Roses

One night at the end of June 2013 I was talking with a woman I had met in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was the speaker at the youth event I was at, and we had become close throughout the week. We sat across from each other at a table inside the room she was staying in that week. I looked at her and asked “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” she responded.

“Stay humble after everyone compliments you lesson after lesson, day after day . . . after a while, don’t you start giving yourself credit? How on earth do you stay humble with people complementing your work?”

She leaned back and thought about her answer for a little bit. “I have learned, Marta, to take compliments graciously. I act as if each compliment I receive after I give a message is a rose. When someone says ‘You are an amazing speaker! I loved what you said tonight!’ I smile, say ‘Thank you’ and take the rose graciously. As I walk out of the room collecting roses from various people, sincerely thanking each of them for their gifts.

“At the end of the day, I come to the Lord. I walk up to the throne and set all of my roses at His feet. I look up at His face and I say ‘These are all for You, Jesus.’ He then scoops me up and says ‘I am so proud of you, my faithful servant.’ “

Tonight I led my first praise + worship at Dordt. No matter how well (or not well) I hid it, I was terrified. Will people like the songs I pick? What if the verses I read doesn’t at all match my set? What if my voice cracks when I sing the high note? What if my team doesn’t put any work into it? What if people don’t like me?

Let me tell you, the Lord took every single fear I had and pushed it away. As I prepared for my first set, God kept telling me “This is a space for me to speak to the people at Dordt. I just need you to make it available. Give these people a place to hear my voice.” So that’s what I did . . . and God blessed me so much in return. We finished all of our practices early. The tech crew was incredibly helpful and efficient with setting up. Everything came together, and when it came down to it there was praise and worship to the Lord Almighty.

And what was the biggest blessing to me was receiving so many roses at the end. Every “Good job, Marta!” and “I love that you used bells in this set!” and “The Spirit was so present here tonight,” means more to me than you could ever know. It means the Lord was at work. It means He showed up tonight at Dordt College and made Himself known to His people. That’s the goal.

I have been so blessed by the roses I was given tonight, and now I lay them down at the Lord’s feet. I cannot wait to see what the Lord is going to do at Dordt College this year. I know big things are coming; I can’t wait to be a part of what He’s planning.

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Forget What I Just Said

Remember how yesterday I said that I was ready for this year?

I’m not.

Day one of classes and I’ve already learned that I know absolutely nothing. That’s what will happen when you take philosophy and theology classes: you learn that you know nothing.

And that scares me.

I like answers. I like routine. I like order.

I do not like not knowing answers. I don’t like when the professor says “I’m excited to wrestle through these questions with you.” I feel like standing up and saying “I’m afraid of wrestling. I have a little brother. Know what happened to me when we used to wrestle when I was a kid? I got bruises. And bruises hurt. A lot.”

This is going to be a semester of a lot of growth for me. A lot, a lot, a lot. And to be honest, I’m quite nervous to see where I’ll be a year from now.

Day two of sophomore year, here I come.

Different Yet the Same

One of my favorite things about life has always been when you see a good friend after a very long time. Your eyes meet from across the room, you stop exactly what you’re doing, and you run as fast as you can. You hug that person so tightly that you can feel their diaphragm move vigorously as you’re both laughing.

I’ve had the blessing of experiencing that moment over and over and over again since coming back on campus.

It is almost unbelievable to think about how different I am than I was this time last year. I told myself I wouldn’t change. I thought I had it figured out. I went through a lot of changes my senior year . . . I decided where I was going to college, my mom had thyroid cancer, I had first job, I became super close with my class, I cut off eight inches of hair . . . I was so confident in who I was.

But things changed. A year since I started college my life looks so different. I switched my major from digital media production to theology. I now work for Campus Ministries instead of the Advancement Office. I consider my “church home” to be at Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City. My best friends are people I didn’t even know a year ago.

All that being said, I’m still Marta. I’m still the same person. I still love The Lion King and Spiderman. I still love choir. I’m still super clumsy and sometimes dislocate my knee. I still dance in the car when I’m driving. I’m still me.

I have a wall of pictures next to my desk. Some are from when I was little. Some are from high school. Most of them are from the past year. Last year was one of the most life-shaping years I’ve experienced (thus far). It doesn’t make me any less thankful for other moments in my life . . . in fact, it just makes me more excited for this next year to come. I can’t wait to think of where I’ll be this time next year. I can’t wait to see all the people I come running to at the beginning of next year.

But for now . . . let sophomore year begin.

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What Good Amid These?

O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring — What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.

That you are here — that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

O Me! O Life! by Walt Whitman
Performed by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society

and to feel

TO SEE THE WORLD, THINGS DANGEROUS TO COME TO, TO SEE BEHIND WALLS, DRAW CLOSER, TO FIND EACH OTHER AND TO FEEL. THAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE.

“I don’t like Jack Johnson,” my brother said to me as we were in the drive-thru at Dairy Queen. “Well . . . I do. But he makes me feel things.” I laughed at him a little bit, pulled forward, and traded the cashier dollar bills for a Chips Ahoy Blizzard and a hot fudge sundae. “It’s true, though. Even his happy songs. It makes me think a lot.”

“Do you want me to switch the song?” I asked him.

“No. Keep it on. I like it.”

Tonight I showed the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty to my family. As the credits began to roll across the screen, my brother had the same look on his face as he did when we listened to Jack Johnson. He was thinking. Thinking hard.

Why do we do things that hurt? Why don’t we just do things that are safe? Life would be easier if we stayed in our comfort zones, in our safe little bubbles. But that’s not what makes life enjoyable.

I’ve been spending the past year or so reflecting on my story. What makes me “me”? How did I get to be the way that I am today? I’ll tell you this: the things that shape my life most are not the afternoons I spent in my bed scrolling through Pinterest. They are not the moments when I said “Maybe next year,” to an opportunity that came my life. And they are not the moments when I walked right past people who were hurting.

The moments in my life that make up who I am today are the moments that made me think, feel, and experience life fully.  The ones where I drove my car to the middle-of-no-where to scream at the top of my lungs because I was so happy. The ones where I cried on my bathroom floor because my heart hurt so much. The ones where I got on a plane and had no idea what was coming my way. The ones where I chose to sit and have a conversation with someone I didn’t really know. The ones where I walked into an interview, unsure as to whether or not I would be hired.

Life isn’t about being safe. If that’s what you want, then you’re missing out on so much. When you explore, open closed doors, learn about others and expose emotions is when you begin to live life in its entirety.

So when the “Jack Johnson moments” come your way, don’t change the song. Understand and accept the fact that God uses these moments to mold us into who He created us to be. Don’t be afraid to grab the moment in your hands, look it in the eyes, and begin to be changed by it.

walter

. . . and if you haven’t seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty . . . run as fast as you can to you nearest Redbox and watch it.

Empty Room

Yesterday I started moving my things out of my apartment into my dorm room. It’s an odd and somewhat backwards transition to go back to a single room. I carried box load after box load to my room. The elevator wasn’t working, but since I only live on the second floor, I figured the climb would be good for me.

After finally getting to my room, I unlocked the door and slammed the box down on the dresser closest to the door. I unloaded my desk organizer and individually I placed each pen, pencil and sharpie where it belonged. I bent down to pick up my textbooks, but my knees went weak. Overwhelmed by all of the emotions I was feeling, I fell to my knees in front of the box and felt my eyes fill with tears. I started replaying the day filled with “lasts” and “goodbyes” in my head, and I couldn’t keep it in anymore.

The summer is over. We’re all moving on. Some of my teammates are off to grad school. Some are moving several states away to start a new job. Some are studying abroad for the semester. Some are starting up their next semester here on campus. But it’s over.

Feeling embarrassed even though no one was around to see me cry, I wiped the tears from my eyes and looked around the room. It was empty, that’s for sure. But as I looked around it felt less and less like a room of isolation and more like a fresh start.

Yes, the summer is over. It was a beautiful summer. It was a summer of growth. I am not the same person that I was when I went into it. I’ve been challenged musically, emotionally, and spiritually (and a little bit physically! Music equipment is heavy!) Now it’s time to do something with all the ways that I’ve grown.

I’m ready for my second year of college. Ready to start a new major. Ready to be a praise and worship leader. I’m ready for all of the ups and downs this next school year has in store.

So give me some time. Let me “grieve” the end of this chapter of my story. But know that I’m so ready for a fresh start. I’m ready for new adventures, and I can’t wait to see how the next chapter is going to be.