The next morning found Christianna's headache gone (thank you Lord!) and excitement high.
After a good walk outside, a time of singing and reading of God's word and prayer, and a good high fat/protein breakfast, Christie and I proceeded to do some more memory work. The written exam was coming up first.
After she and the other senior division contestants disappeared into the testing room, I ran into a friend from several years ago. We'd had her family over for dinner when they were visiting the area, and had prayed with them, heard their story, shared ours, etc. But, we had lost contact for some time.
I surely wished to renew the friendship, not realizing how amazing this time together would become!
As this mother and I began to unfold our stories, we found the Lord had led us and our families down parallel paths, where we had experienced many of the same trials, some so identical it seemed uncanny. Obviously God had set up a divine appointment.
I can only offer God all the glory for what He did in that meeting.... there was sweetness of shared experiences of grace, shared pain, troubles of such similarity only of somewhat different flavors that she and I could only conclude that the God of all comfort had indeed sovereignly ordained our meeting, the words which passed between us, the tears appointed to both of us, the growth that came over the years of trial which we were able to identify as mercies and blessings from His hand to grow us into His likeness.
I thank Him profoundly for that time together. It affirmed for me a principle that I had known and seen in action before: God does not give trials for nothing, but to the degree we trust in Him and allow ourselves to be comforted by Him, to that degree we will emerge as gold and will be a comfort to others undergoing similar straits. It is very humbling to see oneself being used as an instrument of comfort in the Hand of God. I left the conversation changed and more thankful than ever.
The seniors then emerged from the testing room - such a buzz and flurry of 120 students all talking at once, relating their experiences.
By then, a quick lunch was in order, after which we headed over to the oral recitation room, where all the students were divided into groups of about 8-10 to recite in smaller rooms before a judge a set of 10 passages in the 7 minute time allotted.
|Christianna and friend Rachel from the Cary, NC Bee site|
Please permit a bit of motherly pride to shine through here, as I must proclaim to all how much I appreciate Christianna's spirit and spunk with regards to God's Word. She disdains the monotone, rote repetition of mere words into a microphone, eyes closed, head bent and face screwed up in concentration. Instead, she feels that the scripture is not merely a string of sounds to be uttered at quickly as one can remember them, but the living word, from the heart of Almighty God, meant to be shared with all one's heart, soul, mind and strength, and with a love for God and others that showcases the Gospel in all the Scriptures.
Well, she did her best! She was such a joy up there on stage when it came her turn. She spoke beautifully, though, unfortunately, her recitations were not quite word-perfect, which is what the judges are looking for. She ran over -time, but out of reverence for God's word, the judges allowed students to finish the passage they were reciting. She finished. And there was much applause for her. Several other parents present with their students approached me and remarked to me how her recitations had particularly blessed them, and how they wished all the students would recite with such warmth!
I felt a bit like Mary, pondering these things in my heart. I could only weep tears of joy and thankfulness to the Lord, for, here, again, He fulfilled Christianna's main desire for the Bible Bee:
to touch people with the Word, to recite with power and life the Word that gives life, that , perhaps, someone listening might be blessed. That was her prime objective. God answered her: "Yes!"
|Enjoying the last of her waffle cone|
Later that afternoon, after the congratulatory talk, visiting the vendor tables, and preparing for the opening ceremony later that evening, we had dinner, and then ice-cream eaten outside while walking the lovely hotel grounds. Palm trees, fountains in the property ponds, egrets, beautiful tropical flowers unfamiliar to NC dwellers, and a warm gentle breeze all contributed to a lovely evening as we walked, talked, enjoyed waffle-cone ice-cream, and waved to other families driving back in from their dinner outings.
|The fountain in front of our hotel|
The opening ceremony was quite impressive. Sober, yet expectant, serious, yet filled with joy at merely being together with the saints, the majestic processionals themselves inspired as each of the 360 students (120 from each age division) came up to stage, received his medal for qualifying and participating in the Nationals, and stood with his group for pictures.
After a few speeches, the semi-finalists were announced in each division. Christie had only a few moments of disappointment when all 15 names were listed, but I witnessed that sadness quickly become replaced with relief and genuine delight for those who succeeded. I was, again, very thankful for my girl's heart that felt real joy for others' victories.
What a glorious day it was, by God's grace! His mercies flow continuously.