Thursday, May 18, 2017

grow

i started teaching music this year.
It all started with a desire last year to build something i had been kind of dreaming of for years and years: a musicianship course for adults that opened up the doors to music that often seem closed after a certain age. My desire was to teach a little functional music - some chording, basic harmonies, a little theory and ear training... an eclectic offering, using video clips, group participation, song writing... I wanted to teach a general appreciation for music; something that would gently open doors and invite in - without intimidating or overwhelming. i worked for months, pulling out stuff i had saved on shelves for years, decades even. i scrawled out outlines for lessons and took myself out for coffee dates to organize them into bite sized pieces. i picked what i had found to be the most useful pieces, and i tried to translate some of my experience into lessons that might be useful to someone who hadn't lived them... i photocopied and created and watched videos and dreamed. I phoned music teachers that i knew and i asked them questions. I inserted their suggestions into the curriculum and re-wrote, knowing that I would probably need to keep tweaking it forever, but hoping to build something that I could be proud of. I typed out each one of the weekly lessons and organized handouts that i hoped would help clarify what i taught, and empower people to *do*... And finally, i was kind of... done.
"What do i do now?" i wondered as i looked at my tidy file folders holding my precious curriculum.
This was a much harder, much more uncomfortable part.
i wrote posts on Facebook trying to explain what i had made.
i offered my little course out to the universe...
And a few sweet souls accepted the invitation.
i had hoped for between 6-8 students - i felt like that number would be perfect for the group activities, without intimidating. i wanted it to be intimate. We ended up with 5.
i had anxiety each of the six nights that i taught the course.
The week i finished teaching it, i had already decided to teach it again.
Armed with ideas to make it better, i attacked my notes and handouts. i fixed, i clarified, i added and deleted.
i made another offering out to the universe.
Two. Only two replied. But then i started getting phone calls from people who wanted to take some private lessons. They weren't interested in taking the course, but wanted to know if i'd teach a little voice or a little piano.
I decided to go ahead with my two students in my course. i still had anxiety, but it was less - and i felt like i improved - i knew some things that were going to work, and some things that weren't... i was also surprised by some things that were harder or easier the second time. The dynamics were totally changed with a new group. I realized that it would never be boring because *people* make it a new and unique experience every single time.
i found myself growing, learning and gaining understanding through my private lessons. People came so differently and uniquely gifted... i transcribed chord progressions from video games, listened to country music, created set lists that would facilitate learning musical transitions or appropriate chording patterns. Some of my students had more classical training than i did... but i never felt like i came to them empty handed, and some of them were so gifted in encouragement - that i felt empowered as a teacher and my confidence grew.
i decided to offer my course again and this time, i would aim to offer it to children. i posted on homeschool boards on Facebook and fished for interest... but i knew i couldn't offer my course to children without tweaking the content. Week by week, i rewrote my material - substituting exercises for ones that i thought would appeal to children. Mollen - my constant cheerleader - told me i needed to create a student handbook and so did. i bought colourful duotangs and filled them with the handouts i thought we could get through in six weeks.
It was hard... but teaching the course was hard too. We ended up with eight. Finally a full class!
i fumbled and stumbled... i'd lose them and their attention often...
But they were bright and creative... They were kind and capable... They were curious and willing...
And i loved it again.
And now that the school year is wrapping up, i'm finding that much of my teaching will wrap up for the summer too. i'll keep a few stragglers and i do have hope that i'll be able to pick up steam again in the fall.
i'm growing again.
And growth is hard and kind of fun - but also maybe a little melancholy and sad too (i have time for this because my little ones are growing, and needing less of me... and literally needing to *please have less mom*... not just needing me less... and that's hard and weird and uncomfortable and sad and probably healthy and right too... but i can't see those things through my tears...)
So, in this season too, the Holy Spirit will use music to minister... to coax new growth, to keep me from stagnancy or limitations.
"You wanna see healing and growth in your life, my paige? Then, let's see you give..."
And so i offer.
And He multiplies.
And i grow.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Good Friday

i had worship team practice on Tuesday this week. i was helping out with some back up vocals and as we wrapped up, i asked if i could pray for reconciliation in relationships over this holiday where believers around the world celebrate Christ's death and resurrection. I prayed for families to be restored & friendships... but over & above all that, i prayed for a softening of hearts to be reconciled to their Creator. 
Later on in the week, Elmer had been sent to his bed for some behavioural infraction... i climbed up the steps and kneeled beside his tiny sobbing form. He's only three, but he's a bright, articulate little boy - always saying things that take me just a little off guard. 
"I wish i was just always a good boy!" he cried... and i almost cried with him, "oh honey - i wish i could always be good too! i know exactly how you feel!" i stumblingly explained to him that we are always becoming - that as we grow, every decision changes us and that i was so proud of his desire for 'goodness'. 
Finally Friday arrived and my mind was on other things... i had a turkey in the oven, my kids were coming over for a feast, i hadn't had time to vacuum and we left the breakfast dishes out... but we settled into our seats in the dimmed sanctuary and i held my tiniest son on my lap as they played a video that explained the fall of man - and our desperate need for a saviour.
Elmer turned to me and asked, "But... who will save us mom? Who will save the world?"
The story had suddenly come alive for him - and he started to connect the dots... i whispered explanations throughout the service and his little heart soaked them up, seeking clarification and understanding. Finally, we were taking communion and i told him that communion was something that is done to remember Christ's sacrifice for us - it's something that people do, who have accepted that Jesus is Lord in our lives and in our hearts... 
He told me he wanted Jesus to be Lord in his heart, and so with my hand cradling his tiny head - we whispered a prayer of submission and then his hazel eyes met mine and he smiled at me.
& i honestly don't remember these moments of surrender with all my children... some stuck out to me over time more than others - but i know that i serve a Faithful Father - who heard my prayers for softening and reconciliation and He called my tiny son to come and be reconciled to Him - and Elmer heard... and obeyed. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

buckled

i've done this thing this past year where i've tried to get outside more. It started this fall when i started running across the street to the park in the afternoons and running up and down the hill a few times. It was kind of what blogging used to be for me - just a few quiet moments to let my mind run wild and free reaching back and forwards, stretching out of the here and now and the must gets done to the what-ifs and flipping over the days gone by in my hand like a multicoloured stone that has been polished by the ocean.
i stopped when it got too cold and icy... i replaced it with marching around our kitchen island, up and down the stairs, around my loop over and over again... i would read a book to show my little ones that mama was occupied, and the little afternoon rise in heart rate did wonders for my winter blues... But as the snow has melted, i've found myself grabbing on my shoes and running for the hill when i can. 
Sometimes i have music in my headphones and i dance up and down the hills arms and legs flailing like a fish on a boat's deck... Sometimes i just want a minute - just a little minute... to breathe, to feel, to praise... And so i do. 
Today, as it is most days, it was Twenty One Pilots... and it was a throw back to their self-titled album & a song called, "a car a torch a death"... 

The air begins to feel a little thin
As I start the car and then I begin
To add the miles piled up behind me
I barely feel a smile deep inside me

And I begin to envy the headlights driving south
I want to crack the door so I can just fall out
But then I remember when you packed my car
You reached in the back and buckled up your heart

For me to drive away with
I began to understand
Why God died

& as i listened, it hit me... this is motherhood. 
watching these tiny wreck of human beings bundle up into a car... a little metal cage that will hurtle them down a highway full of danger and temptation... 
& strapping my heart in their back seat.... 
over and over and over again... 
And i refuse to care less - and it would be impossible to care more. And i'm invested, i'm all in, there's no turning back... 
And there are all these little people - driving around with my heart buckled in their back seats.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

fair trade

There are things that i've gone through in my life that i had understood at the time to be moments that i had to learn purely to trust. People spoke about purpose in pain, and i thought that the ability to grasp the purpose was like some magical mathematical algorhythm that i lacked the capacity to understand. Pain was something i could accept with blind faith, but i never had an expectation or hope for complete understanding. i've always been ok with that. i didn't look for purpose or reasoning to understand my pain... As far as i was concerned, i figured my Father had reasons that might be generations in the making - and i trusted Him - and that was enough.
Recently though, He has given me clear insight into some of the why's of my life. And that insight itself is some kind of strange, painful beauty. Pain in the reliving of my own grief, and beauty in seeing where He has brought me since. i am able to recognize and remember moments of confusion and agony and apply it in situations that would have boggled my mind before.
i'm aware.
And i wonder if that is some small gift that comes with age and experience... To compensate for the fine lines and soft sagging flesh, we get tiny glimpses of understanding.
It might be a worthwhile trade.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sostenuto

"Often, the most precarious part of a mounting, sustained line is found not in approaching the climactic notes, but in descending from them. Breath energy has been expended improperly on the dramatic "high" note, with nothing left in reserve." - The Structure of Singing by Richard Miller


i've been reading my vocal class text book from college. i pace around the kitchen making weird sounds as my husband watches sports on the couch with my boys, laughing as i try vocal exercises - weighing their value and my understanding of the technique required to perform them properly. i often have to read and re-read whole sections before i understand them - it's a slow, plodding read, but i do find i'm re-learning a ton, and i am enjoying it. 

i came to the quote above last night and i read it a couple of times before highlighting it in sunshine yellow. i want to remember that. Sometimes beauty is in the ability to hold on after the dramatic high - to remain constant and supported during the re-descending. i felt like that passage uniquely captures a tiny piece of mothering in these strange in between years - where i have adult children and a three year old. And of course, i would be a fool to assume that it's possible to hold anything in reserve from those years of sleep deprivation and baby making and the laundry and food and constant, perpetual action... but as the author describes the skills that need mastering in order to avoid cumulative strain and fatigue - as he explains that when we lack the ability to make rapid adjustments freely - the vocal instrument is sure to tire - it hits home. As the melodic phrase of my child bearing years has come to it's height and begins it's descent, i want to be faithfully sustaining the passage that follows as well as i live my life in sostenuto. 

"The ultimate test of technical ability lies in sustained singing. Energy and power are frequently required, but these attributes of the good singer must be balance by freedom."- The Structure of Singing by Richard Miller


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