Friday, December 30, 2011

How to Talk so Kids Can Learn

Just read an amazing book, which is actually a sequel to another, I'm assuming, equally amazing book:



This book has potential to change how my classroom functions. I feel like I already do some of the things these two ladies talk about, such as:

- acknowldeging the child's feelings with a word or sound, i.e. "I see" or "mmm-hm."

- criticizing without wounding, praising without demeaning (or, describe what you observed instead of judging it, and allow the individual to evaulate.)

But there are many things that were, let's say, "common-sensical", and easy to apply, that I have never thought of. And I love these ideas! It is all about acknowledging the child as a person equal in dignity to teachers/parents/adults, even if they are not equal in experience or knowledge.

Now...some of you might be like I am, more of a "children need to know their place, this society gives children an inflated sense of worth" kind of deal (wow, that sounds sort of harsh when I write it out...I hope you know from this blog how much I treasure my children...) But, as parents and even as community, we have a responsibility to our children to raise them with a sense of respect, a sense of how to treat people, and a sense of humanity in relating to their fellow creatures. Where do they learn that from? From how the people they look up to treat them. For the most part, our previous generation talked to us in orders and requests for such-and-such activity, not giving much importance to our feelings in the matter. Whether said feelings hindered or encouraged our part in said activity was no concern to them, so long as they could force us to get things done.

Fast forward to our generation now teaching the new generation of children, and we inately fall back on the techniques when things aren't going well - sarcasm, belittlement, dismissing the child's feelings, threatening, prophecying (you'll never become a hard worker by...(fill in the blank)). This book suggests giving credence to the child's feelings, you open up communication and create relationship with the child to allow for better and fuller instruction.

In essence, what I gleaned from the book is: Love one another.

Yep...create relationship with the children you teach, the children you mother/father, any children you have some sort of influence on. You need to do more than teach them, order them around, show them the way. The way to help them grow best is by showing them how to be the best person they can be, and this is accomplished through acceptance of their innermost selves as valid. Give them their dignity. Allow them to question, complain, laugh, discover. Allow them to show us what they actually think and what they are actually struggling with that fogs their minds and hinders their focus on school or whatever the task at hand is. Just as adults have a hard time leaving our troubles at the door, children have an even harder time, as they don't have years of experience behind them of this learned behavior.

If you are a parent or teacher or someone who deals with children regularly, I highly recommend reading this book. It's prequel "How to Talk so Kids will Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk" was a bestseller, and is one that I am going to read very soon. I found "How to Talk so Kids Will Learn" refreshing and an easy read, as well as a good reminder of how to treat even "the least of these."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

All is merry and bright

Merry (late) Christmas to you all!

Happy (early) New Year to you all!

We have had a good vacation so far as our little family...getting to spend Christmas with Jon's mom and gram, who brought their 10 year old chocolate lab, Dakota, to spend some time with us as well.


This dog...I remember this dog from before Jon and I were dating and he was a chubby rambunctious puppy...I remember this dog as bullheaded and lovable and pushy about getting into Jon's/anyone's lap even when he weighed close to 90 pounds. I remember this dog as being difficult to control. And now - now he is old and has arthritis in his hips and loves on my babies and is still hairy and stinky and farts in our living room way more often than I think should ever happen...but I don't mind having him around. As long as he behaves himself. :)

Dakota, you smelly mutt.
Why must I smell what's in your butt?
It's a malodorous form of what went in your gut.
I must say that you should cut.
it.
out.


Anyway. Ode to Dakota over.

The kids did remarkably well with Christmas and all it's gluttonous presentry. I was a little (ok, a lot) nervous for Jeremiah, as he gets overwhelmed easy and has actually been on the brink of nervous little panic attacks for a week now, chewing on his shirts and jumping uncontrollably when we're talking to him.

aside: I think the way our culture builds up the excitement at Christmastime can create such crazed, foaming-at-the-mouth for Santa little creatures that it becomes too much for them. More than once at my school did I have students break down in tears over a misplaced pencil/careless word from a friend/you name the inane thing here. My 2nd grade piano student was so overtired during her lesson, she could barely function. It was 4:00 in the afternoon. Jeremiah has had bags under his eyes for weeks.

But, he did very well with all the new items, and seemed to take it all in well. Isaac still took his naps and ate on schedule. We had cinnamon buns from a can for breakfast and roasted pork loin from scratch for lunch. We traveled to my Nana's for more merrymaking, and then went home and I got to watch 3 episodes of Parenthood.

And I cried. About 3 times that day. Only twice during Parenthood episodes.

So, yes, that means that i cried once on Christmas this year. I could blame it on hormones. I could blame it on being overwhelmed. I could blame it on any number of things. But, I've decided to not blame tears on something, but instead accept them as a needed and healthy expression of my emotions.

I cry when I'm sad.
I cry when I'm happy.
I cry when I sing in church.
I cry when I'm angry.
I cry when I pray.
I even cry when i'm excited!

I cry so much, it's ridiculous. I fight being embarrased about it, but it's no use. It's how I operate. That particular day, I was crying for a couple things:

1. One of my first Christmases away from my family. (mom, dad, brother)
2. My first Christmas being "in charge" of everything...and I really didn't want to be. For me, that's no way to really relax.

I have written several times on this blog recently how life is so blessed, so good right now. And ironically, while feeling really blessed, I also feel incredibly inadequate and overwhelmed and unsure of how to handle it all. I have been slowly figuring out what I can take off my plate over the last month, and have succeeded in removing some big things, some small things. All will help with helping me do this job - the homemaking/family job - actually happen, and maybe even happen well. My kids are two very different ages, two very different stages, and need me. I am lucky to have an amazing, caring husband in Jon who is devoted to our family and takes an active part in raising the children and caring for them. But, I realized this month that there are still things that only I can be for Jeremiah. There are still things that only I can be for Isaac. And, there are still things that only I can be for Jon. And it is not fair to them to take those things away, or even lessen my energy towards those things because I am splitting myself between too many hats. Right now, being a wife to Jon, being a mom to Jeremiah, and a mom to Isaac takes up all my time, mostly because I not satisfied with those relationships being on the "to do" list...they need to be active and growing and beautiful representations of Christ and the church. It is not easy but it is good.

And exhausting.

And good.

The only other thing I cannot give up right now is my job. Which, I don't want to give up, really, so that works out. But, boy is it hard to do the teacher thing and the family thing right now. I feel for a while that I have not been doing either very well...simply doing them ok and getting by.

If you are a friend or family member, I humbly ask for your prayers. There is nothing wrong, but I am feeling unpeaceful and plagued by worry and exhaustion. With that comes the desire to despair and give up, even if just for a minute, or a day. I need grace. I need relationship with God more than ever. I know it's a little weird asking for prayer on such a public forum, but I know not many people read this, and I need all the prayer I can get right now!

Hear, O Lord, and answer, I am poor and needy.
Guard my life for I am devoted to you.

May this Holiday season find you all happy and rested. I am getting there, and love and miss you all.





p.s. - sorry for my awful poem about the dog. this is what happens! please pray for me! :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

sometimes looking at my boys at night...



...when the little one wakes up with his pathetic little cry for mom's milk...




...when the older one stirs and makes noise in his bed and cries because he's gone into our room and we're not there yet...




...and I am amazed at my ability to forget the frustration of the mundane day-to-day work schedule...





...forget the helpless nature of "not-enough-time"...



...forget the hardness of the day...




...and see only my little ones, vulnerable and needy...





...growing so fast like the ever rising sun...




...and I pray the hopeless prayer that they will never leave me...




...that they will remain in this pure form forever...




...tiny feet, grasping hands, hugging arms, and innocent minds...





...and I hope to God that He gives me the ability to not screw it up.




I am overwhelmed with gratitude in the gifts of my children and husband. I could never be enough, and yet, am here purposefully in God's will at this moment with them. Thank God that He is enough. May I strive to remember only that. If I keep my eyes on Jesus, whom He graciously sent to us here on earth - only then will I be at peace.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

thankful

I realized the other day that I am able to make a living off of doing what I love.



Not everyone can say that.




I love music. More specifically, I love singing and lines in instrumentation that sing and how much expression the human voice can convey.

So much of what I do day-to-day in my "jobs" includes, even requires that talent/gift/ability. I am so thankful that I get to be a voice in God's kingdom. I know I am other things as well sometimes, like hands and feet, but that's not where I'm most comfortable. Where I can deliver grace and truth and love is in singing it out.

Music is the way I worship - has been since I was a teeny tiny little girl and staying up way too late singing all the praise songs I learned at children's choir that day until my mom came in with a gentle "that's enough, now it's time to sleep."

Music is the way I process. When I am in a mood - whether it be an excited mood, a mellow mood, frustrated, humbled, scared, or meloncholy...music can help me process what's going on and pull it out of me so I can move on. Just today, I was feeling a bit sad over some recent frustations in another job, and turned onto one of my favorite blogs to hear the music she has alongside her amazing writings. It immediately put my heart at ease remembering that God is in control. Not sure why, but it helped to release the tension I had been carrying around with me for a few days now. Usually, just hearing a few notes of a well-loved song will cause me to break down and remember to choose life and forget the high drama of whatever moment is upon me.

Music is my income. From teaching elementary school to teaching private voice and piano, I am able to make a living (and a pretty decent one at that) by helping others learn the joy of music-making. I get the comment from other teachers and parents all the time, "Oh, you're a music teacher! That must be so fun." And, trust me, it really is. But, I don't love all aspects of music. And I don't love all aspects of students. But, I love that I am teaching something I love (therefore it is conveyed to the children) and I love that I love teaching children. (this was not a discovery I made until after college). So, it makes any troubles, as they say, worth it.

(on a side note, one of the benefits of teaching elementary school is silly scenarios like this: I have a faux painting of the Mona Lisa holding an electric guitar by Karen Cannon in my room. A kindergartener recently looked at it, got all excited, then asked if that was me and could I teach him to play electric guitar. Ah, I love that I can be compared to the Mona Lisa in my job...ha!)


Music is my pasttime...well, sortof. I am in a choir...which, really, I don't like choir music, but I love singing, so this works. And, if you're gonna be in a choir, Lyricora is a pretty sweet deal...amazing musicians, great literature to sing, and fantastic comaraderie...love it. I also, as this blog chronicles, audition for various opera companies from time to time when I find that my life is becoming a bit calm in any way. (that's a lie...that never happens, I just can't stay away from auditioning. It keeps me on my toes and I love that I can occassionally do something that is just for me. Well, and the audience. You know what I mean.) I probably get to do anywhere from 2-5 different performance opportunities a year that are beyond my line of work. That's not much by performer standards, but plenty for a working momma like myself.

I also love playing piano selections, which can help my moodiness...this was something I did so often in high school...if I was frustrated, it was Chopin's Waltz in E Minor. If I was happy and reflective, it was my hymn arrangments passed on to me from our old church organist. If I was anxious, it was anything I could pound out to get the tenseness out of my body. Nowadays, I don't get to play as much as I would like to...or maybe I just don't remember it as a helpful thing to be doing. But, it makes my boys happy to hear me play, though Jeremiah often requests I sing too, so that makes it doubly hard. But I digress.

So, I am happy. I really didn't have many dreams for what my life would look like when I was older, (except I wanted to be on stage), but I think if I had had more domestic desires early on, this life would have been somewhat ideal. I hope that I can stay on top of my craft and stay sharp for a while to keep music the biggest way I make money and enjoy life. I am so thankful for this life God has given me. I never did an official Thanksgiving post, but everything I am and have is from Him. I could never praise or give thanks to Him enough. I am honored to be used by God through His gifts to me.



Friday, December 02, 2011

it's not every day...

that you get a chance to see what kind of a difference you make to your students.

Today, which, oddly, was a day (was that too many commas? I think it might be) when I have been doubting my abilities as a competent music teacher for a whole variety of reasons, I receive this email to my public school account:

"Hi Mrs. ______,

Thank you very much for making music class so enjoyable. Francesca and Christopher both talk a lot about music and all of the fun and interesting things that you do. We often play the "beat" game at home. (I think that's what you call it.)

Francesca just this morning said how you are always smiling. And Christopher told me that you are the one adult adult at the school who he trusts to confide in, if something were to happen to him. (I hope that wasn't supposed to be confidential.) When my extremely perceptive, shy son feels that way about an adult, it tells me a lot about the person.

Thank you for your kind interactions. Your style is very significant to my sensitive children.

Thank you,

S. W."

These kids are both super shy, it's pulling teeth to get them to smile sometimes. I am so glad that I can be a bright spot in their day and hopefully create memories of music being a freeing experience.

It's nice to get encouragement when you least expect it. :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

dream achieved!

G________ W________ Opera has offered me a role!!!!!!!!!!!!


First time ever, since college, that I have an actual role. I can't say what it is yet because they haven't announced the cast list yet, but I'm excited!!

Yeah, so I think I might do it. This is a small-ish company that has a reasonable rehearsal schedule, and the performance dates just so happen to fit right in between my end of school stuff and master's degree stuff.

I'll let you know the name of the role once they let me. :)


Thursday, November 17, 2011

short thoughts....and Carmen.

A couple of days ago, I received an email from a singer-friend who I met a few years back at one of the summer concert series I participated in with the G______ W__________ Opera company. She asked me,

"Have you seen that we are putting on Carmen in the late spring? We would love to have you come audition, and have a few hidden slots available on Sunday. Let me know if I can count you in."

Here's what I thought (in sequential order):

"Um....what?"

"I think I just got a personal email asking me to audition for one of the ultimate mezzo roles."

"This is not practical."

"I don't have time for this."

"But I really love Carmen."

"But I've been told multiple times that I lack the chutz-pah for Carmen."

"Hmmm...and then there's my new voice teacher."

"She told me that Carmen doesn't really suit my voice either."

"Well, what would it hurt to audition?"

"I could at least have something to shoot for, and then not do it in the event they offer me anything of significance."

"They're probably just asking me to come out of politeness."

"That's absurd. No one would ask a singer to come unless they really wanted them to. There's too many singers out there to be nice."

"I live an hour away; this is stupid."

"Well, everything I would audition for is about an hour away."

"My kids need me. I have no time or energy to do something for myself at this point."

"Ok, if Jon can be with the kids, I'll do it. But I'm not saying I'll definitely do the show."



With that thought process, my mind was made up. (made up?...please tell me you all think in this roundabout fashion...that I'm not on my own here.........hello?)

We hashed out details, as I am unavailable Sunday.

So, I auditioned last night at 8:52.

Which was actually 9:05 because they were running late.

Which was nice, because...so was I.

Man, it was stressful driving all the way there -

- in the rain -

- while speeding profusely -

- and trying to warm up/talk myself out of this mess...(see above conversation)

Yeah, I was a bit of a psycho. But I got there, and feel I did decently well.

The audition coordinator told me that they did need more mezzos auditioning, but also contacted me because of my voice.

And then she said the accompanist they had scheduled for tonight had to cancel last minute and there was someone in there that "was not familiar with opera rep."

"Great."


I was singing two pieces, Carmen's Seguidilla and "Must the Winter Come So Soon?" from Barber's Vanessa. Neither is that easy to play, even if you know opera rep.

I went in, sang the Seguidilla fairly well, then mucked up the English (partly because of it being the newest piece in my rep, partly because the pianist had zero clue what was going on, so I had to flounder...)

They asked me to read two small scenes. One was of Carmen and Don Jose, right before the Seguidilla, the other was of Carmen and Escamillo. Both were her trying to be seductive, yet aloof.

That's totally me.

Not.

Do people say "not" anymore? I don't think so. I only do in my head.

And this blog.


Anyway...


I felt pretty good about the reading.

The audition coordinator told me she thought I rocked the reading.

That was nice...considering I had to try to be seductive and aloof, which, as we've already established, I'm awesome at.

I left feeling like maybe I was a better actress than a singer.


The nice thing is that the rehearsals don't start until April and the show isn't until June. And they are only 2 times a week, max.

Actually sounds do-able to me.

I could be dreaming...but it's nice to have dreams. And nice to have something of only my own to be working toward.

We'll see what comes of it. I'll keep you updated.

And don't tell me new voice teacher. Good thing you don't know who she is! :)

And now, for your viewing pleasure...a great video I found of Rinat Shaham singing Carmen. It gives the scene leading into the Seguidilla, as well as her famous song that seduces Don Jose.



Monday, November 07, 2011

Forgiveness

I recently read this on a friend's blog where she was summarizing a sermon she had heard:


"Let's define forgiveness:
The decision to release a person from the obligation that resulted when they injured you.


When you hurt, shame, wound somebody, you've taken something from them - their comfort, dignity, etc. That creates a debt. Forgiveness is saying, "You don't owe me."


I have to admit...for me, the longer I've known someone, it is simultaneously easier and harder to forgive them than those I barely know at all. I know others who say it is WAY easier to forgive those they know, and very easy to judge and dislike and not forgive those they don't know. I guess I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt that they didn't really mean to say that/do that/make me feel that way. And, hopefully they didn't. I just know I can't live with being that angry all the time.

Which makes me wonder...why do I hold on to the little things that someone said to me or that thing they carelessly did or that way they made me feel...holding onto it for years and bringing it back up to myself when it's convenient and I'm frustrated anyway at them, and they just never treat me well and isn't that typical? It spirals and then I have to give it up again to God so I am not poisoned by the root of bitterness that has grown in my heart. Why do these little things stick with me? How can I learn to forgive those that I have known for so long - my mom, my dad, my brother, my husband, my friends? They have loved me so well, why would I want to remember the little things that shamed me, hurt my feelings, or offended me? Why is it so hard to let it go when they are the best people in my life?

Maybe the answer is because they are the best people in my life. I want their approval so badly, and I feel they should know me so well, that it is that much harder when we hurt each other, purposefully or unwittingly. They should know better....I should know them better than to be hurt. That makes it that much more important that I bring them and my relationship with them before my God so I can let the little things go and grow in grace and love alongside them.

"When you hurt, shame, wound somebody, you've taken something from them - their comfort, dignity, etc. That creates a debt. Forgiveness is saying, "You don't owe me."


Forgiveness is being the bigger person...releasing someone from oweing you something. This is NOT easy. God did not say it would be. He just said to do it. Americans live in a culture that tells us, "You deserve happiness/love/fairness/equality/etc." I say, says who? We sure don't deserve anything last time I checked. We are all the same miserable sinners but for the grace of a great God. Because of the great debt that God has forgiven me, I will choose to continually forgive the small debts others owe me. The demons of doubt, insecurity, fear, and resentment tend to bring these small offences up to me at opportune times, but it is never helpful and always destructive in my relationships where I choose to indulge their lies.

Forgiveness is not about them. It's about you.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

2 year tune-up

Today I had my first voice lesson in about 2 years.

It was great.

I walked into a building that I have passed countless times and took an elevator up to the 6th floor, where I waited, listening to a busty soprano singing some flouncy French song. Afterward, I heard them discuss her evening, which entailed family visiting from Colorado, and her visiting briefly, then "shutting up" so she could perform the next day. S. came out and greeted me warmly, ushered me into her studio, and began putting my mind at ease. She seemed like a normal, likeable human being with little trace of diva and large amounts of efficiency. I liked her immediately. Her office was filled with light from the outside - a welcome change from the dark corridor I had been sitting in. There were also some pictures of "old masters" who, I wonder if I looked closer, would be singers I knew. This woman has sung at the Met...I'm sure she knows many folks who I could only dream of meeting.

She talked a bit about breath, before we even got started, letting me know that she really nit-picks this aspect of singing, because it is the most important. I heartily agreed, letting her know that I know I need help in this department because of the recent pregnancies. We got to work with some onset, then vowel exercises.

Once she had me singing, she let me know that I was not singing with the full voice on the breath in my middle-low register. Hallelujah! Exactly what I had been wanting to hear! I mean, not great, but at least I have someone who can help me fix it. She told me to just let it out, and let it sit, fully-supported, where it was. (her words: Don't cover down there). Immediately, the sound escaped and felt so much better. We worked this for a while, and it just kept feeling better. The sound is different than I am used to, as is the sensation, but she said it now sounds like I am one person singing a song all the way through.

One revelation was that I have been simultaneously over-opening through my whole middle voice while not letting the natural chest voice in. Once I let the colors be there and didn't manipulate the placement of sound, it was so much easier to sing! She told me, for my voice, it is best to sing in a small, narrow space for every note on the staff, then slowly open as it gets higher than that. It is a bigger sound than I am used to, but much more natural than what I had been trying to do.

I'm probably not writing this out well, but physically, it made so much sense to me. I am very excited about this teacher, and will probably continue taking with her in the future. She was very complimentary, telling me I had a "lot of talent" and that my voice would "be able to do quite a few things" once the technique was solid. She told me that I was "not at all behind the eight ball" as I was afraid I was, since I have not really been able to consistently sing over the last 5 years. We have to work a lot of language and some technique, but she was pleased with what I was doing through the lesson.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I've never ever...


in response to Pioneer Woman's list:


1. Broken a bone



2. Eaten pineapple upside down cake.



3. Painted my toenails purple.

4. Been swimming in the Pacific Ocean.


5. Toured London.


6. Watched "The Office"


7. Bungee jumped.



8. Given a name to a girl.

9. Been a maid or matron of honor.

10. Flown in a plane with fewer than 100 seats.

11. Taught middle school.

12. Read Crime and Punishment.




13. Gone skydiving. Or snowmobiling. Or skeetshooting.

14. Played a pants role in an opera.


15. Mowed a lawn.



16. Eaten a bug. At least on purpose. (while running or biking doesn't count, because unfortunately I've done my share of that...and it's just not pretty when it happens.)

17. Painted a landscape.

18. Been to Italy.



19. Sung a song in Russian.



20. Woven a rug. (but I plan to!)

21. drunk Cognac. (drank? drunken? drinken?...drinkalinken?)


22. Been the lead in a musical or opera. I am, I fear, a forever sidekick.

(but at least I am in a show soon! Yay!)

Let's talk about voice for once!

Yeah...haven't posted about voice for a while because, um...I haven't been singing.

There's been the occassional solo for church, and of course, my choir, Lyricora...but nothing beyond that.

And what's worse, is I haven't been practicing either.

So, needless to say, I've been in a bit of vocal limbo...self-imposed for a few reasons:

1. I just had a BABY. Pregnancy was not fun for my voice, and I can't even begin to describe how tired I am by the time I have time to work on my personal music studies. So, it's gotten pushed to the side until I have "time".

I am beginning to realize that there may not ever be a convenient "time" for me to do it anymore. I simply have to start making it more of a priority.

2. My voice seems to be changing. What else is new, right? I feel like I just keep gertting lower and plummier as the years progress...which is kinda fun, because I still have high notes. It's just that I think I'm sounding more and more like a true mezzo now.

But this time around...this pregnancy - I am having an easier time singing in the bottom of my range, and it seems bigger down there too. I'm cautiously excited about this...cautious because I don't know what the heck I'm doing with it half the time, and I still want to make sure I'm singing well.

Which brings me to the biggest news of the moment - I have begun the search for a new voice teacher! Yes, I've talked about it long enough, and now I have 2 trial lessons set up with a few teachers to see if they're a good fit for me.

One woman is a dramatic mezzo who began by singing at the Met for 20+ years. Yeah...that'll be a fun lesson in getting over my fear of failure in front of someone who's a billion times better than I'll probably ever be. I just hope to convey my willingness to work and hope she likes working with me.

The other woman is an older soprano who actually gives "tuneup" lessons to the mezzo above on occasion. She comes highly recommended from a few of my friends who take with her, and our email interaction has already shown me that she has quite a bit of spunk.

Both these lessons are next weekend. I've begun singing more, brushing things up and hoping I don't make a fool of myself. I know it's seemingly insignificant for some, but this is a big deal to me, and I would love for one of these teachers to work out - that they would understand my situation as a homemaker and yet my desire for bettering my voice. I would appreciate your prayers if you wouldn't mind! I want to make a good impression and not waste the money...these lessons are not cheap!

In other news, I have a solo in one of Lyricora's songs for our Christmas concerts. It's pretty modern, a piece called "The Rose." I'll write more about it later...it's weird, yet fun. I've also been asked by our church's music director to sing some solos in their Christmas cantata. Not sure what they are yet, but that will be something else to look forward to.

It's been a while in coming, but I'm excited to get my voice back in shape!


Thursday, October 20, 2011

why communism doesn't work

"God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.

There is no such thing."

~ C. S. Lewis




Sometimes I look around at the world I am living in, and am driven back by the amount of pain, the mountain of suffering, the sting of resentment. Other times, I am angered by others' lack of humility, passion without reason, and self-serving actions. And then, I fight intimidation by those who have acquired some sort of status, those who have "lived life" and "known victory and defeat." And many of the people who I meet and interact with on a daily basis, the ones who are broken, blind, and frantic...are the ones most in need of the God who lives in me.

I used to choke on that terminology...Jesus in me. How could I possibly have the God of all things living in me? But it's true, whether I fight accepting it or not.

"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27


It is a mystery. It is a profound, glorious, wonderful, head-scratching mystery. The Lord has deigned to send his Spirit to live in me as His chosen child of grace. I die so that He may live in me.

I have found that others who are broken tend to be in my life. I don't always know what to say, but I love that they feel comfortable around me. Well, as comfortable as they could feel at any given moment, I guess. Right now, I have a coworker who is a big part of my school-life who is about as low as life in the middle class can get. Her health is failing, her husband lost his job a year ago, they are out of savings and retirement money, they are about to lose their house, and their marriage is falling apart because of his pride and her resentment.

What do you say to such a person? Everytime the least little thing goes wrong, she gets all ho-hum and figures God must be punishing her for something. Sometimes I will lead into a bit about my beliefs of God's love and grace and how I believe He doesn't necessarily bring things like this into people's life...and she listens. I don't say much, because I'm not always the most confident with my words and someone like her takes words from a processor like me as gospel truth, when instead, I am really just thinking out loud. And I want to be more careful with articulating my faith with those who are questioning than just thinking out loud. I want to have an answer.

But I often don't. I am trying to trust God to give words where I have none, to give right responses, even if they might not seem appropriate at the time. He knows their heart and their mindset. I don't. My job is to love, keep my eyes on Christ, and let Christ live through me that she might see Him more.

So often, I am afraid of rejection from others when I talk about my relationship with God. I always feel like those who aren't Christians hate talking about God. They automatically have a defensive stare and a couple pointed questions and so much hurt behind it all that it seems to be inviting argument to mention His name. Why is it in our "tolerant" society, that Jesus still causes so much controversy? It amazes me how violent people are in their accusations against God. It shows me how much people are hurting, how much the devils lies are succeeding, and how deep of a need there is for God's grace and love in our lives. There is truly no peace for those who don't know Him. He longs to welcome them, but they turn away. Without God, there is nothing happy.

On a side note, our pastor mentioned that this is why communism has never really worked. The One person who can make it all come together, give people the motivation and love to stay and work together and sacrifice for each other...is not welcome. How can we be a community of people working together for a common good without God? It can't happen. There is too much that gives the Devil a foothold.

As Christians, can we trust that we all have this God in us? Can we begin to trust each other so that these dark days won't seem so dark when we are together? Can we truly be a light to those who are bumbling around with their darkened hearts in this increasingly frightening world? By God's grace, I hope so. I need you all more than ever. I need help with raising my kids, trusting my husband and friends, loving my coworkers and those who are in authority over me. I am desperate for comraderie that reeks of peace and love and laughter. I need a haven...and the only One who can provide it lives in us. Let's seek Him together. Individual devotion times are wonderful. But let's also strengthen each other by trusting this God who gives us peace and joy beyond measure and understanding. He gave us Himself. Let's give to others.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mandela's thoughts on being a light

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a Child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Nelson Mandela's Speech by Marianne Williamson

I. LOVE. THIS.


I'm not even sure how to think about it yet, as far as if I really really agree with it or if I just think it's nice to ponder...but it is amazing, regardless. Great food for thought, and he is such an inspiring man. That was one who lived without fear.

Unlike me. I think this quote strikes me because it is just what I tend to think most times. I have actually practiced playing the ditz and bumbling fool just so others who seem awkward will be put at ease, like giving them something to laugh at to ease tension - often at my own expense.

I struggle with shyness, which is at odds with the performer in me. I think, "Who am I to put myself out there as a singer worth listening to? What will they think I think of myself to think I'm a good enough actress to be on the stage? Who do I think I am?"

Well, Mandela has made me think.

"...who are you not to be?"

If I truly believe God has given me gifts, why shouldn't I shine for His glory? If others are attracted to it, it will only be their attraction to the light of God in me. It would be akin to the servant burying the talent in the ground to "not" shine. Who do I think I am? I am His child, whom He has created. I am God's. It's hard to keep pride at bay, but with God's grace, I can be a light where I am planted

Sunday, September 18, 2011

color me crazy, but...

I have been thinking more and more about the following things:

- getting rid of our microwave. Or at least not using it anymore. The radiation or electrical waves or whatever is going on in there makes me nervous...and I'm not too keen on my food being "nuked". Even though I like warm food.

- grinding our own grains. There are many appliances that make this a snap, and I am thinking about this one that would attach to my KitchenAid. I have researched that it is way healthier and tastes amazing.

- using all-natural cleaners. I'm already starting to in a lot of ways, but it might be tough for me to give up my Clorox wipes. But I believe in vinegar and lemon juice and all that "green" stuff. I just haven't incorporated it fully yet.

- going the "no 'poo" route...if you haven't heard of this, it sounds a little nuts at first (and maybe just plain is nuts?...) I'm am definitely not 100% on board with this yet, but I feel like it's something I'd be willing to try...hm. We'll see. The problem is, I like the smell of shampoo too much!

- getting rid of my cell phone. This one is probably not practical, but I really don't want one anymore (I'm not really a phone person), plus we have a land line. Again, the wireless waves make me nervous. You've all heard of people's left buttcheeks aching because they carry their cell in the left back pocket too much? Yeah. Scares me a bit, not gonna lie. Along with that, no wireless computer? Again, not likely because not practical. But, I think that's one reason why we have so much cancer and autism and lots of other things going on right now...our very air in the environment has changed because of all the technology. Anyway. Might have to post more on that later.

- cloth diapering...actually have sort-of already started. I've been trying the gdiapers from Babies-R-Us and am liking them well enough for me...but I know Jon is not into diapering this way. I am looking into bumgenius diapers, which get really good reviews. Maybe even cloth wipes? They make flannel cloth wipes that you just throw the diaper and wipes into this bag and wash as directed...intruiges me.

(I'm getting kinda earthy crunchy, huh?) :)


Saturday, September 10, 2011

my testimony.


Warning: deep things written here. Go elsewhere for a light read. :)


I have been wanting to write out my testimony of salvation for a while now...it scares me a bit to be this vulnerable, but I love hearing others' journeys of faith. So, I will gladly share my life to this point, and how it has reshaped my thoughts about this blog.

In the elementary years, I met this Jesus for the first time. There were many tornado warnings back then - back in rural Mississippi. I was young and scared, and my dad was always deployed and my mom was all I knew for safety. Sometimes it seemed the bathroom was the other bedroom in the house for the amount of tornado sightings that would happen, police cars circling the military base telling us to take cover. I didn't mind sleeping in the bathtub. It was a little bit fun too, for a 6 year old. As a mom now, I can't imagine it was much fun for my mom during those times. Anyway, Jesus made himself real to me through those tornados. I had heard of His love for me and His sacrifice, but it became very real one summer day when we were visiting family in Seattle. I knelt and cried and prayed a seven-year-old prayer of confession and shame and gratitude for his love and protection. I had never felt so safe as I did in that moment.

Years came and went, and we moved many times. We ended up in New England, where I still am today, where I went to college and met my handsome Jon. I went to public high school, and found a niche, and found people treating me differently because of my faith. Not bad different, but well, they started not swearing around me. I never asked them to do it or even commented on it. But they knew. God is not subtle. Sometimes it irritated me - high school self wanting to "fit in." But they still wanted to be around me and be my friend. I was naive enough to not notice that I was treated differently from a lot of other kids. I was never offered drugs. I wasn't invited to parties. But, I didn't notice. I was too shy to care most of the time.

Actually, the high school years were years of intense devotion for me and God. I remember staying up late reading His Word and praying about everything...in the truest sense, Jesus was my friend and my Savior, and I was enthralled with Him while being a little afraid and in awe of just Who He was revealing Himself to be in our relationship. I felt small, yet remained confident of His love for me. I have never, to this day, doubted it. An assurance that has held me together in the later years.

College was interesting. A time to find out what works for you apart from your family. Things between God and I kept going strong, as I was finally in a place to let my spiritual wings spread and learn how to speak "like a Christian" and have late night discussions about Calvinism vs. Arminianism and other such things I viewed as silly next to the wonder of a great Savior such as Jesus. For the first time, theology in all its glory was thrown at me day after day, and I, the artist, the follower of Christ, did not know how to intellectualize my faith. He was too real to me. Why would I put the God of all into intellectual discussion? I found myself drawn to those who intellectualized, and they, in turn, were drawn to me for my childlike foolishness in faith. Both of us would say to the other, "but it's so nice to hear that side of it!"

Halfway through college, I got hit hard with mono. I was in the middle of my last semester of classes my senior year, head over heels in a relationship with the one who would become my husband, and I had worked to become one of the top singers in the music department (nothing that big...I was a senior after all). And I was lost. And I was scared. And I was oh, so tired. I had pushed through the fall semester for so long, not knowing why I was so tired, and then got the diagnosis when it was in a bad way. I should've dropped out and finished the next year. But, I reasoned I could handle it. Looking back, I guess I did. But things suffered. Life became hard. Yeah, okay, so not so hard like some have it. But I call the life before mono the "semi-charmed life" in my own head when I think about it. Hard things in life had not touched me yet. I knew nothing of depression, doubt, or fears.

I began to question why God would do this to me. Why He would take away every happy feeling from me? I was sprialing dark into hormonal depression...the chemicals in my body got way out of whack. I didn't know this at first, and just felt like there was nothing I could offer anyone, and so, what good was I? No, I couldn't believe that I was good enough for Jesus just the way I was. It couldn't be true. So I pushed it away. Here I was, a Christ-follower, a Christian, for most of my life, and I spit in His face because I was tired and feeling sad. I didn't know then how much I had relied on "feeling saved" and "feeling joy" and "feeling love" to prove to myself that I was good enough for God to save.

How pompous. But, the struggle continued after college. Jon saw my struggle and came alongside, though it scared him sometimes that I could struggle so violently against the One that I had often helped him to see the other sides to. And it scared me that I scared him. It was our first real test. And we weren't even engaged yet. After about 4-5 months, I eventually got help through some medication and things began to look better in my world. But, I think, looking back, the damage was done. Satan had gotten a foothold, and I wasn't so sure about my God anymore. Why would I have to go through something like that? What had I done to deserve it? What does it mean that God is good? My fierce, childlike devotion waned. I was tired of trying. Every thing in every day still took effort, first because of the mono, second because of the depression. I didn't know how to be "normal" anymore. I couldn't be my happy-go-lucky self...it even seemed at times like that person was never even real. But, life continued. Jon stuck with me, and I with him and I am so thankful. I knew, through all my anger and confusion over what was happening, that God was still there. We got engaged. I finished school.

A few years later, and handsome Jon and I are married. Life is amazing, and I have a job teaching music for the first time. I feel happy again, hormones balanced. I stop asking God the hard questions...but I also stop communing with Him every day. I try, but I am so happy to be happy again, that I grow complacent. We live the high life for a while, and then one day, not soon after Christmas, I get carsick.

I never get carsick.

I had a vague feeling that something was off. On our way home from winter vacation in Maine, I tell Jon that I think I should buy a pregnancy test, you know, just to be on the safe side. I was sure that I was wrong and there was no cause for alarm.

I took the test. The double lines showed up faster than I could blink. I dropped my head and felt my legs shaking, and began to cry. I couldn't be. I didn't know how to be a mom...I barely knew how to be a wife. Jon knocked on the door, and I didn't even answer, too consumed in my fear and shock. I wish, looking back, that it had been able to be a happy moment, but it was not. I was not ready.

That pregnancy and subsequent birth of my first son, Jeremiah, was a journey, and probably complete other blog post in and of itself. But it was vital in God bringing me back to Himself. I am not proud to say this, but I should not sugarcoat the journey it was for me: I was not happy to be pregnant. I wanted my life to be the way it had been going, not the way it was going to be in 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, months. While everyone around me was rejoicing, I was slowly retreating inside, back to that place I found during the mono. Why God? What is your plan? I'm not wanting this. I'm too young. I'm too immature. I'm too selfish. Many excuses, some true and some leading, filled my heart and mind. I revealed them to no one. I cherished the appearance I gave to others more than the truth.

Jeremiah, my precious boy, was born on August 24, 2007. I loved him more than I could understand. I made a promise to him our first night together, that I would do my best to do everything I could to take care of him, even while I hadn't a clue what I was doing. Days and weeks went by, and I felt myself spiraling, drawing away from God as I questioned why my life had taken such a drastic turn...oh I was so selfish. I wanted my time back, my energy back, my late nights with my husband back. I wanted my dreams back. I felt that having this baby was a complete derailing of everything I thought my life would be. I had always talked about having kids. But, this was quick. I had things to do. We had only been married 17 months when I found out I was pregnant. I withdrew fast, from Jon, from my friends, from my family, and from God. I didn't know what else to do. So I faked the happiness of pregnancy, shoved aside the fear, and held a grudge against my Lord. The One who I supposedly trusted was too dangerous to me.

This is long I know, but it's getting to modern times...just stick with me.

When Jeremiah was 4 months old, I had finally gotten him to sleep in his crib, and was lying in our bed with my sleeping husband beside me, slowly crying myself to sleep, as I had many nights before. I tried to do it quietly, but Jon knew. He tried to help, but I told him I didn't know what was wrong. But deep inside, I knew. God and I had to have some time together to have it out. I was so disappointed and unaccepting of His will for my life that I couldn't even pray. So, that one night, when my son was 4 months old, I gave in. I finally cried out to Him and said, "Lord, if you will take away this horrible feeling of hopelessness, I will do whatever You want. What is it You want from me? Why won't You let me go? Tell me what to do and I will do it. Only take this feeling away."

It is one of two times I have felt God speak so clearly to me.

I heard "Abide in me."

And then I really began to cry. The burden had been lifted and the walk through the valley of the shadow of death had ended, and God still wanted me. I couldn't believe my good fortune, that God would still love me and want me to abide with Him through all my whining and moaning. Right there I told Him, laughing through my tears, "YES!" It was so simple, but I had lost sight of that wonderful abiding in Him that had brought us such closeness in the beginning.

I think back on that time as an almost "second-salvation experience." It might not sound like much, but God reached down to reassure me of His love and awoke such peace in my soul. I will never forget His grace.

Since that day 4 years ago, I still struggle and straggle along. But I have seen how God is molding me into the woman He wants me to be. It is not who I imagined I would be at 18...heck, even when I started this blog, the title says it all. I had a dream to be a singer. God has given me that dream, and continues to give me that dream...but it looks different than I planned. I believe He has also given me other dreams, just as important. The dream of marriage. The dream of motherhood. The dream of teaching. God given dreams. Sometimes they are scary. Sometimes they are overwhelming in their powerful play on my heart. I sometimes try to pull away and pretend I don't care so much.

But, daily. I am trying daily to live in His grace and allow myself to be molded into what He desires for me.

And, ultimately, He desires life for me. Life, and not death. I hope as my life continues and chidlren grow and our marriage grows and students are taught and songs are sung that my life will continue to testify to my Lord's power and hold on me.

I say it loud and proud here: I am His and He is mine.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

So. Stressed. Out.

So, remember how I said that fall used to be my favorite season? Well, this post will give a little insight into why my preference changed.

Tomorrow, I begin the 2011-2012 school year. Luckily, I don't have to teach yet, as my first two days are professional development days and the other 1/2 day I teach is all Kindergarten classes, who don't show up until next week. But...the schedule begins.

I have been realizing that I have been rather nasty to my husband and first son the last 24 hours. Once I realized this, I realized how very stressed out I was...and how very tired. This is my processing post for that.

My oldest just turned 4 (FOUR!! I have a child...no longer a baby, or even a toddler...a grown-up-going-to-school-BOY!) and this past weekend we had a huge birthday party for him. I didn't really feel that stressed about it, except for during it (I hate hosting parties), and I think it went rather well. But, today I am really quite tired. I think the baby is too. He is very social and did very well, but was pretty tuckered out last night and today. He's already on his 3rd nap. It's 2:45pm.

Speaking of the baby, I am pretty anxious to leave Isaac. I've been trying to convince myself that I have to accept as good enough that he will be safe and secure and taken care of, even if he is unhappy while I'm gone. See, he is a momma's boy through and through. I think all baby's are at this age, but it just makes it especially hard for me because he's miserable, and then I assume whoever is taking care of him while I'm gone is miserable as well (because I sure would be miserable with a crying baby for hours on end!) and I feel doubly guilty. I know Isaac will adapt and all will be well soon enough, but I sure am gonna fight feeling bad all the time. I need lots of prayer. And Isaac and Jon and our babysitters will need lots of prayer too.

You may think I'm being melodramatic? But you have not been here while this baby screams for an hour or so at a time. And is exhausted and DOESN'T sleep and then screams some more. He's stopped doing that in general, but still tends to do it when I'm not around. I kid you not, the child is 3 months old, will look around a room, notice I'm not there, and commence tantrum. 3 MONTHS OLD.

But I digress.

So that's stressful. Then, there's the whole, you know, getting my butt back in gear for teaching. I'm very excited, actually, because I love my job...but it's always a stressful beginning getting everything together and getting in to organize and decorate your room and get your manipulatives and charts in place and lessons refined. And on top of that, our school's open house is this coming thursday. Our district decided to do those lovely nights right away. While I agree with the principle of this, it is a bit stressful to prepare everything I want to say in one of the two times I have a captive audience of all parents in the school to advocate for my program, describe my curriculum, and present a friendly face while giving legitimacy to my position. I have been performing my whole life and these types of things are the scariest to me...maybe because it's just me being myself up there instead of inhabiting a character. So, if the parents don't like me or I mess up, it's because I may be a moron. :)

See why I don't like fall so much anymore? Lots of stressful things happen. Good things, some. But stressful things because there are so many changes.

Here's what I like about fall: (I need to remind myself of the good)

- crisp air with sunshine


- everything to do with pumpkins! carving, baking, the colors, the scents


- apple picking with friends



- the local fair (although this is less fun with little kids in tow in my opinion...more expensive and you realize how dirty and unsafe things are)



- bold bright colors outside



- making warm comfort food again (soups! stews! homemade mac-n-cheese! mmmmmm....)



- anticipation for holidays



- rearranging furniture and knick knacks around the house (Yes, I do this about every season. I have a problem.)

(this is literally how I think of rooms...I was almost an architect. Love this kind of stuff.)


- the beginning of school.



I do love to see the kids again and share in the excitement of beginning a new year. And the challenge of refining my teaching craft...each year is a fresh start to try to do a little better than before.

K. Not so stressed out anymore. The baby is sleeping in my arms, my parents are here to help out for a few days, and Jeremiah is happily listening to music from my dad's computer. The hurricane didn't get us, and life is so blessed. Over and out.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

feierabend

My M.M.ed program is 3 years long...more specifically, 3 summers long. Last summer was the first.

Because of my son's recent birth, I took this summer "off" and will therefore be using next summer as my 2nd summer of my M.M.ed program.

But...this program offers "Workshop Week" where well-known music educators from around the country (and/or world) come to present about their specialties. This year, I decided to finally see and work with John Feierabend, who has become recognized as one of the leading authorities in music education of the last few decades. I have been using his approach in my classroom for years, and appreciate how straight-forward it all is. I enjoyed his workshop tremendously, and hope to hear him again sometime.

I took his workshop for credit toward my masters (so I was technically still working towards it). to receive full credit, I had to submit a paper of my thoughts on the workshop, its relevancy to my teaching, etc. Here's a snippet:

"Throughout the workshop, Dr. Feierabend emphasized the importance of sequencing the learning from aural to reading to writing. He taught that in previous decades, music education had focused either too much on the intellectual side of music, the “about” part of music such as notation and rhythm values, finger placement on instruments and theory, or on the intrinsic value of music - art for arts’ sake. He suggests that by focusing on hearing the music first, one can appreciate what goes on “below the surface”, and thereby teach the intrinsic values of music alongside the extrinsic. His is an approach focused on aural immersion, with reading and writing secondary, although still important. He suggested that by focusing on hearing the music well, the students would learn to make music well. As educators, it is our job to teach them using good music and teach them to make good music - and then teach them to read and write that music as means to remember it. Dr. Feierabend suggests that we teach notation as a means to remember good art, not as a means to itself."

I am not the best writer in the world, but it has been fun to review what I learned and figure out how I'm going to apply it to my teaching. I am trying to be a better teacher! I will not be defeated! :)

But seriously...if you are interested in music education at all (or even music), it would be worth your time to hear John Feierabend. If you ever have the chance, take it! He's pretty funny as well...kindof a dark, dry sense of humor. The kind that shocks some people who think that he's serious at first? Here's an example:

Background: Dr. Feierabend is describing a folk dance festival that is done at his house every year. He and whoever else would like to play jigs and reels by ear for the others to dance to. He is speaking to a woman who insists on reading music while playing her tuba.

(speaking to the woman): "Ok, but the rest of us are going to be playing by ear...you are certainly welcome to use notation, but that's not being very musical, you know."

(then speaking to us, the students)"...like, what a loser, right?" then gives a subtle little half grin and feigns shock when a fellow workshop student looks at him cross-eyed.


I loved every minute. It was enjoyable and educational and inspiring.

And teaching begins August 29.

Friday, August 12, 2011

a child's prayer

the scene: bedtime, around 7:45pm.

Jeremiah: "I want to pray!"

me: "Ok, go ahead."

Jeremiah: "Dear Jesus, thank you for this day. Thank you for your love for us, and thank you for this day. Please bless the wall. Please bless the fan. Please bless the door. And please bless my table. And please bless Meemaw and Grandpa and Uncle Matt. Please bless Uncle Tim and Aunt Katie and Baby Andrew. And please bless Mommy and Isaac. And please bless this food. Oops, I mean, please bless my piggy bank. In Jesus' name, Aaaaa-men!"