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.

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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?

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!

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!

can’t buy me love

Last night, we wanted to watch a movie, but didn’t feel like braving the streets of Vancouver to pick one up. Since we’re the last human beings on the planet without Netflix, we watched one from my collection: a lovely little movie from the 80’s (the outfits give it away) called It Could Happen to You. I love everything about this film except the fashion. A good-hearted policeman wins the lottery, insists on splitting it with a waitress because he promised her half his earnings as a tip, and spends the rest of the story defending his decision and generously and creatively giving his earnings away. His wife, meanwhile, spends extravagantly and becomes obsessed with wealth.

This message of generosity and contentment comes at the perfect time for me. We are having to learn how to live on one paycheck, and my life-long definition of the word “need” is being called into question on a daily basis. I’m doing my best not to become frustrated or indulge in self-pity, which would be so easy; we chose this road, and the consequences are going to refine us into better people. People, I hope, more poised and ready to live out God’s Kingdom in our city.

This is all so easy to say, though, and much harder to do. If I were to put a hole in my favorite jeans today, normally I would go out and buy some replacements. Wouldn’t you? Instead, I need to look at our other needs, my wardrobe, and decide how important the pants really are. The easy thing would be to just go jeans shopping (well, sometimes it’s not so easy…). Marriage adds another element entirely: what if Nate needs pants too?

I’ve been dwelling lately on Jesus’s sermon on the mount in Matthew 6. The picture here is so poignant: if I believe that God is big, and loving, enough to feed birds and clothe flowers, why don’t I trust him to take care of my needs? When I worry about whether I can afford my favorite lunchmeat in this expensive city, or wonder when I will ever be able to go shopping again, I’m taking matters into my own hands and there’s really nothing I can do about it aside from act out of my own lack of trust. This is and adventure, though, and I truly desire to learn how to live simply (in a real, tangible way) and trust the Lord, Jehovah Jirah, to provide for His child. From this trust, I hope to develop a generosity that doesn’t look back, that causes me to find pure joy in providing for the needs of others, no matter how small.

Besides, the Beatles were right, weren’t they: money can’t buy me love. And love I’ve got.

we all live in a yellow Penske truck

Said truck is parked illegally in the fire lane next to our nearly-vacant apartment. Inside it: everything we own other than the odds and ends that are left for morning (you know: the jar of pens, cleaning supplies, printer and computer sitting on the floor waiting to be swept up with the rest). Tomorrow, we brave the open road and hope that the Canadian customs officials don’t find anything suspicious about us!

I’m so tired, but it’s starting to sink in that tonight is really our last night in Seattle. We can’t go long when our silverware and my espresso machine are lost in a pile of brown cardboard boxes, can we? Seriously, this is it. All our hoping, dreaming, and penny pinching comes down to a leap of faith that begins tomorrow. I’m clinging to this truth tonight:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

We appreciate all the prayers and support more than you know! I’ll keep you posted, dear readers, as we get settled into our new city, country, and lives. Here we go…

marital musings

I found out last night that a woman I respect deeply is in the process of becoming divorced. This was hard to hear, especially from her; they’ve been married for many years, built a life together, had children, and from the outside, it’s looked like perfection. After hearing her tell me that it’s been far from perfect, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a marriage solid and what I can never take for granted. Just because right now I can’t envision that happening to us doesn’t mean we aren’t immune to the innumerable things that can tear a relationship apart. The statistics alone are enough to instill some healthy anxiety (is there such a thing?) in me, even while in newlywed blissful dreamland.

I told this friend last night that I feel so lucky to be married to someone who truly makes me want to be a better person. The way he does this most is by drawing me deeper into my relationship with God. I believe that keeping God at the center of our marriage will strengthen us for the difficult times (which I know will come), but the “how” of this is pretty complicated. We pray together sometimes and worship side by side frequently (when he’s not playing guitar up front). On so many levels, though, we experience God so differently that it’s hard to do together. I expect it to become more difficult still when he starts seminary in three weeks and is immersed in an intense, academic view of theology, scripture and deity.

This friend encouraged us to keep a date night tradition, and to take picnics, even especially when life gets busy and everything seems to be getting in the way. I think this is some of the best advice out there, but so hard to implement on a regular basis.

You married folk: how do you do it? What have you done tangibly to strengthen your marriage and put your spouse first? Or if you’re single, what have you seen in marriages you admire?

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