Contemplation 4

(From four weeks ago. Found it in my drafts box and decided to post it. There’s some good memories here.)

It’s really hard to write uplifting, encouraging posts when I’m not happy with the world around me. When nothing is going right. When I’m not doing too well with the tasks I’m supposed to be good at, like music and writing. When my self-esteem isn’t high, and my self-confidence is at a low.

These days, I’ve been so busy with practicing, and trying to get stuff right, and not getting stuff right, and more practicing, and still not getting stuff right. It’s discouraging.

I need to remind myself that I’m very very thankful to be here. Because I am. I am so glad that I’m here. I’m meeting so many dedicated and like-minded people who are also so talented at their instruments (or composing) in addition to being kind. They are inspiring. Not to mention the really brilliant teachers like Bruce Brubaker or Natalya Antonova. I sat in during a lesson with Ms. Antonova, and I love her. Very firm, but clear corrections and she seemed like quite a kind person. (I still think she might have made me cry, anyway.) I honestly love it here. However, I do feel inadequate. As if my skills aren’t enough, and they aren’t. As if I might never reach where I want to reach. That does worry me.

On the other hand…

I think being around so much maturity (whatever, that sounds weird) is making me grow up a little at a time. I’m trying to do better on the honesty front, at least. It’s making me want to work harder, do things better. I’m still held back by my lack of experience and knowledge, though.

For one thing, I’m learning how to carry on intelligent conversations with people.

But let me tell you, sitting down at a piano and improvising something pretty, if imperfect, is an excellent feeling. Right up there with getting the piece I’m actually supposed to be working on right.

Oh, and I had a day maker. An opera student said to me, “I feel so happy whenever I see you. I see you, and then I just feel so happy and good about life. You make me feel so happy.”

Or something to that effect. It did make me happy.

Gotta love those opera students. ;)

(To clarify, she was not my student. We were both students in different programs in the music festival.)

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

Music is Expensive

Picture from Amazon

*sigh*

Let me begin by saying that I have spent a lot of money this break.

Somehow, I ended up buying a lot of CDs. I don’t regret that. I’m just sad because I’m broke.

Anyway, if you have a chance and want to listen to some good music, listen to these:

1. Frame the Clouds by Christa Wells

2. The Invitation by Meredith Andrews

3. Amarantine by Enya (Christmas gift from my my younger sister, actually)

4. Fireflies and Songs by Sara Groves

5. My Medea by Vienna Teng (I got a couple of songs from Warm Strangers and Waking Hour, and by far, “My Medea” is my favorite.)

6. Us by Regina Spektor (Soviet Kitsch)

7. Hero by Regina Spektor (500 Days of Summer)

Links lead to their respective Amazon pages, if available.

"these are the scars that silence carved on me... I am a constant satellite of your blazing sun"

A friend of mine introduced me to Vienna Teng by sending me a link to “Gravity”. I noticed three things: that Vienna Teng was Asian, classically trained in piano, and that the song was awesome. Most of her songs are a sort of hit and miss with me – if I hear a song and I love it, then I’ll really love it and listen to it on repeat for the next 48 hours. If I don’t like it, then I really don’t like it. Some of the lyrics don’t catch me, and some do. However, there is no doubt that Vienna Teng is gifted in words and melody. Her music has a very unique feel.

“My Medea” is a good example. Haunting and intense, the song refers to a woman in Greek mythology who left a trail of destruction wherever she went. She murdered her children, murdered a pair of lovers, tried to destroy her former husband, Jason (yes, that Jason). I wonder what eventually happened to her. Vienna Teng also drew from the legend of the labyrinth (Crete?) and “a curse for every mile of ocean crossed” which sounds familiar but which I can’t place. Ouch.

It took me a while to understand the song.

Amarantine is my favorite Enya album so far. Even with the songs with the made up languages, I was humming along, not knowing whatever the heck I was singing. It was cool. “Amarantine,” the title track, is my new favorite love song. I am also in awe of Enya’s lyricist, Roma Ryan. She paints pictures with words, while Enya, the “sonic architect,” builds towers out of sound. Altogether, the music has the effect of making me feel as if I’m a pilgrim who has been on a long journey and has only just found her way home.

And indeed, home is a theme that Roma Ryan and Enya explore in this album.

You know when you give your love away
It opens your heart, everything is new
And you know time will always find a way
To let your heart believe it’s true
.

— Amarantine

(Who says that rhyming poetry is for 5th graders? Heidi Montag has nothing on Roma Ryan.)

Amazon had a $5 for one mp3 album deal over break, and I got “Fireflies and Songs” by Sara Groves. I hadn’t listened to any of her music beforehand, just heard references to her by Meredith Andrews and Christa Wells (Sara Groves’ vocals are featured on “Frame the Clouds,” incidentally). A housewife and mother of three children, Sara Groves released nine albums, her most recent being the one I just bought. I immediately fell in love with her songwriting, but her voice was an acquired taste. At times, I felt that her voice was a little too scratchy. The real beauty is perhaps in her lyrics. They are very very honest – so much is about everyday life. Kitchens, fireflies, friendship, tables, and houses. So much is about singing “for the beauty that’s to be found” as written in the gem “Setting Up the Pins.” Another favorite is “Love.”

love I made it mine
I made it small I made it blind
I followed hard only to find
it wasn’t love
it wasn’t love

love of songs and pen
oh love of movie endings
takes out the break
leaves out the bend
misses love

love not of you
love not of me
come hold us up
come set us free
not as we know it
but as it can be

People can identify with the small things, like chairs and tables and children and kittens, but perhaps that is where we look last for the important things. Things we need to be reminded of. To me, her songs will always be about the beauty found in ordinary things, the aliveness to be liven in everyday life, the grace of God reflected back in little simple things like friendships and kindnesses, and a love that is bigger than we know.

Will I buy anything else by her? Perhaps.

(And the song “It’s Me” brings a lump to my throat every time I hear it. Shhh don’t tell anyone.)

Meredith Andrews is pretty darn cute, too.

Meredith Andrews is so darn cute.

“The Invitation” by Meredith Andrews was one of those purchases I didn’t think I would love as much as I did. I’m not really into a lot of “Christian” music. Don’t like Chris Tomlin (I can hear the shocked gasps now) because his music and lyrics seem too vanilla for my tastes. Not intense enough. I like more intensity, more edginess. I like to listen about grace, and goodness, and love, and peace, but it all has no form and substance without the fall. Because for humans, so much of our lives has been defined around falling, being crushed, being shattered, being shaken, being broken. Which is why we are so desperately in need of grace. Grace would have no meaning if man had not fallen… the sacrifice cannot exist without a reason. One must acknowledge the fall while being defined around grace.

God is indescribable, unchangeable; but all we know of God comes from our experience of Him. In trying to speak only of God’s qualities, we more often than not come up short because there is so much we don’t know. Yet that doesn’t stop us from trying. The old hymn writers were good at this. Because of our inadequacy, and perhaps from our own inexperience of God, it’s hard to find new and fresh ways of talking about God. As someone who’s tried her hand at poetry, I can say that it’s extremely hard to not fall back onto the old cliches that instead of drawing the soul to something greater, drop them back into blah.

grace

beauty in pain?

That, or a lot of Christian music seems to be cheesy pop love songs with all the words “baby” and “love” and “darling” replaced with “God” and “Jesus” and “Savior.” Don’t get me wrong, I like love songs, depending on the melody or the lyrics. But singing the words “I can’t stop falling in love with you” 8x in a row makes me feel really weird. Seriously, I wouldn’t know those were songs about God except for the words “God” and “Jesus”. God is many things: lover, friend, Father, confidante, brother, etc. He is captivating, etc. But I’m not sure I want to think of God captivating me with his “intimate kisses.” Oh dear. Does that give you weird mental images? I’m sorry. I can’t remember the name of that particular song, so I’ll spare you.

In talking about being shattered, broken, etc., many can identify with such feelings. However, the challenge is in finding a balance. We’re broken, but we need grace. We need grace because we’re broken. One cannot be morbidly upsetting in writing about being broken, and one cannot be so airy and fluffy in writing about grace, otherwise it’s no better than feel-good bubblegum pop that’s all air and no substance. It’s my thought that, similar to the struggle of describing God, many Christian singer/songwriters fall back on the same ol’ same ol’ cliches, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it fails to satisfy.

"I was alone, but you found me where I was hiding"

"I was alone, but you found me where I was hiding. And now I'll never ever be the same."

So I was pleasantly surprised to listen and find so much depth and wisdom in the lyrics. There are such gems as the upbeat “You Invite Me In” where Andrews sings that “You invite me in/Doesn’t matter where I’ve been/Your arms are open wide/There’s nothing left to hide” echoing the account of the prodigal in Luke. Who doesn’t want to leave their shame behind? And yet that is the chance offered.

Or how about “You’re Not Alone”?

My favorite track is the deliciously piano-based hymn-like “Draw Me Nearer.”

In your nearness there is healing
What was broken now made whole
Restoration in its fullness
Lasting hope for all who come

In your nearness I take shelter
Where you are is where I’m home
I have need of only one thing
To be here before your throne

Her music is just so darn uplifting in its message of hope. “God is extending an invitation to you, to you personally, calling you by name,” she says. “He knows where you’ve been and he knows your background. He knows your family situation. He knows the things you struggle with, but he’s calling you by name and he’s inviting you to come in and to meet with him and to know him.” How encouraging!

Christa Wells. Picture from her blog.

And yet, one of the best purchases I made was “Frame the Clouds” by Christa Wells. I first heard about Christa Wells when Amazon offered me a free mp3 off this, her independently produced debut album. I can’t stop listening. She has a way of painting pictures with words. This album is definitely marked by Christa Wells’ plain honesty. The lyrics are profound in their simplicity. Favorite track? “Frame the Clouds.” I recommend this album.

Like her friend Sara Groves, Christa Wells sings and writes about the simple things of life, interjected with a lot of grace. However, the way she paints pictures with words is unique and not really like anything I’ve ever heard. Sara Groves’s songwriting makes me think of flowers; Christa Wells’s makes me think of solid oak. She sings of falling in love in “All the More”, citing little things like his grin and the desire of wanting to be kissed “I was raised not to asked to be kissed, otherwise I would’ve.” He was perfect in so many ways, but in the end it was his imperfections, his humanity, that made her fall in love with him further. Or how about “A Thousand Things,” a balladic song about human suffering? Someone suffers, tells about it. But that’s not the end of the story: someone else at the next table, also suffering, hears about this and takes it to heart. “Exquisite” pain draws people together, but so does grace. An outpouring of pain, and grace in the midst of such pain, is like a drop of rain that waters a thousand fields, hence the title.

a thousand fields nourished by a single drop of rain

Then there is the mournful “Life Costs So Much,” a condemnation of sorts against the failure to acknowledge the cost of life , living empty lives our own way, the assertion that “we’ll get along” while hiding our souls in shame. Merely existing, and certainly not living.

“Don’t Call It Love”, “I Want To Know That Man”, “Weightless”… I don’t believe there is a single “miss” on this CD. For instance, in the swingy “Don’t Call It Love”, Christa Wells takes difficult subject matter – passing judgement – and handles it with grace.

I’m tempted to sit back in my overstuffed chair

with a gavel in hand and a tired-eye stare that says
I’m not surprised you’ve messed it up again
I’m tempted to sigh, I’m tempted to yawn
if you’d only do life the way I’ve told you all along
It could be so easy
If you would only be more like me

But oh, that’s the beast that brings us down
It’s the devil in a satin gown
So don’t, don’t call it love (don’t call it love)
love wraps herself around the wound
and weeps while she speaks truth

So don’t call this love

Indeed love does… as well as make music.

"If there's a God who would enter humanity to capture the love of a rebel like me... I want to know his name." - "I want to know that man" Christa Wells

It’s rare to see a singer/songwriter who can spin such melodies and words in a way that they speak to the heart. Or perhaps these singer/songwriters get overlooked over the bubblegum pop babble, the Miley Cyruses and Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovatos and Emily Osments. It’s really a shame, because such artists should get recognition. Such music is in the end more wholesome than empty fluff. One may make a person feel empty-good for a while. The other may make a person feel more challenged, more less-whole, more longing-for-wholeness, more empty. As it should.

The only way I can describe this music is the feeling of a journey to make — a journey to love’s beginning. A journey where instead of walking the other way, one walks into grace. A journey to recognize beauty in faces and places, like the man who “poured himself out for a stranger for years, for no kind of pay.” A journey where one strives to become more Christ-like, I suppose.

A journey I’d want to make. A journey I’m making.

I am listening to the album as I write this, and I feel as if I’m uncovering a new little gem every time. The songs have that much meaning.

It’s also available on iTunes, but I got the CD, available on Christa Wells’s website, because it’s easier to lend CDs to people.

Music to buy in 2010, in no particular order, and because I like making lists:

maybe someone played so well that his fingers bled roses.

1. As Long as It Takes by Meredith Andrews (coming out in March?)

2. Brooke Fraser‘s Third Album (unnamed, and tentatively scheduled for summer 2010. Again, I recommend her. She’s my favorite singer/songwriter, and anything from her is bound to be excellent. She puts so much of herself into everything she writes.)

3. Love Makes Music EP by Christa Wells, Nicole Witt and Other Various People. Two songs written by Christa, two songs by Nicole, and one song written by both.

4. Rest of the Ride by Nicole Witt. Just found about her from the Love Makes Music EP project. She’s good. More country. But good. I like country.

The end of 2010 will possibly see me in debt.

*Update: I only bought a few of the CDS on the list: Meredith Andrew’s was one of them. I also bought Brooke Fraser’s album “Flags,” which I should review at some point, and which was excellent. I highly recommend it. I never did buy the EP by Christa Wells and Nicole Witt, but I did buy “How Emptiness Sings” by Wells, and which I will be reviewing at some point because it is also extremely insightful.

I also changed my mind about liking country.

Wrongness

2985652951_33d6bde191Sometimes we think that we’re the only ones going through pain and suffering, when in reality that’s not the case.

Or we believe that we’re the ones who have gone through the most pain and suffering. Some do face struggles that are much harder than is their lot to bear, like the Biblical Job. But to believe that we, out of many, have suffered the most out of all the people we know, is wrong. I know. I do it all the time.

Someone tells us about what struggles they’re going through and we respond with “oh, I had it much harder.” That’s a wrong response.

Because you really don’t know that you had it much harder than them. What your hardest struggle may be would be very different from another’s hardest struggle. So to say that your struggle was much harder than theirs is invalidating their circumstances, and in effect you reveal to them that you are not really listening to them, but taking what they say and comparing it to what you went through.

2935433752_564da3e69eEspecially when you come up with a conclusion about their circumstances based on that bias “Oh, I had it much harder than you.” and then taking it and forcing it on them. For instance, when someone tells you about a difficult circumstance, and then you reply with a story of how hard you had it in life, as well as how they should just suck it up and move on, because what they went through wasn’t as bad as what you went through.

Not only that, what they need at that moment is not you talking about yourself, but listening to what they have to say, and offering companionship and support. There’s a time for sharing what you went through, and there’s a time to listen.

So please, when someone is sharing a struggle that they’re going through, please listen to them. Do not say that you had a much harder struggle. Just listen. Be there for them. Don’t assume that you have suffered more than any other person, even if it might be true. Just listen.

Just listen.

I’m Standing on the Edge of Me

Things have changed.

And will change.

Rather drastically.

279741827_94ee95213b

I just walked off another chapter of my life. High school. It seems that I spent most of that time being emo and depressed (not that I’m not like that now) and caring about someone who didn’t care about me at all.

It’s as if during those times, those struggles defined who I was…

However, I have to remember that that chapter of my life is over and gone.

For in less than a month, I will be headed off into a new chapter of my life: college. I will get to meet new people, socialize, take part in clubs and activities, all the while learning skills that I will use in my decided profession (or not). For the first time in my life, I will be living away from my home. There won’t be anyone to tell me what to do. No one to tell me to fold my clothes, put away my underwear, and clean the garbage pile that I call a desk.

For the first time in my life I will experience independence. That is, in the sense that I will be responsible for my own needs. I will be responsible for eating meals at the correct times. I will be responsible for my clothes, my use of time, and more. My parents won’t be watching me every second. It’s exciting, but scary.

It’s especially crucial that I learn how to manage things well. I will be a double major in both psychology and music. I will most likely be practicing piano for hours a day, while studying psychology and various other electives. Not to mention my blogging responsibilities, as well as the clubs I will join.

Will I actually be able to manage my time properly? Or will I fail at it?

I do know that college will change me in ways I can’t even imagine.

Forgetting him will take a while.

But that’s life for you. You do what you can with the time that’s given to you.

You follow the road that unfolds at your feet.

393284631_afc229790e

How to Guide for Cat Owners

I found this on another blog. Did some minimal editing to remove a swear.*

cat

Hilarious. And crazily accurate. My aunt has a cat who is like this cat. That cat does a lot of staring, eating plants and regurgitating them, sprinting at light speed out of any room I enter, and hides in dark places and watches people. I’ve never seen her sleep on electronics. And thank Ceiling Cat, that cat never ever brought in dead animals.

“This isn’t a gift. It’s a warning.”

It’s a helpful guide to any cat owner, guaranteed. Good luck staying alive!

I shall close with a favorite LOL of mine.

funny pictures of cats with captions

(Think of it another way. Maybe they want to kill you when you’re vulnerable and naked. I don’t know.)

*There was another caption, saying “Cats. Sneaky ****ers.”

Fear Not: God is With Us!

This year, our church’s Vacation Bible School was a three day event. Those three days were split into five different sections with a different theme, or Bible point. Each time that session’s Bible point was spoken, the helpers and kids had to shout back, “Fear not!”

43447178_d437f859a4The first section was on Thursday afternoon, from 3 to 8 PM. The Bible point was, “God is with us!”

Fear not!

This year I was a leader of five kids. For some reason, the children’s pastor decided that it would be best to have mixed age groups. That meant that the leaders would have children from various age groups. However, the groups were small, which probably helped out the leaders when it came to dealing with cliques and that type of thing. Two of my kids were in the 6th grade. One was a 3rd grader, one was a 1st grader, and another was a 2nd grader. It happened that I had four kids (all girls) for the first two days, and then the fifth kid, a boy, came on the last day.

[insert some insecurity about my skillz as a crew leader. Skillz? I have no skillz. HALP! Gets all worried about my skillz and what shall I do if they’re naughty?]

As it so happened, I was late coming to the church. Bah. The streets were filled with cars, and the lights were all red. We had a near miss with a car that had just stopped in the middle of the street with its nose sticking out. Some horn honking ensued. But I got there. Alive.

Anyway, as a crew leader, I got a nifty plastic bag that held pencils and pens and some booklets for the Bible lesson. Plus a guide for the leader that held a schedule I DID NOT USE for the first day. Yes, I walked around with the wrong schedule for the first session and my kids were none the wiser. (Don’t tell my kids if you go to my church and are reading this.) The nifty plastic bag was meant to carry any stuff that the kids accumulated along the way. These “stuff” became plastic fireflies with no eyes and only one wing each, squished snacks, and tangled whistly toys.

Speaking of fireflies...

Speaking of fireflies...

Don’t forget the nice dark purple shirts that we crew leaders got as part of the deal. The kids wore yellow, we wore purple to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to help me… various station leaders (*ahem* Jevon) still looked around wildly and picked random tall people out of my group and asked them, “Are you the crew leader?” Purple shirt, *coff coff* I really liked the purple shirts even though they sure smelled funny at the end of three days.

The first stop of the day was “Sing and Play Swamp Stomp.” Notice the use of alliteration. It’s exactly what it is. The sanctuary was decked out in a nice styrofoam house (wish I had pictures. I don’t) and some really really awesome trees and a dock and a cardboard boat and a happy green blow up croc. You know, the kind that you throw into the pool and cling on when you’re drowning. The kids were entertained by an interesting character named “Skeeter.” He was supposed to be the wild man of the swamp or something of the sort, but I found him disturbing. I mean, he talks exactly like this guy who used to stalk me…

I’m just really glad that Skeeter/Henry didn’t come up to me and ask, “Do you like to sing to Jesus?” Brrrrr.

Gratuitous swamp shot. Click photo to get to photographer's photostream.

Gratuitous swamp shot. Click photo to get to photographer's photostream.

That would have been too much. Ask me why.

The kids didn’t warm up to the hand motions at first, and honestly, neither did I. It took about a day before we all stopped feeling awkward and actually started learning the hand motions, instead of hiding behind the pews.

Worship leader asked us to introduce each other. The two 6th graders we’ll call J and E. The third grader we’ll call Y. The second grader? C. I knew all of them already. Here I’ll say that C was the kid I was worried about, as she’s rather spoiled and knows how to pull people’s strings. *wince* It’s her fault for having such beautiful eyelashes.

The worship leader introduced us to our Bible buddy, which was some animal. It was Flash the firefly. It had a purple butt and eyelashes. She/he reminded us that God is always with us! So for the rest of that session, whenever the words “God is with us” was spoken, the kids and their crew leaders responded with a resounding “Fear not!”

Then we were supposed to choose jobs for the kids. Pick your choice. You have “Materials Manager” (bag carrier), “Prayer Partner,” “Gator Guide” (I’m not really sure what this is) “Schedule Supervisor” (person who keeps track of where we’re supposed to go, and when) and the person who’s supposed to thank the station leaders (station leaders are the people not in charge of a group but rather a specific station, like the crafts station, the snack station, the Bible story station, etc.) at the end of each stop. I don’t remember who I chose for what, but I do remember that C wanted kept changing her mind. I ended up with some sort of compromise.

swamp shot by same photographer

swamp shot by same photographer

Next stop: the gym for some games. The games involved an “icebreaker” game that was actually kind of fun. Each kid was given a skittle, and they were asked to flash their skittles, pretending that those skittles were fireflies. Then they were supposed to find another person with the same skittle and sit down with that person and introduce themselves and the usual “what’s your favorite animal?” My “firefly” melted against my hand in a very nice way. We were inseparable. Truly.

I would have eaten it too, if I hadn’t dropped it.

After each game, the game leader would hand out pieces of paper with questions that the crew leaders were supposed to ask their kids. The questions were pretty good… they weren’t too deep that the kids would stare blankly with question marks all over their faces. They were easy enough so that the youngest kids could answer them. Plus they didn’t take too long to answer so we could move on to the next game.

I liked that my kids showed eagerness in answering the questions. No putting people on the spot, and no awkward silences. No “You answer. No, you answer. Oh please, go ahead. No, really, I mean it.”

This is him.

This is him.

Next stop? I think it was the “Dockside Drive-in.” The place where the station leader shows a video about Chadder Chipmunk (who was voiced by a girl despite him being male) and then talks about the lessons that Chadder had learned along with his friend Fraider (who is acted by a real guy). Each segment is probably about 10 minutes long. In this one, Chadder wants to write for the school newspaper. Decides to go to the bayou to find a picture of the rumored Monster Croc. Meets a fraidy-cat called Fraider who suddenly finds himself signed up as guide to find the Monster Croc. Problem is that he is scared of everything…

Chadder then tells him that “God is with us” so we don’t need to be afraid! Then Chadder drops M&Ms on the ground so they won’t get lost (smart idea, that). Unfortunately Fraider eats them. (Figures.) Segment ends with them hopelessly lost.

Honestly, Chadder Chipmunk is a cheesy film. But the kids loved it. They really did. They couldn’t wait to see the next segment! Strangely, I found myself wanting to find out, too.

Proof that cheesiness does not mean something’s bad.

Then a move on to the Bible Bayou. Here Jevon and his wife told a Bible story in various creative ways (you rock, guys!); in fact, I’d give them plenty of points for creativeness. Good job with the fake British accent there, Jevon. The lesson here this time was about Moses and the burning bush, complete with special effects. Fascinating bush, with the orange paper and burning sounds!

Mmmm... fireflies skittles

Mmmm... skittles

Afterwards, Jevon told us that no, the tape recording playing God’s voice was not in fact God. He asked, “Was there a time you were afraid and God reassured you of His presence?”

One of the sixth graders, a precocious kid, piped up. “I had a surgery some time ago, and they cut into the wrong part.”

Oohs and aahs from some of the younger kids.

“I was in pain for five weeks! And one day I prayed to God, and it didn’t hurt anymore!”

Jevon spoke. “Well, that’s great, Justin! You can see how God took care of you! Is there anyone else who would like to share?”

“Actually, the surgery was done over here.” Kid pointed to his… well, you know.

Everyone giggled. Especially the small children. Jevon cringed.

Oblivious (or not), the kid went on with his story. “And it was because some part refused to come down–“

Jevon stopped him at that point. I don’t blame him.

Craft time next. The station leader asked us what Bible story we’d learned about. One of the younger kids eagerly answered, “There was a kid who had surgery in a very BAD part. In fact, it was in his PRIVATES.”

“My goodness…”

Another swamp photo that I like.

Another swamp photo that I like.

I don’t think that was what she expected to hear…

We made fireflies out of tiny plastic bottles and foam wings. They were supposed to be keychains, to be taken home at the end of VBS. The crew leaders were supposed to put all crafts in the provided plastic bag. Unfortunately, a few hours later, the fireflies had no eyes, and the kids frantically stuck their heads into the bags in an effort to find the eyes. They were unsuccessful. “GAHHHH WHERE ARE THE EYES? THE EYES?” C even told me that I had to give her my firefly’s eyes because she was younger than me.

Either way, we all ended up with very blind fireflies.

I’m pretty sure we went to the snack shack next. We made “burning bush in a bowl,” which involved taking a couple of tortilla chips, putting them into a clear plastic cup, and topping those with a few leaves of lettuce, some flakes of cheese, and a cherry tomato. It was easy and quite fun to make and eat. I am glad that my kids aren’t too picky. I made Y eat my cherry tomato (I’m allergic to tomatoes) and she was quite happy to do so.

202923252_e2f251ee41On the whole, I had an exciting afternoon. The kids were awesome. I felt highly impressed with their good behavior, and they made me feel as if I wasn’t such a bad crew leader after all. I might not have been the best crew leader, but they definitely made leading easier for me.

What’s a crew leader supposed to do? I’m supposed to be myself, and be there for the kids, even though I might be feeling less than up to par. And do a LOT of praying. Because prayer is incredibly important.

Those kids were my God-sightings. They gave me hope.*

It’s not as scary as one would think. I was called to do it. Just buck up and go ahead. You don’t have to be perfect, or have years and years of training. You don’t have to have been a Christian forever, either.

As I said, I was called to do it. That means that I was given the means to do it.

Don’t be afraid.

*More about God sightings in the next post

Gummy Bears

Over the years, I’ve changed in my candy tastes. I used to like anything that was sweet, sugary, and totally bad for a little girl with baby teeth. My parents knew this, and they only allowed us to eat candy on the weekends. Because otherwise, we’d eat them all the time and that would be bad for us.

In fact, and my sister denies this ever happened, my sister ate too much candy when she was very small and threw up.

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When my dad talked about it in church, she was not so happy.

However, when I got a bit older, things started to change. Candy that I enjoyed, like Laffy Taffy, were now intolerable. It was too sweet, too sticky. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I started disliking milk chocolate. KitKat bars were too sweet now. I couldn’t eat white chocolate because it made my stomach feel funny. At around that time, my devotion to dark chocolate began, and has persisted to this day.

However, something remained. My love for gummy bears.

My parents would buy a whole bag of gummy bears from the local BJ’s. At BJ’s, you can just about get anything and everything in bulk sizes. For a family of seven, that meant huge savings. Including candy.

0004142074508_L4The bag was huge. About five pounds in weight, it contained loads and loads of chewy perfection. Every single color of gummy bear was there. Red, yellow, white, green, and orange. For some reason, each bag contained more red gummies than anything else. My favorite flavor was the white one. (I think that’s pear? Not sure.)

In fact, it was pretty easy to eat a lot of gummy bears in one sitting, and not realize it.

The first bag of gummy bears we consumed took a year or more. The no-candy-on-weekdays ban was still in effect. Besides, we children went to a lot of extracurricular activities. The directors thought that candy would be the perfect reward for good behavior, so we ended up coming home with lots and lots of candy. (At that time I still liked Laffy Taffy.) Eating all that candy took a while, and often the gummy bears would sit in a musty closet, alone and forgotten, with only each other for company.

As a result, by the time we remembered to eat them, the gummies were hard. They didn’t have the stretch potential that they once had.

I still ate them gladly.

They still tasted good.

By that time, the ban had been lifted. We were free to eat candy any day of the week now, provided we did so with discretion.

Happily, no one threw up.

In fact, for my last birthday, my parents bought me a whole bag of gummy bears. I was so happy! Or maybe that’s a gross understatement. I was in ecstasy. It didn’t take me that long to finish up the whole bag. With the help of my family, of course.

However, my true appreciation for gummy candy didn’t begin until many years ago…

gummybearsEvery couple of years, my parents would take us all the way to Taipei, Taiwan to celebrate Chinese New Year with my mom’s side of the family. I loved it. Taipei was awesome. There were so many sites to see, including the excitement that came with having no idea what everyone else was saying. My Chinese is awful, at best.

And the awesome thing was that my aunts and uncles would take us sight seeing all over the place. There were temples, hiking trails, restaurants, malls, stores, and outdoor markets.

The outdoor markets.

Now those were amazing.

gummi-sharksMy aunt took us to this outdoor market which was unbelievably devoted only to candy and other snacks. Dried fruit, chewy pieces of squid, and MORE. What awed me was the stalls and stalls devoted entirely to gummy candy. It was gummy heaven! There wasn’t just the ordinary ol’ gummy bears that I had been used to stuffing myself with. There were little gummy sharks, gummy eggs, and gummy root beer bottles. You name it, it was there. Even better, they gave out free samples. I must have eaten dozens and dozens of gummy eggs, sharks, pizza, and bears.

301-Gummy-Bears-Sour.a.zoomOh yeah, the bears. They had little bears, big bears, sour bears, and bears with little bits of sugar on top. Some of the bears were funny looking. Others were cute.

Seeing how much we all enjoyed the gummy candy, my parents decided to buy lots and lots of them. So we flew home from Taiwan with bags and bags of everything that you would ever imagine under the sun that were gummy.

I was 10 at the time.

Now I can’t find gummy eggs or pizza over here in the States. It’s been a source of much frustration to me. The drugstore shelves only have the regular worms, sharks, and bears. No eggs. No pizza. Definitely no root beer bottles. That saddened me. The nearest to exotic gummy shapes were the lobsters for sale at Bar Harbor, Maine. Those lobsters, however, cost a flipping three dollars for three lobsters. Otherwise I might have bought them.

hatops$77202310Someday, I promise myself, I’m going to go back to Taiwan and find those outdoor stalls. And buy bags and bags of those heavenly gummies and come back to the States with those. Then I’m going to eat them. Slowly. Savor them.

And remember how it felt to be a 10 year old, mouth open, awed by the rows and rows of gummy candy in every imaginable shape and form. Remember what it was like to take joy in the simple things of life — like gummy candy.