One Saturday night my freshmen year in college, my roommate and I went to find ice cream at 10 pm in the middle of winter. Finding none and forgetting that coffee contains caffeine, we opted for large coffees at a bookstore. When we got back to our dorm room just before curfew, we tried to go to sleep, but obviously could not.
So, instead of fighting it we both pulled out photo albums of mission trips we'd taken during our high school years. We sat on that bottom loft bed, side-by-side till the wee hours of the morning flipping pages, pointing to pictures, and telling each other story after story of God's goodness, God's power, God's love. It was a night I will never, ever forget.
For me the beauty of photographs is that they help us remember who our God is . . similar to the stones of remembrance in the Old Testament. Looking at pictures from days gone by . . . whether they be family photos, vacation photos, mission trip photos, or just old random snapshots . . . I can't help but remember how faithful God has been in keeping His promises.
Even photos from the "rough times" in life, still speak to how He was faithful to carry us through--that even in bad situations He still remained all-powerful and all-good. Even photos that are before I was born--of my grandparents when they were children or of my parents on their wedding day--these older photos serve as a testimony of how God has worked in and through the various generations of my family.
For me, the beauty of a photograph is that it inevitably causes my heart to swell with praise and thankfulness to the Most High God for all that He has blessed me with and for all that he is. Now isn't that a great reason to flip (physically or virtually) though photo albums!?!
Beth and Ashely at Onward & Upward posted a fun little musical meme to add a little music to the party (my 1st party post). What a great idea! I love music and totally agree with them about a party is no party if there is no music.
HOWEVER! I could not choose my FAVORITE song for a bunch genres any more than you could tell me which child of yours is your favorite. You just don't. You just can't.
AND . . . all those 80's songs that were on the radio when I was growing up--I never heard. All those 90's songs that were on the radio when I was in high school--again, never heard. Let me tell you why . . .
When I was a kid, I had all 6 Psalty the Singing Songbook tapes that were out at that time. I listened to one side of one tape each night to fall asleep (which started a music listening habit that didn't stop till I got to college and had roommates). Although I loved all 6 tapes, Kid's Praise 4 about being a servant and Kid's Praise 5 about a camping trip (casting our cares on the Lord) were played most often. I LOVED Psalty. These cassettes introduced me to worship and faith and showed me that praising God is a very real, everyday in everyway kind of thing.
I remember my parents listening to Keith Green and the Maranatha! Praise Team . . . these too had a powerful impact on my love of music and heart of worship. Psalty, Keith Green, and the Maranatha! Songs hold an incredibly special, tender place in my heart.
When I was in sixth grade, I woke up on Valentine's Day with a terrible case of chicken pox. It was a terrible catastrophe to me.
As a result, my mom and dad both sympathized and spoiled me. I clearly remember my dad buying me my very own bottle of Diet Pepsi--a glass bottle that was my very own to drink all by myself. (By the way, I kept that bottle till 2003, which I decopoged with stickers and filled with pennies). And, one day during my three weeks home from school, mom brought me a walking yellow helium doctor balloon and two cassette tapes--Michael W. Smith's The Big Picture and Twila Paris' For Every Heart.
Little did I know this was part of her great plan to help me "grow up" (not the chicken pox--the tapes). She had decided that I needed to "move past" Psalty. When we moved at the end of that year, she helped me to finally release my Psalty tapes into the world to bless someone else.
I spent my babysitting money and allowances on building a CD collection of contempary Christian pop music . . . in addition to Twila and Michael, I bought CDs from muscians like Steven Curtis Chapman, Point of Grace, Amy Grant, 4Him, and NewSong. I also had a several various praise and worship CDs.
I had built quite a collection of CDs by the time I entered college. And it had become an addiction of sorts . . . I needed to buy new music.
My first sememster at college, I realized I was addicted to buying music. Really--I was convicted. So, in 1997, I didn't buy any new music at all. I "fasted" from purchasing CDs (I'm not even sure my parents knew about this; at the time I only told my roommate LeAnn about it).
After that, I didn't really enjoy comtempary Christian music anymore. I listened to a lot of Dennis Jerrinagin, Don Moen, and the Passion worship leaders and bands. I longed for meaning and substance.
Since I can now buy music with a single click anytime night or day, I still have to be careful because I have a serious weakness for buying music. I have thousands of songs stored on my external harddrive and enjoy enjoying them. (I do not, however, want to think about the fact that that means thousands of dollars spent.)
I also enjoy a variety of sounds and styles now too. In my post-college years, for the first time in my life, I started listening to "non-Christian music." I enjoy a little jazz or country now and then. I look for and enjoy many indie artists; I like listening to sounds that aren't quite so "polished." I also enjoy songs with meaningful lyrics--I like it when the singer is also the song writer. I also prefer bands over solo artists. Oh, and I also listen to music in Chinese.
My itunes and mini ipod most frequently play in "random shuffle" mode, but some of my current most played songs include songs by (in no particular order). . .
I could type another 20 or even another 40 groups/singers 'cuz, well, I LOVE music. :) Nope . . . there is no way I could ever pick a favorite song or group.
How about you? Know a group I should try out?
Is music an important part of your life? Why or why not?
Last week, when I posted my three food policies and pictures of a soup I now love, I mentioned that there is one thing I will never eat again. ejia asked what that thing was so that she would not mistakenly serve it to me if I ever sat at her table. ;)
So, here it is. Here is the thing I will NEVER put in my mouth again:
I've actually blogged about it before, but not really in detail. So, let me introduce to you the thing I will never eat again--ever--no matter what. It is the 1000-year-old egg, aka the century egg. In Chinese it called "皮蛋" (pi dan).
The first time I tried this black, partially-translucent preserved substance, I had no idea what it was. I just saw these black slices of "jelly" on a pretty plate. It was 1998, and I was in China at a "thank you" banquet with a bunch of principals from schools in the area. So, being polite, I tried it. As soon as it was in my mouth, I regretted my bravery which made me put the whole slice in mouth without trying just a bite first.
Oh my--never in my life have I ever regretted sticking something so small into my mouth before!! It truly is the only thing (as an adult) that I has ever made me gag. It was all I could do to smile and chew.
Now, like most "delicacies" there are some people who just LOVE the 1000-year-old egg--which is really only 50 to 100 days old. Here in Taiwan, it is often cut into cubes and placed in congee (or rice soup) or sliced and added to
slimy sliky toufu [click links for pics].
But, no thank you! Not for me!! Believe me it is not jelly and does not taste anything at all like cheese.
Like last year, I am summing up my entire 2006 in only 12 photos (one for each month).
For someone who took over 9000 photos in less than one year that is a lot of choices!! So, picking just 12 is NOT easy to do (in fact it is REALLY HARD)!! It gets even harder when several important things happen in one month.
Anywho . . . less yappin' and on to the pictures.
(BTW, each month name below is a link to a calander view of pictures I took that month and uploaded to flickr. Just in case you wanna see more than 12.)
January: Gilby and I visit Kady in TaiNan
Feburary: Ellen and I go to Taipei (world's tallest building is behind us)
March: I spend time with little friends
April: My sister, Sarah, is married
May: Sam Comes to Taiwan
June: Sam and I do some sightseeing
July: After LOTS more sightseeing, and a day of flying, Sam and I get back to Austin.
August: I visit family and friends in Texas, and I have straight hair for three days!!
September: A very good friend has her engagment ceremony.
October: My mission team had a retreat in Kenting
November: I spend time with my
December: Lots of students come to my house (and we get a little silly)!
If you make your own 12-picture collection for 2006, please leave your link below! I'd love to see your year-in-review in pictures!!
Today my guestblogger, my mom, finishes the story she started yesterday. (Just FYI, the pics are from 1979 and 1980--it's the best I could do with what I have here with me in Taiwan.)
It was a warm Texas December night and a very special one for us (ok – very special to me, the sentimental one!).
It was our first time decorating a tree with a child old enough to participate. We purchased a small Christmas tree from the local grocery store and carted it home on top of our Pinto station wagon. Ken crafted a tree stand out of scrap wood and we placed the tree on top of our end table, hopefully out of the reach of our toddler’s (Sarah’s) grasp. We placed the lights on the tree and Amanda and I began hanging ornaments. She was so excited we were celebrating! I was so excited – I got to keep the traditions!
It came time to turn off the overhead lights and plug in the Christmas tree lights. As soon as the lights on the tree began shining, Amanda, overcome at the beauty of what she was seeing, spontaneously began to exclaim “Oh! Oh! Glory to God in the Highest! Glory to God in the Highest! Glory to God in the Highest!” She raised her arms and began dancing around that small glowing tree praising God, repeating that phrase over and over just as the angels must have done on the first Christmas night.
I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed worship as genuine as the worship I saw that night! Worship from one with such a pure heart and pure motives – a precious three-year-old, who knew only that we were celebrating the birth of Jesus and that our Christmas tree was shining just as the heavens were the night of His birth when angels praised God and proclaimed His glory. And, she wanted to celebrate and praise Him in the same way!
That Christmas, God gave us just what we needed through the faith and actions of a three-year-old child. That experience changed our perspective on Christmas celebrations. We both realized that a Christmas tradition held its meaning only in the heart of the person participating in the tradition – you could focus on the warm and fuzzy feelings felt by reliving the tradition or you could focus on the original intent of the tradition or you could focus on the One for Whom you were celebrating as you participated in the tradition.
In our family, we choose to focus not on feelings or original intent, but on the Reason we were celebrating.
Each year, as we decorate our tree, it is a family tradition to tell the story of the night we worshipped with Amanda around our first family decorated Christmas tree. We seek to have the same worshipful heart as a three-year-old who, though only looking at the lights on a small Christmas tree, saw a sky filled with a host of heavenly angels proclaiming God’s glory at the birth of His Son and joyfully joined in the angels’ praises.
Now that is giving meaning to a Christmas tradition!
Amanda: Isn't that a great story!! I just LOVE it!! My mom is so right . . . when we look at our Christmas traditions--or any traditions for that matter--we can foucs on one of three things: (1) warm, fuzzy feelings, (2) original intent, or (3) Christ.
For me and my sister (I think she would agree with me), that now as adults, because our parents focused on Christ at Christmas, the "warm, fuzzy feelings" of the holiday didn't dissappear but were intensified. It is not that our traditions became stoic--how can worship of the long-awaited Savior be emotionless? No, the "fuzzy feelings" didn't dissappear, they just were not the reason we did the things we did.
As adults, my sister and I anticipate Christmas traditions becuase we are excited to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords; we look forward to being able to express our love for him in unique once-a-year Christmas ways. Through participating in Christmas traditions, we enjoy being able to proclaim "Oh! Oh! Glory to God in the highest!!" and "Jesus, we love you!!"
Like Sarah said in a comment last week:
as a child it was so neat to me to tell Jesus happy birthday and it was the beginning of me really realizing as such a young child that I could speak to Him and sing to Him, and not just about Him.
I too though have the sweet, precious, innocent, warm-fuzzy feelings and memories attached to this song, and thought that life was GREAT and that everyone loved Christmas and Jesus just as much as we did.
I, Amanda, asked my mom to share one of my family's favorite Christmas stories. So, today and tomorrow she is guest blogging here at following an unknown path. Now, without further adieu, let my mom take you back 25 years, to the Christmas of 1981 . . .
Christmastime is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but there was conflict in our household. My husband and I disagreed for most of our newly married four years on how we should celebrate Christmas and neither of us wanted to give up any ground. However our children were getting older (3 years and 18 months), and we needed to reach an agreement on how our young family would celebrate this season.
I am the sentimental one in our family. I love the Christmas season, all of it: the lights, the tree, the presents, cookie baking, surprises and secrets, being with family and of course, celebrating the Reason for the Season – God becoming a man and dwelling among us in order to fulfill His plan of redemption.
On the other hand, I don’t think my husband has a sentimental bone in his body! He is very practical, very logical, extremely well-grounded in Scripture and very matter-of-fact. This particular Christmas, he was finishing his education at seminary and had learned that most of our traditional Christmas celebrations began as pagan rituals. He would come home after seminary classes and explain to me what he had learned in class and the conflict would begin! He didn’t want our family to take part in any celebration that did not glorify God. With such a youthful intensity to do only that which glorified God, he didn’t want us to participate in some of the traditions I loved because of their original intent.
Technically I agreed, I certainly didn’t want to be a part of anything that didn’t glorify God!…..but I couldn’t imagine Christmas without all the traditions I had grown up with and loved nor could I imagine not sharing those traditions with my children.
After much discussion and heart searching, we decided we would keep Christmas traditions as a part of our celebration (yeah! – I could still have a Christmas tree!!), and purposefully seek to make the true meaning of Christmas the focus in our family by telling the Christmas story often to our young girls and singing religious Christmas carols with them.
It was our routine to read or tell bedtime stories each night to our girls; and, during this season, the Christmas story was a much repeated favorite. Being a natural storyteller and intent on making sure his daughters knew the true Christmas story, Ken would tell the birth of Jesus with great enthusiasm and drama. We weren’t sure how much their young minds comprehended, but we were genuine in our desire to glorify God with our Christmas celebrations. Yet, Ken still was uncomfortable about having the Christmas tree and other “pagan” celebrations in our home, but God was about to give us a sign.
Come back tomorrow to find out how.
Joi (aka Amanda's mom)
One of the parts of Christmas that I enjoyed most is decorating the tree. Opening up the boxes and expecting the surprise as I peel away old newspapers to reveal a special ornament and the memories it brings back.
Our tree at home is filled homemade ornaments--some are now almost 30 years old. Also, a tradtion is that each year mom and dad gave us an ornament. My NeeNee and PawPaw (paternal grandparents) also gave use a yearly ornament. We would write our name and the year on the bottom of them. This was supposed to become the starter kit for our own tree when we became adults. I love that tradition--but, um, my mom has yet to reliquinsh the ornaments yet.
It is impossible to pick a single favorite from our family tree. I love the tiny crystal nativity. I love the little girl on the 1983 swing. I love the oversized ice-cream cone Sarah made with styrofoam and hotglue. I love the string of teddy-bears I made in the sixth grade. I love the faded green ornament that is from my mom's childhood tree. I love . . . . I can't possible list them all, huh?
Below are the only ornaments from my family's tree that I have pictures of. One is of the baked ornament I painted when I was only 2 or 3. The snowman is one I made in 4th or 5th grade--it started from two make-up powder puffs. And, the other one is a clothes pin reindeer I also made.
My first Christmas in Taiwan, I decorated my tree alone. It was little thrilling and a little depressing at the same time. Thrilling because I was decorating my own Christmas tree, and depressing because I was all alone; there was no one to share it with. So, I decided at that moment to always invite someone to come help me decorate my tree. For the past three years, I've invited the same students to come help me. I am so glad they give me someone to share my joy with.
This year, they also helped me to make lots of these:
See, here they are making them. (Gilby helped too.)
For my Christmas tree here in Taiwan, I have kept it (almost) all red, white, and silver. And, most of them sparkle, glitter, or reflect the twinkle lights--and I like that.
There are only two exceptions to my sliver, white, and red tree. Both have been gifts. And both reinforce that I am milkshake. One is made by Chinese knots (given to me by a student), and the other is in the shape of Texas and happens to have the word "yall" on it (given to me by my sister).
Here is my little Taiwanese tree in full: