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]