Creating as a Kind of Living

For years, I constantly wondered what on Earth I want to do as a career.  I considered teaching, becoming a lawyer, becoming a business woman, working in the technology field, and none of it seemed to fit.  I couldn’t do anything more than toy with the idea before a sense of wrongness made me change my mind time and time again.  I couldn’t put my finger on why that was, until, I think, that day.

I woke up that morning and posted a blog I had written a while ago.  It was simple, far from perfect, but I enjoyed posting on my blog and hadn’t done it in a while.  I began another blog post, then took a break to continue work on a song I had started a couple of months before.  I loved it so far, but it was still lacking a chorus and needed some reorganizing.  As I arranged, lyricized, and invented, another theme found it’s way into existence, and I took a few minutes to develop and record that so that I could go back to it sometime in the future.  From there, I stopped in to edit a bit of the fantasy trilogy I have been working on with my sister, and realized.

Everything in me longs to create.  I want to create new friendships, new opportunities, new stories, new songs.  I want to add to the world with pristine, sparkling novelty, mined like diamonds from the unsearched depths of my soul.  It sounds dramatic, but it is dramatic!  Think about it!

When the Lord made the universe, he spoke it into being out of nothing… nothing!  Ideas, music, words, stories, they are like that!  You may start with an empty page, but you end with lines, paragraphs, pages of text and meaning that did not exist before.  You may begin with silence, but a few minutes later, there is a melody and chords and poetry that can speak to the heart.  It’s the closest we can get to taking part in the drama of the first creation.

I think every human has a desire to participate in creation like that at some level.  Whether it be having children, or starting a company, we long to bring things into being that once were not.  It is a part of our DNA as image bearers of our own maker.  Second only to serving my Lord, I want that to be my life’s work.

Thankful for Birdsong | 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 14

I’m a musician, and melody is a constant presence in my life.  My roommates can attest to that.  They often comment, or tease, about my humming, and singing, and piano improvising at all times of the day, and occasionally the night.  I think maybe that’s what makes me appreciate birdsong so much.  They are participating in the same music-making that fuels my energy from hour to hour, and it’s life-giving, enchanting, even.

It reminds me of all the Disney princesses that make friends with birds.  Cinderella, Snow White, Mary Poppins (although she’s not exactly a princess), either way they all have this magically musical relationship with winged whistlers of various varieties, and in a way it’s quite representative of the reality.  There is something magical about it, an animal that can produce music at will, and does so as a regular part of their routine.  There aren’t many other animals like that.  May it serve as a reminder to make magic with our own music in our own routines.

Thankful for Imperfect Art | 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 11

Art is an earthly representation of the creative power of God, dim and weak in comparison, but undoubtedly so.  We are made in his image, and being made in his image we display, like him, the ability to create and to breath life into our creations.  As an artist, I often find that my creations die too early, or, at least, do not reach full maturity because I forsake them, citing their imperfections as my excuse.

And then it struck me.  What if God had done that with his imperfect art?

All things were good when he made them—perfectly good—but they did not stay that way.  God gave his creatures a will, a will which could choose to follow him or turn from him.  In turning from him, we turned from perfection, and thus into imperfection.

Still, God did not do as I would have done.  He did not forsake his art.  Rather, he pursued it, even became a part of it when he saw fit to take the form of a babe, born amongst peasants, suffer the lowly, hungry life of a working man, and was denied and crucified by the very imperfect creations he had come to pursue and perfect.

How many songs have I left unsung?  How many stories and poems and articles have I left undeveloped and unfinished due to my petty frustration over their iniquities?  Undoubtedly hundreds, but I am thankful that God shows me a different way.  Even now I am tempted to leave this bit of writing undone.  I am tempted to quit the document and never look back at it, too unsatisfied with this sentence, or that word, or the whole concept in general… but I, too, am an imperfect creation, and my creator did not abandon me to non-existence due to my defects.  As an artist, I have a responsibility to my art to develop it, to give it at least a chance at life, even considering its deficiencies.

Thus, as an expression of my thanks in this regard, I hope to be a more responsible creator in the coming year.  In my quest to become more like Jesus, I hope that I will pursue my art, like he did, and gift it existence even when I feel it doesn’t deserve it. Here begins my fight against perfectionism, which has long been the, often victorious, enemy of my work.  It will be a long-fought battle, of that I am certain, but if it was worth it to God, it is worth it to me.

Thankful for Accessible Technology | 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 6

Sometimes, it’s fun to envision what life would have been like a hundred or more years ago.  Imagine a life without digital media, for example, or consider how different transportation was when cars had only just been invented.  What interests me, though, is how life must have been different for the blind.

Some blind people did live independently, had children, and held jobs, like the famous hymn writer Fanny Crosby.  But what was it like?

On the one hand, I’m a bit jealous.  Any society before the invention of cars must have been a great deal more pedestrian friendly, and therefore, blind-friendly, even in the absence of modern infrastructure.  On the other hand, I wonder how blind people managed without ways to independently access printed materials around them, or easily produce them on their own.

I’ve written a few songs in my time—it’s hard to avoid when you live in music city—but Fanny Crosby had over 8000 hymns published!  Then, she would have had to memorize all of her texts and music, written it down in braille and had it transcribed, dictated it to a sighted person to pen them, or penned them herself.  Of course, the only way she could have accessed them again would be through her memory, braille, or a sighted reader.  Evidently, her memory was impeccable.  According to the website I referenced earlier, she memorized five chapters of the Bible a week.

I definitely do not exercise my memory quite that often or to that extent, so perhaps that’s another advantage that antiquity has over modernity for blind folk.  Otherwise, I’m thankful that now a days, accessible technology means that I can easily record music (even as I write it) on my phone, type the lyrics into my computer, review what I have written, and share them with sighted friends, all independently and with very little extra effort on my part.

I am especially thankful for the way assistive tech has made the bible available to the blind in a way it never has been before.  I don’t have to carry volumes and volumes of braille bibles around with me to have constant access to the word of God, nor do I have to have it read to me and memorize five chapters a week, though there’s no doubt that would be a profitable exercise.  But no.  All I have to do is have a charged iPhone with a wifi connection, safari or a bible app, and voila.  The whole word of God is at my fingertips…

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)

He has made his word known to us, and not only known, but accessible for study, teaching, comfort, evangelism, truth.  Accessible technology means I, along with other blind people, get to behold the wondrous things of his law by myself, on my own time, in essentially whatever format I choose, and whichever book or verse I prefer to study.  I do not think there is any more valuable gift.

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

A Second Journey: Sunrise Christian School

It was an early start yesterday as we left at 8:00 Am for Sunrise Christian School, where we would be working most of the day.  I say working, but it wasn’t really work at all.  I have immensely enjoyed every day that I have spent in Scotland, but I think Sunrise has been one of my absolute favorites so far, at least with regards to the actual work we were doing.

For the first hour, the team retreated to a separate room to do team and personal worship, and allow the students to get their morning lessons finished.  The school is very small.  There were five girls there yesterday, and there are only a few more students in the school that are not there on Wednesdays.

We met the girls during their first break time at about 9:30 Am.  They were very chatty and full of energy.  After a few minutes getting to know them a bit, the students took their seats again and we started our presentations.  Similar to our  Buchanan presentation last Friday, we started with psalm singing, then performed our Good Samaritan skit.  We sang a bit more after the skit, and I got the opportunity to teach the girls a new psalm!

My team leader asked if I could give my testimony, so I told my story and the way God had used my blindness to bring me near to Him.  The teacher (who is our friend and a member of the Airdrie congregation) had also requested that I talk a bit about Oleta, despite her absence.  Sunrise is sponsoring a guide dog puppy for her traininG!  I know, how perfect!  She is a yellow lab called Angel!  I explained a bit about what exactly a guide dog does and showed the girls two videos of Oleta, one with her booties on working in the snow, and the other of her playing hide and seek in one of our music buildings at university.  They loved her, which only warmed my heart further.

After our bit, we sat down in the girl’s chairs, they stood up at the front, and showed us some of the things they had learned over the year.  First they sang a version of psalm 25, “Unto You Oh Lord”, then recited at least 20 questions of the Presbyterian catechism by memory.  They were so earnest, and I was absolutely enchanted.  I know it took work to get there.  I know teaching is a difficult job, especially when you are not only teacher but administrator, secretary, disciplinarian, finance manager, and occasionally transportation, but after seeing some of the things they have accomplished, after witnessing first hand the way a teacher might guide their pupils along a path of faith, I want to be a teacher myself.  I never thought teaching would be the life for me, but my heart longs for nothing more than to be back with those little girls, guiding and instructing them to develop their talents, and live a life full to bursting with prayer, fellowship, song, and the Joy of Christ.  I suppose I may experience something similar as a mother, but who knows… primary school teaching may be in my future as a profession.

We spent lunch with them, which was wonderful, and then went to a park for a sponsored walk to raise money for the school.  We played in the park for a bit before the walk.  I got to be a train conductor and save several of the girls from certain destruction, ride a zip line, and be a pirate in the crow’s nest of a flying ship.  We were going to Las Vegas, so the ship had to be flying otherwise we would have a really long walk to get there.  Our ship was actually a rope pyramid, that one of the girls and I climbed to the top of and wove our story as we swayed in the breeze.  I also built a sand castle with another of the children in the park’s giant sand pit.  Seriously, I am 20 years old and this park was epic even for me, and playing pretend with these precious girls was just amazing.

For the walk, I linked arms with one of my team.  A student walked on either side of us, one to my right and another to my team member’s left.  We sang psalms, marched to the Ant’s Go Marching, picked flowers, commented on the geese and dogs and ducks we saw, and when it started raining near the end of the walk, dreamed of tea and a hot meal when we got home.  It was cold, but I’d be hard pressed to think of a more enjoyable afternoon.  At the end, we hugged the sweet girls farewell.  I gave one of them the flowers others had picked for me along the way, and we climbed into the car to a chorus of goodbyes, well wishes, and hopes that I would say hello to Oleta for them.  How my heart swelled to hear them, and to hear them speak of Oleta, whom they haven’t even met.  That’s it, I decided, I have to bring her back to see them next year.

I don’t know if a third trip to Scotland is in God’s plan for me next year, but I am praying about it, and hope to make a decision much earlier this time.  Already I long to return, and I’m sure that will not change.  Still, it is not a decision I wish to make lightly.

A Second Journey: The Last Several Days

To bring you up to speed, this is a brief recap of the last several days.

Thursday:

1. Traveled independently through Glasgow airport, found Beth, caught up on the drive to Airdrie.  So surreal, probably partly due to jet lag, partly to Oleta’s absence, and partly just the joy of seeing Beth again, and the knowledge that I was really back in Scotland!

2. Walked into the church during my team’s worship session in the morning. Put down my things and joined in their discussion of Hebrews.

3. Discussed our drama for primary schools and testimonies for secondary school presentations.

4. Getting to know the team, personalities, voices, things to tease each of them about, etc.

5. Went to bed with my four lovely roommates and strangely had trouble sleeping.  If you can’t sleep with severe jet lag when can you sleep?

Friday:

1. Traveled to Edinburgh for leaflet distribution. I got to pet two fluffy puppies and it was almost more than I could handle! Also, there was thunder, which is super weird in Scotland! It’s happened multiple times over the last couple of days too, and is currently thundering outside now.  What even?!

2. Had dinner at a local Airdrie restaurant. They ran out of fish so we forgot fish and chips and went for the ribs. Delicious.

3. Spent that evening relaxing and staying up much too late.

Saturday (a day off):

1. Went to Stirling for a visit to Stirling castle and a walk through the town.

2. Lots of stone steps, echoey hallways, tapestries, and cobble stone.  Really beautiful and full of rich history.

3. Pasties and sausage rolls for lunch. Fantastic and only like a pound to eat! So cheap!

4. Trampoline park in the evening with the youth group. Super fun!

Sunday:

1. Sunday school, prayer meeting, and morning and evening service in Airdrie.  So wonderful to see so many people again and talk with them.

2. Incredible meal at Beth’s with the rest of the mission team and another visitor from London.

Today:

1. Gave testimonies in Edinburgh at secondary school (ages 11-18). Went quite well.  Lots of good questions.  Hoping to see them at the church meetings later this week.

2. Continued leaflet distribution in Edinburgh to spread the word about said meetings.

3. Awesome drive home from Edinburgh with one of their congregation, singing Irish tunes and listening to celtic music.

4. The most enjoyable evening yet spent at Beth’s laughing and teasing up a storm, plus ice cream, raspberries, and The Princess Bride.

We’ll be more detailed next time, but there you are for now.  So many blessings to be thankful for!

Adventures in Fund Raising: THe Concert

Among many other things, missions work is teaching me how to be a bit more organized.  I am not naturally so, especially when it comes to planning, especially especially when I am planning something that has no real deadline and no grade.  If life had a syllabus, I’d be set.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t, at least, not one that contains a list of specific goals, required readings, and scheduled due dates, so I took on this particular fund raising effort with no idea what I was doing, no clue where I was going, and very little in between.  Nonetheless, my half-thought out, mid-midterm brain child came to fruition last Saturday, in the form of a (very casual) afternoon of music in our back yard.  It was a concert, of sorts, one with only a week’s preparation music-wise, little time to advertise, and two extremely allergy-affected singers, but it happened, and it went much better, all things considered, than I imagined it would.  I was expecting about 3 audience members, but we had at least 17, and our donations, all totaled, amounted to over 350 dollars.

Wow!!!  I cannot express how grateful I am for your attendance and gracious gifts!!!  Y’all are amazing!  Thank you!

Yet another opportunity that God has used to exceed my expectations in every possible way.  Thank you Lord for that, and thank you that my lack of organization skills doesn’t keep you from accomplishing your will!