Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Story of Jonah: Receiving Grace and Mercy

My two-week summer break back home in Pennsylvania has been going quite well. I've filled most of my time with just relaxing around the house with my family or being alone; Just me and my laptop, buried away in our living room with the door shut trying to learn choreography from videos for this upcoming season with Ballet Magnificat.

This past weekend my housemate from Jackson, Mississippi, Maggie was passing through Lancaster from visiting extended family in New York. We decided to meet up and together with Maggie's parents and brother we went to see the production called 'Jonah' being presented at Sight and Sound Theater. It was such a phenomenal show! And such a fun day!

First, we had dinner at the Park City Diner in Lancaster.    Image Source

Me with Maggie

I ordered this beautiful crispy chicken salad. Talk about presentation!

Mini Van Selfie on the way to Sight and Sound

Sight and Sound Theater   Image Source

Maggie, her brother, and I posing with some merch.

If you are in either the Lancaster, PA or the Branson, MO area I highly recommend you catch this show at your local Sight and Sound Theater when it tours near you! I know that people from all over the country and the world come to Lancaster to see the productions put on by Sight and Sound Theater. I'd seen a show by them before many years ago, 'Noah' I believe it was, and though it was a memorable experience I did not have very high expectations for seeing 'Jonah' this time around, but boy! I enjoyed 'Jonah' SO much more than I ever thought I would! Take a look at the preview below!

Perhaps the reason I was able to better enjoy the biblical presentation put on by Sight and Sound Theater this time around is because I am in a different and better place with God in terms of my faith and our relationship than I was previously. God spoke to me so clearly through the musical presentation of 'Jonah'. I almost wished I would have taken my journal so I could write everything down that he was speaking into my heart. I love that the awesome character of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ was so clearly displayed in the show, not to mention the character of the man of Jonah, who I found to be so relatable. Everyone needs to go read the book of Jonah right now! It's only 4 short chapters. You can do it! And then when you are done, read below the 4 reasons why I think Jonah is so relatable.

Four Reasons Why Jonah Is So Relatable to Me:

#1  Jonah runs away. At the daunting direction of the Lord calling Jonah to do something he didn't want to do (delivering a message to the Ninevites), Jonah ran the other direction in fear and disobedience. The fact that I can relate to Jonah about running away from God's direction sure does make me feel better, but it doesn't make it right. We have the advantage of learning from Jonah's account as we see the repercussions that occur due to his selfish decision to run. I love this quote from Sight and Sound's 'Jonah'

"Whenever you run from something, you run to something else, and that is usually worse..."

I love that though Jonah fled in disobedience, God still made a way to glorify Himself in the situation by the sailors having witnessed His power and might and coming to faith in Him! God doesn't waste anything, even when we make mistakes, and that brings me encouragement.

#2  Jonah fights with God about the 'unjust' outcome of Him sparing the Ninevites. Everyone knows about how Jonah gets swallowed by a whale. (That was a spectacular scene at the Sight and Sound show!) God spares Jonah and after three days and three nights, God has the whale spit Jonah out. When God called Jonah a second time to deliver the message of destruction to Ninevites, this time Jonah obeyed. Unexpectedly, the message Jonah delivered to the Ninevites brought them to a place of humility, fasting, prayer, and repentance in hopes that God would then relent and spare them, which He in turn did. Another surprise at the beginning of chapter 4 is when we find that the mercy God had on the Ninevites provokes Jonah to anger (he didn't like the Ninevites)! Mercy and grace are hard things to grasp for us humans, especially with our culture, but they are such beautiful things. 
In the Bible study book that I am going through with the ladies from my church called "Seeking Him" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, it explains:

Sometimes the mercy and grace that we so desire and need for ourselves is the same mercy and grace that like Jonah, is so hard for us in our flesh to give to others. This is the second way to which I can relate with Jonah. I love these song lyrics found in a song called "Be My Escape"  by the Christian music band 'Reliant K' that say, "The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair" (for Jesus!). God has been SO gracious to us, his rebellious creation. I can only pray that through him I might be able to extend the same grace and mercy to others. 

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 
Matthew 19:26
(out of context, but the truth still remains.)

#3  Jonah focused his attention, cares, and concerns on trivial matters. I loved reading about the part in chapter 4 when Jonah gets all worked up and disheartened (and quite dramatically!) over the plant God gave to him for shade, and then took away. I hate when my plants die. I take care of them and love them as if they were my own children, but in all reality, they have no importance in life compared to other things. 😂 I can relate to Jonah with how it is so easy to let something small distract us from what we should really be concerning ourselves with; God's plan and not our own. 

#4  Jonah's motives. The production I saw of 'Jonah' that Sight and Sound Theater presented this past weekend developed ideas of why Jonah may have fled in fear and disobedience, more than the Bible presents us with! While some could consider this heretical, I don't believe that it would be entirely wrong for us to speculate on what Jonah's motivations were. After all he is human just like you and me, and we almost always have motivations for our actions and for the choices we make, whether it be a past hurt or bitter root, protecting one's reputation, or maybe feeling oppressed with condemnation. It's interesting to think about.

I am so thankful to have this God of Jonah as my God too! I am thankful for the Word of God as well as all the examples of the people God chooses to include in it that have gone before and have made mistakes for us to learn from. Nobody was perfect then, and nobody is perfect now. The Bible says in Romans 3 that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," BUT it also says "all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." If you would like to learn more about redemption, what it is, and/or about Christ's beautiful act of redemption on the cross, click HERE!  And let us repent to our wonderful merciful Savior when we find ourselves "missing the mark".

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Closing Time

Hello faithful readers! I Just woke up from taking the longest nap of my life when I realized...HEY, I FINALLY HAVE FREE TIME!?!? and thought, "I should probably not sleep it all away, but write a blog post instead!" ...So here I go!😊

Firstly, a sincere apology is in order from me to you for leaving you hanging last month with not an update to be found concerning tour life with Ballet Magnificat Alpha. April was just such a busy month and now it's over! Where did April go? Do you know where April went? In a nutshell, this past month was full of eventful weekend 'run-outs' (traveling shorter distances to perform in nearby states) and when in town I kept myself busy earning extra income teaching ballet classes and cleaning houses all the livelong day in efforts to start saving money for my international mission trip with Ballet Magnificat Alpha that is steadily approaching, but I'll share more about that a little bit later. 

I left off in March sharing with you about our tour to Longview, Texas. Since then, we have traveled to Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee, Louisiana, and North Carolina. All our tours went so wonderfully well! God worked so evidently in each one. I haven't posted much about them yet, but if you would like to delve deeper with me into the details of what all went down, let's 'crack this nutshell open'! continue reading below!

Sprawled out before me on my desk are my tour schedule, mod podged covered journal, and all of the random hotel cards, maps, and tour mementos I've collected that I will be stuffing into my scrapbook. Hopefully they will help jar my memory so that I don't forget to tell you one single detail! God has done some amazing unforgettable things BUT, It has been a long month, so bare with me!

Being that Pennsylvania is where I am originally from, you can imagine my excitement for returning there. We stopped in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania which is only 45 minutes away from my hometown! I had the marvelous opportunity of reuniting with some old friends from high school while we were there. They attended one of our performances called 'Deliver Us' which portrays the story of Moses and how he delivers his people out of Egypt. The story of Moses is then paralleled with Jesus and how he is the ultimate deliverer for us and all things. Sam shared the gospel from the stage that night. It was very special to have my friends in the audience.

New York

Next, we headed further north to Dundee, New York. It was beautiful. There we held mini dance workshops at the Seneca School of Performing Arts, a wonderful dance school under the direction of Cheryl Siegfried. Having toured there before, 5 years ago, it was nice to reconnect with them. And now having more seniority and experience under my belt, I was able to be more involved with teaching classes this time around which was fun. The turnout was great (← Interpret as you will 😂) The workshop ended with the sweet people from the Seneca School of Performing Arts giving us a creative worship class! It was more like a time for us to worship freely and creatively. I was blessed. Students of all ages and professional dancers alike came together during that time to worship God and dance before his throne. It was precious.

Me teaching ballet class

Passe's in Center

Then there was that one time our tour bus caught on fire...  

It happened on April 3rd on our ways back home from Dundee. It seems now like it was all just a dream, but it wasn't. To make a long story short, It was caused by some mechanical malfunction;  propellers flying off the turbocharger (whatever that is) and severing something-or-others around it. Driving back home, in the back of the bus where I usually hang out we heard a pop. Dark smoke began seeping through the walls. That's when we knew something was very wrong. We pulled off the interstate onto the shoulder at some random place in Kentucky and all safely evacuated as fast as we could. Some of us did not even have shoes on! Shortly after evacuating the bus it began to rain. We felt like we were in a movie or something! Other trucks pulled over to see if we needed help. Eventually, fire trucks came and an ambulance came to transport all of us helpless dancers to a nearby McDonald/Pilot truck stop until our tour director could figure out how to get all of us to our hotel which was only a couple of towns away.

That can't be good.

Our ride.

ambulance selfie!

Even though the bus catching on fire was most unfortunate, I must say that I would consider that day as being one of my most favorites [!] because of what happened next! After being dropped off at the random Mcdonalds/truckstop we found ourselves a nice long table to make ourselves at home at and some of us got ice cream. Little did we know that this Mcdonalds was teeming with ministry opportunities and we weren't even looking for the...except maybe Margot; she's always looking for them! ^_^ Margot went off to talk with some people while the rest of us just wanted to chill and process the day's events when out of nowhere comes this Mcdonalds employee, high school aged, who decides he wants to spend his dinner break sitting with us. Something drew him to us I suppose.

Us at Mcdonalds (Toby not pictured)

We learned his name was Toby. He told us that his name meant "God is good", but he also told us he didn't believe in God. It only took a little while before he realized that we were Christians. He shared with us freely about his life and the death of his cat and we shared with him freely about our lives and the death of our bus. He described himself as an optimistic pessimist. He had a great personality but was a little confusing. He seemed hurt by people but too 'in control' to admit it. Once we got past small talk and tried talking to him about things of God he said it wasn't for him, but none the less we pressed him a little further. Toby knew the basics of Jesus dying on the cross, about having faith, and repentance and stuff, but somehow there was a disconnect. I attempted sharing the gospel to Toby using the meaning of his name. I shared what makes God so good to me expounding on forgiveness, love, and redemption. When Toby got seemingly uncomfortable with my passion for God he said it was time for him to go and he got up and left. I left him with a gospel track from Living Waters Ministries. My heart was broke for Toby. Following the conversation, we prayed for Toby amongst ourselves and gave it to God. I still pray for him. 

Will you pray too, for him and others lost like him?

Maybe about 20 mins. after Toby left us and returned to his work, one of his coworkers had an allergic reaction to some of her medication, and the same ambulance that dropped us off at the Mcdonalds/truck stop came back to take her away! It was a bizarre day. But even still, I can't help but perceive God's orchestration of it! The matters of life and death seemed to be an underlying theme that day; material worldly things seemed not to matter much to me after that day; a good reminder, a wake-up call.

It turned out that former Alpha Company Member, our good friend Christina lived within miles from where we were staking out. She and her husband came and rescued us and drove us the rest of the way to our hotel for the night.

Our bus being towed away

A few of us outside our hotel with Christina and Joseph (...horrible lighting I know)

The next day after collecting the rest of our belongings on the bus and gathering some important costumes and props from out of our trailer, we stuffed it all inside 3 rental vehicles and in good spirits drove the rest of the way home... except for John who faithfully stayed with the bus in order to sort things out.

Save the costumes!

all loaded up...

How John feels about the situation

💗 Car 1 - Sweetness overload!

💗 Car 2- Grab a pair of sunglasses, these people will blind you with their beauty and light!

💗 Car 3- We are the jack of all trades; please take note of Josh and I crocheting up a storm in the back! 

 The next weekend we traveled to Clarksville, Tennessee where we also performed 'Deliver Us'. My older sister residing in Nashville these days was able to come out and watch me dance! It meant so much to me being that she hasn't seen me dance in more than a decade, not to mention seeing me dance professionally. It was so good to see and catch up with her! She is the best!

...Also, I can't go without sharing this hilarious photo Rachel snapped on the right, of the scrolling marquee on the sound system as I danced the role of the "burning BUSH"; So uncanny and what impeccable timing! 

In celebration of Easter weekend, we partnered with First Baptist Lafayette to present a production known as 'Saviour', described as the story of God's passion for his people featuring a visually compelling story of creation, the fall of man, the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ, and man's continuing need for a Saviour depicted through dance and performed with a live choir and orchestra, which is always my favorite! We had so much fun working on this project with the talented people of First Baptist Lafayette. Though the music of 'Saviour' is rather dated, the story it tells of the gospel of Jesus Christ never is! We had some truly powerful evenings of praise, song, and dance. In our free time, we enjoyed resting in our hotel, exploring the town, and eating southern food; and I thought you couldn't get more deep-south or deep-fried than Jackson, Mississippi...boy was I wrong!

A group shot after our last performance of Saviour

A handful of us were able to get out of the hotel and visit with a few students from our summer workshop that lived in the Lafayette area. It was so wonderful to catch up and hear about all that the Lord is doing in the heart of my dear friend, sweet Kat!

Check out her earrings! Hey hey hey! ^_^

Back on the home front for a little bit...  

  • Back home in Jackson, Easter happened...I picniced!


  • We had an in-studio performance of 'Stratagem' in which my parents got to watch it for the first time!
Kathy and  I

Sam and Elisa rockn it!

North Carolina
We had great fun in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Wilmington Conservatory of Fine Arts did a great job sponsoring us. We felt so well taken care of during our time in Wilmington with special thanks to Cory and Cindy for that! 😉 The video below does a good job describing what we did while in Wilmington.

Kathy teaching at Wilmington Conservatory of Fine Arts

In this picture Ballet Magnificat Alpha and the students of Wilmington Conservatory of Fine Arts' Turning Point performing group are having a time of devotions together on stage prior to the performance. We performed in the Cape Fear Wilson Center. It was an absolutely beautiful theater! 

Performing the role of the angels with Kathy, one last time

It was there in Wilmington that we performed our final Stratagem for the season before it gets put back on the shelf and replaced with new rep. Not to be performed again for quite some time, I am going to undoubtedly miss this ballet! Sign Up for the Occupied Optimist Newsletter if you're interested in getting insiders and being the first one to hear what our 2017-2018 rep is going to be!

Pictured here, my sweet host from Wilmington Cathy Poulos and I pose with a picture she painted!

Closing Time
Our performing season has come to a close. We had our last performance in town last Thursday with We Will Go Ministries and now have only one week left until we get to take our two-week summer break. I will be traveling back to Pennsylvania to be with my family for break. It has been so nice having a weekend back in town! I've finally had the opportunity to put down the suitcase and dance bag and catch up on emails, blogging, and crafting, but come Monday and into our last week, most of Alpha's time will be spent helping prepare for and run the Ballet Magnificat School of the Arts and Trainee end-of-the-year recitals. I may get to rest some during the two weeks of vacation that are to follow...but I'm not counting on it. With new rep on it's way, I have lots of "ballet/choreography learning homework" to do. Pray for me; that I will stay healthy and find time for rest in the midst of everything that has to get done in these next couple of weeks!

Upon returning from our two-week vacation things are going to look very different. Alpha has recently already said goodbye to two of our dancers Natalie and John, and three more are on their way out. The new apprentices will begin joining us and the next couple of summer months will transition us into a season of newness for the fall; new dancers, new leaders, new rep, new transportation... with all this newness I feel like an apprentice again!? So much is unforeseen... but now I am getting ahead of myself.

#Changeishard. Is there anything more true than that? But it is also SO BITTERSWEET, just like this blog entry; while horribly written and bitter in style and grammar (this is what happens when I sit down to write a blog entry after having had a nap lasting nearly an eternity... I end up writing like how I think: groggy and fragmented), but the memories contained in this post are SO SWEET, at least to me. Before I get all worked up about what is coming, I have to remember to thank God for what he has done! He is so so good and I am holding onto his promises. We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

" Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end "  

- Semisonic

  Scripture for today:
Psalm 16

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.

I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

We Will Go In Jackson

This past Thursday Ballet Magnificat Alpha had the marvelous opportunity of performing 'The Arrival' downtown working with We Will Go Ministries to make it possible. I can't speak more highly of We Will Go Ministries and of how much I love them! These missionaries are doing awesome things for God's kingdom and they don't have to go far to do it, but instead, they start right here in Jackson reaching out and loving on their neighbors, an almost foreign concept in this day and age. It was so special partnering with these like-minded people and I hope we get to do it more often. Upon arriving on the scene I could hardly contain my excitement at the idea of dancing for a different kind of audience for a change. We would be dancing in a gym with no fancy lighting or effects. Just worshiping. This is the kind of gig that the trainees would usually be given, but I'm so glad we took care of this one for them. I had almost forgotten until now just how much I enjoyed these kinds of performances from when I was a trainee! We had a blast! It was such a sweet way to finish the semester. 

I've got the rolls of tape!

Margot has the Tams.

Tambourines to spare and one evening refreshment for our Tour Director

She's a happy camper!

Preparing the costumes

Preparing the floor

Margot prepares what she is going to share with the audience after the performance

Working on the sound 

Beautiful Emma.

One tutu remains, waiting to be put on

Excited and ready to go!

It's showtime!

Teaching our new friends ballet

"It's easy..."

Amy Lancaster of We Will Go encouraging us

Leaving feeling blessed.

Check out the exclusive video clips below!

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