Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Vacation

I'm just popping in for a brief moment to let you all know that I won't be around until the New Year. Our family is on vacation, visiting family and friends and having a wonderful time!

Since we won't be posting for a while, make sure you go over to Ella's blog, How Great is His Faithfulness, and read the story she is writing and posting. A Modest Carol is a beautiful spin-off of Charles Dicken's classic story, A Christmas Carol. Her writing is lovely and the story really needs to be heard in today's world.

From Miriam and I, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Look Back and A Step Forward

As this year draws to an end and a new one looms on the horizon, I sit back in shock at how fast the seventeenth year of my life has gone by. I remember how much more satisfactory piano camp was this year and how much I learned. I sigh with disappointment as I recall losing my favorite band teacher, but thank God for providing another. I'm glad that our concerts and the play are over and am thankful for the breather, but I can't wait to start working on new music next year! Our concerts have gone well this year and I thank God for the chance to be first flute in the orchestra before graduating. The orchestra concert went well, though I would have been thankful for a couple more weeks of practice. People kindly overlooked the small blunders and I think they enjoyed it. :)

Our choir recital was probably my favorite. As y'all know, I love singing and I really liked all the songs we sang (yes, even the Swahili one!). Mrs. G, our choir director, is so much fun. She's full of life and song and makes the practices very enjoyable. She may not think she's cool, but she is. She loves the Lord very much and I hope she continues the choir for many years.

Part of the choir went to Atlanta, GA at the beginning of this month to volunteer at the Operation Christmas Child (OCC) packing center. It was a memorable trip and I loved the work. I look forward to going back sometime, hopefully next year. The job that our group was assigned to was probably the easiest, but most time-consuming. We had to open up each box and check its contents for inappropriate objects or if there wasn't enough in it, put in filler objects. As I said, I really want to do this again and hope I can.

Due to her extreme busyness, Anna wasn't able to be with the choir this year. We all missed her (myself especially). But she came to our recital which I appreciated very much. Thanks Anna!

This is my last post for the year 2007 (that's why I made it especially long). ;)
I'm going to sit back and relax and enjoy the coming week with my family.

God bless everyone as we celebrate Christ's Day!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Breath of Heaven

Here is a look at part of the musical, Mary: Chosen by God! Miriam sings the song Breath of Heaven (by Amy Grant) so beautifully! Despite her slight cold, her voice is lovely, and although I'm a bit shaky on some of my turns, the flowing dress is very forgiving of mistakes. =) Here's a video for you all to see a little bit of us in action. I've always liked the song Breath of Heaven - sometimes I pray the words of the song, "Help me be strong... Help me be... Help me..."

I've always been very inspired by the life of Mary. Just think - God could have chosen any girl, wiser or older, yet He chose Mary. She was just a girl, probably even younger than I. Yet God knew that she was the one who would make a good mother for the Savior of the world! I really enjoyed writing the musical about her and exploring what her life may have looked like. She's an inspiration to us all!

If you'd like to see a larger version of the video,go here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mary: Chosen by God pictures

Well, it's over. It's hard to believe that what I worked on so long is actually done! I'll miss working with all the children, but am so ready for a break. =)

The musical went really well on Saturday. Thank you all so much for your prayers! There were only a few, barely noticeable slip-ups, and everyone remembered their moves, lines, and cues so well! I feel so blessed to be the teacher/director of all these great children and teens!

The audience really received the musical well, and everyone was really blessed, based on the reaction we got. Praise God! It seemed like a dream when it was all over... I got up to thank everyone for coming and to thank all those involved for a job well done, and we got a standing ovation! Then Ben came out and surprised Miriam and I with a dozen pink roses each from the cast and crew. Miriam did such a beautiful job as Mary! So many came up afterwards to thank me and praise God for the gifts He's given. It was so nice to bring joy into the lives of so many people.

As usual, most were so surprised that I was doing all this at my age. One of the moms said to my mom, "Anna just doesn't know that she's only 17!" But, I do know how old I am; I just don't believe in the "myth of adolescence". =) I hope that somehow what I've done helps others see that teens can do hard things and helps spread the message of The Rebelution.

I couldn't have done it alone. There were so many that helped behind the scenes to make this come about. My family was wonderful - so supportive! Miriam ran sound, Dad ran lights, Elijah videotaped, Mom managed the heavenly realms, and Jubilee helped move things on/off stage in addition to dancing and acting quite well. I feel humbled to be used by God in this way, and look forward to what He may have for me next.

I spent much of today editing the DVD and uploading pictures. I uploaded the two picture slideshows I made, and you can view them by clicking the links below:

Mary - Chosen by God cast played at the beginning of the musical to introduce the audience to the characters

Mary - Chosen by God pictures played at the end to share pictures from the dress rehearsal and tell more about the making of the musical.

If you'd like to see even more pictures, go to my Picasa Web Album page and click on the album(s) you'd like to see. There's pictures from the practices, dress rehearsal, and presentation at the nursing home.

To God be the Glory! Great things He has done!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Dress

For the past few years, I've wanted to make a Christmas dress, but it just never happened. I'd also wanted a green dress, but each time I made another dress, a different colored fabric caught my eye. This year, I found the right fabric for Christmas, and it was green! It was enjoyable and exciting to make a new dress! After all the sewing I've done for dance, sewing slips and hemming dresses, this was a nice change.

This was my 5th time using Simplicity pattern 5041, so it went rather quickly. As my brother Elijah says, "You know you're old-fashioned when you have to buy costume patterns to make your clothes!" =) Who can resist, though? They're just so lovely!

Adding a touch of red to look truly Christmasy

Some dresses were just made for twirling. When I'm wearing a long, full dress, sometimes I just can't resist acting like a little girl and spinning round and round...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mary Musical Dress Rehearsal

I know, I should be in bed. However, after each musical rehearsal, my mind is a-whirl though my body's exhausted; it takes me a while to wind down. We had a successful dress rehearsal tonight - praise God! All 49 actors and dancers made it, and many pictures were taken. I can't wait to make the picture slideshow, and hope you all want to see a lot of pictures. =)

But, I just couldn't wait to share at least one picture. I helped my mom and a wonderfully creative lady decorate the heavenly realms yesterday afternoon. It took 5 hours, but it turned out absolutely stunning. It's amazing what one can do with Christmas lights, metallic wrapping paper, and yards of fabric!

Gabriel, Angelica, Angelina, and Angela watch from above

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Siblings: Older Sisters

My older sisters have been incredible blessings in my life. From them I've learned so many things as they've "paved the way" before me. I thank God for each of them!

Yet, the relationships with older sisters can sometimes be hard. You think she's bossy; she thinks you're too persistent. Sisterly squabbles can be none too pleasant! So, what are some ways to avoid annoyances on both ends? I'll share some of what I've learned from my own older sisters, my experience as an older sister, and observances of others.

Love her. It's so important in ever relationship to love unconditionally. They won't always meet your expectations, and you won't meet their's. Love must be the base to overlook each other's shortcomings.

Give her space. I know, when the friend of an older sister comes over, you want to hang out with them! Younger girls naturally want to be around those older and try to act like them. However, your constant presence can be frustrating to the older sister trying to spend personal time with her friend. One thing to do would be to ask your sister before the friend comes which things it would be okay for you to do with them, and then ask before joining in. Games and group activities just aren't as fun without little sisters, but private conversations are preferred to have alone.

Giving her space also carries over the aspect of stuff. Having shared a room for the first 13 years of my life, I know how challenging it can be. If you share a room, always be considerate of the other person's things and never take or use something without asking. Work out specific spaces for you each to keep your own things, and don't snoop snoop into each other's private space! Learn to share things and not get upset if your sister innocently uses something of yours. Also, as a consideration for the other(s) in your room, keep your things neat and orderly. If your older sister has her own room, always knock before going in and give her time alone if she needs it.

Look up to her. Older sisters love it when their younger sisters want to learn from them. They may not always show it, but they're proud to be able to teach something to those younger then them. So, ask! If your sister is an amazing seamstress, cook, organizer, decorator, scrapbooker, etc., ask for help in learning those skills. My own sisters have been so helpful to me by teaching me many varied and useful "tricks of the trade". They always seemed happy to help, and were great examples to me. In return, give them a break by using your new skills, cooking a meal for them or helping them with something you have more expertise in.

Don't compete. One thing that's always hard for older sisters is when their little sister grows and becomes better then them at some skill. Both parties need to show love to the other by not proudly showing off or entertaining feelings of jealousy. As a younger sister, find ways to affirm your older sister. If her interests are different from yours, praise her when she excels in them. If your interests are the same, still praise her for the things she does well. Older sisters often work too hard trying to stay ahead of younger siblings. Do your part to help her feel secure by not trying to displace her or always competing; instead, just do your personal best and affirm her for doing hers.

Listen to her. This can be one of the most challenging things: listening to the multitude of advice your older sister bestows upon you. Yes, older sisters can be bossy at times, and they'll often become little mommas trying to keep everyone in line. But respect her authority as an older sibling, and take her instructions cheerfully. It can be hard - sometimes you have to bite your tongue to keep back a smart remark - but with the Lord's help you can receive her advice graciously. If something she tells you is just not right, respectfully and gently try to reason with her. If you show her respect and a willingness to learn, she's a lot less likely to order you around and a lot more likely to work with you kindly.

Be there for her. Even older sisters need sisterly support. She tries to be strong, but sometimes she needs someone to lean on, a hug or a listening ear. When she needs to let out her problems, be her confidant and keep her disclosures private. Don't spill secrets - if you do, she'll be a lot less likely to trust you. Give her your support and prayers and you'll grow closer together, having a strong sisterly bond that's hard to break.

Let her into your life. Tell your older sister what's going on with you; don't exclude her from your realm of experiences! This is especially important after your sister has moved out of the house - she wants to know what's happening in your day-to-day life! One of the ways I've done this is to write letters or emails to my sisters when they're at college, letting them know what's going on on the home front. Ask their advice on things that you face - they have a wealth of wisdom that is invaluable!

Obviously, for a good relationship to happen, both the older and younger sisters have to work together. Even if your older sister isn't all niceness and love, be kind, love, and respect her anyway. A younger sister can win the older over by being a good example. If your relationship isn't the best, take the initiative even if you're the younger sister and work towards strengthening the bond between you. Sisterly relationships can be the most precious and fun kind of them all!

I've not always been the best sister to my older sisters, as they would be able to attest to! However, I am so thankful for them and try to be a better sister day-by-day. So what about you? What are ways you work to build up your older sister?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Just Wait

It's been hard. I'm trying to make hard decisions, and am getting conflicting opinions from different places. I have cried and prayed... so much. Yet, I still struggle, wondering what to do, longing for peace. Last night was again hard; I had gotten up late that day, hadn't had time for devotions as I ran around cooking and cleaning, preparing for guests. We had some friends over for lunch, then went to church in the afternoon (our church just began meeting at 4:30 p.m. instead of in the morning) and I was still exhausted from the day before. I headed to bed rather late, but I just needed some encouragement before I turned the light out. So, I read through Psalms, skimming some places, but looking and writing down verses that talked about waiting. Surprisingly, there were only 9 verses in the whole book of Psalms, but they are still very encouraging. My heart was calmed, and I could finally go to bed with a settled soul, even if it was 11:30 p.m.!

It was a good exercise, one I plan to do again, with words like trust, refuge, joy, etc. Instead of focusing on how much I hurt, it's better to focus on how faithful God is.

I will wait for the Lord.

Of Bows and Bustles

The Nutcracker is finally over! After many rehearsals and a long Saturday, with a dress rehearsal and 2 shows resulting in me being gone all day, I'm glad to have one less thing on my plate. My teacher's requested that I make my dress a bit more flashy, with bows and bustles. So, last Saturday I spent a few hours tying around 25 bows and sewing them on. I liked the simpler look, but the dress turned out pretty well with the additions.

My day on Saturday started at 5:30 a.m., with my alarm going off way too early. Rising, having devotions and eating quickly, I soon began trying to put on enough makeup for stage - something I'm not very good at. Eventually I decided enough was enough, for mom had to curl my hair. It took a while, since my hair was quite long, so I was hurrying out the door, pausing just a moment for dad to snap these pictures.

It was 7:15 a.m. and I was tired and hurried, so my expression isn't the best! =) The loopy bows were pretty, but a pain, for they kept getting caught on things. Two of them ripped off a different times, so I kept my trusty needle close at hand.

I thought the bustle was a little weird, but it was the style back then. With many safety pins and lots of tulle, I finally got it formed.

I do like the curls, though they take a while to fix. I don't like the clip-on earrings, for they're very painful! But, since I don't have my ears pierced, they just had to work.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ballet Presentation on December 6th

Today, The King's Praise Ballet went to a nursing home to dance for the residents. They did really well, and everyone really enjoyed us coming! Not all of my girls were there - quite a few were out sick or traveling - but those who came were a big blessing! I may do a more in-depth post when I have more pictures, but for now, I couldn't wait to post these. I love my students so much!

Unfortunately, we didn't get a picture Ballet II's first song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel because of dead camera batteries.

We had Scripture readings taken from Matthew and Luke between the songs to tell the story of Christ's birth.

Miriam sang and I danced to Breath of Heaven.

I really like how the dresses swirl!

Only part of one of my two groups of little girls (ages 4-7) could come, but they stole the show, as usual. They danced to Away in a Manger.

They're just so cute!

Again, not everyone in Ballet I could make it, but these girls (ages 7-11) did a great job to Oh Holy Night.

Ballet II (ages 11-17, 3 girls were missing) were the shepherd dancers for Welcome to Our World.

These girls just started this September! One girl was missing, but they danced beautifully to We Three Kings.

For the finale, everyone danced to Virgin's Lullabye.

Praise God for a job well done! He was the Strength that pulled everything together.

Now, we can't wait to put all the dances together with the musical!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mary - Chosen by God

I had no intention of doing a Christmas musical. None whatsoever. After Ruth - From Rejection to Redemption, people asked for another musical, but I told them to wait until the summer. The school year was just too busy!

You can thank/blame Miriam Lofgren for this Mary musical. Without her encouragement, I never would have even started. Almost immediately after Ruth, she, Elijah, and Jubilee started pressing for another one. You've got to be grateful for the immense faith your siblings have in you! =) I put them off for a while; I was still pretty overwhelmed from Ruth, and I couldn't imagine doing a musical around Christmas, when everyone's so busy. Yet, their suggestions got my brain whirling...

Even before I wrote Ruth, the song Breath of Heaven had planted an idea for a musical in my head. Every time I heard the song, I could see myself dancing to it. I wondered what it would feel like to be Mary, and have all those things happen to you. I learned and presented a monologue as told by Mary in 2005 and 2006, and that made me identify with her even more. All these ideas plus ones I'd gotten from other Christmas pageants and the movie The Nativity Story churned in my brain for quite a while. Finally, I decided to just write them down; after all, I may as well write the musical, even if we never produced it. In two days, I had written the rough draft. Again, I used Scripture as my main source, quoting directly from it wherever possible. I also incorporated fictitious events, as you must when converting something written without a lot of detail into a drama. I used the conversations of Gabriel and three fictitious angels, Angelina, Angelica, and Angela, up in heaven to help narrate the story and I explored what it may have looked like for Mary to be shunned and rejected by her family and friends. I also added some spice to the parts of innkeeper, shepherds, and wise men, to make the musical entertaining.

So, I'd now written the musical and planned which songs could be danced to, and the story began to come alive in my head. It was early September, when all the lessons and my classes of The King's Praise Ballet were getting off to a whirlwind start. After the fairly free weeks preceding September, I began to feel rather busy. No, I decided, a Christmas musical this year definitely wasn't a good idea. Miriam still thought I could do it, however, and showed me that I wouldn't have to hold too many rehearsals, since my dance students would learn the dances in class...

With her encouragement and practicality, I began to think that perhaps it would work. All the dances would be done by my 5 classes of The King's Praise Ballet, so we'd only have to learn the drama parts for most of the rehearsals. With many doubts but much support from my family, I began to plan.

First, I had to decide what I was going to do in the musical. I really wanted to be Mary - doesn't every girl dream of portraying her? After all, the whole reason I'd began directing was so that I could do what I enjoyed so much: act! However, my two previous musicals had taught me that it's very hard to direct and act at the same time. Since I would have little dancers to take care of and so that I could pour more into seeing how everything looked on stage, I decided it would be best for me to just be the director and help backstage.

So, I held auditions on October 15th, 2007. To my delight, the Harts, Olms, Paces, and Simons, plus other great families all came to be a part of the production. I was able to give or make a part for all 21 people that tried out. Miriam Hart got the part of Mary, and there couldn't be a better one. It's been great to see her really become the part so well. And, my dream has come true: I'll at least be dancing a solo to Breath of Heaven while Miriam sings it with her beautiful voice.

Rehearsals have been almost every Monday from 6:30-8 p.m. since October 29th. It's been a joy and a challenge to work with the children and teens in Mary - Chosen by God. The beginning rehearsals were really hard, as I tried to balance this on top of everything else, and I got quite discouraged at first. My family was again a great encouragement however, and I quickly learned that I can't do this on my own. The parents and actors I enlisted to help behind the scenes have been invaluable and helped things go more smoothly. The organization and planning of everything proved a big job, but God has given me strength. It's only by His grace that we've gotten this far.

Next week will be our last week of rehearsals. On Monday we'll add all of the dancers to the mix. All-in-all, between actors and dancers (some doing both) we have around 46 people between the ages of 4 and 17 in this production! Hopefully everything will work out well! The actors have been fun, yet challenging to work with - they're all great individuals! However, I have to keep reminding myself that most of them are still just children, and will do what children do. =) Thursday, December 13th will be dress rehearsal, with all involved.

Finally, on Saturday, December 15th, we'll present Mary at 5 p.m. We're only doing it once, because everyone is so busy this time of year, but we're praying that God will bring those He wants to come, and that it will be a blessing to everyone.

I've learned a lot through this undertaking. I've learned by experience and help from parents more about directing, costuming, set, and light/sound planning. The stress has revealed good and bad in my character, and taught me to trust and take each day one step at a time. Again, I've been greatly blessed by the support and help of each family. Miriam Lofgren went a step further and bought a spotlight for us to use! Her generosity makes things on stage look even better! The pointers from all those watching and helping have been great. Without my Father, family, and friends, this whole thing would still just be a passing thought in my head.

I'd appreciate your prayers as well, that everything will go smoothly. It won't be perfect, but I pray that it will bring God glory.

Then, in less then two weeks, I'll be able to breath again and have a load off my back. And no. I'm definitely not planning a musical for next semester - I need more time at home! Maybe in the summer... we'll see. It's all in God's hands.