2017

In my last post, I covered a few topics that I feel passionately about. However, they were more serious than I usually keep my posts and I’d like to now share with you some good things that went down in 2016, and my hopes for the coming year.

I learned to stand on my own two feet.

Albeit not always successfully, but I’ve become, as Grace likes to put it, “A Grown Ass Woman” since my parents left in July. I’ve held down my job for over a year, and while working part time, I got A’s and B’s for the third semester in a row.

 

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One of those B’s is in Biology…That’s right people, I CAN SCIENCE!!

 

Along with that, I bought my own groceries and managed to still pay most of my school bills. I’m still having a hard time with those pesky overdue library books though…

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True story Charlie Brown…

 

I made friends with my roommate and have managed to work with her to rearrange our room, and make it closer to what the both of us want…I still can’t get away from those posters though…

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Isn’t it beautiful…?

Hands down, the best thing to happen to me this year has been Mark.

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This kooky and amazing young man has been my stalwart knight this year. His kindness, affection, joy, and faith both in me and even more so in God has been a constant help in this season of change and stress. He is the first to remind me to pray about what’s bothering me, and the first to remind me to pray for those I love. He’s the first to encourage me when I’m feeling lost, or concerned about what’s going on around me. He’s the first to comfort me when I’m hurt, angry, sad, or having an epic spiraling existential crisis of a panic attack.

He makes me laugh, boisterous, crazy, wild laughter of the kind that only Hope and Grace have managed to wheedle out of me.

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We’re riding a merry-go-round…yes, we’re six, yes, we’re okay with it.

He never fails to do so… even when I’m upset with him he manages to make me smile, and I find it nearly impossible to stay angry. Hell, I think I can only really admit to being ready to yell at him once, and even then, I’m learning carefully to let go of moments of anger and I’m finding that grace comes easily when you care deeply for someone.

We dance so easily together. Our “offstage” chemistry, translates to our dancing, and I find him easier to follow than anyone I’ve ever danced with. You could attribute it to constant practice together, but I prefer to credit our trust in one another, and our natural habit to fall in step and in sync.

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As President and Vice-President of our swing dancing club, we’re constantly doing demonstrations and teaching basic skills.

We don’t dance much right now. In April, Mark tore his ACL and is out of commission following a reconstructive surgery on the muscle. He’s walking again, and we’re all thanking God and continuing to pray for his safe and speedy recovery…he doesn’t like to be stuck sitting around, and he has been for far too long. He’s a nearly impossible patient, and often refuses to sit still, but he’s getting there. 😉

Which brings me to his family. His wonderful, fun, supportive, all around great family. They’ve welcomed me with open arms, and a whole bunch of fun. A weekend with them is a weekend well spent, full of meaningful conversations, video gaming, poking fun at one another, and amazing food. I’m so thankful for how they’ve given me a chance to get to know all of them, and how they’ve gotten to know me. Christmas came with a gift from them I couldn’t have expected. The new pair of Docs was an amazing beautiful gift, and I was so happy with it, I cried. Their welcome, and acceptance of the strange creature that is America is just as amazing, more so, because I often find that it’s hard for people to do. I’m so thankful for that.

Mark is a goof, he’s constantly cracking jokes, or stealing my glasses…

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But. When I need him to stop and talk to me, and listen. He does. He’s taken and is still taking the time to learn my quirks, my habits, my small changes in facial expression that mean I’m actually having an internal panic attack and need someone to pull me aside and tell me it’s okay. He’s figured out that I’ve been locking things away for so long, that it takes poking and prodding and ten times of asking me if I’m okay, knowing I’m not, to get me to tell anyone what’s wrong. He’s coming to understand that I don’t distrust him, in fact, he’s one of the few I trust, but that I have an issue with being vulnerable. I hate it. Crying doesn’t make me feel better, it makes me feel small, and I don’t like being small, or potentially weak in someone else’s eyes. I’ve found, with him, it’s okay to be vulnerable, and to cry…I’ve done my fair share of that this year, more than I have in a long time, and that’s okay, because he listens, and he talks with me, and he doesn’t dismiss it as just being emotional.

I could go on forever about him, but I’ll end with this. Mark has a beautiful, energetic, kind, and loving soul. He’s almost universally liked, and he makes friends wherever he goes. He is handsome, not just physically, but he exudes the kind of handsome that only comes from a person that is strong in their faith and lets the Spirit work in them.

 

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He has a strong moral compass, a love for children, and dreams for a bright future. He sees God’s work in the tiny everyday things we pass, constantly pointing out His creation in the nature around campus, or in an insect that he finds online. He is seeking Christ passionately, and encouraging me to do the same. I couldn’t ask for more in a partner, and that’s what I feel we are more than anything else. Partners. In relationship, in crime 😉 , in learning, in fun, in whatever God leads us to do. My prayer for this new year of 2017 is that God will lead us in this relationship, that he will continue to teach us about each other, and that we grow in Him, and follow His plan, not ours. Whatever that may be.

“Men can be such jerks, but then…God created Italians.”

I’m thankful for my wonderful Italian Spider-Mark, may 2017 be just as wonderful, and more so than 2016.

Much Love,

MAE ❤

 

Little Reminders

There’s this guy I know, and every once in a while, when you catch him tired, and introspective…he’ll say something heartfelt and beautiful. Tonight, he brought up his passion for science and life, and it reminded me of something that I forget way too often.

Life is full of beauty. Little teeny tiny things that we don’t see going on, that are making the planet turn.

But see, this guy reminded me of something else, something he said the other day, but didn’t sink in entirely until now.

See, the thing is, that science unintentionally proves the existence of a higher power. Life is too intricate and too complex to have just happened. There had to be someone directing it, and tonight, I experienced the joy of seeing someone I care about find joy in this fact. For me, it’s music, my last post, RENT, little acts of kindness that make up what I see as God’s love on earth.

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For this guy…it’s looking at the woods, the sunlight, a worm on the ground, and seeing God’s amazing creation, and then turning around and getting to see it again in what he’s studying on a daily basis.

For each of us it’s different, and I was reminded of that tonight, all thanks to one person and their ineffable ability to make the everyday extraordinary, just by being them….

Whatever that thing is for you, I hope you find it, and I hope you get to see someone else get one of these reminders, because it’s beautiful and humbling.

Love to all, as always,

Mae

20 Years of Jonathan Larson

20 years ago today, a masterpiece premiered on Broadway.

Jonathan Larson’s musical RENT was a revelation, it shook up the world in the same ways that Hamilton is taking the world by storm now. It spoke to the trials of the age in a way that the generation of the 90s’ could relate to. Set in the end of the AIDS epidemic of the 80s’ as the decade concludes, RENT follows a group of starving artists and performers as they attempt to make their way, love each other, and somehow, find a way to love themselves.  Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 2.53.57 PM

The main characters are hugely important, as are all main characters, but they are offset by a huge ensemble of talented individuals as well.

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The story of RENT is just as much about the ensemble, who play a variety of roles including the homeless, and the parents of various main characters, as it is about the city itself.  The set is sparse, depicting anything from Mark and Roger’s apartment, to the streets of NYC, to the performance space where Maureen hosts her protest. Any set changes are made by the cast carrying something onstage, and the band is onstage as well, hidden in the corner, rocking out through most of the show.

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RENT focuses mostly on these guys:

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Mark and Roger. Roger is a former band frontman and Guitarist. He’s been in withdrawal for a year preceding the events of the musical, “His girlfriend April left a note, saying ‘We’ve got AIDS’ before slitting her wrists in the bathroom..” He’s a recovered drug addict, and afraid of finding love again, in his mind, he’s just going to die anyway, so why connect?  Mark is a filmmaker, having decided to just film his friends and see what comes of it, most of the story is narrated by him, an outsider, who is inside the group.  The first lines of the musical are spoken by Mark (The quirky redhead on the left 🙂 )

“We begin on Christmas Eve with me, Mark, and my roommate, Roger. We
live in an industrial loft on the corner of 11th street and Avenue B, the top
floor of what was once a music publishing factory. Old rock ‘n’ roll posters
hang on the walls. They have Roger’s picture advertising gigs at CBGB’s and
the Pyramid Club. We have an illegal wood burning stove; its exhaust pipe
crawls up to a skylight. All of our electrical appliances are plugged into one
thick extension cord which snakes its way out a window. Outside, a small tent
city has sprung up in the lot next to our building. Inside, we are freezing
because we have no heat.”

This exposition is probably the largest block of spoken word in the musical. The rest of the story is told through song and a few scattered pieces of dialect. RENT is what is called a Rock Opera, and is a modern (in 1996) take on the classical opera “La Boheme”, which is a depiction of the bohemians living in Paris.

Mark and Roger are fighting with this guy:

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Benny, (played in the original cast by the devilishly handsome and charming Taye Diggs) who used to be their roommate. However, he abandoned the Bohemian life to, as Maureen so eloquently puts it during her protest later in the musical, “Live as a lapdog to a wealthy daughter of the revolution.” In reality, he married Allison Grey of the “Westport Greys,” but the picture of him as a lapdog is much funnier, and certainly accurate, as he ends up agreeing to his father-in-law’s every whim. He’s trying to realize the dream of a film/music production company in the lot next door to Mark and Roger’s building, but he has to suck up to Mr. Grey to make it happen. He threatens to evict the entire building if they don’t pay their rent, after promising Mark and Roger they could stay free of charge.

Also in the building is Mimi:

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Attractive, charismatic, sexy, a dancer at the Cat Scratch Club, and an addict. She lives just below Mark and Roger, she dated Benny for a while there after he and Allison got married…her moral compass isn’t always pointing in the right direction, but part of that is due to her constant searching for belonging, she’s a roamer, she longs for love, but has AIDS and is afraid like Roger to get too close to someone, at the same time, she gets far too close too quickly, resulting in disastrous remission when he has to break away. She’s a classic dual character, afraid and confidant all at the same time. She falls for Roger and spends most the musical trying hard to make him open up to her, when he finally does, she blows it, and everything spirals downhill.

Maureen and Joanne are characters with big personalities:

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Maureen is Mark’s Ex-girlfriend, who broke up with him to be with Joanne, who is a lawyer and polar opposite to Maureen’s flamboyant performer personality. The two are constantly fighting, mostly about Maureen’s crazy living style and outrageous behavior. Joanne begins feeling like an outsider in the group, but eventually comes into her own and joins in their wild activities and little family.

Then there’s Collins and Angel:

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Collins is a former professor at NYU,  I think that Mark’s introduction does him justice better than I ever could: “Enter Tom Collins, computer genius, teacher, vagabond anarchist, who ran naked through the Parthenon…” He shows up towards the beginning of the musical, he gets mugged on his way to Mark and Roger’s flat, and is picked up by Angel.

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Angel gets two pictures because of how important she is. Angel is a drag queen, one of the many flamboyant and out of this world characters floating around Alphabet City. She’s more than that though; Angel is the glue that holds the RENT family together. She is kind, and witty, and protective; she does everything in her power to keep them going, even though she has AIDS and is slowly dying. Angel is this depiction of God’s goodness on earth. Sure, she’s living a life full of sin by Biblical standards and teachings, but Jesus didn’t hang out with the “Holier Than Thou” crowd, Jesus was out there hanging with the Tax Collectors, Fishermen, and the sinners of the world. Angel does the same, this good person, kind, loving, and very real doesn’t choose to shun this small family, instead she comes in with the motto “Today for you, tomorrow for me.” Angel spends the musical putting everyone before herself…so much so, that without her, the family falls apart completely…

So, I’ve told you about the characters, and explained at least a little bit of the plot (probably too much actually) but I haven’t told you about the genius behind it. This guy:

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This is Jonathan Larson, he doesn’t look like much, but the guy was a genius. He saw these people on the streets, and he looked at “La Boheme” and he saw love, and grace, and kindness, and anger, and pain, and he infused it into a story that people of all generations can relate to. I love the phrase on the poster in the picture “A  work-in-progress of a rock opera by Jonathan Larson.” Larson never got to see RENT become a hit. The night before the show’s Broadway premiere, Larson died of an Aortic Aneurysm, so if you think about it, RENT which was still in it’s previews, was never a fully completed process. What you see when you watch the taped performance of the show, or see a live production, or if you were very lucky and saw it while it was still on Broadway, you are seeing Larson’s original vision; the unfinished and raw material that took a generation by storm.

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On the outside RENT looks like a gritty, bitter, drug and sex filled Broadway musical about people whining about money and how they’re dying. On the inside though, it’s so much more. It’s a depiction of love, and honor, and care for each other. It shows us how to live with freedom, to “Forget Regret” and live every day as if it is the last day that we’ll ever live. There really is “no day but today” for many people out there, but as exhausting as living in this mentality is, it’s also freeing.

Forget Regret has special meaning to me.

I regret a lot, be it little things, or bigger things, I’m the kind of person who will say something and regret it late at night as it plays out in my head. I lived for a long time, in shame, anger, and guilt, whether I had reason to or not. RENT helped draw me out of that. It pulled me up by the bootstraps and immersed me in a world where I was watching people deal with the exact same problem, in different aspects of their life. Then, they were handed a Christ figure ( in the literary sense of the term, I’m in no means implying that Jesus was a cross-dresser) and through relationship with Angel (by the way, name is an obvious plot point, her name is Angel, she’s basically the groups guardian angel…but I digress) they learn to love themselves and each other.

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I got this the day after I turned 18. The minute I could, I went to the tattoo parlor and got Jonathan Larson’s words permanently etched into my skin. This seems a bit drastic to some people, when I tell them it’s in reference to a musical I get some funny glances, but at the end of the day, it means something to me, and that’s all the matters. The numbers at the bottom spell “Angel” by the way, in case you were wondering. This for me is a constant reminder that your past, is your past, what you said or did yesterday, it doesn’t matter. It may effect, or shape who you are, but every encounter does. If you regret what you do, you’re regretting this wonderful, beautiful life that God gave you. So, when i look at my tattoo, on a daily basis, it reminds me, not only of a musical that I love, but of God’s unfailing forgiveness, his peace, and the joy that I have in knowing that he doesn’t regret me, so I shouldn’t regret myself.

So thank you Jonathan Larson, for 20 years of joy, tears, and music. Thank you for teaching me what it means to live fully. Thank you for writing something that inspires me to be better. Thank you, so much, you will not be forgotten, and your masterpiece will be a part of my heart forever.

Love to all, as always,

Mae

YaF

So, the title of this post is probably a word that you’ve never heard before. YaF stands for Youth at Fifth. This is my Youth Group.

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This picture is from a few years back, but it will give you an idea of how large our group is.

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This is our AMAZING youth leader Christian. (As the Doctor would say “Bow Ties are cool!”) He’s quirky, fun and hilarious, but most of all he cares about each and every one of us in the group. He is more than willing to listen to prayer requests, concerns or funny stories that we might have. He is an amazing person and the first leader of a youth group that I have truly trusted (even when I have NO IDEA what’s coming next or happening at any given time.)

Christian also has a tendency to come up with games that enjoy immensely and are completely terrified of…like this one…

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This is me… I’m wrapped in saran wrap and covered in shaving cream…I’m a human snow person! This was a few years ago, my first year in YaF, somehow I managed not to get a bunch of shaving cream in my hair…still not sure how, but there you go… By the way, our team won!

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Then there’s moments like this…

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And this…

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And the there’s also the fact that Christian has mastered the art of taking embarrassing pictures of me…

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And by embarrassing, I mean things like this…

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I’m in the background…just, you know, dying…

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All the weird games and embarrassing pictures aside, we go on some amazing adventures. The first year I was in YaF we went to Kissimmee Florida. The week that we were there was spent volunteering at Give Kids The World. (Check out http://www.gktw.org/) GKTW is a non-profit organization that partners with Make a Wish Foundation. They give kids (with terminal or life threatening illnesses)and their families a week in the GKTW village. They get a villa all to themselves as well as access to the attractions at the village, such as…

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The hand carved Belgian Carousel,

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The Gingerbread House, which is the dining hall, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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The Castle of miracles, this is one of my favorite places in the village. Inside is the home of the Star Fairy. When kids come to GKTW one of the first things they do is come to the Castle. When they arrive they write their name on a small gold star, which is then put into a box and the kids watch as the star fairy carries the star up to her tower. The next day the kids are able to come back and find their star somewhere on the wall or ceiling. They recently built another room in the castle to accommodate all the stars, here’s a glimpse of what it looks like…

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Also inside the castle is the pillow tree,

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(Sorry for the bad pic…my camera hates me…) Here the kids can design a pillow! The tree shakes and makes noises, there are buttons and levers to push and pull, and the pillow is made in seconds! Did I mention that there’s also a wishing well that sounds like it’s eating the coins you throw in? No? Well there is! There’s also a slide that is small but tons of fun to ride down…

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Yeah…just like that…

There’s also a tree outside, that snores constantly, His name is Ol’ Elmer…

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It would be fun to sit next to him and read, if it weren’t for the fact that I am VERY easily distracted…

So, did I mention that the families that come to GKTW get all of this for free? And that every attraction/building is wheelchair accessible?! Not only that, but the families get tickets to the attractions in Orlando! Most of all, the volunteers at GKTW make it a priority to “Never say no” to the kids who visit the village. As long as what they want isn’t dangerous, the volunteers will do their absolute best to make sure the kids get what they’ve asked for.

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As Winston Churchill once said (this is on a mosaic in the village) “You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.” I think this applies to our youth group and to the rest of the world too. Whether we’re in Florida, Trinidad, Colorado, New Orleans or even home in Grand Rapids, we’re constantly volunteering and showing God’s love through our actions. I think that’s what I love best about this youth group. In the youth groups I’ve been a part of in the past, if we went on a trip, it was for our own enjoyment only. Maybe we’d learn some Bible verses or hear a Christian speaker give their testimony, but it was mostly about bettering our relationship with Christ. Don’t get me wrong that’s great! But, at YaF we’re bettering our relationship with Christ through showing His love to others, as well as building relationships with other Christians of our own age. We accept anyone, and make them feel at home. I’ve never felt like I belong the way I belong at YaF. We’re weird and quirky, but we’re also relatable and when we go into a place, you can bet we’re going to include everyone and have a great time! There’s nothing like a YaF trip or meeting. We learn things about each other that we never would have known otherwise.

I’ll be very sad when my time as a YaFer is finished, but once a YaFer always a YaFer and you can bet I’ll be back for a visit every once in a while! I plan to make the most of the year I have left before Graduation. We’re going back to Florida this year, and I can’t wait to be back in a position to minister to those kids just by smiling and helping them have a GREAT time! The best way to minister to someone is to be their friend. That is what I’ve learned from YaF, and the fact that I learn something new every week and that every trip is a new and exciting chance to minister makes me so proud to be a member of the YaFer family. So thank you to Christian and to all of the leaders, I’ve learned so much from you, and I can’t wait to learn more!

Love to all, as always,

Mae