© 2019 by Chloe Youtsey.

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The Take-Off

January 22, 2018

 

It is a misconception that simply because my dad is a pilot, I must like flying. Nothing could be further from the truth. (Sorry dad, mad respect.)

 

To qualify, I do like airports. I've been to many around the world. Nothing like a colorful dose of assorted strangers to remind you how wonderfully weird we all are. Healthy human bean varieties. #jellybelly

 

I like the glamor of suits and the click of high heels and overhearing different languages and dads with baby slings and families of five trying to stay in tight formation and the hum of rolling wheels and the constant subdued fear that my flight has been cancelled or delayed or I've been pushed to the very back row of the plane. 

 

I like getting my passport stamped--if they actually decide to stamp it when they're supposed to. (My New Zealand trip this past summer resulted in zero new stamps. Robbed.)

 

And I like landing...I like surviving my flights. Who doesn't love those little pretzel packs.

 

But I don't love taking off. 

 

If I don't close my eyes and vehemently pretend I never left the real world where gravity stays the same and pressure doesn't pump my skull like a stress ball, the rest of the flight will be spent simply trying to restore equilibrium. The take-off is crucial. After that I'm gucci. (Shout out to Dramamine, for being my drug of choice since childhood. I know, I know, drugs are bad.)

 

I traveled something silly like 34,000 miles last year just adding all my connecting flights together from Charlottesville to Dallas to Aukland to Christchurch to Sydney to LAX to Norfolk to New Jersey to Denver to Austin...in not that order. On Wednesday, I start my flight count for 2018. Last year there were four. 

 

But this first one is special, because I'm leaving on a jet plane and with a one-way ticket.

Dunno when I'll be back again.

 

(Had to.)

 

 

For context;

 

In November 2016, a friend of mine approached me with the idea for a missions trip he was trying to organize for our church (Lesgo DUCC!) I lived overseas for 8 years as a kid, so you don't have to explain why international travel is great.

Plus, the Great Commission. I'm about it.

 

By December the trip had been secured through Ten Days Missions, and the focus group would be college students. My heart had already said "yes" before the location was announced at the interest meeting: New Zealand. (Shout out to my Christchurch peeps.) #burn2018

 

Even though I was nearly around the bend in fulfilling my Jazz degree, I was looking at the future inwardly unsure and a little pessimistic of how exactly I would fit into the world economy (I'm a very special case, I know.) 

 

As an alternative to music, I seriously toyed with the idea of full-time campus mission work, encountering young adults at the most crucial point in their lives with the love of God. And it would mean sorta giving up my passion in order to serve the Lord, which seemed pretty Christian-y. (I've been helped by countless people in my life with that kind of testimony.)

 

Surviving simply through musical means felt (will always feel, I imagine) a little too good to be true. By the time graduation rolled around, the Lord had given me three things to wait on Him for.

 

               1. Community: like-minded people actively engaged in seeking the lost

               2. Opportunity: somewhere to play and learn

               3. Explicit Invitation

 

I didn't imagine departing from my family for some big city simply to gain exposure, despite suggestions from a few counselors. I just knew there needed to be greater purpose.

 

I committed to that trip as much to share the gospel with the hungry as to hear from God which direction I was supposed to take.

 

The months leading up to New Zealand and those days on the ground were adventures all in themselves; however, you nor I have the attention span for me to fully unpack either right now. 

 

But I can't tell you why I'm moving to Austin without starting back in New Zealand. If I hadn't been there, I wouldn't be going now.

 

Of all things, I was performing in front of a bouncy house, on a very nippy day in July (this is the other side of the equator we're talking) at a community outreach event when several friends (campus missionaries from Austin) said, "Girl, you need to come down where we are."

 

I'm generally a play-it-safe, use-both-hands, grab-a-coaster sort of person, so moving halfway across the country did not strike me like a match the first time it was suggested.

 

That playful suggestion became very serious when a different Austinite explicitly and boldly invited me to consider being a full-time campus missionary and roll with the crew down there, in the "Music Capital of the World."

 

Hmm. Community, opportunity, invitation. That's odd.

 

I said yes to the idea, the whole package. Mission work, Texas, moving.  A month after we landed I leveled my bank account to $0.00 to buy a round-trip plane ticket. Tells you how wealthy I was.

 

A week before going I was against the whole idea. Anti-Texas. I was like, "Nope, not me. Not leaving. Can't make me." The day before my flight, I reconciled to at least humor God and be open to being persuaded MAYBE to go.

 

I couldn't expect Him to drag anything across a banner in the sky if I was already determined to decide the outcome myself.

 

I showed up on a Wednesday, shadowed my missionary friend all of Thursday and hounded the man with questions, playing both the optimistic inquisitor and devil's advocate. He's the Man. He was patient and exhaustively thorough in his answers, and I hated feeling like I had come all this way to waste his time, being intellectually gung-ho but deep down unable to find the heart's resolve to commit. It felt close but still not quite cigar-worthy. #cymbalcrash

 

That Thursday evening, our friends took me out to the Elephant Room in downtown Austin, a shwanky speakeasy style bar in Austin famed for its live music. They were like, "We're going to this place cuz it's got good jazz," and I was like, "Word." I had never heard of it before.

 

Disclaimer: I'm playing perpetual catch-up to the "who's who" of the jazz world, and I'm not afraid to admit it anymore. The more I learn I realize the less that I know.

 

 

There was this solid combo playing that night, fronted by trombonist Andre Hayward.  I lingered by the front for a little bit, eager to mark this whirlwind trip with at least an attempt to ask to sit in on a tune. You know, what brave people do, or people faking being brave, like me! They were too good!

 

Long story short: I eventually gave up the attempt after a discouraging conversation with one of the sidemen. I remember rolling my eyes to the ceiling going, "Alright Lord, I didn't come here to do this anyways, it's good. If you are cool with me singing you're going to have to make it happen, cause I'm not going to be a diva."  And I retreated to the back of the bar.

 

So it was wonderful when Andre asked me what song I wanted to do after my table caught him walking out the door and suggested he let me sing.

 

That song lead to another song, and then an invitation to sit it on another show elsewhere that weekend by a gentleman who represented the Austin Jazz Society.

And just lots of hope and laughter and gratitude in my heart. 

 

 

 

There's more to this story, but certain details have yet to be fully developed (hence this handy dandy Blog.)

 

As it is, I've probably shared too much. I could choose to keep my dreams to myself out of a self protection mechanism that doesn't want to be perceived as a fool. But as it stands, I'm going back specifically to pursue a musical career because that felt like the Lord saying, "I'm alright with this," kinda like what He said to me my freshman spring of Undergrad.

 

I'll tell you what though, that following Monday, after another great time at Chez Zee with Mr. Hayward and a few other hip Austin ki-zats, I showed up again to the Elephant Room because it was a designated jam session night.

 

Under hot red lights, after having been barked at by the stressed-out waitress, specifying the wrong key to the group (I gave the first chord! Not the same thing!) and in the middle of an invasive piano player, a trombonist soloing in another key, and Chloe singing in an uncomfortably high range just straining to make it work, I had this strange, beautiful peace: that this was exactly the sort of ending my larger-than-life trip to Austin needed. It was reality going, "Hello, remember me? You can't expect to look or feel glamorous. This is sweaty. This is work." 

 

I felt like a real fool. But it was so worthwhile, because I practiced all those things you never have to do when things go well.

 

Don't freak out. Make it work. Use this to your advantage. Don't let on that your stressed. Don't be a diva. Don't blame other people. LAUGH when it's all over cause you survived.

 

The waitress and I are fine, by the way, she was understandably stressed. (PSA: Tip your darn waiters, people.)

 

I have no idea what I'm getting into, and basically no plans when I get there expect to pray and wait and and learn and try and go and just keep going. I'm the least reliable variable in this plan, not the Lord. 

 

 

To cope with uncomfortable take-offs, I have to remind myself what is real in order not to be overcome by the momentary changes in environmental factors and internal sensations.

 

So akin to how we must operate knowing the Lord's overarching desires for our lives, lest we get sucked into what the world tells us to strive for or operate under.  If I strive to do well to the point that it costs me inward peace, joy, and humility, then I'm doing it wrong. 

 

I'm aware of all of this, and I don't think I'm beyond future err. Whatever path He establishes, I'm going to do my best to just let Him.

 

I obviously want to do well. I obviously want to sing. I'm expecting a lot from God, because I don't believe in coincidences, and I know He is good, so it is just like Him to allow me have that thing that is too good to be true. That is like, trademark God. #godtm

 

But I have to keep my priorities in order. The next few months should be interesting.

 

I'm grateful for the community I am walking into, the family I'm leaving behind, the friends in New Zealand, Mosaic's heart for the lost (church in Austin,) my gracious host family, the chance to learn more and grow this slippery musical craft, my past mentors, and the explicit invitation. He gave me everything I was looking for, and then some.

 

I just have to get through the take-off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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