". . . 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)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

Blessed Advent

For the season of Advent, I will be posting daily meditations from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on my Facebook page. The page is public, so if interested, you can read even if you're not on Facebook.

Click here.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sad

Yesterday I saw a picture on Facebook. It was of a young woman who, judging from her attire and the sign she was holding, probably took part in the Women's March earlier this year. Her clothing and hair were extremely flamboyant, designed to shock, and she was topless except for a couple of small, strategically-placed tassels. She was on the heavy side.

The picture was posted for no other reason than to mock her. And mock her people did, in comment after comment after comment.

I don't care what that woman looks like, what bad choices she has made, or how misled, confused and angry she is. She is somebody's daughter, sister, friend. She is loved by her Creator. She may some day regret the picture of herself that will never be erased from the internet. Perhaps she already does.

Which is why it's even more discouraging that the person who posted the picture is a pastor, one who in my mind is called to model Christ's love and compassion for His creation, not send the message that parts of that creation are there so that the rest of us can have a grand, old time tearing them down while we build ourselves up.

There was nothing to be gained by posting that picture, and so much to be lost.

And it's this sort of thing that makes it hard for people who have been hurt by pastors to learn to trust them again.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Belonging

Long time no see! Not here, anyway!

I started my new job. It's been 3-1/2 weeks! I love it. Oh, how I love it. Last summer, when I got to do for a week what I am now doing all the time, my husband told me it was the happiest he had seen me in a long time. I think part of that may have been the result of coming out of probably the most difficult 7 years of our lives. But I think part of it was also the work.

I am so very thankful for this opportunity. Who gets their dream job at 53? Not many people. May I never stop being thankful for this gift.

I have been thinking about why I enjoy it so much. A big part of it is the work itself. I am a writer, and I somehow got a full-time writing job. Wow. Not only do I get to write and edit, but I get to do so in the service of my church. I can't imagine much better.

But I think there is something else at play. I have realized, finally in my fifties, that I have a very strong need to belong. I think it may come in part out of a lifetime of not really feeling like I belong. In a blended family, I grew up as "half" sibling to 10 others. My father had 4 children; my mom had 6; they had me. In a family with two "sides," it is hard to know exactly where you fit.

When I was in junior high, we moved. I was bullied and ostracized in my new school. That experience exacerbated my shyness/introversion to the point that I worried way too much in high school about being liked and fitting in. I had friends, but I think I could have had more if I had just relaxed and enjoyed people more.

As the wife of a church worker, I have found it difficult to know where I fit in at church. As nice as people are, when you're on staff, there's a bit of a wall, a feeling that you need to be on guard. It's just the way it is. So you turn to the staff for friendship. When that doesn't pan out as you hope, it can be discouraging.

Some years ago I found a group that I thought were my "tribe": confessional Lutheran homeschooling moms like myself. And in truth, they are my tribe more than about anyone else I've ever known. Which is why they became so important to me, resulting in my not handling it well a few years ago when I suddenly didn't feel like I fit there either.

Back to the job. To be surrounded by not just a few but an entire department full of people that seem to care about so many of the same things I care about has been a joy. To spend my days working with those people on shared goals, and to see those goals come to fruition, is indescribable. I know many people never get to experience that sort of reward in their work. I am still pinching myself that I am getting to do so.

I'm sure there are going to be stressors, disagreements and problems along the way. When those things come, I need to not let them make me feel like I don't belong. And if I do end up feeling that way, I need to remember that it's probably due more to something inside me than anything else. Most of all, I need to remember that in the eyes of my Savior, I do belong, and that's really all that matters.

(Sorry for the "me me me" post. This is for my friends who might be interested in how things are going. They're going great!)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Phases


Have you ever had that dream where you are back in school and realize you forgot to go to a class, not just once, but all semester long? And now it's time for the final exam and you aren't prepared?

Or maybe you've had the one where you have to give a speech and have no idea what it's supposed to be about or what you're going to say. Perhaps you aren't properly dressed or aren't dressed at all.

Or if you're a musician, maybe you, like I, have dreamed you forgot to practice for your upcoming recital. Recently when I woke up from that one it was so vivid I could recall the title of the piece I was supposed to play but didn't know. It was "Phases." Having no knowledge of such a piece I assumed I fabricated it. Imagine my surprise when my son, a concert pianist, told me there is an actual 20th-century work of similar title that requires the pianist to play two pianos at one time:



After learning about the composition "Piano Phase" I couldn't help wondering if maybe I heard about it somewhere along the way and it stuck in my brain because it turns out to be a fitting symbol for my life at the moment. In a development I would not have predicted a year ago I have been offered a full-time position as managing editor of a national online reporting site. It is the official news publication of my church body, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. The job requires relocation to St. Louis, so in August, I will be taking up residence in an apartment there while my husband continues working at our church in Oklahoma. It is only about a 5-hour commute or short flight between the two locations, and while we know it won't be easy being apart at times, we are convinced that this is the right decision, one that will allow me to best use my abilities in the service of God, my neighbor, and my family.

After listening to a bit of "Piano Phase" I'm not sure what I think about it musically, but I can definitely relate to the image of playing two instruments at one time. In a few weeks I will have two homes. Right now I am getting ready to start a brand new phase of life, moving from many years of squeezing in part-time work around my full-time vocations of wife and homeschool mom to now making room for a full-time job as my empty nest years draw ever closer. I know that there will be many challenges in this transition, but I also anticipate much blessing. In my freelance work I have already gotten to know many of the people I will now be seeing on a daily basis, and it has been a joy. I am looking forward to making both the work and people a regular part of my life.

Sometimes in life it can seem like whatever you're doing today is going to be what you do forever. When you're a child, adulthood seems so far away it's hard to imagine. When you're in high school, facing all the difficulties of adolescence and school and peer pressure, it can feel like you'll never get beyond them. When you're single, you might wonder if you'll ever get married. When there are dirty diapers every time you turn around, it can be hard to envision life without them. When you're nursing a dying parent, you can't think beyond the next dose of food or medicine. When your life consists of a certain job, house, church or group of friends, it can seem impossible that it will ever be anything else.

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this, but I'm going to anyway. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing today, it's not always going to be that way. Maybe that is good news and maybe it's not. Maybe it's a little of both. Whatever the case, try to embrace what God has given you to do today, knowing that He is by your side, using all of it to bless and draw you closer to Him while He prepares your tomorrow. Whatever phase of life you're in, know that it's not forever. Take it as a gift, trust the Giver to sustain you through the bad parts, and expect blessing.


"Stay With Us" - Lutheran Service Book 879 from Cheryl on Vimeo.
"Stay With Us" - LSB 879

"Stay with us, till night has come:
Our praise to You this day be sung.
Bless our bread, Open our eyes:
Jesus, be our great surprise.

Walk with us, our spirits sigh:
Hear when our weary spirits cry,
Feel again Our loss, our pain:
Jesus, take us to Your side.

Walk with us, the road will bend:
Make all our weeping, wailing end.
Wipe our tears, Forgive our fears:
Jesus, lift the heavy cross.

Talk with us, till we behold
A joyful life You will unfold:
Heal our eyes To see the prize:
Jesus, take us to the light.

Stay with us, till day is done:
No tears nor dark shall dim the sun.
Cheer the heart, Your grace impart:
Jesus, bring eternal life."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Golden Moments

Often we are told to "cherish" time, particularly at pivotal moments such as a wedding, the birth of a child, or the waning of a dear one's days. But what does that mean? How do we "cherish" time? Do we say over and over in our head, "Cherish, cherish, cherish, cherish"? Do we consciously try to pay more attention to what is going on than we normally would? Do we tell those around us to stop talking to us, needing us, and giving us things to do so that we can just bask in the moment at hand?

St. Luke wrote that Mary "treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). I want to be like Mary, but I struggle with understanding what it means to "treasure" and "ponder." There seems to be little time for such luxuries. Life spins itself out, the moments come and go, and suddenly 20 years have passed.

Last weekend we visited the first parish my husband ever served as a full-time church musician, from 1993 to 2000. When we first moved there we had a 10-month-old baby (he's 24 now). A few years later we had our second child (now 21). During the seven years we were there we made many friends with whom we keep in touch to this day. The last time we visited was in 2009, yet when we returned last week it felt in a way as if we had never left. So many of the same faces remained, theirs, like ours, a little more lined, with eyes reflecting years of trial, pain and joy. I found myself wanting to cherish the moments. Who knows when we will see these people again? Several dear friends are now well into their nineties. If we don't make it back for another eight years, will they still be around?

I don't know how to cherish the moments. I only know how to live them. Yes, there are special times, golden moments we find ourselves wanting to hang on to. But we can't. And that's okay. Every moment we have is given to us by God, sanctified by Him for a sacred purpose. Whether it's a baptism, a wedding, or a dirty diaper, it's still a gift of time, a moment to be lived. The baby days are wonderful, but so are the years of parenting teenagers and young adults. Courtship is magical and young married life full of anticipation, but there's also something equally profound about being able to look back as a couple from the 30-year mark. Sometimes I look around and wish I could freeze time. Life is precious, and I don't want it to be over. I don't want to get old and leave this earth while my loved ones are still here doing awesome things. I want to be around for all of it.

And yet I know there is a golden moment ahead, one that will outshine all the others. When that one comes there won't be anything distracting me. I won't have to try to cherish it. It will be the brightest, most golden moment I could ever imagine, and it will go on forever.




"Now if all my golden moments could be rolled into one
They would shine just like the sun for a summer day
And after it was over, we could have it back again
With credit to the editor for striking out the rain, very clean
And all it really needed was the proper point of view."
(James Taylor, "Golden Moments")

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dreams and Memories

Weird dreams last night. First I dreamed that my mom was still alive and in a nursing facility. But when I called to talk to her on the phone they couldn't find her. Then I dreamed I was walking through the house and stepped on a child's toy. It was a little plastic figurine of the Pumbaa character from The Lion King. (We used to have one like it.) It went deep into my foot and got stuck. When I pulled it out skin and tendons came out with it and it left a hole big enough that I could see the bones in my foot. Strangely enough, it didn't bleed or hurt. I wasn't going to do anything about it until my husband suggested I might want to go to the doctor to get the hole stitched up. When I woke up we had just called the doctor but were having trouble getting an appointment.

Are the two dreams related? I don't know. I do know that I don't have a mother anymore, nor do I have children of the age to leave plastic toys lying around where I might step on them. Sigh.

I spent part of today going through some more of my mom's boxes. Odds and ends, collectibles, keepsakes. When my siblings came for my mom's funeral last year I was able to give them some things, but there was still more to be gone through. I have removed all the pictures from my mom's photo albums and sorted them the best I could. (It's hard sometimes to tell which baby it is in the pictures!) I have everyone's Christmas stocking from when we were growing up. These things will all be mailed as soon as I can finish packing the boxes.

I had another memory of my mom's last few days. When we brought her home, hospice care set up a hospital bed in her room. I slept in her bed in the same room so I could be with her if she needed anything, although by this point she was bedridden and mostly non-communicative. I remember waking up in the night and looking at her and finding her wide awake, watching me sleep. I suppose that's what I would do, too, if I knew death was imminent: stay awake and watch my daughter sleep in the bed next to me.

One of the hardest things about that last week was not ever knowing what she was thinking because she couldn't tell me.

I didn't mean for this to be a sad post. I am not sad. Or maybe I should say I am mostly happy. :-) My college kids are home. We have some great trips planned. Everyone is in good health, doing neat things, and the summer is stretched out before us. 

But I still miss my mom.