Sunday, June 20, 2010

AtlantaFest in Brief Recap Form

Bands Seen:
Manic Drive
Remedy Drive
The Museum
Living Anthem
Echoing Angels
Sanctus Real
Seventh Day Slumber
Kids in the Way
Family Force 5
Jason Gray
House of Heroes
Addison Road
Britt Nicole
Tenth Avenue North
Canton Jones
Jeff Chandler
(Total: 25)

Nick Vujicic
Tom Coverly
Joseph Rojas
Matt Pitt

Total number of pictures taken:

Total number of videos taken:

Total number of caffeinated drinks consumed in 3 days:
...let's not talk about that

Total number of showers in 3 days:

Most sleep I ever got:
6 hours on Friday night

Bands I met:
Manic Drive
Family Force 5
House of Heroes

Longest straight session of constant bands/speakers:
13 hours

Weirdest meal experience:
Eating cold beef stew out of tin cans while sitting against the barrier in the mosh pit

Most unexpectedly awesome artist:
Canton Jones

Most beautiful personal moment:
...I would have to list at least 5.

Most beautiful overall moment:
Watching dozens of people of all ages come to the front to accept Jesus on their knees just as it started raining

There will be more on this after I get home and get some sleep and spend a few days rehydrating, I assure you. There's a lot to process right now.

- Elraen -

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Last year in June I did a "one year later" reflection on the 2008 moot. It's been close to two years now, and I'll be gone when we hit exactly two years, so I won't be able to blog. But today I have been looking over the past two moots-- more specifically the 2009 moot, and remembering. And so you get my thoughts, because they are too heavy to hold by myself.

When I look at the two annual gatherings of my online writer's group that I've attended, it's hard to believe they were the same basic thing. They both taught me, but in different ways. The first one, in 2008, taught me through facing fears and standing strong even when I was terribly alone (see my post last year). It taught me more about reaching out even when it was hard, and it taught me so much about unconditional love. As I get farther from it and grow up, the parts of the experience that once made me bitter have softened, and the beautiful parts have grown in me.

The 2009 moot was totally different. It taught me probably more than the 2008 moot did, but it taught me through joy. Well, there was the first day (or rather night)... by the end of that I was sure that the whole thing was going to be one big disaster. But before long I was deep in experiences I had never known before. There is no way that I could possibly overstate the importance of the 2009 moot in my life. The best way I can explain it now, 10 months down the road, is that I found joy there. I can only remember experiencing joy twice in my life before that week. And I know I say that at the risk of sounding emo and very much a teenager, but honestly, I never understood joy even as a child. I saw it for the first time the summer I was 16, and then the second time at a Skillet show in April 2009. But it was never a consistent factor in my life until after that week spent in the mountains with dear friends in August of 2009. Now it's something that I find in the most simple and quiet moments, as well as in the bright and shining days where I am given things that are new and beautiful. A cup of coffee on a cold afternoon, battered converse shoes, siblings' smiles, city lights at night, clouds on wind-swept afternoons... there is so much joy in this world, coursing beneath the surface, like a liquid fire that burns clean and clear. I just didn't see it in the first 18 years of my life.

There has been a problem with all of this though. I had these experiences, I was changed by them, I had my best semester at school yet last Fall purely because I was still living with the joy I had found... and then things changed. The past six months have felt like one nightmare after another... stupid decisions I made in relationships finally catching up to me, family members getting cancer, family members dying, financial problems, academic stress, constant illness, family stress, friendships broken, responsibilities that have been failed. And in the face of that, I have managed an odd maneuver-- I have convinced myself that the 2009 moot never happened.

I don't mean literally. I obviously know I was there. But I have forced the details and the joy into obscurity, and I am forgetting more and more of it. In the beginning, this scared me and I would ask people to tell me I'd been there, to tell me what I'd said and what I'd done at the moot. And then I just stopped caring. I won't look at the pictures, I won't watch the videos, I won't listen to songs that remind me of it.

And I still am not sure why I did this. I think part of it is that I just can't believe anymore that something that good actually happened. But I think a bigger part is that I do not want to be reminded, because if what God showed me there was true, then I have no choice but to hope and to hold onto the belief that friendships can actually heal instead of hurt. And that is hard, because it means abandoning selfish hurts and self-pity and fear.

If I am to be perfectly blunt, I don't want to go to the moot again this year. I never want to go (though I never regret it), but this year I have better reasons than usual. So I had almost made up my mind not to go, and I was going to try to talk it over with one of our mentors to explain my reasons for not wanting to go, when God suddenly told me very clearly that I needed to. It made me angry and upset at first ("God wants me to be happy? How dare He!" ...No, I'm not always logical). And now I am just either indifferent or afraid...

I think it's partly because I honestly don't enjoy being around people right now, for the most part. I try over and over again to make the best of it, to be who people expect, to smile and to actually enjoy time with friends... but I can't. I don't know why, aside from the fact that I have been more embittered by friendships in the past few months than ever before. And I have a really hard time missing people right now too. I know I should miss people, and I can keep telling myself that, but it doesn't help. It's not that I don't love my friends-- I do. I love them more than words can express. So why do I find it so hard to want to be with them? It's definitely not anything wrong with them...

The bravest thing I have is hope. That quote always comes back to me. And it's what I'm trying so hard to hold to now. Today I have been making myself go back and watch moot videos, to read my incredibly lengthy journal, to remember that last time God worked things out greater than I could imagine. And for the past few weeks He has given me moments of encouragement too, beautiful moments where for just a while I remember what it is to have normal friendships... a night going to coffee with a friend who I see much too rarely, playing games with people I didn't realize I could relate to before, friends unexpectedly dropping by. It's in those moments that I remember the sense of safety and community and joy that I found last August... and I believe that the God who sung away the night then could and will do so again. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever...

The worst mistake I could make would be to believe that because it is storming now it always will be.

It's a steady process, trying to come back to the things you believe in after you drop them for a while... love, hope, trust. And so I will remember the light of yesterday and look forward to the hope of tomorrow, resting on His love today...

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- Elraen -

The great contrast is where the beauty is. The sunshine must meet the rain to paint our skies with rainbows. It is at that meeting where our worlds become the most alive. The clouds of numb despair and the warm sunlight of love and hope meet, as they always must, to prove in the end how glorious and beautiful the light of the love is. The contrast is real, and in it I am alive. And I am laughing.
- The final words in my 2009 Moot Journal