the heart and the voice

(It’s been a while. I had the best of intentions when I said I would be blogging regularly on my newest goals and dreams. I’ve been at work, slowly but surely, and either haven’t had anything to write or I’ve been so occupied by life that this blog had to come second. Sorry I wasn’t as good as my word… but I’m back for now. OK, disclaimer over…)

The new year has been a time of redirecting for me, in a more profound way than usual. Perhaps redirection isn’t quite the right word, maybe returning is more accurate. My heart, my soul, my body have been missing singing in a huge way since summer when I let my practicing slide to make room for the big changes taking place in our lives. The habits have taken this long to make their way back into my life; and only by necessity. I finally found something in Vancouver that I wanted to audition for and then I had to practice, no choice in the matter.

Several things happened in those evenings of finding my voice again. Like returning to a house once lived in and discovering a nook that one doesn’t remember being there, new parts of my voice opened up to me. A new note up top, a new note or two in the basement. After not singing classical music for nearly six months! Something I will never understand about singing is that breaks are often the best possible thing for one’s voice. I also found that phrases in arias that were hard to get through in one breath were now effortless. It could be all the running I’ve been doing… I am probably in the best shape of my life, but I didn’t expect this to cross over to my singing for some reason.

Most importantly, I am rediscovering my heart for singing. As a young singer trying to make my way in the world, it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of this and think only about how to get heard, how to get roles, how to get that high G. I am remembering what it feels like to sing and to communicate and to connect to my heart in the process. It’s a beautiful thing. There is absolutely no other reason I should be singing, and if I should forget this ever again, I hope it’s a truth that will return to me, or that I’ll quit entirely.

It’s all happening. I have a lead role in an operetta in May, two possible upcoming (big) auditions, and I’m in the process of beginning a teaching studio again. This is my heart, to communicate truth with my voice and to help others do the same. By the grace of God, the opportunities keep coming when I make myself available and prepared.

The preparedness, the diligence it takes to get there, will always be the hard part for me. But I am learning to conquer the excuses, one step at a time, and give myself grace when I fall.

rules for someone who doesn’t like rules

my ideal quiet time location

I’m so excited about the Rule of Life I’m developing I could burst. I’ve discovered over a long period of time that me and habits are a bit like oil and water, but paradoxically, I also need structure and rules for myself if I’m going to do anything worth doing. Prayer, scripture reading and journaling present an even trickier problem: I’ve always approached my times with God in a very heart-based and therefore loosey-goosey way. Reading schedules just cause me to quit when I don’t like the book I happen to be in, and cause me to lose sight of why I’m reading the Bible in the first place.

I also need to confess something. It’s been a really long time since I’ve had a quiet time more than a few days in a row. I’m not even sure how to do it anymore. In college, I took a New Testament Scriptures class in which we read Paul’s letters in a very methodical way, from a historical perspective, which was really interesting but had the effect on me of undermining all that I knew about reading the Bible. I haven’t fully recovered. This isn’t to say that a single class at SPU robbed me of my faith entirely: I just got off the horse and never got back on. I know I need to find a way of bridging the gap between my “heart”-based and “head”-based understanding of scripture, and I know this will take time, and I know that I’m ready. I also know that reading God’s Word is very important, but it’s not the only thing I do to encounter God and invite Him into my space.

This article (click on “Creating a Rule of Life”) on developing a rule of life divides the process into several steps, the first being taking an inventory of what you already do to nurture your spiritual life. In reflecting on this for a while, I’ve come up with this list.

 

I already nurture my spiritual life by:

going to church, specifically worshiping God through song.

being active in Creation.

praying throughout the day and thanking God for his hand in my life.

reading the Bible or a devotional (occasionally).

talking about faith with my husband.

being in community with other believers.

listening to beautiful, or “spiritual”, music.

reading blogs about different aspects of faith.

working hard at my jobs with an attitude of service.

making (and keeping) our house into a beautiful, clean home ready for friends and neighbors to come share life at.

keeping a Sabbath for a few hours on the weekend.

 

The next step is to take this list and prayerfully shape it into tangible practices, honing in on how to do these practically, often, and in ways that are sustainable (and flexible) for my whole life. I hope to have this done by next week.

What do you do to nurture your spiritual life? What would you like to be doing?

bread heels & frugal living

ewwwwww.

Today, for breakfast, I finished off a loaf of bread. Only this time, I ate the heel.

I never do this: I’ve always preferred the soft inside pieces of bread and thrown away the heel or left it for someone else to eat. But today, the only thing we had for breakfast was bread, so instead of going out to buy more groceries (we’re out of grocery money for the month, and bread is EXPENSIVE here) I ate the heel.

Small things like this are the adjustments that we’re having to make living on one paycheck. Nate does this quite gracefully; I, on the other hand, am learning that I like a much higher standard of living than I like to admit. It’s difficult for me not to just go out and get what I want when I can justify the purchase. It’s difficult for me to try for a Christmas shopping budget of $100. It’s difficult for me to not buy new rain boots when I find a huge hole in my old ones.

I’m trying, though, to have grace for myself and to celebrate small victories, like eating toasted bread heel. Changing my whole perspective on money and lifestyle wasn’t going to happen overnight when we moved… it’s a process that I have to allow time for. I have to keep reminding myself that we’re just fine. We have a roof over our heads, three square meals a day and clothes to keep us warm. I have a loving family and wonderful friends and a marriage that blesses me each and every day. When it gets tempting to feel sorry for myself, I need to think about the millions of people in the world who live on less than I make in a day for the whole year, or the ones who live life utterly alone. We have been richly blessed.

And, you know, that toasty heel wasn’t too bad.

(photo via apartmenttherapy.com)

three things

Okay, here we go. I’ve made my decisions and here are the three goals from my list I’m going to be focusing on for the rest of the year and into 2011. I’ll introduce each today, and give you my plan in general, then start a weekly-ish post on each to keep myself accountable and y’all updated.

One: number 9, develop a Rule of Life and stick with it. Our home church in Seattle, Bethany Community Church, has been focusing on Rule of Life for a couple of years and I love the idea, I just have procrastinated on actually making it my own. The idea is all about cultivating habits and spiritual practices to deepen one’s relationship with God and walk with him on a daily basis. From these habits and this relationship will also stem habits of service and connections with one’s neighbors. Over the next week, I will be taking inventory of what I am currently doing in terms of spiritual disciplines and deciding, prayerfully, where I want to be and what God is calling me to. I won’t be making it too rigid so I don’t set myself up for failure, and I will be selective with what I share on this blog; after all, this is between me and God. I will write about my journey with this Rule of Life on Mondays.

Two: number 10, perfect my aria package. Lately it’s been easy to forget that I’m a singer. The process of moving countries and working 5.5 days a week has robbed me of my stamina in the singing realm. I have so many desires and goals, but no practice regime to speak of at the moment. So here’s the process: first, I will make room in my life to practice four days a week. Ideally, I’d be singing every day, but I just know this isn’t possible right now. Once I get there, I’ll figure out ways to make use of other time, but first, I just need to get my chops (and high notes) back. Second, I will find a teacher in Vancouver. Money is tight so I don’t know how often I’ll be able to take lessons, but I need guidance and someone else’s expertise. Third, I’m going to choose the five arias I want in my audition repertoire and work them to death until they’re perfect. For those of you who aren’t classical singers or opera geeks like me, an aria is a song from an opera, and I need a bunch of them ready to sing for auditions. So ready that I could be shaken awake at 2 am and sing them with such perfection and passion I could make a statue cry. I’d love to be there by next fall for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. We’ll see. I’ll write about singing on Thursdays.

Three: I want to be at my goal weight by March 1st. (Okay, this isn’t on the list, but I’m breaking my own rule and I’m totally okay with it.) I started losing weight by exercising and using an iPhone app called LoseIt! in May, and I’m halfway to my goal, but I took a break from actively working at it while I trained for the half marathon. I will (starting TOMORROW, really) get back to tracking what I eat and working out to lose weight and get my whole body, not just my running legs, in great shape. I’m planning to kick off with 30 days in a row of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred (lame, I know… but SUPER effective) and running 3 times a week with one long run on weekends. I may be setting myself up for failure with Christmas just around the corner, but I’m sure going to try! I’m deliberately not sharing my exact goal weight online, by the way. Everyone’s body is different and numbers are only partially useful. I’m also going by how I feel in my clothes, and how much energy I have. I have a number in mind but I want to remain flexible about it. How’s that for a wishy-washy goal? but I know what I want and how I’m going to get there and that’s what’s important. I’ll write about eating and exercise goodness on the weekend.

Can I do it? Only time will tell. Stick with me to find out! Happy Thanksgiving to my lovely friends, family and readers in the good ol’ U S of A!

sweet victory

Well, I did it. In June, if you’d suggested that I run a half marathon this fall, I would have laughed in your face. No laughter now! I ran 13.1 miles on Sunday in snow, over ice, and despite nearly choking at a water stop and getting a terrible side stitch (how do you avoid those anyway?).

I must admit, the whole thing was more difficult than I had anticipated. I was– and still am– happy and confident in the way my training prepared me. The race itself, though, felt looooooong and much different than my long training runs. Fitness-wise, I was just fine, but mentally, I had a hard time propelling myself. My running partner and I got separated early on, just when I decided to inhale my dixie cup of ice water instead of send it down the right tubes. It took a little bit of walking and a lot of slow, cough-ridden jogging to recover from that, only to develop a stitch that felt more like a dagger than a needle on the right side of my diaphragm, forcing me to walk some more. At this point, I was getting passed by old ladies and feeling downright dismal about my prospects of finishing in a respectable amount of time. Finally, though, the stitch passed and I hit the halfway, found my groove and a second wind. A few minutes later, I heard my name out of the crowd of runners, and found a new friend from church right behind me! We kept together for nearly the rest of the race and just having someone to run with made such a difference. Thanks, Kayla!

I somehow found enough energy to push my pace in the last kilometer, and crossed the finish line at 2 hours 14 minutes (and 13 seconds, but who’s counting?)! This time is decent… but the sweet thing is that it’s a) barely below the time goal I set for myself; and b) right at my usual pace… which means if I hadn’t had to walk because physical issues, I would have finished faster than my usual pace! It took a bit for my legs to stop feeling like jelly, but we got inside the warm gym and enjoyed some hard-earned chili, coffee and orange slices… with new medals around our necks. Once I started to feel warm and energetic again, it started to hit me that I had actually accomplished this gigantic goal I set for myself. I may not have won, or even finished in the top 50%, but who cares? Not me. My pride in this accomplishment has nothing to do with my time or my competitive edge or lack thereof. I am most proud of myself for spending two months getting up early, sacrificing evenings, running in rain, dark and snow to train for this event. I can’t say with any certainty that I’ll ever run such a long distance again (ask me when my legs stop being sore), but I’ll always know that I can.

the great balancing act

Three months ago, I wrote a list of 30 things I want to do before I turn 30. I really like the list I came up with, and I was feeling very optimistic about my prospects of meeting these goals, but optimism alone isn’t enough to get me there. Item number one, ‘run a half marathon’, is imminent at this point; but it’s taken a LOT of work to get there. A lot of work, plus some organization, plus some accountability. It seems to me that if I’m to succeed at the rest of my list, I need to take some cues from how this whole running thing has worked for me.

It’s easy in this life to lose our balance somewhere between the day-to-day activities and what we really want to be doing. Saturday morning rolls around, and the laundry, errands, or leftover work squeak squeak their way toward the front of the line, and the practicing, working out, writing or calls to friends get put off again. I’ve been letting things slide for far too long and not regularly acting on any of the things I say are the priorities in my life. Laundry is definitely NOT a priority!

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m picking three items from my list. They will be different enough to keep the spice of life abundant, attainable enough to keep me from giving up, and interesting enough to not bore you to tears. Then, I’m going to give myself a specific deadline for each, and make a plan. Finally (this is where you come in) I will be writing about my progress, struggles and victories right here. Accountability is key! And what’s more public than my very own bloggy blog?

Here I go to choose 3 things from my list! Anyone have ideas? Expect my plan by Saturday! Oh, and on Sunday, I WILL check off the first item! Wooohoooo!!! Wish me luck!

Does anyone want to join me on my goal-getting challenge? Let’s do this!

the 13.1 milestone

It’s about time for a running post.

I’m only ten days away from running my first (only?) half-marathon, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve been working very hard, at the expense of what often feels like my only free time (yes, much more running than blogging has been going on here), and running has NEVER felt this easy to me. My running pal and I did 9.3 miles on Saturday afternoon at a pace that used to be a realistic goal for 3 miles. It seems like forever ago that once around Greenlake seemed like enough for a week. My body feels great, I’m continuing to lose weight, my legs are stronger than they ever have been, and I’m not worried in the slightest about running 13.1 miles next Sunday.

Besides all this, though, I’m still riding high from one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. My running buddies commented today that they have been really impressed by my organization, discipline and motivation. Did you catch that?!?! Anyone who’s known me for long knows that my spontaneity, while making for a fun (okay, sometimes annoying) personality trait, doesn’t exactly set me up well for habits, discipline, and order. It’s something I’ve known and combated for a long time. I am technically on the ADHD scale– whatever that means anymore– but never went the prescription route. I decided that I would embrace my issues and deal with them by creating structure and order in my life, the way it works for me. I think some things, like a daily quiet time and practice habits, will always be hard, but apparently, my efforts are starting to pay off.

Finally, here’s something that is actually sticking. Want proof? The hip injury that took me out of my training for 10+ days didn’t make me lose my steam. I rested and went to physical therapy and rejoiced when I was pronounced better because I couldn’t wait to get back out on the road. If that’s not stick-to-it-iveness,  I don’t know what is.

So when I cross the finish line on November 21st– oh, and I will– I’m going to celebrate, but I want to view it as a stepping stone, not a milestone. My longest run yet, but just another run. Because the following week, I’m going to run three times. Or maybe four. Or maybe I’ll give myself a break and only go for two. The point is: this is a habit I want to keep for life, whether or not I’m currently entered in a race. And maybe, just maybe, the discipline I’ve found in putting on my running shoes and stepping out rain or shine, will start to seep into other areas of my life.

front and center on our fridge... the pink means I DID IT!

 

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