Music Speaks When Words Cannot

Lachrymose: tearful or given to weeping; inducing tears

My younger brother was invited to participate in a piano master class at Reinhardt University last week. It’s a time of intense enrichment, connection with other blossoming pianists, and sharing with the community.

My mother and I made a trip at the end of that week to listen to his performance. The program listed him as the last performer. (I won’t say some “save the best for last” smugness didn’t wash over me a little.) The other musicians had their merits and gifts, but when my tall, handsome, serious brother walked unto that stage, he carried a presence no one else possessed.

Sitting down on the bench, he closed his eyes, mentally prepping himself for the performance. The moment of silence was almost breathtaking. My brother wasn’t classically trained throughout his entire piano “career”, but his hard work and persistence was evident as he made the keys sing. The notes he fingered made your heart soar, withheld your breath every few moments, and caused your mind to climb into the rich, emotional journey of the music.

Personally, classical music has a way of stirring eternal longings in my heart. It causes a blanket of peace to settle over my heart like snow that clothes the hills and valleys, giving it an ethereal, majestic quality. It shifts your mood and induces reflection. Beauty is the silencer of all discord.

As I sat, mesmerized by the music, tears welled up out of nowhere and slipped down my cheek. How is it that music can express sentiments better than words can?

After what seemed like one moment, the music ceased and the sound of enthusiastic applause took its place. My heart beamed with such sisterly pride. Gratitude swept over me as those that had chosen to give him a chance congratulated his work.

I pray that as he continues his ascent into mastery, the hearts and minds of listeners would be touched by the beauty of life and reminded of its Creator. Isn’t that what life is all about?
~Lina Marie

realMy brother was invited to play in New York City this August by a non-profit called Project 142. Its objective is to give blossoming musicians a chance to perform on a wider platform. Please check out his GoFundMe page for updates and more information. Any layer of support is much appreciated!


Will You Grow or Stay Fixed?

Kibosh: put an end to; dispose of decisively

“Lina, you HAVE to read this book. It totally changed my life!”

I was sitting in a friend’s apartment across the street from Howard University listening to her voice frustrations about internal struggles, grueling hours, and glaring shortcomings. Medical school was being a beast and in encouragement, shared a book about the growth vs. fixed mindset I needed to put on my reading list that helped her through her time.

Shortly after returning home, I requested Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck from our local library. The premise of the book compares the growth vs. fixed mindset and why brilliance and abilities are often overstated/overvalued whereas hard work and humility are better indicators of success.

Growing up, school was relatively easy. I enjoyed getting good grades, turning assignments in on time, and learning. I often attributed my success to my “smartness” rather than hard work (which I did lot of), because my intelligence was often the aspect praised, so I began to believe that was the source of my positive outcomes. However, this only supported my perfectionism, so I hardly took risks. Staying in the realm of what I knew prevented me from experimenting and, heaven forbid, making mistakes. I could NOT seem dumb, unknowledgable, or average. And from this sprang my tendency to not contribute dissenting or differing opinions, so my reasoning couldn’t be shredded IMG_20170605_184043apart. Fear is all it was.

Anyway, I start reading Dr. Dweck’s book and saw my old self. Worried about how others viewed me. Risk averse. Lounging in my comfort zone. CEOs, musicians, athletes, and others from all walks of life have never reached their full capacities, ruined companies, and estranged teammates because of the fixed mindset. This is a tragedy.

Today I choose to let go of the fear of making mistakes, looking silly, and not taking risks. Who knows the experiences we miss out on because of our own pride and ego protecting. Life is a work in progress, and it’s through making mistakes, reaching out, and stewarding what we have now that’ll lead to great and unexpected outcomes. We’re not promised comfort and ease. How we react to what’s thrown at us will make all the difference.

~Lina Marie

realIf you are interested in reading Dr. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, check it out on Amazon here!

Faith Trumps Fear

Juxtapositional: the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.

I like to joke and refer to myself as a “tame Type A”. I’ve learned to enjoy surprises, go with the flow, and look forward to spontaneity, but my core enjoys having a plan, being prepared, knowing what’s next. I can take the backseat and let something else make all the decisions (which is nice sometimes, actually), but my friends can tell you I can be pretty assertive and decisive. (I know what I want, dang it!!)

When a dear friend hosted a dinner party several months ago, she had little, glass jars, wrapped with charms and a burlap ribbon placed at each seat at the table. Little did we know she prayerfully placed each jar in front of a seat, beseeching the Lord that each occupant would be matched with the appropriate word to define or encourage their journey.

I got faith.

The crazy thing was, I was led to study the word only a few weeks before as I sensed the Lord desired I come to know more experientially what the word meant.

Anyway, back to “Ms. Tame Type A”, I don’t worry a lot about things or overthink, but I have moments I try to figure out all my finances, habits, social life, schooling, etc. all on my own without praying first or sharing my dissonance. There is no need for me to verbally “throw up” on someone since I can handle it, thank you very much. In theory, the attitude sounds inspirational, strong even. However, I miss out on being vulnerable and involving people in my inner journey. I miss out on being molded by faith and risky ventures. 

The jar has sat on my desk for some time, but only recently have I used it as a coin collector. I thought it apt as each few pennies, though small in number, over time contribute to something larger and more meaningful.

I watched a TedTalk recently about a guy’s quest for meaning and opportunity. He shared it’s important to write down goals to have a visual reminder of what a per

Let Your Faith Be Bigger than your fears

son is striving toward. And you know what? A funny thing happened. He started seeing opportunities in things he hadn’t seen before. (Reticular activation, maybe?) I do work in a place with physical money handled daily, but I started noticing more coins on the ground (don’t worry, I haven’t ever stolen money!) inside and outside the premises. I started noticing the lone coins scattered in different locations and my pocket started making a satisfying little jingle. Haha.

All this to say, although deposited coins in my faith jar is a visual, when you remember that faith should always be bigger than your fears, you start to see the little opportunities for faith building and growing in life. Deposit them in your heart, because little by little the number will grow, the muscle will strength, and you’ll have an ROI you never dreamed of. A penny may look pitiful next to the bold word “Faith”, but wasn’t it little David that slew a big Goliath?

~Lina Marie

First Ski Trip

Indelible: not able to be forgotten or removed

The upside of having a part-time job with hours that differ each week is that you can go on adventures in the middle of the week when many others are confined to their desks or in school.

I road tripped up to Maggie Valley, NC with some friends to ski; it was my very first time and I was thrilled! The weather was chilly but temperate and the ski slope was the only area covered in white. Everywhere else was green or soggy with melted snow. It was not the best conditions for skiing but had its own charm and novelty.

The guy who drove us to North Carolina thought ski poles weren’t necessary (or cumbersome or something), so I learned without them. With a few short instructions and a”you’ll be fine”, I jumped on the lift with anticipation and watched as the distance between me and the ground widened and the people below loski-trip-for-blogoked small.

I finally got to the top and my heart was pounding. I jumped off and veered in a wide circle and stopped. (Yeah, this was going to take some getting used to.) I was glad I didn’t fall yet, but visions of wipe-outs and yard sales quivered my resolve.

Too late. Already up here.

I will-powered my way to the edge, feigning confidence, and slid faster and faster down the slope. Naturally, I didn’t have much experience controlling my skis and shifting my weight, so I was all nerves and “whatever happens will happen.” With the wind whipping my face, my eyes widened as I neared the bottom and I literally thought I would tumble down that hill and maybe get seriously injured. Or die.

Miracle of all miracles, I found myself in one piece and stopped at the bottom. With breathless delight and a release of tension, I penguin-walked to the lift once again. After a few more times skiing down the smaller hill, I went up to the steeper slope to conquer new levels of fear. I barely slid down the mountain when I was already on the ground and clenching my face in annoyance. (Whatever bits of pride you may possess will completely dissolve when you look like a two-year swaddled in Eskimo clothes on the ground and don’t know how to get up.) I was assisted but for some reason couldn’t control my speed at the level I desired.

I went back up on the ski lift with a nine-year-old little girl friend who gabbed in a chipper tone about how great it was for us to conquer our fears through Jesus Christ, and that after this we could conquer other fears (namely roller coasters) and how grateful she was to hang out. (Tears? PSH! No tears in my eyes. Only the wind coincidentally evoking some liquid from my eyes.) I fell down that hill so many times and my skis fell off FOUR TIMES, but she stayed with me the whole way down and I was overwhelmed by the kindness and encouragement of a girl twelve years my junior.

Even though the snow melted into slush and re-hardened into ice, even though I fell too many times to count (both accidentally and on purpose), even though my muscles felt like jello, even though one of my ski boots hit my leg the wrong way causing soreness, even though my best friend had only skied twice and didn’t fall at all and looked flawless, my heart was full and I was the most happy tired I had been in awhile.

~Lina Marie


Hotsy-totsy: about as right as can be; perfect

I turned 21 on January 24. A couple months ago, my mom asked me if I wanted to do anything in particular to celebrate  my “official passage” into adulthood. Up until this point, I’ve always had sleepover parties with my girls and often shared the weekend with my younger sister whose birthday is a week before mine. This year, however, I wanted to end the tradition and imagined I’d either work on my birthday. Or sit and read with a latte or glass of wine. Or sleep.

I wasn’t expecting or hoping for anything and quite frankly, nearly lost track of how fast my birthday zoomed into view. When I saw my work schedule for my birthday week, I was pleasantly surprised my boss took into consideration my birthday and didn’t schedule me the first three days of the week. Sweet!

Two days before my birthday, a Sunday, I had planned to go to my sister-from-another-mister’s house to hang out for my birthday, spend the night, and then go out with her sister (also my best friend) for another birthday outing. Super low key, intimate, and filled with quality time. My mom was to drop me off after church and that would be that.

On the way to this friend’s house, a guy friend of mine who had been at church contacted my mom for an address to someplace. I honestly didn’t pay that much attention and didn’t think much of it. My mom is a super resourceful person and enjoys assisting people in whatever the case may be.

Upon driving up to my friend’s house, I noticed there were a lot of cars parked in the driveway. At first, I thought perhaps house church was in session, but for one, it was too early, and I recognized some of the cars that wouldn’t have been part of the fellowship. My mom tried to distract me with some of the neighbor’s goats, but WHO FREAKIN’ CARES ABOUT GOATS WHEN THERE ARE SUSPICIOUSLY TOO MANY CARS IN THE DRIVEWAY. My heart pounded faster than normal, and I jumped out of the car, ran up the steps, the door was opened for me, and I was met with a resounding — “SURPRISE!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY LINA!”

They had pulled off a surprise party and I had no idea. (I guess that’s the ultimate hope for those sorts of things. Haha.)

I gasped in delight and shock and my hand flew straight to my mouth. I could not believe my eyes. Faces I had seen from anywhere to the day before to several months back were all in the kitchen, smiling at me, and there for ME. What in the world.

I’m a serial hugger, so I gave every person in the room a big ole hug, some a kiss too, and lots of laughter. The evening was perfect, filled with lattes, food, friends, Jesus, and thinking about the goodness of God. I’m still amazed that in spite of all my flaws and blunders, so many people would be there for me to celebrate our friendship and new seasons of life. That’s a gift.


Humorous Intentions Gone Sour

Gauche: tacky, graceless, tactless, rude, boorish, or awkward and foolish

I’ve always struggled with discerning the fine line between conveying information and oversharing personal information. I’m not a reserved person and though I’d hope to not have secrets or embarrassing moments shared freely among friends, I genuinely enjoy people asking about my life, because I’m as nosey as they come (it has gotten better, most assuredly). I don’t share people’s deepest, darkest secrets, but we all have different boundaries of privacy and security.

This past week, a thoughtless incident reminded once again of the need for tact and social graces, especially among people in the same circles. A friend shared with me a joke this person knew I would find funny. It was about someone else, but not in a way that was degrading or backstabbing, but related to something we’ve discussed and this person knew exactly what to say to pique my interest and get under my skin in a playful way.

I casually mentioned the essence of the topic to the person of interest thinking this person would laugh. This person didn’t and was quite flustered, because it was annoying and something this person had made statements about disliking. If something isn’t directly and firmly spoken to me, sometimes I don’t get the hint and forget that I need to be thoughtful in not only what I share but in what someone would find funny.dsc_8539

The simple, shared statement turned into heartfelt (and not the sentimental heartfelt) texts which morphed into two long phone calls and me feeling thoroughly embarrassed. I’m not good with guilt and didn’t sleep well that night, even after receiving forgiveness (sometimes negative emotions linger). I’ve dealt with situations like this before, but it still took some emotional stamina not to cry or entertain less-than-edifying thoughts about myself.

All that to say, in hindsight, I keenly remembered and realized the need to value what others tell us in confidence or not. Relationships are built on trust and in learning what is meaningful to another person. It is not enough to explain away situations with justifications about your seemingly “insignificant” role but take to heart that we don’t often realize how our words sting and could put someone in an unsavory light.

~Lina Marie

Sparkling Holiday Formal

dress-picFallal: a bit of finery; a showy article of dress

Remember that blog post a few months back about my first few weeks of ballroom dance class? (Click here to get your memory dancing!) Thankfully, I’ve progressed greatly since then, in my dance moves and becoming a better follower (Hehe! The assertive, tempered Type A, first-born problems are real). It’s been a real ball and a couple weekends ago, I got to attend a post-holiday dance formal!

The beginning of each, monthly ballroom dance events start with a quick crash course of the basic steps to familiarize newbies to the basics and give more experienced dancers a brush up. Several dances were covered. Hustle. Swing. Foxtrot. Rumba (personal favorite). Waltz. The party-goers who’ve been attending classes were able to dance two-step, bachata, cha-cha, and other classics.

The great thing about ballroom dance events is the people you’ve built rapport with in class, you’re able to visit with and get to know better. Of course, there’s the inevitable happening of meeting new faces or vaguely familiar ones seen every week but never intentionally reached out to. There was older gentlemen in particular who dances competitively, and I had an opportunity to gain a few pointers about form and moves from him. Additionally, every dance event has an awesome dance performance from a different genre of dance, so we had a blast watching a two-step routine. The dancers were geared up in cowboy boots and denim!

Dancing (skillfully) the night away is one of my favorite activities. And which girl wouldn’t want to throw on a glittery, teacup dress to twirl around in?! (Even though it was under 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Hahaha.)

~Lina Marie