Shall We Dance?

What happens when you put a group of young people together long enough? Well…they dance! I’ve enjoyed being a part of the recently rejuvenated Erskine Ballroom Dance Club (which had fizzled the year before my classTillary and Aimée dancing in Erskine's Got Talent arrived) for the past year or so, and I enjoyed a completely new experience this fall when I went to my first Erskine semi-formal. I had avoided dances before because I was unsure of what to expect, but I went with a great group of friends in the fall, and we had fun dressing up and goofing off together in our formal attire.

Recently, though, some adventurous and talented friends discovered a YouTube video called Swing Dance Demo with Aerials. And so what do you think happened? They staked out the Memorial stage (a large space perfect for learning dance moves) and learned how to execute numerous high-flying swing dance moves. A few days later, they invited several other members of the Ballroom Dance Club to join them, and we all had great fun learning new steps…and we may or may not have met for about four evenings consecutively. But our excuse was that it was not exam season and that Aimée and Tillary were preparing to dance in the talent show the following weekend. Randomly deciding to work on dance steps every evening for a week is, to me, quintessential of the delightful spontaneity that is possible during the college season.
Tillary and Aimée tearing up the dance floor
To see a demonstration of the types of swing dancing we’ve been learning here at Erskine, take a look at this video of Holly and Joseph going over their routine before the pageant show a couple of weekends ago. They learned and worked on this for a total of one week before the video was taken—that’s skill!

What a Week!

Most likely there is no need to explain to you the immense joy that comes when the words “spring” and “break” are used together in a sentence. Well, last week I was lucky enough to enjoy these two words back in my hometown. However, I find humor in the contrast of the spring breaks I experienced in high school with those that I have had during college. While in high school, spring break usually meant prom followed by a week spent at the beach or some cruise or vacation. The most important goal was NOT to be at HOME! However, this year, I found myself counting down the days until spring break so that I could just go HOME! The object was to spend as much time in my own bed and sleep as much as possible.

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horse

What accounts for this difference in perception? Well, I find that the longer I am at school, the more I think about home. While I thoroughly enjoy my time at Erskine, there is still nothing like my own bed, my own room, showering without shoes on, and eating food that wasn’t prepared for 600 people. Living about three and half hours away, I typically only have this luxury on breaks about every two months. Therefore, a combination of those things accompanied by no work is like Christmas all over again! Now I won’t lie, most of my break was spent catching up on my education portfolio, but at least I was in my pajamas watching t.v. most of the time.

Most importantly, however, I love having the opportunity to spend time with my family such as my sister. Attending colleges at different ends of the state, I don’t have many chances to visit her, and with her marriage arriving soon, I was thankful to have a weekend of sister bonding that has been long overdue. Whether shopping at Wal-Mart, or representing our country roots at the horse races, it is nice to remember the people and paths that have led me to where I am now.

Widows Ministry 2011

This past week, I had the amazing opportunity to begin Spring Break by participating in Widows Ministry. Each spring, Erskine students who are part of the Barn join Bill May in his constant efforts to care for widows and widowers who live in the areas near Erskine. Years ago, Bill’s grandfather modeled true religion for his grandson when he took Bill with him to work on various projects for the numerous widows who called on him when they needed help. After the death of his father and grandfather, Bill took up the work that they had begun, and in recent years he has even begun to invite college students to join him in caring for these wonderful friends.
Enjoying some of Mr. Jackson's delicious pound cake
During the week, we Erskine students were blessed to get to know numerous different widows and widowers, visiting with them and hearing their stories. As young people, we so often forget to take the time to learn from and spend time with the elderly; and in doing so, we both neglect what James calls “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless” and forfeit a wonderful opportunity to learn Gardening for Mr. Winkler from those older and wiser than we are. Friends and I were incredibly blessed, for example, by the bubbling cheerfulness and sweet spirit of Mrs. Sadie, who enjoyed watching a couple of us play the Joseph and Maggie playing for Mrs. Sadie piano and thanked us heartily for taking the time to come see her. We also enjoyed a pound cake made by one ninety-two year old widower while we listened to fascinating stories about his life and experiences as a black man living through the Civil Rights Movement.

We were also able to undertake various tasks, such as clear-coating a ramp and pruning bushes. And in between our visits, of course, we enjoyed what Bill wisely said everyone loves—food and fellowship! One of the greatest things about Widows Ministry is that the relationships we established over the past few days are ones which we can continue to cultivate during the school year as we seek to live out James 1:27. This video might give you an idea of some of what the week was like.

Learning Compassion

No one likes suffering. It hurts terribly. It’s painful. But time and again, I’m reminded that, as believers, we should have a view of suffering which is radically different from that of the world. If one doesn’t know Christ, then, yes, suffering is something to be avoided at all costs. But if “anyone would come after” Christ, Jesus himself tells him that “he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Which, of course, doesn’t mean that we ought to seek out suffering but does, clearly, call us as Christians to a life of self denial and of rejoicing in the midst of pain.

Yet, even when we know what Scripture says and know what God calls us to, it is terribly easy to become comfortable, apathetic, and spiritually lazy when everything is going well or when one is enjoying a wonderful season in the “Erskine bubble.” We quickly become focused on pursuing our own goals and comfort, or even simply become complacent and distracted, caught up in trivial “struggles” and fears which seem large to us because we’ve lost sight of the eternal and have consequently lost perspective. I was struck the other day by words of Proverbs 30:8b-9a, which declares, “[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’” This verse points out that, when we begin to enjoy prosperity, our inveterate tendency as human beings is to begin to rely on ourselves, forgetting God.

That’s not to say that suffering in and of itself is more spiritual than prosperity…but it is clear that God often teaches us most during times of hardship, because it is during such times that we are forced to recognize our great need for Him and then run to Him, as the things of this world fade in importance. As C.S. Lewis says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” And if you’re anything like me, you’re often quite deaf, spiritually speaking.

Something God has put on my heart recently is the way in which trials often prepare and equip us to be a comfort to others when they experience similar trials. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul declares, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Notice how Paul says that God comforts us so that we can then comfort others with the same comfort we’ve received. Perhaps, then, compassion and loving concern for those in need—whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually—aren’t things that come naturally to us, but are spiritual fruits which God works out in us through the suffering which He allows in our own lives. Paul goes on to declare this: “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” Let
us seek, then, to be conduits of God’s grace as the comfort we’ve received overflows into the lives of others.

The Blessing of Spring Break

As this restful week comes to an end, I am aware of just how much I needed the time away from school and constant responsibilities, as I think everyone did.  This year I had no choir tour, no trips, and no great plans for the week of vacation; however, it was still a very pleasant break full of lovely weather, time for relaxation, motivation to be productive, and time with family.

Amazing how much a week can make a difference, isn’t it?

I did have a pretty hefty load of schoolwork to get done, with projects coming up, reading to get ahead on, music to work on, final details to plan for my recital, and just plain old homework to do.  The wonderful thing about break, though, is that I had all week to do that, and virtually nothing else that absolutely had to be done.  Being caught up and even getting ahead on work is such a satisfying feeling, especially when you can work on it all at a comfortable pace, interspaced with other activities.

Of course, there were other things to be done while at home: appointments, a little bit of spring shopping, those dreaded taxes, and other odd projects here and there.  I was also pleased to spend time with my family, watch television and movies, read for pure enjoyment, and catch up with friends in other countries (including my madre in Spain!) – all activities that I have little time to do while at school.  I was feeling so unstressed and productive that I even spent time looking into graduate programs.

The difficult part will be going back to school now, back to all the hectic schedules, shorter sleep schedules, and stress that goes with everything.  Luckily, break has not entirely spoiled me, just given me a good rest, mental as well as physical, so that when I drive back to school on Sunday afternoon  I will be ready to jump back into everything with renewed motivation and energy.

So bring it on, college, I’m back again and ready for you.

The Erskine Bubble

Call Erskine what you like, but I’m gonna keep it real. Erskine is a bubble.

bubble

It’s not a bad thing. It’s just that at times I feel I don’t really know too much about what’s going on in the world around me while I’m trying my best to focus on homework, quizzes, tests, recitals, programs, social events, etc. It’s easy to get caught up in the college life and forget that there is this place called “the real world” out there and that one day we’re going to have to graduate (gasp!) and actually get a “real” job (bigger gasp!) and … I cringe at the mere thought of this next phrase … pay bills, with our OWN money (yikes!).  Indeed, college is a protected haven of sorts thats sole purpose is to equip us with knowledge and develop us as whole persons. I think the beauty of a liberal arts education like the one we get at Erskine is that we are constantly encouraged to be aware of the world around us. Even though I’m a news junkie, some days it is hard to keep up with everything going on in the world outside of Erskine. For example, take the past co
uple of weeks alone, so much has occurred: earthquake and tsunami in Japan, attacks in Libya, Chris Brown’s outburst on Good Morning America, unrest in Yemen, flooding in Australia, and the list goes on and on.

I’m sitting here catching up on what’s been happening these past couple of months and my mind can’t help but think about the condition our world is in right now. It’s a shocking reminder of reality and how two years from now, I’m going to be out in that crazy world on my own. I won’t be surrounded by fellow classmates who actually care about me, or teachers who want to see me succeed, or parents who consistently support and encourage me. No, it’s just going to be me and God and eventually the new friendships I make along the way.

But the beauty of the future is that God’s already got it all figured out. I like to know everything ahead of time but I couldn’t see the earthquake in Japan coming and the fact that I have family near there really had me freaked out for a moment. But I was so graciously reminded that God is control. The world has seen chaos, is seeing chaos, and will continue to see chaos, but through it all God is constant. I’m no longer freaked out about how the world’s going to end or what kind of job I’m going to have or who I’m going to marry, because at the end of the day God’s already got it planned out and He’s willing to reveal His plan to me if I just ask and be patient.

Natural disasters are going to occur, countries are going to disagree and enter into battle, celebrities are going to have their hissy fits on national television, but just because the world around us seems to be falling apart, doesn’t mean our God is any less faithful or just than He was at the beginning of time. He is simply setting things up for His second coming.

Just remember: “…in this world you may have tribulation, but take heart, Christ has overcome the world!” (John 16:33)

NATS Singing Competition

A couple of weekends ago, I and 3 other students headed to a vocal competition at USC. It’s pretty much a chance for voice teachers to show off their voice students, at least I’m conivinced that’s the main reason for the competition. lol. I participated last year as well and the experience wasn’t all bad. If anything, the chance to perform taught me something new. For this competition, I had to sing a couple of Italian arias and some English pieces. Classical singing isn’t exactly my forte, but the cool thing about it is that I’m definitely improving.

I never knew how much technique actually went into singing. All my life, I’ve just grown up around Indian music and African-American music and have just copied what I’ve heard. I didn’t expect voice lessons to expand my range and musical horizons, but they have and I’m excited about the growth to come. If someone would have asked me a couple of years ago what kind of music I wanted to sing, I wouldv’e said gospel because that’s what seems to come naturally. But you know what? Now, I can honestly say, I’d like to explore the classical genre, r&b, rock, and etc. Why limit myself vocally, especially when I know God’s given me the gift of singing for a reason?

My challenge now is to consistently continue to practice. I realize that if I want to make my dreams come true, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication. I’m willing though, because I see music as a great ministry opportunity.

The way I see it, God gives us all gifts and talents so why not use them to bring glory to His name and His kingdom?