Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Royal Melbourne Show

For my birthday this year, our family decided to do something different from the usual dinner celebrations. We went to the Royal Melbourne Show on Wednesday! I remember the last time we went was nearly 6 years ago when we were in Perth. That time we were wondering if we would move to Australia someday. Now we’re here! Anyway, we spent the whole afternoon and night walking and walking non-stop. My mad sisters were so “zealous” hunting for candy show bags that I was put-off cause’ we missed quite a few of the animal shows. Haha.

We met up with some church friends from KL who were on holiday: Pauline, Josh Chan, Shina, Jaymi and Sarah Lim. We spent quite a lot of money just for the entry tickets to get in to spend more money! Hah. :P Anyway, although I wasn’t too pleased with my sisters’ mad rush for candies that I missed some of the stuff that would be fun for me, I’m grateful that we did something different for my birthday! And of course we were happy to meet up with our church friends from Grace Assembly.

One highlight for me at the show was the wonder of seeing two rainbows in one afternoon! It was drizzling on and off and thank God the sun was always present. Here are the shots we snapped. =)

I love this shot - and the shadows! :D

At the art gallery :)

With the colorful painted cows!

Josh, Pauline and Sarah ;)

The beautiful rainbow! Its been a while since I saw a fully arched one!!! =)


My hooligan sisters looking for candy showbags!

This was taken at the Brighton Beach park the next day. I will post about the beach when I get the shots from Josh!


Good one, eh? =) I was just telling my sisters that they're very fortunate to have a sister like me who can take such good profile shots for them. Hah. :P

With Pauline =)

At the petting farm place (:

The lambs were so cute!!!

Fireworks to end the night! It was freezing though. And I thought winter was overrr...

Haha, my dad's just the funniest! It was a good day out. Thank God the weather evened out and it wasn't rainy the whole day. The next day we went to Brighton Beach with our church friends. We ate fish & chips, roast chicken, and my mum's yummy salad. We camwhored at the colorful beach houses when the sun came out. Our family will definitely visit Brighton Beach again. It feels weird knowing that they're on holiday and we're not. We're actually here! Living in Australia is almost always a holiday. :D Hehe. Hopefully I'll get the shots from Josh soon. =)
Tomorrow we're going to Grampians for a church Spring camp. One more week till school starts and I'll have to seriously start getting things done to prepare for VCASS!!! Wahoo, praise God for everything :D

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The VCASS Letter

On 21st September, the first day of spring holidays, I spotted a large envelop sticking out of the mailbox. VCASS! My mind screamed. This is it Janielle, this is it.

Then I surprised myself by doing the opposite I had imagined I’d do when I receive the letter. Instead of tearing it open, I calmly held it and went into my room. I looked at it for 2 seconds and decided I would make a trip to the bathroom first. HAHAHA. No seriously, I had to pee. x)

I spent 2 minutes composing myself. I prayed, “God, this is it. I commit all my hopes, desires and dreams to You again. Whatever the result is, I trust You. If it’s a yes, I give You all the glory and credit, cause’ all I have comes from You. If it’s a no, still all the glory goes to You for leading me beyond my highest hopes. I trust You to open the best doors. Right now please prepare my heart right to receive whatever’s in the letter. I commit this to You. Amen.”

Nervously, but calmly, I opened the letter. I don’t remember thinking of anything except to open the friggin’ letter! The next thing my brain registered was:

Dear Janielle,

Following the recent auditions, we now have pleasure in offering you enrolment at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School as a student in 2010.

WAHOO! I raised the letter in triumph and jumped out of my room yelling: “I GOT IT! Mum, I GOT IT!!!” Thank you GOD; oh thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Many things have happened to bring me to this point. Haha (: Like my mum said afterwards, “All glory goes to God, hmm, Janielle. We dare not even take any credit!” God orchestrated it all. Now everything that has happened to us seems to make sense. If only we saw God’s big picture – but that’s why we are to trust Him in all things.

The VCASS letter goes on:

You have been accepted because we feel that you show promise, and that further training will identify whether or not this potential is to be realised. You should be aware that by gaining entry to the school you have won a major scholarship, which covers your music tuition fees, provided by the Victorian State Government.

A major scholarship! And I’ve only been here 10 months! It can only be an open door from God. VCASS is an entirely scholarship-based performing arts school for about 250 students. And they only have 20 places for international students who also have to audition, and even if accepted, have to pay nearly $20,000 annually. Man, all the more I’m giving God the glory!

10 months ago I was a far cry from what VCASS would accept. God helped me so much and prepared me in Blackburn High through Ms Sandra Birze, who is not merely a piano teacher, but a teacher of music. =) Even more, I thank God for dad & mum, who took this crazy leap and trusted God even though we had to risk everything. It is only by God’s grace that we’re able. I can’t say enough that truly, truly all the glory goes to God. I have no talent, I have nothing of worth. It all came from God when I asked of Him.

A Bible verse came to mind: “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” John 3:27

Next year I will begin a new journey, independent from my parents and many other things – even myself. But I will learn to depend on God alone. As much as I’m excited, I’m uncertain how I will adjust to a new lifestyle so quickly again!

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3:20

It’s not how great I am, but how great You are! I give all the glory and credit to God, who is the Giver and Creator of every bit of musicality in me.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Wahoo, I have another piano student now! I’m so glad that this opportunity came and totally caught me by surprise.

Some time ago, my Korean school friend, You Jin, asked me about learning piano at Blackburn High next year. I referred her to my piano teacher. A week later, I asked if she found out anything. With a dismayed look, she said that in order to learn piano at school, she’ll have to prepare 3 pieces for an audition in 3 months time. And since You Jin hasn’t been playing for a year, she didn’t think she could do it.

Immediately after You Jin told me that she had to prepare for an audition, I had an idea in mind. =) I told her that if she still wanted to give the audition a try, I could prepare her for it because I teach piano! The idea seemed good cause’ she didn’t know anyone else who could prepare for a piano audition. And besides, I told her, I’m also preparing my sister Jirene for it. And I did it last year. So I would know what areas to brush up on.

So yeah, I have a new student for two months! Although it’s a short time, I still thank God for blessing me with this unexpected opportunity. So far, all my students here have been unforeseen opportunities which I believe must only be open doors from God. And I usually have a feeling that I won’t be teaching them for long, only for a period of time. Perhaps I feel that way because it has sorta’ been like that for me. God opens one door of opportunity for me to grow, and then when I am well-prepared, it’s time to move on.

I’m learning a lot from teaching and it also helps me improve my method of practicing because I learn from the mistakes my students make. Haha. I actually enjoy teaching. =)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My 16th Birthday

Compared to what most people do when they turn 16, my 16th birthday was nothing grand at all.
I didn’t mind really. What does the first day of your 16th year matter? I realize that it’s not the birth day that matters, but the whole year itself. How will I live this year? What new challenges await me?

Our family has not celebrated my birthday yet. We’re still deciding what to do. The funny thing about me is I never ask for anything in particular (while most people have longwinded wish lists), I never plan to celebrate at a particular spot, and I never expect much. I actually woke up on September 14 and did not realize I’m turning 16!

Besides all that, I must mention that I received something unexpectedly sweet for my birthday this year! Finally, a gift that I can say: Yes, you’ve got me something I can really use! Well, I seldom ever receive b’day gifts that are what I truly need at the time. Such gifts usually require much thoughtfulness from the giver and will leave me with this ‘sweet’ sensation in my heart and memory for many days. =)

The gift I received was a deep purple iPod Nano (5th generation: with a video camera)!!! It was given to me by some church friends from CLIC (the youth leaders and some families) and was “initiated” by Charlene – she’s a gem indeed. =) Honestly, I never expected presents this year. But this was really nice and thoughtful of them.

In relation to the iPod, I must admit that I’ve been really outdated. xD I’ve never been bothered with the latest technology. I told my parents, “You guys are fortunate to have kids who never whine for the latest phones or iPods or electronic games!” :P I’ve never wanted such things because I won’t have time to download music, buy games, or even sms – yes, I’ve been living without phone credit for 1 year. Don’t you dare gasp or scream. HAHA.

However, I think God thinks I need a bit of a technology boost. Haha, here’s why… A week before my b’day, I thought: if I get into VCASS, I’ll be on the train 2 hours everyday – wouldn’t it be useful if I get an iPod so I can listen to instrumental music or Christian songs when I’m on the train? Boy, I never imagined it would materialize! So I received an iPod a week later without me even asking for it. Thank you guys from CLIC! =) All in God’s perfect timing. (: Of course, I’m still praying about the getting into VCASS part.

Most of all, I thank God for seeing that lil’ thought of mine. The iPod is proving to be real useful. I’ve been loading piano music and orchestra work into it (I know, sounds sad, but I like it :P) so I can improve my listening skills and memorize some pieces better. And when I practice piano, I listen to the piece on the iPod and apply what I hear to what I play more effectively (without having to go on YouTube or a cd player – told you I’m outdated!).

I’m really thankful to God for many blessings this year. I hope that my 16th year will be as exciting as my 15th, and that God would help me live this year for His glory and purpose. I pray that I will make my life count for Jesus and not just live my own selfish plans. I wonder where I will be on September 14, 2010. I pray I’ll be where God destines me to be.

Charlene and I =) The pictures are from her camera, but I brightened them up. :) Haha.

With some of the peeps at church. =)
Cutting the surprise cake Charlene made.

Look at the decoration! Love the treble clef. Thanks Char - you rock! ;)

:D The purple is really the best shade I've ever seen. But it doesn't look as good in this picture. Anyway, thank you guys again. Have a nice day mateys. ;)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

VCASS Audition Yesterday

The night before the audition, I actually woke up a few times in nervous anticipation. My heart started pumping faster in the middle of the night! I worried about what’ll happen – if I’ll nail it or blow it. After all the hard work, the sweat and tears, I was afraid I’d make a fool of myself if I got more nervous. I needed to calm myself.

I could think of nothing better but to pray for God to grant me His peace. I also asked for a lil’ extra – that I would not be nervous at all. Even though I prayed it, I actually thought it impossible and rather outlandish to not be nervous even a lil'. Usually even if I succeeded in appearing calm, my heart would be beating fast, my stomach squirmy and my hands all sweaty. It would be a miracle if God answers this one, I thought.

The next day, when I was led to the warm up room 15 minutes before the much awaited audition, I committed it all to God again. I was reminded of this verse:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

While waiting to be called in, I found myself wondering in amazement: “Gosh, why am I not feeling nervous at all?!! This is amazing!” Never had I once imagined myself, 5 minutes before it, not being anxious at all! I thanked God profusely for answering what I thought was an impossibility in such a situation. I couldn’t understand how it happened; I should be nervous! Who wouldn’t be? Then I was reminded, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding…”

At that moment, I also understood the last line of Phil. 4:7, how the peace of God guarded my heart and mind: God did not allow any worry, doubt, or fear creep in! He gave me the confidence and security, not in myself, but in Him. I cannot thank God enough for such an unexplainable experience of His peace!

In the audition, I performed only one-third of the two pieces I prepared on the piano and violin. It’s a waste that the panel (5 of them!) didn’t hear the rest, but that’s what happens at auditions. =/ But I’m happy I did not make any mistakes on the pieces and technical work. I also said what I most wanted to say at the interview. The only few slips I made were in the aural test. Other than that, I’m glad it all went well. All the days of practice only for 15 minutes! Unbelievable!

The letter will arrive in two weeks time. For now I’m just glad that I can relax a bit, and… work on new pieces for next year’s Cert of Performance exam. Hahaha, I tell you, it’s never-ending! Yikes. =)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

VCASS Audition in 3 Days!!!

I have 3 more days to go. I think I’ve never written about this before. Now in excitement and anticipation, I must tell you about this audition!

In June, my mum went to check out the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School (VCASS) in Melbourne city. It is a scholarship school that specializes in the arts – music and dance. The school has only around 250 students and anyone who enters has to first make it through the audition, which is really competitive because the school only allows for 50 new students each year. Therefore they pick only those who show the most commitment and potential in music or dance.

When my mum first suggested the prospect of going to such a school, it seemed rather far-fetched. I wasn’t exactly keen. But then I began to realize that my current school is not as focused in music as I wished it to be. Blackburn High is a public school, and just about anyone can enter it. Only 50% of the students are music students. And out of that 50%, less than 20% are serious about excelling in music. So I decided I must give this VCASS thing a go.

My mum signed me up for the audition, which is now scheduled on the 11th of September. I will present some technical work and two contrasting pieces – Chopin’s Impromptu No. 1 and Beethoven’s Appassionata 3rd movement. They will then interview me and test me on my aural skills. I also had to take a musicianship test last week.

For the past few months, I’ve been putting enormous effort in practicing and understanding the two pieces I’ve chosen for the audition. I am praying that God will open the door of opportunity for me to attend this school and go even further with music. It will benefit me and my parents greatly cause’ we wouldn’t have to pay for my studies under music professionals who also lecture tertiary-level students at the Victorian College of the Arts Faculty (which is in partnership with the University of Melbourne).

My schoolmates ask me, “Why do you wanna’ go to VCASS? You’ll have to work so hard. Isn’t the music program in Blackburn good enough?” Well, my reply is simply this: Blackburn High is good, but I think that I’m still wasting a lot of time doing unnecessary things at school when I can be practicing and focusing more on music – which is really what I want to do in the end.

I’m praying and hoping really hard that I will show enough potential at the audition to qualify. I honestly can’t imagine continuing another 2 years in Blackburn High. I’m reaching the highest that I can reach at this point in my life. There are many other factors concerned if I do go to VCASS. I will have to be much more independent cause’ I’ll be travelling to the city everyday on my own! But I try not to worry – I’m trusting God knows best. He sees the big picture and He’ll open the right doors for me. I just need to do what I can with what He’s blessed me with and strive for the best.

I hope to write about some fantastic news soon – God willing, IF I get the letter saying “It’s a YES, you made it into VCASS!”

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Treasure

I was just reading about how so many Christians in China who do not have a Bible of their own. There are nearly 100 million Christians in China now. Only 17 million go to churches that are registered under the government and therefore “government-censored”. But the remaining vast numbers are all thriving in underground home groups and each year about 4 million new believers are added to the number. It is amazing to read about all this.

Can you believe that about 30 to 50 million Christians in China still do not own a Bible of their own – not even a single copy of God’s Word? And because Bibles are still scarce in some places, it means so much to them to have a Bible of their own. I am ashamed that I do not treasure God’s living word as much as they do. I am sad that they are so desperate for it, yet there are never enough copies for everyone to savour every page.

My family has definitely more than five Bibles in my house. Do I treasure it enough? It occurs to me that I should study God’s word more than I study my maths book or anything else as a matter of fact. The problem with so many of us is that we’re always so occupied with a million other seemingly more “important” things that we miss the most important thing of all. How can that be? I am ashamed that although I know what the right thing to do is, I do not do it.

I remember that when I was around 11 years old, my mum would ask me nearly everyday in the morning to read aloud the word of God (I think it was the book of John) while everyone else went on with their work. My sisters would start their studies and I would be half mumbling, half reading aloud. I did not see any purpose in it; moreover, I did not understand what I was reading.

Then my dad also got us to memorize Scripture verses. I can honestly say that I nearly never understood what I was memorizing. Was it a waste of time, then? No, certainly not! Now I realize that it was all for a purpose. When the word of God is instilled in my mind, I cannot run from it. In the right moment, God can bring it to my memory and help me to understand. Then it will no longer only be in my mind, but will also travel to my heart. By God’s grace, I now see my mum’s wisdom in getting me to start my day by reading God’s word.

It occurs to me that I must memorize God’s word just as I memorize my music pieces. In order to truly play my piano pieces (until it flows out of me), I must memorize them. It requires repetition and practice for hours and hours. Sometimes I would go over the same 4 bars for an hour and continue the process for days. It takes boring repetition in order for me to finally be “enlightened” to see the hidden melodies that I failed to notice before.

Similarly, I now realize that “Wow, I need to do the same thing with the word of God!” I may not understand the words initially, but by meditating on it over and over, day after day, praying for God to grant me wisdom and understanding, I know that I will begin to uncover the hidden treasures. And just like how the music “flows” out spontaneously after I’ve memorized it thoroughly, God’s word will also flow out naturally and become alive in me when I hide it in my heart!

All this came to me when I was reading my Bible three nights ago. I quickly wrote it down in my notebook. I was flipping through some pages when I felt compelled to stop at a certain page. Then I saw this wonderful encouragement, like a response from God having seen all that has been running in my mind:

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4

Wow! I never noticed that verse before. It was Paul encouraging the Romans that the Scriptures were written for us to learn and meditate on. It is such instances of enlightenment from God that pure joy spurts out of me. God is so marvellous – He knows my every thought. He will confirm that His word is true and will not leave me wondering if I am on the wrong track. Truly, His word was written out so that humans could read it and discover God for themselves. And it is written for our learning, that we might have hope. =)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Whose Direction?

I recently updated my music journal Musical Escapades about the Royal South Street competition. It was held last Saturday and our school orchestra travelled two hours to Ballarat to compete with other schools. It was good fun, music, and a tad bit stress, due to the cold and rainy weather.

I observed during this competition is that our orchestra was different from the others because our conductor, Andrew Wailes, had a good, clear direction for the repertoire he chose for us. He chose pieces that would best flaunt our strengths and show our utmost potential – if we played it well. Some orchestras could not perform as well simply because the conductors did not choose the right pieces for them. And there was probably no aim or direction or vision from the conductor.

We must have direction. Without it, we would be aimlessly drifting here and there with no plan and purpose. Some of my friends probably think I’m a full-on music nerd cause’ I’m always practicing and seldom having any breaks. They probably think I have “no life”. Haha. But it depends on the way you see it. I have an aim and a clear direction. I AM HEADING SOMEWHERE. If I practice just because my parents want me to, or cause’ I’m rushing to prepare for an exam which I intend to score only a “pass”, then I’d say I have no life. No direction.

Sometimes I wonder whose direction I should take. We find ourselves in a whirlwind of advises, opinions, voices, and noises from all over the place. Who should I listen to? Which path do I take? Whose direction should I heed?

When I question myself with all this, I start to feel quite hopeless and discouraged. I do not know what the best way is! I’m not satisfied with my own answers. By God’s grace, I decide to drag myself to my Bible. I read the Psalms, and once again, I find life and truth in God’s word – also comfort, hope, peace and purpose in God. There’s usually no specific direction, but simply by reading God’s word, my mind is somehow released from the worries that dampens my heart and blurs my focus. “The truth will set you free…”

“I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies.” Psalm 119:59

So far, I’ve found that God gives the best cue, the best direction. Nothing and no one else has given me as much opportunities and a better sense of purpose.

The Visitors