Trust Your Instruments

In-flight B777

photo via

My husband uses the phrase “Trust Your Instruments” with his students. He’s a band director, but the instruments he’s referencing are not clarinets. He’s referring to a pilot, just learning to fly on his own.

On clear days, a pilot’s instruments assure him of what he can already see – blue skies, land below, distinct horizon level with his wings. However, when the pilot encounters nighttime and can no longer see from the cockpit, his body still tries to balance itself, searching for a frame of reference. Soon, his instincts could tell him the plane is plummeting while he’s actually flying completely level. A pilot has to gain the experience to fight off instincts, learning to rely solely on the instruments in front of him to guide him home.

So, my husband says “Trust Your Instruments” to help his students remember fundamentals in band. If you’ve never been in marching band, you probably don’t see how it could be hard. But it is. You have to simultaneously project great air support through your horn for a good sound, blend with other players, remember where to go every 8 to 16 counts, and step perfectly to the beat, all while wearing a hat that makes you look like a Q-tip.

The whole thing could go south very quickly. All it takes is one drummer playing too fast or one group of trombones to lose the down beat. Tyler refers his students back to fundamentals during these times: Watch the drum major. Count. You have to trust the drum major more than your own ears sometimes. Reacting in a way that’s counter intuitive to your instincts takes a great deal of will power. You have to realize that you are relying on something you know is right, even though it doesn’t feel right.

In the same vein, when my husband and I hit a turbulent patch in our personal lives, he tells me the same thing, “Trust your Instruments.”

Our world has been turned topsy turvy since April. Just a sampling: My husband had to find a new job. We had to move. We had to use up all of our emergency fund to pay for car repairs and moving expenses. We lost a month of pay in the process of job transition. My mom learned she had stage 4 breast cancer. I’ve had to travel at least once a month to help her. My kids aren’t used to being away from me at all, let alone days at a time.

During these times, my husband reminds me: “Trust Your Instruments.”

What does that mean? We go back to fundamentals. I can’t change any of the chaos occurring our lives right now, but I can keep us in line with the horizon. What do I do?

1. Basic Routines: Now is not the time to clean the house from top to bottom. I keep us functioning: laundry, general pick up, dishes, bathrooms. That’s all I can do right now, and it’s enough. Right now is not the time to start a gluten free diet or experiment with all of my new recipes on Pinterest. Now is the time for meals I can almost make in my sleep  – things that are simple, familiar, easy to prepare.

2. Pull up the Drawbridges: While life is still storming and raging outside, my little family has to fortify our castle to wait it out. We stay home and do our normal day stuff as often as we can. I stick to the basics with homeschool: reading, writing, math. We take naps or rest in the afternoons. We go to bed at normal times as often as possible. We attend church and see family. Otherwise, we stick close to the castle.

3. Trust Those on the Ground: While struggling blind in the air, I could easily keep my pride and stop trusting those who have a better view. However, it’s during these times of turbulence when I must rely on my fundamental faith as well as my closest friends and family to keep us safely on course. I allow others to help when they offer, and I don’t worry about being embarrassed. I’ve learned that my dearest friends offer to help because they love me – not out of judgment or pity.

Ultimately, I have to rely on the Father, who is always right and who never fails. Many times His ways are counter intuitive to my feelings, but His ways have never failed me.

If you find yourself in the midst of darkness, find your way back to your instruments. Trust what you know.

What are some ways you trust your instruments during the storms of life?


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  1. #1 by Emily J. on October 22, 2012 - 9:51 am

    Kelly, you are wise, and so right. I, like you, have learned (the hard way, several times) that stressing, worrying, and being bitter about things I have no control over helps no one. It doesn’t change the situation, it makes me tense and difficult to be around, and consequently makes the rest of my family on edge. When I feel myself starting to freak out about things I can’t change, I remind myself (actually, it’s probably the Holy Spirit reminding me) that God has always been faithful to me. I remember times when I had no idea how I would make it or how a situation could possibly turn out well, and the result was far better in the long run than I could ever have imagined. Prioritizing, simplifying, and “trusting my instruments” have always worked for me. Love you, dear friend!!

  2. #2 by Kristen Jones on October 22, 2012 - 5:00 pm

    I love this post! While I cannot imagine the turbulence that you’re experiencing, I have my own turbulence and your wisdom and willingness to share have helped me find a little peace in the raging wind. Thank you.

  3. #3 by Presten Witherspoon on October 22, 2012 - 9:19 pm

    Kelly, WONDERFUL post. We’ve been through your situation a number of times the last 8 years and it hasn’t been easy at all. Thank you for your insight and wisdom!

  4. #4 by Johanna Hanson on October 23, 2012 - 6:02 am

    Such a great post, Kelly. I totally understand, though our turbulent looks different. I was JUST thinking along these lines early this morning, and your post was so encouraging. We have to just go back to the basics and not worry about anything else.

    Praying God’s grace will carry your family through during this time.

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