Nothing Under The Tree

I used to vomit every Christmas morning.

The excitement of all the day held was just too much for my tiny little tummy! There was nothing about Christmas that I did not like. I would toss and turn all night, wondering when Santa would appear and what he would bring. To entertain myself on the long sleepless night I would take books, toys, a flashlight, and an hourly countdown to bed with me. When Dad finally came to tell us it was okay to wake up my adrenaline would surge and the vomiting would begin! The site and smell of the beautifully lit tree as we ran down the stairs, all of the presents spewing into the next room! I don’t know what was more exciting for me, watching Laura open my presents (as I hovered over my vomit filled pail) or watching in anticipation as my family opened the gifts I purchased them with my pennies and nickels. After the presents were open we would eat a quick breakfast (if my stomach could handle it) and pack up our bags to head to Buffalo. One would think that at this point I would begin to calm down, but the trip to Buffalo was perhaps even more exciting than the presents under the tree. All snuggled in the car, surrounded by my newest possessions and treasures, my stomach would continue to churn with excitement!

I have never experienced disappointment on Christmas. Without fail, for 26 years, that tree has continued to produce a plethora of gifts and surprises underneath. And I have always been surrounded by my family and friends. Imagine what it would be like to wake up Christmas morning to find nothing under the tree. After a sleepless night of anticipation you run downstairs, straight to the tree, to find . . . nothing. It is a sight that would sadden any Christmas enthusiasts heart – young or old.

While wasting my time on Facebook yesterday I found this post on a friends wall:

“Americans spend 450 billion dollars a year on Christmas. To educate, feed, and get clean water to all the children in the world it would only take 46 billion. Which leaves 404 billion left over to spend on Christmas just in the US…as if we need that anyway.”

Now THAT makes me want to vomit!

People all over the world are hungry and dying, not because there simply aren’t enough resources (money, food, etc.), but because instead of blessing others with our wealth we are blessing ourselves. The meal or vaccination or education that could save a child is instead a game boy, sweater, or DVD under our trees.

Since touring with the choir, I can’t imagine a more amazing sight! The idea of every tree in America being bare of gifts on Christmas morning makes me so excited I could, well . . . vomit. Most of us look at that quote and see numbers and statistics. I read that quote and see the faces of 23 beautiful children. Flip through the pages of this site, look at the pictures and read the stories. The faces shown on the pages of this site are the faces of 23 children who benefitted from those who chose to put the needs of the poor before their own. As someone who loves those children dearly, I am forever grateful to those who chose to give instead of hoard.

Will your Christmas be a day of selfishness and hoarding? Worldly posessions wrapped neatly beneath the tree, disguised as love? Or will your Christmas be one of giving? An empty tree that truly celebrates the actual reason for the holiday – the Son of God who came to give everything He had to those who needed it most?

To give to the African Children’s Choir please visit: www.africanchildrenschoir.com

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November 23, 2010 at 5:41 pm 1 comment

ACC in the News

ACC in Vermont – performing for the Vermont Children’s Hospital.

May 7, 2010 at 8:34 pm Leave a comment

A Visit With Some Old Friends

It has been months since I left tour to come home and jump into the next chapter of this crazy saga we simply title ‘life.’ Since then much has happened, I played Marian in The Music Man at The Palace Theatre and will soon be playing Eliza in My Fair Lady. God has shown Himself faithful in my decision and confirmed over and over that I made the right decision. I couldn’t be happier with the path that I am on . . . yet I miss the children.

They have been in and out of Ohio several times in the past few months and I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit them twice since leaving tour! Both of my visits were wonderful and I have been so impressed with how they are growing and changing!

When I arrived for my first visit in Lebanon, Ohio no one knew I was coming except for Michelle. The kids were nicely lined up by the bus when I popped my head outside the church and said “Hi Children!” A majority of them ran to me and hugged me so excitedly that I was fighting to stay on my feet. Some of the screamed and some of them jumped up and down. But there were a few reactions I was not expecting. A handful of them froze where they were, their mouths hanging open as they just stared and cried. And after a few minutes of greeting me, many of them ran back into the bus, coming out with envelopes and folded up letters. I turned to Michelle, “I thought it was a surprise that I was coming!” She said, “It was, they have been writing those letters since the day you left!”

I couldn’t believe it, so many letters written to me, and – they had held on to them for so long! I brought them home and put them on top of a manila envelope full of the letters from them, most of them from the day I left. I haven’t read a single one. I just don’t have the heart. I hope to read them soon though, that will be a post all of it’s own.

This is a photo from my second trip. During my first visit Nancy pulled a hair from my head saying, “it’s how I will remember you.” I told her she better remember me without that silly strand of hair. She put the hair under her headband and let it hang in her face. When I came back weeks later for my second visit she laugh giggled as she hugged me and pulled out an orange post-it. “What is that?” I asked. She was laughing so hard she couldn’t speak, but she held the hair up for me to see. She had held on to it for weeks!

Brian, the child I sponsor, is growing like a weed! He has grown at least a few inches since I left tour. During my first visit the children kept talking about the day I left. Everyone kept saying, “Auntie, I went to bed with a wet pillow.” (from crying so much) And one of them told me, “Auntie, the day you left we missed you so much. So much that Auntie called for seconds at dinner and no one went!” Sad, but hilarious. “Not even Brian?!” I asked. “Not even Brian.” (Brian ALWAYS goes for seconds!) Nancy eventually ended the talk of ‘the day I left’ by saying, “You people be quiet, I don’t want to talk baout the saddest day on tour anymore!” Thanks Nancy!

It was wonderful to see the children, and I hope to see them again before they leave.

Oh, and hey – speaking of leaving – when the children head back to Africa the organization sends them home with a suitecase full of clothes, sheets, school supplies, etc for them to take to boarding school back in Africa! Awesome, huh? They find people to sponsor each suitecase, you get a list of what that specific child needs, purchase it all, and send it off to them! I am doing one myself and I can’t wait to go shopping for it! If you are interested in providing a suitecase (the whole project is projected to cost $700/case) you can contact me for more details!

Until next time . . .

April 22, 2010 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment

Last Few Days

My last day with Choir 34 is tomorrow, Tuesday, December 22nd. I will return home and attempt to transition myself back into the ‘real world.’ Our last concert for the year was canceled, so we have been at Mirembe House for the past few days. It has been nice to be at our home-away-from-home and just spend time with the kids. This video contains some clips from the talent show (aka Special) we had the other night – enjoy!

December 21, 2009 at 7:04 pm Leave a comment

Host Family Fun

While in New Hope, PA I stayed with a host family that was very outgoing, we stayed with them for less than 24 hours, but in that time I laughed more than I have all tour. Their family reminded me a lot of my own and they had two girls my age, which was fun. Jane, Mary, Stella and I enjoyed their company as they taught the girls magic tricks and included us in their family Christmas festivities, it was all around a good time.

Tonight I am in some other town in PA (I can’t remember the name of it), and we are staying with a lovely married couple. For those of you who have not met them, Brian and Benard are perhaps the most difficult children in the choir to communicate with. And yes, I have both of them with me tonight. We had fun playing pool in the basement as we were waiting for dinner. I had to get Benard’s pool skills on film to share with all of you, they are quite funny.

My favorite part is when Brian says, “Benard, look at it!” At least he has the cool man stance down.

Uncle had many problems understanding them on the ride home, which is understandable, and also funny. Here are two of the quotes from tonight.

Benard: Uncle, what is your favorite color? (He says it very fast).

Uncle: I’m sorry, what did you say?

Me: He asked what your favorite color is.

Uncle: (looks at me amazed) You can speak their native languages?!?

Me: Believe it or not, that was actually English.

AND . . .

Brian: We sang with Alicia Keys!

Uncle: You can also speak Chinese?!! Wow, you kids are amazing!

December 12, 2009 at 9:54 pm 4 comments

The Funny Things They Say

After eating an Oreo . . .

Me: Are my teeth clean?

Rebecca and Kennedy: No. They are yellow.

___

While walking down the hallway, Stella asked me, “Auntie, were you there when Jesus was born?

___

Me: Alrighty boys, put your laundry in this basket.

Gideon: Auntie, this basket will be full with just my laundry, you will see!

___

Me: Benard, please say the prayer (for bedtime).

Benard says a prayer for bedtime.

Gideon: (when the prayer has ended he looks up, his eyebrows furrowed) Ahhh, Auntie I didn’t understand any of that!

___

Rachel is sitting on a bench, she looks at how I have my legs crossed while I am sitting and does hers the same way. She says, “If I sit like this I will be like a big person!”

___

“America is MY country!”  -Brian

___

Some of the children were going to the dentist for a checkup and fillings. Gideon was unsure of what happens at the dentist, he asked me, “After they take all of the teeth out and check them for holes will they put them back?”

___

Looking at a box of ‘Oh’s’ cereal Kato reads from the box, “good things in the middle . . . ?” He gives me a look that says he doesn’t quite understand what that means. I tell him to taste one and see if he agrees with the box, he tastes one. I say to him, “well, did it taste like good things in the middle?” He said, “Yes Auntie, I think it is CHICKEN!!!”

___

Nancy: Auntie, let me see your socks!

Me: No, they stink.

Nancy: No Auntie, I don’t believe you! You are princess, princesses don’t stink!

___

Racheal and I were sharing an arm chair in the lobby of a hotel one morning, waiting for the bus to pull around so we could move on to our next destination.

Me: So, Racheal, did you sleep well?

Racheal:(very dramtically) Auntie, when we go to bed late and then sleep in past nine or ten, I just feel weak.

Me: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.

Racheal: I just want to be in the city today.

Me: What does that mean?

Racheal: You know, I just want to stay in this city (DC) and chill. I just want to be chilling in the city.

___

While getting settled on the bus . . .

Michelle: Is Kirstin here?

Me: (from the back of the bus) PRESENT!!

Evanson: (turns around in his chair to face me) Auntie, that is very bad English. Present is past tense.

Me: No Evanson, present is present tense.

___

I was moving around the bus on a long trip, sitting with different kids. I sat with Kennedy and we had a long conversation about God and how he works. At the end of the conversation he was very quiet, the wheels still turning, he looks at me and says, “I was just telling Uncle Mathew that when I see God I just have one question, but now I have many.”

___

While eating dinner at a church we were served large glasses of water. When they were set in front of us John said, “Be careful Auntie, those large cups can be dangerous!” (He means I will have to use the restroom a lot).

___

The choir was having a continental breakfast one morning in our hotel. The tables were large and circular, with fancy table cloths on them. I look over while we are eating to see Nancy has moved from her chair and is doing something under the table. I asked her, “Nancy, what are you doing?” She replied, “Nothing Auntie!” she quickly gets back into her chair and we finish our meal. When Nancy, Stella, and I were in the elevator after breakfast, heading to our room Nancy pulled a pair of undies out of her sweatshirt pocket and says, “Auntie, this is what I was doing under the table. I looked down during breakfast and saw that they were on the floor next to me!! I think they were stuck in my pant leg and fell out!”

December 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm 5 comments

A Decision is Made


For those of you that really know me, you know how awful I am at making big decisions. I have this special ability to see every angle and ‘what if’ that could possibly come into play and can spend days agonizing over a pros and cons list. I am obsessed with making the right choice.

I was presented with a very big decision a few weeks ago, and I am happy to announce that I have made a that decision! And, for the first time in a very long time, I feel very confident about the choice I have made.

I have decided to leave tour.

Whoa! Shocking — I know. I am shocked myself. To say that I enjoy being with the children of Choir 34 is an absolute understatement. I love them so much, in many ways they feel like my own children. I’m sure that it is obvious how difficult this particular decision was to make. When I joined The African Children’s Choir I joined with the intention of sticking with them for years, with the idea that this would be a major part of my life for a very long time. But it seems that God had something else in mind . . .

Being on tour is totally different from the daily lives we are used to. Every few days you are in a different city or state surrounded by a different community and a different set of circumstances. It is pretty much impossible to hang on to old habits and patterns from your previous life. It is a very refreshing aspect of tour life. It has been a constant prayer of mine that while on tour the Lord would change me for the better and help me to recognize why I so easily get caught up in making decisions, particularly when it comes to choosing a career path.

In October I began working through Beth Moore’s study of David. It has been one of those experiences where each days devotion was exactly what I needed to hear — I love it when that happens! As I worked through the book and journaled about the discussion questions I was slowly able to step back and recognize some patterns in my life. I began to see pieces of me that I might not have ever noticed in the daily grind of my life before tour.

About two weeks ago the topic for the day was “Getting Specific” when it comes to God’s will. Something I clearly needed to hear. Moore was teaching about David’s path to becoming king. He knew that he was to become king and he was well on his way to getting there, but he didn’t just want to end up on the throne. He wanted every single step that led to the throne to be the exact path that God had intended for him. He didn’t want to get there his own way, he wanted to get there God’s way. David knew that the path to the end result is just as important as the end result itself.

For the past four years, since graduating from college, I have been searching for God’s specific will for my life. Convinced that I could never make it as a performer, I began searching for other options. Maybe I would be a good high school theatre director, or worship leader, or maybe a music teacher, etc, etc. This pursuit was part of my interest in joining ACC. But while journaling about the discussion questions for “Getting Specific” I began to realize the mistakes I had made. I journaled for two hours, peeling back layer after layer of mistakes and lies.

I came to the realization that for four years I had allowed two lies to lead me down the wrong path. The first being that I could never make it as a performer and the second being that God’s will and my desires surely would never match up. This lack of trust in God’s ability to make anything happen and the idea that God is a big meanie and His will for my life must be something I wouldn’t be 100% interested in, dominated my decision-making for years. I knew all along what I wanted to do, which choice I wanted to make, but was so convinced that if I wanted to choose God’s will for my life I had to do the opposite of what I truly desired.

Pastor Mike once gave a sermon on becoming what you were made to be. He used the idea of an apple tree trying to produce oranges. It will never be able to produce oranges, no matter how hard it tries. It was made to produce apples, and apples were the only fruit that the tree would ever bear. There I was, three months into tour, sitting in a nursery rocking chair, and realizing that I had spent four years trying to become something I’m not. No wonder it was so frustrating! And the decision presented itself, ‘what do I do now?’ My options were to leave ACC and return to theatre now or to honor my commitment of touring for a year and return to that path after my time with the ACC, trusting that God would make it all right in the end.

So I did what David did, I present the problem and asked God what his specific will was in this situation. I knew the end result was to get back into theatre, but which steps did God want me to take to get there? I prayed about it and asked God to be crystal clear in His response, because making decisions is not my forte! What I received was nothing short of amazing . . .

Shortly before we left the church with our host families that night I received an email from my Mom saying that our Thursday night concert in PA was canceled, and we would be going to Ohio a few days early! Later that night I received an email from the director of a show taking place in Columbus this winter. She was letting me know that I had missed the original auditions, but if I happened to be in Central Ohio on Thursday night she would love for me to come to callbacks! I was so thankful for how clearly – and how quickly – God was making this decision! I attended the callback and a few days later was cast as Marian Paroo in the Music Man at the Palace Theatre in Columbus!

My time touring with Choir 34 will end at Christmastime. I can’t tell you how awful I feel for leaving tour and breaking my commitment. I will miss those kids so much and feel terrible for any difficulties I am causing by leaving the team short-staffed. Despite how clear God has made this decision, it is still difficult to not have doubts, the last thing I wanted was to let ACC down. But, I asked for wisdom in this situation and feel that God was very obvious in answering the prayer. To decide not to take the role would be to doubt God’s wisdom (James 1:5-8).

I don’t think that I stumbled on the path of ACC by accident. God knew that this was exactly what I needed to be able to break a bad cycle. I am grateful for every minute I have spent with these kids, and will continue to support the choir as much as possible, just in different ways. I hope that you will continue to support and follow them as well! I am overwhelmed with all that has happened in these few short weeks, but am so thankful for a God that won’t give up on ridiculous people like me! Please pray for my transition from tour life back into theatre, it is sure to be a difficult goodbye.

November 29, 2009 at 2:25 pm 4 comments

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