to lay down fears that hold

She was leaning a little forward, her head bent as if she were trying to hear some unfamiliar sound in the distance.

– The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope

I struggle with my fears a lot. Mainly the fear of failure, fears of not being good enough, fears of not being able to get what I think I want.

Sometimes I’m afraid that my blog writing is not good enough and that no one will want to read it. Or that I only think I’m good, and that in reality it doesn’t match up to invisible standards. I suppose that’s stupid, because I do have a very loyal readership. Or that I’ll stop blogging for a while to take care of other matters and then find out that no one wants to read my blog any more once I come back.

Pointless, all of them. But I have to admit that I am really relieved to find out after reading the blog posts of many of my blogger friends that I am not the only one who feels this way. I’m not the only one who struggles with thoughts that her writing isn’t good enough. I’m not the only one who is afraid of losing readers by posting thoughts that people may not want to hear. I’m not the only one who is hesitant to reveal struggles because of alienation — “but what will people think?” I’m not the only one who is afraid that I will get so caught up with the idea of comments and readers and compliments that I will lose myself and the whole point of my blogging somewhere in the mess.

From Blair at Wild and Precious:

I know I might lose followers & comments might be few, but I am set on not letting my days be dictated by numbers. I will break free from blogging rules – my posts might be too long, too personal, uninteresting to the majority of readers, but they will be me.

These bloggers are ones I look up to. I consider their blogs standards of which to aspire to.

I wonder what they were thinking as they typed out their confessions; if they were wondering how many readers would turn away with disgust at the decisions they were making. But instead of regarding them with scorn for their struggles, I feel blessed by their honesty and willingness to share their thoughts.

If anything, I look up to them more.

The knowledge that I am not alone is infinitely encouraging, especially through this blogging journey. I have much to thank for their honesty, because it has helped me.

Everyone struggles. That is a fact of life. But who knows who may be helped by the reassurance that they are not alone in their struggles, and that others have gone through similar experiences and triumphed?

Who knows who may be helped because someone decided to open their heart?

Reader, I just want to let you know something. You are not alone in this. Fear is crippling. It has a tendency to take hold, and once it takes hold, it grows thick roots. It’s nourished by discouragement and failure. But it is a burden which can be laid down.

I am trying to let courage take its place.

What fears will you lay down this year?

Thanks to Ingrid at My Peacetree and Blair at Wild and Precious for their honesty. ❤

*Pictures taken by me.

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God Bless America

God bless America.

Not because we deserve it. But because we need grace. Not because I’m happy with what America’s done, past, present, and future, but because I think we can be huge idiots.

Even though I would shake my head at many of the things that we’ve been involved in, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we should be given up on altogether.

It’s been nine years since that ugly, ugly reality. God bless the victims, their families, and our troops.

And America.

Pictures from Flickr Creative Commons

Contemplation 4

(From four weeks ago. Found it in my drafts box and decided to post it. There’s some good memories here.)

It’s really hard to write uplifting, encouraging posts when I’m not happy with the world around me. When nothing is going right. When I’m not doing too well with the tasks I’m supposed to be good at, like music and writing. When my self-esteem isn’t high, and my self-confidence is at a low.

These days, I’ve been so busy with practicing, and trying to get stuff right, and not getting stuff right, and more practicing, and still not getting stuff right. It’s discouraging.

I need to remind myself that I’m very very thankful to be here. Because I am. I am so glad that I’m here. I’m meeting so many dedicated and like-minded people who are also so talented at their instruments (or composing) in addition to being kind. They are inspiring. Not to mention the really brilliant teachers like Bruce Brubaker or Natalya Antonova. I sat in during a lesson with Ms. Antonova, and I love her. Very firm, but clear corrections and she seemed like quite a kind person. (I still think she might have made me cry, anyway.) I honestly love it here. However, I do feel inadequate. As if my skills aren’t enough, and they aren’t. As if I might never reach where I want to reach. That does worry me.

On the other hand…

I think being around so much maturity (whatever, that sounds weird) is making me grow up a little at a time. I’m trying to do better on the honesty front, at least. It’s making me want to work harder, do things better. I’m still held back by my lack of experience and knowledge, though.

For one thing, I’m learning how to carry on intelligent conversations with people.

But let me tell you, sitting down at a piano and improvising something pretty, if imperfect, is an excellent feeling. Right up there with getting the piece I’m actually supposed to be working on right.

Oh, and I had a day maker. An opera student said to me, “I feel so happy whenever I see you. I see you, and then I just feel so happy and good about life. You make me feel so happy.”

Or something to that effect. It did make me happy.

Gotta love those opera students. 😉

(To clarify, she was not my student. We were both students in different programs in the music festival.)

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

Contemplation 3

I can finally see,
That you’re right there beside me,
I am my not own,
For I have been anew,
Please don’t let me go,
I desperately need you.

From the Matrix:

Morpheus: I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Neo: The Matrix.

Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?

Neo: Yes.

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

Sometimes I feel as if I need something that is more than what I have right now. A certain kind of emptiness, as if there were something missing that I’d either lost a long time ago, or something. Perhaps its absence signifies something that I’ve lost.

And thus, not knowing what the need inside us signifies but feeling it all the same, we actively search for the fulfillment of this unspoken need…

At the end of the day, I desperately need You.

CC license – click photos for artist credit

Contemplation 2

When someone has problems, I am good at the nodding and listening thing. But I wish that I had more wisdom to offer than what I already have.

I wish that my own hands were not bleeding themselves.

But perhaps it is that evidence of suffering that allows me to emphasize and say that despite my own brokenness and inadequacy, or perhaps because of that brokenness and inadequacy, I do understand.

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photo for credits.

Contemplation 1

A friend was talking to me tonight about the expectations she struggled with. Her family and friends at the church she was attending expected her to fit a certain mold — that of a good daughter who studied hard, didn’t take drugs, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink or party, and who was kind to other people.

Then there was the other side of her — who wanted to do those things. To rebel, perhaps to prove that she didn’t have to fit into that mold if she didn’t want to fit into it. A mold that she was so desperately tired of trying to fit into.

She was tired of feeling like a square peg in a round hole.

But in escaping that hold, she was in danger of finding yet another mold that she didn’t fit into — a mold that would prove unhealthy. After all, playing the rebel is only fun until you find yourself waking up in a hospital after wrapping your car around a tree.

Her feelings echoed my own, at the worse of times. Who hasn’t felt, at some point, that they were trying to be someone they couldn’t ever be?

Maybe this is the right thing to do, in any case. Don’t think about what everyone expects you to do. You’ll run into contradictions. You won’t be able to please everybody.

Think, instead, about the right thing to do. And do it.

Maybe it’ll be easier than you think it is.

CC license on flickr – click photo for photographer credit