Beyond Room 119

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Musings from above

I’ve been away from home for five days. A good bit happened during that time – flying to the other coast, spending time with my sister, visiting some of my old college spots, witnessing one of my closest friends marry the love of her life, catching up with people who I consider by now to be family, and much more. There have been smiles, tears, and joy. I’ve had the opportunity to be present in many wonderful moments and the chance to process through some other pieces.

And now, as I sit at 39,000 feet somewhere above the Midwest, I’m struck by a realization. I’m ready to come home and there are many aspects of life to which I am looking forward. But, as I think about what I missed the most, my answer surprises me.

I miss my guitar.

I got her just over a month ago, and I’ve been far from a dedicated student. I squeeze in practice time when I can, often utterly a silent apology to my neighbors downstairs before doing so. Between work, school, running, and spending time with actual people, we don’t get a lot of time together. And yet, despite that, I absolutely love the time when I do get to practice. I love practicing my chords and figuring out why I’m playing them incorrectly. I enjoy the chord change exercises that my YouTube guitar teacher has me do. I tolerate the ear training exercises, and I absolutely adore working through songs – slowly, sure, but playing a recognizable tune all the same.

Two nights before I left on this trip, I was planning to pack my suitcase. I was also hoping to finish early enough to get a little bit of practice in after. As I walked into my room, I saw my guitar in one corner and my packing list on my desk. Well, self, I said to myself. Guitar and packing are both on the list, so…let’s do the guitar first, since my roommate’s not home. That way if she does get home soon, I’ll be packing instead and won’t disturb her as much. Or at least, that’s how I rationalized it to myself to play guitar first and pack later.

An hour later, I was still sitting on my floor, guitar in my lap, packing list untouched, and realized it was past time for bed.

During that time, I had another realization: I had forgotten how much I love music. I’ve always loved listening to music, and watching music live has long been one of my favorite pastimes. I did choir in high school for three years and the chapel choir in college for four years, and loved it. Mind you, I’m not a fabulous singer. I can hold a melody and I have a decent voice, but harmonizing is beyond me and I’ll never be a soloist. That’s never bothered me, though, because I’ve enjoyed the music for the sake of creating something special and beautiful – something that conveys so much more than either the music or words alone can do. Something that has the power to touch your soul in an indelible way.

And all of this came rushing back to me during that hour or so I spent last week with my guitar. I did my usual exercises for about a bit, and then got to my favorite part – working on a song. I played one of the songs I’m working on for a while, and then felt like I wasn’t quite done yet, so I played through another for a bit. And then I played through a third (and last one in my line-up). And still, I felt like I wasn’t done. So I started to look up some of my favorite artists to see if I could find any simplified versions of their songs to tackle. After a few failed searches and right before giving up, I found one – “Your Grace is Enough” by Matt Maher. The chords that I found were incredibly simple and required a capo (which I don’t yet have, and Justin Guitar, my teacher, doesn’t cover using a capo until Stage 6), but I figured, hey, it looks easy. Might as well try.

So I started with the first verse, and was immediately struck by the fact that it didn’t sound anything like the song itself. Oh well, I thought. At least I tried.

And then I got into the chorus. It actually sounded pretty darn close to the original, and the words struck a particular chord with me. And all of a sudden, my little guitar powwow turned into a deeply personal prayer and I played and sang along.

So remember your people, remember your children, remember your promise, O Lord. For your grace is enough, your grace is enough, yeah, your grace is enough for me.

These last few months have given me opportunities for growth because of shifts in some of the more important relationships in my life. One thing I’ve tried to focus on during this time has been pulling God closer and welcoming His embrace. One of the lines in the bridge of this song says, “Heaven reaching down to us,” and I’ve tried to be more and more conscious of this reality, and working to both appreciate and reciprocate it.

As I sat there, playing the chorus over a few times, I was just struck by how much of His grace is present in my life. And the crazy part of that is, I know I’m not even aware of most of the ways in which He is present in my life. It reminded me that sure, life can be a bit more full that I may like sometimes. And sure, relationships shift and transition can be difficult. But at the end of the day, and at every moment during it, His grace is enough for me. And a month, a year, or five years down the road, that’s the truth that I want to still be my cornerstone.

And in some way, every time I play my guitar reminds me of this, whether I’m stumbling through Matt Maher, the King, or strumming out simple chords – simply because each part of it fills me with an inexplicable joy. I’m not doing this to showcase a talent later or to show to anyone else, but rather, it’s an act of creation that exists solely in the moment. Come to think of it, maybe that’s what God was thinking about when He made each of us. Yes, He made us with a specific purpose, but at the same time, He made us without expectation of anything in return. Truly, He created us to be the fullest and best version of ourselves, moment by moment. And for me, my latest hobby has given me another way in which to do so.

By the time I get home tonight, it’ll be far past time to go to bed, but one thing is certain: I’m looking forward to a solid practice session tomorrow.