". . . 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, July 28, 2014

It burns, Precious! It burns!





*sigh*

The LCMS triennial worship conference is going on right now and I am not there. For many months I had planned to accompany my husband, who is teaching and playing, but when it came right down to it we could not justify the cost of my attendance. It has been a summer of unusual expenditures, with more to come as we launch our second-born into college. So I decided to be a grown-up and make the mature decision. Of course, having made the mature decision, it now makes utter sense for me to take to my blog to whine about it.  ;-)

I would have liked to have been there for many reasons. Here are a few: Harrison, Kleinig, Vieker, Wilken, Weedon, Stuckwisch, Peters, Hildebrand, Soulek, Curtis, Muth, Blersch, Esget, Kohrs, Starke, Magness . . . . The list could go on. And then there's the worship. Oh, the worship. I know, I know. I get wonderful worship every weekend. I have the best cantor in synod, after all! :-) But my husband does not have the major responsibility for worship this week in Seward. He wrote a new setting of Psalm 85 and will be playing it, but I think that is all he is doing musically, which means for most of the liturgies he will be in the pew. Oh, that I could have been sitting beside him, something I so rarely get to do. :-(

I would have also liked to have been there to attend Phillip's sessions. He is teaching a seminar (3-day course) on "Bridging the Gap" (in worship) as well as a workshop on leading hymns from the piano. I have instructed him that I will be expecting nightly updates on the day's proceedings. He has promised to comply.

The silver lining to this dark cloud is that by staying behind I am maximizing my time with two whose days under this roof are drawing extremely short. (The third has quite a few more years to go.) As for Phillip, I am anticipating another 40-50 years under the same roof with him. :-)

So here I blog, and watch from afar, and live vicariously through my husband (as I am wont to do). Not a bad deal, if you ask me. I guess it doesn't burn so much, after all. :-D

All of you who are there, the best thing you can do for those of us who aren't is to soak it all in. Bask. And then come home and rub off a little of the heaven on the ones you left behind.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

You've Heard of Second Breakfast?

How about Second Birthday?

As shared in Tuesday's post, yesterday was my 50th birthday. Even so, I had expected it to be a quiet day. This is because I thought my husband was out of town. Now, before you start crying foul, please know that I encouraged him to be out of town. For a Lutheran cantor, summer affords more time for worthwhile non-parish activities and projects. This July proved to be pretty busy in that regard for Phillip. First, he was asked to serve as musician for a Doxology gathering, a program with which he has had a long association and strongly believes in but that also contributes a few extra clinks to our family piggy bank. Second, it happens that this summer is the occasion of triennial worship conferences for both the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). Phillip was asked to teach a seminar at the LCMS event. He has previously presented at the WELS conference and has many friends and professional contacts in WELS, so I encouraged him to attend that one, too, since it was conveniently sandwiched between the Doxology and LCMS gatherings. I thought it would be an opportunity for him to recharge, connect with friends, and promote Liturgy Solutions on the eve of its 10-year-anniversary. He resisted because to do so would cause him to be away for my birthday. I pushed. He resisted. I pushed some more. Finally, he relented.

Only he didn't relent. As it happens, that crazy cantor had other plans.

This past Friday night we had what I thought was my 50th birthday party. It was wonderful. It did not bother me that it was not on my birthday on the calendar. I don't get too caught up in those kinds of details. What mattered to me was having my family all together. We went out to a delicious meal at a nearby German restaurant, then came home to presents and dessert. And what presents and dessert they were! I received some Estée Lauder eye shadow I've been wanting, both the original and the updated Broadway soundtrack recordings of Pippin (which Caitlin and I saw in New York), some new Birkenstock sandals, and . . . wait for it . . . a voucher for a 3-1/2 hour spa treatment. I was blown away!












See? Blown away. (I actually have no idea what I'm doing in this picture.)


So you can see why, in my mind, I had been sufficiently fêted. Who cares whether it was on the 19th or the 23rd? Not I. Yesterday, on my actual birthday, I woke up to hugs from my children, had a leisurely morning at home, and after lunch went out to do some shopping (my mom wanted me to pick out something from her since she can't shop for me). Then I stopped off at Starbucks for some coffee and computer time. It was while I was there that I received a call from my daughter. "Mom, we were just wondering where you were. It looks like there's a storm coming." I scratched my head a little because Caitlin is usually not a worrier and the weather didn't seem that ominous, but I told her I had one more stop to make and would be home directly. When I got home I went to my room to rest a while, having been instructed that I didn't need to worry about supper.

A short time later the door bell rang. I wondered who it could be, since I wasn't expecting any visitors or deliveries. I headed for the front door, which had already been opened by my children, and lo and behold, there was my husband, arms full of flowers, grocery bags, and cards. !!!!!!!!!!

Yes, I cried.

I was promptly informed that I was silly to think he would not be here on the day I actually turned 50. Then I was told to relax and open cards (solicited and collected on Facebook from many friends and family by the aforementioned husband) and enjoy a kir while supper was cooked for me. Supper turned out to be cheese and crackers, shrimp cocktail, Thai coconut salmon with basil on a bed of spinach and rice, green beans almondine, and strawberry-rhubarb pie. After supper, my dear ones around the table took turns sharing fond memories of their wife, mom, and daughter.

Did I mention the crying?

After a supper that was better in every way than Friday's, I looked at a few more of my Facebook birthday messages while the clean-up crew got busy. Then we settled in for a movie (this one--if you haven't watched it, you should).

Here are a few pictures from my Second Birthday.

My bartender


Two of my cooks (the bartender also cooked)




The table almost set (many of my readers will appreciate the microscope in the background ). 


My plate of deliciousness


If you're wondering about the rest of the story, it is that Phillip left Doxology a day early. He got to Oklahoma Tuesday night--Tuesday night! (the little stinker)--and stayed in a hotel. He's not going to Wisconsin (sorry, WELS). He will be here through Sunday, at which point he will head to Nebraska for the LCMS Institute. 

My spa day is scheduled for next week, and will include an aromatherapy wrap with a 15-minute scalp massage, a one-hour hot stone massage, one-hour spa facial, and a spa foot treatment with paraffin. I told Caitlin she needed to come and take pictures for the blog (JUST KIDDING). 

I love words, and I tend to pile them on, but words and pictures are insufficient to capture the emotions of a day that I will never forget. So let me wrap this up with a nice, pithy cliché (hey, clichés are full of time-tested truth):


FIFTY 
IS 
NIFTY!
(and my family is the best)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blessed

Sometimes I still can't believe everything that has happened. Two years ago around this time we were coming off a period of terrible, painful upheaval during which my husband had been fired and we had spent several months in limbo, without the certainty of an income going forward and without the support of our church home of 13 years. Thanks be to God that our time of uncertainty was short-lived, as He did lead my husband to a new job and us to a new church. And yet one year ago we found ourselves facing another huge change, as Phillip accepted a position in Oklahoma and we had to say goodbye again, this time to a church family we had barely had time to get to know (but already loved). As my husband left Illinois to begin his new job, I stayed behind to sell the house. Our separation lasted almost six months, and during that time my mom, who lives with us, and who had broken her hip on Christmas Day 2012, struggled mightily with post-operative pain and rehab and, eventually, another hip surgery.

This is not supposed to be a "poor me" post. On the contrary. As I look back at all we have been through and where we are now, I am reminded yet again of the Lord's infinite and gracious mercy. Sometimes when my husband and I wake up in the morning and head out to enjoy coffee on our patio, we just look at each other in disbelief. It has been a long time since we have felt this relaxed and at peace. So tonight, on the eve of my fiftieth birthday, I ask your indulgence as I pause to take stock. How am I blessed? Let me count the ways.  

1) I made it to 50! (Well, almost.) And barring some very minor physical ailments, I am in good health (and could feel even better if I would work at it a little harder).

2) I have been married to my first and only boyfriend for over 27 years. He doesn't get enough credit for putting up with me. It isn't easy. (You people only see what I decide to share after much editing.)

3) I have three amazing children who only get more amazing every day. They are all in good health, and they all know their Savior. Two of them are in college on scholarship, and the third is going to be around for me to hassle at least eight more years. And I get to homeschool him! 

4) My husband has a job. He enjoys his work and the people he works with. I get to piddle around making a few bucks here and there doing things I like to do. We have everything we need, and many of the things we want. 

5) My mom has bounced back incredibly this year from a long period of injuries and depression. She is enjoying her days in a way she hasn't in a very long time.

6) We live in Oklahoma! It is prettier than I could have ever imagined, and yes, the mornings are like something out of a movie

7) We belong to a great, confessional Lutheran church with a dedicated, caring staff, faithful elders, and kind and loving members. 

8) Evan will receive his First Communion this year!  

9) We have a great house that we are renting. (We do hope to buy again, but in the meantime, it sure is nice to not be responsible. If something goes wrong, we just dial up the landlord.) 

10) Life has slowed down to the extent that we are finding time to enjoy it. As I look back over the last 15 years, it seems that so much of it was spent constantly on the go, trying to make ends meet, trying to please others, trying to prove something (not sure what), just trying, trying, trying. I don't mean that there weren't good days. There were--many of them. But they were exhausting. It is blessed relief to find ourselves in a place where there is time to breathe, time to sit, time to think, time to read, time to walk, time to watch movies and cook and play games. For so long there was no time for anything but to go on to the next thing. Now it's actually possible to make the Next Thing wait.

During some of our darkest days, a wise friend and teacher told us, "Expect blessing." When everything seems to be going wrong, it is hard to trust those words. Yet we know that in all things, even in our sufferings, God blesses, and so we cling to His promises, and wait, and hope. I don't want to make the mistake of looking at the ease of these days as some sort of reward for having come through a difficult period. We are poor, miserable sinners who have earned nothing and deserve nothing. And I know there will be hard times again. But I sure am glad for this stretch, however long it lasts, and for our Lord's grace, today and always. 

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New York

Last week my daughter and I made our long-awaited trip to New York City! She did a great write-up of our goings and doings, and I only have a few things to add.

First, thank you to my husband, whose idea it was for us to take this trip. Thanks also go to him for valuing travel so much that he has acquired several credit cards that earn travel rewards. Our airfare for this trip was paid for entirely by points, as were two of our three hotel nights. All we had to pay for was food and activities. By far the largest expense was attending two Broadway shows. Walking in Central Park was free. The boat ride was not costly, especially since I got a discount for purchasing tickets online in advance. We only spent a couple of hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so I did not pay the "recommended" $25 per person admission price but opted for $10 instead. We got breakfast free in the hotel each day, and a friend treated us to lunch on Wednesday. It was such a big, late lunch that we didn't need supper Wednesday night, settling instead for dessert before the show. I think we only spent a little over $100 on food for both of us.

Second, let's hear it for your humble blogger! My closer friends know that I am an extremely nervous flyer. I date my nervousness to a very bumpy trip taken when I was quite pregnant with my first child. I am not sure what has changed, but in the last year I have gotten better. I don't think I grabbed my daughter's arm in panic once. We did have very nice, smooth flights. And my dear husband made sure we had direct flights (even though he had to drive us two hours to Arkansas to get them).

I am also proud of myself for successfully leading my daughter around New York City using public transportation! On the night we arrived, I spent a good half hour on the phone with my husband, who had charted out for us the subways and buses we needed to take to do what we wanted to do. That helped immensely. But I guess somewhere deep down inside I do have a little directional intuition (this will surprise my husband). We didn't make a single subway or bus mistake! There was once or twice early on that we were waiting for a subway but I somehow sensed it wasn't the right one and we backtracked and changed course. (The challenge when you're unfamiliar with the city is not finding the right train but making sure that once you have found it you head the right direction!)

We never felt unsafe. We encountered some odd characters, to be sure. Several times on the subway people came walking down the aisle, sharing their sob story and asking for money. That was uncomfortable. And there were some nearly naked people walking around Times Square. I was glad Evan wasn't there--he would have been horrified.

Caitlin asked me what my favorite parts of the trip were. It is hard to say, but seeing Pippin is probably at the top. It was stunning in every way, the consummate Broadway experience both musically and visually. The first glimpse of Times Square in the dark was magical. As Caitlin says, it was so bright it could have been daytime. By Thursday afternoon, when we got to the museum, we were already so exhausted that I don't think I enjoyed that as much as I expected. My feet were tired and hurting. We were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place. After a couple of hours we gave up and went and lay on the grass together in Central Park. I enjoyed that as much as anything.



If money and time were no object, I would choose to spend at least a week and follow up each day of activity with a day of rest. I wish we could have done more. I would have liked to have taken a trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty instead of just seeing them from the boat on our sightseeing tour. I would have considered walking in the area of the Twin Towers, if not actually touring the 9/11 Memorial (which has had mixed reviews). I would have liked to see Battery Park. The list could go on.

More than anything, I am thankful for the time spent with my daughter, who will be leaving for college in about four short weeks. Having this time with her, making memories that we will always share, was the best part of all.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Trying to Nurture a Reader

My first and second born children were bookworms from the get-go. I never had to encourage them to read; they just did it. Number three is different. He was an early reader like his siblings, and he reads well and fluently, but he doesn't love it like they did. My daughter thinks he might simply be wired differently; I do think that is true but can't help also wondering if his different reading habits are at least partly attributable to the effect his birth order has had on my parenting and homeschooling of him. (Sigh--I'm older and tireder than I was with the first two.)

I suppose at this point cause is of little consequence. He is the reader he is, which means that for the last few years I have been trying to find books that will hook him to the point that he reads of his own volition, not because it is assigned (he will obediently read when I make him). I long to see him get lost in a book the way I used to, such that the outside world fades from view and the book completely captures his imagination for an afternoon, day, or week. Over the years there are a few things that have done that for him; I have listed below the ones I can think of right now.

Calvin & HobbesGarfieldPeanuts and vintage Archie comics
Newspaper funnies
Video game strategy guides
Magic School Bus series
Wayside School series
Encyclopedia Brown mysteries
Rush Revere series

This past week I took a chance and ordered a used set of the first five Hardy Boys books--the classic, not updated, ones. He is currently enjoying the first one, but it remains to be seen whether he will choose to read another. Some other series that have already been tried and rejected are Magic Tree House, Redwall, and Percy Jackson (we tried Percy Jackson because for a while he was enjoying reading D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, and he enjoyed it at first, but I think it was ultimately too intense for my HSC*). He does like the Narnia books, but maybe because he has seen the movies (?) he tends to read them in bits and pieces, skipping around, instead of sitting down and reading from cover to cover. So we just started The Magician's Nephew as a readaloud in the hope that maybe it will spark him to continue through the series in order.

Reflecting on all of this, I guess we are not doing so bad. I know there are parents who would be glad to see their children reading as much as my 10-year-old. I am just used to kids who read more! Perhaps I should not compare him to his siblings. But before he is beyond my influence I hope I can help him more fully experience the joy of reading. If you can comment with either commiseration or advice, please do!

*Highly sensitive child

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Public Service Announcement for My Fellow Bloggers

If your blog is hosted by Blogger, be sure to check your spam file every now and then. I just did so for the first time in a while (thanks to a reminder from Blogger) and found three comments, going back six months, that weren't spam. I don't know why Blogger marked them as such. They were legitimate comments from people who have either commented before or whom I could easily identify. So don't forget to check every now and then to make sure you aren't missing something scintillating from someone like me! :-)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Children's Lesson

Today during the Children's Lesson, our DCE (Director of Christian Education) brought in a loaded backpack and had one of the children strap it on. He was trying to demonstrate the concept of being weighed down with a heavy burden, as described by Jesus in Matthew 11:25-30. He asked the children, "What could help lighten a heavy load like this?" One young lady who is undoubtedly at the top her class wasted no time getting right to the crux of the matter:

"JESUS!"

I guess at that point he could have called it a morning and sent them all back to their seats, but he pressed on. As he continued talking to the children about various burdens they might have in their lives, another girl volunteered that the backpack she carries to school weighs ten pounds. Our DCE asked sympathetically, "Do you ever get help with that?"

"No," she replied. "I just live with it." (She has already clearly mastered the doctrine of vocation.)

Finally, as our DCE was trying to wrap up the lesson, he mentioned worries about school as an example of something with which the children might be burdened. One young man raised his hand and matter-of-factly announced, "I don't worry about school. I'm home schooled."

Yep, that last one was mine.