When I first decided, or rather was coerced by my parents, to attend Lutheran Summer Music Academy & Festival in the summer of 2010, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was nervous- no, I was more than nervous. I didn’t know anyone in Iowa, let alone Decorah. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to stand spending so much time doing music. I didn’t know if I was going to survive being away from home for so long. I was unconvinced about this whole endeavor, and in my mind those “I don’t know”s loomed large and ominous.
Most of those fears disappeared within the first two days, as I met people my age who loved church music (yes, they exist) and participated in high school ensembles and had regular social lives too. And, yes, I could do my own laundry. I could get to my classes on time and find a way to eat a few vegetables at meals. I could play music every day and I didn’t hate it. I could be away from home for 4 weeks. But there were other, less tangible, lessons LSM quietly instilled in me as well. I learned the value of music in my life, and the power of music for my faith. I learned what I valued in friendships and relationships. I learned self-determination and self-direction. All of these would later help smooth my transition to college. I had the time of my life that first summer, and I sobbed with everyone else at that concluding Festival Worship when I said goodbye. Within days (or was it only hours?) I was begging my parents to go back.
When I boarded a plane to the Midwest that summer, I didn’t know what LSM would come to mean to me. I didn’t know that I would meet my best friends there, that the community would laugh with me and teach me and surround me with love, that I would learn the joy of music as a community as well as an art. I didn’t know that this little community nestled in the heartland of our nation would be my refuge from the battles of the world, that one day I would write for the Online Daily Journal that LSM was my “heaven on earth” and mean it wholeheartedly, that in that community’s music I would be shown the incomprehensible love of a God who is present in a world that is sometimes unspeakably cruel. I couldn’t have known that because I was still a 14-year-old kid setting out on her own for the first time, and it was scary. And being scared is okay because “I don’t know” is scary. Certainly, there is risk in “I don’t know.” But there is also so much potential for joy, laughter, and love in those terrifying three little words. Looking back, LSM may have been the first place that taught me the invaluable lesson that risk can be worth it. I am so grateful to be a part of this community and to have been shaped by its love.