Friday, June 10, 2016

Stepping Back In.

"I'm gonna go write."

It's been a long while since I've said those words, and an even longer while since I've hit the pencil icon on the Blogger Dashboard to start writing a post.  And that's a shame.

Writers write.  I have a Pinterest board full of photos that all say that in a different way.  It's what calms us, fuels us, and helps us process the weight of life's problems.  (If you quoted Sadness from Inside Out in your head when you read that too, we're now besties.)  

But I've figured out that though it makes no sense, it's often actually the most important things that we end up forsaking in the hardest or busiest seasons of life, and writing is no different.  

I really admire people who tell the world about their struggles & their overcomings through crafting honest and carefully-chosen words, because it's not easy.  When life is throwing monster waves at you--or even just throwing fast-paced days at your face--the easiest thing to do is to go through the motions of each day and survive every hour until you get to sleep.  (And all the college students said, AMEN.)  

Let me put some honest words out there: The past year has been one of the most tumultuous and definitely the most eventful.  I've turned sixteen (and then seventeen) years old, and taken my first steps in to the world of driving a car, the workforce, the college life, and the dating & relationship sphere.  On the side, I've gained 4 new little sisters for whose well-being we are currently battling in a courtroom every three months.  It's insane.  I've felt overwhelming tides of fears, terrifying waves of doubt, and pure heartbreak.  

Can you say it's been an eventful year?  

I hope to unpack some of that as time goes on, but for now, I'm picking up the pen and the page (or the keyboard and the computer screen) again to talk with you about life and tell you what I'm learning and struggling with and to see if maybe you're feeling some of that too.  I've kept some of these things in a journal, but in the past six months even that has been forsaken a bit, so I'm excited to be back, sharing.  Will you come along on this journey with me?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Real Community.

There's a lot of talk of community these days, especially in the church.  And I think everyone loves the idea of community, but a lot of us either shrink back from it or don't completely get it.

Human beings are frustrating; I don't want to "do life" with them.

They're secretly judging me, anyway.  

Who knows what they're really thinking of me??

My church (or my school, or my homeschool group, or my workplace) is filled with some people that I can't stand; I don't want to get involved and in close quarters with them.

I'm an introvert; I don't want to be in community.

Ouch.  Have you ever found yourself feeling this way?

Community is something I've struggled with for a while.  I honestly dreaded getting up and going to church on Sunday morning, because once I got there, I felt out of place, irritated, and self-conscious.  In other places, I felt awkward.  And everywhere, I was frustrated and somewhat intimidated by people, and I shrank from being with them.  I started realizing that it was more than personality types, introversion and extroversion; it was me being critical, a bit cynical, and unwilling to love and be patient.  And as I looked back at Jesus, our prime example, I realized that community was something He did very well.  Jesus spent time with all kinds of people, from the Pharisees, to the prostitutes and tax collectors, to the average in-between people.  He didn't divide up His time, making sure not to mix the different kinds of people He spent time with.  No, He brought them all together and taught and loved them together.  He encouraged them to love one another.  He was never secretly judgmental.  He didn't scorn people when they failed.  And He called us, His church, to nurture that same kind of loving community in every area of our own lives, particularly seeking Him with other believers (but loving our enemies and those who persecute us, too).

I have friends that talk about Jesus' kind of community a lot.  And I've always loved the idea of it--it's
inspiring, and beautiful, and something I desire--but for so long I just couldn't seem to replicate it or carry it into my own life.  My constant excuse was, there aren't any people around here that love God enough for me to be in that kind of community with.  Everyone here is judgmental.  I always feel so awkward with all the people here.  All these people are so annoying and fake.  

But how prideful and unlike Jesus is that?  Because no, darkness has no fellowship with light (2 Corinthians 6:14), but yes, we are the salt and light of the world, followers of the greater light, Jesus, who spent His time with the sick, because they were the ones that needed a doctor.

But He didn't just leave the goody-two-shoes Pharisees in the dust of His sandals, either.  He taught and loved and spoke with them just the same.  Two completely different kinds of people, the lost sinner and the hypocritical religious leader, and Jesus pulled them together in His company with love and wisdom and truth.  Whether they stayed was their business, but His arms were always open.  This is what true community looks like.  Jesus didn't pick who He wanted to love and be in community with.  He didn't step back to ask if they were worthy or not.  Because actually, honestly, none of us were.  But He chose to do it anyway.  To put it as I've heard it said lately: unconditional love is completely irrational.  But aren't we glad that Jesus was irrational?  And I would also add that unconditional love is completely inconvenient....but inconvenience is something Jesus was willing to take on in loving us.

Somehow, though, I think the idea of community has been skewed a wee bit at times.  Because sometimes, community becomes about our friends, and especially as young people, it starts to become about how many friends we have, and who those friends are, and what kind of group that puts us in, and if we spend all our time doing fun things with our friends, and if it makes us look like we have the funnest, most friend-filled life ever to those on the outside.  It becomes about appearances and how many friends we have in our little communities, and who those friends are, and how much time we spend with our friends, because that is what society judges us by.  I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.  It's the people who will literally tell you that they have this many friends or that many friends, and then they have these people who are their best friends, and they do all these fun things together, and they go and shout it out on all of social media--and it can all leave those outside that circle of friends feeling excluded and less than.  It can leave you wondering if you actually are worth anything, or if your life is fun enough, or good enough, if you don't have lots of friends to go out and do stuff with.

But I feel like real community is less about friends and more about family.  Not literal family, really.  But it's more like family.  Because anybody--you, me, the kid who doesn't have any friends--can go out and be a fake version of themselves for a little while and gain "friends."  People are willing to accept you if you act the way you want them to.  But family is something different.  It's unconditional.  It's strong and deeply-rooted.  Our family members can absolutely drive us up the wall and we can be at each others' throats, but we never really stop loving each other.  Friendships break down sometimes.  Friends can give up on each other--and I guess family can, too, but there's such a stronger bond there.  The Trinity is even described in a familial way--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We are called children of God.  We are co-heirs (essentially, brothers and sisters) with Jesus.  That's a very strong picture of God's love for us, and how He wants our community with others to be.  He loves us with the ferocity and faithfulness that a father has for his children.  I'm not a parent yet, and I know I really don't have an inkling of what the strength of a parent's love really is....but I can imagine.  I can listen and observe parents around me, my parents especially, and I can get an idea.  That kind of love is something, for sure, and yet it's only a reflection of how perfect the Father's love is for us.  I mean, He literally IS love.  He's our Heavenly Father, we're His children.  All of us.

"So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
-Galatians 3:26-29

And in a close family, you can be yourself without fear or pretense.  When you're at home with them, you can simply be your absolute self, relaxed, knowing that you're loved and accepted as you are, with no walls or guards put up, no pretending.  This is the kind of community our Father intended for us.  There's no fear of secret judgment or what those around you are really thinking.  No one is talking about someone behind their back, scorning or ridiculing them.

"A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends."
-Proverbs 16:28

You can speak freely, honestly.  It may be painful sometimes, and yes, you may be scared to bring faults, shortcomings, and hurts out into the light at times, but you know that to keep that close family, you have to be vulnerable and open with each other.  You're not perfect and you don't expect others to be, but you do your best, and you try to have patience with them when they fall.  Where one of you drops the ball, the others pick up the slack.  It's beautiful.

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results."
-James 5:16

And even as I type this, I feel like such a hypocrite, because I fail at this daily.  Sometimes I avoid people and I try to keep certain people out and I don't serve or love well at all.  But I'm trying.  I'm trying so hard.  I've seen a lot of fakeness in my life, and I'm tired of it.  I've seen a lot of people talking behind other people's back, and I don't want to replicate that pattern.  I want to be real.  I want to be genuine.  I want to be honest.  And I have to say, I haven't been a part of very many circles or communities where that's a consistent reality.  And this has been on my mind for a while now, just tumbling around.  This past Friday, I got to be a part of something a little like that.  It was kind of like God was poking me and going, "There's some experience to back up that idea of what a real community looks like that's been brewing in your head, Joy."  I was at a swing dance and the power went out--no lights, no AC, no music.  Cell phone lights went on and a couple of people began to sing the lyrics to an old swing song as others backed them up with vocal saxophones and basses and everyone clapped the beat.  Some people left, but most stayed, and we gathered into a circle and kept singing and clapping and dancing while everything was bathed in those white cell phone lights, looking like a scene out of a black and white movie.

 And the beauty of it all was that everyone was together--old, young, black, white, new and familiar with the dance, from all areas, seasons, and walks of life--sharing the joy of the music and the dance, and everyone was singing.  You didn't feel as if you were a bother.  There was no competition.  No one felt like they were secretly being made fun of if they weren't the best at singing, or if they lost the beat, or if they messed up in some way.  Where one person dropped the ball on the lyrics of a song, others would pick it up and carry it through until everyone could join in again.  Some people picked up papers and began to fan others around them, something that I now realize was a beautiful picture of serving others.  It was something so small and spontaneous, but as I pondered on it all later, I realized that that's just what real community looks like.

It looks like family.

"Being a family means you are part of something wonderful.  It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life.  No matter what."
-Lisa Weedn

---It looks like not having to put up walls, be fake, or pretend like everything is okay.

---It looks like not having to compete, because everyone knows that they're accepted just as they are, with all their quirks and oddities--and that ultimately, we're accepted by God, the only one that matters.  We're working from acceptance and not for it.  That's a freeing knowledge in itself, because when we're not in a place where we have to try to assure ourselves of our own worth and acceptance, we're able to affirm others and love them selflessly.

---It looks like being honest and real with each other, in all aspects of life.

---It looks not like a little huddle of friends with inside jokes and exclusivity, but rather like a big family with arms open wide to readily welcome others into the love.

---It looks like there being no fear that we'll lose our friends over something we do or say, or who we really are, because like Jesus' love, family is unconditional.  That's how community is supposed to be.

Most of all, it looks like clothing ourselves with "tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."  (Colossians 3:v.12)  It looks like making allowance for each others' faults, and forgiving anyone who offends us, and most of all, it looks like putting on love over all those things, because love binds us all together in perfect harmony (v. 13-14).  It looks like loving and serving the same way Jesus did.  Stop for a moment with me and think about what that looks like in your own life.  We usually don't have to work at showing tenderhearted mercy for those awesome people in our lives that make us happy--no, it's the ones that drive us crazy and hurt us and misunderstand us and get under our skin.  And sadly enough, those people are so often those right under our noses.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  Living this kind of life requires a total revamping of our minds and the way we think, react, and treat others, because loving like Jesus means not competing with others, not having secret motives, not trying to get ahead--even with those that have ulterior motives against us and whom we know to be attention-seekers, hypocrites, and manipulative.  Jesus washed Judas' feet.  It means putting others' needs and wants before our own, and putting our own desires and comforts last.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to our own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider eqality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross!"
-Philippians 2:3-8

It means being compassionate, sharing in both the sufferings and the joys of others.  

Compassion, n.
A suffering with another.

It means being sincere and having empathy; genuinely caring about what's going on in others' life (because that is the manifestation of "not looking to our own interests, but to the interests of others).  Practically, it means making that phone call or sending that text to check on what's going in that person's life.  It means taking the time to step out and invite someone into the circle.  It means stopping and thinking about what's going on in their life and what effect that might be having on them--and how you can love them right in the middle of that.  It means taking an interest in every single part of someone's life, because that's one of the most encouraging things you can do.  It plainly says, "I love you.  I care about you.  You're worth it."

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
-Galatians 6:2

This is what real community truly looks like.  And yes, it takes a renewing of our minds to think and live life like this.  It takes work and it takes practice and it takes a whole lot of spending time with God and soaking in His truth, but it's beautiful when it takes action in our lives and in the lives of those we touch.  I guess this is my hope for my life; that I'd stop putting up walls and pretending; that I'd stop competing with others; that I'd stop making secret snap judgments in my mind; that I'd stop being exclusive and start reaching out and welcoming people, all kinds of people, with the Jesus kind of love that is both unconditional and always serving.  And I hope we'll all do it together.  Because that's what real community is--inspired by Jesus--and when that becomes a reality, God starts doing awesome things in and through us.  That's what I want in my life.

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
-John 13:35

Friday, August 8, 2014

Faithful Fridays: Why Last Friday Was the Last.

I started Faithful Fridays in 2009, when my blog was just a newborn and I used about 60 exclamation points in each post.  :)  At the end of last week I posted my last Faithful Fridays post.  I wanted to let you guys know why.

It's not because....

I'm giving up on it.

(I'm no quitter.)


I don't want to hear about you guys and your walk with Jesus.

(Of course I do; that's the community of blogging!)

It's also not because....

I don't want to talk about Jesus and how I'm doing life with Him on my blog.

(That will always be pretty much the biggest topic on my blog, because Jesus is the biggest thing in my life.)

The basic reason is that I feel like I can bring more to my blog without keeping up with a link-up.  I want to bring my blog back to a place of simplicity.  I've never worked at my best under a time limit or schedule (that, my writing friends, is why I failed at NaNoWriMo).  I'm always late.  And sometimes, having to keep up with writing a certain thing at a certain time can make my blog feel like a chore, and I don't want that to happen.  I want my posts to flow out of a creative place, so that they can be enjoyable both to you and to me, not frantic and hurried each week.

So I hope that as I bring Faithful Fridays to a close, for now at least (who knows what could happen down the road), you all are understanding, and you won't stop coming to visit and read and share here as I embark on a new season on my blog.  I'm so thankful for all of you who have faithfully participated over the years I've been doing Faithful means a lot, and I'm so glad to have "met" you all!  :)

God bless and much love,
Joy :)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Faithful Fridays ~ If You Must Look Forward, Do So Prayerfully.

Good afternoon!  :)  I'm back from a wee break and ready to share something with you guys that I've been learning lately.  :)

Faithful Fridays is a weekly linky party hosted on my blog. I made it so that Christians could have one special day out of the week (Friday) to share something from their walk with Jesus on their blog. If you'd like to participate, write your post, grab the button from the Faithful Fridays page on my blog (so that it will link back here), and come link up at the bottom of this post! :)


"If you must look back, do so forgivingly.  If you must look forward, do so prayerfully.  But the best thing you can do is to be present in the present...gratefully."
-Maya Angelou

I've always classified myself as a worrier.  I think a lot, and a lot of that thinking involves thinking about the future--fantasizing, dreaming, or worrying, depending on the subject.  It's just my default mode, and I think a lot of people are the same way.  It seems to be in our programming; we want to know what's next, and when, and how it's all going to play out (okay, maybe a part of that is a woman's curse ;)).  So we spend time mulling over the future and all its unknown details.  And so many times, that leads us into worry.  Which is really just a lack of trust in God; a lack of faith.  

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
-Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything.  

That's a command, and it's a pretty crazy one, isn't it?  

Do not be anxious about anything.

Not your health, or your job, or your career, or your dreams, or your future husband, or your friendships, or your relationship with God, or if people will like you, or how good or strong of a person you are.  

Instead, in every situation, by prayer and petition (or supplication, the kind of prayers where we let God know what we need), with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

"Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough."
-Francis Chan

It's not that we aren't supposed to think about the future at all.  In fact, over and over again, we're told to keep our mind's eye fixed on Jesus' return, and our homecoming to Heaven, where our lasting citizenship lies.  But it's how we look at the future that matters.  Do we look at it through the lens of trying to figure out what's going to happen and how we're going to handle it?  Do we look at it with the thought of, "Well just in case God decides not to act, I will....."?

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."
-Hebrews 11:6

That is how worry and anxiety come to fill up our souls, to take over our minds and make our lives miserable.  The key to living without fear of the future, to look forward and still battle away worry and anxiety, is to look forward prayerfully.  Not living it out in our heads in our own strength, or over-planning, but by praying.  By bringing that issue that's nagging at our minds, however big, small, strange, terrifying, or petty it may be, straight up to God.  Laying it at His feet in trust.  Because you see, He is sovereign.  Omnipresent.  Always there, everywhere, eternally and completely in control.  He truly has the whole world in His hands.  Whatever is happening or could happen to you is not a surprise to Him--He doesn't come rushing onto the scene afterward to do damage control and clean up.  His hand is on it all; and it's not your response or ability to circumstances that matters, but your response to His ability.  He cares enough about you to not want you to live your life in anxiety or fear, and He's waiting on you to give those things to Him in trust.

Prayerful looking forward is when we start to feel ourselves stressing out over our next grade, our college choices, that one relationship that is on shaky ground, or even our distant future life choices--and we choose to turn our minds instead to God's perfect sovereignty and love for us.  

"We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.  ...Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love."
-1 John 4:16 & 18

Whatever it is in the future--or the present--that strikes fear and anxiety into your mind, bring it to your Father, the one who created, loved, and paid the price for you to live entirely in Him and His life of freedom.  Look forward prayerfully, with thanksgiving, too--thanksgiving went before God's miracles so many times in Jesus' walk on earth, so thank God in remembrance for what He's already done and in anticipation of what He will do.  Look forward prayerfully and do not be anxious about anything--He's waiting to take those burdens from you.  

"For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does.  He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.
-Psalm 33:4-5


This is my last Faithful Friday post--more explaining about that to come soon!  I want to bring my blog back to a place where I simply spill out my thoughts and what happens in my life, unconfined by a certain time (I'm always late :)) or name.  Don't worry, though, the content of Faithful Fridays--sharing what I and others learn in our personal relationships and walks with Jesus with one another--is something I definitely want to keep up through blogging, and I won't stop sharing those things here!  :)

Have a lovely week and God bless you guys,
Joy :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Faithful Fridays ~ Servant.

Good afternoon, and happy Friday!  :)

Faithful Fridays is a weekly linky party hosted on my blog. I made it so that Christians could have one special day out of the week (Friday) to share something from their walk with Jesus on their blog. If you'd like to participate, write your post, grab the button from the Faithful Fridays page on my blog (so that it will link back here), and come link up at the bottom of this post! :)


"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
-Mark 10:45

Have you ever stopped and thought about that?  Really thought about it?  It's dawned on me afresh lately just how humble Jesus was, just how much of a servant He made Himself in love.  Can you imagine?  God, coming down to the lowness of earth--the very lowest--and living out a very average human life--up until the last three years--in preparation for a horrible death.  And for what?  A world full of people who had turned from Him and would ignore, insult, deny, betray, bash, doubt, ridicule, scorn, beat, and eventually kill Him.  

And yet somehow, He loved them.  Marvelously.  Ferociously.  Sacrificially.  Genuinely.  His love is the kind of love you can take to the bank.  

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Jesus Christ:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross!  

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
-Philippians 2:5-11

The Bible says that Jesus is basically the glue of everything in the world.  He is sustaining all things by his powerful word (Heberews 1:3).  He is the image of the inviible God, the firstborn over all creation (Colossians 1:15).  In Him and for Him, all things were created, in heaven and earth, visible and invisible.  He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).  Not to mention that He's the head of the church, the glorious groom that's coming for His bride, the church, with a major celebration to follow (Colossians 1:18).  To put it plainly, in everything, He has supremacy (Colossians 1:18).  

So Jesus is a pretty big deal, right?  

And yet at the supper table he takes on the position and the appearance of a servant, a common slave.  He kneels at the feet of every disciple and washes their dirty, dusty [man] feet.  

And here's the clincher: Jesus washed Judas' feet.  


I'm not sure why that never dawned on me before.  Perhaps I've heard the story so much that I've become numb to it.  But He knew.  He knew Judas.  The Bible tells us that God knows the heart, or "always knows a person's thoughts" (Acts 15:8).  Jesus knew full well that Judas had been sneaking money out of the money bag (John 12:6).  And He knew full well that Judas would be the one of His close group of followers that would betray Him with a kiss--a kiss that would lead to His death.

And yet He got down on His knees and washed Judas' feet, the perfect picture of humility, kneeling at the feet of, and loving, the man who was technically His enemy.  

"'A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
-John 13:34

We all have enemies.  Not in the sense of them betraying us to death, of course.  But they're the ones that are always bringing us down.  Dragging us into the dirt.  Always making us feel insecure.  Always one-upping us.  Always getting under our skin.  Always ruining our days.  Always bringing out our worst sides.  

Thing is, Jesus loved those people.  He bled and died for them.  The lips that gave His kiss of betrayal were created by Jesus Himself.  The hands that arrested Him, dragged Him into interrogation, flogged Him, and nailed Him onto a cross were created and sustained and powered by Him.  He could have stopped it all at any time; called down armies of angels to slay all His attackers (Matthew 26:53).  But instead, He allowed it all to happen for a greater cause, because He. Loved. Them.  And He calls us to come follow Him and love the same kind of people in the same way--truly, genuinely, humbly, with the kind of love you can bank on.  

It's rough.  It's not the natural response to that kind of person, nor is it the easiest.  But that's what Jesus did, and if we're choosing to follow Him, we have no choice than to do otherwise.  

So today I dare you--no, to clarify, I dare myself--to try it, to have Jesus' mindset in our relationships with others.  You know the person (or people) I'm talking about, the one that makes you want to turn your head and walk away, or maybe on the flip side, walk over and smack them in the face; or maybe they just make you want to throw a fit and go hide in your bedroom.  We're humans; we do that.  But Jesus was a man, too, and He chose to love those kinds of people.  I want to have that same mindset in my relationships with others.  I want to follow His lead.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

{A Sweet Weekend)

Last weekend, my long-time, long-distance best friend came over and spent the weekend with us--she lives almost an hour away from us, so every time we get to be together, we squeal and hug each other at first sight and then make the most of our time!  :)

Now my Christina is getting all grown up, and she left for a summer college program right after she left our house.  *sniff sniff* They just grow up so fast.  ;)

So of course we had to have a photo shoot, and it was just too much fun.  We grabbed the camera, pointe shoes, and a shaky little chair and headed out to the fields.  Christina was able to use some of these for her senior photos, for which I was honored.  :)

The clouds were gorgeous that day.  (But not as gorgeous as Christina. :))

{I said something funny; she's adorable when she laughs.}

{Oh and her shoes are adorable.}

And then Christina took a turn behind the camera rather than in front of it....


It was a super fun time with my long-distance bestie before she set out on her college adventure.  I can't wait to see how my favorite model continues to excel and pretty much just rock at life!  :)  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got that Swing.

Today marks a year and a month since I started taking regular swing dance lessons.  July fifth, 2013.  I had gone to a couple of dances before, but the classes were the official start for me.  I came out of my first class excited, happy, and a bit confused.  It was a challenge, for sure, going from completely independent, choreographed solo or group dances like tap, jazz, and ballet, to partner/social dances in which I essentially had no idea what a guy would throw at me next, and had to follow his lead and depend on his skills to show me what we were going to do next.  I sat at a table with my parents at Baskin Robbins after my first lesson and told them, "This is a completely different ballpark."

But oh, I was in love.

A year later, I'm even more in love with swing, and it's made an indelible mark on so many areas in my life--I'm listening to 40's music when I'm not in class because I've fallen in love with it.  I'm watching Lindy Hop professionals do their thing on YouTube every chance I get.   I'm trying out vintage hairstyles and looking for that perfect swingy, twirly dress (preferably with polka dots, of course).  I'm planning out when I can go swing dancing next.

I didn't know much about swing dancing when I came to that first class--I knew it was typically from the 40's.  I knew my grandma had done a little of it.  I knew a few names--Charleston, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug/East Coast swing.  I knew I'd be dancing with another person, and it could potentially be extremely awkward.  But I had stumbled across a video on YouTube of a swing dance flash mob at the Denver Airport, and I just knew, as a dancer does, that I had to do it.  So I delved into researching where I could learn to swing dance in my area--and living close to Memphis, it wasn't hard to find.

I'll tell you a secret: I'm not a "social" person.  50% introvert?  For sure.  Socially selective?  Yep.  Of course I don't dislike people, but sometimes I'm awkward and it's painful and being home recharges me.  And you know what?  Swing dancing is considered a social dance.  And whereas something like going to a party with a bunch of people I don't know just might be one of the most painfully awkward and unpleasant things I could imagine, I'm not sure I could love this "social dance" any more than I do now.  Maybe it's because dancing has always brought me out of my little shells.  I'm no socialite, but dancing makes me unwind, makes me have fun.  I can't hear music and not dance.  It brings spice to life.  I suppose it's similar to how I find it hard to share my heart and my stories verbally--but give me the pen and the paper and I'll show you my life story.

Swing dancing has always been a way to have fun and feed that love of dancing that's in my soul.  But it's slowly taught me other things, too.  I went through my first few months of swing dancing tense, a little knotted-up ball of nervousness half the time I was dancing.  I wanted to dance well and connect well with the people I was dancing with so badly, and I was hard on myself.  I did a lot of over-thinking.  In the few brief moments when I'd get into a really good dance, I'd open up and be my carefree self, but give me an awkward conversation or a messed-up dance move and I was a goner.  But I've slowly learned to relax; to be myself; to chill out and just be.  I'm learning to stop switching on my "I have to be socially acceptable" mode and to stop putting up my walls of robot politeness, to, instead, simply be the person I am when I walk into the room.  To enjoy it and enjoy the dance and enjoy the people.  Swing dancing has called me out of my comfort zone in many ways.  It continues to do so, and I love it.

Now I welcome the feeling of not knowing what's coming next in a dance.  It's exhilarating, exciting.  Listening and reacting to the music and my partner is a little adventure in its own.

I've fallen in love with a dance that I've realized could be danced by someone who could neither see nor hear; you don't have to see a person dance the steps and learn it from them or hear them give you instructions; they can take you by the hand and make you feel the dance, and I think that's beautiful.

I've fallen in love with a dance that I've realized reflects a relationship with God; as a follower, you can't really know exactly what's coming next.  You fly by the seat of your pants and you take it as it comes.  You trust your partner.  You let him lead.  You have to learn not to panic when something completely new and different and surprising happens, or when he leads you straight into it.  Much as in life, you have to make the decision to go along and make the best of it or else the dance--or life--will stink.  And so many times, just as I struggle with believing that God's still got me, I try to back-lead my partner or guess what he's going to do next. You know what that makes me?  A bad follower.  I'm learning to let him lead and to simply follow.

I was talking to a man the other day who told me, "I wish I had been swing dancing when I was fifteen."  He chuckled.  "I was doing stupid stuff...getting my head rammed into a pole.  I guess swing dancing just wasn't cool when I was a kid."  I laughed.  "Well, I've never really been cool, so...."

Maybe that's why.  Maybe it's that quirky, unique blast into the past that swing dancing provides.  It's not quite like any other dance, and for just a bit, you can almost set yourself in that time, almost like another world, where things were just a bit simpler and just a bit classier, even in the midst of a chaotic, upside-down time upset by war.  I love it.


A little over a year after that first lesson, when I came out confused and exhilarated all at once, I'm still confused and exhilarated sometimes.  I've tried five different kinds of swing dancing, and Charleston & Lindy Hop are still my favorites.  I've fallen in love with another kind of dance.  I helped teach a swing class for the first time last week.  I've met new people and a bit of a new world has opened up for learning to express myself and be my own person, wherever I am and whoever I'm surrounded by.  I love it.  And I can't wait to see where the rest of this swingin' adventure's gonna take me.

Blog Designed by The Single Momoirs