Erskine blessings

Merry Christmas everyone!  Today is born our Savior!  I pray that the holiday season finds you and your family healthy, happy, and enjoying the many blessings God has bestowed upon you.  I know that, personally, I am so grateful for surviving the last month of school, including a rather stressful exam week.

In honor of the Christmas season, I wanted to resume my blog posts by writing about some of the greatest blessings that God has given me through Erskine.  I do apologise in advance: I have no photos to do this post justice, so my ramblings will have to suffice.  I will make up for it in future posts.  So…(in no particular order) here we go!

I am grateful that, as a Christian college, Erskine brings us all together through our shared faith in so many ways: college chapel services; prayer before classes, meetings, and performances; various organizations and clubs; small-groups and Bible studies; impromptu gatherings in the residence halls; and so many others.

I am grateful for being able to live in Carnegie Hall for 3 of my 4 years at Erskine.  As a freshman, Ms Ruth and my SLAs were always supportive and helpful no matter the emergency (of both the small and large varieties).  I met so many great girls my first year that I still study, laugh, and cry with.  As an upperclassmen, I’ve had the ability to serve as a Student Life Assistant for 3 years (this is my second in Carnegie).  I have an even greater appreciation for my awesome freshman year now that I understand more fully what goes on behind the scenes, and I love being able to watch out for and get to know my girls.  And, lets’ be honest: Carnegie is probably the prettiest building on Erskine’s campus. Who wouldn’t love living in a beautiful hundred-year-old hall?

I am grateful for Ms Ruth, the RD in Carnegie for the past 20 years.  This woman wears a whole lot of hats, most of which she wears quietly.  She has the best stories, knows absolutely everything about Erskine, and has lived a terribly exciting life.  I have learned so much from her and she truly has the best advice.  As an added bonus, Ms Ruth makes sure that the halls of Carnegie are truly decked with boughs of holly, lights, trees, and bows.

I am grateful for every professor I have had the opportunity to learn from.  They challenge me academically and personally–often intertwining–and have truly helped me become a better, stronger, more well-rounded individual.  I am confident that they have prepared me fully for graduate school and beyond.  I know my professors not just as teachers, but as individuals.  I know their backgrounds, their families, and their hobbies.  I cannot think of another college where you would form this type of relationship with one professor, let alone most or all of them.  Erskine often talks about “thriving,” and my professors are the reason I thrive here.

I am grateful that Erskine gave me the opportunity to study abroad at the University of St Andrews.  All of my scholarships transferred, making it very affordable for me to spend this past spring there.  I was more than ready to get there and heartbroken to return home.  St Andrews was so much fun and a priceless experience that I will never forget.  It is hard to be so far away from all of the friends I made there; but on the plus side, I have friends to visit all over the world now!

I am grateful for the psychology department.  At many colleges and universities, psychology can be the “easy” major.  Not here.  I have definitely worked hard for my As and I am amazed sometimes at both the number of pages I have read over the past 3.5 years and how much I have learned.  I know that learning is the point of college, but we as students (and by “we,” I definitely refer at least to myself) tend to get caught up in grades and GPA.  Dr Elsner, for example, always laughs when we come to his office stressing about grades.  As he and the other professors have gradually gotten us to accept, it’s most important to focus on the work and the learning; the grades are secondary.  As a psychology major, I have gotten to write countless papers, learn statistics software,  conduct and present original research, collaborate with other students, participate in a summer research internship, be accepted to intern at a mental hospital this spring, and become the psychology lab manager.  Graduate school? Bring it on.

I am grateful for the music department.  Despite not majoring or minoring in music, I have a music scholarship and get to take voice lessons and sing with the Choraleers.  I’ve also been a member of the Chamber Choir and Bella Voce and performed in opera workshops and various other performances over the past several years.  It is definitely a blessing to practice and perform with such talented individuals, and the faculty … talented doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Some of my favorite college memories relate to Choraleers retreats and tours.  I have grown as a musician and as a Christian and I know my experiences with the department will serve me well in future ministry and life in general.

Continuing with the arts, I am grateful to be an active member of Erskine’s theatre department.  Actually, we technically aren’t even a department, but that certainly does not stop us from acting up a storm!  As a member of Alpha Psi Omega, I get to help make the magic happen both on the stage and behind the scenes.  I had to take a break from the improv this group this past semester, but I hope to finish out my time at Erskine as an active member again this spring.  My fellow Thespians are, quite frankly, talented. And did I mention funny?  They are definitely both.  In sum, if you have never seen any music or theatre performances at Erskine, you are missing out.  We’d love to see you in the audience!

I am grateful for my friends.  Late night studying, paper writing, rehearsing, procrastinating, finding amusement in Due West, 2AM excursions to IHOP, cooking together, and so much laughter …  I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

I could probably easily spend another thousand words  writing about how great Erskine is and how God has blessed me in my time there, but my mom is about to take the baked ziti out of the oven and I am too excited to eat a big chunk of it.  I hope your stomach is as happy as mine is about to be.

I pray that your heart may be content and that this season will bring you happiness and peace.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Good Morning– It’s Tour!

Sarah and I on the bus

I’ve got a confession to make. It takes me an inordinately long amount of time to wake up and get ready in the morning. By college standards, at least, a full hour and fifteen minutes—during which I get ready, have devotions, eat breakfast, and straighten my room before departing—is quite extravagant. I don’t seem to be able to successfully mirror the vast majority of college students who roll out of bed, throw on clothes, and are ready to meet the world with a  smile—or a least a somewhat pleasant-I’m-essentially-awake look—within fifteen to twenty  minutes. My roommate is one such person, and, especially since she highly dislikes waking up, she knows how to squeeze every possible minute of sleep from the morning before jumping out of bed to look chipper and lovely within minutes.

Orchid in the Botanic Garden in D.C.

It takes me, on the other hand, at least an hour to wake up and render myself presentable. And heaven forbid I not have time for breakfast or leave my bed unmade. Until, that is, a morning last week when, for the first time in my college career…my alarm didn’t ring. Ironically enough, that morning happened to be the only day of the year when an entire bus full of people was waiting on me to get ready. Yes, I didn’t wake up the morning of choir tour.

Schadell, Aimee, Hannah and I with our first host family. They welcomed us warmly into their home with ice cream, Oreos, and good conversation, followed by a scrumptious breakfast of eggs, cinnamon rolls, and fruit the next day. Mmm.

You see, each year the Choraleers leave on Thursday morning for tour. Since midterms and classes don’t end until the Friday before Spring Break, this departure time means that the week before tour is a rather hectic time of scurrying to take tests early and write papers due on Thursday and Friday. I stayed up until about 1:30 a.m. –not bad, really, in a setting where all-nighters aren’t uncommon—packing for the trip and completing a paper that was due Friday. Then, I blithely set my alarm for 6:40 p.m. (whoops!) and went to bed.

Stopping for a meal en route

The next morning, I awoke to the sound of my alarm ringing insistently. When, bleary-eyed and blind (praise God for contacts!), I reached to turn it off, I discovered that I was, in fact, receiving an incoming call from my friend Aimee. And it was 8:35 a.m. What?! Frantically recalling the injunction to arrive in the Due West ARP parking lot at 8:00 or 8:15, ready to roll out at 8:30, I half-shouted into the phone in half-awake disbelief: “Aimee, Is it really time to go?!” (I’m devastatingly witty in the mornings.) Aimee calmly told me just to come as quickly as possible and that she would send someone to help carry my luggage.

Within ten minutes, I was walking onto the bus to the good-naturedly joking welcome of friends who had been on the bus for the last thirty minutes or so. I may have looked and felt frazzled, but an in-bus breakfast and en route devotion soon restored me. At any rate, it was quite an exciting start to tour! Though one I don’t hope to soon repeat…

Choraleers On the Move

A couple of weekends ago I went on my first Choraleers mini-tour since my return from Spain. I wasn’t exactly sure how the trip would be, since I’m still getting to know the freshmen in the group (who are wonderful, by the way) and was, *cough*, less than certain of all my notes. On Saturday afternoon, we embarked on our drive to August, Georgia, where we rehearsed at a couple of different churches and were treated to dinner by one of the host churches.

Next, we were assigned our roommates and families for our home-stays—one of the best parts of Choraleers mini-tours. Every home-stay has been different for me, and I’ve actually ended up in a couple of mansions (no, I’m not kidding—if ten girls all have their own bedrooms,  the home qualifies as a mansion) during past trips. Whatever the size of the house, though, it’s always fun to get to know different people from the congregations of the churches where we’re singing. During this most recent trip, I had the pleasure of staying with an Erskine alumna and her sweet family. We enjoyed talking about all kinds of topics over a plate of delicious cookies, but when we landed on the subject of Erskine—which involved our friend’s reminiscences about her time as a Choraleer—we just couldn’t stop talking. We had such fun–even getting to flip through old Erskine yearbooks together– that it was quite late before my fellow Choraleer and I finally realized that we’d better head to bed if we were going to be ready for our early morning performance! Despite our less-than-optimal amount of sleep, our Sunday performances—two in the morning and one in the evening—went well, and the trip in general was great fun.

Being in Choraleers has been one of my absolute favorite parts of my experience at Erskine. Honestly, I didn’t realized how much I’d missed singing with the amazing group that makes up the “Choraleer family” until I came back from Spain and felt a though a vital part of my life that had been missing was suddenly restored. What a joy it is to sing—especially once you know the notes—and what a blessing it is to be able to sing to God’s glory with good friends! We also have an amazing new director this semester, Dr. Nabholz. It’s been a lot of fun learning his directing style and seeing the musical effects of the techniques he’s teaching us.

Friends and I on Choraleers tour at Universal Studios (not where we performed...but a lot of fun) in Orlando my freshman year.

Speaking of which, I was incredibly excited recently when, in preparation for our Spring Break tour to Washington, D.C., Dr. Nabholz had us split up into mixed formation during rehearsal. This mixing of the sections resulted in my being flanked by a tenor and a bass, with a soprano directly behind me. Wow, was it amazing to hear the way all the parts meld together! It’s one thing to be in one’s own section, with a somewhat foggy idea of what each other part sounds like—but to hear the subtle contours of each other musical line? That transforms a “piece” into true music. Of course, I may, *cough*, have noted—no pun intended—that I perhaps don’t know all my notes as well as I ought. Gone is the wiggle room of being able to listen the person next to you when you’re no longer in sections. Which means someone will be frequenting the practice rooms quite a bit between now and our departure for tour. D.C., here we come!

Random Moment in Europe

While we were in the beautiful city of Salzburg (place of everything Mozart), a couple of friends and I ran into a college choir from Catawba College North Carolina. Words cannot express how exciting it was to finally run into people who spoke English and were from around the same area as a majority of us in Choraleers. ha. The group had just come from Switzerland, Paris, and I believe England as well, so Germany was their last stop.

We ran into them right on time too. As we were walking, some friends and I noticed singing and when we figured out it wasn’t other people from our group we went to check it out. I’m so glad we did because it was cool to make some new friends through a common love for singing and music! We heard them sing and then this other group of men from Macedonia joined in and sang some songs. Unfortunately we didn’t have our whole choir with us or even enough to sing a selection but we did just kind of mess around with some current pop songs with them. It was pretty fun.

I have a feeling that these random moments in Europe are going to be some of the best memories of the entire trip. =D

Austria

It’s one thing learning about something like the holocaust and nazis and concentration camps in a classroom, but it’s a totally different thing experiencing history where it actually occurred. While in Austria for choir tour, the group and I visited the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp and it was quite an experience.

For once, our whole group was completely silent. We all had our audio guides up to our ear and walked around each site as we heard the gruesome details of what actually occurred behind those brick walls. It’s scary to think about the thousands upon thousands of people that suffered at the very grounds we were walking upon.

One of the first places I made my way to was the rock quarry. After walking down almost 200 jagged steps, I made it down to the fields where prisoners would have to break up rocks so they could help build their own prison. Striped shirts with only a number sewed to it for identification purposes served as the uniform for the countless men who made the dreaded climb up the stairs with rocks upon their backs. Many of them were forced to wear wooden shoes instead of work boots. This caused them to form awful blisters and many people died trying to make it up and down those stairs. At the very top was a ledge where soldiers would tease prisoners and push them, yelling “Hope you can fly!” and other obscenities.

After that, I made my way into the camp. Upon first sight all you see are rows of cabins. From the outside the buildings look like cabins you’d see at a summer camp, but once inside the tiny bunks and dirty walls and shut up windows make your mind start to wander. People didn’t live comfortably. The prisons were overflowing with people so there would be 5-6 people to a bed at times. Showers were pretty much non-existent. They lived in their own filth. Disease spread like wild fire. They were underfed, overworked, and stripped of human dignity.

The final place I visited was the gas chambers. Talk about being speechless. All I could do was heavily sigh, cry, and shake my head. Prisoners thought they were finally getting a chance to shower and instead they were piled into rooms like pigs getting ready to go to the slaughterhouse. Gas was their poison as soldiers stood outside and watched through a peephole. A dissecting table lay in a isolated room for those prisoners marked with tattoos. Doctors were told to cut pieces of their skin off that were marked with interesting tattoos so that the skin could be made into various accessories for the soldiers. Crowns were yanked out of prisoner’s mouths. Once they were stripped of such they were horrendously killed.

Humans did all of that…to one another. Disgusting isn’t it? Humans are capable of such evil and the sad thing is that we still do the same things today. We ostracize one another because of the color of our skin or because of our social status or because of generations before us that have sowed feelings of hate deep in our souls. History shouldn’t be repeated, but as people we still haven’t fully learned our lesson. Though we may not put people in concentration camps, we still paralyze people with fear, we cripple people’s spirits, and we crush people’s dreams, when we don’t treat one another as equals.

O Light Everlasting

First night in Prague and we’ve already had quite the day as you can see from the previous pictures.

But the highlight of my day was hands down singing for a group of mentally disabled people staying at our hotel.

The Lord knows the exact time and place for ministry. He uses those special spontaneous moments to bless those around you and to bless yourselves. After dinner that first night, I was truly touched. The people we sang for had such a joy and love for people  and music. They sang along with us and even performed some of their own songs for us after we were through. The passion on their faces as they sang truly touched my heart. That is quality music –  when you get so lost in the words and you feel what the people performing the song are feeling. That is true ministry.

We all walked in ready to sing and minister to them and in turn I think they ended up showing us a thing or two about true, passionate, music ministry.