am) when my dad calls my cell phone.  I stepped out into the lobby and answered, and he told me that he and Mom had read my blog.  I mean, literally, my heart stopped.  This was the big moment for me... what did my parents think?  He told me that he and my mom both supported my decision to drop my music major if that's where I felt God was leading.  He said that I didn't need to be scared about talking about it to them and they completely understood.  I instantly started crying.  This was one of those rare instances where I felt so unconditionally loved and supported, I couldn't even hold in my emotions.  The hostess standing at the door probably thought I was insane, but I instantly felt a weight off of my shoulders.  As much as I could talk about my options and debate what was best, I knew I had already decided what direction I thought God was leading.  That was it for me.  No more agonizing, no more pressure.  Suddenly, the new semester looked exciting and fun.  Sure, I was 11 credit hours away from a major, but now that is 11 credit hours I can devote to ANY classes I want to take.  That is like Christmas to me!

My decision was further solidified today, when I had my very first voice lesson as an elective student.  My reacher and I were just picking repertoire, so we had about 30 minutes just to chat.  My teacher asked a little about my religion major and what I wanted to do when I graduated.  I told him all of the options I am considering, and then he told me that I made the right decision.  He said so many students are scared to tell him they are dropping their music majors, and for absolutely no reason.  He says that he looks at them every time and says, "This is your life; not mine.  You have to be happy with whatever you do in college."  College is a big time for a young person and we don't have the benefit of much hindsight while we're making important decisions, such as what we want to build our careers on.  He said that when asked what he would do if it wasn't music, he replies that he would go into Biblical Archaeology.  What?!  This is coming from a man that sings at the Metropolitan Opera, won NATS council auditions not once but twice, is asked frequently to sing in operas all over the world, and has won numerous prestigious contests and career grants.  In other words, he is an all-around classical music stud.  All this time, I had no idea he was so interested in this field.  We talked about other various Bible-related topics for the rest of the time, and then he sent me on my way.  I felt so encouraged by this short conversation!  God has put so many incredible people in my life that help guide and direct me, both at home and at Belmont.  I cannot help but be incredibly grateful for God's provision and direction while I've been in school.  Looking over the last three years and how I've slowly been guided to the place I am now, I could not be more excited for this year and my future.  Sometimes the best way to be optimistic about the future is to look at where you have come from: God leaves His fingerprints all over your life.  We are not very good at recognizing how God is working in the present time, but His provisions become clear when we look into the past.  I pray that God continues to direct and shape me this year and that I will be sensitive to His leading.

Thursday, August 12

Love, love, LOVE!

This will be a quick post, but I just had to share.  Most people that know me well know that my favorite book in the whole wide world is Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist.  So, when I recently looked in the bookstore for a new book to read, you can imagine my excitement to find that she had written a second book!!  Of course, I had to buy it right away.  I am at work and currently one chapter in, and -(can you believe it?)- I love it so far!  The book is entitled Bittersweet and is a memoir of how Shauna has embraced and learned from the overwhelmingly bitter and rough seasons of her life.  If you can tell from my last post, this is definitely what I need to hear right now!  So, if you are looking for a good (and I mean GOOD) read that is inspiring, inexplicably beautiful, and challenging, I suggest you go to the bookstore and pick up one of these two books.

"The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life.  Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness."  [Shauna Neiquist]

Tuesday, August 10

Frustration and confusion

I have been rather frustrated recently.  Actually, let me be really honest: I have been very frustrated for a long time.  For those of you who don't know me too well, I have been having this issue with my voice where I cannot sing correctly in my lower register after a short time.  My voice starts flickering in and out and I just simply cannot sing the notes.  As a music major, this is a huge problem.  I have been to Vanderbilt's incredible voice center and worked with a few different vocal coaches and even though I have a general idea of what is going on, I have no idea how to fix it.  This summer, I told myself that I would work on singing mostly in my chest voice in order to help re-train my vocal folds.  Did I work on this?  A little, yes.  But mostly, no.

I found this summer that I just can't bring myself to face the fact that I have so much work and frustration ahead of me.  This issue has been going on ever since my freshman year of college, and for the most part, I have largely tried to ignore it, but I just can't anymore.  I hate singing in seminar when I know my voice isn't going to hold up.  I know that my peers and professors are there to help, but I hate knowing that I can't give my performance my best, as hard as I try.  I hate starting into a voice lesson and half way through, my voice starts giving out.  I hear the familiar, "Is it happening again?"  and I always reply, "yeahhh..."  I hate knowing that in the spring, I am going to have to give a 25-minute senior recital that as of now, I can't even make it through without having voice issues.  I know classical music isn't my future and I know that if I just make it though this next year to graduation, I technically would never have to sing again.  But, I miss it.  I miss singing in the worship band at church.  I miss blasting the radio and singing at the top of my lungs.  I miss picking out beautiful harmonies and being able to sing them without my voice messing up.

When I came to Belmont, I didn't know what I wanted to do.  I knew I loved music, so I picked a major in that.  Over the last few years, God taught and I tried to listen, and I ended up adding a major in religion.  I found where I belong.  I love studying my faith and theology and the world, but though all of this, I never lost my love of music.  I thought maybe I would want to be a worship leader at a church and even did an internship at CLC.  But, then I remembered my voice issues.  How would I lead a congregation through a worship set when I can't even sing unhindered for 20 minutes?  As willing as the spirit is, the flesh is definitely weak.

I wonder, maybe, if God is pulling me away from the music side and more toward the religion side.  Am I not called to do music?  As much as I love it, I would be ok with this.  I could see myself being a college minister or maybe even a youth minister.  I would love to work with women.  I am interested in counseling, even though I have no degree.  I have a possibility of grad school ahead of me, where I could study many different aspects of religion.  I would be ok with not having a career that involved music.  I just wish I didn't have this frustrating and agonizing year ahead of me that involved a lot of music that I can't even sing.  Could I just drop my music major back to a minor?  I could and I would be done.  But, my parents have spent a lot of extra money on me (that they don't have) to take extra summer classes and bigger loads so I could graduate with two majors.  This weighs heavily on my conscience.  Also, I only have a few more classes until I have my major.  Is it worth sticking it out?

Very long story short, I am frustrated.  I have a lot of questions and not many answers.  I am trying to empty myself to find leading from God, but this is so hard sometimes.  Prayers are very very much appreciated.  I'll leave you with a few verses that I am trying to meditate on...

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.  [Romans 8:28]

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  [Proverbs 3:5-6]

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  [2 Corinthians 12:9]

Friday, February 19

I'll Fly Away

It's been a while since I've definitely makes it hard to keep up on these things!

I wanted to share something I've been introduced to within the last two years; something that's completely altered my way of thinking about the time when Christ returns. I used to believe, as a lot of people do, that when I died, or when anyone who had accepted Jesus died, that our souls would fly up to heaven. Our bodies decayed down here, but our spirits would endure. Heaven was a place where we would all be gathered around God's throne, singing songs to Him and floating around on clouds and cool things like that.

My thinking was especially confirmed by some old hymns my church used to sing. Mansion over the Hilltop is one of these. Here is one of the verses and the chorus:

Tho' often tempted, tormented and tested
And, like the prophet, my pillow a stone,
And tho' I find here no permanent dwelling,
I know He'll give me a mansion my own.
I've got a mansion just over the hilltop,
In that bright land where we'll never grow old;
And someday yonder we will never more wander,
But walk the streets that are purest gold.

Now, when I was little and just enjoyed singing songs that were easy and fun, I had no problems with this song. A few months ago, however, my brother and I were searching through and old hymnal and finding old favorites, and we ran across this one. Of course, we both immediately broke out into song and had a great time singing it, but the more I thought about it later, the more unsure I became about the idea behind the words. Composer and lyricist, Ira Stanphill, writes "And tho' I find here no permanent dwelling" and "that bright land" alluding to someplace other than here.

Hold that thought for a second.

Another old favorite and one almost everyone knows is "I'll Fly Away." The first verse and chorus of the lyrics say:

Some bright morning when this life is over, I’ll fly away
To a land on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away
 I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I’ll fly away

Sound familiar? Just a little? The emphasis again is placed on going to someplace other than here when we die. And because we cannot fly (without the help of an airplane or helicopter of course), the assumption is made that we will leave our bodies behind. Just our souls will fly up to heaven. Just like I believed when I was younger.

Now what is wrong with this way of thinking? Nothing, if you are a Gnostic or Platonist. The Gnostics were the early rivals of orthodox Christianity that believed some of the same things that Christians now accept, but differed on a few major points. One of these was the idea that the spirit was good and the body was evil. In fact, the material world was considered evil (Plato also ascribed to this view). In this way of thinking, life was a constant struggle of the good spirit trying to escape the evil body, and eventually, death was the ultimate release from the struggle. The now-free spirit would float up to heaven and forever be free and good.

Irenaeus was an early church father who fought against the Gnostic ideas in the second century, which were eventually discredited, and he helped establish some of the Christian doctrine we adhere to. In his work Against Heresies, he repeatedly emphasizes one point.

God is at work saving the whole creation, not just our souls.

As Christians, we look forward to the renewal of the aches and pains of our bodies, our government systems, our institutions, disastrous weather, hearts, corrupt relationships, in essence, everything that has been tainted by sin. Everything.

When we see Jesus after the resurrection, he had a body.  It was a perfect body, but it was still his.  He had the wounds still in his hands and feet.  He talked to people.  He walked around.  He ate.  This is a beautiful picture of God's renewal that is waiting for us; both spirit and body.  Clearly, Jesus, who was fully man, as well as fully God, did not become a spirit that flew up into heaven.  He had a physical, perfected body.  That's why when we sing songs about leaving this terrible Earth for good, we are not singing the whole story of God's creation and renewal.  Yes, the Earth will not be the same tainted, broken planet we live on; it will instead be perfected.  But it will still be here after Jesus returns, and so will we.

We were created for this earth. The Lord created and He said, "It is good." Before sin tainted the earth and all people, the world was perfect. God delighted in it, and even walked on it. This is huge! We are not trying to escape the world; as Christians, we are anxiously awaiting the day Jesus returns and renews the world!

Romans 5:12-21 talks about the first Adam bringing sin, judgment, and death into the world. It also talks about how Jesus, the second Adam, brings life, righteousness, and justification back into it. God has already started the process of renewal. "The garden of Gethsemane reverses what happened in the garden of Eden" (Robert Webber).

So what does this mean for us? It means that the world is groaning for renewal and recreation when Jesus finally returns. It means that we as Christians need to look forward to that time with anticipation. It means that we need to take care of what we have because it is good. It means that Christ has begun a work in us of renewal that will one day be complete. That's something to celebrate!

Tuesday, February 2


I have recently been obsessed with the idea of "wonder."  I attended a worship arts conference at Willow Creek church this last summer, and the theme of the week was none other than wonder.  I remember being blown away by the idea that in our lives and in our faith, we must keep a sense of awe toward God and His works always.

A book I am reading for my Theology and Worship Arts class called Worship Come to Its Senses by Don Saliers talks a little bit about the idea of awe and how it has been somewhat lost in our culture.  He suggests that because we use such words as "awesome" in daily life all the time, we lose the sense of what the word really means.  I mean, saying "Dude, that episode of Lost was awesome" is a far cry from "How awesome is the Lord Most High, the Great King over all the Earth!" (Psalm 47:2)

I think this means that when we read the scripture, we somewhat gloss over the passages that read this way.  We think, yeah, God is a pretty awesome guy, but that isn't what the Biblical writers are intending.  Instead, they mean awe as in drop-your-jaw, stand-in-amazement, at-a-loss-for-words kind of awe!  We are to stand in awe of God and what He has done, is doing, and will do!  That's pretty powerful stuff.

I also think that churches have somewhat lost a sense of awe in their worship.  I mean, come on, we're gathering together in the presence of the God of the universe, and there are people scrambling through their purses to get a piece of gum or stepping outside to refill on the free coffee.  As a side note, I am in no way saying that this is necessarily bad, and I have certainly been guilty of it, but you get my point.  We need to find a way to recapture this sense of divine presence among us, this sense of God communing with His people in their worship.

On the other side of that, I think one thing our churches do really well, at least the ones I attend, is communicating the intimacy of God to us.  God dwells among us, not only when we gather as a church for worship, but in our everyday, ordinary lives.  God in the Old Testament, while His people wandered in the desert, dwelled in the tabernacle at the center of their camp.  He wanted to be among His people.  Today, He dwells among us and wants a relationship with us everyday.  God loves us dearly and is our Father.  It can't get more intimate than that!  God is intimate, yet He is wholly other.  Our worship should reflect both aspects of this.

I will close with a quote I found particularly interesting from Worship Come To its Senses:

"The way remains closed to those to whom God is less real than a 'consuming fire,' to those who know answers but no wonder."     -Abraham Herschel

Friday, January 29

Tentative Beginnings...

I have been wanting to start a blog for a while now but I have never gotten around to it.

Why, you ask?

I always wondered if I had enough to say.  Then, in my spiritual formation class last semester, we had to journal about our thoughts, life, and assignments.  I kept it as a word document on my computer, and I really enjoyed being able to just share what I was thinking.  Writing it out helped me to reflect and organize my thoughts.

So, this semester, I am blogging.  Please bear with me as I share my ideas about life and we'll see where this little experiment takes us.  :)