Musical Evening

This evening (Saturday night) we had a “Musical Evening” at our house. It was a lot of fun. The idea behind the evening is that I want music to be accessible to everyone. I feel like there is a pervasive attitude in our culture that music is for the professionals. Our job as average people is to sit and listen to the professionals. And that’s just not true. Music is to be enjoyed by everyone. Every age and every ability level. And when we do get the chance to hear a professional, it’s just icing on the cake.

Almost all of my kids performed something, along with almost all the adults in the room. We had some self-made compositions on the piano. We had some kids do their own rendition of the Avenger’s Theme song, complete with drums. We heard the ukelele, the guitar, the piano. We had some really fun songs that made you laugh and some songs that had me crying. Patriotic, Religious, Humorous, Classical. Considering that we really were a small group, we did pretty good.

I am hoping to do more of these throughout the year. I want music to be an important part of my children’s home culture.

When I was a kid (pre-internet, pre-cell phones) music seemed to be everywhere. I went to a little elementary school in Eastern Kentucky, back in the hollows (pronounced hollers). My fifth grade teacher was an amazing musician. He kept a guitar in the corner of the classroom and when the class would start to get rowdy, he’d pull out his guitar and we would sing “Big Rock Candy Mountain”. I know we sang lots of songs, but that’s the one that stands out to me. In that community everyone played the guitar or the banjo or the fiddle. My dad would take his guitar with him when we would go to community events and a group of guys would always gather around and all start playing together. Blue grass. Folk songs. Gospel.

When I lived in Haiti we would sing for entertainment. Songs with different parts, harmonies twisting around each other. I remember my family learned a song that I believe was a translation of a piece by Bach. The words are, “Father in heaven, hear now your children, hear and bless us with your love, ever and ever, stronger yet and merciful, is your love for us, hallelujah amen.” It was a fairly simple two-part round song. I took such pleasure in singing it with my family.

I remember in Alaska hanging out with my friends in the summer. Some evenings we would gather around a piano and sing worship songs. Just for fun.

I remember going back to Haiti when I was 20. One of the missionary houses at a hospital compound, where I spent some time each week, had a piano. The piano was in a little nook close to the dining room where the nurses and doctors and other volunteers would eat their meals. I would bring my music and hide away in the nook,  playing to my heart’s content. I remember one dark evening, playing the entire Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. I knew that people were listening in the other room, but as long as they left me alone, I could relax and feel like I was just playing for myself.

I remember when I was still 20 and now in Chile living with my brother and his wife. I didn’t have a piano to play on. I felt desperate to be connected to music in some way. My sister-in-law had a music cd by Twila Paris. (I may be remembering this wrong, but I’m almost positive it was her.) The music was worshipful and had a couple songs I recognized. When I was home alone, I would put the cd on and sing along with it, full voice, full emotion, joining in the only way I could.

You know, there are more important things to teach my children than music. Jesus. Learning how to love people. Being kind. Responsible. But, music is like adding color to a black white photo. Putting sprinkles on the cupcake. Upgrading to first class on that long flight. It’s getting a vacation in Hawaii. Eating PapaJohns Pizza instead of Little Caesars. Life is just richer with music. I’m so thankful for my musical heritage that my parents passed down to me, and so thankful for a chance to share this amazing thing called music with my children. Thank you to all our friends and family who came out joined in!


Anxiety and the Gospel

Have you ever noticed how quickly your mood and attitude toward life can change? One minute you’re walking around and everyone you meet reminds you of Mr. Rogers (of Neighborhood fame), there are rainbows on the horizon, and you feel like you could do and be anything you want. And then one of your kids makes a bad choice and you suddenly feel like the worst parent ever: I’ve failed my child! Something happens at your kids school that makes you mad: I’m going to withdraw my kids from school and we’re all going to live in a commune in the wilderness and home school! Someone is rude to you at the store: I hate this town, why can’t we move! You have a sick day and get behind in your chores: I can’t do this, there is no way I can survive unless we hire a maid! And everything just feels like it’s unraveling right before your eyes.

So, I’ve had a week like that, or rather, that has been this past week. I found myself feeling anxious and unsettled this morning and I started doing some self-talk. It’s going to be ok. You’re going to be ok. You are ok. And suddenly that phrase that our pastors are always preaching at my church came back to me, “Preach the gospel to yourself.” And my self talk changed. I am ok because I have been saved. Everything is ok because Jesus already paid for all my sins. Everything is going to be alright because Jesus cares about me and he is in control and I don’t have to worry. He cares for me. He also cares about my kids, even more than I do. He’s got this. He’s going to help me figure out each one of these situations. I am not alone.

The anxiety rolled off my shoulders. Some of the tension eased. I put on some worship music later as I trudged through the chores. Took a nap because my worry has been keeping me from resting well. Felt better about life.

This is not the first time I’ve “preached the gospel to myself”. When I was 19 yrs old I started having panic attacks. Looking back I can see that I was very over-extended, sleep deprived, pursuing a career that really didn’t suit my personality. All of these were prime ingredients for inducing anxiety. I found panic attacks to be the most terrifying experience I had ever had. Mostly because I felt like I was going crazy and I didn’t know what to do with my racing thoughts. My very brain itself seemed out of order. During this time I dropped out of college and went overseas, spending 4 months in Haiti and then 5 months in Chile. While I was in Chile I attended a Spirit-filled Baptist Church where I had a lot of people pray for me, minister to me, teach me things about church life that I hadn’t learned yet. It was a time of spiritual awakening for me. I can’t remember if anyone specifically told me what to do or if God just helped me figure it out, but I remember I started having a panic attack one night and instead of completely melting down, I started preaching the Gospel to myself. I recited my entire creed of faith out loud. I believe in God. I believe he created the heavens and the earth. I believe in his son Jesus who came to earth. I believe that he died on the cross for my sins. I believe that he rose and died again. I believe that he forgave my sins. I believe that when I die I will be with him. I believe he has has sent his Holy Spirit, I believe his Holy Spirit lives in me.

By the time I was finished, the panic attack had eased off. I was still feeling shaky, but I had something to cling to and I clung hard. I was able to fall asleep and when I woke up, the anxiety had passed. Over the years I have struggled off and on with anxiety. For me, it has usually been a symptom of something deeper going on. Extreme stress, extreme fatigue, a need for some serious changes in my life. I have found that if I want the anxiety to really go away, I have to deal with these deeper issues. Make changes. But through it all, preaching the gospel to myself has kept me sane.

I in no way am going to claim that this is how you heal panic attacks. I have family members who have struggled with anxiety for years and they have had to come up with their own ways of coping, but having an anchor to hold on to while you figure it out is invaluable. Having a certainty that you are not alone and that someone a lot bigger than you is holding you even while you go through the storm, that is something I long for everyone to have. Preach the Gospel to yourself. Every day. It is life.