Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Missing the Moment

"I didn't take the moment."

Those were the words that I uttered to my Dad's picture when I pulled it out of my Bible this morning.  I usually whisper a sweet, "Good morning, Daddy," but this time I knew I needed to say more.  "I'm sorry I forgot to ask for help.  I'm sorry I didn't take the moment."

I started a new job recently.  A blessing to be sure.  I was invited to become a Master Teaching Artist at Disneyland Resorts on a new music program they are premiering for middle and high school students.  We trained for two days a few weeks ago, and then observed as the trainer taught the program to a pilot group of students.  After, the team took all of our feedback and decided that they needed to rework it a bit.  (I'm saying "rework" loosely here as they really came up with an almost entirely new program.)  Off the four of us teaching artists went to our regular lives, waiting to hear back.  We received an outline from the production manager last week and were asked back Tuesday to train in the new program.

We had three hours.

Three hours until the first of our Master Teaching Artist team had to teach it. 
Minimal (or no) notes. 
Full tech with prompts. 
Yikes...
I prayed hard for my friend, Scott.
(For the record, he was BRILLIANT, setting the bar overwhelmingly high!)

For our teaching team of four, local student groups were selected to learn the program as a "pilot."  One teacher taught on Monday; two on Tuesday; one on Wednesday.  We were able to get our feet wet, experiment with the timing, our words, our methods, the activities.  We watched each other, giving and taking ideas.  The program is 90 minutes.


That's a long time to feel uncertain.

In years past, I would have anxiety to the point of throwing up EVERY TIME before a new project, a new group of students.  I would spend the entire day prior in the bathroom. 
Yet, yesterday, as I prepared for my 2:30PM call time, I relied on Him
I prayed, truly, most of the morning. 
I prayed that God would be with me, steadying my nerves. 
I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me the right words, filling me with His joy to share through the music and my teaching. 
By the time, I arrived at Disney, I was actually excited for the prospect of teaching something new.

There was another teaching artist I was to observe before I began at 6:00PM.  As his 90 minutes of impeccably timed class wore on, I became increasingly alarmed.  "He's breezing over some of these points, just touching on them...and it's working," I thought.  "Maybe I should change my strategy."  All of the work I did with God in the hours before became an object of doubt.

The 3:30PM class started late due to technical set-up delays, and then we had show notes with the director.  When all was said and done, I had 15 minutes to gulp down an apple and a protein bar, brush my teeth, put on some lipstick, and re-set the room before my 40 middle school jazz orchestra students walked in.  (Yes, I said said 40 middle schoolers...talk about "out of the frying pan and into the fire.")

My excitement was replaced with anxiety.
My joy replaced with doubt.
Boo...

The 90 minutes went by relatively quickly. 
The show director congratulated me at the end. 
She told me all of the things I did well - what worked and what she liked. 
She gave me a few things to remember and work on. 
Through all of it, I thanked her, but I was deflated. 
I knew it wasn't a "win." 
I knew it wasn't special. 
I knew I was going through the motions of being enthusiastic, all the while secretly cursing the fact that my timing was off.  

My colleagues seemed puzzled by my frustration and reassured me that, despite the timing not being what I wanted, "No one knew. The kids had a great time. You were amazing.  You should be so proud!" 

They didn't know what I knew. 
How could I tell them? 
I was disappointed because, in those moments of rush and confusion and slight panic before the students walked in,
I didn't pray
I didn't ask for guidance. 
It was so simple and I missed it. 
I didn't take the moment.



Thursday, March 21, 2013

At the Ready

There's a reason I sit at a desk and write.
There's a reason that I keep the room at a brisk 68 degrees.
There's a reason that I sit up straight and keep my notes and reference materials close at hand.
I don't want to get too comfortable.

We're in the final days of our bathroom repair. 
The paint days. 
The fume days. 
The sanding and dust-settled days. 
I told Drew that, inhaling all of the fumes and being inside the house for most of the day, I actually feel dummer...sorry, dumber.  Always one to see the bright side, Drew responded, "Don't worry, at least it's only killing off the weak brain cells."  Sigh...thanks, honey.

Anyway, I'm fortunate enough that I have a separate space to occupy.  Years ago, we converted our outdoor garage into a studio.  I used to teach my private voice lessons in that very space.  We have instruments, recording equipment, a drumming isolation booth, a TV, some lounging chairs - plus lots of workout equipment.  It serves the family well as a kind of hang out/workout space.  We have enjoyed it immensely.  So, yes, I'm very grateful to have it.

The problem is my temporary work set-up. 

I type, wrapped in a blanket because it's often cold in the studio, at my computer on a lap desk in a large, soft upholstered chair.  And because in my older age, I've shrunk even smaller, - now an impish 4' 9" (in another ten years, Drew will be able to carry me around in his pocket) - my feet don't touch the ground, so I prop them in front of me on a stool.

Feet up...
Reclined and relaxed in a comfy chair...
Swaddled in a plush and cozy blanket...
You guessed it....
I don't want to write.
I want to sleep!
I am too comfortable.

I'm starting to cut it close on deadlines and am totally distracted by these alien work environs.  I am not inspired by the view of a treadmill and electronic equipment like I am by my magnolia tree, hummingbirds and quiet neighborhood.  The canned lighting doesn't fill me like the sunshine does when it streams through my front window, warming my face.  I want to just close my eyes in this darker room and not wake up until someone else has done my work for me.



Perilous!

Oh, the dangers of getting too comfortable.
...of the darkness.
...of tiptoeing toward sleep instead of vigilantly working toward a goal.

So reminiscent of our walk to Heaven.
We can't get too comfortable.
We ought to steer clear of the dark.
Further, we should stay wide awake, heedful of those things which may seem to comfort us but may, in fact, be the very things which prompt us to let down our guard, relaxing our values and making us too tired to work toward our end purpose.
A spot with our Heavenly Father for eternity.

So in the proverbial bathroom remodel of your life, I'd suggest finding a well-lit, inspiring - but not TOO comfortable - space to inhabit, all of your best work tools at the ready.  I bet you'll find yourself motivated to get 'er done!  And get movin' on the matter of getting to Heaven!







Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Me, Honest Abe, Oprah & Peyton Manning

At age 18, I took a Myers-Briggs type indicator test in my college psychology class. The Myers-Briggs is a self-analysis test designed to pinpoint each person's personality type, preferences and strengths.
It's based on eight character traits.
Extroversion or Introversion.
Sensing or Intuition.
Thinking or Feeling.
Perceiving or Judging.
  
The results of my test showed that I was an ENFJ...
An extroverted, intuitive, feeling, judgmental type o' gal.
(Coincidentally that was the exact result of my dad's test when he took it....also Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey & Peyton Manning!)
I wore those results like a badge of honor, so proud was I of all of my character traits and how they would help shape the rest of my life and my career.

Little did I know how, later, I would regret the "J."

I've been thinking alot about judgment lately.
It's probably because it's Lent and one of my Lenten promises is to attend Stations of the Cross each Friday evening at my church, a reenactment of the most ghastly and most famous of all acts of judgment in the history of mankind.
Jesus's walk to Calvary and death on the cross.
I love Stations.
But I hate them.
It's gotten to the point where I can hardly bear listening and reading about Jesus' death.  The "F" part of my ENFJ is sensitive to a fault.  That feeling part of me sees in my mind's eye the nails driven into Christ's flesh.  It makes me physically sick.

Sometimes I see it from the crowds perspective, watching the horror of this brutal act, nauseous and pale from the sounds and the sights.
Often I see it from Mary's perspective, a mother weeping and worried, wanting only to take away the pain of her child.  I cannot imagine her agony.
Mostly, I see it from today's perspective of a sinner who wants only to take back the awful deeds she's done.  The deeds, like so many before mine, which required Jesus's death.  Those deeds which are covered and forgiven by His selfless act. 
Wretch...
And Retch.

That J part of me is a hideous reminder of the times that I criticized and condemned, convicted and sentenced another sinner. 
How could I? 
Like the Pharisees and scribes in John 8, I thought it was my job to discern right from wrong and pass judgment on the proverbial adulterous woman and all of those who sinned "big." 
Oh, how I wish I had been more like Jesus and stopped, waited, stooping to write in the sand and contemplate rather than run my big mouth in condemnation. 
Oh, how grateful I am for that redemptive phrase, "Let any of you who is without sin to cast the first stone at her." 
Oh, how grateful I am that God is not nearly as harsh in His judgment of me as I have been on others. 
I shudder to recall how many stones I have thrown.
Yet more so, I shudder to think of the number that have not been thrown at me because of His grace.

My J is softer now. 
She's less likely to jump in and decree the need for a harsh verdict than she used to be. 
And when she is too quick about it these days, I have learned to reign her in. 
Most times now I stop. 
(Note the clarification "most times.")
I stoop. 
I write in the sand and wait for the Holy Spirit to fill my soul...
fill it with words and prayers and songs of forgiveness and understanding.

Today I strive for something more than judgment.
I strive to be an ENF(WO)P...
An extroverted, intuitive, feeling woman of prayer.





Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Word Snob & Unexpected Words

"Sounds like you're cresting," Dr. Gray said.

Now, I'll admit it. 
I'm a word snob. 
I love vocabulary. 
I love spelling. 
I love learning what words mean and then using them accordingly. 
More importantly, I love already knowing what a word means...then using it accordingly.

So, when Dr. Gray told me I was "cresting," I really wanted to appear knowledgeable, intelligent, incredibly well-versed in psychology speak (and English speak in general!).  I wanted to say, "Right, cresting.  Sure.  Uh-huh.  Exactly what I was going to say.  I've been telling everybody, 'I'm cresting all right.' Yep.  Never get tired of the cresting."

But my need to know outweighed my need to show off (for once), so I stopped her and asked, "Sorry, what's cresting?"

"Oh," she said, "It's when you're dangling on the edge - you know, in your case, it's all of the new opportunities that you're being given.  And you've reached that mountain top - that crest - and you're about to have to jump off without knowing what will happen.  And then, because of who you are...your energy and your enthusiasm...I think you'll find that the more people discover you available in this new professional space, the more they're gonna want you.  And then you'll have to figure out a balance that's right for you and your family."

Ohhhhh....cresting!!!

She was absolutely right, of course.  I had only an hour earlier been talking to my husband about the new opportunities, new gigs, new jobs, and old jobs calling.  A wealth of prospects and potential.  A day here.  Another there.  Nothing too concentrated but enough to fill the financial void our family had experienced since I had not been able to teach vocally.  Blessings to be sure.  But with it, confusion as to the way of the winding, shrouded road ahead. 

What about my writing? 
What about the kids? 
What about the house? 
What about time for my marriage? 
As my friend, Annie, would say, "A good problem to have." 
But a problem I needed help sorting through.

I'll admit I've been confused.  I've been praying about these new opportunities.  So many projects in such a short period of time.  I've prayed for the meaning. 

Was this whole writing thing from the start simply a project in the interim of teaching? 
A way to get healed and whole before starting to work in music again? 
A therapy of sorts? 
Or was it a constant for me moving forward? 
Was it a companion that I now needed to fit in and around all of the gigs and travel, music and production? 
I knew the answer I hoped for. 
But for once, I told God, "Whatever road You're leading me down" -
or in this case, whatever mountaintop You're pushing me over -
"I trust You.  I'll go wherever You need me to be."

I knew the answer I heard.  It was the answer I hoped for, as message upon message, word upon word, phrase upon phrase blossomed in my mind each moment of the day.  I knew the answer.  Writing was the calling.  Teaching and production, the blessing in the interim of publications. 

But how, oh how, was I going to juggle all of it? 
The contracted work? 
The grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking? 
The house? 
The kids who need me more now than they did as toddlers in a different but profound way? 
I recognized my response over the past few weeks as those of a woman plagued with guilt and conflict. 
I had chosen Cleaning over Complex sentences...
Pressure over Prepositions...
Worry over Words...
Money over Ministry.

Fast forward a few hours past my session with Dr. Gray.  I was meeting our church administrator at the office to go over a list of breakfast items I said I would purchase for a brunch this weekend.  While we were sitting together, crafting a list and talking over the weekend schedule, for which she is 99% responsible, I said to her, "How do you do it all?"  I thought maybe God would give me a glimpse of how to manage through Olga.  She had been talking about leaving the brunch at 10AM to tend to her Sunday morning ministry of visiting shut-ins, reading them the Gospel message, talking to them and bringing them communion.

"Oh, it's a joy to me," she said and expanded on stories of people she had met, why they had touched her, and how she looked forward to it each week.  I was getting tearful, wondering if God was opening my heart to recognize a loss of joy in those things I've been blessed to do.  "I still feel joyful about them most days," I was thinking, "but maybe not enough?  Is that what I've been missing?  Is that your message, Lord?"

Yet in the midst of these thoughts, I heard Olga saying, "But what about you?  I don't know how you do it!  I read your blog (she still reads my blog?!?) and think, 'I wish I could say things like that.  Look at things like that.'  You can take the most ordinary situation...just things you could be anxious over in your life, and listen for His call.  I don't hear Him like that."

Bam!
Lightning bolt...
Smack over the head...
Thomas Edison 100 watt moment.

"How's that for answering your prayer for writing, Cynthia?"
I heard God say as I sat in the little wooden chair and wept in her office. 
Such direction...
such unexpected reassurance...
such words to shore me up and keep me moving -  
previously plodding, but now skipping
down that winding, no longer shrouded road ahead.

He gave me the final push over the mountain through those unexpected words. 
And I'm so happy to make the leap, knowing He's holding my hand beyond the crest.








Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wake Up

Can I tell you what I think are two of the most distressing words in the English language?

"I overslept!!"

What an incredibly stressful way to start a day.  Precisely how mine began this morning.

Now today was a day in which I had nothing to do yet everything to do
You know the kind?  

Three loads of laundry, a sink full of dishes, and organization of the general mayhem that accompanies home construction.  (Three months later, we have finally started construction on our bathroom which flooded over the holidays.) 
Three blog posts, two  newsletters and an updated bio to be sent to the higher ups at a new gig I just started. 
Getting the kids ready for and transported to school while my husband was up and out of the house at 6:30AM. 
So, even though there were no specific deadlines to any of these tasks, I felt pretty overwhelmed. 

Thankfully I got Colleen to school on time. 
Then I started on the process of preparing Braden for school. 
In the meantime, the clothes I needed to iron for him were in the outdoor dryer rather than his drawer;
I tripped over a pile of things in front of my husband's side of the bed and almost fell down;
I sat in something extremely wet on the upper toilet seat which, even now, I can only hope was the clean water dripping off of someone's hands after they washed them;
and all of my jeans were in the hamper instead of being available to be worn.

Arrrggghhhh!!!!!

I said to Braden, "Boy, I am not feeling very focused this morning.  And I know exactly why...I overslept and didn't have the time yet to read my morning devotionals."

Enter one of the construction crew to start his job.
(Cue Spanish music station.  Yes, of course I created a 34 second video to bring you more fully into my world.  What a silly question...)




I knew there was no way I would be able to concentrate and do my morning routine once I returned from dropping Brae at school with the hullabaloo that was commencing at my house.

"Go to the water."

The direction stirred in my soul, and I immediately understood its command.  The water...what I call the peaceful, heart lighting location known to Long Beach residents as Alamitos Bay.  The very place I visited every morning for a year to read, commune with Him and get emotionally better.  I hadn't been in so long. 

"Boy that would be nice, but I really don't have time this morning," I thought.

"Go to the water," I heard again.
Stubbornly, I reiterated, "I really don't have time this morning."

From the dining room, Braden called, "Mom, could you please get me a glass of water?"
"No problem, Bud," I said, while thinking, "That's weird, he never asks for water in the morning."
I reached for a glass in the cupboard, turning it toward me as I lifted it out, only to be soaked by the half glass of water it contained.
"Whaaa.....why is this glass in the cupboard full of water?!?" I shouted.  "Now I'm wearing it!!"

Changing out of my wet clothes, I stopped for a moment.
Oooooohhhhhhh....
"Go to the water," I heard a final time.

The unplanned baptism worked"Got it." 

And so I went.
Beautiful drive.
Beautiful scenery.
Beautiful passages to read.
Beautiful solitude, filled only, but totally by Him.
Beautiful, grateful heart to meet all of the day's expectations.

Thank God I finally woke up!




  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Perspective

Perspective...
This word has been echoing in my head for some days now.
"Why?  What does it mean?" I keep asking myself.
I look it up.  Cliche'?  Yeah, probably, but also quite informative.
The definition?

"A particular evaluation of a situation..."
(But here's the clincher of the meaning, at least for my purposes.)
"...especially from one person's viewpoint."

One person. 
One brain. 
One set of experiences and opinions. 
One lifetime of specific influences. 
Right or wrong. 
Skewed or impartial. 
Despite all of the factors in the entire world, 
perspective is simply one person's viewpoint.

Thus, try though we may, as open-minded as we endeavor to be,
human beings are only capable of their own evaluation of facts and situations until another individual shares theirs. 
Don't care how evolved you are.  
Don't care how educated...
How mature...
How empathetic or psychologically advanced. 
If someone asks you how you perceive a situation,
(assuming that you're being honest with your opinion) 
you can only answer with your personal perspective.

Lately, I've been reading an abundance of heartwrenching epistles, posts and books from writers who are choosing travel to far-off lands, families in tow, to minister.  Minister to the needs of the indigent, the downtrodden, the starving, the poor in spirit.
But instead of being grateful to them...
Instead of thanking God for sending them...
Instead of smiling with joy for those they are helping, because of my skewed, slightly immature and ultimately narcissistic perspective, all I am able to read in their words is:

"Cynthia, you are not doing enough."
Or more accurately...
"You are not enough."

Is this what they're saying?
No!
Are their words meant to accuse, to villify, to make me feel less?
Of course not!
Why am I interpreting it this way?
My lone perspective.

Sigh...

Haiti...Africa...Northern Japan...
So many countries with so much devastation and so many folks in need.
Why am I not there?
Why haven't I uprooted my family to go help?
What's the matter with my heart?!?

Oh, the self-imposed, unnecessary guilt of it all.
So how have I finally dealt with these questions?
Thankfully, through prayer.
And even more thankfully, God has answered my prayer with alot of patience plus a healthy dose of essential loving chastisement.


Why am I not there?
"Because I want you here right now."
Why haven't I uprooted my family to go help?
"Because it's not the right decision for you all at this time."
What's the matter with my heart?
(Audible sigh from God in my brain...plus some discreet rolling of the eyes.)
"Are you really going to question My motives in where I've placed you?  The people I've placed in your path?  The plans I have for you?  The job I've charged you to do?  How little do you trust Me?"

Perspective.
One person...until you ask Him to join you.
One brain...until you open it up and listen to Him.
One set of experiences and opinions...until you ask how His wisdom and direction can guide you.  
One lifetime of specific influences...until He opens the vista of His wonder - that unparalleled, awe-inspiring beauty which changes your heart and makes you enough.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Wedding Wish

I'm deviating briefly from my formula of receiving messages and instead am sharing a message.  A messsage of love and well wishes to my friends, TJ and Tara, who will soon be embarking on that beautiful journey of marriage.

For any of you reading who are married, you may identify with certain stanzas, depending on the season of your marriage you are living.
For those of you who hope to be married one day, please breathe the words in and look forward to this most sacred of sacraments.
For all others of you, I ask that you think of a married couple you love and respect while reading this, and say a special prayer for them.

To TJ & Tara, I pray your marriage is blessed.


Those wedding days of lush bouquets…
The tender ways love sweetly stays.
 
 
Next newlyweds adorn homesteads.
No butting heads.  Love softly treads.
 
Once infants bloom in word or womb,
You’re making room.  The sleepless loom.
 
Wow. Family. Prosperity.
Longevity. You’re “us” - not “me.”
 
Then middle age.  It’s all the rage.
No wars to wage on the same page.
 
Next twilight years…the joys and tears…
Sharing your fears with heart that hears.
 
Your marriage grows while He bestows
The one you chose with depth, not prose.
 
His life’s bouquet, Tara…TJ…
Will grow your love beyond this day.

Love you guys...
and thanks, everyone, for reading...Cynthia

Friday, March 1, 2013

Do Nothing

I was raised to always do something.

Do the dishes.
Do the laundry.
Do your homework.
Do your hair.
Do your part to help.

(Zip-a-dee-do-dah!)

I was so well-trained in doing that I continued it into adulthood.

Do your job.
Do your taxes.
Let's do lunch!
Do for the needy.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

(Camptown Races, sing a song!  Doo-dah, doo-dah!)

I was very appreciative that I had been raised with this work ethic. 
As were the people I worked with...and for...and beside...and near...
In fact, I'm sure there were occasions when my consummate practice of doing got me the job.

That girl's a worker!
She a do-er.
She's a mover and a shaker.
HIRE THAT GIRL!

Every day I would get up, amidst the morning dew, and do even when nothing was due.
(Isn't that what I was supposed to do?!?)
Only to find myself, after years and years, finally, totally, and completely... 

...in a gigantic pile of doo-doo.

Not only did I not want to do.
I actually couldn't do.
Consequently all that I accomplished each day, which even in its simplicity seemed too daunting, was pull the covers up over my head and its' undone 'do.
I. Was. Done.

("Now what should I do?!?" I thought.)

Imagine my surprise, then, when day after day, I was content with my decision to:
Do nothing.
Well, first I went to the doctor so I could get better, and then I did nothing.
Each morning the sun rose in the East and set in the West, with me continuing on this path.
I did nothing.
Nothing.
At least that's what it looked like from the outside.

Because on the inside, He was doing something.
He was working harder than He ever had to for me, in me.
He was doing for the needy.
He was doing unto this "other" as He would have me do unto...uh, well...Him.  (And the least of my brothers.)

The funny thing was that once I got past my feelings of guilt over my "nuthin' doing,"
it was the best thing I ever did! 
Because there, in all of my moments of sitting and quiet,
ruminating and contemplating,
listening and loving and meditating and thanking,
I got to be with Him
Only Him. 
Day in and day out. 
He & I. 
Me & Him. 
Doing nothing - but everything - together.

It's been a few years since my pile of doo-doo.
Today I was in a race to the finish of a busy morning of going and achieving and working and shepherding and calling and asking and answering and moving and LIFE...
When I heard it.
"Do nothing."
Oops!
I hadn't done nothing yet today.
So I sat in my chair, pulled up my window shade and gazed at my magnolia tree.
Quiet.
Listening.
Loving.
Praying.
Reading.
Thanking.
Together with Him.
Until I was ready to do life again.

Now that's how you get things done!