full of hope

“I love this,” said my mom, looking up at the mural my aunt Martha painted on my bedroom wall when I was in middle school. Scrawled above my name reads the verse I’ve held close to my heart since I was a little girl, Hebrews 11:1 — Faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do not see.

“It’s so full of hope,” she said.

I laid across from my mom on my childhood bed just minutes before taking off for the airport to start the rest of my life. It was the only time she and I had alone since Christmas. I remember really seeing her in that moment. Seeing her for the woman she is.

I have the double-edged gift/curse of not feeling the full weight of heavy moments. In instances of intense stress or deep heartache, I am rarely crippled to the core. But when it comes to moments of great joy and unspeakable beauty, I rarely see it to the full extent.

But in this moment, I felt it all. My busy mind quieted long enough to notice the woman laying across from me. Her raven hair messy from a chaotic morning, her face untouched by makeup. She’s always beautiful, but right then and there, she was immaculate.

So I snapped a quick photo of her on my iPhone.

“Try it again, you blinked.”

“Beautiful.” And as you can see from the photo above, she is.

As I lay in my empty childhood bedroom with the woman who raised me, I was filled with an unexplainable sense of hope. I’ve gone on a series of grand adventures in my short 21 years. Adventures that took me to new cities where I didn’t know a soul. But the next chapter of my life would be riskiest of them all — where the rubber would meet the road. No more training wheels. Even still, I did not feel a trace of anxiety or uncertainty.

Just hope.

So I kissed my mother and said goodbye, thanking her for daring me to dream and for always telling me, “yes” — “yes” at eight years old asking for Hollywood and “yes” at 18 asking for Washington.

And so I left, full of relentless hope. Hope that the Lord would open and close doors where he saw fit. Hope for a future.

———

Three weeks ago, a mentor of mine asked me what I wanted to be doing in five years, what my dream job was.  I told him I wanted to be running a press shop on the Hill. On Monday, I’ll begin doing just that.

“I never want to forget this feeling,” I told my parents with tears in my eyes.

My mom quickly replied, “Write it down, Faith.”

Battle Born

May 7, 2017 — I’m sitting in an apartment that is not mine as I type on a computer that is not mine. I turned in my apartment key twenty minutes ago, and my laptop is buried in the back of Lauren’s Jeep Liberty. I wasn’t sure when I’d post this, but something about this moment feels right. I graduated college last night. The weight of that sentence is a quantity I have not yet fully felt. Although it is the beginning of my adult life, my heart is heavy over the closing of my college years. I’m in an odd place, really. Every person I love here has more time. One more year to love one another.

I’ll keep this quick because Lauren is on her way back from the gas station and I have yet to say goodbye to Allison. The words below are nothing Allison and Lauren have not heard before. I consistently tell them how badly I love them. I tell them all the time. But I am a writer, so I would be remiss if I did not put on public record how those two women have changed my life.

————

April 22, 2017 — We go off to college and we change. I don’t recognize the Faith Vander Voort of three years ago. I just don’t. I see pictures of her, and it feels like I’m looking at an old friend with whom I’ve long lost contact with. My family has seen this transformation in snippets, fragments over Christmas breaks and FaceTime calls. Only two people laid beside me in the trenches the whole way. In a time when everything was always changing at a staggering rate, they were my only constant.

I truly believe the English language has failed us with the word friend. I call the boy at the campus coffee shop who knows my order by heart my friend, but I also use the same term to describe my three brothers. The variance in importance to me between the Coffee Boy and the Vander Voort Boys is colossal, so why on earth are we only given one word to fit pretty much all relationships we view as positive?

Allison Chenoweth and Lauren Sweet are not my friends. To call them my friends would be an insult to our relationship, a slap in the face to everything we have gone through, and throwing the word “best” before it is no consolation, either.

The three of us left Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana to see who we might become. Any semblance of familiarity or family would require a plane ride, so we fought to create our own familiarity — our own family.

We each walked through extended periods of tremendously dark days at different times along the way. I will not pretend like these have been an easy three years. While I do believe our Snapchat stories and Instagram profiles accurately reflect our overwhelmingly positive experience at Azusa Pacific University, we certainly did not show you the parts of our lives that we ourselves did not wish to see.

Mine happened sophomore year. I was hiding under the covers in my bed at Georgetown University on the phone with Allison and Lauren. An entire continent lay between us, but they were my first call. They are always my first call.

Allison’s happened in the spring of freshman year. I sat beside Lauren on her dorm room bed looking down at a quiet, broken blonde with sad eyes. I wanted so badly to take her pain and make it my own. It was torture to see someone I loved so dearly go through something I could not fix.

Lauren’s happened earlier this year. Lauren, out of all of us, hides her heart in a place that is tough to find. But we fought for that girl. We fought hard to meet her where she was in order to carry her out of it. I distinctly remember looking at Allison one morning before Lauren was awake and saying, “It never once crossed my mind not to fight for her. Giving up on Lauren never even occurred to me.” Walking away was not an option.

But the dark days are not what define the three of us — the in-between moments do. You know, those precious times at the end of the day when you’re weary, stripped of every ounce of facade you have carried, and you are just… you. Those are the moments I cherish most, the moments I will gravely miss.

————

To the Reader: I apologize. I have just expressed my sincerest admiration for two people whom I have not introduced you to. Let me take a moment to tell you who they are.

————

Allison Joy Chenoweth. I met Allison on the first day of freshman orientation. She was wearing a blue headband, and I remember thinking she had a funny voice. Everyone warned me that the first friends I make in college will not be the ones I stick with, but boy were they wrong.

Allison is the definition of a good friend. She loves people well and serves without ever expecting anything in return. In fact, she is out feeding the homeless as I type this (Literally, that’s not a joke. She does it every Saturday). She is authentic in the way she loves others, never afraid to say the hard things that Lauren and I desperately need to hear.

Allison is a compass. That is the very best word to describe her. She knows who she is, she knows where she stands, and she knows what is right. Furthermore, you can always count on Allison to take the high road, the straight and narrow — to head North. Allison is good to the core.

She is a simple woman in the very best way. She stops to take pictures of pink flowers and sings the words to The 1975 in public, knowing full well she can’t carry a tune. For her birthday, all she asked for was a beach chair. She has her ears pierced, but she never wears earrings. She craves the sunlight and orders her coffee black. She reads books about Jesus and she marks up the pages. She aches for a Midwest autumn, and she calls Lauren and me, “Home.” When she is truly content, absolutely satisfied, she sighs and says, “I could ask for nothing more.” She wears Vans when the other girls are wearing heels.

She is golden.

————

Lauren Gretchen Sweet. I met Lauren the first weekend of school. Allison and I were sitting on the roof of our dorm building when she told me she met someone from Minnesota on her hall. “She’s quiet, but seems cool.” The next day, the three of us went to church in Downtown Los Angeles, and that was it. That’s all it took. It was then that we decided we didn’t need anything more than what we had.

No one makes me laugh the way Lauren makes me laugh. Last night, she went to Goodwill by herself and purchased an XXXL t-shirt that says, “Better to have loved and lost than to be stuck with a jerk,” and she wouldn’t stop raving about the price she got it for. Going on and on about how much of a “steal” it was, like she would have purchased it regardless of the price.

If you met Lauren today, you wouldn’t see any of this. In fact, she, the funniest person in the world to me, may not even make you laugh. She only gives the best parts of herself to those who earn it, and I think that’s what makes our friendship so special. Over the past three years, I have seen the real Lauren Sweet unfold before me, piece by piece, and I am the better for it.

Lauren is a series of beautifully crafted layers carefully tucked away. She is the perfect counterpart to Allison — riddled with intricacies and complexities. Lauren is the life of the party, every party. And man, can that girl dance. Lauren is the person who makes a house a home. She fills her walls with pages of The New Yorker and makes bouquets out of paper flowers. She covers her arms with temporary tattoos she found at the dollar store. She laughs at silly jokes and does her makeup in a broken mirror. She collects beautiful cards with zero intention to write anything inside of them.

There is no one in this world like Lauren Sweet.

————

Tomorrow is Allison’s 21st birthday, and while she is out saving the world and feeding the homeless, Lauren is at Party City buying leis and streamers for the Hawaiian-themed birthday party we are about to throw her in their new apartment. Remember that beach chair she asked for for her birthday? We literally designed an entire party around that dumb chair, and it’s going to be so great.

I was going to use this time in the house alone to write my senior thesis, but I got distracted and started going through old pictures on Facebook, of course. Then I came across this particular photo:

Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 11.30.22 AM

It was taken on that first day, after church. I’m not certain what prompted me to take a photo with these two perfect strangers, but I’m glad I did. The distance between our bodies in this picture cracks me up. Their hair was longer and my eyebrows were bigger… just a few babies. When I saw it, I clicked “share” and began to type a brief sentimental comment. But no matter how much I typed, there was always more to say, so here we are. Two thousand words later.

————

I mentioned my gripe with the English language for only giving us one word to describe those we love, and the only alternative descriptor of our relationship that I can come up with is battle born. Nevada is known as the Battle Born State because it was admitted to the Union during the Civil War, and I find that to be extremely fitting because we, too, endured our own individual civil wars when we left home. A battle between the young girls we once were and the women we were trying to become. And it was in that state of distress that our relationships were formed. We are battle born.

————

Lauren and Allison are both home now, so I’ll wrap this up and tuck it away tightly in my drafts until our final hours. Today is about celebrating Allison’s 21st birthday, so I need to stop crying.

To Greg and Tammy Chenoweth and Greg and Janet Sweet, thank you for your daughters. People joke that the more time you spend with someone, the more you become like them, but I don’t think it’s a joke. I will carry pieces of Lauren Sweet and Allison Chenoweth with me in the way I love, the way I cope and the way I heal for the rest of my life.

To Lauren and Allison, thank you. I love you so, so, so bad. It is with immense sadness that I close this chapter. I pray your last year treats you well — may it be filled with precious memories and solid new friends. I wish so badly to see it firsthand, but this is where I leave you.

 

Sincerely Yours,

Faith C. Vander Voort

 

 

P.S. I could ask for nothing more.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 2.59.08 PM

my daughter’s America

 

Photo Courtesy: Creative Commons Flickr

This piece is featured in APU’s newspaper, the Clause.

Faith Vander Voort

All too often, we hear how monumental it would be for our future daughters if Hillary were to win on Nov. 8, to grow up in a world where a brave woman paved the way for them to serve in a powerful capacity.

I am the first to admit that I wish so badly for a woman to sit in the highest seat in the free world one day, but for the sake of our daughters, I pray that woman is not Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Hillary’s America will teach our daughters that it takes beating down other women to get her crown.

My daughter will grow up outwardly rejecting the God-ordained gift of love between a man and a woman because she belongs to a nation where women paint men as pigs. But inwardly, she will sincerely believe that she is incapable of greatness without a man going before her.

Hillary tells our daughters they can do it on their own when she spent her entire career riding the coattails of a man to get a seat at the table.

My daughter will quickly master when to leverage her femininity to her advantage and when to pretend it is merely a social construct rather than something God blessed her with. Her femininity will be used to seek special treatment rather than equality.

She will learn that only weak women apologize, that there is frailty in honesty and integrity.

Hillary’s America will teach my daughter that the unborn do not have a voice. She will believe her body has no moral bounds and that an unwanted pregnancy is merely an easily rectifiable inconvenience.

She will see that the law of the land doesn’t apply to wealthy elites and that graft and corruption are the well-deserved perks of the powerful.

My daughter will view the Constitution solely as a faded piece of paper rather than the supreme law of the United States of America.

Her land of the free will be slave to big government and grand overreach, and her home of the brave will celebrate violent riots of masked marchers and looters.

Her military will no longer be the strongest in the world, and the servicemen who risk their lives for her freedom will receive Vietnam-era homecomings.

Instead, let’s raise our daughters to be fighters, writers and path-lighters. To be fierce pursuers of truth and justice. Let’s teach them that cherishing their femininity does not require denigrating masculinity, and that there is honor in taking responsibility for their faults. Let’s raise our daughters to lead lives of principle, and may they grow up to be patriots and poets, leaders and lovers.

May my daughter’s America not be Hillary’s America.

something worth fighting for

 

Photo courtesy: Creative Commons Flickr

 

This piece was originally featured in APU’s newspaper, the Clause.

Faith Vander Voort

“She’ll always be worth fighting for,” retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell said at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

No matter who holds the majority in the House or the Senate, no matter who sits in the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the United States of America will always be worth fighting for.

This is not a war cry or a call to battle. Fighting for America does not always look like an Uncle Sam poster commanding an 18-year-old out of a civic slumber and onto the front lines. It does not always mean trading a baseball cap and a student ID for a military-grade buzz-cut and a Desert Camo AR-15.

Fighting for America is one’s relentless pursuit to keep the faith and preserve the America that tore herself in two so the slaves could live as free people, the America that breathed fire into the belly of German communism and immortalized the words “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

The dark shadow that sits so heavily on our nation’s shoulders is not cast from the division of red or blue, Republican or Democrat. The eerie feeling that manifests within every red-blooded American’s gut as they read the headline “South Carolina playground shooting” is not the result of a political Facebook rant or a Trump-Pence yard sign. That’s because the problem does not stem from an opinionated, passionate America. The issue lies in the lap of the indifferent.

So shame on those who shy away from conflict because it’s uncomfortable. Shame on those who don’t speak up for fear of offending someone.

The body of Christ isn’t called to turn a blind eye from the injustices of this world. The Bible is clear that Christians are to stand up for the weak in the face of evil, as Isaiah 61:8 states, “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.”

There is a common theme of justice and the gift of righteousness in the Bible. Proverbs 21:15 states, “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.”

So allow the injustices of this world, the wickedness of the evildoers, to light a fire inside of you. Let the actions of others drive you to be a change agent for good, because this country is always worth fighting for.

finding Faith

Four months doesn’t really seem like a long time, does it? January, February, March and April. My “inner Iowa” translates that to, “Freezing, just-as-freezing, a tease of a little warm plus more freezing, then beautiful with the occasional blizzard.” But these last four months have been more than filler between Christmas and summer for me – they served as a time for me to become a student of self, my Creator and the world He put me in.

As a list-maker, planner and doer, I thought I had myself figured out. After 20 years of being Faith Vander Voort, the girl with a mess of curls and a passionately opinionated heart, I am only now beginning to learn who I am.

Here at faithvandervoort.com, we talk about periods of transition. Why? BECAUSE I AM THE QUEEN OF TRANSITION.

 

Iowa, Los Angeles, DC, Iowa, Los Angeles, DC…. (repeat).

 

You get the picture – I move a lot. It’s hard.

 

Transition periods have become the norm for me, and each one has shown me devastatingly low valleys. But the thing about these valleys is they do not come without the most breathtakingly beautiful mountaintops on either side.

 

Now, I’d like to address the elephant in the room for those of you who have been following my journey throughout the years: “I thought this chick wanted to be an actress. What the heck is she doing in politics?”

 

Great question, I’m glad you asked.

 

I told you that I thought I had myself figured out, didn’t I? Well, for 18 years I was set on Hollywood and nothing else. Every fiber of my being believed that God’s purpose for my life was to use me as a light in the very dark world of the entertainment business. So when the time came to move out of the house, I packed up my Nissan Murano with everything I thought I would need but never actually did and trekked across the country to Southern California with Mom riding shotgun.

All the necessary steps were taken: I had signed with an agency, had new headshots taken, attended workshops and went to auditions, casting calls and fittings. It didn’t take me long to realize that I hated acting, but it took an excruciatingly long time to admit that I did.

Every time my agent’s name would pop up on my phone, I would cringe and begin to prematurely think of any excuse possible to not attend whatever audition or fitting she had submitted me for. I felt like a fraud continuing to pursue something that I no longer found joy in, and that’s where the downward spiral of unhappiness began.

My mind kept going back to a miniature fork in the road I experienced days after my high school graduation party. I was just getting into House of Cards on Netflix and I became so obsessed with it that I made a rule for myself: anytime Faith Vander Voort sits down to watch House of Cards she will write graduation thank-you notes.

As I sat one evening with pen in hand and eyes on Claire Underwood, my mom, seeing how infatuated I was, asked me, “Faith, would you rather be the people playing the characters in this show or do you want to actually live their lives?”

 

Whoa.

 

I didn’t want to play their characters, I wanted to be them (aside from the affairs, murders, drugs, etc…), but I knew that my answer should be that I wanted to play their roles.

“I would rather be them in real life,” I admitted.

Interesting.”

 

The seed was planted.

_______

Back to fraudulent freshman Faith. I had absolutely no idea where to go or what to do with my life. Without acting, who was I and what would I do? What else was I even good at? When I thought about post-graduation, I saw a black wall. For 18 years I had a clear vision of the path my life would take, but now… nothing. My self worth fell beneath my feet and my insecurities reached new heights. My family was worried about me.

In early November, I had told my friends I didn’t feel well so that I could be alone while my roommates were gone for soccer. I sat at my desk in tears trying to muster up the courage to call my parents and ask if I could quit acting and pursue politics. They had invested so much time and money into my acting dream that I felt like a living disappointment to my mom and dad.

I remember trying to articulate my feelings over the phone without sounding like a blubbering, hyperventilating mess, “Would it be okay if I quit acting and apply for a semester at Georgetown?”

“Of course, Bunny.”

My dad’s loving tone instantaneously liberated me from every bit of crippling shame I felt about letting a dying dream go. The next morning I began the application process to Georgetown University and the office of Representative Steve King.

And so began the rest of my life.

_______

Today I sit at my kitchen table in Azusa, California, a different Faith Vander Voort than the one you’ve been reading about. Through placing my identity in something of this world and then losing it all, I found Christ.

Through Him, I learned that every dream and every passion is valid, and I don’t say that to be cliché.  The Bible assures me that He gently pieced together all of the delicate, inner parts of my body inside my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and that He has every wild, curly hair on my head numbered because he CARES for me (Luke 12:7).

So if He took that much care into making you exactly who you are, He did the same thing when choosing the desire of your heart. Your dreams are valid. Your passions are valid. They are just as valid as your name, your birthday and the number of hairs upon your head. No matter how “big-time” or “small-time” they may appear to you or to other people, they were intentionally chosen for you with a purpose.

But listen to me carefully; this is important. Do not let it destroy you if God takes away your dream. He gave it to you, so it is His to take away as He sees fit. Abraham dreamed his whole life for a son, and God gave him Isaac – a beautiful, healthy son to carry on Abraham’s family name. But one day, God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and even though it broke his heart, Abraham climbed the mountain.

We now know that God stayed his hand before he could follow through, but that doesn’t mean He will stop you from burning your dream on a mountaintop.

 

My acting dreams are scattered like ashes atop the San Gabriel Mountains, but I know that my God creates beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). He gave me a new dream.

_______

I am excited to announce that the Queen of Transition will be going through yet another, wait for it… transition. I have accepted an offer to work for The Heritage Foundation’s publication The Daily Signal in Washington DC this summer.

He is a good, good Father.

xoxo,

Faith

 

 

just being honest.

I double-check that my alarm is set. Quickly cringe at the ungodly number looking back at me and set it just a bit earlier – that way I have a few more taps on the old snooze button. Shut off the lights, stumble over a rogue pair of shoes and crawl into bed.

I stare at the black ceiling and say that prayer I’ve stumbled over a thousand times… “Thank you, Lord, for another day with my family…” My attempt at a prayer is simply out of obligation and half-hearted habit.

Sigh.

Without a second thought, I reach for my phone. Remaining on my back, I tilt my neck into an uncomfortable angle so that I don’t pull the charger out of the wall – all for just one last reminder that I’m unsatisfied before I end my day.

This cycle of unhappiness is a funny thing, really. A month ago I’d tell you that I wanted nothing more than to see my family after five months of being a family via FaceTime. I suppose that once we decide we have experienced what we needed to validate ourselves wherever we are, we choose to look forward to the next phase of life.

Stop. Tomorrow will come soon enough. By constantly living life in a series of “in-between” stages, we automatically forfeit our own happiness and lose sight of who is important to us. A few nights ago I made the conscious decision to live in the now, and I fell in love with my closest allies all over again.

———–

 

1/8/2016

 

I pay close attention to my mom’s face as she tells an embarrassing story to Tamra and Katelyn as if they were her own daughters. One hand on Tamra’s shoulder and the other demonstratively supporting her story. She can’t get through it without laughing, so I laugh too. 

Mom’s story propels Tamra into laughter – her turn for an embarrassing memory.

Katelyn’s phone lights up, but she forgets it’s even there. Mom’s phone buzzes too, but she doesn’t notice either, eyes glued on Tamra. God knows I wish I could remember what she was talking about.

A text message from my homeward bound father pops up on my mom’s phone next to me. Something about the roads being icy … just landed in Sioux Falls … he’ll drive careful … be home late … 1 4 3 (I love you). I smile to myself. In my 20 years I’ve never once questioned if he loved her, something I often take for granted, but not tonight.

To Katelyn’s right sat Wyatt and Angela at the kitchen’s bar in their own little world, as if no one else was in the room. I am a girl that is not easily impressed, but I liked Angela the moment I met her.  A woman after my own heart. She is strong, smart, funny and beautiful, but most importantly, she makes Wyatt happy – something I can tell by his face in this very moment.

Wyatt, my best friend and closest comrade. The strong man with a boy’s heart who never fails to make me feel like the best person in the universe. I always thought I’d hate the woman who captured Wyatt’s heart, but as he played with Angela’s faulty Kate Spade bracelet and told her he loved her, I’ve never been happier for him.

 Today was a simple day turned simple night that ended with a card game on my living room floor and stories beginning with “remember when…” Now everyone is asleep and I sit here with a smile on my face. I decided that today would be a good one, and so it was.

After I save my words and file today away with the rest, I will come before God and say,

“Thank you, Lord, for another day with my family…”

 

and mean every word.

 

xoxo,

Faith

 

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑