". . . 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, February 24, 2013

Blogging Slowdown

You may have noticed a downturn in posts the past week. It will probably continue a while longer, for several reasons. Number one, I am in my busiest piano season, playing for various school competitions (and the requisite rehearsals) in addition to normal practices for the ensembles I accompany. Number two, it is Lent, which means more time spent attending midweek services and extra rehearsals for Easter. Number three, my mom continues in rehab, so I am still making multiple trips each week to the facility that is caring for her (we recently moved her and are much happier with her new accommodations). And number four, I have been sick. I don't know if I had one cold, started to get better and then relapsed, or if I got a new and different cold on the heels of the first one. Either way, I have been dragging through all of the above for a couple of weeks now and still don't feel anywhere near my normal level of energy. I am supposed to be going to therapy for my foot but haven't had time. Luckily my foot seems to be doing okay. I have been almost exclusively wearing athletic shoes with custom orthotics ever since I got out of the boot.

Last night I went to bed at 8:30 and slept until 6:30 this morning. Thank you for enabling that, family! I needed the sleep--even being sick I have had my share of insomniac nights. I would like to blame something that happened earlier this week on fatigue and illness rather than on general stupidity. I filled in as accompanist at Caitlin's community youth choir rehearsal and ended up having to play the rehearsal with my bifocals rather than my prescription reading glasses because, I assumed, I had left the reading glasses at home. (My readers are preferred for playing piano because the bifocals require that I throw my head back to get the necessary magnification, a posture that causes neck and back pain in short order.) Anyway, I discovered later that no, I didn't leave the readers at home but rather switched them out with my bifocals in order to drive to rehearsal and left them sitting in my lap, whence, gravity being what it is, they fell to the ground when I stood up and got out of the car. There they lay for about three hours until I sorted out the mystery and drove back to retrieve them. By that time, they had been irredeemably stepped on or driven over, take your pick. Bummer. I now have a new $7.99 pair of readers from Target. The insurance plan does allow for me to get new glasses this year but I would like those to be a new pair of bifocals.

Ah, well. It all pales when I think about next week. In eight days we will be driving to Nebraska to see Trevor play with the UNL Symphony Orchestra! Here's a preview showing the orchestra in rehearsal, first with the graduate concerto winner and then with Trevor (the undergraduate winner). I can't wait!

The Human Condition

Last night as I tucked Evan into bed he told me, "Mom, there's something about my life I don't like."

Of course I wanted to know what he was talking about. "Really, Evan? What?"

"Well, it seems like every day I either hurt myself or something bad happens."

Sigh. I know, honey. It's all right there in Genesis 3. Thank God that wasn't the end of the story. Revelation 21:4, we're counting on you. Come, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ashless Wednesday

Last night was our first Ash Wednesday at our new church. Even though it was Ash Wednesday, we didn't have imposition of ashes. When I discovered our new church doesn't "do" ashes, I was disappointed. For years, both as a Lutheran and previously as a Roman Catholic, I have associated the beginning of the season of Lent with the receiving of ashes on my forehead. Last night as we drove to church I decided I better let Evan know there wouldn't be ashes. I was surprised at how disappointed he was--so much so that he cried a little. To comfort him I tried to help him to see that the ashes are only a symbol--a meaningful one, for sure, but still just a symbol. I contrasted the imposition of ashes with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, pointing out that the sacraments are not symbols but are means by which God gives to us His grace and forgiveness. We need them--our spiritual life depends on them. But we don't need the ashes. God does not work through the ashes. We will not be deprived of what is truly needful if we don't get them. Maybe all of this seems terribly elementary, but I think it helped Evan to see the difference between something that is a symbol and something that is not, and to realize that the symbol might be a nice tool to aid our remembrance and our reflection, but it is not essential to our salvation and therefore not necessary to our worship life.

Guess what? I don't think any of us missed the ashes last night. The service was so beautiful and rich in God's word and sacraments, and the theme of Ash Wednesday so powerfully communicated in the liturgy, that the message came through unequivocally without them: "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4) If our new church ever decides to include imposition of ashes, or if we ever attend a church in the future where we have the opportunity to partake in this outward acknowledgement of our sinful, mortal flesh, I will probably participate. But I don't need ashes on my forehead to tell me what I already know: I am a poor, miserable sinner who, like Adam, was formed from dust and will return to dust. What I absolutely do need, to redeem me from that awful truth, is the salvation and forgiveness of sins that come through Holy Baptism and Communion, which are not mere symbols but conduits of the Father's love and grace.

To read one Lutheran pastor's thoughts about why his confessional, liturgical church has made an intentional decision against the imposition of ashes in its Ash Wednesday service, click here.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Early February Update

The orthopedic boot came off yesterday. I also had my first therapy yesterday. All is going well. The ultrasound the day before yesterday showed not a tear but simple, garden variety tendonitis, probably already improved due to a week in a boot. It was weird when I first walked without the boot. The whole leg--not just the foot--felt weak. My knee occasionally threatens to buckle. I don't get that, since my knee was not injured, but maybe it's just not being well supported by the foot and ankle? I am very glad that I had my mom's cane, stair lift, and shower chair to help me through the last week. And I have learned my lesson. No serious walking in anything but my custom orthotics in the future. 

I am very glad I got out of the boot before Solo & Ensemble season kicks off in earnest this week.

Phillip is in St. Louis right now for a board meeting for our church body. He is deep into the second module of his colloquy program. It is taking all of his non-work time, but at least he can do it from the easy chair in our bedroom! Let's hear it for technology (and comfy chairs).

We had our second wimpy round of snow this week. Evan finally did get a little snow play, but nothing like this

Willard the puppy continues to impress us. We truly think we got the perfect dog. We have a doggy door that he learned to use right away. Lately we have been keeping it shut for periods of time so that he doesn't go out on his own and come back in all muddy without someone wiping off his feet. A few days ago the doggy door had been shut for a while and Willard went over to it then returned to the sliding glass door, sat down, looked at me, and gave out one sharp bark. I let him out. I love that dog. 

It seems that for a very long time now I have not been able to motivate myself to give the house the attention I would like. We're not living in filth. But I am not the organization and cleanliness maven I used to be. When I was young I would clean the whole house in one day and then enjoy that clean feeling for a little while. Now I can't physically clean the whole house in one day, even with help. There just isn't time. So I never get the pleasure of that clean feeling and I think that is a deterrent. Why bother? But I need and want to bother. I have decided I need to let go of the concept of a clean house and just make it my goal to clean or organize at least one thing per day. I guess if I at least get a closet clean I can go and sit in the clean closet for a while. We'll see how that strategy goes.

While we're on the subject of keeping house, can I just say here for the record that I am not a foodie? I am so not a foodie. All those people on all the cooking shows talking at warp speed about food leave me scratching my head. Who cares? I would be overjoyed to never have to shop, cook, or for that matter, eat, again. (Unless it's chocolate.) I know people who love to think about food and plan for it and who get intense aesthetic satisfaction from talking about it and looking at it and eating it. My husband is one. Poor man, he married someone who would be happy to subsist on bread and water. 

There. True confession. I feel better. Are we still friends?

P.S. I still owe you another Washington, D.C., post.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


I have previously written about my foot issues. I have managed them fairly well the last few years through the wearing of better shoes or shoes with orthotics. But last week within several days of returning from Washington, D.C., I was having the most trouble I've had in a long time. I can't point to any one moment the trouble started. I didn't notice it while we were walking around the city (other than what I would consider normal fatigue) or even for a couple of days after. But by Tuesday of last week I was having enough pain in my left foot* that it hurt to stuff my foot into a shoe and it hurt to walk and bear weight. I wasn't able to get to the doctor until Thursday. The x-ray looked good, so no fracture (I would have been really surprised if there had been one). I will have an ultrasound in a few days, but my podiatrist's working diagnosis is injury to my posterior tibial tendon.

If you look at the tendon in the drawing, the place where it curves around the inner ankle area before disappearing under the foot is the place where I am having pain. It may just be that all the walking on my aging, out of shape feet (walking that I did in my Birkenstocks rather than my orthotics) caused some tendonitis**. Worst case scenario is that my tendon is torn. At any rate, here is my new friend for the foreseeable future.

It does not surprise me that my left foot is the one that is protesting. It is the same foot that has the Morton's neuroma. The left side of my body is the side that provides me with all kinds of fodder for complaining. When I have shoulder, back, hand, or knee pain, it is on the left side. My D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) has told me that my left leg is shorter than my right leg. Kind of surprising that I lean to the right, huh? ;-) The hidden blessing is that since it's my left foot I can still drive and use the damper pedal! (The soft pedal is another story--sorry that final chord on the choral offering was louder than it should have been this morning, honey.)

The boot has helped a lot, making it possible to walk without pain. It has also complicated my life, making it harder to get around, harder to get dressed, and harder to keep my foot dry in snowy, rainy weather. But I'm walking, and that's a good thing!

*It probably did not help that on Monday I dropped an exercise weight on it.

**This is how I want to spell this word. I don't understand the logic of spelling it "tendinitis."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Not From a Lutheran Pastor . . .

. . . but still one of the best things I have read in a while about what it means to be a pastor.  (Disclaimer: I have read nothing else on this blog, don't know the writer's "angle," and am not promoting his blog as a whole. But I really liked this post, which I saw linked elsewhere and thought worth sharing here.)

An excerpt:

". . . if the function of being an elder [read: pastor] . . . is to nurture the spiritual development and growth of his brothers and sisters in the church, maybe the first thing [to do] would be to spend time praying for those people? And then maybe you could spend time with them? Perhaps you might decide to read books about how to listen more, or how to encourage people? You might also want to try doing all of these things without an ulterior motive like wanting to use your influence on people to get them to do stuff, or to give you money, or to volunteer for something. Just love them and listen to them and bless them and encourage them because you love them, and because you genuinely feel called –and gifted – by God to care for people.

"See, Pastors who are obsessed with leadership are like husbands who expect to improve their marriages by reading books about monster trucks. Not only is leadership not related to loving people, it will train you to become more self-focused and less others-focused.

"Books about leadership make you a better leader – in the worldly, CEO, 'I’m the boss' sense of the word – but if you really want to learn how to please Jesus and be the best 'shepherd' you can be, just focus on learning how to love people more, and to serve people more. It’s what Jesus did. It’s also what Jesus commanded us to do. He got down on his knees and washed the feet of this disciples, and then he said, 'Now that you know these things you will be blessed . . . if you do them' (Not if you read them, or if you know them, but only if you 'do' them)."

(by Keith Giles, January 30, 2013, subversive1.blogspot.com)