Joyful Noise(y)?

I am a loud singer.

If you know me at all, you probably already knew this. Growing up, my parents encouraged singing, throwing us kids wholeheartedly into choirs, musicales, and pre-meal choruses of the doxology. You could definitely say that I grew up singing.

On the flip side, I also heard a lot of “Abby, shut up!” from my parents and siblings alike throughout my childhood, and was probably the reason for the creation of the no-singing-at-the-dinner-table rule when I was five. When I was 16, I remember getting into a spat with my brother after standing next to him in church one sunday. He told me I was distracting the people around me by singing so loud and accused me of caring more about singing to draw attention to myself than for singing songs as a way of glorifying God. At the time, I was really hurt; his comments felt like an attack on how I praise God, which is very personal.

But, with time comes a little perspective to be able to re-evaluate criticisms, right? It is very important for me to clearly look through a critique and see if there is a foundation of truth to the critique that I should be listening to. I admire people who can take criticism in the moment and apply it. I am not usually one of those people. I get hurt feelings and, if forced to react in the moment, usually respond badly. Anyhow, you might be asking yourself why I am going into all of this right now. Well,  I have recently begun going to an awesome church, where the worship elements of the service have been a big blessing to me. One thing that keeps happening, though, is that I keep being approached at the end of the service by people who comment on loving my singing or telling me that me I have a “beautiful voice”. I am very flattered, but also left wondering if (A) my singing took away from their worship, and (B) if I should try to tone down my worship so that people would not be focusing on me in any way during the worship time.

A blogger named Heidi wrote about a loud worshiper experience in a blogpost I stumbled on the other day. She wrote:
“The so-not-my-type gentleman who ended up sitting next to me rose to sing, and SING he did!  People from three rows away turned to see who was free-styling the words to Amazing Grace.  I was waiting to see if he was going to bust out the jazz hands to complete his show.  I couldn’t make eye contact with him as I was embarrassed and afraid I would get a terrible case of the giggles.   He wasn’t completely pitchy, other than the few times he tried to hit the Christina Aguilera range.   He was just LOUD.  I compensated by whispering, then just mouthing the words he was belting out, and  eventually I stopped singing all together.
After the initial shock, I was somewhat amused and then a bit disappointed in myself.  If he felt moved to belt out worship music like it was a Glee show tune, then who was I to discourage him?  People have different levels of how they connect with God and this was clearly his thing.   It is so not mine, but maybe when I “mmmm” and nod along to the message, he is thinking, “What is wrong with that girl?  Why is she making cow noises in the middle of a sermon?”  To each his own.”
Well, Heidi’s post made me think even more. I mean, I love to sing, and I love to praise God with abandon using my voice. I hope that, if anything, people might react to an enthusiastic worshipper by being spurred on to a deeper level of worship themselves. Instead, although she came to a very kind conclusion in retrospect, the Glee-tastic worshiper caused Heidi to stop singing. I never want my singing, however well-motivated, to stop someone else from worshipping God.
So, I started looking into scripture. . .

Psalm 98

 Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 33:1-5

Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

Luke 19:37-40 

As he [Jesus] was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives— the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying,“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the LORD has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.
And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I guess the Bible doesn’t explicitly speak to my circumstance. . . the biggest command is simply to WORSHIP, rather than specifying a manner of worship. God wants sincere worship, whatever its quality may be. The point is not how we worship, but why. So maybe I need to be more aware of my loud singing as a way of loving those around me and being a help to them. Ultimately, though, as long as my singing is for the glory of God and for God alone, it is a right act of worship.

What do you think? I would love some other perspectives. . .

Prom(enade)

The very word PROM evokes a pretty broad variety of responses. Whether you flash-back with rosy nostalgia or a hefty dose of post-traumatic stress, most of you probably remember paying some ungodly amount for tickets,  spending more for whatever get-up you chose, and spending the evening feeling a little surprised that this once-in-a-lifetime pinnacle moment, however much fun you had (or didn’t have, as the case may be) was still just a high school dance.

I have the (perhaps dubious) privilege of corralling my students into the details of prom planning. Needless to say, even with the most wonderful of students, the process is EXACTLY like herding kittens; adorable, fun, chaotic, exciting, and exhausting.

 Planning a high school prom is so very different from attending it. . . but takes a much greater level of forethought. It’s a little like planning a wedding actually (I know, I’m not married, but after having 4 consecutive roommates get engaged and married while living with me, I think I have an idea of the process!). You have to think about venue, menu, music, lighting, decor, favors, seating, emotional turmoil . . . and a whole host of things I’ve probably forgotten about already.  Now, this isn’t my first rodeo, thankfully, but I am hoping toup the ante a little this time around. To set the best possible tone, our prom committee has selected the more-than-classic stereotypical theme as featured by Marty McFly himself.

ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA 2012

Key Elements I am coordinating? 

1.) Music – Dinner and Dancing:

Check out this (largely student-made) playlist for the DJ, folks!  

Prom Playlist 2012

2.) Marketing:

Plaster the School With Posters!

3.) “Bathroom Baskets” :

Prom Disaster Relief 101

This year we started the trend of putting together a basket of much-needed items for those moments when life should have an Oh-sh*t handle! This dance’s model is a cheery colored basket, primed to fill with everything from safety pins to duct tape.

4.) Foot Protection and Sanitation :

Sock-it-to-’em!

Heels are fun. Heels are beautiful. Heels are CUTE! Heels are NOT comfortable for dancing. THUS, the perennial kicking-off-of-shoes-for-dancing tradition. . .

A handy remedy for promoting clean and comfy feet is to provide a bin of cute socks . . . this prom’s model might just involve whales!

5.) Table Settings:

Flowers Are So Last Season.

 

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That’s right. This year, we’re going for FISH as centerpieces!

fishies

 

Beside or our lively (literally) little centerpieces, there will be candles nestled amid  floating in “bubbles” (hydrated water beads) . . . and a lovely assortment of shells and starfish!

Our Centerpieces!

6.) Favors:

Band-it. Steal the Show.

Nobody needs another wine glass that says “Prom 2012”. . . but these little bands seem to be relatively popular for an alternative!

7.) Mad-Libs:

Socially Helpful – like one of Santa’s Elves in your handbag

Lets face it, sometimes conversation needs a little starter. . . enter the madlibs.

Well, there is more, but those are the biggies.  (Yes, Venue and Food are taken care of!)

Did I miss anything?

What is your favorite prom memory/idea? If you feel like sharing, I could use all the creative energy I can get!

Moments

My life is a kaleidoscope of shifting and fragmented shapes and colors. . . very interesting and transitory and wildly confusing, but all part of the pattern, I guess. Now, I usually avoid posting without clear purpose. Yes, a diatribe makes its way in here or there, but they are typically rather pointed (which is kind of like a purpose!). Otherwise I try not to meander conversationally through a random array of topics, but at this point, that is my sole option, mostly because my life is full of lots of random things right now.

Allow me to share a few quotable moments with you from the last two days. . .

1.) Lingerie shopping for my current roommate’s bachelorette party, I took the rare opportunity of mentally unoccupied time to call my mom back since she was reverting to curt e-mails and passively annoyed facebook messages.

Exhibit A: Facebook

Exhibit B: Email

Since the e-mails were flirting with the edge of frustrated (pirouetting across), I decided it was really time to call back. And, hey, how hard could it be to look at filmy little night-gowns and sustain a coherent conversation at the same time? I’ve done this before (this isn’t my first rodeo), I can handle a little multi-tasker shopping. SO, I called, we chatted, it was highly lovely (in all seriousness). There’s no better time for a long involved conversation than  when hunting through mountains of lace boy-shorts…

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HOWEVER, as I rifled through racks of enough red lace and black satin to do the cast of Moulin Rouge proud, my mother shared an interesting opinion on lingerie; not her own. Right after I said something about the astronomical price of a nightie, she said, “It’s like your Dad says, lingerie is the biggest waste of money. . . you only wear it for like two minutes before it comes right off!“. . . Welcome to quotable moment #1.

2.) Giving birth has been on my mind quite a bit, mostly because EVERYONE is having babies right now, but ESPECIALLY since one of my dearest friends just gave birth to a new baby boy yesterday!!! It’s insane. After weekly visits with him as an every expanding bump in my friend’s life, little Phedda (my in utero nickname for him) is flying solo.

I just got home from meeting him for the first time. Let me tell you, he is PERFECT. And I am in flat-out awe of his mom. Honestly, the whole birthing process has to be the most wretched experience in existence. If you weren’t already planning on sending a Mother’s Day card (May 13th, everyone), you should now plan on it.

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Jen and I are close enough friends for her to tell me some of the painful details. Her 23-or-so hours of labor were definitely not without cringe-inducing complications. . . so I asked, “So, did you end up having the epidural?” and, she, being the incredible person that she is, smiled and  just said: “No.”  I think my jaw must have dropped. Then her husband chimed in that my dear friend, my dear INSANE friend, had actually WALKED across the street from the Birthing Center to the Hospital while fully dilated and having hard-core contractions, in order to deliver little P.  Now, its been a long day, so I’m not exactly eloquent at this point, so I asked my all-consuming question: WHY?! It was then that her wonderful husband smiled, took her hand and said proudly, “Because she’s an Amazon warrior princess.” Welcome to quotable moment #2.

3/4.) As you know, I have an affinity for petticoats, and dresses which require them. . . 

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Well, yesterday, I happened to be wearing a dress-petticoat combo and a friend of mine walked up to me and said, “You know what you look like? In the nicest way possible you look like one of those cupcake dolls. . . you know the ones I mean?”

cupcake doll

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Laughing, I turned around to one of my seniors, who asked me why I was laughing. . . so I explained the situation, and, without missing a beat, my student responded, “That is how I always figured you entered this world.” Welcome to quotable moment number 3 (a two-fer).

5.) I have always resisted classroom pets. Not because I hate pets, but because there is usually enough work to be done in the classroom without adding in pet-care routines. Last Friday, however, I caved. Enter my two new little goldfish, Josephine and Napoleon. Aren’t they cute?

Once they were safely installed in my classroom (after a precarious car ride with a very large open tank), my students welcomed them excitedly. One student asked me their names, and when I responded “Napoleon and Josephine”, he started laughing and said, “Oh man, about halfway through the year you should get a little fishbowl and exile Napoleon!” There you have my last quotable moment of the day, folks.

My life is one wonderfully fun kaleidoscope, don’t you think?