Immeasurably more

I decided for the weeks leading up to my 21st birthday, that I wanted to go through Annie Downs’s devotional, “100 Days to Brave: Unlocking Your Most Courageous Self,” and Alex Seeley’s “Tailormade,” a book that the Lord has used to bring peace into the areas of my life where I didn’t even know I needed it. The amazing thing is that both of these works have focused on similar themes of pursuing a life of purpose, big dreams and allowing the call on your life to be expressed in bigger ways than our human minds can fathom. I am one to always plan things to a “T.” I like knowing what step comes next. I like timelines. I LOVE my Google Calendar. I am a fan of every detail going just as I’ve planned. I’ve had a very open struggle with my attempt to plan perfectly and execute accordingly at certain times in my life. Over the past few weeks, it’s been hitting me hard…the fact that Senior year is on the horizon… I don’t know what will come after the year is up. I want to cherish the time I have left on the Mountain and the people I hold so dear in a place that I have so much love for; “what ifs” have filled my mind and I realized I was relapsing into anxiety and fear-driven thinking. It’s in those moments when Fear becomes louder than Truth that the Lord always finds a way to draw your thoughts back into reality and remind you of His promises.
My Aunt Amy, who has doubled over the years as a spiritual mentor in my life, called me the other day. I was expressing a lot of my concerns about the future and wanting to make sure I was pursuing the life that I should be pursuing. She reminded me that my steps are ordered (Psalm 37:23) and that no matter what, the plan the Lord has for my life is good (Jeremiah 29:11). It may not be a clear road sign saying “Karissa, this is what you need to do with your life, and this is where you need to go to do it,” or a random dream after going to sleep immediately after drinking too many chai tea lattes, BUT there is comfort in looking back on the Lord’s faithfulness this far in my life, seeing step-by-step how He got me to where I am today gearing up for the start of my Senior year.
My summer program, Sewanee-in-England begins in a week and a half, so I’m knee deep in reading everything from “Antigone” to “An Ideal Husband” to “The Winter’s Tale” to “The Parthenon” to “Home Fire” by Kamila Shamsie. In a way, it’s also the start of studying for my English and Theatre comps because so much of the content overlaps (that may be the scariest sentence I’ve formed in a while). As I finished “The Winter’s Tale,” I remembered reading some pastoral lit. in my Sophomore year Renaissance Literature class, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. Time flies, friends. The year I have looked forward to with anticipation of artistic, spiritual and emotional growth, learning, auditions, senior projects/honors projects, comps, hellos and goodbyes is here. I don’t know much about the future, but I do know that the Lord will continue to lead, and that when I leave the magical Mountain I have called home in a year, I will continue to pursue what I love. I have always believed that humanity, to its core, is expressed through powerful works of art whether it be through theatre, music, dance, literature, fashion or visual art. As I look forward to the best being yet to come, I do so with a heart full of gratitude. Dr. Condoleezza Rice gave an incredible Baccalaureate address at Sewanee earlier this month that made me reflect on the amazing opportunity that I was blessed with to attend Sewanee (and Oxford last semester and University of Chester this summer), and in turn express my thanks for all of the opportunities going to the University has given me. I am thankful for my professors who have gone above and beyond to give me those opportunities, for my friends and family for unending encouragement, for my college and abroad experience that led me to rediscover theatre, music, dance and all different forms of expression in a new way.
Here’s to the next two months of art, academics, antiquity and abroad…and to a Senior year filled with all of that (plus many, many auditions to continue the alliteration train) and more (Ephesians 3:20).612752F7-B8B2-4E36-A1CF-6898708C2079.jpeg

Advertisements

A covenant commitment

I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s promises lately. Not just the ones that automatically come to mind when I think about the covenants of the Bible like God’s promise never to flood the whole earth again, or the list of Psalms saying the Lord will always be there during times of trial, but ones that have been showing up in my readings spontaneously, allowing me to know that the Lord hears my prayers and is making His fingerprints visible all over my life.

I came home from Europe almost two weeks ago from a semester abroad. Since my return, everything that could possibly have gone wrong, has. I’ve felt like I’ve been in some sort of battle (I do believe it’s a spiritual one) where instead of being able to fight back, I’m locked in one position being pounded from left and right, up and down. I’m realizing though, 13 days in, that the devotional set that pairs with Stephanie May Wilson’s The Lipstick Gospel I read while abroad, which didn’t come with the book before I left, but was sitting on my bed when I walked into my room from the airport, could not have been for a better time. Throughout my trip, whether it be by keeping my group safe, drawing people together to form lifelong friendships, or providing WiFi at a café because the hotel’s wasn’t working, I saw God’s faithfulness every day. Coming home to uncertainty and a change of plans blindsided me from seeing His goodness for a couple of days. Stuck in my feelings, I was slow to come around to the idea that I always reassure my friends with: “His plan is better than ours.”

Yesterday I was reading in Isaiah and the 54th chapter jumped out at me:

“‘I left you, but only for a moment. Now, with enormous compassion, I’m bringing you back. It’s with lasting love that I’m tenderly caring for you…For even if the mountains walk away and the hills fall to pieces, My love won’t walk away from you, My covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.’ The God who has compassion on you says so.”

Isaiah 55 continues:

“I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you, the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love. I set him up as a witness to the nations, made him prince and leader of nations, and now I’m doing it to you…I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work…So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song.”

There was something about reading that, seeing how God’s promises piece back together the world’s brokenness…the church’s brokenness…my brokenness, fixing it with His love, that engulfed me with a sense of peace and hope. While I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, like my sweet college froomz reminded me, I just have to trust.

Trust His promises and His plans.

The Trouble With Comparison

IMG_8895

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…

in His most perfect time. waiting in time.JPG

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).”

unashamed

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.”

me.jpg