Thursday, December 31, 2009

Published 11:21 AM by with 0 comment

Happy New Year, 2010!

Every year I write down goals for the New. I do this because I love traditions, look forward to the fresh start, and feel motivated to incorporate change. Some of my ambitions are relatively simple to implement, while others are far more rigorous. I want to look back at this list on December 31st of 2010 and see how things turned out. Maybe I can make bookmarks of these aspirations as a constant visual reminder.

- Read books primarily for increasing understanding, occasionally for information or entertainment. Lately I've had the same occurrence with books as I've had with cutting sugar out of my diet: the less sugar I consume, the sweeter and more satisfying fruit tastes. I don't remember if I've written this before, but I feel like a kid in a candy shop when I go to a bookstore or the library; only, this candy won't give me a stomach ache! I'll post my (growing) book list for 2010 in my next blog if I can get it all typed into my computer soon.


- Become more responsible with my money. I don't squander it... I'm not a spendthrift. On the contrary, I'm rather a miser! My problem is that I'm terrible with numbers, math, and budgeting. The monthly figuring requisite for any music teacher literally gives me nightmares. It takes me probably twice as long to do all the sums and check and recheck everything as it would a normal person to get everything right. I studied math all through high school, took my SATS, and got A's in almost every other subject, but numbers of any sort have always been a huge struggle. I need discipline, patience, resolve, diligence, and humility to ask for help in my budgeting this year. I want to know exactly how every penny is being spent, and not become confused in the middle of the month when I find that my grocery budget has fifty more (or, even worse, fifty less) dollars extra in it, and then I wonder if I forgot to pay my phone bill or accidentally took grocery money from some other expense category. Even if all I did was ask Mozart-Man to assist me in my monthly planning and bill-paying (which he has offered to do before, but I was too prideful to accept), that would make a big difference!


- Strive to notice the beautiful in everything. On the bus ride back to St. Louis this week from Kansas City, I pretended for a while that I couldn't read and had never seen advanced technology before... and then tried to make sense of all the things I saw. You try figuring out what a car wash and vacuum center is with that mindset! Then, as we were driving through Columbia, I examined the surroundings to observe what artistic beauty, good architectural taste, and preservation of natural environment was evident in and around the various buildings. I was surprised with how much and how little I saw. It was definitely a thought-provoking, interesting experience. After reading two books called "Winter World" and "Summer World", my eyes have also been more open to creation and the seasons. Hence why I love my new eco-planner I wrote about in my Christmas post ; )


- Grow in my relationship with Mozart-Man. We've been formally dating for about four years now. I know that at some (very near) point in the future he is going to propose, which I'm extremely excited about : ) I always want to continue to develop a closer relationship with him no matter what stage of our lives we are in; at this time next year, there's a good likelihood that we'll be married, but there is still a lifetime's worth of getting to know him waiting for me! I want to become more graceful, kind, and unselfish in our interactions. I'm so excited to create a life with him. We strive to be complementary to each other's strengths, supportive of each other's accomplishments, and sympathetic of each other's weaknesses. It's a continuous work of grace. His growth as a young man has been so incredible to watch in the period that I've known him. He is one of the most forgiving, gentle, iron-willed, truth-seeking people I've ever met. Yes, he has his faults, but I will strive to be merciful and gracious towards him, as mercy has been so often extended to me when I did not deserve it.


- Explore the role of becoming a CAHSA artist. I made up this position after reading a book my mom gave Emily to read this semester, called "Art for God's Sake" by Philip Ryken. It outlines four principles which an artist (any artist, performing, visual, creative, etc.) can use to orient themselves and their artistic talents on Christ.

1) Calling: Your creative gift is a blessing from God; likewise, your calling to become an artist (or any other vocation) is also from God. The occupation of a music teacher or a photographer can be just as God-honoring as that of a pastor. It depends on your mindset. I'll describe this in more detail in point four.

2) All: God takes delight in all venues of art. Of course, anything that is contrary to the Word, such as pornography or racist propaganda, is not something good, so there is a line that is drawn. However, one art is not "better" or "more spiritual" than another. A painting of the city of Los Angeles can speak as much about God or His attributes as a song with lyrics about Jesus. Art does not have to scream "Christian!" in order to point to God; one's worldview comes out in the art one creates no matter what belief system is held.

3) High Standards: Imagine that your art, whether it was a music composition, a painting, a film, a short story, a wooden chair, was going up for assessment in front of a panel of the most prestigious, brilliant artists in your field. Naturally you would want anything you submitted to be the very best! Translate that to us frail beings offering up our tiny artistry to the Creator of the universe. Would you want it to be kitschy, mediocre, or false? Now, I don't believe that God is out there scoffing at our trifling attempts to imitate Him, or judging our art to be pathetic or not good enough; rather, His amazing works of splendor, complexity, and design even on the most microscopic scale should inspire us to create "in His image". Art is condoned and encouraged in many places in the Bible, with music, embroidery, metal-working, dance, singing, carpentry, poetry, abstract art, representational/allegorical art, and other avenues of creative expression portrayed as obviously important to God's people.

4) All Art is for God's glory: Everything we do should be for the glory of the one who is the ultimate Artist. This mindset does not allow for some areas of life to be considered "spiritual" and some areas to be "secular". God created man... man is redeemed through Christ, not just part of man, but the whole man. I read a quote the other day that "The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars." The intellect, the curiosity, the inventiveness, the soul and center of man can be freed to truly explore and create once the redemptive power of Christ over every aspect of living is confessed. Truth is graspable. Truth can and should be conveyed in every artistic endeavor.

This is not to say that there is not ugliness in the world. As the book I mentioned pointed out, the Christian is not called to simply cover up the unpleasant. Rainbows and kittens and happiness are not what the world is all about. Sometimes there is a call to deliberately drag the frightful injustices of this earth into view... even a necessity. But the difference in the Christian is that we cannot stop there, at debasement. The world has not fallen without hope. Christ was born, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ is coming again! There is the promise of life in the midst of death. These epic themes of Creation, Fall, and Redemption speak to artists of all cultures, ethnic heritages, ages, capabilities, and styles.

I am saying these things for my own sake. I see the vast sinfulness in my life. I see my need for a Savior. But I also see that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, as all are, and given specific abilities to be used compassionately or selfishly. This is a call to dedicate everything in life, especially my love of music and teaching, to God.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Published 8:49 PM by with 0 comment

(Late) About Guitar Camp

Guitar camp was amazing. Like always, of course! During the course of the week, I felt...

- bittersweet. Becoming an adult is hard, especially when most of your friends are still not adults. I GREATLY enjoyed teaching, don't get me wrong, but I still wanted to hang out with the older students there, who are between the ages of fourteen and eighteen; they've been my friends for years, and I don't want to just quit hanging out with them just because I'm a teacher now! Especially since they're some of the most awesome people I know. But I did make an effort to socialize around the other "grown-ups" more. It was hard. But it worked out.

- LOVED! I never realize how often I get hugs at camp until I have to leave. I am hugged probably every half an hour, every day, all day, and most of the night until I go to bed. I adore hugs, and can never get enough of them! It's so cool to get hugs constantly from the wonderful kids and adults at camp, from seven year old Emily to *cough cough* year old Kevin, the most advanced teacher at camp. Lots of hugs. It's a motto : )

- useful. Like I said, I really enjoyed the teaching I was able to do. The ensemble I coached only had four kids in it, but they were great. I enjoyed working with them. We played a rather difficult piece for their level, the pop song called "Mad World" from the movie Donnie Darko. They really stepped up to the plate! Plus, I was able to offer some individual coaching sessions with some of the students at camp; whether the instruction I provided was helpful or not, I don't know, but I hope they didn't leave without feeling that they benefited from what I said!

- refreshed. I always come away from camp with a renewed desire to teach. Spending the week with some of the best teachers in the country is more wonderful than I can describe. I even am beginning to feel the renewed desire to practice, which hasn't happened since I gave my senior recital and graduated! I've been working on some Chet Atkins tunes, Take Five and Music to Watch Girls By. Lovely songs.

- happy. I am happy when I can spend time with people I admire, care for, and respect, both for their musical qualities and for their moral character. There are many such people at guitar camp, both young and old.

- deepened. What a joy to deepen my relationships with people who I usually get to see only once a year. I absolutely love spending time with Alec, who lives in St. Louis, and I'm able to see him every week, sometimes more when we hang out or go to concerts; the same goes for all the other students in the St. Louis ensemble who I get to see frequently. But I rarely get to see my friends from other parts of the country! I enjoyed meeting Katie, who reminds me so much of myself that it's scary (in a good way!), and who is set on her way to become a great leader and a fantastic guitarist. It was good to discuss college plans with Ryan, as he looks forward to one more year of highschool. Rachel was just as much a sweet girl as always; she is one of the most beautiful people I know, both inside and out. She'll go on to do great things, if she sets her mind to it! Tyler actually talked with me for the first time. Out of hundreds of young guitarists I've seen, he's one of the first that I would bet could go win the GFA in a few years if he keeps up the practicing and hard work. And Eliot... I wish he didn't live in Texas. I loved waking up in the morning and joining him on the bench by the pond, watching the early mist rising up into the sky and talking until it was time for breakfast. I wish we had more opportunities for that.

This isn't even touching on all the other amazing things that happened, like...

...listening to Eliot play the most gorgeous, haunting music at night on the dock, as I and several others lay on our backs and watched shooting stars... picking with the little girls (a seven year old and two nine year olds) in the woods surrounding the camp...

...swimming in the blazing summer sun with the crazy little boys doing back-flips off the diving board...

...waking up all the girls in my cabin every morning by patting their heads and whispering, "time to get up", with an emotion that must be a faint hint of what it would be like to be a mother...

...spending time with Brendan, the youngest member of camp at ten years old, helping him improve and stretch his guitar playing abilities...

...accidentally scaring a snake into the water when Chris, another teacher, was standing waist deep in the pond searching for a camper's lost glasses...

...many games of keep-away frisbee with kids in the huge fields...

...sitting around the bonfire at night with s'mores, Queen songs blaring from an iPod radio, and happy kids leaning sleepily on my shoulders...

There are so many. So many good things, so many blessings from God, so many children.
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