Where It All Started

My work life, for the most part, puts me in contact with high school kids.  Specifically, those who are performing arts kiddos.  Not too long ago, I made a comment something like this – “Music has always been a part of my life.”  Later that day one of the students who had heard my comment asked me a question – “I know you say that music has always been a part of your life.  The reality is there was a time, even if it was a short time, when you couldn’t play an instrument and weren’t really soloing yet.  Where did it all start for you?”

The short answer is one word – home.

Okay – this might need some more explanation.  My parents constantly had music playing.  My mother owned a piano before I was born so I grew up with an instrument prominently featured in my home.  They owned a record player that allowed you to stack several albums onto the spindle.  When the bottom one was done, the next would drop down.  It was the early version of a “playlist”.  And there was always a stack on the record player in my house.

Both my parents sing.  Daddy is a bass – and I mean a BASS – and mom is an alto.  I remember sitting in a church pew between them, watching mom’s finger trace the text of the hymn that was being sung.  As I learned how to read, mom’s finger moved to trace the alto line so I could start to connect the harmony she was singing with the notes on the page.

I have VIVID memories of sitting in the sanctuary at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington, New Mexico, and watching the adult choir rehearse.  I didn’t know it then, but I was already beginning to understand that rehearsal is a process; preparing for a quality performance takes time.

A week after I turned 4 1/2, I took my first piano lesson.  The only time I ever wanted to quit was the first time I had to play both hands together.  It wasn’t that I was too frustrated to keep going to lessons; I was convinced I wasn’t good enough to keep trying.  But my parents didn’t give up on me and didn’t let me give up on myself either.  Now I get paid to play, have the opportunity to be a part of the praise team at church, and still find so much solace from time spent alone, just me and my keyboard.

Music is embedded in so many of my memories – my first vocal solo at age 12 (I sang Amy Grant’s “Father’s Eyes) in a tiny little church in southeast Michigan, finding myself in the rotation to play for the Sunday evening services in that same building, the children’s choir I was in that sang in Cobo Hall, band and choir all throughout school, my first part-time job teaching beginning piano students, honor bands, collegiate performance experiences . . . so many of my dearest friends are people I’ve met during my performing arts experiences.

Like I said earlier – the easy answer is “home”.  I have parents that were themselves musicians and they never pushed, bribed, or cajoled to get me involved.  They simply listened and participated and I witnessed it all.  To say I’m grateful to them would be the biggest understatement of my life.

For This Child

Over the last several years (since 1991 to be exact!) my sisters and I have given our parents nine grandchildren.  Between three of the households (including my parents) we have hosted about the same number of exchange students with two more joining the family for the 2016/2017 school year.  In my own experience, my work as a choral director, band staff member, and theatrical director has provided me with several honorary kids who call me mom.  And there is one lesson that has become crystal clear to me over the years – every child/teen needs to know that there is someone in this world who is absolutely crazy about them.  Preferably more than one someone.

My sisters and I have discussed – and even occasionally explored – the idea of foster parenting or adopting.  I’ve met a number of students over the years who came from homes where mom and dad were too bogged down in their own “stuff” to be there for their kids so these young men and women were starving for someone to notice them, challenge them, push them to be better.  I’ve discovered this world is full of kids who just need an adult to care enough to call them up to be the best possible version of themselves!

Right about the time my sister, Becki, found out she was pregnant with her first, I wrote this song.  Yes, it was mostly for my biological children.  But it was also for all of those I’ve sort of “adopted” over the years who needed to know that someone cared and was taking them before the throne on a regular basis.  It means that the prayer list for “my kids” is getting pretty long but I’m okay with that!

The inspiration for the chorus of the song came from the Old Testament story of Hannah.  She wanted to have a son but had remained barren for years.  During a trip to the temple with her husband, she begged God for a son and promised to give the boy back to God.  God heard her prayer and answered it with a resounding yes.  After she had weaned the boy – most scholars figure he was about 3 or 4 – Hannah took him back to the temple and left him there in the care of the high priest.

“For this child I have prayed,
I have knelt before the Father,
Placing all my hope and trust in him
I set my heart on things above.
And now I know he heard my cry
For I have seen his answer
In this precious life before me
A priceless gift of love.”

I Samuel 1:27-28

“For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him.  So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.”  And he worshiped the Lord there.

Welcome Home

My sisters and I are all Michigan “born and raised” but we have all ventured to live in other states at various points in our adult lives.  Currently, hubby and I are in North Central Iowa while the middle sister, Becki, and her two boys are in Richmond,VA (my parents live with her as well) and the baby sister, Andrea, lives in San Antonio, TX with her hubby and their three kids.  Becki also lived in the Dallas, TX area for a while and it was during that time that God used her to inspire a song.

This was in the days before Skype or FaceTime or social networking of any kind.  We relied on emails, “snail mail”, and phone calls.  During one of our weekly (most of the time) phone calls, we discovered that, in a spiritual sense, we were walking down similar paths.  Both of us were learning about our true identity as children of God.  There were a number of times when one of us would talk about a realization or a new understanding and the other person would respond with “Oh my gosh, me too!”

At the end of one such conversation, Becki told me she was going to email me a poem she had recently written, sort of a way for her to capture the lesson in a concrete way for when she needed reminding down the road.  I opened the email and read the poem.  Before I was done, there was a melody line running repeatedly through my head connected to a specific line she had written.  So I emailed her back and begged her to let me turn the lyrics into a song.  With a couple of small tweaks – mostly for rhyme and rhythm – “Welcome Home” was born.  For reasons I won’t go into here, the parable of the Prodigal Son is a family favorite and this song captures that story from the father’s perspective – the idea of a loving father waiting and watching for his child to return home.  No judgment, no conditions; just unbridled love, restoration and healing.

The concept of being God’s cherished daughter has been a powerful one in my life.  So much so that I bear a tattoo that says “Daughter of God” in Hebrew.  The chorus of this song has been a balm in the rough spots of life and the fact that my sister and I had both had a hand in “birthing” this one is special to me.

“Welcome home, my child, I’ve been waiting
I’ve been watching and I love you
Let me fix your broken pieces.
Won’t you let me carry you?
My child, you’ve been gone away so long.
Welcome home.”

John 1:12-13

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Luke 15:22-24

But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet: and bring the fattened calf kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”  And they began to celebrate.