25 April 2014

A sacred struggle

Words fail to adequately express my thoughts so often, and this is one of those times. But I promised Phil that I would write this post. So for my mom and Phil who want to know what it was like for me to endure 3 performances in one weekend with a broken leg and coccyx, here are the nitty gritty details. For the rest of you, the pictures are at the end. ;)

Whoever decided that the phrase "Break a leg!" should be the stagey way of wishing someone a great performance obviously never broke their leg, let alone tried to perform with one. As one might expect, I got that a lot last weekend as I participated in all 3 performances of Rob Gardner's Lamb of God

It was an incredibly humbling, edifying, and refining experience to be both in excruciating pain and immense joy as I pushed my body to its limits just a week after surgery. But I apparently have a need to be seen as strong, brave, resilient to pain... basically your typical superwoman complex. haha In actuality I'm more independent, stubborn, and slightly insane than anything else. Either way, I'd already sacrificed too much time, energy, effort, and money for my participation in the show to not follow through. The weekend I'd been looking forward to for MONTHS was finally here and I refused to allow something as trite as a broken leg and coccyx to keep me home. And I'm so very glad that I didn't! The weekend did not go as I'd imagined it would over the last 6 months... It was much harder, more painful than I would've hoped. But I did it. And it was nothing short of a personal miracle.

Friday proved to be the hardest bit of the weekend, as I was already exhausted and in a lot of pain by the time we arrived in Watford. However, everyone was so kind in offering to help in any way that the day was full of love and tender mercies. I really hated being *that person* that needed constant help or attention--made all the more disagreeable by the fact that I hate asking for help or being the center of attention. With this in mind, I usually always started off doing things by myself, but within minutes someone would be there (usually my friend, Kynna, bless her!) offering to help. It was incredibly humbling, not just the needing and receiving help, but also the incredible love and kindness which I felt from others as they offered it. Truly it was an answer to prayer for so many to anticipate my needing help without me ever asking, or helping me even when I told them I could do it on my own (Because the humbling reality was--and unfortunately still is--that I currently CAN'T do it all on my own). And so I felt an outpouring of His love as well.

Oddly enough, one of my favorite parts of the weekend was during Friday's second technical rehearsal, which I skipped. I'd had my leg down for far too long and my brave face was crumbling. So I went to the back of the hall and laid on a pew in the chapel with my leg propped up on pillows. An ice pack, ear plugs, and eye mask helped complete my ensemble of total slacker. I didn't sleep, but I did get some much needed rest. But that wasn't the part I liked best. haha My favorite part was the opportunity to hear the choir and orchestra from the very back of the hall. They sounded absolutely incredible. Truly breathtaking. And I'm not just saying that. Really, it moved me to tears. Especially as they rehearsed "Fill My Soul with Peace," which was our encore number. It was as if the words were taken directly from my soul into a prayer and then put to music. The other part that particularly resonated with me was the choir part from "Gethsemane," where we sing in Aramaic a part of the Savior's plea to not have to endure so much pain. In that moment the Spirit testified to my heart yet again that any and all pain I experience is known and understood personally and perfectly by my Savior. I've never doubted that, but Heavenly Father is merciful, and He knew that was exactly the peace and encouragement I needed to help me get through the rest of the day, let alone the weekend and the next few months of my recovery.

About an hour before our pre-performance warm-up, my friend Jon organized a group to read the Easter story in Matthew. Even though we didn't have time to discuss what we were reading, that helped me so much in mentally and spiritually preparing for the performance. Once again that bit of the story in Gethsemane touched my soul as the Spirit reminded me of the peace and strength which I'd received earlier.

Because I had to go up some stairs onto the stage, I headed up a few minutes early--sitting on a chair backstage by myself before the rest of the choir came up. These few minutes to myself became another favorite part of my "performance routine" (if you can call 3 performances a routine... haha). It  provided the perfect opportunity to pray and reflect upon my testimony which I was about to bear through song to another audience. It also was a private moment of inviting the Spirit to bear His own sacred witness to me throughout the performance. In this way, each performance became both a testimony received and a testimony borne, continuing to strengthen and solidify what I've known since before I can remember: Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the World. He set a perfect example for me, clearly showing the only path that leads me back to live with my Heavenly Father again. He took upon Himself all Sin, Pain, Grief, Sickness, etc. so that I might never have to walk that path alone. He broke the bands of death so that my family can be together forever. He rose again so that I might be more than conqueror, even perfected in Him. Truly there is no greater hope, no deeper love than this.

Each of the three performances were incredible, the Spirit palpably filling the hall each time. I cried during all of them, but at different parts in each. My favorite song changes depending on my mood or circumstances, but without a doubt a constant favorite is the orchestral part during "At the Sea of Tiberias," when Peter realizes it is the Savior on shore so he jumps in and swims to Him. I developed a special relationship with Peter when I lived in Israel a few years ago, and this story became one of my favorites then because I relate to Peter's feelings so deeply. The way Rob Gardner wrote that orchestral crescendo is a perfect musical depiction of how I envisage that moment--not just for Peter, but for me, too.

The weekend may not have gone how I'd imagined, but in some ways I'm so glad it didn't. I had to rely on my Heavenly Father, my Savior, my friends, and perfect strangers to make it through the weekend in a way that made the redeeming,hope-filled message of Easter so much more personal. I was constantly needing to be lifted up, both physically and mentally, which became a uniquely edifying and refining process. So perhaps performing with a broken leg can be good luck after all.

I promise I'm up there. I'm just sitting down and in the dark, so I was only visible during one song of the performance... which was fine by me because then I could cry most any time I wanted. haha
Told you I was there! This is the only part the audience got a good look at my cast, but hopefully it wasn't too distracting.
My eyes aren't closed, promise. I'm just looking down because the spotlight was shining directly into my eyes and I didn't want to make a weird squinty face during the only time I'm visible. haha

Phil Siu, one of the producers, and our conductor... just one of the many individuals who helped make this whole thing happen and happen right. Thanks for everything, Phil!
Cast shot, just to prove that I really *DO* have one.
Girls from my ward who were all involved in the show. Sarah, in the center, is one of my housemates. Kynna, on the far right, was my "Go-for" girl this weekend--aka an angel straight from heaven. 
The Birmingham bunch who participated. From left to right: Sarah (violin), Chris (bass), Jon (bass, solo as "False Witness"), Tina (1st alto), Lucy (cello, solo), Sarah (2nd soprano), me (1st alto), and Kynna (tenor alto). Not pictured: Camie (2nd soprano). 

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