Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Lynn D. Morrissey: The Singing Kid
Lynn is a writer (among many other things) now, but back in the day her hours were filled with French, her studies and musicals, along with very special people like her mother, daddy and MaMa. The warmth of family has sustained her and is part of her faith journey. When she grew up, she was able to draw upon those childhood memories in order to help others. She still sings, but also speaks,journals(is a journal facilitator,) writes, blogs, teaches Bible study and nurtures her family these days.
Let's take a look into the delightful childhood of the beautiful Lynn Morrissey:
Whether or not I had career aspirations before I was in grade school, I’m uncertain. My grandfather told my father upon my birth: “Well, Bill, you didn’t get a football player, but you got yourself a great little pie baker.” Despite that I can still make a mean strawberry pie and a luscious French fruit torte, I never had ambitions of becoming a French pastry chef.
However, when I entered fifth grade and Madam Colvis’s French class, I dreamed of teaching French just like her. Once each day, our class would ascend steep, winding steps into a loft at school that looked as if it were a replica of the garret in Puccini’s La Bohème. The walls were colorfully plastered with posters of Paris, a perfect setting for our very own teacher imported straight from France. I loved listening to her musical accent and whisper-soft speaking voice. What an inspiration she was. I loved everything about her—her classy femininity, her love for language, her ability to inspire, her challenge to aspire, and her constant verb-conjugating encouragement.
I took French all the way through my freshman year of college, but in the end, God had different plans. I’ve learned over the years to consult Him first before following my own agenda. Now I’m a journaling facilitator, author, speaker, and soloist. I still love French, though, and am grateful that my minimal conversational speaking ability was useful when my husband and I traveled to France, especially when we had to find the nearest bathroom! I also love singing in French (exquisitely beautiful art songs) and coaching our daughter, Sheridan, who currently studies la Français in high school. She too has fallen in love with la belle langue.
Lynn at three
Fondest Memory (then):
It’s impossible to select a single fondest memory; there are so many. I’ll share several. I was definitely a “Daddy’s Girl” and loved playing with my father. One of our favorite games we simply called "store." Daddy would allow me to drag out all the canned fruits and vegetables from the cupboard. We used a little red bank that he’d saved from his own childhood to sort and count change. I still have it today. But I also loved accompanying him to the real grocery. This was the highlight of my week, especially because Daddy always invited me to select my favorite treats. The best part of the jaunt, however, occurred when we were ready to go home. I’d stand at the “tail end” of the shopping cart. My father pushed the cart, racing to our car as I squealed with delight. My pony-tail flew with abandon in the wind.
Lynn with Daddy
I especially loved watching Daddy play horseshoes with his friends. This was his specialty, and he usually won. Other times, I’d watch Mother, Daddy, and their other friends play spirited games of Monopoly. When no one was looking, I'd put extra money on my parents’ stacks of bills. (I never told them this until I got older)! I guess that wasn't very nice, but it was my child’s way of helping them win. (That sounds good anyway!).
In the winter, our favorite pastime was tobogganing down "Suicide Hill" in the city park. My father was a big, broad-shouldered man, and I felt so safe sitting behind him, as he blocked the freezing snow that sprayed in our faces. Afterward, we’d head for a wonderful Italian bakery for piping hot bread, just out of the oven; we devoured it ravenously, and there was never any left by the time we got home.
It’s bittersweet for me to recall these memories, because I lost my beloved father on May 27, 2007. I miss him every single day. He was my biggest exhorter, always challenging me to keep getting published and never to give up. He championed all my books, and constantly queried, “What are you writing now?” Those words still echo in my mind.
And if Daddy was my strongest prodder, Mother was and is my most earnest encourager. She loved me unconditionally, encouraged my singing and writing, and listened endlessly to all my childhood ramblings and teen-age dreams. It was Mother who taught me to play the piano and to appreciate classical music and good literature. We still share these loves, and we’re best friends today.
I also have fond memories of my great-grandmother, MaMa. Stooped-shouldered and frail, she would suddenly spring to life at the sight of her great granddaughter, setting a kettle on the stove to boil. She brewed strong tea for herself and a child’s version for me—heavy on milk, light on tea, and liberally laced with sugar. We feasted on sandwiches, cakes, memories, and faith. I loved listening to Mama’s tales about her childhood in the South, life as a young widow, her grief at the death of her infant son Eric and how God had comforted and sustained her through the difficult years ahead.
MaMa often quilted as she talked, cutting calico scraps from her colorful dresses, from her colorful life. At times the pieces unraveled and she sutured them together with the same love that stayed my childhood fears and mended my heart into wholeness. Now I realize that as she shared, MaMa was painstakingly stitching together her story and mine, shaping one story, as intricate, variegated, and tightly connected as the patterns of her quilts. Because I had the privilege of knowing my great-grandmother, I received from her inestimable treasures. Today, I still wrap myself in her hand-made treasure: a now-worn quilt that she sewed just for me. More important, she wrapped me in her invisible gifts of love and faith that will never fray.
Proudest Moment (then):
My proudest moments always revolved around acting and singing. I played Mrs. Santa Claus in the fifth-grade play and often performed during the summers at a neighborhood center, where my Aunt Wanda was a social worker, responsible for musical productions. She introduced me to the world of singing.
Lynn with Santa before her days as Mrs. Santa Claus in fifth grade
Later in highschool, I played Tuptim in The King and I and Nellie Forbush in South Pacific. I won the musical achievement award as a senior in high school. Yet these personal achievements paled in comparison to the pride I felt when my father sang or when his mother, my Grandma Nina, played the piano. My father had a gorgeous bass-profundo voice that left me spellbound as he sang beautiful hymns, stirring spirituals, Gilbert and Sullivan arias, and his most-requested songs, “Old Man River” and “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” I literally felt chills whenever he sang. I experienced a similar thrill when Grandma Nina played hymns, Joplin rags, and songs from her heyday in the twenties and thirties. She could also “play on demand.” You could hum a tune, and she’d immediately mimic it by ear; her fingers just took off, frolicking across the keys of her old upright. Her playing sounded like a lively player piano.
Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:
I skipped a grade and was put into the “gifted program.” Translation: I did about four to five hours of homework a night. It absolutely consumed me. In retrospect, Mother said that she and Daddy would never have made the decision to enroll me, because it devoured my childhood. Perhaps all that studying and a subsequent move to a new neighborhood when I entered junior high accounted for how shy I became–almost debilitatingly so. It was certainly more than a challenge and led to real depression. In the end, my performing in choruses and musicals drew me out and helped me to communicate openly.
My First Job:
During my junior and senior summers at high school, I put down my school books, picked up a tray, and waited tables at Walgreen’s. During the sixties, Walgreen’s boasted both pharmacies and restaurants. I wore a crisp black-and-white uniform with a little white V-shaped apron, ugly white shoes (think old-time nurse shoes), and I swept my waist-length hair atop my head and secured it with a net. In those days, hair nets in restaurants, caps in swimming pools, and nurse’s hats in hospitals were standard requirement. (I have a theory that when boys started growing long hair, swimming caps were suspended, and have been ever since).
Having been sequestered in classrooms behind books for most of my life to that point, I found life at Walgreen’s to be a rude awakening to the real world. But it did provide a magnificent microcosm of the life to which I would eventually need to acclimate myself. I learned a lot: I had to be responsible and keep my commitment to work, whether I wanted to or not. I realized that there are “all kinds of people,” and they deserved good service (whether they were nice to me or not). I soon learned that the customer is always right (whether they were or not) and to serve with a smile. And I discovered that hard work is rewarded.
I received a number of dollar tips (a fortune in those days) for remembering customer’s preferences, like coffee or tea, or maybe just because people took pity on me. In fact, I wore my “trainee” badge for a whole year, just to engender their sympathy. But people weren’t too sympathetic when I spilled coffee. Once a whole table of people got up and moved when they saw me coming! Perhaps more than anything, working at Walgreen’s spurred me on to go to college so I could broaden my horizons.
Lynn in Baby Dress
Favorite Outfit as a Child:
Grandma Nina sewed me a lot of darling outfits, and I particularly liked a green jumper that she made me for St. Patrick’s Day. She always made sure that I was decked in green and gave me cute shamrock costume jewelry to wear. One Easter, my mother and I also wore look-alike Easter dresses, in yellow satin patterned with daisies. I was so proud to be her twin.
Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:
What was not to like about television in the good old days? Parents never feared letting their kids turn on the tube. Nearly every sit-com was sweet, innocent, and Mayberryesque— and yes, I loved The Andy Griffith Show. Of course, everybody also loved Lucy, and so did I! Add to this list of favorites Sky King, The Lone Ranger, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, and Father Knows Best, and earlier, Captain Kangaroo, Popeye, and The Little Rascals. In high school I was a Patty Duke Show aficionado. As a child, I loved Shirley Temple movies, particularly Curly Top and Heidi, and the western, Shane.
Favorite Childhood Book:
When I was very small, Mother read to me wonderful books like Good Night, Moon, A is for Annabelle, The Real Mother Goose, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.When I could read myself, I relished Little Women, Eight Cousins, and Heidi, and in high school, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights. (I still love all things English.)
Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:
As I’ve said, I loved to sing! I also played the piano and “played show” with Grandma Nina in her kitchen. Our favorite songs were from South Pacific. We even knew all the hand motions to “Happy Talk.” Grandpa ignored us and watched Perry Mason in the living room. Hmmm . . . I wonder what tells you about our performance prowess?
Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child?
Following in my mother’s correspondence footsteps (she had penpals for years in England, Scotland, Norway, and Russia), I had a French penpal named Martine Desbaisieux. She and I wrote for several years, but unfortunately we lost touch over the years. And yes, I most certainly passed notes in junior high and high school! It’s amazing that we girls could write and talk on the phone as much as we did, considering that we saw each other on a daily basis.
Hands down, my father was my hero. He still is.
I had a big gray cat named Claude. This was Daddy’s clever name for our nail-sharp feline (think “clawed.”). Claude started out sleeping in the garage, made his way to the basement, and eventually slept across Daddy’s feet each night. Sadly, he was put to sleep when he scratched my little sister’s eye, and she nearly lost her eyesight. Blessedly, she received excellent medical treatement and her eyesight was not seriously impaired in the end.
Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?
I never aspired to be a writer as a child. I made good grades in English, but I wanted to teach French. And in college, I switched majors and decided to become a music teacher. I didn’t pursue writing and speaking until much later in life. It was a colossal surprise to me when the Lord led me in this direction.
Yet, in retrospect, I can see how God used my mother’s exposing me to good literature and poetry and sharing her own passion for writing and journaling, to instill in me a love for language. I can also see how those long, laborious hours of isolation in doin homework prepared me to be an author. Today, I work alone at home for hours on end. School work also taught me rigorous discipline, and I need plenty of that to write.
Mostly God used my parents’ faith and their love for Him to draw me to Himself. We attended church every Sunday as a family, and we read His Word and prayed. These things more than anything have undergirded my writing and shaped me as a Christian.
LYNN D. MORRISSEY, Author/Speaker/Journaling Facilitator/Soloist
Dynamic author and speaker Lynn D. Morrissey is in the ministry of metamorphosis. An avid journal-keeper for over thirty years, she speaks passionately about the power of prayer-journaling to heal hearts. Through journaling, God has set Lynn free from suicidal depression and alcoholism. Lynn understands journaling as a unique means of enjoying intimacy with God, experiencing spiritual transformation, and noting life’s significance.
Lynn has facilitated journaling seminars for over ten years and her signature book, Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy through Written Prayer (Multnomah Publishers), is highly acclaimed. Lynn is the author of two devotional books, Seasons of a Woman’s Heart and Treasures of a Woman’s Heart (both, Starburst Publishers), contributor to numerous bestsellers, and an AWSA and CLASS speaker.
Lynn, her husband Michael, and daughter Sheridan live in St. Louis, Missouri, where Lynn served as executive director for the world’s largest USO. Lynn has a bachelor’s degree in vocal music and sang with the St. Louis Bach Society and St. Louis Chamber Chorus. She was also a director of Christian education, and currently pursues a journaling credential from The Journal Therapy Center.
Check out Lynn's regular feature on the Set Free Today blog. She is their resident journaling expert and writes a column every other Monday called Journaling Your Journey.
Sample of Lynn's blog entries:
Stones of Remembrance
As Lynn says: "God has used prayer-journaling to absolutely set me free from depression and a host of other difficulties. Journaling has been a powerful way to connect with God and to experience His joy."
Love Letters to God
Written by Lynn D. Morrissey
Illustrated by Katia Andreeva
Hardcover, 80 pages
Multnomah Books | Religion | January 2004 | $16.99 | 978-1-59052-189-2 (1-59052-189-7)
Women yearn to share their experiences with the Lover of their souls in a way that is honest and simple, yet deeply satisfying. The key to this intimate self-expression is prayer-journaling. By pouring her heart out on paper to God, a woman can enjoy God's loving presence, explore her purpose and passion, appreciate life's beauty and answer its perplexities, experience spiritual transformation, and leave a permanent record of God's faithfulness in her life. Love Letters to God is a woman's invitation to take a personal pilgrimage through her own 'sacred writings' to the very heart of God.
Story Behind the Book
Writing one’s prayers in a journal (unlike verbal or silent prayers) provides an actual safe place to grow spiritually and to enjoy and enhance a personal relationship with God. Verbal prayers are soon forgotten, but our "love letters to God" become a permanent place for exploring our hearts, a tangible testimony of God’s love and faithfulness in our lives, and a detailed document of our spiritual journeys. We can literally see the progression of changes in our lives as expressed on the "pages of our soul," our prayer journals, and we can see God’s answers to our prayers recorded there. Like the psalmists, many people have discovered that writing is the key to intimate self-expression, providing a deep, emotional catharsis that is often missing from their verbal or silent prayers.
Do you journal? Leave a message for Lynn about your experience and I'll draw a name to send Lynn's book.
Drawing will be on September 26th. Leave your contact information (yournameAT isp dotcom)