Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hiding Place (Hail Sovreign Love)

Hiding Place (Hail Sovreign Love)
- Kondo Simfukwe and Jehoida Brewer

Hail Sovereign Love that first began;
The scheme to rescue fallen man.
Hail matchless free eternal grace,
that gave my soul a hiding place.

Against the God who ruled the sky,
I fought with hand uplifted high,
Despised the mention of His grace,
Too proud to seek a hiding place.

Then you came and saved me
Your love made me alive. Alive!
It's Your blood that shades me
Grace awakes me to life. Alive!
You are my hiding place.

Enwrapped in thick Egyptian night,
and fond of darkness more than light,
Madly I ran the sinful race,
Secure without a hiding place.

But then th'eternal counsel ran,
"Almighty Love, arrest that man!"
I felt that arrows of distress,
And found I had no hiding place.

Then you came and saved me
Your love made me alive. Alive!
It's Your blood that shades me
Grace awakes me to life. Alive!
You are my hiding place.

Indignant justice stood in view,
To Sinai's fiery mount I flew,
But justice cried with frowning face,
"This Mountain is no hiding place!"

But then a heavenly voice I heard,
And Mercy's angel for appeared.
Who led on with gentle pace
To Jesus Christ, my hiding place.

Then you came and saved me
Your love made me alive. Alive!
It's Your blood that shades me
Grace awakes me to life. Alive!
You are my hiding place

I will hide in You.

Hide me

I don't know exactly what it is about the post christmas season, but I just don't like it. I never feel comfortable at this time of year. I suppose it has to do with all of the reflecting on a year gone by and the uncertainty of what is ahead. It should be a hopeful time, as I look forward to a new year but it never is. This year in particular I find myself wanting to just hide.

Hiding seems to be something that I want to do a lot lately. This past year I spent a lot of time trying to hide. I tried to hide from hurt, from pain and from discomfort. I tried hiding from challenges, from responsibility, from truth, from people . . .and even from God.

Is it wrong to hide or to want to hide?

I remember when I was a little girl, there was something safe about hiding. I remember often finding a small hiding place like a closet or a hidden cove in a corner somewhere, away from everything and curling up there for hours comforted by the stillness and saftey that it brought.

I was reading through the psalms in the Message this afternoon and stopped at Psalm 31 when David says: "I want to Hide in You"

I think that perhaps this new year will be a year of actual hiding for me. I can't hide from life, but I can certainly hide in my God and be comforted by the stillness and safety that only the Hiding Place of hope, grace, mercy and love can provide.

Friday, December 28, 2007


I finally put together my ikea bookshelf today after months of putting it off. As I was organizing my books I realized that I own 13 copies of the Bible!! Of course there are several different versions, translations and interpretations in the collection including my french Bible and the audio NIV version. Some I bought on my own, and others were gifts. Wow I didn't realize that I had accumulated so many. I have made use of them all at some point over the years, some more than others. In the past few years I've found myself using Bible gateway rather than referring to my bibles though .
It made me think of those around the world who don't even have one copy of the bible. You'd think that someone who owns all those bibles would know God's word inside out, but I don't . . . I'm not even close. You'd think that someone who owns all those bibles would only read the bible and would constantly be trying to devour every word - I try, but find myself distracted so often. You'd think that someone who owns 13 bibles would have been thankful for having the freedom to own one bible let alone many before today.
I'm glad that my bibles are now very visible on my new bookshelf, hopefully seeing them all everyday will inspire me.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Wedding

Yesterday I had had the great pleasure of witnessing the most beautiful of weddings. Rachel and Mark were so in love and the joy that they radiated was so contagious. The wedding was such an amazing reflection of Christ's love for His bride.
It was truly an inspiring day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pink Poinsettias

My grandma loved poinsettias. She liked all the colours but I remember her telling me when I was young that she was particularly fond of the pink ones. After that I always bought her a pot of pink poinsettias for her birthday, it became my special tradition. She always knew what I'd be giving her, but she would still act surprised. She would sit and genuinely admire them as though they were the most beautiful flowers she had ever seen. She would diligently care for the plant all throughout the Christmas season and even sometimes would keep it the entire year and see if it bloomed the following Christmas season. I just couldn't help but stop today to pick up a pot of pink pointsettias. These ones are particularly beautiful, Motc surely would have thought that they were the most beautiful poinsettias she had ever seen. I miss her a whole lot, especially today.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Diva, what's your beef today?

Tenors with ginormous sized egos.
need I say more?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Smiling's my favourite!!

I just love love love this movie, and I seem to love it more and more every year!!!
It just makes me smile and feel all Christmasy inside.
I had my first viewing of the season tonight and I'm thinking that
Perhaps it's time to pull out the maple syrup, pasta, marshmallows, m&m's, and crumbled up poptarts and have another Elf party!!!!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Yaaaay Kindermusik!!

Yesterday I had one of those "this is worth it just for this!!" moments during my Kindermusik teacher training. I was just sitting in observing one of the 3-5 yr classes and one of the little ones really seemed to take a liking to me. Which was surprising because I really didn't say or do much. This little boy doesn't speak English very well as he's new to Canada so I helped to re-direct him a few times, and helped him do a few of the activities, but that was it. At the end of the class when the parents came in, he kept talking to his mother in Spanish saying something about "casa" which I know means home, so I said to him "Are you ready to go home?" his mother looked at me and told me that he is saying,"Can we take her (meaning me) home with us?" I smiled and told him that I have to stay and teach the other children, but on his way out he grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the classroom. I took him to the waiting room, told him I'd see him next week and waved bye bye. He resisted, but his Mom took over so I went back to the classroom. A few minutes later he came running back into the room and grabbed my hand again asking me to come home with him. His Mom was so embarrassed and took him out kicking and screaming. How could one not feel special after something like that? I know that he was upset, but it really melted my heart.
There's just something about young children that makes them so special. They are on the most part non judgemental and really willing to try anything. And their reaction to new experiences is just so refreshing!! I have a feeling that I'm going to have many Kindermusik stories to share as I teach, and that all of those little ones will leave strong impressions on my heart, just like that little boy did yesterday.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

eyeliner is apparently very important for a singer!

Over the years I've learned that as a performer I simply volunteer myself for all sorts of criticism. As a singer I've heard many honest critiques about my performances, mostly having nothing to do with my singing. Most have to do with things like my wardrobe, that way I stand, or show my teeth or close my eyes. It amazes me, the things that people will notice!! After my performance today I was told by an audience member that I need to underline my bottom lash line with liner. I had just finished singing my heart out and the most important thing that this lady had to say was that I need to put eyeliner under my eye! The hardest part is knowing how to respond to the unwanted makeup tips. I usually just smile and try not to look shocked by the fact that something like that would concern someone so much. I have to say though that those kind of comments really make all the time and money spent pounding notes and refining my vocal technique so worth it!! :)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Cake

Yesterday we celebrated the 30th anniversary of Achilles Mazda. I had the pleasure of experiencing the celebration from my 2 year old niece's perspective.

And let me tell you, for Julia it was all about the Biiiiiiiiiig Cake!! For an hour and a half all I heard about was the cake. Every conversation would somehow lead back to the cake. During all the meetings and greetings, and even during the speeches from the big wigs at Mazda Canada the only thing that was important was the big blue and white sugar loaded, chocolate imploded, creamy, melt in your mouth cake!!
Me: Julia, let's go see YiaYia and Papu. (a.k.a Julia's grandparent's)
No Auntie, Let's go see the cake!!

Say "Hi" to Mrs. Blackie, Julia.
Whoa look at the cake. It's BIIIIIIIG!!!

Julia, aren't the Balloon's pretty
Yes Auntie, but cake is my favourite!!!

Let's eat some cheese, bread and carrots.
Nooooooooo Auntie I want the cake.

Julia, are you done eating?
Julia: No, I still need cake.
When it was finally time to cut the cake the excitement was truly overwhelming!!!
(If you look closely you can see Julia in the mirror having a freak out over the cake)
And Boy oh Boy was that cake ever worth the wait!!
Ahhhhhhh, Cake!!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Never Let Go

(Photo: MasterWorks Festival '06)

David Crowder Band
from Remedy

When clouds veil sun
And disaster comes
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul

When waters rise
and hope takes flight
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul

Ever faithful
Ever true
You I know
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go

When clouds brought rain
And disaster came
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul

When waters rose
And hope had flown
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul

Ever faithful
Ever true
You I know
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go

Oh, my soul
Oh, what love,
oh, what love
Oh, my soul
Fills with hope
Perfect love that never lets go

You never let go
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go

Oh, what love,
Oh what love,
In joy and pain
In sun and rain
You're the same
Oh, You never let go

Sunday, November 11, 2007

November Uprooting

It's November. For some reason, November has traditionally been a personal crisis month in my life, something big tends to happen that uproots my pattern of thinking and tests my faith. This year is no exception. I'm struggling to keep faith and hope. I keep reflecting though on my November from last year. It was last year at this time that after a frustrating wait I was finally able to move to Indiana. As I think about all that I experienced during that year there's only one thing that I know for sure - He never left my side. I have to struggle daily to remember, because there seems to be so much blurring that blessed reality. When I do think about all that He is and has been to me, I have hope that my faith can and will be restored.
How Sweet the name of Jesus Sounds
- John Newton

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer's ear
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds
and wipes away his fear.

Dear name, the rock on which I build
my Shield and Hiding place
My never failing treasury filled
with boundless stores of grace.

Jesus, my Shepherd, Brother, Friend,
my Prophet, Priest and King
my Lord, my Life, my Way, my end
accept the praise I bring.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

On Being an Artist

Sometimes when someone who isn't an artist finds out that I am an opera singer they react as though I live such a glamourous life. I think that because the performing arts tend to have a sense of fantasy associated with it that it's easy to assume that the artists on stage live glamourous lives off stage too. I have to say that my pursuit of a career in the performing arts has been far from glamourous and I'm beginning to realize that if I'm going to do this for the rest of my life I'm in for a tough battle. There is nothing glamourous about it!! It feels like a constant struggle. Even as I begin to find more constant work, there's no sense of stability or security; there's no money; and there's no promise for the future. And as I continue to meet more and more aritsts who have been working in the field for years and years I'm realizing that the sense of instability never really goes away. Lately I've found myself wishing that I didn't choose this life. If only I could just settle for something else, some other career path that at least provides the illusion of security and stability. I know though from experience that for me that kind of life would be miserable and boring. In essence if I chose something else I'd be going against the grain and fighting the Creator who created me to be an artist. It's tempting to want to just settle for another life though.

The lil' Diva is 2!

Yesterday the little Diva turned 2! I can't believe how fast the time has flown by and how much Julia has changed and grown.
Being an Auntie really is the greatest thing ever!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Le Tour d'Hydro

Today as we were driving by a hydro tower just outside of Acton, my 2 year old niece suddenly piped up in the back seat and yelled in an excited toddler scream, "Look Mommy, it's the Eiffel Tower!!!" . . . How cute is that? My sister tells me that Julia learned all about the Eiffel Tower in an episode of Little Einsteins, which happens to be her favourite show. I promised Julia today that when she's old enough I'll take her to see the real Eiffel tower in Paris, France. In the mean time, Julia is teaching me to appreciate the fine architecture of Le Tour d'Hydro:)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Goose, and hummingbird, and robin, and bald eagle, and songbird, and whooping crane and monarch butterfly report

A few weeks ago I signed up with a special website to get a weekly monarch migration e-mail. It's a little geeky, but I'm truly fascinated by the Monarch butterfly. Apparently the people assumed that just because I'm fascinated by Monarch migration patterns, naturally I 'd be interested in the migration pattern of every migrating creature on planet earth. I've been receiving a plethora of migration reports. I get updates on the migration journey's of my buds the Canadian geese, (they're probably heading to Winona Lake right now and will stick around until the lake freezes over, I don't need a migration report to tell me that:) hummingbirds, American Robins, Bald Eagle's, songbirds and the whooping crane. I still haven't figured out what the heck a whooping crane is!! But if you have any desire to know how their migrating is going, I can tell you cause I am officially THEE migration expert:)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

All We Have

One thing that I really really miss about Winona Lake is the musical worship at the church I was attending while living there. I was always so astounded by the amount of talented musicians that played on the wide variety of worship teams there. It was such a small town, yet there was an amazing abundance of truly gifted musicians. And the music was chosen with such a sensitivity and leading of the spirit. When worshipping there, I would usually experience such a depth and intimacy in the musical worship, nothing like I've experienced before. Compared to other worship experiences I've had, I felt as though there was a rare maturity about it all. A lot of the songs were written by the worship pastor, Kondo Simfukwe, who in my mind stands equivalent to the great hymn writers of the old days. A modern day psalmist for sure. His worship songs are clearly soaked in a tremendous understanding of God's word, the music has a beautiful way of highlighting the lyrics, and simply turns the heart toward the God of the universe. In his songs there is generally very little focus on self, and the focus is directed on the character of God. All of the songs chosen for Sunday carried the same characteristics. I purchased a CD from the church before I left and it has been a great reminder of how my understanding of deep meaningful worship changed during my season in Indiana.
A new CD called All We Have has just been released. It contains many of Kondo's songs and was recorded in Nashville. It's being distributed to local Christian radio in the US as we speak. The music is truly a unique gift to contemporary worship, I pray that it becomes well known throughout the world. It's the kind of music that definitely inspires growth and contemplation. It guides us into the awe and wonder that turns the focus from ourselves and points our hearts towards the God of the universe.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Awkward Interactions

One thing I've been experiencing a lot lately are those strange reunion type interactions where nothing is spoken, but there's a lot said. I'll walk past an old school colleague or even teacher in the hall at work; people who I used to talk with or work with and I'll wait for the other person to say something. A panicked "I don't know what to say" look is given, but nothing is said. Perhaps my staring them down waiting for them to say something doesn't help:) Sometimes I think they are trying to remember where they know me from. Other times I know they know me, but we'll head off in opposite directions nonetheless. Or yesterday for example I was briefly in the same room with several people I used to label as "friends". Most of those people clearly saw me, they even looked me right in the eyes, but didn't bother making a point of acknowledging me with even a simple "Hi".
I suppose I'm realizing that in the past I've always been the one to automatically try to erase the awkwardness by saying something, but these days I find myself in no mood to have meaningless conversations especially with people who are clearly uncomfortable. I guess I'm realizing that I want nothing to do with organized superficial interactions, there's really no depth or truth to any of it. It's so easy to be fooled into believing that there is some meaning there. I used to think that my acknowledgment of others despite an awkwardness made a difference. I'm beginning to see that it never did.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Post Secret

This is my new favourite blog. It's called Post Secret,
It's an ongoing art project where people anonymously send in their deep dark secrets on a hand made post card. My Winona Lake roommate, Molly, got the original coffee table book for her birthday back in February and we sat and read through it. We were amazed by the secrets that people had. They were really eyeopening. There's something really sad about a lot of the post cards, but there's a beauty about them too. Those post cards give real insight into humanity. The pain, the joy, the confusion, the warped sense of what is truly important in this life. What really gets me is that any of those anonymous post card writers could very well be my best friend, co worker, acquaintance, mother, father, or sister and I wouldn't even know it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Geico Cabbage Patch Kid

How adorable is this commercial!! Ahhh 1983, I'll never forget that Christmas when Santa brought Diana Rose McNeil into my life. It's hard to think of her as an adult like Ben Winkler, but I suppose she'd be 24 today. Wow how time flies, now I feel old. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's Monarch Time!!!

I love Monarch migration season!! There's nothing like driving down the Gardiner expressway and seeing dozens of orange and black butterflies fluttering about as they make their long journeys south. It will take those Butterflies months to reach Mexico. I've seen so many this week as I've made my way into work, and I can't help but smile every time. There's something so hopeful about seeing those delicate creatures so determined to accomplish their goals. It makes me think, 'Wow! if such a small creature can strive to reach such an enormous goal, I surely can go for my goals.' How amazing is it that God would use something so small to teach such enormous life lessons.
Just keep going and as you strive, your God given beauty will shine and
He will be glorified.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

being home

I've been home for 6 weeks now, and I'm still in reverse culture shock. Ok it's not exactly "culture" shock, but it's shock of some sort. I just don't think that the new me knows exactly how to function in this familiar environment. I was so different a year ago. The new me just won't fit into the mold that was the old me. Being home has been odd and uncomfortable. Perhaps I'm just not comfortable with who I've become as I'm surrounded by so many reminders of the "old" me. I feel like a stranded puzzle piece that's constantly trying to fit herself into the wrong puzzle.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Little Miss Plump

When I was a kid I used to read the Little Miss series. One of my favourites was little Miss Plump. She was a Miss who ate a lot and was rather greedy. The other day I was looking for my old Little Miss Books and found most of them except Little Miss Plump. I decided that I'd buy myself another copy just for reminiscing purposes. I can't believe that Little Miss Plump no longer exists, now she's "Little Miss Greedy". I suppose it's politically incorrect to call her Plump, but hey it's better than Little Miss Fat-so. Little Miss Greedy is so boring and clearly put on her by some self-righteous publisher. I don't think that calling someone "plump" is politically incorrect at all. As a matter of fact I like to refer to myself as a little plump. Little Miss Greedy will always be Little Miss Plump to me. No worries "Little Miss Greedy" I like you for who you are, plumpness and all!!!!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ending my American Addictions

Tonight I finished the final diet Wild Cherry Pepsi from the case that I smuggled into the country last month. As I savoured my last sip I felt a twinge of sadness, but at the same time I was pretty relieved too. I got totally addicted to this stuff while in Indiana. I knew that it wasn't good for me, but it was so nice to finally have real diet cherry cola. That diet vanilla cherry stuff that they sell here tastes like cough syrup. I usually had one a day while in Indiana and it provided a sweet zero calorie oasis of joy for me for 7 months. I'll be ok though, I know that there are more pleasures in life than the sweet burst of fake cherry flavour mixed into a bubbly brain damaging cola. I may suffer a bit of withdrawl, but I got over my addiction to Marshmallow Mateys and I am a better person because of it. I do have the occasional relapse when I see a box of lucky charms in the cereal isle, but if I can get by without the fake styrofoamy toxic marshmallows then I can do without my diet cherry pepsi too.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Spider Pig Theme Song

I'm not a huge Simpsons fan, but I went to see the Simpsons Movie yesterday. I went with my brother-in-law who is a pretty big simpsons fan. I was expecting to sit there and not laugh, but I giggled throughout and found it to be quite funny.

My favourite part was the famous Spider Pig scene, but what really made me chuckle was the spider pig theme song that played during the credits. I wonder who had the privelege of singing this "classical" choral arrangement - it's stinkin hilarious!! I'm thinking that I might just have to do a solo operatic version of this at my next recital:)

Friday, August 03, 2007


Somehow I have let my disappontment in people affect the way I see God. How could I have let that happen? He hasn't disappointed me at all, they have.
Super imposing my feelings or thoughts about humans on God; I think I do that often without even realizing it. My view of God is so wrong.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rich Cravings

The strangest thing happened to me while I was living in the States. I somehow acquired a taste for really good dark chocolate. I've gone from only eating milk chocolate to preferring 70 to 80% dark. And it has to be the good stuff. The phony darks don't do it for me. I wonder how that happened? Perhaps it was because the cadbury milk chocolate that they had stunk, or maybe they just know how to do dark better, or perhaps it had to do with being surrounded by people who only ate dark. I would really like a piece of that Ghirardelli stuff right now. I wonder if we even have that here. I think it's an American chocolate company cause there's a big eagle on the logo. Perhaps I'll have to take a trip over to Godiva tomorrow to see if their dark is worth splurging on.

Friday, July 20, 2007

How Kelly Feels is how I Feel

The topic of singleness came up last weekend at our female only MasterWorks devotional time. One of the faculty who was in her 50's and had never been married got up and expressed so eloquently and honestly the fact that our society, particularly the Christian culture , sees those who are married as the winners while those who aren't married or never marry are considered the losers. She shared how she constantly has to fight this idea that she's a loser because she doesn't have the "marriage trophy" on her mantle.
I was listening to Kelly Clarkson's new album My December today and was reminded of that praticular winner/loser notion.(Yes I actually like Kelly Clarkson:) I'm so loving the song How I Feel. Boy, do her feelings ever resonate with me. How gutsy and honest of Kelly Clarkson to put this song on the album. It's easy to see singleness as a flaw and it takes so much energy to fight the lie by attempting to convince ourselves and others that we're not losers because we haven't found the right man or aren't on our way to marital bliss.

How I Feel (Kelly Clarkson)

looks like I made a mess again
heartbreak everywhere I step
this fire is getting hot again
but I touch the flame 'cause
I'm a curious cat
creeping where I don't belong
finding out what I knew all along
crying all alone
and it's all my fault, all my fault

yeah, I did it again...again

oh, I'm getting tired of believing
even sicker of pretending
that it's not so bad, just wait it out
oh, I think you're feeding me lies again
the only good man left wasn't him
and that's how I feel right now
so just let me be, let me be.

It seems every time I find a good man
he's got a good little wife
I'm not jealous but I won't lie
I don't want to hear about your wonderful life
and babies everywhere I look
trophy wives with their little black books
at this rate I'm gonna end up alone
it's probably all my fault, all my fault

oh, another dead end: again
oh, I'm getting tired of believing
even sicker of pretending
that it's not so bad, just wait it out
oh, I think you're feeding me lies again
the only good man left wasn't him
and that's how I feel right now

bitter pill that I've swallowed
just how low can my heart sink
fairy tales from so long ago
save them for someone that's not smart enough to know
'cause I, I'm getting tired of believing

I'm through pretending
yeah I'm broken and sad so I'll sit this one out
oh i think you're feeding me lies again
the only good man left wasn't him
and that's how i feel right
now let me be.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Another simple piece of paper

(Joy captured the expression on this little girl's face perfectly - just look at her admiring Christy's costume with such awe and dreaming of one day being just like her, so cute!!)

I just found a very special crumpled up American $1 bill in my bag. This dollar bill was given to me by the sweetest little girl after our performance of Traviata the other day. She shyly came to me and told me that she thought I did a really great job and that she wanted to give me a dollar for doing so well. I felt odd taking money from a child but she insisted and looked a little hurt when I told her that I couldn't take it. I ended up graciously taking the dollar and went about introducing her to Denise (Violetta) and Richard (the doctor) who were her other favorite singers and whom she also tipped for doing such a great job. She had to have been about 7 yrs old and was as adorable as ever. She was all dressed up and looked at all of us with such awe. I have to say, that little girl truly made my day!! It made all of the hard work and dramatic rehearsals more than worth it. For me that little girl represented the reason why I sing. Not for the experts, or critics, but for people who appreciate the art for it's genuine beauty and wow factor. When you work at an artistic discipline like singing, it's so easy to lose sight of why we do what we do. So often I worry about what the experts will think rather than the actual audience who is not there to analyze and criticize, but to be entertained, taken on a journey and deeply moved.

I think I'm going to keep this dollar bill, and put it on my piano. It's such a sweet reminder of why I spend so many frustrating hours trying to perfect such a craft. Not for the money(definitely not that:) ,and not for the critics, but for the enjoyment of the real audience.
I have a feeling that in 20 years or so one may just find that little girl from the other night sitting at her very own piano, practicing Ah fors e lui . . . Sempre libera remembering her very first opera experience at the MasterWorks Festival in 2007 :)

A Simple Piece of Paper

It's amazing to me how much a simple piece of paper can come to represent. Today I had to surrender my work visa to the border guard as I crossed the border to come home. I actually got all choked up and started crying when I handed the visa to the guard today. (She probably thought I was nuts.) Of course part of the difficulty in letting it go came from the mere obstacle that it took to get the thing in the first place. Waiting an extra 2 months, it getting lost in the mail and all that drama. My tears weren't really about having to let go of something that was so difficult to obtain. That visa represented for me a journey. A year long journey that God used to change me forever. Represented in that piece of paper is: growth, learning, waiting, faith, faithfulness, courage, disappointment, endurance, perseverance, truth, revelation, cleansing, pruning, pain, trust, discovery, loss, grief, loneliness, sacrifice, love, direction, fear, encouragement, uncertainty, praise and healing. I felt as though I was leaving all of that behind in such a concrete way today, but as I thought about it I realized that really I was leaving nothing behind at all I was really taking so much of an abundance in blessings home with me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas - Music Video

This is Aaron "the baron". This guy has fooled us all into believing that he's just another reserved, laid back, low key baritone. But now the hippo is out of the bag, Aaron clearly is one big hammy ham who loves hippos:) How adorable is this video!!!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Sousa Slappin' Granny

This video that I recorded at the annual 4th of July concert in Winona Lake was just too cute to resist posting on youtube:)

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Wow! I can't believe that I'm back in Winona Lake, rehearsing like crazy with what is soon to be almost 250 other Christian artists for the MasterWorks Festival. After an entire year of thinking, praying and helping to make this festival happen it's so awesome to see it all come together. There's something that God really wants to do here and these past few days I've been reminded of why it was that I quit my job at home and picked up and moved to nowhere Indiana back in November to be a part of this.
God is doing some big things in the hearts of those who have come especially in mine. He has been doing some major healing in my heart which I honestly found to be quite hardened after all that I experienced during the internship. 4 weeks ago I returned to Toronto, with bitterness and anger towards God, about several things but mostly about how nothing about my doing the internship made any sense. I didn't understand why He would have uprooted me only to leave me to deal with disappointment, indecision, depression and a great sorrow. I was not looking fwd to coming back to Indiana to do the MasterWorks opera, even though it was a great opportunity for me musically, but in only 4 days I am aware of how He provided the opportunity to come back so that I would be open to healing. It has only just begun, but I am hopeful that I may leave Winona Lake this time feeling encouraged by all that the Spirit will speak to me and teach me in the next month.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Creepy Crawler Camera Guy

I'm so loving my new gorillapod!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Diva, What's Your Beef now?

Unoriginal people who steal other people's
creativity and ingenuity and try to pass it off as their own.
That's my beef right now.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Chicken Curry

Tonight I had the best Chicken Curry on the planet.
There's nothing like an authentic home made Indian meal.
It's so nice to have friends who have the sweet hook ups .
(meaning Mom's who can cook.)
That chicken was pure Bliss!!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Black Eyeliner

I'm finding that there's something rather appealing about a manly man who wears black eyeliner.

The liner worked for Tobey in Spidey 3,
but I'm thinking that perhaps it was the new side swept bangs
that made him so appealing.

The liner has always worked for Johnny in Pirates, but perhaps it's simply the addition of the blacker than black mascara that makes him so appealing. I wonder what brand of mascara Johnny uses. That's all I could really think about as I watched him in Pirates 3 today.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


This is my friend Cynthia.
She's funny, witty, smart, cute and petite.
She's also a great listener and a primo "packer".

Friday, May 04, 2007

My Grandma

My Grandma was a soft woman of strength.

A woman who unknowingly showed her strength by openly sharing her weaknesses.

A woman who loved so selflessly and taught me so much.

I'm going to miss my Motc a lot.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


In the past 10 months I've learned a lot about friends. I guess sometimes it takes a major life change to force you to look at something realistically. I've been able to really sit back and consider what a true friend is to me. I've realized that my perception of friendship has been skewed in the past few years. Coming here I've learned who my true friends are. It's been an interesting, yet difficult process, and at the same time I am all the more grateful to God for those true friends he has placed in my life. I've realized that some who I considered friends in the past are simply mere acquaintances. I've realized that there are some who will always be faithful and some who really don't care. There are some who have been more supportive than I ever could have imagined and some who have disappointed me and abandoned me. I have realized that some friendships can be encouraging and some can be damaging to me. In the process some friendships have ended and new ones have begun.

As I've learned about my friends I have examined myself as a friend and realize that I can be viewed in all the ways I have seen my friends. I am merely an acquaintance to some, I am a faithful friend to others , I have stopped caring for some and I have supported others. I have disappointed some and abandoned many. I have been an encouragement to some and damaging to others. Some of my friends have forgiven me and some don't want to have anything to do with me.

I have been blessed to have many types of friends and through those friendships both the ones that have grown stronger and the ones that have ended, I have learned a lot about who I am and who I want to be.

Most importantly, this process has forced me to take an intimate look at my greatest Friend and I have begun to truly comprehend that even if all my friends abandon me, He will never leave my side. He will not stop caring. He will never disappoint. He will never abandon me. He offers only encouragement and undeserved forgiveness. He is the reason I live and the reason I die. He is my hope and the greatest example I have of a friend. Through Him I can learn everything I need to know about who I am and who I can be.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

wanting to be home

It has been rough being here these past few weeks. I think of all the challenges I've faced during this internship, and this time has definitely been the most challenging yet has helped me to see things clearly. Being away from home right now is really tearing me apart. I know there's nothing I can do by being at home, but I just want to be with my family right now, not because they need me but because I need them.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Complete Beauty

"There is no substitute for The Ever-Present God of gods.
He is complete beauty.
Stare into the most faithful of loves until He is burned into your retinas,
until everywhere you look He is superimposed upon the landscape."
- D. Crowder (Praise Habit)

I just love the imagery used in this quote.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Miraculously Effervescent!

I'm not one to regularly endorse products on my blog, but this airborne stuff is incredible! It's this little effervescent tablet packed with cold fighting vitamins and herbs. Just plop it in a cup of hot water and drink. It comes in a few different flavours too: apple cider, lemon-lime, orange, and pink grape-fruit. I've been drinking 2 tabs a day this week and I feel great. I don't know why it's not available in Canada, but it should be. I'm afraid that if airborne doesn't make it's way to the shelves of Shoppers Drug Mart before my work visa expires, I might just have some explaining to do at Canada customs when the border guards open up my trunk and find it fully loaded with bubbly herbal effervescence. It'll be worth the hastle though for these miraculous little tablets could literally save a singer's entire career.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It's all on the line

I had to sit at the border for an hour yesterday morning because of the Easter Monday traffic. (I guess some Canadians still think it's worth while making a trip across the border to do some shopping at Target:) The Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron is really lovely but I've never been a big fan of huge bridges. Whenever I travel across I imagine my car skidding on a wet or icy patch and me careening over the side of the bridge and plunging straight into the St.Clair River. Let's just say that I'm always relieved when I make it to the border guards. Needless to say, the hour wait on the bridge yesterday was long and a little nerve-racking. I found it to be especially "comforting" when a transport truck would zoom by in the truck lane causing the entire bridge to gently bounce a few times. :)

I did come to an interesting point on the bridge though. It was when I was literally sitting right on the US/Canada border for a few minutes. The front end of my car was in the US and the back end was in Canada, but I was right on the line. It was weird to be on the line. Where is one exactly when they are on the line? I'd say that for a few minutes yesterday I was on a bridge in nowhereland. I guess bits and parts of me were technically sitting in both countries. My feet and legs were definitely resting comfortably on the break and clutch which were in the States, I'm pretty sure though that my heart was in Canada where it will always be. Ahhh, True patriot love:)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Sound A Bunny Makes

Photo Sharing - Upload Video - Video Sharing - Share Photos

A Bunny doesn't make a sound silly,

he simply wiggles his nose.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A croc of cuteness - Let me Sketch it out for you

These are the Sketchers that my parents bought me for my birthday, they are the same comfy plastic material as crocs but let's face it, they are way cuter. Those who regularly read my blog will recall my utter dislike of Crocs (At this point in time It may be necessary for me to clarify, that even "Mary Jane" Crocs do not have the Diva stamp of approval. Even though they are better than the clogs, they are clunky and chunky like the originals.) My new Sketchers on the other hand are dainty and cute yet practical and cushy. It's nice to know that some shoe companies do understand that comfortable can be cute. Yaaay Sketchers!!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Blossom Time

The Magnolia tree outside of the office is starting to bloom. Ever since I arrived here in Novemeber I've been waiting for the day that the tree would blossom. Whenever I walk by the tree I'm always reminded of this quote by Anais Nin:

" And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

I suspect that when I arrive back here after Easter, the tree will be in full bloom. I can't wait.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Big "C"

The Big "C". That's what Tutty used to call cancer. I remember when he first said it. He looked at my Mom and said, "I have the big C don't I?" He never wanted to admit that He had it. I guess he thought that if the word was never actually said, we would never have to face the reality of it. Well we as a family did face the reality of it and I have come to dread hearing that word. Every time I hear it something in my heart leaps. Last night my Mom told me that Motc has officially been diagnosed with cancer. It's amazing what kind of emotions that one word was able to conjure up. I wonder if Tutty may have been on to something by avoiding the word. The word "cancer" can really own you if you let it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Whose Ear?

As I continue my investigation as to how it is that the Indiana natives came to refer to themselves as hoosiers, I've come across yet another gem of a story to add to the "knock, knock" legend. Eric, who was born and raised here, recalls hearing in fourth grade that it's because a long time ago, there was a bloody battle between "some guys". The battle was so brutally violent that at the end of it there were amputated ears lying on the ground. In order to find out whose ear belonged to who they had to hold up each ear and call out "hoosier." Now that's funny!

Friday, March 16, 2007

A lesson FOR Auntie Diva

"It's so obvious Auntie, they're clearly the same song!"
The lil' Diva taught Auntie an unbelievable lesson yesterday. Did you know that the ABC song as in "Now I know my ABC's next time won't you sing with me" is set to the same tune as twinkle, twinkle little star? How is it that I majored in music and never figured that out?? My 17 month old neice is clearly a musical genius!!!

Monday, March 12, 2007


Last night we had our monthly cpaf concert, and my performance scared me. It wasn't a horrid performance, it wasn't my best either. It was my attitude towards the performance that scared me. For the first time in the history of my singing career I just didn't care. I had no desire to sing, but I did it anyway. I didn't feel nervous or excited, I felt nothing. It was the feeling of indifference and apathy that frightened me. I'm pretty sure that my attitude came through as I was singing too. How is it that I could feel so indifferent about something that I'm so passionate about? How is it that I could treat the opportunity to get up on the stage and sing as a mere task that needed to be accomplished in my day, like something as simple as brushing my teeth. I felt worn before bed last night and today I feel even more worn out. Worn by my indifference. I really don't know who I am anymore, I feel like I'm losing myself.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"knock, knock" - "Hoosier?""

Since arriving in Indiana I haven't been able to figure out why the natives call themselves hoosiers. The reasoning has recently been explained to me by my hoosier housemates. Apparently back in the pioneer days before people would open up the door after someone knocked they'd ask "Hoosier?" . . . . . . ??????? It baffles me!! There's got to be more to the hoosier title than a mispronunced "knock knock" joke. My roomies are pretty much convinced that that's the story though. That to me is just plain odd.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Diva, What's Your Beef?

Why is it that when a single guy over 25 dates one woman after another, he's merely considered "in pursuit of a wife", but when a single woman over 25 even utters the word "man" she's automatically considered "desperate"?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Praise Habit

I'm finally reading David Crowder's Praise Habit - Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi . I love this book! Crowder goes about interpreting the psalms in such a creative way. I suppose it shouldn't suprise me since, in my opinion, God has already gifted this man with an incredible artistry in his song writing.

Last night I was reading his take on psalm 50 and I just love the way he went about discussing praise. I think he hits the nail on the head. Christians, myself included, often misinterpret God's definition of praise. When we don't see authentic praise happening in our churches how often do we think that planning a worship night will be the solution to the problem. "We'll have amazing songs and a rock out band that will surely get them praising." Everyone will come together and sing and dance and be moved. I've been to so many of those worship nights and have witnessed and experienced authentic praise in that moment, but I often wonder how many of those people go home afterwards and continue living in praise.

Here's David's interpretation. It's so great:
(God:) "I don't find fault with your singing of songs, but do you think I'm in great need of music? Do you think it is too quiet where I am? Did I not make the air molecules to vibrate in such a way to let a melody float from here to there? Do you think I am in great need of hearing these songs that were my breathings in the first place?"

We may argue, "Isn't that praise? Songs = Praise right?" I thing they're more like burnt offerings. The good news is that GOD doesn't find fault in our song offerings. There's nothing wrong with them. In, fact they can be beautiful expressions. But often they're nothing more than ritual, and at their worst they can be provoking to GOD. Well then, what is He looking for? What is this praise He's after? It is Praise Living. It is God leaning in and shouting, "I am the center!" and the sum of our lives nodding back in agreement. It is the core of our hearts echoing this statement. . . . . . . Our songs might verbalize and echo that at times, but so what? It is the nuts and bolts of our living that indicate if we really think this is truth. I would be so bold to say that eating barbecue and wearing sauce on your fingers and face and a grin as big as Texas with the knowledge that Caps Lock GOD is at the center of this can be truer praise than belting this "song ritual" that we have elevated to dangerous heights.

According to this psalm (50), even the simplicity of calling out to Him in times of trouble is considered truer sacrifice. How surprising is that? And how easy? Higher than our ritual is the simple acknowledgment that, in truth, He is what we need. We, like the Israelites, often find rescue in burnt offering and not in God who is the source of all. We find comfort in the song and not in the Comforter. It is a subtle but necessary shift. It is more difficult to find the Creator in a barbecue sandwich than in your favorite Sunday morning song, but when you do, when you begin to find Him in all the stuff of life, everything starts singing. Every moment breaks into song. Every breath becomes sacrifice, and the songs become sweetness. This is Living Praise.
- David Crowder - Praise Habit - Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Gooses in the Mist" - The Goose Report Feb'07

Tom, Dick and Harry and the rest of the gang have returned. When the Lake froze over at the beginning of February, they disappeared. It's been deadly silent at night. But because the Lake is now thawing due to the warmer weather, they are back and as loud as ever. I have to be honest and say that I definitely did miss them. It was nice to open the kitchen blinds and see our fine feathery Canadian friends waddling through the thick fog of this morning. When I got in my car to head to the office a few of them flew overhead. Have you ever sat and listened to the sound of geese fly? As they fly the flapping of their wings makes a really pretty sound. It's too bad that in most cases their sqwaky annoying honking overpowers the beautiful hum that comes from their wings.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

My book of the weekend was Jim Cymbala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. I've had this book for over a year just sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust. I can't believe that I didn't read it sooner! What an incredibly convicting book on the power of prayer and what can happen when we let the spirit lead. I could hardly put the book down.

Just before I left to go sing as a guest soloist at a church here in town I read this passage:

To every preacher and every singer: God will someday ask, "Did you bring people to where the action could be found . . . at the throne of grace? If you just entertained them, if you just tickled their ears and gave them a warm, fuzzy moment, woe unto you. At the throne of grace, I could have changed their lives."

Talk about timing! I was so convicted and suddenly terrified to sing. How could the simple piece of music that I was about to sing, possibly take anyone to the throne of grace? Why would God call me, a mere speck of dirt to such a responsibility? How is it that I have equated success as an artist with those warm fuzzy moments that Cymbala speaks of. I only had a half hour to pull myself together before I had to leave. As I prayed desperately for God to use my performance to His glory, He quietly and clearly spoke:

"You, Andrea McNeil, can do nothing to bring people to my throne. How could you possibly think that You have anything to do with it? It is I who will lead them. It is only My truth, My Word, My sacrifice, My grace, My mercy, My forgiveness, My Son, My Spirit and My love that will draw them to My throne. Faith in Yourself is not required. The only responsibility you have is to put your faith and trust in Me. Now go and sing in faith."

And I did as I was told. How it went? I'm not sure.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Julia's Tutu

tu·tu - (pronounced too, too)
a short, full skirt, usually made of several layers
of tarlatan or tulle, worn by ballerinas
(and little divas in training:)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Eve

What does a house full of beautiful single women do on Valentine's Eve?

Why we sit and eat chocolate from little heart shaped boxes of course.

The Love of God

The Love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
and reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
(Hymn - F. Lehman)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


It's freezing cold here. For the past few weeks that's as descriptive I've been able to be when it comes to describing the weather. Whenever somebody here tells me what the temperature is outside, it means nothing to me because it's always in fahrenheit. My car has a thermometer that reads the temperature in centigrade (which makes 100 times more sense than the fahrenheit scale!:), but I won't have my car back until the end of the month, so I finally gave in this morning and looked up the formula for converting Fahrenheit into Celsius. Wow it really is cold out there!! -32C. Makes sense why we were bundled up so well before leaving the "foy-UR" at the Chestnut house last night. :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


This seems to be a real season of tears for me. In the past 8 months I've probably cried more than I have in my entire life time combined. I'd say that since I decided to do this internship I've probably cried enough tears to fill a few oceans, and today being no exception. I'm at the point where I really wouldn't mind going a few days without shedding some tears, but things just keep coming up and it's like all I know how to do is express how I'm feeling by crying. I cry in my office, I cry in my bed, I cry in the shower, I cry while I'm singing, I cry at church - I'm like a leaky faucet that won't turn off, and it's rather ridiculous. I'm thinking of calling the waterproof mascara people and offering to be their teary eyed test subject. At the very least I may get some free make up out of these uncontrollable leaks.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Going lug nuts

My roommate Meaghan graciously offered to drive me to Wal-mart last night so that I could do my grocery shopping, since my car is officially undrivable. As we made our way down the street here in Winona Lake Meaghan noticed that her car wasn’t driving the way it normally did. She kept saying "I think the alignment is off." Soon after we found ourselves out on the street, peeing our pants from laughing so hard as we stood staring at the flat tire on her car. We literally sat for a good ten minutes laughing hysterically before we took action and called for help. After my big car wreck on Sunday we could really only find humor in the situation.

After several attempts to get a hold of someone, We finally got in touch with our intern buddy, Sadler, who claimed that he knew how to change a tire. When he finally came to the rescue, he took one look at the tire and said: “You know something, I don’t really know all that much about cars. You better get it towed.” It was probably the best plan of action given that the lock on Meaghan’s trunk was frozen and the spare wasn’t really accessible. So there we were Meaghan, Sadler and I sitting in the freezing cold ’93 Corolla trying to decide what to do. Sadler casually pulled out several power bars and an orange (which He tends to store in His pockets . . . you'd have to meet Sadler to understand that him having a store house of food in his jacket pockets is a just another thing that makes Sadler a unique creature:) Sadler began munching away as he patiently waited for Meaghan and I to stop peeing our pants.
When I was able to compose myself I pulled out my CAA card and attempted to order a tow truck. My first call somehow ended up at the AAA in California! They then proceeded to transfer me to the Chicago AAA, who then transferred me to the AAA in Michigan. One would think that the most logical transfer would have been the local AAA in Indiana, but who knows how these crazy Americans work:) Really I felt sorry for the AAA representatives. As I was on the phone I couldn't control my little fits of giggles. They were really so patient with me. I finally lost it altogether and had to hand the phone over to Sadler when the Michigan AAA lady asked me if the car had locking lug nuts. How on earth would a diva know what a lug nut is, let alone know whether or not they lock? !! :) Those AAA people must think I'm one big crazy lug nut:)

Stuckman's towing finally showed up at around 11 and Sadler drove us to Wal-mart so that we could stock up on our groceries since neither of us have a car now. Although under most circumstances car trouble is never amusing, last night was just too funny and really quite a release for me after Sunday’s accident.