Friday, February 27, 2015

The First Temptation of Cynthia

Just picture the character in the clock with wild, curly black hair and a skirt.

That 6:10AM alarm came early last Friday.
So early.
One snooze to push, one boy to wake.
One tired Mama to get ready to attend her first Lenten promised daily Mass.
"Is there a loophole?" I wondered.
A "well, this is technically not the 1st week of Lent since it's not a full week, and you haven't slept in days...weeks really, because of your cough...and it's your Lenten promise to do with what you will (translate: change when inconvenient)  and getting up bright and early on Monday always seems like the best time to start something new" kind of loophole?

Oh, how tempted I was.

But a whisper stopped me.
You know that whisper?
The one that comes from deep within.
The one that navigates you away from darkness into light.
Yep, that's the one.

It stopped me.
Stopped me from lying.
Stopped me from negotiating.
Stopped me from coming from a place of selfishness rather than a place of selflessness.
It whispered, "Back to bed?  Really?  You can't make this one small sacrifice when the one He made for you was so indescribably huge?"

Sometimes I hate that voice.
But in the final analysis, I know I always owe my life to it.

So up I bounded and got us all ready to go.  
(Well, maybe "bounded" is a strong word.  
Sprang? Meandered?  Shuffled?  Okay, okay...dragged.) 
Donned jeans and a high-lo sweater in place of my sweatpants and T-shirt.  
And after dropping that one boy at school, I drove straight to the church, arriving 15 minutes early.
I prayed.
Then joyfully continued my day, ever focused on Him rather than myself.

It turns out that it's alot harder to look inward all day when you've started the day in sacrifice. 
What a win-win!

{What's been your first Lenten temptation?
Cup of coffee? Piece of candy?  Complaining?
How'd you handle it?
Would love to know in the comments below...
and promise to pray for your continued commitment 
to focusing on His sacrifice this season.
Thanks for reading!}

Photo credit:  MattysFlicks on Flickr

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Journey To (and From?) The Cross

Week two of the Lenten season?
How did this happen?
Who took my 2015 speedometer and cranked it forward until it reached today without my knowledge?
How did I land smack dab in the midst of that somber 40 days before Easter designed to prepare us for His arrival...all without being prepared?

It's been a particularly busy season for me.
Work opportunities are abundant which is blessed; I have the opportunity to teach and share and change lives through music and the arts.
However, even more than work commitments, I'm afraid I'm working still harder at the balance between these opportunities and all of the beauty, grace and joy I have found in my everyday with Jesus these past years.
It will happen.
I'm still a child on this journey and have room to grow.
Still it can be frustrating as I drive and work and sweat and fold laundry and wash dishes and grade papers...when all I really want to do is stand in silence before Him with my hands outstretched, drinking in His grace and thanking Him for His blessings.
I've said it before but it bears repeating...
It's hard to say "thank You for Your many blessings" while stuck in traffic.
It's harder even to acknowledge that traffic may be a blessing.

So with all of this in mind, as I panicked realizing I had not prepared my preparation for the Lenten season, I considered what kind of sacrifices I wanted to make.
What would be a challenge for me to deliver yet keep me ever mindful of His journey to the cross?
How would I choose to show my gratitude for His sacrifice in the year of our Lord 2015?

I finally made a decision last Tuesday...the fat one, that is.
I chose to attend daily Mass each weekday that I don't have to be at work early, which is most days.
And I chose to Stop...
wait for iiiiiit....
(I'll pause while the collective gasps cease.)


(Okay, it feels safe to resume...)

Of course, knowing me and my propensity for grumbling, I knew I needed a "what if" in place.
So I removed a jar from the cupboard and christened it my "Lenten jar of sacrifice."
The reasoning behind the jar says if I should slip and let a complaint fly, I'll pay a dollar to the jar and donate any proceeds at the end of the season.

("Where will you donate the money?" my son inquired.
"I haven't decided yet.  Maybe just to the church - I hope the jar won't be very full at the end of Lent!  And it would be weird to send $5 to a charity."
"Well, I think you should give it to us," Braden said.  "Because after all, we're going to be the ones suffering!  You're gonna take it all out on me and dad!"
He kills me - and convicts me all at once.)

Starting each day with a celebration of Mass has proved to be more centering than I could have ever dreamed.
And the jar?
Well, it currently contains $4 - $1 of which, I will point out, I placed in simply because I was complaining in my head.  
It's my hope and prayer that jar stays relatively empty as I endeavor to empty my head of the, often silly, day to day grievances that I choose to acknowledge.

For when I really think about it, what burdens do I shoulder that compare with that of the downtrodden?
What crosses do I bear that truly require mental real estate or audible grief?
During this morning's Mass, I realized something profound.

Those burdens which bother me and make me long for a change can easily be handed over to Him who already took the journey to a cross...
A cross He chose to bear so that I could hand these burdens over more than 2000 years later.
And what if I hand them over?
What then?
Besides making me feel more at peace, how can this help?
My time is freed of loss and my shoulders will be strong enough to carry the crosses of those who feel less than...
hungry, both physically and spiritually.

Ah, the circle connects through Him...through me...through you.
What burdens can you hand over today on your journey to the cross?
And which ones can you shoulder to help carry others toward His love and grace?
Thanks for journeying with me.

{If you are carrying a burden today, 
I'd love it if you'd share a prayer request.  
I will add you to my garden of seeds 
planted in His name.
Comment here...the top post.
And thanks for reading.}

Friday, February 13, 2015

How Purchasing a Train Case Was Actually An Act of Faith

Choo! Choo!
Time to get on board the crazy train.
Won't you ride the rails with me?

"Why crazy?" you may be wondering.
Perhaps it's because I have put off writing this post for almost 2 months.
Perhaps it's because I can't understand why it's weighing on me so heavily.
Perhaps I'm simply crazy. :)

When I was a 20 something young woman, performing around the country and sometimes the world, I would look to my left and to my right at the dressing room stations, lights lining the mirrors so every person could get her makeup and hair just right.
And on those long, formica tables, I would glance longingly at the train cases that lined them.
Train cases full of color and powder, fixes and fancies.
Train cases I had never invested in or pretended to care about.

The truth was I couldn't afford a fancy makeup case and told myself that settling for a plastic zipper bag with a faux designer print from the Walmart makeup aisle was all I'd ever need.
In fact, I took it a step further and simply didn't invest any thing into my makeup regime.
During my two summers in Japan, performing all over the country in the grandest theaters, the female cast members would settle in to their stations from 60-90 minutes before the curtain rose - while I, on the other hand, would sit and gab with my guy friends in the boys dressing room.  Then when the stage manager called "10 minutes," I would run to my chair, throw some water on my frizz to reactivate the curl, paint some quick bright red lips and cheeks on and call it a day.
No false eyelashes.
No curling irons.
No effort whatsoever.
One day I did it under in eight minutes.
(Insert applause meter here...)

It really wasn't a big deal at the time.
But looking back, I think the fact that I never invested in a train case - when I actually could have afforded it...or at least asked for one for Christmas - was a confirmation that I wasn't really investing in singing as a career.  I think I subconsciously knew that I didn't have the thick skin it would require to audition and be rejected over and over until I got my footing.  A few short years after those Japan tours, I was fully immersed in directing and teaching rather than singing onstage, only lifting my hidden ban occasionally for a special project or two.

So when my pastor, Father Jim, approached me after church one day last November and said, "You're supposed to be singing again," I didn't place much stock in it.
Father comments on my singing, sometimes embarassingly to the entire congregation, quite often.  The Holy Spirit, he thinks, is winking at him while I raise my voice.
Still, when Father made the comment above, I thought the context was that of singing at church after my voice loss a few years back.
Or that he wanted me to sing with the praise band rather than just act as a groupie.
(Both of my teens and my husband are regulars so I usually sit with them in the mosh pit rather than sit in a pew by myself.)

As I sort of brushed Father's comment off and poo-poo'd what he was saying a bit with a facetious, "Well, Father if you want me to sing, you're just gonna have to take it up with the band director," he stopped me.
Put his hands on my shoulders.
(Father Jim is not a demonstrative person, so this simple act stopped me in my tracks.
That's right, my crazy train tracks.)
He said, "I'm telling you you're supposed to be singing again.
I dreamed it last night.
We were backstage at a theater and you were supposed to go on but you didn't want to.
And I had to push you out there onstage.
I know this dream was a message for you.
And I'm telling you you're supposed to be singing again.
So listen to what He's saying and pray for direction."
Then he removed his hands from my shoulders, patted me on the head like a puppy, smiled and walked away.

CRAZY, I tell you!

Yet that event held a greater significance for me than I cared to admit.
So significant, in fact, that I couldn't address it here.
For to say it aloud to more than just my husband would mean it was an actual calling.
So, as usual, I ignored it and tucked it away for a "better time."

At the beginning of December, I got the call.
The call to sing in "The Magic of Christmas" show, this year a two weekend run during the holidays.
So what did I do?
I said yes.
Then I bought a train case...
after all of these years.
I filled it to the brim with makeup and lashes, silk flowers and brushes.
I brought it to the theater...sang in one show out of eight...
then promptly lost my voice for the rest of the season.

I could have lamented over spending the money to have this piece for only one show.  
But somehow I knew losing my voice, after making the commitment of finally purchasing the makeup case, was part of the lesson.

So, yes, I bought the train case.
And now I'm telling you that I bought it.
I filled it.
And I'm telling you that I filled it.
I heard Him.
I'm acknowledging that I'm supposed to be singing again.
I don't know where and I don't know why.
I don't know when and I hope I can deliver when the time comes.
But I'm ready.
I got my train case.
And I'm listening for the Conductor's whistle, promising not to derail any opportunity chug-a-chug-chugging my way.