Music is Fellowship

Happy Monday everybody!

First, I want to acknowledge my month-long absence from blogging. I had some very busy and stressful Mondays, which is no excuse, but I also struggled with and was defeated by my consistency issue. Something happens, and has happened in many aspects of my life, when I miss one time and stop doing something all together. I am working on it¬†ūüėÖ

I’m going to ease back in with a short post, because once again, I had a hectic Monday coming off of a very busy week and weekend. Caleb and I spent Tuesday through Saturday in Malibu, California at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures. We were joined there by his parents, who made the week all the more special. All of us were physically, spiritually, and mentally encouraged by the lessons, worship, and fellowship we experienced.

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23 Goals for Year 23

Yesterday I celebrated my “golden birthday,” turning 23 on the 23rd. Many people, including my mother, did not know what that meant, so I think it’s a recent development in birthdays. I don’t know if it was the title or the amazing outpouring of love I received, but I have to admit it was a pretty spectacular birthday! Thank you, friends and family, for making me feel so blessed.

A birthday card from one of my best friends, Christie, said something that got me thinking. She said, “This year will really shine for you and I can’t wait to see you live it.” Not only is that incredibly sweet, but it made me stop and think about what 23 might have in store. I decided to set¬†some goals and resolutions for this year, like I should have done at New Years¬†ūüėÖ. A few of them I have been striving towards for a while, but some of them I just came up with, hah! In no particular order, here are 23 goals for year 23 of my life! Let’s see how many I can accomplish in the next 364 days:

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We’re Engaged!

I am overjoyed to announce that the man I have been blessed to call my boyfriend has become the man I get to call my fiancé and one day, my husband.

Caleb proposed on Elephant Mountain in Taiwan last night (this morning for you, America) with the lights of Taipei glowing in the background. He sang to me, accompanied by Nolan and Nicole, as all four of us simultaneously cried, laughed, and fought back nerves. I was not wearing anything special, my nails were not freshly painted (the picture below is a misrepresentation…), and I had sweat “glistening” on my skin thanks to the humidity and the hike.

In all ways it was unforgettable, simple, and representative of the life we will be starting together:

In our future, there will be lots of laughter and many tears of joy (with me, crying is a given). There will be friends and family surrounding us to support, mentor, love, and guide us. There will be (countless) instances in which my hair is not done and I’m not wearing any makeup, yet he calls me beautiful. There will be mountain-top highs and bright moments that twinkle like Taipei 101. There will most certainly be music.

But there will also be moments of confusion, like when I asked, “Did you get down on one knee?” afterward, because I honestly couldn’t remember…hah! There will be moments of misunderstanding, like when I yelled, “We’re engaged!” at strangers who only spoke Chinese…There will be difficult times¬†in our life together, like the struggle to walk up the¬†mountain last night, and times where it might be too dark to see each other clearly.

In all moments, especially the tough ones, I pray Caleb and I put God first in all we do and rely on Him for our strength. Our goal should be to do His will and always bring light to His glory. Through all things, I hope we will serve one another and put our own wishes last. And I know we can spend the rest of our lives actively choosing this love, never taking it for granted.

I am thankful for Caleb and for all of the people who have influenced us, as a couple or individually, throughout our lives. I am thankful for whatever path or paths led us to this moment.

I thank God for His steadfast love and the way He works through it. And I thank you for reading and for your love, thoughts, and prayers for Caleb and I!

proposal!

A Heaven I Can Imagine

Last night I had a life-changing experience, I think. I don’t always recognize them in the moment, but this one hit me instantly. It changed the way I see my faith, my Christian family, and my eternity.

My reader Sherry and I were discussing the second coming of Christ, and let me tell you it was all getting very confusing. Acts 1:11 reads, “You saw Jesus carried away from you into heaven. He will come back in the same way you saw him go.” The idea of Jesus coming down from heaven in this way is hard to imagine. Where is heaven? What does it look like? How far away is it? Can we put heaven into words, into pictures, into dreams? Will we see him riding in on a cloud? Soaring from the sky like a bird in flight? ¬†Exploding into our lives like a firework? After a lot of talking, I admitted I did not have the answers and Sherry agreed we could not fully know what to expect from heaven or from the return of Jesus.

We moved on in our lessons and I forgot about the heaven discussion. Quite a while later, we were reading Acts 2:42-47, which describes the selfless ways in which the believers lived. They shared food, money, and time. They sold belongings to give the proceeds to the needy. They opened up their homes to one another and shared everything (v. 42). It says, “They were happy to share their food and ate with joyful hearts,” (v.46). Sherry and I were struck by this idea of a fellowship of joy. We discussed how different our modern churches look from the gatherings of these first believers. We questioned how we could be more like them. We spent stretches of time in silence, each of us pondering the implications of this passage in our lives. Eventually, Sherry said something to the effect of this: One day, we will live in complete joy. We will all share our lives with one another, united in Christ. And then she said, “That’s the kind of heaven I can imagine.”¬†

I tried to hide the tears that were welling in my eyes, only to see that Sherry was crying as well. We were both moved by our longing for this heaven, this joyful fellowship, this selfless unity. We laughed a little and she apologized for being sensitive, but I know our tears were a genuine reaction to what we had just experienced. We had glimpsed a future that was beautiful and full of promise in a world that often feels so lonely and dark. We had rediscovered the goal of Christian love and unity. We had realized that heaven might not be a place we can see with our eyes just yet, but it is a place we can feel with our souls.

Until Christ returns or calls us home, let us set our sights on things eternal. Let us strive to live like the first believers, giving up all we have to serve God and others. Let us invest in our faith, instead of in worldly possessions. And let us unite in joy instead of clinging to the problems that separate us.

I know this is easier said than done, but let us be transformed by the hope that heaven isn’t so far away after all.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

When I was in high school, our choir sang a version of the Christian hymn¬†How Can I Keep From Singing.¬†At that time in my life,¬†I don’t think I¬†understood the full weight of the lyrics. My life was too neat, too charmed, too whole¬†to know what poetry like this meant:

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

( If that doesn’t paint a strong enough picture for you, please listen to Enya’s version.¬†Nothing reverberates in the soul quite like Enya ūüėČ )

Today, though, I feel as though I can understand it better. I have had¬†a very long week…I have experienced many struggles emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I have felt joy and stress. I have been successful and I have been too tired to think. I have had¬†a few highs and one extremely painful low.

Through it all, however, I have been able (&/or forced) to sing. As a music major, the days in which you can simply stop singing are few and far between. There’s always a choir rehearsal or an after-school ensemble practice or a piece¬†that needs extra work. Or in my case, a dress rehearsal for the recital that is approaching WAY too quickly ūüôā Sometimes it is enough to think, “Can I please stop¬†singing?”

Thankfully, the answer to my selfish question is usually no. Despite my negative thoughts or my tired heart, I cannot stop singing. My life is too blessed and too full to ever see living as a chore. To ever resent the music by which I am surrounded. To ever neglect the gift that God has given. To ever refuse to praise Him. I must sing and I know that The Lord is the reason why. When I open my mouth to cry out, His song flows out instead Рtransforming me, bandaging my wounds, and soothing my soul.

Tonight I experienced¬†one of those small healing moments. In the midst of an emotional weekend, our LST team had our first music rehearsal to prepare for our trip. We began a song called¬†Indescribable. At a time when I thought my heart was not ready¬†to be seen by God, words such as, “You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same,”¬†changed my mind. As scary as it might be to have someone¬†who knows you inside and out, it is a thousand times scarier to imagine going through this life without the one¬†who created your inmost being. Being seen by God is being loved, and being loved is cause for singing.¬†

This week I will have many opportunities to sing. Some of those moments will be required – by my major, by commitments, by circumstances. Some of them might be in harmony with my friends and family.¬†One moment¬†will be a culmination of the past four years of my music education. And some of the most important moments¬†will be in celebration of a life lived in service to God –¬†in memory of a beautiful person.

I will have many opportunities to sing and when I do, I hope it is with a heart that is open in praise to God. I pray that I reach the end of this week with one question bursting from my life – “How can I keep from singing?”