This post feels long overdue; the events referenced here happened several weeks ago, but I really haven’t had time to chronicle everything until now. Even so, attempting to tie everything together into a coherent whole has proved challenging. Telling the whole story would be tedious and impossible, but I sure tried (and it probably ended up being both anyway, even though it feels like I left out half of it). I didn’t journal during this time, but to avoid confusion in tenses, I present it in that form here to you, and I apologize that it rambles like one.
Honestly, this is more for me to look back on later, when the lessons that these experiences imprinted so firmly on my mind have faded some. But I do hope that you find something in this mess of thoughts and events that edifies and encourages you in one way or another, despite the poor, poor writing quality and lengthiness. Here it is:
Wednesday, April 11th
Ever felt stretched beyond your limit? Like you didn’t have enough hours in a day — in a week even — to meet everything being required of you?
So many things loom over my head right now, like massive giants waiting for me to slay them or perish in the attempt. Lately, the foremost among them has been my monster senior project (“Martial Arts Integration”). Theoretically, I’ve been working on this all year, but I haven’t been too diligent recently on keeping up with the daily progress thing… Thank goodness I was able to finish the 25 page paper aspect of it today (handed it in just in the nick of time too). Honestly though, that was probably the easy part. The hour-long presentation and defense before my panel (which is coming up in a few weeks) isn’t my worry right now either. It’s the actual project. Writing and talking about martial arts is one thing; actually performing it is another entirely.
For this project, I’m supposed to create a martial arts demonstration (which, by the way, will be doubling as my skit for my black belt test in a few weeks) and film it so I can present it. I only have two partners, but getting together to practice has been difficult to say the least; we’ve mostly only met one-on-one so far because of schedule collisions all over the place (for starters, both of them are already helping another person also doing his black belt skit; then there’s schoolwork…). Add to that my Broadway show that’s happening next weekend (which translates into rehearsals all next week, practically every evening), a few other events and projects looming ahead, and I’m toast…
The scary thing is that my parents are probably feeling as worn-out as I am right now. With my grandmother in the hospital for gall bladder problems (she’s had multiple surgeries already; hopefully she can go home soon), between my dad’s job and my mom’s crazy real estate business (she’s closing four settlements this month alone, while still helping all her other clients), they’ve had to take turns with my grandfather staying overnight at the hospital. I’ve been watching them slowly burning out all week…
Lord, please just give us strength. We need it right now…
Friday, April 13th
My chances of completing my senior project were shaky before; now, they’ve been crushed. Since I’m out every evening next week for show rehearsals and both my partners are public-schooled (can’t meet in the mornings or afternoons), we determined that we had no other time before my presentation (next next Monday) to film the demonstration; it had to be tonight, regardless of how ready we were.
That didn’t happen. Tonight was the first time we’d ever gotten the chance to run the entire thing all the way through (I think it was only the second time all three of us had been able to get together), and it was nothing short of disastrous. Between now and that presentation, we literally don’t even have a time window we can get together to film it, much less practice enough to smooth it out. Academically or otherwise, if ever I’ve felt despair before, it has been in the tears of frustration threatening to break loose right now. I’m at a complete loss… and yet something inside me keeps reminding me that God has been good to me. He knows what He’s doing, even if I haven’t a clue…
I still don’t know what to do about that project, but at least I know that I’m in good Hands… If I fail my senior project because I don’t have one to present and I don’t graduate… so be it. I just pray something will work out so that doesn’t have to happen. I really hope that doesn’t have to happen.
Shoot… peer reviews for my show next week are due today at midnight. I have a full day tomorrow; fundraiser for my senior class in the morning, and two shows to go watch in the evening, which I’m really excited to see, especially the second one; several precious friends will be performing, some for the last time (senior year!). But however stupid I’m being, I have to finish those peer reviews tonight. It’s my last chance to communicate to my fellow cast members; to congratulate, bring up inside jokes, encourage, and say goodbye. However long it takes me, I’m going to finish them, even if it kills me…
Saturday, April 14th
Stayed up until 2am last night, finishing those peer reviews… Maybe that was a mistake, though I’m not entirely sure I regret it. I guess I don’t regret the decision, but I sure regret the consequences… And it was probably a mistake helping out with that fundraiser today; should’ve just stayed home and slept.
My grandmother came home from the hospital today, so that’s a praise. But as one burden was lifted off of my parents’ shoulders, another tumbled heavily on. Earlier today, while I was driving home from the fundraiser to get ready to go see those shows, I fell asleep on the road.
It all happened so quickly; I jolted back awake, swerved back toward the road and narrowly avoided a telephone pole, reentered the road and completely lost control of the vehicle. I skidded across the entire street, and landed on the other side backwards in a tangle of weeds (which probably kept the car from flipping over). Thankfully, the air bag didn’t deploy in my face, and the car wasn’t so far back in the ditch I couldn’t escape; I was able to get out pretty easily, a little shaky… but alive. I hadn’t been jolted, scratched, or touched a single bit through the whole ordeal, and incredibly, though it was usually a fairly busy street, no cars had been coming through as I’d skidded across.
My first thought exiting that car was that I was alive. The second thought came after I looked back at my car stuck where it was and thinking, Lord, what have I done… Then came, What in the world will my parents do with this mess? and perhaps the most bitter of all… This is the last thing I need right now.
Thinking about the possible damages (and the accompanying costs…) for the car gave me especial dread, because I knew my parents were going through enough already. And now I had to go and do something like this… I knew it was foolish and selfish… but I almost wished that I had been injured, or something to punish me for my stupidity for not pulling over and taking a nap after such a late night, to always remind me to never be so stupid again… Being dead right now would certainly spare me from this mess of calling the insurance company, dealing with the car issues, calling my parents…
But no… I knew that was the talk of a self-centered fool. Would my death (or injury for that matter) make things any easier for anyone else in my life right now? Would I be sparing them any trouble or grief? No… I knew that for a fact. And so, I thanked God that I was alive, and in the mess of insurance calls and trying to contact my family in the hour or so that followed, that truth stayed in the back of my mind.
Eventually, with much help from the local residents and the police, the car was towed and the officer told me that he’d drop me off at their local headquarters so I could be picked up (he couldn’t leave a minor on the street alone). I made a few phone calls (I left my mom a message telling her what happened, and when I called back and got to talk to her, she was not happy; she seemed pretty upset with me and I guess I deserved it, though I was hoping for a little more sympathy… ), and it was determined that my dad would be able to come get me there.
(By the way, while waiting by the roadside, by some miracle a friend of mine heading to the shows that evening was driving by and saw me. He and his sister stopped and we talked for a bit, and though they couldn’t help me by giving me a ride (not legally anyway), it was so good to see a familiar face; it made it much less surreal.)
Hopefully that’s the last time I ever ride in the back of a police car. But it was a ride to remember. Words from a post I’d read a few days ago came back to me… And as we drove to that police station, I looked out that window and saw God’s grace. Every open field, every tree, every leaf — everything I saw became a reminder of that bountiful, undeserved, all-sufficient grace. I rode to the station with eyes newly opened. Reading that post several days ago had already started me on the right track, but nothing accelerates you quite the way a car accident can. Then again, I suppose “accident” is the wrong word to use; more like miracle.
The officer dropped me off on the deserted front step of the police station and left. Inside, the station was just as empty (and much darker), so I waited outside. And I prayed hard to my God, thanking Him for protecting me, confessing my foolishness in overextending myself, singing praises to Him, and a million other things that I can’t rightly recall now.
My dad picked me up, but as he started to take me home, I realized something; I had already missed the first show that night, but the second show… the one I had friends in… I could still make it if I wanted to. I asked my dad what he thought; he made it clear he thought I should just go home and sleep, and that I was being ridiculous for wanting to go “continue my party life.” That hurt, but I tried to explain that I felt that the best gift I could give my friends (especially the ones who were graduating) was to go see their show.
But he still took me home. Besides, he was tired too (and understandably so). But then I found out something that gave me even greater hope; my older brother was about to leave for the theater, and he offered to bring me with him. And I was so tempted to go…
But the more I wrestled with it… the more I couldn’t get away from the conviction that to honor my parents, especially my dad, I should stay home. That was the conclusion I had to keep coming back to so… I stayed home. I don’t consider myself the kind of person who cries easily but… I was in tears that night, though I’m sure everything else that was happening in my life had something to do with that. But I stayed home, doing nothing in particular, talking some with my parents (which is a whole other story in and of itself; I talked to my mom, and she explained that she had been so upset because, well… she had trusted me to drive safely and I had broken that trust, but she was glad I was okay…), and praying for my friends in their show every time I looked at the clock.
I heard later that it was a really great show, one of their best yet. I was glad to hear that. I don’t regret my decision… though perhaps I deeply regret missing that show all the same. But maybe staying home came with a blessing of its own. My mom gave me the solution to my senior project filming dilemma. There actually was a time between now and the presentation we could film the skit: Saturday, the morning between my two shows (on Friday night and Saturday night). It was a crazy idea, but it was something…
I went to bed that night reflecting on a good many things; the way God had protected me (and the other drivers on that road), the friends on the roadside who came out of the blue, the way I’d been safely brought to the police station and safely brought home, the way my eyes had been opened that ride, the time of worship I had with Him on those deserted front steps, having parents who loved me and who would have missed me, the fact that I had missed the show, but my friends had had a great show nonetheless — I went to bed knowing more fully that God is good than I had when I’d woken up that morning.
Monday, April 16
God is so gracious… I don’t deserve a mite of His love, and yet… how do I explain?
Well first, the car is actually completely drivable! Besides a completely busted tire and a slightly cracked headlight (that was probably there before), everything seemed fine when we picked it up from the towing company today. That’s such a huge load off my mind, and certainly off my parents’ as well.
But more importantly, this whole experience has shown me… how loved I am. I sent out an email the night it happened, simply asking for prayer from friends who are dear to me. The responses I got warmed my heart… Sharing the news at church, too, revealed the same to me. God has given me so many people who just… love me. Even though I know I don’t deserve it. I wish I could go into the details of that love, but well… that would take a while.
That’s just like God… He takes an experience that I labeled as “the last thing I needed”… and turned it into a blessing. How the heck He does it I don’t really know, but I’m humbled and I’m grateful.
I’m glad that I sent that email… I’m definitely still in need of prayer. This week is rehearsal week for me, and frankly I don’t know how I’ll have the strength to get up each morning after the evening of rigorous rehearsal before it (and preparing for that senior project presentation during the day). And then Saturday morning, my partners and I have to find enough energy somehow to get that project filmed… I’m hoping and praying for strength to keep bouncing back.
[skip a few days]
Saturday, April 21st
Obviously, I can’t go into all the details, but somehow God did it again…
Each morning I woke up, and I consciously felt that God was sustaining me. Despite the full days and the late nights, I’ve been bouncing back all right (sometimes I think God made me out of rubber). I think those prayers have been at work as well…
In all honesty, I was more worried for this show than any other I’d ever been in. It was just not working out well in terms of flow, pacing, and so on (on our first run-through, we ran nearly three times as long as we were supposed to). But as the week progressed, God showed up in a mighty way and it just got better and better… Pretty soon we were at showtime, and we just went at it with such energy and focus that frankly, I couldn’t have asked for more. Everyone informed me that it was a great show, and based on what I got to see myself from the wings, I believe them.
One of the things I love the most about my drama organization is that it is a house of prayer. Every year, God works wonders in the endless logistics and details of our shows, and our director never fails to remind us to thank Him for all He’s done. It makes such a difference in all we do…
As for the filming of the project… well, that was quite a mixed bag. God answered my prayers; the weather was very nice (we were doing it outside), we got the mats we needed, and energy-wise we weren’t nearly as bad as I had feared. But at the same time, there were so many little factors that we never could’ve anticipated that just made everything so much more difficult. For instance, as the afternoon went on, that beautiful sun began shining down with a vengeance. And I kid you not, the mats we were working on heated up like a stove and our feet were burning on it. I don’t think any of us actually had blistered feet afterward, but Lord knows that’s what it felt like.
In short, though we probably improved at least 300% from last Friday, the results, in my opinion, were still awfully unsatisfactory. We had many sloppy and plain bad performance moments. My older brother has graciously agreed to salvage what we have and edit the best of what we got into one video, but because of some camera placement issues, he doesn’t have very much to work with.
All in all, what an ordeal… I went to bed wondering… if this is how it turned out after I’d covered it in prayer, I don’t want to imagine what it might have been like if I hadn’t prayed at all! Then again, perhaps it would have been just as grueling and difficult either way; I don’t know. All I can conclude is that God never promised things would be easy, even after we’ve lifted our work before Him in prayer. Sometimes, we still get whupped.
Wonder how that presentation’s going to turn out on Monday…
Monday, April 23rd
Once again, God shows His goodness and mercy; as usual it seems, with a highlight on the power of prayer…
My senior class is tiny; only five of us total (last week, two people did their presentations and the other three of us went today). But I love my class so much… Before each person’s presentation, the respective person presenting would be a nervous wreck, in varying degrees; sometimes with tears, sometimes simply with groans of anxiety. And the rest of us gathered around that person and just lifted her to the Lord, asking for calmed nerves, for ease of speech and memory, for no technical problems, and ultimately, for God to be glorified. The Lord answered our prayers, and each presentation went off beautifully.
For my presentation, I had prepared this great big analysis at the end explaining why I believed I’d partly failed my project because of the serious flaws in my video (lack of smoothness, flow, intensity, etc.), but I never got to it; I ran out of time. And everyone seemed to like the video, even though there were several seasoned martial artists among them. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I didn’t get to that analysis, that I never got to confess the weaknesses of my project. Or maybe it’s just another grace…
(By the way, in case you’re wondering, a few of the martial artists in my audience did tell me that they had seen the flaws, but I was able to redeem the demonstration a week later when I did it again for my black belt test; it improved about 500x over, and my head sensei said he was pleasantly surprised how well it had turned out, considering how little practice time we’d been able to squeeze out).
And now I’m done… There are so many things running through my head and my heart right now, but all I can say is this: God be praised, God be thanked, God be glorified…
I could go on to describe how everything else turned out, but I’d never know when to stop.
Suffice to say that I have learned much through the Strangeness of the past few weeks; about taking refuge in the God who gives me strength, on trusting Him even when things turn out quite differently from what I’d hoped for, and especially on the abundance, the unsurpassability, and the all-sufficiency of His unspeakable grace.
I also got an unique opportunity to see how I am loved… The love and support of my friends, especially through encouraging notes and prayer, has overwhelmed me… And as one of my dearest friends reminded me, no matter how much she or anyone one else on this earth tries to love me, they can’t outdo the One whose love extends as high as the heavens are above the earth for those who fear Him. My friends love me so much — God still loves me more. That humbled me greatly, because I’ve also seen a little more clearly through this experience that I don’t deserve that love at all. I suppose that’s why we call it amazing grace…
To all those who encouraged and strengthened me during this time, and especially to all those who prayed, however much or little: You have my deepest, deepest thanks. Your prayers were the wind beneath my wings those crazy two or so weeks… You have no idea how much I appreciate and love each one of you. Thank you so much…
There’s more that I could say, but it’s better for me to stop now. Thank you for reading, however much or little you endured (if you skimmed this entire post, I totally understand; it’s literally 3x longer than anything else I’ve ever posted, which is saying something). Thanks again, and I hope to be back with some more writing soon!