When Words Won’t Come

Some days an attempt to write falls flat and the words just won’t come. Today started that way. Frustrated, I decided to play the piano instead.

Sitting down at the piano, I hoped a favorite hymn would put me in the right frame of mind to write. But my playing also fell flat. There were too many mistakes. The melody sounded choppy. Not very musical.

Though tempted to give up, I played the hymn one more time. When I began to play the second time, the words were suddenly present (in my head) along with the melody.

What a difference! Musically imperfect, but a clear message. And this time, playing brought a true sense of joy.

Hmmm…maybe when words won’t come, I need to hear words that are not my own.

So, today I say, “Happy Easter” with the help of English poet and clergyman, John Newton. My prayer is that Newton’s words and a familiar melody will bring you joy and hope on this Easter Sunday.

🎶Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
We have already come
Was grace that brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home
🎶

Just What I Needed

“When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.”

Words from a hymn I’ve known since childhood. Words I’ve heard twice this week in a newer version of the song. The rhythms and melodies were new, but the words remained the same. A combination that evoked a much-needed sense of peace and rest.

The first hearing brought back memories. The second hearing brought the realization of just how much I needed to remember.

Yesterday, I received my second steroid spinal injection. I’m happy to report no fainting this time. Whew! However, it left me feeling anxious and restless. And though extremely tired, unable to sleep.

My evening became a cycle of panic, no sleep, and tears. The thought of my 5:30 A.M. alarm loomed. Followed closely by the thought of teaching school after only three-four hours of sleep. All I could think was, extra coffee!

My morning classes were surprisingly successful! Time with students and teacher friends seemed to help my energy increase. Even my fifth-grade class after lunch was acceptable. 😉

But then, my energy began to fade. I could feel myself hitting a wall. How in the world would I make it through physical therapy after school? For a few seconds, I considered canceling. After all, I just had that injection yesterday. Surely they would understand.

But when I got in my car, there was that hymn again. I smiled and began to sing along. On this second hearing, a new phrase stood out; “Weak made strong, in the Savior’s love.”

So I headed to physical therapy, my energy starting to return. A bottle of water and a protein snack pack may have helped a little. It helped my body anyway. But it was the music that lifted my spirit.

Therapy left me with a feeling of restored purpose. And though I walked away tired, it was a good tired. A tired that reminded me of the importance of taking care of my physical body.

All of this from the simple words of a new/old hymn. A hymn I heard twice in one week. Reminders of love, strength, and grace. Old words combined with new music to provide just what I needed.

A Time to Share

I know hymns are sometimes viewed as old fashioned. But there are moments when they enter my thoughts like a long-lost friend. I picture the hymnal page in my head, each note in its place.

That picture transfers from my brain to my hands and the piano keys. Hearing the melody revives the words. The hymns I think of most often speak of grace, peace, and prayer.

This happened yesterday. I was preparing for the school day to begin, and one of my favorite hymns came to mind. So, I sat down at the piano and began to play.

After playing it in several different ways, I decided to record myself. I don’t do that very often, but I liked the way the music was sounding. As I listened to the recording, I began to think of sharing.

Sometimes I love technology. In a matter of minutes, I emailed my recording to a few family/friends. I chose the first three names that came to mind.

Not long after, I received three replies. Each sweet thank you made me smile. Yes, playing calmed my thoughts before students arrived for class. But this same music brought joy and peace to three others, miles apart.

At the end of the school day, I felt exhausted. I closed my classroom door, allowing the sounds of the day to fade away. Choosing another favorite hymn, I once again began to play. And once again, I hit the record button.

I have not played the second recording for anyone else yet. For now, It will serve as a reminder. A reminder that beginning and ending the day sitting at the piano, spending time with old friends, bring peace. A peace which, if shared, has the power to impact those around me.

Hmmm…maybe it’s time to share them both now. 😉

Heart and Soul

My parents attend a small church in Wye Mountain, Arkansas. The people are kind and serve as a beautiful light in their community. Each Wednesday evening they welcome, feed, love, and teach a large group of children. And those without transportation? They pick them up and take them back home.

The building is simple. A beautiful, stained glass window graces the wall behind the podium. A piano sits to the left. There are no fancy lights, no choir, and no band. Only a few microphones and speakers. And there is always coffee in the kitchen.

Every time I visit, mom asks me to bring piano music. My trip last weekend was no different. Of course, I forgot and had to go music shopping on Saturday. I chose a new book of hymn arrangements and picked two to play during the service on Sunday.

My Aunt Linda, who happened to be my first piano teacher, plays for the services each week. I saw her Sunday morning before the service began, gave her a hug, and she asked, “Are you playing today?” I smiled, “Yes.” “Want to play for the whole service?” she asked. “I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”

And so, I played the hymns and this precious group of people sang along. I also played my carefully chosen solo. As I began to play, the air grew still. The only sounds flowed from the piano.

The melody in this particular arrangement was a familiar hymn tune. One I remember from childhood. One which brings peace.

I need Thee every hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine,
Can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee,
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, Savior,
I come to Thee.

After the service, many people thanked me for playing. Truthfully, I should have been thanking them. Being with them reminded me of how sweet it is when people worship together in simplicity.

Experiencing last Sunday morning from behind the piano (my favorite spot 😉 ) filled my heart and soul to overflowing.

Memories & Hymns

Some of my earliest memories of playing the piano in public are at church. I attended a small, country church as a child. On Sundays when the pianist was not there, the music director would come to get me out of Sunday school. “Ok, Kelley girl, which hymns do you know how to play?”

We would go over the list, making sure I was comfortable with each selection. After our short practice, it was time for the service. I’m not sure my exact age, elementary school, but I remember barely being able to see over the piano.

Who is this little girl? 😉

Thinking back to those early memories of playing, I don’t remember being nervous or afraid. I only remember being excited about the opportunity to play. The place and people provided encouragement and support. And it was fun!

Those early experiences lead to many more years of playing in churches. Different types of churches, services, funerals, weddings. Actually, I’ve spent more years playing piano in church than not.

Currently, I’m in one of those “not playing” times. Services have changed, much more involved and complex. Not that it’s a bad thing, just different. One that I don’t feel lead to do at this time. Maybe that will change in the future, who knows?

The simplicity of my childhood experiences is long gone. And although I sometimes miss that playing, I realize the important part remains. The music is forever part of my heart and mind.

The following is a short list of some of those early hymns:

  • Amazing Grace
  • In the Garden
  • Sweet Hour of Prayer
  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Sitting here on my couch typing, I can hear them in my mind. I can feel them in my fingers. I can see the notes and words on the pages. Sometimes they flood my thoughts right when I need them. 🙂

I am grateful for the memories of these hymns. They are a powerful part of my musical and spiritual foundation.

“…speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:19

What a Friend We Have in Jesus-Me playing in 2001. Arrangement by
Phillip Keveren

Flat on my Face

Flat on my face, not a position I would intentionally choose. This phrase conveys negative connotations and feelings of discomfort. Though it was not from a fall, I spent some time in this unpleasant position today.

I had an MRI this afternoon as a follow up to some previous tests. The check-in was not unusual. I filled out forms, answered questions, reviewed history, signed consents…donned lovely hospital fashions and prepared for an IV.

For this particular series of images, I had to lay flat on my stomach, face down, arms stretched out above my head. Towels covered everything and cushioned my face and elbows. As I said, not a position I would purposefully choose. But necessary, at least for a short while.

Earplugs in place and a panic button in hand, the table begins to slide into the tube. I would hear no voices until the test was finished, about thirty minutes unless I squeezed that panic button. And even though there were moments I wanted to shout, “Is anybody there? Are we almost done?” I remained still and silent, the panic button un-squeezed.

As the machine began to do its job, loud noises surrounded me. Many different timbres, volumes, and tempos filled the small space. Feelings of panic filled my head. “Just breathe. You can do this.” I began to pray. I silently sang some favorite hymns.

When anxious thoughts crept back in, I would start the whole process over. I must have repeated the same three hymns several times, not to mention Psalm 23. The words, “We’re all done,” never sounded so sweet. Pretty sure my response was, “Thank goodness!” 🙂

Changing back into my clothes, I looked in the mirror. Towel marks imprinted on my face. Gart noticed them as soon as I entered the waiting room. They wouldn’t last but provided a temporary reminder of the previous thirty minutes.

Tonight, those marks have disappeared. The loud noises quieted. Some amazing truths remain. Prayers are powerful (my own and my friends). Hymns and pep talks are powerful. Knowing Gart was in the waiting room the entire time, also powerful.

These truths all worked together to provide assurance. Assurance that I could keep from squeezing that panic button, and that I would not remain flat on my face.

Thinking of summer! 😉