Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Whole New (Grace-Filled) World

It's amazing how God's grace is all around us.  
Naturally, sometimes we have to look around the corner and under the shrubbery for it.  
Still other times, it just hurls itself at us like this amazing, loving flying carpet...hitting us in the head then grabbing us in the heart.

Last week was one of those weeks for me.

Genie blue and Aladdin purple...thank you Eisenhower & Hill Elementary Schools!
I have been teaching an outreach program designed by Disney Theatricals in New York.
That's the Broadway arm of the Disney body.
The "Disney Musicals in Schools" goal is to build sustainable musical theater programs in public schools, especially at this time in our American history where music is systematically being cut from schools at an alarming rate.
The mission is near and dear to my heart.
Ah, the blessing of such a program.

Hired by Disney Theatricals along with Segerstrom Center for the Arts, eight of us teaching artists have been directing a Disney musical in four public schools for 17 weeks.
Our undertaking has been two-fold.
Teach the kids musical theater terminology, choreography, music, staging and direct a full musical to be seen spring 2015.
Aaaaaannnnddd....teach the teachers how to teach musical theater.

The first goal was a cake walk.  I've been doing that type of thing for 20 years.
The second was a bit more of a challenge.
Turns out it's a fine line between giving a gentle push and needing to shove off a cliff.
...between being collaborative and being bossy.
...between feeling ownership over a project and loving it enough to let it go.
Oh, the growth that occurs when you tow that line.

Yet even after all of these years teaching, there are still moments that overwhelm me with the profundity of my job.  Last week, at our final dress rehearsal on Monday afternoon, my teaching partner, Megan, and I were surprised with personal letters and cards from each child...60 children took the time to write to us.  To say that we were bowled over is an understatement.  We sat in our director's chairs (translation: rusty, metal folding chairs) in the theater (translation: multi-purpose cafetorium) reading the cards, alternately growing tickled then misty.  Still when I opened up the card from Cecilia, an incredibly shy and reserved Asian 6th grade girl, you could have knocked me over with her words.

On the left was a tribute to Ms. Megan (who was clearly adored - and definitely the favorite of dear Cecilia)...it's not mine to share, so I won't save one sentence:

"You're a bright, positive, funny, energetic, pretty, sunny little flower!"

I mean, come on!  This was enough to make me start to well up.  Then I looked to the right on the card and saw my pencil-drawn border...hearts.  The tears started to flow as I read:

The illustration...so dear.

"Dear Ms. Cynthia,

Hi, you've also helped more alot, but not just in acting.  You helped me become a better singer, taught me how to put on a show, and you broke me out of my  shell.  I was a seed and Ms. Megan was the sun, but you were my water.  You helped me grow.  You're the kind of person that would make me smile and laugh."

I. simply. can't.

Of course, beyond the words, which in and of themselves were incredibly deep, there was the message from Him.  I was telling my friend, Jason, about the card and he said, "Your tree!  The seeds!  It's your app."  I was overwhelmed that I wasn't the only one who recognized such a blatant outreach from my Father who sent me this gift despite the times I struggled through my work...nay, His work:
That work of teaching...forming...planting...sowing.

Overwhelmed, I tell you.

Now on the Tuesday after all of the performances are finally spent, I look back on... 
the flowers, 
ticket stubs,
and heartfelt words...
And I know.

My gifts are His.
My work is His.
His grace is in all of it.
And it is enough.

{Praying each of you find His grace
 in whatever work you are doing 
today and each day.  
Thanks for reading.}