september bullet points…

It’s been too long, you’ll say. Well, that is completely true. You’ll have to forgive me, because it’s going to last a while longer. But let’s review the main stuff, shall we?

  • This is my senior year. While I am kept busy (and occasionally swamped), that means that within a year, I will be a college graduate searching for a job. Which means, some sweet day, I will have time for non-school related activities. Like blogging.
  • I still take photos, but mostly post them to Instagram from my phone. My camera only tends to travel with me when I visit family, and then I try and take pics on camera AND phone, because of occasional lighting and speed issues on my phone. But my phone quality keeps improving, so it’s my go-to. Laziness? Maybe. Sometimes,  you do what you have time for.
  • The Lord has blessed me with a lot of spiritual growth this year, partly because of attending a new church. Sometimes, I want to shout for joy… and then a new school assignment “calms” me down. But my Savior has been gracious, and is working on me in the patience area, as well as the worry area. Not the same, I assure you.
  • I am enjoying my history classes, as always, as well as taking another fiction workshop. So, I spend a LOT of time reading for class, and writing assignments. Which is why most of the time, I don’t have brain space for any other kind of writing. Except, you know, on FB or on my Instagram posts.
  • What else is there? Some of you began following me because of my trip to Australia… what is it, 5 years ago now? While I keep in regular contact with my Aussie friends, I do hope that in the next year or two, I will be able to afford to go visit them, finally. And visit all the places that I didn’t get to, last time. But maybe, once I graduate, I will have time for more trips here in the U.S., too.
  • Continuing that thought, I have been on several road trips this year, mostly to the beach and PA and Virginia. To visit family and friends. But mostly, I wasn’t in a writing mood, because I’d been “schooled out” at that point. There are times when you never want to go near a computer again.
  • Along with the above JOY about knowing the Lord better this year, along with that comes a renewed interest in a few things that I’ve slacked on over the years. Playing my guitar or playing the piano. Trying new things, mostly art-related. Getting a bike, and taking some leisure skills at school, like tennis and top ropes. So, since writing and blogging still remain in my list of things I like to do, I’m more likely to do them when I’m not busy AND when I’m particularly happy/joyful about something. When worry and frustration crowd things out, the fun things slide, because… well, that’s playing with avoidance tactics, as I see it. If I’m blogging in order to avoid studying, then I’m shirking what I have to be doing. I want to keep my GPA up high, you know. 🙂
  • So, all that to say that, I’m praying for more patience and to hand over the worries, as well as to make sure I’m not slacking on my schoolwork. It’s a mixed bag when it comes time to thinking about blogging. But I’m trying to get it back into the list of things that I CAN do, when there is time and freed up brain space.
  • Thanks for hanging in there! I just thought I’d include a collage of photos from this last month, just for a bright spot in the writing blather that I’m including here. I hope you have a blessed month and the rest of the year, in case I get tied up totally with school until Christmas!

failure is difficult to look at objectively…

Is there such a thing as a “small failure”? The recently coined phrase that I’ve heard entire arguments over is that of the “epic fail”. But as far as I can tell, when you have failed at something, you have been completely unsuccessful. You do not speak the of the small successes, because if there was even one success, you would claim it gleefully. So, as cool as it may sound to refer to an epic fail, I would suggest that it’s a redundant phrase. If your lack of success is complete, you could use any word to describe what a huge failure it was. But do you really want to rub it in that badly?

Yes, I know, I’m avoiding the point. Who has ever liked to discuss their unsuccessful endeavors? Not me, that’s for certain. But for those of you who have been so kind as to tell me that I “don’t owe anyone an explanation”, I thank you for that, but I would like to share about this, nevertheless.

As you may know, about three weeks ago, I left for a new nanny position, located in Minnesota. It was a bit sudden, but I’d been lazing around for plenty of time, so I was ready to start a new job. I was excited about it, going to a new place, meeting a new family, and learning what it was like to live in the deep snow, eventually.

At first, I thought I was just tired from my trip, letting myself worry about little things, as I settled in. But after the first week, my worries began to get to me, and halfway through the second week, I figured out that I was having anxiety attacks. I tend to think of panic attacks as the ones where you actually black out, think you’re having a heart attack, or something of that sort. If I have the wrong definition, then I apologize, but since I never experienced a black out, I’ll just refer to mine as anxiety attacks.

At times when I shouldn’t have been upset or frustrated by anything, I was frightening myself with a high heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking, and having panicky thoughts on a level that I have never experienced before. Something was wrong, and it was scaring me. On the recommendation of a nurse friend, I got off the diet drops I was on, just in case there was a side effect that I didn’t know about, but at that point, I only had one thought in mind. Something was causing me to freak out, and I needed to leave.

During this time, I was seeking advice from those close to me, but more importantly, I discovered that the ONLY harbor in this storm was in my Savior, Jesus Christ. I didn’t understand what was going on, and I turned to my Bible like it was a teddy bear to hug for comfort. The Psalms were cries for help and praises from King David and others, and I empathized with every one, begging the Lord to save me from what was frightening me.

You may say that if the Lord had truly answered my prayers, the attacks would have left. The attacks didn’t stop, but got worse. But instead of running from God, because He wasn’t answering me properly, I clung even more to Him, because He was still my only comfort. His Word and praying to Him almost constantly was the only way I survived the rest of that week. And on Friday, I was worried about having to tell my employers that I was leaving. That evening, I spent two straight hours, reading my Bible and praying, because nothing else helped… while I waited for the family to come home, so I could tell them I needed to give notice, effective immediately.

And the Lord answered that prayer in abundance. They took it like troopers, and I packed up my car and left the next morning. The moment I hit the road, my anxieties fled.

Since then, I have wondered whether I did the wrong thing, not following the Lord’s leading, and choosing to go to MN. Or did I do the right thing to go, and caved too soon, not giving the Lord a chance to work? In the end, it doesn’t matter, because the good that came of this (no, I don’t speak of small successes, because I didn’t have any) was all of Him, and not of me. I’ve been a Christian for many years, got saved when I was a child, but in recent years, I’ve been a lackadaisical sort of Christian. I haven’t been praying, talking to the Lord of my life, or reading my Bible very much, and yet I hadn’t wanted to go out and do terribly bad things, either. A lukewarm type of Christian, the type that’s only good for spitting out (Revelation 3:16).

The result of my mentally terrifying time was realizing that I just can’t get by without Him, though I’ve been trying. And though I won’t become a perfect Christian overnight, I’ve had a shock that I won’t recover from immediately. And I’m thankful for it, as hard as the test was.

So, I returned home, and felt like a complete failure. But I was holding out, slightly, that my doctor would tell me that it was the drops, and not entirely my own fault. But I saw my doctor, and was told that the drops didn’t cause this, and happily, I’m going back on them, because the diet was working so well for me (20 lbs loss is good, don’t you think?). The doctor’s response also put the blame squarely on myself, though. Sure, there may have been some stresses from my new job and moving, but I was the one that caved under the pressure.

Oh, before anyone tries to say “But Rachel, you’re too hard on yourself. You had just moved to a new area, driven such a long way, and had to adjust to new people…”, please think about what you’re saying. Over a year ago, I flew 36 hours in a plane, to a completely new country (that wonderful Australia), to live with a new family that I’d only met on Skype, and create a new life for myself, for a year. And nothing like this EVER happened while I was there. So, you can’t blame the same factors in my trip to MN.

I don’t like to fail. It frustrates, annoys, and angers me, that I could try to do something, and that my efforts completely crashed and burned.

But you know what? God didn’t call me to be perfect, on my own. He’s called me to trust Him, because His wisdom is greater than anything I have in myself. I may be a failure, but He wants me to admit that I am, so that He can finally use me for His glory.

~

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Because the foolishness of God is WISER THAN MEN; and the weakness of God is STRONGER THAN MEN. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

–1 Corinthians 1:18-30 (KJV, copied from BibleGateway.com, emphasis mine)

the music beneath my fingers…

I arrived home from Australia, and there was our piano, waiting for me. I’ve been longing to get the piano keys under my fingers again, but I hadn’t taken any music with me to Australia. I know, an oversight, but I really didn’t think I would miss it so much! And now, it had been so long since I played. My music memorization has never been very good, and I stink at sight-reading, on the spot. But still, when someone else begins to play the piano, outside of church, my fingers start itching to play, as well.

If I actually do sit down without music, it generally results in failure, because my memory doesn’t extend beyond my fingers. Frustration comes of this. Which doesn’t make being near a piano anything pleasurable. You just want to make music… and you can’t.

My favorite pieces of music have been the same, since I was a fifteen year old taking piano lessons. I didn’t do well at learning pieces by Chopin or Mozart, because I didn’t really like the music (or rather, I preferred to listen to them than to play them), or I just thought it was too difficult. And I didn’t like practicing. But if I was presented with a piece that I loved, I would learn it, come hell or high water.

My dad taught himself to play the piano, long before I was born, and as a child, I wanted to be able to do it, too. We also had some old tape recordings of hymns that he played, and I would listen to them over and over, planning to learn them. I learned to sing “One Small Child” and “The Tree Song”, while he played. At Christmastime, I would sing all my favorites, while standing at his shoulder.

When I grew old enough to play, and hammer out the tunes that I knew and liked, I have happy memories of playing “The Drummer Boy”, with my five year old brother bellowing along with the “Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum” parts. And I do mean bellowing, because he was born with a bass voice, making my male classmates jealous, and I’d swear that at puberty, his voice went up, instead of down.

As my piano lessons progressed, and I figured out how to sing “One Small Child”, while playing a piece of music that didn’t incorporate the melody into it (I found it tricky, for quite a while), I was still trying to locate a piece of music that was on the old audio tapes. My dad didn’t sing along with them, so I didn’t know the names of them all. I’m not sure if I asked him, and he didn’t remember, or if I was just persisting in figuring it out for myself. But there was one absolutely glorious song that I just HAD to learn to play.

It was called “The Day He Wore My Crown”, and it was in the same book as “The Tree Song”, “One Small Child”, “Beautiful Savior” (played to a different tune than you’ll know), and “Like a River Glorious”. These were all favorites of mine, and still are, but this new one had chords that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to play. Could my hands even stretch that far? But thanks to my dad’s beautiful playing on that tape, and listening to it hundreds of times, I knew exactly what it should sound like. And eventually, I conquered it, and can now sing along.

Perhaps you’ve never heard it before? It tells about Christ’s coming to Jerusalem, and His “crime” was the love He showed to us. How He gave His life, the day He wore my crown… because of what I did. The chorus says that “I’m the one to blame, I caused all the pain”, but He still chose to come and wear that crown for me.

I love a good song, no matter where it comes from, and I grew up watching the movie, The Land Before Time. During the credits, the song “If We Hold On Together” plays, and I’ve always loved it. When I found a book of movie music with that piece in it, I learned it as quickly as possible, shocking my teacher, as I was often disinclined to practice. “Somewhere Out There”, from An American Tale, is also in that book, but I’ve always found it a little more difficult to play, but that doesn’t keep me from trying. Never think that you can’t find some beautiful music, even in an animated film.

We have another book of old-school music from past decades in music and movies. Many of them, I don’t even know the song, so I’ve never had the urge to learn it, I’m afraid. But two songs of love and romance that have always been playing around me are “A Time For Us”, from Romeo & Juliet, and “Where Do I Begin?”, the theme from Love Story. I’m not even sure where I first heard the former, probably off one of my grandpa’s records, before I ever watched the movie in school. But the love theme from Love Story is the tune that played whenever I removed the lid from my grandma’s candy jar. I was entranced by the song, and possibly more interested in the music than in what the jar contained. That jar now belongs to me, and now it holds nothing but memories.

Finally, here in South Carolina, we live down the road from Patch the Pirate, otherwise known as Ron Hamilton. He holds a huge ministry with his Patch the Pirate music and stories, but he also writes other music to go into hymn books. Majesty Hymns is one of those books, and contains many of his songs. Including a favorite of mine, “Wings as Eagles”. I’ll admit that I generally sing it slower than Hamilton does, when I hear him on the radio, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. Also, because it’s a hymn with chords on both hands, which I’ve never been very good at playing (one reason that I do NOT play in church), I have to play it quite slowly, or just play the right hand by itself. But when you see the words, you really can’t speed it up. At least, I can’t. Judge for yourself.

When the race still lies before me,
And the wind is blowing strong,
When the witnesses surround me,
And my strength is almost gone;
When the valley plunges deeper,
And life shatters all my dreams,
Then I lift my voice to Jesus,
And He gives my spirit wings.

God gives wings… as eagles;
God gives wings to fly and strength to rise above.
God gives wings… as eagles,
When my feet begin to stumble,
And my dreams begin to crumble,
I mount up on eagles’ wings.

–Ron Hamilton