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!!