There's a funny little trick that Olivia has employed to keep herself from being so nervous at piano recitals and music festivals.
Only, it isn't really a trick. It's an entirely different mindset.
This mindset is founded on such verses as the following:
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:11
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
When one realizes that one is not serving oneself--or even others--but God, in whatever they do in word or deed, one's attitude toward life changes. One is infinitely more motivated, patient, and at peace. One needn't worry about pleasing others or satisfying oneself, because it is the Lord Christ whom one serves. And when one does all in the name of the Lord Jesus, one's efforts are blessed. The outcome may not be as one intended, but that is okay, because one dedicated one's performance to one's God, and in this one can be fully content. And often, the outcome is even better than one dared to hope.
(Olivia is now tired of writing in ones, and will move on to a less proper they henceforth if necessary.)
While Olivia knew this, to some extent, intellectually, it didn't hit her until sometime last year that whatever you do really means whatever you do, and that one can find complete contentedness in the smallest of matters. And her life has been much improved, and her humble endeavors more successful, since then. So she will give you the most tangible and illustrative... illustration... that she can, because points are most effectively driven home with illustrations, even if the illustrations are anecdotal.
Olivia has played piano for a long time. Nine and a half years, in fact. She is not particularly talented and in no way musically gifted, but she is a hard worker and a diligent student (most of the time *cough*), and that can get one pretty far in life, or in a specific pursuit therein. (Not that Olivia's a good example of this, because she isn't especially advanced in piano given how many years she has played, but that is besides the point.)
So in nine and a half years, Olivia has had many, many, piano recitals. Like many people, when Olivia was young and blissfully carefree of others' opinions, she was not nervous at all and performed quite well. But as she got older, she feared making mistakes--because of what others might think, but mostly for her own sake--and, as is inevitable when one fears one's own failure (Olivia isn't very good at abstaining from ones, is she?), she began to make many of them. Nothing huge--she didn't stop cold or break down sobbing--but she was not pleased with herself.
Enter this aforementioned new mindset. Suddenly, everything Olivia did, she did with a different goal in mind. She did not try to please herself, for that did not matter and proved futile. Instead, her sole aim was to please her God. And if she did that with a pure and earnest heart, she could not fail.
Something remarkable occurred. She began to play much better at recitals. Why? There are probably several reasons for this. She wasn't so nervous, for one. She went into it knowing she wouldn't fail, after all. And because she played as for the Lord rather than for men, she could thoroughly enjoy what she did, and therefore focus, and therefore play better. And because she played for the Lord rather than men, or herself, and because she wouldn't fail her objective, she put more effort into it than she ever could have otherwise.
So Saturday, this was her assurance as she went into the church where her music festival was held. Everything, it seemed, was against her. She was already tired and not feeling so great. When she got there she used the restroom, and her hands were afterward as icy as the water she washed them in (and her hands get stiff when they are cold, and it's hard to play well with stiff hands). Before she even had a chance to sit in the waiting room and prepare mentally, she was whisked away to the sanctuary, and climbed the stage and sat at the piano quite out of breath, foggy of mind, and with freezing, stiff fingers.
Then she warmed up. The piano was a baby grand on wheels, and the most unstable one she's ever played on. As she lifted the pedal up and down the whole instrument rocked. The keys were quite different to press than the pianos' she usually plays, but at least she'd been accustomed to a variety of pressabilities. (What's this, spellcheck? "Pressabilities" isn't a word? Bah! She longs for the day when Olivian is a language option.)
Her first piece actually began quite well. She knows it so well she could almost play it with her hands behind her back--assuming the piano was also behind her--and she was also slightly dazed, so she started not really paying attention to what she was doing. And then her memory slipped. She knew where she was in the song and what it was supposed to sound like, but not which notes made that sound. She groped and hit a few wrong notes trying to figure out what to do next.
Then her brain kicked in and she remembered who and what she was playing for. She didn't recall the forgotten notes, but she did flow swiftly into the next measure. From there on out she was able to enjoy what she was doing, because she didn't have to please the judge or herself. She would get an Excellent, not a Superior, thanks to her error, but that was okay.
The next piece she was also able to enjoy as her fingers flew through Schumann. In a couple places her cold, stiff left hand wasn't quite caught up to her right hand, but that was okay. She would get an Excellent. And that was okay.
She finished and sat just outside the sanctuary awaiting the judge's comment sheet and his score of "Excellent". When the lady who had first ushered her to the sanctuary handed the sheet to her, Olivia knew already her score, so her eyes went first to the commentary. The judge praised her smooth recoveries and offered a few suggestions like not accenting certain notes so much. "Good spirit!" he said in regard to the Schumann, and at the end he wrote, "Bravo!"
What an odd compliment for an Excellent pianist. Olivia went over all the comments again to be sure she read correctly.
"A Superior Plus!" the lady--whom Olivia had forgotten was sitting beside her--said. "Congratulations!"
Olivia stared at her.
"He doesn't give those out to everyone, you know."
Olivia turned back to the comment sheet. At the bottom was printed each of the possible scores from best to worst: Superior. Excellent. Good. Fair. Poor.
The judge's pencil did not circle "Excellent". Instead, a bold trail of graphite surrounded "Superior". Two perpendicular strokes were drawn beside it, in a plus mark.
Olivia laughed out loud. "I really wasn't expecting that."
And she wasn't.
And if God thus acknowledges such tiny, tiny details in life, how greatly does He bless a life devoted to Him?
Greatly, you can be assured.
Photo credit dennis.ramos on Flickr