Written by Allie Sampson, Writer for Cageless Birds
Photographs by JD Gravitt
Last Thursday night, we began one of our favorite parts of the 18 Inch Journey: Open Mic Nights. These nights are a chance for the students to share their songs, poetry, art, photographs, dances and any other creative expression that they have found themselves coming alive in. Open Mic Nights are so special to us as a family because these are the moments where we get to celebrate the students, to champion their greatness and to affirm that they are seen and heard. We set aside three of these nights during the school and encourage all of the students to participate at least once. We believe in creating environments for the students to be seen and heard without any comparison– a place for them to share their voice in the safety of family.
So much of the 18 Inch Journey is discovering that we are not defined by our giftings. Though our gifts are a beautiful part of who we are, they do not make up our identity. We are sons and daughters first, loved before we ever set our hands to anything, believed in before we even attempt prove ourselves worthy. When we come to that place of confidence and security, knowing that the Father loves us and is proud of us regardless of our abilities or success, we can create and explore without the pressure to strive or produce. We are set free as artists when we step into our identity as beloved children.
There is nothing that excites our community more than seeing people walking in their true identity and embracing their gifts from a place of wholeness. The 18 Inch Journey students blew us away on Thursday night as they shared songs and poems that they had written. After sharing their heart, every student was met with a standing ovation and wild cheering as their fellow students and leaders celebrated their brilliance and their bravery. Standing ovations are not something we have taught these students, it’s simply something they began to initiate as they have learned to love, honor and celebrate their friends. We were joyfully overwhelmed by each of the students, as they shared with us and as they championed each other, walking out of comparison and into wholeness as confident, creative sons and daughters.