Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

There's so much to be said, I'm at a loss of where to start. It's really a day that can fit the opening of A Tale of Two Cities well:

It is the best of times: life is really good for most of us, and I'll admit I feel this especially so right now - God has seen me through from my absolute worst low of lows just two months ago and brought me to being "pretty darn good" now. It's also my first Thanksgiving "living on my own" (and trying to deal with the clutter of boxes that contains my life right now).

And yet it is the worst of times: we are a nation at war, and many families are celebrating Thanksgiving while a loved one fights for our nation half a world away. Many other families are celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time without a beloved relative. This will be my family's first Thanksgiving without my two Grandmothers. For the family of one of my friends, this will be their first Thanksgiving without his mother, and for another friend, their first without her uncle.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade just ended with Santa going by on his float (preceded immediately, I'll add, by Christian singer Natalie Grant!), and in my family, that means the official start of the Christmas season. More specifically, it means we are now "allowed" to play Christmas music. The required first song of the season: Mannheim Steamroller's "Deck the Halls". My parents, I'm sure, had the real CD at the ready at their house, and I had my iTunes cued up and standing by, plugged into the speakers on my desk ready to blast out the notes and thus complete the morning.

The one unfortunate part of the opening of the Christmas music season is that KTIS will start playing lots of songs that I like less well. I'm not a fan of most traditional Christmas music, favoring instead some of the more contemporary rock-ish renditions. This is not to say all of the 'old' Christmas songs are bad, I'm just jaded and tired of hearing the same ones over and over year after year, which is why it will be exciting to start branching out to newer recordings by Steven Curtis Chapman, MercyMe, Avalon, Big Daddy Weave, Barlow Girl, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, et al.

But I digress.

For today, like most other days, I take a moment to pause and remember to live a life of "Thanksliving", rather than one day of "Thanksgiving". Here are just a few of the things I am thankful for each morning when I wake up:

My Mom and Dad and the rest of my loving family
My wonderful friends
My education
My car
My guitar
My nation
My Awesome God

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Voted

Homework done, my studying began late last night, or rather, early this morning, for what ranks among the most important tests I have taken this semester: my vote. Okay, before today, I was passingly familiar with the candidates and issues, but not well enough to consider myself well-informed enough to vote. Huge thanks to my roommate Ben for walking through the important races' candidates and issues with me.

There are so many amazing things about the test I took this morning. For one, it's not graded! I can put whatever answer fits me and know that I'll still get 100%, and if I don't know the answers to some of the questions, I can leave them blank and not be penalized. All tests should be this way.

I woke up early this morning, prayed for friends in need and the election day on the whole, and soon made my way over to Buntrock to get my second-ever little red circle sticker. After re-registering so that I can vote in Northfield instead of having to drive home, I received my ballot and started filling in ovals. Governor, senate, house, and amendments, those were the most important ones, and honestly, I skipped the rest. To me, it doesn't really matter who the new Northfield sheriff is - I don't know anything about the candidates, so it just seems right that I leave that decision to better informed voters. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying here: I do not take voting lightly at all–it's one of the most important rights and duties that we have in this country–, but for me it's only critical that I am able to cast my vote for the races that really matter to me, in other words, the big, non-local races.

The machine scanned my ballot and told me I was voter number 124. Not terrible for 9:30 in the morning. Most importantly, though, I'd made my voice heard, and I got my wonderful sticker to wear proudly all day long. And now, with the polls closed, I pray May God Bless America, no matter what the outcomes are from today's vote.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good Pain?

It's seemingly an oxymoron, I know, to say there is such a thing as a "good pain", but the slight tingly pain I feel in my fingers is exactly that. Why? Because it comes as a result of learning how to play my beautiful new guitar. It's a very satisfying, moreso than truly painful, feeling, knowing that my fingers worked hard to press down in these newfound contortions that musicians call chords.

I bought my shiny new toy about two weeks ago, and I did a very little bit of independent learning by way of the Internet, but nothing much. And then, yesterday, I had my first real lesson! I owe a huge thank you to Adam for being willing to tutor me, or, more accurately, put up with me :) Mini-lessons included just getting acquainted with the instrument, then tuning (being a non-music major, this gave me challenges), and finally some basic chords, enough to very slowly strum out Amazing Grace. Okay, so I wasn't good at it, but I'll get there eventually. I am bound and determined to make this pretty instrument make equally pretty noises someday.

My First Scripture Reading in Chapel

Last Friday morning was slightly traumatic and yet, in another, more important sense, fulfilling. Last Friday was the first day I've ever read a scripture passage in Chapel. Remembering only my short chapel presentation a year ago as one of five speakers, I came fully expecting to have shaky legs with a moderately shaky voice to match, and of course, since the reading was rather lengthy, I knew my mouth would dry out quickly. Discreetly gulping down as much water as I could, I sat waiting quietly at the front of the make-shift Urness Chapel.

I had no real reason to be nervous, of course. I'd printed out my own 'large print edition' of the reading (which was now waiting patiently for me within the Bible on the podium), and I'd rehearsed several times - mostly silent lip synching, but once out loud, too. And I'd already done a sound check with the microphone, so I knew what to expect when I started reading out loud again.

Now, I really do like speaking in front of people, but this was a brand new crowd of mostly unfamiliar faces to me. In all honesty, the previous Wednesday had been the first day this year I'd gone to chapel, and I only went because my former psychology prof was speaking. Why had I now been asked to accept this privilege of reading in front of everyone? I knew I couldn't screw up; I did not want to make a fool of myself, not here, not in front of these people. Today I needed to make a good impression, today I needed to try my best to offer some semblance of actually appearing intelligent.

All told, the reading went just fine. My over-the-top nervousness ahead of time disappeared once I was at the microphone - at that point the previously almost overwhelmingly worrisome task became almost routine; "you've read out loud before, and you're a good sight reader, and for goodness sake, you've practised this text, to boot!" is what I told myself. My mouth did run quite dry (I'm sure it didn't help that I had not fully re-hydrated from giving blood several days before), but somehow I made it through, and in the aftermath actually received several compliments from friends saying I'd done just fine. In short, all my worries had been for naught. Thank you, God.