Let me tell you about the Spirit of Gold.

This week is all about breath. How much power can you harness in a single second of time? Can you stretch that second, suspend it until there’s nothing left? Your lungs will burn and your shoulders tighten, but when you exhale, a high, pure note soars across the sky of the stadium. You listen for its impact, only to realize it’s been swallowed by a tidal wave of sound that rushes by you, around you, through you. That second-long breath becomes a roar of sixteen beats, and you give until there’s nothing left. The drum major’s hands stop. The last note dies away, but the walls still echo. You turn in time with the people around you; together, you take the next step.

I always say that I stay in band because I love what I do.  I love playing my instrument, being part of something bigger than myself, I love SEC gameday, and I love putting on a show one set at a time, only to have it all come together at the performance.  And that’s why I’ve stuck with band.

But really, it goes much deeper than that.  Band is a family – especially our band.  So when I talk about taking that next step together, I really mean it.  We’ve been through three director changes in the past two years, but we’ve kept putting shows on the field.  Our alumni came back voluntarily to work the high school marching invitational we host while our band performed in exhibition.  Sophomore year when I broke down crying on the sidewalk after rehearsal, I came home to four or five messages from different people who wanted to know if I was okay.  And that’s what makes the Spirit of Gold so special.

In seven hours or so, I’ll step onto the field for the last time, and that breaks my heart a little bit.  The eight straight years I’ve spent in marching band have utterly and completely made me who I am today.

But I know that with the SOG, even when everything else changes, the people stay the same.  With that in mind –

Ms. Cindi, Queen of Bands, thank you for sticking with us.  Thanks for knowing our names, and solving any problem we could possibly come up with, and being so humble, gracious and kind in every situation.  We appreciate you so very much.

Mr. Murphy & Brad, thanks for taking on this season with us.  You led us so well, and we are so grateful that you are here.

Colin, my little, thanks for being the only other person in the band who takes the SOG Sibling program seriously.  But more than that, thanks for being my friend.  College wouldn’t be the same without you at all.

Piccoloves, past and present, wow.  Y’all are my section, my people, you let me be me, and that means more than I could ever put into words.  To the alums & past piccs – Caitlyn, Emma, Emma, Lucas, Paige, Tricia, Bobby, Catey, Neevi, Zoe and Rachel – thank you for being so sweet to me when I was a tiny freshman, and for being terrific leaders for our section.  Ryn, Bethanie and Barbara – your friendships have been so dear to me every year.  I’ve loved having three whole years to get to know you.  Ethan, Kirsten and Jerico – y’all are so FUN.  You make me laugh and you have stayed positive through two of the craziest years possible, which makes you absolute rock stars.  Erin, Maia, Raven, Braelyn, James, Jessica Jr. and Katie – I could not have asked for a better group to spend senior year with.  You all have some of the brightest personalities I’ve ever come across, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for each and every one of you.  Every single year, I’ve thought that we’ve had the best group of freshmen in our section, and you’ve all been such a joy to grow alongside.  Y’all blow my mind with your community and camaraderie.  Never change.

And of course . . . Jessica, my best friend since day one of band camp freshman year, thank you for being my person.  Thanks for reading my mind and having the same brain as me.  Thank you for being there for every twist and turn in these four years, and letting me come alongside you for all of your ups and downs, too.  The heart you have for the world around you and your determination no matter the circumstance inspire me to no end.  This journey absolutely would not have been the same without you.

Spirit of Gold, I will always love the band.

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Let me tell you about the right now (Day 10: Unknown)

Tonight at Phi Lamb chapter, we talked all about making decisions.  I’m a senior in college. These days, it feels like the rest of the world sort of assumes those two things are going together in my head.  But here’s the low down: if grad school works out financially, I’ll do that.  If I get a job offer teaching in the Nashville area, I’ll do that.  And if neither of those things happen, well, I’ve been a nanny before, and maybe that’ll be my shot at writing for a living.  The long and short of it is: there are several options on the table, and none of them make me nervous when I think of walking into them in the future.

What does make me nervous is the right now.

There’s not a lot of unknowns about the future, in all honesty: it’s all about landmarks.  I’ve got good career options.  I will  graduate from Vanderbilt University in May of 2017.  Starting in January, I’ll be a student teacher.  I’ll march my last game after Thanksgiving.  I’m taking my licensure exams in November.

What’s unknown is the day-to-day debris of life, the getting from one of these markers to the next, the in-between.  How to get all the work done, how to make the little decisions to keep myself moving forward.  And what to do when circumstances come out of left field, hit me in the head, and refuse to be ignored.

I came home Saturday night to find out from my dear, thrilled-to-pieces roommate that Bob Goff – one of our favorite humans/author of Love Does – was speaking at a church in Nashville the next morning, so we loaded up at 8:20am and headed to Crosspoint.  Not only did we get to meet Bob before the service and confirm that he is, indeed, an absolutely incredible person, but his message just hit me right where I’ve been at and settled deep in my heart, my lungs, my soul.  He talked about a lot of things, but here is the most important thing:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, and you will do everything right.

That’s a tough one for me to wrap my perfectionist, performance-driven, people-pleasing mind around.  There has always been a difference for me between getting things done and doing things right.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, because quality will get you places.  But sometimes, I don’t even know what right is or how to get myself there.  Right becomes my responsibility, and I spend my life trying to get myself there.  I spend my life trying to make it easy.  Keep your eyes on Jesus. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. 

There’s a lot of unknown in the right now, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Not every decision needs me to think five or six steps ahead of myself.  Not every outcome has to be known.  So this week, I’m remembering that it’s okay to see where something goes until it runs out of room, or doesn’t.  It’s okay to be where you are and feel what you feel, without fear or focus on the future.  It’s okay to not know.  Because if I’m keeping my eyes on Jesus, He tells me I’m doing it right.

And bonus, so does Bob.

This month, I’m challenging myself to participate in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes – composing a post in five minutes flat based on the one-word prompts the lovely Christina atCreative & Free has designed.  While I won’t be posting every day, I hope this will motivate me to share small snapshots of my walk and wanderings more often in this space.  To see all of my posts from this series, click here.

Symphoneo: let me tell you about the conductor.

One month, two papers, three projects and two home games into the school year.  That’s how long it took for me to throw up my hands and hit rock bottom.

So far, this year is not what I expected it to be.  Taking 13 credit hours was supposed to be easier, not more difficult.  My classes were supposed to be constructive and critical, not draining and daunting.  I knew that I was stepping into what Peabody College calls our “professional” year: I just didn’t realize that role and responsibility was going to threaten my last true semester as a student, not a student teacher.

While walking this fine line between educator and educated, there are lessons learned and truths taught that began writing themselves on my heart in Buenos Aires and are still telling their story.  Our very first day of class, our literature professor, Gaby, described the city as a broken mirror: the store window, the water in the street reflect a piece of you, but never the whole picture.  The rhythms and rhymes of urban life show you who you are, but break you apart first.  That’s exactly how I felt as I walked through Buenos Aires: those streets shattered everything I knew about myself, but everywhere I looked,  I caught sight of another piece of my self.  I picked them up one by one and God began revealing deep things to my heart about where I’ve come from and where I’m going.  And I wrapped those shards up carefully, stowed them in my carry-on and shared them on this blog, and I brought them home with me and took them back out.  Lately, it’s feeling like when all I want to do is press into the truth of who I am and bring that comfort in my own skin with me into my world at Vanderbilt, the pieces of who I am that I pick up grow jagged edges, leaving scratches on my hands.  I know how important it is to me to find time to go deep into the Word, to get a good night’s sleep, and to spend time in community with other believers, to invest in the time I spend with my friends and my family, and to sit down day after day and put words to paper.  I know that the time I spend on these things is valuable.  Crucial, even, to being the person God made me to be.  What I don’t know is why, when life picks up and schoolwork becomes the first priority, those things are the first to fall to the bottom of my to-do list – somewhere they don’t belong in the first place.  What I don’t know is why it feels impossible to be the me that I felt like I found in another continent in the place that I call home.

If we think He doesn’t hear us sometimes, it’s because we are so driven by discord that we don’t hear him.

Beth Moore, Living Proof Live

Did you catch that?

How often do I feel driven by discord, like I am living out of a desperate mission to create harmony from notes that were never meant to be played together.  As a musician, you would think that dissonance would set my hair on end and grind my teeth together.  But instead, there is something in me that drives me towards discord because I think can find the solution.

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This past weekend, I had the chance to fly home for the weekend and get together with some of my favorite, favorite ladies – my mom, my three aunts, my basically-aunt, and my cousin.  We all trekked up to Chicago and met up to hear Beth Moore, one of our favorite Christian writers, speak at Living Proof Live, her ministry simulcast event.  I left that weekend feeling so filled – from the worship, from the fellowship, but especially from Beth’s sessions and the musical metaphor she described to us.

In the New Testament, there is a Greek word frequently to talk about agreement in the body of believers.  It means to be in accord, to be in unison.  This word is symphoneo.  Its English cognate is symphony.  From the beginning of the conference, she made it clear that this was the fundamental point on which she would build the rest of her teaching: we all have a seat in a divine symphony.  There are so many nuances to this metaphor that Beth fleshed out for us through Scripture, but I want to go deep with one at a time with you in this space.

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Nugget number one: we must keep our eyes on our conductor.

When you think about a symphony, what comes to mind is a glorious setup of instruments and musicians, each with their own part to play, coming together to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  There are solos and there are features, but at the height of a powerful chord, no one individual is more important than the others.  There is one individual, however, who is most important.  He has the most responsibility as well as the most stake in the success of his symphony.  I can say this, because for two years, I stood in front of my high school marching band and played his same role.  A symphony succeeds when every person is seated so that they can see the conductor.

But what if I can’t see Him from where I am?

What if the deadlines and disruptions are piled high around me?  What if my obligations and organizations are tugging at me from all directions?  If I crane my neck, will I see him? Will I catch a glimpse as these commitments whirl me in dizzying circles?

These are the questions that come to mind for me. I am so, so quick to blame a lack of control over my circumstances, context and conditions for my failure, my fear, and my flailing.  This is the definition of discord, and you would think I would run – but instead, in response, I fixate.  I do everything in my power to acquire a control that I was never meant to have.  And in doing so, I take my eyes off of my conductor.  As Beth put it, my gaze determines that the very thing I did not want to have control now does.  The thing that is in the way of me and my conductor has become my conductor.

For me, it feels like this is what school does.  It sucks my time and my energy dry – I am convinced – because my professors are unfair, because I had another commitment, or because my schedule was busy.  At the end of the day, this breaks down to reveal a failure on my part to maintain good control – of my schedule, of my commitments, and of my life.  Control not only assumes that have power to change my circumstance, it implies responsibility. So I make my class work more of a priority, frightened by the possibility of failure – because failure now represents so much more than a grade.  It has become the determination of my worth – how well my instrument is playing, if you’ll indulge the metaphor.  I give my work priority above my needs, my community, and my walk with God – and in doing so, I give up those pieces of truth I brought home with me from Argentina and settle for letting half-truths and lies tell me who I am.  I forget that who I am is who God is making me to be. I give the very thing I never wanted to have power over me complete control of the tempo, the rhythm, and the melody of my life.  

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:11-14 (NIV)

God wants to be our conductor because He has so much more in store for us than this cycle of control.  The narrative, the song of our lives is not about us.  He has already given me value, worth and purpose, inside and outside of my success in school, by calling me to a seat in His symphony, to join in the song He is writing across all time and space – to the praise of His glory.  There is this whole movement taking place, for which the world was created – to the praise of His glory.   And until we take our seat, we have no idea.

So park your rear in chair, pick up what you have, and sit up straight.  When your gaze is on Him, Conductor of our divine symphony, you will never have to worry about being in the wrong measure, missing a beat, or what to play next.  Something big is in store for us on this stage – I can feel it in my bones.  Dive into the calling of who He is calling you to be, as we move into the next movement of the divine symphony.

Fight the good fight – let me tell you about this semester.

Happy last first day of school from your favorite senior who’s not ready to admit that the countdown has begun!  I just left my first class of the semester: Western Military Thought, the capstone course for my history major.  Scribbled in the margins of my notes from the introduction of class is this: “You can’t have a strategy without a goal.”

I knew that coming into this school year, only a month and a half out of my time in Argentina, was clearly going to be an adjustment.  I needed a plan – to keep those lessons I learned at the front of my mind, create boundaries, promote health, and continue to seek after Christ.  And to create that plan, the heartbeat behind how and where I spend my time in this final semester of undergraduate classes, I made myself a list of goals.

I’ve pulled that list out several times since I’ve been back, just to remind myself what I’ve committed to, because already the enemy is flooding my system and my surroundings with busyness, anxieties, fears, missteps, and frustrations.  I tend to throw myself into defensive mode to counteract the barrage of information and activities to keep track of – and that only causes more problems than it solves.  Today  I was thinking – maybe it’s time to step out, not shrink back.

My mom has always had this saying – “Be a duck.” Let things roll right off your back.  Don’t get so worked up about the little things.  It’s good advice, even if my pride and stubbornness have held me back a long time from admitting it.

I am, by nature, the opposite of a duck, whatever kind of bird that is.  Things sit heavy on my head and heart; I get worked up about them quickly and it takes me a long time to come back down.  In my mind, there is a fine line between complacency and conflict – however harmless the remark, I can’t stand it when there’s no challenging an insult, a mark of disrespect, or miscommunication.  Even if it’s my remark, I would rather wade through the murky water of apologies up front than let the possibility of my thoughtlessness linger in someone else’s world.  They say pick and choose your battles – but what if all of my battles matter to me too much to put any of them down?

This is a year where I have to make choices.  I have to decide what my priorities are, what is the most important to me.  And in evaluating those, in every time I get worked up about something, I have to remind myself.  It’s okay to be a duck, it’s okay to let some things go; and it’s okay to fight for some things at the same time.  When it comes to our circumstances, Scripture has a caveat for how we respond and what we prioritize.

There are two kinds of fights.  There’s fighting for ourselves – for control, power, image or success.  For the things we want, for the things we don’t trust God to handle for us, for the things of the world.  Scripture has a response to that.

We do live in the world, but we do not fight in the same way the world fights. // 2 Corinthians 10:3

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. // Exodus 14:14

To me, that’s not a fight at all.  That’s when I respond from a place of self-defense, not security; I lash out, rather than choosing love.

Then, there’s fighting for the Gospel. For our identities to be rooted in Christ.  For the light to shine in the darkness.  For truth to be louder than fear.  For the chance to know Him deeper and walk with Him more closely.  For the people around us to know love and be known.

Fight the good fight of faith, grabbing hold of the life that continues forever. You were called to have that life when you confessed the good confession before many witnesses. // 1 Timothy 6:12

I want the life that continues forever.

I choose to fight the good fight of faith.

These are the things I’m going to fight for this year.

I want to stop saying that in the next stage of my life, I’ll meet these goals or purse these activities.  I want to do them now.  Just like I want to stop saying that at the next turn, I’ll be the person I want to be, instead of being her now, when I’d like to be most.

I want to recapture the languid pace of life in Buenos Aires, the way the hours stretched by, and translate it in Vanderbilt’s environment.

I want to wake up at 6:30 every weekday morning, no exceptions.

I want to keep listening to podcasts while I get ready in the mornings.  I want to eat breakfast, then sit at the kitchen table and read my Bible.

I want to do my homework right after the class for which it’s assigned.  I want to leave that class with all of my ideas and notes bubbling at the surface, take an hour to sit down and organize myself for whatever work needs to be done for the upcoming week.  If my brain is worn out from class, it’s okay to kill half an hour first.  But it has to be started – at least looked at – that same day.

I want to pick a consistent time of day and place to sit and write or “work.”  I want to do what Anne Lamott said and just put down words on the paper, a one-inch picture frame at a time, whether it’s TWC prompts, HopeWriters, blog research, or just plain word vomit.  I want to do it every day that I’m able. I know I won’t always be able. I want to try anyway.

I want work out.  I want to do my ankle exercises, squats, lunges, pushups, sit-ups, planks every day. I want to go to yoga class, just one hour a week. And I want to go work out with somebody else.  Not all the times, but a couple of times.  Some times.

I want to pour into my friends and be poured into.  I want to pursue lunches, dinners, breakfasts, brunches, coffee dates, work nights, Starbs on Sundays, whatever it is, whatever it takes to love on them and be in community.  I want to put my phone away every time I sit down with someone. I want to talk about the messy parts of life and create spaces that are authentic.  I want to not overwhelm myself with people, to see time with them as rest, as a privilege, and not an obligation or an evaluation.

I want to work hard for Phi Lamb, and I want to work hard for band.  But I refuse to let either one of them work me up to the point where my identity, my joy, or my value is determined by how either are going.  I want to give what I can and walk away with my hands open and my head high and my gaze fixed on things that are more important.

I want to create meaningful relationships in Navs.  I want to go every week, and I want to do every week of the study.

I want to cook, budget, and meal prep.  I want to make actual recipes and learn what I’m doing even if it means I fail a few times.  I want to learn some basic dishes that I like, that are easy, and that I can freeze.  But I want to eat well and I want to teach myself what I’m doing, even if it means I have to block out some extra time.  Just look at it as mental health time.  Because that’s what it is.

I want to put my phone up at 10:30pm.  It gets plugged in across the room. If there’s not an outlet across the room, it goes in the living room.  Until I go to sleep, I want to read.

I want to be kind to myself.  I can’t do everything I want to, just everything I can.  The things that I’ve drug along as I’ve skated through the surface of life, making it from one day to the next by the skin of my teeth, carrying a load that I promise myself will lighten as soon as I reach the next milestone or checkpoint – when they start to weigh on me, I will let them fall.

 

Let me tell you about goodbyes.

Guess what guess what?! Finals are FINALly over!!! I leave tomorrow morning and I couldn’t be more thrilled for a break.  Except – this is an 8-month break from the place that I love.

I went for my last walk on campus today, and I thought of something  I told a friend at the beginning of the semester.  I’ve lived a lot of places and I call a lot of places home, but Vanderbilt is one place where I don’t have to try to make that happen.  I am 100% me here.  I know every inch of this campus, and it knows me right back.  It knows where I’ve cried, where I’ve laughed, where I’ve walked and talked with friends and where I’ve walked and talked with God.  It’s where I learned what I love doing, it’s where I decided what to do with the rest of my life, it’s my dream come true. It’s where my community is, it’s where my friends are, it’s where my heart is. And I am voluntarily giving all of that up to go to Argentina next semester.

And right now, I am terrified.  I cried as I walked across campus for the last time for a long time this afternoon.  I don’t want to go somewhere new. I want to stay right here where it’s comfortable and never let this place and these moments go.

Isn’t that how life feels for a lot of us?  It’s safe here and it’s comfortable and there might be something better on the other side, but why go look if you might loose what you already had?

My answer is because God’s called me too. It’s not a coincidence my scholarship covered the exact cost of the trip, it’s not a coincidence I stuck with Spanish in college, and it’s not a coincidence that out of the 6 people going to Buenos Aires from Vandy, I know three of them. It’s because God has a plan for me, a chance to do something not everyone gets to do, an adventure of a lifetime planned, and it’s in Argentina.

As I was struggling to stay positive on my walk this afternoon, I stopped by the post office to pick up my mail one last time, and I had a Christmas card from my friend Rebekah.  Rebekah is also a history major who studied abroad last semester and a lovely person, and we’ve had several classes together.  In her letter, she told me how excited she was for me, but she also said this – “I hope that from the time you arrive to the time you leave you love every minute, but if at any point you don’t, don’t worry.”

HEY GOD.  You ever have those moments where you just look up and go, okay, hey God – I hear you, that was truth.  Rebekah’s words are exactly the truth I needed to hear in that moment, and I am so grateful.  I hope that from the time the plane touches down to the minute it takes off again, I enjoy every moment – but if I don’t, if it’s hard, if I miss it here – that’s how you grow, that’s how you learn, and that’s where God provides. And I can’t wait to see how He does so in just a few months!

 

Let me tell you about finals.

Happy holidays, happy holidays, may the many tests keep bringing better GPAs to you!

Okay, so that’s not the song, but that’s pretty much what’s going on around here right now.  I’m writing this from the Starbucks by campus which is not only the biggest Starbs I’ve ever been, but was completely full of people when I got here – like, someone at every table, all the seats full at the big tables, all the armchairs taken as well.  I hung out outside for awhile and then saw some girls who had been sitting in the armchairs leave so I got aggressive and managed to snag one by an outlet – score.  That pretty much sums up finals week: everywhere you go on or close to campus is crammed with people studying, usually with caffeine in hand, and usually vying for spots to plug in computers.

But hey!  We’re making it through.  Classes wrap up today and there’s just a week left until I am DONE with finals forever! (until I take them next semester in a foreign country).  Anywho, I have plenty I should be doing (three more papers, three more tests – pray for me if you think of it!), but I wanted to take a second out of this hectic day to share some truth I’ve been learning in the middle of the end-of-semester chaos.  Ready? Here’s my finals top three.

1. Surrender your days to God.  Shoutout to my girl Stephanie Moss for sharing this one with my tired heart yesterday! It is SO hard for me during finals week to stay on top of everything and most of the time,  I reach this point where I wake up in the morning and think of all the things I have to do that day, and then say “I have no idea how I’m going to get it all done.”  And there’s nothing wrong with that, because it’s me being honest with myself and evaluating my priorities and trying to face the day.  BUT the problem is that my next move should be to say, “I have no idea how I’m going to get it all done, but God, you do – so here is my day, I’m turning it over to you.  Instead I like to get up and say “I have no idea how I’m going to get it all done, so I probably just won’t sleep much again tonight, and I should get some coffee in me and try to hit this thing head on alone.”  God did not create us to be in community with him for us to take the hard things on alone!!! Like Steph said, it’s super hard to remember that morning surrender throughout the day, but even if I don’t, at the end I  can look back and see how God met me where I was at and brought me through those hours by His grace.  The surrender is still so worth it, and He’ll use that for your good and His glory.  His mercies are new every morning – so every morning, why not seize that opportunity to live out of mercy and turn over our days to Him?

2. Be still.  Friends, I’m begging you – just ten minutes.  I’m doing this daily Advent writing challenge – where you write some Scripture that speaks to the coming of our King for just ten minutes or less every day.  The other night I was copying down words from Isaiah in my hasty scrawl, when I stopped and thought “This is the most important thing I do every day.”  And it is.  It really is.  In order to copy something successfully, you have to be thinking about the words as you write them.  So for ten minutes, all I’m thinking about is these words about my Jesus, when for the rest of the  day, my brain is processing a dozen things at once.  Whatever it is for you -writing, prayer, listening to music, drawing – just ten minutes a day.  When you need a break from studying, instead of getting on Facebook this time or pulling up YouTube (guilty), be still before the Lord.  Because let me tell you – he’s got amazing things for you to hear when you stop and sit and listen, things that will get you through this week.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but he will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

3. Treasure where you are. Lol this one is hard to do.  Just the other night I was saying to a friend that it’s easy to recognize how blessed I am to be at Vandy and what an incredible school this is the rest of the semester, but during finals, I see ALL the flaws in the system and complain like crazy about all the things our school could do better.  Which is so silly of course! – no where is perfect, and I’m grateful that Vandy is constantly looking for ways to better meet student needs.  But, most of all, y’all . . . in a short week-and-a-half (ugh I can’t believe I’m writing this for real), I’m leaving this place.  For about 9 months. And let me tell you – whatever else I say about my professors and my program and my finals schedule, I really wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else in this moment as one of my hardest semesters comes to a close.  My people are here.  My community is here.  My favorite memories are here.  And I know I’m choosing to leave it all and be somewhere else next semester, but that’s just to take advantage of one more opportunity this wonderful place affords me.  Think about it, this college experience is all going to be over so quickly – even in the craziness of studying, of trying to see everyone I love one more time, of trying to wrap Christmas presents, of crisscrossing campus, I want to soak up every last second.  Join me?

I’m no expert on how to survive finals, but I have done it a time or two before, and as I head into the home stretch, these are the things I am living by.  I believe in you, my friend!  Let’s get through this thing together.

Let me tell you about the 1989 World Tour

I promise, friends, one of these days I will write about something other than Taylor Swift on this blog, but that day is not today.  Because this weekend something pretty incredible happened – I got to go to not Friday, not Saturday, but BOTH NIGHTS of the 1989 World Tour in Nashville.  And I just couldn’t have that experience and NOT share it somewhere . . . so let me tell you!20150926_233043830_iOS 20150926_233101007_iOS

Me, Kathryn & Daniel with the tour trucks on Night 2

First of all, this was a rough week.  In fact, September has just been a rough month! Not only have we had three home games in a row, making my weekends long and tiring and my weeks busy with rehearsal, but this week life really got crazy.  I had three papers, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I was sick, and wildfires were popping up everywhere.  By Wednesday night, I felt like I was sitting watching everything I’d touched go up in smoke.  It’s really, really hard not shatter as life hits you harder. And that’s where God stepped in to show me that there are some things so profoundly true about His grace and my life that circumstances don’t have the power to destroy.

So Vanderbilt had this competition called #VUSwift, right?  You make a post on Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr answering the question “How has Vanderbilt made your Wildest Dreams come true?” with lyrics from one of Taylor’s songs.  7 lucky random winners would get to take a friend with them to Night 1 of #1989TourNashville in a private box suite with Chancellor Zeppos. WHAT. Right?!  I knew it was a long shot, but of course I entered.  So did my roommate Kathryn – and Tuesday, we found out she was a finalist.  So out of all the entries, she was one of 20 people who were entered for the final drawing.  !!!!!!!!  We knew it was still a long shot, but since we’ve had tickets for Night 2 since last October, we thought – best case scenario, we win; worst case scenario, we still see Taylor.

Y’all, I still can’t believe it myself.  Halfway through the afternoon on Thursday, Kathryn got the email – the one that said, “Congratulations!  You and Allie will be headed to Bridgestone Arena Friday night to see Taylor Swift with Chancellor Zeppos!”  For two people who never win anything, we were jumping off the walls with excitement (Okay, so I was jumping, and Kathryn was a little more calm).  Of all the things to win, we were going to see our favorite artist, in a private suite, with the University Chancellor, FOR FREE.  I am so grateful that out of everyone she could have taken, Kathryn picked me.

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Our seats for Night 1 (Thank you Vandy!!!) and our selfie with the Chancellor!

You know what is even crazier than that?  The timing.  I already knew Taylor was going to make this weekend awesome even if the week had been crummy, but the timing made it clear to me that God was so, so present in the midst of my brokenness and frustration and circumstances.  You can laugh all you want to and you can call me obsessed, but the simple fact of the matter is I love music, I love concerts, and I love, love, love Taylor Swift and what she stands for as an artist.  Putting all three of those together (plus getting to go TWICE with my sweet roommate, who not only puts up but joins in with my crazy concert dancing) was such a gift, and a reminder that life is a lot bigger than just the hard things.

But wait – it gets better!  If you’ve known me very long, then you know I’ve been hoping and dreaming and planning to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina next semester.  Although last semester, and even over the summer, I was hesitant to leave the campus I love so much and the people and activities God’s given me here for so long, but after a lot of time in prayer, and realizing when things lined up financially that God was literally making it possible for me to go, I was so, so excited to begin planning for this new adventure.  The only step left to make it official was the actual application process and my admittance to the program.  An hour after Kathryn and I found out we were going to Taylor Night 1, I got the email that I had been accepted to study abroad in Buenos Aires with CIEE.  GOD IS SO GOOD, GUYS.  

Let me tell you, even when life starts to look up, it is really hard to look on past the hard things. It wasn’t until Friday night, when Taylor hit the runway singing “New Romantics,” that the sweet reality of all of these things hit me at once.

There are some things that make me, me no matter what else is happening.  Not only is my identity secure as a daughter of God, but I have a heart for Belize, I have a passion for the Spanish language, for education, for American history, I read really really fast, I love to sing, I love discovering new music, and pink is my signature color.  The beautiful thing about 1989 is Taylor went back to the simplest fact about herself, the year she was born, and built onto that to tell a story about who she was.  I think when life gets hard, we have to keep going back to those things about ourselves we know to be true, the things we love doing and the gifts that God’s given us, who and how we are in the world because of those things, and build on to our story from there. 

Throughout the show, Taylor gives several speeches.  Right before she played Enchanted/Wildest Dreams, she told us what she thinks about happiness, and how on the gray days, on the hard days, this night was going to be one of those memories she pulled out as a reminder of true happiness.  There are a lot of moments in life with sharp edges, that can cut and bleed when you pull them back out and look at them.  But for every one of those, God gives us a thousand more that show us who and how we are, and what great joy there is to be found in our lives.

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The next time I have a gray day, I’m going to remember the 1989 World Tour.  I’m going to think about how crazy it is I got to see Vance Joy and Haim open for her twice.  I’m going to remember how she brought out Kelsea Ballerini, Steven Tyler, Alison Krauss, Leona Lewis AND Mick Jagger as her special musical guests.  I’m going to remember Taylor shouting “Nashville!” during Blank Space.  I’m going to remember how everyone’s wristbands lit up red and white during I Knew You Were Trouble.  I’m going to remember the LED costumes from How You Get The Girl, and how Taylor yelled “Now let me see you jump, jump, jump!” like she KNEW it was my favorite song to dance to on the album.  I’m never going to forget when she sang Fifteen to her best friend Abigail from high school, standing right below her at the B-stage.  Or the Love Story remix.  I’m going to hold on to the Clean speech, when she told me that the worst thing about heartbreak is that it makes you regret being brave, and that letting people in, trusting people, and being generous with your heart are beautiful things to do (and yes, I cried).  I’m never going to forget how after years and years of singing harmony to Taylor’s songs in my room and in my car, I got sing harmony with her in person, one voice out of thousands – but I’m also never going to forget how she told us that if we thought she couldn’t see us in as one of those thousands, we were wrong.

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Night 1: How You Get the Girl

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Clean

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Out of the Woods

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Night 2: Vance Joy

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Clean

There are always hard days and gray days.  This is life we’re talking about, and sadly, the world is a broken place that can break us if we let it.  But God is so gracious and good to give us these nights we can hold onto, and these pieces of ourselves that can’t be broken.  And you know what?  Argentina is going to be another one of those places that defines me, and I’ll come home with even more memories that teach me who I am and what happiness is.  I can’t wait to tell you.