Monday, August 15, 2011

One Week Out: Final Thoughts

In the middle of the woods with one building that has Internet, and with the hassle of carrying my laptop with me everywhere, it became very difficult to update my blog this summer. I had lots of time to journal, however, and God has used this summer in huge ways to teach me about Himself. After being at home for a week, I am hoping to give you one last blog post with a summary of the hard things God has taught me. It took me several weeks to sort through everything He was showing me and the ways He was growing me, which is another reason why I have not been updating my blog. My prayer is that in reading this blog, you can learn just a little bit of what I learned this summer from God.

Most of the tough stuff began at the beginning of July. A few of my teammates began to criticize a lot of the things I was doing, and I was not taking it well. In hindsight, I needed to hear most of what they were saying, but at the time I was feeling pretty defensive, even though I didn't say anything out loud. When Tommy and Joellyn began to make suggestions for me to improve my piano playing, I couldn't handle it. It was so humbling to sit and listen to musical advice from a team of non-music majors, and it was even more humbling about a week later to realize that they were right. By the end of the first week of July, I was feeling really worn down emotionally.

The next week was the week Rachel left, and Brandon came up for a visit to help see her off. After that weekend, Brandon bestowed upon the Green Team HeartSong's latest purchase: a new iPad. As a team, we spent the next week discovering all of the new things we could do with the iPad. Dane could use it to mix sound from anywhere in the room, and we could put it onstage to mix our own earbuds, among other sound-mixing things. But the main application we ended up using was GarageBand. Tommy plugged it in and used the drum kit sounds to play a song or two to be goofy, and he also created a musical intro for Rise and Sing with its prerecorded string sounds and drum beats. After taking Music Philosophy with Dr. Mortensen, I have very distinct opinions about GarageBand and about what we were doing with it, and for the next week I was wrestling with those opinions. I knew that I never wanted to touch GarageBand, but I wasn't sure if I was okay with someone else like Tommy using it and being a part of a group that used it like we did. At that point I began to feel separated from my team. I knew exactly what my teammates would say if I shared my struggle with them; I knew just what arguments they would use to justify it, and I understood where they were coming from. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to make them understand my side or the struggle I was going through. When I finally did share this with 2 of my teammates, that's exactly what happened, and I started feeling really alone.

After talking with a couple of Lake Ann counselors about it, I found that one of my assigned accountability partners was going through the same type of struggle at her home church. It was really comforting to know that someone else understood me and there was someone I could talk to and pray with. I am so thankful that God put me on the Lake Ann team so I was able to build relationships with a few of the the full-time counselors that I had more in common with.

Things turned around for me in the middle of July at the end of week 5. During "God and I Time" Saturday morning, I was reading Galatians for some reason. I came across chapter 5, verse 13, a verse that I had read in the middle of May, which says: "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." I meant to make that my theme verse for the summer, but had forgotten about it until that moment. God showed me in that moment that this was the solution to my problems. I had been so full of pride, scared to share my opinion and not willing to give my teammates a chance, and I was letting my struggles rule my attitude. I realized that by having an attitude of love, I could put my teammates first and discover their hearts for worship, no matter what "instruments" we were using. Probably one of the most valuable things Dr. Mortensen ever taught me was to use times like this to put my opinion aside and to serve and love my team, remembering that the desire to glorify Christ is something we all share, and that Christ will be glorified no matter how God decides to do it, iPad or no iPad. God reminded me of this lesson and this verse that morning, and I set out that weekend to put it into practice. Unfortunately I ended up pretty sick week 6, but as I got my strength back and sought accountability with a couple of my teammates and counselors, I was determined to make the last 2 weeks count, to concentrate on serving my team in love, and I was praying hard that I would be able to do that.

But there was another way I wasn't connecting with my team. After Rachel left, my team consisted of 5 boys and a girl who grew up with brothers, so all of them spoke fluent sarcasm and one of their favorite ways to communicate love was through constant teasing. As much as I tried to understand this unique love language, I often ended up angry or hurt after spending too much time with them. If I wasn't feeling angry, I was just feeling disconnected; I felt as though I couldn't fit in with the group unless I was joining in with the teasing and sarcasm. It's easy for me to connect with one person at a time at a serious level; I did that this summer with Kupkakes, Briana, and several other people. But I CAN'T STAND sarcasm! I kept those feelings to myself, however, as I tried to understand how my teammates were showing love to each other. And I always knew that when I was fed up with them, I had a couple of counselor friends I could go to and spend time with.

For the last two weeks of tour, I had three goals. First, I did my best to not take my team's sarcasm seriously and to try and understand my team's way of showing love. Second, I made a point to show love to my team in the way I preferred, in one-on-one conversations and in encouragement cards. The thing I love about encouragement cards is that I can think through exactly what I want to say and pray that my words are what that person needs to hear. Every one of them is personal and heartfelt, and it is energizing to me to give people encouragement in this way because I know that it is sincere, purposeful love. Third, as I said in my last blog, I spent the last week pouring myself into the Lake Ann staff and campers. I left Lake Ann feeling like I was leaving home, the same feeling I felt every summer when I left Camp Carl. That's when I knew that it was God at work, that He had accomplished these goals through me.

Ken Riley asked all of us to sum up our summer in 5 words. I chose my words from Galatians 5:13 – Serve one another in love. When I am being criticized by my team, when my opinion is different from my team’s, when my team is being so sarcastic that I can’t stand it, God calls me to serve them in love, to show them I love them by considering them better than me and seeking out the thing that I can learn from them. And although I will probably never agree with sarcasm, I am praying that God will help me put those unintentionally-hurtful words aside and forgive, and to continue to love in the way God has called me to love.

For the past week I have had Grayson (from Orange Team)’s song “Give Me a Love” running through my head. I’ve decided to close this blog with some of the words to this song. This has been my prayer as the summer has come to a close, and I hope that in sharing this with you I can show you what God is doing in my life right now. I hope you have enjoyed reading all year and that this blog has pointed you to Christ and His amazing work. Soli Deo Gloria!!

Give me a love that can only come from You
Help me to see all these people as You do
Use my words, may they only come from You
Shape my heart so that loving is all I do
It’s not gonna be easy, but I’m ready

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Best Week Yet

Last Monday the 31st, I decided that I was done wasting time. With one week of camp left, I made up my mind that this was going to be the best week. I wanted to leave everything on the court, to not hold anything back. I prayed for strength for one more week, and set out to pour God's love into every single person I talked to. And God was faithful, using me in all my strengths and weaknesses to bring Him 100% of the glory.

For some reason all summer I gravitated toward the junior high camp. Kupkakes was a junior high girl, and the Zorbs are a junior high activity. So Monday morning during greeting time, I hung out by the junior high banner with Andrew, Kathleen, and one of the counselors Trisha as she waited for her campers. I knew Trisha a little bit, but while we waited and talked we found out that we have more in common than we realized before. One of those things is that we both loved making friendship bracelets! I told her that if her girls ever wanted to make friendship bracelets, I would love to join them. I gave her my phone number to text me just in time for her campers to arrive.

Later that day I got a text from Trisha, saying that her girls were making bracelets outside the cabin. Technically, Monday afternoons are my time off, but this was the last week, and I was going to take any opportunity I could to hang out with campers. I joined their cabin for the next hour or so, making bracelets and talking. None of them really knew who I was and that I was on HeartSong, and that was kind of nice to talk to them as a friend instead of a "celebrity." We talked about some of the girls' favorite camp songs, and one of the girls showed me how to make a new kind of bracelet. I was fired up for that evening's worship, and nothing was getting me down; even an argument with Tommy about junior chapel couldn't ruin my mood. After chapels, I ran into the same cabin of girls, and two of them, after hearing me play the piano in chapel, were so excited to tell me about how they were piano students in the same studio and loved playing duets together. I was SUPER excited to spend the rest of my week finding every opportunity I could to hang out with Trisha and her cabin.

The next day, I was so excited to spend lunch with Anjela watching the movie Fireproof. We had found out the week before how much we both loved that movie, so we borrowed it from a friend and watched it on her laptop in the staff room while we ate lunch. For the whole rest of the week we quoted it to each other. :) After that, I went to the Red Canoe to find some campers to hang out with and ran into Susannah’s cabin of junior girls. One of the girls had a large green slushie, and I bet her that she couldn’t finish the whole thing before craft time. At Lake Ann, betting currency comes in “woof-woofs”, or the humiliation of barking like a dog in a public place (3 “woof-woofs” means the loser has to do it 3 different times at the winner’s discretion). So I bet this girl 3 “woof-woofs” that she couldn’t finish it, and then she was determined to! Needless to say, 3 different times that week I was on all fours barking like a dog for this camper. ;) Later that evening at chapel for the juniors, I got to sing one of my favorite junior camp songs: “The Fruit of the Spirit Song!” It was one of my all-time favorites from Camp Carl, and I was so excited when the speaker requested it. That became one of my favorite junior chapel nights of the summer.

On Wednesday, I was back out at the Zorbs! Because there were so many girls, it got pretty chaotic toward the end, but I just kept on doing my favorite part: filling up the bucket and dumping cold water on unsuspecting campers in the Zorb. And, for the first time all summer, I was sneaky enough to dump a bucket on Andrew as well (I was pretty proud of myself). ;) I raced Trisha down the hill for some "woof-woofs" which made it more fun for her cabin. Trisha's entire cabin wanted me to hang out with them all the time, and every chance I got I was with them. I ate lunch with them every day and dinner with them whenever I could; I also found them before chapels to hang out and talked with them in the bathroom before breakfast. A lot of times for me ministering feels like I am being poured out and leaves me weary, but being with these girls was filling me up and energizing me, and I was so thankful for that. I loved every minute I had with them!

Thursday of this week was the culmination of an entire summer of sibling rivalry. It started with the sock prank; finally I was sneaky enough to put 8 of Will’s guitar pedals in socks and hook them back up, making it more difficult to get them all off. But if I believed in karma, I would say it caught up to me that afternoon when I went to the junior camp/junior high carnival and got 3 buckets of water dumped on me by Tommy. I was about ready to kill him by dinnertime. Then, during chapel, Dexter put a huge plastic beetle on my phone and I almost freaked out before realizing it was fake. I looked back and saw Dex and Tommy laughing, and soon after I got a text from Dex: “We’re the brothers you never had, and never wanted!” Later on, Will realized that it wasn’t Dane but me who socked his pedal board, and the next morning I walked in to find my two pedals, earbuds, and a couple of other “sock-able” things on my keyboards covered in socks. I know, I had it coming. :)

But in between all the teasing and sarcasm there were times of serious talking and love. Having Will, our class chaplain, on my team actually became really beneficial for me. Talking with him, I learned a lot about God and about myself, even by just asking him what God was teaching him. There was also a great talk about music, where I got to be the one teaching him. I never realized how much effort is needed to teach someone what a leading tone is. It was fun for me to teach him and get excited about teaching 4 students this fall.

Friday was a depressing day just because it was a day of lasts. For the last time, I worked in the snack shack with Anjela, singing marching band songs and making blizzards. For the last time I sang “Romans 16:19” for junior chapel, after which I ran out of the room to pray hard that God would put me on this team again next year. For the last time, I worshipped with my HeartSong Green Team, and as we ended the service with an encore, we played the chorus of “You Deserve” about 7 times because we didn’t want to be done.

But because it was the last time for everything, I made the most of every moment. I had chosen to make this the best week ever, and I had done it. Even Friday night, when I’m normally headed to bed, I peeked my head into Trisha’s cabin to hang out with her girls one more time. I cherished every moment I had, took advantage of every opportunity, and prayed that God would shine through everything I did. I ended the week satisfied that I had given it my all and not held anything back. I had finished the race, and I could end the summer with a joyful conscious.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blessings In Disguise

It was bound to happen; I’m getting all out of order with my blog posts. This blog is not about this week, but the week before the amazing weekend last weekend…I hope that makes sense! I have just a couple of stories from the week that I’d like to share. And thanks to spell check I’m finally spelling “disguise” right; there are some things modern technology is good for, I suppose. :)

First disguise: asthma. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you heard about Bryce’s asthma attack. Bryce is the soundman for the summer at Lake Ann, and because he’s still in high school part of his contract gives him a free week as a senior high camper. His counselor was Zach (from Yellow Team) and his sister counselor was Becca, and I know both of them pretty well, so I was spending the afternoon on Thursday with their group watching them conquer the Goliath, a giant climbing ladder (see pics on Twitter). While he was on the top rung, Bryce started hyperventilating and had to come down right away. After he took a puff of his inhaler, he passed out, and we couldn’t get him to wake up. Becca gathered the entire group in another area while Zach and the nurses tried to revive him. One of the climbing specialists called 9-1-1, and I just kept asking, “What can I do?” Eventually my job was to go the camp entrance and wave down the ambulance and tell them where to go. Easy job, but at least I was doing something! After the ambulance was there, the camp director Ken came and “took over” so Zach could be with his cabin.

Blessing: music. I stood with the group as the girls were crying and the guys were praying and comforting them. They were singing worship songs, and Becca looked over at me and named a couple of hymns really quick; in that stressful moment she couldn’t remember the words. So I stood with them hugging them and leading them in worship. Who would have thought that an asthma attack would spark a random worship session in the middle of the woods? I guess it makes sense if you think about it. But I had been praying for something to do to help, and God allowed me to go back to my roots and remember all those hymns and 90’s worship songs that these kids grew up with so I could provide some comfort and peace. Soon after we found out from Zach that Bryce was awake in the ambulance and that he would be okay, and by that evening he was back and smiling bigger than ever when I ran to give him a hug.

Second disguise: working in the snack shack. Well, I guess it’s not so much a disguise; being able to work in the snack shack once a week is a fun blessing for me. But for Anjela, the high school girl who works there every day, it can get pretty boring. By Friday she was totally bored and had pages full of song lyrics she was copying down, just so she had something to do. For this week I had traded days with Dane so he could be with the junior high on Friday afternoon; he worked Tuesday for me and I had just arrived to work Friday for him.

Blessing: more music. Anjela and I started having a conversation about marching band. Although my marching days are long over, I still remembered a lot of the marches that we played, either in concert band or while we were actually marching. She started singing one of the classics (for the life of me I couldn’t remember the composer), but I knew it and remembered the tune very well. It wasn’t long before we were dancing/marching around the inside of the snack shack and singing the march as we went. We got smiles from the workers in the Red Canoe and rolled-eyes from Elisha, the other snack shack worker who still isn’t sure if marching band is a real sport (which it IS, by the way). About a half-hour later when we started getting a lot more orders coming in, one of the counselors came to order a slushie and asked Anjela how her day was going. I was scooping ice cream or something when I heard her say, “Oh, it’s been the best day ever! Deanna and I were dancing around the snack shack singing marching band songs! I always have so much fun when Deanna’s here.” I could not believe that dancing around the snack shack would make Anjela’s day so much better; I’ll have to make sure I do that more often!

This week that I’ve been writing about was a great reminder to me about how simple ministry can be. Obviously our main output of ministry on HeartSong is music. For these two days I was able to use music to minister to a bunch of different high schoolers; music brought peace to the cabin mates who were scared and it brought joy to the bored snack shack worker. And most of those weren’t even HeartSong songs; it was just God giving me a memory to retain music easily so I could bring it back when I needed to. I am so blessed, and so humbled, and so thankful, that God would use my memory of so-called trivial songs to be a blessing to other people. SOLI DEO GLORIA!!!


Okay, okay, I know this is about a week overdue. I have not even been to a computer to check my e-mail for the past few weeks! I want to talk about one of the best host home experiences I have ever had; last weekend we went to Kalamazoo, MI, and despite a very late arrival and an unusual distribution of the team to host families, I had the greatest weekend of the summer thus far! (Quick note: I don’t like to use names of host families in my blog for safety reasons, so most of the names in this post are changed.)

Last Saturday started out difficult for all of us because Rachel was leaving us for the summer. A couple of weeks ago Rachel got bronchitis, and despite all the rest and doctors’ visits, she was not getting better fast enough to keep going on tour. Brandon came up for a few days to help us sort everything out, and we spent Saturday morning praying and saying goodbye. Even though it was really difficult, we all knew that it was much better for her to slow down and get better. We said goodbye and left the camp, giving her time to say goodbye to the other counselors.

As we started driving, I opened up some mail that Brandon had brought me from Cedarville. One of the letters was from World Vision, and it was A LETTER FROM MY SPONSOR CHILD!! I have been waiting for this letter since last October; I guess it had gotten lost somewhere, and then they found it, and it took a few more months to get it over here. I was so ecstatic to finally hear from her, even if it was a translator’s handwriting, and to see a “picture” that she had drawn for me! It dawned on me that she is REAL, that I’m not sending a check every month to an organization, but to a wonderful child with my birthday. That was the beginning of my amazing weekend.

A few hours later we arrived in Kalamazoo. We got there about an hour and a half late, partly because of the morning and partly because the “fast-food” place where we stopped took 30 minutes to get all of our food ready! So we set up and went through a few songs for a sound check; it turned into a sneak preview for our host families since they all arrived on time. :) Once we were done, we found out that the boys would be split up 2-2-1, but the family that was hosting just Will and the family that was hosting us girls were neighbors, so all 3 of us spent the evening with both families in one home until it was time for bed.

Matt, Will’s host dad, picked us all up. We found out that he was a musician, and almost immediately he and Will hit it off talking about guitars and all sorts of stuff. We arrived at Matt’s house for dinner and met his wife, Lindsey, and Jo and my host family: Ron, Valerie, and their daughter Briana. After we were all settled with our food around the picnic table, Lindsey asked Briana about her trip to Italy. About a week before Briana had gotten back from a 2-week missions trip to Italy, where her team shared God’s love through music and drama in churches and a day camp. As Briana talked, her smile kept getting bigger and her eyes began to sparkle. She talked and talked about the way people in Europe are so resistant to the Gospel and how much they worship saints, and she kept saying she just wanted to go back and share with them the truth about Jesus. I had asked her earlier where she wanted to go to college, and she said she was going to work for 2 years and get enough money so she could move to Italy and study there and keep sharing God’s love with the people. Suddenly, I really wanted to pray for her, so I said the famous HeartSong phrase: “I know this is kind of random, but Can we pray for you right now, Briana?” It was a little awkward to ask, but I was able to pray with her, these two families, and Jo and Will, for Briana and her ministry and for the people she would meet there when she went back.

After we talked a little bit more, we moved back inside to get dessert. When we were all done with our cherry pie and cookies, Lindsey pulled out the atlas and asked Briana to show us where she had been in Italy. Lindsey, Valerie, Briana and I moved to the dining room where we could see the atlas better. It was so fun to hear Briana talk in her Italian accent when she described the cities and said some Italian phrases for us. As we talked the conversation moved in all sorts of directions; Lindsey and Valerie admitted that when they were together they were very ADD, and being with them reminded me of conversations I have with my sister on a regular basis. The two of them were so funny to listen to and to talk with, and Briana and I rolled our eyes a couple of times in between adding our own witty comments into the conversation. It was SO FUN for me to relax and talk with these girls like they were my best friends. As much as I love the boys on my HS team, they’re still boys, and I don’t always understand their humor. Spending an evening having “girl time” and being silly was so refreshing for me! At one point I made some witty or punny comment, and all I remember is the three of them laughing and laughing about it. That doesn’t happen for me as often as it used to, and that's okay, but it was refreshing to be able to laugh with them all evening.

Jo joined us later on the conversation, and it dawned on me that I wasn’t sure where all the guys were. Then I remembered that while we were eating pie, I had no idea where Matt was until I heard the sound of an electric guitar coming from the basement. Will had said, “I’ll be right back,” and that was the last I had seen of him. I guess he did come back upstairs to finish his pie, but when he went back down again he was down for good. I had to text him good night!

When it was time for bed Jo and I gathered our stuff and walked across the street to Briana’s house where we spent the night. The next morning Will came over and Valerie drove the 3 of us to church, where we heard that the rest of the guys had had amazing host homes as well! Grant and Dexter stayed with a vocal professor and a literary professor who loved C.S. Lewis, so both of them had the time of their lives! Tommy and Dane stayed with a wonderful widow who just wanted to talk about her husband and hear about Tommy’s fiancée. It was so cool to share stories with each other and to realize how excited we all were to minister through music to this church.

And THEN! After the services, several people came back to our CU table asking about the music major! That NEVER happens!! I was so excited when there was a “line” of about 3 people who wanted to talk to me about piano, traveling with HeartSong, the pedagogy program, the professors, and all sorts of other stuff! I was talking to so many people that it got to a point where the entire rest of the team was almost done tearing down and the only things left on the stage were half a drum set and the keyboards. Whoops!

Already this was the best weekend ever, but two more things added some icing to the cake. When we were done setting up at Lake Ann, Brandon took us all out to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner, and we all ate way too many wings. As we drove back to camp my team kept teasing me about wanting to stop at Wal-Mart or to get some ice cream because they knew that my parents were waiting for me at Lake Ann. It was amazing to have my parents here for a couple nights, to see the camp, to give me hugs, and to tell me about how things were at home.

Even though last Saturday didn’t start out very great, God gave me a huge amount of blessings all weekend long, and I got sort of a “second wind” for the rest of the summer. It’s crazy to think that we only have 3 weeks left! Thank you all so much for your continued prayers as we continue to minister at Lake Ann Camp and churches throughout Michigan. Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, July 4, 2011


Believe it or not, that was the nickname of a camper I met last week. She was in the junior high camp, and Linnae was her counselor. We met in the nurse's station when she had a headache and I stubbed my toe pretty bad on the Zorbs, and for some reason we hit it off and hung out for the rest of the week. And it turned out to be the best week of summer tour yet!

On Wednesday during team time, Tommy challenged all of us to find one camper and learn their name and something interesting about them. I really hate challenges like this because I feel like I'm being forced to make a friend. But I gave it a try; I went out to the Zorbs hill where all the junior high girls were hanging out for the afternoon and met a girl whose name I can't even remember now. I felt really relieved that I "fulfilled my requirement" so to speak, and relaxed for the rest of the time just enjoying myself and hanging out with the girls. When it was my turn to ride the Zorb, I stubbed my toe really badly and was bleeding. I probably could have walked to the nurse's station myself, but there was another girl who got ran into by a Zorb and had a horrible headache and needed to get driven up. Andrew, this girl, and I rode up together to the nurse's station. I talked with her on the way up and learned her name, about 5 of her nicknames, and a little bit more about her. She and I both had free time after the nurse fixed us up, so I suggested the two of us go to the water front and chat. Without even planning it, I had made a friend.

We even talked a little bit about spiritual things! She told me about her family and her experience with God and that she wasn't sure if she was a Christian. Before too long I had to leave for a HeartSong responsibility, but I was determined to find her later in the week and lead her to Christ. I prayed hard for a couple of days for an opportunity.

On Friday all the junior highers piled in the Lake Ann bus to go to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. I decided to go with them, hoping for an opportunity to talk to Kupkakez again. The entire afternoon we had fun singing silly songs on the bus and running up and down the dunes, but I never got to pull her aside for a chat. Arriving back at camp, I was discouraged, especially after how much I had prayed about it. But we had about an hour until she had to be at dinner, so I invited her to hang out with me until then. I talked to her some more about her experience with God and where she was emotionally, and she began to open up to me about her love for her family and friends who were not Christians. Even though she wasn't entirely sure that she had made this faith her own, her heart was aching for the people that she knew who were misunderstood and just needed someone to love them. She told me about the way she loved on people in her life that needed it, and I could see the fire in her eyes for these people and for God. I told her that I saw that in her and that I was so encouraged by the way she loved these people! I prayed with her, that God would wipe away all of her doubts and use her in the lives of her friends and family.

The rest of the evening was crazy as I raced through dinner, sang for Junior Chapel, and played for the big combined chapel. Afterwards it was time to tear down; we would have to miss the Glory Bowl, a huge bonfire where anyone in junior or senior high could share what God had done in their lives during the week. I was so disappointed to have to miss it! Joellyn was the only one going, to kind of represent HeartSong, and halfway through the Glory Bowl she texted Tommy and asked if I could trade places with her so I could go. I was so excited and thankful as I ran across camp to the big bonfire just in time to see Kupkakez and encourage her to talk about how God had changed her life. I heard from Linnae later that me being there was a great thing for Kupkakez, and afterwards she got to talk with her about the week and Kupkakez told her that she wasn't in doubt anymore; she knew that God was living in her!

I didn't lead Kupkakez to Christ. I only helped her a little to see that her commitment to Him was real. I wasn't expecting that at all; here I was praying for something that had already happened! God ended up using me in a different way, to be a listening and praying friend to help Kupkakez find the truth that she had always known.

Bonus Story:

In the midst of my discouragement Friday afternoon, another counselor named Abby came up to me on the bus and told me that one of her girls accepted Christ DURING our morning worship set. Without even knowing or praying about it, I had been a part of leading someone to Christ through music! Hearing that was a great encouragement to me that God uses me in ways I could never expect. All of week 3 was a great reminder that I don't always have to know what I'm doing as long as I am giving all of me to God to be used in whatever crazy way He wants to use me. I want to keep on repeating the words Isaiah said to God: "Here am I. Send me!"


Thursday, June 30, 2011

HeartSong Green Team

For the past couple of weeks I have been working on being intentional about getting to know each member of my team. Summer tour has begun to open my eyes to how each person is different, everyone’s crazy quirks and what they care about most. All 8 of us are so different, and there are definitely times when we butt heads, but at the end of the day we all know that we can lean on each other because we have the most important thing in common.

Tommy is my older brother. Since the beginning he has made it a point to reach out and get to know me and figure out what makes me tick. He sees the needs of each of the team members and is able to adjust his leadership style depending on which team member he is serving. When he talks to me, he isn’t afraid to tell me what I need to hear, and when I need something from him he never hesitates to do what is best for me.

Will is like a brother, too, but more of the annoying type at times. :) He is so outgoing and always full of joy, and he cares so much about the people in his life. He loves teasing me and sometimes does things to intentionally annoy me, but I am beginning to understand he does it because he loves me. A couple of times now I have teased him back or teamed-up with him to play a joke on someone else, and I believe that in this way he knows that I love him, too.

Dane is finally at home in his camp environment. Once we hit Lake Ann soil, out came Dane’s dart gun and soccer ball and camp-counselor personality. At the Fresh Start Skit Night, we performed a Facebook skit and he went jumping around the campfire shouting “BE MY FRIEND! BE MY FRIEND!” and ever since, counselors have asked him to do that every week. Whenever I’m feeling unsure or uncomfortable, I know I can go hang out with Dane and take my cue from him and his crazy camp personality.

Grant has taken the longest for me to get to know, but I think I’m starting to see his goofy side. He, Dane, Jo and I were eating pizza by Lake Michigan and he committed to eating an entire pizza. Once he was done, it was his idea to try to stand on his head, and ONLY his head, for a split second while I tried to take a picture of it. After about 5 tries, we gave up and he tried about a dozen other jumping/leaping/diving shots (I discovered I’m a bad action photographer). I am so glad that Grant is becoming such a wonderful worship leader and friend to me.

Dexter is so committed to these kids and to his time with God. Any time we try to get people together before or after the service, he’s usually the one missing because he is talking to a camper or group of campers. He will wait and eat lunch an hour later than the rest of us if it means he can eat with a camper that he met earlier that day in chapel. Other times I will see him with his Bible open or his 3x5 cards with Psalm 103 written on them, memorizing and meditating on Scripture. He has inspired me in my walk with God and my relationship with the campers I meet.

Joellyn and I are the ones who butt heads. We are SO similar in personality, but have different interests, and when both of our OCD natures have different ideas of perfect, we meet at a wall. But we have had a chance to talk it out, and I am discovering that a huge part of working as a team is compromise and sacrifice. A silly example is hand motions for one of the junior songs; we took a couple of motions from each of our childhoods and put them together for a new set of motions that we teach the campers together every week. Joellyn has also become my accountability partner on this team. She sees things about me that I don’t see and is not afraid to call me out when she sees something I’m doing wrong. It has taken some time, but I am so thankful to be friends with Joellyn and to have a chance to travel with her this summer.

Rachel is so easy to connect with. From the beginning, she has reached out to every person on our team, seeking to connect on an emotional level. She’s not afraid of being rejected if that means she tried, but thankfully the two of us both sought to connect with each other. We have talked so much all year and this summer, and for some reason our two very different personalities have connected and we have become wonderful friends. I am just as thankful for her as I am of Joellyn, and I know that God did not make a mistake when He put the three of us girls on this team together.

I have been reminding myself since the beginning of the summer that God has me here for a reason. While struggling to find my place and sometimes wishing I could be a counselor again, I have kept asking God to show me why I’m here. But you know, I would not trade this for anything else in the world. I have known from the beginning that I am supposed to be on HeartSong, and even if there’s no defining moment like there was on Fall Break Tour, I am so content to be in the middle of God’s will this summer. I know that I am supposed to be here, member number 8 on HeartSong Green Team.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Worship as Sacrifice

I wonder how many worship leaders or band members have thought about this.  When we lead worship, we are not entitled to our own personal moments of intimacy with God.  As leaders, it is our responsibility to draw our congregation into worship.  We are guiding these people into worship, and if we are so caught up in our own personal worship while we're leading, we can leave others behind and they can lose that intimacy.  Leading worship is a sacrifice; sometimes we need to give up our own intense worship of our Creator in order to draw others into that same intimacy that we seek.

I know, kind of a deep way to start a blog post.  But that has been on my mind for the past week, and it's something I've had a chance to talk to Rachel and Joellyn about.  Last week was Lake Ann's first week of campers, and HeartSong began our 6-chapels-a-day routine, leading morning and evening worship for three different age groups.  After a couple of days, we felt worn down spiritually, and we talked about how strange it is to lead worship when we feel so tired.  We don't want to be fake and raise our hands if we aren't moved to, but at the same time if we don't look engaged in worship, we can't draw others into worship either.  But it is possible to give glory to God even if we don't necessarily mean what we sing with all of our hearts in that moment.  If we are guiding these campers into intimate worship, we are still bringing glory to God.

On a personal level, I have found that when I play the piano with HeartSong or any church band, I can't worship in the same way I do when I'm in the congregation.  Either I am thinking too hard about the music to think about the words, or I'm thinking too hard about the words and completely botch the music.  Helping to lead worship by playing piano is always a sacrifice for me; my heart is never fully engaged in the way I'd like it to be.  But this is what it means to be a servant, isn't it?  I am giving up something I want for the sake of someone else getting what they need.  By sacrificing my personal worship through music, I am able to give these campers and counselors a chance for personal, intimate worship.  At Camp Carl I learned about having a servant's heart by washing dishes instead of having fun at the Rodeo, giving up something I wanted so someone else (the kitchen crew) could get something they needed.  I am discovering that I can fully apply what I learned there here at Lake Ann, but instead of a fun Rodeo, I'm giving up personal worship so that all these spiritually hungry campers and counselors can be filled to overflowing through their awe and worship of the Savior.

Some might be shocked after reading this.  "What??  Does this mean Deanna isn't worshipping God any more??"  Of course this isn't true.  But I am worshipping Him in a different way, a way I have always wanted to worship Him but have never developed a habit to: through daily time with God in his word.  I have never been consistently intentional about opening my Bible and soaking in His word on a daily basis.  In giving up my personal worship through song, I need to be filled by God in another way, through personal worship in His word.  As I've been reading through the Gospels in the mornings, I have begun to find spiritual strength to carry me through the day.  When I am filled up by Him, He is able to use me to pour out His love on others.

Being a member of HeartSong is difficult.  I am having to give up a lot of what I am used to, a lot of what makes me comfortable.  I was reminded the other day of my post from last September called "Stretching," and as much as I've grown in the past year, I am still not done being stretched and molded by Him.  I am praying that I can face this new phase of stretching with joy, knowing that God will use it to form me into the person He wants me to be. Step 1: offering my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, because this is my spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1).

Monday, June 13, 2011

A New Role in a New Place

Today at Camp Carl, 4 cabins of day campers arrived early in the morning for their first day of camp, and the counselors were getting ready for their first week of campers for the summer.  Today at Lake Ann Camp, the same thing was happening for 4th-12th graders and many of the counselors, who were all so excited for the first day of campers.  This morning, instead of being excited, I was so stressed about everything that needed to get done before our first chapel in the evening that I lost sight of that excitement.  Gradually I was fueled by my new counselor friends' excitement, and Dane's excitement as well, and soon I was relaxing into an incredibly content and joyful attitude toward my role here at Lake Ann Camp as a member of HeartSong.

For the last week, we have been to two churches on the weekends and spent the middle of the week with the Lake Ann staff during their training.  Our first host home of the summer was a darling older couple who had refurbished their house to include a guest apartment, as well as a rrrrrrreally tall bed that came up to my belly button!  At that church we played for the graduation Sunday service, and afterwards I called my sis, who was graduating, and we all screamed "CONGRATULATIONS!" to her over the phone.  Fast forward to this past weekend, where our host home was a young Coast Guard family with two adorable kids, 5 and 3 years old.  We had a delicious, healthy dinner and then went to town for pie for dessert.  Sunday morning we played a full program, probably our best performance yet!  I am so excited that we are gelling better and better musically.

But the place where God has moved in my life this week wasn't in the churches, but at Lake Ann during staff training.  We arrived right in the middle of their 2 weeks of training and sat in on some of the sessions, but we felt a little excluded at times because a lot of the training didn't apply to us. We had a few chances to rehearse, but we were all staying in different cabins mixed in with the rest of the counselors and after a few days I felt like I hadn't been with my team in a long time.  I was really enjoying getting to know some of the counselors: Becca, who was born without a left hand, Aubrey, who had just got back from a trip to India, and Bethany, the program director for the junior camp, among many, many others.  I jumped right in to all the camp counselor craziness really fast, but it was so strange that a lot of what director Ken was telling them didn't apply to me, even though I really wanted it to.  I was stuck in a weird place between camp counselor and band member and struggled a ton with figuring out my role. Should I dive into the counselor thing and leave my HS team in the dust? Should I distance myself from the Lake Ann staff and cling to my team? Obviously I can't do either.  But I didn't know where I fell in between the two. Dane and I talked for awhile about this because we were both feeling the same way.

I tried and tried to figure out where I stood in this new place of Lake Ann, but as is typical, the harder I tried to figure out my life for myself the more things fell apart.  I sing about and hear about the brokenness of humanity and know that I am a sinner, but I am beginning to understand how to live in that brokenness.  When I was in high school, my small group leader Monica took a small, beautiful statue of a flower girl, broke it into pieces, and glued it back together.  The broken and cracked porcelain  doll was very ugly compared to the beautiful whole doll that it had once been, and I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to be the broken doll.  But Monica set up the doll on a large flashlight, and because the doll was hollow, a beautiful glow shone out in all the cracks, and the broken doll was more glorious than the whole doll could have been.  This past week this object lesson has been resonating with me.  I am a broken spirit, a sinner who has been restored, and God's power is made perfect in my weaknesses; through my cracks God's glory shines through.

I am in a place right now that is so different from anything I did last summer and also so different from anything I did with HeartSong during the school year.  I still can't figure out what I'm supposed to do or what line of thinking I should cultivate.  That is my weakness, and I need God to step in the crack and shine through my brokenness.  This has been my prayer for the past few days or so; that I can serve wholeheartedly every person I meet, HS member or counselor or support staff person, and that God's awesome, beautiful glory will shine brightly through in my weaknesses all summer long.

SOLI DEO GLORIA!!  Let me have none of the glory for myself.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Something Old, Something New

No, I'm not getting married!!  But this was the best way I think I can describe the past few days.  Wednesday was our first day back to CU after a month off (or for me 5 days off after May term), and we have spent almost every minute since then either rehearsing or sleeping!  I am exhausted, but wanted to get some thoughts down before I drift off to sleep.

I've been on HeartSong for about 9 months now, but I still feel so new to this. I still haven't experienced the best part about being on a team: touring for an entire summer.  I have been looking forward to this since about a month into joining HeartSong.  I remember every Sunday being so sad that tour was over and having to wait another 3 weeks or so before we would tour again as a team.  And now it's finally here!  It's finally time to spend 10 weeks with my team: no school, no other obligations, nothing but this community and this ministry.  I am SO EXCITED!

The past few days we've set up our equipment and torn it down, played a ton of familiar songs, packed up the trailer, and ridden in the van together as a team.  All familiar things.  But, we have also learned how to set up trussing for our projectors and screen, learned and created several new songs, and found out more about each other by sharing our life maps.  All different things.  Something old, something new.

As Rachel would say, I feel like I'm standing on the edge of the earth.  I'm looking out to a horizon of completely new and unknown things, and even though I am so excited, I am also incredibly nervous.  I remember this same feeling when I started my job at Camp Carl three years ago; even though I had been at camp for 9 years before that, I didn't know what working there was like, and I was so nervous and uneasy with the unknown.  In the same way, even though I've been touring for 9 months, I don't know what summer tour is like, what this new camp is going to be like, and I'm nervous.

Isaiah 6:8 says, "I heard the voice of the Lord say, 'Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?'  And I said, "Here am I!  Send me!"  That is part 1 of my prayer for the summer.  I want to say to God daily, "Here am I!  Send me!" No matter how nervous I am, I want to be sent and used by Him this summer. Jesus was so nervous, even in agony, when He made the ultimate sacrifice for me.  How could I ever let nervousness hold me back??  I want God to send me and use me in crazy ways this summer so that His name will be glorified!

Part 2 of my prayer for the summer comes from Galatians 5:13, which says, "You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love."  I want to serve my teammates, the counselors at Lake Ann, the campers there, the host families we stay with, and the churches we play in... I want to serve them all in love.  Like everyone, I have a habit of indulging the sinful nature, a habit that manifests itself in different ways in everyone.  My prayer is that I will avoid falling into that habit and that I will actively serve the people around me in love.  In love; not in selfishness or obligation or in hopes to get something out of it, but in love.

Something old, familiar, comforting: God's grace in my life.  Something new, unfamiliar, daunting: traveling all summer.  God's grace I know will continue to pull me through, and I will have the honor of loving others, just a little bit like He loves me, in a new place, maybe in a different way.  I am nervous, but even more excited about what He will do and what I will discover about Him in the next 10 weeks.

Until the next post: Soli Deo Gloria!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Third Option

Okay, so I know I wasn't going to post again until June, but with the end of the world prediction and all the mayhem surrounding it, I had some thoughts to share.  This was a note I posted on my Facebook:

One local church was concerned that Camping's followers could slip into a deep depression come Sunday. Pastor Jacob Denys of Milpitas-based Calvary Bible Church planned to wait outside the nonprofit's headquarters on Saturday afternoon, hoping to counsel believers who may be disillusioned if the Rapture does not occur. "The cold, hard reality is going to hit them that they did this, and it was false and they basically emptied out everything to follow a false teacher," he said. "We're not all about doom and gloom. Our message is a message of salvation and of hope."

I found this little story in the middle of a longer story on about the "end of the world" craziness that's been happening this week.  The article interviewed Camping's followers, and the skeptics, and presented the harsh arguments that both sides were giving.  But this one paragraph struck me; instead of trying to find proof and arguing obnoxiously about how false the predition was, this pastor saw Camping's followers as lost sheep following the wrong person and felt sorry for them.  He had plans for comfort and counsel Camping's followers, not by arguing with facts but by presenting to them a message of salvation and hope.

This was the first time I heard this perspective.  Everyone on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else is quoting Matt. 24:36 and talking about how wrong Camping and his followers are.  Never did it occur to me that there's a third option we can choose, not the side of Camping or the skeptics, but of those who see these people as lost and hurt for them and want to love them and pray for them instead of judge them.

Why didn't it occur to me?  How could I have been so blind to not see that loving these people could be the only thing that brings peace?  In chapel I sing over and over, "Show me how to love like You have loved me," but I didn't think to love these people like God loves me.  How did I fail so easily?  How could I condemn these people as crazy when I turn around and act like such a hypocrite?

I need God's grace every single day.  So does Harold Camping, and his followers.  So do all the skeptics.  Everyone needs His love so desperately. And that is the message I want to live out in my life, not arguing and condemning, but loving even those who would be called crazy.  "Show me how to love like You have loved me."  Yes, that is my prayer, and I pray it even more earnestly than before.

Monday, May 9, 2011

As the Semester Ends: An Odd Assortment of Thoughts and Events

First matter of business: my Twitter!  Yes, I finally gave in to peer pressure and activated a Twitter account for myself, for two reasons.  One: Jim recently got a Twitter and asked us all to follow him as he travels this month. Two: I figured that during the summer updating my Twitter would be easier and faster than updating my blog, so in between blog posts you can still stay caught-up with what's happening with HeartSong.  You can follow me, "pianoguru8813," or HeartSong, "CUHeartSong," with your own Twitter account, and my tweets will also be posted on my blog to the right. - - >

Last week was the end of a difficult but very fast semester, and now I am officially a college junior!  During exam week I spent a lot of time with my friends.  Tuesday night and Wednesday night I spent with my music major friends hanging out and de-stressing after juries and a busy day of finals, and Thursday night, as part of Rachel's last night in our room, we had the MOMM girls over to hang out.  It was so great to spend some time with my friends before we all left for the summer.  On Friday, Rachel and I moved out of our room and gave each other one last hug.  I prayed with her one more time, giving her over to God to do His will in her life, and I am so excited to see what He does!  I went home for the weekend before I came back to school on Sunday for my May term class, and when I got back I noticed that she forgot her curtains!  So, I kept them and put them up in my new room for May term as something to remember her by.

I had a wonderful weekend with my family.  Friday night I surprised my grandma by coming to her birthday party/Mother's Day outing, and I think I surprised my entire extended family as well!  We had a great time catching up with each other and eating some yummy Chinese food.  On Saturday, my dad and my sister and I took our mom out for Mother's Day to the Cheesecake Factory and shopping; my sister and I also surprised her with a toaster oven, something she's been wanting for years; we finally found one on sale that we could afford!  I was so happy to spend the day with my family and to be with my mom for Mother's Day, especially the next day at church during the Tribute to Moms video.  Church was amazing as usual; I love love LOVE my home church and will definitely miss being there this summer.  After church my mom, dad and I left for CU to finish moving me over to McKinney, my dorm for the next three weeks.  During May, I'm going to be taking New Testament Literature for three hours every day with Dr. Gombis, and amazing NT professor who is going to be leaving CU to teach NT at a seminary next fall; I had to take a class from him when I could!  I am so excited to take an entire Bible class in a month; it will be like an intense 3-week Bible study, and I won't have any other classes or extracurriculars to worry about! :)

Class starts tomorrow, so today I had some time; Jackie stopped by and we had dinner together again.  I am so blessed to know her and love that we can encourage each other whenever we see each other!  I had a chance to encourage her with something wonderful that God has been teaching me lately; she told me, "Don't keep that to yourself.  You need to share that!" So, even though I've blogged about this before, I'm going to again with a little more detail; this is about worshipping God above all else.

About halfway through this semester, I found myself worshipping HeartSong. I LOVED being on HeartSong so much that after a weekend out I would find myself on Sunday evening depressed and sad that the weekend was over.  I took every opportunity given to me to be a part of any extra HS events, and I thought and prayed about my teams a ton.  None of these things were wrong, until I found myself telling a friend that I could not picture myself in college and not being on HeartSong anymore.  I realized that I was putting HeartSong above the God of HeartSong, just like I had put the place Camp Carl above the God of the place.  I became really worried that God would take HeartSong away from me somehow in order to get me back on track with worshipping Him above everything else.

In the course of a week or so in April, I was presented with two different ministry opportunities that would involve leaving HeartSong to be a part of. First, Sanctify Ministries, an org. of college girls that lead girls' retreats, was looking to recruit some new members, but travelling with them for the retreats would conflict with HeartSong.  Second, the women's ministry leader position for my class was open because no one was interested in it, but all the responsibilities for that would be too much if I was on HeartSong as well.  I started praying: "God, both of these are great opportunities that I would be wonderful at.  Do you want me to pursue one or both of them for next year, and leave HeartSong?"  I was so confused, especially with the deadline for the women's ministry leader position being only a week away, and asked my family and friends to pray for me.  I remember telling God that if no one else was interested in the women's ministry leader position that I would step in and do it.

About two days later, I got a reply e-mail from the person I contacted about the position with information about it.  There were about 30 names that also received that e-mail!  I took a step back, deciding to let another girl with a passion for women's ministry take the position instead.  It was as if God was giving HeartSong back to me after I gave it to Him.  In a book called "The Dream Giver" by Bruce Wilkinson that Jake, Jackie's wife, recommended to me, a man with a dream takes the steps to make his God-given dream come true.  One of those steps is giving the dream over to God in a practical way. For me, that was considering leaving HeartSong and taking the steps toward joining a different ministry.  In the book, the man leaves his dream journal behind for God, but as he travels he finds his journal along the road; God had given his dream back to him.  God did the same thing for me; after I showed Him that I was willing to give up HeartSong to worship and follow Him instead, He gave HeartSong back to me.  From that point up to now, I still love HeartSong as much as I did, but I know that at any moment God could take it away for something greater, and I'm not holding on to it as tightly as I did before because I know it belongs to Him.

Well, there's something to chew on for the next month!  I'm planning on postponing more blog posts until June when my summer tour starts.  Looking forward to worshipping my God and letting Him be glorified in my life and through my blog this summer.  To Him be all the glory and honor and praise!! Soli Deo Gloria!!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Beautiful Roomie

My roommate's name is Rachel.  We met our freshman year in a class called MOMM, an acronym for the honors program core.  She is a nursing major, a diabetic, and a former home-schooler.  I never thought I would be her roommate, but during our second semester when we got to know each other better, we started to entertain the thought of being roommates.  We talked about our likes and dislikes, what we have in common, our sleeping/study habits, and anything else roommates should know about each other. Sometime in April she said, "You know, if we room together I would not mind if the whole room was decorated in pink. Pink is my favorite color."  That's when I knew we were soul sisters.  This past year she has been incredibly supportive as I've journeyed through HeartSong and has been a huge encouragement to me, and I love her with all my heart.

The Monday night before Easter break, we had a rescheduled Green Team rehearsal that lasted until about midnight.  After a long and exhausting day I came back to the room to a distressed Rachel who told me that she would probably be transferring colleges.  Where she would be going she could get free tuition and would be closer to home and her job, and she would graduate college debt-free, which is something her parents wanted for her and something she wants, too, if she ends up as a missionary nurse overseas. She had come to that decision earlier that day and was worried the entire afternoon how I would react.  I was so tired and suddenly so sad, but it was my turn to encourage.  I gave her a huge hug and reminded her that God's plan is bigger than ours.  In the same way that I left all my friends at Camp Carl for HeartSong, I told her, God was calling her to leave Cedarville for the bigger plan that He has for her life, and if she ended up transferring I would be okay.  I could tell she was feeling a lot better when we went to bed.

But I woke up the next morning sad.  In fact, for the next two days I was just really down and out of it.  I was asking so many people for prayer, that maybe her application wouldn't go through or God would provide the money so that she could stay and be my roommate again.  But I felt so selfish praying that way after what I told her that night; if God was calling her to follow His plan, why should I pray that He would change His mind and have her follow my plan instead?  My friends were faithful in praying for peace for the two of us; they prayed that God's will would be done in our lives.  On Wednesday night as we both packed for our Easter Break choir tour, I was feeling a little better and had committed not to think about it over the break.

Thursday morning 23 of us from the Concert Chorale and the Men's Glee Club left for New York City.  We spent the break in NY, seeing the sights, getting to know each other, and spending way to much money.  The highlight, and the reason we were there, of course, was when we rehearsed in the mornings with composer JOHN RUTTER and then on Easter Sunday performed Rutter's Gloria and a Gloria by Monteverdi in CARNEGIE HALL!!  We celebrated Sunday night with a dinner cruise around Ellis Island with the rest of the performers (but being the only college-age group there, we hung out on the "quiet deck" away from the crazy high schoolers and taught each other to swing dance all night).  Rachel and I spent almost every moment together, shopping and sightseeing and being with our choir friends, taking so many pictures with both of our cameras for a scrapbook we decided to make together so that we can each take a copy with us if she left.

This past week was rough in several ways.  With assignments due, Facebook back in my life and eating away my time, group presentations, and trying to help Rachel through all her busyness and this emotional journey, I am sitting here completely drained.  Rachel is away for a couple days visiting her new school and is about 99% sure she will be there next fall.  This week I kept thinking about my friend Laura, my best friend in junior high who moved away just as we were starting high school, and how when she left we gradually lost touch.  I was worried that would happen to Rachel and me.  I also kept thinking about my roommate for next year.  I could never find another "Roomie," and I don't want to; I don't want anyone to take Rachel's place because she is so beautiful and precious to me.

But when I stop and listen to God's voice, He reminds me to surrender.  He reminds me of when I left everything I loved in Camp Carl to follow His call to try out for HeartSong.  Just like Jesus' disciples.  In Matthew 4:21-22, two brothers named James and John are getting ready to go fishing with their father; this is what they did, how they found their identity; they were a part of the family business and were comfortable that way.  But Jesus calls them to follow Him, and they just stop what they're doing and follow.  They don't stop and think and pray about it; they don't even talk it over with their father first!  They just leave their father there to fish by himself.  James and John did the right thing; when God called them, they followed, leaving everything that seemed comfortable and right for something much greater than they could ever anticipate.  I feel a little like their father right now; how can they just leave him there without thinking about how hurt he would feel or all the work he would have to do by himself?  Their father had to let them go and follow that call to a much greater plan for their lives than they could have found comfortable or profitable.  In the same way, my boss and coworkers at Camp Carl had to let me go and follow God's plan to be on HeartSong, and already He has done so many things in me and through me that never would have happened if I did not follow Him.  And in the same way again, I have to let my roomie go, because God has a bigger plan for her than I could ever have, and he orchestrates His plan so that we could be "for the praise of His glory."  How could I ever stand in the way of that?

No one will ever take Rachel's place; there won't be another roommate that I could spend so much time with and invest in so much as I did Rachel.  There will be many road trips, many late-night Skype dates, and many future memories for the two of us (for instance, we already decided that when we graduate she would be a nurse in NY and I would play piano on Broadway and we would live together in an apartment on Park Avenue and be roomies again).  My new roommate will have to go by the name "room buddy" or something else endearing but not "Roomie," because that's Rachel.  I will miss her so much next year.  But God's plan is bigger than mine, and thank God that it is, because I would be so lost without Him.  He knows what He's doing, and I can surrender my roomie over to Him because I know that He cares for her and has better plans for her than I could ever have.  I am looking forward to seeing how God uses my beautiful roomie next year for His glory.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Genuine Worship

Fight the night, run to the Light
Lord, You're the only thing to me that's real tonight
You know me better than I know myself

Oh, the blood of Jesus shed for me
What a sacrifice that saved my life

Let hope rise and darkness tremble in Your holy Light
Jesus, our God, great and mighty to be praised

Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us!

HeartSong chapel was this past Tuesday these are some of the words from some of the songs we sang.  This was a chance for us to show the rest of Cedarville what we do, to play for them some songs from our new album, and to praise and worship our God together.  This whole experience has been very emotional for me; I went from being pretty upset at the end of our final rehearsal to being so overwhelmed with joy by the time the chapel was over. What a crazy couple of days it has been!

The day before our chapel we met at 2 to set up the stage for our sound check at 4.  Set-up went so much faster than we thought, so I was able to make it to my 3:00 class.  Sound check/rehearsal needed to start right at 4 and end right at 5 for a variety of reasons, but of course we started a little late.  I actually had to leave at 4:30 to teach a piano lesson, so I ran to grab the music for "Better Than" for one of the other keyboardists to play for sound check.  Teaching that lesson was a bit distracting just because I would have rather been out rehearsing (even though I do love teaching!), and it didn't help that we could hear them rehearse through the walls during the lesson. :)

When I got back at 5, they were done rehearsing music, but we still needed to run through transitions and all those types of logistics.  But to my frustration, I walked back into rehearsal to Jim scolding everyone for not being focused, to not taking our rehearsal time seriously.  For some reason, I got really worked up and upset when I heard that.  I thought, here I was having to miss rehearsal and wishing I could be there and focus only on HeartSong, and there were some people who were unfocused and showed that they would have rather been somewhere else.  I was still thinking about these things during the HeartSong CD listening party, and even later in the evening during our last concert for the Concert Chorale.  But my sister cheered me up when she came to spend the night in my dorm, and we had a great time being goofy together and watching my roomie roll her eyes at us.

The next morning my team met a little before sound check to run through "Better Than."  After that all the teams had our final sound check and some great prayer time to focus our hearts before chapel started.  And the chapel service went great!  All of the songs sounded "CD-quality" according to Jim; even our impromptu service change by adding a song at the end went smoothly!  After chapel I got to have lunch with my family before my next class.

But that afternoon I couldn't shake those thoughts I had Monday night.  I sat down after class with my computer and blogged about it.  About a paragraph in I realized that I probably would never publish that post, so it turned more into a private journal entry.  I wrote and wrote until I had before me a huge mess of unorganized emotions that I desperately wanted somebody else to see and understand.  After finishing that post, I felt almost as upset as I had been the day before and couldn't get my act together to concentrate on my homework.  I e-mailed a copy of the unpublished post to Jim asking him to read over it, telling him that before I publish it I wanted to make sure he was okay with what I had blogged about HeartSong.  But now that I think back on it, I realize that I didn't want him to just "okay" that post or make a couple of changes.  What I really wanted was an excuse to talk to Jim, to let him know how I was feeling and to be able to talk through those feelings with him.  I didn't start feeling better until Jim e-mailed me back to set up a time to meet on Wednesday to talk through my post together so that he would have a better idea of where I was coming from.

After about an hour of talking with Jim (which still didn't seem like enough), I felt a little silly for what I had said in that blog post.  I was complaining about what I saw other people doing on HeartSong; I was condemning them. But how often do I do the same thing?  How often am I unfocused in rehearsal or unappreciative of the time I have with my teammates on HeartSong to worship our God together?  What right do I have to be upset about what I see in others if I'm not willing to admit that I do the same thing myself?  It's easy to condemn others; it's harder to condemn myself.

My talk with Jim kept coming back to talking about grace.  We had some good discussion about two different responses to grace.  First, there is an attitude that says, "Since it's inevitable that I'm going to sin, I might as well embrace the sin and just keep getting grace."  Romans 6:1-2 asks this same question: Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  The answer: "By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?"  Another attitude toward grace says, "I messed up again. I can't stop sinning; there must not be any hope for me."  Romans 5:1-2 had a good response to this; it says, "We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand."  We can only know the true feeling and meaning of grace when we can embrace both a deep desire to be like Christ and a realization that we will consistently come up short.  That is when God steps in and bridges the gap, giving us way more grace than we could ever need, no matter how much (or how little) we have sinned.

Talking with Jim was also a great chance for us to get to know each other better.  He mentioned to me that he always thought I was the type of person who communicated more efficiently through writing than verbally, and that that must be why I am so quiet all the time in HS meetings.  After talking with me, he realized that the opposite was true; I would much rather communicate with people in person, talking face-to-face, complete with all the inflections and facial expressions that come with that.  Every time I write a blog post, I reread it to make sure that it sounds like me, that I don't use any idioms or phrases I wouldn't use in real life, and that what I say comes across exactly as I'm thinking or feeling.  The problem with the post I sent to Jim was that I didn't do that; I didn't double-check that everything I said wouldn't be read the wrong way.

The heart of what I really wanted to address was the idea of worship. Sometimes I think that all of us in HeartSong spend too much time worrying about the music and the ministry and not enough time worrying about whether or not our focus is remained fixed on Jesus.  We talk about what makes a good worship service, making a list of things like atmosphere, moments of silence, Scripture, familiar songs, or any number of things.  But honestly, we don't really need any of these things to genuinely worship God. Worship doesn't equal music; worship is lifting up the most important thing in our lives.  Worship could be sitting quietly in the dorm reading the Bible, or sitting in the basement of a store with 5 other people praying silently because praying out loud or singing might get you arrested or executed, or offering a friend a favor or committing to pray for them, or getting our homework done early so we can get enough sleep so we can have energy the next day to serve our God even better.

But because worship is something we do all the time, we could also worship anything and everything but God.  Worship could also be checking our phones or Twitters all the time, or spending every spare moment with our boyfriend/girlfriend, or becoming engrossed in our work and in getting stuff done, or even sending out tons of encouragement cards so that maybe at least one person will thank you for it later.  Worship could also be worrying about the service order or the atmosphere or the transitions so much that it takes any energy away from worshipping the One we are singing to in the first place.  It's humbling to think that at every moment I am worshipping something, and that in most of those moments it is not God that I'm worshipping.

Wednesday night in our all-teams meeting Jim talked more about worship, showing us different places in the Bible that talk about worship.  A lot of these stories didn't even involve music!  And one story, about David curing Saul of his demons, involved music but not worship.  Worshipping our God should start with humility; it is a response to His grace and is made evident through our obedience to Him.  Maybe it was because Jim and I had just talked about this issue earlier that day, but I was alert and paying attention for most of the time (which unfortunately doesn't always happen for me).  I think that hearing this perspective on worship, remembering that worship is not equal to music, was good for all of us to hear.  God's grace is here for all of us who would accept it, and when we do we respond with genuine worship, living out the Gospel through our lives and through our music.

"HeartSong Ministries exists to communicate the livable reality of the Gospel as seen through genuine worship."  This is our prayer: that God would continually give us grace so that we can live out the Gospel and serve Him in genuine worship, whether it's through music or in another way.  I am so in awe and so thankful for the opportunity to be on HeartSong and pray that God would save me from ever taking it for granted, and I pray that as four of our teams travel this summer, God would work in us and through us in such a huge way that our only response is worship.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

CU Friday: A Mini-Blog

Of course, the end of the semester is near, and I am once again behind on my blogging.  But real quick, I want to share with you about last Friday, when our team played for the welcome session of CU Friday, our campus's name for the big visitation days for prospective students.

Last Thursday was pretty relaxed for me; I had a class cancelled, which gave me a good part of the afternoon free to do some homework and encourage some friends.  I was all ready around dinnertime to eat and then go to rehearsal when I found out that instead of ending rehearsal at 10 like normal, we would start rehearsal at 10!  And instead of a normal rehearsal, we were going to wheel all our equipment from the storage room in the DMC to the theater in the SSC (outside, with no trailer) and set up/ sound check for the CU Friday welcome session.  Well, I e-mailed my RD first of all to tell her I would probably be out past our 12am curfew.  Then, I spent the next few hours relaxing and getting more homework done.

Setting up is never too bad on a normal church stage.  But on a theater stage with a play in progress (which is why we started at 10; we needed to wait for the play to be over), we were playing in a living room, and it was difficult to get our staging just right and make sure that we weren't touching or breaking anything from the play (although I'm pretty sure Dexter ended up playing bass sitting on the living room's couch during rehearsal).  THEN, we needed to have two wireless microphones out for the speakers, so for some reason we had to bring a ton of equipment from the Generation room that had wireless capabilities, just for two wireless mics...By the time we were set up and sound checked, it was 12:30, and Dane was going crazy.  Jo and I walked back to Maddox for a few short hours of sleep.

Friday morning we were there around 7 for a final sound check.  Dane was going crazy again, this time because the CU Admissions computer wasn't playing nicely with our computer or system.  Finally, we got the two computers to be friends just in time for all the prospective students to come in.  We played a few upbeat songs, and to our surprise there were people standing and clapping, at 8 in the morning!!  When we were done playing, we snuck out to get some breakfast in Chuck's before we tore everything down and wheeled it back to the DMC, in the rain, in a hurry, so we could make it to chapel on time.  Dane, Dex and I all collapsed on a pew in chapel right as it was starting, and Dane and I looked at each other with a "We did it!" look in our eyes, relieved that all the stress of the morning was over.

So, it was a crazy 12 hours, but as much as some HS members would complain about CU Fridays, it was fun for me.  The first time I ever heard of HeartSong was at a CU Friday (and I figured out later that Rachel's fiance Taylor was on the team that I saw), and it was a great pull for me to want to come to Cedarville, even though being on HeartSong wasn't in my thinking yet.  We were the first students that these visitors saw that day, and I was excited for the chance to represent my university well and help to promote Cedarville.

Tune in next time for a blog update about HeartSong Chapel!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Team Time, More Tour, and No Shoes

Well, this blog post might as well be three blog posts.  That's why it has three titles.  But since this all happened within a week and a half, I figured it would be better to put them all together as one long post rather than three short ones.  I'll save the every-other-day-type blogging for the summer.  :)

* * *
Team Time

Surprisingly, since our last weekend out together I have gotten to know the members of my team more than I ever have.  A couple of Wednesdays ago, all of HeartSong took the DISC personality test as a way to get to know ourselves and each other better.  It was interesting to see that our team has no one in the "I" category.  Since then, as I've been communicating with my team members, I have been intentional to ask questions and encourage them with a spring-board off of their personality type.  The Wednesday after that, we talked about community and different ways to apply the Gospel to the way we interact with each other as a team; we also found out we will be sharing our life maps with each other before the summer comes.

The Saturday after our last tour, it was time to go shopping again.  This time around, it was so much easier and so much more fun than last time, because now we all know each other and what we like so us girls could suggest things to each other better.  I got some shorts that actually fit me well, and some new TOMS shoes (more about that later).  The Thursday after that we tried on our outfits for Jim before our rehearsal, but we came to find out that a couple of the guys grabbed the wrong type of shirt, so they didn't fit as well. It was a bit humorous.  But no worries; they will exchange them.  :)

Our rehearsal last week was hang-out time for our team.  We talked for about two and a half hours about HeartSong and encouraged each other the same way we did after Fall Break tour.  I LOVED being able to encourage and be encouraged after knowing my team for so long.  It is so refreshing to be able to be more comfortable and more open with my team.  I am so excited for summer when we get to know each other even better as we become more equipped to serve as a team.

Last Friday was so fun for me!  First, it was April Fool's day, and I played one of the cruelest/greatest jokes on Tommy.  Then, after my last class I met up with Dexter for coffee to hang out and talk a little bit about Rob Bell. Dexter is the one person on my team I feel like I know the least, so it was so cool to hear about his life and get to know him at a deeper level.  Later in the evening, I also met up with Rachel to "do homework" at her house...but we ended up just talking for a few hours.  She shared a song with me that she had started writing the night before with our team in mind, and she asked me to help her finish it.  I was so excited to get back into writing again, and I think the final song is a great fusion of our two writing styles.  I went to sleep Friday night very content and thankful to God for the wonderful team that He has blessed me with.

* * *
More Tour

I supposed I lied when I said I was done touring for the semester, although I was done touring with HeartSong.  Last weekend, the Concert Chorale went on tour to the wonderful city of Akron, Ohio: my town.  I was SO EXCITED to be able to go to my home church to minister with the Chorale and stay at my own house for my host home.  The strange thing was seeing my roommate Rachel and my friends Jan and Emma sitting in my family room and around my kitchen table.  It was a weird fusion of realities for me.  But I was so happy to show them my home and my church and to see my parents and all of my good friends from church (and impress all of them with my high C).

That was Saturday night and Sunday morning; on Sunday night we sang at a church in Massilon, OH, and stayed in host families there.  It was very strange being in a host home with 5 other girls that weren't used to touring, but it was so fun to get to know the young couple we stayed with and talk to the wife about Cedarville.  It was also fun to stay in their guest room with my friend Kara and have a chance to talk to her about my life a little bit.  The next morning, we packed lunches and were on our way to Mansfield Christian School.

The school ministry was so fun!  This is something I haven't been able to do very much with HeartSong, but I really love being able to reach out to kids in their home environment and to bless them by performing with them and giving a little master class.  We sang for three different choirs of different age groups, and all three had very different responses, which was actually pretty cool.  We ate lunch with some of the kids before we headed back to Cedarville, just in time for me to teach a piano lesson.

Touring with the Chorale was so different from touring with HeartSong, but I could see the same passion for music and for God in my friends from Chorale as I see in my friends from HeartSong.  It was a good reminder that these passions are something we all share, and that someday all of these friends will be together in Heaven praising Jesus with one voice.

* * *
No Shoes

Yesterday, April 5, was National One Day Without Shoes, sponsored by TOMS shoes.  In the past, I haven't paid much attention to this cause (or any cause like this, really).  At Cedarville, I am bombarded everyday with propaganda about different ministries and causes that need our time and our money. There is nothing bad about any of these; the problem comes when they start feeling like commercials and I just want to block them out like I do commercials.  But recently, especially after I started sponsoring a child, I have been intentionally paying attention to these different causes and organizations, praying for wisdom to know in which causes God would have me invest my time, money, and passion.  God has given me a heart for the people of South Africa and Lesotho, where my sponsor child is from, and particularly the problem of HIV/AIDS there as well as the problem of kids not having shoes to wear.  This is why I have chosen to sponsor with World Vision, who focuses on HIV/AIDS-affected communities, and to buy a pair of TOMS shoes, because for every pair of shoes TOMS sells, they give a pair to a child in a country like Lesotho who needs shoes.  Last Saturday, while I was shopping with HeartSong, I chose a pair of TOMS as my casual pair for that very reason.

When I found out that TOMS was sponsoring One Day Without Shoes, and that Cedarville was endorsing it as well, I decided I would try it.  I don't normally go barefoot; I'm usually running around summer camp in my tennis shoes.  I knew it would be a stretch for me, that it would be hard and uncomfortable. But I did it to raise awareness.  Actually, I didn't really go without shoes to raise awareness in the people around me who asked about it.  I was raising personal awareness.  I wanted to know what these kids go through every day: building callouses on their feet, getting cut up and sore from rough surfaces, and having some of the most disgusting feet.  By the end of the day, I had gone almost everywhere on campus without wearing shoes, and I was very aware of my sore, gross feet.  Today, I spent the entire day in my new TOMS, remembering that by buying these shoes, there is a child, maybe in Lesotho, who will soon be wearing new shoes as well.  I was very excited that I had made a real difference in that child's life.

God has given me a passion for the kids of South Africa who live in communities with high levels of HIV and AIDS or who don't have their own pair of shoes and go everywhere barefoot.  I have committed to spending my money and my time giving to these kids, either by sponsoring, buying TOMS, or in another way.  I was encouraged by a friend of mine who said that she was inspired by my wisdom to choose the causes that I would support and my passion to pursue and support these causes.  This wisdom and this passion come from my God, and I know that He will work through me to change children's lives.  I continue to pray for all the different causes and ministries I hear about on campus, that God would bless the people who choose to invest their lives in those causes and give them the same passion that He has given me.  When we are committed to following Christ and being used by Him, He will give us the passion He would desire us to have.  Then we must live it out!

* * *

I hope you have enjoyed my three mini-blogs!  I am so excited to get to share what God is doing through me and through HeartSong; may He alone receive all the glory and praise for what He has done!  Soli Deo Gloria!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Extraordinary Grace, Even in Ordinary Circumstance

Every HeartSong performance experience is different.  Last weekend especially was evidence of this.  Friday night we had a big combined event complete with lighting and haze effects and loud, complex songs, whereas Sunday morning we played a seemingly quiet church service with simple, reflective songs.  But in both services, we could see God moving in our lives and the lives of the people we ministered to.  Whether we play a normal Sunday service or a special Friday night event, it is important that we connect with the One that we play for and seek to glorify Him with all our hearts in every kind of performance circumstance.

But I want to start this blog from the beginning of last week.  Last Monday night, Jackie came to Cedarville to have dinner with me.  I was so excited to talk to her about my spring break and the girls that I talked to.  We ended up talking for about an hour and a half about relationships and putting God above everything else.  I felt so refreshed and excited when we were done talking.  Even if nothing else good ever comes out of HeartSong, I am so happy that I met Jackie through it and have gotten to know her.  But the beautiful thing is that God isn't done working yet!

Wednesday night was a combined rehearsal for all three HeartSong teams to prepare for our Live Event in Grand Rapids, MI on Friday.  I showed up early to help load the trailers, but then the guys that were there ended up taking care of everything (who says chivalry is dead?).  So Grace from Blue Team and I went to Rinnova to get Jim some coffee, and ended up talking for awhile and getting to know each other.  About an hour later we started rehearsal, beginning with some chaotic deciding of who would play and sing each song; a few hours of rehearsal later we were (sort of) ready for Friday.  Thursday morning, about 8 guys left as the Advance Crew to get everything set up and help get all the lighting put into place before the rest of us got there.

We were supposed to leave Friday morning at 6, but unfortunately we had a late start because we needed to get gas and then wait on a certain bass player who woke up late (*cough* Jack *cough*).  Alise, Rachel, and I ended up sitting 3-wide all the way there attempting to use each other as pillows so we could sleep on the way (we weren't very successful).  When we arrived at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, we had some lunch before rehearsing for a few hours in the afternoon, getting all the transitions in place and figuring out staging.  By the time we were done, there wasn't much time to get ready and eat dinner, but we ended up making it work and were able to pray together at 6, getting focused after a long day and preparing our hearts for worship.

The Live Event concert went great!!  The night included some comments from CU's president Dr. Brown and guest speaker Donna VanLiere, author of the Christmas Shoes and alumnus of CU.  The night was appropriately titled "An Evening of Grace"; everything that Donna talked about and every song we sang was centered around the idea of God's grace.  It was a great opportunity for me personally to reconnect with my Savior and remember why I can even be on HeartSong in the first place.  Jesus Christ, being in very nature God, humbled himself and became a servant, pouring out His blood for us on a cross so that we who are sinful may have new life in Him (Phil. 2).  Because He gives us what we don't deserve, we can give back every blessing He gives us for His glory.  That I believe is the essence of HeartSong; we all use our gifts that God has given us to bless others and give Him back the glory.  With that in mind, the 24 of us sang and played our very best and succeeded in bringing God all the glory that night.  It was such a beautiful thing.

After the amazing concert, Dani from Blue Team and I were in a host home together with a couple of CU alumni and their 3-year-old daughter and 6-week-old son.  The family had an adult foster care facility in their home for adults with mental disabilities, which I thought was pretty cool.  During the evening we had some nice conversation with them about Cedarville "then-and-now," and also had some gentle theological conversation before we headed to bed.  The next morning, their 3-year-old daughter was a ball of energy, showing us all her toys as her parents were making breakfast.  After eating breakfast, I played some of their little girl's favorite worship songs for her on their out-of-tune piano before it was time to leave.  I was very impressed at how polite she was, thanking me for playing songs for her and remembering our names to say good-bye.

Before we left, we packed up our trailer and ended up having to wait for some important replacement parts for our trailer hitch (that we drove all the way up without...why, I don't know).  As we waited, we had some fun with Will's wallet, starting with Joellyn, who was "holding on to it for him," and ending with me discreetly taking it from him while he was talking with someone else.  For some reason I was the last one Will suspected... :)  I can play practical jokes, too!

Soon after, we left for our Sunday morning church in west Michigan.  We got there, set up, and rehearsed a little bit before we decided we were too exhausted to rehearse any more.  We ended up just sitting and talking about our experiences with HeartSong, remembering what it was like in the beginning, reflecting on the night before, and talking about what it was about the night before that drew us so close to God (besides the cool lights and fog machines).  We talked about letting God's grace permeate our lives and our music in every performance and refocused our hearts again for the next morning before leaving for our host homes.

Joellyn and I stayed with the pastor and his wife: CU alumni who had two married daughters that had both gone to CU as well.  We had a delicious dinner and talked for like 3 hours about Cedarville, our families, and other things before Joellyn and I turned in for the night.  After Jo and I got ready for bed, we fell asleep to a late-night conversation, characteristic of most HS tours.  It was really cool to talk with just Joellyn this time; last time it was Rachel and I who had the late-night talk together.  I love having one-on-one conversations in general, and it is great to have that opportunity with the girls on my HS team.

On Sunday morning at 5am, I was still asleep, but my family was up and in the van coming all the way to west MI to see my team play!  In the morning service (before they arrived), our team played a couple songs for the youth group and talked to them about Cedarville and our lives.  After the first service, I got to see my family and introduce my sister to everyone on my team since she hadn't met any of them yet.  We played a full program, focusing on Jesus' gift of grace on the cross, how he works in our lives, and how someday we will be able to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  After the service, the pastor invited my family to join us for lunch before we all left for home.  I was so thankful for the chance to spend more time with my family before it was time to head back.

On the ride back, I was able to get some sleeping and homework done (not really) before I traded seats with Rachel and rode shotgun the rest of the way, attempting to keep Will in line and making sure BOTH his hands were on the wheel at all times.  I also had some great conversation with Tommy about taste in music, and it was great to hear his perspective on that.  I am still a bit confused about what music I consider "good" and what I consider "bad" and my reasons why...but that's another conversation for another time.  After a stop at Taco Bell for dinner, we rolled into CU to our own version of Rise and Sing from the new album!  Then we unloaded, prayed as a team, and Joellyn and I walked back to Maddox after our final weekend tour for the year.

It's a bit heartbreaking that we are done touring until the summer comes, but I suppose it is a good thing as school is about to pick up for the final push to the end of the semester.  Even among the disappointment, I can look back on the year and see God's grace in my life, everything He has taught me and showed me about Himself, and the ways He has drawn me close to Him over the year.  He has given me so much grace, whether I asked for it or not, whether I realized it or not, whether I could see my need for it or not...He gives an extraordinary grace to all of us, even in our ordinary circumstances.  I couldn't be less deserving, and I couldn't be more grateful.

And I couldn't be more excited for summer!!