In fifth grade I started to play the oboe in band. Being the daughter of two music teachers made playing a unique instrument inevitable. I hated practicing, but I loved being in the band and I continued to play the oboe until I graduated from college. Playing that instrument brought me to Disney World, Disneyland, dozens of concert stages, church fellowship halls and sanctuaries across the country, quiet practice rooms at all hours of the night, the Crystal Cathedral, Iceland, and Norway . . . and it also led me to the marching band’s color guard.
If you know anything about the oboe (and if you do, please let me know in the comments because you and I are of the same stuff 😉 ) then you know it is a double reed instrument. The reeds are constructed of two slim pieces of cane, shaved thinly to size and held together by beeswax-coated nylon string. Reeds are very fragile, and oboists have several with them at all times due to the ease with which reeds can crack, split, smash, and just plain break.
It is not a good idea to play an oboe in a marching band, to have a double reed in your mouth while you MARCH across a football field. It will not end well – for your mouth or for the reed! So because marching band was mandated in my band in high school, I could either 1) join the drumline and play the triangle, or 2) join the color guard.
I joined the guard and LOVED it.
In a marching band, there’s usually an element of drill — marching into different formations to help bring the music to life. Hours are spent practicing drill sets, which are based on the hashmarks of a football field. In the guard, we brought an element of dance, costumes, and of course the flags. If someone was in the wrong place on the field, there was a pretty good chance they’d get clonked with a flag.
And my coach always said, “If you’re going to hit them, hit them hard.”
She meant that she wanted our flag movements to be strong, clean, and crisp. No wimpy arms allowed. So if that flagpole came down on someone’s head, it was going to be a hard hit.
We celebrated Valentine’s Day last week, and as with most holidays, I went all out. I decorated my kids the whole week, dressing them in shirts with hearts and pink, glittery hair bows. We had a party with our whole family: my mom made heart-shaped waffles, heart-shaped balloons festooned the living room, and you better believe there was a LOT of chocolate. My kids made their valentines, carefully fastening castle-shaped suckers to princess cards and taping heart-shaped erasers as eye patches on cute pirates.
Besides Christmas (which I love so much that I wrote a book about it), Valentine’s Day is kind of my jam. I mean, a holiday that celebrates love, where eating candy and chocolate and wearing pink is pretty much required? SIGN ME UP.
But I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm for glitter and greeting cards and smooshy love. Valentine’s Day seems to be either an all-in or all-out kind of holiday. Either you are all-in and go wild with hearts, or you kind of hate the whole idea and are all-out. Much of my social media feed on Tuesday represented this split, with very few in the middle ground of ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ land.
And that’s a trend I’ve begun to see in general, ordinary, regular days as well.
This idea of all-in or all-out seems to be everywhere these days. The middle ground seems to be harder to find, but as one who has lived grey in a black-and-white world for much of her life, this is actually a good thing. I’ve found myself recently propelled into action in different ways, opening my mouth where in the past I would’ve kept it tightly closed, and joining in the hard conversations with joy instead of with fear.
I’ve also been on the receiving end of some well-placed hard hits, passionate opinions and views smacking me on the head like a flagpole in high school. Which may rile me up. It may stir my heart with passion, and scramble my brain with analyzing, and redden my face with reaction. But those aren’t necessarily bad things.
Hard hits that cause us to think, thoughtfully respond, and offer grace, help us move ahead.
God says that when we are lukewarm, He will spit us out of His mouth. Well, in some versions He says ‘vomit,’ which is much more violent and gross than ‘spit,’ but neither is a good thing. And I’m starting to ramble here, so the point in one sentence is this: let’s be all in when we’re all in, whatever ‘it’ may be. Whether it’s celebrating Valentine’s Day heartily (see what I did there?!), sharing politically-themed thoughts, using essential oils, cooking healthy food, being involved with your kids’ school, seeking and purchasing fair trade products, whatever it may be…
Whatever your ‘it’ is, lean in. Lean into your passions. God has placed them within your heart, on purpose, for a reason. Use them for good, for His good. Let’s not be lukewarm, especially about matters that concern the Lord (and don’t they all?).