"Permission and freedom." That was what our acting teacher at CASI said to me. I was in the middle of a coaching on a particularly challenging piece. I've always had pretty good dramatic instincts, but I'm learning that I cannot simply walk onto a stage, with the idea for my character in my mind, and wing it. I am learning to ask myself questions about the music and the character, questions that are not easy to answer. What does the music say to you? What do you think this prelude means? How would your character do this? That day in my coaching, I was frustrated. As usual, the idea for the character was front and center in my mind, but I was not communicating it. "You have all these ideas in your head," our coach said. "It's all there. You just need to give yourself permission and freedom to release."

Permission. Freedom. Release. These are my trigger words. What he said was no surprise to me. I've known for some time that I do not, as a rule, give myself the freedom to create that I so deeply crave. It just isn't my natural way. Actually, let's amend that sentence. It's totally my natural way. My body and mind and voice demand a performance that holds nothing back. But sometimes, self-inflicted limits hinder me from portraying the character in a full, true way.

It's getting better. I'm getting better. The more I sing, the less I realize it matters what other people think.

But, of course, it isn't just in singing that this pops up (sidebar: singing is a metaphor for life in just about all the ways). I find myself afraid to be the person I most fully am in the presence of others. One day I feel ready to take on the world, and who cares what anyone thinks of me and my offering? The next day, the next moment, I am convinced that what I have to offer is not enough for people to like me. I am sure that I am not enough for anyone to accept me.

Yesterday I was on the phone with my mom, and we were talking about this strange foggy feeling that has enveloped me since I came back from CASI. I told her, "Mama, I feel like I have all this stuff in my head, but no one knows it's there."

It's like the coaching I had: it's all there. Everything is there. But I am not releasing it.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you feel that who you are is not what people are looking for. They don't want that, you think. They want something else, something that you don't have.

I'm learning to give myself permission to release what I have in my head. This blog is one vehicle for that. Another is my singing: I'm learning to focus in on character and situation and objective. When I do that, it all works. But I'm also learning that in my day to day life. The person that you are has been designed by God. Give yourself permission to release what you have within you. You voice, your words, your mind, your ideas, your very personality, your very personhood -- you were not meant to keep it all inside. Who benefits from it then?

You were meant to share yourself with the world. God has made you. Do not hide the art that He has given you to release.

Yes, it's terrifying. And why wouldn't it be? When you put something out there that belongs to you, that is such a deep part of you that it feels like putting your entire self on the line, you face the possibility, the nerve-tearing possibility that you will be rejected. Why on earth would you do that?

Because, my fellow adventurers, you are safe.

You are safe and loved and treasured in the arms of Christ, the One Who made you and died for you. You could be rejected by all of humankind and you would still be adored by your Creator.

He longs to know us and to see us use what He has given us. Why wouldn't we give ourselves permission to release it? We're the only ones standing in our own way. Why wouldn't we get out of the way and trust Him? He loves it when we give our gifts away.

This is something I'm struggling with a lot myself, so it isn't easy to write this. It means I'm holding myself accountable and calling myself out. I'm pointing my finger back at myself and refusing to allow myself to live in fear. For what is fear to we who are safe? And what is dread to those who have nothing to dread? What is the darkness if we are in light? Who can separate us from God, Who has made us?

He has made us. When we hide, what are we saying to Him? We are saying that we do not trust Him to take care of us, that we do not trust that we are safe, that we do not believe in the value of what He has given us to release.

But He stands beside us and makes His home within us and calls us valued, treasured, beloved, darling. We are His song and His portion and His composition and His creation.

He made us.

May we give ourselves permission to be who He has made us to be. May we get out of our own way and release our gifts and our personhood. May we refuse to live in fear. May we give away all we have within us until we have nothing left to hide in the dark corners of our hearts. May we instead live fully in the light, hiding nothing, releasing everything.

Release. The word itself implies that we are holding something back. It's like water behind a dam. When it is released, it bursts forth in sprays of foam and flashes of white and blue, first overwhelming the land with its power, but then nourishing it, bringing life.

Let us bring life and flowers to the land. Let us give ourselves permission to be the people we most fully are, the people we are made to be.

For He has made us.