Melody and words have been a powerful influence in my life. As a little girl, I started recording my rambling ideas on a color-coded tape player before I could even read. Since then, writing and music have become a part of my daily life as a music therapist, songwriter and girl who can't keep from singing. A well asked question, a haunting melody--these can transform life from the mundane to the beautiful.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Bittersweet Symphony

The turning of the year always brings with it a certain amount of reflective moments. Remembering the bittersweet moments of the last year and the ones to come. So as 2011 fades and 2012 takes shape, I find myself turning contemplative and find my music dial resting these days on Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” as this music blog continues to unfold.

This music many consider to be one of the greatest works of modern classical music, in it’s churning melodic lines and long sustained, at times unresolved, chords that seem to hang in the air. Many say that is full of pathos and cathartic passion, leaving not a dry eye to those who listen to it. The “Adagio” was broadcast over the radio at the announcement of Franklin D Roosevelt's death. It was also played at the funeral of Albert Einstein and John F. Kennedy. And in 2001 it was played to comemerate the victims of the September 11 attacks. It seems to hold this tension of grief and hope together in the same phrase. Bittersweet.

When I hear the word bittersweet, I immediately think of chocolate. Yes, I have always loved chocolate, no matter what form it comes in, even from an early age. Once when I was four, I locked myself in the bathroom and when I finally came out, my mom discovered that I had eaten an entire EX-LAX bar…wait a minute, a chocolate flavored EX-LAX bar. I had no idea that it wasn’t a candy bar but learned very quickly that there is a difference. A big bittersweet difference.

Over the last year, I have learned more about a practice called “lectio divina” which means “spiritual reading.” The essence of this practice seems simple: to read God’s Word without trying to analyze it. Simply read it. Once. Twice. Three. Four times. Let the words soak in and notice what words you seem drawn to. This is actually so much harder to do than I thought at first. First of all, it is hard for me to sit still. My multi-tasking brain wants to skim the passage or verse and then move on to the next thing on my to do list. After I have finally figured out how to keep my mind from jumping to the next thing, the last thing I want to do is to keep re-reading a passage. I mean, I am a person who usually doesn’t like to re-read a book (I already know what’s going to happen at the end so why bother?) so why continue to re-read a passage again and again? But what I am finding is that in the slowing down, I am actually able to see more deeply, more clearly, what I think God is slowly trying to show me.

So I thought I would try this tonight while listening

to this beautiful, contemplative music. I turned to the nearest passage I have which happens to be a painting that my mom and I did recently that now hangs in my bedroom. The painting reads, “Those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) And as I turn these words over again and again, certain words begin to stand out to me. Hope. Renew. Run. Not Weary. Walk. Not Faint. I begin to notice this balance of opposites that this passage seems to hold together. Running but not getting tired. Walking but not fainting. I find myself reflecting on how this last year has been filled with the holding of opposite tensions of grief and joy, pain and hope. Bittersweet.

As I grow and live more, I am realizing that life is not about learning how to move away from pain or trying to pursue only happy moments, but it’s learning how to hold the pain and the joy at the same time. To realize that you can grieve the past while still hoping for tomorrow. So, I wanted to share with you a little window into this process for me, a song that I wrote over the last year called “Healer.” My prayer is that you will allow yourself to grieve and hope as you reflect back on all that 2011 contained and move forward into a bright, new 2012. A beautiful bittersweet symphony.


Words and music by Angela

We are spinning, spinning and can’t find reprieve

Fear and doubt make it hard to breathe

There is pain that I don’t understand

Sorrow floods in, makes it hard to stand

But I see the clouds breaking as hope ascends

To strengthen our wounded hearts

To heal and mend


You are our Savior

You are our Healer

You hold us close to your chest

You are our Comfort

You make us lie down and rest

In you

We are waiting, waiting for this season to turn

Joy and peace we pray, we long, we yearn

The winter has been here for far too long

Where is our freedom? Our hopeful song?

Jesus, we rest

Jesus, we rest

In you

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