Jessica Christine Musgrove

Author. Singer. Actress.
My King is a dragon-slayer.

What Did I Expect?

I expected my first day of kindergarten to be the best day ever. Rather than clinging to my parents’ legs, I ran into the classroom and waved goodbye, not even looking behind me as they left. My first day of kindergarten, I was sent home with a frowny face because I wouldn’t join the line-up of other students once recess was over. I didn’t want recess to be over. This was supposed to be the best day ever! That meant recess all day, right? I remember feeling ashamed but thankful that my parents sat me down and gently told me that yes, my teacher did have authority over me. Lesson learned.

I expected that, in second grade, when I switched from public school to a private Christian school, I would finally have lots of friends. I walked into the new school and classroom with a smile on my face, determined to be liked and accepted. I wasn’t. It seemed the “weird” label was attached to my forehead, and, in truth, it was. Raised with a brother who is sixteen years my senior, I learned to play quite well by myself. Playing with others did not come as naturally, and, with my overactive imagination, I loved to play pretend how I wanted, and the other students’ opinions were wrong. So, I was weird. I can still remember the pang of when I first heard a group of girls say, “No one wants to play with you.” I was weird and lonely and learned to be quiet. I thought it was better that way.

I expected to win the role of Ramona in “Ramona and Beezus” at the King Opera House in the third grade. But at the auditions, I had no clue how to read a play. I’d never read one before and became too confused over the stage cues versus the dialogue. I froze. I failed. I stammered. I told myself, “Never again.”

In the sixth grade, I expected my solo during the Christmas play to be absolutely wonderful and joy-filled. Sixth grade was the year I and my parents first realized I could sing. My music teacher gave me a solo song as King Herod’s wife. I had auditioned in front of all the students who thought me weird and had won! Singing quickly became a solace and a joy. But the next day during lunch, a group of girls came and asked if I would give up the solo so another girl could have it. For the first time, I found the courage to say no. I stood my ground, and it had felt good. Yet the night of the play, I learned from a friend that the backup dancers/singers, many of whom were that same group of girls, planned on singing as loud as they could so I wouldn’t be heard. With the support of my family, I determined to sing with confidence and not be ashamed. And I did. It was wonderful, but it was also painful just the same. Still, singing had given me this fire, this new confidence, and I knew I couldn’t (and wasn’t supposed to) let it go.

In junior high school, the three Christian schools in the area merged and became Union Christian Academy. So many precious memories were made there. I expected to overcome my shyness, but in 7th grade, who was I kidding? I remember trying out for the cheerleading squad and failing miserably. I remember comparing myself to all the volleyball players who mastered the overhand serve when I never could. I remember my frizzy hair and my glasses and my braces and my acne. I remember not having a clue how to wear makeup (and apparently, how to pick out a cute outfit). I had no idea how to be like the other girls, even though I so desperately wanted to be just like them. Same clothes, same hairstyle, same athletic abilities… Besides singing (and writing in solitude), I didn’t know who I was. Or who I was supposed to be. I expected to overcome my shyness but ended up recoiling even more due to my own lack of confidence.

High school days were better, but the same voices of doubt and self-consciousness still made me quiet. I had built this wall around me that I lowered for very few people.

In college, I expected to major in Vocal Music Performance but one semester in felt a tug to switch to Musical Theatre. To not only sing but act. At least then I knew how to read a play. Thank goodness! Performing in the ensemble of “The Magic Flute” my freshman year of college ignited another fire. The fire of theatre. Of memorizing lines and learning choreography and staying up late and being fitted for costumes and learning stage makeup and trying new things onstage to learn what works and what doesn’t. Sophomore year, I switched to Musical Theatre. And I was so afraid. How was a shy girl who had never acted a day in her life supposed to succeed on stage?? The whole point of acting is to make yourself vulnerable, to embarrass yourself for the sheer fun of it! Why was I doing this? But there it was again, this determination to do it, even though the odds weren’t in my favor.

Sophomore year of college, I was thrown into deep water and told I must sink or swim. I had a theatre professor who loved quoting Samuel Beckett: “Try and fail. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” That’s life. When life kicks you in the gut, and it will, do you stay down or do you stand up again and continue the journey? I’ve stayed down plenty of times. I’ve also gotten back up and wiped the sweat from my forehead.

I fell in love with singing, even though others didn’t want me to. I fell in love with theatre, even though my personality used to be so opposite of the requirements. And let me tell you why:

Because so many of my own expectations fell through the cracks. I expected God to remove my struggle with loneliness. He didn’t. Instead, He taught me how to walk through it and focus on Him, forsaking my desire to be a popular kid. Through that struggle, I learned compassion and empathy and bravery. I expected God to take away my frizzy hair and awkwardness and acne and make me cool like other girls. He didn’t. Instead, He taught me to embrace who I am on the inside and learn to be a woman of grace. I am still learning this. It’s an every day climb, an every day adventure, an every day struggle.

After graduating from college, I expected to one day become a professional actress. God had other plans. While auditioning for a few professional theatre companies, I was more depressed than I had ever been before. That’s when God laid a story upon my heart. Writing became a stream in the desert, in the wilderness I was walking through. Messing up my plans even further, the Lord re-directed my plans of becoming a teacher and placed me as the Bible Study Administrator at First Baptist Church, having had no previous experience in a job like this.

Well, it’s not a job. It’s a ministry. Just like writing is a ministry. Just like sharing my struggles to those who might be experiencing the same struggles is a ministry.

In this season of my life, I’m still learning that my own expectations are not always part of God’s plan. I’m still learning that every day is a new day to rise and pray, “Okay Lord, what do You have in store for today?” For TODAY! Not for tomorrow. Without dwelling on the past, on past expectations that have fallen through the cracks, I am choosing to place my trust in God, who holds my future and gives me new mercies each day, requiring only that I have faith in Him by living and applying His Word to my present. To right now. To today at this very second!

What do I expect? I expect that God knows what He’s doing. I expect that God will always be faithful. I expect His plans for me are awesome. I expect that my expectations are pale in comparison to His story He is writing. I expect that there will be plenty more struggles He calls me to walk through, and I also know without a doubt He has been and will continue to walk with me through them all. In the waiting, He is training. In the battles, He is fighting. In the darkness, my Jesus lights the way. In moments of weakness, He is actually strengthening. In this present moment, He is so near it’s like I can feel His embrace and touch His promises. And I am grateful. Oh, how I am grateful.

Exodus 14:14 – “The LORD will fight for you, you need only be still.”


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