Nov 8 2010

Doing Scales

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Every Friday was painful. Literally.

Band-aids covered my fingers and the shaking in my voice went to the tips of my toes. Hardly any of the strings rang clearly and my voice was a whisper.

The only comfort was everyone had their moment in front of Miss Samuelson’s guitar class.  I practiced on the guitar until my fingers were red and hurt so bad I cried. I practiced an hour everyday in class and then more in the evening, just to perform Leaving on a Jet Plane or Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, with some shred left of my 7th grade dignity.

I practiced as I had never practiced before.

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Weeks and weeks passed. The pain gradually diminished and my fingers did not agonize over every chord change and I learned to sing alone.

I kept singing after that year, but the guitar grew dusty until I went to college and discovered God not only enjoyed organ hymns and choir music, but also guitar praise choruses.  And I finally was thankful for the band-aids and shaking, as I learned to worship and lead others in singing.

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Practicing has become an important concept for me.  Other life experiences made me think a person either has a skill or doesn’t, and there really isn’t much that can be done.  But it simply isn’t true. We can practice.

And even more important.  We can fail. Put band-aids on our fingers or our hearts, and get back to practicing.

“The ambitions we have will become the stories we live.  If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want.” (Donald Miller)

What do you want, enough to practice over and over, enough to risk failure, enough to walk through some discomfort?

God invites us to practice with the Holy Spirit.  Doing scales each day in prayer and God’s Word, playing the pieces of our lives–choices, conversations, relationships, work, griefs, hopes, pain. We can learn over time and with the Spirit to play them with less fear, with more love and trust. Maybe even with gratitude.  The goal is not a perfect grade, but a life sung in worship to the glory of God and for the sake of others.

And the best promise of God’s grace and hope:

I so often miss the notes and still God carries the tune.

In gratitude for…

Life with less screen time, growing more comfortable with silent solitude, so thankful for focus and renewed creativity.

An interview for a dream position at a dream school.

Delightful lunches and encouraging conversations with friends.

Getting caught up in the Story this week and finding a spark for evangelism growing in my heart.

Three adults and two children singing “In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful” in the car to calm the twinfants’ chorus of crying.  A choir could never sound as beautiful.

Spending a delightful hour with my young friend Jack, buzzing down the aisles of Costco, talking and laughing.

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Oct 19 2010

Stories

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Sun is streaming through the windows as I wait for the first hummingbird to taste test the new batch of sugar syrup. Earlier, I watched as one by one they hovered around the space where the feeder should be, then checking the wider area, “Maybe its lower now or over here closer to the plants.” Some nuz the purple ribbon holding the glass spiral my friend Holly gave me, hoping for sweetness from something so like a delicate flower.

Soon the leaves will fall and reveal more of Queen Anne hill and the trains. The weather changed overnight, it seems, from balmy fall to crisp winter. I woke this morning to fog erasing all evidence of the city, diffusing the light, and muffling the industry. The smell of brown leaves reminds me that All Hallowed’s Eve comes soon. No need to decorate, the spiders have set up house in every bush, between poles and rails, their nets glistening with dew each morning.

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Stories. Little snippets of life.

On Sunday afternoon, my friend Kelly gave me the gift of time and beauty, taking me to the Kabota Gardens. What was once the landscaping of an family estate and business now is a Japanese-American park gifted to the city. Trees of every variety, rocks rising up from the earth, a little copse of pine, narrow paths into secret sanctuaries, hydrangea blues and pinks, autumn reds, and water. We wandered upwards, following a rivulet, delightful as it rushed and gurgled and swooshed over rocks and under bridges, to a waterfall with fuchsia-blooming moss lining its spillway. On most likely the last sunny warm day, we wandered and talked, sharing stories and enjoying the visual story of the garden.

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I have been reading author Rumer Godden’s memoir of her writing life from 1945 to 1985. For all the fantasy and mystery novels , literary classics and theology tomes I’ve read, never have I been so taken by non-fiction, nor so delighted by the gift of story-telling. I’m mere pages from the end and find that I’m reading more slowly, savoring the little details, the artful turn of phrases, the insights.

Children know the joy and pain of stories, and they beg for them each night or at the dinner table, or wrestle with sounding out the words in their first books, undaunted, to be caught up and transported. They can hear a loved story over and over, never bored.

Rumer’s writing has returned me to that love, seeped into me and ignited both a gratitude for, and a desire to tell, stories. To use words and writing (so hard for so, so long) not for conveying information, or to teach, but literally, to see words, taking the lessons photography has been teaching me this past year and approach writing more as a way to capture a moment in its fullness, to savor, to remember, to share.

As I photograph moments, and now have tried to write out those moments in words, the feeling is akin to prayer, and why not prayer be the word-photo, whispering, laughing, yelling, crying our story to the One who delights or weeps with us in the telling?

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Ah, a hummingbird has finally arrived, glinting green in the slanting morning light. He takes a sip, then another, then gently lights on the perch, drinking long and deep. It is good.

In gratitude for stories…

God writing and joining our story

Tea and conversations, walks and sharing

The joyous story of an adoption

Listening to Jack read aloud The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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Kabota Gardens, the story in their beauty

Lynne’s sermon and her gift of sharing stories

Photography’s continued lesson for living

Selling my first two photos and doors opening for more chances to capture moments and help stories be told with light and shadow.

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The Northern Flicker, whose visits add some lovely wild fun to my day, especially when he tries to land on the bird feeder–swinging it precariously.

holy experience

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