Tuesday, April 18, 2017

After the rain...

It's April, in Seattle.  And while I think we all know the saying April showers bring May flowers, up here it goes a little further.  September showers bring...well, October showers, and November showers, and December showers....and well here we are in April and it's still raining, and while the flowers are indeed blooming, those showers have also brought moss in droves, and weeds that grow an inch a day, and lots and lots of people wondering if they will ever live to see the sunshine for more than an hour here and there.

I was thinking about this as I was walking my dog a few days ago, and while I haven't loved the amount of rain we have been getting (we got our annual rainfall within the first two months....), I started to think about how there may be more to be gained from the weather than seasonal affective disorder and bucket after bucket of weeds.

One of the reasons I love this corner of the country is the green.  It's just greener than the green other places, and it's everywhere, not just where the sprinkler hits.  And in between apartment complexes and neighborhoods, there are forests because there are SO many trees.  Trees so straight and tall that they make you feel small and strong all at the same time.  They're mostly pines and cedars, stretching their very top branches towards heaven.  The air is so clean that when I'm not home, visiting Colorado or California, I have a hard time breathing because of the dryness.  When I get home I feel like I can breath deeper and the air feels so fresh and clean and good.  Everything is cleaner.

It wouldn't be clean, green or fresh and lush without the rain.  Just as we wouldn't have the growth or introspection that we get from trials.  Trials that may seem to crash life's party (just as the rain may do at our picnic), or make us wonder how much longer we will have to suffer.  The Lord knows us, knows what we need, and like a good Father, He knows that one of the best ways to prepare us to return to Him, refine us, and help us reach toward Him, is by allowing us to experience trials.

Since I've moved up here I've gotten a little more comfortable with walking in the rain.  It might help that it's not the same rain they get in Pennsylvania or Ohio where you're soaked in a few minutes...  But nonetheless it was something I had to get used to.  And when I do, and I think about the water raining down and how it really is good for the earth, and good for me, and start to feel almost grateful for it.  There is a peace, and a calm, and while I earnestly wait for sunshine and warmth, I can bear the rain because I know that there is growth and beauty that comes only through the washing of the earth.

This weekend was Easter, and while most Christians tend to reflect mostly on the crucifixion of Christ, Mormons take a step back to both acknowledge His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, through His trial and death, and then His triumphant victory over death in the Resurrection.  As I looked up at the blue sky with the brilliant sunshine on Easter morn, my heart was filled with joy not only because the weather seemed so fitting for the day, but because it had been SO long since we had enjoyed a sunny day.  And all that rain made me even more thrilled to see the sun.  It truly is a gift to experience trials and pain in this life, for without them, we can't know joy and peace.  We wouldn't seek for the Hope Christ gives us if we could not experience the pain of this world.  The joy of the resurrection would mean little if we didn't have the grief and loss that death brings.

And so, at this Easter time, I am grateful for the rain.  It is hard to see gray skies so much, and to wonder when the sun will come again, but there is beauty all around us if we just step outside, and somewhere, someone is seeing a rainbow.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Watching the Director

I was asked to be the choir director in my Church today.  I have yearned for this opportunity for a long time, but have always landed myself in wards (groups within our Church) where there were plenty of other people with way more musical expertise than myself, so I figured it probably wouldn't happen.  Well, it just so happens that although I'm still in a ward like that, the awesome music people are off doing other things, so there was a vacancy.  The great thing is, that if you are willing to learn and serve with all your heart (which I try to), you can learn and grow as you fulfill your "calling" and (hopefully) everyone is patient and supports you as you figure things out.  AND, there are training manuals etc. etc.  so, while I may not know exactly what I'm doing, I have an idea, and I believe that I will have the help I need to succeed. I believe that music is a gift from God that can touch souls and communicate to us in ways words cannot.  I want so much to help the choir members and congregation see through my imperfections as a leader and musician and feel of the testimony and truths in the music.

During a moment of self reflection today, I did wonder, "how am I going to direct a choir where there are several people who are more musically trained that I am?"  I thought about the many times in our lives where we may be put in a situation where we really don't have a good idea of how to do things the right way and we have to learn "on the job".  How about parenting?  How about marriage??  How about life? 

I also thought about orchestras and really amazing choirs, and how interesting it is to think about the fact that some of these ensembles are comprised of exceptional musicians who have had years and years of training.  And yet, they are still led and follow a director.  They may be amazing, but they pay attention to the notes, the dynamics recommended by the composer, and they watch (even during a performance) with focused gaze on their director.  They may think they know better, but if they go off on their own, they will end up detracting from the song and kinda ruin the performance.  They must play their instrument the best way they can, while still staying within the bounds the director has set.  After set practice hours, they practice individually, and they study the music, so that they are prepared and ready to follow instructions during rehearsal and the performance.

The violinist does not compare herself to the tuba player, nor does he feel bad about himself because he does not sound like the drummer.  We all have our own instrument, our own song to sing, and each instrument, when played at its best, contribute to the beautiful thing that is the symphony.  The maestro knows each of his musicians, and their strengths and weaknesses, and he knows their instruments too.  He wants to bring out their best selves, and help the orchestra be all it can be.  He requires our focus, our hard work, and our commitment to follow directions and study the music.  He understands that we will make mistakes now and again, and

So as I direct my small choir I will be mindful of that great Director who is encouraging me and helping me be my best self.  I need to more fully commit myself to following Him and studying the music (the scriptures) so that I can grow in my abilities, and be prepared to play through the hard times, watching Him closely so that I will not waiver.   I also believe that while He is giving me this small opportunity to direct, that in the end it is He who I should look to.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The List

For as long as I can remember whenever I’ve called my mom with my head stuffed with a myriad of things to accomplish, and not nearly enough time to do them all in, she has always said, “have you made a list?”  Usually my answer was “no”, but I got better at it, and now that I’m married, most Saturday mornings find me and my guy making a list of the things we’d like to get done.  We do this so we can try to focus on the most urgent tasks, and so that we can know how to support each other in attending to our individual priorities as well. 

Last Saturday we made such a list.  It was pretty long.  About an hour later however, I remembered to my delighted horror (that IS a thing), that my daughter’s birthday was tomorrow.  I had been thinking all this time that it was Tuesday, but it was indeed Sunday.  I had procrastinated buying anything significant and really didn’t know what to get because I hadn’t planned anything either.  Mommy guilt trip planned and underway…  And, being pretty set in our religious convictions, I knew that if there was any purchasing of presents or celebratory d├ęcor, it had to be done today.  Suddenly, all the things that I had put on the all-important list, became, well, quite unimportant.  I took my daughter out and we went to Build-a-bear where she settled for a stuffed animal palomino, in lieu of the real thing.  I sat and watched her eat (very slowly) a pink cupcake, and on the way home I remember hearing her say, “you know what I love about my horsie?  ALL OF IT!” She had a fun day, she had felt special, mission accomplished as the mommy guilt train left the station…phew!

I came home, really tired (there were a lot of bratty kids in build-a-bear, and it had taken a toll – FYI, the cupcake was awarded to one very well behaved child…).  I put my babe down for a nap, and then snuck off to take one myself.  Not long after which, my baby decided he’d much rather snuggle with mom.  Which turned into, much rather explore my bed and tempt fate by crawling full speed right to the very edge.  I got up and came downstairs. 

There was a church meeting to go to, where we would get to hear from some of our female leaders from Church Headquarters.  I was tired, I didn’t really feel like going.  BUT, I remembered that a long time ago I almost didn’t go to a church meeting because I didn’t feel great, and I ended up hearing a talk that would impact my family and many, many others for good.  So, I decided that if I really didn’t feel like going, I probably REALLY SHOULD go.  So I did, and it really helped my whole mood, and spiritual energy go way up.  I was able to sit with ladies who I love to laugh with, and the messages were truly inspiring.  AND, I was able to get to Menchies with 5 minutes to spare to pick up a cake that my 4 year old talked all day about getting.

When I got home, my husband told me something that really struck me.  He said, “I think you chose the right things today.”  Had I?  I guess I had.  I had almost forgotten what I had even added to the list, but it didn’t matter then because I felt fulfilled.  It made me think about how I use my time, because I think that most days, I flounder about wasting time here, focusing too much on cleaning there…and not enough time just being WITH my kids.  And I don’t mean just physically with them, am I really present.  Am I taking seriously the charge to seek after the things that matter to God.  Or, am I too busy with my own to-do list.

A friend of mine recently had to write her brother’s obituary.  He was my age.  And it made me think if I would feel fulfilled when my mortal life comes to its end.  Would I feel as if I had worked off the right list.  Would I have more hours logged on Facebook than hours spent reading to my children.  Will I have helped someone else feel better, rather than helped myself to more dessert.  I very much want the things that I choose to spend my time on, reflect who I want to become, or rather, who HE wants me to become.

What if you learned that you suddenly only had today to live.  Or that someone you loved only had today.  How would you choose differently?  What would be on your list? 

I think I would have “watch the sunrise” at the top, then “pray”.  I would make a point to look into my kids eyes when they speak, not just nod while looking at my phone.  I would go for a walk and feel grateful for a healthy body, and a beautiful world to enjoy it with.  I would look for opportunities to help others instead of judge them.  I would be more forgiving of myself.  Well, then why don’t I?  Why don’t I make lists of ways to be, not things to do. 

Maybe my “vision board” should have words like, “gracious”, “prayerful”, “kind”, “patient”.  Isn’t that the whole point?  We are here on earth to “become” something more, not to acquire more somethings.  After all, when the sun sets on our lives, will others applaud us for having many shares, or for having shared, with many?  I hope it’s the latter..

So for now, I take a break from the everyday to-do list, and make lists that help me remember that it is who I am becoming that is more important, rather than the never ending check boxes of tasks that leave very little mark on our world or on the hearts of those around us.

Some ideas are…

The things you love about your spouse

The things you are grateful for

The things you want your children most to know

The things you remember about someone you’ve lost

The people who have touched your life

The qualities you most admire and want to develop