Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas time is here!

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year
Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share
Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there
Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...
(From the "Charlie Brown Christmas Special")

I love Christmas. I always have, always will. Some of my favorite family memories come from the Christmas season. The lights, the music, the snow, the excitement, the cookies, the presents (especially my first Christmas, when I was the present!!), and most importantly, celebrating Christ as the reason for the season. I thought I'd share some new and old Christmas memories with you this evening. Feel free to comment with your own traditions and ideas. :)

The lights. Since I was a country doll most of my life, looking at Christmas lights meant driving to a town a half an hour away so that we could look at people's extravagant light displays on their homes. I remember being pressed against the van window as the little girl next to me informed me that this was exciting and cool. I didn't have the heart to be tough and point out how overdone some of them were. Fast forward several years to my move to the big city, and you'll find this girl and I walking down the city streets, oohing and ahing over the beautiful (and tasteful!) lights in store windows and on street corners. She still likes the lights, and this time, I agree with her. :)

The music. I love Christmas music. I love the melodies, the lyrics, and the simple reflection on the humble manger scene. I've always played Christmas songs on the piano... and when the music gets too big for my tiny, fingerless hands, I let the little girl (now a big girl!) play them for me. Sometimes they get too big for her hands, too, so she leaves out a few notes. :)

The excitement. As soon as I arrived back in the country from the big city, I could feel how excited everyone was for Christmas Day. Little children squeal in delight about how they can't wait for Thursday. I spent time wrapping gifts and getting them under the tree. We're all ready and waiting for the big day. Christmas Day, we've always come down to the tree and found what's in our stockings. (I always crawl inside my stocking to make sure I didn't miss anything at the bottom.) Then, we have egg-nog, scrambled eggs, and coffee cake for breakfast. Our gift party is last.

THE SNOW!!!! I think we might actually have a white Christmas this year. I was snowed in on Sunday, and the wind is howling tonight. I know country dolls are supposed to be practical and realize how annoying snow can be... but I guess there's enough city doll in me that I find the snow romantic and special. I love how the world looks when it's white... :) (Besides, I don't think anyone would ask a little doll to move the snow... can you see me with a scoop shovel?)

Jesus. He's the reason for life, let alone Christmas. Without Him, we wouldn't exist. I'd say that's reason to celebrate, wouldn't you?

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reflections on the semester

Well, I survived. :)

Actually, I thrived. I'm sorry for not posting sooner, but time got away from me. With Old Testament papers, Doctrine quizzes, Music Theory assignments, and piano practice, I've been a bit busy. When I wasn't occupied in those ways, I was in class or spending time with my friends. I was so busy thriving that I never had time to blog. :( Now that Christmas break has arrived, I'll try to catch up on some blogging as well as sleep.

As I look back on the past semester, I'm amazed at a whole host of important lessons that God has taught me. The one that stands out is the importance and craziness of love... God's love toward me, my love toward God, and my love toward others.

Let's start with God's love toward me. I've been reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan (which I highly recommend, by the way). The book talks about how insignificant my life is compared to the greater scheme of the universe. God doesn't need me. God is completely sufficient in Himself (see Acts 17:24-25). To illustrate, there is a common comparison of life to a plotline in a movie or book. "Turning over a new leaf," "a new scene in the drama of life," and similar expressions are used frequently. But all of these figures of speech make the gross assumption that the movie of life is about me. In reality, it's about God. I probably don't even qualify as a supporting actress. Chances are, I'm an extra that appears for less than a second.

If this sounds humbling, it should. It's only once we're duly humbled and put in our place, and we realize how stupid, arrogant, and egotistical we have been that we can truly appreciate God's love for us. We have to realize that we're all tiny dolls compared to Him. Yet God -- the one whom this life is really all about -- cares about us. He loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. He could have started over from scratch, but He didn't. This blows me away. It's a kind of crazy, unconditional love that should bring me to my knees.

That's where my love for God comes into the picture. When I think about the greatness of God's love for me, and I realize how meager mine is in comparison, I see a huge problem there. God is so big, I am so small. He sent His Son to die for me, and I respond with trying to fit Him into a little corner of my life. God wants everything, not just a little corner. He wants me to live my entire life out of love for Him, doing it for His glory. This is easier said than done, because it manifests itself in loving others.

I joined a Bible study with some friends this fall, and in studying the book of 1 John, I've been pondering what it means to love other people. Loving people unconditionally (the way God clearly calls us to) means loving without expecting anything in return, with no strings attached. It sounds easy, but try it. To love others with no strings attached is to respond in grace, even when they don't. It is to put their interests ahead of your own, and to expect that attitude to be one-sided. All too often, we plan that loving will be mutual. We think that other people will respond in kind. (After all, how could you not love a little doll like me??)

When we're met with any resistance, we say that we "tried" love and it didn't work. Hmm... last time I checked 1 Corinthians 13 says that "love never fails." That's a hard one to swallow. Even if I can't see the benefits of this love, it still didn't fail. Besides, we're called to unconditional love. Love that insists on being mutual is no longer unconditional. The requirement of being loved back becomes an attached condition, and that's not the kind of love God expects.

It's hard to live life this way, and over the past weeks I've been realizing more and more how disgusting my attitudes are. I blow it so often... which is why it's so amazing that God loves me at all.

Well... pondering unconditional love, writing blog posts, and thriving in general are all a bit tiring, and I still haven't caught up on my sleep since finals week. See you later!

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy

P.S. -- This post makes that signature have a little more meaning, doesn't it? By God's grace, I'll try to live up to it... but can you love me even when I don't?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fire drills, hay fever, and mariachi music!!

I experienced my first fire drill on Wednesday morning during my doctrine class, and I was rather unimpressed. Everyone calmly filed out of the building, acting very nonchalant about the whole thing. While they assumed it was a drill, they had no way of knowing for sure. I would hate it if everyone acted that calm and bored during a real fire situation. My fabric is already worn enough without getting it singed.

In other news of note, my hay fever is back. My head hurts, I'm tired, and one of my ears is pressurized. It's one thing to know that you have a head full of stuffing, but it's another thing entirely to feel it... :( I started my Claratin yesterday, so hopefully I'll be feeling better by Monday.

Yesterday was a friend's birthday, which was fun. We celebrated by going to a mariachi concert in the park. I clapped along to the music! This concert was just the break I needed after a stressful day. I'm starting to learn to take purposeful breaks from homework and piano practice to just relax. After all, you can't be tough all the time.

I took another break from studies tonight to watch a comedy routine in the student center. I enjoyed it immensely. Comedy here is fun and clean, avoiding inappropriate humor and poking fun at some aspects of life typically ignored by secular comedians. The segments on class and dorm life here were especially entertaining, as was the song about the broken elevator. I also liked the segment on "Adventures in Odyssesy." I had a good laugh, and I enjoyed my first drink from the campus coffee shop. A mocha... mmm...

The mocha is starting to wear off, though, and my exhaustion from hay fever is returning. As much as I would love to stay up and keep blogging, I think it's bedtime. :) Even a doll like me needs to remember Psalm 127:2 -- I'm not the Energizer Bunny, you know. Good night!

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Homework, etc.

So I've been told I need to blog more often. I'm sorry for the delay, but honestly... it's hard to keep up with all this homework when your head is full of stuffing. :)

This semester, I'm taking four classes in the classroom setting, in addition to women's choir, oratorio chorus, and piano lessons. (I know my hands are a bit small for a pianist... but I try really hard!!) My other classes include Old Testament Survey, College Writing, Music Theory III, and Church Doctrine.

I have discovered rapidly that college involves homework. I constantly have a chapter in my theology book to read, or an essay to write for writing class. When I'm not doing that, I'm practicing piano, preparing a sight-singing exercise, or doing a part-writing assignment for theory class.

The class which requires the most homework by far is Old Testament Survey. I am required to read the entire Old Testament this semester, and write four papers on it. I read the book of Joshua this afternoon. While at first, I was extremely intimidated by the workload for this class, I'm discovering that reading the Bible so quickly gives me a different perspective. Normally, I prefer to read a chapter or two and chew on it for a while, meditating on words, phrases, and verses. But reading a book in an afternoon gives me an entirely different perspective: I see the Israelites' conquest of Canaan as a whole, not as a chapter here and a chapter there.

In addition to homework, I also have a couple jobs. (I know... what else is new?) I'm a student accompanist in the music department, and I also serve at a church as the choir accompanist. God has been so gracious, as He provided this employment within days of my arrival in the city.

Overall, the adjustment to city live is going well. I'm starting to learn my way around; I went to Walgreens the other day, and have also ventured out to a park for concerts. I got to hear an opera concert a couple weeks ago. (Are you jealous?? :P) I'm making friends here at the school, and their fellowship is awesome. I love being able to chat about Christ, music, and life in general with the same people.

Well... I'd better sign off. Look for another post soon... maybe in between reading first and second Samuel?

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy

Friday, August 29, 2008

Taking a nap and gaining perspective...

I took a nap yesterday.

This may seem like an average, run of the mill thing to do... nothing related to being in the big city. This nap, however, stemmed from something much bigger.

I've discovered over the past week and a half that there are lot of things for a doll to do in the big city. I have classes that require homework and attendance (even if I am too short to be noticed), and piano practice to do. I have a job to go to, and I have paperwork to fill out. I also have a blog to write. :)

Somehow, in the midst of all these things, I'd forgotten the most important one. Letting my Bible homework fill in the place of my devotions, or simply offering up a quick prayer as I dashed down the stairs to an eight o'clock class, I neglected to simply sit before the Lord and take in daily nourishment from Him. I didn't turn to Him when the stressors came my way; instead, I just went on, trying to solve it myself. Eventually, however, trying a task that is far beyond my strength led to one place: emotional and physical exhaustion.

As I lay down for my nap, I wondered to myself why I was so tired. I went to bed early last night, and got a good night's sleep. But as I started to fall asleep, it all came together... and by the time my nap was over, God had shown me what the problem was. Forgetting to depend solely on Him for my strength left me weak and spent. If I had simply trusted in my Savior and looked to Him for the energy to get through the day, feeding on His Word and stopping to listen to His counsel, I would have had His strength and perspective.

God led me to this passage during my devotions yesterday afternoon. Psalm 62:5-8 reads, "For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us."

It's easy for a doll like me to get tossed around when I don't have my eyes set on the One who's holding me tight and not letting go, loving me as His own daughter, and molding me into the person He wants me to be. But when I pour out my heart before Him, trusting in Him as my salvation, He brings everything back into focus.

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Making the move!!!

I have finally arrived in the big city. I rode down in a van, with all my stuff in the back. It was a long trip, especially when you consider it in doll years!! Once we got here and unloaded, it got a bit easier. That's me, sitting on the luggage. It didn't fit in two suitcases, like someone told me it should, but I didn't want to forget anything!

After we arrived, I decided to get unpacked. I had so much fun organizing everything. I'm in an apartment style dorm-room... there are three girls in my room. I'm still amazed every time I look out my window. I see these skyscrapers! Do you know how much taller they are then me?? I thought rulers were tall...

I'm having a hard time getting used to the security, too... unlocking every door before I enter will be something of an adjustment. It all seems a bit daunting now, but I'm sure that will change. Within a few weeks I'll be walking around like I've lived here all my life. Or, rather... being carried around... but you get the idea. :)

The most amazing thing about this place is the people. I'm surrounded by those that love and want to follow my Savior. Opening sessions with prayer, or handing out Bible studies at a meeting... it's all evidence of this amazing emphasis on Christ.

Well... I guess I should sign off for now. I'm might go do something... somewhere... at some point. Or maybe just sit around and look at the skyscrapers... :)

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beijing 2008

Taking a brief break from my busy packing, I decided to watch some of the Olympics. I have to admit... I actually prefer the winter games. I like the figure skating, the skiing, the half-pipe snowboarding, and all sorts of good stuff. Still, the gymnastics the other night was impressive. (I might be more flexible... but then again, I'm made out of cloth and old stuffing, not bones and muscle.)

While sitting here blogging, I just saw Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal in this set of games. I find that mind-boggling. Most athletes don't win one medal... let alone a total of sixteen, fourteen of them gold (according to the NBC newscast I'm watching). It takes dedication and perseverance to be the kind of athlete that Phelps is. Talent is involved as well, of course. (Obviously, I'm never going to be an amazing swimmer, no matter how much time I spend practicing in the nearest bathtub.) Still, a swimmer like Phelps is not merely talented. He is someone who has taken his talent to unimaginable heights, setting his mind on his dream, and giving an example to us that we would do well to follow.

The Olympics got me thinking about the way we are called to treat our lives and our pursuit of Christ. The Bible often compares Christianity to a race, urging us to give Christ the dedication an Olympic medalist gives the sport.

The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:24-25: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." In Hebrews, the author also urges us to run the race of life in a manner honoring to God. Hebrews 11:1-2 reads, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

If we applied ourselves at following Christ the way Phelps and other Olympic athletes pursue the gold medal, what would the results be? If we would persevere through painful circumstances and trials the way an athlete still finishes a painful workout or picks himself up after a fall, how great would our faith be? If we would set aside sin the way Phelps and his fellow swimmers work to remove anything that would slow them down, how much richer would our walk with Christ be? We have a greater motivation than Olympians... we have an imperishable crown waiting for us when we complete the race successfully. We have a better, more experienced coach... one who loved us enough to give up His life.

Let me conclude with Philippians 3:13-14: "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy

Friday, August 15, 2008

Erin Joy joins the blogosphere

Well... it's time to welcome me to the blogosphere! A bit about me, you ask? I'm less than a foot tall, probably the shortest blogger on the internet. :) In a few days, I'll be making the move from a tiny American town to a big American city. It'll be easy for a doll like me to get lost in the shuffle, so I decided I'd share my adventures on the web for those of you who are interested.

I'm a very loved doll, having grown up in a stable home since the Christmas of 1990. I've been a lot of places already... to Bible camp, to church, to Mount Rushmore, to the Royal Gorge, and even to the backyard! I've helped with homework, piano practice, and playtime. With all this valuable experience, I'm sure I'll add great depths to the current wealth of blogging minds posting their thoughts on the internet.

I think it's time to sign off for now. I've got to keep packing for my big move. Look out city, here I come!!

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy