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