". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Will the Lord take you in?

One year ago yesterday, my mom took a fall from which she never recovered. She didn't break any bones, but the weakened state that she was in at the time, combined with the infection that caused her to faint, was more than she could overcome. After about six weeks, first in the hospital and then in nursing care, we brought her home to die. She left this life on February 22, 2016, at the age of 85.

I was thinking about all this yesterday, and about her, and I reshared this blog post from February 13. I think at the time I wrote it I knew deep down that she wasn't going to get better, but I wasn't quite ready to face it. I was still hoping and praying for a turnaround. It never came.

My mom died with saving faith in Jesus Christ. I had thought she was baptized as a child but in going through her things I found a certificate of both adult baptism and confirmation in the Episcopal church. She also had me baptized in the Episcopal church, but for the first 10 years of my life we didn't attend regularly. Then when I was in sixth grade we moved, and a friend of mine invited us to her church. I asked if we could go, and we did, whereby my mom discovered Roman Catholicism. It was a turning point for her. She became Catholic and so did I. From that time on we were in worship every week. I give thanks for that friend and that church, which changed the course of my mom's life as well as mine.

As I reflect on it, I think that one reason Catholicism spoke to my mom so strongly was that it offered a sense of stability that had always been missing for her. She was an only child whose parents left her to be cared for by relatives. In a life marked by abandonment and insecurity, the ancient Church presented her the opportunity to feel connected to something unchanging and bigger than herself. The liturgy, ritual, majesty and history afforded her a kind of security she had never known. Finally, she felt like she had a family. 

At the same time, though, she heard from the Catholic church that if she just tried a little harder and did a little more she could "work out" her salvation. She looked at the suffering of this life as something that got her a step closer to God, proving her worth. On more than one occasion I talked to her about the gospel as I had come to understand it as a Lutheran--something completely free and unearned, total gift. But it seemed almost impossible for her to conceive of. I wish that before she died she could have somehow found the comfort of knowing that although there was no way she could ever be good enough, she was nevertheless saved by grace through faith because Christ did it all for her.

I spent a good deal of time during my mom's last days singing, praying and reading the Bible to her, particularly the psalms. A recurrent one was Psalm 27, linked above. In her Bible it was one she had marked, bracketing off verse 10: "For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in." I decided to have Psalm 27 sung at her funeral and to include verse 10 on her burial marker. The marker was ordered in August but still has not arrived. Hopefully, soon.

My mom did not fully understand the gift of grace, but neither do any of us. Thanks be to God we don't need perfect understanding to get into heaven. We just need faith in Christ, however imperfect and weak that faith is. I know my mom had that and that when she departed this life she was immediately welcomed into the presence of her Savior. What a joy to know she doesn't have to try, doubt or wonder anymore! She is "in"--not because of how much she loved God, but because of how much He loved her. May all of us as God's children cling to that certain hope.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Music

"The Holly and the Ivy" from Cheryl on Vimeo.

"Blessed Be That Maid Marie" - arr. John Leavitt, Concordia Publishing House from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Unfortunately the record button didn't engage and I didn't immediately realize it so only got a little bit of this one. Enjoy the teasing taste of a men's chorus. They sounded great!

"Now Sing We, Now Rejoice" - Stanza 3 from Cheryl on Vimeo.

"Gesu Bambino" from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Christmas 2016

It's not over yet--only the second day!--but here's a pictorial roundup of our celebration thus far.

A few days ago we caroled with some of the members of our church choir. We went to several houses in our neighborhood and several homes of shut-ins. Out of 9 houses, one didn't answer, and one said "thanks but no thanks." I guess a success rate of 7 out of 9 is not bad. 

We got our tree a couple of weeks ago at a nearby tree farm and orchard. It had to wait a week to get decorated until we had more help.

The bonus kid is a friend of Evan's.

All done!


Poetically, on tree-decorating day we got a dusting of snow!

We started Christmas Day with Divine Service at 10:00 a.m. instead of our normal two services at 8:30 and 11:00. Then we came home, had lunch and let the cantor have a very short cantor's nap. Then, gift opening!

New briefcase!

Trevor and Caitlin demonstrating one of the Four Loves.

New Wii U game

Hillbilly Elegy (the book, not the guy)

Pajamagrams and a set of cocktail syrups

Copper mugs for Moscow Mules!

Bamboo cooking spoons. 

Trevor went to great lengths to get me this book. I was introduced to Dinah Craik last year by a friend. I enjoyed the book I read (Olive) and added more Craik to my wish list, but apparently her books are not easy to come by. Trevor had this specially printed and shipped from overseas. Thank you, Trevor! 

I also received some new slippers from Caitlin. My feet have had a rough year and appreciate it very much!

As for Willard, he got a new pillow and several tasty treats.

After present opening we went for a family walk. It was windy but not cold. I wore short sleeves!

Then, drinks on the deck. On Christmas Day! Nice work, Oklahoma.

Supper was oven-baked brisket, green beans, potato salad, and cole slaw with Texas wine and brownies a la mode and cranberry-apple pie for dessert.

We wrapped up the day by introducing the kids to The Waltons pilot episode, "The Homecoming."

 Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"Where Two or Three Are Gathered"

Last night at the first of our two Christmas Eve services I found myself sitting alone. Phillip was playing organ, Evan was acolyting, and my other two children were planning to come to the later service. When it came time to light the candles at the end of the service, I walked to the other end of the pew I was sitting in. There was an older couple there, one I have seen many times but never formally met. As I approached them to light my candle from theirs, the woman smiled, reached out her arms to hug me, and said, "I love you." Surprised but touched, I returned the hug and said, "I love you, too!" Then, still holding my arms on either side, this wonderful woman looked me in the eyes and said, "You are so beautiful. I love your outfit." I thanked her for her kindness and started to go back to my place but thought better of it and continued standing next to her as we sang "Silent Night" to close the service. At the end of the service she wished me a merry Christmas and I wished her the same.

It's my first Christmas without my mom, and it's been kind of hard. But it feels like last night God sent me a little surrogate mothering. Not that I should be surprised. It's what church is all about, isn't it?

I pray you have been blessed to gather with the faithful this weekend. If not, don't wait any longer. Go.

"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” - Matthew 18:20

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lessons and Carols

As I have shared here before, the live broadcast of Lessons and Carols from King's College in Cambridge is a high point of our family's celebration of Christmas. It is our together time, our quiet time, our cozy pajama time. For a cantor's family, it is our one chance to sit together and do nothing but soak in the Christmas story while others tell it.

Last year as Lessons and Carols was beginning my mom called for me. I don't remember what she needed, but I remember being annoyed. All I wanted was an hour-and-a-half without interruptions or demands on my time. Was that so much to ask?

She didn't call for me this year. How I wish I could take back my impatience of last year. 

Forgive me, Mom. 

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
‘Glory to God
In the highest.’
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Friday, December 23, 2016

"Thou wilt love the gentle Lamb of God."

"And if thou canst believe that this voice of John is a harbinger of truth, and follow the direction of his finger, and behold the Lamb of God bearing thy sin, thou hast won the victory, thou art become a Christian, a master over sin, and death, and hell, and all things. Thereby thy conscience is gladdened, and thou wilt love the gentle Lamb of God." - Martin Luther, Sermon for the fourth Sunday in Advent, 1522

Sunday, December 11, 2016

December Update

This is a "I better post so I don't go a month without posting" post. Three days to spare!

This will be my first Christmas ever without a mom. :-( It is going to be very strange to not have her here to give a present to. I am hoping her marker will be placed by Christmas. It was ordered back in August. I would like to take all the kids to see it before our college students have to go back to school.

Speaking of college students, they will both be home next weekend. Yay!

Someone at USA Radio Network ate too much fruitcake and got the idea to invite me on for an interview. I am scheduled to discuss this article with host Rusty Humphries at 1:45 p.m. CST tomorrow. Probably someone will wise up and cancel me before that time.

Christmas cards have been signed, sealed and mostly delivered. Because we were unable to get a family photo done in time, I used this one from what I thought was last Christmas.

Then I realized that the above was actually two Christmases ago. This is last Christmas.

Oh, well, maybe I'll just continue the pattern of sending out two-year-old pics and let everyone think we look younger than we really do.

I am back to trying to finish reading the Harry Potter series. I read the first book when my college kids first started reading it, but I wasn't particularly impressed and didn't continue. A few years later I read the second and third books. Now after another multi-year break I am resuming reading the series, mostly for the benefit of my youngest, who needs someone to talk to about it. I don't know why the books have not hooked me as they have so many. Maybe there are just too many characters for my aging brain to keep track of.

This was recorded today. It is probably the last time Evan will sing a high B-flat in church. Voice change is imminent. Sadness.

"E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come" - Paul Manz from Cheryl on Vimeo.

But didn't our choir do a good job?

Blessed Gaudete Sunday!

Monday, November 14, 2016

One Day You Turn Around and He's All Grown Up

And he does amazing things like give a concert at a national worship conference, one that in spite of what you might think, his dad had nothing to do with facilitating.

And you can't go because there are things that need doing at home, but luckily, your husband who is on the road is able to swing by for the performance.

And then after your husband drives away, that grownup kid will prepare to get on a plane and fly to another state to meet a teacher he is considering studying with for his doctoral work. He set up the visit and arranged his own travel and will get himself there and back without any help from us.

When I worry (as I shouldn't, because I have a great God), one of the things I worry about is my kids when their dad and I are gone. My husband and I have now buried all of our parents, and it is a difficult thing no matter how old you are. We are very, very close to our kids. I am thankful that they come to us for so much in the way of advice and direction in their lives. But I have worried that maybe they need us too much.

I worry less as the years go on. I know they'll be sad when their parents die, as we were when ours died. But I think they're going to be okay. And that is a blessed feeling indeed.