Bracing from Buoyancy to Letdown


Last week, I rode a high brought on by the spectacular live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar that aired on NBC’s network on Easter Sunday, starring John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Brandon Victor Dixon. I had never seen a production of JCS or listened to any of the soundtrack before, so this was an entirely new experience for me. Godspell I was familiar with, but I had never gotten to know JCS, although I knew of it.

All last week, the strains and melody of “Everything’s Alright” were the undercurrent of my days. I even found myself singing the first stanza of the song to a student who was nervous and stressed about a test they had in my class. All week, this musical—this story of Judas, Jesus, and deep, soul-searing humanity—buoyed me up and kept me afloat. The actors’ faces have shown up in my dreams. Their voices have filled my quiet moments, my heart and soul birthing prayers from the lyrics they breathe and belt.

Jesus Christ Superstar has been a Godsend of a soul lift, one that I have needed deeply and dearly. It has been a difficult few months, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I have felt heavy, off-center, not myself. Nothing has felt aligned—not my emotions, my prayers/time with God, my sleep, my libido, my energy, my reactions and responses, nothing. Often, all I want to do after a full day of teaching is hide in my room with my earbuds in and not speak or have to spend spoons on anyone. Of course, unfortunately, this means my family suffers from my lack of presence and being present. For weeks, it’s been this way, this off-centeredness, so to feel the buoyancy of this beautiful musical was nothing short of a miracle. As we head into a new week, though, I find myself fearing.

I fear the letdown. Buoyancy like this doesn’t last as the novelty becomes commonplace. I fear the shine falling off, the powerful lyrics becoming ordinary as I listen to them over and over. I fear that the off-centeredness returning, the heavy tiredness settling on my shoulders and sapping my spoons and energy. It is like the winter weather, which seems to refuse to let go as, morning after morning, now into April, I wake to snow on the ground where previously there was none. Like that unexpected snow, I silently worry that the low places will return, and I’ll crash back to earth again. That sudden stop hurts, like a lot.

This past weekend, as I embarked to the grocery store on my own (a rare thing), I kept my earbuds in as I did my shopping, humming and mouthing lyrics to JCS’s pieces, and there was a freedom there. A soaring amidst the mundane, and I realized how much I have missed it. I’ve missed feeling freedom. Freedom to be me and enjoy what brings me life and joy. Even though I am afraid that it won’t last, for now I will hold onto it. Hold onto that freedom, that soaring, those miracles amidst the mundane. I will keep on singing, sharing, and hoping that this is just the beginning of feeling like myself again.

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Once a Lost Girl…


Ruth B’s single “Lost Boy” has been moving quite fluidly across the airwaves of late,  sung in her dreamy, soulful voice, though I first heard it when a friend of mine shared a YouTube video of the song to my Facebook page, saying that it reminded them of me. I take that as quite a compliment, personally. The first half of the song goes like this:

There was a time when I was alone
Nowhere to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too

Then one night, as I closed my eyes
I saw a shadow flying high
He came to me with the sweetest smile
Told me he wanted to talk for a while
He said, “Peter Pan, that’s what they call me
I promise that you’ll never be lonely, ” and ever since that day

I am a lost boy from Neverland
Usually hanging out with Peter Pan
And when we’re bored we play in the woods
Always on the run from Captain Hook
“Run, run, lost boy, ” they say to me
Away from all of reality

When I was a child, the first storybook character I fell in love with (yes, I believe that I loved him with all my little-girl heart) was Peter Pan. I had a beautifully illustrated storybook, a book on tape, loved the Disney movie (was so jealous that Tiger Lily got to “kiss” Peter), watched the “Peter Pan and the Pirates” television series on Fox in the mornings before school, had my blue “Wendy” nightdress, and had the Mary Martin production of Peter Pan memorized (still sing “Once Upon a Time” and “I Won’t Grow Up”). It’s safe to say that I was a bit obsessed with Peter Pan and all the characters therein.

When I was a child, I didn’t have many friends. I was small, skinny, awkward, studious, always with my nose in a book. Not many people wanted to associate with that, particularly in the first half of middle school. So I turned to my books and movies (which were mostly based on books), to the characters held within them who had ever been steadfast friends. I was a Lost Girl in truth. I could sink myself into those stories, let the characters pull me along to join them on their adventures, and live a thousand lives that I would never have in the real world. I was happy as a Lost Girl, in Never Land. I was happy with the dream of Peter (who, interestingly, has continued to grow as I have grown) coming to my window, taking my hand with that handsome, sweet grin, and flying me off to somewhere where I could be more than what I was. Where I could be a Lost Girl, not just little Melissa. Where I could talk with mermaids, fly with fairies, fight pirates, and dance with Tiger Lily.

Where I could be someone else. More than what I was.

Even now, I am still a Lost Girl. I still run off with these characters and dive into their stories, their ranks having swelled over the thirty-some years of my life. Dear friends and new, they make me happy to be a Lost Girl. In fact, there are two new books on my table, two new shedloads of characters just waiting to take me on their adventures and share with me their realities.

As a matter of fact…I think that’s a tap on my window. Excuse me.

 

 

Hymnal Thoughts


Before now, I have been hesitant to state which is my favorite Christmas hymn, and honestly, that is because I couldn’t decide. But now I have an answer. Definitely have an answer.

As I drove around through the cold January air, the rain falling in sheets and the sky a slate grey blanket above me, my car was full of warmth. Yes, I was listening to Christmas music in January, plainly breaking the family “rule” about no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. (When I am alone in my car and no Doc McStuffins soundtrack is being requested, I shall listen to what feeds my soul, thank you very much!) This song came on and stayed on repeat for most of the rest of my errand trip. I couldn’t get enough of hearing it, of singing it, of feeling it.

Without a doubt, “The First Noel” is my favorite Christmas hymn. There is no song that elicits that sense of thrumming anticipation and elation that the season embodies like it. No song that fills my soul to the brim and overflowing with that peaceful expectation, that serene joy that is all that Christmas means to me. It feels like song reaches into every part of my soul, flooding it with warmth and the desire to see light and love and hope everywhere, to see with my heart rather than just my eyes.

I want to keep that song, keep its core, its joy, anticipation, and watchful spirit alive in my life all the year through, not just Christmas. I want it to echo in my heart and in my life and spread out to others in the way I live each and every day.

PS. Thank you to my music teachers all through school for teaching me how to find and carry a part in a choral arrangement! I cannot tell you the joy I had finding that I could still sing along well enough to enjoy vocalizing along to this wonderful group of vocalists in their beautiful rendition.

NaBloPoMo Day 13, Part 2: Art Threading Through Life


Today’s prompt: Put your music player on shuffle and write down the first three songs that play and what your initial thought is.

Pandora Channel – “Aladdin (Broadway)”

I am a huge lover of music and how the lyrics make me feel, what they remind me of, make me think about, etc. It’s almost impossible to separate my thoughts on a song from its lyrics.

  1. “No One Is Alone” – Into the Woods (2014)

Both: People make mistakes.
Baker: Fathers,
Cinderella: Mothers,
Both: People make mistakes,
Holding to their own,
Thinking they’re alone.
Cinderella: Honor their mistakes
Baker: Fight for their mistakes
Cinderella: Everybody makes
Both: One another’s terrible mistakes.
Witches can be right, Giants can be good.
You decide what’s right you decide what’s good
Cinderella: Just remember:
Baker: [Echo] Just remember:
Both: Someone is on your side
Jack, LRRH: OUR side
Baker, Cinderella: Our side–
Someone else is not
While we’re seeing our side
Jack, LRRH: Our side..
Baker, Cinderella: Our side–
All: Maybe we forgot: they are not alone.
No one is alone.
Someone is on your side
No one is alone.

I have never seen Into the Woods live, nor have I yet watched Disney’s cinematic rendition of it (even though I actually own it), though I did buy and watch the production with Bernadette Peters as The Witch with Ben for Valentine’s when we were dating. This is his favorite musical. He played the Baker in high school and has been in love with this challenging musical ever since. As such. I have learned a good number of the songs out of a sheer desire to share them with him. This song touches my heart in its reminder that we are never really alone, no matter how we feel we may be. There is always someone who is feeling similarly or who may understand you far more than you expect.

“Part of Your World” – The Little Mermaid

Look at this trove, treasures untold
How many wonders can one cavern hold?
Looking around here you’d think
Sure, she’s got everything

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a plenty
I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore
You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty!
But who cares? No big deal,
I want more!

This was the first Disney song I remember memorizing and identifying with. I’m sure my friends thought I had everything a girl could want. But I did want more. I wanted real relationships, real friends, real adventures, a chance to see and affect the world. As I have grown, my dreams have tempered some but I still desire those deep relationships, friendships, adventures, and the chance to do good in the world around me.

“Almost There” – The Princess and the Frog

Mama! I don’t have time for dancing!
That’s just gonna have to wait a while
Ain’t got time for messing around
And it’s not my style
This old town can slow you down
People taking the easy way
But I know exactly where I’m going
Getting closer and closer every day

This was me when I was in school. When I headed off to college at seventeen, adults would frequently (and jokingly, I know) ask if I was going to get my MRS degree. It might have been a joke, but I felt my intelligence and ambition were insulted by it. So I would look them in the eye and say, “No, that’s not the point of college.” I had goals to achieve, ambitions to fulfill. And, true to my word, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in English Education and Master’s degree in Literature before I walked down the aisle with Ben.

What My Voice Was Made For


I love to sing. Love to sing. I croon lullabies to soothe minds and tears. I will belt musicals in the car. I will sing Glee duets with my husband and mingle our voice as we have mingled our lives. On Sunday, though, as I stood and sang in worship service, I came to a realization: my voice was made for hymns.

I grew up in the Wesleyan Holiness Church and have sung hymns my entire life and have most of them memorized. I have sung them, played them on the piano and flute, translated them, and written about them for English assignments. My voice was made for the soaring triumphs of hymns like “I Will Praise Him”, the broken need of “Fill My Cup, Lord”, and the deep remembrance of “Man of Sorrows”. My voice was made for hymns and it makes my heart soar to sing them. It reminds me of the lessons I learned of Jesus as a young woman, of sweet moments of God’s comfort and help, moments of brokenness and revelation.

My husband says frequently that one of the things that spurred his love for me was when he took me to his home church for the first time and I knew every hymn that was sung by heart. TO him, it was a reminder that I understood his past, his upbringing, that I knew how much it meant to him. I understood his life, and knew what it would mean for me to be part of it, to share in it.

As a child, the hymn “Jesus Loves Me” was my lullaby, sung and hummed to me by my mother every night. It soothed my soul and my heart at the end of each day. It also was the first song I ever sang to my daughter, becoming her main lullaby as well. I hummed it into the tiny body that laid on my chest, murmured it through exhausted tears, sang it through smiling lips at the sight of a peacefully sleeping infant in my arms.

There are days when I find myself singing hymns while I stand at the sink washing dishes or folding clothes, and I just smile. They are what my voice was made for – for praise and blessings, for intercession and brokenness, for joy and gratitude. Of all the songs I shall ever sing, these will forever remain the closest, for they bolster my heart and my faith through every season of life.