Friday, October 21, 2016


Being a good friend does not always come naturally. In fact, we all typically have to hit some hard learning curves before we come round to actually formulating good, lasting friendships. It is nice to think that the best friendships in life happen by accident and while it takes a good deal of providential circumstance to bring two people together, a lot of what makes friendship fantastic is the conscientious effort of the parties involved.

A few weeks ago I noticed that the conversations I have with my close friends are noticeably different from the conversations I have with my other friends and acquaintances. One thing that makes friendships wonderful is the reciprocal give-and-take. Friendship is not about making sure everything is fair and even, but it is about filling needs, giving uninhibitedly, and complimenting one another, even in the words we say to one another. 

A friendship where one person is constantly giving and the other person is taking is not a friendship. It is a dependency or a ministry, but not a friendship. This is a distinction that is really helpful to make.

Not all people deserve the same expectations and some people need a lot more patience, compassion, and help.

Here are a few things I have noticed about my conversations with my best friends and the way we talk to one another.

1. Friends are polite and it is polite to talk about what interests your friend, not what interests you. It is so wearisome to be around someone who constantly talks about themselves and I have to confess that sometimes I have been that person.

If you want to be a good friend, then talk about what your friend is interested in, not what you are interested in. Take it a step further and actually be interested in what interests your friend. Don’t cut them off halfway when they are talking because you are bored. Don’t sigh exasperatedly because you grow tired of listening to them.

My best friends and I can talk about everything and anything with one another and I could never grow bored, because I am interested in them. Because I care about them, I do my best to care about the things they care about.

Maybe you do not know what your friends want to talk about. I have an easy solution for you. Ask them. Simply ask. As soon as you are finished talking about yourself, always finish by asking about them. Try and make your questions specific, you know, because you actually pay attention to what is going on in their lives. Finally, listen intently. Really listen. Be interested.

2. Friends value your opinion. Friends are interested in hearing about you because they sincerely want to know your opinion and will seriously take your thoughts into account. 

My sister and I are constantly asking one another’s opinions on all kinds of subjects—relationships, fashion, hair, food, life decisions, etc. I know sometimes it can get bothersome when I ask for the millionth time if an outfit looks good, boots or heels, hair up or down, oh, and while you’re at it, what should I do with my life? But I sincerely appreciate my sister's input. There are few things more validating than when someone you love wants your opinion, when they care about your input into their lives.

It is one thing to say, “I want to hear what you have to say” or “I want to know what you think.” It is another thing to seek out your friend’s opinion, even in the little things.

3. Apologize. The graceful and honest apology is pretty much obsolete in our society, but it is so necessary for every good friendship. And once again, I have been guilty of tactless apologies or no apologies at all over and over again. But a sincere apology goes a long way, especially when you follow through with your actions. 

Remember that “saying sorry” is not necessarily an apology. I know a lot of people who say “sorry” as a way to simply explain their actions or words in the hope that I will be understanding and unoffended by them. But the reality is, when you do something wrong, are careless with your words, and hurt others, saying “sorry” does not amount to much and simply lowers you in my less-than-good-opinion of you.

Apologizing is admitting you are wrong. It is explicitly and humbly laying out everything you said that was wrong, everything you did that was wrong, and maybe anything that was not necessarily wrong but still careless and tactless. It is asking for forgiveness and recognizing that you don’t deserve it. And then it is pledging to do differently in the future, to the best of your ability.

4. Be a man or woman of your word. Don’t be careless with your words, promises, or apologies. If you want to be a good friend, don’t make promises you will not keep. Don’t apologize when you don’t intend to change. Be honest. Follow through with your actions. If you don’t want to do something, say you don’t want to do it. Don’t commit yourself to anything you will flake out of later. Make sure your word is a word that can be trusted.

Any and all of my friends can tell you that I fail on a regular basis to measure up to this standard, but it is something that I strive for, and a standard I am blessed to say so many of my friends exemplify. 

In what ways have you been blessed in your friendships, especially through the conversations and words you share with you friends? I would love any further input you have!! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

October Skies || Life Update 2K16

This week I decided it was time for a simple life update sort of blog post. This is really me being lazy since I have been exceptionally busy lately and have not had a lot of time to take photos or flesh out any of my ideas into good blog posts.

Excited for Autumn. Guys. I forgot how much I love this season. The cold can be bitter, glum, and gray, but it is perfect weather for drinking copious amounts of tea and being all cozy indoors while watching Netflix, playing piano, and reading books. The dreary skies makes me all nostalgic and a little sad and if there’s anything that makes me really happy it’s a good dose of sad nostalgia every once in a while. Not to mention I love the colors of this season—the understated gray-blues, black, grays, olive greens, rusty oranges, mustard yellows, and burgundy reds. And I can’t say enough about how thrilled I am to be wearing scarves, plaid, and boots again!!

The Holidays. Confession. I have already started playing Christmas music. I pulled out my favorite Christmas sheet music a couple weeks ago because I might as well brush up my favorite Christmas tunes and carols before Thanksgiving. I love the holidays and this year it looks like I have a little extra time to take off to spend with family, so I am definitely taking advantage of that. I just can't wait to pull the Christmas decorations out of the closet!

Engagements and wedding stuff. My sister got engaged this summer! As the maid-of-honor I will be helping with the bulk of all the detail-planning. My sister and her fiancée have already got quite a lot of the big-ticket items planned and underway and the rest of the planning and preparations won’t really start until January 2017, which isn’t that far off. Meanwhile, I will be making plans for where to live next summer.

School and studies. I have really been enjoying my studies this semester. I have been taking two classes since I am still working full-time, but it’s been a lot of fun and a little invigorating to have my intellectual muscles stretched ever-so-slightly. None of the classes I am taking right now are very strenuous, but it’s still nice to have my intelligence validated. I hope to go back to school full time next fall, Lord willing. But that depends on a number of things, so I will keep you all posted.

Sunday School. I’ve been teaching a Sunday School class for a couple years now, but recently I’ve found it particularly enjoyable. My church recently acquired a new curriculum and my little class has really loved it and benefited from it. Last week we learned about the ten plagues God sent as judgment on Egypt to free his people. We have also been working on memorizing Psalm 121. Last week as I was leaving our worship building, hauling my basket of teaching supplies, one of my little students called out, “Bye Dani! I can’t wait to find out what our Sunday School story is next week!” Needless to say, it’s so rewarding discovering these stories with these children.

Music. I am not teaching piano lessons this fall and while I miss my piano students, I have not missed playing the piano and am doing my best to stay in shape. On top of Christmas music, I have several beautiful piano arrangements of Joe Hisaishi’s music to play thanks to my sister Ruth. I also have been playing a lot of Scott Joplin. His concert waltz “Bethena” is one of my favorites.

Making room for change. Recently I went through my closet and discovered I have a multitude of formal dresses that I will probably never wear again. At my age I outgrow clothes more in personality rather than size (at least for now, haha).  I have never been a pack-rat and it always feels so good to get rid of stuff that I don’t use, better still to pass it along to someone who will put it to good use. Every now and then our lives need a little overhaul if only to create a little space in our lives and rediscover what’s really valuable to us.

Wisdom teeth surgery. Farewell to wisdom. And by wisdom I mean my wisdom teeth. I probably should have had them taken out a couple years ago, but they didn't start bothering me until this year. My surgery is coming up soon and so within a couple of weeks I will be wisdom-toothless. 

Thankful for family and friends. Every now and then I am overwhelmed with just how much love fills up my life, from my family, friends, my church family, and my community of friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. Last weekend I was home alone on a Sunday evening feeling a little bummed down. Most days I really like being by myself, but this was one of the rare days I felt lonely. Instead of calling someone like a normal person, I just sat in my apartment, because it’s hard to reach out to people when you feel depressed. That evening my dad called me. My mom and younger siblings were out of town and so my dad asked me if I wanted to get dinner with him. He ended up bringing over pizza and beer to my apartment and we had a good conversation over dinner. God's timing is perfect and my dad's timing is pretty on point too. 

My parents have especially amazed me this year in all the ways they have supported me. Our whole family has been blessed beyond measure through them. I mentioned to my siblings a couple weeks ago how we need to take another family picture soon. It’s been two years since we all posed in the fall foliage and so much has changed since then. We have acquired three new family members, for starters. My baby brother now towers over everyone else. And everyone overall seems so much more grown up. So much has changed for each and every one of us individually. There is a peace in our midst and a deep unity and affection between all of us. God has brought incredible healing and though there are still trials before us, I can see the beautiful refining handiwork of our Maker and I know he has strengthened and prepared us for whatever is ahead.

What are you up to this October autumn season? What are some of your favorite things about autumn? 

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Relationship With Jesus Means Commitment to His Church

When I was about thirteen years old I began going through a church membership study led by my pastor. I grew up in a Reformed church (specifically the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America) that emphasized the need for actual committed membership within the church and educated their attendees likewise. No one who took membership vows was ever ignorant of what they were promising and what the benefits of being a member entailed.

On my birthday that year, my dad took me out on a birthday date, just like he did every year. Having my father all to myself was a rare occurrence in my family and it still kind of is. I have seven siblings to contend with, so it was always a special occasion when I had him for a captive audience. He typically reserved this time, our birthday dates, to talk about more weighty subjects and this year we talked a lot about church membership and what it meant to be a part of the church.

My dad told me that he and my mother had two objectives for each of their children—to make us, by God’s grace and the help of the Holy Spirit, productive citizens of Christ’s Kingdom in whatever capacity, field, ministry, or life path that entailed. And second, to make us productive citizens of the United States.

We talked for a while about what that meant. Being a productive member of our country was pretty straightforward. It meant I couldn’t bum out in my parents’ house after graduating. I had to get a job, get some education, establish independence, and contribute to the economy and welfare of this nation. But what did it mean to be a part of Christ’s Kingdom? What did it mean to fulfill the Great Commission, make disciples, and be a disciple of Christ? It was then we lighted on the subject of church membership. My father asked me if this was something I felt I was ready to do, to make promises to this particular congregation, but more importantly to make promises to Christ.

Now, I want to clarify that what my father was putting into question was not my salvation. I knew and believed in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for my sin. I knew and believed I was his and he was mine. And I honestly cannot remember a moment in my life when I didn’t know this and believe it. But I had yet to make a public profession, yet to assert this faith for myself. I was virtually riding the skirt tails of my parents and their profession of faith, because that’s the nature of being born into a Christian God-fearing family. But at some point that faith and commitment had to become my own.

I knew claiming church membership would change my relationship with Christ which meant it would change my relationship with the church.

Many Christians prefer to compartmentalize their relationship with Jesus and their relationship or lack thereof with His church. In my mind, the two are one-and-the-same. If you don’t have a relationship with God’s people, if you aren’t living in fellowship and worship with his saints, if you aren’t building Christ’s kingdom side-by-side with your brothers and sisters in Christ, then your relationship with Jesus is inherently deficient.

Jesus Christ is not an autonomous person. He has fellowship with His Father, with the Holy Spirit, and with his family (Matthew 12:46-50). He has brothers and sisters and he relates to his family on his terms and expects you to do the same.

Receiving membership vows meant that not only was I making a public profession of faith, but I was making a public commitment to Jesus and his people. I was committing myself to their service, to love them, to hold them accountable, to pray with and for them, to fellowship and worship with them, to help supply whatever needs they might have with whatever resources I could supply. I know the phrase “church membership” can raise red flags in our brains. Some people assume my church is some sort of cult for exercising membership, but the fact of the matter is our vows are no secret.

Church membership is not some secret pass into a secret club. It is a public profession to the world and a public commitment to the church.

1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule for faith and life?

2. Do you believe in the one living and true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as revealed in the Scriptures?

3. Do you repent of your sin; confess your guilt and helplessness as a sinner against God; profess Jesus Christ, Son of God, as your Saviour and Lord; and dedicate yourself to His service: Do you promise that you will endeavor to forsake all sin, and to conform your life to His teaching and example?

4. Do you promise to submit in the Lord to the teaching and government of this church as being based upon the Scriptures and described in substance in the Constitution of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America? Do you recognize your responsibility to work with others in the church and do you promise to support and encourage them in their service to the Lord? In case you should need correction in doctrine or life, do you promise to respect the authority and discipline of the church?

5. To the end that you may grow in the Christian life, do you promise that you will diligently read the Bible, engage in private prayer, keep the Lord’s Day, regularly attend the worship services, observe the appointed sacraments, and give to the Lord’s work as He shall prosper you?

6. Do you purpose to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness in all the relationships of life, faithfully to perform your whole duty as a true servant of Jesus Christ, and seek to win others to Him?

7. Do you make this profession of faith and purpose in the presence of God, in humble reliance upon His grace, as you desire to give your account with joy at the Last Great Day?

If these vows seem radical to anyone, it is simply because commitment itself is a radical notion in our culture.

A relationship without commitment is not much of a relationship. Take a marriage, for instance. Have you ever been to a wedding where the bride and groom did not exchange vows? And have you ever seen a marriage thrive wherein both parties failed to keep themselves committed to their vows? The most important relationships in our lives take this kind of commitment. Why should our relationship with Jesus Christ be any different? 

Commitment is a commonly disregarded concept in our culture, even amidst Christians. We praise it in theory, but in reality we live our lives with one foot in the door and one foot out. We back out of friendships as soon as they get complicated. We prefer to ghost people and drop contact instead of reconciling and being honest. And we want to be able to back out of a church congregation just as easily.

Autonomy is easier and less messy than community. Given the state of the church and the state of men’s hearts, there are frequently and sadly justifiable reasons to leave a congregation and I am not exhorting anyone to remain in a church where there is abuse of power, ungodly leadership, and distortion of the Word of God or unrepentant sin that goes unaddressed. We should always test and judge our leaders against God's Word. 

There are plenty of legitimate circumstances when we sadly have to abandon congregations, but this does not mean we abandon the church. Because no matter how many corrupt bodies of believers there are out there, there will always be the faithful, because God is faithful to his people, and it is our responsibility to seek those faithful believers out.

If I claim to have a relationship with Jesus, I need to cultivate a relationship with his people, and if I want to really cultivate that relationship with his people, I need to be committed to them on Christ's terms and I need them to hold me to my commitments. Our relationship with the church is not an "open relationship". Jesus is not a fan of ambiguity and flakiness. 

The exciting news is that this commitment goes both ways. Just like any good relationship, the relationship we have with Christ's church is designed to be reciprocal. The promises I made to my fellow members are the same promises they have made to me. And the relationship we share as believers is founded on the grace and mercy of our Savior rather than the frailty and fickleness of man.

Church Leadership & Discipline: Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, Titus 3:10-11, Hebrews 13:7-9, 17-19

Church Fellowship: Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:24-25, 

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Days are Shining Happy || Music Video Announcement

I have some exciting news for you all! Those of you who follow me on Facebook have already heard this news. Earlier this spring my friend Nathan and I recorded our very first cover. Well, it was my first cover. And Nathan did most of the recording, honestly. You can check out some of his other music videos and projects at his YouTube channel Backyard Ukulele. Both of us have had pretty busy summers but Nathan finally got our cover fine-tuned and we were able to record a little music video in September. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

Both the cover and video are low-budget (or should I say no-budget haha). We were working with what we had on hand, but you never know, we might start a Patreon account someday soon and see if we can save some money for some high-tech equipment. We couldn’t have made this without the help of our friends Braydon and Hannah. The experience would have been far less fun without them. I can’t wait to share this with you all and will be sure to post it on my blog as soon as it’s been completed.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why I Decided to Go Back to School || Confessions of a College Drop-Out

Why I Quit

In the winter of 2013 I dropped out of college after my first semester of my sophomore year as a music ed student. I had little notion of going back to school at the time and I had no motivation to think about my future whatsoever. I wasn’t in a place emotionally where I could make those kinds of decisions, so I simply deferred it for a year or two. Many people somberly informed me that, “You know what they say about students who drop out of college...they never graduate.” And whenever I mentioned possibly going back to college, I mostly received negative cynicism as a response. But if I am honest, at the time I didn’t really want to go back to school. I didn’t really want to do anything. This begs the question, why did I drop out of college in the first place?

My brother Ben died in an accident when he was seventeen years old on December 6, 2013, the week before final exams. It’s not fair to attribute me dropping out of college entirely to my brother’s death, though it certainly had a lot to do with it. I was already dissatisfied with my major and considering taking a break before my brother died. That’s actually one of the last conversations I remember having with my brother, asking him what I should do next. I was already not in a good place emotionally. I was overextended, exhausted, depressed, and ready to be done with everything. When my brother died, whatever little resolve I had to keep on keeping on died with him and I just needed to get out, get away from everything.

My brother died the weekend before finals, the weekend we were supposed to go to a choir concert together. He missed the two finals for the classes he was concurrently enrolled in at the time. I wandered around campus the following week in a traumatized sort of daze, receiving nervous glances and spontaneous hugs and words of sympathy from students and faculty alike. I did my best to finish any remaining finals I had and to coordinate schedule changes and make-up times with my professors, but I didn’t really have a heart for any of it.

In hindsight, my decision to quit school was probably not the wisest. It’s not a good idea to make a big life change right after a traumatic loss. Moving was definitely hard for a lot of reasons and it proved more stressful than I imagined, but ultimately it was the best decision I could make at the time. It brought me closer to my family and gave me space to be alone and work through my grief while at the same time not be totally isolated.

Why I Decided to Go Back to School

It seems one bad experience with college should turn me off of it forever, right? For a while it did but slowly the idea was reintroduced to me and I began to reconsider it in a new light. My friends, family, boss, and coworkers began to ask me if I was interested in further education opportunities and possibly working toward filling in different positions at my job in the future. I had some time and saved money on my hands, so I began to think, why not? Opportunities started opening up and I began to explore different options. A lot of different programs piqued my interest, but I ultimately wanted a program that would open up even more opportunities instead of limit my qualifications to one specific field. I eventually landed on Mass Communications, a program that entails technical writing, speech, journalism, photography journalism, and all other forms of media, a good combination of creative fields applied pragmatically.

This fall I enrolled in two classes, an introductory class to the program and a gen ed computer class, nothing too strenuous, a nice way to start wading in the shallow waters of coursework once again. I was happy to see many of my music credits actually transferred into my Mass Comm degree and I have enough that I will probably end up double-majoring or minoring in music. Ultimately I was surprised at how easy it was to go back to school. For some reason I had built up this huge mental block—maybe because of the statistics, the stigma surrounding college dropouts? I don’t know. But in a couple days, I had completed my application, enrolled for classes, retrieved my student ID and parking permit and—boom!—I was a college student all over again.

But wait....why?

The short answer? Because I want to. I have given it a lot of deliberation, trust me, about two and a half years' worth of deliberation. 

It was hard for me to get past all the negativity aimed toward college drop-outs. And I believe this is why it’s difficult for so many people to go back to school once they have dropped out, because going back is like admitting you were wrong in the first place. It's a blow to our pride (I wonder how many of our decisions and opinions are solely based on personal pride?) The thing is there’s nothing wrong with dropping out of college. There’s nothing wrong with foregoing college altogether. So many people who never went to college have successful careers and businesses. In fact, skipping college altogether is often the smarter option these days as it means avoiding years and years of tuition debt (I have yet to accumulate any, praise God!) and nothing but a degree that is becoming increasingly less valuable to show for it. A college degree does not necessarily guarantee success or even intelligence. Ultimately, whether you succeed or fail in life simply depends on how you use whatever gifts and qualifications you have (and how you define success in the first place). 

But you know what would be wrong? Blaming “college” for the fact that I decided to drop out of college and suddenly pretend that I’m too good for a college education. Because even though I dropped out of college, I still learned a lot during those two years and I wouldn’t be the person I am today if not for everything I learned then. It is one thing to say college is something I don’t want to do and that it’s not for me. It’s an entirely other (and overly reactionary) thing for me to vilify it simply because I personally had a bad experience. Any intelligent person can see the institution of higher education for all its advantages and disadvantages apart from their emotional bias.

Before I was ready to go back to school, I had to remember that ultimately this doesn’t define me. My possession of a college degree or lack thereof doesn’t define me, my worth, or even my success. My take on life might seem a little flighty to some, but I’m still not dead-set on acquiring a college degree. This is the opportunity I have right now and I’ll follow through with it and learn what I can until the door closes, but it’s not a make-or-break situation for me and when I view it more openly, somehow I find myself even more motivated to move forward. After all, it’s not about the end result as much as it is about what we learn along the way.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...