The journey begins…

And so the journey begins.

But first an aside:

The past couple weeks, well, really months have been dizzying. Like stomach-curdling, white-knuckling, riding-the-teacups kind of dizzy.


So many things have happened. Life-altering events. Game changers.

Goodness I’m being dramatic! I feel like I’m writing the script for the preview of one of those summer blockbusters… read in a deep dramatic voice.

Buying your first home. “Graduating” (as my brother terms it) from your first career. Going on the trip of a lifetime. These are by no means bad things…

But to be honest, I find that too much of a good thing can sometimes just be too much. At least that’s how it felt. And it doesn’t help that I suck at both change and goodbyes.


Needless to say in the whirl and roar of the rollercoaster I’ve had little time to process. Time flies and I’ve just tried to keep my seatbelt buckled and my arms and legs inside the car. I mean its all about “enjoying the ride” is it not?

So I’m very thankful for this time of travel. This time of discovery. Of getting lost in the new and the old. Some of it very old. To celebrate my past while exploring different avenues, both literal and figurative. To hear from the Lord.

And so it begins. The old has gone, the new has come. It’s here!

Thank you for being on this journey with me. Life is such a precious gift. Living it with each other makes it so much sweeter.


So next stop on the journey: Italy!

Namely, Florence and Tuscany…

Ryan and I are so blessed to travel with my mother and father-in-law on their first trip to Italy. It’s been a bucket-list trip for her and it’s a joy seeing first-hand, this dream come true.

It was quite the adventure getting here but we made it! But I think I’ve used up my word allotment for now.

Till the next post (which I promise will come…)

Ciao!!!

Next Big News

So the news is out.

As of June 12th my feet and toes will hopefully begin a long and arduous process (metamorphosis?) of returning to look like, well, feet and toes – as opposed to what they currently are: nubs; gnarled, veiny things that are sometimes just as painful as they appear.

No more! Goodbye callouses. Hello pedicures. Lots of them.

But all silliness aside, I’m 25 days away and it’s getting real people.

I can feel the emotional water-level rise with every day that seems to melt away like the snow on our Northwest mountain ranges. And I know that the closer I get to the finish line the faster those days will seem to slip through my fingers. It’s like trying to hold a rushing river. Yeah. Doesn’t really work.

And it’s easy to get swept away by Emotion’s swift current. One moment I’m excitedly thinking to myself “Well that’s the last time I’ll have to deal with that!” and then the next my eyes are watering up with hot tears. There are just so many things I’m going to miss.

So if there’s one thing I could ask for over the next 25 days are you prayers. Prayers that I don’t get swept away. Prayers that I can be as present as possible, savoring each moment of this gift I’ve been given. Prayers for a heart that overflows with gratitude and joy no matter how hard it is or how much pain I’m in. Because Balanchine’s Square Dance is not easy. My toes can attest to it.

Okay enough of the serious stuff…

“So… What’s next?” 

I can’t tell you how often I get asked this question. And I’m not gonna lie, I often struggle with knowing how to answer it.

But here’s one answer: Europe!

Ryan and I are traveling with my mother and father-in-law to Italy. It’s their first time and literally a dream come true for my mother-in-law. We’re so excited!

We’ll spend 10 days exploring Florence, the Cinque Terre & Venice, eating incredible food, visiting Ryan’s best friends Brad & Sylvia and swimming in the Med. Then it’s Ryan’s turn to cross off one of his bucket list destination: Corfu, Greece. Just he and I will be getting away for a week of Adriatic beach time and sunshine, while Mike and Carolyn (my in-laws) explore a little more of Tuscany and Rome.

Bucket list for the McEliece’s. Check. But what about mine?

Here’s my next big news: I’ll be having an extended European vacation. Sika’s Solo Adventures.

Yes. You read the right. Solo. For almost 3 weeks.

Excited? Nervous? Overwhelmed? Absolutely!

And have I already started to pack? Maaaybe… More like dreaming, or er, well distracting. Pretty things always soothe a sad heart. Check out my itinerary and outfit ideas below:

For the plane ride… A very LONG plane ride…

One word: Comfy. I need to thank the person who made it fashionably acceptable to wear sweatpants once again. These joggers from Gap are the perfect blend between pant and pajama. The New Balance sneakers are my all-terain vehicle so to speak. And planes are always freezing! This Zara sweatshirt will come in very handy.

Finding Florence

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I’m trying really hard this trip to pack light. Clearly this blog post is quite contrary. But there are two items that are actually essential (and my husband demands I adhere to them): a small(ish) cross body purse & good shoes. I’ve had my eye on this bag from Anthropologie for quite a while. And strangely enough the best summer walking shoes I’ve found are, wait for it… Old Navy Sandals. No support but so nice on those cobblestones!

Hiking Cinque Terre

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I tried hiking this in a romper, bikini and flip flops last year. Not the best idea I ever had. This year I’ll come prepared.  Lightweight plaid shirt from Old Navy & shorts & tee from J-Crew Factory.

And we’ll definitely be doing a little sun-bathing too… Cover-up & bikini via Anthropologie & shades from Free People.

Exploring Venice

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Venice. It’s truly enchanting. And while it’s a tiny island they sure do jam pack the people in! Closed-toed shoes make me feel a little better about the pigeon poo & lagoon water and offer a little more support when you clock 15mi in search of Venice’s best gelato. No joke. We did this. Moccasins by Minnetonka & shirt & shorts by J-Crew Factory.

Swimming in Corfu

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Ryan’s grandpa Ray traveled all over the world with Boeing. And when Ryan asked him of all the places he went to where he’d like most to return he answered “Corfu.” Ray went home to be with Jesus this December and so Ryan and I are really excited to explore this island that captured his heart, while spending some time together relaxing. Most likely on a beach. There’s a beautiful one just right outside our hotel. Swimsuit & Hat from Anthropologie. Shades from Urban Outfitters.

Roaming in Rome

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My Roman Holiday. I’ll confess. Rome was never on my list. I’m serious. And yet the more I thought about which cities (that I’d never been to) I’d like to get lost in – Rome kept popping up. Maybe it’s just that I subconsciously want to be Audrey Hepburn… This linen jumpsuit seemed fashionable yet comfortable enough to walk around this ancient city. And it, along with a scarf or this kimono (all the rage lately!) solves the church dilemma – having your knees and shoulders covered when visiting. Learned that one the hard way last year…

Poised in Positano

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I first heard of this place when I was, I don’t know, 11?, watching Only You with Marisa Tomei & Robert Downey Jr. They take this magical drive along a perilous coastal road in a convertible to Positano situated snuggly between the rocks & sea. It’s a bit of a glitzy resort town, but I’m okay pampering myself a bit. Forget the LBD for dining out. I’m all about red! Found this little red dress at Zara along with the sandals too. The clutch is from Anthropologie. Surprise, surprise!

Playing in Prague

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 Prague has been on my bucket list for years. I can’t wait to meander along the streets admiring all the untouched architecture of this beautiful city. I might even catch a classical concert! For an outfit that will transition nicely from day to night, I found these delightful culottes? gauchos? Not sure what they are other than comfy. And I thought I’d pair them with a slight crop top because, well, I’m still young enough to get away with it. The sandals are from Zara, and I’m obsessed with this Cameo Ring I found on Etsy.

Celebrating in Sardinia

Cityscape, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy

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Lastly Sardinia… Cagliari & Villasimius to be exact. Part city. Mostly beach. My two objectives: a scouting mission for me and Ryan’s next vacation (as this island has our names written all over it!) and place to reflect on and blog about this trip. And nothing says “Jessika” than a great dress and scarf. The off-the-shoulder look seems to be as popular right now as the kimono. But I couldn’t decided between the chambray and the red eyelet! Both are so darling from Ann Taylor Loft. And a great scarf can add a pop of color and double as a shawl for the evenings.

It’s gonna be the trip of a lifetime. I’m excited to have so much time, just me and my Papa God, to explore His beautiful and diverse creation, celebrate all the work He’s done and is doing, and talk and dream together about the future. And hopefully I’ll return with a better idea of what the long-term “What’s next” is.

I’ll keep you posted!

Reverence

Standing on stage, the light floods my eyes like rays of spring sunshine streaming through a window. At first blinding, they adjust and at last I can see the people and some faces of those filling the cavernous space before me. The sweat finally begins to subside as the waft of the cool breeze hits my face from the velvet curtain that just rose. My heartbeat settles as my smile and eyes beam.

Sandy, our stage manager is yelling from the stage right wing, 164502_479172588951_2792673_nbut her voice is drowned out by the applause and my conscious choice to be there. Right there. In the moment. This is it.  I won’t get this back.

Taking a bow is, well, there’s something sacred about it. Or at least that’s how I feel.

As a dancer you train for hours, for years, honing your craft, pouring your heart and soul, your blood, sweat and tears into your work. We love it, the daily grind – in maybe a slightly masochistic way if I’m going to be completely honest. But it’s still love.

But the stage. This is the culmination. This is the 360˚ mountain-top view that the grueling hike is for. It’s where our hearts soar, where our feet fly and where our souls are set free to be exactly who God created us to be: dancers; performers.

And yet what is a performance without an audience? To hear the clamor of applause after you’ve given your all. Even the sporadic “Bravo!” or “Woo!”… I can always pick out my mom’s. She has such a distinct “Woo.”

But I don’t take it for granted – the roar. It’s gift enough to dance on stage. To do what I love. How many people are afforded that opportunity in life? I mean really?

For me that’s enough. More than enough. IMG_0757When I dance I give all of myself, not because I expect or need affirmation, but because I can’t help it. How can I give anything less when I’ve been given such a gift? When I’ve been so abundantly blessed?! The joy just overflows and only one thing remains.

So when all is done, when that curtain rises one final time, when that breeze wafts over me, so too does a profound sense of humility. I bow, not accepting praise, but rather offering it – offering my heart overwhelmed with gratitude. A ballet bow is called a “reverence” after all…

I bow first and foremost to my Audience of One- He who created me for this and has graciously given me this incredible gift.

And then I bow to you. My audience.mediaManager-1_2

You have been there. Faithfully sitting in the theater, engaging with me from afar. You have accepted my offering of art and beauty. Of ballet. And I hope that you’ve been as blessed by the performance as I have. Without you this dream of mine would not exist.

It is with this same heart – overwhelmed with gratitude, full of joy, and overflowing with love – that I share with you some exciting news.

On Sunday, June 12th 2016 I will be taking my final bow on the PNB stage.

It has been an honor and a privilege dancing for you these past 12 years. I have never wanted to dance anywhere else, nor for anyone else. Seattle is my home and always will be.

There have been many reasons that have led me to this decision – one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make. But ultimately I feel that God, who has graciously (and miraculously) enabled me to enjoy this life I’ve had here at PNB is calling me out – closing this chapter and beginning a new one.

Scan 2My future plans are forming as I write this (they may involve home-ownership, school and lots of travel – just to name a few…), but I know that He who gave me this first chapter certainly has wonderful things planned for the next one. And I’m a NW girl at heart so rest assured I’ll be around. PNB and ballet are in my blood… I mean they’ve been a part of my life for the past 26 years! I think they’re there to stay, just in a different capacity.

And as for writing… you can expect even more of that from me in the future! So stay tuned…

But for now all I can say is thank you. Thank you for all your years of support, love and encouragement. Thank you for being my audience. I owe you all so very much. And thank you for accepting my gift – the gift of ballet.

This reverence is for you.

**On a more practical note, if you wish to see me dance there are only a few more opportunities! As stated above my final bow will occur Sunday June 12th in our season’s Encore performance. Tickets will go on sale April 8th! But till then, you still have our upcoming Coppélia performances as well as our final Rep of the season,  American Stories, to watch me dance on stage. As stated above, it is an honor and a privilege to dance for you. Thank you for supporting me and PNB!

You can purchase tickets for Coppélia or any other PNB production by clicking here.

Best-Laid Plans Part II

Well so much for this “writing once a week” business…

Part I was an uneventful post. Part II nearly didn’t happen.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

I actually had to look this one up. It’s a phrase (or half phrase) that’s often used, but like most common idioms I had no idea where it came from or what it’s context was. Obviously the “Of Mice and Men,” rang familiar transporting me back to Mr. Sigmar’s freshman English class. Lennie. Gary Senise, not as legless Colonel Dan but George. Whoa! Rabbit trail…
The original comes not from John Steinbeck’s classic novel, but a Scot poem titled, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough,” written by Robert Burns. Try and read it. It’s pretty funny.
Needless to say the phrase is pretty self-explanatory:
Even with all our good intentions, crazy dreaming, and careful planning things can go amiss.

“[Poo] happens.” 

Another common phrase but I don’t know if anyone can be (or would want to be) attributed to it.

We finished our season at Pacific Northwest Ballet the beginning of June and it was a rush to the finish line.
Between our final Rep of Carmina Burana and Concerto DSCH and our Encore Show that was live-streamed for all the world to see, we had our hands and schedules FULL. And if that weren’t enough, for the 2nd half of our Encore show we re-staged all of Balanchine’s Serenade- a ballet we hadn’t performed in nearly 2 years.

© Angela Sterling Photography

By this time (as per usual) the number of names scribbled on Boyd Bender, our physical therapist’s sign-up whiteboard had reached an all-time high. I actually don’t know how accurate that last statement was, but it seemed like the list of walking (or dancing) wounded kept rising with every passing day. I was no exception to this – my right knee was weirdly swollen and no amount of Advil or icing seemed to help… it only got, well, worse.

© Angela Sterling Photography

But the point is that everyone was hurting in some way or other – we all were just trying to finish the race and claim our prize: 8 weeks off, and during the best summer Seattle’s seen in decades!
Plenty of time to rest those aches and pains, get out of shape and then get back into shape before the season resumed in August.  At least that was my plan.

While I’m neither a mouse nor a man, my plans most certainly went awry.

MRI image of my right meniscus.
It should be solid black like the right most portion…

To make a long story short, I injured my knee Friday, May 15th. I finally received an MRI Thursday, June 25th. And the diagnosis was confirmed Monday, July 6th that I indeed would need arthroscopic surgery to repair and/or clean up my “macerated” meniscus.
The surgeon’s words, not mine.
So much for this “getting back into shape” part – at least with regards to anything that required my knee to twist, torque or turn-out. Yep. That’s basically all ballet.

Miraculously, my surgery was approved by Labor & Industries within a week and there was an opening in my surgeon’s schedule for Monday, July 20th.
And I hadn’t danced for 6 weeks.
I wouldn’t dance for many more…

It’s been three weeks since my surgery, and while by all other standards I’m doing amazingly well – walking, swimming, climbing stairs, riding stationary bikes, all without a brace or much pain – I can’t help but struggle with feelings of frustration, of fear and of doubt.

40 days of Mono was nothing compared to this.
I find myself walking. Constantly walking. And while I convince myself that it’s good for me, good for my knee, I feel the gnawing, the grinding of my soul.
If I’m honest, I can barely even sit still to write this post. The anxiety builds and I need to do something, anything to soothe the burning itch.

They say for every day of dancing you’re off it takes two to come back. And I keep counting the days. 42. 84. 63. 126… mosquito bites to my heart-itch.
Both surgeon and physical therapist have said it’ll take me 3 months to be fully back, but what exactly does that mean? And are they accounting for the month and a half that I was already off prior to having a portion of my meniscus cut out?

Plan? I feel paralyzed to plan for anything. The first question I’m asked by pretty much anyone these days is, “When will you be able to dance again?” But I have no clue.
And yet in this restless state I keep groping for any sort of plan that I can devise. Workout and therapy schedules. Exercise regimes. Anti-inflammatory diets. Striving. Controlling. All-consuming fire of Fear.
Can you relate?

But He asks me to trust. To rest. To recover. 

To remember His promises. That He will bring me back. He will!
That He has plan for my life. A good one. A great one! To prosper and not to harm; to give hope and a future.
Not cliché. But real. True. For me, right now. For everyone who calls, who prays and who seeks with all their heart.

So I call. I pray. I seek. With all my heart. Because this is no way to heal. No way to live. Endlessly wandering. Striving. Pushing too fast, too hard. Held captive by anxiety. Paralyzed by fear.
I remember what I’ve learned before (because I’ve had this lesson oh-so many times!). I remember what I’ve experienced before. His mighty miracles worked out in the world, worked out in me. How can I forget?!!! How utterly shortsighted I am!

Nothing is impossible for HIM! 
Jessika just rest!

So I stop counting days and a I start counting blessings. I let go of control. Of plans. And I make a conscious and concerted choice to relax the white knuckles of my heart and commit to Him these struggles that have consumed me. I lay them down and ask Him to establish my steps. One at a time. And with my now empty hands I grab His strong ones, and ask Him to lead me in the way everlasting. I want to walk by faith, and one day dance by it too. Whenever that may be. No pressure. Just patience.

So for now I rest in and enjoy the Now, receiving the gifts He’s giving me Today. Thankful for what I can do. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Because if I’m following Him I have nothing to fear.
After all, He is the Master and He’s got the best plan!

 

Swan Song

I’ve run out of words.

I know, I know… You’re probably wondering how that’s possible, since I haven’t written a single thing for this blog since… I don’t know… February?

Well get ready! You’re about to be inundated by posts.
Feast or famine, people, feast or famine.
Man I really need to get myself out of this “all or nothing” mentality. And I don’t just mean in my writing habits… It seems to be my default mode in nearly every area of my life. But that’s an entirely different post.

At any rate I’m talking about words for what I’m about to do. What I’m about to dance.
The incomparable and exquisite Swan Lake.

©Angela Sterling Photography

This ballet and I, we have history. A lot of it.
I think it’s my fifth or sixth time dancing this gem. Every time it feels new. And yet every time it feels like coming home. My arms, my back, my body, my soul they thank me. My hips and feet not so much – they get a bit abused by all the running and standing, but, well they can suck it up… The rest of myself is utterly rejoicing on the inside and out at the privilege and delight it is to dance this, my most favorite ballet.

 

©Angela Sterling Photography

And today marks the beginning of the end. Actually that would’ve been yesterday – our last weekend of shows. But today’s the day when I get to start “crossing things off” – roles I won’t be performing again. Quite possibly ever – or at least until I go Home…
It’s bittersweet these endings. On the one hand, my hips and feet are excited about the upcoming rest they’ll receive (a 3-week break in 3 long days). On the other hand, my soul is sad at the thought of having to say goodbye to this beautiful ballet – a ballet that is so very much intwined with my heart and soul.
I’ve run out of words because I’ve already written a piece about Swan Lake for 4dancers – a dance blog I contribute to (quite possibly more frequently than my own blog – yikes!).
So I’m not gonna try…
Please, click here to read the piece – Searching for Swans. A piece that came from the depths of my heart and soul.
My “swan song” to Swan Lake…

I hope it inspires you and tugs at your heart too.

Photo by Lindsay Thomas

 

Time

The blue bar has been stuck at about an inch across my screen.
Waiting.
More waiting.
This is not why I made the trek to a coffee shop… for the internet to NOT work. I mean isn’t that the primary purpose of going to one anyway? To get a side of coffee with your free wifi? That’s what the $5.00 Americano pays for right? That, and keeping my hipster barista clad in his expensive hobo-chic flannel and torn jeans.
But apparently Whistler, B.C. hasn’t caught on to this current coffee shop requisite.
Oh well. The view – a towering snow-covered mountain peak set against a powder blue sky with wispy slate clouds hovering here and there – makes up for it I suppose. I mean when there’s such a view to be had it seems almost criminal to be staring at a Facebook news feed.

 

Yeah, the internet’s down.
But I’ve managed to beat the rush. I sit perched in my corner bar seat (definitely the best seat in the house) and watch the skiers and snowboarders make their way back from the mountain, all their gear in tow. Maybe some day that’ll be me again. Man I loved skiing when I was a kid!
But for now I’m content with the buttery-smooth coffee and jammin’ tunes of Mount Currie Coffee Co., the fact that I get to wear shades (the sun finally came out!!!), and the 5+ mile jog I took today in this alpline heaven. It was by no means record-breaking even for me, but a pretty big milestone- all things considered.
And Monday is the big day. The day I finally return to work since mononucleosis.
40 days of rest.
Full of sleep, long walks and time to reflect. Reflect on my recklessness and God’s hand of intervention and provision.
Time. Lots of time.Without pointe shoes. Without ballet. Six weeks and four days to be exact. I haven’t taken that much time off since I was twelve. No joke.
Time. Time to worry because too much time has passed.
Will my body still remember how to do this? How to tendu? How to pirouette? How to dance!? Will I ever be able to get my body back into shape?
 
In my BSF study we’ve been making our way through Leviticus – not exactly a page-turner if I’m gonna be honest. But when we hit chapter 25, when the anxiety hit an all-time high, well wouldn’t you know the Lord, He met me there.
In the worry. In the Word.
Sabbath rest. Sabbath years. No work for 365 days. No planting. No sowing. No pruning. Just rest. For the people. For the land. Sounds great at first but then… yes… just let it sink in a bit. The sneaky whisper of anxiety bubbles up – woven within our human nature.
No work’s great and all, but where are you going to get food for today? How about tomorrow? And what about next year when you haven’t planted a single thing? Where’s it going to come from then? If you don’t do it, who will?
 
The voice of worry. The voice of striving. Not the voice of a loving God who provides our daily bread. Not the voice of a gracious God who allows us to glean from His goodness. Not the voice of a sacrificial God who did not even spare His only Son.
In light of this – of His good and faultless character – how can I doubt?  “ How will he not also, along with him, graciously give [me] all things?”
Sabbath rest. A time to trust. Trust that He. Will. Provide. Period.
Sufficient for each day; no more, no less. He promises He will. I can choose to listen to the lies of Worry or I can trust and thank Him for providing my daily bread, choosing to live “daily” – right here, right now in Today. Easier said than done, but, well, that’s for another post…

 

 

 

 

 

Harder than waiting, harder than running 5 miles, harder than dancing is resting – trusting. That’s the real work that I’ll be doing over the coming weeks and months as I step back into the studio. Trusting that He is with me through all of this. He will strengthen my ankles and help my muscles fire. He will restore my stamina and endurance. He will get me back on my leg and toughen my toes. All I need I can find in Him.
So ready or not, here we come. It’s time!

 

Choosing to trust. Choosing to thank. Choosing to believe and dance.

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will hold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Vantage Point

The gray light filters in through the north-facing windows of our apartment like molasses passing through a sieve.
I guess if you’re looking for sunlight, northern exposure definitely isn’t ideal… then again if you’re looking for sunlight Seattle isn’t either.

The large newish apartment complex next door, along with the thick blanket of clouds that hovers over, as far as I’m concerned the whole of Washington state, don’t help my quest for Vitamin D and a lower energy bill.

It’s definitely winter.

Sitting on my couch, my computer on my lap, I feel indecisive. Should I face the windows and the thick oyster sky or my wall of sea and mountains? The one, a monotony of gray scale and glum; the other of stormy seas and mighty mountainscapes. No matter what vantage point I choose I’m confronted with my lot.

Mono.
As in mo-not-o-ny  noun – tedious sameness.
Mono.
As in mono-nu-cle-o-sis  noun – a disease that makes people very tired and weak for a long time.
Mono.
As in the prefix meaning one; single.
At least that’s what Mono’s supposed to be… a one time virus; highly unlikely you’ll ever get it again.
Guess that makes me “highly unlikely.”
Somehow I’m not surprised.

When I think back on the past month and a half… wow. It all seems a bit incredulous. The mind, the power of human will is a force to be reckoned with. It might almost be in contention with the behest of the body. Almost.

Nutcracker is never an easy season to get through, never mind when you have 10-ish different parts and there are only 10 other women dancing in the corps de ballet. But it is what it is. We band together as a team and push through the marathon of nearly 40 shows. And well, you just get used to functioning in a perpetual state of exhaustion. It’s just how it is.
So I didn’t think much of it when I started feeling achy and run-down on Thanksgiving.

Okay… maybe the sheet-soaking night sweats, and the 102˚F fever should’ve tipped me off. I just thought it was the flu. For two weeks… No biggie
And then those tonsils. The size of golf balls, they looked like peetree dishes. Nauseating. I chalked it up to strep throat and started taking antibiotics immediately.
Through it all I danced the double show days, the Peacocks, the triple whammies – I didn’t miss a show. I couldn’t, I wouldn’t miss a show. Not this year. Not this last year. Of my Nutcracker. 

So when I sat there, barely able to swallow, feeling the white paper crumple underneath me on the exam room table of my dad’s doctor (who miraculously fit me in before the Christmas holiday), all I could think of was whether I had time to go back to my apartment before the evening show or if I’d have to go straight to the theater. Not dancing was not an option.

So when the slender man with the sympathetic face told me I had mono and my spleen was enlarged I was … agh … He could’ve been speaking Russian… my brain couldn’t comprehend the words exiting his mouth. The minutes were ticking away and I had to tell artistic if I’d be dancing in the show tonight. 
Okay. So what are we looking at here? How long till I can perform again? A day? Two days?
Try 4-6 weeks. 
Little did I know that was being optimistic.

I took the Christmas tree down yesterday. It stood in that now vacant space next to the windows bleeding bleakness.

I was supposed to do it the day before but I just laid on the chaise and stared at it. Not in the wide-eyed I-wish-Christmas-would-never-end kind of stare. More in the telekinetic if-I-stare-hard-enough-maybe-the-tree-will-deconstruct-itself. I should use less ornaments next year…

An abrupt end to my Nutcracker run. A CT scan of my abdomen revealing an enlarged and slightly dysfunctional liver. A distractingly lovely New Years trip to NYC. Tonsils receding. Hope returning. A new year.
And now the fatigue decides to set in?
Taking down a Christmas tree never felt like such an accomplishment.
The gray monotonous days drift along and I try… try to keep trying.
Feels like the rug just keeps getting pulled out from underneath me.
The red rectangular icon in the top right corner of my laptop screen resolves my indecision. I face the framed and painted wall as I plug my computer in to the only power source in my vintage living room. And staring at my decided vantage point I can’t help but feel that I’m looking at my life ornately framed.
Stormy seas.
And it feels like I’ve been weathering these rough waves for much longer than just the past few weeks…

I’m reminded of an account. Some men and a boat.
Those disciples, experiencing that mountain-top miracle of loaves and fishes, they must have felt so full – full of food, of confidence and promise, of life – as they were shoved-off, sent alone, sent by the Lord into the big blue beyond. I get it. I’ve felt it. All of it. The rapturous joy – feeling strong and trusted. Then the confusion as the sky turns. The determination and perseverance as wind grows and time goes. Doubt and fear birthed from spent strength and a weary hearts. Sent into a storm. Sent into the dark. Straining at the oars. Rowing and going nowhere.
Oh I’m so tired of rowing… So tired of trying.
I want to chuck those stupid oars out of the boat and scream,
“I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE! Not by myself. Not without you, Lord.”

Rest. 
Stop rowing. Stop trying. Stop striving.
He’s coming. He’s watching. He’s walking. On the water. In glory.

Rest.
My word for the year. The hardest word I’ve ever had.
Because in truth I don’t know how to rest. I don’t know how to stop. To “give up.” Am I even supposed to do that?
Yes and no.
Give up on myself – my ability to prove myself, to do it myself, to row across the lake?
Yes. Absolutely. Essential.
To give up on God – Creator, Savior, Friend?
Never. 
It’s in my giving up that He’s revealed in glory. It’s not my might but His miraculous, omnipotent power. I let go of it all so I can cling to the One who has done it all.

Rest.
Carried by the Everlasting Arms. Where fears are stilled and strivings cease. Where I can just be. Be still and know that HE IS.

“In rest and repentance is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Rest.
Mono. God’s tool to teach me. God’s unexpected gift to me.
Overcoming it feels a bit like scaling one of those snow-coverd peaks painted before me. But, well, I don’t have to worry about that, do I, if I’m resting in Him?

“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low – the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

This is my new vantage point.

Well dang…

I think the title says it all.
When was the last time I wrote on this blog? June?

Silence.
Crickets.

As always I have high and lofty intentions… You know… to write like 6 different posts of our Croatian Honeymoon, compiling a sort of travel guide if you will… I mean seriously I have enough photos for like 60 post so I thought I was being conservative with just 6. Like I said, high and lofty. 
I should really just start setting the expectation bar below sea level and then maybe I wouldn’t begin every new blog post with a profusion of apologies. It’s getting old.

So yes. I fully intended on letting the entire summer go by before I wrote something new. You know one a season. That should do it, right?
Nope. It’s not working. I can’t even fool myself.

But I’m happy to say that hopefully I’ve implemented a new system that might be conducive to more consistent writing. And what might this system be?

It’s called my husband has a new job that requires us both to be up by 6am and gets us both in bed by 9pm. Bible study in the am, and writing in the pm. Both done in our sometimes-too-comfortable bed. System check. Well, sorta. Don’t ask me what happens to that system when I’m going on stage at 9pm.  Performance weeks don’t count right? Haha. I guess I’ll just have to create a second system… me thinks that one’s just called sleep. And on that note maybe I should re-think my “location,” otherwise system #1 might become system #2… Yikes.

But I have a back-up for the back-up, if you know what I mean… An outlet to exercise the gift that God’s given me that I’ve thus far buried deep in the ground. It’s called being a “contributing writer.” Yep. Amazingly enough, I was asked to write quarterly for a dance website called 4dancers.org. My inaugural article was published today! Hooray! So I guess I haven’t been entirely slothful the last week and a half. But man am I ever out of practice…

So if a) you’re reading this (is anybody reading this?!!), b) you’ve made it this far and c) you’d like to read some more you can check it out by clicking here or the link below.
I was asked by my editor, the lovely Catherine Tully, to write about our upcoming season-opener Jewels. I will say I had fun finding so many lovely parallels with art and pictures in my head. It’s definitely made the rehearsal process for this ballet a fun one, even if it’s just me thinking these things… 🙂

©Angela Sterling Photography

I make no promises but I hope to back online and writing more regularly.
For now, cheers and Happy Friday!!!!

Jessika

And here’s the link: http://www.4dancers.org/2014/09/jewels-a-multifaceted-ballet/