416 | New Coat of Paint

January 3, 2016
Sunday, 9:00 p.m.
Letter #416: New Coat of Paint


Dear Family,

Happy New Year! I am grateful this time of year for the many old friends I have who choose to keep in touch with me, as well as for the many new friends that have more recently come into my life, often through those of you family and friends who pray for me.

I feel a great responsibility to keep in touch with friends both new and old, or as the World’s Most Popular Song puts it, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and ne’er brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne?” Yeah, no matter what it means, it sounds like a negatively phrased rhetorical question to which we all must cheer a resounding, “NO!” or something like that. In any case, we shouldn’t forget new or auld acquaintances, especially this time of year.

I love looking back at the recently shuttered year, akin to peering in the window of a popular restaurant the morning after a busy dinner service. Traces of success litter the tables and floor, while an exhausted waitstaff rest up for yet another profitable evening. I like reflecting on all my many blessings and bask, overwhelmed, in the boundless grace of God. I wonder just how ungrateful I must seem when I can’t possibly recall all the ways God has blessed me this past year.

Every year I create a list of goals for the year. Many people call these “resolutions,” but I’m not a fan of creating annual lists of wishful thinking. Instead, my goals are based on my monthly goals and accomplishments over the past year combined with the prayerful discernment of where God is leading me for the coming year. In fact, I am ambitious in my goals primarily because of the testimony of God’s faithfulness to me in years past. Knowing what He expects of me and what He has done in the past motivates me to set my sights higher than last year.

At the encouragement of a friend of mine, I began each category of goals with an “intention,” a statement that summarizes the need and my response to the need in my life, beginning with the simple phrase, “I will.” Once completely written out, I plan to make this “2016 Goals and Intentions” list part of my weekly planning and preparation time at the end of each week.

Recently, while teaching piano in the small 20’x20′ room with our ten keyboards in it, I came up with an idea to enhance the room and give it a unique flair. What if we could paint the room to look like a piano store or music shop? I’d received permission from my boss to paint the room however I wanted, with a music motif, but I hadn’t quite decided what to do yet.

Several people suggested I adorn the walls with a gigantic music staff and notes, or piano keys. Yep, I’d thought of those easy-to-draw obvious ideas first, but it didn’t seem innovative enough nor challenging enough for me.

Then, once I’d sketched out the music store idea on paper, I was convinced I had to do it. Problem was, of course, that I’ve never painted anything in my life. Well, a few interior walls, a farm fence, and a couple offices where I once worked looked like marble when I was done, but other than that, nothing.

I enlisted the help of a friend, placed the order for paint supplies, and waited. (Everything takes longer in prison.) Finally, just before Christmas, everything arrived, and I got started. It was quite the learning process!

At first, I had a bit of help from my cellie and one other guy, but as Christmas break came to an end and patience ran out, I was on my own. I’ve painted black around the lower part of the room, so our keyboards look like they are in a practice room, blending in with their black stands and black covers. Above that, all the way to the ceiling are what looks to be thick boards paneling the walls.

On one wall, I have a window to the “street,” on another I have music posters with notes and rests and the grand staff, and on yet another wall I painted a stage with a band set-up on it and speakers in front. Lastly, I will paint musical instruments for sale on the walls, such as guitars, banjo, and mandolin. I’ll need a bit of coaching on the technique involved, but I’m enjoying getting to use an entirely new medium.

I’m not planning to be a world-famous artist someday, but I figure I might as well learn something new this year. My first attempts at painting onto greeting cards haven’t turned out so great, but I plan to keep trying. Once I finish the room, the staff says they’ll take pictures of it for me to show my family, so you’ll see it without having to be locked up.

Do you know any other verses to “Auld Lang Syne?” I didn’t, so I had our librarian look it up on that internet thing. With thickly accented lyrics such as “We twa hae run about the braes and pou’d the gowans fine” I’m not certain the writer was very English. Or sober. However, I’m sure the sentiment of taking time to remember days gone by, especially those spent with good friends and loved ones, is obvious in whatever language it is sung. For me, I’m taking time this New Year to thank God for all those who have blessed my life. Thank you!

A fresh coat of paint can make any room look new, fun, different. But with friends, it is the old and familiar that brings a smile to my face. No, I will NOT let auld acquaintance be forgot, nor will I let auld lang syne, whatever in the world that means.