Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The very long, very over-due Nationals post

Hi, y'all,
I'm back from the wilds of the non-cyberspace world and socializing that does not involve a phone or the internet.  (Yes, such a thing really does exist.  It's called life around here.)  

And now to share a little sneak peak of some of that life...the National Bible Bee.  (And to tell you that I am fully aware that this is a couple of months overdue, but life took precedence over blogging.  My apologies and resolutions to do better until next time.  It's a vicious cycle).  Now where was I?

Ah, the National Bible Bee.

A special time when families from all over the country come together to encourage one another as they proclaim God's Word.

Something that only happens one week late in the year, but is well worth the wait.

The glorious few days that I am about to share with you.


We rolled into Orlando on Wednesday in time to register, study, hang out at McDonald's, study, and more study. Late that afternoon Mommy and Daddy decided to take the boys across the street to downtown Disney so that we girls could do more--you guessed it--studying, which we diligently did until it was time for...

 ...the Quizlet reunion.  For the uninformed, Quizlet is an online test writing/taking site that has tests on everything under the sun, plus a few things that are not.  Anna (known as biblebee-a in the Quizlet world) wrote quite a few tests on it over the summer and all three of us used it for our Nationals study, especially for Hebrew and Greek key words and Assyrian history (because we were studying Jonah and Nahum).

I felt kind of guilty--I needed to be up in the room studying--but it was great to finally meet the people behind the cryptic usernames, and so fun to compare notes on Bible Bee study.  And then when we broke up into groups to pray for each other...well, at that point it was like tasting heaven.  This is how the body of Christ is supposed to function!   I left the reunion so encouraged and built up.

Which was just what I needed.

*   *   *   *   *

Thursday was the BIG DAY of the test, and capital letters cannot convey how important this was.  (Let me just say that the ACT pales in comparison).  We were excited.  And nervous.  And excited.  Oh, and we were extremely nervous.  I'm really good at writing concise paragraphs.  But only when I'm not nervous.  Or excited.

This was Samuel and Thomas's first year as National contestants, and they both loved it.  (Just ignore their nervous expressions in this picture--I think it had something to do with the fact that they were about to be called for their oral testing round).

Samuel and Thomas in their oral round.  Go team yellow!
The new oral format was scary, nerve-wracking, and...fun.  After dreading having to say our verses to a room full people (instead of just the two judges), I expected this to be the worst seven minutes of my life.  The end.   Instead, all five of us ended up loving it!   Being in there with other contestants was amazing (and I'm sure the rest of the room enjoyed watching us clap silently for each other).

Anna, Hannah N., and Anna H.
One of the (many, many) highlights of Nationals is spending so much time with dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  They are such an inspiration to me!  

It's even better when they are both your sisters in Christ AND your real sisters!  This was my first year to be in the same age division as Delie and I loved it.  She is such an encouragement to me both in the contest and out (plus, she's absolutely amazing at all things Bible Bee).

After a long day of testing and reconnecting with old friends, we headed down to the ballroom for the opening ceremony, one of my favorite Bible Bee events.  It's a great time for the contestants and their families to encourage one other and recognize the hard work and time that each Nationals contestant has put into their study over the past few months.

Cutest.  Primary.  Ever.  The contestants are lined up in height order to go up on stage, and guess who was the shortest of the short?  Gotta love this boy!  (And just for the record, he was not only the shortest contestant, but--at seven--also one of the youngest.  Way to go, Thomas!)

And then the best part of the evening--which for some unaccountable reason they keep until the end--the announcing of the semi-finalists, which included...

 (She's behind the third and fourth yellow shirts from the left, if that helps.)

After semi-final training, Mommy and Daddy took the younger guys back up to the room while we four oldest stayed down and visited, because there is no such thing as too much socializing at Nationals.

Anna, Delie, George, me, and Ellie H.
You know how you meet some people and immediately feel like you've known them forever?  That's how we feel about the H. family.  We met them last year when their Anna and our Anna were in Juniors together and this year we were thrilled when both Anna and her sister Ellie qualified.  The five of us spent many hours studying/visiting over Skype between Locals and Nationals, and now we're trying to convince them to come visit us (they only live about six hours away--close, by Bible Bee standards).

And by the way, I'm pretty sure that the Anna's could pass for twins (if appearances didn't matter).  They both know what everyone scored for both Locals and Nationals, what they would have placed if they were in Seniors, who they tied with and who those people tied with last year...you get the idea.  I'm surprised that they have any room in the their brains left for Bible Bee study. :)

This is what happens when you try to take a picture with a couple of friends at Nationals.  Somehow our little group grew exponentially--and I wouldn't have it any other way!  So, so thankful for all the fellowship and friendship-making/strengthening.  (And also for fragmented sentences that convey feeling so much better than stilted, correct ones.)

*   *   *   *   *

Prayer with the other semi-finalists...I love how God is the focus of the whole entire week.  We're all here to give him glory and fellowship with one another and we remind each other (and ourselves) of this fact frequently.

(No other words needed--just sweaty hands and weak knees on my part and  beautiful, heartfelt recitation on hers).

"'Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, 
for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. 
And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. 
And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.  
And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.'
Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling."
From Zechariah 2:1-13, one of the memory passages that Delie recited onstage.

"Thank you, Delie.  That is...correct!"

High fives, applause, hugs--these contestants really know what it means to "encourage one another and build one another up" (1 Thessalonians 5;11-13).  My favorite part of semis (other than cheering on Delie--obviously) was watching our friends Matthew and Courtney M. congratulate one another each time one or the other got a passage correct.  Such a sweet brother-sister pair.

As you probably remember from a previous post, Delie did great, but did not advance to finals.  So instead of studying, we got to eat supper with our dear friends, the H. family.  (Not being in finals certainly has its perks!)  We talked and talked and talked.  And then we talked some more.  Somewhere along the way, we found time to eat, but I'm still not sure how we managed it.

Note: A big thank you to the H. family for this picture and several others in this post!

*   *   *   *   *


I don't have any pictures from Saturday until that night.  It was a busy, crazy, fun day, and I left the camera either in the room or in my purse for most of it.  But that night I remembered to get the camera out at the Closing Ceremony and capture a few memories.

Singing "By Faith" with hundreds of fellow-Christians--need I say more?  Between my joy in what God had accomplished over the week and my sadness at it all coming to an end so soon, I had a hard time not crying.

But the real don't-cry challenge came when our friend Meredith won the oratory award!  The joy and love on her face as she quoted God's Word were so moving and inspiring.  And let me tell you, she's even better in person. :)

Our sweet friend Rachel--we met her at Nationals back in 2012 and were absolutely thrilled when she qualified this year.  So good to talk to you again, Rachel...now we both have to qualify next year so we can talk some more!

And then there is Bella--sweet, encouraging, amazing at Bible Bee, and one of the best pen pals a girl could wish for.  Her letters always brighten my day.  We met last year at Nationals, and I really enjoyed catching up with her this year--and getting to know her twin sister Kenzie better, too.  Next year is their last in Bible Bee as well as mine, which means that if one or the other of us does not qualify next year, we may never see each other again.  Oh, why does Pennsylvania have to be so far away?

One of my favorite dances--Samuel's in front in the white shirt; the rest of us are scattered all over the room.
After visiting with friends until ten or so, we headed over to one of the conference rooms for the annual Bible Bee square dance.  It was so much fun, and then the man calling the dances left and a couple of fellow-contestants started leading it--which was even more fun.  I think next year we'll just have to hire them!  We danced until they closed the conference room, and then we danced in the hall until midnight, when we headed up to bed.  We heard next morning that they kept going strong another couple of hours. :)  Bible Bee families tend to be night owls, if you haven't guessed it already.

*   *   *   *   *

Our hotel
We packed up fairly bright and early (considering the fact that we four oldest didn't get to bed until after midnight) and went to Downtown Disney to eat breakfast and do some Christmas shopping.

Oh, and some carousel-riding, thanks to our Disney gift card.

Goofy's Candy Co., also known as one of the sugariest places on earth.  I don't think I've met that much sugar outside of a nightmare (ask me about swimming in apple jelly--it's not easy).  I walked in and immediately lost my desire for sweets for a whole five minutes.  It was that powerful.

A crazy mirror-selfie, in which I forgot to turn the flash off.  I'll spare you the picture that stretched our necks to giraffe-like proportions.  Not exactly something to share on the blog.  (Although I might save it for blackmail. ;D)

I would save this one for blackmail as well, except that there's no disgrace when a one year-old falls asleep in public.  If only teenagers were treated with the same social tolerance.

But maybe they get too much tolerance already.

I digress.

Our last stop--Ghirardelli.  I can't remember why George is smiling.

Maybe it was because we were in a chocolate store.  He loves chocolate.

Or maybe it was because he just got a free sample.  He loves saving as much as he loves chocolate.

Or maybe it was because he was eating it.  He loves chocolate just as much as he loves...chocolate.

Big shocker, people:  GEORGE LOVES CHOCOLATE!!!

I love surprising you.

And then we all had ice cream cones.  And then Nationals was over. (Because nothing is ever officially over unless you have ice cream, right?)  And then we all piled in the van and cried, stared out the window, and/or slept, depending on our dispositions.  

Because Nationals was over.

But, oh, it was an amazing time.  Memories were made, friendships were strengthened, God's Word was proclaimed--and we really, really want to come back next year.  

(So, if any of the Bible Bee staff are reading this, could you pull some strings and get Nationals to be in our area?  Then we could come even if none of us qualify.  Thank you.)

And to all our Bible Bee friends...stay strong and keep studying God's Word!
Until we meet again,


Rachel Irene said...

Aww, It was *so* good to see you again!! :D It was nice getting to know you a little better. Wish we could have spent more time together but grateful for the moments that were shared there. :) Nationals was an absolute blast...really hope to be there for this year!
It was so exciting to watch Delie in Semis...you did amazing, girl! :)

The Moss Farm said...

Rachel, it was so good to see you, too -- congratulations on qualifying! I hope we can see you at Nationals. I've enjoyed seeing you at the Memverse quizzes :).