Love Never Fails

Humans are endowed with an innate desire to have all the right answers. This desire can be seen in the first sin, when Eve ate from the tree of good and evil because she desired to be like God, knowing good and evil. However, I think that knowledge is dangerous and hurtful when it is used solely by itself. I, like many other Christians, have often crossed the line between standing up for what we believe and judgmentally pushing what we believe down other people’s throats. Although my intentions are to be God’s minister, I end up being His scourge. I lose sight of Jesus’s fundamental commands: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

It is easy to look past our own sins and to judge the sins of others. It is easy to get angry with those who don’t agree with our opinions. It is easy to lash out at people who seem to be shoving their opinions down our throats. It is easy to forget that our beliefs are tainted with the sin of our human nature and are thus imperfect.

God does not call His children to win arguments with their neighbors in the name of Jesus. He calls us to love our neighbors, whether they are friends, enemies, or anything in between. Paul reminds us in 1st Corinthians that if we “can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge” or “have a faith that can move mountains,” but lack love, then we have nothing. That statement is pretty humbling for me because I easily forget to be patient and kind. I tend to envy other people’s talents while still boasting in my own. I put others down in order to build myself up. I refuse to forgive and forget. I give in to the temporary satisfaction of evil, and I cover up the truth. I fail at loving God and loving others on an every day basis. I can see the significance of love from the effects of my imperfect love and the effects of God’s unconditional love. That’s what makes me so thankful for and dependent on God’s love.

Love is super hard, but God promises that it never fails. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. I strongly believe that if we humble ourselves and love others, despite their different beliefs, opinions, and preferences, then we will flourish. I am proud to be an Erskine student. I am thankful that I attend a Christian school that holds to Christian standards while desiring to “show hospitality and respect to all members of its community,” and to “treat all persons justly with grace, dignity, and compassion in the Spirit of Christ.”

What I Expect From Erskine

Well, I am now in my second semester at Erskine so I must have a pretty good grip on college life, right? I make decent grades. I know how, when, and where to study. I have that stable friend group. I can handle anything that Erskine throws at me. HA. That’s laughable. In the past seven months that I’ve been at Erskine, I may have learned how to thoroughly analyze Brownings’ “My Last Duchess,” participate in a handbell choir, and even carry a decent conversation in Spanish, but I still don’t know squat. Honestly, the more I learn about something, the more I realize how little I actually know. The only reasons that my ignorance doesn’t totally frustrate me are the reality that I don’t need to know everything and the faith that I have in Erskine’s ability to prepare me for entering “the real world” by the time I graduate.

After I graduate, I want to head off to graduate school and pursue an M.S. in genetic counseling. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, genetic counseling is the practice of giving advice to families who are worried about the nature, risks, consequences, or treatment of a genetic disorder. My passion for genetic counseling was sparked when I visited a genetic center in Greenwood. During that visit, I toured through various labs and talked to several employees, but was uninterested in any subjects until I talked to the genetic counselor.

Genetic counseling may sound like the most boring job on earth to you, but several aspects of the job appeal to me. As a Christian, I love the counseling part of the job. God has endowed me with a desire to get to know people and to bring out the best in them that I can. I love listening to people’s stories and learning their interests, fears, and opinions. I have always wanted a job that centers itself on helping others. A part of me loves working with people because I want to fix them, which is a desire that can be taken too far if God is shoved out of the picture.  While I know that I cannot cure people’s hearts, minds, or bodies, I am secure in the knowledge that God will use me to serve Him in amazing ways. As a science-lover, I really enjoy learning about genetics and how someone became the person that they currently are. I am a short, squinty, asthmatic Asian and that’s all due to genes (thanks, Mom and Dad..).

I am the kind of person who needs to have a plan if I want to be able to move forward. Becoming a genetic counselor may not be in God’s plan for me and I am open to change, but right now in my life, I have a goal to work towards. Part of the reason that I came to Erskine is because I expect to graduate from Erskine feeling ready to take on whatever challenges come before me. I fully believe that Erskine will supply me with the knowledge that I will need to succeed in graduate school, the faith that I will need endure trials in the world, and other important life skills.

What do you expect from a college?

Day One as a Choraleer: the almost end of my academic journey

One of my favorite scenes in The Holiday is when Jack Black’s character, Miles, says to Iris, played by Kate Winslet,

“Iris, if you were a melody…(insert a beautiful, soothing melody here) I used only the good notes.”

That’s how I had always viewed music, the good notes that live and breathe and play to describe people’s lives and situations. It was something easy, soothing, soul thrilling, and life-inspiring. All that was ever required of me was to hear a song, listen to it, fall in love with it, and then sing it. Nothing more and definitely nothing less. Until I walked into Erskine Choraleers, Fall of 2010, unawares and unarmed-who knew you needed a pencil for music?

A seat was assigned, a pack of music was handed to me, and in walked a man who would forever change not only my life but the way I viewed and interpreted music. The memory, though present, is slightly blurred. He held a pencil in hand and commanded us to stand. “Open your pack and pull out….” all I heard was Bach. That sounded familiar. Glancing to my right I watched to see which piece of music my fellow alto selected and did the same. Then I made the terrible mistake of opening the piece to reveal a sheet of paper on which an enormous ant hill had exploded. I’m sad to inform there were no survivors.

“Alright then…shall we sing?”

WAIT….WHAT?

Where was the music? You know, the part where I get to hear what I’m singing before I’m forced to sing it? Lost, disoriented, freaked out…are just a few words deemed worthy of describing how I felt.

“And if you will please in measure — that is a carry over, thank you.”

Carry over? Leaning over and whispering barely above a breath, I asked the alto to my right, “What’s a carry over?” I will never forget her reaction for it was the disbelief in her jaw drop, the roll of her eyes, and the sad truth in her voice that made me feel inadequate and unworthy.

“You don’t know what a carry over is?”

She made it sound so simple, so easy. My ignorance of sight reading could be overlooked, but not having the capability to understand a carry over was unacceptable! I was unfit to be in the same room as the rest of them; I did not deserve the title of Choraleer.

Rehearsal ended and I found myself sitting on one of the many swings afforded to us on campus, calling my mother, crying and admitting the following:

I’m just going to pack up and come home, Mama. I can’t read music…I didn’t even know what a CARRY OVER is! 

And, my mother in her wisdom asked me one simple question, “Why did you go to Erskine?”

Amid sobs, To learn music.

“And what did you learn today?”

Amid sobs with a smile, What a Carry Over is. *chuckle*

“And what will you learn tomorrow?”

Well, tomorrow and every day after that I learned that music is more than a melody we love and cherish. It is a full time commitment to a level of excellence that only a few get to experience much less achieve. Sometimes music isn’t only about “the good notes.” Sometimes they are sad, minor, dreadful moments of dissonance that collide, crash, and magically resolve. Sometimes music must first make us feel lost before we can be found.

Time hop to a small yet adequate Chorus Room at Newberry High. A young man walks in, a new student! He is joining my 8B and is looking forward to making music. Then I hand him a copy of the piece we are working on. He was lost, disoriented, and reminded me a lot of day one almost five years ago. “So,(student name), tell me, how lost and inadequate do you feel?” He replied, “Very.” I smiled, “Good!” Confused, he asked, “Good?” Opening the sheet music I replied, “Yes…Good. Because the lost can always be found. Now…this is known as a staff and these are clefs.The treble clef….”

Life lessons learned at Erskine that have managed to find their way into the new steps my life has taken. Day one as a Chorus Teacher felt very much like day one as a Choraleer: the almost end of my journey….almost.

The Presidential Scholarship: It’s Not Just About Winning

It was a bleak, grey morning. Rain splashed on the windows and flooded the pavement. Everyone was packed into one small building, nervously sipping coffee and quietly talking. Nobody knew what to expect, where to go, or who to talk to. 

If you were a part of the semi-final round of the Presidential Scholarship last year, you can relate to this scene. When I pulled up to Watkins with my friend, Katherine, I was overwhelmed with how impressively mature my competitors looked, but how gravely solemn they were too. During the opening ceremony at the Bowie Chapel, there was a tornado warning so everybody had to head to the basement in the building. When we were finally released to go to our various interview rooms, the Mall at Erskine looked like the Wood Between the Worlds, flood-style.

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I met my interviewers, looking and feeling like a drowned puppy. However, they were so kind and understanding that I quickly lost most of my discomfort.

The group of students that I was a part of was definitely an experience in itself.  Now, I want to clarify that I did not get called back to the final round of the Presidential Scholarship, probably because I gave terrible answers and did not present myself as confidently as a Presidential Scholarship winner should. When asked my favorite person in history, I said Jackie Robinson. Why him? Because I really don’t care about things in history, let alone have a favorite person. Shoot me. That being said, I was amused while listening to the other people in my group. It seemed like they tried to answer each question with one of their accomplishments. I can’t remember any particular quotes, but I do remember listening to this one guy who listed off all of these things that he was captain, leader, and president of such-and-such. I feel bad now, but I kept thinking, “Wow, he’s totally making up some of this.” That was my first experience of any sort of interview and I walked away feeling completely underwhelming.

So do I have any advice for future participants of the Presidential Scholarship? Well, you definitely don’t want me to coach you on how to win over your interviewers. I would just be clichéd and tell you to be yourself and be honest, blah blah blah. Ask your parents. I’m sure they have a lot of good counsel. However, the competition isn’t just about winning the Presidential or the Solomon scholarship.

So here are some things that you should keep in mind when you’re competing at Erskine:

1. Get to know people. One of my biggest regrets about competing for the scholarship is that I didn’t talk to many students while I was there. Once I got to Erskine, I found out that I had missed out on meeting my roommate, my best friend, and lots of other good friends. You’ll be thankful for having familiar faces greet you when you roll up to Erskine in August.

2. Get to know Erskine. Erskine really is a great place. The school is beautiful on the outside, but there is so much more beauty to be found in Erskine through the students, random events, and other opportunities. I’m still finding out things about Erskine that are pretty sweet. I mean, did you know that there’s a prayer room in the upper level of Watkins for students to use for group prayers? I think that’s pretty special. Also, we just had a Jackson Pollock day where students got to throw paint at shirts and sheets for funsies. That’s pretty special too.

3. Get to know ME. Not to be biased or anything, but I’m a pretty cool person, if you’re into reading, running, cooking, singing, playing piano, basketball, pandas, colors, laughter, pool, or sticky notes. Also, the other student ambassadors are also pretty great. Granted, they may not be as great as me, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t talk to them. ;)

Hopefully this gets you a little excited about the Presidential Scholarship. I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to go to Erskine until I stayed overnight in the dorms with a friend. That one night changed my mind, which changed my future four years. If nothing else, the Presidential Scholarship is a great step to experiencing Erskine.

“I hope you have a lovely day”

The bell had rung. The students, more than eager to leave, trampled over each other and chairs racing head-long to  the bus pick-up line which had suddenly become the universal symbol of freedom. As they and their tumultuous selves faded from view and (thankfully) ear shot, the following scene was born:

I have seen him only once before. Today he slipped past the mob and myself, heading straight for the piano. Fingers touching keys ever so lightly, he played a rag time. The echo from our rather old instrument filled the room with luscious tones and brought with it a sense of hope. Granted, my students are obnoxious and loud, unruly creatures of the day but that does not alter what Music is and has been in my life and the lives of so many, this young man being a prime example. Within seconds of unadulterated bliss, the melody ceased-its sounds a lingering memory-and the young man excused himself with the following phrase:

“I hope you have a lovely day.”

And I will, my friends. I will.

If ever a moment could be bottled away for a rainy day, I would that it be the moment this blonde haired, blue-eyed wonder of a human chose to share with me a piece of his happiness. Music, as I often find myself expressing to my students, should not be based solely on how it appeals to us or how it entertains, rather pleases our senses. Those are all wonderful aspects of Music which allow us to enjoy its many gifts. But there is a rather complicated and yet beautiful mystery to what Music does both in us and for us when used as a means to lift the fallen; or in my case, a rag time to revive a worn out teacher.

Prior to dismissal, my students posed a query concerning the many trophies that line a row of storage units in the far corner of the room. The most recent prize is dated at 2009 for their Gospel Choir and 2007 for their High School Chorus, more than 6 to 8 years ago. The students (being Freshmen) were alarmed to learn that other than a plaque for excellence from a Choral Festival, the remaining members of our Chorus did not have much of a legacy to leave behind. It swept silently and swiftly across their faces: this would be their fate.

And a moment was born.

“But that is their story, not yours. Music will give in return only what you are willing to invest. Next year, you will be sophomores and our Freshmen will look to you as the standard they should strive to meet; the legacy they should fight to uphold.” Pointing to the trophies, I stated, “But these will only be a shadow of what was achieved through the tireless efforts of many. Greatness did not come from winning a trophy; greatness was achieved first in this room and then acknowledged by many at those events. That is their story. What will be yours?”

So, what will be your story? Will you be the random, musical genius who tickles the ivories with some rag time treasures? Will you be the teacher looking for moments to birth? Or perhaps you are the soul dreaming of a legacy you think is out of reach?

Whatever it is, in the words of the Great yet famously unknown, “I hope you have a lovely day.”

J-Term: A Study of…?

For those of you who don’t know, J-Term, or January Term, is a mini-semester in January during which students take one class every day for 3 hours. These classes can range from a trip to Japan to studying the Apocrypha to figuring out the math behind certain puzzles and games. Basically, students get to ease into the spring semester by taking a light class that appeals to their interests. So what class did I sign up for? I’ll answer your question with a riddle:

You hear it speak, for it has a hard tongue. But it cannot breathe, for it has not a lung. What is it? 

Have you given up yet? Okay, here’s the answer: a bell. Props to you if you guessed correctly!

That’s right, I’m taking a class on English Handbells for J-Term. Now, you may read that and scoff at how lame that class sounds as many other people did. However, I am here to declare that you are wrong because handbells are definitely the opposite of lame. I get to actually feel beauty when 10 students come together and create music. I don’t just hear the beautiful music or feel happy because we survived a 4 page song. I actually feel beauty. Who knew that someone could do that? Now, sometimes there’s only chaos and a cacophony of clashing notes, but that’s just something to laugh about and improve the next time!

So, other than the class that I enjoy so much, what’s so great about J-Term? Well, let me tell you something. The free time during J-Term can either be a curse or a blessing. J-Term starts to feel like a drag when you have a lot of free time and nothing to do. Of course, that is remedied simply by finding things to do and people to be with. I’m freed up to do so many activities that I never had time to do last semester, but I have a hard time organizing everything that I want to get done each day. I end up not getting anything done because I just watch Friends on Netflix and exercise. To be fair, there are those rare occasions when I sit down and knit a beanie or practice piano for an hour. I feel pretty productive after those days! It is also a little odd that I don’t really see as many people throughout the campus as I used to, but I definitely appreciate the people that I do get to see! Plus, I get to push myself to make plans to spend time with people that I never really spent time with last semester. Last night, my friend Grace and I got to take a girl shopping to celebrate her birthday and we had a great time! I can pretty much promise that we would be studying hard if it was Tuesday night during a regular semester. Thank you, J-Term, for making that valuable time available!

Maybe the sleepy, relaxed atmosphere at Erskine is abnormal for J-Term or it’s completely normal. Regardless of the answer, I’ve got to say that I do really enjoy J-Term. It is really nice to have a light 3 week workload at Erskine before the spring. J-Term may not be perfect, but hey. If something was perfect, we’d just find some way to screw it up, right? Plus, J-Term has a lot of strengths, such as fun classes, lots of free time, the ability to overcome procrastination, and the ability to bond with people (if you can find them).  :P It’s just another perk of going to Erskine!

To Ireland and Back Again

This January, a group of Erskine students is exploring Ireland with Professor of Psychology Robert Elsner.  So far they’ve kissed the Blarney Stone, tasted fantastic local cuisine, and explored castles that have stood for centuries.

If you’d like to follow along with their adventures, the class is posting regular updates to a blog:
There And Back Again

J-term is campus slang for Winter Term, a special 3-week term in January of each year.  Students select one course from among a wide variety of faculty interests and hobbies, or they can travel abroad or schedule an internship/externship experience within their major field.  Classes range widely depending on the year, giving faculty the chance to show off areas of expertise that otherwise might not fit the standard curriculum. And students benefit from sitting in class next to people from outside their discipline.  It’s a great way to kick off a new year of intellectual pursuit!

The castle in Limerick, Ireland, as seen by Erskine students traveling for J-term

The castle in Limerick, Ireland, as seen by Erskine students traveling for J-term