". . . 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)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Last Week

Sick child.


Furniture moving and painting.

Husband out of town.

Practicing for upcoming gig.

'nough said.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Evan Goes to Children's Choir

Evan joined the after school children's choir (Schola Cantorum) a few weeks ago. It was a momentous occasion, not only because children's choir is a new experience for him, but because he was extremely nervous about the prospect. Oddly enough, my extroverted child who has no fear of playing for a piano recital had a lot of fears about being in children's choir. He was worried that he wouldn't know people. He was worried that he wouldn't know what to do. It was little comfort to him that his father is the director of the choir and his mother the accompanist or that he would be assigned a choir "buddy" to assist him as he learned. During the weeks leading up to his first rehearsal, he had several crying spells. Realizing that he was sincerely panicked about the prospect and not just trying to be difficult, we told him that he could start by observing and would not have to join until he was ready.

By week two he was ready. :-) Below are a few photos I took, not at his second rehearsal, but at his third. As you can see, he has totally bought in to the concept now. (The kid that loves to show off on the piano is still a little worried about having to wear a choir robe and having the congregation look at him when the choir sings. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. I find it odd that he is so shy about singing for the congregation. But then I think perhaps it is a reflection of the seriousness with which he approaches the liturgy, and that is kind of cool.)

Evan is in navy, center of front row. And by the way, this was a low attendance week. Our children's choir numbers seem to wax and wane over the years, and we are in a slightly lower year, but this is not the full group.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Random Thought of the Day

Last Sunday I watched some of the dedication ceremony for the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. I found it discouraging to see several of the speakers focus their remarks not on remembering Dr. King and his life and vision but on rehashing tired racial and class warfare tropes. Now don't get me wrong: I believe there is still racism. But I believe it is rare in this country and is something that cannot be addressed by political or governmental means. Racism is no longer an institutional phenomenon; this country has addressed it to the extent I think we legally and politically can; and I think the fact that we have elected a black President from one major party and have another black man leading the polls as a candidate for the other major party speaks volumes about how far we have come as a nation. And yet I think there are people who have so long defined themselves in terms of their minority status that they don't know how to stop doing so. It's almost as though if they acknowledge that things are getting better they will lose their purpose and identity. Furthermore, if they acknowledge that the thing they once agitated for has been achieved, their status as an injured group--and the power that comes with that status--becomes questionable.

It occurs to me that individuals sometimes do the same thing that aggrieved groups do, clinging to their injured status even when circumstances have changed to the point that they could let it go, and that they sometimes do so for the very same reason: because giving it up would mean they would not only lose some of the power associated with that status--because there often is power in weakness--but would also mean they would have to learn new ways of looking at themselves and interacting with the world, something that is hard to do when you have for so long operated within a certain framework.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekend Update

Because I can't think of anything else to write right now. Or more accurately, because the other things that I can think of to write require more time and brain exertion than I can currently allocate.

My husband is on a plane for Texas today. He will be picking up his deceased parents' dining room set from his sister, who has had it for several years, and bringing it back here to live in our house indefinitely. It will be a welcome change. Right now our dining room "set" is an odd assortment of mismatched garage sale pieces, including a table that no longer has any matching chairs (we are currently using folding chairs around it). My in-laws' set consists of a table with six chairs, a china cabinet, a small buffet, and a large buffet. I'll have to take before and after pictures and post them here.

I have lost track of how many times my husband has come and gone from our house the past few months, and he's not finished yet. This weekend it's Texas. Next weekend he's doing some church consulting in Colorado. After that he'll be providing music for a Doxology pastors' retreat, followed by presenting at a church music conference in Ontario. The guy gets around.

Tonight I will be attending the advance commitment dinner for our church's capital campaign to build a new wing for music and youth. Our keynote speaker will be none other than our new pastor, Rev. Jonathan Fisk. It promises to be a grand evening. The only thing that would make it better is if I had my date here to go with me.

I'm trying to get myself revved up to do some painting and staining. Our back sliding glass door, installed last year during a major home repair, is wood and has yet to be stained and varnished. It needs to be done and I think I can do it myself, but I keep putting it off. And then there's the dining room. Seems that the time to paint it is before you move the new furniture in, right? But then I would have to choose a color. And shop for paint. And move the current furniture out of the way. And actually do the painting, all before Monday night . . . .

Today was a beautiful day. We need more of these before winter sets in. We have SO much yard work to get done but it is very hard to find days that aren't filled up with other things.

Speaking of days, we are counting them until our college freshman will be home for Thanksgiving. Haven't seen him since Labor Day.

It seems like it has been a very long time since I have not had some part of my body hurting with an ache or pain. I know I need to exercise. But it seems there is always something more pressing to do. Like write a weekend update blog post.

Our home school studies are going well. I will have to write a separate post on that topic soon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Psalm 29

Last Sunday our adult choir at church sang this through-composed choral setting of Psalm 29, entitled "The Voice of the Lord," by contemporary composer Jonathan Kohrs. The piece was published by Liturgy Solutions and is available here. It has quickly become a favorite of our choir and congregation. The text of Psalm 29 is powerfully painted by the choir part and the piano accompaniment (featuring yours truly). The piece itself is not as hard as it sounds--it is challenging primarily in the rhythmic demands it makes due to changes in meter and shifts between a duple and triple feeling in the choir part. And it is long, but the minimalist/repetitive nature of the piece means there is not nearly as much music to learn as it might seem.

Our choir has sung this piece several times and I think this year we nailed it! I hope you will listen and be edified by "The Voice of the Lord."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Love Letter for My Daughter

In recent years as my daughter has turned into a young lady, people occasionally mistake us for one another (usually it's if they see me from behind or at a distance, not close up!). Caitlin and I are about the same size (although I think she has now barely passed me up in height) and we can share shoes and some of the same clothes. We both have rather full faces and lips and wavy hair. I take it as a compliment when people tell me we look alike because my daughter is absolutely gorgeous.

We also share some other similarities. Caitlin is a word girl like me. She is a reader, writer and musician. She thinks deeply. She is a little clumsy and not terribly athletic. She doesn't have a very good sense of direction (sorry honey--wish you had taken after your father in that area).

But in many ways my daughter and I are very different and as I consider those differences I find that the things about her that sometimes "challenge" me are also the things that I most admire about her. Here are a few examples.

My daughter is a dreamer. Her mind wanders easily but when it wanders it is often because she is pondering huge, profound and pivotal questions. She cares about the Big Ideas of life and she values truth, goodness and beauty. She is not only a musician and writer but also an artist. She is creative in a way that I am not. She can think outside the box and imagine something where there was nothing. I need people and events to write about; in her writing she creates not just people and events but whole worlds!

My daughter is not particularly task-oriented. She is easily distracted. But I wish sometimes I were more easily distracted. She takes time, if you will pardon the cliche, to smell the roses. And play with the bugs. And dig in the mud. And wish upon stars.

My daughter is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She does not avoid things because they might make a mess. Sometimes I wish she would notice and address the mess a little more than she does. ;-) But I could learn from her that life is meant to be lived, not cleaned and organized and put away.

My daughter is comfortable in her own skin. She is not a clothes horse or fashion maven or shopaholic. Actually, neither am I. But I admire that she worries little about appearances, hers or anyone else's, knowing that what makes people who they are is not what's on the outside, but what's on the inside.

My daughter is one of the most kindhearted and compassionate souls I have ever known. She is also highly moral and concerned with living a life of integrity. Sometimes the preceding two characteristics cause her to worry to excess, a trait I suppose she did get from me. Sorry about that one, too, honey.

And finally, my daughter is someone who is passionate about her passions and who pursues them passionately. :-) (By the way, she gets that from her father.) She doesn't walk through the house (how boring): she bounces, runs, and skips! Sometimes in the midst of it all certain things get overlooked or forgotten. Or broken. :-D But it is only because her heart is busy dreaming and her brain working and her soul embracing all that life has to offer. The overlooking and forgetting and breaking are things that she is working on. But you know what? If I had to make a choice, I would rather have a daughter who tramples a few plants as she's making her way through the forest than one who can't see the forest for the trees.

I love you, Caitlin. Thank you for being the kind of daughter I always dreamed of and the kind of person I am honored to call friend. Oh, and happy 16th birthday! ♥

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Weekend Update

It has been a week. Last Saturday my mom, who lives with us, was taken by ambulance to the ER with severe rectal bleeding. It turned out to be a diverticular bleed, for which we are thankful (this is a less serious condition than some other things it could have been), but the hospital stay extended to five nights because the amount of blood lost made my mom quite weak and necessitated a blood transfusion. She is now home. Unfortunately the timing of this incident made it necessary for me to cancel a weekend getaway to Nebraska with a group of my fellow Lutheran homeschool moms. I am very sad about that but am telling myself various things to ease the pain, such as--

1) I will be way more refreshed than they will be on Monday morning and will have marked several new items off my task list by that time.
2) There are about 20 people at this retreat and I am an introvert. It would have been an emotionally as well as physically exhausting time.
3) I'm not having to spend over 20 hours in the car.
4) I know am blessed, even though it often doesn't seem like it to me, to be able to care for my mom. (See Blessings, Inconvenient.)

(Of course, I would have gladly given up all of these benefits to get to go. But humor me. It makes me feel better to think about it in this way.)

So here I am. But I am not alone. I am also blessed to have my youngest son and daughter home this weekend, as well as my daughter's best friend, and we are planning a few fun activities together: a trip to the local independent bookstore followed by treats at the ice cream shop, and maybe a movie. Meanwhile my husband is coincidentally off to Nebraska himself to visit our oldest son at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where they will be attending the Nebraska-Ohio game today (Go Big Red)! That very wonderful husband offered to cancel his own Nebraska trip to stay home with my mom so I could go on my getaway, but he has not seen our son since Trevor left for college in August. So I said thanks, but no thanks.

Speaking of Trevor, he is thriving in his first year of college beyond my wildest dreams. I am not surprised that the academics are going well. But as his mother I had many worries about how he would handle things on his own that he has never had to handle before. Things that seem pretty basic, such as ordering a choir tux online or taking your pants to a tailor to be hemmed, can be rather challenging if you have never had to do them before. But he is doing great, not only with the life stuff but with the academic as well. He is majoring in music and has already risen to the top echelon of his piano teacher's studio, getting invited (as a freshman) to play for piano departmental recital and a visiting pianist's master class, and this coming week, competing in several competitions. That last item will necessitate a new life skill, too: riding a city bus (Trevor does not have a car and the competition is at a different school). But I am worrying less and less about his ability to handle these new experiences. I know he will figure them out. It helps that he has kept in very close contact with us all along the way. We talk on the phone every few days, which is just as helpful for us as it is for him, keeping us in the loop of his life. I am thankful he is sharing his days with us to the extent he is. It makes the separation much easier to take!

Trevor will be home for Thanksgiving, and by that time we will have had another extremely exciting development: the arrival of our new pastor! My church, which is a large suburban Chicago congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, has recently called a third pastor. Our three pastors will now be working together under a new ordering of their duties modeled on our church body's threefold emphasis: Witness, Mercy, and Life Together. As I understand it, our new pastor's emphasis will be Witness and will include work with missions, evangelism, and youth. If you want to see him in action, check out this video (the latest in a regular series that he puts out several times per week). In it he uses the occasion of his call to my church to do some general teaching about the Divine Call and then he goes on to do some Bible study on Romans 9. Watch. If this is your first time to meet Rev. Jonathan Fisk, you are in for a treat.

Sunshine, gorgeous fall weather, and cool & awesome kids await, so I am out of here for now to go enjoy some highly convenient blessings!

Monday, October 3, 2011


Before I can remember, the covenant was sealed
With Father, Son, and Spirit in water was revealed.
The cleansing was for certain, with water and the word;
His gentle words were spoken, in heaven they were heard.

They were singing water life, beginning life, water life, all my life
Water life, spirit life, water life.

A simple sweet beginning, a loving place to start:
Christ began the singing that swells within my heart.
His love became my calling, my life His ministry.
His name is my adoption into His family.

My hope and expectation for true community,
Begins with resurrection, His death and life in me.
His Spirit fills the body; His church through water sees
His promise for tomorrow, His water life in me.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Inconvenient Blessings

I'm guessing most of my readers are aware of Pat Robertson's comments on Alzheimer's disease a few weeks ago. He said that he would understand someone married to an Alzheimer's patient needing to seek out alternative companionship or even divorcing his spouse so as to marry someone else. When asked about the marital promise to remain faithful unto death, he responded by saying that Alzheimer's is a kind of death, in effect excusing the deserting or philandering spouse.

As one might expect, most of the ensuing discussion of Robertson's remarks has been negative, particularly among Christians. But it seems the condemnation of Robertson has centered on the harm done to the Alzheimer's patient and the repudiation of the promise made in marriage to remain with that person for life. I have seen little consideration of the harm that is done to the spouse who turns his or her back on the afflicted partner when frankly, that person suffers as much as or more than the one he turns his back on because through his actions he is impoverishing himself and his own heart and soul.

Several times over the past year I have had friends thank me for being a confidante to them in a time of struggle, praying for their needs or helping out in some more material way. Sometimes they have apologized for "bothering" me with their troubles. But in my experience, when the opportunity to help someone comes along and I actually take advantage of it (sinner that I am, I don't always do so), I benefit far more than the person I am supposedly helping. I pray and in so doing am brought closer to God. I offer encouraging words and the words come back in even greater measure. I offer a helping hand and am blessed by the experience. Even when the immediate situation seems messy or inconvenient or distasteful I know that God is using it for good and in the big picture of His plan I will be enriched.

I know I am not sharing anything revolutionary here (see Galatians 6). Paul says that we reap what we sow and instructs us to bear one another's burdens. But I think we can get so caught up in the sowing that we sometimes overlook the reaping. And the blessings come not just on the cosmic level, although I think that's part of it, but also on the immediate level in ways obvious and less so. The blessings are also not some sort of tit for tat--you did good so God is going to reward you--but rather a reflection of the way the world is. We don't live in bubbles, disconnected from one another. We are in this thing together. What goes around comes around. (See Donne, John, Meditation XVII)

Yes, when we sin, we sin against God and against others. But in so doing we inflict equal damage upon ourselves. By the same token, when we do good we bless ourselves as much as others. There is nothing new under the sun. Our words and deeds go out, bounce around in the world, and come right back to us. May they be of the sort that we are glad to see them headed back our way.