Reflections on Winter Tour (MBI Chorale – 2014)

Back in January, the choir that I’m in (The Moody Chorale) went on Winter Tour for three days.  I journaled a bit about each day and I’d love to share that with you along with a couple of pictures from the trip. 🙂  In the next couple of weeks I’d also love to share another post of pictures from my time here in Chicago.
The only information I will leave out are the names of people we stayed with (host homes) and a couple of stories I think should remain in the chorale due to people not wanting to be embarrassed, haha.  Nothing bad.  Oh and a couple of observations about people that wouldn’t mean anything to you all.  Everything else will be practically copied exactly (except for when the meaning wasn’t clear (in which case I edited it)).

Day 1) Friday, January 17, 2014
Driving out:  The city looks so beautiful on this cold partly cloudy day!  The geometric shapes are fun to look at.  I saw a 10-story building with trees and plants on the 8th floor (the 9th and 10th floors were indented behind the green area).

The bus isn’t actually as loud as I though it might be.  I think that is due to the fact that the bus is carpeted.  I have a pair of seats to myself which is nice for the moment.  The women’s choir gave us a bag of snickers (candy)  for our trip.

I see a domed green building off in the distance.  There are so many church spires.  There is an air of excitement which causes even me (or is it I??)  to be excited. 🙂

I will record random questions I wonder about as often as I can because someday it will be fun to read them.  🙂

Question 1:  Do trucks ever get stuck on hills? (this was accompanied by a drawing of a truck stuck at the top of a hill with the bed of the truck holding the wheels off the ground on either end.  Yes, I know, funny question, but since I’m writing up exactly what I wrote you get to see some of the silly things I come up with).

I had a very rough day yesterday and this morning.  I kept seeing more of what is truly in my heart.  What is in me is awful.

Interruption: I see a huge area full of semi-trucks stacked five to six trucks high.  There are multicolored ones (greens, reds, creams, etc.).  This whole area is trucks and factories.  At least there are some trees.  There’s a lot of graffiti on everything.  I also saw a field of huge train-like gas tanks.

(back to your regularly scheduled program)  I have a deep root of bitterness, complaining, selfish, self-righteous, legalistic… it is ugly.  Covered in sin and rebellion from God.

It started snowing.

Seeing signs reflected off the bus windows makes me think for a second that they are in Russian.

I’m listening to music on my iPod on shuffle.

Question 2: (reflected upon after seeing a couple different advertisement signs by the highway/interstate) Why is the word grownup/adult immediately connected to sex, toys, and other related things?  

(Written after our first concert the evening of the 17th):
I met a family of 11 children–6 boys and 5 girls.  They like singing — they sang us a song they wrote about coffee.  Their youngest is 2 and their oldest is 20.  We (Mariya and I) are staying with the P. family and their two sons (N. 10, and A. 7).  They have a cute brown and white dog.  They have built a ton of lego creations!

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The concert went well – especially the beginning songs and the last ones (esp. “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” arranged by John Rutter).  Wow!  Singing like that makes all the effort and time worth it!  Today I feel like I want to be in chorale all 4 years at college!

Daniel’s back was really bothering him today.  Sean did a beautiful Bach cello piece arranged for his guitar for the offertory.  SuJin’s testimony on grace was phenomenal!

The church had wonderful acoustics!  The women’s bathroom was light green. 🙂  The table decorations were mason jars with green tissue paper and fake yellow flowers (lilies perhaps??).  The church is filled with large families who almost all homeschool and many of whom have adopted.  They served us a delicious dinner of: meat (3 kinds – ham, chicken, and beef), corn, vegetable casserole, buns and butter, cookies, and 7-layer salad. 🙂

The girls’ changing room was in the nursery.  My pinch-on earrings hurt a lot especially the right one.  I sang in the front row inbetween two sopranos (Georgette and Alex).

While driving home (the host home), I looked into the darkness and saw many factory (chemical refineries, etc.) lights twinkling a happy golden color while from out of thin pipes water vapor floated into the dark sky forming beautiful white clouds.  There were also a couple tall thing towers on top of which a bright flame burned away all the impure and bad gas.  It was a beautiful view. 🙂

Day 2) Saturday, January 18, 2014
I had a bad dream about a snake.  I had to escape my house before the snake was let out of its cage on purpose to chase me.  I looked up while escaping and woke up (around 6:15 am).  I fell back asleep trying to ignore the room sounds.  Mariya woke me up later.  We ate a delicious breakfast of meatballs/sausage, french toast with eggs and almonds, tea and water.  A. played “Away in the Manger” for us on the keyboard.  He was adopted from Russia.  I took pictures. 🙂

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On the bus ride (later), Christian had to do a dance because he forgot his hanger in the dressing room.  He danced to Janger (one of our choir songs in Indonesian).  We also shared host home stories.  Our bus driver’s name is Jeff.  He is an excellent and safe driver.  It snowed many inches today.

We walked around a mall.  I rode on a white horse.  Sean road on a cat and named her Gertrude. :p  The mall was painted!  The ceiling was green, then the ceiling lights were blue, and the walls were yellow.  There were real plants and trees. 🙂

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We sang in an elementary school.  It had ok sound acoustics though the piano was a bit out of tune.  I enjoyed singing on the stairs and in the hallways because they were so echoey.  The song “Daemon Irrepit Caledus” was stuck in my head a lot.

OH!  In the morning we did small groups.  My small group is: Taylor, Mariya, Ian, and myself.

I was really tired for tonight’s concert so I don’t think I sang as well.

We (Alex, Madison, Mariya and I) stayed with S.  She has a very old huge house.  She also has a cat named Sharlie.  🙂  I petted Sharlie a lot.  She loves the side of her face and her neck getting a good rub.  She left lots of hair on my black choir dress.  Bedtime now at midnight!  I will be waking up around 6:50am or so to leave at 7:20am.

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Day 3) Sunday, January 19, 2014
I am writing you with the pen S. gave me.  She also gave me: a make-up bag, 6 heart chocolates, a mechanical pencil, a card and a knickknack. 🙂

I love, love, LOVE singing the “Thank you” song! (It’s a song we sing after every meal we are served to thank the cooks).  I love seeing the people’s reactions. 🙂

Breakfast was scrambled eggs, cheese, bagels, grapes, pink “fluff”, and more. 🙂

Ryan was very sick last night and today.  Mariya also felt sick but only in the morning.  Our call time tomorrow is 8am.  I saw swings outside the church so I hope we get there early so that I can swing for 5 minutes!  (I did get to swing)

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The pastor picked up on our concert’s theme of man’s sin verses life lived under God in His grace, joy, love and peace.

They fed us so much good food today that I think I might have gained weight. :p  🙂  One lady at lunch married and Iranian and was Muslim for a long time.  Now she and her husband are both saved!!  They are praying for their four daughters who are not saved.

Ben and Brennan left their folders at the last church so… they had to do some things on the bus.  Brennan had to sing “What Does the Fox Say?” with fake green teeth on.  It was hilarious!  But the teeth wouldn’t stay on because they were too small.

The Methodist church we sang at tonight was very well designed – architecturally.  We got an hour and  half of free time!  It was wonderful!  I lay in the dim sanctuary on a red covered pew bench listening to very quiet music.  I don’t know if I fell asleep or not.  On Saturday I forgot to say that I met an older lady named Bonnie (Bonnie is my favorite girls’ name).

Tonight Mariya and I are staying with a family with two boys at home and a black dog named Diamond (15 years old!).  The youngest son is 11 and he has the extra “love” chromosome.  He is so loving!  I had to argue with him to get him to only kiss me on the cheek.  He gives the best hugs!

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I got to help take down the chairs and round tables in the gym after dinner.  It was fun!

I really don’t like TVs very much.  What a waste of time and energy.  I also think I waste too much time on my iPod games — so I deleted all of them.  :p

I sang Frozen songs with Rosie the other day in the bus.  Eric also randomly starts singing Christmas songs.  Colby says he gets flack about his hair being a “stumbling block” to others.  That’s ridiculous and a misuse of scripture as well.  Taylor really likes to read Stephen King books (It, and 11/22/63).  Daniel can talk but he’s also quite fine quiet and alone.  He’s observant.  Eric and Jacob study and do homework.  Ian talks and jokes around.  Sean rests and is quiet or asks 20 Questions or plays his guitar.  Kathryn sat alone.  She is very quiet.  Josie looks beautiful when she unbraids her hair. 🙂  Ryan is still able to crack jokes even when he’s sick.

Ok, goodnight!!  We head “home” tomorrow!  I’m so glad. 🙂

———

That’s all I wrote down. 🙂  I hope you enjoyed it and didn’t get thrown too many times by my jumps in subject. :p  I was too tired to keep it all organized and since I didn’t want to forget any little details I would just write down everything as it popped into my brain.

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Marvelous Memories! (part 2 of ??)

Memory 2:  MUSIC!!

One of the rules at VOICE is that we cannot listen to music.  We can sing or play instruments, but we can not listen to CD’s, youtube, ipods, or mp3’s.

You don’t realize how much you love something until it is taken away.  I knew I loved music (of course!) I just did not know how much I incorporated it into my daily life.

Since my room was on the top floor (#4011) I became accustomed to running up and down the stairs.  The stairwell made an awesome place to sing (because of the echo) and I sang almost every time I walked, no, ran somewhere. 🙂  That’s the other thing I discovered about myself.  When I have to get somewhere on a college campus, why walk when I can run??

My favorite parts of the week were group worship time.  All 70 (or more ?) of us would join in the auditorium.  We would pray and then anyone could go to the front and share about how they had seen God working in their life.  The testimonies really encouraged me.

Afterwords we would sing!  We sang: “Jesus, Thank you“, “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)“, “Offering“, “Rock of Ages (When the Day Seems Long)“, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us“, “How Great is Our God“, and “我的心,你要称颂耶和华“.

My favorite song was “我的心,你要称颂耶和华“.  It is always neat to sing praises to God — even in a foreign language using words you don’t understand.

Kelsey taught some of us the sign language for, “How Great is Our God,” and so we sang and signed it in front of the group one night.

Tim did an amazing job on the songs for the “Queen of the Dark Chamber” musical.  The lyrics are excellent, and although some of the songs were challenging to learn, I now cannot get their melodies and harmonies out of my head.  🙂

I’ll mention one (wait, two!!) last memory under music.

I love to listen to the piano.  Even though I can only play a few songs, I can sit for hours listening to others play.  It seems to me that almost everyone could play the piano, but I remember best: Brianne (the musical’s pianist!), Natalie, Alex, Caleb, Daniel, Erik, Eric, Jemmie, and Samuel.

One song in particular became a sort of theme song for our TESOL group.  “What Grace is Mine” by Keith and Kristyn Getty.  I’ll leave you with the lyrics.

What Grace is Mine

What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light,

Called through the night to find my distant soul.

And from His scars poured mercy that would plead for me,

That I might live and in His name be known.

~

So I will go wherever He is calling me,

I lose my life to find my life in Him,

I give my all to gain the hope that never dies,

I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him.

~

What grace is mine to know His breath alive in me,

Beneath His wings my wakened soul may soar,

All fear can flee for death’s dark night is overcome,

My Savior lives and reigns forevermore!

Marvelous Memories! (part 1 of ??)

The next few posts will be a bit unusual.  I want to share some of my favorite memories from my time at TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and VOICE (Visualizing Opportunities In Character and English).  I was planning on writing one humongeous blog post covering every detail, but instead I decided to shorten it for you to make it easier (and more fun) to read. 🙂  Don’t expect much order to the parts, these are just in the order they come to mind.

With no further adue… Here are my TESOL and VOICE 2012 memories!

Memory 1: DRAMA!!

The day after we arrived we auditioned for the musical, “Queen of the Dark Chamber.”  To summarize the story (based on the true story of Christiana Tsai), Christiana grew up in China several years before communism.  Because of a sacrifice she made for her father, she was allowed to go to the missionary school (in China) to study English.  Mary, her teacher, lead her to the Lord.  They both ministered and witnessed to the people of China.  Later, when illness set in, they both headed to America.  In America, Christiana wrote out her autobiography titled, “Queen of the Dark Chamber.”  Of course there is more to the story than that, but I’ll leave the rest for you to find out when you read the book.

Each day, before practice, we split into eight or nine groups for role-call.  My group included: Danny, Aslan, Job, Grace, Helen, and Iris.  Every role-call was different and you never knew what to expect.  For the first day (when we weren’t yet split into our groups) we had to scream our name while running from an imaginary bear.  (a video of that role-call:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSiZDje3Tuc&feature (starting at 3:02))  Another day (now split in our groups) we lined up.  Then, pretending to be madly in love, we said the name of the person next to us and said our favorite fruit. 😀  It was hilarious.

For Act I,  I was an angel.  My fellow angels were: Winnie, Lily, Esther, Donna, Mary, Kelsey, Iris, and Flo.  We sang and choreographed our song.  I really enjoyed working with the 2nd sopranos in our fist song and the 1st sopranos in our second song.  There were several stressful occasions during practice because of high nerves, a short time span to learn everything, and selfishness/wanting my own way (on my part), but after several apologies we were able to do our best for God’s glory.

In Act II, Neighbor 2 was my part.  Caleb, Danny, and Natalie were my fellow nosy neighbors.  I had a lot of fun with this role.  My solo line (in one of the songs) was: “What do you wear in China?  Were your feet bound?  Was your hair in a queue?”  And then Neighbor 3 asks, “And what do you eat in China?  Things like monkey brains and doggie stew?”  Haha!  😀  That line always made me laugh (after cringing at the revolting misconceptions).  What I thought was the best part of being a neighbor was being able to witness to the Taiwanese soldiers in one scene and pray for China in another.  Some of my favorite lyrics are these *: “Yes, we will pray for China!  For the millions who need the Lord.  We’ll remember the church in China, that can’t freely worship God anymore.  And if your people in exile need us, far from home because of strife and war, we’ll obey however God may lead us.  To show them the love of the Lord!”

All of the students did an amazing job, and I really enjoyed working with everyone. 🙂  Four of the songs have been posted on youtube.  I put them in chronological order:

~Chinese New Year

~Prisoner of the Palace

~Enlightenment

~Prayer for China

* any punctuation errors are mine, since I wrote the lyrics from memory.

Rejoice Always!

This week has been very hard for me.  Yesterday morning our internet was turned off as well as our phone line.  We were planning on switching our phones to run through the internet using a “Magic Jack“.  Apparently the phone and internet company got confused.  Instead of simply turning off our phone line they turned off our internet as well.  And they won’t turn them on again until Friday evening…

If you are reading this before Friday then I am writing you from our local library.

I use the internet multiple times each day.  I check and write e-mail, blog, listen to the radio, listen to songs on Youtube and Spotify, do language studies and reviews on livemocha, facebook, communicate with friends, etc.

The second hard thing is that my best friend (and her family — my 2nd family) may be looking for a new church.  That means I may no longer see them every week on Sunday. 😦  Just writing this down makes me get all emotional and sad again.  I know that we don’t chose a church simply for its members, but possibly losing my friend(s) is very hard.  (You choose a church based on if it is a Bible based church, if it gives the salvation message without dumbing down sin and hell, if the people are friendly, etc.)

Because of these disappointments I’ve been moody, angry, and frustrated.  Today I realized something.  My joy and happiness should not depend upon my circumstances or environment.

“10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

“111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.” (Psalm 119:111)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,..”
(James 1:2)

“16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

We are called to be joyful always, in every circumstance.  Why?  Because Jesus has conquered death for us and we have salvation through Him.  We can have joy even in the tough or mundane, because we know He has rescued us, and once our life journey on earth has ended a new and eternal journey will begin in heaven.

I want to challenge you to take whatever situations you are facing and meet them with joy.

“10 …, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

“4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

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