In the white space

Well 2016 was quite a year.

I know everyone keeps saying that. Guess it was big for lots of people. In lots of ways. But I  seriously don’t think there’s been one in my books thus far that even compares. Not sure there’ll be one to follow…

Now I’m not saying there haven’t been major moments in years previous. I’m not saying this was the BEST, and it’s all downhill from here. But so many crazy HUGE life-events all happening in the span of 12 calendar months (okay really like four months, but who’s counting?)…? Well lets just say it’s a bit unlikely it’ll all happen again. Then again, how does the saying go? “Never say ‘never’?”

But just to put it all in perspective here’s 2016 in reprise, bullet-point style (my fav):

  • Became first-time homeowners!
  • Packed and moved out of our first home/apt we’d lived in for 3 years. Unpacked & moved into our new home for like 10 days…
  • Retired from a 12-year career (and 26-year love) as a professional ballerina.
  • Had an epic trip traveling (sometimes solo) all over Europe for 5 weeks.
  • Renovated our “new” house.
  • Packed up our life and stored it all in a shed and two garages (thanks parents!).
  • Moved to England!
  • Became full-time grad student & full-time housewife/part-time writer.

I guess the only thing we could’ve added was a baby… thankfully the Lord knew our limit!

Needless to say, LOTS of change. LOTS of transitions. Things that, if I’m honest, I’m pretty terrible at.

So we do this thing at my home on New Years. It’s totally a Mr. Bill (my dad) thing. But that said, I’m sure it’s not entirely unique to our household. In fact, I believe it’s quite common…

We all sit down around the dinner table and talk about the previous year – highlights, what we did well, what we could improve upon. And then we talk about our goals for the new year. Notice I did NOT say “resolutions.” We’re a “goals” family. We don’t resolve. We do.

And when we were younger my dad would have my brother and I write it all down (nowadays it more consists of just conversations). He on the other hand would come prepared with an intricate mind-map that looked like part little-kid-spider-web-drawing, part legit-crazy-person-ramblings on a sheet of graph paper. He had all his goals divided into sections: health, career, relationships, spiritual, recreation. And of course there were sub-sections within each category. He still makes them to this day, and I have come to regard them not so much as the O.C.D., Type A, control-freak tendency (which, let’s be honest, they kind of are…) I scorned, but as a work of art. As something I aspire to… somewhat.

And this year was no different (minus the fact that we’re a few thousand miles away).

Ryan and I sat at our dinner/everything table and asked the questions. And as I thought about all that has transpired for both of us this year, all the trust-falls of faith we’ve had to take, all the unknowns and still blurry bits of the future that have yet to reveal themselves, I have to say I’m quite proud.

You see I’m just a chip off the old Mr Bill block. A planner. A goal-setter. A doer. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s in part how God wired me.

But one of the most frightening parts of 2016 was walking into an unknown. Closing one chapter, turning the page and not seeing words or lists, but white space. Blank. Sure there were things floating about in the periphery, but no clearly delineated plan to be executed, steps chronologically written in permanent ink.

I knew retiring, and retiring when I did, was part of God’s great plan for my life. It’s confirmed in me every day. Not a single regret. Not even one. And I also know we are supposed to be here in England for this year. But what exactly the future holds, I cannot specifically say, much to the chagrin of those who ask the dreaded question “so what’s next for you?”  There are so many possibilities, so many desires, all written down of course, but no particular path or route has been revealed.

But I’m learning to rest in that. Even to delight in it. Believe me, not something that comes naturally.

As time approached the “page turn,” I spent many a sleepless night seeking God’s direction. Seeking His will. To be outside of it has been, and still is one of my greatest fears in life. But it didn’t matter how hard I prayed, how long I journaled… Nothing. Well no, not nothing… He told me I just needed to trust and follow Him. One day at a time, one step at a time. Was that enough? Was He enough?

How could I say “No.”?

My life. My story. But are they really mine? Have these plans, hopes and dreams been of my making, of my doing, or were they planted in me, grown and cultivated through Divine provision, doors opened, and obstacles overcome? Through miracles from the Master perfectly orchestrated? Everything in my life attests to this, the Truth.

So the only response I could possibly have in that moment, in that question was to put my hand in His and say, “I’m ready. Let’s go!”

Because He is more than enough. Because even in the hardest times, in the darkest places He’s only ever been good. He is only good. He never leaves my side. And He turns darkness into light. And He gives the best gifts.

And since He’s got the plan in His hand, and I’ve got my hand in His, I have the freedom to  look up. To look around. To drink in small moments, ordinary moments and really live in them. Live in TODAY. Like never before. To slow down and let it all soak in: the fleeting, the futile, the simple, like the most intoxicating perfume. Because it’s here, it’s now, and it will all be gone, like water slipping through my fingers.

What makes a day memorable? Makes it stick out and stick with you? It’s impossible to remember every single one. So what happens to the ones that like the water seem to pass by silently unnoticed?

As I sat in bed contemplating this, gazing at a cross-stitch hung on the opposite wall, Ryan’s head resting on my chest, my fingers running through his curls, I realized I never wanted to forget this moment. Ordinary, yet nevertheless precious.

But the reality is that there was nothing in particular that set this day apart from any other. No amazing adventure. No epic tragedy. I couldn’t even tell you if it was sunny or cloudy. It will be forgotten with all the rest of the perfectly mediocre days. And yet I came to an astonishing conclusion:

“So if I’m going to forget this…” I thought to myself, “if it’s something that right now I find utterly precious, but won’t remember days or weeks or years from now, then NOW is all I have. So in this moment, let all of me right now celebrate and fully appreciate it, thanking God for the gift this is.”

The gift of the ordinary. The gift of Today. Of seeing the ordinary as extraordinary.

It could be the song of the birds as I walk along the river in to town. It could be the sideways winter light that illuminates a brick building against a stormy slate-blue sky. It could be the smile of an elderly man I make eye contact with on the street.
And yet how many of these moments have I let pass by because I was so focused on arriving at the destination? Achieving the goal? Following the plan? Sticking to the route? Or just trying to figure it out… I never would have developed these eyes to see had my future been laid out before me as I wanted. Had I not had to trust and follow into the white space.

So in this year of seemingly unknowns my goals are simple ones, in bullet-point style:

  • Drink more water.
  • Read more books.
  • Embrace change.
  • Find a healthy balance with health.
  • Live fully & intentionally each day for God’s glory.
  • Let Him lead & look up. Look around.
  • Be thankful & celebrate Today.
  • Rest in the surrender. Joy in the journey.

I’m learning to embrace the white space. I’m seeing the beauty of it. Giving me these ordinary-celebrating eyes and strengthening my ability to be still and “treasure up all these things and ponder them in [my] heart,” so that when the pages are full of scribbles and endless lists I still know how to look up, look around. And rejoice.

Maybe you’re feeling a bit directionless as you enter 2017, despite persistent prayers and petitions for His plan…? I hope this honest confession gives you strength and courage to stand in the unknown, despite the social and even personal pressures to “have a plan” or “know what’s next.” That you know it is far better to wait on the Lord than to try and forge  through the fog. In your striving. In your strength. He has a purpose for everything. And it is always good.

Write down your dreams, hopes and desires. Don’t give up pursuing what God has planted in your heart! But trust His timing. REST in it. And in the meantime, find purpose in cherishing Today while it is here. Soak up the gifts that each one brings and celebrate them in your heart. This is truly living.

Living my fullest life with you all in 2017,

justJessika

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Plans, interrupted.

 

First of all flying on an airplane is weird…

Think about it.

You’re in basically a metal tube with 30 rows of three people seat-belted in on either side, suspended (okay soaring) 40,000 feet above the surface of the earth with nothing below you but air.

Like I said. Kind of weird.

Now I sort of get why people have a fear of flying…

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For me the most fear-filled aspect of the solo trip I took was not the solo part of it. I’m really okay with being alone. As an extroverted introvert I love my “Me” time. It’s incredible. There’s space to just be. To think. To listen. To breathe. To analyze, plan, dream, scheme. I’m pretty good company for myself.

No… the part that gives me anxiety every time I think about it is… wait for it… the traveling.

Getting from here to there. Do I have my passport? Do I have my phone? What if there’s traffic getting to the airport? What if my mobile boarding pass won’t scan? What if my bag doesn’t fit in the overhead bin? What if my bags don’t arrive?! How do I know which track my train’s departing from? What if I miss my connection? What if I miss my flight?

So many “What if’s”! Makes me anxious just writing them.

Well one of these actually did happen to me – the very first part of my trip. Great way to kick things off, let me tell you…

I knew my connection was a little on the tight side when I booked the flight. 1.5hrs is not a lot of time between flights but it was definitely within the do-able range. Especially if I just had carry-on’s.

We were flying in to Milan from Corfu and I was going to just rip that people-bandaid off, waving goodbye as I basically ran onto a plane headed for Rome so that I could start my first solo day bright and early. This was the thought at least.

Well when easyJet informed me that my flight had been “moved up” by 30 minutes (leaving me now a one hour connection time) I was a little concerned.

I was, to put it mildly, freaking out when our flight from Corfu left 35 minutes late. It’s almost worse when there’s a tiny shred of hope that you could maybe still make it, versus the very clear “well you definitely missed that one” feeling.

As Ryan looked out the window, gazing at the beautiful Adriatic, I pressed the home button on my phone trying to calculate how many minutes I had before they “closed the gate” to my flight… The thing is nothing in Italy is on time (except for the high speed trains – those are precise to the second!), so were they really going to close the gate when they specified?

Ryan could tell how anxious I was – I got up twice during our hour long flight to “use the facilities” – and grabbing my hand away from my phone he pulled it into his.

“Let’s pray” he said with a smile.

___________________

The thing is I actually had nothing to worry about…

I mean worst case scenario: I miss my flight. I book another one. Or maybe I take the train… Sure I lose some money. Sure it sucks. But it’s not like losing my passport, or a limb. Dramatic I know, but sometimes when your plans go awry it feels a bit like that doesn’t it? The world’s ending!!! Chest tightening. Head spinning. Emotions rising. Tears welling. Panic setting in.

What can end this nightmare rollercoaster that leaves you a puddle of bags and tears in the middle of Milan Malpensa’s Terminal 2?

Prayer.

Taking a moment to just stop. Stop the madness of worry and “what-ifs” that wiz through your brain and let it go. Let it all go. Give it over to God. He’s got a plan for all of it anyway. And knowing Him it’s WAY BETTER than any one I made. But I have to choose to believe this.

Then I count to ten (it just helps me to chill), and ask Him to show me what the real plan is! To give me His peace that doesn’t just pass all understanding, but provides clarity so that I can see which way He wants me to go.

___________________

So what happened?

With my heart still pounding, I white-knuckled that “choice” to trust Him as the anxiety level seemed to rise with the plane’s descent.

And with the minutes ticking, ticking away my heart slumped as I saw the shuttle busses pull up next to our plane. There was an easyJet plane boarding right next to ours… probably the one I wanted to be on. So close, yet so far…

*So one thing to note about travel within Europe… it’s not like it is at home. You don’t just de-board your plane and then find your connecting gate. Depending on the airport they’ll get you off the plane and onto a bus. Then there’s a giant cattle call to the baggage claim where you pick up your bags (if you don’t have to go through Immigration first), exiting the terminal, only to re-enter once again. You find your new departure gate, go through security again, finally making it to your new gate.

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So the plan? Run. Elbowing our way through the sea of homecoming Italians we made it out of “Arrivals” and into “Departures.” Ryan next to me the entire time. And to be honest the thought of leaving him in this messy, chaotic way was tearing my heart in two.

Looking up at the reader board full of easyJet flights, we searched to find mine. Destination: Rome. Was it delayed? Was it boarding? Had it departed?!

Cancelled.

My entire body sighed as relief poured over. No hurried goodbyes. No hustling through security to a flight that might not be there. No waiting and wondering if I’d made it or not. The decision was made. And not even by me.

Let me just tell you, it’s always a good thing when God interrupts your plans!

With a full refund on my flight (which only happened because the airline cancelled on me), Ryan and I made our way over to the Hilton Hotel where he’d already had a room booked since his flight home was departing the next day.

We met up with Mike and Carolyn, my in-laws, in the hotel bar to have celebratory drinks and dinner, sharing photos and reminiscing on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

It was how it was supposed to end.

It was how it was supposed to begin.

Ryan walked me down to the train terminal that takes you to Milano Centrale (literally in the same building as the hotel), and we got to say our proper “See you in a few weeks.”

And off I went. To explore. No fear. Full of trust. Full of peace. Overflowing with excitement. Knowing that through it all I was in my Papa God’s hands, welcoming any and all of His perfect interruptions.

Till next time,

justJessika

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Trust-Fall

 

Well that’s not how it was supposed to go…

One minute I’m talking about tips on traveling solo with pics in my bikini and then … Radio silence. Months of it.

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Well I didn’t die. I’m still here. I made it back to Seattle in one piece. And let me just tell you that I came home from one epic adventure only to be flung into another one. A much grander one… One that required an immense amount of faith, trust and oh so much sweat equity. Let me explain…

So in the midst of the whole retirement-thing, and the buying-our-first-house thing, I guess we (Ryan and I) felt like it just wasn’t enough. To be fair, the house purchase wasn’t even on the radar – but it adds to the dramatics.

At any rate, through the encouragement of a few people – the Holy Spirit included – this past spring Ryan decided to apply for grad school. But of course he doesn’t just go for the two-year program at UW… right in our backyard. Nope. He chooses a one-year program all the way in Southampton, England. Because you know, why get a degree where you’ve lived your whole life when you could get it in, say, England? And in half the time (at a significantly lower cost too – thanks Brexit..)!

Well we waited and waited and waited. No answer.

And then we bought a house. So yeah, no way we could afford grad school now! So we thought…

But God always has a way of working things out if it’s a part of His plan for your life. Especially when it seems impossible. And boy did He work it out!

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I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details of how miraculous this whole situation has been – this post is already 300+ words…

Suffice it to say that we got the acceptance e-mail (forget snail mail) while we were in Greece this past July and it’s been an uphill faith-hike ever since.

Each day we kept walking in the direction He asked us to literally not knowing how or if it was going to work. (think Indian Jones’ The Quest for the Holy Grail… I know you know the moment…)

Putting one foot in front of the other. Being faithful to the daily tasks: applying for our visas, getting the house ready to rent (which meant I painted the exterior of our entire house immediately upon returning, amongst many other projects), finding an apt in the UK, finding renters here in the US, securing funding yada yada yada…

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But also not looking too far ahead. Choosing to trust Him every. single. step. of the way. And believe me, some days it was an every second kind of choice.

But the peace and confidence He gave us (or well at least me) throughout was – it is – unbelievable! He graciously gave both Ryan and I the heads-up that it was going to be hard. It was going to be a true trust-fall if you will into His arms. But there hasn’t been a single moment where I’ve doubted whether He’d catch us. He’s been with us, seeing this whole thing through. And it’s truly been Him. 100%. So so many glory stories. Someday I’ll share them all with you…

So here I am. In a lovely flat (the British term for apartment), with a river flowing underneath me, MacBook on my lap, looking out as the leaves ignite and twilight descends.

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How did I get here? It still feels like a dream. In awe of His goodness and grace. Humbled and grateful that this is my life, at least for now.

He truly gives the best gifts… He knows what I like.

Where is He leading you? What is He asking you to trust Him with? Will you trust-fall into His omnipotent arms? He will give you the strength, the courage and the peace to step into whatever or wherever He is calling you. The adventure that awaits you when you put your hand in His is better than anything you could ever dream of!

So what are you waiting for?

Fall!

justJessika

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PS – I’ll most certainly be playing catch-up (in a very random and non-sequential order), sharing with you all my adventures both at home and abroad (including our current home which is now abroad). Stay tuned!

And if you want to stay up to date wth all that’s happening over here on the other side of the sea, check out my Instagram @sikaspock or #MacsHopthePond.

Solo travel epiphanies

So I bought this really rad computer right before I left…

It’s small. It’s light. It’s gold. And it fits in my purse. My little purse. Which to be completely honest is like a mid-size purse to any normal person. I usually sport the kind that resembles an Escalade…


At any rate I’ve barely used this beautiful and very useful purchase. Not because I haven’t been writing. Nope. Because internet speeds in European hotels are beyond slow…

So how have I been writing all these blog posts?

On my iPhone.

Yes. I kid you not.

Thank goodness WordPress has an app.

Anyway, I’m a week into my solo-ing.

Quick recap on my trip so far: Rome happened – don’t worry I’ll post about it! Remember… not doing the chronological thing. And I’m now in Positano on the Amalfi Coast. City to beach. Just what I needed after clocking some serious mileage… kilometerage? Not sure how to deal with this whole metric system thing.


And during this first week of being on my own, I’ve made some observations. I titled it in my mini Moleskine:

Things that suck about traveling by yourself

a.k.a.

 You never realized you needed someone else till…

I’ll have the…

When there are too many amazing choices on the menu and you can’t order them all. Max you could choose like three things… But even then the waiter looks you up and down with skeptical/judging eyes.

Candid photos

I follow dametraveler on Instagram and they have been a huge inspiration to do this trip. Their feed’s full of these epic pics of women alone in exotic places, their backs turned and gazing off wildly into the distance… 

Yeah, not gonna happen with a selfie stick. So my question is are these women actually traveling alone? Do you ask a stranger? …

“Excuse me, would you mind taking a picture of me? So here’s my phone. I’m actually gonna run like 10 yards (I mean meters) away and turn my back to you. Then take the pic. And if you could try to make it kind of artistic that’d be great, thanks!”

Not sure I’m that bold…

Sunscreen

I honestly can’t imagine anything more awkward than going up to a stranger and asking them to rub greasy lotion onto your shoulders and low back. How do people deal with this? Wear a t-shirt all day? End up with a lobster tan? Good thing I have contortionist shoulders and a good base tan already…

Housekeeping!

When the toilet paper runs out and you’re stuck with no one to hand you the extra roll or call housekeeping. Then again you have no one to blame but yourself. Who else used the last of the roll?

But my bags…

When you’re in the airport or at the train station and the bathroom’s paging you over the loudspeaker. But there’s no one to watch your bags. Do ask a stranger to watch them (and then run off with them) or do you cram them into that very unhygienic stall setting your duffle down on floor that’s most certainly splattered with urine? 


These are situations I’d like to know how the professionals handle. IPhone tripod? Special sunscreen on a stick? Maybe someone should invent that. Maybe I should invent that! 

At any rate this is all just small stuff. 

The big things you miss are not so easily replaced: dinner conversation, sharing a laugh over something funny you saw, squeezing the hand you’re holding when awe overcomes & words fail, having a partner in crime with whom you discover & explore. 


Life was never meant to be a monologue. 

But as someone who has a real relationship with the Living God, here’s the good news: You can share it all with Him! 

In fact, this is what we were created for. To bring glory to God and enjoy Him forever.

The fulfillment of our purpose. 

And I don’t know about you, but for me I find it most challenging to just be with Him, be present with Him, when I’m constantly surrounded by so many others. Maybe that’s why so often Jesus retreated to a solitary place. 


And as I continue in this solo travel, it’s in these times of solitude that I am most keenly aware of His presence, the Presence of the Almighty. I can just be with Him, undivided, deepening my relationship with Him, and having space to hear from Him. Special things just for me. My getaway with God.

So when I’m by myself and I encounter those moments of awe and wonder, it’s His hand I get to squeeze as I eek out four small words, “Wow. Thank you Lord!”


And in this I’m doing exactly what I was created to do. 

These are just some of my solo travel epiphanies. 

Thanks for reading! 

just Jessika

just Jessika

So I promised I’d write.

The problem is that it’s really hard to find the time when there’s so much to see and explore.


It’s even harder when you’re with people.

When you’re with people you actually should talk to them. It’s kinda rude if you don’t. Just saying…


At any rate, I’m super back-logged with our Macs do IT trip, not to mention the Greekation Ryan and I had on our own in Corfu… So I’m making an executive decision: Pass. At least for now…

It’s just that the words and thoughts keep flying in my head like pigeons in a piazza. Things I want to say, things I’m learning and experiencing on my own. And if I try to eek it all out in chronological order the thoughts will all just fly away.

Phew.

Glad I got that off my chest.

So. Yeah. It’s just me now.

Literally just Jessika.


Traveling solo is an interesting thing.

I don’t consider myself exceptionally brave. Independent? Sure. But brave seems to up the ante quite a bit.

And yet when I told people of my plan they’d look at me with eyes that resembled that one emoji (I know you know which one I’m talking about…) as if I were planning on, I don’t know… choose your most dramatic analogy: walk a tight-rope, swim with piranhas, stroll naked through Times Square. You get the picture.

And the next thing I’d hear was something like, “Wow. That’s really brave of you. I could never do that.”


At first I thought everyone was overreacting. I mean come on people! It’s 2016! Women have been doing this forever. Okay maybe not forever, but the solo female traveler is not a novel concept by any means.

And yet, now that I’m in it, now that I’m doing it, I will concede that it does require a measure of bravery. To make restaurant reservations for one – yes. It’s just me. To navigate train stations and airports alone. To just be. by. your. self.

Solitude can be so utterly uncomfortable.


BUT…

I whole heartedly believe that anyone, any woman, can do this. Should do this.

To push your boundaries. To say goodbye (at least for an hour or two) to your comfort zone. To be okay with yourself. Just yourself. Just as you are. To realize you are not an island – people are important and relationships need to be invested in and cherished.


And to realize that you’re actually never really alone. God is always with you, and with Him nothing is impossible. Even solo travel.

I’m not going to try and write this chronologically.

I’m just going to write.

Thanks for reading.

The adventure continues!

just Jessika


Oh and if you want to stay up to date with all I’m up to, follow me on Instagram @sikaspock – or #SikasSoloAdventure

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!!!

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.

Eternity to go

So today is a special day.

But it didn’t feel like it would be last night.
To me it felt like a normal Monday leading to a regular Tuesday. Okay, normal-ish…

I got home after a good day of working out and battling the horrendous Seattle traffic, which, miraculously didn’t seem so bad considering the wet rainy weather.
I took the recycling out and made myself a mezze plate for dinner. Okay that description might be puffing it up a bit… I made some tuna salad, sliced some cucumber and grabbed some leftover baba ghannouj, carrots and olives and threw it on a plate. Fancy.
I watched a chick-flick on Netflix and then FaceTimed with Ryan, my husband before heading to bed. Alone.
He’s in Kazakhstan.
For 5 weeks.

He usually calls me at 9:30am. It’s a 12-hour time difference.
And it was 9am.
I laid in bed, still in a dreamy daze. There’s a plaster on the ceiling from a crack that once rained inside. And like a little kid looking at clouds I imagined all kinds of animals and figures.

Buzz buzzzzz.

I looked over at my phone. No emails. No texts. No calls.

Buzz, buzz, BUZZZZZZZ.

What? Where? Could this actually be my doorbell ringing? At 9am? I don’t think I’ve ever heard my dinky doorbell ring. Ever 

In my boxers and tank top I glanced through the peep hole expecting, I don’t know… my neighbors, or landlord or maybe UPS… Instead I saw a flurry of pinks & petals.

You see it wasn’t any plain ‘ol Tuesday after all.

Two years ago today I made the best decision of my life.
I said “yes” to a life of adventure. To letting go of firmly fixed plans and just “playing it by ear.” To diving in head first, versus wading slowly in. To travel, distance and separation rather than slow Saturdays snuggling. To campers and surfing, backpacking and REI wish-lists.

I said yes to Mr. Ryan Michael McEliece.
And my life has never been the same.

It’s amazing that it’s only been two years. In part it seems like yesterday, and yet so much has happened. The Honeymoon years are supposedly now over. But in truth I felt like the honeymoon years never really began. If I’m gonna be completely honest life’s been a little rough for us. From endless illness, to mono, to weeks and miles apart, to knee surgery and recovery we’ve had our fair share of bumps in the road.
This is what Ryan said “yes” to, poor guy!

But through it all I’ve had a hand to hold. A strong one. A brave one. One that lifts me up and leads me onward. One that clasps mine in his and covers me in prayer. One that encourages and provides. One that’s not afraid of the unknown but trusts in Jesus and His good plan for our life. Because it is now OUR life. We live it together.
And every joy now is that much sweeter. Every challenge is that much easier. And life is so much richer because I share it with him. I’m thankful for how he encourages, strengthens and stretches me – in the best possible way. And most importantly I’m so grateful for how he loves me with the love of Christ. And through him I’m better able to understand the depths of that glorious mystery.
It’s the biggest privilege of my life to stand next to him, to serve him and to love him.

Yes, we’ve had a rough road… a challenging two years. But with each step it gets better. With every day more beautiful. And I didn’t think it was possible to love him more than I had the day before. But I do.

He sent me flowers. The most beautiful flowers I’ve ever beheld. Dreamy.
He sent me flowers from half-way across the world. So much glory to drink in and it’s overwhelming. I’m drunk with their scent; drunk with love. At 9am.

I wish that I hadn’t expected it to be a regular Tuesday, wished that I hadn’t made appointments galore. All I wanted to do was just sit and look at them. All day.
He knows me. Knows what I like.
And God does too. He gave me the best gift I’ve ever been given.

Two years down. Eternity to go.

P.S.  HUGE shout out goes to Nicorah Floral for the exquisite blooms both now and then, and to Kristen Parker of Kristen Marie Photography for the lovely photos. Thank you guys for making my day so very very special!!! Marriage is worth celebrating!!!!

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!

 

Best-Laid Plans… Part I

I’ve had so many good intentions.

So so many.
And for so many different things.
Obviously this blog is one of them.

And it’s not for lack of good writing material… On the contrary, life feels like it’s been moving at the speed of, well, take your pick: light? a high-speed train? the growth rate of an infant?
Side note: I went off on a very long tangent about how my Facebook newsfeed is at least 50% comprised of people’s baby’s photos… I’ll spare you the rant. Needless to say, babies grow really really fast. But I bet you already knew that.

And I can guess what some of you may be thinking… No. I’m not having a baby. Although I’ll admit I do feel a bit like a mom, frantically running around trying to keep up with things. Especially this blog.
Actually that’s a lie. It’s been pretty low on the priority list these days.

Well it’s time for a change people!

It’s summer and I have 8 weeks off.

Okay well I had 8 weeks off. Now I have a little over 3…
Like I said, time is just streaking by.

Originally my plan was to blog once a week. And I thought I was setting the bar pretty darn low with that one. Apparently not. I guess that means I owe you (myself? the Lord?) 4 posts. It is, after all, His gift that I’m burying in the sand.
Mmmm… sand.
Clearly my summer mind has set in.

Well I was gonna go real deep with this one. I really want to (surprise, surprise…). But I’m afraid if I head down that path this post will become a novella. And lets be honest… When resurfacing from a serious hiatus you don’t bombard your dwindling (nonexistent?) readership with the deep stuff.
You keep it light. You keep it fluffy. You keep it short.

So that’s what I’ll do. The deep stuff will keep for Part II.
Funny… My plans usually never include a part II or plan B… what have you. But, well, it inevitably follows. God’s grace in my Part II.

Till Part II.

just Jessika