Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Beautiful Ballerinas

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that..."

Ha! I'm wondering how many of you can actually finish this quote... I'm wondering how many of you even know what novel this is from. (Calling all Austen-addicts...)
And while I'm sure I could have a relatively intelligent (animated? amusing?) discussion/blog post on whether or not "a man in possession of a good fortune must really be in want of a wife," that's not the truth I'm referring to here... Move over Jane Austen. Hello Walt Disney! 

It's a small world after all...

This story began one fateful day in November. The exact day I don't remember. And, well, I don't believe in Fate so I guess "fateful" is the wrong word too, but you all get the picture. Maybe "Providential" would be more appropriate. 
At any rate, I was in the back of Studio C watching a run-through of Snow (from PNB's Nutcracker) and behold! In front of me was this beautiful blonde-haired, bright-eyed professional division student who absolutely blew me away with her saut de chat. But it wasn't just that. I don't know... there was just something about her (of course this something would become more than obvious later...) So, using her pointe shoes as an in/excuse, I sort of forced her "under my wing." She graciously complied... 
And her name is Carlie Mills... a.k.a. Briar Rose (because she literally looks like that Sleeping Beauty Disney Princess). 
Fast forward to April, 2011. One day while walking around backstage during a rehearsal for A Midsummer Night's Dream this little Miss Briar Rose came up to me. And with those big ol' Bambi eyes  timidly tapped me on the shoulder and nervously blurted out, "Hey! Jessika! Sooooo... I have a question for you. Umm.... I was wondering if you could help me out with something."
Half-laughing to myself because she seemed almost skittish in approaching me (I don't think I'm that intimidating), I gave her my warmest smile and, trying to put her at ease, said "Absolutely. What's up?"
Fully expecting her to ask me some question about, well, I don't know... how to deal with ingrown toenails or corns, which false eyelashes I use (105 and 111's if you're wondering...), or maybe a question about the choreography, I was totally blown away by what followed.
You see Carlie and I have something else in common (other than both loving ballet and having a flair for the dramatic - you should have seen this girl as Shoe Lady #3 in Cinderella!). We both love Jesus. That's the something I mentioned earlier... the same something, the same Light, which I hope shines from me too!
And this love, this Light shone even more brightly through Carlie when she shared with me a story from the pulpit that had inspired her. The previous Sunday the pastor at her church had spoke of a little girl he'd met in eastern Washington.
Her name is Ella Mae. She's a vibrant, energetic 6-year-old little girl who loves Jesus and ballet too. Ella Mae has big beautiful eyes, the sweetest smile and Spina Bifida... a condition that among other serious medical complications has her in a little walker as she's paralyzed from the waist down. But that doesn't stop Ella Mae! She wants to be a ballerina just like Carlie and me- be it by God's gracious, omnipotent and healing hand or when she's finally at Home with Jesus in Heaven. In a conversation to her little brother Levi (overheard by her Dad) she said,
“Levi, do you know what will make heaven so wonderful?” “What?” he said. “Heaven will be wonderful because there won’t be any walkers, braces, wheelchairs, or Spina Bifida, which means I’ll finally get to run and play with you like I’ve always wanted to do,” —said in her excited voice, as only she can— “and I’ll be able to dance for Jesus too. He’ll love it. He’s amazing you know, and he really likes ballerinas. I can’t dance now because my legs don’t work, but he’ll fix them in heaven, and then I’m gonna dance my heart out. He can’t wait to see me dance.”
 "So I was wondering if you'd be able to help me get Ella Mae tickets to the ballet and maybe a backstage tour?" said Carlie after relating to me this story.
Forget "if." "When"?!!!! 
This was the only question on my mind... Tonight? Tomorrow? Shoot... "Today" wouldn't be soon enough. But the Lord knew...

June. June 11th at 1:15pm to be exact. This was the day I met Ella Mae. Clad in a beautiful pink tutu complete with magenta ballet flats and a glittering tiara too, she arrived in the strong arms of her escort... her very tall and very proud papa, followed by her mama & little brother. And I, dressed in my mismatched ugly orange peasant costume, took them backstage where Carlie met up with us so that Ella Mae could not only meet ballerinas but get the chance to dance on stage too. And boy does this girl have some flair!! She showed me her moves, striking her sweet little poses...  And right before Carlie took them to find their seats for the show, I gave her a couple gifts - a pair of my pointe shoes and a Giselle poster signed by most of the company.
But these gifts were so minimal compared with the gifts I received through this experience.
What a gift it was to not only meet Ella Mae and her amazing family, but to share her story with all the other dancers in the company. Testimonies are powerful - lives lived for Christ - and hers is one that I know the Lord is using in an incredible way to draw people to Himself, even ballerinas. Because as Ella Mae's said, "He really likes ballerinas." And I can't agree more!

But also, what a blessing little Miss Carlie Mills has been to me. She's shown me that a deep love for Jesus and His Kingdom isn't something to just think, talk or blog about... it does! It's active. It doesn't just contemplate conviction, but it takes the tangible steps to serve others.
And what a gift it's been to serve the Body... the bigger Body. Because even though Carlie and I don't attend the same church, we are both a part of the Body of Christ. We both love Jesus and His Kingdom. And in the end that's what it's about. Loving the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself... building up the Body of Christ and furthering His Kingdom.

It's a small world. Had it not been for Carlie I would never have met Ella Mae. But I have been blessed beyond measure by these two beautiful ballerinas. And I thank the Lord for making the world small and bringing them into my life.

There's so much more to this story... I feel like I've only touched the tip of the iceberg with this post. I'd encourage you to listenwatch, or read the sermon that inspired this whole experience along with this follow-up blog post to the sermon written by Ella Mae's dad. And you can follow Ella Mae and her family's adventures here.

But I'll end this long blog post with some photos so you can see and hear that God is good! Enjoy!

PS... Corey Everett Smiley deserves a HUGE shout out... You are the best. Thank you for also being an integral part in orchestrating this Divine appointment!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Is anyone there?
Am I there? all there?
Ha! Well I think so... I think I made it through this past month in one piece.
Let me tell you... it's been a month.
Can someone explain to me why, if I have less "going on" in my life than I've had in the past couple years, do I feel more overwhelmed than ever before? I mean when I think about all that I used to do... Volunteering in the High School Ministry at my church, leading a discipleship group, being a part of the college ministry leadership team, attending Bible Study Fellowship, taking a college class online, working full-time and somehow managing to have a social life... how in the WORLD did I do it all?!!!
I mean I've winnowed that list down to about half the activities/responsibilities and yet I feel like I'm drowning. I'm stuck playing this game: trying to pick up the pieces of my life that keep falling off the truck in front of me, but when I chuck them back into the truck they just roll right out again... Sometimes I have to run back to grab the few bits I missed- e-mails, phone calls, this blog. Shoot... I haven't even set up the voicemail on my "new" phone. I say "new" because I've had it for like two months. Then again I've never been good about checking my voicemail anyway...
Aren't you supposed to get better at accomplishing more the older you get? I mean at the very least what happened to the time-management skills I somehow, somewhere seemed to have acquired? They must have fallen off the truck first and rolled into a ditch. Haha...

So where do I even start?
Maybe where I left off... yeah. That's probably a good idea.

Well let me begin by saying that I didn't have strep throat. Once again I had some crazy-weird mystery illness. Arrggh. Can you feel my frustration? But nothing in my life is ever "normal" or predictable so I guess I shouldn't expect my biology to be any different.
Needless to say my first week back to work after having to take 3 weeks off was rough. Quite rough. And yes, I had to take the 3 weeks off. Completely off.
What you all didn't know is that in the middle of Midsummer I had to get an MRI done of my left foot. The diagnosis: a stress reaction. Okay so I guess sometimes I do (miraculously) get a definite answer.
But what's a stress reaction? Basically it's a pre-stress fracture... the bone's about to break. But because a break (vacation) was nearing on the horizon I was able to finish A Midsummer Night's Dream with the understanding that I'd rest my foot for the entire 3 weeks, allowing it to heal.

"Okay. No sweat. It's only 3 weeks. My body needs the rest and the Lord's gonna take care of me. I just need to trust Him... Trust that it's been Him who's taken me this far and He'll get me back here again."

I just kept saying this over and over again to myself, hoping that the more I said it the more I'd believe it. And I did believe it. At first. But Worry has a curious way of wriggling himself into my heart.
You see this year has been hands down my best season thus far at PNB. The Lord has opened doors. He's opened eyes. He's given me opportunities, and has helped me improve so much, not only in my technique, but in my confidence and trust too. It's been Him. All Him. I show up. I do what He asks me to, and I work hard at it. But that's so minor compared to the work of His Mighty Hands.
And yet, what do I do? I start worrying that all this hard work that I've done to get here ("filthy rags" as Isaiah terms it) will all be for naught. And yes, if I had done all this- if my worth and identity were founded on this hard work- then there would be cause to worry, and it would all be for naught. But praise the Lord He's Sovereign and Almighty! Praise Him that He's holding me. Praise Him that in all things He works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. And praise Him that He sees and knows my heart. He sees that seed of pride creeping in. He sees me slowly separating myself from Him, trying to do things on my own.  And He knows how to best draw me close to Him.
"I am with you, watching over you constantly. I am Emmanuel (God with you); My Presence enfolds you in radiant Love. Nothing, including the brightest blessings and the darkest trials, can separate you from Me. Some of My children find Me more readily during dark times, when difficulties force them to depend on Me. Others feel closer to Me when their lives are filled with good things. They respond with thanksgiving and praise, thus opening wide the door to My Presence.
I know precisely what you need to draw nearer to Me. Go through each day looking for what I have prepared for you. Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs. When you view your life this way, the most reasonable response is to be thankful. Do not reject any of My gifts; find Me in every situation." ~ from May 29th in "Jesus Calling"
 I wish I could say I were the latter child mentioned in the quote above, but alas I am not. I am the one who finds Him in times of trial. And what a trial that first week back to work was!
Not only was I sick, but because I took those 3 weeks completely off - no running, no jumping... nothing to keep the muscles in my left ankle strong and sensitive to impact-type motion - my left ankle was dangerously weak and jamming up to the point where I could hardly walk on it.
Frustration soon followed. And then it gave way to despair. But it was the humbling I needed to return to the Lord: to submit to Him, cleave to Him and cry out "I need You! I can't do this by myself. I'm drowning. Save me Lord!"
And He is faithful. He rescues us. He rescued me.
It's been a humbling month. It's been a challenging month... and this is only one part of it. I've longed for the summer sunshine (weather-wise and life-wise), but all I've had is grey clouds and raindrops... And yet sometimes God's "blessings come through raindrops." The darkness and the sunshine... they're both gifts from our Father. So I thank Him for the grey clouds, the raindrops and for nearly drowning. I cling to and claim the promises of His Word... that the good work He's begun in me, HE will bring to completion. And I keep my eyes open for all those rays of sunshine He brings me each day- both big and small.