Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blessings at Christmas

It's late, and everyone else has gone to bed.  Time for me to wrap Christmas presents!  I've had these presents picked out for awhile, but in the busyness of the end of the semester, I had no time to wrap them, so I needed to hide them in my suitcase until I got a chance to get to them without my family being awake. Since break started about a week ago, I have been spending almost all my time with my family.  I don't think it was until I got to college until I started treasuring every moment I can get with my family, which explains why I haven't had a chance to wrap presents until now!

After finally slowing down after the craziest semester yet, I'm remembering what it was like to relax and do things like read for pleasure or make a bracelet.  It's also given me time to reflect on what happened this semester that I loved and that was valuable, versus what wasn't valuable and didn't bring me any joy.  I am so thankful that I will be taking less credit hours and not as many accompanying jobs so that I can focus more on HeartSong, all my wonderful friends, and my Jesus, a person that I'm afraid has gotten a bit lost in the busyness of life.

A lot of our family time has been spent watching Christmas specials on TV. This is a wonderful family tradition of ours that I look forward to every year. But today I was noticing that most of the shows we've watched so far have been about Santa.  The "true spirit of Christmas" was always incorporated somehow: giving instead of getting, family values, and things like that.  But the tradition of Santa wasn't started by Jesus; it was started by a man who sought to give a wonderful Christmas to children who otherwise would have nothing.  And as great as giving to others and valuing family are, neither of these things fixes the problem of sin that this world finds itself in.

Now, the TV is off, and up above it is our manger scene, also a tradition in our house.  How often have I spent more time looking at the TV screen than I have looking just inches above it to the very reason that Christmas exists in the first place?  This is the whole reason we give and value our families, because God gave His Son's life so that we could be a part of His family forever.  Jesus came to earth as a descendant of David, but in that day no one recognized Him as King.  If the innkeeper would have known He was a King, he would have made room in the inn, but instead Jesus spent His first night on earth with animals and shepherds, sleeping in a bed of hay.  If my King can humble Himself like that, how much more should I, who doesn't deserve being treated as royalty, humble myself for His sake and for the sake of others!

And yet, I am so blessed!  I have two parents who are both living and together, a wonderful sister who was just accepted at Grove City College a few days ago, a warm house, plenty of food, and so many other luxuries that many people in this world will never know or understand.  I have a wonderful extended family and the greatest friends.  I am blessed with so many friends! And now, all I want to do is give.  All this extra money I don't need, let me give it to my sponsor child.  All this extra time I will have, let me encourage my family and friends.  All this stuff I have, it was never mine to begin with; let me give it away and share it with those who need it.  This gift of life, of being a part of God's family, who am I to keep it to myself?  Let me share it with the world!

Jesus came to earth as a baby, spending His first night here with shepherds instead of royalty, with farm animals instead of pets, in a manger instead of a soft cradle.  This was the way He wanted to do it, to humble himself, and to become obedient to death on a cross (Phil. 2:8).  He gave His life, and in His death conquered sin; then He arose, and in His rising conquered death! Now I can live in Him, enjoying these wonderful blessings that He gives and using them to bless everyone I meet.

Speaking of which, I must now wrap my blessings to my family.  Christmas is almost here, and I think it's time to take a break from this blog, too.  But don't worry; I'll be back in January with more about life in HeartSong.  In the meantime, may the peace of God be with you this season.  Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Spontaneity and Trust

The past couple days have been great days, among the many difficult and stressful days surrounding them.  They were definitely full days, but great days nonetheless.  As I think about how to go about telling this story, I am thinking of the line from Inception: "I'm asking you to take a leap of faith." And even though in the movie this line is in really bad context, I heard God tell me this last night and I responded immediately, without even thinking about what I was doing.  By now, you're probably wondering what I'm talking about, so I won't keep you in suspense any more: I decided to start teaching piano lessons.

Here's the story.  Last night I went to the HeartSong Christmas party (which has nothing to do with my teaching piano lessons, but it was a great time).  It was fun hanging out with friends by Jim's REAL Christmas tree and opening white elephant presents.  I almost went home with a Snuggie, but ended up with a Here I Am To Worship for Kids CD, which makes for a good story, I suppose.  Anyway, when I got back to my room at about 11:30, I checked my e-mail and saw that Mrs. Anderson, my keyboard pedagogy teacher, had e-mailed me around 8:15.  She told me about a woman who called her and wanted to pay for piano lessons for her granddaughter for Christmas and wanted to know if there were any teachers available for the spring semester. Then Mrs. A asked me if I wanted to be her teacher.  And she needed a response by the next day so she could ask another pedagogy student if I said no.

I told Mrs. A countless times, I don't want to teach my sophomore year.  As a sophomore, I haven't taken directed teaching yet, even though I have had enough pedagogy classes that I could teach if I wanted to.  But I didn't want to.  I was so nervous I would do something horribly wrong and the student would either hate piano and want to quit or end up with horrible technique as she got older.  But for some reason, I felt like I needed to say yes.  Mrs. A told me she felt confident that I could do it in the e-mail, and the fact that she asked me first also told me that she wanted me to do it.  So I did something totally crazy and said yes.  When I did, I started thinking about a line from my sister's favorite movie How to Train Your Dragon, a conversation between two main characters:

Astrid: What are you going to do now?
Hiccup: Probably something stupid.
Astrid: Okay, but you've already done that.
Hiccup: Then something crazy.

I was definitely doing something crazy.  I wrote the e-mail and sent it before I had time to talk myself out of it.  This morning in chapel I saw Mrs. A, who smiled really big and gave me a thumbs-up from across the room.  When I talked to her afterwards, she gave me a huge hug and told me we would talk more about it and that she was really excited for me!  Then tonight, I called the grandma and told her my name and arranged to talk to the girl's mom sometime after New Year's about lesson times.  I hung up the phone and screamed, out of excitement and terror and anticipation all at once.  I can't believe I'm actually doing this!

I'm still terrified that this little 2nd grade girl will end up hating me, or hating piano, or that I will teach her all wrong and mess up her playing for life.  But God made it clear to me that I needed to do it.  It may not have been as clear as when I started sponsoring a child, but I need to start teaching eventually, why not start with just one this year so I can be more comfortable taking on more next year?  I trusted that God had this in mind for me, and seemingly on a whim I put my trust in Him and spontaneously decided to start teaching.

The big thing that God has been telling me lately is to slow down.  I say He is telling me this, not teaching me, because I don't know if I'm learning it.  In chapel on Tuesday, Dr. Cook talked about discouragement and three things to do if I feel discouraged.  The first thing he said was "pause," because God's word is clearer and more easily communicated when we slow down or stop. The second thing is to look to Him, and the third is to adjust.  I have been looking at my schedule, which is currently a mass of color with no white, empty space except where I'm sleeping.  I want to adjust my schedule and make more time to reflect on Him and to encourage my friends, so I'm cutting back on the number of students I accompany and taking less classes.  My gut instinct was to say no to Mrs. A for this same reason, but I think that cutting back on classes and accompaniment things is what helped me realize that teaching could actually be possible.  In teaching this girl, I can put my energy into someone besides myself and help her learn something new, take a "pause" from myself for a little bit each week.

In taking time to look for God, it may be that God is the one to find us, first.

P.S. Matt promised me the HeartSong blog would be updated very soon! Check it out sometime over break!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Love My Friends. All of Them.

I am in the process of trying to write Christmas cards for as many friends possible before we all leave campus for Christmas break in a couple of weeks. I started over Thanksgiving break with 14 cards and candy canes, but suddenly realized when I got back on campus of all the people I forgot!  I am a part of so many friend circles that I lose track of how many friends I actually have sometimes.

This weekend has been a wonderful reminder to me of how many friends I have, how many people care about me.  I spent different parts of the weekend with different friends, going to Campus Christmas, watching fun movies and videos, and visiting friends' dorms.  And a few days ago, I received three different invitations to three different Christmas parties, all in one day. At first, I was overwhelmed, wondering how I would find the time to go to all of them. But after remembering that the Christmas parties were going to be fun things (Having fun? What??) and that at each one, I would get to be with my friends, I decided to make time to go to all of them.  I want to celebrate the birth of my Savior with ALL of my friends and remember together the gift that God gave.  I want to fellowship with other believers that love and care about me, and I love and care about them, too.

Looking back, I remember that I have always been a "floater," never having a specific group of people I was always associated with.  In middle school, I had my band friends, my morning news friends, and my honors friends.  In high school, there were the Band Geeks, the Choir Nerds, my honors friends, my church friends, and a few other random friends I met in my different classes (e.g. the English 11 Table 3 friends).  And now that I'm a sophomore in college, I have my Printy 10-12 friends from last year, my camp friends from back home, my Maddox 23-24 friends from this year, my MOMM girls, my music major family, my nursing major friends that I know through my roommate, and of course my HeartSong family.  And these very diverse groups hardly ever overlap.  It's not necessarily that I'm involved in a lot of orgs, but just that I have a lot of different interests, and as a human I gravitate toward the people that share my interests.  (Choosing bridesmaids is going to be difficult...)

But I love every single one of my friends for the person they are, and I wish that they all have an amazing Christmas season.  I hope they all realize that I love them, but that our God loves us so much more than I could ever love. Even if I don't have enough time (or money) to get everyone a card, I hope they feel loved by Christ just the same.  And I am SO excited for Heaven, when ALL my friends will get to fellowship together with the one purpose of giving glory to our Savior.  Because it is in Christ that we are all unified; He is the Head of the body, the church, of which we all get to be a part.  I love that I can be a part of God's plan, and I can carry out His plan with great people that I love so much.

To my friends and my family: I love you so very much.  All of you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Soundtrack of My Life

Lately I have been thinking a lot about music and the way it continues to shape my life.  Many different songs have been in my head over the past month, and I thought for this blog I would share some of the lyrics from these songs because I think they do a better job than I can at telling about my spiritual journey lately.  I'm including some Scripture that has spoken to me lately as well.  So here it is: the soundtrack of my life.

Track #1: ...I am full of sin, I carry my idols, I am far from you...

With lips that can't speak and ears that cannot hear, my idols lay in silence
So why do I give them obsession and give them my heart?
When in the end, there's no hope of love
'Cause on the cross, the hammer fell for all of us
It's Your blood that covers me, Your grace that carries me
Jesus, Great Physician of my soul, would you heal me?
-"Healed" by HeartSong

I waited for you today, but you didn't show
I needed you today, so where did you go?
You told me to call, said you'd be there
And though I haven't seen you, are you still there?
-"Never Alone" by BarlowGirl

Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress;
My eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief
My life is consumed by anguish, and my years by groaning;
My strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.
-Psalm 31:9-10

Track #2:  You pursue me/I want to be Yours

Therefore I am now going to allure her
I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her
-Hosea 2:14

You gave Your life, You shed Your blood
I take for granted what is enough
Less of me, more of You, Father, less of me, more of You
I'm crying out to You, my Father!
May my life reflect Your love, which is enough
-"Less" by HeartSong

Be still, and know that I am God
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth
-Psalm 46:10

Now I've found the greatest love of all is mine
Since You laid down your life, the greatest sacrifice
Majesty, Majesty, Your grace has found me just as I am
Empty-handed but alive in Your hands
Forever I am changed by Your love in the presence of Your Majesty
-"Majesty" by HeartSong

Track #3: I will respond

How great You are, Sovereign LORD!  There is no one like You, and there is no God but You, as we have heard with our own ears.  And who is like your people Israel - the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for Himself?...You have established Your people Israel as Your very own forever, and You LORD have become their God.
-II Samuel 7:22-24

One thousand times I've said I tried my best, only to lose
But You take me as I come, and You are the Only One
Forgive me for giving myself away to anything that calls my name
There is none but You
-"None but You" by HeartSong

Track #4: Learning to trust You

Surrender, surrender, You whisper gently
You say I will be free, I know, but can't You see
My dreams are me
-"Surrender" by BarlowGirl

Prone to wander, LORD, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, LORD, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above
-"Come Thou Fount"

I lost my trust in You again
And in my heart, I know I never let You in
My love is broken again, I know what I am, just a common man
Please pity this broken soul
-"Prodigal" by Rachel Lee

Track #5 Continuing to seek You/"You pursue me" reprise

When You call I won't refuse, each new day, again I'll choose
When You call I won't delay, this my song through all my days
There is no one else for me, none but Jesus
Crucified to set me free, now I live to bring Him praise
-"None but Jesus" by HeartSong

I know you're hurting now, you see no purpose in your life
Because everything is falling to the ground
But I have searched you, and I know you, and I came to earth to save you
And in Me, new life can be found
So don't lose hope, don't lose hope
Look to the sky, I'll be there, in the depths, I'll be there
In the sunrise, by the seaside, know My hand will guide you
In the night, I'll be there, in the light, I'll be there
Your hope never has to fade, because I am always with you
-"I Am Always With You" written by me, summer 2008

Be still, and know that I am God
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth
-Psalm 46:10

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The HeartSong Blog

Unfortunately I have been so busy with school and work that I haven't had a chance to update my blog in a while!  Recently I was able to update the HeartSong blog, though, and the latest post should be up soon.  Please feel free to check out the HeartSong blog, and keep checking it throughout the year and next summer to hear stories from all five teams!

Until the next free moment!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Could Sing of Your Love Forever

It's sad to think that besides one more on-campus concert our team is done touring for the semester.  Although it will be nice to have more time to get schoolwork and practicing done without having to worry about missing a weekend, I had so much fun over fall break that I don't think I'd mind giving up more weekends to spend time with my team and praise our God together. If I could physically do it, I would love to just stay on tour forever, living in host homes out of a suitcase, getting to know families we stay with, rehearsing and playing music all day and all night long, praising God constantly, never, ever stopping.  I wonder if there will be traveling worship teams in Heaven?

Tuesday we met as a team as usual, but instead of rehearsing, we took some time to debrief from our fall break tour.  After having a couple days to reminisce and create my own opinion of the weekend, it was nice to hear everyone else's opinions as well as we just talked about stuff that happened, good and bad, that we will always remember from the trip.  Then we took turns encouraging each other, and we spent so much time doing it that I'm sure that every one of us walked out of that meeting in higher spirits.  We prayed for each other and ended our meeting early; God timed that perfectly so that I was able to make it to a test review session that ended up boosting my grade on the test the next day!  I'm pretty sure God loves blessing me in little ways to remind me that He's always in control.

Also during our Tuesday meeting, we talked about our host homes.  As we talked, I couldn't stop thinking about how much our second host home changed my life.  I went over and over in my mind the moment when one of the little 2nd graders realized the problems he had with his piano piece and finally played it all the way through with no mistakes, finishing with bright eyes and a big smile as I exclaimed, "That was perfect!  Great job!"  I got to help him discover the mistakes he was making just by asking questions (e.g. Does this next note go up or down from the last one?), and he was so proud of the way he figured out the answers himself and then was able to play it perfectly.  From that moment, I have been sure that I want to teach piano.  I never thought such a defining moment would happen to me in a host home with HeartSong, and it changed me forever.  I haven't been able to stop talking about it since!

On Wednesday, we all got an e-mail telling us to dress warm for our all-team meeting.  After we all arrived to the meeting all bundled up, we left campus and took a night walk through the woods.  It was almost pitch-black except for some light from the moon, and all I could see was the back of the person in front of me.  When we were almost at the end, we gathered together in a clearing and looked up at the stars.  After a few minutes of silence, we sang together.  I LOVE when we all sing together, praising our God for everything He's done for us!  I could have stood there singing forever, staring at the stars, creating harmonies with my HeartSong brothers and sisters, never, ever stopping.  But we stopped, and after walking a little farther got to a campfire.  We talked about the walk, and Jim gave us a spiritual application about trusting the Leader of the group; then we prayed together before making s'mores and talking around the fire.  I sat for a little bit, then ate a s'more, then just took a couple minutes to myself.  Over the past couple days before that night, I was so overwhelmed, but in good and bad ways.  First was the schoolwork that has begun to pile up again (of course).  But I was also overwhelmed with blessings that God had given me, one after the other over the course of the past week and a half, and I felt that I couldn't praise God enough for His goodness.  While I was sitting by the fire, just staring at the way it transformed the wood that it engulfed, I had a moment of peace. I wasn't overwhelmed with school.  But I wasn't overwhelmed with God's greatness, either.  I just knew that God was good, He always has been, and He always will be, and no matter what happens I can trust Him with anything in my life.  I know I will have an eternity to praise Him over and over, and even that still won't be enough.

My prayer is that I will continue to be overwhelmed by God's greatness and holiness.  I don't have to be frustrated and angry that I will never be able to praise Him enough.  I can be excited and overwhelmed with joy that He accepts my praise even when it's imperfect, and that with every blessing He pours out, I can turn back to praise Him.  I could sing of His love forever. Never, ever stopping.

Monday, October 18, 2010


The other day I ran across a list of things in a notebook.  I'm not sure what the list was supposed to be, but I'm assuming it was a list of my life dreams, because there were some things that were crazy unbelievable and others that were already achieved.  The second to last item on the list was "HeartSong/traveling team."  I'm pretty sure I made this list before I decided to try out for HeartSong, and I was amazed to find that even before I thought to try out God had laid this desire in my heart.  This moment was one of the many amazing things that happened to me this weekend on Fall Break Tour. Thankfully, half of it is already written down in my last blog entry, because I'm already starting to forget.  I hope to share the things that God has done in the past two days tonight before bed so I won't forget any more.  I'll pick up where I left off.

Saturday morning we slept in (reasonably) before heading to the church to rehearse some more.  That day was more of a preparation day for Sunday morning's hour-long program.  Before we started, though, we all really wanted to go through "You Hold Me Now" again because we were so excited about it!  After that, we ran through the program a couple of times, adding in the transitions, member introductions, and prayer.  Rehearsal was less intense; we took longer breaks and had some down time to relax.  We had lunch at Chick-fil-A (which made me miss my sister), Graeter's Ice Cream for an afternoon snack courtesy of Rachel's mom, and Chipotle for dinner before heading over to our host home for a youth group event that they were hosting.  We got a chance to hang out with members of the youth group, played Wii and had Q&A time with HeartSong.  That was weird; up until now I had always been the one asking the questions, not answering them.  But it was a lot of fun.

Sunday was a very full day!  We started the long day with our first church service.  After going through a couple of songs before the service, I was getting really nervous for our team; our warm-up time did not go very well from my perspective.  The elders of the church prayed with us before we started, but I needed a little more prayer time, so I grabbed Rachel and we found a spot to pray together.  We both prayed that as we worshipped, we would not be important in light of who God is and what He has done, and that the congregation wouldn't see us, but would see God moving through us. The service went okay ("Great!" from Dane's perspective, which is the important one, I guess), but how the service went is insignificant in light of what happened afterwards; during the pastor's final remarks, he said, "We just want to thank you [HeartSong] once again, and I don't know about the rest of the congregation, but from the very first song, I could tell that it wasn't about you; it was about the God you serve, and it was so great to see Him move through you this morning."  I was floored!  I have no doubt that God answers prayers; I believe that He does with all my heart.  But to pray something like that, and then to hear it immediately confirmed... Having a prayer like that answered so clearly has never happened to me before!  I am speechless.  God is truly amazing.

After that, another amazing thing happened!  Crazy, right?  Well, during the days leading up to Sunday, during the course of conversation with the church's youth pastor, Jake, I found out that Jake's wife had read a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris, which is a book that I've been trying to read this semester in my non-existant free time.  Lately I have been struggling to understand what it means to pursue God in my singleness, and how I will know when it's time to stop being single and pursue marriage.  So I knew I wanted to talk to her.  As people were leaving the sanctuary, after a bit of mingling and hugs from my host family, I tracked her down.  I wondered for a minute what the best way to go about this was, and then I decided to just come out with it.  I think I said something like, "Hi, I'm Deanna, and your husband told me you read I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and I just wanted to know how that worked out for you!"  Okay, it was a little more detailed and polite-sounding than that, but I'm sure what I said was just as forward.  Jackie was super nice, though, and was so excited to talk to me about her life and how the book changed her view of dating.  She told me that she didn't start dating her husband until she was sure that they would eventually get married, and that two days after they started dating, he began putting aside money for a ring.  And then somehow the conversation got around to my blue scarf and the many ways to wear it.  We were instant friends.  Talking to her was so encouraging, and now that we're Facebook friends, I'm looking forward to getting to know her even more.

After pizza for lunch and a prayer for Jake and Jackie, we left for Dayton and our final event of the day, coincidentally at Dexter's youth group.  We got there, set up, and ran a couple of songs for our 20-minute program. After that, we had a cook-out with the youth group, and it was so fun to see Dexter get really excited talking to all of his best friends and introducing all of them to us.  Once dinner was over, we headed in and started the service. Fittingly, Dexter was in charge of the prize give-aways and talking about Cedarville, and it was so funny to see him and Joellyn work together doing it! When it was time to start playing music after that, we told everyone to stand up.  But the kids didn't just stand; they came out from their seats and gathered around the stage like a mosh pit.  WHAT?!?!? Number 2!!!  First I'm signing autographs, now kids are forming a mosh pit?  I didn't sign up to be in a rock band!  But as we worshipped, I knew that in that group of kids, it couldn't have been done any other way.  They were very responsive to our music and to their pastor's message.  Afterwards, I got a chance to meet Dexter's family and talk to some kids in the youth group about Cedarville and HeartSong before we stared cleaning up.

I had a blast the entire break, all the way up to the car ride home, which consisted of Dexter and Will arguing, Joellyn and Grant making fun of each other, and hearing Will's backseat-driver comments about Tommy's driving (P.S. Tommy, Will is driving the van and trailer from now on!).  Even when we came into campus, we were having fun!  Since we don't have a roll-in song yet, we were listening to the radio on our way in, and it was between songs and the DJ's were talking.  Grant, Dexter, and eventually the rest of us pretended what they were saying was a song and made up our own tune to whatever words we heard them say.  It all ended with Dexter rolling down the window and singing "I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG!!!!!" in the loudest, absolute highest voice possible before the van stopped and he got out to spot for Tommy.

Though this whole weekend I saw God moving in the lives of the people we ministered to, and through our own lives as well.  God gave me blessing after blessing all four days of this trip, and all together, however small they were, they brought me all the way through to the end.  Right now, I am so tired but so content.  God put me here, to do what I love, and to bless me as I do it. What a crazy amazing opportunity!  I hope to never take it for granted.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

This Is What I Was Made For

Unfortunately I feel as if this blog post is going to be really long.  But it's only been two days!  It's felt like so much longer than that because they were long days, and writing this blog is only going to make this day longer... but I need to write this down in order to remember it later, because the next two days I'm sure will be just as full as the first two.  What am I going to do when summer comes?!?

HeartSong Green Team left Cedarville at about 6:47am Thursday morning, on our way to Covington, KY to play at a Christian school.  After a bit of unexpected trailer stress, we were unloaded, set up, and finished with sound check in time for the middle school and high school kids to begin coming in.  They were all really excited about filling out the recruitment cards to see if they could win a free prize, and it was fun to interact with them as they did.  We were all so nervous, especially the 6 of us who still felt like newbies, but the performance went really well, and the kids really loved it!  We played and sang "Rise and Sing" twice because we used it as our encore song when the principal asked us to play just one more.  LOVE that song!!  But the crazier thing came after the performance when multiple kids came up to me asking for my autograph.  WHAT?!?!?  When I was a kid I had lofty dreams of someday being a famous singer and used to practice my autograph on scrap paper; never in a million years did I seriously think I would actually need to sign one!

After a great lunch with Jim at T.G.I. Friday's, we went to be with our host families for the night.  Rachel, Joellyn and I stayed with a family that lived 30 minutes from the school, and as we drove through the hills of Kentucky, we got to see all the leaves on the trees in all their fall colors.  I think when Heaven comes down to Earth at the end of time, I will want to live in Kentucky, at least in the fall.  When we got there, the three of us spent some time by ourselves, got to know each other a bit more and rested before dinner.  We ate dinner with the two girls and their parents and then decided to all play Apples to Apples together.  When I was in high school, my sister's friends ruined that game for me because they played it for hours every time they were over at our house!  But I actually had a lot of fun getting to know our host family more through it.  The oldest girl, a senior in high school, never took the green card literally, and the youngest girl, a 7th grader, I would always ended up almost picking her card and then choosing someone else's!  We had a lot of fun, and ended the evening with dessert: a delicious cheese braid that the girls' grandma had made.

We had to be back at the school at 7:45, which was when school started and we officially checked out.  We left as the sun was rising, and seeing all the autumn leaves with the sun streaming through was so beautiful!  I'm so glad that God decided to create the world for us to enjoy.  If He can use dying leaves and a sunrise to bring glory to His name, how much more can He use us, if we will let him!  Anyway, we didn't have to be at our next destination, Cincinnati, until 3.  We showed up at the church about 6 hours early!  Wouldn't it be great if that happened every time?  When we got there, we had some time to kill, so we all took naps in the van.  After about an hour and a half or so, we all woke up to the van rocking. Joellyn and I were the first ones up, and she noticed that the rocking was coming from Tommy unloading the trailer.  Turns out that about 20 minutes earlier, he woke up and decided to start unloading while the rest of us slept.  As we got out of the van, Will said to me something like, "What a selfless leader Tommy is!  I'm so glad he's my team leader."  I agree 100%.

After meeting the pastor, unloading, setting up, and running sound check, we ate lunch and were able to start rehearsing two hours early.  All together our rehearsal time lasted about 6 hours (with a couple breaks in between).  I had a flashback to our first rehearsal that felt like less time than it actually was; this 6 hours felt like 2 or 3.  In the later part of the rehearsal, we learned a new song as a band called "You Hold Me Now," which is all about Heaven (too bad there's not a verse in it about autumns in Kentucky).  As we learned it, we couldn't help but notice that something was missing from it; it seemed kind of dry.  So we said to each other, "If Orange Team can redo 'There Is A Redeemer,' surely we can redo 'You Hold Me Now' and make it our own!"  After several changes and changes of changes and miscommunications and clarifications, we had created a unique version of the song that was based on the recording but distinctly different.  And at the end, Tommy said, "Let's just do the whole thing again from the top!" and we all got SO excited!  As we played, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that God was just as excited as we were.  I'm sure God was looking down on us smiling a big silly grin like we all were, saying, "Yes!  This is music; this is what My music should sound like!  I created music, and I created all of you to play it together to bring Me glory!  Don't you love it?!?"  There was no one in the room but the 8 of us, but I think that was the best way to give away our performance to God, to dedicate our first performance of it to Him, and only to Him.  Ahh!  Amazing!  I LOVE this!

After our amazing moment and prayer time, we left for our host homes.  This time the 3 girls are staying with a family of 6, with two 7th graders and two 2nd graders.  Immediately I made friends with the young twins, talking and playing with them, and then listening to them proudly play for me their favorite piano pieces.  Okay, back up a bit: when we arrived and settled in, it was dinner time, and we ate and conversed with the family for a while before going downstairs.  The twins and 7th grade girl followed us down and talked and talked and talked!  I could tell Rachel and Joellyn were getting tired, so I immediately went into camp counselor mode and talked and played with all of them, but mostly the little 2nd grade girl.  After a dessert sometime later of microwave s'mores, the mom wanted to hear me play the piano, so we all went into the piano room and the 3 of us sang/played a couple of our songs for them, along with some worship songs that they knew.  That's when the kids all wanted to show off their playing.

As the twins played for me, they would stumble over mistakes and get frustrated.  As they went, I switched into piano teacher mode.  And I don't even have a piano teacher mode yet!  As much as I would love to teach piano, every time I've thought about teaching I've gotten terrified at the idea!  I was so afraid I would do something wrong and my students would get to college and have horrible playing technique and no significant musical background!  So I was shocked as I saw myself helping the kids out at their trouble spots with things like: "Look at these two notes.  Does it go up or down?" and "Do these notes move up by step or skip?" and finishing with "That was perfect!  Good job!"  And, oh my goodness, now I know I can be a piano teacher!  Joellyn said afterward that she could definitely see me teaching and that I would be so good at it.  What an incredible God moment!

Wow, two incredible God moments in one day!  I'm really starting to see this God moment thing happening a lot more often now that I'm in HeartSong; God is not only using me in HeartSong, but using HeartSong in me to show me His glory more and more every day... no, every hour!  During both of my God moments today, one thought was going through my head: This is what I was made for.  I was made to glorify God through musical discoveries that no one else hears.  I was made to show little ones this wonderful creation of God called music.  I was made to do music, to play music, to teach music, to live music, to be music.  I was made to glorify God, to praise Him and worship Him in every single moment.  Of course, I've known that for a long time.  But I love the way God reminds me of my purpose, not just through divine moments of discovery during personal meditation, but also through moments during the day when I'm not thinking about it.  That is the place where I'm living my purpose, and that is where God chose to remind me, and I think that's awesome!

Please continue to pray for our ministries this weekend to this church, Saturday night to the youth group and Sunday morning to the church, as well as Sunday night as we travel back to Dayton for a youth group event.

Soli Deo Gloria!!!  To God alone be the glory in my life, every day, every hour, every moment.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Arrow Prayer

Thank You, God, for a great rehearsal tonight.  I feel so much more prepared for our Fall Break Tour this weekend because of it.  Thank You for Dane, Dexter, Grant, Joellyn, Rachel, Tommy, and Will; thank You for the chance you've given the 8 of us to glorify Your name and worship You together this weekend.  Thank You for laughter.  Thank You for music.  Thank You for HeartSong, for bringing them to Camp Carl so that You could put this desire in my heart, and for making that desire a reality before I had time to blink.

Please keep us safe on the road.  Please make Your presence known in our rehearsal times, in our conversations, in our worship, both on and off stage.  Please help us to impress from a distance and impact up close.  And in all things, may Your Name be glorified, because it is only in the name of Your Son that we can come before You and offer our worship.  In His name I pray these things; Amen.

L to R: Will, Joellyn, Dane, Dexter, Tommy, Rachel, Me, Grant

Fall Break Tour: October 14-17, 2010.  Please pray!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Soli Deo Gloria!

Before I start: Yellow Team had a great weekend at Lake Ann ministering to junior highers!  Thank you for your prayers!

What a week it has been!  And it wasn't even the HeartSong rehearsals that made this week so exceptional.  This post isn't really about HeartSong stuff, but it is an amazing story of God's work down here on Earth, and I'm so excited to share it!  But where to begin?

I started this week with the energy and motivation to get schoolwork done ahead of time, and for about 3 days I was able to wake up in the morning and say, "I have nothing due tomorrow that I haven't done."  That took a huge weight off my shoulders as I could concentrate on getting ahead again for the next day, and I was able to get work done the day it was assigned.  And even though after 3 days I was back to my old routine of doing things the day before, I had experienced the concept of working ahead.  It was awesome!  (I would definitely recommend it to the stressed college student.)  What a great story of the Gospel being manifested in my life; I was motivated by grateful joy instead of by fear and insecurity.

My Tuesday this week was very...involved.  Classes, work, pedagogy observations, practicing, and HeartSong took up my time from 9am to 10pm, and I ended the day exhausted.  That evening, once everything was over, I checked my voice mail and heard a message that a person I knew was just sentenced to life in prison with no parole because of a crime committed about a year ago.  I wasn't sure whether to be thankful that this person did not receive the death penalty, which has been a prayer of mine for a while, or devastated because this person would never be able to experience life the way I am able to.  I am incredibly blessed to have a crazy amount of God's grace in my life.  I was given parents who raised me to love God with all my heart, and I was given wisdom to know right and wrong so that I never thought of making the mistake this person made; and I don't deserve any of it.  With this in mind, I walked back to my dorm room and was thankful for the disgusting smell of Cedar Lake, because I knew that this person I knew would probably never smell something like that again.  I was in a weird emotional state for the next couple days, being thankful for the craziest things like running across campus to my room at the last minute to grab something or choosing whatever I wanted to eat in Chuck's.  I would love to live my life like that all the time, constantly thanking God for the things the world would tell me to take for granted.

My Thursday was awesome!  Awe-inspiring, really.  For the longest time I have been tossing around the idea of sponsoring a child through an organization like Food for the Hungry, but I've never had enough of an income to commit to the specific amount of money every month.  I remember telling myself, but really telling God, that once I had a steady income that could afford it, I would sponsor a child.  After getting my first paycheck from HeartSong a couple weeks ago, I realized that I actually could!  So I told myself, and God, that the first chance I got to sponsor a child I would do it. That chance came Thursday.

I went to a concert at Cedarville with the bands Downhere, Rush of Fools, and Finding Favor.  Finding Favor opened, followed by Rush of Fools, and then Downhere came out to talk a little bit before intermission.  The concert tour was traveling with World Vision, an organization that pairs sponsors with children, and before intermission Downhere asked us to consider sponsoring a child.  I thought about it a little bit, but I had not seriously prayed about sponsoring a child yet, so I was hesitant.  My friend took a packet from one of the Downhere members and was looking at it.  As she was putting the information back in the envelope, I asked her if I could look at it (I didn't want to grab one myself because I didn't want to have to give it back if I decided not to sponsor).  When she handed it to me, I saw a picture of an African girl and the words "Birthday: September 4, 2006."  THAT'S MY BIRTHDAY!!  At that moment, I knew I had to sponsor her.  Tears filled my eyes as I asked my friend if I could keep the packet and then practically ran to the sponsorship table in the lobby to ask about payment options.  (I was so happy to find out later that my friend chose another child, this one from India, to sponsor.)

I knew God was calling me to sponsor, but I didn't hear the calling that loudly, definitely not as loudly as the call to be on HeartSong.  But before I even started praying about what to do, God told me what to do.  As I wondered to myself, "Should I sponsor a child tonight?" God interrupted my thoughts and said, "Yes, you need to sponsor, right now.  Here's the girl you are going to sponsor; she has your birthday because I meant for you to be connected with her as her sponsor.  I've provided you with the income to do this, now go."

I know now that if it hadn't have been for that girl with that birthday, I would not have sponsored a child Thursday night.  Even though I wanted to and had sort-of-kind-of prayed about it, in my heart I wasn't committed to it.  God intervened in my life in a huge way.  He knew I would have said no, so He wouldn't let me decide for myself; He gave me an obvious sign of His good, pleasing, and perfect will before I even tested and approved it! (Ro. 12:2). And He knew that only in this way would I follow Him, so He made it happen according to the purpose of His will (Eph. 1:11).

"This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that His testimony is true.  Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written" (John 21:24-25). That is how I feel right now.  I testify to these things that God is doing in my life; He has blessed me with the wisdom to seek His will and the financial means to do His will.  Even though I will never be able to write down everything God has done, I want to continue to tell my story, to tell more and more of it, so that the name of Jesus will be glorified!

Soli Deo Gloria; to God alone be the glory!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It Will Never Stop Being Surreal

First off, congratulations to Matt and Dana for the safe arrival of their new baby boy!  Secondly, a happy birthday to Jim tomorrow!

As I'm thinking about what to write for this post, I'm realizing that I might end up sounding like a broken record.  I've already written about how much I love being a part of HeartSong, how amazing it is to be a part of something bigger than me, and how natural it's beginning to feel.  But I want to write again about this amazing experience in itself, even as I'm still grappling with what it means to be a part of HeartSong.

Tonight our all-HeartSong meeting was more like a rehearsal for Yellow Team, and we were the practice audience.  We all worshipped together, singing songs we all have come to know by heart, but still finding the meaning in them and praying them with all our hearts.  After the worship set, Jim asked the Yellow Team members how they were feeling.  A couple of them said they felt unprepared for the coming weekend, but Collin said that it still didn't seem real; he still couldn't fully grasp the idea that he was actually a member of HeartSong.  Jim reassured all of us that this feeling should go away soon.

Usually I agree with the things that Jim says, but this time I'm not sure if I do.  I think that if being a part of HeartSong ever stops being unbelievable, we stop understanding the privilege we have to be a part of this team.  There are many people at Cedarville who would give anything to be a part of HeartSong, and then there a people like me who didn't even want to be on HeartSong until two weeks before I made the team.  This is a rare opportunity that God has given to us, and we should be amazed and honored that He would choose us to be a part of this ministry.  In time, yes, it should begin to feel natural; the nervous, unprepared feelings will go away as we become more comfortable with the music and with our team.  But the amazed feeling, the surreal feeling, should never go away.  Being a part of God's plan is surreal; our sin and brokenness should have taken away this privilege and honor.  But God called us back and continues to call us to the great adventure in His Holy Spirit to be used by Him "for the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:12).

So saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze
Through the wild, blue yonder of God's amazing grace
Let's follow our Leader into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other
Woah! This is the great adventure!

P.S. Please pray for the Yellow Team as they travel to Lake Ann and minister to junior high students this weekend!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Some Things I'm Learning

It dawned on me this afternoon at lunch that this is the first time I’ve been here at Cedarville for Saturday lunch since August.  All week I’ve been looking forward to this weekend, having a free afternoon to get work done and relax a little.  But last Wednesday when Tommy said, “See you next Tuesday,” I felt a little sad that I wouldn’t be spending the weekend with my team.  I became even more excited for summer to come when I will be devoting all of my time to my team and my ministry.  But for now, I have some time to myself, and even though nothing much has happened since my last post, I thought I’d share a couple things that God has taught me this week.

First Thing:
On Wednesday, during our HeartSong meeting, we watched a video of author and pastor Tim Keller and heard his explanation of the Gospel.  Short version: in response to the Gospel, there are three ways to live.  First, one can completely reject the Gospel and choose to find his own way to live.  Second, one can immerse himself in the religion of doing good to please God, making his actions his main focus.  Both of these reject the essence of the Gospel: Jesus is the Savior of our sins.  Thirdly, one can accept God’s gift of grace and choose to do good works, not to get acceptance from God, but because of already being accepted by God.  This person is “simul iustus et peccator,” or simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ, and his motivation for doing good is not fear, but grateful joy.

Recently, I have been living my life based on the second response.  I have been looking for my value in God in how “good” I have been, how well I’ve managed my time or been a servant to others, even though I knew that these things wouldn't bring me salvation.  On the handout we received outlining the differences between living in religion and living in the Gospel, one point under “religion” said: “If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate; I feel like a failure.”  When I read that, I knew that was me.  This sentence was the essence of the five lies I had written down during the HeartSong retreat.  I could never figure out why I still believed these lies; now I know it was because I was living in religion instead of in God’s grace.  In dying for me Christ redeemed me from my failures, and even though I may continue to sin, Christ still loves me the way I am.  I should respond with overwhelming joy that the good works that I do are pleasing to Him and are not overshadowed by my sins!

Second Thing:
Even since I joined HeartSong, I seem to have had Hannah Montana stuck in my head.  Yes, I admit that I am a fan of some of Hannah Montana’s music, especially her earlier songs, because the message is very positive and encouraging.  My favorite of her songs is one that is not that well known, and it’s called “Bigger Than Us.”  Some of the lyrics are:  “I want to see beyond my own little world…to be a part of a greater picture that’s bigger than us…that rescues our hearts with a Love that’s bigger than us.”  I’m not sure if she was singing about the Gospel or not, but when I hear these words in my head I turn them into a prayer for my life.

Being a part of HeartSong gives me an overwhelming feeling that I am a part of something huge.  HeartSong is a legacy of Cedarville, and I am amazed that God would choose me to be a part of it.  And the HeartSong legacy is only a small part of the legacy of the Gospel; HeartSong is a tool that guides people to the Gospel and to Christ.  Being used by God is a much bigger honor than being a part of a college musical group!  So really, this amazement that I’m in HeartSong should hold little value in comparison with the overwhelming gratefulness that God would use me to preach His Gospel with my life, whether through HeartSong, Camp Carl, or anything else.  Right now, God has chosen for me to share the Gospel through HeartSong.  What has he chosen for you?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


“Deanna, we are going to stretch you this year!” were the words that Tommy, my team leader, said to me.  And although he was referring to me becoming more comfortable with listening to “boy-talk” and getting a tattoo (yeah, right!), I took those words to heart in a different way.  Stretching is something everybody should be willing to do, especially when God is the one doing the stretching.  This blog entry is all about the different stretches I experienced this past weekend on the HeartSong Retreat, otherwise known as Brownsburg, after the Indiana town we stayed in.  Many people have asked me about the weekend, and I’ve responded with, “Do you want the short or long version?”  Every time I tell it, it is different, but here I’d like to tell the long story, the story with all the spiritual and emotional details, because by writing them down I can better look back on the weekend and understand everything that I learned.

We arrived at the church on Thursday, unpacked and set up equipment in our separate rooms, and played a few short camp-style games before heading off to our host homes.  I went with Katie D, Katie M, and Candy to the home of a pilot and his wife and 8th-grade son, and the entire house smelled like pumpkin spices.  When the father and son both left for the weekend, we got a chance to have “girl talk” without them around.

On Friday we came back to the church at around 8:30, and the first thing on the schedule was a devotional time.  In my experience, morning devotionals tend to be simple and encouraging for the day, not necessarily too deep or emotional.  Stretch #1: morning devotionals that were incredibly deep and emotional and self-examining.  He asked us to write down 5 words to describe ourselves, calling it the 5-word story of us.  Then, we were to write down the 5-word “ideal” story, possibly changing some of the words.  Finally, after a bit of discussion that I zoned in and out of (hey, it was 8:30 in the morning!), he had us write down a 5-word story of lies that the world had told us that we had believed.  After the difficult day I had had on Thursday, I wanted to stop and leave that area blank because I had just finished forgetting those lies.  But once the pencil hit the paper, those 5 words came out like they were rehearsed, formulated much faster than the other two 5-word stories were.  I stared at those words, wanting to rip that section off the page and burn it.  I knew these were lies; I shouldn’t have to look at them and be reminded of them!  But he told us to keep those papers for later, so I did, but I folded that section over so I didn’t have to see those lies and took one more quick look at my ideal story before heading off to rehearsal for the rest of the morning.

After a great morning of rehearsing, we had lunch, followed by another devotional time.  This time, we were all given a sheet of paper and we needed to find five other people to write 5-word stories about us.  The next 10 minutes felt like 10 hours as I watched everyone exchange papers, grabbing for each other’s papers, eager to write on them.  Three people wrote on mine, and they were all great words, but I saw many people getting more than five people writing on theirs, and it made me feel very alone.  It seemed as though all of these people knew each other well, and I sat there wishing to disappear because I didn’t really belong there.  After we were all encouraged by each other, we were asked to get with our teams and share with each other our five lies from earlier that day.  I felt so exposed sharing those lies that I knew weren’t true.  I didn’t want to accept them as truth, but for some reason sharing a secret makes that secret ring truer, and I felt awful saying my secrets out loud to people I barely knew.  For the rest of the day, rehearsal seemed like a blur as I wrestled with my emotions inside.  By the time the day was over, I was emotionally exhausted, and my roommate Rachel, whose family was hosting some of the guys, could tell when she came to pick them up.  She told me later that all day Saturday she was praying for me because she knew something was wrong.

I needed to read the Bible and get some truth back into my life.  When we got back to the host home and were ready for bed, I opened it up.  I started in Leviticus, which I needed to read for a class, but I couldn’t stand reading a bunch of rules after one of my lies was that I was a failure.  So I grabbed the book that my roommate Rachel had given me for my birthday called “Come Away, My Beloved” by Frances J. Roberts (a daily devotional meant to be a letter from God) and turned to the second page.  The verse at the top was James 1:5; I stopped after reading the verse and turned to James in my Bible and started reading:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”

That was James 1:2-7.  I stopped there and went back to “Come Away,” and read this:

“The days ahead may call for greater endurance and more robust faith than you ever needed before.  Welcome this, for you must surely know how precious are the lessons learned through such experiences.  Even if you are unable to fully anticipate them with joy, you can certainly gain an appropriate appreciation of them in retrospect…Seek Me above all else.”

I knew that God had planned for me to read those verses and that devotional page on that night.  I was the only one still awake as I read, and I knelt down right there by the cushion I had been sitting on and prayed.  Stretch #2: surrendering my life to Christ, not for the first time, but for the first time in a while.  I asked Him to carry my burdens, to give me wisdom, to help me know what is truly important instead of what I think is important, to guide me and be with me, and to strengthen my faith.  Even though I don’t remember the exact words I prayed, God answered by giving me a peaceful night’s sleep and a rested soul for Saturday.

On Saturday we rehearsed some more, this time as all three teams together, which was how we were to perform on Sunday.  It was odd; I was able to play the piano for a couple of songs, but it didn’t seem real to me.  I could not wrap my mind around the idea that I was in HeartSong and I was meant to be there.  In the evening, we all dressed up like we were from the 50’s and went to a 50’s-themed restaurant to eat and play games like mini-golf, ski-ball, and mini-bowling (which I rocked at, by the way!).  For some reason I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong, that I was on the outside of this group of people, especially when I ended up with groups with couples in them.  After we got back, we had some team time, and at that point I was physically exhausted!

Tommy had noticed all weekend that I was tired and stressed, so he found me before we left for our host homes on Saturday.  He asked me how I was doing, and then promised me that it would get easier and told me that God intended me to be here and that I wasn’t here by mistake.  He also said that he was there for me if I needed him.  Stretch #3: getting an older brother.  Until now, the only man in my life that had sought to protect and care about me was my dad.  This weekend, I gained a brother who cares about me like I’m related to him and who seeks to protect me.  I also gained 4 other brothers and 2 sisters, and my prayer is that by the end of the year, we become a true family.

Sunday was the day I worshipped in HeartSong for the first time.  It felt incredibly natural.  Not scary, and not necessarily exciting.  Just very natural.  There was no adrenaline rush, no incredible feeling that told me that I was where I was meant to be, no amazement that I was actually a part of HeartSong.  I knew that I was supposed to be there, ministering to that church, and I knew that my worship was pleasing to God, and that was all I needed.  After our worship service, we walked over to where HeartSong: Generation were leading worship and sang some songs with them, including my ultimate favorite, “Rise and Sing.”  And I remembered why I was supposed to be there; because God called me there.  It didn’t matter what I would do or how God would use me.  When He called, I followed, and I am where I am supposed to be, whether I “feel” it or not.

Stretching is about discovering the scary things in our lives and purposely embracing and facing them, knowing that the trials will produce steadfastness.  It’s about breaking out of the “comfort box,” as Rachel Lee would say, and doing what God tells us to do.  Not just going, but doing and acting His will for our lives, even if that means feeling incredibly overwhelmed and stressed at first.  What God has in store for me is beyond my level of comfort, and that excites me and terrifies me at the same time.  What is going to happen next, I wonder?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can I really do this?

It's hard to believe that's it's been just a week since I last wrote in my blog.  So many things have happened, and not happened, and should have happened, and it has started to make me wonder: can I really do this?

As I write this, I'm somewhere on 70 W heading to Brownsburg, IN for our first weekend out as HeartSong.  I'm supposed to be excited; after all, I love this, right?  But I started this van ride feeling very reluctant to get in and leave behind so many things that needed to be done.  I'm behind in 2 of my classes, and by the time this retreat is over I'll be behind in 3.  I think I'm in over my head in some ways.  I started thinking this way last weekend, "Pre-Retreat Weekend,"  when we spent 8 hours rehearsing and 12 hours shopping.  For the rest of the week I continued to fall behind in schoolwork (although I did practice enough piano!) and I lost more and more sleep.  I kept trying to come up with a plan, but I failed to follow through every time.  [Thank You God for grace.]

Then I began to discover that I was missing out on stuff because of HeartSong.  I missed women's open dorms, the first ALT night, and the honors mini-retreat at Dr. Mills'; I'm also missing the Maddox Olympics, the aural skills dinner at Dr. Jaquith's, and I might have to miss my little sister's high school graduation because of summer tour.  Ever since the beginning of this experience, HeartSong had constantly been changing my plans.

Before taking a rest stop and eating dinner, I spent most of the van ride staring out the window at the clouds and watching the way they changed.  The thing that first caught my eye was the small bit of blue sky surrounded by a large blanket of gray clouds.  I thought: that's how I feel right now; I knew that after this weekend of blue skies, it would be back to that ever-thickening gray.  The farther we went, the more blue began to show until a beautiful sky of white clouds with shiny silver linings was all I could see, and I had forgotten about the gray skies.  I'm still not sure if my mind has changed with the clouds.  Can I go back and only remember the blue, forgetting the gray?

This is the part of the blog post where I'm supposed to talk about how God miraculously changed my heart and I'm all better now.  But in all honesty, I'm still trying to figure this out.  And that's okay for now.  Part of the sancification process is not having all the answers and feeling uneasy sometimes.  I know that someday all these feelings of doubt and worry will pass away, and until then I rest in the Holy Spirit who lives in me, in Jesus Christ who died for me, and God my Father who holds me in His hands, even when I'm not sure if He's there.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I LOVE this.

"We exalt Thee, O Lord..."

These were the words running through my head as I walked back to the dorm room tonight after an amazing HeartSong meeting...if you could call it a meeting.  It ended with all of us in a circle in the DMC foyer singing beautiful harmonies to our Savior.  "We exalt Thee, O Lord... Praise God, from whom all blessings flow... Take joy, my King, in what You hear, may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear."  And three words came into my head: I love this.

Yesterday was our first rehearsal as the Green Team.  It was scheduled to go for three hours.  Despite being a musician, I hate rehearsals.  Practicing I don't mind most of the time, but when lots of people get together to rehearse, I hate it.  Yes, I do believe it is necessary and key to sounding great, but in rehearsals I've been in there always seemed to be a lot more talking than playing.  Elements key to any rehearsal that I hate include stopping at the worst places to fix something, listening to the leader fix a problem with an instrument or part that isn't me, when people get distracted, when we take a break (let's just get it done!).  Granted, I hate a lot of these things because I am selfish; I don't want to sit and listen to a problem being fixed if I'm not the problem, or I just want to get this done so I can move on with my life.  God is teaching me patience, for sure.  But that doesn't change the fact that I hate rehearsing.

But last night, three hours felt like one.  We spent a good 70 minutes on one song, but it didn't feel that way.  And I can't even describe what it was that made it so short and so...awesome.  We are all super talented, which surprised me, but shouldn't have because we're in HeartSong.  "Clicked" isn't the right word, but we're learning how to listen to each other, to let each other's talent shine through.  I don't know; now that I think about it, I can't even put into words what made it great.  I loved it.  I LOVED it.

I worked at Camp Carl for two years, I was a junior counselor before that for two years.  I loved it.  It's not that it never quite felt right, it's not that something was missing, because there wasn't.  I loved my summer job, and before this past August I never would have thought of changing it.  Even now I would never trade those amazing years for anything.  But now that I'm in HeartSong, in a place that's "perfect for me" by the world's standards, I feel like if there was something missing before, I've found it.  No, it's not God that was missing; He was filling me the whole time, and that's why I never felt empty at camp.  It's a different place in my heart that's full, an unnecessary full, but a wonderful full.  Music is consuming my life.  But in a different way than how God consumes me; music is not fulfilling me, but it is filling me.  Making music is my heart's desire, and it's a desire that God put in my heart.  And I'm doing it, and I love it.

I can hear God whispering, "THIS is it.  THIS is what I created you to do.  THIS is My plan for your life."  And tonight, when I joined with 38 other people who share that calling and that purpose, and we glorified the One who gave us this desire of our hearts...

How can I go on but to say: I love this.  I LOVE this.

Monday, September 6, 2010

You Are Stronger

"It is written, Christ is risen!  Jesus, You are Lord of all!"

This song has been running through my head a lot over this past week.  It could be the fact that since I need to learn it for HeartSong, I've been listening to it a lot.  More likely it could be that this song is, as a good friend would say, the story of my life right now.  "You are stronger, You are stronger..." I am so thankful that God is stronger than I am, than my circumstances are.  A week after the first HeartSong meeting of the year, and I think that I'm finally believing that God is stronger.

Our first meeting was three hours long, and I didn't come back to my dorm room until close to midnight.  One piece of information after another piled up, and I came back to my room overwhelmed and ready to rest my mind, when Rachel, my roommate, wanted to hear all about it.  It was kind of nice telling her how everything went and what we did, but the more I talked the more I asked, "God, you put me here; do you really think I can do this?"  All week, I made plans to get a couple days ahead on homework, and every single day those plans didn't happen.  I would get all my homework for the next day finished, but I would still feel like I failed somehow because my plans didn't get fulfilled.

This is something that happened to me a lot last year, too.  I would make plans, then not fulfill them, and then give up.  I thought, if I couldn't meet God's standard, why even try.  Then I would "confess" to God, saying I would do better tomorrow, and then the next day I would fail again.  I kept thinking, "Why am I reading my Bible?  Why am I praying?  I need to get all my work done first, than when I'm free from sin, I can be with God."  I felt so guilty all the time because I was stuck in a rut of sinning, "confessing" and promising, breaking my promise and sinning again, "confessing" again, sinning again.  There was no way I could have gotten out of this rut without God's grace, but in my mind there was no way I could get God's grace until I got out of this rut.

I still struggle with this now, and last week is evidence of that.  I keep wanting to please God so He will look on me with favor, but I'm completely missing the point of grace.  God loves me and will keep His promises to me, even when I fail to keep my promises to Him.  I can't truly be made right with God until I allow His grace and His Spirit to enter into my life and change it.  He is the only one that can get out of this rut, and He is begging me to let Him in so He can fix it.  But I'm always saying, "No, let me fix this house first, then You can come in."

In Luke 10, he tells the story of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary.  I have always identified more with Martha.  What was she doing that was bad?  She loved Jesus so much that she wanted the house to be clean and the food to be ready and delicious when He came.  Mary wasn't doing anything except listening to Him; wouldn't there be time for that once everything was prepared?  But Jesus says to Martha, "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."

That one thing is God's grace.  Last year and last week I was worried and upset about many things, and I didn't understand that only one thing was needed.  I only need God's grace, and when He enters in, His grace overflows to all areas of my life, all the areas that I'm worried and upset about, and takes away my burdens, the burdens I can't carry myself.  He is stronger than I am; He is the only One who can save me.

You are stronger, You are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me
It is written: Christ is risen
Jesus, You are Lord of All

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest...For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
~Jesus (Matthew 11:28,30)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Camp Carl Changed My Life

With the exception of my becoming a Christian, every significant spiritual moment in my life happened at Camp Carl.  In the summer of 2000, I came to Camp Carl for the first time, and God put in me a dream to be a counselor there someday.  Summer of 2004 was when I discovered a new way to worship God in singing and physical movement (raising my hands, etc.) and it redefined the way I worshipped.  Summer of 2005 was the first time I performed an original song in public, summer 2006 I grew closer to two of my best friends, and in the summer of 2007, as a junior counselor, I discovered the joy in serving others.

Sure enough, in 2009 my dream came true, and I became a day camp counselor, organizing and leading the 1st-3rd graders in song.  For two summers, I made wonderful friends, learned a lot about myself, and let God use me to impact the lives of my campers.  I was excited!  For years I had been waiting for this, and it was finally happening!  As far as I could see, I was going to be a counselor until I was 30, or at least until I graduated from college.

At the end of summer 2010, God used Camp Carl in one more way.  HeartSong, a touring team of college students from Cedarville University, came to camp for a week to lead the junior high camp.  Being a Cedarville student, I was excited that they were coming.  Finally, someone at my school other than me would understand how awesome a place Camp Carl is!  Since I had the evenings free, I would come to junior high chapel and participate in worship.  A couple of my co's came, too, but they would stay in their seats while I went up close during worship time.  After chapel one night, Bethany said to me, "Why don't you try out for HeartSong?  You would be so good at it!"  But I couldn't be in HeartSong!  That would mean I wouldn't be at Camp Carl next summer!  But as the week went on, I became more and more torn between the two.  Yes, I would love to be a part of HeartSong, but I would hate to miss a summer at camp!

Finally, I went for a walk before chapel one evening with my Bible.  One of my favorite spots at camp is about a mile away from the cabin circles in the middle of the woods: a little outdoor chapel area with a firepit and a cross.  I sat there reading Ephesians when I came to Ephesians 1:11-12, which reads:

In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.

For the praise of His glory.  God used those words to tell me that it doesn't matter what I would want.  God wants me to be for the praise of His glory; He wants me in the place where He can use me the best. God used Camp Carl, once again, to call me away from Camp, away from the place and toward the God of the place.

I chose to audition for HeartSong that fall.  I prepared for a week, than auditioned, than went through a few stressful days of waiting and callbacks, and two weeks after I surrendered camp to God, he took it away for good and set me on a great adventure with HeartSong.  Even though I feel sad sometimes that I won't be back at camp, I can't be sad for long because I am so excited about the way God is going to use me in HeartSong for the praise of His glory.  And maybe He will change my life again, in a new place.