Monday, November 19, 2007

It's not about the music, but...

During our month of training back in August, they told us how our music & programs are secondary to being passionate about showing Christ's love to the people we encounter. I ate it up, because for me, playing guitar and singing in front of people was a nerve-wracking concept. When we began rehearsing daily as a team, and I (at the time) was the only guitarist, my heart would pound before each session. My fingers killed me as they tried to get used to pressing on metal strings for hours a day, and my voice wobbled as it tried to sing in the presence of so many new people.

It took a lot of concentration to remember each day that I didn't need to worry about how I sounded, because it is ultimately NOT ABOUT ME. Well, now, about 3 months later, my heart no longer pounds uncontrollably before programs and I have stopped worrying about whether or not I will be able to play the songs (thanks in part to hours and hours of practice, and in part to the addition of our teammate Joshua, who is a very good guitarist). My fingers have grown rock solid (i think i probably have about 1/2 an inch of dead skin in each of my left hand fingers), and singing in front of people is actually something I look forward to.

In fact, I currently love making music nearly every day with my 4 teammates. As a team, we are fairly unique in that we all love to sing and can easily harmonize - so that we have come to a place where the music flows fairly freely, and our message is (we don't think) hindered much by a poor sound quality.

Problem with this newfound confidence? The thing is, I still often forget that ITS NOT ABOUT ME nor is it, ultimately, about how we sound. We may sound great, but if its all about how we sound, then we are failing to show love (which is not self-seeking, proud, or boastful) to the people around us. my nervousness nor my confidence have proven to be useful in forgetting myself and focusing on the needs of those around me, and on worshipping the God I love and serve. The best defense mechanism against this error in focus that I have found is prayer, but I still don't use it nearly often enough.

I guess its going to be a long road to gaining humility, which does not mean that I need to be shy or timid about my gifts - rather, it means I need to forget about them as my focus turns outward to God and those around me. Before I sign off, I will tell you one thing I have NOT found much more confidence in, despite hours of practice: While I have now participated in at least 30-40 puppet shows, I have not gained any more skills as a puppeteer and I'm NOT being humble, just honest. (I play Daniel in Daniel & the Lion's Den, and funny, but he sounds exactly like me, as does the other puppet I play!) Luckily, my teammates were able to find another role for me in one of our puppet shows, so that I do not have to be behind a curtain quite as often. ;)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Team Life: Status Update

Approximately 12 weeks ago, on August 19 I walked into a gymnasium at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and was introduced to Luke, Dave, Carly and (eventually) Ua, all of whom would be joining me for the following 365 days touring the country and the world.

Now, during training they warned us that we were about to experience what can only be described as a marriage to these 4 people - we would eat, sleep, work, rehearse, perform, pray, travel, and play TOGETHER. In the days following August 19, I have only been separated from these 4 people for 3 days (when I briefly returned home to run Hood to Coast.) We have learned one another's sleeping habits (Carly gives back-rubs in her sleep!), eating preferences (all of us have a crazy affinity for Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies), flatulence patterns (ok, mostly just Dave's...), music tastes (Ua and my love for Country is vehemently NOT shared by the rest of the team), political views, faith stories, pet peeves (Dave hates it when Carly plays her kazoo), and even the smell of one another's feet can be quickly identified.

All this to say, God has blessed us with an incredible community for a year - I have so enjoyed the opportunity to be put under a microscope, so to speak, by agreeing to live and breath the same space with my four amazing teammates. They challenge me to voice my opinions when I am tempted to keep quiet, to live more selflessly, to live more simply (I've discovered that frequent showers are not as necessary as originally thought, and "clean clothes" does not necessarily mean unworn clothes), to live in the moment (especially when I'm tempted to look ahead to the end of this year already and worry), and they challenge me to continue to look at my beliefs and understand my core faith. In short, I am loving team life.

On a light note, the team loves playing games together as well! When we have down time, we play everything from Frisbee to Five Crowns, Rook, Ui77 (a card game Ua made up the other day that is REALLY fun), 5 rocks, Liar's Dice, Flux, Blokus, and Up & Down the River (and I only named a few!) Our most significant arguments thus far have actually been over games (all of us are a bit competetive), and those have been fairly inconsequential.

Our team's strengths: we are all low-key, low-maintenance, low-stress people. We enjoy people & we are all young at heart (we love playgrounds, children's museums, building sandcastles, etc.), and thus are easily entertained and rarely bored. We are all musically gifted as well - every one of us sings and we have been blessed with some amazing songs & cool harmonies for our programs, which makes singing together really fun!

Team weaknesses: we struggle to plan ahead, and sometimes we argue over minor things (like games). We all are human and therefore sometimes our focus shifts to ourselves instead of our ministry at hand. However, by and large, all of us are enjoying and growing from the team experience and I personally cannot think of a better way to spend this year.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Whoa - first blog ever!

Alright, here goes nothing.

I will start off by just explaining that I titled my blog address "Jenny's new dawn" for a couple of reasons: for one, all the obvious ones like "jenny shaw" were taken, and two, for me this year on the road with Youth Encounter's team New Dawn is truly a new beginning for me. After spending all of my 25 years with a definitive plan for my life (school, college, accounting degree, accounting job, etc), with very little spontaneity involved, I finally quit my job at Deloitte and have embarked on a year traveling the country and the world with just a backpack full of clothes, my guitar, and 4 people I didn't start out knowing.

This is my "new dawn" if you will, and at the end of this year, I have no idea what comes next, for the first time in my life. It is a scary and really exciting time for me - I love being on the road, (we travel around in a 15 passenger tan van), and my team is amazing. They truly are starting to feel like a family, which is an incredible gift, and we enjoy one another a whole lot. After spending a month in training in Minnesota, we have been on the road for about 7 weeks, and I love seeing so much of this country - since we left Minneapolis, we have been to at least 15 states, and each place has such a different and unique feel. If there are so many cultural differences here in the U.S., between places like Long Island, NY and Savannah, GA, how different will Taiwan or the Philippines feel when we are there come January?

A shadow of an answer to that very question came this weekend, as Carly and I spent our day off with a woman (Susie, or Lin Ying) who is from Taiwan and her husband (Jerry) who served as a missionary there for 22 years. We learned some Mandarin Chinese from them while we were here, and even received Chinese names (mine spelled phoenetically is Shao Zhen Ni, derived from "Shaw Jenny" because your family name is more important than your individual name in China, and meaning Precious young lady). After learning only about 25 characters and pronunciations, my brain already feels as though it is on overload - it is a good reminder that immersing ourselves in a different culture will likely be exhausting but if its as much fun as tonight was, we are in for the experience of a lifetime.