I’m going to go ahead and lay the foundation by being real with you—I’m currently sitting at a window table at Whole Foods, sipping my cold brew coffee, and listening to The Essential Yo-Yo Ma album to try to find the inspiration for how to get this thing started. Honestly, I’ve had some pretty big reservations about writing a blog because I don’t want to simply be another voice adding to the chaos. There is plenty of narcissism and noise as is without my personal contribution. So, that being said, my heart in writing this blog is that you would see the goodness of the Father, recognize the faithfulness of Jesus, and be empowered by the working of the Spirit as you read about what He is doing in my life and how He is teaching me.
Okay, I’m going to try not to ramble, but in order to give some background, here’s the shortened, extremely condensed version: I grew up in a conservative, homeschool family with three brothers and two loving Christian parents, became a believer at age 7, fell in love with the life of a ballerina in middle school, and throughout high school lived a comfortable, predictable life that ensured I was almost always at one of three places—home, church, or my ballet studio. I auditioned for several college dance programs my senior year and ended up going to Belhaven University as a dance major in the fall of 2014; a small, private Christian college in Jackson, Mississippi. Pretty picturesque, amirite? There was not a single cloud to be seen on the horizon.
SCENE TWO—through a series of events I decided to leave Belhaven after the end of my sophomore year and move back in with my parents. All because Jesus told me to (yeah, yeah, I know it sounds crazy). And yes, leaving was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I knew my time there was up. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but when you know your season at a place is over, the longer that you stick around, the more you start to feel like an imposter. And I did; I felt so out of place. I felt restless. I felt conflicted. I knew I didn’t belong at Belhaven anymore, but that fact didn’t negate the deep love I had for the people I had invested in and the place I had called my home for two years. Letting go of that season was heartbreaking. But even more than it was heartbreaking, it was necessary.
So I left. And I now was a 20-year-old college dropout moving in with my PARENTS. Now, to be clear, my parents are incredible people. So living with my parents again wasn’t really the issue. The real issue was that my pride was suffering a blow from which it could potentially never recover. To give you some context: I am a very goal-oriented and achievement-driven person. I REALLY like to be in control of the things that are happening in my life. I like doing things my way because I think that my way is the most efficient and logical. But I had to come to a place of having no affirmative direction, nothing to work towards, and no authority to tell the Lord to give me the option of a more efficient and logical route. I felt so lost. I missed my friends. I missed the routine of knowing what each day was going to look like. I missed being filled with the sense of purpose I had from the demands of being in school.
So basically the only words I could say with absolute certainty at this point in my life were “I don’t know.” Which, can I just say, was pretty terrifying for me to admit. But that phrase slowly turned from a statement of fear into a mantra of freedom as the Lord began to reveal to me the necessity of dependence and the beauty of total surrender. In the spring of 2017, He led me to audition for three different professional ballet companies in New York City, Austin, and Little Rock. And, as it would happen, I got rejected to every single one of them. And with each rejection I experienced, I also experienced a new wave of insecurities, doubts, and fears. I wanted to be obedient to the process. I wanted to trust in His timing, His plan, His goodness, regardless of the outcome. But I was having a hard time choking back the thoughts of inadequacy and the feelings of disappointment every time someone asked me, “How are you doing?”
But can I tell you something?
The Lord has never proved Himself to be more faithful than in that season of my life. While He was gently ridding me of my pride, hard-headedness, and self-sufficiency, He was lovingly replacing those things in me with the most gracious gift He could ever offer—more of Himself.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The past year has undoubtedly been one glorious lesson of finding joy in tribulation. I’ve noticed that every time I encounter a trial, whether that be an external circumstance such as the experience of rejection after taking a risk, or an internal circumstance such the struggle to overcome sin in my life, the Lord is always using those trials to break down a little more of my self-sufficiency. To make me a little more yielded to Holy Spirit. To make me a little more like His Son. He is teaching me that my maturity, my wholeness, my completeness—all of it hinges upon my response to trials. I, you, we have to LET perseverance finish the work in us. It is learning to pry open our stubborn jaws and confess, “Father, not my will, but YOUR will.” The beauty is in the surrender. The glory is in the giving up. And what glory, what joy, what gain that truly is! That He might increase. And that I might decrease.
So, to bring the story to present time, post-major life crisis, still feeling pretty dazed and slightly confused, I ended up calling my best friend from Texas to process through some of my thoughts and emotions of the past several months. At that point, I was strongly considering abandoning my dreams of dancing professionally and instead pursuing something else entirely. Being the dear friend that she is, she let me freak out on the phone for half an hour before interrupting me with a simple, but thought-provoking question; “Anna, why are you going to give up what you know the Lord has gifted you in and called you to do?”
And before the question was out of her mouth, I already knew the answer. Honestly, I wanted to give up because it was hard. TRIALS ARE JUST HARD. But, I knew what I had been called to. I knew, looking back, that He had always been faithful. And I knew, looking forward, that He would always continue to be. And so barely above a whisper I prayed, “Father, Your will, not mine.”
So, to make this really long story a little less long, the Lord not only made it clear that I was supposed to continue to pursue a professional career as a dancer, but also that Texas was the place where I needed to be to pursue those dreams. So 17 days ago I packed my car and made the 8 and 1/2 hour drive to move from Tupelo, Mississippi to Dallas, Texas.
And can I tell you something?
The faithfulness of God has already been so evident.