Changing, growing, learning...

This is a quote I like. From a fictional book.

      "But now, although I am still young in years, I am no longer young in understanding. I have loved and suffered. I have discovered that the sun still shines without him, that the wind still blows, and that there is poetry still in life, though I have found it where least I looked for it. I have learned to look beneath the surface of things, and now, I believe, that the differences that lie between us are a good, rather than an evil, for you have a great deal to show me; not just picnics and parties, enjoyable as they are, but matters of deeper import, too. 
      ...I have been born to an extraordinary fate, have I not?"

-- Marianne Dashwood


New Look

Yep... I know autumn is almost over, but my sister took this incredibly magical picture of me a couple days ago and I looked at it and said, "That is going to be my header." So there it is.

End of story.



Engulfed by night, we raised our voice,
"The sun will rise; it has no choice!

God's strength is ours. We must prevail!
His love and power cannot fail."

We clung to hope, and still we wait –
For at His voice, the storms abate.

Press on! Recall His faithfulness.
The sun will rise; You will find rest.

-me, 11.1.12


'Young' they call me

In the past seven days, I have grown up a lot.

In the months after Josh died, I felt like I did more growing up than the rest of my teenage years together. And I believe I did. But this past week I have grown up even more. Let me try to summarize it.

To find blessing out of what you thought was a curse. To be overcome by words you never thought you'd hear. To survive a plunge through darkness and come out whole. To accept what's broken, only because of your own frailty. To shatter your own pride enough to do something you never, ever would dare to. To share deep sorrow. To be open, vulnerable. To die. To live. To forgive. To love.

Yes. It has been a huge week.

But then, a few days ago, as I sat staring out at our wind-chimes... I realized I have my whole life ahead of me. Here I am, feeling as if I've felt every emotion there is to feel... and I'm only 19.

So sometimes I feel young, so young. So naive and sheltered. And then, on further reflection, I realize that I am so much less naive than I used to be. And I feel old. Childhood feels so far away. I feel like a woman, not a girl. And I am a woman, I am. Yet still I am young.

Perhaps, after all, there is no contradiction. Maybe I just like to have something to ponder about... hmm.

That being said, I will leave you to finish pondering it for me. I must move on to life... yes, life. Life is such a confusing thing sometimes. But in the end, it doesn't matter if it's confusing now, because whatever it is, it does have a purpose. God is quite intricately involved in things. It's a mystery, and an incredibly happy thought. Because he is so good. So, so good.

Hmm... I'm feeling dreadfully pondersome. But I said I would finish, so I will. Good day.


The Path

That is what I will call it.

The Path stands before us humans. It leads through dark, light, beautiful, murky, sharp, smooth, difficult and serene. This path has been written about so much that everyone is sure they know it by heart. But they are all wrong. It is much, much harder and much more beautiful than they think.

Some approach it with much caution. Perhaps too much, because they are afraid. They are afraid of injury. They are afraid to put all of their energy into climbing up the hills because the view at the top just might not be worth it. Worst of all, they could fall, and then be both injured and greatly drained of precious energy.
Some of these mask their fear with piety. They claim that those rough cliffs and steep ravines and raging rivers don't need to be traversed through at all. "After all," they say, "only the fool-hardy would rush into un-needed dangers such as these."
How blind they are. Do they expect the hills to just level out for them? Yet deep down inside, they have just as much fear as those who don't mask it.

Before you scorn these people altogether, let me tell you that they are right to be wary of the danger. Their caution is good, for they could very well be deeply wounded. Their mistake lies in their conclusion about the danger - whatever is on the other side is not worth the risk of getting there.

So let us see what these fearful people do. Before they even take a step, they take account of the risks and purpose to avoid them. Then they begin, walking along delicately, not wanting their feet to get dirty. At the first sign of a danger, they stop. "I could be injured badly," they say, "Therefore, I will be wise and guard my life."

Therefore, they do not live. They miss the excitement of getting dirty, fording the river and trekking up the hill to see the majestic mountain peaks and rambling meadows and deep dark forests. They miss the pain and sorrow of injury, but they gain the sorrow of never having seen anything. They do not die, but they do not live.

So they turn around, walk back and look for another path which they hope will not hold these dangers. But they will not find that. You cannot see anything beautiful without risk. So they will either continue searching forever, in an endless, fruitless circle... or become so frustrated that they bitterly give up ... or finally realize that perhaps, after all, the risk might be worth it.

Then there are other types.
There are the sort who are bold and wild and reckless. They are afraid of nothing. They run along the path, tripping and scraping themselves up - oh, but it is so worth it! They feel everything to the fullest. They dive headlong into the stream, they climb the rugged cliff with abandon -

And they fall.

Suddenly they are broken and in pain. Their energy is spent. They can hardly walk on their injured legs. Angry and sorrowful, they crawl into a little cave to mourn their loss. And they will either sit their forever, just as bitter as the meek ones... or they will one day raise their head, stand on their shaky legs, and find the courage to enter the world again.

These wild ones were wounded before they had hardly seen anything. Why? Because they were afraid of nothing. The dangers were real and they disregarded that fact for the sheer thrill. Therefore, they did live - but the constant pain they now endure was not worth the short amount of freedom and abandon.

So what are we to conclude? Both types are unwise in different ways. Therefore, let us follow the meek one, who is slowly becoming more courageous - who decides to take a risk after all - or, if you'd like, the bold broken one who is finally ready to attempt the journey again, though with much more care.

They approach a river. It is rushing, fast. The meek one feels herself start to tremble. Can she really do this? Yes, she must, if she can find a way. The bold one easily pictures himself jumping in like he would've done before... but no, he must think this through.
So they walk along the path until they find a place where it narrows. Here, with a very big jump, one could make it across. It is not entirely safe; no that it can never be. But it is considerably wiser, realizes the bold one, than trying to jump across where he was before. It simply took a little longer walk. No, it was still a risk, but one that could be accomplished.

The meek one whispers a prayer. The bold one backs up to get a running start. And then they jump.

The bold one stands panting, on the other side. He is a bit scratched, but he doesn't notice. The thrill of the jump washes over him and he grins. Then he turns and jogs through the forest, which is becoming more and more beautiful with every step.
The meek one stands slowly, in awe. Was that all? Yes, it was frightening... but now it was over, and look. Look at the beautiful golden forest ahead of her. Tears rise to her eyes as she realizes she's finally where she's always dreamed of being. It was so worth the risk.
And as for the bold one... he too is taking a moment to take it all in. It breathtakingly gorgeous - so much moreso than the quick glances he got at beauty during his former days of rashness. It was worth the caution.

And so the tale ends. Not with perfection, but with resolve. The path continues. More wounds, challenges and sweeping sights wait for the travelers. But they are ready now. With God's help, they are ready.

The path is not for the faint of heart. Neither is it for the reckless.

It is for those who note the risk, say a prayer, and take it on. With fear, perhaps, but with determination and wisdom. And there lies is a thrill you can't afford to miss.

Trust me.


Read this.

I think this is the first time I've done this.... but go read this. It's brilliant.




...what a mysterious and beautiful thing it is. Please take a moment and read THIS. It's worth it.

My sister is getting married in four days. In fact, I really don't have time to be writing a blog post right now, but I am. I always seem to write these at inconvenient times...

I guess I just wanted to say, Tianna, I am so proud of you. I am so proud of all you have been through, all you are becoming, all you are learning and will continue to. You are taking a huge step of faith. You are realizing what really matters. You are opening your heart and finding that life hurts, people mess up, but with God on the throne things will always end beautifully. Wow. I just love you so much, sister!!

Andrew... thank you for loving my sister. Seeing you guys together is so right, and I love the way Tianna lights up when she looks at you. You are so loving and patient with her, yet I love how you correct her gently when need be. You are going to be an incredible leader to her and Lord willing, your children. I am so excited for you and proud of you as well, brother. I am blessed to know you. :)

Yeah... now that I'm feeling all sentimental, I think I'll go write my Maid of Honor toast!


Swallowed up in Life

"Hello, this is Ariel being random. It's July 14, on the roof again. Only this time I'm watching the most incredible sunrise. WOW. I don't even want to look down at this page.

There's golden light, magical, glowing, thick around around the mountain where the sun is peaking. As I look around, I see it creeping onto various places, graciously sharing its glory. A leaf here, a branch there, a fence, a chimney - all bathed in miraculous gold light.

Oh! It has reached me. Now I can hardly look at the sun! Hmm. I just closed my eyes, and imagined being wrapped up in the sun's rays. Taking it on as my own, letting it encompass me in its magnificence, and warmth... being swallowed up by beauty, light and joy... yet not losing myself. Only becoming more myself. Taking the beaming light as my own, yet never diminishing the source. What a glorious thought! 

And all the more thrilling when I think that this will truly happen to me! I can hardly wait, but it feels like I will have to wait a lifetime until that happens. Perhaps I will, but yet one of my dear friends has already experienced it! What glory. What a wordlessly overwhelming, passionate, exhilarating experience. Thank you, Jesus, for making it mine! How blessed I am, how undeserving. To be swallowed up in Life... I shall yearn for the day all my life."


"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." (2 Cor 5:1-4)

Oh glorious day ... what more can I say? 

Photo by Anne Mikael Photography


Seeing the Face of GOD

(as you read this, play this song.)

Ever thought about it? Not much? Yeah, me neither.


There is basically nothing better. Everything beautiful that we see, whether it be a brilliant red rose, a pair of piercing eyes, a snow-capped mountain or a intricately-carved cathedral ... it's not even worth comparing. Shouldn't we at least be excited about it? Ponder it once or twice a week, at least? It it a lack of imagination? Why don't we desire it? Frankly, what on earth is our problem?!

I think we'd like to say it's because we can't imagine it. At first thought, it sounds perfectly true - "I have no idea what God's face would look like!"

Tell me. Have you never seen anything truly beautiful? Never looked up at the sky when it holds a full moon, watched a sunset from your roof, seen the foaming ocean, or beheld deep love in someone's eyes? The world is pulsing with beauty. Every single one of those things is like a little bit of God. What if we could combine all the gorgeous things we could think of into one single intensely beautiful thing? It would be unbelievably stunning. We'd probably hardly be able to look at it. The face of the one who created beauty itself will be a thousand times more breath-taking. In fact I think I'd drop dead right then and there from sheer awe. It's not wonder God says that no one can see him and live.

So then, perhaps it is possible to imagine it, albeit to a very small extent. I'm going to challenge myself to this, and you as well: the next time you see something gorgeous, stop and think, "Hey ... someday I'm going to behold the face of God, and it is going to be like this, only more incredible."

You know, Faces are one of the most beautiful things on earth. Especially the eyes. It's what we think at the first thought of a person. The face. So how about God's face? The most intimate, emotional, personal part of him... ah, I'm blowing my mind.

But I'm not done yet. You know, sights are beautiful, but what about emotions, music, or even sensations? Yeah, seeing something mind-blowing would be awesome, but what about the other senses? Why should seeing something be the biggest bang?

Well God is the creator of all those other senses, isn't he? God is not just a sight. In fact, that's all we don't do here on Earth - see him. We can hear him in a beautiful symphony, we feel him in a hug. I've posted about this before, but when I get a strong emotion, it's one of the closet things to describing God for me. He is much more than sight. On Earth, things are disconnected. A sunset has no music. A feeling has no sight. A touch has no sound. But in Heaven? I bet it's all packaged together.

So let's add to our picture. Let's add the sound of thunderous fireworks echoing off surrounding mountains, and a beautiful, soaring voice singing. The roar of the ocean. The rich softness of a cello. A chorus of birds. The majesty of Zimmer's "Run Free."

Now the touch. A soft, fuzzy blanket. The exhilarating shock of falling into cold water. A lover's gentle caress. Sand between your fingers. Wind in your hair.

How about taste and smell? I'm pretty sure seeing the face of God has never been likened to enjoying a fresh, hot piece of pizza ... but that's a pleasurable sensation! Or a cold drink running down your throat. How about the smell of lilacs, or of rain?

And now emotions. The quiet and effortlessly warm feeling of joy and the flying, spinning feeling of bliss. Heart-pounding adrenaline. The wild, fresh, reckless feeling of standing on a roof in a storm.

Are you looking forward to seeing the face of God yet?

In 1 Timothy it says God"dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see." Wow. Okay, I have to admit that gets me excited. Can't you just imagine that swirling, exploding, pulsating, cacophonous flow of light emanating from and encompassing Him? Incandescent, blinding, searing. Nothing less will do, for the King of kings. People, this is huge. This is the experience to top all others. In the words of Randy Alcorn, not only will we see his face and live...

We will likely wonder if we ever lived before we saw his face.


Grace is changing me

Hello, everyone. I'm sorry it's been so long since I've posted.

Things have changed. I've been re-reading old posts... like Waiting. Wow. I read that with a heavy, heavy feeling inside. I remember so well that dead, crushed feeling I had when I wrote that. It kind of comes back when I read it, the feeling that nothing matters... of waiting for happiness to come again.

I'm not there anymore. Thanks to my mighty, beautiful, wonderful King. He has had so much mercy on me. It's unbelievable.

I'd have to say, it's really encouraging to watch myself, in a way, go through this as I read through this and my journal. I find it amazing how God gave me the courage to say "I know good will come of this! I know God will come to rescue!" ... when I had no proof or assurance that he would. Just blind trust. And you know what's even more encouraging? That he did.

God is working in me ... I don't see it very well, but I know it's happening. He is rescuing me and showing me a little more each day, why Josh died.

I visited his grave a couple weeks ago, by myself. The whole visit felt like a 1-hour rerun of the past few months. As soon as I saw his grave, again, I began to cry. My heart broke all over again. I knelt in front of the mound of earth and just cried blankly. Then I began to talk to him. My emotions took the journey that I have. More and more trusting God. More and more seeing good. More and more love, more joy, more hope with each day.
By the time I stood up, I was smiling. Yes, I was smiling at my dear, dear friends grave. How does that even work? Well, God does work in mysterious ways. So I kept smiling. I knew it was right, that everything was okay. In fact, that everything was beautiful, just not in the way I thought it would be. So I said, "goodbye," turned and walked down the path. With hope.

Here is an incredible example for you of the grace God has had on me. The fact that I don't wish Josh would come back. I actually mean that. Yes, I miss him badly and I would love to see him ... but that isn't the way it's supposed to be. There is a reason God took him, and I wouldn't change it.
Maybe this sounds obvious, but for many weeks I could not honestly say I wouldn't take him back. God, in his great mercy, has empowered me to honestly say, "Thank you for taking Josh." There is so much pain, but so much beauty through all this that I wouldn't have it any other way. That is hard to say, but I would make a very poor god. Jesus knows exactly what he's doing.

So that's where I am! Again, I want to thank you so much for your prayers. It means a lot to me. Please, don't stop praying, there are many others who are still hurting badly. Like I said, God has had what seems to be an extra dose of grace on me, perhaps because I am so very weak.

Anyway, that's all... I love you guys. God is so, so good. Don't ever forget it!


Flying in the Wind

At the top of the cliff I was given a mission: Get to the bottom.

So here I am, very carefully climbing down on a nice safe rope, when God said something to me.

"Hey, Ariel. If you let go of that rope, you're going to get to the bottom a lot faster."

I pause. I blink. "Uhh ... that sounds kinda dangerous."

"Only if you were by yourself. You're not."

I feel my hand tightening around my rope. "But, God, that would mean I would be falling. Like, free falling. With no rope. That's scary."

"I know."

"Um, I don't know what's at the bottom."

"I do."

Well, yeah. But that doesn't mean I'm going to like what it is.

God's voice again. "Can you trust me?"

Can I?

Suddenly the rope is pulled away. I start falling, terrified. I reach out toward the rope, clutching desperately.

"Lord! My rope! Don't you know I need that?" I've never lived without my rope. He can't take it away now! I'm falling! Where is God?

...Oh. He's the one who took the rope away. Helplessness overwhelms me. I begin to get mad. How could He do this without telling me? I don't know how to live without it - I'm completely ... completely...


I cry and scream, bouncing between fear and anger. Soon I am completely exhausted. The rope is always too far away, no matter how I reach for it. I'm still falling, falling, falling. For a moment I turn silent, panting, staring at the rope hopelessly.

I hear something. What is that...? I realize it is a voice. A still, small Voice. He was there the whole time, wasn't he? I just couldn't hear Him over my own panicked cries.

And so I listen. God speaks to me, encourages me, tells me He loves me, tells me this is His plan. Every once in a while fear rises in my chest and I once again clutch at the rope. But it's so far away now it's pointless. An idea begins to form in my mind. (At least it seemed that I formed it; most likely it was planted here...)

Slowly, hesitantly, I look up. The sight takes my breath away. Clouds shift and smear across the sky in beautiful patterns, trying to hide a stunning blue. The sun shines bright - suddenly I can feel it on my skin. Warm, beautiful.

Something inside me seems to come alive. I close my eyes and for the first time, I smile. Wow. This is amazing. I can feel the air rushing around me, cold and magnificent. The rush of wind in my ears. Suddenly I feel reckless, daring. I'm falling. I'm actually free falling! What an exhilarating feeling this is!

I hear a soft laugh; it's my God. "You're enjoying it, aren't you?"

My heart is beating fast and energetically. "Yes," I say, in awe. "I am. I can't believe I am."

The rope doesn't matter. I don't even look for it. I simply enjoy the wild feeling of falling - but no. It's not falling. It's flying.

Flying in the wind!


More questions

"Why is it so cold when the sun is out?"

What a profound statement. I made it myself. I know, I know, I'm just so amazing. Okay, humorless joking aside, let me tell you about this.

I went to the park. It was somewhat cloudy but there was sunshine. And yet it was freezing cold. I asked that question aloud, to no one in particular. Then its profundity and impact hit me like a ice cube down my back. (Sorry, that was a ridiculous analogy but I couldn't think of anything better.)

Why does life hurt so much when God is in control and I know that? Why do I feel pain so often when God is by my side? I should be totally happy right now, because I've been redeemed, because God is on the throne, because He's there for me and loves me and etc. and the list goes on. It doesn't make any sense, does it?

The sun is out, but somehow it's still really, really cold. Just another oddity of life.
Huh - note something interesting. It didn't make me feel any warmer to know that if the sun were not there, I would be frozen and completely dead right now, as would everything else. I'll let you fill in that analogy.

Thanks for reading.


His eye

     It hits every once in a while.

     A picture, a word, him saying "Rolling camera one"... it just hits. Hard.
     A beautiful black and white close-up of his eye. Eyes hold life only for such a short period of time. His eye, the eyelashes and skin around it, all decompose so quickly. But once his eye, his skin and bones, held a soul within them. Now that soul is somewhere else. Never again will that soul look at me through those eyes. Not quite those same eyes.

     And just knowing that, that once his soul did look at me, or speak to me, or give me a high-five... that makes the pain hit. The squeezing beneath my ribcage, deep and clenching. And I close the picture of his eye. I take a deep breath. I return to work.

     It hits every once in a while.


A bit of randomness

So I've got a nice collection of random things for you today.

1. For the Beauty of the Earth. I'd say most of us have sung the hymn before. But just this last Sunday as we sang it, I looked at the lyrics. Like really looked. They are simply incredible! I'm amazed I never noticed before... I guess that happens to a lot of hymns. Anyway, listen to the fourth verse.

        For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

And it struck me with new meaning, as a lot of things have since May 5. Friends above. Why does it say friends above? It is a cause of excitement to some degree, that I have a dear friend who is right now probably talking to Jesus! So when I'm singing that verse, I'm essentially thanking God for friends above - thanking God that Josh is in Heaven. Wow.

2. A dear friend and I discovered last night our new favorite snack. We had had penne spaghetti for dinner and the leftover noodles were sitting on the table, along with the warm red sauce. We both were thinking the same thing... and did it. It's awesome! You take a happy penne noodle, dip it into the sauce and yummm! Yeah, so maybe it's ridiculous considering we could've just had seconds on our plates... but hey. Yay for finger food.

3. Maybe this is another thing that everybody else knows and I just now figured out was awesome.... but have you ever really sat down and considered the fact that you are immortal? Yup. Everybody is. We can never cease to exist, even if we wanted to. It's almost scary. Every person you ignore at the grocery store is an immortal being. Wow. And almost more fascinating: though we all have no end, we all have beginnings at different times. So basically, Adam and Eve get to be in existence longer than me!

4. Last but not least... isn't it amazing that we have video? I have perhaps never been so grateful for the miracle of moving pictures... because it captures simple moments like THIS, that mean so much today. Can I say it again? Josh: I miss you so, so much.


The Ocean's Awe

Ah, the ocean.

What makes it so magical? So humbling? So relaxing? I've never likened the ocean to Christmas before, but my question is the same for both of them:
Why do they give us the moods they do?

Maybe the ocean doesn't give you a mood, or a feeling. But boy does it give me one. This past Sunday our family drove down to see my grandparents in California. On the way we stopped by the ocean to take ten minutes rest or so. As soon as I got out I was hit with a strange feeling. Like hidden exhilaration - it was so grand that it excited me, but so big that it quieted me. What could I be compared to such a thing as that expanse of sky and water before me?

I took my shoes off. The sand was warm and felt like a carpet beneath my feet. That is, until I dug my toes in. Ooooh. Don't we all know that feeling? I, for one, hadn't felt it for some years. It was simply delicious.

Then I looked up. The wind was strong, blowing my hair around my face. Looking straight out at the water, I couldn't see the ends of it to my right or left. It was that big. Wow.
It was so powerful, so awe-inspiring that it filled me with comfort. The huge, wide sky above me, flawlessly blue... the chilly water tickling my feet... the beautiful expanse of endless water in front of me... It's hard to describe why some things just connect us to God. Perhaps it is because the ocean itself is a lover's gift. To: Ariel. From: God.

There was the sense of smallness, against the vastness of this gift. Then there was the sense of gratitude, that I should be here, looking at, breathing in, and digging my toes into this gift. And there was the sense of awe, that God, who locked these "proud waves" into place, was incalculably greater than this ocean that I could not even the measure without turning my head. Yes, God is BIG.

And I am small. But I am loved. I don't want to repeat myself from my last post, but it does not cease to amaze me. Why should He have chosen me? Just another girl walking His shores, just another pair of feet in His waters, just another human in His world....


God is BIG

I usually don't like my views about God to be challenged. No, let me rephrase that; I just plain don't like my views about God to be challenged. I want to think that I know God. That I have it down, at least as much as I can, being a puny human. However... well, my view of God has been challenged.

You know the story I'm sure. When we were at the river, in the initial panic-stricken minutes, I kept saying to my friend, "It's okay - God made the river, he's in control of it; He has Josh in his hand." As the day wore on though, I begin to grapple with the idea that maybe God wouldn't actually rescue Josh. I admit, it didn't seem to fit with my perspective of God. After all, God has always blessed me immensely - like, my whole life practically. His plan seemed to always coincided with my plan - and when it didn't, it turned out better. So I learned to trust him. Even when painful things happened (like, my kneecap problem) I knew God would bring me through because he always did.

So now, here I am, sitting by this rushing river, waiting and waiting and realizing that it's probably too late - that the person who understood me best in the whole world is most likely not in the world anymore. This didn't really reconcile with "my" God. My God doesn't do this to me. I mean, he just doesn't.

But he did.

So that left me in a quandary. The first week, I felt distant from God. I tried to pray, but it didn't feel right. God was huge, hard, and suddenly seemed disinterested in me. All around I saw evidences of how Josh's life was impacting people, how his death was furthering the kingdom of God... but my little heart screamed, "But what about ME?!"

Sure, I knew the universe didn't revolve around me. I knew that God's kingdom obviously mattered more than my happiness. But I couldn't help the feeling that God's big plan for his work through Josh's death overlooked me. Yes, poor little Ariel's world will crumble around her, but oh well - Josh's death is blessing people all over the world.

You must be cringing at my selfishness by now. It is hard to just tell you this, but I want to be completely honest. This is how I felt, and still, once in a while, feel. What I discovered was that I knew, deep inside me, that Josh's death would bless me, too. God has not overlooked me because I'm too insignificant compared to the world (even though I am) - he has plans for me that are better than I have planned for myself.

This whole thing has made God so much bigger than I thought of him before. No more does his plan always make me happy. Thank goodness! What a small view I had of him; I am ashamed. One of the incredible things about God is that he is so, so big... and yet cares for every single individual. Yes, that includes me. Wow. That amazes me.

So this has been my experience. God cares so intimately for me. Probably my favorite psalm ever, Psalm 139, speaks about God being the ultimate being who understands us. Putting this new concept of how big God is with how well he knows and cares for me simply baffles me. It is beyond words. This last December I was expounding on it in my journal. It's a little messily written, but here it is.

"Psalm 139!!!!!!!!! Officially my favorite psalm. EVER. It's the most comforting psalm. Not comforting as in gives me happy safe fuzzy feelings. Comforting as in, the world can be falling apart, but even if I suffer Jesus has me in complete control in his loving, powerful hands. God is love and justice. Not just a happy everything-goes-right God and not just a judgment-on-all God. No, either of those would be weak. The world makes him out to be the sicky sweet god. That bothers me.
Anyhow, listen to the word of the Lord. Or rather, the words I want to say.

"O Lord, you have searched me and known me!" This first sentence just caught me. He has searched me? He HAS known me. Meaning, when I was a little snotty kid, he knew me. Just let that sink in.
 "You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether." Okay, so I know he knows my thoughts. Obvious, right? But think, I say! All my ways. He's like, the ultimate person who really can predict me. Even if he didn't know the future, he could totally take the words out of my mouth because he knows me inside and out. He knows how I react to situations, what I'm prone to do. Nothing I can do will ever be a suprise to him. Amazing. I'm wrapped in a cloud of deep, deep comfort. 
The psalm goes on to describe all these far-reaching places, heaven, the sea, Sheol even - everywhere. He IS everywhere. And if you think about it... that means many things. When I'm struggling with ANYTHING, he is there. He totally understands. "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me." How true!!
 Then he talks about my inward parts, in my mother's womb. "In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Wow. Okay, just wow. Every single day is "written" - he knows all about. He knew I'd be sitting here in the Goodrich's living room by the stove, on my laptop, writing this. He knew that while Esther stood before the king. That boggles my mind. Boggles. Just crazy. He ends the section about knowing by saying "I awake, and I am still with you."

That makes me want to cry!

I awake and I am still with God. Still! He is so, so, so, present. So RIGHT THERE. So ... inside me! He's never ever going to be even just a hand's reach away. I cannot be separated from him. PRAISE THE LORD!!!!! I can't say it enough. Crazy. Crazy."
And last but not least, a picture. Putting those beautiful, bright red roses there was such a comfort. It makes it look loved. As it is.


Burying a precious dream

Photo by Tianna Eddy

How can I describe to you what it was like to be there? Can I describe the way my heart sank deeper and deeper within me as Josh's casket was lowered lower and lower into the ground? Can I describe the sharp, startling shock of pain as the first shovel of dirt hit the metal? Can I describe the deep, numb, crushing feeling that has not left me since May 5th?

But it is not about me. So it doesn't matter if I could describe those things. Although I feel I have lost much, I am still doing better than I deserve. This is the miracle. I need to thank all of you who have lifted me up in this time. You mean so much more to me than you know. Thank you. Someday I hope I can repay you.

I have been realizing the difference between happiness and joy. I have always considered myself an extremely happy person. My life has been very close to perfect. But now I would not consider myself necessarily happy. However, I am really joyful. You might think that I choose to be - but I don't feel that way. I don't wake up and say "today I am going to be joyful." I wake up and all I can do is say, "God, please get me through today. I have nothing." And he does.

This is joy: Jesus. Perhaps my happiness has been taken away for a time, but deep down inside I have joy. I have a reason for living, and a purpose for working. This has been really encouraging to me, knowing that even if much of my happiness was in Josh, my joy was in the Lord. It has not been taken away.

I'm memorizing Romans 8. Paul talks about how creation is groaning for restoration. When I visited Josh's grave on Sunday, all I could think was how very wrong death is. How much we have lost in our fall. Sitting by a mound of earth that holds the old body of a loved one is such a stark reminder that this is not how it was supposed to be. Yes, God uses death to accomplish his purpose, and yes, God is sovereign, and yes, in a sense Josh was "supposed" to die... but death was not a part of God's original creation. It is wrong. Revelation 21, one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture, says:

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Death shall be no more. What an incredible thought. I cannot wait for the day

God is not powerless over death. He could destroy it right now. He could have prevented it from coming into existence, but he didn't. Because he knew the plans he had for us, plans for good and not harm. Though it seems backward, death, suffering, pain and all these things are part of God's beautiful drama.  

I apologize for the aimlessness of this post. I feel kind of rambly. I guess all I have left to say is, I can't believe it's been a month. One whole month since I've seen Josh. I suppose that isn't a very long time, but it seems like forever.

And yet God is still good. He is so good. Joy is mine.


I am blind

"And I will lead the blind
   in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
   I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
   the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
   and I do not forsake them."

That is from Isiah 42, which I "happened" to read this morning. That is me, the blind. These last three weeks, God has been leading me in paths I have not known.

I try to understand, but I cannot see beyond the darkness. I cannot understand. So all I ask is to somehow see through God's eyes. I want to see everything He is, till all that's left is not myself.

There is a song that suddenly means so much to me. "Under My Skin". I haven't understood it very well before, but now it is my one prayer. Lord, take away all of me. Change me. Let me see You.

"Shadow days come to haunt me here
To wrap around me
Dark and cold
To hide the sunlight from my eyes

I can not see beyond these clouds surrounding
I will not forget that this is not the end

Under my skin
Under these scars
Take me again
Tear me apart
Cause I wanna see
Everything You are
Til all that's left
Is not myself

This is life every second here
Gripping tighter
Empty praise 
To all the things I fear inside

But I know that you will rise up from these ashes
Tomorrow will be the light that guides me

Take away everything
Burn away all of me
As I break
I believe
You will come to rescue..."

However long this pain lasts, I will not forget that this is not the end. I have broken. And God has come to rescue.



One Word
a poem by Ariel J

I ask one word

Why do we train
Why do we learn and earn
Why do we plan and hope and dream

    when we come to the point in time
    where something so unthinkable has happened
    that it make us wonder why we did these things

Why –
I will tell you

We assume
Oh, we assume so much
We assume that things will go on
We look at the past
    and expect the future to reflect it
    because so often it does
And so we plan
So we train and earn and plan and dream
We do what seems best
    as if life will continue the way we think it will
    the way it always has
    the way we want it to
    the way it should
    – should according to our hearts

And then we are mocked
    ripped apart
The future does not reflect the past
    not even a bit
    but muddies even our dimmest reflection
Life does not continue the way we think it will
    but the way it has not been
    the way we don't want it to
    the way it shouldn't
    – shouldn't according to our hearts

Then we wonder why we trained
    and earned and planned and dreamed
    when diligent training is mocked
    and protected earnings ripped apart
    and anticipated plans broken
    and precious dreams buried

That is the point in time that makes us wonder

And next we wonder
    if we were wrong to assume
Was it wrong to think life would go on the way it always has been
Was it useless to train and earn and plan and dream

I believe the answer is

It was not wrong
It was what we thought was best
It was how we knew to live
It was how God made us
Because often
    our training is not useless
    and our earnings turns for good
    and our plans finally happen
    and our dreams come true

But not always
Which is why we must assume
    but must also be careful
To never take for granted
    too much
To know that whatever we train and earn and plan and dream
    is unto the Lord
    and whatever he decides to do with it
    is good

And so we live on
Hurt but not fatally
Bleeding but not dead
    just barely
We live on
    with greater knowledge of pain
    and grace
We live on
    with new appreciation
    and new emptiness
    and new joy
    and a new self
We live on
    perhaps a little more careful and cautious
    in our training and earning and planning and dreaming
    but still doing them all the same
    because that is how we are made

Time to time we ask
And the response is
I am God
    I do what I will
He does not answer
He does not need to
For he is indeed

So we live on
    and one day
And coming into eternity
    and great
    joy –
    yes, the face of God
    we finally see why he made us
    to assume
We finally see why
    we trained and earned and planned and dreamed
    when it seemed to be mocked
    ripped apart
    broken and buried
We see that it was not useless
It was simply that part of the story
    that's twist is revealed in a later chapter

And we stop asking
Rather our one word
    is turned to two

Thank you


A tribute...

I feel as though I've never given an official "in memory of" post to Josh. Hm. Others have done so beautifully. One about the river, one to thank him. One who never met him, one who knew him well. His future sister-in-law.  

They have said it more poetically than I could. So I shall show you a picture.

Yes, it is not good quality. But I love this picture. It shows so much of who Josh was. First of all, look at where he is. The roof. Creative place, is it not? Josh's mind was forever thinking of new ways to do things. But just standing on the roof was ordinary for Josh - because he always thought outside the box.

Next, see that he is barefoot. Josh never let anything get in the way of his feeling life to the fullest. Shoes? Nah. Let me feel the earth with my bare toes, let the hot cement sting me, let the grass tickle me. Unafraid. Bared. Ready.

Lastly, can you tell what he is looking at? Perhaps not; it is a Bible. That is what he was doing on the roof - memorizing James. This, too, so symbolizes Josh. Here he is, in the midst of beautiful scenery, with gorgeous mountains behind him... but he is focused on what matters. His eyes are fixed on the word of his Maker.

That is Josh.

^ this is one of the last "real" pictures taken of him. 

I could say so much more about this young man, but words are not everything. I have learned that in the past weeks. Besides, you can learn most about him by reading his blog. He writes of profound issues on there, with passion and conviction. 

For those of that knew him, his blog writings took on a deeper meaning than those who didn't. Because we saw him live. We saw that he longed for these things, but did not always achieve them. We saw him fail, get up, and try again. No, he did not live out perfectly the things he aspired to do. But he tried so hard. And he was not afraid to write what he wanted to be, even while knowing that he would not live them out perfectly. He was imperfect, but unafraid. That is one of the many things I admire in him.

I am so incredibly thankful for the time I had on Earth with Josh. So thankful. He inspired me, encouraged me, laughed at me, worked with me, even gently rebuked me. It is hard to explain just how much he meant to me. Right now, he's only a memory in my head, but in reality he is more alive than ever. Praise God.

To close, I'll share something I wrote several days after he died.

And Josh, remember our hike to Rainie Falls? I was so lucky to get to talk with you the way there. Of course, it was free will debate. And you laughed at how my Mother was enthralled by every single wildflower. Josh, be proud: my knee didn't bother me one bit. You were worried about it, but it held up.

I remember as we met a couple people walking the opposite way, you (being the awesome extravert you are) asked the man with the fishing rod, “Did you catch any?” He said he hadn't, and as they passed I saw the women behind him had a big net over her shoulder – with a water bottle in it. After they passed, we both mumbled, “Caught a water bottle, though.” Exact words; exact inflection. We did that so often it was scary.

And then, when we got to the falls, it was so beautiful I just stopped and stared. You said, “I can't help it” and ran out to one of the island-type rocks. You looked around and I could just feel that cloud-nine feeling emanating from you. Then you flexed your muscles, feeling like a man, on top of the world. I smiled. Then you came back and I pointed to the falls. “What do I do with that?” I asked. You knew, like you always did, just what I meant. What do I do with such beauty, too wonderful for words? Your answer will stay with me always, as the last thing you said to me on this old Earth.

“I seem to have written a blog post about that recently,” you said, laughing. “You can't take it all in, so you just take in what you can and enjoy it.”

And that I did. I don't know if you saw me, but I sat there, on a rock just over the falls, and stared and stared. Silent, alone. Just taking it in.

That is where I was sitting when Josh was swept away into Heaven.



Josh, my life is a writhing stew of contradictions right now.

I know everything is going to be fine – I feel like everything is never going to fine again. The difference? Know vs. feel. I know God is blessing me; I feel God is hurting me. I know you weren't meant to live past 19; I feel you were meant to live to 100. I know you're happy and I'd never take you away from seeing the face of God; I feel that I would, in an instant, if I could. I know I have a purpose; I feel like nothing matters anymore.

I've been talking to God about all this. I'm waiting for him, waiting for him to act. Waiting for him to change me. Waiting for this to pass. I'm waiting for real life, for real happiness, for real purpose to come again. I don't know how long I'll have to wait. All I know is there's a reason I didn't fall. Psalm 56, the last verse, says “For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” My work isn't finished, so I've got to get up and get to it. It's just so hard to do it without you, Josh.

I know God was right to take you. I know it was right, in my head. My heart is still trying to catch up. It means one thing to say whatever God does is right when you live a life like mine on May 4, but when you live it on May 5, it's a much different thing.

Lord, help me. I stand now only because of You.


Change My Name, Lord

I was listening to music and the first lyrics of this song caught my attention: "I haven't seen the sun in seven days."
It's been seven days.

The song has never meant so much to me. Read the lyrics and take hope. As much as I strive to change myself during this time, I cannot. I must wait, patiently, for Him to change my name.

I haven't seen the sun in seven days
I can't remember when I saw Your face
But I still believe that You led me through the wilderness
And You have not forgotten me through all of this

A million miles have led me to this place
Where all I've ever loved has been erased
Changing my song to a disenchanted lullaby
With a name I never really felt was mine

But I have learned that I can't earn any love You've given
So I'm finding hope in letting go of all that I have made

Because the pain defining me is holding me lifeless
So I am waiting patiently for You to change my name

Open up to my heart's surgery
The waiting rooms of my reality
Where I still believe there's a purpose to this pain inside
And You are not, not leaving me here to die

But formless hope will never know while the storm is raging
So I will strive to stay alive in these waves

Because the pain defining me is holding me lifeless
So I am waiting patiently for You
To change my name



"I love you
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.

I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.

I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;

I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can't help
Dimly seeing there,

And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple.

Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.

I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good.
And more than any fate
Could have done
To make me happy.

You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.

You have done it
By being yourself.
Perhaps that is what
Being a friend means,
After all."

-- by Roy Croft

Oh, Josh. You impacted my life more than I can say. Thank you. 

I will say more when I am able. But words are so inadequate. 

You will always be Ua to me.

See you in Heaven. I'm looking forward to talking theology with you again and I'm so jealous that you'll probably have most of Free-will figured out by the time I get there. 

As you always said:


Rose-colored glasses?

You know how certain things just stick in your mind? Well, one of those things is something that has been said about the INFP - my personality. It is that we see the world through rose-colored glasses.

Now my first reaction is to chafe at this. To see things as not the way they are means I'm blind! And after all, I'm a realist - just ask my sister. For instance, I view romance in a very logical (if not cynical) way, which irks her. (But maybe that's just because she's in love...)

But after that initial reaction, I begin to wonder if it isn't true after all... Consider this quote from yesterday's journal entry.

"On the way to band, I stared at the sky while driving, it was blue with puffy clouds - SO beautiful - and wondered if I really did see the world through rose-colored glasses. Why is everything so beautiful to me and not to many other people? Yeah, maybe other NFs, but that's about it. Like... are my eyes closed, or opened? Why is my backyard so wonderful over and over again? The sky has been blue with clouds many times, but that doesn't make it any less beautiful."

I tend to think that my eyes are opened to see beauty that others do not see. But maybe they're the ones who's eyes are opened. It is true that I forget about the world's suffering so often. I live in this column of Grace and blessing, and am repeatedly shocked by cruelty. Perhaps because I subconsciously thought the world was beautiful, and everyone as happy as I?

This thought sobers me and takes away whatever pride I might have had in my "open-eyed-ness." I never should forget the suffering that is all around, the evil that poisons the earth. Yes, the world is beautiful, but it is also terrible. Hmm.

So perhaps I do have those rosy glasses on after all. Perhaps it's because others see so clearly the sadness and tragedy of the world that they cannot see the beauty. Perhaps their eyes are the open ones.


Well, on a completely unrelated note, I thought I'd let you all know some random information.

I have Precordial Catch Syndrome and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.

PCS means I have occasional chest pains and can't take deep breaths. TMJD means my jaw pops when I open it and occasionally dislocates. Fun stuff, eh? The best part is, in both of these doctors aren't really sure what causes it.
But hey! I'm not complaining. My knee is fixed and these little problems are microscopic. Although I can't deny that sometimes I get rather frustrated with my weird body...

That's all, folks. Hej då!


A voice raised in song...

An experiment I embarked upon two evenings ago. I titled it April.

 ..enjoying the creative process of not knowing what chord is going to come next... the feeling of discovering music as it flows from inside me... all thanks to God. I had a glorious time writing/recording this. The end result is not so glorious, so pardon the squeaky high voice. Enjoy as a successful experiment for the composer - a 2 hour composition with no planning ahead. Just singing what sounds like it ought to go next...

Tools used: Samson mic, pop filter, Mixcraft, my voice, slight reverb


34 happy things

Yesterday was ... not the best day in the world. I'm not even sure why. It was just "one of those days."

At the end of the day, I got in a nice, hot, steamy shower. Ahh... suddenly I realized I was talking to myself. Like constantly. Like I was really hyper.

So, being "I must know why I'm feeling what I'm feeling" me, I decided to start listing off possible reasons for this good mood. I got to 34.

Wow. I just listed off 34 happy things about my "bad" day. Now, being a person who can hardly remember the day after it's lived, this was impressive. And it was just plain lovely.

So at the end of you're next "one of those", take a moment and see if you can think of 34 things - however random and silly some might be - that went right.

Or then went wrong, but made you smile. :)


Musings from the dentist

At the dentist today I got my gums poked by that sharp metal thing they use - you know.

And it really got me thinking.

I don't know why I thought this, but it just popped into my head, Hmm, why did God have that happen? Now I was hardly upset about it, of course, but I did suddenly wonder why it happened. Usually things have a purpose, you know - in fact, I believe everything does. God is sovereign, and everything happens according to his will, or plan.

So why on earth was it in God's plan that she poke my gums? Again, not because I wished it didn't happen, because I honestly didn't care, but just because it's curious to think about.

My mom said God just "lets" things happen like that - as if they're too small concerns for him to worry about. I guess that's kind of true... but yet, God is God, not a human. Maybe he does care about said small concerns. He is in perfect control of of everything. Including my trip to the dentist. He could've made it go perfectly painless, but he didn't.

Why not? I really, really wonder. In fact - why even make gums with nerves? What difference could it make?

Honestly - I can't imagine any possible influence on the course of events from my gums being poked. Why? The way God works puzzles me very much.

If anyone has an answer I'd love to hear it. Then again... I might just have answered my own question. It did influence the course of events --

I wrote a blog post about it!


In honor of the Titanic

Here is a story I wrote last December. I could say much about the Titanic, but I'll let this say it for me.

A Noble Death
by Ariel J

When I first stepped onto the Titanic, I felt safe. She was huge and incredibly strong, possessing a sort of noble grandeur that just made me trust her.

But now that she's been stabbed with a knife of ice – now that her chandeliers smash against the gilded walls, shattering glass into a million pieces – now that she tips at an unnatural angle, hopelessly surrendering to the freezing ocean in this battle of power...

Her grandeur mocks her – and mocks her trusting passengers who scramble over this ship like so many mice, clinging to life with what little strength we have.

God, help me. Help us!

The words keep repeating in my head. There's nothing else to do when a dark, silent night of peace transforms into an brutal nightmare – when all a boy can hear is screams of death and fear rushing out of the throats of hundreds who realize that their mortal lives are about to end...

As is mine.

I hate the tendril of fear that snakes through my body at the thought. I am not afraid to die. I'm not. I never have been, but... I always thought I'd die in some noble manner. Not helpless, desperate, unprepared.

As chilling wind whips my at me, I glare at the black sky and force my dry throat to swallow. The deck wall behind me is icy, but I press my back into it anyway, staying out of the stampede of terrified souls until Mama comes. If she comes. The knot in my stomach twists.

In my mind's eye I can see the water flooding our little room, Mama's curly hair sticking to her damp face, her blue, sad eyes lit by the ghastly flicker of the electric lights. I hear her urgent voice. “Bara gå, Viktor! Jag följer snart!”

“I'll follow soon.” There can only be one reason why she isn't here yet, but I can't accept it. Mama can't die.

I can feel the startling warmth of a tear as it rolls down my frosty cheek. I squeeze my eyes shut, clench my teeth. Crying at thirteen years old – how childish of me! But Mama can't die, not now. It's not fair. She worked so hard, for years, so we could be on this ship right now, to America. Because we will find a better life there, Mama and I. A new start.

My eyes snap open. I try to see to the black water through the endless rush of people disjointedly flowing across the deck. Is it all going to end tonight? Our hopes, our dreams?

In the blur of panic, two particular humans capture my attention, strangely still among the choas. An older man, kneeling, in a white coat and white hat – the captain? – holds out a life-vest to a little girl whose hair is tucked into a knot atop her head. A first-class little girl.

Jealousy clutches me. What has she done to deserve that thick, warm coat? And that porcelain doll she holds … it's value could feed Mama and me for a year.

But it's hard to feel angry at such a distraught-looking child. I find myself hoping she will live past this night of horror. The captain says something to her, helping her into the life-vest. Then he picks up her and walks off quickly.

As another room of lights flicker to their deaths, a loud cracking noise splits the air. I feel the mammoth ship tilt ever more and instinctively grab a railing near me.

She's going down. God help me – the ship's going down!

The reality of the fact strikes me like a harsh slap, and I bolt from my hiding place against the wall. I can't wait for Mama anymore. I have to get into a lifeboat.

Fear propels me through the endless mass of people. There was a lifeboat to the left, I think, but it looked almost full. I must hurry! The sickness in my stomach heightens; each second that goes by brings me further from life.

My head pounds. I know am giving in to the fear of death. And I hate it.

But I must live.
I struggle to thrust my conscience aside and let my survival instincts reign as I weave through the group of people gathered around the lifeboat.

“Women and children, please! Women and children!” The shout is coming from a sailor holding the ropes for the lifeboat. He forcefully pushes back a man who tries to steps forward. But I'm a child … Without a second thought I push through to the front of the crowd, trying to catch the sailor's eye. But he is looking at something else –

The girl.

Someone has just set her in front of the crowd, and there she stands, eyes wild, clutching her doll with what must be frozen little fingers. And I know what I should do. But I can't do it.

Fear and duty fight a battle in my soul. Is this what it will come down to – me or her? Am I about to lose my life because of this small, first-class child? I was here first – the sailor knows that. Desperate, I finally catch his gaze.

For what seems like an entire minute he looks me in the eye. His eyes are deep and sad, and they pierce through my terror and into my heart. I feel the fear slowly melt. Love, valor, and the duty of protection ignite inside me under his gaze. God, forgive me.

I, Viktor, am a man. A young man, perhaps, but a man of God. The glorious and noble task of sacrifice for the weaker is mine.

Yes, a man's duty is to die, unafraid in the face of hell. Because a man of God knows that he will never see hell. I realize in that moment that the sailor and I will very soon be together in a place void of fear or death. And I will be able to thank him. Strength surges through me.

My heart strangely quieted, I walk over the to the little girl and gently pick her up. The wind blows a wispy blonde curl in my face. “Gud skydda dig,” I whisper to her, then lower her into the arms of a woman on the lifeboat. As I back away, I smile at her.

Yes, God protect you, I repeat to myself. Please, God, let her live a full, beautiful life. In place of my mamma and me.

The sailor nods to me, then with the help of another lowers the boat. Perhaps we are the blessed ones, after all. That girl will never know the deep joy, the sheer beauty of a man's sacrifice that now fills me.

I turn around and calmly walk back through the crowd, fortified against the terror pulsing through the ship.

I will die.

But not helpless, desperate, unprepared. I will die content in the knowledge that one little blonde-haired girl's life was spared. Through me. By the glorious grace of God. Yes, I am the blessed!


What's so great about theater?

(That free will post is still in the works. It's going to be a bit longer until I finish it. Let me tell you, that's one tough topic to cover!)

A friend recently told me, "I wish I could understand how stage performance makes you feel." Well, I just can't resist a challenge like that.

So, what's so great about theater? Well, let me tell you. (Oh, and I do warn you - this is rather long.) 

I arrive at the theater, pumped, eager. Greet people I've grown to care about, people I didn't know (or hardly) at the beginning. Marvel at the fact. Run into the dressing room. Smother my face with makeup, while mentally going through my props and costumes to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. Talk with the other actresses, in a light, hyper kind of way. Figure out the hard way that this is not the time to debate over free will - my mind is in a tizzy.

Anticipation. It covers all other emotions.

I throw on my 18th century underclothes and run into the house.* Get a small chill, seeing the big place full of empty rows of chairs. Just an hour from now they'll be filled with people. Get my mic taped on my face in four different places, do a quick test. Run to another room to warm up. Feel the energy vibrate through the room as all the actors sing through scales. All focusing their minds. All feeling it - the anticipation. All struggling to leave the problems and stresses of their normal lives behind, determined to bring a magical show to an eager audience. The expectation is there. The thrill is the challenge to fulfill it.

I make my way to the dressing room to get the rest of my costume on. Spray static guard into my hair, make sure my fake eyelashes are tightly glued. Give a few hugs. Meet in the hallway for a quick prayer. Everyone is really energized by this time. But this is the most important part of the night. We thank God for the opportunity, for the audience, pray that all would go well and be to His glory. "Amen." We part.

I go to stage right and fist-bump the actor who plays my father, waiting there. We smile as the lights go down and we're in complete darkness. This is when my heart gets ready to fly. I can hear the murmur of the crowd; I try to imagine how big it is. Then they hush - I stand up, too excited to sit. The announcer begins. His three minute speech seems to take ages. I take the opportunity to stretch and jump in the dark, getting ready for the dancing. I tone the announcer's voice out and send up my own, final prayer to the One audience that counts. And then - "Enjoy the production of ... Cinderella!" The audience claps, and the stage behind the curtain lights up. Excitement reigns. I can't not smile.

Anticipation. The moment has come. With a loud opening chord, the orchestra breaks the silence and the curtain parts. It has begun. I can't wait to get onto that stage.

After the first scene I have a little quick-change. I fly into the dressing room to do it, then rush back out, grab my props from the stage-hand and calmly walk out. "Cinderella!" My stepmother calls, and I run up to the front of the stage. I can barely see how full the audience is, but I try to find out anyway. Then my step-family leaves, and I am in the spotlight. There's dozens of other people onstage, but they are frozen and I know that almost every audience eye is looking at me. The piano starts tinkling and I know I have four measures till I sing. One, two... excitement builds higher and higher in me. The moment has come. I take in a deep breath and begin my song. Vibrato, I'm focusing on it, and making sure I look happy enough. I look out at the blackness that the audience is, barely able to make out peoples' heads. As I sing about waiting for my true love, I stare out at the red exit sign in the back of the house, hoping passion is flowing out of me, hoping I'm drawing in the audience, hoping I'm as in-tune as I sound. Then comes the best part - the orchestra swells as the strings join in, filling up something inside of me, and I crescendo with them, giving the note all I have.

Then it's over, and I feel a little less adrenaline flowing through me. But I was never nervous - no, never. I've done these lines too many times to be nervous. No, it isn't even that... I'm just too happy to be nervous. This stage, these lines, this costume is like my home. And who's nervous at home?

You know, a million things race through actors' minds while they're saying their lines. I can attest to that. My face is totally in character, but as the line flows out of my mouth out of habit, I'm thinking "whoops, I was too far downstage, now the hatbox tipped. I hope it's okay. He's doing good tonight. Oh hooray, the audience laughed at that line! Nuts, I said that one weirdly." When I'm singing my solo in the next scene, I'm thinking of the poor mouse who's ears fell off when he ran in, or how fast the conductor started it, or how I forgot the leave the fan on the table, so I can't use it during the song. Oh well - I improvise, and the audience will never know. The song ends and I, out of breath, wait for the lights to dim. I can feel the heat leave me as the spotlight dies, and I hurry off stage, hoping I don't trip on any set pieces in the dark.

The crying scene is next. I quick-change into my dress and get there just in time. This time I know I have to focus on giving an moving emotional performance, so I struggle to not think about how much the audience laughed at the stepsisters, or whether my hair is sticking up. The stepmother rips my dress sleeve, and I struggle not to smile with joy when the audience rewards us with a loud gasp. I need to look heart-broken. In order to make up for my near smile, I give the next line with extra emotion, almost crying. When the curtain closes behind me, I barely remember it is only me, with nothing but a red curtain behind me - it is up to me to bring tears to people's eyes. I muster all the strength I can manage to finally break down in "tears" and fall to my knees. I don't have time to think how strange it is that I am doing this in front of all these people who are mostly completely strangers - and when I do, it almost makes me laugh it seems so unreal. Quickly I focus back on the task at hand.

The rest of the first act passes too quickly, and soon intermission is over. As I stand waiting to come on, behind the audience seats, beneath those red exit signs, I think once again how beautiful the scene looks - a gorgeous palace backdrop behind rows of elegantly dressed (and wigged!) men and women, dancing away to the swell of the music. The whole scene is lit warmly in yellows and pinks. Then the moment comes for me to enter the ball. I stand on the stairs between two columns of audience seats and wait for the heat of the spotlight.

Then it comes from the right, blinding my right eye. I can see heads turning toward me, hear little girls' whispered exclamations, feel the eyes of everyone on me. But I can't look at any of them. I stand tall, pretending a string is pulling me upwards. Then I begin to walk, slowly, making sure not to trip as I can't look down. When the prince sweeps me into the waltz, I get to relax a little, now focusing on letting him lead the dance. When the other couples join in to swirl around us, I take a moment to enjoy it - the blur of dancing people, golden set, dark audience, dancing people, golden set - rushing by in a dizzying circle. Then, the ending pose, and I try not to breathe too hard.

It's time for the romantic scene. I take advantage of the prince's proposal song to slow my breath and get ready for my own part in the song. I concentrate on the orchestra which I have been taking for granted all evening - it sounds beautiful. I see sweat on the prince's face, but he can't possibly be as sweaty as I am. But no time to think about that - I must focus all my energy on looking utterly in love. I stare in the prince's eyes and pour out my voice - and then it's midnight. Secretly glad to finally get out of this wig and heavy dress, I pretend to be horrified as I run from the ballroom... and into the dressing room. Before two minutes have passed I'm back in my rags, with the help of my incredible mother and friends. I see my water bottle and realize how thirsty I am; I have enough time to swallow several gulps before running back onstage. As I wait for the drop to rise in front of me, I take a moment to relax a little and really "live" the moment.

Next thing I know I'm singing and dancing again with my stepsisters. That is, until my stepmother decides that's enough of that and gives me a vicious rebuke. It's one of my favorite parts, looking at her intense face as she tells me I'm a little fool, and then to once again be solely responsible for conveying my emotion to the audience, without the help of words. As I sing the last note, I savor it, knowing it's my last song of the night. I have just two more short scenes left.

When I finally reveal myself to the prince and he takes the glass slipper to try it on, I watch intently, hoping it will slip on easily. It does and to my joy the audience claps. I smile brilliantly as he carries me off, but all I'm thinking about is my quick-change. As soon as the light goes out we run down the hall. A minute later we regally walk back onstage, in wedding attire. This scene is bittersweet - it's the last, and I know the show is almost over, yet I'm determined to enjoy every last minute. And then ... the music cuts off and confetti bursts from all around. My heart is bursting as well, and as the carriage brings me and the prince on for the bow - and the audience roars - my heart takes wings. I am filled with gratitude. There is nothing quite as satisfying as the thundering sound of a pleased audience. It's not the praise itself - it is the fact that I have won the challenge, that I was part of fulfilling the expectation. It is the fact that I have just brought joy to hundreds of people. That I have brought joy to my King. There is no feeling quite like that.

Then the curtain closes. I feel the strange mixture of intense happiness after a good show, and sadness that the show is over and I can feel the adrenaline dying. I accept many a hug and compliment - so many compliments that they all meld in my mind. It's numbing, really. I just spent the last two hours in bliss - and yet have also pleased those who watched me! God created humans in wondrous ways. The very people who admire what I have just done are the ones who can do all sorts of things I could never excel at. Thus, there is no reason to be boastful in the praise. Just to smile and say "thank you" ... it will suffice. I only hope my smile shows how radiant I feel inside.

One of the things that makes live musical theater so glorious is the fact that it isn't all rainbows and sunshine. It's months of work - of dancing until feet ached, and acting with imaginary props, of trying to give all that emotion when there is no crowd to stir up the adrenaline, of going over the same song phrases again and again and again. It's the glamor and the grime. There's the nights of rehearsals where everyone is tired, the times when someone's feelings get hurt, the 11:30pm rehearsal end times. There's the fake eyelashes to peel off and the mic-tape to forcefully rip off. There sweaty costumes, stinky feet, hot lights... and the glory of never letting the audience know any of it.

After all, it is in fact live. You never know what can happen - it's a constant risk that something will go wrong... and having to cover up for it as if it never happened. Although we all hope nothing will go wrong, we always laugh about it afterward. Every show is different. Every single moment is a unique experience. And I love it all.

As an acquaintance nicely said, "Theater is wonderful because you're being someone else while totally being yourself." And she's right. Although the emotions and words I said onstage weren't really mine, they were - in a funny sort of way. Because no one could have done that performance as Cinderella exactly like me. I brought the character to life in my own way, and - here is the miracle that God is so good to have let me experience - I can pour my own passion into those very words, songs, and emotions that are not mine. Isn't that incredible? Somehow, God made it so that I can take all my excitement, happiness, and adrenaline and use it to bring soul and life to the character. There's really no way to fully explain it. It is indeed a miracle.

So how does all this bring me so much joy? Because it is the outpouring of myself. Every note, every word, every glance is given my everything. I am a creature of passion. I long to find a way to release it, to give it to others, to present it before the Lord. I have yet to find something that is a better instrument of pouring out myself and giving as much "Ariel" ... as this. Ironically, that very friend who didn't understand how it felt summed it up perfectly by saying, "I have never seen you be more fully you." 

So that's what's so great about it.

*"the house" is the theater name for the area where the audience sits
photo credit: J.S. Eddy Imagery