“We pray that our lives might be Songs.”

Hello,

It’s me, again. My name is Hannah Collins, an Erskine Grad (class of 2014) and a Chorus Teacher in the making.

Recently, Gospel Choir held a concert during which the newest member of our Erskine family, El Presidente, was asked to bless the concert with a closing prayer. In the midst of his prayer the following statement was made, “We pray our lives might be songs.” Mind blown! There is so much truth to his personal conviction and I am determined to carry it with me both outside and inside my classroom and wherever my feet may take me. Our words spoken or sung impact the world around us. Our views projected or performed paint a powerful picture for those tuned in to our station.

My challenge to you, dear Reader, is to pause your playlist and contemplate the song you are singing to the world around you. Is it one of comfort and joy? Or complacency? Do you share your blessings or do you complain about your troubles? No, we can’t all be Positive Polly’s but at some point in our life we must realize that someone is listening. Our audience may not consist of the roaring crowds that welcomed the Beatles to America (er..United States of), but there is an audience and they are fine tuned to your station.

What you have been given today you will learn to cherish tomorrow only after yesterday has made them inaccessible.

Yesterday I walked the halls of Erskine’s Music Department and had my pick of six uprights and three baby grands. Today I choose between two uprights and that based entirely off of which one is less out of whack than the other. Yesterday I was the student blaming the professor for my lack of learning. Today I am the teacher striving for that one student to see their importance and purpose, being blamed for their lack of learning. Yesterday I was the voice complaining about the choral selection. Today I am the Choral Director whose choral selections have undergone much harsh criticism. Yesterday I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed freshmen. Today I am a humbled post-grad wishing for yesterday to live it all again but this time make the right choice; sing the right songs.

Allow me to close with the following:

One of my students recently decided to vent some of her feelings and frustrations. She began by saying, “Ms. Collins, I’m just going to be honest with you, and truth hurts!” I prepared myself for a full-on verbal beating. She continued, “I loved (former teacher) more than any other person in this Chorus! And she connected with us. She did.” I waited…any moment now there would be that final blow to crush me. “But…you have done more with us. You taught me that I can learn to sing without following (student) all the time! That I have a voice and that my voice should be heard. You came in here and when I said I couldn’t, you said I could! (Former teacher) never did that.”

That moment exists only because on days when I said I could not there was always a faculty member saying I could. They taught me to be set apart; to be heard above the noise; to think and rethink my purpose. Always take the road less traveled and NEVER settle for the path of least resistance.

“We pray that our lives might be Songs.”

So, what song have you been singing these days?

Reflections On My First Semester

Final exams for the first semester are coming up and I am really excited. Seriously! I’m not being sarcastic at all! Of course, I’m excited for the wrong reasons, but maybe wrong reasons are actually the best/only reasons to be excited for exams. You see, final exams not only symbolize blood, sweat, and tears, but also my survival through my first semester in college. If you’re reading this as an upperclassman or a graduate from college, you’re probably mentally laughing at my excitement because you’ve survived through so much more. Props to you, but surely you felt my excitement when your first semester in college neared to a close!

If you’re a freshman and you don’t understand why finishing this first semester is such a big deal to me, then let me fill you in: When I was in high school, I compared my work to what I expected college work would be like. For example, when I was a junior, I had to write a 15 page paper on Hirschsprung Disease for my Anatomy and Physiology class. While everyone else in my class complained about the workload, I saw the paper as the assurance that if I could write a 15 page paper now, then I’d be able to handle my freshman year at college. Don’t get me wrong, that paper was really tedious and annoying to write, but I felt a pressure to be able to handle writing the paper. I have never felt ready for college. In high school, I didn’t feel smart enough, or organized enough, or mature enough. I was that really annoying teenager who actually wanted to write longer, harder papers in high school because I believed that I needed more preparation so that I wouldn’t crash and burn in college.

Get the picture now?

Now that I’m at college, I feel so silly for worrying about not being ready for college. Yes, the workload is not easy, but it is doable. Granted, a lot of my day is allotted to classes and studying, but that’s just how I work. I don’t even feel as stressed in this last week before exams than I probably should feel. The anxiety and stress will probably kick in on Sunday night, but hey. I’m gonna enjoy the good feelings while they last. 😉 I still get to rock climb, hang out with friends, attend RUF, play pool, exercise, and be a member of SCA, so I’m really content with where I am right now. I may not have partied or gone on late-night Walmart trips as much as other students, but I’ve still had a really fun semester. I’m seriously super thankful for having a smooth transition to Erskine and for the students who have reached out and befriended me even though they definitely didn’t have to.

God has really used this first semester to teach me a lot of things about the relation between life, myself, and Himself. For example, I have a better knowledge of my limitations and faults, and I know what I need to work on so that I can be a better minister to the people around me. In the past, I would get crushed and ashamed when people could see my mistakes and imperfections in my bad grades, my snappy comments, and my disregard for people’s feelings. You see, one of my biggest flaws is that I put so much value in having a good reputation. I constantly struggle with wanting to do good things because I want people to think I’m the most dependable, coolest, and godliest person ever, and because I want to bring glory to God through my actions by being a light in the world. It’s a struggle between being vainglorious and being humble. That’s why I try to cover up any mistakes that I make. This semester, God brought my hurtful words and impulsive judgments out into the public, which both hurt and humbled me. I’m not saying that I’m perfectly selfless or loving now, but I definitely have learned to better love and cherish the people around me. I’ve also better realized how amazing and beautiful God’s presence is, and that when I’m not finding my joy in Him, then I’m not truly happy. According to John Piper, God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. My prayer for this next semester and for semesters to come is that God will teach me and other students to be solely satisfied in Him.

If someone like you…

This is supposed to serve as an introduction to who I am as a person and as an Erskine alumn. So, “Who am I?” If that’s not a loaded baked potatoe then I am going on a diet! According to my psychology professor, fall semester of my junior year, “(I am) a special kind of specimen.” I took it as a compliment. He graciously informed me of the truth I had known but worked my entire life to escape: that life, rather God, had chosen to land me in the less than 10% of this world’s population; aka I would never fit in. He continued to inform me that mine was a lonely path to follow, but that he wished more people could see the world through my eyes. “I believe it would be a better place if they could.”

For the first time in twenty-seven years, I was not asked why I could not be like everyone else; rather, I was asked to stop trying to be like everyone else and to embrace the wonderful that is me. On that morning, I walked out of the Erskine building, paused under the towers and suddenly “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” became more than just words memorized by a Christian; they became truth.

Jump to May 2014:

The stage has been set, the graduates lined up in order, and there I stand impatiently waiting for my name to be called. It’s one of those surreal moments where you think you won’t remember anything, where time slows down and in the movies there’s always that breeze to wake you from your trance-like state. No, I don’t remember what the speaker said or who was standing directly in front of me. But I remember two things:

1. My best friend who was there from day one of my academic journey was sitting in the far back just to the right of the Grier statue, smiling.

2. That Erskine gave me more than a degree. It gave me the good, the BAD, and the terribly beautiful.

So, once more, who am I?

I am the baby of three forced to share the middle of four in a family of six. I am the multi-cultured, homeschooler with exceptional social skills. I am the bilingual entrepeneur who doesn’t always pursue or finish every thought that comes to mind. I am magic and Erskine is where I learned to be a wizard. I am your greatest friend and your darkest enemy. But above all, I am the child of the King of Heaven born to fulfill a purpose, called to Erskine College to earn more than a degree, more than an education; to be reminded that I am fearfully, wonderfully made. I am less than 10% but that is who God needs me to be. My oddities are the tools with which I either shape and mold or destroy the lives around me. Erskine taught me that.

My very first Erskine Experience as a prospective student was auditioning for a music scholarship. My two selections were “Time to Say Goodbye” (made popular by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman) and “Someone like You” (from Jekyll and Hyde-the musical). After entering the room, my goal became-not to secure a scholarship but rather- to make the grumpy looking man on the back row riser smile. By the end of my song and had acheived both!

“If someone like you found someone like me

Then suddenly, nothing would ever be the same.

My heart would take wing and I’d feel so alive.

If someone like you found me.”

These are the words I sang that day, knowing nothing of the truth they would hold in the four years that would follow my audition.

People often ask if there is anything I am incapable of doing. I reply “Fly!” And yet, that is what Erskine has afforded me: the ability to rise above the norm and be exceptional; to strive for excellence because it is attainable; and to finish what I have begun-nevermind the missed notes or fudged words. You finish and you do so gracefully.

So, “Who am I?”

I guess you’ll have to keep reading to find out. 🙂

Halloween: A Highly Happy Holiday

Halloween is great. On that one special night in October, you are surrounded by your favorite superheroes, your favorite foods, your favorite movie characters, etc. Plus, you have an excuse to dress up as whatever you want with no judgment. If I had wanted to be a cyborg grumpy cat with marshmallow guns for arms, then I totally could have been. However, I don’t like cats or marshmallows so that costume is out of the question. Oh, and don’t forget about the candy! If you’re at all interested in accumulating your body weight in candy, then Halloween is the best day to do that! You don’t need a significant other to buy you anything. You don’t need to spend any of your money. All you have to do is walk to people’s houses and threaten them with horrible pranks until you get what you want. WIN-WIN.

If Halloween sounds at all appealing to you, then you should know this: Erskine’s Halloween is pretty great. Students got to watch the classic Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus, outside on Halloween night. The next day, there was a costume party for all of the students. So many people dressed up for the whole holiday and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see their costumes. I, however, decided to unveil my amazing costume in the evening, partly because I’m not confident enough to wear it all day and partly because it’s so stinking soft that I was afraid that I would fall asleep in class if I wore it.

Erskine hosted a little trick or treat event for the children in the area during the evening of Halloween. They dressed up in costumes and headed over to Carnegie and Bonner (two of the girls’s dorms, in case you didn’t know) and we stood outside our doors and handed out candy. It was such a blast! We could all see what a blessing the event was to both the kids and their parents because the kids were super excited. I had a really great time getting to love on those kids and a lot of their outfits were so precious!

I figured that you’d be curious about some of the characters who showed up to Erskine on Halloween, so I snapped a few photos throughout the day. Enjoy. 🙂

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Even some of the professors dressed up! We weren’t sure whether Dr. Gorka was a pumpkin or a Buddhist monk. Hehe

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Cheshire Cat, Pikachu, and a Maple Tree. Isn’t it obvious?

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This is honestly the best camel costume that I have ever seen.

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I think I saw 15 teenage mutant ninja turtles that day, but my friend Megan was the cutest one.

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Partly cloudy with a 100% of rain.

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Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAN.

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I don’t think Batwoman has a cool theme song…

Here are some pictures that I got with the kids. 🙂

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College: More Than Just School, Sleep, and Socializing

People have told me that there are three main elements of college: school, sleep, and a social life; I can only have 2/3. When I first heard that, I thought that was the coolest thing ever. Depressing, yes, but I thought it was such a profound statement. I used to run through different combinations in my head. Maybe I’ll have school and a social life, but no sleep. Or maybe I’ll have school and sleep, but no social life. I didn’t know what to expect, so I couldn’t wait to find out what my life would be like at college.

I’ve been in school for 2 1/2 weeks and I’m gonna go ahead and tell it like it is. The only element of the three that I have is school, and I barely have school. Next week is the week of tests for 2 out of my 4 classes, so this weekend is going to be one giant cram session of information. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining about my schoolwork. I’m one of the rare kids who actually finds pleasure in doing homework, but I also find joy in getting to bed earlier than 2 and being able to spend quality time with my friends.

So where did those two elements go? I mean, obviously I haven’t only done school all this time, so what’s a good picture of my sleep schedule and social life?

Sleep: HA. Where do I begin? Every night, I go with my friends, Grace and Daria, to the Watkins Student Center and study. We always go straight back to our dorm once we’ve finished our work, so there’s absolutely no dawdling (other than the occasional shove into a tree)! I have only gone to bed before midnight twice since school started. Then I eventually fall asleep, only to wake up at 7 the next morning. Now this may not sound too bad, and I’m definitely blessed to be able to sleep this much. However, I get really grumpy and irritable when I get tired (my family can attest), and averaging 4-5 hours of sleep every night instead of the usual 7-9 hours that I used to get makes me pretty darn tired.

Social Life: Well, my idea of socializing is eating meals and studying with my friends. If I want time with my boyfriend, one of us makes the 30 minute drive to the other, and we study together. Honestly, I look at some of the students here and wonder they could possibly keep their grades up because they’re always goofing off together. Maybe I’m just jealous..  I should be thankful, though, because I get to go to church with friends and I get to be with people at RUF on Sundays! My life isn’t as pathetic as I make it seem.

I have been blessed with so many good things, even though my circumstances aren’t as ideal as I would like. God has really stretched my ability to love others, but He hasn’t given me more than I can handle. Yesterday I was really frustrated with a cocky guy in one of my classes and as hard I tried, I couldn’t force my heart to love him. I didn’t have a lot of homework to do that evening (surprisingly), so I was able to have some quiet time with God, which made a world of difference for my outlook on life. I read 1 Thessalonians 5, which talks about “putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet,” (verse 8) and I was so convicted. I realized how distracted and selfish I have become because I’ve been so centered on myself instead of on God.

Thus, my conclusion is this: It doesn’t matter whether I have sleep, a social life, or even school. If my heart isn’t satisfied in God, then I have nothing.If God isn’t glorified in my actions, then my actions are worthless. If my insecurities and pride get in the way of my faith and love, then I need to die to myself and find life in God.

My new goal in college can be summed up by Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:16: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

RUF– First Impressions

Today I celebrated the last day of the first weekend after my first week of class at Erskine and what better way to celebrate than by going to RUF at the Barn? For those of you who don’t know, RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) is a nationwide Christian organization for college students. Here at Erskine, RUF meets on Sundays at 5:30 at a barn behind the RUF minister, Paul Patrick’s house. Tonight was my first RUF session as a college student and I have to say that it was pretty great, despite the sweltering heat and the scratchy hay bales. That’s right. The barn was filled with rows of hay bales for the students to sit on while eating dinner or during the service. I’m not some sissy girl who hates to venture outdoors, but there is just something disagreeable about hay digging into your thighs when you’re trying to learn about God. But I digress..

My awesome friend, Seth Gurley, gave me a ride to the Barn. He’s the absolute best! We went to the same church in high school and we have been friends ever since. Seth’s only flaw is that he is a baseball player, but I try not to hold that against him. 😉

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Here’s an old, awkward picture of us together. It’s the only one I could find. 😛

 Paul Patrick brilliantly starts RUF sessions at the Barn with something that all college kids love and need: food. Fifteen minutes after I arrived, volunteer students served us hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, baked beans, potato chips, cookies, lemonade, sweet tea, and water. To sum everything up, my tummy was very happy. 🙂 

The everlasting food line

The everlasting food line

After dinner, the service started and it was INCREDIBLE. We sang both old hymns such as Nothing But The Blood, Come Thou Fount, Jesus I My Cross Have Taken and newer songs like Isaiah 43. I absolutely love those songs and the setting of singing in a barn with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ was absolutely perfect. Singing was definitely my favorite part of RUF tonight, but the lesson was also pretty tops. Paul Patrick introduced the book of James and gave some background information about the author.The lesson was really interesting because I have studied the Bible all my life and I had never learned any of the things that Paul Patrick talked about. 

For example, I hadn’t realized that James, the brother of Jesus, had doubted Jesus’ power and glory during His time on earth. However, after His death on the cross, James repented and became one of the most well-known apostles of Jesus. His story gives me so much hope for the ones I know who are so skeptical and opposed to Christianity. It’s so easy to forget that God is in control of everything in our lives and that He has a plan for all of us. However James is a testimony to all of us that God can change anyone’s heart. 

So that’s a brief recap of my first real experience with Erskine’s RUF. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the year will turn out! 

The BEST Foam Fight EVER!

The day after Raisin Sunday is Raisin Monday.

Read the BLOG about RAISIN SUNDAY!

After Raisin Sunday, Tiffany and I were exhausted. We were covered in paint, whipped cream, cheese puffs, and sand and we were ready to take a shower. We crawled into our beds and vowed that we would never move again.

Unfortunately, we had to move again. The alarm clock rang on Monday morning. We rolled over and looked at each other. We knew that we were going to have to get out of bed, and neither of us wanted to do it.

Once we did get up (an hour after the alarm rang, shockingly!) things got a whole lot better. The traditions for Raisin Monday are just as interesting for Raisin Sunday at St. Andrews. Every year on Raisin Monday morning, students go over to their mum’s house. The mum can then dress the children as WHATEVER SHE WANTS before sending them off to their dad’s house. The dad then gives them a “raisin receipt” which is usually the most ridiculous item he can think of. All of the dad’s children then carry the receipt off to St. Salvador’s quad, where they turn it in for entrance into a school wide massive foam fight..

Make sense to you? Yeah, me neither! 😛

On Monday morning, Tiff and I went over to our mums’ house to see how they would dress us. They were really sweet and made all of their children a delicious breakfast of bacon rolls and fresh fruit. They then dressed us up! My mum, Elisabeth dressed me up as Donald Duck. My siblings were dressed up in all sorts of random costumes, my favorites were Mario and Shrek! Tiffany’s mum dressed her and all of her siblings as teletubbies. (Tiffa was the yellow one, La-La!)

Elisabeth dressed me as Donald Duck!

Elisabeth dressed me as Donald Duck!

After getting dressed we went to our dad’s house (TIff and I have different mums, but the same dad!) James gave all of his children a joint gift: a HUGE block of ice that we had to carry for 20 minutes across towns with our hands! It was very cold, and he put green food dye and sugar in it to make it sticky 😛

A family photo: My mum and her six kids :)

A family photo: My mum and her six kids 🙂

Walking to the foam fight was hilarious! Mums dressed up their children as all sorts of things, we saw bees and flowers and monsters and babies wearing only a diaper. We saw one dad who dressed up as Aladdin and made all of his kids carry him along on a huge mattress through town. Most of the mums went ALL OUT on their costumes!

Tiff was a member of the teletubby family! :)

Tiff was a member of the teletubby family! 🙂

Once we got to the foam fight, we got in the queue. My family was the FIRST FAMILY in line for the foam fight! I think that we must have skipped the queue to turn in our receipts, because I know lots of people had been waiting there a lot longer than we had! But when they opened the gates to let us in the quad for the foam fight, we were the first ones in!The foam fight was CRAZY! Imagine everyone you know at Uni running around in a quad wearing Halloween costumes. Then imagine that they all get out cans of shaving cream and start flinging it at each other. EVERYONE was covered in foam and attacking everyone and yelling and running and screaming! This is Scotland, so it was about -100 degrees outside, but it was absolutely hilarious!
Foam Fight!

Foam Fight!

Family photo AFTER the foam fight! :)

Family photo AFTER the foam fight! 🙂

After it was all over we went back to our hall for a shower. Our wardens decided to add one extra surprise to the day: before girls could enter the hall they had to have a freezing bucket of water dumped on their heads. The guys had it worse, they had to run a lap, wearing only boxers, around the hall! Once they finally let us inside we made a beeline for the showers. I got warm in my shower, put on my pajamas, and didn’t get out of my bed for the rest of the day! 🙂
I love my mum <3

I love my mum ❤