Category Archives: Music

Reclaiming Hope

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At first, it was faint – the echoes of rumbling far off in the distance, a pulsating whisper traveling through years.

All at once strange and familiar, the symphony swells.  Every note and every chord shatters a brick in the fortress around my woman-heart.

Rumors, lies, rejection, shame – the walls are quaking.

Fear, secrets, bad theology, failure – the walls are crumbling.

Through the cracks and crevices, the river of sounds rushes from memories awakening. Carried on the current are sounds of laughter ringing & singing unleashed, flutes playing & songs written, words crafted & messages spoken, dreams whispered & hope declaring.

I know those sounds – pure and undefiled by disillusion. I know that passion – the certainty of having a gift to offer the world.

The girl I once was believed there was nothing so broken it could not be mended.  She believed someone somewhere needed her words, her voice. She believed she loved what she loved for a reason, that all the intricacies of her heart were not without purpose.  She believed she could not be silenced.

And now as the river carries the dreams of her childhood into her present, rushing ever faster, straining the dam of disappointment the years have haughtily erected, she sees with new eyes.  Perhaps what she thought was dead has merely been sleeping, growing, waiting.

Sometimes Hope is everywhere, the signs of promise blooming all around and all you have to do is drink in the wonder.  But sometimes Hope comes because you give her no choice.  You reclaim her.  You take her and say, “You will stay.  You will be the rapids in my river of awakening. You will be the final surge needed to shatter the dam.  You will.”

I will be the best of the girl I once was and the girl I am now – warrior spirit, creative heart, prophetic voice.  Come, rushing River. Come, fierce Hope.  Today, let’s be free.

Today I am joining my voice with an army of women claiming their freedom through the Story Sessions link up. Join us?

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Filed under Hope, Music, Passion, Writing

Uprooting Fear

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was 8 years old, a starry eyed 3rd grader, who loved music more than anything.  All my spare time was spent imagining shows and costumes and songs and stages.

The small school I attended had a music program unlike any other I’ve ever encountered.  Our music teacher was a creative force, ideas and dreams far grander than mundane things like budgets and time allowed for.  Every year, the entire school participated in a massive talent show.  And I do mean the entire school.  Every single class came up with an act.  Every Fine Arts group performed – handbells, recorders, choir, drama, bands (of which there were literally like 6 different ones).  Even all the faculty and staff managed to put together a number, much to the delight of all the students, who loved seeing their teachers look ridiculous. On top of this, there were open auditions for anyone else who wanted to showcase a talent.  There was a huge opening number and a massive finale in which I’m fairly certain there were more people packed onto the stage and every square inch of aisle space than were seated in the audience.  People waited to hear the theme for each year’s show and for the unveiling of the elaborate stage designs with the same anticipation and expectation you see in those silly teen flicks where they all gush over prom themes (only without the drama and ridiculousness).

So, the year I was in 3rd grade, the theme was Broadway – my favorite thing ever (still!).  The stage was going to be a massive city skyline reminiscent of New York City.  The opening number was going to be a classic chorus line featuring a medley of famous Broadway songs, particularly the grand “Hello, Dolly!” theme song.  And most exciting, our music director, Mr. G., asked me to be Dolly.  I was going to sing the solo, wear a fabulous glittering gold dress, have the huge feathers in my hair – the whole nine yards.

Only I had one enormous problem – I was absolutely petrified with a fear of looking foolish.  And if you’ve ever seen the musical, Dolly Levi is quite the over-the-top, flamboyant character.  And I wanted to do it SO badly (I can still feel the ache of how much I wanted to play this part), but I was paralyzed with the prospect of facing ridicule, with looking silly in front of hundreds and hundreds of people, with the fear of being tormented by classmates for years to come, especially if I made any error.  So I told Mr. G and my parents a lie, told them I didn’t want to do it.  And vividly remember crying in my bed that night, heartbroken over how afraid I was.

My best friend got the part instead, went on to become the darling of the school and the go to person for all solos needing sung, and it would be 5 years before anyone beyond a few close friends would find out I could sing.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson from this – the amazing opportunities fear causes us to miss.  But this fear – especially in regards to music and performing – has followed me and haunted me my entire life.  Auditions I didn’t go to, contests I didn’t enter, practice sessions ended early because someone showed up in the practice room next door and I didn’t want them to hear me – sometimes it was the fear of my own lack, fear of discovering I actually wasn’t any good at the one thing I love more than anything else.  There was the musical I didn’t audition for in college because I was afraid of the pastor and youth leaders I worked under – I would have had to stepped away from some ministry responsibilities because of the rehearsal schedule and they would have taken me to pieces for stepping away from “eternal” matters for something as “shallow” as a musical.  Even as much progress as I made and as much as I learned getting my music degree, I massively regret knowing I could have gotten so much more out of that season if I wouldn’t have been so afraid of . . . of everything. Of myself. Of other people’s opinions. Of the comparison of myself to others.

I can’t help but wonder how life would be different if I wasn’t afraid.  I wonder how much life could change right now if I chose not to be afraid.  Or more likely, chose to shove fear out of the way and take chances anyway.  And there grows in me the hope that maybe it’s not too late.  Maybe today is as good a day as any to kick fear in the teeth and tell it where it can go.

If the tables were turned and you were sharing your story with me, telling me the longing of your heart and how fear has held you back, I would champion your dream.  I would tell you not to give up.  I would tell you to reach deep for the place in your being where the intensity of your passion outweighs the intensity of your fear.  I would tell you to choose a step – any step – but to take one step towards what you were made for, towards doing what your heart will never feel complete without doing.

So perhaps I should begin to follow my own advice.

I think I will. One shaking step at a time.

 

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Awakening

Image Source: Messy Canvas

Image Source: Messy Canvas 

My heart has been hibernating.

I’m not sure when exactly the long sleep started.  It was not an intentional choice; there was not a specific moment where I decided to knock it unconscious and hide it away in a dark cave.  Rather, it was a gradual numbing, a slowly drawn out decrescendo until its pulse faded from hearing.

But I am beginning to remember how it was done before I fell asleep.

I remember a little girl, 4 or 5 years old, captivated by musicals and passing the hours imagining herself swept up in song and dance.

I remember a 6 year old girl asking her parents for ballet lessons, in her mind thinking she’d better get started on learning to dance if she was ever going to be on Broadway.

I remember an 8 year old girl spending her spare time writing plays and trying to get all her classmates to act them out during recess.

I remember a 10 year old girl grinning from ear to ear as she gently touched the shiny flute in its velvety case, finally holding the instrument she had been waiting for years to play.

I remember the thrill of a 13 year old girl singing a solo for the first time – being all at once terrified and happier than ever.

I remember so wanting to sign up for a beginning art class as an elective in high school, but being too afraid because I had never been very good with visual art (plus everyone said the teacher was always mean to female students).

I remember my heart breaking as I sat through band and choir classes in a school that had no vision or funding or passion for a quality arts program.

There are countless snapshots in my memory.  I could fill pages and pages because there was never a time when art and creativity were not a part of my life.

***

Several weeks ago, in several different settings, I listened to myself being described by others.  Their words were positive.  They accurately reflected strengths I do have.  But there was not one mention of creativity, of music, of artistry – all the things that most intricately make up the fibers of who I am.  I wasn’t upset at them, but I was jolted by a realization.

I have long stopped thinking of myself as an artist.  And of course, no one else sees me this way; how could they when I have not seen me this way?

There are so many things contributing to this shift over the course of many years – disappointments, failures, closed doors, decisions I made, lies I believed – each one a powerful sleeping pill slowly sedating my heart.

But the composition of my heart has not changed, and the anesthesia is beginning to wear off.  I am stirring, stretching, seeking what it is to feel awake and alive again.

Admittedly, this is a daunting moment – daring to believe it is not too late and mustering the courage to re-weave my life’s story.  Is it even possible to change when you allowed your life to be steered down a far different trajectory?

I have to believe it.  I do not want to journey through life with a sleep-walking heart.  I want to be fully engaged, fully alive, fully on fire.  This is the year for unlocking creativity and artistry again.  This is the year for awakening.

 

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Blowing the Embers

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have spent most of my life apologizing for myself.

I don’t know who said it first or who said it loudest; the voices have melded over time into a monotonous chant of criticisms all beginning with the word “too”.

Too strong-willed.

Too emotional.

Too ambitious.

Too dramatic.

Too romantic.

Too serious.

Too driven.

Too deep.

Too much.

And I have apologized and tried to be less because I know I am fiery, and I know if you brush up against fire, you end up burned.  I tried to be less “all or nothing”.  Some times I tried to be less to appease others, and some times I tried to be less to give myself a break.  It is wearying to love with such intensity, to be a black and white person in a world tinged with gray.  And when you throw yourself into things with abandon, with all of your heart, there are no such thing as small mistakes; oh no – when I make a mistake, I go down in a not-so-glorious blaze of glory.

Only recently have I come to realize the high price I have paid for the pursuit of “less than”.  At every stage, I have laid down something of my creativity, one piece at a time – first drama, then dance, then instrumental music (I played the flute and saxophone quite well once upon a time), then songwriting, then poetry.  A few weeks ago, I found myself contemplating giving up singing, and the throbbing of what my life would be if I muted myself completely unlocked the realization of how hard I have worked to quench my own fire.  And how beyond the shadow of a doubt that is NOT who I want to be.

The One Who Sees wove my being together this way.  My DNA is threaded with thunder and lightning, flaming fire, roaring rivers, majestic symphonies.   My heart dances wildly – sometimes the fierce dance of a warrior, sometimes the seductive dance of a lover, sometimes the yearning dance of a ballerina, sometimes the carefree dance of a thousand fireflies.  And in His hands, I am not too much.  I daresay, I am an echo of His own passionate heartbeat resonating through the universe.

I declare this heart – my heart – to be holy ground because the Creator of the Universe walks here.  And His whispers have come to blow the embers, to wake the sleeping fire in me.

*This is in response to a prompt from Story Sessions.  Join us?

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Chasing Stories

This week, I am beginning a writing course – Story101.

I haven’t shared this with many people because so far when I have, I’ve been met with concerned stares and well-intentioned  “are you crazy?” responses.  And I know it’s because they genuinely care.  My life is ridiculously busy – two small children, two intensely demanding part-time jobs, ministry within a blossoming church plant, marriage.  Most weeks, I spin like a tornado from Sunday into Saturday, pausing for a few hours (if I’m lucky) to catch my breath before beginning the cycle again.  Why oh why would I add another thing to my plate when I’m already dropping my food every time I try to take a bite?

Because for nearly seven years, I have not done a single thing to take a step towards my passions.  Not. One. Single. Thing.

And I would not go so far as to say the time has been wasted because it hasn’t.  I got married (yes, please).  I gave birth to two precious treasures (and now I know what it is like to hold the world in my arms).  I have stepped through the doors that have opened and as a result, I’ve had my character sharpened, some skills refined.  So, yes, I have done some roundabout things that are undoubtedly important.

But there are two things that unleash a fire in me, that unlock the heart of God to me, that speak of life and love and adventure and mystery waiting.  Two things in which I lose myself and find myself all at once.

Music.  And words.

I should be pursuing the first as well, but I will transparently admit that particular passion has been the source of tremendous wounds that are still gaping and so I can’t.  Not right now.

But words have been churning in me, and I know in my bones it is time to write again.  To write seriously.  To embrace the discipline, the creativity, the vulnerability.

So, do I have time for a writing course?  No, not really.  But this time I am choosing to be crazy rather than to go crazy.  Because I need to create.  I need to stand on tiptoes straining for a glimpse of the eternal.  I need to try and capture with words what words are ultimately hopeless to express.

And I wonder, what is locked up in you that needs to be released?  What is buried under the cluttered layers of ordinary?  What should you tap into your inner crazy for the courage to pursue again?  Don’t go crazy with the wondering of what might have been, with the pent up bottling of passion.

Today is as good a day as any to chase your story.

 

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Lifeline

I am weary in every sense of the word.

My heart feels like it has been squeezed and squeezed, and stretched and squeezed.

The last few weeks have brought a barrage of questions, emotions, conflicts, decisions, opportunities, revelations.  It is like the tiniest glimpse into what it must have been like to wrestle with God all through the night.

But tonight, I dragged my weary soul into His presence alongside beloved friends, covenant family.  And it never ceases to amaze me that no matter where you’ve been and I’ve been, we get together and cry out and He comes.

I have spent a lifetime trying to do enough, be enough.  But I get in His presence and am reminded that I am already enough because I am His.  Because I love Him and He cannot resist a heart that adores Him.  I may not be good enough to deserve it, but I am precious enough.

Every burden, fear, worry, hope, expectation, conflict, question – everything melts away when He wraps around me.  His presence is what sustains me through everything else that makes absolutely no sense.  And I know there is always someone who reads words like these and says, “But I can’t feel Him.  Why can’t I feel Him?”

And I can only say, dear heart, I have been there.  I have been in the moments where it seemed everyone was experiencing God but me.  I have been in the seasons where it seemed the only amazing, life-changing service was the one I missed.  I have walked through the times where the wounds were so great it seemed I would never be able to find Him in that place again.  I have known the heavens as brass and His voice as silent and His heart seemingly distant.

But I have learned to never stop chasing.  He is never far.  It does not always makes sense to me, but I know now I will find Him, how my heart will touch Him.  And you will too.  Be relentless.

Because His presence is our lifeline, our everything.  When we touch Him, we are whole.

Tonight I did the one thing that sets my heart on fire like no other – I sang to my Beloved.  He enfolded me with His gentleness and His grace.  He is here with me in my weariness, my wandering.  And I am left with this assurance in the midst of all my imperfections – He loves me.

 

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Filed under Faith, Music, Presence, Worship

Reaching for Words

Sometimes you just have to write.  Even if you are not sure what you want to say, still the words beckon you.

To know they are still there.

To feel you are alive.

To try to grasp the eternal before the mundane manages to sweep it away.

To not lose touch with your heart again.

Two short weeks ago, I sat at the symphony, awaiting the performance of a piece I had long loved but never experienced in person. I watched as the stage began to fill with instruments and players and singers, until every available space was filled.  The sheer size of the choir and orchestra in front of me caused my heart to skip a beat.

It was like the anticipation of a first kiss.

And when the timpani and gong pounded their first beat, the voices soared, the instruments sang – I was pulled into a wall of sound with a force that caused my dormant heart to spring to life again.

This is why I must write.  Because with the absence of music and poetry and mesmerizing words, passion slumbers inside me.  And I do not want her to slumber any longer.  I want her to burn.  I want to brush up against the wonder of the eternal, to see something majestic created from dust, for my emptiness to explode with color and sound and motion.

I will reach for the words chasing me, find my voice, find my song, find my heart.

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