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!!