Saturday, October 8, 2011

New post!

I posted another new post... but you'll need to go to the new URL to read it. If you haven't switched over your RSS feed yet, you may want to do so. :)



Thursday, September 22, 2011

URL for new site is fixed

I've fixed the URL for the new site. Sorry about that!

If you are currently following the blog with an RSS feed or a blog reader, you'll want to make sure you change that over so you can get updates.

Thanks! :)


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Erin Joy has moved!!!

Well... not really. I still live in a dorm room on a campus in a city in a country in a world.... yeah.

The new URL for this blog is

If you have been following Erin Joy, please note that all future updates will go on this site. All the posts have been moved over to the new address.

This address will still be here, and I won't take it down for a while.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, September 11, 2011

And so I wait, with eager longing

A friend asked me just today what God has been teaching me through the past two weeks. I wasn't sure how to answer -- and then I remembered.

In the midst of hurt and frustration, Jesus met me one day.

It was in choir. It was the end of the day. I was sick of being sick. Tuesday, I was barely making it through the day, and sat throughout choir rehearsal without singing a single note. I was frustrated, I was pushing my way through the day, and I had my mind on what the doctor was going to tell me that Thursday.

And then we had our choir devotions. As one of the student leaders shared about the life of singer Rich Mullins, she played a song that left me in tears.

Jesus met me through this song. As it played, I stopped to let the words of the chorus wash over me. "And if I can't, let me fall on the grace.... And if I weep, let me weep as a man who is longing for his home."

Longing for home. All of a sudden, the earthly hopes and dreams I so easily cling to seemed to pale in comparison with the heavenly reality. My heart felt reminded that this world is just a passing moment, that it is not my home.

Romans 8:18-21 reads, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.... in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay." (ESV, emphasis mine)

Friends, if the creation waits with eager longing for that glory, for that restoration, why does it take sickness for me to long for it? I, who feel the effects of the physical curse, but also the sin nature?

Why does my heart have a list of things I want to accomplish before my Savior comes for me? Why don't I wish that He would come and redeem this world so that I can glorify Him more perfectly?

And there, sitting in a choir chair surrounded by forty women, my heart was longing. As I wiped away the tears and left the room, I praised God for breaking my heart of its earthly focus.

So now, I wait, with eager longing, because one day my body will be set free from its bondage to decay.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

P.S. -- For those wanting an update on my health, the basic gist is that the specialist thinks I have more going on than just asthma and that it's very treatable with therapy. I still have more tests, and would appreciate your prayers. Things are looking up!

P.P.S. -- The song shared in choir was "If I Stand" by Rich Mullins. Look soon for a post on the list of songs God has used to encourage me over the past few weeks.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I didn't plan on this

When I laid out the plan for my life five years ago, it looked a little different than it does today.

I planned to major in piano, go on for at least a master's degree and maybe a doctorate. I planned to perform, to teach, to travel. I wanted to live in a city, to enjoy having easy access to concerts and coffee. I planned to practice for hours on end, to be able to easily play whatever pieces I wanted to play, and to do everything my heart desired.

Chronic asthma wasn't in the plan.

This week, I experienced another setback as my lungs tried to adjust to the city, and ended up in a doctor's office getting another round of intensive medication.

Caring friends have asked questions as I've opened the year with another episode of sickness, and this year, I have to explain that this is normal now.

Normal. When I planned out "normal" five years ago, it didn't mean cutting pieces out of my senior recital program so I could physically handle it. It didn't mean traveling with a nebulizer machine, face masks, licorice tea, and a daily pile of prescription medications. It didn't mean rationing my energy and dropping everything for a doctor's appointment. It didn't mean learning to say, "I can't."

Normal was supposed to be different. This wasn't my plan.

And as I grope with the new definition of "normal," I ask why. I wrestle with God. I beg for an explanation. In my heart, I scream, "This isn't fair!"

Then, I'm reminded of a simple truth.

Life isn't fair.

Life isn't about my plans, it isn't about my dreams, it isn't about my desire for normal -- whatever "normal" is. It's about glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. I was created to serve Him, and He rejoices over me with singing. (Zeph. 3:17)

And as unfair as it seems to go through this for some purpose that I can't even see, I'm reminded of the greatest example of all...

It doesn't fit my definition of "fair" that Christ took the punishment for my sin. My Savior didn't lead a "normal" life, where He got to fulfill every dream and ambition without obstruction. The Creator of the universe dealt with pain and suffering as He lived and died on this earth, glorifying the Father and serving me.

And incredibly enough, we read in Scripture that this was all part of the plan.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, August 21, 2011

lasts and firsts

I just returned to the city after my last women's choir retreat. This weekend, reality of a sort started to sink in, and I realized some of the bittersweet moments that accompany this year.

I'm going to treasure my last year with the beautiful ladies of WCC.

I'm going to enjoy my last year with several close friends who will not be here when I come back for my final semester next fall.

This year, I'll sing in Candlelight Carols and my school's Messiah concert for the last time.

In the spring, I'll go on my last tour, and attend my last (required) Founder's Week.

But in the midst of these bittersweet moments, I'm watching freshmen enjoy their firsts, and I'm looking at a few firsts of my own.

I can go on Senior Retreat... for the first time. :)

I'll enjoy my new roomies, one of whom is at this campus for the first time.

I'll build new friendships, with people I might not have met yet.

I'll do an internship at a wonderful church.

I'll be a part of our new choir director's first year, and will be the first TA our new composition professor has had.

It's all in how you look at it... but I'm beginning to get ready for this new year's lasts and firsts. Just don't remind me about my Monday morning classes. :)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Small town journalist goes to Israel!

This summer, while working at my local newspaper, I was asked to write a series on the Israel trip I took at the beginning of the summer. Five articles in all, the series was a challenge to write and a huge help in processing the trip.

I've received permission to publish the articles here on my blog. Click the following links to find them... and I hope you enjoy! :)

R-D Reporter in Israel, Part 1
This article opens the series with an account of our concert ministry.

R-D Reporter in Israel, Part 2
This article takes the reader to Caesarea, Megiddo, Dan, and the Golan Heights.

R-D Reporter in Israel, Part 3
This article is an account of our time around the Sea of Galilee.

R-D Reporter in Israel, Part 4
This article centers on Bethlehem and Jerusalem, including the Wailing Wall and Yad Vashem.

R-D Reporter in Israel, Part 5
The desert, the Garden Tomb, and the Mount of Olives conclude the series.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy (and Kirsten)

summer's end

School is just around the corner. Another week will have me driving into the Chicago suburbs. While I'm looking forward to the classes, friends, internship, and the city, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic about what may be my last summer at home.

I've always told people that sometime over the last few years, God had to teach me to just be where I am and enjoy it. So... for this last week, I'm going to enjoy a few things.

Practicing in a church. A nearby church has graciously given me permission over the years to practice on their baby grand Yamaha. While I enjoy my practice hours on the Kawai at school, there is something about the the church sanctuary that makes practicing that much more beautiful. I don't know if it's the big room, the stained glass windows, the pews filled with an imaginary audience, or the reminder that I practice in the presence of God.

Farm fresh food. I love sweet corn, and homemade potato salad, and real pork. (If you were wondering, they don't sell real pork in stores. They sell overly processed pork cut in thin slices... and those of us with awesome daddies who raise pork get the real stuff.) I am not looking forward to cafeteria food. Just saying.

My church family. I have loved being on staff at my home church this summer. It's been a great experience, and I'm going to miss it... but in this case, I'm going straight into an internship at my church in the city, so this goodbye is bittersweet. This is my last Sunday at Bethel.

Doing homework. In conjunction with the Israel trip, I decided to take a class on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the next few days, I'll "enjoy" finishing up the reading and writing book reports so I can write a paper as soon as I get back to school.... it's actually been a fascinating class. Am I crazy?? :P

Avoiding the dog. This is one thing I will not enjoy. At all. The beloved family dog had to be put down last fall, and they replaced it this spring with a puppy -- a puppy who has a fascination with pigs and hanging out in the pigpen. So... think a perpetual smell of wet dog, combined with mud, combined with the odor of pig -- all of that rubbing up against your thigh as you attempt to walk out to the car. City life, how I love you...

Time with my family. The littlest brother and sister are growing up too fast. My younger sister Bethany and I have barely seen each other this summer... but we're going to make up for that with a back to school shopping day with Mom. Mom is always here when I get home from work and have a bad day, goes with me to doctor appointments, and is one of my best friends. My daddy is pretty awesome (that's us in the picture above). He managed to rescue a special necklace from Israel from my bathroom drain the other day... and we've had lots of good talks this summer.

I'm sure I'll enjoy a lot of other things... like sleeping in, having a full refrigerator, being able to eat breakfast in my pajamas, watching NCIS episodes every evening, and... oh, yes.

Home. :)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why Monopoly is an annoying game

There. I've admitted it to the world. Let me say it again.

I hate Monopoly.

It's not that it's immoral, although certainly some people play it in an inconsiderate, bloodthirsty, cruel fashion. It's not that it's unsafe, although certainly playing it with some people raises my blood pressure to a high degree and makes my lungs close up in panic. It's not that that I always lose, although I have certainly played for hours on end only to be bankrupted and then forced to play for another hour so I could be thoroughly indebted to my opponent.

It's just that I hate it.

Monopoly has always seemed to me to be cutthroat -- mine. Even as an adult, all of a sudden, niceness and sweetness get suspended, and you find yourself playing a game with someone who you thought liked you, but now seems to keep playing with the single goal of making you miserable. And then this game, that you're losing, goes on for hours on end. Long after the rules say the game is supposed to end, you're still playing...

I hate Monopoly.

Playing Monopoly is long and boring and torturous. I'm not sure if everyone rigs the deck, or if I just have bad luck. But once -- just once -- I'd like to land on Boardwalk, when there isn't someone else's hotel on it. (I mean, really? Raising the rent on Boardwalk for a stupid little plastic building that even I couldn't fit into?) I'd like to pass "Go" and get $200, not land on the "Go to Jail" square every time I go around the board. I'd like to buy up the railroads before someone else does, and actually get a "Monopoly."

I hate Monopoly. In fact, I think I'll stick with games like Scattergories, Apples to Apples, and cards, where you have fun even if you are losing. These are games that do not take four hours to play, that do not not have a jail cell on the board small enough to squish even the squishiest cotton, and that increase brain power, not bloodthirsty greed.

If you choose to play Monopoly, very well, but don't ask me to bail you out of jail.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Some photos don't need any explanation...

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The list gets shorter... ISRAEL EDITION

Since the incredible popularity (or lack thereof) of my August 2010 post entitled, "The list gets shorter...", I've decided to do what everyone does:

To increase blog hits, we're now introducing.... The list gets shorter... ISRAEL EDITION. (Hey -- it works for Monopoly. If they can sell the same annoying game multiple times to the same person by changing the name on two of the squares and giving you differently-shaped pieces to move around the board and charging you more money, why can't I get the same people to read my blog post by giving it a new theme? Don't answer that.)

Ahem. Without further ado: The list gets shorter... ISRAEL EDITION. (Hey!! I like the sound of that!)

I went to the Holy Land armed with medication and a doctor's note to get it all through security. While the doctor's note was unnecessary, it turned out that the medication wasn't. Now, I'm looking at a whole new set of things I can never do as I adjust to being asthmatic...

I can never work at an incense shop. (Just five minutes in the Church of the Holy Nativity was enough to bring out the inhaler.)

I can never lead tours through Hezekiah's water tunnel. (I had to take the dry Canaanite tunnel to avoid mold.)

I can never run a "Kirsten's Kamels for Kids" camel-riding service. (I had the polo shirts ordered and everything... but then I realized that camels -- even kamels -- shed.)

I can never be an archeologist. (Just because all the people that lived in that tel died doesn't mean all the dust mites did.)

I can never join the Israeli army. (Besides the fact that I'm not Israeli, they require their soldiers to run up Masada. Dust, heat, more dust, exercise, and more heat... not a good combination.)

I can never be part of a Bedouin sheik's harem. (I have allergic reactions to their tents, although I'm sure they'd love a doll like me.)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

P.S. -- While I hope you enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek post, I'd appreciate your prayers as I do try to get my asthma stabilized, if not even improved. I'm sure I'm on this journey for a reason, but that hasn't made it any easier. Love, EJ

P.P.S. -- I'll tell you why Monopoly is so annoying in a later post. -- EJ

Monday, July 25, 2011

worshipping with His church

I've been doing an internship at my home church this summer, a church of about 200 people in rural America. They've given me the responsibility of planning and leading the worship every Sunday morning, under the supervision of our pastor.

What a learning experience! The challenge of selecting music, preparing it, doing transitions and modulations, leading rehearsals, and deciding what to say and when during the service -- well, it's been huge! Still, one thing stands out:

This is what God wants me to do.

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you're doing what He created you to do and it's beautiful? I look out on the congregation on Sunday mornings... and they're worshiping. We're all worshiping. We're doing it together, and God is using me to encourage His people.

Oh, yes, there will be moments of conflict, and I see that. There will be times in the future when my tears aren't joyful. But there's something incredible about worshiping with His people, His church.

I could theorize about what music to choose, and what instrumentation is best. I could talk about how the practicality of the future isn't worked out. I could moan and groan about searching for the right grad school, and not knowing how performance and worship ministry fit together. (In later posts, I probably will... after all, you've got to let a little doll moan and groan once in a while, right?) But right now, I just want to absorb the moment that is this summer.

I want to realize that all these years of asking and praying, all those questions of whether I was actually doing what He wanted me to do... well, it's worth it. I've wondered, asking God whether there was purpose to this. I've struggled, knowing that I want to serve Him, but not being willing to surrender completely. But now, I look back, and what do I see?

His hand is in it all. He led me to Moody, even when I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do the rest of my life. He brought me home during the summers not just to give me a job, but so that He could give me a passion for His church and His people. He brought me through a painful year of sickness and frustration, so He could show me that it's His grace empowering me to follow Him.

Even if He did all this just so that I could lead and learn this summer, it was worth it. But coupled with the blessing of the summer is an excitement for the future, because He's not done with me yet.

And I can't wait to see what my God has in store.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Streams in the desert

The Judean desert is one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen.

It also serves as a beautiful metaphor for the land of Israel itself. I returned from Israel over a month ago, and it's taken some time to process this trip. (Hence the lack of blog posts...) The choir did eleven concerts during our two weeks there, encouraging and fortifying messianic congregations as well as an established Arab church.

The land of Israel is lost. I think that's a misconception I had before going. I expected that my choir would be a light in a bright land. After all -- everyone knows about Jesus there, right? Everyone's worshiping God...

Wrong. As I discovered, we were more like a light in a dark land, surrounded by Jewish people who are waiting for a Messiah when He has already come, tourists who are worshiping the place rather than the God who created it, and Muslims who think that by their works they will gain access to heaven. Gazing out on the city of Jerusalem, I saw shrines to false religion, and graves placed so that they would be nearer to Messiah when He comes.

Here we were, in the midst of this dark land, proclaiming the truth. That God is loving and merciful, that Messiah has come and is living within us, that He will return again, yes, but that at that time, we should be worshiping Him for who He is.

It's like Ein Gedi, one of my favorite sites that we visited. In the midst of the dry Judean desert, this waterfall is an oasis. Streams of fresh, living water provide a chance for respite.

As we visited messianic congregations in Israel, I realized that they are that respite. They are those streams in the desert, and we were, in essence, bringing refreshment and replenishment to them. Perhaps the thrust of the tour wasn't solely evangelistic, but we fortified churches that will then go out and water the desert.

As you think about it, pray for the Christians in Israel. It's a very difficult place to be a believer, as I saw firsthand a month ago, and I wonder if many of us may have similar misconceptions. Pray that this body of believers would be streams in the desert.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, May 1, 2011

the death of the wicked

In a cruel irony, the day I post a review of Carson's book on suffering, a man who caused the suffering of millions was found and killed.

This provides comfort and victory, in some ways. God is just. Osama will not go unpunished. Unless he confessed Jesus as Lord before his death, bin Laden is in hell tonight.

But as that comforts our need for justice, does it also keep us awake at night, wondering? As one of my professors so wisely noted just this past week, hell is something we should not wish on anyone. It is a fate so real, so sobering, so horrific, that it should make us weep.

It causes our God sorrow, too. "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23) While God is wholly just and wholly sovereign, He is also completely good, gracious, and merciful. The sacrifice of His Son on the cross has satisfied His righteous wrath against sin. He has made clear the way to eternal life and grace in Jesus Christ, and longs for all sinners to come to repentance.

But for some reason, unbeknownst to me, not all of them do. With the rejection of Jesus Christ comes the full and just reward for sin -- endless torment forever and ever. Scripture teaches us that God is sovereign even over that. Were it not for His redemption, I would be on a pathway to hell myself, and justly so.

The more I ponder this, the more it is a mystery to me. Perhaps, as I concluded the previous post, the solution in a situation like this is to seek to know and understand our God better. In the meantime, let us rejoice in who He is, in His justice and His offer of redemption, and weep at the depravity of man.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Thoughts on "How Long, O Lord?"

I just finished reading "How Long, O Lord?" by D. A. Carson. (Yes... I read this for class. You can safely assume that homework is almost all I'm doing for the next week or so...)

Even though I have a crazy schedule in the next couple weeks, I though I'd take a moment or two to recommend this book to you. Carson's thoughts on suffering do not provide a quick fix, nor do they explain away the pain we feel. His book offers some pieces of perspective that will prepare Christians to have an unshaken theology when tragedy strikes.

Rather than attempting to conclude with a cheesy answer, Carson urges his readers to accept the truths of Scripture and live with their tensions. He spends an entire two chapters discussing the understanding of two seemingly contradictory things that Scripture holds as true: humans are responsible for their actions, yet God is sovereign over all.

This truth applies in a key way to suffering. Suffering is a consequence of human sin; we live in a world that is fallen. Still, we cannot deny the fact that, since God created a world that allows for suffering, He is in some sense behind it. Carson describes this as asymmetrical to being behind good: God is behind good in that He is always its direct cause, while He is behind suffering in that He uses secondary causes to accomplish His purposes.

Carson postulates a few possibilities for why God might have allowed suffering in the first place, but he ends by insisting that the only way to find rest is to seek to know God. Rather than finding a logical explanation for the tension, understand that it is part of the mystery. The mystery is in who God is, not in an outward evil. He is a God who wants to be sought.

I will freely admit that this is, at best, a very brief summary, and Carson makes the arguments much better than I do. Always, he supports his claims with Scripture, and in the end, he produces a theology of suffering that is very orthodox. I would encourage Christians to read the book, to grapple with the questions it asks, and, in the end, to seek to know God.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

All dressed up... with somewhere to go!

Girls in long dresses with flowers or sashes...
Mascara that stays on my long, thick eyelashes...
Wonderful memories with friends make me sing...
These are a few of my favorite things!
Junior/Senior Banquet, or JSB, was this weekend. I went with a group of girlfriends, many of whom were from choir. The evening was full of donning a gorgeous formal gown, enjoying a scrumptious meal, and taking away a rose from the centerpiece at the end of the night.

Half the fun, I think, is getting ready. A week before, I went out to my friend's house to look at her dresses. Having a friend who is close enough in size to be able to share formals is a wonderful thing. It certainly expands your wardrobe when you have another closet from which to choose! Then, the night of the banquet, I had my hair done, had my roommate lace up the back of my dress with elaborate straps, and finished make-up and shoes.

I realize that "beauty is as beauty does," but honestly, it's kinda fun to get all dressed up with your friends and venture into the city. :)

Another fun part of the evening was the dinner. I commented to a friend that it is delightful to be able to sit, relax, and enjoy a meal. So often as college students, we rush to the student dining room and leave within fifteen minutes. (See my lunch the day of the banquet for details.) Being able to eat quality food and have time to enjoy it was a privilege.

My "date" (a close girlfriend) and I got our photos taken in a photo booth, and then walked back to campus and had a few laughs taking what my roommate (our photographer) called "awkward homecoming pictures." All in all, it was a very pleasant way to spend an evening... a great respite in a semester of craziness.

I guess there really isn't a moral to this blog post. It isn't exactly profound. If you want to take something away from it, remember that sometimes, it's nice to get dressed up and enjoy a good meal. But... if you don't want to take away a moral, then just know that I had a very fun evening and wanted to share it with you. :)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Imitating Christ: Our Inward Witness

My choir has been going through the book Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. I have already found the book challenging and rewarding, and I'm looking forward to continuing to study it.

One constant challenge to me in this book has been seeking God alone. Whether it be relating to adversity, pride, or a focus on the world, the solution is to look at Christ.

"Then we chiefly seek God for our inward witness, when outwardly we are condemned by men, and when there is no credit given to us. And therefore a man should rest himself so fully in God, that he need not to seek many comforts of men," à Kempis writes in chapter 12.

This idea of inward witness is an interesting and difficult one. Frankly, I'm human. (I know you thought I was a perfect doll, but I guess the truth comes out...) Seriously, though -- like everyone, I like the affirmation of people. I like it when they observe that I'm growing. I like it when my godliness is noticed. When someone criticizes me, I struggle not to crumple on the inside.

But, as à Kempis so wisely demonstrates, we don't need to flaunt our growth for the praise of men. Some things are meant to be between me and God. When we don't receive praise of men, that can drive us to Christ. God can be our inward witness -- a witness to the holiness He is creating in us.

Resting in the truth that God's witness is what matters can help us take the value from the criticism we receive as well. The Holy Spirit convicts -- in my experience, praying over criticism I receive often helps me evaluate what in my life does need to be addressed. He can be a witness to areas that need correction, too.

So there's the first of my thoughts on this book! :) Look for more blog posts as I continue working my way through it.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Note: Like any human writing, Imitation of Christ must be read through the lens of Scripture. (I certainly hope you do so with my blog posts!!) As I read with God's grace constantly in mind, this book has provided such an encouragement and conviction toward godly living and resting in Christ. If you were to forget God's grace as you read, however, you might see in the book an encouragement towards legalism -- so when you read this book, remember grace. :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tour Highlights

It is hard (next to impossible) to sum up two weeks in Washington and British Columbia with a single post. I think the plan will be to share a few highlights, a few photos, and then allow you to realize that God did so much more. :)

Highlight #1: Gorgeous scenery. I loved the mountains, and it seemed as though every home where we stayed had yet another breathtaking view. This was taken from the porch of a home built out on a bluff. At another host home, we stayed right on the Columbia River. Later on, our drive from Washington to Canada was what some say is the most scenic route in all of Washington. I think I believe them. :)

Highlight #2: Visiting our school's other campus, located in Washington. We sang two chapels, one of for their main campus, and one at the missionary aviation campus. This is a photo of a bookcase on the aviation campus, holding Bibles that aviation graduates have helped to translate, whether by flying the plane or being involved in the actual translation process. It was incredible to the other campus we hear so much about, and to meet our brothers and sisters in Christ there.

Highlight #3: Host home stays. While this photo was taken at a multi-million dollar home near Seattle (this is the bed their dog used to use -- Kirsten's was much bigger!), we stayed in a huge variety. Some of my favorites were a little elderly couple who shared with us what they had, a retired AWANA missionary who gave us hand waxes and let us soak in the hot tub, and the parents of a recent missionary-martyr who held no animosity in their hearts.

Highlight #4: New modes of transportation! :) On this tour, I took my first ferry ride. We rode the "Queen of Coquitlam" from Vancouver to Vancouver Island. One of my favorite views in all of tour was the snowcapped peaks of the mainland rising above the sea on the way back. Also on this trip, I took my first ever airplane flight. My family always did road trips for our vacations, so I've never really had occasion to fly. Now I'm all ready for our long flight over to Israel come May...

Highlight #5: French on the signs in Canada. I cannot tell you how happy it made me.... :) I took five years of French in junior high and high school, and while I've forgotten more than I care to admit, it was so fun to realize that I'd actually retained some of it. I talked to a couple ladies in French at our hotel stop in Canada, and they told me I spoke very well. (Still not sure if they were just being nice since I'm such a cute little doll, or if they were telling the truth...) I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a conversation I was able to carry on.

As always, it was a pleasure to see God use the choir over the course of the two week tour. Watching the ladies respond in a Christ-like way to frustrating situations and intense schedules was especially challenging to me this year. God used tour to remind me that it isn't all about me. It's about Jesus. (I could call this highlight #6.... but He is the King of all the tour highlights.)

Well... it's bedtime. My cotton needs to rest a bit. :)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Friday, March 11, 2011

Washington, here I come!

Tonight, I fly out to Seattle with the Women's Concert Choir. We'll be touring for two weeks in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, enjoying the mountains and the rain. I remembered to throw in a waterproof jacket, because my fabric gets kind of gross when it's damp. (True story. The cotton gets all soggy, and starts to stick to my insides, and then I have to ride in the dryer, and that's hot and uncomfortable, and.... well... I'll quit whining.)

The past two weeks have been kind of hectic. With being sick, hearing some very difficult news, and midterms approaching, I haven't had a chance to sit and just be. I'm looking forward to some of those bus rides in the next couple weeks. The quiet hours will be very refreshing.

At our local concert last Sunday, I was once again blown away by the beauty of the program our director has put together. The theme is one of hope, urging us to hold on and rejoice in Christ, even in the midst of suffering. I needed that on Sunday, and to be able to worship with it every night for two weeks will be a gift from God.

I'm praying that God will grant me opportunities to serve the choir and learn from the other ladies, as well. Whether it be conversations on the bus or shared host home experiences, I'm confident that God will work in me through the lives and testimonies of the others. Hopefully, he can use me to touch their lives, too.

I've already seen an example of that through the choir recently. A friend stopped by the desk a week or two ago and shared what God was doing in her life. She was trying to work through some things, and somehow, God gave me the Scripture to share with her. Just a few days later, she was sharing this same Scripture at our choir concert. God knew I needed to hear that again... just in time.

Well, my shift at the desk is over. I'll write again after tour! :)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Monday, February 28, 2011

So, I can't sleep...

I'm waiting for the cough syrup with codeine to actually make me drowsy, and hoping that before too long, I'll be in bed, sound asleep... So, a disclaimer: This is not an organized post. It is a rambling. Take it for what it's worth.

Yup. I'm sick again. After just getting over the hump in January, I've been on albuterol this week for the first time in a month. Feeling sick again has put some things in perspective -- you know, those overwhelming projects and hectic class schedules? Life gets put on hold for a few days while I concentrate on feeling better, and that's okay.

To be honest, I've had a hard time keeping perspective recently. It's surprising how quickly I've gotten used to being able to do it all. I put in lots of practice over the past few weeks (which is one reason why you haven't seen me on the blogosphere), I did my homework, I worked hard, and I was doing this thing!! I had the energy to do it all once again.

But, as I sit here with a headache, sore throat, and tired body, I have been reminded once again of my frailty, of the truth that I simply cannot do it all. (See the previous post entitled "Super Doll" for more details...)

But isn't that what grace is about? I think sometimes I have this picture that I have to earn God's grace. Remember elementary school, when you studied for that math test super hard, and then you prayed, and you got an A? Remember how you were convinced it was God, and then you remembered you studied? Boom!! All the credit goes right back to me.

But in reality, it's only His grace. Perhaps it was what theologians like to call "common grace" (grace given to all mankind, saved or not) that let you study and recall and pass the test, but it was still grace nonetheless.

I've received pictures of grace lately. Not being able to pay my school bill, and watching God provide -- that's grace. A friend offering to e-mail me notes for a class I missed because I was sick -- that's grace. My roommate giving me her ramen noodle soup because I was sick and couldn't walk to Walgreens to buy any -- that's grace.

I think I've heard grace defined before as "giving you what you don't deserve."

I think being alive and starting to get sleepy qualifies, too. :)

So, with that -- good night!!

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Friday, February 11, 2011

Israel Tour preparations

This weekend, I'm keeping busy preparing updates on my choir's upcoming trip to Israel. I'm sending out a whole host of update letters, and am pleased to announce that God has thus far provided over two-thirds of the necessary funds for my own account. The choir as a whole is at a little less than half. I'm praying boldly that God will supply all our needs. (After all, as one of my fellow choristers is known to point out: "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills... and I know how much those cattle cost!")

Our choir has a recording date set for the beginning of March, and then we tour the Pacific Northwest. The Israel tour is slated for May. At this point, we only have nine more rehearsals before we record, so as you can imagine, it's getting intense. As an accompanist, I still need to be putting in practice time on the accompaniments; one of them is especially challenging.

Please be praying for us in the next few weeks as we prepare to record. In particular:
  1. Pray for health and rest for the choir. (I have seen a nearly complete turn-around in my own health over the past few weeks, but I know colds have still been going around.)
  2. Pray for discipline in rehearsal -- both organized and individual rehearsal outside of the choir time. Pray that we would all have the motivation to put in the time it will take.
  3. Pray for support raising, that as our update letters go out next week, God would lay it on people's hearts to give. Pray that this experience would unify us and help us place the correct priority on the Kingdom purpose of the trip.
With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

P.S. -- On an entirely unrelated note, I know the couch in the picture is ugly. It does, however, have two wonderful features going for it -- it is comfortable, and it was free. If you are interested in sending donations to pay for a prettier couch, the ladies in 604 would gladly accept them; however, I think I'll save my support letter writing for choir. :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"He has withheld no good thing"

I just came out of a conference on "The Riches of His Grace," and I have been reminded in tangible ways that our Savior's grace does not end with salvation. To the contrary, God often loves to shower His people with blessings, just because He can.

Do not misunderstand me -- I am not trying to preach a "health and wealth" gospel. I understand that we must grapple with pain and suffering in our day-to-day walks, and it's often during sorrow that we mature and grow the most. I've been reminded also about the importance of feeling pain, but we'll save that for another post. For now, I'd like to share a recent tangible display of our God's grace.

The last day of the conference, someone was prompted to hand me some cash and tell me it was "spending money." While I was very grateful at the time, and praised God for His provision, it wasn't until the next day that I realized the perfect plan He had.

I was taking a picture for the blog. Well, trying to, that is, when I realized my camera wouldn't work. With the discovery that my camera was dying, I became incredibly discouraged. There was no way I would be able to afford to replace my camera. And then I remembered the money I had been given.

When I went online to look at camera prices, I found a camera on sale. I was able to purchase it for almost exactly the amount I had been given. For the price of a memory card, my new camera was on its way. I would be able to take pictures of Israel, of my adventures in the city, and of course, a few pictures of my "doll-ing" little self for the blog. The words of a song Sara Groves had performed at our conference came flooding through my mind: "He has withheld no good thing..."

The song had touched me deeply. She shared about an afternoon in her hometown several years ago. She wanted to drive by the house where she grew up one last time... and when she arrived, it was for sale and open for viewing. God's grace in letting her see the memories was beautiful, and reminded me of His grace to me. Romans 8:32 reads, "He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all,  how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?"

My story didn't end with the camera. There have been dozens of things -- some large, some small, but all from God. I have received blessings that range from extra time with my parents because of a snow storm to trading my work hours so I have a free Saturday night this weekend. I deserve hell, but He has given me eternal life through His Son, and so much more besides.

What tangible ways have you seen God's grace lately? Let's glorify His name together.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Blizzard of 2011

You have to laugh at all the big names they are giving this storm. I have heard it called both "Snowpocalypse" and "Snowmageddon." On several news websites, entire articles are devoted to requesting name suggestions, and Tuesday night during the storm, my Facebook friends started using the term "thundersnow."

I think a commenter on CBS Chicago's article summed it up beautifully. "How about just calling it 'winter'?" Margaret asked.

And winter it was. The snowstorm dropped close to two feet of snow over the course of two days, with wind, thunder, and lightening. There's a running joke at my school that the coming of our annual Bible conference brings on the first February cold spell. Memories of waiting in line for the shuttle bus to take us back from the conference site to campus mix with the equally long lines to get food in the cafeteria. This year's chill was no exception, and as my fabric got cold and wet just from walking a few feet to a shuttle bus, I found myself glad that the food lines were shorter.

Well... I guess not shorter for everyone else. :) "Snowmageddon" brought a delightful surprise. My parents, who had been intending to come to the conference in time for Wednesday night's session, drove in early to beat the storm. To my delight, this meant an extra two afternoons with them. They wanted to avoid the lines, and I didn't complain... :)

We went out to eat with some friends on Tuesday, at a restaurant on the 95th floor. (Do you know how many floors that is in doll floors???) Watching the storm come in from up above was incredible -- at the beginning of our meal, the view was a bit cloudy, but still stunning. By the end, we could not see some of the most recognizable buildings in the skyline. Seeing the snow fall and move from that height offered an entirely different perspective. As it was pushed by the wind and made its way through the clouds and down to the bottom, I wondered what the walk back to school would be like.

Later that night, I was leaving the evening session in my choir dress. As I made my way to the bus, I noticed thunder and lightening. The city doesn't get too many thunderstorms in general, and seeing it coupled with a blizzard caused some friends to coin the term "Thundersnow." I enjoyed watching the rest of Tuesday's storm from my shift at the music building desk.

While the rest of the city, including the public schools, shut down, my school's conference continued. It was moved to campus for the day, and my parents braved the storm and walked over from their hotel. Fragile doll that I am, I didn't step outside until after 4:00 p.m. that afternoon... I liked having it on campus. :)

It was interesting to observe the sidewalks when we finally ventured off campus to have a bite to eat. Wednesday and Thursday, some paths were barely wide enough for a doll like me to walk comfortably. Even today, I went out and the paths weren't much better -- still very slushy, for sure. I had to wear a snowboot... I fit all the way inside and didn't even need a coat!!

Well??? The verdict? Was this storm really a "Snowpocalypse" like they say?

My fabric is still drying out, and my ears are still blue. (Hmm... I think that's the color they've always been. Maybe I should get that checked out...) While others had a far worse experience than mine, I think I'm just as qualified as any other doll on the blogsophere to make an assessment.

Let's just call it "winter."

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A new look for the blog...

I decided to roll out a new look for the blog tonight. I had more desk shifts than reading this week, and was brainstorming about blog ideas when my organist friend stopped by the desk. I started showing him my ideas, he offered a couple more, and then I came back to my room later this evening and put this together.

Comments or suggestions are appreciated -- I'm not averse to changing things a bit. Some of you are more computer/graphic savvy than I.

Well... off to bed! I've got a busy day of practicing tomorrow!

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Saturday, January 22, 2011

on staplers

This, my friends, is a stapler.

For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, it might be best to start with a basic definition.

Stapler (noun): A tool used to fasten sheets of paper together by poking a piece of metal through the paper and bending it so it stays secure.

Staplers can be purchased at any office supply store, and even at non-specialty stores such as Walgreens, Wal-Mart, or Target. They can be found in most offices, schools, and libraries. Elementary, middle, and high school students use them, and so do the CEO's of most major corporations. Staplers come in a range of cost and sizes, from the $2 backpack version, to the $60 model designed for heavy library use.

There seems to be a gap in stapler usage, at least from my observations. From the time a student enters college to the day they graduate, the stapler becomes an anomaly, almost an embarrassment to own or use. Assignments are paper clipped, or worse -- dogeared, with the vain hope that merely bending the top corner of the page will somehow hold one hundred sheets of paper together.


When a stapler is in the library, positioned close enough to the printer to allow for stapling in under three-and-a-half seconds, why do students turn in their papers unstapled?

Do they really think that a paper clip will hold their assignment together when it is placed in a box with fifty other papers also written in 12-point Times New Roman, with one-inch margins?

Are they naive enough to believe that their last name in the upper right-hand corner will really enable the teaching assistant to sort them properly? That the five other John Does in the class dogeared their pages in a slightly different place?

Unfortunately, some things in this life do not have easy answers. There are some questions we will ponder, never knowing the whys and the wherefores... never reaching that elusive solution.

This, however, is not one of those questions.

Buy a stapler.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Friday, January 21, 2011

a lack of blogging, but a lot of growing

Well, my friends, it's been a while. My apologies for the lack of blogging -- Christmas break was pretty packed. I ended up working about 30 hours a week while I was home, getting ready for my brother's wedding, and going to doctor's appointments. Then it was back on campus, a week of classes, and tour... and now it's finally time to blog again.

A simple one paragraph summary of the past few weeks doesn't quite seem to do it justice. To be honest, God has done a lot in my heart and life in such a short time, but I'm hard put to figure out how to express it. Whether it be graciously providing a solution to my ongoing health problems (I'm taking the stairs again!), or reminding me of the power of prayer, I'm grateful.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming semester. I've got some great classes -- Systematic Theology I, Church Music Ministries, Hermeneutics, and Piano Pedagogy. Much like last semester, I'm excited about all of them. A lot of the semester will also be spent preparing for my choir's tour to Israel in May.

I will do my best to keep blogging regularly. If you have any suggestions or comments, please let me know! :) And... in the meantime, I'd appreciate your prayers -- for class, health, practice, and most importantly, a continued focus on Him.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy