". . . 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)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Just Don't Sing It, Please

Yesterday Phillip called, and Evan and I answered the phone at the same time. After everyone said hello, Phillip asked Evan what he was doing. The conversation continued thus:

"Watching TV."

"Oh? What are you watching?"

Long silence.

"Well? What are you watching, Evan?"

More silence, then this:

"If I tell you, will you please not sing the song?"

Oh, the joys of being a cantor's kid.

The Waiting Place

What was I saying about time on my hands?

We are still waiting for someone to discover and fall in love with our home. It has been on the market a little over three weeks and we have had around a dozen showings. No negative feedback so far. It was reportedly on someone's A-list but we haven't heard anymore about that. I am finding it easier than I thought to keep it showing-ready. It helps that we cleared out a lot of clutter last month (we could still do more). Dusting is a breeze!

Trevor is back at school. While I was driving him, everyone here fell ill with a cold. A couple of days after I got home, I caught it, too. It seems to be hitting some of us worse than others. Yesterday was Day 5 for me and was, I hope, the low point, as I felt just awful. I am a little better today, although I am still tired and have very little voice.

Meanwhile, we got either some good or some bad news about my mom, depending on how you look at it. You may recall that she fell and broke her hip on Christmas Day, 2012. Two days later she had surgery to pin her hip with screws, followed by a long period of recovery and rehab. For a time after she got home she seemed to be getting along reasonably well. Then several months ago she started having increased pain. We went back to the orthopedic surgeon, but after taking a new x-ray he said the hip seemed to be holding fine. He said it did appear to have healed in a less-than-ideal position (the ball is slightly off-center in the socket). We talked about the possibility of a repeat surgery to do a full replacement--my mom had a previous broken hip about 7 or 8 years ago from which she recovered quite well after a replacement was done on that one. But the thought of another surgery was a bit overwhelming at the time so we decided to hold off and see how things progressed before making that decision.

Well, things have not progressed well. The pain has steadily increased. I am frustrated that it has taken so long for us to determine that it is indeed the hip that is causing the pain. For a while, since the last x-ray looked satisfactory, the working theory was sciatica. But an MRI didn't reveal any significant spinal or nerve issues. Four doctor visits later, the most recent of which was to a new orthopedic surgeon, we finally have our answer: the repaired hip bone is dying due to lack of blood flow. This is known as Avascular necrosis and is a common complication of broken hips. Why did the first surgeon not advise us that this would be a possibility, especially as my mom's pain started increasing? We might have saved several unnecessary doctor visits and addressed the root of her pain sooner. At this writing, she is having trouble walking at all, even while using her walker, without someone supporting her on the left side. Surgery is scheduled for Friday, so it is going to be a very long week. Tuesday I have to take her in for pre-surgical testing, which means getting in and out of the car several times, a very painful proposition.

It seems we have spent the last few years waiting for one thing or another. Apparently we are not done waiting--for my mom's surgery, for the house to sell, for that day when we will be together as a family again. I know that God is working these things out, as He works everything out for the children He loves. Maybe the house has not sold because we need to get Mom healthy before we move. And maybe I need to accept that all of life this side of heaven is just one big waiting room. No sooner do we get called in to keep one appointment than it's time to schedule the next. But I nevertheless keep hoping that one of these days we'll have a little time where there isn't some huge, looming date with destiny and we can just go home and sit a spell.

"And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you." (Ps. 39: 7)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On Second Thought

It's a blessed thing when as a parent you can learn from your child.

A few days ago I posted a video on Facebook. It was a response to the recent controversy about the performance of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke on the Video Music Awards, presented by a young wife and mother who has garnered quite a following for her blog and videos. I shared the video because it depicts a beautiful, strong and "modern" young woman extolling traditional values and chastity until marriage.  I think that is a message worth promoting, especially when it comes from someone who is already succeeding in an industry that usually celebrates an alternate view (Jae Tracie, the video blogger, identifies herself as a model, actress, and singer). But I did hesitate slightly before I posted it, and at the time I couldn't quite figure out why. (I've posted the video below if you want to watch. It isn't what it first appears to be.)

Then yesterday my daughter told me that she has been a little bothered by the video and the number of people sharing it. When I asked why, she explained that it seems to her that the video equates a certain type of behavior with the earning of respect. If you behave like a lady, you deserve respect; if you behave in another way, you don't. She made the point that the way a person behaves does not make him or her less worthy of honor. We are all God's children, created by Him. He loves us all, even though we don't deserve it. Are we not called to love one another in the same way? Miley Cyrus, and young women like her, are clearly confused. In many cases their parents have abandoned them to the culture. But they are still human beings deserving of respect. To heap disdain on them in the midst of their waywardness does not help. The videographer in question does not go after Miley personally, but she does make several contemptuous references to "skanky" women, an attitude which is dismissive of their humanity.

I think my daughter makes a great point. I have read the opinions of several others who ask why Miss Cyrus has received so much attention to the exclusion of the 36-year-old married man who was dancing with her. It's a good question. If anything, he has more to answer for than the 20-year-old girl.

Thank you, Caitlin, for teaching me. You are a wise and compassionate young woman, and I am blessed to call you daughter.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Well, it's that time again. Back to "school." Usually that means I need to spend some time studying the schedule and figuring out who needs to be where when, including myself. If it were a normal fall we would be planning on Tae Kwon Do and swimming one morning per week, homeschool co-op two mornings per week, and either community or church choir three afternoons/evenings per week (for a total of probably five different rehearsals to attend for either me to play or Caitlin or Evan to sing). Sprinkle in the piano students wherever you can fit them and the days fill up quickly.

But not this fall. This fall we are preparing for a move, with a timetable yet to be determined. We hope it will happen soon, as my husband is already living and working in our new town, but first we have to sell our house here. So even though the children and I remain behind, we have cleared the schedule of all the aforementioned activities. I don't want to pay for classes that we will likely not finish. I can't commit to accompany a choir when I will likely not be here at concert time. Our new church choirs are rehearsing about 700 miles away. That's a bit too far to commute!

What this means is that as I consider my schedule for next week, with only a few piano students here and there (several have already found a new teacher), the landscape of my life is emptier than it has been in a very long time. How often have I dreamed of days like this, where there is time to spend more than 30 minutes throwing together a meal, or to actually plan lessons or get lost in our studies without constantly checking the clock, or to work on making our home more comfortable. But that sort of time has always been elusive. For most of my life as a wife and mother I have worked at least part-time. Now I find myself looking at about two hours of gainful employment per week.

It's a beautiful thing! But it is also a little scary. I have always wanted time. It appears that for now I have some. Yes, I have a mother to care for and two children still at home. But that's less responsibility than I've had for a while. With a husband and college-age son currently out of the house, even the laundry and cooking have decreased. So, no more excuses. It's time to carpé diem! The question is, do I remember what I did with the carpé? And where I put that diem? And if I find them, how long will it be until we sell the house and it's time to put them away again?

I think, before answering those questions, I might just take a walk. :-)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Today . . .

. . . I dropped my son off for his junior year of college. Two years ago on this day my husband took this picture of him walking into his dorm. After he disappeared from our sight I had a long, loud cry in the front seat of the car, my dear husband doing his best to comfort me before we drove away.

Today I didn't take a picture. I didn't cry. Today as he moved in to his room, I just felt happy and proud and excited beyond words to see my son returning to the thing he has chosen for himself at this time in his life, the thing that God has prepared for him and that gives him purpose and drives his days. What better place could there be for him than this?

I don't know whether this means he is growing up or I am.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Up to the Minute

A summary of current happenings.

Phillip's installation at our new church is Sunday afternoon. The children and I are flying to Oklahoma tomorrow. The installation will perhaps be a little unusual in that Phillip himself is playing for it. This reflects the fact that he has already played at Immanuel for several weeks, having taken up his duties there last month, as well as our new pastor's desire to introduce Phillip and his musical gifts to the surrounding community. The installation service will be in the afternoon to allow for the attendance of those from other congregations. It will begin with pre-service music by others, and Phillip will be installed at the beginning of the service, at which point he will take the musical "reins" for the remainder of the service. The children and I are participating in the music as well. The service will be a celebration not only of my husband's new position but also of the blessed gift of music and its power to magnify and adorn our Lord's holy Word.

Our house officially went on the market last week. We had a number of showings the first few days, but since then traffic has slowed down. I am hoping it will increase again heading into the weekend. I'm pleased with all we were able to do, both on our own and with the help of our handyman, to spruce things up. Our house looks great! Now to keep it looking great while we keep living in it!

Phillip came into town for several days this week. The trip was partly to check on us, partly to fulfill a musical commitment in the area. He is leaving again today to drive to Oklahoma so that he can pick us up at the airport tomorrow!

Trevor is home for one more week, and then he heads back to Nebraska to start his junior year.

Caitlin's college search has reached a new level of seriousness. We are now visiting schools! She continues to consider how she might be best able to serve her neighbor in the years to come, and her journey is a wonderful thing to witness. We subscribe to a Biblical and traditional view of the family, and I pray that her adult life will be one that includes a husband and children and a parent as the primary caregiver of those children. But we also believe in encouraging our daughter to prepare for more than motherhood. We don't know if or when God will bless her with her own family. Right now there is no sign of that on the horizon and her talents, interests and abilities are wide-ranging. We are excited to see her pursue them beyond the walls of our home school.

And then there's Evan. The little boy who several years ago would barely go out in the back yard because of a deep set fear of bees (he was stung several times the previous year) is now spending hours swinging every day. The grass below his swing is dying. It is a beautiful sight to behold.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I wonder

Lately I have been thinking about the average German citizen during WWII. It is often asked how people could stand by while their government did the things it did. How could they not take a stand against the evil that was occurring? How could they look the other way? As I see what is happening to my country I wonder if the answer, for some, might be that they did try. They did their best. They voted. They talked to their friends. They taught their children. They prayed. But no matter what they did it seemed it didn't matter. No one listened. No one understood, or if they did, they also had no power  to change things. And so eventually they gave up. They quit paying attention to the news. They quit hoping for change. They resigned themselves to a world out of control and turned their focus to doing what they could for the people in their immediate sphere of influence, hoping that at least there they might make a difference.

Anyway, that's what I wonder.

Like Father, Like Son

Trevor served as substitute organist at our neighborhood Lutheran church for six weeks this summer. It has been a great learning experience for him. I don't know if he will be a Lutheran cantor like his father, but I know that like his father he is a fine singer and organist and that he will use his talents to serve the church when and where he is able. Here are a few videos I recorded today, his last day to play at Divine Shepherd.

This piece was played as the Prelude, but my recording of it failed so I asked Trevor to play it again after church (thus the background noise).

"Jesu, Meine Freude," BWV 610, from Das Orgel-Büchlein - J. S. Bach from Cheryl on Vimeo.


"Jesus, My Joy" from Seventy-Nine Chorales for the Organ, Op. 28, No. 42 - Marcel Dupré from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Post-communion meditation, also recreated after the service. It is a very soft piece so is a little hard to hear with the other noise going on, but I think it is SO pretty.
Intonation on ROCKINGHAM OLD from Sonus Novus, Vol. 1 - Kenneth Kosche from Cheryl on Vimeo.


"God of Grace" from Ten Chorale Improvisations, Set 5 - Paul Manz from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Visit to Shedd Aquarium

We have been trying to fill our remaining time in Chicagoland with some important "lasts": last trips to favorite places, last times to eat at restaurants that we won't be able to find in Oklahoma, last visits with friends, etc. Yesterday we went to Shedd Aquarium with one of Evan's best friends in the area and his mom. Circumstances have prevented Evan and his friend Evan (yes, they have the same name!) from seeing each other this past year, so this was an important get-together, not only for the sake of fun but for the sake of closure. It was a very good day and I did take a few pictures.

Waiting for the dolphin show.

Petting the sting rays.


I am hoping that these two will be able to maintain their friendship across the miles. It is easier to do that these days--some of my dearest friends are long distance ones. And they are old enough to do so now and to not forget each other. There is just something special about their relationship. They have always seemed to "click." My Evan sometimes has trouble interacting with children his own age. He takes things so much to heart, and he sometimes misinterprets the playful words and actions of others. But he and his friend Evan seem to understand each other. I am sad they haven't been able to spend as much time together as they once did, and I am sad that my little boy has to leave this friend behind. Thank you to The Other Evan and his mom for being such good friends. We will miss you.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What Is Essential?

Just preserving a thought I had a few days ago. It has to do with music and worship. As my friends and long-time readers know, I believe the historic liturgy of the church is a gift of which we are foolish to deny ourselves. It is, after all, nothing more than God's word for His people, and to jettison it in favor of something less grounded in Scripture is to impoverish our worship life. I think this is the primary problem with that modern worship phenomenon known as the praise band. Typically, to make room in the service for the band's songs, portions of liturgy are removed. The problem is not primarily one of instrumentation but of substance.

But there is another problem, one having to do not with substance but with logistics, that is more typical of praise band services than it is of traditional services. In my experience the service that utilizes a praise band relies so heavily on the band that were the band not there, there would be very little service left. There would be a few prayers and a sermon, but without the band there to lead (perform?) lengthy musical medleys and interludes, there would not be much else. I think this is a problem. No liturgy should stand or fall on the presence (or lack thereof) of any one musician or musical ensemble, and the congregation should not come expecting to hear a certain soundtrack. And I think in most traditional settings such is the case. The focus is not on who is sitting on the organ bench, or which cantor is leading the psalm, or which choir is assisting with the liturgy and hymns, but rather on Word and Sacrament. But in a service that takes its identity from the presence of a praise band, what happens when that group is not there? Does it all fall apart? Is the thing that remains, or that which is substituted, so foreign to those assembled that they don't know what to do or how to participate? Do they feel as though they have been deprived? If so, that is a problem.

To be fair, I think it is possible for the same pitfall to happen in traditional worship. If worship is no longer worship because it is not led by a pipe organ or because a certain preacher is not in the pulpit, that is a problem, too.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How to Be a Grown-up

Katie Schuermann at He Remembers the Barren has a post today that is not just for those who are childless. (Truth be told, nothing at Katie's blog is for the childless only. It is a site dripping with Gospel comfort for all who live under the cross.)

Katie's target audience is the barren woman who is the victim of unwanted counsel from well-meaning, and sometimes not so well-meaning, advice givers. She acknowledges that while there are those clueless louts whose unthinking bowling ball comments flatten the recipient with their cruelty, most people will follow the lead of the one with whom they are conversing and will not walk through a door that has not been opened:

So, let’s give the world a break and take some responsibility for the conversations we keep. Let’s not blog-blame others for finishing the conversations we start ourselves and, instead, kindly explain to our friends and acquaintances face-to-face what we need most from them.

It's good advice for all of us. I have on more than one occasion watched as someone who is facing challenges in his life in the area of parenting, health, job, church, or something else has become indignant when, after bemoaning his situation, the one to whom he was belly-aching presumed to offer advice. I have done it myself. It soon becomes clear that what is wanted is not advice but sympathy. Fine. But it is unreasonable, once the subject is raised, to be offended when the person with whom you raised the subject offers some comment upon it.

Thank you, Katie, for your wise counsel. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.