The Trouble With Comparison

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Why don’t I look like her? Why am I not getting all of the opportunities he is? Why am I not as talented as she is? Why is their relationship so perfect? The list of comparisons can go on and on. The trouble with comparing yourself to someone else is that we’re not all the same…we are each fearfully and wonderfully made with our own individual gifts, talents, callings, looks, personalities and perfect plan unfolding in our lives. My timeline isn’t going to look like my best friend’s. Social media, where most people only post the positive in their lives, has the potential to turn into a competition: Who can graduate the fastest? Get the highest paying job first? Be accepted to the most prestigious grad school? Get married in the cutest venue? Parent the best? Wear the nicest clothes? Have the biggest house? Not only does comparing have the capacity to destroy self-esteem and relationships of every form, but it serves as a distraction from the ordinary things that make up an extraordinary life. So much of the beauty in this life is experienced during the waiting process, the time when you’re working, striving, planning, praying and being molded into the person you were made to be. What I’m learning, slowly but surely, is that the amount of time I put into comparing myself to other people, whether it be my voice, the credits on my resume, my body, my workout routine, my looks, my dance technique, my grades, my dreams, my accomplishments, my relationships, etc., is time I could be putting toward bettering my imperfect, very human self. It’s time I could ultimately be pursuing the path I know I’m supposed to follow. SO, while it is so hard not to fall victim to the monster of comparison, I am resolved to trust the plan AND the process, even if that means stopping in the middle of this chapter in my life and waiting.

His Timing>>>

They’ve said it forever…timing is everything. It’s true in business, in acting, in teaching and in everything else you could possibly think of. Lately, I’ve been reaping the benefits of waiting and moving in God’s time. Last semester I was in a bit of a slump after a few auditions fell through. I had given up the hope of any contracts opening up for the summer, and had stopped even going to audition for opportunities. I was eating less than healthy, constantly sick and was on the go non-stop. I reevaluated, reapplied myself and entered the second semester of my Sophomore year full steam ahead. I applied to go abroad, went to some other auditions, booked a show and a few other side gigs, did a show at school, started rehearsals for the Spring production opening in two weeks and was accepted to go to Oxford. My world was looking sunny once more and oh so full of possibility. One thing through the lows of last semester and highs of this semester remained constant: I always knew God was walking with me through it all. Throughout this past year I have been led back to Psalm 27: 14 and Isaiah 40:31 again and again. Waiting on the Lord was my answer. Everything I had been praying for was coming to fruition, just not in my time. In His. The more life I live, I realize that His plans in His time are the best. It brings me so much comfort to know He holds my every day in His palm and has already planned every little aspect of my life…

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Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!-

Psalm 27:14

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.-

Isaiah 40:31

 

Curtain Up on the Battlefield

Your mind is a battlefield.

A subconscious decision to think negatively can influence how you feel, how you act and your overall outlook on life. A couple of months ago, I went out on an audition. I didn’t get it. Rejection is a part of the business I’m going into, and I had for sure felt rejection before, but somehow this time felt different. I. Was. Crushed. Crushed may be an understatement…I had lost my drive to rehearse, my willpower to eat healthy, my high heel wearing/ makeup on / hair done mentality, my energy for my daily routine (which meant I definitely wasn’t working out like I had been). I was in a major slump.

People began to notice…

 My mom asked if I was depressed.

Friends would say things like “Karissa, you’re not smiling and happy like you always are,” or “You’re the most positive person I know, what’s wrong?”

 In the past, even if I was feeling a little down, I was usually able to keep smiling and reassure myself and others who noticed a change in me that the sun would truly come out tomorrow. Except this time, I didn’t think it would ever come back out.

 For about 2 1/2 months, I didn’t feel like “me.” I figured that this one audition I had put so much time and effort into preparing for was the only chance for me to book opportunities for the summer, telling myself, “Karissa how could you mess up on that audition so horribly to blow your one shot? You should just give up on performing completely. Why do you even try?” The thoughts got harsher as the days went on. I have always been my own worst critic, but this was a new extreme for me. I couldn’t manipulate my mind to see it any other way than how I was viewing the situation. I knew I had to do something before I sunk further down in my negative thoughts. I started reading a book by Joyce Meyer’s called “Battlefield of the Mind.” The book validated what the people closest to me were saying: Satan was using this a) as a means to distract me from my goals b) in order to get me off of the path the Lord had me on…a path to achieve what He had called me to do and succeed in every sense of the word. It was Good vs. Evil.  

A negative person is no fun to be around. Fear floods the atmosphere and destroys any hope or love that would dwell in it otherwise. Doubt is a major fuel for fear and negativity. Like Peter when Jesus called him to walk on the water, I was giving in to the storm itself…the fear of rejection, the fear of not having a solid plan for the summer, the fear that not getting this one audition would make or break my whole future in the business. My mind was more focused on the distraction of the “no” I had received than the freedom in the “yes” I receive from God every day. Through Him, I am validated. My talent is enough. My looks are enough. My intelligence is enough. My deeds are enough. I am enough through Him.

The Lord shifted my thinking through Joyce Meyer’s book with one short paragraph: “The devil brings the storms into your life to intimidate you. During a storm, remember that the mind is the battlefield. Don’t make your decision based on your thoughts or your feelings, but chedited-red-piceck with your spirit. When you do, you will find the same vision that was there in the beginning.”

I had to force my mind, body and spirit to align and cooperate with one another. It was no small feat to get out of bed in the morning and get ready. But I made myself. It was hard to make myself dress like and look like “normal Karissa.” It took me about a month of voice lessons before I could stand to listen to myself sing on recordings again. I had to regain confidence in myself. Perhaps the biggest thing that I learned over the course of the past 3 months is that even when I lose belief in myself, the Lord’s plan still unfolds and His confidence in the abilities He has given me are steadfast, just as His love for you and me is as well.

 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”-1 John 4:18

Oh, the bitter shame

I once had a teacher as a little girl who would rub her two pointer fingers together and say “shame, shame” when the class behaved in a less than satisfactory way. Shame. The word is defined in the OED as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” We can be eaten up by it. We can bury it. We may not even know it’s under all of that other baggage until we dig really deep. At times, the shame can blindside everything good in life. It can suffocate. It can paralyze. It can steal dreams, and it can take the future.

I’ve been reading Christine Caine’s new book Unashamed. The front cover reads “Drop the baggage, pick up your freedom. Fulfill your destiny.” When I was first given the book, I wasn’t going to read it. I didn’t think I had shame in my life. Boy, was I wrong. Just because I was in movie called “I’m Not Ashamed” doesn’t mean doodly-squat…

In her book, Christine pens her story of growing up adopted, abused, a girl, smart, driven, single, hurt and filled with shame that stemmed from all of those things. She writes of her journey to a shame-free life through Jesus’s unconditional love. As I was reading one of the chapters “God Moves In So We Can Move On,” I stopped suddenly and knew I wasn’t reading this book just by chance. She writes in the chapter, “I find the wilderness can hit us in the most unexpected times- like when we think we’re flourishing, and so is everyone around us. Sometimes we do not see where we are still broken or damaged or living a shame-filled life.” I’ve been in my own personal “wilderness” for more than a few months now…a place that continues to test my limits, expectations, ideas, health and ultimately my faith. It’s not a fun place to be, but I’m learning  it’s a necessary place to be in order to one day reach my own Promised Land (though I don’t know what it looks like yet). For Christine, her “wilderness” was born out of years of suppressing painful situations that occurred in her childhood. For me, it was brought about by rejection and fueled by change. All of these “you’re in a wilderness” enablers are fueled by a common source—-shame.

Shame is driven out by one thing: seeing yourself through the spiritual lens that God sees you through- the “resurrection lens through the power of Jesus who bore my shame…

It changes ‘I’m the child of divorce and can’t trust anyone to be loyal,’ to ‘Through God’s love, I’m discovering how to build trust in a relationship.’

It changes ‘I tried once and failed dismally,’ to ‘I can try again because of the grace of God.’

I changes ‘I can’t do that because I’m not gifted or educated or confident enough’ to ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”

The shame that has created fear and uncertainty transforms to hope and faith because “God has a destiny for me (Jeremiah 29:11), God has a purpose for me (Psalm 139:16), and God is going to use me to make a difference in the world (Philippians 1:6).”

I came to the realization over the course of reading this book that one of my coping mechanisms for dealing with rejection, stress, shame, disappointment and my “wilderness” in general is packing in more stuff into my schedule. I was reminded that trusting is hard for me, but that “we must put more faith in what we do know about God than in what we don’t know about the future.”

Ultimately, because of His death and because He rose again on that 3rd day, we are set free from all chains that bind us…chains of fear, chains of sickness, chains of shame…they’re all gone because of our identity as His children. We are good enough. We are pretty enough. We are smart enough.

 WE ARE ENOUGH because of HIM.

“When the past screams…

You are hopeless.

You are useless.

You’re not good enough.

You’ll never measure up.

Tell yourself the truth…

I am alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5)

Greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)

I am greatly loved by God. (Romans 1:7, Ephesians 2:4, Colossians 3:12)

I can do all things through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:13)

I am God’s workamanship, created in Christ for good works. (Ephesians 2:10)

I am more than a conquer through Him who loves me (Romans 8:37).”

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As You Wish

This Fall has brought not only change in the color of leaves, but great change in my own life. Over the next few weeks I have so many fun things coming up, im-notbut in the midst of the excitement it’s almost impossible not to feel a bit overwhelmed. This upcoming week will be a rollercoaster. I will enter into tech week for a show, take on midterms, two papers, a presentation and attend my premier for “I’m Not Ashamed: The Rachel Scott Story” in theaters this Friday, October 21st (GO SEE IT!!!)

 

Through the busyness, however, I am reminded of the Lord’s undeniable favor on my life.

I’ve been going through a book entitled As You Wish by Mercy Lokulutu. In it, Lokulutu brings the well-known phrase from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride, to light in a different way. When Westley answers Buttercup with “as you wish” after every one of her commands, she eventually discovers its underlying meaning: I love you. Westley is surrendering his wants, his wishes, and his life to those wishes and wants of his love, the Princess Bride. Lokulutu explains that in the same way Westley surrenders to Buttercup, we must surrender to God.

This has weighed heavily in my spirit over the past few months. It’s so hard for me to give up plans I’ve already made. The challenge I have with surrendering probably stems from my Type-A personality I so often write about, but what I see time and time again in my own life is the incredible plans He has for me consistently outweigh the tiny little dreams I have for myself. When I surrender my plans, my health, my hopes, my dreams and my life at the Cross, I am demonstrating my love for God.

 

…that’s what I want my life to say: “As you wish, Lord.”

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An honest report

Honesty. I was raised on the principle. It’s said to be the best policy. So today I’m going to be completely honest:

This summer was difficult.

So often on social media we paint a picture that is not the reality. This is my attempt at  setting it right.

I went into college last year with a determination to have an internship as soon as possible. I put pressure on myself to have my applications done a couple of months before I could actually submit them, and I was incredibly blessed to receive multiple offers. I have no doubt that the Lord sent me to Chicago, opened everything up, and saw me through the 8 weeks I was there, and ultimately got me home safely. I decided to go to the 3rd largest city in America in part for the same reason I applied to Tisch…to see if I was good enough to do it…make it on my own, live by myself, eat by myself, manage money, “adult.” What I discovered was I wasn’t good enough, or “grown” enough, or ready enough. I couldn’t do it on my own. I was sucked back into living a life filled with anxiety and stress brought on by all of the change, a lifestyle I thought I had overcome my Junior year of high school. I couldn’t eat. I was panicky. I missed my family. I missed my friends. Even though I had a great internship, new friends, and an awesome community at church, I didn’t feel like me.  The only thing I had to lean on was my faith. On my hardest days of feeling totally alone, I found Joshua 1:9 to be true, He was with me: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

My last Saturday night in Chicago I attended the Hillsong concert at the United Center. Toward the middle of the 4 ½ hour long concert, they stopped it and said they felt like someone in the audience was struggling with anxiety and fear. They said it was keeping that person from living the life God had planned for them, and that the Lord didn’t envision a life full of fear for them. My Grandaddy would have called this a word of knowledge, and as I sat listening I had no doubt that it was for me. I sat in that arena and just cried. I surrendered all of my dreams, all of my plans, my health, my future, my fear. The next day at church, they said almost verbatim the same thing that was shared at the concert. Again, I just sat and cried because I felt like it was verification from the Lord.

I learned a lot this summer, but perhaps the most important thing was that even in the midst of the most tumultuous storm, God is steadfast and His love is forever. Though I grew immensely emotionally and spiritually,  I also learned that “finding myself” this summer was overrated, after all my identity is in who my Father is. My hope and faith can only be in Him. On my darkest night, I sat in my uncomfortable bed when I couldn’t make myself swallow food because of the anxiety, listening to the Crabb family and other gospel groups and just called on the name of Jesus:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus / Sweetest name I know

And He was there. He will always be there no matter the depth of the water you find yourself in.

I’m learning that.

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

 

 

It Is Well

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot,

Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

 If you have been following my journey over the past 4 weeks, you know that I thought and prayed long and hard about the decision I made not to go to Tisch. When it came down to it, I had to figure out what I really wanted out of my undergrad experience. While that decision will influence my life after college (I won’t be $200k in debt when I graduate), I had to focus on the environment my personality would do best in and the sort of place I wanted to grow as a person and as a performer. After 4 weeks of prayer, all that I knew for sure was that I had heard “be still” loud and clear. I am at peace with the decision, and am trusting that the Lord’s plan for my life is so much greater than anything I could ever imagine. I also realized during the contemplation period that it’s ok for dreams to change. Yes, I did have a dream as a little girl to go to Tisch, but as I began to dig deep into the “dream,” I ultimately discovered the goal of that dream was to be in a program where I could receive training in dance, music, and acting to prepare me for a successful future in the entertainment industry doing what I love…successful future in the entertainment industry doing what I love, that’s the goal; it doesn’t matter how I get to the final destination, that final goal, as long as I grow along the way. That was my first epiphany. Aside from that, I reassessed all of my other dreams: pursuing grad school (maybe for drama, maybe for journalism, or maybe for law), traveling, becoming the person I want to be, getting married, building a family, retiring, etc. (I’m still working on the whole “live in the present” thing). From there, I honed in a bit on who I am…I decided I would grow more in a smaller environment, with individualized attention, exploring all different areas of study. I love performing and will pursue it professionally, but I also love academia and writing and literature and being at a school where I know almost everyone and where the “passing hello” is alive and well. I like Southern hospitality. I like my sorority. I like the community I have been welcomed into where I am. I like being close to family. I like knowing I am not expected to know everything and have all of the answers, because I’m not a fully grown adult. I have so much to learn. I have so many life experiences to be had. So for now, I am going to “be still,” and continue to pursue my dreams where I am…

and that is well with my soul.

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