Jazz Flute Freedom

Agawam, MA, circa 1997- the monumental moment when I chose to play flute in the middle school band.  My teacher seemed to think I was a natural, and my parents splurged to purchase that elegant silvery beauty.

“Blow into the flute like you’re trying to spit rice.”  (A fine analogy, for those who are accustomed to rice spitting.  Is this some kind of carnival game most people are familiar with?)

But I played well, in all my fifth grade zeal, when I actually took the time to practice.  Here’s a roughly fifth grade picture to bring you into better focus.

And then came the announcement that jazz band would be starting up…but it turns out flutists weren’t invited.  If you played any brass instrument, or maybe a sax or trombone- you were good to go.  But a flute…well…that simply wasn’t jazz material.

My memory is fuzzy, but I must have vented my disappointment to my classroom teacher.  He was one of my favorites- a balding red-headed Jewish man who spent Friday afternoons pulling out his guitar and singing us songs like “One Tin Soldier” and “Why Must I be a Teenager in Love”.  One day he pulled me aside, oozing optimism, to tell me the name of a popular jazz flutist- I think he even wrote it down for me.  What was his point?  “Just because there’s not a spot for you as a ‘jazz flutist’ in the fifth grade band, doesn’t mean you can’t be one.”  (Of course this was long before I watched the ultimate Jazz Flutist, Ron Burgundy. 😉 )

Jazz is a music defined not by instrument but by soul- flute or trumpet…doesn’t matter…what you breathe into that instrument makes all the difference.

I’ve been thinking more and more about women’s equality- something I grew up thinking we had all but achieved.  I’m realizing there’s a vast chasm between where we are and true equality, and unfortunately the Church has helped perpetuate that chasm.  I should clarify..I’m not oppressed in my church- far from it- in fact it is here in my church that I’m finally learning to become freer.  But I believe there’s more.

Here’s what I’m beginning to see: gender equality isn’t merely about equal rights or opportunities for women.  No.  It’s a journey to remember Eden and restore the value of a women alongside of men.  It’s a desire to understand how men (God’s creation/instrument) and women (also God’s creation/instrument) were made to work together in harmony.  It’s a quest to know that the Spirit or breath of God in me, in this instrument, is no different from the Spirit or breath of God in a masculine instrument.  It’s the BREATH that matters.

It’s the growing belief that embracing my full identity as a co-heir with Christ is not selfish- it’s not simply about my liberation, but the freedom of many.  For as I rise- free- I no longer limit the call, the influence, the plan that God may have for me.  None of us can know the awesome scope of adventure God has for us if we’re limiting ourselves based on human traditions and values.  (Or the fifth grade band teacher, as it were.)

As each of us, men and women alike, are freed from restraints of brokenness and human tradition, we rise free to liberate others.  People say that “hurt people, hurt people” but as Christina Cleveland said once, “Free people, free people.”  Liberated people, liberate people.  You can’t walk in the full liberation of the cross of Christ without impacting those around you.

And that liberation is abundant.

You are as free as God says you are- and if Christ has set you free from the law of sin and death, from the curse of the Garden, then you are free indeed.  Walk boldly in your freedom because your influence is not determined by a title, by what other “creations” define for you, but by your identity in God and the good works He’s prepared in advance for you.

What do you need to be freed from to walk forward boldly into what God may be calling you to?  Invite God to simply breathe into you as His instrument and create the soulful notes that only He can.  Then ask yourself, “As I walk free, who am I meant to liberate?”


Further reading:

Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

John 8:36: So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Romans 8:1-2: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death.

Hebrews 2:10-11: In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

Acts 2:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’

(New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)

 

 

What We Find in “Losing It”

This morning I had an appointment scheduled with a nurse at my new Endocrinologist office.  Trust me, I’d thought through the day- I was going to knock out three birds with one stone, stopping first at my doctor for 10am, then picking up my contacts while I was out, in time to mosey along to my three year old’s speech language appointment at 12:30.  No matter that I had an extra kid home sick today…I so had the day covered.

I stuck my oldest on the bus, packed up the boys and drove to my Southington appointment.  Except when I got to the office there was a sign on the door that said they were closed on Thursdays. Weird.  “Well, maybe just the doctor is out, but they have a nurse here…”   So I asked the lady at the opposite reception area…you know…just in case. 

(As I type this my rational self is shaking her head- “Seriously? The sign says “CLOSED” and you’re going to plow right ahead and confuse the poor receptionist there instead of admitting you made a mistake?)

She basically reiterated what the sign said- and to just heap some extra shame on myself, I asked her what phone number to call to sort this out with my doctor only to find out that (you probably guessed it) the contact number was ALSO on the sign.

So I called the number and apparently I was supposed to go to the New Britain office.  Oh.  The lady seemed as perplexed as I was: “I booked that appointment with you…why would you go to the Southington office?”  

  1. Maybe because I have three children and only 2 functioning brain cells.
  2. Maybe because this is the only office I’ve been to so I just assumed despite your phone reminder.
  3. Maybe because OH! there’s a Starbucks over there…
  4. Or maybe I because I just screwed up.  

I resented her question, but she quickly realized that I was flustered and kindly assured me I could call back and figure out a new appointment soon.  So I dragged the kids downstairs, determined to salvage the trip by at least using the bathroom, but found that it was being cleaned.

Back to the van! I looked up directions pick up my contacts anyhow.  Just to be safe, I checked their office hours.  BLERG! – turned out the eye place was closed on Thursdays.  Sensing a disappointing pattern here, but still determined to be productive in the 2 hours till my son’s appointment, I decided to find a place to have the oil in my van changed and also use the bathroom. (This is absolutely rational-people logic.)

So I found an oil place- full service- very nice people.  The guy told me all their names and said, “If you need anything you can just say, ‘Hey Valvoline Guy!'”  Great.  Valvoline Guy.  I can remember that.  One problem…it was some express change so you stay in your car the whole time while they work.  This was fun for my boys but now I was seriously second-guessing my brilliant decision to over-hydrate.  

In the end, the oil was changed, the kids got a fun meal, my bladder survived, and we made it to the speech appointment no problem.  Not the worst day of my life.

But this wasn’t the first time this week I’d made a massive mistake.  Saturday I was beyond excited to drive up to Danbury CT to hear a Noble Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee, speak at PeaceJam (a gathering of mostly youth and college students).  She’s absolutely amazing, uniting Christians and Muslims and helping end a civil war in Liberia.  Well, an hour or so, a parking garage and some trying to get directions later…I realized that the lecture had already happened the night before.  I missed it entirely.  I was devastated and was ready to hop back in the car and cry my hour drive back home, but I ended up texting a friend who was helping with the Jam.  She told me they were in the gym doing some cool dance and open mic stuff and I should totally join.

Ah yes.  The college campus gym. Directions?  So I awkwardly followed some girls and walked completely out of my element into this gym full of students, where my friend was leading a group in a dance to Bob Marley’s “One Love”.

Next thing I knew I was reliving a former Zumba nightmare trying to follow along to an African Dance.  (How come college kids have so much energy and so little social inhibition?)

 

And perhaps around this time I started asking God, “Hey there…what’s going on?  If I missed this awesome lecture and drove over an hour, I assume there’s something I’m supposed to get out of this detour.

(Order the book via email at: amezetovic@winooski.k12.vt.us)

Well, this was one reminder that God sometimes works in our detours and even our ineptitude to accomplish His own plans.  I ended up meeting a Bosnian woman who had come to America 20 years earlier as a refugee.  She has since written a book of poetry about her experience, and currently works at a school teaching ESL to a student body that is 40% refugees.

I plan to connect with her more in the future and hopefully understand a bit more about refugees and how to help.

Though we often feel foolish or frustrated when plans fall through, when we go to the wrong place or at the wrong time, there’s always something happening.  Maybe it’s just a perspective we need- a letting go once again of our control, learning to appreciate what’s in front of us anyway.  Or maybe God is orchestrating something in our detours that we never would have known to “plan” to begin with.

 

 

 

Warning: High Maintenance Areas

I’m not high maintenance.  Pff.  Absolutely not.  Yes, I’ve been buying more clothes from for-real stores and from fair trade/wages organizations like Imagine Goods and Amani Ya Juu20161110_212757

but I’m still a thrift shop girl at heart.  My long hair means I don’t have a “salon” so much as some friends with haircutting abilities that I occasionally pay to keep me within the realm of acceptable split-ends.  I don’t require expensive jewelry; I admire fancy nails, but I can’t seem to maintain them myself; it doesn’t cripple me to have an imperfect house.

So I’m not high maintenance. Nope.  Not a smidge.  Um.  Except for when I am.

This holiday season I’ve been mulling over the idea of “joy”, mostly because I’m supposed to teach on joy this month.  Drat.  It’s more fun teaching something than learning it myself.

My joy seems to be wrapped up in my expectations.  I can sit here and look at all the other people with their “high-maintenance” whatevers who seem to require more of this or more of that than I need to be happy.  Or their personality is wired so that they really can’t function without a fully cleaned house…or they find an honest-to-goodness happiness in a really great manicure and monthly hair-styling.  And it’s easy for me to think that those things are a wee bit unnecessary- definitely not something to set your joy on.

Yet I set my joy on some high-maintenance expectations of my own.

Let’s start with coffee.  A friend recently told me she only buys coffee out a couple times a year.  Excuse me?  In a YEAR?  That might cover your birthday and anniversary, but what about Valentine’s Day and Groundhog Day?  What about the Starbucks monthly double-stars day?  What about days when the kids are going crazy or you feel hormonal?  What about the “I-happen-to-be-driving-within-10-miles-of-my-favorite-coffee-place” days?  What about RAINY days for heaven’s sake??!!

And then let’s get down to the actual coffee.  I, thrift shopper that I am, have somehow convinced myself that it’s OK to drop 5 dollars a pop on coffee. I’m quite a smooth talker to myself.

” Why, yes self, you DO have diabetes…you DO have a two year old who punched you in the face today…you DO feel a bit tired and YES if you miss this two minute window to buy coffee you’ll probably go into a catatonic state of lethargy from which there’s no return.  What kind of mother would you be if you DIDN’T buy coffee?”

And my joy is suddenly based on the latte-ness of the day, or whether the store has my favorite sugar free syrups, or how often I’m able to escape in java bliss.

Then Christmas tree shopping revealed more high maintenance areas.  We got a wonderful tree but we didn’t get our usual wagon ride and hot chocolate amenities.  A bit of joy deflated.  And even though I “let” my kids pick out a tree, I’m a master of getting them to ultimately pick one I approve of.  Because Christmas just might fall apart (for me) if I let the kids pick out the tree.

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So my gracious husband dragged in our fresh-over-priced tree, patiently stood it up and screwed it into the stand only for me to look at it with an overwhelming sense of discontent. (loss of joy).  The trunk was too tall…the lowest branches were dismally far away from the floor.  Dismally.  Yes I said it. I awkwardly asked if he could re-do it.  If he could possibly take the whole thing down, cut a bit of trunk here, a branch or two there.  Only because my joy hinged on it.

And then I almost started crying, because once he had trimmed the darn thing, the tree was closer to the ground but the branches he was forced to cut off left gaps all around the base of the tree.  Not one sad little gap that you can turn towards the wall so no one sees it.  Gaps everywhere!  And I panicked because we had already bought this tree and there was no going back and now Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas unless I could JAM some extra tree branches into the tree stand to fill out the bottom.  Seriously, I sat there like a mad-woman trying to wedge tree branches until my husband gently asked if I’d like him to tie the branch onto the tree instead.  Yes…we twist tied branches onto my tree this year like the equivalent of tree hair transplant.

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So our tree is complete now and it fills me with joy and it should.  That’s OK.  But it’s also symbolic this year of my expectations for joy.  Maybe I do have some areas of high maintenance that can threaten to steal my joy if I’m not careful, if I don’t own them and tame them through a little letting go.  Maybe we all have those places in our lives…maybe the things or people that give us the greatest joy, when lost or broken, are also the places where we have the potential to lose the greatest joy.

Is there a deeper anchor for my joy than my own high-maintenance places?  Is there a well of joy that runs deeper than my broken expectations?  Is there a source of joy that outlasts my temporary fixes?

I’m finding that a joy bigger than my circumstances must come from outside of myself.  For me, Jesus is more and more becoming that source of joy for me.  He’s becoming more than just a plastic figure or a pat answer and is soaking into the very fiber of who I am.  I’m not fully there yet…but my soul reminds me whenever I’m disappointed in this life that there’s a far deeper joy in the One I can’t see than in the things that I can.

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Where are you tempted to lose joy this year?  How do you refocus yourself when joy seems far away?

 

But Let Me Be Moved

God,

In the face of election results that grate on my soul, let me be moved.

In the footsteps of those fearless ones who dared to pick up the crushing burden of freedom for all, let me be moved.

In the midst of terror, injustice, and darkness, let me be moved.

The way is unknown, the task is immense, the voice of dissension is thundering and the lies are pervasive- but away with excuse, away with our hate, and away with the dark…and LET ME BE MOVED.

You are a Father to the fatherless, a Defender of the widow and the weak; I didn’t invent justice, it has always been YOUR cause first, so Let me be moved.

You are a Breaker of chains, a Freer of captives, a Champion of love, so let me be moved.

Yet don’t let me move without you.  Don’t let me run in human wisdom that perverts your wisdom, that shrinks your plan to a program or mere politics.

My anger will not bring about your righteousness, so give me righteous anger.

You say “have no fear” for You are with me- so change my panic to urgency for your will to be done.

My knowledge and life will pass like grass, so if I speak give me YOUR words which stand forever.

Your eyes are already open to injustice and brokenness, so please open MINE to see not only what’s wrong but also your solution.

I’m weak, but You’re stronger; I’m small, but You’re greater; I’m selfish, but You. are. LOVE.

So let me be moved to action, let me be moved to passion, let me be moved to unity…

But let me be moved…by You.

Photo Credit: Sam Burr

 

 

“Gray Faith” Third Space

I haven’t updated about the book enough- partly because I’m taking my sweet time with the final edits!  Apparently books don’t publish themselves- I’m making a mental note of that.

Still, my projected date for the book launch is actually June 23rd– just a week away!!  (But stay tuned, because that date may shift slightly.  We’re on Carrye time here.)

But I’m here to share beyond this book.  After writing for awhile and realizing that a book was miraculously unfolding, I began to wonder who this book was for- what this book was for.  Even beyond who might READ it, what purpose could this book have outside of myself?

And there’s a million and one things I could give to, right?  An organization that supports the homeless, or that raises awareness about issues like human trafficking.  Or maybe I could find a place that empowering teens and changes families.

But could I also find a place that matches the heart of my book?  Could I find a place that is open to everyone, and fosters real questions about the good, the bad, and the gray of life?

Turns out, I know a place that is and does all of the above (cue drum roll, please….)

Epoch Arts!!

epoch arts

If you’re in the East Hampton CT area, chances are you’ve at least heard of Epoch.  But for those who have never been, I’ll tell you why I want to give half my proceeds to this amazing place.

Epoch Arts is a place for children and teens to explore
their creativity through music, art, theater classes, dance and performances of all kinds. They march in a parade in our town every year and hold open-mic nights for teens.  There’s a little bit of everything!  (It also happens to host a pretty awesome homeschool group as well.)

char daddy daughter 2016
                My husband and daughter enjoying the annual “Daddy Daughter Dance” at Epoch

But that’s not REALLY what Epoch is.  Epoch is alive.  It’s a community that takes you in- just as you are- and says “you’re safe here”.  At the same time, it’s a place that calls you out of your comfort zone, to BE what you have the potential to be, and it challenges you to really see those around you.  That’s how the community thrives and grows.  Because one person and one person and one person, team up, create beauty, love one another even when it hurts,and breathe life and hope into the world around them through their collective creativity and passion.

Throughout the year people at Epoch find regular, everyday ways to make the world better, but every year they put on a specific “Arts Response” to issues that are relevant to our community and beyond- human trafficking, AIDS, drug and alcohol awareness, homelessness, and more.

I’ve performed in plays myself there, but mostly I’ve witnessed the creativity and I’ve never come away without being changed.  And I’m not just changed by the art, but by the people themselves.  Whenever I enter that place it’s like another home- I’ve seen teens that want to go every day just to BE there- just to be part of whatever is unfolding, tiny or grand.

The people?  I’ve found myself standing side by side with people I’d probably never encounter if left to my own natural tendencies.  Because it’s so easy to be with people I know and who think just like me and look like me.  But Epoch has an amazing way of bringing people together, and lives are made richer as we share who we are with others, and our preconceived ideas about others break down.

And I’ve heard the questions.  Because it’s a safe place to ask them. Questions about the what and the why and the how.  Conversations about those things that we all need to ask but don’t always think we “should”.  I’ve seen the wrestling through the pain and the hurt and the really ugly parts of life.

And so I know Epoch is what I want to encourage through this book.  And whether we raise $200 or $2000 or beyond, YOU get to be part of the magic of this little corner of my town!

So thank you for being part of my community, for all who have encouraged and loved and supported me.  And thank you for making it possible for me to love another community out there in my own little way.

And If you’re in the area and you’ve never been, I can’t tell you enough how amazing it is!  I’ll bring you there myself and give you a tour. 🙂

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            Me and my son at the kids’ “Mad Hatter Tea Party” at Epoch- We’re ready to show you around!!

 

Love146

Having children changes they way I think about everything.  Growing up I’d watch movies with my family and  during every sappy or emotional scene- (you know, when the couple finally makes up in the pouring rain or Bambi loses his Mom, or poor Old Yeller gets shot)- without fail I’d look over at my Mom and see her dabbing her tear-soaked face.  When you’re young you sort of think, “OK Mom, get a grip.  It’s not real.”  But since I’ve had kids I swear I’ve teared up at commercials…and don’t even get me started on the movie “Up.”  Having kids changes the way I see the world- it changes the things that break my heart because my world is pinned up and intertwined in the lives of two innocent children…and I can’t help but see the world, the good and bad, as if it could happen to them.

So it has changed the way I think about the issue of child slavery.  I’ve known that slavery exists…but I haven’t really WANTED to know.  I didn’t want to let my heart be too broken…to let it be too real to me.  Then it didn’t have to be my issue.  It is harder to ignore it now.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

See, the truth about human trafficking evokes in my heart painfully polar opposite responses:  When I read about children being sexually exploited again and again, I feel an anger and a passion to do something, and at the same time a numbness and helplessness to lift a finger-  I think of my own children and feel emotionally close to these victims, and in the same moment I feel galaxies away from the reality of their circumstances.  The sad truth is that sometimes I want so badly for the misery and evil that is human trafficking to be history- so guilty for my own freedom in comparison- that I close my eyes and pretend that the whole of slavery really is far enough away from me that I cannot help.

But that is simply. not. true.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the past year I have had the honor to be part of a “Love146 Task Force.”  Love146 is an organization that is dedicated to raising awareness about modern day slavery and human trafficking, and seeking to end such slavery through aftercare, prevention, and research.  Love146 not only works with other like-minded organizations, but they’ve also had the unique foresight to encourage groups of people from every walk of life to partner with them.  These groups of people form multiple Task Forces, like the one I’m part of, across the country.  I am small.  Our “task force” is not even ten people strong, and truth be told there is not a lot we can do on our own.  But each time we meet- each time we educate ourselves and other about the truth of slavery- each time we give our voice, time, or resources to collectively stand up to slavery- we are choosing freedom.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our task force recently put on an event for teens to raise awareness about human trafficking in our community.  We actually added members to our group that way…so momentum is building.  And we are putting on another event for those in the East Hampton, CT area:

  • On April 27 at 7:00pm at Epoch Arts youth from East Hampton and the surrounding area respond to the issue of modern day slavery through a collection of artistic media.  There is a minimum donation of $7.  All the proceeds will go to Love 146, an organization that combats slavery and human trafficking in the United States and abroad.  Come educate yourself about this urgent issue and find out how you can help!

Slavery still exists.  We have the power to end it.


If you are in the area I encourage you to come! It is an overwhelming issue to face, but you will find yourself among a sea of others who have decided that to do nothing is not an option- to simply become aware of the issue- to not overlook it- is a huge stride towards change.

You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” 
― William Wilberforce

The more freedom we enjoy, the greater the responsibility we bear, toward others as well as ourselves. — Oscar Arias Sanchez