Monday, December 5, 2016

The Mysterious Christmas Thing

Something mysterious happened. I seemed to have stumbled on to doing something very right. I guess after fifteen or probably more years of pulling the long Christmas train, we seem to have come full stop.

Well. . . at least manageable stop.

A lovely Thanksgiving was had by all up in Nisswa with Bill's folks. We also had a wonderful chance to meet up with friends. What would we do without our friends?

Upon our return I started getting out the Christmas. Those of you who have a Christmas closet will understand. If not. . . well just read along.

As usual I printed out the calendar for the remaining four weeks of the year. On cheerful red paper. Usually this resembles a late Beethoven sonata, a lot of black ink on the page. I studied it. I looked again. I went through the stack of papers on my desk. Nothing missing. No oversight. What? What? The pages are inexplicably blank. The Christmas train is only pulling a few light cars up the mountain.

I'm not saying we are only sitting here getting pedicures and eating bon bons, but we really just have the Christmas Tea, three choral services, a Christmas studio recital and two Christmas Eve churches. Totally reasonable normal activity level.

I've been having coffee with friends. Talking on the phone with Doris. Hanging my stockings with care. Yesterday Bill baked bread.

I guess last year between eight weeks of bronchitis and the broken tailbone something sank in. No dentist. No board meetings. No Nutcracker tickets after a nativity play. I guess I actually did it. Jesus took the Christmas wheel.

Saturday night we were able to take a last minute invitation to the Augsburg College Christmas Vespers at the Central Lutheran Church downtown. And there wasn't even a jazz band concert right before it. Christmas choral music is always moving to me, but this time it was the spoken words of my favorite author tucked between the orchestra and the organ that brought the tear.

God did not wait till the world was ready,
till. . . nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried for release.

God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours,
of anguished shame God came,
and God's Light would not go out.

God came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!
--Madeleine L'Engle, First Coming

We cannot wait for a perfect world, before we are joyful. We cannot till we are all perfect to love each other. God is with us, we are with each other, right here, right now.

Sunday the choir sang a cappella. I wish I had captured their singing at the 9:30 service, but here is the St. Olaf substitute. I love this anthem.

O Light Everlasting (link)
O Love never failing,
Illumine our darkness,
And draw us to Thee.
May we from Thy spirit receive inspiration
That children together Thy wisdom may see.
Make known to all nations Thy peace and salvation,
And help up, O Father, Thy temple to be.

It's right here, right now--that peace that passes understanding. That salvation. The grace that somehow cleared the calendar. The light everlasting that can illumine our darkness. I don't know how it happened this year, but whatever it is, it's filling me with light--light that isn't just from the 37 strings of white incandescents I have strung around my house on every tree and wreath. Not just from the pine scented candle on my stove. It's a mystery to me how this happened, but, Christmas itself is a mystery.

I can take it.
Peace to you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

An Abundance of Thanks

An Abundance of Practice
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

I'm thankful for a God who has the whole world in his hands.

I'm thankful for a husband who loves me unconditionally.

I'm thankful for Calvin and Mary who light up my life and teach me something new everyday.

I'm thankful for my family and Bill's family. We are blessed with family. My mom, my sister and Sam, Bill's folks and his sister and brother-in-law. There's just a few of us--we've got to try to take care of each other.

I'm thankful for our home and that we can share it with people we love and fill it with music, light, good food and a glass of wine now and then.

I'm thankful for my friends--Lord, what did I ever do to deserve such good friends. Laughter. Love. Light. Really they are angels.

I'm thankful for Doris's piano this year. It's getting played around eight hours a day. It sounds so beautiful. God's perfect timing. I'm thankful for Doris and all the teachers I've had. I'm thankful for the new teacher in our life, Paul Wirth and the love of music that he's sharing with Calvin. God's perfect timing.

I'm thankful for the piano kids, old and new. Driving out to New Ulm for their workshop on Saturday, I did a lot of thinking. A lot of thanking. I was thinking about the group lesson right before the Christmas recital, I don't know what year, but I had to stand in the back and pretend I was listening to the sound back there because I was so overcome with love, and tears--Knoplohs were moving, Jonelle was leaving Tom, and Tammy had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. All these years later she is cancer free--thank you God. Cassy and Stefanie did Grown Up Christmas Wish. . . and Waldrons did a quartet of Oh Holy Night. It was a sacred time.

All these years later. We have new families, and I love them just as fiercely. I teach them and they teach me. Everyday. There's gonna be more sacred times at this Christmas recital when you see these little ones playing duets and trios together. I'm already sniffly.

Abundance. Of love. Of Thanks. Of joy.

God bless us, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving to you--and if you are reading this, you know that I love you and I'm thankful for you.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is darkness, light; and
Where there is sadness, joy.
Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
--St. Francis

There is so much post election hate spilling out of the news and Facebook. Some of us sensitive folks absorb all that hate. Families, communities. No one is immune. People are behaving badly. I have even gotten sucked in to fighting with the people I love most. I can't even remember what the fight was about. I'm ashamed.

Perhaps there is one thing conservatives, liberals, people of all races, religious people and non-religious people, gays and straights. . .could agree on. Maybe, maybe, perhaps we could agree to love the person, even when we differ about the ideas. I haven't felt loved this week. And I haven't felt very loving. Personally, I can't go on like that. I need my family. I need my community.

To me love wins is not a political platform or a religious theology, it's just what's gonna have to happen if we are gonna make it through this life with any sense of joy and participation.

Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me. My grandma Hope's leitmotif.

Can you love me if my ideas are different than yours? Can we love each other through this?

I vow to protect everyone I know from hate.
I vow to love each person I know, tenderly and forever, no matter what they think, say or do.

Create in me, a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post Election Thought

I'm writing this for me. Not really for anyone else. I'm not going to boost the post on Facebook. In fact I'm quietly signing off Facebook for a week, maybe more. Calvin invited me to do this and we are doing it together. My "friends" are making me feel isolated and lonely.

When did politics become religion to people? Are you really governed by the POTUS? I'm not.

Yesterday morning at 7:45 a.m. I watched the good people from the City of Eagan public works remove black spray painted election night graffiti from the walls at the corner of Yankee Doodle and Blue Cross Blue Shield roads. This on my walking path. Suburban hate. Thank you, Eagan, for not letting those words see the light of day.

Lord, above, don't we want to power wash us all?

News flash: hating haters is still hate.

This morning I'm going to run a SAM board meeting. Later today I'm going to start piano lessons with a little five year old girl who speaks Hebrew. Tomorrow I'm going to go see young friends sing in a play. Saturday we are going to have a chamber music workshop here and fill the house to the brim with music and pizza. Saturday night we are taking the family to the Feed My Starving Children Gala. Sunday the choir is going to sing two services and then more chamber music and then we are going to see the From the Top concert, of the cream of the crop young people at the Ordway.

I think I'm gonnna have to listen to the Messiah this morning, "and He shall purify the sons of Levi."
That's what I'm needing. An offering in righteousness.

I'm  holding on to the good part of that scene with the city men in neon yellow vests power washing the concrete--wash it away, Lord, wash it away. Leave the love. Purify us all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day Thought

"Aware of the suffering brought about when we impose our views on others, we are committed not to force others, even our children, by any means whatsoever--such as authority, threat, money, propagnada, or indoctrination--to adopt our views. We will respect the right of others to be different and to choose what to believe and how to decide. We will, however, help others renounce fanaticism and narowness through compassionate dialogue."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, November 4, 2016

Buying Time

You probably know who my favorite cat is

Sunset Cabin Weekend

You probably know who my favorite man is

And. . . my favorite girl

He's like a bad boyfriend. . . sneaking around and then bites you like it's your fault

You probably know what Mary's favorite animal is
Over MEA, the Minnesota Fall school break, Calvin went to St. Louis with the EVMB, Mary went to camp Grandmommy's in Iowa and Bill and I went to the cabin--hold your breath--all by ourselves. Best weekend of my life.

If you are married, I highly recommend this. You can even use our cabin. Sitting comatose in front of the fire for 48 hours? You can feel the life seep back into your bones. If you are single, you have to give this love, this time to yourself. Somehow.

Life is a process, an ebb and flow of growing and evaluating. Sometimes we slip back into chaos, hopefully temporarily for projects, like the workshop. Sometimes it feels like that chaos becomes the norm. Even after the workshop you still wake up at 4:30 a.m. and run the list.

For me, when the flood creeps closer and closer to the door, I stockpile. I better get seven gallons of milk from Costco, because who knows when the water will recede and I'll be able to get the car back out of the garage. Better order Mary's senior prom dress too, and Calvin will be needing cheese. If you have opened my fridge drawer you will know that there have been moments where there have been twenty bricks of co-jack. . . just waiting for the apocalypse. There are upwards of five pounds of coffee beans in my freezer at any given moment.

I've given a lot of time to SAM and to the SPTG and that is a complete privilege. Little by little though, I've got to balance things out a little. I've got to save time to plan my own studio events, and budget time to be gone for my own guest teaching. I'm going to New Ulm in November and out to DC in January. Someone else gets to stay up all night wondering who will pick ME up from the airport.

A couple weeks ago I asked Mary Lynn for more help. Over the last eight years she has been our baby sitter, turned friend, turned chauffeur. Now I'm buying a little of her time. A little of my own time.

Hopefully now, when the flood rises, Mary Lynn can take the life raft to the pet store. I don't have to stuff a thirty year supply of kitten kibbles into the laundry room cabinet. When Flopsy died, I gave an entire trunk load of bunny litter, bunny hay and bunny kibbles to neighborhood bunnies.

Buying time. Window washing. Leaf blowing. That's one kind of time.

Piano lessons for Calvin and jazz piano for Mary? That's another kind of buying time. Investing in someone else's knowledge.

Where your money goes, there goes your heart. My pastor reminded me of that verse when we were celebrating my least favorite holiday, Halloween. By the way, on Halloween I gave up refined sugar for 30 days. This is day five. This is a physical abstaining from the gluttony that has been the last few months. My thoughts on Halloween are a different post and you can probably go into the archives of this blog and you will see the same pattern. . . how three days after Halloween both kids get sick and run fevers and stay home from school. Mary throws up. If Halloween celebrates the dark side--for me that dark side is sugar.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:34.

This year a lot of our heart went into Doris's piano. That is a good thing. God's perfect timing.

It's not in my value system to buy more than I need. Food. Clothes. Toys. I'm not a hoarder, my house is probably pretty high on the tidy scale, but when I hear the lightning and thunder, I batten down the hatches. I buy more blueberries than an army can eat. . . stress requires antioxidants after all. . . and then. . . we throw them out when they spoil. Ditto for kids' clothes. What if I can't do laundry for forty days and forty nights? We've got to have enough undershirts to survive that kind of tragedy. Exaggeration alert. . . 

This entry is a really long and honest way of me saying that we're reevaluating. I'm reevaluating. Where is my heart? What is my treasure?

Family, church, friends, our kids' music education.

Our time.

Way back when I was taking Book 1 from Doris, I asked her how she managed to balance teaching and family life. She told me she had a good husband and a lot of help. I've got the good husband part. I'm upping the help part.

I'm on a self imposed spending moratorium, and I'm putting my money into my time. My sugar eaters anonymous program is a physical reminder of that. One other facet for me, is to use up the stockpile of everything that I have in my possession, before buying anything new. For shampoo, that means that I'm really hopeful that Mary's grandchildren like the smell of Paul Mitchell. I guess we have this much because you never know when things could get really busy, or terrorists could attack, and we might need to wash our hair 37,454,281 times. And conditioner of course, because in tough times you can't have snarls.

Much love to everyone. . . you are my treasure too!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Calvin's Confirmation

Sunday was reformation Sunday and it was also Calvin's confirmation service. It was a very lovely service. Our church had 80 confirmands and about 30 were confirmed in Calvin's service. The choir sang and at one point in the service all the people of each child were invited to come up and lay hands on him or her while the pastor offered up a personal individual prayer. Thank you, Pastor Kris, for your love of Calvin and everyone there.

One thing about being Lutheran, our faith tends to be a slow and steady burn. Like the coals in a campfire. There isn't always a burst of flame, like a born-again moment. Each person's faith evolves over time and works itself out. Still, these landmark occasions are important and special.  There isn't very much I'd rather be doing than celebrating the faith of my kid.

If there was a born again moment perhaps it was farther back. . . I don't know.  In 2008 I visited the little Catholic church, St. Michaels, in Z├íhori Village, where my great, great, great, great, great, great--well I don't know how many greats--grandparents worshipped and took communion in the Czech Republic. My mom and my sister and I took communion there at that same ancient rail. I felt the true meaning of the communion of saints. Generation to generation.

Calvin had eight great grandparents and four grandparents with a legacy of strong faith. He has two parents with strong faith. Aunts. A sister. A cousin. Pastors. A church. He has a cloud of witnesses, that is for sure.

God bless you Calvin, today and always.  Let your light shine. You are a blessing to me, to Daddy, to Mary, and to so many people!

Here are Calvin's verses:

Jeremiah 29:11
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

Phillippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

And here is Calvin's prayer:

Dear God, thank you for the divine giftss of life and faith and for the people around me that help me develop these gifts. Help me to live my life to the fullest, according to your plan for me. Let me always bring joy to those around me and guide me as I continue on my journey of faith. Amen.