I thank him every so often for that. He was so right. Last month, I completed my 18th year as an accompanist for the Stafford School system, most in middle school choir. Let's face it: The majority of middle school kids would much rather be in gym class than music class. As a middle school music director, I would not have survived my natural bent toward perfectionism and order in the midst of the adolescent hormones.
However, I do love music, so that's why I accompany. I certainly have no illusions that I am the most competent accompanist around. Mrs. Lighter, my childhood piano teacher, would be amazed that I am the one of the three Moore sisters who now gets paid to play the piano.
As I thought about the Lovely Branches Ministries theme for June, "Music for the soul," I remembered a time when my "job" didn't have a thing to do with my time on the piano bench. Instead, it happened in a bathroom after class several years ago. The encounter forever changed how I looked at the time I spent at school.
On that day, I ducked into the bathroom after the bell had rung. A middle school girl was there, washing her hands, but she waited until I came out of the stall and said, "Mrs., I have a question."
"Sure," I told her.
She was standing in front of a full-length mirror, pushing her long hair back and adjusting her clothes.
"What's wrong with me? Is my hair a mess today? Am I wearing the wrong thing? Do I smell?"
"No," I told her. "You look great. I think your hair looks really pretty today. Your outfit is cute."
She stopped me. "No, I really want you to be honest," she said. "Tell me the truth! When I come close to some of the other girls, they look at me and say, 'Oh, __________, get away.' Or they will turn their back, and I can hear them whispering."
I said again, "I am telling the truth. I am being honest. I want you to hear me. Even though it's really hard, you need to realize that sometimes other girls can be mean. I don't know why that is, but it is. So it's not about you. It's about their need to feel better than someone else. If they can put someone down, then maybe, for just a little bit, they can feel better about themselves.
"Try to remember it's not about you, even though it hurts."
I could not get that girl out of my mind. I remembered my daughter's middle school years. They were the absolute toughest for me as a parent (and no doubt for Jill as well). I will never forget how mean they were to one another. For several years, I saved a note that I found one day in Jill's pocket. It was from a girl who was supposed to be her friend. It said something about Jill looking like a pig in her cheerleading outfit.
I don't know why I saved the note. Was it to remind me of the power of words? Was it to remind me to really listen to my kids - whether they shared the hurts of the day vocally or exhibited it with a quiet, sullen mood?
Am I naive enough to think Jill was never mean to another girl? Of course not. I'm sure she had her moments even though my constant soundtrack with both my kids was, "Be the bigger person."
So I worried about this girl who I didn't really know. She was a face in the crowd on the risers before I heard the anguish in her voice that day. On the night of the concert, I made it a point to find her and tell her how nice she looked in her dress-up clothes. When I would see her at ballgames, I would stop and visit with her - even after she graduated from middle school and became a high schooler.
You see, I have been that girl. I wasn't the thinnest girl or the prettiest in my class or the girl every guy was clamoring to go out with.
But as I've gotten older, I've realized that most women have felt like that. Even those girls who from the outside looking in have it all - the thin girls with the perfect hair and just the right fashion flair - have that nagging feeling that they just aren't good enough.
But it doesn't change the hurt of a 13-year-old girl peering at herself in the mirror of a bathroom.
So, I hope she heard me - really heard me. If she did, it was worth all the time commuting to town ... practicing at home ... being annoyed at the noise ... the nervous stomach before festivals and concerts.
It was worth every second. If she heard me.
Not long ago, this arrived in my email devotional:
God has a beautiful way
of bringing good vibrations out of broken chords.
Christian pastor, author and educator
And I again thought of that girl. And I thought about myself. And I thought about all of we women who are so quick to be critical of ourselves.
But then I thought about it a little more. By definition, a broken chord is any chord whose notes are not played simultaneously; a chord played with separated notes. A broken chord is the way an accompanist gives each part of a choir its assigned note before we put all the parts together. Each and every part - soprano, alto, tenor and bass - is important for a harmonious chord. Through the brokenness of our lives we can become the strong chord - or cord - that God intended us to be.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 New International Version (NIV)8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
***Note: This is an adaptation for my Lovely Branches Ministries post for June. My friend, Suzanne's blog, will have you whistling as you work in your garden or sit on the porch with a glass of lemonade.
***I'm also linked today to Michelle DeRusha's Hear It On Sunday, Use It On Monday and Jennifer Dukes Lee's Tell His Story. Click on the links to read what other bloggers of faith are writing about today.