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.