Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Revolving Door

Meet Christy Krumm.  Christy and I met on our first day of orientation at Hillstone Restaurant.  We were the only two new hires that day, so we immediately clung to one another as we tried to get acclimated to the intimidating environment that was our new job.  During our time together, we realized that we had a lot in common.  We were both brand new to New York City-- just a few weeks apart from one another.  She had moved from sunny beaches of California to pursue her dream of writing, and I had moved from the rolling plains of Texas to pursue my dream of dancing.  (I do recognize that I am from the thriving metropolis of Houston, and that I have never lived on a rolling plain, but it just go with it. :))

A few months into our friendship, Christy and I realized that we attended the same church.  She then invited me to a community group and the women's Bible study that she had been going to, and I started to attend those gatherings as well.  Whenever Christy and I would run in to each other, we would update each other on our lives, and it was apparent that we were in a similar love/hate relationship with the City... 
I'm wrapping up my time here in NYC, and I've been jotting down ideas of how I will capture this city and my time here in my blog-- I knew I was going to entitle it The Revolving Door and explain its tenacious and temporal qualities, but last night Christy sent some of us a link to her blog, and I knew that I could now never write that post.  She wrote it for me-- and it's beautiful and eloquent and accurate.  I'm just thankful that she beat me to it because she's an incredible writer, and my words could not have done justice to what this experience has been like.  So here's a window into my heart through the words of Christy Krumm:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

His Kingdom Come: On Earth As It Is in Heaven

Johnny Wilcox called me an angel...

I got into a really good conversation last night.  I was talking with some friends about the possibility of there being a more spiritual realm present in this life that we can tap into through meditation, yoga, prayer, or some form of extended communication with our creator.  And although I feel that we can be proactive in accessing this realm and being more aware of its presence on a regular bases, I also believe that there are random moments throughout our lives that the realm itself actually cuts through our obliviousness and forces us to face the deeper level of spirituality that lies beneath the surface of this life-- whether it's being inexplicably moved by a piece of music, or  having a breathtaking experience with nature, or feeling as though time stood still when you were drinking wine and sharing stories with the just perfect permutation of friends.  ***  Haley shared a story with us of a young boy at her camp that was paralyzed on the left side of his body, but loved dancing.  And while dancing at camp, he got so lost in the music, so 'surrendered' to the moment, that at one point both of his arms just danced up above his head.  To me, these are moments when the spiritual realm pierces through our thick layers of egocentrism, and materialism, and every other artificial -ism that society drowns us in, in order to expose small glimpses of what the creator truly intended life to be.

A few months ago, I had an encounter with said spiritual realm, and I wrote it down in my journal so I could come back to it and remember God's clear signs of his presence in our lives:

I had been praying for you to soften my heart and show me more day-to-day ways that I can serve those who are less fortunate than me and teach me to see people as Jesus saw them.  I passed by Johnny today as I was walking home from church.  He shook his cup of money, I smiled at him and kept walking, and he called out after me, something like, "Have a blessed day."  After several more steps, something tugged at my heart-- I can't keep walking away from the poor saying that I'm afraid to give them money because I don't know what they'll do with it.  That's just an excuse, and you are calling me to something more.  So I turned around and asked him if I could buy him a sandwich.  He asked for an egg and cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee.  While I was inside purchasing his meal, I wondered how this was advancing the kingdom of God.  Wasn't I just giving him a handout?  Wouldn't I just be dropping off an inexpensive sandwich and then be on my way to my warm apartment and my fridge full of groceries?  Would he in any way link this act to 'God'?  Would this in someway strengthen his faith and bring him closer to you?  Would this in any way change him or change me?  I wanted to be obedient, and I wanted to help someone in need, but I couldn't understand where you really fit into the picture.  Nevertheless, I took his sandwich and coffee out to him, and he was mid-conversation with a man who had just left a dollar in his cup.  I didn't fully understand what the original question must have been, but Johnny was answering it fervently: "Of course I have Jesus! God is sending me angels!  This morning I had pains in my stomach because I needed something to eat.  This girl (pointing to me), at first passed by me, but then turned back around to offer me food.  And you've given me this dollar so I can buy a cup of coffee later.  I sleep under the train tracks at night, with the rats, and when I wake up in the morning, I'm dehydrated-- I need a cup of coffee.  So people say, 'Is there a God, or is there not a God?' Of course there's a God! And he's sending his angels to us.  God is good!"  And there was my answer.

Really?! Could that conversation have been any more perfectly engineered and timed?!  Not to say that every person who is helped believes in God or that he's sending angels, but that conversation was for me, not Johnny.  In fact, I would be bold enough to say that Johnny knows more about God than I do.  Perhaps Johnny spends more time accessing the spiritual realm than I do.  To sleep with rats, in the subway tunnels, in the dead of New York winter, and say, 'God is good,' displays a level of faith that I've never experienced in my life.  Johnny was actually my angel that day that God was using to speak to me.  I instantly flashed to my months of whining and complaining in NYC-- about being cold or not having enough money or feeling lonely...

God, I don't know how you put up with me, but thank you for your patience, and thank you for teaching me a little every day.  May I be diligent enough to spend time-- removed from the hustle and bustle -- tapping into your realm of unfiltered joy, peace, and love.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Winter Wrap-Up

I know it's mid-April, and many of you have been enjoying 70+ weather for several weeks now, but here in NYC, we're finally at the tail end of winter.  In looking at the consistency of my blog posts, it looks as though I hibernated for the winter, so here's my attempt at summarizing all the awesome things that has happened here in the Big Frozen Apple.

Curtain Call
I graduated from my Broadway Dance Center program!  So now I just take classes on my own schedule.  Being a free agent is going well, but dancing so much during the program really put a strain on my body, and my old injuries have resurfaced-- specifically my once torn hamstrings.  I've done a lot of internet research regarding the matter, and I think that I have years of scar tissue that built up around my hamstrings, and every time I take class and force myself into different positions, the tissue tears a little more and more scar tissue develops.  I've lost a lot of range of motion, and it's been very frustrating.  I'm planning on trying acupuncture later this week; I'm not sure if that's the answer, but I've tried a lot of other things, so this is next on the list.   No matter what, I'm hopeful that I can be healed! *** As a result of my dance injuries, I started focusing more on singing towards the end of my program.  I changed my concentration from just Jazz to Jazz/Theatre.  Adding Theatre to my concentration allowed me to add several voice classes into my weekly schedule.  In May, I'll be performing a vocal ensemble piece at Symphony Space.  Rehearsals are going well, and I'm excited to perform at such a large venue.  I'll try to post a video! *** Lastly, I went on my first dance audition last week.  It was a HUGE first step for me.  I've been terrified of going, and there were actually several points throughout the day when I almost turned around and crawled back into my bed, but I stuck it out, and I did it!  And thanks to everyone who voted on my headshots. I actually didn't have them ready for the audition, and had to use a 4x6 photo which was really embarrassing, but it gave me the push I needed to finally place the order.  I hope to go on at least five more auditions before I leave NYC.  There's not really any show that I specifically want to be a part of, but I just want to get over my fears in general-- that will be the greatest gift I will take from this whole experience.  So I'm going to keep cranking them out; wish me luck!  

Hillstone's History
Black tie. Black vest. Black slacks. White buttoned-down Oxford. White apron with starched crease. Slicked back pony-tail. 'All slain. All dead.'  Yes I finally quit my job at Hillstone Restaurants! The anxiety and negative energy was too much for me.  It was actually affecting the rest of my NYC experience, as I spent most of my week dreading the approach of my next shift.  My heart would literally race as I started each shift.  I started getting to work early and bringing my Bible with me so I could give myself time to calm down.  It just wasn't a healthy environment-- never feeling good enough and constantly nervous that a manager was going to explode on you in any moment-- I had to get out of there.  And I did!  I had been praying for new opportunities to pop up for several weeks, but I was too lazy to actually go update my resume and print it.  Sure enough, the very day that I finally got around to doing it, I randomly wandered onto Craigslist and saw an open call for Mother Burger.  I went in, and got hired on the spot!  This was huge because everyone I knew that was looking for a job was having to search for several weeks, and I expected that I would have a similar fate, but thankfully everything fell into place.  Mother Burger is basically a fun burger and beer joint.  They sell $2 beers, $4 frozen margaritas, and $5 mixed drinks; if you've ever gone out in NYC, you'll understand how outrageously awesome these prices are.  As a result, I basically end up being a cocktail waitress by the end of the night-- going around and repeatedly bringing out new rounds for all of my rowdy tables.  It's a lot of fun, and the exact opposite of where I had come from, so therefore everything I was looking for.  Furthermore, it's a 6 minute walk from my house, so it doesn't get much better than that.  Naturally the pay is not as lucrative as Hillstone, but I'm happier... and calmer, and that's priceless.

Real-life Rockband
That's right! The most exciting thing that's happened to me since I moved here.  I'm in a praise and worship band!  I responded to an ad on Craigslist- which I'll admit I was a little leery about.  I had to travel to an obscure warehouse for our first rehearsal, but thankfully it was legit, and I came out alive.  James posted the ad and started the band.  He plays guitar and helps out on vocals.  Phil is our sweet drummer.  He's also the one who helped us find an amazing rehearsal spot.  We rent space from a man who charges about $10 an hour, and the space comes fully equipped with acoustic and electric guitars, drums, mics, amps, speakers-- the whole shebang. The landlord is super chill and doesn't care if we run over-- which may or may not be explained by the strong smell of reefer floating through the hallways as we leave.  It's hilarious because we come out of our soft, sweet worship rehearsal, and the bands waiting to come in after us are all donning black leather and bulky chains.  I always wonder if they can hear us while they're waiting; they must get quite a kick out of us.  Nevertheless, we love what we're doing!  I don't have pictures yet, but our recent additions are Angie (vocals), Kyle (bass guitar), and Will (keys).  We mostly play for fun, but we did get to lead worship for a service at a homeless shelter a few weeks ago.  Also as spring approaches, we're talking about going out to Central Park and playing on Sundays.  Either way, I heart all of my bandmates, and it's been great do something that I've always wanted to do.

Community Group
I started a Wednesday night Bible study at my apartment.  As most of you know, I was basically battling depression when I first moved to the city.  I finally decided to take matters into my own hand and start bringing back elements of my life that I loved.  Shout out to Jacob Blair who opened up his home and his kitchen to me for 2 years- hosting an intimate Bible study that literally changed my life.  His leadership is what gave me the inspiration to re-create something similar here in my apartment.  I reached out to a couple coworkers, girls from my dance program, and some friends of friends that I made in the city. From left to right, there's Tom, Tim, Amberlyn, and Bill; not pictured is Kevin, Richelle, Andrea, and Shannon.  We've had some great, meaningful discussions together, and I'm thankful for their friendship.

South of the Border
In March, I decided to give myself a Spring Break and took a trip to Cancun with some of my favorite ladies.  We had an absolute blast!  We stayed at an all-inclusive restort, so there was no need to ever leave our hotel.  Our days consisted of lying on the beach, eating, sleeping on the beach, eating, drinking by the pool, eating, and playing drinking games into the night.  The best night was when we finally decided to venture into the city to check out Cancun's night scene.  We had no idea where we were going, but our taxi dropped us off in the center of downtown where we were surrounded by clubs, music, lights, and loud spring-breakers.  To top it off, Nat whipped out her pack of glow sticks and started handing them out to all of us-- the night wouldn't have been the same without them.  The week was the perfect vacation from the City- a relaxing slow pace, gorgeous weather, making new friends, and reconnecting with old ones.  Viva Mexico!

Texas Bound
Lastly, I'm not going to be too specific right now because everything is still working itself out, and more importantly, I'm trying not to be my normal impulsive self and instead be patient and prayerful.  But due to some recent, exciting events, I might actually be packing up and leaving NYC a few months sooner than I expected.  I will definitely keep you posted as things unfold!