As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Friday, December 6, 2013

Make Haste to Help Me

My parents got me a banjo for my birthday last month, and I have been relishing in the joy of learning a new instrument.  It has been a good many years since I took up a new instrument, but my Dad being something of a musical prodigy I like to think that it's in my blood.  I have been having so much fun learning and seeing the slow beginnings of a new art.  Mostly though, I am completely drawn in to the beauty of music, and how it mirrors the beauty of life.

I am learning bluegrass banjo, which is made up of roll patterns of the thumb, index and middle fingers playing the strings in quick succession.  Learning these rolls at first requires patience. I am using a youtube series of instructions (Mark Wardel, if you're interested - he's awesome!) and he highlights how important it is to get every note right before picking up speed.  "Go as slow as you need to," he says, "speed will come with accuracy."  And so that has been my focus.  I couldn't help but think about how life is like that, that we can't rush through anything without first being accurate and deliberate, or the result is a jumbled mess.

When it came time to learn my first song I was slow and steady.  I was happy when, after a few steady days of practice, I could speed it up little by little.  When I got to the point that I was pretty good at that one, I decided to learn another.  This one used a different roll, and I approached it with the same steadfastness.  With song number two under my belt I tried to play my first song only to discover that I was not as good as I had been the day before.  That learning a new song made me have to think harder about what I thought I already knew. The rolls that came so effortlessly a mere day before were now confused with the new one I had learned, and my fingers and brain struggled to make the sound come out clear.  As a musician, I hated it!  I had to go back to basics, "speed comes with accuracy," but slowing down was so painful knowing how quickly I had once played it.

That was a surprising lesson for me.  And yet, I am living the same thing in my life.  Isn't it funny how the more you learn, the more you need to revisit those things you thought you had perfected? 

Phew, where to start?  I have hit a wall with my day-to-day.  Perpetual frustration, unmotivated students, whiny-whiny-whiny children, batty from being inside all day long as the winter weather looms, and cranky, cranky mother who really should know better by now than to let these circumstances get the best of her.  Haven't I been here before?  Haven't I learned this lesson already? Why am I not as good at this as I was yesterday?

Because I am not the same person I was yesterday.  I have lived just a little longer, and my experience requires me to go back and keep working at the things I already knew. I'm not checking things off a list, I am developping an art.  For as long as I walk this earth, I will be a work in progress.  I must never consider that turning a page means I can't revisit its content.  Sometimes going back to an earlier point in the story helps to make our present a bit more clear.  Sometimes before you can build the structure any higher, you must cement and firm up the base, because what was adequate before may need reinforcement.

And so, last week after a particularly bad couple of days I found myself in the van with my children, on the way to somewhere that was just a small portion of that busy outing week.  I always find being in the van with the kids helps me to clear my head, and evaluate my day in a different way.  Something about driving away from the house and leaving my problems behind coupled with having all the kids in a small space and focused on me makes for a good time to pour my heart out.  And so I told them I knew something wasn't working for me.  I knew full well what it was, I had lost the habit of regular and frequent prayer. 

My husband is fond of praying the liturgy of the hours, a beautiful series of Catholic prayers that are attached to specific hours of the day (morning, mid-morning, noon, mid-day, evening and night). You can even get an app (iBreviary).  He would carry his iPod with him through the day and pray as often as he thought to.  He said that it centered him, and helped him focus more on God, that if everything in his day was taking him away from God, the more he made the concious effort to orient himself back towards God throughout the day, the more chance he stood to end the day not as far from the Lord as he may have otherwise been. He explained it like this:

It was becoming painfully clear to me that I had allowed myself to become too much like the first diagram.  I decided to start using that little app on my phone.  The kids were inspired too, and offered (on their own) that they should find more time to pray as well.  And so together we journey, the slow, steady work of becoming accurate and deliberate with our prayer life as a family.

The daytime prayers begin with God, come to my assistance; Lord, make haste to help me. And every time I pray them it is not lost on me how much I need God's help.  I need it - I need it now!  It is good to say that prayer often through the day.  The words of the prayers are often so personal to me (Make me grasp the ways of your precepts, and I will muse on your wonders.  My soul pines away with grief, by your word raise me up.) At other times, they are so far away from me that I almost feel like a hypocrite reading them, and I pray that the Lord will help to make them true so that one day, I won't feel like I'm lying (To prove my innocence I wash my hands, and take my place around your altar, singing a song of Thanksgiving, proclaiming all your wonders.)  

I had been so consumed with the busyness of life that I had let my devotion fall to the wayside, and just like banjo rolls that are fast but not accurate the result was a frenzied, offensive mess that could not hold a candle to the true beauty it was meant to be.  A good musician knows when the time has come to slow down and get back to basics.  You have to be willing to step down, to lower yourself even to a level you thought you had surpassed, for the sake of your craft.  Going on in stubborness only gets you further away from where you want to be.  But making time to do it right, consistently and frequently, is what leads to true greatness.

May I learn to love the constant work that is growing in faith, so that I can truly become the artist you have called me to be.

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