Monday, September 28, 2015

What Have I Done?

I did something last night. Brazen? Crazy? Pointless? I don't know. I'd been planning on doing it for some time, but wasn't altogether sure I'd actually go through with it. Part of me is still shaking my head, wondering at my nerve. Most is me is chuckling, convinced that there's not a chance this will go anywhere. A tiny piece is hopeful - that maybe there's the slightest possibility that something good will come from this audacious move. 

I submitted one of my songs to a fairly major Christian artist competition - with three whole days to spare before the entry deadline! (My university profs would be shocked...) The song I chose was the first one I ever wrote - way back in May :)  I think I've mentioned bits of that journey, but I'd like to pull it all together here and point to God's ridiculous grace and immeasurable goodness in the midst of this great adventure.

Let me start by stating that I turned the big four - oh this past January. I sang my first solo in church when I was three and started leading worship at the age of twelve. I've been at this for awhile. But I had never written a song. I had always wanted to - I had asked God numerous times throughout the course of my life for that gift. But to no avail...until May 7th, 2015. (Timing is everything!)

I was journalling that morning, as I often do. I had been dealing with some issues, and was able, that morning, to begin to let go of what I was holding on to so tightly. I was blown away by how tenaciously God loved me, even in the midst of all my messes, flaws and disobedience. I turned the page in my journal, and ten minutes later had scribbled down three verses, a chorus and a bridge. I then started singing out the words to whatever tune came to me, and in another ten minutes had a melody. 

I had no keyboard in the house, so I ran down the road to the church I attended at the time, and where I had been teaching myself to play piano for several months, having been given permission to use the sanctuary during the day. I spent a couple of hours figuring out what chords went with the melody (that was the hardest part, having little background in theory or composition). Then, I recorded it so I could remember it, which I demoed that afternoon on my (singer/musician/writer/producer) husband. I was kind of stunned at how it all came together.

I had worship team practice that night. When someone asked how my day had been, I tried to conceal my sheer delight, and failing utterly, exclaimed "I wrote a song!". My team leader, an accomplished singer/songwriter himself, said, "Let's hear it." Too nervous to play it live, I got out my phone and replayed the recording I'd made earlier. It was shaky, to say the least.

Be that as it may, the next words out of my team leader's mouth were, "No pressure, but do you want to play it on Sunday?" Say what?!? Apparently, the theme of my little song went perfectly with the text of the day. Terrified as I most certainly was, I agreed, and spent the next two days practicing, freaking out and marveling over the fact that I had actually written this thing I was getting so much joy out of. (I'll be eternally grateful for this first opportunity to share my fledgling efforts - it proved to be a springboard for all that has followed - thank you, Friend.)

And the rest, as they say, is history...Forty-one-songs-in-four-months later, I'm looking forward with anticipation to how God will keep using this gift He's so generously given. Going forward with open hands and heart, following His lead. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Boy Who Lived

I had the sad privilege today of serving at a funeral for an 18-month-old little girl. She had suffered from an illness involving debilitating seizures from the age of 2 months. In spite of the heartbreaking circumstances, the service was filled with hope and joy and peace. The family was firm in their belief that little Arianna was safe in the arms of Jesus, free from pain and surrounded by love. It was beautiful.

But at the same time, it just seemed so wrong. Like something had gone badly awry in the grand scheme of things. Associating the thought of a child with something so final and awful as just doesn't jive. And it brought back some hard memories for me. 

We lost a child, once upon a time. Way back in 2007. August 20th. An early miscarriage - at about 7 and a half weeks. It wasn't a very long time, but long enough to have established a firm, unbreakable mother-love connection. The death of a child, no matter how old or young, seems to me a particularly poignant loss - it's not only the present loss that hurts so much, but the loss of a future that will never come to pass.

I have to admit that the years have softened the pain of this loss somewhat- I don't often think of this little one who blessed our lives for so short a time. We've told the boys that they have a brother or sister in Heaven whom they'll meet one day, and they sometimes talk about how that will be. (From the very start, I've had one of those hard-to-explain gut-feelings that the baby was a girl - our little Ceilidh Ila-May.) It's one of those things that changes you, forever.

But life goes on, whether you like it or not. We were delighted and more than a little fearful to discover we were expecting again about six months after the miscarriage. As is often the case after an experience like this, we decided not to tell anyone about the pregnancy until it was "safe", around 14 weeks. 

Fast forward 7 weeks to Easter Sunday morning. The choir I directed had prepared a beautiful, powerful Easter presentation. It was just a few minutes before we were scheduled to go on stage. As is common in early pregnancy, I was so tired. I really wanted to tell our good news (and get a little sympathy for the dark circles under my eyes), but I was able to keep our secret. And though I had already made several pit stops that morning (another common early pregnancy issue, as many of you know), I thought I'd rather be safe than sorry and popped into the ladies' room one more time. 

My heart froze in my chest. I had begun to bleed. My mind raced back to the other time - it had all started exactly the same way. I was stunned; I simply couldn't believe this was happening to me - again. 

But even as I was all ready to cry, panic and go into all out freak-out mode, a thought came to me. I remembered what day it was - Easter! Resurrection Sunday! The ultimate celebration of new life! And I knew I had a choice - I could despair, or I could trust. I prayed right then and there, something like, "God - You raised Jesus from the dead. I believe You can do that for this little life. Your will be done." 

So I took a deep breath, gathered my courage, and went out to pray with my choir and lead them in worshiping the resurrected Jesus. 

And about seven and a half months later, our sweet Jakey was born. (Thanks be to God.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Summer of My Discontent

A friend on the East Coast, the pastor of a church we attended several years ago,  noticed I was on Facebook early this morning and messaged me: "Up early spending time with the Lord?" He was partly teasing and partly serious, I think... I answered, "Actually, yes :) " And he said, "Lol, I knew it!".  

This brief exchange got me thinking - I wasn't actively engaged in reading Scripture or praying at the moment I received that message, but I had answered "yes" almost automatically. Was it a lie? Was I just trying to look good and spiritual for my pastor? 

Maybe - but then I realized that over the past several weeks, I'd been cultivating, almost inadvertently, the habit of living life with a continuing awareness of God's presence in it. To put it in simple terms, Jesus and I have been hanging out - and I'm so thankful.  

I have to be honest here - it's been a really rough summer for me. It looked pretty good on the surface; lots of good family time and memories made, lots of leisure and relaxation and rest, lots of ministry and song-writing and stretching and growth. And it was good, it really was. 

But my inner self has been shriveling by degrees all summer long, for a complex variety of reasons.  I won't go into great detail here, but between changing churches and financial challenges and less time on Facebook and one of my bestest friends moving away, as well as some other stuff, it's been hard. 

I felt hurt and alone; that all my external sources of support were being pulled out from under me, leaving me dangling precariously, hoping there was a trampoline down there somewhere. In response, I inwardly retreated - a subconscious safety mechanism, I suppose. So, while I physically participated in life this summer, my heart and mind and spirit were safely tucked away in a little hidey-hole. 

But you know God wasn't gonna let me stay there.  Even in the pit of my despair, I started to experience His presence in a way I never had before. Through the disciplines of prayer and gratitude, my daily exercise turned into prayer walks and my inner monologue became praise - sprinkled with a generous dose of questions and requests and observations and just...conversation. God's been training me to see Him; to become more and more aware of the fact that He is Emmanuel - God with us, God with me...

My outward circumstances are pretty much unchanged - I'm still missing my friends, I still have financial challenges, my bestie is still moving...but it's gonna be ok. My Rock remains, unchanging, unmoving, always firm and secure. And for that, I'm grateful.