Sunrises, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and My New Piano

Sunrises. I love sunrises. For many years I have been too tired to get up and enjoy them. Nowadays, though,  I am driving my kids to school early every morning and during the winter I have been enjoying a lot of sunrises. My kids’ school is only about two miles away. It takes us maybe five minutes to get there. Part of the drive to the school involves going up a big hill and then we crest at the top and suddenly we have a big view of mountains and mist and red orange light peeking through the clouds. It’s amazing. Every morning I can’t stop myself from exclaiming to the kids, “Everybody look at the sunrise! It’s amazing!” And the kids have learned to oooh and aaahh right along with me. Thanking God for the sunrise is part of our morning prayers. I have always imagined God standing at an easel, throwing paint on left and right, painting the sunrise every day. God the Creator. The Creative One.

The other day as I was driving along, enjoying the beautiful colors, I thought about how we are created in the image of God. I’ve always wondered about that, what it means exactly. I thought about God painting the sky every morning, making art and it occurred to me that when we create things, make our own art, we are, in a small sense, being like God. We were made to create because we were made in the Creator’s image.

I thought about music. I love music, but I have struggled with music over the years. As a teenager I used music as an emotional outlet. A way to vent, a way to express emotions, a safe place to feel emotions. As life got more and more complicated, harder, I found myself shying away from music. As I look back, I can see where I struggled to keep depression away, and one of my solutions to not dealing with depression or anger or a bunch of other unresolved feelings, was to shy away from feeling any emotion. Just stay neutral. Calm.

The only problem with this approach is that when you don’t allow yourself to feel bad emotions, the really good emotions go away as well. I don’t think you can fully live in joy if you don’t also allow yourself to mourn. You can’t have peace if you don’t go through the conflict first. You can’t have happiness if you don’t deal with the anger. I think that as I shut myself down emotionally, I also shut down music. I just couldn’t do it. Music was too closely tied to emotions. I could sometimes sit down and play through some Bach or Mozart in an attempt to make my brain feel orderly, but I wasn’t feeling it. And so I mostly avoided it.

Lately, I have been looking at getting back into music. My husband, excited that I was showing an interest again, went out and got me an old 1935 Wurlitzer Baby Grand, for a really good price off Craig’s List. I went with him and helped him move it. It’s a perfect fit for our house.  It’s got some history, apparently it’s original owner was a violinist with the Knoxville Symphony and she died after a long happy life at the age of 103. It’s also a bit dinged up and scratched here and there which means we won’t have to freak out if our kids add another scratch or ding. I rearranged our entire living room so that I now have a Music Room at one end. I have started practicing a bit every day. Scales, warmups, old songs I played in high school. Just easing myself back into it. I have really been enjoying myself, but I’ve wondered about the emotional side of it. Can I relax enough to let myself play with feeling? Can I let myself feel the sadness in the song? Can I let myself feel again? I’ve been a bit worried that maybe I can’t any more. Maybe that part of me is gone. 

Today I was working on getting my piano music moved to a different bookcase and I found a piece of music that I didn’t even know I owned, “Pie Jesu” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s REQUIEM. My copy was a vocal duet with piano accompaniment. It’s a beautiful, simple song written in latin. The English translation that is written on the music gives the words as this:

Merciful Jesus, who takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.

Oh Lamb of God, who takest away the sin of the world, grant them eternal rest.

I sat down and started to sing it and play along. Alas. I am not a talented soprano and there was no way I could sing that high. My voice couldn’t bring justice to the beauty of the song. I stopped playing for a minute. And then I remembered my piano teacher, Ms. Wong, telling me to make the notes sing, make the melody sing. And I realized, I can’t sing the song, but I can make the piano sing it. And I did. And my fingers made the melody sing and it was beautiful. When I finally finished I sat there, feeling fidgety, like I needed to get up and do something. I stood up and went over the other side of my living room where I was still rearranging other books onto a shelf. (Moving my living room around created a couple projects I hadn’t been anticipating.) I was putting books back onto an empty shelf and I picked up my old Bible from years ago. I flipped it open and found myself in the book of Job, and I suddenly just wanted to read this chapter. Job 9. In this chapter Job talks about how powerful God is and how unworthy he, Job, is. In verse 33-35 he says,

“If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.”

I stopped reading and thought about how horrible that would be to have the full burden of your sins on your shoulders and no way to approach God because He is too Holy. And I suddenly realized that the song I had just played was an answer to Job’s predicament. Jesus takes away the sin of the world, and grants us rest. He removed God’s rod of punishment from us.

I went back to the piano, stared at the music again, and with fresh wonder, played the song again. And while I played, some tears fell, and I felt just a bit like my ice wall around my emotions started to crack a bit more. And I felt hopeful. Excited. I have missed music and I hadn’t even realized how much I missed it.

Here is a link to a recording of “Pie Jesu” if you’d like to hear it.

“Pie Jesu”

Joy and Purple Houses

I watched a TED Talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee the other day on Joy. What is it, how do things in the physical world create an emotional response… It was very interesting and I’ll put a link in for you if you want to watch it:

Where Joy Hides and How to Find It

In the talk she was emphasizing how color brings joy and it got me thinking about how I love bright colors so much. I recently bought myself a bowl from the Pioneer Woman Collection at Walmart. The bowl was less than $5. I was so excited when I bought it. I brought it home, filled it up with cut strawberries and had a moment of bliss. It was so beautiful! So colorful! I sat in a chair, nibbled on strawberries and felt decadent in my colorful splurge.

bowlofcolor

My husband and I often have differences of opinion  when it comes to color. About 7 or 8 years ago we were getting ready to paint our house and my husband asked me what color I wanted to paint it. My answer was Purple! He raised an eyebrow, laughed a second, and then said, really? You’re serious? YES! I want a purple house! Which purple?  I told him I didn’t care which shade of purple or how he wanted to go about it, he was the design/color expert, he could pick out whatever would look best. How could he argue? He would have preferred a more standard color but the color I wanted was tied into emotion..Why did I want a purple house? Because it made me happy, joyful!

So why on earth did purple houses make me happy? Ok. A tiny bit of backstory. I attended Biola University for 2 years, right after I graduated high school. My parents lived in Alaska and I would fly down to Southern California each semester by myself and live in a dorm. Though I made some good friends in college, it was still a bit lonely. My second year my dorm room was at the end of a very long hallway. Some kind soul had decided to try and cheer up the hallway and they had tacked up a bunch of prints of Thomas Kincaide’s paintings. You know what I’m talking about? Fuzzy, cozy houses, with beautiful light spilling from the windows. I would stop and look at these pictures as I headed for bed, late at night, after spending hours practicing piano at the music building. Looking at these pictures created a longing I had never had before. A longing for a home, somewhere stable, cozy, warm, inviting. Up to this point in time I had thoroughly embraced my parents’ nomadic lifestyle. My entire life I had never stayed in a home longer than 2 years. I assumed that I would continue this same pattern as an adult. I would move around, have lots of adventures, never settle too long in one place. When I saw these pictures I suddenly found myself wanting something completely different. I didn’t understand it, I just knew that one day I wanted a home that reminded me of these pictures.  

Later, when I had children, I read them a story called “Mr. Pine’s Purple House” by Leonard P. Kessler. It is a story about a man who wants his house to look different from his neighbors. He finally ends up painting his house purple. I loved this book. When I read it, I would think, Yes! I want a purple house too! But I would imagine a Thomas Kincaide -type purple house: fuzzy, lots of lights on the inside.

So, my husband asks me what color I want my house and I am ready, I’ve been saving up this answer for years…I want a purple house! My husband loves me. He is also a brave soul. He started looking at paint samples of all the millions of shades of purple that exist in the world. He finally came up with a plum purple on the top half of the house matched with a heavy cream on the bottom half. Looking at the paint samples, it looked great. We told the painters which colors we wanted.

We drove up to the house after the painters had finished one side. We both gulped, hard. Wow. That’s really purple. Really purple. We looked at each other, laughed nervously. My husband said, This was YOUR idea. I nodded. Yes, I would take full responsibility. Even though I was feeling nervous, seeing the purple still made me happy. I had an overwhelming urge to just laugh and dance. As the painters added the cream on the bottom of the house and finished everything up, it looked a lot more balanced, not quite as startling. I loved it. Every time I saw it I would start grinning. Why did I want a purple house? Because it makes me happy, joyful!

fuzzypurplehouse

Years down the road, the paint has faded, it needs to be redone soon. But I, the unobservant person that I am, still notice the color of my house and it still makes me happy. I am thankful for a Creator God who made all the colors around us and then also put a desire in us to be around those colors. I am also thankful for my husband whose color choices tend to favor tan and khaki and muted grays who nevertheless lets me indulge in my fits of color. You want to know how much he loves me? He just let me paint our bedroom an interesting shade of orange. Why? Because it makes me happy, joyful!