It’s Messy

For the past 24 hours, I’ve done something I usually don’t do– I’ve paid attention to the news and its coverage of the Freddie Gray / Baltimore situation and it has left my mind in a messy state.

I spend my days preoccupied with my writing, exercising and Jesus time; anything that doesn’t fit into these categories gets an iota of my attention. Yet, the Freddie Gray case and Baltimore protests have been the exceptions. They have forced me to step out of my bubble, take off my blinders and peek at what goes on in the rest of the world and what I’ve seen thus far is chaotic, wicked and downright depressing.

The more I watch the news, the more I remember why I don’t usually watch the news: I hate feeling such rage. From seeing Fox reporters antagonizing protestors; to hearing the details of what happened to Gray after he was illegally detained; to later seeing cops attack people who were on the streets after the curfew; to hearing Sean Hannity defame Gray’s character in order to repaint the negative portrait of him; I am left at a loss for words. It is beyond my grasp to fathom how people can behave so reprehensibly.

As a child of God, I know that my heart should be pure; that I should point people to Jesus and prayer, but when I watch the news the aforementioned things are nearly impossible. A bitterness swells up in me along with an argumentative, vengeful spirit that I can hardly contain; my emotions become a mess. I see things as white vs. black/ black vs. blue; I judge people and I hope bad things happen to those that are making these things worse. I am generally an understanding person that tries to see things from a Christlike perspective ; so if these news stories can ignite such anger in me, it’s no wonder those more directly affected and/or those who don’t care about the consequences of their actions choose violence as the answer.

My intention in this post isn’t merely to justify negative actions or to complain (though I know I’ve done both); rather it’s to share the messiness in my heart at this moment. I’m so used to having my emotions very centered by the Holy Spirit so when this type of anger wells in me, it feels strange. I don’t like it one bit, but I’ve come to accept it as a necessary evil that reminds me of the broken world we’re living in. This messiness in me also reminds me why it is so important to offer people Christ as an option because what I have felt temporarily over the past 24 hours is likely what a good many feel all the time; (I especially include cops in that statement because it must take a special anger within someone to treat human lives so callously). Note, I say “offer” Jesus because everyone doesn’t want Him in their life- I’ve learned that the hard, embarrassing way.

Well to sum up my rambling post, I just have to say: people, try to show care and love to as many around you as you can. This world is full of injustices, natural disasters, diseases, poverty and etc. and while I can’t guarantee that love is the answer to dispel the messiness in all of these arenas, I can say it’s a good place to start.

That One Time…

Last year in February I went on a retreat with my church that spoke to me about fear. What I never really reflected on was the prophetic word I received after I was prayed for. The woman that spoke the word to me said she felt God was telling her to tell me that I have to stop saying that things are too good to be true (she didn’t know, but this is absolutely something I always do) and that I have to believe that there are certain passions and desires in me because God put them there and I have to trust that He can open and shut any door laid before me. It is that one time that I reflect on fondly as I continue on my present path.

When I graduated from college in December I had a finite idea of what my next step would be. Unlike most college seniors, I didn’t spend my time networking, applying for jobs and going on interviews. I spent my last few weeks desperately trying to put together one final short film project; petitioning administrative staff to allow me to drop a class I didn’t need to graduate; trying to not fail said class when I wasn’t allowed to drop it; and picking up as many extra shifts at my job to milk the benefits of employment as long as I could. Work, future, and the “real world” were the last things on my mind.

When January arrived I was officially a member of the “real world” and I still had no idea what I wanted to do next in life. I’ve always had my abstract goal to make films that effect people in a way that surpasses the natural– a way that gets them to think more earnestly about life, death and the decisions they make everyday. How exactly I would do that has always been a mystery to me. I’ve always loved writing stories and screenwriting has always been a passion of mine. However, I believe the bar for writers should be set very high; they should be well read and have a mastery of words and grammar and I didn’t quite meet these standards. So calling myself a writer always seemed quite daunting. Plus, I’ve always known that writing does not pay the bills because the chances of selling a script are few and far between. So for a good amount of time I strayed away from the path of a writer; I did everything I could while in college to learn about the production side of film.

In spite of my dismal outlook on screenwriting, my love for it still pushed me to take two more screenwriting courses in my last semester at school (screenwriting 2 & writing episode drama)– the latter was a last minute decision that I only got into thanks to COM’s efficient use of Twitter. I took these classes while being the cinematographer in another production course. All of these courses deepened my passion for filmmaking as a whole. They provided me with the skills and experience that made me finally realize what I want to do when I graduate– become a cinematographer!

I sought as much as advice as I could about the steps one should take to become a cinematographer. I did this while commencing my hunt for employment.  In spite of the many places I applied to I received only one call back/interview for an unpaid internship that I didn’t get. Nonetheless, my quest for work and a deeper understanding of cinematography made perfect sense and I didn’t want to give up on either one until after two things happened.

Thing 1: while getting advice about being a cinematographer from a woman I used to intern for she made a good point that I had long since forgotten: She mentioned to me that she assumed I had always wanted to be a storyteller because I like writing. However, she did remind me that I’ll always be the writer and I basically will then just need a day job. Rationally, that made perfect sense, but something in me felt like writing shouldn’t just be what I do on the side– at least not during that time period.

Thing 2 (The MOST random thing): I had just finished watching a new episode of Arrow and the social media addict in me wanted to see what people were saying about the episode on Twitter. Somehow, I stumbled upon the Twitter account of one of the writers for the show. I read the person’s bio and saw that they were a graduate of the Warner Brothers Writer’s Workshop. I recalled my professor for writing episode drama, mentioning the workshops and the fact that she did one of them; though, I’m ashamed to admit that when she mentioned them I never thought twice about them. Now, for some reason I was very intrigued by them. I researched as much information on them as I could. I found out that there are a number of them out there, many of which had deadlines in May and 8 spots for the thousands of eager writers that would apply. I found such odds to be both terrifying and exhilarating. So I made the boldest and quite possibly stupidest decision of my life: I decided I was going to be one of those thousands of applicants and I would do so by foregoing my job search to write two solid scripts to enter while reading more, writing more and watching more TV (prior to this my favorite TV show was Pretty Little Liars and I was only following two other TV shows in other words my television knowledge was wanting).

So while I embarked on this journey of being a writer, I continued to look for part time work at film studios. Yet, as I looked at each job description I realized working in any sort of film company would seriously hinder the time I have to write and I didn’t want to just settle for writing on the side. It hit me that this is quite possibly the one time in my life when I can write without worrying about bills or other responsibilities since I’m still living at home with that lovely loan grace period. So I temporarily shut the door on finding film/tv work of any kind.

But the greed in me wouldn’t subside that easily. I wanted a job– any job. I hated not making money so I started to search for part and full time jobs close to home that wouldn’t be as demanding as film work. I kid you not… I did not receive even ONE response from a business and I was applying for jobs that HS students could do. I understand that the job market is pretty bad, but something in me felt that that wasn’t why I wasn’t getting work. It seemed in my gut like it was happening because this wasn’t a season where God wanted me to work. It felt like this was a season where I was to augment my comprehension of TV and improve my writing. I became more comfortable with this season as the days went by, but that comfort rarely lasted.

Every time I heard that someone I knew accepted a job or got into grad school, doubt, jealousy and fear crept inside of me. I really couldn’t tell if I was delusional or if I was actually doing what God wanted me to do. I took a risk, hoping it was the latter and decided I would not look for work until I finished both scripts for the workshops. It’s funny, the more I began to work on the scripts and study TV shows, the more I realized that this is absolutely like a full time job. Not only that, but it is the BEST job because the more I did it the more I realized how intense my passion for it was. I am so captivated by television shows now and even more enraptured by writing televisions scripts that I now know that THIS is what I long to do for a living. If you flashback to an old blog of mine prior to graduation I did not have a dream job.

My scripts are still under construction and April is more than halfway over, meaning that those deadlines, along with the end of my student loan grace period are coming soon. Today I started to go into panic mode again as I began to fear for my future. I wanted to just apply to every single job and do everything to find one NOW. But I don’t like to do things out of panic because I know that that panic is always the product of me relying on myself, my plans and my merits while ignoring the God that loves me. I prayed to The Lord to direct me and to speak to me. Before I connected with God I was washing dishes and in the process, the song “God of the Impossible” by Everfound came into my head. When I finally had my time with The Lord I made sure to listen to it and I am glad I did.

Here I am, Lord send me | I won’t look back cause I was made | To be a part of the impossible | You’re God of the impossible | Here I am, Lord send me | I won’t back down cause I believe | You are the God of the impossible | You’re God of the impossible | Here I am, send me!

This song’s lyrics overwhelmed me with emotions as the question formed in my head “Do I believe God is The God of the impossible?” That answer absolutely was a YES!!!! So my decision stood; I was and am going to hold off on looking for work until after I have, the best possible, most engaging, marketable drafts of my scripts. No, this decisions doesn’t come with the reassurance that I’ll be one of the eight people in a writer’s workshop nor does it stand with the promise that I’ll find a job immediately when I start searching again. I believe in my heart that it comes with the guarantee that God will be faithful to me because I’ve relinquished control of my life to Him and that that means that He will lead me to an impossible place that I would’ve never foreseen. In all honesty, He has already done that during these past four months; He has birthed in me a hunger to read, an improvement in my writing skills, a forgiveness for those who have hurt me, an independent spirit, a more humble spirit and a trust in Him that I haven’t had in years. These past few months have exceeded my expectations of what I would learn upon graduating from college and I thank God for that because I know this was a part of His plan for my life. So regardless of the rejections that are in store for me when I begin my job hunt once more, I will joyously praise Him because I know He’s the God of the impossible and every door that closes or opens before me is one that is bringing me to where He wants me to be.

No Triumph Without Trial: Running Reflections

Today I went on an outdoor distance run– my first in a while– and I actually ran one of my worst times, yet I found the run to be glorious.

I set out on the street in fewer layers than I should’ve and the cold never stopped reminding me. The wind whirled around my body; my bare ankles froze; my fingers turned white–as they usually do– and to top things off my knee pain re-commenced  causing apprehension with my every stride as I wondered if I should stop and turn back. My cold body and injured knee said yes, but my mind said no. I’m the first person to argue and say that running is 90% mental 10% physical. So unless I’m in dire pain I usually won’t stop my run. And given the good shape I’m in, I rarely feel a need to. Today was the exception. I will admit, at first I was bothered by the hard time I was having on my run, but as I persisted, I developed an appreciation for struggle. The struggles give us a bottom point to rise from and a chance to learn what can come from hard work and perseverance. After all, can we truly know triumph without trial?

A Tidbit on Dreams

Whenever I dream I define my dreams in one of three ways: lies from the enemy, gifts from God or cries from my subconscious. I won’t go to into depth on the first 2 categories because they’re hard to explain unless you believe in the bible and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The cries from my subconscious are the ones I will discuss because I’ve been having a lot of these of late and I’ve come to hate and love them at the very same time.

I hate them because they force me to confirm the existence of my deepest fears and desires. Sometimes I wake up with relief until I realize what felt real was merely a dream. Other times I wake up disheartened and frightened. Yet, I love them. My affinity for them comes from the truth they reveal that I cannot outrun. When awake, I surmise that there are feelings and pains that don’t exist in me anymore because I’ve moved on from them. Yet, my dreams reveal how blatantly wrong I am. They confess my inner truths, yet they don’t set me free (yeah, this is why I hate them…). They send me in a spiral with my mind. Those first few minutes after I wake up leave me to question which of the three categories I must place that dream under…

Believe it or not it’s these dreams, ones birthed from my inner self, that leave me the most unsettled… As my hate and love for them, simultaneously grow in a paradox of sorts my mind grapples with what it believes to be true and what is actually true.

That Awkward Moment…

Things in my life have been pretty uneventful, until yesterday.

Yesterday I received this text, “Want to grab dinner tonight before the table?”

The Table is a Friday night meeting at my church for the 20-30 year old crowd. I attended it twice two years ago and when I went I exchanged phone numbers with two people, neither one of which I interacted with ever again. Thanks to my Sherlock-like powers of deduction, I knew the text had to have come from one of the two. I then assumed that it was sent to me by mistake, but what if it hadn’t been?… I have been terrible at getting involved in my church and making friends there so I thought there was a chance that this was happening for a reason. I mean, we Christians are awkward and we’re always challenging one another to do things like texting someone random or meeting a new person and etc…

“Is this Stephanie?” I replied, recalling the name of one of the girls I’d met.

“Heidi :)” she responded.

Since I’m an awkward homebody who hates going out or doing new things, I thanked her for the invite and told her I couldn’t make it. Yes this was in spite of the fact that I thought her texting me could’ve been a “God thing”… Well, after talking to my mom, I realized that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and my house so I told her I can make it! As we started to make plans the inevitable happened.

“Ok. I have a mystery to solve. Whose number is this? I thought I was texting Amber ____? I’m in suspense. Are we both confused?”

If ever there was an awkward moment in my life, that was it.

In usual Amber essay message form I told her who I was and when we met. She didn’t remember the interaction, which was twice as embarrassing, but she was very welcoming and friendly. Fast forward to 6:30PM that night, I met with her and the other Amber for dinner before going to The Table.

Day 21 / THE END

My blog slacking clearly reached an all time high over the last few days of the fast…

Yesterday was the last official day and it didn’t come without tears, intense journaling and praying. Rather than share my overall reflections from that day alone I’m going to summarize the main thing I believe I’ve learned during this time.

WAIT —> God’s way not Amber’s.

I tend to be impatient. I like now rather than later and I especially like things to go as a I feel they should go. During my fast that didn’t change. I came to my own conclusions about how and when I expected God to work and give me the answers to questions I longed for. I set my own parameters that I thought He would follow and yet He didn’t. After a talk with my mom, I have finally started to be okay with that. I may want answers to questions and clear direct signs of what the steps of my life should be now, but I don’t need them. I’ve felt God teaching me about His timing and ways a few times in the past, but the lessons clearly didn’t stick as they should’ve. Maybe/hopefully this time will be different…

Day 16: Abandoning Selfishness for Selflessness

Okay so I know I’ve been slacking with my blogging of late. I’ve been listening to a lot of church sermons online (particularly ones from Times Square Church NYC) and they’ve been challenging me to live more boldly and surrendered to Christ. In spite of how inspirational they’ve been, I’ve still been feeling spiritually off at times.

Today I started my time with The Lord with prayer for guidance in the many areas of my life. I then picked a bible verse from my “promise box” and was brought to Isaiah 58, which is about right and wrong fasting. Coincidence? I think not. Hand of God? I think yes.

While I don’t fall on the extreme side of the spectrum with the wrong reasons for fasting the scripture spoke of, I realized I hadn’t been doing enough of the right reasons. In my times with God as I seek His advice for work, living situation and etc. I’ve lost that part of me that once existed– the part that focused on the personal, small ways I could serve His kingdom. I’ve been so fixated on getting to my mass mission of making movies to glorify Him that I’ve forgotten that each step that gets me there can be a mission in itself.

To put it more clearly, I’ve been saying, “Lord, direct me to the job You want me to be in” when I should’ve been saying, “Lord, bring me to the job where others need me, where they need my work ethic, love & whatever else You can do through me. When I look for my own place to live, bring me to the apartment complex where a neighbor needs an awkward Christian girl to hear their problems and to let them know that You care.”

The two prayers aren’t massively different nor are they mutually exclusive, but my heart in each situation is. The first stems from my desire to do God’s will because I believe that that’ll give me a spiritually fulfilling and thus happy life (aka it partly comes from me being selfish). Meanwhile the latter comes from a more selfless desire to see how I can serve God’s people in everything. In the past, I’ve sought Him this way when I stayed in a swim class that I dreaded and when I did random housing in a few of my college years. And God never disappointed me in those times; in the smallest of ways in each situation, I saw a confirmation that a seed had been planted and that always brought me unexplainable exhilaration. Of late, I’ve forgotten that this is the type of selfless praying and living that God has burdened my heart with. I can’t run from it because when I do I feel incomplete. Ergo, I’m done running.