It's that time of the month again: the time when bloggers around the Internet gather to recall and remember what we learned over the past month. I'm finding this practice especially valuable this month. This is the first full month of school, and I'm finding that I am in desperate need of the silence of review. I crave quiet in ways I never recognized before. One of the practices I'm learning is called The Daily Examen, which I write about in this blog post, but spoilers: it's all about looking back on the day in the presence of God. This is a habit I'm coming to value more and more as the days pass me by, and I find I am unable to distinguish one day from the others. I am in need of a simple stop. I crave the time to sit still in the presence of God and look back on what He has taught me. That's what this practice is becoming for me. I hope it encourages you to do the same.

Let's get to it, shall we?

1. It's okay to be sad and not know why.

A couple of weeks before the writing of this post, I had a voice lesson. I always have voice lessons on Mondays, and if you've been here for any length of time, you know I LOVE my voice teacher. He's my favorite. On this particular lesson day, Dr. Brookes got me to release some physical tension; when that happens, the emotional tension I've been hanging onto (but not known it) tends to release like a tightly coiled spring, cracking me open. I cried. And cried. And cried. What's more, my friend Nathan was observing my lesson that day, God bless him.

In truth, I'm learning to be more vulnerable, and that day I was feeling incredibly fragile. So when I released some tension, I felt like a little child standing there in front of my voice teacher, silently leaking tears out of both my eyes. He said some magic words to me: "Sara, I feel like you're holding onto a lot of fear." Oh, Dr. Brookes. If only you knew.

At the end of my lesson, Dr. Brookes caught me up in a gigantic hug. Over the course of the next hour, I cried on the shoulders of three other people: my friends Aimee and Elizabeth, and Dr. Ankrum, one of the other voice teachers. She looked me in the face and said, "It's not your fault." It was like Good Will Hunting. I sobbed. For the rest of the day I was basically a mess. To this day I'm not 100% sure why that happened. But you know what? That's okay. It's alright to be sad and not understand it. It's alright to feel your feelings. It's important that we feel the feelings; otherwise we'll never get through them. We need to be able to acknowledge our feelings: not shove them into the dark places, but coax them into the light. It's only in the light that we find true healing.

2. Choir retreats are better without shoes.

This is more of a re-learn. From my first days of Women's Chorale at Texas Tech, everyone who's ever been in choir with me knows I hate to wear shoes in choral settings. It's gotten better as I've gotten older, but at the University Choir Fall Retreat (my seventh choir retreat at Texas Tech), I kicked off my flats unabashedly. It helped me bond with one of the grad students. Something about being shoeless makes me feel like I'm at home -- and that's incredibly important to me.

3. Know your limits.

I have experienced my fair share plus some of vocal tiredness this past month, because of the typical Sara reason: overuse. I have had many moments of sheer panic, all overdramatized. I have lived in fear because my voice has become my identity, which is a sin -- Jesus is my true Identity. But in the course of all this madness, I have learned my limits. I have learned when to stop in the practice room. I am learning how to practice more efficiently and effectively -- and, most importantly, wisely. It's important to accept our limitations: they show us the boundary lines that have fallen for us in pleasant places. They also teach us that God is in control, and it is He Who has done it.

4. Flowers fix everything.

Shortly after my cry-fest (see #1 on this list), I serendipitously received a promo for The Bouqs Company. The name is awesome: "bouqs" is short for "bouquets." My sweet, sweet mother offered to buy me a bouquet -- and members get discounts and free shipping, so you know I'm all about that. I got to pick it out and everything. All their flowers are grown on the side of a volcano (super rich soil and all that jazz), and they are cut and shipped the same day.

My bouquet came in a freaking box (imagine my shock), and it is SO BEAUTIFUL. I ordered all the fluffy pink flowers because I love pink. I wish I could take it with me everywhere. I can't stop staring at it. I'm in love.

 I even got to write myself a note!

5. Vocal growing up.

A couple of days ago, I had a coaching with a guest artist who is doing a masterclass at school this Friday. I coached with him last spring when he visited, and he is a delight. Last spring I sang "Non so più" for him -- classic mezzo repertoire, and as many of you know, my role this spring (SO EXCITE). This time I sang "Quando m'en vo" -- classic soprano repertoire, and if I may say so, it is my jam. He really likes the direction I'm taking in my vocal growth, but he kept berating me for not giving him my whole voice. "Sara!" he would say. "You are such a TEASE! You're only giving me THIS MUCH!" *holds up thumb and forefinger, not that far apart* "I want all of you. Give me all of you."

Guys, I didn't know I could sing like this. All of my voice came out. All this soundIs this really me? It really is. "You're a senior?" he asked. I nodded. He looked me dead in the eye and said, "Time to grow up."

I've been experiencing this a lot lately. I've been feeling my voice pulled in about fifteen different directions because I'm experiencing what a friend calls vocal puberty. My voice is developing into what it will be. And it's my job to let it out. To show people what I've got. To give them all of me. And I want to. So I've decided that I will. Because it's time to grow up. It's time to be who I believe in my deepest heart I can be.

6. How to write a bangin' personal statement.

I am in the middle of applying for graduate school, and the sheer number of personal statements I am writing/have written could probably stop an ox. Just kidding -- it's actually only seven statements, but the fact that every single school wants a different one made me stare at my computer incredulously. I've written six so far -- I'm almost there! -- and I've gotten this thing down to a science. Essentially, a personal statement is humble-bragging on yourself. I'm pretty pleased with the number and caliber of the statements I've written so far, and I actually really enjoy the challenge of them. Really, though, I just love the opportunity to dream. And that's what this application process is: the chance to dream.

7. The Daily Examen

The Daily Examen is a process introduced by the monk St. Ignatius. At its core, it's simply a way to pray. The practice involves looking back on the day in the presence of God. I like to journal it: I write down what I'm thankful for, and I examine my emotions throughout the day. In this process, God often reveals some sin to me, and that offers an opportunity for repentance. During this quiet time at the end of the day, He also shows me areas He's pushing me to grow. He shows me that during my days, I'm not paying attention to how I feel, what I think, my very heart. The Examen teaches me to pay attention.

8. I don't need Netflix!

Last spring I discovered that whenever I watch Netflix, I feel gross: like a subhuman recluse. Since then, I have watched it less and less, until I've essentially stopped altogether. So a couple of nights ago I canceled my Netflix subscription (gasp). I don't use it, and that's $8.99 that could be spent better elsewhere (hello, groceries). I feel so free! It's like I'm finally getting away from the screens! But that's another blog post.


What about you? What has God been teaching you this month? How is He calling to your heart? I'd love to hear about it!