Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Music: The Memory Keeper

I'm the girl who can never remember names of artists or song titles or lyrics. I'm always, "You know that one band with that song that goes kind of like this..."

I'm the girl who tapped her foot on stage at her first trumpet recital for ten awkward minutes to find an internal beat before ever blowing a signal note.

I'm the girl who likes music. But I'm not a music girl.

In high school I miraculously landed one of the leads in the school musical, but only because I auditioned for the role of Oklahoma's Ado Annie, a quirky character who could get away with singing completely off key.

In college I figured out that a guy liked me because he complimented me on what a great singer I was after we sat together in a worship service.

To say I can't sing is an understatement. I could easily become Simon Cowell's new "favorite" worst singer in the world should I ever try out for American Idol.

But despite my lack of natural talent, I can't deny that music moves me.

Music is art. It's a language of the heart. It has a way of capturing, stirring, expressing emotions unlike words spoken staccato, alone.
Music is a memory keeper. It awakens sights and smells and feelings of days or years gone by. It brings you back to significant moments with one swell of chorus sung.

I can't hear the classic melody of Amazing Grace without thinking of my dad and remembering the feel of the plush stadium-like seats the day we memorialized his life and the tears that ran down my cheeks as that song soared through the sanctuary at the close of his service.


If I'm in store and hear the melodic voice of James Taylor come on over the speakers, it's like I'm back in our old kitchen on California Avenue, singing Sweet Baby James and setting the table while my mom makes dinner.

If I'm surfing channels on the radio and catch a chord of "You've got a peaceful, easy feeling," I'm transported to the backseat of a tan 1980's Honda Accord next to my childhood best friend while her cool older brother drives us to school and lectures us about trying harder in sports and staying away from the wrong crowd of boys.

Music. It's a gift.

For the singer, songwriter, dancer, instrument player, yes! But it's also a gift for the rhythmically challenged, tone deaf, popular artist clueless girl who soaks in the sounds and belts out the notes when nobody's around to notice or complain.

I unwrap the gift on Sunday mornings when I use my voice to praise the Good Lord.

I unwrap the gift each evening when I press play on iTunes and let instrumental wonders seep into my heart and weave through my prayers while my hands scrub dinner dishes.

I unwrap the gift every afternoon and night when I sing bedtime songs at the bedside of three little boys, ushering them into sleep with harmonies of hope, lyrics of God's love, peace, and protection.

But perhaps my greatest unwrapping was when I was eighteen years old and God used music to wrap me in His love.

It was my senior year. While my friends were agonizing over SAT scores, college visits, and prom dates, my heart was in agony over the date I'd lose my home. The repercussion of my parents' divorce was almost a decade in the making. Now that I was no longer a minor, they would finally sell our family home and part financial ways.

I had long known this day was coming. But now it loomed like a huge storm cloud, ready to pour after graduation day.

I was sad and angry and depressed. Their divorce was final eight years prior but selling the house reopened wounds that had never really healed. I didn't know how to sort through what I felt. I didn't want to talk about it with my parents, and the pain of divorce wasn't exactly a hot topic among my teenage friends over Friday night pizza.

My faith was young but genuine and somehow God met me in that broken place through the most unexpected way.


He put a song in my heart.

He helped me pen lyrics to give voice to my hurt and answered me in refrains of hope and truth.

This was my song...

Home for My Heart

For sixteen years I made this house my home
And now the day has come; I feel so all alone
The day has come and we must move away
The only day I've ever felt the need to stay
The sign on the front says sold
To tear it down I'd give a lifetime's gold
Thing will never be the same

As I look upon these walls that my great grandfather built
I see lasting childhood memories as they begin to wilt
The laughter love and kisses, the echos of divorce
The piercing sound of silence
My tears of grief run their course
And I fear that the sixteen years of memories I made
When packed away in boxes will begin to fade

But I don't want to place my heart in a house made of wood
I don't want to place my heart on a mantel
Hold me, Lord, keep me safe
Hold me, Lord, in this place
I want to see your face
I want to give my heart to you

I'm graduating high school, opportunity's knocking loud
"How excited you must be," they say. "And how very proud"
But my excitement has now dulled, my pride has now paled
And the perfect vision of my dreams has sadly been derailed
And I yearn for the comfort and security of routine
To feel your arms around me, Lord, is all I need

And I don't want to place my heart in a house made of wood
I don't want to place my heart on a mantel
Hold me, Lord, keep me safe
Hold me, Lord, in this place
I want to see Your face
I want to give my heart to you

I'm tired of the anger, I'm tired of the pain
Lord, free me from this agony and wash me clean with rain
And let me see the sun of all tomorrow's bright
Cleanse me of my bitterness and a heart of spite
Let me show my thankfulness and let me shout my praise
To God, my provider, for the home where I was raised

Because I don't want to place my heart in a house made of wood
I don't want to place my heart on a mantel
And I don't want place my heart where the world thinks I should
I just want to place my heart in You, Father
Hold me, Lord, keep me safe
Hold me, Lord, in this place
I want to see Your face
And I will to give my heart to you

I belted out this song in front of a panel of teachers for my senior project. (If I had a recording of it I'd share the off-key wonder with you.) 

With tears in my teenage eyes, I thanked God for the gift of music, for the gift of His love.

It's been 14 years since I wrote those lyrics. But sometimes still, if I find myself alone in the car, I turn off the radio and turn on the music God wrote in me. In a whisper or roar, I allow the memory keeper to speak to my heart again as I sing to the One who will always be my true home.

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Sharing with Jennifer, Holley, and Elise. Inspired by this week's "How I...Community" prompt: Music.


Bev Duncan said...

What beautiful lyrics you penned and sang!! I believe that music is one of the deepest expressions of the heart. My son and I are the "music makers" in our household and I don't know what we'd do without the outlet of music to express our emotions. I'm so glad I stopped by!!

Janet Boebert said...

Oh, I wish I could have been there with that panel when you sang your heart to them. Music does many of the same things for me - it is truly a gift. As this post, and your song - gifts. Thank you.

Karen Brown said...

Wow. What a great song penned from a beautiful heart. Music does keep memories and points us to worship of the One who holds the melody of our lives and keeps our souls. Your post was so well-crafted and thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing your gift here. And I love Sweet Baby many memories held in that song. :)

Elise Hurd said...


What a gift you gave to those who heard you sing! Maybe many more girls' hearts were breaking than you knew, maybe it was a great relief to have someone share Hope in the midst of choking heartache instead of just another prom story over a slice of pizza. You are so brave. So brave. What a gift.

This song is such a lovely page in the scrapbook of your relationship with God! I'm glad you still sit and enjoy it sometimes.

Absolutely beautiful.

He is our home.

Natalie Ogbourne said...

Music is a memory keeper. Love that thought, love the title. Our voices bless God and He has blessed us with the gift of music. Thanks for sharing with us today.

Mindy Rogers said...

"and I don't want to place my heart in a house made of wood..."
this takes my breath away and is so relatable Becky. I don't want to put my heart in anything man-made either. I love the way you trust us readers with your transparency! LOVE YOU!