Monday, January 25, 2016

These Days

There's a lot going on these days.

Musical. We're performing Singing In The Rain the week after Easter and rehearsals are slowly rolling into a rhythm. I kinda missed this.

School. I have an Algebra 2 test tomorrow (yikes) that I'm not even close to looking forward to. Choir is awesome, as usual, but busy with prep for Chicago (more on that in a sec), musical shenanigans, various honor choirs, and the usual stuff. I'm in a new study hall class this quarter...not super in love with it, but I can't legitimately complain. We're having some issues getting it sorted out so that when I don't show up for it on Wednesdays or Fridays, my teacher doesn't count me absent. We got a lot of phone calls about my absences for a while, which is crazy annoying when I've told him and my mom has told him and the guidance counselor has told him that I will not be there those days. But people are human (even teachers, oddly enough) and stuff happens. We'll get it figured out. I really like my math class right now and it's super cool to pass people on the stairs and smile and wave because they know who I am and I know who they are and it's really awesome.

Church. Lots of changes going on there; our worship leader, the guy who got me going onstage and taught me everything I know about playing in a band, left a couple months ago which really really makes me sad. We're in the middle of a "do we go back to two services or stick with one" moment and yes, I am so rooting for two services. Also, even though I'm not super active in the youth arena anymore, I am forging some great relationships with my fellow Praise Teamers, namely our bass player and drummer. But you know about the drummer. Those two dudes...they cool. And they like me. They pick on me like nobody's business, but we're friends and even when they're both siding against me and telling me my watch is fast when I tell them it's time to head in and play, I don't ever get the "you don't belong here" feeling. Which I get sometimes at school. We all argue and tease and giggle (yeah, they giggle. And dance. It's awesome) and they're my peeps.

It semi cracks me up that at school, I wouldn't dream of making friends with the guys that my friends sometimes sorta hang out with. They're a little questionable and I don't like making friends without a little context and "oh yes, I know ____ about you from____." But at church, I run around with two dudes that are four or five years older than me. Plus a couple of adorable kiddos from my Sparky group, Anne and Bentley. I have to laugh when I see Anne run up and hug the Ninja (formerly Drummy Dude from previous posts) because for the first eight or nine months that I was friends with him, she was terrified of him and refused to talk to him or even be near him. (She occasionally reminds me of myself) Now they're best buddies and it's really sweet. Hers is one of the few names he uses besides my sister's. Names aren't really his deal and it's really great to hear him holler her name down the hall when he sees her. One time when she was afraid of him, she was running away from him and lost her shoe but she was too afraid to go get it, so he picked it up, got down on one knee, and waited for her to come back for it. It was super cute, this 6'1" giant on bended knee with a little white shoe in his hand, holding it out to a little girl that was legitimately scared to death of him. I mean, really. Cute.

I'll have to fill you in on the rest of the new stuff later... I got distracted with musician friends and little people and cuteness and white shoes. C'est la vie, right?

Adios, amigos. Have a good week and I'll write more soon. God bless.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Just Like Me

I can't tell you how many times I've made a decision on what to say or wear or act like based on the current trend or some statistic or opinion blaring in my head. 

But not like you might think. I don't throw open my closet door and think, "Hmmm, everyone at school says red is the in color right now so I'll wear red, and they're all wearing miniskirts so I'll do that too. And obviously I have to curl my hair because Sally Smith said so."

Namely because I don't have my own closet. I share with the Squirt. Which is fine by me.

But I kind of go the other way with it. I'm more of the "Okay, so they all say red is the in color so I can't wear red because that'll look like I'm trying to fit in, and we can't have that because I can't look like an average teenager, I have to be different and more mature and more responsible and I have to be good so I can't be like them" type of kid. I won't do anything with my hair because everyone at school does it and they say I should and I can't be like them and curling my hair might convert me into an average teenager and next thing you know I'm snorting meth off my secret boyfriend's mirror.


Yeah, because that's totally how life works, right?

I'm kind of rethinking that right now.

And humblest apologies to you precious teenagers out there who make the world a better place and set your own trend and stay above the mess. I don't mean to lump you in with everyone else, I promise. You amaze me.

Not curling my hair because A) it's insanely wild and crazy all on its own or B) I'm too lazy, now, that's one thing.

Not curling my hair because I don't want to is kind of the same thing.

Not curling my hair because I'm embarrassed that people will think I'm turning into a stereotypical teenager and add me to their prayer lists is another thing.

Don't get me wrong, I love people praying. I love people praying for me.

I just don't want to give them reason to pray for my sanity or virginity or salvation or anything else like that.

That's not how I was raised. I'm not gonna go out and get pregnant or high or become an atheist or whatever. 

The issue is that I don't think I'm doing it so much because I know that would be a terrible decision. I think it's more because I'm too stubborn. In this day and age I feel like everyone is automatically assuming that if you're between the age of 12 and 20 you're not fit for man nor beast, you're a few fries short of a Happy Meal, probably walking around in camis and miniskirts, and most definitely not okay.

Cynical of me, I know.

They're cynical of me, and apparently my gut response is to turn around and be cynical of them. How good girlish and responsible and mature of me. How Godly of me.

How ghastly of me is more like it.

I've turned myself into a cynical anti-teen. It's a little scary. I find myself intentionally doing things simply because no one else my age would do it as far as I know (which isn't too far outside of Nowhere, trust me). 

I'm a-thinking that might have to change this year.

Because face it, teenagers are people too, once you get to know them. And I know some nice ones. They take care of me and feed me when I'm too blonde to remember hot water to make my noodles with at school and they tell me when I look ridiculous (thank the Good Lord for them). 

I just get caught up in society's image of the typical teen and freak out and do everything I can to be not like them.

Why? Because I'm scared. I'm afraid to be like them because then maybe I've turned into a typical teen and wrecked my life. 

I can be slightly irrational sometimes.

Or totally irrational all the time. Ask anyone who knows me. Try the ninja or my family or SongWeaver. I'm insanely irrational and have a nasty habit of overreacting.

So because the rest of the world wears miniskirts, I wear running pants with a hole in the knee that have been handed down to me who knows how long ago. 

But really I love denim. Give me a good pair of jeans and I'm a happy camper.

So if you think about it, in trying to not be like them, I'm drowning me.

And then I wonder why I don't seem to fit in or feel natural or have my own personality.

I think I'm going to wear my nicest jeans to school tomorrow. And maybe curl my hair. Who knows? I might even wear lip gloss.

Because if that's what I wanna do deep down inside, then that's what I'm gonna do. No more convincing myself that I want to be the opposite of them and try my hardest to look like I'm not trying to look nice.

I'm Ariana, heck dang it, and I'm gonna act like her and look like her and all that jazz.

Who knows- she might be a nice kid in there.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Whispers In The Reading Room: A Review

My mom reviews books a lot, and sometimes they get passed down to me to read. I wrote a review for Shelley Gray's latest, Whispers In The Reading Room for my mom, and I decided to post it here too.

        Whispers In The Reading Room, by Shelley Gray

I love fluffy books- almost consider myself a connoisseur of fluff. And can I just say, Whispers In The Reading Room is some of the best fluff I've read in a long time.

If you aren't a fan of predictability, I can't recommend this book. It's got all the great qualities of a sappy Hallmark movie- sweet, emotional, romantic, with a more or less predictable plot, in some respects, anyway. The murder mystery part had me guessing till the end, but I'm mostly oblivious to a lot of things like that. 

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book! Lydia Bancroft is used to her reading room and working hard to hold her place in society through her and her mother's rapidly depleting wealth. She's your standard good girl, following her mother's wishes to the letter. Things start looking up for the Bancrofts when Lydia gets engaged to a wealthy, high-standing member of society, Mr Jason Avondale. But there's a stranger in her reading room that she can't quite get out of her mind- Sebastian Marks, master of mystery.

Through various circumstances, Lydia allows herself to cautiously befriend the mysterious gentleman, drawn to his gentle, caring ways and chivalry. But he's not good for her social standing- especially after she finds out that under all the mystery lies the owner of one of the most prestigious gambling clubs in Chicago. Lydia ignores the warnings of her 'friends' in high Chicago society and chooses to befriend Sebastian anyway.

Lydia's a pretty stubborn girl, once she's made up her mind, and she convinces Sebastian to take her to his club one night, That one night is all it takes, though, and suddenly everything Lydia's ever known is blurred before her eyes when a murder is committed outside Sebastian's club. No one is who they seem to be and Lydia has to decide if she can trust the man everyone in town seems to fear. Can she act against her natural instinct and follow her heart? What other secrets surround Sebastian and Jason? Is either of them to be trusted? 

Shelley Gray has molded relatable yet unique characters true to their time, and I truly fell in love with the story. The underlying mystery combined with a dash of romance finish out the novel as one you'll always leave room for on your shelf.

Come As You Are

It's been awhile.

Life happens.

And sometimes, baby, it's beautiful.

Like yesterday. Yesterday was sunset-over-a-frozen-lake-in-the-dead-of-winter beautiful.

Because God.

He is Good, He is the Ultimate Good, He is the Best.

And His organizational skills are phenomenal.

Really. It amazes me.

He can bring a broken, shamed girl to church on the day when the set is just for her. He can build a worship set just for her and make it beautiful. He is Good.

The set we played yesterday was put together Saturday.

Or says our worship leader.

I have a different opinion. If you ask me, that set was designed from the beginning of time, because God was bringing us a girl that would need it, and that set was for her.

I posted a letter of sorts a few months back based on a situation I'd heard about from our bass player on a Sunday morning.

This post is sort of God's answer to that, I think, or a continuation of how He stepped into the moment and fixed what no amount of words could not fix.

Yesterday morning our bass player brought his youngest sister to church. He brought his niece with her.

She'd been hiding, sort of, from the church. Because she made a mistake and it hurt a lot of people, and in her mind they don't want her around anymore and God can't forgive her because she messed up too badly.

So she's avoided church, avoided people from the church. Her brother's brought her to youth group once or twice and she's been to church a couple times, but that's about it. She doesn't want to go.

He's hurting for her, she's hurting and she won't come find healing, there doesn't seem to be an easy fix.

But people eat.

And eventually you need groceries, right?

And so she came. Because they were going to go get groceries after church. It makes sense.

I was elated. I've known her since I was five or so, she's just a little older than me, I adored her. She was cool. I've been trying to come up with ways to reach out to her for a while now, but she lives about 45 minutes away and to be honest I get nervous. I mean, it's been like ten years since I actually talked to her.

But she was there yesterday.

Then we got the set.

And I went, "Wow. God. You are so good."

Here I Am To Worship. Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone). Come As You Are. The River (by Brian Doerkson).

For her. I sneaked glances at her from my spot behind the Alesis from time to time as we rehearsed. Because I saw those songs and it was just a moment of this is for her because she needs to hear this.

All these songs talked about coming near to God, worshiping Him, and His great healing and redemption.

Oh yeah.

He is good.

She didn't cry or dance or visibly react to the music. But she sang along, and I know the words were still reaching her ears, and sometimes that's all it takes. I sat there and prayed, "God, please do something with these songs. Bring her near, speak to her, lead her to You. I don't need to see (but boy howdy do I kinda want to)- just do something."

And during the service as I watched her sing, God leaned close to my ear whispered, "I'm doing something."

He's doing something, folks.

And it's exciting!