Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect...Or Imperfect

When I was five or six years old, my parents decided to make me a promise. They told me that if I took piano lessons, and practiced really hard for a whole year, I would be able to go to the pet store to pick out a guinea pig! I readily agreed. We didn't have any pets at the time, and it kind of sounded like a good deal to me. For a year I took lessons with Mrs. Schwartz, writing in my theory books, practicing my songs every afternoon, and working on recital pieces for hours.

A year came and went, and I was rewarded with my guinea pig! I decided to keep taking lessons even after my year was up. I actually took piano lessons all the way until I was in seventh or eighth grade, and continued to play until I moved to Colorado and couldn't have a piano.

photo credit: Manuela Hoffmann via photopin cc
This year for my birthday I finally got a piano again! We found one on CraigsList super cheap (it's green!!) and had it delivered just in time for me to practice before my birthday.

People, it's been a long time since I was in the second grade. Like a really long time. But as soon as that piano was delivered and I sat down on the bench, closed my eyes, and took a breath, my fingers seemed to remember the songs I haven't played since I was a kid. There were a lot of hours of practice that went into those second grade recital pieces. Somehow the patterns and practices I put into place as an eight year old are so ingrained in me that I still do the same exact thing twenty years later.

It's only easy to go there because I practiced so much. That's where my fingers go when I sit down at a keyboard. I don't have to think about what I'm playing; I just do it.

Other things in life are like that, aren't they? Humans are creatures of habit for sure.

I have this problem in the mornings. When I get up out of bed and hop in the shower, my mind starts replaying a particularly difficult situation I've been mulling over for a long time. I put on my makeup and I think, I wish I'd spoken up and said something! I pick up the hair dryer and my mind moves to I'm so hurt and angry! How could that person have done that to me? And by the time I'm walking out the door to work, I'm so upset by something that happened a long time ago that I have a hard time getting on with the rest of my day.

Every morning it's like I'm practicing for something that's already done and over. I've made it easy to start my days off in a bad place. It doesn't take any thought to go there because of the habit I've created. I stand in front of the mirror and that's where my mind goes, just like I've "practiced". I need to change that!

It's the same way with the way I talk to myself. If I look in the mirror and concentrate on the things I don't like about myself, or start criticizing the way I messed up earlier, it's going to be so much harder to believe the truth about what God says about who I am.

Let's put into practice positive, God-honoring thoughts every morning, instead of thoughts that drag us down and make us angry and upset. Just like I practice my piano music so it comes easily to my fingers, we need to practice "true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, and gracious" (Philippians 4:8-9, MSG) thoughts.  Sure, it's difficult at first...just like practicing a new song on the piano takes me a little extra time to get through. But it's worth it for the day I'll stand in front of the mirror, and instead of reliving memories of pain and anger I will automatically say, "This is the day the Lord has made! I'm going to rejoice and be glad."

What sort of thoughts do you find yourself "practicing" throughout the day?

Ashley Mays is the former Editorial Assistant for Brio and Brio & Beyond magazines and currently writes her own fiction for teens. She enjoys rock climbing, people watching in airports, and hanging out with her mom, who is her best friend. Ashley lives with her husband in Colorado. No, they don't ski. Learn more about Ashley on facebook, twitter, or her website and blog. 


Sara H said...

I find myself thinking about everything I have to do that day. How much time I have to do this and that. What I didn't do yesterday or what I did wrong yesterday. It gets me rushed and I feel really disorganized. Then, because I feel rushed, a lot of times, I don't get in my time with God because I'm too "busy". I'm trying to learn take one moment at a time and focus on one thing that needs to be done at a time, instead of crowding my brain and overwhelming it. And clear out space in my life and busy day for God and His Word.

Betsy St. Amant said...

Great post!!!