I’m sitting at my desk on the rainiest day I’ve seen since moving into this attic. I see raindrops running together on the window, and for some reason they are very distracting. Honest moment here – I’m completely dreading having to write my first post for this blog. What is it about firsts that gets me so worked up? I want my words to come together perfectly. I want the post to be both sentimental and fun, but not too cheesy. I feel like it’s half a need to have people form a good impression of me, and half a need to love my own writing.
“Your art is not about how many people like your work, your art, is about if your heart likes your work. It’s about how honest you are with yourself. And you must never trade honesty for relatability.” -to all young poets. \\ Milk and Honey
I love that quote from Milk and Honey. The book shocked me with its blunt openness, yet her vulnerability made my heart strings tug, and I couldn’t put it down. In the author bio, Rupi Kaur explains that she literally drew and wrote all the broken and still-healing parts of her, and put them in my hands. I felt honored to read it. I’d like to think her honesty resonated with me because that’s the sort of girl I am. I am so easily captivated. The beauty of basically everything overwhelms me and I freak out. To be honest, there are times I hate myself for it. Yet, I take a certain pride in finding depth in the world’s most overlooked things.
I’m not sure what this blog is going to be yet, so I’m afraid you’ll have to bear with me for awhile. Maybe it will become a journey of self-discovery, as I finally have a safe place to talk about the way I see the world. Or maybe God will use it as a ministry. Maybe it’s someplace to practice writing so I can finally write that book I keep talking about. I don’t think I’ll know until it’s over, and I’ve decided that’s okay. To be honest, we really don’t know most things until they are over, do we?
Let’s Just Start from the Beginning
Okay. The rain started up again, and I think I am finally ready to do this thing.
Time to back up a bit and make a proper introduction. Hello everyone, my name is Arianna. Rose is my middle name and it sounds prettier than my last name, so I use it a lot. As I said, I live in an attic right now. Sound quaint and a little fairytale-ish? Well, sometimes it is – like today. When I can hear the pitter-patter of rain on the roof, my bed is canopied with lace and actually made for once, and wildflowers sit in a vase in front of me. But somedays it feels like the bugs are crawling out of every corner, and I am constantly identifying new species. Somedays the ceiling creaks so loudly that I’m positive it will collapse and I will be buried under the roof as even more bugs come out of the wood and eat me. (That was a little dramatic, but I looked it up. Creaking attics are a real thing guys.)
I grew up in a large, homeschooling family. Ten siblings and hardly a moment to myself sums up my formative years, and I loved it. I’m an introverted soul, and as I figured that out it got a little harder to share a bedroom and always have my name called out about something or another. But regardless of little setbacks, I wouldn’t trade my large family for anything in the world.
When I was about five-years-old, my Dad (whom we call Pa. Yes, I am real.) had a devastating car accident which left him with severe injuries and Trigeminal Neuralgia (a brain disease involving a chronic pain in facial nerves).
Really. Mom got a job, my older siblings took over schooling and raising us younger kids, my dad came home (praise Jesus) but didn’t even remember who we were. As a little girl, I didn’t understand all the changes. And, boy, did I become bitter. My older sister stopped being my playmate and became “miss bossy.” My mom didn’t have time for me, everyone was crabby and stressed, we were poorer than we ever had been, and my dad didn’t know who I was and could barely talk.
Years went by, and little by little, Pa’s memory came back, and he learned to read, write, speak and love again; but we were told that he would never be free of constant, horrific pain. What is the hardest part? Watching someone I love suffer and not being able to do anything to fix it. I think that is true for everyone in our family. Though I barely know any different, I do have a few memories of Pa before he was hurt, and I cherish them with all my heart.
Ready, Set, Grow up!
That’s honestly what it feels like. Building forts with all of my siblings, getting stuck in the snow while sledding and performing plays on a whim – I remember my childhood way too well to have grown up already. But here I am, 21 years old, trying to find my place away from home.
Senior year was the HARDEST year of my entire life. If you google “Arianna Rose” you will find that I am a musical artist and have written and published six songs. I also had a blog throughout the entire process. In that blog, there is a raw and real post written by a girl who thought depression might finally get the best of her. Here’s the post if you want to detour.
After I graduated, I left home for an incredible program called Focus One. It was a gap year school founded on the idea of taking a year of your life to focus on your relationship with God and growing in who He created you to be. The hope was to end the year with a better idea of the next steps for your life.
The year was nothing like I expected and everything that I needed. My faith grew DRASTICALLY. It was finally mine. I lived with four girls who never stopped fighting for me and taught me how to laugh. I found joy and freedom and hope, and I fell in love with Jesus. Maybe I had run away from the stress and frustrations of home, but I felt the first real taste of freedom, and it was so healing. (I’m the one in the skirt. always. )
My second year
Man guys, my tea is getting cold…
Okay, so after my year at Focus One, I still wasn’t sure what to do. I had gone on a missions trip, been to multiple conferences and sat through countless classes. I had the opportunity to serve in almost every area of the church, and I still didn’t know what my calling was.
I was asked by Focus One staff to consider coming back as an intern for the program the following year. As an intern, I would lead an apartment of girls, work as part of the staff and learn more from a leadership perspective. I cried when they asked me. I was still struggling with a significant amount of insecurity, and I couldn’t believe they had chosen me. I prayed and prayed. Though it had been a good year, it hadn’t been easy by any stretch of the imagination. I wanted to help the other girls coming in, but I was terrified of not being a good leader.
Eventually I said yes. But, shortly afterward, I found out the entire program was changing – the classes, the mission trips, the core values. They even changed the program’s name to City First Leadership College. What? Let’s just say, I didn’t handle the changes well. I knew from that point on that my second year was going to be rough, I just didn’t know how rough.
The year was so difficult; it’s hard to even find the words to explain it. I’m still processing everything, and I have a feeling whatever I learned last year is going to catch up with me throughout this year. One thing I already know for sure is: I forgot to let God love me.
At the end of the year we have something we call Memorial Hall. We go to this really beautiful place and have a worship and open letters that we wrote at the beginning of the year. My first year I remember crying, no, weeping uncontrollably after reading my letter. (I’m dramatic like that.) It was beautiful. I had never seen how much God listened to me until everything I had asked for was all in writing, and had happened.
At the end of my second year, I cried for a different reason. Staring back at me from the pages was a girl who was freer and more in love with Jesus than the girl reading the letter. “How the heck did I backtrack?” Before I could think too much, God put the answer clearly in my heart. “You forgot to let me love you.” His words were like a whisper, and tears stung my eyes. I had been so focused on making sure I did a good job being a leader than I didn’t let any of my prayer time feed my relationship with God.
My focus had shifted to feeling and being good enough for the leadership role I was in. I wanted to see the girls in my apartment beaming with pride and fully changed when they walked across the stage at graduation. I should’ve let my cup overflow, but instead I poured out everything I could manage. It was like God was willing to send rain, but I was so determined to fix everything myself that I was running around with a hose and a water bill I couldn’t afford.
Being Told No.
*Sigh* My tea is definitely cold and I don’t know how I am going to talk about this next part.
At the end of my second year I had amazing and deep friendships, and was positive I should stay in Rockford and become a writer and a traveling speaker. The second half of that dream was God’s will, the first part was my idea, which I passed off as “obviously God’s will” without praying about it. I mean, it made the most sense to me! Third year here I come!
I’m sure you’ve guessed, by the title of this section, that I was very wrong. At City First Leadership College, you have to be asked to come back for another year. I had made it very clear to staff that I wanted to come back, and I couldn’t think of anything I could’ve done to make them say no, so I went ahead and made my plans. Slowly but surely my friends started finding me with their joyous news. “I got asked back today!” “Guess whattttttttt!” “Arianna! We’ll be back together next year!!” Celebration was soon followed with twinges of worry in my own heart. I kept waiting, and no one on the leadership team came to invite me to return for year three.
I finally decided they must’ve forgotten about me, and, a little hurt, I sought out the director. He agreed to meet with me. I was nervous. Before I went to his office I ran to the restroom to breathe. I still remember the exact spot I stood as I looked in the mirror and said “Arianna, you are a child of God, and whatever he is about to say does not define you. No matter what happens, you are still enough. You are still worth fighting for. You are still going to do amazing things.” Finally, I was certain my self pep-talk was just me being over-dramatic, and I told myself to chill out. I walked into his office. Confidently.
The meeting began and immediately my heart sunk. He started giving me reasons like, “We don’t have anyone to teach you to write,” and “We don’t have the platform for you to speak on.” I could feel hot tears demanding to be released but I was doing a good job of keeping them inside. NO! I screamed in my head. Gosh Arianna don’t be the girl who cries. You will leave here with some dignity!
“What are you thinking about?”
I could’ve killed him for asking such a stupid question. A tear slipped out somehow as I said, “I wanted to watch Raven have her year.”
Raven is one of my best friends in the whole world, we kind of grew up together, and she is finally coming to the program in 2018. I was so excited to live by her again, to see her grow and to share a friend group with her again. Honestly, even though my whole world was crashing down around me, all I could think about was her, and how hard it had been to live so far apart. Mentioning her name sent me over the edge, and I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming.
My neck hurt from straining to keep tears from becoming sobs, as he continued to ask more questions and tell me that they love me, but that I wouldn’t grow as much if I stayed. “We just want to see you spread your wings,” were his final words.
“Where?!” I wanted to shout. I wanted to kick in someone’s teeth and at the same time I wanted to fall into someone’s arms and sob until I couldn’t breathe. I know it all sounds like a lot, but until that moment, I hadn’t realized what a safe place Rockford had become for me. All my friends were there. Everyone loved Jesus. Every day was so full of purpose, and everyone believed in me. I was somebody. I was learning how to believe in myself. I didn’t have to deal with the realities of home or how my family viewed me. It was so hard but at least I was doing something, growing somehow, being someone.
Ugh, I am crying. The pain of this moment plays back like a movie scene in my head. Dramatic music and all.
I got up to walk out of his office, trying to stop my legs from trembling as I absorbed the shock. “Don’t hate us forever, okay girl?” he said as I turned to leave.
“I don’t hate you.”
I wanted to say, “I am not crying because I hate you. I’m crying because you are my family, and the love in my heart is so strong for this place and these people that I don’t know how to ever leave you, you idiot!” or something like that. But I held back, because that would’ve been a movie scene, and the muscles in my neck would’ve done all that work for nothing because the sobs would’ve come.
I remember crying and being depressed and trying to figure out how to tell my class that I couldn’t stay. I found my best friend in her basement and heard her tell me “I got asked back!” I hugged her and tried to smile but started bawling and I’m pretty sure she figured it out.
That was a really hard week.
This has been a really hard summer.
I hate that I can’t feel it without crying angry tears of sadness. I didn’t know I could be so furious at a place and miss it and love it so much. But here I am, three months later, and bawling again.
As I write this, It’s memorial Hall day for Raven, and I am so proud of her and excited for her. I wish I could be there, but I am trying to trust that God knew what He was doing. Ugh, trying SO.HARD.
Pulling myself together now, Promise.
Today, this beautiful little attic in a sweet couple’s home on Ash Street, is my home base. My bed is canopied with lace and I have a tea pot that’s all my own. I am thankful for the little things, and learning to have faith for the big things. After making a call to my youth pastor back home, God provided me with an internship at the church I grew up in. I have not given up on my dream. Instead, I’m trusting that this new role in a very familiar place, will be just what I need to work towards it. I’m in the beginning stages of writing a book, trying to blog consistently and I am learning all kinds of things about ministry. Most of all, I am healing from the mess of last year and I’m learning to fall in love with Jesus again. Gosh I miss my friends, but they believe in me as much as they love me, and we all know we are where we should be. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still crying about this so obviously I’m not peachy-keen yet, but I’m getting there.
I want to thank you for walking with me on this journey. Really. Without readers a writer is just thinking, and without support a person is just existing. Thank you for all the love you carry in your heart for a girl like me; as I learn what vulnerability and confidence look like, and try to stand on my own two feet. We got this, right?