My life is messy and hard and confusing. You wouldn’t know it by looking in from the outside. I live in a nice house in a pretty part of the world. I have plenty of stuff and opportunity. I have a decent husband, assorted children and grandchildren, a cuddly cat, good health. I know I’m blessed and I’m deeply grateful. So I find it exasperating that I struggle so hard to enjoy my blessed life, as I work out what to do about my miserable marriage, parent hormonal teenagers and try to figure out how to more effectively use my fancy four-in-one office machine in my new business. I lurched into my garage today with a flat tire. A friend will likely die this week. Taxes are due. Library books are overdue. It’s snowing and the school suddenly decided to send the kids home two hours early (this, after a two-hour late start this morning) but I can’t get to the bus stop in time (12 miles away) because my tire is flat and there’s too little time to change it. Aargh!

I’m sure this sounds familiar. If it’s not a car that won’t go, it’s a lost pet, or a messed-up credit report, or sassy kids, or PMS. And those are the good days. The bad days are when your mom dies, or you lose your job, or your house, or your marriage, or the doctor says you have cancer. And despite the acknowledged fact that all our days, “good” and “bad”, include little nods from God that we are not alone, that we can handle anything life throws at us, it’s still dang messy and hard and confusing.

So I sing. Any little comment may remind me of a song, which then of course begs for voice. It drives my kids nuts, and I get a lot of eye-rolling and “M-o-o-o-o-m!” But I don’t know anything that will lift or calm or energize my spirit faster than music. So I just keep singing.

When I moved back to Portland five years ago, I went to hear the Portland Mormon Choir and Orchestra perform their Christmas concert. I was so inspired that I auditioned the next week and have been singing with them ever since. Newly named the Portland Ensign Choir and Orchestra, we’re the mini MoTab of the Pacific Northwest. No matter what craziness affects my week, every Tuesday night I gather with 130 friends to sing. I sing out all my blues, raise my voice to heaven in praise, work to improve my small talent, unite with others to sing our love to Christ. It’s all for Jesus, whether it’s a song from a Disney musical, a Ukrainian Christmas carol, or Robert Cundick’s great oratorio, The Redeemer, which we performed last week. It’s all for Jesus, even at basketball games, like this one, where we are singing the national anthem at a recent Portland Trailblazers game:

I make music because it attunes my soul to the Universal Song. I sing to know joy. I sing in the shower, I sing in the car. I’ll sing in your ear, or sing from afar. (I’ll sing with Seuss, with a moose or a goose.) I sing to know God, the master musician.

You see how that works? You thought this would be a downer blogpost, and here we are at the end of it – all happy and singing!

I sing.

What do you do to de-stress?



  1. dalene

    March 24, 2012

    Oh dear, dear, Lisa. Thank you. I needed this today. I need to get through the next couple of weeks and then get back to choir practice! I could also probably spend more time listening to music that lifts rather than which makes me feel justified in the occasional pity party. “I sing to know God.” “I sing to know joy.” Love those thoughts!

  2. Heidi

    March 24, 2012

    I play the piano. My current favorite is Easter Cantata music by Sally DeFord. I sing in her choir on Saturdays and play the music throughout the week. Keeping lyrics in my head about the Savior’s love for me really helps on a hard day. (And they’re all hard days.)

  3. Juliana

    March 24, 2012

    I love the rhythm to your writing, Lisa! I can hear in your words the songs that carry you through life. Maybe, sometimes, it’s not such a bad thing that life gets messy. Maybe that keeps us singing, and even the hormonal teenagers around us can use a good song.

  4. Grandma Honey

    March 24, 2012

    I’m your counterpart. I don’t sing but I have a great love for voices that do. Music can change around my mood faster than anything else I can think of. What a blessing we have it.

    The church sounds like it’s strong in Portland. We will be going there soon, so that’s good to know.

  5. Kristin

    March 24, 2012

    Excellent, and wonderful to read. Thanks for this reminder of the power of music.

    Sometimes writing can have that same power for me. Over this last year, which was very difficult, I destressed by eating too much chocolate and staying up too late for “me time.” That kind of backfired. I’m re-learning to destress through exercise and extra sleep, and adding back in the music and writing. Those are more effective techniques for relieving stress, rather than simply denying that it’s there.

  6. MissMel

    March 24, 2012

    I love it. Instead of “just keep swimming, just keep swimming,” from now on I’ll say, “just keep singing, just keep singing.” love you, Lisa.

  7. Stephanie

    March 24, 2012

    I don’t know, but I need to find something!

  8. Blue

    March 24, 2012

    beautiful music is the only sure-fire way for me to feel the spirit, and I love it. I am not in the choir though, because even though my voice is tolerable, I honestly can’t get through a hymn without crying. If it’s beautiful, it chokes me up. So I am the most appreciative audience member in my ward, when our amazing ward choir performs their lovely songs on a regular basis. (We smugly think that the 11th ward has the best ward choir in the church. It may very well be true.)

    I recently tried yoga, and for the past month have been doing that as an effort to destress in a healthy way. So far it seems to be working pretty good! ♥

  9. bonnieblythe

    March 24, 2012

    I just got back from the Scouting for Food drive and I have to say, volunteering does a lot for my soul. It takes nothing from the severity of our load to look at someone else’s load, and there’s no need to gauge whether theirs is heavier or lighter than mine. Just looking at their load shifts my focus about mine, helps me square my shoulders. I’m least inclined to pick up the phone and call someone when I feel burdened, because the force of that feeling is to close us in around ourselves and it takes even a bit extra to extend outward, to resist the cocooning effect of hard times. It’s worth it though, because I don’t make a good caterpillar.

  10. Cheltz

    March 24, 2012

    I DON’T sing to relieve stress, BUT I can see how singing acts as a stress reliever in my life.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve been frustrated with my husband or frazzled by my kids, and the hymn we’ve sung before our nightly scripture study has melted it away and replaced it with forgiveness, patience, peace … whatever I’ve needed.

  11. DeniMarie

    March 24, 2012

    I am with you. I’m a singer too. While my voice might be mediocre, the feeling I get from singing isn’t, so I keep it up.

    While my infant son was in the hospital with a life-threatening brain infection, my husband heard me singing a new song over and over.

    “Is that your song for the baby?” he asked.

    “I have plenty of songs for the baby,” I said. “This song is for me!”

  12. carriem

    March 24, 2012

    Hey, my dad is in that choir! I just saw The Redeemer! I just love choral music, it fills me with joy. Thanks for sharing it with me.

  13. A

    March 24, 2012

    Instead of singing, I work in my yard. My yardwork is my therapy. I am sure it depends on the individual and what each of us needs.

  14. Michelle

    March 24, 2012

    I miss singing something awful. I almost did a choir this year, but it didn’t work out. This makes me want to make it work sooner than later!

    Thanks for your writing, Lisa.

  15. Shelly

    March 25, 2012

    Thank you! I needed to read this TODAY. I sing and talk to Heavenly Father as if He were in the room with me. Oh the peace and comfort that brings. Because of that, I have come to know the love He has for me and that He has, is and will always be there for me to talk to.

  16. Michelle

    March 25, 2012

    I miss singing something awful.

    HA. I miss singing something great, too.

    (rolling eyes at self)

    Yes, I meant, I miss singing. I miss it a lot.

  17. Tiffany W.

    March 25, 2012

    I recently started playing the piano again, seriously, after a long hiatus. I had forgotten how much playing beautiful music makes me happy. Glad I picked it up again.

  18. maralise

    March 25, 2012

    Hey Lisa–I think it’s brilliant that taking the sting out of life isn’t something complicated or even necessarily difficult. It seems like you’re saying that following our passions are the antidote to giving up. And how profound.

    Now I just have to figure out what I love. 😉

  19. KDA

    March 25, 2012

    Right now, logging time in the gym cures me of most of my ills. During my non-gym life,I tend to overanalyze things and complicate my life needlessly. But the gym reduces me to the moment, to my breath, to movement. When I focus on just the physical, all the pesky problems of metaphysics melt away, and it’s very rejuvinating.

  20. Kellie aka Selwyn

    March 26, 2012

    God has spoken to me through music, and I love in the scriptures how prayer and singing are related.

    I destress through writing, and by punching/kicking the stuffing out of my punching bag.

  21. Michelle L.

    March 26, 2012

    love this post, Lisa. I can feel the music in your words.

  22. Julie

    March 30, 2012

    gorgeous rendition of the national anthem.

    Music is my decompression, too. Beautiful post.

  23. Kaylie

    April 2, 2012

    DeniMarie, that’s how I survived my oldest’s baby days, too. He’s never been a great sleeper, and when he was a baby, he’d often stay awake past midnight. I’d get angry just because I was so tired that anger was the only emotion I had left. So I’d hold him in the rocking chair and sing Primary songs, every one I could think of. I’d sometimes be there for an hour or more at all times of night. I soon realized the songs helped me calm down more than they helped him.

  24. Cheri

    April 4, 2012

    Lisa, what a lovely, musical post! It’s rhythms keep echoing joyfully in my head.

  25. Jennie

    April 4, 2012

    I’m a crafter and the simple (or not so simple if I’m trying to knit) act of creating something somehow empties out all the stores of stress and bitterness I have welling up inside.

  26. Barb

    April 7, 2012

    Lisa G., I loved that this was an upbeat message about the ability of music to lift us. My sister has said that growing up in the home with my mom and me was like growing up in a “Disney Musical.” I have always found that signing gets out the cob webs. It also can put me in a good place. Most often, I make up words as I go along and have done so for years before I ever really started writing things down in poems. I do hope that all aspects of your life will be happy as the days go by. I know we can all go through sad or melancholy periods. You know what being blessed is like as I think I read your account of baptism. Those periods are meant to stand out and to be a source of strength and a well to draw from. If you see the joy in songs, I think that can translate to all areas of your life. Keep making a joyful noise!

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