". . . 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)

Monday, December 31, 2018

I am baptized!

"Should the Christian stand all day long at the grave of all joys which he enjoyed in past years? Through Holy Baptism a great stream of joy has been conducted in his heart, which does not drain away, but streams forward with his life until its waves carry him into the sea of a blessed eternity. Should the Christian be reminded all day long that the flowers of his youth fall more and more? He stands planted by God in the water of his Baptism as a palm tree which becomes greener and greener and whose leaves never wither. Yes, his Baptism makes death for him like a short winter's nap, out of which an eternal spring--an eternal youth--follows. . . .
"Now then, all of you who believe in God's Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this: 'I am baptized!' Although the world may laugh at this comfort, the enthusiasts vex its confidence . . . nevertheless, abandon any other dearly held pledges and speak only throughout the entire year to come, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death: 'I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!' And you shall prevail! In every time of need, you will find comfort in your Baptism; on account of it Satan will flee from your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened and will finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year of jubilee, a year of praise, with all the angels forever and ever. Amen!" - C. F. W. Walther

Sunday, December 30, 2018

In the Blink of an Eye

I couldn't sleep Friday night. It was my first bad bout with insomnia in some time--the kind where your brain goes in circles and just won't turn off. I am never sure what brings it on, but in this case I think a contributing factor was news of the death of a young woman of my knowledge. I didn't know her personally, but I knew of her, as she was on staff at a news outlet for which I have written. Her death was a huge shock, as she was not only young but seemingly strong and healthy. According to what I have read, friends saw her a couple of days before she died, and she seemed fine. Early reports attributed her death to complications from H1N1 influenza. She was found, unresponsive, by a friend, who called 911. She later died in the hospital.

I am once again reminded of how tenuous is our grasp on life. It's a cliche, but it's true: at any given moment, we are only a few heartbeats/inhalations away from death. The young woman who died is the same age as my firstborn. At the age of 26, she had already achieved a remarkable degree of success, fame and respect, at a level most of us will never attain. And now, in the blink of an eye, she's gone. I think of my own children, and how well they're all doing in their respective pursuits, and how healthy and (mostly) happy they are. Could something like this happen to one of them? Could they go from peak productivity and well-being to death in a matter of two days? Could my husband or I?

The answer is terrifying to ponder. It's so easy, when things are going well, to take life and its blessings for granted. Our family has had its rough patches, but compared to what some people have had to contend with--are contending with--we have had it pretty good. As I reflect on how good--and for how long--I find myself thinking that it's just a matter of time before Something Bad happens. Why should we be free of trouble? There's no reason we should. We are no more deserving of smooth sailing than the next wretched sinner. We live in a fallen world. Death, the devil, and our own sinful natures are always lurking, plotting to snatch the joy and beauty that are to be had this side of heaven.

What is to be done? Does it help to stay awake analyzing and planning and worrying all night long? Does it make it less likely that Something Bad will happen?

Of course not. Then why do I do it? Why do you?

Because we are faithless. We don't trust that God our heavenly Father is really and truly holding us in His hands. If we did, why would we worry or fear for anything?

Thank God that when we are faithless, He remains faithful. Thank God that He forgives me for too often allowing pointless worrying and obsessing to drown out the peace and comfort that are to be found in His Word. Thank God that even when we can't seem to see, hear, feel, or find Him, He is nonetheless at work, turning all things for good for those who trust in Him.

Please say a prayer today for a family that is facing a kind of pain and loss many of us blessedly can't even begin to imagine. Lord, let them know your love, and grant them your hope and comfort.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Raking Leaves, Then and Now

So, you know that thing people do where they re-stage old photos years later?

Pics on left are from Nov. 4, 2009, in Bolingbrook, Illinois.

Pics on right are from today, Nov. 22, 2018, in High Ridge, Missouri.

Some things have changed.

A lot has not. :-)

We are thankful for it all.




Mom and Evan


Trevor and Caitlin

Willard and Dad weren't there that day in 2009 (Willard wasn't even born), but here they are today.

Here's the post from 2009.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Happy Baptismal Discovery

I was baptized when I was an infant, but I did not grow up knowing or being reminded of my baptismal birthday the way my husband and I have always reminded our own children of theirs. I'm sure I must have had to look up the date when I was confirmed as a Lutheran in my early 20s, but I pretty quickly forgot it again.

A few months ago, as we transferred to a new church after moving to Missouri, I had to look up the date for our new church's records. I don't remember having to do this for other times we have transferred. Perhaps the date was somewhere in my membership record and other churches simply shared it with each other.

Anyway, what a happy discovery it was to go looking for my baptismal birthday only to find out that I was baptized on November 1, 1964. November 1 is not only All Saints' Day, but it is also the date my oldest child was baptized in 1992.

Trevor, we have the same baptismal birthday!

I will never forget this date again.

"We share by water in His saving death.
Reborn, we share with Him an Easter life
As living members of a living Christ.
("We Know That Christ Is Raised," Lutheran Service Book 603)

Monday, July 2, 2018

Still growing up

Over the last few weeks I have on two occasions behaved in a way that made me stop and think, "Wait, was that really me?"

In the first instance, I was on a road trip with the kids, attending a wedding in Nebraska and then circling back through Iowa City so that Trevor could check on his apartment and we could all attend the dedication of a new pipe organ at his church there.

After the organ dedication service, we went to eat at a place we've been to before. It's a small, "crunchy" establishment with delicious wraps, sandwiches, soups and salads. We ordered and received our food and were about halfway through our meal when the background music suddenly took a turn and we found ourselves listening to a song that repeatedly used the "F" word.

I got up, went to the front counter, asked the worker to change the channel, and told him why. To his credit, he quickly and politely complied.

In the second instance, I was again out with the kids to see a movie this past weekend. Without going into detail, let's just say I found the ticket-taker highly lacking in courtesy. He responded to us extremely rudely not once, but twice. Young Cheryl would have most likely moved on but grumbled about his sour attitude. Older Cheryl told him, "You are being very rude."

Twenty years ago, I would not have found it so easy to assert myself in either of these situations. I am not sure what has brought about the change, but it's kind of nice to know I can still learn a new skill!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Future pastor?

A couple of weeks ago Evan and I were watching a TV program when an Amber alert rolled across the bottom of the screen. I shook my head in sadness and went on watching the show. A few moments later I noticed that Evan was not looking at the screen but was bent over with his head in his hands. I asked him what he was doing. "Praying," he said. Oh. Of course. That would be the thing to do at such a time, wouldn't it? Funny how my 14-year-old thought of it and I didn't.

More recently, Evan and I had supper at the home of friends--a pastor and his family. Another pastor was also present for the meal. When we arrived at the home, Evan asked if he could take his Bible in and ask a few questions. I said of course--pastors live for such times! So while I hung out in the kitchen with the lady of the house, Evan sat in the living room, Bible in hand, grilling not one, but two pastors about theology.

In the past when people have asked Evan what he wants to be when he grows up, the answer has been something related to computers or video games. Lately, though, it's been "maybe a pastor."

I am not sure whether to feel proud or terrified.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

All moved in

One week and one day after we moved in, I finally have a free moment to write an update. It is a rainy Saturday here in High Ridge, Missouri. Saturday! I suddenly have a new appreciation for Saturdays.

If you are on Facebook you may have already seen a few of these pics, but there are also a few new ones.

We had our closing last week on Friday morning and then, keys in hand, drove straight to the house. Shortly after we arrived, so did the moving van.

Move-in went well. We had a very good team who worked hard to get us settled.

These next three pics are actually from the walk-through the night before closing. The previous owners left us flowers and a handwritten card with much helpful information. Our realtor gave us wine and chocolate-covered strawberries!

You aren't really moved in until the piano is moved in.

New peek-through spot.

Happy Evan and Willard.

Welcome committee. (Hunting friends, just so you know, the deer in this neighborhood are not the edible kind.)

After a week, the kitchen is almost unpacked! These things take a bit longer when you're working full-time!

Last night was the first night we actually slept in the house! Since we didn't have appliances yet, Evan and I spent the week sleeping at the rent house. The appliance situation has been somewhat frustrating. The laundry room is not large. It also has a utility sink. That, plus the fact that the dryer hookup is on the left and the dryer door opens to the right, necessitated this arrangement for me to be able to access the dryer. 

Although it doesn't look like it, there is sufficient room for me to work. The problem is that, as arranged, the line to connect the dryer to the washer's water supply (to enable the dryer's steam function) did not reach. So I have no steam on a dryer that is supposed to have a steam function. I haven't given up, though. I'm wondering if a plumber might be able to provide a longer line. 

In other appliance woes, the refrigerator I bought is too wide for the freezer door to open without quickly hitting the wall and limiting access. 

I had measured to make sure the unit fit the space, but failed to think through the ramifications of the refrigerator being against a wall. So this fridge is going back and a 3-inch narrower one is coming. Lowe's is being great about letting us use this one in the meantime. They will pick it up in a week and trade it out with no restocking fee. And in an unexpected turn of event$ for a narrower unit, we are getting a little more cubic footage in a French door model with a utility drawer. Oh, darn. 

This morning I was feeling very frustrated facing all the appliance issues (did I mention that the valve for the refrigerator water line is now dripping?) while preparing to take my husband back to the airport after he was here for barely 24 hours. (He was supposed to come Thursday but didn't come until yesterday due to his flight's being cancelled for weather.) How quickly thankfulness can turn to exasperation. 

Reflecting on the morning, though, it occurred to me that had I bought the narrower refrigerator right off the bat, we would have gone another week without a fridge, as the replacement is having to be ordered. As it turns out, I have a fridge that I will be able to use in the meantime while I'm waiting for one that will fit better. I found my exasperation turning to thankfulness as I observed yet again the Lord's capacity for taking the difficulties in our lives and working them out for good. Then I found myself wondering if that is a rather self-centered way to look at it. As if God cares about my refrigerator when there are parents mourning children who went to school last week, never to come home. 

Yet I know that God cares about every aspect of our lives and that indeed He is present, working out all the details for the ultimate blessing of those who trust in Him. I don't know if He had anything to do with our appliance struggle. But I do know that we are called to cast all of our cares, large and small, upon Him, knowing that in all things He cares for us, and that because of that knowledge we are able, in all situations, to give thanks. So thank you, God, for a new house, a crowded laundry room, a refrigerator that doesn't fit, a home warranty to provide a plumber, and a husband that is fulfilling his call as both a cantor and a husband and father. It is good to be home. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Last Night

A little over 26 months ago, just a few days after we moved from our Oklahoma rental home into what we thought would be our Oklahoma forever home, I took this picture:

Tonight I took this one:

"Forever" is looking different from what we had planned, and tomorrow we will leave this place behind. How fondly we will remember our time here. That view!--oh, that view. What a salve it has been to weary hearts. How many mornings and evenings we have passed just sitting, gazing, basking in sunrises and sunsets more beautiful than we could have ever envisioned, drinking coffee, or wine, or caipirinhas as we watched a boy and his dog romp among the fireflies or head across the common ground to feed the neighborhood horses some apples.

I'm sad to think of leaving a home we have loved as much as any place we've ever lived, but in a few years that boy is going to be headed off to college, and his dog is going to feel less like romping, and as much as I pictured this view with grandchildren in it some day, I think maybe it's better that on Wednesday morning we will be turning over the keys to a family of 7 who needs the space and yard a lot more than we do at this time in our lives. I am so thankful for the short time we had here, even as I trust that God has wonderful times in store for us about 375 miles up the road in a place called High Ridge. I think the grandchildren, if and when we have some, will be able to find us there, don't you?

I'll be back in a few days to post our first pics of our new home. :-)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

From Texas to Illinois to Oklahoma to . . .

Almost 25 years ago we packed up what little we had and moved from Texas to central Illinois. We took a baby with us, but not a piano. The piano had to be sold because we needed the cash and also because the tiny place we could afford in Illinois had no room for a piano.

About 7 years later we moved again, this time from central Illinois to the Chicago suburbs. In a turn of events my husband and I would have never predicted when we were growing up and attending school in Texas, that house in the Chicago suburbs ended up being the longest place either of us has ever lived in our lives. We spent 14 years there. We gave ourselves, heart, mind and soul, to building a life there. We (mostly) reared our children there. We got a lot older and tireder there.

Then life took an unexpected turn. In another development we would have never predicted, we wound up in Oklahoma. Oklahoma?

Yes, Oklahoma. God knew exactly what we needed, and he brought us to a place of love and rest and patience and beauty. It ended up being the place my mom died. She is buried here, in a quiet, peaceful location, and for that I give thanks. Oklahoma, how good you have been to us. We hope we have been half as good for you.

Now we prepare for one more move, one we hope and pray will be our last for a very long time. In a few weeks we will pack up our Oklahoma house and move to Missouri, where I have been working in a job I love for the last six months. We are excited but sad. We will miss this place. We wish we could take the house, church and people with us. We will always be grateful for our time here.

For the foreseeable future my husband will continue working in Oklahoma, staying with friends and making regular trips to Missouri. He is working with our church to help them find a suitable replacement and to aid in the transition. In the meantime, Evan will join me in Missouri and prepare for his own new adventure: Lutheran high school! He is so excited about the prospect, if a little nervous about the changes coming.

We would appreciate your prayers for this transition, for our family's eventual arrival together in one place, and for my husband's vocation as we wait upon the Lord's direction for how he can best serve his neighbor in the years to come.

 P.S. We're taking the piano with us.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mid-January update

I am back at work in St. Louis and finally over the December sickness, yay! Praying I avoid whatever is now going around my workplace. From the descriptions of what some of my coworkers are experiencing, I think it might be the same bug, which should mean I am immune, right?

Caitlin has been in St. Louis with me this week, which has been wonderful. I kinda like that girl. Yesterday we joined some of the LCMS Communications team in attending the Chicago March for Life. We left at 7:00 a.m. and returned about 18 hours later.

On the way in our nice, warm van.

Lunch at Nando's. 

On the right is the social media manager for The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. He does superb work. You can catch a few of his live videos from the march here. Unfortunately, the cold was a major drain on all our devices, including the livestream camera, which shut down before the march was over.

We have eyes of life!

On the way home we stopped for gas in Bolingbrook, Illinois, where we lived from the time Caitlin was 4 until she was 18. She has many memories of this city, as well as of Chicago, and would like to go back for a longer visit. We hope to do that when it's a little warmer. 

Much of our drive home was in snow. This is my back yard in St. Louis this morning.

Today I drive Caitlin back to college for her final semester as an undergrad! In May she will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a French minor. Boy, did those four years go by quickly.

Meanwhile, here's Trevor back at school at University of Iowa, where he is beginning his second semester of his doctoral program in piano performance. Next to Trevor is his current teacher at Iowa, Ksenia Nosikova. Next to her is his former teacher at University of Nebraska, Paul Barnes, who recently visited the U of I campus. Next to Dr. Barnes is a high school student who formerly studied privately with him in Nebraska but who, after a family move to Iowa, now studies privately with Dr. Nosikova. It is a small musical world!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Useful phrase

So I learned a new phrase over Christmas break. My college kids taught it to me, and I'm liking it more and more. Here it is in case you want to try it out.

"Quit harshing my mellow." 

In other words, stop messing with my serenity, disturbing my peace, rattling my cage, invading my quiet, or otherwise impinging on my sense of calm.

There. Go useful that one and let me know what you opinion. :-)

Monday, January 1, 2018

A Magness New Year's Eve

It was a wonderful New Year's Eve.

Trevor received the board game Ticket to Ride, so we played it for the first time. It was fun and not hard to learn. Guess who won? :-)

Evan plots his next move.

I am so proud of these two, the amazing people they have become, and the things they are doing with their lives.

Blurry Evan and Mom.

We made black-eyed peas in our Cosori (think Instant Pot, but better).

After game and supper, we listened to the King's College Lessons and Carols broadcast since we didn't get to do it on Christmas Eve. Then we watched a little of NYE from Times Square, after which we went downstairs to the piano and gathered around to sing "Auld Lang Syne." There may have been a few tears.

We wrapped up the night by taking turns sharing our aspirations for 2018.

Today I leave to go back to St. Louis. It will be a cold, cold drive! I am excited to return to my work but sad to leave the family here. I know they will be making good use of the time, though, and I'll be back home Friday night.

In spite of a lot of sickness running through various members of the family at different times of this holiday season, it has been a blessed time of togetherness. I pray the remainder of your Christmas celebration is a continuing reminder of God's goodness to you and His promise, no matter what happens, of another year of grace.

Now greet the swiftly changing year
With joy and penitence sincere.
Rejoice! Rejoice! With thanks embrace
Another year of grace.
Remember now the Son of God
And how He shed His infant blood.
Rejoice! Rejoice! With thanks embrace
Another year of grace.
This Jesus came to end sin's war;
This Name of names for us He bore.
Rejoice! Rejoice! With thanks embrace
Another year of grace.
His love abundant far exceeds
The volume of a whole year's needs.
Rejoice! Rejoice! With thanks embrace
Another year of grace.
With Him as Lord to lead our way
In want and in prosperity,
What need we fear in earth or space
In this new year of grace!
"All glory be to God on high,
And peace on earth!" the angels cry.
Rejoice! Rejoice! With thanks embrace
Another year of grace.
God, Father, Son, and Spirit, hear!
To all our pleas incline Your ear;
Upon our lives rich blessing trace
In this new year of grace.
("Now Greet the Swiftly Changing Year" - LSB 896; translation by Jaroslav J. Vajda; to the tune "Sixth Night" by Alfred Fedak)