This blog post is an essay that I am planning to submit for a book being written about my alma mater, Ozark Christian College. They are collecting stories from 75 years of lessons learned from this school. Honestly, I feel like I could write a book about the lessons I learned while I was a student at OCC, but this is the one that was laid most heavily on my heart. I may write other essays like this in the future if others will find value in this. Maybe, you will see this essay in the book sometime soon. If any of you were a part of this community I’m talking about, thank you.
One of the lessons I learned throughout my time at Ozark was how to live out life in genuine Christian community. I remember being specifically taught during Spiritual Formation Retreat in January 2013 about how essential it is to live our lives in the context of the body of Christ. Before this retreat, I had not realized how important this concept is to our spiritual lives. Although there are several verses in Scripture that describe community or instruct us how to properly live in community, one verse stands out above the rest in my mind:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15, NIV84)
This verse seems to bookend my memories of community at Ozark in so many ways, especially my last two semesters.
We often rejoiced with those who rejoiced while I was at OCC. We would rejoice as a campus when we all received the text that informed us that classes were cancelled (usually because of snow), especially when it happened more than one day in a row. We would rejoice as a dorm floor when one of the girls announced she was engaged. We rejoiced over someone’s birthday (On Goodman 3rd [my dorm floor, also known as G3], this included writing affirmations for the birthday girl on the mirrors in the bathroom and decorating the door of their room with toilet paper). We rejoiced whenever someone hit a milestone in their Ozark career, like when they completed their Principles Project or their Theological Integration Paper. As a music major, we rejoiced when we completed juries, recitals, or the Living Christmas Tree. We rejoiced whenever someone had plans for their future confirmed. And we definitely rejoiced when we watched our friends receive their diplomas and graduate from OCC. In those moments, the joy was all the more genuine because it was mutual. In many of those moments, G3 even made the habit of singing Doxology as part of our rejoicing. This is because we saw God’s hand in the joy we shared.
But there were also moments that we mourned with those who mourned. We would help each other bear grief or get through difficult seasons of life, simply by being there for each other. Sometimes, you just needed someone to listen when things were getting difficult. Other times, you were the one that needed to do the listening and offer your shoulder to cry on. On G3, it seemed that if you were going through something, you could literally walk out into your hallway and walk into any room to ask for advice or comfort. Even if you may not have been super close, the girls on my floor would probably have dropped anything to help each other if they needed it. Some of those moments of turning to others for help were so beautiful and powerful. But there was one instance in which together, our whole campus learned what it truly means to mourn with those who mourn.
When our friend and fellow student Brandon Stuckey passed away in a car accident on February 6, 2013, we had the opportunity to live this out. Many of us stood outside of Boatman dorm for hours that night. We sang songs about comfort, peace, and heaven. We prayed for his family, his friends, and his dorm brothers on Boatman 3rd. But most importantly, we comforted each other in our tears. Even though we were all hurting from this loss, we declared together that we would trust the Lord, even in our grief. When we are bearing such extreme or sudden sorrow, we are called to cry with our brothers and sisters, to help bear the burden of their pain. Although that was one of the hardest nights on my life so far, I cherish the bittersweet memories of community. In fact, I remember that another student posted on Facebook, “Tonight, the term ‘Christian community’ was defined.” I agree.
[This is not part of the essay, but this video is a spoken word poem I just released this month about the experiencing of losing Brandon. It specifically talks about Christian community and mourning with those who mourn]
Because of these and other experiences, I believe that the term “Christian community” was defined not just that night, but throughout my whole experience at Ozark. Much of the other experiences I had fell somewhere in between the two extremes of sharing great joy and sharing extreme pain. But through all the highs and lows, I learned that the place where we find the best community is in the place where those that surround us are willing to identify with us, regardless of our current emotional state. Through that, we learned many of the other concepts about genuine community in Christ that are also listed in Romans 12, like be devoted to one another in brotherly love (vs. 10) or doing what we can to live at peace with everyone (vs. 18). We had the opportunities to live these out every day in the context of community in Christ. It was something that on one hand I loved while I was in school, and on the other hand I took for granted while I was a student, especially my first few years. After I went on Spiritual Formation Retreat, I made more intentional efforts to build community and to get to know more people on campus. And it made my experience my last two semester all the richer. I definitely missed that when I completed my internship my last semester as a student, but it also made me more intentional to seek out community at the church where I interned. This, again, make my experience all the richer.
As I remember the community we fostered at Ozark, I praise God that He brought me to OCC, so that I could learn what genuine community looks like. This way, I can help others seek it out for themselves, both within their own churches and within the body of Christ as a whole. I hope anyone else that reads this story will be inspired to do the same.
It’s hard to believe that this year is finally drawing to a close. But then again, I find myself saying that at the end of every year! There have been a lot of good things that have happened this year. But what interesting about many of these good and awesome things as I look back on them is that I didn’t expect most of them to happen. If you had told me a year before that some of this stuff was going to happen, especially the things I became in charge of, I might have laughed at you or been uncertain that I could. But I am so grateful for each and every one of these experiences, as I know that many of them are shaping me into the person I am becoming.
Although I originally planned to do a “Top Ten” sort of list, what I discovered is that there were a couple of categories of events that repeated itself in different ways throughout the year. So this list contains ten of these categories, but under these categories there may be several different events listed. There are also some events that I have written about in more detail on different blog posts, so I will link those posts after I describe the event. This will give those of you that haven’t caught all of these stories a chance to catch up. This will also give details to a few events that I wanted to write about, but I either ran out of time or didn’t think there was enough detail to write a whole post about it. There are also not in any exact order or ranking. I hope that you are able to see how blessed this last year of my life has been. Here we go:
1) Writing and Directing The Door (An Easter Drama)
In January of last year, my dad (aka my church’s senior minister) asked me if I was interested in writing and directing an Easter drama for my church to be performed on Easter Sunday. I had only worked on writing small skits and hadn’t directed anything other than kid’s musicals, but I knew it was something I really wanted to do. When we started working on the script and trying to find a different angle for the Easter Story, it turned out to be about the resurrection appearances of Jesus that happened on the Sunday after He rose. We titled it The Door, which is referring to the fact that when Jesus first appeared among his disciples, he got into the room despite the fact the doors were locked. Although my dad did guide me and assisted some in writing the script, the rest of responsibility or delegation was left on me.
There were so many things about doing this drama that I enjoyed. Writing and researching for the script was one of my favorites. It was awesome to get into the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus and translate it into dialogue. I also enjoyed working with the actors. They were an enjoyable group of people to work with. They were also patient and understanding as I was trying to learn how to direct and block scenes properly. I also had a few people that helped with behind the scenes work that were awesome. I think I may write a little more detail about it around Easter this coming year, but this drama was such a great ministry opportunity that I enjoyed so much.
2) Summer Ministry Opportunities
I had two main ministry opportunities over this summer. The first was to work on worship planning with my friend Sarah. My dad approached us about planning worship services at the beginning of the summer, because it would give him a break from doing it and give us an opportunity to use our talents in that area. We loved the idea and enjoyed working with each other. I had worked with planning services with my dad as well as on my internship, but it was nice to work on planning with someone else. Plus, out of all the things I’ve been trained to do in music ministry, the planning of worship services is one of my favorite things to do.
The second opportunity was to be the music leader for our VBS program. For many years, it was my mom doing music with me as her assistant. But since my mom was Assistant Director this year, I was chosen to be in charge of music for the first time. I had the opportunity to work with a few junior high age girls as my helpers and we had a lot of fun. It was another great opportunity I was blessed to have.
I also had the chance to be involved in honoring my dad for his 15th anniversary at the church. They had a potluck for him and there were some notes and letters people had written to my dad that we had the chance to read out loud. It was a blessing to know how much my dad’s ministry has touched others’ lives. That’s part of my motivation for wanting to make ministry into a vocation someday. It was a very special day.
3) Event Planning
I was also given the opportunity to be in charge of two events at my church over this last year. The first was a free screening of the movie Ragamuffin, the film about the life of Rich Mullins. Although we didn’t have a ton of people come to this screening, it was a lot of fun to get to show a movie that not only impacted me, but has also impacted the lives of many others who have seen it. I was so blessed to be able to share it in this way.
[To read my review of the movie, click here]
I also got to be in charge of coordinating the Anima Series Tour. You may have already heard me talk about this event, but it was awesome that my church’s leadership not only granted permission for this event to happen at our building, but they trusted me to cover all the other details like advertising. It was much more involved than the movie screening and it was great challenge to put everything together and support one of my favorite YouTube channels in the process.
4) Being in Mary Poppins the Musical
I had the blessing of getting to be in the KVTA production of Mary Poppins this fall as a member of the adult ensemble in October. It was so much fun! I hadn’t had the chance to be in a theatrical production of that scale since college. It was also a Disney musical I've loved since I was a little girl. It was great production with such a fantastic cast. Everyone encouraged and supported each other in a special way. Being in Mary Poppins was an experience I won’t forget.
[To read more about my experience in Mary Poppins, click here]
5) Christmas Unwrapped
I also had the chance to be involved in my church’s Christmas production. In the past, we did a program we called Bethlehem Walk, in which we recreated a first-century marketplace and had a short nativity presentation. We decided that we needed to make some changes, so we created a new program called Christmas Unwrapped. We basically made the nativity presentation longer and more detailed, and then condensed the marketplace to just a few booths. We also inverted their locations in the building. We wanted the focus to be on the story of Jesus, and we felt this was a better way to do this.
In addition to being the youngest person on the leadership team, I was part of the nativity drama as singer in costume. I sang the song “Mary Did You Know?” just after they reveal the baby. Aside from enjoying the opportunity to perform this powerful song, it was also a small dream come true. You see, I’d watched my mom sing in the nativity presentation for Bethlehem Walk for years, which made me want to do the same. But I had not had the chance. It was either that someone was more qualified than me to sing, or I was away at college and couldn’t come home that weekend. I was so excited when it was finally decided that I would sing one of the two songs we had in the drama for Christmas Unwrapped. It was such a great experience.
6) Befriending Angela
Over this last year, I’ve had the privilege of making a close friend. At the time and stage I’m at in life, it’s hard to find friends that you are able to hang out with consistently. But I had the chance to get to know Angela over this last year and it has been such an awesome blessing to my life. Aside from our shared love of Disney, we also are at a similar place in our lives and have been able to encourage one another as we figure out what God wants for our futures.
[To read the story of how I met Angela, along with other funny stories of how other friendship started, click here]
7) Social Media Teams
Something I got to experience for the first time this year was being involved with social media teams. It was awesome to be involved with using social media for something constructive and getting to connect with new people along the way. Throughout the year, I was a part of three teams, all of which have blessed me in different ways.
Ragamuffins Street Team
This team was a little different from the other ones. Our primary purpose was to support and promote the upcoming film Brennan, about the life of Brennan Manning. This film is coming from the same people that made the film Ragamuffin that I mentioned earlier. In fact, that screening was done in promotion of the next film. It has been awesome to see what God has been doing as the filmmakers have been working on the movie Brennan. I can’t wait to see what will happen when this movie releases this year.
8) Meeting/Connecting With Famous People I Admire
As I have been looking back through this year, I have been surprised about how many people that I admire that I have met or connected with over this last year. I would consider them famous in my book, but then again I guess it depends on how you define fame. Anyway, here’s some of the stories of how it happened:
[To read more about the impact Dave's brother Rich Mullins has had on my life, click here]
[To read more about the story of how I met Jon, click here]
Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery
Although I have still not met these ladies in person, I was blessed to connect with them through the book team for their book, Pulling Back the Shades. I’ve been a huge fan of Dannah’s books for a while, but I didn’t know much about Juli until I read the book. What I love about them both is that they are passionate about declaring God’s truth about sexuality and encouraging women to pursue God’s best through His plan for their sexuality. As part of the book team, I got to participate in two Google chats with them. I also interacted with them some on social media. A few weeks after our commitment on the book team was finished, my mom when to the Hearts at Home Convention where she not only met these two ladies, but she actually got to be Dannah’s speaker assistant! Although I was kind of bummed I didn’t get to meet them in person, I did get a few autographs out of the deal.
9) Writing More Spoken Word Poetry
Although I did publish my first spoken word poem on YouTube in 2014, I have had the opportunity to develop my skills as a spoken word poet with the release of two more poems in 2015. At the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t have called myself a spoken word poet. Aside from my one poem, I never intended to write another one. But when I found myself on the book team for Pulling Back the Shades, I felt the conviction to use this ability to bring awareness to the topics discussed in the book. As it turns out, it has been my most popular poem I’ve released so far, thanks to some of the members of the book team sharing it.
After this I still went several months without writing another one, until I remember a topic I was passionate about – modesty. I had done so much research on the subject and knew it so well that I knew I wanted to write a poem about it. It took me a few months to get around to filming it even after I wrote it, but it was so worth it to me. Although it still hasn’t gotten very many views, I know that for now, it’s important for me to be faithful in the little things.
After all this, I have started to think of myself as a spoken word poet. I hope and pray that God will be able to use this talent I’ve discovered for His glory in the future as I figure out the best way to use it for Him.
It’s hard to me to believe that I have been writing on this blog for a year now, and have written about 35 posts. Blogging and writing is something I’d wanted to do for a long time, but just never got around to doing it. But I finally came across a website builder I was happy with, I decided to start writing when I felt led to write. When I became a member of the Pulling Back the Shades book team last January, I started trying to publish a post every Friday. Although I haven’t always kept up with that, this did at least get me into some sort of routine. Now, I’m getting to the point where it feels like something is off if I go too long without writing something. This is something that I hope to keep doing for a long time to come.
There you have it. These were some of the highlights of my year. Of course there were other good things that have happened as well as bad things that have come to pass in 2015. But through it all, the Lord has been there with me, either blessing me directly or blessing me by being present in the difficult times. I hope this will be the same next year, and for every year as long as I live. I hope that all of you are able to find the same thing. I also hope that you might continue to share in my journey through life by reading my future blog posts or subscribing to my YouTube channel. I appreciate those of you that have. There are some good things to come in this next year, so stay tuned!
Happy New Year!
When I auditioned to be in KVTA’s production of Mary Poppins this summer, I don’t know if I could have possibly imagined the journey I was about to be a part of. I’d only been in shows while I was in college and had never had a chance to do anything with local theater otherwise. I didn’t know too many of the people involved. All I knew is that they were doing a show of one of my favorite movies and I wanted to be a part of it. I was also all the more determined to get in because my alma mater (Ozark Christian College) just did a production of Mary Poppins this spring that I wished I could have been a part of. When I discovered I made the cast at around midnight on Saturday June 20th, I squealed with excitement. (I fortunately didn’t wake up my mom and little sister, but my dad was up and asked me what was wrong! lol) Although I was unsure of what this experience would be like, I knew I was lucky to be a part of it. As I look back on the last few months, there is so much that stands out in my heart and mind to reflect on this incredible journey.
Being in Mary Poppins Was Hard Work
In order for such an iconic show to be done right and done well, we all knew that we had our work cut out for us. We knew the hours of rehearsals would get long and hard. We knew to we would get to the point that we would have to be at rehearsal every weeknight, and even had weekend promotional events. In fact, our chimney sweeps had to start rehearsals in July when we didn’t open until October! We knew that we would get tired and our feet would get sore. We knew what we signed up for when we committed to be in this play and it wasn’t going to be easy. My part was one of the smaller roles in the show, but I still knew going into this that this was going to be a lot of hard work, especially since I hadn’t been in a show since I graduated college.
But I think I can speak for all of our cast and crew when I say that it was all worth it. It was so incredible when we finally got to opening night to see and hear a full house reacting to all we had been working on for months. We were hearing so many stories of not only how much people enjoyed the production, but also how much this show touched them on a personal level. Mary Poppins holds a special place in so many of our hearts and seeing it being brought to life was a special experience for so many of our audience members. Being a part of bringing this to life was even more special for all of us involved. So although it wasn’t easy, all the work we put into bring this show to the stage was worth it in the end.
Being in Mary Poppins Formed Such A Great Community
When I started in this show, I probably only knew 4 or 5 people that I really didn’t talk to much that were involved in the show. I confess that I was so nervous about being in this show with so many people I didn’t know. I was afraid it was going to be difficult to befriend people, especially since I was not in too many scenes or dances numbers. And at first, it was a little strange when we were working on vocals to be sitting among people that I wanted to introduce myself to but couldn’t because we were working. I hoped that would change as time when on.
We all became a family in the time we spent together (in fact, most of us ended up spending more time with each other at rehearsals than we spent with our own families by the end! lol) At the end of the last show, it was definitely bittersweet to realize we would not all be together again after that night, but it also made me super grateful for all the time I did get to be with these wonderful people. I am still so grateful for each and every one of them.
Being in Mary Poppins Taught Us Great Lessons
There are so many great lessons within the story of stage version of Mary Poppins. Some are touched on in the film version but are not explored as much as they could be. Others were developed specifically for the stage version, but blend right into the original film. I just want to touch on my favorites.
“When will you learn to look past what you see?”
Honestly, I think this question could be asked of each and every one of us at some point in our lives. We all struggle to see past the end of our noses at times. But I think one of the most powerful lessons within the story of Mary Poppins is learning to have an awareness of the world around and learning to develop a sensitivity to the needs of others. It starts with the Bird Women and eventually comes full circle to the children being aware of their father’s needs. I was a women who snubbed off the Bird Women, but according to my backstory, I didn’t want to. I just went along with a fiancé. But it was such a great reminder that even when the world around us tells us to look out for ourselves as number one, we really do need to remember to look past what we see.
“I’ll fight for the man that needs freeing”
I love this line in one of Mrs. Banks’ songs. In the play version, she really struggles with figuring out what it meets to be Mrs. Banks, since it doesn’t seem to line up with what her husband seems to think. But by the second act, Winifred realizes that one of the most important things she can do as wife is fight for her husband by support him through whatever trials he faces. I think this should be true of any wife and is something I hope to remember when I get married someday.
Prioritizing your family
One of the great lesson in Mary Poppins is that you should always make family a priority. At the beginning of the show, George Banks is convinced that they should have a nanny because everyone in their class of society did and he believed it was the nanny’s responsibility to mold the children into the person they were meant to be when they grow up. The children are also very distant from their father. But by the end of the show, they realize that they all need each other, and they are made better because of it. George Banks realizes that he and his wife are responsible for molding their children's lives. That is Mary Poppins' main mission all along: to teach families this lesson, and it's such a powerful one to be learned in this day and age.
“Anything can happen if we only get out of our own way”
Although the more common quote from the show is “anything can happen if you let it,” I personally like this version of the quote better. It’s a reminder that many of us are afraid about venturing into the unknown by daring to try what we have been scared to pursue. Sometimes, our pride can also get in the way. But we are able to face that fear (or swallow our pride) and just do it, anything is possible. I often struggle with such fear or pride in my own life, but the song Anything Can Happen is such a great reminder that we are the ones that prevent us from taking the chance. I think we would all be make better people if we learned how to do this.
Being in Mary Poppins was a dream come true, not only because I got to be in a Disney musical (there was a reason the cast voted me as “Disney’s Biggest Fan”! lol), but I also got to be in a show with a theater company that I have been watching since I was a kid. I had wanted to be in one of KVTA’s shows for years, but the timing never worked out and I probably wouldn’t have made it before I received my vocal and theatrical training in college. But in the end, I am so proud to say that of all the shows I could have done with KVTA, Mary Poppins was my first. I will cherish the memories of this show and the people involved with it for years to come. We put on a pretty amazing show and together, we accomplished something so much bigger than ourselves. To me, that’s the best part of theater, when everything just comes together to its completion for the sum of the greater whole.
If they choose to read this, I want to thank my college drama director Mary for helping me find my presence both on and off the stage. I don’t think I could have made it into this show without the lessons I learned from you. I also want to thank my current director Paula for casting me in this great show and giving the privilege to be part of this special production. It meant so much to me and I am so grateful. Thanks to the rest of the cast and crew for being so friendly, encouraging, and such pleasant people to work with. You have all blessed my life more than you will ever know. I hope that the rest of you have the chance to be involved in something like a stage show or a group project like it in your own life. And remember to look past what you see, so you can get out of your own way.
Here’s a few more pictures. Enjoy!
It’s hard to me to know exactly where to begin this post. Some people would come to write a post like this and wouldn’t be able to come up with enough to say. I, on the other hand, have more to say than I want to fit into one blog post! My heart is so full of joy as I reflect on all God did to bring this event about. I feel I need to share the whole story to explain why The Anima Series Tour was so important and special to me. God has been orchestrating this event for quite soon time, not just with calling The Anima Series to go on tour, but also with changes that have happened in my own life. My hope is that by sharing this story, you will appreciate all God did to bring it all together.
When I First Found The Anima Series
For those of you that may not know, The Anima Series started when Jon Jorgenson and two of his friends decided to make a video of a spoken word poem Jon had written called “Who You Are: A Message To All Women”. They uploaded this video to YouTube July 2013. At first, they got a couple thousand views, but in a short time, it went viral, to the point to reaching millions of views. When that happened, they decided to use The Anima Series as an opportunity to give local artists a platform for Christ through making quality art. So they started making more videos with the goal of inspiring ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
That’s about the point where I come in. It would have been October 2013. I was in my last full-time semester of college at Ozark Christian College and was still living in the dorm. One of the girls on my dorm floor shared the “Who You Are: Women” video to my floor’s Facebook group. I don’t remember exactly what day that was, but I will never forget watching that video for the first time in my dorm room. Initially, I was almost in shock of the powerful message that had just been spoken to me. I watched it at least twice more and by then, I’m pretty sure I was shedding a few tears (Good thing I had a single room at the time. lol). Here's the video:
You see, I was at such a strange place in my life, mental, emotional, and spiritually, when I saw this video for the first time. 2013 had been a hard year, in which I had gone through everything from losing my friend Brandon in a car accident, to having my summer internship postponed at the last minute to the following spring, to attempting to prepare myself to leave the safety net of my college campus when I finished classes that December. On top of all this, I had been fighting a serious spiritual battle with my self-esteem that had been ongoing for about two years. I had gotten to a point where I had bought into some of the lies of Satan about what defines beauty and attractiveness, because I was struggling with my weight and my singleness. Fortunately, I did not turn toward any paths of self-harm that are often associated with self-esteem issues, but I did come close toward heading down one of those paths. It was God’s grace that kept me from choosing to lessen the numbers on the scale in ways that were unhealthy. Just when I was starting to come out of that, a few other things happened that made my singleness stand out like a sore thumb and made me start to question why my relationship status had never changed (and even now still hasn’t at 25 years old).
After having gone through all this and seeing the “Who You Are” video, something clicked in both my heart and my mind. I began to understand the change of heart I needed to have towards myself before I would be able to make a difference in the world for Christ. I began to realize that I, and every other women on this earth, was worth dying for and Christ believed it enough that he actually died on a cross for each and every one of us. It all made sense in a way it never had before. In a short period of time, I became content with my body and with being single in way I had thought would never have been possible when I was in the depth of my struggle. And even now I would say that I have been able to remain satisfied in the love of the Lord. It all started with a video of a guy in a white t-shirt on an empty stage with a message to share and a hope it would touch someone’s life. I know there was a difference in my heart and my life after I began to live my life in light of that powerful message. I even wrote my own spoken word poem on a very similar topic a few weeks later. It was titled “A Princess Worth Dying For”, but after I wrote it, I didn’t do anything with it for about a year. I’ll come back to that poem in a little bit.
Although I did have to do a little bit of searching to find the original video (since the first link I was given was from a random Facebook page), I eventually found The Anima Series channel, watched a few of their other videos, and subscribed. I was curious about trying to find the name of the guy that was in the first video. I eventually came to find that his name was Jon Jorgenson. I remembering being so inspired specifically by some of the other videos Jon was in, and I started hoping that I would meet him someday, but not knowing if I ever would.
How I “Met” Jon Jorgenson Online
Fast forward to the next summer (2014). I had completed my music ministry internship and graduated college that May. I was so unsure of where my life was headed. But in late June, I remember that I came across a video of Jon asking fans to submit their own versions of the “Who You Are: Women” for a tribute video in celebration of Anima’s first birthday. I was so excited to make my own version! I remember being curious about if they were going to use my version, and they did! I was so excited to have been a part of it.
I remember sending my video to the Anima Series email address, but I’m pretty sure that Jon was the one that answered it. He complimented my video and signed the email as he always signs off – “Keep being awesome.” And over the next few weeks, I discovered that Jon has his own blog, a personal Facebook page, and a personal YouTube channel. I also found out that he had published a book (Authentic Love) and I ordered it. Through looking at all these, I found that he listed his email address publicly and was willing to answer emails from his fans. About the end of July, I sent him an email introducing myself, briefly thanking him for what his videos had done for me, and asking him some general life advice. He replied and gave me some good tips through some videos links. And that started an online connection that has lasted ever since.
For over a year, we have exchanged emails back and forth (not all the time of course, but fairly often). We occasionally chat on Twitter and on his Facebook page too. Since Jon is big on inspiring people and emphasizes creativity in most of his work, he has been a constant support and encouragement to me in my creative pursuits. He always takes the time to answer my emails, and has remembered my name ever since my first email. He has watched all my spoken word poems when I send him the links, and he gives me great feedback every time. He has read some of my posts here on my blog when I ask him. He is probably one of my biggest encouragers and inspirations I have had in the creative process. There are so many things I would have never thought I could do if it wasn’t for Jon, his work, and even his personal encouragement. And all the while, I kept hoping that I would someday get to meet him in person, but wondering if I ever would.
When I First Showed An Anima Video At My Church
Fast forward again to October 2014, I was teaching a Jr. High girls Bible study on the topic of modesty. We were going through The Secret Keeper by Dannah Gresh (a great book for that topic) and we were coming to the point in the study when we would be talking about inner beauty, our attitude about ourselves, and comprehending God’s love for us. I’d been trying to find different videos to supplement my lessons each week, and I realized that the “Who You Are: Women” video was absolutely perfect. I believe that when a woman knows how valued she is in God’s eyes, modesty will become not just a list of fashion rules to be obeyed, but an attitude in which a woman will worship God with her life, and that video was a great example of how to find that mindset. So I showed the “Who You Are: Women” video and the girls were touched by it too.
It was also at this time that I decided to make a video of my first spoken word poem to share with the girls, which was very much inspired by the “Who You Are: Women” video. “A Princess Worth Dying For,” although I still had a lot to learn about spoken word and making that type of video, left a powerful impression on the girls the last week of teaching. Here's the video:
But I remember I had a very ironic thought while I was showing the girls the “Who You Are: Women.” As I was praying that this message would speak to their hearts, I thought how awesome it would be if we could hear Jon do that poem live. I didn’t know if that would ever happen, but I hoped that it would, then I kind of forgot about it for quite some time.
When Anima Decided to Go on Tour
When The Show Finally Happened
When the show finally started, it was like I was like watching one of the Anima videos live. It was so cool! Jon recounted stories from his time as a camp counselor at a Christian theater summer camp (Spotlight Youth Theater) and how watching these kids informed what he understands authentic love to be. He shared some spoken word poetry within the context of this narrative of his lessons from the summer camp. Jon really is a great speaker and super funny! I already knew this from his videos, but it was awesome to get to see it live. At the end, he concluded that if anyone had been inspired by any of his work, we had those kids he worked with to thank for inspiring him. (It was also pretty awesome to discover that I had connections to a few of those kids. It truly is a small world!) Then, he concluded by reading his two most famous poems: “Who You Are: A Message To All Men” and “Who You Are: A Message To All Women.” I got a video of him doing the last one.
Getting to hear Jon recite the poem that touched me so personally was incredible. Now, I know the words so well, I was mouthing them while Jon was saying them. But as I started to think back through the time I had been a fan of The Anima Series, I couldn’t help but marvel at what God had done to bring it all together. Ever since I’d seen their first video, it had been a small desire of my heart to meet Jon in person, but I didn’t think it would really happen, especially while he was living in New York. But there he was, doing a show on the stage in my church, and I knew that God had orchestrated it. I also realized that the thought I had about the girls in my Bible study a year ago seeing him performing “Who You Are: Women” live had become a reality, since three of seven girls from the Bible study were there at the Anima show that night. At the end of the show, as Jon was giving his acknowledgements, he thanked me for all I did for bringing this event together, which kind of made me smile. When I had others thanking me for organizing the event and telling me how much they enjoyed it, I knew it was a God thing.
After the show, Jon had a meet and greet time and posed for pictures. Now we didn’t have a super big crowd, but Jon was so good about giving time and attention to everyone.
Of course I got a picture with him too, which many of you who know me have probably already seen, since I have plastered it all over my social media! lol
I also got one with Jon’s wife Erin. They’ve only been married a few months.
Erin let me keep one of the beautiful calligraphy quotes she made as merchandise, and I love it! (After talking to her some, I know why Jon calls her “Sweet Bear.” She really is a sweetheart)
Jon also gave me a thank you card that also has Erin’s calligraphy on the front. It’s so pretty.
When the show was done and they packed up their stuff, Jon gave me another big hug (It’s hard for any hug of Jon’s not to be big, since he’s so tall! haha).
While we were hugging, I said, “It was so great to finally meet you, Jon.”
He replied, “It was great to finally meet you, Bethel.”
As they drove away, I couldn’t help but praise God for giving me this small desire of my heart.
I hope this story has demonstrated what God can do to change lives for His greater plan, but also bring lives together for His glory. It amazes me how this story unfolded even as I have been writing it down for this post. Jon and The Anima Series have touched hundreds of thousands of people’s lives through their YouTube videos, but they also like to touch lives on a more personal level when they have the opportunity. That’s one of the main reasons they choose to go on tour in the first place. Jon has said before that,
“Some people are called to touch millions of lives, while others are called to touch one life a million times.”
Anima’s work may someday touch millions of lives, but I think it’s safe to say that Jon is well on his way to touching my life a million times, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to thank him enough for it. I hope all of you look for and seize the opportunities to do the same for the people in your own life. You won’t regret it.
Here’s Jon video vlog from the day of my church’s show. I do have to say that I had no idea he was not feeling well until I watched this, and it impresses me all the more that he pressed on so well, despite his discomfort. Maybe it was his crazy socks getting revenge on him! lol
(There’s a short clip of me toward the end, wearing a black and white striped t-shirt)
More recently, I started thinking about this quote again, but I started to focus on the idea of when my path crossed with my friends. I have been blessed to have friends from so many different places and from different events in my life. Many of those circumstances I believe were orchestrated by God to bring these people into my life. As I thought about the ways in which I have met my friends, it dawned on me that there are several friends that I met under slightly strange and even humorous circumstances. So I thought I would share ten of these unique ways I made a friend. (Note: I am only listing these friends’ first names for the sake of privacy)
Brittany – “I Knew It Was You and I Cheered For You!”
That story makes me smile, because I love it when God brings people into your life that already know how you are before you meet them to help you along your way. For this reason, I am so grateful for Brittany.
Dani - A Unique Birthday Surprise
Toby – In the Pool On Choir Tour
Miri – “I’m Your New Roommate. I Think You Know My Boyfriend”
Terry – “Do You Like Lord of the Rings?”
Terry is one of the few people that I would dare to say loves Middle-earth more than I do. He is so well-researched on the subject and we had many intelligent conversations about it over the years. Of course we talked about other things too, but this was unique because I had the chance to create a friendship with one of my professors (outside the music dept.) before I was in college. When I finally got to Ozark, Terry and I were already great friends. I eventually came to be his student assistant and graded papers for him, and I would usually come up to his office to visit with him about once every other week. For one of his birthdays, I decorated his office with a Lord of the Rings theme as a surprise. It just seems funny in hindsight that we became friends because of Lord of the Rings. I am so grateful for Terry and our long-lasting friendship.
Taylor – “I Didn’t Know Your Last Name!”
Taylor (a girl Taylor, just to clarify) and I met because our moms were a part of the local MOPS program together. We were good friends in junior high and high school. But what was funny is that we met after our siblings had met, my little sister and her little brother. She knew about me prior to meeting me in person, but not long after she meant, she told me that she didn’t know my last name, because her little brother referred to my little sister with their last name! We both cracked up about it, but it was definitely a funny way to be introduced to a friend. I am so grateful for Taylor’s friendship.
High School Friends – “Would You Like To Share A Snack?”
It sometimes hard to remember what my life was like before I went to Kankakee Trinity Academy for junior high. I had been homeschooled for several years, but my parents decided that my sisters and I needed more structure to our education. I remember making a visit to KTA the spring before we enrolled. Since I was going into 7th grade in fall, I got to spend the morning with the 6th grade class so I could meet students in my grade, and then I spent the afternoon in the junior high class to see the teacher. Now I don’t remember a whole ton of details about this visit. I mostly read a book while they were going over their lessons and working. But for some reason, I remember that they had a morning snack time when they got to pick one thing out of their lunches. I was unprepared, but I remember a few of the kids offered me a little of their snacks, one of which was those pudding bites that were popular at the time.
I think back to remember that there four people in the class that day that stayed at KTA until we graduated, and the first memory I had of them was the simple act of kindness of offering me part of their snack. I don’t remember if Laura, Laura (yes, there were two), Ari, and Ray all offered me something, but it’s funny to think that was the moment that started it all. We all got pretty close in our high school years, along with the others that joined our class, and I am still blessed to remember all the good times we had at KTA. I am so thankful for all of them.
Daniel – “Can I Color With You?”
I laugh when I think about it or look at the picture. It’s one of my favorite stories about making a friend to retell because it was so funny! I am so grateful to have Daniel as a friend.
Angela & Kendra – Disney Princesses
These friends are actually unknown to each other, but I call them both my Disney twins! The reasons why I am listing them together is because the circumstances under which I befriended both these ladies was very similar, and had to do with Disney Princesses.
It just funny to me how something that is meant to bring joy to children can bring joy to adults as well, and actually bring people of common interest together. For this reason, I am so grateful for both Kendra and Angela.
Brandon – “Can You Help Me With My Makeup?”
As the week progressed, I remember I was having problems with my feet, and he encouraged me to sit down while I was helping him. We had just gotten instructions from our director to use the lipstick color on his cheeks instead of the blush because it was the best for his skin tone. I remember testing it on his face, seeing that it looked OK, and then preceding to put more on him while saying, “This is kind of weird. I’ve never put lipstick on someone’s cheeks before.” We both started cracking up! But I remember that after we finished laughing, he said, “I’m glad I could make you laugh during this time,” remembering that my feet were in some pain. Again, at the time I thought it was strange, but now I realize how sweet it was that he was that considerate of how I was feeling.
Part of the reason this story is special to me is because Brandon passed away a little over a year later. I didn't have the chance to get super close to him, but the short time we were friends made a big impact on my life that I did not realize until after his death. Even though he is gone, I am still so grateful to have called him my friend. To read more about Brandon’s story, click here.
Well there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading these stories as I did recall these memories of how some of my most special friendships began. I want to encourage you to remember that you never know when or how God will cross your path with someone he wants you to befriend. You never know how God will use you to impact someone’s life. Remember the quote I shared at the beginning, think about the people it applies to, thank God for crossing your path, and live out your friendships in that gratitude. You will never look at friendships the same way again.
Living in the Redemption of the price Jesus paid for you and me.
My name is Bethel, and welcome to my site, Princess Worth Dying For, where I hope to share Christian reviews, Christian Spoken Word, and a Christian Insights on everything from modesty to musicals. My main focus on this blog is book reviews, and the main focus of my YouTube channel is spoken word, but I do crossover work with both.
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