Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ah, the Difficulties of Disney Songs

So, I found this old Disney songbook of piano music and I was absolutely determined to learn a Disney song for Evan.
First, I tried to learn the one I liked best ("Beauty and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast). But, it was hard (well, hard for someone with really small hands), so I decided I'd find a different one.
Then I tried to learn the first one I knew in the book and go from there ("When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio), but that one was hard too.
So then I decided to learn the one that looked the easiest ("Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid), but that one was STILL hard.

I was quite at a loss. They were all really hard.

I've come to the conclusion that, not just in piano music, you shouldn't just stop because things are hard. Things will always be hard, and you're just going to have to grin and bear it. But, the end result, will be worth all the struggles.

For instance, after I can play "Beauty and the Beast", "When You Wish Upon a Star", and "Part of Your World", it will be so fulfilling. I learned those songs. I can play them.

Even though it might be hard, don't give up, it'll all be worth it in the end.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Let It Snow!

Well, folks, today is officially a SNOW DAY! No school! So, of course, I had a great day hanging out with all of my friends! Me and two of my friends got together during the day to write (we writing dorks never cease!) and another friend is spending the night tonight!

God shows himself in such marvelous ways! The snow, while cold, is so, so, SO beautiful! And just think - there are never two snowflakes that are exactly the same! Try to put THAT in the Big Bang Theory!

Here's some pictures of our "immense" amounts of snow! Okay, so it wasn't that much, but it was a lot for us!



Thursday, January 28, 2010

Prayer Warrior

Over the course of these past few months, I think I've stressed quite a bit the need for change in the treatment of special needs children across the world and specifically in Eastern Europe and Russia.

If that point hasn't come across to you, then I'm telling you flat out right now that special needs children are being degraded and even tortured in many parts of the world just because.

Because they're different.

I've had a few people tell me that it's infuriating and that they just don't really know what to do to help. They can't donate financially, and they don't know what else to do.

Well, I've got an answer now.

Become a Prayer Warrior.

This isn't just some stupid thing I made up to get people interested. This was created by Reece's Rainbow, the organization that's helping us bring Evan home.

You can become a Prayer Warrior for a specific child. It can be your child. There is absolutely no cost. You will be assigned a child randomly, although you can choose if you would like to pray for a child with Down syndrome or a child with a different special need. You will receive an e-mail anytime that something happens with your child. You will also receive e-mail updates about children who have found a home or children who are at significant risk of being sent to an institution. Plus, you get a free bookmark. All they ask, is that you pray for a child every day until they are home. They ask for a FULL prayer commitment until that child is home with their family, so don't commit if you don't mean it.

I strongly encourage each of you to take a child to pray for, to be your child. Or your family's child. Hey, get the whole family in on it.

If you do, indeed, want to become a Prayer Warrior for a little boy or girl who needs your prayers, you can e-mail Charissa Urban at charissaurban@yahoo.com and she'll set you up. Just say in the e-mail what you'd like to do. Please, please, PLEASE consider this. All they're asking is prayers. And we can give those free of charge.

"... The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
- James 5:16

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This Little Light of Mine

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.

We all know the song, but do we really understand it's meaning?

I think more often than not, we put the snuffer over our candles, unaware that if we leave it there for long, it will go out. We try to cover it up as much as possible, but we don't want to put it out.

You can't do that. If you put the snuffer over the candle, the flame will die. It's a fact of life.

Lots of times, I'll try and hide the fact that I'm passionate about Christ around my friends because I don't want to seem like the stuck-up goody-two-shoes who doesn't have any fun and just goes to church all the time. I try to cover up the candle as much as possible without putting it out, and then "let it shine" when it's most convenient.

But sooner or later, I'm gonna leave the snuffer over the candle for too long, and my flame's gonna go out.

Christ is supposed to be who we are. HE is the light in us. You cannot hide who you are. If you try, it's just going to end in disaster. You cannot be a Christian who doesn't live like it. It doesn't work. Just like that candle.

So let your light shine FOR REAL. Let the world see it in how you speak, how you dress, how you behave, your attitude.

I don't know about you, but this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Words of Wisdom

Let's just cut to the chase.

I get mad at God. Really mad. Like yelling at him during my prayer time (where I'm supposed to be thanking him.

I've been especially mad lately about how long raising money for Evan's adoption has been. I don't get an immediate response to any ideas I have. I just feel like the entire fundraising process is taking entirely too long. And, what frustrates me, is that no one seems to have the sense of urgency I do. The way I see it, we don't get enough money, Evan doesn't come home. And I will NOT let that happen.

Many of you know how Lydia Hollis and her family raised over the amount they needed for their adoption in 9 days (For more info visit: http://the30dayjourneyforhope.blogspot.com/). I kept praying to God saying, "Why can't you just do that for us? We'd put in the effort! I'd put in the effort to get that done!"

I was watching the movie Prince Caspian the other day and this scene just really stuck out to me. It worked completely with what I was asking from God. There is a scene where Lucy finds Aslan (I think in a dream, but it wasn't exactly clear).

She asks him, "Why couldn't you come roaring in and save us like last time?"
And he replies, "Things never happen the same way twice, dear one."

That's what's happening here. For me, it takes more of my faith to be patient and wait for God. I feel like when I get an idea, or when I get a cause, I just start sprinting off, and God grabs me by the shoulders and says, "Slow down, there, Speed Racer." That's what's hard for me. Having to slow down, because its what God wants me to do.

Also, we have our in-home homestudy visit tomorrow, so be praying that that goes well. We've basically cleaned the entire house (closets and all) for this. So hopefully it will all pay off.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mindy Needs Help!

Meet Mindy. Mindy lives in Russia, and has Down syndrome. And we all know what that means.

She's 3 years old - she'll be transferred to an institution in 8 days if someone doesn't step up.

Please, please, PLEASE be praying for this sweet girl! She needs a family just like Evan, and just like Levi did! Pray that someone will see her and fall in love with her and take her home to be a part of their forever family!

Pass on this information! The more people that know about Mindy, the more likely someone is to adopt her!

Who came up with this whole institution idea, anyway? I'd like to give that guy a piece of my mind!'

You can see her picture at http://www.reecesrainbow.com/. Click on Waiting Children --> More "At Risk" Children Ages 3-5 --> Waiting Children, then scroll down to Other Countries. She is second on that list.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Selfish Ambitions

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.
- Jesus (Mark 8:34-35 NLT)

I never realized how many selfish ambitions I have. Selfish ambitions that I have refused to put aside to follow Jesus for so long. I become more and more sure, daily, that God is calling me to orphan ministry.

But, I still hold on to that dream of going to college and becoming a film score composer. But, when I really thought about it, as painful as it was for me to realize, the only reason I really wanted to be a film score composer was because I'm good at writing music, and maybe (just maybe) I would be famous. Fame. That's a very selfish ambition. I think perhaps God is leading me away from that path because He knows he's gifted me in that area, but He doesn't want me to turn that gift into something that I use for my own purposes (for instance, fame). Whereas, in someplace like Africa, I could use my gift of music to glorify the Lord, and that'd be the only reason I'd use it.

I don't know how many of you all listen to Christian music, but one of my favorite Christian bands is BarlowGirl. This song really struck a chord with me while I was thinking about this, so I just thought I'd share some of the lyrics.

My hands hold safely to my dreams,
Clutching tightly - not one has fallen.
So many years I've shaped each one,
Reflecting my heart, showing who I am.
Now You're asking me to show
What I'm holding oh-so tightly.
Can't open my hands, can't let go.
Does it matter?
Should I show You?
Can't You let me go?

"Surrender, surrender," You whisper gently.
You say I will be free.
I know, but can't You see?
My dreams are me. My dreams are me.

You say You have a plan for me,
And you want the best for my life.
Told me the world had yet to see
What You can do with one
That's committed to Your calling.
I know, of course, what I should do,
That I can't hold these dreams forever.
If I give them now to You,
Will You take them away forever,
Or can I dream again?

"Surrender, surrender," You whisper gently.
You say I will be free.
I know, but can't You see?
My dreams are me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's Been A Year...

It's been a year since Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.
I was never for Obama, but I didn't hate him either. He seemed like a good man, a man who would try his best for this country, but I didn't agree with some of his political stands.
He's not the best president we've ever had (that would be Abraham Lincoln, in my opinion), but that doesn't mean we have any right to judge him.
I hear people say all the time, "Geez, I could be a better president than Obama!"
In truth, that's a lie. I doubt I could do any better than he has done as President of the United States. What people forget is that he's just as guy, just like you and me. And I think we judge him too harshly.
I hear jokes about him all the time, not to mention they go after his wife and children. Just because you don't agree with him, that doesn't give you any right to ridicule him as a person. Especially his family. It's not right to drag his wife and daughters into this. And it's not right to rip his honor as a person because he hasn't made the best president.
If I were the president, and I'd made some mistakes like him, I'd feel horrible with myself already without an entire nation telling me how I was jerk and a stupid person. So, the next time you catch yourself thinking about how Obama has done in his presidency, remember that could be you in that position too. Try praying that God will change his heart and direct his actions. Everyone makes mistakes. And they're all the same in the eyes of God.

Monday, January 18, 2010

They Really Mean 'The Terrible Twos'


So I walked into the kitchen after watching a TV show, and I found Levi chewing something. When I turned him around, I realized the thing in his mouth was part of a book cover. My book cover. So this is how my book looks now. Ah, the joys of having a two-year-old brother. I sure hope Evan doesn't like chewing things as much.

Worship

What is worship, really?

Worship can be anything you do so long as you do it for the glory of God. But, today, I want to talk specifically about worship in a church setting. Every week when I go to church, we have "worship" before service starts. During this time, I see people standing, kind of glancing around at people to see what they're reaction should be. I see people texting. I see people glancing at their watches, worrying about how they only have so much time in the day, and they really didn't want to spend it on "worship". It's sad, isn't it? What America has made worship today. They make it so that it's mandatory. It's not optional. It's just something we do, because it's expected.

I found this video, quite by accident. I was looking for African gospel music on youtube, when I stumbled across this. This man created this video while he was on a mission trip in South Africa. He made it for his preteen ministry, because he thought it'd be good for them to see. I think it's good for all of us to see. It may not be the best in effects, but this man speaks some really powerful words. And it's a message I think we all need to hear.

Isn't that incredible? While we worship God because it's a part of our week, it's expected, it's
just a routine, they worship God because they know for a fact he's all they've got. I wish that I
could be in a situation like they're in just so I could fully understand that. I think we could all
use that wake up call.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Beauty of Down Syndrome

Before we adopted Levi, I had no idea really what Down syndrome was. I knew that people who had it were mentally disabled, but other than that I knew nothing.

Down syndrome occurs through a genetic mutation in the 21st chromosome. They get an extra one, so instead of two, they have three.

People with Down syndrome have lower IQs, and may be more prone to other medical issues such as heart problems.

They can have slanted eyes that are farther apart than ours.

But, what people can't see in the medical diagnoses is that Down syndrome is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Levi is the happiest child I have ever met. Sure, he has a little extra chromosome, but why does that change anything? He loves, loves, LOVES his Momma, and laughs like a madman at pretty much anything! Not to mention he's so darn cute!

People often don't like to associate with people with Down syndrome. Because they're different. They don't think like we do. But, I think that they are closer to what God meant for us than we are. They love unconditionally no matter what you think about them, and they are always happy! They're not afraid to show what they think or what they believe.

I wouldn't take away Levi's Down syndrome if I could. I would take away the medical problems that come with it (pacemaker, feeding tube, etc.), but God made Levi exactly as he wanted him. Extra chromosome and all.




The pictures are from top to bottom (all have Down syndrome): Charlie Hollis, Evan Hook, Levi Hook, Hope Hollis.

Some Bad News...

You all remember Dennis, right? The little boy I raised the $1000 for? He had a family that was trying to adopt him, but we just got the message that he lost his family. His family is no longer going to be adopting him. Dennis is three years old. If someone doesn't step up to adopt him by March, he will be placed in a mental institution. This made me sad and angry. I couldn't believe that a family would just stop pursuing their child. Mom asked us if we would ever stop pursuing Evan. Me and Jace immediately yelled out, "NO!" Excepting some freak circumstance like our house burning to the ground, we would never rest without my sister home. Evan's in our family now, and families stick together.
Please be praying for Dennis. I told Mom that we could adopt him, but as he is in the Ukraine and Evan is in Russia, that'd be a little difficult. Pray that he'll find a family, because we CANNOT let another precious child get sent to a mental institution. Especially when we know he is in such dire need.

You can view his picture at http://www.reecesrainbow.com/. Click on Waiting Children --> More "At Risk" Children Ages 3-5 --> Waiting Children, then scroll down to Orphanage 9. He is first on that list.

If you say, "Hey, that's none of my business,"
will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know --
Someone not impressed with weak excuses.
- Proverbs 24:12 (The Message)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Is THAT?

That's usually the response I get when I tell people I play the oboe. They have no idea what it is. Mostly because oboe is a very classical instrument. It's not like clarinets or flutes, which are also used in jazz and stuff like that. Oboe is pretty much a strictly classical instrument. I've been playing oboe for about two years, and I LOVE it. It's not a very common instrument for people to choose to play (not near as popular as flute or violin), but I liked it. From the moment I first heard it, I knew I wanted to play it.

A symphony website can explain better than me how it works, so here is my favorite explanation:

Oboe
Family: Woodwind
Pitch Range: Approximately 2 octaves
Size: About 23 inches long

The oboe, which is pitched just below the flute, is the highest of the double reed instruments. Reeds are small, very thin, slices of cane that are inserted into the top of the instrument. Sound is produced when air is blown through the reeds, which sends a vibration through the instrument. Almost all oboe players make their own reeds (Except not me yet... I'm still focusing on playing), which is quite an artful task. The shape and design of the reed affects the sound the instrument will make, so well-crafted reeds are very important.
The body of the oboe is usually constructed out of wood, starting small and gradually enlarging into a small bell at the lower end. Like the flute, the oboe also has several holes and keys which are used to determine pitch.


Did You Know?
Because the oboe has such a pure sound and its pitch is not as affected by temperature as are many other instruments, it is the instrument that you hear sound an "A" at the beginning of a concert. All other instruments tune to that pitch.

Since most people (who aren't obsessive about classical music) have never heard an oboe, I recorded myself playing a couple of songs I thought some of you might know. Keep in mind that I am by no means a professional. The sound you hear from my oboe would sound about a million percent better if someone who played oboe for a living could play it. But, seeing as I can't hire a professional, you get me! The first song is A Narnia Lullaby, the song Mr. Tumnus plays in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The second song is My Own Home, the song that the girl sings at the end of The Jungle Book. Hope you enjoy it!


video

Monday, January 11, 2010

Gone

So the other night I wrote a new song. It's called Gone. I wrote it on a night when I couldn't sleep because a movie had completely freaked me out. At this point, I was getting very frustrated both with myself, my parents, and God.

Myself, because... let's just get this out of way... Sherlock Holmes freaked me out. It is so hard for me to see all of my friends completely LOVING a movie, and I can't even watch it without having a night without sleep like some toddler. And, I can't even discern when something's going to scare me. Right after Sherlock Holmes, I loved it! I loved the plot, the characters, especially the music. I thought it was the best movie ever - until I tried to sleep. And images of Lord Blackwood performing gross rituals on people came up. I hate it. I hate that I'm like this. I can't see anything except Disney Channel and Princess and the Frog without getting freaked out. It makes me feel like a complete and utter wimp.

My parents because they just don't understand. They keep asking me what I'm afraid of. Don't I know that it was just a movie and none of it was real? Yes, I absolutely know that it's not real. I don't pretend to understand why Sherlock Holmes scares me and Lord of the Rings doesn't bother me a bit. I don't even know what's scaring me, exactly. I just know what my body is feeling - I start shaking sometimes, my stomach is in a knot, and every time I close my eyes I see those horrible images. I don't even know why I bother to come downstairs and see them when I'm scared, they just don't get it, and they end up making me feel worse. I know they're just trying to help, but it doesn't work.

God, because he could take this all away with a snap of his fingers. Where is He when I need him? Two nights in a row I wasn't able to sleep for different movies. I NEED sleep. I start school tomorrow.

So that's the position I'm in as I'm writing this song. I feel like I'm alone and that everyone, even God, is just gone. I can't find any comfort anywhere. The song sounds very dark, sad, and dissonant at parts, because that's how I felt. I felt confusion, and pain, and like everyone was just gone. No one could help.

video

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Faith Like Potatoes

My family watched the movie Faith Like Potatoes tonight.

It was a brilliant story about a farmer living in South Africa. I especially enjoyed hearing them speak the Zulu language. I don't know what it is about the African languages, but they are just beautiful to me. In the movie, this farmer becomes a Christian and is challenged to always trust in God even when others doubt or when tragedy strikes. All in all, it was a fantastic movie.

However, there was one seen in which a child is killed in a freak accident. Now, those of you who read my earlier post on sensitivity know that I can't handle things like that. Seeing a little child, covered in blood and a man trying desperately to save him, calling out to God for help. I almost had to excuse myself from the room I was crying so hard. Even after the movie, just visualizing it made me feel like I was going to vomit.

My dad still insists that this is a beautiful gift, and I still can't see it that way. But he did say that if I want to grow up and live in Africa with orphans, I will have to deal with things like the child's death in the movie and probably things worse than that. My only responding thought as I pondered his statement was:

God, help me.

I don't even know those people! It was a movie and I was sobbing like I was a part of their family! I don't have any idea how I'm going to deal with something like that happening to a child I know and have interacted with, even loved! I feel like God is building me up to handle horrors like that. It starts with sickness and hospitals and dealing with injuries and what not, and me being exposed to things like the scene in Faith Like Potatoes. I don't think I'll ever be ready to see a child die, though. So, I pray tonight that if God has that planned for me anywhere in my future that he help me. Because I couldn't go through that alone. I couldn't go through that without His help.

But, perhaps I'll be like the man in the movie. Because of what happened, I will go on to do even greater things for the glory of God.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sisterhood (Not of the Traveling Pants)



Of all the jobs that I have in this life right now - musician, orphan advocate, composer, author. The one I take most seriously is that of sister.

I hear a lot of people say they hate their brothers and sisters. They'd be better off without them. I don't understand that. I know I couldn't live without Jace and Levi, now Evan too. I'd be absolutely crushed if I found out that Evan couldn't come home.

When I say that being a sister is a job, that's what I mean. But it's a good job, a happy job, albeit a job that requires patience and love.

Being the oldest in my family, I've grown up learning how to sacrifice for those I love. When I was four and we adopted Jace, I had to learn to share Mom and Dad. Jace needed them too. When Levi came I learned to sacrifice time and convenience. You can't take the short and easy way with a Down syndrome child.

I have a responsibility to my siblings, a responsibility to lead them in the right direction. Whether they admit it or not, they are influenced by me and look up to me. For instance, Jace would never have picked up on film scores by himself. He likes them and listens to them because I do. Levi, as well, has picked up on some Black Eyed Peas while I've been listening. The other day when I was listening to it he signed "night" and "sleep" during I Gotta Feeling ("tonight's gonna be a good night").

As their older sister, as well, I protect them. Though it's harder to show for Jace, I am very defensive about him too, and care for him just as much as Levi. For instance, today at his first basketball game, there was a child on the other team he was guarding who was taller than him (and Jace is TALL) and was pretty much a basketball prodigy. Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but I thought that kid needed to be kicked out of the game and they all needed to step aside and let Jace shoot.

Or, if I here Levi start crying in another room, I rush in and grab him up into my arms. To me, there is no better feeling than when Levi puts his tiny little arms around me and lays his head down on my shoulder.

One of my biggest fears is that something will happen to us kids while Mom and Dad are gone, and I won't be able to protect Jace and Levi. Like if burglars broke in and had guns and wanted to kidnap us. I couldn't protect them. I can't fight guns! But, when I really think about it, I would absolutely have no hesitation jumping in front of a bullet for Jace or Levi.

But that's what it is to be a sister, to me. I would die for Jace or Levi or Evan. I love them so much I would die.

I'm their big sister, and that's what I do.

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's Been Fun!

Well, this has been one of the most exciting weeks I've had in quite a long time. Me and my friend learned quite a bit about each other and quite a bit more about ourselves. For instance, this week I learned about myself:

In baking, when in doubt, I add milk (not the best decision I've ever made. Our shortbread was a little off).
When writing romance novels, I enjoy the old "damsel in distress" situations.
Jennifer Higdon (the classical composer) is to me what Rihanna is to other teenage girls.

We had a whole lot of fun and grew a lot closer to Christ and to each other.

I also had the pleasure of going to the symphony last night. The symphony is one of my favorite places to go (we get in free through a special offer to homeschoolers). I've been about five or six times this past semester.
Last night, there was an incredible violinist there, Hilary Hahn, who was performing a piece that was written especially for her by contemporary classical composer Jennifer Higdon. It turns out that the composer was actually there and that they were both signing autographs afterward. I told Ms. Higdon that I wanted to be a composer too when I grow up. She was very enthusiastic and supportive about it and told me to "just write, write anything, just write it down."

I don't think people realize just how much that meant to me. A REAL, LIVE composer who writes classical music for a living. I got to MEET her! AND she was supportive of my dream of writing music! To me, that was better than meeting and having a conversation with the president or Johnny Depp or Rihanna or anyone else. It meant so much. And I am so thankful that God put her in my life last night.

Usually, I tend to give up on my music because it doesn't sound as good as John Williams or Hans Zimmer or anyone I want to write music like. But Ms. Higdon told me it didn't matter what it sounded like, whether it was good or bad, just to write. So I think I will be writing much more music. I will probably be posting a lot of it on here, along with music I've written before but have never posted. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Going Out With a Bang

Well, folks, school starts on Thursday, so I've got five days left of break to do whatever I wish. Well, let me tell you, I'm going out with a bang.

One of my very closest younger sisters in Christ is spending this entire week with us. She is in sixth grade, and I've known her for literally her whole life. She is very mature for her age and wants to be a missionary veterinarian when she grows up. We stayed up past midnight last night talking about all things - spiritual and silly.

She will be learning so much about our family this week - more than she already knew (which is quite a bit)! She's already found out that we can't leave drinks anywhere below three feet above the ground because Levi will knock it over. I am a late sleeper and it takes me nearly the whole day to wake up. Our whole family (well, mostly me) are major movie buffs.

It will be a fun week full of Zoo Tycoon , baby names (we're finding a middle name for Evan), baking cookies, and making homemade ice cream.

I won't be posting much this next five days or so, because I'm trying to focus all my attention on my friend. So, I'll see you all in five days! Enjoy the last few days of break!