cannot be replaced.
If you only knew
what the future holds.
After a hurricane
comes a rainbow.
Maybe you're reason why
all the doors are closed.
So you could open one,
that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt,
your heart will glow.
And when it's time,
You just gotta ignite the light,
And let it shine...
Just own the night,
like the Fourth of July."
I'm not much of a Katy Perry fan, but I knew I'd be writing a piece with "Firework" as the keynote, ever since I first heard it on our drive in to school, one day last week.
The perfect match of "story and song" began to percolate the other night at the 'Reef and Beef Benefit Concert' (Heifer International and a Gulf spill relief non-profit were the proceed recipients) last weekend.
There were so many wonderful acts featured during those two hours, and one remarkably funny emcee (thanks Travis). But there was one performance that released floodgates of gratitude in my heart.
My lovely, talented niece Lily, poised on the edge of a high stool, and a brilliant singing career, performed an original, amazing composition of the "23rd Psalm" that was arranged by her mom, Laurie.
The performance itself was inspired and breath-taking. But it was the backstory that had me in tears. And it is the backstory, that Laurie has given me permission to share here.
I've known Laurie since we were both newlyweds. One weekend, long before Lily (or her sweet older sister Kristen) were born, Laurie came for a visit to our home in Colorado. Her husband was out of town on a coaching trip with his high school wrestling team, so we had girl time.
Laurie, our daughter, and I spent that Saturday touring the exhibition hall at our County fairgrounds for a Home and Garden show, before going out for a specially-planned English high tea at a local antique gallery. Translucent vintage bone china, scones, Devonshire cream, marmalade, tiny cucumber and watercress sandwiches, chocolate truffles, and petit fours...it was a lavender, linen, and lace spread, right out of Victoria magazine.
We'd had a great afternoon, and were finally sitting in our cozy little living room, talking about grand hopes, career goals, interests, and dreams, when I asked Laurie what her greatest life desires were.
I already knew that Laurie loved family. Seeing her devotion to her husband, parents, brothers and sister...up close and personal...over the years, that fact was a given. But that afternoon, Laurie shared with me, that her dreams for herself were, quite simply, in this order: motherhood, playing piano, writing/arranging music. She spoke of each with such complete focus, humility, and passion, that I couldn't imagine any of those desires not being fully realized.
In the ensuing years, I was to discover that Laurie is an inspired spiritual thinker, a brilliant comedic writer, a gifted teacher, and a devoted wife and daughter, but it was those three "dreams"...motherhood, piano performance, and musical composition/arranging...that I have never forgotten were the silent desires...the prayers...that Laurie placed at the feet of Christ each day.
Laurie's desires weren't "wants," they were promises from her Father-Mother God. And I made note that day, to watch those promises growing in her life...like a tender mustard seed taking root...wanting to see, as the years went on, how God would work his purpose out in her life.
Within a few years, Laurie, and her husband, were the delighted parents of two beautiful daughters, Kristen and Lily.
Laurie is a devoted mom. She has also played the piano for her daughters' school, her church, at family gatherings, as a teacher, at weddings, in recitals, for choirs, and during the holidays at public venues throughout the city. She has honored, and celebrated, the musical arrangements of her favorite artists...it was Laurie that first introduced me to Jim Brickman...while developing her own "sound," as a composer and arranger. Laurie's prayers live in the lives of her daughters, her family, and her music.
Now, for Lily. I've always wondered if Lily was, quite literally, born singing. As a toddler, she could be heard singing to herself in the backseat of the van...at times, much to the chagrin of her sister and cousins. But Lily was unfazed. Lily loved to sing...and so she did. Lily sang while she read, she sang while she walked, she sang while everyone else was playing outside. Heck, Lily sang while she played outside. She was a soccer player and a singer. She was a swimmer and a singer. Lily just sang. And Lily still sings...beautifully. It never mattered what anyone else thought about her singing...Lily sang. And nothing ever stopped Lily from singing.
So, you may ask, what is this all about. Well, for me, it is about seeing...watching. It is about watching someone's desires, living prayers, take form in words and deeds. And it is about calling attention to this spiritual phenomenon when those divine promises bear fruit. Like that mustard seed which grows into a tree that birds can lodge in, a realized dream...anyone's realized dream...is a tree that we can lodge our own hopes in.
Watching Lily sing the 23rd Psalm, while her mom played the piano...beaming all the while at her beloved daughter... was one of the most heart-achingly beautiful moments of grace, for me.
I don't think that Laurie has ever lost sight of her desires...no matter how they played out moment-by-moment, day-by-day. As long as Laurie was mothering, playing the piano, and involved in creating beautiful music...she was happy.
Lily loves to sing. And she has never cared who was listening...or if anyone was listening. If Lily was singing...she was happy. She lives her truth, her relationship to God, everytime she sings.
Witnessing Laurie and Lily...loving each other, playing the piano, singing a truly beautiful song they had written and arranged together...was a privilege. It was like having a front row seat on the fulfillment of a promise. I believe that Mary Baker Eddy is encouraging us to trust in God's promises as guidance for our lives, when she writes on the first page of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
"Desire is prayer, and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted, before they take for in words and deeds."
It was clear to me the other night, that I was being given a precious gift. One that I'd had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of, almost 20 years earlier.
Neither Laurie, nor Lily, seemed to care where they were performing. They could have just as easily been sitting alone at the piano in their living room, as they were on the stage of Ridgway Auditorium -- in front of 200 people. They were not living for applause, they were living their desires, their prayers, out loud...and they were just letting us get a peek at what it looks like to live your dreams...unconditionally.
And while Laurie's love for her daughters, her family, her life, quite literally poured out of her heart on stage that night...I could almost feel that same love...God's love...beckoning to each of us, asking us to embrace our own desires more trustingly.
Only Lily could be Lily. Only Laurie could be Laurie. And only you, can be you. You are an original and cannot be replaced. If you are not living your desires...the desires that God has put into your heart... to live and to love...no one else can. Your "niche in time and eternity" is only yours to fill, and God wants you to fill it...with your love for whatever it is...that you love.
Thanks Laurie for allowing me to witness the fulfillment of God's promise in you, and for letting me tell this story.
Thanks Lily...you are dearly loved...
There is a link in the text, above, to Lily's beautiful performance of the 23rd Psalm, but since I don't want you to miss it, I am share it here again...I had an entire post written about the 23rd Psalm that I had expected to put with Lily's video, but Laurie and Lily's story was much more compelling. The 23rd Psalm speaks for itself. If you would like to read an earlier post about Rabbi Harold Kushner's insights on the 23rd Psalm,"It was Enough" you can click on this link.
*a new post on creativity...that refers to this one, titled "to more than I can be...". is linked here.