Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Laughs & Loves of a College Freshman

I still can't believe half of my freshman year in college is a masquerade of memories of the past. In my last post I focused more on the sadder/struggling side of things of college life. In this post I hope to capture those moments of life where laughter echoes the sunshine filled windows of the human soul... May these crazy stories of this Lithuanian girl who lives in America make your heart smile...Blessings ~Ruslana Evelyn~

To this day, I am left SO speechless at how I ended up at North Central University. I can honestly say if I were talking to you face to face today, IT. WAS. ALL. GOD. Those 4 words are very much overused, but yet it is purely the beautiful truth of reality. To all my dear friends who are in the process of looking for a college or one day will have to face this milestone, if there is one thing I learned, it's that, if you commit your college choice to God, in other words, let HIM decide where he wants YOU to go, He will lead you to the right place. North Central University was literally THE LAST college I had in mind to go to. I applied to  3 public and 6 private Christian colleges. The application process was a daily living nightmare on earth that lasted about 1 year. How I survived? I don't know...I had my heart set on Colorado Christian University from day 1 of this college search all the way up until the first week of this past July. I'll forever hold close to my heart the beautiful memories that were made on my college visit to Colorado, and all the lovely new friends that I made those cold unpredictable days of February.I  had this mindset that this is clearly what God wanted and regardless if my family and friends around me didn't agree I was seriously going to WALK to Colorado from Minnesota BY MYSELF if that's what it took to go there. That's how desperate I was.I'm so glad that we serve a God who is greater than our ways and stubbornness.Slowly week by week past, and I narrowed down  my college decision to either Colorado Christian University or the U of M in Morris. North Central was not even in the picture...YET....Personally, speaking from experience, I wouldn't recommend  going through the ridiculous process of applying to 8 colleges, but I'm the type of person that would rather explore all the mysteries of this life than be ignorant to the unknown. Eventually the reality of life really hit me with a bang that God was not calling me to go to CCU...I seriously wanted to give up on life...and just when I thought that all college hope was lost, God brought to my mind the very last possible Christian college option...North Central University. I officially decided on going to NCU the first week in JULY. and I am forever thankful I did. This is just a mere summary of the war that took place, so if you ever need someone to talk to about this whole college thing, I'll be waiting with open arms =)  I just thought I'd share the process of how I got to North Central University, because all the beautiful realities of life that happened are because of God's decision to bring me into this blessed Christian college community...

The first memory that comes to mind is when one of my guy friends and I were walked the streets of downtown Minneapolis one cloudy/windy afternoon.  Out of nowhere there was this random guy in his 50s who started talking to us about Jesus. He asked us what our names were and I totally white lied "Ruslana". I mean think about it, the stupidity of telling a stranger in the cities that my name is ICE TEA...aka Aiste, it's such an uncommon name in America...AND to put the icing on the cake, the random guy asks "Are you two married?" and my guy friend says..."Not yet." At this point I'm sure you can just imagine the horror on my UnRussian face, as I look at my guy friend  questioning what he means by the two words "Not yet" and what scandalous heart secrets he's hiding from me... I was VERY tempted to say "Um yeah, we just got married last week, I lost my diamond ring a few blocks back, and we've been searching for it all afternoon"...LOL Eventually by the end of this awkward conversation we find out this random guy works for the Salvation Army.... =)

Swing Dancing:
Another memory that  comes to mind is swing dancing on Thursday nights at the Social Dance Studio in Minneapolis.Oh the lovely college guys you meet here...=) LOL I'll never forget the guy who taught me how to swing dance, I"M FOREVER THANKFUL for that moment...Also, I don't know if it's because of the Midwestern/"Northern gentlemen" culture, but alot of the guys were afraid to ask the girls to dance. I found this cutely funny. So me being my crazy self I just got over it and asked those guys to dance with me. =) I'll never forget dancing with this one young gentlemen. He told be he was from Uzbekistan. I was like OH MY GOSH YOU SPEAK RUSSIAN?!?!? He's like "Da." Then he said something to me in Russian with a smile on his face and I was like, what did you say? He's like "I asked you if you'd like a shot of vodka...just kidding" It was so funny...bless his dear Russian soul....<3

Being My Crazy Self:
Looking back, I remember that if I ever dared to walk the streets of Minneapolis by myself or with my dear friends, I would always put on my "Russian Musician Disguise". This other identity consisted of  black 3D movie glasses with the lens taken out, a knit red winter hat, Wine Is Everything lipstick, and the scandalous Lithuanian look on my face....

British Accents:
My NCU friends and I would have these cute little British tea parties. We would write down British names, put them in a hat and then draw a name, and then we'd go by that name for our tea party. I claimed that I was a Soviet Russian, who's name was Molly that spoke in a British accent.... After one of tea party's a few friends and I decided to FINALLY study for our Systematic Theology exam in the Carlson Commons area of NCU. Throughout our whole study time I spoke in a British accent. It was HILARIOUS. The group of people studying at the next table over looked at me like..."REALLY, R U FREAKIN SERIOUS"...I looked back...Yeah, totally....It was a great studying time to be alive......My British accent improved so used to seriously suck...LOL

Family Force 5 Concert:
On November 19th, Family Force 5, Grits, and Owl City were in concert at the U of M Fieldhouse. It was supposedly the largest college outreach in America in 10 years.... I'll never forget standing next to  2 of my NCU friends as Family Force 5 took the stage.... My favorite song "KOUNTRY GENTLEMEN" started playing and I remember I LIKE FREAKED OUT insanely during the lyrical lines "MY MAMA RAISED ME IN THE DURTY SOUTH"....the U of M students who were standing by us were like "Oh My God....Really?!?!? who are these crazy girls!?!?!" It was so funny...yeah I forgot to mention that I do become very crazy during most Christian rock concerts....just a little...

The India Church:
Our college had this church fair back in September, and I remember really wanting to to this church called Global Harvest International Church. I was like OH MY GOSH INTERNATIONAL!?!?!?!? That means that there will be people from like all over the world there. I contacted the pastor of the church, and he was excited to hear that I was coming. I rode the light rail to Bloomington, MN and when I got to the bus station, I was completely lost. The service had already started....and I called the pastor. I told him I was so lost as which bus to take, so he decided to come pick me up...He eventually comes, and I realize he's of India descent and has the coolest accent ever... then drives me over to his church. I walk into the building and there is 99% INDIA people and one white Lithuanian....It was great. =D So next time you hear the term "INTERNATIONAL" when it comes to a church, it could literally mean ANY single country in the word......

The Russian Church:
So me being the crazy UnRussian I am, came across this Russian church....One of my Russian friend's decided he wanted to go as well, so he drove me there. We were quite late for the service, it started at 2pm we got there by 2:30pm (oh did I mention that the reason we were late is because I first went to the INDIA church, then rode the light rail back to NCU then decided to go to the Russian church, all in the same day!?!?!?) We are both kinda nervous, but eventually I find the courage to open that Russian church door and we find our seats...To our surprise we realize that the ENTIRE church service is truly in 100% Russian....Both of us are just learning Russian language, so we pretty much had no clue what the pastor was saying. As we sit there my Russian friend is like "Look Aiste, all the people are staring at us, they probably think we're dating or something," I was about to die of laughter, it was so painful to hold my smile in... The he's like "Aiste, did you know that Russian people usually marry young?"  I was like no....really?? That was a very good realization to realize I guess...LOL Eventually after the service, we introduced ourselves to people, and to my delight, they spoke English! =D

Cat Stew:
Lastly, I leave you with this final story. So all 3 of my roomates are Hmong. I remember the time I went over to one of their houses and we were standing in the kitchen. She opens the fridge and pulls out this interesting looking soup.  I'm like, what is that? She's like "Well, you see Aiste in the Hmong culture we have this tradition." Yesterday our neighbor's old cat died, so we decided we'd make a stew of it" I was like "Really!?!? Cat stew!?!?!?" She was like "Yeah"...I was horrified....LOL I can't believe how gullible I was....seriously....she eventually tells me that it's actually squirrel stew.....=P

May you always be able to find those Laughs & Loves moments of life....<3

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Living Life Without You

As the year 2011 comes to a close, I wanted to reflect back on my first college semester at North Central University. To be honest, it was the greatest of times these past several months and it was also the most deathly challenging of times musically speaking for me.

One of the life lessons I want to share with you is one that no passionate musician should ever have to go through…or should they? Basically this semester MUSICALLY… to simply not sugar coat it….SUCKED. Yeah, that was the sad but true reality. I look back on what happened and it just brings tears to my eyes. I got a taste of what life would be like if I chose not to pursue the God given passion of music on my heart. What a terribly sad and tragic life story to tell. It’s funny because North Central is known for it’s Christian music. New bands bloom like fresh spring tulips ever corner you turn on that campus. If you want to have anything to do with glorifying God through your passion of music……North Central is where this party is at. Hands Down. So why then did everything that could possibly go wrong musically in my life did? Or so it seemed… Being a freshman in college who “has a handful of dreams and a heart full of God” (Tobymac) it seemed like I wanted everything to happen at once. It’s like as if I wanted all my musical dreams and passions to be sorted out and all put together in a few months. Obviously, God sized dreams take a whole lifetime to unfold, so it was a mix of excitement and a sense of urgency to just make this life happen. Also, it was the fear of failure and rejection musically. Even amongst my musical friends, I felt as if I just could not truly express who I was as a musician. I felt like they would just look down upon my vocals, flauting (Flute) and newly learned guitar skills. I had a few situations in which I just cried my eyes out, horrified at how terrible I displayed myself as a musician. But I realized that all musicians throughout their life have days where the absolutely feel like the failed at life. I remember auditioning to be on this worship band, and oh, me being the naïve country girl I was at that time, had no idea what these city people were about to throw in my face…and oh in my face did they throw it….I’ll never forget walking back to my dorm and right when I opened the door I just cried my eyes out. I don’t remember the last time I ever cried so hard, so deeply, so passionately…It seemed pretty much worse than a break I would know…. I was so hurt. The only reason I ever recovered from that situation was because my dearest roomates walked in, saw me, and just put their hands on my shoulder and prayed for me. That touched my soul so deeply, I’ll never be able to thank those blessed souls for what they did on that cold rainy evening. That was probably the point where my music confidence went down hill. I completely avoided anyone who was part of those worship teams. Once again very sad but true. Personally, I thought that the people who did get to be  part of those  worship teams were chosen because of performance verses heart passion. I could get into the whole music performance v. worship arts argument that I have very strong feelings for, but  I’ve written about 6 or 7 blogs on that so if you’’re curious as to my view on that you can look them up…lol There was just something inside my soul that didn’t feel right about being on that worship team. 

Going back to the whole musician self consciousness, I don’t know why I was so stupid to fear of what people at NCU would think of me musically. You know what, at the end of the day a true musician is someone who appreciates and accepts AND is open minded to all styles and genres of music regardless of the level of professionalism. (This thought was based off one of the band member’s of Love Out Loud, Jake Johnson) If you as a musician are going to judge me or  someone musically, vocally, guitar wise and instrument wise because you think they suck and you’re obviously better, you might as well get your a** out the music scene. I’m serious. You’re not wanted. Your place is somewhere else. Give people a chance. Everyone has potential. Yeah. I think the Christian music scene in America has forgotten that. It’s all about competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. FREAKIN COMPETITION. Somebody kicked Jesus out in the cold…

So with those two musical thoughts “I didn’t make it onto my so called “dream” worship team at the time” and “I don’t feel comfortable being my musical self in front of my NCU musical friends” my music confidence was on the verge of rock bottom. It was bad. Then the final cherry on top was that I started to believe one of the very most powerful lies out there I believe today is “I’m not good enough musically”… BANG. BANG. BANG. That was 3 shots straight through the heart. I felt as if I had lost the musical voice my creator gave to me. I was silenced in fear. Silenced by deep discouragement.  At this point the temptation to forget every note I ever song, take my silver flute and dent it a hundred times over, and seriously throw my newly bought guitar out the 4th floor dorm window, never felt so great….

I prayed that God would place a song on my heart to sing…but no song came…

Just silence.

Terrifying kidnapping silence.

Days and Days and Days and Days and Days of silence.

 Not one note was played or sung.

This was the reality I realized…This was truly as taste of what my life would be like in the future if I chose not to pursue this music passion Jesus placed on my heart. What a very disturbing thought. This is how many people today in our society choose to live their lives. They  “grow out of” their dreams of being a  musician who is in a band, a scientist, a professional figure skater, an artist, a doctor… Just seeing how some beautiful soul is so unhappy with their life because they decided to “play it safe” , chose the more “financially  secure & savvy” road or simply are just DEAD to their God given passion….That is ever so depressing and soul shattering. I don’t want to be that person who chose not to pursue my God given passion. I don’t want to sit my whole life in a white soundless room merely dreaming of the music I could create and be known as the “Musician who doesn’t  sing songs or play music”. So with those thoughts collected, I realize that going back to the musical confidence I once had will take many weeks, months, even years to bring back inside this fragile soul of mine.  I’m so thankful that this semester God taught me what  “Living Life Without  pursuing my musical calling was like.” It was worse than Auschwitz hell inside this soul of mine. So from this day forward, I choose…I choose to passionately embrace this musical passion and give it one more try… Thank you Jesus for the beautiful gift of second chances…

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Lie

It's the thief in the middle of the night,
it slowly creeps in the lonely shadows of these barren hallways,
Everywhere she walks, it follows her like an invisible kidnapper waiting for the right moment,
she turns around...nothing is there,
the lie whispers to her musical soul "You"re not good enough...You're not good enough"
It hisses again....and again...and those moments of her life when the sun sets and the world becomes a dark haunting place..."You're not good enough...You're not good enough"....
Her heart cries silent tears of agony,
The world around her smiles and laughs on a warm, bright and summery day,
They have absolutely no idea of the deep soul stabbing sadness that walks amongst them,
He picks up his guitar,
sings a song about how this beautiful God loves her,
How could he possibly know about the lie that haunts and curses her musical soul?,
She falls to the ground in tears,
but gets back up,
she falls again, again, again, again, and again...
she simply believes she has no strength to get up,
she cries out to God praying desperately that He would banish the lie she has believed for 18 years, 8 months and 17 days...
"Father God," she says, "I can't believe it took me this many years to realize that "I'm not good enough...musically...was A LIE"
It was and infectious LIE meant to KILL those musical passions you placed on my heart when I was 8.
She picks up her guitar for the very first time after this realization,
and it never sounds the same again....