Monday, October 7, 2013

Resolution of Thankfulness and Reflection

My life has been blessed. So very blessed. I have been given chances to learn lofty things from the greatest of mentors and teachers. I have been supported financially, mentally, spiritually, physically by so many friends and family members. And then there are nights like this. All is quiet, all is calm. I am given the chance to reflect on past experiences, to catch up with old friends. I forget about the stress of upcoming recitals and homework that is due by the end of the week and I reflect.

What have I given back? When one is given so much should they not give back? I've heard it said that being a teacher is a largely thankless task, and I disagree. The thanks are simply much quieter and much subtler. The looks of admiration from a high school student's face after seeing you perform on stage. The laughing that ensues from a misspoken word in class, no respect lost. The look of disappointment in their eyes for missing class or being sick and not able to perform their best and impress you. Do they know how much I love them? How can I give back even more than I already am? This cannot be a new dilemma. I try my hardest to tell my teachers how thankful I am to them for what they have given me. I hear myself repeating stories they have told me or using "-isms" that I have heard hundreds of times over the years and they will never know. They will never know how blessed I was by them or how much they influenced me.

But here I am, earning my master's degree in classical voice performance. A master's degree! My parents were surprised I had the desire to get a bachelor's and I made it here. A semester and a half left, my future hanging in the delicate balance of God's will and plan, and all I can do is reflect.

From here on out, the work I do is not for me. The work I do is not, deep-down, for my students, my friends, my teachers, my family. The work that I do is for God's Kingdom and from the overflow of my thanks to Him and the people He has put in my life to get me to this point. If anything is able to boost my drive and tenacity, that is. I was recently reading in Galatians where it says that we "are children of promise." God has promised us so much and He makes good on those promises daily. My faith is not one of things that I must do, but of an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude and awe. English fails me to describe what I really feel, but the sentiment is true.

My grades are His. My social life is His. The computer I'm writing on is His. I can claim nothing and therefore must use everything to the best of its ability, including my own body. Here is to finishing out this semester and this year stronger than any before.

Out of thankfulness for those God has placed in my life.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cogitationes aestivo

It is late at night, but my mind will not allow me to go to sleep. Thoughts from my past few months keep coming into my head, crying for attention, yet I am too tired to give them the honor they deserve by inspecting them fully. So instead I blog. I write for the untold masses. I muse.

So much has happened to me lately, and I don't know how much I can share. Not that I do not want to share my life with those around me, though perhaps it is useless in this forum. I simply have so many words fluttering around my thoughts and no order in which to place them. Words have always been important to me. The English language, though excruciatingly difficult to sing in, is a sonorous, multi-faceted language. Being a classical vocalist and singing in several languages on a daily basis, I am painfully aware of the many places our mother tongue originated. The elements of French, Spanish, Greek, German, and Latin all combining to form the way most of us in North America and western Europe communicate. All of the intricate pieces which had to come together in order for our language to be exactly where it is today.

As I've begun work on my own new hobby, that of writing a novel or series of novels, I have started by creating maps, sacred texts, character profiles and a language. When I was deciding how my language would sound, I combined the [ʒ] from French with Italianate vowels, Hebraic [χ] and many sounds found within Russian and German and English. I did this to give it a more world-worn sound and, perhaps, a gruffer, more earthy tone as well.

All of this to say, I still have no words to describe my Summer. Here I am, now two weeks into the school year and still no idea how to thank those who need to be thanked, how to mourn new members to my personal family who are now scattered across the nation, or how to explain to everyone around me how much I have really changed. Instead, I have found myself trying harder than ever to fit back into the crowd because I am too frightened to show them the difference the Summer made in my life. The difference that scares me so much, that gives me such drive this school year. I wake up every morning and see my Bible sitting solidly on my shelves from whence it has not moved since being placed there when I moved into my apartment for the year. I see pictures of people who have influenced me more than I ever could know and I feel ashamed that I am not brave enough to continue in the path I saw ahead of me when I was not distracted.

This Summer has left me broken. A wise man once told me that people often think that as you become an older and "wiser" Christian you automatically become holy someday, or life gets easier and you get better each day. He also said that the exact opposite is the truth. That each day one lives in full knowledge of Christ's love and grace, the more we realize how fallen and in need of help we are. And here I am, wanting so desperately to hold my friends close and be in a place that singularly focuses on building others up, where I focused on building others up, where our desires and needs fall far short of those around us. I cannot help but stand in awe of the work that was done this Summer and confusion over how to spread that to people that think they know who I am.

It is one thing to truly understand one's identity. It is another to convince others. That is the journey ahead of me. That is what I am failing to do. That is why I miss my friends and feel torn from them while they live their lives apart from me for this time.

I want to leave you all with one thought. God didn't have to make us. He made us because He wanted to in full knowledge that we would turn from Him because our own wants and needs seemed more appealing than His, but loving us anyway. He loved us so much that He Himself gave up His eternal, ineffable form and took on that of a human. A tainted, mortal/immortal body. That He could live our lives. Know what we know, feel what we feel. Cry, hurt, feel pain, be depressed, but know that He had a place waiting for Himself and for us. He is there, still in human form, though perfected. He is there waiting for us, keeping His Father's judgmental hand at bay, just so we can be there with Him. Forever. So we can live eternally with the one who created us simply because He could.

If you have never heard the Gospel, that's it. God made us and loves us because He could and He wanted to. Nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing we have to do but understand that He died so we would not have to. We are paid for. He made us. We were stolen from us. He bought us back. Thank God He is so gracious. This is how we should live each day, with these thoughts in mind.

I may miss my friends, but God has His plan, and that is rarely the same as my plan. I am content and excited to see what that plan entails.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Three Poems from a Summer Notebook

Here are three poems I wrote this summer. I do not claim that they are art, merely journeywork. These are just a few of the things that sprang to mind while working with Worldview Academy this summer and happened to make it onto the page. I may write a retrospective at a later date, but I have been, as of yet, unable to process what has happened to me this past summertime. I hope you enjoy and are edified by these three poems.

More Beautiful Than
   Conjure up in your mind
the absolute worst
       Imagine it fully in
       your numbest brain cells.

Do you have it? Do you
        understand what that says
        about you?
      How do you live with
            thinking the kinds of 
            things that you do?

Worse yet -
    How does a holy, perfect, loving

   live. With you on His mind?

Pieces of dirt formed
         into the most beautiful
           of images.

        out onto the ground
             to form your face. 
        sincerely sighing silence
             forms into
your soul.   Yuh   wuh
        Yuch  wuch
        Yehh  Wehh
   Silence just breathing?

Proclamation of breath
constantly revealing.
    Reviving his beautiful essence.

You can't escape it. Stop
    trying so hard to ignore
    His words on your lips,
    your trachea forcing you
    to mutter His undimmable Name.

Accept the fate He wants
       So desperately
                                       for you.

That horrible thing you thought?

   He made it
               more beautiful



At the Feet of Lenin
An imposition, though perhaps warranted.
The concrete is shaded and feels cool
to my touch.
My backpack rests beside me, tilted back,
looking into the fires of socialist art.

His red hands are daunting, graffiti bespeaking
his politics and despotism - blood of the martyrs. 
I cannot help but be silent.
For those who wander there may yet
be some hope in our eyes.
For those who cry, we may yet
see redemption in the shadows.

Dappling tree-branch sunlight
causes his eyes to blink. His minute
smile showing wisdom and
knowledge - full knowledge of what
he did to his country. Where he was.
His feet flat, solid on the metal ground,
his chest thrust emphatically into an
impossible future. Little could he
have know his impact.

Nor do those sitting on little metal chairs
eating falafel at little metal tables.
The red flag stone of the courtyard
eerily echoes his birthplace, tourists
call it quaint.
Staring at his plaque with "oohs" and "ahhs"
they call it history - removed from them.
Walking away they remember their well-
loved welfare and mother's voices telling
them to share.

The all-seeing eye from a masonic lodge
looks upon the whole scene bemused,
having worked opposing for centuries,
now forced to recall its weariness
minute to hour to day to century.
Its moral compass spinning in vain,
unable to face its fear.

Amusing. Lovely, sunshining day lavishes
the wealth of summer as I sit and 
wallow in decades of philosophy, my
mind awash in wonder.

The imposing figure at my back 
calls to me. It asks me to work.
It asks me to hold the human race
to a higher standard.
It asks for peace. 


Frisbee in the Loop

Watching those who love me most
playing the sport they love the most.

Hearing their shouts of joy, cries of defeat,
switching sides as points are won for posterity.

Flashes of skin as slick fabric uncovers stomachs,
legs and arms in its haste to allow for movement.

Passersby smiling, taking in the sights of
gleeful barreling through two-inch grass.

Neon shades among various blacks, blues, and whites,
visually calling out everything they hope for.

Green - green as far as the eye can see in this town.
The end-zone cones stand in stark contrast.

Forwards caps, backwards hats, personifying
attitudes and fervor for this aural art.

How wondrous to be among people with light
in the right places of their minds and games.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Pull yourself up and happen.
Bring it to the surface.
Come along, you need to move faster.

But you don't, do you?
Move along, move along!
Stop stopping.
Stop reaching.
Stop thinking
And move along!

Calm deep sighing heaving simple heavy weightless
Rejuvenate yourself.
Happen to look up
Just once in awhile.

Once. In awhile.
Happen to move.
Think love hinder stop.

Why can't you hear?
Your ears are where your eyes should
Be. And your heart is where 
Your feet can be.

Move along.
Claw your way to the depths.
Sink into yourself and 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hear Me Out

It's been awhile since my last blog post - nearly a month - but that is only because I try to write when I have something to say, which I haven't for a long time, perhaps not even now. There is one thing that's been on my mind lately, however.

Living in Missoula and going to a public university, I've met a lot of different people from so many different backgrounds I can't even count anymore. This is in no way a bad thing, in fact I love hearing people's stories and respect each person's history. There is one thing I won't stand for, though, and that's when other people tell me that my story and beliefs, or those of a friend, are not valid. Throughout my life I have come up against people who think that their story is more important than mine, or that, because I was homeschooled, I must be bigoted or repressed or even "closed-minded". What frustrates me the most is that people are always saying that diversity is key, and yet they do not allow me to explain my story.

While I am not going to post my entire life's story on this blog, there is one thing you should know about me: I'm adopted. And yes, I'm going to touch on a hot-button issue in this blog, so help me, God. I live with a girl who works for Planned Parenthood, I work with men and women who believe abortion is a right. I listen to their side of the argument politely, nod my head, and smile. I respect their right to their opinion. Here's my problem: when I open my mouth to respond in kind with my opinion, I'm shot down immediately. No time is given to my side of the argument. Why? I'm extremely pro-life and I am a Christian, two social faux pas in this world. Now, before you stop reading, let me say that myself being adopted is only a fraction of my reason for being pro-life. My having faith in a Creator and, specifically Christ Jesus as redeemer, is the driving force behind my worldview.

My case: Due to my worldview I see life as a borrowed convention, hence the name of my blog. I see everything on earth as a gift from a graceful, merciful, terrifying God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men." (John 1:1-4, ESV) Because of this fact, life is not something that I have any control over. Honestly, this is a relief. If I had control over my life, I would either be a deadbeat living under a bridge somewhere with no teeth, no money, and probably a bottle of grain alcohol in a crumpled paper bag, or worse; dead. This also means I never have the choice of suicide. I cannot decide when my life begins, so I am not able to decide when my life ends. Another load off my back.

Along with all of this comes the issue of infant life. Now, dissenters will stop me there and say, "well, when does life start?" I say, if you are going to dissect it that far, then we already have a problem. And this is that problem: sex has become casual; I myself have fallen pray to that ideology. But it isn't. Sex was given as a gift to man to breathe intimacy into a relationship and for procreation. Notice the conjunction used and lack of puncuation in that statement. "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion." (1 Cor. 7:8-9) Even the apostle Paul understood that passion is normal, and we have a perfect outlet for it.

That is all very fine and well, you say, but what about rape? What about incest? Should a woman have to pay for the crimes committed against her? Who said anything about having to pay? If a child is given it is God's will and plan for that child to be given and would have been whether or not a crime had been committed. Does that mean I condone sin and criminal activity? Absolutely not! I do, however, say that if a child is not meant for this earth, God will prepare a way, but it is not within our jurisdiction as sojourners, as it were, to decide that way. There has also been quite a bit of discussion around me lately over genetic testing of fetuses for diseases and handicaps. To that I plead motive. If a parent's motive is to discover a disease that could be cured in the womb and make a mother and baby healthy I am all for it. However, if the motive is to find an abnormality and abort, I see that as cruel and nigh-on pathetic. If you are so lazy as to abort a child who has a birth defect or handicap of any kind, I pray that baby is adopted and you are never allowed access to them again.

All of that to say, I am blatently against abortion. Who knows who each of the roughly 800,000 yearly US aborted children ( would have become? I can't say, and neither can you. As for Planned Parenthood, I will not bash all of what they do. I know many men and women who go to them for support and healthcare reasons outside of abortion, and that abortion is a small fraction of what they do. I hear that, I understand that, and I commend it.

However, let me show you a quote from Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger:

"Our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying... demonstrates our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism ... [Philanthropists] encourage the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant ... We are paying for, and even submitting to, the dictates of an ever-increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all."
(Margaret Sanger. The Pivot of Civilization , 1922. Chapter on "The Cruelty of Charity," pages 116, 122, and 189. Swarthmore College Library edition.)

Does reading that give you the warm fuzzies? No? Why not? There isn't a sanctity to life, is there? If there is, then who gave it to us? If there isn't, why stop at abortion and not allow murder and genocide to continue? If we're all merely "morons" and aren't worth the allowance to breed, why not kill us off and allow only those deemed good enough to continue the human race? I realize I am taking some cheap shots here, but stop to think before you get mad. What are the basic principles to which you ascribe when you label yourself as "pro-life" or "pro-choice"?

I do not ask you to agree with me, though I sincerely hope that you do. What I do ask is that you know why you believe what you believe and have good, solid reasons for your worldview. Do not become one of the herd of internet-dwellers who says they know anything because they can look it up in the blink of an eye yet never do, and are rendered intellectually incapacitated. Know why you believe what you believe and then start conversations to further your understanding and allow time for both sides of the argument to be heard.

"A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed." - Nelson Mandela

"Those who cannot understand how to put their thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of debate." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Preaching from the Choir

1/22: today we drove a long time. Now, by camp standards this was pretty typical, but eight-and-a-half hours of driving for one who has been conditioned to be sedentary in an office or desk is horrifying. Well, not that bad, but I did have a massive charlie horse by the time we were done driving for the day. During the course of the trip we watched both Pitch Perfect and Mrs. Doubtfire, while intermittantly reading, listening to sick beats on my iPod or sleeping pretty hard. But after the trip we got off the bus in Miles City, population 10,000.

Here we were treated to sandwiches and a lovely concert at Custer County High School, most of which was sung by the University of Montana Chamber Chorale (aka Us), then we were split up into our host homes. Myself and a sophomore, who is actually two years older than me and a former marine, were placed with the school's principle. Upon getting situated in his Ford truck he asked if we were okay with stopping to get some food. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, we said yes and asked him to take us somewhere unique to Miles City. He told of a place called the Airport Inn, which worried me. Upon our arrival, however, we found it to be a small restaurant just across e river from the high school. Our host jogged inside and placed an order for "finger steaks" even though they were closed (our host: "well, we're in Mayberry!"), and said it would be ready in ten minutes and there was something he wanted to show us.

We drove two minutes across the road from the restaurant and by the light of the city below all we could see was an apartment building somewhere off in the distance. Thinking it surely couldn't be the main attraction, I was taken aback when our host began to tell us all about how the man who built this apartment building was a concrete pourer and would use this building as a way to get rid of extra cement at the end of a job. Sure enough, we were able to see the layers in the walls from multiple pours. Amused and thoroughly caught up on anecdotes of the complex we arrived back at the restaurant to pick up our order. Ten minutes later we were sitting in his dining room having met his wife and two daughters eating away at our "finger steaks" which, for those of you who are like me and have been kept in the dark about such things, is basically strips of beef that have been fried - small country fried steaks. But instead of sausage gravy, a bit to my disappointment, we were given ketchup mixed with sweet relish. After a hearty meal of fried delicacies we were given full reign of the basement until that point at which we decide to sleep. Bedtime never sounded so good.

Rest if the trip: So I wasn't as good about writing each day the rest of the tour, but we sang several times at different high schools in Billings, Laurel, and Miles City, all the while learning more and more about each other. Now, before you think I'm just being sappy, it should be noted that choir tours are THE BEST way of getting to know the other people in your choir. From staying at home stays together to having to fill a hotel room to capacity and sleeping on the same bus as forty other singers, you come to have new appreciations for those singing in your ensemble. Even when watching movies such as Dodgeball, you can learn who has a skewed sense of humor and who doesn't.

The case of the matter is, tour was good in a weird way, per usual, and school begins tomorrow. I am extremely nervous about starting with a new group of students for another semester and making sure I do it right, but I know God will bring me through it. Prayers for general life stuff for me a well appreciated.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

For Your Consideration

Be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it. Seriously though, God has a sense of timing and humor that can surprise even the most vigilant of prayer warriors...not to say that I am one. Since my last blog post I have been praying that God puts me in positions where I could serve those around me and be Him to the world. I had started to get a little discouraged because, outside e of the everday garbage take-out, meal prep, house cleaning thing I hadn't really had much of a chance to serve. I eamiled a few people in Missoula about some opportunities to serve that community, but more on that later. Finally it got to be Thursday night and I went along with my parents to their church community group. At the end of the night we went ariund the circle gathering prayer requests and eventually they got to me. Not being able to think of anything I physically needed, I asked that they pray for circumstances in which I could serve those around me.

That was two nights ago. Friday went by normally, sleep in, do laundry, paint, watch Doctor Who with my parents, sleep. Then today. I woke up early, packed and got all ready for my afternoon flight, then we got into the car and went to the airport. I checked in electronically - even got to tag my own bag! - and went straight through security as the airport had maybe a hundred people in it total, not normal for Sea-Tac airport. I set my stuff down at my gate and sat on the floor leaning against my carry-on since all of the seats were taken, plugging myself in to watch Pitch Perfect (some unfortunate swearing and adult humor, but on the whole hilarious for a singer such as myself). A half hour later they started calling asking for someone on my flight to volunteer to be bumped onto a later flight due to an emergency last-minute overload passenger on the plane. I am the type to be unwilling to change my plans and so sat there, expecting along with everyone else for someone else to go to the desk. No one went up. They called again ten minutes later. Still no one. They called another time and, yet again, no one went up. I was sitting near the desk and overheard the conversation between the passenger and the gate agent and realized this was an actual emergency. This time when the agent announced the need for a volunteer (calm down, Hunger Games fans), I knew it was supposed to be me so I went to the desk and told them I was willing to go in the morning. They started throwing all sorts of special offers on me; Alaska air miles, vouchers, priority seating (seat 6D tomorrow! Woot woot!) and everythting else they could think of to thank me. I was a bit bewildered by this as I'm used to family emergencies and had, myself, had to fly back home due to an emergency earlier in the last semester, so I just took it in stride, realizing as well that this was an opportunity to serve.

The guy I gave my place to came up and gave me a huge hug and gave me his number promising to take me out for drinks when I get to Missoula. He's a fellow student I found out as we talked and got him settled. So right now I am sitting at home, knowing that in some small way I was able to help a stranger who very well may now be a friend (of which I am never in abundance, at least outside of the music world). This is in no way meant to say I am an awesome person and am perfect; notice how many calls it took for me to answer. Notice that I begrudgingly said yes and only felt right about it once I offered. Notice how good God is for answering my prayer so quickly.

I look forward in the coming months to see how else God uses me in the lives of thse around me. Use this as an encouragement to go out and be willing to put others ahead of yourself. And above all, know that God is there, pushing you, strengthening you for what is to come.