Thursday, October 10, 2013

Don't Block Their Sky

I was seven years old. We were riding in the van when Daddy turned the radio station to the classical station. Every once and a while he wanted Kandace and me to listen to classical music. He said that it broadened our minds. The piece playing was a riveting piano solo. I listened in wonder. Daddy turned his head slightly so his voice would easily meet my ears. 
“Isn’t that beautiful? Would you like to play the piano? One day you could play like that.”
I didn’t answer. I doubted that I could ever play anything as awe-inspiring even if I practiced forever. Piano lessons began when I was eight-year-old. My piano teacher, was pleasantly surprised at my ability to play chords and scales with ease. I wasn’t the quickest of learners, but I tried hard. One of my greatest fears was to embarrass myself in front of my teacher. At Christmastime, Mama scheduled me to play at church. I begged her not to make me play. Her big brown eyes turned cool.
“Katy, you will never overcome your fear until you face it.”
I was dressed in a velvet dress and my straight hair was brushed until it shown. I shook with nervousness as I opened my piano book and sat on the squeaky bench. I played “Mary, Did You Know?” I did well. Everyone clapped and I swelled with pride. Maybe Mama was right. Many other little girls and boys took piano lessons, but their mommies never made them play in church. They told Mama that their children were just too afraid. My Daddy and Mama always told me that parents who let their children succumb to fear of performing ultimately teach their children that there is indeed something to fear. At the moment, with my little knees shaking together, I was frustrated with my parents for insisting I play, but when it was all over – even when years had passed – I was grateful that they had pushed me. Whether it is in music, athletics, public speaking or any other number of activities, I learned that practice was important, but performing was just as important. Performing in front of a crowd of loud fans or a silent audience develops a whole new and unchartered territory of the brain. Yet, for me, it brought a grin to me face and inspiration to my heart I would have never known otherwise. 

Children are brimming with abilities and talents that many parents have never even tapped into. Discover your children's gifts and develop them. One of the most crippling things a parent can do is agree with their child that they can't or shouldn't do what they do for other people. That may seem to temporarily appease the child, but years later, they will still live with an irrational fear. I am not saying that a child needs to be drug to church and put on the stage, screaming and crying to play or sing a song they don't even really know. I am saying when a child is ready to perform and there is nothing but shyness and fear holding them back, then they should still play. Don't be fooled. A basketball player should play with a team even if he still misses lots of shots. Don't be fooled, that a violinist shouldn't play until he or she never ever makes a mistake or is in book level 10. Now is the time. Their hearts long to know that their parents believe in them right now even when they have far to go.
Robin Wolaver wrote a book on this very subject (click here to see it). It was truthfully one of the best books I have ever read. She pushed her children until they stood in the Juilliard School of Music and formed the Annie Moses Band and performed on the world's finest stages. 
I don't know much about Juilliard, but I do know that it never killed me to be challenged, not just to practice, but to perform. 
"How can one shoot for the stars if one has never seen the sky?" ~ Robin Wolaver 
Don't block their sky. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Truth About Marriage

Last year at this time, October 2012, I could see nothing but the bright and brimming future. My bridal pictures were in a week and my bridal shower was in only a few days. I hadn't seen my future husband, Josh, in a few weeks and I wouldn't see him for another month and I missed him. I hadn't seen my new home and I had no idea what it looked like. I had very little of an idea how life would run for me after my 3-day honeymoon. I didn't really care about that. All that mattered to me was the present. I was getting married and I was so looking forward to my gifts and ordering dresses and decorations, mailing hundreds of invitations, getting my hair done and so on and so forth. I was going to be a young bride. I don't begrudge how excited I was. That was perfectly good and normal.

However, looking back I see something all so clearly. I had heard the stories, I had been told the truth; life isn't a basket of roses and it's not a bowlful of cherries. I believed that, knowing that getting married wouldn't suddenly make life perfect, but in my heart I believed that somehow Josh and I were partially immune. We were different from most couples, we had a deeper love, a pure trust in one another. In a way, I was right. Josh and I had done things the right way. We had kept ourselves pure in the relationship and had even agreed to covenant that divorce is not an option. We were honest and loving. All of those things were amazingly helpful in making us resilient to future hurdles.

When we got married, I felt God's presence run down my spine. I was so completely joyful in one of the happiest moments of my life. I know that God smiled down on us. But God had a lot of teaching to do.

It wasn't long after we got married and the happiness of our honeymoon wore off that I was hit with the "life" I had often refused to think about. The wedding was over and all the guests had gone back to their lives. My siblings were back in school... without me. And the honeymoon... was over.

Here I was sitting in a gray military building. I was putting on a good front, but inside I was shaking.

Dear Jesus, what have I done?!

I had been married four days and I sat there terrified like a little girl. The strong, pretty bride I had been hardly a hundred hours before was now a teary-eyed, messy wife.

We moved into our empty house. It was pleasant, though very different from my childhood home. I had never liked to cook, so even though Mama had taught me how, I hadn't practiced a lot. But I had to cook something! We had only a few dishes and so I grabbed some groceries and made lasagna. We had no table, so I placed a blanket over a tupperware container and we ate.

Josh had to go to work. I thought I would die. The house was so quiet, except for the roar of planes overhead, coming from on base. I was lonely. It mattered not when Josh was home; when I saw anything that reminded me of my family, I would crumple into a ball and cry. Josh was understanding until he felt like he was unwanted. He was sometimes resentful of my missing my family, to which our first arguments as man and wife commenced.

The days became the same. I would write all day on my book, organize, clean and walk our flat neighborhood. Josh would work and he would come home. The mind can be your worst enemy. I would often dread deployments and things as simple as cooking my next meal.

Why do I share all of this? Because too many girls and maybe even boys, have a false and warped view of life after marriage. It isn't a Nicolas Sparks novel. It is wonderful, yes. It is fulfilling, yes. But it is not perfect. And even I (note my sarcasm) was not exempt from arguments and hardships. The money was short and the fuses even shorter.

It hit me. I am a mighty selfish person. My whole life, I have looked out for me and my two best friends: me, myself and I. But then I was a wife in a miserable little town and without a piano to top it off.

Young people who are not married, I know that many of you long to be married like I did. It is something to look forward to, but I beg you not to waste your days away longing for it, because once it comes, things will eventually slow down and you will long for the next thing on the list. Wherever you are on your life's journey, look up to the One who knows all of your days and trust Him for His timing. Be content. If you wait to be content after you are wed, then you will never be content at all. I am convinced that in our contentment, God will bless us.

God has taught me so much over the last year. He has brought Josh and me so far. He has begun to break our stubborn wills, but not our spirits. We have a long way to go, but we are on the right track.

Marriage is a lot more than what I ever realized. It is a picture of Jesus and the Church. Unconditional love is a choice. It is not easy, but it is worth the effort. My parents had taught me this truth for years, but maybe it took me living it to see the truth.

Paul Washer put it this way, "You are married to a person who does not meet all of the conditions so that you may learn unconditional love. You are married to a person who needs mercy so that you learn to give it. You are married to a person who does not deserve so that you learn to pour lavishly yourself out on a person who does not respond appropriately and thus you become like the God you worship!" 

I am learning that though this grass is green, the grass on the other side was really green too. I am learning to be a good wife for my wonderful husband. I am learning to be content right here, right now.