Monday, March 21, 2016

The Uncomfortable Thing

Last Wednesday in AWANA, we sang some contemporary songs with actions and videos and dance moves and fancy stuff like that. Personally, I really really don't love dancing. Ballroom dancing, sure, but not like modern dancing or choreography. I'm a slow learner and not a physical person so learning choreography moves makes me really insecure and uncomfortable.

But I stood and did the little actions, like waving my arms over my head or stretching them out like a cross, because I have to set the example for the Sparkies and get involved and stuff.

Some of them loved it. They would go all out and fling limbs everywhere and belt the song like nobody's business. Huge grins split their faces open as they spun in circles and jumped up and down and danced. They clustered at the front of the sanctuary, as close to the video as they could get, eager to worship and dance.

Others were more cautious, staying in their pews and singing quietly under their breaths. Lady Jade was one of mine who chose that route, but the glow in her eyes was the same, even though she wasn't as visibly exuberant as the other clubbers.

I turned to glance behind me and check the clock on the back wall and noticed one of my best little people friends, Sir Daniel, standing way at the back of the room. At first I didn't understand why he was so far away, so I almost jumped up to go bring him closer to the group.

Then I saw it.

Two skinny arms spread wide, then crossed over his chest. You came from heaven to earth, to show the way- from the earth to the cross, my debt to pay.

Daniel was dancing, same as everyone else. His face scrunched up in concentration as little limbs gradually grew in confidence and moved bigger, more visibly.

I couldn't take my eyes off the little boy at the back of the room as God tugged at my heart.

You see him?

Yeah, God, I see him. That's so adorable.

It's more than adorable. It's worship.

Well, yeah, that's what everybody's doing.

He's not everybody.

I turned back to the group, watching them move deftly and quickly and gracefully. Then I watched Daniel for a bit, his arms fumbling and awkward. Not like them.

Okay, God, so he's different because he doesn't dance as well? That's not fair- he's trying too.

Exactly. It's easy for the others to worship Me because they're comfortable and okay with dancing big and doing that. It's not so easy for him. He's not as comfortable. But he does it anyway, in his own way, where no one notices him.


Sometimes worshiping Me isn't comfortable. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable and assume that they aren't where I want them to be because it doesn't feel good or easy or natural, so they stop doing what doesn't feel normal. 

Sometimes people are gifted in ways that are easy for them to express, and sometimes they are called to worship or work for Me in that way.

But a lot of times, they're not comfortable doing what I've called them to do right away. It feels uncomfortable or exposing or just plain weird. Then their love for Me draws them to Me, to draw on My strength and surety to give them confidence and assurance. They grow so much more in Me doing something I've called them to do when it feels uncomfortable than just when it's easy and automatic.

Daniel could choose to sit and just sing with the other kids. It would be easier and more comfortable, and it's still worshiping Me.

But he chose to do the Hard Thing, the Uncomfortable Thing, and in doing so he glorifies Me and brings joy to My heart just as much as the other kids who are all out singing and dancing. Even though they can't see him trying and putting forth effort into something that's uncomfortable, I see him, and that's all that counts. 

So thank you, Sir Daniel the Brave, for doing the Uncomfortable Thing and challenging me to do likewise.

For the next seven days, I'm going to choose to do one Uncomfortable Thing every day and rely on my Savior for strength. Join me? #theuncomfortablething

What's your Uncomfortable Thing? Go get it!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Einaudi, Ninjas, and a Whole Lot of Sweat


I've been playing a piece on the piano for a few months now. It's called Nuvole Bianche, by Ludovico Einaudi, who's the main composer for movies and screenplay and whatnot in western Europe. It's a really beautiful piece and quickly rose to being one of my favorites.

Then in January, my piano teacher decided it was Ready.

Ready as in 'to be performed.' As in, he wanted me to play it in church.

At first, I was like, sure, okay, no problem.

Then I started talking to people and realizing that actually making this happen wasn't going to be nearly as easy as I thought it would be. Finding a week to do it, getting permission, cutting through yards of red tape and convincing people that this really needed to happen and it was important...and then we got the go-ahead. March 6th, during communion, I was playing Bianche. 

And then came the panic. Basically all of last week I played it over and over and over and over and over and over get the idea. I was obsessive about it. My piano teacher, we'll call him Doc, may or may not have received a few freak-out texts asking what the heck I thought I was doing and telling him that there was no way Bianche was Ready and it was going to totally flop and my hands had deserted me.

He laughed. Out loud.

And then I laughed too because he's one of those guys that when he starts laughing, you laugh too because you just know everything is going to be just fine.

Then ten minutes later my hands were sweating right off the keys and we did the whole thing over again.

One thing you should know about Einaudi: he doesn't write short songs. At least not that I've ever seen. It takes a whopping five minutes to play through Bianche at tempo. So it doesn't all fit on one page. It doesn't even fit on two pages. There are eight pages.

Which normally isn't a big deal. I can handle it, I mean, he's written stuff with twelve or thirteen pages so eight isn't really a huge thing. If you play it for four hours almost straight, your hands will be tired, but that's about it.

Except that eight pages doesn't fit on anybody's piano sheet music-holder-upper.

That's not a problem in practice, because I keep it in a binder and just turn my own pages. And I'm not too bad at it, either. There's a three- or four-second delay at the end of each page, but eh. It's workable.

Unless you're performing it. Apparently turning your own pages in a performance isn't generally done.

Therefore, I needed a page-turner-person. My first thought was the Ninja because it would be so cool if the first real performance I did, he was there helping out and being up there with me.

Then I smacked myself in the head and said, "Heck no, he's never gonna go for that." The idea of him standing up onstage just to turn pages for me isn't one I can picture in my head. It just doesn't fit. Nothing I know about him says he would do that. He's good, and yes, he likes to help out, but honestly? I cannot in any alternate universe see him going for something like that.

So I spent two or three weeks debating about 'should I ask him? Should I not?' and finally decided that because he has a full time job and martial arts shenanigans and I and stuff, it would be really hard for him to meet up and practice, and practicing page turning was something Doc said definitely needed to happen.

My next thought was the Squirt. She's turned pages for me before and she rocks it and we could practice whenever.

Finally, early last week I decided that it would be most logical and easiest if she just did it. We practiced a few times and it went pretty well so that was that.

I spent four hours playing that song on Saturday. Nothing was going right. My jumps were sloppy, I couldn't focus, and sometimes my fingers just plumb gave up and forgot what to do. That was the day I decided that my brain couldn't read music. My eyes can and they tell my fingers what to do. But sometimes when I'm practicing something and it needs to be perfect like for a performance, my brain jumps in and tries to start telling my hands what they need to be doing, and that's not cool because my brain has no earthly idea what's going on and then the song is botched.

I went to bed pretty discouraged Saturday night. Sunday morning we went up to the church a little bit earlier so I could run through it on the acoustic piano I'd be using during communion, because I am not one of those people to whom all pianos are the same and I can't play something perfectly on my Kawai and then go up to the church and expect to play it just the same on the Yamaha. I guarantee you it will not happen.

The practice didn't go so well either. And in the middle of my second run-through people started showing up to practice the set and I was freaking out and it was not good.

But life went on and we practiced the set and it was okay and I put Einaudi in the back of my head for a while.

After we played it in church, Ninja and I headed to the kitchen because he needed hot cocoa and I was supposed to eat two bananas because they were high in potassium and potassium is good for your adrenal glands and Doc wanted my muscles all nice and relaxed. Side note: eating two bananas in a row is not quite as quick a process as you might expect.

All through the sermon I was freezing cold and mostly nervous. My hands have a nasty habit of sweating like crazy when I'm nervous and even more when I'm nervous and trying to play the piano simultaneously, so I wore a lace shawl thing that draped really well (also it's the most annoying thing on the planet because my shoulders are too narrow for a shawl that size so it slips and slides and all kinds of crazy stuff happens) into my lap, so I could dry my hands on it. I was supposed to play while they passed out the bread, stop when they prayed and ate it, wait until they started passing out the juice, and then play some more- so the gaps where I was just sitting would be perfect to dry off my hands.

So the pastor calls the ushers to the back of the sanctuary to prepare for communion and I nudge the Ninja. "You need to go up?" he asked.

I nodded, mouth dry. He scrunched his 6'1" frame as small as he could and I maneuvered past him and then past my arrive at the end of the aisle just as the ushers were strolling down it. At the time I didn't feel much like getting run over or dancing with them, so I waited awkwardly until they went by, then clutched my binder against my chest and headed for the sound booth, where the Squirt was helping out. I nodded to her to signal that we were going to go up, but she waved me over.

"The Ninja's going to turn your pages since I'm back here," she informed me.

I was too freaked out to realize how strange this was, because the Squirt has adapted quite well to the role of antagonistic little sister (she is getting better about being friendly to him) and generally just nitpicks at him and from what I've seen of their interactions there is no way I would have expected her to just ask him to do something for me that she was supposed to do. Especially if it was something like this, something she was excited about doing.

But when he'd come in from the kitchen (he left while I was eating Banana #2 and made a pit stop so I beat him back to the sanctuary (and they say girls take too long in the bathroom...sheesh) and I was talking to Mom at one end of the sound booth. The Squirt was working at the other end, closest to the doors, so when the Ninja came in, unbeknownst to me she leaned down and they had a little chat. "Hey, Ninja," she said. "I'm supposed to turn Scotty's pages for her during communion but I can't since I'm back here. Can you do it?"

"Yeah, sure," he answered.

So literally three minutes before go-time I had a new page-turner who'd never practiced or even heard the song before...and he wasn't remotely nervous. He followed me to the far right corner and let me lean on him a little bit because my legs weren't sure they remembered how to stand upright. When the pastor motioned for me to come forward, we did and he helped move the big hymnal off the piano and I set up Bianche.

My hands were literally fountains of sweat. I looked from the Ninja to the music to the congregation and all I could think was 'I don't want to be here. I don't want to do this. I want to sit down and have communion and not be up here. The song won't be good enough and after all the red tape we went through to get to play it, they'll all think I'm nuts. I don't want this.'

And then it was go time. I hit the first chord and my hands were slippery and I was cold and I didn't want it but now we were committed and the song must go on.

It didn't flop! We got through the first three pages with barely any scandal, except turning from page two to three, but that was mostly my fault. I forgot to mention that Doc's printer doesn't do double-sided so we'd taped the edges of pages two and three together, and four and five, and six and seven, so that there were fewer pages to turn. The blank side of each page was taped to the blank side of the next page, if that makes any sense. Anyway, Ninja saw that there were two pages together and he tried valiantly to separate them, and I tried to play on with what I knew of the next page. I realized in a second what the problem was but I can't talk and play simultaneously so I just reached out and turned it myself. We stopped halfway down page three and I whispered an explanation and his page turns were lovely after that. I false-started between the praying for the bread and the talking about the juice, but Ninja was like instantaneous "wait, wait, wait," and I dropped out again. From there out I just waited for him to nod or shake his head and we were fine.

As they distributed the juice I was playing along and it sounded beautiful and I realized that yes, this was good. This is right. I want to do this. This is what I wanted and this is how I wanted to do it. I love this. This is right and this is me and this is what I want to do.

About the time I was realizing that, communion was over and the Ninja was tapping my shoulder, telling me to wrap it up, but it was good.

That's what I wanna do.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

And Again

I think I have a confession to make.

I've been blogging since last April, so for almost a year now. Not steadily or faithfully, but just sort of intermittently, whenever I get a second. And I really like it. I really, really like it.

I write all big and I spill the rants that I've been cramming into my head all day, I write what I feel and the way I feel like the world is. I write about the way I think things are.

But I'm clueless.

I have no idea how things are. I know the country's in something of a panic about illegal immigrants and the election and ISIS, and I know that high schoolers in MyVille are still driving like maniacs, and I know sometimes things hurt.

I know that I get frustrated and upset because something's not right here. I know that I rant about people who try to make me like them. I know that I shout and stamp my foot about the "immaturity of high school students these days" and the "constant generalization" I think I feel.

I know how I feel and I know what I think I see.

But I'm clueless.

I have no idea what it's like for you. I have no idea what you see or feel or how things work in your world.

Because my world is small, it's very, very small, and I miss a lot of things. I don't understand a lot about how things work on Planet Earth. Not socially, anyway. 

I don't want to pretend I know how things are for you or what you feel or what you're going through. Because I have no idea. In the end, it's just me and my computer screen and a medium lemonade from Taco John's. I cannot comprehend your world. I can't hazard a guess at what you're going through.

I write about my world, and sometimes I get carried away and think I'm writing about the World in general, about your world too. But I'm not. I'm just writing about how it feels in my little world, and some days I barely even know about that.

So if I write something, anything, that you in any way disagree with or that rubs you the wrong way- if I'm writing short-sighted and generalizing or anything like that- tell me. Because I'm clueless, and I want to know how things work. 

Don't let me think I know what everything's like. I don't. I just know my world, and I'm going to stick to writing about that. It's not crazy exciting or anything like that, but it's what I know and it's what I'll write. Maybe I'll throw in some short stories or poetry or whatever. Who knows. But I've been blogging for about a year now and I'm going to try to find a rhythm and a rhyme, a writing style less cacophonous than this jumbled up mixture of ranting and storytelling and whatnot. 

Adios, cacophony.

I'll write soon.

I hope.

But honestly...

no promises.