Friday, January 30, 2009

the least of these.

I don't intend for this blog to be political, and will rarely, if ever, discuss politics here.  (Namely because I have differing political views from nearly all of my friends!)  However, this extends far beyond the political and is one of the most distressing things I have seen in a long, long time.  This bill is radically anti-life, and the lives of thousands of unborn babies are at stake.  One of the things that distresses me most is that this would bill require all hospitals to offer abortions, even Catholic hospitals.  Several Catholic bishops have said that if this is enforced, many Catholic hospitals would be forced to close since they won't participate in the murder of babies and the destruction of women's lives.  Considering how many Catholic hospitals serve our communities nation-wide, this should be a concern to those who claim to be fighting for the rights of everyday people. 

President Obama has vowed to sign this horrifying bill into law when it crosses his desk.  He has already decided to permit the use our tax dollars to fund the slaughter of the unborn worldwide.  Let's pray he changes his mind about signing this bill into law.  Like most Americans, I want very much for this country to be a place where everyone is taken care of.  Let's begin with the most vulnerable among us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

it's here.

I'm leaving tomorrow for auditions.  It's really happening.  (I may not be updating this blog for awhile.)

Am I nervous?  Yes.  Definitely.  But throughout the process so far, God has proved Himself to be indescribably gracious and merciful.  So I'm just reminding myself of that and meditating on 2 passages of Scripture that have been helpful to me during this time: Isaiah 54 and 42.

My auditions are on January 30, February 4, and February 14.  Please pray that they will go well, and that my nerves will be under control.  I haven't taken an audition like this in 6 years, so I'm a little concerned about what my performance energy will be like.  

Hopefully my brief interactions at the schools will also give me some insight into which one would be a good fit for me.  I don't have a strong preference at this point.  

 I am so thankful for all the awesome, supportive friends I have (i.e., you!)

Monday, January 26, 2009

the list: 25 things.

Quite a few friends have done this list recently, and have asked me to do it too.  It's just 25 random things about myself.  I think it's a little narcissistic and silly, but it's also a little fun to see what people come up with.  So here you have it.  Unfortunately, I think some of my random things may also fit into a list of shameful confessions.  (I'd like to see 25 things about you!)

1. I am obsessed with coffee. I have 5 different coffee makers (drip, french press, espresso machine, turkish, vietnamese), and a Bodum milk frother.

2. When I was little (like 2-4), I had an imaginary sister named Catherine. I insisted that she have a place set at the table and that she be buckled up in the car. I even introduced her to strangers, much to my mother's chagrin.

3. I love to cook. I spend a lot of time looking at food blogs and planning menus. I also often try to make recipes without using a lot of equipment (even when it's called for), because when I travel I am often in places with limited resources and I don't want to be dependent on gadgets. I am also obsessed with good ingredients, and derive a shameful amount of pleasure from specialty grocery shops.

4. I am a true picture of God's mercy, love and grace.

5. Periodically I buy very nice tea and say I am going to become a "tea person" (in addition to, not instead of, being a "coffee person"). But you know what? Frankly, I think that tea is overrated. I like it and all, and there are those times when a cuppa really hits the spot, but I think I am going to quit forcing it on myself.

6. I cry every day. Not sobbing, of course, but I am easily moved and tear up quickly over the smallest, sappiest things. I try to hide it because I know it's ridiculous, and most of the time I am successful. So that's why you've never noticed.

7. Although I would never describe myself as a fan, while in the South I listen to a fair amount of country music. I mean, in what other genre can you have a romantic rendezvous, a fight, a tragedy, and then faithful, undying love... all in one song?

8. I am highly emotional. Despite my best efforts to always think rationally and be level-headed, my feelings often get the best of me. On the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am over 90% "F", or feeling, as opposed to "T", thinking.

9. I have a serious case of wanderlust.

10. I love to take care of people.

11. I'm not shy, but I get pretty nervous and uncomfortable when I'm around a lot of people that I don't know.

12. I especially like to watch foreign films because even if the film itself isn't that good, you can still learn something about the language and culture.

13. This may be my weirdest one: I cannot bear to be anywhere near someone who is brushing their teeth. I will freak out. The sight of it, the sound of it... AAUUUGGGHHHHH. It totally sets me off. I have had to train all of my roommates to NEVER approach me, talk to me, or come into the same room as me if they are brushing their teeth. I cannot even begin to tell you what that does to me. (I brush my own teeth regularly, don't worry. And I want everyone else to brush, too-- just not in front of me.)

14. I usually have trouble relaxing enough to go to sleep.  Then after I do fall asleep, I have even more trouble waking up.

15. I can think of a few places where I might not really want to go, but I can't think of anywhere that I wouldn't go.

16. I love languages.

17. I love being a girl.

18. I love "winging it" in a foreign country where I can't use English. I love the challenge and feeling of accomplishment when I get what I need and do what I want to do in a totally foreign environment. When I travel, I try never to stay in really nice places, but to live, shop, eat, travel, etc. like the locals do-- no matter how rough or strange it is.

19. I almost never forget people's names and faces. I also remember personal details more easily than other facts. Unfortunately, knowing the names of historical figures' children and pets does not usually help on exams.

20. I have studied for the LSAT three times but never actually taken it. One of my friends finally pointed out that crying in the courtroom is generally frowned upon, and I might have trouble controlling my emotions during heated litigation.

21. I am quite possibly the most non-athletic person ever.

22. I am absurdly competitive. Even when I'm just playing a trivia game online, I sometimes imagine that I'm competing against others for a big prize and/or impose time limits if they're not given.

23. I have terrible spatial and mechanical intelligence. Even children's puzzles are sometimes challenging for me. It's so bad that when I took a sewing class in 7th grade, I was never actually able to make anything because it would take the whole period each meeting for me to thread the machine and lay the pattern out on the fabric. The teacher told my mom to let me quit and said, "You know, she doesn't have to be good at everything."

24. I took ballet, tap and jazz dance for 9 years. My parents originally signed me up because they hoped to reduce the number of times I tripped over my own feet while walking. I still trip a lot, but it probably would have been worse.

25. I am the epitome of the all-or-nothing person.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

flashback: a glimpse of lauren at sixteen.

Last month my mom was driving us along twisting, winding roads lined with magnificent oak trees and lovely Victorian homes (one of which Harriet Beecher Stowe supposedly inhabited for awhile). As we turned onto a little street called County Dock Lane, I suddenly had a flashback.

Twelve years ago, when I was a new driver, Mom and I were both in the car on that same little road.  Except that time, I was driving.  My mom had a great deal of trouble adjusting to the passengers' seat, and I did drive too fast.  We often fought in this situation, and that day it all came to a head right in the middle of County Dock Lane. She criticized and threatened one too many times, and my response was to slam on the brakes, throw the gear into park, fling open the door, and jump out of the car.  Right in the middle of the road. 

I yelled something about how she was never happy with what I did, how I could never please her, etc.  Or maybe I screamed something about how she was a control freak but she couldn't control me.  I don't remember exactly, but I'm sure it was one of the two (my repertoire was not large, but the selections were always performed with great dramatic flair).

I ran around the car and dove into the back seat.  Life was so horrifically unfair.  Being sweet 16 was not as lovely or fun I had hoped (read: miserably awkward social misfit), and my mom was always nagging me about stupid, meaningless things like picking up after myself, being ready to leave on time, practicing, and now, driving too fast.  I was determined to ignore her senile rants.

Eventually, we settled on her never, ever riding in the car with me driving.  And about a year later, I left home and spent most of the next 10 years in places where I didn't drive anyway (London, New York, Moscow).

FYI, I am a somewhat more cautious driver now, although sometimes I speed because I never did completely master the whole being ready to leave on time thing.  I am happy to report, however, that my home is generally quite tidy and I voluntarily practice for hours on end. And in case you're wondering, Mom really tries to relax when I'm driving now (and I try to slow down).  But the occasions upon which I am the driver and she the passenger are indeed rare. It just works out best for everyone that way.

So a few days ago when we were on County Dock Road, I laughed and reminded her of the incident.  She said she didn't remember it. She rolled her eyes, shook her head and said, "I blocked all that stuff."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Good Stuff.

I heard the lyrics of this John Newton hymn in a sermon I was listening to recently.  I googled the text and found it.  Apparently it's supposed to be sung to the tune of "O Worship the King".  What a great exhortation and a reminder of the hope I have.

Begone, Unbelief

Begone, unbelief,
My Savior is near,
And for my relief
Will surely appear;
By prayer let me wrestle,
And He will perform;
With Christ in the vessel,
I smile at the storm.

Though dark be my way,
Since He is my Guide,
'Tis mine to obey,
'Tis His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken,
And creatures all fail,
the word He hath spoken
Shall surely prevail.

His love, in time past,
Forbids me to think
He'll leave me at last
In trouble to sink:
Each sweet Ebenezer 
I have in review
Confirms His good pleasure
To help me quite through.

Why should I complain
Of want or distress,
Temptation or pain?
He told me no less;
The heirs of salvation,
I know from His Word,
Through much tribulation
Must follow their Lord.

How bitter that cup
No heart can conceive,
Which He drank quite up,
That sinners might live!
His way was much rougher 
And darker than mine;
Did Christ, my Lord, suffer,
And shall I repine?

Since all that I meet
Shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet,
The medicine, food;
Though painful at present,
'Twill cease before long,
And then, oh, how pleasant
The conqueror's song!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Update: the LORD is merciful and gracious.

In the post titled "Lessons (re)learned", I shared how the application process to doctoral programs has been so stressful and disappointing for me so far.  God has really used my experiences to show me my lack of faith and the magnitude of my control issues.  Even though it was difficult, I am ultimately thankful because even in the midst of great disappointment and sometimes despair, He got me to the point where I could still praise Him, be thankful, and rest knowing that He cares for me.

And now God has done something even bigger and greater.  The one rejection letter I got is the only one.  I am invited everywhere else!  Yesterday when I got the email from the school where I felt my chances were the slimmest, I was totally stunned.  This particular school had very stringent requirements for the 1st round recording, and I had failed to meet their requirements almost completely.  And yet, I'm invited.  God is so merciful (and I'm not going to lie, it was definitely a little confidence boost as well!).  Of course, this is just to audition and doesn't mean at all that I will ultimately get in.  And I have never been to this school and have never played for the teacher-- it might not be a good match anyway.  But this is just another example of God's love and mercy in action.  He is so good and able to do what I think is impossible!

PLEASE PRAY FOR MY WRIST (if you're one of my praying friends).  I had to perform Crumb sonata yesterday and definitely stressed my left wrist out practicing for it.  I am having significant pain from time to time, and usually wear a wrist brace when I'm not playing.  I'm also using heat and ice, icyhot, and so much ibuprofen that my next post will probably be a prayer request for my liver!  I have such a short time before auditions that I can't afford to take time off so I really need some healing action here.  Thanks for your prayers!

Friday, January 9, 2009


Gator Nation is very happy today. I haven't been outside yet, but I fully anticipate seeing lots of orange and blue as soon as I step outside. And with good cause!

Living in Florida, it is difficult for me to imagine that someone did not hear about the University of Florida Gators winning the national college football championship last night. But in case you don't know, they beat the Oklahoma University Sooners 24-14.

I didn't watch the game closely because towards the end of the first quarter my friend Chelsea called and we talked for two hours! But I watched off and on during our conversation and have watched a lot of replays online since.

Watching Gator games in my family is serious stuff. Both of my parents and both of my grandfathers are UF alum. My dad is a hardcore Gator fan. Our family schedule revolves around being home to watch Gator football games. However, we cannot all watch together, as my dad requires complete and total silence during the game. He doesn't even want to hear the commentators. He turns down the volume and sits in the room alone in anxiety ridden silence as he intently watches the game. He will emerge at halftime to go to the computer and check the sports blogs, wring his hands and make dire predictions (no matter how far ahead they are), and sequester himself again in plenty of time for the start of the third quarter. It's ok to talk to him during halftime if you must, but don't expect a thoughtful answer. I'm not kidding.

Here are what I think were the best plays of the game:

  • The first should be watched by EVERYONE, even if you are not such a huge football fan, because I have watched it so many times and still can't believe that Ahmad Black pulled this off. Truly amazing. You also have to watch 2008 Heisman Trophy winning QB Sam Bradford's face as his ball is intercepted. That, my friends, is a picture of true disbelief. Here it is. 
  • The second great play was by Tim Tebow, UF's omnipotent quarterback. Here is his incredible jump pass that clinched the game for the Gators. (keep watching for the replay.) Pretty good, right? They don't call him Superman for nothing.
Being from Jacksonville, people sometimes ask me if I know the Tebows. And the answer is yes, I do, but not well. We went to the same church and our families both homeschooled, so of course we knew each other a little. The Tebows have five kids, and I am a little bit older than their third.  I went to some homeschool events at their house and was on some homeschool field trips with them. My sole memory of Timmy as a child was standing in his bedroom when he was probably in about the first grade, watching him and his brother Peter play with racecars and blocks on the floor and thinking, "What sweet boys. I hope I have boys like that someday." The Tebows are a great family who really pushed their kids to excel at their callings and to advance the Kingdom. Timmy may be the most famous Tebow, but he certainly isn't the only one worthy of admiration and praise.

Anyway, the Gators are the national champs, proving that when all is said and done, the Sooners are just another piece of Gator bait.  Chomp chomp.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

lessons (re)learned

Some of you know that my applications to doctoral programs have Not Gone Well. To say the least. Of course, I had planned everything beautifully, and knew Exactly How Things Should Be. I practiced diligently, studied…well…some, and was Totally On Top Of Things.

Somehow, it all fell apart anyway. Without going into too much detail (leave a comment if you’re interested in details), I can say that due to circumstances totally beyond my control, I ended up having to change repertoire at the last minute, and I recorded music that I had only practiced for about a week and that did not meet the recording requirements for the schools I sent it to. On top of that, by the recording date, I was so stressed out, tense and generally out of my mind that it definitely decreased whatever quality I was able to achieve in my frantic week of practice. But that didn’t matter since it didn’t meet the requirements anyway. Bummer.

I also scheduled two appointments to play for teachers while in New York last month. One of them fell through—not because of me. Having some sort of relationship with the teacher really helps at audition time, so I was disappointed that the appointment had to be cancelled. The appointment I did have, however, went extremely well and I left feeling pretty psyched about the school and the teacher. This was surprising, as it was not my first choice initially (though it was always a viable and attractive option).

Due to the inadequacy of the recording that I sent in to the schools for the first round, I knew that not being invited for a live audition was a real possibility and I prepared myself for that. I knew that I still had a chance at the school where I met with the teacher, so all hope would not be lost. It would be nice to have choices, of course, but not having them wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world, either.

A few days ago I got my first rejection letter. Of course it’s a little disappointing, but it’s also not a huge blow to my ego because of the circumstances surrounding it. This isn’t the kind of moment that would cause me to start questioning myself and/or my abilities. Also, I realized that I have become pretty interested in the school where I know I have a very good chance of getting in, and found myself a little relieved that I wasn’t going to have to buy another set of plane tickets to go to this audition. But while my response to the rejection itself has been fine, my responses to the stress of and disappointment in the situation surrounding it have been revealing and instructive.

God often doesn’t answer prayers in exactly the way we want Him to, even when He gives us what we ask for. For example, in this case, I asked Him to open doors that needed to be open, close doors that needed to be closed, and to make it abundantly clear to me where I should go to school. I have prayed that prayer, verbatim, pretty much daily for the past 7 months or so. I also prayed that through this process, God would refine me, humble me, make me acknowledge my dependency on Him, and that He would be glorified through everything I did. These prayers are being answered. But I sure wasn’t happy when I watched everything I had worked so hard for disintegrate before my eyes! To have my hard work undone and my perfectly planned situation implode was definitely not the way in which I wanted His guidance to appear. I was so very angry that things weren’t going as I wanted them to after so much effort and sacrifice. I am saddened to confess that my response to the unfortunate chain of events was often less than gracious. Judging by my response, an outside observer probably wouldn’t guess that I am a beloved child of God who is always provided for in every way.

Through the events of the past 6 weeks, I have been made profoundly aware of my utter dependency on God, because I see that even with my hard work, determination, desire and ability, I still can’t control the situation. And the times in which I did respond lovingly and graciously to others who had let me down during this crucial time only occurred because of His love and grace towards me.

I cannot begin to count the times I have told others that God has given them the exact amount of talent and intelligence He wants them to have, and that He opens certain doors to place them where He wants them to be. Why can’t I remember that when I am the one struggling? I know that my calling and career are about more than just winning auditions and proving that I’m better than someone else. In fact, I know that it’s about more than simply playing. Over the past 4 years God has placed me in specific situations in order to care for and love particular people, to advance the Kingdom, to strengthen my character, and to cultivate my talents. God is completely faithful in His provision, in the development of my gifts and character, and in His desire and willingness to use me. But how easy it is to forget this! How many times do I try to control the situation, arrogantly confident that I know what is best? During the past months when things didn’t go as I thought they should, I was totally consumed with rage and screamed like a petulant child, accusing this gracious God of apathy, abandonment, and even sadism. Thankfully, He is patient and still inundates me with mercy even though I am perpetually ungrateful.

Relying on God to provide opportunities is not a copout or an excuse for laziness or for failure. I have worked hard and will continue to work hard. But I am also continuing to learn (painfully, stupidly, slowly) that I really must totally surrender myself to Him. After all, I am completely dependent on Him anyway. My artistic and career ambitions, my current (and desired) relationships, my hopes for who I can become and what I can do—all of it. This is not a new lesson for me and even begins to sound a bit cliché, but it is so hard. And when has He not been good to me? As I sit here and think of all the times I haven’t gotten what I wanted, I cannot think of a single example in which what I got instead didn’t help me to grow personally and spiritually, and often, when applicable, musically and intellectually. On the other hand, it is quite simple for me to list people I would have never known and loved had I been in different situations, lessons I would have never learned, and profound experiences of God’s power and love that I would have never had. I do not mean in any way to invalidate or trivialize the reality of pain and disappointment, but remembering that God has my best interest at heart and hates my suffering even more than I do does allow for bigger and better perspective.

The audition process is far from over. In fact, I should be practicing right now! I hope and pray that as I am practicing over the next month, my joy will be deepened as I continue to learn about God’s mercy and goodness. Of course, it would have been nice to get into every school, get amazing scholarship and fellowship offers, and make my decision based on details like which cafeteria had the best coffee (kidding, but you know what I mean). That is not to be—and undoubtedly would not have been even with a great recording—but my prayers are being answered. Doors are opening and closing. I have seen some of the hideous sin that plagues my heart, and now that it has been brought to light, there are the opportunities for refinement that I prayed for.

So to the list of daily petitions I am adding a plea for grace and wisdom to trust Him at the point of trouble instead of only acknowledging His goodness in hindsight, and I ask that He continue to cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit within me that responds graciously in all situations, no matter how challenging. I look forward to these prayers being answered, and I look forward to seeing how this audition process finishes and resolves. How wonderful it is to remember that through all of this I am safe in His hands and that He never stops working all things for my good and for His glory.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Monday, January 5, 2009

children's worship

Every Sunday I help in children's worship.  I am responsible for the music, and then I stick around and help out during the rest of the time.  The kids are pretty funny and I enjoy getting to know them.

Overheard yesterday:

An exchange between A (a little boy about 5), and S (a little boy about 7):
A: are your little sisters still twins?
S (incredulously): of course they're still twins. 
A: now? they're still twins?
S: twins are just twins.  they're always twins.  
The puzzled (and slightly exasperated) look on S's face was priceless.

My favorite quote of the day came from M, a little boy about 6 years old.  The teacher said that she was going to bless the snack and for everyone to be quiet.  After she finished praying, M turned to me and said with exuberant confidence: "I'm a great blessinger."

I really want to teach the children theologically rich, classic hymns.  I love praise music, but a lot of it just isn't as laden with good, solid theology.  The hymns I learned in my childhood have reinforced truth in me like nothing else, and I would love to pass that on.  So, I'm compiling hymns that I would like for them to learn over the course of a year.  My initial list is below (in no particular order).
  • May the Mind of Christ My Savior
  • Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners
  • Great is Thy Faithfulness
  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
  • Fairest Lord Jesus
  • Praise to the Lord
  • My Jesus, I Love Thee
  • How Deep the Father's Love for Us
  • Amazing Grace
  • And Can it Be
  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus
  • Trust and Obey
  • There is a Redeemer
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • How Firm a Foundation
  • Have Thine Own Way, Lord
  • Holy, Holy, Holy
  • How Great Thou Art
  • It is Well
  • He Leadeth Me
  • 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Please let me know if you have any suggestions, or even if you have concerns about any of the hymns in this list.  Thanks!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

pickled hair, hope and a video

today definitely did not go as planned, and I'm pretty bummed about it.  and annoyed.  and disappointed.  plus I just did a vinegar rinse on my hair and I smell like a pickle, so I may have to shower again. sigh.  the internet told me that the smell would fade quickly.  lies!

but there's always tomorrow, and hopefully things will be better.  I'm thinking church, lunch with family, helping my mom around her house a little bit, a costco run and... a pedicure and yogaberry!  Now that is a day to look forward to.

Actually, the initial reason for my post was to share this.  Enjoy.