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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmastime

This is one of my favorite seasons.  I love the snow (when we have it), the lights, the smells, the music, the spirit of giving.  Christmas is beautiful.

I'm still a little kid when it comes to Christmas.  :P  I get giddy when I hear Christmas music and hide my impatience when it takes longer than I'd like to get to opening my presents.  :P

However, this Christmas is going to be less than normal.  First of all, I haven't been home (compared to previous years), so I've missed a lot of the planning, especially for our big family Christmas party.  I feel like Christmas has snuck up...just suddenly appeared waving it's red and green flag and shouting, "Hello!  Hello!  Are you paying attention to me?!"

Second, is our Christmas tradition.  We always took breakfast to Maamaa on Christmas morning.  We started doing that when I was ten or eleven (I think), back when she lived on the farm.  We continued doing it every year even after she moved next door to my grandmother.  But this year...suddenly that tradition can't be carried on...

Or can it?

Tomorrow morning, we're taking breakfast to Maamaa: bacon, eggs, and biscuits and gravy. We're going to leave her a plate at her grave.  Breakfast with Maamaa will still be happening this year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 9th, 2012

I don't even know where to begin...I've been putting this blog post off for over a week...I've getting teary-eyed already.  I don't want to write this...but I need to.  I need to get these words out of my mind.  I just feel like...once I "publish" this...it will finalize Maamaa's death...and make it true and real...and I don't want to do that.  So bear with me if things don't make sense as I write, because I'm pretty positive they won't.

Sunday, December 9th, 2012, a day that I will never forget.  It was emotionally exhausting.  I woke up with a slightly stopped-up nose and a weird stomach ache.  Mom came in a little bit before we left to find me lying on my bed.

"Are you okay?" she asked me.

I sat up.  "My stomach hurts..."  I leaned my head on her shoulder and teared up a little.  "I don't want to do this."  I'd been so much more at peace because I knew I was coming home to grieve with my family, but as soon as the day came...all of that peace left me.

Once we got to the funeral home, and I saw my grandmother, I immediately gravitated toward her, gave her a hug and cried into her shoulder.  She seemed so much more together than I was, which didn't make sense in  my emotional mind.  This was her mother!  "She's gone home honey," she told me over and over, rubbing my back and trying to calm me down.  It just made me cry harder. "She's gone home."

She's gone home...that statement still makes me cry.  I know she's in a much better place, better than any of us could ever imagine, but I never thought of heaven as her home...but here, with us...her family.

My cousin Jonny, who's been my after school buddy for the past three years or so, came up behind me and held tight to me.  It was a long time before he let go.

Mom came up and asked if I wanted to go "take the tour"; walk along the row of flowers to view the casket.

"No, not yet," I replied, pulling my hands together and hanging them in front of me, feeling shy.  I wasn't ready.  I could see Maamaa laying there from where I was, but I didn't want to actually go up, for it to be solidified in my mind.  I didn't want it to be real.  Not yet...not ever.

I felt so out of place there in that funeral home.  I didn't know what to do.  I felt as if I was the only emotional one at the moment...but maybe that's because I was one of the only ones there who was extremely emotional.  I think I went through about eight tissues in the first fifteen minutes I was there!

Finally though, my dad came and took my hand and led me toward line of flowers...toward the casket.  At first I considered pulling away...but I knew it would have to happen eventually.  But that didn't stop me from scuffling my feet...taking my own sweet time to get there.  I snagged Mom along the way.  I tried to look at every flower in every arrangement before the casket, putting off one of the moments I was dreading...looking down at my great-grandmother and not seeing her eyes sparkling.  Not seeing her eyes at all.

As I looked down at her, I felt a different person take over me.  I wanted to fling myself onto the casket and give Maamaa the biggest hug ever...apologize for not spending as much time with her at family gatherings.  For not saying goodbye.  Instead, I reached for my mom and sobbed into her shoulder.  I didn't want Maamaa to be gone.  I didn't want her to be lying there.  After we walked away, used another half a dozen tissues, and said hello to the rest of my family members, I felt slightly more calm.  And that continued for another hour as we continued to fellowship and be rocks for each other.

I'll admit, I didn't each much in the "family lounge".  The food I ate amounted to the equivalent of half a grilled cheese sandwich.  When you're grieving...eating feels overrated or useless.  Or just a waste of time.  That's how I felt that day.  Instead, I decided to stay in the main room and wait for people to arrive, and try to smile and be joyful that Maamaa wasn't suffering anymore.

Let me tell you what, that is so hard to do.

And then my best friend got there.  Praise God.

I'd never been more grateful to see her in my entire life!  I took her through the "tour" after a few minutes of small talk.  I managed to stay mostly strong, without really losing it, although a couple tears escaped.  But that was why Jenny came, to be there for me when I couldn't hold it in.

After a little bit, Lizzie came!  Two of my best friends, there with me during my darkest day.  And I can't thank them enough for spending their Sunday afternoon with me, a very sad me.  A very tired me.  A very "not myself" me.

About a half an hour before the actual funeral began, two other dear friends from church arrived, Josh and DJ.  Again, I can't even begin to express the gratitude and appreciation I felt at that moment.  I feel like I owe them so much.  Their presence spoke volumes to my dad.

As the minutes ticked by, it was hard to focus on my friends and the random conversations we were having.  Instead, I would stare at the casket and all else would fade away.  I could feel myself slipping into a less-Angelica state...and more into an emotional wreck.

The clock reached 2pm.  People gravitated to seats in front of the casket.  And the waterworks began.  Not loud and obnoxious sobs (thank goodness!), but fast and steady streams down both my cheeks.  I'm sure that I soaked my mom's shirt with my tears.  I couldn't stop.  I knew this was the end.  I knew that this was the last I was going to see Maamaa in the flesh until I got to heaven.  And I didn't want it to end.

All the girls in the family, save my grandmother and my mom's cousin, stood and sang "In The Garden".  Somehow I managed to sing along without sounding like a frog.  Somehow we all managed...

I don't really remember much else about the service, except that the pastor made everyone laugh from the start by saying Maamaa's first words upon entering heaven were probably "They took my keys" (which is probably true), and Grandma got up and told stories and managed to keep her composure fairly well.

And then suddenly, they shooed everyone else out for the funeral parade, and left the family alone in the room.  Just us and Maamaa...and the funeral director.  We all reluctantly circled the casket, no one wanting to make the first move to say goodbye.  I moved toward my eldest cousin and put my arm around his shoulders, crying silently.  The sound of tissues crumpling and people sniffling was overwhelming.

I don't really remember what in particular triggered this, but I started sobbing harder and louder, like a cross between hiccuping and choking on my own tears.  My cousin put his arm around me and let me cry, or sob, as it was.  My mother moved forward, put her hands on my great grandmothers and kissed her forehead.  One of my younger cousins followed suit.  I stood there, wiping snot on my sweater sleeve, staring at Maamaa.  Everything in me screamed to protest, to demand that the doctors come back and fix her...that someone give her life again.  But I knew how juvenile that was, how ridiculous.  I didn't want to be labeled the mental freak who upset her Maamaa's funeral by charging the casket screaming for her great grandmother to wake up.  Although trust me, it was tempting.

Instead, I let go of my cousin and stiffly shuffled forward, toward Maamaa.  I reached out and touched her folded hands.  I have never felt someone so cold before in my life.  I almost jerked away, but instead leaned forward and gave her one, final kiss on the forehead.  Then I turned around to see my cousin Meg taking a step towards me.  I walked a couple steps and we looked at each other, before practically collapsing onto each other in sobs.

I don't know what happened behind me until the funeral director spoke up, asking if we needed more time or were ready to close the casket.  I had to control myself to keep from glaring at the funeral director.  I wanted to yell at her to shut up and go away, or something.  I just didn't want to leave Maamaa.  I couldn't!  I just couldn't...

Mom finally spoke up, after a couple minutes of verbal silence.  "I think we should close it."

I don't think I've ever felt so heartbroken in my life...no matter what the circumstance was.  I cast a glance I my mother before burrowing my face in my cousin's shoulder again.  We started moving toward the door.  My legs just moved with everyone else; they were no longer a part of me.  I felt numb.  I felt cold.  I felt alone, even among all those people.  I guess that's what grief does to you.

One of my younger cousins latched onto my waist and we awkwardly shuffled out side by side into the cold, cloudy, damp day.  Once we exited the funeral home, my eyes started searching for Josh, DJ, and Jenny.  I looked for them; needing them.  Only a few feet from our car, I saw Jenny's silhouette waving at me in the van next to our car.  I looked at her and then looked back down and squeezed my cousin tighter.  I heard the van door open and saw Jenny jump out and run for me.  I let my cousin go and ran to meet Jenny, burying my face into and sobbing hysterically.  I could feel my whole body shaking uncontrollably.  It took every ounce of energy I had left in my body to keep myself from completely giving out.  I never wanted to let her go.

Once at the cemetery, I didn't want to leave Jenny's side.  I didn't want her to leave.  Ever.  The men in our family stood in two, black lines at the back of the funeral car, waiting for their cue to pull the casket and set it next to my great grandfather, who died before I was born.  The funeral director pull two roses from the giant flower arrangement on top of the casket and handed one to my great uncle and one to my grandmother.

And then, just like that, everything was over.  "You all may come get a flower from the covering," the funeral director told us.  Like a zombie, I followed my family and pulled a single, pink rose.  I clutched it tight and turned to see DJ, Jenny, and Josh standing in a little half circle, waiting for me. I shuffled towards them and embraced them, never wanting to let them go.  It took all my will power to stop myself from giving out and completely collapsing onto them.  I didn't want them to leave; I didn't want to leave.  I didn't want to walk away from Maamaa's grave.  I still wish I didn't.



**Author's note**
This post took me over a week to actually compose.  Lots of tears were shed.  I hope that all my emotional rambling makes sense to you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jury

I walked into my level 9 nervousness Monday morning, although I really didn't have that much time to feel nervous.  I was having some minor nervous "spasms" in the practice rooms as I warmed up.  But when I got to my jury, they were running ahead of schedule.  So, I had no time to pace back and forth, freaking out.

I walked into the band room to see Prof. Thompson, Dr. Flanigan, and some lady I didn't know sitting with their laptops, ready to judge me.  Prof. Thompson turned around and smiled.  "Hey!  You want to go ahead and get set up?"

I nodded and scuffled forward, a wave of "oh my gosh this is it" washing over me.  But I tried not to show it by the way I looked or acted.  I started off with playing the first movement of the E Major unaccompanied Bach (a really cool piece!).  I played it pretty well for not having gone through the whole thing in my lessons (I learned the last page of it on my own).  However, I could feel my legs vibrating the entire time...they were seriously shaking!  I don't know how obvious they were though...I didn't really want to risk checking.

But when I finished, I looked over at Prof. Thompson to see what he thought.  And to my surprise, he wasn't smiling.  In fact...it was as close to a frown as I've ever seen him do!  I had to swallow my surprise.  Suddenly I felt much more self conscious about my playing.  Usually when someone doesn't smile, that means I'm doing it wrong.

Scales were pretty good until the last one, requested by the lady I didn't know.  G harmonic minor. Now, that's one of the easiest scales for me to do.  However, for some reason I completely messed it.  As I stop and say "Sorry, I'll re-do that", I see Prof. Thompson shaking his back and forth.  Against popular suggestion, it was NOT a twitch.  It was kinda hard to keep going, thinking that my professor was disappointed in me.

But when I finally finished, Prof. Thompson perked up.  "Alright then, you're done!  See we're not that scary!"

Maybe not...if there were a few smiles going around the judges!

But somehow I got an A...and impressed my professor.  Wow...could have fooled me!  Guess this is something else I'll have to get used to, I got seven more of these to do over the next few years of college! :P

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 5th, 2012

It's over.

Done.

Finished.

And no, I'm not talking about the semester.

I'm talking about the struggle.

The sleepless nights.

The watching.

She's gone.

Maamaa died around 4am on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012.  It's still sinking in.

It hurts...a lot.  It was almost crippling to not be there with my family while she was in the hospital, and now that she's gone...I want to be home more than ever.

Yesterday was one of the longest days of this last week.  I (thankfully!) got ten hours of sleep the night before.  If I hadn't...I would not have made it through the next day!  Mom called me at 8:30am and said "I have some news for you."

"I'm not gonna like this news am I?" I asked.

"Maamaa had a ticket she decided to cash in last night and went to be with Jesus in heaven."

I was right.  I didn't like it.  At all.   Nuh uh.

So I went and cried in the shower.  Bawled, actually.  Got snot all over my towel.  (Okay, not really.)  I took a long shower...long showers are good...

Then it was 9:30am.  I grabbed my stuff and went to the PPAC (music building).  I didn't want to go to LDR class.  I wasn't presentable.  I wasn't focused.  I wasn't anything really.  I tried to practice some, but was really killing time until my violin professor was free so I could tell him that it was over.

"Hey, what's up?" Prof. Thompson asked me as I entered his office, red-faced with puffy eyes.

I stood there for a moment, trying to collect myself.  Finally, I choked out, "My mom called."

He knew exactly what I meant.  His face softened.  "Oh, I'm so sorry!" He said, standing up.  He moved toward me and gave me a side hug.  (Now this is the awkward but funny part.)  At first I started to give him one back, which is the normal reaction, but then I thought, "Mmm, maybe this isn't okay...he is my professor after all."  So I pulled my arm back and folded it around myself, giving myself the hug.  However, when he pulled away, we realized that in retracting my arm, I had accidentally folded his suit jacket corner into my arms.

It was a very interesting moment.

It was a very interesting day.

It was a very hard day.

I'm ready to go home.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

8 more days...8 more long, arduous, days...

I feel like this last week has gone by so slow!  The concerto competition was only this last Tuesday?  No way!  I feel like it was a month ago....  It's the fourth of December?  How did this happen?

I have no idea.

I am honestly exhausted.  Physically and emotionally.  This has been one of the longest weeks of the school year, at least to me.  Last night I got to "talk" to Maamaa.  I did all the talking and got to listen to her breathing/snoring.  It was hard to do, but I do not regret it.  At all.  When I was done, however, Mom asked if I wanted to say good bye, and I said, very teary-eyed, "That's what I was trying to avoid!"  It was another long night, so today, when I was sitting outside Prof. Thompson's office, waiting for my lesson, I was falling asleep on the pillow I made out of my coat.

However, this lesson was one of the most embarrassing, at least in my opinion.  When playing through my concerto with my accompanist, I completely forgot a segment and it messed me.  I started shaking and I didn't ever get back to normal.  Now, because Prof. Thompson knew what was going on with Maamaa and the strain it had (has) on me, I think he understood why I was messing up.  But it shook me so much that I was getting to the place where I couldn't function.

It got so bad in the next three to five minutes that I thought I was gonna throw up.  Right there.  In his office.  In front of him.  And I was not okay with that thought.  So I left to get a drink of water and step outside of a minute.  Immediately I felt about five times better, even though I still didn't feel totally fine.

When I returned to his office, Prof. Thompson looked at me out of concern.  "Are you okay?"

"No," I answered honestly, putting my cold hand back on my still flushed forehead.  "I suddenly felt really sick..."

"Oh...well do you want to stop?  Do you need to stop?"  He checked his watch.

"No!  I need help with my Kreutzer!"

"Oh, okay...then let's do Kreutzer!"

After that I felt quite a bit better.  My goal tonight is to go to sleep early and sleep for at least eight hours, if not more.  All I need is sleep...that's all I need, because I know that this week is going to be hard to get through.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sometimes you just need to write a song

So...this weekend has been long and emotional.  Monday was easy.  Tuesday was stressful because of the concerto competition.  Wednesday was stressful because I had a big paper due on Thursday morning.  Thursday night I worked at closing shift at Mario's from 8pm to 12am, which was extremely exhausting.  Then Friday...bombshell day.

On Friday after orchestra, at 5pm, Mom called me to tell me that Maamaa, my great grandma, had a stroke in her brain.  She isn't responding.  She isn't coming home.

Not awake...and she won't be again.

It has been several months since my heart has broken like this.  It's been a long time since something has plagued my mind so much and drained my focus in such a way that I couldn't function.

Friday was an emotionally exhausting night...it was hard to get through.  I didn't understand what was happening...Maamaa had been pretty healthy, although she had refractured her hip after falling for the second time a couple days after Thanksgiving.

I don't even remember half of what happened on Friday.  I tried to practice but failed after bursting into tears after every three notes of the G major scale.  But praise the Lord for my violin professor, who was in his office!  I asked him if he would pray for our family and then told him what was going on, partly because I needed to talk to someone and also I knew that it could save lots of awkwardness later if I broke down randomly during my lesson.  (Which, of course, I want to avoid at all costs.  The awkwardness, not the lesson.)  After talking through the situation for a while, Prof. Thompson read Psalm 31 to me and prayed.  Then he tried to get my mind off of everything.  It made things a little better, but I still couldn't focus on anything.

Saturday...long...very very long...I was able to focus on violin and school a little better than Friday, but still would have bouts of tearful explosions.

Sunday.  By now I'm just waiting on a call from my mom to tell me that it's over...I don't want that phone call, but I'm at that stage where I'm just waiting.  To be perfectly honest with you all, I'm dreading every single day.  I'm dreading that phone call that is the hideous truth that my great grandma is in heaven with Jesus.  Not that that last bit is totally horrible, but just the selfish fact that she's gone.  It could be ten minutes from now or ten days.  She's not on life support...we're letting her go naturally.

But I don't want her to go.  Ever.

Today in the practice room, however, instead of actually practicing (which I needed to do), I wrote a song.  This song has actually helped me with my current attitude.  Even though I'm not there, I'm writing as if I am...


I Will Remember You

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking,
To the sound of
Machines beeping, staggered breathing,
The time has come...

Whispered voices, painful choices,
Chilling out hearts...
Greater forces, running horses,
Couldn't pull me away...

For I will not leave you!
I don't want you to leave me!
But I know...your time has come...

So I will remember you for the rest of my days.
I'll remember your smile, your laugh, your words.
I will remember you to all of my family.
I'll make sure that your memory won't die.
No matter what I do, I'll remember you.

Strong embraces, silent places
Surrounding your bed...
We lift our faces with shattered praises
For the days of your life.

For I will not leave you!
I don't want you to leave me!
But I know...your time has come...

So I will remember you for the rest of my days.
I'll remember your smile, your laugh, your words.
I will remember you to all of my family.
I'll make sure that your memory won't die.
No matter what I do, I'll remember you.

My heart can't handle these regrets I hold inside.  
If you could open up your eyes and say it's alright...
If you could see us...
Then this pain would die and not you!

So I will remember you for the rest of my days.
I'll remember your smile, your laugh, your words.
I will remember you to all of my family.
I'll make sure that your memory won't die.
No matter what I do, I'll remember you.
So I will remember you for the rest of my days.
I'll remember your smile, your laugh, your words.
I will remember you to all of my family.
I'll make sure that your memory won't die.
No matter what I do, I'll remember you.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The pool

"First semester freshman!  Yeah!  You're jumping in the pool!"  These are the words of my violin professor, as he's beaming at me during my lesson.  I could protest this, but I don't.  I'm too nervous about the competition, which begins in just a couple hours, to protest his logic.  In fact, I think in my head, "You shoved me into the freakin' pool!"  But technically, he is right.  Even though I have a massive guilt trip, I could have said no.  I could have taken the guilty feeling like a woman and said no.  But I didn't.  So I guess I did kinda jump in the pool, even if he did help me to the edge.

Only half of my lesson is devoted to my actual concerto.  The rest of it is a pep talk.  "Have you ever fantasized about playing a solo with an orchestra before?"  Prof. Thompson asks me.
"Well, yeah..."
"Tell me about it!  Take me into your fantasy!"  He looks at me with anticipation.

I've never been asked this before, to take someone into my fantasy world.  I stare at the wall.  "Well...my family and friends are in the front row...not that I'll look at them because I'll be focused on my violin...or the conductor to make sure I'm staying with him."

Prof. Thompson waves his hands.  "No, no!  You're bringing reality into this.  Stop!  Just focus on your fantasy.  What are you feeling?  What are you doing?"  I was expecting him to keep going with the questions, like asking me what I was wearing or playing.  But he stopped there.  Leaving the question open ended in a way.  Just waiting for me to tell him what is going on in my mind.  So I start talking.

"Well...my family is still in the front row...and I'm not afraid.  I play loud and every note right.  And everyone's jaw drops."  For some reason it's hard for me to explain all of this to him.  There are so many awkward pauses in between words.  I look at Prof. Thompson, hoping he'll be pleased with that answer.

"Does it feel good up there?" he asks me.
"Yeah...it does."  I smile at him.
"Good!  Now hang on to that!  Play it [the concerto] again and this time play with that confidence you have in your fantasy!"

There are so many more parts to my fantasy...which some of you may not really care about, but they are very important to me!  For instance...

My dream dress is a sweetheart top dress that has a sheer fabric covering it, acting as sleeves.  It starts as a light green-blue and slowly "drips" darker to a deep blue-green.  Or it could go the other way.... Over top the relatively full skirt is a peacock feather pattern in a sheer fabric.  It actually looks like feathers over the dress!  This particular dress doesn't look like it would be a twirly dress, but it is!  My hair is long-ish and it styled in a "cascading waterfall" up-do sort, down enough look beautiful but not in my face or eyes.

Now, my concerto...I'm playing the Wieniawski Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor...the entire thing!

Fast forward a few hours to right before the competition.  I've been giving myself the "fantasy pep talk" for the past half hour as I've been going through my piece.  Am I nervous?  YES!!

In the hallway behind the stage, I'm waiting for the person ahead of me to finish her concerto so I can get this over with.  I want to do it and I don't want to do it.  I'm completely freaking out mentally!  My mind is focused on one thing: I'm getting judged.  That's what happens in competitions.  And that is my major fear currently.  A close second is the fear of completely messing up my piece in front of the entire "audience" of seven people, including my violin professor who has such high expectations.

Expectations.  That's what it all comes down to.  I'm afraid I won't meet the expectations people have of me.

Prof. Thompson comes out the stage door and beams at me.  "You ready?" He asks me, a little too excited.

"No, but I guess I have to be."

He gives me a skeptical look at my dry tone of voice and laughs a little.  "You don't have much of a choice now."

"Nope, so let's get this over with."  I'm trying to get him to go ahead and let me play so I can get out there, play, and be done.

But no, he starts rambling on about something that's supposed to make me feel better, but it's not working.  He keeps going and finally I stop him.  "You're not helping."  It comes out a little harsher than it probably should have been.

He gives me a funny look.  "You're really nervous aren't you?"

"Yeah!!"  We went over this a hundred times already, I think.  Finally, we went backstage.  Finally.  And the fear starts to take over my body.  Dangit...

"So how should I introduce you?  As AnGELica?"  Prof. Thompson gives me a goofy smile and I lift my music to hit him on the head but stop just in time.  No...he's my professor...better not do that...

And just like that, I'm on stage, playing my piece.  And I'm playing it with a soloists attitude.  I don't play it perfectly, but I know that I am playing and look more confident than I did in studio class just ten days previous.  And suddenly, I'm at the last measures of my cadenza, and by a miracle of God, I play them perfectly in tune and proudly sing out the last notes.

But after bowing, my legs begin to seriously shake.  Once in the safety of the hallway again, I lean against the wall awkwardly, just breathing.  I'm in a state of semi-shock and nervousness withdrawal.  Then Prof. Thompson comes up to me, his mouth open in a smile.  "You did it!" he exclaims, putting an arm around me in a hug.

I just smile weakly and breathe out.  "Yeah..."

He goes on to say other things...but my mind has shut off, only focused on that fact that I survived my first college concerto competition and that I'd played the last measures better than I ever had.  Finally Prof. Thompson stops and looks at me expectantly.  I let the silence linger for a couple seconds before I sigh "Yay" in a very distracted tone.  Prof. Thompson laughs.  He understands that I'm not really here anymore.

I'm still amazed at that night...especially that it was only five days ago!  I'm amazed that I made it through.  I'm amazed that I actually enjoyed it.  I'm amazed that I played like a soloist.

So, I guess I'm going keep swimming in this pool for a while.  :P

Friday, November 23, 2012

My thankfulness list

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I've decided to give you guys a list of some of the things I'm thankful for!  Some may seem cliche, some may seem silly or hokey, and some may see obvious, but I am truly thankful for everything on this list!!  They probably won't have any fluidity or sense to them in the order I write them...but I don't particularly care how random they get!

1. I am thankful that I am breathing
2. I am thankful for running water
3. I am thankful for the freedom of speech, assembly, religion, etc. that we still have in this country!
4. I am thankful that I made it to 18 years of age!!!
5. I am thankful for my parents!
6. I am thankful for my siblings and their spouses and kids
7. I am thankful for the rest of my family, all my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.
8. I am thankful for Christmas music!  (my happy songs!)
9. I am thankful for being able to sing
10. I am thankful for fingers to be able to play the violin and type and write!
11. I am thankful for colors
12. I am thankful for laughter
13. I am thankful for my eyes so I can see the beauty around me, my family, music, and the books I love so much
14. I am thankful for my ears so I can hear the sounds of the earth, the voices of those I love, and the music that I play
15. I am thankful for my violin (my baby!!!)
16. I am thankful for my nose so I can smell the amazing food that we get at Thanksgiving!
17. I am thankful for foooood!
18. I am thankful for my pillow
19. I am thankful for my dorm room at school and bedroom at home
20. I am thankful for my school
21. I am thankful for my violin professor who has challenged me so much in one semester!
22. I am thankful for my previous violin teachers who have invested their lives into me
23. I am thankful for technology so I can communicate with friends and family
24. I am thankful for feelings, so I can feel love and anger and happiness and even sadness
25. I am thankful for socks and shoes to keep my feet warm on chilly days
26. I am thankful for fruit which refreshes me
27. I am thankful for animals, but mostly for our pets, Chobo, Goldie, Daisy, Apache, and KC
28. I am thankful for Skype!!!!!!!  oh man am I thankful for Skype!
29. I am thankful for my roommate who has been a friend to me throughout this first semester of college
30. I am thankful for Jesus's sacrifice of His own Life to give me a purpose to living

What are some things you are thankful for??

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Get rid of them shakes!

This is it, the moment I've been dreading...or one of the moments I've been dreading: playing violin in studio class.  The only moments that beat it are playing violin in a department recital and playing my "final", in front of a jury.

This is the moment that I doubt my major.

I absolutely hate performing in front of people.  Practicing in front of people, I'm okay with.  The expectations are different.  Lesson time, I'm okay with.  The expectations are different.  Practicing with an accompanist, I'm okay with.  The expectations are different.

But not performing.

The expectations are high...so high that they go over the rainbow and out of our orbit.  They know I'm performing.  They know that I have been working hard on this.

And they are impatiently waiting for me to blow them away with my results.

Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion...but I know that this is how I am when I'm getting ready to hear someone perform.  I expect them to be amazing!  You don't get up and perform something you don't know, you get up and perform something you've been working hard on for weeks, or even months!

If I can trick myself into thinking that studio class is a lesson, hopefully I can get through it without shaking.  (My bow shakes very, very obviously when I'm nervous.)

I know I need to get over this...I'm a violin performance major for heaven's sake............but I can't just "get over it".  I can't...it doesn't work like that.

I don't work like that.

Go ahead, laugh at me.  I know you want to, if you're not already.  The violin performance major is scared out of her pants to play in front of people.  So?  What's the problem with that?  I'm not in this major to perform, I'm in the major to be the best that I can be so that when I go to Africa, where they will see me as the best (and the only) violinist they (most likely) know, I want to give them a proper taste of violin.  I want their view of violinists to be accurate.

I'm in this major to learn about techniques with every instrument I can, how to be a better musician, so that I can teach the Ugandans.

I'm not here to be the next Joshua Bell.

But I still have to stop shaking, because performing isn't going to leave until I leave the school and can say no without thinking about my grade.  But who knows!  Maybe by then I'll be okay with it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The truth about practicing


This quote is so freeing to me!  Every musician, artist, dancer, horseback rider, etc has been told that they must "practice practice practice!"  There are several jokes made about that:  "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice practice!"

But sometimes this gets old and annoying, even if it's true.  There are some days when being told to "just practice some more and you'll get it" is not what you want to hear.  But one thing that I've been told for years is this: "Practice it until you get it right.  Once you've got it right it will be near impossible to get wrong again."  Okay, so maybe this is true.  But you can get stuck in the mindset of practicing until it's right just for that purpose, to get it right.  It's like a friend of mine said tonight, "It's like doing an assignment just for the purpose of doing the assignment."  Nothing else.  Nothing else...

Then what's the point?  That seems rather lame if you ask me...kinda meaningless and BLAH!  -_- I don't want to get it right just for the purpose of getting it right...I want to get it right to never get it wrong again!  To learn, to know what not to do anymore.

That's why saying "Practice until you can't get it wrong" is so much more meaningful to me.  It's actually a challenge!  There actually feels like there's a goal at the end with obstacles to overcome.

There actually feels like there's a point.

That's what we humans need; a point.  We always need to know what's the point in pretty much everything we do in life.  The point.  The point is to practice so that we can't get it wrong.

This applies to the Christian life as well, not just practicing an instrument or a dance.  We are sinful creatures, matted and hideous with our sin.  But by Christ's blood and love He redeemed us, and put us back on our feet on the Solid Rock that He is.  But we still have sinful desires, and sometimes, try as we might, we can't control them and keep messing up.  But we shouldn't decide that we're going to keep on trying until we do it right.  We'll keep messing up and when we can't succeed, we're more apt to become depressed.  But if we go at it with the mindset of, "I'm going to keep trying until I can't get it wrong," then each "failure" won't seem so much like a failure.

So this is my challenge to you: find something in your life that you keep practicing and practicing and attempting to improve and apply this mindset to it:  Don't practice until you get it right.  Practice until you can't get it wrong.  See how you life will be changed.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christ's image

"You have been created in Christ's image."  Kinda cliche, isn't it?  Something we hear alllllll the time in Sunday School.  It's a way of confirming our identity.  Genesis 1:26,27 is where this first comes up.  "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'  So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."  From the beginning of the human existence, we have been the image of God.

But what does this really mean?

This doesn't just have a literal meaning, but a spiritual meaning.  We are commanded to “be holy as [Jesus] is holy.”  (1 Peter 1:16)  Jesus is a holy and perfect God.  We are sinful humans.  However, we are not to match Christ's holiness by becoming gods, as we are merely the image of Christ, but rather we are to reflect him in every aspect of our lives.  Let me say that again, we are to reflect Christ in every aspect of our lives.

When you look at a photo of say, a dog, it's wrong to say that it is a dog, as it is not a real, physical dog.  It is only a picture of a dog, because cannot be the dog.  It's just an inanimate object.  In reality, it is the same with us and Christ.  Christ is the creator, the original, the real deal, and we are simply images of Him, inanimate without Him, the creation, so we cannot be Him.  But with being an image Christ, we have all the same characteristics of Christ in us--love, joy, peace, and all that--however not to the same degree as He did.  Saying that we’re created in the image of Christ is daunting and a heavy burden on our shoulders; something hard to live up to.  But it is our purpose, and we cannot deny our Creator what he destined us for.

Being created in the image of God, commanded to be holy as Christ is holy...this is some pretty hefty stuff!  I mean, seriously, this is scary hard to do!  I know I've already explained this a few times, but we shouldn't forget how this command is not an easy one to follow.  It's not meant to be easy.  We were not promised an easy life, but an amazing reward of eternal life.

So let me ask you this, how are you going to react to being made in the image of Christ, the GOD who CREATED you?  What does "being holy as Christ is holy" mean in your life?  What are aspects of your life that you need to improve so that they reflect Jesus?  Don't be afraid of how people will react to seeing your character change, because they will react.  Don't be afraid of failing, because we can't be perfect, but we can be obedient.  We are Christ's creation, children of the Most High God.

We are called to reflect Christ.  We are made in Christ's image.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election

It's official...we are still an Obamination.  At first I was in a state of denial, making plans with my friends to leave the country and go to Ireland or Uganda...somewhere were he isn't.   But then I sat and thought about it.  Running away from the problem won't change a thing.  And then a friend of mine made a wise comment (but don't tell him I said this, it'll boost his ego to the rooftops of the Empire State Building!): he said that it doesn't matter who's in office because true change isn't going to come from them, but from the winning of each soul for Christ Jesus our Lord and His Kingdom.

I know a lot of you are disturbed and angry and upset, or other strong words that I won't mention, but that's not going to change anything.  Anger isn't really helpful, unless it's holy anger like Jesus had when the temple was turned into a "robber's den".  But neither is simply accepting the election results as they are.  We need to be prayerful about this; we need to seek FIRST the kingdom of God BEFORE we attempt any change for our country.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to be the one to unconsciously attack God's plan.

Some of you may ask, "how is this God's plan?"  Well, we're told in the Bible that we are to respect our authority because they have been placed in that position by God.  So, that means Obama is placed as our president by the Lord God Almighty.  Doesn't make sense, I know, but God's got some pretty epic tricks up His sleeve I'm sure.  :P

Just keep your focus on the Word of the Lord and your eye on the sky, because I believe the end days are nigh.  Follow the Lord and respect your authority, even and especially when you don't want to.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

LEGAL!!

So, I'm a legal adult!  WOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO!!!  *cheers* *blows party noise maker thingy* *dances around*  I can finally sign for myself!  (I've been waiting on this for sooooooo looooong!!)  And I got to vote...that was pretty big and confusing, as I don't usually pay attention to politics.  But I did it!  After all, I have the freedom to vote!  One of my biggest pet peeves is when people don't use the freedom that they have but the general world population doesn't have, or at least to the same extent as we do.

Yes, I know this blog post is about four days late, but I've been super busy!!  Been working/procrastinating on a big research paper for English, practicing my violin, and making my four year plan for college!  Lots of good stuff happening though!  :)

I was hoping I could update more after this research paper, but no...I have at least two other big papers that will be due in mid-November, so you may not see anything for a while...but that doesn't mean we can't have fun now!

I've started listening to Christmas music already.  :)  I'm a sucker for Christmas music...it makes me happy!!!  I've discovered Dave Barnes' Christmas album and it's amazing!  Some classic Christmas songs, such as "The Christmas Song" and some original/more obscure ones.  Christmas music makes me happy and dance around (if not literally, then in my head!)

Well, I suppose I should get back to work on this essay! ;)

LOVE TO YOU ALLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Home again...

Here I am...home with my fambly!  :)  I've missed this place!  Not very much has changed...which is nice on my eyes :)  Only a couple things have been rearranged, but I can deal with that :D  My desk and room are both still clean!!  (well...my room not so much now because all my stuff is littering the floor!)

I have minimal homework over the weekend, which is nice...and also needs to get started :P  But it'll get done.  :D

I'll get to see a few of my friends over the weekend which really will make the weekend even better!

I have to admit that my stomach isn't too happy though...after getting used to mass-produced college food, having more carefully cooked real food at home has confused it and made it not react the best.  :-/  But the food here at home is STILL the best!! :D

I made a surprise appearance at my youth group which was amazing!  Their reaction was the best! :P  My best friend Jenny jumped me, screaming my name.  I had an awesome time seeing my youth group peeps!!!

It's gonna be sort of hard to leave, but I'm not that far away, and I'll be back for a wedding next week, so it'll be like I never left!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

FALL BREAK!!

HalleLUJah!!  Fall break is HERE!!! :D  I love school, honest I do! :P  But I really want to be home and see my parents, family, friends, and pets!!   I even miss Chobo's claws slicing through my flesh! :P  (But don't tell her that...I don't want her to get the wrong idea...)

Plans?  Hang out with friends and family, do some homework (I have assignments over the weekend -_-), and get my violin checked up! :)  This is going to be a good weekend!!!

I know that this isn't a very fascinating or interesting blog entry, so I apologize, but I don't know what all to say here!

OMGOSH JOHN FARNAM!!!  His song "You're the Voice" has got to be one of the BEST songs in the world!!!  I love it!!!

Okay, nerd moment over?  Nawww, I live in nerd moments...and this is getting waaaaay too random...but then again, that's part of why you read this blog isn't it? ;P

Matthew 5:48

"Therefore be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect."  Now, we've heard this verse, say, a thousand times!  And every time we're slightly discouraged...we're HUMAN!  We CAN'T be perfect on this earth no matter how hard we try!  (And to me, it feels like sometimes when we try too hard we mess up even more.)

But a couple days ago in chapel, Dr. Mark Fuller, a pastor at a Nazarene church in Ohio, spoke to us on this one verse, and the things that he discovered once digging deeper that make this verse more applicable to our human lives.  Sounds crazy right?  Just stick with me and you'll see where this goes...and it will blow your mind!

Dr. Fuller presented to us in chapel the the Greek word for "perfect" is "telios".  It means, to complete, fulfill, accomplish, or make mature.  When Jesus was on the cross and yelled, "It is finished!", that was the same word, telios.  Finished...telios...perfect...what???

"If something is fulfilling it's created purpose, it is perfect!"  To illustrate this point, Dr. Fuller brought up our vice president, Dr. Newmire.  Dr. Fuller handed him a brand new baseball glove and they tossed a ball back and forth.  Dr. Fuller's baseball glove was well worn and fit his hand perfectly.  But both gloves fulfilled their purposes: to catch the ball that was thrown at them.  Therefore, both gloves were "perfect".

It sounds bizarre doesn't?  But it also makes sense...oh the wonderful almost-confusingness of Scripture.........

To live a perfect life is to live a life of single-mindedness.  Philippians 3:7,8 say "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ..."  In these verses, Paul is basically telling us to know our purpose and to put EVERY FIBER OF OUR BEING into it!!

This is what it means to be perfect.

Sounds less daunting doesn't it?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Duck!

Wow...long time no see!  It's been around 20 days since I last posted...YIKES!!  Have to admit, I figured I'd have more time to blog than I actually do.  :P

Today, in chapel, the speaker, Jeanne Craig, was talking about her diagnosis with breast cancer and thus her reaction to it.  She encouraged us students to NOT all the devil to beat us down with the different trials that we face, not matter what they are.  "Don't wait for cancer or some other tragedy until you give up but look up and reach out now!"

Jeanne encouraged us to not let the trials of this life beat us down, but to "duck" from them and run to God.  So, at the end of chapel, each one of us was given a rubber duck to remind us to duck from the devil's beatings.  And this one is mine:
To me, this duck is an incredible remind not only to duck from evil, but also that God is teaching me and reminding me to continue becoming a butterfly!  Shedding the sin of this world and becoming free from the world is my goal in this life; then all else will become more obvious as what I am to do with my life.

So Monarch Joy McMadden (or Monny Joy as I'm going to call her), is my physical reminder about becoming God's butterfly.  :D

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Practice practice practice!

So, being a music major, I have to practice...a lot...4 hours a week for class piano and 2 hours a day for violin!  A DAY!!  YIKES!!  As I go over my schedule and all the other homework I may not have yet but know I will have, I get slightly overwhelmed and shuddery inside.  I want to be the best violinist I can be!  I want to succeed in school.  I want...I want...maybe this is all about "I want"s...instead of what really matters...GOD wants.  And what I believe he wants for me is to be the best violinist that I can be because of what I believe he has called me to.

I strongly believe that God wants me to go to Uganda and start a symphony orchestra and choir there.  Now, with that in mind, most likely, I will be one of the few violinists they would have ever heard.  And with that being said, then I'm probably going to be considered the best in their mind.  And I if I am the best that they know, I want to be the best.  Now, that doesn't mean I want to be Joshua Bell or Henryk Szeryng, but I want to be the best that I can be!

So, I'm following the advice of my violin professor, Professor Thompson.  I am switching to a violin performance major, which requires two hours a day of practicing.  I am going to have to rely on God for strength and desire every day.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Short and sweet

This is gonna be a shorter post (hopefully, we'll see how it actually ends up...)

I'M MOVED INTO MY DORM ROOM!!!   Will show some pictures soon! :P  So far it's been great!  The bed is comfortable, the room is a decent size, and I've kept it 97% clean!  Then again, I've only been here 24 hours...but hey, it looks goooooood!! :D

I've been busy with NSO (new student orientation) and meeting new people!  Man, it's been epic!  The people I've been spending the most time with are the kids from my LDR 150 class (also known as my Leadership class).  We're in small groups with them and we do lots of games and have had lots of get to know you moments :)

When we first divided into our small groups, we were told to find our country's flag and join it!  (We each were assigned a country.)  I was slightly bummed when I learned there was a Uganda group and I wasn't in it...BUT!  I'M A VIKING!! :D  That's right, I'm with the Iceland team! :D  Our small group leader dressed up as a viking, the only leader, I might add, who dressed up.  She is so awesome!  She's been able to give our small group helpful hints on how to NOT look like a freshman and hints on getting meals quickly and how to work a few things like the Wildcat Express.  I'm not sure how to explain that...you'll just have to come and visit and I'll show you!! :P

Off to journal before heading out for Mexican with LDR!! :D  LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Put on your seatbelts

*WARNING*  This blog post is bound to make you prickle and squirm and feel a mite uncomfortable.  But that's okay,  because that's the point!  So click your seatbelts together and get ready for a ride!

We Americans are spiritually lukewarm...like that tepid bathwater or tea that no one wants and ends up throwing away.  We used to by hot and fire-y, but we sat out in the world, in room temperature, for too long.  If we stay out any longer we'll be as cold as ice.

I'd never really realized this before I went to Uganda.  On the way to Uganda, we had a 20 hour layover in Dubai.  Now, Dubai is a closed country...they don't allow Jesus into their culture.  It's one hundred and six degrees there and humid.  It's downright nasty!  But spiritually, it's cold...cold as ice.  Frigid.  The people there are so unfriendly and don't smile at you, if you can even see their mouth, unless you're buying something!

And then you get to Uganda, and you're immediately at ease!  There, the people are so friendly you get mobbed by them clamoring for hugs and keepsakes.  There, Jesus is the King of kings.  There, God reigns.  Those people are ON FIRE for God!  They are so bold for Jesus and are unafraid to ask you questions about yourself and how you feel about God.  There, they are hot!

And then there's America.  We are just lukewarm.  Some are hot, some are ice cold, and some are warmed over leftovers.  Am I making you shiver with a little aggression and defense?  Good!  This isn't a feel-good conversation.  This is a slap across the face to all of us Christians, myself included, who don't live a life that positively reflects Jesus or be active ministers whenever we have the chance.  There are thousands of opportunities to share Christ with our neighbors, classmates, coworkers, the people in our line at the grocery store...the waiter at the restaurant.  And you know what?  We actually HAVE the FREEDOM to DO ALL OF THIS!  In Dubai, they don't!  In China, not really!  But in America, have have the freedom of speech, religion, and assembly.  How about we USE these freedoms for a change??

Being an on-fire Christian takes being uncomfortable.  That's just the way it is.  The hard truth.  Deal with it.  (Remember, I'm giving this pep talk to myself too.)  Being a Christian isn't about being comfortable...do you think Paul was comfortable being chained to a wall?  Do you think Jesus was comfortable as he was being whipped and beaten and spit upon and nailed to a cross for you?  For love?  Following God isn't a walk in the park or a pleasant outing with your friends.  It's a war, a challenge, and sometimes painful.  So what?  Ultimately, it's not gonna matter.  As long as we believe in Jesus Christ, we're going to end up in Heaven no matter what happens here.  So let's do the work that we were called to do.  We were commanded in Matthew 28:18-20 to go and make disciples of all the nations.  Yes, that can include being here at home.  But, if that's what makes you comfortable, then maybe you need a change of scenery?  Or God may pull a trick card on you, and keep you in the world you're comfortable in, but push you to do things that are WAAAAAY outside of your "okay" zone.  Don't let that turn you off.  Being a Christian is a challenge, an adventure, a thrill.  Embrace it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Trusting God...all the time!

Trust isn't always something that comes naturally.  Trust is built, like a house.  And in case you hadn't noticed, houses take a long, long, time to build.  Sometimes months!  And that's that same with trust.  However, just like a house, trust can be destroyed in an instant.

What I find strange, however, is that we trust people much easier than we trust God.  Now think about this.  It's kinda weird that we are most trusting of human, sinful, people than we are of a perfect and holy God!  :-o WHAT?!?!??!?!  This is insane!!  But, it has a lot to do with "seeing is believing."  We believe in things that we can physically see and/or touch.  At least, I know that's how it is with me...now if you're one who can trust God so easily, I applaud you!  And envy you...

I have this calender flip thing (I'm not sure exactly what it's called...).  For every day of the year, there is an encouraging quote or verse.  Yesterday, August 22, it said "When it is the hardest to trust God--that's the time when you should trust Him the most."  If I could show you my reaction, I would...it was *jawdrop* *facepalm* WOW!  ;)  

I get the Air1 verse of the day via email.  Now, being away for a month meant that they got backed up...A LOT!  So, I had some catching up to do!  Now this particular day, August 22, I was reading one of those verses sent in July.  And this is what it was: Psalm 62:8 "Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge."  AMENA!!!  

For Uganda, I had to trust God.  I HAD to!  There was no other option for me to get the money for the trip because it was a honking $5,000!  We don't have that much cash just lying around, especially not for a mission trip, which compared to bills and food and doctor visits, isn't as important.  But trust God I did.  And it was hard...really hard.  I remember going to my Dad a few days before our garage sale, which was the Saturday before the ticketing deadline when I had to have half of the money in.  I climbed up on his lap (yes I still fit, don't judge me!) and started crying my eyes out, sobbing that I wasn't going to get to go on the trip and I wasn't going to have enough money and all this other stuff.  I was pretty much freaking out!  But he told me that if God wanted me on the trip, He would provide.  I just had to trust.  So when I uncurled and went back upstairs, I prayed again, so hard, that God would not only provide the money to go, but would also provide me peace to trust Him.

Some of you know the rest of this story...I received a substantial amount of money within three days and had more than enough to meet the ticketing price!  And get this, the garage sale still hadn't happened!  I was astounded and then ashamed at how shocked I was.  The whole point of this was to trust the Lord!  I've had many instances since where I've had to trust the Lord and I will have many, MANY more.  Trust isn't something that only happens occasionally in the Christian walk.  Trust is a lifestyle!  How much do you trust the Lord?

We have so much here in America, it's harder to trust God.  But in Uganda, where they have so little, they trust God with their whole hearts!  Sure, they still worry about things such as sickness and having enough food, but looked to God and praised Him for everything that they did have!  During the three weeks I was in Africa, I got to talk to so many people who trusted the Lord.  Now we Americans, who live in a nation that was founded on Christian principles, are so...so...spoiled that we forget to trust the One who made us and gives us the breath we breathe!  But people in Uganda, who have dealt with war in their backyard and been beaten and scared and impoverished to the point of starving, yet they trust the Lord so much more!  You've heard it said that it's easier to trust God when things are going well.  That's how so many people live.  I, however, want to change that.

Today, I choose to trust God in EVERYTHING, in EVERY circumstance, in EVERY trial, in EVERY SINGLE THING!  I challenge you to do the same.  (By the way, I've tried this the past couple days, and boy, it makes your life so much freer!  Even if things still aren't going well, you're able to smile and dance in the rain.  After all, rain makes a beat with every drop that taps the ground!  Let's dance!)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Storytime with Angelica!!

For those of you who are dying for another Uganda story, don't fret!  Here it is!  One of many! :D

Part of what we did in Uganda was abstinence ministry.  To be honest, this was extremely awkward for me at first.  It was for everyone I think...but as time went on and we did it more and more, we got more comfortable.  After all, we were investing in the lives of these teens!

One day, I had one of those, divine appointments.  At one school I met a girl named Angel.  I was so ecstatic to meet a girl with my same name!  But when we opened the floor for the girls to come to us individually to ask more personal questions about abstinence and boys, a different girl named Teddy wanted to talk to me.  When we went to a more private part of the classroom, she confessed to me, "I struggle with wanting to fall in love.  How do I stop it?"

I was blown away.  God knew (DUH!!) to bring her to me.  I know exactly what she's struggling with and I was able to give her advice thusly!  And this is basically what I told her: "Pray, pray that God takes away the feelings you have if they are not from you.  You have big dreams and goals; right now you need to focus on school!  Get some accountability partners!  Tell your closest friends what you're struggling with and come up with a code for them to use when they see you starting to flirt or lose focus on school.  God will bring around the right guy for you at the right time, but you need to ask God to help you wait until that right time."

I didn't only advise her...I admonished myself.  I was telling myself, again, to wait!  I have bigger things I'm focusing on now and guys, I'm sorry, a romantic relationship doesn't make that cut!  It will one day, when God brings it around, but not for the next couple years.  I also encourage any young ladies reading this, and young men, you are not exempt from this, that you look to God now and become so lost in God that your future spouse will have to find God to get to you!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

College prep...for life!

On the 31st of August I move into my dorm at Indiana Wesleyan!!  I am so stoked!  Right now...my room looks like a bomb went off with clothes in piles all over the bed and the floor.  I have books piled up in different places, my four containers of substantial size that I store my notebooks in, two storage boxes for my dorm room, and other random items all over my room.  It looks like a danger zone...with no floor.

Last night I slept in a sleeping bag on the floor, which I had to clear away, because I knew that in order to sleep in my bed, I'd have to take 95% of the stuff off and put it on the floor.  Then, considering my clumsiness, I would trip over it in the morning.  It was ultimately safer to sleep on the floor!  :D

I get asked a lot if I'm nervous for school at all, and really, I'm not.  I'm only nervous about three things:
1.) sharing a room with someone (I've always had my own room)
2.) having a set schedule (being homeschooled I made my own schedule!)
3.) procrastinating

I am a terrible procrastinator.  If I don't want to do something, I put it off until the last possible minute and, usually, barely scrape by.  But I know that this will not bring me success in college.  I also know that I do react differently in different circumstances (when extra credit options are not made up out of the blue to keep me from failing), but that doesn't mean that after a while I don't get lazy.

I'm not dissing homeschooling in the least, don't get me wrong, but how we homeschooled helped this to grow.  I've always been a procrastinator, especially in subjects I didn't like such as math.  But when I was in high school, I was given late grades, opportunities to earn extra credit when Mom and Dad saw I was failing a class.  I kind of then just relied on those graces instead of my own learning.  I suspect that that will come and bite me in the behind in college in certain classes, but I'm also suspecting that I will be a better student.

For chemistry I was taught by a fellow homeschool mom who used to teach at a high school.  I was in a classroom setting with her two oldest sons.  She taught me very well and made chemistry fun because I was able to actually understand the subject!  Science usually was a blech-y subject for me, but in this instance, it was amazing!  Because I enjoyed it and understood it, I put forth more effort!  And because the expectations were different, I did more work than I usually would do.  Granted, when something was really difficult or, in the experiments, if something smelled extremely bad or was extremely gross, I would try to do as little as possible, but ultimately, I reacted much better to that class than most other subjects I'd had.

Now, for all you students reading this, DON'T DO WHAT I DID!! Yes, that's in all caps because it's important.  And yes, I am screaming at you.  DON'T DO WHAT I DID!  Be the better person!!! :D  Even if you don't plan to go to college, which is fine, you don't want to say that you "passed high school" but that you "beat high school"!  You want to say that you worked your hardest and didn't let it win!  You're going to get a job one day, move out...your boss is going to want a hard worker who does all they can and more!  Your spouse is going to want a help meet who doesn't sit around all day and eat bon bons and potato chips!  Doing your best in high school isn't just about getting ready for advanced education, it's about life!  Our teen years are our growing up years, and if we grow up being procrastinators, it's going to be hard to change that lifestyle when we're adults!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Testimony time!

So, some of you may be dying to hear about things that happened while in Uganda.  :P  Well, now you'll get to hear some stories!!!  Some are my personal stories and some are not, but they all are amazing stories of God's grace and mercy and love!  :D

On our first day of hut-to-hut ministry, our fifth day in Uganda, my ministry group and I went walking just a few minutes away from our hostel.  There we came across a mother, her three children, her sister, and another young woman.  They invited us into their home, a very small house with maybe three rooms.  They offered us sodas, which they paid for themselves.  It was hard to say yes, but it was even harder to say no.  We didn't want to offend them, but we didn't want them to spend their precious shillings on us!

We talked to them and offered prayers for each individual there.  The mother, Barbara, has three sons: Johnathan, Joseph, and Jeremiah.  Jeremiah is just a little baby, not yet a year old.  Before we left, I asked if I could pray a special blessing over Jeremiah.  God says that the kingdom of the Lord belongs to the little children.  Mark 9:43 says "If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea."  Jesus doesn't kid around when he's talking about children, no pun intended.  Kids are pretty darn special to God!  I felt led to pray for little Jeremiah and I will continue to pray for him, that he will grow up under God's wings of protection.  :)

That same day, we had an unexpected street ministry opportunity because we were an hour early to a school.  T.I.A.!!! :D  My ministry group, more fondly and commonly known as a MIG, went and met the pastor of the village, a woman named Margaret.  She took us to her church, which is a shelterhouse of sorts with fabric lining the walls and a dirt floor.  I remembered a teaching tape that my mom was studying about the spiritual gifts from Romans 12:6-8.  In that teaching, the speaker talked about a time when he went to a church in a very sinful community.  He could feel the demonic grasp on the land around the church but felt God's presence in the church.  So when praying, he would pray "for the church and the land the church sits upon."  And every time he returned to pray again, he could feel the demonic forces retreating ever so slightly and the presence of the Lord growing!  So when we reached Margaret's church and learned that witchcraft is very prevalent in that community, I couldn't stop thinking about that teaching and the results of the prayers.  At first, I just walked around the perimeter of the inside, knowing I could get in trouble for being alone outside.  But...I felt as if I was going to leave the ministry with the job "half-done" if I didn't, so I walked around the outside of the church, praying the same thing over and over.  "Lord, bless this building and the land it sits upon.  Expand the circle of light until it spills over into the next village, the next town, the next country."

Even though America isn't Africa, we still need these prayers!  We may live in a more "Christian" nation, with more freedoms, but that doesn't mean we should "save the prayers for the less-fortunate".  Prayer is for everyone.  So pray for your church.  Pray for your pastor.  Pray for your congregation.  Pray without ceasing.  :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The story behind the title

Every title has some sort of background behind it; a story to tell.  Being a writer, this is something very close to my heart...after all, I live for telling the story that the title begins!  Lately, I feel as if I've been able to better execute the story so that it is told in an interesting manner, such as with bigger words and a more personable attitude.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Hebrews.  Hebrews and Romans are just so...AH!  :D  The first two verses of Hebrews say "Therefore we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith."  That first verse always makes me think of a caterpillar in a cocoon.  That cocoon is a cage, keeping the caterpillar from being free.  But after a while, it sheds the hard case and a beautiful butterfly comes out!

I have always been fascinated by caterpillars and butterflies.  In Uganda, there were these spikey-antlered fuzzpillars that I likened to reindeer.  During my quiet time one morning, there were dozens of these reindeer caterpillars crawling up the tree I was under.  They would crawl up the tree to reach the limbs, but often fell down.  They'd lay there on the ground, stunned, for a while, but after ten minutes or so, they would right themselves and go back to trying to get up that tree!  This happened fifteen or twenty times!  As I sat there, I thought about verse two, and how these caterpillars beat me in perseverance.  How many times do we give up after the third or fourth fall?  We don't allow ourselves to fall twenty times...it hurts too much!

As they continued to fall and fail to reach their destination, I was so tempted to pick them up and try to put them on the closest limb, or at least start them off closer to their final destination.  But I didn't.  It made me wonder, though, how often God wants to just scoop us up in his hands (his hands are big enough for that you know) and set us down, safe and sound, where we need to be.  But he doesn't.  James 1 says that perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  Let me repeat that...not lacking anything.  Our goal in life is to live like Jesus, to be perfect...that means lacking nothing.  So...we have to persevere.  Ouch.

As I continued reading Hebrews 12 in that quiet time, I was struck by verses 7 and 11.  "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.  For what children are not disciplined by their father?  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  Read that again.  I'll wait...

We are God's children.  He loves us.  And a father disciplines those he loves.  These disciplines are often trials and tribulations.  And James 1:2 tells us to view such disciplines with joy because then we will reap a harvest of spiritual and physical blessings and a whole lot of peace!  :D  I like peace, don't you?

During my quiet time, I realized that animals have such a drive to complete their calling.  They do what God has commanded them to do, no questions asked.  We very rarely see animals conforming to the way of this world.  You don't go to the store and seeing a cat going grocery shopping!  That's just not normal!  But we humans...oh we humans are messed up!  We go against what God asks us to do day in and day out, even when we don't realize it.  But we were different...we're special...we have a chooser inside of us that helps us determine right or wrong.  God loves us and he didn't want us to be his robots or his puppets, but to be free.  But with freedom comes trials.  Animals seemingly have easy lives.  But don't be discouraged.  No!  We have a greater calling than animals, which thus calls for greater trials: we were called to CHANGE THE WORLD!

This is my prayer, and I encourage you to adopt a similar attitude:  Lord Jesus, catch me when I fall so I don't hit the ground so hard I can't get back up.  But don't pick me up and put me where I need to be, but rather give me the strength to get there.

I want to soar high on wings...butterfly wings.  I want to become a butterfly, bold and beautiful.  A butterfly travels and specified path that it doesn't even understand, a path that is programmed into their minds.  It knows it's the way to life, even though it may die on the way.  It has struggles along the way, but the butterfly doesn't stray from the path because if it does, it will surely die.  I want to be a butterfly and follow God's path for my life with unwavering persistence and without questions.

I am becoming a butterfly.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Welcome!

Wow...this is it!  My very own blog!  It's hard to believe isn't it?  Meh...maybe!  :P

This blog is going to document the highlights of my life, and maybe even some of the minute details.  It will often be like reading a novel, but each post will be MUCH shorter than a full-length book.  (Yes, I can hear you thanking me!)  I will share with you my joys and my sorrows, my excitements and my fears, my good times and my bad times.  But most important, I will be sharing with you stories of how God has worked in my life and what He has been teaching me. :D  You will step into my world, (some of you may be minorly frightened right now, and that's okay), and get to know me in a deeper way.  Some things I say may make you uncomfortable; I may confront you, not personally, with things that may make you tingle.  But you know?  That can be a good thing!  Challenges are good when they make you grow as a Christian! :D

Enjoy your stay in my world!  :D